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Title: A True Friend - A Novel
Author: Sergeant, Adeline
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "A True Friend - A Novel" ***

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by the Canadian Institute for Historical Microreproductions
(www.canadiana.org))



                             A TRUE FRIEND.

                                A NOVEL.

                          BY ADELINE SERGEANT

   _Author of "The Luck of the House," "A Life Sentence," etc., etc._



MONTREAL:
JOHN LOVELL & SON,
23 ST. NICHOLAS STREET.



CONTENTS


        I. AN UNSUITABLE FRIENDSHIP

       II. LADY CAROLINE'S TACTICS

      III. AT HELMSLEY COURT

       IV. ON THE ROAD.

        V. WYVIS BRAND

       VI. JANETTA AT HOME

      VII. NORA'S NEW ACQUAINTANCE

     VIII. FATHER AND CHILD

       IX. CONSULTATION

        X. MARGARET

       XI. JANETTA'S PROMISES

      XII. JANETTA REMONSTRATES

     XIII. SHADOWS

      XIV. JANETTA'S FAILURE

       XV. A BONE OF CONTENTION

      XVI. SIR PHILIP'S OPINION

     XVII. MARGARET'S FRIENDSHIP

    XVIII. A NEW FRIEND

      XIX. NORA'S PROCEEDINGS

       XX. AN ELDER BROTHER

      XXI. CUTHBERT'S ROMANCE

     XXII. WYVIS BRAND'S IDEAL

    XXIII. FORGET-ME-NOTS

     XXIV. LADY ASHLEY'S GARDEN PARTY

      XXV. SIR PHILIP'S DECISION

     XXVI. "FREE!"

    XXVII. A BIG BRIBE

   XXVIII. "CHANGES MUST COME."

     XXIX. MARGARET'S CONFESSION

      XXX. IN REBELLION

     XXXI. THE PLOUGHMAN'S SON

    XXXII. THE FAILURE OF MARGARET

   XXXIII. RETROSPECT

    XXXIV. FROM DISTANT LANDS

     XXXV. JULIET

    XXXVI. THE FRUITS OF A LIE

   XXXVII. NIGHT

  XXXVIII. THE LAST SCENE

    XXXIX. MAKING AMENDS

       XL. MY FAITHFUL JANET



A TRUE FRIEND



CHAPTER I.

AN UNSUITABLE FRIENDSHIP.


Janetta was the music governess--a brown little thing of no particular
importance, and Margaret Adair was a beauty and an heiress, and the only
daughter of people who thought themselves very distinguished indeed; so
that the two had not, you might think, very much in common, and were not
likely to be attracted one to the other. Yet, in spite of differing
circumstances, they were close friends and allies; and had been such
ever since they were together at the same fashionable school where Miss
Adair was the petted favorite of all, and Janetta Colwyn was the
pupil-teacher in the shabbiest of frocks, who got all the snubbing and
did most of the hard work. And great offence was given in several
directions by Miss Adair's attachment to poor little Janetta.

"It is an unsuitable friendship," Miss Polehampton, the principal of the
school, observed on more than one occasion, "and I am sure I do not know
how Lady Caroline will like it."

Lady Caroline was, of course, Margaret Adair's mamma.

Miss Polehampton felt her responsibility so keenly in the matter that at
last she resolved to speak "very seriously" to her dear Margaret. She
always talked of "her dear Margaret," Janetta used to say, when she was
going to make herself particularly disagreeable. For "her dear Margaret"
was the pet pupil, the show pupil of the establishment: her air of
perfect breeding gave distinction, Miss Polehampton thought, to the
whole school; and her refinement, her exemplary behavior, her industry,
and her talent formed the theme of many a lecture to less accomplished
and less decorous pupils. For, contrary to all conventional
expectations, Margaret Adair was not stupid, although she was beautiful
and well-behaved. She was an exceedingly intelligent girl; she had an
aptitude for several arts and accomplishments, and she was remarkable
for the delicacy of her taste and the exquisite discrimination of which
she sometimes showed herself capable. At the same time she was not as
clever--("not as _glaringly_ clever," a friend of hers once expressed
it)--as little Janetta Colwyn, whose nimble wits gathered knowledge as a
bee collects honey under the most unfavorable circumstances. Janetta had
to learn her lessons when the other girls had gone to bed, in a little
room under the roof; a room which was like an ice-house in winter and an
oven in summer; she was never able to be in time for her classes, and
she often missed them altogether; but, in spite of these disadvantages,
she generally proved herself the most advanced pupil in her division,
and if pupil-teachers had been allowed to take prizes, would have
carried off every first prize in the school. This, to be sure, was not
allowed. It would not have been "the thing" for the little
governess-pupil to take away the prizes from the girls whose parents
paid between two and three hundred a year for their tuition (the fees
were high, because Miss Polehampton's school was so exceedingly
fashionable); therefore, Janetta's marks were not counted, and her
exercises were put aside and did not come into competition with those of
the other girls, and it was generally understood amongst the teachers
that, if you wished to stand well with Miss Polehampton, it would be
better not to praise Miss Colwyn, but rather to put forward the merits
of some charming Lady Mary or Honorable Adeliza, and leave Janetta in
the obscurity from which (according to Miss Polehampton) she was fated
never to emerge.

Unfortunately for the purposes of the mistress of the school, Janetta
was rather a favorite with the girls. She was not adored, like Margaret;
she was not looked up to and respected, as was the Honorable Edith Gore;
she was nobody's pet, as the little Ladies Blanche and Rose Amberley had
been ever since they set foot in the school; but she was everybody's
friend and comrade, the recipient of everybody's confidences, the sharer
in everybody's joys or woes. The fact was that Janetta had the
inestimable gift of sympathy; she understood the difficulties of people
around her better than many women of twice her age would have done; and
she was so bright and sunny-tempered and quick-witted that her very
presence in a room was enough to dispel gloom and ill-temper. She was,
therefore, deservedly popular, and did more to keep up the character of
Miss Polehampton's school for comfort and cheerfulness than Miss
Polehampton herself was ever likely to be aware. And the girl most
devoted to Janetta was Margaret Adair.

"Remain for a few moments, Margaret; I wish to speak to you," said Miss
Polehampton, majestically, when one evening, directly after prayers, the
show pupil advanced to bid her teachers good-night.

The girls all sat round the room on wooden chairs, and Miss Polehampton
occupied a high-backed, cushioned seat at a centre table while she read
the portion of Scripture with which the day's work concluded. Near her
sat the governesses, English, French and German, with little Janetta
bringing up the rear in the draughtiest place and the most uncomfortable
chair. After prayers, Miss Polehampton and the teachers rose, and their
pupils came to bid them good-night, offering hand and cheek to each in
turn. There was always a great deal of kissing to be got through on
these occasions. Miss Polehampton blandly insisted on kissing all her
thirty pupils every evening; it made them feel more as if they were at
home, she used to say; and her example was, of course, followed by the
teachers and the girls.

Margaret Adair, as one of the oldest and tallest girls in the school,
generally came forward first for that evening salute. When Miss
Polehampton made the observation just recorded, she stepped back to a
position beside her teacher's chair in the demure attitude of a
well-behaved schoolgirl--hands crossed over the wrists, feet in
position, head and shoulders carefully erect, and eyes gently lowered
towards the carpet. Thus standing, she was yet perfectly well aware that
Janetta Colwyn gave her an odd, impish little look of mingled fun and
anxiety behind Miss Polehampton's back; for it was generally known that
a lecture was impending when one of the girls was detained after
prayers, and it was very unusual for Margaret to be lectured! Miss Adair
did not, however, look discomposed. A momentary smile flitted across her
face at Janetta's tiny grimace, but it was instantly succeeded by the
look of simple gravity becoming to the occasion.

When the last of the pupils and the last also of the teachers had filed
out of the room, Miss Polehampton turned and surveyed the waiting girl
with some uncertainty. She was really fond of Margaret Adair. Not only
did she bring credit to the school, but she was a good, nice, lady-like
girl (such were Miss Polehampton's epithets), and very fair to look
upon. Margaret was tall, slender, and exceedingly graceful in her
movements; she was delicately fair, and had hair of the silkiest texture
and palest gold; her eyes, however, were not blue, as one would have
expected them to be; they were hazel brown, and veiled by long brown
lashes--eyes of melting softness and dreaminess, peculiarly sweet in
expression. Her features were a very little too long and thin for
perfect beauty; but they gave her a Madonna-like look of peace and calm
which many were ready enthusiastically to admire. And there was no want
of expression in her face; its faint rose bloom varied almost at a word,
and the thin curved lips were as sensitive to feeling as could be
desired. What was wanting in the face was what gave it its peculiar
maidenly charm--a lack of passion, a little lack, perhaps, of strength.
But at seventeen we look less for these characteristics than for the
sweetness and docility which Margaret certainly possessed. Her dress of
soft, white muslin was quite simple--the ideal dress for a young
girl--and yet it was so beautifully made, so perfectly finished in every
detail, that Miss Polehampton never looked at it without an uneasy
feeling that she was _too_ well-dressed for a schoolgirl. Others wore
muslin dresses of apparently the same cut and texture; but what the
casual eye might fail to observe, the schoolmistress was perfectly well
aware of, namely, that the tiny frills at neck and wrists were of the
costliest Mechlin lace, that the hem of the dress was bordered with the
same material, as if it had been the commonest of things; that the
embroidered white ribbons with which it was trimmed had been woven in
France especially for Miss Adair, and that the little silver buckles at
her waist and on her shoes were so ancient and beautiful as to be of
almost historic importance. The effect was that of simplicity; but it
was the costly simplicity of absolute perfection. Margaret's mother was
never content unless her child was clothed from head to foot in
materials of the softest, finest and best. It was a sort of outward
symbol of what she desired for the girl in all relations of life.

This it was that disturbed Miss Polehampton's mind as she stood and
looked uneasily for a moment at Margaret Adair. Then she took the girl
by the hand.

"Sit down, my dear," she said, in a kind voice, "and let me talk to you
for a few moments. I hope you are not tired with standing so long."

"Oh, no, thank you; not at all," Margaret answered, blushing slightly as
she took a seat at Miss Polehampton's left hand. She was more
intimidated by this unwonted kindness of address than by any imaginable
severity. The schoolmistress was tall and imposing in appearance: her
manner was usually a little pompous, and it did not seem quite natural
to Margaret that she should speak so gently.

"My dear," said Miss Polehampton, "when your dear mamma gave you into my
charge, I am sure she considered me responsible for the influences under
which you were brought, and the friendships that you made under my
roof."

"Mamma knew that I could not be hurt by any friendship that I made
_here_," said Margaret, with the softest flattery. She was quite
sincere: it was natural to her to say "pretty things" to people.

"Quite so," the schoolmistress admitted. "Quite so, dear Margaret, if
you keep within your own grade in society. There is no pupil in this
establishment, I am thankful to say, who is not of suitable family and
prospects to become your friend. You are young yet, and do not
understand the complications in which people sometimes involve
themselves by making friendships out of their own sphere. But _I_
understand, and I wish to caution you."

"I am not aware that I have made any unsuitable friendships," said
Margaret, with a rather proud look in her hazel eyes.

"Well--no, I hope not," said Miss Polehampton with a hesitating little
cough. "You understand, my dear, that in an establishment like mine,
persons must be employed to do certain work who are not quite equal in
position to--to--ourselves. Persons of inferior birth and station, I
mean, to whom the care of the younger girls, and certain menial duties,
must be committed. These persons, my dear, with whom you must
necessarily be brought in contact, and whom I hope you will always treat
with perfect courtesy and consideration, need not, at the same time, be
made your intimate friends."

"I have never made friends with any of the servants," said Margaret,
quietly. Miss Polehampton was somewhat irritated by this remark.

"I do not allude to the servants," she said with momentary sharpness. "I
do not consider Miss Colwyn a servant, or I should not, of course, allow
her to sit at the same table with you. But there is a sort of
familiarity of which I do not altogether approve----"

She paused, and Margaret drew up her head and spoke with unusual
decision.

"Miss Colwyn is my greatest friend."

"Yes, my dear, that is what I complain of. Could you not find a friend
in your own rank of life without making one of Miss Colwyn?"

"She is quite as good as I am," cried Margaret, indignantly. "Quite as
good, far more so, and a great deal cleverer!"

"She has capabilities," said the schoolmistress, with the air of one
making a concession; "and I hope that they will be useful to her in her
calling. She will probably become a nursery governess, or companion to
some lady of superior position. But I cannot believe, my dear that dear
Lady Caroline would approve of your singling her out as your especial
and particular friend."

"I am sure mamma always likes people who are good and clever," said
Margaret. She did not fly into a rage as some girls would have done, but
her face flushed, and her breath came more quickly than usual--signs of
great excitement on her part, which Miss Polehampton was not slow to
observe.

"She likes them in their proper station, my dear. This friendship is not
improving for you, nor for Miss Colwyn. Your positions in life are so
different that your notice of her can but cause discontent and
ill-feeling in her mind. It is exceedingly injudicious, and I cannot
think that your dear mamma would approve of it if she knew the
circumstances."

"But Janetta's family is not at all badly connected," said Margaret,
with some eagerness. "There are cousins of hers living close to us--the
next property belongs to them----"

"Do you know them, my dear?"

"I know _about_ them," answered Margaret, suddenly coloring very deeply,
and looking uncomfortable, "but I don't think I have ever seen them,
they are so much away from home----"

"I know _about_ them, too," said Miss Polehampton, grimly; "and I do not
think that you will ever advance Miss Colwyn's interests by mentioning
her connection with that family. I have heard Lady Caroline speak of
Mrs. Brand and her children. They are not people, my dear Margaret, whom
it is desirable for you to know."

"But Janetta's own people live quite near us," said Margaret, reduced to
a very pleading tone. "I know them at home; they live at Beaminster--not
three miles off."

"And may I ask if Lady Caroline visits them, my dear?" asked Miss
Polehampton, with mild sarcasm, which brought the color again to
Margaret's fair face. The girl could not answer; she knew well enough
that Janetta's stepmother was not at all the sort of person whom Lady
Caroline Adair would willingly speak to, and yet she did not like to say
that her acquaintance with Janetta had only been made at a Beaminster
dancing class. Probably Miss Polehampton divined the fact. "Under the
circumstances," she said, "I think I should be justified in writing to
Lady Caroline and asking her to remonstrate a little with you, my dear
Margaret. Probably she would be better able to make you understand the
impropriety of your behavior than I can do."

The tears rose to Margaret's eyes. She was not used to being rebuked in
this manner.

"But--I don't know, Miss Polehampton, what you want me to do," she said,
more nervously than usual. "I can't give up Janetta; I can't possibly
avoid speaking to her, you know, even if I wanted to----"

"I desire nothing of the sort, Margaret. Be kind and polite to her, as
usual. But let me suggest that you do not make a companion of her in the
garden so constantly--that you do not try to sit beside her in class or
look over the same book. I will speak to Miss Colwyn herself about it. I
think I can make _her_ understand."

"Oh, please do not speak to Janetta! I quite understand already," said
Margaret, growing pale with distress. "You do not know how kind and good
she has always been to me----"

Sobs choked her utterance, rather to Miss Polehampton's alarm. She did
not like to see her girls cry--least of all, Margaret Adair.

"My dear, you have no need to excite yourself. Janetta Colwyn has always
been treated, I hope, with justice and kindness in this house. If you
will endeavor only to make her position in life less instead of more
difficult, you will be doing her the greatest favor in your power. I do
not at all mean that I wish you to be unkind to her. A little more
reserve, a little more caution, in your demeanor, and you will be all
that I have ever wished you to be--a credit to your parents and to the
school which has educated you!"

This sentiment was so effusive that it stopped Margaret's tears out of
sheer amazement; and when she had said good-night and gone to bed, Miss
Polehampton stood for a moment or two quite still, as if to recover from
the unwonted exertion of expressing an affectionate emotion. It was
perhaps a reaction against it that caused her almost immediately to ring
the bell a trifle sharply, and to say--still sharply--to the maid who
appeared in answer.

"Send Miss Colwyn to me."

Five minutes elapsed before Miss Colwyn came, however, and the
schoolmistress had had time to grow impatient.

"Why did you not come at once when I sent for you?" she said, severely,
as soon as Janetta presented herself.

"I was going to bed," said the girl, quickly; "and I had to dress myself
again."

The short, decided accents grated on Miss Polehampton's ear. Miss Colwyn
did not speak half so "nicely," she said to herself, as did dear
Margaret Adair.

"I have been talking to Miss Adair about you," said the schoolmistress,
coldly. "I have been telling her, as I now tell you, that the difference
in your positions makes your present intimacy very undesirable. I wish
you to understand, henceforward, that Miss Adair is not to walk with you
in the garden, not to sit beside you in class, not to associate with
you, as she has hitherto done, on equal terms."

"Why should we not associate on equal terms?" said Janetta. She was a
black-browed girl, with a clear olive skin, and her eyes flashed and her
cheeks glowed with indignation as she spoke.

"You are not equals," said Miss Polehampton, with icy displeasure in her
tone--she had spoken very differently to Margaret. "You have to work for
your bread: there is no disgrace in that, but it puts you on a different
level from that of Miss Margaret Adair, an earl's grand-daughter, and
the only child of one of the richest commoners in England. I have never
before reminded you of the difference in position between yourself and
the young ladies with whom you have hitherto been allowed to associate;
and I really think I shall have to adopt another method--unless you
conduct yourself, Miss Colwyn, with a little more modesty and
propriety."

"May I ask what your other method would be?" asked Miss Colwyn, with
perfect self-possession.

Miss Polehampton looked at her for a moment in silence.

"To begin with," she said, "I could order the meals differently, and
request you to take yours with the younger children, and in other ways
cut you off from the society of the young ladies. And if this failed, I
could signify to your father that our arrangement was not satisfactory,
and that it had better end at the close of this term."

Janetta's eyes fell and her color faded as she heard this threat. It
meant a good deal to her. She answered quickly, but with some
nervousness of tone.

"Of course, that must be as you please, Miss Polehampton. If I do not
satisfy you, I must go."

"You satisfy me very well except in that one respect. However, I do not
ask for any promise from you now. I shall observe your conduct during
the next few days, and be guided by what I see. I have already spoken to
Miss Adair."

Janetta bit her lips. After a pause, she said--

"Is that all? May I go now?"

"You may go," said Miss Polehampton, with majesty; and Janetta softly
and slowly retired.

But as soon as she was outside the door her demeanor changed. She burst
into tears as she sped swiftly up the broad staircase, and her eyes were
so blinded that she did not even see a white figure hovering on the
landing until she found herself suddenly in Margaret's arms. In defiance
of all rules--disobedient for nearly the first time in her
life--Margaret had waited and watched for Janetta's coming; and now,
clasped as closely together as sisters, the two friends held a whispered
colloquy on the stairs.

"Darling," said Margaret, "was she very unkind?"

"She was very horrid, but I suppose she couldn't help it," said Janetta,
with a little laugh mixing itself with her sobs. "We mustn't be friends
any more, Margaret."

"But we will be friends--always, Janetta."

"We must not sit together or walk together----"

"Janetta, I shall behave to you exactly as I have always done." The
gentle Margaret was in revolt.

"She will write to your mother, Margaret, and to my father."

"I shall write to mine, too, and explain," said Margaret with dignity.
And Janetta had not the heart to whisper to her friend that the tone in
which Miss Polehampton would write to Lady Caroline would differ very
widely from the one that she would adopt to Mr. Colwyn.



CHAPTER II.

LADY CAROLINE'S TACTICS.


Helmsley Court was generally considered one of the prettiest houses
about Beaminster; a place which was rich in pretty houses, being a
Cathedral town situated in one of the most beautiful southern counties
of England. The village of Helmsley was a picturesque little group of
black and white cottages, with gardens full of old-fashioned flowers
before them and meadows and woods behind. Helmsley Court was on slightly
higher ground than the village, and its windows commanded an extensive
view of lovely country bounded in the distance by a long low range of
blue hills, beyond which, in clear days, it was said, keen eyes could
catch a glimpse of the shining sea. The house itself was a very fine old
building, with a long terrace stretching before its lower windows, and
flower gardens which were the admiration of half the county. It had a
picture gallery and a magnificent hall with polished floor and stained
windows, and all the accessories of an antique and celebrated mansion;
and it had also all the comfort and luxury that modern civilization
could procure.

It was this latter characteristic that made "the Court," as it was
commonly called, so popular. Picturesque old houses are sometimes
draughty and inconvenient, but no such defects were ever allowed to
exist at the Court. Every thing went smoothly: the servants were
perfectly trained: the latest improvements possible were always
introduced: the house was ideally luxurious. There never seemed to be
any jar or discord: no domestic worry was ever allowed to reach the ears
of the mistress of the household, no cares or troubles seemed able to
exist in that serene atmosphere. You could not even say of it that it
was dull. For the master of the Court was a hospitable man, with many
tastes and whims which he liked to indulge by having down from London
the numerous friends whose fancies matched his own, and his wife was a
little bit of a fine lady who had London friends too, as well as
neighbors, whom she liked to entertain. The house was seldom free from
visitors; and it was partly for that very reason that Lady Caroline
Adair, being in her own way a wise woman, had arranged that two or three
years of her daughter's life should be spent at Miss Polehampton's very
select boarding-school at Brighton. It would be a great drawback to
Margaret, she reflected, if her beauty were familiar to all the world
before she came out; and really, when Mr. Adair would insist on inviting
his friends constantly to the house, it was impossible to keep the girl
so mewed up in the schoolroom that she would not be seen and talked of;
and therefore it was better that she should go away for a time. Mr.
Adair did not like the arrangement; he was very fond of Margaret, and
objected to her leaving home; but Lady Caroline was gently inexorable
and got her own way--as she generally did.

She does not look much like the mother of the tall girl whom we saw at
Brighton, as she sits at the head of her breakfast-table in the
daintiest of morning gowns--a marvelous combination of silk, muslin and
lace and pale pink ribbons--with a tiny white dog reposing in her lap.
She is a much smaller woman than Margaret, and darker in complexion: it
is from her, however, that Margaret inherits the large, appealing hazel
eyes, which look at you with an infinite sweetness, while their owner is
perhaps thinking of the _menu_ or her milliner's bill. Lady Caroline's
face is thin and pointed, but her complexion is still clear, and her
soft brown hair is very prettily arranged. As she sits with her back to
the light, with a rose-colored curtain behind her, just tinting her
delicate cheek (for Lady Caroline is always careful of appearance), she
looks quite a young woman still.

It is Mr. Adair whom Margaret most resembles. He is a tall and
exceedingly handsome man, whose hair and moustache and pointed beard
were as golden once as Margaret's soft tresses, but are now toned down
by a little grey. He has the alert blue eyes that generally go with his
fair complexion, and his long limbs are never still for many minutes
together. His daughter's tranquillity seems to have come from her
mother; certainly it cannot be inherited from the restless Reginald
Adair.

The third person present at the breakfast-table--and, for the time
being, the only visitor in the house--is a young man of seven or
eight-and-twenty, tall, dark, and very spare, with a coal-black beard
trimmed to a point, earnest dark eyes, and a remarkably pleasant and
intelligent expression. He is not exactly handsome, but he has a face
that attracts one; it is the face of a man who has quick perceptions,
great kindliness of heart, and a refined and cultured mind. Nobody is
more popular in that county than young Sir Philip Ashley, although his
neighbors grumble sometimes at his absorption in scientific and
philanthropic objects, and think that it would be more creditable to
them if he went out with the hounds a little oftener or were a rather
better shot. For, being shortsighted, he was never particularly fond
either of sport or of games of skill, and his interest had always
centred on intellectual pursuits to a degree that amazed the more
countrified squires of the neighborhood.

The post-bag was brought in while breakfast was proceeding, and two or
three letters were laid before Lady Caroline, who, with a careless word
of apology, opened and read them in turn. She smiled as she put them
down and looked at her husband.

"This is a novel experience," she said. "For the first time in our
lives, Reginald, here is a formal complaint of our Margaret."

Sir Philip looked up somewhat eagerly, and Mr. Adair elevated his
eyebrows, stirred his coffee, and laughed aloud.

"Wonders will never cease," he said. "It is rather refreshing to hear
that our immaculate Margaret has done something naughty. What is it,
Caroline? Is she habitually late for breakfast? A touch of unpunctuality
is the only fault I ever heard of, and that, I believe, she inherits
from me."

"I should be sorry to think that she was immaculate," said Lady
Caroline, calmly, "it has such an uncomfortable sound. But Margaret is
generally, I must say, a very tractable child."

"Do you mean that her schoolmistress does not find her tractable?" said
Mr. Adair, with amusement. "What has she been doing?"

"Nothing very bad. Making friends with a governess-pupil, or something
of, that sort----"

"Just what a generous-hearted girl would be likely to do!" exclaimed Sir
Philip, with a sudden warm lighting of his dark eyes.

Lady Caroline smiled at him. "The schoolmistress thinks this girl an
unsuitable friend for Margaret, and wants me to interfere," she said.

"Pray do nothing of the sort," said Mr. Adair. "I would trust my Pearl's
instinct anywhere. She would never make an unsuitable friend!"

"Margaret has written to me herself," said Lady Caroline. "She seems
unusually excited about the matter. 'Dear mother,' she writes, 'pray
interpose to prevent Miss Polehampton from doing an unjust and
ungenerous thing. She disapproves of my friendship with dear Janetta
Colwyn, simply because Janetta is poor; and she threatens to punish
Janetta--not me--by sending her home in disgrace. Janetta is a
governess-pupil here, and it would be a great trouble to her if she were
sent away. I hope that you would rather take _me_ away than let such an
injustice be done.'"

"My Pearl hits the nail on the head exactly," said Mr. Adair, with
complacency. He rose as he spoke, and began to walk about the room. "She
is quite old enough to come home, Caroline. It is June now, and the term
ends in July. Fetch her home, and invite the little governess too, and
you will soon see whether or no she is the right sort of friend for
Margaret." He laughed in his mellow, genial way, and leaned against the
mantel-piece, stroking his yellow moustache and glancing at his wife.

"I am not sure that that would be advisable," said Lady Caroline, with
her pretty smile. "Janetta Colwyn: Colwyn? Did not Margaret know her
before she went to school? Are there not some Colwyns at Beaminster? The
doctor--yes, I remember him; don't you, Reginald?"

Mr. Adair shook his head, but Sir Philip looked up hastily.

"I know him--a struggling man with a large family. His first wife was
rather well-connected, I believe: at any rate she was related to the
Brands of Brand Hall. He married a second time after her death."

"Do you call that being well-connected, Philip?" said Lady Caroline,
with gentle reproach; while Mr. Adair laughed and whistled, but caught
himself up immediately and apologized.

"I beg pardon--I forgot where I was: the less any of us have to do with
the Brands of Brand Hall the better, Phil."

"I know nothing of them," said Sir Philip, rather gravely.

"Nor anybody else"--hastily--"they never live at home, you know. So this
girl is a connection of theirs?"

"Perhaps not a very suitable friend: Miss Polehampton may be right,"
said Lady Caroline. "I suppose I must go over to Brighton and see
Margaret."

"Bring her back with you," said Mr. Adair, recklessly. "She has had
quite enough of school by this time: she is nearly eighteen, isn't she?"

But Lady Caroline smilingly refused to decide anything until she had
herself interviewed Miss Polehampton. She asked her husband to order the
carriage for her at once, and retired to summon her maid and array
herself for the journey.

"You won't go to-day, will you, Philip?" said Mr. Adair, almost
appealingly. "I shall be all alone, and my wife will not perhaps return
until to-morrow--there's no saying."

"Thank you, I shall be most pleased to stay," answered Sir Philip,
cordially. After a moment's pause, he added, with something very like a
touch of shyness--"I have not seen--your daughter since she was twelve
years old."

"Haven't you?" said Mr. Adair, with ready interest. "You don't say so!
Pretty little girl she was then! Didn't you think so?"

"I thought her the loveliest child I had ever seen in all my life," said
Sir Philip, with curious devoutness of manner.

He saw Lady Caroline just as she was starting for the train, with man
and maid in attendance, and Mr. Adair handing her into the carriage and
gallantly offering to accompany her if she liked. "Not at all
necessary," said Lady Caroline, with an indulgent smile. "I shall be
home to dinner. Take care of my husband, Philip, and don't let him be
dull."

"If they are making Margaret unhappy, be sure you bring her back with
you," were Mr. Adair's last words. Lady Caroline gave him a kind but
inscrutable little smile and nod as she was whirled away. Sir Philip
thought to himself that she looked like a woman who would take her own
course in spite of advice or recommendation from her husband or anybody
else.

He smiled once or twice as the day passed on at her parting injunction
to him not to let her husband be dull. He had known the Adairs for many
years, and had never known Reginald Adair dull under any circumstances.
He was too full of interests, of "fads," some people called them, ever
to be dull. He took Sir Philip round the picture-gallery, round the
stables, to the kennels, to the flower-garden, to his own studio (where
he painted in oils when he had nothing else to do) with never-flagging
energy and animation. Sir Philip's interests lay in different grooves,
but he was quite capable of sympathizing with Mr. Adair's interests,
too. The day passed pleasantly, and seemed rather short for all that the
two men wanted to pack into it; although from time to time Mr. Adair
would say, half-impatiently, "I wonder how Caroline is getting on!" or
"I hope she'll bring Margaret back with her! But I don't expect it, you
know. Carry was always a great one for education and that sort of
thing."

"Is Miss Adair intellectual--too?" asked Sir Philip, with respect.

Mr. Adair broke into a sudden laugh. "Intellectual? Our Daisy?--our
Pearl?" he said. "Wait until you see her, then ask the question if you
like."

"I am afraid I don't quite understand."

"Of course you don't. It is the partiality of a fond father that speaks,
my dear fellow. I only meant that these young, fresh, pretty girls put
such questions out of one's head."

"She must be very pretty then," said Sir Philip, with a smile.

He had seen a great many beautiful women, and told himself that he did
not care for beauty. Fashionable, talkative women were his abomination.
He had no sisters, but he loved his mother very dearly; and upon her he
had founded a very high ideal of womanhood. He had begun to think
vaguely, of late, that he ought to marry: duty demanded it of him, and
Sir Philip was always attentive, if not obedient, to the voice of duty.
But he was not inclined to marry a girl out of the schoolroom, or a girl
who was accustomed to the enervating luxury (as he considered it) of
Helmsley Court: he wanted an energetic, sensible, large-hearted, and
large-minded woman who would be his right hand, his first minister of
state. Sir Philip was fairly wealthy, but by no means enormously so; and
he had other uses for his wealth than the buying of pictures and keeping
up stables and kennels at an alarming expense. If Miss Adair were so
pretty, he mused, it was just as well that she was not at home, for, of
course, it was possible that he might find a lovely face an attraction:
and much as he liked Lady Caroline, he did not want particularly to
marry Lady Caroline's daughter. That she treated him with great
consideration, and that he had once overheard her speak of him as "the
most eligible _parti_ of the neighborhood," had already put him a little
on his guard. Lady Caroline was no vulgar, match-making mother, he knew
that well enough; but she was in some respects a thoroughly worldly
woman, and Philip Ashley was an essentially unworldly man.

As he went upstairs to dress for dinner that evening, he was struck by
the fact that a door stood open that he had never seen opened before: a
door into a pretty, well-lighted, pink and white room, the ideal
apartment for a young girl. The evening was chilly, and rain had begun
to fall, so a bright little fire was burning in the steel grate, and
casting a cheerful glow over white sheepskin rugs and rose-colored
curtains. A maid seemed to be busying herself with some white
material--all gauze and lace it looked--and another servant was, as Sir
Philip passed, entering with a great white vase filled with red roses.

"Do they expect visitors to-night?" thought the young man, who knew
enough of the house to be aware that the room was not one in general
use. "Adair said nothing about it, but perhaps some people are coming
from town."

A budget of letters was brought to him at that moment, and in reading
and answering them he did not note the sound of carriage-wheels on the
drive, nor the bustle of an arrival in the house. Indeed, he left
himself so little time that he had to dress in extraordinary haste, and
went downstairs at last in the conviction that he was unpardonably late.

But apparently he was wrong.

For the drawing-room was tenanted by one figure only--that of a young
lady in evening dress. Neither Lady Caroline nor Mr. Adair had appeared
upon the scene; but on the hearthrug, by the small crackling
fire--which, in deference to the chilliness of an English June evening,
had been lighted--stood a tall, fair, slender girl, with pale
complexion, and soft, loosely-coiled masses of golden hair. She was
dressed in pure white, a soft loose gown of Indian silk, trimmed with
the most delicate lace: it was high to the milk-white throat, but showed
the rounded curves of the finely-moulded arm to the elbow. She wore no
ornaments, but a white rose was fastened into the lace frill of her
dress at her neck. As she turned her face towards the new comer, Sir
Philip suddenly felt himself abashed. It was not that she was so
beautiful--in those first few moments he scarcely thought her beautiful
at all--but that she produced on him an impression of serious, virginal
grace and innocence which was almost disconcerting. Her pure complexion,
her grave, serene eyes, her graceful way of moving as she advanced a
little to receive him stirred him to more than admiration--to something
not unlike awe. She looked young; but it was youth in perfection: there
was some marvelous finish, delicacy, polish, which one does not usually
associate with extreme youth.

"You are Sir Philip Ashley, I think?" she said, offering him her slim
cool hand without embarrassment.

"You do not remember me, perhaps, but I remember you perfectly well, I
am Margaret Adair."



CHAPTER III.

AT HELMSLEY COURT.


"Lady Caroline has brought you back, then?" said Sir Philip, after his
first pause of astonishment.

"Yes," said Margaret, serenely. "I have been expelled."

"Expelled! _You?_"

"Yes, indeed, I have," said the girl, with a faintly amused little
smile. "And so has my great friend, Janetta Colwyn. Here she is:
Janetta, I am telling Sir Philip Ashley that we have been expelled, and
he will not believe me."

Sir Philip turned in some curiosity to see the girl of whom he had heard
for the first time that morning. He had not noticed before that she was
present. He saw a brown little creature, with eyes that had been swollen
with crying until they were well-nigh invisible, small, unremarkable
features, and a mouth that was inclined to quiver. Margaret might afford
to be serene, but to this girl expulsion from school had evidently been
a sad trouble. He threw all the more kindness and gentleness into his
voice and look as he spoke to her.

Janetta might have felt a little awkward if she had not been so entirely
absorbed by her own woes. She had never set foot before in half so grand
a house as this of Helmsley Court, nor had she ever dined late or spoken
to a gentleman in an evening coat in all her previous life. The size and
the magnificence of the room would perhaps have oppressed her if she had
been fully aware of them. But she was for the moment very much wrapped
up in her own affairs, and scarcely stopped to think of the novel
situation in which she found herself. The only thing that had startled
her was the attention paid to her dress by Margaret and Margaret's maid.
Janetta would have put on her afternoon black cashmere and little silver
brooch, and would have felt herself perfectly well dressed; but
Margaret, after a little consultation with the very grand young person
who condescended to brush Miss Colwyn's hair, had herself brought to
Janetta's room a dress of black lace over cherry-colored silk, and had
begged her to put it on.

"You will feel so hot downstairs if you don't put on something cool,"
Margaret had said. "There is a fire in the drawing-room: papa likes the
rooms warm. My dresses would not have fitted you, I am so much taller
than you; but mamma is just your height, and although you are thinner
perhaps----But I don't know: the dress fits you perfectly. Look in the
glass, Janet; you are quite splendid."

Janetta looked and blushed a little--not because she thought herself at
all splendid, but because the dress showed her neck and arms in a way no
dress had ever done before. "Ought it to be--open--like this?" she said,
vaguely. "Do you wear your dresses like this when you are at home?"

"Mine are high," said Margaret. "I am not 'out,' you know. But you are
older than I, and you used to teach----I think we may consider that you
_are_ 'out,'" she added, with a little laugh. "You look very nice,
Janetta: you have such pretty arms! Now I must go and dress, and I will
call for you when I am ready to go down."

Janetta felt decidedly doubtful as to whether she were not a great deal
too grand for the occasion; but she altered her mind when she saw
Margaret's dainty silk and lace, and Lady Caroline's exquisite brocade;
and she felt herself quite unworthy to take Mr. Adair's offered arm when
dinner was announced and her host politely convoyed her to the
dining-room. She wondered whether he knew that she was only a little
governess-pupil, and whether he was not angry with her for being the
cause of his daughter's abrupt departure from school. As a matter of
fact, Mr. Adair knew her position exactly, and was very much amused by
the whole affair; also, as it had procured him the pleasure of his
daughter's return home, he had an illogical inclination to be pleased
also with Janetta. "As Margaret is so fond of her, there must be
something in her," he said to himself, with a critical glance at the
girl's delicate features and big dark eyes. "I'll draw her out at
dinner."

He tried his best, and made himself so agreeable and amusing that
Janetta lost a good deal of her shyness, and forgot her troubles. She
had a quick tongue of her own, as everybody at Miss Polehampton's was
aware; and she soon found that she had not lost it. She was a good deal
surprised to find that not a word was said at the dinner table about the
cause of Margaret's return: in her own home it would have been the
subject of the evening; it would have been discussed from every point of
view, and she would probably have been reduced to tears before the first
hour was over. But here it was evident that the matter was not
considered of great importance. Margaret looked serene as ever, and
joined quietly in talk which was alarmingly unlike Miss Polehampton's
improving conversation: talk about county gaieties and county magnates:
gossip about neighbors--gossip of a harmless although frivolous type,
for Lady Caroline never allowed any talk at her table that was anything
but harmless, about fashions, about old china, about music and art. Mr.
Adair was passionately fond of music, and when he found that Miss Colwyn
really knew something of it he was in his element. They discoursed of
fugues, sonatas, concertos, quartettes, and trios, until even Lady
Caroline raised her eyebrows a little at the very technical nature of
the conversation; and Sir Philip exchanged a congratulatory smile with
Margaret over her friend's success. For the delight of finding a
congenial spirit had brought the crimson into Janetta's olive cheeks and
the brilliance to her dark eyes: she had looked insignificant when she
went in to dinner; she was splendidly handsome at dessert. Mr. Adair
noticed her flashing, transitory beauty, and said to himself that
Margaret's taste was unimpeachable; it was just like his own; he had
complete confidence in Margaret.

When the ladies went back to the drawing-room, Sir Philip turned with a
look of only half-disguised curiosity to his host. "Lady Caroline
brought her back then?" he said, longing to ask questions, yet hardly
knowing how to frame them aright.

Mr. Adair gave a great laugh. "It's been the oddest thing I ever heard
of," he said, in a tone of enjoyment. "Margaret takes a fancy to that
little black-eyed girl--a nice little thing, too, don't you think?--and
nothing must serve but that her favorite must walk with her, sit by
her, and so on--you know the romantic way girls have? The schoolmistress
interfered, said it was not proper, and so on; forbade it. Miss Colwyn
would have obeyed, it seems, but Margaret took the bit in a quiet way
between her teeth. Miss Colwyn was ordered to take her meals at a side
table: Margaret insisted on taking her meals there too. The school was
thrown into confusion. At last Miss Polehampton decided that the best
way out of the difficulty was first to complain to us, and then to send
Miss Colwyn home, straight away. She would not send _Margaret_ home, you
know!"

"That was very hard on Miss Colwyn," said Sir Philip, gravely.

"Yes, horribly hard. So Margaret, as you heard, appealed to her mother,
and when Lady Caroline arrived, she found that not only were Miss
Colwyn's boxes packed, but Margaret's as well; and that Margaret had
declared that if her friend was sent away for what was after all _her_
fault, she would not stay an hour in the house. Miss Polehampton was
weeping: the girls were in revolt, the teachers in despair, so my wife
thought the best way out of the difficulty was to bring both girls away
at once, and settle it with Miss Colwyn's relations afterwards. The joke
is that Margaret insists on it that she has been 'expelled.'"

"So she told me."

"The schoolmistress said something of that kind, you know. Caroline says
the woman entirely lost her temper and made an exhibition of herself.
Caroline was glad to get our girl away. But, of course, it's all
nonsense about being 'expelled' as a punishment; she was leaving of her
own accord."

"One could hardly imagine punishment in connection with her," said Sir
Philip, warmly.

"No, she's a nice-looking girl, isn't she? and her little friend is a
good foil, poor little thing."

"This affair may prove of some serious inconvenience to Miss Colwyn, I
suppose?"

"Oh, you may depend upon it, she won't be the loser," said Mr. Adair,
hastily. "We'll see about that. Of course she will not suffer any injury
through my daughter's friendship for her."

Sir Philip was not so sure about it. In spite of his intense admiration
for Margaret's beauty, it occurred to him that the romantic partisanship
of the girl with beauty, position, and wealth for her less fortunate
sister had not been attended with very brilliant results. No doubt Miss
Adair, reared in luxury and indulgence, did not in the least realize the
harm done to the poor governess-pupil's future by her summary dismissal
from Miss Polehampton's boarding-school. To Margaret, anything that the
schoolmistress chose to say or do mattered little; to Janetta Colwyn, it
might some day mean prosperity or adversity of a very serious kind. Sir
Philip did not quite believe in the compensation so easily promised by
Mr. Adair. He made a mental note of Miss Colwyn's condition and
prospects, and said to himself that he would not forget her. And this
meant a good deal from a busy man like Sir Philip Ashley.

Meanwhile there had been another conversation going on in the
drawing-room between the three ladies. Margaret put her arm
affectionately round Janetta's waist as they stood by the hearthrug, and
looked at her mother with a smile. Lady Caroline sank into an easy-chair
on the other side of the fireplace, and contemplated the two girls.

"This is better than Claremont House, is it not, Janet?" said Margaret.

"Indeed it is," Janetta answered, gratefully.

"You found the way to papa's heart by your talk about music--did she
not, mamma? And does not this dress suit her beautifully?"

"It wants a little alteration in the sleeve," said Lady Caroline, with
the placidity which Janetta had always attributed to Margaret as a
special virtue, but which she now found was merely characteristic of the
house and family in general, "but Markham can do that to-morrow. There
are some people coming in the evening, and the sleeve will look better
shortened."

The remark sounded a little inconsequent in Janetta's ear, but Margaret
understood and assented. It meant that Lady Caroline was on the whole
pleased with Janetta, and did not object to introducing her to her
friends. Margaret gave her mother a little smile over Janetta's head,
while that young person was gathering up her courage in two hands, so to
speak, before addressing Lady Caroline.

"I am very much obliged to you," she said at last, with a thrill of
gratitude in her sweet voice which was very pleasant to the ear. "But--I
was thinking--what time would be the most convenient for me to go home
to-morrow?"

"Home? To Beaminster?" said Margaret. "But you need not go, dear; you
can write a note and tell them that you are staying here."

"Yes, my dear; I am sure Margaret cannot part with you yet," said Lady
Caroline, amiably.

"Thank you; it is most kind of you," Janetta answered, her voice
shaking. "But I must ask my father whether I can stay--and hear what he
says; Miss Polehampton will have written to him, and----"

"And he will be very glad that we have rescued you from her clutches,"
said Margaret, with a soft triumphant little laugh. "My poor Janetta!
What we suffered at her hands!"

Lady Caroline lying back in her easy chair, with the candle light
gleaming upon her silvery grey and white brocade with its touches of
soft pink, and the diamonds flashing on her white hands, so calmly
crossed upon the handle of her ivory fan, did not feel quite so tranquil
as she looked. It crossed her mind that Margaret was acting
inconsiderately. This little Miss Colwyn had her living to earn; it
would be no kindness to unfit her for her profession. So, when she spoke
it was with a shade more decision than usual in her tones.

"We will drive you over to Beaminster to-morrow, my dear Miss Colwyn,
and you can then see your family, and ask your father if you may spend a
few days with Margaret. I do not think that Mr. Colwyn will refuse us,"
she said, graciously. "I wonder when those men are coming, Margaret.
Suppose you open the piano and let us have a little music. You sing, do
you not?"

"Yes, a little," said Janetta.

"A little!" exclaimed Margaret, with contempt. "She has a delightful
voice, mamma. Come and sing at once, Janetta, darling, and astonish
mamma."

Lady Caroline smiled. She had heard a great many singers in her day, and
did not expect to be astonished. A little governess-pupil, an
under-teacher in a boarding-school! Dear Margaret's enthusiasm certainly
carried her away.

But when Janetta sang, Lady Caroline was, after all, rather surprised.
The girl had a remarkably sweet and rich contralto voice, and it had
been well trained; and, moreover, she sang with feeling and passion
which were somewhat unusual in one so young. It seemed as if some hidden
power, some latent characteristic came out in her singing because it
found no other way of expressing itself. Neither Lady Caroline nor
Margaret understood why Janetta's voice moved them so much; Sir Philip,
who came in with his host while the music was going on, heard and was
charmed also without quite knowing why; it was Mr. Adair alone whose
musical knowledge and experience of the world enabled him,
feather-headed as in some respects he was, to lay his finger directly on
the salient features of Janetta's singing.

"It's not her voice altogether, you know," he said afterwards to Philip
Ashley, in a moment of confidence; "it's soul. She's got more of that
commodity than is good for a woman. It makes her singing lovely, you
know--brings tears into one's eyes, and all that sort of thing--but upon
my honor I'm thankful that Margaret hasn't got a voice like that! It's
women of that kind that are either heroines of virtue--or go to the
devil. They are always in extremes."

"Then we may promise ourselves some excitement in watching Miss Colwyn's
career," said Sir Philip, dryly.

After Janetta, Margaret sang; she had a sweet mezzo-soprano voice, of no
great strength or compass, but perfectly trained and very pleasing to
the ear. The sort of voice, Sir Philip thought, that would be soothing
to the nerves of a tired man in his own house. Whereas, Janetta's
singing had something impassioned in it which disturbed and excited
instead of soothing. But he was quite ready to admire when Margaret
called on him for admiration. They were sitting together on a sofa, and
Janetta, who had just finished one of her songs, was talking to, or
being talked to, by Mr. Adair. Lady Caroline had taken up a review.

"Is not Miss Colwyn's voice perfectly lovely?" Margaret asked, with
shining eyes.

"It is very sweet."

"Don't you think she looks very nice?"--Margaret was hungering for
admiration of her friend.

"She is a very pretty girl. You are very fond of each other?"

"Oh, yes, devoted. I am so glad I succeeded!" said the girl, with a
great sigh.

"In getting her away from the school?"

"Yes."

"You think it was for her good?"

Margaret opened her lovely eyes.

"For her good?--to come here instead of staying in that close
uncomfortable house to give music lessons, and bear Miss Polehampton's
snubs?----" It had evidently never occurred to her that the change could
be anything but beneficial to Janetta.

"It is very pleasant for her, no doubt," said Sir Philip, smiling in
spite of his disapproval. "I only wondered whether it was a good
preparation for the life of hard work which probably lies before her."

He saw that Margaret colored, and wondered whether she would be offended
by his suggestion. After a moment's pause, she answered, gravely, but
quite gently--

"I never thought of it in that way before, exactly. I want to keep her
here, so that she should never have to work hard at all."

"Would she consent to that?"

"Why not?" said Margaret.

Sir Philip smiled and said no more. It was curious, he said to himself,
to see how little conception Margaret had of lives unlike and outside
her own. And Janetta's brave but sensitive little face, with its
resolute brows and lips and brilliant eyes, gave promise of a
determination and an originality which, he felt convinced, would never
allow her to become a mere plaything or appendage of a wealthy
household, as Margaret Adair seemed to expect. But his words had made an
impression. At night, when Lady Caroline and her daughter were standing
in the charming little room which had always been appropriated to
Margaret's use, she spoke, with the unconscious habit of saying frankly
anything that had occurred to her, of Sir Philip's remarks.

"It was so odd," she said; "Sir Philip seemed to think that it would be
bad for Janetta to stay here, mamma. Why should it be bad for her,
mamma, dear?"

"I don't think it will be at all bad for her to spend a day or two with
us, darling," said Lady Caroline, keeping somewhat careful watch on
Margaret's face as she spoke. "But perhaps it had better be by-and-bye.
You know she wants to go home to-morrow, and we must not keep her away
from her duties or her own sphere of life."

"No," Margaret answered, "but her duties will not always keep her at
home, you know, mamma, dear."

"I suppose not, my dearest," said Lady Caroline, vaguely, but in the
caressing tone to which Margaret was accustomed. "Go to bed, my sweetest
one, and we will talk of all these things to-morrow."

Meanwhile Janetta was wondering at the luxury of the room which had been
allotted to her, and thinking over the events of the past day. When a
tap at the door announced Margaret's appearance to say good-night,
Janetta was standing before the long looking-glass, apparently
inspecting herself by the light of the rose-tinted wax candles in silver
sconces which were fixed on either side of the mirror. She was in her
dressing-gown, and her long and abundant hair fell over her shoulder in
a great curly mass.

"Oh, Miss Vanity!" cried Margaret, with more gaiety of tone than was
usual with her, "are you admiring your pretty hair?"

"I was thinking," said Janetta, with the intensity which often
characterized her speech, "that _now_ I understood you--now I know why
you were so different from other girls, so sweet, so calm and beautiful!
You have lived in this lovely place all your life! It is like a fairy
palace--a dream-house--to me; and you are the queen of it, Margaret--a
princess of dreams!"

"I hope I shall have something more than dreams to reign over some day,"
said Margaret, putting her arms round her friend's neck. "And whatever I
am queen over, you must share my queendom, Janet. You know how fond I am
of you--how I want you to stay with me always and be my friend."

"I shall always be your friend--always, to the last day of my life!"
said Janetta, with fervor. The two made a pretty picture, reflected in
the long mirror; the tall, fair Margaret, still in her soft white silk
frock, with her arm round the smaller figure of the dark girl whose
curly masses of hair half covered her pink cotton dressing-gown, and
whose brown face was upturned so lovingly to her friend's.

"And I am sure it will be good for you to stay with me," said Margaret,
answering an unspoken objection in her mind.

"Good for me? It is delicious--it is lovely!" cried Janetta,
rapturously. "I have never had anything so nice in my whole life. Dear
Margaret, you are so good and so kind--if there were only anything that
I could do for you in return! Perhaps some day I shall have the chance,
and if ever I have--_then_ you shall see whether I am true to my friend
or not!"

Margaret kissed her, with a little smile at Janetta's enthusiasm, which
was so far different from the modes of expression customary at Helmsley
Court, as to be almost amusing.



CHAPTER IV.

ON THE ROAD.


Miss Polehampton had, of course, written to Mr. and Mrs. Colwyn when she
made up her mind that Janetta was to be removed from school; and two or
three letters had been interchanged before that eventful day on which
Margaret declared that if Janetta went she should go too. Margaret had
been purposely kept in the dark until almost the last moment, for Miss
Polehampton did not in the least wish to make a scandal, and annoyed as
she was by Miss Adair's avowed preference for Janetta, she had arranged
a neat little plan by which Miss Colwyn was to go away "for change of
air," and be transferred to a school at Worthing kept by a relation of
her own at the beginning of the following term. These plans had been
upset by a foolish and ill-judged letter from Mrs. Colwyn to her
stepdaughter, which Janetta had not been able to keep from Margaret's
eyes. This letter was full of reproaches to Janetta for giving so much
trouble to her friends; "for, of course," Mrs. Colwyn wrote, "Miss
Polehampton's concern for your health is all a blind in order to get you
away: and if it hadn't been for Miss Adair taking you up, she would have
been only too glad to keep you. But knowing Miss Adair's position, she
sees very clearly that it isn't fit for you to be friends with her, and
so she wants to send you away."

This was in the main true, but Janetta, in the blithe confidence of
youth, would never have discovered it but for that letter. Together she
and Margaret consulted over it, for when Margaret saw Janetta crying,
she almost forced the letter from her hand; and then it was that Miss
Adair vindicated her claim to social superiority. She went straight to
Miss Polehampton and demanded that Janetta should remain; and when the
schoolmistress refused to alter her decision, she calmly replied that in
that case _she_ should go home too. Miss Polehampton was an obstinate
woman, and would not concede the point; and Lady Caroline, on learning
the state of affairs, at once perceived that it was impossible to leave
Margaret at the school where open warfare had been declared. She
accordingly brought both girls away with her, arranging to send Janetta
to her own home next morning.

"You will stay to luncheon, dear, and I will drive you over to
Beaminster at three o'clock," she said to Janetta at breakfast. "No
doubt you are anxious to see your own people."

Janetta looked as if she might find it difficult to reply, but Margaret
interposed a remark--as usual at the right moment.

"We will practice our duets this morning--if Janetta likes, that is; and
we can have a walk in the garden too. Shall we have the landau, mamma?"

"The victoria, I think, dear," said Lady Caroline, placidly. "Your
father wants you to ride with him this afternoon, so I shall have the
pleasure of Miss Colwyn's society in my drive."

Margaret assented; but Janetta became suddenly aware, by a flash of keen
feminine intuition, that Lady Caroline had some reason for wishing to go
with her alone, and that she had purposely made the arrangement that she
spoke of. However, there was nothing to displease her in this, for Lady
Caroline had been most kind and considerate to her, so far, and she was
innocently disposed to believe in the cordiality and sincerity of every
one who behaved with common civility.

So she spent a pleasant morning, singing with Margaret, loitering about
the garden with Mr. Adair, while Margaret and Sir Philip gathered
roses, and enjoying to the full all the sweet influences of peace,
refinement, and prosperity by which she was surrounded.

Margaret left her in the afternoon with rather a hasty kiss, and an
assurance that she would see her again at dinner. Janetta tried to
remind her that by that time she would have left the Court, but Margaret
did not or would not hear. The tears came into the girl's eyes as her
friend disappeared.

"Never mind, dear," said Lady Caroline, who was observing her closely,
"Margaret has forgotten at what hour you were going and I would not
remind her--it would spoil her pleasure in her ride. We will arrange for
you to come to us another day when you have seen your friends at home."

"Thank you," said Janetta. "It was only that she did not seem to
remember that I was going--I had meant to say good-bye."

"Exactly. She thinks that I am going to bring you back this afternoon.
We will talk about it as we go, dear. Suppose you were to put on your
hat now. The carriage will be here in ten minutes."

Janetta prepared for her departure in a somewhat bewildered spirit. She
did not know precisely what Lady Caroline meant. She even felt a little
nervous as she took her place in the victoria and cast a last look at
the stately house in which she had spent some nineteen or twenty
pleasant hours. It was Lady Caroline who spoke first.

"We shall miss your singing to-night," she said, amiably. "Mr. Adair was
looking forward to some more duets. Another time, perhaps----"

"I am always pleased to sing," said Janetta, brightening at this
address.

"Yes--ye--es," said Lady Caroline, with a doubtful little drawl. "No
doubt: one always likes to do what one can do so well; but--I confess I
am not so musical as my husband or my daughter. I must explain why dear
Margaret did not say good bye to you, Miss Colwyn. I allowed her to
remain in the belief that she was to see you again to-night, in order
that she might not be depressed during her ride by the thought of
parting with you. It is always my principle to make the lives of those
dear to me as happy as possible," said Margaret's mother, piously.

"And if Margaret had been depressed during her ride, Mr. Adair and Sir
Philip might have suffered some depression also, and that would be a
great pity."

"Oh, yes," said Janetta. But she felt chilled, without knowing why.

"I must take you into my confidence," said Lady Caroline, in her softest
voice. "Mr. Adair has plans for our dear Margaret. Sir Philip Ashley's
property adjoins our own: he is of good principles, kind-hearted, and
intellectual: he is well off, nice-looking, and of a suitable age--he
admires Margaret very much. I need say no more, I am sure."

Again she looked keenly at Janetta's face, but she read there nothing
but interest and surprise.

"Oh--does Margaret know?" she asked.

"She feels more than she knows," said Lady Caroline, discreetly. "She is
in the first stage of--of--emotion. I did not want the afternoon's
arrangements to be interfered with."

"Oh, no! especially on _my_ account," said Janetta, sincerely.

"When I go home I shall talk quietly to Margaret," pursued Lady
Caroline, "and tell her that you will come back another day, that your
duties called you home--they do, I am sure, dear Miss Colwyn--and that
you could not return with me when you were so much wanted."

"I'm afraid I am not much wanted," said Janetta, with a sigh; "but I
daresay it is my duty to go home----"

"I am sure it is," Lady Caroline declared; "and duty is so high and holy
a thing, dear, that you will never regret the performance of it."

It occurred dimly to Janetta at that point that Lady Caroline's views of
duty might possibly differ from her own; but she did not venture to say
so.

"And, of course, you will never repeat to Margaret----"

Lady Caroline did not complete her sentence. The coachman suddenly
checked the horses' speed: for some unknown reason he actually stopped
short in the very middle of the country road between Helmsley Court and
Beaminster. His mistress uttered a little cry of alarm.

"What is the matter, Steel?"

The footman dismounted and touched his hat.

"I'm afraid there has been an accident, my lady," he said, as
apologetically, as if he were responsible for the accident.

"Oh! Nothing horrible, I hope!" said Lady Caroline, drawing out her
smelling-bottle.

"It's a carriage accident, my lady. Leastways, a cab. The 'orse is lying
right across the road, my lady."

"Speak to the people, Steel," said her ladyship, with great dignity.
"They must not be allowed to block up the road in this way."

"May I get out?" said Janetta, eagerly. "There is a lady lying on the
path, and some people bathing her face. Now they are lifting her up--I
am sure they ought not to lift her up in that way--oh, please, I must go
just for one minute!" And, without waiting for a reply, she stepped, out
of the victoria and sped to the side of the woman who had been hurt.

"Very impulsive and undisciplined," said Lady Caroline to herself, as
she leaned back and held the smelling-bottle to her own delicate nose.
"I am glad I have got her out of the house so soon. Those men were wild
about her singing. Sir Philip disapproved of her presence, but he was
charmed by her voice, I could see that; and poor, dear Reginald was
positively absurd about her voice. And dear Margaret does _not_ sing so
well--it is no use pretending that she does--and Sir Philip is trembling
on the verge--oh, yes, I am sure that I have been very wise. What is
that girl doing now?"

The victoria moved forward a little, so that Lady Caroline could obtain
a clearer view of what was going on. The vehicle which caused the
obstruction--evidently a hired fly from an inn--was uninjured, but the
horse had fallen between the shafts and would never rise again. The
occupants of the fly--a lady, and a much younger man, perhaps her
son--had got out, and the lady had then turned faint, Lady Caroline
heard, but was not in any way hurt. Janetta was kneeling by the side of
the lady--kneeling in the dust, without any regard to the freshness of
her cotton frock, by the way--and had already placed her in the right
position, and was ordering the half-dozen people who had collected to
stand back and give her air. Lady Caroline watched her movements and
gestures with placid amusement, and went so far as to send Steel with
the offer of her smelling salts; but as this offer was rejected she
felt that nothing else could be done. So she sat and looked on
critically.

The woman--Lady Caroline was hardly inclined to call her a lady,
although she did not exactly know why--was at present of a ghastly
paleness, but her features were finely cut, and showed traces of former
beauty. Her hair was grey, with rebellious waves in it, but her eyebrows
were still dark. She was dressed in black, with a good deal of lace
about her; and on her ungloved hand Lady Caroline's keen sight enabled
her to distinguish some very handsome diamond rings. The effect of the
costume was a little spoiled by a large gaudy fan, of violent rainbow
hues, which hung at her side; and perhaps it was this article of
adornment which decided Lady Caroline in her opinion of the woman's
social status. But about the man she was equally positive in a different
way. He _was_ a gentleman: there could be no doubt of that. She put up
her eye-glass and gazed at him with interest. She almost thought that
she had seen him somewhere before.

A handsome man, indeed, and a gentleman; but, oh, what an ill-tempered
one, apparently! He was dark, with fine features, and black hair with a
slight inclination to wave or curl (as far at least as could be judged
when the extremely well-cropped state of his head was taken into
consideration); and from these indications Lady Caroline judged him to
be "the woman's" son. He was tall, muscular, and active looking: it was
the way in which his black eyebrows were bent above his eyes which made
the observer think him ill-tempered, for his manner and his words
expressed anxiety, not anger. But that frown, which must have been
habitual, gave him a distinctly ill-humored look.

At last the lady opened her eyes, and drank a little water, and sat up.
Janetta rose from her knees, and turned to the young man with a smile.
"She will soon be better now," she said. "I am afraid there is nothing
else that I can do--and I think I must go on."

"I am very much obliged to you for your kind assistance," said the
gentleman, but without any abatement of the gloom of his expression. He
gave Janetta a keen look--almost a bold look--Lady Caroline thought, and
then smiled a little, not very pleasantly. "Allow me to take you to your
carriage."

Janetta blushed, as if she were minded to say that it was not her
carriage; but returned to the victoria, and was handed to her seat by
the young man, who then raised his hat with an elaborate flourish which
was not exactly English. Indeed, it occurred to Lady Caroline at once
that there was something French about both the travelers. The lady with
the frizzled grey hair, the black lace dress and mantel, the gaudy blue
and scarlet fan, was quite foreign in appearance; the young man with the
perfectly fitting frock-coat, the tall hat, the flower in his
button-hole, was--in spite of his perfectly English accent--foreign too.
Lady Caroline was cosmopolitan enough to feel an access of greater
interest in the pair in consequence.

"They have sent to the nearest inn for a horse," said Janetta, as the
carriage moved on; "and I dare say they will not have long to wait."

"Was the lady hurt?"

"No, only shaken. She is subject to fainting fits, and the accident
quite upset her nerves, her son said."

"Her son?"

"The gentleman called her mother."

"Oh! You did not hear their name, I suppose?"

"No. There was a big B on their traveling bag."

"B--B--?" said Lady Caroline, thoughtfully. "I don't know any one in
this neighborhood whose name begins with B, except the Bevans. They must
have been merely passing through; and yet the young man's face seemed
familiar to me."

Janetta shook her head. "I never saw them before," she said.

"He has a very bold and unpleasant expression," Lady Caroline remarked,
decidedly. "It spoils him entirely: otherwise he is a handsome man."

The girl made no answer. She knew, as well as Lady Caroline, that she
had been stared at in a manner that was not quite agreeable to her, and
yet she did not like to endorse that lady's condemnation of the
stranger. For he was certainly very nice-looking--and he had been so
kind to his mother that he could not be entirely bad--and to her also
his face was vaguely familiar. Could he belong to Beaminster?

As she sat and meditated, the tall spires of Beaminster Cathedral came
into sight, and a few minutes brought the carriage across the grey
stone bridge and down the principal street of the quaint old place which
called itself a city, but was really neither more nor less than a quiet
country town. Here Lady Caroline turned to her young guest with a
question--"You live in Gwynne Street, I believe, my dear?"

"Yes, at number ten, Gwynne Street," said Janetta, suddenly starting and
feeling a little uncomfortable. The coachman evidently knew the address
already, for at that moment he turned the horse's heads to the left, and
the carriage rolled down a narrow side-street, where the tall red brick
houses had a mean and shabby aspect, and seemed as if constructed to
keep out sun and air as much as possible.

Janetta always felt the closeness and the shabbiness a little when she
first came home, even from school, but when she came from Helmsley Court
they struck her with redoubled force. She had never thought before how
dull the street was, nor noticed that the railings were broken down in
front of the door with the brass-plate that bore her father's name, nor
that the window-curtains were torn and the windows sadly in need of
washing. The little flight of stone steps that led from the iron gate to
the door was also very dirty; and the servant girl, whose head appeared
against the area railings as the carriage drove up, was more untidy,
more unkempt, in appearance than ever Janetta could have expected. "We
can't be rich, but we might be _clean_!" she said to herself in a
subdued frenzy of impatience, as she fancied (quite unjustly) that she
saw a faint smile pass over Lady Caroline's delicate, impassive face. "No
wonder she thinks me an unfit friend for dear Margaret. But--oh, there
is my dear, darling father! Well, nobody can say anything against him at
any rate!" And Janetta's face beamed with sudden joy as she saw Mr.
Colwyn coming down the dirty steps to the ricketty little iron gate, and
Lady Caroline, who knew the surgeon by sight, nodded to him with
friendly condescension.

"How are you, Mr. Colwyn?" she said, graciously. "I have brought your
daughter home, you see, and I hope you will not scold her for what has
been _my_ daughter's fault--not your's."

"I am very glad to see Janetta, under any circumstances," said Mr.
Colwyn, gravely, as he raised his hat. He was a tall spare man, in a
shabby coat, with a careworn aspect, and kindly, melancholy eyes.
Janetta noticed with a pang that his hair was greyer than it had been
when last she went back to school.

"We shall be glad to see her again at Helmsley Court," said Lady
Caroline. "No, I won't get out, thank you. I have to get back to tea.
Your daughter's box is in front. I was to tell you from Miss
Polehampton, Mr. Colwyn, that her friend at Worthing would be glad of
Miss Colwyn's services after the holidays."

"I am much obliged to your ladyship," said Mr. Colwyn, with grave
formality. "I am not sure that I shall let my daughter go."

"Won't you? Oh, but she ought to have all possible advantages! And can
you tell me, Mr. Colwyn, by any chance, _who_ are the people whom we
passed on the road to Beaminster--an oldish lady in black and a young
man with very dark hair and eyes? They had B on their luggage, I
believe."

Mr. Colwyn looked surprised.

"I think I can tell you," he said, quietly. "They were on their way from
Beaminster to Brand Hall. The young man was a cousin of my wife's: his
name is Wyvis Brand, and the lady in black was his mother. They have
come home after an absence of nearly four-and-twenty years."

Lady Caroline was too polite to say what she really felt--that she was
sorry to hear it.



CHAPTER V.

WYVIS BRAND.


On the evening of the day on which Lady Caroline drove with Janetta
Colwyn to Beaminster, the lady who had fainted by the wayside was
sitting in a rather gloomy-looking room at Brand Hall--a room known in
the household as the Blue Drawing-room. It had not the look of a
drawing-room exactly: it was paneled in oak, which had grown black with
age, as had also the great oak beams that crossed the ceiling and the
polished floor. The furniture also was of oak, and the hangings of dark
but faded blue, while the blue velvet of the chairs and the square of
Oriental carpet, in which blue tints also preponderated, did not add
cheerfulness to the scene. One or two great blue vases set on the carved
oak mantel-piece, and some smaller blue ornaments on a sideboard,
matched the furniture in tint; but it was remarkable that on a day when
country gardens were overflowing with blossom, there was not a single
flower or green leaf in any of the vases. No smaller and lighter
ornaments, no scrap of woman's handiwork--lace or embroidery--enlivened
the place: no books were set upon the table. A fire would not have been
out of season, for the evenings were chilly, and it would have had a
cheery look; but there was no attempt at cheeriness. The woman who sat
in one of the high-backed chairs was pale and sad: her folded hands lay
listlessly clasped together on her lap, and the sombre garb that she
wore was as unrelieved by any gleam of brightness as the room itself. In
the gathering gloom of a chilly summer evening, even the rings upon her
fingers could not flash. Her white face, in its setting of rough, wavy
grey hair, over which she wore a covering of black lace, looked almost
statuesque in its profound tranquillity. But it was not the tranquillity
of comfort and prosperity that had settled on that pale, worn,
high-featured face--it was rather the tranquillity that comes of
accepted sorrow and inextinguishable despair.

She had sat thus for fully half an hour when the door was roughly
opened, and the young man whom Mr. Colwyn had named as Wyvis Brand came
lounging into the room. He had been dining, but he was not in evening
dress, and there was something unrestful and reckless in his way of
moving round the room and throwing himself in the chair nearest his
mother's, which roused Mrs. Brand's attention. She turned slightly
towards him, and became conscious at once of the fumes of wine and
strong tobacco with which her son had made her only too familiar. She
looked at him for a moment, then clasped her hands tightly together and
resumed her former position, with her sad face turned to the window. She
may have breathed a sigh as she did so, but Wyvis Brand did not hear it,
and if he had heard it, would not perhaps have very greatly cared.

"Why do you sit in the dark?" he said at last, in a vexed tone.

"I will ring for lights," Mrs. Brand answered quietly.

"Do as you like: I am not going to stay: I am going out," said the young
man.

The hand that his mother had stretched out towards the bell fell to her
side: she was a submissive woman, used to taking her son at his word.

"You are lonely here," she ventured to remark, after a short silence:
"you will be glad when Cuthbert comes down."

"It's a beastly hole," said her son, gloomily. "I would advise Cuthbert
to stay in Paris. What he will do with himself here, I can't imagine."

"He is happy anywhere," said the mother, with a stifled sigh.

Wyvis uttered a short, harsh laugh.

"That can't be said of us, can it?" he exclaimed, putting his hand on
his mother's knee in a rough sort of caress. "We are generally in the
shadow while Cuthbert is in the sunshine, eh? The influence of this old
place makes me poetical, you see."

"_You_ need not be in the shadow," said Mrs. Brand. But she said it with
an effort.

"Needn't I?" said Wyvis. He thrust his hands into his pockets and leaned
back in his chair with another laugh. "I have such a lot to make me
cheerful, haven't I?"

His mother turned her eyes upon him with a look of yearning tenderness
which, even if the room had been less dimly lighted, he would not have
seen. He was not much in the habit of looking for sympathy in other
people's faces.

"Is the place worse than you expected?" she asked, with a tremor in her
voice.

"It is mouldier--and smaller," he replied, curtly. "One's childish
impressions don't go for much. And it is in a miserable state--roof out
of repair--fences falling down--drainage imperfect. It has been allowed
to go to rack and ruin while we were away."

"Wyvis, Wyvis," said his mother, in a tone of pain, "I kept you away for
your own sake. I thought you would be happier abroad."

"Oh--happier!" said the young man, rather scornfully. "Happiness isn't
meant for me: it isn't in my line. It makes no difference to me whether
I am here or in Paris. I should have been here long ago if I had had
any idea that things were going wrong in this way."

"I suppose," said Mrs. Brand, carefully controlling her voice, "that you
will not have the visitors you spoke of if the house is in so bad a
state."

"Not have visitors? Of course I shall have visitors. What else is there
for me to do with myself? We shall get the house put pretty straight by
the 12th. Not that there will be any shooting worth speaking of on _my_
place."

"If nobody comes before the 12th, I think we can make the house
habitable. I will do my best, Wyvis."

Wyvis laughed again, but in a softer key. "You!" he said. "You can't do
much, mother. It isn't the sort of thing you care about. You stay in
your own rooms and do your needle-work; I'll see to the house. Some men
are coming long before the 12th--the day after to-morrow, I believe."

"Who?"

"Oh, Dering and St. John and Ponsonby, I expect. I don't know whether
they will bring any one else."

"The worst men of the worst set you know!" sighed his mother, under her
breath. "Could not you have left them behind?"

She felt rather than saw how he frowned--how his hand twitched with
impatience.

"What sort of friends am I likely to have?" he said. "Why not those that
amuse me most?"

Then he rose and went over to the window, where he stood for some time
looking out. Turning round at last, he perceived from a slight familiar
movement of his mother's hand over her eyes that she was weeping, and it
seemed as if his heart smote him at the sight.

"Come, mother," he said, kindly, "don't take what I say and do so much
to heart. You know I'm no good, and never shall do anything in the
world. You have Cuthbert to comfort you--"

"Cuthbert is nothing to me--_nothing_--compared with you, Wyvis."

The young man came to her side and put his hand on her shoulder. The
passionate tone had touched him.

"Poor mother!" he said, softly. "You've suffered a good deal through me,
haven't you? I wish I could make you forget all the past--but perhaps
you wouldn't thank me if I could."

"No," she said, leaning forward so as to rest her forehead against his
arm. "No. For there has been brightness in the past, but I see little
brightness in the future either for you or for me."

"Well, that is my own fault," said Wyvis, lightly but bitterly. "If it
had not been for my own youthful folly I shouldn't be burdened as I am
now. I have no one but myself to thank."

"Yes, yes, it was my fault. I pressed you to do it--to tie yourself for
life to the woman who has made you miserable!" said Mrs. Brand, in a
tone of despairing self-accusation. "I fancied--then--that we were doing
right."

"I suppose we were doing right," said Wyvis Brand sternly, but not as if
the thought gave him any consolation. "It was better perhaps that I
should marry the woman whom I thought I loved--instead of leaving her or
wronging her--but I wish to God that I had never seen her face!"

"And to think that I persuaded you into marrying her," moaned the
mother, rocking herself backward and forward in the extremity of her
regretful anguish; "I--who ought to have been wiser--who might have
interfered----"

"You couldn't have interfered to much purpose. I was mad about her at
the time," said her son, beginning to walk about the room in a restless,
aimless manner. "I wish, mother, that you would cease to talk about the
past. It seems to me sometimes like a dream; if you would but let it lie
still, I think that I could fancy it was a dream. Remember that I do not
blame you. When I rage against the bond, I am perfectly well aware that
it was one of my own making. No remonstrance, no command would have
availed with me for a moment. I was determined to go my own way, and I
went."

It was curious to remark that the roughness and harshness of his first
manner had dropped away from him as it did drop now and then. He spoke
with the polished utterance of an educated man. It was almost as though
he at times put on a certain boorishness of demeanor, feeling it in some
way demanded of him by circumstances--but not natural to him after all.

"I will try not to vex you, Wyvis," said his mother, wistfully.

"You do not vex me exactly," he answered, "but you stir my old memories
too often. I want to forget the past. Why else did I come down here,
where I have never been since I was a child? where Juliet never set
foot, and where I have no association with that miserable passage in my
life?"

"Then why do you bring those men down, Wyvis? For _they_ know the past:
_they_ will recall old associations----"

"They amuse me. I cannot be without companions. I do not pretend to cut
myself off from the whole world."

As he spoke thus briefly and coldly, he stopped to strike a match, and
then lighted the wax candles that stood on the black sideboard. By this
act he meant perhaps to put a stop to the conversation of which he was
heartily tired. But Mrs. Brand, in the half-bewildered condition of mind
to which long anxiety and sorrow had reduced her, did not know the
virtue of silence, and did not possess the magic quality of tact.

"You might find companions down here," she said, pertinaciously, "people
suited to your position--old friends of your father's, perhaps----"

"Will they be so willing to make friends with my father's son?" Wyvis
burst out bitterly. Then, seeing from her white and stricken face that
he had hurt her, he came to her side and kissed her penitently. "Forgive
me, mother," he said, "if I say what you don't like. I've been hearing
about my father ever since I came to Beaminster two days ago. I have
heard nothing but what confirmed my previous idea about his character.
Even poor old Colwyn couldn't say any good of him. He went to the devil
as fast as ever he could go, and his son seems likely to follow in his
footsteps. That's the general opinion, and, by George, I think I shall
soon do something to justify it."

"You need not live as your father did, Wyvis," said his mother, whose
tears were flowing fast.

"If I don't, nobody will believe it," said the young man, moodily.
"There is no fighting against fate. The Brands are doomed, mother: we
shall die out and be forgotten--all the better for the world, too. It is
time we were done with: we are a bad lot."

"Cuthbert is not bad. And you--Wyvis, you have your child."

"Have I? A child that I have not seen since it was six months old!
Brought up by its mother--a woman without heart or principle or anything
that is good! Much comfort the child is likely to be to me when I get
hold of it."

"When will that be?" said Mrs. Brand, as if speaking to herself rather
than to him. But Wyvis replied:

"When she is tired of it--not before. I do not know where she is."

"Does she not draw her allowance?"

"Not regularly. And she refused her address when she last appeared at
Kirby's. I suppose she wants to keep the child away from me. She need
not trouble. The last thing I want is her brat to bring up."

"Wyvis!"

But to his mother's remonstrating exclamation Wyvis paid no attention in
the least: his mood was fitful, and he was glad to step out of the
ill-lighted room into the hall, and thence to the silence and solitude
of the grounds about the house.

Brand Hall had been practically deserted for the last few years. A
tenant or two had occupied it for a little time soon after its late
master's withdrawal from the country; but the house was inconvenient and
remote from towns, and it was said, moreover, to be damp and unhealthy.
A caretaker and his wife had, therefore, been its only inhabitants of
late, and a great deal of preparation had been required to make it fit
for its owner when he at last wrote to his agents in Beaminster to
intimate his intention of settling at the Hall.

The Brands had for many a long year been renowned as the most unlucky
family in the neighborhood. They had once possessed a great property in
the county; but gambling losses and speculation had greatly reduced
their wealth, and even in the time of Wyvis Brand's grandfather the
prestige of the family had sunk very low. In the days of Mark Brand, the
father of Wyvis, it sank lower still. Mark Brand was not only "wild,"
but weak: not only weak, but wicked. His career was one of riotous
dissipation, culminating in what was generally spoken of as "a low
marriage"--with the barmaid of a Beaminster public-house. Mary Wyvis had
never been at all like the typical barmaid of fiction or real life: she
was always pale, quiet, and refined-looking, and it was not difficult to
see how she had developed into the sorrowful, careworn woman whom Wyvis
Brand called mother; but she came of a thoroughly bad stock, and was not
untouched in reputation. The county people cut Mark Brand after his
marriage, and never took any notice of his wife; and they were horrified
when he insisted on naming his eldest son after his wife's family, as if
he gloried in the lowliness of her origin. But when Wyvis was a small
boy, his father resolved that neither he nor his children should be
flouted and jeered at by county magnates any longer. He went abroad, and
remained abroad until his death, when Wyvis was twenty years of age and
Cuthbert, the younger son, was barely twelve. Some people said that the
discovery of some particularly disgraceful deed was imminent when he
left his native shores, and that it was for this reason that he had
never returned to England; but Mark Brand himself always spoke as if his
health were too weak, his nerves too delicate, to bear the rough breezes
of his own country and the brusque manners of his compatriots. He had
brought up his son according to his own ideas; and the result did not
seem entirely satisfactory. Vague rumors occasionally reached Beaminster
of scrapes and scandals in which the young Brands figured; it was said
that Wyvis was a particularly black sheep, and that he did his best to
corrupt his younger brother Cuthbert. The news that he was coming back
to Brand Hall was not received with enthusiasm by those who heard it.

Wyvis' own story had been a sad one--perhaps more sad than scandalous;
but it was a story that the Beaminster people were never to hear aright.
Few knew it, and most of those who knew it had agreed to keep it secret.
That his wife and child were living, many persons in Paris were aware;
that they had separated was also known, but the reason of that
separation was to most persons a secret. And Wyvis, who had a great
dislike to chatterers, made up his mind when he came to Beaminster that
he would tell to nobody the history of the past few years. Had it not
been for his mother's sad face, he fancied that he could have put it out
of his mind altogether. He half resented the pertinacity with which she
seemed to brood upon it. The fact that she had forwarded--had almost
insisted upon--the unfortunate marriage, weighed heavily upon her mind.
There had been a point at which Wyvis would have given it up. But his
mother had espoused the side of the girl, persuaded the young man to
fulfill his promises to her--and repented it ever since. Mrs. Wyvis
Brand had developed an uncontrollable love for strong drink, as well as
a temper that made her at times more like a mad woman than an ordinary
human being; and when she one day disappeared from her husband's home,
carrying his child with her, and announcing in a subsequent letter that
she did not mean to return, it could hardly be wondered at if Wyvis drew
a long breath of relief, and hoped that she never would.



CHAPTER VI.

JANETTA AT HOME.


When Lady Caroline drove away from Gwynne Street, Janetta was left by
the tumble-down iron gate with her father, in whose hand she had laid
both her own. He looked at her interrogatively, smiled a little and
said--"Well, my dear?" with a softening of his whole face which made him
positively beautiful in Janetta's eyes.

"Dear, dearest father!" said the girl, with an irrepressible little sob.
"I am so glad to see you again!"

"Come in, my dear," said Mr. Colwyn, who was not an emotional man,
although a sympathetic one. "We have been expecting you all day. We did
not think that they would keep you so long at the Court."

"I'll tell you all about it when I get in," said Janetta, trying to
speak cheerily, with an instinctive remembrance of the demands usually
made upon her fortitude in her own home. "Is mamma in?" She always spoke
of the present Mrs. Colwyn, as "mamma," to distinguish her from her own
mother. "I don't see any of the children."

"Frightened away by the grand carriage, I expect," said Mr. Colwyn, with
a grim smile. "I see a head or two at the window. Here, Joey, Georgie,
Tiny--where are you all? Come and help to carry your sister's things
upstairs." He went to the front door and called again; whereupon a side
door opened, and from it issued a slip-shod, untidy-looking woman in a
shawl, while over her shoulder and under her arm appeared a little
troop of children in various stages of growth and untidiness. Mrs.
Colwyn had the peculiarity of never being ready for any engagement, much
less for any emergency: she had been expecting Janetta all day, and with
Janetta some of the Court party; but she was nevertheless in a state of
semi-undress, which she tried to conceal underneath her shawl; and on
the first intimation of the approach of Lady Caroline's carriage she had
shut herself and the children into a back room, and declared her
intention of fainting on the spot if Lady Caroline entered the front
door.

"Well, Janetta," she said, as she advanced towards her stepdaughter and
presented one faded cheek to be kissed, "so your grand friends have
brought you home! Of course they wouldn't come in; I did not expect
them, I am sure. Come into the front room--and children, don't crowd so;
your sister will speak to you by-and-bye."

"Oh, no, let me kiss them now," said Janetta, who was receiving a series
of affectionate hugs that went far to blind her eyes to the general
deficiency of orderliness and beauty in the house to which she had come.
"Oh, darlings, I am so glad to see you again! Joey, how you have grown!
And Tiny isn't Tiny any longer! Georgie, you have been plaiting your
hair! And here are Curly and Jinks! But where is Nora?"

"Upstairs, curling her hair," shouted the child who was known by the
name of Jinks. While Georgie, a well-grown girl of thirteen, added in a
lower tone,

"She would not come down until the Court people had gone. She said _she_
didn't want to be patronized."

Janetta colored, and turned away. Meanwhile Mrs. Colwyn had dropped into
the nearest arm-chair, and Mr. Colwyn strayed in and out of the room
with the expression of a dog that has lost its master. Georgie hung upon
Janetta's arm, and the younger children either clung to their elder
sister, or stared at her with round eyes and their fingers in their
mouths. Janetta felt uncomfortably conscious of being more than usually
interesting to them all. Joe, the eldest boy, a dusty lad of fourteen,
all legs and arms, favored her with a broad grin expressive of delight,
which his sister did not understand. It was Tiny, the most gentle and
delicate of the tribe, who let in a little light on the subject.

"Did they send you away from school for being naughty?" she asked, with
a grave look into Janetta's face.

A chuckle from Joey, and a giggle from Georgie, were instantly repressed
by Mr. Colwyn's frown and Mrs. Colwyn's acid remonstrance.

"What are you thinking of, children? Sister is never naughty. We do not
yet quite understand why she has left Miss Polehampton's so suddenly,
but of course she has some good reason. She'll explain it, no doubt, to
her papa and me. Miss Polehampton has been a great deal put out about it
all, and has written a long letter to your papa, Janetta; and, indeed,
it seems to _me_ as if it would have been more becoming if you had kept
to your own place and not tried to make friends with those above
you----"

"Who are those above her, I should like to know?" broke in the
grey-haired surgeon with some heat. "My Janet's as good as the best of
them any day. The Adairs are not such grand people as Miss Polehampton
makes out--I never heard of such insulting distinctions!"

"Fancy Janetta being sent away--regularly expelled!" muttered Joey, with
another chuckle.

"You are very unkind to talk in that way!" said Janetta, addressing him,
because at that moment she could not bear to look at Mr. Colwyn. "It was
not _that_ that made Miss Polehampton angry. It was what she called
insubordination. Miss Adair did not like to see me having meals at a
side-table--though I didn't mind one single bit!--and she left her own
place and sat by me--and then Miss Polehampton was vexed--and everything
followed naturally. It was not just my being friends with Miss Adair
that made her send me away."

"It seems to me," said Mr. Colwyn, "that Miss Adair was very
inconsiderate."

"It was all her love and friendship, father," pleaded Janetta. "And she
had always had her own way; and of course she did not think that Miss
Polehampton really meant----"

Her weak little excuses were cut short by a scornful laugh from her
stepmother.

"It's easy to see that you have been made a cat's-paw of, Janetta," she
said. "Miss Adair was tired of school, and took the opportunity of
making a to-do about you, so as to provoke the schoolmistress and get
sent away. It does not matter to her, of course: _she_ hasn't got her
living to earn. And if you lose your teaching, and Miss Polehampton's
recommendations by it, it doesn't affect her. Oh, I understand these
fine ladies and their ways."

"Indeed," said Janetta, in distress, "you quite misunderstand Miss
Adair, mamma. Besides, it has not deprived me of my teaching: Miss
Polehampton had told me that I might go to her sister's school at
Worthing if I liked; and she only let me go yesterday because she became
irritated at--at--some of the things that were said----"

"Yes, but I shall not let you go to Worthing," said Mr. Colwyn, with
sudden decisiveness. "You shall not be exposed to insolence of this kind
any longer. Miss Polehampton had no right to treat you as she did, and I
shall write and tell her so."

"And if Janetta stays at home," said his wife complainingly, "what is to
become of her career as a music-teacher? She can't get lessons here, and
there's the expense----"

"I hope I can afford to keep my daughter as long as I am alive," said
Mr. Colwyn with some vehemence. "There, don't be vexed, my dear child,"
and he laid his hand tenderly on Janetta's shoulder, "nobody blames you;
and your friend erred perhaps from over-affection; but Miss
Polehampton"--with energy--"is a vulgar, self-seeking, foolish old
woman, and I won't have you enter into relations with her again."

And then he left the room, and Janetta, forcing back the tears in her
eyes, did her best to smile when Georgie and Tiny hugged her
simultaneously and Jinks beat a tattoo upon her knee.

"Well," said Mrs. Colwyn, lugubriously, "I hope everything will turn out
for the best; but it is not at all nice, Janetta, to think that Miss
Adair has been expelled for your sake, or that you are thrown out of
work without a character, so to speak. I should think the Adairs would
see that, and would make some compensation. If they don't offer to do
so, your papa might suggest it----"

"I'm sure father would never suggest anything of the kind," Janetta
flashed out; but before Mrs. Colwyn could protest, a diversion was
effected by the entrance of the missing Nora, and all discussion was
postponed to a more fitting moment.

For to look at Nora was to forget discussion. She was the eldest of the
second Mrs. Colwyn's children--a girl just seventeen, taller than
Janetta and thinner, with the thinness of immature girlhood, but with a
fair skin and a mop of golden-brown hair, which curled so naturally that
her younger brother's statement concerning those fair locks must surely
have been a libel. She had a vivacious, narrow, little face, with large
eyes like a child's--that is to say, they had the transparent look that
one sees in some children's eyes, as if the color had been laid on in a
single wash without any shadows. They were very pretty eyes, and gave
light and expression to a set of rather small features, which might have
been insignificant if they had belonged to an insignificant person. But
Nora Colwyn was anything but insignificant.

"Have your fine friends gone?" she said, peeping into the room in
pretended alarm. "Then I may come in. How are you, Janetta, after your
sojourn in the halls of dazzling light?"

"Don't be absurd, Nora," said her sister, with a sudden backward dart of
remembrance to the tranquil beauty of the rooms at Helmsley Court and
the silver accents of Lady Caroline. "Why didn't you come down before?"

"My dear, I thought the nobility and gentry were blocking the door,"
said Nora, kissing her. "But since they are gone, you might as well come
upstairs with me and take off your things. Then we can have tea."

Obediently Janetta followed her sister to the little room which they
always shared when Janetta was at home. It might have looked very bare
and desolate to ordinary eyes, but the girl felt the thrill of pleasure
that all young creatures feel to anything that bears the name of home,
and became aware of a satisfaction such as she had not experienced in
her luxurious bedroom at Helmsley Court. Nora helped her to take off her
hat and cloak, and to unpack her box, insisting meanwhile on a detailed
relation of all the events that had led to Janetta's return three weeks
before the end of the term, and shrieking with laughter over what she
called "Miss Poley's defeat."

"But, seriously, Nora, what shall I do with myself, if father will not
let me go to Worthing?"

"Teach the children at home," said Nora, briskly; "and save me the
trouble of looking after them. I should like that. Or get some pupils in
the town. Surely the Adairs will recommend you!"

This constant reference to possible aid from the Adairs troubled Janetta
not a little, and it was with some notion of combatting the idea that
she repaired to the surgery after tea, in order to get a few words on
the subject with her father. But his first remark was on quite a
different matter.

"Here's a pretty kettle of fish, Janet! The Brands are back again!"

"So I heard you say to Lady Caroline."

"Mark Brand was a cousin of your mother's," said Mr. Colwyn, abruptly;
"and a bad lot. As for these sons of his, I know nothing about
them--absolutely nothing. But their mother----" he shook his head
significantly.

"We saw them to day," said Janetta.

"Ah, an accident of that kind would be a shock to her: she does not look
strong. They wrote to me from the 'Clown,' where they had stayed for the
last two days; some question relative to the drainage of Brand Hall. I
went to the 'Crown' and saw them. He's a fine-looking man."

"He has not altogether a pleasant expression," remarked Janetta,
thinking of Lady Caroline's strictures; "but I--liked--his face."

"He looks ill-tempered," said her father. "And I can't say that he
showed me much civility. He did not even know that your poor mother was
dead. Never asked whether she had left any family or anything."

"Did you tell him?" asked Janetta, after a pause.

"No. I did not think it worth while. I am not anxious to cultivate his
acquaintance."

"After all, what does it matter?" said the girl coaxingly, for she
thought she saw a shadow of disappointment upon his face.

"No, what does it matter?" said her father, brightening up at once. "As
long as we are happy with each other, these outside people need not
disturb us, need they?"

"Not a bit," said Janetta. "And--you are not angry with me, are you,
father, dear?"

"Why should I be, my Janet? You have done nothing wrong that I know of.
If there is any blame it attaches to Miss Adair, not to you."

"But I do not want you to think so, father. Miss Adair is the greatest
friend that I have in all the world."

And she found a good many opportunities of repeating; this conviction of
hers during the next few days, for Mrs. Colwyn and Nora were not slow to
repeat the sentiment with which they had greeted her--that the Adairs
were "stuck-up" fine people, and that they did not mean to take any
further notice of her now that they had got what they desired.

Janetta stood up gallantly for her friend, but she did feel it a little
hard that Margaret had not written or come to see her since her return
home. She conjectured--and in the conjecture she was nearly right--that
Lady Caroline had sacrificed her a little in order to smooth over things
with her daughter: that she had represented Janetta as resolved upon
going, resolved upon neglecting Margaret and not complying with her
requests; and that Margaret was a little offended with her in
consequence. She wrote an affectionate note of excuse to her friend, but
Margaret made no reply.

In the first ardor of a youthful friendship, Janetta's heart ached over
this silence, and she meditated much as she lay nights upon her little
white bed in Nora's attic (for she had not time to meditate during the
day) upon the smoothness of life which seemed necessary to the Adairs
and the means they took for securing it. On the whole, their life seemed
to her too artificial, too much like the life of delicate hot-house
flowers under glass; and she came to the conclusion that she preferred
her own mode of existence--troublous and hurried and common as it might
seem in the eyes of the world to be. After all, was it not pleasant to
know that while she was at home, there was a little more comfort than
usual for her over-worked, hardly-driven, careworn father; she could see
that his meals were properly cooked and served when he came in from long
and weary expeditions into the country or amongst the poor of
Beaminster; she could help Joey and Georgie in the evenings with their
respective lessons; she could teach and care for the younger children
all day long. To her stepmother she did not feel that she was very
useful; but she could at any rate make new caps for her, new lace
fichus and bows, which caused Mrs. Colwyn occasionally to remark with
some complacency that Janetta had been quite _wasted_ at Miss
Polehampton's school: her proper destiny was evidently to be a milliner.

Nora was the one person of the family who did not seem to want Janetta's
help. Indirectly, however, the elder sister was more useful to her than
she knew; for the two went out together and were companions. Hitherto
Nora had walked alone, and had made one or two undesirable girl
acquaintances. But these were dropped when she had Janetta to talk to,
dropped quietly, without a word, much to their indignation, and without
Janetta's knowing of their existence.

It became a common thing for the two girls to go out together in the
long summer evenings, when the work of the day was over, and stroll
along the country roads, or venture into the cool shadow of the
Beaminster woods. Sometimes the children went with them: sometimes
Janetta and Nora went alone. And it was when they were alone one evening
that a somewhat unexpected incident came to pass.

The Beaminster woods ran for some distance in a northerly direction
beyond Beaminster, and there was a point where only a wire fence divided
them from the grounds of Brand Hall. Near this fence Janetta and her
sister found themselves one evening--not that they had purposed to reach
the boundary, but that they had strayed a little from the beaten path.
As they neared the fence they looked at each other and laughed.

"I did not know that we were so near the lordly dwelling of your
relations!" said Nora, who loved to tease, and knew that she could
always rouse Janetta's indignation by a reference to her "fine friends."

"I did not know either," returned Janetta, good-humoredly. "We can see
the house a little. Look at the great red chimneys."

"I have been over it," said Nora, contemptuously. "It's a poor little
place, after all--saving your presence, Netta! I wonder if the Brands
mean to acknowledge your existence? They----"

She stopped short, for her foot had caught on something, and she nearly
stumbled. Janetta stopped also, and the two sisters uttered a sudden
cry of surprise. For what Nora had stumbled over was a wooden horse--a
child's broken toy--and deep in the bracken before them, with one hand
beneath his flushed and dimpled cheek, there lay the loveliest of all
objects--a sleeping child.



CHAPTER VII.

NORA'S NEW ACQUAINTANCE.


"He must have lost his way," said Janetta, bending over him. "Poor
little fellow!"

"He's a pretty little boy," said Nora, carelessly. "His nurse or his
mother or somebody will be near, I dare say--perhaps gone up to the
house. Shall I look about?"

"Wait a minute--he is awake--he will tell us who he is."

The child, roused by the sound of voices, turned a little, stretched
himself, then opened his great dark eyes, and fixed them full on
Janetta's face. What he saw there must have reassured him, for a dreamy
smile came to his lips, and he stretched out his little hands to her.

"You darling!" cried Janetta. "Where did you come from, dear? What is
your name?"

The boy raised himself and looked about him. He looked about five years
old, and was a remarkably fine and handsome child. It was in perfectly
clear and distinct English--almost free from any trace of baby
dialect--that he replied--

"Mammy brought me. She said I should find my father here. I don't want
my father," he remarked, decidedly.

"Who is your father? What is your name?" Nora asked.

"My name is Julian Wyvis Brand," said the little fellow, sturdily; "and
I want to know where my father lives, if you please, 'cause it'll soon
be my bed-time, and I'm getting very hungry."

Janetta and her sister exchanged glances.

"Is your father's name Wyvis Brand, too?" asked Janetta.

"Yes, same as mine," said the boy, nodding. He stood erect now, and she
noticed that his clothes, originally of fashionable cut and costly
material, were torn and stained and shabby. He had a little bundle
beside him, tied up in a gaudy shawl; and the broken toy-horse seemed to
have fallen out of it.

"But where is your mother?"

"Mammy's gone away. She told me to go and find my father at the big red
house there. I did go once; but they thought I was a beggar, and they
sent me away. I don't know what to do, I don't. I wish mammy would
come."

"Will she come soon?"

"She said no. Never, never, never. She's gone over the sea again," said
the boy, with the abstracted, meditative look which children sometimes
assume when they are concocting a romance, and which Janetta was quick
to remark. "I think she's gone right off to America or London. But she
said that I was to tell my father that she would never come back."

"What are we to do?" said Nora, in an under tone.

"We must take him to Brand Hall," Janetta answered, "and ask to see
either Mrs. Brand or Mr. Wyvis Brand."

"Won't it be rather dreadful?"

Janetta turned hastily on her sister. "Yes," she said, with decision,
"it is very awkward, indeed, and it may be much better that you should
not be mixed up in the matter at all. You must stay here while I go up
to the house."

"But, Janetta, wouldn't you rather have some one with you?"

"I think it will be easier alone," Janetta answered. "You see, I have
seen Mrs. Brand and her son already, and I feel as if I knew what they
would be like. Wait for me here: I daresay I shall not be ten minutes.
Come, dear, will you go with me to see if we can find your father?"

"Yes," said the boy, promptly putting his hand in hers.

"Are these your things in the bundle?"

"Yes; mammy put them there. There's my Sunday suit, and my book of
'Jack, the Giantkiller,' you know. And my wooden horse; but it's broke.
Will you carry the horse for me?--and I'll carry the bundle."

"Isn't it too heavy for you?"

"Not a bit," and the little fellow grasped it by both bands, and swung
it about triumphantly.

"Come along, then," said Janetta, with a smile. "Wait for me here, Nora,
dear: I shall then find you easily when I come back."

She marched off, the boy stumping after her with his burden. Nora
noticed that after a few minutes' walk her sister gently relieved him of
the load and carried it herself.

"Just like Janetta," she soliloquized, as the two figures disappeared
behind a clump of tall trees; "she was afraid of spoiling the moral if
she did not let him _try_ at least to carry the bundle. She always is
afraid of spoiling the moral: I never knew such a conscientious person
in my life. I am sure, as mamma says, she sets an excellent example."

And then Nora balanced herself on the loose wire of the fence, which
made an excellent swing, and poising herself upon it she took off her
hat, and resigned herself to waiting for Janetta's return. Naturally,
perhaps, her meditations turned upon Janetta's character.

"I wish I were like her," she said to herself. "Wherever she is she
seems to find work to do, and makes herself necessary and useful. Now, I
am of no use to anybody. I don't think I was ever meant to be of use. I
was meant to be ornamental!" She struck the wire with the point of her
little shoe, and looked at it regretfully. "I have no talent, mamma
says. I can look nice, I believe, and that is all. If I were Margaret
Adair I am sure I should be very much admired! But being only Nora
Colwyn, the doctor's daughter, I must mend socks and make puddings, and
eat cold mutton and wear old frocks to the end of the chapter! What a
mercy I am taller than Janetta! My old dresses are cut down for her, but
she can't leave me _her_ cast-off ones. That little wretch, Georgie,
will soon be as tall as I am, I believe. Thank goodness, she will never
be as pretty." And Miss Nora, who was really excessively vain, drew out
of her pocket a small looking-glass, and began studying her features as
therein reflected: first her eyes, when she pulled out her eyelashes and
stroked her eyebrows; then her nose, which she pinched a little to make
longer; then her mouth, of which she bit the lips in order to increase
the color and judge of the effect. Then she took some geranium petals
from the flowers in her belt and rubbed them on her cheeks: the red
stain became her mightily, she thought, and was almost as good as rouge.

Thus engaged, she did not hear steps on the pathway by which she and
Janetta had come. A man, young and slim, with a stoop and a slight halt
in his walk, with bright, curling hair, worn rather longer than
Englishmen usually wear it, with thin but expressive features, and very
brilliant blue eyes--this was the personage who now appeared upon the
scene. He stopped short rather suddenly when he became aware of the
presence of a young lady upon the fence--perhaps it was to him a
somewhat startling one: then, when he noted how she was engaged, a smile
broke gradually over his countenance. He once made a movement to
advance, then restrained himself and waited; but some involuntary rustle
of the branches above him or twigs under his feet revealed him. Nora
gave a little involuntary cry, dropped her looking-glass, and colored
crimson with vexation at finding that some one was watching her.

"What ought I to do, I wonder?" Such was the thought that flashed
through the young man's mind. He was remarkably quick in receiving
impressions and in drawing conclusions. "She is not a French girl, thank
goodness, fresh from a convent, and afraid to open her lips! Neither is
she the conventional young English lady, or she would not sit on a fence
and look at herself in a pocket looking-glass. At least, I suppose she
would not: how should I know what English girls would do? At any rate,
here goes for addressing her."

All these ideas passed through his mind in the course of the second or
two which elapsed while he courteously raised his hat, and advanced to
pick up the fallen hand-glass. But Nora was too quick for him. She had
slipped off the fence and secured her mirror before he could reach it;
and then, with a look of quite unnecessary scorn and anger, she almost
turned her back upon him, and stood looking at the one angle of the
house which she could see.

The young man brushed his moustache to conceal a smile, and ventured on
the remark that he had been waiting to make.

"I beg your pardon; I trust that I did not startle you."

"Not at all," said Nora, with dignity. But she did not turn round.

"If you are looking for the gate into the grounds," he resumed, with
great considerateness of manner, "you will find it about twenty yards
further to your left. Can I have the pleasure of showing you the way?"

"No, thank you," said Miss Nora, very ungraciously. "I am waiting for my
sister." She felt that some explanation was necessary to account for the
fact that she did not immediately walk away.

"Oh, I beg your pardon," said the young man once more, but this time in
a rather disappointed tone. Then, brightening--"But if your sister has
gone up to our house why won't you come in too?"

"_Your_ house?" said Nora, unceremoniously, and facing him with an air
of fearless incredulity, which amused him immensely. "But _you_ are not
Mr. Brand?"

"My name is Brand," said the young fellow, smiling the sunniest smile in
the world, and again raising his hat, with what Nora now noticed to be a
rather foreign kind of grace: "and if you know it, I feel that it is
honored already."

Nora knitted her brows. "I don't know what you mean," she said,
impatiently, "but you are not Mr. Brand of the Hall, are you?"

"I live at the Hall, certainly, and my name is Brand--Cuthbert Brand, at
your service."

"Oh, I see. Not Wyvis Brand?" said Nora impulsively. "Not the father of
the dear little boy that we found here just now?"

Cuthbert Brand's fair face colored. He looked excessively surprised.

"The father--a little boy? I am afraid," he said, with some
embarrassment of manner, "that I do not exactly know what you mean----"

"It is just this," said Nora, losing her contemptuous manner and coming
closer to the speaker; "when my sister and I were walking this way we
saw a little boy lying here fast asleep. He woke up and told us that his
name was Julian Wyvis Brand, and that his mother had left him here, and
told him to find his father, who lived at that red house."

"Good heavens! And the woman--what became of her?"

"The boy said she had gone away and would not come back."

"I trust she may not," muttered Cuthbert angrily to himself. A red
flush colored his brow as he went on. "My brother's wife," he said
formally, "is not--at present--on very friendly terms with him; we did
not know that she intended to bring the child home in this manner: we
thought that she desired to keep it--where is the boy, by the way?"

"My sister has taken him up to the Hall. She said that she would see Mr.
Brand."

Cuthbert raised his eyebrows. "See my brother?" he repeated as if
involuntarily. "My brother!"

"She is his second cousin, you know: I suppose that gives her courage,"
said Nora smiling at the tone of horror which she fancied must be
simulated for the occasion. But Cuthbert was in earnest--he knew Wyvis
Brand's temper too well to anticipate anything but a rough reception for
any one who seemed inclined to meddle with his private affairs. And if
Nora's sister were like herself! For Nora did not look like a person who
would bear roughness or rudeness from any one.

"Then are you my cousin, too?" he asked, suddenly struck by an idea that
sent a gleam of pleasure to his eye.

"Oh, no," said Nora, demurely. "I'm no relation. It is only Janetta--her
mother was Mr. Brand's father's cousin. But that was not my
mother--Janetta and I are stepsisters."

"Surely that makes a relationship, however," said Cuthbert,
courageously. "If your stepsister is my second cousin, you must be a
sort of step-second-cousin to me. Will you not condescend to acknowledge
the connection?"

"Isn't the condescension all on your side?" said Nora coolly. "It may be
a connection, but it certainly isn't a relationship."

"I am only too glad to hear you call it a connection," said Cuthbert,
with gravity. And then the two laughed--Nora rather against her
will--Cuthbert out of amusement at the situation, and both out of sheer
light-heartedness. And when they had laughed the ice seemed to be
broken, and they felt as if they were old friends.

"I did not know that any of our relations were living in Beaminster," he
resumed, after a moment's pause.

"I suppose you never even heard our name," said Nora, saucily.

"I don't--know----" he began, in some confusion.

"Of course you don't. Your father had a cousin and she married a
doctor--a poor country surgeon, and so of course you forgot all about
her existence. She was not _my_ mother, so I can speak out, you know.
Your father never spoke to her again after she married _my_ father."

"More shame to him! I remember now. Your father is James Colwyn."

Nora nodded. "I think it was a very great shame," she said.

"And so do I," said Cuthbert, heartily.

"It was all the worse," Nora went on, quite forgetting in her eagerness
whom she was talking to, "because Mr. Brand was not himself so very much
thought of, you know--people did not think--oh, I forgot! I beg your
pardon!" she suddenly ejaculated, turning crimson as she remembered that
the man to whom she was speaking was the son of the much-abused Mr.
Brand, who had been considered the black sheep of the county.

"Don't apologize, pray," said Cuthbert, lightly. "I'm quite accustomed
to hearing my relations spoken ill of. What was it that people did not
think?"

"Oh," said Nora, now covered with confusion, "of course I could not tell
you."

"It was so very bad, was it?" said the young man, laughing. "You need
not be afraid. Really and seriously, I have been told that my poor
father was not very popular about here, and I don't much wonder at it,
for although he was a good father to us he was rather short in manner,
and, perhaps, I may add, in temper. Wyvis is like him exactly, I
believe."

"And are you?" asked Nora.

Cuthbert raised his hat and gave it a tremendous flourish.
"Mademoiselle, I have not that honor," he replied.

"I suppose I ought not to have asked," said Nora to herself, but this
time she restrained herself and did not say it aloud. "I wonder where
Janetta is?" she murmured after a moment's silence. "I did not think
that she would be so long."

If Cuthbert thought the remark ungracious, as he might well have done,
he made no sign of discomfiture. "Can I do anything?" he asked. "Shall I
go to the house and find out whether she has seen my brother? But then I
shall have to leave you."

"Oh, that doesn't matter," said Nora, innocently.

"Doesn't it? But I hardly like the idea of leaving you all alone. There
might be tramps about. If you are like all the other young ladies I have
known, you will have an objection to tramps."

"I am sure," said Nora, with confidence, "that I am not at all like the
other young ladies you know; but at the same time I must confess that I
don't like tramps."

"I knew it. And I saw a tramp--I am sure I did--a little while ago in
this very wood. He was ragged and dirty, but picturesque. I sketched
him, but I think he would not be a pleasant companion for you."

"Do you sketch?" said Nora quickly.

"Oh, yes, I sketch a little," he answered in a careless sort of way--for
what was the use of telling this little girl that his pictures had been
hung in the Salon and the Academy, or that he had hopes of one day
rising to fame and fortune in his recently adopted profession? He was
not given to boasting of his own success, and besides, this child--with
her saucy face and guileless eyes--would not understand either his
ambitions or his achievements.

But Nora's one talent was for drawing, and although the instruction she
had received was by no means of the best, she had good taste and a great
desire to improve her skill. So Cuthbert's admission excited her
interest at once.

"Have you been sketching now?" she asked. "Oh, do let me see what you
have done?"

Cuthbert's portfolio was under his arm. He laughed, hesitated, then
dropped on one knee beside her and began to exhibit his sketches. It was
thus--side by side, with heads very close together--that Janetta, much
to her amazement, found them on her return.



CHAPTER VIII.

FATHER AND CHILD.


Janetta had set off on her expedition to Brand Hall out of an impulse of
mingled pity and indignation--pity for the little boy, indignation
against the mother who could desert him, perhaps against the father
too. This feeling prevented her from realizing all at once the difficult
position in which she was now placing herself; the awkwardness in which
she would be involved if Mr. Brand declared that he knew nothing of the
child, or would have nothing to do with it. "In that case," she said to
herself, with an admiring glance at the lovely little boy, "I shall have
to adopt him, I think! I wonder what poor mamma would say!"

She found her way without difficulty to the front-door of the long, low,
rambling red house which was dignified by the name of Brand Hall. The
place had a desolate look still, in spite of its being inhabited.
Scarcely a window was open, and no white blinds or pretty curtains could
be seen at the casements. The door was also shut; and as it was one of
those wide oaken doors, mantled with creepers, and flanked with seats,
which look as if they should always stand hospitably open, it gave the
stranger a sense of coldness and aloofness to stand before it. And,
also, there was neither bell nor a knocker--a fact which showed that few
visitors ever made their appearance at Brand Hall. Janetta looked about
her in dismay, and then tapped at the door with her fingers, while the
child followed her every movement with his great wondering eyes, and
finally said, gravely--

"I think they have all gone to sleep in this house, like the people in
the 'Sleeping Beauty' story."

"Then you must be the Fairy Prince to wake them all up," said Janetta,
laughingly.

The boy looked at her as if he understood; then, suddenly stooping, he
picked up a fallen stick and proceeded to give the door several smart
raps upon its oaken panels.

This summons procured a response. The door was opened, after a good deal
of ineffectual fumbling at bolts and rattling of chains, by an old,
white-haired serving man, who looked as if he had stepped out of the
story to which Julian had alluded. He was very deaf, and it was some
time before Janetta could make him understand that she wanted to see
Mrs. Brand. Evidently Mrs. Brand was not in the habit of receiving
visitors. At last he conducted her to the dark little drawing-room where
the mistress of the house usually sat, and here Janetta was received by
the pale, grey-haired woman whom she had seen fainting on the
Beaminster road. It was curious to notice the agitation of this elderly
lady on Janetta's appearance. She stood up, crushed her handkerchief
between her trembling fingers, took a step towards her visitor, and then
stood still, looking at her with such extraordinary anxiety that Janetta
was quite confused and puzzled by it. Seeing that her hostess could not
in any way assist her out of her difficulty, she faced it boldly by
introducing herself.

"My name is Janetta Colwyn," she began. "I believe that my mother was a
relation of Mr. Brand's--a cousin----"

"Yes, a first cousin," said Mrs. Brand, nervously. "I often heard him
speak of her--I never saw her----"

She paused, looked suspiciously at Janetta, and colored all over her
thin face. Janetta paused also, being taken somewhat by surprise.

"No, I don't suppose you ever saw her," she said, "but then you went
abroad, and my dear mother died soon after I was born. Otherwise, I
daresay you would have known her."

Mrs. Brand gave her a strange look. "You think so?" she said. "But
no--you are wrong: she always looked down on me. She never would have
been friendly with me if she had lived."

"Indeed," said Janetta, very much astonished. "I always heard that it
was the other way--that Mr. Brand was angry with _her_ for marrying a
poor country surgeon, and would not speak to her again."

"That is what they may have said to you. But you were too young to be
told the truth," said the sad-faced woman, beginning to tremble all over
as she spoke. "No, your mother would not have been friends with me. I
was not her equal--and she knew I was not."

"Oh, indeed, you make a mistake: I am sure you do," cried Janetta,
becoming genuinely distressed as this view of her mother's character and
conduct was fixed upon her. "My mother was always gentle and kind, they
tell me; I am sure she would have been your friend--as I will be, if you
will let me." She held out her hands and drew those of the trembling
woman into her warm young clasp. "I am a cousin too," she said, blushing
a little as she asserted herself in this way, "and I hope you will let
me come to see you sometimes and make you less lonely."

"I am always lonely, and I always shall be lonely to the end of time,"
said Mrs. Brand, slowly and bitterly. "However"--with an evident attempt
to recover her self-possession--"I shall always be pleased to see you.
Did--did--your father send you here to-night?"

"No," said Janetta, remembering her errand. "He does not know----"

"Does not know?" The pale woman again looked distressed. "Oh," she said,
turning away with a sigh and biting her lip, "then I shall not see you
again."

"Indeed you will," said Janetta, warmly. "My father would never keep me
away from any one who wanted me--and one of my mother's relations too.
But I came to-night because I found this dear little boy outside your
grounds. He tells me that his name is Julian Wyvis Brand, and that he is
your son's little boy."

For the first time Mrs. Brand turned her eyes upon the child. Hitherto
she had not noticed him much, evidently thinking that he belonged to
Janetta, and was also a visitor. But when she saw the boy's sweet little
face and large dark eyes, she turned pale, and made a gesture as of
warning or dislike.

"Take him away! take him away," she said. "Yes, I can see that it is
_her_ child--and his child too. She must be here too, and she has been
the ruin of my boy's life!" And then she sank into a chair and burst
into an agony of tears.

Janetta felt, with an inexpressible pang, that she had set foot in the
midst of some domestic tragedy, the like of which had never come within
her ken before. She was conscious of a little recoil from it, such as is
natural to a young girl who has not learnt by experience the meaning of
sorrow; but the recoil was followed by a rush of that sympathy for which
she had always shown a great capacity. Her instinct led her instantly to
comfort and console. She knelt down beside the weeping woman and put one
arm round her, drawing the little boy forward with her left hand as she
spoke.

"Oh, don't cry--don't cry!" she murmured. "He has come to be a joy and a
comfort to you, and he wants you to love him too."

"Won't you love me, grandmamma?" said the sweet childish voice. And
Julian laid his hand on the poor woman's shaking knee. "Don't cry,
grandmamma."

It was this scene which met the eyes of Wyvis Brand when he turned the
handle of the drawing-room door and walked into the room. His mother
weeping, with a child before her, and a dark-haired girl on her knees
with one arm round the weeping woman and one round the lovely child. It
was a pretty picture, and Wyvis Brand was not insensible to its beauty.

He stood, looking prom one to another of the group.

"What does all this mean?" he asked, in somewhat harsh tones.

His mother cried aloud and caught the child to her breast.

"Oh, Wyvis, be kind--be merciful," she gasped. "This is your child--your
child. You will not drive him away. She has left him at our door."

Wyvis walked into the room, shut the door behind him, and leaned against
it.

"Upon my word," he said, sarcastically, "you will give this lady--whose
name I haven't the pleasure of knowing--a very fine idea of our domestic
relations. I am not such a brute, I hope, as to drive away my own child
from my door; but I certainly should like to know first whether it is my
child; and more particularly whether it is my son and heir, as I have no
doubt that this young gentleman is endeavoring to persuade you. Did
_you_ bring the child here?" he said, turning sharply to Janetta.

"I brought him into the house, certainly," she said, rising from her
knees and facing him. "I found him outside your fence; and he told me
that his name was Julian Wyvis Brand."

"Pretty evidence," said Mr. Brand, very rudely, as Janetta thought. "Who
can tell whether the child is not some beggar's brat that has nothing to
do with me?"

"Don't you know your own little boy when you see him?" Janetta demanded,
indignantly.

"Not I. I have not set eyes on him since he was a baby. Turn round,
youngster, and let me have a look at you."

The child faced him instantly, much as Janetta herself had done. There
was a fearless look in the baby face, an innocent, guileless courage in
the large dark eyes, which must surely, thought Janetta, touch a
father's heart. But Wyvis Brand looked as if it would take a great deal
to move him.

"Where do you come from?" said Mr. Brand, sternly.

"From over the sea."

"That's no answer. Where from?--what place?"

The boy looked at him without answering.

"Are you dumb?" said Wyvis Brand, harshly. "Or have you not been taught
what to say to that question? Where do you come from, I say?"

Mrs. Brand murmured an inarticulate remonstrance; Janetta's eyes flashed
an indignant protest. Both women thought that the boy would be dismayed
and frightened. But he, standing steady and erect, did not flinch. His
color rose and his hands clenched themselves at his side, but he did not
take his eyes from his father's face as he replied.

"I come with mammy from Paris."

"And pray where is your mother?"

"Gone back again. She told me to find my father. Are you my father?"
said the child, with the utmost fearlessness.

"What is your name?" asked Wyvis, utterly disregarding the question.

"Julian Wyvis Brand."

"He's got the name pat enough," said Wyvis, with a sardonic laugh.
"Well, where did you live in Paris? What sort of a house had you?"

"It was near the church," said the little boy, gravely. "The church with
the big pillars round it. There was a bonnet shop under our rooms, and
the rooms were all pink and white and gold--prettier than this," he
said, wistfully surveying the gloomy room in which he stood.

"And who took care of you when your mother was out?" asked Mr. Brand.
Even Janetta could see, by the swift, subtle change that had passed over
his face, that he recognized the description of the room.

"Susan. She was my nurse and mammy's maid as well. She was English."

The man nodded and set his lips. "He knows what to say," he remarked.

"Oh, Wyvis!" exclaimed his mother, as if she could repress her feelings
no longer; "don't you see how like he is to you!--don't you _feel_ that
he is your own child?"

"I confess the paternal feelings are not very strong in me," said her
son, dryly, "but I have a fancy the boy is mine for all that. Haven't
you a letter or a remembrance of some sort to give me, young man?"

The boy shook his head.

"There may be something amongst his things--some book or trinket that
you would remember," said Janetta, speaking with timidity. Mr. Brand
gave her a keen look, and Mrs. Brand accepted the suggestion with
eagerness.

"Oh, yes, yes, let us look. Have you a box, my dear, or a bag?--oh, a
bundle, only: give it me, and let me see what is inside."

"It is unnecessary, mother," said Wyvis, coldly. "I am as convinced as
you can wish me to be that this is Juliet's child."

But Mrs. Brand, with trembling fingers and parted lips, was helping
Janetta to unfasten the knots of the big handkerchief in which the
child's worldly goods were wrapped up. Wyvis Brand stood silently beside
the two women, while little Julian pressed closer and pointed out his
various treasures as they were one by one disclosed.

"That's my book," he said; "and that's my best suit. And that's--oh, I
don't know what _that_ is. I don't know why mammy put it in."

"_I_ know," said Wyvis Brand, half under his breath.

The object that called forth this remark was a small morocco box,
loosely wrapped in tissue-paper. Wyvis took it out of his mother's hand,
opened it, and stood silently gazing at its contents. It held a ring, as
Janetta could easily see--a hoop of gold in which were three opals--not
a very large or costly-looking trinket, but one which seemed to have
memories or associations connected with it--to judge, at least, by the
look on Wyvis Brand's dark face. The women involuntarily held their
breath as they glanced at him.

At last with a short laugh, he slipped the little case into his pocket,
and turned upon his heel.

"I suppose that this is evidence enough," he said. "It is a ring I once
gave her--our engagement ring. Not one of much value, or you may be sure
that she would never have sent it back."

"Then you are convinced--you are certain----" His mother did not finish
the sentence, but her son knew what she meant.

"That he is my son? my wife's child? Oh, yes, I am pretty sure of that.
He had better be put to bed," said Wyvis, carelessly. "You can find a
room for him somewhere, I dare say."

"There is the old nursery," said Mrs. Brand, in breathless eagerness. "I
looked into it yesterday; it is a nice, cheerful room--but it has not
been used for a long time----"

"Do as you like; don't consult me," said her son. "I know nothing about
the matter." And he turned to the door, without another look towards his
son.

But little Julian was not minded to be treated in this way. His large
eyes had been fixed upon his father with a puzzled and rather wistful
expression. He now suddenly started from his position at Mrs. Brand's
knee, and pursued his father to the door.

"Say good-night, please," he said, pulling at Mr. Brand's coat with a
fearlessness which amused Janetta and startled Mrs. Brand.

Wyvis looked down at him with a curious and indescribable expression.
"You're not shy, at any rate," he said, drily. "Well, good-night, young
man. What?"--the boy had held up his face to be kissed.

The father hesitated. Then a better and softer feeling seemed to pass
over his face. He stooped down and let the child put his arms round his
neck, and press a warm kiss on his cheek. A short laugh then escaped his
lips, as if he were half-ashamed of his own action. He went out of the
room and shut the door behind him without looking round, and little
Julian returned to his grandmother's knee, looking well satisfied with
himself.

Janetta felt that she ought to go, and yet that she hardly liked
trusting the child to the sole care of Mrs. Brand, who was evidently so
much unnerved as to be of little use in deciding what was to be done
with him. And at the first hint of departure grandmother and child both
clung to her as if they felt her to be their sheet-anchor in storm. She
was not allowed to go until she had inspected the nursery and pronounced
it too damp for Julian's use, and seen a little bed made up for the
child in Mrs. Brand's own room, where a fire was lighted, and everything
looked cosey and bright. Poor little Julian was by this time half-dead
with sleep; and Janetta could not after all make up her mind to leave
him until she had seen him tucked up and fast asleep. Then she
bethought herself of Nora, and turned to go. Mrs. Brand, melted out of
her coldness and shy reserve, caught her by the hand.

"My dear," she said, "what should we have done without you?"

"I don't think that I have done very much," said Janetta, smiling.

"You have done more than I could ever do. If I had brought that child to
my son he would never have acknowledged it."

"He does not look so hard," said the girl involuntarily.

"He _is_ hard, my dear--hard in his way--but he is a good son for all
that--and he has had sore trouble, which has made him seem harder and
sterner than he is. I cannot thank you enough for all that you have done
to-day."

"Oh, Mrs. Brand, I have done nothing," said Janetta, blushing at the
elder woman's praise. "But may I come to see you and little Julian
again? I should like so much to know how he gets on."

"You may come, dear, if your father will let you," said Mrs. Brand, with
rather a troubled look. "It would be a blessing--a charity--to me: but I
don't know whether it would be right to let you--your father must
decide."

And then Janetta took her leave.

She was surprised to find that Mr. Brand was lounging about the hall as
she came out, and that he not only opened the door for her but
accompanied her to the garden gate. He did not speak for a minute or
two, and Janetta, not seeing her way clear to any remarks of her own,
wondered whether they were to walk side by side to the gate in utter
silence. Presently, however, he said, abruptly.

"I have not yet heard to whom I am indebted for the appearance of that
little boy in my house."

"I am not exactly responsible," said Janetta, "I only found him outside
and brought him in to make inquiries. My name is Janetta Colwyn."

"Colwyn? What? the doctor's daughter?"

"Yes, the doctor's daughter," said Janetta, smiling frankly at him, "and
your second cousin."

Wyvis Brand's hand went up to his hat, which he lifted ceremoniously.

"I wish I had had the introduction earlier," he said, in a much
pleasanter tone.

Janetta could not exactly echo the sentiment, and therefore maintained a
discreet silence.

"You must have thought me a great brute," said Wyvis, with some
sensitiveness in his tone.

"Oh, no: I quite saw how difficult it was for you to understand who I
was, and how it had all come about."

"You saw a great deal, then."

"Oh, I know that it sounds impertinent to say so," Janetta answered,
blushing a little and walking a trifle faster, "but I did not mean it
rudely, I assure you."

He seemed to take no notice. He was looking straight before him, with a
somewhat sombre expression in his fine dark eyes.

"What you could not see," he said, perhaps more to himself than to her,
"was what no one will ever guess. Nobody knows what the last few years
have been to me. My mother has seen more of it than any one else, but
even to her my life has been something of a mystery--a sealed book. You
should remember this--remember all that I have passed through--before
you blame me for the way in which I received that child to-day."

"I did not blame you," said Janetta, eagerly. "I only felt that there
was a great deal which I could not understand."

He turned his gloomy eyes upon her. "Just so," he said. "You cannot
understand. And it is useless for you to try."

"I am very sorry," Janetta faltered, scarcely knowing why she said so.

Wyvis laughed. "Don't trouble to be sorry over my affairs," he said.
"They are not worth sorrow, I assure you. But--if I may make one
request--will you kindly keep silence (except, of course, to your
parents) about this episode? I do not want people to begin gossiping
about that unhappy woman who has the right, unfortunately, to call
herself my wife."

Janetta promised, and with her promise the garden gate was reached, and
the interview came to an end.



CHAPTER IX.

CONSULTATION.


Janetta was rather surprised that Mr. Wyvis Brand did not offer to
accompany her for at least part of her way homewards, but she set down
his remissness to absorption in his own rather complicated affairs. In
this she was not mistaken. Wyvis was far more depressed, and far more
deeply buried in the contemplation of his difficulties, than anybody
knew, and it completely escaped his memory until afterwards that he
ought to have offered Miss Colwyn an escort. Janetta, however, was well
used to going about the world alone, and she proceeded briskly to the
spot where she had left Nora, and was much astonished to find that young
person deep in conversation with a strange young man.

But the young man had such an attractive face, such pleasant eyes, so
courteous a manner, that she melted towards him before he had got
through his first sentence. Nora, of course, ought to have introduced
him; but she was by no means well versed in the conventionalities of
society, and therefore left him to do what he pleased, and to introduce
himself.

"I find that I am richer than I thought," said Cuthbert Brand, "in
possessing a relative whom I never heard of before! Miss Colwyn, are we
not cousins? My name is Brand--Cuthbert Brand."

Janetta's face lighted up. "I have just seen Mrs. Brand and your
brother," she said, offering him her hand.

"And, oh, Janetta!" cried Nora at once, "do tell us what happened. Have
you left the little boy at Brand Hall? And is it really Mr. Brand's
little boy?"

"Yes, it is, and I have left him with his father," said Janetta,
gravely. "As it is getting late, Nora, we had better make the best of
our way home."

"You will let me accompany you?" said Cuthbert, eagerly, while Nora
looked a little bit inclined to pout at her sister's serious tone. "It
is, as you say, rather late; and you have a long walk before you."

"Thank you, but I could not think of troubling you. My sister and I are
quite accustomed to going about by ourselves. We escort each other,"
said Janetta, smiling, so that he should not set her down as utterly
ungracious.

"I am a good walker," said Cuthbert, coloring a little. He was half
afraid that they thought his lameness a disqualification for
accompanying them. "I do my twenty miles a day quite easily."

"Thank you," Janetta said again. "But I could not think of troubling
you. Besides, Nora and I are so well used to these woods, and to the
road between them and Beaminster, that we really do not require an
escort."

A compromise was finally effected. Cuthbert walked with them to the end
of the wood, and the girls were to be allowed to pursue their way
together along the Beaminster road. He made himself very agreeable in
their walk through the wood, and did not leave them, without a hope that
he might be allowed one day to call upon his newly-discovered cousins.

"He has adopted us, apparently, as well as yourself," said Nora, as the
two girls tramped briskly along the Beaminster road. "He seems to forget
that _we_ are not his relations."

"He is very pleasant and friendly," said Janetta.

"But why did you say he might call?" pursued Nora. "I thought that you
would say that we did not have visitors--or something of that sort."

"My dear Nora! But we do have visitors."

"Yes; but not of that kind."

"Don't you want him to come?" said Janetta, in some wonderment; for it
had struck her that Nora had shown an unusual amount of friendliness to
Mr. Cuthbert Brand.

"No, I don't," said Nora, almost passionately. "I _don't_ want to see
him down in our shabby, untidy little drawing-room, to hear mamma talk
about her expenses and papa's difficulties--to see all that tribe of
children in their old frocks--to see the muddle in which we live! I
don't want him there at all."

"Dear Nora, I don't think that the Brands have been accustomed to live
in any very grand way. I am sure the rooms I went into this evening were
quite shabby--nearly as shabby as ours, and much gloomier. What does it
matter?"

"It does not matter to you," said Nora; "because you are their relation.
It is different for us. You belong to them and we don't."

"I think you are quite wrong to talk in that way. It is nothing so very
great and grand to be related to the Brands."

"They are '_County_' people," said Nora, with a scornful little emphasis
on the word. "They are like your grand Adairs: they would look down on a
country doctor and his family, except just now and then when they could
make them useful."

"Look down on father? What are you thinking of?" cried Janetta, warmly.
"Nobody looks down on father, because he does good, honest work in the
world, and everybody respects him; but I am afraid that a good many
people look down on the Brands. You know that as well as I do, Nora; for
you have heard people talk about them. They are not at all well thought
of in this neighborhood. I don't suppose there is much honor and glory
to be gained by relationship to them."

In which Janetta was quite right, and showed her excellent sense. But
Nora was not inclined to be influenced by her more sagacious sister.

"You may say what you like," she observed; "but I know very well that it
is a great advantage to be related to 'the County.' Poor papa has no
connections worth speaking of, and mamma's friends are either
shopkeepers or farmers; but your mother was the Brands' cousin, and see
how the Adairs took you up! They would never have made a fuss over
_me_."

"What nonsense you talk, Nora!" said Janetta, in a disgusted tone.

"Nonsense or not, it is true," said Nora, doggedly; "and as long as
people look down upon us, I don't want any of your fine friends and
relations in Gwynne Street."

Janetta did not condescend to argue the point; she contented herself
with telling her sister of Wyvis Brand's desire that the story of his
wife's separation from him should not be known, and the two girls agreed
that it would be better to mention their evening's adventure only to
their father.

It was quite dark when they reached home, and they entered the house in
much trepidation, fearing a volley of angry words from Mrs. Colwyn. But
to their surprise and relief Mrs. Colwyn was not at home. The children
explained that an invitation to supper had come to her from a neighbor,
and that "after a great deal of fuss," as one of them expressed it, she
had accepted it and gone, leaving word that she should not be back until
eleven o'clock, and that the children were to go to bed at their usual
hour. It was past the younger children's hour already, and they of
course were jubilant.

The elder sisters set to work instantly to get the young ones into their
beds, but this was a matter of some difficulty. A general inclination to
uproariousness prevailed in Mrs. Colwyn's absence, and it must be
confessed that neither Janetta nor Nora tried very hard to repress the
little ones' noise. It was a comfort to be able, for once, to enjoy
themselves without fear of Mrs. Colwyn's perpetual snarl and grumble. A
most exciting pillow-fight was going on in the upstairs regions, and
here Janetta was holding her own as boldly as the boldest, when the
sound of an opening door made the combatants pause in their mad career.

"What's that? The front door? It's mamma!" cried Georgie, with
conviction.

"Get into bed, Tiny!" shouted Joey. Tiny began to cry.

"Nonsense, children," said Nora, with an air of authority. "You know
that it can't be mamma. It is papa, of course, coming in for his supper.
And one of us must go down."

"I'll go," said Janetta, hurriedly. "I want a little talk with him, you
know."

There was a general chorus of "Oh, don't go, Janetta!" "Do stay!" "It
will be no fun when you are gone!" which stimulated Nora to a retort.

"Well, I must say you are all very polite," she said. "One would think
that I was not here at all!"

"You are not half such good fun as Janetta," said Joey. "You don't throw
yourself into everything as she does."

"I must throw myself into giving father his supper, I'm afraid," said
Janetta, laughing, "so good-night, children, and do go to bed quietly
now, for I don't think father will like such a dreadful noise."

She was nearly choked by the fervent embraces they all bestowed upon her
before she went downstairs. Nora, who stood by, rolling up the ribbon
that she had taken from Tiny's hair, felt a little pang of jealousy. Why
was it that everyone loved Janetta and valued her so much? Not for what
she did, because her share of household duty was not greater than that
of Nora, but for the way in which she did it. It always seemed such a
pleasure to her to do anything for any one--to serve another: never a
toil, never a hardship, always a deep and lasting pleasure. To Nora it
was often a troublesome matter to help her sister or her schoolboy
brother, to attend on her mother, or to be thoughtful of her father's
requirements; but it was never troublesome to Janetta. And as Nora
thought of all this, the tears came involuntarily to her eyes. It seemed
so _easy_ to Janetta to be good, she thought! But perhaps it was no
easier to Janetta than to other people.

Janetta ran down to the dining-room, where she found her father
surveying with a rather dissatisfied air the cold and scanty repast
which was spread out for him. Mr. Colwyn was so much out that his meals
had to be irregular, and he ate them just when he had a spare half hour.
On this occasion he had been out since two o'clock in the afternoon, and
had not had time even for a cup of tea. He had been attending a hopeless
case, moreover, and one about which he had been anxious for some weeks.
Fagged, chilled, and dispirited, it was no wonder that he had returned
home in not the best of tempers, and that he was a little disposed to
find fault when Janetta made her appearance.

"Where is mamma?" he began. "Out, I suppose, or the children would not
be making such a racket overhead."

"They are going to be quiet now, dear father," said his daughter,
kissing him, "and mamma has gone out to supper at Mrs. Maitland's. I am
going to have mine with you if you will let me."

"And is this what you are going to have for your supper?" said Mr.
Colwyn, half ruefully, half jestingly, as he glanced again at the table,
where some crusts of bread reposed peacefully on one dish, and a scrag
of cold mutton on another. "After your sojourn at Miss Polehampton's and
among the Adairs, I suppose you don't know how to cook, Jenny?"

"Indeed I do, father, and I'm going to scramble some eggs, and make some
coffee this very minute. I am sorry the table is not better arranged,
but I have been out, and was just having a little game with the children
before they went to bed. If you will sit down by the fire, I shall be
ready in a very few minutes, and then I can tell you about a wonderful
adventure that Nora and I had this evening in the Beaminster wood."

"You should not roam about those woods so much by yourselves; they are
too lonely," said Mr. Colwyn; but he said it very mildly, and dropped
with an air of weariness into the arm-chair that Janetta had wheeled
forward for him. "Well, well! don't hurry yourself, child. I shall be
glad of a few minutes' rest before I begin my supper."

Janetta in a big white apron, Janetta flitting backwards and forwards
between kitchen and dining-room, with flushed cheeks and brightly
shining eyes, was a pretty sight--"a sight to make an old man young,"
thought Mr. Colwyn, as he watched her furtively from beneath his
half-closed eyelids. She looked so trim, so neat, so happy in her work,
that he would be hard to satisfy who did not admire her, even though she
was not what the world calls strictly beautiful. She succeeded so well
in her cooking operations, with which she would not allow the servant to
intermeddle, that in a very short time a couple of dainty dishes and
some coffee smoked upon the board; and Janetta bidding her father come
to the table, placed herself near him, and smilingly dispensed the
savory concoction.

She would not enter upon any account of her evening's work until she
felt sure that the wants of her father's inner man were satisfied; but
when supper was over, and his evening pipe--the one luxury in the day he
allowed himself--alight, she drew up a hassock beside his chair and
prepared for what she called "a good long chat."

Opportunities for such a chat with her father were rather rare in that
household, and Janetta meant to make the most of this one. Nora had
good-naturedly volunteered to stay away from the dining-room, so as to
give Janetta the chance that she wished for; and as it was now barely
ten o'clock, Janetta knew that she might perhaps have an hour of her
father's companionship--if, at least, he were not sent for before eleven
o'clock. At eleven he would probably go to Mrs. Maitland's to fetch his
wife home.

"Well, Janet, and what have you to tell me?" he said kindly, as he
stretched out his slippered feet to the blaze, and took down his pipe
from the mantel-piece. The lines had cleared away from his face as if by
magic; there was a look of rest and peace upon his face that his
daughter liked to see. She laid her hand on his knee and kept it there
while she told him of her experiences that evening at Brand Hall.

Mr. Colwyn's eyebrows went up as he listened. His face expressed
astonishment, and something very like perplexity. But he heard the whole
story out before he said a word.

"Well, you have put your head into the lion's den!" he said at last, in
a half-humorous tone.

"What I want to know is," said Janetta, "why it is thought to be a
lion's den! I don't mean that I have heard the expression before, but I
have gathered in different ways an impression that people avoid the
house----"

"The family, not the house, Janet!"

"Of course I _mean_ the family, father, dear. What have they done that
they should be shunned?"

"There is a good deal against them in the eyes of the world. Your poor
mother, Janetta, always stood up for them, and said that they were more
sinned against than sinning."

"_They?_ But these young men were not grown up then?"

"No; it was their father and----"

Mr. Colwyn stopped short and seemed as if he did not like to go on.

"Tell me, father," said Janetta, coaxingly.

"Well, child, I don't know that you ought to hear old scandals. But you
are too wise to let them harm you. Brand, the father of these two young
fellows, married a barmaid, the daughter of a low publican in the
neighborhood."

"What! The Mrs. Brand that I saw to-day? _She_ a barmaid--that quiet,
pale, subdued-looking woman?"

"She has had trouble enough to make her look subdued, poor soul! She was
a handsome girl then; and I daresay the world would have overlooked the
marriage in time if her character had been untarnished. But stories
which I need not repeat were afloat; and from what I have lately heard
they are not yet forgotten."

"After all these years! Oh, that does seem hard," said Janetta,
sympathetically.

"Well--there are some things that the world does not forgive, Janet. I
have no doubt that the poor woman is much more worthy of respect and
kindness than her wild sons; and yet the fact remains that if Wyvis
Brand had come here with his brother alone, he would have been received
everywhere, and entertained and visited and honored like any other young
man of property and tolerable repute; but as he has brought his mother
with him, I am very much afraid that many of the nicest people in the
county mean to 'cut' him."

"It is very unfair, surely."

"Yes, it is unfair; but it is the way of the world, Janetta. If a
woman's reputation is ever so slightly blackened, she can never get it
fair and white again. Hence, my dear, I am a little doubtful as to
whether you must go to Brand Hall again, as long as poor Mrs. Brand is
there."

"Oh, father, and I promised to go!"

"You must not make rash promises another time, my child."

"But she wants me, father--she is so lonely and so sad?"

"I am sorry, my Janet, but I don't know----"

"Oh, do let me, father. I shall not be harmed; and I don't mind what the
world says."

"But perhaps _I_ mind," said Mr. Colwyn, quaintly.



CHAPTER X.

MARGARET.


Janetta looked so rueful at this remark that her father laughed a little
and pulled her ear.

"I am not given to taking much notice of what the world says," he told
her, "and if I thought it right for you to go to Brand Hall I should
take no notice of town talk; but I think that I can't decide this matter
without seeing Mrs. Brand for myself."

"I thought you had seen her, father?"

"For ten minutes or so, only. They wanted to ask me a question about the
healthiness of Brand Hall, drains, and all that kind of thing. That
young Brand struck me as a very sullen-looking fellow."

"His face lightens up when he talks," said Janetta, coloring and feeling
hurt for a moment, she could not have told why.

"He did not talk to me," said her father, drily. "I am told that the
other son has pleasanter manners."

"Cuthbert? Oh, yes," Janetta said, quickly. "He is much more amiable at
first sight; he made himself very agreeable to Nora and me." And
forthwith she related how the second son had made acquaintance with her
sister and herself.

Mr. Colwyn did not look altogether pleased.

"H'm!--they seem very ready to cultivate us," he said, with a slight
contraction of the brow. "Their father used not to know that I existed.
Janet, I don't care for Nora to see much of them. You I can trust; but
she is a bit of a featherbrain, and one never knows what may happen.
Look to it."

"I will, father."

"And I will call on Mrs. Brand and have a chat with her. Poor soul! I
daresay she has suffered. Still that does not make her a fit companion
for my girls."

"If I could be of any use to her, father----"

"I know that's all you think of, Janet. You are a good child--always
wanting to help others. But we must not let the spirit of self-sacrifice
run away with you, you know."

He pinched her cheek softly as he spoke, and his daughter carried the
long supple fingers of his hand to her lips and kissed them tenderly.

"Which reminds me," he went on rather inconsequently, "that I saw
another of your friends to-day. A friend whom you have not mentioned for
some time, Janetta."

"Who was that?" asked Janetta, a little puzzled by his tone.

"Another friend whom I don't quite approve of," said her father, in the
same half-quizzical way, "though from a different reason. If poor Mrs.
Brand is not respectable enough, this friend of yours, Janet, is more
than respectable; ultra-respectable--aristocratic even----"

"Margaret Adair!" cried Janetta, flushing to the very roots of her hair.
"Did you see her, father? Has she quite forgotten me?" And the tears
stood in her eyes.

"I did not see Miss Margaret Adair, my dear," said her father kindly. "I
saw her mother, Lady Caroline."

"Did you speak to her, father?"

"She stopped her ponies and spoke to me in the High Street, Janet. She
certainly has very winning manners."

"Oh, has she not, father!" Janetta's cheeks glowed. "She is perfectly
charming, I think. I do not believe that she could do anything
disagreeable or unkind."

Mr. Colwyn shook his head, with a little smile. "I am not so sure of
that, Janetta. These fine ladies sometimes do very cold and cruel things
with a perfectly gracious manner."

"But Lady Caroline would not," said Janetta, coaxingly. "She was quite
kind and sweet to me all the time that I stayed at her house,
although----"

"Although afterwards," said Mr. Colwyn, shrewdly, "she could let you
stay here for weeks without seeming to remember you, or coming near you
for an hour!"

Janetta's cheeks crimsoned, but she did not reply. Loyal as she was to
her friend, she felt that there was not much to be said for her at that
moment.

"You are a good friend," said her father, in a half-teasing,
half-affectionate tone. "You don't like me to say anything bad of her,
do you? Well, my dear, for your comfort I must tell you that she did her
best to-day to make up for past omissions. She spoke very pleasantly
about you."

"Did she say why--why----" Janetta could not complete the sentence.

"Why they had not written or called? Well, she gave some sort of an
explanation. Miss Adair had been unwell--she had had a cold or something
which looked as if it might turn to fever, and they did not like to
write until she was better."

"I knew there was some good reason!" said Janetta fervently.

"It is well to take a charitable view of things," returned her father,
rather drily; but, seeing her look of protest, he changed his tone.
"Well, Lady Caroline spoke very kindly, my dear, I must acknowledge
that. She wants you to go over to Helmsley Court to-morrow."

"Can I go, father?"

Mr. Colwyn made a grimace. "Between your disreputable friends and your
aristocratic ones, I'm in a difficulty, Janet."

"Don't say so, father dear!"

"Well, I consented," said Mr. Colwyn, in rather a grudging tone. "She
said that she would send her carriage for you to-morrow at noon, and
that she would send you back again between six and seven. Her daughter
was most anxious to see you, she said."

Janetta lifted up a happy face. "I knew that Margaret would be true to
me. I never doubted her."

Mr. Colwyn watched her silently for a moment, then he put his hand upon
her head, and began smoothing the thick black locks. "You have a very
faithful nature, my Janet," he said, tenderly, "and I am afraid that it
will suffer a great many shocks in this work-a-day world of ours. Don't
let it lead you astray, my child. Remember there is a point at which
faithfulness may degenerate into sheer obstinacy."

"I don't think it will ever do so with me."

"Well, perhaps not, for you have a clear head on those young shoulders
of yours. But you must be careful."

"And I may go to Lady Caroline's, father?"

"Yes, my dear, you may. And now I must go: my time is up. I have had a
very pleasant hour, my Janet."

As she raised herself to receive her father's kiss, she felt a glow of
pleasure at his words. It was not often that he spoke so warmly. He was
a man of little speech on ordinary occasions: only when he was alone
with his best-loved daughter, Janetta, did he ever break forth into
expressions of affection. His second marriage had been in some respects
a failure; and it did not seem as if he regarded his younger children
with anything approaching the tenderness which he bestowed upon Janetta.
Good-humored tolerance was all that he gave to them: a deep and almost
passionate love had descended from her mother to Janetta.

He went out to fetch his wife home from her supper-party; and Janetta
hastened up to her room, not being anxious to meet her stepmother on her
return, in the state of rampant vanity and over-excitement to which an
assembly of her friends usually brought her. It could not be said that
Mrs. Colwyn actually drank too much wine or beer or whisky; and yet
there was often a sensation abroad that she had taken just a little more
than she could bear; and her stepdaughter was sensitively aware of the
fact. From Nora's slighting tone when she had lately spoken of her
mother, Janetta conjectured that the sad truth of Mrs. Colwyn's danger
had dawned upon the girl's mind also, and it certainly accounted for
some new lines in Mr. Colwyn's face, and for some additional streaks of
white in his silvering hair. Not a word had been said on the subject
amongst the members of the family, but Janetta had an uneasy feeling
that there were possibly rocks ahead.

At this moment, however, the prospect of seeing her dear Margaret again
completely obliterated any thought of her stepmother from Janetta's
mind; and when she was snugly ensconced in her own little, white bed,
she could not help shedding a few tears of relief and joy. For
Margaret's apparent fickleness had weighed heavily on Janetta's mind;
and she now felt proud of the friend in whom she had believed in spite
of appearances, and of whose faithfulness she had steadily refused to
hear a doubt. These feelings enabled her to bear with cheerfulness some
small unpleasantnesses next morning from her stepmother on the subject
of her visit. "Of course you'll be too grand to do a hand's turn about
the house when you come back again from Helmsley Court!" said Mrs.
Colwyn, snappishly.

"Dear mamma, when I am only going for half a day!"

"Oh, I know the ways of girls. Because Miss Adair, your fine friend,
does nothing but sit in a drawing-room all day, you'll be sure to think
that you must needs follow her example!"

"I hope Margaret will do something beside sit in a drawing-room," said
Janetta, with her cheery laugh; "because I am afraid that she might find
that a little dull."

But in spite of her cheeriness her spirits were perceptibly lowered when
she set foot in the victoria that was sent for her at noon. Her
stepmother's way of begrudging her the friendship which school-life had
bestowed upon Janetta was as distasteful to her as Miss Polehampton's
conviction of its unsuitability had been. And for one moment the tears
of vexation gathered in her brown eyes as she was driving away from the
shabby little house in Gwynne Street; and she had resolutely to drive
away unwelcome thoughts before she could resign herself to enjoyment of
her visit.

The day was hot and close, and the narrow streets of old Beaminster were
peculiarly oppressive. It was delightful to bowl swiftly along the
smooth high road, and to enter the cool green shades of the park round
Helmsley Court. "How pleasant for Margaret to live here always!" Janetta
said to herself with generous satisfaction in her friend's good fortune.
"I wonder what she would do in Gwynne Street!" And then Janetta laughed,
and felt that what suited _her_ would be very inappropriate to Margaret
Adair.

Janetta's unselfish admiration for her friend was as simple as it was
true, and it was never alloyed by envy or toadyism. She would have been
just as pleased to see Margaret in a garret as in a palace, supposing
that Margaret were pleased with the garret. And it was with almost
passionate delight that she at length flung herself into her friend's
arms, and felt Margaret's soft lips pressed to her brown flushed cheeks.

"Margaret! Oh, it is delightful to see you again!" she exclaimed.

"You poor darling: did you think that we were never going to meet?" said
Margaret. "I have been so sorry, dear----"

"I knew that you would come to see me, or send for me as soon as you
could," said Janetta quickly. "I trusted you, Margaret."

"I have had such a bad cold," Margaret went on, still excusing herself a
little, as it seemed to Janetta. "I have had to stay in two rooms for
nearly a fortnight, and I went down to the drawing-room only last
night."

"I wish I could have nursed you! Don't you remember how I nursed you
through one of your bad colds at school?"

"Yes, indeed. I wish you could have nursed me now; but mamma was afraid
that I had caught measles or scarlet fever or something, and she said it
would not be right to send for you."

Janetta was almost pained by the accent of continued excuse.

"Of course, dear, I understand," she said, pressing her friend's arm
caressingly. "I am so sorry you have been ill. You look quite pale,
Margaret."

The two girls were standing in Margaret's sitting-room, adjoining her
bedroom. Margaret was dressed completely in white, with long white
ribbons floating amongst the dainty folds of her attire; but the white
dress, exquisitely as it was fashioned, was less becoming to her than
usual, for her face had lost a little of its shell-like bloom. She
turned at Janetta's words and surveyed herself a little anxiously in a
long glass at her side.

"I do look pale in this dress," she said. "Shall I change it, Janetta?"

"Oh, no, dear," Janetta answered, in some surprise. "It is a charming
dress."

"But I do not like to look so pale," said Margaret, gravely. "I think I
will ring for Villars."

"You could not look nicer--to me--in any dress!" exclaimed her ardent
admirer.

"You dear--oh, yes; but there may be visitors at luncheon."

"I thought you would be alone," faltered Janetta, with a momentary
glance at her own neat and clean, but plain, little cotton frock.

"Well, perhaps there will be only one person beside yourself," said
Margaret, turning aside her long neck to catch a glimpse of the shining
coils behind. "And I don't know that it matters--it is only Sir Philip
Ashley."

"Oh, I remember him. He was here when we came back from Brighton."

"He is often here."

"What lovely flowers!" Janetta exclaimed, rather to break a pause that
followed than because she had looked particularly at a bouquet that
filled a large white vase on a table. But the flowers really were
lovely, and Margaret's face expressed some satisfaction. "Did they come
out of your garden?"

"No, Sir Philip sent them."

"Oh, how nice!" said Janetta. But she was a little surprised too. Had
not the Adairs plenty of flowers without receiving contributions from
Sir Philip's conservatories?

"And you have a dog, Margaret?"--as a pretty little white Esquimaux dog
came trotting into the room. "What a darling! with a silver collar,
too!"

"Yes, I like a white dog," said Margaret, tranquilly. "Mamma's poodle
snaps at strangers, so Sir Philip thought that it would be better for me
to have a dog of my own."

Sir Philip again! Janetta felt as if she must ask another question or
two, especially when she saw that her friend's white eyelids had been
lowered, and that a delicate flush was mantling the whiteness of her
cheek; but she paused, scarcely knowing how to begin; and in the pause,
the gong for luncheon sounded, and she was (somewhat hastily, she
fancied) led downstairs.

Lady Caroline and Mr. Adair received their visitor with great civility.
Sir Philip came forward to give her a very kindly greeting. Their
behavior was so cordial that Janetta could hardly believe that she had
doubted their liking for her. She was not experienced enough as yet to
see that all this apparent friendliness did not mean anything but the
world's way of making things pleasant all round. She accepted her host's
attentions with simple pleasure, and responded to his airy talk so
brightly that he lost no time in assuring his wife after luncheon that
his daughter's friend was really "a very nice little girl."

After luncheon, Janetta thought at first that she was again going to be
defrauded of a talk with her friend. Margaret was taken possession of by
Sir Philip, and walked away with him into a conservatory to gather a
flower; Mr. Adair disappeared, and Janetta was left for a few moments'
conversation with Lady Caroline. Needless to remark, Lady Caroline had
planned this little interview; she had one or two things that she wanted
to say to Miss Colwyn. And she really did feel kindly towards the girl,
because--after all--she was Margaret's friend, and the mother was ready
to allow Margaret her own way to a very great extent.

"Dear Miss Colwyn," she began, "I have been so sorry that we could not
see more of you while our poor Margaret was ill. _Now_ I hope things
will be different."

Janetta remarked that Lady Caroline was very kind.

"I have been thinking of a method by which I hoped to bring you together
a little more--after the holidays. Of course we are going away very soon
now--to Scotland; and we shall probably not return until October; but
when that time comes--my dear Miss Colwyn, I am sure you will not be
offended by the question I am going to ask?"

"Oh, no," said Janetta, hastily.

"Are you intending to give any singing or music lessons in the
neighborhood?"

"If I can get any pupils, I shall be only too glad to do so."

"Then _will_ you begin with dear Margaret?"

"Margaret?" said Janetta, in some astonishment. "But Margaret has had
the same teaching that I have had, exactly!"

"She needs somebody to help her. She has not your talent or your
perseverance. And she would so much enjoy singing with you. I trust that
you will not refuse us, Miss Colwyn."

"I shall be very glad to do anything that I can for Margaret," said
Janetta, flushing.

"Thank you so much. Once a week then--when we come back again. And about
terms----"

"Oh, Lady Caroline, I shall be only too glad to sing with Margaret at
any time without----"

"Without any talk about terms?" said Lady Caroline, with a charming
smile of comprehension. "But that, my dear, I could not possibly
allow. No, we must conduct the matter on strictly business-like
principles, or Mr. Adair would be very much displeased with me. Suppose
we say----" And she went on to suggest terms which Janetta was too much
confused to consider very attentively, and agreed to at once. It was only
afterwards that she discovered that they were lower than any which she
should ever have thought of suggesting for herself, and that she should
have to blush for Lady Caroline's meanness in mentioning them to her
father! But at present she saw nothing amiss.

Lady Caroline went on smoothly. "I want her to make the most of her
time, because she may not be able to study up by-and-bye. She will come
out this winter, and I shall take her to town in the spring. I do not
suppose that I shall ever have another opportunity--if, at least, she
marries as early as she seems likely to do."

"Margaret! Marry!" ejaculated Janetta. She had scarcely thought of such
a possibility.

"It is exceedingly probable," said Lady Caroline, rather coldly, "that
she will marry Sir Philip Ashley. It is a perfectly suitable alliance."

It sounded as if she spoke of a royal marriage!



CHAPTER XI.

JANETTA'S PROMISES.


"But please," Lady Caroline proceeded, "do not mention what I have said
to anyone, least of all to Margaret. She is so sensitive that I should
not like her to know what I have said."

"I will not say anything," said Janetta.

And then Lady Caroline's desire for conversation seemed to cease. She
proposed that they should go in search of her daughter, and Janetta
followed her to the conservatory in some trouble and perplexity of mind.
It struck her that Margaret was not looking very well pleased when they
arrived--perhaps, she thought, because of their appearance--and that Sir
Philip had a very lover-like air. He was bending forward a little to
take a white flower from Margaret's hand, and Janetta could not help a
momentary smile when she saw the expression of his face. The earnest
dark eyes were full of tenderness, which possibly he did not wish to
conceal. Janetta could never doubt but that he loved her "rare pale
Margaret" from the very bottom of his heart.

The two moved apart as Lady Caroline and Janetta came in. Lady Caroline
advanced to Sir Philip and walked away with him, while Margaret laid her
hand on Janetta's arm and led her off to her own sitting-room. She
scarcely spoke until they were safely ensconced there together and then,
with a half-pouting, mutinous expression on her softly flushed face--

"Janetta," she began, "there is something I must tell you."

"Yes, dear?"

"You saw Sir Philip in the conservatory?"

"Yes."

"I can't think why he is so foolish," said Margaret; "but actually,
Janetta--he wants to marry me."

"Am I to call him foolish for that?"

"Yes, certainly. I am too young. I want to see a little more of the
world. He is not at all the sort of man that I want to marry."

"Why not?" said Janetta, after waiting a little while.

"Oh," said Margaret, with an intonation that--for her--was almost
petulant; "he is so absurdly suitable!"

"_Absurdly_ suitable, dear Margaret?"

"Yes. Everything is so neatly arranged for us. He is the right age, he
has the right income, the right views, the right character--he is
even"--said Margaret, with increasing indignation--"even the right
_height_! It is absurd. I am not to have any will of my own in the
matter, because it is all so beautifully suitable. I am to be disposed
of like a slave!"

Here was indeed a new note of rebellion.

"Your father and mother would never make you marry a man whom you did
not like," said Janetta, a little doubtfully.

"I don't know. Papa would not; but mamma!----I am afraid mamma will try.
And it is very hard to do what mamma does not like."

"But you could explain to her----"

"I have nothing to explain," said Margaret, arching her delicate brows.
"I like Sir Philip very well. I respect him very much. I think his house
and his position would suit me exceedingly well; and yet I do not want
to marry him. It is so unreasonable of me, mamma says. And I feel that
it is; and yet--what can I do?"

"There is--nobody--else?" hazarded Janetta.

Margaret opened her lovely eyes to their fullest extent.

"Dearest Janetta, who else could there be? Who else have I seen? I have
been kept in the schoolroom until now--when I am to be married to this
most suitable man! Now, confess, Janetta, would you like it? Do your
people want to marry you to anybody?"

"No, indeed," said Janetta, smiling. "Nobody has expressed any desire
that way. But really I don't know what to say, Margaret; because Sir
Philip does seem so perfectly suitable--and you say you like him?"

"Yes, but I only like him; I don't love him." Margaret leaned back in
her chair, crossed her hands behind her golden head, and looked dreamily
at the opposite wall. "You know I think one ought to love the man one
marries--don't you think so? I have always thought of loving once and
once only--like Paul and Virginia, you know, or even Romeo and
Juliet--and of giving _all_ for love! That would be beautiful!"

"Yes, it would. But it would be very hard too," said Janetta, thinking
how lovely Margaret looked, and what a heroine of romance--what a
princess of dreams--she would surely be some day. And she, poor, plain,
brown, little Janetta! There was probably no romance in store for her at
all.

But Life holds many secrets in her hand; and perhaps it was Janetta and
not Margaret for whom a romance was yet in store.

"Hard? Do you call it hard?" Margaret asked, with a curiously exalted
expression, like that of a saint absorbed in mystic joys. "It would be
most easy, Janetta, to give up everything for love."

"I don't know," said Janetta--for once unsympathetic. "Giving up
everything means a great deal. Would you like to go away from Helmsley
Court, for instance, and live in a dingy street with no lady's
maid--only a servant of all-work--on three hundred a year?"

"I think I could do anything for a man whom I loved," sighed Margaret;
"but I cannot feel as if I should ever care enough for Sir Philip Ashley
to do it for him."

"What sort of a man would you prefer for a husband, then?" asked
Janetta.

"Oh, a man with a history. A man about whom there hung a melancholy
interest--a man like Rochester in 'Jane Eyre'----"

"Not a very good-tempered person, I'm afraid!"

"Oh, who cares about good temper?"

"I do, for one. Really, Margaret, you draw a picture which is just like
my cousin, Wyvis Brand."

Janetta was sorry when she had said the words. Margaret's arms came down
from behind her head, and her eyes were turned to her friend's face with
an immediate awakening of interest.

"Mr. Brand, of Brand Hall, you mean? I remember you told me that he was
your cousin. So you have met him? And he is like Rochester?"

"I did not say that exactly," said Janetta, becoming provoked with
herself. "I only said that you spoke of a rather melancholy sort of
man, with a bad temper, and I thought that the description applied very
well to Mr. Brand."

"What is he like? Dark?"

"Yes."

"Handsome?"

"I suppose so. I do not like any face, however handsome, that is
disfigured by a scowl."

"Oh, Janetta, how charming! Tell me some more about him; I am so much
interested."

"Margaret, don't be silly! Wyvis Brand is a very disagreeable man--not a
good man either, I believe--and I hope you will never know him."

"On the contrary," said Margaret, with a new wilful light in her eyes,
"I intend mamma to call."

"Lady Caroline will be too wise."

"Why should people not call upon the Brands? I hear the same story
everywhere--'Oh, no, we do not intend to call.' Is there really anything
wrong about them?"

Janetta felt some embarrassment. Had not she put nearly the same
question to her own father the night before? But she could not tell
Margaret Adair what her father had said to her.

"If there were--and I do not know that there is--you could hardly expect
me to talk about it, Margaret," she said, with some dignity.

Margaret's good breeding came to her aid at once. "I beg your pardon,
dear Janetta. I was talking carelessly. I will say no more about the
Brands. But I must remark that it was _you_ who piqued my curiosity.
Otherwise there is nothing extraordinary in the fact of two young men
settling down with their mother in a country house, is there?"

"Nothing at all."

"And I am not likely to see anything of them. But, Janetta," said
Margaret, reverting to her own affairs, "you do not sympathize with me
as I thought you would. Would not you think it wrong to marry where you
did not love? Seriously, Janetta?"

"Yes, seriously, I should," said Janetta, her face growing graver, and
her eyes lighting up. "It is a profanation of marriage to take for your
husband a man whom you don't love with your whole heart. Oh, yes,
Margaret, you are quite, quite right in that--but I am sorry too,
because Sir Philip seems so nice."

"And, Janetta, dear, you will help me, will you not?"

"Whenever I can, Margaret? But what can I do for you?"

"You can help me in many ways, Janetta. You don't know how hard it is
sometimes"--and Margaret's face resumed a wistful, troubled look. "Mamma
is so kind; but she wants me sometimes to do things that I do not like,
and she is so _surprised_ when I do not wish to do them."

"You will make her understand in time," said Janetta, almost
reverentially. Her ardent soul was thrilled with the conception of the
true state of things as she imagined it; of Margaret's pure, sweet
nature being dragged down to Lady Caroline's level of artificial
worldliness. For, notwithstanding all Lady Caroline's gentleness of
manner, Janetta was beginning to find her out. She began to see that
this extreme softness and suavity covered a very persistent will, and
that it was Lady Caroline who ruled the house and the family with an
iron hand in a velvet glove.

"I am afraid not," said Margaret, submissively. "She is so much more
determined than I am. Neither papa nor I could ever do anything against
her. And in most things I like her to manage for me. But not my
marriage!"

"No, indeed."

"Will you stand by me, Janetta, dear?"

"Always, Margaret."

"You will always be my friend?"

"Always dear."

"You make me feel strong when you say 'always' so earnestly, Janetta."

"Because I believe," said Janetta, quickly, "that friendship is as
strong a tie as any in the world. I don't think it ought to be any less
binding than the tie between sisters, between parents and child,
even"--and her voice dropped a little--"even between husband and wife. I
have heard it suggested that there should be a ceremony--a sort of
form--for the making of a friendship as there is for other relations in
life; a vow of truth and fidelity which two friends could promise to
observe. Don't you think that it would be rather a useless thing, even
if the thought is a pretty one? Because we make and keep or break our
vows in our own heart, and no promise would bind us more than our own
hearts can do."

"I hope yours binds you to me, Janetta?" said Margaret, half playfully,
half sadly.

"It does, indeed."

And then the two girls kissed each other after the manner of impulsive
and affectionate girls, and Margaret wiped away a tear that had gathered
in the corner of her eye. Her face soon became as tranquil as ever; but
Janetta's brow remained grave, her lips firmly pressed together long
after Margaret seemed to have forgotten what had been said.

Things went deeper with Janetta than with Margaret. Girlish and
unpractical as some of their speeches may appear, they were spoken or
listened to by Janetta with the utmost seriousness. She was not of a
nature to take things lightly. And during the pause that followed the
conversation about friendship, she was mentally registering a very
serious and earnest resolution, worthy indeed of being ranked as the
promise or the vow of which she spoke, that she would always remain
Margaret's true and faithful friend, in spite of all the chances and
changes of this transitory world. A youthful foolish thing to do,
perhaps; but the world is so constituted that the things done or said by
very young and even very foolish persons sometimes dominate the whole
lives of much older and wiser persons. And more came out of that silent
vow of Janetta's than even she anticipated.

The rest of the day was very delightful to her. She and Margaret were
left almost entirely to themselves, and they formed a dozen plans for
the winter when Margaret should be back again and could resume her
musical studies. Janetta tried to express her natural reluctance at the
thought of giving lessons to her old school-companion, but Margaret
laughed her to scorn. "As if you could not teach me?" she said. "Why, I
know nothing about the theory of music--nothing at all. And you were far
ahead of anybody at Miss Polehampton's! You will soon have dozens of
pupils, Janetta. I expect all Beaminster to be flocking to you before
long."

She did not say, but it crossed her mind that the fact of _her_ taking
lessons from Janetta would probably serve as a very good advertisement.
For Miss Adair was herself fairly proficient in the worldly wisdom which
did not at all gratify her when exhibited by her mother.

Janetta was sent home in the gathering twilight with a delightfully
satisfied feeling. She was sure that Margaret's friendship was as
faithful as her own. And why should there not be two women as faithful
to each other in friendship as ever Damon and Pythias, David and
Jonathan, had been of old? "Margaret will always be her own sweet,
high-souled self," Janetta mused. "It is I who may perhaps fall away
from my ideal--I hope not; oh, I hope not! I hope that I shall always be
faithful and true!"

There was a very tender look upon her face as she sat in Lady Caroline's
victoria, her hands clasped together upon her lap, her mouth firmly
closed, her eyes wistful. The expression was so lovely that it
beautified the whole of her face, which was not in itself strictly
handsome, but capable of as many changes as an April day. She was so
deeply absorbed in thought that she did not see a gentleman lift his hat
to her in passing. It was Cuthbert Brand, and when the carriage had
passed him he stood still for a moment and looked back at it.

"I should like to paint that girl's face," he said to himself. "There is
soul in it--character--passion. Her sister is prettier by far; but I
doubt whether she is capable of so much."

But the exalted beauty had faded away by the time Janetta reached her
home, and when she entered the house she was again the bright, sensible,
energetic, and affectionate sister and daughter that they all knew and
loved: no great beauty, no genius, no saint, but a generous-hearted
English girl, who tried to do her duty and to love her neighbor as
herself.

Her father met her in the hall.

"Here you are," he said. "I hardly expected you home as yet. Everybody
is out, so you must tell _me_ your experiences and adventures if you
have any to tell."

"I have not many," said Janetta, brightly. "Only everybody has been
very, very kind."

"I'm glad to hear of it; but I should be surprised if people were not
kind to my Janet."

"Nobody is half so kind as you are," said Janetta, fondly. "Have you
been very busy to-day, father?"

"Very, dear. And I have been to Brand Hall."

He drew her inside his consulting-room as he spoke. It was a little room
near the hall-door, opposite the dining-room. Janetta did not often go
there, and felt as if some rather serious communication were to be made.

"Did you see the little boy, father?"

"Yes--and his grandmother."

"And may I go to see Mrs. Brand?"

Mr. Colwyn paused for a moment, and when he spoke his voice was broken
by some emotion. "If you can do anything to help and comfort that poor
woman, my Janet," he said at length, "God forbid that I should ever
hinder you! I will not heed what the world says in face of sorrow such
as she has known. Do what you can for her."

"I will, father; I promise you I will."

"It is the second promise that I have made to-day," said Janetta, rather
thoughtfully, as she was undressing herself that night; "and each of
them turns on the same subject--on being a friend to some one who needs
friendship. The vocation of some women is to be a loving daughter, a
true wife, or a good mother; mine, perhaps, is to be above everything
else a true friend. I don't think my promises will be hard to keep!"

But even Janetta, in her wisdom, could not foresee what was yet to come.



CHAPTER XII.

JANETTA REMONSTRATES.


It was with a beating heart that Janetta, a few days later, crossed once
more the threshold of her cousin's house. Her father's words about Mrs.
Brand had impressed her rather painfully, and she felt some shyness and
constraint at the thought of the reason which he had given her for
coming. How she was to set about helping or comforting Mrs. Brand she
had not the least idea.

These thoughts were, however, put to flight by an un-looked-for scene,
which broke upon her sight as she entered the hall. This hall had to be
crossed before any of the other rooms could be reached; it was
low-ceiled, paneled in oak, and lighted by rather small windows, with
stained glass in the lower panes. Like most rooms in the house it had a
gloomy look, which was not relieved by the square of faded Turkey
carpet in the centre of the black polished boards of the floor, or by
the half-dozen dusky portraits in oak frames which garnished the walls.
When Janetta was ushered in she found this ante-room or entrance chamber
occupied by three persons and a child. These, as she speedily found,
consisted of Wyvis Brand and his little boy, and two gentlemen, one of
whom was laughing immoderately, while the other was leaning over the
back of the chair and addressing little Julian.

Janetta halted for a moment, for the old servant who had admitted her
seemed to think that his work was done when he had uttered her name, and
had already retreated; and his voice being exceedingly feeble, the
announcement had passed unnoticed by the majority of the persons
present, if not by all. Wyvis Brand had perhaps seen her, for his eyes
were keen, and the shadow in which she stood was not likely to veil her
from his sight; but he gave no sign of being conscious of her presence.
He was standing with his back to the mantel-piece, his arms crossed
behind his head; there was a curious expression on his face, half-smile,
half-sneer, but it was evident that he was merely looking and listening,
not interfering with what was going on.

It needed only a glance to see that little Julian was in a state of
extraordinary excitement. His face was crimson, his eyes were sparkling
and yet full of tears; his legs were planted sturdily apart, and his
hands were clenched. His head was drawn back, and his whole body also
seemed as if it wanted to recoil, but placed as he was against a strong
oaken table he could evidently go back no further. The gentleman on the
chair was offering him something--Janetta could not at first see
what--and the boy was vehemently resisting.

"I won't have it! I won't have it!" he was crying, with the whole force
of his lungs. "I won't touch it! Take the nasty stuff away!"

Janetta wondered whether it were medicine he was refusing, and why his
father did not insist upon obedience. But Wyvis Brand, still standing by
the mantel-piece, only laughed aloud.

"No shirking! Drink it up!" said the strange gentleman, in what Janetta
thought a curiously unpleasant voice. "Come, come, it will make a man of
you----"

"I don't want to be made a man of! I won't touch it! I promised I never
would! You can't make me!"

"You must be taught not to make rash promises," said the man, laughing.
"Come now----"

But little Julian had suddenly caught sight of Janetta's figure at the
door, and with a great bound he escaped from his tormentor and flung
himself upon her, burying his face in her dress, and clutching its folds
as if he would never let them go.

"It's the lady! the lady!" he gasped out. "Oh, please don't let them
make me drink it! Indeed, I promised not."

Janetta came forward a little, and at her appearance every one looked
more or less discomfited. The gentleman on the chair she recognized as a
Mr. Strangways, a man of notoriously evil life, who had a house near
Beaminster, and was generally shunned by respectable people in the
neighborhood. He started up, and looked at her with what she felt to be
a rather insolent gaze. Wyvis Brand stood erect, and looked sullen. The
other gentleman, who was a stranger, rose from his chair in a civiller
manner than his friend had done.

Janetta put her arms round the little fellow, and turned a rather
bewildered face towards Mr. Brand. "Was it--was it--medicine?" she
asked.

"Of a kind," said Wyvis, with a laugh.

"It was brandy--_eau-de-vie_--horrid hot stuff that _maman_ used to
drink," said little Julian, with a burst of angry sobs, "and I promised
not--I promised old Susan that I never would!"

"It was only a joke," said the master of the house, coming forward now,
and anxious perhaps to avert the storm threatened by a sudden indignant
flash of Janetta's great dark eyes. "We were not in earnest of course."
(A smothered laugh and ejaculation from Mr. Strangways passed without
notice.) "The boy does not know how to take a joke--he's a milksop."

"I'm not! I'm not!" said little Julian, still struggling with violent
sobs. "I'm not a milksop! Oh, say that I'm not! Do tell father that I'm
not--not----"

"Certainly you are not. You are a very brave little boy, and know how to
keep your word," said Janetta, with decision. "And now you must come
with me to your grandmother; I came to see _her_ this afternoon."

She gathered him into her strong, young arms as if she would have
carried him from the room, but he struggled manfully to keep his feet,
although he still held her dress. Without a word, Wyvis strode to the
door and held it open for the pair. Janetta forgot to thank him, or to
greet him in any way. She swept past him in a transport of silent fury,
flashing upon him one look of indignation which Wyvis Brand did not
easily forget. It even deafened him for a moment to the sneering comment
of Mr. Strangways, which fell on Janetta's ears just as she was leaving
the room.

"That's a regular granny's boy. Well for him if he always gets a pretty
girl to help him out of a difficulty."

Wyvis, who had stood for a moment as if transfixed by Janetta's glance,
hastily shut the door.

Janetta paused in the corridor outside. She was flushed and panting; she
felt that she could not present herself to Mrs. Brand in that state. She
held the boy close to her, and listened while he poured forth his story
in sobbing indistinctness.

"Old Susan--she was their English servant--she had been always with
_maman_--she had told him that brandy made people mad and wicked--and he
did not want to be mad and wicked--and he had promised Susan never to
drink brandy; and the naughty gentleman wanted him to take it, and he
would not--would not--would not!----"

"Hush, dear," said Janetta, gently. "There is no need to cry over it.
You know you kept your word as a gentleman should."

The boy's eyes flashed through his tears. "Father thinks I'm a--I'm a
milksop," he faltered.

"Show him that you are not," said Janetta. She saw that it was no use to
talk to Julian as to a baby. "If you are always brave and manly he won't
think so."

"I _will_ be always brave," said the little fellow, choking back his
sobs and regarding her with the clear, fearless gaze which she had
noticed in him from the first. And at this moment a door opened, and
Mrs. Brand, who had heard voices, came out in some surprise to see what
was the matter.

Janetta was glad to see the loving way in which the boy ran into his
grandmother's arms, and the tenderness with which she received him. Mrs.
Brand courteously invited her guest into the drawing-room, but her
attention was given far more to little Julian than to Janetta, and in
two minutes he had poured the whole story into her ear. Mrs. Brand did
not say much; she sat with him in her lap looking excessively pained and
grieved; and that frozen look of pain upon her face made Janetta
long--but long in vain--to comfort her. Tea was brought in by-and-bye,
and then Julian was dismissed to his nursery--whither he went
reluctantly, holding his face up to be kissed by Janetta, and asking her
to "come back soon." And when he was gone, Mrs. Brand seemed unable to
contain herself any longer, and broke forth passionately.

"A curse is on us all--I am sure of that. The boy will be ruined, and by
his father too."

"Oh, no," Janetta said, earnestly. "His father would not really hurt
him, I feel sure."

"You do not know my son. He is like his own father, my husband--and that
is the way my husband began with Wyvis."

"But--he did not succeed?"

"Not altogether, because Wyvis had a strong head, and drew back in time;
but his father did him harm--untold harm. His father was a bad man. I do
not scruple to say so, although he was my husband; and there is a taint,
a sort of wild strain, in the blood. Even the boy inherits it; I see
that too clearly. And Wyvis--Wyvis will not hold himself in for long. He
is falling amongst those racing and betting men again--the Strangways
were always to be feared--and before long he will tread in his father's
steps and break my heart, and bring down my grey hairs with sorrow to
the grave."

She burst into a passion of tears as she spoke. Janetta felt
inexpressibly shocked and startled. This revelation of a dark side of
life was new and appalling to her. She could hardly understand Mrs.
Brand's dark anticipations.

She took the mother's hand and held it gently between her own, uttering
some few soothing sentences as she did so. Presently the poor woman's
sobs grew quieter, and she returned the pressure of Janetta's hand.

"Thank you, my dear," she said at last. "You have a very kind heart. But
it is no use telling me to be comforted. I understand my sons, as I
understood my husband before them. They cannot help it. What is in the
blood will come out."

"Surely," said Janetta, in a very low tone, "there is always the might
and the mercy of God to fall back upon--to help us when we cannot help
ourselves."

"Ah, my dear, if I could believe in that I should be a happier woman,"
said Mrs. Brand, sorrowfully.

Janetta stayed a little longer, and when she went the elder woman
allowed herself to be kissed affectionately, and asked in a wistful
tone, as Julian had done, when she would come again.

The girl was glad to find that the hall was empty when she crossed it
again. She had no fancy for encountering the insolent looks (as she
phrased it to herself) of Wyvis Brand and his hateful friends. But she
had reckoned without her host. For when she reached the gate into the
high-road, she found Mr. Brand leaning against it with his elbows
resting on the topmost bar, and his eyes gloomily fixed on the distant
landscape. He started when he saw her, raised his hat and opened the
gate with punctilious politeness. Janetta bowed her thanks, but without
any smile; she was not at all in charity with her cousin, Wyvis Brand.

He allowed her to pass him, but before she had gone half a dozen yards,
he strode after her and caught her up. "Will you let me have a few words
with you?" he said, rather hoarsely.

"Certainly, Mr. Brand." Janetta turned and faced him, still with the
disapproving gravity upon her brow.

"Can't we walk on for a few paces?" said Wyvis, with evident
embarrassment. "I can say what I want to say better while we are
walking. Besides, they can see us from the house if we stand here."

Privately Janetta thought that this would be no drawback, but she did
not care to make objections, so turned once more and walked on silently.

"I want to speak to you," said the man, presently, with something of a
shamefaced air, "about the little scene you came upon this
afternoon----"

"Yes," said Janetta. She did not know how contemptuously her lips curled
as she said the word.

"You came at an unfortunate moment," he went on, awkwardly enough. "I
was about to interpose; I should not have allowed Jack Strangways to go
too far. Of course you thought that I did not care."

"Yes," said Janetta, straightforwardly. Wyvis bit his lip.

"I am not quite so thoughtless of my son's welfare," he said, in a
firmer tone. "There was enough in that glass to madden a child--almost
to kill him. You don't suppose I would have let him take that?"

"I don't know. You were offering no objection to it when I came in."

"Do you doubt my word?" said Wyvis, fiercely.

"No. I believe you, if you mean really to say that you were not going to
allow your little boy to drink what Mr. Strangways offered him."

"I do mean to say it"--in a tone of hot anger.

Janetta was silent.

"Have you nothing to say, Miss Colwyn?"

"I have no right to express any opinion, Mr. Brand."

"But I wish for it!"

"I do not see why you should wish for it," said Janetta, coldly,
"especially when it may not be very agreeable to you to hear."

"Will you kindly tell me what you mean?" The words were civil, but the
tone was imperious in the extreme.

"I mean that whether you were going to make Julian drink that poisonous
stuff or not, you were inflicting a horrible torture upon him," said
Janetta, as hotly as Wyvis himself could have spoken. "And I cannot
understand how you could allow your own child to be treated in that
cruel way. I call it wicked to make a child suffer."

Had she looked at her companion, she would have seen that his face had
grown a little whiter than usual, and that he had the pinched look about
his nostrils which--as his mother would have known--betokened rage. But
she did not look; and, although he paused for a moment before replying,
his voice was quite calm when he spoke again.

"Torture? Suffering? These are very strong words when applied to a
little harmless teasing."

"I do not call it harmless teasing when you are trying to make a child
break a promise that he holds sacred."

"A very foolish promise!"

"I am not so sure of that."

"Do you mean to insult me?" said Wyvis, flushing to the roots of his
hair.

"Insult you? No; certainly not. I don't know why you should say so!"

"Then I need not explain," he answered drily, though still with that
flush of annoyance on his face. "Perhaps if you think over what you have
heard of that boy's antecedents, you will know what I mean."

It was Janetta's turn to flush now. She remembered the stories current
respecting old Mr. Brand's drinking habits, and the rumors about Mrs.
Wyvis Brand's reasons for living away from her husband. She saw that her
words had struck home in a manner which she had not intended.

"I beg your pardon," she said involuntarily; "I never meant--I never
thought--anything--I ought not to have spoken as I did."

"You had much better say what you mean," was the answer, spoken with
bitter brevity.

"Well, then, I will." Janetta raised her eyes and looked at him bravely.
"After all, I am a kinswoman of yours, Mr. Brand, and little Julian is
my cousin too; so I _have_ some sort of a right to speak. I never
thought of his antecedents, as you call them, and I do not know much
about them; but if they were--if they had been not altogether what you
wish them to be--don't you see that this very promise which you tried to
make him break was one of his best safeguards?"

"The promise made by a child is no safeguard," said Wyvis, doggedly.

"Not if he is forced to break it!" exclaimed Janetta, with a touch of
fire.

They walked on in silence for a minute or two, and then Wyvis said,

"Do you believe in a promise made by a child of that age?"

"Little Julian has made me believe in it. He was so thoroughly in
earnest. Oh, Mr. Brand, do you think that it was right to force him to
do a thing against his conscience in that way?"

"You use hard words for a very simple thing, Miss Colwyn," said Wyvis,
in a rather angry tone. "The boy was not forced--I had no intention of
letting him drink the brandy."

"No," said Janetta, indignantly. "You only let him think that he was to
be forced to do it--you only made him lose faith in you as his natural
protector, and believe that you wished him to do what he thought wrong!
And you say there was no cruelty in that?"

Wyvis Brand kept silence for some minutes. He was impressed in spite of
himself by Janetta's fervor.

"I suppose," he said, at last, "that the fact is--I don't know what to
do with a child. I never had any teaching or training when I was a
child, and I don't know how to give it. I know I'm a sort of heathen and
savage, and the boy must grow up like me--that is all."

"It is often said to be a heathen virtue to keep one's word," said
Janetta, with a half smile.

"Therefore one that I can practice, you mean? Do you always keep your
word when you give it?"

"I try to."

"I wish I could get you to give your word to do one thing."

"What is that?"

Wyvis spoke slowly. "You see how unfit I am to bring up a child--I
acknowledge the unfitness--and yet to send him away from us would almost
break my mother's heart--you see that."

"Yes."

"Will not you sometimes look in on us and give us a word of advice
or--or--rebuke? You are a cousin, as you reminded me, and you have the
right. Will you help us a little now and then?"

"You would not like it if I did."

"Was I so very savage? I have an awful temper, I know. But I am not
quite so black as I'm painted, Miss Colwyn. I do want to do the best for
that boy--if I knew how----"

"Witness this afternoon," said Janetta, with good-humored satire.

"Well, that shows that I _don't_ know how. Seriously, I am sorry--I
can't say more. Won't you stand our friend, Cousin Janetta?"

It was the first time he had addressed her in that way.

"How often am I to be asked to be somebody's friend, I wonder!" said
Janetta to herself, with a touch of humor. But she answered, quite
gravely, "I should like to do what I can--but I'm afraid there is
nothing that I can do, especially"--with a sudden flush--"if your
friends--the people who come to your house--are men like Mr.
Strangways."

Wyvis looked at her sideways, with a curious look upon his face.

"You object to Mr. Strangways?"

"He is a man whom most people object to."

"Well--if I give up Mr. Strangways and his kind----"

"Oh, _will_ you, Cousin Wyvis?"

She turned an eager, sparkling face upon him. It occurred to him, almost
for the first time, to admire her. With that light in her eye, that
color in her cheek, Janetta was almost beautiful. He smiled.

"I shall be only too glad of an excuse," he said, with more simplicity
and earnestness than she had as yet distinguished in his voice. "And
then--you will come again?"

"I will--gladly."

"Shake hands on it after your English fashion," he said, stopping short,
and holding out his own hand. "I have been so long abroad that I almost
forget the way. But it is a sign of friendliness, is it not?"

Janetta turned and laid her hand in his with a look of bright and
trustful confidence. Somehow it made Wyvis Brand feel himself unworthy.
He said almost nothing more until they parted at Mr. Colwyn's door.



CHAPTER XIII.

SHADOWS.


But Janetta had not much chance of keeping her promise for some time to
come. She was alarmed to find, on her return home that evening, that her
father had come in sick and shivering, with all the symptoms of a
violent cold, followed shortly by high fever. He had caught a chill
during a long drive undertaken in order to see a motherless child who
had been suddenly taken ill, and in whose case he took a great interest.
The child rapidly recovered, but Mr. Colwyn's illness had a serious
termination. Pleurisy came on, and made such rapid inroads upon his
strength that in a very few days his recovery was pronounced impossible.
Gradually growing weaker and weaker, he was not able even to give
counsel or direction to his family, and could only whisper to Janetta,
who was his devoted nurse, a few words about "taking care" of the rest.

"I will always do my very best for them, father; you may be sure of
that," said Janetta, earnestly. The look of anxious pain in his eyes
gave her the strength to speak firmly--she must set his mind at ease at
any cost.

"My faithful Janet," she heard him whisper; and then he spoke no more.
With his hand still clasped in hers he died in the early morning of a
chill October day, and the world of Beaminster knew him no more.

The world seemed sadly changed for Janetta when her father had gone
forth from it; and yet it was not she who made the greatest
demonstration of mourning. Mrs. Colwyn passed from one hysterical fit
into another, and Nora sobbed herself ill; but Janetta went about her
duties with a calm and settled gravity, a sober tearlessness, which
caused her stepmother to dub her cold and heartless half a dozen times a
day. As a matter of fact the girl felt as if her heart were breaking,
but there was no one but herself to bear any of the commonplace little
burdens of daily life which are so hard to carry in the time of trouble;
and but for her thoughtful presence of mind the whole house would have
degenerated into a state of chaos. She wrote necessary letters, made
arrangements for the sad offices which were all that could be rendered
to her father now, interviewed the dressmaker, and ordered meals for the
children. It was to her that the servants and tradespeople came for
orders; it was she who kept her mother's room quiet, and nursed Nora,
and provided necessary occupation for the awed and bewildered children.

"You don't seem to feel it a bit, Janetta," Mrs. Colwyn said to her on
the day before the funeral. "And I'm sure you were always your father's
favorite. He never cared half so much for any of the children as he did
for you, and now you can't even give him a tributary tear."

Mrs. Colwyn was fond of stilted expressions, and the thought of "a
tributary tear" seemed so incongruous to Janetta when compared with her
own deep grief, that--much to Mrs. Colwyn's horror--she burst into an
agitated little laugh, as nervous people sometimes do on the most solemn
occasions.

"To laugh when your father is lying dead in the house!" ejaculated Mrs.
Colwyn, with awful emphasis. "And you that he thought so loving and
dutiful----!"

Then poor Janetta collapsed. She was worn out with watching and working,
and from nervous laughter she passed to tears so heart-broken and so
exhausting that Mrs. Colwyn never again dared to accuse her openly of
insensibility. And perhaps it was a good thing for Janetta that she did
break down in this way. The doctor who had attended her father was
growing very uneasy about her. He had not been deceived by her apparent
calmness. Her white face and dark-ringed eyes had told him all that
Janetta could not say. "A good thing too!" he muttered when, on a
subsequent call, Tiny told him, with rather a look of consternation,
that her sister "had been crying." "A good thing too! If she had not
cried she would have had a nervous fever before long, and then what
would become of you all?"

During these dark days Janetta was inexpressibly touched by the marks of
sympathy that reached her from all sides. Country people trudged long
distances into town that they might gaze once more on the worn face of
the man who had often assuaged not only physical but mental pain, and
had been as ready to help and comfort as to prescribe. Townsfolk sent
flowers for the dead and dainties for the living; but better than all
their gifts was the regret that they expressed for the death of a man
whom everyone liked and respected. Mr. Colwyn's practice, though never
very lucrative, had been an exceedingly large one; and only when he had
passed away did his townsfolk seem to appreciate him at his true worth.

In the sad absorption of mind which followed upon his death, Janetta
almost forgot her cousins, the Brands. But when the funeral took place,
and she went with her brother Joe to the grave, as she insisted upon
doing in spite of her stepmother's tearful remonstrances, it was a sort
of relief and satisfaction to her to see that both Wyvis and Cuthbert
Brand were present. They were her kinsmen, after all, and it was right
for them to be there. It made her feel momentarily stronger to know of
their presence in the church.

But at the grave she forgot them utterly. The beautiful and consoling
words of the Burial Service fell almost unheeded on her ear. She could
only think of the blank that was made in her life by the absence of
that loving voice, that tender sympathy, which had never failed her
once. "My faithful Janet!" he had called her. There was no one to call
her "my faithful Janet" now.

She was shaken by a storm of silent sobs as these thoughts came over
her. She made scarcely a sound, but her figure was swayed by the tempest
as if it would have fallen. Joe, the young brother, who could as yet
scarcely realize the magnitude of the loss which he had sustained,
glanced at her uneasily; but it was not he, but Wyvis Brand, who
suddenly made a step forward and gave her--just in time--the support of
his strong arm. The movement checked her and recalled her to herself.
Her weeping grew less violent, and although strong shudders still shook
her frame, she was able to walk quietly from the grave to the
carriage-door, and to shake hands with Wyvis Brand with some attempt at
calmness of demeanor.

He came to the house a few days after the funeral, but Janetta happened
to be out, and Mrs. Colwyn refused to see him. Possibly he thought that
some slight lurked within this refusal, for he did not come again, and a
visit at a later date from Mrs. Brand was so entirely embarrassing and
unsatisfactory that Janetta could hardly wish for its repetition. Mrs.
Colwyn, in the deepest of widow's weeds, with a white handkerchief in
her hand, was yet not too much overcome by grief to show that she
esteemed herself far more respectable than Mrs. Brand, and could "set
her down," if necessary; while poor Mrs. Brand, evidently comprehending
the reason of Mrs. Colwyn's bridlings and tossings, was nervous and
flurried, sat on the edge of a chair, and looked--poor, helpless,
elderly woman--as if she had never entered a drawing-room before.

The only comfort Janetta had out of the visit was a moment's
conversation in the hall when Mrs. Brand took her leave.

"My dear--my dear," said Mrs. Brand, taking the girl's hand in hers, "I
am so sorry, and I can't do anything to comfort you. Your father was
very kind to me when I was in great trouble, years ago. I shall never
forget his goodness. If there is anything I can ever do for you, you
must let me do it for his sake."

Janetta put up her face and kissed the woman to whom her father had been
"very kind." It comforted her to hear of his goodness once again. She
loved Mrs. Brand for appreciating it.

That little sentence or two did her more good than the long letters
which she was receiving every few days from Margaret, her chosen friend.
Margaret was sincerely grieved for Janetta's loss, and said many
consoling things in her sweet, tranquil, rather devotional way; but she
had not known Mr. Colwyn, and she could not say the words that Janetta's
heart was aching for--the words of praise and admiration of a nobly
unselfish life which alone could do Janetta any good. Yes, Margaret's
letters were distinctly unsatisfactory--not from want of feeling, but
from want of experience of life.

Graver necessities soon arose, however, than those of consolation in
grief. Mr. Colwyn had always been a poor man, and the sum for which he
had insured his life was only sufficient to pay his debts and funeral
expenses, and to leave a very small balance at his banker's. He had
bought the house in Gwynne Street in which he lived, and there was no
need, therefore, to seek for another home; and Mrs. Colwyn had fifty
pounds a year of her own, but of course it was necessary that the two
elder girls should do something for themselves. Nora obtained almost
immediately a post as under-teacher in a school not far from Beaminster,
and Georgie was taken in as a sort of governess-pupil, while Joe was
offered--chiefly out of consideration for his father's memory--a
clerkship in a mercantile house in the town, and was considered to be
well provided for. Curly, one of the younger boys, obtained a nomination
to a naval school in London. Thus only Mrs. Colwyn, Tiny, and "Jinks"
remained at home--with Janetta.

With Janetta!--That was the difficulty. What was Janetta to do? She
might probably with considerable ease have obtained a position as
resident governess in a family, but then she would have to be absent
from home altogether. And of late the Colwyns had found it best to
dispense with the maid-servant who had hitherto done the work of the
household--a fact which meant that Janetta, with the help of a charity
orphan of thirteen, did it nearly all herself.

"I might send home enough money for you to keep an efficient servant,
mamma," she said one day, "if I could go away and find a good
situation."

It never occurred either to her or to her stepmother that any of her
earnings were to belong to Janetta, or be used for her behoof.

"It would have to be a very good situation indeed, then," said Mrs.
Colwyn, with sharpness. "I don't suppose you could get more than fifty
pounds a year--if so much. And fifty pounds would not go far if we had a
woman in the house to feed and pay wages to. No, you had better stay at
home and get some daily teaching in the neighborhood. With your
recommendations it ought to be easy enough for you to do so."

"I am afraid not," said Janetta, with a little sigh.

"Nonsense! You could get some if you tried--if you had any energy, any
spirit: I suppose you would like to sit with your hands before you,
doing nothing, while I slaved my fingers to the bone for you," said Mrs.
Colwyn, who never got up till noon, or did anything but gossip and read
novels when she was up; "but I would be ashamed to do that if I were a
well-educated girl, whose father spent I don't know how much on her
voice, and expected her to make a living for herself by the time she was
one-and-twenty! I must say, Janetta, that I think it very wrong of you
to be so slack in trying to earn a little money, when Nora and Georgie
and Joey are all out in the world doing for themselves, and you sitting
here at home doing nothing at all."

"I am sorry, mamma," said Janetta, meekly. "I will try to get something
to do at once."

She did not think of reminding Mrs. Colwyn that she had been up since
six o'clock that morning helping the charity orphan to scrub and scour,
cooking, making beds, sewing, teaching Tiny between whiles, and scarcely
getting five minutes' rest until dinner-time. She only began to wonder
how she could manage to get all her tasks into the day if she had
lessons to give as well. "I suppose I must sit up at night and get up
earlier in the morning," she thought to herself. "It is a pity I am such
a sleepy person. But use reconciles one to all things."

Mrs. Colwyn meanwhile went on lecturing.

"And above all things, Janetta, remember that you ask high terms and get
the money always in advance. You are just like your poor father in the
way you have about money; I never saw anyone so unpractical as he was.
I'm sure half his bills are unpaid yet, and never will be paid. I hope
you won't be like _him_, I'm sure----"

"I hope I shall be like him in every possible respect," said Janetta,
with compressed lips. She rose as she spoke and caught up the basket of
socks that she was mending. "I don't know how you can bear to speak of
him in that slighting manner," she went on, almost passionately. "He was
the best, the kindest of men, and I cannot bear to hear it." And then
she hurriedly left the room and went into her father's little
surgery--as it had once been called--to relieve her overcharged heart
with a burst of weeping. It was not often that Janetta lost patience,
but a word against her father was sufficient to upset her self-command
nowadays. She rested her head against the well-worn arm-chair where he
used to sit, and kissed the back of it, and bedewed it with her tears.

"Poor father! dear father!" she murmured. "Oh, if only you were here, I
could bear anything! Or if she had loved you as you deserved, I could
bear with her and work for her willingly--cheerfully. But when she
speaks against you, father dear, how _can_ I live with her? And yet he
told me to take care of her, and I said I would. He called me 'his
faithful Janet.' I do not want to be unfaithful, but--oh father, father,
it is hard to live without you!"

The gathering shades of the wintry day began to gather round her; but
Janetta, her face buried in the depths of the arm-chair, was oblivious
of time. It was almost dark before little Tiny came running in with
cries of terror to summon her sister to Mrs. Colwyn's help.

"Mamma's ill--I think she's dying. Come, Janet, come," cried the child.
And Janetta hurried back to the dining-room.

She found Mrs. Colwyn on the sofa in a state of apparent stupor. For
this at first Janetta saw no reason, and was on the point of sending for
a doctor, when her eye fell upon a black object which had rolled from
the sofa to the ground. Janetta looked at it and stood transfixed.

There was no need to send for a doctor. And Janetta saw at once that she
could not be spared from home. The wretched woman had found a solace
from her woes, real and imaginary, in the brandy bottle.



CHAPTER XIV.

JANETTA'S FAILURE.


The terrible certainty that Janetta had now acquired of Mrs. Colwyn's
inability to control herself decided her in the choice of an occupation.
She knew that she must, if possible, earn something; but it was equally
impossible for her to leave home entirely, or even for many hours at a
stretch; she was quite convinced that constant watching, and even gentle
restraint, could alone prevail in checking the tendency which her
stepmother evinced. She understood now better than she had ever done why
her father's brow had been so early wrinkled and his hair grey before
its time. Doubtless, he had discovered his wife's unfortunate tendency,
and, while carefully concealing it or keeping it within bounds, had
allowed it often to weigh heavily upon his mind. Janetta realized with a
great shock that _she_ could not hope to exert the influence or the
authority of her father, that all her efforts might possibly be
unavailing unless they were seconded by Mrs. Colwyn herself, and that
public disgrace might yet be added to the troubles and anxieties of
their lives.

There is something so particularly revolting in the spectacle of this
kind of degradation in a woman, that Janetta felt as if the discovery
that she had made turned her positively ill. She had much ado to behave
to the children and the servant as if nothing were amiss; she got her
stepmother to bed, and kept Tiny out of the room, but the effort was
almost more than she knew how to bear. She passed a melancholy evening
with the children--melancholy in spite of herself, for she did her best
to be cheerful--and spent a sleepless night, rising in the morning with
a bad headache and a conviction as of the worthlessness of all things
which she did not very often experience.

She shrank sensitively from going to Mrs. Colwyn's room. Surely the poor
woman would be overcome with pain and shame; surely she would understand
how terrible the exposure of her disgrace had been to Janetta. But at
last Mrs. Colwyn's bell sounded sharply, and continued to ring, and the
girl was obliged to run upstairs and enter her stepmother's room.

Mrs. Colwyn was sitting up in bed, with the bell-rope in her hand, an
aggrieved expression upon her face.

"Well, I'm sure! Nine o'clock and no breakfast ready for me! I suppose I
may wait until everybody else in the house is served first; I must say,
Janetta, that you are very thoughtless of my comfort."

Contrary to her usual custom Janetta offered no word of excuse or
apology. She was too much taken aback to speak. She stood and looked at
her stepmother with slightly dilated eyes, and neither moved nor spoke.

"What _are_ you staring at?" said Mrs. Colwyn, sinking back on her
pillows with a faint--very faint--touch of uneasiness in her tones. "If
you are in a sulky mood, Janetta, I wish you would go away, and send my
breakfast up by Ph[oe]be and Tiny. I have a wretched headache this
morning and can't be bothered."

"What would you like?" said Janetta, with an effort.

"Oh, anything. Some coffee and toast, perhaps. I dare say you won't
believe it--you are so unsympathetic--but I was frightfully ill last
night. I don't know how I got to bed; I was quite insensible for a
time--all from a narcotic that I had taken for neuralgia----"

"I'll go and get your breakfast ready," said Janetta abruptly. "I will
send it up as soon as I can."

She left the room, unheeding some murmured grumbling at her selfishness,
and shut the door behind her. On the landing it must be confessed that
she struck her foot angrily on the floor and clenched her hands, while
the color flushed into her mobile, sensitive little face. There was
nothing that Janetta hated more than a lie. And her stepmother was lying
to her now.

She sent up the breakfast tray, and did not re-enter the room for some
time. When at last she came up, Mrs. Colwyn had had the fire lighted and
was sitting beside it in a rocking-chair, with a novel on her lap. She
looked up indolently as Janetta entered.

"Going out?" she said, noticing that the girl was in her out-door wraps.
"You are always gadding."

"I came to speak to you before I went out," said Janetta, patiently. "I
am going to the stationer's, and to the Beaminster _Argus_ Office. I
mean to make it well known in the town that I want to give music and
singing-lessons. And, if possible, I shall give them here--at our own
house."

"You'll do nothing of the sort!" said Mrs. Colwyn, shrilly. "I'll not
have a pack of children about the house playing scales and singing their
Do, Re, Mi, till my head is fit to split. You'll remember, Miss, that
this is _my_ house, and that you are living on _my_ money, and behave
yourself."

"Mamma," said Janetta, steadily, advancing a step nearer, and turning a
shade paler than she had been before, "please think what you are saying.
I am willing to work as hard as I can, and earn as much as I can. But I
dare not go away from home--at any rate for long--unless I can feel sure
that--that what happened last night--will not occur again."

"What happened!--what happened last night?--I don't know what you mean."

"Don't say that, mamma: you know--you know quite well. And think what a
grief it would have been to dear father--what a disgrace it will be to
Joe and Nora and the little ones and all of us--if it ever became known!
Think of yourself, and the shame and the sin of it!"

"I've not the least notion what you are talking about, Janetta, and I
beg that you will not address me in that way," said Mrs. Colwyn, with an
attempt at dignity. "It is very undutiful indeed, and I hope that I
shall hear no more of it."

"I'll never speak of it again, mamma, unless you make it necessary. All
I mean is that you must understand--I cannot feel safe now--I must be at
home as much as possible to see that Tiny is safe, and that everything
is going on well. You must please let me advertise for pupils in our own
house."

Mrs. Colwyn burst into tears. "Oh, well, have your own way! I knew that
you would tyrannize, you always do whenever you get the chance, and very
foolish I have been to give you the opportunity. To speak in that way to
your father's wife--and all because she had to take a little something
for her nerves, and because of her neuralgia! But I am nobody now:
nobody, even in my own house, where I'm sure I ought to be mistress if
anybody is!"

Janetta could do or say nothing more. She gave her stepmother a dose of
sal volatile, and went away. She had already searched every room and
every cupboard in the house, except in Mrs. Colwyn's own domain, and had
put every bottle that she could find under lock and key; but she left
the house with a feeling of terrible insecurity upon her, as if the
earth might open at any moment beneath her feet.

She put advertisements in the local papers and left notices at some of
the Beaminster shops, and, when these attempts produced no results, she
called systematically on all the people she knew, and did her best--very
much against the grain--to ask for pupils. Thanks to her perseverance
she soon got three or four children as music pupils, although at a very
low rate of remuneration. Also, she gave two singing lessons weekly to
the daughter of the grocer with whom the Colwyns dealt. But these were
not paid for in money, but in kind. And then for a time she got no more
pupils at all.

Janetta was somewhat puzzled by her failure. She had fully expected to
succeed as a teacher in Beaminster. "When the Adairs come back it will
be better," she said, hopefully, to herself. "They have not written for
a long time, but I am sure that they will come home soon. Perhaps
Margaret is going to be married and will not want any singing lessons.
But I should think that they would recommend me: I should think that I
might refer to Lady Caroline, and surely people would think more of my
abilities then."

But it was not confidence in her abilities that was lacking so much as
confidence in her amiability and discretion, she soon found. She called
one day at the house of a schoolmistress, who was said to want
assistance in the musical line, and was received with a stiffness which
did not encourage her to make much of her qualifications.

"The fact is, Miss Colwyn," said the preceptress at length, "I have
heard of you from Miss Polehampton."

Janetta was on her feet in a moment. "I know very well what that means,"
she said, rather defiantly.

"Exactly. I see that Miss Polehampton's opinion of you is justifiable.
You will excuse my mentioning to you, as it is all for your own good,
Miss Colwyn, that Miss Polehampton found in you some little weakness of
temper, some want of the submissiveness and good sense which ought to
characterize an under-teacher's demeanor. I have great confidence in
Miss Polehampton's opinion."

"The circumstances under which I left Miss Polehampton's could be easily
explained if you would allow me to refer you to Lady Caroline Adair,"
said Janetta, with mingled spirit and dignity.

"Lady Caroline Adair? Oh, yes, I have heard all about that," said the
schoolmistress, in a tone of depreciation. "I do not need to hear any
other version of the story. You must excuse my remarking, Miss Colwyn,
that temper and sense are qualities as valuable in music-teaching as in
any other; and that your dismissal from Miss Polehampton's will, in my
opinion, be very much against you, in a place where Miss Polehampton's
school is so well known, and she herself is so much respected."

"I am sorry to have troubled you," said Janetta, not without
stateliness, although her lips trembled a little as she spoke. "I will
wish you good-morning."

The schoolmistress bowed solemnly, and allowed the girl to depart.
Janetta hastened out of the house--glad to get away before the tears
that had gathered in her eyes could fall.

At an ordinary time she would have been equally careful that they did
not fall when she was in the street; but on this occasion, dazed,
wounded, and tormented by an anxiety about the future, which was
beginning to take the spring out of her youth, she moved along the
side-walk with perfect unconsciousness that her eyes were brimming over,
and that two great tears were already on her cheeks.

It was a quiet road, and there was little likelihood of encountering any
one whom she knew. Therefore Janetta was utterly abashed when a
gentleman, who had met her, took off his hat, glanced at her curiously,
and then turned back as if by a sudden impulse, and addressed her by
name.

"Miss Colwyn, I think?"

She looked up at him through a blinding haze of tears, and recognized
the tall, spare figure, the fine sensitive face, the kind, dark eyes and
intellectual forehead. The coal-black beard and moustache nearly hid
his mouth, but Janetta felt instinctively that this tell-tale feature
would not belie the promise of the others.

"Sir Philip Ashley," she murmured, in her surprise.

"I beg your pardon," he said, with the courtesy that she so well
remembered; "I stopped you on impulse, I fear, because I felt a great
desire to express to you my deep sympathy with you in your loss. It may
seem impertinent for me to speak, but I knew your father and respected
and trusted him. We had some correspondence about sanitary matters, and
I was greatly relying on his help in certain reforms that I wish to
institute in Beaminster. He is a great loss to us all."

"Thank you," Janetta said unsteadily.

"Will you let me ask whether there is anything in which I can help you
just now."

"Oh, no, nothing, thank you." She had brushed away the involuntary tear,
and smiled bravely as she replied. "I did not think that I should meet
anybody: it was simply that I was disappointed about--about--some
lessons that I hoped to get. Quite a _little_ disappointment, you see."

"Was it a little disappointment? Do you want to give lessons--singing
lessons?"

"Yes; but nobody will have me to teach them," said Janetta, laughing
nervously.

Sir Philip looked back at the house which they had just passed. "That is
Miss Morrison's school: you came out of it, did you not? Does she not
need your help?"

"I do not suit her."

"Why? Did she try your voice?"

"Oh, no. It was for other reasons. She was prejudiced against me," said
Janetta, with a little gulp.

"Prejudiced? But why?--may I ask?"

"Oh, she had heard something she did not like. It does not matter: I
shall get other pupils by-and-bye."

"Is it important to you to have pupils?" Sir Philip asked, as seriously
and anxiously as if the fate of the empire depended on his reply.

"Oh, most important." Janetta's face and voice were more pathetic than
she knew. Sir Philip was silent for a moment.

"I have heard you sing," he said at length, in his grave, earnest way.
"I am sure that I should have no hesitation in recommending you--if my
recommendation were of any use. My mother may perhaps hear of somebody
who wants lessons, if you will allow me to mention the matter to her."

"I shall be very much obliged to you," said Janetta, feeling grateful
and yet a little startled--it did not seem natural to her in her sweet
humility that Sir Philip and his mother should interest themselves in
her welfare. "Oh, _very_ much obliged."

Sir Philip raised his hat and smiled down kindly upon her as he said
good-bye. He had been interested from the very first in Margaret's
friend. And he had always been vaguely conscious that Margaret's
friendship was not likely to produce any very desirable results.

Janetta went on her way, feeling for the moment a little less desolate
than she had felt before. Sir Philip turned homewards to seek his
mother, who was a woman of whom many people stood in awe, but whose
kindness of heart was never known to fail. To her Sir Philip at once
poured out his story with the directness and Quixotic ardor which some
of his friends found incomprehensible, not to say absurd. But Lady
Ashley never thought so.

She smiled very kindly as her son finished his little tale.

"She is really a good singer, you say? Mr. Colwyn's daughter. I have
seen him once or twice."

"He was a good fellow."

"Yes, I believe so. Miss Morrison's school, did you mention? Why, Mabel
Hartley is there." Mabel Hartley was a distant cousin of the Ashleys. "I
will call to-morrow, Philip, and find out what the objection is to Miss
Colwyn. If it can be removed I don't see why she should not teach Mabel,
who, I remember, has a voice."

Lady Ashley carried out her intention, and announced the result to her
son the following evening.

"I have not succeeded, dear. Miss Morrison has been prejudiced by some
report from Miss Polehampton, with whom Miss Colwyn and Margaret Adair
were at school. She said that the two girls were expelled together."

Sir Philip was silent for a minute or two. His brows contracted. "I was
afraid," he said, "that Miss Adair's championship of her friend had not
been conducted in the wisest possible manner. She has done Miss Colwyn
considerable harm."

Lady Ashley glanced at him inquiringly. She was particularly anxious
that he should marry Margaret Adair.

"Is Lady Caroline at home?" her son asked, after another and a longer
pause.

"Yes. She came home yesterday--with dear Margaret. I am sure, Philip,
that Margaret does not know it if she has done harm."

"I don't suppose she does, mother. I am sure she would not willingly
injure any one. But I think that she ought to know the circumstances of
the case."

And then he opened a book and began to read.

Lady Ashley never remonstrated. But she raised her eyebrows a little
over this expression of Sir Philip's opinion. If he were going to try to
tutor Margaret Adair, whose slightest wish had never yet known
contradiction, she thought it probable that the much-wished for marriage
would never take place at all.



CHAPTER XV.

A BONE OF CONTENTION.


Poor Janetta, plodding away at her music lessons and doing the household
work of her family, never guessed that she was about to become a bone of
contention. But such she was fated to be, and that between persons no
less distinguished than Lady Caroline Adair and Sir Philip Ashley--not
to speak of Sir Philip and Margaret!

Two days after Janetta's unexpected meeting with Sir Philip, that
gentleman betook himself to Helmsley Court in a somewhat warm and
indignant mood. He had seen a good deal of Margaret during the autumn
months. They had been members of the same house-party in more than one
great Scottish mansion: they had boated together, fished together,
driven and ridden and walked together, until more than one of Lady
Caroline's acquaintances had asked, with a covert smile, "how soon she
might be allowed to congratulate".... The sentence was never quite
finished, and Lady Caroline never made any very direct reply. Margaret
was too young to think of these things, she said. But other people were
very ready to think of them for her.

The acquaintance had therefore progressed a long way since the day of
Margaret's return from school. And yet it had not gone quite so far as
onlookers surmised, or as Lady Caroline wished. Sir Philip was most
friendly, most attentive, but he was also somewhat absurdly unconscious
of remark. His character had a simplicity which occasionally set people
wondering. He was perfectly frank and manly: he spoke without
_arrière-pensée_, he meant what he said, and was ready to believe that
other people meant it too. He had a pleasant and courteous manner in
society, and liked to be on friendly terms with every one he met; but at
the same time he was not at all like the ordinary society man, and had
not the slightest idea that he differed from any such person--as indeed
he did. He had very high aims and ideals, and he took it for granted,
with a really charming simplicity, that other people had similar aims
and similar (if not higher) ideals. Consequently he now and then ran his
head against a wall, and was laughed at by commonplace persons; but
those who knew him well loved him all the better for his impracticable
schemes and expectations.

But to Margaret he seemed rather like a firebrand. He took interest in
things of which she had never heard, or which she regarded with a little
delicate disdain. A steam-laundry in Beaminster, for example--what had a
man like Sir Philip Ashley to do with a steam-laundry? And yet he was
establishing one in the old city, and actually assuring people that it
would "pay." He had been exerting himself about the drainage of the
place and the dwellings of the poor. Margaret was sorry in a vague way
for the poor, and supposed that drainage had to be "seen to" from time
to time, but she did not want to hear anything about it. She liked the
pretty little cottages in the village of Helmsley, and she did not mind
begging for a holiday for the school children (who adored her) now and
then; and she had heard with pleasure of Lady Ashley's pattern
alm-houses and dainty orphanage, where the old women wore red cloaks,
and the children were exceedingly picturesque; but as a necessary
consequence of her life-training, she did not want to know anything
about disease or misery or sin. And Sir Philip could not entirely keep
these subjects out of his conversation, although he tried to be very
careful not to bring a look that he knew well--a look of shocked
repulsion and dislike--to Margaret's tranquil face.

She welcomed him with her usual sweetness that afternoon. He thought
that she looked lovelier than ever. The day was cold, and she wore a
dark-green dress with a good deal of gold embroidery about it, which
suited her perfectly. Lady Caroline, too, was graciousness itself. She
received him in her own little sitting-room--a gem of a room into which
only her intimate friends were admitted, and made him welcome with all
the charm of manner for which she was distinguished. And to add to her
virtues, she presently found that she had letters to write, and retired
into an adjoining library, leaving the door open between the two rooms,
so that Margaret might still be considered as under her chaperonage,
although conversation could be conducted without any fear of her
overhearing what was said. Lady Caroline knew so exactly what to do and
what to leave undone!

As soon as she was gone, Sir Philip put down his tea-cup and turned with
an eager movement to Margaret.

"I have been wanting to speak to you," he said. "I have something
special--something important to say."

"Yes?" said Margaret, sweetly. She flushed a little and looked down. She
was not quite ignorant of what every one was expecting Sir Philip Ashley
to say.

"Can you listen to me for a minute or two?" he said, with the
gentle eagerness of manner, the restrained ardor which he was
capable--unfortunately for him--of putting into his most trivial
requests. "You are sure you will not be impatient?"

Margaret smiled. Should she accept him? she was thinking. After all, he
was very nice, in spite of his little eccentricities. And really--with
his fine features, his tall stature, his dark eyes, and coal-black hair
and beard--he was an exceedingly handsome man.

"I want you to help me," said Sir Philip, in almost a coaxing tone. "I
want you to carry out a design that I have formed. Nobody can do it but
you. Will you help me?"

"If I can," said Margaret, shyly.

"You are always good and kind," said Sir Philip, warmly. "Margaret--may
I call you Margaret? I have known you so long."

This seemed a little irregular, from Miss Adair's point of view.

"I don't know whether mamma----" she began, and stopped.

"Whether she would like it? I don't think she would mind: she suggested
it the other day, in fact. She always calls me 'Philip,' you know:
perhaps you would do the same?"

Again Margaret smiled; but there was a touch of inquiry in her eyes as
she glanced at him. She did not know very much about proposals of
marriage, but she fancied that Sir Philip's manner of making one was
peculiar. And she had had it impressed upon her so often that he was
about to make one that it could hardly be considered strange if his
manner somewhat bewildered her.

"I want to speak to you," said the young man, lowering his earnest voice
a little, "about your friend, Miss Colwyn."

Now, why did the girl flush scarlet? Why did her hand tremble a little
as she put down her cup? Philip lost the thread of the conversation for
a minute or two, and simply looked at her. Then Margaret quietly took
down a screen from the mantel-piece and began to fan herself. "It is
rather hot here, don't you think?" she said, serenely. "The fire makes
one feel quite uncomfortable."

"It _is_ a large one," said Sir Philip, with conviction. "Shall I take
any of the coal off for you? No? Well, as I was saying, I wished to
speak to you about your friend, Miss Colwyn."

"She has lost her father lately, poor thing," said Margaret,
conversationally. "She has been very unhappy."

"Yes, and for more reasons than one. You have not seen her, I conclude,
since his death?"

"No, he died in August or September, did he not? It is close upon
December now--what a long time we have been away! Poor Janetta!--how
glad she will be to see me!"

"I am sure she will. But it would be just as well for you to hear
beforehand that her father's death has brought great distress upon the
family. I have had some talk with friends of his, and I find that he
left very little money behind."

"How sad for them! But--they have not removed?--they are still at their
old house: I thought everything was going on as usual," said Margaret,
in a slightly puzzled tone.

"The house belongs to them, so they might as well live in it. Two or
three of the family have got situations of some kind--one child is in a
charitable institution, I believe."

"Oh, how dreadful! Like Lady Ashley's Orphanage?" said Margaret,
shrinking a little.

"No, no; nothing of that kind--an educational establishment, to which he
has got a nomination. But the mother and the two or three children are
still at home, and I believe that their income is not more than a
hundred a year."

Sir Philip was considerably above the mark. But the mention of even a
hundred a year, though not a large income, produced little impression
upon Margaret.

"That is not very much, is it?" she said, gently.

"Much! I should think not," said Sir Philip, driven almost to
discourtesy by the difficulty of making her understand. "Four or five
people to live upon it and keep up a position! It is semi-starvation and
misery."

"But, Sir Philip, does not Janetta give lessons? I should have thought
she could make a perfect fortune by her music alone. Hasn't she tried to
get something to do?"

"Yes, indeed, poor girl, she has. My mother has been making inquiries,
and she finds that Miss Colwyn has advertised and done everything she
could think of--with very little result. I myself met her three or four
days ago, coming away from Miss Morrison's, with tears in her eyes. She
had failed to get the post of music-teacher there."

"But why had she failed? She can sing and play beautifully!"

"Ah, I wanted you to ask me that! She failed--because Miss Morrison was
a friend of Miss Polehampton's, and she had heard some garbled and
distorted account of Miss Colwyn's dismissal from that school."

Sir Philip did not look at her as he spoke: he fancied that she would be
at once struck with horror and even with shame, and he preferred to
avert his eyes during the moment's silence that followed upon his
account of Janetta's failure to get work. But, when Margaret spoke, a
very slight tone of vexation was the only discoverable trace of any such
emotion.

"Why did not Janetta explain?"

Sir Philip's lips moved, but he said nothing.

"That affair cannot be the reason why she has obtained so little work,
of course?"

"I am afraid that to some extent it is."

"Janetta could so easily have explained it!"

"May I ask how she could explain it? Write a letter to the local paper,
or pay a series of calls to declare that she had not been to blame? Do
you think that any one would have believed her? Besides--you call her
your friend: could she exculpate herself without blaming you; and do you
think that she would do that?"

"Without blaming _me_?" repeated Margaret. She rose to her full height,
letting the fan fall between her hands, and stood silently confronting
him. "But," she said, slowly--"I--I was not to blame."

Sir Philip bowed.

"You think that I was to blame?"

"I think that you acted on impulse, without much consideration for Miss
Colwyn's future. I think that you have done her an injury--which I am
sure you will be only too willing to repair."

He began rather sternly, he ended almost tenderly--moved as he could not
fail to be by the soft reproach of Margaret's eyes.

"I cannot see that I have done her any injury at all; and I really do
not know how I can repair it," said the girl, with a cold stateliness
which ought to have warned Sir Philip that he was in danger of
offending. But Philip was rash and warm-hearted, and he had taken up
Janetta's cause.

"Your best way of repairing it," he said, earnestly, "would be to call
on Miss Morrison yourself and explain the matter to her, as Miss Colwyn
cannot possibly do--unless she is a very different person from the one I
take her for. And if that did not avail, go to Miss Polehampton and
persuade her to write a letter----"

He stopped somewhat abruptly. The look of profound astonishment on
Margaret's face recalled him to a sense of limitations. "Margaret!" he
said, pleadingly, "won't you be generous? You can afford to do this
thing for your friend!"

"Go to Miss Morrison and explain! _Persuade_ Miss Polehampton!--after
the way she treated us! But really it is too ridiculous, Sir Philip. You
do not know my friend, Miss Colwyn. She would be the last person to wish
me to humiliate myself to Miss Polehampton!"

"I do not see that what she wishes has much to do with it," said Sir
Philip, very stiffly. "Miss Colwyn is suffering under an injustice. I
ask you to repair that injustice. I really do not see how you can
refuse."

Margaret looked as if she were about to make some mutinous reply; then
she compressed her lips and lowered her eyes for a few seconds.

"I will ask mamma what she thinks," she said at last, in her usual even
tones.

"Why should you ask her?" said Sir Philip, impetuously. "What
consultation is needed, when I simply beg you to be your own true
self--that noble, generous self that I am sure you are! Margaret, don't
disappoint me!"

"I didn't know," said the girl, with proud deliberateness, "that you had
any special interest in the matter, Sir Philip."

"I have this interest--that I love you with all my heart, Margaret, and
hope that you will let me call you my wife one day. It is this love,
this hope, which makes me long to think of you as perfect--always noble
and self-sacrificing and just! Margaret, you will not forbid me to
hope?"

He had chosen a bad time for his declaration of love. He saw this, and
his accent grew more and more supplicating, for he perceived that the
look of repulsion, which he knew and hated, was already stealing into
Margaret's lovely eyes. She stood as if turned into stone, and did not
answer a word. And it was on this scene that Lady Caroline broke at that
moment--a scene which, at first sight, gave the mother keen pleasure,
for it had all the orthodox appearance of love-making: the girl, silent,
downcast, embarrassed; the man passionate and earnest, with head bent
towards her fair face, and hands outstretched in entreaty.

But poor Lady Caroline was soon to be undeceived, and her castle in the
air to come tumbling down about her ears.



CHAPTER XVI.

SIR PHILIP'S OPINION.


"Is anything the matter?" said Lady Caroline, suavely.

She had been undecided for a minute as to whether she had not better
withdraw unseen, but the distressed expression on her-daughter's face
decided her to speak. She might at least prevent Margaret from saying
anything foolish.

Sir Philip drew back a little. Margaret went--almost hurriedly--up to
her mother, and put her hand into Lady Caroline's.

"Will you tell him? will you explain to him, please?" she said. "I do
not want to hear any more: I would rather not. We could never understand
each other, and I should be very unhappy."

Sir Philip made an eager gesture, but Lady Caroline silenced him by an
entreating glance and then looked straight into her daughter's eyes.
Their limpid hazel depths were troubled now: tears were evidently very
near, and Lady Caroline detested tears.

"My darling child," she said, "you must not agitate yourself. You shall
hear nothing that you do not want to hear. Sir Philip would never say
anything that would pain you."

"I have asked her to be my wife," said Sir Philip, very quietly, "and I
hope that she will not refuse to hear me say that, at least."

"But that was not all," said Margaret, suddenly turning on him her
grieving eyes--eyes that always looked so much more grieved than their
owner felt--and her flushing, quivering face: "You told me first that I
was wrong--selfish and unjust; and you want me to humiliate myself--to
say that it was my fault----"

"My dearest Margaret!" exclaimed Lady Caroline, in amaze, "what can you
mean? Philip, are we dreaming?--Darling child, come with me to your
room: you had better lie down for a little time while I talk to Sir
Philip. Excuse me a moment, Sir Philip--I will come back."

Margaret allowed herself to be led from the room. This outbreak of
emotion was almost unprecedented in her history; but then Sir Philip had
attacked her on her tenderest side--that of her personal dignity.
Margaret Adair found it very hard to believe that she was as others are,
and not made of a different clay from them.

Some little time elapsed before Lady Caroline's return. She had made
Margaret lie down, administered sal volatile, covered her with an
eiderdown quilt, and seen her maid bathing the girl's forehead with eau
de Cologne and water before she came back again. And all this took time.
She apologized very prettily for her delay, but Sir Philip did not seem
to heed her excuses: he was standing beside the fire, meditatively
tugging at his black beard, and Lady Caroline had some difficulty in
thinking that she could read the expression of his face.

"I do not quite understand all this," she said, with her most amiable
expression of countenance, as she seated herself on the other side of
the soft white hearthrug. "Margaret mentioned Miss Colwyn's name: I am
quite at a loss to imagine how Miss Colwyn comes to be mixed up in the
matter."

"I am very sorry," said Sir Philip, ruefully. "I never thought that
there would be any difficulty. I seem to have offended Margaret most
thoroughly."

Lady Caroline smiled. "Girls soon forget a man's offences," she said,
consolingly. "What did you say?"

And then Sir Philip, with some hesitation, told the story of his plea
for Janetta Colwyn.

The smile was frozen on Lady Caroline's lips. She sat up straight, and
stared at her visitor. When he had quite ended his explanation, she
said, as icily as she knew how to speak--

"And you asked my daughter to justify Miss Colwyn at the cost of her own
feelings--I might almost say, of her own social standing in the
neighborhood!----"

"Isn't that a little too strong, Lady Caroline? Your daughter's social
standing would not be touched in the least by an act of common justice.
No one who heard of it but would honor her for exculpating her friend!"

"Exculpating! My dear Philip, you are too Quixotic! Nobody accuses
either of the girls of anything but a little thoughtlessness and
defiance of authority----"

"Exactly," said Philip, with some heat, "and therefore while the report
of it will not injure your daughter, it may do irreparable harm to a
girl who has her own way to make in the world. The gossip of Beaminster
tea-tables is not to be despised. The old ladies of Beaminster are all
turning their backs on Miss Colwyn, because common report declares her
to have been expelled--or dismissed--in disgrace from Miss Polehampton's
school. The fact that nobody knows exactly _why_ she was dismissed adds
weight to the injury. It is so easy to say, 'They don't tell why she was
sent away--something too dreadful to be talked about,' and so on. My
mother tells me that there is a general feeling abroad that Miss Colwyn
is not a person to be trusted with young girls. Now that is a terrible
slur upon an innocent woman who has to earn her own living, Lady
Caroline; and I really must beg that you and Margaret will set
yourselves to remove it."

"Really, Philip! Quite a tirade!"

Lady Caroline laughed delicately as she spoke, and passed a lace
handkerchief across her lips as though to brush away a smile. She was a
little puzzled and rather vexed, but she did not wish to show her true
opinion of Sir Philip and his views.

"And so," she went on, "you said all this to my poor child; harrowed her
feelings and wounded her self-respect, and insisted on it that she
should go round Beaminster explaining that it was her fault and not
Janetta Colwyn's that Miss Polehampton acted in so absurdly arbitrary a
manner!"

"You choose to put it in that way," said Sir Philip, drawing down his
brows, "and I cannot very well contradict you; but I venture to think,
Lady Caroline, that you know quite well what I mean."

"I should be glad if you would put it into plain words. You wish
Margaret--to do--what?"

"I very much wish that she would go to Miss Morrison and explain to her
why Miss Colwyn left school. There is no need that she should take any
blame upon herself. You must confess that it was she who took the law
into her own hands, Lady Caroline; Miss Colwyn was perfectly ready to
submit. And I think that as this occurrence has been made the ground for
refusing to give Miss Colwyn the work that she urgently needs, it is
Miss Adair's plain duty to try at least to set the matter right. I do
not see why she should refuse."

"You have no pride yourself, I suppose? Do you suppose that Mr. Adair
would allow it?"

"Then you might do it for her, Lady Caroline," said Sir Philip, turning
round on her, with his winning, persuasive manner, of which even at that
moment she felt the charm. "It would be so easy for you to explain it
quietly to Miss Morrison, and ask her to give that poor girl a place in
her school! Who else could do it better? If Margaret is not--not quite
strong enough for the task, then will you not help us out of our
difficulty, and do it for her?"

"Certainly not, Sir Philip. Your request seems to me exceedingly
unreasonable. I do not in the least believe that Miss Morrison has
refused to take her for that reason only. There is some other, you may
depend upon it. I shall not interfere."

"You could at least give her a strong recommendation."

"I know nothing about the girl except that she sings fairly well," said
Lady Caroline, in a hard, determined voice. "I do not want to know
anything about her--she has done nothing but make mischief and cause
contention ever since I heard her name. I begin to agree with Miss
Polehampton--it was a most unsuitable friendship."

"It has been a disastrous friendship for Miss Colwyn, I fear. You must
excuse me if I say that it is hardly generous--after having been the
means of the loss of her first situation--to refuse to help her in
obtaining another."

"I think I am the best judge of that. If you mean to insinuate, Sir
Philip, that your proposal for Margaret's hand which we have talked over
before, hinges on her compliance with your wishes in this instance, you
had better withdraw it at once."

"You must be aware that I have no such meaning," said Sir Philip, in a
tone that showed him to be much wounded.

"I am glad--for your own sake--to hear it. Neither Mr. Adair nor myself
could permit Margaret to lower herself by going to explain her past
conduct to a second-rate Beaminster schoolmistress."

Sir Philip stood silent, downcast, his eyebrows contracting over his
eyes until--as Lady Caroline afterwards expressed it--he positively
scowled.

"You disagree with me, I presume?" she inquired, with some irony in her
tone.

"Yes, Lady Caroline, I do disagree with you. I thought that you--and
Margaret--would be more generous towards a fatherless girl."

"You must excuse me if I say that your interest in 'a fatherless girl'
is somewhat out of place, Sir Philip. You are a young man, and it is not
quite seemly for you to make such a point of befriending a little music
governess. I am sorry to have to speak so plainly, but I must say that I
do not think such interest befits a gentleman, and especially one who
has been asking us for our daughter."

"My love for Margaret," said Sir Philip, gravely, "cannot blind me to
other duties."

"There are duties in the world," rejoined Lady Caroline, "between which
we sometimes have to choose. It seems to me that you may have to choose
between your love for Margaret and your 'interest' in Janetta Colwyn."

"I hardly think," said her guest, "that I deserve this language, Lady
Caroline. However, since these are your opinions, I can but say that I
deeply regret them--and take my leave. If you or Miss Adair should wish
to recall me you have but to send me a word--a line: I shall be ready to
come. Your daughter knows my love for her. I am not yet disposed to give
up all hope of a recall."

And then he took his leave with a manner of punctilious politeness
which, oddly enough, made Lady Caroline feel herself in the wrong more
than anything that he had said. She was more ruffled than Margaret had
ever seen her when at last she sought the girl's room shortly before the
ringing of the dressing-bell.

She found Margaret looking pale and a little frightened, but perfectly
composed. She came up to Lady Caroline and put her arms round her
mother's neck with a caressing movement.

"Dear mamma," she said, "I am afraid I was not quite polite to Sir
Philip."

"I think, dear, that Sir Philip was scarcely polite to you. I am not at
all satisfied with his conduct. He is quite unreasonable."

Margaret slowly withdrew her arms from her mother's neck, looked at her
uneasily, and looked down again.

"He thinks that I ought to do something for Janetta--to make people
think well of her, I suppose."

"He is utterly preposterous," said Lady Caroline.

"Do you think I ought to go to Miss Morrison about Janetta, mamma?"

"No, indeed, my dearest. Your father would never hear of it."

"I should like to do all that I could for her. I am very fond of her,
indeed I am, although Sir Philip thinks me so selfish." And Margaret's
soft hazel eyes filled with tears, which fell gently over her delicate
cheeks without distorting her features in the least.

"Don't cry, my darling; please don't cry," said her mother, anxiously.
"Your eyelids will be red all the evening, and papa will ask what is the
matter. Have you any rose water?--Of course you will do all you can for
your poor little friend: you are only too fond of her--too
generous!--Sir Philip does not understand you as I do; he has
disappointed me very much this afternoon."

"He was very unkind," said Margaret, with the faintest possible touch of
resentment in her soft tones.

"Think no more of him for the present, dear. I dare say he will be here
to-morrow, penitent and abashed. There goes the dressing-bell. Are you
ready for Markham now? Put on your pink dress."

She spoke pleasantly, and even playfully, but she gave Margaret a
searching glance, as though she would have read the girl's heart if she
could. But she was reassured. Margaret was smiling now; she was as calm
as ever; she had brushed the tears from her eyes with a filmy
handkerchief and looked perfectly serene. "I am rather glad that you
have found Sir Philip unreasonable, mamma," she said, placidly; "I
always thought so, but you did not quite agree with me."

"The child's fancy is untouched," said Lady Caroline to herself as she
went back to her room, "and I am thankful for it. She is quite capable
of a little romantic folly if nobody is near to put some common-sense
into her sometimes. And Philip Ashley has no common-sense at all."

She was glad to see that at dinner Margaret's serenity was still
unruffled. When Mr. Adair grumbled at the absence of Sir Philip, whom he
had expected to see that evening, the girl only looked down at her plate
without a blush or a word of explanation. Lady Caroline drew her
daughter's arm through her own as they left the dining-room with a
feeling that she was worthy of the race to which she belonged.

But she was not in the least prepared for the first remark made by
Margaret when they reached the drawing-room.

"Mamma, I must go to see Janetta to-morrow."

"Indeed, dear? And why?"

"To find out whether the things that Sir Philip has been saying are
true."

"No, Margaret, dear, you really must not do that, darling. It would not
be wise. What Sir Philip says does not matter to us. I cannot have you
interfering with Miss Colwyn's concerns in that way."

Margaret was very docile. She only said, after a moment's pause--

"May I not ask her to give me the singing lessons we arranged for me to
take?"

Lady Caroline considered for a minute or two and then said--

"Yes, dear, you may ask her about the singing lessons. In doing that you
will be benefiting her, and giving her a practical recommendation that
ought to be very valuable to her."

"Shall I drive over to-morrow?"

"No, write and ask her to come here to lunch. Then we can arrange about
hours. I have not the least objection to your taking lessons from
her ... especially as they are so cheap," said Lady Caroline to herself,
"but I do not wish you to talk to her about Miss Polehampton's conduct.
There is no use in such discussions."

"No, mamma," said the dutiful Margaret.

"And Sir Philip will be pleased to hear that his favorite is being
benefited," said her mother, with a slightly sarcastic smile.

Margaret held up her stately head. "It matters very little to me whether
Sir Philip is pleased or not," she said with a somewhat lofty accent,
not often heard from the gentle lips of Margaret Adair.



CHAPTER XVII.

MARGARET'S FRIENDSHIP.


Margaret wrote her note to Janetta, and put her friend into something of
a dilemma. She always felt it difficult to leave Mrs. Colwyn alone for
many hours at a time. She had done her best to prevent her from
obtaining stimulants, but it was no easy thing to make it impossible;
and it was always dangerous to remove a restraining influence. At last
she induced an old friend, a Mrs. Maitland, to spend the day with her
stepmother, while she went to Helmsley Court; and having thus provided
against emergencies, she was prepared to spend some pleasant hours with
Margaret.

The day was cold and frosty, with a blue sky overhead, and the ground
hard as iron underfoot. A carriage was sent for Janetta, and the girl
was almost sorry that she had to be driven to her destination, for a
brisk walk would have been more to her taste on this brilliant December
day. But she was of course bound to make use of the carriage that came
for her, and so she drove off in state, while Tiny and Jinks danced
wildly on the doorstep and waved their hands to her in hilarious
farewells. Mrs. Colwyn was secluding herself upstairs in high
indignation at Janetta's presumption--first, in going to Helmsley Court
at all, and, secondly, in having invited Mrs. Maitland to come to
dinner--but Janetta did her best to forget the vexations and anxieties
of the day, and to prepare herself as best she might for the serene
atmosphere of Helmsley Court.

It was more than three months since her father's death, and she had not
seen Margaret for what seemed to her like a century. In those three
months she had had some new and sad experiences, and she almost wondered
whether Margaret would not think her changed beyond knowledge by the
troubles of the past. But in this fancy Janetta only proved herself
young at heart; in later years she found, as we all find, that the outer
man is little changed by the most terrible and heart-rending calamities.
It was almost a surprise to Janetta that Margaret did not remark on her
altered appearance. But Margaret saw nothing very different in her
friend. Her black mourning garments certainly made her look pale, but
Margaret was not a sufficiently keen observer to note the additional
depth of expression in Janetta's dark eyes, or the slightly pathetic
look given to her features by the thinning of her cheeks and the droop
of her finely curved mouth. Lady Caroline, however, noticed all these
points, and was quite aware that these changes, slight though they were,
gave force and refinement to the girl's face. Secretly, she was
embittered against Janetta, and this new charm of hers only added to her
dislike. But, outwardly, Lady Caroline was sweetness and sympathy
personified.

"You poor darling," said Margaret, when she stood with Janetta in Miss
Adair's own little sitting-room, awaiting the sound of the luncheon
bell; "what you must have suffered! I have felt for you, Janetta--oh,
more than I can tell! You are quite pale, dear; I do hope you are better
and stronger than you were?"

"I am quite well, thank you," said Janetta.

"But you must have had so much to bear! If I lost my friends--my dear
father or mother--I know I should be broken-hearted. You are so brave
and good, Janetta, dear."

"I don't feel so," said Janetta, sorrowfully. "I wish I did. It would be
rather a comfort sometimes."

"You have a great deal of trouble and care, I am afraid," said Margaret,
softly. She was resolved to be staunch to her friend, although Sir
Philip had been so disagreeable about Janetta. She was going to show him
that she could take her own way of showing friendship.

"There have been a good many changes in the family, and changes always
bring anxieties with them," said Janetta, firmly. She had particularly
resolved that she would not complain of her troubles to the Adairs; it
would seem like asking them to help her--"sponging upon them," as she
disdainfully thought. Janetta had a very fair share of sturdy pride and
independence with which to make her way through the world.

Margaret would have continued the subject, but at that moment the bell
rang, and Janetta was glad to go downstairs.

It was curious, as she remembered afterwards, to find that the splendors
of the house, the elaboration of service, now produced not the slightest
impression upon her. She had grown out of her former girlish feeling of
insignificance in the presence of powdered footmen and fashionable
ladies' maids. The choice flowers, the silver plate, the dainty
furniture and hangings, which had once excited and almost awed her
imagination, were perceived by her with comparative indifference. She
was a woman, not a child, and these things were but as toys to one who
had stood so lately face to face with the larger issues of life and
death. Mr. Adair and Lady Caroline talked pleasantly to her, utterly
ignoring, of course, any change in her circumstances or recent source of
trouble, and Janetta did her best to respond. It was by way of trying to
introduce a pleasant subject of conversation that she said at length to
her hostess--

"I met Sir Philip Ashley the other day. He is so kind as to say that he
will try to find me some pupils."

"Indeed," said Lady Caroline, drily. She did not approve of the
introduction of Sir Philip's name or of Janetta's professional
employment. Margaret flushed a little, and turned aside to give her
mother's poodle a sweet biscuit.

"Sir Philip is a kind, good fellow," said Mr. Adair, who had not been
admitted behind the scenes; "and I am sure that he will do what he can.
Do you know his mother yet? No? Ah, she's like an antique chatelaine:
one of the stateliest, handsomest old ladies of the day. Is she not,
Caroline?"

"She is very handsome," said Lady Caroline, quietly, "but difficult to
get on with. She is the proudest woman I ever knew."

The servants were out of the room, or she would not have said so much.
But it was just as well to let this presuming girl know what she might
expect from Sir Philip's mother if she had any designs upon him.
Unfortunately her intended warning fell unheeded upon Janetta's ear.

"Is she, indeed?" said Mr. Adair, with interest. He was the greatest
gossip of the neighborhood. "She is one of the Beauchamps, and of course
she has some pride of family. But otherwise--I never noticed much pride
about her. Now, how does it manifest itself, do you think?"

"Really, Reginald," said Lady Caroline, with her little smile; "how can
I tell you? You must surely have noticed it for yourself. With her
equals she is exceedingly pleasant; but I never knew anyone who could
repress insolence or presumption with a firmer hand."

"What a pleasant person!" said Mr. Adair, laughing and looking
mirthfully at Margaret. "We shall have to be on our good behavior when
we see her, shall we not, my Pearl?"

This turn of conversation seemed to Lady Caroline so unfortunate that
she rose from the table as soon as possible, and adjourned further
discussion of the Ashleys to another period. And it was after luncheon
that she found occasion to say to Janetta, in her softiest, silkiest
tones--

"Perhaps it would be better, dear Miss Colwyn, if you would be so very
kind as not to mention Sir Philip Ashley to Margaret unless she speaks
of him to you. There is some slight misunderstanding between them, and
Sir Philip has not been here for a day or two; but that it will be all
cleared up very shortly, I have not the slightest doubt."

"Oh, I am sure I hope so! I am very sorry."

"There is scarcely any occasion to be sorry; it is quite a temporary
estrangement, I am sure."

Janetta looked at Margaret with some concern when she had an opportunity
of seeing her closely and alone, but she could distinguish no shade upon
the girl's fair brow, no sadness in her even tones. Margaret talked
about Janetta's brothers and sisters, about music, about her recent
visits, as calmly as if she had not a care in the world. It was almost a
surprise to Janetta when, after a little pause, she asked with some
hesitation--

"You said you saw Sir Philip Ashley the other day?"

"Yes," answered Janetta, blushing out of sympathy, and looking away, so
that she did not see the momentary glance of keen inquiry which was
leveled at her from Margaret's hazel eyes.

"What did he say to you, dear?" asked Miss Adair.

"He spoke of my father--he was very kind," said Janetta, unconscious
that her answer sounded like a subterfuge in her friend's ears. "He
asked me if I wanted pupils; and he said that he would recommend me."

"Oh," said Margaret. Then, after another little pause--"I daresay you
have heard that we are not friends now?"

"Yes," Janetta replied, not liking to say more.

For a moment Margaret raised her beautiful eyebrows.

"So Sir Philip had told her _already_!" she said to herself, with a
little surprise. And she was not pleased with this mark of confidence on
Sir Philip's part. It did not occur to her that Lady Caroline had been
Janetta's informant.

"I refused him," she said, quietly. "Mamma is vexed about it, but she
does not wish to force me to marry against my will, of course."

"Oh, but surely, Margaret, dear, you will change your mind?" said
Janetta.

"No, indeed," Margaret answered, slightly lifting her graceful head.
"Sir Philip is not a man whom I would ever marry."

And then she changed the subject. "See what a dear little piano I have
in my sitting-room. Papa gave it to me the other day, so that I need not
practice in the drawing-room. And what about our singing lessons,
Janetta? Could you begin them at once, or would you rather wait until
after the Christmas holidays?"

Janetta reflected. "I should like to begin them at once, dear, if I can
manage it."

"Have you so many pupils, then?" Margaret asked quickly.

"Not so very many; but I mean--I am afraid I cannot spare time to come
to Helmsley Court to give them. Do you go to Beaminster? Would you very
much mind coming to our house in Gwynne Street?"

"Not at all," said Margaret, ever courteous and mindful of her friend's
feelings. "But I must speak to mamma. It may be a little difficult to
have the horses out sometimes ... that will be the only objection, I
think."

But it seemed as if there were other objections. For Lady Caroline
received the proposition very coldly. It really took her aback.. It was
one thing to have little Miss Colwyn to lunch once a week, and quite
another to send Margaret to that shabby little house in Gywnne Street.
"Who knows whether the drains are all right, and whether she may not get
typhoid fever?" said Lady Caroline to herself, with a shudder. "There
are children in the house--they may develop measles or chicken-pox at
any moment--you never know when children of that class are free from
infection. And I heard an odd report about Mrs. Colwyn's habits the
other day. Oh, I think it is too great a risk."

But when she said as much after Janetta's departure, she found Margaret
for once recalcitrant. Margaret had her own views of propriety, and
these were quite as firmly grounded as those of Lady Caroline. She had
treated Janetta, she considered, with the greatest magnanimity, and she
meant to be magnanimous to the end. She had made the gardener cut Miss
Colwyn a basket of his best flowers and his choicest forced fruit; she
had herself directed the housekeeper to see that some game was placed
under the coachman's box when Miss Colwyn was driven home; and she had
sent a box of French sweets to Tiny, although she had never seen that
young lady in her life, and had a vague objection to all Janetta's
relations. She felt, therefore, perfectly sure that she had done her
duty, and she was not to be turned aside from the path of right.

"I don't think that I shall run into any danger, mamma," she said,
quietly. "The children are to be kept out of the way, and I shall see
nobody but Janetta. She said so, very particularly. I daresay she
thought of these things."

"I don't see why she should not come here."

"No, nor I. But she says that she has so much to do."

"Then it could not be true that she had no pupils, as she told Sir
Philip," said Lady Caroline, looking at her daughter.

Margaret was silent for a little time. Then she said, very
deliberately--

"I am almost afraid, mamma, that Janetta is not quite straightforward."

"That was always my own idea," said Lady Caroline, rather eagerly. "I
never quite trusted her, darling."

"We always used to think her so truthful and courageous," said Margaret,
with regret. "But I am afraid----You know, mamma, I asked her what Sir
Philip said to her, and she did not say a single word about having
talked to him of our leaving Miss Polehampton's. She said he had spoken
of her father, and of getting pupils for her, and so on."

"Very double-faced!" commented Lady Caroline.

"And--mamma, she must have seen Sir Philip again, because he had told
her that we--that I--that we had quarreled a little, you know." And
Margaret really believed that she was speaking the truth.

"I think it is quite shocking," said Lady Caroline. "And I really do not
understand, dearest, why you still persist in your infatuation for her.
You could drop her easily now, on the excuse that you cannot go to
Beaminster so often."

"Yes, I know I could, mamma," said Margaret, quietly. "But if you do not
mind, I would rather not do so. You see, she is really in rather
difficult circumstances. Her father has left them badly off, I suppose,
and she has not many advanced pupils in Beaminster. We always promised
that she should give me lessons; and if we draw back now, we may be
doing her real harm; but if I take--say, a dozen lessons, we shall be
giving her a recommendation, which, no doubt, will do her a great deal
of good. And after that, when she is 'floated,' we can easily drop her
if we wish. But it would be hardly kind to do it just now, do you
think?"

"My darling, you are quite too sweet," said Lady Caroline, languidly.
"Come and kiss me. You shall have your way--until Easter, at any rate."

"We should be giving Sir Philip no reason to blame us for want of
generosity, either," said Margaret.

"Exactly, my pet."

There was again a silence, which Margaret broke at last by saying, with
gentle pensiveness--

"Do you think that she will ask me to be her bridesmaid, mamma, if she
marries Sir Philip? I almost fancy that I should decline."

"I should think that you would," said Lady Caroline.



CHAPTER XVIII.

A NEW FRIEND.


Margaret's presents of fruit, flowers, and game conciliated Mrs.
Colwyn's good-will, and she made no objection when Janetta informed her
a few days later that Miss Adair's singing lessons were about to begin.
There was time for two lessons only before Christmas Day, but they were
to be continued after the first week in the New Year until Margaret went
to town. Janetta was obliged, out of sheer shame, to hide from Mrs.
Colwyn the fact that Lady Caroline had tried to persuade her to lower
the already very moderate terms of payment, on the ground that her
daughter would have to visit Gwynne Street for her lessons.

However, the first lesson passed off well enough. Margaret brought more
gifts of flowers and game, and submitted gracefully to Janetta's
instructions. There was no time for conversation, for the carriage came
punctually when an hour had elapsed, and Margaret, as she dutifully
observed, did not like to keep the horses waiting. She embraced Janetta
very affectionately at parting, and was able to assure Lady Caroline
afterwards that she had not seen any other member of the family.

Just as Miss Adair's carriage drove away from Mrs. Colwyn's door,
another--a brougham this time--was driven up. "The Colwyns must be
having a party," said a rather censorious neighbor, who was sitting with
a friend in the bow-window of the next house. "Or else they are having
very fine pupils indeed." "That's not a pupil," said her companion,
craning forward to get a better view of the visitor; "that's Lady
Ashley, Sir Philip Ashley's mother. What's she come for, I wonder?"

Janetta wondered too.

She was greatly impressed by Lady Ashley's personality. The lofty
forehead, the aquiline nose, the well-marked eyebrows, the decided chin,
the fine dark eyes, all recalled Sir Philip to her mind, and she said to
herself that when his hair became silvery too, the likeness between him
and his mother would be more striking still. The old lady's dignified
manner did not daunt her as Lady Caroline's caressing tones often did.
There was a sincerity, a grave gentleness in Lady Ashley's way of
speaking which Janetta thoroughly appreciated. "Lady Ashley is a true
_grande dame_, while Lady Caroline is only a fine lady," she said to
herself, when analyzing her feelings afterwards. "And I know which I
like best."

Lady Ashley, on her side, was pleased with Janetta's demeanor. She liked
the plainness of her dress, the quiet independence of her manner, and
the subdued fire of her great dark eyes. She opened proceedings in a
very friendly way.

"My son has interested me in your career, Miss Colwyn," she said, "and I
have taken the liberty of calling in order to ask what sort of teaching
you are willing to undertake. I may hear of some that will suit you."

"You are very kind," Janetta answered. "I was music governess at Miss
Polehampton's, and I think that music is my strong point; but I should
be quite willing to teach other things--if I could get any pupils."

"And how is it that you do not get any pupils?"

Janetta hesitated, but a look into the old lady's benevolent face
invited confidence. She answered steadily--

"I am afraid that my sudden departure from Miss Polehampton's school has
prejudiced some people against me."

"And could not somebody write to Miss Polehampton and get her to give
you a testimonial?"

"I am afraid she would refuse."

"And that is all Margaret Adair's fault, is it not?" said Lady Ashley,
shrewdly but kindly.

She was amused to see the flush of indignation in Janetta's face.
"Margaret's fault? Oh no, Lady Ashley. It was not _Margaret's_ fault any
more than mine. We were both not very--not very respectful, perhaps, but
I was, if anything, much worse than Margaret. And she shared my fate
with me; she left when I did."

"You are a staunch friend, I see. And are you friendly with her still?"

"Oh yes," said Janetta, with enthusiasm. "She is so good--so kind--so
beautiful! She has been here to-day to have a singing lesson--perhaps
you saw her drive away just as you came up? She brought me these lovely
flowers this afternoon."

There was a kindly look in Lady Ashley's eyes.

"I am very glad to hear it," she said. "And now, my dear, would you mind
singing me something? I shall be better able to speak of your
qualifications when I have heard you."

"I shall be very pleased to sing to you," said Janetta, and she sat down
to the piano with a readiness which charmed Lady Ashley as much as the
song she sang, although she sang it delightfully.

"That is very nice--very nice indeed," murmured Lady Ashley. Then she
deliberated for a moment, and nodded her head once or twice. "You have
been well taught," she said, "and you have a very sympathetic voice.
Would you mind singing at an evening party for me in the course of the
winter? You will be seen and heard; and you may get pupils in that way."

Janetta could but falter out a word of thanks. An introduction of this
sort was certainly not to be despised.

"I will let you know when it takes place," said Lady Ashley, "and give
you a hint or two about the songs. Will two guineas an evening satisfy
you as you are a beginner?--for two songs, I mean? Very well, then, I
shall count upon you for my next evening party."

She was rising to go, when the door was suddenly thrown open, and a
tall, untidy figure made its appearance in the aperture. The daylight
had almost faded, and the fire gave a very uncertain light--perhaps it
was for that reason that Mrs. Colwyn took no notice of Lady Ashley, and
began to speak in a thick, broken voice.

"It's shameful, shameful!" she said. "Visitors all afternoon--never
brought them--t'see me--once. Singing and squalling all the time--not
able to get a wink--wink o' sleep----"

"Oh, please, come away," said Janetta, going hurriedly up to the swaying
figure in the faded dressing-gown, and trying gently to force her
backwards. "I will tell you all about it afterwards; please come away
just now."

"I'll not come away," said Mrs. Colwyn, thickly. "I want some
money--money--send Ph[oe]be for a drop o' gin----"

"I'll go, my dear Miss Colwyn," said Lady Ashley, kindly. She was
touched by the despair in Janetta's face. "I can't do any good, I am
afraid. You shall hear from me again. Don't come to the door. Shall I
send my servants to you?"

"Who's that? Who's that?" screamed the half-maddened woman, beginning to
fling herself wildly out of Janetta's restraining arms. "Let me get at
her, you bad girl! letting people into my house----"

"Can you manage? Do you want help?" said Lady Ashley, quickly.

"No, no, nothing; I can manage if you will only please go," Janetta
cried, in her desperation. And Lady Ashley, seeing that her departure
was really wished for, hurried from the house. And Janetta, after some
wrestling and coaxing and argument, at last succeeded in putting her
stepmother to bed, and then sat down and wept heartily.

What would Lady Ashley think? And how could she now recommend pupils to
go to a house where a drunken woman was liable at any moment to appear
upon the scene?

As a matter of fact, this was just what Lady Ashley was saying at that
moment to her son.

"She is a thorough little gentlewoman, Philip, and a good musician; but,
with _such_ a connection, how can I send any one to the house?"

"It was unlucky, certainly," said Sir Philip, "but you must remember
that you came unexpectedly. Her pupils' hours will be guarded, most
probably, from interruption."

"One could never be sure. I have been thinking of sending Miss Bevan to
her. But suppose a _contretemps_ of this kind occurred! Poor Mary Bevan
would never get over it."

"It is her stepmother, not her own mother," said Sir Philip, after a
little pause. "Not that that makes it much better for her, poor little
thing!"

"I assure you, Philip, it went to my heart to see that fragile girl
struggling with that big woman. I would have helped her, but she
entreated me to go, and so I came away. What else could I do?"

"Nothing, I suppose. There may be murder committed in that house any
day, if this state of things goes on."

Lady Ashley sighed. Sir Philip walked about the room, with his hands in
his pockets and his head bent on his breast.

"Margaret Adair had been there to-day," said his mother, watching him.

Sir Philip looked up.

"Why?" he said, keenly.

"To take a singing lesson. She had brought flowers. Miss Colwyn spoke of
her very warmly, and when I touched on the subject of Miss Polehampton's
treatment, would not allow that Margaret had anything to do with it. She
is a very faithful little person, I should think."

"Far more generous than Margaret," muttered her son. Then, sombrely, "I
never told you what happened at Helmsley Court the other day. Margaret
refused me."

"Refused you--entirely?"

"No appeal possible."

"On what grounds?"

"Chiefly, I think, because I wanted her to make reparation to Miss
Colwyn."

"Then, Philip, she is not worthy of you."

"She has had a bad training," he said, slowly. "A fine nature ruined by
indulgence and luxury. She has never been crossed in her life."

"She will find out what it is to be crossed some day. My poor Phil! I am
very sorry."

"We need not talk about it, mother, dear. You will be all in all to me
now."

He sat down beside her, and took her hand in his, then kissed it with a
mingling of tenderness and respect which brought the tears to Lady
Ashley's eyes.

"But I do not want to be all in all to you, you foolish boy," she
assured him. "I want to see you with a wife, with children of your own,
with family ties and interests and delights."

"Not yet, mother," he answered in a low tone. "Some day, perhaps."

And from the pained look in his dark eyes she saw that he suffered more
than he would have liked to own for the loss of Margaret. She said no
more, but her heart ached for her boy, and she was hardly able to
comfort herself with the recollection that Time heals all wounds--even
those that have been made by Love.

Sir Philip had accepted Margaret's refusal as final. He had no reason to
hope that she would ever change her mind towards him. Perhaps if he had
known how large a part of her thoughts he occupied, in spite of her
declaration that she did not like him, he might have had some hope of a
more favorable hearing in the future. But he had no conception of any
under-current of feeling in Margaret Adair. She had always seemed to him
so frank, with a sweet, maidenly frankness, so transparent--without
shallowness, that he was thrown into despair when she dismissed him. He
was singularly ignorant of the nature of women, and more especially of
young girls. His mother's proud, upright, rather inflexible character,
conjoined with great warmth of affection and rare nobility of mind, had
given him a high standard by which to judge other women. He had never
had a sister, and was not particularly observant of young girls. It was
therefore a greater disappointment to him than it would have been to
many men to find that Margaret could be a little bit obstinate, a little
bit selfish, and not at all disposed to sacrifice herself for others.
She lowered his whole conception of womankind.

At least, so he said to himself, as he sat that evening after dinner
over his library fire, and fell into a mood of somewhat sombre hue. What
poets and philosophers had said of the changeful, capricious, shallow,
and selfish nature of women was then true? His mother was a grand
exception to the rule, 'twas true; but there were no women like her now.
These modern girls thought of nothing but luxury, comfort,
self-indulgence. They had no high ideals, no thought of the seriousness
of life.

But even as he made his hot accusation against women of the present day,
his heart smote him a little for his injustice. He certainly did know
one girl who was eminently faithful and true; who worked hard, and, as
he had just found out, suffered greatly--a girl whose true nobility of
mind and life was revealed to him as if by a lightning flash of
intuition.

What a helpmate Janetta Colwyn would be to any man! Her bright
intelligence, her gift of song, her piquante, transitory beauty, her
honesty and faithfulness, made up an individuality of distinct
attractiveness. And yet he was not very much attracted. He admired her,
he respected her; but his pulses did not quicken at the thought of her
as they quickened when he thought of Margaret. Why should they indeed?
She was a country surgeon's daughter, of no particular family; she had
very undesirable connections, and she was very poor--there was nothing
in Janetta's outer circumstances to make her a fitting wife for him. And
yet the attraction of _character_ was very great. He wanted a wife who
would be above all things able to help him in his work--work of reform
and of philanthropy: a selfish, luxurious, indolent woman could be no
mate for him. Janetta Colwyn was the woman that he had been seeking
since first he thought of marriage; and yet--ah, there was nothing wrong
with her except that she was not Margaret. But of Margaret he must think
no more.

Lady Ashley would have been very much astonished if she had known how
far her idolized son had gone that night along the road of a resolution
to ask Janetta Colwyn to be his wife.



CHAPTER XIX.

NORA'S PROCEEDINGS.


Janetta scarcely expected to hear from Lady Ashley again, and was not
surprised that days and weeks passed on in silence as regarded her
engagement to sing at the evening party. She did not reflect that
Christmas brought its own special duties and festivities, and that she
was not likely to be wanted until these were over. In the meantime, the
holidays began, and she had to prepare as best she could, though with a
heavy heart, for the homecoming of her brothers and sisters. There was
very little to "keep Christmas" upon; and she could not but be grateful
when her scanty store was enlarged by gifts from the Adairs, and also
(to her great astonishment) from Sir Philip Ashley and from Wyvis Brand.

"Game, of course!" said Nora, whom she told of these windfalls on the
first night of the sisters' arrival from their school. "Well, I'm not
sorry: we don't often have grouse and woodcock at the luxurious table
of Miss Peacock & Co.; but from three people at once! it will surely be
monotonous."

"Don't be ridiculous, Nora. Lady Caroline has sent me a turkey, and the
Brands have presented us with fowls and a side of home-cured bacon--very
acceptable too, I can tell you! It is only Sir Philip who has sent
game."

"Ah, he is the fine gentleman of them all," said Nora, whose spirits
were high in spite of the depression that occasionally overcast the
whole family when they remembered that this Christmas would be spent
without their father's loving presence in their home. "The others are
commonplace! Have they been here lately?"

"Wyvis Brand called when I was out, and did not come in. Mrs. Brand has
been."

"Not the other one--Cuthbert?" said Nora, with great carelessness.

"No. I think he has been in Paris."

"And haven't you been there at all?"

"I couldn't go, Nora. I have been too busy. Besides--there is something
that I must tell you--I wish I could put it off, but I want you to help
me."

The two girls were in their bedroom, and in the darkness and stillness
of the night Janetta put her arms round Nora's neck and told her of her
mother's besetting weakness. She was surprised and almost alarmed at the
effect upon her stepsister. Nora shuddered two or three times and drew
several painful breaths; but she did not cry, and Janetta had expected
an agony of tears. It was in a low, strained voice that the girl said at
last--

"You say you have tried to hide it. Even if you have succeeded, it is
not a thing that can be hidden long. Everybody will soon know. And it
will go on from bad to worse. And--oh, Janetta, she is not your own
mother, but she is mine!"

And then she burst at last into the fit of weeping for which Janetta had
been waiting. But it was more piteous than violent, and she seemed to
listen while Janetta tried to comfort her, and passively endured rather
than returned the elder sister's caresses. Finally the two girls fell
asleep in each other's arms.

The effect upon Nora of this communication was very marked. She looked
pale and miserable for the next few days, and was irritable when her
depression was remarked. For the children's sakes, Janetta tried to make
a few mild festivities possible: she had a tiny Christmas tree in the
back dining-room, and a private entertainment of snapdragon on Christmas
Eve; and on Christmas Day afternoon the younger ones roasted chestnuts
in the kitchen and listened to the tales that nobody could tell half so
well as "dear old Janet." But Mrs. Colwyn openly lamented the
hard-heartedness thus displayed, and locked herself into her bedroom
with (Janetta feared) some private stores of her own; and Nora refused
to join the subdued joviality in the kitchen, and spent the afternoon
over a novel in the front sitting-room. From the state of her eyes and
her handkerchief at tea-time, however, Janetta conjectured that she had
been crying for the greater part of the time.

It was useless to remonstrate with Mrs. Colwyn, but Janetta thought that
something might be done with her daughter. When Nora's depression of
spirits had lasted for some days, Janetta spoke out.

"Nora," she said, "I told you of our trouble, because I thought that you
would help me to bear it; but you are making things worse instead of
better."

"What do you mean?" asked Nora.

"It is no use fretting over what cannot be helped, dear. If we are
careful we can do much to lessen the danger and the misery of it all.
Mamma has been much better lately: there has been nothing--no
outbreak--since Lady Ashley came. It is possible that things may be
better. But we must keep home cheerful, dear Nora: it does nobody any
good for you and me to look miserable."

"But I feel so miserable," said Nora, beginning to cry again.

"And is that the only thing we have to think of?" demanded Janetta, with
severity.

"She is not _your_ mother," murmured the girl.

"I know that, darling, but I have felt the trouble of it as much as I
think you can do."

"That is impossible!" said Nora, sitting up, and pushing back the
disheveled blonde curls from her flushed face--she had been lying on her
bed when Janetta found her and remonstrated; "quite impossible. Because
you are not of her blood, not of her kith and kin: and for me--for all
of us--it is worse, because people can always point to us, and say, 'The
taint is in their veins: their mother drank--they may drink, too, one
day,' and we shall be always under a ban!"

Janetta was struck by the fact that Nora looked at the matter entirely
from her own point of view--that very little affection for her mother
was mingled with the shame and the disgrace that she felt. Mrs. Colwyn
had never gained her children's respect; and when the days of babyhood
were over she had not retained their love. Nora was hurt, indignant,
ashamed; but she shrank from her mother more than she pitied her.

"What do you mean by 'under a ban?'" Janetta asked, after a little
silence.

Nora colored hotly.

"I mean," she said, looking down and fingering her dress nervously; "I
mean--that--if any of us wanted to get married----"

Janetta laughed a little. "Hadn't we better wait until the opportunity
arises" she said, half-satirically, half affectionately.

"Oh, you don't know!" exclaimed Nora, giving her shoulders a little
impatient twist. "I may have had the opportunity already, for all you
know!"

Janetta's tone changed instantly. "Nora, dear, have you anything of that
sort to tell me? Won't you trust me?"

"Oh, there's nothing to tell. It's only--Cuthbert."

"Cuthbert Brand! Nora! what do you know of him?"

"Didn't you know?" said Nora, demurely. "He teaches drawing at Mrs.
Smith's school."

"Teaches--but, Nora, why does he teach?"

"He is an artist: I suppose he likes it."

"How long has he been teaching there?"

"Soon after I went first," said Nora, casting down her eyes. There was a
little smile upon her face, as though she were not at all displeased at
the confession. But a cold chill crept into Janetta's heart.

"Has it been a scheme--a plot, then? Did you suggest to him that he
should come--and pretend that he was a stranger."

"Oh, Janetta, don't look so solemn! No, I did not suggest it. He met me
one day when I was out with Georgie shopping, and he walked with us for
a little way and found out where we lived, and all about us. And then I
heard from Mrs. Smith that she had arranged with him to teach drawing to
the girls. She did not know who he was, except that he had all sorts of
medals and certificates and things, and that he had exhibited in the
Royal Academy."

"And you did not say to her openly that he was a connection of yours?"

"He isn't," said Nora, petulantly. "He is _your_ connection, not mine.
There was no use in saying anything, only Georgie used to giggle so
dreadfully when he came near her that I was always afraid we should be
found out."

"You might at least have left Georgie out of your plot," said Janetta,
who was very deeply grieved at Nora's revelations. "I always thought
that _she_ was straightforward."

"You needn't be so hard on us, Janetta," murmured Nora. "I'm sure we did
not mean to be anything but straightforward."

"It was not straightforward to conceal your acquaintance with Mr.
Cuthbert Brand from Mrs. Smith. Especially," said Janetta, looking
steadily at her sister, "if you had any idea he came there to see you."

She seemed to wait for an answer, and Nora felt obliged to respond.

"He never said so. But, of course"--with a little pout--"Georgie and I
knew quite well. He used to send me lovely flowers by post--he did not
write to me, but I knew where they came from, for he would sometimes put
his initials inside the lid; and he always looked at my drawings a great
deal more than the others--and he--he looked at me too, Janetta, and you
need not be so unbelieving."

There was such a curious little touch of Mrs. Colwyn's irritability in
Nora's manner at that moment that Janetta stood and looked at her
without replying, conscious only of a great sinking at the heart. Vain,
affected, irresponsible, childish!--were all these qualities to appear
in Nora, as they had already appeared in her mother, to lead her to
destruction? Mr. Colwyn's word of warning with respect to Nora flashed
into her mind. She brought herself to say at last, with dry lips--

"This must not go on."

Nora was up in arms in a moment. "What must not go on? There is nothing
to stop. We have done nothing wrong!"

"Perhaps not," said Janetta, slowly. "Perhaps there is nothing worse
than childish folly and deceit on _your_ part, but I think that Mr.
Cuthbert Brand is not acting in an honorable manner at all. Either you
must put a stop to it, Nora, or I shall."

"What can I do, I should like to know?"

"You had better tell Mrs. Smith," said the elder sister, "that Mr. Brand
is a second-cousin of mine. That the connection was so distant that you
had not thought of mentioning it until I pointed out to you that you
ought to do so, and that you hope she will pardon you for what will
certainly seem to her very underhand conduct."

Nora shrank a little. "Oh, I can't do that, Janetta: I really can't. She
would be so angry!"

"There is another way, then: you must tell Cuthbert Brand not to send
you any more flowers, and ask him to give no more drawing lessons at
that school."

"Oh, Janetta, I _can't_. He has never said that he came to see me, and
it would look as if I thought----"

"What you do think in your heart," said Janetta. Then, thinking that she
had been a little brutal, she added, more gently--"But there is perhaps
no need to decide to-day or to-morrow what we are to do. We can think
over it and see if there is a better way. All that I am determined upon
is that your doings must be fair and open."

"And you won't speak to anybody else about it, will you?" said Nora,
rather relieved by this respite, and hoping to elude Janetta's vigilance
still.

"I shall promise nothing," Janetta answered. "I must think about it."

She turned to leave the room, but was arrested by a burst of sobbing and
a piteous appeal.

"You are very unkind, Janetta. I thought that you would have
sympathized."

Janetta stood still and sighed. "I don't know what to say, Nora," she
said.

"You are very cold--very hard. You do not care one bit what I feel."

Perhaps, thought Janetta, the reproach had some truth in it. At any rate
she went quietly out of the room and closed the door, leaving Nora to
cry as long and as heartily as she pleased.

The elder sister went straight to Georgie. That young person, frank and
boisterous by nature, was not given to deceit, and, although she was
reluctant at first to betray Nora's confidence, she soon acknowledged
that it was a relief to her to speak the truth and the whole truth to
Janetta. Her account tallied in the main with the one given by Nora.
There did not seem to have been more than a little concealment, a little
flirting, a little folly; but Janetta was aghast to think of the extent
to which Nora might have been compromised, and indignant at Cuthbert
Brand's culpable thoughtlessness--if it was nothing worse.

"What people have said of the Brands is true," she declared vehemently
to herself. "They work mischief wherever they go; they have no goodness,
no pity, no feeling of right and wrong. I thought that Cuthbert looked
good, but he is no better than the others, and there is nothing to be
hoped from any of them. And father told me to take care of his
children--and I promised. What can I do? His 'faithful Janetta' cannot
leave them to take their own way--to go to ruin if they please! Oh, my
poor Nora! You did not mean any harm, and perhaps I _was_ hard on you!"

She relieved herself by a few quiet but bitter tears; and then she was
forced to leave the consideration of the matter for the present, as
there were many household duties to attend to which nobody could manage
but herself.

When she was again able to consider the matter, however, she began to
make up her mind that she must act boldly and promptly if she meant to
act at all. Nora had no father, and practically no mother: Janetta must
be both at once, if she would fulfil her ideal of duty. And by degrees a
plan of action formed itself in her mind. She would go to the Brands'
house, and ask for Cuthbert himself. Certainly she had heard that he was
in Paris, but surely he would have returned by this time--for New Year's
Day if not for Christmas Day! She would see him and ask him to
forbear--ask him not to send flowers to her little sister, who was too
young for such attentions--to herself Janetta added, "and too silly." He
could be only amusing himself--and he should not amuse himself at Nora's
expense. He had a nice face, too, she could not help reflecting, he did
not look like a man who would do a wanton injury to a fatherless girl.
Perhaps, after all, there was some mistake.

And if she could not see him, she would see Mrs. Brand. The mother
would, no doubt, help her: she had been always kind. Of Wyvis Brand she
scarcely thought. She hoped that she might not see him--she had never
spoken to him, she remembered, since the day when he had asked her to be
his friend.



CHAPTER XX.

AN ELDER BROTHER.


She did not say a word to Nora about her scheme. The next day--it was
the third of January, as she afterwards remembered--was bright and
clear, a good day for walking. She told her sisters that she had
business abroad, and gave them the directions respecting the care of
their house and their mother that she thought they needed; then set
forth to walk briskly from Gwynne Street to the old Red House.

She purposely chose the morning for her expedition. She was not making a
call--she was going on business. She did not mean to ask for Mrs. Brand
even, first of all; she intended to ask for Mr. Cuthbert Brand. Wyvis
would probably be out; but Cuthbert, with his sedentary habits and his
slight lameness, was more likely to be at home painting in the brilliant
morning light than out of doors.

It was nearly twelve o'clock when she reached her destination. She went
through the leafless woods, for that was the shortest way and the
pleasantest--although she had thought little of pleasantness when she
came out, but still it was good to hear the brittle twigs snap under her
feet, and note the slight coating of frost that made the rims of the
dead leaves beautiful--and it was hardly a surprise to her to hear a
child's laugh ring out on the air at the very spot where, months before,
she and Nora had found little Julian Brand. A moment later the boy
himself came leaping down the narrow woodland path towards her with a
noisy greeting; and then--to Janetta's vexation and dismay--instead of
nurse or grandmother, there emerged from among the trees the figure of
the child's father, Wyvis Brand. He had a healthier and more cheerful
look than when she saw him last: he was in shooting coat and
knickerbockers, and he had a gun in his hand and a couple of dogs at his
heels. He lifted his hat and smiled, as if suddenly pleased when he saw
her, but his face grew grave as he held out his hand. Both thought
instinctively of their last meeting at her father's grave, and both
hastened into commonplace speech in order to forget it.

"I am glad to see you again. I hope you are coming to our place," he
said. And she--

"I hope Mrs. Brand is well. Is she at home?"

"No, she's not," said little Julian, with the frank fearlessness of
childhood. "She's gone out for the whole day with Uncle Cuthbert, and
father and I are left all by ourselves; and father has let me come out
with him; haven't you, father?" He looked proudly at his father, and
then at Janetta, while he spoke.

"So it appears," said Wyvis, with a queer little smile.

"Grandmother said I was to take care of father, so I'm doing it," Julian
announced. "Father thinks I'm a brave boy now--not a milksop. He said I
was a milksop, you know, the last time you came here."

"Come, young man, don't you chatter so much," said his father, with a
sort of rough affectionateness, which struck Janetta as something new.
"You run on with the dogs, and tell the servants to get some wine or
milk or something ready for Miss Colwyn. I'm sure you are tired," he
said to her, in a lower tone, with a searching glance at her pale face.

It was hardly fatigue so much as disappointment that made Janetta pale.
She had not expected to find both Mrs. Brand and Cuthbert out, and the
failure of her plan daunted her a little, for she did not often find it
an easy thing to absent herself from home for several hours.

"I am not tired," said Janetta, unsteadily, "but I thought I should find
them in--Mrs. Brand, I mean----"

"Did you want to see them--my mother, I mean--particularly?" asked
Wyvis, either by accident or intention seeming to parody her words.

"I have not seen her for a long time." Janetta evaded giving a direct
answer. "I thought that I should have had a little talk with her. If she
is out, I think that I had better turn back."

"You had better rest for a little while," he said. "It is a long walk,
and in spite of what you may say, you do look tired. If you have
business with my mother, perhaps I may do as well. She generally leaves
all her business to me."

"No," said Janetta, with considerable embarrassment of manner. "It is
nothing--I can come another time."

He looked at her for a moment as if she puzzled him.

"You have been teaching music in Beaminster, I believe?"

"Yes--and other things."

"May I ask what other things?"

Janetta smiled. "I have a little sister, Tiny," she said, "and I teach
her everything she learns. Reading, writing, and arithmetic, you know.
And a neighbor's little boy comes in and learns with her."

"I have been wondering," said Wyvis, "whether you would care to do
anything with that boy of mine."

"That dear little Julian? Oh, I should be glad," said Janetta, more
freely than she had yet spoken. "He is such a sweet little fellow."

"He has a spirit of his own, as you know," said the father, with rather
an unwilling smile. "He is not a bad little chap; but he has lately
attached himself a good deal to me, and I have to go into the stables
and about the land a good deal, and I don't think it's altogether good
for him. I found him"--apologetically--"using some very bad language the
other day. Oh, you needn't be afraid; he won't do it again; I think I
thrashed it out of him--"

"Oh, that's worse!" said Janetta, reproachfully.

"What do you mean?"

"To strike a little fellow like that, when he did not know that what he
was saying was wrong! And why did you take him where he would hear
language of that kind? Wasn't it more your fault than his?"

Wyvis bent his head and shrugged his shoulders. "If the truth were
known, I dare say he heard me use it," he said dryly. "I'm not
mealy-mouthed myself. However, I've taught him that he must not do it."

"Have you, indeed? And don't you think that example will prove stronger
than precept, or even than thrashing?" said Janetta. "If you want to
teach him not to use bad words, you had better not use them yourself,
Mr. Brand."

"Mr. Brand?" said Wyvis; "I thought it was to be Cousin Wyvis. But I've
disgusted you; no wonder. I told you long ago that I did not know how to
bring up a child. I asked you to help us--and you have not been near the
place for months."

"How could I help you, if you mean to train him by oaths and blows?"
asked Janetta.

"That's plain speaking, at any rate," he said. "Well, I don't mind; in
fact, I might say that I like you the better for it, if you'll allow me
to go so far. I don't know whether you're right or not. Of course it
won't do for him to talk as I do while he's a baby, but later on it
won't signify; and a thrashing never did a boy any harm."

"Do you mean that you are in the habit of swearing?" said Janetta, with
a direct simplicity, which made Wyvis smile and wince at the same time.

"No, I don't," he said. "I always disliked the habit, and I was
determined that Julian shouldn't contract it. But I've lived in a set
that was not over particular; and I suppose I fell into their ways now
and then."

"Apart from the moral point of view, no _gentleman_ ever does it!" said
Janetta, hotly.

"Perhaps not. Perhaps I'm not a gentleman. My relations, the publicans
of Roxby, certainly were not. The bad strain in us will out, you see."

"Oh, Cousin Wyvis, I did not mean that," said Janetta, now genuinely
distressed. "It is only that--I do wish you would not talk in that
way--use those words, I mean. Julian is sure to catch them up, and you
see yourself that that would be a pity."

"I am to govern my tongue then for Julian's sake?"

"Yes, and for your own."

"Do you _care_ whether I govern it or not, Janetta?"

How oddly soft and tender his voice had grown!

"Yes, I do care," she answered, not very willingly, but compelled to
truthfulness by her own conscience and his constraining gaze.

"Then I swear I will," he exclaimed, impetuously. "It is something to
find a woman caring whether one is good or bad, and I won't prove myself
utterly unworthy of your care."

"There is your mother: _she_ cares."

"Oh, yes, she cares, poor soul, but she cries over my sins instead of
fighting them. Fighting is not her _métier_, you know. Now, you--you
fight well."

"That is a compliment, I suppose?" said Janetta, laughing a little and
coloring--not with displeasure--at his tone.

"Yes," he said; "I like the fighting spirit."

They had been walking slowly along the path, and now they had reached
the gate that opened into the grounds. Here, as he opened it, Janetta
hesitated, and then stopped short.

"I think I had better make the best of my way back," she said. "It is
getting late."

"Not much after twelve. Are we not friends again?"

"Oh yes."

"And will you think over what I said about my boy?"

"Do you really mean it?"

"Most decidedly. You couldn't come here, I suppose--you wouldn't leave
home?"

"No, I could not do that. How would he get to me every day?"

"I would bring him myself, or send him in the dog-cart. I or my brother
would look after that." Then, seeing a sudden look of protest in
Janetta's face, he added quickly--"You don't like that?"

"It is nothing," said Janetta, looking down.

"Is it to me or to my brother that you object?"

He smiled as he spoke, but, a little to his surprise, Janetta kept
silence, and did not smile. Wyvis Brand was a man of very quick
perceptions, and he saw at once that if she seemed troubled she had a
reason for it.

"Has Cuthbert offended you?" he asked.

"I have only spoken to him once--four months ago."

"That is no answer. What has he been about? I have some idea, you know,"
said Wyvis, coolly, "because I came across some sketches of his which
betrayed where his thoughts were straying. Your pretty sister quite
captivated him, I believe. Has he been getting up a flirtation?"

"I suppose it is a joke to him and to you," said Janetta, almost
passionately, "but it is no joke to us. Yes, I came to speak to him or
to your mother about it. Either she must leave the school where she is
teaching, or he must let her alone."

"You had better not speak to my mother; it will only worry her. Come in,
and tell me about it," said Wyvis, opening the gate, and laying his hand
gently on her arm.

She did not resent his tone of mastery. In spite of the many faults and
errors that she discerned in him, it always seemed to her that a warmer
and finer nature lay below the outside trappings of roughness and
coldness than was generally perceptible. And when this better nature
came to the front, it brought with it a remembrance of the tie of
kinship, and Janetta's heart softened to him at once.

He took her into a room which she guessed to be his own private
sanctum--a thoroughly untidy place, littered with books, papers, tools,
weapons, gardening implements, pipes and tobacco jars, in fine
confusion. He had to clear away a pile of books from a chair before she
could sit down. Then he planted himself on a corner of the solid, square
oak table in the middle of the room, and prepared to listen to her
story. Julian, who interrupted them once, was ordered out of the room
again in such a peremptory tone that Janetta was somewhat startled. But
really the boy did not seem to mind.

By dint of leading questions he drew from her an outline of the facts of
the case, but she softened them, for Nora's sake, as much as possible.
She looked at him anxiously when she had done, to see whether he was
angry.

"You know," she said, "I don't want to sow dissension of any kind
between you."

Wyvis smiled. "I know you don't. But I assure you Cuthbert and I never
quarreled in our lives. That is not one of the sins you can lay to my
charge. He is a whimsical fellow, and I suspect that this has been one
of his freaks--not meaning to hurt anybody. If you leave him to me, I'll
stop the drawing-lessons at any rate, and probably the flowers."

"Don't let him think that Nora cares," she said. "She is quite a
child--if he had sent her bonbons she would have liked them even better
than flowers."

"I understand. I will do my best--as you are so good as to trust me," he
answered, lowering his voice.

A little silence fell between them. Something in the tone had made
Janetta's heart beat fast. Then there rose up before her--she hardly
knew why--the vision of a woman, an imaginary woman, one whom she had
never seen--the woman with Julian's eyes, the woman who called herself
the wife of Wyvis Brand. The thought had power to bring her to her feet.

"And now I must really go."

"Not yet," he said, smiling down at her with a very kindly look in his
stern dark eyes. "Do you know you have given me a great deal of pleasure
to-day? You have trusted me to do a commission for you--a delicate bit
of work too--and that shows that you don't consider me altogether
worthless."

"You may be sure that I do not."

"Yes, we are friends. I have some satisfaction in that thought. Do you
know that you are the first woman who has ever made a _friend_ of me?
who has ever trusted me, and taught me--for a moment or two--to respect
myself? It is the newest sensation I have had for years."

"Not the sensation of respecting yourself, I hope?"

"Yes, indeed. You don't know--you will never know--how I've been
handicapped in life. Can you manage to be friendly with me even when I
don't do exactly as you approve? You are at liberty to tell me with
cousinly frankness what you dislike."

"On that condition we can be friends," said Janetta, smiling and
tendering her hand. She meant to say good-bye, but he retained the
little hand in his own and went on talking.

"How about the boy? You'll take him for a few hours every day?"

"You really mean it?"

"I do, indeed. Name your own terms."

She blushed a little, but was resolved to be business-like.

"You know I can't afford to do it for nothing," she said. "He can come
from ten to one, if you like to give me----" and and then she mentioned
a sum which Wyvis thought miserably inadequate.

"Absurd!" he cried. "Double that, and then take him! When can he come?"

"Next week, if you like. But I mean what I say----"

"So do I, and as my will is stronger than yours I shall have my own
way."

Janetta shook her head, and, having by this time got her hand free, she
managed to say good-bye, and left the house much more cheerfully than
she had entered it. Strange to say, she had a curious feeling of trust
in Wyvis Brand's promise to help her; it seemed to her that he was a man
who would endeavor at all costs to keep his word.



CHAPTER XXI.

CUTHBERT'S ROMANCE.


Janetta was hardly surprised when, two days later, she was asked to give
a private audience to Mr. Cuthbert Brand. She had not yet told Nora of
the course that she had pursued, for she was indeed rather unnecessarily
ashamed of it. "It was just like a worldly mamma asking a young man his
intentions about her daughter," she said to herself, with a whimsical
smile. "Probably nothing will come of it but a cessation of these silly
little attentions to Nora." But she felt a little shy and constrained
when she entered the drawing-room, and, while shaking hands with her
cousin, she did not lift her eyes to his face.

When she had taken a seat, however, and managed to steal a glance at
him, she was half-provoked, half-reassured. Cuthbert's mobile face was
full of a merry, twinkling humor, and expressed no penitence at all. She
was so much astonished that she forgot her shyness, and looked at him
inquiringly without opening her lips.

Cuthbert laughed--an irrepressible little laugh, as if he could not help
it. "Look here, Cousin Janetta," he said, "I'm awfully sorry, but I
really can't help it. The idea of you as a duenna and of Wyvis as a
heavy father has been tickling me ever since yesterday, and I shall have
to have it out sooner or later. I assure you it's only a nervous
affection. If I didn't laugh, I _might_ cry or faint, and that would be
worse, you know."

"I don't quite see the joke," said Janetta, gravely.

"The joke," said Cuthbert, "lies in the contrast between yourself and
the role you have taken upon you."

"It is a role that I am obliged to take upon me," interposed Janetta;
"because my sisters have no father, and a mother whose health makes it
impossible for her to guard them as she would like to do."

"Now you're going to be severe," said Cuthbert; "and indeed I am
guiltless of anything but a little harmless fooling. I can but tender my
humblest apologies, and assure you that I have resigned my post in Mrs.
Smith's educational establishment, and that I will keep my flowers in
future to myself, unless I may send them with your consent and that of
my authoritative elder brother."

Janetta was not mollified. "It is easy for you to talk of it so
lightly," she said, "but you forget that you might have involved both my
sisters in serious trouble."

"Don't you think I should have been able to get them out again?" said
Cuthbert, with all the lightness to which she objected. "Don't you think
that I could have pacified the schoolmistress? There is one thing that I
must explain. My fancy for teaching was a fad, undertaken for its own
sake, which led me accidentally at first to Mrs. Smith's school. I did
not know that your sisters were there until I had made my preliminary
arrangements."

Janetta flushed deeply, and did not reply. Nora's imagination had been
more active than she expected. Cuthbert, who was watching her, saw the
flush and the look of surprise, and easily guessed what had passed
between the sisters.

"Did you ever read Sheridan's 'Rivals?'" he asked, quietly. "Don't you
remember the romantic heroine who insisted on her romance? She would
hardly consent to marry a man unless he had a history, and would help
her to make one for herself?"

"I don't think that Nora is at all like Lydia Languish."

"Possibly not, in essentials. But she loves romance and mystery and
excitement, as Lydia Languish did. It is a very harmless romance that
consists in sending a few cut flowers by Parcel Post, Cousin Janetta."

"I know--it sounds very little," Janetta said, "but it may do harm for
all that."

"Has it done harm to your sister, then?" Cuthbert inquired, with
apparent-innocence, but with the slight twinkle of his eye, which told
of inward mirth. Janetta was again growing indignant, and was about to
answer rather sharply, when he once more changed his tone. "There," he
said, "I have teased you quite enough, haven't I? I have been presuming
on our relationship to be as provoking as I could, because--honestly--I
thought that you might have trusted me a little more. Now, shall I be
serious?"

"If you can," said Janetta.

"That's awfully severe. By nature, I must tell you, I am the most
serious, not to say melancholy, person in creation. But on a fine day my
spirits run away with me. Now, Janetta--I may call you Janetta, may not
I?--I am going to be serious, deadly serious, as serious as if it were a
wet day in town. And the communication that I wish to make to you as the
head of the family, which you seem to be, is that I am head over ears in
love with your sister Nora, and that I beg for the honor of her hand."

"You are joking," said his hearer, reproachfully.

"Never was joking further from my thoughts. Getting married is an
exceedingly solemn business, I believe. I want to marry Nora and take
her to Paris."

"Oh, this is ridiculous: you can't mean it," said Janetta.

"Why ridiculous? Did I not tell you that I admired Miss Lydia Languish?
Her desire for a romance was quite praiseworthy: it is what every woman
cherishes in her heart of hearts: only Nora, being more naive and frank
and child-like than most women, let me see the desire more clearly than
women mostly do. That's why I love her. She is natural and lovable and
lovely. Don't tell me that I can't win her heart. I know I may have
touched her fancy, but that is not enough. Let me have the chance, and I
think that I can go deeper still."

"You said that you would be serious, but you don't know how serious this
is to me," said Janetta, the tears rising to her eyes. "My father told
me to take care of her: she is very young--and not very wise; and how am
I to know whether you mean what you say?"

"I do mean it, indeed!" said Cuthbert, in a much graver tone. "I have
got into the habit of talking as if I felt very little--a ridiculous
habit, I acknowledge--but, in this matter, I mean it from the bottom of
my heart."

"I suppose, then," said Janetta, tremulously, "that you must speak to
mamma--and to Nora. I am not at all the head of the house, although you
are pleased--in fun--to call me so. I am only Nora's half-sister, fond
of her and anxious about her, and ready to do all that I can do for her
good."

Cuthbert looked at her intently. Her face was pale, and the black dress
that she wore was not altogether becoming to her dark eyes and
complexion, but there was something pathetic to him in the weight of
care which seemed to sit upon those young brows and bear down the
slender shoulders of the girl. The new sensation thus given caused him
to say, with sudden earnestness--

"Will you forgive me for having spoken and acted so thoughtlessly? I
never meant to cause you so much anxiety. You see, I am not very well
acquainted with English ways, and I may have made more mistakes than I
knew. When Nora is my wife you shall not have to fear for her
happiness."

"You speak very confidently of making her your wife," said Janetta,
forgiving him in her heart, nevertheless. "But you have no house--no
profession, have you?"

"No income, you mean?" said Cuthbert, with his merry smile. "Oh, yes, I
have a profession. It does not pay me quite so well as it might do, but
I think I shall do better by-and-bye. Then I have a couple of hundreds a
year of my own. Is it too much of a pittance to begin upon?"

"Nora is quite too young to begin upon anything. If only you would leave
her alone for a year or two!--till she is a little more staid and
sensible!"

"But that's too late, don't you see? That's where my apologies have to
come in. I have disturbed the peace already, haven't I?"

"Mr. Brand," said Janetta, gravely, in spite of an exclamation of
protest from her cousin, "I don't think that we are going quite deeply
enough into the matter. There are one or two things that I must say:
there is no one else to say them. Nora is young and foolish, but she is
affectionate and sensitive, and if she once cares for you, you may make
the happiness or the misery of her life. Our dear father told me to take
care of her. And I am not sure that he would have sanctioned her
engagement to you."

"I'd better send Wyvis to talk to you," said Cuthbert, starting up and
nearly upsetting a chair in his eagerness. "I knew he could manage
and--and explain things better than I could. He's well up in the family
affairs. Will you see him now?"

"Now?"

"He's outside waiting. He wouldn't come in. I'll go and send him to you.
No, don't object: there are ever so many things that you two elders had
better talk over together. I must say," said Cuthbert, beginning to
laugh again in his light-hearted way, "that, when I think of Wyvis as a
family man, bent on seeing his younger brother _se ranger_, and you as
Nora's stern guardian, I am seized with an access of uncontrollable
mirth."

He caught up his hat and left the room so quickly that Janetta, taken by
surprise, could not stop him. She tried to follow, but she was too late:
he had rushed off, leaving the hall-door open, and a draught of cold air
was ascending the stairs and causing her stepmother peevishly to remark
that Janetta's visitors were really intolerable. "Who _was_ it, this
time?" she asked of her second daughter Georgie, who was standing at the
window--the mother and her girls being assembled in Mrs. Colwyn's
bedroom, her favorite resort on cold afternoons.

Georgie gave a little giggle--her manners were not perfect, in spite of
a term at Mrs. Smith's superior seminary for young ladies--and answered,
under her breath--

"It was Mr. Cuthbert Brand."

Nora's book fell from her knee. When she picked it up her cheeks were
crimson and her eyes were flashing fire.

"Don't be absurd, Georgie. It was _not_."

"Indeed it was, Nora. I suppose he came to see Janetta, and Janetta has
sent him away. Oh, how he's running, although he is a little lame! He
has caught some one--his brother, I believe it is; and now the brother's
walking back with him."

"I shall go down," said Mrs. Colwyn, with dignity. "It is not at all
proper for a young person like Janetta to receive gentlemen alone. I
shall go and sit in the drawing-room myself."

"Then Janetta will take her visitors into the dining-room," said Nora,
abruptly. "She has only business with these people, mamma: they don't
come to visit us because they like us--it is only when they want us to
do something for them; so I would not put myself out for them if I were
you. And as for Janetta's being young, she is the oldest person amongst
us." And then Nora turned to her book, which she held upside down
without being at all aware of it.

"I do not know what you mean, Nora," was Mrs. Colwyn's fretful response;
"and if the other brother is coming here, I shall certainly not disturb
myself, for I believe him to be a wild, dissipated, immoral, young man."

"Just the sort of man for Janet to receive alone," murmured Georgie,
maliciously. Georgie was the member of the family who "had a tongue."

Meanwhile Wyvis had come into the house, though without Cuthbert, who
had thought it better to disappear into the gathering darkness; and
Janetta received him in the hall.

He laughed a little as he took her hand. "Cuthbert is a little
impatient, is he not? Well, he has persuaded me into talking this matter
over with you. I'm to come in here, am I?" as Janetta silently opened
the sitting-room door for him. "This looks pleasant," he added after a
moment's pause.

In the gathering evening gloom the shabbiness of the furniture could not
be seen, and the fire-light danced playfully over the worn,
comfortable-looking chairs drawn up to the hearth, on the holly and
mistletoe which decorated the walls, and the great cluster of geranium
and Christmas roses which the Adairs had sent to Janetta the day before.
Everything looked homelike and comfortable, and perhaps it was no wonder
that Wyvis--accustomed to the gloom of his own home, or the garish
splendor of a Paris hotel--felt that he was entering a new sphere, or
undergoing some new experience.

"Don't light the lamp," he said, in his imperious way: "let us talk in
this half-light, if you don't mind? it's pleasanter."

"And easier," said Janetta, softly.

"Easier? Does it need an effort?"

"I am afraid I have something unpleasant to say."

"So have I. We are quits, then. You can begin."

"Your brother has been asking if he maybe engaged to Nora----"

"If he may marry her out of hand, you mean. That's what he wants to do."

"We know very little of him," said Janetta, rather unsteadily, "or of
you. Things have been said against you in Beaminster--you have yourself
told me things that I did not like--indeed, my father almost warned me
against you----"

A murmur from Wyvis Brand sounded uncommonly like "the devil he
did!"--but Janetta did not stop to listen.

"I never heard anything but vague generalities against _him_, but then I
never heard anything particularly good. I don't like the way in which he
has pursued his acquaintance with Nora. I have no authority with
her--not much influence with her mother--and, therefore, I throw myself
on you for help," said Janetta, her musical voice taking a pathetically
earnest cadence; "and I ask you to beg your brother to wait--to let Nora
grow older and know her own mind a little better--to give us the chance
of knowing him before he asks to take her away."

"You have not said either of the things that I was expecting to hear,"
said Wyvis.

"What were those?"

"How much money he had a year!"

"Oh, he told me about that."

"Or--an allusion to his forbears: his father's character and his
mother's relations--the two bugbears of Beaminster."

"I think nothing of those, if Cuthbert himself is good."

"Well, he _is_ good. He is as different from me as light is from
darkness. He is a little thoughtless and unpractical sometimes, but he
is sweet-tempered, honest, true, clean-living, and God-fearing. Will
that suit you?"

"If he is all that----"

"He is that and more. We are not effusive, Cuthbert and I, but I think
him one of the best fellows in the world. She'll be lucky who gets him,
in my opinion."

"All the more reason, then, why I must say a still more unpleasant thing
than ever," she replied. "Nora is in great trouble, because she has been
told what I have known for some time. Her mother does not always control
herself; you know what I mean? She must not marry without telling
this--we cannot deceive the man who is to be her husband--he must know
the possible disgrace."

"If every woman were as straightforward and honorable as you, Janetta,
there would be fewer miserable marriages," said Wyvis, slowly. "You are,
no doubt, right to speak; but, on the other hand, _our_ family record is
much worse than yours. If one of you can condescend to take one of us, I
think we shall have the advantage."

Janetta drew a long breath.

"Then, will you help me in what I ask?"

"Yes, I will. I'll speak to Cuthbert and point out how reasonable you
are. Then--you'll let him cultivate your sister's acquaintance, I
suppose? In spite of your disclaimers, I believe you are supreme in the
house. I wish there were more like you to be supreme, Janetta. I
wish--to God I wish--that I had met you--a woman like you--eight years
ago."

And before she could realize the meaning of what he had said to her, the
man was gone.



CHAPTER XXII.

WYVIS BRAND'S IDEAL.


Everything was satisfactorily settled. Cuthbert was put on his
probation; Nora was instructed in the prospect that lay before her, and
was allowed to correspond with her "semi-betrothed," as he insisted on
calling himself. Mrs. Colwyn was radiant with reflected glory, for
although she despised and hated Mrs. Brand, she was not blind to the
advantages that would accrue to herself through connection with a County
family. She was not, however, as fully informed in the details of the
little love-affair as she imagined herself to be. Janetta's share in
bringing about a _dénouement_ and retarding its further development was
quite unknown to her. The delay, which some of Mr. Colwyn's old friends
urged with great vigor, was ascribed by her chiefly to the hostile
influences of Wyvis Brand, and she made a point of being openly uncivil
to that gentleman when, on fine mornings, he brought his boy to Gwynne
Street or fetched him away on a bright afternoon. For it had been
decided that little Julian should not only come every day at ten, but on
two days of the week should stay until four o'clock in the afternoon, in
order to enjoy the advantages of Tiny's society. He had been living so
unchild-like a life of late that Janetta begged to keep him for play as
well as for lessons with other children.

Nora went back to her school somewhat sobered by the unexpected turn of
events, and rather ashamed of her assumption (dispelled by Janetta) that
Cuthbert Brand had given drawing lessons at Mrs. Smith's in order to be
near her. Mr. Cuthbert Brand discontinued these lessons, but opened a
class in Beaminster at the half-deserted Art School, and made himself
popular wherever he went. Janetta was half inclined to doubt the
genuineness of his affection for Nora when she heard of his innocent,
but quite enthusiastic, flirtations with other girls. But he always
solemnly assured her that Nora had his heart, and Nora only; and as long
as he made Nora happy Janetta was content. And so the weeks passed on.
She had more to do now that Julian came every day, but she got no new
music pupils, and she heard nothing about the evening parties at Lady
Ashley's. She concluded that Sir Philip and his mother had forgotten
her, but such was not the case. There had been a death in the family,
and the consequent period of mourning had prevented Lady Ashley from
giving any parties--that was all.

For some little time, therefore, Janetta's life seemed likely to flow on
in a very peaceful way. Mrs. Colwyn "broke out" only once between
Christmas and Easter, and was more penitent and depressed after her
outbreak than Janetta had ever seen her. Matters went on more quietly
than ever after this event. Easter came, and brought Nora and Georgie
home again, and then there was a period of comparative excitement and
jollity, for the Brands began to come with much regularity to the little
house in Gwynne Street, and there were merry-makings almost every day.

But when the accustomed routine began again, Janetta, in her
conscientious way, took herself seriously to task. She had not been
governing herself, her thoughts, her time, her temper, as she conceived
that it was right for her to do. On reflection, it seemed to her that
one person lately filled up the whole of her mental horizon. And this
person she was genuinely shocked to find was Wyvis Brand.

Why should she concern herself so much about him? He was married; he had
a child; his mother and brother lived with him, and supplied his need of
society. He went out into the world about Beaminster more than he used
to do, and might have been fairly popular if he had exerted himself, but
this he would never do. There were fewer reports current about his bad
companions, or his unsteady way of life; and Janetta gathered from
various sources that he had entirely abandoned that profane and
reckless method of speech for which she had rebuked him. He was
improving, certainly. Well, was that any reason why she should think
about him so much, or consider his character and his probable fate so
earnestly? She saw no reason in it, she told herself; and perhaps she
was right.

There was another reason even more potent for making her think of him.
He had had an unsatisfactory, troublous sort of life; he had been
unfortunate in his domestic relations, and he was most decidedly an
unhappy man. Many a woman before Janetta has found reasons of this kind
suffice for love of a man. Certainly, in Janetta's case, they formed the
basis of a good deal of interest. She told herself that she could not
help thinking of him. He came very often, on pretext of bringing or of
fetching Julian--especially on the days when Julian stayed until four
o'clock, for then he would stray in and sit down to chat with Janetta
and her mother until it was sheer incivility not to offer him a cup of
tea. Softened by the pleasures of hospitality, Mrs. Colwyn would be
quite gracious to him at these times. But now and then she left him to
be entertained by Janetta, saying rather sharply that she did not care
to meet the man who chose to behave "so brutally to her darling Nora."

So that Janetta got into the way of sitting with him, talking with him
on all subjects, of giving him her sage advice when he asked for it, and
listening with interest to the stories that he told her of his past
life. It was natural that she should think about him a good deal, and
about his efforts to straighten the tangled coil of his life, and to
make himself a worthier father for his little son than his own father
had been to him. There was nothing in the world more likely than this
sort of intercourse to bring these two kinsfolk upon terms of closest
friendship. And as Janetta indignantly told herself--there was
nothing--nothing more.

She always remembered that his wife was living; she never forgot it for
a moment. He was, of course, not a man whom she ever thought of
loving--she was angry with herself for the very suggestion--but he was
certainly a man who interested her more than any one whom she had ever
met. And he was interested in her too. He liked to talk to her, to ask
her advice and listen to her pet theories. She was friend, comrade,
sister, all in one. Nothing more. But the position was, whether they
knew it or not, a rather dangerous one, and an innocent friendship might
have glided into something closer and more harmful had not an unexpected
turn been given to the events of both their lives.

For some time Janetta had seen little of the Adairs. They were very much
occupied--visiting and receiving visits--and Margaret's lessons were not
persevered in. But one afternoon, shortly after Easter, she called at
Mrs. Colwyn's house between three and four, and asked when she might
begin again. Before the day was settled, however, they drifted into talk
about other things, and Margaret was soon deeply engaged in an account
of her presentation at Court.

"I thought you were going to stay in town for the season?" Janetta
asked.

Margaret shook her head. "It was so hot and noisy," she murmured. "Papa
said the close rooms spoiled my complexion, and I am sure they spoiled
my temper!" She smiled bewitchingly as she spoke.

She was charmingly dressed in cream-colored muslin, with a soft
silk sash of some nondescript pink hue tied round her waist, and a
bunch of roses at her throat to match the Paris flowers in her
broad-brimmed, slightly tilted, picturesque straw hat. A wrap for the
carriage-fawn-colored, with silk-lining of rose-pink toned by an
under-tint of grey--carried out the scheme of color suggested by her
dress, and suited her fair complexion admirably. She had thrown this
wrap over the back of a chair and removed her hat, so that Janetta might
see whether she was altered or not.

"You are just a trifle paler," Janetta confessed.

As a matter of fact there were some tired lines under Margaret's eyes,
and a distinct waning of the fresh faint bloom upon her cheek--changes
which made of her less the school girl than the woman of the world. And
yet, to Janetta's thinking, she was more beautiful than ever, for she
was acquiring a little of the dignity given by experience without losing
the simple tranquillity of the exquisite child.

"I am a little tired," Margaret said. "One sees so much--one goes to so
many places. I sighed for Helmsley Court, and dear mamma brought me
home."

At this moment a crash, as of some falling body, resounded through the
house, followed by a clatter of breaking crockery, and the cries of
children. Janetta started up, with changing color, and apologized to her
guest.

"Dear Margaret, will you excuse me for a moment? I am afraid that one of
the children must have fallen. I will be back in a minute or two."

"Go, dear, by all means," said Margaret, placidly. "I know how necessary
you are."

Janetta ran off, being desperately afraid that Mrs. Colwyn had been the
cause of this commotion. But here she was mistaken. Mrs. Colwyn was safe
in her room, but Ph[oe]be, the charity orphan, had been met, while
ascending the kitchen stair with the tea-tray in her hands, by a raid of
nursery people--Tiny and Curly and Julian Brand, to wit--had been
accidentally knocked down, had broken the best tea-set and dislocated
her own collar-bone; while Julian's hand was severely cut and Curly's
right eye was black and blue. Tiny had fortunately escaped without
injury, and it was she, therefore, who was sent to Margaret with a
modified version of the disaster.

"Please, Janetta says, will you stay for a little minute or two till she
comes back again? Curly's gone for the doctor because Ph[oe]be's done
something to one of her bones; and Janetta's tying up Julian's thumb
because it's bleeding so dreadfully."

"I have never seen you before, have I?" said Margaret, smiling at the
slim little girl with the delicate face and great blue eyes. "You are
Tiny; I have often heard of you. Do you know me?"

"Yes," said Tiny. "You are the beautiful lady who sends us flowers and
things--Janetta's friend."

"Yes, that is right. And how long will Janetta be?"

"Oh, not long, she said; and she hoped you would not mind waiting for a
little while?"

"Not at all. Is that the doctor?" as a knock resounded through the
little house.

"I dare say it is," said Tiny, running to the door; and then after a
moment's pause, she added, in a rather disappointed tone, "No, it's
Julian's father. It's Mr. Brand."

"Mr. Brand!" said Margaret, half-astonished and half-amused. "Oh, I have
heard of him." And even as she spoke, the door opened, and Wyvis Brand
walked straight into the room.

He gave a very slight start as his eyes fell upon Margaret, but betrayed
no other sign of surprise. Tiny flew to him at once, dragged at his
hand, and effected some sort of informal introduction, mingled with an
account of the accident which had happened to Julian.

"Don't you want to go and ascertain the amount of the injury?" said
Margaret, with a little smile.

"Not at all," said Wyvis, emphatically, and took up his position by the
mantel-piece, whence he got the best view of her graceful figure and
flower-like face. Margaret felt the gaze and was not displeased by it,
admiration was no new thing to her; she smiled vaguely and slightly
lowered her lovely eyes. And Wyvis stood and looked.

In spite of his apparent roughness Wyvis Brand was an impressionable
man. He had come into the room cold, tired, not quite in his usual
health, and more than usually out of humor; and instead of the ordinary
sight of Janetta--a trim, pleasant, household-fairy sort of sight, it
was true, but not of the wildly exciting kind--he found a vision, as it
seemed to him, of the most ethereal beauty--a woman whose every movement
was full of grace, whose exquisitely modulated voice expressed
refinement as clearly as her delicately moulded features; whose whole
being seemed to exhale a sort of perfume of culture, as if she were in
herself the most perfect product of a whole civilization.

Wyvis had been in many drawing-rooms and known many women, more or less
intimately, but he had never, in all his purposeless Bohemian life, come
across exactly this type of woman--a type in which refinement counts for
more than beauty, culture for more than grace. With a sudden leap of
memory, he recalled some scenes of which he had been witness years
before, when a woman, hot, red, excited with wine and with furious
jealousy, had reviled him in the coarsest terms, had struck him in the
face and had spat out foul and vindictive words of abuse. That
woman--ah, that woman was his wife--had been for many years to him the
type of what women must always be when stripped of the veneer of
society's restraints. Janetta had of late shaken his conviction on this
point; it was reserved for Margaret Adair to shatter it to the winds.

She looked so fair, so dainty, so delicate--he would have been a marvel
amongst men who believed that her body was anything but "an index to a
most fair mind"--that Wyvis said to himself that he had never seen any
woman like her. He was fascinated and enthralled. The qualities which
made her so different from his timid, underbred, melancholy mother, or
his coarse and self-indulgent wife, were those in which Margaret showed
peculiar excellence. And before these--for the first time in his
life--Wyvis Brand fell down and worshipped.

It was unfortunate; it was wrong; but it was one of those things that
will happen sometimes in everyday life. Wyvis was separated from his
wife, and hated as much as he despised her. Almost without knowing what
he did, he laid his whole heart and soul, suddenly and unthinkingly, at
Margaret's feet. And Margaret, smiling and serene, utterly ignorant of
his past, and not averse to a little romance that might end more
flatteringly than Sir Philip's attentions had done, was quite ready to
accept the gift.

Before Janetta had bound up Julian's hand, and made some fresh tea,
which she was obliged to carry upstairs herself, Mr. Brand had obtained
information from Margaret as to the day and hour on which she was likely
to come to Janetta for her singing-lesson, and also as to several of her
habits in the matter of walks and drives. Margaret gave the information
innocently enough; Wyvis had no direct purpose in extracting it; but the
attraction which the two felt towards each other was sufficient to make
such knowledge of her movements undesirable, and even dangerous for
both.



CHAPTER XXIII.

FORGET-ME-NOTS.


Lady Caroline, always mindful of her daughter's moods, could not quite
understand Margaret's demeanor when she returned home that afternoon.
She fancied that some news about Sir Philip might have reached the
girl's ear and distressed her mind. But when she skilfully led the
conversation in that direction, Margaret said at once, with a complete
absence of finesse that rather disconcerted her mother--

"No, mamma, I heard nothing about the Ashleys--mother or son."

"Dear Margaret," thought Lady Caroline, "is surely not learning
_brusquerie_ and bad manners from that tiresome Miss Colwyn. What a very
unlucky friendship that has been!"

She did not seize the clue which Margaret unconsciously held out to her
in the course of the same evening. The girl was sitting in a shady
corner of the drawing-room holding a feather fan before her face, when
she introduced what had hitherto been, at Helmsley Court, a forbidden
topic--the history of the Brands.

"Papa," she said, quietly, "did you never know anything of the Red House
people?"

Lady Caroline glanced at her husband. Mr. Adair seemed to find it
difficult to reply.

"Yes, of course, I did--in the old days," he answered, less suavely than
usual. "When the father was alive, I used to go to the house, but, of
course, I was a mere lad then."

"You do not know the sons, then?" said Margaret.

"My dear child, I do not hunt. Mr. Brand's only appearance in society is
on the hunting field."

"But there is another brother--one who paints, I believe."

"He teaches drawing in some of the schools of the neighborhood," Lady
Caroline interposed, rather dryly. "I suppose you do not want drawing
lessons, dear?"

"Oh, no," said Margaret, indifferently. "I only thought it seemed odd
that we never met them anywhere."

"Not very suitable acquaintances," murmured Lady Caroline, almost below
her breath. Mr. Adair was looking at an illustrated magazine and did not
seem to hear, but, after a moment's pause, Margaret said,

"Why, mamma?"

Lady Caroline hesitated for a moment. Mr. Adair shrugged his shoulders.
Then she said slowly:

"His father married beneath him, my love. Mrs. Brand is a quite
impossible person. If the young men would pension her off and send her
away, the County would very likely take them up. But we cannot receive
the mother."

"That is another of what Sir Philip Ashley would call
class-distinctions, is it not?" said Margaret, placidly. "The sort of
thing which made Miss Polehampton so anxious to separate me from poor
Janetta."

"Class-distinctions are generally founded on some inherent law of
character or education, dear," said Lady Caroline, softly. "They are not
so arbitrary as young people imagine. I hope the day will never come
when the distinction of class will be done away with. I"--piously--"hope
that I may be in my grave before that day comes."

"Oh, of course they are very necessary," said Margaret, comfortably.
"And, if old Mrs. Brand were to go away, I suppose her sons would be
received everywhere?"

"Oh, I suppose so. The property is fairly good, is it not, Reginald?"

"Not very," said Mr. Adair. "The father squandered a good deal, and I
fancy the present owner is economizing for the sake of his boy."

"His boy?" A faint color stole into Margaret's cheeks. "Is he married,
papa?"

"Oh, the wife's dead," said Mr. Adair, hastily. It was part of Lady
Caroline's system that Margaret should not hear more than was absolutely
necessary of what she termed "disagreeable" subjects. Elopements,
separation and divorce cases all came under that head. So that when Mr.
Adair, who knew more of Mr. Brand's domestic history than he chose to
say, added immediately--"At least I heard so: I believe so," he did not
think that he was actually departing from fact, but only that he was
coloring the matter suitably for Margaret's infant understanding. He
really believed that Mrs. Wyvis Brand was divorced from her husband, and
it was "the same thing as being dead, you know," he would have replied
if interrogated on the subject.

Margaret did not respond, and Lady Caroline never once suspected that
she had any real interest in the matter. But the very fact that Wyvis
Brand was represented to her as a widower threw a halo of romance around
his head in Margaret's eyes. A man who has "loved and lost" is often
invested with a peculiar kind of sanctity in the eyes of a young girl.
Wyvis Brand's handsome face and evident admiration of herself did not
prepossess Margaret in his favor half so much as the fact that he had
known loss and sorrow, and was temporarily ostracized by County society
because his mother was "an impossible person." This last deprivation
appealed to Margaret's imagination more than the first. It seemed to her
a terrible thing to remain unvisited by the "County." What a good thing
it would be, she reflected, if Mr. Brand could marry some nice girl, who
would persuade him to send his mother back to France, and for whose sake
the County magnates would extend to him the right hand of fellowship. To
reinstate him in his proper position--the position which Margaret told
herself he deserved and would adorn--seemed to her an ambition worthy of
any woman in the world. For Margaret's nature was curiously mixed. From
her father she had inherited a great love of the beautiful and the
romantic--there was a thoroughly unworldly strain in him which had
descended to her; but, then, it was counteracted by the influences which
she had imbibed from Lady Caroline. Margaret used sometimes to rebel
against her mother's maxims of worldly wisdom, but they gradually
permeated her mind, and the gold was so mingled with alloy that it was
difficult to separate one from the other. She thought herself a very
unworldly person. We all have ideals of ourselves; and Margaret's ideal
of herself was of a rather saint-like creature, with high aspirations
and pure motives. Where her weakness really lay she had not the faintest
notion.

It was strange even to herself to note the impression that Wyvis Brand
had produced on her. He was certainly of the type that tends to attract
impressionable girls, for he was dark and handsome, with the indefinable
touch of melancholy in his eyes which lends a subtler interest to the
face than mere beauty. The little that she knew of his history had
touched her. She constructed a great deal from the few facts or fancies
that had been given to her, and the result was sufficiently unlike the
real man to be recognizable by nobody but Margaret herself.

It has already been said that the Adair property and that of Wyvis Brand
lay side by side. The Adair estate was a large one: that of the Brands'
comparatively small; but at one point the two properties were separated
for some little distance only by a narrow fishing stream, on one side
of which stretched an outlying portion of Mr. Adair's park; while on the
other side lay a plantation, approached through the Beaminster woods,
and not very far from the Red House itself. It was in this
plantation--which was divided from the woods only by a wire fence--that
Janetta had found little Julian and had afterwards encountered Wyvis
Brand.

In spring the plantation was a particularly pleasant place. It was
starred with primroses and anemones in the earlier months of the year,
and blue with hyacinths at a later date. At a little distance the
flowers looked like a veil of color spread between the trees. The brook
between the park and the plantation was a merry little stream, dancing
gaily over golden pebbles, and brightly responsive to the sunshine that
flickered between the lightly-clothed branches of the trees bordering it
on either side. It was famous in the neighborhood for the big blue
forget-me-nots that grew there; but it could hardly have been in search
of forget-me-nots that Margaret Adair wandered along its side one
morning, for they were scarcely in season, and her dreamy eyes did not
seem to be looking for them on the bank.

From amongst the trees of the plantation there appeared suddenly a man,
who doffed his cap to Miss Adair with a look of mingled pleasure and
surprise.

"Oh, good-morning, Mr. Brand."

"Good-morning, Miss Adair." No greeting could have been more
conventional. "May I ask if you are looking for forget-me nots? There
are some already out lower down the stream. I will show you where they
are if you will turn to the left."

"Thank you," said Margaret.

They moved down the slight slope together, but on different sides of the
stream. At last they reached the spot where a gleam of blue was visible
at the water's edge.

"It is on your side," Margaret said, with a little smile.

"I will get them for you," he replied. And she stood waiting while he
gathered the faintly-tinted blossoms.

"And now," she said, as he rose to his feet again, "how will you give
them to me? I am afraid I cannot reach across."

"I could come over to you," said Wyvis, his dark eyes resting upon her
eagerly. "Will you ask me to come?"

She paused. "Why should I ask you?" she said, with a smile, as if
between jest and earnest.

"You are standing on your ground, and I on mine. I have never in my life
been asked to cross the boundary."

"I ask you then," said Margaret coloring prettily. She was
half-frightened at the significance of her own words, when she had
spoken them. But it was too late to retract. It took Wyvis Brand a
moment only to leap the brook, and to find himself at her side. Then,
taking off his hat and bowing low, he presented her with the flowers
that he had gathered. She thanked him with a blush.

"Will you give me one?" he asked, his eyes fixed upon her lovely face.
"Just one!----"

"Why did you not keep one?" she said, bending over her nosegay as if
absorbed in its arrangement. "They are so rare that I hardly know how to
spare any." Which was a bit of innocent coquetry on Margaret's part.

"Just one," he pleaded. "As a reward. As a memento."

"A memento of what?" she asked, separating one or two flowers from the
bunch as she spoke.

"Of this occasion."

"It is such an important occasion, is it not?" she said, with a sweet,
mocking little laugh.

"A very important occasion to me. Have I not met you?"

"That is a most charming compliment," said Margaret, who was not unused
to hearing words of this kind in London drawing-rooms, and was quite in
her native element. "In reward for it I will give you a flower--which of
course you will throw away as soon as I am out of sight."

"No, not when you are out of sight: when you are out of mind," he said,
significantly.

"The two are synonymous," said Margaret.

"Are they? Not with me. Throw it away? I will show you that it shall not
be thrown away."

He produced a little pocket-book and put the forget-me-nots into it,
carefully pressing them down against a blank page.

"There," he said, as he made a note in pencil at the bottom of the page,
"that will be always with me now."

"The poor forget-me-not!" said Margaret, smiling. "What a sad fate for
it! To be torn from its home by the brook, taken away from the sun and
the air, to languish out its life in a pocket-book."

"It should feel itself honored," Said Wyvis, "because it is dying for
you."

As we have said, this strain of half-jesting compliment was not
unfamiliar to Margaret; but she could hardly remain unconscious of the
fact that a deeper note had crept into his voice during the last few
words, and that his eyes glowed with a fire more ardent than she usually
saw. She drew back a little, and looked down: she was not exactly
displeased, but she was embarrassed. He noticed and understood the
expression of her face; and changed his tone immediately.

"This is a pretty place," he said, indicating the park and the distant
woods by a wave of his hand. "I always regret that I have been away from
it so long."

"You have lived a great deal in France, I believe?"

"Yes, and in Italy, too. But I tired of foreign lands at last, and
persuaded my mother to come home with me. I am glad that I came."

"You like the neighborhood?" said Margaret, in a tone of conventional
interest.

Wyvis laughed. "I don't see much of my neighbors," he said, rather
drily. "They don't approve of my family. But I like the scenery--and I
have a friend or two--Miss Colwyn, for instance, who is a kinswoman of
mine, you know."

"Oh, yes!" said Margaret, eagerly. Her momentary distrust of him
vanished when she remembered Janetta. Of course, Janetta's cousin _must_
be "nice!"--"I am so fond of Janetta: she is so clever and so good."

"It is a great thing for her to have a friend like you," said Wyvis,
looking at her wistfully. In very truth, she was a wonderment to him;
she seemed so ethereal, so saint-like, so innocent! And Margaret smiled
pensively in return: unlimited admiration was quite to her taste.

"Do you often walk here?" he inquired, when at last she said that she
must return home.

And she said--"Sometimes."

"Sometimes" is a very indefinite and convenient word. It may mean
anything or nothing. In a very short time, it meant that Margaret took a
book out with her and walked down to the boundary stream about three
times a week, if not oftener, and that Wyvis Brand was always there to
bear her company. Before long a few stepping-stones were dropped into
the brook, so that she could cross it without wetting her dainty feet.
It was shadier and cooler in the closely-grown plantation than in the
open park. And meetings in the plantation were less likely to be
discovered than in a more public place.



CHAPTER XXIV.

LADY ASHLEY'S GARDEN PARTY.


It may be wondered that Margaret had so much idle time upon her hands,
and was not more constantly supervised in her comings and goings by Lady
Caroline. But certain occurrences in the Adair family made it easy just
then for her to go her own way. Mr. Adair was obliged to stay in London
on business, and while he was away very little was doing at Helmsley
Court. Lady Caroline took the opportunity of his absence to "give way" a
little: she suffered occasionally from neuralgia, and the doctor
recommended her not to rise much before noon. Margaret's comfort and
welfare were not neglected. A Miss Stone, a distant relation of Lady
Caroline's, came to spend a few weeks at the Court as a companion for
Margaret. Miss Stone was not at all a disagreeable person. She could
play tennis, dance, and sing; she could accompany Margaret's songs: she
could talk or be silent, as seemed good to her; and she was a model of
tact and discretion. She was about thirty-five, but looked younger: she
dressed well, and had pleasing manners, and without being absolutely
handsome was sufficiently good-looking. Miss Alicia Stone was almost
penniless, and did not like to work; but she generally found herself
provided for as "sheep-dog" or chaperon in some house of her numerous
aristocratic friends. She was an amusing talker, and Margaret liked her
society well enough, but Miss Stone was too clever not to know when she
was not wanted. It soon became evident to the companion that for some
reason Margaret liked to walk in the park alone in a morning; and what
Margaret liked was law. Alicia knew how to efface herself on such
occasions, so that when Lady Caroline asked at luncheon what the two had
been doing all the morning, it was easy and natural for Miss Stone to
reply, "Oh, we have been out in the park," although this meant only that
she had been sitting at the conservatory door with a novel, while
Margaret had been wandering half a mile away. Lady Caroline used to
smile, and was satisfied.

And Margaret's conscience was very little troubled. She had never been
told, she sometimes said to herself, that she was not to speak to Mr.
Brand. And she was possessed with the fervent desire to save his soul
(and social reputation), which sometimes leads young women into follies
which they afterwards regret. He told her vaguely that he had had a
miserable, unsatisfactory sort of life, and that he wished to amend. He
did not add that his first impulses towards amendment had come from
Janetta Colwyn. Margaret thought that she was responsible for them, one
and all. And she felt it incumbent upon her to foster their growth, even
at the price of a small concealment--although it would, as she very well
knew, be a great one in her parents' eyes.

As the days went on towards summer, it seemed to Janetta as though some
interest, some brightness perhaps, had died out of her life. Her
friends--her two chief friends, to whom her vow of friendship and
service had been sworn--were, in some inexplicable manner, alienated
from her. Margaret came regularly for her singing-lesson, but never
lingered to talk as she had done at first. She seemed pensive, languid,
preoccupied. Wyvis Brand had left off calling for little Julian, except
on rare occasions. Perhaps his frequent loitering in the plantation left
him but scant time for his daily work; he always pleaded business when
his boy reproached him for his remissness, or when Janetta questioned
him somewhat mournfully with her earnest eyes. Certainly he too seemed
preoccupied, and when he was beguiled into the Colwyns' little
drawing-room he would sit almost silent in Janetta's company, never once
asking her counsel or opinion as he had done in earlier days. It was
possible that in her presence he felt a sort of compunction, a sort of
conscience-stricken shame. And his silence and apparent estrangement lay
upon Janetta's heart like lead.

Poor Janetta was going through a time of depression and disappointment.
Mrs. Colwyn had had two or three terrible relapses, and her condition
could no longer be kept quite a secret from her friends. Janetta had
been obliged to call in the aid of the doctor who had been her father's
best friend, and he recommended various changes of diet and habits which
gave the girl far more trouble than he knew. Where poverty is present in
a home, it is sometimes hard to do the best either for the sinning or
the suffering; and so Mrs. Colwyn's weakness was one of the heaviest
burdens that Janetta had to bear. The only gleams of brightness in her
lot lay in the love and gentleness of the children that she taught, and
in her satisfaction with Nora's engagement to Cuthbert. In almost all
other respects she began to feel aware that she was heavily handicapped.

It was nearly the end of June before she received the long-expected
invitation from Lady Ashley. But it was not to an evening party. It was
a sort of combination entertainment--a garden-party for the young, and
music for those elder persons who did not care to watch games at tennis
all the afternoon. And Janetta was asked to sing.

The day of the party was cloudlessly fine, but not too warm, as a
pleasant little summer breeze was blowing. Janetta donned a thin black
dress of some gauzy material, and thought that she looked very careworn
and dowdy in her little bedroom looking-glass. But when she reached Lady
Ashley's house, excitement had brought a vivid color to her face; and
when her hostess, after an appreciative glance at her dress, quietly
pinned a cluster of scarlet geranium blooms at her neck, the little
songstress presented an undeniably distinguished appearance. If she was
not exactly pretty, she was more than pretty--she was striking and
original.

Margaret Adair looked up and smiled at her from a corner, when Janetta
first came forward to sing. She was one of the very few girls who were
present, for most of the young people were in the garden; but she had
insisted on coming in to hear Janetta's song. She did not care about
playing tennis; it made her hot, and ruffled her pretty Paris gown,
which was not suitable for violent exertion of any kind; she left
violent exertion to Alicia Stone, who was always ready to join in other
people's amusements. Lady Caroline was not present; her neuralgia was
troublesome, and she had every confidence in Alicia's chaperonage and
Margaret's discretion. Poor Lady Caroline was sometimes terribly
mistaken in her reading of character.

To the surprise of a good many people, the Brands were there. Not Mrs.
Brand--only the two young men; but the fact was a good deal commented
upon, as hitherto "the County" had taken very little notice of the owner
of the Red House. It was perhaps this fact that had impelled Sir Philip
to show the Brands some courtesy. He declared that he knew nothing bad
of these men, and that they ought not to be blamed for their father's
sins. Personally he liked them both, and he had no difficulty in
persuading his mother to call on Mrs. Brand, and then to send
invitations for the garden party. But Mrs. Brand, as usual, declined to
go out, and was represented only by her sons.

What Sir Philip had not calculated on was the air of possession and
previous acquaintance with which Wyvis Brand greeted Miss Adair. He had
hardly expected that Margaret would come; and, indeed, Margaret had been
loath to accept Lady Ashley's invitation, especially without the escort
of her mother. On the other hand, Lady Caroline was very anxious that
the world should not know the extent of the breach between the two
families; and she argued that it would be very marked if Margaret stayed
away from a large garden party to which "everybody" went, and where it
would be very easy to do nothing more than exchange a mere passing
salutation with Sir Philip. So she had rather insisted on Margaret's
going; and the girl had had her own reasons for not protesting too much.
She knew that Wyvis Brand would be there; and she had a fancy for seeing
him amongst other men, and observing how he bore himself in other
people's society.

She was perfectly satisfied with the result. His appearance was
faultless--far better than that of Sir Philip, who sometimes wore a coat
until it was shiny at the shoulders, and was not very particular about
his boots. Upright, handsome, well-dressed, with the air of distinction
which Margaret much preferred to beauty in a man, he was a distinctly
noticeable figure, and Margaret innocently thought that there was no
reason why she should not show, in a well-bred and maidenly way, of
course, her liking for him.

She had never had much resistant power, this "rare, pale Margaret" of
Sir Philip's dreams, and it seemed quite natural to her that Wyvis
should hover at her side and attend to all her wants that afternoon. She
did not notice that he was keeping off other men by his air of
proprietorship, and that women, old and young, were eyeing her with
surprise and disapprobation as she walked up and down the lawn with him
and allowed him to provide her with tea or strawberries and cream. She
was under a charm, and could not bear the idea of sending him away.
While Wyvis--for his excuse let it be said that his air of
proprietorship was unconscious, and came simply out of his intense
admiration for the girl and his headlong absorption in the interest of
the moment. He did not at all know how intently and exclusively he
looked at her; how reverential and yet masterful was his attitude; and
the sweet consciousness that sat on her down-dropped eyelids and
tenderly flushed cheeks acted as no warning to him, but only as an
incentive to persevere.

The situation became patent to Janetta, when she stood up to sing.
Margaret looked, nodded, and smiled at her with exquisite shy
friendliness. Janetta returned the greeting; and then--as people
noticed--suddenly flushed scarlet and as suddenly turned pale. Many
persons set this change of color down to nervousness; but Sir Philip
Ashley followed the direction of her eyes and knew what she had seen.

Miss Adair was sitting in a corner of the room, where perhaps she hoped
to be unremarked; but her fair beauty and her white dress made it
difficult for her to remain obscure. Wyvis Brand stood beside her,
leaning against the wall, with arms folded across his breast. He was
more in shadow than was she, for he was touched by the folds of a heavy
velvet curtain; but his attitude was significant. He was not looking at
the singer, or at the room; his whole attention was visibly concentrated
upon Margaret. He was looking at her, some one remarked quite audibly,
as if he never meant to look away again. The close, keen absorption of
that gaze was unusual enough to shock conventional observers. There
would have been nothing insolent or overbold about it were he her
husband or her lover; but from a man who--as far as "the County"
knew--was a comparative stranger in the land, and almost an outsider,
it was positively shocking. And yet Miss Adair looked as if she were
only pleasantly conscious of this rude man's stare.

Fortunately for Margaret's reputation, it was currently believed that
Wyvis Brand's wife was dead. Those who had some notion that she was
living thought that he had divorced her. The general impression was that
he was at any rate free to marry; and that he was laying siege to the
heart of the prettiest girl in the County now seemed an indisputable
fact. Perhaps Janetta only, of all the persons assembled together in the
room, knew the facts of Wyvis Brand's unhappy marriage. And to Janetta,
as well as to other people, it became plain that afternoon that he had
completely lost his heart--perhaps his head as well--to Margaret Adair.

The chatter of the crowd would have revealed as much to Janetta, even if
her own observation had not told her a good deal. "How that man does
stare at that girl! Is he engaged to her?" "Young Brand's utterly gone
on Miss Adair; that's evident." "Is Lady Caroline not here? Do you think
that she _knows_?" "Margaret Adair is certainly very pretty, but I
should not like one of _my_ girls to let herself be made so
conspicuous!" Such were some of the remarks that fell on Janetta's ear,
and made her face burn with shame and indignation. Not that she exactly
believed in the reality even of the things that she had seen. That Wyvis
should admire Margaret was so natural! That Margaret should accept the
offered admiration in her usual serene manner was equally to be
expected. But that either of them should be unwise enough to give rise
to idle gossip, about so natural a state of mind was what Janetta could
not understand. It was not Margaret's fault; she was very sure of that.
It must be Wyvis Brand's. He was her cousin, and she might
surely--perhaps--ask him what he meant by putting Margaret in such a
false position! Oh, but she could not presume to do that. What would he
think of her? And yet--and yet--the look with which he had regarded
Margaret seemed to be stamped indelibly upon Janetta's faithful, aching
heart.



CHAPTER XXV.

SIR PHILIP'S DECISION.


"Philip," said Lady Ashley that evening, with some hesitation in her
speech; "Philip--did you--did you notice Mr. Brand--much--to-day?"

The guests had all gone; dinner was over; mother and son were sitting in
wicker chairs on the terrace, resting after the fatigues of the day. Sir
Philip was smoking a very mild cigarette: he was not very fond of
tobacco, for, as the Adairs sometimes expressed it, he "had no small
vices." Lady Ashley was wrapped in a white shawl, and her delicate,
blue-veined hands were crossed upon her lap in unaccustomed idleness.

"I did notice him," said her son, quietly. "He seemed to be paying a
great deal of attention to Miss Adair."

"Oh, Philip, dear, it distressed me so much!"

"Why should it distress you, mother?--it is nothing to us."

"Well, if you feel in that way about it--still, I am grieved for the
Adairs' sake. After all, they are old friends of ours. And I had
hoped----"

"Our hopes are not often realized, are they?" said Sir Philip, in the
gentle, persuasive tones that his mother thought so winning. "Perhaps it
is best. At any rate, it is best to forget the hopes that never _can_ be
realized."

"Do you think it is really so, Philip? Everyone was talking about his
manner this afternoon."

"She was giving him every encouragement," said her son, looking away.

"Such an undesirable match! Poor Lady Caroline!"

"We do not know how things are being arranged, mother. Possibly Lady
Caroline and Mr. Adair are favoring an engagement. Miss Adair is hardly
likely to act against their will."

"No, she has scarcely resolution enough for that. Then you don't think
that they met for the first time this afternoon?"

"Gracious heavens, no!" said Sir Philip, roused a little out of his
apparent indifference. "They met quite as old acquaintances--old
friends. I suppose the Adairs have renewed the friendship. The
properties lie side by side. That may be a reason."

"I am very sorry we asked him here," said Lady Ashley, almost viciously.
"I had no idea that he was paying attention to _her_. I hope there is
nothing wrong about it--such a very undesirable match!"

"I don't really know why," said her son, with a forced smile. "Wyvis
Brand is a fine, handsome fellow, and the property, though small, is a
nice one. Miss Adair might do worse."

"I believe her mother thinks that she might marry a duke."

"And so she might. She is a great beauty, and an heiress." And there was
a ring of bitterness in his tone which pained his mother's heart.

"Ah, Philip," she said--not very, wisely--"you need not regret her. 'A
fair woman without discretion,' she would not be the wife for you."

"I beg that you will not say that again, mother." He did not turn his
face towards her, and his voice was studiously gentle, but it was
decided too. "She is, as you say, 'a fair woman,' but she has not shown
herself as yet 'without discretion,' and it is hardly kind to condemn
her before she has done any wrong."

"I do not think that she behaved well to you, Philip. But I beg your
pardon, my son: we will not discuss the matter. It seems hard to me, of
course, that you should have suffered for any woman's sake."

"Ah, mother, every one does not see me with your kind eyes," he said,
bringing his face round with a smile, and laying his right hand over one
of hers. But the smile thinly disguised the pain that lingered like a
shadow in his eyes. "Let us hope, at any rate, that Margaret may be
happy."

Lady Ashley sighed and pressed his hand. "If you could but meet some one
else whom you cared for as much, Philip!" And then she paused, for he
had--involuntarily as it seemed--shaken his head, and she did not like
to proceed further.

A pause of some minutes followed; and then she determined to change the
subject.

"The music went very well this afternoon, I think," she said. "Miss
Colwyn was in very good voice. Do you not like her singing?"

"Yes, very much."

"The Watertons were asking me about her. And the Bevans. I fancy she
will get several engagements. Poor girl, I hope she will."

Sir Philip threw away the end of his cigarette, and got up rather
abruptly, Lady Ashley thought. Without a word he began to pace up and
down the terrace, and finally, turning his back on her, he stared at the
garden and the distant view, now faintly illumined by a rising moon, as
if he had forgotten his mother's very existence. Lady Ashley was
surprised. He usually treated her with such marked distinction that to
appear for a moment unconscious of her presence was almost a slight. She
was too dignified, however, to try to recall his attention, and she
waited quietly until her son turned round again and suddenly faced her
with an air of calm determination.

"Mother," he said, "I have something important to say."

"Well, Philip?"

"You have often said that you wanted me to marry."

"Yes, dearest, I do wish it."

"I also see the expediency of marriage. The woman whom I loved, who
seemed to us as suitable as she is lovely, will not marry me. What shall
I look for in my second choice? Character rather than fortune, health
rather than beauty. This seems to me the wiser way."

"And love rather than expediency," said his mother quickly.

"Ah!" he drew a long breath. "But we can't always have love. The other
requisites are perhaps more easily found."

"Have you found them, Philip?" The mother's voice quivered as she asked
the question. He did not answer it immediately--he stood looking at the
ground for some little time.

"My mind is made up," he said at last, slowly and quietly; "I know what
I want, and I think that I have found it. Mother, I am going to ask Miss
Colwyn to be my wife."

If a thunderbolt had fallen at her feet, Lady Ashley could not have been
more amazed. She sat silent, rigid, incapable of a reply.

"I have seen something of her, and I have heard more," her son went on,
soberly. "She is of sterling worth. She has intellect, character,
affection: what can we want more? She is attractive, if not exactly
beautiful, and she is good--thoroughly good and true."

"But her connections, Philip--her relations," gasped Lady Ashley.

"It will be easy enough to do something for them. Of course they will
have to be provided for--away from Beaminster, if possible. She is an
orphan, remember: these are only her half sisters and brothers."

"There is the dreadful stepmother!"

"I think we can manage her. These points do not concern the main issue,
mother. Will you receive her as your daughter if I bring Janetta Colwyn
here as my wife?"

Lady Ashley had put her handkerchief to her eyes. "I will do anything to
please you, Philip," she said, almost inaudibly; "but I cannot pretend
that this is anything but a disappointment."

"I have thought the matter well over. I am convinced that she will make
a good wife," said the young man; and from his voice and manner Lady
Ashley felt that his resolution was invulnerable. "There is absolutely
_no_ objection except the one concerning her relations--and that may be
got over. Mother, you wish for my happiness: tell me that you will not
disapprove."

Lady Ashley got up from her basket chair, and laid her arms round
Philip's neck.

"My dear son," she said, "I will do my best. I wish for nothing but your
happiness, and I should never think of trying to thwart your intentions.
But you must give me a little time in which to accustom myself to this
new idea."

And then she wept a little, and kissed and blessed him, and they parted
on the most cordial of terms. Nevertheless, neither of them was very
happy. Lady Ashley was, as she had said, disappointed in the choice that
he had made; and Sir Philip, in spite of his brave words, was very sore
at heart.

Janetta, all unconscious of the honor preparing for her, was meanwhile
passing some miserable hours. She could not sleep that night--she knew
not why. It was the excitement of the party, she supposed. But
something beside excitement was stirring in her heart. She tried to
give it a name, but she would not look the thing fairly in the face,
and, therefore, she was not very successful in her nomenclature. She
called it friendly interest in others, a desire for their happiness, a
desire also for their good. What made the burning pain and unrest of
these desires? Why should they cause her such suffering? She did not
know--or, more correctly, she refused to know.

She rose in the morning feeling haggard and unrefreshed. The day was a
very hot one; the breeze had died away, and there was not a cloud in the
deep blue sky. Julian Brand came in the dog-cart with the groom. He had
not seen his father that morning, he said, and he thought that he had
gone away, but he did not know. Gone away? Janetta sat down to her work
with a heavy heart. It seemed to her that she must speak either to him
or to Margaret. He was compromising her friend, and for Margaret's sake
she must not hold her peace. Well, it was the day for Miss Adair's
singing lesson. When she came that afternoon, Janetta made up her mind
that she would say a needful word.

But Margaret did not come. She sent a note, asking to be excused. She
had a headache, and could not sing that afternoon.

"She is afraid to come!" said Janetta, passionately, and for almost the
first time she felt a thrill of anger against her friend.

Another visitor came, if Margaret did not. About four o'clock, just as
Julian was beginning to wonder when he would be fetched away, a
thundering peal at the door knocker announced the appearance of Wyvis
Brand. Janetta was in the drawing-room putting away some music when he
came in. She saw that he glanced eagerly round the room, as if expecting
to see someone else--perhaps Margaret Adair--and her heart hardened to
him a little as she gave him her hand. Had he come at that hour because
Margaret generally took her lesson then?

"How cold you are!" cried Wyvis, holding the little hand for the moment
in his own. "On this hot day! How _can_ you manage to keep so cool??"

If his heart had been throbbing and his head burning as Janetta's were
just then, he might have known how to answer the question.

"You have come for Julian, I suppose?" she said, a little coldly.

"Yes--in a minute or two. Won't you let me rest for a few minutes after
my walk in the broiling sun?"

"Oh, certainly; you shall have some tea, if you like. I am at liberty
this afternoon," said Janetta, with a little malice, "as my pupil has
just sent me word that she has a headache, and cannot come."

"Who is your pupil this afternoon?" said Wyvis, stroking his black
moustache.

"Miss Adair."

He gave her a quick, keen glance, then turned away. She read vexation in
his eyes.

"Don't let me trouble you," he said, in a different tone, as she moved
towards the door; "I really ought not to stay--I have an engagement or
two to fulfill. No tea, thanks. Is Julian ready?"

"In a minute or two I will call him. I want to ask you a question
first--if you will let me?"

"All right; go on. That's the way people begin disagreeable subjects, do
you know?"

"I don't know whether you will consider this a disagreeable question. I
suppose you will," said Janetta, with an effort. "I promised you once to
say nothing to my friends about your affairs--about Julian's mother, and
I have kept my word. But I must ask you now--does Miss Adair know that
you are married?"

There was a moment's pause. They stood opposite one another, and,
lifting her eyes to his face, she saw that he was frowning heavily and
gnawing his moustache.

"What does that matter to _you_?" he said, angrily, at last.

She shrank a little, but answered steadily--

"Margaret is my friend."

"Well, what then?"

The color rose to Janetta's face. "I don't believe you knew what you were
doing yesterday," she said; "but I knew--I heard people talking, and I
knew what people thought. They said that you were paying attention to
Miss Adair. They supposed you were going to marry her soon. None of them
seemed to know that--that--your wife was still alive. And of course I
could not tell them."

"Of course not," he assented, with curious eagerness; "I knew you would
keep your word."

"You made Margaret conspicuous," Janetta continued, with some warmth.
"You placed her in a very false position. If _she_ thinks, as other
people thought, that you want to marry her, she ought to be told the
truth at once. You must tell her--yourself--that you were only amusing
yourself--only playing with her, as no man has a right to play with a
girl," said Janetta, with such vehemence that the tears rose to her
great dark eyes and the scarlet color to her cheeks--"that you were
flirting, in fact, and that Julian's mother--_your wife_, Cousin
Wyvis--is still alive."



CHAPTER XXVI.

"FREE!"


"And what if I refuse to tell her this?" said Wyvis Brand.

"Then I shall tell her myself."

"And break your word to me?"

"And break my word."

He stood looking at her for a minute in silence, and then an ironical
smile curled his lip as he turned aside.

"Women are all alike," he said. "They cannot possibly hold their
tongues. I thought _you_ were superior to most of your sex. I remember
that your father once spoke of you to me as 'his faithful Janet.' Is
this your faithfulness?"

"Yes, it is, it is," she cried; and then, sitting down, she suddenly
burst into tears. She was unnerved and agitated, and so she wept, as
girls will weep--for nothing at all sometimes, and sometimes in the very
crisis of their fate.

Wyvis looked on, uncomprehending, a little touched, though rather
against his will, by Janetta's tears. He knew that she did not often
cry. He waited for the paroxysm to pass--waited grimly, but with
"compunctuous visitings." And presently he was rewarded for his
patience. She dried her eyes, lifted up her head, and spoke.

"I don't know why I should make such a fool of myself," she said. "I
suppose it was because you mentioned my father. Yes, he used to call me
his faithful Janet very often. I have always tried--to--to _deserve_
that name."

"Forgive me, Janetta," said her cousin, more moved than he liked to
appear. "I did not want to hurt you; but, indeed, my dear girl, you must
let me manage my affairs for myself. You are not responsible for
Margaret Adair as you were for Nora; and you can't, you know, bring me
to book as you did my brother, Cuthbert."

"You mean that I interfere too much in other people's business?" said
poor Janetta, with quivering lips.

"I did not say so. I only say, '_Don't_ interfere.'"

"It is very hard to do right," said Janetta, looking at him with wistful
eyes. "One's duty seems so divided. Margaret is not my sister--that is
true, but she is my friend; and I always believed that one had
responsibilities and duties towards friends as well as towards
relations."

"Possibly"--in a very dry tone. "But you need not meddle with what is no
concern of yours."

"It is my concern, if you--my cousin--are not acting rightly to my
friend."

"I say it is no concern of yours at all."

They had come to a deadlock. He faced her, with the dark, haughty,
imperious look which she knew so well upon his fine features; she stood
silent, angry too, and almost as imperious. But, womanlike, she yielded
first.

"You asked me once to be your friend, Cousin Wyvis. I want to be yours
and Margaret's too. Won't you let me see what you mean?"

Wyvis Brand's brow relaxed a little.

"I don't understand your views of friendship: it seems to mean a right
to intermeddle with all the affairs of your acquaintances," he said,
cuttingly; "but since you are so good as to ask my intentions----"

"If you talk like that, I'll never speak to you again!" cried Janetta,
who was not remarkable for her meekness.

Wyvis actually smiled.

"Come," he said, "be friends, Janetta. I assure you I don't mean any
harm. You must not be straight-laced. Your pretty friend is no doubt
well able to take care of herself."

But he looked down as he said this and knitted his brows.

"She has never had occasion to do it," said Janetta, epigrammatically.

"Then don't you think it is time she learns?"

"You have no right to be her teacher."

"Right! right!" cried Wyvis, impatiently "I am tired of this cuckoo-cry
about my rights! I have the right to do what I choose, to get what
pleasure out of life I can, to do my best for myself. It is everybody's
right, and he is only a hypocrite who denies it."

"There is one limitation," said Janetta. "Get what you can for yourself,
if you like--it seems to me a somewhat selfish view--as long as you
don't injure anybody else."

"Whom do I injure?" he asked, looking at her defiantly in the face.

"Margaret."

He dropped his eyes, and the defiance went suddenly out of his look and
voice.

"Injure her?" he said, in a very low tone. "Surely, you know, I wouldn't
do _that_--to save my life."

Janetta looked at him mutely. The words were a revelation. There was a
pause, during which she heard, as in a dream, the sound of children's
voices and children's feet along the passages of the house. Julian and
Tiny were running riot; but she felt, for the time being, as if she had
nothing to do with them: their interests did not touch her: she dwelt in
a world apart. Hitherto Wyvis had stood, hat in hand, as if he were
ready to go at a moment's notice; but now he changed his attitude. He
seated himself determinedly, put down his hat, and looked back at her.

"Well," he said, "I see that I must explain myself if I mean to make my
peace with you, Janetta. I am, perhaps, not so bad as you think me. I
have not mentioned to Miss Adair that Julian's mother is alive, because
I consider myself a free man. Julian's mother, once my wife, has
divorced me, and is, I believe, on the point of marrying again. Surely
in that case I am free to marry too."

"Divorced you?" Janetta repeated, with dilating eyes.

"Yes, divorced me. She has gone out to America and managed it there. It
is easy enough in some of the States to get divorced from an absent wife
or husband, as no doubt you know. Incompatibility of temper was the
alleged reason. I believe she is going to marry a Chicago man--something
in pork."

"And you are legally free?"

"She says so. I fancy there is a legal hitch somewhere but I have not
yet consulted my lawyers. We were married by the Catholic rite in
France, and the Catholic Church will probably consider us married still.
But Margaret is not a Catholic--nor am I."

"And you think," said Janetta, very slowly, "of marrying Margaret?"

He looked up at her and laughed, a little uneasily.

"You think she won't have me?"

"I don't know. I think you don't know her yet, Wyvis."

"I dare say not," said her cousin. Then he broke out in quite a
different tone: "No wonder I don't; she's a perpetual revelation to me.
I never saw anything like her--so pure, so spotless, so exquisite. It's
like looking at a work of art--a bit of delicate china, or a picture by
Francia or Guido. Something holy and serene about her--something that
sets her apart from the ordinary world. I can't define it: but it's
there. I feel myself made of a coarse, common clay in her presence: I
want to go down on my knees and serve her like a queen. That's how I
feel about Margaret."

"Ah!" said Janetta, "my princess of dreams. That is what I used to call
her. That is what I--used to feel."

"Don't you feel it now?" said Wyvis, sitting up and staring at her.

Janetta hesitated. "Margaret is my dear friend, and I love her. But I am
older--perhaps I can't feel exactly in that way about her now."

"You talk as if you were a sexagenarian," said Wyvis, exploding into
genial laughter. He looked suddenly brighter and younger, as if his
outburst of emotion had wonderfully relieved him. "I am much older than
you, and yet I see her in the same light. What else is there to say
about her? She is perfect--there is not much to discuss in perfection."

"She is most lovely--most sweet," said Janetta, warmly. "And yet--the
very things you admire may stand in your way, Wyvis. She is very
innocent of the world. And if you have won her--her--affection before
you have told her your history----"

"You think this wretched first marriage of mine will stand in the way?"

"I do. With Margaret and with her parents."

Wyvis frowned again. "I had better make sure of her--marry her at once,
and tell her afterwards," he said. But perhaps he said it only to see
what Janetta would reply.

"You would not do that, Wyvis?"

"I don't know."

"But you want to be worthy of her?"

"I shall never be that so it's no good trying."

"She would never forgive you if you married her without telling her the
truth."

Wyvis laughed scornfully. "You know nothing about it. A woman will
forgive anything to the man she loves."

"Not a meanness!" said the girl, sharply.

"Yes, meanness, deceit, lies, anything--so long as it was done for her
sake."

"I don't believe that would be the case with Margaret. Once disgust her,
and you lose her love."

"Then she can't have much to give," retorted Wyvis.

Janetta was silent. In her secret heart she did not think that Margaret
_could_ love very deeply--that, indeed, she had not much to give.

"Well, what's the upshot?" said her cousin, at last, in a dogged tone.
"Are you satisfied at last?"

"I shall be better satisfied when you make things plain to the Adairs.
You have no right to win Margaret's heart in this secret way. You blamed
Cuthbert for making love to Nora. It is far worse for you to do it to
Margaret Adair."

"I am so much beneath her, am I not?" said Wyvis, with a sneer. And then
he once more spoke eagerly. "I _am_ beneath her: I am as the dust under
her feet. Don't you think I know that? I'll tell you what, Janetta, when
I first saw her and spoke to her--here, in this room, if you remember--I
thought that she was like a being from another world. I had never seen
anyone like her. She is the fairest, sweetest of women, and I would not
harm her for the world."

"I don't know whether I ought even to listen to you," said Janetta, in a
troubled voice and with averted head. "You know, many people would say
that you were in the wrong altogether--that you were not free----"

"Then they would say a lie! I am legally free, I believe, and morally
free, I am certain. I thank God for it. I have suffered enough."

He looked so stern, so uncompromising, that Janetta hastened to take
refuge in concrete facts.

"But you will tell Margaret everything?"

"In my own good time."

"Do promise me that you will not marry her without letting her know--if
ever it comes, to a talk of your marriage."

"_If ever?_ It will come very soon, I hope. But I'll promise nothing.
And you must not make mischief."

"I am like you--I will promise nothing."

"I shall never forgive you, if you step between Margaret and me," said
Wyvis.

"I shall never step between you, I hope," said Janetta, in a dispirited
tone. "But it is better for me to promise nothing more."

Wyvis shrugged his shoulders, as if he thought it useless to argue with
her. She was sorry for the apparently unfriendly terms on which they
seemed likely to part; and it was a relief to her when, as they were
saying good-bye, he looked into her face rather wistfully and said,
"Wish me success, Janetta, after all."

"I wish you every happiness," she said. But whether that meant success
or not it would have been hard to say.

She saw him take his departure, with little Julian clinging to his hand,
and then she set about her household duties in her usual self-contained
and steadfast way. But her heart ached sadly--she did not quite know
why--and when she went to bed that night she lay awake for many weary
hours, weeping silently, but passionately, over the sorrow that, she
foresaw for her dearest friends, and, perhaps, also for herself.



CHAPTER XXVII.

A BIG BRIBE.


It seemed to Janetta as if she had almost expected to see Lady Caroline
Adair drive up to her door about four o'clock next day, in the very
victoria wherein the girl had once sat side by side with Margaret's
mother, and from which she had first set eyes on Wyvis Brand. She had
expected it, and yet her heart beat faster, and her color went and came,
as she disposed of her pupils in the little dining-room, and met her
visitor just as she crossed the hall.

"Can I speak to you for five minutes, Miss Colwyn?" said Lady Caroline,
in so suave a voice that for a moment Janetta felt reassured. Only for a
moment, however. When she had shut the drawing-room door, she saw that
her visitor's face was for once both cold and hard. Janetta offered a
chair, and Lady Caroline took it, but without a word of thanks. She had
evidently put on the "fine lady" manner, which Janetta detested from her
heart.

"I come to speak on a very painful subject," said Lady Caroline. Her
voice was pitched a little higher than usual, but she gave no other sign
of agitation. "You were at Lady Ashley's garden party the day before
yesterday I believe?"

Janetta bowed assent.

"May I ask if you observed anything remarkable in my daughter's
behavior? You are supposed to be Margaret's friend: you must have
noticed what she was doing all the afternoon."

"I do not think that Margaret _could_ behave unsuitably," said Janetta,
suddenly flushing up.

"I am obliged to you for your good opinion of my daughter. But that is
not the point. Did you notice whether she was talking or walking a great
deal with one person, or----"

"Excuse me, Lady Caroline," said Janetta, "but I did not spend the
afternoon in watching Margaret, and I am quite unable to give you any
information on the subject."

"I really do not see the use of beating about the bush," said Lady
Caroline, blandly. "You must know perfectly well to what I refer. Mr.
Wyvis Brand is a connection of yours, I believe. I hear on all sides
that he and my daughter were inseparable all the afternoon. Greatly to
my astonishment, I confess."

"Mr. Brand is a second cousin of mine, and his brother is engaged to my
half-sister," said Janetta; "but I have nothing to do with his
acquaintance with Margaret."

"Indeed!" exclaimed Lady Caroline. She put up her eye-glass, and
carefully inspected Janetta from head to foot. "Nothing to do with their
acquaintance, you say! May I ask, then, _where_ my daughter met Mr.
Brand? Not in _my_ house, I think."

Janetta gave a slight start. She had for the moment utterly forgotten
that it was in Gwynne Street that Wyvis Brand and Margaret had first
met.

"I beg your pardon: I forgot," she said. "Of course--Margaret no doubt
told you--she came here one day for her singing-lesson, and Mr. Brand
called for his little boy. It was the first time they had seen each
other."

"And how often have they met here since, may I ask?"

"Never again, Lady Caroline."

"I was of course to blame in letting my daughter go out without a
chaperon," said Lady Caroline, disagreeably. "I never thought of danger
in _this_ quarter, certainly. I can quite appreciate your motive, Miss
Colwyn. No doubt it would be very pleasant for _you_ if Margaret were to
marry your cousin; but we have prejudices that must be consulted."

"I hope you did not come here meaning to insult me," said Janetta,
starting to her feet; "but I think you cannot know what you are saying,
Lady Caroline. _I_ want my cousin to marry your daughter? I never
thought of such a thing--until yesterday!"

"And what made you think of it yesterday, pray? Please let us have no
heroics, no hysterics: these exhibitions of temper are so unseemly. What
made you think so yesterday?"

"Mr. Brand came here," said Janetta, suddenly growing very white, "and
told me that he cared for Margaret. I do not know how they had met. He
did not tell me. He--he--cares very much for her."

"Cares for her! What next? He came here--when? At Margaret's
lesson-time, I suppose?"

She saw from Janetta's face that her guess was correct.

"I need hardly say that Margaret will not come here again," said Lady
Caroline, rising and drawing her laces closely around her. "There is the
amount due to you, Miss Colwyn. I calculated it before I came out, and I
think you will find it all right. There is one more question I must
really ask before I go: there seems some uncertainty concerning the fate
of Mr. Brand's first wife; perhaps you can tell me whether she is alive
or dead?"

Poor Janetta scarcely knew what to say. But she told herself that truth
was always best.

"I believe he--he--is divorced from her," she stammered, knowing full
well how very condemnatory her words must sound in Lady Caroline's ear.
They certainly produced a considerable effect.

"_Divorced?_ And you introduced him to Margaret? Of course I know that a
_divorcé_ is often received in society, and so on, but I always set my
face against the prevalent lax views of marriage, and I hoped that I had
brought up my daughter to do the same. I suppose"--satirically--"you did
not think it worth while to tell Margaret this little fact?"

"I did not know it then," Janetta forced herself to say.

"Indeed?" Lady Caroline's "indeed" was very crushing. "Well, either your
information or your discretion must have been very much at fault. I must
say, Miss Polehampton _now_ strikes me as a woman of great
discrimination of character. I will say good-morning, Miss Colwyn, and I
think the acquaintance between my daughter and yourself had better be
discontinued. It has certainly been, from beginning to end, an
unsuitable and disastrous friendship."

"Before you go, Lady Caroline, will you kindly take the envelope away
that you have left upon the table?" said Janetta, as haughtily as Lady
Caroline herself could have spoken. "I certainly shall not take money
from you if you believe such evil things of me. I have known nothing of
the acquaintance between my cousin and Miss Adair; but after what you
have said I will not accept anything at your hands."

"Then I am afraid it will have to remain on the table," said Lady
Caroline, as she swept out of the room, "for I cannot take it back
again."

Janetta caught up the envelope. One glance showed her that it contained
a cheque. She tore it across and across, and was in time to place the
fragments on the seat beside Lady Caroline, just before the carriage was
driven away. She went back into the house with raised head and flaming
cheeks, too angry and annoyed to settle down to work, too much hurt to
be anything but restless and preoccupied. The reaction did not set in
for some hours; but by six o'clock, when the children were all out of
doors and her stepmother had gone to visit a friend, and Janetta had
the house to herself, she lay down on a couch in the drawing-room with a
feeling of intense exhaustion and fatigue. She was too tired almost to
cry, but a tear welled up now and then, and was allowed to trickle
quietly down her pale cheek. She was utterly wretched and depressed: the
world seemed a dark place to her, especially when she considered that
she had already lost one friend whom she had so long and so tenderly
loved, and that she was not unlikely to lose another. For Wyvis might
blame her--_would_ blame her, probably--for what she had said to Lady
Caroline.

A knock at the front door aroused her. It was a knock that she did not
know; and she wondered at first whether one of the Adairs or one of the
Brands were coming to visit her. She sat up and hastily rearranged her
hair and dried her eyes. The charity orphan was within hearing and had
gone to the door: it was she who presently flung open the door and
announced, in awe-stricken tones--

"Sir Philip Hashley."

Janetta rose in some consternation. What did this visit portend? Had
_he_ also come to reproach her for her conduct to Margaret and Wyvis?
For she surmised--chiefly from the way in which she had seen him follow
Margaret with his eyes at the garden-party--that his old love was not
dead.

He greeted her with his usual gentleness of manner, and sat down--not
immediately facing her, as she was glad to think, scarcely realizing
that he had at once seen the trouble in her face, and did not wish to
embarrass her by a straightforward gaze. He gave her a little time in
which to recover herself, too; he spoke of indifferent subjects in an
indifferent tone, so that when five minutes had elapsed Janetta was
quite herself again, and had begun to speculate upon her chance of an
engagement to sing at another musical party.

"I hope Lady Ashley is well," she said, when at last a short pause came.

"Quite well, I thank you, and hoping to see you soon."

"Oh, I am so grateful to you for saying that," said Janetta,
impulsively. "I felt that I did not know whether she was satisfied with
my singing or not. You know I am a beginner."

"I am sure I may say that she was perfectly satisfied," said Sir Philip,
courteously. "But it was not in allusion to your singing that she spoke
of wishing to see you again."

"Lady Ashley is very kind," said Janetta, feeling rather surprised.

"She would like to see more of you," Sir Philip went on in a somewhat
blundering fashion. "She is very much alone: it would be a great comfort
to her to have some one about her--some one whom she liked--some one who
would be like a daughter to her----"

A conviction as to the cause of his visit flashed across Janetta's mind.
He was going to ask her to become Lady Ashley's companion! With her
usual quickness she forgot to wait for the proposition, and answered it
before it was made.

"I wish I could be of some use to Lady Ashley," she said, with the warm
directness that Sir Philip had always liked. "I have never seen any one
like her--I admire her so much! You will forgive me for saying so, I
hope? But I could not be spared from home to do anything for her
regularly. If she wants a girl who can read aloud and play nicely, I
think I know of one, but perhaps I had better ask Lady Ashley more
particularly about the qualifications required?"

"I did not say anything about a companion, did I?" said Sir Philip, with
a queer little smile. "Not in your sense of the word, at any rate."

"Oh, I beg your pardon," said Janetta, suddenly flushing scarlet: "I
thought--I understood----"

"You could not possibly know what I meant: I was not at all clear," said
Sir Philip, decidedly. "I had something else in my mind."

She looked at him inquiringly. He rose from his chair and moved about
the room a little, with an appearance of agitation which excited her
deepest wonderment. He averted his eyes from her, and there was
something like a flush on his naturally pale cheek. He seemed really
nervous.

"Is there anything that I can do for Lady Ashley?" said Janetta, at
last, when the silence had lasted as long as she thought desirable.

"There is something you can do for me."

"For you, Sir Philip?"

Sir Philip faced her resolutely. "For me, Miss Colwyn. If I tell you in
very few words, will you forgive my abruptness? I don't think it is any
use beating about the bush in these matters. Will you be my wife? That
is what I came to say."

Janetta sat gazing at him with wide open eyes, as if she thought that he
had taken leave of his senses.

"Don't answer at once; take time," said Sir Philip, quickly. "I know
that I may perhaps have startled you: but I don't want you to answer
hastily. If you would like time for reflection, pray take it. I hope
that reflection will lead you to say that you will at least try to like
me enough to become my wife."

Janetta felt that he was very forbearing. Some men in his position would
have thought it sufficient to indicate their choice, and then to expect
the favored lady, especially if she were small and brown and plain, and
worked for her bread, to fall at his feet in an ecstasy of joy. Janetta
had never yet felt inclined to fall at anybody's feet. But Sir Philip's
forbearance seemed to call for additional care and speed in answering
him.

"But--I am sure Lady Ashley----" she began, and stopped.

"My mother will welcome you as a daughter," said Sir Philip, gently.
"She sends her love to you to-day, and hopes that you will consent to
make me happy."

Janetta sat looking at her crossed hands. "Oh, it is
impossible--impossible," she murmured.

"Why so? If there is no obstacle in--in your own affections, it seems to
me that it would be quite possible," said Sir Philip, standing before
her in an attitude of some urgency. "But perhaps you have a dislike to
me?"

"Oh, no." She could not say more--she could not look up.

"I think I could make your life a happy one. You would not find me
difficult. And you need have no further anxiety about your family; we
could find some way of managing that. You think as I do about so many
subjects that I am sure we should be happy together."

It was a big bribe. That was how Janetta looked at it in that moment.
She was certain that Sir Philip did not love her: she knew that she did
not love Sir Philip; and yet--it did seem that she might have a happy,
easy, honored life if she consented to marry him--a life that would make
her envied by many who had previously scorned her, and which would be,
she hoped, productive of good to those whom she deeply loved. It was a
bribe--a temptation. She was tempted, as any girl might have been, to
exchange her life of toil and anxiety for one of luxury and peace; but
there was something that she would also have to lose--the clear, upright
conscience, the love of truth, the conviction of well-doing. She could
not keep these and become Sir Philip's wife.



CHAPTER XXVIII.

"CHANGES MUST COME."


She raised her eyes at length, and looked Sir Philip in the face. What a
manly, honest, intelligent face it was! One that a woman might well be
proud of in her husband: the face of a man whom she might very safely
trust. Janetta thought all this, as she made her answer.

"I am very sorry, Sir Philip, but I cannot be your wife."

"You are answering me too hastily. Think again--take a day, a week--a
month if you like. Don't refuse without considering the matter, I beg of
you."

Janetta shook her head. "No consideration will make any difference."

"I know that I am not attractive," said her suitor, after a moment's
pause, in a somewhat bitter tone. "I have not known how to woo--how to
make pretty speeches and protestations--but for all that, I should make,
I believe, a very faithful and loving husband. I am almost certain that
I could make you happy, Janetta--if you will let me call you so--may I
not try?"

"I should not feel that I was doing right," said Janetta, simply.

It was the only answer that could have made Sir Philip pause. He was
quite prepared for hesitation and reluctance of a sort; but a scruple of
conscience was a thing that he respected. "Why not?" he said, in a
surprised tone.

"I have two or three reasons. I don't think I can tell them to you, Sir
Philip; but they are quite impossible for me to forget."

"Then I think you would be doing better to tell me," said he, gently. He
pulled a chair forward, sat down close to Janetta, and quietly laid his
hand upon hers. "Now, what are they--these reasons?" he asked.

Her seat was lower than his chair, and she was obliged to lift her eyes
when she looked at him. His face compelled truthfulness. And Janetta was
wise enough to know whom she might trust.

"If I speak frankly, will you forgive me?" she said.

"If you will speak frankly, I shall esteem it a great honor."

"Then," said Janetta, bravely, "one of my reasons is this. You are most
kind, and I know that you would be always good to me. I might even, as
you say, be very happy after a time, but you do not--care for me--you do
not love me, and"--here she nearly broke down--"and--I think you love
some one else."

Sir Philip made a movement as if to take away his hand; but he
restrained himself and grasped hers still more closely.

"And who is it that I am supposed to care for?" he asked, in a light
tone.

"Margaret," Janetta answered, almost in a whisper. Then there was a
silence, and this time Sir Philip did slowly withdraw his hand. But he
did not look angry.

"I see," he said, "you are a friend of hers: you doubtless heard about
my proposition to her concerning the Miss Polehampton business."

Janetta looked surprised. "No, I heard nothing of that. And indeed I
heard very little from Margaret. I heard a good deal from Lady
Caroline."

"Ah, that woman!" cried Sir Philip, getting up and making a little
gesture with his hand, expressive of contempt. "She is worldly to the
core. Did she tell you why Margaret refused me?"

"I did not know--exactly--that she had. Lady Caroline said that it was a
misunderstanding," said Janetta, the startled look growing in her eyes.

"Just like her. She wanted to bring me back. Forgive me for speaking so
hotly, but I am indignant with Lady Caroline Adair. She has done
Margaret incalculable harm."

"But Margaret herself is so sweet and generous and womanly," said
Janetta, watching his face carefully, "that she would recover from all
that harm if she were in other hands."

"Yes, yes; I believe she would," he answered, eagerly. "It only needs to
take her from her mother, and she would be perfect." He stopped,
suddenly abashed by Janetta's smile. "In her way, of course, I mean," he
added, rather confusedly.

"Ah," said Janetta, "it is certain that I should never be perfect. And
after Margaret!"

"I esteem you, I respect you, much more than Margaret."

"But esteem is not enough, Sir Philip. No, you do not love me; and I
think--if I may say so--that you do love Margaret Adair."

Sir Philip reddened distressfully, and bit his lip.

"I am quite sure, Miss Colwyn, that I have no thoughts of her that would
do you an injustice. I did love Margaret--perhaps--but I found that I
was mistaken in her. And she is certainly lost to me now. She loves
another."

"And you will love another one day, if you do not win her yet," said
Janetta, with decision. "But you do not love _me_, and I certainly will
never marry any one who does not. Besides--I should have a feeling of
treachery to Margaret."

"Which would be quite absurd and unwarrantable. Think of some better
reason if you want to convince me. I hope still to make you believe that
I do care for you."

Janetta shook her head. "It's no use, Sir Philip. I should be doing very
wrong if I consented, knowing what I do. And besides, there _is_ another
reason. I cannot tell it to you, but indeed there is a good reason for
my not marrying you."

"Has it anything to do with position--or--or money, may I ask? Because
these things are immaterial to me."

"And I'm afraid I did not think about them," said Janetta, with a frank
blush, which made him like her better than ever. "I ought to have
remembered how great an honor you were doing me and been grateful!--no,
it was not that."

"Then you care for some one else? That is what it is."

"I suppose it is," said Janetta.

And then a very different kind of blush began--a blush of shame, which
dyed her forehead and ears and neck with so vivid a crimson hue that Sir
Philip averted his eyes in honest sympathy.

"I'm afraid, then," he said, ruefully, but kindly, "that there's nothing
more to be said."

"Nothing," said Janetta, wishing her cheeks would cool.

Sir Philip rose from his chair, and stood for a moment as if not knowing
whether to go or stay. Janetta rose too.

"If you were to change your mind----" he said.

"This is a thing about which I could not possibly change my mind, Sir
Philip."

"I am sorry for it." And then he took his leave, and Janetta went to her
room to bathe her hot face and to wonder at the way in which the
whirligig of Time brings its revenges.

"Who would have thought it?" she said to herself, half diverted and half
annoyed. "When Miss Polehampton used to lecture me on the difference of
Margaret's position and mine, and when Lady Caroline patronized me, I
certainly never thought that I should be asked to become Lady Ashley. To
take Margaret's place! I have a feeling--and I always had--that he is
the proper husband for her, and that everything will yet come right
between them. If I had said 'yes'--if I only _could_ have said 'yes,'
for the children's sake--I should never have got over the impression
that Margaret was secretly reproaching me! And as it is, she may
reproach me yet. For Wyvis will not make her happy if he marries her:
and she will not make Wyvis happy. And as for me, although he is, I
suppose, legally divorced from his wife, I do not think that I could
bear to marry him under such circumstances. But Margaret is different,
perhaps, from me."

But the more she meditated upon the subject, the more was Janetta
surprised at Margaret's conduct. It seemed unlike her; it was
uncharacteristic. Margaret might be for a time under the charm of Wyvis
Brand's strong individuality; but if she married him, a miserable
awakening was almost sure to come to her at last. To exchange the
smooth life, the calm and the luxury, of Helmsley Court for the gloom,
the occasional tempests, and the general crookedness of existence at the
Red House would be no agreeable task for Margaret. Of the two, Janetta
felt that life at the Red House would be far the more acceptable to
herself: she did not mind a little roughness, and she had a great
longing to bring mirth and sunshine into the gloomy precincts of her
cousin's house. Janetta agreed with Lady Caroline as to the
inadvisability of Margaret's attachment to Wyvis far more than Lady
Caroline gave her credit for.

Lady Caroline was almost angrier than she had ever been in her life. She
had had some disagreeable experiences during the last few hours. She had
had visitors, since Lady Ashley's garden-party, and amongst them had
been numbered two or three of her intimate friends who had "warned" her,
as they phrased it, against "Margaret's infatuation for that wild Mr.
Brand." Lady Caroline listened with her most placid smile, but raged
inwardly. That her peerless Margaret should have been indiscreet! She
was sure that it was only indiscretion--nothing more--but even that was
insufferable! And what had Alicia Stone been doing? Where had her eyes
been? Had she been bribed or coaxed into favoring the enemy?

Miss Stone had had a very unpleasant half-hour with her patroness that
morning. It had ended in her going away weeping to pack up her boxes;
for Lady Caroline literally refused to condone the injury done to
Margaret by any carelessness of chaperonage on Miss Stone's part. "You
must be quite unfit for your post, Alicia," she said, severely. "I am
sorry that I shall not be able to recommend you for Lord Benlomond's
daughters. I never thought you particularly wise, but such gross
carelessness I certainly never did expect." Now this was unfortunate for
Alicia, who had been depending on Lady Caroline's good offices to get
her a responsible position as chaperon to three motherless girls in
Scotland.

Lady Caroline had as yet not said a single word to Margaret. She had not
even changed her caressing manner for one of displeasure. But she had
kept the girl with her all the morning, and had come out alone only
because Margaret had gone for a drive with two maiden aunts who had
just arrived for a week, and with whom Lady Caroline felt that she would
be absolutely safe. She was glad that she had the afternoon to herself.
It gave her an opportunity of seeing Janetta Colwyn, and of conducting
some business of her own as well. For after seeing Janetta she ordered
the coachman to drive to the office of her husband's local solicitor,
and in this office she remained for more than half an hour. The lawyer,
Mr. Greggs by name, accompanied her with many smiles and bows to the
carriage.

"I am sure we shall be able to do all that your ladyship wishes," he
said, politely. "You shall have information in a day or two." Whereat
Lady Caroline looked satisfied.

It was nearly six o'clock when she reached home, and her absence had
caused some astonishment in the house. Tea had been carried out as usual
to the seats under the cedar-tree on the lawn, and Mr. Adair's two
sisters were being waited on by Margaret, fair and innocent-looking as
usual, in her pretty summer gown. Lady Caroline's white eyelids veiled a
glance of sudden sharpness, as she noticed her daughter's unruffled
serenity. Margaret puzzled her. For the first time in her life she
wondered whether she had been mistaken in the girl, who had always
seemed to reproduce so accurately the impressions that her teachers and
guardians wished to make. Had it been, all seeming? and was Margaret
mentally and morally an ugly duckling, hatched in a hen's nest?

"Dear mamma, how tired you look," said the girl, softly. "Some fresh tea
is coming for you directly. I took Alicia a cup myself, but she would
not let me in. She said she had a headache."

"I dare say," replied Lady Caroline, a little absently. "At least--I
will go to see her presently: she may be better before dinner. I hope
you enjoyed your drive, dear Isabel."

Isabel was the elder of Mr. Adair's two sisters.

"Oh, exceedingly. Margaret did the honors of her County so well: she
seems to know the place by heart."

"She has ridden with Reginald a good deal," said the mother.

Margaret had seated herself beside the younger of the aunts--Miss
Rosamond Adair--and was talking to her in a low voice.

"How lovely she is!" Miss Adair murmured to her sister-in-law. "She
ought to marry well, Caroline."

"I hope so," said Lady Caroline, placidly. "But I always think that
Margaret will be difficult to satisfy." It was not her _rôle_ to confide
in her husband's sisters, of all people in the world.

"We heard something about Sir Philip Ashley: was there anything in it?"

Lady Caroline smiled. "I should have thought him everything that was
desirable," she said, "but Margaret did not seem to see it in that
light. Poor dear Sir Philip was very much upset."

"Ah, well, she may do better!"

"Perhaps so. Of course we should never think of forcing the dear child's
inclinations," said Lady Caroline.

And yet she was conscious that she had laid her hand on a weapon with
which she meant to beat down Margaret's inclinations to the ground. But
it was natural to her to talk prettily.

Wheels were heard at that moment coming up the drive. Lady Caroline,
raising her eyes, saw that Margaret started as the sound fell upon her
ear.

"A bad sign!" she said to herself. "Girls do not start and change color
when nothing is wrong. Margaret used not to be nervous. I wonder how far
that man went with her. She may be unconscious of his intentions--he may
not have any; and then she will have been made conspicuous for nothing!
I wish the Brands had stayed away for another year or two."

The sound of wheels had proceeded from a dog-cart in which Mr. Adair,
after an absence of a fortnight, was driving from the station. In a very
few minutes he had crossed the lawn, greeted his wife, sisters and
daughter, and thrown himself lazily into a luxurious lounging-chair.

"Ah, this is delightful!" he said. "London is terribly smoky and grimy
at this time of year. And you all look charming--and so exactly the same
as ever! Nothing changes down here, does it, my Pearl?"

He was stroking Margaret's hand, which lay upon his knee, as he spoke.
The girl colored and dropped her eyes.

"Changes must come to us all," she said, in a low voice.

"A very trite remark, my dear," said Lady Caroline, smiling, "but we
need not anticipate changes _before_ they come. We are just as we were
when you went away, Reginald, and nothing at all has happened."

She thought that Margaret looked at her oddly, but she did not care to
meet her daughter's eyes just then. Lady Caroline was not an unworldly
woman, not a very conscientious one, or apt to set a great value on fine
moral distinctions; but she did regret just then that she had not
impressed on her daughter more deeply the virtue of perfect
truthfulness.

"By-the-by," said Mr. Adair, "I saw some letters on the hall table and
brought them out with me. Will you excuse me if I open them? Why--that's
the Brands' crest."

Lady Caroline wished that he had left the words unsaid. Margaret's face
went crimson and then turned very pale. Her mother saw her embarrassment
and hastened to relieve it.

"Margaret, dear, will you take Alicia my smelling salts? I think they
may relieve her headache. Tell her not to get up--I will come and see
her soon."

And as Margaret departed, Mr. Adair with lifted eyebrows and in
significant silence handed an envelope to his wife. She glanced at it
with perfectly unmoved composure. It was what she had been expecting: a
letter from Wyvis Brand asking for the hand of their daughter, Margaret
Adair.



CHAPTER XXIX.

MARGARET'S CONFESSION.


Margaret heard nothing of her lover's letter that night. It was not
thought desirable that the tranquillity of the evening should be
disturbed. Lady Caroline would have sacrificed a good deal sooner than
the harmonious influences of a well-appointed dinner and the passionless
refinement of an evening spent with her musical and artistic friends.
Mr. Adair's sisters were women of cultured taste, and she had asked two
gentlemen to meet them, therefore it was quite impossible (from her
point of view) to discuss any difficult point before the morning.
Margaret, who knew pretty well what was coming, spent a rather feverish
half-hour in her room before the ringing of the dinner-bell, expecting
every minute that her mother would appear, or that she would be summoned
to a conference with her father in the library. But when the dinner hour
approached without any attempt at discussion of the matter, and she
perceived that it was to be left until the morrow, it must be confessed
that she drew long breath of relief. She was quite sufficiently well
versed in Lady Caroline's tactics to appreciate the force and wisdom of
this reserve. "It is so much better, of course," she said to herself, as
her maid dressed her hair, "that we should not have any agitating scene
just before dinner. I dare say I should cry--if they were all very grave
and solemn I am sure I should cry!--and it would be so awkward to come
down with red eyes. And, of course, I could not stay upstairs to-night
Perhaps mamma will come to me to-night when every one is gone."

And armed with this anticipation, she went downstairs, looking only a
little more flushed than usual, and able to bear her part in the
conversation and the amusements as easily as if no question as to her
future fate were hanging undecided in the air.

But Lady Caroline did not stay when she visited Margaret that night as
usual in her pretty room. She caressed and kissed her with more than
customary warmth, but she did not attempt to enter into conversation
with her in spite of the soft appeal of Margaret's inquiring eyes. "My
dear child, I cannot possibly stay with you to-night," she said. "Your
Aunt Isabel has asked me to go into her room for a few minutes.
Good-night, my own sweetest: you looked admirable to-night in that lace
dress, and your singing was simply charming. Mr. Bevan was saying that
you ought to have the best Italian masters. Good-night, my darling," and
Margaret was left alone.

She was a little disturbed--a little, not very much. She was not apt to
be irritable or impatient, and she had great confidence in her parents'
love for her. She had never realized that she lived under a yoke.
Everything was made so smooth and easy that she imagined that she had
only to express her will in order to have it granted. That there might
be difficulties she foresaw: her parents might hesitate and parley a
good deal, but she had not the slightest fear of overcoming their
reluctance in course of time. She had always been a young princess, and
nobody had ever seriously combated her will.

"I am sure that if I am resolute enough I shall be allowed to do as I
choose," she said to herself; and possibly this was true enough. But
Margaret had never yet had occasion to measure her resolution against
that of her father and mother.

She went to bed and to sleep, therefore, quite peacefully, and slept
like a child until morning, while Wyvis Brand was frantically pacing up
and down his old hall for the greater part of the night, and Janetta was
wetting her pillow with silent tears, and Philip Ashley, sleepless like
these others, vainly tried to forget his disappointment in the perusal
of certain blue-books. Margaret was the cause of all this turmoil of
mind, but she knew nothing of it, and most certainly did not partake in
it.

She suspected that she was to be spoken to on the subject of Mr. Brand's
letter, when, after breakfast, next morning, she found that her father
was arranging to take his sisters and Miss Stone for a long drive, and
that she was to be left alone with her mother. Lady Caroline had
relented, so far as Alicia was concerned. It would not look well, she
had reflected, to send away her own kinswoman in disgrace, and although
she still felt exceedingly, angry with Alicia, she had formally received
her back into favor, cautioning her only not to speak to Margaret about
Wyvis Brand. When every one was out of the way Lady Caroline knew that
she could more easily have a conversation with her daughter, and
Margaret was well aware of her intent. The girl looked mild and
unobservant as usual, but she was busily engaged in watching for
danger-signals. Her father's manner was decidedly flurried: so much was
evident to her: the very way in which he avoided her eye and glanced
uneasily at her mother spoke volumes to Margaret. It did not surprise
her to see that Lady Caroline's face was as calm, her smile as sweet as
ever: Lady Caroline always masked her emotion well; but there was still
something visible in her eyes (which, in spite of herself, _would_ look
anxious and preoccupied) that made Margaret uncomfortable. Was she going
to have a fight with her parents? She hoped not: it would be quite too
uncomfortable!

"Come here, darling," said Lady Caroline, when the carriage had driven
away; "come to my morning-room and talk to me a little. I want you."

Margaret faintly resisted. "It is my practicing time, mamma."

"But if I want you, dearest----"

"Oh, of course it does not matter," said Margaret, with her usual
instinct of politeness. "I would much rather talk than practice."

The mother laid her hand lightly within her tall daughter's arm, and led
her towards the morning-room, a place of which she was especially fond
in summer, as it was cool, airy, and looked out upon a conservatory full
of blossoming plants. Lady Caroline sank down upon a low soft couch, and
motioned to the girl to seat herself beside her; then, possessing
herself of one of Margaret's hands and stroking it gently, she said with
a smile--

"You have another admirer, Margaret?"

This opening differed so widely from any which the girl had expected
that she opened her eyes with a look of intense surprise.

"Why should you be astonished, darling?" said Lady Caroline, with some
amusement in her light tones. "You have had a good many already, have
you not? And, by the by, you have had one or two very good offers,
Margaret, and you have refused everything. You must really begin to
think a little more seriously of your eligible suitors! This last one,
however, is not an eligible one at all."

"Who, mamma?" said Margaret, faintly.

"The very last man whom I should have expected to come forward," said
her mother. "Indeed, I call it the greatest piece of presumption I ever
heard of. Considering that we are not on visiting terms, even."

"Oh, mamma, do tell me who you mean!"

Lady Adair arched her pencilled eyebrows over this movement of
impatience. "Really, Margaret, darling! But I suppose I must be lenient:
a girl naturally desires to hear about her suitors; but you must not
interrupt me another time, love. It is that most impossible man, Mr.
Brand of the Red House."

Margaret's face flushed from brow to chin. "Why impossible, mamma?"

"Dear child! You are so unworldly! But there is a point at which
unworldliness becomes folly. We must stop short of that. Poor Mr. Brand
is, for one thing, quite out of society."

"Not in Paris or London, mamma. Only in this place, where people are
narrow and bigoted and censorious."

"And where, unfortunately, he has to live," said Lady Caroline, with
gentle firmness. "It matters to _us_ very little what they say of him in
Paris or London: it matters a great deal what the County says."

"But if the County could be induced to take him up!" said Margaret,
rather breathlessly. "He was at Lady Ashley's the other day, and he
seemed to know a great many people. And if you--we--received him, it
would make all the difference in the world."

"Oh, no doubt we could float him if we chose," said Lady Caroline,
indifferently; "but would it really be worth the trouble? Even if he
went everywhere, dear, he would not be a man that I should care to
cultivate; he has not a nice reputation at all."

"Nobody knows of anything wrong that he has done," Margaret averred,
with burning cheeks.

"Well, I have heard of one or two things that are not to his credit. I
am told that he drinks and plays a good deal, that his language to his
groom is something awful, and that he makes his poor little boy drunk
every night." In this version had Wyvis Brand's faults and weaknesses
gone forth to the world near Beaminster! "Then he has very disagreeable
people to visit him, and his mother is not in the least a lady--a
publican's daughter, and not, I am afraid, quite respectable in her
youth." Lady Caroline's voice sank to a whisper. "Some very unpleasant
things have been said about Mrs. Brand. Nobody calls on her. I am very
sorry for her, poor thing, but what could one do? I would not set foot
in the house while she was in it--I really would not. Mr. Brand ought to
send her away."

"But what has she done, mamma?"

"There is no necessity for you to hear, Margaret. I like your mind to be
kept innocent of evil, dear. Surely it is enough if I tell you that
there is something wrong."

The girl was silent for a minute or two: she was beginning to feel
abashed and ashamed. It was in a very low voice that she said at last--

"Mr. Brand would probably find another home for her if he married."

"Oh, most likely. But I do not know that what he would do affects us
particularly. He is quite a poor man: even his family is not very good,
although it is an old one, and it has been the proverb of the
country-side for dissipation and extravagance for upwards of a century."

"But if he had quite reformed," Margaret murmured.

"My darling, what difference would it make? I am sure I do not know why
we discuss the matter: it is a little too ridiculous to speak of it
seriously. Your father will give Mr. Wyvis Brand his answer, and in such
a way that he will not care to repeat his presumptuous and insolent
proposal, and there will be an end of it. I hope, dearest, you have not
been annoyed by the man? I heard something of his pursuing you with his
attentions at Lady Ashley's party."

"Mamma," said Margaret, in a tragic tone, "this must not go on. You must
not speak to me as you are doing now. You do not understand the position
of affairs at all. I----"

"I beg your pardon, darling--one moment. Will you give me that palm-leaf
fan from the mantel-piece? It is really rather a hot morning. Thanks,
dear. What was it you were saying?"

Lady Caroline knew the value of an adroit interruption. She had checked
the flow of Margaret's indignation for the moment, and was well aware
that the girl would not probably begin her speech in quite the same tone
a second time. At the same time she saw that she had given her daughter
a momentary advantage. Margaret did not reseat herself after handing her
mother the fan--she remained standing, a pale, slender figure, somewhat
impressive in the shadows of the half-darkened room, with hands clasped
and head slightly lifted as if in solemn protest.

"Mamma," she began, in a somewhat subdued voice, "I must tell you. Mr.
Brand spoke to me before he wrote to papa. I told him to write."

Lady Caroline put her eye-glass and looked curiously at her daughter.
"You told him to write, my dear child? And how did that come about?
Don't you know that it was equivalent to accepting him?"

"Yes, mamma. And I did accept him."

"My dear Margaret!" The tone was that of pitying contempt. "You must
have been out of your senses! Well, we can easily rectify the
matter--that is one good thing. Why, my darling, when did he find time
to speak to you? At Lady Ashley's?"

"In the park, near the forget-me-not brook," murmured Margaret, with
downcast eyes.

"He met you there?"

"Yes."

"More than once? And you allowed him to meet you? Oh, Margaret!"

Lady Caroline's voice was admirably managed. The gradual surprise,
shocked indignation, and reproach of her tones made the tears come to
Margaret's eyes.

"Indeed, mamma," she said, "I am very sorry. I did not know at first--at
least I did not think--that I was doing what you would not like. He used
to meet me when I went into the park, sometimes--when Alicia was
reading. Alicia did not know. And he was very nice, he was always _nice_
mamma. He told me a great deal about himself--how discontented he was
with his life, and how I might help him to make it better. And I should
like to help him, mamma: it seems to me it would be a good thing to do.
And if you and papa would help him too, he might take quite a different
position in the County."

"My poor child!" said Caroline. "My poor deluded child!"

She lay silent for a few moments, thinking how to frame the argument
which she felt was most likely to appeal to Margaret's tenderer
feelings. "Of course," she said at last, very slowly, "of course, if he
told you so much about his past life, he told you about his
marriage--about that little boy's mother."

"He said that he had been very unhappy. I do not think," said Margaret
with simplicity, "that he loved his first wife as he loves me."

"No doubt he made you think so, dear. His first wife, indeed! Did he
tell you that his first wife was alive?"

"Mamma!"

"He says he is divorced from her," said Lady Caroline, sarcastically,
"and seems to think it is no drawback to have been divorced. I and your
father think differently. I do not mean there is any legal obstacle; but
he took a very unfair advantage of your youth and inexperience by never
letting you know that fact--or, at any rate, letting us know it before
he paid you any attention. That stamps him as not being a gentleman,
Margaret."

"Who told you, mamma?"

"His cousin and your friend," said Lady Caroline, coldly: "Miss Janetta
Colwyn."

Margaret's color had fluctuated painfully for the last few minutes; she
now sat down on a chair near the open window, and turned so pale that
her mother thought her about to faint. Lady Caroline was on her feet
immediately, and began to fan her, and to hold smelling salts to her
nostrils; but in a very short time the girl's color returned, and she
declined any further remedies.

"I did not know this," she said at last, rather piteously, "but it is
too late to make any difference, mamma, it really is. I love Wyvis
Brand, and he loves me. Surely you won't refuse to let us love one
another?"

She caught her mother's hand, and Lady Caroline put her arms around her
daughter's shoulders and kissed her as fondly as ever.

"My poor dear, romantic Child!" she said. "Do you think we can let you
throw yourself quite away?"

"But I have given my promise!"

"Your father must tell Mr. Brand that you cannot keep your promise, my
darling. It is quite out of the question."

And Lady Caroline thought she had settled the whole matter by that
statement.



CHAPTER XXX.

IN REBELLION.


Janetta was naturally very anxious to know something of the progress of
affairs between Wyvis and Margaret, but she heard little for a rather
considerable space of time. She was now entirely severed from Helmsley
Court, and had no correspondence with Margaret. As the summer holidays
had begun, little Julian did not come every morning to Gwynne Street,
but Tiny and Curly were invited to spend a month at the Red House in
charge of Nora, who was delighted to be so much with Cuthbert, and who
had the power of enlivening even the persistent gloom of Mrs. Brand.
Janetta was thus obliged to live a good deal at home, and Wyvis seemed
to shun her society. His relations at home had heard nothing of his
proposal for Margaret's hand, and Janetta, like them, did not know that
it had ever been actually made. Another event drove this matter into the
background for some little time--for it was evidently fated that Janetta
should never be quite at peace.

Mrs. Colwyn summoned her rather mysteriously one afternoon to a
conference in her bedroom.

"Of course I know that you will be surprised at what I am going to say,
Janetta," began the good lady, with some tossings of the head and
flourishings of a handkerchief which rather puzzled Janetta by their
demonstrativeness; "and no doubt you will accuse me of want of respect
of your father's memory and all that sort of thing; though I'm sure I
don't know why, for _he_ married a second time, and I am a young woman
still and not without admirers."

"Do you mean," said Janetta, "that you think----?"

She could go no further: she stood and looked helplessly at her
stepmother.

"Do I think of marrying again? Well, yes, Janetta, I do; and more for
the children's good than for my own. Poor things, they need a father:
and I am tired of this miserable, scraping, cheeseparing life that you
are so fond of. I have been offered a comfortable home and provision for
my children, and I have decided to accept it."

"So soon!"

"It will not be announced just yet, of course. Not until the end of the
summer. But it is really no use to wait."

Janetta stood pale and wide-eyed: she did not dare to let herself speak
just yet. Mrs. Colwyn grew fretful under what she felt to be silent
condemnation.

"I should like to know what harm it can do to you?" she said. "I've
waited quite as long as many widows do, and toiled and suffered more
than most. Poor James was the last man to grudge me a little rest and
satisfaction as a reward for all that I have undergone. My own children
will not repine, I am sure, and I look to you, Janetta, to explain to
them how much for their good it will be, and how advantageous for them
all."

"You can hardly expect me to try to explain away an act of disrespect to
my father's memory," said Janetta, coldly.

"There is no disrespect to the dead in marrying a second time."

"After a decent interval."

Mrs. Colwyn burst into tears. "It's the first time in my life that I've
ever been told that I was going to do a thing that wasn't decent," she
moaned. "And when it's all for his dear children's good, too! Ah, well!
I'll give it up, I'll say no, and we will all starve and go down into
the grave together, and then perhaps you will be satisfied."

"Mamma, please do not talk such nonsense. Who is it that has asked you
to be his wife?"

"Dr. Burroughs," said Mrs. Colwyn, faintly.

Janetta uttered an involuntary exclamation. Dr. Burroughs was certainly
a man of sixty-five, but he was strong and active still; he had a good
position in the town, and a large private income. His sister, who kept
his house, was a good and sensible woman, and Dr. Burroughs himself was
reputed to be a sagacious man. His fondness for children was well known,
and a little thought convinced Janetta that his choice of a wife had
been partly determined by his liking for Tiny and Curly, to say nothing
of the elder children. He had been a close friend of Mr. Colwyn, and it
was not likely that Mrs. Colwyn's infirmity had remained a secret from
him: he must have learned it from common town-talk long ago. Angry as
Janetta was, and petrified with surprise, she could not but acknowledge
in her heart that such a marriage was a very good one for Mrs. Colwyn,
and would probably be of immense advantage to the children. And the old
physician and his sister would probably be able to keep Mrs. Colwyn in
check: Janetta remembered that she had heard of one or two cases of
intemperance which had been cured under his roof. As soon as she could
get over her intense feeling that a slur was thrown on her father's
memory by this very speedy second marriage of his widow, her
common-sense told her that she might be very glad. But it was difficult
to rid herself all at once of her indignation of what she termed "this
indecent haste."

She made an effort to calm Mrs. Colwyn's fretful sobbing, and assured
her with as much grace as she had at command that the marriage would not
at all displease her if it took place at a somewhat later date. And she
reflected that Dr. and Miss Burroughs might be depended upon not to
violate conventionalities. Her own soreness with regard to the little
affection displayed by Mrs. Colwyn to her late husband must be disposed
of as best it might: there was no use in exhibiting it.

And as Mrs. Colwyn had hinted, it fell to Janetta to inform the rest of
the family of their mother's intention, and to quell symptoms of
indignation and discontent. After all, things might have been worse. The
children already liked Dr. Burroughs, and soon reconciled themselves to
the notion of living in a large, comfortable house, with a big garden,
and unlimited treats and pleasures provided by their future stepfather
and aunt. And when Janetta had had an interview with these two good
people, her mind was considerably relieved. They were kind and generous;
and although she could not help feeling that Dr. Burroughs was marrying
for the sake of the children rather than their mother, she saw that he
would always be thoughtful and affectionate to her, and that she would
probably have a fairly happy and luxurious life. One thing was also
evident--that he would be master in his own house, as James Colwyn had
never been.

The marriage was to take place at Christmas, and the house in Gwynne
Street was then to be let. Cuthbert and Nora began to talk of marrying
at the same time, for Nora was somewhat violently angry at her mother's
proceeding, and did not wish to go to Dr. Burroughs' house. The younger
members of the family would all, however, migrate to The Cedars, as Dr.
Burroughs' house was called; and there Miss Burroughs was still to
maintain her sway. On this point Dr. Burroughs had insisted, and Janetta
was thankful for it, and Miss Burroughs was quite able and willing to
perform the duty of guardian not only to her brother's step-children,
but to her brother's wife.

"And of course you will come to us, too, dear?" Miss Burroughs said to
Janetta. "This will be your home always: Andrew particularly wished me
to say so."

"It is very kind of Dr. Burroughs," said Janetta, gratefully. "I have no
claim on him at all: I am not Mrs. Colwyn's daughter."

"As if that made any difference! James Colwyn was one of Andrew's best
friends, and for his sake, if for no other, you will be always welcome."

"I am very much obliged to you," Janetta replied, "and I shall be
pleased to come to you now and then as a visitor; but I have made up my
mind that now--now that my duty seems to be done, I had better go out
into the world and try to make a career for myself. I shall be happier
at work than leading an idle, easy life. But please do not think me
ungrateful--only I _must_ get away."

And Miss Burroughs, looking into the girl's worn face, and noticing the
peculiar significance of her tone, refrained from pressing the point.
She was sure from both that some hidden pain existed, that there was
some secret reason why Janetta felt that she "_must_ get away." She was
anxious to help the girl, but she saw that it would be no true kindness
to keep her in Beaminster against her will.

These matters took some time to arrange, and it was while some of them
were still pending that Janetta was startled by a visit from Margaret
Adair.

It was a sultry day towards the end of July, and Miss Adair looked for
once hot and dusty. She was much thinner than she had been, and had a
harassed expression which Janetta could not fail to remark. As she
hurriedly explained, she had walked some little distance, leaving Alicia
Stone at the Post Office, and it afterwards transpired, giving her
mother the slip at a confectioner's, in order to see Janetta once again.

"It is very kind of you, dear," said Janetta, touched, rather against
her will, by so unwonted a proof of affection. "But I am afraid that
Lady Caroline would not be pleased."

"I know she would not," said Margaret, a little bitterly. "She did not
want me to see any more of you. I told her how unjust it was to blame
you, but she would not believe me."

"It does not matter, Margaret, dear, I do not much mind."

"I thought I should like to see you once again." Margaret spoke with
unusual haste, and almost in a breathless manner. "I want to know if you
would do something for me. You used to say you would do anything for
me."

"So I will, if I can."

"We were going abroad in a few days. I don't know where, exactly: they
won't tell me. They are angry with me, Janetta, and I can't bear it,"
cried Margaret, breaking suddenly into tears which were evidently very
heartfelt, although they did not disfigure that fair and placid face of
hers in the slightest degree; "they were never angry with me before, and
it is terrible. They may take me away and keep me away for years, and I
don't know what to do. The only thing I can think of is to ask you to
help me. I want to send a message to Wyvis--I want to write to him if
you will give him the letter."

"But why do you not write him through the post?"

"Oh, because I promised not to post anything to him. Mamma said she must
supervise my correspondence unless I promised not to write to him. And
so I keep my word--but a few lines through you, Janet, darling, would
not be breaking my word at all, for it would not be a letter exactly.
And I want to arrange when I can see him again."

Janetta drew back a little. "It would be breaking the spirit of your
promise, Margaret. No, I cannot help you to do that."

"Oh, Janetta, you would never be so hard as to refuse me! I only want to
tell Wyvis that I am true to him, and that I don't mind what the world
says one bit, because I know how people tell lies about him! You know
you always promised to stand by me and to be my best friend."

"Yes, but I never promised to do a dishonorable action for you," said
Janetta, steadily.

Margaret started up, her face a-flame directly.

"How dare you say such a thing to me, Janetta?" she exclaimed.

"I cannot help it, Margaret, you know that I am right."

The two looked at each other for a moment, and then Margaret turned away
with the mien of an insulted princess.

"I was wrong to come. I thought that you would be true to the old bond
of friendship between us. I shall never come to you again."

Poor Janetta's heart was very tender, although her resolution was
impregnable. She ran after Margaret, putting her hands on her arm, and
imploring her with tears to forgive her for her refusal. "If it were
only anything else, Margaret, dear! If only you did not want me to do
what your father and mother do not wish! Don't you see that you are
trying to deceive them? If you were acting openly it would be a
different thing! Don't be angry with me for wanting to do right!"

"I am not at all angry," said Margaret, with stateliness. "I am very
disappointed, that is all. I do not see that I am deceiving anybody by
sending a message to Wyvis. But I will not ask you again."

"If only I could!" sighed Janetta, in deep distress and confusion of
mind. But her anchor of truth and straightforwardness was the thing of
all others that she relied on for safety, and she did not let go her
hold. In spite of Margaret's cold and haughty displeasure, Janetta
kissed her affectionately, and could not refrain from saying, "Dear, I
would do anything for you that I thought right. But don't--don't deceive
your father and mother."

"I will not, as you shall see," returned Margaret, and she left the
house without again looking at her former friend. Janetta felt very
bitterly, as she watched the graceful figure down the street, that the
old friendship had indeed become impossible in its older sense. Her very
faithfulness to the lines in which it had been laid down now made it an
offence to Margaret.

Janetta's direct and straightforward dealing had the effect of driving
Margaret, though chiefly out of perversity, to do likewise. Miss Adair
was not accustomed to be withstood, and, during the unexpected
opposition with which her wishes had been met, her mind had turned very
often to Janetta with unswerving faith in her old friend's readiness to
help her at an emergency.

In this faith she considered that she had been cruelly disappointed. And
her mingled anger, shame, and sorrow so blinded her to the circumstances
in which she stood, that she walked quietly up to Lady Caroline and
Alicia Stone in Beaminster High Street, and did not think of hiding her
escapade at all.

"My dearest child, where _have_ you been?" cried Lady Caroline, who was
always caressing, if inflexible.

"I have been to Janetta Colwyn's, mamma," said Margaret, imperturbably,
"to ask her to give a message to Mr. Brand."

"Margaret! Have you quite forgotten yourself? Oh, that unsuitable
friendship of yours!"

"I don't think you need call it unsuitable, mamma," Margaret rejoined,
with a weary little smile. "Janetta absolutely refused to give the
message, and told me to obey my parents. I really do not see that _you_
can blame her."

Lady Caroline replied only by a look of despair which spoke unutterable
things, and then she walked onward to the spot where she had left the
carriage. The three ladies drove home in complete silence. Lady Caroline
was seriously displeased, Alicia curious, Margaret in rebellion and
disgrace. The state of things was becoming very grave, for the whole
tenor of life at Helmsley Court was disturbed, and Margaret's father and
mother wanted their daughter to be a credit and an ornament to them, not
a cause of disturbance and irritation. Margaret had kept up a gallant
fight: she had borne silence, cold looks, absence of caresses, with
unwavering courage; but she began now to find the situation unendurable.
And a little doubt had lately been creeping into her heart--was it all
worth while? If Wyvis Brand were really as undesirable a _parti_ as he
was represented to be, Margaret was not sure that her lot would be very
happy as his wife. Hitherto she had maintained that the stories told
about him, his habits and his position, were falsehoods. But if--she
began to think--if they were true, and if a marriage with him would
exclude her from the society to which she had been accustomed, was it
worth while to fight as hard as she had done? Perhaps, after all, her
mother and her father were right.

Lady Caroline, not knowing of these weaknesses in Margaret's defence,
was inclined for once to be more severe than caressing. She went
straight to her husband when she entered the Court, and had a long
conversation with him. Then she proceeded to Margaret's room.

"I have been talking to your father, Margaret," she said coldly, "and we
are both very much distressed at the course which things are taking."

"So am I, mamma," said Margaret.

"Of course we cannot proceed in the mediæval fashion, and lock you up in
your own room until you are reasonable," said Lady Caroline, with a
faint smile. "I should have thought that your own instinct as a lady
would have precluded you from doing anything that would make it
necessary for us to lay any restraint upon you; but to-day's occurrence
really makes me afraid. You have promised not to write to Mr. Brand, I
think?"

"Yes. But I meant to send him a little note to-day."

"Indeed? Then what I have to say is all the more necessary. We do not
restrict you to any part of the house, but you must understand that when
you come out of your own room, Margaret, you are never to be alone.
Alicia will sit with you, if I am engaged. She will walk with you, if
you wish to go out into the garden. I have no doubt it will be a little
unpleasant," said Lady Caroline, with a slight, agreeable smile, "to be
constantly under _surveillance_, and of course it will last only until
we leave home next week; but in the meantime, my dear, unless you will
give up your _penchant_ for Mr. Brand, you must submit to be watched.
You cannot be allowed to run off with messages to this man as if you
were a milliner's girl or a servant maid: _we_ manage these matters
differently."

And then Lady Caroline withdrew, though not too late to see the girl
sink down into a large arm-chair and burst into a very unwonted passion
of sobs and tears.

"So tiresome of Margaret to force one to behave in this absurd manner!"
reflected Lady Caroline. "So completely out of date in modern days!"



CHAPTER XXXI.

THE PLOUGHMAN'S SON.


Two or three days after Margaret's visit to Gwynne Street, Janetta
availed herself of Mrs. Colwyn's temporary absence in Miss Burroughs'
company to pay a visit to the Red House. Her anxiety to know what was
occurring between Wyvis and Margaret had become almost uncontrollable
and, although she was not very likely to hear much about it from Wyvis
or his mother, she vaguely hoped to gather indications at least of the
state of affairs from her cousin's aspect and manners.

It was plain that Wyvis was not in a happy mood. His brow was dark, his
tone sarcastic; he spoke roughly once or twice to his mother and to his
little son. He evidently repented of his roughness, however, as soon as
the words were out of his mouth, for he went over to Mrs. Brand's side
and kissed her immediately afterwards, and gave some extra indulgence to
Julian by way of making up for his previous severity. Still the
irritation of feeling existed, and could not be altogether repressed
when he spoke; and when he was silent he fell into a condition of gloom
which was even more depressing than his sharpness. Janetta did her best
to be cheerful and talkative to Mrs. Brand, and she fancied that he
liked to listen; for he sat on with them in the blue room long after
Nora and Cuthbert had disappeared into the garden and the children were
romping in the wood. Certainly he did not say much to her, but he seemed
greatly disinclined to move.

After a time, Mrs. Brand and Janetta adjourned to the hall, which was
always a favorite place of resort on summer evenings. Traces of the
children's presence made the rooms more cheerful than they used to
be--to Janetta's thinking. Tiny's doll and Julian's ball were more
enlivening to the place than even Cuthbert's sketches and Nora's bunches
of wild flowers. And here, too, Wyvis followed them in an aimless,
subdued sort of way; and, having asked and obtained permission to light
a cigarette, he threw himself into a favorite chair, and seemed to
listen dreamily, while Janetta held patient discourse with his mother on
the ailments of the locality and the difficulty of getting the housework
done. Janetta glanced at him from time to time; he sat so quietly that
she would have thought him sleeping but for the faint blue spirals of
smoke that went up from his cigarette. It was six o'clock in the
evening, and the golden lights and long shadows made Janetta long to be
out of doors; but Mrs. Brand had a nervous fear of rheumatism, and did
not want to move.

"What is that?" said Wyvis, suddenly rousing himself.

Nobody else had heard anything. He strode suddenly to the door, and
flung it open. Janetta heard the quavering tones of the old man-servant,
an astonished, enraptured exclamation from Wyvis himself; and she
knew--instinctively--what to expect. She turned round; it was as she
had feared. Margaret was there. Wyvis was leading her into the room with
the fixed look of adoration in his eyes which had been so much commented
upon at Lady Ashley's party. When she was present, he evidently saw none
but her. Janetta rose quickly and withdrew a little into the back
ground. She wished for a moment that she had not been there--and then it
occurred to her that she might be useful by and by. But it was perhaps
better for Margaret not to see her too soon. Mrs. Brand, utterly
unprepared for this visit, not even knowing the stranger by sight, and,
as usual, quite unready for an emergency, rose nervously from her seat
and stood, timid, awkward, and anxious, awaiting an explanation.

"Mother, this is Margaret Adair," said Wyvis, as quietly as if his
mother knew all that was involved in that very simple formula. He was
still holding the girl by the hand and gazing in his former rapt manner
into her face. It was not the look of a lover, to Janetta's eye, half so
much as the worship of a saint. Margaret embodied for Wyvis Brand the
highest aspirations, the purest dreams of his youth.

As to Margaret, Janetta thought that she was looking exquisitely lovely.
Her thinness added to the impression of ethereal beauty; there was a
delicacy about her appearance which struck the imagination. Her color
fluctuated; her eyes shone like stars; and her whole frame seemed a
little tremulous, as if she were shaken by some strange and powerful
emotion to her very soul. Her broad-brimmed straw hat, white dress, and
long tan gloves belonged, as Janetta knew, only to her ordinary attire
when no visitors were to be seen; but simplicity of dress always seemed
to garnish Margaret's beauty, and to throw it into the strongest
possible relief. She was sufficiently striking in aspect to frighten
poor, timid Mrs. Brand, who was never happy when she found herself in
the company of "fashionable" people. But it was with a perfectly simple
and almost child-like manner that Margaret drew her finger away from
Wyvis' clasp and went up to his mother, holding out both hands as if in
appeal for help.

"I am Margaret," she said. "I ought not to have come; but what could I
do? They are going to take me away from the Court to-morrow, and I
could not go without seeing you and Wyvis first."

"Wyvis?" repeated Mrs. Brand, blankly. She had not taken Margaret's
hands, but now she extended her right hand in a stiff, lifeless fashion,
which looked like anything but a welcome. "I do not know--I do not
understand----"

"It is surely easy enough to understand," said Wyvis, vehemently. "She
loves me--she has promised to be my wife--and you must love her, too,
for my sake, as well as for her own."

"Won't you love me a little?" said Margaret, letting her eyes rest
pleadingly on Mrs. Brand's impassive face. She was not accustomed to
being met in this exceedingly unresponsive manner. Wyvis made a slight
jesture of impatience, which his mother perfectly understood. She tried,
in her difficult, frozen way, to say something cordial.

"I am very pleased to see you," she faltered. "You must excuse me if I
did not understand at first. Wyvis did not tell me."

Then she sank into her chair again, more out of physical weakness than
from any real intention to seat herself. Her hand stole to her side, as
if to still the beating of her heart; her face had turned very pale.
Only Janetta noticed these signs, which betrayed the greatness of the
shock; Margaret, absorbed in her own affairs, and Wyvis absorbed in
Margaret, had no eyes for the poor mother's surprise and agitation.
Janetta made a step forward, but she saw that she could do nothing. Mrs.
Brand was recovering her composure, and the other two were not in a mood
to bear interruption. So she waited, and meanwhile Margaret spoke.

"Dear Mrs. Brand," she said, kneeling at the side of the trembling
woman, and laying her clasped hands on her lap, "forgive me for
startling you like this." Even Janetta wondered at the marvelous
sweetness of Margaret's tones. "Indeed, I would not have come if there
had been any other way of letting Wyvis know. They made me promise not
to write to him, not to meet him in the wood where we met before you
know, and they watched me, so that I could not get out, or send a
message or anything. It has been like living in prison during the last
few days." And the girl sobbed a little, and laid her forehead for a
moment on her clasped hands.

"It's a shame--a shame! It must not go on," exclaimed Wyvis,
indignantly.

"In one way it will not go on," said Margaret, raising her head. "They
are going to take me away, and we are not to come back for the whole
winter--perhaps not next year at all. I don't know where we are going. I
shall never be allowed to write. And I thought it would be terrible to
go without letting Wyvis know that I will never, never forget him. And I
am only nineteen now, and I can't do as I like; but, when I am
twenty-one, nobody can prevent me----"

"Why should anybody prevent you now?" said Wyvis gloomily. He drew
nearer and laid his hand upon her shoulder. "Why should you wait? You
are safe: you have come to my mother, and she will take care of you. Why
need you go back again?"

"Is that right, Wyvis?" said Janetta. She could not keep silence any
longer. Wyvis turned on her almost fiercely. Margaret who had not seen
her before started up and faced her, with a look of something like
terror.

"It is no business of yours," said the man. "This matter is between
Margaret and myself. Margaret must decide it. I do not ask her to
compromise herself in any way. She shall be in my mother's care. All she
will have to do is to trust to me----"

"I think we need hardly trouble you, Mr. Brand," said another voice.
"Margaret will be better in the care of her own mother than in that of
Mrs. Brand or yourself."

Lady Caroline Adair stood on the threshold. Lady Caroline addressed the
little group, on which a sudden chill and silence fell for a moment, as
if her appearance heralded some portentous crash of doom. The door had
been left ajar when Margaret entered; it was not easy to say how much of
the conversation Lady Caroline had heard. Mrs. Brand started up;
Margaret turned very pale and drew back, while Wyvis came closer to her
and put his arm round her with an air of protective defiance. Janetta
drew a quick breath of relief. A disagreeable scene would follow she
knew well; and there were probably unpleasant times in store for
Margaret, but these were preferable to the course of rebellion, open or
secret, to which the girl was being incited by her too ardent lover.

Janetta never admired Lady Caroline so much as she did just then.
Margaret's mother was the last person to show discomposure. She sat down
calmly, although no one had asked her to take a chair, and smilingly
adjusted the lace shawl which she had thrown round her graceful figure.
There were no signs of haste or agitation in her appearance. She wore a
very elegant and becoming dress, a Paris bonnet on her head, a pair of
French gloves on her slender hands. She became at once the centre of the
group, the ornamental point on which all eyes were fixed. Every one else
was distressed, frightened, or angry; but Lady Caroline's pleasing smile
and little air of society was not for one moment to be disturbed.

"It is really very late for a call," she said, quietly, "but as I found
that my daughter was passing this way, I thought I would follow her
example and take the opportunity of paying a visit to Mrs. Brand. It is
not, however, the first time that we have met."

She looked graciously towards Mrs. Brand, but that poor woman was
shaking in every limb. Janetta put her arms round Mrs. Brand's
shoulders. What did Lady Caroline mean? She had some purpose to fulfil,
or she would not sit so quietly, pretending not to notice that her
daughter was holding Wyvis Brand by the hand and that one of his arms
was round her waist. There was something behind that fixed, agreeable
smile.

"No," said Lady Caroline, reflectively, "not the first time. The last
time I saw you, Mrs. Brand----"

"Oh, my lady, my lady!" Mrs. Brand almost shrieked, "for heaven's sake,
my lady, don't go on!"

She covered her face with her hands and rocked herself convulsively to
and fro. Wyvis frowned and bit his lip: Margaret started and
unconsciously withdrew her hand. It crossed the minds of both that Mrs.
Brand's tone was that of an inferior, that of a servant to a mistress,
not that of one lady to her equal.

"Why should I not go on?" said Lady Caroline, glancing from one to
another as if in utter ignorance. "Have I said anything wrong? I only
meant that I was present at Mrs. Brand's _first_ wedding--when she
married your father, Mr. Wyvis--not your adopted father, of course, but
John Wyvis, the ploughman."

There was a moment's silence. Then Wyvis took a step forward and
thundered. "_What?_" while the veins stood out upon his forehead and his
eyes seemed to be gathering sombre fire. Mrs. Brand, with her head bowed
upon her hands, still rocked herself and sobbed.

"I hope I have not been indiscreet," said Lady Caroline, innocently.
"You look a little surprised. It is surely no secret that you are the
son of Mary Wyvis and her cousin, John Wyvis, and that you were brought
up by Mr. Brand as his son simply out of consideration for his wife? I
am sure I beg your pardon if I have said anything amiss. As Mrs. Brand
seems disturbed, I had better go."

"Not until my mother has contradicted this ridiculous slander," said
Wyvis, sternly. But his mother only shook her head and wailed aloud.

"I can't, my dear--I can't. It's true every word of it. My lady knows."

"Of course I know. Come, Mary, don't be foolish," said Lady Caroline, in
the carelessly sharp tone in which one sometimes speaks to an erring
dependant. "I took an interest in you at the time, you will remember,
although I was only a child staying at Helmsley Court at the time with
Mr. Adair's family. I was fourteen, I think; and you were scullery-maid
or something, and told me about your sweetheart, John Wyvis. There is
nothing to be ashamed of: you were married very suitably, and if Wyvis,
the ploughman, had not been run over when he was intoxicated, and killed
before your baby's birth, you might even now have been living down at
Wych End, with half a dozen stalwart sons and daughters--of whom you,
Mr. Wyvis, or Mr. Wyvis Brand, as you are generally known, would have
been the eldest--probably by this time a potman or a pugilist, with a
share in your grandfather's public-house at Roxby. How ridiculous it
seems now, does it not?"

Astonishment had kept Wyvis silent, but his gathering passion could not
longer be repressed.

"That is enough," he said. "If you desire to insult me you might have
let it be in other company. Or if you will send your husband to repeat
it----"

"I said a pugilist, did I not?" said Lady Caroline, smiling, and putting
up her eye-glass. "Your thews and sinews justify me perfectly--and so, I
must say, does your manner of speech." She let her eye run over his
limbs critically, and then she dropped her glass. "You are really
wonderfully like poor Wyvis; he was a very strong sort of man."

"Will you be so good as to take your leave, Lady Caroline Adair? I wish
to treat you with all due courtesy, as you are Margaret's mother," said
Wyvis, setting his teeth, "but you are saying unpardonable things to a
man in his own house."

"My dear man, there is nothing to be ashamed of!" cried Lady Caroline,
as if very much surprised. "Your father and mother were very honest
people, and I always thought it greatly to Mark Brand's credit that he
adopted you. The odd thing was that so few people knew that you were not
his son. You were only a month or two old when he married Mary Wyvis,
however; for your father died before your birth; but there was no secret
made of it at the time, I believe. And it is nearly thirty years. Things
get forgotten."

"Mother, can this be true?" said Wyvis, hoarsely. He was forced into
asking the question by Lady Caroline's cool persistence. He was keenly
conscious of the fact that Margaret, looking scared and bewildered, had
shrunk away from him.

"Yes, yes, it is true," said Mrs. Brand, with a burst of despairing
tears. "We did not mean any harm, and nobody made any inquiries. There
was nothing wrong about it--nothing. It was better for you, Wyvis, that
was all."

"Is it better for anybody to be brought up to believe a lie?" said the
young man. His lips had grown white, and his brow was set in very
ominous darkness. "I shall hear more of this story by and by. I have to
thank you, Lady Caroline, for letting in a little light upon my mind.
Your opposition to my suit is amply explained."

"I am glad you take it in that way, Mr. Brand," said Lady Caroline, for
the first time giving him his adopted name, and smiling very amicably.
"As I happened to be one of the very few people who knew or surmised
anything about the matter, I thought it better to take affairs into my
own hands--especially when I found that my daughter had come to your
house. But for this freak of hers I should not, perhaps, have
interfered. As you are no doubt prepared now to resign all hope of her,
I am quite satisfied with the result of my afternoon's work. Come,
Margaret."



CHAPTER XXXII.

THE FAILURE OF MARGARET.


"Then I am to understand," said Wyvis, a sudden glow breaking out over
his dark face, "that you did not make this communication carelessly, as
at first I thought, but out of malice prepense?"

"If you like to call it so--certainly," said Lady Caroline, with a
slight shrug of her shoulders.

"This was your revenge?--when you found that Margaret had come to me!"

"You use strange words, Mr. Wyvis Brand. Revenge is out of date--a quite
too ridiculous idea. I simply mean that I never wish to intermeddle with
my neighbors' affairs, and should not have thought of bringing this
matter forward if your pretentions could have been settled in an
ordinary way. If Margaret"--glancing at her daughter, who stood white
and thunderstricken at her side--"had behaved with submission and with
modesty, I should not have had to inflict what seems to be considerable
pain upon you. But it is her fault and yours. Young people should submit
to the judgment of their elders: we do not refuse to gratify their
wishes without good reason."

Lady Caroline spoke with a cold dignity, which she did not usually
assume. Margaret half covered her face with one hand, and turned aside.
The sight of the slow tears trickling through her fingers almost
maddened Wyvis, as he stood before her, looking alternately at her and
at Lady Caroline. Mrs. Brand and Janetta were left in the background of
the little group. The older woman was still weeping, and Janetta was
engaged in soothing and caressing her; but neither of them lost a word
which passed between the man for whom they cared and the woman whom at
that moment they both sincerely hated.

"But is it a good reason?" said Wyvis at last. His eye flashed beneath
his dark brow, his nostril began to quiver. "If I had been Mark Brand's
son, you mean, you would have given me Margaret?"

"There would then have been no disqualification of birth," said Lady
Caroline, clearly. "There might then have been disqualifications of
character or of fortune, but these we need hardly consider now. The
other--the primary--fact is conclusive."

"Mamma, mamma!" broke out Margaret; "don't say these terrible
things--please don't. It isn't Wyvis' fault."

"God bless you, my darling!" Wyvis muttered between his teeth.

"No, it is not his fault; it is his misfortune," said Lady Caroline.

"I am to understand, then, Lady Caroline," said Wyvis, to whom
Margaret's expostulation seemed to have brought sudden calmness and
courage, "that my lowly origin forms an insurmountable barrier to my
marriage with Miss Adair?"

"Quite so, Mr. Brand."

"But that there is no other obstacle?"

"I did not say so. Your domestic relations have been unfortunate, and
Mr. Adair strongly objects to giving his daughter to a man in your
position. But we need not go into that matter; I don't consider it a
subject suitable for discussion in my daughter's presence."

"Then I appeal to Margaret!" said Wyvis, in a deep, strong voice. "I
call upon _her_ to decide whether my birth is as much of an obstacle as
you say it is."

"That is not fair," said Lady Caroline, quickly. "She will write to you.
She can say nothing now."

"She must say something. She was on the point of giving me herself--her
all--when you came in. She had promised to be my wife, and she was
prepared to keep her promise almost immediately. She shall not break her
word because my father was a ploughman instead of a landowner and a
gentleman."

For once Lady Caroline made a quick, resistant gesture, as if some
impulse prompted her to speak sharply and decisively. Then she recovered
herself, leaned back in her chair, and smiled faintly.

"Is the battle to be fought out here and now?" she said. "Well, then, do
your worst, Mr. Brand. But I must have a word by and by, when you have
spoken."

Wyvis seemed scarcely to hear her. He was looking again, at Margaret.
She was not crying now, but one hand still grasped a handkerchief wet
with her tears. She had rested the other on the back of her mother's
chair. Janetta marveled at her irresolute attitude. In Margaret's place
she would have flung her arms round Wyvis Brand's neck, and vowed that
nothing but death should sever her from him. But Margaret was neither
passionately loving nor of indomitable courage.

Wyvis stepped forward and took her by the hand. Lady Caroline's eyebrows
contracted a little, but she did not interfere. She seemed to hold
herself resolutely aloof--for a time--and listened, Janetta thought, as
if she were present at a very interesting comedy of modern manners.

"Margaret, look at me!" said the man.

His deep, vibrating voice compelled the girl to raise her eyes. She
looked up piteously, and seemed half afraid to withdraw her gaze from
Wyvis' dark earnestness of aspect.

"Margaret--my darling--you said you loved me."

"Yes--I do love you," she murmured; but she looked afraid.

"I am not altered, Margaret: I am the same Wyvis that you loved--the
Wyvis that you kissed down by the brook, when you promised to be my
wife. Have you forgotten? Ah no--not so soon. You would not have come
here to-day if you had forgotten."

"I have not forgotten," she said, in a whisper.

"Then, darling, what difference does it make? There is no stain upon my
birth. I would not ask you to share a dishonored name. But my parents
were honest if they were poor, and what they were does not affect me.
Margaret, speak, tell me, dear, that you will not give me up!"

Margaret tried to withdraw her hand. "I do not know what to say," she
whispered.

"Say that you love me."

"I--have said it."

"Then, that you will not give me up?"

"Mamma!" said Margaret, entreatingly. "You hear what Wyvis says. It is
not his fault. Why--why--won't you let us be happy?"

"Don't appeal to your mother," said Wyvis, the workings of whose
features showed that he was becoming frightfully agitated. "You know
that she is against me. Listen to your own heart--what does it say? It
speaks to you of my love for you, of your own love for me. Darling, you
know how miserable my life has been. Are you going to scatter all my
hopes again and plunge me down in the depths of gloom? And all for what?
To satisfy a worldly scruple. It is not even as if I had been brought up
in my early years in the station to which my father belonged. I have
never known him--never known any relations but the Brands; and they are
not so very much beneath you. Don't fail me, Margaret! I shall lose all
faith in goodness if I lose faith in you!"

"I think," said Lady Caroline, in the rather disheartening pause which
followed upon Wyvis' words--disheartening to him, at least, and also to
Janetta, who had counted much upon Margaret's innate nobility of
soul!--"I think that I may now be permitted to say a word to my daughter
before she replies. What Mr. Wyvis Brand asks you to do, Margaret, is to
marry him at once. Well, the time for coercion has gone by. Of course,
we cannot prevent you from marrying him if you choose to do so, but on
the other hand we shall never speak to you again."

Wyvis uttered a short laugh, as if he were scornfully ready to meet that
contingency, but Margaret's look of startled horror recalled him to
decorum.

"You would be no longer any child of ours," said Lady Caroline, calmly.
"Your father concurs with me in this. You have known our views so long
and so well that we feel it almost necessary to explain this to you. Mr.
Brand wishes you to choose, as a matter of fact, between his house and
ours. Make your choice--make it now, if you like; but understand--and I
am very sorry to be obliged to say a thing which may perhaps hurt the
feelings of some persons present--that if you marry the son of a
ploughman and a scullery-maid--I do not mean to be more offensive than I
can help--you cannot possibly expect to be received at Helmsley Court."

"But, mamma! he ranks as one of the Brands of the Red House. Nobody
knows."

"But everybody _will_ know," said Lady Caroline, calmly. "I shall take
care of that. I don't know how it is that Mr. Brand has got possession
of the family estate--to which he has, of course, no right; but it has
an ugly look of fraud about it, to which public attention had better be
drawn at once. Mr. Brand may have been a party to the deception all
along, for aught I know."

"That statement needs no refutation," said Wyvis, calmly, though with a
dangerous glitter in his eyes. "I shall prove my integrity by handing
over the Red House to my bro----to Cuthbert Brand, who is of course the
rightful owner of the place."

"You hear. Margaret?" said Lady Caroline. "You will not even have the
Red House in your portion. You have to choose between your mother and
father and friends, position, wealth, refinement, luxury--and Wyvis
Brand. That is your alternative. He will have no position of his own, no
house to offer you; I am amazed at his selfishness, I must own, at
making such a proposition."

"No, madam," said Mrs. Brand, breaking into the conversation for the
first time, and seeming to forget her timidity in the defence of her
beloved son Wyvis; "we are not so selfish as you think. The estate was
left to Wyvis by my husband's will. He preferred that Wyvis should be
master here; and we thought that no one knew the truth."

"But I shall not be master here any longer," said her son. "I will hand
over the place to Cuthbert at once. I will take nothing on false
pretences. So, Margaret, choose between me and the advantages your
mother offers you. It is for you to decide."

"Oh, I can't, I can't! Why need I decide now?" said Margaret, clasping
her hands. "Let me have time to think!"

"No, you must decide now, Margaret," said Lady Caroline. "You have done
a very unjustifiable thing in coming here to-day, and you must take the
consequences. If you still wish to marry Mr. Wyvis Brand, you had better
accept the offer of his mother's protection and remain here. If you come
away with me, it must be understood that you give up any thought of such
a marriage. You must renounce Mr. Wyvis Brand from this time forth and
for ever. Pray, don't answer hastily. The question is this--do you mean
to stay here or to come away with me?"

She rose as she spoke, and began to arrange the details of her dress,
as though preparing to take her departure. Margaret stood pale,
irresolute, miserable between her mother and her lover. Wyvis threw
out his hands to her with an imploring gesture and an almost frenzied
cry--"Margaret--love--come to me!" Janetta held her breath.

But in that moment of indecision, Margaret's wavering eye fell upon Mrs.
Brand. The mother was an unlovely object in her abject sorrow and
despair. Her previous coldness and awkwardness told against her at that
moment. It suddenly darted through Margaret's mind that she would have
to accept this woman, with her common associations, her obscure origin,
her doubtful antecedents, in a mother's place. The soul of the girl who
had been brought up by Lady Caroline Adair revolted at the thought.
Wyvis she loved, or thought she loved; Wyvis she could accept; but
Wyvis' mother for her own, coupled with exclusion from the home where
she had lived so many smooth and tranquil years, exclusion also from the
society in which she had been taught that it was her right to take a
distinguished place--this was too much. Her dreams fell from her like a
garment. Plain, unvarnished reality unfolded itself instead. To be poor
and obscure and unfriended, to be looked down upon and pitied, to be
snubbed and passed by on the other side--this was what seemed to be the
reality of things to Margaret's mind. It was too much for her to accept.
She looked at it and passed by it.

She stretched out her hand timidly and touched her mother's arm.
"Mamma," she said falteringly, "I--I will come with you." And then she
burst into tears and fell upon her mother's neck, and over her shoulder
Lady Caroline turned and smiled at Wyvis Brand. She had won her game.

"Of course you will, darling," she said, caressingly. "I did not think
you could have been so wicked as to give us up. Come with me! this is
nor the place for us."

And in the heart-struck silence which fell upon the little group that
she left behind, Lady Caroline gravely bowed and led her weeping
daughter from the room.

"Oh, Margaret, Margaret!" Janetta suddenly cried out; but Margaret never
once looked back. Perhaps if she had seen Wyvis Brand's face just then,
she might have given way. It was a terrible face; hard, bitter,
despairing; with lines of anguish about the mouth, and a lurid light in
the deep-set, haggard-looking eyes. Janetta, in the pity of her heart,
went up to her cousin, and took his clenched hand between her own.

"Wyvis, dear Wyvis," she said, "do not look so. Do not grieve. Indeed,
she could not have been worthy of you, or she would not have done like
this. All women are not like her, Wyvis. Some would have loved you for
yourself."

And there she stopped, crimson and ashamed. For surely she had almost
told him that she loved him!--that secret of which she had long been so
much ashamed, and which had given her so much of grief and pain. But she
attached too much importance to her own vague words. They did not betray
her, and Wyvis scarcely listened to what she said. He broke into a
short, harsh laugh, more hideous than a sob.

"Are not all women like her?" he said. "Then they are worse. She was
innocent, at any rate, if she was weak. But she has sold her soul now,
if she ever had one, to the devil; and, as I would rather be with her in
life and death than anywhere else, I shall make haste to go to the devil
too."

He shook off her detaining hand, and strode to the door. There he
turned, and looked fixedly at his mother.

"It is almost worse to be weak than wicked, I think," he said. "If you
had told me the truth long ago, mother, I should have kept out of this
complication. It's been your fault--my misery and my failure have always
been your fault. It would have been better for me if you had left me to
plough the fields like my father before me. As it is, life's over for me
in this part of the world, and I may as well bid it good-bye."

Before they could stop him, he was gone. And Janetta could not follow,
for Mrs. Brand sank fainting from her chair, and it was long before she
could be recovered from the deathlike swoon into which she fell.

And throughout that evening, and for days to come, Margaret Adair,
although petted and caressed and praised on every hand, and persuaded
into feeling that she had not only done the thing that was expected of
her, but a very worthy and noble thing, was haunted by an uneasy
consciousness, that the argument which had prevailed with her was not
the love of home or of her parents, which, indeed, might have been a
very creditable motive for her decision, but a shrinking from trouble, a
dislike to effort of any kind, and an utter distaste for obscurity and
humility. Janetta's reproachful call rang in her ears for days. She
knew that she had chosen the baser part. True, as she argued with
herself, it was right to obey one's parents, to be submissive and
straightforward, to shrink from the idea of ingratitude and rebellion;
and, if she had yielded on these grounds, she might have been somewhat
consoled for the loss of her lover by the conviction that she had done
her duty. But for some little time she was distressfully aware that she
had never considered her parents in the matter at all. She had thought
of worldly disadvantage only. She had not felt any desire to stand by
Wyvis Brand in his trouble. She had felt only repugnance and disgust;
and, having some elements of good in her, she was troubled and ashamed
by her failure; for, even if she had done right in the main, she knew
that she had done it in the wrong way.

But, of course, time changed her estimate of herself. She was so much
caressed and flattered by her family for her "exquisite dutifulness," as
they phrased it, that she ended by believing that she had behaved
beautifully. And this belief was a great support to her during the
winter that she subsequently spent with her parents in Italy.



CHAPTER XXXIII.

RETROSPECT.


For my part, I am inclined to think that Margaret was more right than
she knew. There was really no inherent fitness between her temperament
and that of Wyvis Brand; and his position in the County was one which
would have fretted her inexpressibly. She, who had been the petted
favorite of a brilliant circle in town and country, to take rank as the
wife of a ploughman's son! It would not have suited her at all; and her
discontent would have ended in making Wyvis miserable.

He was, he considered, miserable enough already. He was sore all
over--sore and injured and angry. He had been deceived in a manner which
seemed to him unjustifiable from beginning to end. The disclosure of his
parentage explained many little things which had been puzzling to him
in his previous life, but it brought with it a baffling, passionate
sense of having been fooled and duped--not a condition of things which
was easy for him to support. Little by little the whole story became
clear to him. For, when he flung out of the Red House after Margaret's
departure, in a tumult of rage and shame, announcing his determination
to go to the devil, he did not immediately seek out the Prince of
Darkness: he only went to his lawyer. His lawyer told him a good deal,
and Mrs. Brand, in a letter dictated to Janetta, told him more.

Mary Wyvis, the daughter of the village inn-keeper at Roxby, was brought
up to act as his barmaid, and early became engaged to marry her cousin,
John Wyvis, ploughman. Everything seemed to be going smoothly, when Mark
Brand appeared upon the scene, and fell desperately in love with the
handsome barmaid. She returned his love, but was too conscientious to
elope with him and forget her cousin, as he wished her to do. Her father
supported John's claim, and threatened to horsewhip the fine gentleman
if he visited the Roxby Arms again. By way of change, Mary then went
into domestic service for a few weeks at Helmsley Manor. It was not
expected that she would remain there, and it was thought by her friends
that she distinctly "lowered herself" by accepting this position, for
her father was a well-to-do man in his way; but Mary Wyvis made the
break with Mark Brand by this new departure which she considered it
essential for her to make; and she was thereby delivered from his
attentions for a time. At Helmsley Manor she was treated with much
consideration, being considered a superior young person for her class;
and although only a scullery maid in name, she was allowed a good deal
of liberty, and promoted to attend on Lady Caroline Bertie, who, as a
girl of fourteen, was then visiting Mrs. Adair, the mother of the man
whom she afterward married. Mary Wyvis was lured into confiding one or
two of her little secrets to Lady Caroline; and when she left Helmsley
Court to marry John Wyvis, that young lady took so much interest in the
affair that she attended the wedding and gave the bride a
wedding-present. And as she often visited the Adairs, she seldom failed
to asked after Mary, until that consummation of Mary's fate which
effectually destroyed Lady Caroline's interest in her.

Wyvis the ploughman was accidentally killed, and Mary's child, named
John after his father, was born shortly after the ploughman's death. It
was then that Mark Brand sought out his old love, and to better purpose
than before. His passion for her had been strengthened by what he was
pleased to call her desertion of him. He proposed marriage, and offered
to adopt the boy. Mary Wyvis accepted both propositions, and left
England with him almost immediately, in order to escape mocking and
slanderous tongues.

It was inevitable that evil should be said of her. Mark Brand's pursuit
of her before her marriage to Wyvis had been well known. That she should
marry him so soon after her first husband's death seemed to point to
some continued understanding between the two, and caused much gossip in
the neighborhood. Such gossip was really unfounded, for Mary was a good
woman in her way, though not a very wise one; but the charges against
her were believed in many places, and never disproved. It was even
whispered that the little boy was Mark Brand's own son, and that John
Wyvis had met his death through some foul play. Rumors of this kind died
down in course of time. But they were certainly sufficient to account
for the disfavor with which the County eyed the Brands in general, and
Mrs. Brand in particular. Mark Brand lived very little at the Red House
after his marriage. He knew what a storm of indignation had been spent
upon his conduct, and he was well aware of the aspersions on his wife's
character. He was too reckless by nature to try to set things straight:
he considered that he did his best for his family when he left England
behind him, and trained the boys, Wyvis and Cuthbert, to love a foreign
land better than their own.

He grew very fond of Mary's boy during the first few years of his
married life. This fondness led him to wish that the boy were his own,
and the appearance of Cuthbert did not alter this odd liking for another
man's son. He never cared very much for Cuthbert, who was delicate and
lame from babyhood; but Wyvis was the apple of his eye. The boy was
called John Wyvis: it was easy enough in a foreign country to let him
slip into the position of the eldest of the family as Wyvis Brand. A
baby son was born before Cuthbert, and dying a month old, gave Mark all
the opportunity that he needed. He sent word to old Wyvis at Roxby that
John's boy was dead; and he then quietly substituted Wyvis in place of
his own son. Every year, he argued, would make the real difference of
age between John's boy and the dead child less apparent: it would save
trouble to speak of Wyvis as his own, and troublesome inquiries were not
likely to be made. Time and use made him almost forget that Wyvis did
not really belong to him; and but for his wife's insistence he would not
even have made the will which secured the Red House to his adopted son.
Cuthbert was of course treated with scandalous injustice by this will;
but the secret had been well kept, and the story was fully known to
nobody save the Brands' lawyer and Mary Brand herself.

The way in which Lady Caroline had ferreted out the secret remained a
mystery to the Brands. But they never gave her half enough credit for
her remarkable cleverness. When she saw Wyvis Brand, she had been struck
almost at once by his likeness to John Wyvis, the man who married her
old favorite, Mary. She leaped quickly to the conviction that he was not
Mark Brand's son. And when Margaret's infatuation for him declared
itself, she went straight to her husband's man of business, and
commissioned him to find out all that could be found out about the
Brands during the period of their early married life in Italy. The task
was surprisingly easy. Mark Brand had taken few precautions, for he had
drifted rather than deliberately steered towards the substitution of
Wyvis for his own eldest son. A very few inquiries elicited all that
Lady Caroline wanted to know. But she had not been quite sure of her
facts when she entered the Red House, and, if Mrs. Brand had been a
little cooler and a little braver, she might have defeated her enemy's
ends, and carried her secret inviolate to her grave.

But courage and coolness were the last things that could be expected
from Mrs. Brand. She had never possessed a strong mind and the various
chances and changes of her life had enfeebled instead of strengthening
it. Mark Brand had proved by no means a loving or faithful husband, and
did not scruple to taunt her with her inferiority of position, and to
threaten that he would mortify Wyvis' pride some day by a revelation of
his true name and descent. He was too fond of Wyvis to carry his threat
into effect but he made the poor woman, his wife, suffer an infinity of
torture, the greater part of which might have been avoided if she had
chanced to be gifted with a higher spirit and a firmer will.

Wyvis Brand went immediately to London after the interview with his
lawyer in Beaminster, and from London, in a few days, he wrote to
Cuthbert. The letter was curt, but not unfriendly. He wished, he said,
to repair the injustice that had been done, and to restore to Cuthbert
the inheritance that was his by right. He had already instructed his
lawyers to take the necessary steps, and he was glad to think that
Cuthbert and Nora would now be able to make the Red House what it ought
to be. He hoped that they would be very happy. For himself, he thought
of immigrating: he was heartily sick of modern civilization, and
believed that he would more easily find friends and fellow-workers
amongst the Red Skins of the Choctaw Indians than in "County"
drawing-rooms. And only by this touch did Wyvis betray the bitterness
that filled his heart.

Cuthbert rushed up to town at once in a white heat of indignation. He
was only just in time to find Wyvis at his hotel, for he had taken his
passage to America, and was going to start almost immediately. But there
was time at least for a very energetic discussion between the two young
men.

"If you think," said Cuthbert, hotly, "that I'm going to take your
place, you are very much mistaken."

"It is not my place. It has been mine only by fraud."

"Not a bit of it. It is yours by my father's will. He knew the truth,
and chose to take this course."

"Very unfair to you, Cuth," said Wyvis, a faint smile showing itself for
the first time on his haggard face.

Cuthbert shrugged his shoulders. "My dear fellow, do you suppose it's
any news to me that my father cared more for your little finger than for
my whole body? He chose--practically--to disinherit me in your favor;
and a very good thing it's been for me too. I should never have taken to
Art if I had been a landed proprietor."

"I don't understand it," said Wyvis, meditatively. "One would have
expected him to be jealous of his wife's family--and then you're a much
better fellow than I am."

"That was the reason," said Cuthbert, sitting down and nursing his lame
leg, after a characteristic fashion of his own "I was a meek child--a
sickly lad who didn't get into mischief. I was afraid of horses, you may
remember, and hated manly exercises of every kind. Now you were never so
happy as when you were on a horse's back----"

"A strain inherited from my ploughman father, I suppose," said Wyvis,
rather grimly.

"And you got into scrapes innumerable; for which he liked you all the
better. And you--well you know, old boy, you were never a reproach to
him, as the sight of me was!"

Cuthbert's voice dropped. He had never spoken of it before, but he and
Wyvis knew well enough that his lameness was the result of his father's
brutal treatment of Mary Brand shortly before the birth of her second
son.

"He ought to have been more bent on making amends than on sacrificing
you to me," said Wyvis, bitterly.

"Oh, don't look at it in that way," Cuthbert answered. The natural
sweetness of his disposition made it painful to him to hear his father
blamed, although that father had done his best to make his life
miserable. "He never meant to hurt me, the poor old man; and when he had
done it, the sight of my infirmity became exquisitely painful to him. I
can forgive him that; I can forgive him everything. There are others
whom it is more difficult to forgive."

"You mean----"

"I mean women who have not the courage to be true," said Cuthbert, in a
low voice. He did not look at his brother, but he felt certain that a
thrill of pain passed through him. For a minute or two Wyvis did not
speak.

"Well," he said at last, forcing an uneasy laugh, "I think that she was
perhaps right. She might not have been very happy. And I doubt, after
all, whether I ought to have asked her. Janetta thought not, at any
rate."

"Janetta is generally very wise."

"So she is very wise. I am legally quite free, but she thinks
me--morally--bound."

"Well, so do I," said Cuthbert, frankly. "On all moral and religious
grounds, I think you are as much bound as ever you were. And if Miss
Adair refused you on those grounds, she has more right on her side than
I thought."

"Ah, but she did not," answered Wyvis, dryly. "She refused me because I
was not rich, not 'in society,' and a ploughman's son."

"That's bad," said his brother. And then the two sat for a little time
in silence, which is the way of Englishmen when one wishes to show
sympathy for another.

"But we are not approaching what I want to say at all," said Cuthbert,
presently. "We must not let our feelings run away with us. We are both
in a very awkward position, old boy, but we shan't make it better by
publishing it to the world. If you throw up the place in this absurd
fashion--excuse the term--you _will_ publish it to the world at large."

"Do you think that matters to me?" asked Wyvis, sternly.

"Perhaps not to you. But it matters to mother, and to me. And it affects
our father's character."

"Your father's, not mine."

"He was the only father you ever knew, and you have no reason to find
fault with him."

Wyvis groaned impatiently. "One has duties to the living, not to the
dead."

"One has duties to the dead, too. You can't give up the Red House to
me--even if I would take it, which I won't--without having the whole
story made public. My father hasn't a very good reputation in the
County: people will think no better of him for having lamed me,
disinherited me, and practiced a fraud on them. That's what they will
say about the affair, you know. We can't let the world know."

"Then I'd better go and shoot myself. It seems to me the only thing I
can do."

"And what about Julian? The estate would pass to him, of course," said
Cuthbert, coolly. He saw that Wyvis' face changed a little at the
mention of Julian's name.

"No, I could will it to you--make it over to you, with the condition
that it should go to the Foundling Hospital if you wouldn't accept it."

"I think that a will of that kind could be easily set aside on the
ground of insanity," said Cuthbert, with a slight smile.

"I could find a way out of the difficulty, if I tried, I have no
doubt," said Wyvis, frowning gloomily and pulling at his moustache.

"_Don't_ try," said his brother, leaning forward and speaking
persuasively. "Let things continue much as they are. I am content: Nora
is content. Why should you not be so, too?" Then, as Wyvis shook his
head: "Make your mind easy then if you must do something, by giving me a
sum down, or a slice of your income, old man. Upon my word I wouldn't
live in the old place if you gave it to me. It is picturesque--but damp.
Come let's compromise matters."

"I love every stick and stone in the place," said Wyvis grimly.

"I know you do. I don't. I want to live in Paris or Vienna with Nora,
and enjoy myself I don't want to paint pot-boilers. I say like the man
in the parable, 'Give me the portion that belongeth to me,' and I'll go
my way, promising, however, not to spend it in riotous living. Won't
that arrangement suit you?"

Wyvis demurred at first, but was finally persuaded into making an
arrangement of the kind that Cuthbert desired. He retained the Red
House, but he bestowed on his brother enough to give him an ample income
for the life that Cuthbert and Nora wished to lead. During his absence
from England, Mrs. Brand and Julian were still to inhabit the Red House.
And Wyvis announced his intention of going to South America to shoot big
game, from which Cuthbert inferred that his heart, although bruised, was
not broken yet.



CHAPTER XXXIV.

FROM DISTANT LANDS.


More than a year had passed away since the events recorded in the last
chapter. Early autumn was beginning to touch the leaves with gold and
crimson; the later flowers were coming into bloom, and the fruit hung
purple and russet-red upon the boughs. The woods about Beaminster had
put on a gorgeous mantle, and the gardens were gay with color, and yet
over all there hung the indefinable brooding melancholy that comes of
the first touch of decay. It was of this that Janetta Colwyn was chiefly
conscious, as she walked in the Red House grounds and looked at the
yellowing leaves that eddied through the still air to the gravelled
walks and unshorn lawns below. Janetta was thinner and paler than in
days of yore, and yet there was a peaceful expression upon her face
which gave it an added charm. She had discarded her black gowns and wore
a pretty dark red dress which suited her admirably. There was a look of
thought and feeling in her dark eyes, a sweetness in her smile, which
would always redeem her appearance from the old charge of insignificance
that used to be brought against it. Small and slight she might be, but
never a woman to be overlooked.

The past few months had seen several changes in her family. Mrs. Colwyn
was now Mrs. Burroughs, and filled her place with more dignity than had
been expected. She was kept in strict order by her husband and his
sister, and, like many weak persons, was all the better and happier for
feeling a strong hand over her. The children had accommodated themselves
very well to the new life, and were very fond of their stepfather. Nora
and Cuthbert had quitted the Red House almost immediately after their
marriage, and gone to Paris, whence Nora wrote glowing accounts to her
sister of the happiness of her life. And Janetta had taken up her abode
at the Red House, nominally as governess to little Julian, and companion
to Mrs. Brand, but practically ruler of the household, adviser-in-chief
to every one on the estate; teacher, comforter, and confidante in turn,
or all at once. She could not remain long in any place without winning
trust and affection, and there was not a servant in Wyvis Brand's employ
who did not soon learn that the best way of gaining help in need or
redress for any grievance was to address himself or herself to little
Miss Colwyn. To Mrs. Brand, now more weak and ailing than ever, Janetta
was like a daughter. And secure in her love, little Julian never knew
what it was to miss a mother's care.

Janetta might have her own private cares and worries, but in public, at
any rate, she was seldom anything but cheerful. It was a duty that she
owed the world, she thought, to look bright in it, and especially a duty
to Mrs. Brand and little Julian, who would sorely have missed her ready
playfulness and her tender little jokes if ever she had forgotten
herself so far as to put on a gloomy countenance. And yet she sometimes
felt very much dispirited. She had no prospects of prosperity; she could
not expect to live at the Red House for ever; and yet, when Wyvis came
home and she had to go--which, of course, must happen some time, since
Mrs. Brand was growing old and infirm, and Julian would have to go to
school--what would she do? She asked herself this question many times,
and could never find a very satisfactory answer. She might advertise for
a situation: she might take lodgings in London, and give lessons: she
might go to the house of her stepfather. Each of these attempts to solve
the problem of her future gave her a cold shudder and a sudden sickness
of heart. And yet, as she often severely told herself, what else was
there for her to do?

She had heard nothing of the Adairs, save through common town gossip,
for many months. The house was shut up, and they were still travelling
abroad. Margaret had evidently quite given up her old friend, Janetta,
and this desertion made Janetta's heart a little sore. Wyvis also was in
foreign lands. He had been to many places, and killed a great many wild
beasts--so much all the world knew, and few people knew anything more.
To his mother he wrote seldom, though kindly. An occasional note to
Julian, or a post card to Cuthbert or his agent, would give a new
address from time to time, but it was to Janetta only that he sometimes
wrote a really long and interesting epistle, detailing some of his
adventures in the friendly and intimate way which his acquaintance with
her seemed to warrant. He did not mention any of his private affairs: he
never spoke of that painful last scene at the Red House, of Margaret, of
his mother, of his wife; but he wrote of the scenes through which he
passed, and the persons whom he met, with an unreserve which Janetta
knew to be the sincerest compliment.

But on this autumnal day she had received a letter in which another note
was struck. And it was for this reason that she had brought it out into
the garden, so that she might think over it, and read it again in the
shadow of the great beech trees, away from the anxious eyes of Mrs.
Brand and the eager childish questions of Wyvis' boy.

For three pages Wyvis had written in his usual strain. He was not
perhaps an ideally good letter-writer, but he had a terse, forcible
style of his own, and could describe a scene with some amount of graphic
power. In the midst of an account of certain brigands with whom he had
met in Sicily, however, he had, in this letter, broken off quite
suddenly and struck into a new subject in a new and unexpected way.

"I had written thus far when I was interrupted: the date of the letter,
you will see, is three weeks ago. I put down my pen and went out: I
found that fever had made its appearance, so I packed up my traps that
afternoon and started for Norway. A sudden change, you will say? Heaven
knows why I went there, but I am glad I did.

"It was early in July when I reached the hotel at V----. There was
_table d'hote_ and many another sign of civilization, which bored me not
a little. However, I made the best of a bad job, and went down to dinner
with the rest, took my seat without noticing my companions until I was
seated, and then found myself next to--can you guess who, Janetta?--I am
sure you never will.

"_Lady Caroline Adair!!!_

"Her daughter was just beyond her, and Mr. Adair beyond the daughter, so
the fair Margaret was well guarded. Of course I betrayed no sign of
recognition, but I wished myself at Jericho very heartily. For, between
ourselves, Janetta, I made such an ass of myself last summer that my
ears burn to think of it, and it was not a particularly honorable or
gentlemanly ass, I believe, so that I deserve to be drowned in the deep
sea for my folly. I can only hope that I did not show what I felt.

"Miss Adair was blooming: fair, serene, self-possessed as ever. _She_
did not show any sign of embarrassment, I can tell you. She did not even
blush. She looked at me once or twice with the faint, well-bred
indifference with which the well-brought-up young lady usually eyes a
perfect stranger. It was Mr. Adair who did all the embarrassment for us.
He turned purple when he saw me, and wanted his daughter to come away
from the table. My ears are quick, and I heard what he said to her, and
I heard also her reply. 'Why should I go away, dear papa! I don't mind
in the least.' Kind of her not to mind, wasn't it? And do you think I
was going to 'mind,' after that? I lifted up my head, which I had
hitherto bent studiously over my soup, and began to talk to my neighbor
on the other side, a stalwart English clergyman with a blue ribbon at
his button-hole.

"But presently, to my surprise, Lady Caroline addressed me. 'I hope you
have not forgotten me, Mr. Brand,' she said, quite graciously. I must
confess, Janetta, that I stared at her. The calm audacity of the woman
took me by surprise. She looked as amiable as if we were close friends
meeting after a long absence. I hope you won't be very angry with me
when I tell you how I answered her. 'Pardon me,' I said, 'my name is
Wyvis--not Brand.' And then I went on talking to my muscular Christian
on the left.

"She looked just a little bit disconcerted. Not much, you know. It would
take a great deal to disconcert Lady Caroline very much. But she did not
try to talk to me again! I choked her off that time, anyhow.

"And, now, let me make a confession. I don't admire Margaret Adair in
the very least. I did, I know: and I made a fool of myself, and worse,
perhaps, about her: but she does, not move one fibre of my heart now,
she does not make it beat a bit faster, and she does not give my eye
more pleasure than a wax doll would give me. She is fair and sweet and
tranquil, I know: but what has she done with her heart and her brain? I
suppose her mother has them in her keeping, and will make them over to
her husband when she marries?... I know a woman who is worth a dozen
Margarets....

"But I have made up my mind to live single, so long as Julian's mother
is alive. Legally, I am not bound; morally, I can scarcely feel myself
free. And I know that you feel with me, Janet. The world may call us
over-scrupulous; but I set your judgment higher than that of the world.
And all I can say about Margaret is that I fell into a passing fit of
madness, and cared for nothing but what my fancy dictated; and that now
I am sane--clothed in my right mind, so to speak--I am disgusted with
myself for my folly. Lady Caroline and her daughter should have taken
higher ground. They were right to send me away--but not right to act on
unworthy motives. In the long nights that I have spent camping out under
the quiet stars, far away from the dwellings of men, I have argued the
thing out with myself, and I say unreservedly that they were right and
I was wrong--wrong from beginning to end, wrong to my mother, wrong to
my wife (as she once was), wrong to Margaret, wrong to myself. Your
influence has always been on the side of right and truth, Janetta, and
you more than once told me that I was wrong.

"So I make my confession. I do not think that I shall come back to
England just yet. I am going to America next week. You will not leave
the Red House, will you? While you are there I can feel at ease about my
mother and my boy. I trust you with them entirely, Janetta; and I want
you to trust me. Wherever I may go, and whatever I may do, I will
henceforward be worthy of your trust and of your friendship."

This was the letter that Janetta read under the beech trees; and as she
read it tears gathered in her eyes and fell upon the pages. But they
were not tears of sadness--rather tears of joy and thankfulness. For
Wyvis Brand's aberration of mind--so it had always appeared to her--had
given her much pain and sorrow. And he seemed now to have placed his
foot upon the road to better things.

She was still holding the letter in her hand when she reached the end of
the beech-tree shaded walk along which she had been slowly walking. The
tears were wet upon her cheeks, but a smile played on her lips. She did
not notice for some time that she was watched from the gate that led
into the pasture-land, at the end of the beech-tree walk, by a woman,
who seemed uncertain whether to speak, to enter, or to go away.

Janetta saw her at last, and wondered what she was doing there. She put
the letter into her pocket, dashed the tears from her eyes, and advanced
towards the gate.

"Can I do anything for you?" she said.

The woman looked about thirty-five years old, and possessed the remains
of great beauty. She was haggard and worn: her cheeks were sunken,
though brilliantly red, and her large, velvety-brown eyes were strangely
bright. Her dark, waving hair had probably once been curled over her
brow: it now hung almost straight, and had a rough, dishevelled look,
which corresponded with the soiled and untidy appearance of her dress.
Her gown and mantle were of rich stuff, but torn and stained in many
places; and her gloves and boots were shabby to the very last degree,
while her bonnet, of cheap and tawdry materials, had at any rate the
one merit of being fresh and new. Altogether she was an odd figure to be
seen in a country place; and Janetta wondered greatly whence she came,
and what her errand was at the Red House.

"Can I do anything for you?" she asked.

"This is the Red House, I suppose?" the woman asked, hoarsely.

"Yes, it is."

"Wyvis Brand's house?"

Janetta hesitated in surprise, and then said, "Yes," in a rather distant
tone.

"Who are _you_?" said the woman, looking at her sharply.

"I am governess to Mr. Brand's little boy."

"Oh, indeed. And he's at home, I suppose?"

"No," said Janetta, gravely, "he has been away for more than a year, and
is now, I believe, on his way to America."

"You lie!" said the woman, furiously; "and you know that you lie!"

Janetta recoiled a step. Was this person mad?

"He is at home, and you want to keep me out," the woman went on, wildly.
"You don't want me to set foot in the place, or to see my child again!
He is at home, and I'll see him if I have to trample on your body
first."

"Nobody wants to keep you out," said Janetta, forcing herself to speak
and look calmly, but tingling with anger from head to foot. "But I
assure you Mr. Brand is away from home. His mother lives here; she is
not very strong, and ought not to be disturbed. If you will give me your
name----"

"My name?" repeated the other in a tone of mockery. "Oh yes, I'll give
you my name. I don't see why I should hide it; do you? I've been away a
good long time; but I mean to have my rights now. My name is Mrs. Wyvis
Brand: what do you think of that, young lady?"

She drew herself up as she spoke, looking gaunt and defiant. Her eyes
flamed and her cheeks grew hotter and deeper in tint until they were
poppy-red. She showed her teeth--short, square, white teeth--as if she
wanted to snarl like an angry dog. But Janetta, after the first moment
of repulsion and astonishment, was not dismayed.

"I did not know," she said, gravely, "that you had any right to call
yourself by that name. I thought that you were divorced from Mr. Wyvis
Brand."

"Separated for incompatibility of temper; that was all," said Mrs. Brand
coolly. "I told him I'd got a divorce, but it wasn't true. I wanted to
be free from him--that's the truth. I didn't mean him to marry again. I
heard that he was going to be married--is that so! Perhaps he was going
to marry _you_?"

"No," Janetta answered, very coldly.

"I'm not going to put up with it if he is," was her visitor's sullen
reply. "I've borne enough from him in my day, I can tell you. So I've
come for the boy. I'm going to have him back; and when I've got him I've
no doubt but what I can make Wyvis do what I choose. I hear he's fond of
the boy."

"But what--what--do you want him to do?" said Janetta, startled out of
her reserve. "Do you want--_money_ from him?"

Mrs. Wyvis Brand laughed hoarsely. Janetta noticed that her breath was
very short, and that she leaned against the gate-post for support.

"No, not precisely," she said. "I want more than that. I see that he's
got a nice, comfortable, respectable house; and I'm tired of wandering.
I'm ill, too, I believe. I want a place in which to be quiet and rest,
or die, as it may turn out. I mean Wyvis to take me back."

She opened the gate as she spoke, and tried to pass Janetta. But the
girl stood in her way.

"Take you back after you have left him and ill-treated him and deceived
him, you wicked woman!" she broke out, in her old impetuous way. And for
answer, Mrs. Wyvis Brand raised her hand and struck her sharply across
the face.

A shrill, childish cry rang out upon the air. Janetta stood mute and
trembling, unable for the moment to move or speak, as little Julian
suddenly flung himself into her arms and tried to drag her towards the
house.

"Oh, come away, come away, dear Janetta!" he cried. "It's mamma, and
she'll take me back to Paris, I know she will! I won't go away from you,
I won't, I won't!" His mother sprung towards him, as if to tear him from
Janetta's arm, and then her strength seemed suddenly to pass from her.
She stopped, turned ghastly white, and then as suddenly very red. Then
she flung up her arms with a gasping, gurgling cry, and, to Janetta's
horror, she saw a crimson tide break from her quivering lips. She was
just in time to catch her in her arms before she sank senseless to the
ground.



CHAPTER XXXV.

JULIET.


There was no help for it. Into Wyvis Brand's house Wyvis Brand's wife
must go. Old Mrs. Brand came feebly into the garden, and identified the
woman as the mother of Julian, and the wife of her eldest son. She could
not be allowed to die at their door. She could not be taken to any other
dwelling. There were laborers' cottages only in the immediate vicinity.
She must be brought to the Red House and nursed by Janetta and Mrs.
Brand. A woman with a broken blood-vessel, how unworthy soever she might
be, could not be sent to the Beaminster Hospital three miles away.
Common humanity forbade it. She must, for a time at least, be nursed in
the place where she was taken ill.

So she was carried indoors and laid in the best bedroom, which was a
gloomy-looking place until Janetta began to make reforms in it. When she
had put fresh curtains to the windows, and set flowers on the
window-sill, and banished some of the old black furniture, the room
looked a trifle more agreeable, and there was nothing on which poor
Juliet Brand's eye could dwell with positive dislike or dissatisfaction
when she came to herself. But for some time she lay at the very point of
death, and it seemed to Janetta and to all the watchers at the bedside
that Mrs. Wyvis Brand could not long continue in the present world.

Mrs. Brand the elder seldom came into the room. She showed a singular
horror of her daughter-in-law: she would not even willingly speak of
her. She pleaded her ill-health as an excuse for not taking her share of
the nursing; and when it seemed likely that Janetta would be worn out by
it, she insisted that a nurse from the Beaminster Hospital should be
procured. "It will not be for long," she said gloomily, when Janetta
spoke regretfully of the expense. For Janetta was chief cashier and
financier in the household.

But it appeared as if she were mistaken. Mrs. Brand did not die, as
everybody expected. She lay for a time in a very weak state, and then
began gradually to recover strength. Before long, she was able to
converse, and then she showed a preference for Janetta's society which
puzzled the girl not a little. For Julian she also showed some fondness,
but he sometimes wearied, sometimes vexed her, and a visit of a very few
minutes sufficed for both mother and son. Julian himself exhibited not
only dislike but terror of her. He tried to run away and hide when the
hour came for his daily visit to his mother's room; and when Janetta
spoke to him on the subject rather anxiously, he burst into tears and
avowed he was afraid.

"Afraid of what?" said Janetta.

But he only sobbed and would not tell.

"She can't hurt you, Julian, dear. She is ill and weak and lonely; and
she loves you. It's not kind and loving of you to run away."

"I don't want to be unkind."

"Or unloving?" said Janetta.

"I don't love her," the boy answered, and bit his lip. His eye flashed
for a moment, and then he looked down as if he were ashamed of the
confession.

"Julian, dear? Your mother?"

"I can't help it. She hasn't been very much like a mother to me."

"You should not say that, dear. She loves you very much; and all people
do not love in the same way."

"Oh, it isn't that," said the boy, as if in desperation. "I know she
loves me, but--but----" And there he broke down in a passion of tears
and sobs, amidst which Janetta could distinguish only a few words, such
as "Suzanne said"--"father"--"make me wicked too."

"Do you mean," said Janetta, more shocked than she liked to show, "that
you think your father wicked?"

"Oh, no, no! Suzanne said mother was not good. Not father."

"But, my dear boy, you must not say that your mother is not good. You
have no reason to say so, and it is a terrible thing to say."

"She was unkind to father--and to me, too," Julian burst forth. "And she
struck you; she is wicked and unkind, and I don't love her. And Suzanne
said she would make me wicked, too, and that I was just like her; and I
don't want--to--be--wicked."

"Nobody can make you wicked if you are certain that you want to be
good," said Janetta, gravely; "and it was very wrong of Suzanne to say
anything that could make you think evil of your mother."

"Isn't she naughty, then?" Julian asked in a bewildered tone.

"I do not know," Janetta answered, very seriously. "Only God knows that.
We cannot tell. It is the last thing we ought say."

"But--but--you call me naughty sometimes?" the child said, fixing a pair
of innocent, inquiring eyes upon her.

"Ah, but, my dear, I do not love you the less," said Janetta, out of the
fullness of her heart, and she took him in her arms and kissed him.

"You are more like what I always think a mother ought to be," said
Julian. What stabs children inflict on us sometimes by their artless
words! Janetta shuddered a little as he spoke. "Then ought I to love
her, whether she is good or bad?"

Janetta paused. She was very anxious to say only what was right.

"Yes, my darling," she said at last. "Love her always, through
everything. She is your mother, and she has a right to your love."

And then, in simple words, she talked to him about right and wrong,
about love and duty and life, until, with brimming eyes, he flung his
arms about her, and said----

"Yes, I understand now. And I will love her and take care of her always,
because God sent me to her to do that."

And he objected no more to the daily visit to his mother's room.

The sick woman's restless eyes, sharpened by illness, soon discerned the
change in his demeanor.

"You've been talking to that boy about me," she said one day to Janetta,
in a quick, sensitive voice.

"Nothing that would hurt you," Janetta replied, smiling.

"Oh, indeed, I'm not so sure of that. He used to run away from me, and
now he sits beside me like a lamb. I know what you've been saying."

"What?" said Janetta.

"You've been saying that I'm going to die, and that he won't be bothered
with me long. Eh?"

"No; nothing of that kind."

"What did you say, then?"

"I told him," said Janetta, slowly, "that God sent him to you as a
little baby to be a help and comfort to you; and that it was a son's
duty to protect and sustain his mother, as she had once protected and
sustained him."

"And you think he understood that sort of nonsense?"

"You see for yourself whether he does or not," said Janetta, gently. "He
likes to come and see you and sit beside you now."

Mrs. Wyvis Brand was silent for a minute or two. A tear gathered in each
of her defiant black eyes, but she did not allow either of them to fall.

"You're a queer one," she said, with a hard laugh. "I never met anybody
like you before. You're religious, aren't you?"

"I don't know: I should like to be," said Janetta, soberly.

"That's the queerest thing you've said yet. And all you religious people
look down on folks like me."

"Then I'm not religious, for I don't look down on folks like you at
all," said Janetta, calmly adopting Mrs. Brand's vocabulary.

"Well, you ought to. I'm not a very good sort myself."

Janetta smiled, but made no other answer: And presently Juliet Brand
remarked--

"I dare say I'm not so bad as some people, but I've never been a saint,
you know. And the day I came here I was in an awful temper. I struck
you, didn't I?"

"Oh, never mind that," said Janetta, hastily. "You were tired: you
hardly knew what you were doing."

"Yes, I did," said Mrs. Brand. "I knew perfectly well. But I hated you,
because you lived here and had care of Julian. I had heard all about you
at Beaminster, you see. And people said that you would probably marry
Wyvis when he came home again. Oh, I've made you blush, have I? It was
true then?"

"Not at all; and you have no right to say so."

"Don't be angry, my dear. I don't want to vex you. But it looks to me
rather as though----Well, we won't say any more about it since it vexes
you. I shan't trouble you long, most likely, and then Wyvis can do as he
pleases. But you see it was that thought that maddened me when I came
here, and I felt as if I'd like to fall upon you and tear you limb from
limb. So I struck you on the face when you tried to thwart me."

"But--I don't understand," said Janetta, tremulously. "I thought you did
not--_love_--Wyvis."

Mrs. Brand laughed. "Not in your way," she said in an enigmatic tone.
"But a woman can hate a man and be jealous of him too. And I was jealous
of you, and struck you. And in return for that you've nursed me night
and day, and waited on me, until you're nearly worn out, and the doctor
says I owe my life to you. Don't you think I'm right when I say you're a
queer one?"

"It would be very odd if I neglected you when you were ill just because
of a moment of passion on your part," said Janetta, rather stiffly. It
was difficult to her to be perfectly natural just then.

"Would it? Some people wouldn't say so. But come--you say I don't love
Wyvis?"

"I thought so--certainly."

"Well, look here," said Wyvis' wife. "I'll tell you something. Wyvis was
tired of me before ever he married me. I soon found that out. And you
think I should be caring for him then? Not I. But there _was_ a time
when I would have kissed the very ground he walked on. But he never
cared for me like that."

"Then--why----".

"Why did he marry me? Chiefly because his old fool of a mother egged him
on. She should have let us alone."

"Did she want him to marry you?" said Janetta, in some amaze.

"It doesn't seem likely, does it?" said Mrs. Brand, with a sharp,
heartless little laugh. "But she sets up for having a conscience now and
then. I was a girl in a shop, I may tell you, and Wyvis made love to me
without the slightest idea of marrying me. Then Mrs. Brand comes on the
scene: 'Oh, my dear boy, you mustn't make that young woman unhappy. I
was made unhappy by a gentleman when I was a girl, and I don't want you
to behave as he did."

"And that was very good of Mrs. Brand!" said Janetta, courageously.

Juliet made a grimace. "After a fashion. She had better have let us
alone. She put Wyvis into a fume about his honor; and so he asked me to
marry him. And I cared for him--though I cared more about his
position--and I said yes. So we were married, and a nice cat and dog
life we had of it together."

"And then you left him?"

"Yes, I did. I got tired of it all at last. But I always lived
respectably, except for taking a little too much stimulant now and then;
and I never brought any dishonor on his name. And at last I thought the
best thing for us both would be to set him free. And I wrote to him that
he _was_ free. But there was some hitch--I don't know what exactly. Any
way, we're bound to each other as fast as ever we were, so we needn't
think to get rid of each other just yet."

Janetta felt a throb of thankfulness, for Margaret's sake. Suppose she
had yielded to Wyvis' solicitations and become his wife, to be proved
only no wife at all? Her want of love for Wyvis had at least saved her
from terrible misery. Mrs. Brand went on, reflectively--

"When I'm gone, he can marry whom he likes. I only hope it'll be anybody
as good as you. You'd make a capital mother to Julian. And I don't
suppose I shall trouble anybody very long."

"You are getting better--you will soon be perfectly well."

"Nonsense: nothing of the kind. But if I am, I know one thing," said
Mrs. Brand, in a petulant tone; "I won't be kept out of my rights any
longer. This house seems to be nice and comfortable: I shall stay here.
I am tired of wandering about the world."

Janetta was silent and went on with some needle-work.

"You don't like that, do you?" said Mrs. Brand, peering into her face.
"You think I'd be better away."

"No," said Janetta. But she could not say more.

"Do you know where he is?"

"He? Wyvis?"

"Yes, my husband."

"I have an address. I do not know whether he is there or not, but he
would no doubt get a letter if sent to the place. Do you wish to write
to him?"

"No. But I want you to write. Write and say that I am here. Ask him to
come back."

"You had better write yourself."

"No. He would not read it. Write for me."

Janetta could not refuse. But she felt it one of the hardest tasks that
she had ever had to perform in life. She was sorry for Juliet Brand, but
she shrank with all her heart and soul from writing to Wyvis to return
to her. Yet what else could she do?



CHAPTER XXXVI.

THE FRUITS OF A LIE.


When she told old Mrs. Brand what she had done, she was amazed to mark
the change which came over that sad and troubled countenance. Mrs.
Brand's face flushed violently, her eyes gleamed with a look as near
akin to wrath as any which Janetta had ever seen upon it.

"You have promised to write to Wyvis?" she cried. "Why? What is it to
you? Why should you write?"

"Why should I not?" asked Janetta, in surprise.

"He will never come back to her--never. And it is better so. She spoiled
his life with her violence, her extravagance, her flirtations. He could
not bear it; and why should he be brought back to suffer all again?"

"She is his wife still," said the girl, in a low tone.

"They are separated. She tried to get a divorce, even if she did not
succeed. I do not call her his wife."

Janetta shook her head. "I cannot think of it as you do, then," she
said, quietly. "She and Wyvis are married; and as they separated only
for faults of temper, not for unfaithfulness, I do not believe that they
have any right to divorce each other. Some people may think
differently--I cannot see it in that way."

"You mean," said Mrs. Brand, with curious agitation of manner; "you mean
that even if she had divorced him in America, you would not think him
free--free to marry again?"

"No," Janetta answered, "I would not."

She felt a singular reluctance to answering the question, and she hoped
that Mrs. Brand would ask her nothing more. She was relieved when Wyvis'
mother moved away, after standing perfectly still for a moment, with her
hands clasped before her, a strange ashen shade of color disfiguring her
handsome old face. Janetta thought the face had grown wonderfully tragic
of late; but she hoped that when Juliet had left the house the poor
mother would again recover the serenity of mind which she had gained
during the past few months of Janetta's gentle companionship.

She wrote her letter to Wyvis, making it as brief and business-like as
possible. She dwelt a good deal on Juliet's weakness, on her love for
the boy, and her desire to see him once again. At the same time she
added her own conviction that Mrs. Wyvis Brand was on the high road to
recovery, and would soon be fairly strong and well. She dared not give
any hint as to a possible reconciliation, but she felt, even as she
penned her letter, that it was to this end that she was working. "And it
is right," she said steadily to herself; "there is nothing to gain in
disunion: everything to lose by unfaithfulness. It will be better for
Julian--for all three--that father and mother should no longer be
divided."

But although she argued thus, she had a somewhat different and entirely
instinctive feeling in her heart. To begin with, she could not imagine
persons more utterly unsuited to one another than Wyvis and his wife.
Juliet had no principles, no judgment, to guide her: she was impulsive
and passionate; she did not speak the truth, and she seemed in her
wilder moments to care little what she did. Wyvis had faults--who knew
them better than Janetta, who had studied his character with great and
loving care?--but they were nor of the same kind. His mood was
habitually sombre; Juliet loved pleasure and variety: his nature was a
loving one, strong and deep, although undisciplined; but Juliet's light
and fickle temperament made her shrink from and almost dislike
characteristics so different from her own. And Janetta soon saw that in
spite of her open defiance of her husband she was a little afraid of
him; and she could well imagine that when Wyvis was angry he was a man
of whom a woman might very easily be afraid.

Yet, when the letter was despatched, Janetta felt a sense of relief. She
had at least done her duty, as she conceived of it. She did not know
what the upshot might be; but at any rate, she had done her best to put
matters in train towards the solving of the problem of Wyvis' married
life.

She was puzzled during the next few days by some curious, indefinable
change in Mrs. Brand's demeanor. The poor woman had of late seemed
almost distraught; she had lost all care, apparently, for appearances,
and went along the corridors moaning Wyvis' name sadly to herself, and
wringing her hands as if in bitter woe. Her dress was neglected, and her
hair unbrushed: indeed, when Janetta was too busy to give her a
daughter's loving care, as it was her custom and her pleasure to do,
poor Mrs. Brand roamed about the house looking like a madwoman. Her
madness was, however, of a gentle kind: it took the form of melancholia,
and manifested itself chiefly by continual restlessness and occasional
bursts of weeping and lament.

In one of these outbreaks Janetta found her shortly after she had sent
her letter to Wyvis, and tried by all means in her power to soothe and
pacify her.

"Dear grandmother," she began--for she had caught the word from Julian,
and Mrs. Brand liked her to use it--"why should you be so sad? Wyvis is
coming home, Juliet is better, little Julian is well, and we are all
happy."

"_You_ are not happy," said Mrs. Brand, throwing up her hands with a
curiously tragic gesture. "You are miserable--miserable; and I am the
most unhappy woman living!"

"No," I said Janetta, gently. "I am not miserable at all. And there are
many women more unhappy than you are. You have a home, sons who love
you, a grandson, friends--see how many things you have that other people
want! Is it right to speak of yourself as unhappy?"

"Child," said the older woman, impressively, "you are young, and do not
know what you say. Does happiness consist in houses and clothes, or even
in children and friends? I have been happier in a cottage than in the
grandest house. As for friends--what friends have I? None; my husband
would never let me make friends lest I should expose my ignorance, and
disgrace him by my low birth and bringing up. I have never had a woman
friend."

"But your children," said Janetta, putting her arms tenderly round the
desolate woman's neck.

"Ah, my children! When they were babies, they were a pleasure to me. But
they have never been a pleasure since. They have been a toil and a pain
and a bondage. That began when Wyvis was a little child, and Mr. Brand
took a fancy to him and wanted to make every one believe that he was
_his_ child, not John's. I foresaw that there would be trouble, but he
would never listen to me. It was just a whim of the moment at first, and
then, when he saw that the deceit troubled me, it became a craze with
him. And whatever he said, I had to seem to agree with. I dared not
contradict him. I hated the deceit, and the more I hated it, the more he
loved it and practiced it in my hearing, until I used to be sick with
misery. Oh, my dear, it is the worst of miseries to be forced into
wrong-doing against your will."

"But why did you give way?" said Janetta, who could not fancy herself in
similar circumstances being forced into anything at all.

"My dear, he made me, I dared not cross him. He made me suffer, and he
made the children suffer if ever I opposed him. What could I do?" said
the poor woman, twisting and untwisting her thin hands, and looking
piteously into Janetta's face. "I was obliged to obey him--he was my
husband, and so much above me, so much more of a gentleman than I ever
was a lady. You know that I never could say him nay. He ruled me, as he
used to say, with a rod of iron--for he made a boast of it, my dear--and
he was never so happy, I think, as when he was torturing me and making
me wince with pain."

"He must have been----" when Janetta stopped short: she could not say
exactly what she thought of Mrs. Brand's second husband.

"He was cruel, my dear: cruel, that is, to women. Not cruel amongst his
own set--among his equals, as he would have said--not cruel to boys. But
always cruel to women. Some woman must have done him a grievous wrong
one day--I never knew who she was; but I am certain that it was so; and
that soured and embittered him. He was revenging himself on that other
woman, I used to think, when he was cruel to me."

Janetta dared not speak.

"I did not mind his cruelty when it meant nothing but bodily pain, you
know, my dear," Mrs. Brand continued patiently. "But it was harder for
me to bear when it came to what might be called moral things. You see I
loved him, and I could not say him nay. If he told me to lie, I had to
do it. I never forgave myself for the lies I told at his bidding. And if
he were here to tell me to do the same things I should do them still. If
he had turned Mohammedan, and told me to trample on the Bible or the
Cross, as I have read in missionary books that Christians have sometimes
been bribed to do, I should have obeyed him. I was his body and soul,
and all my misery has come out of that."

"How?" Janetta asked.

"I brought Wyvis up on a lie," the mother answered, her face growing
woefully stern and rigid as she mentioned his name, "and it has been my
punishment that he has always hated lies. I have trembled to hear him
speak against falsehood--to catch his look of scorn when he began to see
that his father did not speak truth. Very early he made me understand
that he would never be likely to forgive us for the deception we
practiced on him. For his good, you will say; but ah, my dear, deception
is never for anybody's good. I never forgave myself, and Wyvis will
never forgive me. And yet he is my child. Now you see the happiness that
lies in having children."

Janetta tried to dissipate the morbid terror of the past, the morbid
dread of Wyvis' condemnation, which hung like a shadow over the poor
woman's mind, but she was far from being successful.

"You do not know," was all that Mrs. Brand would say. "You do not
understand." And then she broke out more passionately--

"I have done him harm all his life. His misery has been my fault. You
heard him tell me so. It is true: there is no use denying it. And he
knows it."

"He spoke in a moment of anger: he did not know what he said."

"Oh, yes, he did, and he meant it too. I have heard him say a similar
thing before. You see it was I that brought about this wretched marriage
of his--because I pitied this woman, and thought her case was like my
own--that she loved Wyvis as I loved Mark Brand. I brought that
marriage about, and Wyvis has cursed me ever since."

"No, no," said Janetta, kissing her troubled face, "Wyvis would never
curse his mother for doing what she thought right. Wyvis loves you.
Surely you know that--you believe that? Wyvis is not a bad son."

"No, my dear, not a bad son, but a cruelly injured one," said Mrs.
Brand. "And he blames me. I cannot blame him: it was all my fault for
not opposing Mark when he wanted me to help him to carry out his wicked
scheme."

"I think," said Janetta, tentatively, "that Cuthbert has more right to
feel himself injured than Wyvis."

"Cuthbert?" Mrs. Brand repeated, in an indifferent tone. "Oh, Cuthbert
is of no consequence: his father always said so. A lame, sickly,
cowardly child! If we had had a strong, healthy lad of our own, Mark
would not have put Wyvis in Cuthbert's place, but with a boy like
Cuthbert, what would you expect him to do?"

It seemed to Janetta almost as if her mind were beginning to wander: the
references to Cuthbert's boyish days appeared to be so extraordinarily
clear and defined--almost as though she were living again through the
time when Cuthbert was supplanted by her boy Wyvis. But when she spoke
again, Mrs. Brand's words were perfectly clear, and apparently
reasonable in tone.

"I often think that if I could do my poor boy some great service, he
would forgive me in heart as well as in deed. I would do anything in the
world for him, Janetta, if only I could give him back the happiness of
which I robbed him."

Janetta could not exactly see that the poor mother's sins had been so
great against Wyvis as against Cuthbert, but it was evident that Mrs.
Brand could never be brought to look at matters in this light. The
thought that she had injured her first-born son had taken possession of
her completely, and seriously disturbed the balance of her faculties.
The desire to make amends to Wyvis for her wrong-doing had already
reached almost a maniacal point: how much further it might be carried
Janetta never thought of guessing.

She was anxious about Mrs. Brand, but more so for her physical than for
her mental strength. For her powers were evidently failing in every
direction, and the doctor spoke warningly to Janetta of the weakness of
her heart's action, and the desirability of shielding her from every
kind of agitation. It was impossible to provide against every kind of
shock, but Janetta promised to do her best.

The winter was approaching before Janetta's letter to Wyvis received an
answer. She was beginning to feel very anxious about it, for his silence
alarmed and also surprised her. She could hardly imagine a man of Wyvis'
disposition remaining unmoved when he read the letter that she had sent
him. His wife's health was, moreover, giving her serious concern. She
had caught cold on one of the foggy autumnal days, and the doctor
assured her that her life would be endangered if she did not at once
seek a warmer climate. But she steadily refused to leave the Red House.

"I won't go," she said to Janetta, with a red spot of anger on either
cheek, "until I know whether he means to do the proper thing by me or
not."

"He is sure to do that; you need have no fear," said Janetta, bluntly.

An angry gleam shot from the sick woman's eyes. "You defend him through
thick and thin, don't you? Wyvis has a knack of getting women to stick
up for him. They say the worst men are often the most beloved."

Janetta left the room, feeling both sick and sorry, and wondering how
much longer she could bear this kind of life. It was telling upon her
nerves and on her strength in every possible way. And yet she could not
abandon her post--unless, indeed, Wyvis himself relieved her. And from
him for many weary days there came no word.

But at last a telegram arrived--dated from Liverpool. "I shall be with
you to-morrow. Your letter was delayed, and reached me only by
accident," Wyvis said. And then his silence was explained.

Janetta carried the news of his approaching arrival to wife and mother
in turn. Mrs. Wyvis took it calmly. "I told you so," she said, with a
triumphant little nod. But Mrs. Brand was terribly agitated, and even,
as it seemed to Janetta, amazed. "I never thought that he would come,"
she said, in a loud whisper, with a troubled face and various nervous
movements of her hands. "I never thought that he would come back to her.
I must be quick. I must be quick, indeed." And when Janetta tried to
soothe her, and said that she must now make haste to be well and strong
when Wyvis was returning, she answered only in about the self-same
words--"never thought it, my dear, indeed, I never did. But if he is
coming back, so soon, I must be quick--I must be very quick."

And Janetta could not persuade her to say why.



CHAPTER XXXVII.

NIGHT.


It was the night before Wyvis' return. The whole household seemed
somewhat disorganized by the prospect. There was an air of subdued
excitement visible in the oldest and staidest of the servants, for in
spite of Wyvis' many shortcomings and his equivocal position, he was
universally liked by his inferiors, if not by those who esteemed
themselves his superiors, in social station. Mrs. Brand had gone to bed
early, and Janetta hoped that she was asleep; Mrs. Wyvis had kept
Janetta at her bedside until after eleven o'clock, regaling her with an
account of her early experience in Paris. When at last she seemed
sleepy, Janetta said good-night and went to her own room. She was tired
but wakeful. The prospect of Wyvis' return excited her; she felt that it
would be impossible to sleep that night, and she resolved therefore to
establish herself before the fire in her own room, with a book, and to
see, by carefully abstracting her mind from actual fact, whether she
could induce the shy goddess, sleep, to visit her.

She read for some time, but she had great difficulty in fixing her mind
upon her book. She found herself conning the same words over and over
again, without understanding their meaning in the least; her thoughts
flew continually to Wyvis and his affairs, and to the mother and wife
and son with whom her fate had linked her with such curious closeness.
At last she relinquished the attempt to read, and sat for some time
gazing into the fire. She heard the clock strike one; the quarter and
half-hour followed at intervals, but still she sat on. Anyone who had
seen her at that hour would hardly have recognized her for the
vivacious, sparkling, ever cheerful woman who made the brightness of the
Red House; the sunshine had left her face, her eyes were wistful, almost
sad; the lines of her mouth drooped, and her cheeks had grown very pale.
She felt very keenly that the period of happy, peaceful work and rest
which she had enjoyed for the last few months was coming to an end. She
was trying to picture to herself what her future life would be, and it
was difficult to imagine it when her old ties had all been severed. "It
seems as if I had to give up everybody that I ever cared for," she said
to herself, not complainingly, but as one recognizing the fact that some
persons are always more or less lonely in the world, and that she
belonged to a lonely class. "My father has gone--my brother and sisters
do not need me; Margaret abandoned me; Wyvis and his mother and Julian
are lost to me from henceforth. God forgive me," said Janetta to
herself, burying her face in her hands and shedding some very heartfelt
tears, "if I seem to be repining at my friends' good fortune; I do not
mean it; I wish them every joy. But what I fear is, lest it should not
be for their good--that Wyvis and his mother and Julian should be
unhappy."

She was roused from her reflection by a sound in the corridor. It was a
creaking board, she knew that well enough; but the board never creaked
unless some one trod upon it. Who could be walking about the house at
this time of night? Mrs. Brand, perhaps; she was terribly restless at
night, and often went about the house, seeking to tire herself so
completely that sleep would be inevitable on her return to bed. On a
cold night, such expeditions were not, however, unattended by danger, as
she was not careful to protect herself against draughts, and it was with
the desire to care for her that Janetta at last rose and took up a soft
warm shawl with which she thought that she might cover Mrs. Brand's
shoulders.

With the shawl over her arm and a candle in one hand she opened her door
and looked out into the passage. It was unlighted, and the air seemed
very chilly. Janetta stole along the corridor like a thief, and peeped
into Mrs. Brand's bedroom; as was expected, it was empty. Then she
looked into Julian's room, for she had several times found the
grandmother praying by his bed, at dead of night; but Julian slumbered
peacefully, and nobody else was there. Janetta rather wonderingly turned
her attention to the lower rooms of the house. But Mrs. Brand was not to
be found in any of the sitting rooms; and the hall door was securely
locked and bolted, so that she could not have gone out into the garden.

"She must be upstairs," said Janetta to herself. "But what can she be
doing in that upper storey, where there are only empty garrets and
servants rooms! I did not look into the spare room, however; perhaps she
has gone to see if it is ready for Wyvis, and I did not go to Juliet.
She cannot have gone to _her_, surely; she never enters the room unless
she is obliged."

Nevertheless, her heart began to beat faster, and she involuntarily
quickened her steps. She did not believe that Mrs. Brand would seek
Juliet's room with any good intent, and as she reached the top of the
stairs her eyes dilated and her face grew suddenly pale with fear. For a
strange whiff of something--was it smoke?--came into her eyes, and an
odd smell of burning assailed her nostrils. Fire, was it fire? She
remembered that Wyvis had once said that the Red House would burn like
tinder if it was ever set alight. The old woodwork was very combustible,
and there was a great deal of it, especially in the upper rooms.

Juliet's door was open. Janetta stood before it for the space of one
half second, stupefied and aghast. Smoke was rapidly filling the room
and circling into the corridor; the curtains near the window were in a
blaze, and Mrs. Brand, with a lighted candle in her hand, was
deliberately setting fire to the upholstery of the bed where the
unconscious Juliet lay. Janetta never forgot the moment's vision that
she obtained of Mrs. Brand's pale, worn, wildly despairing face--the
face of a madwoman as she now perceived, who was not responsible for the
deed she did.

Janetta sprang to the window curtains, dragged them down and trampled
upon them. Her thick dressing gown, and the woollen shawl that she
carried all helped in extinguishing the flame. Her appearance had
arrested Mrs. Brand in her terrible work; she paused and began to
tremble, as if she knew in some vague way that she was doing what was
wrong. The flame had already caught the curtains, which were of a light
material, and was creeping up to the woodwork of the old-fashioned bed,
singeing and blackening as it went. These, also, Janetta tore down,
burning her hands as she did so, and then with her shawl she pressed out
the sparks that were beginning to fly dangerously near the sleeping
woman. A heavy ewer of water over the mouldering mass of torn muslin and
lace completed her task; and by that time Juliet had started from her
sleep, and was asking in hysterical accents what was wrong.

Her screams startled the whole household, and the servants came in
various stages of dress and undress to know what was the matter. Mrs.
Brand had set down her candle and was standing near the door, trembling
from head to foot, and apparently so much overcome by the shock as to be
unable to answer any question. That was thought very natural. "Poor
lady! what a narrow escape! No wonder she was upset," said one of the
maids sympathetically, and tried to lead her back to her own room. But
Mrs. Brand refused to stir.

Meanwhile Juliet was screaming that she was burning, that the whole
house was on fire, that she should die of the shock, and that Wyvis was
alone to blame--after her usual fashion of expressing herself wildly
when she was suffering from any sort of excitement of mind.

"You are quite safe now," Janetta said at last, rather sharply. "The
fire is out: it was never very much. Come into my room: the bed may be
cold and damp now, and the smoke will make you cough."

She was right; the lingering clouds of smoke were producing unpleasant
effects on the throat and lungs of Mrs. Wyvis Brand; and she was glad to
be half led, half carried, by two of the servants into Janetta's room.
And no sooner was she laid in Janetta's bed than a little white figure
rushed out of another room and flew towards her, crying out:

"Mother! Mother! You are not hurt?"

She was not hurt, but she was shaken and out of breath, and Julian's
caresses were not altogether opportune. Still she did not seem to be
vexed by them. Perhaps they were too rare to be unwelcome. She let him
creep into bed beside her, and lay with her arm round him as if he were
still a baby at her breast, and then for a time they slept together,
mother and child, as they had not slept since the days of Julian's
babyhood. For both it may have been a blessed hour. Julian scarcely knew
what it was to feel a mother's love; and with Juliet, the softer side of
her nature had long been hidden beneath a crust of coldness and
selfishness. But those moments of tenderness which a common danger had
brought to light would live for ever in Julian's memory.

While these two were sleeping, however, others in the house were busy.
As soon as Juliet was out of the room, Janetta turned anxiously to Mrs.
Brand. "Come with me, dear," she said. "Come back to your room. You will
catch cold."

She felt no repulsion, nothing but a great pity for the hapless woman
whose nature was not strong enough to bear the strain to which it had
been subjected, and she wished, above all things, to keep secret the
origin of the fire. If Mrs. Brand would but be silent, she did not think
that Juliet could fathom the secret, but she was not sure that poor Mrs.
Brand would not betray herself. At present, she showed no signs of
understanding what had been said to her.

"She is quite upset by the shock," said the maid who had previously
spoken. "And no wonder. And oh! Miss Colwyn, don't you know how burnt
your hands are! You must have them seen to, I'm sure."

"Never mind my hands, I don't feel them," said Janetta brusquely. "Help
me to get Mrs. Brand to her room, and then send for a doctor. Go to Dr.
Burroughs, he will know what to do. I want him here as quickly as
possible. And bring me some oil and cotton wool."

The servants looked at one another, astonished at the strangeness of her
tone. But they were fond of her and always did her bidding gladly, so
they performed her behest, and helped her to lead Mrs. Brand, who was
now perfectly passive in their hands, into her own room.

But when she was there, the old butler returned to knock at the door and
ask to speak to Miss Colwyn alone. Janetta came out, with a feeling of
curious fear. She held the handle of the door as he spoke to her.

"I beg pardon, m'm," he said deferentially, "but hadn't I better keep
them gossiping maids out of the room over there?"

Janetta looked into his face, and saw that he more than suspected the
truth.

"What do you mean?" she asked.

"The window curtains are burned, m'm, and the bed-curtains; also the bed
clothes in different places, and one or two other light articles about
the room. It is easy to see that it was not exactly an accident, m'm."

Then, seeing Janetta's color change, he added kindly, "But there's no
call for you to feel afraid, m'm. We've all known as the poor lady's
been going off her head for a good long time, and this is only perhaps
what might have been expected, seeing what her feelings are. You leave
it all to me, and just keep her quiet, m'm; I'll see to the room, and
nobody else shall put their foot into it. The master will be home this
morning, I hope and trust."

He hobbled away, and Janetta went back to Mrs. Brand. The reaction was
setting in; her own hurts had not been attended to, and were beginning
to give her a good deal of pain; and she was conscious of sickness and
faintness as well as fatigue. A great dread of Mrs. Brand's next words
and actions was also coming over her.

But for the present, at least, she need not have been afraid! Mrs. Brand
was lying on the bed in a kind of stupor: her eyes were only half-open;
her hands were very cold.

Janetta did her best to warm and comfort her physically; and then,
finding that she seemed to sleep more naturally, she got her hands bound
up and sat down to await the coming of the doctor.

But she was not destined to wait in idleness very long. She was summoned
to Mrs. Wyvis Brand, who had awakened suddenly from her sleep and was
coughing violently. Little Julian had to be hastily sent back to his own
room, for his mother's cough was dangerous as well as distressing to
her, and Janetta was anxious that he should not witness what might prove
to be a painful sight.

And she was not far wrong. For the violent cough produced on this
occasion one of its most serious results. The shock, the exposure, the
exertion, had proved almost too much for Mrs. Wyvis Brand's strength.
She ruptured a blood-vessel just as the doctor entered the house; and
all that he could do was to check the bleeding with ice, and enjoin
perfect quiet and repose. And when he had seen her, he had to hear from
Janetta the story of that terrible night. She felt that it was wise to
trust Dr. Burroughs entirely, and she told him, in outline, the whole
story of Mrs. Brand's depression of spirits, and of her evident half-mad
notion that she might gain Wyvis' forgiveness for her past mistakes by
some deed that would set him free from his unloved wife, and enable him
to lead a happier life in the future.

The doctor shook his head when he saw his patient. "It is just as well
for her, perhaps," he said afterwards, "but it is sad for her son and
for those who love her--if any one does! She will probably not recover.
She is in a state of complete prostration; and she will most likely slip
away in sleep."

"Oh, I am sorry," said Janetta, with tears in her eyes.

The doctor looked at her kindly. "You need not be sorry for her, my
dear. She is best out of a world which she was not fitted to cope with.
You should not wish her to stay."

"It will be so sad for Wyvis, when he comes home to-day," murmured
Janetta, her lip trembling.

"He is coming to-day, is he? Early this morning? I will stay with you,
if you like."

Janetta was glad of the offer, although it gave her an uneasy feeling
that the end was nearer than she thought.



CHAPTER XXXVIII.

THE LAST SCENE.


"She does not know you," Dr. Burroughs said, when, a few hours later,
Wyvis bent over his mother's pillow and looked into her quiet,
care-lined face.

"Will she never know me?" asked the young man in a tone of deep
distress. "My poor mother! I must tell her how sorry I am for the pain
that I have often given her."

"She may be conscious for a few minutes by-and-bye," the doctor said.
"But consciousness will only show that the end is near."

There was a silence in the room. Mrs. Brand had now lain in a stupor for
many hours. Wyvis had been greeted on his arrival with sad news indeed:
his mother and wife were seriously ill, and the doctor acknowledged
that he did not think Mrs. Brand likely to live for many hours.

Wyvis had not been allowed to enter his wife's room, Juliet had to be
kept very quiet, lest the hæmorrhage should return. He was almost glad
of the respite; he dreaded the meeting, and he was anxious to bestow all
his time upon his mother. Janetta had told him something about what had
passed; he had heard an outline, but only an outline, of the sad story,
and it must be confessed that as yet he could not understand it. It was
perhaps difficult for a man to fathom the depths of a woman's morbid
misery, or of a doating mother's passionate and unreasonable love. He
grieved, however, over what was somewhat incomprehensible to him, and he
thought once or twice with a sudden sense of comfort that Janetta would
explain, Janetta would make him understand. He looked round for her when
this idea occurred to him; but she was not in the room. She did not like
to intrude upon what might be the last interview between mother and son,
for she was firmly persuaded that Mrs. Brand would recover
consciousness, and would tell Wyvis in her own way something of what she
had thought and felt; but she was not far off, and when Wyvis sent her a
peremptory message to the effect that she was wanted, she came at once
and took up her position with him as watcher beside his mother's bed.

Janetta was right. Mrs. Brand's eyes opened at last, and rested on
Wyvis' face with a look of recognition. She smiled a little, and seemed
pleased that he was there. It was plain that for the moment she had
quite forgotten the events of the last few hours, and the first words
that she spoke proved that the immediate past had completely faded from
her mind.

"Wyvis!" she faltered. "Are you back again, dear? And is--is your father
with you?"

"I am here, mother," Wyvis answered. He could say nothing more.

"But your father----"

Then something--a gleam of reawakening memory--seemed to trouble her;
she looked round the room, knitted her brows anxiously, and murmured a
few words that Wyvis could not hear.

"I remember now," she said, in a stronger voice. "I wanted something--I
thought it was your father, but it was something quite different--I
wanted your forgiveness, Wyvis."

"Mother, mother, don't speak in that way," cried her son. "Have you not
suffered enough to expiate _any_ mistake?"

"Any mistake, perhaps, not any sin," said his mother feebly. "Now that I
am old and dying, I call things by their right names. I did you a wrong,
and I did Cuthbert a wrong, and I am sorry now."

"It is all past," said Wyvis softly. "It does not matter now."

"You forgive me for my part in it? You do not hate me?"

"Mother! Have I been cold to you then? I have loved you all the time,
and never blamed you in my heart."

"You said that I was to blame."

"But I did not mean it. I never thought that you would take an idle word
of mine so seriously, mother. Forgive me, and believe me that I would
not have given you pain for the world if I had thought, if I had only
thought that it would hurt you so much!"

His mother smiled faintly, and closed her eyes for a moment, as if the
exertion of speaking had been too much for her; but, after a short
pause, she started suddenly, and opened her eyes with a look of extreme
terror.

"What is it," she said. "What have I done? Where is she?"

"Who, mother?"

"Your wife, Juliet. What did I do? Is she dead? The fire--the fire----"

Wyvis looked helplessly round for Janetta. He could not answer: he did
not know how to calm his mother's rapidly increasing excitement. Janetta
came forward and bent over the pillow.

"No, Juliet is not dead. She is in her room; you must not trouble
yourself about her," she said.

Mrs. Brand's eyes were fixed apprehensively on Janetta's face.

"Tell me what I did," she said in a loud whisper.

It was difficult to answer. Wyvis hid his face in a sort of desperation.
He wondered what Janetta was going to say, and listened in amazement to
her first words.

"You were ill," said Janetta clearly. "You did not know what you were
doing, and you set fire to the curtains in her room. Nobody was hurt,
and we all understand that you would have been very sorry to harm
anybody. It is all right, dear grandmother, and you must remember that
you were not responsible for what you were doing then."

The boldness of her answer filed Wyvis with admiration. He knew that
he--manlike--would have temporized and tried in vain to deny the truth,
it was far wiser for Janetta to acknowledge and explain the facts. Mrs.
Brand pressed the girl's hand and looked fearfully in her face.

"She--she was not burned?"

"Not at all."

"Stoop down," said Mrs. Brand. "Lower. Close to my face. There--listen
to me. I meant to kill her. Do you understand? I meant to set the place
on fire and let her burn. I thought she deserved it for making my boy
miserable."

Wyvis started up, and turned his back to the bed. It was impossible for
him to hear the confession with equanimity. But Janetta still hung over
the pillow, caressing the dying woman, and looking tenderly into her
face.

"Yes, you thought so then--I understand," she said. "But that was
because of your illness. You do not think so now."

"Yes," said Mrs. Brand, in the same loud, hoarse whisper. "I think so
now."

Then Janetta was silent for a minute or two. The black, ghastly look in
Mrs. Brand's wide-open eyes disconcerted her. She scarcely knew what to
say.

"I have always hated her. I hate her now," said Wyvis' mother. "She has
done me no harm; no. But she has injured my boy; she made his life
miserable, and I cannot forgive her for that."

"If Wyvis forgives her," said Janetta gently, "can you not forgive her
too?"

"Wyvis does not forgive her for making him unhappy," said Mrs. Brand.

"Wyvis,"--Janetta looked round at him. She could not see his face. He
was standing with his face to the window and his back to the bed.
"Wyvis, you have come back to your wife: does not that show that you are
willing to forget the past and to make a fresh beginning. Tell your
mother so, Cousin Wyvis."

He turned round slowly, and looked at her, not at his mother, as he
replied:

"Yes, I am willing to begin again," he said. "I never wished her any
harm."

"Then, you will forgive her--for Wyvis' sake? For Julian's sake?" said
Janetta.

A strange contraction of the features altered Mrs. Brand's face for a
moment: her breath came with difficulty and her lips turned white.

"I forgive," she said at last, in broken tones. "I cannot quite forget.
But I do not want--now--to harm her. It was but for a time--when my head
was bad."

"We know, we know," said Janetta eagerly. "We understand. Wyvis, tell
her that _you_ understand too."

She looked at him insistently, and he returned the look. Their eyes said
a good deal to each other in a second's space of time. In hers there was
tenderness, expostulation, entreaty; in his some shade of mingled horror
and regret. But he yielded his will to hers, thinking it nobler than his
own; and, turning to his mother, he stooped and kissed her on the
forehead.

"I understand, mother. Janetta has made me understand."

"Janetta--it is always Janetta we have to thank," his mother murmured
feebly. "It was for Janetta as well as for you that I did it. Wyvis--but
it is no use now. And, God forgive me, I did not know what I did."

She sank into silence and spoke no more for the next few hours. Her life
was quietly ebbing away. Towards midnight, she opened her eyes and spoke
again.

"Janetta--Wyvis," she said softly, and then the last moment came. Her
eyelids drooped, her head fell aside upon the pillow. There was no more
for her to say or do. Poor Mary Brand's long trial had come to an end at
last.

Juliet was not told of Mrs. Brand's death until after the funeral, as it
was feared that the news might unduly excite her. As it was, she gave a
hoarse little scream when she heard it, and asked, with every appearance
of horror, whether there was really "a body" in the house. On being
informed by Janetta that "the body" had been removed, she became
immediately tranquil, and remarked confidentially that she was "not
sorry, after all, for the old lady's death: it was such a bore to have
one's husband's mother in the house." Then she became silent and
thoughtful, and Janetta wondered whether some kindlier feeling were not
mixing itself with her self-gratulation. But presently Mrs. Wyvis Brand
broke forth:

"Look here, I must say this, if I die for it. You know the night when my
room was on fire. Well, now tell me true: wasn't my mother-in-law to
blame for it?"

Janetta looked at her in speechless dismay. She had no trust in Juliet's
disposition: she did not know whether she might revile Mrs. Brand
bitterly, or be touched by an account of her mental suffering. Wyvis,
however, had recommended her to tell his wife as much of the truth as
seemed necessary; "because, if you don't," he said, "she is quite sharp
enough to find it out for herself. So if she has any suspicion, tell her
something. Anything is better than nothing in such a case."

And Janetta, taking her courage in both hands, so to speak, answered
courageously:

"May I speak frankly to you, Juliet?" For Mrs. Wyvis Brand had insisted
that Janetta should always call her by her Christian name.

"Of course you may. What is it?"

"It is about Mrs. Brand. You must have known that for some time she had
been very weak and feeble. Her mind was giving way. Indeed, she was far
worse than we ever imagined, and she was not sufficiently watched. On
that night, it was she whom you saw, and it was she who set fire to the
curtains; but you must remember, Juliet, that she was not in her right
mind."

"Why, I might have been burned alive in my bed," cried Juliet--an
exclamation so thoroughly characteristic that Janetta could hardly
forbear to smile. Mrs. Wyvis Brand looked terribly shocked and
disconcerted, and it was after a pause that she collected herself
sufficiently to say in her usual rapid manner:

"You may say what you like about her being mad; but Mrs. Brand knew very
well what she was doing. She always hated me, and she wanted to get me
out of the way."

"Oh, Juliet, don't say so," entreated Janetta.

"But I do say so, and I will say so, and I have reason on my side. She
hated me like poison, and she loved you dearly. Don't you see what she
wanted? She would have liked you to take my place."

"If you say such things, Juliet----"

"You'll go out of the room, won't you, my dear? Why," said Juliet, with
a hard laugh in which there was very little mirth, "you don't suppose I
mind? I have known long enough that she thought bad things of me. Don't
you remember the name you called me when you thought I wanted Julian?
You had learnt every one of them from her, you know you had. Oh, you
needn't apologize. I understand the matter perfectly. I bear no malice
either against her or you, though I don't know that I am quite the black
sheep that you both took me to be."

"I am sorry if I was unjust," said Janetta slowly. "But all that I meant
amounts to one thing--that you did not make my Cousin Wyvis very happy."

"Ah, and that's the chief thing, isn't it?" said Juliet, with a keen
look. "Well, don't be frightened, I'm going to change my ways. I've had
a warning if anybody ever had; and I'm not going to get myself turned
out of house and home. If Wyvis will stick to me, I'll stick to him; and
I can't say more than that. I should like to see him now."

"Now, Juliet?" said Janetta, rather aghast at the idea. The meeting
between husband and wife had not yet taken place, and Janetta shrank
sensitively from the notion that Juliet might inflict fresh pain on
Wyvis on the very day of his mother's funeral. But Mrs. Wyvis Brand
insisted, and her husband was summoned to the room.

"You needn't go away, Janetta," said Juliet imperatively. "I want you as
a witness. Well, Wyvis, here I am, and I hope you are glad to see me."

She lifted herself a little from the couch on which she lay, and looked
at him defiantly. Janetta could see that he was shocked at the sight of
her wasted outlines, her hectic color, the unhealthy brilliance of her
eyes; and it was this sight, perhaps, that caused him to say gently:

"I am sorry not to see you looking better."

"The politest speech he has made me for years," she said, laughing.
"Well, half a loaf is better than no bread. We didn't hit it off exactly
the last time we saw each other, did we? Suppose we try again: should we
get on any better, do you think?"

"We might try," said Wyvis slowly.

He was pale and grave, but, as she saw, not unwilling to make peace.

"All right," she said, holding out her hand to him with easy, audacious
grace, "let us try then. I own I was aggravating--own in your turn that
you were tyrannical now and then! You witness that he owns up,
Janetta--why, the girl's gone! Never mind: give me a kiss now we are
alone, Wyvis, and take me to the Riviera to-morrow if you want to save
my life."

Wyvis kissed his wife and promised to do what she asked him, but he did
not look as if he expected to have an easy task.



CHAPTER XXXIX.

MAKING AMENDS.


"It is pleasant to be home again," said Margaret.

For two years she had not seen the Court. For two year's she and her
parents had roamed over the world, spending a winter in Egypt or Italy,
a summer in Norway, a spring or autumn at Biarritz, or Pau, or some
other resort of wealthy and idle Englishmen. These wanderings had been
begun with the laudable object of weaning Margaret's heart away from
Wyvis Brand, but they had been continued long after Margaret's errant
fancy had been chided back to its wonted resting place. The habit of
wandering easily grows, and the two years had slipped away so pleasantly
that it was with a feeling almost of surprise that the Adairs reckoned
up the time that had elapsed since they left England. Then Margaret had
a touch of fever, and began to pine for her home; and, as her will was
still law (in all minor points, at least), her parents at once turned
homeward, and arrived at Helmsley Court in the month of May, when the
woods and gardens were at their loveliest, bright with flowers, and
verdant with the exquisite green of the spring foliage, before it
becomes dusty and faded in the summer-heat.

"It is pleasant to be at home again," said Margaret, standing at the
door of the conservatory one fair May morning and looking at the great
sweep of green sward before her, where elm and beech trees made a
charming shade, and beds of brightly-tinted flowers dotted the grass at
intervals. "I was so tired of foreign towns."

"Were you, dear? You did not say so until lately," said Lady Caroline.

"I did not want to bring you and papa home until you were ready to
come," said Margaret gently.

"Dear child. And you have lost your roses. English country air will soon
bring them back."

"I never had much color, mama," said Margaret gravely. It was almost as
though she were not quite well pleased by the remark.

She moved away from the door, and Lady Caroline's eyes followed her with
a solicitude which had more anxiety and less pride than they used to
show. For Margaret had altered during the last few months. She had grown
more slender, more pale than ever, and a certain languor was perceptible
in her movements and the expression of her beautiful eyes. She was not
less fair, perhaps, than she had been before; and the ethereal character
of her beauty had only been increased by time. Lady Caroline had been
seriously distressed lately by the comments made by her acquaintances
upon Margaret's appearance. "Very delicate, surely," said one. "Do you
think that your daughter is consumptive?" said another. "She would be so
very pretty if she looked stronger," remarked a third. Now these were
not precisely the remarks that Lady Caroline liked her friends to make.

She could not quite understand her daughter. Margaret had of late become
more and more reticent. She was always gentle, always caressing, but she
was not expansive. Something was amiss with her spirits or her health:
nobody could exactly say what it was. Even her father discovered at last
that she did not seem well; but, although he grumbled and fidgeted about
it, he did not know how to suggest a remedy. Lady Caroline hoped that
the return to England would prove efficacious in restoring the girl's
health and spirits, and she was encouraged by hearing Margaret express
her pleasure in her English home. But she felt uneasily that she was not
quite sure as to what was wrong.

"People are beginning to call very quickly," she said, looking at some
cards that lay in a little silver tray. "The Bevans have been here,
Margaret."

"Have they? When we were out yesterday, I suppose?"

"Yes. And the Accringtons, and--oh, ah, yes--two or three other
people."

"Who, mamma?" said Margaret, her attention immediately attracted by her
mother's hesitation. She turned away from the door and entered the
morning-room as she spoke.

"Oh, only Lady Ashley, dear," said Lady Caroline smoothly. She had quite
recovered her self-possession by this time.

"And Sir Philip Ashley," said Margaret, with equal calmness, as she
glanced at the cards in the little silver dish. But the lovely color
flushed up into her cheeks, and as she stood with her eyes cast down,
still fingering the cards, her face assumed the tint of the deepest
rose-carnation.

"Is that the reason?" thought Lady Caroline, with a sudden little thrill
of fear and astonishment. "Surely not! After all this time--and after
dismissing him so summarily! Well, there is no accounting for girls'
tastes."

She said aloud:

"We ought to return these calls pretty soon, I think. With such old
friends it would be nice to go within the week. Do you not agree with
me, love?"

"Yes, mamma," said, Margaret dutifully.

"Shall we go to-morrow then? To the Bevans first, and then to the
Ashleys?"

Margaret hesitated. "The Accringtons live nearer the Bevans than Lady
Ashley," she said. "You might call on Lady Ashley next day, mamma."

"Yes, darling," said Lady Caroline. She was reassured. She certainly did
not want Margaret to show any alacrity in seeking out the Ashleys, and
she hoped that that tell-tale blush had been due to mere maiden modesty
and not to any warmer feeling, which would probably be completely thrown
away upon Philip Ashley, who was not the man to offer himself a second
time to a woman who had once refused him.

She noticed, however, that Margaret showed no other sign of interest in
Sir Philip and his mother; that she did not ask for any account of the
call paid, without her, by Lady Caroline a day or two later. Indeed, she
turned away and talked to Alicia Stone while Lady Caroline was telling
Mr. Adair of the visits that she had made. So the mother was once more
reassured.

She was made uneasy again by an item of news that reached her ear soon
after her return home. "Mr. Brand is coming back," said Mrs. Accrington
to her, with a meaning smile. "I hear that there are great preparations
at the Red House. His wife is dead, you know."

"Indeed," said Lady Caroline, stiffly.

"Yes, died at Nice last spring or summer, I forget which; I suppose he
means to settle at home now. They say he's quite a changed character."

"I am glad to hear it," said Lady Caroline.

She felt annoyed as well as anxious. Was it possible that Margaret knew
that Wyvis Brand was coming home? In spite of the inveterate habit of
caressing Margaret and making soft speeches, in spite also of the very
real love that she had for her daughter, Lady Caroline did not
altogether trust her. Margaret had once or twice disappointed her too
much.

"His little boy," continued Mrs. Accrington in a conversational tone,
"has been spending the time with Mr. Brand's younger brother and his
wife, one of the Colwyn girls, wasn't she? And the eldest Colwyn girl,
the one who sang, has been acting as his governess. She used to be
companion to old Mrs. Brand you know."

"I remember," said Lady Caroline, and managed to change the subject.

She would have liked to question Margaret, but she did not dare. She
watched her carefully for the next few days, and she was not satisfied.
Margaret was nervous and uneasy, as she had been about the time when
Wyvis Brand made his indiscreet proposal for her hand; it seemed to Lady
Caroline that she was watching for some person to arrive--some person
who never came. Who was the person for whom she watched? so Lady
Caroline asked herself. But she dared not question Margaret.

She noticed, too, that Mr. Adair looked once or twice at his daughter in
a curiously doubtful way, as if he were puzzled or distressed. And one
day he said musingly:

"It is surely time for Margaret to be getting married, is it not?"

"Somebody has been saying so to you," said Lady Caroline, with less
urbanity than usual.

"No, no, only Isabel; she wrote this morning expressing some surprise at
not having heard that Margaret was engaged before now. I suppose," Mr.
Adair hesitated a little, "I suppose she _will_ marry?"

"Reginald, what an idea! Of course Margaret will marry, and marry
brilliantly."

"I am not so sure of that," said Mr. Adair, who seemed to be in low
spirits. "Look at my two sisters, and lots of other girls. How many men
has Margaret refused? She will take up with some crooked stick at last."

He went out without waiting for his wife's reply. Lady Caroline,
harassed in mind and considerably weakened of late in body, sat still
and shed a few silent tears. She was angry with him, and yet she shared
his apprehensions. Was it possible that their lovely Margaret was
turning out a social failure? To have Margaret at home, fading, ageing,
growing into an old maid like the sisters of Reginald Adair, that was
not to be thought of for a moment.

Meanwhile Margaret was taking her fate in her own hands.

She was at that very moment standing in the conservatory opposite a
tall, dark man, who, hat in hand, looked at her expectantly as if he
wished her to open the conversation. She had never made a fairer picture
than she did just then. She was dressed in white, and the exquisite
fairness of her head and face was thrown into strong relief by the dark
background of fronded fern and thickly matted creeper with which the
wall behind her was overgrown. Her face was slightly bent, and her hands
hung clasped before her. To her visitor, who was indeed Sir Philip
Ashley, she appeared more beautiful than ever. But his eye, as it rested
upon her, though attentive, was indifferent and cold.

"You sent for me, I think?" he said politely, finding that she did not
speak.

"Yes." Margaret's voice was very low. "I hope you did not mind my
writing that little note?"

"Mind? Not at all. If there is anything I can do for you----?"

"It is not that I want you to do anything," said Margaret, whose
self-possession, not easily disturbed, was now returning to her. "It was
simply that I had something to say."

Sir Philip bowed. His role was that of a listener, it appeared.

"When I was in England before," Margaret went on, this time with some
effort, "you found fault with me----"

"Presumption on my part, I am sure," said Sir Philip, smiling a little.
"Such a thing will certainly not occur again."

"Oh please hear me," said Margaret, rather hurriedly. "Please listen
seriously--I am very serious, and I want you to hear what I have to
say."

"I will listen," said Sir Philip, gravely; he turned aside a little, and
looked at the flowers as she spoke.

"I want to tell you that you were right about Janetta Colwyn. The more I
have thought of it, the more sure I have been that you were right. I
ought not to have been angry when you asked me to prevent people from
misjudging her. I ought to have written to Miss Polehampton and set
things straight."

Sir Philip made an inarticulate sound of assent. She paused for a
moment, and then went on pleadingly.

"It's such a long time ago now that I do not know what to do. I cannot
ask mamma. She never liked Janetta--she never was just to her. I do not
even know where Janetta is, nor whether I can do anything to help her.
Do you know?"

"I know where she is. At the Red House just now, with Mr. and Mrs.
Cuthbert Brand."

"Then--what shall I do?" said Margaret, more urgently. "Would it be of
any use if I wrote to Miss Polehampton or anyone about her now? I will
do anything I can to help her--anything you advise."

Sir Philip changed his position, as if he were slightly impatient.

"I do not know that there is anything to be done for Miss Colwyn at
present," he replied. "She is in a very good position, and I do not
think she wants material help. Of course, if you were to see her and
tell her that you regret the manifest injustice with which she was
treated on more than one occasion, I dare say she would be glad, and
that such an acknowledgment from you would draw out the sting from much
that is past and gone. I think that this is all you can do."

"I will do it," said Margaret submissively. "I will tell her that I am
sorry."

"You will do well," replied Sir Philip in a kinder tone. "I am only
sorry that you did not see things differently when we spoke of the
matter before."

"I am older now, I have thought more. I have reflected on what you
said," murmured Margaret.

"You have done my poor words much honor," said he, with a slight cold
smile. "And I am glad to think that the breach in your friendship is
healed. Miss Colwyn is a true and loyal friend--I could not wish you a
better. I shall feel some pleasure in the thought, when I am far from
England, that you have her for your friend once more."

"Far from England"--Margaret repeated the words with paling lips.

"Did you not know? I have accepted a post in Victoria. I shall be out
for five years at least. So great a field of usefulness seems open to me
there that I did not know how to refuse it."

Margaret was mute for a time. Then, with a tremendous effort, she put
another question. "You go--alone?" she said.

Sir Philip did not look at her.

"No," he said, kicking a small pebble off the tesselated pavement with
the toe of his boot, and apparently taking the greatest interest in its
ultimate fate, "no, I don't go quite alone. I am taking with me my
secretary--and--my wife. I suppose you know that next week I am going to
marry Miss Adela Smithies, daughter of Smithies the great brewer? We
sail ten days later."



CHAPTER XL.

MY FAITHFUL JANET.


"Good blood," they say, "does not lie." Margaret was true to her
traditions. She did not faint, she did not weep, over what was complete
ruin to her expectations, if not of her hopes. She held her head a
little more erect than usual, and looked Sir Philip quietly in the face.

"I am very glad to hear it," she said--it was a very excusable lie,
perhaps. "I hope you will be happy."

Strange to say, her calmness robbed Sir Philip of his self-possession.
He flushed hotly and looked away, thinking of some words that he had
spoken many months ago to Margaret's mother--a sort of promise to be
"always ready" if Margaret should ever change her mind. Had she changed
it now? But she was not going to leave him in doubt upon this point.

"You have only just forestalled a similar announcement on my part," she
said, smiling bravely. "I dare say you will hear all about it soon--and
I hope that you will wish me joy."

He looked up with evident relief.

"I am exceedingly glad. I may congratulate you then?"

"Thank you. Yes, we may congratulate each other."

She still smiled--rather strangely, as he thought. He wondered who the
"happy man" could be? But of that, to tell the truth, Margaret was as
ignorant as he. She had invented her little tale of an engagement in
self-defence.

"Ah, Margaret," he said, with a sudden impulse of affection, "if only
you could have seen as I saw--two years ago!"

"But that was impossible," she answered quietly. "And I think it would
be undesirable also. I wanted you to know, however, that I agree with
you about Janetta--I think that you were right."

"And you have nothing more to tell me?"

For the moment he was willing to throw up his appointment in Australia,
to fly from the wealthy and sensible Miss Adela Smithies and incur any
odium, any disappointment, and any shame, if only Margaret Adair would
own that she loved him and consent to be his wife. For, although he
liked and esteemed Miss Smithies, who was a rather plain-faced girl with
a large fortune, he was perfectly conscious that Margaret had been the
one love of his life. But Margaret was on her guard.

"To tell you?" she echoed, as if in mild surprise. "Why no, I think not,
Sir Philip. Except, perhaps, to ask you not to speak--for the present,
at least--of my own prospects, they are not yet generally known, and I
do not want them mentioned just now."

"Certainly. I will respect your confidence," said Sir Philip. He felt
ashamed of that momentary aberration. Adela was a very suitable wife for
him, and he could not think without remorse that he had ever proposed to
himself to be untrue to her. How fortunate, he reflected, that Margaret
did not seem to care!

"Will you come in?" she said graciously. "Mamma will be so pleased to
see you, and she will be glad to congratulate you on your good fortune."

"Thank you very much, but I fear I must be off. I am very busy, and I
really have scarcely any time to spare."

"I must thank you all the more for giving me some of your valuable
time," said Margaret sweetly. "Must you go?"

"I really must. And--" as he held out his hand--"we are friends, then,
from henceforth?"

"Oh, of course we are," she answered. But her eyes were strangely cold,
and the smile upon her lips was conventional and frosty. The hand that
he held in his own was cold, too, and somewhat limp and flabby.

"I am so glad," he said, growing warmer as she grew cold, "that you have
resolved to renew your acquaintance with Miss Colwyn. It is what I
should have expected from your generous nature, and it shows that what I
always--always thought of you was true."

"Please do not say so," said Margaret. She came very near being natural
in that moment. She had a choking sensation in her throat, and her eyes
smarted with unshed tears. But her training stood her in good stead. "It
is very kind of you to be so complimentary," she went on with a light
little laugh. "And I hope that I shall find Janetta as nice as she used
to be. Good-bye. _Bon voyage._"

"I wish you every happiness," he said with a warm clasp of her hand and
a long grave look into her beautiful face; and then he went away and
Margaret was left alone.

She stole up to her room almost stealthily, and locked the door. She
hoped that no one had seen Sir Philip come and go--that her mother would
not question her, or remark on the length of his visit. She was
thoroughly frightened and ashamed to think of what she had done. She had
been as near as possible to making Sir Philip what would virtually have
been an offer of marriage. What an awful thought! And what a narrow
escape! For of course he would have had to refuse her, and she--what
could she have done then? She would never have borne the mortification.
As it was, she hoped that Sir Philip would accept the explanation of the
little note of summons which she had despatched to him that morning,
and would never inquire what her secret motive had been in writing it.

She set herself to consider the situation. She did not love Sir Philip.
She was not capable of a great deal of love, and all that she had been
capable of she had given to Wyvis Brand. But the years of girlhood in
her father's house were beginning to pall upon her. She was conscious of
a slight waning of her beauty, of a perceptible diminution in the
attentions which she received, and the admiration that she excited. It
had occurred to her lately, as it had occurred to her parents, that she
ought to think seriously of getting married. The notion of spinsterhood
was odious to Margaret Adair. And Sir Philip Ashley would have been, as
her mother used to say, so _suitable_ a man for her to marry! Margaret
saw it now.

She wept a few quiet tears for her lost hopes, and then she arrayed
herself becomingly, and, with a look of purpose on her face, went down
to tea.

"Do you know, mamma," she said, "that Sir Philip Ashley is going to
marry Miss Smithies, the great brewer's daughter, and that he has
accepted a post in Victoria?"

"Margaret!"

"It is quite true, mamma, he told me so himself. Why need you look
surprised? We could hardly expect," said Margaret, with a pretty smile,
"that Sir Philip should always remain unmarried for my sake."

"It is rather sudden, surely!"

"Oh, I don't think so. By the bye, mamma, shall we not soon feel a
little dull if we are here all alone? It would be very nice to fill the
house with guests and have a little gaiety. Perhaps--" with a faint but
charming blush--"Lord Southbourne would come if he were asked."

Lord Southbourne was an exceptionable viscount with weak brains and a
large rent-roll whom Margaret had refused six months before.

"I am sure he would, my darling; I will ask him," said Lady Caroline,
with great satisfaction. And she noticed that Margaret's watch for an
unknown visitor had now come to its natural end.

It was not more than a month later in the year when Janetta Colwyn,
walking in the plantation near the Red House, came face to face with a
man who was leaning against the trunk of a fir-tree, and had been
waiting for her to approach. She looked astonished; but he was calm,
though he smiled with pleasure, and held out his hands.

"Well, Janetta!"

"Wyvis! You have come home at last!"

"At last."

"You have not been up to the house yet?"

"No, I was standing here wishing that I could see you first of all; and,
just as I wished it, you came in sight. I take it as a good omen."

"I am glad you are back," said Janetta earnestly.

"Are you? Really? And why?"

"Oh, for many reasons. The estate wants you, for one thing," said
Janetta, coloring a little, "and Julian wants you----"

"Don't you want me at all, Janetta?"

"Everybody wants you, so I do, too."

"Tell me more about everybody and everybody's wants. How is Julian?"

"Very well, indeed, and longing to see you before he goes to school."

"Ah yes, poor little man. How does he like the idea of school?"

"Pretty well."

"And how do you like the idea of his going?"

Janetta's face fell. "I am sure it is good for him," she said rather
wistfully.

"But not so good for you. What are you going to do? Shall you live with
Mrs. Burroughs, Janet?"

"No, indeed; I think I shall take lodgings in London, and give lessons.
I have saved money during the last few months," said Janetta with
something between a tear in the eye and a smile on the lip, "so that I
shall be able to live even if I get no pupils at first."

"And shall you like that?"

She looked at him for a moment without replying, and then said
cheerfully:

"I shall not like it if I get no pupils."

"And how are Cuthbert and Nora?"

"Absorbed in baby-worship," said Janetta. "You will be expected to fall
down and worship also. And your little niece is really very pretty."

Wyvis shook his head. "Babies are all exactly alike to me, so you had
better instruct me beforehand in what I ought to say. And what about
our neighbors, Janet? Are the Adairs at home?"

"Yes," said Janetta, with some reserve of tone.

"And the Ashleys?"

"Old Lady Ashley. Sir Philip has married and gone to the Antipodes."

"Married Margaret? I always thought that would be the end of it."

"You are quite wrong. He married a Miss Smithies, a very rich girl, I
believe. And Margaret is engaged to a certain Lord Southbourne--who is
also very rich, I believe."

"Little Southbourne!" exclaimed Wyvis, with a sudden burst of laughter.
"You don't say so! I used to know him at Monaco. Oh, there's no harm in
little South; only he isn't very bright."

"I am sorry for Margaret," said Janetta.

"Oh she will be perfectly happy. She will always move in her own circle
of society, and that is paradise for Margaret."

"You are very hard on her, Wyvis," Janetta said, reprovingly. "She is
capable of higher things than you believe."

"Capable! Oh, she may be _capable_ of anything," said Wyvis, "but she
does not do the things that she is capable of doing."

"At any rate she is very kind to me now. She wrote to me a few days ago,
and told me that she was sorry for our past misunderstanding. And she
asked me to go and stay with her when she was married to Lord
Southbourne and had a house of her own."

"Are you sure that she did not add that it would be such an advantage to
you?"

"Of course she did not." But Janetta blushed guiltily, nevertheless.

"And did you promise to accept the invitation?"

She smiled and shook her head.

"I thought you were such a devoted friend of hers!"

"I always tried to be a true friend to her. But you know I think, Wyvis,
that some people have not got it in their nature to be true friends to
anyone. And perhaps it was not--quite--in Margaret's nature."

"I agree with you," said Wyvis, more gravely than he had spoken
hitherto. "She has not your depth of affection, Janetta--your strength
of will. You have been a very true and loyal friend to those you have
loved."

Janetta turned away her face. Something in his words touched her very
keenly. After a pause, Wyvis spoke again.

"I have had reason since I saw you last to know the value of your
friendship," he said seriously. "I want to speak to you for a moment,
Janetta, before we join the others, about my poor Juliet. I had not, as
you know, very many months with her after we left England. But during
those few months I became aware that she was a different creature from
the woman I had known in earlier days. She showed me that she had a
heart--that she loved me and our boy after all--and died craving my
forgiveness, poor soul (though God knows that I needed hers more than
she needed mine), for the coldness she had often shown me. And she said,
Janetta, that _you_ had taught her what love meant, and she charged me
to tell you that your lessons had not been in vain."

Janetta looked up with swimming eyes. "Poor Juliet! I am glad that she
said that."

"She is at peace now," said Wyvis, in a lower voice, "and the happiness
of her later days is due to you. But how much is not due to you,
Janetta! Your magic power seemed to change my poor wife's very nature:
it has made my child happy: it gave all possible comfort to my mother on
her dying bed--and what it has done for me no words can ever tell! No
one has been to me what you have been, Janetta; the good angel of my
life, always inspiring and encouraging, always ready to give me hope and
strength and courage in my hours of despair."

"You must not say so: I have done nothing," she said, but she let her
hand lie unresistingly between his own, as he took it and pressed it
tenderly.

"Have you not? Then I have been woefully mistaken. And it has come
across me strangely, Janetta, of late, that of all the losses I have
had, one of the greatest is the loss of my kinship with you. No doubt
you have thought of that: John Wyvis, the ploughman's son, is not your
cousin, Wyvis Brand."

"I never remembered it," said Janetta.

"Then I must remind you of it now. I cannot call you Cousin Janet any
longer. May I call you something else, dear, so that I may not lose you
out of my life? I want you to be something infinitely closer and dearer
and sweeter than a cousin, Janetta; will you forgive me all my errors
and be my wife?"

And when she had whispered her reply, he took her in his arms and called
her, as her father used to call her--

"My faithful Janet!"

And she thought that she had never borne a sweeter name.

THE END.





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