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Title: The Doctor's Dilemma
Author: Stretton, Hesba, 1832-1911
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 "The Doctor's Dilemma" ***

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THE DOCTOR'S DILEMMA.

_A NOVEL_.

BY HESBA STRETTON


     NEW YORK:
     D. APPLETON AND COMPANY,
     549 & 551 BROADWAY.
     1872.



     CONTENTS.


     _PART THE FIRST_.

     I.--AN OPEN DOOR
     II.--TO SOUTHAMPTON
     III.--A ROUGH NIGHT AT SEA
     IV.--A SAFE HAVEN
     V.--WILL IT DO?
     VI.--TOO MUCH ALONE
     VII.--A FALSE STEP
     VIII.--AN ISLAND WITHOUT A DOCTOR


     _PART THE SECOND_.

     I.--DR. MARTIN DOBRÉE
     II.--A PATIENT IN SARK
     III.--WITHOUT RESOURCES
     IV.--A RIVAL PRACTITIONER
     V.--LOCKS OF HAIR
     VI.--WHO IS SHE?
     VII.--WHO ARE HER FRIENDS?
     VIII.--THE SIXTIES OF GUERNSEY
     IX.--A CLEW TO THE SECRET
     X.--JULIA'S WEDDING-DRESS
     XI.--TRUE TO BOTH
     XII.--STOLEN WATERS ARE SWEET
     XIII.--ONE IN A THOUSAND.
     XIV.--OVERHEAD IN LOVE
     XV.--IN A FIX
     XVI.--A MIDNIGHT RIDE
     XVII.--A LONG HALF-HOUR
     XVIII.--BROKEN OFF
     XIX.--THE DOBRÉES' GOOD NAME
     XX.--TWO LETTERS
     XXI.--ALL WRONG
     XXII.--DEAD TO HONOR
     XXIII.--IN EXILE
     XXIV.--OVERMATCHED.
     XXV.--HOME AGAIN
     XXVI.--A NEW PATIENT
     XXVII.--SET FREE
     XXVIII.--A BRIGHT BEGINNING
     XXIX.--THE GOULIOT CAVES
     XXX.--A GLOOMY ENDING
     XXXI.--A STORY IN DETAIL
     XXXII.--OLIVIA GONE
     XXXIII.--THE EBB OF LIFE
     XXXIV.--A DISCONSOLATE WIDOWER
     XXXV.--THE WIDOWER COMFORTED
     XXXVI.--FINAL ARRANGEMENTS
     XXXVII.--THE TABLES TURNED
     XXXVIII.--OLIVIA'S HUSBAND
     XXXIX.--SAD NEWS
     XL.--A TORMENTING DOUBT
     XLI.--MARTIN DOBRÉE'S PLEDGE
     XLII.--NOIREAU
     XLIII.--A SECOND PURSUER
     XLIV.--THE LAW OF MARRIAGE
     XXV.--FULFILLING THE PLEDGE
     XLVI.--A DEED OF SEPARATION
     XLVII.--A FRIENDLY CABMAN
     XLVIII.--JULIA'S WEDDING
     XLIX.--A TELEGRAM IN PATOIS


     _PART THE THIRD_.

     I.--OLIVIA'S JUSTIFICATION
     II.--ON THE WING AGAIN
     III.--IN LONDON LODGINGS
     IV.--RIDLEY'S AGENCY-OFFICE
     V.--BELLRINGER STREET
     VI.--LEAVING ENGLAND
     VII.--A LONG JOURNEY
     VIII.--AT SCHOOL IN FRANCE
     IX.--A FRENCH AVOCAT
     X.--A MISFORTUNE WITHOUT PARALLEL
     XI.--LOST AT NIGHTFALL
     XII.--THE CURÉ OF VILLE-EN-BOIS
     XIII.--A FEVER-HOSPITAL
     XIV.--OUTCAST PARISHIONERS
     XV.--A TACITURN FRENCHWOMAN
     XVI.--SENT BY GOD
     XVII.--A MOMENT OF TRIUMPH
     XVIII.--PIERRE'S SECRET
     XIX.--SUSPENSE
     XX.--A MALIGNANT CASE
     XXI.--THE LAST DEATH
     XXII.--FREE
     XXIII.--A YEAR'S NEWS
     XXIV.--FAREWELL TO VILLE-EN-BOIS
     XXV.--TOO HIGHLY CIVILIZED
     XXVI.--SEEING SOCIETY
     XXVII.--BREAKING THE ICE
     XXVIII.--PALMY DAYS
     XXIX.--A POSTSCRIPT BY MARTIN DOBRÉE



PART THE FIRST.



CHAPTER THE FIRST.

AN OPEN DOOR.


I think I was as nearly mad as I could be; nearer madness, I believe,
than I shall ever be again, thank God! Three weeks of it had driven me
to the very verge of desperation. I cannot say here what had brought me
to this pass, for I do not know into whose hands these pages may fall;
but I had made up my mind to persist in a certain line of conduct which
I firmly believed to be right, while those who had authority over me,
and were stronger than I was, were resolutely bent upon making me submit
to their will. The conflict had been going on, more or less violently,
for months; now I had come very near the end of it. I felt that I must
either yield or go mad. There was no chance of my dying; I was too
strong for that. There was no other alternative than subjection or
insanity.

It had been raining all the day long, in a ceaseless, driving torrent,
which had kept the streets clear of passengers. I could see nothing but
wet flag-stones, with little pools of water lodging in every hollow, in
which the rain-drops splashed heavily whenever the storm grew more in
earnest. Now and then a tradesman's cart, or a cab, with their drivers
wrapped in mackintoshes, dashed past; and I watched them till they were
out of my sight. It had been the dreariest of days. My eyes had followed
the course of solitary drops rolling down the window-panes, until my
head ached. Toward nightfall I could distinguish a low, wailing tone,
moaning through the air; a quiet prelude to a coming change in the
weather, which was foretold also by little rents in the thick mantle of
cloud, which had shrouded the sky all day. The storm of rain was about
to be succeeded by a storm of wind. Any change would be acceptable to
me.

There was nothing within my room less dreary than without. I was in
London, but in what part of London I did not know. The house was one of
those desirable family residences, advertised in the _Times_ as to be
let furnished, and promising all the comforts and refinements of a home.
It was situated in a highly-respectable, though not altogether
fashionable quarter; as I judged by the gloomy, monotonous rows of
buildings which I could see from my windows: none of which were shops,
but all private dwellings. The people who passed up and down the streets
on line days were all of one stamp, well-to-do persons, who could afford
to wear good and handsome clothes; but who were infinitely less
interesting than the dear, picturesque beggars of Italian towns, or the
sprightly, well-dressed peasantry of French cities. The rooms on the
third floor--my rooms, which I had not been allowed to leave since we
entered the house, three weeks before--were very badly furnished,
indeed, with comfortless, high horse-hair-seated chairs, and a sofa of
the same uncomfortable material, cold and slippery, on which it was
impossible to rest. The carpet was nearly threadbare, and the curtains
of dark-red moreen were very dingy; the mirror over the chimney-piece
seemed to have been made purposely to distort my features, and produce
in me a feeling of depression. My bedroom, which communicated with this
agreeable sitting-room by folding-doors, was still smaller and gloomier;
and opened upon a dismal back-yard, where a dog in a kennel howled
dejectedly from time to time, and rattled his chain, as if to remind me
that I was a prisoner like himself. I had no books, no work, no music.
It was a dreary place to pass a dreary time in; and my only resource was
to pace to and fro--to and fro from one end to another of those wretched
rooms.

I watched the day grow dusk, and then dark. The rifts in the driving
clouds were growing larger, and the edges were torn. I left off roaming
up and down my room, like some entrapped creature, and sank down on the
floor by the window, looking out for the pale, sad blue of the sky which
gleamed now and then through the clouds, till the night had quite set
in. I did not cry, for I am not given to overmuch weeping, and my heart
was too sore to be healed by tears; neither did I tremble, for I held
out my hand and arm to make sure they were steady; but still I felt as
if I were sinking down--down into an awful, profound despondency, from
which I should never rally; it was all over with me. I had nothing
before me but to give up, and own myself overmatched and conquered. I
have a half-remembrance that as I crouched there in the darkness I
sobbed once, and cried under my breath, "God help me!"

A very slight sound grated on my ear, and a fresh thrill of strong,
resentful feeling quivered all through me; it was the hateful click of
the key turning in the lock. It gave me force enough to carry out my
defiance a little longer. Before the door could be opened I sprang to my
feet, and stood erect, and outwardly very calm, gazing through the
window, with my face turned away from the persons who were coming in; I
was so placed that I could see them reflected in the mirror over the
fireplace. A servant came first, carrying in a tray, upon which were a
lamp and my tea--such a meal as might be prepared for a school-girl in
disgrace.

She came up to me, as if to draw down the blinds and close the shutters.

"Leave them," I said; "I will do it myself by-and-by."

"He's not coming home to-night," said a woman's voice behind me, in a
scoffing tone.

I could see her too without turning round. A handsome woman, with bold
black eyes, and a rouged face, which showed coarsely in the ugly
looking-glass. She was extravagantly dressed, and wore a profusion of
ornaments--tawdry ones, mostly, but one or two I recognized as my own.
She was not many years older than myself. I took no notice whatever of
her, or her words, or her presence; but continued to gaze out steadily
at the lamp-lit streets and stormy sky. Her voice grew hoarse with
passion, and I knew well how her face would burn and flush under the
rouge.

"It will be no better for you when he is at home," she said, fiercely.
"He hates you; he swears so a hundred times a day, and he is determined
to break your proud spirit for you. We shall force you to knock under
sooner or later; and I warn you it will be best for you to be sooner
rather than later. What friends have you got anywhere to take your side?
If you'd made friends with me, my fine lady, you'd have found it good
for yourself; but you've chosen to make me your enemy, and I'll make him
your enemy. You know, as well as I do, he can't hear the sight of your
long, puling face."

Still I did not answer by word or sign. I set my teeth together, and
gave no indication that I had heard one of her taunting speeches. My
silence only served to fan her fury.

"Upon my soul, madam," she almost shrieked, "you are enough to drive me
to murder! I could beat you, standing there so dumb, as if I was not
worthy to speak a word to. Ay! and I would, but for him. So, then, three
weeks of this hasn't broken you down yet! but you are only making it the
worse for yourself; we shall try other means to-morrow."

She had no idea how nearly my spirit was broken, for I gave her no
reply. She came up to where I stood, and shook her clinched hand in my
face--a large, well-shaped hand, with bejewelled fingers, that could
have given me a heavy blow. Her face was dark with passion; yet she was
maintaining some control over herself, though with great difficulty. She
had never struck me yet, but I trembled and shrank from her, and was
thankful when she flung herself out of the room, pulling the door
violently after her, and locking it noisily, as if the harsh, jarring
sounds would be more terrifying than the tones of her own voice.

Left to myself I turned round to the light, catching a fresh glimpse of
my face in the mirror--a pale and sadder and more forlorn face than
before. I almost hated myself in that glass. But I was hungry, for I was
young, and my health and appetite were very good; and I sat down to my
plain fare, and ate it heartily. I felt stronger and in better spirits
by the time I had finished the meal; I resolved to brave it out a little
longer. The house was very quiet; for at present there was no one in it
except the woman and the servant who had been up to my room. The servant
was a poor London drudge, who was left in charge by the owners of the
house, and who had been forbidden to speak to me. After a while I heard
her heavy, shambling footsteps coming slowly up the staircase, and
passing my door on her way to the attics above; they sounded louder than
usual, and I turned my head round involuntarily. A thin, fine streak of
light, no thicker than a thread, shone for an instant in the dark corner
of the wall close by the door-post, but it died away almost before I saw
it. My heart stood still for a moment, and then beat like a hammer. I
stole very softly to the door, and discovered that the bolt had slipped
beyond the hoop of the lock; probably in the sharp bang with which it
had been closed. The door was open for me!



CHAPTER THE SECOND.

TO SOUTHAMPTON.


There was not a moment to be lost. When the servant came downstairs
again from her room in the attics, she would be sure to call for the
tea-tray, in order to save herself another journey; how long she would
be up-stairs was quite uncertain. If she was gone to "clean" herself, as
she called it, the process might be a very long one, and a good hour
might be at my disposal; but I could not count upon that. In the
drawing-room below sat my jailer and enemy, who might take a whim into
her head, and come up to see her prisoner at any instant. It was
necessary to be very quick, very decisive, and very silent.

I had been on the alert for such a chance ever since my imprisonment
began. My seal-skin hat and jacket lay ready to my hand in a drawer; but
I could find no gloves; I could not wait for gloves. Already there were
ominous sounds overhead, as if the servant had dispatched her brief
business there, and was about to come down. I had not time to put on
thicker boots; and it was perhaps essential to the success of my flight
to steal down the stairs in the soft, velvet slippers I was wearing. I
stepped as lightly as I could--lightly but very swiftly, for the servant
was at the top of the upper flight, while I had two to descend. I crept
past the drawing-room door. The heavy house-door opened with a grating
of the hinges; but I stood outside it, in the shelter of the portico;
free, but with the rain and wind of a stormy night in October beating
against me, and with no light save the glimmer of the feeble
street-lamps flickering across the wet pavement.

I knew very well that my escape was almost hopeless, for the success of
it depended very much upon which road of the three lying before me I
should happen to take. I had no idea of the direction of any one of
them, for I had never been out of the house since the night I was
brought to it. The strong, quick running of the servant, and the
passionate fury of the woman, would overtake me if we were to have a
long race; and if they overtook me they would force me back. I had no
right to seek freedom in this wild way, yet it was the only way. Even
while I hesitated in the portico of the house that ought to have been my
home, I heard the shrill scream of the girl within when she found my
door open, and my room empty. If I did not decide instantaneously, and
decide aright, it would have been better for me never to have tried this
chance of escape.

But I did not linger another moment. I could almost believe an angel
took me by the hand, and led me. I darted straight across the muddy
road, getting my thin slippers wet through at once, ran for a few yards,
and then turned sharply round a corner into a street at the end of which
I saw the cheery light of shop-windows, all in a glow in spite of the
rain. On I fled breathlessly, unhindered by any passer-by, for the rain
was still falling, though more lightly. As I drew nearer to the
shop-windows, an omnibus-driver, seeing me run toward him, pulled up his
horses in expectation of a passenger. The conductor shouted some name
which I did not hear, but I sprang in, caring very little where it might
carry me, so that I could get quickly enough and far enough out of the
reach of my pursuers. There had been no time to lose, and none was lost.
The omnibus drove on again quickly, and no trace was left of me.

I sat quite still in the farthest corner of the omnibus, hardly able to
recover my breath after my rapid running. I was a little frightened at
the notice the two or three other passengers appeared to take of me, and
I did my best to seem calm and collected. My ungloved hands gave me some
trouble, and I hid them as well as I could in the folds of my dress; for
there was something remarkable about the want of gloves in any one as
well dressed as I was. But nobody spoke to me, and one after another
they left the omnibus, and fresh persons took their places, who did not
know where I had got in. I did not stir, for I determined to go as far
as I could in this conveyance. But all the while I was wondering what I
should do with myself, and where I could go, when it readied its
destination.

There was one trifling difficulty immediately ahead of me. When the
omnibus stopped I should have no small change for paying my fare. There
was an Australian sovereign fastened to my watch-chain which I could
take off, but it would be difficult to detach it while we were jolting
on. Besides, I dreaded to attract attention to myself. Yet what else
could I do?

Before I had settled this question, which occupied me so fully that I
forgot other and more serious difficulties, the omnibus drove into a
station-yard, and every passenger, inside and out, prepared to alight. I
lingered till the last, and sat still till I had unfastened my
gold-piece. The wind drove across the open space in a strong gust as I
stepped down upon the pavement. A man had just descended from the roof,
and was paying the conductor: a tall, burly man, wearing a thick
water-proof coat, and a seaman's hat of oil-skin, with a long flap lying
over the back of his neck. His face was brown and weather-beaten, but he
had kindly-looking eyes, which glanced at me as I stood waiting to pay
my fare.

"Going down to Southampton?" said the conductor to him.

"Ay, and beyond Southampton," he answered.

"You'll have a rough night of it," said the conductor.--"Sixpence, if
you please, miss."

I offered him my Australian sovereign, which he turned over curiously,
asking me if I had no smaller change. He grumbled when I answered no,
and the stranger, who had not passed on, but was listening to what was
said, turned pleasantly to me.

"You have no change, mam'zelle?" he asked, speaking rather slowly, as if
English was not his ordinary speech. "Very well! are you going to
Southampton?"

"Yes, by the next train," I answered, deciding upon that course without
hesitation.

"So am I, mam'zelle," he said, raising his hand to his oil-skin cap; "I
will pay this sixpence, and you can give it me again, when you buy your
ticket in the office."

I smiled quickly, gladly; and he smiled back upon me, but gravely, as if
his face was not used to a smile. I passed on into the station, where a
train was standing, and people hurrying about the platform, choosing
their carriages. At the ticket-office they changed my Australian
gold-piece without a word; and I sought out my seaman friend to return
the sixpence he had paid to me. He had done me a greater kindness than
he could ever know, and I thanked him heartily. His honest, deep-set,
blue eyes glistened under their shaggy eyebrows as they looked down upon
me.

"Can I do nothing more for you, mam'zelle?" he asked. "Shall I see after
your luggage?"

"Oh! that will be all right, thank you," I replied, "but is this the
train for Southampton, and how soon will it start?"

I was watching anxiously the stream of people going to and fro, lest I
should see some person who knew me. Yet who was there in London who
could know me?

"It will be off in five minutes," answered the seaman. "Shall I look out
a carriage for you?"

He was somewhat careful in making his selection; finally he put me into
a compartment where there were only two ladies, and he stood in front of
the door, but with his back turned toward it, until the train was about
to start. Then he touched his hat again with a gesture of farewell, and
ran away to a second-class carriage.

I sighed with satisfaction as the train rushed swiftly through the
dimly-lighted suburbs of London, and entered upon the open country. A
wan, watery line of light lay under the brooding clouds in the west,
tinged with a lurid hue; and all the great field of sky stretching above
the level landscape was overcast with storm-wrack, fleeing swiftly
before the wind. At times the train seemed to shake with the Wast, when
it was passing oyer any embankment more than ordinarily exposed; but it
sped across the country almost as rapidly as the clouds across the sky.
No one in the carriage spoke. Then came over me that weird feeling
familiar to all travellers, that one has been doomed to travel thus
through many years, and has not half accomplished the time. I felt as if
I had been fleeing from my home, and those who should have been my
friends, for a long and weary while; yet it was scarcely an hour since I
had made my escape.

In about two hours or more--but exactly what time I did not know, for my
watch had stopped--my fellow-passengers, who had scarcely condescended
to glance at me, alighted at a large, half-deserted station, where only
a few lamps were burning. Through the window I could see that very few
other persons were leaving the train, and I concluded we had not yet
reached the terminus. A porter came up to me as I leaned my head through
the window.

"Going on, miss?" he asked.

"Oh, yes!" I answered, shrinking back into my corner-seat. He remained
upon the step, with his arm over the window-frame, while the train moved
on at a slackened pace for a few minutes, and then pulled up, but at no
station. Before me lay a dim, dark, indistinct scene, with little specks
of light twinkling here and there in the night, but whether on sea or
shore I could not tell. Immediately opposite the train stood the black
hulls and masts and funnels of two steamers, with a glimmer of lanterns
on their decks, and up and down their shrouds. The porter opened the
door for me.

"You've only to go on board, miss," he said, "your luggage will be seen
to all right." And he hurried away to open the doors of the other
carriages.

I stood still, utterly bewildered, for a minute or two, with the wind
tossing my hair about, and the rain beating in sharp, stinging drops
like hailstones upon my face and hands. It must have been close upon
midnight, and there was no light but the dim, glow-worm glimmer of the
lanterns on deck. Every one was hurrying past me. I began almost to
repent of the desperate step I had taken; but I had learned already that
there is no possibility of retracing one's steps. At the gangways of the
two vessels there were men shouting hoarsely. "This way for the Channel
Islands!" "This way for Havre and Paris!" To which boat should I trust
myself and my fate? There was nothing to guide me. Yet once more that
night the moment had come when I was compelled to make a prompt,
decisive, urgent choice. It was almost a question of life and death to
me: a leap in the dark that must be taken. My great terror was lest my
place of refuge should be discovered, and I be forced back again. Where
was I to go? To Paris, or to the Channel Islands?



CHAPTER THE THIRD.

A ROUGH NIGHT AT SEA.


A mere accident decided it. Near the fore-part of the train I saw the
broad, tall figure of my new friend, the seaman, making his way across
to the boat for the Channel Islands; and almost involuntarily I made up
my mind to go on board the same steamer, for I had an instinctive
feeling that he would prove a real friend, if I had need of one. He did
not see me following; no doubt he supposed I had left the train at
Southampton, having only taken my ticket so far; though how I had missed
Southampton I could not tell. The deck was wet and slippery, and the
confusion upon it was very great. I was too much at home upon a steamer
to need any directions; and I went down immediately into the ladies'
cabin, which was almost empty, and chose a berth for myself in the
darkest corner. It was not far from the door, and presently two other
ladies came down, with a gentleman and the captain, and held an anxious
parley close to me. I listened absently and mechanically, as indifferent
to the subject as if it could be of no consequence to me.

"Is there any danger?" asked one of the ladies.

"Well, I cannot say positively there will be no danger," answered the
captain; "there's not danger enough to keep me and the crew in port; but
it will be a very dirty night in the Channel. If there's no actual
necessity for crossing to-night I should advise you to wait, and see how
it will be to-morrow. Of course we shall use extra caution, and all that
sort of thing. No; I cannot say I expect any great danger."

"But it will be awfully rough?" said the gentleman.

The captain answered only by a sound between a groan and a whistle, as
if he could not trust himself to think of words that would describe the
roughness. There could be no doubt of his meaning. The ladies hastily
determined to drive back to their hotel, and gathered up their small
packages and wrappings quickly. I fancied they were regarding me
somewhat curiously, but I kept my face away from them carefully. They
could only see my seal-skin jacket and hat, and my rough hair; and they
did not speak to me.

"You are going to venture, miss?" said the captain, stepping into the
cabin as the ladies retreated up the steps.

"Oh, yes," I answered. "I am obliged to go, and I am not in the least
afraid."

"You needn't be," he replied, in a hearty voice. "We shall do our best,
for our own sakes, and you would be our first care if there was any
mishap. Women and children first always. I will send the stewardess to
you; she goes, of course."

I sat down on one of the couches, listening for a few minutes to the
noises about me. The masts were groaning, and the planks creaking under
the heavy tramp of the sailors, as they got ready to start, with shrill
cries to one another. Then the steam-engine began to throb like a pulse
through all the vessel from stem to stern. Presently the stewardess came
down, and recommended me to lie down in my berth at once, which I did
very obediently, but silently, for I did not wish to enter into
conversation with the woman, who seemed inclined to be talkative. She
covered me up well with several blankets, and there I lay with my face
turned from the light of the swinging lamp, and scarcely moved hand or
foot throughout the dismal and stormy night.

For it was very stormy and dismal as soon as we were out of Southampton
waters, and in the rush and swirl of the Channel. I did not fall asleep
for an instant. I do not suppose I should have slept had the Channel
been, as it is sometimes, smooth as a mill-pond, and there had been no
clamorous hissing and booming of waves against the frail planks, which I
could touch with my hand. I could see nothing of the storm, but I could
hear it: and the boat seemed tossed, like a mere cockle-shell, to and
fro upon the rough sea. It did not alarm me so much as it distracted my
thoughts, and kept them from dwelling upon possibilities far more
perilous to me than the danger of death by shipwreck. A short suffering
such a death would be.

My escape and flight had been so unexpected, so unhoped for, that it had
bewildered me, and it was almost a pleasure to lie still and listen to
the din and uproar of the sea and the swoop of the wind rushing down
upon it. Was I myself or no? Was this nothing more than a very coherent,
very vivid dream, from which I should awake by-and-by to find myself a
prisoner still, a creature as wretched and friendless as any that the
streets of London contained? My flight had been too extraordinary a
success, so far, for my mind to be able to dwell upon it calmly.

I watched the dawn break through a little port-hole opening upon my
berth, which had been washed and beaten by the water all the night long.
The level light shone across the troubled and leaden-colored surface of
the sea, which seemed to grow a little quieter under its touch. I had
fancied during the night that the waves were running mountains high; but
now I could see them, they only rolled to and fro in round, swelling
hillocks, dull green against the eastern sky, with deep, sullen troughs
of a livid purple between them. But the fury of the storm had spent
itself, that was evident, and the steamer was making way steadily now.

The stewardess had gone away early in the night, being frightened to
death, she said, to seek more genial companionship than mine. So I was
alone, with the blending light of the early dawn and that of the lamp
burning feebly from the ceiling. I sat up in my berth and cautiously
unstitched the lining in the breast of my jacket. Here, months ago, when
I first began to foresee this emergency, and while I was still allowed
the use of my money, I had concealed one by one a few five-pound notes
of the Bank of England. I counted them over, eight of them; forty pounds
in all, my sole fortune, my only means of living. True, I had besides
these a diamond ring, presented to me under circumstances which made it
of no value to me, except for its worth in money, and a watch and chain
given to me years ago by my father. A jeweller had told me that the ring
was worth sixty pounds, and the watch and chain forty; but how difficult
and dangerous it would be for me to sell either of them! Practically my
means were limited to the eight bank-notes of five pounds each. I kept
out one for the payment of my passage, and then replaced the rest, and
carefully pinned them into the unstitched lining.

Then I began to wonder what my destination was. I knew nothing whatever
of the Channel Islands, except the names which I had learned at
school--Jersey, Guernsey, Alderney, and Sark. I repeated these over and
over again to myself; but which of them we were bound for, or if we were
about to call at each one of them, I did not know. I should have been
more at home had I gone to Paris.

As the light grew I became restless, and at last I left my berth and
ventured to climb the cabin-steps. The fresh air smote upon me almost
painfully. There was no rain falling, and the wind had been lulling
since the dawn. The sea itself was growing brighter, and glittered here
and there in spots where the sunlight fell upon it. All the sailors
looked beaten and worn out with the night's toil, and the few passengers
who had braved the passage, and were now well enough to come on deck,
were weary and sallow-looking. There was still no land in sight, for the
clouds hung low on the horizon, and overhead the sky was often overcast
and gloomy. It was so cold that, in spite of my warm mantle, I shivered
from head to foot.

But I could not bear to go back to the close, ill-smelling cabin, which
had been shut up all night. I stayed on deck in the biting wind, leaning
over the wet bulwarks and gazing across the desolate sea till my spirits
sank like lead. The reaction upon the violent strain on my nerves was
coming, and I had no power to resist its influence. I could feel the
tears rolling down my cheeks and falling on my hands without caring to
wipe them away; the more so as there was no one to see them. What did my
tears signify to any one? I was cold, and hungry, and miserable. How
lonely I was! how poor! with neither a home nor a friend in the
world!--a mere castaway upon the waves of this troublous life!

"Mam'zelle is a brave sailor," said a voice behind me, which I
recognized as my seaman of the night before, whom I had wellnigh
forgotten; "but the storm is over now, and we shall be in port only an
hour or two behind time."

"What port shall we reach?" I asked, not caring to turn round lest he
should see my wet eyes and cheeks.

"St. Peter-Port," he answered. "Mam'zelle, then, does not know our
islands?"

"No," I said. "Where is St. Peter-Port?"

"In Guernsey," he replied. "Is mam'zelle going to Guernsey or Jersey?
Jersey is about two hours' sail from Guernsey. If you were going to land
at St. Peter-Port, I might be of some service to you."

I turned round then, and looked at him steadily. His voice was a very
pleasant one, full of tones that went straight to my heart and filled me
with confidence. His face did not give the lie to it, or cause me any
disappointment. He was no gentleman, that was plain; his face was
bronzed and weather-beaten, as if he often encountered rough weather.
But his deep-set eyes had a steadfast, quiet power in them, and his
mouth, although it was almost hidden by hair, had a pleasant curve about
it. I could not guess how old he was; he looked a middle-aged man to me.
His great, rough hands, which had never worn gloves, were stained and
hard with labor; and he had evidently been taking a share in the toil of
the night, for his close-fitting, woven blue jacket was wet through, and
his hair was damp and rough with the wind and rain. He raised his cap as
my eyes looked straight into his, and a faint smile flitted across his
grave face.

"I want," I said, suddenly, "to find a place where I can live very
cheaply. I have not much money, and I must make it last a long time. I
do not mind how quiet the place, or how poor; the quieter the better for
me. Can you tell me of such a place?"

"You would want a place fit for a lady?" he said, in a half-questioning
tone, and with a glance at my silk dress.

"No," I answered, eagerly. "I mean such a cottage as you would live in.
I would do all my own work, for I am very poor, and I do not know yet
how I can get my living. I must be very careful of my money till I find
out what I can do. What sort of a place do you and your wife live in?"

His face was clouded a little, I thought; and he did not answer me till
after a short silence.

"My poor little wife is dead," he answered, "and I do not live in
Guernsey or Jersey. We live in Sark, my mother and I. I am a fisherman,
but I have also a little farm, for with us the land goes from the father
to the eldest son, and I was the eldest. It is true we have one room to
spare, which might do for mam'zelle; but the island is far away, and
very _triste_. Jersey is gay, and so is Guernsey, but in the winter Sark
is too mournful."

"It will be just the place I want," I said, eagerly; "it would suit me
exactly. Can you let me go there at once? Will you take me with you?"

"Mam'zelle," he replied, smiling, "the room must be made ready for you,
and I must speak to my mother. Besides, Sark is six miles from Guernsey,
and to-day the passage would be too rough for you. If God sends us fair
weather I will come back to St. Peter-Port for you in three days. My
name is Tardif. You can ask the people in Peter-Port what sort of a man
Tardif of the Havre Gosselin is."

"I do not want any one to tell me what sort of a man you are," I said,
holding out my hand, red and cold with the keen air. He took it into his
large, rough palm, looking down upon me with an air of friendly
protection.

"What is your name, mam'zelle?" he inquired.

"Oh! my name is Olivia," I said; then I stopped abruptly, for there
flashed across me the necessity for concealing it. Tardif did not seem
to notice my embarrassment.

"There are some Olliviers in St. Peter-Port," he said. "Is mam'zelle of
the same family? But no, that is not probable."

"I have no relations," I answered, "not even in England. I have very few
friends, and they are all far away in Australia. I was born there, and
lived there till I was seventeen."'

The tears sprang to my eyes again, and my new friend saw them, but said
nothing. He moved off at once to the far end of the dock, to help one of
the crew in some heavy piece of work. He did not come hack until the
rain began to return--a fine, drizzling rain, which came in scuds across
the sea.

"Mam'zelle," he said, "you ought to go below; and I will tell you when
we are in sight of Guernsey."

I went below, inexpressibly more satisfied and comforted. What it was in
this man that won my complete, unquestioning confidence, I did not know;
but his very presence, and the sight of his good, trustworthy face, gave
me a sense of security such as I have never felt before or since. Surely
God had sent him to me in my great extremity.



CHAPTER THE FOURTH.

A SAFE HAVEN.


We were two hours after time at St. Peter-Port; and then all was hurry
and confusion, for goods and passengers had to be landed and embarked
for Jersey. Tardif, who was afraid of losing the cutter which would
convey him to Sark, had only time to give me the address of a person
with whom I could lodge until he came to fetch me to his island, and
then he hastened away to a distant part of the quay. I was not sorry
that he should miss finding out that I had no luggage of any kind with
me.

I was busy enough during the next three days, for I had every thing to
buy. The widow with whom I was lodging came to the conclusion that I had
lost all my luggage, and I did not try to remove the false impression.
Through her assistance I was able to procure all I required, without
exciting more notice and curiosity. My purchases, though they were as
simple and cheap as I could make them, drew largely upon my small store
of money, and as I saw it dwindling away, while I grudged every shilling
I was obliged to part with, my spirits sank lower and lower. I had never
known the dread of being short of money, and the new experience was,
perhaps, the more terrible to me. There was no chance of disposing of
the costly dress in which I had journeyed, without arousing too much
attention and running too great a risk. I stayed in-doors as much as
possible, and, as the weather continued cold and gloomy, I did not meet
many persons when I ventured out into the narrow, foreign-looking
streets of the town.

But on the third day, when I looked out from my window, I saw that the
sky had cleared, and the sun was shining joyously. It was one of those
lovely days which come as a lull sometimes in the midst of the
equinoctial gales, as if they were weary of the havoc they had made, and
were resting with folded wings. For the first time I saw the little
island of Sark lying against the eastern sky. The whole length of it was
visible, from north to south, with the waves beating against its
headlands, and a fringe of silvery foam girdling it. The sky was of a
pale blue, as though the rains had washed it as well as the earth, and a
few filmy clouds were still lingering about it. The sea beneath was a
deeper blue, with streaks almost like a hoar frost upon it, with here
and there tints of green, like that of the sky at sunset. A boat with
three white sails, which were reflected in the water, was tacking about
to enter the harbor, and a second, with amber sails, was a little way
behind, but following quickly in its wake. I watched them for a long
time. Was either of them Tardif's boat?

That question was answered in about two hours' time by Tardif's
appearance at the house. He lifted my little box on to his broad
shoulders, and marched away with it, trying vainly to reduce his long
strides into steps that would suit me, as I walked beside him. I felt
overjoyed that he was come. So long as I was in Guernsey, when every
morning I could see the arrival of the packet that had brought me, I
could not shake off the fear that it was bringing some one in pursuit of
me; but in Sark that would be all different. Besides, I felt
instinctively that this man would protect me, and take my part to the
very utmost, should any circumstances arise that compelled me to appeal
to him and trust him with my secret. I knew nothing of him, but his face
was stamped with God's seal of trustworthiness, if ever a human face
was.

A second man was in the boat when we reached it, and it looked well
laden. Tardif made a comfortable seat for me amid the packages, and then
the sails were unfurled, and we were off quickly out of the harbor and
on the open sea.

A low, westerly wind was blowing, and fell upon the sails with a strong
and equal pressure. We rode before it rapidly, skimming over the low,
crested waves almost without a motion. Never before had I felt so
perfectly secure upon the water. Now I could breathe freely, with the
sense of assured safety growing stronger every moment as the coast of
Guernsey receded on the horizon, and the rocky little island grew
nearer. As we approached it no landing-place was to be seen, no beach or
strand. An iron-bound coast of sharp and rugged crags confronted us,
which it seemed impossible to scale. At last we cast anchor at the foot
of a great cliff, rising sheer out of the sea, where a ladder hung down
the face of the rock for a few feet. A wilder or lonelier place I had
never seen. Nobody could pursue and surprise me here.

The boatman who was with us climbed up the ladder, and, kneeling down,
stretched out his hand to help me, while Tardif stood waiting to hold me
steadily on the damp and slippery rungs. For a moment I hesitated, and
looked round at the crags, and the tossing, restless sea.

"I could carry you through the water, mam'zelle," said Tardif, pointing
to a hand's breadth of shingle lying between the rocks, "but you will
get wet. It will be better for you to mount up here."

I fastened both of my hands tightly round one of the upper rungs, before
lifting my feet from the unsteady prow of the boat. But the ladder once
climbed, the rest of the ascent was easy. I walked on up a zigzag path,
cut in the face of the cliff, until I gained the summit, and sat down to
wait for Tardif and his comrade. I could not have fled to a securer
hiding-place. So long as my money held out, I might live as peacefully
and safely as any fugitive had ever lived.

For a little while I sat looking out at the wild and beautiful scene
before me, which no words can tell and no fancy picture to those who
have never seen it. The white foam of the waves was so near, that I
could see the rainbow colors playing through the bubbles as the sun
shone on them. Below the clear water lay a girdle of sunken rocks,
pointed as needles, and with edges as sharp as swords, about which the
waves fretted ceaselessly, drawing silvery lines about their notched and
dented ridges. The cliffs ran up precipitously from the sea, carved
grotesquely over their whole surface into strange and fantastic shapes;
while the golden and gray lichens embroidered them richly, and bright
sea-flowers, and stray tufts of grass, lent them the most vivid and
gorgeous hues. Beyond the channel, against the clear western sky, lay
the island of Guernsey, rising like a purple mountain out of the opal
sea, which lay like a lake between us, sparkling and changing every
minute under the light of the afternoon sun.

But there was scarcely time for the exquisite beauty of this scene to
sink deeply into my heart just then. Before long I heard the tramp of
Tardif and his comrade following me; their heavy tread sent down the
loose stones on the path plunging into the sea. They were both laden
with part of the boat's cargo. They stopped to rest for a minute or two
at the spot where I had sat down, and the other boatman began talking
earnestly to Tardif in his _patois_, of which I did not understand a
word. Tardif's face was very grave and sad, indescribably so; and,
before he turned to me and spoke, I knew it was some sorrowful
catastrophe he had to tell.

"You see how smooth it is, mam'zelle," he said--"how clear and
beautiful--down below us, where the waves are at play like little white
children? I love them, but they are cruel and treacherous. While I was
away there was an accident down yonder, just beyond these rocks. Our
doctor, and two gentlemen, and a sailor went out from our little bay
below, and shortly after there came on a thick darkness, with heavy
rain, and they were all lost, every one of them! Poor Renouf! he was a
good friend of mine. And our doctor, too! If I had been here, maybe I
might have persuaded them not to brave it."

It was a sad story to hear, yet just then I did not pay much attention
to it. I was too much engrossed in my own difficulties and trouble. So
far as my experience goes, I believe the heart is more open to other
people's sorrows when it is free from burdens of its own. I was glad
when Tardif took up his load again and turned his back upon the sea.



CHAPTER THE FIFTH.

WILL IT DO?


Tardif walked on before me to a low, thatched cottage, standing at the
back of a small farm-yard. There was no other dwelling in sight, and
even the sea was not visible from it. It was sheltered by the steep
slope of a hill rising behind it, and looked upon another slope covered
with gorse-bushes; a very deep and narrow ravine ran down from it to the
hand-breadth of shingle which I had seen from the boat. A more solitary
place I could not have imagined; no sign of human life, or its
neighborhood, betrayed itself; overhead was a vast dome of sky, with a
few white-winged sea-gulls flitting across it, and uttering their low,
wailing cry. The roof of sky and the two round outlines of the little
hills, and the deep, dark ravine, the end of which was unseen, formed
the whole of the view before me.

I felt chilled a little as I followed Tardif down into the dell. He
glanced back, with grave, searching eyes, scanning my face carefully. I
tried to smile, with a very faint, wan smile, I suppose, for the
lightness had fled from my spirits, and my heart was heavy enough, God
knows.

"Will it not do, mam'zelle?" he asked, anxiously, and with his slow,
solemn utterance; "it is not a place that will do for a young lady like
you, is it? I should have counselled you to go on to Jersey, where there
is more life and gayety; it is my home, but for you it will be nothing
but a dull prison."

"No, no!" I answered, as the recollection of the prison I had fled from
flashed across me; "it is a very pretty place and very safe; by-and-by I
shall like it as much as you do, Tardif."

The house was a low, picturesque building, with thick walls of stone and
a thatched roof, which had two little dormer-windows in it; but at the
most sheltered end, farthest from the ravine that led down to the sea,
there had been built a small, square room of brick-work. As we entered
the fold-yard, Tardif pointed this room out to me as mine.

"I built it," he said, softly, "for my poor little wife; I brought the
bricks over from Guernsey in my own boat, and laid nearly every one of
them with my own hands; she died in it, mam'zelle. Please God, you will
be both happy and safe there!"

We stepped directly from the stone causeway of the yard into the
farm-house kitchen--the only sitting-room in the house except my own. It
was exquisitely clean, with that spotless and scrupulous cleanliness
which appears impossible in houses where there are carpets and curtains,
and papered walls. An old woman, very little and bent, and dressed in an
odd and ugly costume, met us at the door, dropping a courtesy to me, and
looking at me with dim, watery eyes. I was about to speak to her, when
Tardif bent down his head, and put his mouth to her ear, shouting to her
with a loud voice, but in their peculiar jargon, of which I could not
make out a single word.

"My poor mother is deaf," he said to me, "very deaf; neither can she
speak English. Most of the young people in Sark can talk in English a
little, but she is old and too deaf to learn. She has only once been
off the island."

I looked at her, wondering for a moment what she could have to think of,
but, with an intelligible gesture of welcome, she beckoned me into my
own room. The aspect of it was somewhat dreary; the walls were of bare
plaster, but dazzlingly white, with one little black _silhouette_ of a
woman's head hanging in a common black frame over the low, open hearth,
on which a fire of seaweed was smouldering, with a quantity of gray
ashes round the small centre of smoking embers. There was a little round
table, uncovered, but as white as snow, and two chairs, one of them an
arm-chair, and furnished with cushions. A four-post bedstead, with
curtains of blue and white check, occupied the larger portion of the
floor.

It was not a luxurious apartment; and for an instant I could hardly
realize the fact that it was to be my home for an indefinite period.
Some efforts had evidently been made to give it a look of welcome,
homely as it was. A pretty china tea cup and saucer, with a plate or two
to match, were set out on the deal table, and the cushioned arm-chair
had been drawn forward to the hearth. I sat down in it, and buried my
face in my hands, thinking, till Tardif knocked at the door, and carried
in my trunk.

"Will it do, mam'zelle?" he asked, "will it do?"

"It will do very nicely, Tardif," I answered; "but how ever am I to talk
to your mother if she does not know English?"

"Mam'zelle," he said, as he uncorded my trunk, "you must order me as you
would a servant. Through the winter I shall always be at hand; and you
will soon be used to us and our ways, and we shall be used to you and
your ways. I will do my best for you, mam'zelle; trust me, I will study
to do my best, and make you very happy here. I will be ready to take you
away whenever you desire to go. Look upon me as your hired servant."

He waited upon me all the evening, but with a quick attention to my
wants, which I had never met with in any hired servant. It was not
unfamiliar to me, for in my own country I had often been served only by
men; and especially during my girlhood, when I had lived far away in the
country, upon my father's sheep-walk. I knew it was Tardif who fried the
fish which came in with my tea; and, when the night closed in, it was he
who trimmed the oil-lamp and brought it in, and drew the check curtains
across the low casement, as if there were prying eyes to see me on the
opposite bank. Then a deep, deep stillness crept over the solitary
place--a stillness strangely deeper than that even of the daytime. The
wail of the sea-gulls died away, and the few busy cries of the farm-yard
ceased; the only sound that broke the silence was a muffled, hollow boom
which came up the ravine from the sea.

Before nine o'clock Tardif and his mother had gone up-stairs to their
rooms in the thatch; and I lay wearied but sleepless in my bed,
listening to these dull, faint, ceaseless murmurs, as a child listens to
the sound of the sea in a shell. Was it possible that it was I, myself,
the Olivia who had been so loved and cherished in her girlhood, and so
hated and tortured in later years, who was come to live under a
fisherman's roof, in an island, the name of which I barely knew four
days ago?

I fell asleep at last, yet I awoke early; but not so early that the
other inmates of the cottage were not up, and about their day's work. It
was my wish to wait upon myself, and so diminish the cost of living with
these secluded people; but I found it was not to be so; Tardif waited
upon me assiduously, as well as his deaf mother. The old woman would not
suffer me to do any work in my own room, but put me quietly upon one
side when I began to make my bed. Fortunately I had plenty of sewing to
employ myself in; for I had taken care not to waste my money by buying
ready-made clothes. The equinoctial gales came on again fiercely the day
after I had reached Sark; and I stitched away from morning till night,
trying to fix my thoughts upon my mechanical work.

When the first week was over, Tardif's mother came to me at a time when
her son was away out-of-doors, with a purse in her fingers, and by very
plain signs made me understand that it was time I paid the first
instalment of my debt to her for board and lodgings. I was anxious about
my money. No agreement had been made between us as to what I was to pay.
I laid a sovereign down upon the table, and the old woman looked at it
carefully, and with a pleased expression; but she put it in her purse,
and walked away with it, giving me no change. Not that I altogether
expected any change; they provided me with every thing I needed, and
waited upon me with very careful service; yet now I could calculate
exactly how long I should be safe in this refuge, and the calculation
gave me great uneasiness. In a few months I should find myself still in
need of refuge, but without the means of paying for it. What would
become of me then?

Very slowly the winter wore on. How shall I describe the peaceful
monotony, the dull, lonely safety of those dark days and long nights? I
had been violently tossed from a life of extreme trouble and peril into
a profound, unbroken, sleepy security. At first the sudden change
stupefied me; but after a while there came over me an uneasy
restlessness, a longing to get away from the silence and solitude, even
if it were into insecurity and danger. I began to wonder how the world
beyond the little island was going on. No news reached us from without.
Sometimes for weeks together it was impossible for an open boat to cross
over to Guernsey; even when a cutter accomplished its voyage out and in,
no letters could arrive for me. The season was so far advanced when I
went to Sark, that those visitors who had been spending a portion of the
summer there had already taken their departure, leaving the islanders to
themselves. They were sufficient for themselves; they and their own
affairs formed the world. Tardif would bring home almost daily little
scraps of news about the other families scattered about Sark; but of the
greater affairs of life in other countries he could tell me nothing.

Yet why should I call these greater affairs? Each to himself is the
centre of the world. It was a more important thing to me that I was
safe, than that the freedom of England itself should be secure.



CHAPTER THE SIXTH.

TOO MUCH ALONE.


Yet looking back upon that time, now it is past, and has "rounded itself
into that perfect star I saw not when I dwelt therein," it would be
untrue to represent myself as in any way unhappy. At times I wished
earnestly that I had been born among these people, and could live
forever among them.

By degrees I discovered that Tardif led a somewhat solitary life
himself, even in this solitary island, with its scanty population. There
was an ugly church standing in as central and prominent a situation as
possible, but Tardif and his mother did not frequent it. They belonged
to a little knot of dissenters, who met for worship in a small room,
when Tardif generally took the lead. For this reason a sort of coldness
existed between him and the larger portion of his fellow-islanders. But
there was a second and more important cause for a slight estrangement.
He had married an Englishwoman many years ago, much to the astonishment
and disappointment of his neighbors; and since her death he had held
himself aloof from all the good women who would have been glad enough to
undertake the task of consoling him for her loss. Tardif, therefore, was
left very much to himself in his isolated cottage, and his mother's
deafness caused her also to be no very great favorite with any of the
gossips of the island. It was so difficult to make her understand any
thing that could not be expressed by signs, that no one except her son
attempted to tell her the small topics of the day.

All this told upon me, and my standing among them. At first I met a few
curious glances as I roamed about the island; but my dress was as poor
and plain as any of theirs, and I suppose there was nothing in my
appearance, setting aside my dress, which could attract them. I learned
afterward that Tardif had told those who asked him that my name was
Ollivier, and they jumped to the conclusion that I belonged to a family
of that name in Guernsey; this shielded me from the curiosity that might
otherwise have been troublesome and dangerous. I was nobody but a poor
young woman from Guernsey, who was lodging in the spare room of Tardif's
cottage.

I set myself to grow used to their mode of life, and if possible to
become so useful to them that, when my money was all spent, they might
be willing to keep me with them; for I shrank from the thought of the
time when I must be thrust out of this nest, lonely and silent as it
was. As the long, dismal nights of winter set in, with the wind sweeping
across the island for several days together with a dreary, monotonous
moan which never ceased, I generally sat by their fire, for I had nobody
but Tardif to talk to; and now and then there arose an urgent need
within me to listen to some friendly voice, and to hear my own speaking
in reply. There were only two books in the house, the Bible and the
"Pilgrim's Progress," both of them in French; and I had not learned
French beyond the few phrases necessary for travelling. But Tardif began
to teach me that, and also to mend fishing-nets, which I persevered in,
though the twine cut my fingers. Could I by any means make myself useful
to them?

As the spring came on, half my dullness vanished. Sark was more
beautiful in its cliff scenery than any thing I had ever seen, or could
have imagined. Why cannot I describe it to you? I have but to close my
eyes, and my memory paints it for me in my brain, with its innumerable
islets engirdling it, as if to ward off its busy, indefatigable enemy,
the sea. The long, sunken reefs, lying below the water at high tide, but
at the ebb stretching like fortifications about it, as if to make of it
a sure stronghold in the sea. The strange architecture and carving of
the rocks, with faces and crowned heads but half obliterated upon them;
the lofty arches, with columns of fretwork bearing them; the pinnacles,
and sharp spires; the fallen masses heaped against the base of the
cliffs, covered with seaweed, and worn out of all form, yet looking like
the fragments of some great temple, with its treasures of sculpture; and
about them all the clear, lucid water swelling and tossing, throwing
over them sparkling sheets of foam. And the brilliant tone of the golden
and saffron lichens, and the delicate tint of the gray and silvery ones,
stealing about the bosses and angles and curves of the rocks, as if the
rain and the wind and the frost had spent their whole power there to
produce artistic effects. I say my memory paints it again for me; but it
is only a memory, a shadow that my mind sees; and how can I describe to
you a shadow? When words are but phantoms themselves, how can I use them
to set forth a phantom?

Whenever the grandeur of the cliffs had wearied me, as one grows weary
sometimes of too long and too close a study of what is great, there was
a little, enclosed, quiet graveyard that lay in the very lap of the
island, where I could go for rest. It was a small patch of ground, a
God's acre, shut in on every side by high hedge-rows, which hid every
view from sight except that of the heavens brooding over it. Nothing was
to be seen but the long mossy mounds above the dead, and the great,
warm, sunny dome rising above them. Even the church was not there, for
it was built in another spot, and had a few graves of its own scattered
about it.

I was sitting there one evening in the early spring, after the sun had
dipped below the line of the high hedge-row, though it was still shining
in level rays through it. No sound had disturbed the deep silence for a
long time, except the twittering of birds among the branches; for up
here even the sea could not be heard when it was calm. I suppose my face
was sad, as most human faces are apt to be when the spirit is busy in
its citadel, and has left the outworks of the eyes and mouth to
themselves. So I was sitting quiet, with my hands clasped about my
knees, and my face bent down, when a grave, low voice at my side
startled me back to consciousness. Tardif was standing beside me, and
looking down upon me with a world of watchful anxiety in his deep eyes.

"You are sad, mam'zelle," he said; "too sad for one so young as you
are."

"Oh! everybody is sad, Tardif," I answered; "there is a great deal of
trouble for every one in this world. You are often very sad indeed."

"Ah! but I have a cause," he said. "Mam'zelle does not know that she is
sitting on the grave of my little wife."

He knelt down beside it as he spoke, and laid his hand gently on the
green turf. I would have risen, but he would not let me.

"No," he said, "sit still, mam'zelle. Yes, you would have loved her,
poor little soul! She was an Englishwoman, like you, only not a lady; a
pretty little English girl, so little I could carry her like a baby.
None of my people took to her, and she was very lonely, like you again;
and she pined and faded away, just quietly, never saying one word
against them. No, no, mam'zelle, I like to see you here. This is a
favorite place with you, and it gives me pleasure. I ask myself a
hundred times a day, 'Is there any thing I can do to make my young lady
happy? Tell me what I can do more than I have done."

"There is nothing, Tardif," I answered, "nothing whatever. If you see me
sad sometimes, take no notice of it, for you can do no more for me than
you are doing. As it is, you are almost the only friend, perhaps the
only true friend, I have in the world."

"May God be true to me only as I am true to you!" he said, solemnly,
while his dark skin flushed and his eyes kindled. I looked at him
closely. A more honest face one could never see, and his keen blue eyes
met my gaze steadfastly. Heavy-hearted as I was just then, I could not
help but smile, and all his face brightened, as the sea at its dullest
brightens suddenly tinder a stray gleam of sunshine. Without another
word we both rose to our feet, and stood side by side for a minute,
looking down on the little grave beneath us. I would have gladly changed
places then with the lonely English girl, who had pined away in this
remote island.

After that short, silent pause, we went slowly homeward along the quiet,
almost solitary lanes. Twice we met a fisherman, with his creel and nets
across his shoulders, who bade us good-night; but no one else crossed
our path.

It was a profound monotony, a seclusion I should not have had courage to
face wittingly. But I had been led into it, and I dared not quit it. How
long was it to last?



CHAPTER THE SEVENTH.

A FALSE STEP.


A day came after the winter storms, early, in March, with all the
strength and sweetness of spring in it; though there was sharpness
enough in the air to make my veins tingle. The sun was shining with so
much heat in it, that I might be out-of-doors all day under the shelter
of the rocks, in the warm, southern nooks where the daisies were
growing. The birds sang more blithely than they had ever done before; a
lark overhead, flinging down his triumphant notes; a thrush whistling
clearly in a hawthorn-bush hanging over the cliff; and the cry of the
gulls flitting about the rocks; I could hear them all at the same
moment, with the deep, quiet tone of the sea sounding below their gay
music. Tardif was going out to fish, and I had helped him to pack his
basket. From my niche in the rocks I could see him getting out of the
harbor, and he had caught a glimpse of me, and stood up in his boat,
bareheaded, bidding me good-by. I began to sing before he was quite out
of hearing, for he paused upon his oars listening, and had given me a
joyous shout, and waved his hat round his head, when he was sure it was
I who was singing. Nothing could be plainer than that he had gone away
more glad at heart than he had been all the winter, simply because he
believed that I was growing lighter-hearted. I could not help laughing,
yet being touched and softened at the thought of his pleasure. What a
good fellow he was! I had proved him by this time, and knew him to be
one of the truest, bravest, most unselfish men on God's earth. How good
a thing it was that I had met with him that wild night last October,
when I had fled like one fleeing from a bitter slavery! For a few
minutes my thoughts hovered about that old, miserable, evil time; but I
did not care to ponder over past troubles. It was easy to forget them
to-day, and I would forget them. I plucked the daisies, and listened
almost drowsily to the birds and the sea, and felt all through me the
delicious light and heat of the sun. Now and then I lifted up my eyes,
to watch Tardif tacking about on the water. There were several boats
out, but I kept his in sight, by the help of a queer-shaped patch upon
one of the sails. I wished lazily for a book, but I should not have read
it if I had had one. I was taking into my heart the loveliness of the
spring day.

By twelve o'clock I knew my dinner would be ready, and I had been out in
the fresh air long enough to be quite ready for it. Old Mrs. Tardif
would be looking out for me impatiently, that she might get the meal
over, and the things cleared away, and order restored in her dwelling.
So I quitted my warm nook with a feeling of regret, though I knew I
could return to it in an hour.

But one can never return to any thing that is once left. When we look
for it again, even though the place may remain, something has vanished
from it which can never come back. I never returned to my spring-day
upon the cliffs of Sark.

A little crumbling path led round the rock and along the edge of the
ravine. I chose it because from it I could see all the fantastic shore,
bending in a semicircle toward the isle of Breckhou, with tiny,
untrodden bays, covered at this hour with only glittering ripples, and
with all the soft and tender shadows of the headlands falling across
them. I had but to look straight below me, and I could see long tresses
of glossy seaweed floating under the surface of the sea. Both my head
and my footing were steady, for I had grown accustomed to giddy heights
and venturesome climbing. I walked on slowly, casting many a reluctant
glance behind me at the calm waters, with the boats gliding to and fro
among the islets. I was just giving my last look to them when the loose
stones on the crumbling path gave way under my tread, and before I could
recover my foothold I found myself slipping down the almost
perpendicular face of the cliff, and vainly clutching at every bramble
and tuft of grass growing in its clefts.



CHAPTER THE EIGHTH.

AN ISLAND WITHOUT A DOCTOR.


I had not time to feel any fear, for, almost before I could realize the
fact that I was falling, I touched the ground. The point from which I
had slipped was above the reach of the water, but I fell upon the
shingly beach so heavily that I was hardly conscious for a few minutes.
When I came to my senses again, I lay still for a little while, trying
to make out where I was, and how I came there. I was stunned and
bewildered. Underneath me were the smooth, round pebbles, which lie
above the line of the tide on a shore covered with shingles. Above me
rose a dark, frowning rock, the chilly shadow of which lay across me.
Without lifting my head I could see the water on a level with me, but it
did not look on a level; its bright crested waves seemed swelling upward
to the sky, ready to pour over me and bury me beneath them. I was very
faint, and sick, and giddy. The ground felt as if it were about to sink
under me. My eyelids closed languidly when I did not keep them open by
an effort; and my head ached, and my brain swam with confused fancies.

After some time, and with some difficulty, I comprehended what had
happened to me, and recollected that it was already past mid-day, and
Mrs. Tardif would be waiting for me. I attempted to stand up, but an
acute pain in my foot compelled me to desist. I tried to turn myself
upon the pebbles, and my left arm refused to help me. I could not check
a sharp cry of suffering as my left hand fell back upon the stones on
which I was lying. My fall had cost me something more than a few
minutes' insensibility and an aching head. I had no more power to move
than one who is bound hand and foot.

After a few vain efforts I lay quite still again, trying to deliberate
as well as I could for the pain which racked me. I reckoned up, after
many attempts in which first my memory failed me, and then my faculty of
calculation, what the time of the high tide would be, and how soon
Tardif would come home. As nearly as I could make out, it would be high
water in about two hours. Tardif had set off at low water, as his boat
had been anchored at the foot of the rock, where the ladder hung; but
before starting he had said something about returning at high tide, and
running up his boat on the beach of our little bay. If he did that, he
must pass close by me. It was Saturday morning, and he was not in the
habit of staying out late on Saturdays, that he might prepare for the
services of the next day. I might count, then, upon the prospect of him
running the boat into the bay, and finding me there in about two hours'
time.

It took me a very long time to make out all this, for every now and then
my brain seemed to lose its power for a while, and every thing whirled
about me. Especially there was that awful sensation of sinking down,
down through the pebbles into some chasm that was bottomless. I had
never either felt pain or fainted before, and all this alarmed me.

Presently I began to listen to the rustle of the pebbles, as the rising
tide flowed over them and fell back again, leaving them all ajar and
grating against one another--strange, gurgling, jangling sound that
seemed to have some meaning. It was very cold, and a creeping moisture
was oozing up from the water. A vague wonder took hold of me as to
whether I was really above the line of the tide, for, now the March
tides were come, I did not know how high their flood was. But I thought
of it without any active feeling of terror or pain. I was numbed in body
and mind. The ceaseless chime of the waves, and the regularity of the
rustling play of the pebbles, seemed to lull and soothe me, almost in
spite of myself. Cold I was, and in sharp pain, but my mind had not
energy enough either for fear or effort. What appeared to me most
terrible was the sensation, coming back time after time, of sinking,
sinking into the fancied chasm beneath me.

I remember also watching a spray of ivy, far above my head, swaying and
waving about in the wind; and a little bird, darting here and there with
a brisk flutter of its tiny wings, and a chirping note of satisfaction;
and the cloud drifting in soft, small cloudlets across the sky. These
things I saw, not as if they were real, but rather as if they were
memories of things that had passed before my eyes many years before.

At last--- whether years or hours only had gone by, I could not then
have told you--I heard the regular and careful beat of oars upon the
water, and presently the grating of a boat's keel upon the shingle, with
the rattle of a chain cast out with the grapnel. I could not turn round
or raise my head, but I was sure it was Tardif, and that he did not yet
see me, for he was whistling softly to himself. I had never heard him
whistle before.

"Tardif!" I cried, attempting to shout, but my voice sounded very weak
in my own ears, and the other sounds about me seemed very loud. He went
on with his unlading, half whistling and half humming his tune, as he
landed the nets and creel on the beach.

"Tardif!" I called again, summoning all my strength, and raising my head
an inch or two from the hard pebbles which had been its resting-place.

He paused then, and stood quite still, listening. I knew it, though I
could not see him. I ran the fingers of my right hand through the loose
pebbles about me, and his ear caught the slight noise. In a moment I
heard his strong feet coming across them toward me.

"Mon Dieu! mam'zelle," he exclaimed, "what has happened to you?"

I tried to smile as his honest, brown face bent over me, full of alarm.
It was so great a relief to see a face like his after that long, weary
agony, for it had been agony to me, who did not know what bodily pain
was like. But in trying to smile I felt my lips drawn, and my eyes
blinded with tears.

"I've fallen down the cliff," I said, feebly, "and I am hurt."

"Mon Dieu!" he cried again. The strong man shook, and his hand trembled
as he stooped down and laid it under my head to lift it up a little. His
agitation touched me to the heart, even then, and I did my best to speak
more calmly.

"Tardif," I whispered, "it is not very much, and I might have been
killed. I think my foot is hurt, and I am quite sure my arm is broken."

Speaking made me feel giddy and faint again, so I said no more. He
lifted me in his arms as easily and tenderly as a mother lifts up her
child, and carried me gently, taking slow and measured strides up the
steep slope which led homeward. I closed my eyes, glad to leave myself
wholly in his charge, and to have nothing further to dread; yet moaning
a little, involuntarily, whenever a fresh pang of pain shot through me.
Then he would cry again, "Mon Dieu!" in a beseeching tone, and pause for
an instant as if to give me rest. It seemed a long time before we
reached the farm-yard gate, and he shouted, with a tremendous voice, to
his mother to come and open it. Fortunately she was in sight, and came
toward us quickly.

He carried me into the house, and laid me down on the _lit de
fouaille_--a wooden frame forming a sort of couch, and filled with dried
fern, which forms the principal piece of furniture in every farm-house
kitchen in the Channel Islands. Then he cut away the boot from my
swollen ankle, with a steady but careful touch, speaking now and then a
word of encouragement, as if I were a child whom he was tending. His
mother stood by, looking on helplessly and in bewilderment, for he had
not had time to explain my accident to her.

But for my arm, which hung helplessly at my side, and gave me
excruciating pain when he touched it, it was quite evident he could do
nothing.

"Is there nobody who could set it?" I asked, striving very hard to keep
calm.

"We have no doctor in Sark now," he answered. "There is no one but
Mother Renouf. I will fetch her."

But when she came she declared herself unable to set a broken limb. They
all three held a consultation over it in their own dialect; but I saw by
the solemn shaking of their heads, and Tardif's troubled expression,
that it was entirely beyond her skill to set it right. She would
undertake my sprained ankle, for she was famous for the cure of sprains
and bruises, but my arm was past her? The pain I was enduring bathed my
face with perspiration, but very little could be done to alleviate it.
Tardif's expression grew more and more distressed.

"Mam'zelle knows," he said, stooping down to speak the more softly to
me, "there is no doctor nearer than Guernsey, and the night is not far
off. What are we to do?"

"Never mind, Tardif," I answered, resolving to be brave; "let the women
help me into bed, and perhaps I shall be able to sleep. We must wait
till morning."

It was more easily said than done. The two old women did their best, but
their touch was clumsy and their help slight, compared to Tardif's. I
was thoroughly worn out before I was in bed. But it was a great deal to
find myself there, safe and warm, instead of on the cold, hard pebbles
on the beach. Mother Renouf put my arm to rest upon a pillow, and bathed
and fomented my ankle till it felt much easier.

Never, never shall I forget that night. I could not sleep; but I suppose
my mind wandered a little. Hundreds of times I felt myself down on the
shore, lying helplessly, while great green waves curled themselves over,
and fell just within reach of me, ready to swallow me up, yet always
missing me. Then I was back again in my own home in Adelaide, on my
father's sheep-farm, and he was still alive, and with no thought but how
to make every thing bright and gladsome for me; and hundreds of times I
saw the woman who was afterward to be my step-mother, stealing up to the
door and trying to get in to him and me. Sometimes I caught myself
sobbing aloud, and then Tardif's voice, whispering at the door to ask
how mam'zelle was, brought me back to consciousness. Now and then I
looked round, fancying I heard my mother's voice speaking to me, and I
saw only the wrinkled, yellow face of his mother, nodding drowsily in
her seat by the fire. Twice Tardif brought me a cup of tea, freshly
made. I could not distinctly made out who he was, or where I was, but I
tried to speak loudly enough for him to hear me thank him.

I was very thankful when the first gleam of daylight shone into my room.
It seemed to bring clearness to my brain.

"Mam'zelle," said Tardif, coming to my side very early in his
fisherman's dress, "I am going to fetch a doctor."

"But it is Sunday," I answered faintly. I knew that no boatman put out
to sea willingly on a Sunday from Sark; and the last fatal accident,
being on a Sunday, had deepened their reluctance.

"It will be right, mam'zelle," he answered, with glowing eyes. "I have
no fear."

"Do not be long away, Tardif," I said, sobbing.

"Not one moment longer than I can help," he replied.



PART THE SECOND.



CHAPTER THE FIRST.

DR. MARTIN DOBRÉE.


My name is Martin Dobrée. Martin or Doctor Martin I was called
throughout Guernsey. It will be necessary to state a few particulars
about my family and position, before I proceed with my part of this
narrative.

My father was Dr. Dobrée. He belonged to one of the oldest families in
the island--a family of distinguished _pur sang_; but our branch of it
had been growing poorer instead of richer during the last three or four
generations. We had been gravitating steadily downward.

My father lived ostensibly by his profession, but actually upon the
income of my cousin, Julia Dobrée, who had been his ward from her
childhood. The house we dwelt in, a pleasant one in the Grange, belonged
to Julia; and fully half of the year's household expenses were defrayed
by her. Our practice, which he and I shared between us, was not a large
one, though for its extent it was lucrative enough. But there always is
an immense number of medical men in Guernsey in proportion to its
population, and the island is healthy. There was small chance for any of
us to make a fortune.

Then how was it that I, a young man, still under thirty, was wasting my
time, and skill, and professional training, by remaining there, a sort
of half pensioner on my cousin's bounty? The thickest rope that holds a
vessel, weighing scores of tons, safely to the pier-head is made up of
strands so slight that almost a breath will break them.

First, then--and the strength of two-thirds of the strands lay
there--was my mother. I could never remember the time when she had not
been delicate and ailing, even when I was a rough school-boy at
Elizabeth College. It was that infirmity of the body which occasionally
betrays the wounds of a soul. I did not comprehend it while I was a boy;
then it was headache only. As I grew older I discovered that it was
heartache. The gnawing of a perpetual disappointment, worse than a
sudden and violent calamity, had slowly eaten away the very foundation
of healthy life. No hand could administer any medicine for this disease
except mine, and, as soon as I was sure of that, I felt what my first
duty was.

I knew where the blame of this lay, if any blame there were. I had found
it out years ago by my mother's silence, her white cheeks, and her
feeble tone of health. My father was never openly unkind or careless,
but there was always visible in his manner a weariness of her, an utter
disregard for her feelings. He continued to like young and pretty women,
just as he had liked her because she was young and pretty. He remained
at the very point he was at when they began their married life. There
was nothing patently criminal in it, God forbid!--nothing to create an
open and a grave scandal on our little island. But it told upon my
mother; it was the one drop of water falling day by day. "A continual
dropping in a very rainy day and a contentious woman are alike," says
the book of Proverbs. My father's small infidelities were much the same
to my mother. She was thrown altogether upon me for sympathy, and
support, and love.

When I first fathomed this mystery, my heart rose in very undutiful
bitterness against Dr. Dobrée; but by-and-by I found that it resulted
less from a want of fidelity to her than from a radical infirmity in his
temperament. It was almost as impossible for him to avoid or conceal his
preference for younger and more attractive women, as for my mother to
conquer the fretting vexation this preference caused to her.

Next to my mother, came Julia, my cousin, five years older than I, who
had coldly looked down upon me, and snubbed me like a sister, as a boy;
watched my progress through Elizabeth College, and through Guy's
Hospital; and perceived at last that I was a young man whom it was no
disgrace to call cousin. To crown all, she fell in love with me; so at
least my mother told me, taking me into her confidence, and speaking
with a depth of pleading in her sunken eyes, which were worn with much
weeping. Poor mother! I knew very well what unspoken wish was in her
heart. Julia had grown up under her care as I had done, and she stood
second to me in her affection.

It is not difficult to love any woman who has a moderate share of
attractions--at least I did not find it so then. I was really fond of
Julia, too--very fond. I knew her as intimately as any brother knows his
sister. She had kept up a correspondence with me all the time I was at
Guy's, and her letters had been more interesting and amusing than her
conversation generally was. Some women, most cultivated women, can write
charming letters; and Julia was a highly-cultivated woman. I came back
from Guy's with a very greatly-increased regard and admiration for my
cousin Julia.

So, when my mother, with her pleading, wistful eyes, spoke day after day
of Julia, of her dutiful love toward her, and her growing love for me, I
drifted, almost without an effort of my own volition, into an engagement
with her. You see there was no counter-balance. I was acquainted with
every girl on the island of my own class; pretty girls were many of
them, but there was after all not one that I preferred to my cousin. My
old dreams and romances about love, common to every young fellow, had
all faded into a very commonplace, everyday vision of having a
comfortable house of my own, and a wife as good as most other men's
wives. Just in the same way, my ambitious plans of rising to the very
top of the tree in my profession had dwindled down to satisfaction with
the very limited practice of one of our island doctors. I found myself
chained to this rock in the sea; all my future life would probably be
spent there; and Fate offered me Julia as the companion fittest for me.
I was contented with my fate, and laughed off my boyish fancy that I
ought to be ready to barter the world for love.

Added to these two strong ties keeping me in Guernsey, there were the
hundred, the thousand small associations which made that island, and my
people living upon it, dearer than any other place, or any other people,
in the world. Taking the strength of the rope which held me to the
pier-head as represented by one hundred, then my love for my mother
would stand at sixty-six and a half, my engagement to Julia at about
twenty and the remainder may go toward my old associations. That is
pretty nearly the sum of it.

My engagement to Julia came about so easily and naturally that, as I
said, I was perfectly contented with it. We had been engaged since the
previous Christmas, and were to be married in the early summer, as soon
as a trip through Switzerland would be agreeable. We were to set up
housekeeping for ourselves; that was a point Julia was bent upon. A
suitable house had fallen vacant in one of the higher streets of St.
Peter-Port, which commanded a noble view of the sea and the surrounding
islands. We had taken it, though it was farther from the Grange and my
mother than I should have chosen my home to be. She and Julia were busy,
pleasantly busy, about the furnishing of it. Never had I seen my mother
look so happy, or so young. Even my father paid her a compliment or two,
which had the effect of bringing a pretty pink flush to her white
cheeks, and of making her sunken eyes shine. As to myself, I was quietly
happy, without a doubt. Julia was a good girl, everybody said that, and
Julia loved me devotedly. I was on the point of becoming master of a
house and owner of a considerable income; for Julia would not hear of
there being any marriage settlements which would secure to her the
property she was bringing to me. I found that making love, even to my
cousin, who was like a sister to me, was upon the whole a pleasurable
occupation. Every thing was going on smoothly.

That was till about the middle of March. I had been to church one Sunday
morning with these two women, both devoted to me, and centring all their
love and hopes in me, when, as we entered the house on our return, I
heard my father calling "Martin! Martin!" as loudly as he could from his
consulting-room. I answered the call instantly, and whom should I see
but a very old friend of mine, Tardif of the Havre Gosselin. He was
standing near the door, as if in too great a hurry to sit down. His
handsome but weather-beaten face betrayed great anxiety, and his shaggy
mustache rose and fell, as if the mouth below it was tremulously at
work. My father looked chagrined and irresolute.

"Here's a pretty piece of work, Martin," he said; "Tardif wants one of
us to go back with him to Sark, to see a woman who has fallen from the
cliffs and broken her arm, confound it!"

"For the sake of the good God, Dr. Martin," cried Tardif, excitedly, and
of course speaking in the Sark dialect, "I beg of you to come this
instant even. She has been lying in anguish since mid-day
yesterday--twenty-four hours now, sir. I started at dawn this morning,
but both wind and tide were against me, and I have been waiting here
some time. Be quick, doctor. Mon Dieu! if she should be dead!"

The poor fellow's voice faltered, and his eyes met mine imploringly. He
and I had been fast friends in my boyhood, when all my holidays were
spent in Sark, though he was some years older than I; and our friendship
was still firm and true, though it had slackened a little from absence.
I shook his hand heartily, giving it a good hard grip in token of my
unaltered friendship--a grip which he returned with his fingers of iron
till my own tingled again.

"I knew you'd come," he gasped.

"Ah, I'll go, Tardif," I said; "only I must get a snatch of something to
eat while Dr. Dobrée puts up what I shall have need of. I'll be ready in
half an hour. Go into the kitchen, and get some dinner yourself."

"Thank you, Dr. Martin," he answered, his voice still unsteady, and his
mustache quivering; "but I can eat nothing. I'll go down and have the
boat ready. You'll waste no time?"

"Not a moment," I promised.

I left my father to put up the things I should require, supposing he had
heard all the particulars of the accident from Tardif. He was inclined
to grumble a little at me for going; but I asked him what else I could
have done. As he had no answer ready to that question, I walked away to
the dining-room, where my mother and Julia were waiting; for dinner was
ready, as we dined early on Sundays on account of the servants. Julia
was suffering from the beginning of a bilious attack, to which she was
subject, and her eyes were heavy and dull. I told them hastily where I
was going, and what a hurry I was in.

"You are never going across to Sark to-day!" Julia exclaimed.

"Why not?" I asked, taking my seat and helping myself quickly.

"Because I am sure bad weather is coming," she answered, looking
anxiously through a window facing the west. "I could see the coast of
France this morning as plainly as Sark, and the gulls are keeping close
to the shore, and the sunset last night was threatening. I will go and
look at the storm-glass."

She went away, but came back again very soon, with an increase of
anxiety in her face. "Don't go, dear Martin," she said, with her hand
upon my shoulder; "the storm-glass is as troubled as it can be, and the
wind is veering round to the west. You know what that foretells at this
time of the year. There is a storm at hand; take my word for it, and do
not venture across to Sark to-day."

"And what is to become of the poor woman?" I remonstrated. "Tardif says
she has been suffering the pain of a broken limb these twenty-four
hours. It would be my duty to go even if the storm were here, unless the
risk was exceedingly great. Come, Julia, remember you are to be a
doctor's wife, and don't be a coward."

"Don't go!" she reiterated, "for my sake and your mother's. I am certain
some trouble will come of it. We shall be frightened to death; and this
woman is only a stranger to you. Oh, I cannot bear to let you go!"

I did not attempt to reason with her, for I knew of old that when Julia
was bilious and nervous she was quite deaf to reason. I only stroked the
hand that lay on my shoulder, and went on with my dinner as if my life
depended upon the speed with which I dispatched it.

"Uncle," she said, as my father came in with a small portmanteau in his
hand, "tell Martin he must not go. There is sure to be a storm
to-night."

"Pooh! pooh!" he answered. "I should be glad enough for Martin to stay
at home, but there's no help for it, I suppose. There will be no storm
at present, and they'll run across quickly. It will be the coming back
that will be difficult. You'll scarcely get home again to-night,
Martin."

"No," I said. "I'll stop at Gavey's, and come back in the Sark cutter if
it has begun to ply. If not, Tardif must bring me over in the morning."

"Don't go," persisted Julia, as I thrust myself into my rough
pilot-coat, and then bent down to kiss her cheek. Julia always presented
me her cheek, and my lips had never met hers yet. My mother was standing
by and looking tearful, but she did not say a word; she knew there was
no question about what I ought to do. Julia followed me to the door and
held me fast with both hands round my arm, sobbing out hysterically,
"Don't go!" Even when I had released myself and was running down the
drive, I could hear her still calling, "O Martin, don't go!"

I was glad to get out of hearing. I felt sorry for her, yet there was a
considerable amount of pleasure in being the object of so much tender
solicitude. I thought of her for a minute or two as I hurried along the
steep streets leading down to the quay. But the prospect before me
caught my eye. Opposite lay Sark, bathed in sunlight, and the sea
between was calm enough at present. A ride across, with a westerly
breeze filling the sails, and the boat dancing lightly over the waves,
would not be a bad exchange for a dull Sunday afternoon, with Julia at
the Sunday-school and my mother asleep. Besides, it was the path of duty
which was leading me across the quiet gray sea before me.

Tardif was waiting, with his sails set and oars in the rowlocks, ready
for clearing the harbor. I took one of them, and bent myself willingly
to the light task. There was less wind than I had expected, but what
there was blew in our favor. We were very quickly beyond the pier-head,
where a group of idlers was always gathered, who sent after us a few
warning shouts. Nothing could be more exhilarating than our onward
progress. I felt as if I had been a prisoner, with, chains which had
pressed heavily yet insensibly upon me, and that now I was free. I drew
into my lungs the fresh, bracing, salt air of the sea, with a deep sigh
of delight.



CHAPTER THE SECOND.

A PATIENT IN SARK.


It struck me after a while that my friend Tardif was unusually silent.
The shifting of the sails appeared to give him plenty to do; and to my
surprise, instead of keeping to the ordinary course, he ran recklessly
as it seemed across the _grunes_, which lie all about the bed of the
channel between Guernsey and Sark. These _grunes_ are reefs, rising a
little above low water, but, as the tide was about half-flood, they were
a few feet below it; yet at times there was scarcely enough depth to
float us over them, while the brown seaweed torn from their edges lay in
our wake, something like the swaths of grass in a meadow after the
scythe has swept through it. Now and then came a bump and a scrape of
the keel against their sharp ridges. The sweat stood in beads upon
Tardif's face, and his thick hair fell forward over his forehead, where
the great veins in the temples were purple and swollen. I spoke to him
after a heavier bump over the _grunes_ than any we had yet come to.

"Tardif," I said, "we are shaving the weeds a little too close, aren't
we?"

"Look behind you, Dr. Martin," he answered, shifting the sails a
little.

I did not look behind us. We were more than half-way over the channel,
and Guernsey lay four miles or so west of us; but instead of the clear
outline of the island standing out against the sky, I could see nothing
but a bank of white fog. The afternoon sun was shining brightly over it,
but before long it would dip into its dense folds. The fogs about our
islands are peculiar. You may see them form apparently thick blocks of
blanched vapor, with a distinct line between the atmosphere where the
haze is and where it is not. To be overtaken by a fog like this, which
would almost hide Tardif at one end of the boat from me at the other,
would be no laughing matter in a sea lined with sunken reefs. The wind
had almost gone, but a little breeze still caught us from the north of
the fog-bank. Without a word I took the oars again, while Tardif devoted
himself to the sails and the helm.

"A mile nearer home," he said, "and I could row my boat as easily in the
dark as you could ride your horse along a lane."

My face was westward now, and I kept my eye upon the fog-bank creeping
stealthily after us. I thought of my mother and Julia, and the fright
they would be in. Moreover a fog like this was pretty often succeeded by
a squall, especially at this season; and when a westerly gale blew up
from the Atlantic in the month of March, no one could foretell when it
would cease. I had been weather-bound in Sark, when I was a boy, for
three weeks at one time, when our provisions ran short, and it was
almost impossible to buy a loaf of bread. I could not help laughing at
the recollection, but I kept an anxious lookout toward the west. Three
weeks' imprisonment in Sark now would be a bore.

But the fog remained almost stationary in the front of Guernsey, and the
round red eyeball of the sun glared after us as we ran nearer and nearer
to Sark. The tide was with us, and carried us on it buoyantly. We
anchored at the fisherman's landing-place below the cliff of the Havre
Gosselin, and I climbed readily up the rough ladder which leads to the
path. Tardif made his boat secure, and followed me; he passed me, and
strode on up the steep track to the summit of the cliff, as if impatient
to reach his home. It was then that I gave my first serious thought to
the woman who had met with the accident.

"Tardif, who is this person that is hurt?" I asked, "and whereabout did
she fall?"

"She fell down yonder," he answered, with an odd quaver in his voice, as
he pointed to a rough and rather high portion of the cliff running
inland; "the stones rolled from under her feet, so," he added, crushing
down a quantity of the loose gravel with his foot, "and she slipped. She
lay on the shingle underneath for two hours before I found her; two
hours, Dr. Martin!"

"That was bad," I said, for the good fellow's voice failed him--"very
bad. A fall like that might have killed her."

We went on, he carrying his oars, and I my little portmanteau. I heard
Tardif muttering. "Killed her!" in a tone of terror; but his face
brightened a little when we reached the gate of the farm-yard. He laid
down the oars noiselessly upon the narrow stone causeway before the
door, and lifted the latch as cautiously as if he were afraid to disturb
some sleeping baby.

He had given me no information with regard to my patient; and the sole
idea I had formed of her was of a strong, sturdy Sark woman, whose
constitution would be tough, and her temperament of a stolid, phlegmatic
tone. There was not ordinarily much sickness among them, and this case
was evidently one of pure accident. I expected to find a nut-brown,
sunburnt woman, with a rustic face, who would very probably be impatient
and unreasonable under the pain I should be compelled to inflict upon
her.

It had been my theory that a medical man, being admitted to the highest
degree of intimacy with his patients, was bound to be as insensible as
an anchorite to any beauty or homeliness in those whom he was attending
professionally; he should have eyes only for the malady he came to
consider and relieve. Dr. Dobrée had often sneered and made merry at my
high-flown notions of honor and duty; but in our practice at home he had
given me no opportunities of trying them. He had attended all our
younger and more attractive patients himself, and had handed over to my
care all the old people and children--on Julia's account, he had said,
laughing.

Tardif's mother came to us as we entered the house. She was a little,
ugly woman, stone deaf, as I knew of old. Yet in some mysterious way she
could make out her son's deep voice, when he shouted into her ear. He
did not speak now, however, but made dumb signs as if to ask how all was
going on. She answered by a silent nod, and beckoned me to follow her
into an inner room, which opened out of the kitchen.

It was a small, crowded room, with a ceiling so low, it seemed to rest
upon the four posts of the bedstead. There were of course none of the
little dainty luxuries about it with which I was familiar in my mother's
bedroom. A long, low window opposite the head of the bed threw a strong
light upon it. There were check curtains drawn round it, and a
patchwork-quilt, and rough, homespun linen. Every thing was clean, but
coarse and frugal--such as I expected to find about my Sark patient, in
the home of a fisherman.

But when my eye fell upon the face resting on the rough pillow I paused
involuntarily, only just controlling an explanation of surprise. There
was absolutely nothing in the surroundings to mark her as a lady, yet I
felt in a moment that she was one. There lay a delicate, refined face,
white as the linen, with beautiful lips almost as white; and a mass of
light, shining, silky hair tossed about the pillow; and large dark-gray
eyes gazing at me beseechingly, with an expression that made my heart
leap as it had never leaped before.

That was what I saw, and could not forbear seeing. I tried to recall my
theory, and to close my eyes to the pathetic beauty of the face before
me; but it was altogether in vain. If I had seen her before, or if I had
been prepared to see any one like her, I might have succeeded; but I was
completely thrown off my guard. There the charming face lay: the eyes
gleaming, the white forehead tinted, and the delicate mouth contracting
with pain: the bright, silky curls tossed about in confusion. I see it
now just as I saw it then.



CHAPTER THE THIRD.

WITHOUT RESOURCES.


I suppose I did not stand still more than five seconds, yet during that
pause a host of questions had flashed through my brain. Who was this
beautiful creature? Where had she come from? How did it happen that she
was in Tardif's house? and so on. But I recalled myself sharply to my
senses; I was here as her physician, and common-sense and duty demanded
of me to keep my head clear. I advanced to her side, and took the small,
blue-veined hand in mine, and felt her pulse with my fingers. It beat
under them a low but fast measure; too fast by a great deal. I could see
that the general condition of her health was perfect, a great charm in
itself to me; but she had been bearing acute pain for over twenty-eight
hours, and she was becoming exhausted. A shudder ran through me at the
thought of that long spell of suffering.

"You are in very great pain, I fear," I said, lowering my voice.

"Yes," her white lips answered, and she tried to smile a patient though
a dreary smile, as she looked up into my face, "my arm is broken. Are
you a doctor?"

"I am Dr. Martin Dobrée," I said, passing my hand softly down her arm.
The fracture was above the elbow, and was of a kind to make the setting
of it give her considerable pain. I could see she was scarce fit to bear
any further suffering just then; but what was to be done? She was not
likely to get much rest till the bone was set.

"Have you had much sleep since your fall?" I asked, looking at the
weariness visible in her eyes.

"Not any," she replied; "not one moment's sleep."

"Did you have no sleep all night?" I inquired again.

"No." she said, "I could not fall asleep."

There were two things I could do--give her an opiate, and strengthen her
a little with sleep beforehand, or administer chloroform to her before
the operation. I hesitated between the two. A natural sleep would have
done her a world of good, but there was a gleam in her eyes, and a
feverish throb in her pulse, which gave me no hope of that. Perhaps the
chloroform, if she had no objection to it, would be the best.

"Did you ever take chloroform?" I asked.

"No: I never needed it," she answered.

"Should you object to taking it?"

"Any thing." she replied, passively. "I will do any thing you wish."

I went back into the kitchen and opened the portmanteau my father had
put up for me. Splints and bandages were there in abundance, enough to
set half the arms in the island, but neither chloroform nor any thing in
the shape of an opiate could I find. I might almost as well have come to
Sark altogether unprepared for my case.

What could I do? There are no shops in Sark, and drugs of any kind were
out of the question. There was not a chance of getting what I needed to
calm and soothe a highly-nervous and finely-strung temperament like my
patient's. A few minutes ago I had hesitated about using chloroform. Now
I would have given half of every thing I possessed in the world for an
ounce of it.

I said nothing to Tardif, who was watching me with his deep-set eyes, as
closely as if I were meddling with some precious possession of his own.
I laid the bundle of splints and rolls of linen down on the table with a
professional air, while I was inwardly execrating my father's
negligence. I emptied the portmanteau in the hope of finding some small
phial or box. Any opiate would have been welcome to me, that would have
dulled the overwrought nerves of the girl in the room within. But the
practice of using any thing of the kind was not in favor with us
generally in the Channel Islands, and my father had probably concluded
that a Sark woman would not consent to use them. At any rate, there they
were not.

I stood for a few minutes, deep in thought. The daylight was going, and
it was useless to waste time; yet I found myself shrinking oddly from
the duty before me. Tardif could not help but see my chagrin and
hesitation.

"Doctor," he cried, "she is not going to die?"

"No, no," I answered, calling back my wandering thoughts and energies;
"there is not the smallest danger of that. I must go and set her arm at
once, and then she will sleep."

I returned to the room, and raised her as gently and painlessly as I
could, motioning to the old woman to sit beside her on the bed and hold
her steadily. I thought once of calling in Tardif to support her with
his strong frame, but I did not. She moaned, though very softly, when I
moved her, and she tried to smile again as her eyes met mine looking
anxiously at her. That smile made me feel like a child. If she did it
again, I knew my hands would be unsteady, and her pain would be tenfold
greater.

"I would rather you cried out or shouted," I said. "Don't try to control
yourself when I hurt you. You need not be afraid of seeming impatient,
and a loud scream or two would do you good."

But I knew quite well as I spoke that she would never scream aloud.
There was the self-control of culture about her. A woman of the lower
class might shriek and cry, but this girl would try to smile at the
moment when the pain was keenest. The white, round arm under my hands
was cold, and the muscles were soft and unstrung. I felt the ends of the
broken bone grating together as I drew the fragments into their right
places, and the sensation went through and through me. I had set scores
of broken limbs before with no feeling like this, which was so near
unnerving me. But I kept my hands steady, and my attention fixed upon my
work. I felt like two persons--a surgeon who had a simple, scientific
operation to perform, and a mother who feels in her own person every
pang her child has to suffer.

All the time the girl's white face and firmly-set lips lay under my
gaze, with the wide-open, unflinching eyes looking straight at me: a
mournful, silent, appealing face, which betrayed the pain I made her
suffer ten times more than any cries or shrieks could have done. I
thanked God in my heart when it was over, and I could lay her down
again. I smoothed the coarse pillows for her to lie more comfortably
upon them, and I spread my cambric handkerchief in a double fold between
her cheek and the rough linen--too rough for a soft cheek like hers.

"Lie quite still," I said. "Do not stir, but go to sleep as fast as you
can."

She was not smiling now, and she did not speak; but the gleam in her
eyes was growing wilder, and she looked at me with a wandering
expression. If sleep did not come very soon, there would be mischief. I
drew the curtains across the window to shut out the twilight, and
motioned to the old woman to sit quietly by the side of our patient.

Then I went out to Tardif.

He had not stirred from the place and position in which I had left him.
I am sure no sound could have reached him from the inner room, for we
had been so still that during the whole time I could hear the beat of
the sea dashing up between the high cliffs of the Havre Gosselin. Up and
down went Tardif's shaggy mustache, the surest indication of emotion
with him, and he fetched his breath almost with a sob.

"Well, Dr. Martin?" was all he said.

"The arm is set," I answered, "and now she must get some sleep. There is
not the least danger, Tardif; only we will keep the house as quiet as
possible."

"I must go and bring in the boat," he replied, bestirring himself as if
some spell was at an end. "There will be a storm to-night, and I should
sleep the sounder if she was safe ashore."

"I'll come with you," I said, glad to get away from the seaweed fire.

It was not quite dark, and the cliffs stood out against the sky in odder
and more grotesque shapes than by daylight. A host of seamews were
fluttering about and uttering the most unearthly hootings, but the sea
was as yet quite calm, save where it broke in wavering, serpentine lines
over the submerged reefs which encircle the island. The tidal current
was pouring rapidly through the very narrow channel between Sark and the
little isle of Breckhou, and its eddies stretching to us made it rather
an arduous task to get Tardif's boat on shore safely. But the work was
pleasant just then. It kept our minds away from useless anxieties about
the girl. An hour passed quickly, and up the ravine, in the deep gloom
of the overhanging rocks, we made our way homeward.

"You will not quit the island to-morrow," said Tardif, standing at his
door, and scanning the sky with his keen, weather-wise eyes.

"I must," I answered; "I must indeed, old fellow. You are no
land-lubber, and you will run me over in the morning."

"No boat will leave Sark to-morrow," said Tardif, shaking his head.

We went in, and he threw off his jacket and rolled up his sleeves,
preparatory to frying some fish for supper. I was beginning to feel
ravenously hungry, for I had eaten nothing since dinner, and as far as I
knew Tardif had had nothing since his early breakfast, but as a
fisherman he was used to long spells of fasting. While he was busy
cooking I stole quietly into the inner room to look after my patient.

The feeble light entering by the door, which I left open, showed me the
old woman comfortably asleep in her chair, but not so the girl. I had
told her when I laid her down that she must lie quite still, and she was
obeying me implicitly. Her cheek still rested upon my handkerchief, and
the broken arm remained undisturbed upon the pillow which I had placed
under it. But her eyes were wide open and shining in the dimness, and I
fancied I could see her lips moving incessantly, though soundlessly. I
laid my hand across her eyes, and felt the long lashes brush against the
palm, but the eyelids did not remain closed.

"You must go to sleep," I said, speaking distinctly and authoritatively;
wondering at the time how much power my will would have over her. Did I
possess any of that magnetic, tranquillizing influence about which Jack
Senior and I had so often laughed incredulously at Guy's? Her lips
moved fast; for now my eyes had grown used to the dim light I could see
her face plainly, but I could not catch a syllable of what she was
whispering so busily to herself.

Never had I felt so helpless and disconcerted in the presence of a
patient. I could positively do nothing for her. The case was not beyond
my skill, but all medicinal resources were beyond my reach. Sleep she
must have, yet how was I to administer it to her?

I returned, troubled and irritable, to search once more my empty
portmanteau. Empty it was, except of the current number of _Punch_,
which my father had considerately packed among the splints for my
Sunday-evening reading. I flung it and the bag across the kitchen, with
an ejaculation not at all flattering to Dr. Dobrée, nor in accordance
with the fifth commandment.

"What is the matter, doctor?" inquired Tardif.

I told him in a few sharp words what I wanted to soothe my patient. In
an instant he left his cooking and thrust his arms into his blue jacket
again.

"You can finish it yourself, Dr. Martin," he said, hurriedly; "I'll run
over to old Mother Renouf; she'll have some herbs or something to send
mam'zelle to sleep."

"Bring her back with you," I shouted after him as he sped across the
yard. Mother Renouf was no stranger to me. While I was a boy she had
charmed my warts away, and healed the bruises which were the inevitable
consequences of cliff-climbing. I scarcely liked her coming in to fill
up my deficiencies, and I knew our application to her for help would be
inexpressibly gratifying. But I had no other resource than to call her
in as a fellow-practitioner, and I knew she would make a first-rate
nurse, for which Suzanne Tardif was unfitted by her deafness.



CHAPTER THE FOURTH.

A RIVAL PRACTITIONER.


Mother Renouf arrived from the other end of the island in an incredibly
short time, borne along by Tardif as if he were a whirlwind and she a
leaf caught in its current. She was a short, squat old woman, with a
skin tanned like leather, and kindly little blue eyes, twinkling with
delight and pride. Yes, there they are, photographed somewhere in my
brain, the wrinkled, yellow, withered faces of the two old women, their
watery eyes and toothless mouths, with figures as shapeless as the
bowlders on the beach, watching beside the bed where lay the white but
tenderly beautiful face of the young girl, with her curls of glossy hair
tossed about the pillow, and her long, tremulous eyelashes making a
shadow on her rounded cheek.

Mother Renouf gave me a hearty tap on the shoulder, and chuckled as
merrily as the shortness of her breath after her rapid course would
permit. The few English phrases she knew fell far short of expressing
her triumph and exultation; but I was resolved to confer with her
affably. My patient's case was too serious for me to stand upon my
dignity.

"Mother," I said, "have you any simples to send this poor girl to sleep?
Tardif told me you had taken her sprained ankle under your charge. I
find I have nothing with me to induce sleep, and you can help us if any
one can."

"Leave her to me, my dear little doctor," she answered, a laugh gurgling
in her thick throat; "leave her to me. You have done your part with the
bones. I have no touch at all for broken limbs, though my father, good
man, could handle them with any doctor in all the islands. But I'll send
her to sleep for you, never fear."

"You will stay with us all night?" I said, coaxingly. "Suzanne is deaf,
and ears are of use in a sick-room, you know. I intended to go to
Gavey's, but I shall throw myself down here on the fern bed, and you can
call me at any moment, if there is need."

"There will be no need," she replied, in a tone of confidence. "My
little mam'zelle will be sound asleep in ten minutes after she has taken
my draught."

I went into the room with her to have a look at our patient. She had not
stirred yet, but was precisely in the position in which I placed her
after the operation was ended. There was something peculiar about this
which distressed me. I asked Mother Renouf to move her gently and bring
her face more toward me. The burning eyes opened widely as soon as she
felt the old woman's arm under her, and she looked up, with a flash of
intelligence, into my face. I stooped down to catch the whisper with
which her lips were moving.

"You told me not to stir," she murmured.

"Yes," I said; "but you are not to lie still till you are cramped and
stiff. Are you in much pain now?"

"He told me not to stir," muttered the parched lips again, "not to stir.
I must lie quite still, quite still, quite still!"

The feeble voice died away as she whispered the last words, but her lips
went on moving, as if she was repeating them to herself still. Certainly
there was mischief here. My last order, given just before her mind began
to wander, had taken possession of her brain, and retained authority
over her will. There was a pathetic obedience in her perfect immobility,
united with the shifting, restless glance of her eyes, and the ceaseless
ripple of movement about her mouth, which made me trebly anxious and
uneasy. A dominant idea had taken hold upon her which might prove
dangerous. I was glad when Mother Renouf had finished stewing her
decoction of poppy-heads, and brought the nauseous draught for the girl
to drink.

But whether the poppy-heads had lost their virtue, or our patient's
nervous condition had become too critical, too full of excitement and
disturbance, I cannot tell. It is certain that she was not sleeping in
ten minutes' or in an hour's time. Old Dame Tardif went off to her
bedroom, and Mother Renouf took her place by the girl's side. Tardif
could not be persuaded to leave the kitchen, though he appeared to be
falling asleep heavily, waking up at intervals, and starting with terror
at the least sound. For myself I scarcely slept at all, though I found
the fern bed a tolerably comfortable resting-place.

The gale that Tardif had foretold came with great violence about the
middle of the night. The wind howled up the long, narrow ravine like a
pack of wolves; mighty storms of hail and rain beat in torrents against
the windows, and the sea lifted up its voice with unmistakable energy.
Now and again a stronger gust than the others appeared to threaten to
carry off the thatched roof bodily, and leave us exposed to the tempest
with only the thick stone walls about us; and the latch of the outer
door rattled as if some one outside was striving to enter. I am not
fanciful, but just then the notion came across me that if that door
opened we should see the grim skeleton, Death, on the threshold, with
his bleached, unclad bones dripping with the storm. I laughed at the
ghastly fancy, and told it to Tardif in one of his waking intervals, but
he was so terrified and troubled by it that it grew to have some little
importance in my own eyes. So the night wore slowly away, the tall clock
in the corner ticking out the seconds and striking the hours with a
fidelity to its duty, which helped to keep me awake. Twice or thrice I
crept, with quite unnecessary caution, into the room of my patient.

No, there was no symptom of sleep there. The pulse grew more rapid, the
temples throbbed, and the fever gained ground. Mother Renouf was ready
to weep with vexation. The girl herself sobbed and shuddered at the loud
sounds of the tempest without; but yet, by a firm, supreme effort of her
will, which was exhausting her strength dangerously, she kept herself
quite still. I would have given up a year or two of my life to be able
to set her free from the bondage of my own command.



CHAPTER THE FIFTH.

LOCKS OF HAIR.


The westerly gale, rising every few hours into a squall, gave me no
chance of leaving Sark the next day, nor for some days afterward; but I
was not at all put out by my captivity. All my interest--my whole
being, in fact--was absorbed in the care of this girl, stranger as she
was. I thought and moved, lived and breathed, only to fight step by step
against delirium and death, and to fight without my accustomed weapons.
Sometimes I could do nothing but watch the onset and inroads of the
fever most helplessly. There was no possibility of aid. The stormy
waters which beat against that little rock in the sea came swelling and
rolling in from the vast plain of the Atlantic, and broke in tempestuous
surf against the island. The wind howled, and the rain and hail beat
across us almost incessantly for two days, and Tardif himself was kept a
prisoner in the house, except when he went to look after his live-stock.
No doubt it would have been practicable for me to get as far as the
hotel, but to what good? It would be quite deserted, for there were no
visitors to Sark at this season, and I did not give it a second thought.
I was entirely engrossed in my patient, and I learned for the first time
what their task is who hour after hour watch the progress of disease in
the person, of one dear to them.

Tardif occupied himself with mending his nets, pausing frequently with
his solemn eyes fixed upon the door of the girl's room, very much as a
patient mastiff watches the spot where he knows his master is near to
him, though out of sight. His mother went about her household work
ploddingly, and Mother Renouf kept manfully to her post, in turn with
me, as sentinel over the sickbed. There the young girl lay whispering
from morning till night, and from night till morning again--always
whispering. The fever gained ground from hour to hour. I had no data by
which to calculate her chances of getting through it; but my hopes were
very low at times.

On the Tuesday afternoon, in a temporary lull of the hail and wind, I
started off on a walk across the island. The wind was still blowing from
the southwest, and filling all the narrow sea between us and Guernsey
with boiling surge. Very angry looked the masses of foam whirling about
the sunken reefs, and very ominous the low-lying, hard blocks of clouds
all along the horizon. I strolled as far as the Coupée, that giddy
pathway between Great and Little Sark, where one can see the seething of
the waves at the feet of the cliffs on both sides, three hundred feet
below one. Something like a panic seized me. My nerves were too far
unstrung for me to venture across the long, narrow isthmus. I turned
abruptly again, and hurried as fast as my legs would carry me back to
Tardif's cottage.

I had been away less than an hour, but an advantage had been taken of my
absence. I found Tardif seated at the table, with a tangle of silky,
shining hair lying before him. A tear or two had fallen upon it from his
eyes. I understood at a glance what it meant. Mother Renouf had cut off
my patient's pretty curls as soon as I was out of the house. I could not
be angry with her, though I did not suppose it would do much good, and I
felt a sort of resentment, such as a mother would feel, at this
sacrifice of a natural beauty. They were all disordered and ravelled.
Tardif's great hand caressed them tenderly, and I drew out one long,
glossy tress and wound it about my fingers, with a heavy heart.

"It is like the pretty feathers of a bird that has been wounded," said
Tardif, sorrowfully.

Just then there came a knock at the door and a sharp click of the latch,
loud enough to penetrate Dame Tardif's deaf ears, or to arouse our
patient, if she had been sleeping. Before either of us could move, the
door was thrust open, and two young ladies appeared upon the door-sill.

They were--it flashed across me in an instant--old school-fellows and
friends of Julia's. I declare to you honestly, I had scarcely had one
thought of Julia till now. My mother I had wished for, to take her place
by this poor girl's side, but Julia had hardly crossed my mind. Why, in
Heaven's name, should the appearance of these friends of hers be so
distasteful to me just now? I had known them all my life, and liked them
as well as any girls I knew; but at this moment the very sight of them
was annoying. They stood in the doorway, as much astonished and
thunderstricken as I was, glaring at me, so it seemed to me, with that
soft, bright-brown lock of hair curling and clinging round my finger.
Never had I felt so foolish or guilty.

"Martin Dobrée!" ejaculated both in one breath.

"Yes, mesdemoiselles," I said, uncoiling the tress of hair as if it had
been a serpent, and going forward to greet them; "are you surprised to
see me?"

"Surprised!" echoed the elder. "No; we are amazed--petrified! However
did you get here? When did you come?"

"Quite easily," I replied. "I came on Sunday, and Tardif fetched me in
his own boat. If the weather had permitted, I should have paid you a
call; but you know what it has been."

"To be sure," answered Emma; "and how is dear Julia? She will be very
anxious about you."

"She was on the verge of a bilious attack when I left her," I said;
"that will tend to increase her anxiety."

"Poor, dear girl," she replied, sympathetically. "But, Martin, is this
young woman here so very ill? We have heard from the Renoufs she had had
a dangerous fall. To think of your being in Sark ever since Sunday, and
we never heard a word of it!"

No, thanks to Tardif's quiet tongue, and Mother Renouf's assiduous
attendance upon mam'zelle, my sojourn in the island had been kept a
secret; now that was at an end.

"Is that the young woman's hair?" asked Emma, as Tardif gathered
together the scattered tresses and tied them up quickly in a little
white handkerchief, out of their sight and mine. I saw them again
afterward. The handkerchief had been his wife's--white, with a border of
pink roses.

"Yes," I replied to her question, "it was necessary to cut it off. She
is dangerously ill with fever."

Both of them shrank a little toward the door. A sudden temptation
assailed me, and took me so much by surprise that I had yielded before I
knew I was attacked. It was their shrinking movement that did it. My
answer was almost as automatic and involuntary as their retreat.

"You see it would not be wise for any of us to go about," I said. "A
fever breaking out in the island, especially now you have no resident
doctor, would be very serious. I think it will be best to isolate this
case till we see the nature of the fever. You will do me a favor by
warning the people away from us at present. The storm has saved us so
far, but now we must take other precautions."

This I said with a grave tone and face, knowing all the while that there
was no fear whatever for the people of Sark. Was there a propensity in
me, not hitherto developed, to make the worst of a case?

"Good-by, Martin, good-by," cried Emma, backing out through the open
door. "Come away, Maria. We have run no risk yet, Martin, have we? Do
not come any nearer to us. We have touched nothing, except shaking hands
with you. Are we quite safe?"

"Is the young woman so very ill?" inquired Maria from a safe distance
outside the house.

I shook my head in silence, and pointed to the door of the inner room,
intimating to them that she was no farther away than there. An
expression of horror came over both their faces. Scarcely waiting to
bestow upon me a gesture of farewell, they fled, and I saw them hurrying
with unusual rapidity across the fold.

I had at least secured isolation for myself and my patient. But why had
I been eager to do so? I could not answer that question to myself, and I
did not ponder over it many minutes. I was impatient, yet strangely
reluctant, to look at the sick girl again, after the loss of her
beautiful hair. It was still daylight. The change in her appearance
struck me as singular. Her face before had a look of suffering and
trouble, making it almost old, charming as it was; now she had the
aspect of quite a young girl, scarcely touching upon womanhood. Her hair
had not been shorn off closely--the woman could not manage that--and
short, wavy tresses, like those of a young child, were curling about her
exquisitely-shaped head. The white temples, with their blue, throbbing
veins, were more visible, with the small, delicately-shaped ears. I
should have guessed her age now as barely fifteen--almost that of a
child. Thus changed, I felt more myself in her presence, more as I
should have been in attendance upon any child. I scanned her face
narrowly, and it struck me that there was a perceptible alteration; an
expression of exhaustion or repose was creeping over it. The crisis of
the fever was at hand. The repose of death or the wholesome sleep of
returning health was not far off. Mother Renouf saw it as well as
myself.



CHAPTER THE SIXTH.

WHO IS SHE?


We sat up again together that night, Tardif and I. He would not smoke,
lest the scent of the tobacco should get in through the crevices of the
door, and lessen the girl's chance of sleep; but he held his pipe
between his teeth, taking an imaginary puff now and then, that he might
keep himself wide awake. We talked to one another in whispers.

"Tell me all you know about mam'zelle," I said. He had been chary of his
knowledge before, but his heart seemed open at this moment. Most hearts
are more open at midnight than at any other hour.

"There's not much to tell, doctor," he answered. "Her name is Ollivier,
as I said to you; but she does not think she is any kin to the Olliviers
of Guernsey. She is poor, though she does not look as if she had been
born poor, does she?"

"Not in the least degree," I said. "If she is not a lady of birth, she
is one of the first specimens of Nature's gentlefolks I have ever come
across."

"Ah, there is a difference!" he said, sighing. "I feel it, doctor, in
every word I speak to her, and every step I walk with her eyes upon me.
Why cannot I be like her, or like you? You'll be on a level with her,
and I am down far below her."

I looked at him curiously. The slouching figure--well shaped as it
was--the rough, knotted hands, the unkempt mass of hair about his head
and face, marked him for what he was--a toiler on the sea as well as on
the land. He understood my scrutiny, and colored under it like a girl.

"You are a better fellow than I am, Tardif," I said; "but that has
nothing to do with our talk. I think we ought to communicate with the
young lady's friends, whoever they may be, as soon as there are any
means of communicating with the rest of the world. We should be in a fix
if any thing should happen to her. Have you no clew to her friends?"

"She is not going to die!" he cried. "No, no, doctor. God must hear my
prayers for her. I have never ceased to lift up my voice to Him in my
heart since I found her on the shingle. She will not die!"

"I am not so sure," I said; "but in any case we should write to her
friends. Has she written to any one since she came here?"

"Not to a soul," he answered, eagerly. "She told me she has no friends
nearer than Australia. That is a great way off."

"And has she had no letters?" I asked.

"Not one," he replied. "She has neither written nor received a single
letter."

"But how did you come across her?" I inquired. "She did not fall from
the skies, I suppose. How was it she came to live in this
out-of-the-world place with you?"

Tardif smoked his imaginary pipe with great perseverance for some
minutes, his face overcast with thought. But presently it cleared, and
he turned to me with a frank smile.

"I'll tell you all about it, Dr. Martin," he said. "You know the
Seigneur was in London last autumn, and there was a little difficulty in
the Court of Chefs Plaids here, about an ordonnance we could not agree
over, and I went across to London to see the Seigneur for myself. It was
in coming back I met with Mam'zelle Ollivier. I was paying my fare at
Waterloo station--the omnibus-fare, I mean--and I was turning away, when
I heard the man speak grumblingly. I thought it was at me, and I looked
back, and there she stood before him, looking scared and frightened at
his rough words. Doctor, I never could bear to see any soft, tender,
young thing in trouble. If it's nothing but a little bird that has
fallen out of its warm nest, or a lamb slipped down among the cliffs, I
feel as if I could risk my life to put them back again in some safe
place. Yes, and I have done it scores of times, when I dared not let my
poor mother know. Well, there stood mam'zelle, pale and trembling, with
the tears ready to fall in her eyes; just such a soft, poor, tender soul
as my little wife used to be. You remember my little wife, Dr. Martin?"

I only nodded as he looked at me.

"Just such another," he went on; "only this one was a lady, and less
able to take care of herself. Her trouble was nothing but the
omnibus-fare, and she had no change, nothing but an Australian
sovereign; so I paid it for her. I kept pretty near her about the
station while she was buying her ticket, for I overheard two young men,
who were roaming up and down, say as they looked at her, 'Pas de gants,
et des souliers de velours!' That was true; she had no gloves on her
hands, and her little feet had nothing on but some velvet slippers, all
wet and muddy with the dirty streets. So I walked up to her, as if I
had been her servant, you understand, and put her into a carriage, and
stood at the door of it, keeping off any young men who wished to get
in--for she was such a pretty young thing--till the train was ready to
start, and then I got into the nearest second-class carriage there was
to her."

"Well, Tardif?" I said, impatiently, as he paused, looking absently into
the dull embers of the seaweed fire.

"I turned it over in my own mind then," he continued, "and I've turned
it over in my own mind since, and I can make no sort of an account of
it--a young lady travelling without any friends in a dress like that, as
if she had not had a minute to spare in getting ready for her journey.
It was a bad night for a journey too. Could she be going to see some
friend who was dying? At every station I looked out to see if my young
lady left the train; but no, not even at Southampton. Was she going on
to France? 'I must look out for her at the pier-head,' I said to myself.
But when we stopped at the pier I did not want her to think I was
watching her, only I stood well in the light, that she might see me when
she looked round. I saw her stand as if she was considering, and I moved
away very slowly to our boat, to give her the chance of speaking to me,
if she wished. But she only followed me very quietly, as if she did not
want me to see her, and she went down into the ladies' cabin in a
moment, out of sight. Then I thought, 'She is running away from some
one, or from something.' She had no shawls, or umbrellas, or baskets,
such as ladies are always cumbered with, and that looked strange."

"How was she dressed?" I asked.

"She wore a soft, bright-brown jacket," he answered--"a seal-skin they
call it, though I never saw a seal with a skin like that--and a hat like
it, and a blue-silk gown, and her little muddy velvet slippers. It was a
strange dress for travelling, wasn't it, doctor?"

"Very strange indeed," I repeated. An idea was buzzing about my brain
that I had heard a description exactly similar before, but I could not
for the life of me recall where. I could not wait to hunt it out then,
for Tardif was in a full flow of confidence.

"But my heart yearned to her," he said, "more than ever it did over any
bird fallen from its nest, or any lamb that had slipped down the cliffs.
All the softness and all the helplessness of every poor little creature
I had ever seen in my life seemed about her; all the hunted creatures
and all the trapped creatures came to my mind. I can hardly tell you
about it, doctor. I could have risked my life a hundred times over for
her. It was a rough night, and I kept seeing her pale, hunted-looking
face before me, though there was not half the danger I've often been in
round our islands. I couldn't keep myself from fancying we were all
going down to the bottom of the sea, and that poor young thing, running
away from one trouble, was going to meet a worse--if it is worse to die
than to live in great trouble. Dr. Martin, they tell me all the bed of
the sea out yonder under the Atlantic is a smooth, smooth floor, with no
currents, or tides, or streams, but a great calm; and there is no life
down there of any kind. Well, that night I seemed to see the dead who
have perished by sea lying there calm and quiet with their hands folded
across their breasts. A great company it was, and a great graveyard,
strewed over with sleeping shapes, all at rest and quiet, waiting till
they hear the trumpet of the archangel sounding so that even the dead
will hear and live again. It was a solemn sight to see, doctor. Somehow
I came to think it would not be altogether a bad thing for the poor
young troubled creature to go down there among them and be at rest.
There are some people who seem too tender and delicate for this world.
Yet if there had come a chance I'd have laid down my life for hers, even
then, when I knew nothing much about her."

"Tardif," I said, "I did not know what a good fellow you are, though I
ought to have known it by this time."

"No," he answered, "it is not in me; it's something in her. You feel
something of it yourself, doctor, or how could you stay in a poor little
house like this, thinking of nothing but her, and not caring about the
weather keeping you away from home? But let me go on. In the morning
she came on deck, and talked to me about the islands, and where she
could live cheaply, and it ended in her coming home here to lodge in our
little spare room. There was another curious thing--she had not any
luggage with her, not a box nor a bag of any kind. She never knew that I
knew, for that would have troubled her. It is my belief that she has run
away."

"But who can she have run away from, Tardif?" I asked.

"God knows," he answered, "but the girl has suffered; you can see that
by her face. Whoever or whatever she has run away from, her cheeks are
white from it, and her heart sorrowful. I know nothing of her secret;
but this I do know: she is as good, and true, and sweet a little soul as
my poor little wife was. She has been here all winter, doctor, living
under my eye, and I've waited on her as her servant, though a rough
servant I am for one like her. She has tried to make herself cheerful
and contented with our poor ways. See, she mended me that bit of net;
those are her meshes, though her pretty white fingers were made sore by
the twine. She would mend it, sitting where you are now in the
chimney-corner. No; if mam'zelle should die, it will be a great grief of
heart to me. If I could offer my life to God in place of hers, I'd do it
willingly."

"No, she will not die. Look there, Tardif!" I said, pointing to the
door-sill of the inner room. A white card had been slipped under the
door noiselessly--a signal agreed upon between Mother Renouf and me, to
inform me that my patient had at last fallen into a profound slumber,
which seemed likely to continue some hours. She had slept perhaps a few
minutes at a time before, but not a refreshing, wholesome sleep. Tardif
understood the silent signal as well as I did, and a more solemn
expression settled on his face. After a while he put away his pipe, and,
stepping barefoot across the floor without a sound, he stopped the
clock, and brought back to the table, where an oil-lamp was burning, a
large old Bible. Throughout the long night, whenever I awoke, for I
threw myself on the fern bed and slept fitfully, I saw his handsome
face, with its rough, unkempt hair falling across his forehead as it was
bent over the book, while his mouth moved silently as he read to himself
chapter after chapter, and turned softly the pages before him.

I fell into a heavy slumber just before daybreak, and when I awoke two
or three hours after I found that the house had been put in order, just
as usual, though no sound had disturbed me. I glanced anxiously at the
closed door. That it was closed, and the white card still on the sill,
proved to me that our charge had no more been disturbed than myself. The
thought struck me that the morning light would shine full upon the weak
and weary eyelids of the sleeper; but upon going out into the fold to
look at her casement, I discovered that Tardif had been before me and
covered it with an old sail. The room within was sufficiently darkened.

The morning was more than half gone before Mother Renouf opened the door
and came out to us, her old face looking more haggard than ever, but her
little eyes twinkling with satisfaction. She gave me a patronizing nod,
but she went up to Tardif, laid a hand on each of his broad shoulders,
and looked him keenly in the face.

"All goes well, my friend," she said, significantly. "Your little
mam'zelle does not think of going to the good God yet."

I did not stay to watch how Tardif received this news, for I was
impatient myself to see how she was going on. Thank Heaven, the fever
was gone, the delirium at an end. The dark-gray eyes, opening languidly
as my fingers touched her wrist, were calm and intelligent. She was as
weak as a kitten, but that did not trouble me much. I was sure her
natural health was good, and she would soon recover her lost strength. I
had to stoop down to hear what she was saying.

"Have I kept quite still, doctor?" she asked, faintly.

I must own that my eyes smarted, and my voice was not to be trusted. I
had never felt so overjoyed in my life as at that moment. But what a
singular wish to be obedient possessed this girl! What a wonderful
power of submissive self-control! she had cast aside authority and
broken away from it, as she had done apparently, there must have been
some great provocation before a nature like hers could venture to assert
its own independence.

I had ample time for turning over this reflection, for Mother Renouf was
worn out and needed rest, and Suzanne Tardif was of little use in the
sick-room. I scarcely left my patient all that day, for the rumor I had
set afloat the day before was sufficient to make it a difficult task to
procure another nurse. The almost childish face grew visibly better
before my eyes, and when night came I had to acknowledge somewhat
reluctantly that as soon as a boat could leave the island it would be my
bounden duty to return to Guernsey.

"I should like to see Tardif," murmured the girl to me that night, after
she had awakened from a second long and peaceful sleep.

I called him, and he came in barefoot, his broad, burly frame seeming to
fill up all the little room. She could not lift up her head, but her
face was turned toward us, and she held out her small, wasted hand to
him, smiling faintly. He fell on his knees before he took it into his
great, horny palm, and looked down upon it as he held it very carefully
with, tears standing in his eyes.

"Why, it is like an egg-shell," he said. "God bless you, mam'zelle, God
bless you for getting well again!"

She laughed at his words--a feeble though merry laugh, like a
child's--and she seemed delighted with the sight of his hearty face,
glowing as it was with happiness. It was a strange chance that had
thrown these two together. I could not allow Tardif to remain long; but
after that she kept devising little messages to send to him through me
whenever I was about to leave her. Her intercourse with Mother Renouf
was extremely limited, as the old woman's knowledge of English was
slight; and with Suzanne she could hold no conversation at all. It
happened, in consequence, that I was the only person who could talk or
listen to her through the long and dreary hours.



CHAPTER THE SEVENTH.

WHO ARE HER FRIENDS?


At another time I might have recognized the danger of my post; but my
patient had become so childish-looking, and her mind, enfeebled by
delirium, was in so childish a condition, that it seemed to me I little
more than tending some young girl whose age was far below my own. I did
not trouble myself, moreover, with any exact introspection. There was an
under-current of satisfaction and happiness running through the hours
which I was not inclined to fathom. The winds continued against me, and
I had nothing to do but to devote myself to mam'zelle, as I called her
in common with the people about me. She was still so far in a precarious
state that, if she had been living in Guernsey, it would have been my
duty to pay to her unflagging attention.

But upon Friday afternoon Tardif, who had been down to the Creux Harbor,
brought back the information that one of the Sark cutters was about to
venture to make the passage across the Channel the next morning, to
attend the Saturday market, if the wind did not rise again in the night.
It was clear as day what I must do. I must bid farewell to my patient,
however reluctant I might be, with a very uncertain prospect of seeing
her again. A patient in Sark could not have many visits from a doctor in
Guernsey.

She was recovering with the wonderful elasticity of a thoroughly sound
constitution; but I had not considered it advisable for her even to sit
up yet, with her broken arm and sprained ankle. I took my seat beside
her for the last time, her fair, sweet face lying upon the pillow as it
had done when I first saw it, only the look of suffering was gone. I had
made up my mind to learn something of the mystery that surrounded her;
and the child, as I called her to myself, was so submissive to me that
she would answer my questions readily.

"Mam'zelle," I said, "I am going away to-night. You will be sorry to
lose me?"

"Very, very sorry," she answered, in her low, touching voice. "Are you
obliged to go?"

If I had not been obliged to go, I should then and there have made a
solemn vow to remain with her till she was well again.

"I must go," I said, shaking off the ridiculous and troublesome idea. "I
have been away nearly six days. Six days is a long holiday for a
doctor."

"It has not been a holiday for you," she whispered, her eyes fastened
upon mine, and shining like clear stars.

"Well," I repeated, "I must go. Before I go I wish to write to your
friends for you. You will not be strong enough to write yourself for
some days, and it is quite time they knew what danger you have been in.
I have brought a pen and paper, and I will post the letter as soon as I
reach Guernsey."

A faint flush colored her face, and she turned her eyes away from me.

"Why do you think I ought to write?" she asked at length.

"Because you have been very near death." I answered. "If you had died,
not one of us would have known whom to communicate with, unless you had
left some direction in that box of yours, which is not very likely."

"No," she said, "you would find nothing there. I suppose if I had died
nobody would ever have known who I am. How curious that would have
been!"

Was she amused, or was she saddened by the thought? I could not tell.

"It would have been very painful to Tardif and to me," I said. "It must
be very painful to your friends, whoever they are, not to know what has
become of you. Give me permission to write to them. There can scarcely
be reasons sufficient for you to separate yourself from them like this.
Besides, you cannot go on living in a fisherman's cottage; you were not
born to it--"

"How do you know?" she asked, quickly, with a sharp tone in her voice.

It was somewhat difficult to answer that question. There was nothing to
indicate what position she had been used to. I had seen no token of
wealth about her room, which was as homely as any other cottage chamber.
Her conversation had been the simple, childish talk of an invalid
recovering from a serious illness, and had scarcely proved her to be an
educated person. Yet there was something in her face and tones and
manner which, as plainly to Tardif as to me, stamped this runaway girl
as a lady.

"Let me write to your friends," I urged, waiving the question. "It is
not fit for you to remain here. I beg of you to allow me to communicate
with them."

Her face quivered like a child's when it is partly frightened and partly
grieved.

"I have no friends," she said; "not one real friend in the world."

An almost irresistible inclination assailed me to fall on my knees
beside her, as I had seen Tardif do, and take a solemn oath to be her
faithful servant and friend as long as my life should last. This, of
course, I did not do; but the sound of the words so plaintively spoken,
and the sight of her quivering face, rendered her a hundredfold more
interesting to me.

"Mam'zelle," I said, taking her hand in mine, "if ever you should need a
friend, you may count upon Martin Dobrée as one as true as any you could
wish to have. Tardif is another. Never say again you have no friends."

"Thank you," she answered, simply. "I will count you and Tardif as my
friends. But I have no others, so you need not write to anybody."

"But what if you had died?" I persisted.

"You would have buried me quietly up there," she answered, "in the
pleasant graveyard, where the birds sing all day long, and I should have
been forgotten soon. Am I likely to die, Dr. Martin?"

"Certainly not," I replied, hastily; "nothing of the kind. You are going
to get well and strong again. But I must bid you good-by, now, since you
have no friends to write to. Can I do any thing for you in Guernsey? I
can send you any thing you fancy."

"I do not want any thing," she said.

"You want a great number of things," I said; "medicines, of course--what
is the good of a doctor who sends no medicine?--and books. You will have
to keep yourself quiet a long time. You would like some books?"

"Oh, I have longed for books," she said, sighing; "but don't buy any;
lend me some of your own."

"Mine would be very unsuitable for a young lady," I answered, laughing
at the thought of my private library. "May I ask why I am not to buy
any?"

"Because I have no money to spend in books," she said.

"Well," I replied, "I will borrow some for you from the ladies I know.
We will not waste our money, neither you nor I."

I stood looking at her, finding it harder to go away than I had
supposed. So closely had I watched the changes upon her face, that every
line of it was deeply engraved upon my memory. Other and more familiar
faces seemed to have faded in proportion to that distinctness of
impression. Julia's features, for instance, had become blurred and
obscure, like a painting which has lost its original clearness of tone.

"How soon will you come back again?" asked the faint, plaintive voice.

Clearly it did not occur to her that I could not pay her a visit without
great difficulty. I knew how it was next to an impossibility to get over
to Sark, for some time at least; but I felt ready to combat even
impossibilities.

"I will come back," I said--"yes, I promise to come back in a week's
time. Make haste and get well before then, mam'zelle. Good-by, now;
good-by."

I was going to sleep at Vaudin's Inn, near to Creux Harbor, from which
the cutter would sail almost before the dawn. At five o'clock we started
on oar passage--a boat-load of fishermen bound for the market. The cold
was sharp, for it was still early in March, and the easterly wind
pierced the skin like a myriad of fine needles. A waning moon was
hanging in the sky over Guernsey, and the east was growing gray with the
coming morning. By the time the sun was fairly up out of its bed of
low-lying clouds, we had rounded the southern point of Sark, and were in
sight of the Havre Gosselin. But Tardif's cottage was screened by the
cliffs, and I could catch no glimpse of it, though, as we rowed onward,
I saw a fine, thin column of white smoke blown toward us. It was from
his hearth, I knew, and, at this moment, he was preparing an early
breakfast for my invalid. I watched it till all the coast became an
indistinct outline against the sky.



CHAPTER THE EIGHTH.

THE SIXTIES OF GUERNSEY.


I was more than half-numb with cold by the time we landed at the quay,
opposite the Sark office. The place was all alive, seeming the more busy
and animated to me for the solitary six days I had been spending since
last Sunday. The arrival of our boat, and especially my appearance in
it, created quite a stir among the loungers who are always hanging about
the pier. By this time every individual in St. Peter-Port knew that Dr.
Martin Dobrée had been missing for several days, having gone out in a
fisherman's boat to Sark the Sunday before. I had seen myself in the
glass before leaving my chamber at Vaudin's, and to some extent I
presented the haggard appearance of a shipwrecked man. A score of voices
greeted me; some welcoming, some chaffing. "Glad to see you again, old
fellow!" "What news from Sark?" "Been in quod for a week?" "His hair is
not cut short!" "No; he has tarried in Sark till his beard be grown!"
There was a circling laugh at this last jest at my appearance, which had
been uttered by a good-tempered, jovial clergyman, who was passing by on
his way to the town church. I did my best to laugh and banter in return,
but it was like a bear dancing with a sore head. I felt gloomy and
uncomfortable. A change had come over me since I left home, for my
return was by no means an unmixed pleasure.

As I was proceeding along the quay, with a train of sympathizing
attendants, a man, who was driving a large cart piled with packages in
cases, as if they had come in from England by the steamer, touched his
hat to me, and stopped the horse. It was in order to inform me that he
was conveying furniture which we--that is, Julia and I--had ordered, up
to our new house, the windows of which I could see glistening in the
morning sun. My spirits did not rise, even at this cheerful information.
I looked coldly at the cases, bade the man go on, and shook off my train
by taking an abrupt turn up a flight of steps, leading directly into the
Haute Rue.

I had chosen instinctively the nearest by-way homeward, but, once in the
Haute Rue, I did not pursue it. I turned again upon a sudden thought
toward the Market Square, to see if I could pick up any dainties to
tempt the delicate appetite of my Sark patient. Every step I took
brought me into contact with some friend or acquaintance, whom I would
have avoided gladly. The market was sure to be full of them, for the
ladies of Guernsey, like Frenchwomen, would be there in shoals, with
their maidservants behind them to carry their purchases. Yet I turned
toward it, as I said, braving both congratulations and curiosity, to
see what I could buy for Tardif's "mam'zelle."

The square had all the peculiar animation of an early market where
ladies do their own bargaining. As I had known beforehand, most of my
acquaintances were there; for in Guernsey the feminine element
predominates terribly, and most of my acquaintances were ladies. The
peasant-women behind the stalls also knew me. Most of them nodded to me
as I strolled slowly through the crowd, but they were much too busy to
suspend their purchases in order to catechise me just then, being sure
of me at a future time. I had not done badly in choosing the busiest
street for my way home.

But as I left the Market Square I came suddenly upon Julia, face to
face. It had all the effect of a shock upon me. Like many other women,
she seldom looked well out-of-doors. The prevailing fashion never suited
her, however the bonnets were worn, whether hanging down the neck or
slouched over the forehead, rising spoon-shaped toward the sky, or lying
like a flat plate on the crown. Julia's bonnet always looked as if it
had been made for somebody else. She was fond of wearing a shawl, which
hung ungracefully about her, and made her figure look squarer and her
shoulders higher than they really were. Her face struck sharply upon my
brain, as if I had never seen it distinctly before; not a bad face, but
unmistakably plain, and just now with a frown upon it, and her heavy
eyebrows knitted forbiddingly. A pretty little basket was in her hand,
and her mind was full of the bargains she was bent upon. She was even
more surprised and startled by our encounter than I was, and her manner,
when taken by surprise, was apt to be abrupt.

"Why, Martin!" she ejaculated.

"Well, Julia!" I said.

We stood looking at one another much in the same way as we used to do
years before, when she had detected me in some boyish prank, and assumed
the mentor while I felt a culprit. How really I felt a culprit at that
moment she could not guess.

"I told you just how it would be," she said, in her mentor voice. "I
knew there was a storm coming, and I begged and entreated of you not to
go. Your mother has been ill all the week, and your father has been as
cross as--as--"

"As two sticks," I suggested, precisely as I might have done when I was
thirteen.

"It is nothing to laugh at," said Julia, severely. "I shall say nothing
about myself and my own feelings, though they have been most acute, the
wind blowing a hurricane for twenty-four hours together, and we not sure
that you had even reached Sark in safety. Your mother and I wanted to
charter the Rescue, and send her over to fetch you home as soon as the
worst of the storm was over, but my uncle pooh-poohed it."

"I am very glad he did," I replied, involuntarily.

"He said you would be more than ready to come back in the first cutter
that sailed," she went on. "I suppose you have just come in?"

"Yes," I said, "and I'm half numbed with cold, and nearly famished with
hunger. You don't give me as good a welcome as the Prodigal Son got,
Julia."

"No," she answered, softening a little; "but I'm not sorry to see you
safe again. I would turn back with you, but I like to do the marketing
myself, for the servants will buy any thing. Martin, a whole cartload of
our furniture is come in. You will find the invoice inside my davenport.
We must go down this afternoon and superintend the unpacking."

"Very well," I said; "but I cannot stay longer now."

I did not go on with any lighter heart than before this meeting with
Julia. I had scrutinized her face, voice, and manner, with unwonted
criticism. As a rule, a face that has been before us all our days is as
seldom an object of criticism as any family portrait which has hung
against the same place on the wall all our lifetime. The latter fills up
a space which would otherwise be blank; the former does very little
else. It never strikes you; it is almost invisible to you. There would
be a blank space left if it disappeared, and you could not fill it up
from memory. A phantom has been living, breathing, moving beside you,
with vanishing features and no very real presence.

I had, therefore, for the first time criticised my future wife. It was a
good, honest, plain, sensible face, with some fine, insidious lines
about the corners of the eyes and lips, and across the forehead. They
could hardly be called wrinkles yet, but they were the first faint
sketch of them, and it is impossible to obliterate the slightest touch
etched by Time. She was five years older than I--thirty-three last
birthday. There was no more chance for our Guernsey girls to conceal
their age than for the unhappy daughters of peers, whose dates are
faithfully kept, and recorded in the Peerage. The upper classes of the
island, who were linked together by endless and intricate ramifications
of relationship, formed a kind of large family, with some of its
advantages and many of its drawbacks. In one sense we had many things in
common; our family histories were public property, as also our private
characters and circumstances. For instance, my own engagement to Julia,
and our approaching marriage, gave almost as much interest to the island
as though we were members of each household.

I have looked out a passage in the standard work upon the Channel
Islands. They are the words of an Englishman who was studying us more
philosophically than we imagined. Unknown to ourselves we had been under
his microscope. "At a period not very distant, society in Guernsey
grouped itself into two divisions--one, including those families who
prided themselves on ancient descent and landed estates, and who
regarded themselves as the _pur sang_; and the other, those whose
fortunes had chiefly been made during the late war or in trade. The
former were called _Sixties_, the latter were the _Forties_."

Now Julia and I belonged emphatically to the Sixties. We had never been
debased by trade, and a _mésalliance_ was not known in our family. To be
sure, my father had lost a fortune instead of making one in any way; but
that did not alter his position or mine. We belonged to the aristocracy
of Guernsey, and _noblesse oblige_. As for my marriage with Julia, it
was so much the more interesting as the number of marriageable men was
extremely limited; and she was considered favored indeed by Fate, which
had provided for her a cousin willing to settle down for life in the
island.

Still more greetings, more inquiries, more jokes, as I wended my way
homeward. I had become very weary of them before I turned into our own
drive. My father was just starting off on horseback. He looked
exceedingly well on horseback, being a very handsome man, and in
excellent preservation. His hair, as white as snow, was thick and well
curled, and his face almost without a wrinkle. He had married young, and
was not more than twenty-five years older than myself. He stopped, and
extended two fingers to me.

"So you are back, Martin?" he said. "It has been a confounded nuisance,
you being out of the way; and such weather for a man of my years! I had
to ride out three miles to lance a baby's gums, confound it! in all that
storm on Tuesday. Mrs. Durande has been very ill too; all your patients
have been troublesome. But it must have been awfully dull work for you
out yonder. What did you do with yourself, eh? Make love to some of the
pretty Sark girls behind Julia's back, eh?"

My father kept himself young, as he was very fond of stating; his style
of conversation was eminently so. It jarred upon my ears more than ever
after Tardif's grave and solemn words, and often deep thoughts. I was on
the point of answering sharply, but I checked myself.

"The weather has been awful," I said. "How did my mother bear it?"

"She has been like an old hen clucking after her duckling in the water,"
he replied. "She has been fretting and fuming after you all the week. If
it had been me out in Sark, she would have slept soundly and ate
heartily; as it was you, she has neither slept nor ate. You are quite an
old woman's pet, Martin. As for me, there is no love lost between old
women and me."

"Good-morning, sir," I said, turning away, and hurrying on to the house.
I heard him laugh lightly, and hum an opera-air as he rode off, sitting
his horse with the easy seat of a thorough horseman. He would never set
up a carriage as long as he could ride like that. I watched him out of
sight, and then went in to seek my poor mother.



CHAPTER THE NINTH.

A CLEW TO THE SECRET.


She was lying on the sofa in the breakfast-room, with the Venetian
blinds down to darken the morning sunshine. Her eyes wore closed, though
she held in her hands the prayer-hook, from which she had been reading
as usual the Psalms for the day. I had time to take note of the extreme
fragility of her appearance, which, doubtless I noticed the more plainly
for my short absence. Her hands were very thin, and her cheeks hollow. A
few silver threads were growing among her brown hair, and a line or two
between her eyebrows were becoming deeper. But while I was looking at
her, though I made no sort of sound or movement, she seemed to feel that
I was there; and after looking up she started from her sofa, and flung
her arms about me, pressing closer and closer to me.

"O Martin, my boy! my darling!" she sobbed, "thank God you are come back
safe! Oh, I have been very rebellious, very unbelieving. I ought to have
known that you would be safe. Oh, I am thankful!"

"So am I, mother," I said, kissing her, "and very hungry into the
bargain."

I knew that would check her hysterical excitement. She looked up at me
with smiles and tears on her face; but the smiles won the day.

"That is so like you, Martin," she said; "I believe your ghost would say
those very words. You are always hungry when you come home. Well, my
boy shall have the best breakfast in Guernsey. Sit down, then, and let
me wait upon you."

That was just what pleased her most whenever I came in from some ride
into the country. She was a woman with fondling, caressing little ways,
such as Julia could no more perform gracefully than an elephant could
waltz. My mother enjoyed fetching my slippers, and warming them herself
by the fire, and carrying away my boots when I took them off. No servant
was permitted to do any of these little offices for me--that is, when my
father was out of the way. If he was there, my mother sat still, and
left me to wait on myself, or ring for a servant, Never in my
recollection had she done any thing of the kind for my father. Had she
watched and waited upon him thus in the early days of their married
life, until some neglect or unfaithfulness of his had cooled her love
for him? I sat down as she bade me, and had my slippers brought, and
felt her fingers passed fondly through my hair.

"You have come back like a barbarian," she said, "rougher than Tardif
himself. How have you managed, my boy? You must tell me all about it as
soon as your hunger is satisfied."

"As soon as I have had my breakfast, mother, I must put up a few things
in a hamper to go back by the Sark cutter," I answered.

"What sort of things?" she asked. "Tell me, and I will be getting them
ready for you."

"Well, there will be some physic, of course," I said; "you cannot help
me in that. But you can find things suitable for a delicate appetite;
jelly, you know, and jams, and marmalade; any thing nice that comes to
hand. And some good port-wine, and a few amusing books."

"Books!" echoed my mother.

I recollected at once that the books she might select, as being suited
to a Sark peasant, would hardly prove interesting to my patient. I could
not do better than go down to Barbet's circulating library, and look out
some good works there.

"Well, no," I said; "never mind the books. If you will look out the
other things, those can wait."

"Whom are they for?" asked my mother.

"For my patient," I replied, devoting myself to the breakfast before me.

"What sort of a patient, Martin?" she inquired again.

"Her name is Ollivier," I said. "A common name. Our postmaster's name
is Ollivier."

"Oh, yes," she answered; "I know several families of Olliviers. I dare
say I should know this person if you could tell me her Christian name.
Is it Jane, or Martha, or Rachel?"

"I don't know," I said; "I did not ask."

Should I tell my mother about my mysterious patient? I hesitated for a
minute or two. But to what good? It was not my habit to talk about my
patients and their ailments. I left them all behind me when I crossed
the threshold of home. My mother's brief curiosity had been satisfied
with the name of Ollivier, and she made no further inquiries about her.
But to expedite me in my purpose, she rang, and gave orders for old
Pellet, our only man-servant, to find a strong hamper, and told the cook
to look out some jars of preserve.

The packing of that hamper interested me wonderfully; and my mother,
rather amazed at my taking the superintendence of it in person, stood by
me in her store-closet, letting me help myself liberally. There was a
good space left after I had taken sufficient to supply Miss Ollivier
with good things for some weeks to come. If my mother had not been by, I
should have filled it up with books.

"Give me a loaf or two of white bread," I said; "the bread at Tardif's
is coarse and hard, as I know after eating it for a week. A loaf, if you
please, dear mother."

"Whatever are you doing here, Martin?" exclaimed Julia's unwelcome voice
behind me. Her bilious attack had not quite passed away, and her tones
were somewhat sharp and raspy.

"He has been living on Tardif's coarse fare for a week," answered my
mother; "so now he has compassion enough for his Sark patient to pack up
some dainties for her. If you could only give him one or two of your bad
headaches, he would have more sympathy for you."

"Have you had one of your headaches, Julia?" I inquired.

"The worst I ever had," she answered. "It was partly your going off in
that rash way, and the storm that came on after, and the fright we were
in. You must not think of going again, Martin. I shall take care you
don't go after we are married."

Julia had been used to speak out as calmly about our marriage as if it
was no more than going to a picnic. It grated upon me just then; though
it had been much the same with myself. There was no delightful agitation
about the future that lay before us. We were going to set up
housekeeping by ourselves, and that was all. There was no mystery in it;
no problem to be solved; no discovery to be made on either side. There
would be no Blue Beard's chamber in our dwelling. We had grown up
together; now we had agreed to grow old together. That was the sum total
of marriage to Julia and me.

I finished packing the hamper, and sent Pellet with it to the Sark
office, having addressed it to Tardif, who had engaged to be down at the
Creux Harbor to receive it when the cutter returned. Then I made a short
and hurried toilet, which by this time had become essential to my
reappearance in civilized society. But I was in haste to secure a parcel
of books before the cutter should start home again, with its courageous
little knot of market-people. I ran down to Barbet's, scarcely heeding
the greetings which were flung after mo by every passer-by. I looked
through the library-shelves with growing dissatisfaction, until I hit
upon two of Mrs. Gaskell's novels, "Pride and Prejudice," by Jane
Austin, and "David Copperfield." Besides these, I chose a book for
Sunday reading, as my observations upon my mother and Julia had taught
me that my patient could not read a novel on a Sunday with a quiet
conscience.

Barbet brought half a sheet of an old _Times_ to form the first cover of
my parcel. The shop was crowded with market-people, and, as he was busy,
I undertook to pack them myself, the more willingly as I had no wish for
him to know what direction I wrote upon them. I was about to fold the
newspaper round them, when my eye was caught by an advertisement at the
top of one of the columns, the first line of which was printed in
capitals. I recollected in an instant that I had seen it and read it
before. This was what I had tried in vain to recall while Tardif was
describing Miss Ollivier to me. "Strayed from her home in London, on the
20th inst., a young lady with bright-brown hair, gray eyes, and delicate
features; age twenty one. She is believed to have been alone. Was
dressed in a blue-silk dress, and seal-skin jacket and hat. Fifty pounds
reward is offered to any person giving such information as will lead to
her restoration to her friends. Apply to Messrs. Scott and Brown, Gray's
Inn Road, E.C."

I stood perfectly still for some seconds, staring blankly at the very
simple, direct advertisement under my eyes. There was not the slightest
doubt in my mind that it had a direct reference to my pretty patient in
Sark. I had a reason for recollecting the date of Tardif's return from
London, the very day after the mournful disaster off the Havre Gosselin,
when four gentlemen and a boatman had been lost during a squall. But I
had no time for deliberation then, and I tore off a large corner of the
_Times_ containing that and other advertisements, and thrust it unseen
into my pocket. After that I went on with my work, and succeeded in
turning out a creditable-looking parcel, which I carried down to the
Sark cutter.

Before I returned home I made two or three half-professional calls upon
patients whom my father had visited during my absence. Everywhere I had
to submit to numerous questions as to my adventures and pursuits during
my week's exile. At each place curiosity seemed to be quite satisfied
with the information that the young woman who had been hurt by a fall
from the cliffs was an Ollivier. With that freedom and familiarity which
exists among us, I was rallied for my evident absence and preoccupation
of mind, which were pleasantly ascribed to the well-known fact that a
large quantity of furniture for our new house had arrived from England
while I was away. These friends of mine could tell me the colors of the
curtains, and the patterns of the carpets, and the style of my chairs
and tables; so engrossingly interesting to all our circle was our
approaching marriage.

In the mean time, I had no leisure to study and ponder over the
advertisement, which by so odd a chance had come into my hands. That
must be reserved till I was alone at night.



CHAPTER THE TENTH.

JULIA'S WEDDING-DRESS.


Yet I found my attention wandering, and my wits wool-gathering, even in
the afternoon, when I had gone down with Julia and my mother to the new
house, to see after the unpacking of that load of furniture. I can
imagine circumstances in which nothing could be more delightful than the
care with which a man prepares a home for his future wife. The very tint
of the walls, and the way the light falls in through the windows, would
become matters of grave importance. In what pleasant spot shall her
favorite chair be placed? And what picture shall hang opposite it to
catch her eye the oftenest? Where is her piano to stand? What china, and
glass, and silver, is she to use? Where are the softest carpets to be
found for her feet to tread? In short, where is the very best and
daintiest of every thing to be had, for the best and daintiest little
bride the sun ever shone on?

There was not the slightest flavor of this sentiment in our furnishing
of our new house. It was really more Julia's business than mine. We had
had dozens of furnishing lists to peruse from the principal houses in
London and Paris, as if even there it was a well-understood thing that
Julia and I were going to be married. We had toiled through these
catalogues, making pencil-marks in them, as though they were catalogues
of an art exhibition. We had prudently settled the precise sum (of
Julia's money) which we were to lay out. Julia's taste did not often
agree with mine, as she had no eye for the harmonies of color--a
singular deficiency among us, as most of the Guernsey women are born
artists. We were constantly compelled to come to a compromise, each
yielding some point; not without a secret misgiving on my part that the
new house would have many an eyesore about it for me. But then it was
Julia's money that was doing it, and after all she was more anxious to
please me than I deserved.

That afternoon Pellet and I, like two assistants in a furnishing-house,
unrolled carpets and stretched them along the floors before the critical
gaze of my mother and Julia. We unpacked chairs and tables, scanning
anxiously for damages on the polished wood, and setting them one after
another in a row against the walls. I went about as in some dream. The
house commanded a splendid view of the whole group of the Channel
Islands, and the rocky islets innumerable strewed about the sea. The
afternoon sun was shining full upon Sark, and whenever I looked through
the window I could see the cliffs of the Havre Gosselin, purple in the
distance, with a silver thread of foam at their foot. No wonder that my
thoughts wandered, and the words my mother and Julia were speaking went
in at one ear and out at the other. Certainly I was dreaming; but which
part was the dream?

"I don't believe he cares a straw about the carpets!" exclaimed Julia,
in a disappointed tone.

"I do indeed, dear Julia," I said, bringing myself back to the carpets.
Here I had been obliged to give in to Julia's taste. She had set her
mind upon having flowers in her drawing-room carpet, and there they
were, large garlands of bright-colored blossoms, very gay, and, as I
ventured to remark to myself, very gaudy.

"You like it better than you did in the pattern?" she asked, anxiously.

I did not like it one whit better, but I should have been a brute if I
had said so. She was gazing at it and me with so troubled an expression,
that I felt it necessary to set her mind at ease.

"It is certainly handsomer than the pattern?" I said, regarding it
attentively; "very much handsomer."

"You like it better than the plain thing you chose at first?" pursued
Julia.

I was about to be hunted into a corner, and forced into denying my own
taste--a process almost more painful than denying one's faith--when my
mother came to my rescue. She could read us both as an open book, and
knew the precise moment to come between us.

"Julia, my love," she said, "remember that we wish to show Martin those
patterns while it is daylight. To-morrow is Sunday, you know."

A little tinge of color crept over Julia's tintless face as she told
Pellet he might go. I almost wished that I might be dismissed too; but
it was only a vague, wordless wish. We then drew near to the window,
from which we could see Sark so clearly, and Julia drew out of her
pocket a very large envelope, which was bursting with its contents.

They were small scraps of white silk and white satin. I took them
mechanically into my hand, and could not help admiring the pure,
lustrous, glossy beauty of them. I passed my fingers over them softly.
There was something in the sight of them that moved me, as if they were
fragments of the shining garments of some vision, which in times gone
by, when I was much younger, had now and then floated before my fancy. I
did not know any one lovely enough to wear raiment of glistening white
like these, unless--unless--. A passing glimpse of the pure white face,
and glossy hair, and deep gray eyes of my Sark patient flashed across
me.

"They are patterns for Julia's wedding-dress," said my mother, in a low,
tender voice.



CHAPTER THE ELEVENTH.

TRUE TO BOTH.


"For Julia!" I repeated, the treacherous vision fading away
instantaneously. "Oh, yes! I understand. They are very beautiful--very
beautiful indeed."

"Which do you like most?" asked Julia, in a whisper, as she leaned
against my shoulder.

"I like them all," I said. "There is scarcely any difference among them
that I can see."

"No difference!" she exclaimed. "That is so like a man! Why, they are as
different as can be. Look here, this one is only five shillings a yard,
and that is twelve. Isn't that a difference?"

"A very great one," I replied. "But do you think you will look well in
white, my dear Julia? You never do wear white."

"A bride cannot wear any thing but white," she said, angrily. "I
declare, Martin, you would not mind if I looked a perfect fright."

"But I should mind very much," I urged, putting my arm around her; "for
you will be my wife then, Julia."

She smiled almost for the first time that afternoon, for her mind had
been full of the furniture, and too burdened for happiness. But now she
looked happy.

"You can be as nice and good as any one, when you like," she said,
gently.

"I shall always be nice and good when we are married," I answered, with
a laugh. "You are not afraid of venturing, are you, Julia?"

"Not the least in the world," she said. "I know you, Martin, and I can
trust you implicitly."

My heart ached at the words, so softly and warmly spoken. But I laughed
again--at myself this time, not at her. Why should she not trust me? I
would be as true as steel to her. I loved no one better, and I would
take care not to love any one. My word, my honor, my troth, were all
plighted to her. Only a scoundrel and a fool would be unfaithful to an
engagement like ours.

We walked home together, we three, all contented and all happy. We had a
good deal to talk of during the evening, and sat up late. Sundry small
events had happened in Guernsey during my six-days' absence, and these
were discussed with that charming minuteness with which women canvass
family matters. It was midnight before I found myself alone in my own
room.

I had half forgotten the crumpled paper in my waistcoat-pocket, but now
I smoothed it out before me and pondered over every word. No, there
could not be a doubt that it referred to Miss Ollivier. "Bright-brown
hair, gray eyes, and delicate features." That exactly corresponded with
her appearance. "Blue-silk dress, and seal-skin jacket and hat." It was
precisely the dress which Tardif had described. "Fifty pounds reward."
That was a large sum to offer, and the inference was that her friends
were persons of good means, and anxious for her recovery.

Why should she have strayed from home? That was the question. What
possible reason could there have been, strong enough to impel a young
and delicately-nurtured girl to run all the risks and dangers of a
flight alone and unprotected? Her friends evidently believed that she
had not been run away with; there was not the ordinary element of an
elopement in this case.

But Miss Ollivier had assured me she had no friends. What did she mean
by the word? Here were persons evidently anxious to discover her place
of concealment. Were they friends? or could they by any chance be
enemies? This is not an age when enmity is very rampant. For my own
part, I had not an enemy in the world. Why should this pretty,
habitually-obedient, self-controlled girl have any? Most probably it was
one of those instances of bitter misunderstanding which sometimes arise
in families, and which had driven her to the desperate step of seeking
peace and quietness by flight.

Then what ought I to do with this advertisement, thrust, as it would
seem, purposely under my notice? If I had not wrapped up the parcel
myself at Barbet's, I should have missed seeing it; or if Barbet had
picked up any other piece of paper, it would not have come under my eye.
A curious concatenation of very trivial circumstances had ended in
putting into my hands a clew by which I could unravel all the mystery
about my Sark patient. What was I to do with the clew?

I might communicate at once with Messrs. Scott and Brown, giving them
the information they had advertised for six months before, and receive a
reply, stating that it was no longer valuable to them, or containing an
acknowledgment of my claim to the fifty pounds reward. I might sell my
knowledge of Miss Ollivier for fifty pounds. In doing so I might render
her a great service, by restoring her to her proper sphere in society.
But the recollection of Tardif's description of her as looking terrified
and hunted recurred vividly to me. The advertisement put her age as
twenty-one. I should not have judged her so old myself, especially since
her hair had been cut short. But if she was twenty-one, she was old
enough to form plans and purposes for herself, and to choose, as far as
she could, her own mode of living. I was not prepared to deliver her up,
until I knew something more of both sides of the question.

Settled--that if I could see Messrs. Scot and Brown, and learn something
about Miss Ollivier's friends, I might be then able to decide whether I
would betray her to them but I would not write. Also, that I must see
her again first, and once more urge her to have confidence in me. If she
would trust me with her secret, I would be as true to her as a friend as
I meant to be true to Julia.

Having come to these conclusions, I cut the advertisement carefully out
of the crumpled paper, and placed it in my pocket-book with portraits of
my mother and Julia, Here were mementos of the three women I cared most
for in the world: my mother first, Julia second, and my mysterious
patient third.



CHAPTER THE TWELFTH.

STOLEN WATERS ARE SWEET.


I was neither in good spirits nor in good temper during the next few
days. My mother and Julia appeared astonished at this, for I was not
ordinarily as touchy and fractious as I showed myself immediately after
my sojourn in Sark.

I was ashamed of it myself. The new house, which occupied their time and
thoughts so agreeably, worried me as it had not done before. I made
every possible excuse not to be sent to it, or taken to it, several
times a day.

The discussions over Julia's wedding-dress also, which had by no means
been decided upon on Saturday afternoon, began to bore me beyond words.
Whenever I could, I made my patients a pretext for getting away from
them.

One of them, a cousin of my mother--as I have said, we were all cousins
of one degree or another--Captain Carey, met me on the quay, a day or
two after my return. He had been a commander in the Royal Navy, and,
after cruising about in all manner of unhealthy latitudes, had returned
to his native island for the recovery of his health. He and his sister
lived together in a very pleasant house of their own, in the Vale, about
two miles from St. Peter-Port.

He looked yellow enough to be on the verge of an attack of jaundice when
he came across me.

"Hallo, Martin!" he cried, "I am delighted to see you, my boy. I've been
a little out of sorts lately; but I would not let Johanna send for your
father. He does very well to go dawdling after women, and playing with
their pulses, but I don't want him dawdling after me. Tell me what you
have to say about me, my lad."

He went on to tell me his symptoms, while a sudden idea struck me almost
like a flash of genius.

I am nothing of a genius; but at that time new thoughts came into my
mind with wonderful rapidity. It was positively necessary that I should
run over to Sark this week--I had given my word to Miss Ollivier that I
would do so--but I dared not mention such a project at home. My mother
and Julia would be up in arms at the first syllable I uttered.

What if I could do two patients good at one stroke, kill two birds with
one stone? Captain Carey had a pretty little yacht lying idle in St.
Sampson's Harbor, and a day's cruising would do him all the good in the
world. Why should he not carry me over to Sark, when I could visit my
other patient, and nobody be made miserable by the trip?

"I will make you up some of your old medicine," I said, "but I strongly
recommend you to have a day out on the water; seven or eight hours at
any rate. If the weather keeps as fine as it is now, it will do you a
world of good."

"It is so dreary alone," he objected, "and Johanna would not care to go
out at this season, I know."

"If I could manage it," I said, deliberating, "I should be glad to have
a day with you."

"Ah! if you could do that!" he replied, eagerly.

"I'll see about it," I said. "Should you mind where you sailed to?"

"Not at all, not at all, my boy," he answered, "so that I get your
company. You shall be skipper, or helmsman, or both, if you like."

"Well, then," I replied, "you might take me over to the Havre Gosselin,
to see how my patient's broken arm is going on. It's a bore there being
no resident medical man there at this moment. The accident last autumn
was a great loss to the island."

"Ah! poor fellow!" said Captain Carey, "he was a sad loss to them. But
I'll take you over with pleasure, Martin; any day you fix upon."

"Get the yacht ship-shape, then," I said; "I think I can manage it on
Thursday."

I did not say at home whither I was bound on Thursday. I informed them
merely that Captain Carey and I were going out in his yacht for a few
hours. This was simply to prevent them from worrying themselves.

It was as delicious a spring morning as ever I remember. As I rode along
the flat shore between St. Peter-Port and St. Sampson's, the fresh air
from the sea played about my face, as if to drive dull care away, and
make me as buoyant and debonair as itself. The little waves were
glittering and dancing in the sunshine, and chiming with the merry
carols of the larks, outsinging one another in the blue sky overhead.
The numerous wind-mills, like children's toys, which were pumping water
out of the stone-quarries, whirled and spun busily in the brisk breeze.
Every person I met saluted me with a blithe and cheery greeting. My dull
spirits had been blown far away before I set foot on the deck of Captain
Carey's little yacht.

The run over was all that we could wish. The cockle-shell of a boat,
belonging to the yacht, bore me to the foot of the ladder hanging down
the rock at Havre Gosselin. A very few minutes took me to the top of the
cliff, and there lay the little thatched, nest-like home of my patient.
I hastened forward eagerly.

The place seemed very solitary and deserted; and a sudden fear came
across me. Was it possible that she should be dead? It was possible. I
had left her six days ago only just over a terrible crisis. There might
have been a relapse, a failure of vital force. I might be come to find
those shining eyes hid beneath their lids forever, and the pale,
suffering face motionless in death.

Certainly the rhythmic motion of my heart was disturbed. I felt it
contract painfully, and its beating suspended for a moment or two. The
farmstead was intensely quiet, with the ominous stillness of death. All
the windows were shrouded with their check curtains. There was no
clatter of Suzanne's wooden clogs about the fold or the kitchen. If it
had been Sunday, this supernatural silence would have been easily
accounted for; but it was Thursday. I scarcely dared go on and learn the
cause of it.

All silent still as I crossed the stony causeway of the yard. Not a face
looked out from door or window. Mam'zelle's casement stood a little way
open, and the breeze played with the curtains, fluttering them like
banners in a procession. I dared not try to look in. The house-door was
ajar, and I approached it cautiously. "Thank God!" I cried within myself
as I gazed eagerly into the cottage.

She was lying there upon the fern-bed, half asleep, her head fallen back
upon the pillow, and the book she had been reading dropped from her
hand. Her dress was of some coarse, dark-green stuff, which made a
charming contrast to her delicate face and bright hair. The whole
interior of the cottage formed a picture. The old furniture of oak,
almost black with age, the neutral tints of the wall and ceiling, and
the deep tone of her green dress, threw out into strong relief the
graceful, shining head, and pale face.

I suppose she became subtly conscious, as women always are, that
somebody's eyes were fixed upon her, for she awoke fully, and looked up
as I lingered on the door-sill.

"O Dr. Martin!" she cried, "I am so glad!"

She looked pleased enough to be upon the point of trying to raise
herself up in order to welcome me, but I interposed quickly. It was more
difficult than I had expected to assume a grave, professional tone, but
by an effort I did so. I bade her lie still, and took a chair at some
little distance.

"Tardif is gone out fishing," she said, "and his mother is gone away
too, to a christening-feast somewhere; but Mrs. Renouf is to be here in
an hour or two. I told them I could manage very well as long as that."

"They ought not to have left you alone," I replied.

"And I shall not be left alone," she said, smiling, "for you are come,
you see. I am rather glad they are away; for I wanted to tell you how
much I felt your goodness to me all through that dreadful week. You are
the first doctor I ever had about me, the very first. Perhaps you
thought I did not know what care you were taking of me; but, somehow or
other, I knew every thing. My mind did not quite go. You were very, very
good to me."

"Never mind that," I said; "I am come to see how my work is going on.
How is the arm, first of all?"

I almost wished that Mother Renouf or Suzanne Tardif had been at hand.
But Miss Ollivier seemed perfectly composed, as much so as a child. She
looked like one with her cropped head of hair, and frank, open face. My
own momentary embarrassment passed away. The arm was going on all right,
and so was Mother Renouf's charge, the sprained ankle.

"We must take care you are not lame," I said, while I was feeling
carefully the complicated joint of her ankle.

"Lame!" she repeated, in an alarmed voice, "is there any fear of that?"

"Not much," I answered, "but we must be careful, mam'zelle. You must
promise me not to set your foot on the ground, or in any way rest your
weight upon it, till I give you leave."

"That means that you will have to come to see me again," she said; "is
it not very difficult to come over from Guernsey?"

"Not at all," I answered, "it is quite a treat to me."

Her face grew very grave, as if she was thinking of some unpleasant
topic. She looked at me earnestly and questioningly.

"May I speak to you with great plainness, Dr. Martin?" she asked.

"Speak precisely what is in your mind at this moment," I replied.

"You are very, very good to me," she said, holding out her hand to me,
"but I do not want you to come more often than is quite necessary,
because I am very poor. If I were rich," she went on hurriedly, "I
should like you to come every day--it is so pleasant--but I can never
pay you sufficiently for that long week you were here. So please do not
visit me oftener than is quite necessary."

My face felt hot, but I scarcely knew what to say. I bungled out an
answer:

"I would not take any money from you, and I shall come to see you as
often as I can."

I bound up her little foot again without another word, and then sat
down, pushing my chair farther from her.

"You are not offended with me, Dr. Martin?" she asked, in a pleading
tone.

"No," I answered; "but you are mistaken in supposing that a medical man
has no love for his profession apart from its profits. To see that your
arm gets properly well is part of my duty, and I shall fulfil it without
any thought of whether I shall get paid for it or no."

"Now," she said, "I must let you know how poor I am. Will you please to
fetch me my box out of my room?"

I was only too glad to obey her. This seemed to be an opening to a
complete confidence between us. Now I came to think of it, Fortune had
favored me in thus throwing us together alone.

I lifted the small, light box very easily--there could not be many
treasures in it--and carried it back to her. She took a key out of her
pocket and unlocked it with some difficulty, but she could not raise the
lid without my help. I took care not to offer any assistance until she
asked it.

Yes, there were very few possessions in that light trunk, but the first
glance showed me a blue-silk dress, and seal-skin jacket and hat. I
lifted them out for her, and after them a pair of velvet slippers,
soiled, as if they had been through muddy roads. I did not utter a
remark. Beneath these lay a handsome watch and chain, a fine diamond
ring, and five sovereigns lying loose in the box.

"That is all the money I have in the world," she said, sadly.

I laid the five sovereigns in her small, white hand, and she turned them
over, one after another, with a pitiful look on her face. I felt foolish
enough to cry over them myself.

"Dr. Martin," was her unexpected question after a long pause, "do you
know what became of my hair?"

"Why?" I asked, looking at her fingers running through the short curls
we had left her.

"Because that ought to be sold for something," she said. "I am almost
glad you had it cut off. My hair-dresser told me once he would give five
guineas for a head of hair like mine, it was so long and the color was
uncommon. Five guineas would not be half enough to pay you though, I
know."

She spoke so simply and quietly, that I did not attempt to remonstrate
with her about her anxiety to pay me.

"Tardif has it," I said; "but of course he will give it you back again.
Shall I sell it for you, mam'zelle?"

"Oh, that is just what I could not ask you!" she exclaimed. "You see
there is no one to buy it here, and I hope it may be a long time before
I go away. I don't know, though; that depends upon whether I can dispose
of my things. There is my seal-skin, it cost twenty-five guineas last
year, and it ought to be worth something. And my watch--see what a nice
one it is. I should like to sell them all, every one. Then I could stay
here as long as the money lasted."

"How much do you pay here?" I inquired, for she had taken me so far into
counsel that I felt justified in asking that question.

"A pound a week," she answered.

"A pound a week!" I repeated, in amazement. "Does Tardif know that?"

"I don't think he does," she said. "When I had been here a week I gave
Mrs. Tardif a sovereign, thinking perhaps she would give me a little out
of it. I am not used to being poor, and I did not know how much I ought
to pay. But she kept it all, and came to me every week for more. Was it
too much to pay?"

"Too much!" I said. "You should have spoken to Tardif about it, my poor
child."

"I could not talk to Tardif about his mother," she answered. "Besides,
it would not have been too much if I had only had plenty. But it has
made me so anxious. I did not know whatever I should do when it was all
gone. I do not know now."

Here was a capital opening for a question about her friends.

"You will be compelled to communicate with your family," I said. "You
have told me how poor you are; cannot you trust me about your friends?"

"I have no friends," she answered, sorrowfully. "If I had any, do you
suppose I should be here?"

"I am one," I said, "and Tardif is another."

"Ah, new friends," she replied; "but I mean real old friends who have
known you all your life, like your mother, Dr. Martin, or your cousin
Julia. I want somebody to go to who knows all about me, and say to them,
after telling them every thing, keeping nothing back at all, 'Have I
done right? What else ought I to have done?' No new friend could answer
questions like those."

Was there any reason I could bring forward to increase her confidence in
me? I thought there was, and her friendlessness and helplessness touched
me to the core of my heart. Yet it was with an indefinable reluctance
that I brought forward my argument.

"Miss Ollivier," I said, "I have no claim of old acquaintance or
friendship, yet it is possible I might answer those questions, if you
could prevail upon yourself to tell me the circumstances of your former
life. In a few weeks I shall be in a position to show you more
friendship than I can do now. I shall have a home of my own, and a wife
who will be your friend more fittingly, perhaps, than myself."

"I knew it," she answered, half shyly. "Tardif told me you were going to
marry your cousin Julia."

Just then we heard the fold-yard gate swing to behind some one who was
coming to the house.



CHAPTER THE THIRTEENTH.

ONE IN A THOUSAND.


I had altogether forgotten that Captain Carey's yacht was waiting for me
off the little bay below; and I sprang quickly to the door in the dread
that he had followed me.

It was an immense relief to see only Tardif's tall figure bending under
his creel and nets, and crossing the yard slowly. I hailed him and he
quickened his pace, his honest features lighting up at the sight of me.

"How do you find mam'zelle, doctor?" were his first eager words.

"All right," I said; "going on famously. Sark is enough to cure any one
and any thing of itself, Tardif. There is no air like it. I should not
mind being a little ill here myself."

"Captain Carey is impatient to be gone," he continued. "He sent word by
me that you might be visiting every house in the island, you had been
away so long."

"Not so very long," I said, testily; "but I will just run in and say
good-by, and then I want you to walk with me to the cliff."

I turned back for a last look and a last word. No chance of learning
her secret now. The picture was as perfect as when I had had the first
glimpse of it, only her face had grown, if possible, more charming after
my renewed scrutiny of it.

There are faces that grow upon you the longer and the oftener you look
upon them; faces that seem to have a veil over them, which melts away
like the thin, fine mist of the morning upon the cliffs, until they
flash out in their full color and beauty. The last glance was eminently
satisfactory, and so was the last word.

"Shall I send you the hair?" asked Miss Ollivier, returning practically
to a matter of business.

"To be sure," I answered. "I shall dispose of it to advantage, but I
have not time to wait for it now."

"And may I write a letter to you?"

"Yes," was my reply: I was too pleased to express myself more
eloquently.

"Good-by," she said; "you are a very good doctor to me."

"And friend?" I added.

"And friend," she repeated.

That was the last word, for I was compelled to hurry away. Tardif
accompanied me to the cliff, and I took the opportunity to tell him as
pleasantly as I could the extravagant charge his mother had made upon
her lodger, and the girl's anxiety about the future. A more grieved look
never came across a man's face.

"Dr. Martin," he said, "I would have cut off my hand rather than it had
been so. Poor little mam'zelle! Poor old mother! She is growing old,
sir, and old people are greedy. The fall of the year is dark and cold,
and gives nothing, but takes away all it can, and hoards it for the
young new spring that is to follow. It seems almost the nature of old
age. Poor old mother! I am very grieved for her. And I am troubled,
troubled about mam'zelle. To think she has been fretting all the winter
about this, when I was trying to find out how to cheer her! Only five
pounds left, poor little soul! Why! all I have is at her service. It is
enough to have her only in the house, with her pretty ways and sweet
voice. I'll put it all right with mam'zelle, sir, and with my poor old
mother too. I am very sorry for _her_."

"Miss Ollivier has been asking me to sell her hair," I said.

"No, no," he answered hastily, "not a single hair! I cannot say yes to
that. The pretty bright curls! If anybody is to buy them, I will. Yes,
doctor! that is famous. She wishes you to sell her hair? Very good; I
will buy it; it must be mine. I have more money than you think, perhaps.
I will buy mam'zelle's pretty curls; and she shall have the money, and
then there will be more than five pounds in her little purse. Tell me
how much they will be. Ten pounds? Fifteen? Twenty?"

"Nonsense, Tardif!" I answered; "keep one of them, if you like; but I
must have the rest. We will settle it between us."

"No, doctor," he said; "your cousin will not like that. You are going to
be married soon; it would not do for you to keep mam'zelle's curls."

It was said with so much simplicity and good-heartedness that I felt
ashamed of a rising feeling of resentment, and parted with him
cordially. In a few minutes afterward I was on board the yacht, and
laughing at Captain Carey's reproaches. Tardif was still visible on the
edge of the cliff, watching our departure.

"That is as good a fellow as ever breathed," said Captain Carey, waving
his cap to him.

"I know it better than you do," I replied.

"And how is the young woman?" he asked.

"Going on as well as a broken arm and a sprained ankle can do," I
answered.

"You will want to come again, Martin," he said; "when are we to have
another day?"

"Well, I shall hear how she is every now and then," I answered; "it
takes too long a time to come more often than is necessary. But you will
bring me if it is necessary?"

"With all my heart," said Captain Carey.

For the next few days I waited with some impatience for Miss Ollivier's
promised letter. It came at last, and I put it into my pocket to read
when I was alone--why, I could scarcely have explained to myself.


     "Dear Dr. Martin," it began, "I have no little commission to
     trouble you with. Tardif tells me it was quite a mistake, his
     mother taking a sovereign from me each week. She does not
     understand English money; and he says I have paid quite
     sufficient to stay with them a whole year longer without
     paying any more. I am quite content about that now. Tardif
     says, too, that he has a friend in Southampton who will buy my
     hair, and give more than anybody in Guernsey. So I need not
     trouble you about it, though I am sure you would have done it
     for me.

     "I have not put my foot to the ground yet; but yesterday
     Tardif carried me all the way down to his boat, and took me
     out for a little sail under the beautiful cliffs, where we
     could look up and see all those strange carvings upon the
     rocks. I thought that perhaps there were real things written
     there that we should like to read. Sometimes in the sky there
     are fine faint lines across the blue which look like written
     sentences, if one could only make them out. Here they are on
     the rocks, but every tide washes them away, leaving fresh
     ones. Perhaps they are messages to me, answers to those
     questions that I cannot answer myself.

     "Good-by, my good doctor. I am trying to do every thing you
     told me exactly; and I am getting well again fast. I do not
     believe I shall be lame; you are too clever for that. Your
     patient,

     "OLIVIA."

Olivia! I looked at the word again to make sure of it. Then it was not
her surname that was Ollivier, and I was still ignorant of that. I saw
in a moment how the mistake had arisen, and how innocent she was of any
deception in the matter. She would tell Tardif that her name was Olivia,
and he thought only of the Olliviers he knew. It was a mistake that had
been of use in checking curiosity, and I did not feel bound to put it
right. My mother and Julia appeared to have forgotten my patient in Sark
altogether.

Olivia! I thought it a very pretty name, and repeated it to myself with
its abbreviations, Olive, Livy. It was difficult to abbreviate Julia; Ju
I had called her in my rudest school-boy days. I wondered how high
Olivia would stand beside me; for I had never seen her on her feet.
Julia was not two inches shorter than myself; a tall, stiff figure,
neither slender enough to be lissome, nor well-proportioned enough to be
majestic. But she was very good, and her price was far above rubies.

According to the wise man, it was a difficult task to find a virtuous
woman.

It was a quiet time in the afternoon, and in order to verify my
recollection of the wise man's saying, which was a little cloudy in my
memory, I searched through Julia's Bible for it. I came across a passage
which made me pause and consider. "Behold, this have I found, saith the
preacher, counting one by one, to find out the account: which yet my
soul seeketh, but I find not; one man among a thousand have I found; but
a woman among all those have I not found."

"Tardif is the man," I said to myself, "but is Julia the woman? Have I
had better luck than Solomon?"

"What are you reading, Martin?" asked my father, who had just come in,
and was painfully fitting on a pair of new and very tight kid gloves. I
read the passage aloud, without comment.

"Very good," he remarked, chuckling, "upon my word! I did not know there
was any thing as rich as that in the old book! Who says it, Martin? A
very wise preacher he was, and knew what he was talking about. Had seen
life, eh? It's as true as--as--as the gospel."

I could not help laughing at the comparison he was forced to; yet I felt
angry with him and myself.

"What do you say about my mother and Julia, sir?" I asked.

He chuckled again cynically, examining with care a spot on the palm of
one of his gloves. "Ha! ha! my son"--I hated to hear him say "my
son"--"I will answer you in the words of another wise man: 'Most
virtuous women, like hidden treasures, are secure because nobody seeks
after them.'"

So saying, he turned out of the room, swinging his gold-headed cane
jauntily between his fingers.

I visited Sark again in about ten days, to set Olivia free from my
embargo upon her walking. I allowed her to walk a little way along a
smooth meadow-path, leaning on my arm; and I found that she was a head
lower than myself--a beautiful height for a woman. That time Captain
Carey had set me down at the Havre Gosselin, appointing me to meet him
at the Creux Harbor, which was exactly on the opposite side of the
island. In crossing over to it--a distance of rather more than a mile--I
encountered Julia's friends, Emma and Maria Brouard.

"You here again, Martin!" exclaimed Emma.

"Yes," I answered; "Captain Carey set me down at the Havre Gosselin, and
is gone round to meet me at the Creux."

"You have been to see that young person?" asked Maria.

"Yes," I replied.

"She is a very singular young woman," she continued; "we think her
stupid. We cannot make anything of her. But there is no doubt poor
Tardif means to marry her."

"Nonsense!" I ejaculated, hotly; "I beg your pardon, Maria, but I give
Tardif credit for sense enough to know his own position."

"So did we," said Emma, "but it looks odd. He married an Englishwoman
before. It's old Mère Renouf who says he worships the ground she treads
upon. You know he holds a very good position in the island, and he is a
great favorite with the seigneur. There are dozens of girls of his own
class in Guernsey and Alderney, to say nothing of Sark, who would be
only too glad to have him. He is a very handsome man, Martin."

"Tardif is a fine fellow," I admitted.

"I shall be very sorry for him to be taken in again," continued Emma;
"nobody knows who that young person may be; it looks odd on the face of
it. Are you in a hurry? Well, good-by. Give our best love to dear Julia.
We are busy at work on a wedding-present for her; but you must not tell
her that, you know."

I went on in a hot rage, shapeless and wordless, but smouldering like a
fire within me. The cool, green lane, deep between hedge-rows, the banks
of which were gemmed with primroses, had no effect upon me just then.
Tardif marry Olivia! That was an absurd, preposterous notion indeed. It
required all my knowledge of the influence of dress on the average human
mind, to convince myself that Olivia, in her coarse green serge dress,
had impressed the people of Sark with the notion that she would be no
unsuitable mate for their rough, though good and handsome fisherman.

Was it possible that they thought her stupid? Reserved and silent she
might be, as she wished to remain unmolested and concealed; but not
stupid! That any one should dream so wildly as to think of Olivia
marrying Tardif, was the utmost folly I could imagine.

I had half an hour to wait in the little harbor, its great cliffs rising
all about me, with only a tunnel bored through them to form an entrance
to the green island within. My rage had partly fumed itself away before
the yacht came in sight.



CHAPTER THE FOURTEENTH.

OVERHEAD IN LOVE.


Awfully fast the time sped away. It was the second week in March I
passed in Sark; the second week in May came upon me as if borne by a
whirlwind. It was only a month to the day so long fixed upon for our
marriage. My mother began to fidget about my going over to London to pay
my farewell bachelor visit to Jack Senior, and to fit myself out with
wedding toggery. Julia's was going on fast to completion. Our trip to
Switzerland was distinctly planned out, almost from day to day. Go I
must to London; order my wedding-suit I must.

But first there could be no harm in running over to Sark to see Olivia
once more. As soon as I was married I would tell Julia all about her.
But if either arm or ankle went wrong for want of attention, I should
never forgive myself.

"When shall we have another run together, Captain Carey?" I asked.

"Any day you like, my boy," he answered; "your days of liberty are
growing few and short now, eh? I've never had a chance of trying it
myself, Martin, but they are nervous times, I should think. Cruising in
doubtful channels, eh? with uncertain breezes? How does Julia keep up?"

"I can spare to-morrow," I replied, ignoring his remarks; "on Saturday I
shall cross over to England to see Jack Senior."

"And bid him adieu?" he said, laughing, "or give him an invitation to
your own house? I shall be glad to see you in a house of your own. Your
father is too young a man for you."

"Can you take me to Sark to-morrow?" I asked.

"To be sure I can," he answered.

It was the last time I could see Olivia before my marriage. Afterward I
should see much of her; for Julia would invite her to our house, and be
a friend to her. I spent a wretchedly sleepless night; and whenever I
dozed by fits and starts, I saw Olivia before me, weeping bitterly, and
refusing to be comforted.

From St. Sampson's we set sail straight for the Havre Gosselin, without
a word upon my part; and the wind being in our favor, we were not long
in crossing the channel. To my extreme surprise and chagrin, Captain
Carey announced his intention of landing with me, and leaving the yacht
in charge of his men to await our return.

"The ladder is excessively awkward," I objected, "and some of the rungs
are loose. You don't mind running the risk of a plunge into the water?"

"Not in the least," he answered, cheerily; "for the matter of that, I
plunge into it every morning at L'Ancresse. I want to see Tardif. He is
one in a thousand, as you say; and one cannot see such a man every day
of one's life."

There was no help for it, and I gave in, hoping some good luck awaited
me. I led the way up the zigzag path, and just as we reached the top I
saw the slight, erect figure of Olivia seated upon the brow of a little
grassy knoll at a short distance from us. Her back was toward us, so she
was not aware of our vicinity; and I pointed toward her with an assumed
air of indifference.

"I believe that is my patient yonder," I said; "I will just run across
and speak to her, and then follow you to the farm."

"Ah!" he exclaimed, "there is a lovely view from that spot. I recollect
it well. I will go with you, Martin. There will be time enough to see
Tardif."

Did Captain Carey suspect any thing? Or what reason could he have for
wishing to see Olivia? Could it be merely that he wanted to see the view
from that particular spot? I could not forbid him accompanying me, but I
wished him at Jericho.

What is more stupid than to have an elderly man dogging one's footsteps?

I trusted devoutly that we should see or hear Tardif before reaching the
knoll; but no such good fortune befell me. Olivia did not hear our
footsteps upon the soft turf, though we approached her very nearly. The
sun shone upon her glossy hair, every thread of which seemed to shine
back again. She was reading aloud, apparently to herself, and the sounds
of her sweet voice were wafted by the air toward us. Captain Carey's
face became very thoughtful.

A few steps nearer brought us in view of Tardif, who had spread his nets
on the grass, and was examining them narrowly for rents. Just at this
moment he was down on his knees, not far from Olivia, gathering some
broken meshes together, but listening to her, with an expression of huge
contentment upon his handsome face. A bitter pang shot through me. Could
it be true by any possibility--that lie I had heard the last time I was
in Sark?

"Good-day, Tardif," shouted Captain Carey; and both Tardif and Olivia
started. But both of their faces grew brighter at seeing us, and both
sprang up to give us welcome. Olivia's color had come back to her
cheeks, and a sweeter face no man ever looked upon.

"I am very glad you are come once more," she said, putting her hand in
mine; "you told me in your last letter you were going to England, and
might not come over to Sark before next autumn. How glad I am to see you
again!"

I glanced from the corner of my eye at Captain Carey. He looked very
grave, but his eyes could not rest upon Olivia without admiring her, as
she stood before us, bright-faced, slender, erect, with the heavy folds
of her coarse dress falling about her as gracefully as if they were of
the richest material.

"This is my friend, Captain Carey, Miss Olivia," I said, "in whose yacht
I have come over to visit you."

"I am very glad to see any friend of Dr. Martin's," she answered, as she
hold out her hand to him with a smile; "my doctor and I are great
friends, Captain Carey."

"So I suppose," he said, significantly--or at least his tone and look
seemed fraught with significance to me.

"We were talking of you only a few minutes ago, Dr. Martin," she
continued; "I was telling Tardif how you sang the 'Three Fishers' to me
the last time you were here, and how it rings in my ears still,
especially when he is away fishing. I repeated the three last lines to
him:

     'For men must work, and women must weep;
       And the sooner it's over, the sooner to sleep.
         So good-by to the bar, with its moaning.'"

"I do not like it, doctor," said Tardif: "there's no hope in it. Yet to
sleep out yonder at last, on the great plain under the sea, would be no
bad thing."

"You must sing it for Tardif," added Olivia, with a pretty
imperiousness, "and then he will like it."

My throat felt dry, and my tongue parched. I could not utter a word in
reply.

"This would be the very place for such a song," said Captain Carey.
"Come, Martin, let us have it."

"No; I can sing nothing to-day," I answered, harshly.

The very sight of her made me feel miserable beyond words; the sound of
her voice maddened me. I felt as if I was angry with her almost to
hatred for her grace and sweetness; yet I could have knelt down at her
feet, and been happy only to lay my hand on a fold of her dress. No
feeling had ever stirred me so before, and it made me irritable.
Olivia's clear gray eyes looked at me wonderingly.

"Is there anything the matter with you, Dr. Martin?" she inquired.

"No," I replied, turning away from her abruptly. Every one of them felt
my rudeness; and there was a dead silence among us for half a minute,
which seemed an age to me. Then I heard Captain Carey speaking in his
suavest tones.

"Are you quite well again, Miss Ollivier?" he asked.

"Yes, quite well, I think," she said, in a very subdued voice. "I cannot
walk far yet, and my arm is still weak: but I think I am quite well. I
have given Dr. Martin a great deal of trouble and anxiety."

She spoke in the low, quiet tones of a child who has been chidden
unreasonably. I was asking myself what Captain Carey meant by not
leaving me alone with my patient. When a medical man makes a call, the
intrusion of any unprofessional, indifferent person is unpardonable. If
it had been Suzanne, Tardif, or Mother Renouf, who was keeping so close
beside us, I could have made no reasonable objection. But Captain Carey!

"Tardif," I said, "Captain Carey came ashore on purpose to visit you and
your farm."

I knew he was excessively proud of his farm, which consisted of about
four or five acres. He caught at the words with alacrity, and led the
way toward his house with tremendous strides. There was no means of
evading a tour of inspection, though Captain Carey appeared to follow
him reluctantly. Olivia and I were left alone, but she was moving after
them slowly, when I ran to her, and offered her my arm on the plea that
her ankle was still too weak to bear her weight unsupported.

"Olivia!" I exclaimed, after we had gone a few yards, bringing her and
myself to a sudden halt. Then I was struck dumb. I had nothing special
to say to her. How was it I had called her so familiarly Olivia?

"Well, Dr. Martin?" she said, looking into my face again with eager,
inquiring eyes, as if she was wishful to understand my varying moods if
she could.

"What a lovely place this is!" I ejaculated.

More lovely than any words I ever heard could describe. It was a perfect
day, and a perfect view. The sea was like an opal, changing every minute
with the passing shadows of snow-white clouds which floated lazily
across the bright blue of the sky. The cliffs, Sark Cliffs, which have
not their equal in the world, stretched below us, with every hue of gold
and bronze, and hoary white, and soft gray; and here and there a black
rock, with livid shades of purple, and a bloom upon it like a raven's
wing. Rocky islets, never trodden by human foot, over which the foam
poured ceaselessly, were dotted all about the changeful surface of the
water. And just beneath the level of my eyes was Olivia's face--the
loveliest thing there, though there was so much beauty lying around us.

"Yes, it is a lovely place," she assented, a mischievous smile playing
about her lips.

"Olivia," I said, taking my courage by both hands, "it is only a month
now till my wedding-day."

Was I deceiving myself, or did she really grow paler? It was but for a
moment if it were so. But how cold the air felt all in an instant! The
shock was like that of a first plunge into chilly waters, and I was
shivering through every fibre.

"I hope you will be happy," said Olivia, "very happy. It is a great risk
to run. Marriage will make you either very happy or very wretched."

"Not at all," I answered, trying to speak gayly; "I do not look forward
to any vast amount of rapture. Julia and I will get along very well
together, I have no doubt, for we have known one another all our lives.
I do not expect to be any happier than other men; and the married people
I have known have not exactly dwelt in paradise. Perhaps your experience
has been different?"

"Oh, no!" she said, her hand trembling on my arm, and her face very
downcast; "but I should have liked you to be very, very happy."

So softly spoken, with such a low, faltering voice! I could not trust
myself to speak again. A stern sense of duty toward Julia kept me
silent; and we moved on, though very slowly and lingeringly.

"You love her very much?" said the quiet voice at my side, not much
louder than the voice of conscience, which was speaking imperiously just
then.

"I esteem her more highly than any other woman, except my mother," I
said. "I believe she would die sooner than do any thing she considered
wrong. I do not deserve her, and she loves me, I am sure, very truly and
faithfully."

"Do you think she will like me?" asked Olivia, anxiously.

"No; she must love you," I said, with warmth; "and I, too, can be a more
useful friend to you after my marriage than I am now. Perhaps then you
will feel free to place perfect confidence in us."

She smiled faintly, without speaking--a smile which said plainly she
could keep her own secret closely. It provoked me to do a thing I had
had no intention of doing, and which I regretted very much afterward. I
opened my pocket-book, and drew out the little slip of paper containing
the advertisement.

"Read that," I said.

But I do not think she saw more than the first line, for her face went
deadly white, and her eyes turned upon me with a wild, beseeching
look--as Tardif described it, the look of a creature hunted and
terrified. I thought she would have fallen, and I put my arm round her.
She fastened both her hands about mine, and her lips moved, though I
could not catch a word she was saying.

"Olivia!" I cried, "Olivia! do you suppose I could do any thing to hurt
you? Do not be so frightened! Why, I am your friend truly. I wish to
Heaven I had not shown you the thing. Have more faith in me, and more
courage."

"But they will find me, and force me away from here," she muttered.

"No," I said; "that advertisement was printed in the _Times_ directly
after your flight last October. They have not found you out yet; and the
longer you are hidden, the less likely they are to find you. Good
Heavens! what a fool I was to show it to you!"

"Never mind," she answered, recovering herself a little, but still
clinging to my arm; "I was only frightened for the time. You would not
give me up to them if you knew all."

"Give you up to them!" I repeated, bitterly. "Am I a Judas?"

But she could not talk to me any more. She was trembling like an
aspen-leaf, and her breath came sobbingly. All I could do was to take
her home, blaming myself for my cursed folly.

Captain Carey and Tardif met us at the farm-yard gate, but Olivia could
not speak to them; and we passed them in silence, challenged by their
inquisitive looks. She could only bid me good-by in a tremulous voice;
and I watched her go on into her own little room, and close the door
between us. That was the last I should see of her before my marriage.

Tardif walked with us to the top of the cliff, and made me a formal,
congratulatory speech before quitting us. When he was gone, Captain
Carey stood still until he was quite out of hearing, and then stretched
out his hand toward the thatched roof, yellow with stone-crop and
lichens.

"This is a serious business, Martin," he said, looking sternly at me;
"you are in love with that girl."

"I love her with all my heart and soul!" I cried.



CHAPTER THE FIFTEENTH.

IN A FIX.


Yes, I loved Olivia with all my heart and soul.

I had not known it myself till that moment; and now I acknowledged it
boldly, almost defiantly, with a strange mingling of delight and pain in
the confession.

Yet the words startled me as I uttered them. They had involved in them
so many unpleasant consequences, so much chagrin and bitterness as their
practical result, that I stood aghast--even while my pulses throbbed,
and my heart beat high, with the novel rapture of loving any woman as I
loved Olivia. If I followed out my avowal to its just issue, I should be
a traitor to Julia; and all my life up to the present moment would be
lost to me. I had scarcely spoken it before I dropped my head on my
hands with a groan.

"Come, come, my poor fellow!" said Captain Carey, who could never see a
dog with his tail between his legs without whistling to him and patting
him, "we must see what can be done."

It was neither a time nor a place for the indulgence of emotion of any
kind. It was impossible for me to remain on the cliffs, bemoaning my
unhappy fate. I strode on doggedly down the path, kicking the loose
stones into the water as they came in my way. Captain Carey followed,
whistling softly to himself, and, of all the tunes in the world, he
chose the one to the "Three Fishers," which I had sung to Olivia. He
continued doing so after we were aboard the yacht, and I saw the boatmen
exchange apprehensive glances.

"We shall have wind enough, without whistling for it, before we reach
Guernsey," said one of them, after a while; and Captain Carey relapsed
into silence. We scarcely spoke again, except about the shifting of the
sails, in our passage across. A pretty stiff breeze was blowing, and we
found plenty of occupation.

"I cannot leave you like this, Martin, my boy," said Captain Carey, when
we went ashore at St. Sampson's; and he put his arm through mine
affectionately.

"You will keep my secret?" I said--my voice a key or two lower than
usual.

"Martin," answered the good-hearted, clear-sighted old bachelor, "you
must not do Julia the wrong of keeping this secret from her."

"I must," I urged. "Olivia knows nothing of it; nobody guesses it but
you. I must conquer it. Things have gone too far with poor Julia, for me
to back out of our marriage now. You know that as well as I do. Think of
it, Captain Carey!"

"But shall you conquer it?" asked Captain Carey, seriously.

I could not answer yes frankly and freely. It seemed a sheer
impossibility for me to root out this new love, which I found in my
heart below all the old loves and friendships of my whole life. Mad as I
was with myself at the thought of my folly, the folly was so sweet to
me, that I would as soon have parted with life itself. Nothing in the
least resembling this feeling had been a matter of experience with me
before. I had read of it in poetry and novels, and laughed a little at
it; but now it had come upon me like a strong man armed. I quailed and
flinched before the painful conflict necessary to cast out the precious
guest.

"Martin," urged Captain Carey, "come up to Johanna, and tell her all
about it."

Johanna Carey was one of the powers in the island. Everybody knew her;
and everybody went to her for comfort and counsel. She was, of course,
related to us all; and knew the exact degree of relationship among us,
having the genealogy of each family at her fingers' ends. But, besides
these family histories, which were common property, she was also
intrusted with the inmost secrets of every household--those secrets
which were the most carefully and jealously guarded. I had always been a
favorite with her, and nothing could be more natural than this proposal
of her brother's, that I should go and tell her all my dilemma.

The house stood on the border of L'Ancresse Common, with no view of the
sea, but with the soft, undulating brows and hollows of the common lying
before it, and a broken battlement of rocks rising beyond them.

There was always a low, solemn murmur of the invisible sea, singing like
a lullaby about the peaceful dwelling, and hushing it into a more
profound quiet than even utter silence; for utter silence is irksome and
fretting to the ear, which needs some slight reverberation to keep the
brain behind it still. A perfume of violets, and the more dainty scent
of primroses, pervaded the garden. It seemed incredible that any man
should be allowed to live in such a spot; but then Captain Carey was
almost as gentle and fastidious as a woman.

Johanna was not unlike her home. There was a repose about her similar to
the calm of a judge, which gave additional weight to her counsels. The
moment we entered through the gates, a certainty of comfort and help
appeared to be wafted upon the pure breeze, floating across the common
from the sea.

Johanna was standing at one of the windows in a Quakerish dress of some
gray stuff, and with a plain white cap over her white hair. She came
down to the door as soon as she saw me, and received me with a motherly
kiss, which I returned with more than usual warmth, as one does in any
new kind of trouble. I think she was instantly aware that something was
amiss with me.

"Is dinner ready, Johanna?" asked her brother; "we are as hungry as
hunters."

That was not true as far as I was concerned. For the first time within
my recollection my appetite quite failed me, and I merely played with my
knife and fork.

Captain Carey regarded me pitifully, and said, "Come, come, Martin, my
boy!" several times.

Johanna made no remark; but her quiet, searching eyes looked me through
and through, till I almost longed for the time when she would begin to
question and cross-question me. After she was gone, Captain Carey gave
me two or three glasses of his choicest wine, to cheer me up, as he
said; but we were not long before we followed his sister.

"Johanna," said Captain Carey, "we have something to tell you."

"Come and sit here by me," she said, making room for me beside her on
her sofa; for long experience had taught her how much more difficult it
is to make a confession face to face with one's confessor, under the
fire of his eyes, as it were, than when one is partially concealed from
him.

"Well," she said, in her calm, inviting voice.

"Johanna," I replied, "I am in a terrible fix!"

"Awful!" cried Captain Carey, sympathetically; but a glance from his
sister put him to silence.

"What is it, my dear Martin?" asked her inviting voice again.

"I will tell you frankly," I said, feeling I must have it out at once,
like an aching tooth. "I love, with all my heart and soul, that girl in
Sark; the one who has been my patient there."

"Martin!" she cried, in a tone full of surprise and agitation--"Martin!"

"Yes; I know all you would urge--my honor; my affection for Julia; the
claims she has upon me, the strongest claims possible; how good and
worthy she is; what an impossibility it is even to look back now. I know
it all, and feel how miserably binding it is upon me. Yet I love Olivia;
and I shall never love Julia."

"Martin!" she cried again.

"Listen to me, Johanna," I said, for now the ice was broken, my frozen
words were flowing as rapidly as a runnel of water; "I used to dream of
a feeling something like this years ago, but no girl I saw could kindle
it into reality. I have always esteemed Julia, and when my youth was
over, and I had never felt any devouring passion, I began to think love
was more of a word than a fact, or to believe that it had become only a
word in these cold late times. At any rate, I concluded I was past the
age for falling in love. There was my cousin Julia certainly dearer to
me than any other woman, except my mother. I knew all her little ways;
and they were not annoying to me, or were so in a very small degree.
Besides, my father had had a grand passion for my mother, and what had
that come to? There would be no such white ashes of a spent fire for
Julia to shiver over. That was how I argued the matter out with myself.
At eight-and-twenty I had never lost a quarter of an hour's sleep, or
missed a meal, for the sake of any girl. Surely I was safe. It was quite
fair for me to propose to Julia, and she would be satisfied with the
affection I could offer her. Then there was my mother; it was the
greatest happiness I could give her, and her life has not been a happy
one, God knows. So I proposed to Julia, and she accepted me last
Christmas."

"And you are to be married next month?" said Johanna, in an exceedingly
troubled tone.

"Yes," I answered, "and now every word Julia speaks, and every thing she
does, grates upon me. I love her as much as ever as my cousin, but as my
wife! Good Heavens! Johanna, I cannot tell you how I dread it."

"What can be done?" she exclaimed, looking from me to Captain Carey,
whose face was as full of dismay as her own. But he only shook his head
despondingly.

"Done!" I repeated, "nothing, absolutely nothing. It is utterly
impossible to draw back. Our house is nearly ready for us, and even
Julia's wedding-dress and veil are bought."

"There is not a house you enter," said Johanna, solemnly, "where they
are not preparing a wedding-present for Julia and you. There has not
been a marriage in your district, among ourselves, for nine years. It is
as public as a royal marriage."

"It must go on," I answered, with the calmness of despair. "I am the
most good-for-nothing scoundrel in Guernsey to fall in love with my
patient. You need not tell me so, Johanna. And yet, if I could think
that Olivia loved me, I would not change with the happiest man alive."

"What is her name?" asked Johanna.

"One of the Olliviers," answered Captain Carey; "but what Olliviers she
belongs to, I don't know. She is one of the prettiest creatures I ever
saw."

"An Ollivier!" exclaimed Johanna, in her severest accents. "Martin, what
_are_ you thinking of?"

"Her Christian name is Olivia," I said, hastily; "she does not belong to
the Olliviers at all. It was Tardif's mistake, and very natural. She was
born in Australia, I believe."

"Of a good family, I hope?" asked Johanna. "There are some persons it
would be a disgrace to you to love. What is her other name?"

"I don't know," I answered, reluctantly but distinctly.

Johanna turned her face full upon me now--a face more agitated than I
had ever seen it. There was no use in trying to keep back any part of my
serious delinquency, so I resolved to make a clean breast of it.

"I know very little about her," I said--"that is, about her history; as
for herself, she is the sweetest, dearest, loveliest girl in the whole
world to me. If I were free, and she loved me, I should not know what
else to wish for. All I know is, that she has run away from her people;
why, I have no more idea than you have, or who they are, or where they
live; and she has been living in Tardif's cottage since last October. It
is an infatuation, do you say? So it is, I dare say. It is an
infatuation; and I don't know that I shall ever shake it off."

"What is she like?" asked Johanna. "Is she very merry and bright?"

"I never saw her laugh," I said.

"Very melancholy and sad, then?"

"I never saw her weep," I said.

"What is it then, Martin?" she asked, earnestly.

"I cannot tell what it is," I answered. "Everything she does and says
has a charm for me that I could never describe. With her for my wife I
should be more happy than I ever was; with any one else I shall be
wretched. That is all I know."

I had left my seat by Johanna, and was pacing to and fro in the room,
too restless and miserable to keep still. The low moan of the sea sighed
all about the house. I could have cast myself on the floor had I been
alone, and wept and sobbed like a woman. I could see no loop-hole of
escape from the mesh of circumstances which caught me in their net.

A long, dreary, colorless, wretched life stretched before me, with Julia
my inseparable companion, and Olivia altogether lost to me. Captain
Carey and Johanna, neither of whom had tasted the sweets and bitters of
marriage, looked sorrowfully at me and shook their heads.

"You must tell Julia," said Johanna, after a long pause.

"Tell Julia!" I echoed. "I would not tell her for worlds!"

"You must tell her," she repeated; "it is your clear duty. I know it
will be most painful to you both, but you have no right to marry her
with this secret on your mind."

"I should be true to her," I interrupted, somewhat angrily.

"What do you call being true, Martin Dobrée?" she asked, more calmly
than she had spoken before. "Is it being true to a woman to let her
believe you choose and love her above all other women when that is
absolutely false? No; you are too honorable for that. I tell you it is
your plain duty to let Julia know this, and know it at once."

"It will break her heart," I said, with a sharp twinge of conscience and
a cowardly shrinking from the unpleasant duty urged upon me.

"It will not break Julia's heart," said Johanna, very sadly; "it may
break your mother's."

I reeled as if a sharp blow had struck me. I had been thinking far less
of my mother than of Julia; but I saw, as with a flash of lightning,
what a complete uprooting of all her old habits and long-cherished hopes
this would prove to my mother, whose heart was so set upon this
marriage. Would Julia marry me if she once heard of my unfortunate love
for Olivia? And, if not, what would become of our home? My mother would
have to give up one of us, for it was not to be supposed she would
consent to live under the same roof with me, now the happy tie of
cousinship was broken, and none dearer to be formed.

Which could my mother part with best? Julia was almost as much her
daughter as I was her son; yet me she pined after if ever I was absent
long. No; I could not resolve to run the risk of breaking that gentle,
faithful heart, which loved me so fully. I went back to Johanna, and
took her hand in both of mine.

"Keep my secret," I said, earnestly, "you two. I will make Julia and my
mother happy. Do not mistrust me. This infatuation overpowered me
unawares. I will conquer it; at the worst I can conceal it. I promise
you Julia shall never regret being my wife."

"Martin," answered Johanna, determinedly, "if you do not tell Julia I
must tell her myself. You say you love this other girl with all your
heart and soul."

"Yes, and that is true," I said.

"Then Julia must know before she marries you."

Nothing could move Johanna from that position, and in my heart I
recognized its righteousness. She argued with me that it was Julia's due
to hear it from myself. I knew afterward that she believed the sight of
her distress and firm love for myself would dissipate the infatuation of
my love for Olivia. But she did not read Julia's character as well as my
mother did.

Before she let me leave her I had promised to have my confession and
subsequent explanation with Julia all over the following day; and to
make this the more inevitable, she told me she should drive into St.
Peter-Port the next afternoon about five o'clock, when she should expect
to find this troublesome matter settled, either by a renewal of my
affection for my betrothed, or the suspension of the betrothal. In the
latter case she promised to carry Julia home with her until the first
bitterness was over.



CHAPTER THE SIXTEENTH.

A MIDNIGHT RIDE.


I took care not to reach home before the hour when Julia usually went to
bed. She had been out in the country all day, visiting the south cliffs
of our island, with some acquaintances from England who were staying for
a few days in St. Peter-Port. In all probability she would be too tired
to sit up till my return if I were late.

I had calculated aright. It was after eleven o'clock when I entered, and
my mother only was waiting for me. I wished to avoid any confidential
chat that evening, and, after answering briefly her fond inquiries as to
what could have kept me out so late, I took myself off to my own room.

But it was quite vain to think of sleep that night. I had soon worked
myself up into that state of nervous, restless agitation; when one
cannot remain quietly in one; room. I attempted to conquer it, but I
could not.

The moon, which was at the full, was shining out of a cloudless field of
sky upon my window. I longed for fresh air, and freedom, and motion; for
a distance between myself and my dear old home--that home which I was
about to plunge into troubled waters. The peacefulness oppressed me.

About one o'clock I opened my door as softly as possible, and stole
silently downstairs--but not so silently that my mother's quick ear did
not catch the slight jarring of my door.

The night-bell hung in my room, and occasionally I was summoned away at
hours like this to visit a patient. She called to me as I crept down the
stairs.

"Martin, what is the matter?" she whispered, over the banisters.

"Nothing, mother; nothing much," I answered. "I shall be home again in
an hour or two. Go to bed, and go to sleep. Whatever makes you so
thin-eared?"

"Are you going to take Madam?" she asked, seeing my whip in my hand.
"Shall I ring up Pellet?"

"No, no!" I said; "I can manage well enough. Good-night again, my
darling old mother."

Her pale, worn face smiled down upon me very tenderly as she kissed her
hand to me. I stood, as if spellbound, watching her, and she watching
me, until we both laughed, though somewhat falteringly.

"How romantic you are, my boy!" she said, in a tremulous voice.

"I shall not stir till you go back to bed," I answered, peremptorily;
and as just then we heard my father calling out fretfully to ask why the
door was open, and what was going on in the house, she disappeared, and
I went on my way to the stables.

Madam was my favorite mare, first-rate at a gallop when she was in good
temper, but apt to turn vicious now and then. She was in good temper
to-night, and pricked up her ears and whinnied when I unlocked the
stable-door. In a few minutes we were going up the Grange Road at a
moderate pace till we reached the open country, and the long, white,
dusty roads stretched before us, glimmering in the moonlight. I turned
for St. Martin's, and Madam, at the first touch of my whip on her
flanks, started off at a long and steady gallop.

It was a cool, quiet night in May. A few of the larger fixed stars
twinkled palely in the sky, but the smaller ones were drowned in the
full moonlight. The largest of them shone solemnly and brightly in
afield of golden green just above the spot where the sun had set hours
before. The trees, standing out with a blackness and distinctness never
seen by day, appeared to watch for me and look after me as I rode along,
forming an avenue of silent but very stately spectators; and to my
fancy, for my fancy was highly excited that night, the rustling of the
young leaves upon them whispered the name of Olivia. The hoof-beats of
my mare's feet upon the hard roads echoed the name Olivia, Olivia!

By-and-by I turned off the road to got nearer the sea, and rode along
sandy lanes with banks of turf instead of hedge-rows, which were covered
thickly with pale primroses, shining with the same hue as the moon above
them. As I passed the scattered cottages, here and there a dog yapped a
shrill, snarling hark, and woke the birds, till they gave a sleepy
twitter in their new nests.

Now and then I came in full sight of the sea, glittering in the silvery
light. I crossed the head of a gorge, and stopped for a while to gaze
down it, till my flesh crept. It was not more than a few yards in
breadth, but it was of unknown depth, and the rocks stood above it with
a thick, heavy blackness. The tide was rushing into its narrow channel
with a thunder which throbbed like a pulse; yet in the intervals of its
pulsation I could catch the thin, prattling tinkle of a brook running
merrily down the gorge to plunge headlong into the sea. Round every spar
of the crags, and over every islet of rock, the foam played ceaselessly,
breaking over them like drifts of snow, forever melting, and forever
forming again.

I kept on my way, as near the sea as I I could, past the sleeping
cottages and hamlets, round through St. Pierre du Bois and Torteval,
with the gleaming light-houses out on the Hanways, and by Rocquaine Bay,
and Vazon Bay, and through the vale to Captain Carey's peaceful house,
where, perhaps, to-morrow night--nay, this day's night--Julia might be
weeping and wailing broken-hearted.

I had made the circuit of our island--a place so dear to me that it
seemed scarcely possible to live elsewhere; yet I should be forced to
live elsewhere. I knew that with a clear distinctness. There could be no
home for me in Guernsey when my conduct toward Julia should become
known.

But now Sark, which had been behind me all my ride, lay full in sight,
and the eastern sky behind it began to quicken with new light. The gulls
were rousing themselves, and flying out to sea, with their plaintive
cries; and the larks were singing their first sleepy notes to the coming
day.

As the sun rose, Sark looked very near, and the sea, a plain of silvery
blue, seemed solid and firm enough to afford me a road across to it. A
white mist lay like a huge snow-drift in hazy, broad curves over the
Havre Gosselin, with sharp peaks of cliffs piercing through.

Olivia was sleeping yonder behind that veil of shining mist; and, dear
as Guernsey was to me, she was a hundredfold dearer.

But my night's ride bad not made my day's task any easier for me. No new
light had dawned upon my difficulty. There was no loop-hole for me to
escape from the most painful and perplexing strait I had ever been in.
How was I to break it to Julia? and when? It was quite plain to me that
the sooner it was over the better it would be for myself, and perhaps
the better for her. How was I to go through my morning's calls, in the
state of nervous anxiety I found myself in?

I resolved to have it over as soon as breakfast was finished, and my
father had gone to make his professional toilet, a lengthy and important
duty with him. Yet when breakfast came I was listening intently for some
summons, which would give me an hour's grace from fulfilling my own
determination. I prolonged my meal, keeping my mother in her place at
the table; for she had never given up her office of pouring out my tea
and coffee.

I finished at List, and still no urgent message had come for me. My
mother left us together alone, as her custom was, for what time I had to
spare--a variable quantity always with me.

Now was the dreaded moment. But how was I to begin? Julia was so calm
and unsuspecting. In what words could I convey my fatal meaning most
gently to her? My head throbbed, and I could not raise my eyes to her
face. Yet it must be done.

"Dear Julia," I said, in as firm a voice as I could command.

"Yes, Martin."

But just then Grace, the housemaid, knocked emphatically at the door,
and after a due pause entered with a smiling, significant face, yet with
an apologetic courtesy.

"If you please, Dr. Martin," she said, "I'm very sorry, but Mrs. Lihou's
baby is taken with convulsion-fits; and they want you to go as fast as
ever you can, please, sir."

"Was I sorry or glad? I could not tell. It was a reprieve; but then I
knew positively it was nothing more than a reprieve. The sentence must
be executed. Julia came to me, bent her cheek toward me, and I kissed
it. That was our usual salutation when our morning's interview was
ended.

"I am going down to the new house," she said. "I lost a good deal of
time yesterday, and I must make up for it to-day. Shall you be passing
by at any time, Martin?"

"Yes--no--I cannot tell exactly," I stammered.

"If you are passing, come in for a few minutes," she answered; "I have a
thousand things to speak to you about."

"Shall you come in to lunch?" I asked.

"No, I shall take something with me," she replied; "it hinders so;
coming back here."

I was not overworked that morning. The convulsions of Mrs. Lihou's baby
were not at all serious; and, as I have before stated, the practice
which my father and I shared between us was a very limited one. My part
of it naturally fell among our poorer patients, who did not expect me to
waste their time and my own, by making numerous or prolonged visits. So
I had plenty of time to call upon Julia at the new house; but I could
not summon sufficient courage. The morning slipped away while I was
loitering about Fort George, and chatting carelessly with the officers
quartered there.

I went to lunch, pretty sure of finding no one but my mother at home.
There was no fear of losing her love, if every other friend turned me
the cold shoulder, as I was morally certain they would, with no blame to
themselves. But the very depth and constancy of her affection made it
the more difficult and the more terrible for me to wound her. She had
endured so much, poor mother! and was looking so wan and pale. If it had
not been for Johanna's threat, I should have resolved to say nothing
about Olivia, and to run my chance of matrimonial happiness.

What a cruel turn Fate had done me when it sent me across the sea to
Sark ten weeks ago!

My mother was full of melancholy merriment that morning, making pathetic
little jokes about Julia and me, and laughing at them heartily
herself--short bursts of laughter which left her paler than she had been
before.

I tried to laugh myself, in order to encourage her brief playfulness,
though the effort almost choked me. Before I went out again, I sat
beside her for a few minutes, with my head, which ached awfully by this
time, resting on her dear shoulder.

"Mother," I said, "you are very fond of Julia?"

"I love her just the same as if she were my daughter, Martin--as she
will be soon," she answered.

"Do you love her as much as me?" I asked.

"Jealous boy!" she said, laying her hand on my hot forehead, "no, not
half as much; not a quarter, not a tenth part as much! Does that content
you?"

"Suppose something should prevent our marriage?" I suggested.

"But nothing can," she interrupted; "and, O Martin! I am sure you will
be very happy with Julia."

I said no more, for I did not dare to tell her yet; but I wished I had
spoken to her about Olivia, instead of hiding her name, and all
belonging to her, in my inmost heart. My mother would know all quite
soon enough, unless Julia and I agreed to keep it secret, and let things
go on as they were.

If Julia said she would marry me, knowing that I was heart and soul in
love with another woman, why, then I would go through with it, and my
mother need never hear a word about my dilemma.

Julia must decide my lot. My honor was pledged to her; and if she
insisted upon the fulfilment of my engagement to her, well, of course, I
would fulfil it.

I went down reluctantly at length to the new house; but it was at almost
the last hour. The church-clocks had already struck four; and I knew
Johanna would be true to her time, and drive up the Grange at five. I
left a message with my mother for her, telling her where she would find
Julia and me. Then doggedly, but sick at heart with myself and all the
world, I went down to meet my doom.

It was getting into nice order, this new house of ours. We had had six
months to prepare it in, and to fit it up exactly to our minds; and it
was as near my ideal of a pleasant home as our conflicting tastes
permitted. Perhaps this was the last time I should cross its threshold.
There was a pang in the thought.

This was my position. If Julia listened to my avowal angrily, and
renounced me indignantly, passionately, I lost fortune, position,
profession; my home and friends, with the sole exception of my mother. I
should be regarded alternately as a dupe and a scoundrel. Guernsey would
become too hot to hold me, and I should be forced to follow my luck in
some foreign land. If, on the other hand, Julia clung to me, and would
not give me up, trusting to time to change my feelings, then I lost
Olivia; and to lose her seemed the worse fate of the two.

Julia was sitting alone in the drawing-room, which overlooked the harbor
and the group of islands across the channel. There was no fear of
interruption; no callers to ring the bell and break in upon our
_tête-à-tête_. It was an understood thing that at present only Julia's
most intimate friends had been admitted into our new house, and then by
special invitation alone.

There was a very happy, very placid expression on her face. Every harsh
line seemed softened, and a pleased smile played about her lips. Her
dress was one of those simple, fresh, clean muslin gowns, with knots of
ribbon about it, which make a plain woman almost pretty, and a pretty
woman bewitching. Her dark hair looked less prim and neat than usual.
She pretended not to hear me open the door; but as I stood still at the
threshold gazing at her, she lifted up her head, with a very pleasant
smile.

"I am very glad you are come, my dear Martin," she said, softly.



CHAPTER THE SEVENTEENTH.

A LONG HALF-HOUR.


I dared not dally another moment. I must take my plunge at once into the
icy-cold waters.

"I have something of importance to say to you, dear cousin," I began.

"So have I," she said, gayly; "a thousand things, as I told you this
morning, sir, though you are so late in coming to hear them. See, I have
been making a list of a few commissions for you to do in London. They
are such as I can trust to you; but for plate, and glass, and china, I
think we had better wait till we return from Switzerland. We are sure to
come home through London."

Her eyes ran over a paper she was holding in her hand; while I stood
opposite to her, not knowing what to do with myself, and feeling the
guiltiest wretch alive.

"Cannot you find a seat?" she asked, after a short silence.

I sat down on the broad window-sill instead of on the chair close to
hers. She looked up at that, and fixed her eyes upon me keenly. I had
often quailed before Julia's gaze as a boy, but never as I did now.

"Well! what is it?" she asked, curtly. The incisiveness of her tone
brought life into me, as a probe sometimes brings a patient out of
stupor.

"Julia," I said, "are you quite sure you love me enough to be happy with
me as my wife?"

She opened her eyes very widely, and arched her eyebrows at the
question, laughed a little, and then drooped her head over the work in
her hands.

"Think of it well, Julia," I urged.

"I know you well enough to be as happy as the day is long with you," she
replied, the color rushing to her face. "I have no vocation for a single
life, such as so many of the girls here have to make up their minds to.
I should hate to have nothing to do and nobody to care for. Every night
and morning I thank God that he has ordained another life for me. He
knows how I love you, Martin."

"What was I to say to this? How was I to set my foot down to crush this
blooming happiness of hers?

"You do not often look as if you loved me," I said at last.

"That is only my way," she answered. "I can't be soft and purring like
many women. I don't care to be always kissing and hanging about anybody.
But if you are afraid I don't love you enough--well! I will ask you what
you think in ten years' time."

"What would you say if I told you I had once loved a girl better than I
do you?" I asked.

"That's not true," she said, sharply. "I've known you all your life, and
you could not hide such a thing from your mother and me. You are only
laughing at me, Martin."

"Heaven knows I'm not laughing," I answered, solemnly; "it's no laughing
matter. Julia, there is a girl I love better than you, even now."

The color and the smile faded out of her face, leaving it ashy pale. Her
lips parted once or twice, but her voice failed her. Then she broke out
into a short, hysterical laugh.

"You are talking nonsense, dear Martin!" she gasped; "you ought not! I
am not very strong. Get me a glass of water."

I fetched a glass of water from the kitchen; for the servant, who had
been at work, had gone home, and we were quite alone in the house. When
I returned, her face was still working with nervous twitchings.

"Martin, you ought not!" she repeated, after she had swallowed some
water. "Tell me it is a joke directly."

"I cannot," I replied, painfully and sorrowfully; "it is the truth,
though I would almost rather face death than own it. I love you dearly,
Julia; but I love another woman better. God help us both!"

There was dead silence in the room after those words. I could not hear
Julia breathe or move, and I could not look at her. My eyes were turned
toward the window and the islands across the sea, purple and hazy in the
distance.

"Leave me!" she said, after a very long stillness; "go away, Martin."

"I cannot leave you alone," I exclaimed; "no, I will not, Julia. Let me
tell you more; let me explain it all. You ought to know every thing
now."

"Go away!" she repeated, in a slow, mechanical tone.

I hesitated still, seeing her white and trembling, with her eyes glassy
and fixed. But she motioned me from her toward the door, and her pale
lips parted again to reiterate her command.

How I crossed that room I do not know; but the moment after I had closed
the door I heard the key turn in the lock. I dared not quit the house
and leave her alone in such a state; and I longed ardently to hear the
clocks chime five, and the sound of Johanna's wheels on the
roughly-paved street. She could not be here yet for a full half-hour,
for she had to go up to our house in the Grange Road and come back
again. What if Julia should have fainted, or be dead!

That was one of the longest half-hours in my life. I stood at the
street-door watching and waiting, and nodding to people who passed by,
and who simpered at me in the most inane fashion.

"The fools!" I called them to myself. At length Johanna turned the
corner, and her pony-carriage came rattling cheerfully over the large
round stones. I ran to meet her.

"For Heaven's sake, go to Julia!" I cried. "I have told her."

"And what does she say?" asked Johanna.

"Not a word, not a syllable," I replied, "except to bid me go away. She
has locked herself into the drawing-room."

"Then you had better go away altogether," she said, "and leave me to
deal with her. Don't come in, and then I can say you are not here."

A friend of mine lived in the opposite house, and, though I knew he was
not at home, I knocked at his door and asked permission to sit for a
while in his parlor.

The windows looked into the street, and there I sat watching the doors
of our new house, for Johanna and Julia to come out. No man likes to be
ordered out of sight, as if he were a vagabond or a criminal, and I felt
myself aggrieved and miserable.

At length the door opposite opened, and Julia appeared, her face
completely hidden behind a veil. Johanna helped her into the low
carriage, as if she had been an invalid, and paid her those minute
trivial attentions which one woman showers upon another when she is in
great grief. Then they drove off, and were soon out of my sight.

By this time our dinner-hour was near, and I knew my mother would be
looking out for us both. I was thankful to find at the table a visitor,
who had dropped in unexpectedly: one of my father's patients--a widow,
with a high color, a loud voice, and boisterous spirits, who kept up a
rattle of conversation with Dr. Dobrée. My mother glanced anxiously at
me very often, but she could say little.

"Where is Julia?" she had inquired, as we sat down to dinner without
her.

"Julia?" I said, quite absently; "oh! she is gone to the Vale, with
Johanna Carey."

"Will she come back to-night?" asked my mother.

"Not to-night," I said, aloud; but to myself I added, "nor for many
nights to come; never, most probably, while I am under this roof. We
have been building our house upon the sand, and the floods have come,
and the winds have blown, and the house has fallen; but my mother knows
nothing of the catastrophe yet."

If it were possible to keep her ignorant of it! But that could not be.
She read trouble in my face, as clearly as one sees a thunder-cloud in
the sky, and she could not rest till she had fathomed it. After she and
our guest had left us, my father lingered only a few minutes. He was not
a man that cared for drinking much wine, with no companion but me, and
he soon pushed the decanters from him.

"You are as dull as a beetle to-night, Martin," he said. "I think I will
go and see how your mother and Mrs. Murray get along together."

He went his way, and I went mine--up into my own room, where I should be
alone to think over things. It was a pleasant room, and had been mine
from my boyhood. There were some ugly old pictures still hanging against
the walls, which I could not find in my heart to take down. The model of
a ship I had carved with my penknife, the sails of which had been made
by Julia, occupied the top shelf over my books. The first pistol I had
ever possessed lay on the same shelf. It was my own den, my nest, my
sanctuary, my home within the home. I could not think of myself being
quite at home anywhere else.

Of late I had been awakened in the night two or three times, and found
my mother standing at my bedside, with her thin, transparent fingers
shading the light from my eyes. When I remonstrated with her she had
kissed me, smoothed the clothes about me, and promised meekly to go back
to bed. Did she visit me every night? and would there come a time when
she could not visit me?



CHAPTER THE EIGHTEENTH.

BROKEN OFF.


As I asked myself this question, with an unerring premonition that the
time would soon come when my mother and I would be separated, I heard
her tapping lightly at the door. She was not in the habit of leaving her
guests, and I was surprised and perplexed at seeing her.

"Your father and Mrs. Murray are having a game of chess," she said,
answering my look of astonishment. "We can be alone together half an
hour. And now tell me what is the matter? There is something going wrong
with you."

She sank down weariedly into a chair, and I knelt down beside her. It
was almost harder to tell her than to tell Julia; but it was worse than
useless to put off the evil moment. Better for her to hear all from me
before a whisper reached her from any one else.

"Johanna came here," she continued, "with a face as grave as a judge,
and asked for Julia in a melancholy voice. Has there been any quarrel
between you two?"

She was accustomed to our small quarrels, and to setting them right
again; for we were prone to quarrel in a cousinly fashion, without much
real bitterness on either side, but with such an intimate and irritating
knowledge of each other's weak points, that we needed a peace-maker at
hand.

"Mother, I am not going to marry my cousin Julia," I said.

"So I have heard before," she answered, with a faint smile. "Come, come,
Martin! it is too late to talk boyish nonsense like this."

"But I love somebody else," I said, warmly, for my heart throbbed at the
thought of Olivia; "and I told Julia so this afternoon. It is broken off
for good now, mother."

She gave me no answer, and I looked up into her dear face in alarm. It
had grown rigid, and a peculiar blue tinge of pallor was spreading over
it. Her head had fallen back against the chair. I had never seen her
look so death-like in any of her illnesses, and I sprang to my feet in
terror. She stopped me by a slight convulsive pressure of her hand, as I
was about to unfasten her brooch and open her dress to give her air.

"No, Martin," she whispered, "I shall be better in a moment."

But it was several minutes before she breathed freely and naturally, or
could lift up her head. Then she did not look at me, but lifted up her
eyes to the pale evening sky, and her lips quivered with agitation.

"Martin, it will be the death of me," she said; and a few tears stole
down her cheeks, which I wiped away.

"It shall not be the death of you," I exclaimed. "If Julia is willing to
marry me, knowing the whole truth, I am ready to marry her for your
sake, mother. I would do any thing for your sake. But Johanna said she
ought to be told, and I think it was right myself."

"Who is it, who can it be that you love?" she asked.

"Mother," I said, "I wish I had told you before, but I did not know that
I loved the girl as I do, till I saw her yesterday in Sark, and Captain
Carey charged me with it."

"That girl!" she cried. "One of the Olliviers! O Martin, you must marry
in your own class."

"That was a mistake," I answered. "Her Christian name is Olivia; I do
not know what her surname is."

"Not know even her name!" she exclaimed.

"Listen, mother," I said; and then I told her all I knew about Olivia,
and drew such a picture of her as I had seen her, as made my mother
smile and sigh deeply in turns.

"But she may be an adventuress; you know nothing about her," she
objected. "Surely, you cannot love a woman you do not esteem?"

"Esteem!" I repeated. "I never thought whether I esteemed Olivia, but I
am satisfied I love her. You may be quite sure she is no adventuress. An
adventuress would not hide herself in Tardif's out-of-the-world
cottage."

"A girl without friends and without a name!" she sighed; "a runaway from
her family and home! It does not look well, Martin."

I could answer nothing, and it would be of little use to try. I saw when
my mother's prejudices could blind her. To love any one not of our own
caste was a fatal error in her eyes.

"Does Julia know all this?" she asked.

"She has not heard a word about Olivia," I answered. "As soon as I told
her I loved some one else better than her, she bade me begone out of her
sight. She has not an amiable temper."

"But she is an upright, conscientious, religious woman," she said,
somewhat angrily. "She would never have run away from her friends; and
we know all about her. I cannot think what your father will say, Martin.
It has given him more pleasure and satisfaction than any thing that has
happened for years. If this marriage is broken off, it upsets every
thing."

Of course it would upset every thing; there was the mischief of it. The
convulsion would be so great, that I felt ready to marry Julia in order
to avoid it, supposing she would marry me. That was the question, and it
rested solely with her. I would almost rather face the long, slow
weariness of an unsuitable marriage than encounter the immediate results
of the breaking off of our engagement just on the eve of its
consummation. I was a coward, no doubt, but events had hurried me on too
rapidly for me to stand still and consider the cost.

"O Martin, Martin!" wailed my poor mother, breaking down again suddenly.
"I had so set my heart upon this! I did so long to see you in a home of
your own! And Julia was so generous, never looking as if all the money
was hers, and you without a penny! What is to become of you now, my boy?
I wish I had been dead and in my grave before this had happened!"

"Hush, mother!" I said, kneeling down again beside her and kissing her
tenderly; "it is still in Julia's hands. If she will marry me, I shall
marry her."

"But then you will not be happy?" she said, with fresh sobs.

It was impossible for me to contradict that. I felt that no misery would
be equal to that of losing Olivia. But I did my best to comfort my
mother, by promising to see Julia the next day and renew my engagement,
if possible.

"Pray, may I be informed as to what is the matter now?" broke in a
satirical, cutting voice--the voice of my father. It roused us both--my
mother to her usual mood of gentle submission, and me to the chronic
state of irritation which his presence always provoked in me.

"Not much, sir," I answered, coldly; "only my marriage with my cousin
Julia is broken off."

"Broken off!" he ejaculated--"broken off!"



CHAPTER THE NINETEENTH.

THE DOBRÉES' GOOD NAME.


My father's florid face looked almost as rigid and white as my mother's
had done. He stood in the doorway, with a lamp in his hand (for it had
grown quite dark while my mother and I were talking), and the light
shone full upon his changed face. His hand shook violently, so I took
the lamp from him and set it down on the table.

"Go down to Mrs. Murray," he said, turning savagely upon my mother. "How
could you be so rude as to leave her? She talks of going away. Let her
go as soon as she likes. I shall stay here with Martin."

"I did not know I had been away so long," she answered, meekly, and
looking deprecatingly from the one to the other of us.--"You will not
quarrel with your father, Martin, if I leave you, will you?" This she
whispered in my ear, in a beseeching tone.

"Not if I can help it, mother," I replied, also in a whisper.

"Now, confound it!" cried Dr. Dobrée, after she had gone, slowly and
reluctantly, and looking back at the door to me--"now just tell me
shortly all about this nonsense of yours. I thought some quarrel was up,
when Julia did not come home to dinner. Out with it, Martin."

"As I said before, there is not much to tell," I answered. "I was
compelled in honor to tell Julia I loved another woman more than
herself; and I presume, though I am not sure, she will decline to become
my wife."

"In love with another woman!" repeated my father, with a long whistle,
partly of sympathy, and partly of perplexity. "Who is it, my son?"

"That is of little moment," I said, having no desire whatever to confide
the story to him. "The main point is that it's true, and I told Julia
so, this afternoon."

"Good gracious, Martin!" he cried, "what accursed folly! What need was
there to tell her of any little peccadillo, if you could conceal it? Why
did you not come to me for advice? Julia is a prude, like your mother.
It will not be easy for her to overlook this."

"There is nothing to overlook," I said. "As soon as I knew my own mind,
I told her honestly about it."

At that moment it did not occur to me that my honesty was due to
Johanna's insistent advice. I believed just then that I had acted from
the impulse of my own sense of honor, and the belief gave my words and
tone more spirit than they would have had otherwise. My father's face
grew paler and graver as he listened; he looked older, by ten years,
than he had done an hour ago in the dining-room.

"I don't understand it," he muttered; "do you mean that this is a
serious thing? Are you in love with some girl of our own class? Not a
mere passing fancy, that no one would think seriously of for an instant?
Just a trifling _faux pas_, that it is no use telling women about, eh? I
could make allowance for that, Martin, and get Julia to do the same.
Come, it cannot be any thing more."

I did not reply to him. Here we had come, he and I, to the very barrier
that had been growing up between us ever since I had first discovered my
mother's secret and wasting grief. He was on one side of it and I on the
other--a wall of separation which neither of us could leap over.

"Why don't you speak, Martin?" he asked, testily.

"Because I hate the subject," I answered. "When I told Julia I loved
another woman, I meant that some one else occupied that place in my
affection which belonged rightfully to my wife; and so Julia understood
it."

"Then," he cried with a gesture of despair, "I am a ruined man!"

His consternation and dismay were so real that they startled me; yet,
knowing what a consummate actor he was, I restrained both my fear and
my sympathy, and waited for him to enlighten me further. He sat with his
head bowed, and his hands hanging down, in an attitude of profound
despondency, so different from his usual jaunty air, that every moment
increased my anxiety.

"What can it have to do with you?" I asked, after a long pause.

"I am a ruined and disgraced man." he reiterated, without looking up;
"if you have broken off your marriage with Julia, I shall never raise my
head again."

"But why?" I asked, uneasily.

"Come down into my consulting-room," he said, after another pause of
deliberation. I went on before him, carrying the lamp, and, turning
round once or twice, saw his face look gray, and the expression of it
vacant and troubled. His consulting-room was a luxurious room, elegantly
furnished; and with several pictures on the walls, including a painted
photograph of himself, taken recently by the first photographer in
Guernsey. There were book-cases containing a number of the best medical
works; behind which lay, out of sight, a numerous selection of French
novels, more thumbed than the ponderous volumes in front. He sank down
into an easy-chair, shivering as if we were in the depth of winter.

"Martin, I am a ruined man!" he said, for the third time.

"But how?" I asked again, impatiently; for my fears were growing strong.
Certainly he was not acting a part this time.

"I dare not tell you," he cried, leaning his head upon his desk, and
sobbing. How white his hair was! and how aged he looked! I recollected
how he used to play with me when I was a boy, and carry me before him on
horseback, as long back as I could remember. My heart softened and
warmed to him as it had not done for years.

"Father!" I said, "if you can trust any one, you can trust me. If you
are ruined and disgraced I shall be the same, as your son."

"That's true," he answered, "that's true! It will bring disgrace on you
and your mother. We shall be forced to leave Guernsey, where she has
lived all her life; and it will be the death of her. Martin, you must
save us all by making it up with Julia."

"But why?" I demanded, once more. "I must know what you mean."

"Mean?" he said, turning upon me angrily, "you blockhead! I mean that
unless you marry Julia I shall have to give an account of her property;
and I could not make all square, not if I sold every stick and stone I
possess."

I sat silent for a time, trying to take in this piece of information. He
had been Julia's guardian ever since she was left an orphan, ten years
old; but I had never known that there had not been a formal and legal
settlement of her affairs when she was of age. Our family name had no
blot upon it; it was one of the most honored names in the island. But if
this came to light, then the disgrace would be dark indeed.

"Can you tell me all about it?" I asked.

My father, after making his confession, settled himself in his chair
comfortably; appearing to feel that he had begun to make reparation for
the wrong. His temperament was more buoyant than mine. Selfish natures
are often buoyant.

"It would take a long time," he said, "and it would be a deuse of a
nuisance. You make it up with Julia, and marry her, as you're bound to
do. Of course, you will manage all her money when you are her husband,
as you will be. Now you know all."

"But I don't know all," I replied; "and I insist upon doing so, before I
make up my mind what to do."

I believe he expected this opposition from me, for otherwise all he had
said could have been said in my room. But after feebly giving battle on
various points, and staving off sundry inquiries, he opened a drawer in
one of his cabinets, and produced a number of deeds, scrip, etc.,
belonging to Julia.

For two hours I was busy with his accounts. Once or twice he tried to
slink out of the room; but that I would not suffer. At length the
ornamental clock on his chimney-piece struck eleven, and he made
another effort to beat a retreat.

"Do not go away till every thing is clear," I said; "is this all?"

"All?" he repeated; "isn't it enough?"

"Between three and four thousand pounds deficient!" I answered; "it is
quite enough."

"Enough to make me a felon," he said, "if Julia chooses to prosecute
me."

"I think it is highly probable," I replied; "though I know nothing of
the law."

"Then you see clearly, Martin, there is no alternative, but for you to
marry her, and keep our secret. I have reckoned upon this for years, and
your mother and I have been of one mind in bringing it about. If you
marry Julia, her affairs go direct from my hands to yours, and we are
all safe. If you break with her she will leave us, and demand an account
of my guardianship; and your name and mine will be branded in our own
island."

"That is very clear," I said, sullenly.

"Your mother would not survive it!" he continued, with a solemn accent.

"Oh! I have been threatened with that already," I exclaimed, very
bitterly. "Pray does my mother know of this disgraceful business?"

"Heaven forbid!" he cried. "Your mother is a good woman, Martin; as
simple as a dove. You ought to think of her before you consign us all to
shame. I can quit Guernsey. I am an old man, and it signifies very
little where I lie down to die. I have not been as good a husband as I
might have been; but I could not face her after she knows this. Poor
Mary! My poor, poor love! I believe she cares enough for me still to
break her heart over it."

"Then I am to be your scape-goat," I said.

"You are my son," he answered; "and religion itself teaches us that the
sins of the fathers are visited on the children. I leave the matter in
your hands. But only answer one question: Could you show your face among
your own friends if this were known?"

I knew very well I could not. My father a fraudulent steward of Julia's
property! Then farewell forever to all that had made my life happy! We
were a proud family--proud of our rank, and of our pure blood; above
all, of our honor, which had never been tarnished by a breath. I could
not yet bear to believe that my father was a rogue. He himself was not
so lost to shame that he could meet my eye. I saw there was no escape
from it--I must marry Julia.

"Well," I said, at last, "as you say, the matter is in my hands now; and
I must make the best of it. Good-night, sir."

Without a light I went up to my own room, where the moon that had shone
upon me in my last night's ride, was gleaming brightly through the
window. I intended to reflect and deliberate, but I was worn out. I
flung myself down on the bed, but could not have remained awake for a
single moment. I fell into a deep sleep which lasted till morning.



CHAPTER THE TWENTIETH.

TWO LETTERS.


When I awoke, my poor mother was sitting beside me, looking very ill and
sorrowful. She had slipped a pillow under my head, and thrown a shawl
across me. I got up with a bewildered brain, and a general sense of
calamity, which I could not clearly define.

"Martin," she said, "your father has gone by this morning's boat to
Jersey. He says you know why; but he has left this note for you. Why
have you not been in bed last night?"

"Never mind, mother," I answered, as I tore open the note, which was
carefully sealed with my father's private seal. He had written it
immediately after I left him.


     "11.30 P.M.

     "MY SON: To-morrow morning, I shall run over to Jersey for a
     few days until this sad business of yours is settled. I cannot
     bear to meet your changed face. You make no allowances for
     your father. Half my expenses have been incurred in educating
     you; you ought to consider this, and that you owe more to me,
     as your father, than to any one else. But in these days
     parents receive little honor from their children. When all is
     settled, write to me at Prince's Hotel. It rests upon you
     whether I ever see Guernsey again. Your wretched father,

     "RICHARD DOBRÉE."

"Can I see it?" asked my mother, holding out her hand.

"No, never mind seeing it," I answered, "it is about Julia, you know. It
would only trouble you."

"Captain Carey's man brought a letter from Julia just now," she said,
taking it from her pocket; "he said there was no answer."

Her eyelids were still red from weeping, and her voice faltered as if
she might break out into sobs any moment. I took the letter from her,
but I did not open it.

"You want to be alone to read it?" she said. "O Martin! if you can
change your mind, and save us all from this trouble, do it, for my
sake?"

"If I can I will," I answered; "but every thing is very hard upon me,
mother."

She could not guess how hard, and, if I could help it, she should never
know. Now I was fully awake, the enormity of my father's dishonesty and
his extreme egotism weighed heavily upon me. I could not view his
conduct in a fairer light than I had done in my amazement the night
before. It grew blacker as I dwelt upon it. And now he was off to
Jersey, shirking the disagreeable consequences of his own delinquency. I
knew how he would spend his time there. Jersey is no retreat for the
penitent.

As soon as my mother was gone I opened Julia's letter. It began:


     "MY DEAR MARTIN: I know all now. Johanna has told me. When you
     spoke to me so hurriedly and unexpectedly, this afternoon, I
     could not bear to hear another word. But now I am calm, and I
     can think it all over quite quietly.

     "It is an infatuation, Martin. Johanna says so as well as I,
     and she is never wrong. It is a sheer impossibility that you,
     in your sober senses, should love a strange person, whose very
     name you do not know, better than you do me, your cousin, your
     sister, your _fiancée_, whom you have known all your life, and
     loved. I am quite sure of that, with a very true affection.

     "It vexes me to write about that person in any connection with
     yourself. Emma spoke of her in her last letter from Sark; not
     at all in reference to you, however. She is so completely of a
     lower class, that it would never enter Emma's head that you
     could see any thing in her. She said there was a rumor afloat
     that Tardif was about to marry the girl you had been
     attending, and that everybody in the island regretted it. She
     said it would be a _mésalliance_ for him, Tardif! What then
     would it be for you, a Dobrée? No; it is a delusion, an
     infatuation, which will quickly pass away. I cannot believe
     you are so weak as to be taken in by mere prettiness without
     character; and this person--I do not say so harshly,
     Martin--has no character, no name. Were you free you could not
     marry her. There is a mystery about her, and mystery usually
     means shame. A Dobrée could not make an adventuress his wife.
     Then you have seen so little of her. Three times, since the
     week you were there in March! What is that compared to the
     years we have spent together? It is impossible that in your
     heart of hearts you should love her more than me.

     "I have been trying to think what you would do if all is
     broken off between us. We could not keep this a secret in
     Guernsey, and everybody would blame you. I will not ask you to
     think of my mortification at being jilted, for people would
     call it that. I could outlive that. But what are you to do? We
     cannot go on again as we used to do. I must speak plainly
     about it. Your practice is not sufficient to maintain the
     family in a proper position for the Dobrées; and if I go to
     live alone at the new house, as I must do, what is to become
     of my uncle and aunt? I have often considered this, and have
     been glad the difficulty was settled by our marriage. Now
     every thing will be unsettled again.

     "I did not intend to say any thing about myself; but, O
     Martin! you do not know the blank that it will be to me. I
     have been so happy since you asked me to be your wife. It was
     so pleasant to think that I should live all my life in
     Guernsey, and yet not be doomed to the empty, vacant lot of an
     unmarried woman. You think that perhaps Johanna is happy
     single? She is content--good women ought to be content; but, I
     tell you, I would gladly exchange her contentment for Aunt
     Dobrée's troubles, with her pride and happiness in you. I have
     seen her troubles clearly; and I say, Martin, I would give all
     Johanna's calm, colorless peace for her delight in her son.

     "Then I cannot give up the thought of our home, just finished
     and so pretty. It was so pleasant this afternoon before you
     came in with your dreadful thunder-bolt. I was thinking what a
     good wife I would be to you; and how, in my own house, I
     should never be tempted into those tiresome tempers you have
     seen in me sometimes. It was your father often who made me
     angry, and I visited it upon you, because you are so
     good-tempered. That was foolish of me. You could not know how
     much I love you, how my life is bound up in you, or you would
     have been proof against that person in Sark.

     "I think it right to tell you all this now, though it is not
     in my nature to make professions and demonstrations of my
     love. Think of me, of yourself, of your poor mother. You were
     never selfish, and you can do noble things. I do not say it
     would be noble to marry me; but it would be a noble thing to
     conquer an ignoble passion. How could Martin Dobrée fall in
     love with an unknown adventuress?

     "I shall remain in the house all day to-morrow, and if you can
     come to see me, feeling that this has been a dream of folly
     from which you have awakened, I will not ask you to own it.
     That you come at all will be a sign to me that you wish it
     forgotten and blotted out between us, as if it had never been.

     "With true, deep love for you, Martin, believe me still

     "Your affectionate JULIA."

I pondered over Julia's letter as I dressed. There was not a word of
resentment in it. It was full of affectionate thought for us all. But
what reasoning! I had not known Olivia so long as I had known her,
therefore I could not love her as truly!

A strange therefore!

I had scarcely had leisure to think of Olivia in the hurry and anxiety
of the last twenty-four hours. But now "that person in Sark," the
"unknown adventuress," presented itself very vividly to my mind. Know
her! I felt as if I knew every tone of her voice and every expression of
her face; yet I longed to know them more intimately. The note she had
written to me a few weeks ago I could repeat word for word, and the
handwriting seemed far more familiar to me even than Julia's. There was
no doubt my love for her was very different from my affection for Julia;
and if it was an infatuation, it was the sweetest, most exquisite
infatuation that could ever possess me.

Yet there was no longer any hesitation in my mind as to what I must do.
Julia knew all now. I had told her distinctly of my love for Olivia, and
she would not believe it. She appeared wishful to hold me to my
engagement in spite of it; at any rate, so I interpreted her letter. I
did not suppose that I should not live it down, this infatuation, as
they chose to call it. I might hunger and thirst, and be on the point of
perishing; then my nature would turn to other nutriment, and assimilate
it to its contracted and stultified capacities.

After all there was some reason in the objections urged against Olivia.
The dislike of all insulated people against foreigners is natural
enough; and in her case there was a mystery which I must solve before I
could think of asking her to become my wife. Ask her to become my wife!
That was impossible now. I had chosen my wife months before I saw her.

I went mechanically through the routine of my morning's work, and it was
late in the afternoon before I could get away to ride to the Vale. My
mother knew where I was going, and gazed wistfully into my face, but
without otherwise asking me any questions. At the last moment, as I
touched Madam's bridle, I looked down at her standing on the door-step.
"Cheer up, mother!" I said, almost gayly, "it will all come right."



CHAPTER THE TWENTY-FIRST.

ALL WRONG.


By this time you know that I could not ride along the flat, open shore
between St. Peter-Port and the Vale without having a good sight of Sark,
though it lay just a little behind me. It was not in human nature to
turn my back doggedly upon it. I had never seen it look nearer; the
channel between us scarcely seemed a mile across. The old windmill above
the Havre Gosselin stood out plainly. I almost fancied that but for
Breckhou I could have seen Tardif's house, where my darling was living.
My heart leaped at the mere thought of it. Then I shook Madam's bridle
about her neck, and she carried me on at a sharp canter toward Captain
Carey's residence.

I saw Julia standing at a window up-stairs, gazing down the long white
road, which runs as straight as an arrow through the Braye du Valle to
L'Ancresse Common.

She must have seen Madam and me half a mile away; but she kept her post
motionless as a sentinel, until I jumped down to open the gate. Then she
vanished.

The servant-man was at the door by the time I reached it, and Johanna
herself was on the threshold, with her hands outstretched and her face
radiant. I was as welcome as the prodigal son, and she was ready to fall
on my neck and kiss me.

"I felt sure of you," she said, in a low voice. "I trusted to your good
sense and honor, and they have not failed you. Thank God you are come!
Julia has neither ate nor slept since I brought her here."

She led me to her own private sitting-room, where I found Julia standing
by the fireplace, and leaning against it, as if she could not stand
alone. When I went up to her and took her hand, she flung her arms round
my neck, and clung to me, in a passion of tears. It was some minutes
before she could recover her self-command. I had never seen her abandon
herself to such a paroxysm before.

"Julia, my poor girl!" I said, "I did not think you would take it so
much to heart as this."

"I shall come all right directly," she sobbed, sitting down, and
trembling from head to foot. "Johanna said you would come, but I was not
sure."

"Yes, I am here," I answered, with a very dreary feeling about me.

"That is enough," said Julia; "you need not say a word more. Let us
forget it, both of us. You will only give me your promise never to see
her, or speak to her again."

It might be a fair thing for her to ask, but it was not a fair thing for
me to promise. Olivia had told me she had no friends at all except
Tardif and me; and if the gossip of the Sark people drove her from the
shelter of his roof, I should be her only resource; and I believed she
would come frankly to me for help.

"Olivia quite understands about my engagement to you," I said. "I told
her at once that we were going to be married, and that I hoped she would
find a friend in you."'

"A friend in me, Martin!" she exclaimed, in a tone of indignant
surprise; "you could not ask me to be that!"

"Not now, I suppose," I replied; "the girl is as innocent and blameless
as any girl living; but I dare say you would sooner befriend the most
good-for-nothing Jezebel in the Channel Islands."

"Yes, I would," she said. "An innocent girl indeed! I only wish she had
been killed when she fell from the cliff."

"Hush!" I cried, shuddering at the bare mention of Olivia's death; "you
do not know what you say. It is worse than useless to talk about her. I
came to ask you to think no more of what passed between us yesterday."

"But you are going to persist in your infatuation," said Julia; "you can
never deceive me. I know you too well. Oh, I see that you still think
the same of her'"

"You know nothing about her," I replied.

"And I shall take care I never do," she interrupted, spitefully.

"So it is of no use to go on quarrelling about her," I continued, taking
no notice of the interruption. "I made up my mind before I came here
that I must see as little as possible of her for the future. You must
understand, Julia, she has never given me a particle of reason to
suppose she loves me."

"But you are still in love with her?" she asked.

I stood biting my nails to the quick, a trick I had while a boy, but one
that had been broken off by my mother's and Julia's combined vigilance.
Now the habit came back upon me in full force, as my only resource from
speaking.

"Martin," she said, with flashing eyes, and a rising tone in her voice,
which, like the first shrill moan of the wind, presaged a storm, "I will
never marry you until you can say, on your word of honor, that you love
that person no longer, and are ready to promise to hold no further
communication with her. Oh! I know what my poor aunt has had to endure,
and I will not put up with it."

"Very well, Julia," I answered, controlling myself as well as I could,
"I have only one more word to say on this subject. I love Olivia, and,
as far as I know myself, I shall love her as long as I live. I did not
come here to give you any reason for supposing my mind is changed as to
her. If you consent to be my wife, I will do my best, God helping me, to
be most true, most faithful to you; and God forbid I should injure
Olivia in thought by supposing she could care for me other than as a
friend. But my motive for coming now is to tell you some particulars
about your property, which my father made known to me only last night."

It was a miserable task for me; but I told her simply the painful
discovery I had made. She sat listening with a dark and sullen face, but
betraying not a spark of resentment, so far as her loss of fortune was
concerned.

"Yes," she said, bitterly, when I had finished, "robbed by the father
and jilted by the son."

"I would give my life to cancel the wrong," I said.

"It is so easy to talk," she replied, with a deadly coldness of tone and
manner.

"I am ready to do whatever you choose," I urged. "It is true my father
has robbed you; but it is not true that I have jilted you. I did not
know my own heart till a word from Captain Carey revealed it to me; and
I told you frankly, partly because Johanna insisted upon it, and partly
because I believed it right to do so. If you demand it, I will even
promise not to see Olivia again, or to hold direct communication with
her. Surely that is all you ought to require from me."

"No," she replied, vehemently; "do you suppose I could become your wife
while you maintain that you love another woman better than me? You must
have a very low opinion of me."

"Would you have me tell you a falsehood?" I rejoined, with vehemence
equal to hers.

"You had better leave me," she said, "before we hate one another. I tell
you I have been robbed by the father and jilted by the son. Good-by,
Martin."

"Good-by, Julia," I replied; but I still lingered, hoping she would
speak to me again. I was anxious to hear what she would do against my
father. She looked at me fully and angrily, and, as I did not move, she
swept out of the room, with a dignity which I had never seen in her
before. I retreated toward the house-door, but could not make good my
escape without encountering Johanna.

"Well, Martin?" she said.

"It is all wrong," I answered. "Julia persists in it that I am jilting
her."

"All the world will think you have behaved very badly," she said.

"I suppose so," I replied; "but don't you think so, Johanna."

She shook her head in silence, and closed the hall-door after me. Many a
door in Guernsey would be shut against me as soon as this was known.

I had to go round to the stables to find Madam. The man had evidently
expected me to stay a long while, for her saddle-girths were loosened,
and the bit out of her mouth, that she might enjoy a liberal feed of
oats. Captain Carey came up tome as I was buckling the girths.

"Well, Martin?" he asked, exactly as Johanna had done before him.

"All wrong," I repeated.

"Dear! dear!" he said, in his mildest tones, and with his hand resting
affectionately on my shoulder; "I wish I had lost the use of my eyes or
tongue the other day, I am vexed to death that I found out your secret."

"Perhaps I should not have found it out myself," I said, "and it is
better now than after."

"So it is, my boy; so it is," he rejoined. "Between ourselves, Julia is
a little too old for you. Cheer up! she is a good girl, and will get
over it, and be friends again with you by-and-by. I will do all I can to
bring that about. If Olivia is only as good as she is handsome, you'll
be happier with her than with poor Julia."

He patted my back with a friendliness that cheered me, while his last
words sent the blood bounding through my veins. I rode home again, Sark
lying in full view before me; and, in spite of the darkness of my
prospects, I felt intensely glad to be free to win my Olivia.

Four days passed without any sign from either Julia or my father. I
wrote to him detailing my interview with her, but no reply came. My
mother and I had the house to ourselves; and, in spite of her frettings,
we enjoyed considerable pleasure during the temporary lull. There were,
however, sundry warnings out-of-doors which foretold tempest. I met cold
glances and sharp inquiries from old friends, among whom some rumors of
our separation were floating. There was sufficient to justify suspicion:
my father's absence, Julia's prolonged sojourn with the Careys at the
Vale, and the postponement of my voyage to England. I began to fancy
that even the women-servants flouted at me.



CHAPTER THE TWENTY-SECOND.

DEAD TO HONOR.


The mail from Jersey on Monday morning brought us no letter from my
father. But during the afternoon, as I was passing along the Canichers,
I came suddenly upon Captain Carey and Julia, who wore a thick veil over
her face. The Canichers is a very narrow, winding street, where no
conveyances are allowed to run, and all of us had chosen it in
preference to the broad road along the quay, where we were liable to
meet many acquaintances. There was no escape for any of us. An
enormously high, strong wall, such as abound in St. Peter-Port, was on
one side of us, and some locked-up stables on the other. Julia turned
away her head, and appeared absorbed in the contemplation of a very
small placard, which did not cover one stone of the wall, though it was
the only one there. I shook hands with Captain Carey, who regarded us
with a comical expression of distress, and waited to see if she would
recognize me; but she did not.

"Julia has had a letter from your father," he said.

"Yes?" I replied, in a tone of inquiry.

"Or rather from Dr. Collas," he pursued. "Prepare yourself for bad news,
Martin. Your father is very ill; dangerously so, he thinks."

The news did not startle me. I had been long aware that my father was
one of those medical men who are excessively nervous about their own
health, and are astonished that so delicate and complicated an
organization as the human frame should ever survive for sixty years the
ills it is exposed to. But at this time it was possible that distress of
mind and anxiety for the future might have made him really ill. There
was no chance of crossing to Jersey before the next morning.

"He wished Dr. Collas to write to Julia, so as not to alarm your
mother," continued Captain Carey, as I stood silent.

"I will go to-morrow," I said; "but we must not frighten my mother if we
can help it."

"Dr. Dobrée begs that you will go," he answered--"you and Julia."

"Julia!" I exclaimed. "Oh, impossible!"

"I don't see that it is impossible," said Julia, speaking for the first
time. "He is my own uncle, and has acted as my father. I intend to go to
see him; but Captain Carey has promised to go with me."

"Thank you a thousand times, dear Julia," I answered, gratefully. A
heavy load was lifted off my spirits, for I came to this
conclusion--that she had said nothing, and would say nothing, to the
Careys about his defalcations. She would not make her uncle's shame
public.

I told my mother that Julia and I were going over to Jersey the next
morning, and she was more than satisfied. We went on board together as
arranged--Julia, Captain Carey, and I. But Julia did not stay on deck,
and I saw nothing of her during our two-hours' sail.

Captain Carey told me feelingly how terribly she was fretting,
notwithstanding all their efforts to console her. He was full of this
topic, and could think and speak of nothing else, worrying me with the
most minute particulars of her deep dejection, until I felt myself one
of the most worthless scoundrels in existence. I was in this humiliated
state of mind when we landed in Jersey, and drove in separate cars to
the hotel where my father was lying ill.

The landlady received us with a portentous face. Dr. Collas had spoken
very seriously indeed of his patient, and, as for herself, she had not
the smallest hope. I heard Julia sob, and saw her lift her handkerchief
to her eyes behind her veil.

Captain Carey looked very much frightened. He was a man of quick
sympathies, and nervous about his own life into the bargain, so that any
serious illness alarmed him. As for myself, I was in the miserable
condition of mind I have described above.

We were not admitted into my father's room for half an hour, as he sent
word he must get up his strength for the interview. Julia and myself
alone were allowed to see him. He was propped up in bed with a number of
pillows; with the room darkened by Venetian blinds, and a dim green
twilight prevailing, which cast a sickly hue over his really pallid
face. His abundant white hair fell lankly about his head, instead of
being in crisp curls as usual. I was about to feel his pulse for him,
but he waved me off.

"No, my son," he said, "my recovery is not to be desired. I feel that I
have nothing now to do but to die. It is the only reparation in my
power. I would far rather die than recover."

I had nothing to say to that; indeed, I had really no answer ready, so
amazed was I at the tone he had taken. But Julia began to sob again, and
pressed past me, sinking down on the chair by his side, and laying her
hand upon one of his pillows.

"Julia, my love," he continued, feebly, "you know how I have wronged
you; but you are a true Christian. You will forgive your uncle when he
is dead and gone. I should like to be buried in Guernsey with the other
Dobrées."

Neither did Julia answer, save by sobs. I stepped toward the window to
draw up the blinds, but he stopped me, speaking in a much stronger voice
than before.

"Leave them alone," he said. "I have no wish to see the light of day. A
dishonored man does not care to show his face. I have seen no one since
I left Guernsey, except Collas."

"I think you are alarming yourself needlessly," I answered. "You know
you are fidgety about your own health. Let me prescribe for you. Surely
I know as much as Collas."

"No, no, let me die," he said, plaintively; "then you can all be happy.
I have robbed my only brother's only child, who was dear to me as my own
daughter. I cannot hold up my head after that. I should die gladly if
you two were but reconciled to one another."

By this time Julia's hand had reached his, and was resting in it fondly.
I never knew a man gifted with such power over women and their
susceptibilities as he had. My mother herself would appear to forget all
her unhappiness, if he only smiled upon her.

"My poor dear Julia!" he murmured; "my poor child!"

"Uncle," she said, checking her sobs by a great effort, "if you imagine
I should tell any one--Johanna Carey even--what you have done, you wrong
me. The name of Dobrée is as dear to me as to Martin, and he was willing
to marry a woman he detested in order to shield it. No, you are quite
safe from disgrace as far as I am concerned."

"God in heaven bless you, my own Julia!" he ejaculated, fervently. "I
knew your noble nature; but it grieves me the more deeply that I have so
thoughtlessly wronged you. If I should live to get over this illness, I
will explain it all to you. It is not so bad as it seems. But will you
not be equally generous to Martin? Cannot you forgive him as you do me?"

"Uncle," she cried, "I could never, never marry a man who says he loves
some one else more than me."

Her face was hidden in the pillows, and my father stroked her head,
glancing at me contemptuously at the same time.

"I should think not, my girl!" he said, in a soothing tone; "but Martin
will very soon repent. He is a fool just now, but he will be wise again
presently. He has known you too long not to know your worth."

"Julia," I said, "I do know how good you are. You have always been
generous, and you are so now. I owe you as much gratitude as my father
does, and any thing I can do to prove it I am ready to do this day."

"Will you marry her before we leave Jersey?" asked my father.

"Yes," I answered.

The word slipped from me almost unawares, yet I did not wish to retract
it. She was behaving so nobly and generously toward us both, that I was
willing to do any thing to make her happy.

"Then, my love," he said, "you hear what Martin promises. All's well
that ends well. Only make up your mind to put your proper pride away,
and we shall all be as happy as we were before."

"Never!" she cried, indignantly. "I would not marry Martin here,
hurriedly and furtively; no, not if you were dying, uncle!"

"But, Julia, if I were dying, and wished to see you united before my
death!" he insinuated. A sudden light broke upon me. It was an ingenious
plot--one at which I could not help laughing, mad as I was. Julia's
pride was to be saved, and an immediate marriage between us effected,
under cover of my father's dangerous illness. I did smile, in spite of
my anger, and he caught it, and smiled back again. I think Julia became
suspicious too.

"Martin," she said, sharpening her voice to address me, "do _you_ think
your father is in any danger?"

"No, I do not," I answered, notwithstanding his gestures and frowns.

"Then that is at an end," she said. "I was almost foolish enough to
think that I would yield. You don't know what this disappointment is to
me. Everybody will be talking of it, and some of them will pity me, and
the rest laugh at me. I am ashamed of going out-of-doors anywhere. Oh,
it is too bad! I cannot bear it."

She was positively writhing with agitation; and tears, real tears I am
sure, started into my father's eyes.

"My poor little Julia!" he said; "my darling! But what can be done if
you will not marry Martin?"

"He ought to go away from Guernsey," she sobbed. "I should feel better
if I was quite sure I should never see him, or hear of other people
seeing him."

"I will go," I said. "Guernsey will be too hot for me when all this is
known."

"And, uncle," she pursued, speaking to him, not me, "he ought to promise
me to give up that girl. I cannot set him free to go and marry her--a
stranger and adventuress. She will be his ruin. I think, for my sake, he
ought to give her up."

"So he ought, and so he will, my love," answered my father. "When he
thinks of all we owe to you, he will promise you that."

I pondered over what our family owed to Julia for some minutes. It was
truly a very great debt. Though I had brought her into perhaps the most
painful position a woman could be placed in, she was generously
sacrificing her just resentment and revenge against my father's
dishonesty, in order to secure our name from blot.

On the other hand, I had no reason to suppose Olivia loved me, and I
should do her no wrong. I felt that, whatever it might cost me, I must
consent to Julia's stipulation.

"It is the hardest thing you could ask me," I said, "but I will give her
up. On one condition, however; for I must not leave her without friends.
I shall tell Tardif, if he ever needs help for Olivia, he must apply to
me through my mother."

"There could be no harm in that," observed my father.

"How soon shall I leave Guernsey?" I asked.

"He cannot go until you are well again, uncle," she answered. "I will
stay here to nurse you, and Martin must take care of your patients. We
will send him word a day or two before we return, and I should like him
to be gone before we reach home."

That was my sentence of banishment. She had only addressed me once
during the conversation. It was curious to see how there was no
resentment in her manner toward my father, who had systematically robbed
her, while she treated me with profound wrath and bitterness.

She allowed him to hold her hand and stroke her hair; she would not have
suffered me to approach her. No doubt it was harder for her to give up a
lover than to lose the whole of her property.

She left us, to make the necessary arrangements for staying with my
father, whose illness appeared to have lost suddenly its worst symptoms.
As soon as she was gone he regarded me with a look half angry, half
contemptuous.

"What a fool you are!" he said. "You have no tact whatever in the
management of women. Julia would fly back to you, if you only held up
your finger."

"I have no wish to hold up my finger to her," I answered. "I don't think
life with her would be so highly desirable."

"You thought so a few weeks ago," he said, "and you'll be a pauper
without her."

"I was not going to marry her for her money," I replied. "A few weeks
ago I cared more for her than for any other woman, except my mother, and
she knew it. All that is changed now."

"Well well!" he said, peevishly, "do as you like. I wash my hands of the
whole business. Julia will not forsake me if she renounces you, and I
shall have need of her and her money. I shall cling to Julia."

"She will be a kind nurse to you," I remarked.

"Excellent!" he answered, settling himself languidly down among his
pillows. "She may come in now and watch beside me; it will be the sort
of occupation to suit her in her present state of feeling. You had
better go out and amuse yourself in your own way. Of course you will go
home to-morrow morning."

I would have gone back to Guernsey at once, but I found neither cutter
nor yacht sailing that afternoon, so I was obliged to wait for the
steamer next morning. I did not see Julia again, but Captain Carey told
me she had consented that he should remain at hand for a day or two, to
see if he could be of any use to her.

The report of my father's illness had spread before I reached home, and
sufficiently accounted for our visit to Jersey, and the temporary
postponement of my last trip to England before our marriage. My mother,
Johanna, and I, kept our own counsel, and answered the many questions
asked us as vaguely as the Delphic oracle.

Still an uneasy suspicion and suspense hung about our circle. The
atmosphere was heavily charged with electricity, which foreboded storms.
It would be well for me to quit Guernsey before all the truth came out.
I wrote to Tardif, telling him I was going for an indefinite period to
London, and that if any difficulty or danger threatened Olivia, I begged
of him to communicate with my mother, who had promised me to befriend
her as far as it lay in her power. My poor mother thought of her without
bitterness, though with deep regret. To Olivia herself I wrote a line or
two, finding myself too weak to resist the temptation. I said:

"MY DEAR OLIVIA: I told you I was about to be married to my cousin Julia
Dobrée; that engagement is at an end. I am obliged to leave Guernsey,
and seek my fortune elsewhere. It will be a long time before I can see
you again, if I ever have that great happiness. Whenever you feel the
want of a true and tender friend, my mother is prepared to love you as
if you were her own daughter. Think of me also as your friend. MARTIN
DOBRÉE."



CHAPTER THE TWENTY-THIRD.

IN EXILE.


I left Guernsey the day before my father and Julia returned from Jersey.

My immediate future was not as black as it might have been. I was going
direct to the house of my friend Jack Senior, who had been my chum both
at Elizabeth College and at Guy's. He, like myself, had been hitherto a
sort of partner to his father, the well-known physician, Dr. Senior of
Brook Street. They lived together in a highly-respectable but gloomy
residence, kept bachelor fashion, for they had no woman-kind at all
belonging to them. The father and son lived a good deal apart, though
they were deeply attached to one another. Jack had his own apartments,
and his own guests, in the spacious house, and Dr. Senior had his.

The first night, as Jack and I sat up together in the long summer
twilight, till the dim, not really dark, midnight came over us, I told
him every thing; as one tells a friend a hundred things one cannot put
into words to any person who dwells under the same roof, and is witness
of every circumstance of one's career.

As I was talking to him, every emotion and perception of my brain, which
had been in a wild state of confusion and conflict, appeared to fall
into its proper rank. I was no longer doubtful as to whether I had been
the fool my father called me. My love for Olivia acquired force and
decision. My judgment that it would have been a folly and a crime to
marry Julia became confirmed.

"Old fellow," said Jack, when I had finished, "you are in no end of a
mess."

"Well, I am," I admitted; "but what am I to do?"

"First of all, how much money have you?" he asked.

"I'd rather not say," I answered.

"Come, old friend," he said, in his most persuasive tones, "have you
fifty pounds in hand?"

"No," I replied.

"Thirty?"

I shook my head, but I would not answer him further.

"That's bad!" he said; "but it might be worse. I've lots of tin, and we
always went shares."

"I must look out for something to do to-morrow," I remarked.

"Ay, yes!" he answered, dryly; "you might go as assistant to a parish
doctor, or get a berth on board an emigrant-ship. There are lots of
chances for a young fellow."

He sat smoking his cigar--a dusky outline of a human figure, with a
bright speck of red about the centre of the face. For a few minutes he
was lost in thought.

"I tell you what," he said, "I've a good mind to marry Julia myself.
I've always liked her, and we want a woman in the house. That would put
things straighter, wouldn't it?"

"She would never consent to leave Guernsey," I answered, laughing. "That
was one reason why she was so glad to marry me."

"Well, then," he said, "would you mind me having Olivia?"

"Don't jest about such a thing," I replied; "it is too serious a
question with me."

"You are really in love!" he answered. "I will not jest at it. But I am
ready to do any thing to help you, old boy."

So it proved, for he and Dr. Senior did their best during the next few
weeks to find a suitable opening for me. I made their house my home, and
was treated as a most welcome guest in it. Still the time was
irksome--more irksome than I ever could have imagined. They were busy
while I was unoccupied.

Occasionally I went out to obey some urgent summons, when either of them
was absent; but that was a rare circumstance. The hours hung heavily
upon me; and the close, sultry air of London, so different from the
fresh sea-breezes of my native place, made me feel languid and
irritable.

My mother's letters did not tend to raise my spirits. The tone of them
was uniformly sad. She told me the flood of sympathy for Julia had risen
very high indeed: from which I concluded that the public indignation
against myself must have risen to the same tide-mark, though my poor
mother said nothing about it. Julia had resumed her old occupations, but
her spirit was quite broken. Johanna Carey had offered to go abroad with
her, but she had declined it, because it would too painfully remind her
of our projected trip to Switzerland.

A friend of Julia's, said my mother in another letter, had come to stay
with her, and to try to rouse her.

It was evident she did not like this Kate Daltrey, herself, for the
dislike crept out unawares through all the gentleness of her phrases.
"She says she is the same age as Julia," she wrote, "but she is probably
some years older; for, as she does not belong to Guernsey, we have no
opportunity of knowing." I laughed when I read that. "Your father
admires her very much," she added.

No, my mother felt no affection for her new guest.

There was not a word about Olivia. Sark itself was never mentioned, and
it might have sunk into the sea. My eye ran over every letter first,
with the hope of catching that name, but I could not find it. This
persistent silence on my mother's part was very trying.

I had been away from Guernsey two months, and Jack was making
arrangements for a long absence from London as soon as the season was
over, leaving me in charge, when I received the following letter from
Johanna Carey:


     "DEAR MARTIN: Your father and Julia have been here this
     afternoon, and have confided to me a very sad and very painful
     secret, which they ask me to break gently to you. I am afraid
     no shadow of a suspicion of it has ever fallen upon your mind,
     and, I warn you, you will need all your courage and strength
     as a man to bear it. I was myself so overwhelmed that I could
     not write to you until now, in the dead of the night, having
     prayed with all my heart to our merciful God to sustain and
     comfort you, who will feel this sorrow more than any of us. My
     dearest Martin, my poor boy, how can I tell it to you? You
     must come home again for a season. Even Julia wishes it,
     though she cannot stay in the same house with you, and will go
     to her own with her friend Kate Daltrey. Your father cried
     like a child. He takes it more to heart than I should have
     expected. Yet there is no immediate danger; she may live for
     some months yet. My poor Martin, you will have a mother only a
     few months longer. Three weeks ago she and I went to Sark, at
     her own urgent wish, to see your Olivia. I did not then know
     why. She had a great longing to see the unfortunate girl who
     had been the cause of so much sorrow to us all, but especially
     to her, for she has pined sorely after you. We did not find
     her in Tardif's house, but Suzanne directed us to the little
     graveyard half a mile away. We followed her there, and
     recognized her, of course, at the first glance. She is a
     charming creature, that I allow, though I wish none of us had
     ever seen her. Your mother told her who she was, and the
     sweetest flush and smile came across her face! They sat down
     side by side on one of the graves, and I strolled away, so I
     do not know what they said to one another. Olivia walked down
     with us to the Havre Gosselin, and your mother held her in her
     arms and kissed her tenderly. Even I could not help kissing
     her.

     "Now I understand why your mother longed to see Olivia. She
     knew then--she has known for months--that her days are
     numbered. When she was in London last November, she saw the
     most skilful physicians, and they all agreed that her disease
     was incurable and fatal. Why did she conceal it from you? Ah,
     Martin, you must know a woman's heart, a mother's heart,
     before you can comprehend that. Your father knew, but no one
     else. What a martyrdom of silent agony she has passed through!
     She has a clear calculation, based upon the opinion of the
     medical men, as to how long she might have lived had her mind
     been kept calm and happy. How far that has not been the case
     we all know too well.

     "If your marriage with Julia had taken place, you would now
     have been on your way home, not to be parted from her again
     till the final separation. We all ask you to return to
     Guernsey, and devote a few more weeks to one who has loved you
     so passionately and fondly. Even Julia asks it. Her resentment
     gives way before this terrible sorrow. We have not told your
     mother what we are about to do, lest any thing should prevent
     your return. She is as patient and gentle as a lamb, and is
     ready with a quiet smile for every one. O Martin, what a loss
     she will be to us all! My heart is bleeding for you.

     "Do not come before you have answered this letter, that we
     may prepare her for your return. Write by the next boat, and
     come by the one after. Julia will have to move down to the new
     house, and that will be excitement enough for one day.

     "Good-by, my dearest Martin. I have forgiven every thing; so
     will all our friends as soon as they know this dreadful
     secret.

     "Your faithful, loving cousin, JOHANNA CAREY."

I read this letter twice, with a singing in my ears and a whirling of my
brain, before I could realize the meaning. Then I refused to believe it.
No one knows better than a doctor how the most skilful head among us may
be at fault.

My mother dying of an incurable disease! Impossible! I would go over at
once and save her. She ought to have told me first. Who could have
attended her so skilfully and devotedly as her only son?

Yet the numbing, deadly chill of dread rested upon my heart. I felt
keenly how slight my power was, as I had done once before when I thought
Olivia would die. But then I had no resources, no appliances. Now I
would take home with me every remedy the experience and researches of
man had discovered.



CHAPTER THE TWENTY-FOURTH.

OVERMATCHED.


My mother had consulted Dr. Senior himself when she had been in London.
He did not positively cut off all hope from me, though I knew well he
was giving me encouragement in spite of his own carefully-formed
opinion. He asserted emphatically that it was possible to alleviate her
sufferings and prolong her life, especially if her mind was kept at
rest. There was not a question as to the necessity for my immediate
return to her. But there was still a day for me to tarry in London.

"Martin," said Jack, "why have you never followed up the clew about your
Olivia--the advertisement, you know? Shall we go to those folks in
Gray's-Inn Road this afternoon?"

It had been in my mind all along to do so, but the listless
procrastination of idleness had caused me to put it off from time to
time. Besides, while I was absent from the Channel Islands my curiosity
appeared to sleep. It was enough to picture Olivia in her lowly home in
Sark. Now that I was returning to Guernsey, and the opportunity was
about to slip by, I felt more anxious to seize it. I would learn all I
could about Olivia's family and friends, without betraying any part of
her secret.

At the nearest cab-stand we found a cabman patronized by Jack--a
red-faced, good-tempered, and good-humored man, who was as fond and
proud of Jack's notice as if he had been one of the royal princes.

Of course there was not the smallest difficulty in finding the office of
Messrs. Scott and Brown. It was on the second floor of an ordinary
building, and, bidding the cabman wait for us, we proceeded at once up
the staircase.

There did not seem much business going on, and our appearance was hailed
with undisguised satisfaction. The solicitors, if they were solicitors,
were two inferior, common-looking men, but sharp enough to be a match
for either of us. We both felt it, as if we had detected a snake in the
grass by its rattle. I grew wary by instinct, though I had not come with
any intention to tell them what I knew of Olivia. My sole idea had been
to learn something myself, not to impart any information. But, when I
was face to face with these men, my business, and the management of it,
did not seem quite so simple as it had done until then.

"Do you wish to consult my partner or me?" asked the keenest-looking
man. "I am Mr. Scott."

"Either will do," I answered. "My business will be soon dispatched. Some
months ago you inserted an advertisement in the _Times_."

"To what purport?" inquired Mr. Scott.

"You offered fifty pounds reward," I replied, "for information
concerning a young lady."

A gleam of intelligence and gratification flickered upon both their
faces, but quickly faded away into a sober and blank gravity. Mr. Scott
waited for me to speak again, and bowed silently, as if to intimate he
was all attention.

"I came," I added, "to ask you for the name and address of that young
lady's friends, as I should prefer communicating directly with them,
with a view to cooperation in the discovery of her hiding-place. I need
scarcely say I have no wish to receive any reward. I entirely waive any
claim to that, if you will oblige me by putting me into connection with
the family."

"Have you no information you can impart to us?" asked Mr. Scott.

"None," I answered, decisively. "It is some months since I saw the
advertisement, and it must be nine months since you put it into the
_Times_. I believe it is nine months since the young lady was missing."

"About that time," he said.

"Her friends must have suffered great anxiety," I remarked.

"Very great indeed," he admitted.

"If I could render them any service, it would be a great pleasure to
me," I continued; "cannot you tell me where to find them?"

"We are authorized to receive any information," he replied. "You must
allow me to ask if you know any thing about the young lady in question?"

"My object is to combine with her friends in seeking her," I said,
evasively. "I really cannot give you any information; but if you will
put me into communication with them, I may be useful to them."

"Well," he said, with an air of candor, "of course the young lady's
friends are anxious to keep in the background. It is not a pleasant
circumstance to occur in a family; and if possible they would wish her
to be restored without any _éclat_. Of course, if you could give us any
definite information it would be quite another thing. The young lady's
family is highly connected. Have you seen any one answering to the
description?"

"It is a very common one," I answered. "I have seen scores of young
ladies who might answer to it. I am surprised that in London you could
not trace her. Did you apply to the police?"

"The police are blockheads," replied Mr. Scott.--"Will you be so good as
to see if there is any one in the outer office, Mr. Brown, or on the
stairs? I believe I heard a noise outside."

Mr. Brown disappeared for a few minutes; but his absence did not
interrupt our conversation. There was not much to be made out of it on
either side, for we were only fencing with one another. I learned
nothing about Olivia's friends, and I was satisfied he had learned
nothing about her.

At last we parted with mutual dissatisfaction; and I went moodily
downstairs, followed by Jack. We drove back to Brook Street, to spend
the few hours that remained before the train started for Southampton.

"Doctor," said Simmons, as Jack paid him his fare, with a small coin
added to it, "I'm half afeard I've done some mischief. I've been turning
it over and over in my head, and can't exactly see the rights of it. A
gent, with a pen behind his ear, comes down, at that orfice in Gray's
Inn Road, and takes my number. But after that he says a civil thing or
two. 'Fine young gents,' he says, pointing up the staircase. 'Very much
so,' says I. 'Young doctors?' he says. 'You're right,' I says. 'I
guessed so,' he says; 'and pretty well up the tree, eh?' 'Ay,' I says;
'the light-haired gent is son to Dr. Senior, the great pheeseecian; and
the other he comes from Guernsey, which is an island in the sea.' 'Just
so,' he says; 'I've heard as much.' I hope I've done no mischief,
doctor?"

"I hope not, Simmons," answered Jack; "but your tongue hangs too loose,
my man.--Look out for a squall on the Olivia coast, Martin," he added.

My anxiety would have been very great if I had not been returning
immediately to Guernsey. But once there, and in communication with
Tardif, I could not believe any danger would threaten Olivia from which
I could not protect or rescue her. She was of age, and had a right to
act for herself. With two such friends as Tardif and me, no one could
force her away from her chosen home.



CHAPTER THE TWENTY-FIFTH.

HOME AGAIN.


My mother was looking out for me when I reached home the next morning. I
had taken a car from the pier-head to avoid meeting any acquaintances;
and hers was almost the first familiar face I saw. It was pallid with
the sickly hue of a confirmed disease, and her eyes were much sunken;
but she ran across the room to meet me. I was afraid to touch her,
knowing how a careless movement might cause her excruciating pain; but
she was oblivious of every thing save my return, and pressed me closer
and closer in her arms, with all her failing strength, while I leaned my
face down upon her dear head, unable to utter a word.

"God is very good to me," sobbed my mother.

"Is He?" I said, my voice sounding strange to my own ears, so forced and
altered it was.

"Very, very good," she repeated. "He has brought you back to me."

"Never to leave you again, mother," I said--"never again!"

"No; you will never leave me alone again here," she whispered. "Oh, how
I have missed you, my boy!"

I made her sit down on the sofa, and sat beside her, while she caressed
my hand with her thin and wasted fingers.

I must put an end to this, if I was to maintain my self-control.

"Mother," I said, "you forget that I have been on the sea all night, and
have not had my breakfast yet."

"The old cry, Martin," she answered, smiling. "Well, you shall have your
breakfast here, and I will wait upon you once more."

I watched her furtively as she moved about, not with her usual quick and
light movements, but with a slow and cautious tread. It was part of my
anguish to know, as only a medical man can know, how every step was a
fresh pang to her. She sat down with me at the table, though I would not
suffer her to pour out my coffee, as she wished to do. There was a
divine smile upon her face; yet beneath it there was an indication of
constant and terrible pain, in the sunken eyes and drawn lips. It was
useless to attempt to eat with that smiling face opposite me. I drank
thirstily, but I could not swallow a crumb. She knew what it meant, and
her eyes were fastened upon me with a heart-breaking expression.

That mockery of a meal over, she permitted me to lay her down on the
sofa, almost as submissively as a tired child, and to cover her with an
eider-down quilt; for her malady made her shiver with its deadly
coldness, while she could not bear any weight upon her. My father was
gone out, and would not be back before evening. The whole day lay before
us; I should have my mother entirely to myself.

We had very much to say to one another; but it could only be said at
intervals, when her strength allowed of it. We talked together, more
calmly than I could have believed possible, of her approaching death;
and, in a stupor of despair, I owned to myself and her that there was
not a hope of her being spared to me much longer.

"I have longed so," she murmured, "to see my boy in a home of his own
before I died. Perhaps I was wrong, but that was why I urged on your
marriage with Julia. You will have no real home after I am gone, Martin;
and I feel as if I could die so much more quietly if I had some
knowledge of your future life. Now I shall know nothing. I think that is
the sting of death to me."

"I wish it had been as you wanted it to be," I said, never feeling so
bitterly the disappointment I had caused her, and almost grieved that I
had ever seen Olivia.

"I suppose it is all for the best," she answered, feebly. "O Martin! I
have seen your Olivia."

"Well?" I said.

"I did so want to see her," she continued--"though she has brought us
all into such trouble. I loved her because you love her. Johanna went
with me, because she is such a good judge, you know, and I did not like
to rely upon my own feelings. Appearances are very much against her; but
she is very engaging, and I believe she is a good girl. I am sure she is
good."

"I know she is," I said.

"We talked of you," she went on--"how good you were to her that week in
the spring. She had never been quite unconscious, she thought; but she
had seen and heard you all the time, and knew you were doing your utmost
to save her. I believe we talked more of you than of any thing else."

That was very likely, I knew, as far as my mother was concerned. But I
was anxious to hear whether Olivia had not confided to her more of her
secret than I had yet been able to learn from other sources. To a woman
like my mother she might have intrusted all her history.

"Did you find any thing out about her friends and family?" I asked.

"Not much," she answered. "She told me her own mother had died when she
was quite a child; and she had a step-mother living, who has been the
ruin of her life. That was her expression. 'She has been the ruin of my
life!' she said; and she cried a little, Martin, with her head upon my
lap. If I could only have offered her a home here, and promised to be a
mother to her!"

"God bless you, my darling mother!" I said.

"She intends to stay where she is as long as it is possible," she
continued; "but she told me she wanted work to do--any kind of work by
which she could earn a little money. She has a diamond ring, and a watch
and chain, worth a hundred pounds; so she must have been used to
affluence. Yet she spoke as if she might have to live in Sark for years.
It is a very strange position for a young girl."

"Mother," I said, "you do not know how all this weighs upon me. I
promised Julia to give her up, and never to see her again; but it is
almost more than I can bear, especially now. I shall be as friendless
and homeless as Olivia by-and-by."

I had knelt down beside her, and she pressed my face to hers, murmuring
those soft, fondling words, which a man only hears from his mother's
lips. I knew that the anguish of her soul was even greater than my own.
The agitation was growing too much for her, and would end in an access
of her disease. I must put an end to it at once.

"I suppose Julia is gone to the new house now," I said, in a calm voice.

"Yes," she answered, but she could say no more.

"And Miss Daltrey with her?" I pursued.

The mention of that name certainly roused my mother more effectually
than any thing else I could have said. She released me from her clinging
hands, and looked up with a decided expression of dislike on her face.

"Yes," she replied. "Julia is just wrapped up in her, though why I
cannot imagine. So is your father. But I don't think you will like her,
Martin. I don't want you to be taken with her."

"I won't, mother," I said. "I am ready to hate her, if that is any
satisfaction to you."

"Oh, you must not say that," she answered, in a tone of alarm. "I do not
wish to set you against her, not in the least, my boy. Only she has so
much influence over Julia and your father; and I do not want you to go
over to her side. I know I am very silly; but she always makes my flesh
creep when she is in the room."

"Then she shall not come into the room," I said.

"Martin," she went on, "why does it rouse one up more to speak evil of
people than to speak good of them? Speaking of Kate Daltrey makes me
feel stronger than talking of Olivia."

I laughed a little. It had been an observation of mine, made some years
ago, that the surest method of consolation in cases of excessive grief,
was the introduction of some family or neighborly gossip, seasoned
slightly with scandal. The most vehement mourning had been turned into
another current of thought by the lifting of this sluice.

"It restores the balance of the emotions," I answered. "Anything soft,
and tender, and touching, makes you more sensitive. A person like Miss
Daltrey acts as a tonic; bitter, perhaps, but invigorating."

The morning passed without any interruption; but in the afternoon Grace
came in, with a face full of grave importance, to announce that Miss
Dobrée had called, and desired to see Mrs. Dobrée alone. "Quite alone,"
repeated Grace, emphatically.

"I'll go up-stairs to my own room," I said to my mother.

"I am afraid you cannot, Martin," she answered, hesitatingly. "Miss
Daltrey has taken possession of it, and she has not removed all her
things yet. She and Julia did not leave till late last night. You must
go to the spare room."

"I thought you would have kept my room for me, mother," I said,
reproachfully.

"So I would," she replied, her lips quivering, "but Miss Daltrey took a
fancy to it, and your father and Julia made a point of indulging her. I
really think Julia would have had every thing belonging to you swept
into the streets. It was very hard for me, Martin. I was ten times more
vexed than you are to give up your room to Miss Daltrey. It was my only
comfort to go and sit there, and think of my dear boy." "Never mind,
never mind," I answered. "I am at home now, and you will never be left
alone with them again--nevermore, mother."

I retreated to the spare room, fully satisfied that I should dislike
Miss Daltrey quite as much as my mother could wish. Finding that Julia
prolonged her visit downstairs, I went out after a while for a stroll in
the old garden, where the trees and shrubs had grown with my growth, and
were as familiar as human friends to me. I visited Madam in her stall,
and had a talk with old Pellet; and generally established my footing
once more as the only son of the house; not at all either as if I were a
prodigal son, come home repentant. I was resolved not to play that
_rôle_, for had I not been more sinned against than sinning?

My father came in to dinner; but, like a true man of the world, he
received me back on civil and equal terms, not alluding beyond a word or
two to my long absence. We began again as friends; and our mutual
knowledge of my mother's fatal malady softened our hearts and manners
toward one another. Whenever he was in-doors he waited upon her with
sedulous attention. But, for the certainty that death was lurking very
near to us, I should have been happier in my home than I had ever been
since that momentous week in Sark. But I was also nearer to Olivia, and
every throb of my pulse was quickened by the mere thought of that.



CHAPTER THE TWENTY-SIXTH.

A NEW PATIENT.


In one sense, time seemed to be standing still with me, so like were the
days that followed the one to the other. But in another sense those days
fled with awful swiftness, for they were hurrying us both, my mother and
me, to a great gulf which would soon, far too soon, lie between us.

Every afternoon Julia came to spend an hour or two with my mother; but
her arrival was always formally announced, and it was an understood
thing that I should immediately quit the room, to avoid meeting her.
There was an etiquette in her resentment which I was bound to observe.

What our circle of friends thought, had become a matter of very
secondary consideration to me; but there seemed a general disposition to
condone my offences, in view of the calamity that was hanging by a mere
thread above me. I discovered from their significant remarks that it had
been quite the fashion to visit Sark during the summer, by the Queen of
the Isles, which made the passage every Monday; and that Tardif's
cottage had been an object of attraction to many of my relatives of
every degree. Few of them had caught even a glimpse of Olivia; and I
suspected that she had kept herself well out of sight on those days when
the weekly steamer flooded the island with visitors.

I had not taken up any of my old patients again, for I was determined
that everybody should feel that my residence at home was only temporary.
But, about ten days after my return, the following note was brought to
me, directed in full to Dr. Martin Dobrée:

"A lady from England, who is only a visitor in Guernsey, will be much
obliged by Dr. Martin Dobrée calling upon her, at Rose Villa, Vauvert
Road. She is suffering from a slight indisposition; and, knowing Dr.
Senior by name and reputation, she would feel great confidence in the
skill of Dr. Senior's friend."

I wondered for an instant who the stranger could be, and how she knew
the Seniors; but, as there could be no answer to these queries without
visiting the lady, I resolved to go. Rose Villa was a house where the
rooms were let to visitors during the season, and the Vauvert Road was
scarcely five minutes' walk from our house. Julia was paying her daily
visit to my mother, and I was at a loss for something to do, so I went
at once.

I found a very handsome, fine-looking woman; dark, with hair and eyes as
black as a gypsy's, and a clear olive complexion to match. Her forehead
was low, but smooth and well-shaped; and the lower part of her face,
handsome as it was, was far more developed than the upper. There was not
a trace of refinement about her features; yet the coarseness of them was
but slightly apparent as yet. She did not strike me as having more than
a very slight ailment indeed, though she dilated fluently about her
symptoms, and affected to be afraid of fever. It is not always possible
to deny that a woman has a violent headache; but, where the pulse is all
right, and the tongue clean, it is clear enough that there is not any
thing very serious threatening her. My new patient did not inspire me
with much sympathy; but she attracted my curiosity, and interested me by
the bold style of her beauty.

"You Guernsey people are very stiff with strangers," she remarked, as I
sat opposite to her, regarding her with that close observation which is
permitted to a doctor.

"So the world says," I answered. "Of course I am no good judge, for we
Guernsey people believe ourselves as perfect as any class of the human
family. Certainly, we pride ourselves on being a little more difficult
of approach than the Jersey people. Strangers are more freely welcome
there than here, unless they bring introductions with them. If you have
any introductions, you will find Guernsey as hospitable a spot as any in
the world."

"I have been here a week," she replied, pouting her full crimson lips,
"and have not had a chance of speaking a word, except to strangers like
myself who don't know a soul."

That, then, was the cause of the little indisposition which had obtained
me the honor of attending her. I indulged myself in a mild sarcasm to
that effect, but it was lost upon her. She gazed at me solemnly with her
large black eyes, which shone like beads.

"I am really ill," she said, "but it has nothing to do with not seeing
anybody, though that's dull. There's nothing for me to do but take a
bath in the morning, and a drive in the afternoon, and go to bed very
early. Good gracious! it's enough to drive me mad!"

"Try Jersey," I suggested.

"No, I'll not try Jersey," she said. "I mean to make my way here. Don't
you know anybody, doctor, that would take pity on a poor stranger?"

"I am sorry to say no," I answered.

She frowned at that, and looked disappointed. I was about to ask her how
she knew the Seniors, when she spoke again.

"Do you have many visitors come to Guernsey late in the autumn, as late
as October?" she inquired.

"Not many," I answered; "a few may arrive who intend to winter here."

"A dear young friend of mine came here last autumn," she said, "alone,
as I am, and I've been wondering, ever since I've been here, however she
would get along among such a set of stiff, formal, stand-offish folks.
She had not money enough for a dash, or that would make a difference, I
suppose."

"Not the least," I replied, "if your friend came without any
introductions."

"What a dreary winter she'd have!" pursued my patient, with a tone of
exultation. "She was quite young, and as pretty as a picture. All the
young men would know her, I'll be bound, and you among them, Dr. Martin.
Any woman who isn't a fright gets stared at enough to be known again."

Could this woman know any thing of Olivia? I looked at her more
earnestly and critically. She was not a person I should like Olivia to
have any thing to do with. A coarse, ill-bred, bold woman, whose eyes
met mine unabashed, and did not blink under my scrutiny. Could she be
Olivia's step-mother, who had been the ruin of her life?

"I'd bet a hundred to one you know her," she said, laughing and showing
all her white teeth. "A girl like her couldn't go about a little poky
place like this without all the young men knowing her. Perhaps she left
the island in the spring. I have asked at all the drapers' shops, but
nobody recollects her. I've very good news for her if I could find
her--a slim, middle-sized girl, with a clear, fair skin, and gray eyes,
and hair of a bright brown. Stay, I can show you her photograph."

She put into my hands an exquisite portrait of Olivia, taken in
Florence. There was an expression of quiet mournfulness in the face,
which touched me to the core of my heart. I could not put it down and
speak indifferently about it. My heart beat wildly, and I felt tempted
to run off with the treasure and return no more to this woman.

"Ah! you recognize her!" she exclaimed triumphantly.

"I never saw such a person in Guernsey," I answered, looking steadily
into her face. A sullen and gloomy expression came across it, and she
snatched the portrait out of my hand.

"You want to keep it a secret," she said, "but I defy you to do it. I am
come here to find her, and find her I will. She hasn't drowned herself,
and the earth hasn't swallowed her up. I've traced her as far as here,
and that I tell you. She crossed in the Southampton boat one dreadfully
stormy night last October--the only lady passenger--and the stewardess
recollects her well. She landed here. You must know something about
her."

"I assure you I never saw that girl here," I replied, evasively. "What
inquiries have you made after her?"

"I've inquired here, and there, and everywhere," she said. "I've done
nothing else ever since I came. It is of great importance to her, as
well as to me, that I should find her. It's a very anxious thing when a
girl like that disappears and is never heard of again, all because she
has a little difference with her friends. If you could help me to find
her you would do her family a very great service."

"Why do you fix upon me?" I inquired. "Why did you not send for one of
the resident doctors? I left Guernsey some time ago."

"You were here last winter," she said; "and you're a young man, and
would notice her more."

"There are other young doctors in Guernsey," I remarked.

"Ah! but you've been in London," she answered, "and I know something of
Dr. Senior. When you are in a strange place you catch at any chance of
an acquaintance."

"Come, be candid with me," I said. "Did not Messrs. Scott and Brown send
you here?"

The suddenness of my question took her off her guard and startled her.
She hesitated, stammered, and finally denied it with more than natural
emphasis.

"I could take my oath I don't know any such persons," she answered. "I
don't know whom you mean, or what you mean. All I want is quite honest.
There is a fortune waiting for that poor girl, and I want to take her
back to those who love her, and are ready to forgive and forget every
thing. I feel sure you know something of her. But no body except me and
her other friends have any thing to do with it."

"Well," I said, rising to take my leave, "all the information I can give
you is, that I never saw such a person here, either last winter or
since. It is quite possible she went on to Jersey, or to Granville, when
the storm was over. That she did not stay in Guernsey, I am quite sure."

I went away in a fever of anxiety. The woman, who was certainly not a
lady, had inspired me with a repugnance that I could not describe. There
was an ingrain coarseness about her--a vulgarity excessively distasteful
to me as in any way connected with Olivia. The mystery which surrounded
her was made the deeper by it. Surely, this person could not be related
to Olivia! I tried to guess in what relationship to her she could
possibly stand. There was the indefinable delicacy and refinement of a
lady, altogether independent of her surroundings, so apparent in Olivia,
that I could not imagine her as connected by blood with this woman. Yet
why and how should such a person have any right to pursue her? I felt
more chafed than I had ever done about Olivia's secret.

I tried to satisfy myself with the reflection that I had put Tardif on
his guard, and that he would protect her. But that did not set my mind
at ease. I never knew a mother yet who believed that any other woman
could nurse her sick child as well as herself; and I could not be
persuaded that even Tardif would shield Olivia from danger and trouble
as I could, if I were only allowed the privilege. Yet my promise to
Julia bound me to hold no communication with her. Besides, this was
surely no time to occupy myself with any other woman in the world than
my mother. She herself, good, and amiable, and self-forgetting, as she
was, might feel a pang of jealousy, and I ought not to be the one to add
a single drop of bitterness to the cup she was drinking.

On the other hand, I was distracted at the thought that this stranger
might discover the place of Olivia's retreat, from which there was no
chance of escape if it were once discovered. A hiding-place like Sark
becomes a trap as soon as it is traced out. Should this woman catch the
echo of those rumors which had circulated so widely through Guernsey
less than three months ago--and any chance conversation with one of our
own people might bring them to her ears--then farewell to Olivia's
safety and concealment. Here was the squall which had been foretold by
Jack. I cursed the idle curiosity of mine which had exposed her to this
danger.

I had strolled down some of the quieter streets of the town while I was
turning this affair over in my mind, and now, as I crossed the end of
Rue Haute, I caught sight of Kate Daltrey turning into a milliner's
shop. There was every reasonable probability that she would not come out
again soon, for I saw a bonnet reached out of the window. If she were
gone to buy a bonnet, she was safe for half an hour, and Julia would be
alone. I had felt a strong desire to see Julia ever since I returned
home. My mind was made up on the spot. I knew her so well as to be
certain that, if I found her in a gentle mood, she would, at any rate,
release me from the promise she had extorted from me when she was in the
first heat of her anger and disappointment. It was a chance worth
trying. If I were free to declare to Olivia my love for her, I should
establish a claim upon her full confidence, and we could laugh at
further difficulties. She was of age, and, therefore, mistress of
herself. Her friends, represented by this odious woman, could have no
legal authority over her.

I turned shortly up a side-street, and walked as fast as I could toward
the house which was to have been our home. By a bold stroke I might
reach Julia's presence. I rang, and the maid who answered the bell
opened wide eyes of astonishment at seeing me there. I passed by
quickly.

"I wish to speak to Miss Dobrée," I said. "Is she in the drawing-room?"

"Yes, sir," she answered, in a hesitating tone.

I waited for nothing more, but knocked at the drawing-room door for
myself, and heard Julia call, "Come in."



CHAPTER THE TWENTY-SEVENTH.

SET FREE.


Julia looked very much the same as she had done that evening when I came
reluctantly to tell her that my heart was not in her keeping, but
belonged to another. She wore the same kind of fresh, light muslin
dress, with ribbons and lace about it, and she sat near the window, with
a piece of needle-work in her hands; yet she was not sewing, and her
hands lay listlessly on her lap. But, for this attitude of dejection, I
could have imagined that it was the same day and the same hour, and that
she was still ignorant of the change in my feelings toward her. If it
had not been for our perverse fate, we should now be returning from our
wedding-trip, and receiving the congratulations of our friends. A
mingled feeling of sorrow, pity, and shame, prevented me from advancing
into the room. She looked up to see who was standing in the doorway, and
my appearance there evidently alarmed and distressed her.

"Martin!" she cried.

"May I come in and speak to you, Julia?" I asked.

"Is my aunt worse?" she inquired, hurriedly. "Are you come to fetch me
to her?"

"No, no, Julia," I said; "my mother is as well as usual, I hope. But
surely you will let me speak to you after all this time?"

"It is not a long time," she answered.

"Has it not been long to you?" I asked. "It seems years to me. All life
has changed for me. I had no idea then of my mother's illness."

"Nor I," she said, sighing deeply.

"If I had known it," I continued, "all this might not have happened.
Surely, the troubles I shall have to bear must plead with you for me!"

"Yes, Martin," she answered; "yes, I am very sorry for you."

She came forward and offered me her hand, but without looking into my
face. I saw that she had been crying, for her eyes were red. In a tone
of formal politeness she asked me if I would not sit down. I considered
it best to remain standing, as an intimation that I should not trouble
her with my presence for long.

"My mother loves you very dearly, Julia," I ventured to say, after a
long pause, which she did not seem inclined to break. I had no time to
lose, lest Kate Daltrey should come in, and it was a very difficult
subject to approach.

"Not more than I love her," she said, warmly. "Aunt Dobrée has been as
good to me as any mother could have been. I love her as dearly as my
mother. Have you seen her since I was with her this afternoon?"

"No. I have just come from visiting a very curious patient, and have not
been home yet."

I hoped Julia would catch at the word curious, and make some inquiries
which would open a way for me; but she seemed not to hear it, and
another silence fell upon us both. For the life of me I could not utter
a syllable of what I had come to say.

"We were talking of you," she said at length, in a harried and thick
voice. "Aunt is in great sorrow about you. It preys upon her day and
night that you will be dreadfully alone when she is gone,
and--and--Martin, she wishes to know before she dies that the girl in
Sark will become your wife."

The word struck like a shot upon my ear and brain. What! had Julia and
my mother been arranging between them my happiness and Olivia's safety
that very afternoon? Such generosity was incredible. I could not believe
I had heard aright.

"She has seen the girl," continued Julia, in the same husky tone, which
she could not compel to be clear and calm; "and she is convinced she is
no adventuress. Johanna says the same. They tell me it is unreasonable
and selfish in me to doom you to the dreadful loneliness I feel. If Aunt
Dobrée asked me to pluck out my right eye just now, I could not refuse.
It is something like that, but I have promised to do it. I release you
from every promise you ever made to me, Martin."

"Julia!" I cried, crossing to her and bending over her with more love
and admiration than I had ever felt before; "this is very noble, very
generous."

"No," she said, bursting into tears; "I am neither noble nor generous. I
do it because I cannot help myself, with aunt's white face looking so
imploringly at me. I do not give you up willingly to that girl in Sark.
I hope I shall never see her or you for many, many years. Aunt says you
will have no chance of marrying her till you are settled in a practice
somewhere; but you are free to ask her to be your wife. Aunt wants you
to have somebody to love you and care for you after she is gone, as I
should have done."

"But you are generous to consent to it," I said again.

"So," she answered, wiping her eyes, and lifting up her head; "I thought
I was generous; I thought I was a Christian, but it is not easy to be a
Christian when one is mortified, and humbled, and wounded. I am a great
disappointment to myself; quite as great as you are to me. I fancied
myself very superior to what I am. I hope you may not be disappointed in
that girl in Sark."

The latter words were not spoken in an amiable tone, but this was no
time for criticising Julia. She had made a tremendous sacrifice, that
was evident; and a whole sacrifice without any blemish is very rarely
offered up nowadays, however it may have been in olden times. I could
not look at her dejected face and gloomy expression without a keen sense
of self-reproach.

"Julia," I said, "I shall never be quite happy--no, not with Olivia as
my wife--unless you and I are friends. We have grown up together too
much as brother and sister, for me to have you taken right out of my
life without a feeling of great loss. It is I who would lose a right
hand or a right eye in losing you. Some day we must be friends again as
we used to be."

"It is not very likely," she answered; "but you had better go now,
Martin. It is very painful to me for you to be here."

I could not stay any longer after that dismissal. Her hand was lying on
her lap, and I stooped down and kissed it, seeing on it still the ring I
had given her when we were first engaged. She did not look at me or bid
me good-by; and I went out of the house, my veins tingling with shame
and gladness. I met Captain Carey coming up the street, with a basket of
fine grapes in his hand. He appeared very much amazed.

"Why, Martin!" he exclaimed; "can you have been to see Julia?"

"Yes," I answered.

"Reconciled?" he said, arching his eyebrows, which were still dark and
bushy though his hair was grizzled.

"Not exactly," I replied, with a stiff smile, exceedingly difficult to
force; "nothing of the sort indeed. Captain, when will you take me
across to Sark?"

"Come, come! none of that, Martin," he said; "you're on honor, you know.
You are pledged to poor Julia not to visit Sark again."

"She has just set me free," I answered; and out of the fulness of my
heart I told him all that had just passed between us. His eyes
glistened, though a film came across them which he had to wipe away.

"She is a noble girl," he ejaculated; "a fine, generous, noble girl. I
really thought she'd break her heart over you at first, but she will
come round again now. We will have a run over to Sark to-morrow."

I felt myself lifted into a third heaven of delight all that evening. My
mother and I talked of no one but Olivia. The present rapture so
completely eclipsed the coming sorrow, that I forgot how soon it would
be upon me. I remember now that my mother neither by word nor sign
suffered me to be reminded of her illness. She listened to my
rhapsodies, smiling with her divine, pathetic smile. There is no love,
no love at all, like that of a mother!



CHAPTER THE TWENTY-EIGHTH.

A BRIGHT BEGINNING.


Not the next day, which was wet and windy, but the day following, did
Captain Carey take me over to Sark. I had had time to talk over all my
plans for the future with my mother, and I bore with me many messages
from her to the girl I was about to ask to become my wife.

Coxcomb as I was, there was no doubt in my mind that I could win Olivia.

To explain my coxcombry is not a very easy task. I do not suppose I had
a much higher sense of my own merits than such as is common to man. I
admit I was neither shy nor nervous on the one hand, but on the other I
was not blatantly self-conceited. It is possible that my course through
life hitherto--first as an only son adored by his mother, and secondly
as an exceedingly eligible _parti_ in a circle where there were very few
young men of my rank and family, and where there were twenty or more
marriageable women to one unmarried man--had a great deal to do with my
feeling of security with regard to this unknown, poor, and friendless
stranger. But, added to this, there was Olivia's own frank, unconcealed
pleasure in seeing me, whenever I had had a chance of visiting her, and
the freedom with which she had always conversed with me upon any topic
except that of her own mysterious position. I was sure I had made a
favorable impression upon her. In fact, when I had been talking with
her, I had given utterance to brighter and clearer thoughts than I had
ever been conscious of before. A word from her, a simple question,
seemed to touch the spring of some hidden treasure of my brain, and I
had surprised myself by what I had been enabled to say to her. It was
this, probably more than her beauty, which had drawn me to her and made
me happy in her companionship. No, I had never shown myself
contemptible, but quite the reverse, in her presence. No doubt or
misgiving assailed me as the yacht carried us out of St. Sampson's
Harbor.

Swiftly we ran across, with a soft wind drifting over the sea and
playing upon our faces, and a long furrow lying in the wake of our boat.
It was almost low tide when we reached the island--the best time for
seeing the cliffs. They were standing well out of the water, scarred and
chiselled with strange devices, and glowing in the August sunlight with
tints of the most gorgeous coloring, while their feet, swathed with
brown seaweed, were glistening with the dashing of the waves. I had seen
nothing like them since I had been there last, and the view of these
wild, rugged crags, with their regal robes of amber and gold and silver,
almost oppressed me with delight. If I could but see Olivia on this
summit!

The currents and the wind had been in favor of our running through the
channel between Sark and Jethou, and so landing at the Creux Harbor, on
the opposite coast of the island to the Havre Gosselin. I crossed in
headlong haste, for I was afraid of meeting with Julia's friends, or
some of my own acquaintances who were spending the summer months there.
I found Tardif's house completely deserted. The only sign of life was a
family of hens clucking about the fold.

The door was not fastened, and I entered, but there was nobody there. I
stood in the middle of the kitchen and called, but there was no answer.
Olivia's door was ajar, and I pushed it a little more open. There lay
books I had lent her on the table, and her velvet slippers were on the
floor, as if they had only just been taken off. Very worn and brown were
the little slippers, but they reassured me she had been wearing them a
short time ago.

I returned through the fold and mounted the bank that sheltered the
house, to see if I could discover any trace of her, or Tardif, or his
mother. All the place seemed left to itself. Tardif's sheep were
browsing along the cliffs, and his cows were tethered here and there,
but nobody appeared to be tending them. At last I caught sight of a head
rising from behind a crag, the rough shock head of a boy, and I shouted
to him, making a trumpet with my hands.

"Where is neighbor Tardif?" I called.

"Down below there," he shouted back again, pointing downward to the
Havre Gosselin. I did not wait for any further information, but darted
off down the long, steep gulley to the little strand, where the pebbles
were being lapped lazily by the ripple of the lowering tide. Tardif's
boat was within a stone's throw, and I saw Olivia sitting in the stern
of it. I shouted again with a vehemence which made them both start.

"Come back, Tardif," I cried, "and take me with you."

The boat was too far off for me to see how my sudden appearance affected
Olivia. Did she turn white or red at the sound of my voice? By the time
it neared the shore, and I plunged in knee-deep to meet it, her face was
bright with smiles, and her hands were stretched out to help me over the
boat's side.

If Tardif had not been there, I should have kissed them both. As it was,
I tucked up my wet legs out of reach of her dress, and took an oar,
unable to utter a word of the gladness I felt.

I recovered myself in a few seconds, and touched her hand, and grasped
Tardif's with almost as much force as he gripped mine.

"Where are you going to?" I asked, addressing neither of them in
particular.

"Tardif was going to row me past the entrance to the Gouliot Caves,"
answered Olivia, "but we will put it off now. We will return to the
shore, and hear all your adventures, Dr. Martin. You come upon us like a
phantom, and take an oar in ghostly silence. Are you really, truly
there?"

"I am no phantom," I said, touching her hand again. "No, we will not go
back to the shore. Tardif shall row us to the caves, and I will take you
into them, and then we two will return along the cliffs. Would you like
that, mam'zelle?"

"Very much," she answered, the smile still playing about her face. It
was brown and freckled with exposure to the sun, but so full of health
and life as to be doubly beautiful to me, who saw so many wan and sickly
faces. There was a bloom and freshness about her, telling of pure air,
and peaceful hours and days spent in the sunshine. I was seated on the
bench before Tardif, with my back to him, and Olivia was in front of
me--she, and the gorgeous cliffs, and the glistening sea, and the
cloudless sky overhead. No, there is no language on earth that could
paint the rapture of that moment.

"Doctor," said Tardif's deep, grave voice behind me, "your mother, is
she better?"

It was like the sharp prick of a poniard, which presently you knew must
pierce your heart.

The one moment of rapture had fled. The paradise, that had been about me
for an instant, with no hint of pain, faded out of my sight. But Olivia
remained, and her face grew sad, and her voice low and sorrowful, as she
leaned forward to speak to me.

"I have been so grieved for you," she said. "Your mother came to see me
once, and promised to be my friend. Is it true? Is she so very ill?"
"Quite true," I answered, in a choking voice.

We said no more for some minutes, and the splash of the oars in the
water was the only sound. Olivia's air continued sad, and her eyes were
downcast, as if she shrank from looking me in the face.

"Pardon me, doctor," said Tardif in our own dialect, which Olivia could
not understand, "I have made you sorry when you were having a little
gladness. Is your mother very ill?"

"There is no hope, Tardif," I answered, looking round at his honest and
handsome face, full of concern for me.

"May I speak to you as an old friend?" he asked. "You love mam'zelle,
and you are come to tell her so?"

"What makes you think that?" I said.

"I see it in your face," he answered, lowering his voice, though he knew
Olivia could not tell what we were saying. "Your marriage with
mademoiselle your cousin was broken off--why? Do you suppose I did not
guess? I knew it from the first-week you stayed with us. Nobody could
see mam'zelle as we see her, without loving her."

"The Sark folks say you are in love with her yourself, Tardif," I said,
almost against my will, and certainly without any intention beforehand
of giving expression to such a rumor.

His lips contracted and his face saddened, but he met my eyes frankly.

"It is true," he answered; "but what then? If it had only pleased God to
make me like you, or that she should be of my class, I would have done
my utmost to win her. But that is impossible! See, I am nothing else
than a servant in her eyes. I do not know how to be any thing else, and
I am content. She is as far above my reach as one of the white clouds up
yonder. To think of myself as any thing but her servant would be
irreligious."

"You are a good fellow, Tardif," I exclaimed.

"God is the judge, of that," he said, with a sigh. "Mam'zelle thinks of
me only as her servant. 'My good Tardif, do this, or do that.' I like
it. I do not know any happier moment than when I hold her little boots
in my hand and brush them. You see she is as helpless and tender as my
little wife was; but she is very much higher than my poor little wife.
Yes, I love her as I love the blue sky, and the white clouds and the
stars shining in the night. But it will be quite different between her
and you."

"I hope so," I thought to myself.

"You do not feel like a servant," he continued, his oars dipping a
little too deeply and setting the boat a-rocking. "By-and-by, when you
are married, she will look up to you and obey you. I do not understand
altogether why the good God has made this difference between us two; but
I see it and feel it. It would be fitting for you to be her husband; it
would be a shame to her to become my wife."

"Are you grieved about it, Tardif?" I asked.

"No, no," he answered; "we have always been good friends, you and I,
doctor. No, you shall marry her, and I will be happy. I will come to
visit you sometimes, and she will call me her good Tardif. That is
enough for me."

"What are you talking about?" asked Olivia. It was impossible to tell
her, or to continue the conversation. Moreover, the narrow channel
between Breckhou and Sark is so strong in its current, that it required
both caution and skill to steer the boat amid the needle-like points of
the rocks. At last we gained one of the entrances to the caves, but we
could not pull the boat quite up to the strand. A few paces of shallow
water, clear as glass, with pebbles sparkling like gems beneath it, lay
between us and the caves.

"Tardif," I said, "you need not wait for us. We will return by the
cliffs."

"You know the Gouliot Caves as well as I do?" he replied, though in a
doubtful tone.

"All right!" I said, as I swung over the side of the boat into the
water, when I found myself knee-deep. Olivia looked from me to Tardif
with a flushed face--an augury that made my pulses leap. Why should her
face never change when he carried her in his arms? Why should she
shrink from me?

"Are you as strong as Tardif?" she asked, lingering and hesitating
before she would trust herself to me.

"Almost, if not altogether," I answered gayly. "I'm strong enough to
undertake to carry you without wetting the soles of your feet. Come, it
is not more than half a dozen yards."

She was standing on the bench I had just left, looking down at me with
the same vivid flush upon her cheeks and forehead, and with an uneasy
expression in her eyes. Before she could speak again I put my arms round
her, and lifted her down.

"You are quite as light as a feather," I said, laughing, as I carried
her to the strip of moist and humid strand under the archway in the
rocks. As I put her down I looked back to Tardif, and saw him regarding
us with grave and sorrowful eyes.

"Adieu!" he cried; "I am going to look after my lobster-pots. God bless
you both!"

He spoke the last words heartily; and we stood watching him as long as
he was in sight. Then we went on into the caves.



CHAPTER THE TWENTY-NINTH.

THE GOULIOT CAVES.


Olivia was very silent.

The coast of Sark shows some of the most fantastic workmanship of the
sea, but the Gouliot Caves are its wildest and maddest freak. A strong,
swift current sets in from the southwest, and being lashed into a giddy
fury by the lightest southwest wind, it has hewn out of the rock a
series of cells, and grottos, and alcoves, some of them running far
inland, in long, vaulted passages and corridors, with now and then a
shaft or funnel in the rocky roof, through which the light streams down
into recesses far from the low porches, which open from the sea. Here
and there a crooked, twisted tunnel forms a skylight overhead, and the
blue heavens look down through it like a far-off eye. You cannot number
the caverns and niches. Everywhere the sea has bored alleys and
galleries, or hewn out solemn aisles, with arches intersecting each
other, and running off into capricious furrows and mouldings. There are
innumerable refts, and channels, and crescents, and cupolas,
half-finished or only hinted at. There are chambers of every height and
shape, leading into one another by irregular portals, but all rough and
rude, as though there might have been an original plan, from which,
while the general arrangement is kept, every separate stroke perversely
diverged.

But another, and not a secondary, curiosity of this ocean-labyrinth is,
that it is the habitat of a multitude of marine creatures, not to be
seen at home in many other places. Except twice a month, at the
neaptides, the lower chambers are filled with the sea; and here live and
flourish thousands, upon thousands of those mollusks and zoophytes which
can exist only in its salt waters. The sides of the caves, as far as the
highest tides swept, were studded with crimson and purple and amber
mollusca, glistening like jewels in the light pouring down upon them
from the eyelet-openings overhead. Not the space of a finger-tip was
clear. Above them in the clefts of the rock hung fringes of delicate
ferns of the most vivid green, while here and there were nooks and
crevices of profound darkness, black with perpetual, unbroken shadow.

I had known the caves well when I was a boy, but it was many years since
I had been there. Now I was alone in them with Olivia, no other human
being in sight or sound of us. I had scarcely eyes for any sight but
that of her face, which had grown shy and downcast, and was generally
turned away from me. She would be frightened, I thought, if I spoke to
her in that lonesome place, I would wait till we were on the cliffs, in
the open eye of day.

She left my side for one moment while I was poking under a stone for a
young pieuvre, which had darkened the little pool of water round it with
its inky fluid. I heard her utter an exclamation of delight, and I gave
up my pursuit instantly to learn what was giving her pleasure. She was
stooping down to look beneath a low arch, not more than two feet high,
and I knelt down beside her. Beyond lay a straight narrow channel of
transparent water, blue from a faint reflected light, with smooth,
sculptured walls of rock, clear from mollusca, rising on each side of
it. Level lines of mimic waves rippled monotonously upon it, as if it
was stirred by some soft wind which we could not feel. You could have
peopled it with tiny boats flitting across it, or skimming lightly down
it. Tears shone in Olivia's eyes.

"It reminds me so of a canal in Venice," she said, in a tremulous voice.

"Do you know Venice?" I asked; and the recollection of her portrait
taken in Florence came to my mind. Well, by-and-by I should have a right
to hear about all her wanderings.

"Oh, yes!" she answered; "I spent three months there once, and this
place is like it."

"Was it a happy time?" I inquired, jealous of those tears.

"It was a hateful time," she said, vehemently. "Don't let us talk of it.
I hate to remember it. Why cannot we forget things, Dr. Martin? You, who
are so clever, can tell me that."

"That is simple enough," I said, smiling. "Every circumstance of our
life makes a change in the substance of the brain, and, while that
remains sound and in vigor, we cannot forget. To-day is being written on
our brain now. You will have to remember this, Olivia."

"I know I shall remember it," she answered, in a low tone.

"You have travelled a great deal, then?" I pursued, wishing her to talk
about herself, for I could scarcely trust my resolution to wait till we
were out of the caves. "I love you with all my heart and soul" was on my
tongue's end.

"We travelled nearly all over Europe," she replied.

I wondered whom she meant by "we." She had never used the plural pronoun
before, and I thought of that odious woman in Guernsey--an unpleasant
recollection.

We had wandered back to the opening where Tardif had left us. The rapid
current between us and Breckhou was running in swift eddies, which
showed the more plainly because the day was calm, and the open sea
smooth. Olivia stood near me; but a sort of chilly diffidence had crept
over me, and I could not have ventured to press too closely to her, or
to touch her with my hand.

"How have you been content to live here?" I asked.

"This year in Sark has saved me," she answered, softly.

"What has it saved you from?" I inquired, with intense eagerness. She
turned her face full upon me, with a world of reproach in her gray eyes.

"Dr. Martin," she said, "why will you persist in asking me about my
former life? Tardif never does. He never implies by a word or look that
he wishes to know more than I choose to tell. I cannot tell you any
thing about it."

I felt uncomfortably that she was drawing a comparison unfavorable to me
between Tardif and myself--the gentleman, who could not conquer or
conceal his desire to fathom a mystery, and the fisherman, who acted as
if there were no mystery at all. Yet Olivia appeared more grieved than
offended; and when she knew how I loved her she would admit that my
curiosity was natural. She should know, too, that I was willing to take
her as she was, with all the secrets of her former life kept from me.
Some day I would make her own I was as generous as Tardif.

Just then my ear caught for the first time a low boom-boom, which had
probably been sounding through the caves for some minutes.

"Good Heavens!" I ejaculated.

Yet a moment's thought convinced me that, though there might be a little
risk, there was no paralyzing danger. I had forgotten the narrowness of
the gully through which alone we could gain the cliffs. From the open
span of beach where we were now standing, there was no chance of leaving
the caves except as we had come to them, by a boat; for on each side a
crag ran like a spur into the water. The comparatively open space
permitted the tide to lap in quietly, and steal imperceptibly higher
upon its pebbles. But the low boom I heard was the sea rushing in
through the throat of the narrow outlet through which lay our only means
of escape. There was not a moment to lose. Without a word, I snatched up
Olivia in my arms, and ran back into the caves, making as rapidly as I
could for the long, straight passage.

Neither did Olivia speak a word or utter a cry. We found ourselves in a
low tunnel, where the water was beginning to flow in pretty strongly. I
set her down for an instant, and tore off my coat and waistcoat. Then I
caught her up again, and strode along over the slippery, slimy masses of
rock which lay under my feet, covered with seaweed.

"Olivia," I said, "I must have my right hand free to steady myself with.
Put both your arms round my neck, and cling to me so. Don't touch my
arms or shoulders."

Yet the clinging of her arms about my neck, and her cheek close to mine,
almost unnerved me. I held her fast with my left arm, and steadied
myself with my right. We gained in a minute or two the mouth of the
tunnel. The drift was pouring into it with a force almost too great for
me, burdened as I was. But there was the pause of the tide, when the
waves rushed out again in white floods, leaving the water comparatively
shallow. There were still six or eight yards to traverse before we could
reach an archway in the cliffs, which would land us in safety in the
outer caves. Across this small space the tide came in strongly, beating
against the foot of the rocks, and rebounding with great force. There
was some peril; but we had no alternative. I lifted Olivia a little
higher against my shoulder, for her long serge dress wrapped dangerously
around us both; and then, waiting for the pause in the throbbing of the
tide, I dashed hastily across.

One swirl of the water coiled about us, washing up nearly to my throat,
and giving me almost a choking sensation of dread; but before a second
could swoop down upon us I had staggered half-blinded to the arch, and
put down Olivia in the small, secure cave within it. She had not spoken
once. She did not seem able to speak now. Her large, terrified eyes
looked up at me dumbly, and her face was white to the lips. I clasped
her in my arms once more, and kissed her forehead and lips again and
again in a paroxysm of passionate love and gladness.

"Thank God!" I cried. "How I love you, Olivia!"

I had told her only a few minutes before that the brain is ineffaceably
stamped with the impress of every event in our lives. But how much more
deeply do some events burn themselves there than others' I see it all
now--more clearly, it seems to me, than my eyes saw it then. There is
the huge, high entrance to the outer caves where we are standing, with a
massive lintel of rocks overhead, all black but for a few purple and
gray tints scattered across the blackness. Behind us the sea is
glistening, and prismatic colors play upon the cliffs. Shadows fall from
rocks we cannot see. Olivia stands before me, pale and terrified, the
water running from her heavy dress, which clings about her slender
figure. She shrinks away from me a pace or two.

"Hush!" she cries, in a tone of mingled pain and dread--"hush!"

There was something so positive, so prohibitory in her voice and
gesture, that my heart contracted, and a sudden chill of despondency ran
through me. But I could not be silent now. It was impossible for me to
hold my peace, even at her bidding.

"Why do you say hush?" I asked, peremptorily. "I love you, Olivia. Is
there any reason why I should not love you?"

"Yes," she said, very slowly and with quivering lips. "I was married
four years ago, and my husband is living still!"



CHAPTER THE THIRTIETH.

A GLOOMY ENDING.


Olivia's answer struck me like an electric shock. For some moments I was
simply stunned, and knew neither what she had said, nor where we were.

I suppose half a minute had elapsed before I fairly received the meaning
of her words into my bewildered brain. It seemed as if they were
thundering in my ears, though she had uttered them in a low, frightened
voice. I scarcely understood them when I looked up and saw her leaning
against the rock, with her hands covering her face.

"Olivia!" I cried, stretching out my arms toward her, as though she
would flutter back to them and lay her head again where it had been
resting upon my shoulder, with her face against my neck.

But she did not see my gesture, and the next moment I knew that she
could never let me hold her in my arms again. I dared not even take one
step nearer to her.

"Olivia," I said again, after another minute or two of troubled silence,
with no sound but the thunders of the sea reverberating through the
perilous strait where we had almost confronted death together--"Olivia,
is it true?"

She bowed her head still lower upon her hands, in speechless
confirmation. A stricken, helpless, cowering child she seemed to me,
standing there in her drenched clothing. An unutterable tenderness,
altogether different from the feverish passion of a few minutes ago,
filled my heart as I looked at her.

"Come," I said, as calmly as I could speak, "I am at any rate your
doctor, and I am bound to take care of you. You must not stay here wet
and cold. Let us make haste back to Tardif's, Olivia."

I drew her hand down from her face and through my arm, for we had still
to re-enter the outer cave, and to return through a higher gallery,
before we could reach the cliffs above. I did not glance at her. The
road was very rough, strewed with huge bowlders, and she was compelled
to receive my help. But we did not speak again till we were on the
cliffs, in the eye of day, with our faces and our steps turned toward
Tardif's farm.

"Oh!" she cried, suddenly, in a tone that made my heart ache the keener,
"how sorry I am!"

"Sorry that I love you?" I asked, feeling that my love was growing every
moment in spite of myself. The sun shone on her face, which was just
below my eyes. There was an expression of sad perplexity and questioning
upon it, which kept away every other sign of emotion. She lifted her
eyes to me frankly, and no flush of color came over her pale cheeks.

"Yes," she answered; "it is such a miserable, unfortunate thing for you.
But how could I have helped it?"

"You could not help it," I said.

"I did not mean to deceive you," she continued--"neither you nor any
one. When I fled away from him I had no plan of any kind. I was just
like a leaf driven about by the wind, and it tossed me here. I did not
think I ought to tell any one I was married. I wish I could have
foreseen this. Why did God let me have that accident in the spring? Why
did he let you come over to see me?"

"Are you surprised that I love you?" I asked.

Now I saw a subtle flush steal across her face, and her eyes fell to the
ground.

"I never thought of it till this afternoon," she murmured. "I knew you
were going to marry your cousin Julia, and I knew I was married, and
that there could be no release from that. All my life is ruined, but you
and Tardif made it more bearable. I did not think you loved me till I
saw your face this afternoon."

"I shall always love you," I cried, passionately, looking down on the
shining, drooping head beside me, and the sad face and listless arms
hanging down in an attitude of dejection. She seemed so forlorn a
creature that I wished I could take her to my heart again; but that was
impossible now.

"No," she answered in her calm, sorrowful voice. "When you see clearly
that it is an evil thing, you will conquer it. There will be no hope
whatever in your love for me, and it will pass away. Not soon, perhaps;
I can scarcely wish you to forget me soon. Yet it would be wrong for you
to love me now. Why was I driven to marry him so long ago?"

A sharp, bitter tone rang through her quiet voice, and for a moment she
hid her face in her hands.

"Olivia," I said, "it is harder upon me than you can think, or I can
tell."

She had not the faintest notion of how hard this trial was. I had
sacrificed every plan and purpose of my life in the hope of winning her.
I had cast away, almost as a worthless thing, the substantial prosperity
which had been within my grasp, and now that I stretched out my hand for
the prize, I found it nothing but an empty shadow. Deeper even than this
lay the thought of my mother's bitter disappointment.

"Your husband must have treated you very badly, before you would take
such a desperate step as this," I said again, after a long silence,
scarcely knowing what I said.

"He treated me so ill," said Olivia, with the same hard tone in her
voice, "that when I had a chance of escape it seemed as if God Himself
opened the door for me. He treated me so ill that, if I thought there
was any fear of him finding me out here, I would rather a thousand times
you had left me to die in the caves."

That brought to my mind what I had almost forgotten--the woman whom my
imprudent curiosity had brought into pursuit; of her. I felt ready to
curse my folly aloud, as I did in my heart, for having gone to Messrs.
Scott and Brown.

"Olivia," I said, "there is a woman in Guernsey who has some clew to
you--"

But I could say no more, for I thought she would have fallen to the
ground in her terror. I drew her hand through my arm, and hastened to
reassure her.

"No harm can come to you," I continued, "while Tardif and I are here to
protect you. Do not frighten yourself; we will defend you from every
danger."

"Martin," she whispered--and the pleasant familiarity of my name spoken
by her gave me a sharp pang, almost of gladness--"no one can help me or
defend me. The law would compel me to go back to him. A woman's heart
may be broken without the law being broken. I could prove nothing that
would give me a right to be free--nothing. So I took it into my own
hands. I tell you I would rather have been drowned this afternoon. Why
did you save me?"

I did not answer, except by pressing her hand against my side. I hurried
her on silently toward the cottage. She was shivering in her cold, wet
dress, and trembling with fear. It was plain to me that even her fine
health should not be trifled with, and I loved her too tenderly, her
poor, shivering, trembling frame, to let her suffer if I could help it.
When we reached the fold-yard gate, I stopped her for a moment to speak
only a few words.

"Go in." I said, "and change, every one of your wet clothes. I will see
you again, once again, when we can talk with one another calmly. God
bless and take care of you, my darling!"

She smiled faintly, and laid her hand in mine.

"You forgive me?" she said.

"Forgive you!" I repeated, kissing the small brown hand lingeringly; "I
have nothing to forgive."

She went on across the little fold and into the house, without looking
back toward me. I could see her pass through the kitchen into her own
room, where I had watched her through the struggle between life and
death, which had first made her dear to me. Then I made my way, blind
and deaf, to the edge of the cliff, seeing nothing, hearing-nothing. I
flung myself down on the turf with my face to the ground, to hide my
eyes from the staring light of the summer sun.

Already it seemed a long time since I had known that Olivia was married.
The knowledge had lost its freshness and novelty, and the sting of it
had become a rooted sorrow. There was no mystery about her now. I almost
laughed, with a resentful bitterness, at the poor guesses I had made.
This was the solution, and it placed her forever out of my reach. As
with Tardif, so she could be nothing for me now, but as the blue sky,
and the white clouds, and the stars shining in the night. My poor
Olivia! whom I loved a hundredfold more than I had done even this
morning. This morning I had been full of my own triumph and gladness.
Now I had nothing in my heart but a vast pity and reverential tenderness
for her.

Married? That was what she had said. It shut out all hope for the
future. She must have been a mere child four years ago; she looked very
young and girlish still. And her husband treated her ill--my Olivia, for
whom I had given up all I had to give. She said the law would compel her
to return to him, and I could do nothing. I could not interfere even to
save her from a life which was worse to her than death.

My heart was caught in a vice, and there was no escape from the torture
of its relentless grip. Whichever way I looked there was sorrow and
despair. I wished, with a faint-heartedness I had never felt before,
that Olivia and I had indeed perished together down in the caves where
the tide was now sweeping below me.

"Martin!" said a clear, low, tender tone in my ear, which could never be
deaf to that voice. I looked up at Olivia without moving. My head was at
her feet, and I laid my hand upon the hem of her dress.

"Martin," she said again, "see, I have brought you Tardifs coat in place
of your own. You must not lie here in this way. Captain Carey's yacht is
waiting for you below."

I staggered giddily when I stood on my feet, and only Olivia's look of
pain steadied me. She had been weeping bitterly. I could not trust
myself to look in her face again. At any rate my next duty was to go
away without adding to her distress, if that were possible. Tardif was
standing behind her, regarding us both with great concern.

"Doctor," he said, "when I came in from my lobster-pots, the captain
sent a message by me to say the sun would be gone down before you reach
Guernsey. He has come round to the Havre Gosselin. I'll walk down the
cliff with you."

I should have said no, but Olivia caught at his words eagerly.

"Yes, go, my good Tardif," she cried, "and bring me word that Dr. Martin
is safe on board.--Good-by!"

Her hand in mine again for a moment, with its slight pressure. Then she
was gone, Tardif was tramping down the stony path before me, speaking to
me over his shoulder.

"It has not gone well, then, doctor?" he said.

"She will tell you," I answered, briefly, not knowing how much Olivia
might wish him to know.

"Take care of mam'zelle," I said, when we had reached the top of the
ladder, and the little boat from the yacht was dancing at the foot of
it. "There is some danger ahead, and you can protect her better than I."

"Yes, yes," he replied; "you may trust her with me. But God knows I
should have been glad if it had gone well with you."



CHAPTER THE THIRTY-FIRST.

A STORY IN DETAIL.


"Well?" said Captain Carey, as I set my foot on the deck. His face was
all excitement; and he put his arm affectionately through mine.

"It is all wrong," I answered, gloomily.

"You don't mean that she will not have you?" he exclaimed.

I nodded, for I had no spirit to explain the matter just then.

"By George!" he cried; "and you've thrown over Julia, and offended all
our Guernsey folks, and half broken your poor mother's heart, all for
nothing!"

The last consideration was the one that stung me to the quick. It _had_
half broken my mother's heart. No one knew better than I that it had
without doubt tended to shorten her fleeting term of life. At this
moment she was waiting for me to bring her good news--perhaps the
promise that Olivia had consented to become my wife before her own last
hour arrived; for my mother and I had even talked of that. I had thought
it a romantic scheme when my mother spoke of it, but my passion had
fastened eagerly upon it, in spite of my better judgment. These were the
tidings she was waiting to hear from my lips.

When I reached home I found her full of dangerous excitement. It was
impossible to allay it without telling her either an untruth or the
whole story. I could not deceive her, and with a desperate calmness I
related the history of the day. I tried to make light of my
disappointment, but she broke down into tears and wailings.

"Oh, my boy!" she lamented; "and I did so want to see you happy before I
died: I wanted to leave some one who could comfort you; and Olivia would
have comforted you and loved you when I am gone! You had set your heart
upon her. Are you sure it is true? My poor, poor Martin, you must forget
her now. It becomes a sin for you to love her."

"I cannot forget her," I said; "I cannot cease to love her. There can be
no sin in it as long as I think of her as I do now."

"And there is poor Julia!" moaned my mother.

Yes, there was Julia; and she would have to be told all, though she
would rejoice over it. Of course, she would rejoice; it was not in human
nature, at least in Julia's human nature, to do otherwise. She had
warned me against Olivia; had only set me free reluctantly. But how was
I to tell her? I must not leave to my mother the agitation of imparting
such tidings. I couldn't think of deputing the task to my father. There
was no one to do it but myself.

My mother passed a restless and agitated night, and I, who sat up with
her, was compelled to listen to all her lamentation. But toward the
morning she fell into a heavy sleep, likely to last for some hours. I
could leave her in perfect security; and at an early hour I went down to
Julia's house, strung up to bear the worst, and intending to have it all
out with her, and put her on her guard before she paid her daily visit
to our house. She must have some hours for her excitement and rejoicing
to bubble over, before she came to talk about it to my mother.

"I wish to see Miss Dobrée," I said to the girl who quickly answered my
noisy peal of the house-bell.

"Please, sir,'" was her reply, "she and Miss Daltrey are gone to Sark
with Captain Carey."

"Gone to Sark!" I repeated, in utter amazement.

"Yes, Dr. Martin. They started quite early because of the tide, and
Captain Carey's man brought the carriage to take them to St. Sampson's.
I don't look for them back before evening. Miss Dobrée said I was to
come, with her love, and ask how Mrs. Dobrée is to-day, and if she's
home in time she'll come this evening; but if she's late she'll come
to-morrow morning."

"When did they make up their minds to go to Sark?" I inquired,
anxiously.

"Only late last night, sir," she answered. "Cook had settled with Miss
Dobrée to dine early to-day; but then Captain Carey came in, and after
he was gone she said breakfast must be ready at seven this morning in
their own rooms while they were dressing; so they must have settled it
with Captain Carey last night."

I turned away very much surprised and bewildered, and in an irritable
state which made the least thing jar upon me. Curiosity, which had slept
yesterday, or was numbed by the shock of my disappointment, was
feverishly awake to-day. How little I knew, after all, of the mystery
which surrounded Olivia! The bitter core of it I knew, but nothing of
the many sheaths and envelops which wrapped it about. There might be
some hope, some consolation to be found wrapped up with it. I must go
again to Sark in the steamer on Monday, and hear Olivia tell me all she
could tell of her history.

Then, why were Julia and Kate Daltrey gone to Sark? What could they have
to do with Olivia? It made me almost wild with anger to think of them
finding Olivia, and talking to her perhaps of me and my
love--questioning her, arguing with her, tormenting her! The bare
thought of those two badgering my Olivia was enough to drive me frantic.

In the cool twilight, Julia and Kate Daltrey were announced. I was about
to withdraw from my mother's room, in conformity with the etiquette
established among us, when Julia recalled me in a gentler voice than she
had used toward me since the day of my fatal confession.

"Stay, Martin," she said; "what we have to tell concerns you more than
any one."

I sat down again by my mother's sofa, and she took my hand between both
her own, fondling it in the dusk.

"It is about Olivia," I said, in as cool a tone as I could command.

"Yes," answered Julia; "we have seen her, and we have found out why she
has refused you. She is married already."

"She told me so yesterday," I replied.

"Told you so yesterday!" repeated Julia, in an accent of chagrin. "If we
had only known that, we might have saved ourselves the passage across to
Sark."

"My dear Julia," exclaimed my mother, feverishly, "do tell us all about
it, and begin at the beginning."

There was nothing Julia liked so much, or could do so well, as to give a
circumstantial account of any thing she had done. She could relate
minute details with so much accuracy, without being exactly tedious,
that when one was lazy or unoccupied it was pleasant to listen. My
mother enjoyed, with all the delight of a woman, the small touches by
which Julia embellished her sketches. I resigned myself to hearing a
long history, when I was burning to ask one or two questions and have
done with the topic.

"To begin at the beginning, then," said Julia, "dear Captain Carey came
into town very late last night to talk to us about Martin, and how the
girl in Sark had refused him. I was very much astonished, very much
indeed! Captain Carey said that he and dear Johanna had come to the
conclusion that the girl felt some delicacy, perhaps, because of
Martin's engagement to me. We talked it over as friends, and thought of
you, dear aunt, and your grief and disappointment, till all at once I
made up my mind in a moment. 'I will go over to Sark and see the girl
myself,' I said. 'Will you?' said Captain Carey. 'Oh, no, Julia, it will
be too much for you.' 'It would have been a few weeks ago,' I said; 'but
now I could do any thing to give Aunt Dobrée a moment's happiness.'"

"God bless you, Julia!" I interrupted, going across to her and kissing
her cheek impetuously.

"There, don't stop me, Martin," she said, earnestly. "So it was arranged
off-hand that Captain Carey should send for us at St. Sampson's this
morning, and take us over to Sark. You know Kate has never been yet. We
had a splendid passage, and landed at the Creux, where the yacht was to
wait till we returned. Kate was in raptures with the landing-place, and
the lovely lane leading up into the island. We went on past Vaudin's Inn
and the mill, and turned down the nearest way to Tardifs. Kate said she
never felt any air like the air of Sark. Well, you know that brown pool,
a very brown pool, in the lane leading to the Havre Gosselin? Just
there, where there are some low, weather-beaten trees meeting overhead
and making a long green isle, with the sun shining down through the
knotted branches, we saw all in a moment a slim, erect, very
young-looking girl coming toward us. She was carrying her bonnet in her
hand, and her hair curled in short, bright curls all over her head. I
knew in an instant that it was Miss Ollivier."

She paused for a minute. How plainly I could see the picture! The
arching trees, and the sunbeams playing fondly with her shining golden
hair! I held my breath to listen.

"What completely startled me," said Julia, "was that Kate suddenly
darted forward and ran to meet her, crying 'Olivia!'"

"How does she know her?" I exclaimed.

"Hush. Martin! Don't interrupt me. The girl went so deadly pale, I
thought she was going to faint, but she did not. She stood for a minute
looking at us, and then she burst into the most dreadful fit of crying!

"I ran to her, and made her sit down on a little bank of turf close by,
and gave her my smelling-bottle, and did all I could to comfort her.
By-and-by, as soon as she could speak, she said to Kate, 'How did you
find me out?' and Kate told her she had not the slightest idea of
finding her there. 'Dr. Martin Dobrée, of Guernsey, told me you were
looking for me, only yesterday,' she said.

"That took us by surprise, for Kate had not the faintest idea of seeing
her. I have always thought her name was Ollivier, and so did Kate. 'For
pity's sake,' said the girl, 'if you have any pity, leave me here in
peace. For God's sake do not betray me!'

"I could hardly believe it was not a dream. There was Kate standing over
us, looking very stern and severe, and the girl was clinging to me--to
_me_, as if I were her dearest friend. Then all of a sudden up came old
Mother Renouf, looking half crazed, and began to harangue us for
frightening mam'zelle. Tardif, she said, would be at hand in a minute or
two, and he would take care of her from us and everybody else. 'Take me
away!' cried the girl, running to her; and the old woman tucked her hand
under her arm, and walked off with her in triumph, leaving us by
ourselves in the lane."

"But what does it all mean?" asked my mother, while I paced to and fro
in the dim room, scarcely able to control my impatience, yet afraid to
question Julia too eagerly.

"I can tell you," said Kate Daltrey, in her cold, deliberate tones; "she
is the wife of my half-brother, Richard Foster, who married her more
than four years ago in Melbourne; and she ran away from him last
October, and has not been heard of since."

"Then you know her whole history," I said, approaching her and pausing
before her. "Are you at liberty to tell it to us?"

"Certainly," she answered; "it is no secret. Her father was a wealthy
colonist, and he died when she was fifteen, leaving her in the charge of
her step-mother, Richard Foster's aunt. The match was one of the
stepmother's making, for Olivia was little better than a child. Richard
was glad enough to get her fortune, or rather the income from it, for of
course she did not come into full possession of it till she was of age.
One-third of it was settled upon her absolutely; the other two-thirds
came to her for her to do what she pleased with it. Richard was looking
forward eagerly to her being one-and-twenty, for he had made ducks and
drakes of his own property, and tried to do the same with mine. He would
have done so with his wife's; but a few weeks before Olivia's
twenty-first birthday, she disappeared mysteriously. There her fortune
lies, and Richard has no more power than I have to touch it. He cannot
even claim the money lying in the Bank of Australia, which has been
remitted by her trustees; nor can Olivia claim it without making
herself known to him. It is accumulating there, while both of them are
on the verge of poverty."

"But he must have been very cruel to her before she would run away!"
said my mother in a very pitiful voice. Poor mother! she had borne her
own sorrows dumbly, and to leave her husband had probably never occurred
to her.

"Cruel!" repeated Kate Daltrey. "Well, there are many kinds of cruelty.
I do not suppose Richard would ever transgress the limits of the law.
But Olivia was one of those girls who can suffer great torture--mental
torture I mean. Even I could not live in the same house with him, and
she was a dreamy, sensitive, romantic child, with as much knowledge of
the world as a baby. I was astonished to hear she had had daring enough
to leave him."

"But there must be some protection for her from the law," I said,
thinking of the bold, coarse woman, no doubt his associate, who was in
pursuit of Olivia. "She might sue for a judicial separation, at the
least, if not a divorce."

"I am quite sure nothing could be brought against him in a court of
law," she answered. "He is very wary and cunning, and knows very well
what he may do and what he may not do. A few months before Olivia's
flight, he introduced a woman as her companion--a disreputable woman
probably; but he calls her his cousin, and I do not know how Olivia
could prove her an unfit person to be with her. Our suspicions may be
very strong, but suspicion is not enough for an English judge and jury.
Since I saw her this morning I have been thinking of her position in
every light, and I really do not see any thing she could have done,
except running away as she did, or making up her mind to be deaf and
blind and dumb. There was no other alternative."

"But could he not be induced to leave her in peace if she gave up a
portion of her property?" I asked.

"Why should he?" she retorted. "If she was in his hands the whole of the
property would be his. He will never release her--never. No, her only
chance is to hide herself from him. The law cannot deal with wrongs like
hers, because they are as light as air apparently, though they are as
all-pervading as air is, and as poisonous as air can be. They are like
choke-damp, only not quite fatal. He is as crafty and cunning as a
serpent. He could prove himself the kindest, most considerate of
husbands, and Olivia next thing to an idiot. Oh, it is ridiculous to
think of pitting a girl like her against him!"

"If she had been older, or if she had had a child, she would never have
left him," said my mother's gentle and sorrowful voice.

"But what can be done for her?" I asked, vehemently and passionately.
"My poor Olivia! what can I do to protect her?"

"Nothing!" answered Kate Daltrey, coldly. "Her only chance is
concealment, and what a poor chance that is! I went over to Sark, never
thinking that your Miss Ollivier whom I had heard so much of was Olivia
Foster. It is an out-of-the-world place; but so much the more readily
they will find her, if they once get a clew. A fox is soon caught when
it cannot double; and how could Olivia escape if they only traced her to
Sark?"

My dread of the woman into whose hands my imbecile curiosity had put the
clew was growing greater every minute. It seemed as if Olivia could not
be safe now, day or night; yet what protection could I or Tardif give to
her?

"You will not betray her?" I said to Kate Daltrey, though feeling all
the time that I could not trust her in the smallest degree.

"I have promised dear Julia that," she answered.

I should fail to give you any clear idea of my state of mind should I
attempt to analyze it. The most bitter thought in it was that my own
imprudence had betrayed Olivia. But for me she might have remained for
years, in peace and perfect seclusion, in the home to which she had
drifted. Richard Foster and his accomplice must have lost all hope of
finding her during the many months that had elapsed between her
disappearance and my visit to their solicitors. That had put them on the
track again. If the law forced her back to her husband, it was I who had
helped him to find her. That was a maddening thought. My love for her
was hopeless; but what then? I discovered to my own amazement that I had
loved her for her sake, not my own. I had loved the woman in herself,
not the woman as my wife. She could never become that, but she was
dearer to me than ever. She was as far removed from me as from Tardif.
Could I not serve her with as deep a devotion and as true a chivalry as
his? She belonged to both of us by as unselfish and noble a bond as ever
knights of old were pledged to.

It became my duty to keep a strict watch over the woman who had come to
Guernsey to find Olivia. If possible I must decoy her away from the
lowly nest where my helpless bird was sheltered. She had not sent for me
again, but I called upon her the next morning professionally, and stayed
some time talking with her. But nothing resulted from the visit beyond
the assurance that she had not yet made any progress toward the
discovery of my secret. I almost marvelled at this, so universal had
been the gossip about my visits to Sark in connection with the
breaking-off of my engagement to Julia. But that had occurred in the
spring, and the nine-days' wonder had ceased before my patient came to
the island. Still, any accidental conversation might give her the
information, and open up a favorable chance for her. I must not let her
go across to Sark unknown to myself.

Neither did I feel quite safe about Kate Daltrey. She gave me the
impression of being as crafty and cunning as she described her
half-brother. Did she know this woman by sight? That was a question I
could not answer. There was another question hanging upon it. If she saw
her, would she not in some way contrive to give her a sufficient hint,
without positively breaking her promise to Julia? Kate Daltrey's name
did not appear in the newspapers among the list of visitors, as she was
staying in a private house; but she and this woman might meet any day in
the streets or on the pier.

Then the whole story had been confided by Julia at once to Captain Carey
and Johanna. That was quite natural; but it was equally natural for them
to confide it again to some one or two of their intimate friends. The
secret was already an open one among six persons. Could it be considered
a secret any longer? The tendency of such a singular story, whispered
from one to another, is to become in the long-run more widely circulated
than if it were openly proclaimed. I had a strong affection for my
circle of cousins, which widened as the circle round a stone cast into
water; but I knew I might as well try to arrest the eddying of such
waters as stop the spread of a story like Olivia's.

I had resolved, in the first access of my curiosity, to cross over to
Sark the next week, alone and independent of Captain Carey. Every Monday
the Queen of the Isles made her accustomed trip to the island, to convey
visitors there for the day.

I had not been on deck two minutes the following Monday when I saw my
patient step on after me. The last clew was in her fingers now, that was
evident.



CHAPTER THE THIRTY-SECOND.

OLIVIA GONE.


She did not see me at first; but her air was exultant and satisfied.
There was no face on board so elated and flushed. I kept out of her way
as long as I could without consigning myself to the black hole of the
cabin; but at last she caught sight of me, and came down to the
forecastle to claim me as an acquaintance.

"Ha! ha! Dr. Dobrée!" she exclaimed; "so you are going to visit Sark
too?"

"Yes," I answered, more curtly than courteously.

"You are looking rather low," she said, triumphantly--"rather blue, I
might say. Is there any thing the matter with you? Your face is as long
as a fiddle. Perhaps it is the sea that makes you melancholy."

"Not at all," I answered, trying to speak briskly; "I am an old sailor.
Perhaps you will feel melancholy by-and-by."

Luckily for me, my prophecy was fulfilled shortly after, for the day was
rough enough to produce uncomfortable sensations in those who were not
old sailors like myself. My tormentor was prostrate to the last moment.

When we anchored at the entrance of the Creux, and the small boats came
out to carry us ashore, I managed easily to secure a place in the first,
and to lose sight of her in the bustle of landing. As soon as my feet
touched the shore I started off at my swiftest pace for the Havre
Gosselin.

But I had not far to go, for at Vaudin's Inn, which stands at the top of
the steep lane running from the Creux Harbor, I saw Tardif at the door.
Now and then he acted as guide when young Vaudin could not fill that
office, or had more parties than he could manage; and Tardif was now
waiting the arrival of the weekly stream of tourists. He came to me
instantly, and we sat down on a low stone wall on the roadside, but
well out of hearing of any ears but each other's.

"Tardif," I said, "has mam'zelle told you her secret?"

"Yes, yes," he answered; "poor little soul! and she is a hundredfold
dearer to me now than before."

He looked as if he meant it, for his eyes moistened and his face
quivered.

"She is in great danger at this moment," I continued. "A woman sent by
her husband has been lurking about in Guernsey to get news of her, and
she has come across in the steamer to-day. She will be in sight of us in
a few minutes. There is no chance of her not learning where she is
living. But could we not hide Olivia somewhere? There are caves
strangers know nothing of. We might take her over to Breckhou. Be quick,
Tardif! we must decide at once what to do."

"But mam'zelle is not here. She is gone!" he answered.

"Gone!" I ejaculated. I could not utter another word; but I stared at
him as if my eyes could tear further information from him.

"Yes," he said; "that lady came last week with Miss Dobrée, your cousin.
Then mam'zelle told me all, and we took counsel together. It was not
safe for her to stay any longer, though I would have died for her
gladly. But what could be done? We knew she must go elsewhere, and the
next morning I rowed her over to Peter-Port in time for the steamer to
England. Poor little thing! poor little hunted soul!"

His voice faltered as he spoke, and he drew his fisherman's cap close
down over his eyes. I did not speak again for a minute or two.

"Tardif," I said at last, as the foremost among the tourists came in
sight, "did she leave no message for me?"

"She wrote a letter for you," he said, "the very last thing. She did not
go to bed that night, neither did I. I was going to lose her, doctor,
and she had been like the light of the sun to me. But what could I do?
She was terrified to death at the thought of her husband claiming her. I
promised to give the letter into your own hands; but we settled I must
not show myself in Peter-Port the day she left. Here it is."

It had been lying in his breast-pocket, and the edges were worn already.
He gave it to me lingeringly, as if loath to part with it. The tourists
were coming up in greater numbers, and I made a retreat hastily toward a
quiet and remote part of the cliffs seldom visited in Little Sark.

There, with the sea, which had carried her away from me, playing
buoyantly among the rocks, I read her farewell letter. It ran thus:

"My dear Friend: I am glad I can call you my friend, though nothing can
ever come of our friendship--nothing, for we may not see one another as
other friends do. My life was ruined four years ago, and every now and
then I see afresh how complete and terrible the ruin is. Yet if I had
known beforehand how your life would be linked with mine, I would have
done any thing in my power to save you from sharing in my ruin. Ought I
to have told you at once that I was married? But just that was my
secret, and it seemed so much safer while no one knew it but myself. I
did not see, as I do now, that I was acting a falsehood. I do not see
how I can help doing that. It is as shocking to me as to you. Do not
judge me harshly.

"I do not like to speak to you about my marriage. I was very young and
very miserable; any change seemed better than living with my
step-mother. I did not know what I was doing. The Saviour said, 'Father,
forgive them, for they know not what they do.' I hope I shall be
forgiven by you, and your mother, and God, for indeed I did not know
what I was doing.

"Last October when I escaped from them, it was partly because I felt I
should soon be as wicked as they. I do not think any one ought to remain
where there is no chance of being good. If I am wrong, remember I am not
old yet. I may learn what my duty is, and then I will do it. I am only
waiting to find out exactly what I ought to do, and then I will do it,
whatever it may be.

"Now I am compelled to flee away again from this quiet, peaceful home
where you and Tardif have been so good to me. I began to feel perfectly
safe here, and all at once the refuge fails me. It breaks my heart, but
I must go, and my only gladness is that it will be good for you.
By-and-by you will forget me, and return to your cousin Julia, and be
happy just as you once thought you should be--as you would have been but
for me. You must think of me as one dead. I am quite dead--lost to you.

"Yet I know you will sometimes wish to hear what has become of me.
Tardif will. And I owe you both more than I can ever repay. But it would
not be well for me to write often. I have promised Tardif that I will
write to him once a year, that you and he may know that I am still
alive. When there comes no letter, say, 'Olivia is dead!' Do not be
grieved for that; it will be the greatest, best release God can give me.
Say, 'Thank God, Olivia is dead!'

"Good-by, my dear friend; good-by, good-by!

"OLIVIA."

The last line was written in a shaken, irregular hand, and her name was
half blotted out, as if a tear had fallen upon it. I remained there
alone on the wild and solitary cliffs until it was time to return to the
steamer.

Tardif was waiting for me at the entrance of the little tunnel through
which the road passes down to the harbor. He did not speak at first, but
he drew out of his pocket an old leather pouch filled with yellow
papers. Among them lay a long curling tress of shining hair. He touched
it gently with his finger, as if it had feeling and consciousness.

"You would like to have it, doctor?" he said.

"Ay," I answered, and that only. I could not venture upon another word.



CHAPTER THE THIRTY-THIRD.

THE EBB OF LIFE.


There was nothing now for me to do but to devote myself wholly to my
mother.

I made the malady under which she was slowly sinking my special study.
There remained a spark of hope yet in my heart that I might by diligent,
intense, unflagging search, discover some remedy yet untried, or perhaps
unthought of. I succeeded only in alleviating her sufferings. I pored
over every work which treated of the same class of diseases. At last in
an old, almost-forgotten book, I came upon a simple medicament, which,
united with appliances made available by modern science, gave her
sensible relief, and without doubt tended to prolong her shortening
days. The agonizing thought haunted me that, had I come upon this
discovery at an earlier stage of her illness, her life might have been
spared for many years.

But it was too late now. She suffered less, and her spirits grew calm
and even. We even ventured, at her own wish, to spend a week together in
Sark, she and I--a week never to be forgotten, full of exquisite pain
and exquisite enjoyment to us both. We revisited almost every place
where we had been many years before, while I was but a child and she was
still young and strong. Tardif rowed us out in his boat under the
cliffs. Then we came home again, and she sank rapidly, as if the flame
of life had been burning too quickly in the breath of those innocent
pleasures.

Now she began to be troubled again with the dread of leaving me alone
and comfortless. There is no passage in Christ's farewell to His
disciples which, touches me so much as those words, "I will not leave
you comfortless; I will come unto you." My mother could not promise to
come back to me, and her dying vision looked sorrowfully into the future
for me. Sometimes she put her fear into words--faltering and foreboding
words; but it was always in her eyes, as they followed me wherever I
went with a mute, pathetic anxiety. No assurances of mine, no assumed
cheerfulness and fortitude could remove it. I even tried to laugh at
it, but my laugh only brought the tears into her eyes. Neither reason
nor ridicule could root it out--a root of bitterness indeed.

"Martin," she said, in her failing, plaintive voice, one evening when
Julia and I were both sitting with her, for we met now without any
regard to etiquette--"Martin, Julia and I have been talking about your
future life while you were away."

Julia's face flushed a little. She was seated on a footstool by my
mother's sofa, and looked softer and gentler than I had ever seen her
look. She had been nursing my mother with a single-hearted,
self-forgetful devotion that had often touched me, and had knit us to
one another by the common bond of an absorbing interest. Certainly I had
never leaned upon or loved Julia as I was doing now.

"There is no chance of your ever marrying Olivia now," continued my
mother, faintly, "and it is a sin for you to cherish your love for her.
That is a very plain duty, Martin."

"Such love as I cherish for Olivia will hurt neither her nor myself," I
answered. "I would not wrong her by a thought."

"But she can never be your wife," she said.

"I never think of her as my wife," I replied; "but I can no more cease
to love her than I can cease to breathe. She has become part of my life,
mother."

"Still, time and change must make a difference," she said. "You will
realize your loneliness when I am gone, though you cannot before. I want
to have some idea of what you will be doing in the years to come, before
we meet again. If I think at all, I shall be thinking of you, and I do
long to have some little notion. You will not mind me forming one poor
little plan for you once more, my boy?"

"No," I answered, smiling to keep back the tears that were ready to
start to my eyes.

"I scarcely know how to tell you," she said. "You must not be angry or
offended with us. But my dear Julia has promised me, out of pure love
and pity for me, you know, that if ever--how can I express it?--if you
ever wish you could return to the old plans--it may be a long time
first, but if you conquered your love for Olivia, and could go back, and
wished to go back to the time before you knew her--Julia will forget all
that has come between. Julia would consent to marry you if you asked her
to be your wife. O Martin, I should die so much happier if I thought you
would ever marry Julia, and go to live in the house I helped to get
ready for you!"

Julia's head had dropped upon my mother's shoulder, and her face was
hidden, while my mother's eyes sought mine beseechingly. I was
irresistibly overcome by this new proof of her love for both of us, for
I knew well what a struggle it must have been to her to gain the mastery
over her proper pride and just resentment. I knelt down beside her,
clasping her hand and my mother's in my own.

"Mother, Julia," I said, "I promise that if ever I can be true in heart
and soul to a wife, I will ask Julia to become mine. But it may be many
years hence; I dare not say how long. God alone knows how dear Olivia is
to me. And Julia is too good to waste herself upon so foolish a fellow.
She may change, and see some one she can love better."

"That is nonsense, Martin," answered Julia, with a ring of the old
sharpness in her tone; "at my age I am not likely to fall in love
again.--Don't be afraid, aunt; I shall not change, and I will take care
of Martin. His home is ready, and he will come back to me some day, and
it will all be as you wish."

I know that promise of ours comforted her, for she never lamented over
my coming solitude again.

I have very little more I can say about her. When I look back and try to
write more fully of those last, lingering days, my heart fails me. The
darkened room, the muffled sounds, the loitering, creeping, yet too
rapid hours! I had no time to think of Julia, of Olivia, or of myself; I
was wrapped up in her.

One evening--we were quite alone--she called me to come closer to her,
in that faint, far-off voice of hers, which seemed already to be
speaking from another world. I was sitting so near to her that I could
touch her with my hand, but she wanted me nearer--with my arm across
her, and my cheek against hers.

"My boy," she whispered, "I am going."

"Not yet, mother," I cried; "not yet! I have so much to say. Stay with
me a day or two longer."

"If I could," she murmured, every word broken with her panting breath,
"I would stay with you forever! Be patient with your father, Martin. Say
good-by for me to him and Julia. Don't stir. Let me die so!"

"You shall not die, mother," I said, passionately.

"There is no pain," she whispered--"no pain at all; it is taken away. I
am only sorry for my boy. What will he do when I am gone? Where are you,
Martin?"

"I am here, mother!" I answered--"close to you. O God! I would go with
you if I could."

Then she lay still for a time, pressing my arm about her with her feeble
fingers. Would she speak to me no more? Had the dearest voice in the
world gone away altogether into that far-off, and, to us, silent country
whither the dying go? Dumb, blind, deaf to _me_? She was breathing yet,
and her heart fluttered faintly against my arm. Would not my mother know
me again?

"O Martin!" she murmured, "there is great love in store for us all! I
did not know how great the love was till now!"

There had been a quicker, more irregular throbbing of her heart as she
spoke. Then--I waited, but there came no other pulsation. Suddenly I
felt as if I also must be dying, for I passed into a state of utter
darkness and unconsciousness.



CHAPTER THE THIRTY-FOURTH.

A DISCONSOLATE WIDOWER.


My senses returned painfully, with a dull and blunted perception that
some great calamity had overtaken me. I was in my mother's
dressing-room, and Julia was holding to my nostrils some sharp essence,
which had penetrated to the brain and brought back consciousness. My
father was sitting by the empty grate, sobbing and weeping vehemently.
The door into my mother's bedroom was closed. I knew instantly what was
going on there.

I suppose no man ever fainted without being ashamed of it. Even in the
agony of my awakening consciousness I felt the inevitable sting of shame
at my weakness and womanishness. I pushed away Julia's hand, and raised
myself. I got up on my feet and walked unsteadily and blindly toward the
shut door.

"Martin," said Julia, "you must not go back there. It is all over."

I heard my father calling me in a broken voice, and I turned to him. His
frame was shaken by the violence of his sobs, and he could not lift up
his head from his hands. There was no effort at self-control about him.
At times his cries grew loud enough to be heard all over the house.

"Oh, my son!" he said, "we shall never see any one like your poor mother
again! She was the best wife any man ever had! Oh, what a loss she is to
me!"

I could not speak of her just then, nor could I say a word to comfort
him. She had bidden me be patient with him, but already I found the task
almost beyond me. I told Julia I was going up to my own room for the
rest of the night, if there were nothing for me to do. She put her arms
round my neck and kissed me as if she had been my sister, telling me I
could leave every thing to her. Then I went away into the solitude that
had indeed begun to close around me.

When the heart of a man is solitary, there is no society for him even
among a crowd of friends. All deep love and close companionship seemed
stricken out of my life.

We laid her in the cemetery, in a grave where the wide-spreading
branches of some beech-trees threw a pleasant shadow over it during the
day. At times the moan of the sea could be heard there, when the surf
rolled in strongly upon the shore of Cobo Bay. The white crest of the
waves could be seen from it, tossing over the sunken reefs at sea; yet
it lay in the heart of our island. She had chosen the spot for herself,
not very long ago, when we had been there together. Now I went there
alone.

I counted my father and his loud grief as nothing. There was neither
sympathy nor companionship between us. He was very vehement in his
lamentations, repeating to every one who came to condole with us that
there never had lived such a wife, and his loss was the greatest that
man could bear. His loss was nothing to mine.

Yet I did draw a little nearer to him in the first few weeks of our
bereavement. Almost insensibly I fell into our old plan of sharing the
practice, for he was often unfit to go out and see our patients. The
house was very desolate now, and soon lost those little delicate traces
of feminine occupancy which constitute the charm of a home, and to which
we had been all our lives accustomed. Julia could not leave her own
household, even if it had been possible for her to return to her place
in our deserted dwelling. The flowers faded and died unchanged in the
vases, and there was no dainty woman's work lying about--that litter of
white and colored shreds of silk and muslin, which give to a room an
inhabited appearance. These were so familiar to me, that the total
absence of them was like the barrenness of a garden without flowers in
bloom.

My father did not feel this as I did, for he was not often at home after
the first violence of his grief had spent itself. Julia's house was open
to him in a manner it could not be open to me. I was made welcome there,
it is true; but Julia was not unembarrassed and at home with me. The
half-engagement renewed between us rendered it difficult to us both to
meet on the simple ground of friendship and relationship. Moreover, I
shrank from setting gossips' tongues going again on the subject of my
chances of marrying my cousin; so I remained at home, alone, evening
after evening, unless I was called out professionally, declining all
invitations, and brooding unwholesomely over my grief. There is no more
cowardly a way of meeting a sorrow. But I was out of heart, and no words
could better express the morbid melancholy I was sinking into.

There was some tedious legal business to go through, for my mother's
small property, bringing in a hundred a year, came to me on her death. I
could not alienate it, but I wished Julia to receive the income as part
payment of my father's defalcations. She would not listen to such a
proposal, and she showed me that she had a shrewd notion of the true
state of our finances. They were in such a state that if I left Guernsey
with my little income my father would positively find some difficulty in
making both ends meet; the more so as I was becoming decidedly the
favorite with our patients, who began to call him slightingly the "old
doctor." No path opened up for me in any other direction. It appeared as
if I were to be bound to the place which was no longer a home to me.

I wrote to this effect to Jack Senior, who was urging my return to
England. I could not bring myself to believe that this dreary,
monotonous routine of professional duties, of very little interest or
importance, was all that life should offer to me. Yet for the present my
duty was plain. There was no help for it.

I made some inquiries at the lodging-house in Vauvert Road, and learned
that the person who had been in search of Olivia had left Guernsey about
the time when I was so fully engrossed with my mother as to have but
little thought for any one else. Of Olivia there was neither trace nor
tidings. Tardif came up to see me whenever he crossed over from Sark,
but he had no information to give to me. The chances were that she was
in London; but she was as much lost to me as if she had been lying
beside my mother under the green turf of Foulon Cemetery.



CHAPTER THE THIRTY-FIFTH.

THE WIDOWER COMFORTED.


In this manner three months passed slowly away after my mother's death.
Dr. Dobrée, who was utterly inconsolable the first few weeks, fell into
all his old maundering, philandering ways again, spending hours upon his
toilet, and paying devoted attentions to every passable woman who came
across his path. My temper grew like touch-wood; the least spark would
set it in a blaze. I could not take such things in good part.

We had been at daggers-drawn for a day or two, he and I, when one
morning I was astonished by the appearance of Julia in our
consulting-room, soon after my father, having dressed himself
elaborately, had quitted the house. Julia's face was ominous, the upper
lip very straight, and a frown upon her brow. I wondered what could be
the matter, but I held my tongue. My knowledge of Julia was intimate
enough for me to hit upon the right moment for speech or silence--a rare
advantage. It was the time to refrain from speaking. Julia was no
termagant--simply a woman who had had her own way all her life, and was
so sure it was the best way that she could not understand why other
people should wish to have theirs.

"Martin," she began in a low key, but one that might run up to
shrillness if advisable, "I am come to tell you something that fills me
with shame and anger. I do not know how to contain myself. I could never
have believed that I could have been so blind and foolish. But it seems
as if I were doomed to be deceived and disappointed on every hand--I who
would not deceive or disappoint anybody in the world. I declare it makes
me quite ill to think of it. Just look at my hands, how they tremble."

"Your nervous system is out of order," I remarked.

"It is the world that is out of order," she said, petulantly; "I am well
enough. Oh, I do not know how ever I am to tell you. There are some
things it is a shame to speak of."

"Must you speak of them?" I asked.

"Yes; you must know, you will have to know all, sooner or later. If
there was any hope of it coming to nothing, I should try to spare you
this; but they are both so bent upon disgracing themselves, so deaf to
reason! If my poor, dear aunt knew of it, she could not rest in her
grave. Martin, cannot you guess? Are men born so dull that they cannot
see what is going on under their own eyes?"

"I have not the least idea of what you are driving at," I answered. "Sit
down, my dear Julia, and calm yourself. Shall I give you a glass of
wine?"

"No, no," she said, with a gesture of impatience. "How long is it since
my poor, dear aunt died?"

"You know as well as I do," I replied, wondering that she should touch
the wound so roughly. "Three months next Sunday."

"And Dr. Dobrée," she said, in a bitter accent--then stopped, looking me
full in the face. I had never heard her call my father Dr. Dobrée in my
life. She was very fond of him, and attracted by him, as most women
were, and as few women are attracted by me. Even now, with all the
difference in our age, the advantage being on my side, it was seldom I
succeeded in pleasing as much as he did. I gazed back in amazement at
Julia's dark and moody face.

"What now?" I asked. "What has my unlucky father been doing now?"

"Why," she exclaimed, stamping her foot, while the blood mantled to her
forehead, "Dr. Dobrée is in haste to take a second wife! He is indeed,
my poor Martin. He wishes to be married immediately to that viper, Kate
Daltrey."

"Impossible!" I cried, stung to the quick by these words. I remembered
my mother's mild, instinctive dislike to Kate Daltrey, and her harmless
hope that I would not go over to her side. Go over to her side! No. If
she set her foot into this house as my mother's successor, I would never
dwell under the same roof. As soon as my father made her his wife I
would cut myself adrift from them both. But he knew that; he would never
venture to outrage my mother's memory or my feelings in such a flagrant
manner.

"It is possible, for it is true," said Julia. She had not let her voice
rise above its low, angry key, and now it sank nearly to a whisper, as
she glanced round at the door. "They have understood each other these
four weeks. You may call it an engagement, for it is one; and I never
suspected them, not for a moment! He came down to my house to be
comforted, he said: his house was so dreary now. And I was as blind as a
mole. I shall never forgive myself, dear Martin. I knew he was given to
all that kind of thing, but then he seemed to mourn for my poor aunt so
deeply, and was so heart-broken. He made ten times more show of it than
you did. I have heard people say you bore it very well, and were quite
unmoved, but I knew better. Everybody said _he_ could never get over it.
Couldn't you take out a commission of lunacy against him? He must be mad
to think of such a thing."

"How did you find it out?" I inquired.

"Oh, I was so ashamed!" she said. "You see I had not the faintest shadow
of a suspicion. I had left them in the drawing-room to go up-stairs, and
I thought of something I wanted, and went back suddenly, and there they
were--his arm around her waist, and her head on his shoulder--he with
his gray hairs too! She says she is the same age as me, but she is forty
if she is a day. The simpletons! I did not know what to say, or how to
look. I could not get out of the room again as if I had not seen, for I
cried 'Oh!' at the first sight of them. Then I stood staring at them;
but I think they felt as uncomfortable as I did."

"What did they say?" I asked, sternly.

"Oh, he came up to me quite in his dramatic way, you know, trying to
carry it off by looking grand and majestic; and he was going to take my
hand and lead me to her, but I would not stir a step. 'My love,' he
said, 'I am about to steal your friend from you.' 'She is no friend of
mine,' I said, 'if she is going to be what all this intimates, I
suppose. I will never speak to her or you again, Dr. Dobrée.' Upon that
he began to weep, and protest, and declaim, while she sat still and
glared at me. I never thought her eyes could look like that. 'When do
you mean to be married?' I asked, for he made no secret of his intention
to make her his wife. 'What is the good of waiting?' he said, 'My home
is miserable with no woman in it.' 'Uncle,' I said, 'if you will promise
me to give up the idea of a second marriage, which is ridiculous at your
age, I will come back to you, in spite of all the awkwardness of my
position with regard to Martin. For my aunt's sake I will come back.'
Even an arrangement like this would be better than his marriage with
that woman--don't you think so?"

"A hundred times better," I said, warmly. "It was very good of you,
Julia. But he would not agree to that, would he?"

"He wouldn't hear of it. He swore that Kate was as dear to him as ever
my poor aunt was. He vowed he could not live without her and her
companionship. He maintained that his age did not make it ridiculous.
Kate hid her brazen face in her hands, and sobbed aloud.

"That made him ten times worse an idiot. He knelt down before her, and
implored her to look at him. I reminded him how all the island would
rise against him--worse than it did against you, Martin--and he declared
he did not care a fig for the island! I asked him how he would face the
Careys, and the Brocks, and the De Saumarez, and all the rest of them,
and he snapped his fingers at them all. Oh, he must be going out of his
mind."

I shook my head. Knowing him as thoroughly as a long and close study
could help me to know any man, I was less surprised than Julia, who had
only seen him from a woman's point of view, and had always been lenient
to his faults. Unfortunately, I knew my father too well.

"Then I talked to him about the duty he owed to our family name," she
resumed, "and I went so far as to remind him of what I had done to
shield him and it from disgrace, and he mocked at it--positively mocked
at it! He said there was no sort of parallel. It would be no dishonor to
our house to receive Kate into it, even if they were married at once.
What did it signify to the world that only three months had elapsed?
Besides, he did not mean to marry her for a month to come, as the house
would need beautifying for her--beautifying for her! Neither had he
spoken of it to you; but he had no doubt you would be willing to go on
as you have done."

"Never!" I said.

"I was sure not," continued Julia. "I told him I was convinced you would
leave Guernsey again, but he pooh-poohed that. I asked him how he was
to live without any practice, and he said his old patients might turn
him off for a while, but they would be glad to send for him again. I
never saw a man so obstinately bent upon his own ruin."

"Julia," I said, "I shall leave Guernsey before this marriage can come
off. I would rather break stones on the highway than stay to see that
woman in my mother's place. My mother disliked her from the first."

"I know it," she replied, with tears in her eyes, "and I thought it was
nothing but prejudice. It was my fault, bringing her to Guernsey. But I
could not bear the idea of her coming as mistress here. I said so
distinctly. 'Dr. Dobrée,' I said, 'you must let me remind you that the
house is mine, though you have paid me no rent for years. If you ever
take Kate Daltrey into it, I will put my affairs into a notary's hands.
I will, upon my word, and Julia Dobrée never broke her word yet.' That
brought him to his senses better than any thing. He turned very pale,
and sat down beside Kate, hardly knowing what to say. Then she began.
She said if I was cruel, she would be cruel too. Whatever grieved you,
Martin, would grieve me, and she would let her brother Richard Foster
know where Olivia was."

"Does she know where she is?" I asked, eagerly, in a tumult of surprise
and hope.

"Why, in Sark, of course," she replied.

"What! Did you never know that Olivia left Sark before my mother's
death?" I said, with a chill of disappointment. "Did I never tell you
she was gone, nobody knows where?"

"You have never spoken of her in my hearing, except once--you recollect
when, Martin? We have supposed she was still living in Tardif's house.
Then there is nothing to prevent me from carrying out my threat. Kate
Daltrey shall never enter this house as mistress."

"Would you have given it up for Olivia's sake?" I asked, marvelling at
her generosity.

"I should have done it for your sake," she answered, frankly.

"But," I said, reverting to our original topic, "if my father has set
his mind upon marrying Kate Daltrey, he will brave any thing."

"He is a dotard," replied Julia. "He positively makes me dread growing
old. Who knows what follies one may be guilty of in old age! I never
felt afraid of it before. Kate says she has two hundred a year of her
own, and they will go and live on that in Jersey, if Guernsey becomes
unpleasant to them. Martin, she is a viper--she is indeed. And I have
made such a friend of her! Now I shall have no one but you and the
Careys. Why wasn't I satisfied with Johanna as my friend?"

She stayed an hour longer, turning over this unwelcome subject till we
had thoroughly discussed every point of it. In the evening, after
dinner, I spoke to my father briefly but decisively upon the same topic.
After a very short and very sharp conversation, there remained no
alternative for me but to make up my mind to try my fortune once more
out of Guernsey. I wrote by the next mail to Jack Senior, telling him my
purpose, and the cause of it, and by return of post I received his
reply:


     "Dear old boy: Why shouldn't you come, and go halves with me?
     Dad says so. He is giving up shop, and going to live in the
     country at Fulham. House and practice are miles too big for
     me. 'Senior and Dobrée,' or 'Dobrée and Senior,' whichever you
     please. If you come I can pay dutiful attention to Dad without
     losing my customers. That is his chief reason. Mine is that I
     only feel half myself without you at hand. Don't think of
     saying no.

     "JACK."

It was a splendid opening, without question. Dr. Senior had been in good
practice for more than thirty years, and he had quietly introduced Jack
to the position he was about to resign. Yet I pondered over the proposal
for a whole week before agreeing to it. I knew Jack well enough to be
sure he would never regret his generosity; but if I went I would go as
junior partner, and with a much smaller proportion of the profits than
that proffered by Jack. Finally I resolved to accept the offer, and
wrote to him as to the terms upon which alone I would join him.



CHAPTER THE THIRTY-SIXTH.

FINAL ARRANGEMENTS.


I did not wait for my father to commit the irreparable folly of his
second marriage. Guernsey had become hateful to me. In spite of my
exceeding love for my native island, more beautiful in the eyes of its
people than any other spot on earth, I could no longer be happy or at
peace there. A few persons urged me to stay and live down my chagrin and
grief, but most of my friends congratulated me on the change in my
prospects, and bade me God-speed. Julia could not conceal her regret,
but I left her in the charge of Captain Carey and Johanna. She promised
to be my faithful correspondent, and I engaged to write to her
regularly. There existed between us the half-betrothal to which we had
pledged ourselves at my mother's urgent request. She would wait for the
time when Olivia was no longer the first in my heart; then she would be
willing to become my wife. But if ever that day came, she would require
me to give up my position in England, and settle down for life in
Guernsey.

Fairly, then, I was launched upon the career of a physician in the great
city. The completeness of the change suited me. Nothing here, in
scenery, atmosphere, or society, could remind me of the fretted past.
The troubled waters subsided into a dull calm, as far as emotional life
went. Intellectual life, on the contrary, was quickened in its current,
and day after day drifted me farther away from painful memories. To be
sure, the idea crossed me often that Olivia might be in London--even in
the same street with me. I never caught sight of a faded green dress but
my steps were hurried, and I followed till I was sure that the wearer
was not Olivia. But I was aware that the chances of our meeting were so
small that I could not count upon them. Even if I found her, what then?
She was as far away from me as though the Atlantic rolled between us. If
I only knew that she was safe, and as happy as her sad destiny could let
her be, I would be content. For this assurance I looked forward through
the long months that must intervene before her promised communication
would come to Tardif.

Thus I was thrown entirely upon my profession for interest and
occupation. I gave myself up to it with an energy that amazed Jack, and
sometimes surprised myself. Dr. Senior, who was an old veteran, loved it
with ardor for its own sake, was delighted with my enthusiasm. He
prophesied great things for me.

So passed my first winter in London.



CHAPTER THE THIRTY-SEVENTH.

THE TABLES TURNED.


A dreary season was that first winter in London.

It happened quite naturally that here, as in Guernsey, my share of the
practice fell among the lower and least important class of patients.
Jack Senior had been on the field some years sooner, and he was
London-born and London-bred. All the surroundings of his life fitted him
without a wrinkle. He was at home everywhere, and would have counted the
pulse of a duchess with as little emotion as that of a dairy-maid. On
the other hand, I could not accommodate myself altogether to haughty and
aristocratic strangers--though I am somewhat ante-dating later
experiences, for during the winter our fashionable clients were all out
of town, and our time comparatively unoccupied. To be at ease anywhere,
it was, at that time, essential to me to know something of the people
with whom I was associating--an insular trait, common to all those who
are brought up in a contracted and isolated circle.

Besides this rustic embarrassment which hung like a clog about me
out-of-doors, within-doors I missed wofully the dainty feminine ways I
had been used to. There was a trusty female servant, half cook, half
house-keeper, who lived in the front-kitchen and superintended our
household; but she was not at all the angel in the house whom I needed.
It was a well-appointed, handsome dwelling, but it was terribly gloomy.
The heavy, substantial leather chairs always remained undisturbed in
level rows against the wall, and the crimson cloth upon the table was as
bare as a billiard-table. A thimble lying upon it, or fallen on the
carpet and almost crushed by my careless tread, would have been as
welcome a sight to me as a blade of grass or a spring of water in some
sandy desert. The sound of a light foot and rustling dress, and low,
soft voice, would have been the sweetest music in my ears. If a young
fellow of eight-and-twenty, with an excellent appetite and in good
health, could be said to pine, I was pining for the pretty, fondling
woman's ways which had quite vanished out of my life.

At times my thoughts dwelt upon my semi-engagement to Julia. As soon as
I could dethrone the image of Olivia from its pre-eminence in my heart,
she was willing to welcome me back again--a prodigal suitor, who had
spent all his living in a far country. We corresponded regularly and
frequently, and Julia's letters were always good, sensible, and
affectionate. If our marriage, and all the sequel to it, could have been
conducted by epistles, nothing could have been more satisfactory. But I
felt a little doubtful about the termination of this Platonic
friendship, with its half-betrothal. It did not appear to me that
Olivia's image was fading in the slightest degree; no, though I knew her
to be married, though I was ignorant where she was, though there was not
the faintest hope within me that she would ever become mine.

During the quiet, solitary evenings, while Jack was away at some ball or
concert, to which I had no heart to go, my thoughts were pretty equally
divided between my lost mother and my lost Olivia--lost in such
different ways! It would have grieved Julia in her very soul if she
could have known how rarely, in comparison, I thought of her.

Yet, on the whole, there was a certain sweetness in feeling myself not
altogether cut off from womanly love and sympathy. There was a home
always open to me--a home, and a wife devotedly attached to me, whenever
I chose to claim them. That was not unpleasant as a prospect. As soon as
this low fever of the spirit was over, there was a convalescent hospital
to go to, where it might recover its original tone and vigor. At present
the fever had too firm and strong a hold for me to pronounce myself
convalescent; but if I were to believe all that sages had said, there
would come a time when I should rejoice over my own recovery.

Early in the spring I received a letter from Julia, desiring me to look
out for apartments, somewhere in my neighborhood, for herself, and
Johanna and Captain Carey. They were coming to London to spend two or
three months of the season. I had not had any task so agreeable since I
left Guernsey. Jack was hospitably anxious for them to come to our own
house, but I knew they would not listen to such a proposal. I found some
suitable rooms for them, however, in Hanover Street, where I could be
with them at any time in five minutes.

On the appointed day I met them at Waterloo Station, and installed them
in their new apartments.

It struck me that, notwithstanding the fatigue of the journey, Julia was
looking better and happier than I had seen her look for a long time. Her
black dress suited her, and gave her a style which she never had in
colors. Her complexion looked dark, but not sallow; and her brown hair
was certainly more becomingly arranged. Her appearance was that of a
well-bred, cultivated, almost elegant woman, of whom no man need be
ashamed. Johanna was simply herself, without the least perceptible
change. But Captain Carey again looked ten years younger, and was
evidently taking pains with his appearance. That suit of his had never
been made in Guernsey; it must have come out of a London establishment.
His hair was not so gray, and his face was less hypochondriac. He
assured me that his health had been wonderfully good all the winter. I
was more than satisfied, I was proud of all my friends.

"We want you to come and have a long talk with us to-morrow," said
Johanna; "it is too late to-night. We shall be busy shopping in the
morning, but can you come in the evening?"

"Oh, yes," I answered; "I am at leisure most evenings, and I count upon
spending them with you. I can escort you to as many places of amusement
as you wish to visit."

"To-morrow, then," she said, "we shall take tea at eight o'clock."

I bade them good-night with a lighter heart than I had felt for a long
while. I held Julia's hand the longest, looking into her face earnestly,
till it flushed and glowed a little under my scrutiny.

"True heart!" I said to myself, "true and constant! and I have nothing,
and shall have nothing, to offer it but the ashes of a dead passion.
Would to Heaven," I thought as I paced along Brook Street, "I had never
been fated to see Olivia!"

I was punctual to my time the next day. The dull, stiff drawing-room was
already invested with those tokens of feminine occupancy which I missed
so greatly in our much handsomer house. There were flowers blooming in
the centre of the tea-table, and little knick-knacks lay strewed about.
Julia's work-basket stood on a little stand near the window. There was
the rustle and movement of their dresses, the noiseless footsteps, the
subdued voices caressing my ear. I sat among them quiet and silent, but
revelling in this partial return of olden times. When Julia poured out
my tea, and passed it to me with her white hand, I felt inclined to kiss
her jewelled fingers. If Captain Carey had not been present I think I
should have done so.

We lingered over the pleasant meal as if time were made expressly for
that purpose, instead of hurrying over it, as Jack and I were wont to
do. At the close Captain Carey announced that he was about to leave us
alone together for an hour or two. I went down to the door with him, for
he had made me a mysterious signal to follow him. In the hall he laid
his hand upon my shoulder, and whispered a few incomprehensible
sentences into my ear.

"Don't think any thing of me, my boy. Don't sacrifice yourself for me.
I'm an old fellow compared to you, though I'm not fifty yet; everybody
in Guernsey knows that. So put me out of the question, Martin. 'There's
many a slip 'twixt the cup and the lip.' That I know quite well, my dear
fellow."

He was gone before I could ask for an explanation, and I saw him tearing
off toward Regent Street. I returned to the drawing-room, pondering over
his words. Johanna and Julia were sitting side by side on a sofa, in the
darkest corner of the room--though the light was by no means brilliant
anywhere, for the three gas-jets were set in such a manner as not to
turn on much gas.

"Come here, Martin," said Johanna; "we wish to consult you on a subject
of great importance to us all."

I drew up a chair opposite to them, and sat down, much as if it was
about to be a medical consultation. I felt almost as if I must feel
somebody's pulse, and look at somebody's tongue.

"It is nearly eight months since your poor dear mother died," remarked
Johanna.

Eight months! Yes; and no one knew what those eight months had been to
me--how desolate! how empty!

"You recollect," continued Johanna, "how her heart was set on your
marriage with Julia, and the promise you both made to her on her
death-bed?"

"Yes," I answered, bending forward and pressing Julia's hand, "I
remember every word."

There was a minute's silence after this; and I waited in some wonder as
to what this prelude was leading to.

"Martin," asked Johanna, in a solemn tone, "are you forgetting Olivia?"

"No," I said, dropping Julia's hand as the image of Olivia flashed
across me reproachfully, "not at all. What would you have me say? She is
as dear to me at this moment as she ever was."

"I thought you would say so," she replied; "I did not think yours was a
love that would quickly pass away, if it ever does. There are men who
can love with the constancy of a woman. Do you know any thing of her?"

"Nothing!" I said, despondently; "I have no clew as to where she may be
now."

"Nor has Tardif," she continued; "my brother and I went across to Sark
last week to ask him."

"That was very good of you," I interrupted.

"It was partly for our own sakes," she said, blushing faintly. "Martin,
Tardif says that if you have once loved Olivia, it is once for all. You
would never conquer it. Do you think that this is true? Be candid with
us."

"Yes," I answered, "it is true. I could never love again as I love
Olivia."

"Then, my dear Martin," said Johanna, very softly, "do you wish to keep
Julia to her promise?"

I started violently. What! Did Julia wish to be released from that
semi-engagement, and be free? Was it possible that any one else coveted
my place in her affections, and in the new house which we had fitted up
for ourselves? I felt like the dog in the manger. It seemed an
unheard-of encroachment for any person to come between my cousin Julia
and me.

"Do you ask me to set you free from your promise, Julia?" I asked,
somewhat sternly.

"Why, Martin," she said, averting her face from me, "you know I should
never consent to marry you, with the idea of your caring most for that
girl. No, I could never do that. If I believed you would ever think of
me as you used to do before you saw her, well, I would keep true to you.
But is there any hope of that?"

"Let us be frank with one another," I answered; "tell me, is there any
one else whom you would marry if I release you from this promise, which
was only given, perhaps, to soothe my mothers last hours?"

Julia hung her head, and did not speak. Her lips trembled. I saw her
take Johanna's hand and squeeze it, as if to urge her to answer the
question.

"Martin," said Johanna, "your happiness is dear to every one of us. If
we had believed there was any hope of your learning to love Julia as she
deserves, and as a man ought to love his wife, not a word of this would
have been spoken. But we all feel there is no such hope. Only say there
is, and we will not utter another word."

"No," I said, "you must tell me all now. I cannot let the question rest
here. Is there any one else whom Julia would marry if she felt quite
free?"

"Yes," answered Johanna, while Julia hid her face in her hands, "she
would marry my brother."

Captain Carey! I fairly gasped for breath. Such an idea had never once
occurred to me; though I knew she had been spending most of her time
with the Careys at the Vale. Captain Carey to marry! and to marry Julia!
To go and live in our house! I was struck dumb, and fancied that I had
heard wrongly. All the pleasant, distant vision of a possible marriage
with Julia, when my passion had died out, and I could be content in my
affection and esteem for her--all this vanished away, and left my whole
future a blank. If Julia wished for revenge--and when is not revenge
sweet to a jilted woman?--she had it now. I was as crestfallen, as
amazed, almost as miserable, as she had been. Yet I had no one to blame,
as she had. How could I blame her for preferring Captain Carey's love to
my _réchauffé_ affections?

"Julia," I said, after a long silence, and speaking as calmly as I
could, "do you love Captain Carey?"

"That is not a fair question to ask," answered Johanna. "We have not
been treacherous to you. I scarcely know how it has all come about. But
my brother has never asked Julia if she loves him; for we wished to see
you first, and hear how you felt about Olivia. You say you shall never
love again as you love her. Set Julia free then, quite free, to accept
my brother or reject him. Be generous, be yourself, Martin."

"I will," I said.--"My dear Julia, you are as free as air from all
obligation to me. You have been very good and very true to me. If
Captain Carey is as good and true to you, as I believe he will be, you
will be a very happy woman--happier than you would ever be with me."

"And you will not make yourself unhappy about it?" asked Julia, looking
up.

"No," I answered, cheerfully, "I shall be a merry old bachelor, and
visit you and Captain Carey, when we are all old folks. Never mind me,
Julia; I never was good enough for you. I shall be very glad to know
that you are happy."

Yet when I found myself in the street--for I made my escape as soon as I
could get away from them--I felt as if every thing worth living for were
slipping away from me. My mother and Olivia were gone, and here was
Julia forsaking me. I did not grudge her her new happiness. There was
neither jealousy nor envy in my feelings toward my supplanter. But in
some way I felt that I had lost a great deal since I entered their
drawing-room two hours ago.



CHAPTER THE THIRTY-EIGHTH.

OLIVIA'S HUSBAND.


I did not go straight home to our dull, gloomy, bachelor dwelling-place;
for I was not in the mood for an hour's soliloquy. Jack and I had
undertaken between us the charge of the patients belonging to a friend
of ours, who had been called out of town for a few days. I was passing
by the house, chewing the bitter cud of my reflections, and, recalling
this, I turned in to see if any messages were waiting there for us.
Lowry's footman told me a person had been with an urgent request that he
would go as soon as possible to No. 19 Bellringer Street. I did not know
the street, or what sort of a locality it was in.

"What kind of a person called?" I asked.

"A woman, sir; not a lady. On foot--poorly dressed. She's been here
before, and Dr. Lowry has visited the case twice. No. 19 Bellringer
Street. Perhaps you will find him in the case-book, sir."

I went in to consult the case-book. Half a dozen words contained the
diagnosis. It was the same disease, in an incipient form, of which my
poor mother died. I resolved to go and see this sufferer at once, late
as the hour was.

"Did the person expect some one to go to-night?" I asked, as I passed
through the hall.

"I couldn't promise her that, sir," was the answer. "I did say I'd send
on the message to you, and I was just coming with it, sir. She said
she'd sit up till twelve o'clock."

"Very good," I said.

Upon inquiry I found that the place was two miles away; and, as our old
friend Simmons was still on the cab-stand, I jumped into his cab, and
bade him drive me as fast as he could to No. 19 Bellringer Street. I
wanted a sense of motion, and a chance of scene. If I had been in
Guernsey, I should have mounted Madam, and had another midnight ride
round the island. This was a poor substitute for that; but the visit
would serve to turn my thoughts from Julia. If any one in London could
do the man good. I believed it was I; for I had studied that one malady
with my soul thrown into it.

"We turned at last into a shabby street, recognizable even in the
twilight of the scattered lamps as being a place for cheap
lodging-houses. There was a light burning in the second-floor windows of
No. 19; but all the rest of the front was in darkness. I paid Simmons
and dismissed him, saying I would walk home. By the time I turned to
knock at the door, it was opened quietly from within. A woman stood in
the doorway; I could not see her face, for the candle she had brought
with her was on the table behind her; neither was there light enough for
her to distinguish mine.

"Are you come from Dr. Lowry's?" she asked.

The voice sounded a familiar one, but I could not for the life of me
recall whose it was.

"Yes," I answered, "but I do not know the name of my patient here."

"Dr. Martin Dobrée!" she exclaimed, in an accent almost of terror.

I recollected her then as the person who had been in search of Olivia.
She had fallen back a few paces, and I could now see her face. It was
startled and doubtful, as if she hesitated to admit me. Was it possible
I had come to attend Olivia's husband?

"I don't know whatever to do!" she ejaculated; "he is very ill to-night,
but I don't think he ought to see _you_--I don't think he would."

"Listen to me," I said; "I do not think there is another man in London
as well qualified to do him good."

"Why?" she asked, eagerly.

"Because I have made this disease my special study," I answered. "Mind,
I am not anxious to attend him. I came here simply because my friend is
out of town. If he wishes to see me, I will see him, and do my best for
him. It rests entirely with himself."

"Will you wait here a few minutes?" she asked, "while I see what he
will do?"

She left me in the dimly-lighted hall, pervaded by a musty smell of
unventilated rooms, and a damp, dirty underground floor. The place was
altogether sordid, and dingy, and miserable. At last I heard her step
coming down the two flights of stairs, and I went to meet her.

"He will see you," she said, eying me herself with a steady gaze of
curiosity.

Her curiosity was not greater than mine. I was anxious to see Olivia's
husband, partly from the intense aversion I felt instinctively toward
him. He was lying back in an old, worn-out easy-chair, with a woman's
shawl thrown across his shoulders, for the night was chilly. His face
had the first sickly hue and emaciation of the disease, and was probably
refined by it. It was a handsome, regular, well-cut face, narrow across
the brows, with thin, firm lips, and eyes perfect in shape, but cold and
glittering as steel. I knew afterward that he was fifteen years older
than Olivia. Across his knees lay a shaggy, starved-looking cat, which
he held fast by the fore-paws, and from time to time entertained himself
by teasing and tormenting it. He scrutinized me as keenly as I did him.

"I believe we are in some sort connected. Dr. Martin Dobrée," he said,
smiling coldly; "my half-sister, Kate Daltrey, is married to your
father, Dr. Dobrée."

"Yes," I answered, shortly. The subject was eminently disagreeable to
me, and I had no wish to pursue it with him.

"Ay! she will make him a happy man," he continued, mockingly; "you are
not yourself married, I believe, Dr. Martin Dobrée?"

I took no notice whatever of his question, or the preceding remark, but
passed on to formal inquiries concerning his health. My close study of
his malady helped me here. I could assist him to describe and localize
his symptoms, and I soon discovered that the disease was as yet in a
very early stage.

"You have a better grip of it than Lowry," he said, sighing with
satisfaction. "I feel as if I were made of glass, and you could look
through me. Can you cure me?"

"I will do my best," I answered.

"So you all say," he muttered, "and the best is generally good for
nothing. You see I care less about getting over it than my wife does.
She is very anxious for my recovery."

"Your wife!" I repeated, in utter surprise; "you are Richard Foster, I
believe?"

"Certainly," he replied.

"Does your wife know of your present illness?" I inquired.

"To be sure," he answered; "let me introduce you to Mrs. Richard
Foster."

The woman looked at me with flashing eyes and a mocking smile, while Mr.
Foster indulged himself with extorting a long and plaintive mew from the
poor cat on his knees.

"I cannot understand," I said. I did not know how to continue my speech.
Though they might choose to pass as husband and wife among strangers,
they could hardly expect to impose upon me.

"Ah! I see you do not," said Mr. Foster, with a visible sneer. "Olivia
is dead."

"Olivia dead!" I exclaimed.

I repeated the words mechanically, as if I could not make any meaning
out of them. Yet they had been spoken with such perfect deliberation and
certainty that there seemed to be no question about the fact. Mr.
Foster's glittering eyes dwelt delightedly upon my face.

"You were not aware of it?" he said, "I am afraid I have been too
sudden. Kate tells us you were in love with my first wife, and
sacrificed a most eligible match for her. Would it be too late to open
fresh negotiations with your cousin? You see I know all your family
history."

"When did Olivia die?" I inquired, though my tongue felt dry and
parched, and the room, with his fiendish face, was swimming giddily
before my eyes.

"When was it, Carry?" he asked, turning to his wife.

"We heard she was dead on the first of October," she answered. "You
married me the next day."

"Ah, yes!" he said; "Olivia had been dead to me for more than twelve
months and the moment I was free I married her, Dr. Martin. We could not
be married before, and there was no reason to wait longer. It was quite
legal."

"But what proof have you?" I asked, still incredulous, yet with a heart
so heavy that it could hardly rouse itself to hope.

"Carry, have you those letters?" said Richard Foster.

She was away for a few minutes, while he leaned back again in his chair,
regarding nic with his half-closed, cruel eyes. I said nothing, and
resolved to betray no emotion. Olivia dead! my Olivia! I could not
believe it.

"Here are the proofs," said Mrs. Foster, reentering the room. She put
into my hand an ordinary certificate of death, signed by J. Jones, M.D.
It stated that the deceased, Olivia Foster, had died on September the
27th, of acute inflammation of the lungs. Accompanying this was a letter
written in a good handwriting, purporting to be from a clergyman or
minister, of what denomination it was not stated, who had attended
Olivia in her fatal illness. He said that she had desired him to keep
the place of her death and burial a secret, and to forward no more than
the official certificate of the former event. This letter was signed E.
Jones. No clew was given by either document as to the place where they
were written.

"Are you not satisfied?" asked Foster.

"No," I replied; "how is it, if Olivia is dead, that you have not taken
possession of her property?"

"A shrewd question," he said, jeeringly. "Why am I in these cursed poor
lodgings? Why am I as poor as Job, when there are twenty thousand pounds
of my wife's estate lying unclaimed? My sweet, angelic Olivia left no
will, or none in my favor, you may be sure; and by her father's will, if
she dies intestate or without children, his property goes to build
almshouses, or some confounded nonsense, in Melbourne. All she bequeaths
to me is this ring, which I gave to her on our wedding-day, curse her!"

He held out his hand, on the little finger of which shone a diamond,
which might, as far as I knew, be the one I had once seen in Olivia's
possession.

"Perhaps you do not know," he continued, "that it was on this very
point, the making of her will, or securing her property to me in some
way, that my wife took offence and ran away from me. Carry was just a
little too hard upon her, and I was away in Paris. But consider, I
expected to be left penniless, just as you see me left, and Carry was
determined to prevent it."

"Then you are sure of her death?" I said.

"So sure," he replied, calmly, "that we were married the next day.
Olivia's letter to me, as well as those papers, was conclusive of her
identity. Will you like to see it?"

Mrs. Foster gave me a slip of paper, on which were written a few lines.
The words looked faint, and grew paler as I read them. They were without
doubt Olivia's writing:

"I know that, you are poor, and I send you all I can spare--the ring you
once gave to me. I am even poorer than yourself, but I have just enough
for my last necessities. I forgive you, as I trust that God forgives
me."

       *       *       *       *       *

There was no more to be said or done. Conviction had been brought home
to me. I rose to take my leave, and Foster held out his hand to me,
perhaps with a kindly intention. Olivia's ring was glittering on it, and
I could not take it into mine.

"Well, well," he said, "I understand; I am sorry for you. Come again,
Dr. Martin Dobrée. If you know of any remedy for my ease, you are no
true man if you do not try it."

I went down the narrow staircase, closely followed by Mrs. Foster. Her
face had lost its gayety and boldness, and looked womanly and careworn,
as she laid her hand upon my arm before opening the house-door.

"For God's sake, come again," she said, "if you can do any thing for
him! We have money left yet, and I am earning more every day. We can pay
you well. Promise me you will come again."

"I can promise nothing to-night," I answered.

"You shall not go till you promise," she said, emphatically.

"Well, then, I promise," I answered, and she unfastened the chain almost
noiselessly, and opened the door into the street.



CHAPTER THE THIRTY-NINTH.

SAD SEWS.


A fine, drizzling rain was falling; I was just conscious of it as an
element of discomfort, but it did not make me quicken my steps. I
wanted no rapidity of motion now. There was nothing to be done, nothing
to look forward to, nothing to flee away from. Olivia was dead!

I had said the same thing again and again to myself, that Olivia was
dead to me; but at this moment I learned how great a difference there
was between the words as a figure of speech and as a terrible reality. I
could no longer think of her as treading the same earth--the same
streets, perhaps; speaking the same language; seeing the same daylight
as myself. I recalled her image, as I had seen her last in Sark; and
then I tried to picture her white face, with lips and eyes closed
forever, and the awful chill of death resting upon her. It seemed
impossible; yet the cuckoo-cry went on in my brain, "Olivia is dead--is
dead!"

I reached home just as Jack was coming in from his evening amusement. He
let me in with his latch-key, giving me a cheery greeting; but as soon
as we had entered the dining-room, and he saw my face, he exclaimed.
"Good Heavens! Martin, what has happened to you?"

"Olivia is dead," I answered.

His arm was about my neck in a moment, for we were like boys together
still, when we were alone. He knew all about Olivia, and he waited
patiently till I could put my tidings into words.

"It must be true," he said, though in a doubtful tone; "the scoundrel
would not have married again if he had not sufficient proof."

"She must have died very soon after my mother," I answered, "and I never
knew it!"

"It's strange!" he said. "I wonder she never got anybody to write to you
or Tardif."

There was no way of accounting for that strange silence toward us. We
sat talking in short, broken sentences, while Jack smoked a cigar; but
we could come to no conclusion about it. It was late when we parted, and
I went to bed, but not to sleep.

For as soon as the room was quite dark, visions of Olivia haunted me.
Phantasms of her followed one another rapidly through my brain. She had
died, so said the certificate, of inflammation of the lungs, after an
illness of ten days. I felt myself bound to go through every stage of
her illness, dwelling upon all her sufferings, and thinking of her as
under careless or unskilled attendance, with no friend at hand to take
care of her. She ought not to have died, with her perfect constitution.
If I had been there she should not have died.

About four o'clock Jack tapped softly upon the wall between our
bedrooms--it was a signal we had used when we were boys--as though to
inquire if I was all right; but it was quiet enough not to wake me if I
were asleep. It seemed like the friendly "Ahoy!" from a boat floating on
the same dark sea. Jack was lying awake, thinking of me as I was
thinking of Olivia. There was something so consolatory in this sympathy
that I fell asleep while dwelling upon it.

Upon going downstairs in the morning I found that Jack was already off,
having left a short note for me, saving he would visit my patients that
day. I had scarcely begun breakfast when the servant announced "a lady,"
and as the lady followed close upon his heels, I saw behind his shoulder
the familiar face of Johanna, looking extremely grave. She was soon
seated beside me, watching me with something of the tender, wistful gaze
of my mother. Her eyes were of the same shape and color, and I could
hardly command myself to speak calmly.

"Your friend Dr. John Senior called upon us a short time since," she
said; "and told us this sad, sad news."

I nodded silently.

"If we had only known it yesterday," she continued, "you would never
have heard what we then said. This makes so vast a difference. Julia
could not have become your wife while there was another woman living
whom you loved more. You understand her feeling?"

"Yes," I said; "Julia is right."

"My brother and I have been talking about the change this will make,"
she resumed. "He would not rob you of any consolation or of any future
happiness; not for worlds. He relinquishes all claim to or hope of
Julia's affection--"

"That would be unjust to Julia," I interrupted. "She must not be
sacrificed to me any longer. I do not suppose I shall ever marry--"

"You must marry, Martin," she interrupted in her turn, and speaking
emphatically; "you are altogether unfitted for a bachelor's life. It is
all very well for Dr. John Senior, who has never known a woman's
companionship, and who can do without it. But it is misery to you--this
cold, colorless life. No. Of all the men I ever knew, you are the least
fitted for a single life."

"Perhaps I am," I admitted, as I recalled my longing for some sign of
womanhood about our bachelor dwelling.

"I am certain of it," she said. "Now, but for our precipitation last
night, you would have gone naturally to Julia for comfort. So my brother
sends word that he is going back to Guernsey to-night, leaving us in
Hanover Street, where we are close to you. We have said nothing to Julia
yet. She is crying over this sad news--mourning for your sorrow. You
know that my brother has not spoken directly to Julia of his love; and
now all that is in the past, and is to be as if it had never been, and
we go on exactly as if we had not had that conversation yesterday."

"But that cannot be," I remonstrated. "I cannot consent to Julia wasting
her love and time upon me. I assure you most solemnly I shall never
marry my cousin now."

"You love her?" said Johanna.

"Certainly," I answered, "as my sister."

"Better than any woman now living?" she pursued.

"Yes," I replied.

"That is all Julia requires," she continued; "so let us say no more at
present, Martin. Only understand that all idea of marriage between her
and my brother is quite put away. Don't argue with me, don't contradict
me. Come to see us as you would have done but for that unfortunate
conversation last night. All will come right by-and-by."

"But Captain Carey--" I began.

"There! not a word!" she interrupted imperatively. "Tell me all about
that wretch, Richard Foster. How did you come across him? Is he likely
to die? Is he any thing like Kate Daltrey?--I will never call her Kate
Dobrée as long as the world lasts. Come, Martin, tell me every thing
about him."

She sat with me most of the morning, talking with animated perseverance,
and at last prevailed upon me to take her a walk in Hyde Park. Her
pertinacity did me good in spite of the irritation it caused me. When
her dinner-hour was at hand I felt bound to attend her to her house in
Hanover Street; and I could not get away from her without first speaking
to Julia. Her face was very sorrowful, and her manner sympathetic. We
said only a few words to one another, but I went away with the
impression that her heart was still with me.



CHAPTER THE FORTIETH.

A TORMENTING DOUBT.


At dinner Jack announced his intention of paying a visit to Richard
Foster.

"You are not fit to deal with the fellow," he said; "you may be sharp
enough upon your own black sheep in Guernsey, but you know nothing of
the breed here. Now, if I see him, I will squeeze out of him every
mortal thing he knows about Olivia. Where did those papers come from?"

"There was no place given," I answered.

"But there would be a post-mark on the envelop," he replied; "I will
make him show me the envelop they were in."

"Jack," I said, "you do not suppose he has any doubt of her death?"

"I can't say," he answered. "You see he has married again, and if she
were not dead that would be bigamy--an ugly sort of crime. But are you
sure they are married?"

"How can I be sure?" I asked fretfully, for grief as often makes men
fretful as illness. "I did not ask for their marriage-certificate."

"Well, well! I will go," he answered.

I awaited his return with impatience. With this doubt insinuated by
Jack, it began to seem almost incredible that Olivia's exquisitely
healthy frame should have succumbed suddenly under a malady to which she
had no predisposition whatever. Moreover, her original soundness of
constitution had been strengthened by ten months' residence in the pure,
bracing air of Sark. Yet what was I to think in face of those undated
documents, and of her own short letter to her husband? The one I knew
was genuine; why should I suppose the others to be forged? And if
forgeries, who had been guilty of such a cruel and crafty artifice, and
for what purpose?

I had not found any satisfactory answer to these queries before Jack
returned, his face kindled with excitement. He caught my hand, and
grasped it heartily.

"I no more believe she is dead than I am," were his first words. "You
recollect me telling you of a drunken brawl in a street off the Strand,
where a fellow, as drunk as a lord, was for claiming a pretty girl as
his wife; only I had followed her out of Ridley's agency-office, and was
just in time to protect her from him--a girl I could have fallen in love
with myself. You recollect?"

"Yes, yes," I said, almost breathless.

"He was the man, and Olivia was the girl!" exclaimed Jack.

"No!" I cried.

"Yes!" continued Jack, with an affectionate lunge at me; "at any rate I
can swear he is the man; and I would bet a thousand to one that the girl
was Olivia."

"But when was it?" I asked.

"Since he married again," he answered; "they were married on the 2d of
October, and this was early in November. I had gone to Ridley's after a
place for a poor fellow as an assistant to a druggist; and I saw the
girl distinctly. She gave the name of Ellen Martineau. Those letters
about her death are all forgeries."

"Olivia's is not," I said; "I know her handwriting too well."

"Well, then," observed Jack, "there is only one explanation. She has
sent them herself to throw Foster off the scent; she thinks she will be
safe if he believes her dead."

"No," I answered, hotly, "she would never have done such a thing as
that."

"Who else is benefited by it?" he asked, gravely. "It does not put
Foster into possession of any of her property; or that would have been a
motive for him to do it. But he gains nothing by it; and he is so
convinced of her death that he has married a second wife."

It was difficult to hit upon any other explanation; yet I could not
credit this one. I felt firmly convinced that Olivia could not be guilty
of an artifice so cunning. I was deceived in her indeed if she would
descend to any fraud so cruel. But I could not discuss the question even
with Jack Senior. Tardif was the only person who knew Olivia well enough
to make his opinion of any value. Besides, my mind was not as clear as
Jack's that she was the girl he had seen in November. Yet the doubt of
her death was full of hope; it made the earth more habitable, and life
more endurable.

"What can I do now?" I said, speaking aloud, though I was thinking to
myself.

"Martin," he replied, gravely, "isn't it wisest to leave the matter as
it stands? If you find Olivia, what then? she is as much separated from
you as she can be by death. So long as Foster lives, it is worse than
useless to be thinking of her. There is no misery like that of hanging
about a woman you have no right to love."

"I only wish to satisfy myself that she is alive," I answered. "Just
think of it, Jack, not to know whether she is living or dead! You must
help me to satisfy myself. Foster has got the only valuable thing she
had in her possession, and if she is living she may be in absolute want.
I cannot be contented with that dread on my mind. There can be no harm
in my taking some care of her at a distance. This mystery would be
intolerable to me."

"You're right, old fellow," he said, cordially; "we will go to Ridley's
together to-morrow morning."

We were there soon after the doors were open. There were not many
clients present, and the clerks were enjoying a slack time. Jack had
recalled to his mind the exact date of his former visit; and thus the
sole difficulty was overcome. The clerk found the name of Ellen
Martineau entered under that date in his book.

"Yes," he said, "Miss Ellen Martineau, English teacher in a French
school; premium to be paid, about 10 Pounds; no salary; reference, Mrs.
Wilkinson, No. 19 Bellringer Street."

"No. 19 Bellringer Street!" we repeated in one breath.

"Yes, gentlemen, that is the address," said the clerk, closing the book.
"Shall I write it down for you? Mrs. Wilkinson was the party who should
have paid our commission; as you perceive, a premium was required
instead of a salary given. We feel pretty sure the young lady went to
the school, but Mrs. Wilkinson denies it, and it is not worth our while
to pursue our claim in law."

"Can you describe the young lady?" I inquired.

"Well, no. We have such hosts of young ladies here. But she was pretty,
decidedly pretty; she made that impression upon me, at least. We are too
busy to take particular notice; but I should know her again if she came
in. I think she would have been here again, before this, if she had not
got that engagement."

"Do you know where the school is?" I asked.

"No. Mrs. Wilkinson was the party," he said. "We had nothing to do with
it, except send any ladies to her who thought it worth their while. That
was all."

As we could obtain no further information, we went away, and paced up
and down the tolerably quiet street, deep in consultation. That we
should have need for great caution, and as much craftiness as we both
possessed, in pursuing our inquiries at No. 19 Bellringer Street, was
quite evident. Who could be this unknown Mrs. Wilkinson? Was it possible
that she might prove to be Mrs. Foster herself? At any rate, it would
not do for either of us to present ourselves there in quest of Miss
Ellen Martineau. It was finally settled between us that Johanna should
be intrusted with the diplomatic enterprise. There was not much chance
that Mrs. Foster would know her by sight, though she had been in
Guernsey; and it would excite less notice for a lady to be inquiring
after Olivia. We immediately turned our steps toward Hanover Street,
where we found her and Julia seated at some fancy-work in their sombre
drawing-room.

Julia received me with a little embarrassment, but conquered it
sufficiently to give me a warm pressure of the hand, and to whisper in
my ear that Johanna had told her every thing. Unluckily, Johanna herself
knew nothing of our discovery the night before. I kept Julia's hand in
mine, and looked steadily into her eyes.

"My dear Julia," I said, "we bring strange news. We have reason to
believe that Olivia is not dead, but that something underhand is going
on, which we cannot yet make out."

Julia's face grew crimson, but I would not let her draw her hand away
from my clasp. I held it the more firmly; and, as Jack was busy talking
to Johanna, I continued speaking to her in a lowered tone.

"My dear," I said, "you have been as true, and faithful, and generous a
friend as any man ever had. But this must not go on, for your own sake.
You fancied you loved me, because every one about us wished it to be so;
but I cannot let you waste your life on me. Speak to me exactly as your
brother. Do you believe you could be really happy with Captain Carey?"

"Arthur is so good," she murmured, "and he is so fond of me."

I had never heard her call him Arthur before. The elder members of our
Guernsey circle called him by his Christian name, but to us younger ones
he had always been Captain Carey. Julia's use of it was more eloquent
than many phrases. She had grown into the habit of calling him
familiarly by it.

"Then, Julia," I said, "what folly it would be for you to sacrifice
yourself to a false notion of faithfulness! I could not accept such a
sacrifice. Think no more of me or my happiness."

"But my poor aunt was so anxious for you to have a home of your own,"
she said, sobbing, "and I do love you dearly. Now you will never marry.
I know you will not, if you can have neither Olivia nor me for your
wife."

"Very likely," I answered, trying to laugh away her agitation; "I shall
be in love with two married women instead. How shocking that will sound
in Guernsey! But I'm not afraid that Captain Carey will forbid me his
house."

"How little we thought!" exclaimed Julia. I knew very well what her mind
had gone back to--the days when she and I and my mother were furnishing
and settling the house that would now become Captain Carey's home.

"Then it is all settled," I said, "and I shall write to him by
to-night's post, inviting him back again--that is, if he really left you
last night."

"Yes," she replied; "he would not stay a day longer."

Her face had grown calm as we talked together. A scarcely perceptible
smile was lurking about her lips, as if she rejoiced that her suspense
was over. There was something very like a pang in the idea of some one
else filling the place I had once fully occupied in her heart; but the
pain was unworthy of me. I drove it away by throwing myself heart and
soul into the mystery which hung over the fate of Olivia.

"We have hit upon a splendid plan," said Jack: "Miss Carey will take
Simmons's cab to Bellringer Street, and reach the house about the same
time as I visit Foster. That is for me to be at hand if she should need
any protection, you know. I shall stay up-stairs with Foster till I
hear the cab drive off again, and it will wait for me at the corner of
Dawson Street. Then we will come direct here, and tell you every thing
at once. Of course, Miss Dobrée will wish to hear it all."

"Cannot I go with Johanna?" she asked.

"No," I said, hastily; "it is very probable Mrs. Foster knows you by
sight, though she is less likely to know Johanna. I fancy Mrs. Wilkinson
will turn out to be Mrs. Foster herself. Yet why they should spirit
Olivia away into a French school, and pretend that she is dead, I cannot
see."

Nor could any one of the others see the reason. But as the morning was
fast waning away, and both Jack and I were busy, we were compelled to
close the discussion, and, with our minds preoccupied to a frightful
extent, make those calls upon our patients which were supposed to be in
each case full of anxious and particular thought for the ailments we
were attempting to alleviate.

Upon meeting again for a few minutes at luncheon, we made a slight
change in our plan; for we found a note from Foster awaiting me, in
which he requested me to visit him in the future, instead of Dr. John
Senior, as he felt more confidence in my knowledge of his malady.



CHAPTER THE FORTY-FIRST.

MARTIN DOBRÉE'S PLEDGE.


I followed Simmons's cab up Bellringer Street, and watched Johanna
alight and enter the house. The door was scarcely closed upon her when I
rang, and asked the slatternly drudge of a servant if I could see Mr.
Foster. She asked me to go up to the parlor on the second floor, and I
went alone, with little expectation of finding Mrs. Foster there, unless
Johanna was there also, in which case I was to appear as a stranger to
her.

The parlor looked poorer and shabbier by daylight than at night. There
was not a single element of comfort in it. The curtains hung in rags
about a window begrimed with soot and smoke. The only easy-chair was the
one occupied by Foster, who himself looked as shabby and worn as the
room. The cuffs and collar of his shirt were yellow and tattered; his
hair hung long and lank; and his skin had a sallow, unwholesome tint.
The diamond ring upon his finger was altogether out of keeping with his
threadbare coat, buttoned up to the chin, as if there were no waistcoat
beneath it. From head to foot he looked a broken-down, seedy fellow, yet
still preserving some lingering traces of the gentleman. This was
Olivia's husband!

A good deal to my surprise, I saw Mrs. Foster seated quietly at a table
drawn close to the window, very busily writing--engrossing, as I could
see, for some miserable pittance a page. She must have had some
considerable practice in the work, for it was done well, and her pen ran
quickly over the paper. A second chair left empty opposite to her showed
that Foster had been engaged at the same task, before he heard my step
on the stairs. He looked weary, and I could not help feeling something
akin to pity for him. I did not know that they had come down as low as
that.

"I did not expect you to come before night," he said, testily; "I like
to have some idea when my medical attendant is coming."

"I was obliged to come now," I answered, offering no other apology. The
man irritated me more than any other person that had ever come across
me. There was something perverse and splenetic in every word he uttered,
and every expression upon his face.

"I do not like your partner," he said; "don't send him again. He knows
nothing about his business."

He spoke with all the haughtiness of a millionnaire to a country
practitioner. I could hardly refrain from smiling as I thought of Jack's
disgust and indignation.

"As for that," I replied, "most probably neither of us will visit you
again. Dr. Lowry will return to-morrow, and you will be in his hands
once more."

"No!" he cried, with a passionate urgency in his tone--"no, Martin
Dobrée; you said if any man in London could cure me, it was yourself. I
cannot leave myself in any other hands. I demand from you the fulfilment
of your words. If what you said is true, you can no more leave me to the
care of another physician, than you could leave a fellow-creature to
drown without doing your utmost to save him. I refuse to be given up to
Dr. Lowry."

"But it is by no means a parallel ease," I argued; "you were under his
treatment before, and I have no reason whatever to doubt his skill. Why
should you feel safer in my hands than in his?"

"Well!" he said, with a sneer, "if Olivia were alive, I dare scarcely
have trusted you, could I? But you have nothing to gain by my death, you
know; and I have so much faith in you, in your skill, and your honor,
and your conscientiousness--if there be any such qualities in the
world--that I place myself unfalteringly under your professional care.
Shake hands upon it, Martin Dobrée."

In spite of my repugnance, I could not resist taking his offered hand.
His eyes were fastened upon me with something of the fabled fascination
of a serpent's. I knew instinctively that he would have the power, and
use it, of probing every wound he might suspect in me to the quick. Yet
he interested me; and there was something not entirely repellent to me
about him. Above all for Olivia's sake, should we find her still living,
I was anxious to study his character. It might happen, as it does
sometimes, that my honor and straight-forwardness might prove a match
for his crafty shrewdness.

"There," he said, exultantly, "Martin Dobrée pledges himself to cure
me.--Carry, you are the witness of it. If I die, he has been my assassin
as surely as if he had plunged a stiletto into me."

"Nonsense!" I answered; "it is not in my power to heal or destroy. I
simply pledge myself to use every means I know of for your recovery."

"Which comes to the same thing," he replied; "for, mark you, I will be
the most careful patient you ever had. There should be no chance for
you, even if Olivia were alive."

Always harping on that one string. Was it nothing more than a lore of
torturing some one that made him reiterate those words? Or did he wish
to drive home more deeply the conviction that she was indeed dead?

"Have you communicated the intelligence of her death to her trustee in
Australia?" I asked.

"No; why should I?" he said, "no good would come of it to me. Why should
I trouble myself about it?"

"Nor to your step-sister?" I added.

"To Mrs. Dobrée?" he rejoined; "no, it does not signify a straw to her
either. She holds herself aloof from me now, confound her! You are not
on very good terms with her yourself, I believe?"

"The cab was still standing at the door, and I could not leave before it
drove away, or I should have made my visit a short one. Mrs. Foster was
glancing through the window from time to time, evidently on the watch to
see the visitor depart. Would she recognize Johanna? She had stayed some
weeks in Guernsey; and Johanna was a fine, stately-looking woman,
noticeable among strangers. I must do something to get her away from her
post of observation.

"Mrs. Foster," I said, and her eyes sparkled at the sound of her name,
"I should be exceedingly obliged to you if you will give me another
sight of those papers you showed to me the last time I was here."

She was away for a few minutes, and I heard the cab drive off before she
returned. That was the chief point gained. When the papers were in my
hand, I just glanced at them, and that was all.

"Have you any idea where they came from?" I asked.

"There is the London post-mark on the envelop," answered Foster.--"Show
it to him, Carry. There is nothing to be learned from that."

"No," I said, comparing the handwriting on the envelop with the letter,
and finding them the same. "Well, good-by! I cannot often pay you as
long a visit as this."

I hurried off quickly to the corner of Dawson Street, where Johanna was
waiting for me. She looked exceedingly contented when I took my seat
beside her in the cab.

"Well, Martin," she said, "you need suffer no more anxiety. Olivia has
gone as English teacher in an excellent French school, where the lady is
thoroughly acquainted with English ways and comforts. This is the
prospectus of the establishment. You see there are 'extensive grounds
for recreation, and the comforts of a cheerfully happy home, the
domestic arrangements being on a thoroughly liberal scale.' Here is also
a photographic view of the place: a charming villa, you see, in the best
French style. The lady's husband is an _avocat_; and every thing is
taught by professors--cosmography and pedagogy, and other studies of
which we never heard when I was a girl. Olivia is to stay there twelve
months, and in return for her services will take lessons from any
professors attending the establishment. Your mind may be quite at ease
now."

"But where is the place?" I inquired.

"Oh! it is in Normandy--Noireau," she said--"quite out of the range of
railways and tourists. There will be no danger of any one finding her
out there; and you know she has changed her name altogether this time."

"Did you discover that Olivia and Ellen Martineau are the same persons?"
I asked.

An expression of bewilderment and consternation came across her
contented face.

"No, I did not," she answered; "I thought you were sure of that."

But I was not sure of it; neither could Jack be sure. He puzzled himself
in trying to give a satisfactory description of his Ellen Martineau; but
every answer he gave to my eager questions plunged us into greater
uncertainty. He was not sure of the color either of her hair or eyes,
and made blundering guesses at her height. The chief proof we had of
Olivia's identity was the drunken claim made upon Ellen Martineau by
Foster, a month after he had received convincing proof that she was
dead. What was I to believe?

It was running too great a risk to make any further inquiries at No. 19
Bellringer Street. Mrs. Wilkinson was the landlady of the lodging-house,
and she had told Johanna that Madame Perrier boarded with her when she
was in London. But she might begin to talk to her other lodgers, if her
own curiosity were excited; and once more my desire to fathom the
mystery hanging about Olivia might plunge her into fresh difficulties,
should they reach the ears of Foster or his wife.

"I must satisfy myself about her safety now," I said. "Only put yourself
in my place, Jack. How can I rest till I know more about Olivia?"

"I do put myself in your place," he answered. "What do you say to having
a run down to this place in Basse-Normandie, and seeing for yourself
whether Miss Ellen Martineau is your Olivia?"

"How can I?" I asked, attempting to hang back from the suggestion. It
was a busy time with us. The season was in full roll, and our most
aristocratic patients were in town. The easterly winds were bringing in
their usual harvest of bronchitis and diphtheria. If I went, Jack's
hands would be more than full. Had these things come to perplex us only
two months earlier, I could have taken a holiday with a clear
conscience.

"Dad will jump at the chance of coming back for a week," replied Jack;
"he is bored to death down at Fulham. Go you must, for my sake, old
fellow. You are good for nothing as long as you're so down in the mouth.
I shall be glad to be rid of you."

We shook hands upon that, as warmly as if he had paid me the most
flattering compliments.



CHAPTER THE FORTY-SECOND.

NOIREAU


In this way it came to pass that two evenings later I was crossing the
Channel to Havre, and found myself about five o'clock in the afternoon
of the next day at Falaise. It was the terminus of the railway in that
direction; and a very ancient conveyance, bearing the name of La Petite
Vitesse, was in waiting to carry on any travellers who were venturesome
enough to explore the regions beyond. There was space inside for six
passengers, but it smelt too musty, and was too full of the fumes of bad
tobacco, for me; and I very much preferred sitting beside the driver, a
red-faced, smooth-cheeked Norman, habited in a blue blouse, who could
crack his long whip with almost the skill of a Parisian omnibus-driver.
We were friends in a trice, for my _patois_ was almost identical with
his own, and he could not believe his own ears that he was talking with
an Englishman.

"La Petite Vitesse" bore out its name admirably, if it were meant to
indicate exceeding slowness. We never advanced beyond a slow trot, and
at the slightest hint of rising ground the trot slackened into a walk,
and eventually subsided into a crawl. By these means the distance we
traversed was made to seem tremendous, and the drowsy jingle of the
collar-bells, intimating that progress was being accomplished, added to
the delusion. But the fresh, sweet air, blowing over leagues of fields
and meadows, untainted with a breath of smoke, gave me a delicious
tingling in the veins. I had not felt such a glow of exhilaration since
that bright morning when I bad crossed the channel to Sark, to ask
Olivia to become mine.

The sun sank below the distant horizon, with the trees showing clearly
against it, for the atmosphere was as transparent as crystal; and the
light of the stars that came out one by one almost cast a defined shadow
upon our path, from the poplar-trees standing in long, straight rows in
the hedges. If I found Olivia at the end of that starlit path my
gladness in it would be completed. Yet if I found her, what then? I
should see her for a few minutes in the dull _salon_ of a school perhaps
with some watchful, spying Frenchwoman present. I should simply satisfy
myself that she was living. There could be nothing more between us. I
dare not tell her how dear she was to me, or ask her if she ever thought
of me in her loneliness and friendlessness. I began to wish that I had
brought Johanna with me, who could have taken her in her arms, and
kissed and comforted her. Why had I not thought of that before?

As we proceeded at our delusive pace along the last stage of our
journey, I began to sound the driver, cautiously wheeling about the
object of my excursion into those remote regions. I had tramped through
Normandy and Brittany three or four times, but there had been no
inducement to visit Noireau, which resembled a Lancashire cotton-town,
and I had never been there.

"There are not many English at Noireau?" I remarked, suggestively.

"Not one," he replied--"not one at this moment. There was one little
English mam'zelle--peste!--a very pretty little English girl, who was
voyaging precisely like you, m'sieur, some months ago. There was a
little child with her, and the two were quite alone. They are very
intrepid, are the English mam'zelles. She did not know a word of our
language. But that was droll, m'sieur! A French demoiselle would never
voyage like that."

The little child puzzled me. Yet I could not help fancying that this
young Englishwoman travelling alone, with no knowledge of French, must
be my Olivia. At any rate it could be no other than Miss Ellen
Martineau.

"Where was she going to?" I asked.

"She came to Noireau to be an instructress in an establishment,"
answered the driver, in a tone of great enjoyment--"an establishment
founded by the wife of Monsieur Emile Perrier, the avocat! He! he! he!
Mon Dieu! how droll that was, m'sieur! An avocat! So they believed that
in England? Bah! Emile Perrier an avocat--mon Dieu!"

"But what is there to laugh at?" I asked, as the man's laughter rang
through the quiet night.

"Am I an avocat?" he inquired derisively, "am I a proprietor? am I even
a curé? Pardon, m'sieur, but I am just as much avocat, proprietor, curé,
as Emile Perrier. He was an impostor. He became bankrupt; he and his
wife ran away to save themselves; the establishment was broken up. It
was a bubble, m'sieur, and it burst comme ça."

My driver clapped his hands together lightly, as though Monsieur
Perrier's bubble needed very little pressure to disperse it.

"Good heavens!" I exclaimed, "but what became of Oli--of the young
English lady, and the child?"

"Ah, m'sieur!" he said, "I do not know. I do not live in Noireau, but I
pass to and fro from Falaise in La Petite Vitesse. She has not returned
in my omnibus, that is all I know. But she could go to Granville, or to
Caen. There are other omnibuses, you see. Somebody will tell you down
there."

For three or four miles before us there lay a road as straight as a
rule, ending in a small cluster of lights glimmering in the bottom of a
valley, into which we were descending with great precaution on the part
of the driver and his team. That was Noireau. But already my
exhilaration was exchanged for profound anxiety. I extorted from the
Norman all the information he possessed concerning the bankrupt; it was
not much, and it only served to heighten my solicitude.

It was nearly eleven o'clock before we entered the town; but I learned a
few more particulars from the middle-aged woman in the omnibus bureau.
She recollected the name of Miss Ellen Martineau, and her arrival; and
she described her with the accuracy and faithfulness of a woman. If she
were not Olivia herself, she must be her very counterpart. But who was
the child, a girl of nine or ten years of age, who had accompanied her?
It was too late to learn any more about them. The landlady of the hotel
confirmed all I had heard, and added several items of information.
Monsieur Perrier and his wife had imposed upon several English families,
and had succeeded in getting dozens of English pupils, so she assured
me, who had been scattered over the country, Heaven only knew where,
when the school was broken up, about a month ago.

I started out early the next morning to find the Rue de Grâce, where the
inscription on my photographic view of the premises represented them as
situated. The town was in the condition of a provincial town in England
about a century ago. The streets were as dirty as the total absence of
drains and scavengers could make them, and the cleanest path was up the
kennel in the centre. The filth of the houses was washed down into them
by pipes, with little cisterns at each story, and under almost every
window. There were many improprieties, and some indecencies, shocking to
English sensibilities. In the Rue de Grâce I saw two nuns in their hoods
and veils, unloading a cart full of manure. A ladies' school for English
people in a town like this seemed ridiculous.

There was no difficulty in finding the houses in my photographic view.
There were two of them, one standing in the street, the other lying back
beyond a very pleasant garden. A Frenchman was pacing up and down the
broad gravel-path which connected them, smoking a cigar, and examining
critically the vines growing against the walls. Two little children were
gambolling about in close white caps, and with frocks down to their
heels. Upon seeing me, he took his cigar from his lips with two fingers
of one hand, and lifted his hat with the other. I returned the
salutation with a politeness as ceremonious as his own.

"Monsieur is an Englishman?" he said, in a doubtful tone.

"From the Channel Islands," I replied.

"Ah! you belong to us," he said, "but you are hybrid, half English, half
French; a fine race. I also have English blood in my veins."

I paid monsieur a compliment upon the result of the admixture of blood
in his own instance, and then proceeded to unfold my object in visiting
him.

"Ah!" he said, "yes, yes, yes; Perrier was an impostor. These houses are
mine, monsieur. I live in the front, yonder; my daughter and son-in-law
occupy the other. We had the photographs taken for our own pleasure, but
Perrier must have bought them from the artist, no doubt. I have a small
cottage at the back of my house; voilà, monsieur! there it is. Perrier
rented it from me for two hundred francs a year. I permitted him to pass
along this walk, and through our coach-house into a passage which leads
to the street where madame had her school. Permit me, and I will show it
to you."

He led me through a shed, and along a dirty, vaulted passage, into a
mean street at the back. A small, miserable-looking house stood in it,
shut up, with broken _persiennes_ covering the windows. My heart sank at
the idea of Olivia living here, in such discomfort, and neglect, and
sordid poverty.

"Did you ever see a young English lady here, monsieur?" I asked; "she
arrived about the beginning of last November."

"But yes, certainly, monsieur," he replied, "a charming English
demoiselle! One must have been blind not to observe her. A face sweet
and _gracieuse_; with hair of gold, but a little more sombre. Yes, yes!
The ladies might not admire her, but we others--"

He laughed, and shrugged his shoulders in a detestable manner.

"What height was she, monsieur?" I inquired.

"A just height," he answered, "not tall like a camel, nor too short like
a monkey. She would stand an inch or two above your shoulder, monsieur."

It could be no other than my Olivia! She had been living here, then, in
this miserable place, only a month ago; but where could she be now? How
was I to find any trace of her?

"I will make some inquiries from my daughter," said the Frenchman; "when
the establishment was broken up I was ill with the fever, monsieur. We
have fever often here. But she will know--I will ask her."

He returned to me after some time, with the information that the English
demoiselle had been seen in the house of a woman who sold milk,
Mademoiselle Rosalie by name; and he volunteered to accompany me to her
dwelling.

It was a poor-looking house, of one room only, in the same street as the
school; but we found no one there except an old woman, exceedingly deaf,
who told us, after much difficulty in making her understand our object,
that Mademoiselle Rosalie was gone somewhere to nurse a relative, who
was dangerously ill. She had not had any cows of her own, and she had
easily disposed of her small business to this old woman and her
daughter. Did the messieurs want any milk for their families? No. Well,
then, she could not tell us any thing more about Mam'zelle Rosalie; and
she knew nothing of an Englishwoman and a little girl.

I turned away baffled and discouraged; but my new friend was not so
quickly depressed. It was impossible, he maintained, that the English
girl and the child could have left the town unnoticed. He went with me
to all the omnibus bureaus, where we made urgent inquiries concerning
the passengers who had quitted Noireau during the last month. No places
had been taken for Miss Ellen Martineau and the child, for there was no
such name in any of the books. But at each bureau I was recommended to
see the drivers upon their return in the evening; and I was compelled to
give up the pursuit for that day.



CHAPTER THE FORTY-THIRD.

A SECOND PURSUER.


No wonder there was fever in the town, I thought, as I picked my way
among the heaps of garbage and refuse lying out in the streets. The most
hideous old women I ever saw, wrinkled over every inch of their skin,
blear-eyed, and with eyelids reddened by smoke, met me at each turn.
Sallow weavers, in white caps, gazed out at me from their looms in
almost every house. There was scarcely a child to be seen about. The
whole district, undrained and unhealthy, bears the name of the
"Manufactory of Little Angels," from the number of children who die
there. And this was the place where Olivia had been spending a very hard
and severe winter!

There was going to be a large cattle-fair the next day, and all the town
was alive. Every inn in the place was crowded to overflowing. As I sat
at the window of my _café_, watching the picturesque groups which formed
in the street outside, I heard a vehement altercation going on in the
archway, under which was the entrance to my hotel.

"Grands Dieux!" cried the already familiar voice of my landlady, shrill
as the cackling of a hen--"grands Dieux! not a single soul from
Ville-en-bois can rest here, neither man nor woman! They have the fever
like a pest there. No, no, m'sieur, that is impossible; go away, you and
your beast. There is room at the Lion d'or. But the gensdarmes should
not let you enter the town. We have fever enough of our own."

"But my farm is a league from Ville-en-bois," was the answer, in the
slow, rugged accents of a Norman peasant.

"But I tell you it is impossible,'" she retorted; "I have an Englishman
here, very rich, a milor, and he will not hear of any person from
Ville-en-bois resting in the house. Go away to the Lion d'or, my good
friend, where there are no English. They are as afraid of the fever as
of the devil."

I laughed to myself at my landlady's ingenious excuses; but after this
the conversation fell into a lower key, and I heard no more of it.

I went out late in the evening to question each of the omnibus--drivers,
but in vain. Whether they were too busy to give me proper attention, or
too anxious to join the stir and mirth of the townspeople, they all
declared they knew nothing of any Englishwoman. As I returned dejectedly
to my inn, I heard a lamentable voice, evidently English, bemoaning in
doubtful French. The omnibus from Falaise had just come in, and under
the lamp in the entrance of the archway stood a lady before my hostess,
who was volubly asserting that there was no room left in her house. I
hastened to the assistance of my countrywoman, and the light of the lamp
falling full upon her face revealed to me who she was.

"Mrs. Foster!" I exclaimed, almost shouting her name in my astonishment.
She looked ready to faint with fatigue and dismay, and she laid her hand
heavily on my arm, as if to save herself from sinking to the ground.

"Have you found her?" she asked, involuntarily.

"Not a trace of her," I answered.

Mrs. Foster broke into an hysterical laugh, which was very quickly
followed by sobs. I had no great difficulty in persuading the landlady
to find some accommodation for her, and then I retired to my own room to
smoke in peace, and turn over the extraordinary meeting which had been
the last incident of the day.

It required very little keenness to come to the conclusion that the
Fosters had obtained their information concerning Miss Ellen Martineau,
where we had got ours, from Mrs. Wilkinson. Also that Mrs. Foster had
lost no time in following up the clew, for she was only twenty-four
hours behind me. She had looked thoroughly astonished and dismayed when
she saw me there; so she had had no idea that I was on the same track.
But nothing could be more convincing than this journey of hers that
neither she nor Foster really believed in Olivia's death. That was as
clear as day. But what explanation could I give to myself of those
letters, of Olivia's above all? Was it possible that she had caused them
to be written, and sent to her husband? I could not even admit such a
question, without a sharp sense of disappointment in her.

I saw Mrs. Foster early in the morning, somewhat as a truce-bearer may
meet another on neutral ground. She was grateful to me for my
interposition in her behalf the night before; and, as I knew Ellen
Martineau to be safely out of the way, I was inclined to be tolerant
toward her. I assured her, upon my honor, that I had failed in
discovering any trace of Olivia in Noireau, and I told her all I had
learned about the bankruptcy of Monsieur Perrier, and the scattering of
the school.

"But why should you undertake such a chase?" I asked; "if you and Foster
are satisfied that Olivia is dead, why should you be running after Ellen
Martineau? You show me the papers which seem to prove her death, and now
I find you in this remote part of Normandy, evidently in pursuit of her.
What does this mean?"

"You are doing the same thing yourself," she answered.

"Yes," I replied, "because I am not satisfied. But you have proved your
conviction by becoming Richard Foster's second wife."

"That is the very point," she said, shedding a few tears; "as soon as
ever Mrs. Wilkinson described Ellen Martineau to me, when she was
talking about her visitor who had come to inquire after her, in that cab
which was standing at the door the last time you visited Mr. Foster--and
I had no suspicion of it--I grew quite frightened lest he should ever be
charged with marrying me while she was alive. So I persuaded him to let
me come here and make sure of it, though the journey costs a great deal,
and we have very little money to spare. We did not know what tricks
Olivia might do, and it made me very miserable to think she might be
still alive, and I in her place."

I could not but acknowledge to myself that there was some reason in Mrs.
Foster's statement of the case.

"There is not the slightest chance of your finding her," I remarked.

"Isn't there?" she asked, with an evil gleam in her eyes, which I just
caught before she hid her face again in her handkerchief.

"At any rate," I said, "you would have no power over her if you found
her. You could not take her back with you by force. I do not know how
the French laws would regard Foster's authority, but you can have none
whatever, and he is quite unfit to take this long journey to claim her.
Really I do not see what you can do; and I should think your wisest
plan would be to go back and take care of him, leaving her alone. I am
here to protect her, and I shall stay until I see you fairly out of the
place."

She did not speak again for some minutes, but she was evidently
reflecting upon what I had just said.

"But what are we to live upon?" she asked at last; "there is her money
lying in the bank, and neither she nor Richard can touch it. It must be
paid to her personally or to her order; and she cannot prove her
identity herself without the papers Richard holds. It is aggravating. I
am at my wits' end about it."

"Listen to me," I said. "Why cannot we come to some arrangement,
supposing Ellen Martineau proves to be Olivia? It would be better for
you all to make some division of her property by mutual agreement. You
know best whether Olivia could insist upon a judicial separation. But in
any other case why should not Foster agree to receive half her income,
and leave her free, as free as she can be, with the other half? Surely
some mutual agreement could be made."

"He would never do it!" she exclaimed, clasping her hands round her
knees, and swaying to and fro passionately; "he never loses any power.
She belongs to him, and he never gives up any thing. He would torment
her almost to death, but he would never let her go free. No, no. You do
not know him, Dr. Martin."

"Then we will try to get a divorce," I said, looking at her steadily.

"On what grounds?" she asked, looking at me as steadily.

I could not and would not enter into the question with her.

"There has been no personal cruelty on Richard's part toward her," she
resumed, with a half-smile. "It's true I locked her up for a few days
once, but he was in Paris, and had nothing to do with it. You could not
prove a single act of cruelty toward her."

Still I did not answer, though she paused and regarded me keenly.

"We were not married till we had reason to believe her dead," she
continued; "there is no harm in that. If she has forged those papers,
she is to blame. We were married openly, in our parish church; what
could be said against that?"

"Let us return to what I told you at first," I said; "if you find
Olivia, you have no more authority over her than I have. You will be
obliged to return to England alone; and I shall place her in some safe
custody. I shall ascertain precisely how the law stands, both, here and
in England. Now I advise you, for Foster's sake, make as much haste home
as you can; for he will be left without nurse or doctor while we two are
away."

She sat gnawing her under lip for some minutes, and looking as vicious
as Madam was wont to do in her worst tempers.

"You will let me make some inquiries to satisfy myself?" she said.

"Certainly," I replied; "you will only discover, as I have, that the
school was broken up a month ago, and Ellen Martineau has disappeared."

I kept no very strict watch over her during the day, for I felt sure she
would find no trace of Olivia in Noireau. At night I saw her again. She
was worn out and despondent, and declared herself quite ready to return
to Falaise by the omnibus at five o'clock in the morning. I saw her off,
and gave the driver a fee, to bring me word for what town she took her
ticket at the railway-station. When he returned in the evening, he told
me he had himself bought her one for Honfleur, and started her fairly on
her way home.

As for myself, I had spent the day in making inquiries at the offices of
the _octrois_--those local custom-houses which stand at every entrance
into a town or village in France, for the gathering of trifling,
vexatious taxes upon articles of food and merchandise. At one of these I
had learned, that, three or four weeks ago, a young Englishwoman with a
little girl had passed by on foot, each carrying a small bundle, which
had not been examined. It was the _octroi_ on the road to Granville,
which was between thirty and forty miles away. From Granville was the
nearest route to the Channel Islands. Was it not possible that Olivia
had resolved to seek refuge there again? Perhaps to seek me! My heart,
bowed down by the sad picture of her and the little child leaving the
town on foot, beat high again at the thought of Olivia in Guernsey.

I set off for Granville by the omnibus next morning, and made further
inquiries at every village we passed through, whether any thing had been
seen of a young Englishwoman and a little girl. At first the answer was
yes; then it became a matter of doubt; at last everywhere they replied
by a discouraging no. At one point of our journey we passed a
dilapidated sign-post with a rude, black figure of the Virgin hanging
below it. I could just decipher upon one finger of the post, in
half-obliterated letters, "Ville-en-bois." It recurred to me that this
was the place where fever was raging like the pest.

"It is a poor place," said the driver, disparagingly; "there is nothing
there but the fever, and a good angel of a curé, who is the only doctor
into the bargain. It is two leagues and a kilometre, and it is on the
road to nowhere."

I could not stop in my quest to turn aside, and visit this village
smitten with fever, though I felt a strong inclination to do so. At
Granville I learned that a young lady and a child had made the voyage to
Jersey a short time before; and I went on with stronger hope. But in
Jersey I could obtain no further information about her; nor in Guernsey,
whither I felt sure Olivia would certainly have proceeded. I took one
day more to cross over to Sark, and consult Tardif; but he knew no more
than I did. He absolutely refused to believe that Olivia was dead.

"In August," he said, "I shall hear from her. Take courage and comfort.
She promised it, and she will keep her promise. If she had known herself
to be dying, she would have sent me word."

"It is a long time to wait," I said, with an utter sinking of spirit.

"It is a long time to wait!" he echoed, lifting up his hands, and
letting them fall again with a gesture of weariness; "but we must wait
and hope."

To wait in impatience, and to hope at times, and despair at times, I
returned to London.



CHAPTER THE FORTY-FOURTH.

THE LAW OF MARRIAGE.


One of my first proceedings, after my return, was to ascertain how the
English law stood with regard to Olivia's position. Fortunately for me,
one of Dr. Senior's oldest friends was a lawyer of great repute, and he
discussed the question with me after a dinner at his house at Fulham.

"There seems to be no proof against the husband of any kind," he said,
after I had told him all.

"Why!" I exclaimed, "here you have a girl, brought up in luxury and
wealth, willing to brave any poverty rather than continue to live with
him."

"A girl's whim," he said; "mania, perhaps. Is there insanity in her
family?"

"She is as sane as I am," I answered. "Is there no law to protect a wife
against the companionship of such a woman as this second Mrs. Foster?"

"The husband introduces her as his cousin," he rejoined, "and places her
in some little authority on the plea that his wife is too young to be
left alone safely in Continental hotels. There is no reasonable
objection to be taken to that."

"Then Foster could compel her to return to him?" I said.

"As far as I see into the case, he certainly could," was the answer,
which drove me nearly frantic.

"But there is this second marriage," I objected.

"There lies the kernel of the case," he said, daintily peeling his
walnuts. "You tell me there are papers, which you believe to be
forgeries, purporting to be the medical certificate, with corroborative
proof of her death. Now, if the wife be guilty of framing these, the
husband will bring them against her as the grounds on which he felt free
to contract his second marriage. She has done a very foolish and a very
wicked thing there."

"You think she did it?" I asked.

He smiled significantly, but without saying any thing.

"I cannot!" I cried.

"Ah! you are blind," he replied, with the same maddening smile; "but let
me return. On the other hand, _if_ the husband has forged these papers,
it would go far with me as strong presumptive evidence against him, upon
which we might go in for a divorce, not a separation merely. If the
young lady had remained with him till she had collected proof of his
unfaithfulness to her, this, with his subsequent marriage to the same
person during her lifetime, would probably have set her absolutely
free."

"Divorced from him?" I said.

"Divorce," he repeated.

"But what can be done now?" I asked.

"All you can do," he answered, "is to establish your influence over this
fellow, and go cautiously to work with him. As long as the lady is in
France, if she be alive, and he is too ill to go after her, she is safe.
You may convince him by degrees that it is to his interest to come to
some terms with her. A formal deed of separation might be agreed upon,
and drawn up; but even that will not perfectly secure her in the
future."

I was compelled to remain satisfied with this opinion. Yet how could I
be satisfied, while Olivia, if she was still living, was wandering about
homeless, and, as I feared, destitute, in a foreign country?

I made my first call upon Foster the next evening. Mrs. Foster had been
to Brook Street every day since her return, to inquire for me, and to
leave an urgent message that I should go to Bellringer Street as soon as
I was again in town. The lodging-house looked almost as wretched as the
forsaken dwelling down at Noireau, where Olivia had perhaps been living;
and the stifling, musty air inside it almost made me gasp for breath.

"So you are come back!" was Foster's greeting, as I entered the dingy
room.

"Yes." I replied.

"I need not ask what success you've had," he said, sneering, 'Why so
pale and wan, fond lover?' Your trip has not agreed with you, that is
plain enough. It did not agree with Carry, either, for she came back
swearing she would never go on such a wild-goose chase again. You know I
was quite opposed to her going?"

"No," I said, incredulously. The diamond ring had disappeared from his
finger, and it was easy to guess how the funds had been raised for the
journey.

"Altogether opposed," he repeated. "I believe Olivia is dead. I am quite
sure she has never been under this roof with me, as Miss Ellen Martineau
has been. I should have known it as surely as ever a tiger scented its
prey. Do you suppose I have no sense keen enough to tell me she was in
the very house where I was?"

"Nonsense!" I answered. His eyes glistened cruelly, and made me almost
ready to spring upon him. I could have seized him by the throat and
shaken him to death, in my sudden passion of loathing against him; but I
sat quiet, and ejaculated "Nonsense!" Such power has the spirit of the
nineteenth century among civilized classes.

"Olivia is dead," he said, in a solemn tone. "I am convinced of that
from another reason: through all the misery of our marriage, I never
knew her guilty of an untruth, not the smallest. She was as true as the
Gospel. Do you think you or Carry could make me believe that she would
trifle with such an awful subject as her own death? No. I would take my
oath that Olivia would never have had that letter sent, or write to me
those few lines of farewell, but to let me know that she was really
dead."

His voice faltered a little, as though even he were moved by the thought
of her early death. Mrs. Foster glanced at him jealously, and he looked
back at her with a provoking curve about his lips. For the moment there
was more hatred than love in the regards exchanged between them. I saw
it was useless to pursue the subject.

"Well," I said, "I came to arrange a time for Dr. Lowry to visit you
with me, for the purpose of a thorough examination. It is possible that
Dr. Senior may be induced to join us, though he has retired from
practice. I am anxious for his opinion as well as Lowry's." "You really
wish to cure me?" he answered, raising his eyebrows.

"To be sure," I replied. "I can have no other object in undertaking your
case. Do you imagine it is a pleasure to me? It is possible that your
death would be a greater benefit to the world than your life, but that
is no question for me to decide. Neither is it for me to consider
whether you are my friend or my enemy. There is simply a life to be
saved if possible; whose, is not my business. Do you understand me?"

"I think so," he said. "I am nothing except material for you to exercise
your craft upon."

"Precisely," I answered; "that and nothing more. As some writer says,
'It is a mere matter of instinct with me. I attend you just as a
Newfoundland dog saves a drowning man.'"

I went from him to Hanover Street, where I found Captain Carey, who met
me with the embarrassment and shamefacedness of a young girl. I had not
yet seen them since my return from Normandy. There was much to tell
them, though they already knew that my expedition had failed, and that
it was still doubtful whether Ellen Martineau and Olivia were the same
person.

Captain Carey walked along the street with me toward home. He had taken
my arm in his most confidential manner, but he did not open his lips
till we reached Brook Street.

"Martin," he said, "I've turned it over in my own mind, and I agree with
Tardif. Olivia is no more dead than you or me. We shall find out all
about it in August, if not before. Cheer up, my boy! I tell you what:
Julia and I will wait till we are sure about Olivia."

"No, no," I interrupted; "you and Julia have nothing to do with it.
When is your wedding to be?"

"If you have no objection," he answered--"have you the least shadow of
an objection?"

"Not a shadow of a shadow," I said.

"Well, then," he resumed, bashfully, "what do you think of August? It is
a pleasant month, and would give us time for that trip to Switzerland,
you know. Not any sooner, because of your poor mother; and later, if you
like that better."

"Not a day later," I said; "my father has been married again these four
months."

Yet I felt a little sore for my mother's memory. How quickly it was
fading away from every heart but mine! If I could but go to her now, and
pour out all my troubled thoughts into her listening, indulgent ear! Not
even Olivia herself, who could never be to me more than she was at this
moment, could fill her place.



CHAPTER THE FORTY-FIFTH.

FULFILLING THE PLEDGE.


We--that is, Dr. Senior, Lowry, and I--made our examination of Foster,
and held our consultation, three days from that time.

There was no doubt whatever that he was suffering from the same disease
as that which had been the death of my mother--a disease almost
invariably fatal, sooner or later. A few cases of cure, under most
favorable circumstances, had been reported during the last half-century;
but the chances were dead against Foster's recovery. In all probability,
a long and painful illness, terminating in inevitable death, lay before
him. In the opinion of my two senior physicians, all that I could do
would be to alleviate the worst pangs of it.

His case haunted me day and night. In that deep under-current of
consciousness which lurks beneath our surface sensations and
impressions, there was always present the image of Foster, with his
pale, cynical face, and pitiless eyes. With this, was the perpetual
remembrance that a subtile malady, beyond the reach of our skill, was
slowly eating away his life. The man I abhorred; but the sufferer,
mysteriously linked with the memories which clung about my mother,
aroused her most urgent, instinctive compassion. Only once before had I
watched the conflict between disease and its remedy with so intense an
interest.

It was a day or two after our consultation that I came accidentally upon
the little note-book which I had kept in Guernsey--a private note-book,
accessible only to myself. It was night; Jack, as usual, was gone out,
and I was alone. I turned over the leaves merely for listless want of
occupation. All at once I came upon an entry, made in connection with my
mother's illness, which recalled to me the discovery I believed I had
made of a remedy for her disease, had it only been applied in its
earlier stages. It had slipped out of my mind, but now my memory leaped
upon it with irresistible force.

I must tell the whole truth, however terrible and humiliating it may be.
Whether I had been true or false to myself up to that moment I cannot
say. I had taken upon myself the care, and, if possible, the cure of
this man, who was my enemy, if I had an enemy in the world. His life and
mine could not run parallel without great grief and hurt to me, and to
one dearer than myself. Now that a better chance was thrust upon me in
his favor, I shrank from seizing it with unutterable reluctance. I
turned heart-sick at the thought of it. I tried my utmost to shake off
the grip of my memory. Was it possible that, in the core of my heart, I
wished this man to die?

Yes, I wished him to die. Conscience flashed the answer across the inner
depths of my soul, as a glare of lightning over the sharp crags and
cruel waves of our island in a midnight storm. I saw with terrible
distinctness that there had been lurking within a sure sense of
satisfaction in the certainty that he must die. I had suspected nothing
of it till that moment. When I told him it was the instinct of a
physician to save his patient, I spoke the truth. But I found something
within me deeper than instinct, that was wailing and watching for the
fatal issue of his malady, with a tranquil security so profound that it
never stirred the surface of my consciousness, or lifted up its ghostly
face to the light of conscience.

I took up my note-book, and went away to my room, lest Jack should come
in suddenly, and read my secret on my face. I thrust the book into a
drawer in my desk, and locked it away out of my sight. What need had I
to trouble myself with it or its contents? I found a book, one of
Charles Dickens's most amusing stories, and set myself resolutely to
read it; laughing aloud at its drolleries, and reading faster and
faster; while all the time thoughts came crowding into my mind of my
mother's pale, worn face, and the pains she suffered, and the remedy
found out too late. These images grew so strong at last that my eyes ran
over the sentences mechanically, but my brain refused to take in the
meaning of them. I threw the book from me; and, leaning my head on my
hands, I let all the waves of that sorrowful memory flow over me.

How strong they were! how persistent! I could hear the tones of her
languid voice, and see the light lingering to the last in her dim eyes,
whenever they met mine. A shudder crept through me as I recollected how
she travelled that dolorous road, slowly, day by day, down to the grave.
Other feet were beginning to tread the same painful journey; but there
was yet time to stay them, and the power to do it was intrusted to me.
What was I to do with my power?

It seemed cruel that this power should come to me from my mother's
death. If she were living still, or if she had died from any other
cause, the discovery of this remedy would never have been made by me.
And I was to take it as a sort of miraculous gift, purchased by her
pangs, and bestow it upon the only man I hated. For I hated him; I said
so to myself, muttering the words between my teeth.

What was the value of his life, that I should ransom it by such a
sacrifice? A mean, selfish, dissipated life--a life that would be
Olivia's curse as long as it lasted. For an instant a vision stood out
clear before me, and made my heart beat fast, of Olivia free, as she
must be in the space of a few months, should I leave the disease to take
its course; free and happy, disenthralled from the most galling of all
bondage. Could I not win her then? She knew already that I loved her;
would she not soon learn to love me in return? If Olivia were living,
what an irreparable injury it would be to her for this man to recover!

That seemed to settle the question. I could not be the one to doom her
to a continuation of the misery she was enduring. It was irrational and
over-scrupulous of my conscience to demand such a thing from me. I would
use all the means practised in the ordinary course of treatment to
render the recovery of my patient possible, and so fulfil my duty. I
would carefully follow all Dr. Senior's suggestions. He was an
experienced and very skilful physician; I could not do better than
submit my judgment to his.

Besides, how did I know that this fancied discovery of mine was of the
least value? I had never had a chance of making experiment of it, and no
doubt it was an idle chimera of my brain, when it was overwrought by
anxiety for my mother's sake. I had not hitherto thought enough of it to
ask the opinion of any of my medical friends and colleagues. Why should
I attach any importance to it now? Let it rest. Not a soul knew of it
but myself. I had a perfect right to keep or destroy my own notes.
Suppose I destroyed that one at once?

I unlocked the desk, and took out my book again. The leaf on which these
special notes were written was already loose, and might have been easily
lost at any time, I thought. I burned it by the flame of the gas, and
threw the brown ashes into the grate. For a few minutes I felt elated,
as if set free from an oppressive burden; and I returned to the story I
had been reading, and laughed more heartily than before at the grotesque
turn of the incidents. But before long the tormenting question came up
again. The notes were not lost. They seemed now to be burned in upon my
brain.

The power has been put into your hands to save life, said my conscience,
and you are resolving to let it perish. What have you to do with the
fact that the nature is mean, selfish, cruel? It is the physical life
simply that you have to deal with. What is beyond that rests in the
hands of God. What He is about to do with this soul is no question for
you. Your office pledges you to cure him if you can, and the fulfilment
of this duty is required of you. If you let this man die, you are a
murderer.

But, I said in answer to myself, consider what trivial chances the whole
thing has hung upon. Besides the accident that this was my mother's
malady, there was the chance of Lowry not being called from home. The
man was his patient, not mine. After that there was the chance of Jack
going to see him, instead of me; or of him refusing my attendance. If
the chain had broken at one of these links, no responsibility could have
fallen upon me. He would have died, and all the good results of his
death would have followed naturally. Let it rest at that.

But it could not rest at that. I fought a battle with myself all through
the quiet night, motionless and in silence, lest Jack should become
aware that I was not sleeping. How should I ever face him, or grasp his
hearty hand again, with such a secret weight upon my soul? Yet how could
I resolve to save Foster at the cost of dooming Olivia to a life-long
bondage should he discover where she was, or to life-long poverty should
she remain concealed? If I were only sure that she was alive! But if she
were dead--why, then all motive for keeping back this chance of saving
him would be taken away. It was for her sake merely that I hesitated.

For her sake, but for my own as well, said my conscience; for the subtle
hope, which had taken deeper root day by day, that by-and-by the only
obstacle between us would be removed. Suppose then that he was dead, and
Olivia was free to love me, to become my wife. Would not her very
closeness to me be a reproving presence forever at my side? Could I ever
recall the days before our marriage, as men recall them when they are
growing gray and wrinkled, as a happy golden time? Would there not
always be a haunting sense of perfidy, and disloyalty to duty, standing
between me and her clear truth and singleness of heart? There could be
no happiness for me, even with Olivia, my cherished and honored wife, if
I had this weight and cloud resting upon my conscience.

The morning dawned before I could decide. The decision, when made,
brought no feeling of relief or triumph to me. As soon as it was
probable that Dr. Senior could see me; I was at his house at Fulham; and
in rapid, almost incoherent words laid what I believed to be my
important discovery before him. He sat thinking for some time, running
over in his own mind such cases as had come under his own observation.
After a while a gleam of pleasure passed over his face, and his eyes
brightened as he looked at me.

"I congratulate you, Martin," he said, "though I wish Jack had hit upon
this. I believe it will prove a real benefit to our science. Let me turn
it over a little longer, and consult some of my colleagues about it. But
I think you are right. You are about to try it on poor Foster?"

"Yes," I answered, with a chilly sensation in my veins, the natural
reaction upon the excitement of the past night.

"It can do him no harm," he said, "and in my opinion it will prolong his
life to old age, if he is careful of himself. I will write a paper on
the subject for the _Lancet_, if you will allow me."

"With all my heart," I said sadly.

The old physician regarded me for a minute with his keen eyes, which had
looked through the window of disease into many a human soul. I shrank
from the scrutiny, but I need not have done so. He grasped my hand
firmly and closely in his own.

"God bless you, Martin!" he said, "God bless you!"



CHAPTER THE FORTY-SIXTH.

A DEED OF SEPARATION.


That keen, benevolent glance of Dr. Senior's was like a gleam of
sunlight piercing through the deepest recesses of my troubled spirit. I
felt that I was no longer fighting my fight out alone. A friendly eye
was upon me; a friendly voice was cheering me on. "The dead shall look
me through and through," says Tennyson. For my part I should wish for a
good, wise man to look me through and through; feel the pulse of my soul
from time to time, when it was ailing, and detect what was there
contrary to reason and to right. Dr. Senior's hearty "God bless you!"
brought strength and blessing with it.

I went straight from Fulham to Bellringer Street. A healthy impulse to
fulfil all my duty, however difficult, was in its first fervid moment of
action. Nevertheless there was a subtle hope within me founded upon one
chance that was left--it was just possible that Foster might refuse to
be made the subject of an experiment; for an experiment it was.

I found him not yet out of bed. Mrs. Foster was busy at her task of
engrossing in the sitting-room--- a task she performed so well that I
could not believe but that she had been long accustomed to it. I
followed her to Foster's bedroom, a small close attic at the back, with
a cheerless view of chimneys and the roofs of houses. There was no means
of ventilation, except by opening a window near the head of the bed,
when the draught of cold air would blow full upon him. He looked
exceedingly worn and wan. The doubt crossed me, whether the disease had
not made more progress than we supposed. His face fell as he saw the
expression upon mine.

"Worse, eh?" he said; "don't say I am worse."

I sat down beside him, and told him what I believed to be his chance of
life; not concealing from him that I proposed to try, if he gave his
consent, a mode of treatment which had never been practised before. His
eye, keen and sharp as that of a lynx, seemed to read my thoughts as Dr.
Senior's had done.

"Martin Dobrée," he said, in a voice so different from his ordinary
caustic tone that it almost startled me, "I can trust you. I put myself
with implicit confidence into your hands."

The last chance--dare I say the last hope?--was gone. I stood pledged on
my honor as a physician, to employ this discovery, which had been laid
open to me by my mother's fatal illness, for the benefit of the man
whose life was most harmful to Olivia and myself. I felt suffocated,
stifled. I opened the window for a minute or two, and leaned through it
to catch the fresh breath of the outer air.

"I must tell you," I said, when I drew my head in again, "that you must
not expect to regain your health and strength so completely as to be
able to return to your old dissipations. You must make up your mind to
lead a regular, quiet, abstemious life, avoiding all excitement. Nine
months out of the twelve at least, if not the whole year, you must spend
in the country for the sake of fresh air. A life in town would kill you
in six months. But if you are careful of yourself you may live to sixty
or seventy."

"Life at any price!" he answered, in his old accents, "yet you put it in
a dreary light before me. It hardly seems worth while to buy such an
existence, especially with that wife of mine downstairs, who cannot
endure the country, and is only a companion for a town-life. Now, if it
had been Olivia--you could imagine life in the country endurable with
Olivia?"

What could I answer to such a question, which ran through me like an
electric shock? A brilliant phantasmagoria flashed across my brain--a
house in Guernsey with Olivia in it--sunshine--flowers--the singing of
birds--the music of the sea--the pure, exhilarating atmosphere. It had
vanished into a dead blank before I opened my mouth, though probably a
moment's silence had not intervened. Foster's lips were curled into a
mocking smile.

"There would be more chance for you now," I said, "if you could have
better air than this."

"How can I?" he asked.

"Be frank with me," I answered, "and tell me what your means are. It
would be worth your while to spend your last farthing upon this chance."

"Is it not enough to make a man mad," he said, "to know there are
thousands lying in the bank in his wife's name, and he cannot touch a
penny of it? It is life itself to me; yet I may die like a dog in this
hole for the want of it. My death will lie at Olivia's door, curse her!"

He fell back upon his pillows, with a groan as heavy and deep as ever
came from the heart of a wretch perishing from sheer want. I could not
choose but feel some pity for him; but this was an opportunity I must
not miss.

"It is of no use to curse her," I said; "come, Foster, let us talk over
this matter quietly and reasonably. If Olivia be alive, as I cannot help
hoping she is, your wisest course would be to come to some mutual
agreement, which-would release you both from your present difficulties;
for you must recollect she is as penniless as yourself. Let me speak to
you as if I were her brother. Of this one thing you may be quite
certain, she will never consent to return to you; and in that I will aid
her to the utmost of my power. But there is no reason why you should not
have a good share of the property, which she would gladly relinquish on
condition that you left her alone. Now just listen carefully. I think
there would be small difficulty, if we set about it, in proving that you
were guilty against her with your present wife; and in that case she
could claim a divorce absolutely, and her property would remain her own.
Your second marriage with the same person would set her free from you
altogether."

"You could prove nothing." he replied, fiercely, "and my second marriage
is covered by the documents I could produce."

"Which are forged," I said, calmly; "we will find out by whom. You are
in a net of your own making. But we do not wish to push this question to
a legal issue. Let us come to some arrangement. Olivia will consent to
any terms I agree to."

Unconsciously I was speaking as if I knew where Olivia was, and could
communicate with her when I chose. I was merely anticipating the time
when Tardif felt sure of hearing from her. Foster lay still, watching me
with his cold, keen eyes.

"If those letters are forged," he said, uneasily, "it is Olivia who has
forged them. But I must consult my lawyers. I will let you know the
result in a few days."

But the same evening I received a note, desiring me to go and see him
immediately. I was myself in a fever of impatience, and glad at the
prospect of any settlement "of this subject, in the hope of setting
Olivia free, as far as she could be free during his lifetime. He was
looking brighter and better than in the morning, and an odd smile played
now and then about his face as he talked to me, after having desired
Mrs. Foster to leave us alone together.

"Mark!" he said, "I have not the slightest reason to doubt Olivia's
death, except your own opinion to the contrary, which is founded upon
reasons of which I know nothing. But, acting on the supposition that she
may be still alive, I am quite willing to enter into negotiations with
her, I suppose it must be through you."

"It must," I answered, "and it cannot be at present. You will have to
wait for some months, perhaps, while I pursue my search for her. I do
not know where she is any more than you do."

A vivid gleam crossed his face at these words, but whether of
incredulity or satisfaction I could not tell.

"But suppose I die in the mean time?" he objected.

That objection was a fair and obvious one. His malady would not pause in
its insidious attack while I was seeking Olivia. I deliberated for a few
minutes, endeavoring to look at a scheme which presented itself to me
from every point of view.

"I do not know that I might not leave you in your present position," I
said at last; "it may be I am acting from an over-strained sense of
duty. But if you will give me a formal deed protecting her from
yourself, I am willing to advance the funds necessary to remove you to
purer air, and more open quarters than these. A deed of separation,
which both of you must sign, can be drawn up, and receive your
signature. There will be no doubt as to getting hers, when we find her.
But that may be some months hence, as I said. Still I will run the
risk."

"For her sake?" he said, with a sneer.

"For her sake, simply," I answered; "I will employ a lawyer to draw up
the deed, and as soon as you sign it I will advance the money you
require. My treatment of your disease I shall begin at once; that falls,
under my duty as your doctor; but I warn you that fresh air and freedom
from agitation are almost, if not positively, essential to its success.
The sooner you secure these for yourself, the better your chance."

Some further conversation passed between us, as to the stipulations to
be insisted upon, and the division of the yearly income from Olivia's
property, for I would not agree to her alienating any portion of it.
Foster wished to drive a hard bargain, still with that odd smile on his
face; and it was after much discussion that we came to an agreement.

I had the deed drawn up by a lawyer, who warned me that, if Foster sued
for a restitution of his rights, they would be enforced. But I hoped
that when Olivia was found she would have some evidence in her own
favor, which would deter him from carrying the case into court. The deed
was signed by Foster, and left in my charge till Olivia's signature
could be obtained.

As soon as the deed was secured, I had my patient removed from
Bellringer Street to some apartments in Fulham, near to Dr. Senior,
whose interest in the case was now almost equal to my own. Here, if I
could not visit him every day, Dr. Senior did, while his great
professional skill enabled him to detect symptoms which might have
escaped my less experienced eye. Never had any sufferer, under the
highest and wealthiest ranks, greater care and science expended upon him
than Richard Foster.

The progress of his recovery was slow, but it was sure. I felt that it
would be so from the first. Day by day I watched the pallid hue of
sickness upon his face changing into a more natural tone. I saw his
strength coming back by slight but steady degrees. The malady was forced
to retreat into its most hidden citadel, where it might lurk as a
prisoner, but not dwell as a destroyer, for many years to come, if
Foster would yield himself to the _régime_ of life we prescribed. But
the malady lingered there, ready to break out again openly, if its
dungeon-door were set ajar. I had given life to him, but it was his part
to hold it fast.

There was no triumph to me in this, as there would have been had my
patient been any one else. The cure aroused much interest among my
colleagues, and made my name more known. But what was that to me? As
long as this man lived, Olivia was doomed to a lonely and friendless
life. I tried to look into the future for her, and saw it stretch out
into long, dreary years. I wondered where she would find a home. Could I
persuade Johanna to receive her into her pleasant dwelling, which would
become so lonely to her when Captain Carey had moved into Julia's house
in St. Peter-Port? That was the best plan I could form.



CHAPTER THE FORTY-SEVENTH.

A FRIENDLY, CABMAN.


Julia's marriage arrangements were going on speedily. There was
something ironical to me in the chance that made me so often the witness
of them. We were so merely cousins again, that she discussed her
purchases, and displayed them before me, as if there had never been any
notion between us of keeping house together. Once more I assisted in the
choice of a wedding-dress, for the one made a year before was said to be
yellow and old-fashioned. But this time Julia did not insist upon having
white satin. A dainty tint of gray was considered more suitable, either
to her own complexion or the age of the bridegroom. Captain Carey
enjoyed the purchase with the rapture I had failed to experience.

The wedding was fixed to take place the last week in July, a fortnight
earlier than the time proposed; it was also a fortnight earlier than the
date I was looking forward to most anxiously, when, if ever, news would
reach Tardif from Olivia. All my plans were most carefully made, in the
event of her sending word where she was. The deed of separation, signed
by Foster, was preserved by me most cautiously, for I had a sort of
haunting dread that Mrs. Foster would endeavor to get possession of it.
She was eminently sulky, and had been so ever since the signing of the
deed. Now that Foster was very near convalescence, they might be trying
some stratagem to recover it. But our servants were trustworthy, and the
deed lay safe in the drawer of my desk.

At last Dr. Senior agreed with me that Foster was sufficiently advanced
on the road to recovery to be removed from Fulham to the better air of
the south coast. The month of May had been hotter than usual, and June
was sultry. It was evidently to our patient's advantage to exchange the
atmosphere of London for that of the sea-shore, even though he had to
dispense with our watchful attendance. In fact he could not very well
fall back now, with common prudence and self-denial. We impressed upon
him the urgent necessity of these virtues, and required Mrs. Foster to
write us fully, three times a week, every variation she might observe in
his health. After that we started them off to a quiet village in Sussex.
I breathed more freely when they were out of my daily sphere of duty.

But before they went a hint of treachery reached me, which put me doubly
on my guard. One morning, when Jack and I were at breakfast, each deep
in our papers, with an occasional comment to one another on their
contents, Simmons, the cabby, was announced, as asking to speak to one
or both of us immediately. He was a favorite with Jack, who bade the
servant show him in; and Simmons appeared, stroking his hat round and
round with his hand, as if hardly knowing what to do with his limbs off
the box.

"Nothing amiss with your wife, or the brats. I hope?" said Jack.

"No, Dr. John, no," he answered, "there ain't any thing amiss with them,
except being too many of 'em p'raps, and my old woman won't own to that.
But there's some thing in the wind as concerns Dr. Dobry, so I thought
I'd better come and give you a hint of it."

"Very good, Simmons," said Jack.

"You recollect taking my cab to Gray's-Inn Road about this time last
year, when I showed up so green, don't you?" he asked.

"To be sure," I said, throwing down my paper, and listening eagerly.

"Well, doctors," he continued, addressing us both, "the very last Monday
as ever was, a lady walks slowly along the stand, eying us all very
hard, but taking no heed to any of 'em, till she catches sight of _me_.
That's not a uncommon event, doctors. My wife says there's something
about me as gives confidence to her sex. Anyhow, so it is, and I can't
gainsay it. The lady comes along very slowly--she looks hard at me--she
nods her head, as much as to say, 'You, and your cab, and your horse,
are what I'm on the lookout for;' and I gets down, opens the door, and
sees her in quite comfortable. Says she, 'Drive me to Messrs. Scott and
Brown, in Gray's-Inn Road.'"

"No!" I ejaculated.

"Yes, doctors," replied Simmons. "'Drive me,' she says, 'to Messrs.
Scott and Brown, Gray's-Inn Road.' Of course I knew the name again; I
was vexed enough the last time I were there, at showing myself so green.
I looks hard at her. A very fine make of a woman, with hair and eyes as
black as coals, and a impudent look on her face somehow. I turned it
over and over again in my head, driving her there--could there be any
reason in it? or had it any thing to do with last time? and cetera. She
told me to wait for her in the street; and directly after she goes in,
there comes down the gent I had seen before, with a pen behind his ear.
He looks very hard at me, and me at him. Says he, 'I think I have seen
your face before, my man.' Very civil; as civil as a orange, as folks
say. 'I think you have,' I says. 'Could you step up-stairs for a minute
or two?' says he, very polite; 'I'll find a boy to take charge of your
horse.' And he slips a arf-crown into my hand, quite pleasant."

"So you went in, of course?" said Jack.

"Doctors," he answered, solemnly, "I did go in. There's nothing to be
said against that. The lady is sitting in a orfice up-stairs, talking to
another gent, with hair and eyes like hers, as black as coals, and the
same look of brass on his face. All three of 'em looked a little under
the weather. 'What's your name, my man?' asked the black gent. 'Walker,'
I says. 'And where do you live?' he says, taking me serious. 'In Queer
Street,' I says, with a little wink to show 'em I were up to a trick or
two. They all three larfed a little among themselves, but not in a
pleasant sort of way. Then the gent begins again. 'My good fellow,' he
says, 'we want you to give us a little information that 'ud be of use to
us, and we are willing to pay you handsome for it. It can't do you any
harm, nor nobody else, for it's only a matter of business. You're not
above taking ten shillings for a bit of useful information?' 'Not by no
manner of means.' I says."

"Go on," I said, impatiently, as Simmons paused to look as hard at us as
he had done at these people.

"Jest so doctors," he continued, "but this time I was minding my P's and
Q's. 'You know Dr. Senior, of Brook Street?' he says. 'The old doctor?'
I says; 'he's retired out of town.' 'No,' he says, 'nor the young doctor
neither; but there's another of 'em isn't there?' 'Dr. Dobry?' I says.
'Yes,' he says, 'he often takes your cab, my friend?' 'First one and
then the other,' I says, 'sometimes Dr. John and sometimes Dr. Dobry.
They're as thick as brothers, and thicker.' 'Good friends of yours?' he
says. 'Well,' says I, 'they take my cab when they can have it; but
there's not much friendship, as I see, in that. It's the best cab and
horse on the stand, though I say it, as shouldn't. Dr. John's pretty
fair, but the other's no great favorite of mine.' 'Ah!' he says."

Simmons's face was illuminated with delight, and he winked sportively at
us.

"It were all flummery, doctors," he said; "I don't deny as Dr. John is a
older friend, and a older favorite; but that is neither here nor there.
I jest see them setting a trap, and I wanted to have a finger in it.
'Ah!' he says, 'all we want to know, but we do want to know that very
particular, is where you drive Dr. Dobry to the oftenest. He's going to
borrow money from us, and we'd like to find out something about his
habits; specially where he spends his spare time, and all that sort of
thing, you understand. You know where he goes in your cab.' 'Of course I
do,' I says; 'I drove him and Dr. John here nigh a twelvemonth ago. The
other gent took my number down, and knew where to look for me when you
wanted me.' 'You're a clever fellow,' he says. 'So my old woman thinks,'
I says. 'And you'd be glad to earn a little more for your old woman?' he
says. 'Try me,' I says. 'Well then,' says he, 'here's a offer for you.
If you'll bring us word where he spends his spare time, we'll give you
ten shillings; and if it turns out of any use to us, well make it five
pounds.' 'Very good,' I says. 'You've not got any information to tell us
at once?' he says. 'Well, no,' I says, 'but I'll keep my eye upon him
now.' 'Stop,' he says, as I were going away; 'they keep a carriage, of
course?' 'Of course,' I says; 'what's the good of a doctor that hasn't a
carriage and pair?' 'Do they use it at night?' says he. 'Not often,'
says I; 'they take a cab; mine if it's on the stand.' 'Very good,' he
says; 'good-morning, my friend.' So I come away, and drives back again
to the stand."

"And you left the lady there?" I asked, with no doubt in my mind that it
was Mrs. Foster.

"Yes, doctor," he answered, "talking away like a poll-parrot with the
black-haired gent. That were last Monday; to-day's Friday, and this
morning there comes this bit of a note to me at our house in Dawson
Street. So my old woman says. 'Jim, you'd better go and show it to Dr.
John.' That's what's brought me here at this time, doctors."

He gave the note into Jack's hands; and he, after glancing at it, passed
it on to me. The contents were simply these words: "James Simmons is
requested to call at No.--Gray's-Inn Road, at 6.30 Friday evening." The
handwriting struck me as one I had seen and noticed before. I scanned it
more closely for a minute or two; then a glimmering of light began to
dawn upon my memory. Could it be? I felt almost sure it was. In another
minute I was persuaded that it was the same hand as that which had
written the letter announcing Olivia's death. Probably if I could see
the penmanship of the other partner, I should find it to be identical
with that of the medical certificate which had accompanied the letter.

"Leave this note with me, Simmons," I said, giving him half a crown in
exchange for it. I was satisfied now that the papers had been forged,
but not with Olivia's connivance. Was Foster himself a party to it? Or
had Mrs. Foster alone, with the aid of these friends or relatives of
hers, plotted and carried out the scheme, leaving him in ignorance and
doubt like my own?



CHAPTER THE FORTY-EIGHTH.

JULIA'S WEDDING.


Before the Careys and Julia returned to Guernsey, Captain Carey came to
see me one evening, at our own house in Brook Street. He seemed
suffering from some embarrassment and shyness; and I could not for some
time lead him to the point he was longing to gain.

"You are quite reconciled to all this, Martin?" he said, stammering. I
knew very well what he meant.

"More than reconciled," I answered, "I am heartily glad of it. Julia
will make you an excellent wife."

"I am sure of that," he said, simply, "yet it makes me nervous a little
at times to think I may be standing in your light. I never thought what
it was coming to when I tried to comfort Julia about you, or I would
have left Johanna to do it all. It is very difficult to console a person
without seeming very fond of them; and then there's the danger of them
growing fond of you. I love Julia now with all my heart: but I did not
begin comforting her with that view, and I am sure you exonerate me,
Martin?"

"Quite, quite," I said, almost laughing at his contrition; "I should
never have married Julia, believe me; and I am delighted that she is
going to be married, especially to an old friend like you. I shall make
your house my home."

"Do, Martin," he answered, his face brightening; "and now I am come to
ask you a great favor--a favor to us all."

"I'll do it, I promise that beforehand," I said.

"We have all set our hearts on your being my best man," he replied--"at
the wedding, you know. Johanna says nothing will convince the Guernsey
people that we are all good friends except that. It will have a queer
look, but if you are there everybody will be satisfied that you do not
blame either Julia or me. I know it will be hard for you, dear Martin,
because of your poor mother, and your father being in Guernsey still;
but if you can conquer that, for our sakes, you would make us every one
perfectly happy."

I had not expected them to ask this; but, when I came to think of it, it
seemed very natural and reasonable. There was no motive strong enough to
make me refuse to go to Julia's wedding; so I arranged to be with them
the last week in July.

About ten days before going, I ran down to the little village on the
Sussex coast to visit Foster, from whom, or from his wife, I had
received a letter regularly three times a week. I found him as near
complete health as he could ever expect to be, and I told him so; but I
impressed upon him the urgent necessity of keeping himself quiet and
unexcited. He listened with that cool, taunting sneer which had always
irritated me.

"Ah! you doctors are like mothers," he said, "who try to frighten their
children with bogies. A doctor is a good crutch to lean upon when one is
quite lame, but I shall be glad to dispense with my crutch as soon as my
lameness is gone."

"Very good," I replied; "you know your life is of no value to me. I have
simply done my duty by you."

"Your mother, Mrs. Dobrée, wrote to me this week." he remarked, smiling
as I winced at the utterance of that name; "she tells me there is to be
a grand wedding in Guernsey; that of your _fiancée_, Julia Dobrée, with
Captain Carey. You are to be present, so she says."

"Yes," I replied.

"It will be a pleasure to you to revisit your native island," he said,
"particularly under such circumstances."

I took no notice of the taunt. My conversation with this man invariably
led to full stops. He said something to which silence was the best
retort. I did not stay long with him, for the train by which I was to
return passed through the village in less than an hour from my arrival.
As I walked down the little street I turned round once by a sudden
impulse, and saw Foster gazing after me with his pale face and
glittering eyes. Ho waved his hand in farewell to me, and that was the
last I saw of him.

Some days after this I crossed in the mail-steamer to Guernsey, on a
Monday night, as the wedding was to take place at an early hour on
Wednesday morning, in time for Captain Carey and Julia to catch the boat
to England. The old gray town, built street above street on the rock
facing the sea, rose before my eyes, bathed in the morning sunlight. But
there was no home in it for me now. The old familiar house in the Grange
Road was already occupied by strangers. I did not even know where I was
to go. I did not like the idea of staying under Julia's roof, where
every thing would remind me of that short spell of happiness in my
mother's life, when she was preparing it for my future home. Luckily,
before the steamer touched the pier, I caught sight of Captain Carey's
welcome face looking out for my appearance. He stood at the end of the
gangway, as I crossed over it with my portmanteau.

"Come along, Martin," hee said; "you are to go with me to the Vale, as
my groomsman, you know. Are all the people staring at us, do you think?
I daren't look round. Just look about you for me, my boy."

"They are staring awfully," I answered, "and there are scores of them
waiting to shake hands with us."

"Oh, they must not!" he said, earnestly; "look as if you did not see
them, Martin. That's the worst of getting married; yet most of them are
married themselves, and ought to know better. There's the dog-cart
waiting for us a few yards off, if we could only get to it. I have kept
my face seaward ever since I came on the pier, with my collar turned up,
and my hat over my eyes. Are you sure they see who we are?"

"Sure!" I cried, "why, there's Carey Dobrée, and Dobrée Carey, and Brock
de Jersey, and De Jersey le Cocq, and scores of others. They know us as
well as their own brothers. We shall have to shake hands with every one
of them."

"Why didn't you come in disguise?" asked Captain Carey, reproachfully;
but before I could answer I was seized upon by the nearest of our
cousins, and we were whirled into a very vortex of greetings and
congratulations. It was fully a quarter of an hour before we were
allowed to drive off in the dog-cart; and Captain Carey was almost
breathless with exhaustion.

"They are good fellows," he said, after a time, "very good fellows, but
it is trying, isn't it, Martin? It is as if no man was ever married
before; though they have gone through it themselves, and ought to know
how one feels. Now you take it quietly, my boy, and you do not know how
deeply I feel obliged to you."

There was some reason for me to take it quietly. I could not help
thinking how nearly I had been myself in Captain Carey's position. I
knew that Julia and I would have led a tranquil, matter-of-fact,
pleasant enough life together, but for the unlucky fate that had carried
me across to Sark to fall in love with Olivia. There was something
enviable in the tranquil prosperity I had forfeited. Guernsey was the
dearest spot on earth to me, yet I was practically banished from it.
Julia was, beyond all doubt, the woman I loved most, next to Olivia, but
she was lost to me. There was no hope for me on the other hand. Foster
was well again, and by my means. Probably I might secure peace and
comparative freedom for Olivia, but that was all. She could never be
more to me than she was now. My only prospect was that of a dreary
bachelorhood; and Captain Carey's bashful exultation made the future
seem less tolerable to me.

I felt it more still when, after dinner in the cool of the summer
evening, we drove lack into town to see Julia for the last time before
we met in church the next morning. There was an air of glad excitement
pervading the house. Friends were running in, with gifts and pleasant
words of congratulation. Julia herself had a peculiar modest stateliness
and frank dignity, which suited her well. She was happy and content, and
her face glowed. Captain Carey's manner was one of tender chivalry,
somewhat old-fashioned. I found it a hard thing to "look at happiness
through another man's eyes."

I drove Captain Carey and Johanna home along the low, level shore which
I had so often traversed with my heart full of Olivia. It was dusk, the
dusk of a summer's night; but the sea was luminous, and Sark lay upon it
a bank of silent darkness, sleeping to the music of the waves. A strong
yearning came over me, a longing to know immediately the fate of my
Olivia. Would to Heaven she could return to Sark, and be cradled there
in its silent and isolated dells! Would to Heaven this huge load of
anxiety and care for her, which bowed me down, might be taken away
altogether!

"A fortnight longer," I said to myself, "and Tardif will know where she
is; then I can take measures for her tranquillity and safety in the
future."

It was well for me that I had slept during my passage, for I had little
sleep during that night. Twice I was aroused by the voice of Captain
Carey at my door, inquiring what the London time was, and if I could
rely upon my watch not having stopped. At four o'clock he insisted upon
everybody in the house getting up. The ceremony was to be solemnized at
seven, for the mail-steamer from Jersey to England was due in Guernsey
at nine, and there were no other means of quitting the island later in
the day. Under these circumstances there could be no formal
wedding-breakfast, a matter not much to be regretted. There would not be
too much time, so Johanna said, for the bride to change her
wedding-dress at her own house for a suitable travelling-costume, and
the rest of the day would be our own.

Captain Carey and I were standing at the altar of the old church some
minutes before the bridal procession appeared. He looked pale, but wound
up to a high pitch of resolute courage. The church was nearly full of
eager spectators, all of whom I had known from my childhood--faces that
would have crowded about me, had I been standing in the bridegroom's
place. Far back, half sheltered by a pillar, I saw the white head and
handsome face of my father, with Kate Daltrey by his side; but though
the church was so full, nobody had entered the same pew. His name had
not been once mentioned in my hearing. As far as his old circle in
Guernsey was concerned, Dr. Dobrée was dead.

At length Julia appeared, pale like the bridegroom, but dignified and
prepossessing. She did not glance at me; she evidently gave no thought
to me. That was well, and as it should be. If any fancy had been
lingering in my head that she still regretted somewhat the exchange she
had made, that fancy vanished forever. Julia's expression, when Captain
Carey drew her hand through his arm, and led her down the aisle to the
vestry, was one of unmixed contentment.

Yet there was a pang in it--reason as I would, there was a pang in it
for me. I should have liked her to glance once at me, with a troubled
and dimmed eye. I should have liked a shade upon her face as I wrote my
name below hers in the register. But there was nothing of the kind. She
gave me the kiss, which I demanded as her cousin Martin, without
embarrassment, and after that she put her hand again upon the
bridegroom's arm, and marched off with him to the carriage.

A whole host of us accompanied the bridal pair to the pier, and saw them
start off on their wedding-trip, with a pyramid of bouquets before them
on the deck of the steamer. We ran round to the light-house, and waved
out hats and handkerchiefs as long as they were in sight. That duty
done, the rest of the day was our own.



CHAPTER THE FORTY-NINTH.

A TELEGRAM IN PATOIS.


What a long day it was! How the hours seemed to double themselves, and
creep along at the slowest pace they could!

I had had some hope of running over to Sark to see Tardif, but that
could not be. I was needed too much by the party that had been left
behind by Captain Carey and Julia. We tried to while away the time by a
drive round the island, and by visiting many of my old favorite haunts;
but I could not be myself.

Everybody rallied me on my want of spirits, but I found it impossible to
shake off my depression. I was glad when the day was over, and Johanna
and I were left in the quiet secluded house in the Vale, where the moan
of the sea sighed softly through the night air.

"This has been a trying day for you, Martin," said Johanna.

"Yes," I answered; "though I can hardly account for my own depression.
Johanna, in another fortnight I shall learn where Olivia is. I want to
find a home for her. Just think of her desolate position! She has no
friends but Tardif and me; and you know how the world would talk if I
were too openly her friend. Indeed, I do not wish her to come to live in
London; the trial would be too great for me. I could not resist the
desire to see her, to speak to her--and that would be fatal to her.
Dearest Johanna, I want such a home as this for her."

Johanna made no reply, and I could not see her face in the dim moonlight
which filled the room. I knelt down beside her, to urge my petition more
earnestly.

"Your name would be such a protection to her." I went on, "this house
such a refuge! If my mother were living, I would ask her to receive her.
You have been almost as good to me as my mother. Save me, save Olivia
from the difficulty I see before us."

"Will you never get over this unfortunate affair?"' she asked, half
angrily.

"Never!" I said; "Olivia is so dear to me that I am afraid of harming
her by my love. Save her from me, Johanna. You have it in your power. I
should be happy if I knew she was here with you. I implore you, for my
mother's sake, to receive Olivia into your home."

"She shall come to me," said Johanna, after a few minutes' silence. I
was satisfied, though the consent was given with a sigh. I knew that,
before long, Johanna would be profoundly attached to my Olivia.

It was almost midnight the next day when I reached Brook Street, where I
found Jack expecting my return. He had bought, in honor of it, some
cigars of special quality, over which I was to tell him all the story of
Julia's wedding. But a letter was waiting for me, directed in queer,
crabbed handwriting, and posted in Jersey a week before. It had been so
long on the road in consequence of the bad penmanship of the address. I
opened it carelessly as I answered Jack's first inquiries; but the
instant I saw the signature I held up my hand to silence him. It was
from Tardif. This is a translation:


     "DEAR DOCTOR AND FRIEND: This day I received a letter from
     mam'zelle; quite a little letter with only a few lines in it.
     She says, 'Come to me. My husband has found me; he is here. I
     have no friends but you and one other, and I cannot send for
     him. You said you would come to me whenever I wanted you. I
     have not time to write more. I am in a little village called
     Ville-en-bois, between Granville and Noireau. Come to the
     house of the curé; I am there.'

     "Behold, I am gone, dear monsieur. I write this in my boat,
     for we are crossing to Jersey to catch the steamboat to
     Granville. To-morrow evening I shall be in Ville-en-bois. Will
     you learn the law of France about this affair? They say the
     code binds a woman to follow her husband wherever he goes. At
     London you can learn any thing. Believe me, I will protect
     mam'zelle, or I should say madame, at the loss of my life.
     Write to me as soon as you receive this. There will be an inn
     at Ville-en-bois; direct to me there. Take courage, monsieur.
     Your devoted TARDIF."

"I must go!" I exclaimed, starting to my feet, about to rush out of the
house.

"Where?" cried Jack, catching my arm between both his hands, and holding
me fast.

"To Olivia," I answered; "that villain, that scoundrel has hunted her
out in Normandy. Read that, Jack. Let me go."

"Stay!" he said; "there is no chance of going so late as this; it is
after twelve o'clock. Let us think a few minutes, and look at Bradshaw."

But at that moment a furious peal of the bell rang through the house.
We both ran into the hall. The servant had just opened the door, and a
telegraph-clerk stood on the steps, with a telegram, which he thrust
into his hands. It was directed to me. I tore it open. "From Jean
Grimont, Granville, to Dr. Dobrée. Brook Street, London." I did not know
any Jean Grimont, of Granville, it was the name of a stranger to me. A
message was written underneath in Norman _patois_, but so mispelt and
garbled in its transmission that I could not make out the sense of it.
The only words I was sure about were "mam'zelle," "Foster," "Tardif,"
and "_à l'agonie_." Who was on the point of death I could not tell.



CHAPTER THE FIRST.

OLIVIA'S JUSTIFICATION.


I know that in the eyes of the world I was guilty of a great fault--a
fault so grave that society condemns it bitterly. How shall I justify
myself before those who believe a woman owes her whole self to her
husband, whatever his conduct to her may be? That is impossible. To them
I merely plead "guilty," and say nothing of extenuating circumstances.

But there are others who will listen, and be sorry for me. There are
women like Johanna Carey, who will pity me, and lay the blame where it
ought to lie.

I was little more than seventeen when I was married; as mere a child as
any simple, innocent girl of seventeen among you. I knew nothing of what
life was, or what possibilities of happiness or misery it contained. I
married to set away from a home that had been happy, but which had
become miserable. This was how it was:

My own mother died when I was too young a child to feel her loss. For
many years after that, my father and I lived alone together on one of
the great sheep-farms of Adelaide, which belonged to him, and where he
made all the fortune that he left me. A very happy life, very free, with
no trammels of society and no fetters of custom; a simple, rustic life,
which gave me no preparation for the years that came after it.

When I was thirteen my father married again--for my sake, and mine
only. I knew afterward that he was already foreseeing his death, and
feared to leave me alone in the colony. He thought his second wife would
be a mother to me, at the age when I most needed one. He died two years
after, leaving me to her care. He died more peacefully than he could
have done, because of that. This he said to me the very last day of his
life. Ah! I trust the dead do not know the troubles that come to the
living. It would have troubled my father--nay, it would have been
anguish to him, even in heaven itself, if he could have seen my life
after he was gone. It is no use talking or thinking about it. After two
wretched years I was only too glad to be married, and get away from the
woman who owed almost the duty of a mother to me.

Richard Foster was a nephew of my step-mother, the only man I was
allowed to see. He was almost twice my age; but he had pleasant manners,
and a smooth, smooth tongue. I believed he loved me, he swore it so
often and so earnestly; and I was in sore need of love. I wanted some
one to take care of me, and think of me, and comfort me, as my father
had been used to do. So much alone, so desolate I had been since his
death, no one caring whether I were happy or miserable, ill or well,
that I felt grateful to Richard Foster when he said he loved me. He
seemed to come in my father's stead, and my step-mother urged and
hurried on our marriage, and I did not know what I was doing. The
trustees who had charge of my property left me to the care of my
father's widow. That was how I came to marry him when I was only a girl
of seventeen, with no knowledge of the world but what I had learned on
my father's sheep-run.

It was a horrible, shameful thing, if you will only think of it. There
was I, an ignorant, unconscious, bewildered girl, with the film of
childhood over my eyes still; and there was he, a crafty, unprincipled,
double-tongued adventurer, who was in love with my fortune, not with me.
As quickly as he could carry me off from my home, and return to his own
haunts in Europe, he brought me away from the colony, where all whom I
could ever call friends were living. I was utterly alone with him--at
his mercy. There was not an ear that I could whisper a complaint to; not
one face that would look at me in pity and compassion. My father had
been a good man, single-hearted, high-minded, and chivalrous. This man
laughed at all honor and conscience scornfully.

I cannot tell you the shock and horror of it. I had not known there were
such places and such people in the world, until I was thrust suddenly
into the midst of them; innocent at first, like the child I was, but the
film soon passed away from my eyes. I grew to loathe myself as well as
him. How would an angel feel, who was forced to go down to hell, and
become like the lost creatures there, remembering all the time the
undefiled heaven he was banished from? I was no angel, but I had been a
simple, unsullied, clear-minded girl, and I found myself linked in
association with men and women such as frequent the gambling-places on
the Continent. For we lived upon the Continent, going from one
gambling-place to another. How was a girl like me to possess her own
soul, and keep it pure, when it belonged to a man like Richard Foster?

There was one more injury and degradation for me to suffer. I recollect
the first moment I saw the woman who wrought me so much misery
afterward. We were staying in Homburg for a few weeks at a hotel; and
she was seated at a little table in a window, not far from the one where
we were sitting. A handsome, bold-looking, arrogant woman. They had
known one another years before, it seemed. He said she was his cousin.
He left me to go and speak to her, and I watched them, though I did not
know then that any thing more would come of it than a casual
acquaintance. I saw his face grow animated, and his eyes look into hers,
with an expression that stirred something like jealousy within me, if
jealousy can exist without love. When he returned to me, he told me he
had invited her to join us as my companion. She came to us that evening.

She never left us after that. I was too young, he said, to be left alone
in foreign towns while he was attending to his business, and his cousin
would be the most suitable person to take care of me. I hated the woman
instinctively. She was civil to me just at first, but soon there was
open war between us, at which he laughed only; finding amusement for
himself in my fruitless efforts to get rid of her. After a while I
discovered it could only be by setting myself free from him.

Now judge me. Tell me what I was bound to do. Three voices I hear speak.

One says: "You, a poor hasty girl, very weak yet innocent, ought to have
remained in the slough, losing day by day your purity, your worth, your
nobleness, till you grew like your companions. You had vowed ignorantly,
with a profound ignorance it might be, to obey and honor this man till
death parted you. You had no right to break that vow."

Another says: "You should have made of yourself a spy, you should have
laid traps; you should have gathered up every scrap of evidence you
could find against them, that might have freed you in a court of law."

A third says: "It was right for you, for the health of your soul, and
the deliverance of your whole self from an intolerable bondage, to break
the ignorantly-taken vow, and take refuge in flight. No soul can be
bound irrevocably to another for its own hurt and ruin."

I listened then, as I should listen now, to the third voice. The chance
came to me just before I was one-and-twenty. They were bent upon
extorting from me that portion of my father's property which would come
to me, and be solely in my own power, when I came of age. It had been
settled upon me in such a way, that if I were married my husband could
not touch it without my consent.

I must make this quite clear. One-third, of my fortune was so settled
that I myself could not take any portion of it save the interest; but
the other two-thirds were absolutely mine, whether I was married or
single. By locking up one-third, my father had sought to provide against
the possibility of my ever being reduced to poverty. The rest was my
own, to keep if I pleased; to give up to my husband if I pleased.

At first they tried what fair words and flattery would do with me. Then
they changed their tactics. They brought me over to London, where not a
creature knew me. They made me a prisoner in dull, dreary rooms, where I
had no employment and no resources. That is, the woman did it. My
husband, after settling us in a house in London, disappeared, and I saw
no more of him. I know now he wished to keep himself irresponsible for
my imprisonment. She would have been the scape-goat, had any legal
difficulties arisen. He was anxious to retain all his rights over me.

I can see how subtle he was. Though my life was a daily torture, there
was positively nothing I could put into words against him--nothing that
would have authorized me to seek a legal separation. I did not know any
thing of the laws, how should I? except the fact which he dinned into my
ears that he could compel me to live with him. But I know now that the
best friends in the world could not have saved me from him in any other
way than the one I took. He kept within the letter of the law. He
forfeited no atom of his claim upon me.

Then God took me by the hand, and led me into a peaceful and untroubled
refuge, until I had gathered strength again.



CHAPTER THE SECOND.

ON THE WING AGAIN.


How should I see that Dr. Martin Dobrée was falling in love with me? I
was blind to it; strangely blind those wise people will think, who say a
woman always knows when a man loves her. I knew so well that all my life
was shut out from the ordinary hopes and prospects of girlhood, that I
never realized the fact that to him I was a young girl whom he might
love honorably, were he once set free from his engagement to his cousin
Julia.

I had not looked for any trouble of that kind. He had been as kind to me
as any brother could have been--kind, and chivalrous, and considerate.
The first time I saw him I was weak and worn out with great pain, and my
mind seemed wandering. His face came suddenly and distinctly before me;
a pleasant face, though neither handsome nor regular in features. It
possessed great vivacity and movement, changing readily, and always full
of expression. He looked at me so earnestly and compassionately, his
dark eyes seeming to search for the pain I was suffering, that I felt
perfect confidence in him at once. I was vaguely conscious of his close
attendance, and unremitting care, during the whole week that I lay ill.
All this placed us on very pleasant terms of familiarity and friendship.

How grieved I was when this friendship came to an end--when he confessed
his unfortunate love to me--it is impossible for me to say. Such a
thought had never crossed my mind. Not until I saw the expression on his
face, when he called to us from the shore to wait for him, and waded
eagerly through the water to us, and held my hands fast as I helped him
into the boat--not till then did I suspect his secret. Poor Martin!

Then there came the moment when I was compelled to say to him. "I was
married four years ago, and my husband is still living"--a very bitter
moment to me; perhaps more bitter than to him. I knew we must see one
another no more; and I who was so poor in friends, lost the dearest of
them by those words. That was a great shock to me.

But the next day came the second shock of meeting Kate Daltrey, my
husband's half-sister. Martin had told me that there was a person in
Guernsey who had traced my flight so far; but in my trouble and sorrow
for him, I had not thought much of this intelligence. I saw in an
instant that I had lost all again, my safety, my home, my new friends. I
must flee once more, alone and unaided, leaving no trace behind me. When
old Mother Renouf, whom Tardif had set to watch me for very fear of this
mischance, had led me away from Kate Daltrey to the cottage, I sought
out Tardif at once.

He was down at the water's edge, mending his boat, which lay with its
keel upward. He heard my footsteps among the pebbles, and turned round
to greet me with one of his grave smiles, which had never failed me
whenever I went to him.

"Mam'zelle is triste," he said; "is there any thing I can do for you?"

"I must go away from here, Tardif," I answered, with a choking voice.

A change swept quickly across his face, but he passed his hand for a
moment over it, and then regarded me again with his grave smile.

"For what reason, mam'zelle?" he asked.

"Oh! I must tell you every thing!" I cried.

"Tell me every thing," he repeated; "it shall be buried here, in my
heart, as if it was buried in the depths of the sea. I will try not to
think of it even, if you bid me. I am your friend as well as your
servant."

Then leaning against his boat, for I could not control my trembling, I
told him almost all about my wretched life, from which God had delivered
me, leading me to him for shelter and comfort. He listened with his eyes
cast down, never once raising them to my face, and in perfect silence,
except that once or twice he groaned within himself, and clinched his
hard hands together. I know that I could never have told my history to
any other man as I told it to him, a homely peasant and fisherman, but
with as noble and gentle a heart as ever beat.

"You must go," he said, when I had finished. His voice was hollow and
broken, but the words were spoken distinctly enough for me to hear them.

"Yes, there is no help for me," I answered; "there is no rest for me but
death."

"It would be better to die," he said, solemnly, "than return to a life
like that. I would sooner bury you up yonder, in our little graveyard,
than give you up to your husband."

"You will help me to get away at once?" I asked.

"At once," he repeated, in the same broken voice. His face looked gray,
and his mouth twitched. He leaned against his boat, as if he could
hardly stand; as I was doing myself, for I felt utterly weak and shaken.

"How soon?" I asked.

"To-morrow I will row you to Guernsey in time for the packet to
England," he answered. Mon Dieu! how little I thought what I was mending
my boat for! Mam'zelle, is there nothing, nothing in the world I can do
for you?"

"Nothing, Tardif," I said, sorrowfully.

"Nothing!" he assented, dropping his head down upon his hands. No, there
was positively nothing he could do for me. There was no person on the
face of the earth who could help me.

"My poor Tardif," I said, laying my hand on his shoulder, "I am a great
trouble to you."

"I cannot bear to let you go in this way," he replied, without looking
up. "If it had been to marry Dr. Martin--why, then--but you have to go
alone, poor little child!"

"Yes," I said, "alone."

After that we were both silent for some minutes. We could hear the
peaceful lapping of the water at our feet, and its boom against the
rocks, and the shrieking of the sea-gulls; but there was utter silence
between us two. I felt as if it would break my heart to leave this
place, and go whither I knew not. Yet there was no alternative.

"Tardif," I said at last, "I will go first to London. It is so large a
place, nobody will find me there. Besides, they would never think of me
going back to London. When I am there I will try to get a situation as
governess somewhere. I could teach little children; and if I go into a
school there will be no one to fall in love with me, like Dr. Martin. I
am very sorry for him."

"Sorry for him!" repeated Tardif.

"Yes, very sorry," I replied; "it is as if I must bring trouble
everywhere. You are troubled, and I cannot help it."

"I have only had one trouble as great," he said, as if to himself, "and
that was when my poor little wife died. I wish to God I could keep you
here in safety, but that is impossible."

"Quite impossible," I answered.

Yet it seemed too bad to be true. What had I done, to be driven away
from this quiet little home into the cold, wide world? Poor and
friendless, after all my father's far-seeing plans and precautions to
secure me from poverty and friendlessness! What was to be my lot in that
dismal future, over the rough threshold of which I must cross to-morrow?

Tardif and I talked it all over that evening, sitting at the
cottage-door until the last gleam of daylight had faded from the sky. He
had some money in hand just then, which he had intended to invest the
next time he went to Guernsey, and could see his notary. This money,
thirty pounds, he urged me to accept as a gift; but I insisted upon
leaving with him my watch and chain in pledge, until I could repay the
money. It would be a long time before I could do that, I knew; for I was
resolved never to return to Richard Foster, and to endure any privation
rather than claim my property.

I left Tardif after a while, to pack up my very few possessions. We did
not tell his mother that I was going, for he said it would be better
not. In the morning he would simply let her know I was going over to
Guernsey. No communication had ever passed between the old woman and me
except by signs, yet I should miss even her in that cold, careless crowd
in which I was about to be lost, in the streets of London.

We started at four in the morning, while the gray sky was dappled over
with soft clouds, and the sea itself seemed waking up from sleep, as if
it too had been slumbering through the night. The morning mist upon the
cliffs made them look mysterious, as if they had some secrets to
conceal. Untrodden tracks climbed the surface of the rocks, and were
lost in the fine filmy haze. The water looked white and milky, with
lines across it like the tracks on the cliffs, which no human foot could
tread; and the tide was coming back to the shore with a low, tranquil,
yet sad moan. The sea-gulls skimmed past us with their white wings,
almost touching us; their plaintive wailing seeming to warn us of the
treachery and sorrow of the sea. I was not afraid of the treachery of
the sea, yet I could not bear to hear them, nor could Tardif.

We landed at one of the stone staircases running up the side of the pier
at Guernsey; for we were only just in time for the steamer. The steps
were slimy and wet with seaweed, but Tardif's hand grasped mine firmly.
He pushed his way through the crowd of idlers who were watching the
lading of the cargo, and took me down immediately into the cabin.

"Good-by, mam'zelle," he said; "I must leave you. Send for me, or come
to me, if you are in trouble and I can do any thing for you. If it were
to Australia, I would follow you. I know I am only fit to be your
servant, but all the same I am your friend. You have a little regard for
me, mam'zelle?"

"O Tardif!" I sobbed, "I love you very dearly."

"Now that makes me glad," he said, holding my hand between his, and
looking down at me with tears in his eyes; "you said that from your good
heart, mam'zelle. When I am out alone in my boat, I shall think of it,
and in the long winter nights by the fire, when there is no little
mam'zelle to come and talk to me, I shall say to myself, 'She loves you
very dearly.' Good-by, mam'zelle. God be with you and protect you!"

"Good-by," I said, with a sore grief in my heart, "good-by, Tardif. It
is very dreadful to be alone again."

There was no time to say more, for a bell rang loudly on deck, and we
heard the cry, "All friends on shore!" Tardif put his lips to my hand,
and left me. I was indeed alone.



CHAPTER THE THIRD.

IN LONDON LODGINGS.


Once more I found myself in London, a city so strange to me that I did
not know the name of any street in it. I had more acquaintance with
almost every great city on the Continent. Fortunately, Tardif had given
me the address of a boarding-house, or rather a small family hotel,
where he had stayed two or three times, and I drove there at once. It
was in a quiet back street, within sound of St. Paul's clock. The hour
was so late, nearly midnight, that I was looked upon with suspicion, as
a young woman travelling alone, and with little luggage. It was only
when I mentioned Tardif, whose island bearing had made him noticeable
among the stream of strangers passing through the house, that the
mistress of the place consented to take me in.

This was my first difficulty, but not the last. By the advice of the
mistress of the boarding-house, I went to several governess agencies,
which were advertising for teachers in the daily papers. At most of
these they would not even enter my name, as soon as I confessed my
inability to give one or two references to persons who would vouch for
my general character, and my qualifications. This was a fatal
impediment, and one that had never occurred to me; yet the request was a
reasonable one, even essential. What could be more suspicious than a
girl of my age without a friend to give a guarantee of her
respectability? There seemed no hope whatever of my entering into the
ill-paid ranks of governesses.

When a fortnight had passed with no opening for me, I felt it necessary
to leave the boarding-house which had been my temporary home. I must
economize my funds, for I did not know how long I must make them hold
out. Wandering about the least fashionable suburbs, where lodgings would
cost least, I found a bedroom in the third story of a house in a
tolerably respectable street. The rent was six shillings a week, to be
paid in advance. In this place, I entered upon a new phase of life, so
different from that in Sark that, in the delusions which solitude often
brings, I could not always believe myself the same person.

A dreamy, solitary, gloomy life; shut in upon myself, with no outlet for
association with my fellow creatures. My window opened upon a back-yard,
with a row of half-built houses standing opposite to it. These houses
had been left half-finished, and were partly falling into ruin. A row of
bare, empty window-frames faced me whenever I turned my wearied eyes to
the scene without. Not a sound or sign of life was there about them.
Within, my room was; small and scantily furnished, yet there was
scarcely space enough for me to move about it. There was no table for me
to take my meals at, except the top of the crazy chest of drawers, which
served as my dressing-table. One chair, broken in the back, and tied
together with a faded ribbon, was the only seat, except my box, which,
set in a corner where I could lean against the wall, made me the most
comfortable place for resting. There was a little rusty grate, but it
was still summer-time, and there was no need of a fire. A fire indeed
would have been insupportable, for the sultry, breathless atmosphere of
August, with the fever-heat of its sun burning in the narrow streets and
close yards, made the temperature as parching as an oven. I panted for
the cool cliffs and sweet fresh air of Sark.

In this feverish solitude one day dragged itself after another with
awful monotony. As they passed by, the only change they brought was that
the sultry heat grew ever cooler, and the long days shorter. The winter
seemed inclined to set in early, and with unusual rigor, for a month
before the usual time fires became necessary. I put off lighting mine,
for fear of the cost, until my sunless little room under the roof was
almost like an ice-house. A severe cold, which made me afraid of having
to call in a doctor, compelled me to have a fire; and the burning of it,
and the necessity of tending it, made it like a second person and
companion in the lonely place. Hour after hour I sat in front of it on
my box, with my elbows on my knees and my chin in my hands, watching the
changeful scenery of its embers, and the exquisite motion of the flames,
and the upward rolling of the tiny columns of smoke, and the fiery,
gorgeous colors that came and went with a breath. To see the tongues of
fire lap round the dull, black coal, and run about it, and feel it, and
kindle it with burning touches, and never quit it till it was glowing
and fervid, and aflame like themselves--that was my sole occupation for
hours together.

Think what a dreary life for a young girl! I was as fond of
companionship, and needed love, as much as any girl. Was it strange that
my thoughts dwelt somewhat dangerously upon the pleasant, peaceful days
in Sark?

When I awoke in the morning to a voiceless, solitary, idle day, how
could I help thinking of Martin Dobrée, of Tardif, even of old Mother
Renouf, with her wrinkled face and her significant nods and becks?
Martin Dobrée's pleasant face would come before me, with his eyes
gleaming so kindly under his square forehead, and his lips moving
tremulously with every change of feeling. Had he gone back to his cousin
Julia again, and were they married? I ought not to feel any sorrow at
that thought. His path had run side by side with mine for a little
while, but always with a great barrier between us; and now they had
diverged, and must grow farther and farther apart, never to touch again.
Yet, how my father would have loved him had he known him! How securely
he would have trusted to his care for me! But stop! There was folly and
wickedness in thinking that way. Let me make an end of that.

There was no loneliness like that loneliness. Twice a day I exchanged a
word or two with the overworked drudge of a servant in the house where I
lived; but I had no other voice to speak to me. No wonder that my
imagination sometimes ran in forbidden and dangerous channels.

When I was not thinking and dreaming thus, a host of anxieties crowded
about me. My money was melting away again, though slowly, for I denied
myself every thing but the bare necessaries of life. What was to become
of me when it was all gone? It was the old question; but the answer was
as difficult to find as ever. I was ready for any kind of work, but no
chance of work came to me. With neither work nor money, what was I to
do? What was to be the end of it?



CHAPTER THE FOURTH.

RIDLEY'S AGENCY-OFFICE.


Now and then, when I ventured out into the streets, a panic would seize
me, a dread unutterably great, that I might meet my husband amid the
crowd. I did not even know that he was in London; he had always spoken
of it as a place he detested. His habits made the free, unconventional
life upon the Continent more agreeable to him. How he was living now,
what he was doing, where he was, were so many enigmas to me; and I did
not care to run any risk in finding out the answers to them. Twice I
passed the Bank of Australia, where very probably. I could have learned
if he was in the same city as myself; but I dared not do it, and as soon
as I knew how to avoid that street, I never passed along it.

I had been allowed to leave my address with the clerk of a large general
agency in the city, when I had not been permitted to enter my name in
the books for want of a reference. Toward the close of October I
received a note from him, desiring me to call at the office at two
o'clock the following afternoon, without fail.

No danger of my failing to keep such an appointment! I felt in better
spirits that night than I had done since I had been driven from Sark.
There was an opening for me, a chance of finding employment, and I
resolved beforehand to take it, whatever it might be.

It was an agency for almost every branch of employment not actually
menial, from curates to lady's-maids, and the place of business was a
large one. There were two entrances, and two distinct compartments, at
the opposite ends of the building; but a broad, long counter ran the
whole length of it, and a person at one end could see the applicants at
the other as they stood by the counter. The compartment into which I
entered was filled with a crowd of women, waiting their turn to transact
their business. Behind the counter were two or three private boxes, in
which employers might see the candidates, and question them on the spot.
A lady was at that moment examining a governess, in a loud, imperious
voice which we could all hear distinctly. My heart sank at the idea of
passing through such a cross-examination as to my age, my personal
history, my friends, and a number of particulars foreign to the question
of whether I was fit for the work I offered myself for.

At last I heard the imperious voice say, "You may go. I do not think you
will suit me," and a girl of about my own age came away from the
interview, pale and trembling, and with tears stealing down her cheeks.
A second girl was summoned to go through the same ordeal.

What was I to do if this person, unseen in her chamber of torture, was
the lady I had been summoned to meet?

It was a miserable sight, this crowd of poor women seeking work, and my
spirits sank like lead. A set of mournful, depressed, broken-down women!
There was not one I would have chosen to be a governess for my girls.
Those who were not dispirited were vulgar and self-asserting; a class
that wished to rise above the position they were fitted for by becoming
teachers. These were laughing loudly among themselves at the
cross-questioning going on so calmly within their hearing. I shrank away
into a corner, until my turn to speak to the busy clerk should come.

I had a long time to wart. The office clock pointed to half-past three
before I caught the clerk's eye, and saw him beckon me up to the
counter. I had thrown back my veil, for here I was perfectly safe from
recognition. At the other end of the counter, in the compartment devoted
to curates, doctors' assistants, and others, there stood a young man in
earnest consultation with another clerk. He looked earnestly at me, but
I was sure he could not know me.

"Miss Ellen Martineau?" said the clerk. That was my mother's name, and I
had adopted it for my own, feeling as if I had some right to it.

"Yes," I answered.

"Would you object to go into a French school as governess?" he inquired.

"Not in the least," I said, eagerly.

"And pay a small premium?" he added. "How much?" I asked, my spirits
falling again.

"A mere trifle," he said; "about ten pounds or so for twelve months. You
would perfect yourself in French, you know; and you would gain a referee
for the future."

"I must think about it," I replied.

"Well, there is the address of a lady who can give you all the
particulars," he said, handing me a written paper.

I left the office heavy-hearted. Ten pounds would be more than the half
of the little store left to me. Yet, would it not be wiser to secure a
refuge and shelter for twelve months than run the risk of hearing of
some other situation? I walked slowly along the street toward the busier
thoroughfares, with my head bent down and my mind busy, when suddenly a
heavy hand was laid upon my arm, grasping it with crushing force, and a
harsh, thick voice shouted triumphantly in my ear:

"The devil! I've caught you at last!"

It was like the bitterness of death, that chill and terror sweeping over
me. My husband's hot breath was upon my cheek, and his eyes were looking
closely into mine. But before I could speak his grasp was torn away from
me, and he was sent whirling into the middle of the road. I turned,
almost in equal terror, to see who had thrust himself between us. It was
the stranger whom I had seen in the agency-office. But his face was now
dark with passion, and as my husband staggered back again toward us, his
hand was ready to thrust him away a second time.

"She's my wife," he stammered, trying to get past the stranger to me. By
this time a knot of spectators had formed about us, and a policeman had
come up. The stranger drew my arm through his, and faced them defiantly.

"He's a drunken vagabond!" he said; "he has just come out of those
spirit-vaults. This young lady is no more his wife than she is mine, and
I know no more of her than that she has just come away from Ridley's
office, where she has been looking after a situation. Good Heavens!
cannot a lady walk through the streets of London without being insulted
by a drunken scoundrel like that"?"

"Will you give him in charge, sir?" asked the policeman, while Richard
Foster was making vain efforts to speak coherently, and explain his
claim upon me. I clung to the friendly arm that had come to my aid, sick
and almost speechless with fear.

"Shall I give him in charge?" he asked me.

"I have only just heard of a situation," I whispered, unable to speak
aloud.

"And you are afraid of losing it?" he said; "I understand.--Take the
fellow away, policeman, and lock him up if you can for being drunk and
disorderly in the streets; but the lady won't give him in charge. I've a
good mind to make him go down on his knees and beg her pardon."

"Do, do!" said two or three voices in the crowd.

"Don't," I whispered again, "oh! take me away quickly."

He cleared a passage for us both with a vigor and decision that there
was no resisting. I glanced back for an instant, and saw my husband
struggling with the policeman, the centre of the knot of bystanders from
which I was escaping. He looked utterly unlike a gay, prosperous,
wealthy man, with a well-filled purse, such as he had used to appear. He
was shabby and poor enough now for the policeman to be very hard upon
him, and to prevent him from following me. The stranger kept my hand
firmly on his arm, and almost carried me into Fleet Street, where, in a
minute or two we were quite lost in the throng, and I was safe from all
pursuit.

"You are not fit to go on," he said, kindly; "come out of the noise a
little."

He led me down a covered passage between two shops, into a quiet cluster
of squares and gardens, where only a subdued murmur of the uproar of the
streets reached us. There were a sufficient number of passers-by to
prevent it seeming lonely, but we could hear our own voices, and those
of others, even in whispers.

"This is the Temple," he said, smiling, "a fit place for a sanctuary."

"I do not know how to thank you," I answered falteringly.

"You are trembling still!" he replied; "how lucky it was that I
followed you directly out of Ridley's! If I ever come across that
scoundrel again, I shall know him, you may be sure. I wish we were a
little nearer home, you should go in to rest; but our house is in Brook
Street, and we have no women-kind belonging to us. My name is John
Senior. Perhaps you have heard of my father, Dr. Senior, of Brook
Street?"

"No." I replied, "I know nobody in London."

"That's bad," he said. "I wish I was Jane Senior instead of John Senior;
I do indeed. Do you feel better now, Miss Martineau?"

"How do you know my name?" I asked.

"The clerk at Ridley's called you Miss Ellen Martineau," he answered.
"My hearing is very good, and I was not deeply engrossed in my business.
I heard and saw a good deal while I was there, and I am very glad I
heard and saw you. Do you feel well enough now for me to see you home?"

"Oh! I cannot let you see me home," I said, hurriedly.

"I will do just what you like best." he replied. "I have no more right
to annoy you than that drunken vagabond had. If I did, I should be more
blamable than he was. Tell me what I shall do for you then. Shall I call
a cab?"

I hesitated, for my funds were low, and would be almost spent by the
time I had paid the premium of ten pounds, and my travelling expenses;
yet I dared not trust myself either in the streets or in an omnibus. I
saw my new friend regard me keenly; my dress, so worn and faded, and my
old-fashioned bonnet. A smile flickered across his face. He led me back
into Fleet Street, and called an empty cab that was passing by. We shook
hands warmly. There was no time for loitering; and I told him the name
of the suburb where I was living, and he repeated it to the cabman.

"All right," he said, speaking through the window, "the fare is paid,
and I've taken cabby's number. If he tries to cheat you, let me know;
Dr. John Senior, Brook Street. I hope that situation will be a good one,
and very pleasant. Good-by."

"Good-by," I cried, leaning forward and looking at his face till the
crowd came between us, and I lost sight of it. It was a handsomer face
than Dr. Martin Dobrée's, and had something of the same genial,
vivacious light about it. I knew it well afterward, but I had not
leisure to think much of it then.



CHAPTER THE FIFTH.

BELLRINGER STREET.


I was still trembling with the terror that my meeting with Richard
Foster had aroused. A painful shuddering agitated me, and my heart
fluttered with an excess of fear which I could not conquer. I could
still feel his grasp upon my arm, where the skin was black with the
mark; and there was before my eyes the sight of his haggard and enraged
face, as he struggled to get free from the policeman. When he was sober
would he recollect all that had taken place, and go to make inquiries
after me at Ridley's agency-office? Dr. John Senior had said he had
followed me from there. I scarcely believed he would. Yet there was a
chance of it, a deadly chance to me. If so, the sooner I could fly from
London and England the better.

I felt safer when the cabman set me down at the house where I lodged,
and I ran up-stairs to my little room. I kindled the fire, which had
gone out during my absence, and set my little tin tea-kettle upon the
first clear flame which burned up amid the coal. Then I sat down on my
box before it, thinking.

Yes; I must leave London. I must take this situation, the only one open
to me, in a school in France. I should at least be assured of a home for
twelve months; and, as the clerk had said, I should perfect myself in
French and gain a referee. I should be earning a character, in fact. At
present I had none, and so was poorer than the poorest servant-maid. No
character, no name, no money; who could be poorer than the daughter of
the wealthy colonist, who had owned thousands of acres in Adelaide? I
almost laughed and cried hysterically at the thought of my father's vain
care and provision for my future.

But the sooner I fled from London again the better, now that I knew my
husband was somewhere in it and might be upon my track. I unfolded the
paper on which was written the name of the lady to whom I was to apply.
Mrs. Wilkinson. 19 Bellringer Street. I ran down to the sitting-room, to
ask my landlady where it was, and told her, in my new hopefulness, that
I had heard of a situation in France. Bellringer Street was less than a
mile away, she said. I could be there before seven o'clock, not too late
perhaps for Mrs. Wilkinson to give me an interview.

A thick yellow fog had come in with nightfall--a fog that could almost
be tasted and smelt--but it did not deter me from my object. I inquired
my way of every policeman I met, and at length entered the street. The
fog hid the houses from my view, but I could see that some of the lower
windows were filled with articles for sale, as if they were shops
struggling into existence. It was not a fashionable street, and Mrs.
Wilkinson could not be a very aristocratic person.

No. 19 was not difficult to find, and I pulled the bell-handle with a
gentle and quiet pull, befitting my errand. I repeated this several
times without being admitted, when it struck me that the wire might be
broken. Upon that I knocked as loudly as I could upon the panels of the
broad old door; a handsome, heavy door, such as are to be found in the
old streets of London, from which the tide of fashion has ebbed away. A
slight, thin child in rusty mourning opened it, with the chain across,
and asked who I was in a timid voice.

"Does Mrs. Wilkinson live here?" I asked.

"Yes," said the child.

"Who is there?" I heard a voice calling shrilly from within; not an
English voice, I felt sure, for each word was uttered distinctly and
slowly.

"I am come about a school in France," I said to the child.

"Oh! I'll let you in," she answered, eagerly; "she will see you about
that, I'm sure. I'm to go with you, if you go."

She let down the chain, and opened the door. There was a dim light
burning in the hall, which looked shabby and poverty-stricken. There was
no carpet upon the broad staircase, and nothing but worn-out oil-cloth
on the floor. I had only time to take in a vague general impression,
before the little girl conducted me to a room on the ground-floor. That
too was uncarpeted and barely furnished; but the light was low, and I
could see nothing distinctly, except the face of the child looking
wistfully at me with shy curiosity.

"I'm to go if you go," she said again; "and, oh! I do so hope you will
agree to go."

"I think I shall," I answered.

"I daren't be sure," she replied, nodding her head with an air of
sagacity; "there have been four or five governesses here, and none of
them would go. You'd have to take me with you; and, oh! it is such a
lovely, beautiful place. See! here is a picture of it."

She ran eagerly to a side-table, on which lay a book or two, one of
which she opened, and reached out a photograph, which had been laid
there for security. When she brought it to me, she stood leaning lightly
against me as we both looked at the same picture. It was a clear,
sharply-defined photograph, with shadows so dark yet distinct as to show
the clearness of the atmosphere in which it had been taken. At the left
hand stood a handsome house, with windows covered with lace curtains,
and provided with outer Venetian shutters. In the centre stood a large
square garden, with fountains, and arbors, and statues, in the French
style of gardening, evidently well kept; and behind this stood a long
building of two stories, and a steep roof with dormer windows, every
casement of which was provided, like the house in the front, with rich
lace curtains and Venetian shutters. The whole place was clearly in good
order and good taste, and looked like a very pleasant home. It would
probably be my home for a time, and I scrutinized it the more closely.
Which of those sunny casements would be mine? What nook in that garden
would become my favorite? If I could only get there undetected, how
secure and happy I might be!

Above the photograph was written in ornamental characters, "Pensionnat
de Demoiselles, à Noireau, Calvados." Underneath it were the words,
"Fondé par M. Emile Perrier, avocat, et par son épouse." Though I knew
very little of French, I could make out the meaning of these sentences.
Monsieur Perrier was an _avocat_. Tardif had happened to speak to me
about the notaries in Guernsey, who appeared to me to be of the same
rank as our solicitors, while the _avocats_ were on a par with our
barristers. A barrister founding a boarding-school for young ladies
might be somewhat opposed to English customs, but it was clear that he
must be a man of education and position; a gentleman, in fact.

"Isn't it a lovely place?" asked the child beside me, with a deep sigh
of longing.

"Yes," I said; "I should like to go."

I had had time to make all these observations before the owner of the
foreign voice, which I had heard at the door, came in. At the first
glance I knew her to be a Frenchwoman, with the peculiar yellow tone in
her skin which seems inevitable in middle-aged Frenchwomen. Her black
eyes were steady and cold, and her general expression one of
watchfulness. She had wrapped tightly about her a China crape shawl,
which had once been white, but had now the same yellow tint as her
complexion. The light was low, but she turned it a little higher, and
scrutinized me with a keen and steady gaze.

"I have not the honor of knowing you," she said politely.

"I come from Ridley's agency-office," I answered, "about a situation as
English teacher in a school in France."

"Be seated, miss," she said, pointing me to a stiff, high-backed chair,
whither the little girl followed me, stroking with her hand the soft
seal-skin jacket I was wearing.

"It is a great chance," she continued; "my friend Madame Perrier is very
good, very amiable for her teachers. She is like a sister for them. The
terms are very high, very high for France; but there is absolutely every
comfort. The arrangements are precisely like England. She has lived in
England for two years, and knows what English young ladies look for; and
the house is positively English. I suppose you could introduce a few
English pupils."

"No," I answered, "I am afraid I could not. I am sure I could not."

"That of course must be considered in the premium," she continued; "if
you could have introduced, say, six pupils, the premium would be low. I
do not think my friend would take one penny less than twenty pounds for
the first year, and ten for the second."

The tears started to my eyes. I had felt so sure of going if I would pay
ten pounds, that I was quite unprepared for this disappointment. There
was still my diamond ring left; but how to dispose of it, for any thing
like its value, I did not know. It was in my purse now, with all my
small store of money, which I dared not leave behind me in my lodgings.

"What were you prepared to give?" asked Mrs. Wilkinson, while I
hesitated.

"The clerk at Ridley's office told me the premium would be ten pounds,"
I answered;

"I do not see how I can give more."

"Well," she said, after musing a little, while I watched her face
anxiously, "it is time this child went. She has been here a month,
waiting for somebody to take her down to Noireau. I will agree with you,
and will explain it to Madame Perrier. How soon could you go?"

"I should like to go to-morrow," I replied, feeling that the sooner I
quitted London the better. Mrs. Wilkinson's steady eyes fastened upon me
again with sharp curiosity.

"Have you references, miss?" she asked.

"No," I faltered, my hope sinking again before this old difficulty.

"It will be necessary then," she said, "for you to give the money to me,
and I will forward it to Madame Perrier. Pardon, miss, but you perceive
I could not send a teacher to them unless I knew that she could pay the
money down. There is my commission to receive the money for my friend."

She gave me a paper written in French, of which I could read enough to
see that it was a sort of official warrant to receive accounts for
Monsieur Perrier, _avocat_, and his wife. I did not waver any longer.
The prospect seemed too promising for me to lose it by any irresolution.
I drew out my purse, and laid down two out of the three five-pound notes
left me. She gave me a formal receipt in the names of Emile and Louise
Perrier, and her sober face wore an expression of satisfaction.

"There! it is done," she said, wiping her pen carefully. "You will take
lessons, any lessons you please, from the professors who attend the
school. It is a grand chance, miss, a grand chance. Let us say you go
the day after to-morrow; the child will be quite ready. She is going for
four years to that splendid place, a place for ladies of the highest
degree."

At that moment an imperious knock sounded upon the outer door, and the
little girl ran to answer it, leaving the door of our room open. A voice
which I knew well, a voice which made my heart stand still and my veins
curdle, spoke in sharp loud tones in the hall.

"Is Mr. Foster come home yet?" were the words the terrible voice
uttered, quite close to me it seemed; so close that I shrank back
shivering as if every syllable struck a separate blow. All my senses
were awake: I could hear every sound in the hall, each step that came
nearer and nearer. Was she about to enter the room where I was sitting?
She stood still for half a minute as if uncertain what to do.

"He is up stairs," said the child's voice. "He told me he was ill when I
opened the door for him."

"Where is Mrs. Wilkinson?" she asked.

"She is here," said the child, "but there's a lady with her."

Then the woman's footsteps went on up the staircase. I listened to them
climbing up one step after another, my brain throbbing with each sound,
and I heard a door opened and closed. Mrs. Wilkinson had gone to the
door, and looked out into the hall, as if expecting some other questions
to be asked. She had not seen my panic of despair. I must get away
before I lost the use of my senses, for I felt giddy and faint.

"I will send the child to you in a cab on Wednesday," she said, as I
stood up and made my way toward the hall; "you have not told me your
address."

I paused for a moment. Dared I tell her my address? Yet my money was
paid, and if I did not I should lose both it and the refuge I had bought
with it. Besides, I should awaken suspicion and inquiry by silence. It
was a fearful risk to run; yet it seemed safer than a precipitous
retreat. I gave her my address, and saw her write it down on a slip of
paper.

As I returned to my lodgings I grew calmer and more hopeful. It was not
likely that my husband would see the address, or even hear that any one
like me had been at the house. I did not suppose he would know the name
of Martineau as my mother's maiden name. As far as I recollected, I had
never spoken of her to him. Moreover he was not a man to make himself at
all pleasant and familiar with persons whom he looked upon as inferiors.
It was highly improbable that he would enter into any conversation with
his landlady. If that woman did so, all she would learn would be that a
young lady, whose name was Martineau, had taken a situation as English
teacher in a French school. What could there be in that to make her
think of me?

I tried to soothe and reassure myself with these reasonings, but I could
not be quiet or at peace. I watched all through the next day, listening
to every sound in the house below; but no new terror assailed me. The
second night I was tranquil enough to sleep.



CHAPTER THE SIXTH.

LEAVING ENGLAND.


I was on the rack all the next day. It was the last day I should be in
England, and I had a nervous dread of being detained. If I should once
more succeed in quitting the country undetected, it seemed as though I
might hope to be in safety in Calvados. Of Calvados I knew even less
than of the Channel Islands; I had never heard the name before. But Mrs.
Wilkinson had given me the route by which we were to reach Noireau: by
steamer to Havre, across the mouth of the Seine to Honfleur, to Falaise
by train, and finally from Falaise to Noireau by omnibus. It was an
utterly unknown region to me; and I had no reason to imagine that
Richard Foster was better acquainted with it than I. My anxiety was
simply to get clear away.

In the afternoon the little girl arrived quite alone, except that a man
had been hired to carry a small box for her, and to deliver her into my
charge. This was a great relief to me, and I paid the shilling he
demanded gladly. The child was thinly and shabbily dressed for our long
journey, and there was a forlorn loneliness about her position, left
thus with a stranger, which touched me to the heart. We were alike poor,
helpless, friendless--I was about to say childish, and in truth I was in
many things little more than a child still. The small elf, with her
sharp, large eyes, which were too big for her thin face, crept up to
me, as the man slammed the door after him and clattered noisily
downstairs.

"I'm so glad!" she said, with a deep-drawn sigh of relief; "I was afraid
I should never go, and school is such a heavenly place!"

The words amused yet troubled me; they were so different from a child's
ordinary opinion.

"It's such a hateful place at Mrs. Wilkinson's," she went on, "everybody
calling me at once, and scolding me; and there are such a many people to
run errands for. You don't know what it is to run errands when you are
tired to death. And it's such a beautiful, splendid place where we're
going to!"

"What is your name, my dear?" I asked, sitting down on my box and taking
her on my lap. Such a thin, stunted little woman, precociously learned
in trouble! Yet she nestled in my arms like a true child, and a tear or
two rolled down her cheeks, as if from very contentment.

"Nobody has nursed me like this since mother died," she said. "I'm
Mary; but father always called me Minima, because I was the least in the
house. He kept a boys' school out of London, in Epping Forest, you know;
and it was so heavenly! All the boys were good to me, and we used to
call father Dominie. Then he died, and mother died just before him; and
he said,'Courage, Minima! God will take care of my little girl.' So the
boys' fathers and mothers made a subscription for me, and they got a
great deal of money, a hundred pounds; and somebody told them about this
school, where I can stay four years for a hundred pounds, and they all
said that was the best thing they could do with me. But I've had to stay
with Mrs. Wilkinson nearly two months, because she could not find a
governess to go with me. I hate her; I detest her; I should like to spit
at her!"

The little face was all aflame, and the large eyes burning.

"Hush! hush!" I said, drawing her head down upon my shoulder again.

"Then there is Mr. Foster," she continued, almost sobbing; "he torments
me so. He likes to make fun of me, and tease me, till I can't bear to go
into his room. Father used to say it was wicked to hate anybody, and I
didn't hate anybody then. I was so happy. But you'd hate Mr. Foster, and
Mrs. Foster, if you only knew them."

"Why?" I asked in a whisper. My voice sounded husky to me, and my throat
felt parched. The child's impotent rage and hatred struck a slumbering
chord within me.

"Oh! they are horrid in every way," she said, with emphasis; "they
frighten me. He is fond of tormenting any thing because he's cruel. We
had a cruel boy in our school once, so I know. But they are very
poor--poor as Job, Mrs. Wilkinson says, and I'm glad. Aren't you glad?"

The question jarred in my memory against a passionate craving after
revenge, which had died away in the quiet and tranquillity of Sark. A
year ago I should have rejoiced in any measure of punishment or
retribution, which had overtaken those who had destroyed my happiness.
But it was not so now; or perhaps I should rather own that it was only
faintly so. It had never occurred to me that my flight would plunge him
into poverty similar to my own. But now that the idea was thrust upon
me. I wondered how I could have overlooked this necessary consequence of
my conduct. Ought I to do any thing for him? Was there any thing I could
do to help him?"

"He is ill, too," pursued the child; "I heard him say once to Mrs.
Foster, he knew he should die like a dog. I was a little tiny bit sorry
for him then; for nobody would like to die like a dog, and not go to
heaven, you know. But I don't care now, I shall never see them
again--never, never! I could jump out of my skin for joy. I sha'n't even
know when he is dead, if he does die like a dog."

Ill! dead! My heart beat faster and faster as I pondered over these
words. Then I should be free indeed; his death would release me from
bondage, from terror, from poverty--those three evils which dogged my
steps. I had never ventured to let my thoughts run that way, but this
child's prattling had forced them into it. Richard Foster ill--dying! O
God! what ought I to do?

I could not make myself known to him; that was impossible. I would ten
thousand times sooner die myself than return to him. He was not alone
either. But yet there came back to my mind the first days when I knew
him, when he was all tenderness and devotion to me, declaring that he
could find no fault in his girl-wife. How happy I had been for a little
while, exchanging my stepmother's harshness for his indulgence! He might
have won my love; he had almost won it. But that happy, golden time was
gone, and could never come back to me. Yet my heart was softened toward
him, as I thought of him ill, perhaps dying. What could I do for him,
without placing myself in his power?

There was one thing only that I could do, only one little sacrifice I
could make for him whom I had vowed, in childish ignorance, to love,
honor, and cherish in sickness and in health, until death parted us. A
home was secured to me for twelve months, and at the end of that time I
should have a better career open to me. I had enough money still to last
me until then. My diamond ring, which had been his own gift to me on our
wedding-day, would be valuable to him. Sixty pounds would be a help to
him, if he were as poor as this child said. He must be poor, or he would
never have gone to live in that mean street and neighborhood.

Perhaps--if he had been alone--I do not know, but possibly if he had
been quite alone, ill, dying in that poor lodging of his, I might have
gone to him. I ask myself again, could you have done this thing? But I
cannot answer it even to myself. Poor and ill he was, but he was not
alone.

It was enough for me, then, that I could do something, some little
service for him. The old flame of vengeance had no spark of heat left in
it. I was free from hatred of him. I set the child gently away from me,
and wrote my last letter to my husband. Both the letter and the ring I
enclosed in a little box. These are the words I wrote, and I put neither
date nor name of place:

"I know that you are poor, and I send you all I can spare--the ring you
once gave to me. I am even poorer than yourself, but I have just enough
for my immediate wants. I forgive you, as I trust God forgives me."

I sat looking at it, thinking of it for some time. There was a vague
doubt somewhere in my mind that this might work some mischief. But at
last I decided that it should go. I must register the packet at a
post-office on our way to the station, and it could not fail to reach
him.

This business settled, I returned to the child, who was sitting, as I
had so often, done, gazing pensively into the fire. Was she to be a sort
of miniature copy of myself?

"Come, Minima," I said, "we must be thinking of tea. Which would you
like best, buns, or cake, or bread-and-butter? We must go out and buy
them, and you shall choose."

"Which would cost the most?" she asked, looking at me with the careworn
expression of a woman. The question sounded so oddly, coming from lips
so young, that it grieved me. How bitterly and heavily must the burden
of poverty have already fallen upon this child! I was almost afraid to
think what it must mean. I put my arm round her, pressing my cheek
against hers, while childish visions, more childish than any in this
little head, flitted before me, of pantomimes, and toys, and sweetmeats,
and the thousand things that children love. If I had been as rich as my
father had planned for me to be, how I would have lavished them upon
this anxious little creature!

We were discussing this question with befitting gravity, when a great
thump against the door brought a host of fears upon me. But before I
could stir the insecure handle gave way, and no one more formidable
appeared than the landlady of the house, carrying before her a tray on
which was set out a sumptuous tea, consisting of buttered crumpets and
shrimps. She put it down on my dressing-table, and stood surveying it
and us with an expression of benign exultation, until she had recovered
her breath sufficiently to speak.

"Those as are going into foring parts," she said, "ought to get a good
English meal afore they start. If you was going to stay in England,
miss, it would be quite a differing thing; but me and my master don't
know what they may give you to eat where you're going to. Therefore we
beg you'll accept of the crumpets, and the shrimps, and the
bread-and-butter, and the tea, and every thing; and we mean no offence
by it. You've been a very quiet, regular lodger, and give no trouble;
and we're sorry to lose you. And this, my master says, is a testimonial
to you."

I could hardly control my laughter, and I could not keep back my tears.
It was a long time now since any one had shown me so much kindness and
sympathy as this. The dull face of the good woman was brightened by her
kind-hearted feeling, and instead of thanking her I put my lips to her
cheek.

"Lor!" she exclaimed, "why! God bless you, my dear! I didn't mean any
offence, you know. Lor! I never thought you'd pay me like that. It's
very pretty of you, it is; for I'm sure you're a lady to the backbone,
as often and often I've said to my master. Be good enough to eat it all,
you and the little miss, for you've a long journey before you. God bless
you both, my dears, and give you a good appetite!"

She backed out of the room as she was speaking, her face beaming upon us
to the last.

There was a pleasant drollery about her conduct, and about the intense
delight of the child, and her hearty enjoyment of the feast, which for
the time effectually dissipated my fears and my melancholy thoughts. It
was the last hour I should spend in my solitary room; my lonely days
were past. This little elf, with her large sharp eyes, and sagacious
womanly face, was to be my companion for the future. I felt closely
drawn to her. Even the hungry appetite with which she ate spoke of the
hard times she had gone through. When she had eaten all she could eat, I
heard her say softly to herself, "Courage, Minima!"



CHAPTER THE SEVENTH.

A LONG JOURNEY.


It as little more than twelve months since I had started from the same
station on the same route; but there was no Tardif at hand now. As I
went into the ticket-office, Minima caught me by the dress and whispered
earnestly into my ear.

"We're not to travel first-class," she said; "it costs too much. Mrs.
Wilkinson said we ought to go third, if we could; and you're to pay for
me, please, only half-price, and they'll pay you again when we reach the
school. I'll come with you, and then they'll see I'm only half-price. I
don't look too old, do I?"

"You look very old," I answered, smiling at her anxious face.

"Oh, dear, dear!" she said; "but I sit very small. Perhaps I'd better
not come to the ticket-office; the porters are sure to think me only a
little girl."

She was uneasy until we had fairly started from the station, her right
to a half-ticket unchallenged.

The November night was cold and foggy, and there was little difference
between the darkness of the suburbs and the darkness of the open
country.

Once again the black hulls and masts of two steamers stood before us, at
the end of our journey, and hurrying voices shouted, "This way for
Jersey and Guernsey," "This way to Havre." What would I not have given
to return to Sark, to my quiet room under Tardif's roof, with his true
heart and steadfast friendship to rest upon! But that could not be. My
feet were setting out upon a new track, and I did not know where the
hidden path would lead me.

The next morning found us in France. It was a soft, sunny day, with a
mellow light, which seemed to dwell fondly on the many-tinted leaves of
the trees which covered the banks of the Seine. From Honfleur to Falaise
the same warm, genial sunshine filled the air. The slowly-moving train
carried us through woods where the autumn seemed but a few days old, and
where the slender leaflets of the acacias still fluttered in the
caressing breath of the wind. We passed through miles upon miles of
orchards, where a few red leaves were hanging yet upon the knotted
branches of the apple-trees, beneath which lay huge pyramids of apples.
Truck-loads of them stood at every station. The air was scented by them.
Children were pelting one another with them; and here and there, where
the orchards had been cleared and the trees stripped, flocks of geese
were searching for those scattered among the tufts of grass. The roses
were in blossom, and the chrysanthemums were in their first glory. The
few countrywomen who got into our carriage were still wearing their
snowy muslin caps, as in summer. Nobody appeared cold and pinched yet,
and everybody was living out-of-doors.

It was almost like going into a new world, and I breathed more freely
the farther we travelled down into the interior. At Falaise we exchanged
the train for a small omnibus, which bore the name "Noireau"
conspicuously on its door. I had discovered that the little French I
knew was not of much service, as I could in no way understand the rapid
answers that were given to my questions. A woman came to us, at the door
of a _café_, where the omnibus stopped in Falaise, and made a long and
earnest harangue, of which I did not recognize one word. At length we
started off on the last stage of our journey.

Where could we be going to? I began to ask myself the question anxiously
after we had crept on, at a dog-trot, for what seemed an interminable
time. We had passed through long avenues of trees, and across a series
of wide, flat plains, and down gently-sloping roads into narrow valleys,
and up the opposite ascents; and still the bells upon the horses'
collars jingled sleepily, and their hoof-beats shambled along the roads.
We were seldom in sight of any house, and we passed through very few
villages. I felt as if we were going all the way to Marseilles.


"I'm so hungry!" said Minima, after a very long silence.

I too had been hungry for an hour or two past. We had breakfasted at
mid-day at one of the stations, but we had had nothing to eat since,
except a roll which Minima had brought away from breakfast, with wise
prevision; but this had disappeared long ago.

"Try to go to sleep," I said; "lean against me. We must be there soon."

"Yes," she answered, "and it's such a splendid school! I'm going to stay
there four years, you know, so it's foolish to mind being hungry now.
'Courage, Minima!' I must recollect that."

"Courage, Olivia!" I repeated to myself. "The farther you go, the more
secure will be your hiding-place." The child nestled against me, and
soon fell asleep. I went to sleep myself--an unquiet slumber, broken by
terrifying dreams. Sometimes I was falling from the cliffs in Sark into
the deep, transparent waters below, where the sharp rocks lay like
swords. Then I was in the Gouliot Caves, with Martin Dobrée at my side,
and the tide was coming in too strongly for us; and beyond, in the
opening through which we might have escaped, my husband's face looked in
at us, with a hideous exultation upon it. I woke at last, shivering with
cold and dread, for I had fancied that he had found me, and was carrying
me away again to his old hateful haunts.

Our omnibus was jolting and rumbling down some steep and narrow streets
lighted by oil-lamps swung across them. There were no lights in any of
the houses, save a few in the upper windows, as though the inmates were
all in bed, or going to bed. Only at the inn where we stopped was there
any thing like life. A lamp, which hung over the archway leading to the
yard and stables, lit up a group of people waiting for the arrival of
the omnibus. I woke up Minima from her deep and heavy sleep.

"We are here at Noireau!" I said. "We have reached our home at last!"

The door was opened before the child was fairly awake. A small cluster
of bystanders gathered round us as we alighted, and watched our luggage
put down from the roof; while the driver ran on volubly, and with many
gesticulations, addressed to the little crowd. He, the chamber-maid, the
landlady, and all the rest, surrounded us as solemnly as if they were
assisting at a funeral. There was not a symptom of amusement, but they
all stared at us unflinchingly, as if a single wink of their eyelids
would cause them to lose some extraordinary spectacle. If I had been a
total eclipse of the sun, and they a group of enthusiastic astronomers
bent upon observing every phenomenon, they could not have gazed more
steadily. Minima was leaning against me, half asleep. A narrow vista of
tall houses lay to the right and left, lost in impenetrable darkness.
The strip of sky overhead was black with midnight.

"Noireau?" I asked, in a tone of interrogation.

"Oui, oui, madame," responded a chorus of voices.

"Carry me to the house of Monsieur Emile Perrier, the _avocat_," I said,
speaking slowly and distinctly.

The words, simple as they were, seemed to awaken considerable
excitement. The landlady threw up her hands, with an expression of
astonishment, and the driver recommenced his harangue. Was it possible
that I could have made a mistake in so short and easy a sentence? I
said it over again to myself, and felt sure I was right. With renewed
confidence I repeated it aloud, with a slight variation.

"I wish to go to the house of Monsieur Emile Perrier, the _avocat_," I
said.

But while they still clustered round Minima and me, giving no sign of
compliance with my request, two persons thrust themselves through the
circle. The one was a man, in a threadbare brown greatcoat, with a large
woollen comforter wound several times about his neck; and the other a
woman, in an equally shabby dress, who spoke to me in broken English.

"Mees, I am Madame Perrier, and this my husband," she said; "come on.
The letter was here only an hour ago; but all is ready. Come on; come
on."

She put her hand through my arm, and took hold of Minima's hand, as if
claiming both of us. A dead silence had fallen upon the little crowd, as
if they were trying to catch the meaning of the English words. But as
she pushed on, with us both in her hands, a titter for the first time
ran from lip to lip. I glanced back, and saw Monsieur Perrier, the
_avocat_, hurriedly putting our luggage on a wheelbarrow, and preparing
to follow us with it along the dark streets.

I was too bewildered yet to feel any astonishment. We were in France, in
a remote part of France, and I did not know what Frenchmen would or
would not do. Madame Perrier, exhausted with her effort at speaking
English, had ceased speaking to me, and contented herself with guiding
us along the strange streets. We stopped at last opposite the large,
handsome house, which stood in the front of the photograph I had seen in
London. I could just recognize it in the darkness; and behind lay the
garden and the second range of building. Not a glimmer of light shone in
any of the windows.

"It is midnight nearly," said Madame Perrier, as we came to a
stand-still and waited for her husband, the _avocat_.

Even when he came up with the luggage there seemed some difficulty in
effecting an entrance. He passed through the garden-gate, and
disappeared round the corner of the house, walking softly, as if careful
not to disturb the household. How long the waiting seemed! For we were
hungry, sleepy, and cold--strangers in a very strange land. I heard
Minima sigh weariedly.

At last he reappeared round the corner, carrying a candle, which
flickered in the wind. Not a word was spoken by him or his wife as the
latter conducted us toward him. We were to enter by the back-door, that
was evident. But I did not care what door we entered by, so that we
might soon find rest and food. She led us into a dimly-lighted room,
where I could just make out what appeared to be a carpenter's bench,
with a heap of wood-shavings lying under it. But I was too weary to be
certain about any thing.

"It is a leetle cabinet of work of my husband," said Madame Perrier;
"our chamber is above, and the chamber for you and leetle mees is there
also. But the school is not there. Will you go to bed? Will you sleep?
Come on, mees."

"But we are very hungry," I remonstrated; "we have had nothing to eat
since noon. We could not sleep without food."

"Bah! that is true," she said. "Well, come on. The food is at the
school. Come on."

That must be the house at the back. We went down the broad gravel walk,
with the pretty garden at the side of us, where a fountain was tinkling
and splashing busily in the quiet night. But we passed the front of the
house behind it without stopping, at the door. Madame led us through a
cart-shed into a low, long, vaulted passage, with doors opening on each
side; a black, villanous-looking place, with the feeble, flickering
light of the candle throwing on to the damp walls a sinister gleam.
Minima pressed very close to me, and I felt a strange quiver of
apprehension: but the thought that there was no escape from it, and no
help at hand, nerved me to follow quietly to the end.



CHAPTER THE EIGHTH.

AT SCHOOL IN FRANCE.


The end brought us out into a mean, poor street, narrow even where the
best streets were narrow. A small house, the exterior of which I
discovered afterward to be neglected and almost dilapidated, stood
before us; and madame unlocked the door with a key from her pocket. We
were conducted into a small kitchen, where a fire had been burning
lately, though it was now out, and only a little warmth lingered about
the stove. Minima was set upon a chair opposite to it, with her feet in
the oven, and I was invited to do the same. I assented mechanically, and
looked furtively about me, while madame was busy in cutting a huge hunch
or two of black bread, and spreading upon them a thin scraping of rancid
butter.

There was an oil-lamp here, burning with a clear, bright blaze. Madame's
face was illuminated by it. It was a coarse, sullen face, with an
expression of low cunning about it. There was not a trace of refinement
or culture about her, not even the proverbial taste of a Frenchwoman in
dress. The kitchen was a picture of squalid dirt and neglect; the walls
and ceiling black with smoke, and the floor so crusted over with unswept
refuse and litter that I thought it was not quarried. The few
cooking-utensils were scattered about in disorder. The stove before
which we sat was rusty. Could I be dreaming of this filthy dwelling and
this slovenly woman? No; it was all too real for me to doubt their
existence for an instant.

She was pouring out some cold tea into two little cups, when Monsieur
Perrier made his appearance, his face begrimed and his shaggy hair
uncombed. I had been used to the sight of rough men in Adelaide, on our
sheep-farm, but I had never seen one more boorish. He stood in the
doorway, rubbing his hands, and gazing at us unflinchingly with the hard
stare of a Norman peasant, while he spoke in rapid, uncouth tones to his
wife. I turned away my head, and shut my eyes to this unwelcome sight.

"Eat, mees," said the woman, bringing us our food. "There is tea. We
give our pupils and instructresses tea for supper at six o'clock: after
that there is no more to eat."

I took a mouthful of the food, but I could hardly swallow it, exhausted
as I was from hunger. The bread was sour and the butter rancid; the tea
tasted of garlic. Minima ate hers ravenously, without uttering a word.
The child had not spoken since we entered these new scenes: her careworn
face was puckered, and her sharp eyes were glancing about her more
openly than mine. As soon as she had finished her hunch of black bread,
I signified to Madame Perrier that we were ready to go to our bedroom.

We had the same vaulted passage and cart-shed to traverse on our way
back to the other house. There we were ushered into a room containing
only two beds and our two boxes. I helped Minima to undress, and tucked
her up in bed, trying not to see the thin little face and sharp eyes
which wanted to meet mine, and look into them. She put her arm round my
neck, and drew down my head to whisper cautiously into my ear.

"They're cheats," she said, earnestly, "dreadful cheats. This isn't a
splendid place at all. Oh! whatever shall I do? Shall I have to stay
here four years?"

"Hush, Minima!" I answered. "Perhaps it is better than we think now. We
are tired. To-morrow we shall see the place better, and it may be
splendid after all. Kiss me, and go to sleep."

But it was too much for me, far too much. The long, long journey; the
hunger the total destruction of all my hopes; the dreary prospect that
stretched before me. I laid my aching head on my pillow, and cried
myself to sleep like a child.

I was awakened, while it was yet quite dark, by the sound of a
carpenter's tool in the room below me. Almost immediately a loud knock
came at my door, and the harsh voice of madame called to us.

"Get up, mees, get up, and come on," she said; "you make your toilet at
the school. Come on, quick!"

Minima was more dexterous than I in dressing herself in the dark; but we
were not long in getting ready. The air was raw and foggy when we turned
out-of-doors, and it was so dark still that we could scarcely discern
the outline of the walls and houses. But madame was waiting to conduct
us once more to the other house, and as she did so she volunteered an
explanation of their somewhat singular arrangement of dwelling in two
houses. The school, she informed me, was registered in the name of her
head governess, not in her own; and as the laws of France prohibited any
man dwelling under the same roof with a school of girls, except the
husband of the proprietor, they were compelled to rent two dwellings.

"How many pupils have you, madame?" I inquired.

"We have six, mees," she replied. "They are here; see them."

We had reached the house, and she opened the door of a long, low room.
There was an open hearth, with a few logs of green wood upon it, but
they were not kindled. A table ran almost the whole length of the room,
with forms on each side. A high chair or two stood about. All was
comfortless, dreary, and squalid.

But the girls who were sitting on the hard benches by the table were
still more squalid and dreary-looking. Their faces were pinched, and
just now blue with cold, and their hands were swollen and red with
chilblains. They had a cowed and frightened expression, and peeped
askance at us as we went in behind madame. Minima pressed closely to me,
and clasped my hand tightly in her little fingers. We were both entering
upon the routine of a new life, and the first introduction to it was
disheartening.

"Three are English," said madame, "and three are French. The English are
_frileuses_; they are always sheever, sheever, sheever. Behold, how they
have fingers red and big! Bah! it is disgusting."

She rapped one of the swollen hands which lay upon the table, and the
girl dropped it out of sight upon her lap, with a frightened glance at
the woman. Minima's fingers tightened upon mine. The head governess, a
Frenchwoman of about thirty, with a number of little black papillotes
circling about her head, was now introduced to me; and an animated
conversation followed between her and madame.

"You comprehend the French?" asked the latter, turning with a suspicious
look to me.

"No," I answered; "I know very little of it yet."

"Good!" she replied. "We will eat breakfast."

"But I have not made my toilet," I objected; "there was neither
washingstand nor dressing-table in my room."

"Bah!" she said, scornfully; "there are no gentlemans here. No person
will see you. You make your toilet before the promenade; not at this
moment."

It was evident that uncomplaining submission was expected, and no
remonstrance would be of avail. Breakfast was being brought in by one of
the pupils. It consisted of a teacupful of coffee at the bottom of a big
basin, which was placed before each of us, a large tablespoon to feed
ourselves with; and a heaped plateful of hunches of bread, similar to
those I had turned from last night. But I could fast no longer. I sat
down with the rest at the long table, and ate my food with a sinking and
sorrowful heart.

Minima drank her scanty allowance of coffee thirstily, and then asked,
in a timid voice, if she could have a little more. Madame's eyes glared
upon her, and her voice snapped out an answer; while the English girls
looked frightened, and drew in their bony shoulders, as if such temerity
made them shudder. As soon as madame was gone, the child flung her arms
around me, and hid her face in my bosom.

"Oh!" she cried, "don't you leave me; don't forsake me! I have to stay
here four years, and it will kill me. I shall die if you go away and
leave me."

I soothed her as best I could, without promising to remain in this trap.
Would it not be possible in some way to release her as well as myself? I
sat thinking through the long cold morning, with the monotonous hum of
lessons in my ears. There was nothing for me to do, and I found that I
could not return to the house where I had slept, and where my luggage
was, until night came again. I sat all the morning in the chilly room,
with Minima on the floor at my feet, clinging to me for protection and
warmth, such as I could give.

But what could I do either for her or myself? My store of money was
almost all gone, for our joint expenses had cost more than I had
anticipated, and I could very well see that I must not expect Madame
Perrier to refund Minima's fare. There was perhaps enough left to carry
me back to England, and just land me on its shores. But what then? Where
was I to go then? Penniless, friendless; without character, without a
name--but an assumed one--what was to become of me? I began to wonder
vaguely whether I should be forced to make myself known to my husband;
whether fate would not drive me back to him. No; that should never be. I
would face and endure any hardship rather than return to my former life.
A hundred times better this squalid, wretched, foreign school, than the
degradation of heart and soul I had suffered with him.

I could do no more for Minima than for myself, for I dared not even
write to Mrs. Wilkinson, who was either an accomplice or a dupe of
these Perriers. My letter might fall into the hands of Richard Foster,
or the woman living with him, and so they would track me out, and I
should have no means of escape. I dared not run that risk. The only
thing I could do for her was to stay with her, and as far as possible
shield her from the privations and distress that threatened us both. I
was safe here; no one was likely to come across me, in this remote
place, who could by any chance know me. I had at least a roof over my
head; I had food to eat. Elsewhere I was not sure of either. There
seemed to be no other choice given me than to remain in the trap.

"We must make the best of it, Minima," I whispered to the child, through
the hum of lessons. Her shrewd little face brightened with a smile that
smoothed all the wrinkles out of it.

"That's what father said!" she cried; "he said, 'Courage, Minima. God
will take care of my little daughter.' God has sent you to take care of
me. Suppose I'd come all the way alone, and found it such a horrid
place!"



CHAPTER THE NINTH.

A FRENCH AVOCAT.


December came in with intense severity. Icicles a yard long hung to the
eaves, and the snow lay unmelted for days together on the roofs. More
often than not we were without wood for our fire, and when we had it, it
was green and unseasoned, and only smouldered away with a smoke that
stung and irritated our eyes. Our insufficient and unwholesome food
supplied us with no inward warmth. Coal in that remote district cost too
much for any but the wealthiest people, Now and then I caught a glimpse
of a blazing fire in the houses I had to pass, to get to our chamber
over Monsieur Perrier's workshop; and in an evening the dainty, savory
smell of dinner, cooking in the kitchen adjoining, sometimes filled the
frosty air. Both sight and scent were tantalizing, and my dreams at
night were generally of pleasant food and warm firesides.

At times the pangs of hunger grew too strong for us both, and forced me
to spend a little of the money I was nursing so carefully. As soon as I
could make myself understood, I went out occasionally after dark, to buy
bread-and-milk.

Noireau was a curious town, the streets everywhere steep and narrow, and
the houses, pell-mell, rich and poor, large and small huddled together
without order. Almost opposite the handsome dwelling, the photograph of
which had misled me, stood a little house where I could buy rich, creamy
milk. It was sold by a Mademoiselle Rosalie, an old maid, whom I
generally found solitarily reading a _Journal pour Tous_ with her feet
upon a _chaufferette_, and no light save that of her little oil-lamp.
She had never sat by a fire in her life, she told me, burning her face
and spoiling her _teint_. Her dwelling consisted of a single room, with
a shed opening out of it, where she kept her milkpans. She was the only
person I spoke to out of Madame Perrier's own household.

"Is Monsieur Perrier an avocat?" I asked her one day, as soon as I could
understand what she might say in reply. There was very little doubt in
my mind as to what her answer would be.

"An avocat, mademoiselle?" She repeated, shrugging her shoulders; "who
has told you that? Are the avocats in England like Emile? He is my
relation, and you see me! He is a bailiff; do you understand? If I go in
debt, he comes and takes possession of my goods, you see. It is very
simple. One need not be very learned to do that. Emile Perrier an
avocat? Bah!"

"What is an avocat?" I inquired.

"An avocat is even higher than a notaire," she answered; "he gives
counsel; he pleads before the judges. It is a high _rôle_. One must be
very learned, very eloquent, to be an avocat."

"I suppose he must be a gentleman," I remarked.

"A gentleman, mademoiselle?" she said; "I do not understand you. There
is equality in France. We are all messieurs and mesdames. There is
monsieur the bailiff, and monsieur the duke; and there is madame the
washer-woman, and madame the duchess. We are all gentlemen, all ladies.
It is not the same in your country."

"Not at all," I answered.

"Did my little Emile tell you he was an avocat, mademoiselle?" she
asked.

"No," I said. I was on my guard, even if I had known French well enough
to explain the deception practised upon me. She looked as if she did not
believe me, but smiled and nodded with imperturbable politeness, as I
carried off my jug of milk.

So Monsieur Perrier was nothing higher than a bailiff, and with very
little to do even in that line of the law! He took off his tasselled cap
to me as I passed his workshop, and went up-stairs with the milk to
Minima, who was already gone to bed for the sake of warmth. The
discovery did not affect me with surprise. If he had been an avocat, my
astonishment at French barristers would have been extreme.

Yet there was something galling in the idea of being under the roof of a
man and woman of that class, in some sort in their power and under their
control. The low, vulgar cunning of their nature appeared more clearly
to me. There was no chance of success in any contest with them, for they
were too boorish to be reached by any weapon I could use. All I could do
was to keep as far aloof from them as possible.

This was not difficult to do, for neither of them interfered with the
affairs of the school, and we saw them only at meal times, when they
watched every mouthful we ate with keen eyes.

I found that I had no duties to perform as a teacher, for none of the
three French pupils desired to learn English. English girls, who had
been decoyed into the same snare by the same false photograph and
prospectus which had entrapped me, were all of families too poor to be
able to forfeit the money which had been paid in advance for their
French education. Two of them, however, completed their term at
Christmas, and returned home weak and ill; the third was to leave in the
spring. I did not hear that any more pupils were expected, and why
Madame Perrier should have engaged any English teacher became a problem
to me. The premium I had paid was too small to cover my expenses for a
year, though we were living at so scanty a cost. It was not long before
I understood my engagement better.

I studied the language diligently. I felt myself among foreigners and
foes, and I was helpless till I could comprehend what they were saying
in my presence. Having no other occupation, I made rapid progress,
though Mademoiselle Morel, the head governess, gave me very little
assistance.

She was a dull, heavy, yet crafty-looking woman, who had taken a
first-class diploma as a teacher; yet, as far as I could judge, knew
very much less than most English governesses who are uncertificated. So
far from there being any professors attending the school, I could not
discover that there were any in the town. It was a cotton-manufacturing
town, with a population of six thousand, most of them hand-loom weavers.
There were three or four small factories, built on the banks of the
river, where the hands were at work from six in the morning till ten at
night, Sundays included. There was not much intellectual life here; a
professor would have little chance of making a living.

At first Minima, and I took long walks together into the country
surrounding Noireau, a beautiful country, even in November. Once out of
the vapor lying in the valley, at the bottom of which the town was
built, the atmosphere showed itself as exquisitely clear, with no smoke
in it, except the fine blue smoke of wood-fire. We could distinguish the
shapes of trees standing out against the horizon, miles and miles away;
while between us and it lay slopes of brown woodland and green pastures,
with long rows of slim poplars, the yellow leaves clinging to them
still, and winding round them, like garlands on a May-pole. But this
pleasure was a costly one, for it awoke pangs of hunger, which I was
compelled to appease by drawing upon my rapidly-emptying purse. We
learned that it was necessary to stay in-doors, and cultivate a small
appetite.

"Am I getting very thin?" asked Minima one day, as she held up her
transparent hand against the light; "how thin do you think I could get
without dying, Aunt Nelly?"

"Oh! a great deal thinner, my darling," I said, kissing the little
fingers, My heart was bound up in the child. I had been so lonely
without her, that now her constant companionship, her half-womanly,
half-babyish prattle seemed necessary to me. There was no longer any
question in my mind as to whether I could leave her. I only wondered
what I should do when my year was run out, and only one of those four of
hers, for which these wretches had received the payment.

"Some people can get very thin indeed," she went on, with her shrewd,
quaint smile; "I've heard the boys at school talk about it. One of them
had seen a living skeleton, that was all skin and bone, and no flesh. I
shouldn't like to be a living skeleton, and be made a show of. Do you
think I ever shall be, if I stay here four years? Perhaps they'd take me
about as a show."

"Why, you are talking nonsense, Minima," I answered.

"Am I?" she said, wistfully, as if the idea really troubled her; "I
dream of it often and often. I can feel all my bones now, and count
them, when I'm in bed. Some of them are getting very sharp. The boys
used to say they'd get as sharp as knives sometimes, and cut through the
skin. But father said it was only boys' talk."

"Your father was right," I answered; "you must think of what he said,
not the boys' talk."

"But," she continued, "the boys said sometimes people get so hungry they
bite pieces out of their arms. I don't think I could ever be so hungry
as that; do you?"

"Minima," I said, starting up, "let us run to Mademoiselle Rosalie's for
some bread-and-milk."

"You're afraid of me beginning to eat myself!" she cried, with a little
laugh. But she was the first to reach Mademoiselle Rosalie's door; and I
watched her devouring her bread-and-milk with the eagerness of a
ravenous appetite.

Very fast melted away my money. I could not see the child pining with
hunger, though every sou I spent made our return to England more
difficult. Madame Perrier put no hinderance in my way, for the more food
we purchased ourselves, the less we ate at her table. The bitter cold
and the coarse food told upon Minima's delicate little frame. Yet what
could I do? I dared not write to Mrs. Wilkinson, and I very much doubted
if there would be any benefit to be hoped for if I ran the risk. Minima
did not know the address of any one of the persons who had subscribed
for her education and board; to her they were only the fathers and
mothers of the boys of whom she talked so much. She was as friendless as
I was in the world.

So far away were Dr. Martin Dobrée and Tardif, that I dared not count
them as friends who could have any power to help me. Better for Dr.
Martin Dobrée if he could altogether forget me, and return to his cousin
Julia. Perhaps he had done so already.

How long was this loneliness, this friendlessness to be my lot? I was so
young yet, that my life seemed endless as it stretched before me. Poor,
desolate, hunted, I shrank from life as an evil thing, and longed
impatiently to be rid of it. Yet how could I escape even from its
present phase?



CHAPTER THE TENTH.

A MISFORTUNE WITHOUT PARALLEL.

My escape was nearer than I expected, and was forced upon me in a manner
I could never have foreseen.

Toward the middle of February, Mademoiselle Morel appeared often in
tears. Madame Perrier's coarse face was always overcast, and monsieur
seemed gloomy, too gloomy to retain even French politeness of manner
toward any of us. The household was under a cloud, but I could not
discover why. What little discipline and work there had been in the
school was quite at an end. Every one was left to do as she chose.

Early one morning, long before daybreak, I was startled out of my sleep
by a hurried knock at my door. I cried out, "Who is there?" and a
voice, indistinct with sobbing, replied, "C'est moi."

The "moi" proved to be Mademoiselle Morel. I opened the door for her,
and she appeared in her bonnet and walking-dress, carrying a lamp in her
hand, which lit up her weary and tear-stained face. She took a seat at
the foot of my bed, and buried her face in her handkerchief.

"Mademoiselle," she said, "here is a grand misfortune, a misfortune
without parallel. Monsieur and madame are gone."

"Gone!" I repeated; "where are they gone?"

"I do not know, mademoiselle," she answered; "I know nothing at all.
They are gone away. The poor good people were in debt, and their
creditors are as hard as stone. They wished to take every sou, and they
talked of throwing monsieur into prison, you understand. That is
intolerable. They are gone, and I have no means to carry on the
establishment. The school is finished."

"But I am to stay here twelve months," I cried, in dismay, "and Minima
was to stay four years. The money has been paid to them for it. What is
to become of us?"

"I cannot say, mademoiselle; I am desolated myself," she replied, with a
fresh burst of tears; "all is finished here. If you have not money
enough to take you back to England, you must write to your friends. I'm
going to return to Bordeaux. I detest Normandy; it is so cold and
_triste_."

"But what is to be done with the other pupils?" I inquired, still lost
in amazement, and too bewildered to realize my own position.

"The English pupil goes with me to Paris," she answered; "she has her
friends there. The French demoiselles are not far from their own homes,
and they return to-day by the omnibus to Granville. It is a misfortune
without parallel, mademoiselle--a misfortune quite without parallel."

By the way she repeated this phrase, it was evidently a great
consolation to her--as phrases seem to be to all classes of the French
people. But both the tone of her voice, and the expression of her face,
impressed upon me the conviction that it was not her only consolation.
In answer to my urgent questions, she informed me that, without doubt,
the goods left in the two houses would be seized, as soon as the flight
of madame and monsieur became known.

To crown all, she was going to start immediately by the omnibus to
Falaise, and on by rail to Paris, not waiting for the storm to burst.
She kissed me on both cheeks, bade me adieu, and was gone, leaving me in
utter darkness, before I fairly comprehended the rapid French in which
she conveyed her intention. I groped to the window, and saw the
glimmering of her lamp, as she turned into the cart-shed, on her way to
the other house. Before I could dress and follow her, she would be gone.

I had seen my last of Monsieur and Madame Perrier, and of Mademoiselle
Morel.

I had time to recover from my consternation, and to see my position
clearly, before the dawn came. Leagues of land, and leagues of sea, lay
between me and England. Ten shillings was all that was left of my money.
Besides this, I had Minima dependent upon me, for it was impossible to
abandon her to the charity of foreigners. I had not the means of sending
her back to Mrs. Wilkinson, and I rejected the mere thought of doing so,
partly because I dared not run the risk, and partly because I could not
harden myself against the appeals the child would make against such a
destiny. But then what was to become of us?

I dressed myself as soon as the first faint light came, and hurried to
the other house. The key was in the lock, as mademoiselle had left it. A
fire was burning in the school-room, and the fragments of a meal were
scattered about the table. The pupils up-stairs were preparing for their
own departure, and were chattering too volubly to one another for me to
catch the meaning of their words. They seemed to know very well how to
manage their own affairs, and they informed me their places were taken
in the omnibus, and a porter was hired to fetch their luggage.

All I had to do was to see for myself and Minima.

I carried our breakfast back with me, when I returned to Minima. Her
wan and womanly face was turned toward the window, and the light made it
look more pinched and worn than usual. She sat up in bed to eat her
scanty breakfast--the last meal we should have in this shelter of
ours--and I wrapped a shawl about her thin shoulders.

"I wish I'd been born a boy," she said, plaintively; "they can get their
own living sooner than girls, and better. How soon do you think I could
get my own living? I could be a little nurse-maid now, you know; and I'd
eat very little."

"What makes you talk about getting your living?" I asked.

"How pale you look!" she answered, nodding her little head; "why, I
heard something of what mademoiselle said. They've all run away, and
left us to do what we can. We shall both have to get our own living.
I've been thinking how nice it would be if you could get a place as
housemaid and me nurse, in the same house. Wouldn't that be first-rate?
You're very poor, aren't you, Aunt Nelly?"

"Very poor!" I repeated, hiding my face on her pillow, while hot tears
forced themselves through my eyelids.

"Oh! this will never do," said the childish voice; "we mustn't cry, you
know. The boys always said it was like a baby to cry; and father used to
say, 'Courage, Minima!' Perhaps, when all our money is gone, we shall
find a great big purse full of gold; or else a beautiful French prince
will see you, and fall in love with you, and take us both to his palace,
and make you his princess; and we shall all grow up till we die."

I laughed at the oddity of this childish climax in spite of the
heaviness of my heart and the springing of my tears. Minima's fresh
young fancies were too droll to resist, especially in combination with
her shrewd, old-womanish knowledge of many things of which I was
ignorant.

"I should know exactly what to do if we were in London," she resumed;
"we could take our things to the pawnbroker's, and get lots of money for
them. That is what poor people do. Mrs. Foster has pawned all her rings
and brooches. It is quite easy to do, you know; but perhaps there are no
pawn-shops in France."

This incidental mention of Mrs. Foster had sent my thoughts and fears
fluttering toward a deep, unutterable dread, which was lurking under all
my other cares. Should I be driven by the mere stress of utter poverty
to return to my husband? There must be something wrong in a law which
bound me captive, body and soul, to a man whose very name had become a
terror to me, and to escape whom I was willing to face any difficulties,
any distresses. But all my knowledge of the law came from his lips, and
he would gladly deceive me. It might be that I was suffering all these
troubles quite needlessly. Across the darkness of my prospects flushed a
thought that seemed like an angel of light. Why should I not try to make
my way to Mrs. Dobrée, Martin's mother, to whom I could tell my whole
history, and on whose friendship and protection I could rely implicitly?
She would learn for me how far the law would protect me. By this time
Kate Daltrey would have quitted the Channel Islands, satisfied that I
had eluded her pursuit. The route to the Channel Islands was neither
long nor difficult, for at Granville a vessel sailed directly for
Jersey, and we were not more than thirty miles from Granville. It was a
distance that we could almost walk. If Mrs. Dobrée could not help me,
Tardif would take Minima into his house for a time, and the child could
not have a happier home. I could count upon my good Tardif doing that.
These plans were taking shape in my brain, when I heard a voice calling
softly under the window. I opened the casement, and, leaning out, saw
the welcome face of Rosalie, the milk-woman.

"Will you permit me to come in?" she inquired.

"Yes, yes, come in," I said, eagerly.

She entered, and saluted us both with much ceremony. Her clumsy wooden
_sabots_ clattered over the bare boards, and the wings of her high
Norman cap flapped against her sallow cheeks. No figure could have
impressed upon me more forcibly the unwelcome fact that I was in great
straits in a foreign land. I regarded her with a vague kind of fear.

"So my little Emile and his spouse are gone, mademoiselle," she said, in
a mysterious whisper. "I have been saying to myself, 'What will my
little English lady do?' That is why I am here. Behold me."

"I do not know what to do," I answered.

"If mademoiselle is not difficult," she said, "she and the little one
could rest with me for a day or two. My bed is clean and soft--bah! ten
times softer than these paillasses. I would ask only a franc a night for
it. That is much less than at the hotels, where they charge for light
and attendance. Mademoiselle could write to her friends, if she has not
enough money to carry her and the little one back to their own country."

"I have no friends," I said, despondently.

"No friends! no relations!" she exclaimed.

"Not one," I replied.

"But that is terrible!" she said. "Has mademoiselle plenty of money?"

"Only twelve francs," I answered.

Rosalie's face grew long and grave. This was an abyss of misfortune she
had not dreamed of. She looked at us both critically, and did not open
her lips again for a minute or two.

"Is the little one your relation?" she inquired, after this pause.

"No," I replied; "I did not know her till I brought her here. She does
not know of any friends or relations belonging to her."

"There is the convent for her," she said; "the good sisters would take a
little girl like her, and make a true Christian of her. She might become
a saint some day--"

"No, no," I interrupted, hastily; "I could not leave her in a convent."

Mademoiselle Rosalie was very much offended; her sallow face flushed a
dull red, and the wings of her cap flapped as if she were about to take
flight, and leave me in my difficulties. She had kindliness of feeling,
but it was not proof against my poverty and my covert slight of her
religion. I caught her hand in mine to prevent her going.

"Let us come to your house for to-day," I entreated: "to-morrow we will
go. I have money enough to pay you."

I was only too glad to get a shelter for Minima and myself for another
night. She explained to me the French system of borrowing money upon
articles left in pledge and offered to accompany me to the _mont de
piété_ with those things that we could spare. But, upon packing up our
few possessions, I remembered that only a few days before Madame Perrier
had borrowed from me my seal-skin mantle, the only valuable thing I had
remaining. I had lent it reluctantly, and in spite of myself; and it had
never been returned. Minima's wardrobe was still poorer than my own. All
the money we could raise was less than two napoleons; and with this we
had to make our way to Granville, and thence to Guernsey. We could not
travel luxuriously.

The next morning we left Noireau on foot.



CHAPTER THE ELEVENTH.

LOST AT NIGHTFALL.


It was a soft spring morning, with an exhilarating, jubilant lightness
in the air, such as only comes in the very early spring, or at sunrise
on a dewy summer-day. A few gray clouds lay low along the horizon, but
overhead the sky was a deep, rich blue, with fine, filmy streaks of
white vapor floating slowly across it. The branches of the trees were
still bare, showing the blue through their delicate net-work; but the
ends of the twigs were thickening, and the leaf-buds swelling under the
rind. The shoots of the hazel-bushes wore a purple bloom, with yellow
catkins already hanging in tassels about them. The white buds of the
chestnut-trees shone with silvery lustre. In the orchards, though the
tangled boughs of the apple-trees were still thickly covered with gray
lichens, small specks of green among the gray gave a promise of early
blossom. Thrushes were singing from every thorn-bush; and the larks,
lost in the blue heights above us, flung down their triumphant carols,
careless whether our ears caught them or no. A long, straight road
stretched before us, and seemed to end upon the skyline in the far
distance. Below us, when we looked back, lay the valley and the town;
and all around us a vast sweep of country, rising up to the low floor of
clouds from which the bright dome of the sky was springing.

We strolled on as if we were walking on air, and could feel no fatigue;
Minima with a flush upon her pale cheeks, and chattering incessantly
about the boys, whose memories were her constant companions. I too had
my companions; faces and voices were about me, which no eye or ear but
mine could perceive.

During the night, while my brain had been between waking and sleeping, I
had been busy with the new idea that had taken possession of it. The
more I pondered upon the subject, the more impossible it appeared that
the laws of any Christian country should doom me, and deliver me up
against my will, to a bondage more degrading and more cruel than slavery
itself. If every man, I had said to myself, were proved to be good and
chivalrous, of high and steadfast honor, it might be possible to place
another soul, more frail and less wise, into his charge unchallenged.
But the law is made for evil men, not for good. I began to believe it
incredible that it should subject me to the tyranny of a husband who
made my home a hell, and gave me no companionship but that of the
vicious. Should the law make me forfeit all else, it would at least
recognize my right to myself. Once free from the necessity of hiding, I
did not fear to face any difficulty. Surely he had been deceiving me,
and playing upon my ignorance, when he told me I belonged to him as a
chattel!

Every step which carried us nearer to Granville brought new hope to me.
The face of Martin's mother came often to my mind, looking at me, as she
had done in Sark, with a mournful yet tender smile--a smile behind which
lay many tears. If I could but lay my head upon her lap, and tell her
all, all which I had never breathed into any ear, I should feel secure
and happy. "Courage!" I said to myself; "every hour brings you nearer to
her."

Now and then, whenever we came to a pleasant place, where a fallen tree,
or the step under a cross, offered us a resting-place by the roadside,
we sat down, scarcely from weariness, but rather for enjoyment. I had
full directions as to our route, and I carried a letter from Rosalie to
a cousin of hers, who lived in a convent about twelve miles from
Noirean; where, she assured me, they would take us in gladly for a
night, and perhaps send us on part of our way in their conveyance, in
the morning. Twelve miles only had to be accomplished this first day,
and we could saunter as we chose, making our dinner of the little loaves
which we had bought hot from the oven, as we quitted the town, and
drinking of the clear little rills, which were gurgling merrily under
the brown hedge-rows. If we reached the convent before six o'clock we
should find the doors open, and should gain admission.

But in the afternoon the sky changed. The low floor of clouds rose
gradually, and began to spread themselves, growing grayer and thicker as
they crept higher into the sky. The blue became paler and colder. The
wind changed a point or two from the south, and a breath from the east
blew, with a chilly touch, over the wide open plain we were now
crossing.

Insensibly our high spirits sank. Minima ceased to prattle; and I began
to shiver a little, more from an inward dread of the utterly unknown
future, than from any chill of the easterly wind. The road was very
desolate. Not a creature had we seen for an hour or two, from whom I
could inquire if we were on the high-road to Granville. About noon we
had passed a roadside cross, standing where three ways met, and below it
a board had pointed toward Granville. I had followed its direction in
confidence, but now I began to feel somewhat anxious. This road, along
which the grass was growing, was strangely solitary and dreary.

It brought us after a while to the edge of a common, stretching before
us, drear and brown, as far as my eye could reach. A wild, weird-looking
flat, with no sign of cultivation; and the road running across it lying
in deep ruts, where moss and grass were springing. As far as I could
guess, it was drawing near to five o'clock; and, if we had wandered out
of our way, the right road took an opposite direction some miles behind
us. There was no gleam of sunshine now, no vision of blue overhead. All
there was gray, gloomy, and threatening. The horizon was rapidly
becoming invisible; a thin, cold, clinging vapor shut it from us. Every
few minutes a fold of this mist overtook us, and wrapped itself about
us, until the moaning wind drifted it away. Minima was quite silent now,
and her weary feet dragged along the rough road. The hand which rested
upon my wrist felt hot, as it clasped it closely. The child was worn
out, and was suffering more than I did, though in uncomplaining
patience.

"Are you very tired, my Minima?" I asked.

"It will be so nice to go to bed, when we reach the convent," she said,
looking up with a smile. "I can't imagine why the prince has not come
yet."

"Perhaps he is coming all the time," I answered, "and he'll find us when
we want him worst."

We plodded on after that, looking for the convent, or for any dwelling
where we could stay till morning. But none came in sight, or any person
from whom we could learn where we were wandering. I was growing
frightened, dismayed. What would become of us both, if we could find no
shelter from the cold of a February night?

There were unshed tears in my eyes--for I would not let Minima know my
fears--when I saw dimly, through the mist, a high cross standing in the
midst of a small grove of yews and cypresses, planted formally about it.
There were three tiers of steps at its foot, the lowest partly screened
from the gathering rain by the trees. The shaft of the cross, with a
serpent twining about its base, rose high above the cypresses; and the
image of the Christ hanging upon its crossbeams fronted the east, which
was now heavy with clouds. The half-closed eyes seemed to be gazing over
the vast wintry plain, lying in the brown desolateness of a February
evening. The face was full of an unutterable and complete agony, and
there was the helpless languor of dying in the limbs. The rain was
beating against it, and the wind sobbing in the trees surrounding it. It
seemed so sad, so forsaken, that it drew us to it. Without speaking the
child and I crept to the shelter at its foot, and sat down to rest
there, as if we were companions to it in its loneliness.

There was no sound to listen to save the sighing of the east wind
through the fine needle-like leaflets of the yew-trees; and the mist was
rapidly shutting out every sight but the awful, pathetic form above us.
Evening had closed in, night was coming gradually, yet swiftly. Every
minute was drawing the darkness more densely about us. If we did not
bestir ourselves soon, and hasten along, it would overtake us, and find
us without resource. Yet I felt as if I had no heart to abandon that
gray figure, with the rain-drops beating heavily against it. I forgot
myself, forgot Minima, forgot all the world, while looking up to the
face, growing more dim to me through my own tears.

"Hush! hush!" cried Minima, though I was neither moving nor speaking,
and the stillness was profound; "hark! I hear something coming along the
road, only very far off."

I listened for a minute or two, and there reached my ears a faint
tinkling, which drew nearer and nearer every moment. At last it was
plainly the sound of bells on a horse's collar; and presently I could
distinguish the beat of a horse's hoofs coming slowly along the road. In
a few minutes some person would be passing by, who would be able to help
us; and no one could be so inhuman as to leave us in our distress.

It was too dark now to see far along the road, but as we waited and
watched there came into sight a rude sort of covered carriage, like a
market-cart, drawn by a horse with a blue sheep-skin hanging round his
neck. The pace at which he was going was not above a jog-trot, and he
came almost to a stand-still opposite the cross, as if it was customary
to pause there.

This was the instant to appeal for aid. I darted forward in front of the
_char à bancs_, and stretched out my hands to the driver.

"Help us," I cried; we have lost our way, and the night is come. "Help
us, for the love of Christ!" I could see now that the driver was a
burly, red-faced, cleanshaven Norman peasant, wearing a white cotton
cap, with a tassel over his forehead, who stared at me, and at Minima
dragging herself weariedly to my side, as if we had both dropped from
the clouds. He crossed himself hurriedly, and glanced at the grove of
dark, solemn trees from which we had come. But by his side sat a priest,
in his cassock and broad-brimmed hat fastened up at the sides, who
alighted almost before I had finished speaking, and stood before us
bareheaded, and bowing profoundly.

"Madame," he said, in a bland tone, "to what town are you going?"

"We are going to Granville," I answered, "but I am afraid I have lost
the way. We are very tired, this little child and I. We can walk no
more, monsieur. Take care of us, I pray you."

I spoke brokenly, for in an extremity like this it was difficult to put
my request into French. The priest appeared perplexed, but he went back
to the _char à bancs_, and held a short, earnest conversation with the
driver, in a subdued voice.

"Madame," he said, returning to me, "I am Francis Laurentie, the curé of
Ville-en-bois. It is quite a small village about a league from here, and
we are on the road to it; but the route to Granville is two leagues
behind us, and it is still farther to the first village. There is not
time to return with you this evening. Will you, then, go with us to
Ville-en-bois, and to-morrow we will send you on to Granville?"

He spoke very slowly and distinctly, with a clear, cordial voice, which
filled me with confidence. I could hardly distinguish his features, but
his hair was silvery white, and shone in the gloom, as he still stood
bareheaded before me, though the rain was falling fast.

"Take care of us, monsieur?" I replied, putting my hand in his; "we will
go with you."

"Make haste then, my children," he said, cheerfully; "the rain will hurt
you. Let me lift the _mignonne_ into the _char à bancs_. Bah! How little
she is! _Voilà!_ Now, madame, permit me."

There was a seat in the back of the _char à bancs_ which we reached by
climbing over the front bench, assisted by the driver. There we were
well sheltered from the driving wind and rain, with our feet resting
upon a sack of potatoes, and the two strange figures of the Norman
peasant in his blouse and white cotton cap, and the curé in his hat and
cassock, filling up the front of the car before us.

It was so unlike any thing I had foreseen, that I could scarcely believe
that it was real.



CHAPTER THE TWELFTH.

THE CURÉ OF VILLE-EN-BOIS.


"They are not Frenchwomen, Monsieur le Curé," observed the driver, after
a short pause. We were travelling slowly, for the curé would not allow
the peasant to whip on the shaggy cart-horse. We were, moreover, going
up-hill, along roads as rough as any about my father's sheep-walk, with
large round stones deeply bedded in the soil.

"No, no, my good Jean," was the curé's answer; "by their tongue I should
say they are English. Englishwomen are extremely intrepid, and voyage
about all the world quite alone, like this. It is only a marvel to me
that we have never encountered one of them before to-day."

"But, Monsieur le Curé, are they Christian?" inquired Jean, with a
backward glance at us. Evidently he had not altogether recovered from
the fright we had given him, when we appeared suddenly from out of the
gloomy shadows of the cypresses.

"The English nation is Protestant," replied the curé, with a sigh.

"But, monsieur," exclaimed Jean, "if they are Protestants they cannot be
Christians! Is it not true that all the Protestants go to hell on the
back of that bad king who had six wives all at one time?"

"Not all at one time, my good Jean," the curé answered mildly; "no, no,
surely they do not all go to perdition. If they know any thing of the
love of Christ, they must be Christians, however feeble and ignorant. He
does not quench the smoking flax, Jean. Did you not hear madame say,
'Help me, for the love of Christ?' Good! There is the smoking flax,
which may burn into a flame brighter than yours or mine some day, my
poor friend. We must make her and the _mignonne_ as welcome as if they
were good Catholics. She is very poor, cela saute aux yeux--"

"Monsieur," I interrupted, feeling almost guilty in having listened so
far, "I understand French very well, though I speak it badly."

"Pardon, madame!" he replied, "I hope you will not be grieved by the
foolish words we have been speaking one to the other."

After that all was still again for some time, except the tinkling of the
bells, and the pad-pad of the horse's feet upon the steep and rugged
road. Hills rose on each side of us, which were thickly planted with
trees. Even the figures of the curé and driver were no longer well
defined in the denser darkness. Minima had laid her head on my shoulder,
and seemed to be asleep. By-and-by a village clock striking echoed
faintly down the valley; and the curé turned round and addressed me
again.

"There is my village, madame," he said, stretching forth his hand to
point it out, though we could not see a yard beyond the _char à bancs_;
"it is very small, and my parish contains but four hundred and
twenty-two souls, some of them very little ones. They all know me, and
regard me as a father. They love me, though I have some rebel sons.--Is
it not so, Jean? Rebel sons, but not many rebel daughters. Here we are!"

We entered a narrow and roughly-paved village-street. The houses, as I
saw afterward, were all huddled together, with a small church at the
point farthest from the entrance; and the road ended at its porch, as if
there were no other place in the world beyond it.

As we clattered along the dogs barked, and the cottage-doors flew open.
Children toddled to the thresholds, and called after us, in shrill
notes, "Good-evening, and a good-night, Monsieur le Curé!" Men's voices,
deeper and slower, echoed the salutation. The curé was busy greeting
each one in return: "Good-night, my little rogue," "Good-night, my
lamb." "Good-night to all of you, my friends;" his cordial voice making
each word sound as if it came from his very heart. I felt that we were
perfectly secure in his keeping.

Never, as long as I live, shall I smell the pungent, pleasant scent of
wood burning without recalling to my memory that darksome entrance into
Ville-en-bois.

"We drove at last into a square courtyard, paved with pebbles. Almost
before the horse could stop I saw a stream of light shining from an open
door across a causeway, and the voice of a woman, whom I could not see,
spoke eagerly as soon as the horse's hoofs had ceased to scrape upon the
pebbles.

"Hast thou brought a doctor with thee, my brother?" she asked.

"I have brought no doctor except thy brother, my sister," answered
Monsieur Laurentie, "also a treasure which I found at the foot of the
Calvary down yonder."

He had alighted while saying this, and the rest of the conversation was
carried on in whispers. There was some one ill in the house, and our
arrival was ill-timed, that was quite clear. Whoever the woman was that
had come to the door, she did not advance to speak to me, but retreated
as soon as the conversation was over; while the curé returned to the
side of the _char à bancs_, and asked me to remain where I was, with
Minima, for a few minutes.

The horse was taken out by Jean, and led away to the stable, the shafts
of the _char à bancs_ being supported by two props put under them. Then
the place grew profoundly quiet. I leaned forward to look at the
presbytery, which I supposed this house to be. It was a low, large
building of two stories, with eaves projecting two or three feet over
the upper one. At the end of it rose the belfry of the church--an open
belfry, with one bell hanging underneath a little square roof of tiles.
The church itself was quite hidden by the surrounding walls and roofs.
All was dark, except a feeble glimmering in four upper casements, which
seemed to belong to one large room. The church-clock chimed a quarter,
then half-past, and must have been near upon the three-quarters; but yet
there was no sign that we were remembered. Minima was still asleep. I
was growing cold, depressed, and anxious, when the house-door opened
once more, and the curé appeared carrying a lamp, which he placed on the
low stone wall surrounding the court.

"Pardon, madame," he said, approaching us, "but my sister is too much
occupied with a sick person to do herself the honor of attending upon
you. Permit me to fill her place, and excuse her, I pray you. Give me
the poor _mignonne_; I will lift her down first, and then assist you to
descend."

His politeness did not seem studied; it had too kindly a tone to be
artificial. I lifted Minima over the front seat, and sprang down myself,
glad to be released from my stiff position, and hardly availing myself
of his proffered help. He did not conduct us through the open door, but
led us round the angle of the presbytery to a small outhouse, opening on
to the court, and with no other entrance. It was a building lying
between the porch and belfry of the church and his own dwelling place.
But it looked comfortable and inviting. A fire had been hastily kindled
on an open hearth, and a heap of wood lay beside it. A table stood close
by, in the light and warmth, on which were steaming two basins of soup,
and an omelette fresh from the frying-pan; with fruit and wine for a
second course. Two beds were in this room: one with hangings over the
head, and a large, tall cross at the foot-board; the other a low, narrow
pallet, lying along the foot of it. A crucifix hung upon the wall, and
the wood-work of the high window also formed a cross. It seemed a
strange goal to reach after our day's wanderings.

Monsieur Laurentie put the lamp down on the table, and drew the logs of
wood together on the hearth. He was an old man, as I then thought, over
sixty. He looked round upon us with a benevolent smile.

"Madame," he said, "our hospitality is rude and simple, but you are very
welcome guests. My sister is desolated that she must leave you to my
cares. But if there be any thing you have need of, tell me, I pray you."

"There is nothing, monsieur," I answered; "you are too good to us, too
good."

"No, no, madame," he said, "be content. To-morrow I will send you to
Granville under the charge of my good Jean. Sleep well, my children, and
fear nothing. The good God will protect you."

He closed the door after him as he spoke, but opened it again to call my
attention to a thick wooden bar, with which I might fasten it inside if
I chose; and to tell me not to alarm myself when I heard the bell
overhead toll for matins, at half-past five in the morning. I listened
to his receding footsteps, and then turned eagerly to the food, which I
began to want greatly.

But Minima had thrown herself upon the low pallet-bed, and I could not
persuade her to swallow more than a few spoonfuls of soup. I toot off
her damp clothes, and laid her down comfortably to rest. Her eyes were
dull and heavy, and she said her head was aching; but she looked up at
me with a faint smile.

"I told you how nice it would be to be in bed," she whispered.

"It was not long before I was also sleeping soundly the deep, dreamless
sleep which comes to any one as strong as I was, after unusual physical
exertion. Once or twice a vague impression forced itself upon me that
Minima was talking a great deal in her dreams. It was the clang of the
bell for matins which fully roused me at last, but it was a minute or
two before I could make out where I was. Through the uncurtained window,
high in the opposite wall, I could see a dim, pallid moon sinking slowly
into the west. The thick beams of the cross were strongly delineated
against its pale light. For a moment I fancied that Minima and I had
passed the night under the shelter of the solitary image, which we had
left alone in the dark and rainy evening. I knew better immediately, and
lay still, listening to the tramp of the wooden _sabots_ hurrying past
the door into the church-porch. Then Minima began to talk.

"How funny that is!" she said, "there the boys run, and I can't catch
one of them. Father, Temple Secundus is pulling faces at me, and all the
boys are laughing." "Well! it doesn't matter, does it? Only we are so
poor, Aunt Nelly and all. We're so poor--so poor--so poor!"

Her voice fell into a murmur too low for me to hear what she was saying,
though she went on talking rapidly, and laughing and sobbing at times. I
called to her, but she did not answer.

What could ail the child? I went to her, and took her hands in
mine--burning little hands. I said, "Minima! and she turned to me with
a caressing gesture, raising her hot fingers to stroke my face.

"Yes, Aunt Nelly. How poor we are, you and me! I am so tired, and the
prince never comes!"

There was hardly room for me in the narrow bed, but I managed to lie
down beside her, and took her into my arms to soothe her. She rested
there quietly enough; but her head was wandering, and all her whispered
chatter was about the boys, and the dominie, her father, and the happy
days at home in the school in Epping Forest. As soon as it was light I
dressed myself in haste, and opened my door to see if I could find any
one to send to Monsieur Laurentie.

The first person I saw was himself, coming in my direction. I had not
fairly looked at him before, for I had seen him only by twilight and
firelight. His cassock was old and threadbare, and his hat brown. His
hair fell in rather long locks below his hat, and was beautifully white.
His face was healthy-looking, like that of a man who lived much
out-of-doors, and his clear, quick eyes shone with a kindly light. I
ran impulsively to meet him, with outstretched hands, which he took into
his own with a pleasant smile.

"Oh, come, monsieur," I cried; "make haste! She is ill, my poor Minima!"

The smile faded away from his face in an instant, and he did not utter a
word. He followed me quickly to the side of the little bed, laid his
hand softly on the child's forehead, and felt her pulse. He lifted up
her head gently, and, opening her mouth, looked at her tongue and
throat. He shook his head as he turned to me with a grave and perplexed
expression, and he spoke with a low, solemn accent.

"Madame," he said, "it is the fever."



CHAPTER THE THIRTEENTH.

A FEVER-HOSPITAL.


The fever! What fever? Was it any thing more than some childish malady
brought on by exhaustion? I stood silent, in amazement at his solemn
manner, and looking from him to the delirious child. He was the first to
speak again.

"It will be impossible for you to go to-day," he said; "the child cannot
be removed. I must tell Jean to put up the horse and _char à bancs_
again. I shall return in an instant to you, madame."

He left me, and I sank down on a chair, half stupefied by this new
disaster. It would be necessary to stay where we were until Minima
recovered; yet I had no means to pay these people for the trouble we
should give them, and the expense we should be to them. Monsieur le Curé
had all the appearance of a poor parish priest, with a very small
income. I had not time to decide upon any course, however, before he
returned and brought with him his sister.

Mademoiselle Thérèse was a tall, plain, elderly woman, but with the same
pleasant expression of open friendliness as that of her brother. She
went through precisely the same examination of Minima as he had done.

"The fever!" she ejaculated, in much the same tone as his. They looked
significantly at each other, and then held a hurried consultation
together outside the door, after which the curé returned alone.

"Madame," he said, "this child is not your own, as I supposed last
night. My sister says you are too young to be her mother. Is she your
sister?"

"No, monsieur," I answered.

"I called you madame because you were travelling alone," he continued,
smiling; "French demoiselles never travel alone before they are married.
You are mademoiselle, no doubt?"

An awkward question, for he paused as if it were a question. I look into
his kind, keen face and honest eyes.

"No, monsieur," I said, frankly, "I am married."

"Where, then, is your husband?" he inquired.

"He is in London," I answered. "Monsieur, it is difficult for me to
explain it; I cannot speak your language well enough. I think in
English, and I cannot find the right French words. I am very unhappy,
but I am not wicked."

"Good," he said, smiling again, "very good, my child; I believe you. You
will learn my language quickly; then you shall tell me all, if you
remain with us. But you said the _mignonne_ is not your sister."

"No; she is not my relative at all," I replied; "we were both in a
school at Noireau, the school of Monsieur Emile Perrier. Perhaps you
know it, monsieur?"

"Certainly, madame," he said.

"He has failed and run away," I continued; "all the pupils are
dispersed. Minima and I were returning through Granville."'

"Bien! I understand, madame," he responded; "but it is villanous, this
affair! Listen, my child. I have much to say to you. Do I speak gently
and slowly enough for you?"

"Yes," I answered; "I understand you perfectly."'

"We have had the fever in Ville-en-bois for some weeks," he went on; "it
is now bad, very bad. Yesterday I went to Noireau to seek a doctor, but
I could only hear of one, who is in Paris at present, and cannot come
immediately. When you prayed me for succor last night, I did not know
what to do. I could not leave you by the way-side, with the night coming
on, and I could not take you to my own house. At present we have made my
house into a hospital for the sick. My people bring their sick to me,
and we do our best, and put our trust in God. I said to myself and to
Jean, 'We cannot receive these children into the presbytery, lest they
should take the fever.' But this little house has been kept free from
all infection, and you would be safe here for one night, so I hoped. The
_mignonne_ must have caught the fever some days ago. There is no blame,
therefore, resting upon me, you understand. Now I must carry her into my
little hospital. But you, madame, what am I to do with you? Do you wish
to go on to Granville, and leave the _mignonne_ with me? We will take
care of her as a little angel of God. What shall I do with you, my
child?"

"Monsieur," I exclaimed, speaking so eagerly that I could scarcely bring
my sentences into any kind of order, "take me into your hospital too.
Let me take care of Minima and your other sick people. I am very strong,
and in good health; I am never ill, never, never. I will do all you say
to me. Let me stay, dear monsieur."

"But your husband, your friends--" he said.

"I have no friends," I interrupted, "and my husband does not love me. If
I have the fever, and die--good! very good! I am not wicked; I am a
Christian, I hope. Only let me stay with Minima, and do all I can in the
hospital."

He stood looking at me scrutinizingly, trying to read, I fancied, if
there were any sign of wickedness in my face. I felt it flush, but I
would not let my eyes sink before his. I think he saw in them, in my
steadfast, tearful eyes, that I might be unfortunate, but that I was not
wicked. A pleasant gleam came across his features.

"Be content, my child," he said, "you shall stay with us."

I felt a sudden sense of contentment take possession of me; for here was
work for me to do, as well as a refuge. Neither should I be compelled to
leave Minima. I wrapped her up warmly in the blankets, and Monsieur
Laurentie lifted her carefully and tenderly from the low bed. He told me
to accompany him, and we crossed the court, and entered the house by the
door I had seen the night before. A staircase of red quarries led up to
the second story, and the first door we came to was a long, low room,
with a quarried floor, which had been turned into a hastily-fitted-up
fever-ward for women and children. There were already nine beds in it, of
different sizes, brought with the patients who now occupied them. But
one of these was empty.

I learned afterward that the girl to whom the bed belonged had died the
day before, during the curé's absence, and was going to be buried that
morning, in a cemetery lying in a field on the side of the valley.
Mademoiselle Thérèse was making up the bed with homespun linen, scented
with rosemary and lavender, and the curé laid Minima down upon it with
all the skill of a woman. In this home-like ward I took up my work as
nurse.

It was work that seemed to come naturally to me, as if I had a special
gift for it. I remembered how some of the older shepherds on the station
at home used to praise my mother's skill as a nurse. I felt as if I knew
by instinct the wants of my little patients, when they could not put
them into coherent words for themselves. They were mostly children, or
quite young girls; for the older people who were stricken by the fever
generally clung to their own homes, and the curé visited them there with
the regularity of a physician. I liked to find for these suffering
children a more comfortable position when they were weary; or to bathe
their burning heads with some cool lotion; or to give the parched lips
the _titane_ Mademoiselle Thérèse prepared. Even the delirium of these
little creatures was but a babbling about playthings, and _fétes_, and
games. Minima, whose fever took faster hold of her day after day,
prattled of the same things in English, only with sad alternations of
moaning over our poverty.

It was probably these lamentations of Minima which made me sometimes
look forward with dread to the time when this season of my life should
be ended. I knew it could be only for a little while, an interlude, a
brief, passing term, which must run quickly to its conclusion, and bring
me face to face again with the terrible poverty which the child bemoaned
in words no one could understand but myself. Already my own appearance
was changing, as Mademoiselle Thérèse supplied the place of my clothing,
which wore out with my constant work, replacing it with the homely
costume of the Norman village. I could not expect to remain here when my
task was done. The presbytery was too poor to offer me a shelter when I
could be nothing but a burden in it. This good curé, who was growing
fonder of me every day, and whom I had learned to love and honor, could
not be a father to me as he was to his own people. Sooner or later there
would come an hour when we must say adieu to one another, and I must go
out once again to confront the uncertain future.

But for the present these fears were very much in the background, and I
only felt that they were lurking there, ready for any moment of
depression. I was kept too busy with the duties of the hour to attend to
them. Some of the children died, and I grieved over them; some recovered
sufficiently to be removed to a farm on the brow of the hill, where the
air was fresher than in the valley. There was plenty to do and to think
of from day to day.



CHAPTER THE FOURTEENTH.

OUTCAST PARISHIONERS.


"Madame." said Monsieur Laurentie; one morning, the eighth that I had
been in the fever-smitten village, "you did not take a promenade
yesterday."

"Not yesterday, monsieur."

"Nor the day before yesterday?" he continued.

"No, monsieur," I answered; "I dare not leave Minima, I fear she is
going to die."

My voice failed me as I spoke to him. I was sitting down for a few
minutes on a low seat, between Minima's bed and one where a little boy
of six years of age lay. Both were delirious. He was the little son of
Jean, our driver, and the sacristan of the church; and his father had
brought him into the ward the evening of the day after Minima had been
taken ill. Jean had besought me with tears to be good to his child. The
two had engrossed nearly all my time and thoughts, and I was losing
heart and hope every hour.

Monsieur Laurentie raised me gently from my low chair, and seated
himself upon it, with a smile, as he looked up at me.

"_Voilà_, madame," he said, "I promise not to quit the chamber till you
return. My sister has a little commission for you to do. Confide the
_mignonne_ to me, and make your promenade in peace. It is necessary,
madame; you must obey me."

The commission for mademoiselle was to carry some food and medicine to a
cottage lower down the valley; and Jean's eldest son, Pierre, was
appointed to be my guide. Both the curé and his sister gave me a strict
charge as to what we were to do; neither of us was upon any account to
go near or enter the dwelling; but after the basket was deposited upon a
flat stone, which Pierre was to point out to me, he was to ring a small
hand-bell which he carried with him for that purpose. Then we were to
turn our backs and begin our retreat, before any person came out of the
infected house.

I set out with Pierre, a solemn-looking boy of about twelve years of
age, who cast upon me sidelong glances of silent scrutiny. We passed
down the village street, with its closely-packed houses forming a very
nest for fever, until we reached the road by which I had first entered
Ville-en-bois. Now that I could see it by daylight, the valley was
extremely narrow, and the hills on each side so high that, though the
sun had risen nearly three hours ago, it had but just climbed above the
brow of the eastern slope. There was a luxurious and dank growth of
trees, with a tangle of underwood and boggy soil beneath them. A vapor
was shining in rainbow colors against the brightening sky. In the depth
of the valley, but hidden by the thicket, ran a noisy stream--too noisy
to be any thing else than shallow. There had been no frost since the
sharp and keen wintry weather in December, and the heavy rains which had
fallen since had flooded the stream, and made the lowlands soft and oozy
with undrained moisture. My guide and I trudged along in silence for
almost a kilometre.

"Are you a pagan, madame?" inquired Pierre, at last, with eager
solemnity of face and voice. His blue eyes were fastened upon me
pityingly.

"No, Pierre," I replied.

"But you are a heretic," he pursued.

"I suppose so," I said.

"Pagans and heretics are the same," he rejoined, dogmatically; "you are
a heretic, therefore you are a pagan, madame."

"I am not a pagan," I persisted; "I am a Christian like you."

"Does Monsieur le Curé say you are a Christian?" he inquired.

"You can ask him, Pierre," I replied.

"He will know," he said, in a confident tone; "he knows every thing.
There is no curé like monsieur between Ville-en-bois and Paris. All the
world must acknowledge that. He is our priest, our doctor, our _juge de
paix_, our school-master. Did you ever know a curé like him before,
madame?"

"I never knew any curé before," I replied.

"Never knew any cure!" he repeated slowly; "then, madame, you must be a
pagan. Did you never confess? Were you never prepared for your first
communion? Oh! it is certain, madame, you are a true pagan."

We had not any more time to discuss my religion, for we were drawing
near the end of our expedition. Above the tops of the trees appeared a
tall chimney, and a sudden turn in the by-road we had taken brought us
full in sight of a small cotton-mill, built on the banks of the noisy
stream. It was an ugly, formal building, as all factories are, with
straight rows of window-frames; but both walls and roof were mouldering
into ruin, and looked as though they must before long sink into the
brawling waters that were sapping the foundations. A more
mournfully-dilapidated place I had never seen. A blight seemed to have
fallen upon it; some solemn curse might be brooding over it, and slowly
working out its total destruction.

In the yard adjoining this deserted factory stood a miserable cottage,
with a thatched roof, and eaves projecting some feet from the walls, and
reaching nearly to the ground, except where the door was. The small
casements of the upper story, if there were any, were completely hidden.
A row of _fleur-de-lis_ was springing up, green and glossy, along the
peak of the brown thatch; this and the picturesque eaves forming its
only beauty. The thatch looked old and rotten, and was beginning to
steam in the warm sunshine. The unpaved yard about it was a slough of
mire and mud. There were mould and mildew upon all the wood-work. The
place bore the aspect of a pest-house, shunned by all the inmates of the
neighboring village. Pierre led me to a large flat stone, which had once
been a horse-block, standing at a safe distance from this hovel, and I
laid down my basket upon it. Then he rang his hand-bell noisily, and the
next instant was scampering back along the road.

But I could not run away. The desolate, plague-stricken place had a
dismal fascination for me. I wondered what manner of persons could dwell
in it; and, as I lingered, I saw the low door opened, and a thin,
spectral figure standing in the gloom within, but delaying to cross the
mouldering door-sill as long as I remained in sight. In another minute
Pierre had rushed back for me, and dragged me away with all his boyish
strength and energy.

"Madame," he said, in angry remonstrance, "you are disobeying Monsieur
le Curé. If you catch the fever, and die while you are a pagan, it will
be impossible for you to go to heaven. It would be a hundred times
better for me to die, who have taken my first communion."

"But who lives there?" I asked.

"They are very wicked people," he answered, emphatically; "no one goes
near them, except Monsieur le Curé, and he would go and nurse the devil
himself, if he had the fever in his parish. They became wicked before my
time, and Monsieur le Curé has forbidden us to speak of them with
rancor, so we do not speak of them at all."

I walked back in sadness, wondering at this misery and solitariness by
the side of the healthy, simple society of the lonely village, with its
interwoven family interests. As I passed through the street again, I
heard the click of the hand-looms in most of the dwellings, and saw the
pale-faced weavers, in their white and tasselled caps, here a man and
there a woman, look after me, while they suspended their work for a
moment. Every door was open; the children ran in and out of any house,
playing together as if they were of one family; the women were knitting
in companies under the eaves. Who were these pariahs, whose name even
was banished from every tongue? I must ask the curé himself.

But I had no opportunity that day. When I returned to the sick-ward, I
found Monsieur Laurentie pacing slowly up and down the long room, with
Jean's little son in his arms, to whom he was singing in a low, soft
voice, scarcely louder than a whisper. His eyes, when they met mine,
were glistening with tears, and he shook his head mournfully.

I went on to look at Minima. She was lying quiet, too weak and exhausted
to be violent, but chattering all the time in rapid, childish sentences.
I could do nothing for her, and I went back to the hearth, where the
curé was now standing, looking sadly at the child in his arms. He bade
me sit down on a tabouret that stood there, and laid his little burden
on my lap.

"The child has no mother, madame," he said; "let him die in a woman's
arms."

I had never seen any one die, not even my father, and I shrank from
seeing it. But the small white face rested helplessly against my arm,
and the blue eyes unclosed for a moment, and gazed into mine, almost
with a smile. Monsieur Laurentie called in Jean and Pierre, and they
knelt before us in silence, broken only by sobs. In the room there were
children's voices talking about their toys, and calling to one another
in shrill, feverish accents. How many deaths such as this was I to
witness?

"Monsieur le Curé!" murmured the failing voice of the little child.

"What is it, my little one?" he said, stooping over him.

"Shall I play sometimes with the little child Jesus?"

The words fell one by one from the feeble lips.

"Yes, _mon chéri_, yes. The holy child Jesus knows what little children
need," answered the curé.

"He is always good and wise," whispered the dying child; "so good, so
wise."

How quickly it was over after that!



CHAPTER THE FIFTEENTH.

A TACITURN FRENCHWOMAN.


Minima was so much worse that night, that Monsieur Laurentie gave me
permission to sit up with Mademoiselle Thérèse, to watch beside her.
There was a kindly and unselfish disposition about Monsieur le Curé
which it was impossible to resist, or even gainsay. His own share of the
trouble, anxiety, and grief, was so large, that he seemed to stand above
us all, and be naturally our director and ruler. But to-night, when I
begged to stay with Minima, he conceded the point without a word.

Mademoiselle Thérèse was the most silent woman I ever met. She could
pass a whole day without uttering a word, and did not seem to suffer any
_ennui_ from her silence. In the house she wore always, like the other
inhabitants of the village, men and women, soundless felt socks, which
slipped readily into the wooden _sabots_ used for walking out-of-doors.
I was beginning to learn to walk in _sabots_ myself, for the time was
drawing rapidly near when otherwise I should be barefoot.

With this taciturn Frenchwoman I entered upon my night-watch by Minima,
whose raving no one could understand but myself. The long, dark hours
seemed interminable. Mademoiselle sat knitting a pair of gray stockings
in the intervals of attendance upon our patients. The subdued glimmer
of the night-lamp, the ticking of the clock, the chimes every quarter of
an hour from the church-tower, all conspired to make me restless and
almost nervous.

"Mademoiselle," I said, at last, "talk to me. I cannot bear this
tranquillity. Tell me something."

"What can I tell you, madame?" she inquired, in a pleasant tone.

"Tell me about those people I saw this morning," I answered.

"It is a long history," she said, her face kindling, as if this were a
topic that excited her; and she rolled up her knitting, as though she
could not trust herself to continue that while she was talking; "all the
world knows it here, and we never talk of it now. Bat you are a
stranger; shall I tell it you?"

I had hit upon the only subject that could unlock her lips. It was the
night-time too. At night one is naturally more communicative than in the
broad light of day.

"Madame," she said, in an agitated voice, "you have observed already
that my brother is not like other curés. He has his own ideas, his own
sentiments. Everybody knows him at this moment as the good Curé of
Ville-en-bois; but when he came here first, thirty years ago, all the
world called him infidel, heretic, atheist. It was because he would make
many changes in the church and parish. The church had been famous for
miracles; but Francis did not believe in them, and he would not
encourage them. There used to be pilgrimages to it from all the country
round; and crowds of pilgrims, who spend much money. There was a great
number of crutches left at the shrine of the Virgin by cripples who had
come here by their help, but walked away without them. He cleared them
all away, and called them rubbish. So every one said he was an
infidel--you understand?"

"I understand it very well," I said.

"Bien! At that time there was one family richer than all the others.
They were the proprietors of the factory down yonder, and everybody
submitted to them. There was a daughter not married, but very dévote. I
have been dévote, myself. I was coquette till I was thirty-five, then I
became dévote. It is easier than being a simple Christian, like my
brother the curé. Mademoiselle Pineau was accustomed to have visions,
ecstasies. Sometimes the angels lifted her from the ground into the air
when she was at her prayers. Francis did not like that. He was young,
and she came very often to the confessional, and told him of these
visions and ecstasies. He discouraged them, and enjoined penances upon
her. Bref! she grew to detest him, and she was quite like a female curé
in the parish. She set everybody against him. At last, when he removed
all the plaster images of the saints, and would have none but wood or
stone, she had him cited to answer for it to his bishop."

"But what did he do that for?" I asked, seeing no difference between
plaster images, and those of wood or stone.

"Madame, these Normans are ignorant and very superstitious," she
replied; "they thought a little powder from one of the saints would cure
any malady. Some of the images were half-worn away with having powder
scraped off them. My brother would not hold with such follies, and his
bishop told him he might fight the battle out, if he could. No one
thought he could; but they did not know Francis. It was a terrible
battle, madame. Nobody would come to the confessional, and every month
or so, he was compelled to have a vicaire from some other parish to
receive the confessions of his people. Mademoiselle Pineau fanned the
flame, and she had the reputation of a saint."

"But how did it end?" I inquired. Mademoiselle's face was all aglow, and
her voice rose and fell in her excitement; yet she lingered over the
story as if reluctant to lose the rare pleasure of telling it.

"In brief, madame," she resumed, "there was a terrible conflagration in
the village. You perceive that all our houses are covered with tiles? In
those days the roofs were of thatch, very old and very dry, and there
was much timber in the walls. How the fire began, the good God alone
knows. It was a sultry day in July; the river was almost dry, and there
was no hope of extinguishing the flames. They ran like lightning from
roof to roof. All that could be done was to save life, and a little
property. My brother threw off his cassock, and worked like Hercules.

"The Pineaux lived then close by the presbytery, in a house half of
wood, which blazed like tinder; there was nothing comparable to it in
all the village. A domestic suddenly cried out that mademoiselle was in
her oratory, probably in a trance. Not a soul dares venture through the
flames to save her, though she is a saint. Monsieur le Curé hears the
rumor of it; he steps in through the doorway through which the smoke is
rolling; walks in as tranquilly as if he were going to make a visit as
pastor; he is lost to their sight; not a man stirs to look after his own
house. Bref! he comes back to the day, his brown hair all singed and his
face black, carrying mademoiselle in his arms. Good: The battle is
finished. All the world adores him."

"Continue, mademoiselle, I pray you," I said, eagerly; "do not leave off
there."

"Bien! Monsieur le Curé and his unworthy sister had a small fortune
which was spent, for the people. He begged for them; he worked with
them; he learned to do many things to help them. He lives for them and
them only. He has refused to leave them for better positions. They are
not ungrateful; they love him, they lean upon him."

"But the Pineaux?" I suggested.

"Bah! I had forgotten them. Their factory was burnt at the same time. It
is more than a kilometre from here; but who can say how far the burning
thatch might be carried on the wind? It was insured for a large sum in a
bureau in Paris. But there were suspicions raised and questions asked.
Our sacristan, Jean, who was then a young boy, affirmed that he had seen
some one carrying a lighted torch around the building, after the
work-people had all fled to see after their own houses. The bureau
refused to pay, except by a process of law; and the Pineaux never began
their process. They worked the factory a few years on borrowed money;
but they became poor, very poor. Mademoiselle ceased to be dévote, and
did not come near the church or the confessional again. Now they are
despised and destitute. Not a person goes near them, except my good
brother, whom they hate still. There remain but three of them, the old
monsieur, who is very aged, a son, and mademoiselle, who is as old as
myself. The son has the fever, and Francis visits him almost every day."

"It is a wretched, dreadful place," I said, shuddering at the
remembrance of it.

"They will die there probably," she remarked, in a quiet voice, and with
an expression of some weariness now the tale was told; "my brother
refuses to let me go to see them. Mademoiselle hates me, because in some
part I have taken her place. Francis says there is work enough for me at
home. Madame, I believe the good God sent you here to help us."



CHAPTER THE SIXTEENTH.

SENT BY GOD.


I discovered that mademoiselle's opinion was shared by all the people in
Ville-en-bois, and Monsieur Laurentie favored the universal impression.
I had been sent to them by a special providence. There was something
satisfactory and consolatory to them all in my freedom from personal
anxieties and cares like their own. I had neither parent, nor husband,
nor child to be attacked by the prevailing infection. As soon as Minima
had passed safely through the most dangerous stages of the fever, I was
at leisure to listen to and sympathize with each one of them. Possibly
there was something in the difficulty I still experienced in expressing
myself fluently which made me a better listener, and so won them to pour
out their troubles into my attentive ear. Jean and Pierre especially
were devoted to me, since the child that had belonged to them had died
upon my lap.

Through March, April, and May, the fever had its fling, though we were
not very long without a doctor. Monsieur Laurentie found one who came
and, I suppose, did all he could for the sick; but he could not do much.
I was kept too busily occupied to brood much either upon the past or the
future, of my own life. Not a thought crossed my mind of deserting the
little Norman village where I could be of use. Besides, Minima gained
strength very slowly, too slowly to be removed from the place, or to
encounter any fresh privations.

When June came there were no new cases in the village, though the
summer-heat kept our patients languid. The last person who died of the
fever was Mademoiselle Pineau, in the mill-cottage. The old man and his
son had died before her, the former of old age, the latter of fever. Who
was the heir to the ruined factory and the empty cottage no one as yet
knew, but, until he appeared, every thing had to be left as it was. The
curé kept the key of the dwelling, though there was no danger of any one
trespassing upon the premises, as all the villagers regarded it as an
accursed place. Of the four hundred and twenty-two souls which had
formed the total of Monsieur le Curé's flock, he had lost thirty-one.

In July the doctor left us, saying there was no fear of the fever
breaking out again at present. His departure seemed the signal for mine.
Monsieur Laurentie was not rich enough to feed two idle mouths, like
mine and Minima's, and there was little for me to do but sit still in
the uncarpeted, barely-furnished _salon_ of the presbytery, listening to
the whirr of mademoiselle's spinning-wheel, and the drowsy, sing-song
hum of the village children at school, in a shed against the walls of
the house. Every thing seemed falling back into the pleasant monotony of
a peaceful country life, pleasant after the terror and grief of the past
months. The hay-harvest was over, and the cherry-gathering; the corn and
the apples were ripening fast in the heat of the sun. In this lull, this
pause, my heart grew busy again with itself.

"My child," said the curé to me, one evening, when his long day's work
was over, "your face is _triste_. What are you thinking of?"

I was seated under a thick-leaved sycamore, a few paces from the
church-porch. Vespers were just ended; the low chant had reached my
ears, and I missed the soothing undertone. The women, in their high
white caps, and the men, in their blue blouses, were sauntering slowly
homeward. The children were playing all down the village street, and not
far away a few girls and young men were beginning to dance to the piping
of a flute. Over the whole was creeping the golden twilight of a summer
evening.

"I am very _triste_" I replied; "I am thinking that it is time for me to
go away from you all. I cannot stay in this tranquil place."

"But wherefore must you leave us?" he asked, sitting down on the bench
beside me; "I found two little stray lambs, wandering without fold or
shepherd, and I brought them to my own house. What compels them to go
into the wide world again?"

"Monsieur, we are poor," I answered, "and you are not rich. We should be
a burden to you, and we have no claim upon you."

"You have a great claim," he said; "there is not a heart in the parish
that does not love you already. Have not our children died in your arms?
Have you not watched over them? spent sleepless nights and watchful days
for them? How could we endure to see you go away? Remain with us,
madame; live with us, you and my _mignonne_, whose face is white yet."

Could I stay then? It was a very calm, very secure refuge. There was no
danger of discovery. Yet there was a restlessness in my spirit at war
with the half-mournful, half-joyous serenity of the place, where I had
seen so many people die, and where there were so many new graves in the
little cemetery up the hill. If I could go away for a while, I might
return, and learn to be content amid this tranquillity.

"Madame," said the pleasant tones of Monsieur Laurentie, "do you know
our language well enough to tell me your history now? You need not prove
to me that you are not wicked; tell me how you are unfortunate. Where
were you wandering to that night when I found you at the foot of the
Calvary?"

There, in the cool, deepening twilight, I told him my story, little by
little; sometimes at a loss for words, and always compelled to speak in
the simplest and most direct phrases. He listened, with no other
interruption than to supply me occasionally with an expression when I
hesitated. He appeared to understand me almost by intuition. It was
quite dark before I had finished, and the deep blue of the sky above us
was bright with stars. A glow-worm was moving among the tufts of grass
growing between the roots of the tree; and I watched it almost as
intently as if I had nothing else to think of.

"Speak to me as if I were your daughter," I said. "Have I done right or
wrong? Would you give me up to him, if he came to claim me?"

"I am thinking of thee as my daughter," he answered, leaning his hands
and his white head above them, upon the top of the stick he was holding,
and sitting so for some moments in silent thought. "Thy voice is not the
voice of passion," he continued; "it is the voice of conviction,
profound and confirmed. Thou mayst have fled from him in a paroxysm of
wrath, but thy judgment and conscience acquit thee of wrong. In my eyes
it is a sacrament which thou hast broken; yet he had profaned it first.
My daughter, if thy husband returned to thee, penitent, converted,
confessing his offences against thee, couldst thou forgive him?"

"Yes," I answered, "yes! I could forgive him."

"Thou wouldst return to him?" he said, in calm, penetrating accents, but
so low as to seem almost the voice of my own heart; "thou wouldst be
subject to him as the Church is subject to Christ? He would be thy head;
wouldst thou submit thyself unto him as unto the Lord?"

"I shivered with dread as the quiet, solemn tones fell upon my ear,
poignantly, as if they must penetrate to my heart. I could not keep
myself from sobbing. His face was turned toward me in the dusk, and I
covered mine with my hands.

"Not now," I cried; "I cannot, I cannot. I was so young, monsieur; I did
not know what I was promising. I could never return to him, never."

"My daughter," pursued the inexorable voice beside me, "is it because
there is any one whom thou lovest more?"

"Oh!" I cried, almost involuntarily, and speaking now in my own
language, "I do not know. I could have loved Martin dearly--dearly."

"I do not understand thy words," said Monsieur Laurentie, "but I
understand thy tears and sighs. Thou must stay here, my daughter, with
me, and these poor, simple people who love thee. I will not let thee go
into temptation. Courage; thou wilt be happy among us, when thou hast
conquered this evil. As for the rest, I must think about it. Let us go
in now. The lamp has been lit and supper served this half-hour. There is
my sister looking out at us. Come, madame. You are in my charge, and I
will take care of you."

A few days after this, the whole community was thrown into a tumult by
the news that their curé was about to undertake the perils of a voyage
to England, and would be absent a whole fortnight. He said it was to
obtain some information as to the English system of drainage in
agricultural districts, which might make their own valley more healthy
and less liable to fever. But it struck me that he was about to make
some inquiries concerning my husband, and perhaps about Minima, whose
desolate position had touched him deeply. I ventured to tell him what
danger might arise to me if any clew to my hiding-place fell into
Richard Foster's hands.

"My poor child," he said, "why art thou so fearful? There is not a man
here who would not protect thee. He would be obliged to prove his
identity, and thine, before he could establish his first right to claim
thee. Then we would enter a _procés_. Be content. I am going to consult
some lawyers of my own country and thine."

He bade us farewell, with as many directions and injunctions as a father
might leave to a large family of sons and daughters. Half the village
followed his _char-à-banc_ as far as the cross where he had found Minima
and me, six miles on his road to Noireau. His sister and I, who had
ridden with him so far, left him there, and walked home up the steep,
long road, in the midst of that enthusiastic crowd of his parishioners.



CHAPTER THE SEVENTEENTH.

A MOMENT OF TRIUMPH.


The afternoon of that day was unusually sultry and oppressive. The blue
of the sky was almost livid. I was weary with the long walk in the
morning, and after our mid-day meal I stole away from mademoiselle and
Minima in the _salon_, and betook myself to the cool shelter of the
church, where the stone walls three feet thick, and the narrow casements
covered with vine-leaves, kept out the heat more effectually than the
half-timber walls of the presbytery. A _vicaire_ from a neighboring
parish was to arrive in time for vespers, and Jean and Pierre were
polishing up the interior of the church, with an eye to their own
credit. It was a very plain, simple building, with but few images in it,
and only two or three votive pictures, very ugly, hanging between the
low Norman arches of the windows. A shrine occupied one transept, and
before it the offerings of flowers were daily renewed by the unmarried
girls of the village.

I sat down upon a bench just within the door, and the transept was not
in sight, but I could hear Pierre busy at his task of polishing the
oaken floor, by skating over it with brushes fastened to his feet. Jean
was bustling in and out of the sacristy, and about the high altar in the
chancel. There was a faint scent yet of the incense which had been
burned at the mass celebrated before the curé's departure, enough to
make the air heavy and to deepen the drowsiness and languor which were
stealing over me. I leaned my head against the wall and closed my eyes,
with a pleasant sense of sleep coming softly toward me, when suddenly a
hand was laid upon my arm, with a firm, close, silent gripe.

I do not know why terror always strikes me dumb and motionless. I did
not stir or speak, but looked steadily, with a fascinated gaze, into my
husband's face--a worn, white, emaciated face, with eyes peering cruelly
into mine. It was an awful look; one of dark triumph, of sneering,
cunning exultation. Neither of us spoke. Pierre I could hear still busy
in the transept, and Jean, though he had disappeared into the sacristy,
was within call. Yet I felt hopelessly and helplessly alone under the
cruel stare of those eyes. It seemed as if he and I were the only beings
in the whole world, and there was none to help, none to rescue. In the
voiceless depths of my spirit I cried, "O God!"

He sank down on the seat beside me, with an air of exhaustion, yet with
a low, fiendish laugh which sounded hideously loud in my ears. His
fingers were still about my arm, but he had to wait to recover from the
first shock of his success--for it had been a shock. His face was bathed
with perspiration, and his breath came and went fitfully. I thought I
could even hear the heavy throbbing of his heart. He spoke after a time,
while my eyes were still fastened upon him, and my ears listening to
catch the first words he uttered.

"I've found you," he said, his hand tightening its hold, and at the
first sound of his voice the spell which bound me snapped; "I've tracked
you out at last to this cursed hole. The game is up, my little lady. By
Heaven! you'll repent of this. You are mine, and no man on earth shall
come between us."

"I don't understand you," I muttered. He had spoken in an undertone, and
I could not raise my voice above a whisper, so parched and dry my throat
was.

"Understand?" he said, with a shrug of his shoulders. "I know all about
Dr. Martin Dobrée. You understand that well enough. I am here to take
charge of you, to carry you home with me as my wife, and neither man nor
woman can interfere with me in that. It will be best for you to come
with me quietly."

"I will not go with you," I answered, in the same hoarse whisper; "I am
living here in the presbytery, and you cannot force me away. I will not
go."

He laughed a little once more, and looked down upon me contemptuously in
silence, as if there were no notice to be taken of words so foolish.

"Listen to me," I continued. "When I refused to sign away the money my
father left me, it was because I said to myself it was wrong to throw
away his life's toil and skill upon pursuits like yours. He had worked,
and saved, and denied himself for me, not for a man like you. His money
should not be flung away at gambling-tables. But now I know he would
rather a thousand times you had the money and left me free. Take it
then. You shall have it all. We are both poor as it is, but if you will
let me be free of you, you may have it all--all that I can part with."

"I prefer having the money and you," he replied, with his frightful
smile. "Why should I not prize what other people covet? You are my wife;
nothing can set that aside. Your money is mine, and you are mine; why
should I forfeit either?"

"No," I said, growing calmer; "I do not belong to you. No laws on earth
can give you the ownership you claim over me. Richard, you might have
won me, if you had been a good man. But you are evil and selfish, and
you have lost me forever."

"The silly raving of an ignorant girl!" he sneered; "the law will compel
you to return to me. I will take the law into my own hands, and compel
you to go with me at once. If there is no conveyance to be hired in this
confounded hole, we will walk down the road together, like two lovers,
and wait for the omnibus. Come, Olivia."

Our voices had not risen much above their undertones yet, but these last
words he spoke more loudly. Jean opened the door of the sacristy and
looked out, and Pierre skated down to the corner of the transept to see
who was speaking. I lifted the hand Richard was not holding, and
beckoned Jean to me.

"Jean," I said, in a low tone still, "this man is my enemy. Monsieur le
Curé knows all about him; but he is not here. You must protect me."

"Certainly, madame," he replied, his eyes more roundly open than
ordinarily.--"Monsieur, have the goodness to release madame."

"She is my wife," retorted Richard Foster.

"I have told all to Monsieur le Curé," I said.

"_Bon!_" ejaculated Jean. Monsieur le Curé is gone to England; it is
necessary to wait till his return, Monsieur Englishman."

"Fool!" said Richard in a passion, "she is my wife, I tell you."

"_Bon!_" he replied phlegmatically, "but it is my affair to protect
madame. There is no resource but to wait till Monsieur le Curé returns
from his voyage. If madame does not say, 'This is my husband,' how can I
believe you? She says, 'He is my enemy.' I cannot confide madame to a
stranger."

"I will not leave her," he exclaimed with an oath, spoken in English,
which Jean could not understand.

"Good! very good! Pardon, monsieur," responded Jean, laying his iron
fingers upon the hand that held me, and loosening its grip as easily as
if it had been the hand of a child.--"_Voilà_! madame, you are free.
Leave Monsieur the Englishman to me, and go away into the house, if you
please."

I did not wait to hear any further altercation, but fled as quickly as I
could into the presbytery. Up into my own chamber I ran, drew a heavy
chest against the door, and fell down trembling and nerveless upon the
floor beside it.

But there was no time to lose in womanish terrors; my difficulty and
danger were too great. The curé was gone, and would be away at least a
fortnight. How did I know what French law might do with me, in that
time? I dragged myself to the window, and, with my face just above the
sill, looked down the street, to see if my husband were in sight. He was
nowhere to be seen, but loitering at one of the doors was the
letter-carrier, whose daily work it was to meet the afternoon omnibus
returning from Noireau to Granville. Why should I not write to Tardif?
He had promised to come to my help whenever and wherever I might summon
him. I ran down to Mademoiselle Thérèse for the materials for a letter,
and in a few minutes it was written, and on the way to Sark.

I was still watching intently from my own casement, when I saw Richard
Foster come round the corner of the church, and turn down the street.
Many of the women were at their doors, and he stopped to speak to first
one and then another. I guessed what he wanted. There was no inn in the
valley, and he was trying to hire a lodging for the night. But Jean was
following him closely, and from every house he was turned away, baffled
and disappointed. He looked weary and bent, and he leaned heavily upon
the strong stick he carried. At last he passed slowly out of sight, and
once more I could breathe freely.

But I could not bring myself to venture downstairs, where the
uncurtained windows were level with the court, and the unfastened door
opened to my hand. The night fell while I was still alone, unnerved by
the terror I had undergone. Here and there a light glimmered in a
lattice-window, but a deep silence reigned, with no other sound than the
brilliant song of a nightingale amid the trees which girdled the
village. Suddenly there was the noisy rattle of wheels over the rough
pavement--the baying of dogs--an indistinct shout from the few men who
were still smoking their pipes under the broad eaves of their houses. A
horrible dread took hold of me. Was it possible that he returned, with
some force--I knew not what--which should drag me away from my refuge,
and give me up to him? What would Jean and the villagers do? What could
they do against a body of _gendarmes_?

I gazed shrinkingly into the darkness. The conveyance looked, as far as
I could make out of its shape, very like the _char-à-banc_, which was
not to return from Noireau till the next day. But there was only the
gleam of the lantern it carried on a pole rising above its roof, and
throwing crossbeams of light upon the walls and windows on each side of
the street. It came on rapidly, and passed quickly out of my sight round
the angle of the presbytery. My heart scarcely beat, and my ear was
strained to catch every sound in the house below.

I heard hurried footsteps and joyous voices. A minute or two afterward,
Minima beat against my barricaded door, and shouted gleefully through
the key-hole:

"Come down in a minute, Aunt Nelly," she cried; "Monsieur Laurentie is
come home again!"



CHAPTER THE EIGHTEENTH.

PIERRE'S SECRET.


I felt as if some strong hand had lifted me out of a whirl of troubled
waters, and set me safely upon a rock. I ran down into the _salon_,
where Monsieur Laurentie was seated, as tranquilly as if he had never
been away, in his high-backed arm-chair, smiling quietly at Minima's
gambols of delight, which ended in her sitting down on a _tabouret_ at
his feet. Jean stood just within the door, his hands behind his back,
holding his white cotton cap in them: he had been making his report of
the day's events. Monsieur held out his hand to me, and I ran to him,
caught it in both of mine, bent down my face upon it, and burst into a
passion of weeping, in spite of myself.

"Come, come, madame!" he said, his own voice faltering a little, "I am
here, my child; behold me! There is no place for fear now. I am king in
Ville-en-bois.--Is it not so, my good Jean?"

"Monsieur le Curé, you are emperor," replied Jean.

"If that is the case," he continued, "madame is perfectly secure in my
castle. You do not ask me what brings me back again so soon. But I will
tell you, madame. At Noireau, the proprietor of the omnibus to Granville
told me that an Englishman had gone that morning to visit my little
parish. Good! We do not have that honor every day. I ask him to have the
goodness to tell me the Englishman's name. It is written in the book at
the bureau. Monsieur Fostère. I remember that name well, very well. That
is the name of the husband of my little English daughter. Fostère! I see
in a moment it will not do to proceed, on my voyage. But I find that my
good Jacques has taken on the _char-à-banc_ a league or two beyond
Noireau, and I am compelled to await his return. There is the reason
that I return so late."

"O monsieur!" I exclaimed, "how good you are--"

"Pardon, madame," he interrupted, "let me hear the end of Jean's
history."

Jean continued his report in his usual phlegmatic tone, and concluded
with the assurance that he had seen the Englishman safe out of the
village, and returning by the road he came.

"I could have wished," said the curé, regretfully, "that we might have
shown him some hospitality in Ville-en-bois; but you did what was very
good, Jean. Yet we did not encounter any stranger along the route."

"Not possible, monsieur," replied Jean; "it was four o'clock when he
returned on his steps, and it is now after nine. He would pass the
Calvary before six. After that, Monsieur le Curé, he might take any
route which pleased him."

"That is true, Jean," he said, mildly; "you have done well. You may go
now. Where is Monsieur the Vicaire?"

"He sleeps, monsieur, in the guest's chamber, as usual."

"_Bien_! Good-evening, Jean, and a good-night."

"Good-night, Monsieur le Curé, and all the company," said Jean.

"And you also, my child," continued Monsieur Laurentie, when Jean was
gone, "you have great need of rest. So has this baby, who is very
sleepy."

"I am not sleepy," protested Minima, "and I am not a baby."

"You are a baby," said the curé, laughing, "to make such rejoicing over
an old papa like me. But go now, my children. There is no danger for
you. Sleep well and have pleasant dreams."

I slept well, but I had no pleasant dreams, for I did not dream at all.
The curé's return, and his presence under the same roof, gave me such a
sense of security as was favorable to profound, unbroken slumber. When
the chirping of the birds awoke me in the morning, I could not at first
believe that the events of the day before were not themselves a dream.
The bell rang for matins at five o'clock now, to give the laborers the
cool of the morning for their work in the fields, after they were over.
I could not sleep again, for the coming hours must be full of suspense
and agitation to me. So at the first toll of the deep-toned bell, I
dressed myself, and went out into the dewy freshness of the new day.

Matins were ended, and the villagers were scattered about their farms
and households, when I noticed Pierre loitering stealthily about the
presbytery, as if anxious not to be seen. He made me a sign as soon as
he caught my eye, to follow him out of sight, round the corner of the
church. It was a mysterious sign, and I obeyed it quickly.

"I know a secret, madame," he said, in a troubled tone, and with an
apprehensive air--"that monsieur who came yesterday has not left the
valley. My father bade me stay in the church, at my work; but I could
not, madame, I could not. Not possible, you know. I wished to see your
enemy again. I shall have to confess it to Monsieur le Curé, and he will
give me a penance, perhaps a very great penance. But it was not possible
to rest tranquil, not at all. I followed monsieur, your enemy, _à la
dérobée_. He did not go far away."

"But where is he, then?" I asked, looking down the street, with a
thrill of fear.

"Madame," whispered Pierre, "he is a stranger to this place, and the
people would not receive him into their houses--not one of them. My
father only said, 'He is an enemy to our dear English madame,' and all
the women turned the back upon him. I stole after him, you know, behind
the trees and the hedges. He marched very slowly, like a man very weary,
down the road, till he came in sight of the factory of the late Pineaux.
He turned aside into the court there. I saw him knock at the door of the
house, try to lift the latch, and peep through the windows. Bien! After
that, he goes into the factory; there is a door from it into the house.
He passed through. I dared not follow him, but in one short half-hour I
saw smoke coming out of the chimney. Bon! The smoke is there again this
morning. The Englishman has sojourned there all the night."

"But, Pierre," I said, shivering, though the sun was already shining
hotly--"Pierre, the house is like a lazaretto. No one has been in it
since Mademoiselle Pineau died. Monsieur le Curé locked it up, and
brought away the key."

"That is true, madame," answered the boy; "no one in the village would
go near the accursed place; but I never thought of that. Perhaps
monsieur your enemy will take the fever, and perish."

"Run, Pierre, run," I cried; "Monsieur Laurentie is in the sacristy,
with the strange vicaire. Tell him I must speak to him this very moment.
There is no time to be lost."

I dragged myself to the seat under the sycamore-tree, and hid my face in
my hands, while shudder after shudder quivered through me. I seemed to
be watching him again, as he strode weariedly down the street, leaning,
with bent shoulders, on his stick, and turned away from every door at
which he asked for rest and shelter for the night. Oh! that the time
could but come back again, that I might send Jean to find some safe
place for him where he could sleep! Back to my memory rushed the old
days, when he screened me from the unkindness of my step-mother, and
when he seemed to love me. For the sake of those times, would to God
the evening that was gone, and the sultry, breathless night, could only
come back again!



CHAPTER THE NINETEENTH.

SUSPENSE.


I felt as if I had passed through an immeasurable spell, both of memory
and anguish, before Monsieur Laurentie came to me, though he had
responded to my summons immediately. I told him, in hurried, broken
sentences, what Pierre had confessed to me. His face grew overcast and
troubled; yet he did not utter a word of his apprehensions to me.

"Madame," he said, "permit me to take my breakfast first; then I will
seek Monsieur Foster without delay. I will carry with me some food for
him. We will arrange this affair before I return; Jean shall bring the
_char à bancs_ to the factory, and take him back to Noireau."

"But the fever, monsieur? Can he pass a night there without taking it?"

"He is in the hands of his Creator," he answered; "we can know nothing
till I have seen him. We cannot call back the past."

"Ought I not to go with you?" I asked.

"Wherefore, my child?"

"He is my husband," I said, falteringly; "if he is ill, I will nurse
him."

"Good! my poor child," he replied, "leave all this affair to me; leave
even thy duty to me. I will take care there shall be no failure in it,
on thy part."

We were not many minutes over our frugal breakfast of bread-and-milk,
and then we set out together, for he gave me permission to go with him,
until we came within sight of the factory and the cottage. We walked
quickly and in foreboding silence. He told me, as soon as he saw the
place, that I might stay on the spot where he left me, till the
church-clock struck eight; and then, if he had not returned to me, I
must go back to the village, and send Jean with the _char à bancs_. I
sat down on the felled trunk of a tree, and watched him, in his old
threadbare cassock, and sunburnt hat, crossing the baked, cracked soil
of the court, till he reached the door, and turned round to lift his hat
to me with a kindly gesture of farewell. He fitted the key into the
lock, passed out of my sight; but I could not withdraw my eyes from the
deep, thatched eaves, and glossy _fleur-de-lis_ growing along the roof.

How interminable seemed his absence! I sat so still that the crickets
and grasshoppers in the tufted grass about me kept up their ceaseless
chirruping, and leaped about my feet, unaware that I could crush their
merry life out of them by a single movement. The birds in the dusky
branches overhead whistled their wild wood-notes, as gayly as if no one
were near their haunts. Now and then there came a pause, when the
silence deepened until I could hear the cones, in the fir-trees close at
hand, snapping open their polished scales, and setting free the winged
seeds, which fluttered softly down to the ground. The rustle of a
swiftly--gliding snake through the fallen leaves caught my ear, and I
saw the blunted head and glittering eyes lifted up to look at me for a
moment; but I did not stir. All my fear and feeling, my whole life, were
centred upon the fever-cottage yonder.

There was not the faintest line of smoke from the chimney, when we first
came in sight of it. Was it not quite possible that Pierre might have
been mistaken? And if he had made a mistake in thinking he saw smoke
this morning, why not last night also? Yet the curé was lingering there
too long for it to be merely an empty place. Something detained him, or
why did he not come back to me? Presently a thin blue smoke curled
upward into the still air. Monsieur Laurentie was kindling a fire on the
hearth. _He_ was there then.

What would be the end of it all? My heart contracted, and my spirit
shrank from the answer that was ready to flash upon my mind. I refused
to think of the end. If Richard were ill, why, I would nurse him, as I
should have nursed him if he had always been tender and true to me. That
at least was a clear duty. What lay beyond that need not be decided
upon now. Monsieur Laurentie would tell me what I ought to do.

He came, after a long, long suspense, and opened the door, looking out
as if to make sure that I was still at my post. I sprang to my feet, and
was running forward, when he beckoned me to remain where I was. He came
across to the middle of the court, but no nearer; and he spoke to me at
that distance, in his clear, deliberate, penetrating voice.

"My child," he said, "monsieur is ill! attacked, I am afraid, by the
fever. He is not delirious at present, and we have been talking together
of many things. But the fever has taken hold upon him, I think. I shall
remain with him all the day. You must bring us what we have need of, and
leave it on the stone there, as it used to be."

"But cannot he be removed at once?" I asked.

"My dear," he answered, "what can I do? The village is free from
sickness now; how can I run the risk of carrying the fever there again?
It is too far to send monsieur to Noireau. If he is ill of it, it is
best for us all that he should remain here. I will not abandon him; no,
no. Obey me, my child, and leave him to me and to God. Cannot you
confide in me yet?"

"Yes," I said, weeping, "I trust you with all my heart."

"Go, then, and do what I bid you," he replied. "Tell my sister and Jean,
tell all my people, that no one must intrude upon me, no one must come
nearer this house than the appointed place. Monsieur le Vicaire must
remain in Ville-en-bois, and officiate for me, as though I were pursuing
my journey to England. You must think of me as one absent, yet close at
hand: that is the difference. I am here, in the path of my duty. Go, and
fulfil yours."

"Ought you not to let me share your work and your danger?" I ventured to
ask.

"If there be any need, you shall share both," he answered, in a tranquil
tone, "though your life should be the penalty. Life is nothing in
comparison with duty. When it is thy duty, my daughter, to be beside thy
husband, I will call thee without fail."

Slowly I retraced my steps to the village. The news had already spread,
from Pierre--for no one else knew it--that the Englishman, who had been
turned away from their doors the day before, had spent the night in the
infected dwelling. A group of weavers, of farmers, of women from their
household work, stopped me as I entered the street. I delivered to them
their curé's message, and they received it with sobs and cries, as
though it bore in it the prediction of a great calamity. They followed
me up the street to the presbytery, and crowded the little court in
front of it.

When mademoiselle had collected the things Monsieur Laurentie had sent
me for--a mattress, a chair, food, and medicine--every person in the
crowd wished to carry some small portion of them. We returned in a troop
to the factory, and stood beyond the stone, a group of sorrowful, almost
despairing people. In a few minutes we saw the curé open the door, close
it behind him, and stand before the proscribed dwelling. His voice came
across the space between us and him in distinct and cheerful tones.

"My good children," he said, "I, your priest, forbid any one of you to
come a single step nearer to this house. It may be but for a day or two,
but let no one venture to disobey me. Think of me as though I had gone
to England, and should be back again among you in a few days. God is
here, as near to me under this roof, as when I stand before him and you
at his altar."

He lifted up his hands to give them his benediction, and we all knelt to
receive it. Then, with unquestioning obedience, but with many
lamentations, the people returned to their daily work.



CHAPTER THE TWENTIETH.

A MALIGNANT CASE.


For three days, morning after morning, while the dew lay still upon the
grass, I went down, with a heavy and foreboding heart, to the place
where I could watch the cottage, through the long, sultry hours of the
summer-day. The first thing I saw always was Monsieur Laurentie, who
came to the door to satisfy me that he was himself in good health, and
to tell me how Richard Foster had passed the night. After that I caught
from time to time a momentary glimpse of his white head, as he passed
the dusky window. He would not listen to my entreaties to be allowed to
join him in his task. It was a malignant case, he said, and as my
husband was unconscious, I could do him no good by running the risk of
being near him.

An invisible line encircled the pestilential place, which none of us
dare break through without the permission of the curé, though any one of
the villagers would have rejoiced if he had summoned them to his aid. A
perpetual intercession was offered up day and night, before the high
altar, by the people, and there was no lack of eager candidates ready to
take up the prayer when the one who had been praying grew weary. On the
third morning I felt that they were beginning to look at me with altered
faces, and speak to me in colder accents. If I were the means of
bringing upon them the loss of their curé, they would curse the day he
found me and brought me to his home. I left the village street half
broken-hearted, and wandered hopelessly down to my chosen post.

I thought I was alone, but as I sat with my head bowed down upon my
hands, I felt a child's hand laid upon my neck, and Minima's voice spoke
plaintively in my ear.

"What is the matter, Aunt Nelly?" she asked. "Everybody is in trouble,
and mademoiselle says it is because your husband is come, and Monsieur
Laurentie is going to die for his sake. She began to cry when she said
that, and she said, 'What shall we all do if my brother dies? My God!
what will become of all the people in Ville-en-bois?' Is it true? Is
your husband really come, and is he going to die?"

"He is come," I said, in a low voice; "I do not know whether he is going
to die."

"Is he so poor that he will die?" she asked again. "Why does God let
people be so poor that they must die?".

"It is not because he is so poor that he is ill," I answered.

"But my father died because he was so poor," she said; "the doctors told
him he could get well if he had only enough money. Perhaps your husband
would not have died if he had not been very poor."

"No, no," I cried, vehemently, "he is not dying through poverty."

Yet the child's words had a sting in them, for I knew he had been poor,
in consequence of my act. I thought of the close, unwholesome house in
London, where he had been living. I could not help thinking of it, and
wondering whether any loss of vital strength, born of poverty, had
caused him to fall more easily a prey to this fever. My brain was
burdened with sorrowful questions and doubts.

I sent Minima back to the village before the morning-heat grew strong,
and then I was alone, watching the cottage through the fine haze of heat
which hung tremulously about it. The song of every bird was hushed; the
shouts of the harvest-men to their oxen ceased; and the only sound that
stirred the still air was the monotonous striking of the clock in the
church-tower. I had not seen Monsieur Laurentie since his first greeting
of me in the early morning. A panic fear seized upon me. Suppose he
should have been stricken suddenly by this deadly malady! I called
softly at first, then loudly, but no answer came to comfort me. If this
old man, worn out and exhausted, had actually given his life for
Richard's, what would become of me? what would become of all of us?

Step by step, pausing often, yet urged on by my growing fears, I stole
down the parched and beaten track toward the house, then called once
more to the oppressive silence.

Here in the open sunshine, with the hot walls of the mill casting its
rays back again, the heat was intense, though the white cap I wore
protected my head from it. My eyes were dazzled, and I felt ready to
faint. No wonder if Monsieur Laurentie should have sunk under it, and
the long strain upon his energies, which would have overtaxed a younger
and stronger man. I had passed the invisible line which his will had
drawn about the place, and had half crossed the court, when I heard
footsteps close behind me, and a large, brown, rough hand suddenly
caught mine.

"Mam'zelle'" cried a voice I knew well, "is this you!"

"O Tardif! Tardif!" I exclaimed. I rested my beating head against him,
and sobbed violently, while he surrounded me with his strong arm, and
laid his hand upon my head, as if to assure me of his help and
protection.

"Hush; hush! mam'zelle," he said; "it is Tardif, your friend, my little
mam'zelle; your servant, you know. I am here. What shall I do for you?
Is there any person in yonder house who frightens you, my poor little
mam'zelle? Tell me what I can do?"

He had drawn me back into the green shade of the trees, and set me down
upon the felled tree where I had been sitting before. I told him all
quickly, briefly--all that had happened since I had written to him. I
saw the tears start to his eyes.

"Thank God I am here!" he said; "I lost no time, mam'zelle, after your
letter reached me. I will save Monsieur le Curé; I will save them both,
if I can. _Ma foi!_ he is a good man, this curé, and we must not let him
perish. He has no authority over me, and I will go this moment and force
my way in, if the door is fastened. Adieu, my dear little mam'zelle."

He was gone before I could speak a word, striding with quick, energetic
tread across the court. The closed door under the eaves opened readily.
In an instant the white head of Monsieur Laurentie passed the casement,
and I could hear the hum of an earnest altercation, though I could not
catch a syllable of it. But presently Tardif appeared again in the
doorway, waving his cap in token of having gained his point.

I went back to the village at once to carry the good news, for it was
the loneliness of the curé that had weighed so heavily on every heart,
though none among them dare brave his displeasure by setting aside his
command. The quarantine was observed as rigidly as ever, but fresh hope
and confidence beamed upon every face, and I felt that they no longer
avoided me, as they had begun to do before Tardif's arrival. Now
Monsieur Laurentie could leave his patient, and sit under the sheltering
eaves in the cool of the morning or evening, while his people could
satisfy themselves from a distance that he was still in health.

The physician whom Jean fetched from Noireau spoke vaguely of Richard's
case. It was very malignant, he said, full of danger, and apparently his
whole constitution had been weakened by some protracted and grave
malady. We must hope, he added.

Whether it was in hope or fear I awaited the issue, I scarcely know. I
dared not glance beyond the passing hour; dared not conjecture what the
end would be. The past was dead; the future yet unborn. For the moment
my whole being was concentrated upon the conflict between life and
death, which was witnessed only by the curé and Tardif.



CHAPTER THE TWENTY-FIRST.

THE LAST DEATH.


It seemed to me almost as if time had been standing still since that
first morning when Monsieur Laurentie had left my side, and passed out
of my sight to seek for my husband in the fever-smitten dwelling. Yet it
was the tenth day after that when, as I took up my weary watch soon
after daybreak, I saw him crossing the court again, and coming toward
me.

"What had he to say? What could impel him to break through the strict
rule which had interdicted all dangerous contact with himself? His face
was pale, and his eyes were heavy as if with want of rest, but they
looked into mine as if they could read my inmost soul.

"My daughter," he said, "I bade you leave even your duty in my keeping.
Now I summon you to fulfil it. Your duty lies yonder, by your husband's
side in his agony of death."

"I will go," I whispered, my lips scarcely moving to pronounce the
words, so stiff and cold they felt.

"Stay one moment," he said, pityingly. "You have been taught to judge
of your duty for yourself, not to leave it to a priest. I ought to let
you judge now. Your husband is dying, but he is conscious, and is asking
to see you. He does not believe us that death is near; he says none but
you will tell him the truth. You cannot go to him without running a
great risk. Your danger will be greater than ours, who have been with
him all the time. You see, madame, he does not understand me, and he
refuses to believe in Tardif. Yet you cannot save him; you can only
receive his last adieu. Think well, my child. Your life may be the
forfeit."

"I must go," I answered, more firmly; "I will go. He is my husband."

"Good!" he said, "you have chosen the better part. Come, then. The good
God will protect you."

He drew my hand through his arm, and led me to the low doorway. The
inner room was very dark with the overhanging eaves, and my eyes,
dilated by the strong sunlight, could discern but little in the gloom.
Tardif was kneeling beside a low bed, bathing my husband's forehead. He
made way for me, and I felt him touch my hand with his lips as I took
his place. But no one spoke. Richard's face, sunken, haggard, dying,
with filmy eyes, dawned gradually out of the dim twilight, line after
line, until it lay sharp and distinct under my gaze. I could not turn
away from it for an instant, even to glance at Tardif or Monsieur
Laurentie. The poor, miserable face! the restless, dreary, dying eyes!

"Where is Olivia?" he muttered, in a hoarse and labored voice.

"I am here, Richard," I answered, falling on my knees where Tardif had
been kneeling, and putting my hand on his; "look at me. I am Olivia."

"You are mine, you know," he said, his fingers closing round my wrist
with a grasp as weak as a very young child's.--"She is my wife, Monsieur
le Curé."

"Yes," I sobbed, "I am your wife, Richard."

"Do they hear it?" he asked, in a whisper.

"We hear it," answered Tardif.

A strange, spasmodic smile flitted across his ghastly face, a look of
triumph and success. His fingers tightened over my hand, and I left it
passively in their clasp.

"Mine!" he murmured.

"Olivia," he said, after a long pause, and in a stronger voice, "you
always spoke the truth to me. This priest and his follower have been
trying to frighten me into repentance, as if I were an old woman. They
say I am near dying. Tell me, is it true?"

The last words he had spoken painfully, dragging them one after another,
as if the very utterance of them was hateful to him. He looked at me
with his cold, glittering eyes, which seemed almost mocking at me, even
then.

"Richard," I said, "it is true."

"Good God!" he cried.

His lips closed after that cry, and seemed as if they would never open
again. He shut his eyes weariedly. Feebly and fitfully came his gasps
for breath, and he moaned at times. But still his fingers held me fast,
though the slightest effort of mine would have set me free. I left my
hand in his cold grasp, and spoke to him whenever he moaned.

"Martin," he breathed between his set teeth, though so low that only my
ear could catch the words, "Martin--could--have saved--me."

There was another long silence. I could hear the chirping of the
sparrows in the thatched roof, but no other sound broke the deep
stillness. Monsieur Laurentie and Tardif stood at the foot of the bed,
looking down upon us both, but I only saw their shadows falling across
us. My eyes were fastened upon the face I should soon see no more. The
little light there was seemed to be fading away from it, leaving it all
dark and blank; eyelids closed, lips almost breathless; an unutterable
emptiness and confusion creeping over every feature.

"Olivia!" he cried, once again, in a tone of mingled anger and
entreaty.

"I am here," I answered, laying my other hand upon his, which was at
last relaxing its hold, and falling away helplessly. But where was he?
Where was the voice which half a minute ago called Olivia? Where was
the life gone that had grasped my hand? He had not heard my answer, or
felt my touch upon his cold fingers.

Tardif lifted me gently from my place beside him, and carried me away
into the open air, under the overshadowing eaves.



CHAPTER THE TWENTY-SECOND.

FREE.


The rest of that day passed by like a dream. Jean had come down with the
daily supply of food, and I heard Monsieur Laurentie call to him to
accompany me back to the presbytery, and to warn every one to keep away
from me, until I could take every precaution against spreading
infection. He gave me minute directions what to do, and I obeyed them
automatically and mechanically. I spent the whole day in my room alone.

At night, after all the village was silent, with the moon shining
brilliantly down upon the deserted streets, the sound of stealthy
footsteps came to me through my window. I pulled the casement open and
looked out. There marched four men, with measured steps, bearing a
coffin on their shoulders, while Monsieur Laurentie followed them
bareheaded. It was my husband's funeral; and I sank upon my knees, and
remained kneeling till I heard them return from the little cemetery up
the valley, where so many of the curé's flock had been buried. I prayed
with all my heart that no other life would be forfeited to this
pestilence, which had seemed to have passed away from us.

But I was worn out myself with anxiety and watching. For three or four
days I was ill with a low, nervous fever--altogether unlike the terrible
typhoid, yet such as to keep me to my room. Minima and Mademoiselle
Thérèse were my only companions. Mademoiselle, after talking that one
night as much as she generally talked in twelve months, had relapsed
into deeper taciturnity than before. But her muteness tranquillized me.
Minima's simple talk brought me back to the level of common life. My own
nervous weeping, which I could not control, served to soothe me. My
casement, almost covered by broad, clustering vine-leaves, preserved a
cool, dim obscurity in my room. The village children seemed all at once
to have forgotten how to scream and shout, and no sound from the street
disturbed me. Even the morning and evening bell rang with a deep,
muffled tone, which scarcely stirred the silence. I heard afterward that
Jean had swathed the bell in a piece of sackcloth, and that the children
had been sent off early every morning into the woods.

But I could not remain long in that idle seclusion. I felt all my
strength returning, both of body and mind. I began to smile at Minima,
and to answer her childish prattle, with none of the feeling of utter
weariness which had at first prostrated me.

"Are we going to stay here forever and ever?" she asked me, one day,
when I felt that the solitary peace of my own chamber was growing too
monotonous for me.

"Should you like to stay, Minima?" I inquired in reply. It was a
question I must face, that of what I was going to do in the future.

"I don't know altogether," she said, reflectively. "The boys here are
not so nice as they used to be at home. Pierre says I'm a little pagan,
and that's not nice, Aunt Nelly. He says I must be baptized by Monsieur
Laurentie, and be prepared for my first communion, before I can be as
good as he is. The boys at home used to think me quite as good as them,
and better. I asked Monsieur Laurentie if I ought to be baptized over
again, and he only smiled, and said I must be as good a little girl as I
could be, and it did not much matter. But Pierre, and all the rest,
think I'm not as good as them, and I don't like it."

I could not help laughing, like Monsieur Laurentie, at Minima's
distress. Yet it was not without foundation. Here we were heretics amid
the orthodox, and I felt it myself. Though Monsieur le Curé never
alluded to it in the most distant manner, there was a difference between
us and the simple village-folk in Ville-en-bois which would always mark
us as strangers in blood and creed.

"I think," continued Minima, with a shrewd expression on her face,
which was beginning to fill up and grow round in its outlines, "I think,
when you are quite well again, we'd better be going on somewhere to try
our fortunes. It never does, you know, to stop too long in the same
place. I'm quite sure we shall never meet the prince here, and I don't
think we shall find any treasure. Besides, if we began to dig they'd all
know, and want to go shares. I shouldn't mind going shares with Monsieur
Laurentie, but I would not go shares with Pierre. Of course when we've
made our fortunes we'll come back, and we'll build Monsieur Laurentie a
palace of marble, and put Turkey carpets on all the floors, and have
fountains and statues, and all sorts of things, and give him a cook to
cook splendid dinners. But we wouldn't stay here always if we were very,
very rich; would you, Aunt Nelly?"

"Has anybody told you that I am rich?" I asked, with a passing feeling
of vexation.

"Oh, no," she said, laughing heartily, "I should know better than that.
You're very poor, my darling auntie, but I love you all the same. We
shall be rich some day, of course. It's all coming right, by-and-by."

Her hand was stroking my face, and I drew it to my lips and kissed it
tenderly. I had scarcely realized before what a change had come over my
circumstances.

"But I am not poor any longer, my little girl," I said; "I am rich
now.".

"Very rich?" she asked, eagerly.

"Very rich," I repeated.

"And we shall never have to go walking, walking, till our feet are sore
and tired? And we shall not be hungry, and be afraid of spending our
money? And we shall buy new clothes as soon as the old ones are worn
out? O Aunt Nelly, is it true? is it quite true?"

"It is quite true, my poor Minima," I answered.

She looked at me wistfully, with the color coming and going on her face.
Then she climbed up, and lay down beside me, with her arm over me and
her face close to mine.

"O Aunt Nelly!" she cried, "if this had only come while my father was
alive!"

"Minima," I said, after her sobs and tears were ended, "you will always
be my little girl. You shall come and live with me wherever I live."

"Of course," she answered, with the simple trustfulness of a child, "we
are going to live together till we die. You won't send me to school,
will you? You know what school is like now, and you wouldn't like me to
send you to school, would you? If I were a rich, grown-up lady, and you
were a little girl like me, I know what I should do."

"What would you do?" I inquired, laughing.

"I should give you lots of dolls and things," she said, quite seriously,
her brows puckered with anxiety, "and I should let you have
strawberry-jam every day, and I should make every thing as nice as
possible. Of course I should make you learn lessons, whether you liked
it or not, but I should teach you myself, and then I should know nobody
was unkind to you. That's what I should do, Aunt Nelly."

"And that's what I shall do, Minima," I repeated.

We had many things to settle that morning, making our preliminary
arrangements for the spending of my fortune upon many dolls and much
jam. But the conviction was forced upon me that I must be setting about
more important plans. Tardif was still staying in Ville-en-bois,
delaying his departure till I was well enough to see him. I resolved to
get up that evening, as soon as the heat of the day was past, and have a
conversation with him and Monsieur Laurentie.



CHAPTER THE TWENTY-THIRD.

A YEAR'S NEWS.


In the cool of the evening, while the chanting of vespers in the church
close by was faintly audible, I went downstairs into the _salon_. All
the household were gone to the service; but I saw Tardif sitting outside
in my own favorite seat under the sycamore-tree. I sent Minima to call
him to me, bidding her stay out-of-doors herself; and he came in
hurriedly, with a glad light in his deep, honest eyes.

"Thank God, mam'zelle, thank God!" he said.

"Yes," I answered, "I am well again now. I have not been really ill, I
know, but I felt weary and sick at heart. My good Tardif, how much I owe
you!"

"You owe me, nothing, mam'zelle," he said, dropping my hand, and
carrying the curé's high-backed chair to the open window, for me to sit
in it, and have all the freshness there was in the air. "Dear
mam'zelle," he added, "if you only think of me as your friend, that is
enough."

"You are my truest friend," I replied.

"No, no. You have another as true," he answered, "and you have this good
Monsieur le Curé into the bargain. If the curés were all like him I
should be thinking of becoming a good Catholic myself, and you know how
far I am from being that."

"No one can say a word too much in his praise," I said.

"Except," continued Tardif, "that he desires to keep our little mam'zelle
in his village. 'Why must she leave me?' he says; 'never do I say a word
contrary to her religion, or that of the _mignonne_. Let them stay in
Ville-en-bois.' But Dr. Martin, says: 'No, she must not remain here. The
air is not good for her; the village is not drained, and it is
unhealthy. There will always be fever here.' Dr. Martin was almost angry
with Monsieur le Curé."

"Dr. Martin?" I said, in a tone of wonder and inquiry.

"Dr. Martin, mam'zelle. I sent a message to him by telegraph. It was
altered somehow in the offices, and he did not know who was dead. He
started off at once, travelled without stopping, and reached this place
two nights ago."

"Is he here now?" I asked, while a troubled feeling stirred the
tranquillity which had but just returned to me. I shrank from seeing him
just then.

"No, mam'zelle. He went away this morning, as soon as he was sure you
would recover without his help. He said that to see him might do you
more harm, trouble you more, than he could do you good by his medicines.
He and Monsieur le Curé parted good friends, though they were not of the
same mind about you. 'Let her stay here,' says Monsieur le Curé. 'She
must return to England,' says Dr. Martin. 'Mam'zelle must be free to
choose for herself,' I said. They both smiled, and said yes, I was
right. You must be free."

"Why did no one tell me he was here? Why did Minima keep it a secret?" I
asked.

"He forbade us to tell you. He did not wish to disquiet you. He said to
me: 'If she ever wishes to see me, I would come gladly from London to
Ville-en-bois', only to hear her say, 'Good-morning, Dr. Martin.' 'But I
will not see her now, unless she is seriously ill.' I felt that he was
right, Dr. Martin is always right."

I did not speak when Tardif paused, as if to hear what I had to say. I
heard him sigh as softly as a woman sighs.

"If you could only come back to my poor little house!" he said; "but
that is impossible. My poor mother died in the spring, and I am living
alone. It is desolate, but I am not unhappy. I have my boat and the sea,
where I am never solitary. But why should I talk of myself? We were
speaking of what you are to do."

"I don't know what to do," I said, despondently; "you see Tardif, I have
not a single friend I could go to in England. I shall have to stay here
in Ville-en-bois."

"No," he answered; "Dr. Martin has some plan for you, I know, though he
did not tell me what it is. He said you would have a home offered to
you, such as you would accept gladly. I think it is in Guernsey."

"With his mother, perhaps," I suggested.

"His mother, mam'zelle!" he repeated; "alas! no. His mother is dead; she
died only a few weeks after you left Sark."

I felt as if I had lost an old friend whom I had known for a long time,
though I had only seen her once. In my greatest difficulty I had thought
of making my way to her, and telling her all my history. I did not know
what other home could open for me, if she were dead.

"Dr. Dobrée married a second wife only three months after," pursued
Tardif, "and Dr. Martin left Guernsey altogether, and went to London,
to be a partner with his friend, Dr. Senior."

"Dr. John Senior?" I said.

"Yes, mam'zelle," he answered.

"Why! I know him," I exclaimed; "I recollect his face well. He is
handsomer than Dr. Martin. But whom did Dr. Dobrée marry?"

"I do not know whether he is handsomer than Dr. Martin," said Tardif, in
a grieved tone. "Who did Dr. Dobrée marry? Oh! a foreigner. No Guernsey
lady would have married him so soon after Mrs. Dobrée's death. She was a
great friend of Miss Julia Dobrée. Her name was Daltrey."

"Kate Daltrey!" I ejaculated. My brain seemed to whirl with the
recollections, the associations, the rapid mingling and odd readjustment
of ideas forced upon me by Tardif's words. What would have become of me
if I had found my way to Guernsey, seeking Mrs. Dobrée, and discovered
in her Kate Daltrey? I had not time to realize this before Tardif went
on in his narration.

"Dr. Martin was heart-broken," he said; "we had lost you, and his mother
was dead. He had no one to turn to for comfort. His cousin Julia, who
was to have been his wife, was married to Captain Carey three weeks ago.
You recollect Captain Carey, mam'zelle?"

Here was more news, and a fresh rearranging of the persons who peopled
my world. Kate Daltrey become Dr. Dobrée's second wife; Julia Dobrée
married to Captain Carey; and Dr. Martin living in London, the partner
of Dr. Senior! How could I put them all into their places in a moment?
Tardif, too, was dwelling alone, now, solitarily, in a very solitary
place.

"I am very sorry for you," I said, in a low tone.

"Why, mam'zelle?" he asked.

"Because you have lost your mother," I answered.

"Yes, mam'zelle," he said, simply; "she was a great loss to me, though
she was always fretting about my inheriting the land. That is the law of
the island, and no one can set it aside. The eldest son inherits the
land, and I was not her own son, though I did my best to be like a real
son to her. She died happier in thinking that her son, or grandson,
would follow me when I am gone, and I was glad she had that to comfort
her, poor woman."

"But you may marry again some day, my good Tardif," I said; "how I wish
you would!"

"No, mam'zelle, no," he answered, with a strange quivering tone in his
voice; "my mother knew why before she died, and it was a great comfort
to her. Do not think I am not happy alone. There are some memories that
are better company than most folks. Yes, there are some things I can
think of that are more and better than any wife could be to me."

Why we were both silent after that I scarcely knew. Both of us had many
things to think about, no doubt, and the ideas were tumbling over one
another in my poor brain till I wished I could cease to think for a few
hours.

Vespers ended, and the villagers began to disperse stealthily. Not a
wooden _sabot_ clattered on the stones. Mademoiselle and Monsieur
Laurentie came in, with a tread as soft as if they were afraid of waking
a child out of a light slumber.

"Mademoiselle," I cried, "monsieur, behold me; I am here."

My voice and my greeting seemed to transport them with delight.
Mademoiselle embraced me, and kissed me on both cheeks. Monsieur le Curé
blessed me, in a tremulously joyous accent, and insisted upon my keeping
his arm-chair. We sat down to supper together, by the light of a
brilliant little lamp, and Pierre, who was passing the uncurtained
window, saw me there, and carried the news into the village.

The next day Tardif bade me farewell, and Monsieur Laurentie drove him
to Granville on his way home to Sark.



CHAPTER THE TWENTY-FOURTH.

FAREWELL TO VILLE-EN-BOIS.


The unbroken monotony of Ville-en-bois closed over me again. The tolling
of the morning bell; the hum of matins; the frugal breakfast in the
sunlit _salon_; the long, hot day; vespers again; then an hour's chat by
twilight with the drowsy curé and his sister, whose words were so rare.
Before six such days had passed, I felt as if they were to last my
lifetime. Then the fretting of my uneasy woman's heart began. There was
no sign that I had any friends in England. What ought I to do? How must
I set about the intricate business of my affairs? Must I write to my
trustees in Melbourne, giving them the information of my husband's
death, and wait till I could receive from them instructions, and
credentials to prove my identity, without which it was useless, if it
were practicable, to return to London? Was there ever any one as
friendless as I was? Monsieur Laurentie could give me no counsel, except
to keep myself tranquil; but how difficult it was to keep tranquil amid
such profound repose! I had often found it easier to be calm amid many
provocations and numerous difficulties.

A week has glided by; a full week. The letter-carrier has brought me no
letter. I am seated at the window of the _salon_, gasping in these
simmering dog-days for a breath of fresh air; such a cool, balmy breeze
as blows over the summer sea to the cliffs of Sark. Monsieur Laurentie,
under the shelter of a huge red umbrella, is choosing the ripest cluster
of grapes for our supper this evening. All the street is as still as at
midnight. Suddenly there breaks upon us the harsh, metallic clang of
well-shod horse-hoofs upon the stony roadway--the cracking of a
postilion's whip--the clatter of an approaching carriage.

It proves to be a carriage with a pair of horses.

Pierre, who has been basking idly under the window, jumps to his feet,
shouting, "It is Monsieur the Bishop!" Minima claps her hands, and
cries, "The prince, Aunt Nelly, the prince!"

Monsieur Laurentie walks slowly down to the gate, his cotton umbrella
spread over him, like a giant fungus. It is certainly not the prince;
for an elderly, white-haired man, older than Monsieur Laurentie, but
with a more imposing and stately presence, steps out of the carriage,
and they salute one another with great ceremony. If that be Monsieur the
Bishop, he has very much the air of an Englishman.

In a few minutes my doubt as to the bishop's nationality was solved. The
two white-headed men, the one in a glossy and handsome suit of black,
the other in his brown and worn-out cassock, came up the path together,
under the red umbrella. They entered the house, and came directly to the
_salon_. I was making my escape by another door, not being sure how I
ought to encounter a bishop, when Monsieur Laurentie called to me.

"Behold a friend for you madame," he said, "a friend from
England.--Monsieur, this is my beloved English child."

I turned back, and met the eyes of both, fixed upon me with that
peculiar half-tender, half-regretful expression, with which so many old
men look upon women as young as I. A smile came across my face, and I
held out my hand involuntarily to the stranger.

"You do not know who I am, my dear!" he said. The English voice and
words went straight to my heart. How many months it was since I had
heard my own language spoken thus! Tardif had been too glad to speak in
his own _patois_, now I understood it so well; and Minima's prattle had
not sounded to me like those few syllables in the deep, cultivated voice
which uttered them.

"No," I answered, "but you are come to me from Dr. Martin Dobrée."

"Very true," he said, "I am his friend's father--Dr. John Senior's
father. Martin has sent me to you. He wished Miss Johanna Carey to
accompany me, but we were afraid of the fever for her. I am an old
physician, and feel at home with disease and contagion. But we cannot
allow you to remain in this unhealthy village; that is out of the
question. I am come to carry you away, in spite of this old curé."

Monsieur Laurentie was listening eagerly, and watching Dr. Senior's
lips, as if he could catch the meaning of his words by sight, if not by
hearing.

"But where am I to go?" I asked. "I have no money, and cannot get any
until I have written to Melbourne, and have an answer. I have no means
of proving who I am."

"Leave all that to us, my dear girl," answered Dr. Senior, cordially. "I
have already spoken of your affairs to an old friend of mine, who is an
excellent lawyer. I am come to offer myself to you in place of your
guardians on the other side of the world. You will do me a very great
favor by frankly accepting a home in my house for the present. I have
neither wife nor daughter; but Miss Carey is already there, preparing
rooms for you and your little charge. We have made inquiries about the
little girl, and find she has no friends living. I will take care of her
future. Do you think you could trust yourself and her to me?"

"Oh, yes!" I replied, but I moved a little nearer to Monsieur Laurentie,
and put my hand through his arm. He folded his own thin, brown hand over
it caressingly, and looked down at me, with something like tears
glistening in his eyes.

"Is it all settled?" he asked, "is monsieur come to rob me of my English
daughter? She will go away now to her own island, and forget
Ville-en-bois and her poor old French father!"

"Never! never!" I answered vehemently, "I shall not forget you as long
as I live. Besides, I mean to come back very often; every year if I can.
I almost wish I could stay here altogether; but you know that is
impossible, monsieur. Is it not quite impossible?"

"Quite impossible!" he repeated, somewhat sadly, "madame is too rich
now; she will have many good friends."

"Not one better than you," I said, "not one more dear than you. Yes, I
am rich; and I have been planning something to do for Ville-en-bois.
Would you like the church enlarged and beautified, Monsieur le Curé?"

"It is large enough and fine enough already," he answered.

"Shall I put some painted windows and marble images into it?" I asked.

"No, no, madame," he replied, "let it remain as it is during my short
lifetime."

"I thought so," I said, "but I believe I have discovered what Monsieur
le Curé would approve. It is truly English. There is no sentiment, no
romance about it. Cannot you guess what it is, my wise and learned
monsieur?"

"No, no, madame," he answered, smiling in spite of his sadness.

"Listen, dear monsieur," I continued: "if this village is unhealthy for
me, it is unhealthy for you and your people. Dr. Martin told Tardif
there would always be fever here, as long as there are no drains and no
pure water. Very well; now I am rich I shall have it drained, precisely
like the best English town; and there shall be a fountain in the middle
of the village, where all the people can go to draw good water. I shall
come back next year to see how it has been done, _Voilà_, monsieur!
There is my secret plan for Ville-en-bois."

Nothing could have been more effectual for turning away Monsieur
Laurentie's thoughts from the mournful topic of our near separation.
After vespers, and before supper, he, Dr. Senior, and I made the tour of
Ville-en-bois, investigating the close, dark cottages, and discussing
plans for rendering them more wholesome. The next day, and the day
following, the same subject continued to occupy him and Dr. Senior; and
thus the pain of our departure was counterbalanced by his pleasure in
anticipating the advantages to be obtained by a thorough drainage of his
village, and more ventilation and light in the dwellings.

The evening before we were to set out on our return to England, while
the whole population, including Dr. Senior, were assisting at vespers, I
turned my feet toward the little cemetery on the hill-side, which I had
never yet visited.--The sun had sunk below the tops of the
pollard-trees, which grew along the brow of the hill in grotesque and
fantastic shapes; but a few stray beams glimmered through the branches,
and fell here and there in spots of dancing light. The small square
enclosure was crowded with little hillocks, at the head of which stood
simple crosses of wood; crosses so light and little as to seem
significant emblems of the difference between our sorrows, and those
borne for our sakes upon Calvary. Wreaths of immortelles hung upon most
of them. Below me lay the valley and the homes where the dead at my feet
had lived; the sunshine lingered yet about the spire, with its cross,
which towered above the belfry; but all else was in shadow, which was
slowly deepening into night. In the west the sky was flushing and
throbbing with transparent tints of amber and purple and green, with
flecks of cloud floating across it of a pale gold. Eastward it was still
blue, but fading into a faint gray. The dusky green of the cypresses
looked black, as I turned my splendor-dazzled eyes toward them.

I strolled to and fro among the grassy mounds, not consciously seeking
one of them; though, very deep down in my inmost spirit, there must have
been an impulse which unwittingly directed me. I did not stay my feet,
or turn away from the village burial-place, until I came upon a grave,
the latest made among them. It was solitary, unmarked; with no cross to
throw its shadow along it, as the sun was setting. I knew then that I
had come to seek it, to bid farewell to it, to leave it behind me for
evermore.

The next morning Monsieur Laurentie accompanied us on our journey, as
far as the cross at the entrance to the valley. He parted with us there;
and when I stood up in the carriage to look back once more at him, I saw
his black-robed figure kneeling on the white steps of the Calvary, and
the sun shining upon his silvery head.



CHAPTER THE TWENTY-FIFTH.

TOO HIGHLY CIVILIZED.


For the third time I landed in England. When I set foot upon its shores
first I was worse than friendless, with foes of my own household
surrounding me; the second time I was utterly alone, in daily terror, in
poverty, with a dreary, life-long future stretching before me. Now every
want of mine was anticipated, every step directed, as if I were a child
again, and my father himself was caring for me. How many friends, good
and tried and true, could I count! All the rough paths were made smooth
for me.

It was dusk before we reached London; but before the train stopped at
the platform, a man's hand was laid upon the carriage-door, and a
handsome face was smiling over it upon us. I scarcely dared look who it
was; but the voice that reached my ears was not Martin Dobrée's.

"I am here in Martin's place," said Dr. John Senior, as soon as he could
make himself heard; "he has been hindered by a wretch of a
patient.--Welcome home, Miss Martineau!"

"She is not Miss Martineau, John," remarked Dr. Senior. There was a
tinge of stateliness about him, bordering upon formality, which had kept
me a little in awe of him all the journey through. His son laughed, with
a pleasant audacity.

"Welcome home. Olivia, then!" he said, clasping my hand warmly. "Martin
and I never call you by any other name."

A carriage was waiting for us, and Dr. John took Minima beside him,
chattering with her as the child loved to chatter. As for me, I felt a
little anxious and uneasy. Once more I was about to enter upon an
entirely new life; upon the untried ways of a wealthy, conventional,
punctilious English household. Hitherto my mode of life had been almost
as wandering and free as that of a gypsy. Even at home, during my
pleasant childhood, our customs had been those of an Australian
sheep-farm, exempt from all the usages of any thing like fashion. Dr.
John's kid gloves, which fitted his hand to perfection, made me
uncomfortable.

I felt still more abashed and oppressed when we reached Dr. Senior's
house, and a footman ran down to the carriage, to open the door and to
carry in my poor little portmanteau. It looked miserably poor and out of
place in the large, brilliantly-lit hall. Minima kept close beside me,
silent, but gazing upon this new abode with wide-open eyes.

Why was not Martin here? He had known me in Sark, in Tardif's cottage,
and he would understand how strange and how unlike home all this was to
me.

A trim maid was summoned to show us to our rooms, and she eyed us with
silent criticism. She conducted us to a large and lofty apartment,
daintily and luxuriously fitted up, with a hundred knick-knacks about
it, of which I could not even guess the use. A smaller room communicated
with it which had been evidently furnished for Minima. The child
squeezed my hand tightly as we gazed into it. I felt as if we were
gypsies, suddenly caught, and caged in a splendid captivity.

"Isn't it awful?" asked Minima, in a whisper; "it frightens me."

It almost frightened me too. I was disconcerted also by my own
reflection in the long mirror before me. A rustic, homely peasant-girl,
with a brown face and rough hands, looked back at me from the shining
surface, wearing a half-Norman dress, for I had not had time to buy more
than a bonnet and shawl as we passed through Falaise. What would Miss
Carey think of me? How should I look in Dr. John's fastidious eyes?
Would not Martin be disappointed and shocked when he saw me again?

I could not make any change in my costume, and the maid carried off
Minima to do what she could with her. There came a gentle knock at my
door, and Miss Carey entered. Here was the fitting personage to dwell in
a house like this. A delicate gray-silk dress, a dainty lace cap, a
perfect self-possession, a dignified presence. My heart sank low. But
she kissed me affectionately, and smiled as I looked anxiously into her
face.

"My dear," she said, "I hope you will like your room. John and Martin
have ransacked London for pretty things for it. See, there is a
painting of Tardifs cottage in Sark. Julia has painted it for you. And
here is a portrait of my dear friend, Martin's mother; he hung it there
himself only this morning. I hope you will soon feel quite at home with
us, Olivia."

Before I could answer, a gong sounded through the house, with a sudden
clang that startled me.

We went down to the drawing-room, where Dr. Senior gave me his arm, and
led me ceremoniously to dinner. At this very hour my dear Monsieur
Laurentie and mademoiselle were taking their simple supper at the little
round table, white as wood could be made by scrubbing, but with no cloth
upon it. My chair and Minima's would be standing back against the wall.
The tears smarted under my eyelids, and I answered at random to the
remarks made to me. How I longed to be alone for a little while, until I
could realize all the change that had come into my life!

We had been in the drawing-room again only a few minutes, when we heard
the hall-door opened, and a voice speaking. By common consent, as it
were, every one fell into silence to listen. I looked up for a moment,
and saw that all three of them had turned their eyes upon me; friendly
eyes they were, but their scrutiny was intolerable. Dr. Senior began to
talk busily with Miss Carey.

"Hush!" cried Minima, who was standing beside Dr. John, "hush! I believe
it is--yes, I am sure it is Dr. Martin!"

She sprang to the door just as it was opened, and flung her arms round
him in a transport of delight. I did not dare to lift my eyes again, to
see them all smiling at me. He could not come at once to speak to me,
while that child was clinging to him and kissing him.

"I'm so glad," she said, almost sobbing; "come and see my auntie, who
was so ill when you were in Ville-en-bois. You did not see her, you
know; but she is quite well now, and very, very rich. We are never going
to be poor again. Come; she is here. Auntie, this is that nice Dr.
Martin, who made me promise not to tell you he was at Ville-en-bois,
while you were so ill."

She dragged him eagerly toward me, and I put my hand in his; but I did
not look at him. That I did some minutes afterward, when he was talking
to Miss Carey. It was many months since I had seen him last in Sark.
There was a great change in his face, and he looked several years older.
It was grave, and almost mournful, as if he did not smile very often,
and his voice was lower in tone than it had been then. Dr. John, who was
standing beside him, was certainly much gayer and handsomer than he was.
He caught my eye, and came back to me, sitting near enough to talk with
me in an undertone.

"Are you satisfied with the arrangements we have made for you?" he
inquired.

"Quite," I said, not daring either to thank him, or to tell him how
oppressed I was by my sudden change. Both of us spoke as quietly, and
with as much outward calm, as if we were in the habit of seeing each
other every day. A chill came across me.

"At one time," he continued, "I asked Johanna to open her home to you;
but that was when I thought you would be safer and happier in a quiet
place like hers than anywhere else. Now you are your own mistress, and
can choose your own residence. But you could not have a better home than
this. It would not be well for you, so young and friendless, to live in
a house of your own."

"No," I said, somewhat sadly.

"Dr. Senior is delighted to have you here," he went on; "you will see
very good society in this house, and that is what you should do. You
ought to see more and better people than you have yet known. Does it
seem strange to you that we have assumed a sort of authority over you
and your affairs? You do not yet know how we have been involved in
them."

"How?" I asked, looking up into his face with a growing curiosity.

"Olivia," he said, "Foster was my patient for some months, and I knew
all his affairs intimately. He had married that person--"

"Married her!" I ejaculated.

"Yes. You want to know how he could do that? Well, he produced two
papers, one a medical certificate of your death, the other a letter
purporting to be from some clergyman. He had, too, a few lines in your
own handwriting, which stated you had sent him your ring, the only
valuable thing left to you, as you had sufficient for your last
necessities. Even I believed for a few hours that you were dead. But I
must tell you all about it another time."

"Did he believe it?" I asked, in a trembling voice.

"I do not know," he answered; "I cannot tell, even now, whether he knew
them to be forgeries or not. But I have no doubt, myself, that they were
forged by Mrs. Foster's brother and his partner, Scott and Brown."

"But for what reason?" I asked again.

"What reason!" he repeated; "you were too rich a prize for them to allow
Foster to risk losing any part of his claim upon you, if he found you.
You and all you had were his property on certain defined conditions. You
do not understand our marriage laws; it is as well for you not to
understand them. Mrs. Foster gave up to me to-day all his papers, and
the letters and credentials from your trustees in Melbourne to your
bankers here. There will be very little trouble for you now. Thank God!
all your life lies clear and fair before you."

I had still many questions to ask, but my lips trembled so much that I
could not speak readily. He was himself silent, probably because he also
had so much to say. All the others were sitting a little apart from us
at a chess-table, where Dr. Senior and Miss Carey were playing, while
Dr. John sat by holding Minima in his arm, though she was gazing
wistfully across to Martin and me.

"You are tired, Olivia," said Martin, after a time, "tired and sad. Your
eyes are full of tears. I must be your doctor again for this evening,
and send you to bed at once. It is eleven o'clock already; but these
people will sit up till after midnight. You need not say good-night to
them.--Minima, come here."

She did not wait for a second word, or a louder summons; but she slipped
under Dr. John's arm, and rushed across to us, being caught by Martin
before she could throw herself upon me. He sat still, talking to her for
a few minutes, and listening to her account of our journey, and how
frightened we were at the grandeur about us. His face lit up with a
smile as his eyes fell upon me, as if for the first time he noticed how
out of keeping I was with the place. Then he led us quietly away, and
up-stairs to my bedroom-door.

"Good-night, Olivia," he said; "sleep soundly, both of you, for you are
at home. I will send one of the maids up to you."

"No, no," I cried hastily, "they despise us already."

"Ah!" he said, "to-night you are the Olivia I knew first, in Sark. In a
week's time I shall find you a fine lady."



CHAPTER THE TWENTY-SIXTH.

SEEING SOCIETY.


Whether or no I was transformed into a finer lady than Martin
anticipated, I could not tell, but certainly after that first evening he
held himself aloof from me. I soon learned to laugh at the dismay which
had filled me upon my entrance into my new sphere. It would have been
difficult to resist the cordiality with which I was adopted into the
household. Dr. Senior treated me as his daughter; Dr. John was as much
at home with me as if I had been his sister. We often rode together, for
I was always fond of riding as a child, and he was a thorough horseman.
He said Martin could ride better than himself; but Martin never asked me
to go out with him.

Minima, too, became perfectly reconciled to her new position; though for
a time she was anxious lest we were spending our riches too lavishly. I
heard her one day soundly rating Dr. John, who seldom came to his
father's house without bringing some trinket, or bouquet, or toy, for
one or other of us.

"You are wasting all your money," she said, with that anxious little
pucker of her eyebrows, which was gradually being smoothed away
altogether, "you're just like the boys after the holidays. They would
buy lots of things every time the cake-woman came--and she came every
day--till they'd spent all their money. You can't always have cakes, you
know, and then you'll miss them."

"But I shall have cakes always." answered Dr. John.

"Nobody has them always," she said, in an authoritative tone, "and you
won't like being poor. We were so poor we daren't buy as much as we
could eat; and our boots wore out at the toes. You like to have nice
boots, and gloves, and things, so you must learn to take care of your
money, and not waste it like this."

"I'm not wasting my money, little woman," he replied, "when I buy pretty
things for you and Olivia."

"Why doesn't Dr. Martin do it then?" she asked; "he never spends his
money in that sort of way. Why doesn't he give auntie as many things as
you do?"

Martin had been listening to Minima's rebukes with a smile upon his
face; but now it clouded a little, and I knew he glanced across to me. I
appeared deeply absorbed in the book I held in my hand, and he did not
see that I was listening and watching attentively.

"Minima," he said, in a low tone, as if he did not care that even she
should hear, "I gave her all I had worth giving when I saw her first."

"That's just how it will be with you, Dr. John," exclaimed Minima,
triumphantly, "you'll give us every thing you have, and then you'll have
nothing left for yourself."

But still, unless Martin had taken back what he gave to me so long ago,
his conduct was very mysterious to me. He did not come to Fulham half
as often as Dr. John did; and when he came he spent most of the time in
long, professional discussions with Dr. Senior. They told me he was
devoted to his profession, and it really seemed as if he had not time to
think of any thing else.

Neither had I very much time for brooding over any subject, for guests
began to frequent the house, which became much gayer, Dr. Senior said,
now there was a young hostess in it. The quiet evenings of autumn and
winter were gone, and instead of them our engagements accumulated on our
hands, until I very rarely met Martin except at some entertainment,
where we were surrounded by strangers. Martin was certainly at a
disadvantage among a crowd of mere acquaintances, where Dr. John was
quite at home. He was not as handsome, and he did not possess the same
ease and animation. So he was a little apt to get into corners with Dr.
Senior's scientific friends, and to be somewhat awkward and dull if he
were forced into gayer society. Dr. John called him glum.

But he was not glum; I resented that, till Dr. John begged my pardon.
Martin did not smile as quickly as Dr. John, he was not forever ready
with a simper, but when he did smile it had ten times more expression. I
liked to watch for it, for the light that came into his eyes now and
then, breaking through his gravity as the sun breaks through the clouds
on a dull day.

Perhaps he thought I liked to be free. Yes, free from tyranny, but not
free from love. It is a poor thing to have no one's love encircling you,
a poor freedom that. A little clew came to my hand one day, the other
end of which might lead me to the secret of Martin's reserve and gloom.
He and Dr. Senior were talking together, as they paced to and fro about
the lawn, coming up the walk from the river-side to the house, and then
back again. I was seated just within the drawing-room window, which was
open. They knew I was there, but they did not guess how keen my hearing
was for any thing that Martin said. It was only a word or two here and
there that I caught.

"If you were not in the way," said Dr. Senior, "John would have a good
chance, and there is no one in the world I would sooner welcome as a
daughter."

"They are like one another," answered Martin; "have you never seen it?"

What more they said I did not hear, but it seemed a little clearer to me
after that why Martin kept aloof from me, and left me to ride, and talk,
and laugh with his friend Jack. Why, they did not know that I was
happier silent beside Martin, than laughing most merrily with Dr. John.
So little did they understand me!

Just before Lent, which was a busy season with him, Monsieur Laurentie
paid us his promised visit, and brought us news from Ville-en-bois. The
money that had been lying in the bank, which I could not touch, whatever
my necessities were, had accumulated to more than three thousand pounds,
and out of this sum were to come the funds for making Ville-en-bois the
best-drained parish in Normandy. Nothing could exceed Monsieur
Laurentie's happiness in choosing a design for a village fountain, and
in examining plans for a village hospital. For, in case any serious
illness should break out again among them, a simple little hospital was
to be built upon the brow of the hill, where the wind sweeps across
leagues of meadow-land and heather.

"I am too happy, madame," said the curé; "my people will die no more of
fever, and we will teach them many English ways. When will you come
again, and see what you have done for us?"

"I will come in the autumn," I answered.

"And you will come alone?" he continued.

"Yes, quite alone," I answered, "or with Minima only."



CHAPTER THE TWENTY-SEVENTH.

BREAKING THE ICE.


Yet while I told Monsieur Laurentie seriously that I should go alone to
Ville-en-bois in the autumn, I did not altogether believe it. We often
speak in half-falsehoods, even to ourselves.

Dr. Senior's lawn, in which he takes great pride, slopes gently down to
the river, and ends with a stone parapet, over which it is exceedingly
pleasant to lean, and watch idly the flowing of the water, which seems
to loiter almost reluctantly before passing on to Westminster, and the
wharves and docks of the city. On the opposite bank grows a cluster of
cedars, with rich, dark-green branches, showing nearly black against the
pale blue of the sky. In our own lawn there stand three fine elms, a
colony for song-birds, under which the turf is carefully kept as smooth
and soft as velvet; and seats are set beneath their shadow, where one
can linger for hours, seeing the steamers and pleasure-boats passing to
and fro, and catching now and then a burst of music or laughter,
softened a little by the distance. My childhood had trained me to be
fond of living out-of-doors; and, when the spring came, I spent most of
my days under these elm-trees, in the fitful sunshine and showers of an
English April and May, such as I had never known before.

From one of these trees I could see very well any one who went in or out
through the gate. But it was not often that I cared to sit there, for
Martin came only in an evening, when his day's work was done, and even
then his coming was an uncertainty. Dr. John seldom missed visiting us,
but Martin was often absent for days. That made me watch all the more
eagerly for his coming, and feel how cruelly fast the time fled when he
was with us.

But one Sunday afternoon in April I chose my seat there, behind the tree
where I could see the gate, without being too plainly seen myself.
Martin had promised Dr. Senior he would come down to Fulham with Dr.
John that afternoon, if possible. The river was quieter than on other
days, and all the world seemed calmer. It was such a day as the one in
Sark, two years ago, when I slipped from the cliffs, and Tardif was
obliged to go across to Guernsey to fetch a doctor for me. I wondered if
Martin ever thought of it on such a day as this. But men do not remember
little things like these as women do.

I heard the click of the gate at last, and, looking round the great
trunk of the tree, I saw them come in together, Dr. John and Martin. He
had kept his promise then! Minima was gone out somewhere with Dr.
Senior, or she would have run to meet them, and so brought them to the
place where I was half-hidden.

However, they might see my dress if they chose. They ought to see it. I
was not going to stand up and show myself. If they were anxious to find
me, and come to me, it was quite simple enough.

But my heart sank when Martin marched straight on, and entered the house
alone, while Dr. John came as direct as an arrow toward me. They knew I
was there, then! Yet Martin avoided me, and left his friend to chatter
and laugh the time away. I was in no mood for laughing; I could rather
have wept bitter tears of vexation and disappointment. But Dr. John was
near enough now for me to discern a singular gravity upon his usually
gay face.

"Is there any thing the matter?" I exclaimed, starting to my feet and
hastening to meet him. He led me back again silently to my seat, and sat
down beside me, still in silence. Strange conduct in Dr. John!

"Tell me what is the matter," I said, not doubting now that there was
some trouble at hand. Dr. John's face flushed, and he threw his hat down
on the grass, and pushed his hair back from his forehead. Then he laid
his hand upon mine, for a moment only.

"Olivia," he said, very seriously, "do you love me?"

The question came upon me like a shock from a galvanic battery. He and I
had been very frank and friendly together; a pleasant friendship, which
had seemed to me as safe as that of a brother. Besides, he knew all that
Martin had done and borne for my sake. With my disappointment there was
mingled a feeling of indignation against his treachery toward his
friend. I sat watching the glistening of the water through the pillars
of the parapet till my eyes were dazzled.

"I scarcely understand what you say," I answered, after a long pause;
"you know I care for you all. If you mean, do I love you as I love your
father and Monsieur Laurentie, why, yes, I do."

"Very good, Olivia," he said.

That was so odd of him, that I turned and looked steadily into his face.
It was not half as grave as before, and there was a twinkle in his eyes
as if another half minute would make him as gay and light-hearted as
ever.

"Whatever did you come and ask me such a question for?" I inquired,
rather pettishly.

"Was there any harm in it?" he rejoined.

"Yes, there was harm in it," I answered; "it has made me very
uncomfortable. I thought you were going out of your mind. If you meant
nothing but to make me say I liked you, you should have expressed
yourself differently. Of course, I love you all, and all alike."

"Very good," he said again.

I felt so angry that I was about to get up, and go away to my own room;
but he caught my dress, and implored me to stay a little longer.

"I'll make a clean breast of it," he said; "I promised that dear old
dolt Martin to come straight to you, and ask you if you loved me, in so
many words. Well, I've kept my promise; and now I'll go and tell him you
say you love us all, and all alike."

"No," I answered, "you shall not go and tell him that. What could put it
into Dr. Martin's head that I was in love with you?"

"Why shouldn't you be in love with me?" retorted Dr. John; "Martin
assures me that I am much handsomer than he is--a more eligible _parti_
in every respect. I suppose I shall have an income, apart from our
practice, at least ten times larger than his. I am much more sought
after generally; one cannot help seeing that. Why should you not be in
love with me?"

I did not deign to reply to him, and Jack leaned forward a little to
look into my face.

"Olivia," he continued, "that is part of what Martin says. We have just
been speaking of you as we came down to Fulham--never before. He
maintains he is bound in honor to leave you as free as possible to make
your choice, not merely between us, but from the number of fellows who
have found their way down here, since you came. You made one fatal
mistake, he says, through your complete ignorance of the world; and it
is his duty to take care that you do not make a second mistake, through
any gratitude you might feel toward him. He would not be satisfied with
gratitude. Besides, he has discovered that he is not so great a prize as
he fancied, as long as he lived in Guernsey; and you are a richer prize
than you seemed to be then. With your fortune you ought to make a much
better match than with a young physician, who has to push his way among
a host of competitors. Lastly, Martin said, for I'm merely repeating his
own arguments to you: 'Do you think I can put her happiness and mine
into a balance, and coolly calculate which has the greater weight? If I
had to choose for her, I should not hesitate between you and me.' Now I
have told you the sum of our conversation, Olivia."

Every word Dr. John had spoken had thrown clearer light upon Martin's
conduct. He had been afraid I should feel myself bound to him; and the
very fact that he had once told me he loved me, had made it more
difficult to him to say so a second time. He would not have any love
from me as a duty. If I did not love him fully, with my whole heart,
choosing him after knowing others with whom I could compare him, he
would not receive any lesser gift from me.

"What will you do, my dear Olivia?" asked Dr. John.

"What can I do?" I said.

"Go to him," he urged; "he is alone. I saw him a moment ago, looking out
at us from the drawing-room window. The old fellow is making up his mind
to see you and me happy together, and to conceal his own sorrow. God
bless him! Olivia, my dear girl, go to him."

"O Jack!" I cried, "I cannot."

"I don't see why you cannot," he answered, gayly. "You are trembling,
and your face goes from white to red, and then white again; but you have
not lost the use of your limbs, or your tongue. If you take my arm, it
will not be very difficult to cross the lawn. Come; he is the best
fellow living, and worth walking a dozen yards for."

Jack drew my hand through his arm, and led me across the smooth lawn. We
caught a glimpse of Martin looking out at us; but he turned away in an
instant, and I could not see the expression of his face. Would he think
we were coming to tell him that he had wasted all his love upon a girl
not worthy of a tenth part of it?

The glass doors, which opened upon the lawn, had been thrown back all
day, and we could see distinctly into the room. Martin was standing at
the other end of it, apparently absorbed in examining a painting, which
he must have seen a thousand times. The doors creaked a little as I
passed through them, but he did not turn round. Jack gave my hand a
parting squeeze, and left me there in the open doorway, scarcely knowing
whether to go on, and speak to Martin, or run away to my room, and leave
him to take his own time.

I believe I should have run away, but I heard Minima's voice behind me,
calling shrilly to Dr. John, and I could not bear to face him again.
Taking my courage in both hands, I stepped quickly across the floor, for
if I had hesitated longer my heart would have failed me. Scarcely a
moment had passed since Jack left me, and Martin had not turned his
head, yet it seemed an age.

"Martin," I whispered, as I stood close behind him, "how could you be so
foolish as to send Dr. John to me?"



CHAPTER THE TWENTY-EIGHTH.

PALMY DAYS.


We were married as soon as the season was over, when Martin's
fashionable patients were all going away from town. Ours was a very
quiet wedding, for I had no friends on my side, and Martin's cousin
Julia could not come, for she had a baby not a month old, and Captain
Carey could not leave them. Johanna Carey and Minima were my
bridesmaids, and Jack was Martin's groomsman.

On our way home from Switzerland, in the early autumn, we went down from
Paris to Falaise, and through Noireau to Ville-en-bois. From Falaise
every part of the road was full of associations to me. This was the
long, weary journey which Minima and I had taken, alone, in a dark
November night; and here were the narrow and dirty streets of Noireau,
which we had so often trodden, cold, and hungry, and friendless. Martin
said little about it, but I knew by his face, and by the tender care he
lavished upon me, that his mind was as full of it as mine was.

There was no reason for us to stay even a day in Noireau, and we hurried
through it on our way to Ville-en-bois. This road was still more
memorable to me, for we had traversed it on foot.

"See, Martin!" I cried, "there is the trunk of the tree still, where
Minima and I sat down to rest. I am glad the tree is there yet. If we
were not in a hurry, you and I would sit there now; it is so lonely and
still, and scarcely a creature passes this way. It is delicious to be
lonely sometimes. How foot-sore and famished we were, walking along this
rough part of the road! Martin, I almost wish our little Minima were
with us. There is the common! If you will look steadily, you can just
see the top of the cross, against the black line of fir-trees, on the
far side."

I was getting so excited that I could speak no longer; but Martin held
my hand in his, and I clasped it more and more tightly as we drew nearer
to the cross, where Minima and I had sat down at the foot, forlorn and
lost, in the dark shadows of the coming night. Was it possible that I
was the same Olivia?

But as we came in sight of the little grove of cypresses and yews, we
could discern a crowd of women, in their snow-white caps, and of men and
boys, in blue blouses. The hollow beat of a drum reached our ears afar
off, and after it the shrill notes of a violin and fife playing a merry
tune. Monsieur Laurentie appeared in the foreground of the multitude,
bareheaded, long before we reached the spot.

"O Martin!" I said, "let us get out, and send the carriage back, and
walk up with them to the village."

"And my wife's luggage?" he answered, "and all the toys and presents she
has brought from Paris?"

It was true that the carriage was inconveniently full of parcels, for I
do not think that I had forgotten one of Monsieur Laurentie's people.
But it would not be possible to ride among them, while they were
walking.

"Every man will carry something," I said. "Martin, I must get out."

It was Monsieur Laurentie who opened the carriage-door for me; but the
people did not give him time for a ceremonious salutation. They thronged
about us with _vivats_ as hearty as an English hurrah.

"All the world is here to meet us, monsieur," I said.

"Madame, I have also the honor of presenting to you two strangers from
England," answered Monsieur Laurentie, while the people fell back to
make way for them. Jack and Minima! both wild with delight. We learned
afterward, as we marched up the valley to Ville-en-bois, that Dr. Senior
had taken Jack's place in Brook Street, and insisted upon him and Minima
giving us this surprise. Our procession, headed by the drum, the fife,
and the violin, passed through the village street, from every window of
which a little flag fluttered gayly, and stopped before the presbytery,
where Monsieur Laurentie dismissed it, after a last _vivat_.

The next stage of our homeward journey was made in Monsieur Laurentie's
_char à bancs_, from Ville-en-bois to Granville--Jack and Minima had
returned direct to England, but we were to visit Guernsey on the way.
Captain Carey and Julia made it a point that we should go to see them,
and their baby, before settling down in our London home. Martin was
welcomed with almost as much enthusiasm in St. Peter-Port as I had been
in little Ville-en-bois.

From our room in Captain Carey's house I could look at Sark lying along
the sea, with a belt of foam encircling it. At times, early in the
morning, or when the sunset light fell upon it, I could distinguish the
old windmill, and the church breaking the level line of the summit; and
I could even see the brow of the knoll behind Tardifs cottage. But day
after day the sea between us was rough, and the westerly breeze blew
across the Atlantic, driving the waves before it. There was no steamer
going across, and Captain Carey's yacht could not brave the winds. I
began to be afraid that Martin and I would not visit the place, which of
all others in this half of the world was dearest to me.

"To-morrow," said Martin one night, after scanning the sunset, the sky,
and the storm-glass, "if you can be up at five o'clock, we will cross to
Sark."

I was up at four, in the first gray dawn of a September morning. We had
the yacht to ourselves, for Captain Carey declined running the risk of
being weather-bound on the island--a risk which we were willing to
chance. The Havre Gosselin was still in morning shadow when we ran into
it; but the water between us and Guernsey was sparkling and dancing in
the early light, as we slowly climbed the rough path of the cliff. My
eyes were dazzled with the sunshine, and dim with tears, when I first
caught sight of the little cottage of Tardif, who was stretching out his
nets, on the stone causeway under the windows. Martin called to him, and
he flung down his nets and ran to meet us.

"We are come to spend the day with you, Tardif," I cried, when he was
within hearing of my voice.

"It will be a day from heaven," he said, taking off his fisherman's cap,
and looking round at the blue sky with its scattered clouds, and the sea
with its scattered islets.

It was like a day from heaven. We wandered about the cliffs, visiting
every spot which was most memorable to either of us, and Tardif rowed us
in his boat past the entrance of the Gouliot Caves. He was very quiet,
but he listened to our free talk together, for I could not think of good
old Tardif as any stranger; and he seemed to watch us both, with a
far-off, faithful, quiet look upon his face. Sometimes I fancied he did
not bear what we were saying, and again his eyes would brighten with a
sudden gleam, as if his whole soul and heart shone through them upon us.
It was the last day of our holiday, for in the morning we were about to
return to London, and to work; but it was such a perfect day as I had
never known before.

"You are quite happy, Mrs. Martin Dobrée?" said Tardif to me, when we
were parting from him.

"I did not know I could ever be so happy," I answered.

"We saw him to the last moment standing on the cliff, and waving his hat
to us high above his head. Now and then there came a shout across the
water. Before we were quite beyond ear-shot, we heard Tardif's voice
calling amid the splashing of the waves:

"God be with you, my friends. Adieu, mam'zelle!"



CHAPTER THE TWENTY-NINTH.

A POSTSCRIPT BY MARTIN DOBRÉE.


You may describe to a second person, with the most minute and exact
fidelity in your power, the leading and critical events in your life,
and you will find that some trifle of his own experience is ten times
more vivid to his mind. You narrate to your friend, whom you have not
met for many years, the incident that has turned the whole current of
your existence; and after a minute or two of musing, he asks you, "Do
you remember the day we two went bird-nesting on Gull's Cliff?" That day
of boyish daring and of narrow escapes is more real to him than your
deepest troubles or keenest joys. The brain receives but slightly
second-hand impressions.

I had told Olivia faithfully all my dilemmas with regard to Julia and
the Careys; and she had seemed to listen with intense interest.
Certainly it was during those four bewildering and enchanted months
immediately preceding our marriage, and no doubt the narrative was
interwoven with many a topic of quite a different character. However
that might be, I was surprised to find that Olivia was not half as
nervous and anxious as I felt, when we were nearing Guernsey on our
visit to Julia and Captain Carey. Julia had seen her but once, and that
for a few minutes only in Sark. On her account she had suffered the
severest mortification a woman can undergo. How would she receive my
wife?

Olivia did not know, though I did, that Julia was somewhat frigid and
distant in her manner, even while thoroughly hospitable in her welcome.
Olivia felt the hospitality; I felt the frigidity. Julia called her
"Mrs. Dobrée." It was the first time she had been addressed by that
name; and her blush and smile were exquisite to me, but they did not
thaw Julia in the least. I began to fear that there would be between
them that strange, uncomfortable, east-wind coolness, which so often
exists between the two women a man most loves.

It was the baby that did it. Nothing on earth could be more charming, or
more winning, than Olivia's delight over that child. It was the first
baby she had ever had in her arms, she told us; and to see her sitting
in the low rocking-chair, with her head bent over it, and to watch her
dainty way of handling it, was quite a picture. Captain Carey had an
artist's eye, and was in raptures; Julia had a mother's eye, and was so
won by Olivia's admiration of her baby, that the thin crust of ice
melted from her like the arctic snows before a Greenland summer.

I was not in the least surprised when, two days or so before we left
Guernsey, Julia spoke to us with some solemnity of tone and expression.

"My dear, Olivia," she said, "and you, Martin, Arnold and I would
consider it a token of your friendship for us both, if you two would
stand as sponsors for our child."

"With the greatest pleasure, Julia," I replied; and Olivia crossed the
hearth to kiss her, and sat down on the sofa at her side.

"We have decided upon calling her Olivia," continued Julia, stroking my
wife's hand with a caressing touch--"Olivia Carey! That sounds extremely
well, and is quite new in the island. I think it sounds even better than
Olivia Dobrée."

As we all agreed that no name could sound better, or be newer in
Guernsey, that question was immediately settled. There was no time for
delay, and the next morning we carried the child to church to be
christened. As we were returning homeward, Julia, whose face had worn
its softest expression, pressed my arm with a clasp which made me look
down upon her questioningly. Her eyes were filled with tears, and her
mouth quivered. Olivia and Captain Carey were walking on in front, at a
more rapid pace than ours, so that we were in fact alone.

"What is the matter?" I asked, hastily.

"O Martin!" she exclaimed, "we are both so happy, after all! I wish my
poor, darling aunt could only have foreseen this! but, don't you think,
as we are both so happy, we might just go and see my poor uncle? Kate
Daltrey is away in Jersey, I know that for certain, and he is alone. It
would give him so much pleasure. Surely you can forgive him now."

"By all means let us go," I answered. I had not heard even his name
mentioned before, by any one of my old friends in Guernsey. But, as
Julia said, I was so happy, that I was ready to forgive and forget all
ancient grievances. Olivia and Captain Carey were already out of sight;
and we turned into a street leading to Vauvert Road.

"They live in lodgings now," remarked Julia, as we went slowly up the
steep street, "and nobody visits them; not one of my uncle's old
friends. They have plenty to live upon, but it is all her money. I do
not mean to let them got upon visiting terms with me--at least, not Kate
Daltrey. You know the house, Martin?"

I knew nearly every house in St. Peter-Port, but this I remembered
particularly as being the one where Mrs. Foster had lodged when she was
in Guernsey. Upon inquiring for Dr. Dobrée, we were ushered at once,
without warning, into his presence.

Even I should scarcely have recognized him. His figure was sunken and
bent, and his clothes, which were shabby, sat in wrinkles upon him. His
crisp white hair had grown thin and limp, and hung untidily about his
face. He had not shaved for a week. His waistcoat was sprinkled over
with snuff, in which he had indulged but sparingly in former years.
There was not a trace of his old jauntiness and display. This was a
rusty, dejected old man, with the crow's-feet very plainly marked upon
his features.

"Father!" I said.

"Uncle!" cried Julia, running to him, and giving him a kiss, which she
had not meant to do, I am sure, when we entered the house.

He shed a few tears at the sight of us, in a maudlin manner; and he
continued languid and sluggish all through the interview. It struck me
more forcibly than any other change could have done, that he never once
appeared to pluck up any spirit, or attempted to recall a spark of his
ancient sprightliness. He spoke more to Julia than to me.

"My love," he said, "I believed I knew a good deal about women, but I've
lived to find out my mistake. You and your beloved aunt were angels.
This one never lets me have a penny of my own: and she locks up my best
suit when she goes from home. That is to prevent me going among my own
friends. She is in Jersey now; but she would not hear a word of me going
with her, not one word. The Bible says: 'Jealousy is cruel as the grave;
the coals thereof are coals of fire, which hath a most vehement flame.'
Kate is jealous of me. I get nothing but black looks and cold shoulders.
There never lived a cat and dog that did not lead a more comfortable
life than Kate leads me."

"You shall come and see Arnold and me sometimes, uncle," said Julia.

"She won't let me," he replied, with fresh tears; "she won't let me
mention your name, or go past your house. I should very much like to see
Martin's wife--a very pretty creature they say she is--but I dare not. O
Julia! how little a man knows what is before him!"

We did not prolong our visit, for it was no pleasure to any one of us.
Dr. Dobrée himself seemed relieved when we spoke of going away. He and I
shook hands with one another gravely; it was the first time we had done
so since he had announced his intention of marrying Kate Daltrey.

"My son," he said, "if ever you should find yourself a widower, be very
careful how you select your second wife."

These were his parting words--words which chafed me sorely as a young
husband in his honeymoon. I looked round when we were out of the house,
and caught a glimpse of his withered face, and ragged white hair, as he
peeped from behind the curtain at us. Julia and I walked on in silence
till we reached her threshold.

"Yet I am not sorry we went, Martin," she observed, in a tone as if she
thus summed up a discussion with herself. Nor was I sorry.

A few days after our return to London, as I was going home to dinner, I
met, about half-war along Brook Street, Mrs. Foster. For the first time
since my marriage I was glad to be alone; I would not have had Olivia
with me on any account. But the woman was coming away from our house,
and a sudden fear flashed across me. Could she have been annoying my
Olivia?

"Have you been to see me?" I asked her, abruptly.

"Why should I come to see you?" she retorted.

"Nor my wife?" I said.

"Why shouldn't I go to see Mrs. Dobrée?" she asked again.

I felt that it was necessary to secure Olivia, and to gain this end I
must be firm. But the poor creature looked miserable and unhappy, and I
could not be harsh toward her.

"Come, Mrs. Foster," I said, "let us talk reasonably together. You know
as as well as I do you have no claim upon my wife; and I cannot have her
disturbed and distressed by seeing you; I wish her to forget all the
past. Did I not fulfil my promise to Foster? Did I not do all I could
for him?"

"Yes," she answered, sobbing, "I know you did all you could to save my
husband's life."

"Without fee?" I said.

"Certainly. We were too poor to pay you."

"Give me my fee now, then," I replied. "Promise me to leave Olivia
alone. Keep away from this street, and do not thrust yourself upon her
at any time. If you meet by accident, that will be no fault of yours. I
can trust you to keep your promise."

She stood silent and irresolute for a minute. Then she clasped my hand,
with a strong grip for a woman's fingers.

"I promise," she said, "for you were very good to him."

She had taken a step or two into the dusk of the evening, when I ran
after her for one more word.

"Mrs. Foster," I said, "are you in want?"

"I can always keep myself," she answered, proudly; "I earned his living
and my own, for months together. Good-by, Martin Dobrée."

"Good-by," I said. She turned quickly from me round a corner near to us;
and have not seen her again from that day to this.

Dr. Senior would not consent to part with Minima, even to Olivia. She
promises fair to take the reins of the household at a very early age,
and to hold them with a tight hand. Already Jack is under her authority,
and yields to it with a very droll submission. She is so old for her
years, and he is so young for his, that--who can tell? Olivia predicts
that Jack Senior will always be a bachelor.

THE END.





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