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Title: John Marchmont's Legacy, Volume I (of 3)
Author: Braddon, M. E. (Mary Elizabeth), 1835-1915
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 "John Marchmont's Legacy, Volume I (of 3)" ***

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Published by Tinsley Brothers of London in 1863 (third edition).


Is Dedicated








The history of Edward Arundel, second son of Christopher Arundel
Dangerfield Arundel, of Dangerfield Park, Devonshire, began on a
certain dark winter's night upon which the lad, still a schoolboy, went
with his cousin, Martin Mostyn, to witness a blank-verse tragedy at one
of the London theatres.

There are few men who, looking back at the long story of their lives,
cannot point to one page in the record of the past at which the actual
history of life began. The page may come in the very middle of the
book, perhaps; perhaps almost at the end. But let it come where it
will, it is, after all, only the actual commencement. At an appointed
hour in man's existence, the overture which has been going on ever
since he was born is brought to a sudden close by the sharp vibration
of the prompter's signal-bell; the curtain rises, and the drama of life
begins. Very insignificant sometimes are the first scenes of the
play,--common-place, trite, wearisome; but watch them closely, and
interwoven with every word, dimly recognisable in every action, may be
seen the awful hand of Destiny. The story has begun: already we, the
spectators, can make vague guesses at the plot, and predicate the
solemn climax; it is only the actors who are ignorant of the meaning of
their several parts, and who are stupidly reckless of the obvious

The story of young Arundel's life began when he was a light-hearted,
heedless lad of seventeen, newly escaped for a brief interval from the
care of his pastors and masters.

The lad had come to London on a Christmas visit to his father's sister,
a worldly-minded widow, with a great many sons and daughters, and an
income only large enough to enable her to keep up the appearances of
wealth essential to the family pride of one of the Arundels of

Laura Arundel had married a Colonel Mostyn, of the East India Company's
service, and had returned from India after a wandering life of some
years, leaving her dead husband behind her, and bringing away with her
five daughters and three sons, most of whom had been born under canvas.

Mrs. Mostyn bore her troubles bravely, and contrived to do more with
her pension, and an additional income of four hundred a year from a
small fortune of her own, than the most consummate womanly management
can often achieve. Her house in Montague Square was elegantly
furnished, her daughters were exquisitely dressed, her sons sensibly
educated, her dinners well cooked. She was not an agreeable woman; she
was perhaps, if any thing, too sensible,--so very sensible as to be
obviously intolerant of anything like folly in others. She was a good
mother; but by no means an indulgent one. She expected her sons to
succeed in life, and her daughters to marry rich men; and would have
had little patience with any disappointment in either of these
reasonable expectations. She was attached to her brother Christopher
Arundel, and she was very well pleased to spend the autumn months at
Dangerfield, where the hunting-breakfasts gave her daughters an
excellent platform for the exhibition of charming demi-toilettes and
social and domestic graces, perhaps more dangerous to the susceptible
hearts of rich young squires than the fascinations of a _valse à deux
temps_ or an Italian scena.

But the same Mrs. Mostyn, who never forgot to keep up her
correspondence with the owner of Dangerfield Park, utterly ignored the
existence of another brother, a certain Hubert Arundel, who had,
perhaps, much more need of her sisterly friendship than the wealthy
Devonshire squire. Heaven knows, the world seemed a lonely place to
this younger son, who had been educated for the Church, and was fain to
content himself with a scanty living in one of the dullest and dampest
towns in fenny Lincolnshire. His sister might have very easily made
life much more pleasant to the Rector of Swampington and his only
daughter; but Hubert Arundel was a great deal too proud to remind her
of this. If Mrs. Mostyn chose to forget him,--the brother and sister
had been loving friends and dear companions long ago, under the beeches
at Dangerfield,--she was welcome to do so. She was better off than he
was; and it is to be remarked, that if A's income is three hundred a
year, and B's a thousand, the chances are as seven to three that B will
forget any old intimacy that may have existed between himself and A.
Hubert Arundel had been wild at college, and had put his autograph
across so many oblong slips of blue paper, acknowledging value received
that had been only half received, that by the time the claims of all
the holders of these portentous morsels of stamped paper had been
satisfied, the younger son's fortune had melted away, leaving its
sometime possessor the happy owner of a pair of pointers, a couple of
guns by crack makers, a good many foils, single-sticks, boxing-gloves,
wire masks, basket helmets, leathern leg-guards, and other
paraphernalia, a complete set of the old _Sporting Magazine_, from 1792
to the current year, bound in scarlet morocco, several boxes of very
bad cigars, a Scotch terrier, and a pipe of undrinkable port.

Of all these possessions, only the undrinkable port now remained to
show that Hubert Arundel had once had a decent younger son's fortune,
and had succeeded most admirably in making ducks and drakes of it. The
poor about Swampington believed in the sweet red wine, which had been
specially concocted for Israelitish dealers in jewelry, cigars,
pictures, wines, and specie. The Rector's pensioners smacked their lips
over the mysterious liquid and confidently affirmed that it did them
more good than all the doctor's stuff the parish apothecary could send
them. Poor Hubert Arundel was well content to find that at least this
scanty crop of corn had grown up from the wild oats he had sown at
Cambridge. The wine pleased the poor creatures who drank it, and was
scarcely likely to do them any harm; and there was a reasonable
prospect that the last bottle would by-and-by pass out of the rectory
cellars, and with it the last token of that bitterly regretted past.

I have no doubt that Hubert Arundel felt the sting of his only sister's
neglect, as only a poor and proud man can feel such an insult; but he
never let any confession of this sentiment escape his lips; and when
Mrs. Mostyn, being seized with a fancy for doing this forgotten brother
a service, wrote him a letter of insolent advice, winding up with an
offer to procure his only child a situation as nursery governess, the
Rector of Swampington only crushed the missive in his strong hand, and
flung it into his study-fire, with a muttered exclamation that sounded
terribly like an oath.

"A _nursery_ governess!" he repeated, savagely; "yes; an underpaid
drudge, to teach children their A B C, and mend their frocks and make
their pinafores. I should like Mrs. Mostyn to talk to my little Livy
for half an hour. I think my girl would have put the lady down so
completely by the end of that time, that we should never hear any more
about nursery governesses."

He laughed bitterly as he repeated the obnoxious phrase; but his laugh
changed to a sigh.

Was it strange that the father should sigh as he remembered how he had
seen the awful hand of Death fall suddenly upon younger and stronger
men than himself? What if he were to die, and leave his only child
unmarried? What would become of her, with her dangerous gifts, with her
fatal dowry of beauty and intellect and pride?

"But she would never do any thing wrong," the father thought. "Her
religious principles are strong enough to keep her right under any
circumstances, in spite of any temptation. Her sense of duty is more
powerful than any other sentiment. She would never be false to that;
she would never be false to that."

In return for the hospitality of Dangerfield Park, Mrs. Mostyn was in
the habit of opening her doors to either Christopher Arundel or his
sons, whenever any one of the three came to London. Of course she
infinitely preferred seeing Arthur Arundel, the eldest son and heir,
seated at her well-spread table, and flirting with one of his pretty
cousins, than to be bored with his rackety younger brother, a noisy lad
of seventeen, with no better prospects than a commission in her
Majesty's service, and a hundred and fifty pounds a year to eke out his
pay; but she was, notwithstanding, graciously pleased to invite Edward
to spend his Christmas holidays in her comfortable household; and it
was thus it came to pass that on the 29th of December, in the year
1838, the story of Edward Arundel's life began in a stage-box at Drury
Lane Theatre.

The box had been sent to Mrs. Mostyn by the fashionable editor of a
fashionable newspaper; but that lady and her daughters being previously
engaged, had permitted the two boys to avail themselves of the
editorial privilege.

The tragedy was the dull production of a distinguished literary
amateur, and even the great actor who played the principal character
could not make the performance particularly enlivening. He certainly
failed in impressing Mr. Edward Arundel, who flung himself back in his
chair and yawned dolefully during the earlier part of the

"It ain't particularly jolly, is it, Martin?" he said naïvely, "Let's
go out and have some oysters, and come in again just before the
pantomime begins."

"Mamma made me promise that we wouldn't leave the theatre till we left
for good, Ned," his cousin answered; "and then we're to go straight
home in a cab."

Edward Arundel sighed.

"I wish we hadn't come till half-price, old fellow," he said drearily.
"If I'd known it was to be a tragedy, I wouldn't have come away from
the Square in such a hurry. I wonder why people write tragedies, when
nobody likes them."

He turned his back to the stage, and folded his arms upon the velvet
cushion of the box preparatory to indulging himself in a deliberate
inspection of the audience. Perhaps no brighter face looked upward that
night towards the glare and glitter of the great chandelier than that
of the fair-haired lad in the stage-box. His candid blue eyes beamed
with a more radiant sparkle than any of the myriad lights in the
theatre; a nimbus of golden hair shone about his broad white forehead;
glowing health, careless happiness, truth, good-nature, honesty, boyish
vivacity, and the courage of a young lion,--all were expressed in the
fearless smile, the frank yet half-defiant gaze. Above all, this lad of
seventeen looked especially what he was,--a thorough gentleman. Martin
Mostyn was prim and effeminate, precociously tired of life,
precociously indifferent to everything but his own advantage; but the
Devonshire boy's talk was still fragrant with the fresh perfume of
youth and innocence, still gay with the joyous recklessness of early
boyhood. He was as impatient for the noisy pantomime overture, and the
bright troops of fairies in petticoats of spangled muslin, as the most
inveterate cockney cooling his snub-nose against the iron railing of
the gallery. He was as ready to fall in love with the painted beauty of
the ill-paid ballet-girls, as the veriest child in the wide circle of
humanity about him. Fresh, untainted, unsuspicious, he looked out at
the world, ready to believe in everything and everybody.

"How you do fidget, Edward!" whispered Martin Mostyn peevishly; "why
don't you look at the stage? It's capital fun."


"Yes; I don't mean the tragedy you know, but the supernumeraries. Did
you ever see such an awkward set of fellows in all your life? There's a
man there with weak legs and a heavy banner, that I've been watching
all the evening. He's more fun than all the rest of it put together."

Mr. Mostyn, being of course much too polite to point out the man in
question, indicated him with a twitch of his light eyebrows; and Edward
Arundel, following that indication, singled out the banner-holder from
a group of soldiers in medieval dress, who had been standing wearily
enough upon one side of the stage during a long, strictly private and
confidential dialogue between the princely hero of the tragedy and one
of his accommodating satellites. The lad uttered a cry of surprise as
he looked at the weak-legged banner-holder.

Mr. Mostyn turned upon his cousin with some vexation.

"I can't help it, Martin," exclaimed young Arundel; "I can't be
mistaken--yes--poor fellow, to think that he should come to this!--you
haven't forgotten him, Martin, surely?"

"Forgotten what--forgotten whom? My dear Edward, what _do_ you mean?"

"John Marchmont, the poor fellow who used to teach us mathematics at
Vernon's; the fellow the governor sacked because----"

"Well, what of him?"

"The poor chap with the banner!" exclaimed the boy, in a breathless
whisper; "don't you see, Martin? didn't you recognise him? It's
Marchmont, poor old Marchmont, that we used to chaff, and that the
governor sacked because he had a constitutional cough, and wasn't
strong enough for his work."

"Oh, yes, I remember him well enough," Mr. Mostyn answered,
indifferently. "Nobody could stand his cough, you know; and he was a
vulgar fellow, into the bargain."

"He wasn't a vulgar fellow," said Edward indignantly;--"there, there's
the curtain down again;--he belonged to a good family in Lincolnshire,
and was heir-presumptive to a stunning fortune. I've heard him say so
twenty times."

Martin Mostyn did not attempt to repress an involuntary sneer, which
curled his lips as his cousin spoke.

"Oh, I dare say you've heard _him_ say so, my dear boy," he murmured

"Ah, and it was true," cried Edward; "he wasn't a fellow to tell lies;
perhaps he'd have suited Mr. Vernon better if he had been. He had bad
health, and was weak, and all that sort of thing; but he wasn't a snob.
He showed me a signet-ring once that he used to wear on his

"A _silver_ watch-chain," simpered Mr. Mostyn, "just like a

"Don't be such a supercilious cad, Martin. He was very kind to me, poor
Marchmont; and I know I was always a nuisance to him, poor old fellow;
for you know I never could get on with Euclid. I'm sorry to see him
here. Think, Martin, what an occupation for him! I don't suppose he
gets more than nine or ten shillings a week for it."

"A shilling a night is, I believe, the ordinary remuneration of a
stage-soldier. They pay as much for the real thing as for the sham, you
see; the defenders of our country risk their lives for about the same
consideration. Where are you going, Ned?"

Edward Arundel had left his place, and was trying to undo the door of
the box.

"To see if I can get at this poor fellow."

"You persist in declaring, then, that the man with the weak legs is our
old mathematical drudge? Well, I shouldn't wonder. The fellow was
coughing all through the five acts, and that's uncommonly like
Marchmont. You're surely not going to renew your acquaintance with

But young Arundel had just succeeded in opening the door, and he left
the box without waiting to answer his cousin's question. He made his
way very rapidly out of the theatre, and fought manfully through the
crowds who were waiting about the pit and gallery doors, until he found
himself at the stage-entrance. He had often looked with reverent wonder
at the dark portal; but he had never before essayed to cross the sacred
threshold. But the guardian of the gate to this theatrical paradise,
inhabited by fairies at a guinea a week, and baronial retainers at a
shilling a night, is ordinarily a very inflexible individual, not to be
corrupted by any mortal persuasion, and scarcely corruptible by the
more potent influence of gold or silver. Poor Edward's half-a-crown had
no effect whatever upon the stern door-keeper, who thanked him for his
donation, but told him that it was against his orders to let anybody go

"But I want to see some one so particularly," the boy said eagerly.
"Don't you think you could manage it for me, you know? He's an old
friend of mine,--one of the supernu--what's-its-names?" added Edward,
stumbling over the word. "He carried a banner in the tragedy, you know;
and he's got such an awful cough, poor chap."

"Ze man who garried ze panner vith a gough," said the door-keeper
reflectively. He was an elderly German, and had kept guard at that
classic doorway for half-a-century or so; "Parking Cheremiah."

"Barking Jeremiah!"

"Yes, sir. They gall him Parking pecause he's berbetually goughin' his
poor veag head off; and they gall him Cheremiah pecause he's alvays

"Oh, do let me see him," cried Mr. Edward Arundel. "I know you can
manage it; so do, that's a good fellow. I tell you he's a friend of
mine, and quite a gentleman too. Bless you, there isn't a move in
mathematics he isn't up to; and he'll come into a fortune some of these

"Yaase," interrupted the door-keeper, sarcastically, "Zey bake von of
him pegause off dad."

"And can I see him?"

"I phill dry and vind him vor you. Here, you Chim," said the
door-keeper, addressing a dirty youth, who had just nailed an official
announcement of the next morning's rehearsal upon the back of a
stony-hearted swing-door, which was apt to jam the fingers of the
uninitiated,--"vot is ze name off yat zuber vith ze pad gough, ze man
zay gall Parking."

"Oh, that's Morti-more."

"To you know if he's on in ze virsd zene?"

"Yes. He's one of the demons; but the scene's just over. Do you want

"You gan dake ub zis young chendleman's gard do him, and dell him to
slib town here if he has kod a vaid," said the door-keeper.

Mr. Arundel handed his card to the dirty boy.

"He'll come to me fast enough, poor fellow," he muttered. "I usen't to
chaff him as the others did, and I'm glad I didn't, now."

Edward Arundel could not easily forget that one brief scrutiny in which
he had recognised the wasted face of the schoolmaster's hack, who had
taught him mathematics only two years before. Could there be anything
more piteous than that degrading spectacle? The feeble frame, scarcely
able to sustain that paltry one-sided banner of calico and tinsel; the
two rude daubs of coarse vermilion upon the hollow cheeks; the black
smudges that were meant for eyebrows; the wretched scrap of horsehair
glued upon the pinched chin in dismal mockery of a beard; and through
all this the pathetic pleading of large hazel eyes, bright with the
unnatural lustre of disease, and saying perpetually, more plainly than
words can speak, "Do not look at me; do not despise me; do not even
pity me. It won't last long."

That fresh-hearted schoolboy was still thinking of this, when a wasted
hand was laid lightly and tremulously on his arm, and looking up he saw
a man in a hideous mask and a tight-fitting suit of scarlet and gold
standing by his side.

"I'll take off my mask in a minute, Arundel," said a faint voice, that
sounded hollow and muffled within a cavern of pasteboard and
wickerwork. "It was very good of you to come round; very, very good!"

"I was so sorry to see you here, Marchmont; I knew you in a moment, in
spite of the disguise."

The supernumerary had struggled out of his huge head-gear by this time,
and laid the fabric of papier-mâché and tinsel carefully aside upon a
shelf. He had washed his face before putting on the mask, for he was
not called upon to appear before a British public in martial semblance
any more upon that evening. The pale wasted face was interesting and
gentlemanly, not by any means handsome, but almost womanly in its
softness of expression. It was the face of a man who had not yet seen
his thirtieth birthday; who might never live to see it, Edward Arundel
thought mournfully.

"Why do you do this, Marchmont?" the boy asked bluntly.

"Because there was nothing else left for me to do," the stage-demon
answered with a sad smile. "I can't get a situation in a school, for my
health won't suffer me to take one; or it won't suffer any employer to
take me, for fear of my falling ill upon his hands, which comes to the
same thing; so I do a little copying for the law-stationers, and this
helps out that, and I get on as well as I can. I wouldn't so much mind
if it wasn't for--"

He stopped suddenly, interrupted by a paroxysm of coughing.

"If it wasn't for whom, old fellow?"

"My poor little girl; my poor little motherless Mary."

Edward Arundel looked grave, and perhaps a little ashamed of himself.
He had forgotten until this moment that his old tutor had been left a
widower at four-and-twenty, with a little daughter to support out of
his scanty stipend.

"Don't be down-hearted, old fellow," the lad whispered, tenderly;
"perhaps I shall be able to help you, you know. And the little girl can
go down to Dangerfield; I know my mother would take care of her, and
will keep her there till you get strong and well. And then you might
start a fencing-room, or a shooting-gallery, or something of that sort,
at the West End; and I'd come to you, and bring lots of fellows to you,
and you'd get on capitally, you know."

Poor John Marchmont, the asthmatic supernumerary, looked perhaps the
very last person in the world whom it could be possible to associate
with a pair of foils, or a pistol and a target; but he smiled faintly
at his old pupil's enthusiastic talk.

"You were always a good fellow, Arundel," he said, gravely. "I don't
suppose I shall ever ask you to do me a service; but if, by-and-by,
this cough makes me knock under, and my little Polly should be
left--I--I think you'd get your mother to be kind to her,--wouldn't
you, Arundel?"

A picture rose before the supernumerary's weary eyes as he said this;
the picture of a pleasant lady whose description he had often heard
from the lips of a loving son, a rambling old mansion, wide-spreading
lawns, and long arcades of oak and beeches leading away to the blue
distance. If this Mrs. Arundel, who was so tender and compassionate and
gentle to every red-cheeked cottage-girl who crossed her
pathway,--Edward had told him this very often,--would take compassion
also upon this little one! If she would only condescend to see the
child, the poor pale neglected flower, the fragile lily, the frail
exotic blossom, that was so cruelly out of place upon the bleak
pathways of life!

"If that's all that troubles you," young Arundel cried eagerly, "you
may make your mind easy, and come and have some oysters. We'll take
care of the child. I'll adopt her, and my mother shall educate her, and
she shall marry a duke. Run away, now, old fellow, and change your
clothes, and come and have oysters, and stout out of the pewter."

Mr. Marchmont shook his head.

"My time's just up," he said; "I'm on in the next scene. It was very
kind of you to come round, Arundel; but this isn't exactly the best
place for you. Go back to your friends, my dear boy, and don't think
any more of me. I'll write to you some day about little Mary."

"You'll do nothing of the kind," exclaimed the boy. "You'll give me
your address instanter, and I'll come to see you the first thing
to-morrow morning, and you'll introduce me to little Mary; and if she
and I are not the best friends in the world, I shall never again boast
of my successes with lovely woman. What's the number, old fellow?"

Mr. Arundel had pulled out a smart morocco pocket-book and a gold

"Twenty-seven, Oakley Street, Lambeth. But I'd rather you wouldn't
come, Arundel; your friends wouldn't like it."

"My friends may go hang themselves. I shall do as I like, and I'll be
with you to breakfast, sharp ten."

The supernumerary had no time to remonstrate. The progress of the
music, faintly audible from the lobby in which this conversation had
taken place, told him that his scene was nearly on.

"I can't stop another moment. Go back to your friends, Arundel. Good
night. God bless you!"

"Stay; one word. The Lincolnshire property--"

"Will never come to me, my boy," the demon answered sadly, through his
mask; for he had been busy re-investing himself in that demoniac guise.
"I tried to sell my reversion, but the Jews almost laughed in my face
when they heard me cough. Good night."

He was gone, and the swing-door slammed in Edward Arundel's face. The
boy hurried back to his cousin, who was cross and dissatisfied at his
absence. Martin Mostyn had discovered that the ballet-girls were all
either old or ugly, the music badly chosen, the pantomime stupid, the
scenery a failure. He asked a few supercilious questions about his old
tutor, but scarcely listened to Edward's answers; and was intensely
aggravated with his companion's pertinacity in sitting out the comic
business--in which poor John Marchmont appeared and re-appeared; now as
a well-dressed passenger carrying a parcel, which he deliberately
sacrificed to the felonious propensities of the clown; now as a
policeman, now as a barber, now as a chemist, now as a ghost; but
always buffeted, or cajoled, or bonneted, or imposed upon; always
piteous, miserable, and long-suffering; with arms that ached from
carrying a banner through five acts of blank-verse weariness, with a
head that had throbbed under the weight of a ponderous edifice of
pasteboard and wicker, with eyes that were sore with the evil influence
of blue-fire and gunpowder smoke, with a throat that had been poisoned
by sulphurous vapours, with bones that were stiff with the playful
pummelling of clown and pantaloon; and all for--a shilling a night!



Poor John Marchmont had given his address unwillingly enough to his old
pupil. The lodging in Oakley Street was a wretched back-room upon the
second-floor of a house whose lower regions were devoted to that
species of establishment commonly called a "ladies' wardrobe." The poor
gentleman, the teacher of mathematics, the law-writer, the Drury-Lane
supernumerary, had shrunk from any exposure of his poverty; but his
pupil's imperious good-nature had overridden every objection, and John
Marchmont awoke upon the morning after the meeting at Drury-Lane to the
rather embarrassing recollection that he was to expect a visitor to
breakfast with him.

How was he to entertain this dashing, high-spirited young schoolboy,
whose lot was cast in the pleasant pathways of life, and who was no
doubt accustomed to see at his matutinal meal such luxuries as John
Marchmont had only beheld in the fairy-like realms of comestible beauty
exhibited to hungry foot-passengers behind the plate-glass windows of
Italian warehouses?

"He has hams stewed in Madeira, and Perigord pies, I dare say, at his
Aunt Mostyn's," John thought, despairingly. "What can I give him to

But John Marchmont, after the manner of the poor, was apt to
over-estimate the extravagance of the rich. If he could have seen the
Mostyn breakfast then preparing in the lower regions of Montague
Square, he might have been considerably relieved; for he would have
only beheld mild infusions of tea and coffee--in silver vessels,
certainly--four French rolls hidden under a glistening damask napkin,
six triangular fragments of dry toast, cut from a stale half-quartern,
four new-laid eggs, and about half a pound of bacon cut into rashers of
transcendental delicacy. Widow ladies who have daughters to marry do
not plunge very deep into the books of Messrs. Fortnum and Mason.

"He used to like hot rolls when I was at Vernon's," John thought,
rather more hopefully; "I wonder whether he likes hot rolls still?"

Pondering thus, Mr. Marchmont dressed himself,--very neatly, very
carefully; for he was one of those men whom even poverty cannot rob of
man's proudest attribute, his individuality. He made no noisy protest
against the humiliations to which he was compelled to submit; he
uttered no boisterous assertions of his own merit; he urged no
clamorous demand to be treated as a gentleman in his day of misfortune;
but in his own mild, undemonstrative way he did assert himself, quite
as effectually as if he had raved all day upon the hardship of his lot,
and drunk himself mad and blind under the pressure of his calamities.
He never abandoned the habits which had been peculiar to him from his
childhood. He was as neat and orderly in his second-floor-back as he
had been seven or eight years before in his simple apartments at
Cambridge. He did not recognise that association which most men
perceive between poverty and shirt-sleeves, or poverty and beer. He was
content to wear threadbare cloth, but adhered most obstinately to a
prejudice in favour of clean linen. He never acquired those lounging
vagabond habits peculiar to some men in the day of trouble. Even
amongst the supernumeraries of Drury Lane, he contrived to preserve his
self-respect; if they nicknamed him Barking Jeremiah, they took care
only to pronounce that playful sobriquet when the gentleman-super was
safely out of hearing. He was so polite in the midst of his reserve,
that the person who could wilfully have offended him must have been
more unkindly than any of her Majesty's servants. It is true, that the
great tragedian, on more than one occasion, apostrophised the
weak-kneed banner-holder as "BEAST" when the super's cough had
peculiarly disturbed his composure; but the same great man gave poor
John Marchmont a letter to a distinguished physician, compassionately
desiring the relief of the same pulmonary affection. If John Marchmont
had not been prompted by his own instincts to struggle against the evil
influences of poverty, he would have done battle sturdily for the sake
of one who was ten times dearer to him than himself.

If he _could_ have become a swindler or a reprobate,--it would have
been about as easy for him to become either as to have burst at once,
and without an hour's practice, into a full-blown Léotard or
Olmar,--his daughter's influence would have held him back as securely
as if the slender arms twined tenderly about him had been chains of
adamant forged by an enchanter's power.

How could he be false to his little one, this helpless child, who had
been confided to him in the darkest hour of his existence; the hour in
which his wife had yielded to the many forces arrayed against her in
life's battle, and had left him alone in the world to fight for his
little girl?

"If I were to die, I think Arundel's mother would be kind to her," John
Marchmont thought, as he finished his careful toilet. "Heaven knows, I
have no right to ask or expect such a thing; but Polly will be rich
by-and-by, perhaps, and will be able to repay them."

A little hand knocked lightly at the door of his room while he was
thinking this, and a childish voice said,

"May I come in, papa?"

The little girl slept with one of the landlady's children, in a room
above her father's. John opened the door, and let her in. The pale
wintry sunshine, creeping in at the curtainless window near which Mr.
Marchmont sat, shone full upon the child's face as she came towards
him. It was a small, pale face, with singularly delicate features, a
tiny straight nose, a pensive mouth, and large thoughtful hazel eyes.
The child's hair fell loosely upon her shoulders; not in those
corkscrew curls so much affected by mothers in the humbler walks of
life, nor yet in those crisp undulations lately adopted in Belgravian
nurseries; but in soft silken masses, only curling at the extreme end
of each tress. Miss Marchmont--she was always called Miss Marchmont in
that Oakley Street household--wore her brown-stuff frock and scanty
diaper pinafore as neatly as her father wore his threadbare coat and
darned linen. She was very pretty, very lady-like, very interesting;
but it was impossible to look at her without a vague feeling of pain,
that was difficult to understand. You knew, by-and-by, why you were
sorry for this little girl. She had never been a child. That divine
period of perfect innocence,--innocence of all sorrow and trouble,
falsehood and wrong,--that bright holiday-time of the soul, had never
been hers. The ruthless hand of poverty had snatched away from her the
gift which God had given her in her cradle; and at eight years old she
was a woman,--a woman invested with all that is most beautiful amongst
womanly attributes--love, tenderness, compassion, carefulness for
others, unselfish devotion, uncomplaining patience, heroic endurance.
She was a woman by reason of all these virtues; but she was no longer a
child. At three years old she had bidden farewell for ever to the
ignorant selfishness, the animal enjoyment of childhood, and had
learned what it was to be sorry for poor papa and mamma; and from that
first time of awakening to the sense of pity and love, she had never
ceased to be the comforter of the helpless young husband who was so
soon to be left wifeless.

John had been compelled to leave his child, in order to get a living
for her and for himself in the hard service of Mr. Laurence Vernon, the
principal of the highly select and expensive academy at which Edward
Arundel and Martin Mostyn had been educated. But he had left her in
good hands; and when the bitter day of his dismissal came, he was
scarcely as sorry as he ought to have been for the calamity which
brought him back to his little Mary. It is impossible for any words of
mine to tell how much he loved the child; but take into consideration
his hopeless poverty, his sensitive and reserved nature, his utter
loneliness, the bereavement that had cast a shadow upon his youth, and
you will perhaps understand an affection that was almost morbid in its
intensity, and which was reciprocated most fully by its object. The
little girl loved her father _too much_. When he was with her, she was
content to sit by his side, watching him as he wrote; proud to help
him, if even by so much as wiping his pens or handing him his
blotting-paper; happy to wait upon him, to go out marketing for him, to
prepare his scanty meals, to make his tea, and arrange and re-arrange
every object in the slenderly furnished second-floor back-room. They
talked sometimes of the Lincolnshire fortune,--the fortune which
_might_ come to Mr. Marchmont, if three people, whose lives when Mary's
father had last heard of them, were each worth three times his own
feeble existence, would be so obliging as to clear the way for the
heir-at-law, by taking an early departure to the churchyard. A more
practical man than John Marchmont would have kept a sharp eye upon
these three lives, and by some means or other contrived to find out
whether number one was consumptive, or number two dropsical, or number
three apoplectic; but John was utterly incapable of any such
Machiavellian proceeding. I think he sometimes beguiled his weary walks
between Oakley Street and Drury Lane by the dreaming of such childish
day-dreams as I should be almost ashamed to set down upon this sober
page. The three lives might all happen to be riding in the same express
upon the occasion of a terrible collision; but the poor fellow's gentle
nature shrank appalled before the vision he had invoked. He could not
sacrifice a whole train-full of victims, even for little Mary. He
contented himself with borrowing a "Times" newspaper now and then, and
looking at the top of the second column, with the faint hope that he
should see his own name in large capitals, coupled with the
announcement that by applying somewhere he might hear of something to
his advantage. He contented himself with this, and with talking about
the future to little Mary in the dim firelight. They spent long hours
in the shadowy room, only lighted by the faint flicker of a pitiful
handful of coals; for the commonest dip-candles are
sevenpence-halfpenny a pound, and were dearer, I dare say, in the year
'38. Heaven knows what splendid castles in the air these two
simple-hearted creatures built for each other's pleasure by that
comfortless hearth. I believe that, though the father made a pretence
of talking of these things only for the amusement of his child, he was
actually the more childish of the two. It was only when he left that
fire-lit room, and went back into the hard, reasonable, commonplace
world, that he remembered how foolish the talk was, and how it was
impossible--yes, impossible--that he, the law-writer and supernumerary,
could ever come to be master of Marchmont Towers.

Poor little Mary was in this less practical than her father. She
carried her day-dreams into the street, until all Lambeth was made
glorious by their supernal radiance. Her imagination ran riot in a
vision of a happy future, in which her father would be rich and
powerful. I am sorry to say that she derived most of her ideas of
grandeur from the New Cut. She furnished the drawing-room at Marchmont
Towers from the splendid stores of an upholsterer in that thoroughfare.
She laid flaming Brussels carpets upon the polished oaken floors which
her father had described to her, and hung cheap satin damask of
gorgeous colours before the great oriel windows. She put gilded vases
of gaudy artificial flowers on the high carved mantel-pieces in the old
rooms, and hung a disreputable gray parrot--for sale at a
greengrocer's, and given to the use of bad language--under the stone
colonnnade at the end of the western wing. She appointed the
tradespeople who should serve the far-away Lincolnshire household; the
small matter of distance would, of course, never stand in the way of
her gratitude and benevolence. Her papa would employ the civil
greengrocer who gave such excellent halfpennyworths of watercresses;
the kind butterman who took such pains to wrap up a quarter of a pound
of the best eighteenpenny fresh butter for the customer whom he always
called "little lady;" the considerate butcher who never cut _more_ than
the three-quarters of a pound of rump-steak, which made an excellent
dinner for Mr. Marchmont and his little girl. Yes, all these people
should be rewarded when the Lincolnshire property came to Mary's papa.
Miss Marchmont had some thoughts of building a shop close to Marchmont
Towers for the accommodating butcher, and of adopting the greengrocer's
eldest daughter for her confidante and companion. Heaven knows how many
times the little girl narrowly escaped being run over while walking the
material streets in some ecstatic reverie such as this; but Providence
was very careful of the motherless girl, and she always returned safely
to Oakley Street with her pitiful little purchases of tea and sugar,
butter and meat. You will say, perhaps, that at least these foolish
day-dreams were childish; but I maintain still, that Mary's soul had
long ago bade adieu to infancy, and that even in these visions she was
womanly; for she was always thoughtful of others rather than of
herself, and there was a great deal more of the practical business of
life mingled with the silvery web of her fancies than there should have
been so soon after her eighth birthday. At times, too, an awful horror
would quicken the pulses of her loving heart as she heard the hacking
sound of her father's cough; and a terrible dread would seize her,--the
fear that John Marchmont might never live to inherit the Lincolnshire
fortune. The child never said her prayers without adding a little
extempore supplication, that she might die when her father died. It was
a wicked prayer, perhaps; and a clergyman might have taught her that
her life was in the hands of Providence; and that it might please Him
who had created her to doom her to many desolate years of loneliness;
and that it was not for her, in her wretched and helpless ignorance, to
rebel against His divine will. I think if the Archbishop of Canterbury
had driven from Lambeth Palace to Oakley Street to tell little Mary
this, he would have taught her in vain; and that she would have fallen
asleep that night with the old prayer upon her lips, the fond foolish
prayer that the bonds which love had woven so firmly might never be
roughly broken by death.

Miss Marchmont heard the story of last night's meeting with great
pleasure, though it must be owned she looked a little grave when she
was told that the generous-hearted school-boy was coming to breakfast;
but her gravity was only that of a thoughtful housekeeper, who ponders
ways and means, and even while you are telling her the number and
quality of your guests, sketches out a rough ground-plan of her dishes,
considers the fish in season, and the soups most fitting to precede
them, and balances the contending advantages of Palestine and Julienne
or Hare and Italian.

"A 'nice' breakfast you say, papa," she said, when her father had
finished speaking; "then we must have watercresses, _of course_."

"And hot rolls, Polly dear. Arundel was always fond of hot rolls."

"And hot rolls, four for threepence-halfpenny in the Cut."--(I am
ashamed to say that this benighted child talked as deliberately of the
"Cut" as she might have done of the "Row.")--"There'll be one left for
tea, papa; for we could never eat four rolls. They'll take _such_ a lot
of butter, though."

The little housekeeper took out an antediluvian bead-purse, and began
to examine her treasury. Her father handed all his money to her, as he
would have done to his wife; and Mary doled him out the little sums he
wanted,--money for half an ounce of tobacco, money for a pint of beer.
There were no penny papers in those days, or what a treat an occasional
"Telegraph" would have been to poor John Marchmont!

Mary had only one personal extravagance. She read novels,--dirty,
bloated, ungainly volumes,--which she borrowed from a snuffy old woman
in a little back street, who charged her the smallest hire ever known
in the circulating-library business, and who admired her as a wonder of
precocious erudition. The only pleasure the child knew in her father's
absence was the perusal of these dingy pages; she neglected no duty,
she forgot no tender office of ministering care for the loved one who
was absent; but when all the little duties had been finished, how
delicious it was to sit down to "Madeleine the Deserted," or "Cosmo the
Pirate," and to lose herself far away in illimitable regions, peopled
by wandering princesses in white satin, and gentlemanly bandits, who
had been stolen from their royal fathers' halls by vengeful hordes of
gipsies. During these early years of poverty and loneliness, John
Marchmont's daughter stored up, in a mind that was morbidly sensitive
rather than strong, a terrible amount of dim poetic sentiment; the
possession of which is scarcely, perhaps, the best or safest dower for
a young lady who has life's journey all before her.

At half-past nine o'clock, all the simple preparations necessary for
the reception of a visitor had been completed by Mr. Marchmont and his
daughter. All vestiges of John's bed had disappeared; leaving, it is
true, rather a suspicious-looking mahogany chest of drawers to mark the
spot where once a bed had been. The window had been opened, the room
aired and dusted, a bright little fire burned in the shining grate, and
the most brilliant of tin tea-kettles hissed upon the hob. The white
table-cloth was darned in several places; but it was a remnant of the
small stock of linen with which John had begun married life; and the
Irish damask asserted its superior quality, in spite of many darns, as
positively as Mr. Marchmont's good blood asserted itself in spite of
his shabby coat. A brown teapot full of strong tea, a plate of French
rolls, a pat of fresh butter, and a broiled haddock, do not compose a
very epicurean repast; but Mary Marchmont looked at the humble
breakfast as a prospective success.

"We could have haddocks every day at Marchmont Towers, couldn't we,
papa?" she said naïvely.

But the little girl was more than delighted when Edward Arundel dashed
up the narrow staircase, and burst into the room, fresh, radiant,
noisy, splendid, better dressed even than the waxen preparations of
elegant young gentlemen exhibited at the portal of a great outfitter in
the New Cut, and yet not at all like either of those red-lipped types
of fashion. How delighted the boy declared himself with every thing! He
had driven over in a cabriolet, and he was awfully hungry, he informed
his host. The rolls and watercresses disappeared before him as if by
magic; little Mary shivered at the slashing cuts he made at the butter;
the haddock had scarcely left the gridiron before it was no more.

"This is ten times better than Aunt Mostyn's skinny breakfasts," the
young gentleman observed candidly. "You never get enough with her. Why
does she say, 'You won't take another egg, will you, Edward?' if she
wants me to have one? You should see our hunting-breakfasts at
Dangerfield, Marchmont. Four sorts of claret, and no end of Moselle and
champagne. You shall go to Dangerfield some day, to see my mother, Miss

He called her "Miss Mary," and seemed rather shy of speaking to her.
Her womanliness impressed him in spite of himself. He had a fancy that
she was old enough to feel the humiliation of her father's position,
and to be sensitive upon the matter of the two-pair back; and he was
sorry the moment after he had spoken of Dangerfield.

"What a snob I am!" he thought; "always bragging of home."

But Mr. Arundel was not able to stop very long in Oakley Street, for
the supernumerary had to attend a rehearsal at twelve o'clock; so at
half-past eleven John Marchmont and his pupil went out together, and
little Mary was left alone to clear away the breakfast, and perform the
rest of her household duties.

She had plenty of time before her, so she did not begin at once, but
sat upon a stool near the fender, gazing dreamily at the low fire.

"How good and kind he is!" she thought; "just like Cosmo,--only Cosmo
was dark; or like Reginald Ravenscroft,--but then he was dark too. I
wonder why the people in novels are always dark? How kind he is to
papa! Shall we ever go to Dangerfield, I wonder, papa and I? Of course
I wouldn't go without papa."



While Mary sat absorbed in such idle visions as these, Mr. Marchmont
and his old pupil walked towards Waterloo Bridge together.

"I'll go as far as the theatre with you, Marchmont," the boy said;
"it's my holidays now, you know, and I can do as I like. I am going to
a private tutor in another month, and he's to prepare me for the army.
I want you to tell me all about that Lincolnshire property, old boy. Is
it anywhere near Swampington?"

"Yes; within nine miles."

"Goodness gracious me! Lord bless my soul! what an extraordinary
coincidence! My uncle Hubert's Rector of Swampington--such a hole! I go
there sometimes to see him and my cousin Olivia. Isn't she a stunner,
though! Knows more Greek and Latin than I, and more mathematics than
you. Could eat our heads off at any thing."

John Marchmont did not seem very much impressed by the coincidence that
appeared so extraordinary to Edward Arundel; but, in order to oblige
his friend, he explained very patiently and lucidly how it was that
only three lives stood between him and the possession of Marchmont
Towers, and all lands and tenements appertaining thereto.

"The estate's a very large one," he said finally; "but the idea of _my_
ever getting it is, of course, too preposterous."

"Good gracious me! I don't see that at all," exclaimed Edward with
extraordinary vivacity. "Let me see, old fellow; if I understand your
story right, this is how the case stands: your first cousin is the
present possessor of Marchmont Towers; he has a son, fifteen years of
age, who may or may not marry; only one son, remember. But he has also
an uncle--a bachelor uncle, and your uncle, too--who, by the terms of
your grandfather's will, must get the property before you can succeed
to it. Now, this uncle is an old man: so of course _he'll_ die soon.
The present possessor himself is a middle-aged man; so I shouldn't
think _he_ can be likely to last long. I dare say he drinks too much
port, or hunts, or something of that sort; goes to sleep after dinner,
and does all manner of apoplectic things, I'll be bound. Then there's
the son, only fifteen, and not yet marriageable; consumptive, I dare
say. Now, will you tell me the chances are not six to six he dies
unmarried? So you see, my dear old boy, you're sure to get the fortune;
for there's nothing to keep you out of it, except--"

"Except three lives, the worst of which is better than mine. It's kind
of you to look at it in this sanguine way, Arundel; but I wasn't born
to be a rich man. Perhaps, after all, Providence has used me better
than I think. I mightn't have been happy at Marchmont Towers. I'm a
shy, awkward, humdrum fellow. If it wasn't for Mary's sake--"

"Ah, to be sure!" cried Edward Arundel. "You're not going to forget all
about--Miss Marchmont!" He was going to say "little Mary," but had
checked himself abruptly at the sudden recollection of the earnest
hazel eyes that had kept wondering watch upon his ravages at the
breakfast-table. "I'm sure Miss Marchmont's born to be an heiress. I
never saw such a little princess."

"What!" demanded John Marchmont sadly, "in a darned pinafore and a
threadbare frock?"

The boy's face flushed, almost indignantly, as his old master said

"You don't think I'm such a snob as to admire a lady"--he spoke thus of
Miss Mary Marchmont, yet midway between her eighth and ninth
birthday--"the less because she isn't rich? But of course your daughter
will have the fortune by-and-by, even if--"

He stopped, ashamed of his want of tact; for he knew John would divine
the meaning of that sudden pause.

"Even if I should die before Philip Marchmont," the teacher of
mathematics answered, quietly. "As far as that goes, Mary's chance is
as remote as my own. The fortune can only come to her in the event of
Arthur dying without issue, or, having issue, failing to cut off the
entail, I believe they call it."

"Arthur! that's the son of the present possessor?"

"Yes. If I and my poor little girl, who is delicate like her mother,
should die before either of these three men, there is another who will
stand in my shoes, and will look out perhaps more eagerly than I have
done for his chances of getting the property."

"Another!" exclaimed Mr. Arundel. "By Jove, Marchmont, it's the most
complicated affair I ever heard of. It's worse than those sums you used
to set me in barter: 'If A. sells B. 999 Stilton cheeses at 9 1/2_d_ a
pound,' and all that sort of thing, you know. Do make me understand it,
old fellow, if you can."

John Marchmont sighed.

"It's a wearisome story, Arundel," he said. "I don't know why I should
bore you with it."

"But you don't bore me with it," cried the boy energetically. "I'm
awfully interested in it, you know; and I could walk up and down here
all day talking about it."

The two gentlemen had passed the Surrey toll-gate of Waterloo Bridge by
this time. The South-Western Terminus had not been built in the year
'38, and the bridge was about the quietest thoroughfare any two
companions confidentially inclined could have chosen. The shareholders
knew this, to their cost.

Perhaps Mr. Marchmont might have been beguiled into repeating the old
story, which he had told so often in the dim firelight to his little
girl; but the great clock of St. Paul's boomed forth the twelve
ponderous strokes that told the hour of noon, and a hundred other
steeples upon either side of the water made themselves clamorous with
the same announcement.

"I must leave you, Arundel," the supernumerary said hurriedly; he had
just remembered that it was time for him to go and be browbeaten by a
truculent stage-manager. "God bless you, my dear boy! It was very good
of you to want to see me, and the sight of your fresh face has made me
very happy. I _should_ like you to understand all about the
Lincolnshire property. God knows there's small chance of its ever
coming to me or to my child; but when I am dead and gone, Mary will be
left alone in the world, and it would be some comfort to me to know
that she was not without _one_ friend--generous and disinterested like
you, Arundel,--who, if the chance _did_ come, would see her righted."

"And so I would," cried the boy eagerly. His face flushed, and his eyes
fired. He was a preux chevalier already, in thought, going forth to do
battle for a hazel-eyed mistress.

"I'll _write_ the story, Arundel," John Marchmont said; "I've no time
to tell it, and you mightn't remember it either. Once more, good-bye;
once more, God bless you!"

"Stop!" exclaimed Edward Arundel, flushing a deeper red than
before,--he had a very boyish habit of blushing,--"stop, dear old boy.
You must borrow this of me, please. I've lots of them. I should only
spend it on all sorts of bilious things; or stop out late and get
tipsy. You shall pay me with interest when you get Marchmont Towers. I
shall come and see you again soon. Good-bye."

The lad forced some crumpled scrap of paper into his old tutor's hand,
bolted through the toll-bar, and jumped into a cabriolet, whose
high-stepping charger was dawdling along Lancaster Place.

The supernumerary hurried on to Drury Lane as fast as his weak legs
could carry him. He was obliged to wait for a pause in the rehearsal
before he could find an opportunity of looking at the parting gift
which his old pupil had forced upon him. It was a crumpled and rather
dirty five-pound note, wrapped round two half-crowns, a shilling, and

The boy had given his friend the last remnant of his slender stock of
pocket-money. John Marchmont turned his face to the dark wing that
sheltered him, and wept silently. He was of a gentle and rather womanly
disposition, be it remembered; and he was in that weak state of health
in which a man's eyes are apt to moisten, in spite of himself, under
the influence of any unwonted emotion.

He employed a part of that afternoon in writing the letter which he had
promised to send to his boyish friend:--


"My purpose in writing to you to-day is so entirely connected with the
future welfare of my beloved and only child, that I shall carefully
abstain from any subject not connected with her interests. I say
nothing, therefore, respecting your conduct of this morning, which,
together with my previous knowledge of your character, has decided me
upon confiding to you the doubts and fears which have long tormented me
upon the subject of my darling's future.

"I am a doomed man, Arundel! The doctors have told me this; but they
have told me also that, though I can never escape the sentence of death
which was passed upon me long ago, I may live for some years if I live
the careful life which only a rich man can lead. If I go on carrying
banners and breathing sulphur, I cannot last long. My little girl will
be left penniless, but not quite friendless; for there are humble
people, relatives of her poor mother, who would help her kindly, I am
sure, in their own humble way. The trials which I fear for my orphan
girl are not so much the trials of poverty as the dangers of wealth. If
the three men who, on my death, would alone stand between Mary and the
Lincolnshire property die childless, my poor darling will become the
only obstacle in the pathway of a man whom, I will freely own to you, I

"My father, John Marchmont, was the third of four brothers. The eldest,
Philip, died leaving one son, also called Philip, and the present
possessor of Marchmont Towers. The second, Marmaduke, is still alive, a
bachelor. The third, John, left four children, of whom I alone survive.
The fourth, Paul, left a son and two daughters. The son is an artist,
exercising his profession now in London; one of the daughters is
married to a parish surgeon, who practises at Stanfield, in
Lincolnshire; the other is an old maid, and entirely dependent upon her

"It is this man, Paul Marchmont the artist, whom I fear.

"Do not think me weak, or foolishly suspicious, Arundel, when I tell
you that the very thought of this man brings the cold sweat upon my
forehead, and seems to stop the beating of my heart. I know that this
is a prejudice, and an unworthy one. I do not believe Paul Marchmont is
a good man; but I can assign no sufficient reason for my hatred and
terror of him. It is impossible for you, a frank and careless boy, to
realise the feelings of a man who looks at his only child, and
remembers that she may soon be left, helpless and defenceless, to fight
the battle of life with a bad man. Sometimes I pray to God that the
Marchmont property may never come to my child after my death; for I
cannot rid myself of the thought--may Heaven forgive me for its
unworthiness!--that Paul Marchmont would leave no means untried,
however foul, to wrest the fortune from her. I dare say worldly people
would laugh at me for writing this letter to you, my dear Arundel; but
I address myself to the best friend I have,--the only creature I know
whom the influence of a bad man is never likely to corrupt. _Noblesse
oblige!_ I am not afraid that Edward Dangerfield Arundel will betray
any trust, however foolish, that may have been confided to him.

"Perhaps, in writing to you thus, I may feel something of that blind
hopefulness--amid the shipwreck of all that commonly gives birth to
hope--which the mariner cast away upon some desert island feels, when
he seals his simple story in a bottle, and launches it upon the waste
of waters that close him in on every side. Before my little girl is
four years older, you will be a man, Arundel--with a man's intellect, a
man's courage, and, above all, a man's keen sense of honour. So long as
my darling remains poor, her humble friends will be strong enough to
protect her; but if ever Providence should think fit to place her in a
position of antagonism to Paul Marchmont,--for he would look upon any
one as an enemy who stood between him and fortune,--she would need a
far more powerful protector than any she could find amongst her poor
mother's relatives. Will _you_ be that protector, Edward Arundel? I am
a drowning man, you see, and catch at the frailest straw that floats
past me. I believe in you, Edward, as much as I distrust Paul
Marchmont. If the day ever comes in which my little girl should have to
struggle with this man, will you help her to fight the battle? It will
not be an easy one.

"Subjoined to this letter I send you an extract from the copy of my
grandfather's will, which will explain to you how he left his property.
Do not lose either the letter or the extract. If you are willing to
undertake the trust which I confide to you to-day, you may have need to
refer to them after my death. The legacy of a child's helplessness is
the only bequest which I can leave to the only friend I have.



"_December_ 30_th_, 1838.

 * * * * *


"'I give and devise all that my estate known as Marchmont Towers and
appurtenances thereto belonging to the use of my eldest son Philip
Marchmont during his natural life without impeachment of waste and from
and after his decease then to the use of my grandson Philip the first
son of my said son Philip during the term of his natural life without
impeachment of waste and after the decease of my said grandson Philip
to the use of the first and every other son of my said grandson
severally and successively according to their respective seniority in
tail and for default of such issue to the use of all and every the
daughters and daughter of my said grandson Philip as tenants in common
in tail with cross remainders between or amongst them in tail and if
all the daughters of my said grandson Philip except one shall die
without issue or if there shall be but one such daughter then to the
use of such one or only daughter in tail and in default of such issue
then to the use of the second and every other son of my said eldest son
severally and successively according to his respective seniority in
tail and in default of such issue to the use of all and every the
daughters and daughter of my said eldest son Philip as tenants in
common in tail with cross remainders between or amongst them in tail
and in default of such issue to the use of my second son Marmaduke and
his assigns during the term of his natural life without impeachment of
waste and after his decease to the use of the first and every son of my
said son Marmaduke severally and successively according to their
respective seniorities in tail and for default of such issue to the use
of all and every the daughters and daughter of my said son Marmaduke as
tenants in common in tail with cross remainders between or amongst them
in tail and if all the daughters of my said son Marmaduke except one
shall die without issue or if there shall be but one such daughter then
to the use of such one or only daughter in tail and in default of such
issue then to the use of my third son John during the term of his
natural life without impeachment of waste and from and after his
decease then to the use of my grandson John the first son of my said
son John during the term of his natural life without impeachment of
waste and after the decease of my said grandson John to the use of the
first and every other son of my said grandson John severally and
successively according to their respective seniority in tail and for
default of such issue to the use of all and every the daughters and
daughter of my said grandson John as tenants in common in tail with
cross remainders between or among them in tail and if all the daughters
of my said grandson John except one shall die without issue or if there
shall be but one such daughter' [_This, you will see, is my little
Mary_] 'then to the use of such one or only daughter in tail and in
default of such issue then to the use of the second and every other son
of my said third son John severally and successively according to his
respective seniority in tail and in default of such issue to the use of
all and every the daughters and daughter of my said third son John as
tenants in common in tail with cross remainders between or amongst them
in tail and in default of such issue to the use of my fourth son Paul
during the term of his natural life without impeachment of waste and
from and after his decease then to the use of my grandson Paul the son
of my said son Paul during his natural life without impeachment of
waste and after the decease of my said grandson Paul to the use of the
first and every other son of my said grandson severally and
successively according to their respective seniority in tail and for
default of such issue to the use of all and every the daughters and
daughter of my said grandson Paul as tenants in common in tail with
cross remainders between or amongst them in tail and if all the
daughters of my said grandson Paul except one shall die without issue
or if there shall be but one such daughter then to the use of such one
or only daughter in tail and in default of such issue then to the use
of the second and every other son of my said fourth son Paul severally
and successively according to his respective seniority in tail and in
default of such issue to the use of all and every the daughters and
daughter of my said fourth son Paul as tenants in common in tail with
cross remainders between or amongst them in tail,' &c. &c.

"P.S.--Then comes what the lawyers call a general devise to trustees,
to preserve the contingent remainders before devised from being
destroyed; but what that means, perhaps you can get somebody to tell
you. I hope it may be some legal jargon to preserve my _very_
contingent remainder."

 * * * * *

The tone of Edward Arundel's answer to this letter was more
characteristic of the writer than in harmony with poor John's solemn

"You dear, foolish old Marchmont," the lad wrote, "of course I shall
take care of Miss Mary; and my mother shall adopt her, and she shall
live at Dangerfield, and be educated with my sister Letitia, who has
the jolliest French governess, and a German maid for conversation; and
don't let Paul Marchmont try on any of his games with me, that's all!
But what do you mean, you ridiculous old boy, by talking about dying,
and drowning, and shipwrecked mariners, and catching at straws, and all
that sort of humbug, when you know very well that you'll live to
inherit the Lincolnshire property, and that I'm coming to you every
year to shoot, and that you're going to build a tennis-court,--of
course there _is_ a billiard-room,--and that you're going to have a
stud of hunters, and be master of the hounds, and no end of bricks to

"Your ever devoted Roman countryman and lover,



"_December_ 3l_st_, 1838.

"P.S.--By-the-bye, don't you think a situation in a lawyer's office
would suit you better than the T. R. D. L.? If you do, I think I could
manage it. A happy new year to Miss Mary!"

 * * * * *

It was thus that Mr. Edward Arundel accepted the solemn trust which his
friend confided to him in all simplicity and good faith. Mary Marchmont
herself was not more innocent in the ways of the world outside Oakley
Street, the Waterloo Road, and the New Cut, than was the little girl's
father; nothing seemed more natural to him than to intrust the doubtful
future of his only child to the bright-faced handsome boy, whose early
boyhood had been unblemished by a mean sentiment or a dishonourable
action. John Marchmont had spent three years in the Berkshire Academy
at which Edward and his cousin, Martin Mostyn, had been educated; and
young Arundel, who was far behind his kinsman in the comprehension of a
problem in algebra, had been wise enough to recognise that paradox
which Martin Mostyn could not understand--a gentleman in a shabby coat.
It was thus that a friendship had arisen between the teacher of
mathematics and his handsome pupil; and it was thus that an unreasoning
belief in Edward Arundel had sprung up in John's simple mind.

"If my little girl were certain of inheriting the fortune," Mr.
Marchmont thought, "I might find many who would be glad to accept my
trust, and to serve her well and faithfully. But the chance is such a
remote one. I cannot forget how the Jews laughed at me two years ago,
when I tried to borrow money upon my reversionary interest. No! I must
trust this brave-hearted boy, for I have no one else to confide in; and
who else is there who would not ridicule my fear of my cousin Paul?"

Indeed, Mr. Marchmont had some reason to be considerably ashamed of his
antipathy to the young artist working for his bread, and for the bread
of his invalid mother and unmarried sister, in that bitter winter of
'38; working patiently and hopefully, in despite of all discouragement,
and content to live a joyless and monotonous life in a dingy lodging
near Fitzroy Square. I can find no excuse for John Marchmont's
prejudice against an industrious and indefatigable young man, who was
the sole support of two helpless women. Heaven knows, if to be adored
by two women is any evidence of a man's virtue, Paul must have been the
best of men; for Stephanie Marchmont, and her daughter Clarisse,
regarded the artist with a reverential idolatry that was not without a
tinge of romance. I can assign no reason, then, for John's dislike of
his cousin. They had been schoolfellows at a wretched suburban school,
where the children of poor people were boarded, lodged, and educated
all the year round for a pitiful stipend of something under twenty
pounds. One of the special points of the prospectus was the
announcement that there were no holidays; for the jovial Christmas
gatherings of merry faces, which are so delightful to the wealthy
citizens of Bloomsbury or Tyburnia, take another complexion in
poverty-stricken households, whose scantily-stocked larders can ill
support the raids of rawboned lads clamorous for provender. The two
boys had met at a school of this calibre, and had never met since. They
may not have been the best friends, perhaps, at the classical academy;
but their quarrels were by no means desperate. They may have rather
freely discussed their several chances of the Lincolnshire property;
but I have no romantic story to tell of a stirring scene in the humble
schoolroom--no exciting record of deadly insult and deep vows of
vengeance. No inkstand was ever flung by one boy into the face of the
other; no savage blow from a horsewhip ever cut a fatal scar across the
brow of either of the cousins. John Marchmont would have been almost as
puzzled to account for his objection to his kinsman, as was the
nameless gentleman who so naïvely confessed his dislike of Dr. Fell. I
fear that a great many of our likings and dislikings are too apt to be
upon the Dr. Fell principle. Mr. Wilkie Collins's Basil could not tell
_why_ he fell madly in love with the lady whom it was his evil fortune
to meet in an omnibus; nor why he entertained an uncomfortable feeling
about the gentleman who was to be her destroyer. David Copperfield
disliked Uriah Heep even before he had any substantial reason for
objecting to the evil genius of Agnes Wickfield's father. The boy
disliked the snake-like schemer of Canterbury because his eyes were
round and red, and his hands clammy and unpleasant to the touch.
Perhaps John Marchmont's reasons for his aversion to his cousin were
about as substantial as those of Master Copperfield. It may be that the
schoolboy disliked his comrade because Paul Marchmont's handsome grey
eyes were a little too near together; because his thin and delicately
chiselled lips were a thought too tightly compressed; because his
cheeks would fade to an awful corpse-like whiteness under circumstances
which would have brought the rushing life-blood, hot and red, into
another boy's face; because he was silent and suppressed when it would
have been more natural to be loud and clamorous; because he could smile
under provocations that would have made another frown; because, in
short, there was that about him which, let it be found where it will,
always gives birth to suspicion,--MYSTERY!

So the cousins had parted, neither friends nor foes, to tread their
separate roads in the unknown country, which is apt to seem barren and
desolate enough to travellers who foot it in hobnailed boots
considerably the worse for wear; and as the iron hand of poverty held
John Marchmont even further back than Paul upon the hard road which
each had to tread, the quiet pride of the teacher of mathematics most
effectually kept him out of his kinsman's way. He had only heard enough
of Paul to know that he was living in London, and working hard for a
living; working as hard as John himself, perhaps; but at least able to
keep afloat in a higher social position than the law-stationer's hack
and the banner-holder of Drury Lane.

But Edward Arundel did not forget his friends in Oakley Street. The boy
made a morning call upon his father's solicitors, Messrs. Paulette,
Paulette, and Mathewson, of Lincoln's Inn Fields, and was so extremely
eloquent in his needy friend's cause, as to provoke the good-natured
laughter of one of the junior partners, who declared that Mr. Edward
Arundel ought to wear a silk gown before he was thirty. The result of
this interview was, that before the first month of the new year was
out, John Marchmont had abandoned the classic banner and the demoniac
mask to a fortunate successor, and had taken possession of a
hard-seated, slim-legged stool in one of the offices of Messrs.
Paulette, Paulette, and Mathewson, as copying and out-door clerk, at a
salary of thirty shillings a week.

So little Mary entered now upon a golden age, in which her evenings
were no longer desolate and lonely, but spent pleasantly with her
father in the study of such learning as was suited to her years, or
perhaps rather to her capacity, which was far beyond her years; and on
certain delicious nights, to be remembered ever afterwards, John
Marchmont took his little girl to the gallery of one or other of the
transpontine theatres; and I am sorry to say that my heroine--for she
is to be my heroine by-and-by--sucked oranges, ate Abernethy biscuits,
and cooled her delicate nose against the iron railing of the gallery,
after the manner of the masses when they enjoy the British Drama.

But all this time John Marchmont was utterly ignorant of one rather
important fact in the history of those three lives which he was apt to
speak of as standing between him and Marchmont Towers. Young Arthur
Marchmont, the immediate heir of the estate, had been shot to death
upon the 1st of September, 1838, without blame to anyone or anything
but his own boyish carelessness, which had induced him to scramble
through a hedge with his fowling-piece, the costly present of a doating
father, loaded and on full-cock. This melancholy event, which had been
briefly recorded in all the newspapers, had never reached the knowledge
of poor John Marchmont, who had no friends to busy themselves about his
interests, or to rush eagerly to carry him any intelligence affecting
his prosperity. Nor had he read the obituary notice respecting
Marmaduke Marchmont, the bachelor, who had breathed his last stertorous
breath in a fit of apoplexy exactly one twelvemonth before the day upon
which Edward Arundel breakfasted in Oakley Street.



Edward Arundel went from Montague Square straight into the household of
the private tutor of whom he had spoken, there to complete his
education, and to be prepared for the onerous duties of a military
life. From the household of this private tutor he went at once into a
cavalry regiment; after sundry examinations, which were not nearly so
stringent in the year one thousand eight hundred and forty, as they
have since become. Indeed, I think the unfortunate young cadets who are
educated upon the high-pressure system, and who are expected to give a
synopsis of Portuguese political intrigue during the eighteenth
century, a scientific account of the currents of the Red Sea, and a
critical disquisition upon the comedies of Aristophanes as compared
with those of Pedro Calderon de la Barca, not forgetting to glance at
the effect of different ages and nationalities upon the respective
minds of the two playwrights, within a given period of, say
half-an-hour,--would have envied Mr. Arundel for the easy manner in
which he obtained his commission in a distinguished cavalry regiment.
Mr. Edward Arundel therefore inaugurated the commencement of the year
1840 by plunging very deeply into the books of a crack military-tailor
in New Burlington Street, and by a visit to Dangerfield Park; where he
went to make his adieux before sailing for India, whither his regiment
had just been ordered.

I do not doubt that Mrs Arundel was very sorrowful at this sudden
parting with her yellow-haired younger son. The boy and his mother
walked together in the wintry sunset under the leafless beeches at
Dangerfield, and talked of the dreary voyage that lay before the lad;
the arid plains and cruel jungles far away; perils by sea and perils by
land; but across them all, Fame waving her white beckoning arms to the
young soldier, and crying, "Come, conqueror that shall be! come,
through trial and danger, through fever and famine,--come to your rest
upon my bloodstained lap!" Surely this boy, being only just eighteen
years of age, may be forgiven if he is a little romantic, a little over
eager and impressionable, a little too confident that the next thing to
going out to India as a sea-sick subaltern in a great transport-ship is
coming home with the reputation of a Clive. Perhaps he may be forgiven,
too, if, in his fresh enthusiasm, he sometimes forgot the shabby friend
whom he had helped little better than a twelvemonth before, and the
earnest hazel eyes that had shone upon him in the pitiful Oakley Street
chamber. I do not say that he was utterly unmindful of his old teacher
of mathematics. It was not in his nature to forget anyone who had need
of his services; for this boy, so eager to be a soldier, was of the
chivalrous temperament, and would have gone out to die for his
mistress, or his friend, if need had been. He had received two or three
grateful letters from John Marchmont; and in these letters the lawyer's
clerk had spoken pleasantly of his new life, and hopefully of his
health, which had improved considerably, he said, since his resignation
of the tragic banner and the pantomimic mask. Neither had Edward quite
forgotten his promise of enlisting Mrs. Arundel's sympathies in aid of
the motherless little girl. In one of these wintry walks beneath the
black branches at Dangerfield, the lad had told the sorrowful story of
his well-born tutor's poverty and humiliation.

"Only think, mother!" he cried at the end of the little history. "I saw
the poor fellow carrying a great calico flag, and marching about at the
heel of a procession, to be laughed at by the costermongers in the
gallery; and I know that he belongs to a capital Lincolnshire family,
and will come in for no end of money if he only lives long enough. But
if he should die, mother, and leave his little girl destitute, you'll
look after her, won't you?"

I don't know whether Mrs. Arundel quite entered into her son's ideas
upon the subject of adopting Mary Marchmont, or whether she had any
definite notion of bringing the little girl home to Dangerfield for the
natural term of her life, in the event of the child being left an
orphan. But she was a kind and charitable lady, and she scarcely cared
to damp her boy's spirits by holding forth upon the doubtful wisdom of
his adopting, or promising to adopt, any stray orphans who might cross
his pathway.

"I hope the little girl may not lose her father, Edward," she said
gently. "Besides, dear, you say that Mr. Marchmont tells you he has
humble friends, who would take the child if anything happened to him.
He does not wish us to adopt the little girl; he only asks us to
interest ourselves in her fate."

"And you will do that, mother darling?" cried the boy. "You will take
an interest in her, won't you? You couldn't help doing so, if you were
to see her. She's not like a child, you know,--not a bit like Letitia.
She's as grave and quiet as you are, mother,--or graver, I think; and
she looks like a lady, in spite of her poor, shabby pinafore and

"Does she wear shabby frocks?" said the mother. "I could help her in
that matter, at all events, Ned. I might send her a great trunk-full of
Letitia's things: she outgrows them before they have been worn long
enough to be shabby."

The boy coloured, and shook his head.

"It's very kind of you to think of it, mother dear; but I don't think
that would quite answer," he said.

"Why not?"

"Because, you see, John Marchmont is a gentleman; and, you know, though
he's so dreadfully poor now, he _is_ heir to Marchmont Towers. And
though he didn't mind doing any thing in the world to earn a few
shillings a week, he mightn't like to take cast-off clothes."

So nothing more was to be said or done upon the subject.

Edward Arundel wrote his humble friend a pleasant letter, in which he
told John that he had enlisted his mother's sympathy in Mary's cause,
and in which he spoke in very glowing terms of the Indian expedition
that lay before him.

"I wish I could come to say good-bye to you and Miss Mary before I go,"
he wrote; "but that's impossible. I go straight from here to
Southampton by coach at the end of this month, and the _Auckland_ sails
on the 2nd of February. Tell Miss Mary I shall bring her home all kinds
of pretty presents from Affghanistan,--ivory fans, and Cashmere shawls,
and Chinese puzzles, and embroidered slippers with turned-up toes, and
diamonds, and attar-of-roses, and suchlike; and remember that I expect
you to write to me, and to give me the earliest news of your coming
into the Lincolnshire property."

John Marchmont received this letter in the middle of January. He gave a
despondent sigh as he refolded the boyish epistle, after reading it to
his little girl.

"We haven't so many friends, Polly," he said, "that we should be
indifferent to the loss of this one."

Mary Marchmont's cheek grew paler at her father's sorrowful speech.
That imaginative temperament, which was, as I have said, almost morbid
in its intensity, presented every object to the little girl in a light
in which things are looked at by very few children. Only these few
words, and her fancy roamed far away to that cruel land whose perils
her father had described to her. Only these few words, and she was away
in the rocky Bolan Pass, under hurricanes of drifting snow; she saw the
hungry soldiers fighting with savage dogs for the possession of foul
carrion. She had heard all the perils and difficulties which had
befallen the Army of the Indus in the year '39, and the womanly heart
ached with the pain of those cruel memories.

"He will go to India and be killed, papa dear," she said. "Oh! why, why
do they let him go? His mother can't love him, can she? She would never
let him go, if she did."

John Marchmont was obliged to explain to his daughter that motherly
love must not go so far as to deprive a nation of its defenders; and
that the richest jewels which Cornelia can give to her country are
those ruby life-drops which flow from the hearts of her bravest and
brightest sons. Mary was no political economist; she could not reason
upon the necessity of chastising Persian insolence, or checking Russian
encroachments upon the far-away shores of the Indus. Was Edward
Arundel's bright head, with its aureola of yellow hair, to be cloven
asunder by an Affghan renegade's sabre, because the young Shah of
Persia had been contumacious?

Mary Marchmont wept silently that day over a three-volume novel, while
her father was away serving writs upon wretched insolvents, in his
capacity of out-door clerk to Messrs. Paulette, Paulette, and

The young lady no longer spent her quiet days in the two-pair back. Mr.
Marchmont and his daughter had remained faithful to Oakley Street and
the proprietress of the ladies' wardrobe, who was a good, motherly
creature; but they had descended to the grandeur of the first floor,
whose gorgeous decorations Mary had glanced at furtively in the days
gone by, when the splendid chambers were occupied by an elderly and
reprobate commission-agent, who seemed utterly indifferent to the
delights of a convex mirror, surmounted by a maimed eagle, whose
dignity was somewhat impaired by the loss of a wing; but which bijou
appeared, to Mary, to be a fitting adornment for the young Queen's
palace in St. James's Park.

But neither the eagle nor the third volume of a thrilling romance could
comfort Mary upon this bleak January day. She shut her book, and stood
by the window, looking out into the dreary street, that seemed so
blotted and dim under the falling snow.

"It snowed in the Pass of Bolan," she thought; "and the treacherous
Indians harassed the brave soldiers, and killed their camels. What will
become of him in that dreadful country? Shall we ever see him again?"

Yes, Mary, to your sorrow! Indian scimitars will let him go scatheless;
famine and fever will pass him by; but the hand which points to that
far-away day on which you and he are to meet, will never fail or falter
in its purpose until the hour of your meeting comes.

 * * * * *

We have no need to dwell upon the preparations which were made for the
young soldier's departure from home, nor on the tender farewells
between the mother and her son.

Mr. Arundel was a country gentleman _pur et simple_; a hearty,
broad-shouldered squire, who had no thought above his farm and his
dog-kennel, or the hunting of the red deer with which his neighbourhood
abounded. He sent his younger son to India as coolly as he had sent the
elder to Oxford. The boy had little to inherit, and must be provided
for in a gentlemanly manner. Other younger sons of the House of Arundel
had fought and conquered in the Honourable East India Company's
service; and was Edward any better than they, that there should be
sentimental whining because the lad was going away to fight his way to
fortune, if he could? Mr. Arundel went even further than this, and
declared that Master Edward was a lucky dog to be going out at such a
time, when there was plenty of fighting, and a very fair chance of
speedy promotion for a good soldier.

He gave the young cadet his blessing, reminded him of the limit of such
supplies as he was to expect from home, bade him keep clear of the
brandy-bottle and the dice-box; and having done this, believed that he
had performed his duty as an Englishman and a father.

If Mrs. Arundel wept, she wept in secret, loth to discourage her son by
the sight of those natural, womanly tears. If Miss Letitia Arundel was
sorry to lose her brother, she mourned with most praiseworthy
discretion, and did not forget to remind the young traveller that she
expected to receive a muslin frock, embroidered with beetle-wings, by
an early mail. And as Algernon Fairfax Dangerfield Arundel, the heir,
was away at college, there was no one else to mourn. So Edward left the
home of his forefathers by a branch-coach, which started from the
"Arundel Arms" in time to meet the "Telegraph" at Exeter; and no noisy
lamentations shook the sky above Dangerfield Park--no mourning voices
echoed through the spacious rooms. The old servants were sorry to lose
the younger-born, whose easy, genial temperament had made him an
especial favourite; but there was a certain admixture of joviality with
their sorrow, as there generally is with all mourning in the basement;
and the strong ale, the famous Dangerfield October, went faster upon
that 31st of January than on any day since Christmas.

I doubt if any one at Dangerfield Park sorrowed as bitterly for the
departure of the boyish soldier as a romantic young lady, of nine years
old, in Oakley Street, Lambeth; whose one sentimental
day-dream--half-childish, half-womanly--owned Edward Arundel as its
centre figure.

So the curtain falls on the picture of a brave ship sailing eastward,
her white canvas strained against the cold grey February sky, and a
little girl weeping over the tattered pages of a stupid novel in a
shabby London lodging.



There is a lapse of three years and a half between the acts; and the
curtain rises to reveal a widely-different picture:--the picture of a
noble mansion in the flat Lincolnshire country; a stately pile of
building, standing proudly forth against a background of black
woodland; a noble building, supported upon either side by an octagon
tower, whose solid masonry is half-hidden by the ivy which clings about
the stonework, trailing here and there, and flapping restlessly with
every breath of wind against the narrow casements.

A broad stone terrace stretches the entire length of the grim façade,
from tower to tower; and three flights of steps lead from the terrace
to the broad lawn, which loses itself in a vast grassy flat, only
broken by a few clumps of trees and a dismal pool of black water, but
called by courtesy a park. Grim stone griffins surmount the
terrace-steps, and griffins' heads and other architectural
monstrosities, worn and moss-grown, keep watch and ward over every door
and window, every archway and abutment--frowning threat and defiance
upon the daring visitor who approaches the great house by this, the
formidable chief entrance.

The mansion looks westward: but there is another approach, a low
archway on the southern side, which leads into a quadrangle, where
there is a quaint little door under a stone portico, ivy-covered like
the rest; a comfortable little door of massive oak, studded with knobs
of rusty iron,--a door generally affected by visitors familiar with the

This is Marchmont Towers,--a grand and stately mansion, which had been
a monastery in the days when England and the Pope were friends and
allies; and which had been bestowed upon Hugh Marchmont, gentleman, by
his Sovereign Lord and Most Christian Majesty the King Henry VIII, of
blessed memory, and by that gentleman-commoner extended and improved at
considerable outlay. This is Marchmont Towers,--a splendid and a
princely habitation truly, but perhaps scarcely the kind of dwelling
one would choose for the holy resting-place we call home. The great
mansion is a little too dismal in its lonely grandeur: it lacks shelter
when the dreary winds come sweeping across the grassy flats in the
bleak winter weather; it lacks shade when the western sun blazes on
every window-pane in the stifling summer evening. It is at all times
rather too stony in its aspect; and is apt to remind one almost
painfully of every weird and sorrowful story treasured in the
storehouse of memory. Ancient tales of enchantment, dark German
legends, wild Scottish fancies, grim fragments of half-forgotten
demonology, strange stories of murder, violence, mystery, and wrong,
vaguely intermingle in the stranger's mind as he looks, for the first
time, at Marchmont Towers.

But of course these feelings wear off in time. So invincible is the
power of custom, that we might make ourselves comfortable in the Castle
of Otranto, after a reasonable sojourn within its mysterious walls:
familiarity would breed contempt for the giant helmet, and all the
other grim apparitions of the haunted dwelling. The commonplace and
ignoble wants of every-day life must surely bring disenchantment with
them. The ghost and the butcher's boy cannot well exist
contemporaneously; and the avenging shade can scarcely continue to lurk
beneath the portal which is visited by the matutinal milkman. Indeed,
this is doubtless the reason that the most restless and impatient
spirit, bent on early vengeance and immediate retribution, will yet
wait until the shades of night have fallen before he reveals himself,
rather than run the risk of an ignominious encounter with the postman
or the parlour-maid. Be it how it might, the phantoms of Marchmont
Towers were not intrusive. They may have perambulated the long
tapestried corridors, the tenantless chambers, the broad black
staircase of shining oak; but, happily, no dweller in the mansion was
ever scared by the sight of their pale faces. All the dead-and-gone
beauties, and soldiers, and lawyers, and parsons, and simple
country-squires of the Marchmont race may have descended from their
picture-frames to hold a witches' sabbath in the old mansion; but as
the Lincolnshire servants were hearty eaters and heavy sleepers, the
ghosts had it all to themselves. I believe there was one dismal story
attached to the house,--the story of a Marchmont of the time of Charles
I, who had murdered his coachman in a fit of insensate rage; and it was
even asserted, upon the authority of an old housekeeper, that John
Marchmont's grandmother, when a young woman and lately come as a bride
to the Towers, had beheld the murdered coachman stalk into her chamber,
ghastly and blood-bedabbled, in the dim summer twilight. But as this
story was not particularly romantic, and possessed none of the elements
likely to insure popularity,--such as love, jealousy, revenge, mystery,
youth, and beauty,--it had never been very widely disseminated.

I should think that the new owner of Marchmont Towers--new within the
last six months--was about the last person in Christendom to be
hypercritical, or to raise fanciful objections to his dwelling; for
inasmuch as he had come straight from a wretched transpontine lodging
to this splendid Lincolnshire mansion, and had at the same time
exchanged a stipend of thirty shillings a week for an income of eleven
thousand a year (derivable from lands that spread far away, over fenny
flats and low-lying farms, to the solitary seashore), he had ample
reason to be grateful to Providence, and well pleased with his new

Yes; Philip Marchmont, the childless widower, had died six months
before, at the close of the year '43, of a broken heart,--his old
servants said, broken by the loss of his only and idolised son; after
which loss he had never been known to smile. He was one of those
undemonstrative men who can take a great sorrow quietly, and only--die
of it. Philip Marchmont lay in a velvet-covered coffin, above his
son's, in the stone recess set apart for them in the Marchmont vault
beneath Kemberling Church, three miles from the Towers; and John
reigned in his stead. John Marchmont, the supernumerary, the
banner-holder of Drury Lane, the patient, conscientious copying and
outdoor clerk of Lincoln's Inn, was now sole owner of the Lincolnshire
estate, sole master of a household of well-trained old servants, sole
proprietor of a very decent country-gentleman's stud, and of chariots,
barouches, chaises, phaetons, and other vehicles--a little shabby and
out of date it may be, but very comfortable to a man for whom an
omnibus ride had long been a treat and a rarity. Nothing had been
touched or disturbed since Philip Marchmont's death. The rooms he had
used were still the occupied apartments; the chambers he had chosen to
shut up were still kept with locked doors; the servants who had served
him waited upon his successor, whom they declared to be a quiet, easy
gentleman, far too wise to interfere with old servants, every one of
whom knew the ways of the house a great deal better than he did, though
he was the master of it.

There was, therefore, no shadow of change in the stately mansion. The
dinner-bell still rang at the same hour; the same tradespeople left the
same species of wares at the low oaken door; the old housekeeper,
arranging her simple _menu_, planned her narrow round of soups and
roasts, sweets and made-dishes, exactly as she had been wont to do, and
had no new tastes to consult. A grey-haired bachelor, who had been
own-man to Philip, was now own-man to John. The carriage which had
conveyed the late lord every Sunday to morning and afternoon service at
Kemberling conveyed the new lord, who sat in the same seat that his
predecessor had occupied in the great family-pew, and read his prayers
out of the same book,--a noble crimson, morocco-covered volume, in
which George, our most gracious King and Governor, and all manner of
dead-and-gone princes and princesses were prayed for.

The presence of Mary Marchmont made the only change in the old house;
and even that change was a very trifling one. Mary and her father were
as closely united at Marchmont Towers as they had been in Oakley
Street. The little girl clung to her father as tenderly as ever--more
tenderly than ever perhaps; for she knew something of that which the
physicians had said, and she knew that John Marchmont's lease of life
was not a long one. Perhaps it would be better to say that he had no
lease at all. His soul was a tenant on sufferance in its frail earthly
habitation, receiving a respite now and again, when the flicker of the
lamp was very low--every chance breath of wind threatening to
extinguish it for ever. It was only those who knew John Marchmont very
intimately who were fully acquainted with the extent of his danger. He
no longer bore any of those fatal outward signs of consumption, which
fatigue and deprivation had once made painfully conspicuous. The hectic
flush and the unnatural brightness of the eyes had subsided; indeed,
John seemed much stronger and heartier than of old; and it is only
great medical practitioners who can tell to a nicety what is going on
_inside_ a man, when he presents a very fair exterior to the
unprofessional eye. But John was decidedly better than he had been. He
might live three years, five, seven, possibly even ten years; but he
must live the life of a man who holds himself perpetually upon his
defence against death; and he must recognise in every bleak current of
wind, in every chilling damp, or perilous heat, or over-exertion, or
ill-chosen morsel of food, or hasty emotion, or sudden passion, an
insidious ally of his dismal enemy.

Mary Marchmont knew all this,--or divined it, perhaps, rather than knew
it, with the child-woman's subtle power of divination, which is even
stronger than the actual woman's; for her father had done his best to
keep all sorrowful knowledge from her. She knew that he was in danger;
and she loved him all the more dearly, as the one precious thing which
was in constant peril of being snatched away. The child's love for her
father has not grown any less morbid in its intensity since Edward
Arundel's departure for India; nor has Mary become more childlike since
her coming to Marchmont Towers, and her abandonment of all those sordid
cares, those pitiful every-day duties, which had made her womanly.

It may be that the last lingering glamour of childhood had for ever
faded away with the realisation of the day-dream which she had carried
about with her so often in the dingy transpontine thoroughfares around
Oakley Street. Marchmont Towers, that fairy palace, whose lighted
windows had shone upon her far away across a cruel forest of poverty
and trouble, like the enchanted castle which appears to the lost
wanderer of the child's story, was now the home of the father she
loved. The grim enchanter Death, the only magician of our modern
histories, had waved his skeleton hand, more powerful than the
star-gemmed wand of any fairy godmother, and the obstacles which had
stood between John Marchmont and his inheritance had one by one been
swept away.

But was Marchmont Towers quite as beautiful as that fairy palace of
Mary's day-dream? No, not quite--not quite. The rooms were
handsome,--handsomer and larger, even, than the rooms she had dreamed
of; but perhaps none the better for that. They were grand and gloomy
and magnificent; but they were not the sunlit chambers which her fancy
had built up, and decorated with such shreds and patches of splendour
as her narrow experience enabled her to devise. Perhaps it was rather a
disappointment to Miss Marchmont to discover that the mansion was
completely furnished, and that there was no room in it for any of those
splendours which she had so often contemplated in the New Cut. The
parrot at the greengrocer's was a vulgar bird, and not by any means
admissible in Lincolnshire. The carrying away and providing for Mary's
favourite tradespeople was not practicable; and John Marchmont had
demurred to her proposal of adopting the butcher's daughter.

There is always something to be given up even when our brightest
visions are realised; there is always some one figure (a low one
perhaps) missing in the fullest sum of earthly happiness. I dare say if
Alnaschar had married the Vizier's daughter, he would have found her a
shrew, and would have looked back yearningly to the humble days in
which he had been an itinerant vendor of crockery-ware.

If, therefore, Mary Marchmont found her sunlit fancies not quite
realised by the great stony mansion that frowned upon the fenny
countryside, the wide grassy flat, the black pool, with its dismal
shelter of weird pollard-willows, whose ugly reflections, distorted on
the bosom of the quiet water, looked like the shadows of hump-backed
men;--if these things did not compose as beautiful a picture as that
which the little girl had carried so long in her mind, she had no more
reason to be sorry than the rest of us, and had been no more foolish
than other dreamers. I think she had built her airy castle too much
after the model of a last scene in a pantomime, and that she expected
to find spangled waters twinkling in perpetual sunshine, revolving
fountains, ever-expanding sunflowers, and gilded clouds of
rose-coloured gauze,--every thing except the fairies, in short,--at
Marchmont Towers. Well, the dream was over: and she was quite a woman
now, and very grateful to Providence when she remembered that her
father had no longer need to toil for his daily bread, and that he was
luxuriously lodged, and could have the first physicians in the land at
his beck and call.

"Oh, papa, it is so nice to be rich!" the young lady would exclaim now
and then, in a fleeting transport of enthusiasm. "How good we ought to
be to the poor people, when we remember how poor we once were!"

And the little girl did not forget to be good to the poor about
Kemberling and Marchmont Towers. There were plenty of poor, of
course--free-and-easy pensioners, who came to the Towers for brandy,
and wine, and milk, and woollen stuffs, and grocery, precisely as they
would have gone to a shop, except that there was to be no bill. The
housekeeper doled out her bounties with many short homilies upon the
depravity and ingratitude of the recipients, and gave tracts of an
awful and denunciatory nature to the pitiful petitioners--tracts
interrogatory, and tracts fiercely imperative; tracts that asked,
"Where are you going?" "Why are you wicked?" "What will become of you?"
and other tracts which cried, "Stop, and think!" "Pause, while there is
time!" "Sinner, consider!" "Evil-doer, beware!" Perhaps it may not be
the wisest possible plan to begin the work of reformation by
frightening, threatening, and otherwise disheartening the wretched
sinner to be reformed. There is a certain sermon in the New Testament,
containing sacred and comforting words which were spoken upon a
mountain near at hand to Jerusalem, and spoken to an auditory amongst
which there must have been many sinful creatures; but there is more of
blessing than cursing in that sublime discourse, and it might be rather
a tender father pleading gently with his wayward children than an
offended Deity dealing out denunciation upon a stubborn and refractory
race. But the authors of the tracts may have never read this sermon,
perhaps; and they may take their ideas of composition from that
comforting service which we read on Ash-Wednesday, cowering in fear and
trembling in our pews, and calling down curses upon ourselves and our
neighbours. Be it as it might, the tracts were not popular amongst the
pensioners of Marchmont Towers. They infinitely preferred to hear Mary
read a chapter in the New Testament, or some pretty patriarchal story
of primitive obedience and faith. The little girl would discourse upon
the Scripture histories in her simple, old-fashioned manner; and many a
stout Lincolnshire farm-labourer was content to sit over his hearth,
with a pipe of shag-tobacco and a mug of fettled beer, while Miss
Marchmont read and expounded the history of Abraham and Isaac, or
Joseph and his brethren.

"It's joost loike a story-book to hear her," the man would say to his
wife; "and yet she brings it all hoame, too, loike. If she reads about
Abraham, she'll say, maybe, 'That's joost how you gave your only son to
be a soldier, you know, Muster Moggins;'--she allus says Muster
Moggins;--'you gave un into God's hands, and you troosted God would
take care of un; and whatever cam' to un would be the best, even if it
was death.' That's what she'll say, bless her little heart! so gentle
and tender loike. The wust o' chaps couldn't but listen to her."

Mary Marchmont's morbidly sensitive nature adapted her to all
charitable offices. No chance word in her simple talk ever inflicted a
wound upon the listener. She had a subtle and intuitive comprehension
of other people's feelings, derived from the extreme susceptibility of
her own. She had never been vulgarised by the associations of poverty;
for her self-contained nature took no colour from the things that
surrounded her, and she was only at Marchmont Towers that which she had
been from the age of six--a little lady, grave and gentle, dignified,
discreet, and wise.

There was one bright figure missing out of the picture which Mary had
been wont of late years to make of the Lincolnshire mansion, and that
was the figure of the yellow-haired boy who had breakfasted upon
haddocks and hot rolls in Oakley Street. She had imagined Edward
Arundel an inhabitant of that fair Utopia. He would live with them; or,
if he could not live with them, he would be with them as a
visitor,--often--almost always. He would leave off being a soldier, for
of course her papa could give him more money than he could get by being
a soldier--(you see that Mary's experience of poverty had taught her to
take a mercantile and sordid view of military life)--and he would come
to Marchmont Towers, and ride, and drive, and play tennis (what was
tennis? she wondered), and read three-volume novels all day long. But
that part of the dream was at least broken. Marchmont Towers was Mary's
home, but the young soldier was far away; in the Pass of Bolan,
perhaps,--Mary had a picture of that cruel rocky pass almost always in
her mind,--or cutting his way through a black jungle, with the yellow
eyes of hungry tigers glaring out at him through the rank tropical
foliage; or dying of thirst and fever under a scorching sun, with no
better pillow than the neck of a dead camel, with no more tender
watcher than the impatient vulture flapping her wings above his head,
and waiting till he, too, should be carrion. What was the good of
wealth, if it could not bring this young soldier home to a safe shelter
in his native land? John Marchmont smiled when his daughter asked this
question, and implored her father to write to Edward Arundel, recalling
him to England.

"God knows how glad I should be to have the boy here, Polly!" John
said, as he drew his little girl closer to his breast,--she sat on his
knee still, though she was thirteen years of age. "But Edward has a
career before him, my dear, and could not give it up for an inglorious
life in this rambling old house. It isn't as if I could hold out any
inducement to him: you know, Polly, I can't; for I mustn't leave any
money away from my little girl."

"But he might have half my money, papa, or all of it," Mary added
piteously. "What could I do with money, if----?"

She didn't finish the sentence; she never could complete any such
sentence as this; but her father knew what she meant.

So six months had passed since a dreary January day upon which John
Marchmont had read, in the second column of the "Times," that he could
hear of something greatly to his advantage by applying to a certain
solicitor, whose offices were next door but one to those of Messrs.
Paulette, Paulette, and Mathewson's. His heart began to beat very
violently when he read that advertisement in the supplement, which it
was one of his duties to air before the fire in the clerks' office; but
he showed no other sign of emotion. He waited until he took the papers
to his employer; and as he laid them at Mr. Mathewson's elbow, murmured
a respectful request to be allowed to go out for half-an-hour, upon his
own business.

"Good gracious me, Marchmont!" cried the lawyer; "what can you want to
go out for at this time in the morning? You've only just come; and
there's that agreement between Higgs and Sandyman must be copied

"Yes, I know, sir. I'll be back in time to attend to it; but I--I think
I've come into a fortune, sir; and I should like to go and see about

The solicitor turned in his revolving library-chair, and looked aghast
at his clerk. Had this Marchmont--always rather unnaturally reserved
and eccentric--gone suddenly mad? No; the copying-clerk stood by his
employer's side, grave, self-possessed as ever, with his forefinger
upon the advertisement.

"Marchmont--John--call--Messrs. Tindal and Trollam--" gasped Mr.
Mathewson. "Do you mean to tell me it's _you_?"

"Yes, sir."

"Egad, I'll go with you!" cried the solicitor, hooking his arm through
that of his clerk, snatching his hat from an adjacent stand, and
dashing through the outer office, down the great staircase, and into
the next door but one before John Marchmont knew where he was.

John had not deceived his employer. Marchmont Towers was his, with all
its appurtenances. Messrs. Paulette, Paulette, and Mathewson took him
in hand, much to the chagrin of Messrs. Tindal and Trollam, and proved
his identity in less than a week. On a shelf above the high wooden desk
at which John had sat, copying law-papers, with a weary hand and an
aching spine, appeared two bran-new deed-boxes, inscribed, in white
letters, with the name and address of JOHN MARCHMONT, ESQ., MARCHMONT
TOWERS. The copying-clerk's sudden accession to fortune was the talk of
all the _employés_ in "The Fields." Marchmont Towers was exaggerated
into half Lincolnshire, and a tidy slice of Yorkshire; eleven thousand
a year was expanded into an annual million. Everybody expected largesse
from the legatee. How fond people had been of the quiet clerk, and how
magnanimously they had concealed their sentiments during his poverty,
lest they should wound him, as they urged, "which" they knew he was
sensitive; and how expansively they now dilated on their
long-suppressed emotions! Of course, under these circumstances, it is
hardly likely that everybody could be satisfied; so it is a small thing
to say that the dinner which John gave--by his late employers'
suggestion (he was about the last man to think of giving a dinner)--at
the "Albion Tavern," to the legal staff of Messrs. Paulette, Paulette,
and Mathewson, and such acquaintance of the legal profession as they
should choose to invite, was a failure; and that gentlemen who were
pretty well used to dine upon liver and bacon, or beefsteak and onions,
or the joint, vegetables, bread, cheese, and celery for a shilling,
turned up their noses at the turbot, murmured at the paucity of green
fat in the soup, made light of red mullet and ortolans, objected to the
flavour of the truffles, and were contemptuous about the wines.

John knew nothing of this. He had lived a separate and secluded
existence; and his only thought now was of getting away to Marchmont
Towers, which had been familiar to him in his boyhood, when he had been
wont to go there on occasional visits to his grandfather. He wanted to
get away from the turmoil and confusion of the big, heartless city, in
which he had endured so much; he wanted to carry away his little girl
to a quiet country home, and live and die there in peace. He liberally
rewarded all the good people about Oakley Street who had been kind to
little Mary; and there was weeping in the regions of the Ladies'
Wardrobe when Mr. Marchmont and his daughter went away one bitter
winter's morning in a cab, which was to carry them to the hostelry
whence the coach started for Lincoln.

It is strange to think how far those Oakley-street days of privation
and endurance seem to have receded in the memories of both father and
daughter. The impalpable past fades away, and it is difficult for John
and his little girl to believe that they were once so poor and
desolate. It is Oakley Street now that is visionary and unreal. The
stately county families bear down upon Marchmont Towers in great
lumbering chariots, with brazen crests upon the hammer-cloths, and
sulky coachmen in Brown-George wigs. The county mammas patronise and
caress Miss Marchmont--what a match she will be for one of the county
sons by-and-by!--the county daughters discourse with Mary about her
poor, and her fancy-work, and her piano. She is getting on slowly
enough with her piano, poor little girl! under the tuition of the
organist of Swampington, who gives lessons to that part of the county.
And there are solemn dinners now and then at Marchmont Towers--dinners
at which Miss Mary appears when the cloth has been removed, and
reflects in silent wonder upon the change that has come to her father
and herself. Can it be true that she has ever lived in Oakley Street,
whither came no more aristocratic visitors than her Aunt Sophia, who
was the wife of a Berkshire farmer, and always brought hogs' puddings,
and butter, and home-made bread, and other rustic delicacies to her
brother-in-law; or Mrs. Brigsome, the washer-woman, who made a
morning-call every Monday, to fetch John Marchmont's shabby shirts? The
shirts were not shabby now; and it was no longer Mary's duty to watch
them day by day, and manipulate them tenderly when the linen grew
frayed at the sharp edges of the folds, or the buttonholes gave signs
of weakness. Corson, Mr. Marchmont's own-man, had care of the shirts
now: and John wore diamond-studs and a black-satin waistcoat, when he
gave a dinner-party. They were not very lively, those Lincolnshire
dinner-parties; though the dessert was a sight to look upon, in Mary's
eyes. The long shining table, the red and gold and purple Indian china,
the fluffy woollen d'oyleys, the sparkling cut-glass, the sticky
preserved ginger and guava-jelly, and dried orange rings and chips, and
all the stereotyped sweetmeats, were very grand and beautiful, no
doubt; but Mary had seen livelier desserts in Oakley Street, though
there had been nothing better than a brown-paper bag of oranges from
the Westminster Road, and a bottle of two-and-twopenny Marsala from a
licensed victualler's in the Borough, to promote conviviality.



The rain beats down upon the battlemented roof of Marchmont Towers this
July day, as if it had a mind to flood the old mansion. The flat waste
of grass, and the lonely clumps of trees, are almost blotted out by the
falling rain. The low grey sky shuts out the distance. This part of
Lincolnshire--fenny, misty, and flat always--seems flatter and mistier
than usual to-day. The rain beats hopelessly upon the leaves in the
wood behind Marchmont Towers, and splashes into great pools beneath the
trees, until the ground is almost hidden by the fallen water, and the
trees seem to be growing out of a black lake. The land is lower behind
Marchmont Towers, and slopes down gradually to the bank of a dismal
river, which straggles through the Marchmont property at a snail's
pace, to gain an impetus farther on, until it hurries into the sea
somewhere northward of Grimsby. The wood is not held in any great
favour by the household at the Towers; and it has been a pet project of
several Marchmonts to level and drain it, but a project not very easily
to be carried out. Marchmont Towers is said to be unhealthy, as a
dwelling-house, by reason of this wood, from which miasmas rise in
certain states of the weather; and it is on this account that the back
of the house--the eastern front, at least, as it is called--looking to
the wood is very little used.

Mary Marchmont sits at a window in the western drawing-room, watching
the ceaseless falling of the rain upon this dreary summer afternoon.
She is little changed since the day upon which Edward Arundel saw her
in Oakley Street. She is taller, of course, but her figure is as
slender and childish as ever: it is only her face in which the
earnestness of premature womanhood reveals itself in a grave and sweet
serenity very beautiful to contemplate. Her soft brown eyes have a
pensive shadow in their gentle light; her mouth is even more pensive.
It has been said of Jane Grey, of Mary Stuart, of Marie Antoinette,
Charlotte Corday, and other fated women, that in the gayest hours of
their youth they bore upon some feature, or in some expression, the
shadow of the End--an impalpable, indescribable presage of an awful
future, vaguely felt by those who looked upon them.

Is it thus with Mary Marchmont? Has the solemn hand of Destiny set that
shadowy brand upon the face of this child, that even in her prosperity,
as in her adversity, she should be so utterly different from all other
children? Is she already marked out for some womanly martyrdom--already
set apart for more than common suffering?

She sits alone this afternoon, for her father is busy with his agent.
Wealth does not mean immunity from all care and trouble; and Mr.
Marchmont has plenty of work to get through, in conjunction with his
land-steward, a hard-headed Yorkshireman, who lives at Kemberling, and
insists on doing his duty with pertinacious honesty.

The large brown eyes looked wistfully out at the dismal waste and the
falling rain. There was a wretched equestrian making his way along the

"Who can come to see us on such a day?" Mary thought. "It must be Mr.
Gormby, I suppose;"--the agent's name was Gormby. "Mr. Gormby never
cares about the wet; but then I thought he was with papa. Oh, I hope it
isn't anybody coming to call."

But Mary forgot all about the struggling equestrian the next moment.
She had some morsel of fancy-work upon her lap, and picked it up and
went on with it, setting slow stitches, and letting her thoughts wander
far away from Marchmont Towers--to India, I am afraid; or to that
imaginary India which she had created for herself out of such images as
were to be picked up in the "Arabian Nights." She was roused suddenly
by the opening of a door at the farther end of the room, and by the
voice of a servant, who mumbled a name which sounded something like Mr.

She rose, blushing a little, to do honour to one of her father's county
acquaintance, as she thought; when a fair-haired gentleman dashed in,
very much excited and very wet, and made his way towards her.

"I _would_ come, Miss Marchmont," he said,--"I would come, though the
day was so wet. Everybody vowed I was mad to think of it, and it was as
much as my poor brute of a horse could do to get over the ten miles of
swamp between this and my uncle's house; but I would come! Where's
John? I want to see John. Didn't I always tell him he'd come into the
Lincolnshire property? Didn't I always say so, now? You should have
seen Martin Mostyn's face--he's got a capital berth in the War Office,
and he's such a snob!--when I told him the news: it was as long as my
arm! But I must see John, dear old fellow! I long to congratulate him."

Mary stood with her hands clasped, and her breath coming quickly. The
blush had quite faded out, and left her unusually pale. But Edward
Arundel did not see this: young gentlemen of four-and-twenty are not
very attentive to every change of expression in little girls of

"Oh, is it you, Mr. Arundel? Is it really you?"

She spoke in a low voice, and it was almost difficult to keep the
rushing tears back while she did so. She had pictured him so often in
peril, in famine, in sickness, in death, that to see him here, well,
happy, light-hearted, cordial, handsome, and brave, as she had seen him
four-and-a-half years before in the two-pair back in Oakley Street, was
almost too much for her to bear without the relief of tears. But she
controlled her emotion as bravely as if she had been a woman of twenty.

"I am so glad to see you," she said quietly; "and papa will be so glad
too! It is the only thing we want, now we are rich; to have you with
us. We have talked of you so often; and I--we--have been so unhappy
sometimes, thinking that----"

"That I should be killed, I suppose?"

"Yes; or wounded very, very badly. The battles in India have been
dreadful, have they not?"

Mr. Arundel smiled at her earnestness.

"They have not been exactly child's play," he said, shaking back his
chesnut hair and smoothing his thick moustache. He was a man now, and a
very handsome one; something of that type which is known in this year
of grace as "swell"; but brave and chivalrous withal, and not afflicted
with any impediment in his speech. "The men who talk of the Affghans as
a chicken-hearted set of fellows are rather out of their reckoning. The
Indians can fight, Miss Mary, and fight like the devil; but we can lick

He walked over to the fireplace, where--upon this chilly wet day, there
was a fire burning--and began to shake himself dry. Mary, following him
with her eyes, wondered if there was such another soldier in all Her
Majesty's dominions, and how soon he would be made General-in-Chief of
the Army of the Indus.

"Then you've not been wounded at all, Mr. Arundel?" she said, after a

"Oh, yes, I've been wounded; I got a bullet in my shoulder from an
Affghan musket, and I'm home on sick-leave."

This time he saw the expression of her face, and interpreted her look
of alarm.

"But I'm not ill, you know, Miss Marchmont," he said, laughing. "Our
fellows are very glad of a wound when they feel home-sick. The 8th come
home before long, all of 'em; and I've a twelvemonth's leave of
absence; and we're pretty sure to be ordered out again by the end of
that time, as I don't believe there's much chance of quiet over there."

"You will go out again!----"

Edward Arundel smiled at her mournful tone.

"To be sure, Miss Mary. I have my captaincy to win, you know; I'm only
a lieutenant, as yet."

It was only a twelvemonth's reprieve, after all, then, Mary thought. He
would go back again--to suffer, and to be wounded, and to die, perhaps.
But then, on the other hand, there was a twelvemonth's respite; and her
father might in that time prevail upon the young soldier to stay at
Marchmont Towers. It was such inexpressible happiness to see him once
more, to know that he was safe and well, that Mary could scarcely do
otherwise than see all things in a sunny light just now.

She ran to John Marchmont's study to tell him of the coming of this
welcome visitor; but she wept upon her father's shoulder before she
could explain who it was whose coming had made her so glad. Very few
friendships had broken the monotony of her solitary existence; and
Edward Arundel was the only chivalrous image she had ever known, out of
her books.

John Marchmont was scarcely less pleased than his child to see the man
who had befriended him in his poverty. Never has more heartfelt welcome
been given than that which greeted Edward Arundel at Marchmont Towers.

"You will stay with us, of course, my dear Arundel," John said; "you
will stop for September and the shooting. You know you promised you'd
make this your shooting-box; and we'll build the tennis-court. Heaven
knows, there's room enough for it in the great quadrangle; and there's
a billiard-room over this, though I'm afraid the table is out of order.
But we can soon set that right, can't we, Polly?"

"Yes, yes, papa; out of my pocket-money, if you like."

Mary Marchmont said this in all good faith. It was sometimes difficult
for her to remember that her father was really rich, and had no need of
help out of her pocket-money. The slender savings in her little purse
had often given him some luxury that he would not otherwise have had,
in the time gone by.

"You got my letter, then?" John said; "the letter in which I told

"That Marchmont Towers was yours. Yes, my dear old boy. That letter was
amongst a packet my agent brought me half-an-hour before I left
Calcutta. God bless you, dear old fellow; how glad I was to hear of it!
I've only been in England a fortnight. I went straight from Southampton
to Dangerfield to see my father and mother, stayed there little over
ten days, and then offended them all by running away. I reached
Swampington yesterday, slept at my uncle Hubert's, paid my respects to
my cousin Olivia, who is,--well, I've told you what she is,--and rode
over here this morning, much to the annoyance of the inhabitants of the
Rectory. So, you see, I've been doing nothing but offending people for
your sake, John; and for yours, Miss Mary. By-the-by, I've brought you
such a doll!"

A doll! Mary's pale face flushed a faint crimson. Did he think her
still a child, then, this soldier; did he think her only a silly child,
with no thought above a doll, when she would have gone out to India,
and braved every peril of that cruel country, to be his nurse and
comfort in fever and sickness, like the brave Sisters of Mercy she had
read of in some of her novels?

Edward Arundel saw that faint crimson glow lighting up in her face.

"I beg your pardon, Miss Marchmont," he said. "I was only joking; of
course you are a young lady now, almost grown up, you know. Can you
play chess?"

"No, Mr. Arundel."

"I am sorry for that; for I have brought you a set of chessmen that
once belonged to Dost Mahommed Khan. But I'll teach you the game, if
you like?"

"Oh, yes, Mr. Arundel; I should like it very, very much."

The young soldier could not help being amused by the little girl's
earnestness. She was about the same age as his sister Letitia; but, oh,
how widely different to that bouncing and rather wayward young lady,
who tore the pillow-lace upon her muslin frocks, rumpled her long
ringlets, rasped the skin off the sharp points of her elbows, by
repeated falls upon the gravel-paths at Dangerfield, and tormented a
long-suffering Swiss attendant, half-lady's-maid, half-governess, from
morning till night. No fold was awry in Mary Marchmont's simple
black-silk frock; no plait disarranged in the neat cambric tucker that
encircled the slender white throat. Intellect here reigned supreme.
Instead of the animal spirits of a thoughtless child, there was a
woman's loving carefulness for others, a woman's unselfishness and

Edward Arundel did not understand all this, but I think he had a dim
comprehension of the greater part of it.

"She is a dear little thing," he thought, as he watched her clinging to
her father's arm; and then he began to talk about Marchmont Towers, and
insisted upon being shown over the house; and, perhaps for the first
time since the young heir had shot himself to death upon a bright
September morning in a stubble-field within earshot of the park, the
sound of merry laughter echoed through the long corridors, and
resounded in the unoccupied rooms.

Edward Arundel was in raptures with everything. "There never was such a
dear old place," he said. "'Gloomy?' 'dreary?' 'draughty?' pshaw! Cut a
few logs out of that wood at the back there, pile 'em up in the wide
chimneys, and set a light to 'em, and Marchmont Towers would be like a
baronial mansion at Christmas-time." He declared that every dingy
portrait he looked at was a Rubens or a Velasquez, or a Vandyke, a
Holbein, or a Lely.

"Look at that fur border to the old woman's black-velvet gown, John;
look at the colouring of the hands! Do you think anybody but Peter Paul
could have painted that? Do you see that girl with the blue-satin
stomacher and the flaxen ringlets?--one of your ancestresses, Miss
Mary, and very like you. If that isn't in Sir Peter Lely's best
style,--his earlier style, you know, before he was spoiled by royal
patronage, and got lazy,--I know nothing of painting."

The young soldier ran on in this manner, as he hurried his host from
room to room; now throwing open windows to look out at the wet
prospect; now rapping against the wainscot to find secret hiding-places
behind sliding panels; now stamping on the oak-flooring in the hope of
discovering a trap-door. He pointed out at least ten eligible sites for
the building of the tennis-court; he suggested more alterations and
improvements than a builder could have completed in a lifetime. The
place brightened under the influence of his presence, as a landscape
lights up under a burst of sudden sunshine breaking through a dull grey

Mary Marchmont did not wait for the removal of the table-cloth that
evening, but dined with her father and his friend in a snug
oak-panelled chamber, half-breakfast-room, half-library, which opened
out of the western drawing-room. How different Edward Arundel was to
all the rest of the world, Miss Marchmont thought; how gay, how bright,
how genial, how happy! The county families, mustered in their fullest
force, couldn't make such mirth amongst them as this young soldier
created in his single person.

The evening was an evening in fairy-land. Life was sometimes like the
last scene in a pantomime, after all, with rose-coloured cloud and
golden sunlight.

One of the Marchmont servants went over to Swampington early the next
day to fetch Mr. Arundel's portmanteaus from the Rectory; and after
dinner upon that second evening, Mary Marchmont took her seat opposite
Edward, and listened reverently while he explained to her the moves
upon the chessboard.

"So you don't know my cousin Olivia?" the young soldier said by-and-by.
"That's odd! I should have thought she would have called upon you long
before this."

Mary Marchmont shook her head.

"No," she said; "Miss Arundel has never been to see us; and I should so
like to have seen her, because she would have told me about you. Mr.
Arundel has called one or twice upon papa; but I have never seen him.
He is not our clergyman, you know; Marchmont Towers belongs to
Kemberling parish."

"To be sure; and Swampington is ten miles off. But, for all that, I
should have thought Olivia would have called upon you. I'll drive you
over to-morrow, if John thinks me whip enough to trust you with me, and
you shall see Livy. The Rectory's such a queer old place!"

Perhaps Mr. Marchmont was rather doubtful as to the propriety of
committing his little girl to Edward Arundel's charioteership for a
ten-mile drive upon a wretched road. Be it as it might, a lumbering
barouche, with a pair of over-fed horses, was ordered next morning,
instead of the high, old-fashioned gig which the soldier had proposed
driving; and the safety of the two young people was confided to a sober
old coachman, rather sulky at the prospect of a drive to Swampington so
soon after the rainy weather.

It does not rain always, even in this part of Lincolnshire; and the
July morning was bright and pleasant, the low hedges fragrant with
starry opal-tinted wild roses and waxen honeysuckle, the yellowing corn
waving in the light summer breeze. Mary assured her companion that she
had no objection whatever to the odour of cigar-smoke; so Mr. Arundel
lolled upon the comfortable cushions of the barouche, with his back to
the horses, smoking cheroots, and talking gaily, while Miss Marchmont
sat in the place of state opposite to him. A happy drive; a drive in a
fairy chariot through regions of fairyland, for ever and for ever to be
remembered by Mary Marchmont.

They left the straggling hedges and the yellowing corn behind them
by-and-by, as they drew near the outskirts of Swampington. The town
lies lower even than the surrounding country, flat and low as that
country is. A narrow river crawls at the base of a half-ruined wall,
which once formed part of the defences of the place. Black barges lie
at anchor here; and a stone bridge, guarded by a toll-house, spans the
river. Mr. Marchmont's carriage lumbered across this bridge, and under
an archway, low, dark, stony, and grim, into a narrow street of solid,
well-built houses, low, dark, stony, and grim, like the archway, but
bearing the stamp of reputable occupation. I believe the grass grew,
and still grows, in this street, as it does in all the other streets
and in the market-place of Swampington. They are all pretty much in the
same style, these streets,--all stony, narrow, dark, and grim; and they
wind and twist hither and thither, and in and out, in a manner utterly
bewildering to the luckless stranger, who, seeing that they are all
alike, has no landmarks for his guidance.

There are two handsome churches, both bearing an early date in the
history of Norman supremacy: one crowded into an inconvenient corner of
a back street, and choked by the houses built up round about it; the
other lying a little out of the town, upon a swampy waste looking
towards the sea, which flows within a mile of Swampington. Indeed,
there is no lack of water in that Lincolnshire borough. The river winds
about the outskirts of the town; unexpected creeks and inlets meet you
at every angle; shallow pools lie here and there about the marshy
suburbs; and in the dim distance the low line of the grey sea meets the

But perhaps the positive ugliness of the town is something redeemed by
a vague air of romance and old-world mystery which pervades it. It is
an exceptional place, and somewhat interesting thereby. The great
Norman church upon the swampy waste, the scattered tombstones, bordered
by the low and moss-grown walls, make a picture which is apt to dwell
in the minds of those who look upon it, although it is by no means a
pretty picture. The Rectory lies close to the churchyard; and a
wicket-gate opens from Mr. Arundel's garden into a narrow pathway,
leading across a patch of tangled grass and through a lane of sunken
and lopsided tombstones, to the low vestry door. The Rectory itself is
a long irregular building, to which one incumbent after another has
built the additional chamber, or chimney, or porch, or bow-window,
necessary for his accommodation. There is very little garden in front
of the house, but a patch of lawn and shrubbery and a clump of old
trees at the back.

"It's not a pretty house, is it, Miss Marchmont?" asked Edward, as he
lifted his companion out of the carriage.

"No, not very pretty," Mary answered; "but I don't think any thing is
pretty in Lincolnshire. Oh, there's the sea!" she cried, looking
suddenly across the marshes to the low grey line in the distance. "How
I wish we were as near the sea at Marchmont Towers!"

The young lady had something of a romantic passion for the
wide-spreading ocean. It was an unknown region, that stretched far
away, and was wonderful and beautiful by reason of its solemn mystery.
All her Corsair stories were allied to that far, fathomless deep. The
white sail in the distance was Conrad's, perhaps; and he was speeding
homeward to find Medora dead in her lonely watch-tower, with fading
flowers upon her breast. The black hull yonder, with dirty canvas
spread to the faint breeze, was the bark of some terrible pirate bound
on rapine and ravage. (She was a coal-barge, I have no doubt, sailing
Londonward with her black burden.) Nymphs and Lurleis, Mermaids and
Mermen, and tiny water-babies with silvery tails, for ever splashing in
the sunshine, were all more or less associated with the long grey line
towards which Mary Marchmont looked with solemn, yearning eyes.

"We'll drive down to the seashore some morning, Polly," said Mr.
Arundel. He was beginning to call her Polly, now and then, in the easy
familiarity of their intercourse. "We'll spend a long day on the sands,
and I'll smoke cheroots while you pick up shells and seaweed."

Miss Marchmont clasped her hands in silent rapture. Her face was
irradiated by the new light of happiness. How good he was to her, this
brave soldier, who must undoubtedly be made Commander-in-Chief of the
Army of the Indus in a year or so!

Edward Arundel led his companion across the flagged way between the
iron gate of the Rectory garden and a half-glass door leading into the
hall. Out of this simple hall, only furnished with a couple of chairs,
a barometer, and an umbrella-stand, they went, without announcement,
into a low, old-fashioned room, half-study, half-parlour, where a young
lady was sitting at a table writing.

She rose as Edward opened the door, and came to meet him.

"At last!" she said; "I thought your rich friends engrossed all your

She paused, seeing Mary.

"This is Miss Marchmont, Olivia," said Edward; "the only daughter of my
old friend. You must be very fond of her, please; for she is a dear
little girl, and I know she means to love you."

Mary lifted her soft brown eyes to the face of the young lady, and then
dropped her eyelids suddenly, as if half-frightened by what she had
seen there.

What was it? What was it in Olivia Arundel's handsome face from which
those who looked at her so often shrank, repelled and disappointed?
Every line in those perfectly-modelled features was beautiful to look
at; but, as a whole, the face was not beautiful. Perhaps it was too
much like a marble mask, exquisitely chiselled, but wanting in variety
of expression. The handsome mouth was rigid; the dark grey eyes had a
cold light in them. The thick bands of raven-black hair were drawn
tightly off a square forehead, which was the brow of an intellectual
and determined man rather than of a woman. Yes; womanhood was the
something wanted in Olivia Arundel's face. Intellect, resolution,
courage, are rare gifts; but they are not the gifts whose tokens we
look for most anxiously in a woman's face. If Miss Arundel had been a
queen, her diadem would have become her nobly; and she might have been
a very great queen: but Heaven help the wretched creature who had
appealed from minor tribunals to _her_ mercy! Heaven help delinquents
of every kind whose last lingering hope had been in her compassion!

Perhaps Mary Marchmont vaguely felt something of all this. At any rate,
the enthusiasm with which she had been ready to regard Edward Arundel's
cousin cooled suddenly beneath the winter in that pale, quiet face.

Miss Arundel said a few words to her guest; kindly enough; but rather
too much as if she had been addressing a child of six. Mary, who was
accustomed to be treated as a woman, was wounded by her manner.

"How different she is from Edward!" thought Miss Marchmont. "I shall
never like her as I like him."

"So this is the pale-faced child who is to have Marchmont Towers
by-and-by," thought Miss Arundel; "and these rich friends are the
people for whom Edward stays away from us."

The lines about the rigid mouth grew harder, the cold light in the grey
eyes grew colder, as the young lady thought this.

It was thus that these two women met: while one was but a child in
years; while the other was yet in the early bloom of womanhood: these
two, who were predestined to hate each other, and inflict suffering
upon each other in the days that were to come. It was thus that they
thought of one another; each with an unreasonable dread, an undefined
aversion gathering in her breast.

 * * * * *

Six weeks passed, and Edward Arundel kept his promise of shooting the
partridges on the Marchmont preserves. The wood behind the Towers, and
the stubbled corn-fields on the home-farm, bristled with game. The
young soldier heartily enjoyed himself through that delicious first
week in September; and came home every afternoon, with a heavy game-bag
and a light heart, to boast of his prowess before Mary and her father.

The young man was by this time familiar with every nook and corner of
Marchmont Towers; and the builders were already at work at the
tennis-court which John had promised to erect for his friend's
pleasure. The site ultimately chosen was a bleak corner of the eastern
front, looking to the wood; but as Edward declared the spot in every
way eligible, John had no inclination to find fault with his friend's
choice. There was other work for the builders; for Mr. Arundel had
taken a wonderful fancy to a ruined boat-house upon the brink of the
river; and this boat-house was to be rebuilt and restored, and made
into a delightful pavilion, in the upper chambers of which Mary might
sit with her father in the hot summer weather, while Mr. Arundel kept a
couple of trim wherries in the recesses below.

So, you see, the young man made himself very much at home, in his own
innocent, boyish fashion, at Marchmont Towers. But as he had brought
life and light to the old Lincolnshire mansion, nobody was inclined to
quarrel with him for any liberties which he might choose to take: and
every one looked forward sorrowfully to the dark days before Christmas,
at which time he was under a promise to return to Dangerfield Park;
there to spend the remainder of his leave of absence.



While busy workmen were employed at Marchmont Towers, hammering at the
fragile wooden walls of the tennis-court,--while Mary Marchmont and
Edward Arundel wandered, with the dogs at their heels, amongst the
rustle of the fallen leaves in the wood behind the great gaunt
Lincolnshire mansion,--Olivia, the Rector's daughter, sat in her
father's quiet study, or walked to and fro in the gloomy streets of
Swampington, doing her duty day by day.

Yes, the life of this woman is told in these few words: she did her
duty. From the earliest age at which responsibility can begin, she had
done her duty, uncomplainingly, unswervingly, as it seemed to those who
watched her.

She was a good woman. The bishop of the diocese had specially
complimented her for her active devotion to that holy work which falls
somewhat heavily upon the only daughter of a widowed rector. All the
stately dowagers about Swampington were loud in their praises of Olivia
Arundel. Such devotion, such untiring zeal in a young person of
three-and-twenty years of age, were really most laudable, these solemn
elders said, in tones of supreme patronage; for the young saint of whom
they spoke wore shabby gowns, and was the portionless daughter of a
poor man who had let the world slip by him, and who sat now amid the
dreary ruins of a wasted life, looking yearningly backward, with hollow
regretful eyes, and bewailing the chances he had lost. Hubert Arundel
loved his daughter; loved her with that sorrowful affection we feel for
those who suffer for our sins, whose lives have been blighted by our

Every shabby garment which Olivia wore was a separate reproach to her
father; every deprivation she endured stung him as cruelly as if she
had turned upon him and loudly upbraided him for his wasted life and
his squandered patrimony. He loved her; and he watched her day after
day, doing her duty to him as to all others; doing her duty for ever
and for ever; but when he most yearned to take her to his heart, her
own cold perfections arose, and separated him from the child he loved.
What was he but a poor, vacillating, erring creature; weak, supine,
idle, epicurean; unworthy to approach this girl, who never seemed to
sicken of the hardness of her life, who never grew weary of well-doing?

But how was it that, for all her goodness, Olivia Arundel won so small
a share of earthly reward? I do not allude to the gold and jewels and
other worldly benefits with which the fairies in our children's
story-books reward the benevolent mortals who take compassion upon them
when they experimentalise with human nature in the guise of old women;
but I speak rather of the love and gratitude, the tenderness and
blessings, which usually wait upon the footsteps of those who do good
deeds. Olivia Arundel's charities were never ceasing; her life was one
perpetual sacrifice to her father's parishioners. There was no natural
womanly vanity, no simple girlish fancy, which this woman had not
trodden under foot, and trampled out in the hard pathway she had chosen
for herself.

The poor people knew this. Rheumatic men and women, crippled and
bed-ridden, knew that the blankets which covered them had been bought
out of money that would have purchased silk dresses for the Rector's
handsome daughter, or luxuries for the frugal table at the Rectory.
They knew this. They knew that, through frost and snow, through storm
and rain, Olivia Arundel would come to sit beside their dreary hearths,
their desolate sick-beds, and read holy books to them; sublimely
indifferent to the foul weather without, to the stifling atmosphere
within, to dirt, discomfort, poverty, inconvenience; heedless of all,
except the performance of the task she had set herself.

People knew this; and they were grateful to Miss Arundel, and
submissive and attentive in her presence; they gave her such return as
they were able to give for the benefits, spiritual and temporal, which
she bestowed upon them: but they did not love her.

They spoke of her in reverential accents, and praised her whenever her
name was mentioned; but they spoke with tearless eyes and unfaltering
voices. Her virtues were beautiful, of course, as virtue in the
abstract must always be; but I think there was a want of individuality
in her goodness, a lack of personal tenderness in her kindness, which
separated her from the people she benefited.

Perhaps there was something almost chilling in the dull monotony of
Miss Arundel's benevolence. There was no blemish of mortal weakness
upon the good deeds she performed; and the recipients of her bounties,
seeing her so far off, grew afraid of her, even by reason of her
goodness, and _could_ not love her.

She made no favourites amongst her father's parishioners. Of all the
school-children she had taught, she had never chosen one curly-headed
urchin for a pet. She had no good days and bad days; she was never
foolishly indulgent or extravagantly cordial. She was always the
same,--Church-of-England charity personified; meting out all mercies by
line and rule; doing good with a note-book and a pencil in her hand;
looking on every side with calm, scrutinising eyes; rigidly just,
terribly perfect.

It was a fearfully monotonous, narrow, and uneventful life which Olivia
Arundel led at Swampington Rectory. At three-and-twenty years of age
she could have written her history upon a few pages. The world outside
that dull Lincolnshire town might be shaken by convulsions, and made
irrecognisable by repeated change; but all those outer changes and
revolutions made themselves but little felt in the quiet grass-grown
streets, and the flat surrounding swamps, within whose narrow boundary
Olivia Arundel had lived from infancy to womanhood; performing and
repeating the same duties from day to day, with no other progress to
mark the lapse of her existence than the slow alternation of the
seasons, and the dark hollow circles which had lately deepened beneath
her grey eyes, and the depressed lines about the corners of her firm

These outward tokens, beyond her own control, alone betrayed this
woman's secret. She was weary of her life. She sickened under the dull
burden which she had borne so long, and carried so patiently. The slow
round of duty was loathsome to her. The horrible, narrow, unchanging
existence, shut in by cruel walls, which bounded her on every side and
kept her prisoner to herself, was odious to her. The powerful intellect
revolted against the fetters that bound and galled it. The proud heart
beat with murderous violence against the bonds that kept it captive.

"Is my life always to be this--always, always, always?" The passionate
nature burst forth sometimes, and the voice that had so long been
stifled cried aloud in the black stillness of the night, "Is it to go
on for ever and for ever; like the slow river that creeps under the
broken wall? O my God! is the lot of other women never to be mine? Am I
never to be loved and admired; never to be sought and chosen? Is my
life to be all of one dull, grey, colourless monotony; without one
sudden gleam of sunshine, without one burst of rainbow-light?"

How shall I anatomise this woman, who, gifted with no womanly
tenderness of nature, unendowed with that pitiful and unreasoning
affection which makes womanhood beautiful, yet tried, and tried
unceasingly, to do her duty, and to be good; clinging, in the very
blindness of her soul, to the rigid formulas of her faith, but unable
to seize upon its spirit? Some latent comprehension of the want in her
nature made her only the more scrupulous in the performance of those
duties which she had meted out for herself. The holy sentences she had
heard, Sunday after Sunday, feebly read by her father, haunted her
perpetually, and would not be put away from her. The tenderness in
every word of those familiar gospels was a reproach to the want of
tenderness in her own heart. She could be good to her father's
parishioners, and she could make sacrifices for them; but she could not
love them, any more than they could love her.

That divine and universal pity, that spontaneous and boundless
affection, which is the chief loveliness of womanhood and Christianity,
had no part in her nature. She could understand Judith with the
Assyrian general's gory head held aloft in her uplifted hand; but she
could not comprehend that diviner mystery of sinful Magdalene sitting
at her Master's feet, with the shame and love in her face half hidden
by a veil of drooping hair.

No; Olivia Arundel was not a good woman, in the commoner sense we
attach to the phrase. It was not natural to her to be gentle and
tender, to be beneficent, compassionate, and kind, as it is to the
women we are accustomed to call "good." She was a woman who was for
ever fighting against her nature; who was for ever striving to do
right; for ever walking painfully upon the difficult road mapped out
for her; for ever measuring herself by the standard she had set up for
her self-abasement. And who shall say that such a woman as this, if she
persevere unto the end, shall not wear a brighter crown than her more
gentle sisters,--the starry circlet of a martyr?

If she persevere unto the end! But was Olivia Arundel the woman to do
this? The deepening circles about her eyes, the hollowing cheeks, and
the feverish restlessness of manner which she could not always control,
told how terrible the long struggle had become to her. If she could
have died then,--if she had fallen beneath the weight of her
burden,--what a record of sin and anguish might have remained unwritten
in the history of woman's life! But this woman was one of those who can
suffer, and yet not die. She bore her burden a little longer; only to
fling it down by-and-by, and to abandon herself to the eager devils who
had been watching for her so untiringly.

Hubert Arundel was afraid of his daughter. The knowledge that he had
wronged her,--wronged her even before her birth by the foolish waste of
his patrimony, and wronged her through life by his lack of energy in
seeking such advancement as a more ambitious man might have won,--the
knowledge of this, and of his daughter's superior virtues, combined to
render the father ashamed and humiliated by the presence of his only
child. The struggle between this fear and his remorseful love of her
was a very painful one; but fear had the mastery, and the Rector of
Swampington was content to stand aloof, mutely watchful of his
daughter, wondering feebly whether she was happy, striving vainly to
discover that one secret, that keystone of the soul, which must exist
in every nature, however outwardly commonplace.

Mr. Arundel had hoped that his daughter would marry, and marry well,
even at Swampington; for there were rich young landowners who visited
at the Rectory. But Olivia's handsome face won her few admirers, and at
three-and-twenty Miss Arundel had received no offer of marriage. The
father reproached himself for this. It was he who had blighted the life
of his penniless girl; it was his fault that no suitors came to woo his
motherless child. Yet many dowerless maidens have been sought and
loved; and I do not think it was Olivia's lack of fortune which kept
admirers at bay. I believe it was rather that inherent want of
tenderness which chilled and dispirited the timid young Lincolnshire

Had Olivia ever been in love? Hubert Arundel constantly asked himself
this question. He did so because he saw that some blighting influence,
even beyond the poverty and dulness of her home, had fallen upon the
life of his only child. What was it? What was it? Was it some hopeless
attachment, some secret tenderness, which had never won the sweet
return of love for love?

He would no more have ventured to question his daughter upon this
subject than he would have dared to ask his fair young Queen, newly
married in those days, whether she was happy with her handsome husband.

Miss Arundel stood by the Rectory gate in the early September evening,
watching the western sunlight on the low sea-line beyond the marshes.
She was wearied and worn out by a long day devoted to visiting amongst
her parishioners; and she stood with her elbow leaning on the gate, and
her head resting on her hand, in an attitude peculiarly expressive of
fatigue. She had thrown off her bonnet, and her black hair was pushed
carelessly from her forehead. Those masses of hair had not that purple
lustre, nor yet that wandering glimmer of red gold, which gives
peculiar beauty to some raven tresses. Olivia's hair was long and
luxuriant; but it was of that dead, inky blackness, which is all
shadow. It was dark, fathomless, inscrutable, like herself. The cold
grey eyes looked thoughtfully seaward. Another day's duty had been
done. Long chapters of Holy Writ had been read to troublesome old women
afflicted with perpetual coughs; stifling, airless cottages had been
visited; the dull, unvarying track had been beaten by the patient feet,
and the yellow sun was going down upon another joyless day. But did the
still evening hour bring peace to that restless spirit? No; by the
rigid compression of the lips, by the feverish lustre in the eyes, by
the faint hectic flush in the oval cheeks, by every outward sign of
inward unrest, Olivia Arundel was not at peace! The listlessness of her
attitude was merely the listlessness of physical fatigue. The mental
struggle was not finished with the close of the day's work.

The young lady looked up suddenly as the tramp of a horse's hoofs, slow
and lazy-sounding on the smooth road, met her ear. Her eyes dilated,
and her breath went and came more rapidly; but she did not stir from
her weary attitude.

The horse was from the stables at Marchmont Towers, and the rider was
Mr. Arundel. He came smiling to the Rectory gate, with the low sunshine
glittering in his chesnut hair, and the light of careless, indifferent
happiness irradiating his handsome face.

"You must have thought I'd forgotten you and my uncle, my dear Livy,"
he said, as he sprang lightly from his horse. "We've been so busy with
the tennis-court, and the boat-house, and the partridges, and goodness
knows what besides at the Towers, that I couldn't get the time to ride
over till this evening. But to-day we dined early, on purpose that I
might have the chance of getting here. I come upon an important
mission, Livy, I assure you."

"What do you mean?"

There was no change in Miss Arundel's voice when she spoke to her
cousin; but there was a change, not easily to be defined, in her face
when she looked at him. It seemed as if that weary hopelessness of
expression which had settled on her countenance lately grew more weary,
more hopeless, as she turned towards this bright young soldier,
glorious in the beauty of his own light-heartedness. It may have been
merely the sharpness of contrast which produced this effect. It may
have been an actual change arising out of some secret hidden in
Olivia's breast.

"What do you mean by an important mission, Edward?" she said.

She had need to repeat the question; for the young man's attention had
wandered from her, and he was watching his horse as the animal cropped
the tangled herbage about the Rectory gate.

"Why, I've come with an invitation to a dinner at Marchmont Towers.
There's to be a dinner-party; and, in point of fact, it's to be given
on purpose for you and my uncle. John and Polly are full of it. You'll
come, won't you, Livy?"

Miss Arundel shrugged her shoulders, with an impatient sigh.

"I hate dinner-parties," she said; "but, of course, if papa accepts Mr.
Marchmont's invitation, I cannot refuse to go. Papa must choose for

There had been some interchange of civilities between Marchmont Towers
and Swampington Rectory during the six weeks which had passed since
Mary's introduction to Olivia Arundel; and this dinner-party was the
result of John's simple desire to do honour to his friend's kindred.

"Oh, you must come, Livy," Mr. Arundel exclaimed. "The tennis-court is
going on capitally. I want you to give us your opinion again. Shall I
take my horse round to the stables? I am going to stop an hour or two,
and ride back by moonlight."

Edward Arundel took the bridle in his hand, and the cousins walked
slowly round by the low garden-wall to a dismal and rather dilapidated
stable-yard at the back of the Rectory, where Hubert Arundel kept a
wall-eyed white horse, long-legged, shallow-chested, and large-headed,
and a fearfully and wonderfully made phaëton, with high wheels and a
mouldy leathern hood.

Olivia walked by the young soldier's side with that air of hopeless
indifference that had so grown upon her very lately. Her eyelids
drooped with a look of sullen disdain; but the grey eyes glanced
furtively now and again at her companion's handsome face. He was very
handsome. The glitter of reddish gold in his hair, and the light in his
fearless blue eyes; the careless grace peculiar to the kind of man we
call "a swell;" the gay _insouciance_ of an easy, candid, generous
nature,--all combined to make Edward Arundel singularly attractive.
These spoiled children of nature demand our admiration, in very spite
of ourselves. These beautiful, useless creatures call upon us to
rejoice in their valueless beauty, like the flaunting poppies in the
cornfield, and the gaudy wild-flowers in the grass.

The darkness of Olivia's face deepened after each furtive glance she
cast at her cousin. Could it be that this girl, to whom nature had
given strength but denied grace, envied the superficial attractions of
the young man at her side? She did envy him; she envied him that sunny
temperament which was so unlike her own; she envied him that wondrous
power of taking life lightly. Why should existence be so bright and
careless to him; while to her it was a terrible fever-dream, a long
sickness, a never-ceasing battle?

"Is my uncle in the house?" Mr. Arundel asked, as he strolled from the
stable into the garden with his cousin by his side.

"No; he has been out since dinner," Olivia answered; "but I expect him
back every minute. I came out into the garden,--the house seemed so hot
and stifling to-night, and I have been sitting in close cottages all

"Sitting in close cottages!" repeated Edward. "Ah, to be sure; visiting
your rheumatic old pensioners, I suppose. How good you are, Olivia!"


She echoed the word in the very bitterness of a scorn that could not be

"Yes; everybody says so. The Millwards were at Marchmont Towers the
other day, and they were talking of you, and praising your goodness,
and speaking of your schools, and your blanket-associations, and your
invalid-societies, and your mutual-help clubs, and all your plans for
the parish. Why, you must work as hard as a prime-minister, Livy, by
their account; you, who are only a few years older than I."

Only a few years! She started at the phrase, and bit her lip.

"I was three-and-twenty last month," she said.

"Ah, yes; to be sure. And I'm one-and-twenty. Then you're only two
years older than I, Livy. But, then, you see, you're so clever, that
you seem much older than you are. You'd make a fellow feel rather
afraid of you, you know. Upon my word you do, Livy."

Miss Arundel did not reply to this speech of her cousin's. She was
walking by his side up and down a narrow gravelled pathway, bordered by
a hazel-hedge; she had gathered one of the slender twigs, and was idly
stripping away the fluffy buds.

"What do you think, Livy?" cried Edward suddenly, bursting out laughing
at the end of the question. "What do you think? It's my belief you've
made a conquest."

"What do you mean?"

"There you go; turning upon a fellow as if you could eat him. Yes,
Livy; it's no use your looking savage. You've made a conquest; and of
one of the best fellows in the world, too. John Marchmont's in love
with you."

Olivia Arundel's face flushed a vivid crimson to the roots of her black

"How dare you come here to insult me, Edward Arundel?" she cried

"Insult you? Now, Livy dear, that's too bad, upon my word,"
remonstrated the young man. "I come and tell you that as good a man as
ever breathed is over head and ears in love with you, and that you may
be mistress of one of the finest estates in Lincolnshire if you please,
and you turn round upon me like no end of furies."

"Because I hate to hear you talk nonsense," answered Olivia, her bosom
still heaving with that first outburst of emotion, but her voice
suppressed and cold. "Am I so beautiful, or so admired or beloved, that
a man who has not seen me half a dozen times should fall in love with
me? Do those who know me estimate me so much, or prize me so highly,
that a stranger should think of me? You _do_ insult me, Edward Arundel,
when you talk as you have talked to-night."

She looked out towards the low yellow light in the sky with a black
gloom upon her face, which no reflected glimmer of the sinking sun
could illumine; a settled darkness, near akin to the utter blackness of

"But, good heavens, Olivia, what do you mean?" cried the young man. "I
tell you something that I think a good joke, and you go and make a
tragedy out of it. If I'd told Letitia that a rich widower had fallen
in love with her, she'd think it the finest fun in the world."

"I'm not your sister Letitia."

"No; but I wish you'd half as good a temper as she has, Livy. However,
never mind; I'll say no more. If poor old Marchmont has fallen in love
with you, that's his look-out. Poor dear old boy, he's let out the
secret of his weakness half a dozen ways within these last few days.
It's Miss Arundel this, and Miss Arundel the other; so unselfish, so
accomplished, so ladylike, so good! That's the way he goes on, poor
simple old dear; without having the remotest notion that he's making a
confounded fool of himself."

Olivia tossed the rumpled hair from her forehead with an impatient
gesture of her hand.

"Why should this Mr. Marchmont think all this of me?" she said,
"when--" she stopped abruptly.

"When--what, Livy?"

"When other people don't think it."

"How do you know what other people think? You haven't asked them, I

The young soldier treated his cousin in very much the same
free-and-easy manner which he displayed towards his sister Letitia. It
would have been almost difficult for him to recognise any degree in his
relationship to the two girls. He loved Letitia better than Olivia; but
his affection for both was of exactly the same character.

Hubert Arundel came into the garden, wearied out, like his daughter,
while the two cousins were walking under the shadow of the neglected
hazels. He declared his willingness to accept the invitation to
Marchmont Towers, and promised to answer John's ceremonious note the
next day.

"Cookson, from Kemberling, will be there, I suppose," he said, alluding
to a brother parson, "and the usual set? Well, I'll come, Ned, if you
wish it. You'd like to go, Olivia?"

"If you like, papa."

There was a duty to be performed now--the duty of placid obedience to
her father; and Miss Arundel's manner changed from angry impatience to
grave respect. She owed no special duty, be it remembered, to her
cousin. She had no line or rule by which to measure her conduct to him.

She stood at the gate nearly an hour later, and watched the young man
ride away in the dim moonlight. If every separate tramp of his horse's
hoofs had struck upon her heart, it could scarcely have given her more
pain than she felt as the sound of those slow footfalls died away in
the distance.

"O my God," she cried, "is this madness to undo all that I have done?
Is this folly to be the climax of my dismal life? Am I to die for the
love of a frivolous, fair-haired boy, who laughs in my face when he
tells me that his friend has pleased to 'take a fancy to me'?"

She walked away towards the house; then stopping, with a sudden shiver,
she turned, and went back to the hazel-alley she had paced with Edward

"Oh, my narrow life!" she muttered between her set teeth; "my narrow
life! It is that which has made me the slave of this madness. I love
him because he is the brightest and fairest thing I have ever seen. I
love him because he brings me all I have ever known of a more beautiful
world than that I live in. Bah! why do I reason with myself?" she
cried, with a sudden change of manner. "I love him because I am mad."

She paced up and down the hazel-shaded pathway till the moonlight grew
broad and full, and every ivy-grown gable of the Rectory stood sharply
out against the vivid purple of the sky. She paced up and down, trying
to trample the folly within her under her feet as she went; a fierce,
passionate, impulsive woman, fighting against her mad love for a
bright-faced boy.

"Two years older--only two years!" she said; "but he spoke of the
difference between us as if it had been half a century. And then I am
so clever, that I seem older than I am; and he is afraid of me! Is it
for this that I have sat night after night in my father's study, poring
over the books that were too difficult for him? What have I made of
myself in my pride of intellect? What reward have I won for my

Olivia Arundel looked back at her long life of duty--a dull, dead
level, unbroken by one of those monuments which mark the desert of the
past; a desolate flat, unlovely as the marshes between the low Rectory
wall and the shimmering grey sea.



Mr. Richard Paulette, of that eminent legal firm, Paulette, Paulette,
and Mathewson, coming to Marchmont Towers on business, was surprised to
behold the quiet ease with which the sometime copying-clerk received
the punctilious country gentry who came to sit at his board and do him

Of all the legal fairy-tales, of all the parchment-recorded romances,
of all the poetry run into affidavits, in which the solicitor had ever
been concerned, this story seemed the strangest. Not so very strange in
itself, for such romances are not uncommon in the history of a lawyer's
experience; but strange by reason of the tranquil manner in which John
Marchmont accepted his new position, and did the honours of his house
to his late employer.

"Ah, Paulette," Edward Arundel said, clapping the solicitor on the
back, "I don't suppose you believed me when I told you that my friend
here was heir-presumptive to a handsome fortune."

The dinner-party at the Towers was conducted with that stately grandeur
peculiar to such solemnities. There was the usual round of country-talk
and parish-talk; the hunting squires leading the former section of the
discourse, the rectors and rectors' wives supporting the latter part of
the conversation. You heard on one side that Martha Harris' husband had
left off drinking, and attended church morning and evening; and on the
other that the old grey fox that had been hunted nine seasons between
Crackbin Bottom and Hollowcraft Gorse had perished ignobly in the
poultry-yard of a recusant farmer. While your left ear became conscious
of the fact that little Billy Smithers had fallen into a copper of
scalding water, your right received the dismal tidings that all the
young partridges had been drowned by the rains after St. Swithin, and
that there were hardly any of this year's birds, sir, and it would be a
very blue look-out for next season.

Mary Marchmont had listened to gayer talk in Oakley Street than any
that was to be heard that night in her father's drawing-rooms, except
indeed when Edward Arundel left off flirting with some pretty girls in
blue, and hovered near her side for a little while, quizzing the
company. Heaven knows the young soldier's jokes were commonplace
enough; but Mary admired him as the most brilliant and accomplished of

"How do you like my cousin, Polly?" he asked at last.

"Your cousin, Miss Arundel?"


"She is very handsome."

"Yes, I suppose so," the young man answered carelessly. "Everybody says
that Livy's handsome; but it's rather a cold style of beauty, isn't it?
A little too much of the Pallas Athenë about it for my taste. I like
those girls in blue, with the crinkly auburn hair,--there's a touch of
red in it in the light,--and the dimples. You've a dimple, Polly, when
you smile."

Miss Marchmont blushed as she received this information, and her brown
eyes wandered away, looking very earnestly at the pretty girls in blue.
She looked at them with a strange interest, eager to discover what it
was that Edward admired.

"But you haven't answered my question, Polly," said Mr. Arundel. "I am
afraid you have been drinking too much wine, Miss Marchmont, and
muddling that sober little head of yours with the fumes of your papa's
tawny port. I asked you how you liked Olivia."

Mary blushed again.

"I don't know Miss Arundel well enough to like her--yet," she answered

"But shall you like her when you've known her longer? Don't be
jesuitical, Polly. Likings and dislikings are instantaneous and
instinctive. I liked you before I'd eaten half a dozen mouthfuls of the
roll you buttered for me at that breakfast in Oakley Street, Polly. You
don't like my cousin Olivia, miss; I can see that very plainly. You're
jealous of her."

"Jealous of her!"

The bright colour faded out of Mary Marchmont's face, and left her ashy

"Do _you_ like her, then?" she asked.

But Mr. Arundel was not such a coxcomb as to catch at the secret so
naïvely betrayed in that breathless question.

"No, Polly," he said, laughing; "she's my cousin, you know, and I've
known her all my life; and cousins are like sisters. One likes to tease
and aggravate them, and all that; but one doesn't fall in love with
them. But I think I could mention somebody who thinks a great deal of


"Your papa."

Mary looked at the young soldier in utter bewilderment.

"Papa!" she echoed.

"Yes, Polly. How would you like a stepmamma? How would you like your
papa to marry again?"

Mary Marchmont started to her feet, as if she would have gone to her
father in the midst of all those spectators. John was standing near
Olivia and her father, talking to them, and playing nervously with his
slender watch-chain when he addressed the young lady.

"My papa--marry again!" gasped Mary. "How dare you say such a thing,
Mr. Arundel?"

Her childish devotion to her father arose in all its force; a flood of
passionate emotion that overwhelmed her sensitive nature. Marry again!
marry a woman who would separate him from his only child! Could he ever
dream for one brief moment of such a horrible cruelty?

She looked at Olivia's sternly handsome face, and trembled. She could
almost picture that very woman standing between her and her father, and
putting her away from him. Her indignation quickly melted into grief.
Indignation, however intense, was always short-lived in that gentle

"Oh, Mr Arundel!" she said, piteously appealing to the young man, "papa
would never, never, never marry again,--would he?"

"Not if it was to grieve you, Polly, I dare say," Edward answered

He had been dumbfounded by Mary's passionate sorrow. He had expected
that she would have been rather pleased, than otherwise, at the idea of
a young stepmother,--a companion in those vast lonely rooms, an
instructress and a friend as she grew to womanhood.

"I was only talking nonsense, Polly darling," he said. "You mustn't
make yourself unhappy about any absurd fancies of mine. I think your
papa admires my cousin Olivia: and I thought, perhaps, you'd be glad to
have a stepmother."

"Glad to have any one who'd take papa's love away from me?" Mary said
plaintively. "Oh, Mr. Arundel, how could you think so?"

In all their familiarity the little girl had never learned to call her
father's friend by his Christian name, though he had often told her to
do so. She trembled to pronounce that simple Saxon name, which was so
beautiful and wonderful because it was his: but when she read a very
stupid novel, in which the hero was a namesake of Mr. Arundel's, the
vapid pages seemed to be phosphorescent with light wherever the name
appeared upon them.

I scarcely know why John Marchmont lingered by Miss Arundel's chair. He
had heard her praises from every one. She was a paragon of goodness, an
uncanonised saint, for ever sacrificing herself for the benefit of
others. Perhaps he was thinking that such a woman as this would be the
best friend he could win for his little girl. He turned from the county
matrons, the tender, kindly, motherly creatures, who would have been
ready to take little Mary to the loving shelter of their arms, and
looked to Olivia Arundel--this cold, perfect benefactress of the
poor--for help in his difficulty.

"She, who is so good to all her father's parishioners, could not refuse
to be kind to my poor Mary?" he thought.

But how was he to win this woman's friendship for his darling? He asked
himself this question even in the midst of the frivolous people about
him, and with the buzz of their conversation in his ears. He was
perpetually tormenting himself about his little girl's future, which
seemed more dimly perplexing now than it had ever appeared in Oakley
Street, when the Lincolnshire property was a far-away dream, perhaps
never to be realised. He felt that his brief lease of life was running
out; he felt as if he and Mary had been standing upon a narrow tract of
yellow sand; very bright, very pleasant under the sunshine; but with
the slow-coming tide rising like a wall about them, and creeping
stealthily onward to overwhelm them.

Mary might gather bright-coloured shells and wet seaweed in her
childish ignorance; but he, who knew that the flood was coming, could
but grow sick at heart with the dull horror of that hastening doom. If
the black waters had been doomed to close over them both, the father
might have been content to go down under the sullen waves, with his
daughter clasped to his breast. But it was not to be so. He was to sink
in that unknown stream while she was left upon the tempest-tossed
surface, to be beaten hither and thither, feebly battling with the
stormy billows.

Could John Marchmont be a Christian, and yet feel this horrible dread
of the death which must separate him from his daughter? I fear this
frail, consumptive widower loved his child with an intensity of
affection that is scarcely reconcilable with Christianity. Such great
passions as these must be put away before the cross can be taken up,
and the troublesome path followed. In all love and kindness towards his
fellow-creatures, in all patient endurance of the pains and troubles
that befel himself, it would have been difficult to find a more
single-hearted follower of Gospel-teaching than John Marchmont; but in
this affection for his motherless child he was a very Pagan. He set up
an idol for himself, and bowed down before it. Doubtful and fearful of
the future, he looked hopelessly forward. He _could_ not trust his
orphan child into the hands of God; and drop away himself into the
fathomless darkness, serene in the belief that she would be cared for
and protected. No; he could not trust. He could be faithful for
himself; simple and confiding as a child; but not for her. He saw the
gloomy rocks louring black in the distance; the pitiless waves beating
far away yonder, impatient to devour the frail boat that was so soon to
be left alone upon the waters. In the thick darkness of the future he
could see no ray of light, except one,--a new hope that had lately
risen in his mind; the hope of winning some noble and perfect woman to
be the future friend of his daughter.

The days were past in which, in his simplicity, he had looked to Edward
Arundel as the future shelter of his child. The generous boy had grown
into a stylish young man, a soldier, whose duty lay far away from
Marchmont Towers. No; it was to a good woman's guardianship the father
must leave his child.

Thus the very intensity of his love was the one motive which led John
Marchmont to contemplate the step that Mary thought such a cruel and
bitter wrong to her.

 * * * * *

It was not till long after the dinner-party at Marchmont Towers that
these ideas resolved themselves into any positive form, and that John
began to think that for his daughter's sake he might be led to
contemplate a second marriage. Edward Arundel had spoken the truth when
he told his cousin that John Marchmont had repeatedly mentioned her
name; but the careless and impulsive young man had been utterly unable
to fathom the feeling lurking in his friend's mind. It was not Olivia
Arundel's handsome face which had won John's admiration; it was the
constant reiteration of her praises upon every side which had led him
to believe that this woman, of all others, was the one whom he would do
well to win for his child's friend and guardian in the dark days that
were to come.

The knowledge that Olivia's intellect was of no common order, together
with the somewhat imperious dignity of her manner, strengthened this
belief in John Marchmont's mind. It was not a good woman only whom he
must seek in the friend he needed for his child; it was a woman
powerful enough to shield her in the lonely path she would have to
tread; a woman strong enough to help her, perhaps, by-and-by to do
battle with Paul Marchmont.

So, in the blind paganism of his love, John refused to trust his child
into the hands of Providence, and chose for himself a friend and
guardian who should shelter his darling. He made his choice with so
much deliberation, and after such long nights and days of earnest
thought, that he may be forgiven if he believed he had chosen wisely.

Thus it was that in the dark November days, while Edward and Mary
played chess by the wide fireplace in the western drawing-room, or ball
in the newly-erected tennis-court, John Marchmont sat in his study
examining his papers, and calculating the amount of money at his own
disposal, in serious contemplation of a second marriage.

Did he love Olivia Arundel? No. He admired her and respected her, and
he firmly believed her to be the most perfect of women. No impulse of
affection had prompted the step he contemplated taking. He had loved
his first wife truly and tenderly; but he had never suffered very
acutely from any of those torturing emotions which form the several
stages of the great tragedy called Love.

But had he ever thought of the likelihood of his deliberate offer being
rejected by the young lady who had been the object of such careful
consideration? Yes; he had thought of this, and was prepared to abide
the issue. He should, at least, have tried his uttermost to secure a
friend for his darling.

With such unloverlike feelings as these the owner of Marchmont Towers
drove into Swampington one morning, deliberately bent upon offering
Olivia Arundel his hand. He had consulted with his land-steward, and
with Messrs. Paulette, and had ascertained how far he could endow his
bride with the goods of this world. It was not much that he could give
her, for the estate was strictly entailed; but there would be his own
savings for the brief term of his life, and if he lived only a few
years these savings might accumulate to a considerable amount, so
limited were the expenses of the quiet Lincolnshire household; and
there was a sum of money, something over nine thousand pounds, left him
by Philip Marchmont, senior. He had something, then, to offer to the
woman he sought to make his wife; and, above all, he had a supreme
belief in Olivia Arundel's utter disinterestedness. He had seen her
frequently since the dinner-party, and had always seen her the
same,--grave, reserved, dignified; patiently employed in the strict
performance of her duty.

He found Miss Arundel sitting in her father's study, busily cutting out
coarse garments for her poor. A newly-written sermon lay open on the
table. Had Mr. Marchmont looked closely at the manuscript, he would
have seen that the ink was wet, and that the writing was Olivia's. It
was a relief to this strange woman to write sermons sometimes--fierce
denunciatory protests against the inherent wickedness of the human
heart. Can you imagine a woman with a wicked heart steadfastly trying
to do good, and to be good? It is a dark and horrible picture; but it
is the only true picture of the woman whom John Marchmont sought to win
for his wife.

The interview between Mary's father and Olivia Arundel was not a very
sentimental one; but it was certainly the very reverse of commonplace.
John was too simple-hearted to disguise the purpose of his wooing. He
pleaded, not for a wife for himself, but a mother for his orphan child.
He talked of Mary's helplessness in the future, not of his own love in
the present. Carried away by the egotism of his one affection, he let
his motives appear in all their nakedness. He spoke long and earnestly;
he spoke until the blinding tears in his eyes made the face of her he
looked at seem blotted and dim.

Miss Arundel watched him as he pleaded; sternly, unflinchingly. But she
uttered no word until he had finished; and then, rising suddenly, with
a dusky flush upon her face, she began to pace up and down the narrow
room. She had forgotten John Marchmont. In the strength and vigour of
her intellect, this weak-minded widower, whose one passion was a
pitiful love for his child, appeared to her so utterly insignificant,
that for a few moments she had forgotten his presence in that room--his
very existence, perhaps. She turned to him presently, and looked him
full in the face.

"You do not love me, Mr. Marchmont?" she said.

"Pardon me," John stammered; "believe me, Miss Arundel, I respect, I
esteem you so much, that--"

"That you choose me as a fitting friend for your child. I understand. I
am not the sort of woman to be loved. I have long comprehended that. My
cousin Edward Arundel has often taken the trouble to tell me as much.
And you wish me to be your wife in order that you may have a guardian
for your child? It is very much the same thing as engaging a governess;
only the engagement is to be more binding."

"Miss Arundel," exclaimed John Marchmont, "forgive me! You
misunderstand me; indeed you do. Had I thought that I could have
offended you--"

"I am not offended. You have spoken the truth where another man would
have told a lie. I ought to be flattered by your confidence in me. It
pleases me that people should think me good, and worthy of their

She broke into a sigh as she finished speaking.

"And you will not reject my appeal?"

"I scarcely know what to do," answered Olivia, pressing her hand to her

She leaned against the angle of the deep casement window, looking out
at the garden, desolate and neglected in the bleak winter weather. She
was silent for some minutes. John Marchmont did not interrupt her; he
was content to wait patiently until she should choose to speak.

"Mr. Marchmont," she said at last, turning upon poor John with an
abrupt vehemence that almost startled him, "I am three-and-twenty; and
in the long, dull memory of the three-and-twenty years that have made
my life, I cannot look back upon one joy--no, so help me Heaven, not
one!" she cried passionately. "No prisoner in the Bastille, shut in a
cell below the level of the Seine, and making companions of rats and
spiders in his misery, ever led a life more hopelessly narrow, more
pitifully circumscribed, than mine has been. These grass-grown streets
have made the boundary of my existence. The flat fenny country round me
is not flatter or more dismal than my life. You will say that I should
take an interest in the duties which I do; and that they should be
enough for me. Heaven knows I have tried to do so; but my life is hard.
Do you think there has been nothing in all this to warp my nature? Do
you think after hearing this, that I am the woman to be a second mother
to your child?"

She sat down as she finished speaking, and her hands dropped listlessly
in her lap. The unquiet spirit raging in her breast had been stronger
than herself, and had spoken. She had lifted the dull veil through
which the outer world beheld her, and had showed John Marchmont her
natural face.

"I think you are a good woman, Miss Arundel," he said earnestly. "If I
had thought otherwise, I should not have come here to-day. I want a
good woman to be kind to my child; kind to her when I am dead and
gone," he added, in a lower voice.

Olivia Arundel sat silent and motionless, looking straight before her
out into the black dulness of the garden. She was trying to think out
the dark problem of her life.

Strange as it may seem, there was a certain fascination for her in John
Marchmont's offer. He offered her something, no matter what; it would
be a change. She had compared herself to a prisoner in the Bastille;
and I think she felt very much as such a prisoner might have felt upon
his gaoler's offering to remove him to Vincennes. The new prison might
be worse than the old one, perhaps; but it would be different. Life at
Marchmont Towers might be more monotonous, more desolate, than at
Swampington; but it would be a new monotony, another desolation. Have
you never felt, when suffering the hideous throes of toothache, that it
would be a relief to have the earache or the rheumatism; that variety
even in torture would be agreeable?

Then, again, Olivia Arundel, though unblest with many of the charms of
womanhood, was not entirely without its weaknesses. To marry John
Marchmont would be to avenge herself upon Edward Arundel. Alas! she
forgot how impossible it is to inflict a dagger-thrust upon him who is
guarded by the impenetrable armour of indifference. She saw herself the
mistress of Marchmont Towers, waited upon by liveried servants,
courted, not patronised by the country gentry; avenged upon the
mercenary aunt who had slighted her, who had bade her go out and get
her living as a nursery governess. She saw this; and all that was
ignoble in her nature arose, and urged her to snatch the chance offered
her--the one chance of lifting herself out of the horrible obscurity of
her life. The ambition which might have made her an empress lowered its
crest, and cried, "Take this; at least it is something." But, through
all, the better voices which she had enlisted to do battle with the
natural voice of her soul cried, "This is a temptation of the devil;
put it away from thee."

But this temptation came to her at the very moment when her life had
become most intolerable; too intolerable to be borne, she thought. She
knew now, fatally, certainly, that Edward Arundel did not love her;
that the one only day-dream she had ever made for herself had been a
snare and a delusion. The radiance of that foolish dream had been the
single light of her life. That taken away from her, the darkness was
blacker than the blackness of death; more horrible than the obscurity
of the grave.

In all the future she had not one hope: no, not one. She had loved
Edward Arundel with all the strength of her soul; she had wasted a
world of intellect and passion upon this bright-haired boy. This
foolish, grovelling madness had been the blight of her life. But for
this, she might have grown out of her natural self by force of her
conscientious desire to do right; and might have become, indeed, a good
and perfect woman. If her life had been a wider one, this wasted love
would, perhaps, have shrunk into its proper insignificance; she would
have loved, and suffered, and recovered; as so many of us recover from
this common epidemic. But all the volcanic forces of an impetuous
nature, concentrated into one narrow focus, wasted themselves upon this
one feeling, until that which should have been a sentiment became a

To think that in some far-away future time she might cease to love
Edward Arundel, and learn to love somebody else, would have seemed
about as reasonable to Olivia as to hope that she could have new legs
and arms in that distant period. She could cut away this fatal passion
with a desperate stroke, it may be, just as she could cut off her arm;
but to believe that a new love would grow in its place was quite as
absurd as to believe in the growing of a new arm. Some cork monstrosity
might replace the amputated limb; some sham and simulated affection
might succeed the old love.

Olivia Arundel thought of all these things, in about ten minutes by the
little skeleton clock upon the mantel-piece, and while John Marchmont
fidgeted rather nervously, with a pair of gloves in the crown of his
hat, and waited for some definite answer to his appeal. Her mind came
back at last, after all its passionate wanderings, to the rigid channel
she had so laboriously worn for it,--the narrow groove of duty. Her
first words testified this.

"If I accept this responsibility, I will perform it faithfully," she
said, rather to herself than to Mr. Marchmont.

"I am sure you will, Miss Arundel," John answered eagerly; "I am sure
you will. You mean to undertake it, then? you mean to consider my
offer? May I speak to your father? may I tell him that I have spoken to
you? may I say that you have given me a hope of your ultimate consent?"

"Yes, yes," Olivia said, rather impatiently; "speak to my father; tell
him anything you please. Let him decide for me; it is my duty to obey

There was a terrible cowardice in this. Olivia Arundel shrank from
marrying a man she did not love, prompted by no better desire than the
mad wish to wrench herself away from her hated life. She wanted to
fling the burden of responsibility in this matter away from her. Let
another decide, let another urge her to do this wrong; and let the
wrong be called a sacrifice.

So for the first time she set to work deliberately to cheat her own
conscience. For the first time she put a false mark upon the standard
she had made for the measurement of her moral progress.

She sank into a crouching attitude on a low stool by the fire-place, in
utter prostration of body and mind, when John Marchmont had left her.
She let her weary head fall heavily against the carved oaken shaft that
supported the old-fashioned mantel-piece, heedless that her brow struck
sharply against the corner of the wood-work.

If she could have died then, with no more sinful secret than a woman's
natural weakness hidden in her breast; if she could have died then,
while yet the first step upon the dark pathway of her life was
untrodden,--how happy for herself, how happy for others! How miserable
a record of sin and suffering might have remained unwritten in the
history of woman's life!

 * * * * *

She sat long in the same attitude. Once, and once only, two solitary
tears gathered in her eyes, and rolled slowly down her pale cheeks.

"Will you be sorry when I am married, Edward Arundel?" she murmured;
"will you be sorry?"



Hubert Arundel was not so much surprised as might have been anticipated
at the proposal made him by his wealthy neighbour. Edward had prepared
his uncle for the possibility of such a proposal by sundry jocose
allusions and arch hints upon the subject of John Marchmont's
admiration for Olivia. The frank and rather frivolous young man thought
it was his cousin's handsome face that had captivated the master of
Marchmont Towers, and was quite unable to fathom the hidden motive
underlying all John's talk about Miss Arundel.

The Rector of Swampington, being a simple-hearted and not very
far-seeing man, thanked God heartily for the chance that had befallen
his daughter. She would be well off and well cared for, then, by the
mercy of Providence, in spite of his own shortcomings, which had left
her with no better provision for the future than a pitiful Policy of
Assurance upon her father's life. She would be well provided for
henceforward, and would live in a handsome house; and all those noble
qualities which had been dwarfed and crippled in a narrow sphere would
now expand, and display themselves in unlooked-for grandeur.

"People have called her a good girl," he thought; "but how could they
ever know her goodness, unless they had seen, as I have, the
deprivations she has borne so uncomplainingly?"

John Marchmont, being newly instructed by his lawyer, was able to give
Mr. Arundel a very clear statement of the provision he could make for
his wife's future. He could settle upon her the nine thousand pounds
left him by Philip Marchmont. He would allow her five hundred a year
pin-money during his lifetime; he would leave her his savings at his
death; and he would effect an insurance upon his life for her benefit.
The amount of these savings would, of course, depend upon the length of
John's life; but the money would accumulate very quickly, as his income
was eleven thousand a year, and his expenditure was not likely to
exceed three.

The Swampington living was worth little more than three hundred and
fifty pounds a year; and out of that sum Hubert Arundel and his
daughter had done treble as much good for the numerous poor of the
parish as ever had been achieved by any previous Rector or his family.
Hubert and his daughter had patiently endured the most grinding
poverty, the burden ever falling heavier on Olivia, who had the heroic
faculty of endurance as regards all physical discomfort. Can it be
wondered, then, that the Rector of Swampington thought the prospect
offered to his child a very brilliant one? Can it be wondered that he
urged his daughter to accept this altered lot?

He did urge her, pleading John Marchmont's cause a great deal more
warmly than the widower had himself pleaded.

"My darling," he said, "my darling girl! if I can live to see you
mistress of Marchmont Towers, I shall go to my grave contented and
happy. Think, my dear, of the misery from which this marriage will save
you. Oh, my dear girl, I can tell you now what I never dared tell you
before; I can tell you of the long, sleepless nights I have passed
thinking of you, and of the wicked wrongs I have done you. Not wilful
wrongs, my love," the Rector added, with the tears gathering in his
eyes; "for you know how dearly I have always loved you. But a father's
responsibility towards his children is a very heavy burden. I have only
looked at it in this light lately, my dear,--now that I've let the time
slip by, and it is too late to redeem the past. I've suffered very
much, Olivia; and all this has seemed to separate us, somehow. But
that's past now, isn't it, my dear? and you'll marry this Mr.
Marchmont. He appears to be a very good, conscientious man, and I think
he'll make you happy."

The father and daughter were sitting together after dinner in the dusky
November twilight, the room only lighted by the fire, which was low and
dim. Hubert Arundel could not see his daughter's face as he talked to
her; he could only see the black outline of her figure sharply defined
against the grey window behind her, as she sat opposite to him. He
could see by her attitude that she was listening to him, with her head
drooping and her hands lying idle in her lap.

She was silent for some little time after he had finished speaking; so
silent that he feared his words might have touched her too painfully,
and that she was crying.

Heaven help this simple-hearted father! She had scarcely heard three
consecutive words that he had spoken, but had only gathered dimly from
his speech that he wanted her to accept John Marchmont's offer.

Every great passion is a supreme egotism. It is not the object which we
hug so determinedly; it is not the object which coils itself about our
weak hearts: it is our own madness we worship and cleave to, our own
pitiable folly which we refuse to put away from us. What is Bill Sykes'
broken nose or bull-dog visage to Nancy? The creature she loves and
will not part from is not Bill, but her own love for Bill,--the one
delusion of a barren life; the one grand selfishness of a feeble

Olivia Arundel's thoughts had wandered far away while her father had
spoken so piteously to her. She had been thinking of her cousin Edward,
and had been asking herself the same question over and over again.
Would he be sorry? would he be sorry if she married John Marchmont?

But she understood presently that her father was waiting for her to
speak; and, rising from her chair, she went towards him, and laid her
hand upon his shoulder.

"I am afraid I have not done my duty to you, papa," she said.

Latterly she had been for ever harping upon this one theme,--her duty!
That word was the keynote of her life; and her existence had latterly
seemed to her so inharmonious, that it was scarcely strange she should
repeatedly strike that leading note in the scale.

"My darling," cried Mr. Arundel, "you have been all that is good!"

"No, no, papa; I have been cold, reserved, silent."

"A little silent, my dear," the Rector answered meekly; "but you have
not been happy. I have watched you, my love, and I know you have not
been happy. But that is not strange. This place is so dull, and your
life has been so fatiguing. How different that would all be at
Marchmont Towers!"

"You wish me to many Mr. Marchmont, then, papa?"

"I do, indeed, my love. For your own sake, of course," the Rector added

"You really wish it?"

"Very, very much, my dear."

"Then I will marry him, papa."

She took her hand from the Rector's shoulder, and walked away from him
to the uncurtained window, against which she stood with her back to her
father, looking out into the grey obscurity.

I have said that Hubert Arundel was not a very clever or far-seeing
person; but he vaguely felt that this was not exactly the way in which
a brilliant offer of marriage should be accepted by a young lady who
was entirely fancy-free, and he had an uncomfortable apprehension that
there was something hidden under his daughter's quiet manner.

"But, my dear Olivia," he said nervously, "you must not for a moment
suppose that I would force you into this marriage, if it is in any way
repugnant to yourself. You--you may have formed some prior
attachment--or, there may be somebody who loves you, and has loved you
longer than Mr. Marchmont, who--"

His daughter turned upon him sharply as he rambled on.

"Somebody who loves me!" she echoed. "What have you ever seen that
should make you think any one loved me?"

The harshness of her tone jarred upon Mr. Arundel, and made him still
more nervous.

"My love, I beg your pardon, I have seen nothing. I--"

"Nobody loves me, or has ever loved me,--but you," resumed Olivia,
taking no heed of her father's feeble interruption. "I am not the sort
of woman to be loved; I feel and know that. I have an aquiline nose,
and a clear skin, and dark eyes, and people call me handsome; but
nobody loves me, or ever will, so long as I live."

"But Mr. Marchmont, my dear,--surely he loves and admires you?"
remonstrated the Rector.

"Mr. Marchmont wants a governess and _chaperone_ for his daughter, and
thinks me a suitable person to fill such a post; that is all the _love_
Mr. Marchmont has for me. No, papa; there is no reason I should shrink
from this marriage. There is no one who will be sorry for it; no one! I
am asked to perform a duty towards this little girl, and I am prepared
to perform it faithfully. That is my part of the bargain. Do I commit a
sin in marrying John Marchmont in this spirit, papa?"

She asked the question eagerly, almost breathlessly; as if her decision
depended upon her father's answer.

"A sin, my dear! How can you ask such a question?"

"Very well, then; if I commit no sin in accepting this offer, I will
accept it."

It was thus Olivia paltered with her conscience, holding back half the
truth. The question she should have asked was this, "Do I commit a sin
in marrying one man, while my heart is racked by a mad passion for

Miss Arundel could not visit her poor upon the day after this interview
with her father. Her monotonous round of duty seemed more than ever
abhorrent to her. She wandered across the dreary marshes, down by the
lonely seashore, in the grey November fog.

She stood for a long time, shivering with the cold dampness of the
atmosphere, but not even conscious that she was cold, looking at a
dilapidated boat that lay upon the rugged beach. The waters before her
and the land behind her were hidden by a dense veil of mist. It seemed
as if she stood alone in the world,--utterly isolated, utterly

"O my God!" she murmured, "if this boat at my feet could drift me away
to some desert island, I could never be more desolate than I am,
amongst the people who do not love me."

Dim lights in distant windows were gleaming across the flats when she
returned to Swampington, to find her father sitting alone and
dispirited at his frugal dinner. Miss Arundel took her place quietly at
the bottom of the table, no trace of emotion upon her face.

"I am sorry I stayed out so long, papa" she said; "I had no idea it was
so late."

"Never mind, my dear, I know you have always enough to occupy you. Mr.
Marchmont called while you were out. He seemed very anxious to hear
your decision, and was delighted when he found that it was favourable
to himself."

Olivia dropped her knife and fork, and rose from her chair suddenly,
with a strange look, which was almost terror, in her face.

"It is quite decided, then?" she said.

"Yes, my love. But you are not sorry, are you?"

"Sorry! No; I am glad."

She sank back into her chair with a sigh of relief. She _was_ glad. The
prospect of this strange marriage offered a relief from the horrible
oppression of her life.

"Henceforward to think of Edward Arundel will be a sin," she thought.
"I have not won another man's love; but I shall be another man's wife."



Perhaps there was never a quieter courtship than that which followed
Olivia's acceptance of John Marchmont's offer. There had been no
pretence of sentiment on either side; yet I doubt if John had been much
more sentimental during his early love-making days, though he had very
tenderly and truly loved his first wife. There were few sparks of the
romantic or emotional fire in his placid nature. His love for his
daughter, though it absorbed his whole being, was a silent and
undemonstrative affection; a thoughtful and almost fearful devotion,
which took the form of intense but hidden anxiety for his child's
future, rather than any outward show of tenderness.

Had his love been of a more impulsive and demonstrative character, he
would scarcely have thought of taking such a step as that he now
contemplated, without first ascertaining whether it would be agreeable
to his daughter.

But he never for a moment dreamt of consulting Mary's will upon this
important matter. He looked with fearful glances towards the dim
future, and saw his darling, a lonely figure upon a barren landscape,
beset by enemies eager to devour her; and he snatched at this one
chance of securing her a protectress, who would be bound to her by a
legal as well as a moral tie; for John Marchmont meant to appoint his
second wife the guardian of his child. He thought only of this; and he
hurried on his suit at the Rectory, fearful lest death should come
between him and his loveless bride, and thus deprive his darling of a
second mother.

This was the history of John Marchmont's marriage. It was not till a
week before the day appointed for the wedding that he told his daughter
what he was about to do. Edward Arundel knew the secret, but he had
been warned not to reveal it to Mary.

The father and daughter sat together late one evening in the first week
of December, in the great western drawing-room. Edward had gone to a
party at Swampington, and was to sleep at the Rectory; so Mary and her
father were alone.

It was nearly eleven o'clock; but Miss Marchmont had insisted upon
sitting up until her father should retire to rest. She had always sat
up in Oakley Street, she had remonstrated, though she was much younger
then. She sat on a velvet-covered hassock at her father's feet, with
her loose hair falling over his knee, as her head lay there in loving
abandonment. She was not talking to him; for neither John nor Mary were
great talkers; but she was with him--that was quite enough.

Mr. Marchmont's thin fingers twined themselves listlessly in and out of
the fair curls upon his knee. Mary was thinking of Edward and the party
at Swampington. Would he enjoy himself very, very much? Would he be
sorry that she was not there? It was a grown-up party, and she wasn't
old enough for grown-up parties yet. Would the pretty girls in blue be
there? and would he dance with them?

Her father's face was clouded by a troubled expression, as he looked
absently at the red embers in the low fireplace. He spoke presently,
but his observation was a very commonplace one. The opening speeches of
a tragedy are seldom remarkable for any ominous or solemn meaning. Two
gentlemen meet each other in a street very near the footlights, and
converse rather flippantly about the aspect of affairs in general;
there is no hint of bloodshed and agony till we get deeper into the

So Mr. Marchmont, bent upon making rather an important communication to
his daughter, and for the first time feeling very fearful as to how she
would take it, began thus:

"You really ought to go to bed earlier, Polly dear; you've been looking
very pale lately, and I know such hours as these must be bad for you."

"Oh, no, papa dear," cried the young lady; "I'm always pale; that's
natural to me. Sitting up late doesn't hurt me, papa. It never did in
Oakley Street, you know."

John Marchmont shook his head sadly.

"I don't know that," he said. "My darling had to suffer many evils
through her father's poverty. If you had some one who loved you, dear,
a lady, you know,--for a man does not understand these sort of
things,--your health would be looked after more carefully,
and--and--your education--and--in short, you would be altogether
happier; wouldn't you, Polly darling?"

He asked the question in an almost piteously appealing tone. A terrible
fear was beginning to take possession of him. His daughter might be
grieved at this second marriage. The very step which he had taken for
her happiness might cause her loving nature pain and sorrow. In the
utter cowardice of his affection he trembled at the thought of causing
his darling any distress in the present, even for her own
welfare,--even for her future good; and he _knew_ that the step he was
about to take would secure that. Mary started from her reclining
position, and looked up into her father's face.

"You're not going to engage a governess for me, papa?" she cried
eagerly. "Oh, please don't. We are so much better as it is. A governess
would keep me away from you, papa; I know she would. The Miss Llandels,
at Impley Grange, have a governess; and they only come down to dessert
for half an hour, or go out for a drive sometimes, so that they very
seldom see their papa. Lucy told me so; and they said they'd give the
world to be always with their papa, as I am with you. Oh, pray, pray,
papa darling, don't let me have a governess."

The tears were in her eyes as she pleaded to him. The sight of those
tears made him terribly nervous.

"My own dear Polly," he said, "I'm not going to engage a governess.
I--; Polly, Polly dear, you must be reasonable. You mustn't grieve your
poor father. You are old enough to understand these things now, dear.
You know what the doctors have said. I may die, Polly, and leave you
alone in the world."

She clung closely to her father, and looked up, pale and trembling, as
she answered him.

"When you die, papa, I shall die too. I could never, never live without

"Yes, yes, my darling, you would. You will live to lead a happy life,
please God, and a safe one; but if I die, and leave you very young,
very inexperienced, and innocent, as I may do, my dear, you must not be
without a friend to watch over you, to advise, to protect you. I have
thought of this long and earnestly, Polly; and I believe that what I am
going to do is right."

"What you are going to do!" Mary cried, repeating her father's words,
and looking at him in sudden terror. "What do you mean, papa? What are
you going to do? Nothing that will part us! O papa, papa, you will
never do anything to part us!"

"No, Polly darling," answered Mr. Marchmont. "Whatever I do, I do for
your sake, and for that alone. I'm going to be married, my dear."

Mary burst into a low wail, more pitiful than any ordinary weeping.

"O papa, papa," she cried, "you never will, you never will!"

The sound of that piteous voice for a few moments quite unmanned John
Marchmont; but he armed himself with a desperate courage. He determined
not to be influenced by this child to relinquish the purpose which he
believed was to achieve her future welfare.

"Mary, Mary dear," he said reproachfully, "this is very cruel of you.
Do you think I haven't consulted your happiness before my own? Do you
think I shall love you less because I take this step for your sake? You
are very cruel to me, Mary."

The little girl rose from her kneeling attitude, and stood before her
father, with the tears streaming down her white cheeks, but with a
certain air of resolution about her. She had been a child for a few
moments; a child, with no power to look beyond the sudden pang of that
new sorrow which had come to her. She was a woman now, able to rise
superior to her sorrow in the strength of her womanhood.

"I won't be cruel, papa," she said; "I was selfish and wicked to talk
like that. If it will make you happy to have another wife, papa, I'll
not be sorry. No, I won't be sorry, even if your new wife separates
us--a little."

"But, my darling," John remonstrated, "I don't mean that she should
separate us at all. I wish you to have a second friend, Polly; some one
who can understand you better than I do, who may love you perhaps
almost as well." Mary Marchmont shook her head; she could not realise
this possibility. "Do you understand me, my dear?" her father continued
earnestly. "I want you to have some one who will be a mother to you;
and I hope--I am sure that Olivia--"

Mary interrupted him by a sudden exclamation, that was almost like a
cry of pain.

"Not Miss Arundel!" she said. "O papa, it is not Miss Arundel you're
going to marry!"

Her father bent his head in assent.

"What is the matter with you, Mary?" he said, almost fretfully, as he
saw the look of mingled grief and terror in his daughter's face. "You
are really quite unreasonable to-night. If I am to marry at all, who
should I choose for a wife? Who could be better than Olivia Arundel?
Everybody knows how good she is. Everybody talks of her goodness."

In these two sentences Mr. Marchmont made confession of a fact he had
never himself considered. It was not his own impulse, it was no
instinctive belief in her goodness, that had led him to choose Olivia
Arundel for his wife. He had been influenced solely by the reiterated
opinions of other people.

"I know she is very good, papa," Mary cried; "but, oh, why, why do you
marry her? Do you love her so very, very much?"

"Love her!" exclaimed Mr. Marchmont naïvely; "no, Polly dear; you know
I never loved any one but you."

"Why do you marry her then?"

"For your sake, Polly; for your sake."

"But don't then, papa; oh, pray, pray don't. I don't want her. I don't
like her. I could never be happy with her."

"Mary! Mary!"

"Yes, I know it's very wicked to say so, but it's true, papa; I never,
never, never could be happy with her. I know she is good, but I don't
like her. If I did anything wrong, I should never expect her to forgive
me for it; I should never expect her to have mercy upon me. Don't marry
her, papa; pray, pray don't marry her."

"Mary," said Mr. Marchmont resolutely, "this is very wrong of you. I
have given my word, my dear, and I cannot recall it. I believe that I
am acting for the best. You must not be childish now, Mary. You have
been my comfort ever since you were a baby; you mustn't make me unhappy

Her father's appeal went straight to her heart. Yes, she had been his
help and comfort since her earliest infancy, and she was not unused to
self-sacrifice: why should she fail him now? She had read of martyrs,
patient and holy creatures, to whom suffering was glory; she would be a
martyr, if need were, for his sake. She would stand steadfast amid the
blazing fagots, or walk unflinchingly across the white-hot ploughshare,
for his sake, for his sake.

"Papa, papa," she cried, flinging herself upon her father's neck, "I
will not make you sorry. I will be good and obedient to Miss Arundel,
if you wish it."

Mr. Marchmont carried his little girl up to her comfortable bedchamber,
close at hand to his own. She was very calm when she bade him good
night, and she kissed him with a smile upon her face; but all through
the long hours before the late winter morning Mary Marchmont lay awake,
weeping silently and incessantly in her new sorrow; and all through the
same weary hours the master of that noble Lincolnshire mansion slept a
fitful and troubled slumber, rendered hideous by confused and horrible
dreams, in which the black shadow that came between him and his child,
and the cruel hand that thrust him for ever from his darling, were
Olivia Arundel's.

But the morning light brought relief to John Marchmont and his child.
Mary arose with the determination to submit patiently to her father's
choice, and to conceal from him all traces of her foolish and
unreasoning sorrow. John awoke from troubled dreams to believe in the
wisdom of the step he had taken, and to take comfort from the thought
that in the far-away future his daughter would have reason to thank and
bless him for the choice he had made.

So the few days before the marriage passed away--miserably short days,
that flitted by with terrible speed; and the last day of all was made
still more dismal by the departure of Edward Arundel, who left
Marchmont Towers to go to Dangerfield Park, whence he was most likely
to start once more for India.

Mary felt that her narrow world of love was indeed crumbling away from
her. Edward was lost, and to-morrow her father would belong to another.
Mr. Marchmont dined at the Rectory upon that last evening; for there
were settlements to be signed, and other matters to be arranged; and
Mary was alone--quite alone--weeping over her lost happiness.

"This would never have happened," she thought, "if we hadn't come to
Marchmont Towers. I wish papa had never had the fortune; we were so
happy in Oakley Street,--so very happy. I wouldn't mind a bit being
poor again, if I could be always with papa."

Mr. Marchmont had not been able to make himself quite comfortable in
his mind, after that unpleasant interview with his daughter in which he
had broken to her the news of his approaching marriage. Argue with
himself as he might upon the advisability of the step he was about to
take, he could not argue away the fact that he had grieved the child he
loved so intensely. He could not blot away from his memory the pitiful
aspect of her terror-stricken face as she had turned it towards him
when he uttered the name of Olivia Arundel.

No; he had grieved and distressed her. The future might reconcile her
to that grief, perhaps, as a bygone sorrow which she had been allowed
to suffer for her own ultimate advantage. But the future was a long way
off: and in the meantime there was Mary's altered face, calm and
resigned, but bearing upon it a settled look of sorrow, very close at
hand; and John Marchmont could not be otherwise than unhappy in the
knowledge of his darling's grief.

I do not believe that any man or woman is ever suffered to take a fatal
step upon the roadway of life without receiving ample warning by the
way. The stumbling-blocks are placed in the fatal path by a merciful
hand; but we insist upon clambering over them, and surmounting them in
our blind obstinacy, to reach that shadowy something beyond, which we
have in our ignorance appointed to be our goal. A thousand ominous
whispers in his own breast warned John Marchmont that the step he
considered so wise was not a wise one: and yet, in spite of all these
subtle warnings, in spite of the ever-present reproach of his
daughter's altered face, this man, who was too weak to trust blindly in
his God, went on persistently upon his way, trusting, with a thousand
times more fatal blindness, in his own wisdom.

He could not be content to confide his darling and her altered fortunes
to the Providence which had watched over her in her poverty, and
sheltered her from every harm. He could not trust his child to the
mercy of God; but he cast her upon the love of Olivia Arundel.

A new life began for Mary Marchmont after the quiet wedding at
Swampington Church. The bride and bridegroom went upon a brief
honeymoon excursion far away amongst snow-clad Scottish mountains and
frozen streams, upon whose bloomless margins poor John shivered
dismally. I fear that Mr. Marchmont, having been, by the hard pressure
of poverty, compelled to lead a Cockney life for the better half of his
existence, had but slight relish for the grand and sublime in nature. I
do not think he looked at the ruined walls which had once sheltered
Macbeth and his strong-minded partner with all the enthusiasm which
might have been expected of him. He had but one idea about Macbeth, and
he was rather glad to get out of the neighbourhood associated with the
warlike Thane; for his memories of the past presented King Duncan's
murderer as a very stern and uncompromising gentleman, who was utterly
intolerant of banners held awry, or turned with the blank and ignoble
side towards the audience, and who objected vehemently to a violent fit
of coughing on the part of any one of his guests during the blank
barmecide feast of pasteboard and Dutch metal with which he was wont to
entertain them. No; John Marchmont had had quite enough of Macbeth, and
rather wondered at the hot enthusiasm of other red-nosed tourists,
apparently indifferent to the frosty weather.

I fear that the master of Marchmont Towers would have preferred Oakley
Street, Lambeth, to Princes Street, Edinburgh; for the nipping and
eager airs of the Modern Athens nearly blew him across the gulf between
the new town and the old. A visit to the Calton Hill produced an attack
of that chronic cough which had so severely tormented the weak-kneed
supernumerary in the draughty corridors of Drury Lane. Melrose and
Abbotsford fatigued this poor feeble tourist; he tried to be interested
in the stereotyped round of associations beloved by other travellers,
but he had a weary craving for rest, which was stronger than any
hero-worship; and he discovered, before long, that he had done a very
foolish thing in coming to Scotland in December and January, without
having consulted his physician as to the propriety of such a step.

But above all personal inconvenience, above all personal suffering,
there was one feeling ever present in his heart--a sick yearning for
the little girl he had left behind him; a mournful longing to be back
with his child. Already Mary's sad forebodings had been in some way
realised; already his new wife had separated him, unintentionally of
course, from his daughter. The aches and pains he endured in the bleak
Scottish atmosphere reminded him only too forcibly of the warnings he
had received from his physicians. He was seized with a panic, almost,
when he remembered his own imprudence. What if he had needlessly
curtailed the short span of his life? What if he were to die
soon--before Olivia had learned to love her stepdaughter; before Mary
had grown affectionately familiar with her new guardian? Again and
again he appealed to his wife, imploring her to be tender to the orphan
child, if he should be snatched away suddenly.

"I know you will love her by-and-by, Olivia," he said; "as much as I
do, perhaps; for you will discover how good she is, how patient and
unselfish. But just at first, and before you know her very well, you
will be kind to her, won't you, Olivia? She has been used to great
indulgence; she has been spoiled, perhaps; but you'll remember all
that, and be very kind to her?"

"I will try and do my duty," Mrs. Marchmont answered. "I pray that I
never may do less."

There was no tender yearning in Olivia Marchmont's heart towards the
motherless girl. She herself felt that such a sentiment was wanting,
and comprehended that it should have been there. She would have loved
her stepdaughter in those early days, if she could have done so; but
_she could not_--she could not. All that was tender or womanly in her
nature had been wasted upon her hopeless love for Edward Arundel. The
utter wreck of that small freight of affection had left her nature
warped and stunted, soured, disappointed, unwomanly.

How was she to love this child, this hazel-haired, dove-eyed girl,
before whom woman's life, with all its natural wealth of affection,
stretched far away, a bright and fairy vista? How was _she_ to love
her,--she, whose black future was unchequered by one ray of light; who
stood, dissevered from the past, alone in the dismal, dreamless
monotony of the present?

"No" she thought; "beggars and princes can never love one another. When
this girl and I are equals,--when she, like me, stands alone upon a
barren rock, far out amid the waste of waters, with not one memory to
hold her to the past, with not one hope to lure her onward to the
future, with nothing but the black sky above and the black waters
around,--_then_ we may grow fond of each other."

But always more or less steadfast to the standard she had set up for
herself, Olivia Marchmont intended to do her duty to her stepdaughter.
She had not failed in other duties, though no glimmer of love had
brightened them, no natural affection had made them pleasant. Why
should she fail in this?

If this belief in her own power should appear to be somewhat arrogant,
let it be remembered that she had set herself hard tasks before now,
and had performed them. Would the new furnace through which she was to
pass be more terrible than the old fires? She had gone to God's altar
with a man for whom she had no more love than she felt for the lowest
or most insignificant of the miserable sinners in her father's flock.
She had sworn to honour and obey him, meaning at least faithfully to
perform that portion of her vow; and on the night before her loveless
bridal she had grovelled, white, writhing, mad, and desperate, upon the
ground, and had plucked out of her lacerated heart her hopeless love
for another man.

Yes; she had done this. Another woman might have spent that bridal eve
in vain tears and lamentations, in feeble prayers, and such weak
struggles as might have been evidenced by the destruction of a few
letters, a tress of hair, some fragile foolish tokens of a wasted love.
She would have burnt five out of six letters, perhaps, that helpless,
ordinary sinner, and would have kept the sixth, to hoard away hidden
among her matrimonial trousseau; she would have thrown away
fifteen-sixteenths of that tress of hair, and would have kept the
sixteenth portion,--one delicate curl of gold, slender as the thread by
which her shattered hopes had hung,--to be wept over and kissed in the
days that were to come. An ordinary woman would have played fast and
loose with love and duty; and so would have been true to neither.

But Olivia Arundel did none of these things. She battled with her
weakness as St George battled with the fiery dragon. She plucked the
rooted serpent from her heart, reckless as to how much of that
desperate heart was to be wrenched away with its roots. A cowardly
woman would have killed herself, perhaps, rather than endure this
mortal agony. Olivia Arundel killed more than herself; she killed the
passion that had become stronger than herself.

"Alone she did it;" unaided by any human sympathy or compassion,
unsupported by any human counsel, not upheld by her God; for the
religion she had made for herself was a hard creed, and the many words
of tender comfort which must have been familiar to her were
unremembered in that long night of anguish.

It was the Roman's stern endurance, rather than the meek faithfulness
of the Christian, which upheld this unhappy girl under her torture. She
did not do this thing because it pleased her to be obedient to her God.
She did not do it because she believed in the mercy of Him who
inflicted the suffering, and looked forward hopefully, even amid her
passionate grief, to the day when she should better comprehend that
which she now saw so darkly. No; she fought the terrible fight, and she
came forth out of it a conqueror, by reason of her own indomitable
power of suffering, by reason of her own extraordinary strength of

But she did conquer. If her weapon was the classic sword and not the
Christian cross, she was nevertheless a conqueror. When she stood
before the altar and gave her hand to John Marchmont, Edward Arundel
was dead to her. The fatal habit of looking at him as the one centre of
her narrow life was cured. In all her Scottish wanderings, her thoughts
never once went back to him; though a hundred chance words and
associations tempted her, though a thousand memories assailed her,
though some trick of his face in the faces of other people, though some
tone of his voice in the voices of strangers, perpetually offered to
entrap her. No; she was steadfast.

Dutiful as a wife as she had been dutiful as a daughter, she bore with
her husband when his feeble health made him a wearisome companion. She
waited upon him when pain made him fretful, and her duties became
little less arduous than those of a hospital nurse. When, at the
bidding of the Scotch physician who had been called in at Edinburgh,
John Marchmont turned homewards, travelling slowly and resting often on
the way, his wife was more devoted to him than his experienced servant,
more watchful than the best-trained sick-nurse. She recoiled from
nothing, she neglected nothing; she gave him full measure of the honour
and obedience which she had promised upon her wedding-day. And when she
reached Marchmont Towers upon a dreary evening in January, she passed
beneath the solemn portal of the western front, carrying in her heart
the full determination to hold as steadfastly to the other half of her
bargain, and to do her duty to her stepchild.

Mary ran out of the western drawing-room to welcome her father and his
wife. She had cast off her black dresses in honour of Mr. Marchmont's
marriage, and she wore some soft, silken fabric, of a pale shimmering
blue, which contrasted exquisitely with her soft, brown hair, and her
fair, tender face. She uttered a cry of mingled alarm and sorrow when
she saw her father, and perceived the change that had been made in his
looks by the northern journey; but she checked herself at a warning
glance from her stepmother, and bade that dear father welcome, clinging
about him with an almost desperate fondness. She greeted Olivia gently
and respectfully.

"I will try to be very good, mamma," she said, as she took the passive
hand of the lady who had come to rule at Marchmont Towers.

"I believe you will, my dear," Olivia answered, kindly.

She had been startled a little as Mary addressed her by that endearing
corruption of the holy word mother. The child had been so long
motherless, that she felt little of that acute anguish which some
orphans suffer when they have to look up in a strange face and say
"mamma." She had taught herself the lesson of resignation, and she was
prepared to accept this stranger as her new mother, and to look up to
her and obey her henceforward. No thought of her own future position,
as sole owner of that great house and all appertaining to it, ever
crossed Mary Marchmont's mind, womanly as that mind had become in the
sharp experiences of poverty. If her father had told her that he had
cut off the entail, and settled Marchmont Towers upon his new wife, I
think she would have submitted meekly to his will, and would have seen
no injustice in the act. She loved him blindly and confidingly. Indeed,
she could only love after one fashion. The organ of veneration must
have been abnormally developed in Mary Marchmont's head. To believe
that any one she loved was otherwise than perfect, would have been, in
her creed, an infidelity against love. Had any one told her that Edward
Arundel was not eminently qualified for the post of General-in-Chief of
the Army of the Indus; or that her father could by any possible chance
be guilty of a fault or folly: she would have recoiled in horror from
the treasonous slanderer.

A dangerous quality, perhaps, this quality of guilelessness which
thinketh no evil, which cannot be induced to see the evil under its
very nose. But surely, of all the beautiful and pure things upon this
earth, such blind confidence is the purest and most beautiful. I knew a
lady, dead and gone,--alas for this world, which could ill afford to
lose so good a Christian!--who carried this trustfulness of spirit,
this utter incapacity to believe in wrong, through all the strife and
turmoil of a troubled life, unsullied and unlessened, to her grave. She
was cheated and imposed upon, robbed and lied to, by people who loved
her, perhaps, while they wronged her,--for to know her was to love her.
She was robbed systematically by a confidential servant for years, and
for years refused to believe those who told her of his delinquencies.
She _could_ not believe that people were wicked. To the day of her
death she had faith in the scoundrels and scamps who had profited by
her sweet compassion and untiring benevolence; and indignantly defended
them against those who dared to say that they were anything more than
"unfortunate." To go to her was to go to a never-failing fountain of
love and tenderness. To know her goodness was to understand the
goodness of God; for her love approached the Infinite, and might have
taught a sceptic the possibility of Divinity. Three-score years and ten
of worldly experience left her an accomplished lady, a delightful
companion; but in guilelessness a child.

So Mary Marchmont, trusting implicitly in those she loved, submitted to
her father's will, and prepared to obey her stepmother. The new life at
the Towers began very peacefully; a perfect harmony reigned in the
quiet household. Olivia took the reins of management with so little
parade, that the old housekeeper, who had long been paramount in the
Lincolnshire mansion, found herself superseded before she knew where
she was. It was Olivia's nature to govern. Her strength of will
asserted itself almost unconsciously. She took possession of Mary
Marchmont as she had taken possession of her school-children at
Swampington, making her own laws for the government of their narrow
intellects. She planned a routine of study that was actually terrible
to the little girl, whose education had hitherto been conducted in a
somewhat slip-slop manner by a weakly-indulgent father. She came
between Mary and her one amusement,--the reading of novels. The
half-bound romances were snatched ruthlessly from this young devourer
of light literature, and sent back to the shabby circulating library at
Swampington. Even the gloomy old oak book-cases in the library at the
Towers, and the Abbotsford edition of the Waverley Novels, were
forbidden to poor Mary; for, though Sir Walter Scott's morality is
irreproachable, it will not do for a young lady to be weeping over Lucy
Ashton or Amy Robsart when she should be consulting her terrestrial
globe, and informing herself as to the latitude and longitude of the
Fiji Islands.

So a round of dry and dreary lessons began for poor Miss Marchmont, and
her brain grew almost dazed under that continuous and pelting shower of
hard facts which many worthy people consider the one sovereign method
of education. I have said that her mind was far in advance of her
years; Olivia perceived this, and set her tasks in advance of her mind:
in order that the perfection attained by a sort of steeple-chase of
instruction might not be lost to her. If Mary learned difficult lessons
with surprising rapidity, Mrs. Marchmont plied her with even yet more
difficult lessons, thus keeping the spur perpetually in the side of
this heavily-weighted racer on the road to learning. But it must not be
thought that Olivia wilfully tormented or oppressed her stepdaughter.
It was not so. In all this, John Marchmont's second wife implicitly
believed that she was doing her duty to the child committed to her
care. She fully believed that this dreary routine of education was wise
and right, and would be for Mary's ultimate advantage. If she caused
Miss Marchmont to get up at abnormal hours on bleak wintry mornings,
for the purpose of wrestling with a difficult variation by Hertz or
Schubert, she herself rose also, and sat shivering by the piano,
counting the time of the music which her stepdaughter played.

Whatever pains and trouble she inflicted on Mary, she most
unshrinkingly endured herself. She waded through the dismal slough of
learning side by side with the younger sufferer: Roman emperors,
medieval schisms, early British manufactures, Philippa of Hainault,
Flemish woollen stuffs, Magna Charta, the sidereal heavens, Luther,
Newton, Huss, Galileo, Calvin, Loyola, Sir Robert Walpole, Cardinal
Wolsey, conchology, Arianism in the Early Church, trial by jury, Habeas
Corpus, zoology, Mr. Pitt, the American war, Copernicus, Confucius,
Mahomet, Harvey, Jenner, Lycurgus, and Catherine of Arragon; through a
very diabolical dance of history, science, theology, philosophy, and
instruction of all kinds, did this devoted priestess lead her hapless
victim, struggling onward towards that distant altar at which Pallas
Athenë waited, pale and inscrutable, to receive a new disciple.

But Olivia Marchmont did not mean to be unmerciful; she meant to be
good to her stepdaughter. She did not love her; but, on the other hand,
she did not dislike her. Her feelings were simply negative. Mary
understood this, and the submissive obedience she rendered to her
stepmother was untempered by affection. So for nearly two years these
two people led a monotonous life, unbroken by any more important event
than a dinner party at Marchmont Towers, or a brief visit to Harrowgate
or Scarborough.

This monotonous existence was not to go on for ever. The fatal day, so
horribly feared by John Marchmont, was creeping closer and closer. The
sorrow which had been shadowed in every childish dream, in every
childish prayer, came at last; and Mary Marchmont was left an orphan.

Poor John had never quite recovered the effects of his winter excursion
to Scotland; neither his wife's devoted nursing, nor his physician's
care, could avail for ever; and, late in the autumn of the second year
of his marriage, he sank, slowly and peacefully enough as regards
physical suffering, but not without bitter grief of mind.

In vain Hubert Arundel talked to him; in vain did he himself pray for
faith and comfort in this dark hour of trial. He _could_ not bear to
leave his child alone in the world. In the foolishness of his love, he
would have trusted in the strength of his own arm to shield her in the
battle; yet he could not trust her hopefully to the arm of God. He
prayed for her night and day during the last week of his illness; while
she was praying passionately, almost madly, that he might be spared to
her, or that she might die with him. Better for her, according to all
mortal reasoning, if she had. Happier for her, a thousand times, if she
could have died as she wished to die, clinging to her father's breast.

The blow fell at last upon those two loving hearts. These were the
awful shadows of death that shut his child's face from John Marchmont's
fading sight. His feeble arms groped here and there for her in that dim
and awful obscurity.

Yes, this was death. The narrow tract of yellow sand had little by
little grown narrower and narrower. The dark and cruel waters were
closing in; the feeble boat went down into the darkness: and Mary stood
alone, with her dead father's hand clasped in hers,--the last feeble
link which bound her to the Past,--looking blankly forward to an
unknown Future.



Yes; the terrible day had come. Mary Marchmont roamed hither and
thither in the big gaunt rooms, up and down the long dreary corridors,
white and ghostlike in her mute anguish, while the undertaker's men
were busy in her father's chamber, and while John's widow sat in the
study below, writing business letters, and making all necessary
arrangements for the funeral.

In those early days no one attempted to comfort the orphan. There was
something more terrible than the loudest grief in the awful quiet of
the girl's anguish. The wan eyes, looking wearily out of a white
haggard face, that seemed drawn and contracted as if by some hideous
physical torture, were tearless. Except the one long wail of despair
which had burst from her lips in the awful moment of her father's death
agony, no cry of sorrow, no utterance of pain, had given relief to Mary
Marchmont's suffering.

She suffered, and was still. She shrank away from all human
companionship; she seemed specially to avoid the society of her
stepmother. She locked the door of her room upon all who would have
intruded on her, and flung herself upon the bed, to lie there in a dull
stupor for hour after hour. But when the twilight was grey in the
desolate corridors, the wretched girl wandered out into the gallery on
which her father's room opened, and hovered near that solemn
death-chamber; fearful to go in, fearful to encounter the watchers of
the dead, lest they should torture her by their hackneyed expressions
of sympathy, lest they should agonise her by their commonplace talk of
the lost.

Once during that brief interval, while the coffin still held terrible
tenancy of the death-chamber, the girl wandered in the dead of the
night, when all but the hired watchers were asleep, to the broad
landing of the oaken staircase, and into a deep recess formed by an
embayed window that opened over the great stone porch which sheltered
the principal entrance to Marchmont Towers.

The window had been left open; for even in the bleak autumn weather the
atmosphere of the great house seemed hot and oppressive to its living
inmates, whose spirits were weighed down by a vague sense of the Awful
Presence in that Lincolnshire mansion. Mary had wandered to this open
window, scarcely knowing whither she went, after remaining for a long
time on her knees by the threshold of her father's room, with her head
resting against the oaken panel of the door,--not praying; why should
she pray now, unless her prayers could have restored the dead? She had
come out upon the wide staircase, and past the ghostly pictured faces,
that looked grimly down upon her from the oaken wainscot against which
they hung; she had wandered here in the dim grey light--there was light
somewhere in the sky, but only a shadowy and uncertain glimmer of
fading starlight or coming dawn--and she stood now with her head
resting against one of the angles of the massive stonework, looking out
of the open window.

The morning which was already glimmering dimly in the eastern sky
behind Marchmont Towers was to witness poor John's funeral. For nearly
six days Mary Marchmont had avoided all human companionship: for nearly
six days she had shunned all human sympathy and comfort. During all
that time she had never eaten, except when forced to do so by her
stepmother; who had visited her from time to time, and had insisted
upon sitting by her bedside while she took the food that had been
brought to her. Heaven knows how often the girl had slept during those
six dreary days; but her feverish slumbers had brought her very little
rest or refreshment. They had brought her nothing but cruel dreams, in
which her father was still alive; in which she felt his thin arms
clasped round her neck, his faint and fitful breath warm upon her

A great clock in the stables struck five while Mary Marchmont stood
looking out of the Tudor window. The broad grey flat before the house
stretched far away, melting into the shadowy horizon. The pale stars
grew paler as Mary looked at them; the black-water pools began to
glimmer faintly under the widening patch of light in the eastern sky.
The girl's senses were bewildered by her suffering, and her head was
light and dizzy.

Her father's death had made so sudden and terrible a break in her
existence, that she could scarcely believe the world had not come to an
end, with all the joys and sorrows of its inhabitants. Would there be
anything more after to-morrow? she thought; would the blank days and
nights go monotonously on when the story that had given them a meaning
and a purpose had come to its dismal end? Surely not; surely, after
those gaunt iron gates, far away across the swampy waste that was
called a park, had closed upon her father's funeral train, the world
would come to an end, and there would be no more time or space. I think
she really believed this in the semi-delirium into which she had fallen
within the last hour. She believed that all would be over; and that she
and her despair would melt away into the emptiness that was to engulf
the universe after her father's funeral.

Then suddenly the full reality of her grief flashed upon her with
horrible force. She clasped her hands upon her forehead, and a low
faint cry broke from her white lips.

It was _not_ all over. Time and space would _not_ be annihilated. The
weary, monotonous, workaday world would still go on upon its course.
_Nothing_ would be changed. The great gaunt stone mansion would still
stand, and the dull machinery of its interior would still go on: the
same hours; the same customs; the same inflexible routine. John
Marchmont would be carried out of the house that had owned him master,
to lie in the dismal vault under Kemberling Church; and the world in
which he had made so little stir would go on without him. The
easy-chair in which he had been wont to sit would be wheeled away from
its corner by the fireplace in the western drawing-room. The papers in
his study would be sorted and put away, or taken possession of by
strange hands. Cromwells and Napoleons die, and the earth reels for a
moment, only to be "alive and bold" again in the next instant, to the
astonishment of poets, and the calm satisfaction of philosophers; and
ordinary people eat their breakfasts while the telegram lies beside
them upon the table, and while the ink in which Mr. Reuter's message is
recorded is still wet from the machine in Printing-house Square.

Anguish and despair more terrible than any of the tortures she had felt
yet took possession of Mary Marchmont's breast. For the first time she
looked out at her own future. Until now she had thought only of her
father's death. She had despaired because he was gone; but she had
never contemplated the horror of her future life,--a life in which she
was to exist without him. A sudden agony, that was near akin to
madness, seized upon this girl, in whose sensitive nature affection had
always had a morbid intensity. She shuddered with a wild dread at the
prospect of that blank future; and as she looked out at the wide stone
steps below the window from which she was leaning, for the first time
in her young life the idea of self-destruction flashed across her mind.

She uttered a cry, a shrill, almost unearthly cry, that was
notwithstanding low and feeble, and clambered suddenly upon the broad
stone sill of the Tudor casement. She wanted to fling herself down and
dash her brains out upon the stone steps below; but in the utter
prostration of her state she was too feeble to do this, and she fell
backwards and dropped in a heap upon the polished oaken flooring of the
recess, striking her forehead as she fell. She lay there unconscious
until nearly seven o'clock, when one of the women-servants found her,
and carried her off to her own room, where she suffered herself to be
undressed and put to bed.

Mary Marchmont did not speak until the good-hearted Lincolnshire
housemaid had laid her in her bed, and was going away to tell Olivia of
the state in which she had found the orphan girl.

"Don't tell my stepmother anything about me, Susan," she said; "I think
I was mad last night."

This speech frightened the housemaid, and she went straight to the
widow's room. Mrs. Marchmont, always an early riser, had been up and
dressed for some time, and went at once to look at her stepdaughter.

She found Mary very calm and reasonable. There was no trace of
bewilderment or delirium now in her manner; and when the principal
doctor of Swampington came a couple of hours afterwards to look at the
young heiress, he declared that there was no cause for any alarm. The
young lady was sensitive, morbidly sensitive, he said, and must be kept
very quiet for a few days, and watched by some one whose presence would
not annoy her. If there was any girl of her own age whom she had ever
shown a predilection for, that girl would be the fittest companion for
her just now. After a few days, it would be advisable that she should
have change of air and change of scene. She must not be allowed to
brood continuously on her father's death. The doctor repeated this last
injunction more than once. It was most important that she should not
give way too perpetually to her grief.

So Mary Marchmont lay in her darkened room while her father's funeral
train was moving slowly away from the western entrance. It happened
that the orphan girl's apartments looked out into the quadrangle; so
she heard none of the subdued sounds which attended the departure of
that solemn procession. In her weakness she had grown submissive to the
will of others. She thought this feebleness and exhaustion gave warning
of approaching death. Her prayers would be granted, after all. This
anguish and despair would be but of brief duration, and she would ere
long be carried to the vault under Kemberling Church, to lie beside her
father in the black stillness of that solemn place.

Mrs. Marchmont strictly obeyed the doctor's injunctions. A girl of
seventeen, the daughter of a small tenant farmer near the Towers, had
been a special favourite with Mary, who was not apt to make friends
amongst strangers. This girl, Hester Pollard, was sent for, and came
willingly and gladly to watch her young patroness. She brought her
needlework with her, and sat near the window busily employed, while
Mary lay shrouded by the curtains of the bed. All active services
necessary for the comfort of the invalid were performed by Olivia or
her own special attendant--an old servant who had lived with the Rector
ever since his daughter's birth, and had only left him to follow that
daughter to Marchmont Towers after her marriage. So Hester Pollard had
nothing to do but to keep very quiet, and patiently await the time when
Mary might be disposed to talk to her. The farmer's daughter was a
gentle, unobtrusive creature, very well fitted for the duty imposed
upon her.



Olivia Marchmont sat in her late husband's study while John's funeral
train was moving slowly along under the misty October sky. A long
stream of carriages followed the stately hearse, with its four black
horses, and its voluminous draperies of rich velvet, and nodding plumes
that were damp and heavy with the autumn atmosphere. The unassuming
master of Marchmont Towers had won for himself a quiet popularity
amongst the simple country gentry, and the best families in
Lincolnshire had sent their chiefs to do honour to his burial, or at
the least their empty carriages to represent them at that mournful
ceremonial. Olivia sat in her dead husband's favourite chamber. Her
head lay back upon the cushion of the roomy morocco-covered arm-chair
in which he had so often sat. She had been working hard that morning,
and indeed every morning since John Marchmont's death, sorting and
arranging papers, with the aid of Richard Paulette, the Lincoln's Inn
solicitor, and James Gormby, the land-steward. She knew that she had
been left sole guardian of her stepdaughter, and executrix to her
husband's will; and she had lost no time in making herself acquainted
with the business details of the estate, and the full nature of the
responsibilities intrusted to her.

She was resting now. She had done all that could be done until after
the reading of the will. She had attended to her stepdaughter. She had
stood in one of the windows of the western drawing-room, watching the
departure of the funeral _cortège_; and now she abandoned herself for a
brief space to that idleness which was so unusual to her.

A fire burned in the low grate at her feet, and a rough cur--half
shepherd's dog, half Scotch deer-hound, who had been fond of John, but
was not fond of Olivia--lay at the further extremity of the hearth-rug,
watching her suspiciously.

Mrs. Marchmont's personal appearance had not altered during the two
years of her married life. Her face was thin and haggard; but it had
been thin and haggard before her marriage. And yet no one could deny
that the face was handsome, and the features beautifully chiselled. But
the grey eyes were hard and cold, the line of the faultless eyebrows
gave a stern expression to the countenance; the thin lips were rigid
and compressed. The face wanted both light and colour. A sculptor
copying it line by line would have produced a beautiful head. A painter
must have lent his own glowing tints if he wished to represent Olivia
Marchmont as a lovely woman.

Her pale face looked paler, and her dead black hair blacker, against
the blank whiteness of her widow's cap. Her mourning dress clung
closely to her tall, slender figure. She was little more than
twenty-five, but she looked a woman of thirty. It had been her
misfortune to look older than she was from a very early period in her

She had not loved her husband when she married him, nor had she ever
felt for him that love which in most womanly natures grows out of
custom and duty. It was not in her nature to love. Her passionate
idolatry of her boyish cousin had been the one solitary affection that
had ever held a place in her cold heart. All the fire of her nature had
been concentrated in this one folly, this one passion, against which
only heroic endurance had been able to prevail.

Mrs. Marchmont felt no grief, therefore, at her husband's loss. She had
felt the shock of his death, and the painful oppression of his dead
presence in the house. She had faithfully nursed him through many
illnesses; she had patiently tended him until the very last; she had
done her duty. And now, for the first time, she had leisure to
contemplate the past, and look forward to the future.

So far this woman had fulfilled the task which she had taken upon
herself; she had been true and loyal to the vow she had made before
God's altar, in the church of Swampington. And now she was free. No,
not quite free; for she had a heavy burden yet upon her hands; the
solemn charge of her stepdaughter during the girl's minority. But as
regarded marriage-vows and marriage-ties she was free.

She was free to love Edward Arundel again.

The thought came upon her with a rush and an impetus, wild and strong
as the sudden uprising of a whirlwind, or the loosing of a
mountain-torrent that had long been bound. She was a wife no longer. It
was no longer a sin to think of the bright-haired soldier, fighting far
away. She was free. When Edward returned to England by-and-by, he would
find her free once more; a young widow,--young, handsome, and rich
enough to be no bad prize for a younger son. He would come back and
find her thus; and then--and then--!

She flung one of her clenched hands up into the air, and struck it on
her forehead in a sudden paroxysm of rage. What then? Would he love her
any better then than he had loved her two years ago? No; he would treat
her with the same cruel indifference, the same commonplace cousinly
friendliness, with which he had mocked and tortured her before. Oh,
shame! Oh, misery! Was there no pride in women, that there could be one
among them fallen so low as her; ready to grovel at the feet of a
fair-haired boy, and to cry aloud, "Love me, love me! or be pitiful,
and strike me dead!"

Better that John Marchmont should have lived for ever, better that
Edward Arundel should die far away upon some Eastern battle-field,
before some Affghan fortress, than that he should return to inflict
upon her the same tortures she had writhed under two years before.

"God grant that he may never come back!" she thought. "God grant that
he may marry out yonder, and live and die there! God keep him from me
for ever and far ever in this weary world!"

And yet in the next moment, with the inconsistency which is the chief
attribute of that madness we call love, her thoughts wandered away
dreamily into visions of the future; and she pictured Edward Arundel
back again at Swampington, at Marchmont Towers. Her soul burst its
bonds and expanded, and drank in the sunlight of gladness: and she
dared to think that it _might_ be so--there _might_ be happiness yet
for her. He had been a boy when he went back to India--careless,
indifferent. He would return a man,--graver, wiser, altogether changed:
changed so much as to love her perhaps.

She knew that, at least, no rival had shut her cousin's heart against
her, when she and he had been together two years before. He had been
indifferent to her; but he had been indifferent to others also. There
was comfort in that recollection. She had questioned him very sharply
as to his life in India and at Dangerfield, and she had discovered no
trace of any tender memory of the past, no hint of a cherished dream of
the future. His heart had been empty: a boyish, unawakened heart: a
temple in which the niches were untenanted, the shrine unhallowed by
the presence of a goddess.

Olivia Marchmont thought of these things. For a few moments, if only
for a few moments, she abandoned herself to such thoughts as these. She
let herself go. She released the stern hold which it was her habit to
keep upon her own mind; and in those bright moments of delicious
abandonment the glorious sunshine streamed in upon her narrow life, and
visions of a possible future expanded before her like a fairy panorama,
stretching away into realms of vague light and splendour. It was
_possible_; it was at least possible.

But, again, in the next moment the magical panorama collapsed and
shrivelled away, like a burning scroll; the fairy picture, whose
gorgeous colouring she had looked upon with dazzled eyes, almost
blinded by its overpowering glory, shrank into a handful of black
ashes, and was gone. The woman's strong nature reasserted itself; the
iron will rose up, ready to do battle with the foolish heart.

"I _will_ not be fooled a second time," she cried. "Did I suffer so
little when I blotted that image out of my heart? Did the destruction
of my cruel Juggernaut cost me so small an agony that I must needs be
ready to elevate the false god again, and crush out my heart once more
under the brazen wheels of his chariot? _He will never love me!_"

She writhed; this self-sustained and resolute woman writhed in her
anguish as she uttered those five words, "He will never love me!" She
knew that they were true; that of all the changes that Time could bring
to pass, it would never bring such a change as that. There was not one
element of sympathy between herself and the young soldier; they had not
one thought in common. Nay, more; there was an absolute antagonism
between them, which, in spite of her love, Olivia fully recognised.
Over the gulf that separated them no coincidence of thought or fancy,
no sympathetic emotion, ever stretched its electric chain to draw them
together in mysterious union. They stood aloof, divided by the width of
an intellectual universe. The woman knew this, and hated herself for
her folly, scorning alike her love and its object; but her love was not
the less because of her scorn. It was a madness, an isolated madness,
which stood alone in her soul, and fought for mastery over her better
aspirations, her wiser thoughts. We are all familiar with strange
stories of wise and great minds which have been ridden by some
hobgoblin fancy, some one horrible monomania; a bleeding head upon a
dish, a grinning skeleton playing hide-and-seek in the folds of the
bed-curtains; some devilry or other before which the master-spirit
shrank and dwindled until the body withered and the victim died.

Had Olivia Marchmont lived a couple of centuries before, she would have
gone straight to the nearest old crone, and would have boldly accused
the wretched woman of being the author of her misery.

"You harbour a black cat and other noisome vermin, and you prowl about
muttering to yourself o' nights" she might have said. "You have been
seen to gather herbs, and you make strange and uncanny signs with your
palsied old fingers. The black cat is the devil, your colleague; and
the rats under your tumble-down roof are his imps, your associates. It
is _you_ who have instilled this horrible madness into my soul; for it
_could_ not come of itself."

And Olivia Marchmont, being resolute and strong-minded, would not have
rested until her tormentor had paid the penalty of her foul work at a
stake in the nearest market-place.

And indeed some of our madnesses are so mad, some of our follies are so
foolish, that we might almost be forgiven if we believed that there was
a company of horrible crones meeting somewhere on an invisible Brocken,
and making incantations for our destruction. Take up a newspaper and
read its hideous revelations of crime and folly; and it will be
scarcely strange if you involuntarily wonder whether witchcraft is a
dark fable of the middle ages, or a dreadful truth of the nineteenth
century. Must not some of these miserable creatures whose stories we
read be _possessed_; possessed by eager, relentless demons, who lash
and goad them onward, until no black abyss of vice, no hideous gulf of
crime, is black or hideous enough to content them?

Olivia Marchmont might have been a good and great woman. She had all
the elements of greatness. She had genius, resolution, an indomitable
courage, an iron will, perseverance, self-denial, temperance, chastity.
But against all these qualities was set a fatal and foolish love for a
boy's handsome face and frank and genial manner. If Edward Arundel had
never crossed her path, her unfettered soul might have taken the
highest and grandest flight; but, chained down, bound, trammelled by
her love for him, she grovelled on the earth like some maimed and
wounded eagle, who sees his fellows afar off, high in the purple
empyrean, and loathes himself for his impotence.

"What do I love him for?" she thought. "Is it because he has blue eyes
and chestnut hair, with wandering gleams of golden light in it? Is it
because he has gentlemanly manners, and is easy and pleasant, genial
and light-hearted? Is it because he has a dashing walk, and the air of
a man of fashion? It must be for some of these attributes, surely; for
I know nothing more in him. Of all the things he has ever said, I can
remember nothing--and I remember his smallest words, Heaven help
me!--that any sensible person could think worth repeating. He is brave,
I dare say, and generous; but what of that? He is neither braver nor
more generous than other men of his rank and position."

She sat lost in such a reverie as this while her dead husband was being
carried to the roomy vault set apart for the owners of Marchmont Towers
and their kindred; she was absorbed in some such thoughts as these,
when one of the grave, grey-headed old servants brought her a card upon
a heavy salver emblazoned with the Marchmont arms.

Olivia took the card almost mechanically. There are some thoughts which
carry us a long way from the ordinary occupations of every-day life,
and it is not always easy to return to the dull jog-trot routine. The
widow passed her left hand across her brow before she looked at the
name inscribed upon the card in her right.

"Mr. Paul Marchmont."

She started as she read the name. Paul Marchmont! She remembered what
her husband had told her of this man. It was not much; for John's
feelings on the subject of his cousin had been of so vague a nature
that he had shrunk from expounding them to his stern, practical wife.
He had told her, therefore, that he did not very much care for Paul,
and that he wished no intimacy ever to arise between the artist and
Mary; but he had said nothing more than this.

"The gentleman is waiting to see me, I suppose?" Mrs. Marchmont said.

"Yes, ma'am. The gentleman came to Kemberling by the 11.5 train from
London, and has driven over here in one of Harris's flys."

"Tell him I will come to him immediately. Is he in the drawing-room?"

"Yes, ma'am."

The man bowed and left the room. Olivia rose from her chair and
lingered by the fireplace with her foot on the fender, her elbow
resting on the carved oak chimneypiece.

"Paul Marchmont! He has come to the funeral, I suppose. And he expects
to find himself mentioned in the will, I dare say. I think, from what
my husband told me, he will be disappointed in that. Paul Marchmont! If
Mary were to die unmarried, this man or his sisters would inherit
Marchmont Towers."

There was a looking-glass over the mantelpiece; a narrow, oblong glass,
in an old-fashioned carved ebony frame, which was inclined forward.
Olivia looked musingly in this glass, and smoothed the heavy bands of
dead-black hair under her cap.

"There are people who would call me handsome," she thought, as she
looked with a moody frown at her image in the glass; "and yet I have
seen Edward Arundel's eyes wander away from my face, even while I have
been talking to him, to watch the swallows skimming by in the sun, or
the ivy-leaves flapping against the wall."

She turned from the glass with a sigh, and went out into a dusky
corridor. The shutters of all the principal rooms and the windows upon
the grand staircase were still closed; the wide hall was dark and
gloomy, and drops of rain spattered every now and then upon the logs
that smouldered on the wide old-fashioned hearth. The misty October
morning had heralded a wet day.

Paul Marchmont was sitting in a low easy-chair before a blazing fire in
the western drawing-room, the red light full upon his face. It was a
handsome face, or perhaps, to speak more exactly, it was one of those
faces that are generally called "interesting." The features were very
delicate and refined, the pale greyish-blue eyes were shaded by long
brown lashes, and the small and rather feminine mouth was overshadowed
by a slender auburn moustache, under which the rosy tint of the lips
was very visible. But it was Paul Marchmont's hair which gave a
peculiarity to a personal appearance that might otherwise have been in
no way out of the common. This hair, fine, silky, and luxuriant, was
_white_, although its owner could not have been more than thirty-seven
years of age.

The uninvited guest rose as Olivia Marchmont entered the room.

"I have the honour of speaking to my cousin's widow?" he said, with a
courteous smile.

"Yes, I am Mrs. Marchmont."

Olivia seated herself near the fire. The wet day was cold and
cheerless. Mrs. Marchmont shivered as she extended her long thin hand
to the blaze.

"And you are doubtless surprised to see me here, Mrs. Marchmont?" the
artist said, leaning upon the back of his chair in the easy attitude of
a man who means to make himself at home. "But believe me, that although
I never took advantage of a very friendly letter written to me by poor

Paul Marchmont paused for a moment, keeping sharp watch upon the
widow's face; but no sorrowful expression, no evidence of emotion, was
visible in that inflexible countenance.

"Although, I repeat, I never availed myself of a sort of general
invitation to come and shoot his partridges, or borrow money of him, or
take advantage of any of those other little privileges generally
claimed by a man's poor relations, it is not to be supposed, my dear
Mrs. Marchmont, that I was altogether forgetful of either Marchmont
Towers or its owner, my cousin. I did not come here, because I am a
hard-working man, and the idleness of a country house would have been
ruin to me. But I heard sometimes of my cousin from neighbours of his."

"Neighbours!" repeated Olivia, in a tone of surprise.

"Yes; people near enough to be called neighbours in the country. My
sister lives at Stanfield. She is married to a surgeon who practises in
that delightful town. You know Stanfield, of course?"

"No, I have never been there. It is five-and-twenty miles from here."

"Indeed! too far for a drive, then. Yes, my sister lives at Stanfield.
John never knew much of her in his adversity; and therefore may be
forgiven if he forgot her in his prosperity. But she did not forget
him. We poor relations have excellent memories. The Stanfield people
have so little to talk about, that it is scarcely any wonder if they
are inquisitive about the affairs of the grand country gentry round
about them. I heard of John through my sister; I heard of his marriage
through her,"--he bowed to Olivia as he said this,--"and I wrote
immediately to congratulate him upon that happy event,"--he bowed again
here;--"and it was through Lavinia Weston, my sister, that I heard of
poor John's death; one day before the announcement appeared in the
columns of the 'Times.' I am sorry to find that I am too late for the
funeral. I could have wished to have paid my cousin the last tribute of
esteem that one man can pay another."

"You would wish to hear the reading of the will?" Olivia said,

Paul Marchmont shrugged his shoulders, with a low, careless laugh; not
an indecorous laugh,--nothing that this man did or said ever appeared
ill-advised or out of place. The people who disliked him were compelled
to acknowledge that they disliked him unreasonably, and very much on
the Doctor-Fell principle; for it was impossible to take objection to
either his manners or his actions.

"That important legal document can have very little interest for me, my
dear Mrs. Marchmont," he said gaily. "John can have had nothing to
leave me. I am too well acquainted with the terms of my grandfather's
will to have any mercenary hopes in coming to Marchmont Towers."

He stopped, and looked at Olivia's impassible face.

"What on earth could have induced this woman to marry my cousin?" he
thought. "John could have had very little to leave his widow."

He played with the ornaments at his watch-chain, looking reflectively
at the fire for some moments.

"Miss Marchmont,--my cousin, Mary Marchmont, I should say,--bears her
loss pretty well, I hope?"

Olivia shrugged her shoulders.

"I am sorry to say that my stepdaughter displays very little Christian
resignation," she said.

And then a spirit within her arose and whispered, with a mocking voice,
"What resignation do _you_ show beneath _your_ affliction,--you, who
should be so good a Christian? How have _you_ learned to school your
rebellious heart?"

"My cousin is very young," Paul Marchmont said, presently.

"She was fifteen last July."

"Fifteen! Very young to be the owner of Marchmont Towers and an income
of eleven thousand a year," returned the artist. He walked to one of
the long windows, and drawing aside the edge of the blind, looked out
upon the terrace and the wide flats before the mansion. The rain
dripped and splashed upon the stone steps; the rain-drops hung upon the
grim adornments of the carved balustrade, soaking into moss-grown
escutcheons and half-obliterated coats-of-arms. The weird willows by
the pools far away, and a group of poplars near the house, looked gaunt
and black against the dismal grey sky.

Paul Marchmont dropped the blind, and turned away from the gloomy
landscape with a half-contemptuous gesture. "I don't know that I envy
my cousin, after all," he said: "the place is as dreary as Tennyson's
Moated Grange."

There was the sound of wheels on the carriage-drive before the terrace,
and presently a subdued murmur of hushed voices in the hall. Mr.
Richard Paulette, and the two medical men who had attended John
Marchmont, had returned to the Towers, for the reading of the will.
Hubert Arundel had returned with them; but the other followers in the
funeral train had departed to their several homes. The undertaker and
his men had come back to the house by the side-entrance, and were
making themselves very comfortable in the servants'-hall after the
fulfilment of their mournful duties.

The will was to be read in the dining-room; and Mr. Paulette and the
clerk who had accompanied him to Marchmont Towers were already seated
at one end of the long carved-oak table, busy with their papers and
pens and ink, assuming an importance the occasion did not require.
Olivia went out into the hall to speak to her father.

"You will find Mr. Marchmont's solicitor in the dining-room," she said
to Paul, who was looking at some of the old pictures on the
drawing-room walls.

A large fire was blazing in the wide grate at the end of the
dining-room. The blinds had been drawn up. There was no longer need
that the house should be wrapped in darkness. The Awful Presence had
departed; and such light as there was in the gloomy October sky was
free to enter the rooms, which the death of one quiet, unobtrusive
creature had made for a time desolate.

There was no sound in the room but the low voice of the two doctors
talking of their late patient in undertones near the fireplace, and the
occasional fluttering of the papers under the lawyer's hand. The clerk,
who sat respectfully a little way behind his master, and upon the very
edge of his ponderous morocco-covered chair, had been wont to give John
Marchmont his orders, and to lecture him for being tardy with his work
a few years before, in the Lincoln's Inn office. He was wondering now
whether he should find himself remembered in the dead man's will, to
the extent of a mourning ring or an old-fashioned silver snuff-box.

Richard Paulette looked up as Olivia and her father entered the room,
followed at a little distance by Paul Marchmont, who walked at a
leisurely pace, looking at the carved doorways and the pictures against
the wainscot, and appearing, as he had declared himself, very little
concerned in the important business about to be transacted.

"We shall want Miss Marchmont here, if you please," Mr. Paulette said,
as he looked up from his papers.

"Is it necessary that she should be present?" Olivia asked.

"Very necessary."

"But she is ill; she is in bed."

"It is most important that she should be here when the will is read.
Perhaps Mr. Bolton"--the lawyer looked towards one of the medical
men--"will see. He will be able to tell us whether Miss Marchmont can
safely come downstairs."

Mr. Bolton, the Swampington surgeon who had attended Mary that morning,
left the room with Olivia. The lawyer rose and warmed his hands at the
blaze, talking to Hubert Arundel and the London physician as he did so.
Paul Marchmont, who had not been introduced to any one, occupied
himself entirely with the pictures for a little time; and then,
strolling over to the fireplace, fell into conversation with the three
gentlemen, contriving, adroitly enough, to let them know who he was.
The lawyer looked at him with some interest,--a professional interest,
no doubt; for Mr. Paulette had a copy of old Philip Marchmont's will in
one of the japanned deed-boxes inscribed with poor John's name. He knew
that this easy-going, pleasant-mannered, white-haired gentleman was the
Paul Marchmont named in that document, and stood next in succession to
Mary. Mary might die unmarried, and it was as well to be friendly and
civil to a man who was at least a possible client.

The four gentlemen stood upon the broad Turkey hearth-rug for some
time, talking of the dead man, the wet weather, the cold autumn, the
dearth of partridges, and other very safe topics of conversation.
Olivia and the Swampington doctor were a long time absent; and Richard
Paulette, who stood with his back to the fire, glanced every now and
then towards the door.

It opened at last, and Mary Marchmont came into the room, followed by
her stepmother.

Paul Marchmont turned at the sound of the opening of that ponderous
oaken door, and for the first time saw his second cousin, the young
mistress of Marchmont Towers. He started as he looked at her, though
with a scarcely perceptible movement, and a change came over his face.
The feminine pinky hue in his cheeks faded suddenly, and left them
white. It had been a peculiarity of Paul Marchmont's, from his boyhood,
always to turn pale with every acute emotion.

What was the emotion which had now blanched his cheeks? Was he
thinking, "Is _this_ fragile creature the mistress of Marchmont Towers?
Is _this_ frail life all that stands between me and eleven thousand a

The light which shone out of that feeble earthly tabernacle did indeed
seem a frail and fitful flame, likely to be extinguished by any rude
breath from the coarse outer world. Mary Marchmont was deadly pale;
black shadows encircled her wistful hazel eyes. Her new mourning-dress,
with its heavy trimmings of lustreless crape, seemed to hang loose upon
her slender figure; her soft brown hair, damp with the water with which
her burning forehead had been bathed, fell in straight lank tresses
about her shoulders. Her eyes were tearless, her mouth terribly
compressed. The rigidity of her face betokened the struggle by which
her sorrow was repressed. She sat in an easy-chair which Olivia
indicated to her, and with her hands lying on the white handkerchief in
her lap, and her swollen eyelids drooping over her eyes, waited for the
reading of her father's will. It would be the last, the very last, she
would ever hear of that dear father's words. She remembered this, and
was ready to listen attentively; but she remembered nothing else. What
was it to her that she was sole heiress of that great mansion, and of
eleven thousand a year? She had never in her life thought of the
Lincolnshire fortune with any reference to herself or her own
pleasures; and she thought of it less than ever now.

The will was dated February 4th, 1844, exactly two months after John's
marriage. It had been made by the master of Marchmont Towers without
the aid of a lawyer, and was only witnessed by John's housekeeper, and
by Corson the old valet, a confidential servant who had attended upon
Mr. Marchmont's predecessor.

Richard Paulette began to read; and Mary, for the first time since she
had taken her seat near the fire, lifted her eyes, and listened
breathlessly, with faintly tremulous lips. Olivia sat near her
stepdaughter; and Paul Marchmont stood in a careless attitude at one
corner of the fireplace, with his shoulders resting against the massive
oaken chimneypiece. The dead man's will ran thus:

"I John Marchmont of Marchmont Towers declare this to be my last will
and testament Being persuaded that my end is approaching I feel my dear
little daughter Mary will be left unprotected by any natural guardian
My young friend Edward Arundel I had hoped when in my poverty would
have been a friend and adviser to her if not a protector but her tender
years and his position in life must place this now out of the question
and I may die before a fond hope which I have long cherished can be
realised and which may now never be realised I now desire to make my
will more particularly to provide as well as I am permitted for the
guardianship and care of my dear little Mary during her minority Now I
will and desire that my wife Olivia shall act as guardian adviser and
mother to my dear little Mary and that she place herself under the
charge and guardianship of my wife And as she will be an heiress of
very considerable property I would wish her to be guided by the advice
of my said wife in the management of her property and particularly in
the choice of a husband As my dear little Mary will be amply provided
for on my death I make no provision for her by this my will but I
direct my executrix to present to her a diamond-ring which I wish her
to wear in memory of her loving father so that she may always have me
in her thoughts and particularly of these my wishes as to her future
life until she shall be of age and capable of acting on her own
judgment. I also request my executrix to present my young friend Edward
Arundel also with a diamond-ring of the value of at least one hundred
guineas as a slight tribute of the regard and esteem which I have ever
entertained for him. . . . As to all the property as well real as
personal over which I may at the time of my death have any control and
capable of claiming or bequeathing I give devise and bequeath to my
wife Olivia absolutely And I appoint my said wife sole executrix of
this my will and guardian of my dear little Mary."

There were a few very small legacies, including a mourning-ring to the
expectant clerk; and this was all. Paul Marchmont had been quite right;
nobody could be less interested than himself in this will.

But he was apparently very much interested in John's widow and
daughter. He tried to enter into conversation with Mary, but the girl's
piteous manner seemed to implore him to leave her unmolested; and Mr.
Bolton approached his patient almost immediately after the reading of
the will, and in a manner took possession of her. Mary was very glad to
leave the room once more, and to return to the dim chamber where Hester
Pollard sat at needlework. Olivia left her stepdaughter to the care of
this humble companion, and went back to the long dining-room, where the
gentlemen still hung listlessly over the fire, not knowing very well
what to do with themselves.

Mrs. Marchmont could not do less than invite Paul to stay a few days at
the Towers. She was virtually mistress of the house during Mary's
minority, and on her devolved all the troubles, duties, and
responsibilities attendant on such a position. Her father was going to
stay with her till the end of the week; and he therefore would be able
to entertain Mr. Marchmont. Paul unhesitatingly accepted the widow's
hospitality. The old place was picturesque and interesting, he said;
there were some genuine Holbeins in the hall and dining-room, and one
good Lely in the drawing-room. He would give himself a couple of days'
holiday, and go to Stanfield by an early train on Saturday.

"I have not seen my sister for a long time," he said; "her life is dull
enough and hard enough, Heaven knows, and she will be glad to see me
upon my way back to London."

Olivia bowed. She did not persuade Mr. Marchmont to extend his visit.
The common courtesy she offered him was kept within the narrowest
limits. She spent the best part of the time in the dead man's study
during Paul's two-days' stay, and left the artist almost entirely to
her father's companionship.

But she was compelled to appear at dinner, and she took her accustomed
place at the head of the table. Paul therefore had some opportunity of
sounding the depths of the strangest nature he had ever tried to
fathom. He talked to her very much, listening with unvarying attention
to every word she uttered. He watched her--but with no obtrusive
gaze--almost incessantly; and when he went away from Marchmont Towers,
without having seen Mary since the reading of the will, it was of
Olivia he thought; it was the recollection of Olivia which interested
as much as it perplexed him.

The few people waiting for the London train looked at the artist as he
strolled up and down the quiet platform at Kemberling Station, with his
head bent and his eyebrows slightly contracted. He had a certain easy,
careless grace of dress and carriage, which harmonised well with his
delicate face, his silken silvery hair, his carefully-trained auburn
moustache, and rosy, womanish mouth. He was a romantic-looking man. He
was the beau-ideal of the hero in a young lady's novel. He was a man
whom schoolgirls would have called "a dear." But it had been better, I
think, for any helpless wretch to be in the bull-dog hold of the
sturdiest Bill Sykes ever loosed upon society by right of his
ticket-of-leave, than in the power of Paul Marchmont, artist and
teacher of drawing, of Charlotte Street, Fitzroy Square.

He was thinking of Olivia as he walked slowly up and down the bare
platform, only separated by a rough wooden paling from the flat open
fields on the outskirts of Kemberling.

"The little girl is as feeble as a pale February butterfly." he
thought; "a puff of frosty wind might wither her away. But that woman,
that woman--how handsome she is, with her accurate profile and iron
mouth; but what a raging fire there is hidden somewhere in her breast,
and devouring her beauty by day and night! If I wanted to paint the
sleeping scene in _Macbeth_, I'd ask her to sit for the Thane's wicked
wife. Perhaps she has some bloody secret as deadly as the murder of a
grey-headed Duncan upon her conscience, and leaves her bedchamber in
the stillness of the night to walk up and down those long oaken
corridors at the Towers, and wring her hands and wail aloud in her
sleep. Why did she marry John Marchmont? His life gave her little more
than a fine house to live in; his death leaves her with nothing but ten
or twelve thousand pounds in the Three per Cents. What is her
mystery--what is her secret, I wonder? for she must surely have one."

Such thoughts as these filled his mind as the train carried him away
from the lonely little station, and away from the neighbourhood of
Marchmont Towers, within whose stony walls Mary lay in her quiet
chamber, weeping for her dead father, and wishing--God knows in what
utter singleness of heart!--that she had been buried in the vault by
his side.



The life which Mary and her stepmother led at Marchmont Towers after
poor John's death was one of those tranquil and monotonous existences
that leave very little to be recorded, except the slow progress of the
weeks and months, the gradual changes of the seasons. Mary bore her
sorrows quietly, as it was her nature to bear all things. The doctor's
advice was taken, and Olivia removed her stepdaughter to Scarborough
soon after the funeral. But the change of scene was slow to effect any
change in the state of dull despairing sorrow into which the girl had
fallen. The sea-breezes brought no colour into her pale cheeks. She
obeyed her stepmother's behests unmurmuringly, and wandered wearily by
the dreary seashore in the dismal November weather, in search of health
and strength. But wherever she went, she carried with her the awful
burden of her grief; and in every changing cadence of the low winter
winds, in every varying murmur of the moaning waves, she seemed to hear
her dead father's funeral dirge.

I think that, young as Mary Marchmont was, this mournful period was the
grand crisis of her life. The past, with its one great affection, had
been swept away from her, and as yet there was no friendly figure to
fill the dismal blank of the future. Had any kindly matron, any gentle
Christian creature been ready to stretch out her arms to the desolate
orphan, Mary's heart would have melted, and she would have crept to the
shelter of that womanly embrace, to nestle there for ever. But there
was no one. Olivia Marchmont obeyed the letter of her husband's solemn
appeal, as she had obeyed the letter of those Gospel sentences that had
been familiar to her from her childhood, but was utterly unable to
comprehend its spirit. She accepted the charge intrusted to her. She
was unflinching in the performance of her duty; but no one glimmer of
the holy light of motherly love and tenderness, the semi-divine
compassion of womanhood, ever illumined the dark chambers of her heart.
Every night she questioned herself upon her knees as to her rigid
performance of the level round of duty she had allotted to herself;
every night--scrupulous and relentless as the hardest judge who ever
pronounced sentence upon a criminal--she took note of her own
shortcomings, and acknowledged her deficiencies.

But, unhappily, this self-devotion of Olivia's pressed no less heavily
upon Mary than on the widow herself. The more rigidly Mrs. Marchmont
performed the duties which she understood to be laid upon her by her
dead husband's last will and testament, the harder became the orphan's
life. The weary treadmill of education worked on, when the young
student was well-nigh fainting upon every step in that hopeless
revolving ladder of knowledge. If Olivia, on communing with herself at
night, found that the day just done had been too easy for both mistress
and pupil, the morrow's allowance of Roman emperors and French grammar
was made to do penance for yesterday's shortcomings.

"This girl has been intrusted to my care, and one of my first duties is
to give her a good education," Olivia Marchmont thought. "She is
inclined to be idle; but I must fight against her inclination, whatever
trouble the struggle entails upon myself. The harder the battle, the
better for me if I am conqueror."

It was only thus that Olivia Marchmont could hope to be a good woman.
It was only by the rigid performance of hard duties, the patient
practice of tedious rites, that she could hope to attain that eternal
crown which simpler Christians seem to win so easily.

Morning and night the widow and her stepdaughter read the Bible
together; morning and night they knelt side by side to join in the same
familiar prayers; yet all these readings and all these prayers failed
to bring them any nearer together. No tender sentence of inspiration,
not the words of Christ himself, ever struck the same chord in these
two women's hearts, bringing both into sudden unison. They went to
church three times upon every dreary Sunday,--dreary from the terrible
uniformity which made one day a mechanical repetition of another,--and
sat together in the same pew; and there were times when some solemn
word, some sublime injunction, seemed to fall with a new meaning upon
the orphan girl's heart; but if she looked at her stepmother's face,
thinking to see some ray of that sudden light which had newly shone
into her own mind reflected _there_, the blank gloom of Olivia's
countenance seemed like a dead wall, across which no glimmer of
radiance ever shone.

They went back to Marchmont Towers in the early spring. People imagined
that the young widow would cultivate the society of her husband's old
friends, and that morning callers would be welcome at the Towers, and
the stately dinner-parties would begin again, when Mrs. Marchmont's
year of mourning was over. But it was not so; Olivia closed her doors
upon almost all society, and devoted herself entirely to the education
of her stepdaughter. The gossips of Swampington and Kemberling, the
county gentry who had talked of her piety and patience, her unflinching
devotion to the poor of her father's parish, talked now of her
self-abnegation, the sacrifices she made for her stepdaughter's sake,
the noble manner in which she justified John Marchmont's confidence in
her goodness. Other women would have intrusted the heiress's education
to some hired governess, people said; other women would have been upon
the look-out for a second husband; other women would have grown weary
of the dulness of that lonely Lincolnshire mansion, the monotonous
society of a girl of sixteen. They were never tired of lauding Mrs.
Marchmont as a model for all stepmothers in time to come.

Did she sacrifice much, this woman, whose spirit was a raging fire, who
had the ambition of a Semiramis, the courage of a Boadicea, the
resolution of a Lady Macbeth? Did she sacrifice much in resigning such
provincial gaieties as might have adorned her life,--a few
dinner-parties, an occasional county ball, a flirtation with some
ponderous landed gentleman or hunting squire?

No; these things would very soon have grown odious to her--more odious
than the monotony of her empty life, more wearisome even than the
perpetual weariness of her own spirit. I said, that when she accepted a
new life by becoming the wife of John Marchmont, she acted in the
spirit of a prisoner, who is glad to exchange his old dungeon for a new
one. But, alas! the novelty of the prison-house had very speedily worn
off, and that which Olivia Arundel had been at Swampington Rectory,
Olivia Marchmont was now in the gaunt country mansion,--a wretched
woman, weary of herself and all the world, devoured by a slow-consuming
and perpetual fire.

This woman was, for two long melancholy years, Mary Marchmont's sole
companion and instructress. I say sole companion advisedly; for the
girl was not allowed to become intimate with the younger members of
such few county families as still called occasionally at the Towers,
lest she should become empty-headed and frivolous by their
companionship. Alas, there was little fear of Mary becoming
empty-headed! As she grew taller, and more slender, she seemed to get
weaker and paler; and her heavy head drooped wearily under the load of
knowledge which it had been made to carry, like some poor sickly flower
oppressed by the weight of the dew-drops, which would have revivified a
hardier blossom.

Heaven knows to what end Mrs. Marchmont educated her stepdaughter! Poor
Mary could have told the precise date of any event in universal
history, ancient or modern; she could have named the exact latitude and
longitude of the remotest island in the least navigable ocean, and
might have given an accurate account of the manners and customs of its
inhabitants, had she been called upon to do so. She was alarmingly
learned upon the subject of tertiary and old red sandstone, and could
have told you almost as much as Mr. Charles Kingsley himself about the
history of a gravel-pit,--though I doubt if she could have conveyed her
information in quite such a pleasant manner; she could have pointed out
every star in the broad heavens above Lincolnshire, and could have told
the history of its discovery; she knew the hardest names that science
had given to the familiar field-flowers she met in her daily
walks;--yet I cannot say that her conversation was any the more
brilliant because of this, or that her spirits grew lighter under the
influence of this general mental illumination.

But Mrs. Marchmont did most earnestly believe that this laborious
educationary process was one of the duties she owed her stepdaughter;
and when, at seventeen years of age, Mary emerged from the struggle,
laden with such intellectual spoils as I have described above, the
widow felt a quiet satisfaction as she contemplated her work, and said
to herself, "In this, at least, I have done my duty."

Amongst all the dreary mass of instruction beneath which her health had
very nearly succumbed, the girl had learned one thing that was a source
of pleasure to herself; she had learned to become a very brilliant
musician. She was not a musical genius, remember; for no such vivid
flame as the fire of genius had ever burned in her gentle breast; but
all the tenderness of her nature, all the poetry of a hyper-poetical
mind, centred in this one accomplishment, and, condemned to perpetual
silence in every other tongue, found a new and glorious language here.
The girl had been forbidden to read Byron and Scott; but she was not
forbidden to sit at her piano, when the day's toils were over, and the
twilight was dusky in her quiet room, playing dreamy melodies by
Beethoven and Mozart, and making her own poetry to Mendelssohn's
wordless songs. I think her soul must have shrunk and withered away
altogether had it not been for this one resource, this one refuge, in
which her mind regained its elasticity, springing up, like a trampled
flower, into new life and beauty.

Olivia was well pleased to see the girl sit hour after hour at her
piano. She had learned to play well and brilliantly herself, mastering
all difficulties with the proud determination which was a part of her
strong nature; but she had no special love for music. All things that
compose the poetry and beauty of life had been denied to this woman, in
common with the tenderness which makes the chief loveliness of
womankind. She sat by the piano and listened while Mary's slight hands
wandered over the keys, carrying the player's soul away into trackless
regions of dream-land and beauty; but she heard nothing in the music
except so many chords, so many tones and semitones, played in such or
such a time.

It would have been scarcely natural for Mary Marchmont, reserved and
self-contained though she had been ever since her father's death, to
have had no yearning for more genial companionship than that of her
stepmother. The girl who had kept watch in her room, by the doctor's
suggestion, was the one friend and confidante whom the young mistress
of Marchmont Towers fain would have chosen. But here Olivia interposed,
sternly forbidding any intimacy between the two girls. Hester Pollard
was the daughter of a small tenant-farmer, and no fit associate for
Mrs. Marchmont's stepdaughter. Olivia thought that this taste for
obscure company was the fruit of Mary's early training--the taint left
by those bitter, debasing days of poverty, in which John Marchmont and
his daughter had lived in some wretched Lambeth lodging.

"But Hester Pollard is fond of me, mamma," the girl pleaded; "and I
feel so happy at the old farm house! They are all so kind to me when I
go there,--Hester's father and mother, and little brothers and sisters,
you know; and the poultry-yard, and the pigs and horses, and the green
pond, with the geese cackling round it, remind me of my aunt's, in
Berkshire. I went there once with poor papa for a day or two; it was
_such_ a change after Oakley Street."

But Mrs. Marchmont was inflexible upon this point. She would allow her
stepdaughter to pay a ceremonial visit now and then to Farmer
Pollard's, and to be entertained with cowslip-wine and pound-cake in
the low, old-fashioned parlour, where all the polished mahogany chairs
were so shining and slippery that it was a marvel how anybody ever
contrived to sit down upon them. Olivia allowed such solemn visits as
these now and then, and she permitted Mary to renew the farmer's lease
upon sufficiently advantageous terms, and to make occasional presents
to her favourite, Hester. But all stolen visits to the farmyard, all
evening rambles with the farmer's daughter in the apple orchard at the
back of the low white farmhouse, were sternly interdicted; and though
Mary and Hester were friends still, they were fain to be content with a
chance meeting once in the course of a dreary interval of months, and a
silent pressure of the hand.

"You mustn't think that I am proud of my money, Hester," Mary said to
her friend, "or that I forget you now that we see each other so seldom.
Papa used to let me come to the farm whenever I liked; but papa had
seen a great deal of poverty. Mamma keeps me almost always at home at
my studies; but she is very good to me, and of course I am bound to
obey her; papa wished me to obey her."

The orphan girl never for a moment forgot the terms of her father's
will. _He_ had wished her to obey; what should she do, then, but be
obedient? Her submission to Olivia's lightest wish was only a part of
the homage which she paid to that beloved father's memory.

It was thus she grew to early womanhood; a child in gentle obedience
and docility; a woman by reason of that grave and thoughtful character
which had been peculiar to her from her very infancy. It was in a life
such as this, narrow, monotonous, joyless, that her seventeenth
birthday came and went, scarcely noticed, scarcely remembered, in the
dull uniformity of the days which left no track behind them; and Mary
Marchmont was a woman,--a woman with all the tragedy of life before
her; infantine in her innocence and inexperience of the world outside
Marchmont Towers.

The passage of time had been so long unmarked by any break in its
tranquil course, the dull routine of life had been so long undisturbed
by change, that I believe the two women thought their lives would go on
for ever and ever. Mary, at least, had never looked beyond the dull
horizon of the present. Her habit of castle-building had died out with
her father's death. What need had she to build castles, now that he
could no longer inhabit them? Edward Arundel, the bright boy she
remembered in Oakley Street, the dashing young officer who had come to
Marchmont Towers, had dropped back into the chaos of the past. Her
father had been the keystone in the arch of Mary's existence: he was
gone, and a mass of chaotic ruins alone remained of the familiar
visions which had once beguiled her. The world had ended with John
Marchmont's death, and his daughter's life since that great sorrow had
been at best only a passive endurance of existence. They had heard very
little of the young soldier at Marchmont Towers. Now and then a letter
from some member of the family at Dangerfield had come to the Rector of
Swampington. The warfare was still raging far away in the East, cruel
and desperate battles were being fought, and brave Englishmen were
winning loot and laurels, or perishing under the scimitars of Sikhs and
Affghans, as the case might be. Squire Arundel's youngest son was not
doing less than his duty, the letters said. He had gained his
captaincy, and was well spoken of by great soldiers, whose very names
were like the sound of the war-trumpet to English ears.

Olivia heard all this. She sat by her father, sometimes looking over
his shoulder at the crumpled letter, as he read aloud to her of her
cousin's exploits. The familiar name seemed to be all ablaze with lurid
light as the widow's greedy eyes devoured it. How commonplace the
letters were! What frivolous nonsense Letitia Arundel intermingled with
the news of her brother!--"You'll be glad to hear that my grey pony has
got the better of his lameness. Papa gave a hunting-breakfast on
Tuesday week. Lord Mountlitchcombe was present; but the hunting-men are
very much aggravated about the frost, and I fear we shall have no
crocuses. Edward has got his captaincy, papa told me to tell you. Sir
Charles Napier and Major Outram have spoken very highly of him; but
he--Edward, I mean--got a sabre-cut on his left arm, besides a wound on
his forehead, and was laid up for nearly a month. I daresay you
remember old Colonel Tollesly, at Halburton Lodge? He died last
November; and has left all his money to----" and the young lady ran on
thus, with such gossip as she thought might be pleasing to her uncle;
and there were no more tidings of the young soldier, whose life-blood
had so nearly been spilt for his country's glory.

Olivia thought of him as she rode back to Marchmont Towers. She thought
of the sabre-cut upon his arm, and pictured him wounded and bleeding,
lying beneath the canvass-shelter of a tent, comfortless, lonely,

"Better for me if he had died," she thought; "better for me if I were
to hear of his death to-morrow!"

And with the idea the picture of such a calamity arose before her so
vividly and hideously distinct, that she thought for one brief moment
of agony, "This is not a fancy, it is a presentiment; it is second
sight; the thing will occur."

She imagined herself going to see her father as she had gone that
morning. All would be the same: the low grey garden-wall of the
Rectory; the ceaseless surging of the sea; the prim servant-maid; the
familiar study, with its litter of books and papers; the smell of stale
cigar-smoke; the chintz curtains flapping in the open window; the dry
leaves fluttering in the garden without. There would be nothing changed
except her father's face, which would be a little graver than usual.
And then, after a little hesitation--after a brief preamble about the
uncertainty of life, the necessity for looking always beyond this
world, the horrors of war,--the dreadful words would be upon his lips,
when she would read all the hideous truth in his face, and fall prone
to the ground, before he could say, "Edward Arundel is dead!"

Yes; she felt all the anguish. It would be this--this sudden paralysis
of black despair. She tested the strength of her endurance by this
imaginary torture,--scarcely imaginary, surely, when it seemed so
real,--and asked herself a strange question: "Am I strong enough to
bear this, or would it be less terrible to go on, suffering for
ever--for ever abased and humiliated by the degradation of my love for
a man who does not care for me?"

So long as John Marchmont had lived, this woman would have been true to
the terrible victory she had won upon the eve of her bridal. She would
have been true to herself and to her marriage-vow; but her husband's
death, in setting her free, had cast her back upon the madness of her
youth. It was no longer a sin to think of Edward Arundel. Having once
suffered this idea to arise in her mind, her idol grew too strong for
her, and she thought of him by night and day.

Yes; she thought of him for ever and ever. The narrow life to which she
doomed herself, the self-immolation which she called duty, left her a
prey to this one thought. Her work was not enough for her. Her powerful
mind wasted and shrivelled for want of worthy employment. It was like
one vast roll of parchment whereon half the wisdom of the world might
have been inscribed, but on which was only written over and over again,
in maddening repetition, the name of Edward Arundel. If Olivia
Marchmont could have gone to America, and entered herself amongst the
feminine professors of law or medicine,--if she could have turned
field-preacher, like simple Dinah Morris, or set up a printing-press in
Bloomsbury, or even written a novel,--I think she might have been
saved. The superabundant energy of her mind would have found a new
object. As it was, she did none of these things. She had only dreamt
one dream, and by force of perpetual repetition the dream had become a

But the monotonous life was not to go on for ever. The dull, grey,
leaden sky was to be illumined by sudden bursts of sunshine, and swept
by black thunder-clouds, whose stormy violence was to shake the very
universe for these two solitary women.

John Marchmont had been dead nearly three years. Mary's humble friend,
the farmer's daughter, had married a young tradesman in the village of
Kemberling, a mile and a half from the Towers. Mary was a woman now,
and had seen the last of the Roman emperors and all the dry-as-dust
studies of her early girlhood. She had nothing to do but accompany her
stepmother hither and thither amongst the poor cottagers about
Kemberling and two or three other small parishes within a drive of the
Towers, "doing good," after Olivia's fashion, by line and rule. At home
the young lady did what she pleased, sitting for hours together at her
piano, or wading through gigantic achievements in the way of
embroidery-work. She was even allowed to read novels now, but only such
novels as were especially recommended to Olivia, who was one of the
patronesses of a book-club at Swampington: novels in which young ladies
fell in love with curates, and didn't marry them: novels in which
everybody suffered all manner of misery, and rather liked it: novels in
which, if the heroine did marry the man she loved--and this happy
conclusion was the exception, and not the rule--the smallpox swept away
her beauty, or a fatal accident deprived him of his legs, or eyes, or
arms before the wedding-day.

The two women went to Kemberling Church together three times every
Sunday. It was rather monotonous--the same church, the same rector and
curate, the same clerk, the same congregation, the same old organ-tunes
and droning voices of Lincolnshire charity-children, the same sermons
very often. But Mary had grown accustomed to monotony. She had ceased
to hope or care for anything since her father's death, and was very
well contented to be let alone, and allowed to dawdle through a dreary
life which was utterly without aim or purpose. She sat opposite her
stepmother on one particular afternoon in the state-pew at Kemberling,
which was lined with faded red baize, and raised a little above the
pews of meaner worshippers; she was sitting with her listless hands
lying in her lap, looking thoughtfully at her stepmother's stony face,
and listening to the dull droning of the rector's voice above her head.
It was a sunny afternoon in early June, and the church was bright with
a warm yellow radiance; one of the old diamond-paned windows was open,
and the tinkling of a sheep-bell far away in the distance, and the hum
of bees in the churchyard, sounded pleasantly in the quiet of the hot

The young mistress of Marchmont Towers felt the drowsy influence of
that tranquil summer weather creeping stealthily upon her. The heavy
eyelids drooped over her soft brown eyes, those wistful eyes which had
so long looked wearily out upon a world in which there seemed so little
joy. The rector's sermon was a very long one this warm afternoon, and
there was a low sound of snoring somewhere in one of the shadowy and
sheltered pews beneath the galleries. Mary tried very hard to keep
herself awake. Mrs. Marchmont had frowned darkly at her once or twice
already, for to fall asleep in church was a dire iniquity in Olivia's
rigid creed; but the drowsiness was not easily to be conquered, and the
girl was sinking into a peaceful slumber in spite of her stepmother's
menacing frowns, when the sound of a sharp footfall on one of the
gravel pathways in the churchyard aroused her attention.

Heaven knows why she should have been awoke out of her sleep by the
sound of that step. It was different, perhaps, to the footsteps of the
Kemberling congregation. The brisk, sharp sound of the tread striking
lightly but firmly on the gravel was not compatible with the shuffling
gait of the tradespeople and farmers' men who formed the greater part
of the worshippers at that quiet Lincolnshire church. Again, it would
have been a monstrous sin in that tranquil place for any one member of
the congregation to disturb the devotions of the rest by entering at
such a time as this. It was a stranger, then, evidently. What did it
matter? Miss Marchmont scarcely cared to lift her eyelids to see who or
what the stranger was; but the intruder let in such a flood of June
sunshine when he pushed open the ponderous oaken door under the
church-porch, that she was dazzled by that sudden burst of light, and
involuntarily opened her eyes.

The stranger let the door swing softly to behind him, and stood beneath
the shadow of the porch, not caring to advance any further, or to
disturb the congregation by his presence.

Mary could not see him very plainly at first. She could only dimly
define the outline of his tall figure, the waving masses of chestnut
hair tinged with gleams of gold; but little by little his face seemed
to grow out of the shadow, until she saw it all,--the handsome
patrician features, the luminous blue eyes, the amber moustache,--the
face which, in Oakley Street eight years ago, she had elected as her
type of all manly perfection, her ideal of heroic grace.

Yes; it was Edward Arundel. Her eyes lighted up with an unwonted
rapture as she looked at him; her lips parted; and her breath came in
faint gasps. All the monotonous years, the terrible agonies of sorrow,
dropped away into the past; and Mary Marchmont was conscious of nothing
except the unutterable happiness of the present.

The one friend of her childhood had come back. The one link, the almost
forgotten link, that bound her to every day-dream of those foolish
early days, was united once more by the presence of the young soldier.
All that happy time, nearly five years ago,--that happy time in which
the tennis-court had been built, and the boat-house by the river
restored,--those sunny autumn days before her father's second
marriage,--returned to her. There was pleasure and joy in the world,
after all; and then the memory of her father came back to her mind, and
her eyes filled with tears. How sorry Edward would be to see his old
friend's empty place in the western drawing-room; how sorry for her,
and for her loss! Olivia Marchmont saw the change in her stepdaughter's
face, and looked at her with stern amazement. But, after the first
shock of that delicious surprise, Mary's training asserted itself. She
folded her hands,--they trembled a little, but Olivia did not see
that,--and waited patiently, with her eyes cast down and a faint flush
lighting up her pale cheeks, until the sermon was finished, and the
congregation began to disperse. She was not impatient. She felt as if
she could have waited thus peacefully and contentedly for ever, knowing
that the only friend she had on earth was near her.

Olivia was slow to leave her pew; but at last she opened the door and
went out into the quiet aisle, followed by Mary, out under the shadowy
porch and into the gravel-walk in the churchyard, where Edward Arundel
was waiting for the two ladies.

John Marchmont's widow uttered no cry of surprise when she saw her
cousin standing a little way apart from the slowly-dispersing
Kemberling congregation. Her dark face faded a little, and her heart
seemed to stop its pulsation suddenly, as if she had been turned into
stone; but this was only for a moment. She held out her hand to Mr.
Arundel in the next instant, and bade him welcome to Lincolnshire.

"I did not know you were in England," she said.

"Scarcely any one knows it yet," the young man answered; "and I have
not even been home. I came to Marchmont Towers at once."

He turned from his cousin to Mary, who was standing a little behind her

"Dear Polly," he said, taking both her hands in his, "I was so sorry
for you, when I heard----"

He stopped, for he saw the tears welling up to her eyes. It was not his
allusion to her father's death that had distressed her. He had called
her Polly, the old familiar name, which she had never heard since that
dead father's lips had last spoken it.

The carriage was waiting at the gate of the churchyard, and Edward
Arundel went back to Marchmont Towers with the two ladies. He had
reached the house a quarter of an hour after they had left it for
afternoon church, and had walked over to Kemberling.

"I was so anxious to see you, Polly," he said, "after all this long
time, that I had no patience to wait until you and Livy came back from

Olivia started as the young man said this. It was Mary Marchmont whom
he had come to see, then--not herself. Was _she_ never to be anything?
Was she to be for ever insulted by this humiliating indifference? A
dark flush came over her face, as she drew her head up with the air of
an offended empress, and looked angrily at her cousin. Alas! he did not
even see that indignant glance. He was bending over Mary, telling her,
in a low tender voice, of the grief he had felt at learning the news of
her father's death.

Olivia Marchmont looked with an eager, scrutinising gaze at her
stepdaughter. Could it be possible that Edward Arundel might ever come
to love this girl? _Could_ such a thing be possible? A hideous depth of
horror and confusion seemed to open before her with the thought. In all
the past, amongst all things she had imagined, amongst all the
calamities she had pictured to herself, she had never thought of
anything like this. Would such a thing ever come to pass? Would she
ever grow to hate this girl--this girl, who had been intrusted to her
by her dead husband--with the most terrible hatred that one woman can
feel towards another?

In the next moment she was angry with herself for the abject folly of
this new terror. She had never yet learned to think of Mary as a woman.
She had never thought of her otherwise than as the pale childlike girl
who had come to her meekly, day after day, to recite difficult lessons,
standing in a submissive attitude before her, and rendering obedience
to her in all things. Was it likely, was it possible, that this
pale-faced girl would enter into the lists against her in the great
battle of her life? Was it likely that she was to find her adversary
and her conqueror here, in the meek child who had been committed to her

She watched her stepdaughter's face with a jealous, hungry gaze. Was it
beautiful? No! The features were delicate; the brown eyes soft and
dovelike, almost lovely, now that they were irradiated by a new light,
as they looked shyly up at Edward Arundel. But the girl's face was wan
and colourless. It lacked the splendour of beauty. It was only after
you had looked at Mary for a very long time that you began to think her
rather pretty.

The five years during which Edward Arundel had been away had made
little alteration in him. He was rather taller, perhaps; his amber
moustache thicker; his manner more dashing than of old. The mark of a
sabre-cut under the clustering chestnut curls upon the temple gave him
a certain soldierly dignity. He seemed a man of the world now, and Mary
Marchmont was rather afraid of him. He was so different to the
Lincolnshire squires, the bashful younger sons who were to be educated
for the Church: he was so dashing, so elegant, so splendid! From the
waving grace of his hair to the tip of the polished boot peeping out of
his well-cut trouser (there were no pegtops in 1847, and it was _le
genre_ to show very little of the boot), he was a creature to be
wondered at, to be almost reverenced, Mary thought. She could not help
admiring the cut of his coat, the easy _nonchalance_ of his manner, the
waxed ends of his curved moustache, the dangling toys of gold and
enamel that jingled at his watch-chain, the waves of perfume that
floated away from his cambric handkerchief. She was childish enough to
worship all these external attributes in her hero.

"Shall I invite him to Marchmont Towers?" Olivia thought; and while she
was deliberating upon this question, Mary Marchmont cried out, "You
will stop at the Towers, won't you, Mr. Arundel, as you did when poor
papa was alive?"

"Most decidedly, Miss Marchmont," the young man answered. "I mean to
throw myself upon your hospitality as confidingly as I did a long time
ago in Oakley Street, when you gave me hot rolls for my breakfast."

Mary laughed aloud--perhaps for the first time since her father's
death. Olivia bit her lip. She was of so little account, then, she
thought, that they did not care to consult her. A gloomy shadow spread
itself over her face. Already, already she began to hate this
pale-faced, childish orphan girl, who seemed to be transformed into a
new being under the spell of Edward Arundel's presence.

But she made no attempt to prevent his stopping at the Towers, though a
word from her would have effectually hindered his coming. A dull torpor
of despair took possession of her; a black apprehension paralysed her
mind. She felt that a pit of horror was opening before her ignorant
feet. All that she had suffered was as nothing to what she was about to
suffer. Let it be, then! What could she do to keep this torture away
from her? Let it come, since it seemed that it must come in some shape
or other.

She thought all this, while she sat back in a corner of the carriage
watching the two faces opposite to her, as Edward and Mary, seated with
their backs to the horses, talked together in low confidential tones,
which scarcely reached her ear. She thought all this during the short
drive between Kemberling and Marchmont Towers; and when the carriage
drew up before the low Tudor portico, the dark shadow had settled on
her face. Her mind was made up. Let Edward Arundel come; let the worst
come. She had struggled; she had tried to do her duty; she had striven
to be good. But her destiny was stronger than herself, and had brought
this young soldier over land and sea, safe out of every danger, rescued
from every peril, to be her destruction. I think that in this crisis of
her life the last faint ray of Christian light faded out of this lost
woman's soul, leaving utter darkness and desolation. The old landmarks,
dimly descried in the weary desert, sank for ever down into the
quicksands, and she was left alone,--alone with her despair. Her
jealous soul prophesied the evil which she dreaded. This man, whose
indifference to her was almost an insult, would fall in love with Mary
Marchmont,--with Mary Marchmont, whose eyes lit up into new beauty
under the glances of his, whose pale face blushed into faint bloom as
he talked to her. The girl's undisguised admiration would flatter the
young man's vanity, and he would fall in love with her out of very
frivolity and weakness of purpose.

"He is weak and vain, and foolish and frivolous, I daresay," Olivia
thought; "and if I were to fling myself upon my knees at his feet, and
tell him that I loved him, he would be flattered and grateful, and
would be ready to return my affection. If I could tell him what this
girl tells him in every look and word, he would be as pleased with me
as he is with her."

Her lip curled with unutterable scorn as she thought this. She was so
despicable to herself by the deep humiliation of her wasted love, that
the object of that foolish passion seemed despicable also. She was for
ever weighing Edward Arundel against all the tortures she had endured
for his sake, and for ever finding him wanting. He must have been a
demigod if his perfections could have outweighed so much misery; and
for this reason she was unjust to her cousin, and could not accept him
for that which he really was,--a generous-hearted, candid, honourable
young man (not a great man or a wonderful man),--a brave and
honest-minded soldier, very well worthy of a good woman's love.

 * * * * *

Mr. Arundel stayed at the Towers, occupying the room which had been his
in John Marchmont's lifetime; and a new existence began for Mary. The
young man was delighted with his old friend's daughter. Among all the
Calcutta belles whom he had danced with at Government-House balls and
flirted with upon the Indian racecourse, he could remember no one as
fascinating as this girl, who seemed as childlike now, in her early
womanhood, as she had been womanly while she was a child. Her naïve
tenderness for himself bewitched and enraptured him. Who could have
avoided being charmed by that pure and innocent affection, which was as
freely given by the girl of eighteen as it had been by the child, and
was unchanged in character by the lapse of years? The young officer had
been so much admired and caressed in Calcutta, that perhaps, by reason
of his successes, he had returned to England heart-whole; and he
abandoned himself, without any _arrière-pensée_, to the quiet happiness
which he felt in Mary Marchmont's society. I do not say that he was
intoxicated by her beauty, which was by no means of the intoxicating
order, or that he was madly in love with her. The gentle fascination of
her society crept upon him before he was aware of its influence. He had
never taken the trouble to examine his own feelings; they were
disengaged,--as free as butterflies to settle upon which flower might
seem the fairest; and he had therefore no need to put himself under a
course of rigorous self-examination. As yet he believed that the
pleasure he now felt in Mary's society was the same order of enjoyment
he had experienced five years before, when he had taught her chess, and
promised her long rambles by the seashore.

They had no long rambles now in solitary lanes and under flowering
hedgerows beside the waving green corn. Olivia watched them with
untiring eyes. The tortures to which a jealous woman may condemn
herself are not much greater than those she can inflict upon others.
Mrs. Marchmont took good care that her ward and her cousin were not
_too_ happy. Wherever they went, she went also; whenever they spoke,
she listened; whatever arrangement was most likely to please them was
opposed by her. Edward was not coxcomb enough to have any suspicion of
the reason of this conduct on his cousin's part. He only smiled and
shrugged his shoulders; and attributed her watchfulness to an
overstrained sense of her responsibility, and the necessity of

"Does she think me such a villain and a traitor," he thought, "that she
fears to leave me alone with my dead friend's orphan daughter, lest I
should whisper corruption into her innocent ear? How little these good
women know of us, after all! What vulgar suspicions and narrow-minded
fears influence them against us! Are they honourable and honest towards
one another, I wonder, that they can entertain such pitiful doubts of
our honour and honesty?"

So, hour after hour, and day after day, Olivia Marchmont kept watch and
ward over Edward and Mary. It seems strange that love could blossom in
such an atmosphere; it seems strange that the cruel gaze of those hard
grey eyes did not chill the two innocent hearts, and prevent their free
expansion. But it was not so; the egotism of love was all-omnipotent.
Neither Edward nor Mary was conscious of the evil light in the glance
that so often rested upon them. The universe narrowed itself to the one
spot of earth upon which these two stood side by side.

Edward Arundel had been more than a month at Marchmont Towers when
Olivia went, upon a hot July evening, to Swampington, on a brief visit
to the Rector,--a visit of duty. She would doubtless have taken Mary
Marchmont with her; but the girl had been suffering from a violent
headache throughout the burning summer day, and had kept her room.
Edward Arundel had gone out early in the morning upon a fishing
excursion to a famous trout-stream seven or eight miles from the
Towers, and was not likely to return until after nightfall. There was
no chance, therefore, of a meeting between Mary and the young officer,
Olivia thought--no chance of any confidential talk which she would not
be by to hear.

Did Edward Arundel love the pale-faced girl, who revealed her devotion
to him with such childlike unconsciousness? Olivia Marchmont had not
been able to answer that question. She had sounded the young man
several times upon his feelings towards her stepdaughter; but he had
met her hints and insinuations with perfect frankness, declaring that
Mary seemed as much a child to him now as she had appeared nearly nine
years before in Oakley Street, and that the pleasure he took in her
society was only such as he might have felt in that of any innocent and
confiding child.

"Her simplicity is so bewitching, you know, Livy," he said; "she looks
up in my face, and trusts me with all her little secrets, and tells me
her dreams about her dead father, and all her foolish, innocent
fancies, as confidingly as if I were some playfellow of her own age and
sex. She's so refreshing after the artificial belles of a Calcutta
ballroom, with their stereotyped fascinations and their complete manual
of flirtation, the same for ever and ever. She is such a pretty little
spontaneous darling, with her soft, shy, brown eyes, and her low voice,
which always sounds to me like the cooing of the doves in the

I think that Olivia, in the depth of her gloomy despair, took some
comfort from such speeches as these. Was this frank expression of
regard for Mary Marchmont a token of _love_? No; not as the widow
understood the stormy madness. Love to her had been a dark and terrible
passion, a thing to be concealed, as monomaniacs have sometimes
contrived to keep the secret of their mania, until it burst forth at
last, fatal and irrepressible, in some direful work of wreck and ruin.

So Olivia Marchmont took an early dinner alone, and drove away from the
Towers at four o'clock on a blazing summer afternoon, more at peace
perhaps than she had been since Edward Arundel's coming. She paid her
dutiful visit to her father, sat with him for some time, talked to the
two old servants who waited upon him, walked two or three times up and
down the neglected garden, and then drove back to the Towers.

The first object upon which her eyes fell as she entered the hall was
Edward Arundel's fishing-tackle lying in disorder upon an oaken bench
near the broad arched door that opened out into the quadrangle. An
angry flush mounted to her face as she turned upon the servant near

"Mr. Arundel has come home?" she said.

"Yes, ma'am, he came in half an hour ago; but he went out again almost
directly with Miss Marchmont."

"Indeed! I thought Miss Marchmont was in her room?"

"No, ma'am; she came down to the drawing-room about an hour after you
left. Her head was better, ma'am, she said."

"And she went out with Mr. Arundel? Do you know which way they went?"

"Yes, ma'am; I heard Mr. Arundel say he wanted to look at the old
boat-house by the river."

"And they have gone there?"

"I think so, ma'am."

"Very good; I will go down to them. Miss Marchmont must not stop out in
the night-air. The dew is falling already."

The door leading into the quadrangle was open; and Olivia swept across
the broad threshold, haughty and self-possessed, very stately-looking
in her long black garments. She still wore mourning for her dead
husband. What inducement had she ever had to cast off that sombre
attire; what need had she to trick herself out in gay colours? What
loving eyes would be charmed by her splendour? She went out of the
door, across the quadrangle, under a stone archway, and into the low
stunted wood, which was gloomy even in the summer-time. The setting sun
was shining upon the western front of the Towers; but here all seemed
cold and desolate. The damp mists were rising from the sodden ground
beneath the tree; the frogs were croaking down by the river-side. With
her small white teeth set, and her breath coming in fitful gasps,
Olivia Marchmont hurried to the water's edge, winding in and out
between the trees, tearing her black dress amongst the brambles,
scorning all beaten paths, heedless where she trod, so long as she made
her way speedily to the spot she wanted to reach.

At last the black sluggish river and the old boat-house came in sight,
between a long vista of ugly distorted trunks and gnarled branches of
pollard oak and willow. The building was dreary and
dilapidated-looking, for the improvements commenced by Edward Arundel
five years ago had never been fully carried out; but it was
sufficiently substantial, and bore no traces of positive decay. Down by
the water's edge there was a great cavernous recess for the shelter of
the boats, and above this there was a pavilion, built of brick and
stone, containing two decent-sized chambers, with latticed windows
overlooking the river. A flight of stone steps with an iron balustrade
led up to the door of this pavilion, which was supported upon the solid
side-walls of the boat-house below.

In the stillness of the summer twilight Olivia heard the voices of
those whom she came to seek. They were standing down by the edge of the
water, upon a narrow pathway that ran along by the sedgy brink of the
river, and only a few paces from the pavilion. The door of the
boat-house was open; a long-disused wherry lay rotting upon the damp
and mossy flags. Olivia crept into the shadowy recess. The door that
faced the river had fallen from its rusty hinges, and the slimy
woodwork lay in ruins upon the shore. Sheltered by the stone archway
that had once been closed by this door, Olivia listened to the voices
beside the still water.

Mary Marchmont was standing close to the river's edge; Edward stood
beside her, leaning against the trunk of a willow that hung over the

"My childish darling," the young man murmured, as if in reply to
something his companion had said, "and so you think, because you are
simple-minded and innocent, I am not to love you. It is your innocence
I love, Polly dear,--let me call you Polly, as I used five years
ago,--and I wouldn't have you otherwise for all the world. Do you know
that sometimes I am almost sorry I ever came back to Marchmont Towers?"

"Sorry you came back?" cried Mary, in a tone of alarm. "Oh, why do you
say that, Mr. Arundel?"

"Because you are heiress to eleven thousand a year, Mary, and the
Moated Grange behind us; and this dreary wood, and the river,--the
river is yours, I daresay, Miss Marchmont;--and I wish you joy of the
possession of so much sluggish water and so many square miles of swamp
and fen."

"But what then?" Mary asked wonderingly.

"What then? Do you know, Polly darling, that if I ask you to marry me
people will call me a fortune-hunter, and declare that I came to
Marchmont Towers bent upon stealing its heiress's innocent heart,
before she had learned the value of the estate that must go along with
it? God knows they'd wrong me, Polly, as cruelly as ever an honest man
was wronged; for, so long as I have money to pay my tailor and
tobacconist,--and I've more than enough for both of them,--I want
nothing further of the world's wealth. What should I do with all this
swamp and fen, Miss Marchmont--with all that horrible complication of
expired leases to be renewed, and income-taxes to be appealed against,
that rich people have to endure? If you were not rich, Polly, I----"

He stopped and laughed, striking the toe of his boot amongst the weeds,
and knocking the pebbles into the water. The woman crouching in the
shadow of the archway listened with whitened cheeks and glaring eyes;
listened as she might have listened to the sentence of her death,
drinking in every syllable, in her ravenous desire to lose no breath
that told her of her anguish.

"If I were not rich!" murmured Mary; "what if I were not rich?"

"I should tell you how dearly I love you, Polly, and ask you to be my
wife by-and-by."

The girl looked up at him for a few moments in silence, shyly at first,
and then more boldly, with a beautiful light kindling in her eyes.

"I love you dearly too, Mr. Arundel," she said at last; "and I would
rather you had my money than any one else in the world; and there was
something in papa's will that made me think--"

"There was something that made you think he would wish this, Polly,"
cried the young man, clasping the trembling little figure to his
breast. "Mr. Paulette sent me a copy of the will, Polly, when he sent
my diamond-ring; and I think there were some words in it that hinted at
such a wish. Your father said he left me this legacy, darling,--I have
his letter still,--the legacy of a helpless girl. God knows I will try
to be worthy of such a trust, Mary dearest; God knows I will be
faithful to my promise, made nine years ago."

The woman listening in the dark archway sank down upon the damp flags
at her feet, amongst the slimy rotten wood and rusty iron nails and
broken bolts and hinges. She sat there for a long time, not
unconscious, but quite motionless, her white face leaning against the
moss-grown arch, staring blankly out of the black shadows. She sat
there and listened, while the lovers talked in low tender murmurs of
the sorrowful past and of the unknown future; that beautiful untrodden
region, in which they were to go hand in hand through all the long
years of quiet happiness between the present moment and the grave. She
sat and listened till the moonlight faintly shimmered upon the water,
and the footsteps of the lovers died away upon the narrow pathway by
which they went back to the house.

Olivia Marchmont did not move until an hour after they had gone. Then
she raised herself with an effort, and walked with stiffened limbs
slowly and painfully to the house, and to her own room, where she
locked her door, and flung herself upon the ground in the darkness.

Mary came to her to ask why she did not come to the drawing-room, and
Mrs. Marchmont answered, with a hoarse voice, that she was ill, and
wished to be alone. Neither Mary, nor the old woman-servant who had
been Olivia's nurse long ago, and who had some little influence over
her, could get any other answer than this.



Mary Marchmont and Edward Arundel were happy. They were happy; and how
should they guess the tortures of that desperate woman, whose benighted
soul was plunged in a black gulf of horror by reason of their innocent
love? How should these two--very children in their ignorance of all
stormy passions, all direful emotions--know that in the darkened
chamber where Olivia Marchmont lay, suffering under some vague illness,
for which the Swampington doctor was fain to prescribe quinine, in
utter unconsciousness as to the real nature of the disease which he was
called upon to cure,--how should they know that in that gloomy chamber
a wicked heart was abandoning itself to all the devils that had so long
held patient watch for this day?

Yes; the struggle was over. Olivia Marchmont flung aside the cross she
had borne in dull, mechanical obedience, rather than in Christian love
and truth. Better to have been sorrowful Magdalene, forgiven for her
love and tears, than this cold, haughty, stainless woman, who had never
been able to learn the sublime lessons which so many sinners have taken
meekly to heart. The religion which was wanting in the vital principle
of Christianity, the faith which showed itself only in dogged
obedience, failed this woman in the hour of her agony. Her pride arose;
the defiant spirit of the fallen angel asserted its gloomy grandeur.

"What have I done that I should suffer like this?" she thought. "What
am I that an empty-headed soldier should despise me, and that I should
go mad because of his indifference? Is this the recompense for my long
years of obedience? Is this the reward Heaven bestows upon me for my
life of duty!"

She remembered the histories of other women,--women who had gone their
own way and had been happy; and a darker question arose in her mind;
almost the question which Job asked in his agony.

"Is there neither truth nor justice in the dealings of God?" she
thought. "Is it useless to be obedient and submissive, patient and
untiring? Has all my life been a great mistake, which is to end in
confusion and despair?"

And then she pictured to herself the life that might have been hers if
Edward Arundel had loved her. How good she would have been! The
hardness of her iron nature would have teen melted and subdued. By
force of her love and tenderness for him, she would have learned to be
loving and tender to others. Her wealth of affection for him would have
overflowed in gentleness and consideration for every creature in the
universe. The lurking bitterness which had lain hidden in her heart
ever since she had first loved Edward Arundel, and first discovered his
indifference to her; and the poisonous envy of happier women, who had
loved and were beloved,--would have been blotted away. Her whole nature
would have undergone a wondrous transfiguration, purified and exalted
by the strength of her affection. All this might have come to pass if
he had loved her,--if he had only loved her. But a pale-faced child had
come between her and this redemption; and there was nothing left for
her but despair.

Nothing but despair? Yes; perhaps something further,--revenge.

But this last idea took no tangible shape. She only knew that, in the
black darkness of the gulf into which her soul had gone down, there
was, far away somewhere, one ray of lurid light. She only knew this as
yet, and that she hated Mary Marchmont with a mad and wicked hatred. If
she could have thought meanly of Edward Arundel,--if she could have
believed him to be actuated by mercenary motives in his choice of the
orphan girl,--she might have taken some comfort from the thought of his
unworthiness, and of Mary's probable sorrow in the days to come. But
she _could_ not think this. Little as the young soldier had said in the
summer twilight beside the river, there had been that in his tones and
looks which had convinced the wretched watcher of his truth. Mary might
have been deceived by the shallowest pretender; but Olivia's eyes
devoured every glance; Olivia's greedy ears drank in every tone; and
she _knew_ that Edward Arundel loved her stepdaughter.

She knew this, and she hated Mary Marchmont. What had she done, this
girl, who had never known what it was to fight a battle with her own
rebellious heart? what had she done, that all this wealth of love and
happiness should drop into her lap unsought,--comparatively unvalued,

John Marchmont's widow lay in her darkened chamber thinking over these
things; no longer fighting the battle with her own heart, but utterly
abandoning herself to her desperation,--reckless, hardened, impenitent.

Edward Arundel could not very well remain at the Towers while the
reputed illness of his hostess kept her to her room. He went over to
Swampington, therefore, upon a dutiful visit to his uncle; but rode to
the Towers every day to inquire very particularly after his cousin's
progress, and to dawdle on the sunny western terrace with Mary

Their innocent happiness needs little description. Edward Arundel
retained a good deal of that boyish chivalry which had made him so
eager to become the little girl's champion in the days gone by. Contact
with the world had not much sullied the freshness of the young man's
spirit. He loved his innocent, childish companion with the purest and
truest devotion; and he was proud of the recollection that in the day
of his poverty John Marchmont had chosen _him_ as the future shelterer
of this tender blossom.

"You must never grow any older or more womanly, Polly," he said
sometimes to the young mistress of Marchmont Towers. "Remember that I
always love you best when I think of you as the little girl in the
shabby pinafore, who poured out my tea for me one bleak December
morning in Oakley Street."

They talked a great deal of John Marchmont. It was such a happiness to
Mary to be able to talk unreservedly of her father to some one who had
loved and comprehended him.

"My stepmamma was very good to poor papa, you know, Edward," she said,
"and of course he was very grateful to her; but I don't think he ever
loved her quite as he loved you. You were the friend of his poverty,
Edward; he never forgot that."

Once, as they strolled side by side together upon the terrace in the
warm summer noontide, Mary Marchmont put her little hand through her
lover's arm, and looked up shyly in his face.

"Did papa say that, Edward?" she whispered; "did he really say that?"

"Did he really say what, darling?"

"That he left me to you as a legacy?"

"He did indeed, Polly," answered the young man. "I'll bring you the
letter to-morrow."

And the next day he showed Mary Marchmont the yellow sheet of
letter-paper and the faded writing, which had once been black and wet
under her dead father's hand. Mary looked through her tears at the old
familiar Oakley-street address, and the date of the very day upon which
Edward Arundel had breakfasted in the shabby lodging. Yes--there were
the words: "The legacy of a child's helplessness is the only bequest I
can leave to the only friend I have."

"And you shall never know what it is to be helpless while I am near
you, Polly darling," the soldier said, as he refolded his dead friend's
epistle. "You may defy your enemies henceforward, Mary--if you have any
enemies. O, by-the-bye, you have never heard any thing of that Paul
Marchmont, I suppose?"

"Papa's cousin--Mr Marchmont the artist?"


"He came to the reading of papa's will."

"Indeed! and did you see much of him?"

"Oh, no, very little. I was ill, you know," the girl added, the tears
rising to her eyes at the recollection of that bitter time,--"I was
ill, and I didn't notice any thing. I know that Mr. Marchmont talked to
me a little; but I can't remember what he said."

"And he has never been here since?"


Edward Arundel shrugged his shoulders. This Paul Marchmont could not be
such a designing villain, after all, or surely he would have tried to
push his acquaintance with his rich cousin!

"I dare say John's suspicion of him was only one of the poor fellow's
morbid fancies," he thought. "He was always full of morbid fancies."

Mrs. Marchmont's rooms were in the western front of the house; and
through her open windows she heard the fresh young voices of the lovers
as they strolled up and down the terrace. The cavalry officer was
content to carry a watering-pot full of water, for the refreshment of
his young mistress's geraniums in the stone vases on the balustrade,
and to do other under-gardener's work for her pleasure. He talked to
her of the Indian campaign; and she asked a hundred questions about
midnight marches and solitary encampments, fainting camels, lurking
tigers in the darkness of the jungle, intercepted supplies of
provisions, stolen ammunition, and all the other details of the war.

Olivia arose at last, before the Swampington surgeon's saline draughts
and quinine mixtures had subdued the fiery light in her eyes, or cooled
the raging fever that devoured her. She arose because she could no
longer lie still in her desolation knowing that, for two hours in each
long summer's day, Edward Arundel and Mary Marchmont could be happy
together in spite of her. She came down stairs, therefore, and renewed
her watch--chaining her stepdaughter to her side, and interposing
herself for ever between the lovers.

The widow arose from her sick-bed an altered woman, as it appeared to
all who knew her. A mad excitement seemed to have taken sudden
possession of her. She flung off her mourning garments, and ordered
silks and laces, velvets and satins, from a London milliner; she
complained of the absence of society, the monotonous dulness of her
Lincolnshire life; and, to the surprise of every one, sent out cards of
invitation for a ball at the Towers in honour of Edward Arundel's
return to England. She seemed to be seized with a desire to do
something, she scarcely cared what, to disturb the even current of her

During the brief interval between Mrs. Marchmont's leaving her room and
the evening appointed for the ball, Edward Arundel found no very
convenient opportunity of informing his cousin of the engagement
entered into between himself and Mary. He had no wish to hurry this
disclosure; for there was something in the orphan girl's childishness
and innocence that kept all definite ideas of an early marriage very
far away from her lover's mind. He wanted to go back to India, and win
more laurels, to lay at the feet of the mistress of Marchmont Towers.
He wanted to make a name for himself, which should cause the world to
forget that he was a younger son,--a name that the vilest tongue would
never dare to blacken with the epithet of fortune-hunter.

The young man was silent therefore, waiting for a fitting opportunity
in which to speak to Mary's stepmother. Perhaps he rather dreaded the
idea of discussing his attachment with Olivia; for she had looked at
him with cold angry eyes, and a brow as black as thunder, upon those
occasions on which she had sounded him as to his feelings for Mary.

"She wants poor Polly to marry some grandee, I dare say," he thought,
"and will do all she can to oppose my suit. But her trust will cease
with Mary's majority; and I don't want my confiding little darling to
marry me until she is old enough to choose for herself, and to choose
wisely. She will be one-and-twenty in three years; and what are three
years? I would wait as long as Jacob for my pet, and serve my fourteen
years' apprenticeship under Sir Charles Napier, and be true to her all
the time."

Olivia Marchmont hated her stepdaughter. Mary was not slow to perceive
the change in the widow's manner towards her. It had always been cold,
and sometimes severe; but it was now almost abhorrent. The girl shrank
appalled from the sinister light in her stepmother's gray eyes, as they
followed her unceasingly, dogging her footsteps with a hungry and evil
gaze. The gentle girl wondered what she had done to offend her
guardian, and then, being unable to think of any possible delinquency
by which she might have incurred Mrs. Marchmont's displeasure, was fain
to attribute the change in Olivia's manner to the irritation consequent
upon her illness, and was thus more gentle and more submissive than of
old; enduring cruel looks, returning no answer to bitter speeches, but
striving to conciliate the supposed invalid by her sweetness and

But the girl's amiability only irritated the despairing woman. Her
jealousy fed upon every charm of the rival who had supplanted her. That
fatal passion fed upon Edward Arundel's every look and tone, upon the
quiet smile which rested on Mary's face as the girl sat over her
embroidery, in meek silence, thinking of her lover. The self-tortures
which Olivia Marchmont inflicted upon herself were so horrible to bear,
that she turned, with a mad desire for relief, upon those she had the
power to torture. Day by day, and hour by hour, she contrived to
distress the gentle girl, who had so long obeyed her, now by a word,
now by a look, but always with that subtle power of aggravation which
some women possess in such an eminent degree--until Mary Marchmont's
life became a burden to her, or would have so become, but for that
inexpressible happiness, of which her tormentor could not deprive
her,--the joy she felt in her knowledge of Edward Arundel's love.

She was very careful to keep the secret of her stepmother's altered
manner from the young soldier. Olivia was his cousin, and he had said
long ago that she was to love her. Heaven knows she had tried to do so,
and had failed most miserably; but her belief in Olivia's goodness was
still unshaken. If Mrs. Marchmont was now irritable, capricious, and
even cruel, there was doubtless some good reason for the alteration in
her conduct; and it was Mary's duty to be patient. The orphan girl had
learned to suffer quietly when the great affliction of her father's
death had fallen upon her; and she suffered so quietly now, that even
her lover failed to perceive any symptoms of her distress. How could
she grieve him by telling him of her sorrows, when his very presence
brought such unutterable joy to her?

So, on the morning of the ball at Marchmont Towers,--the first
entertainment of the kind that had been given in that grim Lincolnshire
mansion since young Arthur Marchmont's untimely death,--Mary sat in her
room, with her old friend Farmer Pollard's daughter, who was now Mrs.
Jobson, the wife of the most prosperous carpenter in Kemberling. Hester
had come up to the Towers to pay a dutiful visit to her young
patroness; and upon this particular occasion Olivia had not cared to
prevent Mary and her humble friend spending half an hour together. Mrs.
Marchmont roamed from room to room upon this day, with a perpetual
restlessness. Edward Arundel was to dine at the Towers, and was to
sleep there after the ball. He was to drive his uncle over from
Swampington, as the Rector had promised to show himself for an hour or
two at his daughter's entertainment. Mary had met her stepmother
several times that morning, in the corridors and on the staircase; but
the widow had passed her in silence, with a dark face, and a shivering,
almost abhorrent gesture.

The bright July day dragged itself out at last, with hideous slowness
for the desperate woman, who could not find peace or rest in all those
splendid rooms, on all that grassy flat, dry and burning under the
blazing summer sun. She had wandered out upon the waste of barren turf,
with her head bared to the hot sky, and had loitered here and there by
the still pools, looking gloomily at the black tideless water, and
wondering what the agony of drowning was like. Not that she had any
thought of killing herself. No: the idea of death was horrible to her;
for after her death Edward and Mary would be happy. Could she ever find
rest in the grave, knowing this? Could there be any possible extinction
that would blot out her jealous fury? Surely the fire of her hate--it
was no longer love, but hate, that raged in her heart--would defy
annihilation, eternal by reason of its intensity. When the dinner-hour
came, and Edward and his uncle arrived at the Towers, Olivia
Marchmont's pale face was lit up with eyes that flamed like fire; but
she took her accustomed place very quietly, with her father opposite to
her, and Mary and Edward upon either side.

"I'm sure you're ill, Livy," the young man said; "you're as pale as
death, and your hand is dry and burning. I'm afraid you've not been
obedient to the Swampington doctor."

Mrs. Marchmont shrugged her shoulders with a short contemptuous laugh.

"I am well enough," she said. "Who cares whether I am well or ill?"

Her father looked up at her in mute surprise. The bitterness of her
tone startled and alarmed him; but Mary never lifted her eyes. It was
in such a tone as this that her stepmother had spoken constantly of

But two or three hours afterwards, when the flats before the house were
silvered by the moonlight, and the long ranges of windows glittered
with the lamps within, Mrs. Marchmont emerged from her dressing-room
another creature, as it seemed.

Edward and his uncle were walking up and down the great oaken
banqueting-hall, which had been decorated and fitted up as a ballroom
for the occasion, when Olivia crossed the wide threshold of the
chamber. The young officer looked up with an involuntary expression of
surprise. In all his acquaintance with his cousin, he had never seen
her thus. The gloomy black-robed woman was transformed into a
Semiramis. She wore a voluminous dress of a deep claret-coloured
velvet, that glowed with the warm hues of rich wine in the lamplight.
Her massive hair was coiled in a knot at the back of her head, and
diamonds glittered amidst the thick bands that framed her broad white
brow. Her stern classical beauty was lit up by the unwonted splendour
of her dress, and asserted itself as obviously as if she had said, "Am
I a woman to be despised for the love of a pale-faced child?"

Mary Marchmont came into the room a few minutes after her stepmother.
Her lover ran to welcome her, and looked fondly at her simple dress of
shadowy white crape, and the pearl circlet that crowned her soft brown
hair. The pearls she wore upon this night had been given to her by her
father on her fourteenth birthday.

Olivia watched the young man as he bent over Mary Marchmont.

He wore his uniform to-night for the special gratification of his young
mistress, and he was looking down with a tender smile at her childish
admiration of the bullion ornaments upon his coat, and the decoration
he had won in India.

The widow looked from the two lovers to an antique glass upon an ebony
bureau in a niche opposite to her, which reflected her own face,--her
own face, more beautiful than she had ever seen it before, with a
feverish glow of vivid crimson lighting up her hollow cheeks.

"I might have been beautiful if he had loved me," she thought; and then
she turned to her father, and began to talk to him of his parishioners,
the old pensioners upon her bounty, whose little histories were so
hatefully familiar to her. Once more she made a feeble effort to tread
the old hackneyed pathway, which she had toiled upon with such weary
feet; but she could not,--she could not. After a few minutes she turned
abruptly from the Rector, and seated herself in a recess of the window,
from which she could see Edward and Mary.

But Mrs. Marchmont's duties as hostess soon demanded her attention. The
county families began to arrive; the sound of carriage-wheels seemed
perpetual upon the crisp gravel-drive before the western front; the
names of half the great people in Lincolnshire were shouted by the old
servants in the hall. The band in the music-gallery struck up a
quadrille, and Edward Arundel led the youthful mistress of the mansion
to her place in the dance.

To Olivia that long night seemed all glare and noise and confusion. She
did the honours of the ballroom, she received her guests, she meted out
due attention to all; for she had been accustomed from her earliest
girlhood to the stereotyped round of country society. She neglected no
duty; but she did all mechanically, scarcely knowing what she said or
did in the feverish tumult of her soul.

Yet, amidst all the bewilderment of her senses, in all the confusion of
her thoughts, two figures were always before her. Wherever Edward
Arundel and Mary Marchmont went, her eyes followed them--her fevered
imagination pursued them. Once, and once only, in the course of that
long night she spoke to her stepdaughter.

"How often do you mean to dance with Captain Arundel, Miss Marchmont?"
she said.

But before Mary could answer, her stepmother had moved away upon the
arm of a portly country squire, and the girl was left in sorrowful
wonderment as to the reason of Mrs. Marchmont's angry tone.

Edward and Mary were standing in one of the deep embayed windows of the
banqueting-hall, when the dancers began to disperse, long after supper.
The girl had been very happy that evening, in spite of her stepmother's
bitter words and disdainful glances. For almost the first time in her
life, the young mistress of Marchmont Towers had felt the contagious
influence of other people's happiness. The brilliantly-lighted
ballroom, the fluttering dresses of the dancers, the joyous music, the
low sound of suppressed laughter, the bright faces which smiled at each
other upon every side, were as new as any thing in fairyland to this
girl, whose narrow life had been overshadowed by the gloomy figure of
her stepmother, for ever interposed between her and the outer world.
The young spirit arose and shook off its fetters, fresh and radiant as
the butterfly that escapes from its chrysalis. The new light of
happiness illumined the orphan's delicate face, until Edward Arundel
began to wonder at her loveliness, as he had wondered once before that
night at the fiery splendour of his cousin Olivia.

"I had no idea that Olivia was so handsome, or you so pretty, my
darling," he said, as he stood with Mary in the embrasure of the
window. "You look like Titania, the queen of the fairies, Polly, with
your cloudy draperies and crown of pearls."

The window was open, and Captain Arundel looked wistfully at the broad
flagged quadrangle beautified by the light of the full summer moon. He
glanced back into the room; it was nearly empty now; and Mrs. Marchmont
was standing near the principal doorway, bidding the last of her guests

"Come into the quadrangle, Polly," he said, "and take a turn with me
under the colonnade. It was a cloister once, I dare say, in the good
old days before Harry the Eighth was king; and cowled monks have paced
up and down under its shadow, muttering mechanical aves and
paternosters, as the beads of their rosaries dropped slowly through
their shrivelled old fingers. Come out into the quadrangle, Polly; all
the people we know or case about are gone; and we'll go out and walk in
the moonlight as true lovers ought."

The soldier led his young companion across the threshold of the window,
and out into a cloister-like colonnade that ran along one side of the
house. The shadows of the Gothic pillars were black upon the moonlit
flags of the quadrangle, which was as light now as in the day; but a
pleasant obscurity reigned in the sheltered colonnade.

"I think this little bit of pre-Lutheran masonry is the best of all
your possessions, Polly," the young man said, laughing. "By-and-by,
when I come home from India a general,--as I mean to do, Miss
Marchmont, before I ask you to become Mrs. Arundel,--I shall stroll up
and down here in the still summer evenings, smoking my cheroots. You
will let me smoke out of doors, won't you, Polly? But suppose I should
leave some of my limbs on the banks of the Sutlej, and come limping
home to you with a wooden leg, would you have me then, Mary; or would
you dismiss me with ignominy from your sweet presence, and shut the
doors of your stony mansion upon myself and my calamities? I'm afraid,
from your admiration of my gold epaulettes and silk sash, that glory in
the abstract would have very little attraction for you."

Mary Marchmont looked up at her lover with widely-opened and wondering
eyes, and the clasp of her hand tightened a little upon his arm.

"There is nothing that could ever happen to you that would make me love
you less _now_," she said naïvely. "I dare say at first I liked you a
little because you were handsome, and different to every one else I had
ever seen. You were so very handsome, you know," she added
apologetically; "but it was not because of that _only_ that I loved
you. I loved you because papa told me you were good and generous, and
his true friend when he was in cruel need of a friend. Yes; you were
his friend at school, when your cousin, Martin Mostyn, and the other
pupils sneered at him and ridiculed him. How can I ever forget that,
Edward? How can I ever love you enough to repay you for that?" In the
enthusiasm of her innocent devotion, she lifted her pure young brow,
and the soldier bent down and kissed that white throne of all virginal
thoughts, as the lovers stood side by side; half in the moonlight, half
in the shadow.

Olivia Marchmont came into the embrasure of the open window, and took
her place there to watch them.

She came again to the torture. From the remotest end of the long
banqueting-room she had seen the two figures glide out into the
moonlight. She had seen them, and had gone on with her courteous
speeches, and had repeated her formula of hospitality, with the fire in
her heart devouring and consuming her. She came again, to watch and to
listen, and to endure her self-imposed agonies--as mad and foolish in
her fatal passion as some besotted wretch who should come willingly to
the wheel upon which his limbs had been well-nigh broken, and
supplicate for a renewal of the torture. She stood rigid and motionless
in the shadow of the arched window, hiding herself, as she had hidden
in the dark cavernous recess by the river; she stood and listened to
all the childish babble of the lovers as they loitered up and down the
vaulted cloister. How she despised them, in the haughty superiority of
an intellect which might have planned a revolution, or saved a sinking
state! What bitter scorn curled her lip, as their foolish talk fell
upon her ear! They talked like Florizel and Perdita, like Romeo and
Juliet, like Paul and Virginia; and they talked a great deal of
nonsense, no doubt--soft harmonious foolishness, with little more
meaning in it than there is in the cooing of doves, but tender and
musical, and more than beautiful, to each other's ears. A tigress,
famished and desolate, and but lately robbed of her whelps, would not
be likely to listen very patiently to the communing of a pair of
prosperous ringdoves. Olivia Marchmont listened with her brain on fire,
and the spirit of a murderess raging in her breast. What was she that
she should be patient? All the world was lost to her. She was thirty
years of age, and she had never yet won the love of any human being.
She was thirty years of age, and all the sublime world of affection was
a dismal blank for her. From the outer darkness in which she stood, she
looked with wild and ignorant yearning into that bright region which
her accursed foot had never trodden, and saw Mary Marchmont wandering
hand-in-hand with the only man _she_ could have loved--the only
creature who had ever had the power to awake the instinct of womanhood
in her soul.

She stood and waited until the clock in the quadrangle struck the first
quarter after three: the moon was fading out, and the colder light of
early morning glimmered in the eastern sky.

"I mustn't keep you out here any longer, Polly," Captain Arundel said,
pausing near the window. "It's getting cold, my dear, and it's high
time the mistress of Marchmont should retire to her stony bower.
Good-night, and God bless you, my darling! I'll stop in the quadrangle
and smoke a cheroot before I go to my room. Your stepmamma will be
wondering what has become of you, Mary, and we shall have a lecture
upon the proprieties to-morrow; so, once more, good-night."

He kissed the fair young brow under the coronal of pearls, stopped to
watch Mary while she crossed the threshold of the open window, and then
strolled away into the flagged court, with his cigar-case in his hand.

Olivia Marchmont stood a few paces from the window when her
stepdaughter entered the room, and Mary paused involuntarily, terrified
by the cruel aspect of the face that frowned upon her: terrified by
something that she had never seen before,--the horrible darkness that
overshadows the souls of the lost.

"Mamma!" the girl cried, clasping her hands in sudden affright--"mamma!
why do you look at me like that? Why have you been so changed to me
lately? I cannot tell you how unhappy I have been. Mamma, mamma! what
have I done to offend you?"

Olivia Marchmont grasped the trembling hands uplifted entreatingly to
her, and held them in her own,--held them as if in a vice. She stood
thus, with her stepdaughter pinioned in her grasp, and her eyes fixed
upon the girl's face. Two streams of lurid light seemed to emanate from
those dilated gray eyes; two spots of crimson blazed in the widow's
hollow cheeks.

"_What_ have you done?" she cried. "Do you think I have toiled for
nothing to do the duty which I promised my dead husband to perform for
your sake? Has all my care of you been so little, that I am to stand by
now and be silent, when I see what you are? Do you think that I am
blind, or deaf, or besotted; that you defy me and outrage me, day by
day, and hour by hour, by your conduct?"

"Mamma, mamma! what do you mean?"

"Heaven knows how rigidly you have been educated; how carefully you
have been secluded from all society, and sheltered from every
influence, lest harm or danger should come to you. I have done my duty,
and I wash my hands of you. The debasing taint of your mother's low
breeding reveals itself in your every action. You run after my cousin
Edward Arundel, and advertise your admiration of him, to himself, and
every creature who knows you. You fling yourself into his arms, and
offer him yourself and your fortune: and in your low cunning you try to
keep the secret from me, your protectress and guardian, appointed by
the dead father whom you pretend to have loved so dearly."

Olivia Marchmont still held her stepdaughter's wrists in her iron
grasp. The girl stared wildly at her with her trembling lips apart. She
began to think that the widow had gone mad.

"I blush for you--I am ashamed of you!" cried Olivia. It seemed as if
the torrent of her words burst forth almost in spite of herself. "There
is not a village girl in Kemberling, there is not a scullerymaid in
this house, who would have behaved as you have done. I have watched
you, Mary Marchmont, remember, and I know all. I know your wanderings
down by the river-side. I heard you--yes, by the Heaven above me!--I
heard you offer yourself to my cousin."

Mary drew herself up with an indignant gesture, and over the whiteness
of her face there swept a sudden glow of vivid crimson that faded as
quickly as it came. Her submissive nature revolted against her
stepmother's horrible tyranny. The dignity of innocence arose and
asserted itself against Olivia's shameful upbraiding.

"If I offered myself to Edward Arundel, mamma," she said, "it was
because we love each other very truly, and because I think and believe
papa wished me to marry his old friend."

"Because _we_ love each other very truly!" Olivia echoed in a tone of
unmitigated scorn. "You can answer for Captain Arundel's heart, I
suppose, then, as well as for your own? You must have a tolerably good
opinion of yourself, Miss Marchmont, to be able to venture so much.
Bah!" she cried suddenly, with a disdainful gesture of her head; "do
you think your pitiful face has won Edward Arundel? Do you think he has
not had women fifty times your superior, in every quality of mind and
body, at his feet out yonder in India? Are you idiotic and besotted
enough to believe that it is anything but your fortune this man cares
for? Do you know the vile things people will do, the lies they will
tell, the base comedies of guilt and falsehood they will act, for the
love of eleven thousand a year? And you think that he loves you! Child,
dupe, fool! are you weak enough to be deluded by a fortune-hunter's
pretty pastoral flatteries? Are you weak enough to be duped by a man of
the world, worn out and jaded, no doubt, as to the world's
pleasures--in debt perhaps, and in pressing need of money, who comes
here to try and redeem his fortunes by a marriage with a semi-imbecile

Olivia Marchmont released her hold of the shrinking girl, who seemed to
have become transfixed to the spot upon which she stood, a pale statue
of horror and despair.

The iron will of the strong and resolute woman rode roughshod over the
simple confidence of the ignorant girl. Until this moment, Mary
Marchmont had believed in Edward Arundel as implicitly as she had
trusted in her dead father. But now, for the first time, a dreadful
region of doubt opened before her; the foundations of her world reeled
beneath her feet. Edward Arundel a fortune-hunter! This woman, whom she
had obeyed for five weary years, and who had acquired that ascendancy
over her which a determined and vigorous nature must always exercise
over a morbidly sensitive disposition, told her that she had been
deluded. This woman laughed aloud in bitter scorn of her credulity.
This woman, who could have no possible motive for torturing her, and
who was known to be scrupulously conscientious in all her dealings,
told her, as plainly as the most cruel words could tell a cruel truth,
that her own charms could not have won Edward Arundel's affection.

All the beautiful day-dreams of her life melted away from her. She had
never questioned herself as to her worthiness of her lover's devotion.
She had accepted it as she accepted the sunshine and the starlight--as
something beautiful and incomprehensible, that came to her by the
beneficence of God, and not through any merits of her own. But as the
fabric of her happiness dwindled away, the fatal spell exercised over
the girl's weak nature by Olivia's violent words evoked a hundred
doubts. How should he love her? why should he love her in preference to
every other woman in the world? Set any woman to ask herself this
question, and you fill her mind with a thousand suspicions, a thousand
jealous doubts of her lover, though he were the truest and noblest in
the universe.

Olivia Marchmont stood a few paces from her stepdaughter, watching her
while the black shadow of doubt blotted every joy from her heart, and
utter despair crept slowly into her innocent breast. The widow expected
that the girl's self-esteem would assert itself--that she would
contradict and defy the traducer of her lover's truth; but it was not
so. When Mary spoke again, her voice was low and subdued, her manner as
submissive as it had been two or three years before, when she had stood
before her stepmother, waiting to repeat some difficult lesson.

"I dare say you are right, mamma," she said in a low dreamy tone,
looking not at her stepmother, but straight before her into vacancy, as
if her tearless eyes ware transfixed by the vision of all her shattered
hopes, filling with wreck and ruin the desolate foreground of a blank
future. "I dare say you are right, mamma; it was very foolish of me to
think that Edward--that Captain Arundel could care for me, for--for--my
own sake; but if--if he wants my fortune, I should wish him to have it.
The money will never be any good to me, you know, mamma; and he was so
kind to papa in his poverty--so kind! I will never, never believe
anything against him;--but I couldn't expect him to love me. I
shouldn't have offered to be his wife; I ought only to have offered him
my fortune."

She heard her lover's footstep in the quadrangle without, in the
stillness of the summer morning, and shivered at the sound. It was less
than a quarter of an hour since she had been walking with him up and
down that cloistered way, in which his footsteps were echoing with a
hollow sound; and now----. Even in the confusion of her anguish, Mary
Marchmont could not help wondering, as she thought in how short a time
the happiness of a future might be swept away into chaos.

"Good-night, mamma," she said presently, with an accent of weariness.
She did not look at her stepmother (who had turned away from her now,
and had walked towards the open window), but stole quietly from the
room, crossed the hall, and went up the broad staircase to her own
lonely chamber. Heiress though she was, she had no special attendant of
her own: she had the privilege of summoning Olivia's maid whenever she
had need of assistance; but she retained the simple habits of her early
life, and very rarely troubled Mrs. Marchmont's grim and elderly

Olivia stood looking out into the stony quadrangle. It was broad
daylight now; the cocks were crowing in the distance, and a skylark
singing somewhere in the blue heaven, high up above Marchmont Towers.
The faded garlands in the banqueting-room looked wan in the morning
sunshine; the lamps were burning still, for the servants waited until
Mrs. Marchmont should have retired, before they entered the room.
Edward Arundel was walking up and down the cloister, smoking his second

He stopped presently, seeing his cousin at the window.

"What, Livy!" he cried, "not gone to bed yet?"

"No; I am going directly."

"Mary has gone, I hope?"

"Yes; she has gone. Good-night."

"Good _morning_, my dear Mrs. Marchmont," the young man answered,
laughing. "If the partridges were in, I should be going out shooting,
this lovely morning, instead of crawling ignominiously to bed, like a
worn-out reveller who has drunk too much sparkling hock. I like the
still best, by-the-bye,--the Johannisberger, that poor John's
predecessor imported from the Rhine. But I suppose there is no help for
it, and I must go to bed in the face of all that eastern glory. I
should be mounting for a gallop on the race-course, if I were in
Calcutta. But I'll go to bed, Mrs Marchmont, and humbly await your
breakfast-hour. They're stacking the new hay in the meadows beyond the
park. Don't you smell it?"

Olivia shrugged her shoulders with an impatient frown. Good heavens!
how frivolous and senseless this man's talk seemed to her! She was
plunging her soul into an abyss of sin and ruin for his sake; and she
hated him, and rebelled against him, because he was so little worthy of
the sacrifice.

"Good morning," she said abruptly; "I'm tired to death."

She moved away, and left him.

Five minutes afterwards, he went up the great oak-staircase after her,
whistling a serenade from _Fra Diavolo_ as he went. He was one of those
people to whom life seems all holiday. Younger son though he was, he
had never known any of the pitfalls of debt and difficulty into which
the junior members of rich families are so apt to plunge headlong in
early youth, and from which they emerge enfeebled and crippled, to
endure an after-life embittered by all the shabby miseries which wait
upon aristocratic pauperism. Brave, honourable, and simple-minded,
Edward Arundel had fought the battle of life like a good soldier, and
had carried a stainless shield when the fight was thickest, and victory
hard to win. His sunshiny nature won him friends, and his better
qualities kept them. Young men trusted and respected him; and old men,
gray in the service of their country, spoke well of him. His handsome
face was a pleasant decoration at any festival; his kindly voice and
hearty laugh at a dinner-table were as good as music in the gallery at
the end of the banqueting-chamber.

He had that freshness of spirit which is the peculiar gift of some
natures; and he had as yet never known sorrow, except, indeed, such
tender and compassionate sympathy as he had often felt for the
calamities of others.

Olivia Marchmont heard her cousin's cheery tenor voice as he passed her
chamber. "How happy he is!" she thought. "His very happiness is one
insult the more to me."

The widow paced up and down her room in the morning sunshine, thinking
of the things she had said in the banqueting-hall below, and of her
stepdaughter's white despairing face. What had she done? What was the
extent of the sin she had committed? Olivia Marchmont asked herself
these two questions. The old habit of self-examination was not quite
abandoned yet. She sinned, and then set herself to work to try and
justify her sin.

"How should he love her?" she thought. "What is there in her pale
unmeaning face that should win the love of a man who despises me?"

She stopped before a cheval-glass, and surveyed herself from head to
foot, frowning angrily at her handsome image, hating herself for her
despised beauty. Her white shoulders looked like stainless marble
against the rich ruby darkness of her velvet dress. She had snatched
the diamond ornaments from her head, and her long black hair fell about
her bosom in thick waveless tresses.

"I am handsomer than she is, and cleverer; and I love him better, ten
thousand times, than she loves him," Olivia Marchmont thought, as she
turned contemptuously from the glass. "Is it likely, then, that he
cares for anything but her fortune? Any other woman in the world would
have argued as I argued to-night. Any woman would have believed that
she did her duty in warning this besotted girl against her folly. What
do I know of Edward Arundel that should lead me to think him better or
nobler than other men? and how many men sell themselves for the love of
a woman's wealth! Perhaps good may come of my mad folly, after all; and
I may have saved this girl from a life of misery by the words I have
spoken to-night."

The devils--for ever lying in wait for this woman, whose gloomy pride
rendered her in some manner akin to themselves--may have laughed at her
as she argued thus with herself.

She lay down at last to sleep, worn out by the excitement of the long
night, and to dream horrible dreams. The servants, with the exception
of one who rose betimes to open the great house, slept long after the
unwonted festival. Edward Arundel slumbered as heavily as any member of
that wearied household; and thus it was that there was no one in the
way to see a shrinking, trembling figure creep down the
sunlit-staircase, and steal across the threshold of the wide hall door.

There was no one to see Mary Marchmont's silent flight from the gaunt
Lincolnshire mansion in which she had known so little real happiness.
There was no one to comfort the sorrow-stricken girl in her despair and
desolation of spirit. She crept away, like some escaped prisoner, in
the early morning, from the house which the law called her own.

And the hand of the woman whom John Marchmont had chosen to be his
daughter's friend and counsellor was the hand which drove that daughter
from the shelter of her home. The voice of her whom the weak father had
trusted in, fearful to confide his child into the hand of God, but
blindly confident in his own judgment--was the voice which had uttered
the lying words, whose every syllable had been as a separate dagger
thrust in the orphan girl's lacerated heart. It was her father,--her
father, who had placed this woman over her, and had entailed upon her
the awful agony that drove her out into an unknown world, careless
whither she went in her despair.


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