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Title: John Marchmont's Legacy, Volume II (of 3)
Author: Braddon, M. E. (Mary Elizabeth), 1835-1915
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "John Marchmont's Legacy, Volume II (of 3)" ***

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JOHN MARCHMONT'S LEGACY.


BY [M.E. Braddon] THE AUTHOR OF
"LADY AUDLEY'S SECRET,"
ETC. ETC. ETC.

IN THREE VOLUMES.

VOL. II.


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


CONTENTS.
  CHAPTER I. MARY'S LETTER.
  CHAPTER II. A NEW PROTECTOR.
  CHAPTER III. PAUL'S SISTER.
  CHAPTER IV. A STOLEN HONEYMOON.
  CHAPTER V. SOUNDING THE DEPTHS.
  CHAPTER VI. RISEN FROM THE GRAVE.
  CHAPTER VII. FACE TO FACE.
  CHAPTER VIII. THE PAINTING-ROOM BY THE RIVER.
  CHAPTER IX. IN THE DARK.
  CHAPTER X. THE PARAGRAPH IN THE NEWSPAPER.
  CHAPTER XI. EDWARD ARUNDEL'S DESPAIR.
  CHAPTER XII. EDWARD'S VISITORS.
  CHAPTER XIII. ONE MORE SACRIFICE.
  CHAPTER XIV. THE CHILD'S VOICE IN THE PAVILION BY THE WATER.



JOHN MARCHMONT'S LEGACY.


VOLUME II.


CHAPTER I.

MARY'S LETTER.


It was past twelve o'clock when Edward Arundel strolled into the
dining-room. The windows were open, and the scent of the mignionette
upon the terrace was blown in upon the warm summer breeze.

Mrs. Marchmont was sitting at one end of the long table, reading a
newspaper. She looked up as Edward entered the room. She was pale, but
not much paler than usual. The feverish light had faded out of her
eyes, and they looked dim and heavy.

"Good morning, Livy," the young man said. "Mary is not up yet, I
suppose?"

"I believe not."

"Poor little girl! A long rest will do her good after her first ball.
How pretty and fairy-like she looked in her white gauze dress, and with
that circlet of pearls round her hair! Your taste, I suppose, Olivia?
She looked like a snow-drop among all the other gaudy flowers,--the
roses and tiger-lilies, and peonies and dahlias. That eldest Miss
Hickman is handsome, but she's so terribly conscious of her
attractions. That little girl from Swampington with the black ringlets
is rather pretty; and Laura Filmer is a jolly, dashing girl; she looks
you full in the face, and talks to you about hunting with as much gusto
as an old whipper-in. I don't think much of Major Hawley's three tall
sandy-haired daughters; but Fred Hawley's a capital fellow: it's a pity
he's a civilian. In short, my dear Olivia, take it altogether, I think
your ball was a success, and I hope you'll give us another in the
hunting-season."

Mrs. Marchmont did not condescend to reply to her cousin's meaningless
rattle. She sighed wearily, and began to fill the tea-pot from the
old-fashioned silver urn. Edward loitered in one of the windows,
whistling to a peacock that was stalking solemnly backwards and
forwards upon the stone balustrade.

"I should like to drive you and Mary down to the seashore, Livy, after
breakfast. Will you go?"

Mrs. Marchmont shook her head.

"I am a great deal too tired to think of going out to-day," she said
ungraciously.

"And I never felt fresher in my life," the young man responded,
laughing; "last night's festivities seem to have revivified me. I wish
Mary would come down," he added, with a yawn; "I could give her another
lesson in billiards, at any rate. Poor little girl, I am afraid she'll
never make a cannon."

Captain Arundel sat down to his breakfast, and drank the cup of tea
poured out for him by Olivia. Had she been a sinful woman of another
type, she would have put arsenic into the cup perhaps, and so have made
an end of the young officer and of her own folly. As it was, she only
sat by, with her own untasted breakfast before her, and watched him
while he ate a plateful of raised pie, and drank his cup of tea, with
the healthy appetite which generally accompanies youth and a good
conscience. He sprang up from the table directly he had finished his
meal, and cried out impatiently, "What can make Mary so lazy this
morning? she is usually such an early riser."

Mrs. Marchmont rose as her cousin said this, and a vague feeling of
uneasiness took possession of her mind. She remembered the white face
which had blanched beneath the angry glare of her eyes, the blank look
of despair that had come over Mary's countenance a few hours before.

"I will go and call her myself," she said. "N--no; I'll send Barbara."
She did not wait to ring the bell, but went into the hall, and called
sharply, "Barbara! Barbara!"

A woman came out of a passage leading to the housekeeper's room, in
answer to Mrs. Marchmont's call; a woman of about fifty years of age,
dressed in gray stuff, and with a grave inscrutable face, a wooden
countenance that gave no token of its owner's character. Barbara
Simmons might have been the best or the worst of women, a Mrs. Fry or a
Mrs. Brownrigg, for any evidence her face afforded against either
hypothesis.

"I want you to go up-stairs, Barbara, and call Miss Marchmont," Olivia
said. "Captain Arundel and I have finished breakfast."

The woman obeyed, and Mrs. Marchmont returned to the dining-room, where
Edward was trying to amuse himself with the "Times" of the previous
day.

Ten minutes afterwards Barbara Simmons came into the room carrying a
letter on a silver waiter. Had the document been a death-warrant, or a
telegraphic announcement of the landing of the French at Dover, the
well-trained servant would have placed it upon a salver before
presenting it to her mistress.

"Miss Marchmont is not in her room, ma'am," she said; "the bed has not
been slept on; and I found this letter, addressed to Captain Arundel,
upon the table."

Olivia's face grew livid; a horrible dread rushed into her mind. Edward
snatched the letter which the servant held towards him.

"Mary not in her room! What, in Heaven's name, can it mean?" he cried.

He tore open the letter. The writing was not easily decipherable for
the tears which the orphan girl had shed over it.

"MY OWN DEAR EDWARD,--I have loved you so dearly and so foolishly, and
you have been so kind to me, that I have quite forgotten how unworthy I
am of your affection. But I am forgetful no longer. Something has
happened which has opened my eyes to my own folly,--I know now that you
did not love me; that I had no claim to your love; no charms or
attractions such as so many other women possess, and for which you
might have loved me. I know this now, dear Edward, and that all my
happiness has been a foolish dream; but do not think that I blame any
one but myself for what has happened. Take my fortune: long ago, when I
was a little girl, I asked my father to let me share it with you. I ask
you now to take it all, dear friend; and I go away for ever from a
house in which I have learnt how little happiness riches can give. Do
not be unhappy about me. I shall pray for you always,--always
remembering your goodness to my dead father; always looking back to the
day upon which you came to see us in our poor lodging. I am very
ignorant of all worldly business, but I hope the law will let me give
you Marchmont Towers, and all my fortune, whatever it may be. Let Mr.
Paulette see this latter part of my letter, and let him fully
understand that I abandon all my rights to you from this day. Good-bye,
dear friend; think of me sometimes, but never think of me sorrowfully.

"MARY MARCHMONT."

This was all. This was the letter which the heart-broken girl had
written to her lover. It was in no manner different from the letter she
might have written to him nine years before in Oakley Street. It was as
childish in its ignorance and inexperience; as womanly in its tender
self-abnegation.

Edward Arundel stared at the simple lines like a man in a dream,
doubtful of his own identity, doubtful of the reality of the world
about him, in his hopeless wonderment. He read the letter line by line
again and again, first in dull stupefaction, and muttering the words
mechanically as he read them, then with the full light of their meaning
dawning gradually upon him.

Her fortune! He had never loved her! She had discovered her own folly!
What did it all mean? What was the clue to the mystery of this letter,
which had stunned and bewildered him, until the very power of
reflection seemed lost? The dawning of that day had seen their parting,
and the innocent face had been lifted to his, beaming with love and
trust. And now--? The letter dropped from his hand, and fluttered
slowly to the ground. Olivia Marchmont stooped to pick it up. Her
movement aroused the young man from his stupor, and in that moment he
caught the sight of his cousin's livid face.

He started as if a thunderbolt had burst at his feet. An idea, sudden
as some inspired revelation, rushed into his mind.

"Read that letter, Olivia Marchmont!" he said.

The woman obeyed. Slowly and deliberately she read the childish epistle
which Mary had written to her lover. In every line, in every word, the
widow saw the effect of her own deadly work; she saw how deeply the
poison, dropped from her own envenomed tongue, had sunk into the
innocent heart of the girl.

Edward Arundel watched her with flaming eyes. His tall soldierly frame
trembled in the intensity of his passion. He followed his cousin's eyes
along the lines in Mary Marchmont's letter, waiting till she should
come to the end. Then the tumultuous storm of indignation burst forth,
until Olivia cowered beneath the lightning of her cousin's glance.

Was this the man she had called frivolous? Was this the boyish
red-coated dandy she had despised? Was this the curled and perfumed
representative of swelldom, whose talk never soared to higher flights
than the description of a day's snipe-shooting, or a run with the
Burleigh fox-hounds? The wicked woman's eyelids drooped over her
averted eyes; she turned away, shrinking from this fearless accuser.

"This mischief is some of _your_ work, Olivia Marchmont!" Edward
Arundel cried. "It is you who have slandered and traduced me to my dead
friend's daughter! Who else would dare accuse a Dangerfield Arundel of
baseness? who else would be vile enough to call my father's son a liar
and a traitor? It is you who have whispered shameful insinuations into
this poor child's innocent ear! I scarcely need the confirmation of
your ghastly face to tell me this. It is you who have driven Mary
Marchmont from the home in which you should have sheltered and
protected her! You envied her, I suppose,--envied her the thousands
which might have ministered to your wicked pride and ambition;--the
pride which has always held you aloof from those who might have loved
you; the ambition that has made you a soured and discontented woman,
whose gloomy face repels all natural affection. You envied the gentle
girl whom your dead husband committed to your care, and who should have
been most sacred to you. You envied her, and seized the first occasion
upon which you might stab her to the very core of her tender heart.
What other motive could you have had for doing this deadly wrong? None,
so help me Heaven!"

No other motive! Olivia Marchmont dropped down in a heap on the ground
near her cousin's feet; not kneeling, but grovelling upon the carpeted
floor, writhing convulsively, with her hands twisted one in the other,
and her head falling forward on her breast. She uttered no syllable of
self-justification or denial. The pitiless words rained down upon her
provoked no reply. But in the depths of her heart sounded the echo of
Edward Arundel's words: "The pride which has always held you aloof from
those who might have loved you; . . . a discontented woman, whose
gloomy face repels all natural affection."

"O God!" she thought, "he might have loved me, then! He _might_ have
loved me, if I could have locked my anguish in my own heart, and smiled
at him and flattered him."

And then an icy indifference took possession of her. What did it matter
that Edward Arundel repudiated and hated her? He had never loved her.
His careless friendliness had made as wide a gulf between them as his
bitterest hate could ever make. Perhaps, indeed, his new-born hate
would be nearer to love than his indifference had been, for at least he
would think of her now, if he thought ever so bitterly.

"Listen to me, Olivia Marchmont," the young man said, while the woman
still crouched upon the ground near his feet, self-confessed in the
abandonment of her despair. "Wherever this girl may have gone, driven
hence by your wickedness, I will follow her. My answer to the lie you
have insinuated against me shall be my immediate marriage with my old
friend's orphan child. _He_ knew me well enough to know how far I was
above the baseness of a fortune-hunter, and he wished that I should be
his daughter's husband. I should be a coward and a fool were I to be
for one moment influenced by such a slander as that which you have
whispered in Mary Marchmont's ear. It is not the individual only whom
you traduce. You slander the cloth I wear, the family to which I
belong; and my best justification will be the contempt in which I hold
your infamous insinuations. When you hear that I have squandered Mary
Marchmont's fortune, or cheated the children I pray God she may live to
bear me, it will be time enough for you to tell the world that your
kinsman Edward Dangerfield Arundel is a swindler and a traitor."

He strode out into the hall, leaving his cousin on the ground; and she
heard his voice outside the dining-room door making inquiries of the
servants.

They could tell him nothing of Mary's flight. Her bed had not been
slept in; nobody had seen her leave the house; it was most likely,
therefore, that she had stolen away very early, before the servants
were astir.

Where had she gone? Edward Arundel's heart beat wildly as he asked
himself that question. He remembered how often he had heard of women,
as young and innocent as Mary Marchmont, who had rushed to destroy
themselves in a tumult of agony and despair. How easily this poor
child, who believed that her dream of happiness was for ever broken,
might have crept down through the gloomy wood to the edge of the
sluggish river, to drop into the weedy stream, and hide her sorrow
under the quiet water. He could fancy her, a new Ophelia, pale and pure
as the Danish prince's slighted love, floating past the weird branches
of the willows, borne up for a while by the current, to sink in silence
amongst the shadows farther down the stream.

He thought of these things in one moment, and in the next dismissed the
thought. Mary's letter breathed the spirit of gentle resignation rather
than of wild despair. "I shall always pray for you; I shall always
remember you," she had written. Her lover remembered how much sorrow
the orphan girl had endured in her brief life. He looked back to her
childish days of poverty and self-denial; her early loss of her mother;
her grief at her father's second marriage; the shock of that beloved
father's death. Her sorrows had followed each other in gloomy
succession, with only narrow intervals of peace between them. She was
accustomed, therefore, to grief. It is the soul untutored by
affliction, the rebellious heart that has never known calamity, which
becomes mad and desperate, and breaks under the first blow. Mary
Marchmont had learned the habit of endurance in the hard school of
sorrow.

Edward Arundel walked out upon the terrace, and re-read the missing
girl's letter. He was calmer now, and able to face the situation with
all its difficulties and perplexities. He was losing time perhaps in
stopping to deliberate; but it was no use to rush off in reckless
haste, undetermined in which direction he should seek for the lost
mistress of Marchmont Towers. One of the grooms was busy in the stables
saddling Captain Arundel's horse, and in the mean time the young man
went out alone upon the sunny terrace to deliberate upon Mary's letter.

Complete resignation was expressed in every line of that childish
epistle. The heiress spoke most decisively as to her abandonment of her
fortune and her home. It was clear, then, that she meant to leave
Lincolnshire; for she would know that immediate steps would be taken to
discover her hiding-place, and bring her back to Marchmont Towers.

Where was she likely to go in her inexperience of the outer world?
where but to those humble relations of her dead mother's, of whom her
father had spoken in his letter to Edward Arundel, and with whom the
young man knew she had kept up an occasional correspondence, sending
them many little gifts out of her pocket-money. These people were small
tenant-farmers, at a place called Marlingford, in Berkshire. Edward
knew their name and the name of the farm.

"I'll make inquiries at the Kemberling station to begin with," he
thought. "There's a through train from the north that stops at
Kemberling at a little before six. My poor darling may have easily
caught that, if she left the house at five."

Captain Arundel went back into the hall, and summoned Barbara Simmons.
The woman replied with rather a sulky air to his numerous questions;
but she told him that Miss Marchmont had left her ball-dress upon the
bed, and had put on a gray cashmere dress trimmed with black ribbon,
which she had worn as half-mourning for her father; a black straw
bonnet, with a crape veil, and a silk mantle trimmed with crape. She
had taken with her a small carpet-bag, some linen,--for the
linen-drawer of her wardrobe was open, and the things scattered
confusedly about,--and the little morocco case in which she kept her
pearl ornaments, and the diamond ring left her by her father.

"Had she any money?" Edward asked.

"Yes, sir; she was never without money. She spent a good deal amongst
the poor people she visited with my mistress; but I dare say she may
have had between ten and twenty pounds in her purse."

"She will go to Berkshire," Edward Arundel thought: "the idea of going
to her humble friends would be the first to present itself to her mind.
She will go to her dead mother's sister, and give her all her jewels,
and ask for shelter in the quiet farmhouse. She will act like one of
the heroines in the old-fashioned novels she used to read in Oakley
Street, the simple-minded damsels of those innocent story-books, who
think nothing of resigning a castle and a coronet, and going out into
the world to work for their daily bread in a white satin gown, and with
a string of pearls to bind their dishevelled locks."

Captain Arundel's horse was brought round to the terrace-steps, as he
stood with Mary's letter in his hand, waiting to hurry away to the
rescue of his sorrowful love.

"Tell Mrs. Marchmont that I shall not return to the Towers till I bring
her stepdaughter with me," he said to the groom; and then, without
stopping to utter another word, he shook the rein on his horse's neck,
and galloped away along the gravelled drive leading to the great iron
gates of Marchmont Towers.

Olivia heard his message, which had been spoken in a clear loud voice,
like some knightly defiance, sounding trumpet-like at a castle-gate.
She stood in one of the windows of the dining-room, hidden by the faded
velvet curtain, and watched her cousin ride away, brave and handsome as
any knight-errant of the chivalrous past, and as true as Bayard
himself.



CHAPTER II.

A NEW PROTECTOR.


Captain Arundel's inquiries at the Kemberling station resulted in an
immediate success. A young lady--a young woman, the railway official
called her--dressed in black, wearing a crape veil over her face, and
carrying a small carpet-bag in her hand, had taken a second-class
ticket for London, by the 5.50., a parliamentary train, which stopped
at almost every station on the line, and reached Euston Square at
half-past twelve.

Edward looked at his watch. It was ten minutes to two o'clock. The
express did not stop at Kemberling; but he would be able to catch it at
Swampington at a quarter past three. Even then, however, he could
scarcely hope to get to Berkshire that night.

"My darling girl will not discover how foolish her doubts have been
until to-morrow," he thought. "Silly child! has my love so little the
aspect of truth that she _can_ doubt me?"

He sprang on his horse again, flung a shilling to the railway porter
who had held the bridle, and rode away along the Swampington road. The
clocks in the gray old Norman turrets were striking three as the young
man crossed the bridge, and paid his toll at the little toll-house by
the stone archway.

The streets were as lonely as usual in the hot July afternoon; and the
long line of sea beyond the dreary marshes was blue in the sunshine.
Captain Arundel passed the two churches, and the low-roofed rectory,
and rode away to the outskirts of the town, where the station glared in
all the brilliancy of new red bricks, and dazzling stuccoed chimneys,
athwart a desert of waste ground.

The express-train came tearing up to the quiet platform two minutes
after Edward had taken his ticket; and in another minute the clanging
bell pealed out its discordant signal, and the young man was borne,
with a shriek and a whistle, away upon the first stage of his search
for Mary Marchmont.

It was nearly seven o'clock when he reached Euston Square; and he only
got to the Paddington station in time to hear that the last train for
Marlingford had just started. There was no possibility of his reaching
the little Berkshire village that night. No mail-train stopped within a
reasonable distance of the obscure station. There was no help for it,
therefore, Captain Arundel had nothing to do but to wait for the next
morning.

He walked slowly away from the station, very much disheartened by this
discovery.

"I'd better sleep at some hotel up this way," he thought, as he
strolled listlessly in the direction of Oxford Street, "so as to be on
the spot to catch the first train to-morrow morning. What am I to do
with myself all this night, racked with uncertainty about Mary?"

He remembered that one of his brother officers was staying at the hotel
in Covent Garden where Edward himself stopped, when business detained
him in London for a day or two.

"Shall I go and see Lucas?" Captain Arundel thought. "He's a good
fellow, and won't bore me with a lot of questions, if he sees I've
something on my mind. There may be some letters for me at E----'s. Poor
little Polly!"

He could never think of her without something of that pitiful
tenderness which he might have felt for a young and helpless child,
whom it was his duty and privilege to protect and succour. It may be
that there was little of the lover's fiery enthusiasm mingled with the
purer and more tender feelings with which Edward Arundel regarded his
dead friend's orphan daughter; but in place of this there was a
chivalrous devotion, such as woman rarely wins in these degenerate
modern days.

The young soldier walked through the lamp-lit western streets thinking
of the missing girl; now assuring himself that his instinct had not
deceived him, and that Mary must have gone straight to the Berkshire
farmer's house, and in the next moment seized with a sudden terror that
it might be otherwise: the helpless girl might have gone out into a
world of which she was as ignorant as a child, determined to hide
herself from all who had ever known her. If it should be thus: if, on
going down to Marlingford, he obtained no tidings of his friend's
daughter, what was he to do? Where was he to look for her next?

He would put advertisements in the papers, calling upon his betrothed
to trust him and return to him. Perhaps Mary Marchmont was, of all
people in this world, the least likely to look into a newspaper; but at
least it would be doing something to do this, and Edward Arundel
determined upon going straight off to Printing-House Square, to draw up
an appeal to the missing girl.

It was past ten o'clock when Captain Arundel came to this
determination, and he had reached the neighbourhood of Covent Garden
and of the theatres. The staring play-bills adorned almost every
threshold, and fluttered against every door-post; and the young
soldier, going into a tobacconist's to fill his cigar-case, stared
abstractedly at a gaudy blue-and-red announcement of the last dramatic
attraction to be seen at Drury Lane. It was scarcely strange that the
Captain's thoughts wandered back to his boyhood, that shadowy time, far
away behind his later days of Indian warfare and glory, and that he
remembered the December night upon which he had sat with his cousin in
a box at the great patent theatre, watching the consumptive
supernumerary struggling under the weight of his banner. From the box
at Drury Lane to the next morning's breakfast in Oakley Street, was but
a natural transition of thought; but with that recollection of the
humble Lambeth lodging, with the picture of a little girl in a pinafore
sitting demurely at her father's table, and meekly waiting on his
guest, an idea flashed across Edward Arundel's mind, and brought the
hot blood into his face.

What if Mary had gone to Oakley Street? Was not this even more likely
than that she should seek refuge with her kinsfolk in Berkshire? She
had lived in the Lambeth lodging for years, and had only left that
plebeian shelter for the grandeur of Marchmont Towers. What more
natural than that she should go back to the familiar habitation, dear
to her by reason of a thousand associations with her dead father? What
more likely than that she should turn instinctively, in the hour of her
desolation, to the humble friends whom she had known in her childhood?

Edward Arundel was almost too impatient to wait while the smart young
damsel behind the tobacconist's counter handed him change for the
half-sovereign which he had just tendered her. He darted out into the
street, and shouted violently to the driver of a passing hansom,--there
are always loitering hansoms in the neighbourhood of Covent
Garden,--who was, after the manner of his kind, looking on any side
rather than that upon which Providence had sent him a fare.

"Oakley Street, Lambeth," the young man cried. "Double fare if you get
there in ten minutes."

The tall raw-boned horse rattled off at that peculiar pace common to
his species, making as much noise upon the pavement as if he had been
winning a metropolitan Derby, and at about twenty minutes past nine
drew up, smoking and panting, before the dimly lighted windows of the
Ladies' Wardrobe, where a couple of flaring tallow-candles illuminated
the splendour of a foreground of dirty artificial flowers, frayed satin
shoes, and tarnished gilt combs; a middle distance of blue gauzy
tissue, embroidered with beetles' wings; and a background of greasy
black silk. Edward Arundel flung back the doors of the hansom with a
bang, and leaped out upon the pavement. The proprietress of the Ladies'
Wardrobe was lolling against the door-post, refreshing herself with the
soft evening breezes from the roads of Westminster and Waterloo, and
talking to her neighbour.

"Bless her pore dear innercent 'art!" the woman was saying; "she's
cried herself to sleep at last. But you never hear any think so pitiful
as she talked to me at fust, sweet love!--and the very picture of my
own poor Eliza Jane, as she looked. You might have said it was Eliza
Jane come back to life, only paler and more sickly like, and not that
beautiful fresh colour, and ringlets curled all round in a crop, as
Eliza Ja--"

Edward Arundel burst in upon the good woman's talk, which rambled on in
an unintermitting stream, unbroken by much punctuation.

"Miss Marchmont is here," he said; "I know she is. Thank God, thank
God! Let me see her please, directly. I am Captain Arundel, her
father's friend, and her affianced husband. You remember me, perhaps? I
came here nine years ago to breakfast, one December morning. I can
recollect you perfectly, and I know that you were always good to my
poor friend's daughter. To think that I should find her here! You shall
be well rewarded for your kindness to her. But take me to her; pray
take me to her at once!"

The proprietress of the wardrobe snatched up one of the candles that
guttered in a brass flat-candlestick upon the counter, and led the way
up the narrow staircase. She was a good lazy creature, and she was so
completely borne down by Edward's excitement, that she could only
mutter disjointed sentences, to the effect that the gentleman had
brought her heart into her mouth, and that her legs felt all of a
jelly; and that her poor knees was a'most giving way under her, and
other incoherent statements concerning the physical effect of the
mental shocks she had that day received.

She opened the door of that shabby sitting-room upon the first-floor,
in which the crippled eagle brooded over the convex mirror, and stood
aside upon the threshold while Captain Arundel entered the room. A
tallow candle was burning dimly upon the table, and a girlish form lay
upon the narrow horsehair sofa, shrouded by a woollen shawl.

"She went to sleep about half-an-hour ago, sir," the woman said, in a
whisper; "and she cried herself to sleep, pore lamb, I think. I made
her some tea, and got her a few creases and a French roll, with a bit
of best fresh; but she wouldn't touch nothin', or only a few spoonfuls
of the tea, just to please me. What is it that's drove her away from
her 'ome, sir, and such a good 'ome too? She showed me a diamont ring
as her pore par gave her in his will. He left me twenty pound, pore
gentleman,--which he always acted like a gentleman bred and born; and
Mr. Pollit, the lawyer, sent his clerk along with it and his
compliments,--though I'm sure I never looked for nothink, having always
had my rent faithful to the very minute: and Miss Mary used to bring it
down to me so pretty, and--"

But the whispering had grown louder by this time, and Mary Marchmont
awoke from her feverish sleep, and lifted her weary head from the hard
horsehair pillow and looked about her, half forgetful of where she was,
and of what had happened within the last eighteen hours of her life.
Her eyes wandered here and there, doubtful as to the reality of what
they looked upon, until the girl saw her lover's figure, tall and
splendid in the humble apartment, a tender half-reproachful smile upon
his face, and his handsome blue eyes beaming with love and truth. She
saw him, and a faint shriek broke from her tremulous lips, as she rose
and fell upon his breast.

"You love me, then, Edward," she cried; "you do love me!"

"Yes, my darling, as truly and tenderly as ever woman was loved upon
this earth."

And then the soldier sat down upon the hard bristly sofa, and with
Mary's head still resting upon his breast, and his strong hand straying
amongst her disordered hair, he reproached her for her foolishness, and
comforted and soothed her; while the proprietress of the apartment
stood, with the brass candlestick in her hand, watching the young
lovers and weeping over their sorrows, as if she had been witnessing a
scene in a play. Their innocent affection was unrestrained by the good
woman's presence; and when Mary had smiled upon her lover, and assured
him that she would never, never, never doubt him again, Captain Arundel
was fain to kiss the soft-hearted landlady in his enthusiasm, and to
promise her the handsomest silk dress that had ever been seen in Oakley
Street, amongst all the faded splendours of silk and satin that
ladies'-maids brought for her consideration.

"And now my darling, my foolish run-away Polly, what is to be done with
you?" asked the young soldier. "Will you go back to the Towers
to-morrow morning?"

Mary Marchmont clasped her hands before her face, and began to tremble
violently.

"Oh, no, no, no!" she cried; "don't ask me to do that, don't ask me to
go back, Edward. I can never go back to that house again, while--"

She stopped suddenly, looking piteously at her lover.

"While my cousin Olivia Marchmont lives there," Captain Arundel said
with an angry frown. "God knows it's a bitter thing for me to think
that your troubles should come from any of my kith and kin, Polly. She
has used you very badly, then, this woman? She has been very unkind to
you?"

"No, no! never before last night. It seems so long ago; but it was only
last night, was it? Until then she was always kind to me. I didn't love
her, you know, though I tried to do so for papa's sake, and out of
gratitude to her for taking such trouble with my education; but one can
be grateful to people without loving them, and I never grew to love
her. But last night--last night--she said such cruel things to me--such
cruel things. O Edward, Edward!" the girl cried suddenly, clasping her
hands and looking imploringly at Captain Arundel, "were the cruel
things she said true? Did I do wrong when I offered to be your wife?"

How could the young man answer this question except by clasping his
betrothed to his heart? So there was another little love-scene, over
which Mrs. Pimpernel,--the proprietress's name was Pimpernel--wept
fresh tears, murmuring that the Capting was the sweetest young man,
sweeter than Mr. Macready in Claude Melnock; and that the scene
altogether reminded her of that "cutting" episode where the proud
mother went on against the pore young man, and Miss Faucit came out so
beautiful. They are a playgoing population in Oakley Street, and
compassionate and sentimental like all true playgoers.

"What shall I do with you, Miss Marchmont?" Edward Arundel asked gaily,
when the little love-scene was concluded. "My mother and sister are
away, at a German watering-place, trying some unpronounceable Spa for
the benefit of poor Letty's health. Reginald is with them, and my
father's alone at Dangerfield. So I can't take you down there, as I
might have done if my mother had been at home; I don't much care for
the Mostyns, or you might have stopped in Montague Square. There are no
friendly friars nowadays who will marry Romeo and Juliet at
half-an-hour's notice. You must live a fortnight somewhere, Polly:
where shall it be?"

"Oh, let me stay here, please," Miss Marchmont pleaded; "I was always
so happy here!"

"Lord love her precious heart!" exclaimed Mrs. Pimpernel, lifting up
her hands in a rapture of admiration. "To think as she shouldn't have a
bit of pride, after all the money as her pore par come into! To think
as she should wish to stay in her old lodgins, where everythink shall
be done to make her comfortable; and the air back and front is very
'ealthy, though you might not believe it, and the Blind School and
Bedlam hard by, and Kennington Common only a pleasant walk, and
beautiful and open this warm summer weather."

"Yes, I should like to stop here, please," Mary murmured. Even in the
midst of her agitation, overwhelmed as she was by the emotions of the
present, her thoughts went back to the past, and she remembered how
delightful it would be to go and see the accommodating butcher, and the
greengrocer's daughter, the kind butterman who had called her "little
lady," and the disreputable gray parrot. How delightful it would be to
see these humble friends, now that she was grown up, and had money
wherewith to make them presents in token of her gratitude!

"Very well, then, Polly," Captain Arundel said, "you'll stay here. And
Mrs.----"

"Pimpernel," the landlady suggested.

"Mrs. Pimpernel will take as good care of you as if you were Queen of
England, and the welfare of the nation depended upon your safety. And
I'll stop at my hotel in Covent Garden; and I'll see Richard
Paulette,--he's my lawyer as well as yours, you know, Polly,--and tell
him something of what has happened, and make arrangements for our
immediate marriage."

"Our marriage!"

Mary Marchmont echoed her lover's last words, and looked up at him
almost with a bewildered air. She had never thought of an early
marriage with Edward Arundel as the result of her flight from
Lincolnshire. She had a vague notion that she would live in Oakley
Street for years, and that in some remote time the soldier would come
to claim her.

"Yes, Polly darling, Olivia Marchmont's conduct has made me decide upon
a very bold step. It is evident to me that my cousin hates you; for
what reason, Heaven only knows, since you can have done nothing to
provoke her hate. When your father was a poor man, it was to me he
would have confided you. He changed his mind afterwards, very
naturally, and chose another guardian for his orphan child. If my
cousin had fulfilled this trust, Mary, I would have deferred to her
authority, and would have held myself aloof until your minority was
passed, rather than ask you to marry me without your stepmother's
consent. But Olivia Marchmont has forfeited her right to be consulted
in this matter. She has tortured you and traduced me by her poisonous
slander. If you believe in me, Mary, you will consent to be my wife. My
justification lies in the future. You will not find that I shall sponge
upon your fortune, my dear, or lead an idle life because my wife is a
rich woman."

Mary Marchmont looked up with shy tenderness at her lover.

"I would rather the fortune were yours than mine, Edward," she said. "I
will do whatever you wish; I will be guided by you in every thing."

It was thus that John Marchmont's daughter consented to become the wife
of the man she loved, the man whose image she had associated since her
childhood with all that was good and beautiful in mankind. She knew
none of those pretty stereotyped phrases, by means of which well-bred
young ladies can go through a graceful fencing-match of hesitation and
equivocation, to the anguish of a doubtful and adoring suitor. She had
no notion of that delusive negative, that bewitching feminine "no,"
which is proverbially understood to mean "yes." Weary courses of Roman
Emperors, South-Sea Islands, Sidereal Heavens, Tertiary and Old Red
Sandstone, had very ill-prepared this poor little girl for the stern
realities of life.

"I will be guided by you, dear Edward," she said; "my father wished me
to be your wife; and if I did not love you, it would please me to obey
him."

It was eleven o'clock when Captain Arundel left Oakley Street. The
hansom had been waiting all the time, and the driver, seeing that his
fare was young, handsome, dashing, and what he called
"milingtary-like," demanded an enormous sum when he landed the soldier
before the portico of the hotel in Covent Garden.

Edward took a hasty breakfast the next morning, and then hurried off to
Lincoln's-Inn Fields. But here a disappointment awaited him. Richard
Paulette had started for Scotland upon a piscatorial excursion. The
elder Paulette was an octogenarian, who lived in the south of France,
and kept his name in the business as a fiction, by means of which
elderly and obstinate country clients were deluded into the belief that
the solicitor who conducted their affairs was the same legal
practitioner who had done business for their fathers and grandfathers
before them. Mathewson, a grim man, was away amongst the Yorkshire
wolds, superintending the foreclosure of certain mortgages upon a
bankrupt baronet's estate. A confidential clerk, who received clients,
and kept matters straight during the absence of his employers, was very
anxious to be of use to Captain Arundel: but it was not likely that
Edward could sit down and pour his secrets into the bosom of a clerk,
however trustworthy a personage that employé might be.

The young man's desire had been that his marriage with Mary Marchmont
should take place at least with the knowledge and approbation of her
dead father's lawyer: but he was impatient to assume the only title by
which he might have a right to be the orphan girl's champion and
protector; and he had therefore no inclination to wait until the long
vacation was over, and Messrs. Paulette and Mathewson returned from
their northern wanderings. Again, Mary Marchmont suffered from a
continual dread that her stepmother would discover the secret of her
humble retreat, and would follow her and reassume authority over her.

"Let me be your wife before I see her again, Edward," the girl pleaded
innocently, when this terror was uppermost in her mind. "She could not
say cruel things to me if I were your wife. I know it is wicked to be
so frightened of her; because she was always good to me until that
night: but I cannot tell you how I tremble at the thought of being
alone with her at Marchmont Towers. I dream sometimes that I am with
her in the gloomy old house, and that we two are alone there, even the
servants all gone, and you far away in India, Edward,--at the other end
of the world."

It was as much as her lover could do to soothe and reassure the
trembling girl when these thoughts took possession of her. Had he been
less sanguine and impetuous, less careless in the buoyancy of his
spirits, Captain Arundel might have seen that Mary's nerves had been
terribly shaken by the scene between her and Olivia, and all the
anguish which had given rise to her flight from Marchmont Towers. The
girl trembled at every sound. The shutting of a door, the noise of a
cab stopping in the street below, the falling of a book from the table
to the floor, startled her almost as much as if a gunpowder-magazine
had exploded in the neighbourhood. The tears rose to her eyes at the
slightest emotion. Her mind was tortured by vague fears, which she
tried in vain to explain to her lover. Her sleep was broken by dismal
dreams, foreboding visions of shadowy evil.

For a little more than a fortnight Edward Arundel visited his betrothed
daily in the shabby first-floor in Oakley Street, and sat by her side
while she worked at some fragile scrap of embroidery, and talked gaily
to her of the happy future; to the intense admiration of Mrs.
Pimpernel, who had no greater delight than to assist in the pretty
little sentimental drama that was being enacted on her first-floor.

Thus it was that, on a cloudy and autumnal August morning, Edward
Arundel and Mary Marchmont were married in a great empty-looking church
in the parish of Lambeth, by an indifferent curate, who shuffled
through the service at railroad speed, and with far less reverence for
the solemn rite than he would have displayed had he known that the
pale-faced girl kneeling before the altar-rails was undisputed mistress
of eleven thousand a-year. Mrs. Pimpernel, the pew-opener, and the
registrar who was in waiting in the vestry, and was beguiled thence to
give away the bride, were the only witnesses to this strange wedding.
It seemed a dreary ceremonial to Mrs. Pimpernel, who had been married
at the same church five-and-twenty years before, in a cinnamon satin
spencer, and a coal-scuttle bonnet, and with a young person in the
dressmaking line in attendance upon her as bridesmaid.

It _was_ rather a dreary wedding, no doubt. The drizzling rain dripped
ceaselessly in the street without, and there was a smell of damp
plaster in the great empty church. The melancholy street-cries sounded
dismally from the outer world, while the curate was hurrying through
those portentous words which were to unite Edward Arundel and Mary
Marchmont until the final day of earthly separation. The girl clung
shivering to her lover, her husband now, as they went into the vestry
to sign their names in the marriage-register. Throughout the service
she had expected to hear a footstep in the aisle behind her, and Olivia
Marchmont's cruel voice crying out to forbid the marriage.

"I am your wife now, Edward, am I not?" she said, when she had signed
her name in the register.

"Yes, my darling, for ever and for ever."

"And nothing can part us now?"

"Nothing but death, my dear."

In the exuberance of his spirits, Edward Arundel spoke of the King of
Terrors as if he had been a mere nobody, whose power to change or mar
the fortunes of mankind was so trifling as to be scarcely worth
mentioning.

The vehicle in waiting to carry the mistress of Marchmont Towers upon
the first stage of her bridal tour was nothing better than a hack cab.
The driver's garments exhaled stale tobacco-smoke in the moist
atmosphere, and in lieu of the flowers which are wont to bestrew the
bridal path of an heiress, Miss Marchmont trod upon damp and mouldy
straw. But she was happy,--happy, with a fearful apprehension that her
happiness could not be real,--a vague terror of Olivia's power to
torture and oppress her, which even the presence of her lover-husband
could not altogether drive away. She kissed Mrs. Pimpernel, who stood
upon the edge of the pavement, crying bitterly, with the slippery white
lining of a new silk dress, which Edward Arundel had given her for the
wedding, gathered tightly round her.

"God bless you, my dear!" cried the honest dealer in frayed satins and
tumbled gauzes; "I couldn't take this more to heart if you was my own
Eliza Jane going away with the young man as she was to have married,
and as is now a widower with five children, two in arms, and the
youngest brought up by hand. God bless your pretty face, my dear; and
oh, pray take care of her, Captain Arundel, for she's a tender flower,
sir, and truly needs your care. And it's but a trifle, my own sweet
young missy, for the acceptance of such as you, but it's given from a
full heart, and given humbly."

The latter part of Mrs. Pimpernel's speech bore relation to a hard
newspaper parcel, which she dropped into Mary's lap. Mrs. Arundel
opened the parcel presently, when she had kissed her humble friend for
the last time, and the cab was driving towards Nine Elms, and found
that Mrs. Pimpernel's wedding-gift was a Scotch shepherdess in china,
with a great deal of gilding about her tartan garments, very red legs,
a hat and feathers, and a curly sheep. Edward put this article of
_virtù_ very carefully away in his carpet-bag; for his bride would not
have the present treated with any show of disrespect.

"How good of her to give it me!" Mary said; "it used to stand upon the
back-parlour chimney-piece when I was a little girl; and I was so fond
of it. Of course I am not fond of Scotch shepherdesses now, you know,
dear; but how should Mrs. Pimpernel know that? She thought it would
please me to have this one."

"And you'll put it in the western drawing-room at the Towers, won't
you, Polly?" Captain Arundel asked, laughing.

"I won't put it anywhere to be made fun of, sir," the young bride
answered, with some touch of wifely dignity; "but I'll take care of it,
and never have it broken or destroyed; and Mrs. Pimpernel shall see it,
when she comes to the Towers,--if I ever go back there," she added,
with a sudden change of manner.

"_If_ you ever go back there!" cried Edward. "Why, Polly, my dear,
Marchmont Towers is your own house. My cousin Olivia is only there upon
sufferance, and her own good sense will tell her she has no right to
stay there, when she ceases to be your friend and protectress. She is a
proud woman, and her pride will surely never suffer her to remain where
she must feel she can be no longer welcome."

The young wife's face turned white with terror at her husband's words.

"But I could never ask her to go, Edward," she said. "I wouldn't turn
her out for the world. She may stay there for ever if she likes. I
never have cared for the place since papa's death; and I couldn't go
back while she is there, I'm so frightened of her, Edward, I'm so
frightened of her."

The vague apprehension burst forth in this childish cry. Edward Arundel
clasped his wife to his breast, and bent over her, kissing her pale
forehead, and murmuring soothing words, as he might have done to a
child.

"My dear, my dear," he said, "my darling Mary, this will never do; my
own love, this is so very foolish."

"I know, I know, Edward; but I can't help it, I can't indeed; I was
frightened of her long ago; frightened of her even the first day I saw
her, the day you took me to the Rectory. I was frightened of her when
papa first told me he meant to marry her; and I am frightened of her
now; even now that I am your wife, Edward, I'm frightened of her
still."

Captain Arundel kissed away the tears that trembled on his wife's
eyelids; but she had scarcely grown quite composed even when the cab
stopped at the Nine Elms railway station. It was only when she was
seated in the carriage with her husband, and the rain cleared away as
they advanced farther into the heart of the pretty pastoral country,
that the bride's sense of happiness and safety in her husband's
protection, returned to her. But by that time she was able to smile in
his face, and to look forward with delight to a brief sojourn in that
pretty Hampshire village, which Edward had chosen for the scene of his
honeymoon.

"Only a few days of quiet happiness, Polly," he said; "a few days of
utter forgetfulness of all the world except you; and then I must be a
man of business again, and write to your stepmother and my father and
mother, and Messrs. Paulette and Mathewson, and all the people who
ought to know of our marriage."



CHAPTER III.

PAUL'S SISTER.


Olivia Marchmont shut herself once more in her desolate chamber, making
no effort to find the runaway mistress of the Towers; indifferent as to
what the slanderous tongues of her neighbours might say of her;
hardened, callous, desperate.

To her father, and to any one else who questioned her about Mary's
absence,--for the story of the girl's flight was soon whispered abroad,
the servants at the Towers having received no injunctions to keep the
matter secret,--Mrs. Marchmont replied with such an air of cold and
determined reserve as kept the questioners at bay ever afterwards.

So the Kemberling people, and the Swampington people, and all the
country gentry within reach of Marchmont Towers, had a mystery and a
scandal provided for them, which afforded ample scope for repeated
discussion, and considerably relieved the dull monotony of their lives.
But there were some questioners whom Mrs. Marchmont found it rather
difficult to keep at a distance; there were some intruders who dared to
force themselves upon the gloomy woman's solitude, and who _would_ not
understand that their presence was abhorrent to her.

These people were a surgeon and his wife, who had newly settled at
Kemberling; the best practice in the village falling into the market by
reason of the death of a steady-going, gray-headed old practitioner,
who for many years had shared with one opponent the responsibility of
watching over the health of the Lincolnshire village.

It was about three weeks after Mary Marchmont's flight when these
unwelcome guests first came to the Towers.

Olivia sat alone in her dead husband's study,--the same room in which
she had sat upon the morning of John Marchmont's funeral,--a dark and
gloomy chamber, wainscoted with blackened oak, and lighted only by a
massive stone-framed Tudor window looking out into the quadrangle, and
overshadowed by that cloistered colonnade beneath whose shelter Edward
and Mary had walked upon the morning of the girl's flight. This
wainscoted study was an apartment which most women, having all the
rooms in Marchmont Towers at their disposal, would have been likely to
avoid; but the gloom of the chamber harmonised with that horrible gloom
which had taken possession of Olivia's soul, and the widow turned from
the sunny western front, as she turned from all the sunlight and
gladness in the universe, to come here, where the summer radiance
rarely crept through the diamond-panes of the window, where the shadow
of the cloister shut out the glory of the blue sky.

She was sitting in this room,--sitting near the open window, in a
high-backed chair of carved and polished oak, with her head resting
against the angle of the embayed window, and her handsome profile
thrown into sharp relief by the dark green-cloth curtain, which hung in
straight folds from the low ceiling to the ground, and made a sombre
background to the widow's figure. Mrs. Marchmont had put away all the
miserable gew-gaws and vanities which she had ordered from London in a
sudden excess of folly or caprice, and had reassumed her mourning-robes
of lustreless black. She had a book in her hand,--some new and popular
fiction, which all Lincolnshire was eager to read; but although her
eyes were fixed upon the pages before her, and her hand mechanically
turned over leaf after leaf at regular intervals of time, the
fashionable romance was only a weary repetition of phrases, a dull
current of words, always intermingled with the images of Edward Arundel
and Mary Marchmont, which arose out of every page to mock the hopeless
reader.

Olivia flung the book away from her at last, with a smothered cry of
rage.

"Is there no cure for this disease?" she muttered. "Is there no relief
except madness or death?"

But in the infidelity which had arisen out of her despair this woman
had grown to doubt if either death or madness could bring her oblivion
of her anguish. She doubted the quiet of the grave; and half-believed
that the torture of jealous rage and slighted love might mingle even
with that silent rest, haunting her in her coffin, shutting her out of
heaven, and following her into a darker world, there to be her torment
everlastingly. There were times when she thought madness must mean
forgetfulness; but there were other moments when she shuddered,
horror-stricken, at the thought that, in the wandering brain of a mad
woman, the image of that grief which had caused the shipwreck of her
senses might still hold its place, distorted and exaggerated,--a
gigantic unreality, ten thousand times more terrible than the truth.
Remembering the dreams which disturbed her broken sleep,--those dreams
which, in their feverish horror, were little better than intervals of
delirium,--it is scarcely strange if Olivia Marchmont thought thus.

She had not succumbed without many struggles to her sin and despair.
Again and again she had abandoned herself to the devils at watch to
destroy her, and again and again she had tried to extricate her soul
from their dreadful power; but her most passionate endeavours were in
vain. Perhaps it was that she did not strive aright; it was for this
reason, surely, that she failed so utterly to arise superior to her
despair; for otherwise that terrible belief attributed to the
Calvinists, that some souls are foredoomed to damnation, would be
exemplified by this woman's experience. She could not forget. She could
not put away the vengeful hatred that raged like an all-devouring fire
in her breast, and she cried in her agony, "There is no cure for this
disease!"

I think her mistake was in this, that she did not go to the right
Physician. She practised quackery with her soul, as some people do with
their bodies; trying their own remedies, rather than the simple
prescriptions of the Divine Healer of all woes. Self-reliant, and
scornful of the weakness against which her pride revolted, she trusted
to her intellect and her will to lift her out of the moral slough into
which her soul had gone down. She said:

"I am not a woman to go mad for the love of a boyish face; I am not a
woman to die for a foolish fancy, which the veriest schoolgirl might be
ashamed to confess to her companion. I am not a woman to do this, and I
_will_ cure myself of my folly."

Mrs. Marchmont made an effort to take up her old life, with its dull
round of ceaseless duty, its perpetual self-denial. If she had been a
Roman Catholic, she would have gone to the nearest convent, and prayed
to be permitted to take such vows as might soonest set a barrier
between herself and the world; she would have spent the long weary days
in perpetual and secret prayer; she would have worn deeper indentations
upon the stones already hollowed by faithful knees. As it was, she made
a routine of penance for herself, after her own fashion: going long
distances on foot to visit her poor, when she might have ridden in her
carriage; courting exposure to rain and foul weather; wearing herself
out with unnecessary fatigue, and returning footsore to her desolate
home, to fall fainting into the strong arms of her grim attendant,
Barbara.

But this self-appointed penance could not shut Edward Arundel and Mary
Marchmont from the widow's mind. Walking through a fiery furnace their
images would have haunted her still, vivid and palpable even in the
agony of death. The fatigue of the long weary walks made Mrs. Marchmont
wan and pale; the exposure to storm and rain brought on a tiresome,
hacking cough, which worried her by day and disturbed her fitful
slumbers by night. No good whatever seemed to come of her endeavours;
and the devils who rejoiced at her weakness and her failure claimed her
as their own. They claimed her as their own; and they were not without
terrestrial agents, working patiently in their service, and ready to
help in securing their bargain.

The great clock in the quadrangle had struck the half-hour after three;
the atmosphere of the August afternoon was sultry and oppressive. Mrs.
Marchmont had closed her eyes after flinging aside her book, and had
fallen into a doze: her nights were broken and wakeful, and the hot
stillness of the day had made her drowsy.

She was aroused from this half-slumber by Barbara Simmons, who came
into the room carrying two cards upon a salver,--the same old-fashioned
and emblazoned salver upon which Paul Marchmont's card had been brought
to the widow nearly three years before. The Abigail stood halfway
between the door and the window by which the widow sat, looking at her
mistress's face with a glance of sharp scrutiny.

"She's changed since he came back, and changed again since he went
away," the woman thought; "just as she always changed at the Rectory at
his coming and going. Why didn't he take to her, I wonder? He might
have known her fancy for him, if he'd had eyes to watch her face, or
ears to listen to her voice. She's handsomer than the other one, and
cleverer in book-learning; but she keeps 'em off--she seems allers to
keep 'em off."

I think Olivia Marchmont would have torn the very heart out of this
waiting-woman's breast, had she known the thoughts that held a place in
it: had she known that the servant who attended upon her, and took
wages from her, dared to pluck out her secret, and to speculate upon
her suffering.

The widow awoke suddenly, and looked up with an impatient frown. She
had not been awakened by the opening of the door, but by that
unpleasant sensation which almost always reveals the presence of a
stranger to a sleeper of nervous temperament.

"What is it, Barbara?" she asked; and then, as her eyes rested on the
cards, she added, angrily, "Haven't I told you that I would not see any
callers to-day? I am worn out with my cough, and feel too ill to see
any one."

"Yes, Miss Livy," the woman answered;--she called her mistress by this
name still, now and then, so familiar had it grown to her during the
childhood and youth of the Rector's daughter;--"I didn't forget that,
Miss Livy: I told Richardson you was not to be disturbed. But the lady
and gentleman said, if you saw what was wrote upon the back of one of
the cards, you'd be sure to make an exception in their favour. I think
that was what the lady said. She's a middle-aged lady, very talkative
and pleasant-mannered," added the grim Barbara, in nowise relaxing the
stolid gravity of her own manner as she spoke.

Olivia snatched the cards from the salver.

"Why do people worry me so?" she cried, impatiently. "Am I not to be
allowed even five minutes' sleep without being broken in upon by some
intruder or other?"

Barbara Simmons looked at her mistress's face. Anxiety and sadness
dimly showed themselves in the stolid countenance of the lady's-maid. A
close observer, penetrating below that aspect of wooden solemnity which
was Barbara's normal expression, might have discovered a secret: the
quiet waiting-woman loved her mistress with a jealous and watchful
affection, that took heed of every change in its object.

Mrs. Marchmont examined the two cards, which bore the names of Mr. and
Mrs. Weston, Kemberling. On the back of the lady's card these words
were written in pencil:

"Will Mrs. Marchmont be so good as to see Lavinia Weston, Paul
Marchmont's younger sister, and a connection of Mrs. M.'s?"

Olivia shrugged her shoulders, as she threw down the card.

"Paul Marchmont! Lavinia Weston!" she muttered; "yes, I remember he
said something about a sister married to a surgeon at Stanfield. Let
these people come to me, Barbara."

The waiting-woman looked doubtfully at her mistress.

"You'll maybe smooth your hair, and freshen yourself up a bit, before
ye see the folks, Miss Livy," she said, in a tone of mingled suggestion
and entreaty. "Ye've had a deal of worry lately, and it's made ye look
a little fagged and haggard-like. I'd not like the Kemberling folks to
say as you was ill."

Mrs. Marchmont turned fiercely upon the Abigail.

"Let me alone!" she cried. "What is it to you, or to any one, how I
look? What good have my looks done me, that I should worry myself about
them?" she added, under her breath. "Show these people in here, if they
want to see me."

"They've been shown into the western drawing-room, ma'am;--Richardson
took 'em in there."

Barbara Simmons fought hard for the preservation of appearances. She
wanted the Rector's daughter to receive these strange people, who had
dared to intrude upon her, in a manner befitting the dignity of John
Marchmont's widow. She glanced furtively at the disorder of the gloomy
chamber. Books and papers were scattered here and there; the hearth and
low fender were littered with heaps of torn letters,--for Olivia
Marchmont had no tenderness for the memorials of the past, and indeed
took a fierce delight in sweeping away the unsanctified records of her
joyless, loveless life. The high-backed oaken chairs had been pushed
out of their places; the green-cloth cover had been drawn half off the
massive table, and hung in trailing folds upon the ground. A book flung
here; a shawl there; a handkerchief in another place; an open
secretaire, with scattered documents and uncovered inkstand,--littered
the room, and bore mute witness of the restlessness of its occupant. It
needed no very subtle psychologist to read aright those separate tokens
of a disordered mind; of a weary spirit which had sought distraction in
a dozen occupations, and had found relief in none. It was some vague
sense of this that caused Barbara Simmons's anxiety. She wished to keep
strangers out of this room, in which her mistress, wan, haggard, and
weary-looking, revealed her secret by so many signs and tokens. But
before Olivia could make any answer to her servant's suggestion, the
door, which Barbara had left ajar, was pushed open by a very gentle
hand, and a sweet voice said, in cheery chirping accents,

"I am sure I may come in; may I not, Mrs. Marchmont? The impression my
brother Paul's description gave me of you is such a very pleasant one,
that I venture to intrude uninvited, almost forbidden, perhaps."

The voice and manner of the speaker were so airy and self-possessed,
there was such a world of cheerfulness and amiability in every tone,
that, as Olivia Marchmont rose from her chair, she put her hand to her
head, dazed and confounded, as if by the too boisterous carolling of
some caged bird. What did they mean, these accents of gladness, these
clear and untroubled tones, which sounded shrill, and almost
discordant, in the despairing woman's ears? She stood, pale and worn,
the very picture of all gloom and misery, staring hopelessly at her
visitor; too much abandoned to her grief to remember, in that first
moment, the stern demands of pride. She stood still; revealing, by her
look, her attitude, her silence, her abstraction, a whole history to
the watchful eyes that were looking at her.

Mrs. Weston lingered on the threshold of the chamber in a pretty
half-fluttering manner; which was charmingly expressive of a struggle
between a modest poor-relation-like diffidence and an earnest desire to
rush into Olivia's arms. The surgeon's wife was a delicate-looking
little woman, with features that seemed a miniature and feminine
reproduction of her brother Paul's, and with very light hair,--hair so
light and pale that, had it turned as white as the artist's in a single
night, very few people would have been likely to take heed of the
change. Lavinia Weston was eminently what is generally called a
_lady-like_ woman. She always conducted herself in that especial and
particular manner which was exactly fitted to the occasion. She
adjusted her behaviour by the nicest shades of colour and hair-breadth
scale of measurement. She had, as it were, made for herself a
homoeopathic system of good manners, and could mete out politeness and
courtesy in the veriest globules, never administering either too much
or too little. To her husband she was a treasure beyond all price; and
if the Lincolnshire surgeon, who was a fat, solemn-faced man, with a
character as level and monotonous as the flats and fens of his native
county, was henpecked, the feminine autocrat held the reins of
government so lightly, that her obedient subject was scarcely aware how
very irresponsible his wife's authority had become.

As Olivia Marchmont stood confronting the timid hesitating figure of
the intruder, with the width of the chamber between them, Lavinia
Weston, in her crisp muslin-dress and scarf, her neat bonnet and bright
ribbons and primly-adjusted gloves, looked something like an
adventurous canary who had a mind to intrude upon the den of a hungry
lioness. The difference, physical and moral, between the timid bird and
the savage forest-queen could be scarcely wider than that between the
two women.

But Olivia did not stand for ever embarrassed and silent in her
visitor's presence. Her pride came to her rescue. She turned sternly
upon the polite intruder.

"Walk in, if you please, Mrs. Weston," she said, "and sit down. I was
denied to you just now because I have been ill, and have ordered my
servants to deny me to every one."

"But, my dear Mrs. Marchmont," murmured Lavinia Weston in soft, almost
dove-like accents, "if you have been ill, is not your illness another
reason for seeing us, rather than for keeping us away from you? I would
not, of course, say a word which could in any way be calculated to give
offence to your regular medical attendant,--you have a regular medical
attendant, no doubt; from Swampington, I dare say,--but a doctor's wife
may often be useful when a doctor is himself out of place. There are
little nervous ailments--depression of spirits, mental uneasiness--from
which women, and sensitive women, suffer acutely, and which perhaps a
woman's more refined nature alone can thoroughly comprehend. You are
not looking well, my dear Mrs. Marchmont. I left my husband in the
drawing-room, for I was so anxious that our first meeting should take
place without witnesses. Men think women sentimental when they are only
impulsive. Weston is a good simple-hearted creature, but he knows as
much about a woman's mind as he does of an Æolian harp. When the
strings vibrate, he hears the low plaintive notes, but he has no idea
whence the melody comes. It is thus with us, Mrs. Marchmont. These
medical men watch us in the agonies of hysteria; they hear our sighs,
they see our tears, and in their awkwardness and ignorance they
prescribe commonplace remedies out of the pharmacopoeia. No, dear Mrs.
Marchmont, you do not look well. I fear it is the mind, the mind, which
has been over-strained. Is it not so?"

Mrs. Weston put her head on one side as she asked this question, and
smiled at Olivia with an air of gentle insinuation. If the doctor's
wife wished to plumb the depths of the widow's gloomy soul, she had an
advantage here; for Mrs. Marchmont was thrown off her guard by the
question, which had been perhaps asked hap-hazard, or it may be with a
deeply considered design. Olivia turned fiercely upon the polite
questioner.

"I have been suffering from nothing but a cold which I caught the other
day," she said; "I am not subject to any fine-ladylike hysteria, I can
assure you, Mrs. Weston."

The doctor's wife pursed up her lips into a sympathetic smile, not at
all abashed by this rebuff. She had seated herself in one of the
high-backed chairs, with her muslin skirt spread out about her. She
looked a living exemplification of all that is neat and prim and
commonplace, in contrast with the pale, stern-faced woman, standing
rigid and defiant in her long black robes.

"How very chy-arming!" exclaimed Mrs. Weston. "You are really _not_
nervous. Dee-ar me; and from what my brother Paul said, I should have
imagined that any one so highly organised must be rather nervous. But I
really fear I am impertinent, and that I presume upon our very slight
relationship. It _is_ a relationship, is it not, although such a very
slight one?"

"I have never thought of the subject," Mrs. Marchmont replied coldly.
"I suppose, however, that my marriage with your brother's cousin--"

"And _my_ cousin--"

"Made a kind of connexion between us. But Mr. Marchmont gave me to
understand that you lived at Stanfield, Mrs. Weston."

"Until last week, positively until last week," answered the surgeon's
wife. "I see you take very little interest in village gossip, Mrs.
Marchmont, or you would have heard of the change at Kemberling."

"What change?"

"My husband's purchase of poor old Mr. Dawnfield's practice. The dear
old man died a month ago,--you heard of his death, of course,--and Mr.
Weston negotiated the purchase with Mrs. Dawnfield in less than a
fortnight. We came here early last week, and already we are making
friends in the neighbourhood. How strange that you should not have
heard of our coming!"

"I do not see much society," Olivia answered indifferently, "and I hear
nothing of the Kemberling people."

"Indeed!" cried Mrs. Weston; "and we hear so much of Marchmont Towers
at Kemberling."

She looked full in the widow's face as she spoke, her stereotyped smile
subsiding into a look of greedy curiosity; a look whose intense
eagerness could not be concealed.

That look, and the tone in which her last sentence had been spoken,
said as plainly as the plainest words could have done, "I have heard of
Mary Marchmont's flight."

Olivia understood this; but in the passionate depth of her own madness
she had no power to fathom the meanings or the motives of other people.
She revolted against this Mrs. Weston, and disliked her because the
woman intruded upon her in her desolation; but she never once thought
of Lavinia Weston's interest in Mary's movements; she never once
remembered that the frail life of that orphan girl only stood between
this woman's brother and the rich heritage of Marchmont Towers.

Blind and forgetful of everything in the hideous egotism of her
despair, what was Olivia Marchmont but a fitting tool, a plastic and
easily-moulded instrument, in the hands of unscrupulous people, whose
hard intellects had never been beaten into confused shapelessness in
the fiery furnace of passion?

Mrs. Weston had heard of Mary Marchmont's flight; but she had heard
half a dozen different reports of that event, as widely diversified in
their details as if half a dozen heiresses had fled from Marchmont
Towers. Every gossip in the place had a separate story as to the
circumstances which had led to the girl's running away from her home.
The accounts vied with each other in graphic force and minute
elaboration; the conversations that had taken place between Mary and
her stepmother, between Edward Arundel and Mrs. Marchmont, between the
Rector of Swampington and nobody in particular, would have filled a
volume, as related by the gossips of Kemberling; but as everybody
assigned a different cause for the terrible misunderstanding at the
Towers, and a different direction for Mary's flight,--and as the
railway official at the station, who could have thrown some light on
the subject, was a stern and moody man, who had little sympathy with
his kind, and held his tongue persistently,--it was not easy to get
very near the truth. Under these circumstances, then, Mrs. Weston
determined upon seeking information at the fountain-head, and
approaching the cruel stepmother, who, according to some of the
reports, had starved and beaten her dead husband's child.

"Yes, dear Mrs. Marchmont," said Lavinia Weston, seeing that it was
necessary to come direct to the point if she wished to wring the truth
from Olivia; "yes, we hear of everything at Kemberling; and I need
scarcely tell you, that we heard of the sad trouble which you have had
to endure since your ball--the ball that is spoken of as the most
chy-arming entertainment remembered in the neighbourhood for a long
time. We heard of this sad girl's flight."

Mrs. Marchmont looked up with a dark frown, but made no answer.

"Was she--it really is such a very painful question, that I almost
shrink from--but was Miss Marchmont at all--eccentric--a little
mentally deficient? Pray pardon me, if I have given you pain by such a
question; but----"

Olivia started, and looked sharply at her visitor. "Mentally deficient?
No!" she said. But as she spoke her eyes dilated, her pale cheeks grew
paler, her upper lip quivered with a faint convulsive movement. It
seemed as if some idea presented itself to her with a sudden force that
almost took away her breath.

"_Not_ mentally deficient!" repeated Lavinia Weston; "dee-ar me! It's a
great comfort to hear that. Of course Paul saw very little of his
cousin, and he was not therefore in a position to judge,--though his
opinions, however rapidly arrived at, are generally so _very_
accurate;--but he gave me to understand that he thought Miss Marchmont
appeared a little--just a little--weak in her intellect. I am very glad
to find he was mistaken."

Olivia made no reply to this speech. She had seated herself in her
chair by the window; she looked straight before her into the flagged
quadrangle, with her hands lying idle in her lap. It seemed as if she
were actually unconscious of her visitor's presence, or as if, in her
scornful indifference, she did not even care to affect any interest in
that visitor's conversation.

Lavinia Weston returned again to the attack.

"Pray, Mrs. Marchmont, do not think me intrusive or impertinent," she
said pleadingly, "if I ask you to favour me with the true particulars
of this sad event. I am sure you will be good enough to remember that
my brother Paul, my sister, and myself are Mary Marchmont's nearest
relatives on her father's side, and that we have therefore some right
to feel interested in her?"

By this very polite speech Lavinia Weston plainly reminded the widow of
the insignificance of her own position at Marchmont Towers. In her
ordinary frame of mind Olivia would have resented the ladylike slight,
but to-day she neither heard nor heeded it; she was brooding with a
stupid, unreasonable persistency over the words "mental deficiency,"
"weak intellect." She only roused herself by a great effort to answer
Mrs. Weston's question, when that lady had repeated it in very plain
words.

"I can tell you nothing about Miss Marchmont's flight," she said,
coldly, "except that she chose to run away from her home. I found
reason to object to her conduct upon the night of the ball; and the
next morning she left the house, assigning no reason--to me, at any
rate--for her absurd and improper behaviour."

"She assigned no reason to _you_, my dear Mrs. Marchmont; but she
assigned a reason to somebody, I infer, from what you say?"

"Yes; she wrote a letter to my cousin, Captain Arundel."

"Telling him the reason of her departure?"

"I don't know--I forget. The letter told nothing clearly; it was wild
and incoherent."

Mrs. Weston sighed,--a long-drawn, desponding sigh.

"Wild and incoherent!" she murmured, in a pensive tone. "How grieved
Paul will be to hear of this! He took such an interest in his cousin--a
delicate and fragile-looking young creature, he told me. Yes, he took a
very great interest in her, Mrs. Marchmont, though you may perhaps
scarcely believe me when I say so. He kept himself purposely aloof from
this place; his sensitive nature led him to abstain from even revealing
his interest in Miss Marchmont. His position, you must remember, with
regard to this poor dear girl, is a very delicate--I may say a very
painful--one."

Olivia remembered nothing of the kind. The value of the Marchmont
estates; the sordid worth of those wide-stretching farms, spreading
far-away into Yorkshire; the pitiful, closely-calculated revenue, which
made Mary a wealthy heiress,--were so far from the dark thoughts of
this woman's desperate heart, that she no more suspected Mrs. Weston of
any mercenary design in coming to the Towers, than of burglarious
intentions with regard to the silver spoons in the plate-room. She only
thought that the surgeon's wife was a tiresome woman, against whose
pertinacious civility her angry spirit chafed and rebelled, until she
was almost driven to order her from the room.

In this cruel weariness of spirit Mrs. Marchmont gave a short impatient
sigh, which afforded a sufficient hint to such an accomplished
tactician as her visitor.

"I know I have tired you, my dear Mrs. Marchmont," the doctor's wife
said, rising and arranging her muslin scarf as she spoke, in token of
her immediate departure. "I am so sorry to find you a sufferer from
that nasty hacking cough; but of course you have the best advice,--Mr.
Barlow from Swampington, I think you said?"--Olivia had said nothing of
the kind;--"and I trust the warm weather will prevent the cough taking
any hold of your chest. If I might venture to suggest flannels--so many
young women quite ridicule the idea of flannels--but, as the wife of a
humble provincial practitioner, I have learned their value. Good-bye,
dear Mrs. Marchmont. I may come again, may I not, now that the ice is
broken, and we are so well acquainted with each other? Good-bye."

Olivia could not refuse to take at least _one_ of the two plump and
tightly-gloved hands which were held out to her with an air of frank
cordiality; but the widow's grasp was loose and nerveless, and,
inasmuch as two consentient parties are required to the shaking of
hands as well as to the getting up of a quarrel, the salutation was not
a very hearty one.

The surgeon's pony must have been weary of standing before the flight
of shallow steps leading to the western portico, when Mrs. Weston took
her seat by her husband's side in the gig, which had been newly painted
and varnished since the worthy couple's hegira from Stanfield.

The surgeon was not an ambitious man, nor a designing man; he was
simply stupid and lazy--lazy although, in spite of himself, he led an
active and hard-working life; but there are many square men whose sides
are cruelly tortured by the pressure of the round holes into which they
are ill-advisedly thrust, and if our destinies were meted out to us in
strict accordance with our temperaments, Mr. Weston should have been a
lotus-eater. As it was, he was content to drudge on, mildly complying
with every desire of his wife; doing what she told him, because it was
less trouble to do the hardest work at her bidding than to oppose her.
It would have been surely less painful for Macbeth to have finished
that ugly business of the murder than to have endured my lady's black
contemptuous scowl, and the bitter scorn and contumely concentrated in
those four words, "Give _me_ the daggers."

Mr. Weston asked one or two commonplace questions about his wife's
interview with John Marchmont's widow; but, slowly apprehending that
Lavinia did not care to discuss the matter, he relapsed into meek
silence, and devoted all his intellectual powers to the task of keeping
the pony out of the deeper ruts in the rugged road between Marchmont
Towers and Kemberling High Street.

"What is the secret of that woman's life?" thought Lavinia Weston
during that homeward drive. "Has she ill-treated the girl, or is she
plotting in some way or other to get hold of the Marchmont fortune?
Pshaw! that's impossible. And yet she may be making a purse, somehow or
other, out of the estate. Anyhow, there is bad blood between the two
women."



CHAPTER IV.

A STOLEN HONEYMOON.


The village to which Edward Arundel took his bride was within a few
miles of Winchester. The young soldier had become familiar with the
place in his early boyhood, when he had gone to spend a part of one
bright midsummer holiday at the house of a schoolfellow; and had ever
since cherished a friendly remembrance of the winding trout-streams,
the rich verdure of the valleys, and the sheltering hills that shut in
the pleasant little cluster of thatched cottages, the pretty
white-walled villas, and the grey old church.

But to Mary, whose experiences of town and country were limited to the
dingy purlieus of Oakley Street and the fenny flats of Lincolnshire,
this Hampshire village seemed a rustic paradise, which neither trouble
nor sorrow could ever approach. She had trembled at the thought of
Olivia's coming in Oakley Street; but here she seemed to lose all
terror of her stern stepmother,--here, sheltered and protected by her
young husband's love, she fancied that she might live her life out
happy and secure.

She told Edward this one sunny morning, as they sat by the young man's
favourite trout-stream. Captain Arundel's fishing-tackle lay idle on
the turf at his side, for he had been beguiled into forgetfulness of a
ponderous trout he had been watching and finessing with for upwards of
an hour, and had flung himself at full length upon the mossy margin of
the water, with his uncovered head lying in Mary's lap.

The childish bride would have been content to sit for ever thus in that
rural solitude, with her fingers twisted in her husband's chestnut
curls, and her soft eyes keeping timid watch upon his handsome
face,--so candid and unclouded in its careless repose. The undulating
meadow-land lay half-hidden in a golden haze, only broken here and
there by the glitter of the brighter sunlight that lit up the waters of
the wandering streams that intersected the low pastures. The massive
towers of the cathedral, the grey walls of St. Cross, loomed dimly in
the distance; the bubbling plash of a mill-stream sounded like some
monotonous lullaby in the drowsy summer atmosphere. Mary looked from
the face she loved to the fair landscape about her, and a tender
solemnity crept into her mind--a reverent love and admiration for this
beautiful earth, which was almost akin to awe.

"How pretty this place is, Edward!" she said. "I had no idea there were
such places in all the wide world. Do you know, I think I would rather
be a cottage-girl here than an heiress in Lincolnshire. Edward, if I
ask you a favour, will you grant it?"

She spoke very earnestly, looking down at her husband's upturned face;
but Captain Arundel only laughed at her question, without even caring
to lift the drowsy eyelids that drooped over his blue eyes.

"Well, my pet, if you want anything short of the moon, I suppose your
devoted husband is scarcely likely to refuse it. Our honeymoon is not a
fortnight old yet, Polly dear; you wouldn't have me turn tyrant quite
as soon as this. Speak out, Mrs. Arundel, and assert your dignity as a
British matron. What is the favour I am to grant?"

"I want you to live here always, Edward darling," pleaded the girlish
voice. "Not for a fortnight or a month, but for ever and ever. I have
never been happy at Marchmont Towers. Papa died there, you know, and I
cannot forget that. Perhaps that ought to have made the place sacred to
me, and so it has; but it is sacred like papa's tomb in Kemberling
Church, and it seems like profanation to be happy in it, or to forget
my dead father even for a moment. Don't let us go back there, Edward.
Let my stepmother live there all her life. It would seem selfish and
cruel to turn her out of the house she has so long been mistress of.
Mr. Gormby will go on collecting the rents, you know, and can send us
as much money as we want; and we can take that pretty house we saw to
let on the other side of Milldale,--the house with the rookery, and the
dovecotes, and the sloping lawn leading down to the water. You know you
don't like Lincolnshire, Edward, any more than I do, and there's
scarcely any trout-fishing near the Towers."

Captain Arundel opened his eyes, and lifted himself out of his
reclining position before he answered his wife.

"My own precious Polly," he said, smiling fondly at the gentle childish
face turned in such earnestness towards his own; "my runaway little
wife, rich people have their duties to perform as well as poor people;
and I am afraid it would never do for you to hide in this
out-of-the-way Hampshire village, and play absentee from stately
Marchmont and all its dependencies. I love that pretty, infantine,
unworldly spirit of yours, my darling; and I sometimes wish we were two
grown-up babes in the wood, and could wander about gathering wild
flowers, and eating blackberries and hazel-nuts, until the shades of
evening closed in, and the friendly robins came to bury us. Don't fancy
I am tired of our honeymoon, Polly, or that I care for Marchmont Towers
any more than you do; but I fear the non-residence plan would never
answer. The world would call my little wife eccentric, if she ran away
from her grandeur; and Paul Marchmont the artist,--of whom your poor
father had rather a bad opinion, by the way,--would be taking out a
statute of lunacy against you."

"Paul Marchmont!" repeated Mary. "Did papa dislike Mr. Paul Marchmont?"

"Well, poor John had a sort of a prejudice against the man, I believe;
but it was only a prejudice, for he freely confessed that he could
assign no reason for it. But whatever Mr. Paul Marchmont may be, you
must live at the Towers, Mary, and be Lady Bountiful-in-chief in your
neighbourhood, and look after your property, and have long interviews
with Mr. Gormby, and become altogether a woman of business; so that
when I go back to India----"

Mary interrupted him with a little cry:

"Go back to India!" she exclaimed. "What do you mean, Edward?"

"I mean, my darling, that my business in life is to fight for my Queen
and country, and not to spunge upon my wife's fortune. You don't
suppose I'm going to lay down my sword at seven-and-twenty years of
age, and retire upon my pension? No, Polly; you remember what Lord
Nelson said on the deck of the _Victory_ at Trafalgar. That saying can
never be so hackneyed as to lose its force. I must do my duty, Polly--I
must do my duty, even if duty and love pull different ways, and I have
to leave my darling, in the service of my country."

Mary clasped her hands in despair, and looked piteously at her
lover-husband, with the tears streaming down her pale cheeks.

"O Edward," she cried, "how cruel you are; how very, very cruel you are
to me! What is the use of my fortune if you won't share it with me, if
you won't take it all; for it is yours, my dearest--it is all yours? I
remember the words in the Marriage Service, 'with all my goods I thee
endow.' I have given you Marchmont Towers, Edward; nobody in the world
can take it away from you. You never, never, never could be so cruel as
to leave me! I know how brave and good you are, and I am proud to think
of your noble courage and all the brave deeds you did in India. But you
_have_ fought for your country, Edward; you _have_ done your duty.
Nobody can expect more of you; nobody shall take you from me. O my
darling, my husband, you promised to shelter and defend me while our
lives last! You won't leave me--you won't leave me, will you?"

Edward Arundel kissed the tears away from his wife's pale face, and
drew her head upon his bosom.

"My love," he said tenderly, "you cannot tell how much pain it gives me
to hear you talk like this. What can I do? To give up my profession
would be to make myself next kin to a pauper. What would the world say
of me, Mary? Think of that. This runaway marriage would be a dreadful
dishonour to me, if it were followed by a life of lazy dependence on my
wife's fortune. Nobody can dare to slander the soldier who spends the
brightest years of his life in the service of his country. You would
not surely have me be less than true to myself, Mary darling? For my
honour's sake, I must leave you."

"O no, no, no!" cried the girl, in a low wailing voice. Unselfish and
devoted as she had been in every other crisis of her young life, she
could not be reasonable or self-denying here; she was seized with
despair at the thought of parting with her husband. No, not even for
his honour's sake could she let him go. Better that they should both
die now, in this early noontide of their happiness.

"Edward, Edward," she sobbed, clinging convulsively about the young
man's neck, "don't leave me--don't leave me!"

"Will you go with me to India, then, Mary?"

She lifted her head suddenly, and looked her husband in the face, with
the gladness in her eyes shining through her tears, like an April sun
through a watery sky.

"I would go to the end of the world with you, my own darling," she
said; "the burning sands and the dreadful jungles would have no terrors
for me, if I were with you, Edward."

Captain Arundel smiled at her earnestness.

"I won't take you into the jungle, my love," he answered, playfully;
"or if I do, your palki shall be well guarded, and all ravenous beasts
kept at a respectful distance from my little wife. A great many ladies
go to India with their husbands, Polly, and come back very little the
worse for the climate or the voyage; and except your money, there is no
reason you should not go with me."

"Oh, never mind my money; let anybody have that."

"Polly," cried the soldier, very seriously, "we must consult Richard
Paulette as to the future. I don't think I did right in marrying you
during his absence; and I have delayed writing to him too long, Polly.
Those letters must be written this afternoon."

"The letter to Mr. Paulette and to your father?"

"Yes; and the letter to my cousin Olivia."

Mary's face grew sorrowful again, as Captain Arundel said this.

"_Must_ you tell my stepmother of our marriage?" she said.

"Most assuredly, my dear. Why should we keep her in ignorance of it?
Your father's will gave her the privilege of advising you, but not the
power to interfere with your choice, whatever that choice might be. You
were your own mistress, Mary, when you married me. What reason have you
to fear my cousin Olivia?"

"No reason, perhaps," the girl answered, sadly; "but I do fear her. I
know I am very foolish, Edward, and you have reason to despise me,--you
who are so brave. But I could never tell you how I tremble at the
thought of being once more in my stepmother's power. She said cruel
things to me, Edward. Every word she spoke seemed to stab me to the
heart; but it isn't that only. There's something more than that;
something that I can't describe, that I can't understand; something
which tells me that she hates me."

"Hates you, darling?"

"Yes, Edward; yes, she hates me. It wasn't always so, you know. She
used to be only cold and reserved, but lately her manner has changed. I
thought that she was ill, perhaps, and that my presence worried her.
People often wish to be alone, I know, when they are ill. O Edward, I
have seen her shrink from me, and shudder if her dress brushed against
mine, as if I had been some horrible creature. What have I done,
Edward, that she should hate me?"

Captain Arundel knitted his brows, and set himself to work out this
womanly problem, but he could make nothing of it. Yes, what Mary had
said was perfectly true: Olivia hated her. The young man had seen that
upon the morning of the girl's flight from Marchmont Towers; he had
seen vengeful fury and vindictive passion raging in the dark face of
John Marchmont's widow. But what reason could the woman have for her
hatred of this innocent girl? Again and again Olivia's cousin asked
himself this question; and he was so far away from the truth at last,
that he could only answer it by imagining the lowest motive for the
widow's bad feeling. "She envies my poor little girl her fortune and
position," he thought.

"But you won't leave me alone with my stepmother, will you, Edward?"
Mary said, recurring to her old prayer. "I am not afraid of her, nor of
anybody or anything in the world, while you are with me,--how should I
be?--but I think if I were to be alone with her again, I should die.
She would speak to me again as she spoke upon the night of the ball,
and her bitter taunts would kill me. I _could_ not bear to be in her
power again, Edward."

"And you shall not, my darling," answered the young man, enfolding the
slender, trembling figure in his strong arms. "My own childish pet, you
shall never be exposed to any woman's insolence or tyranny. You shall
be sheltered and protected, and hedged in on every side by your
husband's love. And when I go to India, you shall sail with me, my
pearl. Mary, look up and smile at me, and let's have no more talk of
cruel stepmothers. How strange it seems to me, Polly dear, that you
should have been so womanly when you were a child, and yet are so
childlike now you are a woman!"

The mistress of Marchmont Towers looked doubtfully at her husband, as
if she feared her childishness might be displeasing to him.

"You don't love me any the less because of that, do you, Edward?" she
asked timidly.

"Because of what, my treasure?"

"Because I am so--childish?"

"Polly," cried the young man, "do you think Jupiter liked Hebe any the
less because she was as fresh and innocent as the nectar she served out
to him? If he had, my dear, he'd have sent for Clotho, or Atropos, or
some one or other of the elderly maiden ladies of Hades, to wait upon
him as cupbearer. I wouldn't have you otherwise than you are, Polly, by
so much as one thought."

The girl looked up at her husband in a rapture of innocent affection.

"I am too happy, Edward," she said, in a low awe-stricken whisper--"I
am too happy! So much happiness can never last."

Alas! the orphan girl's experience of this life had early taught her
the lesson which some people learn so late. She had learnt to distrust
the equal blue of a summer sky, the glorious splendour of the blazing
sunlight. She was accustomed to sorrow; but these brief glimpses of
perfect happiness filled her with a dim sense of terror. She felt like
some earthly wanderer who had strayed across the threshold of Paradise.
In the midst of her delight and admiration, she trembled for the moment
in which the ruthless angels, bearing flaming swords, should drive her
from the celestial gates.

"It can't last, Edward," she murmured.

"Can't last, Polly!" cried the young man; "why, my dove is transformed
all at once into a raven. We have outlived our troubles, Polly, like
the hero and heroine in one of your novels; and what is to prevent our
living happy ever afterwards, like them? If you remember, my dear, no
sorrows or trials ever fall to the lot of people _after_ marriage. The
persecutions, the separations, the estrangements, are all ante-nuptial.
When once your true novelist gets his hero and heroine up to the
altar-rails in real earnest,--he gets them into the church sometimes,
and then forbids the banns, or brings a former wife, or a rightful
husband, pale and denouncing, from behind a pillar, and drives the
wretched pair out again, to persecute them through three hundred pages
more before he lets them get back again,--but when once the important
words are spoken and the knot tied, the story's done, and the happy
couple get forty or fifty years' wedded bliss, as a set-off against the
miseries they have endured in the troubled course of a twelvemonth's
courtship. That's the sort of thing, isn't it, Polly?"

The clock of St. Cross, sounding faintly athwart the meadows, struck
three as the young man finished speaking.

"Three o'clock, Polly!" he cried; "we must go home, my pet. I mean to
be businesslike to-day."

Upon each day in that happy honeymoon holiday Captain Arundel had made
some such declaration with regard to his intention of being
businesslike; that is to say, setting himself deliberately to the task
of writing those letters which should announce and explain his marriage
to the people who had a right to hear of it. But the soldier had a
dislike to all letter-writing, and a special horror of any epistolary
communication which could come under the denomination of a
business-letter; so the easy summer days slipped by,--the delicious
drowsy noontides, the soft and dreamy twilight, the tender moonlit
nights,--and the Captain put off the task for which he had no fancy,
from after breakfast until after dinner, and from after dinner until
after breakfast; always beguiled away from his open travelling-desk by
a word from Mary, who called him to the window to look at a pretty
child on the village green before the inn, or at the blacksmith's dog,
or the tinker's donkey, or a tired Italian organ-boy who had strayed
into that out-of-the-way nook, or at the smart butcher from Winchester,
who rattled over in a pony-cart twice a week to take orders from the
gentry round about, and to insult and defy the local purveyor, whose
stock-in-trade generally seemed to consist of one leg of mutton and a
dish of pig's fry.

The young couple walked slowly through the meadows, crossing rustic
wooden bridges that spanned the winding stream, loitering to look down
into the clear water at the fish which Captain Arundel pointed out, but
which Mary could never see;--that young lady always fixing her eyes
upon some long trailing weed afloat in the transparent water, while the
silvery trout indicated by her husband glided quietly away to the sedgy
bottom of the stream. They lingered by the water-mill, beneath whose
shadow some children were fishing; they seized upon every pretext for
lengthening that sunny homeward walk, and only reached the inn as the
village clocks were striking four, at which hour Captain Arundel had
ordered dinner.

But after the simple little repast, mild and artless in its nature as
the fair young spirit of the bride herself; after the landlord,
sympathetic yet respectful, had in his own person attended upon his two
guests; after the pretty rustic chamber had been cleared of all
evidence of the meal that had been eaten, Edward Arundel began
seriously to consider the business in hand.

"The letters must be written, Polly," he said, seating himself at a
table near the open window. Trailing branches of jasmine and
honeysuckle made a framework round the diamond-paned casement; the
perfumed blossoms blew into the room with every breath of the warm
August breeze, and hung trembling in the folds of the chintz curtains.
Mr. Arundel's gaze wandered dreamily away through this open window to
the primitive picture without,--the scattered cottages upon the other
side of the green, the cattle standing in the pond, the cackling geese
hurrying homeward across the purple ridge of common, the village
gossips loitering beneath the faded sign that hung before the low white
tavern at the angle of the road. He looked at all these things as he
flung his leathern desk upon the table, and made a great parade of
unlocking and opening it.

"The letters must be written," he repeated, with a smothered sigh. "Did
you ever notice a peculiar property in stationery, Polly?"

Mrs. Edward Arundel only opened her brown eyes to their widest extent,
and stared at her husband.

"No, I see you haven't," said the young man. "How should you, you
fortunate Polly? You've never had to write any business-letters yet,
though you are an heiress. The peculiarity of all stationery, my dear,
is, that it is possessed of an intuitive knowledge of the object for
which it is to be used. If one has to write an unpleasant letter,
Polly, it might go a little smoother, you know; one might round one's
paragraphs, and spell the difficult words--the 'believes' and
'receives,' the 'tills' and 'untils,' and all that sort of
thing--better with a pleasant pen, an easy-going, jolly, soft-nibbed
quill, that would seem to say, 'Cheer up, old fellow! I'll carry you
through it; we'll get to "your very obedient servant" before you know
where you are,' and so on. But, bless your heart, Polly! let a poor
unbusinesslike fellow try to write a business-letter, and everything
goes against him. The pen knows what he's at, and jibs, and stumbles,
and shies about the paper, like a broken-down screw; the ink turns
thick and lumpy; the paper gets as greasy as a London pavement after a
fall of snow, till a poor fellow gives up, and knocks under to the
force of circumstances. You see if my pen doesn't splutter, Polly, the
moment I address Richard Paulette."

Captain Arundel was very careful in the adjustment of his sheet of
paper, and began his letter with an air of resolution.

"White Hart Inn, Milldale, near Winchester,
"August 14th.

"MY DEAR SIR,"

He wrote as much as this with great promptitude, and then, with his
elbow on the table, fell to staring at his pretty young wife and
drumming his fingers on his chin. Mary was sitting opposite her husband
at the open window, working, or making a pretence of being occupied
with some impossible fragment of Berlin wool-work, while she watched
her husband.

"How pretty you look in that white frock, Polly!" said the soldier;
"you call those things frocks, don't you? And that blue sash, too,--you
ought always to wear white, Mary, like your namesakes abroad who are
_vouée au blanc_ by their faithful mothers, and who are a blessing to
the laundresses for the first seven or fourteen years of their lives.
What shall I say to Paulette? He's such a jolly fellow, there oughtn't
to be much difficulty about the matter. 'My dear sir,' seems absurdly
stiff; 'my dear Paulette,'--that's better,--'I write this to inform you
that your client, Miss Mary March----' What's that, Polly?"

It was the postman, a youth upon a pony, with the afternoon letters
from London. Captain Arundel flung down his pen and went to the window.
He had some interest in this young man's arrival, as he had left orders
that such letters as were addressed to him at the hotel in Covent
Garden should be forwarded to him at Milldale.

"I daresay there's a letter from Germany, Polly," he said eagerly. "My
mother and Letitia are capital correspondents; I'll wager anything
there's a letter, and I can answer it in the one I'm going to write
this evening, and that'll be killing two birds with one stone. I'll run
down to the postman, Polly."

Captain Arundel had good reason to go after his letters, for there
seemed little chance of those missives being brought to him. The
youthful postman was standing in the porch drinking ale out of a
ponderous earthenware mug, and talking to the landlord, when Edward
went down.

"Any letters for me, Dick?" the Captain asked. He knew the Christian
name of almost every visitor or hanger-on at the little inn, though he
had not stayed there an entire fortnight, and was as popular and
admired as if he had been some free-spoken young squire to whom all the
land round about belonged.

"'Ees, sir," the young man answered, shuffling off his cap; "there be
two letters for ye."

He handed the two packets to Captain Arundel, who looked doubtfully at
the address of the uppermost, which, like the other, had been
re-directed by the people at the London hotel. The original address of
this letter was in a handwriting that was strange to him; but it bore
the postmark of the village from which the Dangerfield letters were
sent.

The back of the inn looked into an orchard, and through an open door
opposite to the porch Edward Arundel saw the low branches of the trees,
and the ripening fruit red and golden in the afternoon sunlight. He
went out into this orchard to read his letters, his mind a little
disturbed by the strange handwriting upon the Dangerfield epistle.

The letter was from his father's housekeeper, imploring him most
earnestly to go down to the Park without delay. Squire Arundel had been
stricken with paralysis, and was declared to be in imminent danger.
Mrs. and Miss Arundel and Mr. Reginald were away in Germany. The
faithful old servant implored the younger son to lose no time in
hurrying home, if he wished to see his father alive.

The soldier leaned against the gnarled grey trunk of an old apple-tree,
and stared at this letter with a white awe-stricken face.

What was he to do? He must go to his father, of course. He must go
without a moment's delay. He must catch the first train that would
carry him westward from Southampton. There could be no question as to
his duty. He must go; he must leave his young wife.

His heart sank with a sharp thrill of pain, and with perhaps some faint
shuddering sense of an unknown terror, as he thought of this.

"It was lucky I didn't write the letters," he reflected; "no one will
guess the secret of my darling's retreat. She can stay here till I come
back to her. God knows I shall hurry back the moment my duty sets me
free. These people will take care of her. No one will know where to
look for her. I'm very glad I didn't write to Olivia. We were so happy
this morning! Who could think that sorrow would come between us so
soon?"

Captain Arundel looked at his watch. It was a quarter to six o'clock,
and he knew that an express left Southampton for the west at eight.
There would be time for him to catch that train with the help of a
sturdy pony belonging to the landlord of the White Hart, which would
rattle him over to the station in an hour and a half. There would be
time for him to catch the train; but, oh! how little time to comfort
his darling--how little time to reconcile his young wife to the
temporary separation!

He hurried back to the porch, briefly explained to the landlord what
had happened, ordered the pony and gig to be got ready immediately, and
then went very, very slowly upstairs, to the room in which his young
wife sat by the open window waiting for his return.

Mary looked up at his face as he entered the room, and that one glance
told her of some new sorrow.

"Edward," she cried, starting up from her chair with a look of terror,
"my stepmother has come."

Even in his trouble the young man smiled at his foolish wife's
all-absorbing fear of Olivia Marchmont.

"No, my darling," he said; "I wish to heaven our worst trouble were the
chance of your father's widow breaking in upon us. Something has
happened, Mary; something very sorrowful, very serious for me. My
father is ill, Polly dear, dangerously ill, and I must go to him."

Mary Arundel drew a long breath. Her face had grown very white, and the
hands that were linked tightly round her husband's arm trembled a
little.

"I will try to bear it," she said; "I will try to bear it."

"God bless you, my darling!" the soldier answered fervently, clasping
his young wife to his breast. "I know you will. It will be a very short
parting, Mary dearest. I will come back to you directly I have seen my
father. If he is worse, there will be little need for me to stop at
Dangerfield; if he is better, I can take you back there with me. My own
darling love, it is very bitter for us to be parted thus; but I know
that you will bear it like a heroine. Won't you, Polly?"

"I will try to bear it, dear."

She said very little more than this, but clung about her husband, not
with any desperate force, not with any clamorous and tumultuous grief,
but with a half-despondent resignation; as a drowning man, whose
strength is well-nigh exhausted, may cling, in his hopelessness, to a
spar, which he knows he must presently abandon.

Mary Arundel followed her husband hither and thither while he made his
brief and hurried preparations for the sudden journey; but although she
was powerless to assist him,--for her trembling hands let fall
everything she tried to hold, and there was a mist before her eyes,
which distorted and blotted the outline of every object she looked
at,--she hindered him by no noisy lamentations, she distressed him by
no tears. She suffered, as it was her habit to suffer, quietly and
uncomplainingly.

The sun was sinking when she went with Edward downstairs to the porch,
before which the landlord's pony and gig were in waiting, in custody of
a smart lad who was to accompany Mr. Arundel to Southampton. There was
no time for any protracted farewell. It was better so, perhaps, Edward
thought. He would be back so soon, that the grief he felt in this
parting--and it may be that his suffering was scarcely less than
Mary's--seemed wasted anguish, to which it would have been sheer
cowardice to give way. But for all this the soldier very nearly broke
down when he saw his childish wife's piteous face, white in the evening
sunlight, turned to him in mute appeal, as if the quivering lips would
fain have entreated him to abandon all and to remain. He lifted the
fragile figure in his arms,--alas! it had never seemed so fragile as
now,--and covered the pale face with passionate kisses and
fast-dropping tears.

"God bless and defend you, Mary! God keep----"

He was ashamed of the huskiness of his voice, and putting his wife
suddenly away from him, he sprang into the gig, snatched the reins from
the boy's hand, and drove away at the pony's best speed. The
old-fashioned vehicle disappeared in a cloud of dust; and Mary, looking
after her husband with eyes that were as yet tearless, saw nothing but
glaring light and confusion, and a pastoral landscape that reeled and
heaved like a stormy sea.

It seemed to her, as she went slowly back to her room, and sat down
amidst the disorder of open portmanteaus and overturned hatboxes, which
the young man had thrown here and there in his hurried selection of the
few things necessary for him to take on his hasty journey--it seemed as
if the greatest calamity of her life had now befallen her. As
hopelessly as she had thought of her father's death, she now thought of
Edward Arundel's departure. She could not see beyond the acute anguish
of this separation. She could not realise to herself that there was no
cause for all this terrible sorrow; that the parting was only a
temporary one; and that her husband would return to her in a few days
at the furthest. Now that she was alone, now that the necessity for
heroism was past, she abandoned herself utterly to the despair that had
held possession of her soul from the moment in which Captain Arundel
had told her of his father's illness.

The sun went down behind the purple hills that sheltered the western
side of the little village. The tree-tops in the orchard below the open
window of Mrs. Arundel's bedroom grew dim in the grey twilight. Little
by little the sound of voices in the rooms below died away into
stillness. The fresh rosy-cheeked country girl who had waited upon the
young husband and wife, came into the sitting-room with a pair of
wax-candles in old-fashioned silver candlesticks, and lingered in the
room for a little time, expecting to receive some order from the lonely
watcher. But Mary had locked the door of her bedchamber, and sat with
her head upon the sill of the open window, looking out into the dim
orchard. It was only when the stars glimmered in the tranquil sky that
the girl's blank despair gave way before a sudden burst of tears, and
she flung herself down beside the white-curtained bed to pray for her
young husband. She prayed for him in an ecstatic fervour of love and
faith, carried away by the new hopefulness that arose out of her ardent
supplications, and picturing him going triumphant on his course, to
find his father out of danger,--restored to health, perhaps,--and to
return to her before the stars glimmered through the darkness of
another summer's night. She prayed for him, hoping and believing
everything; though at the hour in which she knelt, with the faint
starlight shimmering upon her upturned face and clasped hands, Edward
Arundel was lying, maimed and senseless, in the wretched waiting-room
of a little railway-station in Dorsetshire, watched over by an obscure
country surgeon, while the frightened officials scudded here and there
in search of some vehicle in which the young man might be conveyed to
the nearest town.

There had been one of those accidents which seem terribly common on
every line of railway, however well managed. A signalman had mistaken
one train for another; a flag had been dropped too soon; and the
down-express had run into a heavy luggage-train blundering up from
Exeter with farm-produce for the London markets. Two men had been
killed, and a great many passengers hurt; some very seriously. Edward
Arundel's case was perhaps one of the most serious amongst these.



CHAPTER V.

SOUNDING THE DEPTHS.


Lavinia Weston spent the evening after her visit to Marchmont Towers at
her writing-desk, which, like everything else appertaining to her, was
a model of neatness and propriety; perfect in its way, although it was
no marvellous specimen of walnut-wood and burnished gold, no elegant
structure of papier-mâché and mother-of-pearl, but simply a
schoolgirl's homely rosewood desk, bought for fifteen shillings or a
guinea.

Mrs. Weston had administered the evening refreshment of weak tea, stale
bread, and strong butter to her meek husband, and had dismissed him to
the surgery, a sunken and rather cellar-like apartment opening out of
the prim second-best parlour, and approached from the village street by
a side-door. The surgeon was very well content to employ himself with
the preparation of such draughts and boluses as were required by the
ailing inhabitants of Kemberling, while his wife sat at her desk in the
room above him. He left his gallipots and pestle and mortar once or
twice in the course of the evening, to clamber ponderously up the three
or four stairs leading to the sitting-room, and stare through the
keyhole of the door at Mrs. Weston's thoughtful face, and busy hand
gliding softly over the smooth note-paper. He did this in no prying or
suspicious spirit, but out of sheer admiration for his wife.

"What a mind she has!" he murmured rapturously, as he went back to his
work; "what a mind!"

The letter which Lavinia Weston wrote that evening was a very long one.
She was one of those women who write long letters upon every convenient
occasion. To-night she covered two sheets of note-paper with her small
neat handwriting. Those two sheets contained a detailed account of the
interview that had taken place that day between the surgeon's wife and
Olivia; and the letter was addressed to the artist, Paul Marchmont.

Perhaps it was in consequence of the receipt of this letter that Paul
Marchmont arrived at his sister's house at Kemberling two days after
Mrs. Weston's visit to Marchmont Towers. He told the surgeon that he
came to Lincolnshire for a few days' change of air, after a long spell
of very hard work; and George Weston, who looked upon his
brother-in-law as an intellectual demigod, was very well content to
accept any explanation of Mr. Marchmont's visit.

"Kemberling isn't a very lively place for you, Mr. Paul," he said
apologetically,--he always called his wife's brother Mr. Paul,--"but I
dare say Lavinia will contrive to make you comfortable. She persuaded
me to come here when old Dawnfield died; but I can't say she acted with
her usual tact, for the business ain't as good as my Stanfield
practice; but I don't tell Lavinia so."

Paul Marchmont smiled.

"The business will pick up by-and-by, I daresay," he said. "You'll have
the Marchmont Towers family to attend to in good time, I suppose."

"That's what Lavinia said," answered the surgeon. "'Mrs. John Marchmont
can't refuse to employ a relation,' she says; 'and, as first-cousin to
Mary Marchmont's father, I ought'--meaning herself, you know--'to have
some influence in that quarter.' But then, you see, the very week we
come here the gal goes and runs away; which rather, as one may say,
puts a spoke in our wheel, you know."

Mr. George Weston rubbed his chin reflectively as he concluded thus. He
was a man given to spending his leisure-hours--when he had any leisure,
which was not very often--in tavern parlours, where the affairs of the
nation were settled and unsettled every evening over sixpenny glasses
of hollands and water; and he regretted his removal from Stanfield,
which had been as the uprooting of all his dearest associations. He was
a solemn man, who never hazarded an opinion lightly,--perhaps because
he never had an opinion to hazard,--and his stolidity won him a good
deal of respect from strangers; but in the hands of his wife he was
meeker than the doves that cooed in the pigeon-house behind his
dwelling, and more plastic than the knob of white wax upon which
industrious Mrs. Weston was wont to rub her thread when engaged in the
mysteries of that elaborate and terrible science which women
paradoxically call _plain_ needlework.

Paul Marchmont presented himself at the Towers upon the day after his
arrival at Kemberling. His interview with the widow was a very long
one. He had studied every line of his sister's letter; he had weighed
every word that had fallen from Olivia's lips and had been recorded by
Lavinia Weston; and taking the knowledge thus obtained as his
starting-point, he took his dissecting-knife and went to work at an
intellectual autopsy. He anatomised the wretched woman's soul. He made
her tell her secret, and bare her tortured breast before him; now
wringing some hasty word from her impatience, now entrapping her into
some admission,--if only so much as a defiant look, a sudden lowering
of the dark brows, an involuntary compression of the lips. He _made_
her reveal herself to him. Poor Rosencranz and Guildenstern were sorry
blunderers in that art which is vulgarly called pumping, and were
easily put out by a few quips and quaint retorts from the mad Danish
prince; but Paul Marchmont _would_ have played upon Hamlet more deftly
than ever mortal musician played upon pipe or recorder, and would have
fathomed the remotest depths of that sorrowful and erratic soul. Olivia
writhed under the torture of that polite inquisition, for she knew that
her secrets were being extorted from her; that her pitiful folly--that
folly which she would have denied even to herself, if possible--was
being laid bare in all its weak foolishness. She knew this; but she was
compelled to smile in the face of her bland inquisitor, to respond to
his commonplace expressions of concern about the protracted absence of
the missing girl, and meekly to receive his suggestions respecting the
course it was her duty to take. He had the air of responding to _her_
suggestions, rather than of himself dictating any particular line of
conduct. He affected to believe that he was only agreeing with some
understood ideas of hers, while he urged his own views upon her.

"Then we are quite of one mind in this, my dear Mrs. Marchmont," he
said at last; "this unfortunate girl must not be suffered to remain
away from her legitimate home any longer than we can help. It is our
duty to find and bring her back. I need scarcely say that you, being
bound to her by every tie of affection, and having, beyond this, the
strongest claim upon her gratitude for your devoted fulfilment of the
trust confided in you,--one hears of these things, Mrs. Marchmont, in a
country village like Kemberling,--I need scarcely say that you are the
most fitting person to win the poor child back to a sense of her
duty--if she _can_ be won to such a sense." Paul Marchmont added, after
a sudden pause and a thoughtful sigh, "I sometimes fear----"

He stopped abruptly, waiting until Olivia should question him.

"You sometimes fear----?"

"That--that the error into which Miss Marchmont has fallen is the
result of a mental rather than of a moral deficiency."

"What do you mean?"

"I mean this, my dear Mrs. Marchmont," answered the artist, gravely;
"one of the most powerful evidences of the soundness of a man's brain
is his capability of assigning a reasonable motive for every action of
his life. No matter how unreasonable the action in itself may seem, if
the motive for that action can be demonstrated. But the moment a man
acts _without_ motive, we begin to take alarm and to watch him. He is
eccentric; his conduct is no longer amenable to ordinary rule; and we
begin to trace his eccentricities to some weakness or deficiency in his
judgment or intellect. Now, I ask you what motive Mary Marchmont can
have had for running away from this house?"

Olivia quailed under the piercing scrutiny of the artist's cold grey
eyes, but she did not attempt to reply to his question.

"The answer is very simple," he continued, after that long scrutiny;
"the girl could have had no cause for flight; while, on the other hand,
every reasonable motive that can be supposed to actuate a woman's
conduct was arrayed against her. She had a happy home, a kind
stepmother. She was within a few years of becoming undisputed mistress
of a very large estate. And yet, immediately after having assisted at a
festive entertainment, to all appearance as gay and happy as the gayest
and happiest there, this girl runs away in the dead of the night,
abandoning the mansion which is her own property, and assigning no
reason whatever for what she does. Can you wonder, then, if I feel
confirmed in an opinion that I formed upon the day on which I heard the
reading of my cousin's will?"

"What opinion?"

"That Mary Marchmont is as feeble in mind as she is fragile in body."

He launched this sentence boldly, and waited for Olivia's reply. He had
discovered the widow's secret. He had fathomed the cause of her jealous
hatred of Mary Marchmont; but even _he_ did not yet understand the
nature of the conflict in the desperate woman's breast. She could not
be wicked all at once. Against every fresh sin she made a fresh
struggle, and she would not accept the lie which the artist tried to
force upon her.

"I do not think that there is any deficiency in my stepdaughter's
intellect," she said, resolutely.

She was beginning to understand that Paul Marchmont wanted to ally
himself with her against the orphan heiress, but as yet she did not
understand why he should do so. She was slow to comprehend feelings
that were utterly foreign to her own nature. There was so little of
mercenary baseness in this strange woman's soul, that had the flame of
a candle alone stood between her and the possession of Marchmont
Towers, I doubt if she would have cared to waste a breath upon its
extinction. She had lived away from the world, and out of the world;
and it was difficult for her to comprehend the mean and paltry
wickedness which arise out of the worship of Baal.

Paul Marchmont recoiled a little before the straight answer which the
widow had given him.

"You think Miss Marchmont strong-minded, then, perhaps?" he said.

"No; not strong minded."

"My dear Mrs. Marchmont, you deal in paradoxes," exclaimed the artist.
"You say that your stepdaughter is neither weak-minded nor
strong-minded?"

"Weak enough, perhaps, to be easily influenced by other people; weak
enough to believe anything my cousin Edward Arundel might choose to
tell her; but not what is generally called deficient in intellect."

"You think her perfectly able to take care of herself?"

"Yes; I think so."

"And yet this running away looks almost as if----. But I have no wish
to force any unpleasant belief upon you, my dear madam. I think--as you
yourself appear to suggest--that the best thing we can do is to get
this poor girl home again as quickly as possible. It will never do for
the mistress of Marchmont Towers to be wandering about the world with
Mr. Edward Arundel. Pray pardon me, Mrs. Marchmont, if I speak rather
disrespectfully of your cousin; but I really cannot think that the
gentleman has acted very honourably in this business."

Olivia was silent. She remembered the passionate indignation of the
young soldier, the angry defiance hurled at her, as Edward Arundel
galloped away from the gaunt western façade. She remembered these
things, and involuntarily contrasted them with the smooth blandness of
Paul Marchmont's talk, and the deadly purpose lurking beneath it--of
which deadly purpose some faint suspicion was beginning to dawn upon
her.

If she could have thought Mary Marchmont mad,--if she could have
thought Edward Arundel base, she would have been glad; for then there
would have been some excuse for her own wickedness. But she could not
think so. She slipped little by little down into the black gulf; now
dragged by her own mad passion; now lured yet further downward by Paul
Marchmont.

Between this man and eleven thousand a year the life of a fragile girl
was the solitary obstacle. For three years it had been so, and for
three years Paul Marchmont had waited--patiently, as it was his habit
to wait--the hour and the opportunity for action. The hour and
opportunity had come, and this woman, Olivia Marchmont, only stood in
his way. She must become either his enemy or his tool, to be baffled or
to be made useful. He had now sounded the depths of her nature, and he
determined to make her his tool.

"It shall be my business to discover this poor child's hiding-place,"
he said; "when that is found I will communicate with you, and I know
you will not refuse to fulfil the trust confided to you by your late
husband. You will bring your stepdaughter back to this house, and
henceforward protect her from the dangerous influence of Edward
Arundel."

Olivia looked at the speaker with an expression which seemed like
terror. It was as if she said,--

"Are you the devil, that you hold out this temptation to me, and twist
my own passions to serve your purpose?"

And then she paltered with her conscience.

"Do you consider that it is my duty to do this?" she asked.

"My dear Mrs. Marchmont, most decidedly."

"I will do it, then. I--I--wish to do my duty."

"And you can perform no greater act of charity than by bringing this
unhappy girl back to a sense of _her_ duty. Remember, that her
reputation, her future happiness, may fall a sacrifice to this foolish
conduct, which, I regret to say, is very generally known in the
neighbourhood. Forgive me if I express my opinion too freely; but I
cannot help thinking, that if Mr. Arundel's intentions had been
strictly honourable, he would have written to you before this, to tell
you that his search for the missing girl had failed; or, in the event
of his finding her, he would have taken the earliest opportunity of
bringing her back to her own home. My poor cousin's somewhat
unprotected position, her wealth, and her inexperience of the world,
place her at the mercy of a fortune-hunter; and Mr. Arundel has himself
to thank if his conduct gives rise to the belief that he wishes to
compromise this girl in the eyes of the scandalous, and thus make sure
of your consent to a marriage which would give him command of my
cousin's fortune."

Olivia Marchmont's bosom heaved with the stormy beating of her heart.
Was she to sit calmly by and hold her peace while this man slandered
the brave young soldier, the bold, reckless, generous-hearted lad, who
had shone upon her out of the darkness of her life, as the very
incarnation of all that is noble and admirable in mankind? Was she to
sit quietly by and hear a stranger lie away her kinsman's honour,
truth, and manhood?

Yes, she must do so. This man had offered her a price for her truth and
her soul. He was ready to help her to the revenge she longed for. He
was ready to give her his aid in separating the innocent young lovers,
whose pure affection had poisoned her life, whose happiness was worse
than the worst death to her. She kept silent, therefore, and waited for
Paul to speak again.

"I will go up to Town to-morrow, and set to work about this business,"
the artist said, as he rose to take leave of Mrs. Marchmont. "I do not
believe that I shall have much difficulty in finding the young lady's
hiding-place. My first task shall be to look for Mr. Arundel. You can
perhaps give me the address of some place in London where your cousin
is in the habit of staying?"

"I can."

"Thank you; that will very much simplify matters. I shall write you
immediate word of any discovery I make, and will then leave all the
rest to you. My influence over Mary Marchmont as an entire stranger
could be nothing. Yours, on the contrary, must be unbounded. It will be
for you to act upon my letter."

 * * * * *

Olivia Marchmont waited for two days and nights for the promised
letter. Upon the third morning it came. The artist's epistle was very
brief:

"MY DEAR MRS. MARCHMONT,--I have made the necessary discovery. Miss
Marchmont is to be found at the White Hart Inn, Milldale, near
Winchester. May I venture to urge your proceeding there in search of
her without delay?

"Yours very faithfully,

"PAUL MARCHMONT.

"_Charlotte Street, Fitzroy Square,_
"_Aug._ 15_th_."



CHAPTER VI.

RISEN FROM THE GRAVE.


The rain dripped ceaselessly upon the dreary earth under a grey
November sky,--a dull and lowering sky, that seemed to brood over this
lower world with some menace of coming down to blot out and destroy it.
The express-train, rushing headlong across the wet flats of
Lincolnshire, glared like a meteor in the gray fog; the dismal shriek
of the engine was like the cry of a bird of prey. The few passengers
who had chosen that dreary winter's day for their travels looked
despondently out at the monotonous prospect, seeking in vain to descry
some spot of hope in the joyless prospect; or made futile attempts to
read their newspapers by the dim light of the lamp in the roof of the
carriage. Sulky passengers shuddered savagely as they wrapped
themselves in huge woollen rugs or ponderous coverings made from the
skins of wild beasts. Melancholy passengers drew grotesque and hideous
travelling-caps over their brows, and, coiling themselves in the corner
of their seats, essayed to sleep away the weary hours. Everything upon
this earth seemed dismal and damp, cold and desolate, incongruous and
uncomfortable.

But there was one first-class passenger in that Lincolnshire express
who made himself especially obnoxious to his fellows by the display of
an amount of restlessness and superabundant energy quite out of keeping
with the lazy despondency of those about him.

This was a young man with a long tawny beard and a white face,--a very
handsome face, though wan and attenuated, as if with some terrible
sickness, and somewhat disfigured by certain strappings of plaister,
which were bound about a patch of his skull a little above the left
temple. This young man had one side of the carriage to himself; and a
sort of bed had been made up for him with extra cushions, upon which he
lay at full length, when he was still, which was never for very long
together. He was enveloped almost to the chin in voluminous
railway-rugs, but, in spite of these coverings, shuddered every now and
then, as if with cold. He had a pocket-pistol amongst his travelling
paraphernalia, which he applied occasionally to his dry lips. Sometimes
drops of perspiration broke suddenly out upon his forehead, and were
brushed away by a tremulous hand, that was scarcely strong enough to
hold a cambric handkerchief. In short, it was sufficiently obvious to
every one that this young man with the tawny beard had only lately
risen from a sick-bed, and had risen therefrom considerably before the
time at which any prudent medical practitioner would have given him
licence to do so.

It was evident that he was very, very ill, but that he was, if
anything, more ill at ease in mind than in body; and that some terrible
gnawing anxiety, some restless care, some horrible uncertainty or
perpetual foreboding of trouble, would not allow him to be at peace. It
was as much as the three fellow-passengers who sat opposite to him
could do to bear with his impatience, his restlessness, his short
half-stifled moans, his long weary sighs; the horror of his fidgety
feet shuffled incessantly upon the cushions; the suddenly convulsive
jerks with which he would lift himself upon his elbow to stare fiercely
into the dismal fog outside the carriage window; the groans that were
wrung from him as he flung himself into new and painful positions; the
frightful aspect of physical agony which came over his face as he
looked at his watch,--and he drew out and consulted that ill-used
chronometer, upon an average, once in a quarter of an hour; his
impatient crumpling of the crisp leaves of a new "Bradshaw," which he
turned over ever and anon, as if, by perpetual reference to that
mysterious time-table, he might hasten the advent of the hour at which
he was to reach his destination. He was, altogether, a most aggravating
and exasperating travelling companion; and it was only out of Christian
forbearance with the weakness of his physical state that his irritated
fellow-passengers refrained from uniting themselves against him, and
casting him bodily out of the window of the carriage; as a clown
sometimes flings a venerable but tiresome pantaloon through a square
trap or pitfall, lurking, undreamed of, in the façade of an honest
tradesman's dwelling.

The three passengers had, in divers manners, expressed their sympathy
with the invalid traveller; but their courtesies had not been responded
to with any evidence of gratitude or heartiness. The young man had
answered his companions in an absent fashion, scarcely deigning to look
at them as he spoke;--speaking altogether with the air of some
sleep-walker, who roams hither and thither absorbed in a dreadful
dream, making a world for himself, and peopling it with horrible images
unknown to those about him.

Had he been ill?--Yes, very ill. He had had a railway accident, and
then brain-fever. He had been ill for a long time.

Somebody asked him how long.

He shuffled about upon the cushions, and groaned aloud at this
question, to the alarm of the man who had asked it.

"How long?" he cried, in a fierce agony of mental or bodily
uneasiness;--"how long? Two months,--three months,--ever since the 15th
of August."

Then another passenger, looking at the young man's very evident
sufferings from a commercial point of view, asked him whether he had
had any compensation.

"Compensation!" cried the invalid. "What compensation?"

"Compensation from the Railway Company. I hope you've a strong case
against them, for you've evidently been a terrible sufferer."

It was dreadful to see the way in which the sick man writhed under this
question.

"Compensation!" he cried. "What compensation can they give me for an
accident that shut me in a living grave for three months, that
separated me from----? You don't know what you're talking about, sir,"
he added suddenly; "I can't think of this business patiently; I can't
be reasonable. If they'd hacked _me_ to pieces, I shouldn't have cared.
I've been under a red-hot Indian sun, when we fellows couldn't see the
sky above us for the smoke of the cannons and the flashing of the
sabres about our heads, and I'm not afraid of a little cutting and
smashing more or less; but when I think what others may have suffered
through----I'm almost mad, and----!"

He couldn't say any more, for the intensity of his passion had shaken
him as a leaf is shaken by a whirlwind; and he fell back upon the
cushions, trembling in every limb, and groaning aloud. His
fellow-passengers looked at each other rather nervously, and two out of
the three entertained serious thoughts of changing carriages when the
express stopped midway between London and Lincoln.

But they were reassured by-and-by; for the invalid, who was Captain
Edward Arundel, or that pale shadow of the dashing young cavalry
officer which had risen from a sick-bed, relapsed into silence, and
displayed no more alarming symptoms than that perpetual restlessness
and disquietude which is cruelly wearying even to the strongest nerves.
He only spoke once more, and that was when the short day, in which
there had been no actual daylight, was closing in, and the journey
nearly finished, when he startled his companions by crying out
suddenly,--

"O my God! will this journey never come to an end? Shall I never be put
out of this horrible suspense?"

The journey, or at any rate Captain Arundel's share of it, came to an
end almost immediately afterwards, for the train stopped at
Swampington; and while the invalid was staggering feebly to his feet,
eager to scramble out of the carriage, his servant came to the door to
assist and support him.

"You seem to have borne the journey wonderful, sir," the man said
respectfully, as he tried to rearrange his master's wrappings, and to
do as much as circumstances, and the young man's restless impatience,
would allow of being done for his comfort.

"I have suffered the tortures of the infernal regions, Morrison,"
Captain Arundel ejaculated, in answer to his attendant's congratulatory
address. "Get me a fly directly; I must go to the Towers at once."

"Not to-night, sir, surely?" the servant remonstrated, in a tone of
alarm. "Your Mar and the doctors said you _must_ rest at Swampington
for a night."

"I'll rest nowhere till I've been to Marchmont Towers," answered the
young soldier passionately. "If I must walk there,--if I'm to drop down
dead on the road,--I'll go. If the cornfields between this and the
Towers were a blazing prairie or a raging sea, I'd go. Get me a fly,
man; and don't talk to me of my mother or the doctors. I'm going to
look for my wife. Get me a fly."

This demand for a commonplace hackney vehicle sounded rather like an
anti-climax, after the young man's talk of blazing prairies and raging
seas; but passionate reality has no ridiculous side, and Edward
Arundel's most foolish words were sublime by reason of their
earnestness.

"Get me a fly, Morrison," he said, grinding his heel upon the platform
in the intensity of his impatience. "Or, stay; we should gain more in
the end if you were to go to the George--it's not ten minutes' walk
from here; one of the porters will take you--the people there know me,
and they'll let you have some vehicle, with a pair of horses and a
clever driver. Tell them it's for an errand of life and death, and that
Captain Arundel will pay them three times their usual price, or six
times, if they wish. Tell them anything, so long as you get what we
want."

The valet, an old servant of Edward Arundel's father, was carried away
by the young man's mad impetuosity. The vitality of this broken-down
invalid, whose physical weakness contrasted strangely with his mental
energy, bore down upon the grave man-servant like an avalanche, and
carried him whither it would. He was fain to abandon all hope of being
true to the promises which he had given to Mrs. Arundel and the medical
men, and to yield himself to the will of the fiery young soldier.

He left Edward Arundel sitting upon a chair in the solitary
waiting-room, and hurried after the porter who had volunteered to show
him the way to the George Inn, the most prosperous hotel in
Swampington.

The valet had good reason to be astonished by his young master's energy
and determination; for Mary Marchmont's husband was as one rescued from
the very jaws of death. For eleven weeks after that terrible concussion
upon the South-Western Railway, Edward Arundel had lain in a state of
coma,--helpless, mindless; all the story of his life blotted away, and
his brain transformed into as blank a page as if he had been an infant
lying on his mother's knees. A fractured skull had been the young
Captain's chief share in those injuries which were dealt out pretty
freely to the travellers in the Exeter mail on the 15th of August; and
the young man had been conveyed to Dangerfield Park, whilst his
father's corpse lay in stately solemnity in one of the chief rooms,
almost as much a corpse as that dead father.

Mrs. Arundel's troubles had come, as the troubles of rich and
prosperous people often do come, in a sudden avalanche, that threatened
to overwhelm the tender-hearted matron. She had been summoned from
Germany to attend her husband's deathbed; and she was called away from
her faithful watch beside that deathbed, to hear tidings of the
accident that had befallen her younger son.

Neither the Dorsetshire doctor who attended the stricken traveller upon
his homeward journey, and brought the strong man, helpless as a child,
to claim the same tender devotion that had watched over his infancy,
nor the Devonshire doctors who were summoned to Dangerfield, gave any
hope of their patient's recovery. The sufferer might linger for years,
they said; but his existence would be only a living death, a horrible
blank, which it was a cruelty to wish prolonged. But when a great
London surgeon appeared upon the scene, a new light, a wonderful gleam
of hope, shone in upon the blackness of the mother's despair.

This great London surgeon, who was a very unassuming and matter-of-fact
little man, and who seemed in a great hurry to earn his fee and run
back to Saville Row by the next express, made a brief examination of
the patient, asked a very few sharp and trenchant questions of the
reverential provincial medical practitioners, and then declared that
the chief cause of Edward Arundel's state lay in the fact that a
portion of the skull was depressed,--a splinter pressed upon the brain.

The provincial practitioners opened their eyes very wide; and one of
them ventured to mutter something to the effect that he had thought as
much for a long time. The London surgeon further stated, that until the
pressure was removed from the patient's brain, Captain Edward Arundel
would remain in precisely the same state as that into which he had
fallen immediately upon the accident. The splinter could only be
removed by a very critical operation, and this operation must be
deferred until the patient's bodily strength was in some measure
restored.

The surgeon gave brief but decisive directions to the provincial
medical men as to the treatment of their patient during this
interregnum, and then departed, after promising to return as soon as
Captain Arundel was in a fit state for the operation. This period did
not arrive till the first week in November, when the Devonshire doctors
ventured to declare their patient's shattered frame in a great measure
renovated by their devoted attention, and the tender care of the best
of mothers.

The great surgeon came. The critical operation was performed, with such
eminent success as to merit a very long description, which afterwards
appeared in the _Lancet_; and slowly, like the gradual lifting of a
curtain, the black shadows passed away from Edward Arundel's mind, and
the memory of the past returned to him.

It was then that he raved madly about his young wife, perpetually
demanding that she might be summoned to him; continually declaring that
some great misfortune would befall her if she were not brought to his
side, that, even in his feebleness, he might defend and protect her.
His mother mistook his vehemence for the raving of delirium. The
doctors fell into the same error, and treated him for brain-fever. It
was only when the young soldier demonstrated to them that he could, by
making an effort over himself, be as reasonable as they were, that he
convinced them of their mistake. Then he begged to be left alone with
his mother; and, with his feverish hands clasped in hers, asked her the
meaning of her black dress, and the reason why his young wife had not
come to him. He learned that his mother's mourning garments were worn
in memory of his dead father. He learned also, after much bewilderment
and passionate questioning, that no tidings of Mary Marchmont had ever
come to Dangerfield.

It was then that the young man told his mother the story of his
marriage: how that marriage had been contracted in haste, but with no
real desire for secrecy; how he had, out of mere idleness, put off
writing to his friends until that last fatal night; and how, at the
very moment when the pen was in his hand and the paper spread out
before him, the different claims of a double duty had torn him asunder,
and he had been summoned from the companionship of his bride to the
deathbed of his father.

Mrs. Arundel tried in vain to set her son's mind at rest upon the
subject of his wife's silence.

"No, mother!" he cried; "it is useless talking to me. You don't know my
poor darling. She has the courage of a heroine, as well as the
simplicity of a child. There has been some foul play at the bottom of
this; it is treachery that has kept my wife from me. She would have
come here on foot, had she been free to come. I know whose hand is in
this business. Olivia Marchmont has kept my poor girl a prisoner;
Olivia Marchmont has set herself between me and my darling!"

"But you don't know this, Edward. I'll write to Mr. Paulette; he will
be able to tell us what has happened."

The young man writhed in a sudden paroxysm of mental agony.

"Write to Mr. Paulette!" he exclaimed. "No, mother; there shall be no
delay, no waiting for return-posts. That sort of torture would kill me
in a few hours. No, mother; I will go to my wife by the first train
that will take me on my way to Lincolnshire."

"You will go! You, Edward! in your state!"

There was a terrible outburst of remonstrance and entreaty on the part
of the poor mother. Mrs. Arundel went down upon her knees before her
son, imploring him not to leave Dangerfield till his strength was
recovered; imploring him to let her telegraph a summons to Richard
Paulette; to let her go herself to Marchmont Towers in search of Mary;
to do anything rather than carry out the one mad purpose that he was
bent on,--the purpose of going himself to look for his wife.

The mother's tears and prayers were vain; no adamant was ever firmer
than the young soldier.

"She is my wife, mother," he said; "I have sworn to protect and cherish
her; and I have reason to think she has fallen into merciless hands. If
I die upon the road, I must go to her. It is not a case in which I can
do my duty by proxy. Every moment I delay is a wrong to that poor
helpless girl. Be reasonable, dear mother, I implore you; I should
suffer fifty times more by the torture of suspense if I stayed here,
than I can possibly suffer in a railroad journey from here to
Lincolnshire."

The soldier's strong will triumphed over every opposition. The
provincial doctors held up their hands, and protested against the
madness of their patient; but without avail. All that either Mrs.
Arundel or the doctors could do, was to make such preparations and
arrangements as would render the weary journey easier; and it was under
the mother's superintendence that the air-cushions, the brandy-flasks,
the hartshorn, sal-volatile, and railway-rugs, had been provided for
the Captain's comfort.

It was thus that, after a blank interval of three months, Edward
Arundel, like some creature newly risen from the grave, returned to
Swampington, upon his way to Marchmont Towers.

The delay seemed endless to this restless passenger, sitting in the
empty waiting-room of the quiet Lincolnshire station, though the ostler
and stable-boys at the "George" were bestirring themselves with
good-will, urged on by Mr. Morrison's promises of liberal reward for
their trouble, and though the man who was to drive the carriage lost no
time in arraying himself for the journey. Captain Arundel looked at his
watch three times while he sat in that dreary Swampington waiting-room.
There was a clock over the mantelpiece, but he would not trust to that.

"Eight o'clock!" he muttered. "It will be ten before I get to the
Towers, if the carriage doesn't come directly."

He got up, and walked from the waiting-room to the platform, and from
the platform to the door of the station. He was so weak as to be
obliged to support himself with his stick; and even with that help he
tottered and reeled sometimes like a drunken man. But, in his eager
impatience, he was almost unconscious of his own weakness.

"Will it never come?" he muttered. "Will it never come?"

At last, after an intolerable delay, as it seemed to the young man, the
carriage-and-pair from the George Inn rattled up to the door of the
station, with Mr. Morrison upon the box, and a postillion loosely
balanced upon one of the long-legged, long-backed, bony grey horses.
Edward Arundel got into the vehicle before his valet could alight to
assist him.

"Marchmont Towers!" he cried to the postillion; "and a five-pound note
if you get there in less than an hour."

He flung some money to the officials who had gathered about the door to
witness his departure, and who had eagerly pressed forward to render
him that assistance which, even in his weakness, he disdained.

These men looked gravely at each other as the carriage dashed off into
the fog, blundering and reeling as it went along the narrow half-made
road, that led from the desert patch of waste ground upon which the
station was built into the high-street of Swampington.

"Marchmont Towers!" said one of the men, in a tone that seemed to imply
that there was something ominous even in the name of the Lincolnshire
mansion. "What does _he_ want at Marchmont Towers, I wonder?"

"Why, don't you know who he is, mate?" responded the other man,
contemptuously.

"No."

"He's Parson Arundel's nevy,--the young officer that some folks said
ran away with the poor young miss oop at the Towers."

"My word! is he now? Why, I shouldn't ha' known him."

"No; he's a'most like the ghost of what he was, poor young chap. I've
heerd as he was in that accident as happened last August on the
Sou'-Western."

The railway official shrugged his shoulders.

"It's all a queer story," he said. "I can't make out naught about it;
but I know _I_ shouldn't care to go up to the Towers after dark."

Marchmont Towers had evidently fallen into rather evil repute amongst
these simple Lincolnshire people.

 * * * * *

The carriage in which Edward Arundel rode was a superannuated old
chariot, whose uneasy springs rattled and shook the sick man to pieces.
He groaned aloud every now and then from sheer physical agony; and yet
I almost doubt if he knew that he suffered, so superior in its
intensity was the pain of his mind to every bodily torture. Whatever
consciousness he had of his racked and aching limbs was as nothing in
comparison to the racking anguish of suspense, the intolerable agony of
anxiety, which seemed multiplied by every moment. He sat with his face
turned towards the open window of the carriage, looking out steadily
into the night. There was nothing before him but a blank darkness and
thick fog, and a flat country blotted out by the falling rain; but he
strained his eyes until the pupils dilated painfully, in his desire to
recognise some landmark in the hidden prospect.

"_When_ shall I get there?" he cried aloud, in a paroxysm of rage and
grief. "My own one, my pretty one, my wife, when shall I get to you?"

He clenched his thin hands until the nails cut into his flesh. He
stamped upon the floor of the carriage. He cursed the rusty, creaking
springs, the slow-footed horses, the pools of water through which the
wretched animals floundered pastern-deep. He cursed the darkness of the
night, the stupidity of the postillion, the length of the
way,--everything, and anything, that kept him back from the end which
he wanted to reach.

At last the end came. The carriage drew up before the tall iron gates,
behind which stretched, dreary and desolate as some patch of
common-land, that melancholy waste which was called a park.

A light burned dimly in the lower window of the lodge,--a little spot
that twinkled faintly red and luminous through the darkness and the
rain; but the iron gates were as closely shut as if Marchmont Towers
had been a prison-house. Edward Arundel was in no humour to linger long
for the opening of those gates. He sprang from the carriage, reckless
of the weakness of his cramped limbs, before the valet could descend
from the rickety box-seat, or the postillion could get off his horse,
and shook the wet and rusty iron bars with his own wasted hands. The
gates rattled, but resisted the concussion; they had evidently been
locked for the night. The young man seized an iron ring, dangling at
the end of a chain, which hung beside one of the stone pillars, and
rang a peal that resounded like an alarm-signal through the darkness. A
fierce watchdog far away in the distance howled dismally at the
summons, and the dissonant shriek of a peacock sounded across the flat.

The door of the lodge was opened about five minutes after the bell had
rung, and an old man peered out into the night, holding a candle shaded
by his feeble hand, and looking suspiciously towards the gate.

"Who is it?" he said.

"It is I, Captain Arundel. Open the gate, please."

The man, who was very old, and whose intellect seemed to have grown as
dim and foggy as the night itself, reflected for a few moments, and
then mumbled,--

"Cap'en Arundel! Ay, to be sure, to be sure. Parson Arundel's nevy; ay,
ay."

He went back into the lodge, to the disgust and aggravation of the
young soldier, who rattled fiercely at the gate once more in his
impatience. But the old man emerged presently, as tranquil as if the
blank November night had been some sunshiny noontide in July, carrying
a lantern and a bunch of keys, one of which he proceeded in a leisurely
manner to apply to the great lock of the gate.

"Let me in!" cried Edward Arundel. "Man alive! do you think I came down
here to stand all night staring through these iron bars? Is Marchmont
Towers a prison, that you shut your gates as if they were never to be
opened until the Day of Judgment?"

The old man responded with a feeble, chirpy laugh, an audible grin,
senile and conciliatory.

"We've no need to keep t' geates open arter dark," he said; "folk
doan't coome to the Toowers arter dark."

He had succeeded by this time in turning the key in the lock; one of
the gates rolled slowly back upon its rusty hinges, creaking and
groaning as if in hoarse protest against all visitors to the Towers;
and Edward Arundel entered the dreary domain which John Marchmont had
inherited from his kinsman.

The postillion turned his horses from the highroad without the gates
into the broad drive leading up to the mansion. Far away, across the
wet flats, the broad western front of that gaunt stone dwelling-place
frowned upon the travellers, its black grimness only relieved by two or
three dim red patches, that told of lighted windows and human
habitation. It was rather difficult to associate friendly flesh and
blood with Marchmont Towers on this dark November night. The nervous
traveller would have rather expected to find diabolical denizens
lurking within those black and stony walls; hideous enchantments
beneath that rain-bespattered roof; weird and incarnate horrors
brooding by deserted hearths, and fearful shrieks of souls in perpetual
pain breaking upon the stillness of the night.

Edward Arundel had no thought of these things. He knew that the place
was darksome and gloomy, and that, in very spite of himself, he had
always been unpleasantly impressed by it; but he knew nothing more. He
only wanted to reach the house without delay, and to ask for the young
wife whom he had parted with upon a balmy August evening three months
before. He wanted this passionately, almost madly; and every moment
made his impatience wilder, his anxiety more intense. It seemed as if
all the journey from Dangerfield Park to Lincolnshire was as nothing
compared to the space that still lay between him and Marchmont Towers.

"We've done it in double-quick time, sir," the postillion said,
complacently pointing to the steaming sides of his horses. "Master'll
gie it to me for driving the beasts like this."

Edward Arundel looked at the panting animals. They had brought him
quickly, then, though the way had seemed so long.

"You shall have a five-pound note, my lad," he said, "if you get me up
to yonder house in five minutes."

He had his hand upon the door of the carriage, and was leaning against
it for support, while he tried to recover enough strength with which to
clamber into the vehicle, when his eye was caught by some white object
flapping in the rain against the stone pillar of the gate, and made
dimly visible in a flickering patch of light from the lodge-keeper's
lantern.

"What's that?" he cried, pointing to this white spot upon the
moss-grown stone.

The old man slowly raised his eyes to the spot towards which the
soldier's finger pointed.

"That?" he mumbled. "Ay, to be sure, to be sure. Poor young lady!
That's the printed bill as they stook oop. It's the printed bill, to be
sure, to be sure. I'd a'most forgot it. It ain't been much good,
anyhow; and I'd a'most forgot it."

"The printed bill! the young lady!" gasped Edward Arundel, in a hoarse,
choking voice.

He snatched the lantern from the lodge-keeper's hand with a force that
sent the old man reeling and tottering several paces backward; and,
rushing to the stone pillar, held the light up above his head, on a
level with the white placard which had attracted his notice. It was
damp and dilapidated at the edges; but that which was printed upon it
was as visible to the soldier as though each commonplace character had
been a fiery sign inscribed upon a blazing scroll.

This was the announcement which Edward Arundel read upon the gate-post
of Marchmont Towers:--

"ONE HUNDRED POUNDS REWARD.--Whereas Miss Mary Marchmont left her home
on Wednesday last, October 17th, and has not since been heard of, this
is to give notice that the above reward will be given to any one who
shall afford such information as will lead to her recovery if she be
alive, or to the discovery of her body if she be dead. The missing
young lady is eighteen years of age, rather below the middle height, of
fair complexion, light-brown hair, and hazel eyes. When she left her
home, she had on a grey silk dress, grey shawl, and straw bonnet. She
was last seen near the river-side upon the afternoon of Wednesday, the
17th instant.
"_Marchmont Towers, October_ 20_th_, 1848."



CHAPTER VII.

FACE TO FACE.


It is not easy to imagine a lion-hearted young cavalry officer, whose
soldiership in the Punjaub had won the praises of a Napier and an
Outram, fainting away like a heroine of romance at the coming of evil
tidings; but Edward Arundel, who had risen from a sick-bed to take a
long and fatiguing journey in utter defiance of the doctors, was not
strong enough to bear the dreadful welcome that greeted him upon the
gate-post at Marchmont Towers.

He staggered, and would have fallen, had not the extended arms of his
father's confidential servant been luckily opened to receive and
support him. But he did not lose his senses.

"Get me into the carriage, Morrison," he cried. "Get me up to that
house. They've tortured and tormented my wife while I've been lying
like a log on my bed at Dangerfield. For God's sake, get me up there as
quick as you can!"

Mr. Morrison had read the placard on the gate across his young master's
shoulder. He lifted the Captain into the carriage, shouted to the
postillion to drive on, and took his seat by the young man's side.

"Begging you pardon, Mr. Edward," he said, gently; "but the young lady
may be found by this time. That bill's been sticking there for upwards
of a month, you see, sir, and it isn't likely but what Miss Marchmont
has been found between that time and this."

The invalid passed his hand across his forehead, down which the cold
sweat rolled in great beads.

"Give me some brandy," he whispered; "pour some brandy down my throat,
Morrison, if you've any compassion upon me; I must get strength somehow
for the struggle that lies before me."

The valet took a wicker-covered flask from his pocket, and put the neck
of it to Edward Arundel's lips.

"She may be found, Morrison," muttered the young man, after drinking a
long draught of the fiery spirit; he would willingly have drunk living
fire itself, in his desire to obtain unnatural strength in this crisis.
"Yes; you're right there. She may be found. But to think that she
should have been driven away! To think that my poor, helpless, tender
girl should have been driven a second time from the home that is her
own! Yes; her own by every law and every right. Oh, the relentless
devil, the pitiless devil!--what can be the motive of her conduct? Is
it madness, or the infernal cruelty of a fiend incarnate?"

Mr. Morrison thought that his young master's brain had been disordered
by the shock he had just undergone, and that this wild talk was mere
delirium.

"Keep your heart up, Mr. Edward," he murmured, soothingly; "you may
rely upon it, the young lady has been found."

But Edward was in no mind to listen to any mild consolatory remarks
from his valet. He had thrust his head out of the carriage-window, and
his eyes were fixed upon the dimly-lighted casements of the western
drawing-room.

"The room in which John and Polly and I used to sit together when first
I came from India," he murmured. "How happy we were!--how happy we
were!"

The carriage stopped before the stone portico, and the young man got
out once more, assisted by his servant. His breath came short and quick
now that he stood upon the threshold. He pushed aside the servant who
opened the familiar door at the summons of the clanging bell, and
strode into the hall. A fire burned on the wide hearth; but the
atmosphere of the great stone-paved chamber was damp and chilly.

Captain Arundel walked straight to the door of the western
drawing-room. It was there that he had seen lights in the windows; it
was there that he expected to find Olivia Marchmont.

He was not mistaken. A shaded lamp burnt dimly on a table near the
fire. There was a low invalid-chair beside this table, an open book
upon the floor, and an Indian shawl, one he had sent to his cousin,
flung carelessly upon the pillows. The neglected fire burned low in the
old-fashioned grate, and above the dull-red blaze stood the figure of a
woman, tall, dark, and gloomy of aspect.

It was Olivia Marchmont, in the mourning-robes that she had worn, with
but one brief intermission, ever since her husband's death. Her profile
was turned towards the door by which Edward Arundel entered the room;
her eyes were bent steadily upon the low heap of burning ashes in the
grate. Even in that doubtful light the young man could see that her
features were sharpened, and that a settled frown had contracted her
straight black brows.

In her fixed attitude, in her air of deathlike tranquillity, this woman
resembled some sinful vestal sister, set, against her will, to watch a
sacred fire, and brooding moodily over her crimes.

She did not hear the opening of the door; she had not even heard the
trampling of the horses' hoofs, or the crashing of the wheels upon the
gravel before the house. There were times when her sense of external
things was, as it were, suspended and absorbed in the intensity of her
obstinate despair.

"Olivia!" said the soldier.

Mrs. Marchmont looked up at the sound of that accusing voice, for there
was something in Edward Arundel's simple enunciation of her name which
seemed like an accusation or a menace. She looked up, with a great
terror in her face, and stared aghast at her unexpected visitor. Her
white cheeks, her trembling lips, and dilated eyes could not have more
palpably expressed a great and absorbing horror, had the young man
standing quietly before her been a corpse newly risen from its grave.

"Olivia Marchmont," said Captain Arundel, after a brief pause, "I have
come here to look for my wife."

The woman pushed her trembling hands across her forehead, brushing the
dead black hair from her temples, and still staring with the same
unutterable horror at the face of her cousin. Several times she tried
to speak; but the broken syllables died away in her throat in hoarse,
inarticulate mutterings. At last, with a great effort, the words came.

"I--I--never expected to see you," she said; "I heard that you were
very ill; I heard that you----"

"You heard that I was dying," interrupted Edward Arundel; "or that, if
I lived, I should drag out the rest of my existence in hopeless idiocy.
The doctors thought as much a week ago, when one of them, cleverer than
the rest I suppose, had the courage to perform an operation that
restored me to consciousness. Sense and memory came back to me by
degrees. The thick veil that had shrouded the past was rent asunder;
and the first image that came to me was the image of my young wife, as
I had seen her upon the night of our parting. For more than three
months I had been dead. I was suddenly restored to life. I asked those
about me to give me tidings of my wife. Had she sought me out?--had she
followed me to Dangerfield? No! They could tell me nothing. They
thought that I was delirious, and tried to soothe me with compassionate
speeches, merciful falsehoods, promising me that I should see my
darling. But I soon read the secret of their scared looks. I saw pity
and wonder mingled in my mother's face, and I entreated her to be
merciful to me, and to tell me the truth. She had compassion upon me,
and told me all she knew, which was very little. She had never heard
from my wife. She had never heard of any marriage between Mary
Marchmont and me. The only communication which she had received from
any of her Lincolnshire relations had been a letter from my uncle
Hubert, in reply to one of hers telling him of my hopeless state.

"This was the shock that fell upon me when life and memory came back. I
could not bear the imprisonment of a sick-bed. I felt that for the
second time I must go out into the world to look for my darling; and in
defiance of the doctors, in defiance of my poor mother, who thought
that my departure from Dangerfield was a suicide, I am here. It is here
that I come first to seek for my wife. I might have stopped in London
to see Richard Paulette; I might sooner have gained tidings of my
darling. But I came here; I came here without stopping by the way,
because an uncontrollable instinct and an unreasoning impulse tells me
that it is here I ought to seek her. I am here, her husband, her only
true and legitimate defender; and woe be to those who stand between me
and my wife!"

He had spoken rapidly in his passion; and he stopped, exhausted by his
own vehemence, and sank heavily into a chair near the lamplit table.

Then for the first time that night Olivia Marchmont plainly saw her
cousin's face, and saw the terrible change that had transformed the
handsome young soldier, since the bright August morning on which he had
gone forth from Marchmont Towers. She saw the traces of a long and
wearisome illness sadly visible in his waxen-hued complexion, his
hollow cheeks, the faded lustre of his eyes, his dry and pallid lips.
She saw all this, the woman whose one great sin had been to love this
man wickedly and madly, in spite of her better self, in spite of her
womanly pride; she saw the change in him that had altered him from a
young Apollo to a shattered and broken invalid. And did any revulsion
of feeling arise in her breast? Did any corresponding transformation in
her own heart bear witness to the baseness of her love?

No; a thousand times, no! There was no thrill of disgust, how transient
soever; not so much as one passing shudder of painful surprise, one
pang of womanly regret. No! In place of these, a passionate yearning
arose in this woman's haughty soul; a flood of sudden tenderness rushed
across the black darkness of her mind. She fain would have flung
herself upon her knees, in loving self-abasement, at the sick man's
feet. She fain would have cried aloud, amid a tempest of passionate
sobs,--

"O my love, my love! you are dearer to me a hundred times by this cruel
change. It was _not_ your bright-blue eyes and waving chestnut
hair,--it was not your handsome face, your brave, soldier-like bearing
that I loved. My love was not so base as that. I inflicted a cruel
outrage upon myself when I thought that I was the weak fool of a
handsome face. Whatever _I_ have been, my love, at least, has been
pure. My love is pure, though I am base. I will never slander that
again, for I know now that it is immortal."

In the sudden rush of that flood-tide of love and tenderness, all these
thoughts welled into Olivia Marchmont's mind. In all her sin and
desperation she had never been so true a woman as now; she had never,
perhaps, been so near being a good woman. But the tender emotion was
swept out of her breast the next moment by the first words of Edward
Arundel.

"Why do you not answer my question?" he said.

She drew herself up in the erect and rigid attitude that had become
almost habitual to her. Every trace of womanly feeling faded out of her
face, as the sunlight disappears behind the sudden darkness of a
thundercloud.

"What question?" she asked, with icy indifference.

"The question I have come to Lincolnshire to ask--the question I have
perilled my life, perhaps, to ask," cried the young man. "Where is my
wife?"

The widow turned upon him with a horrible smile.

"I never heard that you were married," she said. "Who is your wife?"

"Mary Marchmont, the mistress of this house."

Olivia opened her eyes, and looked at him in half-sardonic surprise.

"Then it was not a fable?" she said.

"What was not a fable?"

"The unhappy girl spoke the truth when she said that you had married
her at some out-of-the-way church in Lambeth."

"The truth! Yes!" cried Edward Arundel. "Who should dare to say that
she spoke other than the truth? Who should dare to disbelieve her?"

Olivia Marchmont smiled again,--that same strange smile which was
almost too horrible for humanity, and yet had a certain dark and gloomy
grandeur of its own. Satan, the star of the morning, may have so smiled
despairing defiance upon the Archangel Michael.

"Unfortunately," she said, "no one believed the poor child. Her story
was such a very absurd one, and she could bring forward no shred of
evidence in support of it."

"O my God!" ejaculated Edward Arundel, clasping his hands above his
head in a paroxysm of rage and despair. "I see it all--I see it all! My
darling has been tortured to death. Woman!" he cried, "are you
possessed by a thousand fiends? Is there no one sentiment of womanly
compassion left in your breast? If there is one spark of womanhood in
your nature, I appeal to that; I ask you what has happened to my wife?"

"My wife! my wife!" The reiteration of that familiar phrase was to
Olivia Marchmont like the perpetual thrust of a dagger aimed at an open
wound. It struck every time upon the same tortured spot, and inflicted
the same agony.

"The placard upon the gates of this place can tell you as much as I
can," she said.

The ghastly whiteness of the soldier's face told her that he had seen
the placard of which she spoke.

"She has not been found, then?" he said, hoarsely.

"No."

"How did she disappear?"

"As she disappeared upon the morning on which you followed her. She
wandered out of the house, this time leaving no letter, nor message,
nor explanation of any kind whatever. It was in the middle of the day
that she went out; and for some time her absence caused no alarm. But,
after some hours, she was waited for and watched for very anxiously.
Then a search was made."

"Where?"

"Wherever she had at any time been in the habit of walking,--in the
park; in the wood; along the narrow path by the water; at Pollard's
farm; at Hester's house at Kemberling,--in every place where it might
be reasonably imagined there was the slightest chance of finding her."

"And all this was without result?"

"It was."

"_Why_ did she leave this place? God help you, Olivia Marchmont, if it
was your cruelty that drove her away!"

The widow took no notice of the threat implied in these words. Was
there anything upon earth that she feared now? No--nothing. Had she not
endured the worst long ago, in Edward Arundel's contempt? She had no
fear of a battle with this man; or with any other creature in the
world; or with the whole world arrayed and banded together against her,
if need were. Amongst all the torments of those black depths to which
her soul had gone down, there was no such thing as fear. That cowardly
baseness is for the happy and prosperous, who have something to lose.
This woman was by nature dauntless and resolute as the hero of some
classic story; but in her despair she had the desperate and reckless
courage of a starving wolf. The hand of death was upon her; what could
it matter how she died?

"I am very grateful to you, Edward Arundel," she said, bitterly, "for
the good opinion you have always had of me. The blood of the
Dangerfield Arundels must have had some drop of poison intermingled
with it, I should think, before it could produce so vile a creature as
myself; and yet I have heard people say that my mother was a good
woman."

The young man writhed impatiently beneath the torture of his cousin's
deliberate speech. Was there to be no end to this unendurable delay?
Even now,--now that he was in this house, face to face with the woman
he had come to question--it seemed as if he _could_ not get tidings of
his wife.

So, often in his dreams, he had headed a besieging-party against the
Affghans, with the scaling-ladders reared against the wall; he had seen
the dark faces grinning down upon him--all savage glaring eyes and
fierce glistening teeth--and had heard the voices of his men urging him
on to the encounter, but had felt himself paralysed and helpless, with
his sabre weak as a withered reed in his nerveless hand.

"For God's sake, let there be no quarrelling with phrases between you
and me, Olivia!" he cried. "If you or any other living being have
injured my wife, the reckoning between us shall be no light one. But
there will be time enough to talk of that by-and-by. I stand before
you, newly risen from a grave in which I have lain for more than three
months, as dead to the world, and to every creature I have ever loved
or hated, as if the Funeral Service had been read over my coffin. I
come to demand from you an account of what has happened during that
interval. If you palter or prevaricate with me, I shall know that it is
because you fear to tell me the truth."

"Fear!"

"Yes; you have good reason to fear, if you have wronged Mary Arundel.
Why did she leave this house?"

"Because she was not happy in it, I suppose. She chose to shut herself
up in her own room, and to refuse to be governed, or advised, or
consoled. I tried to do my duty to her; yes," cried Olivia Marchmont,
suddenly raising her voice, as if she had been vehemently
contradicted;--"yes, I did try to do my duty to her. I urged her to
listen to reason; I begged her to abandon her foolish falsehood about a
marriage with you in London."

"You disbelieved in that marriage?"

"I did," answered Olivia.

"You lie!" cried Edward Arundel. "You knew the poor child had spoken
the truth. You knew her--you knew me--well enough to know that I should
not have detained her away from her home an hour, except to make her my
wife--except to give myself the strongest right to love and defend
her."

"I knew nothing of the kind, Captain Arundel; you and Mary Marchmont
had taken good care to keep your secrets from me. I knew nothing of
your plots, your intentions. _I_ should have considered that one of the
Dangerfield Arundels would have thought his honour sullied by such an
act as a stolen marriage with an heiress, considerably under age, and
nominally in the guardianship of her stepmother. I did, therefore,
disbelieve the story Mary Marchmont told me. Another person, much more
experienced than I, also disbelieved the unhappy girl's account of her
absence."

"Another person! What other person?"

"Mr. Marchmont."

"Mr. Marchmont!"

"Yes; Paul Marchmont,--my husband's first-cousin."

A sudden cry of rage and grief broke from Edward Arundel's lips.

"O my God!" he exclaimed, "there was some foundation for the warning in
John Marchmont's letter, after all. And I laughed at him; I laughed at
my poor friend's fears."

The widow looked at her kinsman in mute wonder.

"Has Paul Marchmont been in this house?" he asked.

"Yes."

"When was he here?"

"He has been here often; he comes here constantly. He has been living
at Kemberling for the last three months."

"Why?"

"For his own pleasure, I suppose," Olivia answered haughtily. "It is no
business of mine to pry into Mr. Marchmont's motives."

Edward Arundel ground his teeth in an access of ungovernable passion.
It was not against Olivia, but against himself this time that he was
enraged. He hated himself for the arrogant folly, the obstinate
presumption, with which he had ridiculed and slighted John Marchmont's
vague fears of his kinsman Paul.

"So this man has been here,--is here constantly," he muttered. "Of
course, it is only natural that he should hang about the place. And you
and he are stanch allies, I suppose?" he added, turning upon Olivia.

"Stanch allies! Why?"

"Because you both hate my wife."

"What do you mean?"

"You both hate her. You, out of a base envy of her wealth; because of
her superior rights, which made you a secondary person in this house,
perhaps,--there is nothing else for which you _could_ hate her. Paul
Marchmont, because she stands between him and a fortune. Heaven help
her! Heaven help my poor, gentle, guileless darling! Surely Heaven must
have had some pity upon her when her husband was not by!"

The young man dashed the blinding tears from his eyes. They were the
first that he had shed since he had risen from that which many people
had thought his dying-bed, to search for his wife.

But this was no time for tears or lamentations. Stern determination
took the place of tender pity and sorrowful love. It was a time for
resolution and promptitude.

"Olivia Marchmont," he said, "there has been some foul play in this
business. My wife has been missing a month; yet when I asked my mother
what had happened at this house during my illness, she could tell me
nothing. Why did you not write to tell her of Mary's flight?"

"Because Mrs. Arundel has never done me the honour to cultivate any
intimacy between us. My father writes to his sister-in-law sometimes; I
scarcely ever write to my aunt. On the other hand, your mother had
never seen Mary Marchmont, and could not be expected to take any great
interest in her proceedings. There was, therefore, no reason for my
writing a special letter to announce the trouble that had befallen me."

"You might have written to my mother about my marriage. You might have
applied to her for confirmation of the story which you disbelieved."

Olivia Marchmont smiled.

"Should I have received that confirmation?" she said. "No. I saw your
mother's letters to my father. There was no mention in those letters of
any marriage; no mention whatever of Mary Marchmont. This in itself was
enough to confirm my disbelief. Was it reasonable to imagine that you
would have married, and yet have left your mother in total ignorance of
the fact?"

"O God, help me!" cried Edward Arundel, wringing his hands. "It seems
as if my own folly, my own vile procrastination, have brought this
trouble upon my wife. Olivia Marchmont, have pity upon me. If you hate
this girl, your malice must surely have been satisfied by this time.
She has suffered enough. Pity me, and help me; if you have any human
feeling in your breast. She left this house because her life here had
grown unendurable; because she saw herself doubted, disbelieved,
widowed in the first month of her marriage, utterly desolate and
friendless. Another woman might have borne up against all this misery.
Another woman would have known how to assert herself, and to defend
herself, even in the midst of her sorrow and desolation. But my poor
darling is a child; a baby in ignorance of the world. How should _she_
protect herself against her enemies? Her only instinct was to run away
from her persecutors,--to hide herself from those whose pretended
doubts flung the horror of dishonour upon her. I can understand all
now; I can understand. Olivia Marchmont, this man Paul has a strong
reason for being a villain. The motives that have induced you to do
wrong must be very small in comparison to his. He plays an infamous
game, I believe; but he plays for a high stake."

A high stake! Had not _she_ perilled her soul upon the casting of this
die? Had _she_ not flung down her eternal happiness in that fatal game
of hazard?

"Help me, then, Olivia," said Edward, imploringly; "help me to find my
wife; and atone for all that you have ever done amiss in the past. It
is not too late."

His voice softened as he spoke. He turned to her, with his hands
clasped, waiting anxiously for her answer. Perhaps this appeal was the
last cry of her good angel, pleading against the devils for her
redemption. But the devils had too long held possession of this woman's
breast. They arose, arrogant and unpitying, and hardened her heart
against that pleading voice.

"How much he loves her!" thought Olivia Marchmont; "how dearly he loves
her! For her sake he humiliates himself to me."

Then, with no show of relenting in her voice or manner, she said
deliberately:

"I can only tell you again what I told you before. The placard you saw
at the park-gates can tell you as much as I can. Mary Marchmont ran
away. She was sought for in every direction, but without success. Mr.
Marchmont, who is a man of the world, and better able to suggest what
is right in such a case as this, advised that Mr. Paulette should be
sent for. He was accordingly communicated with. He came, and instituted
a fresh search. He also caused a bill to be printed and distributed
through the country. Advertisements were inserted in the 'Times' and
other papers. For some reason--I forget what reason--Mary Marchmont's
name did not appear in these advertisements. They were so worded as to
render the publication of the name unnecessary."

Edward Arundel pushed his hand across his forehead.

"Richard Paulette has been here?" he murmured, in a low voice.

He had every confidence in the lawyer; and a deadly chill came over him
at the thought that the cool, hard-headed solicitor had failed to find
the missing girl.

"Yes; he was here two or three days."

"And he could do nothing?"

"Nothing, except what I have told you."

The young man thrust his hand into his breast to still the cruel
beating of his heart. A sudden terror had taken possession of him,--a
horrible dread that he should never look upon his young wife's face
again. For some minutes there was a dead silence in the room, only
broken once or twice by the falling of some ashes on the hearth.
Captain Arundel sat with his face hidden behind his hand. Olivia still
stood as she had stood when her cousin entered the room, erect and
gloomy, by the old-fashioned chimney-piece.

"There was something in that placard," the soldier said at last, in a
hoarse, altered voice,--"there was something about my wife having been
seen last by the water-side. Who saw her there?"

"Mr. Weston, a surgeon of Kemberling,--Paul Marchmont's
brother-in-law."

"Was she seen by no one else?"

"Yes; she was seen at about the same time--a little sooner or later, we
don't know which--by one of Farmer Pollard's men."

"And she has never been seen since?"

"Never; that is to say, we can hear of no one who has seen her."

"At what time in the day was she seen by this Mr. Weston?"

"At dusk; between five and six o'clock."

Edward Arundel put his hand suddenly to his throat, as if to check some
choking sensation that prevented his speaking.

"Olivia," he said, "my wife was last seen by the river-side. Does any
one think that, by any unhappy accident, by any terrible fatality, she
lost her way after dark, and fell into the water? or that--O God, that
would be too horrible!--does any one suspect that she drowned herself?"

"Many things have been said since her disappearance," Olivia Marchmont
answered. "Some people say one thing, some another."

"And it has been said that she--that she was drowned?"

"Yes; many people have said so. The river was dragged while Mr.
Paulette was here, and after he went away. The men were at work with
the drags for more than a week."

"And they found nothing?"

"Nothing."

"Was there any other reason for supposing that--that my wife fell into
the river?"

"Only one reason."

"What was that?"

"I will show you," Olivia Marchmont answered.

She took a bunch of keys from her pocket, and went to an old-fashioned
bureau or cabinet upon the other side of the room. She unlocked the
upper part of this bureau, opened one of the drawers, and took from it
something which she brought to Edward Arundel.

This something was a little shoe; a little shoe of soft bronzed
leather, stained and discoloured with damp and moss, and trodden down
upon one side, as if the wearer had walked a weary way in it, and had
been unaccustomed to so much walking.

Edward Arundel remembered, in that brief, childishly-happy honeymoon at
the little village near Winchester, how often he had laughed at his
young wife's propensity for walking about damp meadows in such delicate
little slippers as were better adapted to the requirements of a
ballroom. He remembered the slender foot, so small that he could take
it in his hand; the feeble little foot that had grown tired in long
wanderings by the Hampshire trout-streams, but which had toiled on in
heroic self-abnegation so long as it was the will of the sultan to
pedestrianise.

"Was this found by the river-side?" he asked, looking piteously at the
slipper which Mrs. Marchmont had put into his hand.

"Yes; it was found amongst the rushes on the shore, a mile below the
spot at which Mr. Weston saw my step-daughter."

Edward Arundel put the little shoe into his bosom.

"I'll not believe it," he cried suddenly; "I'll not believe that my
darling is lost to me. She was too good, far too good, to think of
suicide; and Providence would never suffer my poor lonely child to be
led away to a dreary death upon that dismal river-shore. No, no; she
fled away from this place because she was too wretched here. She went
away to hide herself amongst those whom she could trust, until her
husband came to claim her. I will believe anything in the world except
that she is lost to me. And I will not believe that, I will never
believe that, until I look down at her corpse; until I lay my hand on
her cold breast, and feel that her true heart has ceased beating. As I
went out of this place four months ago to look for her, I will go again
now. My darling, my darling, my innocent pet, my childish bride; I will
go to the very end of the world in search of you."

The widow ground her teeth as she listened to her kinsman's passionate
words. Why did he for ever goad her to blacker wickedness by this
parade of his love for Mary? Why did he force her to remember every
moment how much cause she had to hate this pale-faced girl?

Captain Arundel rose, and walked a few paces, leaning on his stick as
he went.

"You will sleep here to-night, of course?" Olivia Marchmont said.

"Sleep here!"

His tone expressed plainly enough that the place was abhorrent to him.

"Yes; where else should you stay?"

"I meant to have stopped at the nearest inn."

"The nearest inn is at Kemberling."

"That would suit me well enough," the young man answered indifferently;
"I must be in Kemberling early to-morrow, for I must see Paul
Marchmont. I am no nearer the comprehension of my wife's flight by
anything that you have told me. It is to Paul Marchmont that I must
look next. Heaven help him if he tries to keep the truth from me."

"You will see Mr. Marchmont here as easily as at Kemberling," Olivia
answered; "he comes here every day."

"What for?"

"He has built a sort of painting-room down by the river-side, and he
paints there whenever there is light."

"Indeed!" cried Edward Arundel; "he makes himself at home at Marchmont
Towers, then?"

"He has a right to do so, I suppose," answered the widow indifferently.
"If Mary Marchmont is dead, this place and all belonging to it is his.
As it is, I am only here on sufferance."

"He has taken possession, then?"

"On the contrary, he shrinks from doing so."

"And, by the Heaven above us, he does wisely," cried Edward Arundel.
"No man shall seize upon that which belongs to my darling. No foul plot
of this artist-traitor shall rob her of her own. God knows how little
value _I_ set upon her wealth; but I will stand between her and those
who try to rob her, until my last gasp. No, Olivia; I'll not stay here;
I'll accept no hospitality from Mr. Marchmont. I suspect him too much."

He walked to the door; but before he reached it the widow went to one
of the windows, and pushed aside the blind.

"Look at the rain," she said; "hark at it; don't you hear it, drip,
drip, drip upon the stone? I wouldn't turn a dog out of doors upon such
a night as this; and you--you are so ill--so weak. Edward Arundel, do
you hate me so much that you refuse to share the same shelter with me,
even for a night?"

There is nothing so difficult of belief to a man, who is not a coxcomb,
as the simple fact that he is beloved by a woman whom he does not love,
and has never wooed by word or deed. But for this, surely Edward
Arundel must, in that sudden burst of tenderness, that one piteous
appeal, have discovered a clue to his cousin's secret.

He discovered nothing; he guessed nothing. But he was touched by her
tone, even in spite of his utter ignorance of its meaning, and he
replied, in an altered manner,

"Certainly, Olivia, if you really wish it, I will stay. Heaven knows I
have no desire that you and I should be ill friends. I want your help;
your pity, perhaps. I am quite willing to believe that any cruel things
you said to Mary arose from an outbreak of temper. I cannot think that
you could be base at heart. I will even attribute your disbelief of the
statement made by my poor girl as to our marriage to the narrow
prejudices learnt in a small country town. Let us be friends, Olivia."

He held out his hand. His cousin laid her cold fingers in his open
palm, and he shuddered as if he had come in contact with a corpse.
There was nothing very cordial in the salutation. The two hands seemed
to drop asunder, lifeless and inert; as if to bear mute witness that
between these two people there was no possibility of sympathy or union.

But Captain Arundel accepted his cousin's hospitality. Indeed he had
need to do so; for he found that his valet had relied upon his master's
stopping at the Towers, and had sent the carriage back to Swampington.
A tray with cold meat and wine was brought into the drawing-room for
the young soldier's refreshment. He drank a glass of Madeira, and made
some pretence of eating a few mouthfuls, out of courtesy to Olivia; but
he did this almost mechanically. He sat silent and gloomy, brooding
over the terrible shock that he had so newly received; brooding over
the hidden things that had happened in that dreary interval, during
which he had been as powerless to defend his wife from trouble as a
dead man.

Again and again the cruel thought returned to him, each time with a
fresh agony,--that if he had written to his mother, if he had told her
the story of his marriage, the things which had happened could never
have come to pass. Mary would have been sheltered and protected by a
good and loving woman. This thought, this horrible self-reproach, was
the bitterest thing the young man had to bear.

"It is too great a punishment," he thought; "I am too cruelly punished
for having forgotten everything in my happiness with my darling."

The widow sat in her low easy-chair near the fire, with her eyes fixed
upon the burning coals; the grate had been replenished, and the light
of the red blaze shone full upon Olivia Marchmont's haggard face.
Edward Arundel, aroused for a few moments out of his gloomy
abstraction, was surprised at the change which an interval of a few
months had made in his cousin. The gloomy shadow which he had often
seen on her face had become a fixed expression; every line had
deepened, as if by the wear and tear of ten years, rather than by the
progress of a few months. Olivia Marchmont had grown old before her
time. Nor was this the only change. There was a look, undefined and
undefinable, in the large luminous grey eyes, unnaturally luminous now,
which filled Edward Arundel with a vague sense of terror; a terror
which he would not--which he dared not--attempt to analyse. He
remembered Mary's unreasoning fear of her stepmother, and he now
scarcely wondered at that fear. There was something almost weird and
unearthly in the aspect of the woman sitting opposite to him by the
broad hearth: no vestige of colour in her gloomy face, a strange light
burning in her eyes, and her black draperies falling round her in
straight, lustreless folds.

"I fear you have been ill, Olivia," the young man said, presently.

Another sentiment had arisen in his breast side by side with that vague
terror,--a fancy that perhaps there was some reason why his cousin
should be pitied.

"Yes," she answered indifferently; as if no subject of which Captain
Arundel could have spoken would have been of less concern to
her,--"yes, I have been very ill."

"I am sorry to hear it."

Olivia looked up at him and smiled. Her smile was the strangest he had
ever seen upon a woman's face.

"I am very sorry to hear it. What has been the matter with you?"

"Slow fever, Mr. Weston said."

"Mr. Weston?"

"Yes; Mr. Marchmont's brother-in-law. He has succeeded to Mr.
Dawnfield's practice at Kemberling. He attended me, and he attended my
step-daughter."

"My wife was ill, then?"

"Yes; she had brain-fever: she recovered from that, but she did not
recover strength. Her low spirits alarmed me, and I considered it only
right--Mr. Marchmont suggested also--that a medical man should be
consulted."

"And what did this man, this Mr. Weston, say?"

"Very little; there was nothing the matter with Mary, he said. He gave
her a little medicine, but only in the desire of strengthening her
nervous system. He could give her no medicine that would have any very
good effect upon her spirits, while she chose to keep herself
obstinately apart from every one."

The young man's head sank upon his breast. The image of his desolate
young wife arose before him; the image of a pale, sorrowful girl,
holding herself apart from her persecutors, abandoned, lonely,
despairing. Why had she remained at Marchmont Towers? Why had she ever
consented to go there, when she had again and again expressed such
terror of her stepmother? Why had she not rather followed her husband
down to Devonshire, and thrown herself upon his relatives for
protection? Was it like this girl to remain quietly here in
Lincolnshire, when the man she loved with such innocent devotion was
lying between life and death in the west?

"She is such a child," he thought,--"such a child in her ignorance of
the world. I must not reason about her as I would about another woman."

And then a sudden flush of passionate emotion rose to his face, as a
new thought flashed into his mind. What if this helpless girl had been
detained by force at Marchmont Towers?

"Olivia," he cried, "whatever baseness this man, Paul Marchmont, may be
capable of, you at least must be superior to any deliberate sin. I have
all my life believed in you, and respected you, as a good woman. Tell
me the truth, then, for pity's sake. Nothing that you can tell me will
fill up the dead blank that the horrible interval since my accident has
made in my life. But you can give me some help. A few words from you
may clear away much of this darkness. How did you find my wife? How did
you induce her to come back to this place? I know that she had an
unreasonable dread of returning here."

"I found her through the agency of Mr. Marchmont," Olivia answered,
quietly. "I had some difficulty in inducing her to return here; but
after hearing of your accident--"

"How was the news of that broken to her?"

"Unfortunately she saw a paper that had happened to be left in her
way."

"By whom?"

"By Mr. Marchmont."

"Where was this?"

"In Hampshire."

"Indeed! Then Paul Marchmont went with you to Hampshire?"

"He did. He was of great service to me in this crisis. After seeing the
paper, my stepdaughter was seized with brain-fever. She was unconscious
when we brought her back to the Towers. She was nursed by my old
servant Barbara, and had the highest medical care. I do not think that
anything more could have been done for her."

"No," answered Edward Arundel, bitterly; "unless you could have loved
her."

"We cannot force our affections," the widow said, in a hard voice.

Another voice in her breast seemed to whisper, "Why do you reproach me
for not having loved this girl? If you had loved _me_, the whole world
would have been different."

"Olivia Marchmont," said Captain Arundel, "by your own avowal there has
never been any affection for this orphan girl in your heart. It is not
my business to dwell upon the fact, as something almost unnatural under
the peculiar circumstances through which that helpless child was cast
upon your protection. It is needless to try to understand why you have
hardened your heart against my poor wife. Enough that it is so. But I
may still believe that, whatever your feelings may be towards your dead
husband's daughter, you would not be guilty of any deliberate act of
treachery against her. I can afford to believe this of you; but I
cannot believe it of Paul Marchmont. That man is my wife's natural
enemy. If he has been here during my illness, he has been here to plot
against her. When he came here, he came to attempt her destruction. She
stands between him and this estate. Long ago, when I was a careless
schoolboy, my poor friend, John Marchmont, told me that, if ever the
day came upon which Mary's interests should be opposed to the interests
of her cousin, that man would be a dire and bitter enemy; so much the
more terrible because in all appearance her friend. The day came; and
I, to whom the orphan girl had been left as a sacred legacy, was not by
to defend her. But I have risen from a bed that many have thought a bed
of death; and I come to this place with one indomitable resolution
paramount in my breast,--the determination to find my wife, and to
bring condign punishment upon the man who has done her wrong."

Captain Arundel spoke in a low voice; but his passion was all the more
terrible because of the suppression of those common outward evidences
by which anger ordinarily betrays itself. He relapsed into thoughtful
silence.

Olivia made no answer to anything that he had said. She sat looking at
him steadily, with an admiring awe in her face. How splendid he
was--this young hero--even in his sickness and feebleness! How
splendid, by reason of the grand courage, the chivalrous devotion, that
shone out of his blue eyes!

The clock struck eleven while the cousins sat opposite to each
other,--only divided, physically, by the width of the tapestried
hearth-rug; but, oh, how many weary miles asunder in spirit!--and
Edward Arundel rose, startled from his sorrowful reverie.

"If I were a strong man," he said, "I would see Paul Marchmont
to-night. But I must wait till to-morrow morning. At what time does he
come to his painting-room?"'

"At eight o'clock, when the mornings are bright; but later when the
weather is dull."

"At eight o'clock! I pray Heaven the sun may shine early to-morrow! I
pray Heaven I may not have to wait long before I find myself face to
face with that man! Good-night, Olivia."

He took a candle from a table near the door, and lit it almost
mechanically. He found Mr. Morrison waiting for him, very sleepy and
despondent, in a large bedchamber in which Captain Arundel had never
slept before,--a dreary apartment, decked out with the faded splendours
of the past; a chamber in which the restless sleeper might expect to
see a phantom lady in a ghostly sacque, cowering over the embers, and
spreading her transparent hands above the red light.

"It isn't particular comfortable, after Dangerfield," the valet
muttered in a melancholy voice; "and all I 'ope, Mr. Edward, is, that
the sheets are not damp. I've been a stirrin' of the fire and puttin'
on fresh coals for the last hour. There's a bed for me in the dressin'
room, within call."

Captain Arundel scarcely heard what his servant said to him. He was
standing at the door of the spacious chamber, looking out into a long
low-roofed corridor, in which he had just encountered Barbara, Mrs.
Marchmont's confidential attendant,--the wooden-faced,
inscrutable-looking woman, who, according to Olivia, had watched and
ministered to his wife.

"Was that the tenderest face that looked down upon my darling as she
lay on her sick-bed?" he thought. "I had almost as soon have had a
ghoul to watch by my poor dear's pillow."



CHAPTER VIII.

THE PAINTING-ROOM BY THE RIVER.


Edward Arundel lay awake through the best part of that November night,
listening to the ceaseless dripping of the rain upon the terrace, and
thinking of Paul Marchmont. It was of this man that he must demand an
account of his wife. Nothing that Olivia had told him had in any way
lessened this determination. The little slipper found by the water's
edge; the placard flapping on the moss-grown pillar at the entrance to
the park; the story of a possible suicide, or a more probable
accident;--all these things were as nothing beside the young man's
suspicion of Paul Marchmont. He had pooh-poohed John's dread of his
kinsman as weak and unreasonable; and now, with the same unreason, he
was ready to condemn this man, whom he had never seen, as a traitor and
a plotter against his young wife.

He lay tossing from side to side all that night, weak and feverish,
with great drops of cold perspiration rolling down his pale face,
sometimes falling into a fitful sleep, in whose distorted dreams Paul
Marchmont was for ever present, now one man, now another. There was no
sense of fitness in these dreams; for sometimes Edward Arundel and the
artist were wrestling together with newly-sharpened daggers in their
eager hands, each thirsting for the other's blood; and in the next
moment they were friends, and had been friendly--as it seemed--for
years.

The young man woke from one of these last dreams, with words of
good-fellowship upon his lips, to find the morning light gleaming
through the narrow openings in the damask window-curtains, and Mr.
Morrison laying out his master's dressing apparatus upon the carved oak
toilette-table.

Captain Arundel dressed himself as fast as he could, with the
assistance of the valet, and then made his way down the broad
staircase, with the help of his cane, upon which he had need to lean
pretty heavily, for he was as weak as a child.

"You had better give me the brandy-flask, Morrison," he said. "I am
going out before breakfast. You may as well come with me, by-the-by;
for I doubt if I could walk as far as I want to go, without the help of
your arm."

In the hall Captain Arundel found one of the servants. The western door
was open, and the man was standing on the threshold looking out at the
morning. The rain had ceased; but the day did not yet promise to be
very bright, for the sun gleamed like a ball of burnished copper
through a pale November mist.

"Do you know if Mr. Paul Marchmont has gone down to the boat-house?"
Edward asked.

"Yes, sir," the man answered; "I met him just now in the quadrangle.
He'd been having a cup of coffee with my mistress."

Edward started. They were friends, then, Paul Marchmont and
Olivia!--friends, but surely not allies! Whatever villany this man
might be capable of committing, Olivia must at least be guiltless of
any deliberate treachery?

Captain Arundel took his servant's arm and walked out into the
quadrangle, and from the quadrangle to the low-lying woody swamp, where
the stunted trees looked grim and weird-like in their leafless
ugliness. Weak as the young man was, he walked rapidly across the
sloppy ground, which had been almost flooded by the continual rains. He
was borne up by his fierce desire to be face to face with Paul
Marchmont. The savage energy of his mind was stronger than any physical
debility. He dismissed Mr. Morrison as soon as he was within sight of
the boat-house, and went on alone, leaning on his stick, and pausing
now and then to draw breath, angry with himself for his weakness.

The boat-house, and the pavilion above it, had been patched up by some
country workmen. A handful of plaster here and there, a little new
brickwork, and a mended window-frame bore witness of this. The
ponderous old-fashioned wooden shutters had been repaired, and a good
deal of the work which had been begun in John Marchmont's lifetime had
now, in a certain rough manner, been completed. The place, which had
hitherto appeared likely to fall into utter decay, had been rendered
weather-tight and habitable; the black smoke creeping slowly upward
from the ivy-covered chimney, gave evidence of occupation. Beyond this,
a large wooden shed, with a wide window fronting the north, had been
erected close against the boat-house. This rough shed Edward Arundel at
once understood to be the painting-room which the artist had built for
himself.

He paused a moment outside the door of this shed. A man's voice--a
tenor voice, rather thin and metallic in quality--was singing a scrap
of Rossini upon the other side of the frail woodwork.

Edward Arundel knocked with the handle of his stick upon the door. The
voice left off singing, to say "Come in."

The soldier opened the door, crossed the threshold, and stood face to
face with Paul Marchmont in the bare wooden shed. The painter had
dressed himself for his work. His coat and waistcoat lay upon a chair
near the door. He had put on a canvas jacket, and had drawn a loose
pair of linen trousers over those which belonged to his usual costume.
So far as this paint-besmeared coat and trousers went, nothing could
have been more slovenly than Paul Marchmont's appearance; but some
tincture of foppery exhibited itself in the black velvet smoking-cap,
which contrasted with and set off the silvery whiteness of his hair, as
well as in the delicate curve of his amber moustache. A moustache was
not a very common adornment in the year 1848. It was rather an
eccentricity affected by artists, and permitted as the wild caprice of
irresponsible beings, not amenable to the laws that govern rational and
respectable people.

Edward Arundel sharply scrutinised the face and figure of the artist.
He cast a rapid glance round the bare whitewashed walls of the shed,
trying to read even in those bare walls some chance clue to the
painter's character. But there was not much to be gleaned from the
details of that almost empty chamber. A dismal, black-looking iron
stove, with a crooked chimney, stood in one corner. A great easel
occupied the centre of the room. A sheet of tin, nailed upon a wooden
shutter, swung backwards and forwards against the northern window,
blown to and fro by the damp wind that crept in through the crevices in
the framework of the roughly-fashioned casement. A heap of canvases
were piled against the walls, and here and there a half-finished
picture--a lurid Turneresque landscape; a black stormy sky; or a rocky
mountain-pass, dyed blood-red by the setting sun--was propped up
against the whitewashed background. Scattered scraps of water-colour,
crayon, old engravings, sketches torn and tumbled, bits of rockwork and
foliage, lay littered about the floor; and on a paint-stained
deal-table of the roughest and plainest fashion were gathered the
colour-tubes and palettes, the brushes and sponges and dirty cloths,
the greasy and sticky tin-cans, which form the paraphernalia of an
artist. Opposite the northern window was the moss-grown stone-staircase
leading up to the pavilion over the boat-house. Mr. Marchmont had built
his painting-room against the side of the pavilion, in such a manner as
to shut in the staircase and doorway which formed the only entrance to
it. His excuse for the awkwardness of this piece of architecture was
the impossibility of otherwise getting the all-desirable northern light
for the illumination of his rough studio.

This was the chamber in which Edward Arundel found the man from whom he
came to demand an account of his wife's disappearance. The artist was
evidently quite prepared to receive his visitor. He made no pretence of
being taken off his guard, as a meaner pretender might have done. One
of Paul Marchmont's theories was, that as it is only a fool who would
use brass where he could as easily employ gold, so it is only a fool
who tells a lie when he can conveniently tell the truth.

"Captain Arundel, I believe?" he said, pushing a chair forward for his
visitor. "I am sorry to say I recognise you by your appearance of ill
health. Mrs. Marchmont told me you wanted to see me. Does my meerschaum
annoy you? I'll put it out if it does. No? Then, if you'll allow me,
I'll go on smoking. Some people say tobacco-smoke gives a tone to one's
pictures. If so, mine ought to be Rembrandts in depth of colour."

Edward Arundel dropped into the chair that had been offered to him. If
he could by any possibility have rejected even this amount of
hospitality from Paul Marchmont, he would have done so; but he was a
great deal too weak to stand, and he knew that his interview with the
artist must be a long one.

"Mr. Marchmont," he said, "if my cousin Olivia told you that you might
expect to see me here to-day, she most likely told you a great deal
more. Did she tell you that I looked to you to account to me for the
disappearance of my wife?"

Paul Marchmont shrugged his shoulders, as who should say, "This young
man is an invalid. I must not suffer myself to be aggravated by his
absurdity." Then taking his meerschaum from his lips, he set it down,
and seated himself at a few paces from Edward Arundel on the lowest of
the moss-grown steps leading up to the pavilion.

"My dear Captain Arundel," he said, very gravely, "your cousin did
repeat to me a great deal of last night's conversation. She told me
that you had spoken of me with a degree of violence, natural enough
perhaps to a hot-tempered young soldier, but in no manner justified by
our relations. When you call upon me to account for the disappearance
of Mary Marchmont, you act about as rationally as if you declared me
answerable for the pulmonary complaint that carried away her father.
If, on the other hand, you call upon me to assist you in the endeavour
to fathom the mystery of her disappearance, you will find me ready and
willing to aid you to the very uttermost. It is to my interest as much
as to yours that this mystery should be cleared up."

"And in the meantime you take possession of this estate?"

"No, Captain Arundel. The law would allow me to do so; but I decline to
touch one farthing of the revenue which this estate yields, or to
commit one act of ownership, until the mystery of Mary Marchmont's
disappearance, or of her death, is cleared up."

"The mystery of her death?" said Edward Arundel; "you believe, then,
that she is dead?"

"I anticipate nothing; I think nothing," answered the artist; "I only
wait. The mysteries of life are so many and so incomprehensible,--the
stories, which are every day to be read by any man who takes the
trouble to look through a newspaper, are so strange, and savour so much
of the improbabilities of a novel-writer's first wild fiction,--that I
am ready to believe everything and anything. Mary Marchmont struck me,
from the first moment in which I saw her, as sadly deficient in mental
power. Nothing she could do would astonish me. She may be hiding
herself away from us, prompted only by some eccentric fancy of her own.
She may have fallen into the power of designing people. She may have
purposely placed her slipper by the water-side, in order to give the
idea of an accident or a suicide; or she may have dropped it there by
chance, and walked barefoot to the nearest railway-station. She acted
unreasonably before when she ran away from Marchmont Towers; she may
have acted unreasonably again."

"You do not think, then, that she is dead?"

"I hesitate to form any opinion; I positively decline to express one."

Edward Arundel gnawed savagely at the ends of his moustache. This man's
cool imperturbability, which had none of the studied smoothness of
hypocrisy, but which seemed rather the plain candour of a thorough man
of the world, who had no wish to pretend to any sentiment he did not
feel, baffled and infuriated the passionate young soldier. Was it
possible that this man, who met him with such cool self-assertion, who
in no manner avoided any discussion of Mary Marchmont's
disappearance,--was it possible that he could have had any treacherous
and guilty part in that calamity? Olivia's manner looked like guilt;
but Paul Marchmont's seemed the personification of innocence. Not angry
innocence, indignant that its purity should have been suspected; but
the matter-of-fact, commonplace innocence of a man of the world, who is
a great deal too clever to play any hazardous and villanous game.

"You can perhaps answer me this question, Mr. Marchmont," said Edward
Arundel. "Why was my wife doubted when she told the story of her
marriage?"

The artist smiled, and rising from his seat upon the stone step, took a
pocket-book from one of the pockets of the coat that he had been
wearing.

"I _can_ answer that question," he said, selecting a paper from amongst
others in the pocket-book. "This will answer it."

He handed Edward Arundel the paper, which was a letter folded
lengthways, and indorsed, "From Mrs. Arundel, August 31st." Within this
letter was another paper, indorsed, "Copy of letter to Mrs. Arundel,
August 28th."

"You had better read the copy first," Mr. Marchmont said, as Edward
looked doubtfully at the inner paper.

The copy was very brief, and ran thus:

"Marchmont Towers, August 28, 1848.

"MADAM,--I have been given to understand that your son, Captain
Arundel, within a fortnight of his sad accident, contracted a secret
marriage with a young lady, whose name I, for several reasons, prefer
to withhold. If you can oblige me by informing me whether there is any
foundation for this statement, you will confer a very great favour upon

"Your obedient servant,

"PAUL MARCHMONT."

The answer to this letter, in the hand of Edward Arundel's mother, was
equally brief:

"Dangerfield Park, August 31, 1848.

"SIR,--In reply to your inquiry, I beg to state that there can be no
foundation whatever for the report to which you allude. My son is too
honourable to contract a secret marriage; and although his present
unhappy state renders it impossible for me to receive the assurance
from his own lips, my confidence in his high principles justifies me in
contradicting any such report as that which forms the subject of your
letter.

"I am, sir,

"Yours obediently,

"LETITIA ARUNDEL."

The soldier stood, mute and confounded, with his mother's letter in his
hand. It seemed as if every creature had been against the helpless girl
whom he had made his wife. Every hand had been lifted to drive her from
the house that was her own; to drive her out upon the world, of which
she was ignorant, a wanderer and an outcast; perhaps to drive her to a
cruel death.

"You can scarcely wonder if the receipt of that letter confirmed me in
my previous belief that Mary Marchmont's story of a marriage arose out
of the weakness of a brain, never too strong, and at that time very
much enfeebled by the effect of a fever."

Edward Arundel was silent. He crushed his mother's letter in his hand.
Even his mother--even his mother--that tender and compassionate woman,
whose protection he had so freely promised, ten years before, in the
lobby of Drury Lane, to John Marchmont's motherless child,--even she,
by some hideous fatality, had helped to bring grief and shame upon the
lonely girl. All this story of his young wife's disappearance seemed
enveloped in a wretched obscurity, through whose thick darkness he
could not penetrate. He felt himself encompassed by a web of mystery,
athwart which it was impossible to cut his way to the truth. He asked
question after question, and received answers which seemed freely
given; but the story remained as dark as ever. What did it all mean?
What was the clue to the mystery? Was this man, Paul Marchmont,--busy
amongst his unfinished pictures, and bearing in his every action, in
his every word, the stamp of an easy-going, free-spoken soldier of
fortune,--likely to have been guilty of any dark and subtle villany
against the missing girl? He had disbelieved in the marriage; but he
had had some reason for his doubt of a fact that could not very well be
welcome to him.

The young man rose from his chair, and stood irresolute, brooding over
these things.

"Come, Captain Arundel," cried Paul Marchmont, heartily, "believe me,
though I have not much superfluous sentimentality left in my
composition after a pretty long encounter with the world, still I can
truly sympathise with your regret for this poor silly child. I hope,
for your sake, that she still lives, and is foolishly hiding herself
from us all. Perhaps, now you are able to act in the business, there
may be a better chance of finding her. I am old enough to be your
father, and am ready to give you the help of any knowledge of the world
which I may have gathered in the experience of a lifetime. Will you
accept my help?"

Edward Arundel paused for a moment, with his head still bent, and his
eyes fixed upon the ground. Then suddenly lifting his head, he looked
full in the artist's face as he answered him.

"No!" he cried. "Your offer may be made in all good faith, and if so, I
thank you for it; but no one loves this missing girl as I love her; no
one has so good a right as I have to protect and shelter her. I will
look for my wife, alone, unaided; except by such help as I pray that
God may give me."



CHAPTER IX.


IN THE DARK.


Edward Arundel walked slowly back to the Towers, shaken in body,
perplexed in mind, baffled, disappointed, and most miserable; the young
husband, whose married life had been shut within the compass of a brief
honeymoon, went back to that dark and gloomy mansion within whose
encircling walls Mary had pined and despaired.

"Why did she stop here?" he thought; "why didn't she come to me? I
thought her first impulse would have brought her to me. I thought my
poor childish love would have set out on foot to seek her husband, if
need were."

He groped his way feebly and wearily amidst the leafless wood, and
through the rotting vegetation decaying in oozy slime beneath the black
shelter of the naked trees. He groped his way towards the dismal
eastern front of the great stone dwelling-house, his face always turned
towards the blank windows, that stared down at him from the discoloured
walls.

"Oh, if they could speak!" he exclaimed, almost beside himself in his
perplexity and desperation; "if they could speak! If those cruel walls
could find a voice, and tell me what my darling suffered within their
shadow! If they could tell me why she despaired, and ran away to hide
herself from her husband and protector! _If_ they could speak!"

He ground his teeth in a passion of sorrowful rage.

"I should gain as much by questioning yonder stone wall as by talking
to my cousin, Olivia Marchmont," he thought, presently. "Why is that
woman so venomous a creature in her hatred of my innocent wife? Why is
it that, whether I threaten, or whether I appeal, I can gain nothing
from her--nothing? She baffles me as completely by her measured
answers, which seem to reply to my questions, and which yet tell me
nothing, as if she were a brazen image set up by the dark ignorance of
a heathen people, and dumb in the absence of an impostor-priest. She
baffles me, question her how I will. And Paul Marchmont, again,--what
have I learned from him? Am I a fool, that people can prevaricate and
lie to me like this? Has my brain no sense, and my arm no strength,
that I cannot wring the truth from the false throats of these
wretches?"

The young man gnashed his teeth again in the violence of his rage.

Yes, it was like a dream; it was like nothing but a dream. In dreams he
had often felt this terrible sense of impotence wrestling with a mad
desire to achieve something or other. But never before in his waking
hours had the young soldier experienced such a sensation.

He stopped, irresolute, almost bewildered, looking back at the
boat-house, a black spot far away down by the sedgy brink of the slow
river, and then again turning his face towards the monotonous lines of
windows in the eastern frontage of Marchmont Towers.

"I let that man play with me to-day," he thought; "but our reckoning is
to come. We have not done with each other yet."

He walked on towards the low archway leading into the quadrangle.

The room which had been John Marchmont's study, and which his widow had
been wont to occupy since his death, looked into this quadrangle.
Edward Arundel saw his cousin's dark head bending over a book, or a
desk perhaps, behind the window.

"Let her beware of me, if she has done any wrong to my wife!" he
thought. "To which of these people am I to look for an account of my
poor lost girl? To which of these two am I to look! Heaven guide me to
find the guilty one; and Heaven have mercy upon that wretched creature
when the hour of reckoning comes; for I will have none."

Olivia Marchmont, looking through the window, saw her kinsman's face
while this thought was in his mind. The expression which she saw there
was so terrible, so merciless, so sublime in its grand and vengeful
beauty, that her own face blanched even to a paler hue than that which
had lately become habitual to it.

"Am I afraid of him?" she thought, as she pressed her forehead against
the cold glass, and by a physical effort restrained the convulsive
trembling that had suddenly shaken her frame. "Am I afraid of him? No;
what injury can he inflict upon me worse than that which he has done me
from the very first? If he could drag me to a scaffold, and deliver me
with his own hands into the grasp of the hangman, he would do me no
deeper wrong than he has done me from the hour of my earliest
remembrance of him. He could inflict no new pangs, no sharper tortures,
than I have been accustomed to suffer at his hands. He does not love
me. He has never loved me. He never will love me. _That_ is my wrong;
and it is for that I take my revenge!"

She lifted her head, which had rested in a sullen attitude against the
glass, and looked at the soldier's figure slowly advancing towards the
western side of the house.

Then, with a smile,--the same horrible smile which Edward Arundel had
seen light up her face on the previous night,--she muttered between her
set teeth:--

"Shall I be sorry because this vengeance has fallen across my pathway?
Shall I repent, and try to undo what I have done? Shall I thrust myself
between others and Mr. Edward Arundel? Shall _I_ make myself the ally
and champion of this gallant soldier, who seldom speaks to me except to
insult and upbraid me? Shall _I_ take justice into my hands, and
interfere for my kinsman's benefit? No; he has chosen to threaten me;
he has chosen to believe vile things of me. From the first his
indifference has been next kin to insolence. Let him take care of
himself."

Edward Arundel took no heed of the grey eyes that watched him with such
a vengeful light in their fixed gaze. He was still thinking of his
missing wife, still feeling, to a degree that was intolerably painful,
that miserable dream-like sense of helplessness and prostration.

"What am I to do?" he thought. "Shall I be for ever going backwards and
forwards between my Cousin Olivia and Paul Marchmont; for ever
questioning them, first one and then the other, and never getting any
nearer to the truth?"

He asked himself this question, because the extreme anguish, the
intense anxiety, which he had endured, seemed to have magnified the
smallest events, and to have multiplied a hundred-fold the lapse of
time. It seemed as if he had already spent half a lifetime in his
search after John Marchmont's lost daughter.

"O my friend, my friend!" he thought, as some faint link of
association, some memory thrust upon him by the aspect of the place in
which he was, brought back the simple-minded tutor who had taught him
mathematics eighteen years before,--"my poor friend, if this girl had
not been my love and my wife, surely the memory of your trust in me
would be enough to make me a desperate and merciless avenger of her
wrongs."

He went into the hall, and from the hall to the tenantless western
drawing-room,--a dreary chamber, with its grim and faded splendour, its
stiff, old-fashioned furniture; a chamber which, unadorned by the
presence of youth and innocence, had the aspect of belonging to a day
that was gone, and people that were dead. So might have looked one of
those sealed-up chambers in the buried cities of Italy, when the doors
were opened, and eager living eyes first looked in upon the habitations
of the dead.

Edward Arundel walked up and down the empty drawing-room. There were
the ivory chessmen that he had brought from India, under a glass shade
on an inlaid table in a window. How often he and Mary had played
together in that very window; and how she had always lost her pawns,
and left bishops and knights undefended, while trying to execute
impossible manoeuvres with her queen! The young man paced slowly
backwards and forwards across the old-fashioned bordered carpet, trying
to think what he should do. He must form some plan of action in his own
mind, he thought. There was foul work somewhere, he most implicitly
believed; and it was for him to discover the motive of the treachery,
and the person of the traitor.

Paul Marchmont! Paul Marchmont!

His mind always travelled back to this point. Paul Marchmont was Mary's
natural enemy. Paul Marchmont was therefore surely the man to be
suspected, the man to be found out and defeated.

And yet, if there was any truth in appearances, it was Olivia who was
most inimical to the missing girl; it was Olivia whom Mary had feared;
it was Olivia who had driven John Marchmont's orphan-child from her
home once, and who might, by the same power to tyrannise and torture a
weak and yielding nature, have so banished her again.

Or these two, Paul and Olivia, might both hate the defenceless girl,
and might have between them plotted a wrong against her.

"Who will tell me the truth about my lost darling?" cried Edward
Arundel. "Who will help me to look for my missing love?"

His lost darling; his missing love. It was thus that the young man
spoke of his wife. That dark thought which had been suggested to him by
the words of Olivia, by the mute evidence of the little bronze slipper
picked up near the river-brink, had never taken root, or held even a
temporary place in his breast. He would not--nay, more, he could
not--think that his wife was dead. In all his confused and miserable
dreams that dreary November night, no dream had ever shown him _that_.
No image of death had mingled itself with the distorted shadows that
had tormented his sleep. No still white face had looked up at him
through a veil of murky waters. No moaning sob of a rushing stream had
mixed its dismal sound with the many voices of his slumbers. No; he
feared all manner of unknown sorrows; he looked vaguely forward to a
sea of difficulty, to be waded across in blindness and bewilderment
before he could clasp his rescued wife in his arms; but he never
thought that she was dead.

Presently the idea came to him that it was outside Marchmont
Towers,--away, beyond the walls of this grim, enchanted castle, where
evil spirits seemed to hold possession,--that he should seek for the
clue to his wife's hiding-place.

"There is Hester, that girl who was fond of Mary," he thought; "she may
be able to tell me something, perhaps. I will go to her."

He went out into the hall to look for his servant, the faithful
Morrison, who had been eating a very substantial breakfast with the
domestics of the Towers--"the sauce to meat" being a prolonged
discussion of the facts connected with Mary Marchmont's disappearance
and her relations with Edward Arundel--and who came, radiant and greasy
from the enjoyment of hot buttered cakes and Lincolnshire bacon, at the
sound of his master's voice.

"I want you to get me some vehicle, and a lad who will drive me a few
miles, Morrison," the young soldier said; "or you can drive me
yourself, perhaps?"

"Certainly, Master Edward; I have driven your pa often, when we was
travellin' together. I'll go and see if there's a phee-aton or a shay
that will suit you, sir; something that goes easy on its springs."

"Get anything," muttered Captain Arundel, "so long as you can get it
without loss of time."

All fuss and anxiety upon the subject of his health worried the young
man. He felt his head dizzied with weakness and excitement; his
arm--that muscular right arm, which had done him good service two years
before in an encounter with a tigress--was weaker than the jewel-bound
wrist of a woman. But he chafed against anything like consideration of
his weakness; he rebelled against anything that seemed likely to hinder
him in that one object upon which all the powers of his mind were bent.

Mr. Morrison went away with some show of briskness, but dropped into a
very leisurely pace as soon as he was fairly out of his master's sight.
He went straight to the stables, where he had a pleasant gossip with
the grooms and hangers-on, and amused himself further by inspecting
every bit of horseflesh in the Marchmont stables, prior to selecting a
quiet grey cob which he felt himself capable of driving, and an
old-fashioned gig with a yellow body and black and yellow wheels,
bearing a strong resemblance to a monstrous wooden wasp.

While the faithful attendant to whom Mrs. Arundel had delegated the
care of her son was thus employed, the soldier stood in the stone hall,
looking out at the dreary wintry landscape, and pining to hurry away
across the dismal swamps to the village in which he hoped to hear
tidings of her he sought. He was lounging in a deep oaken window-seat,
looking hopelessly at that barren prospect, that monotonous expanse of
flat morass and leaden sky, when he heard a footstep behind him; and
turning round saw Olivia's confidential servant, Barbara Simmons, the
woman who had watched by his wife's sick-bed,--the woman whom he had
compared to a ghoule.

She was walking slowly across the hall towards Olivia's room, whither a
bell had just summoned her. Mrs. Marchmont had lately grown fretful and
capricious, and did not care to be waited upon by any one except this
woman, who had known her from her childhood, and was no stranger to her
darkest moods.

Edward Arundel had determined to appeal to every living creature who
was likely to know anything of his wife's disappearance, and he
snatched the first opportunity of questioning this woman.

"Stop, Mrs. Simmons," he said, moving away from the window; "I want to
speak to you; I want to talk to you about my wife."

The woman turned to him with a blank face, whose expressionless stare
might mean either genuine surprise or an obstinate determination not to
understand anything that might be said to her.

"Your wife, Captain Arundel!" she said, in cold measured tones, but
with an accent of astonishment.

"Yes; my wife. Mary Marchmont, my lawfully-wedded wife. Look here,
woman," cried Edward Arundel; "if you cannot accept the word of a
soldier, and an honourable man, you can perhaps believe the evidence of
your eyes."

He took a morocco memorandum-book from his breast-pocket. It was full
of letters, cards, bank-notes, and miscellaneous scraps of paper
carelessly stuffed into it, and amongst them Captain Arundel found the
certificate of his marriage, which he had put away at random upon his
wedding morning, and which had lain unheeded in his pocket-book ever
since.

"Look here," he cried, spreading the document before the
waiting-woman's eyes, and pointing, with a shaking hand, to the lines.
"You believe that, I suppose?"

"O yes, sir," Barbara Simmons answered, after deliberately reading the
certificate. "I have no reason to disbelieve it; no wish to disbelieve
it."

"No; I suppose not," muttered Edward Arundel, "unless you too are
leagued with Paul Marchmont."

The woman did not flinch at this hinted accusation, but answered the
young man in that slow and emotionless manner which no change of
circumstance seemed to have power to alter.

"I am leagued with no one, sir," she said, coldly. "I serve no one
except my mistress, Miss Olivia--I mean Mrs. Marchmont."

The study-bell rang for the second time while she was speaking.

"I must go to my mistress now, sir," she said. "You heard her ringing
for me."

"Go, then, and let me see you as you come back. I tell you I must and
will speak to you. Everybody in this house tries to avoid me. It seems
as if I was not to get a straight answer from any one of you. But I
_will_ know all that is to be known about my lost wife. Do you hear,
woman? I will know!"

"I will come back to you directly, sir," Barbara Simmons answered
quietly.

The leaden calmness of this woman's manner irritated Edward Arundel
beyond all power of expression. Before his cousin Olivia's gloomy
coldness he had been flung back upon himself as before an iceberg; but
every now and then some sudden glow of fiery emotion had shot up amid
that frigid mass, lurid and blazing, and the iceberg had been
transformed into an angry and passionate woman, who might, in that
moment of fierce emotion, betray the dark secrets of her soul. But
_this_ woman's manner presented a passive barrier, athwart which the
young soldier was as powerless to penetrate as he would have been to
walk through a block of solid stone.

Olivia was like some black and stony castle, whose barred windows bade
defiance to the besieger, but behind whose narrow casements transient
flashes of light gleamed fitfully upon the watchers without, hinting at
the mysteries that were hidden within the citadel.

Barbara Simmons resembled a blank stone wall, grimly confronting the
eager traveller, and giving no indication whatever of the unknown
country on the other side.

She came back almost immediately, after being only a few moments in
Olivia's room,--certainly not long enough to consult with her mistress
as to what she was to say or to leave unsaid,--and presented herself
before Captain Arundel.

"If you have any questions to ask, sir, about Miss Marchmont--about
your wife--I shall be happy to answer them," she said.

"I have a hundred questions to ask," exclaimed the young man; "but
first answer me this one plainly and truthfully--Where do you think my
wife has gone? What do you think has become of her?"

The woman was silent for a few moments, and then answered very
gravely,--

"I would rather not say what I think, sir."

"Why not?"

"Because I might say that which would make you unhappy."

"Can anything be more miserable to me than the prevarication which I
meet with on every side?" cried Edward Arundel. "If you or any one else
will be straightforward with me--remembering that I come to this place
like a man who has risen from the grave, depending wholly on the word
of others for the knowledge of that which is more vital to me than
anything upon this earth--that person will be the best friend I have
found since I rose from my sick-bed to come hither. You can have had no
motive--if you are not in Paul Marchmont's pay--for being cruel to my
poor girl. Tell me the truth, then; speak, and speak fearlessly."

"I have no reason to fear, sir," answered Barbara Simmons, lifting her
faded eyes to the young man's eager face, with a gaze that seemed to
say, "I have done no wrong, and I do not shrink from justifying
myself." "I have no reason to fear, sir; I was piously brought up, and
have done my best always to do my duty in the state of life in which
Providence has been pleased to place me. I have not had a particularly
happy life, sir; for thirty years ago I lost all that made me happy, in
them that loved me, and had a claim to love me. I have attached myself
to my mistress; but it isn't for me to expect a lady like her would
stoop to make me more to her or nearer to her than I have a right to be
as a servant."

There was no accent of hypocrisy or cant in any one of these
deliberately-spoken words. It seemed as if in this speech the woman had
told the history of her life; a brief, unvarnished history of a barren
life, out of which all love and sunlight had been early swept away,
leaving behind a desolate blank, that was not destined to be filled up
by any affection from the young mistress so long and patiently served.

"I am faithful to my mistress, sir," Barbara Simmons added, presently;
"and I try my best to do my duty to her. I owe no duty to any one
else."

"You owe a duty to humanity," answered Edward Arundel. "Woman, do you
think duty is a thing to be measured by line and rule? Christ came to
save the lost sheep of the children of Israel; but was He less pitiful
to the Canaanitish woman when she carried her sorrows to His feet? You
and your mistress have made hard precepts for yourselves, and have
tried to live by them. You try to circumscribe the area of your
Christian charity, and to do good within given limits. The traveller
who fell among thieves would have died of his wounds, for any help he
might have had from you, if he had lain beyond your radius. Have you
yet to learn that Christianity is cosmopolitan, illimitable,
inexhaustible, subject to no laws of time or space? The duty you owe to
your mistress is a duty that she buys and pays for--a matter of sordid
barter, to be settled when you take your wages; the duty you owe to
every miserable creature in your pathway is a sacred debt, to be
accounted for to God."

As the young soldier spoke thus, carried away by his passionate
agitation, suddenly eloquent by reason of the intensity of his feeling,
a change came over Barbara's face. There was no very palpable evidence
of emotion in that stolid countenance; but across the wooden blankness
of the woman's face flitted a transient shadow, which was like the
shadow of fear.

"I tried to do my duty to Miss Marchmont as well as to my mistress,"
she said. "I waited on her faithfully while she was ill. I sat up with
her six nights running; I didn't take my clothes off for a week. There
are folks in the house who can tell you as much."

"God knows I am grateful to you, and will reward you for any pity you
may have shown my poor darling," the young man answered, in a more
subdued tone; "only, if you pity me, and wish to help me, speak out,
and speak plainly. What do you think has become of my lost girl?"

"I cannot tell you, sir. As God looks down upon me and judges me, I
declare to you that I know no more than you know. But I think----"

"You think what?"

"That you will never see Miss Marchmont again."

Edward Arundel started as violently as if, of all sentences, this was
the last he had expected to hear pronounced. His sanguine temperament,
fresh in its vigorous and untainted youth, could not grasp the thought
of despair. He could be mad with passionate anger against the obstacles
that separated him from his wife; but he could not believe those
obstacles to be insurmountable. He could not doubt the power of his own
devotion and courage to bring him back his lost love.

"Never--see her--again!"

He repeated these words as if they had belonged to a strange language,
and he were trying to make out their meaning.

"You think," he gasped hoarsely, after a long pause,--"you
think--that--she is--dead?"

"I think that she went out of this house in a desperate state of mind.
She was seen--not by me, for I should have thought it my duty to stop
her if I had seen her so--she was seen by one of the servants crying
and sobbing awfully as she went away upon that last afternoon."

"And she was never seen again?"

"Never by me."

"And--you--you think she went out of this house with the intention
of--of--destroying herself?"

The words died away in a hoarse whisper, and it was by the motion of
his white lips that Barbara Simmons perceived what the young man meant.

"I do, sir."

"Have you any--particular reason for thinking so?"

"No reason beyond what I have told you, sir."

Edward Arundel bent his head, and walked away to hide his blanched
face. He tried instinctively to conceal this mental suffering, as he
had sometimes hidden physical torture in an Indian hospital, prompted
by the involuntary impulse of a brave man. But though the woman's words
had come upon him like a thunderbolt, he had no belief in the opinion
they expressed. No; his young spirit wrestled against and rejected the
awful conclusion. Other people might think what they chose; but he knew
better than they. His wife was _not_ dead. His life had been so smooth,
so happy, so prosperous, so unclouded and successful, that it was
scarcely strange he should be sceptical of calamity,--that his mind
should be incapable of grasping the idea of a catastrophe so terrible
as Mary's suicide.

"She was intrusted to me by her father," he thought. "She gave her
faith to me before God's altar. She _cannot_ have perished body and
soul; she _cannot_ have gone down to destruction for want of my arm
outstretched to save her. God is too good to permit such misery."

The young soldier's piety was of the simplest and most unquestioning
order, and involved an implicit belief that a right cause must always
be ultimately victorious. With the same blind faith in which he had
often muttered a hurried prayer before plunging in amidst the mad havoc
of an Indian battle-field, confident that the justice of Heaven would
never permit heathenish Affghans to triumph over Christian British
gentlemen, he now believed that, in the darkest hour of Mary
Marchmont's life, God's arm had held her back from the dread
horror--the unatonable offence--of self-destruction.

"I thank you for having spoken frankly to me," he said to Barbara
Simmons; "I believe that you have spoken in good faith. But I do not
think my darling is for ever lost to me. I anticipate trouble and
anxiety, disappointment, defeat for a time,--for a long time, perhaps;
but I _know_ that I shall find her in the end. The business of my life
henceforth is to look for her."

Barbara's dull eyes held earnest watch upon the young man's countenance
as he spoke. Anxiety and even fear were in that gaze, palpable to those
who knew how to read the faint indications of the woman's stolid face.



CHAPTER X.

THE PARAGRAPH IN THE NEWSPAPER.


Mr. Morrison brought the gig and pony to the western porch while
Captain Arundel was talking to his cousin's servant, and presently the
invalid was being driven across the flat between the Towers and the
high-road to Kemberling.

Mary's old favourite, Farmer Pollard's daughter, came out of a low
rustic shop as the gig drew up before her husband's door. This
good-natured, tender-hearted Hester, advanced to matronly dignity under
the name of Mrs. Jobson, carried a baby in her arms, and wore a white
dimity hood, that made a penthouse over her simple rosy face. But at
the sight of Captain Arundel nearly all the rosy colour disappeared
from the country-woman's plump cheeks, and she stared aghast at the
unlooked-for visitor, almost ready to believe that, if anything so
substantial as a pony and gig could belong to the spiritual world, it
was the phantom only of the soldier that she looked upon.

"O sir!" she said; "O Captain Arundel, is it really you?"

Edward alighted before Hester could recover from the surprise
occasioned by his appearance.

"Yes, Mrs. Jobson," he said. "May I come into your house? I wish to
speak to you."

Hester curtseyed, and stood aside to allow her visitor to pass her. Her
manner was coldly respectful, and she looked at the young officer with
a grave, reproachful face, which was strange to him. She ushered her
guest into a parlour at the back of the shop; a prim apartment,
splendid with varnished mahogany, shell-work boxes--bought during
Hester's honeymoon-trip to a Lincolnshire watering-place--and
voluminous achievements in the way of crochet-work; a gorgeous and
Sabbath-day chamber, looking across a stand of geraniums into a garden
that was orderly and trimly kept even in this dull November weather.

Mrs. Jobson drew forward an uneasy easy-chair, covered with horsehair,
and veiled by a crochet-work representation of a peacock embowered
among roses. She offered this luxurious seat to Captain Arundel, who,
in his weakness, was well content to sit down upon the slippery
cushions.

"I have come here to ask you to help me in my search for my wife,
Hester," Edward Arundel said, in a scarcely audible voice.

It is not given to the bravest mind to be utterly independent and
defiant of the body; and the soldier was beginning to feel that he had
very nearly run the length of his tether, and must soon submit himself
to be prostrated by sheer physical weakness.

"Your wife!" cried Hester eagerly. "O sir, is that true?"

"Is what true?"

"That poor Miss Mary was your lawful wedded wife?"

"She was," replied Edward Arundel sternly, "my true and lawful wife.
What else should she have been, Mrs. Jobson?"

The farmer's daughter burst into tears.

"O sir," she said, sobbing violently as she spoke,--"O sir, the things
that was said against that poor dear in this place and all about the
Towers! The things that was said! It makes my heart bleed to think of
them; it makes my heart ready to break when I think what my poor sweet
young lady must have suffered. And it set me against you, sir; and I
thought you was a bad and cruel-hearted man!"

"What did they say?" cried Edward. "What did they dare to say against
her or against me?"

"They said that you had enticed her away from her home, sir, and
that--that--there had been no marriage; and that you had deluded that
poor innocent dear to run away with you; and that you'd deserted her
afterwards, and the railway accident had come upon you as a punishment
like; and that Mrs. Marchmont had found poor Miss Mary all alone at a
country inn, and had brought her back to the Towers."

"But what if people did say this?" exclaimed Captain Arundel. "You
could have contradicted their foul slanders; you could have spoken in
defence of my poor helpless girl."

"Me, sir!"

"Yes. You must have heard the truth from my wife's own lips."

Hester Jobson burst into a new flood of tears as Edward Arundel said
this.

"O no, sir," she sobbed; "that was the most cruel thing of all. I never
could get to see Miss Mary; they wouldn't let me see her."

"Who wouldn't let you?"

"Mrs. Marchmont and Mr. Paul Marchmont. I was laid up, sir, when the
report first spread about that Miss Mary had come home. Things was kept
very secret, and it was said that Mrs. Marchmont was dreadfully cut up
by the disgrace that had come upon her stepdaughter. My baby was born
about that time, sir; but as soon as ever I could get about, I went up
to the Towers, in the hope of seeing my poor dear miss. But Mrs.
Simmons, Mrs. Marchmont's own maid, told me that Miss Mary was ill,
very ill, and that no one was allowed to see her except those that
waited upon her and that she was used to. And I begged and prayed that
I might be allowed to see her, sir, with the tears in my eyes; for my
heart bled for her, poor darling dear, when I thought of the cruel
things that was said against her, and thought that, with all her riches
and her learning, folks could dare to talk of her as they wouldn't dare
talk of a poor man's wife like me. And I went again and again, sir; but
it was no good; and, the last time I went, Mrs. Marchmont came out into
the hall to me, and told me that I was intrusive and impertinent, and
that it was me, and such as me, as had set all manner of scandal afloat
about her stepdaughter. But I went again, sir, even after that; and I
saw Mr. Paul Marchmont, and he was very kind to me, and frank and
free-spoken,--almost like you, sir; and he told me that Mrs. Marchmont
was rather stern and unforgiving towards the poor young lady,--he spoke
very kind and pitiful of poor Miss Mary,--and that he would stand my
friend, and he'd contrive that I should see my poor dear as soon as
ever she picked up her spirits a bit, and was more fit to see me; and I
was to come again in a week's time, he said."

"Well; and when you went----?"

"When I went, sir," sobbed the carpenter's wife, "it was the 18th of
October, and Miss Mary had run away upon the day before, and every body
at the Towers was being sent right and left to look for her. I saw Mrs.
Marchmont for a minute that afternoon; and she was as white as a sheet,
and all of a tremble from head to foot, and she walked about the place
as if she was out of her mind like."

"Guilt," thought the young soldier; "guilt of some sort. God only knows
what that guilt has been!"

He covered his face with his hands, and waited to hear what more Hester
Jobson had to tell him. There was no need of questioning here--no
reservation or prevarication. With almost as tender regret as he
himself could have felt, the carpenter's wife told him all that she
knew of the sad story of Mary's disappearance.

"Nobody took much notice of me, sir, in the confusion of the place,"
Mrs. Jobson continued; "and there is a parlour-maid at the Towers
called Susan Rose, that had been a schoolfellow with me ten years
before, and I got her to tell me all about it. And she said that poor
dear Miss Mary had been weak and ailing ever since she had recovered
from the brain-fever, and that she had shut herself up in her room, and
had seen no one except Mrs. Marchmont, and Mr. Paul, and Barbara
Simmons; but on the 17th Mrs. Marchmont sent for her, asking her to
come to the study. And the poor young lady went; and then Susan Rose
thinks that there was high words between Mrs. Marchmont and her
stepdaughter; for as Susan was crossing the hall poor Miss came out of
the study, and her face was all smothered in tears, and she cried out,
as she came into the hall, 'I can't bear it any longer. My life is too
miserable; my fate is too wretched!' And then she ran upstairs, and
Susan Rose followed up to her room and listened outside the door; and
she heard the poor dear sobbing and crying out again and again, 'O
papa, papa! If you knew what I suffer! O papa, papa, papa!'--so
pitiful, that if Susan Rose had dared she would have gone in to try and
comfort her; but Miss Mary had always been very reserved to all the
servants, and Susan didn't dare intrude upon her. It was late that
evening when my poor young lady was missed, and the servants sent out
to look for her."

"And you, Hester,--you knew my wife better than any of these
people,--where do you think she went?"

Hester Jobson looked piteously at the questioner.

"O sir!" she cried; "O Captain Arundel, don't ask me; pray, pray don't
ask me."

"You think like these other people,--you think that she went away to
destroy herself?"

"O sir, what can I think, what can I think except that? She was last
seen down by the water-side, and one of her shoes was picked up amongst
the rushes; and for all there's been such a search made after her, and
a reward offered, and advertisements in the papers, and everything done
that mortal could do to find her, there's been no news of her,
sir,--not a trace to tell of her being living; not a creature to come
forward and speak to her being seen by them after that day. What can I
think, sir, what can I think, except--"

"Except that she threw herself into the river behind Marchmont Towers."

"I've tried to think different, sir; I've tried to hope I should see
that poor sweet lamb again; but I can't, I can't. I've worn mourning
for these three last Sundays, sir; for I seemed to feel as if it was a
sin and a disrespectfulness towards her to wear colours, and sit in the
church where I have seen her so often, looking so meek and beautiful,
Sunday after Sunday."

Edward Arundel bowed his head upon his hands and wept silently. This
woman's belief in Mary's death afflicted him more than he dared confess
to himself. He had defied Olivia and Paul Marchmont, as enemies, who
tried to force a false conviction upon him; but he could neither doubt
nor defy this honest, warm-hearted creature, who wept aloud over the
memory of his wife's sorrows. He could not doubt her sincerity; but he
still refused to accept the belief which on every side was pressed upon
him. He still refused to think that his wife was dead.

"The river was dragged for more than a week," he said, presently, "and
my wife's body was never found."

Hester Jobson shook her head mournfully.

"That's a poor sign, sir," she answered; "the river's full of holes,
I've heard say. My husband had a fellow-'prentice who drowned himself
in that river seven year ago, and _his_ body was never found."

Edward Arundel rose and walked towards the door.

"I do not believe that my wife is dead," he cried. He held out his hand
to the carpenter's wife. "God bless you!" he said. "I thank you from my
heart for your tender feeling towards my lost girl."

He went out to the gig, in which Mr. Morrison waited for him, rather
tired of his morning's work.

"There is an inn a little way farther along the street, Morrison,"
Captain Arundel said. "I shall stop there."

The man stared at his master.

"And not go back to Marchmont Towers, Mr. Edward?"

"No."

Edward Arundel had held Nature in abeyance for more than
four-and-twenty hours, and this outraged Nature now took her revenge by
flinging the young man prostrate and powerless upon his bed at the
simple Kemberling hostelry, and holding him prisoner there for three
dreary days; three miserable days, with long, dark interminable
evenings, during which the invalid had no better employment than to lie
brooding over his sorrows, while Mr. Morrison read the "Times"
newspaper in a monotonous and droning voice, for his sick master's
entertainment.

How that helpless and prostrate prisoner, bound hand and foot in the
stern grasp of retaliative Nature, loathed the leading-articles, the
foreign correspondence, in the leviathan journal! How he sickened at
the fiery English of Printing-House Square, as expounded by Mr.
Morrison! The sound of the valet's voice was like the unbroken flow of
a dull river. The great names that surged up every now and then upon
that sluggish tide of oratory made no impression upon the sick man's
mind. What was it to him if the glory of England were in danger, the
freedom of a mighty people wavering in the balance? What was it to him
if famine-stricken Ireland were perishing, and the far-away Indian
possessions menaced by contumacious and treacherous Sikhs? What was it
to him if the heavens were shrivelled like a blazing scroll, and the
earth reeling on its shaken foundations? What had he to do with any
catastrophe except that which had fallen upon his innocent young wife?

"O my broken trust!" he muttered sometimes, to the alarm of the
confidential servant; "O my broken trust!"

But during the three days in which Captain Arundel lay in the best
chamber at the Black Bull--the chief inn of Kemberling, and a very
splendid place of public entertainment long ago, when all the
northward-bound coaches had passed through that quiet Lincolnshire
village--he was not without a medical attendant to give him some feeble
help in the way of drugs and doctor's stuff, in the battle which he was
fighting with offended Nature. I don't know but that the help, however
well intended, may have gone rather to strengthen the hand of the
enemy; for in those days--the year '48 is very long ago when we take
the measure of time by science--country practitioners were apt to place
themselves upon the side of the disease rather than of the patient, and
to assist grim Death in his siege, by lending the professional aid of
purgatives and phlebotomy.

On this principle Mr. George Weston, the surgeon of Kemberling, and the
submissive and well-tutored husband of Paul Marchmont's sister, would
fain have set to work with the prostrate soldier, on the plea that the
patient's skin was hot and dry, and his white lips parched with fever.
But Captain Arundel protested vehemently against any such treatment.

"You shall not take an ounce of blood out of my veins," he said, "or
give me one drop of medicine that will weaken me. What I want is
strength; strength to get up and leave this intolerable room, and go
about the business that I have to do. As to fever," he added
scornfully, "as long as I have to lie here and am hindered from going
about the business of my life, every drop of my blood will boil with a
fever that all the drugs in Apothecaries' Hall would have no power to
subdue. Give me something to strengthen me. Patch me up somehow or
other, Mr. Weston, if you can. But I warn you that, if you keep me long
here, I shall leave this place either a corpse or a madman."

The surgeon, drinking tea with his wife and brother-in-law half an hour
afterwards, related the conversation that had taken place between
himself and his patient, breaking up his narrative with a great many "I
said's" and "said he's," and with a good deal of rambling commentary
upon the text.

Lavinia Weston looked at her brother while the surgeon told his story.

"He is very desperate about his wife, then, this dashing young
captain?" Mr. Marchmont said, presently.

"Awful," answered the surgeon; "regular awful. I never saw anything
like it. Really it was enough to cut a man up to hear him go on so. He
asked me all sorts of questions about the time when she was ill and I
attended upon her, and what did she say to me, and did she seem very
unhappy, and all that sort of thing. Upon my word, you know, Mr.
Paul,--of course I am very glad to think of your coming into the
fortune, and I'm very much obliged to you for the kind promises you've
made to me and Lavinia; but I almost felt as if I could have wished the
poor young lady hadn't drowned herself."

Mrs. Weston shrugged her shoulders, and looked at her brother.

"_Imbecile!_" she muttered.

She was accustomed to talk to her brother very freely in rather
school-girl French before her husband, to whom that language was as the
most recondite of tongues, and who heartily admired her for superior
knowledge.

He sat staring at her now, and eating bread-and-butter with a simple
relish, which in itself was enough to mark him out as a man to be
trampled upon.

 * * * * *

On the fourth day after his interview with Hester, Edward Arundel was
strong enough to leave his chamber at the Black Bull.

"I shall go to London by to-night's mail, Morrison," he said to his
servant; "but before I leave Lincolnshire, I must pay another visit to
Marchmont Towers. You can stop here, and pack my portmanteau while I
go."

A rumbling old fly--looked upon as a splendid equipage by the
inhabitants of Kemberling--was furnished for Captain Arundel's
accommodation by the proprietor of the Black Bull; and once more the
soldier approached that ill-omened dwelling-place which had been the
home of his wife.

He was ushered without any delay to the study in which Olivia spent the
greater part of her time.

The dusky afternoon was already closing in. A low fire burned in the
old-fashioned grate, and one lighted wax-candle stood upon an open
davenport, before which the widow sat amid a confusion of torn papers,
cast upon the ground about her.

The open drawers of the davenport, the littered scraps of paper and
loosely-tied documents, thrust, without any show of order, into the
different compartments of the desk, bore testimony to that state of
mental distraction which had been common to Olivia Marchmont for some
time past. She herself, the gloomy tenant of the Towers, sat with her
elbow resting on her desk, looking hopelessly and absently at the
confusion before her.

"I am very tired," she said, with a sigh, as she motioned her cousin to
a chair. "I have been trying to sort my papers, and to look for bills
that have to be paid, and receipts. They come to me about everything. I
am very tired."

Her manner was changed from that stern defiance with which she had last
confronted her kinsman to an air of almost piteous feebleness. She
rested her head on her hand, repeating, in a low voice,

"Yes, I am very tired."

Edward Arundel looked earnestly at her faded face, so faded from that
which he remembered it in its proud young beauty, that, in spite of his
doubt of this woman, he could scarcely refrain from some touch of pity
for her.

"You are ill, Olivia," he said.

"Yes, I am ill; I am worn out; I am tired of my life. Why does not God
have pity upon me, and take the bitter burden away? I have carried it
too long."

She said this not so much to her cousin as to herself. She was like Job
in his despair, and cried aloud to the Supreme Himself in a gloomy
protest against her anguish.

"Olivia," said Edward Arundel very earnestly, "what is it that makes
you unhappy? Is the burden that you carry a burden on your conscience?
Is the black shadow upon your life a guilty secret? Is the cause of
your unhappiness that which I suspect it to be? Is it that, in some
hour of passion, you consented to league yourself with Paul Marchmont
against my poor innocent girl? For pity's sake, speak, and undo what
you have done. You cannot have been guilty of a crime. There has been
some foul play, some conspiracy, some suppression; and my darling has
been lured away by the machinations of this man. But he could not have
got her into his power without your help. You hated her,--Heaven alone
knows for what reason,--and in an evil hour you helped him, and now you
are sorry for what you have done. But it is not too late, Olivia;
Olivia, it is surely not too late. Speak, speak, woman, and undo what
you have done. As you hope for mercy and forgiveness from God, undo
what you have done. I will exact no atonement from you. Paul Marchmont,
this smooth traitor, this frank man of the world, who defied me with a
smile,--he only shall be called upon to answer for the wrong done
against my darling. Speak, Olivia, for pity's sake," cried the young
man, casting himself upon his knees at his cousin's feet. "You are of
my own blood; you must have some spark of regard for me; have
compassion upon me, then, or have compassion upon your own guilty soul,
which must perish everlastingly if you withhold the truth. Have pity,
Olivia, and speak!"

The widow had risen to her feet, recoiling from the soldier as he knelt
before her, and looking at him with an awful light in the eyes that
alone gave life to her corpse-like face.

Suddenly she flung her arms up above her head, stretching her wasted
hands towards the ceiling.

"By the God who has renounced and abandoned me," she cried, "I have no
more knowledge than you have of Mary Marchmont's fate. From the hour in
which she left this house, upon the 17th of October, until this present
moment, I have neither seen her nor heard of her. If I have lied to
you, Edward Arundel," she added, dropping her extended arms, and
turning quietly to her cousin,--"if I have lied to you in saying this,
may the tortures which I suffer be doubled to me,--if in the infinite
of suffering there is any anguish worse than that I now endure."

Edward Arundel paused for a little while, brooding over this strange
reply to his appeal. Could he disbelieve his cousin?

It is common to some people to make forcible and impious asseverations
of an untruth shamelessly, in the very face of an insulted Heaven. But
Olivia Marchmont was a woman who, in the very darkest hour of her
despair, knew no wavering from her faith in the God she had offended.

"I cannot refuse to believe you, Olivia," Captain Arundel said
presently. "I do believe in your solemn protestations, and I no longer
look for help from you in my search for my lost love. I absolve you
from all suspicion of being aware of her fate _after_ she left this
house. But so long as she remained beneath this roof she was in your
care, and I hold you responsible for the ills that may have then
befallen her. You, Olivia, must have had some hand in driving that
unhappy girl away from her home."

The widow had resumed her seat by the open davenport. She sat with her
head bent, her brows contracted, her mouth fixed and rigid, her left
hand trifling absently with the scattered papers before her.

"You accused me of this once before, when Mary Marchmont left this
house," she said sullenly.

"And you were guilty then," answered Edward.

"I cannot hold myself answerable for the actions of others. Mary
Marchmont left this time, as she left before, of her own free will."

"Driven away by your cruel words."

"She must have been very weak," answered Olivia, with a sneer, "if a
few harsh words were enough to drive her away from her own house."

"You deny, then, that you were guilty of causing this poor deluded
child's flight from this house?"

Olivia Marchmont sat for some moments in moody silence; then suddenly
raising her head, she looked her cousin full in the face.

"I do," she exclaimed; "if any one except herself is guilty of an act
which was her own, I am not that person."

"I understand," said Edward Arundel; "it was Paul Marchmont's hand that
drove her out upon the dreary world. It was Paul Marchmont's brain that
plotted against her. You were only a minor instrument; a willing tool,
in the hands of a subtle villain. But he shall answer; he shall
answer!"

The soldier spoke the last words between his clenched teeth. Then with
his chin upon his breast, he sat thinking over what he had just heard.

"How was it?" he muttered; "how was it? He is too consummate a villain
to use violence. His manner the other morning told me that the law was
on his side. He had done nothing to put himself into my power, and he
defied me. How was it, then? By what means did he drive my darling to
her despairing flight?"

As Captain Arundel sat thinking of these things, his cousin's idle
fingers still trifled with the papers on the desk; while, with her chin
resting on her other hand, and her eyes fixed upon the wall before her,
she stared blankly at the reflection of the flame of the candle on the
polished oaken panel. Her idle fingers, following no design, strayed
here and there among the scattered papers, until a few that lay nearest
the edge of the desk slid off the smooth morocco, and fluttered to the
ground.

Edward Arundel, as absent-minded as his cousin, stooped involuntarily
to pick up the papers. The uppermost of those that had fallen was a
slip cut from a country newspaper, to which was pinned an open letter,
a few lines only. The paragraph in the newspaper slip was marked by
double ink-lines, drawn round it by a neat penman. Again almost
involuntarily, Edward Arundel looked at this marked paragraph. It was
very brief:

"We regret to be called upon to state that another of the sufferers in
the accident which occurred last August on the South-Western Railway
has expired from injuries received upon that occasion. Captain Arundel,
of the H.E.I.C.S., died on Friday night at Dangerfield Park, Devon, the
seat of his elder brother."

The letter was almost as brief as the paragraph:

"Kemberling, October 17th.

"MY DEAR MRS. MARCHMONT,--The enclosed has just come to hand. Let us
hope it is not true. But, in case of the worst, it should be shown to
Miss Marchmont _immediately_. Better that she should hear the news from
you than from a stranger.

"Yours sincerely,

"PAUL MARCHMONT."

"I understand everything now," said Edward Arundel, laying these two
papers before his cousin; "it was with this printed lie that you and
Paul Marchmont drove my wife to despair--perhaps to death. My darling,
my darling," cried the young man, in a burst of uncontrollable agony,
"I refused to believe that you were dead; I refused to believe that you
were lost to me. I can believe it now; I can believe it now."



CHAPTER XI.

EDWARD ARUNDEL'S DESPAIR.


Yes; Edward Arundel could believe the worst now. He could believe now
that his young wife, on hearing tidings of his death, had rushed madly
to her own destruction; too desolate, too utterly unfriended and
miserable, to live under the burden of her sorrows.

Mary had talked to her husband in the happy, loving confidence of her
bright honeymoon; she had talked to him of her father's death, and the
horrible grief she had felt; the heart-sickness, the eager yearning to
be carried to the same grave, to rest in the same silent sleep.

"I think I tried to throw myself from the window upon the night before
papa's funeral," she had said; "but I fainted away. I know it was very
wicked of me. But I was mad. My wretchedness had driven me mad."

He remembered this. Might not this girl, this helpless child, in the
first desperation of her grief, have hurried down to that dismal river,
to hide her sorrows for ever under its slow and murky tide?

Henceforward it was with a new feeling that Edward Arundel looked for
his missing wife. The young and hopeful spirit which had wrestled
against conviction, which had stubbornly preserved its own sanguine
fancies against the gloomy forebodings of others, had broken down
before the evidence of that false paragraph in the country newspaper.
That paragraph was the key to the sad mystery of Mary Arundel's
disappearance. Her husband could understand now why she ran away, why
she despaired; and how, in that desperation and despair, she might have
hastily ended her short life.

It was with altered feelings, therefore, that he went forth to look for
her. He was no longer passionate and impatient, for he no longer
believed that his young wife lived to yearn for his coming, and to
suffer for the want of his protection; he no longer thought of her as a
lonely and helpless wanderer driven from her rightful home, and in her
childish ignorance straying farther and farther away from him who had
the right to succour and to comfort her. No; he thought of her now with
sullen despair at his heart; he thought of her now in utter
hopelessness; he thought of her with a bitter and agonising regret,
which we only feel for the dead.

But this grief was not the only feeling that held possession of the
young soldier's breast. Stronger even than his sorrow was his eager
yearning for vengeance, his savage desire for retaliation.

"I look upon Paul Marchmont as the murderer of my wife," he said to
Olivia, on that November evening on which he saw the paragraph in the
newspaper; "I look upon that man as the deliberate destroyer of a
helpless girl; and he shall answer to me for her life. He shall answer
to me for every pang she suffered, for every tear she shed. God have
mercy upon her poor erring soul, and help me to my vengeance upon her
destroyer."

He lifted his eyes to heaven as he spoke, and a solemn shadow
overspread his pale face, like a dark cloud upon a winter landscape.

I have said that Edward Arundel no longer felt a frantic impatience to
discover his wife's fate. The sorrowful conviction which at last had
forced itself upon him left no room for impatience. The pale face he
had loved was lying hidden somewhere beneath those dismal waters. He
had no doubt of that. There was no need of any other solution to the
mystery of his wife's disappearance. That which he had to seek for was
the evidence of Paul Marchmont's guilt.

The outspoken young soldier, whose nature was as transparent as the
stainless soul of a child, had to enter into the lists with a man who
was so different from himself, that it was almost difficult to believe
the two individuals belonged to the same species.

Captain Arundel went back to London, and betook himself forthwith to
the office of Messrs. Paulette, Paulette, and Mathewson. He had the
idea, common to many of his class, that all lawyers, whatever claims
they might have to respectability, are in a manner past-masters in
every villanous art; and, as such, the proper people to deal with a
villain.

"Richard Paulette will be able to help me," thought the young man;
"Richard Paulette saw through Paul Marchmont, I dare say."

But Richard Paulette had very little to say about the matter. He had
known Edward Arundel's father, and he had known the young soldier from
his early boyhood, and he seemed deeply grieved to witness his client's
distress; but he had nothing to say against Paul Marchmont.

"I cannot see what right you have to suspect Mr. Marchmont of any
guilty share in your wife's disappearance," he said. "Do not think I
defend him because he is our client. You know that we are rich enough,
and honourable enough, to refuse the business of any man whom we
thought a villain. When I was in Lincolnshire, Mr. Marchmont did
everything that a man could do to testify his anxiety to find his
cousin."

"Oh, yes," Edward Arundel answered bitterly; "that is only consistent
with the man's diabolical artifice; _that_ was a part of his scheme. He
wished to testify that anxiety, and he wanted you as a witness to his
conscientious search after my--poor--lost girl." His voice and manner
changed for a moment as he spoke of Mary.

Richard Paulette shook his head.

"Prejudice, prejudice, my dear Arundel," he said; "this is all
prejudice upon your part, I assure you. Mr. Marchmont behaved with
perfect honesty and candour. 'I won't tell you that I'm sorry to
inherit this fortune,' he said, 'because if I did you wouldn't believe
me--what man in his senses _could_ believe that a poor devil of a
landscape painter would regret coming into eleven thousand a year?--but
I am very sorry for this poor little girl's unhappy fate.' And I
believe," added Mr. Paulette, decisively, "that the man was heartily
sorry."

Edward Arundel groaned aloud.

"O God! this is too terrible," he muttered. "Everybody will believe in
this man rather than in me. How am I to be avenged upon the wretch who
caused my darling's death?"

He talked for a long time to the lawyer, but with no result. Richard
Paulette considered the young man's hatred of Paul Marchmont only a
natural consequence of his grief for Mary's death.

"I can't wonder that you are prejudiced against Mr. Marchmont," he
said; "it's natural; it's only natural; but, believe me, you are wrong.
Nothing could be more straightforward, and even delicate, than his
conduct. He refuses to take possession of the estate, or to touch a
farthing of the rents. 'No,' he said, when I suggested to him that he
had a right to enter in possession,--'no; we will not shut the door
against hope. My cousin may be hiding herself somewhere; she may return
by-and-by. Let us wait a twelvemonth. If at the end of that time, she
does not return, and if in the interim we receive no tidings from her,
no evidence of her existence, we may reasonably conclude that she is
dead; and I may fairly consider myself the rightful owner of Marchmont
Towers. In the mean time, you will act as if you were still Mary
Marchmont's agent, holding all moneys as in trust for her, but to be
delivered up to me at the expiration of a year from the day on which
she disappeared.' I do not think anything could be more straightforward
than that," added Richard Paulette, in conclusion.

"No," Edward answered, with a sigh; "it _seems_ very straightforward.
But the man who could strike at a helpless girl by means of a lying
paragraph in a newspaper--"

"Mr. Marchmont may have believed in that paragraph."

Edward Arundel rose, with a gesture of impatience.

"I came to you for help, Mr. Paulette," he said; "but I see you don't
mean to help me. Good day."

He left the office before the lawyer could remonstrate with him. He
walked away, with passionate anger against all the world raging in his
breast.

"Why, what a smooth-spoken, false-tongued world it is!" he thought.
"Let a man succeed in the vilest scheme, and no living creature will
care to ask by what foul means he may have won his success. What
weapons can I use against this Paul Marchmont, who twists truth and
honesty to his own ends, and masks his basest treachery under an
appearance of candour?"

From Lincoln's Inn Fields Captain Arundel drove over Waterloo Bridge to
Oakley Street. He went to Mrs. Pimpernel's establishment, without any
hope of the glad surprise that had met him there a few months before.
He believed implicitly that his wife was dead, and wherever he went in
search of her he went in utter hopelessness, only prompted by the
desire to leave no part of his duty undone.

The honest-hearted dealer in cast-off apparel wept bitterly when she
heard how sadly the Captain's honeymoon had ended. She would have been
content to detain the young soldier all day, while she bemoaned the
misfortunes that had come upon him; and now, for the first time, Edward
heard of dismal forebodings, and horrible dreams, and unaccountable
presentiments of evil, with which this honest woman had been afflicted
on and before his wedding-day, and of which she had made special
mention at the time to divers friends and acquaintances.

"I never shall forget how shivery-like I felt as the cab drove off,
with that pore dear a-lookin' and smilin' at me out of the winder. I
says to Mrs. Polson, as her husband is in the shoemakin' line, two
doors further down,--I says, 'I do hope Capting Harungdell's lady will
get safe to the end of her journey.' I felt the cold shivers a-creepin'
up my back just azackly like I did a fortnight before my pore Jane
died, and I couldn't get it off my mind as somethink was goin' to
happen."

From London Captain Arundel went to Winchester, much to the disgust of
his valet, who was accustomed to a luxuriously idle life at Dangerfield
Park, and who did not by any means relish this desultory wandering from
place to place. Perhaps there was some faint ray of hope in the young
man's mind, as he drew near to that little village-inn beneath whose
shelter he had been so happy with his childish bride. If she had _not_
committed suicide; if she had indeed wandered away, to try and bear her
sorrows in gentle Christian resignation; if she had sought some retreat
where she might be safe from her tormentors,--would not every instinct
of her loving heart have led her here?--here, amid these low meadows
and winding streams, guarded and surrounded by the pleasant shelter of
grassy hill-tops, crowned by waving trees?--here, where she had been so
happy with the husband of her choice?

But, alas! that newly-born hope, which had made the soldier's heart
beat and his cheek flush, was as delusive as many other hopes that lure
men and women onward in their weary wanderings upon this earth. The
landlord of the White Hart Inn answered Edward Arundel's question with
stolid indifference.

No; the young lady had gone away with her ma, and a gentleman who came
with her ma. She had cried a deal, poor thing, and had seemed very much
cut up. (It was from the chamber-maid Edward heard this.) But her ma
and the gentleman had seemed in a great hurry to take her away. The
gentleman said that a village inn wasn't the place for her, and he said
he was very much shocked to find her there; and he had a fly got ready,
and took the two ladies away in it to the George, at Winchester, and
they were to go from there to London; and the young lady was crying
when she went away, and was as pale as death, poor dear.

This was all that Captain Arundel gained by his journey to Milldale. He
went across country to the farming people near Reading, his wife's poor
relations. But they had heard nothing of her. They had wondered,
indeed, at having no letters from her, for she had been very kind to
them. They were terribly distressed when they were told of her
disappearance.

This was the forlorn hope. It was all over now. Edward Arundel could no
longer struggle against the cruel truth. He could do nothing now but
avenge his wife's sorrows. He went down to Devonshire, saw his mother,
and told her the sad story of Mary's flight. But he could not rest at
Dangerfield, though Mrs. Arundel implored him to stay long enough to
recruit his shattered health. He hurried back to London, made
arrangements with his agent for being bought out of his regiment by his
brother officers, and then, turning his back upon the career that had
been far dearer to him than his life, he went down to Lincolnshire once
more, in the dreary winter weather, to watch and wait patiently, if
need were, for the day of retribution.

There was a detached cottage, a lonely place enough, between Kemberling
and Marchmont Towers, that had been to let for a long time, being very
much out of repair, and by no means inviting in appearance. Edward
Arundel took this cottage. All necessary repairs and alterations were
executed under the direction of Mr. Morrison, who was to remain
permanently in the young man's service. Captain Arundel had a couple of
horses brought down to his new stable, and hired a country lad, who was
to act as groom under the eye of the factotum. Mr. Morrison and this
lad, with one female servant, formed Edward's establishment.

Paul Marchmont lifted his auburn eyebrows when he heard of the new
tenant of Kemberling Retreat. The lonely cottage had been christened
Kemberling Retreat by a sentimental tenant; who had ultimately
levanted, leaving his rent three quarters in arrear. The artist
exhibited a gentlemanly surprise at this new vagary of Edward
Arundel's, and publicly expressed his pity for the foolish young man.

"I am so sorry that the poor fellow should sacrifice himself to a
romantic grief for my unfortunate cousin," Mr. Marchmont said, in the
parlour of the Black Bull, where he condescended to drop in now and
then with his brother-in-law, and to make himself popular amongst the
magnates of Kemberling, and the tenant-farmers, who looked to him as
their future, if not their actual, landlord. "I am really sorry for the
poor lad. He's a handsome, high-spirited fellow, and I'm sorry he's
been so weak as to ruin his prospects in the Company's service. Yes; I
am heartily sorry for him."

Mr. Marchmont discussed the matter very lightly in the parlour of the
Black Bull, but he kept silence as he walked home with the surgeon; and
Mr. George Weston, looking askance at his brother-in-law's face, saw
that something was wrong, and thought it advisable to hold his peace.

Paul Marchmont sat up late that night talking to Lavinia after the
surgeon had gone to bed. The brother and sister conversed in subdued
murmurs as they stood close together before the expiring fire, and the
faces of both were very grave, indeed, almost apprehensive.

"He must be terribly in earnest," Paul Marchmont said, "or he would
never have sacrificed his position. He has planted himself here, close
upon us, with a determination of watching us. We shall have to be very
careful."

 * * * * *

It was early in the new year that Edward Arundel completed all his
arrangements, and took possession of Kemberling Retreat. He knew that,
in retiring from the East India Company's service, he had sacrificed
the prospect of a brilliant and glorious career, under some of the
finest soldiers who ever fought for their country. But he had made this
sacrifice willingly--as an offering to the memory of his lost love; as
an atonement for his broken trust. For it was one of his most bitter
miseries to remember that his own want of prudence had been the first
cause of all Mary's sorrows. Had he confided in his mother,--had he
induced her to return from Germany to be present at his marriage, and
to accept the orphan girl as a daughter,--Mary need never again have
fallen into the power of Olivia Marchmont. His own imprudence, his own
rashness, had flung this poor child, helpless and friendless, into the
hands of the very man against whom John Marchmont had written a solemn
warning,--a warning that it should have been Edward's duty to remember.
But who could have calculated upon the railway accident; and who could
have foreseen a separation in the first blush of the honeymoon? Edward
Arundel had trusted in his own power to protect his bride from every
ill that might assail her. In the pride of his youth and strength he
had forgotten that he was not immortal, and the last idea that could
have entered his mind was the thought that he should be stricken down
by a sudden calamity, and rendered even more helpless than the girl he
had sworn to shield and succour.

The bleak winter crept slowly past, and the shrill March winds were
loud amidst the leafless trees in the wood behind Marchmont Towers.
This wood was open to any foot-passenger who might choose to wander
that way; and Edward Arundel often walked upon the bank of the slow
river, and past the boat-house, beneath whose shadow he had wooed his
young wife in the bright summer that was gone. The place had a mournful
attraction for the young man, by reason of the memory of the past, and
a different and far keener fascination in the fact of Paul Marchmont's
frequent occupation of his roughly-built painting-room.

In a purposeless and unsettled frame of mind, Edward Arundel kept watch
upon the man he hated, scarcely knowing why he watched, or for what he
hoped, but with a vague belief that something would be discovered; that
some accident might come to pass which would enable him to say to Paul
Marchmont,

"It was by your treachery my wife perished; and it is you who must
answer to me for her death."

Edward Arundel had seen nothing of his cousin Olivia during that dismal
winter. He had held himself aloof from the Towers,--that is to say, he
had never presented himself there as a guest, though he had been often
on horseback and on foot in the wood by the river. He had not seen
Olivia, but he had heard of her through his valet, Mr. Morrison, who
insisted on repeating the gossip of Kemberling for the benefit of his
listless and indifferent master.

"They do say as Mr. Paul Marchmont is going to marry Mrs. John
Marchmont, sir," Mr. Morrison said, delighted at the importance of his
information. "They say as Mr. Paul is always up at the Towers visitin'
Mrs. John, and that she takes his advice about everything as she does,
and that she's quite wrapped up in him like."

Edward Arundel looked at his attendant with unmitigated surprise.

"My cousin Olivia marry Paul Marchmont!" he exclaimed. "You should be
wiser than to listen to such foolish gossip, Morrison. You know what
country people are, and you know they can't keep their tongues quiet."

Mr. Morrison took this reproach as a compliment to his superior
intelligence.

"It ain't oftentimes as I listens to their talk, sir," he said; "but if
I've heard this said once, I've heard it twenty times; and I've heard
it at the Black Bull, too, Mr. Edward, where Mr. Marchmont fre_quents_
sometimes with his sister's husband; and the landlord told me as it had
been spoken of once before his face, and he didn't deny it."

Edward Arundel pondered gravely over this gossip of the Kemberling
people. It was not so very improbable, perhaps, after all. Olivia only
held Marchmont Towers on sufferance. It might be that, rather than be
turned out of her stately home, she would accept the hand of its
rightful owner. She would marry Paul Marchmont, perhaps, as she had
married his brother,--for the sake of a fortune and a position. She had
grudged Mary her wealth, and now she sought to become a sharer in that
wealth.

"Oh, the villany, the villany!" cried the soldier. "It is all one base
fabric of treachery and wrong. A marriage between these two will be
only a part of the scheme. Between them they have driven my darling to
her death, and they will now divide the profits of their guilty work."

The young man determined to discover whether there had been any
foundation for the Kemberling gossip. He had not seen his cousin since
the day of his discovery of the paragraph in the newspaper, and he went
forthwith to the Towers, bent on asking Olivia the straight question as
to the truth of the reports that had reached his ears.

He walked over to the dreary mansion. He had regained his strength by
this time, and he had recovered his good looks; but something of the
brightness of his youth was gone; something of the golden glory of his
beauty had faded. He was no longer the young Apollo, fresh and radiant
with the divinity of the skies. He had suffered; and suffering had left
its traces on his countenance. That smiling hopefulness, that supreme
confidence in a bright future, which is the virginity of beauty, had
perished beneath the withering influence of affliction.

Mrs. Marchmont was not to be seen at the Towers. She had gone down to
the boat-house with Mr. Paul Marchmont and Mrs. Weston, the servant
said.

"I will see them together," Edward Arundel thought. "I will see if my
cousin dares to tell me that she means to marry this man."

He walked through the wood to the lonely building by the river. The
March winds were blowing among the leafless trees, ruffling the black
pools of water that the rain had left in every hollow; the smoke from
the chimney of Paul Marchmont's painting-room struggled hopelessly
against the wind, and was beaten back upon the roof from which it tried
to rise. Everything succumbed before that pitiless north-easter.

Edward Arundel knocked at the door of the wooden edifice erected by his
foe. He scarcely waited for the answer to his summons, but lifted the
latch, and walked across the threshold, uninvited, unwelcome.

There were four people in the painting-room. Two or three seemed to
have been talking together when Edward knocked at the door; but the
speakers had stopped simultaneously and abruptly, and there was a dead
silence when he entered.

Olivia Marchmont was standing under the broad northern window; the
artist was sitting upon one of the steps leading up to the pavilion;
and a few paces from him, in an old cane-chair near the easel, sat
George Weston, the surgeon, with his wife leaning over the back of his
chair. It was at this man that Edward Arundel looked longest, riveted
by the strange expression of his face. The traces of intense agitation
have a peculiar force when seen in a usually stolid countenance. Your
mobile faces are apt to give an exaggerated record of emotion. We grow
accustomed to their changeful expression, their vivid betrayal of every
passing sensation. But this man's was one of those faces which are only
changed from their apathetic stillness by some moral earthquake, whose
shock arouses the most impenetrable dullard from his stupid
imperturbability. Such a shock had lately affected George Weston, the
quiet surgeon of Kemberling, the submissive husband of Paul Marchmont's
sister. His face was as white as death; a slow trembling shook his
ponderous frame; with one of his big fat hands he pulled a cotton
handkerchief from his pocket, and tremulously wiped the perspiration
from his bald forehead. His wife bent over him, and whispered a few
words in his ear; but he shook his head with a piteous gesture, as if
to testify his inability to comprehend her. It was impossible for a man
to betray more obvious signs of violent agitation than this man
betrayed.

"It's no use, Lavinia," he murmured hopelessly, as his wife whispered
to him for the second time; "it's no use, my dear; I can't get over
it."

Mrs. Weston cast one rapid, half-despairing, half-appealing glance at
her brother, and in the next moment recovered herself, by an effort
only such as great women, or wicked women, are capable of.

"Oh, you men!" she cried, in her liveliest voice; "oh, you men! What
big silly babies, what nervous creatures you are! Come, George, I won't
have you giving way to this foolish nonsense, just because an extra
glass or so of Mrs. Marchmont's very fine old port has happened to
disagree with you. You must not think we are a drunkard, Mr. Arundel,"
added the lady, turning playfully to Edward, and patting her husband's
clumsy shoulder as she spoke; "we are only a poor village surgeon, with
a limited income, and a very weak head, and quite unaccustomed to old
light port. Come, Mr. George Weston, walk out into the open air, sir,
and let us see if the March wind will bring you back your senses."

And without another word Lavinia Weston hustled her husband, who walked
like a man in a dream, out of the painting-room, and closed the door
behind her.

Paul Marchmont laughed as the door shut upon his brother-in-law.

"Poor George!" he said, carelessly; "I thought he helped himself to the
port a little too liberally. He never could stand a glass of wine; and
he's the most stupid creature when he is drunk."

Excellent as all this by-play was, Edward Arundel was not deceived by
it.

"The man was not drunk," he thought; "he was frightened. What could
have happened to throw him into that state? What mystery are these
people hiding amongst themselves; and what should _he_ have to do with
it?"

"Good evening, Captain Arundel," Paul Marchmont said. "I congratulate
you on the change in your appearance since you were last in this place.
You seem to have quite recovered the effects of that terrible railway
accident."

Edward Arundel drew himself up stiffly as the artist spoke to him.

"We cannot meet except as enemies, Mr. Marchmont," he said. "My cousin
has no doubt told you what I said of you when I discovered the lying
paragraph which you caused to be shown to my wife."

"I only did what any one else would have done under the circumstances,"
Paul Marchmont answered quietly. "I was deceived by a penny-a-liner's
false report. How should I know the effect that report would have upon
my unhappy cousin?"

"I cannot discuss this matter with you," cried Edward Arundel, his
voice tremulous with passion; "I am almost mad when I think of it. I am
not safe; I dare not trust myself. I look upon you as the deliberate
assassin of a helpless girl; but so skilful an assassin, that nothing
less than the vengeance of God can touch you. I cry aloud to Him night
and day, in the hope that He will hear me and avenge my wife's death. I
cannot look to any earthly law for help: but I trust in God; I put my
trust in God."

There are very few positive and consistent atheists in this world. Mr.
Paul Marchmont was a philosopher of the infidel school, a student of
Voltaire and the brotherhood of the Encyclopedia, and a believer in
those liberal days before the Reign of Terror, when Frenchmen, in
coffee-houses, discussed the Supreme under the soubriquet of Mons.
l'Etre; but he grew a little paler as Edward Arundel, with kindling
eyes and uplifted hand, declared his faith in a Divine Avenger.

The sceptical artist may have thought,

"What if there should be some reality in the creed so many weak fools
confide in? What if there _is_ a God who cannot abide iniquity?"

"I came here to look for you, Olivia," Edward Arundel said presently.
"I want to ask you a question. Will you come into the wood with me?"

"Yes, if you wish it," Mrs. Marchmont answered quietly.

The cousins went out of the painting-room together, leaving Paul
Marchmont alone. They walked on for a few yards in silence.

"What is the question you came here to ask me?" Olivia asked abruptly.

"The Kemberling people have raised a report about you which I should
fancy would be scarcely agreeable to yourself," answered Edward. "You
would hardly wish to benefit by Mary's death, would you, Olivia?"

He looked at her searchingly as he spoke. Her face was at all times so
expressive of hidden cares, of cruel mental tortures, that there was
little room in her countenance for any new emotion. Her cousin looked
in vain for any change in it now.

"Benefit by her death!" she exclaimed. "How should I benefit by her
death?"

"By marrying the man who inherits this estate. They say you are going
to marry Paul Marchmont."

Olivia looked at him with an expression of surprise.

"Do they say that of me?" she asked. "Do people say that?"

"They do. Is it true, Olivia?"

The widow turned upon him almost fiercely.

"What does it matter to you whether it is true or not? What do you care
whom I marry, or what becomes of me?"

"I care this much," Edward Arundel answered, "that I would not have
your reputation lied away by the gossips of Kemberling. I should
despise you if you married this man. But if you do not mean to marry
him, you have no right to encourage his visits; you are trifling with
your own good name. You should leave this place, and by that means give
the lie to any false reports that have arisen about you."

"Leave this place!" cried Olivia Marchmont, with a bitter laugh. "Leave
this place! O my God, if I could; if I could go away and bury myself
somewhere at the other end of the world, and forget,--and forget!" She
said this as if to herself; as if it had been a cry of despair wrung
from her in despite of herself; then, turning to Edward Arundel, she
added, in a quieter voice, "I can never leave this place till I leave
it in my coffin. I am a prisoner here for life."

She turned from him, and walked slowly away, with her face towards the
dying sunlight in the low western sky.



CHAPTER XII.

EDWARD'S VISITORS.


Perhaps no greater sacrifice had ever been made by an English gentleman
than that which Edward Arundel willingly offered up as an atonement for
his broken trust, as a tribute to his lost wife. Brave, ardent,
generous, and sanguine, this young soldier saw before him a brilliant
career in the profession which he loved. He saw glory and distinction
beckoning to him from afar, and turned his back upon those shining
sirens. He gave up all, in the vague hope of, sooner or later, avenging
Mary's wrongs upon Paul Marchmont.

He made no boast, even to himself, of that which he had done. Again and
again memory brought back to him the day upon which he breakfasted in
Oakley Street, and walked across Waterloo Bridge with the Drury Lane
supernumerary. Every word that John Marchmont had spoken; every look of
the meek and trusting eyes, the pale and thoughtful face; every
pressure of the thin hand which had grasped his in grateful affection,
in friendly confidence,--came back to Edward Arundel after an interval
of nearly ten years, and brought with it a bitter sense of
self-reproach.

"He trusted his daughter to me," the young man thought. "Those last
words in the poor fellow's letter are always in my mind: 'The only
bequest which I can leave to the only friend I have is the legacy of a
child's helplessness.' And I have slighted his solemn warning: and I
have been false to my trust."

In his scrupulous sense of honour, the soldier reproached himself as
bitterly for that imprudence, out of which so much evil had arisen, as
another man might have done after a wilful betrayal of his trust. He
could not forgive himself. He was for ever and ever repeating in his
own mind that one brief phase which is the universal chorus of erring
men's regret: "If I had acted differently, if I had done otherwise,
this or that would not have come to pass." We are perpetually wandering
amid the hopeless deviations of a maze, finding pitfalls and
precipices, quicksands and morasses, at every turn in the painful way;
and we look back at the end of our journey to discover a straight and
pleasant roadway by which, had we been wise enough to choose it, we
might have travelled safely and comfortably to our destination.

But Wisdom waits for us at the goal instead of accompanying us upon our
journey. She is a divinity whom we meet very late in life; when we are
too near the end of our troublesome march to derive much profit from
her counsels. We can only retail them to our juniors, who, not getting
them from the fountain-head, have very small appreciation of their
value.

The young captain of East Indian cavalry suffered very cruelly from the
sacrifice which he had made. Day after day, day after day, the slow,
dreary, changeless, eventless, and unbroken life dragged itself out;
and nothing happened to bring him any nearer to the purpose of this
monotonous existence; no promise of even ultimate success rewarded his
heroic self-devotion. Afar, he heard of the rush and clamour of war, of
dangers and terror, of conquest and glory. His own regiment was in the
thick of the strife, his brothers in arms were doing wonders. Every
mail brought some new record of triumph and glory.

The soldier's heart sickened as he read the story of each new
encounter; his heart sickened with that terrible yearning,--that
yearning which seems physically palpable in its perpetual pain; the
yearning with which a child at a hard school, lying broad awake in the
long, gloomy, rush-lit bedchamber in the dead of the silent night,
remembers the soft resting-place of his mother's bosom; the yearning
with which a faithful husband far away from home sighs for the presence
of the wife he loves. Even with such a heart-sickness as this Edward
Arundel pined to be amongst the familiar faces yonder in the East,--to
hear the triumphant yell of his men as they swarmed after him through
the breach in an Affghan wall,--to see the dark heathens blanch under
the terror of Christian swords.

He read the records of the war again and again, again and again, till
every scene arose before him,--a picture, flaming and lurid, grandly
beautiful, horribly sublime. The very words of those newspaper reports
seemed to blaze upon the paper on which they were written, so palpable
were the images which they evoked in the soldier's mind. He was frantic
in his eager impatience for the arrival of every mail, for the coming
of every new record of that Indian warfare. He was like a devourer of
romances, who reads a thrilling story link by link, and who is
impatient for every new chapter of the fiction. His dreams were of
nothing but battle and victory, danger, triumph, and death; and he
often woke in the morning exhausted by the excitement of those
visionary struggles, those phantom terrors.

His sabre hung over the chimney-piece in his simple bedchamber. He took
it down sometimes, and drew it from the sheath. He could have almost
wept aloud over that idle sword. He raised his arm, and the weapon
vibrated with a whirring noise as he swept the glittering steel in a
wide circle through the empty air. An infidel's head should have been
swept from his vile carcass in that rapid circle of the keen-edged
blade. The soldier's arm was as strong as ever, his wrist as supple,
his muscular force unwasted by mental suffering. Thank Heaven for that!
But after that brief thanksgiving his arm dropped inertly, and the idle
sword fell out of his relaxing grasp.

"I seem a craven to myself," he cried; "I have no right to be here--I
have no right to be here while those other fellows are fighting for
their lives out yonder. O God, have mercy upon me! My brain gets dazed
sometimes; and I begin to wonder whether I am most bound to remain here
and watch Paul Marchmont, or to go yonder and fight for my country and
my Queen."

There were many phases in this mental fever. At one time the young man
was seized with a savage jealousy of the officer who had succeeded to
his captaincy. He watched this man's name, and every record of his
movements, and was constantly taking objection to his conduct. He was
grudgingly envious of this particular officer's triumphs, however
small. He could not feel generously towards this happy successor, in
the bitterness of his own enforced idleness.

"What opportunities this man has!" he thought; "_I_ never had such
chances."

It is almost impossible for me to faithfully describe the tortures
which this monotonous existence inflicted upon the impetuous young man.
It is the speciality of a soldier's career that it unfits most men for
any other life. They cannot throw off the old habitudes. They cannot
turn from the noisy stir of war to the tame quiet of every-day life;
and even when they fancy themselves wearied and worn out, and willingly
retire from service, their souls are stirred by every sound of the
distant contest, as the war-steed is aroused by the blast of a trumpet.
But Edward Arundel's career had been cut suddenly short at the very
hour in which it was brightest with the promise of future glory. It was
as if a torrent rushing madly down a mountain-side had been dammed up,
and its waters bidden to stagnate upon a level plain. The rebellious
waters boiled and foamed in a sullen fury. The soldier could not submit
himself contentedly to his fate. He might strip off his uniform, and
accept sordid coin as the price of the epaulettes he had won so dearly;
but he was at heart a soldier still. When he received the sum which had
been raised amongst his juniors as the price of his captaincy, it
seemed to him almost as if he had sold his brother's blood.

It was summer-time now. Ten months had elapsed since his marriage with
Mary Marchmont, and no new light had been thrown upon the disappearance
of his young wife. No one could feel a moment's doubt as to her fate.
She had perished in that lonely river which flowed behind Marchmont
Towers, and far away down to the sea.

The artist had kept his word, and had as yet taken no step towards
entering into possession of the estate which he inherited by his
cousin's death. But Mr. Paul Marchmont spent a great deal of time at
the Towers, and a great deal more time in the painting-room by the
river-side, sometimes accompanied by his sister, sometimes alone.

The Kemberling gossips had grown by no means less talkative upon the
subject of Olivia and the new owner of Marchmont Towers. On the
contrary, the voices that discussed Mrs. Marchmont's conduct were a
great deal more numerous than heretofore; in other words, John
Marchmont's widow was "talked about." Everything is said in this
phrase. It was scarcely that people said bad things of her; it was
rather that they talked more about her than any woman can suffer to be
talked of with safety to her fair fame. They began by saying that she
was going to marry Paul Marchmont; they went on to wonder _whether_ she
was going to marry him; then they wondered _why_ she didn't marry him.
From this they changed the venue, and began to wonder whether Paul
Marchmont meant to marry her,--there was an essential difference in
this new wonderment,--and next, why Paul Marchmont didn't marry her.
And by this time Olivia's reputation was overshadowed by a terrible
cloud, which had arisen no bigger than a man's hand, in the first
conjecturings of a few ignorant villagers.

People made it their business first to wonder about Mrs. Marchmont, and
then to set up their own theories about her; to which theories they
clung with a stupid persistence, forgetting, as people generally do
forget, that there might be some hidden clue, some secret key, to the
widow's conduct, for want of which the cleverest reasoning respecting
her was only so much groping in the dark.

Edward Arundel heard of the cloud which shadowed his cousin's name. Her
father heard of it, and went to remonstrate with her, imploring her to
come to him at Swampington, and to leave Marchmont Towers to the new
lord of the mansion. But she only answered him with gloomy, obstinate
reiteration, and almost in the same terms as she had answered Edward
Arundel; declaring that she would stay at the Towers till her death;
that she would never leave the place till she was carried thence in her
coffin.

Hubert Arundel, always afraid of his daughter, was more than ever
afraid of her now; and he was as powerless to contend against her
sullen determination as he would have been to float up the stream of a
rushing river.

So Olivia was talked about. She had scared away all visitors, after the
ball at the Towers, by the strangeness of her manner and the settled
gloom in her face; and she lived unvisited and alone in the gaunt stony
mansion; and people said that Paul Marchmont was almost perpetually
with her, and that she went to meet him in the painting-room by the
river.

Edward Arundel sickened of his wearisome life, and no one helped him to
endure his sufferings. His mother wrote to him imploring him to resign
himself to the loss of his young wife, to return to Dangerfield, to
begin a new existence, and to blot out the memory of the past.

"You have done all that the most devoted affection could prompt you to
do," Mrs. Arundel wrote. "Come back to me, my dearest boy. I gave you
up to the service of your country because it was my duty to resign you
then. But I cannot afford to lose you now; I cannot bear to see you
sacrificing yourself to a chimera. Return to me; and let me see you
make a new and happier choice. Let me see my son the father of little
children who will gather round my knees when I grow old and feeble."

"A new and happier choice!" Edward Arundel repeated the words with a
melancholy bitterness. "No, my poor lost girl; no, my blighted wife; I
will not be false to you. The smiles of happy women can have no
sunlight for me while I cherish the memory of the sad eyes that watched
me when I drove away from Milldale, the sweet sorrowful face that I was
never to look upon again."

The dull empty days succeeded each other, and _did_ resemble each
other, with a wearisome similitude that well-nigh exhausted the
patience of the impetuous young man. His fiery nature chafed against
this miserable delay. It was so hard to have to wait for his vengeance.
Sometimes he could scarcely refrain from planting himself somewhere in
Paul Marchmont's way, with the idea of a hand-to-hand struggle in which
either he or his enemy must perish.

Once he wrote the artist a desperate letter, denouncing him as an
arch-plotter and villain; calling upon him, if his evil nature was
redeemed by one spark of manliness, to fight as men had been in the
habit of fighting only a few years before, with a hundred times less
reason than these two men had for their quarrel.

"I have called you a villain and traitor; in India we fellows would
kill each other for smaller words than those," wrote the soldier. "But
I have no wish to take any advantage of my military experience. I may
be a better shot than you. Let us have only one pistol, and draw lots
for it. Let us fire at each other across a dinner-table. Let us do
anything; so that we bring this miserable business to an end."

Mr. Marchmont read this letter slowly and thoughtfully, more than once;
smiling as he read.

"He's getting tired," thought the artist. "Poor young man, I thought he
would be the first to grow tired of this sort of work."

He wrote Edward Arundel a long letter; a friendly but rather facetious
letter; such as he might have written to a child who had asked him to
jump over the moon. He ridiculed the idea of a duel, as something
utterly Quixotic and absurd.

"I am fifteen years older than you, my dear Mr. Arundel," he wrote,
"and a great deal too old to have any inclination to fight with
windmills; or to represent the windmill which a high-spirited young
Quixote may choose to mistake for a villanous knight, and run his hot
head against in that delusion. I am not offended with you for calling
me bad names, and I take your anger merely as a kind of romantic manner
you have of showing your love for my poor cousin. We are not enemies,
and we never shall be enemies; for I will never suffer myself to be so
foolish as to get into a passion with a brave and generous-hearted
young soldier, whose only error is an unfortunate hallucination with
regard to

"Your very humble servant,

"PAUL MARCHMONT."

Edward ground his teeth with savage fury as he read this letter.

"Is there no making this man answer for his infamy?" he muttered. "Is
there no way of making him suffer?"

 * * * * *

June was nearly over, and the year was wearing round to the anniversary
of Edward's wedding-day, the anniversaries of those bright days which
the young bride and bridegroom had loitered away by the trout-streams
in the Hampshire meadows, when some most unlooked-for visitors made
their appearance at Kemberling Retreat.

The cottage lay back behind a pleasant garden, and was hidden from the
dusty high road by a hedge of lilacs and laburnums which grew within
the wooden fence. It was Edward's habit, in this hot summer-time, to
spend a great deal of his time in the garden; walking up and down the
neglected paths, with a cigar in his mouth; or lolling in an easy chair
on the lawn reading the papers. Perhaps the garden was almost prettier,
by reason of the long neglect which it had suffered, than it would have
been if kept in the trimmest order by the industrious hands of a
skilful gardener. Everything grew in a wild and wanton luxuriance, that
was very beautiful in this summer-time, when the earth was gorgeous
with all manner of blossoms. Trailing branches from the espaliered
apple-trees hung across the pathways, intermingled with roses that had
run wild; and made "bits" that a landscape-painter might have delighted
to copy. Even the weeds, which a gardener would have looked upon with
horror, were beautiful. The wild convolvulus flung its tendrils into
fantastic wreaths about the bushes of sweetbrier; the honeysuckle,
untutored by the pruning-knife, mixed its tall branches with seringa
and clematis; the jasmine that crept about the house had mounted to the
very chimney-pots, and strayed in through the open windows; even the
stable-roof was half hidden by hardy monthly roses that had clambered
up to the thatch. But the young soldier took very little interest in
this disorderly garden. He pined to be far away in the thick jungle, or
on the burning plain. He hated the quiet and repose of an existence
which seemed little better than the living death of a cloister.

The sun was low in the west at the close of a long midsummer day, when
Mr. Arundel strolled up and down the neglected pathways, backwards and
forwards amid the long tangled grass of the lawn, smoking a cigar, and
brooding over his sorrows.

He was beginning to despair. He had defied Paul Marchmont, and no good
had come of his defiance. He had watched him, and there had been no
result of his watching. Day after day he had wandered down to the
lonely pathway by the river side; again and again he had reconnoitered
the boat-house, only to hear Paul Marchmont's treble voice singing
scraps out of modern operas as he worked at his easel; or on one or two
occasions to see Mr. George Weston, the surgeon, or Lavinia his wife,
emerge from the artist's painting-room.

Upon one of these occasions Edward Arundel had accosted the surgeon of
Kemberling, and had tried to enter into conversation with him. But Mr.
Weston had exhibited such utterly hopeless stupidity, mingled with a
very evident terror of his brother-in-law's foe, that Edward had been
fain to abandon all hope of any assistance from this quarter.

"I'm sure I'm very sorry for you, Mr. Arundel," the surgeon said,
looking, not at Edward, but about and around him, in a hopeless,
wandering manner, like some hunted animal that looks far and near for a
means of escape from his pursuer,--"I'm very sorry for you--and for all
your trouble--and I was when I attended you at the Black Bull--and you
were the first patient I ever had there--and it led to my having many
more--as I may say--though that's neither here nor there. And I'm very
sorry for you, and for the poor young woman too--particularly for the
poor young woman--and I always tell Paul so--and--and Paul--"

And at this juncture Mr. Weston stopped abruptly, as if appalled by the
hopeless entanglement of his own ideas, and with a brief "Good evening,
Mr. Arundel," shot off in the direction of the Towers, leaving Edward
at a loss to understand his manner.

So, on this midsummer evening, the soldier walked up and down the
neglected grass-plat, thinking of the men who had been his comrades,
and of the career which he had abandoned for the love of his lost wife.

He was aroused from his gloomy reverie by the sound of a fresh girlish
voice calling to him by his name.

"Edward! Edward!"

Who could there be in Lincolnshire with the right to call to him thus
by his Christian name? He was not long left in doubt. While he was
asking himself the question, the same feminine voice cried out again.

"Edward! Edward! Will you come and open the gate for me, please? Or do
you mean to keep me out here for ever?"

This time Mr. Arundel had no difficulty in recognising the familiar
tones of his sister Letitia, whom he had believed, until that moment,
to be safe under the maternal wing at Dangerfield. And lo, here she
was, on horseback at his own gate; with a cavalier hat and feathers
overshadowing her girlish face; and with another young Amazon on a
thorough-bred chestnut, and an elderly groom on a thorough-bred bay, in
the background.

Edward Arundel, utterly confounded by the advent of such visitors,
flung away his cigar, and went to the low wooden gate beyond which his
sister's steed was pawing the dusty road, impatient of this stupid
delay, and eager to be cantering stablewards through the scented summer
air.

"Why, Letitia!" cried the young man, "what, in mercy's name, has
brought you here?"

Miss Arundel laughed aloud at her brother's look of surprise.

"You didn't know I was in Lincolnshire, did you?" she asked; and then
answered her own question in the same breath: "Of course you didn't,
because I wouldn't let mamma tell you I was coming; for I wanted to
surprise you, you know. And I think I have surprised you, haven't I? I
never saw such a scared-looking creature in all my life. If I were a
ghost coming here in the gloaming, you couldn't look more frightened
than you did just now. I only came the day before yesterday--and I'm
staying at Major Lawford's, twelve miles away from here--and this is
Miss Lawford, who was at school with me at Bath. You've heard me talk
of Belinda Lawford, my dearest, dearest friend? Miss Lawford, my
brother; my brother, Miss Lawford. Are you going to open the gate and
let us in, or do you mean to keep your citadel closed upon us
altogether, Mr. Edward Arundel?"

At this juncture the young lady in the background drew a little nearer
to her friend, and murmured a remonstrance to the effect that it was
very late, and that they were expected home before dark; but Miss
Arundel refused to hear the voice of wisdom.

"Why, we've only an hour's ride back," she cried; "and if it should be
dark, which I don't think it will be, for it's scarcely dark all night
through at this time of year, we've got Hoskins with us, and Hoskins
will take care of us. Won't you, Hoskins?" demanded the young lady,
turning to the elderly groom.

Of course Hoskins declared that he was ready to achieve all that man
could do or dare in the defence of his liege ladies, or something
pretty nearly to that effect; but delivered in a vile Lincolnshire
patois, not easily rendered in printer's ink.

Miss Arundel waited for no further discussion, but gave her hand to her
brother, and vaulted lightly from her saddle.

Then, of course, Edward Arundel offered his services to his sister's
companion, and then for the first time he looked in Belinda Lawford's
face, and even in that one first glance saw that she was a good and
beautiful creature, and that her hair, of which she had a great
quantity, was of the colour of her horse's chestnut coat; that her eyes
were the bluest he had ever seen, and that her cheeks were like the
neglected roses in his garden. He held out his hand to her. She took it
with a frank smile, and dismounted, and came in amongst the grass-grown
pathways, amid the confusion of trailing branches and bright
garden-flowers growing wild.

 * * * * *

In that moment began the second volume of Edward Arundel's life. The
first volume had begun upon the Christmas night on which the boy of
seventeen went to see the pantomime at Drury Lane Theatre. The old
story had been a long, sad story, fall of tenderness and pathos, but
with a cruel and dismal ending. The new story began to-night, in this
fading western sunshine, in this atmosphere of balmy perfume, amidst
these dew-laden garden-flowers growing wild.

 * * * * *

But, as I think I observed before at the outset of this story, we are
rarely ourselves aware of the commencement of any new section in our
lives. It is only after the fact that we recognise the awful importance
which actions, in themselves most trivial, assume by reason of their
consequences; and when the action, in itself so unimportant, in its
consequences so fatal, has been in any way a deviation from the right,
how bitterly we reproach ourselves for that false step!

"I am so _glad_ to see you, Edward!" Miss Arundel exclaimed, as she
looked about her, criticising her brother's domain; "but you don't seem
a bit glad to see me, you poor gloomy old dear. And how much better you
look than you did when you left Dangerfield! only a little careworn,
you know, still. And to think of your coming and burying yourself here,
away from all the people who love you, you silly old darling! And
Belinda knows the story, and she's so sorry for you. Ain't you, Linda?
I call her Linda for short, and because it's prettier than _Be_-linda,"
added the young lady aside to her brother, and with a contemptuous
emphasis upon the first syllable of her friend's name.

Miss Lawford, thus abruptly appealed to, blushed, and said nothing.

If Edward Arundel had been told that any other young lady was
acquainted with the sad story of his married life, I think he would
have been inclined to revolt against the very idea of her pity. But
although he had only looked once at Belinda Lawford, that one look
seemed to have told him a great deal. He felt instinctively that she
was as good as she was beautiful, and that her pity must be a most
genuine and tender emotion, not to be despised by the proudest man upon
earth.

The two ladies seated themselves upon a dilapidated rustic bench amid
the long grass, and Mr. Arundel sat in the low basket-chair in which he
was wont to lounge a great deal of his time away.

"Why don't you have a gardener, Ned?" Letitia Arundel asked, after
looking rather contemptuously at the flowery luxuriance around her.

Her brother shrugged his shoulders with a despondent gesture.

"Why should I take any care of the place?" he said. "I only took it
because it was near the spot where--where my poor girl--where I wanted
to be. I have no object in beautifying it. I wish to Heaven I could
leave it, and go back to India."

He turned his face eastward as he spoke, and the two girls saw that
half-eager, half-despairing yearning that was always visible in his
face when he looked to the east. It was over yonder, the scene of
strife, the red field of glory, only separated from him by a patch of
purple ocean and a strip of yellow sand. It was yonder. He could almost
feel the hot blast of the burning air. He could almost hear the shouts
of victory. And he was a prisoner here, bound by a sacred duty,--by a
duty which he owed to the dead.

"Major Lawford--Major Lawford is Belinda's papa; 33rd Foot--Major
Lawford knew that we were coming here, and he begged me to ask you to
dinner; but I said you wouldn't come, for I knew you had shut yourself
out of all society--though the Major's the dearest creature, and the
Grange is a most delightful place to stay at. I was down here in the
midsummer holidays once, you know, while you were in India. But I give
the message as the Major gave it to me; and you are to come to dinner
whenever you like."

Edward Arundel murmured a few polite words of refusal. No; he saw no
society; he was in Lincolnshire to achieve a certain object; he should
remain there no longer than was necessary in order for him to do so.

"And you don't even say that you're glad to see me!" exclaimed Miss
Arundel, with an offended air, "though it's six months since you were
last at Dangerfield! Upon my word, you're a nice brother for an
unfortunate girl to waste her affections upon!"

Edward smiled faintly at his sister's complaint.

"I am very glad to see you, Letitia," he said; "very, very glad."

And indeed the young hermit could not but confess to himself that those
two innocent young faces seemed to bring light and brightness with
them, and to shed a certain transitory glimmer of sunshine upon the
horrible gloom of his life. Mr. Morrison had come out to offer his duty
to the young lady--whom he had been intimate with from a very early
period of her existence, and had carried upon his shoulder some fifteen
years before--under the pretence of bringing wine for the visitors; and
the stable-lad had been sent to a distant corner of the garden to
search for strawberries for their refreshment. Even the solitary
maid-servant had crept into the parlour fronting the lawn, and had
shrouded herself behind the window-curtains, whence she could peep out
at the two Amazons, and gladden her eyes with the sight of something
that was happy and beautiful.

But the young ladies would not stop to drink any wine, though Mr.
Morrison informed Letitia that the sherry was from the Dangerfield
cellar, and had been sent to Master Edward by his ma; nor to eat any
strawberries, though the stable-boy, who made the air odorous with the
scent of hay and oats, brought a little heap of freshly-gathered fruit
piled upon a cabbage-leaf, and surmounted by a rampant caterpillar of
the woolly species. They could not stay any longer, they both declared,
lest there should be terror at Lawford Grange because of their absence.
So they went back to the gate, escorted by Edward and his confidential
servant; and after Letitia had given her brother a kiss, which
resounded almost like the report of a pistol through the still evening
air, the two ladies mounted their horses, and cantered away in the
twilight.

"I shall come and see you again, Ned," Miss Arundel cried, as she shook
the reins upon her horse's neck; "and so will Belinda--won't you,
Belinda?"

Miss Lawford's reply, if she spoke at all, was quite inaudible amidst
the clattering of the horses' hoofs upon the hard highroad.



CHAPTER XIII.

ONE MORE SACRIFICE.


Letitia Arundel kept her word, and came very often to Kemberling
Retreat; sometimes on horseback, sometimes in a little pony-carriage;
sometimes accompanied by Belinda Lawford, sometimes accompanied by a
younger sister of Belinda's, as chestnut-haired and blue-eyed as
Belinda herself, but at the school-room and bread-and-butter period of
life, and not particularly interesting. Major Lawford came one day with
his daughter and her friend, and Edward and the half-pay officer walked
together up and down the grass-plat, smoking and talking of the Indian
war, while the two girls roamed about the garden amidst the roses and
butterflies, tearing the skirts of their riding-habits every now and
then amongst the briers and gooseberry-bushes. It was scarcely strange
after this visit that Edward Arundel should consent to accept Major
Lawford's invitation to name a day for dining at the Grange; he could
not, with a very good grace, have refused. And yet--and yet--it seemed
to him almost a treason against his lost love, his poor pensive
Mary,--whose face, with the very look it had worn upon that last day,
was ever present with him,--to mix with happy people who had never
known sorrow. But he went to the Grange nevertheless, and grew more and
more friendly with the Major, and walked in the gardens--which were
very large and old-fashioned, but most beautifully kept--with his
sister and Belinda Lawford; with Belinda Lawford, who knew his story
and was sorry for him. He always remembered _that_ as he looked at her
bright face, whose varying expression gave perpetual evidence of a
compassionate and sympathetic nature.

"If my poor darling had had this girl for a friend," he thought
sometimes, "how much happier she might have been!"

I dare say there have been many lovelier women in this world than
Belinda Lawford; many women whose faces, considered artistically, came
nearer perfection; many noses more exquisitely chiselled, and scores of
mouths bearing a closer affinity to Cupid's bow; but I doubt if any
face was ever more pleasant to look upon than the face of this blooming
English maiden. She had a beauty that is sometimes wanting in perfect
faces, and, lacking which, the most splendid loveliness will pall at
last upon eyes that have grown weary of admiring; she had a charm for
want of which the most rigidly classical profiles, the most exquisitely
statuesque faces, have seemed colder and harder than the marble it was
their highest merit to resemble. She had the beauty of goodness, and to
admire her was to do homage to the purest and brightest attributes of
womanhood. It was not only that her pretty little nose was straight and
well-shaped, that her lips were rosy red, that her eyes were bluer than
the summer heavens, and her chestnut hair tinged with the golden light
of a setting sun; above and beyond such commonplace beauties as these,
the beauties of tenderness, truth, faith, earnestness, hope and
charity, were enthroned upon her broad white brow, and crowned her
queen by right divine of womanly perfection. A loving and devoted
daughter, an affectionate sister, a true and faithful friend, an
untiring benefactress to the poor, a gentle mistress, a well-bred
Christian lady; in every duty and in every position she bore out and
sustained the impression which her beauty made on the minds of those
who looked upon her. She was only nineteen years of age, and no sorrow
had ever altered the brightness of her nature. She lived a happy life
with a father who was proud of her, and with a mother who resembled her
in almost every attribute. She led a happy but a busy life, and did her
duty to the poor about her as scrupulously as even Olivia had done in
the old days at Swampington Rectory; but in such a genial and cheerful
spirit as to win, not cold thankfulness, but heartfelt love and
devotion from all who partook of her benefits.

Upon the Egyptian darkness of Edward Arundel's life this girl arose as
a star, and by-and-by all the horizon brightened under her influence.
The soldier had been very little in the society of women. His mother,
his sister Letitia, his cousin Olivia, and John Marchmont's gentle
daughter were the only women whom he had ever known in the familiar
freedom of domestic intercourse; and he trusted himself in the presence
of this beautiful and noble-minded girl in utter ignorance of any
danger to his own peace of mind. He suffered himself to be happy at
Lawford Grange; and in those quiet hours which he spent there he put
away his old life, and forgot the stern purpose that alone held him a
prisoner in England.

But when he went back to his lonely dwelling-place, he reproached
himself bitterly for that which he considered a treason against his
love.

"What right have I to be happy amongst these people?" he thought; "what
right have I to take life easily, even for an hour, while my darling
lies in her unhallowed grave, and the man who drove her to her death
remains unpunished? I will never go to Lawford Grange again."

It seemed, however, as if everybody, except Belinda, was in a plot
against this idle soldier; for sometimes Letitia coaxed him to ride
back with her after one of her visits to Kemberling Retreat, and very
often the Major himself insisted, in a hearty military fashion, upon
the young man's taking the empty seat in his dog-cart, to be driven
over to the Grange. Edward Arundel had never once mentioned Mary's name
to any member of this hospitable and friendly family. They were very
good to him, and were prepared, he knew, to sympathise with him; but he
could not bring himself to talk of his lost wife. The thought of that
rash and desperate act which had ended her short life was too cruel to
him. He would not speak of her, because he would have had to plead
excuses for that one guilty act; and her image to him was so stainless
and pure, that he could not bear to plead for her as for a sinner who
had need of men's pity, rather than a claim to their reverence.

"Her life had been so sinless," he cried sometimes; "and to think that
it should have ended in sin! If I could forgive Paul Marchmont for all
the rest--if I could forgive him for my loss of her, I would never
forgive him for that."

The young widower kept silence, therefore, upon the subject which
occupied so large a share of his thoughts, which was every day and
every night the theme of his most earnest prayers; and Mary's name was
never spoken in his presence at Lawford Grange.

But in Edward Arundel's absence the two girls sometimes talked of the
sad story.

"Do you really think, Letitia, that your brother's wife committed
suicide?" Belinda asked her friend.

"Oh, as for that, there can't be any doubt about it, dear," answered
Miss Arundel, who was of a lively, not to say a flippant, disposition,
and had no very great reverence for solemn things; "the poor dear
creature drowned herself. I think she must have been a little wrong in
her head. I don't say so to Edward, you know; at least, I did say so
once when he was at Dangerfield, and he flew into an awful passion, and
called me hard-hearted and cruel, and all sorts of shocking things; so,
of course, I have never said so since. But really, the poor dear
thing's goings-on were so eccentric: first she ran away from her
stepmother and went and hid herself in a horrid lodging; and then she
married Edward at a nasty church in Lambeth, without so much as a
wedding-dress, or a creature to give her away, or a cake, or cards, or
anything Christian-like; and then she ran away again; and as her father
had been a super--what's its name?--a man who carries banners in
pantomimes, and all that--I dare say she'd seen Mr. Macready as Hamlet,
and had Ophelia's death in her head when she ran down to the river-side
and drowned herself. I'm sure it's a very sad story; and, of course,
I'm awfully sorry for Edward."

The young lady said no more than this; but Belinda brooded over the
story of that early marriage,--the stolen honeymoon, the sudden
parting. How dearly they must have loved each other, the young bride
and bridegroom, absorbed in their own happiness, and forgetful of all
the outer world! She pictured Edward Arundel's face as it must have
been before care and sorrow had blotted out the brightest attribute of
his beauty. She thought of him, and pitied him, with such tender
sympathy, that by-and-by the thought of this young man's sorrow seemed
to shut almost every idea out of her mind. She went about all her
duties still, cheerfully and pleasantly, as it was her nature to do
everything; but the zest with which she had performed every loving
office--every act of sweet benevolence, seemed lost to her now.

Remember that she was a simple country damsel, leading a quiet life,
whose peaceful course was almost as calm and eventless as the existence
of a cloister; a life so quiet that a decently-written romance from the
Swampington book-club was a thing to be looked forward to with
impatience, to read with breathless excitement, and to brood upon
afterwards for months. Was it strange, then, that this romance in real
life--this sweet story of love and devotion, with its sad climax,--this
story, the scene of which lay within a few miles of her home, the hero
of which was her father's constant guest,--was it strange that this
story, whose saddest charm was its truth, should make a strong
impression upon the mind of an innocent and unworldly woman, and that
day by day and hour by hour she should, all unconsciously to herself,
feel a stronger interest in the hero of the tale?

She was interested in him. Alas! the truth must be set down, even if it
has to be in the plain old commonplace words. _She fell in love with
him_. But love in this innocent and womanly nature was so different a
sentiment to that which had raged in Olivia's stormy breast, that even
she who felt it was unconscious of its gradual birth. It was not "an
Adam at its birth," by-the-by. It did not leap, Minerva-like, from the
brain; for I believe that love is born of the brain oftener than of the
heart, being a strange compound of ideality, benevolence, and
veneration. It came rather like the gradual dawning of a summer's
day,--first a little patch of light far away in the east, very faint
and feeble; then a slow widening of the rosy brightness; and at last a
great blaze of splendour over all the width of the vast heavens. And
then Miss Lawford grew more reserved in her intercourse with her
friend's brother. Her frank good-nature gave place to a timid,
shrinking bashfulness, that made her ten times more fascinating than
she had been before. She was so very young, and had mixed so little
with the world, that she had yet to learn the comedy of life. She had
yet to learn to smile when she was sorry, or to look sorrowful when she
was pleased, as prudence might dictate--to blush at will, or to grow
pale when it was politic to sport the lily tint. She was a natural,
artless, spontaneous creature; and she was utterly powerless to conceal
her emotions, or to pretend a sentiment she did not feel. She blushed
rosy red when Edward Arundel spoke to her suddenly. She betrayed
herself by a hundred signs; mutely confessing her love almost as
artlessly as Mary had revealed her affection a twelvemonth before. But
if Edward saw this, he gave no sign of having made the discovery. His
voice, perhaps, grew a little lower and softer in its tone when he
spoke to Belinda; but there was a sad cadence in that low voice, which
was too mournful for the accent of a lover. Sometimes, when his eyes
rested for a moment on the girl's blushing face, a shadow would darken
his own, and a faint quiver of emotion stir his lower lip; but it is
impossible to say what this emotion may have been. Belinda hoped
nothing, expected nothing. I repeat, that she was unconscious of the
nature of her own feeling; and she had never for a moment thought of
Edward otherwise than as a man who would go to his grave faithful to
that sad love-story which had blighted the promise of his youth. She
never thought of him otherwise than as Mary's constant mourner; she
never hoped that time would alter his feelings or wear out his
constancy; yet she loved him, notwithstanding.

All through July and August the young man visited at the Grange, and at
the beginning of September Letitia Arundel went back to Dangerfield.
But even then Edward was still a frequent guest at Major Lawford's; for
his enthusiasm upon all military matters had made him a favourite with
the old officer. But towards the end of September Mr. Arundel's visits
suddenly were restricted to an occasional call upon the Major; he left
off dining at the Grange; his evening rambles in the gardens with Mrs.
Lawford and her blooming daughters--Belinda had no less than four
blue-eyed sisters, all more or less resembling herself--ceased
altogether, to the wonderment of every one in the old-fashioned
country-house.

Edward Arundel shut out the new light which had dawned upon his life,
and withdrew into the darkness. He went back to the stagnant monotony,
the hopeless despondency, the bitter regret of his old existence.

"While my sister was at the Grange, I had an excuse for going there,"
he said to himself sternly. "I have no excuse now."

But the old monotonous life was somehow or other a great deal more
difficult to bear than it had been before. Nothing seemed to interest
the young man now. Even the records of Indian victories were "flat,
stale, and unprofitable." He wondered as he remembered with what eager
impatience he had once pined for the coming of the newspapers, with
what frantic haste he had devoured every syllable of the Indian news.
All his old feelings seemed to have gone away, leaving nothing in his
mind but a blank waste, a weary sickness of life and all belonging to
it. Leaving nothing else--positively nothing? "No!" he answered, in
reply to these mute questionings of his own spirit,--"no," he repeated
doggedly, "nothing."

It was strange to find what a blank was left in his life by reason of
his abandonment of the Grange. It seemed as if he had suddenly retired
from an existence full of pleasure and delight into the gloomy solitude
of La Trappe. And yet what was it that he had lost, after all? A quiet
dinner at a country-house, and an evening spent half in the leafy
silence of an old-fashioned garden, half in a pleasant drawing-room
amongst a group of well-bred girls, and only enlivened by simple
English ballads, or pensive melodies by Mendelssohn. It was not much to
forego, surely. And yet Edward Arundel felt, in sacrificing these new
acquaintances at the Grange to the stern purpose of his life, almost as
if he had resigned a second captaincy for Mary's sake.



CHAPTER XIV.

THE CHILD'S VOICE IN THE PAVILION BY THE WATER.


The year wore slowly on. Letitia Arundel wrote very long letters to her
friend and confidante, Belinda Lawford, and in each letter demanded
particular intelligence of her brother's doings. Had he been to the
Grange? how had he looked? what had he talked about? &c., &c. But to
these questions Miss Lawford could only return one monotonous reply:
Mr. Arundel had not been to the Grange; or Mr. Arundel had called on
papa one morning, but had only stayed a quarter of an hour, and had not
been seen by any female member of the family.

The year wore slowly on. Edward endured his self-appointed solitude,
and waited, waited, with a vengeful hatred for ever brooding in his
breast, for the day of retribution. The year wore on, and the
anniversary of the day upon which Mary ran away from the Towers, the
17th of October, came at last.

Paul Marchmont had declared his intention of taking possession of the
Towers upon the day following this. The twelvemonth's probation which
he had imposed upon himself had expired; every voice was loud in praise
of his conscientious and honourable conduct. He had grown very popular
during his residence at Kemberling. Tenant farmers looked forward to
halcyon days under his dominion; to leases renewed on favourable terms;
to repairs liberally executed; to everything that is delightful between
landlord and tenant. Edward Arundel heard all this through his faithful
servitor, Mr. Morrison, and chafed bitterly at the news. This traitor
was to be happy and prosperous, and to have the good word of honest
men; while Mary lay in her unhallowed grave, and people shrugged their
shoulders, half compassionately, half contemptuously, as they spoke of
the mad heiress who had committed suicide.

Mr. Morrison brought his master tidings of all Paul Marchmont's doings
about this time. He was to take possession of the Towers on the 19th.
He had already made several alterations in the arrangement of the
different rooms. He had ordered new furniture from
Swampington,--another man would have ordered it from London; but Mr.
Marchmont was bent upon being popular, and did not despise even the
good opinion of a local tradesman,--and by several other acts,
insignificant enough in themselves, had asserted his ownership of the
mansion which had been the airy castle of Mary Marchmont's day-dreams
ten years before.

The coming-in of the new master of Marchmont Towers was to be, take it
altogether, a very grand affair. The Chorley-Castle foxhounds were to
meet at eleven o'clock, upon the great grass-flat, or lawn, as it was
popularly called, before the western front. The county gentry from far
and near had been invited to a hunting breakfast. Open house was to be
kept all day for rich and poor. Every male inhabitant of the district
who could muster anything in the way of a mount was likely to join the
friendly gathering. Poor Reynard is decidedly England's most powerful
leveller. All differences of rank and station, all distinctions which
Mammon raises in every other quarter, melt away before the friendly
contact of the hunting-field. The man who rides best is the best man;
and the young butcher who makes light of sunk fences, and skims,
bird-like, over bullfinches and timber, may hold his own with the dandy
heir to half the country-side. The cook at Marchmont Towers had enough
to do to prepare for this great day. It was the first meet of the
season, and in itself a solemn festival. Paul Marchmont knew this; and
though the Cockney artist of Fitzroy Square knew about as much of
fox-hunting as he did of the source of the Nile, he seized upon the
opportunity of making himself popular, and determined to give such a
hunting-breakfast as had never been given within the walls of Marchmont
Towers since the time of a certain rackety Hugh Marchmont, who had
drunk himself to death early in the reign of George III. He spent the
morning of the 17th in the steward's room, looking through the
cellar-book with the old butler, selecting the wines that were to be
drunk the following day, and planning the arrangements for the mass of
visitors, who were to be entertained in the great stone entrance-hall,
in the kitchens, in the housekeeper's room, in the servants' hall, in
almost every chamber that afforded accommodation for a guest.

"You will take care that people get placed according to their rank,"
Paul said to the grey-haired servant. "You know everybody about here, I
dare say, and will be able to manage so that we may give no offence."

The gentry were to breakfast in the long dining-room and in the western
drawing-room. Sparkling hocks and Burgundies, fragrant Moselles,
champagnes of choicest brand and rarest bouquet, were to flow like
water for the benefit of the country gentlemen who should come to do
honour to Paul Marchmont's installation. Great cases of comestibles had
been sent by rail from Fortnum and Mason's; and the science of the cook
at the Towers had been taxed to the utmost, in the struggles which she
made to prove herself equal to the occasion. Twenty-one casks of ale,
every cask containing twenty-one gallons, had been brewed long ago, at
the birth of Arthur Marchmont, and had been laid in the cellar ever
since, waiting for the majority of the young heir who was never to come
of age. This very ale, with a certain sense of triumph, Paul Marchmont
ordered to be brought forth for the refreshment of the commoners.

"Poor young Arthur!" he thought, after he had given this order. "I saw
him once when he was a pretty boy with fair ringlets, dressed in a suit
of black velvet. His father brought him to my studio one day, when he
came to patronise me and buy a picture of me,--out of sheer charity, of
course, for he cared as much for pictures as I care for foxhounds. _I_
was a poor relation then, and never thought to see the inside of
Marchmont Towers. It was a lucky September morning that swept that
bright-faced boy out of my pathway, and left only sickly John Marchmont
and his daughter between me and fortune."

Yes; Mr. Paul Marchmont's year of probation was past. He had asserted
himself to Messrs. Paulette, Paulette, and Mathewson, and before the
face of all Lincolnshire, in the character of an honourable and
high-minded man; slow to seize upon the fortune that had fallen to him,
conscientious, punctilious, generous, and unselfish. He had done all
this; and now the trial was over, and the day of triumph had come.

There has been a race of villains of late years very popular with the
novel-writer and the dramatist, but not, I think, quite indigenous to
this honest British soil; a race of pale-faced, dark-eyed, and
all-accomplished scoundrels, whose chiefest attribute is
imperturbability. The imperturbable villain has been guilty of every
iniquity in the black catalogue of crimes; but he has never been guilty
of an emotion. He wins a million of money at _trente et quarante_, to
the terror and astonishment of all Homburg; and by not so much as one
twinkle of his eye or one quiver of his lip does that imperturbable
creature betray a sentiment of satisfaction. Ruin or glory, shame or
triumph, defeat, disgrace, or death,--all are alike to the callous
ruffian of the Anglo-Gallic novel. He smiles, and murders while he
smiles, and smiles while he murders. He kills his adversary, unfairly,
in a duel, and wipes his sword on a cambric handkerchief; and withal he
is so elegant, so fascinating, and so handsome, that the young hero of
the novel has a very poor chance against him; and the reader can
scarcely help being sorry when retribution comes with the last chapter,
and some crushing catastrophe annihilates the well-bred scoundrel.

Paul Marchmont was not this sort of man. He was a hypocrite when it was
essential to his own safety to practice hypocrisy; but he did not
accept life as a drama, in which he was for ever to be acting a part.
Life would scarcely be worth the having to any man upon such terms. It
is all very well to wear heavy plate armour, and a casque that weighs
fourteen pounds or so, when we go into the thick of the fight. But to
wear the armour always, to live in it, to sleep in it, to carry the
ponderous protection about us for ever and ever! Safety would be too
dear if purchased by such a sacrifice of all personal ease. Paul
Marchmont, therefore, being a selfish and self-indulgent man, only wore
his armour of hypocrisy occasionally, and when it was vitally necessary
for his preservation. He had imposed upon himself a penance, and acted
a part in holding back for a year from the enjoyment of a splendid
fortune; and he had made this one great sacrifice in order to give the
lie to Edward Arundel's vague accusations, which might have had an
awkward effect upon the minds of other people, had the artist grasped
too eagerly at his missing cousin's wealth. Paul Marchmont had made
this sacrifice; but he did not intend to act a part all his life. He
meant to enjoy himself, and to get the fullest possible benefit out of
his good fortune. He meant to do this; and upon the 17th of October he
made no effort to restrain his spirits, but laughed and talked joyously
with whoever came in his way, winning golden opinions from all sorts of
men; for happiness is contagious, and everybody likes happy people.

Forty years of poverty is a long apprenticeship to the very hardest of
masters,--an apprenticeship calculated to give the keenest possible
zest to newly-acquired wealth. Paul Marchmont rejoiced in his wealth
with an almost delirious sense of delight. It was his at last. At last!
He had waited, and waited patiently; and at last, while his powers of
enjoyment were still in their zenith, it had come. How often he had
dreamed of this; how often he had dreamed of that which was to take
place to-morrow! How often in his dreams he had seen the stone-built
mansion, and heard the voices of the crowd doing him honour. He had
felt all the pride and delight of possession, to awake suddenly in the
midst of his triumph, and gnash his teeth at the remembrance of his
poverty. And now the poverty was a thing to be dreamt about, and the
wealth was his. He had always been a good son and a kind brother; and
his mother and sister were to arrive upon the eve of his installation,
and were to witness his triumph. The rooms that had been altered were
those chosen by Paul for his mother and maiden sister, and the new
furniture had been ordered for their comfort. It was one of his many
pleasures upon this day to inspect these apartments, to see that all
his directions had been faithfully carried out, and to speculate upon
the effect which these spacious and luxurious chambers would have upon
the minds of Mrs. Marchmont and her daughter, newly come from shabby
lodgings in Charlotte Street.

"My poor mother!" thought the artist, as he looked round the pretty
sitting-room. This sitting-room opened into a noble bedchamber, beyond
which there was a dressing-room. "My poor mother!" he thought; "she has
suffered a long time, and she has been patient. She has never ceased to
believe in me; and she will see now that there was some reason for that
belief. I told her long ago, when our fortunes were at the lowest ebb,
when I was painting landscapes for the furniture-brokers at a pound
a-piece,--I told her I was meant for something better than a
tradesman's hack; and I have proved it--I have proved it."

He walked about the room, arranging the furniture with his own hands;
walking a few paces backwards now and then to contemplate such and such
an effect from an artistic point of view; flinging the rich stuff of
the curtains into graceful folds; admiring and examining everything,
always with a smile on his face. He seemed thoroughly happy. If he had
done any wrong; if by any act of treachery he had hastened Mary
Arundel's death, no recollection of that foul work arose in his breast
to disturb the pleasant current of his thoughts. Selfish and
self-indulgent, only attached to those who were necessary to his own
happiness, his thoughts rarely wandered beyond the narrow circle of his
own cares or his own pleasures. He was thoroughly selfish. He could
have sat at a Lord Mayor's feast with a famine-stricken population
clamouring at the door of the banquet-chamber. He believed in himself
as his mother and sister had believed; and he considered that he had a
right to be happy and prosperous, whosoever suffered sorrow or
adversity.

Upon this 17th of October Olivia Marchmont sat in the little study
looking out upon the quadrangle, while the household was busied with
the preparations for the festival of the following day. She was to
remain at Marchmont Towers as a guest of the new master of the mansion.
She would be protected from all scandal, Paul had said, by the presence
of his mother and sister. She could retain the apartments she had been
accustomed to occupy; she could pursue her old mode of life. He himself
was not likely to be very much at the Towers. He was going to travel
and to enjoy life now that he was a rich man.

These were the arguments which Mr. Marchmont used when openly
discussing the widow's residence in his house. But in a private
conversation between Olivia and himself he had only said a very few
words upon the subject.

"You _must_ remain," he said; and Olivia submitted, obeying him with a
sullen indifference that was almost like the mechanical submission of
an irresponsible being.

John Marchmont's widow seemed entirely under the dominion of the new
master of the Towers. It was as if the stormy passions which had arisen
out of a slighted love had worn out this woman's mind, and had left her
helpless to stand against the force of Paul Marchmont's keen and
vigorous intellect. A remarkable change had come over Olivia's
character. A dull apathy had succeeded that fiery energy of soul which
had enfeebled and well-nigh worn out her body. There were no outbursts
of passion now. She bore the miserable monotony of her life
uncomplainingly. Day after day, week after week, month after month,
idle and apathetic, she sat in her lonely room, or wandered slowly in
the grounds about the Towers. She very rarely went beyond those
grounds. She was seldom seen now in her old pew at Kemberling Church;
and when her father went to her and remonstrated with her for her
non-attendance, she told him sullenly that she was too ill to go. She
_was_ ill. George Weston attended her constantly; but he found it very
difficult to administer to such a sickness as hers, and he could only
shake his head despondently when he felt her feeble pulse, or listened
to the slow beating of her heart. Sometimes she would shut herself up
in her room for a month at a time, and see no one but her faithful
servant Barbara, and Mr. Weston--whom, in her utter indifference, she
seemed to regard as a kind of domestic animal, whose going or coming
were alike unimportant.

This stolid, silent Barbara waited upon her mistress with untiring
patience. She bore with every change of Olivia's gloomy temper; she was
a perpetual shield and protection to her. Even upon this day of
preparation and disorder Mrs. Simmons kept guard over the passage
leading to the study, and took care that no one intruded upon her
mistress. At about four o'clock all Paul Marchmont's orders had been
given, and the new master of the house dined for the first time by
himself at the head of the long carved-oak dining-table, waited upon in
solemn state by the old butler. His mother and sister were to arrive by
a train that would reach Swampington at ten o'clock, and one of the
carriages from the Towers was to meet them at the station. The artist
had leisure in the meantime for any other business he might have to
transact.

He ate his dinner slowly, thinking deeply all the time. He did not stop
to drink any wine after dinner; but, as soon as the cloth was removed,
rose from the table, and went straight to Olivia's room.

"I am going down to the painting-room," he said. "Will you come there
presently? I want very much to say a few words to you."

Olivia was sitting near the window, with her hands lying idle in her
lap. She rarely opened a book now, rarely wrote a letter, or occupied
herself in any manner. She scarcely raised her eyes as she answered
him.

"Yes," she said; "I will come."

"Don't be long, then. It will be dark very soon. I am not going down
there to paint; I am going to fetch a landscape that I want to hang in
my mother's room, and to say a few words about--"

He closed the door without stopping to finish the sentence, and went
out into the quadrangle.

Ten minutes afterwards Olivia Marchmont rose, and taking a heavy
woollen shawl from a chair near her, wrapped it loosely about her head
and shoulders.

"I am his slave and his prisoner," she muttered to herself. "I must do
as he bids me."

A cold wind was blowing in the quadrangle, and the stone pavement was
wet with a drizzling rain. The sun had just gone down, and the dull
autumn sky was darkening. The fallen leaves in the wood were sodden
with damp, and rotted slowly on the swampy ground.

Olivia took her way mechanically along the narrow pathway leading to
the river. Half-way between Marchmont Towers and the boat-house she
came suddenly upon the figure of a man walking towards her through the
dusk. This man was Edward Arundel.

The two cousins had not met since the March evening upon which Edward
had gone to seek the widow in Paul Marchmont's painting-room. Olivia's
pale face grew whiter as she recognised the soldier.

"I was coming to the house to speak to you, Mrs. Marchmont," Edward
said sternly. "I am lucky in meeting you here, for I don't want any one
to overhear what I've got to say."

He had turned in the direction in which Olivia had been walking; but
she made a dead stop, and stood looking at him.

"You were going to the boat-house," he said. "I will go there with
you."

She looked at him for a moment, as if doubtful what to do, and then
said,

"Very well. You can say what you have to say to me, and then leave me.
There is no sympathy between us, there is no regard between us; we are
only antagonists."

"I hope not, Olivia. I hope there is some spark of regard still, in
spite of all. I separate you in my own mind from Paul Marchmont. I pity
you; for I believe you to be his tool."

"Is this what you have to say to me?"

"No; I came here, as your kinsman, to ask you what you mean to do now
that Paul Marchmont has taken possession of the Towers?"

"I mean to stay there."

"In spite of the gossip that your remaining will give rise to amongst
these country-people!"

"In spite of everything. Mr. Marchmont wishes me to stay. It suits me
to stay. What does it matter what people say of me? What do I care for
any one's opinion--now?"

"Olivia," cried the young man, "are you mad?"

"Perhaps I am," she answered, coldly.

"Why is it that you shut yourself from the sympathy of those who have a
right to care for you? What is the mystery of your life?"

His cousin laughed bitterly.

"Would you like to know, Edward Arundel?" she said. "You _shall_ know,
perhaps, some day. You have despised me all my life; you will despise
me more then."

They had reached Paul Marchmont's painting-room by this time. Olivia
opened the door and walked in, followed by Edward. Paul was not there.
There was a picture covered with green-baize upon the easel, and the
artist's hat stood upon the table amidst the litter of brushes and
palettes; but the room was empty. The door at the top of the stone
steps leading to the pavilion was ajar.

"Have you anything more to say to me?" Olivia asked, turning upon her
cousin as if she would have demanded why he had followed her.

"Only this: I want to know your determination; whether you will be
advised by me--and by your father,--I saw my uncle Hubert this morning,
and his opinion exactly coincides with mine,--or whether you mean
obstinately to take your own course in defiance of everybody?"

"I do," Olivia answered. "I shall take my own course. I defy everybody.
I have not been gifted with the power of winning people's affection.
Other women possess that power, and trifle with it, and turn it to bad
account. I have prayed, Edward Arundel,--yes, I have prayed upon my
knees to the God who made me, that He would give me some poor measure
of that gift which Nature has lavished upon other women; but He would
not hear me, He would not hear me! I was not made to be loved. Why,
then, should I make myself a slave for the sake of winning people's
esteem? If they have despised me, I can despise them."

"Who has despised you, Olivia?" Edward asked, perplexed by his cousin's
manner.

"YOU HAVE!" she cried, with flashing eyes; "you have! From first to
last--from first to last!" She turned away from him impatiently. "Go,"
she said; "why should we keep up a mockery of friendliness and
cousinship? We are nothing to each other."

Edward walked towards the door; but he paused upon the threshold, with
his hat in his hand, undecided as to what he ought to do.

As he stood thus, perplexed and irresolute, a cry, the feeble cry of a
child, sounded within the pavilion.

The young man started, and looked at his cousin. Even in the dusk he
could see that her face had suddenly grown livid.

"There is a child in that place," he said pointing to the door at the
top of the steps.

The cry was repeated as he spoke,--the low, complaining wail of a
child. There was no other voice to be heard,--no mother's voice
soothing a helpless little one. The cry of the child was followed by a
dead silence.

"There is a child in that pavilion," Edward Arundel repeated.

"There is," Olivia answered.

"Whose child?"

"What does it matter to you?"

"Whose child?"

"I cannot tell you, Edward Arundel."

The soldier strode towards the steps, but before he could reach them,
Olivia flung herself across his pathway.

"I will see whose child is hidden in that place," he said. "Scandalous
things have been said of you, Olivia. I will know the reason of your
visits to this place."

She clung about his knees, and hindered him from moving; half kneeling,
half crouching on the lowest of the stone steps, she blocked his
pathway, and prevented him from reaching the door of the pavilion. It
had been ajar a few minutes ago; it was shut now. But Edward had not
noticed this.

"No, no, no!" shrieked Olivia; "you shall trample me to death before
you enter that place. You shall walk over my corpse before you cross
that threshold."

The young man struggled with her for a few moments; then he suddenly
flung her from him; not violently, but with a contemptuous gesture.

"You are a wicked woman, Olivia Marchmont," he said; "and it matters
very little to me what you do, or what becomes of you. I know now the
secret of the mystery between you and Paul Marchmont. I can guess your
motive for perpetually haunting this place."

He left the solitary building by the river, and walked slowly back
through the wood.

His mind--predisposed to think ill of Olivia by the dark rumours he had
heard through his servant, and which had had a certain amount of
influence upon him, as all scandals have, however baseless--could
imagine only one solution to the mystery of a child's presence in the
lonely building by the river. Outraged and indignant at the discovery
he had made, he turned his back upon Marchmont Towers.

"I will stay in this hateful place no longer," he thought, as he went
back to his solitary home; "but before I leave Lincolnshire the whole
county shall know what I think of Paul Marchmont."



END OF VOL. II.





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to Doctrine Publishing's system: If you are conducting research on machine
translation, optical character recognition or other areas where access to a
large amount of text is helpful, please contact us. We encourage the use of
public domain materials for these purposes and may be able to help.

+ Keep it legal -  Whatever your use, remember that you are responsible for
ensuring that what you are doing is legal. Do not assume that just because
we believe a book is in the public domain for users in the United States,
that the work is also in the public domain for users in other countries.
Whether a book is still in copyright varies from country to country, and we
can't offer guidance on whether any specific use of any specific book is
allowed. Please do not assume that a book's appearance in Doctrine Publishing
ISYS search  means it can be used in any manner anywhere in the world.
Copyright infringement liability can be quite severe.

About ISYS® Search Software
Established in 1988, ISYS Search Software is a global supplier of enterprise
search solutions for business and government.  The company's award-winning
software suite offers a broad range of search, navigation and discovery
solutions for desktop search, intranet search, SharePoint search and embedded
search applications.  ISYS has been deployed by thousands of organizations
operating in a variety of industries, including government, legal, law
enforcement, financial services, healthcare and recruitment.



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