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Title: Willing to Die
Author: Le Fanu, Joseph Sheridan, 1814-1873
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.

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  Transcriber's Note:

  The original published version of this book (1873) was used to correct
  any typographical errors in this edition of the publication.



                            WILLING TO DIE.

                               A Novel

                                 BY
                        J. SHERIDAN LE FANU,

                              AUTHOR OF

                 "UNCLE SILAS," "TENANTS OF MALORY,"
                      "WYLDEN'S HAND," ETC. ETC.

                            _NEW EDITION._

                               LONDON:
                  CHAPMAN AND HALL, 198, PICCADILLY.
                                1876.

                      [_All rights reserved._]


      SWIFT AND CO., PRINTERS, NEWTON STREET, HIGH HOLBORN, W.C.



                                CONTENTS.


     CHAP.                                                 PAGE
            TO THE READER                                     1
        I.--AN ARRIVAL                                        6
       II.--OUR CURIOSITY IS PIQUED                          15
      III.--THE THIEF IN THE NIGHT                           21
       IV.--MY FATHER                                        26
        V.--THE LITTLE BLACK BOOK                            34
       VI.--A STRANGER APPEARS                               41
      VII.--TASSO                                            47
     VIII.--THUNDER                                          53
       IX.--AWAKENED                                         57
        X.--A SIGHT FROM THE WINDOWS                         61
       XI.--CATASTROPHE                                      66
      XII.--OUR GUEST                                        71
     XIII.--MEETING IN THE GARDEN                            77
      XIV.--THE INTRUDER                                     81
       XV.--A WARNING                                        87
      XVI.--DOUBTS                                           91
     XVII.--LEMUEL BLOUNT                                   100
    XVIII.--IDENTIFIED                                      108
      XIX.--PISTOLS FOR TWO                                 113
       XX.--THE WOOD OF PLAS YLWD                           120
      XXI.--THE PATIENT AT PLAS YLWD                        124
     XXII.--THE OUTLAW                                      129
    XXIII.--A JOURNEY                                       133
     XXIV.--ARRIVALS                                        137
      XXV.--THE DOCTOR'S NEWS                               143
     XXVI.--LADY LORRIMER                                   149
    XXVII.--WHAT CAN SHE MEAN?                              155
   XXVIII.--A SEMI-QUARREL                                  159
     XXIX.--MY BOUQUET                                      168
      XXX.--THE KNIGHT OF THE BLACK CASTLE                  173
     XXXI.--RUSTICATION                                     179
    XXXII.--AT THE GEORGE AND DRAGON                        187
   XXXIII.--NOTICE TO QUIT                                  194
    XXXIV.--SIR HARRY'S ANSWER                              199
     XXXV.--LADY MARDYKES'S BALL                            207
    XXXVI.--NEWS OF LADY LORRIMER                           213
   XXXVII.--A LAST LOOK                                     221
  XXXVIII.--STORM                                           228
    XXXIX.--FAREWELL, MISS WARE                             237
       XL.--A RAINY DAY                                     245
      XLI.--THE FLITTING                                    250
     XLII.--A FORLORN HOPE                                  257
    XLIII.--COLD STEEL                                      263
     XLIV.--AN OMINOUS VISIT                                272
      XLV.--CONFIDENTIAL                                    276
     XLVI.--AFTER OFFICE HOURS                              285
    XLVII.--SIR HARRY SPEAKS                                289
   XLVIII.--THE OLD LOVE                                    292
     XLIX.--ALONE IN THE WORLD                              295
        L.--A PROTECTOR                                     300
       LI.--A WARNING                                       305
      LII.--MINE ENEMY                                      310
     LIII.--ONE MORE CHANCE                                 318
      LIV.--DANGEROUS GROUND                                327
       LV.--MR. CARMEL TAKES HIS LEAVE                      332
      LVI.--"LOVE TOOK UP THE GLASS OF TIME."               338
     LVII.--AN AWKWARD PROPOSAL                             342
    LVIII.--DANGER                                          347
      LIX.--AN INTRUDER                                     351
       LX.--SIR HARRY'S KEY                                 355
      LXI.--A DISCOVERY                                     358
     LXII.--SIR HARRY WITHDRAWS                             363
    LXIII.--AT THE THREE NUNS                               369
     LXIV.--THE WILL                                        374
      LXV.--THE SERPENT'S SMILE                             380
     LXVI.--LAURA GREY                                      384
    LXVII.--A CHAPTER OF EXPLANATIONS                       388
   LXVIII.--THE LAST OF THE ROKESTONES                      394
     LXIX.--SEARCH FOR THE WILL                             398
      LXX.--A DISAPPOINTMENT                                403
     LXXI.--A WOMAN'S HEART                                 408



                            WILLING TO DIE.



                            TO THE READER.


First, I must tell you how I intend to relate my story. Having never
before undertaken to write a long narrative, I have considered and laid
down a few rules which I shall observe. Some of these are unquestionably
good; others, I daresay, offend against the canons of composition; but I
adopt them, because they will enable me to tell my story better than,
with my imperfect experience, better rules possibly would. In the first
place, I shall represent the people with whom I had to deal quite
fairly. I have met some bad people, some indifferent, and some who at
this distance of time seem to me like angels in the unchanging light of
heaven.

My narrative shall be arranged in the order of the events; I shall not
recapitulate or anticipate.

What I have learned from others, and did not witness, that which I
narrate, in part, from the hints of living witnesses, and, in part,
conjecturally, I shall record in the historic third person; and I shall
write it down with as much confidence and particularity as if I had
actually seen it; in that respect imitating, I believe, all great
historians, modern and ancient. But the scenes in which I have been an
actor, that which my eyes have seen, and my ears heard, I will relate
accordingly. If I can be clear and true, my clumsiness and irregularity,
I hope, will be forgiven me.

       *       *       *       *       *

My name is Ethel Ware.

I am not an interesting person by any means. You shall judge. I shall be
forty-two my next birthday. That anniversary will occur on the first of
May, 1873; and I am unmarried.

I don't look quite the old maid I am, they tell me. They say I don't
look five-and-thirty, and I am conscious, sitting before the glass, that
there is nothing sour or peevish in my features. What does it matter,
even to me? I shall, of course, never marry; and, honestly, I don't care
to please any one. If I cared twopence how I looked, I should probably
look worse than I do.

I wish to be honest. I have looked in the glass since I wrote that
sentence. I have just seen the faded picture of what may have been a
pretty, at least what is called a piquant face; a forehead broad and
well-formed, over which the still dark-brown hair grows low; large and
rather good grey eyes and features, with nothing tragic, nothing
classic--just fairly good.

I think there was always energy in my face! I think I remember, long
ago, something at times comic; at times, also, something sad and tender,
and even dreamy, as I fixed flowers in my hair or talked to my image in
the glass. All that has been knocked out of me pretty well. What I do
see there now is resolution.

There are processes of artificial hatching in use, if I remember
rightly, in Egypt, by which you may, at your discretion, make the bird
all beak, or all claw, all head, or all drumstick, as you please to
develope it, before the shell breaks, by a special application of heat.
It is a chick, no doubt, but a monstrous chick; and something like such
a chick was I. Circumstances, in my very early days, hatched my
character altogether out of equilibrium.

The caloric had been applied quite different in my mother's case, and
produced a prodigy of quite another sort.

I loved my mother with a very warm, but, I am now conscious, with a
somewhat contemptuous affection. It never was an angry nor an arrogant
contempt; a very tender one, on the contrary. She loved me, I am sure,
as well as she was capable of loving a child--better than she ever loved
my sister--and I would have laid down my life for her; but, with all my
love, I looked down upon her, although I did not know it, till I thought
my life over in the melancholy honesty of solitude.

I am not romantic. If I ever was it is time I should be cured of all
that. I can laugh heartily, but I think I sigh more than most people.

I am not a bit shy, but I like solitude; partly because I regard my kind
with not unjust suspicion.

I am speaking very frankly. I enjoy, perhaps you think cynically, this
hard-featured self-delineation. I don't spare myself; I need not spare
any one else. But I am not a cynic. There is vacillation and timidity in
that ironical egotism. It is something deeper with me. I don't delight
in that sordid philosophy. I have encountered magnanimity and
self-devotion on earth. It is not true that there is neither nobility
nor beauty in human nature, that is not also more or less shabby and
grotesque.

I have an odd story to tell. On my father's side I am the grand-daughter
of a viscount; on my mother's, the grand-daughter of a baronet. I have
had my early glimpses of the great world, and a wondrous long stare
round the dark world beneath it.

When I lower my hand, and in one of the momentary reveries that tempt a
desultory writer tickle my cheek slowly with the feathered end of my
pen--for I don't incise my sentences with a point of steel, but, in the
old fashion, wing my words with a possibly too appropriate grey-goose
plume--I look through a tall window in an old house on the scenery I
have loved best and earliest in the world. The noble Welsh mountains are
on my right, the purple headlands stooping grandly into the waves; I
look upon the sea, the enchanted element, my first love and my last! How
often I lean upon my hand and smile back upon the waters that silently
smile on me, rejoicing under the summer heavens; and in wintry
moonlights, when the north wind drives the awful waves upon the rocks,
and I see the foam shooting cloud after cloud into the air, I have
found myself, after long hours, still gazing, as if my breath were
frozen, on the one peaked black rock, thinking what the storm and foam
once gave me up there, until, with a sudden terror, and a gasp, I wake
from the spell, and recoil from the white image, as if a spirit had been
talking with me all the time.

From this same window, in the fore-ground, I see, in morning light or
melancholy sunset, with very perfect and friendly trust, the shadowy old
churchyard, where I have arranged my narrow bed shall be. There my
mother-earth, at last, shall hold me in her bosom, and I shall find my
anodyne and rest. There over me shall hover through the old church
windows faintly the sweet hymns and the voices in prayer I heard long
ago; there the shadow of tower and tree shall slowly move over the grass
above me, from dawn till night, and there, within the fresh and solemn
sound of its waves, I shall lie near the ceaseless fall and flow of the
sea I loved so well.

I am not sorry, as I sit here, with my vain recollections and my direful
knowledge, that my life has been what it was.

A member of the upper ten thousand, I should have known nothing. I have
bought my knowledge dear. But truth is a priceless jewel. Would you part
with it, fellow-mourner, and return to the simplicities and illusions of
early days? Consider the question truly; be honest; and you will answer
"No." In the volume of memory, every page of which, like "Cornelius
Agrippa's bloody book," has power to evoke a spectre, would you yet
erase a line? We can willingly part with nothing that ever was part of
mind, or memory, or self. The lamentable past is our own for ever.

Thank Heaven, my childhood was passed in a tranquil nook, where the roar
of the world's traffic is not so much as heard; among scenery, where
there lurks little capital, and no enterprise; where the good people are
asleep; and where, therefore, the irreparable improvements that in other
places carry on their pitiless work of obliteration are undreamed of. I
am looking out on scenes that remain unchanged as heaven itself. The
summer comes and goes; the autumn drifts of leaves, and winter snows;
and all things here remain as my round childish eyes beheld them in
stupid wonder and delight when first the world was opening upon them.
The trees, the tower, the stile, the very gravestones, are my earliest
friends; I stretch my arms to the mountains, as if I could fold them to
my heart. And in the opening through the ancient trees, the great
estuary stretches northward, wider and wider, into the grey horizon of
the open sea.

  The sinking sun askance,
    Spreads a dull glare,
    Through evening air;
  And, in a happy trance,
    Forest and wave, and white cliff stand,
    Like an enchanted sea and land.

  The sea-breeze wakens clear and cold,
    Over the azure wide;
  Before whose breath, in threads of gold,
    The ruddy ripples glide,
  And chasing, break and mingle;
    While clear as bells,
    Each wavelet tells,
  O'er the stones on the hollow shingle.

  The rising of winds and the fall of the waves!
  I love the music of shingle and caves.
  And the billows that travel so far to die,
  In foam, on the loved shore where they lie.
  I lean my cold cheek on my hand;
    And as a child, with open eyes,
    Listens, in a dim surprise,
    To some high story
    Of grief and glory,
  It cannot understand;
  So, like that child,
  To meanings of a music wild,
  I listen, in a rapture lonely,
  Not understanding, listening only,
  To a story not for me;
    And let my fancies come and go,
    And fall and flow,
  With the eternal sea.

And so, to leave rhyme, and return to prose, I end my preface, and begin
my story here.



                              CHAPTER I.

                              AN ARRIVAL.


One of the earliest scenes I can remember with perfect distinctness is
this. My sister and I, still denizens of the nursery, had come down to
take our tea with good old Rebecca Torkill, the Malory housekeeper, in
the room we called the cedar parlour. It is a long and rather sombre
room, with two tall windows looking out upon the shadowy court-yard.
There are on the wall some dingy portraits, whose pale faces peep out,
as it were, through a background of black fog, from the canvas; and
there is one, in better order than the others, of a grave man in the
stately costume of James the First, which hangs over the mantel-piece.
As a child I loved this room; I loved the half-decipherable pictures; it
was solemn and even gloomy, but it was with the delightful gloom and
solemnity of one of Rebecca Torkill's stories of castles, giants, and
goblins.

It was evening now, with a stormy, red sky in the west. Rebecca and we
two children were seated round the table, sipping our tea, eating hot
cake, and listening to her oft-told tale, entitled the Knight of the
Black Castle.

This knight, habited in black, lived in his black castle, in the centre
of a dark wood, and being a giant, and an ogre, and something of a
magician besides, he used to ride out at nightfall with a couple of
great black bags, to stow his prey in, at his saddle-bow, for the
purpose of visiting such houses as had their nurseries well-stocked with
children. His tall black horse, when he dismounted, waited at the
hall-door, which, however mighty its bars and bolts, could not resist
certain magical words which he uttered in a sepulchral voice--

  "Yoke, yoke,
  Iron and oak;
  One, two, and three,
  Open to me."

At this charmed summons the door turned instantly on its hinges, without
warning of creak or rattle, and the black knight mounted the stairs to
the nursery, and was drawing the children softly out of their beds, by
their feet, before any one knew he was near.

As this story, which with childish love of iteration we were listening
to now for the fiftieth time, went on, I, whose chair faced the window,
saw a tall man on a tall horse--both looked black enough against the red
sky--ride by at a walk.

I thought it was the gaunt old vicar, who used to ride up now and then
to visit our gardener's mother, who was sick and weak, and troubling my
head no more about him, was instantly as much absorbed as ever in the
predatory prowlings of the Knight of the Black Castle.

It was not until I saw Rebecca's face, in which I was staring with the
steadiness of an eager interest, undergo a sudden and uncomfortable
change, that I discovered my error. She stopped in the middle of a
sentence, and her eyes were fixed on the door. Mine followed hers
thither. I was more than startled. In the very crisis of a tale of
terror, ready to believe any horror, I thought, for a moment, that I
actually beheld the Black Knight, and felt that his horse, no doubt, and
his saddle-bags, were waiting at the hall-door to receive me and my
sister.

What I did see was a man who looked to me gigantic. He seemed to fill
the tall door-case. His dress was dark, and he had a pair of leather
overalls, I believe they called them, which had very much the effect of
jack-boots, and he had a low-crowned hat on. His hair was long and
black, his prominent black eyes were fixed on us, his face was long, but
handsome, and deadly pale, as it seemed to me, from intense anger. A
child's instinctive reading of countenance is seldom at fault. The ideas
of power and mystery surround grown persons in the eyes of children. A
gloomy or forbidding face upon a person of great stature inspires
something like panic; and if that person is a stranger, and evidently
transported with anger, his mere appearance in the same room will, I can
answer for it, frighten a child half into hysterics. This alarming face,
with its black knit brows, and very blue shorn chin, was to me all the
more fearful that it was that of a man no longer young. He advanced to
the table with two strides, and said, in resonant, deep tones, to which
my very heart seemed to vibrate:

"Mr. Ware's not here, but he will be, soon enough; you give him that;"
and he hammered down a letter on the table, with a thump of his huge
fist. "That's my answer; and tell him, moreover, that I took his
letter,"--and he plucked an open letter deliberately from his great-coat
pocket--"and tore it, this way and that way, across and across," and he
suited the action fiercely to the words, "and left it for him, there!"

So saying, he slapped down the pieces with his big hand, and made our
tea-spoons jump and jingle in our cups, and turned and strode again to
the door.

"And tell him this," he added, in a tone of calmer hatred, turning his
awful face on us again, "that there's a God above us, who judges
righteously."

The door shut, and we saw him no more. I and my sister burst into
clamorous tears, and roared and cried for a full half hour, from sheer
fright--a demonstration which, for a time, gave Rebecca Torkill ample
occupation for all her energies and adroitness.

This recollection remains, with all the colouring and exaggeration of a
horrible impression received in childhood, fixed in my imagination. I
and dear Nelly long remembered the apparition, and in our plays used to
call him, after the goblin hero of the romance to which we had been
listening when he entered, the Knight of the Black Castle.

The adventure made, indeed, a profound impression upon our nerves, and I
have related it, with more detail than it seems to deserve, because it
was, in truth, connected with my story; and I afterwards, unexpectedly,
saw a good deal more of the awful man in whose presence my heart had
quaked, and after whose visit I and my sister seemed for days to have
drunk of "the cup of trembling."

I must take up my story now at a point a great many years later.

Let the reader fancy me and my sister Helen; I dark-haired, and a few
months past sixteen; she, with flaxen, or rather golden hair and large
blue eyes, and only fifteen, standing in the hall at Malory, lighted
with two candles; one in the old-fashioned glass bell that swings by
three chains from the ceiling, the other carried out hastily from the
housekeeper's room, and flaming on the table, in the foggy puffs of the
February night air that entered at the wide-open hall-door.

Old Rebecca Torkill stood on the steps, with her broad hand shading her
eyes, as if the moon dazzled them.

"There's nothing, dear; no, Miss Helen, it mustn't a' bin the gate.
There's no sign o' nothin' comin' up, and no sound nor nothing at all;
come in, dear; you shouldn't a' come out to the open door, with your
cough in this fog."

So in she stumped, and shut the door; and we saw no more of the dark
trunks and boughs of the elms at the other side of the courtyard, with
the smoky mist between; and we three trooped together to the
housekeeper's room, where we had taken up our temporary quarters.

This was the second false alarm that night, sounded, in Helen's fancy,
by the quavering scream of the old iron gate. We had to wait and watch
in the fever of expectation for some time longer.

Our old house of Malory was, at the best, in the forlorn condition of a
ship of war out of commission. Old Rebecca and two rustic maids, and
Thomas Jones, who was boots, gardener, hen-wife, and farmer, were all
the hands we could boast; and at least three-fourths of the rooms were
locked up, with shutters closed; and many of them, from year to year,
never saw the light, and lay in perennial dust.

The truth is, my father and mother seldom visited Malory. They had a
house in London, and led a very gay life; were very "good people,"
immensely in request, and everywhere. Their rural life was not at
Malory, but spent in making visits at one country-house after another.
Helen and I, their only children, saw very little of them. We sometimes
were summoned up to town for a month or two for lessons in dancing,
music, and other things, but there we saw little more of them than at
home. The being in society, judging by its effects upon them, appeared
to me a very harassing and laborious profession. I always felt that we
were half in the way and half out of sight in town, and was immensely
relieved when we were dismissed again to our holland frocks, and to the
beloved solitudes of Malory.

This was a momentous night. We were expecting the arrival of a new
governess, or rather companion.

Laura Grey--we knew no more than her name, for in his hurried note we
could not read whether she was Miss or Mrs.--my father had told us, was
to arrive this night at about nine o'clock. I had asked him, when he
paid his last visit of a day here, and announced the coming event,
whether she was a married lady; to which he answered, laughing:

"You wise little woman! That's a very pertinent question, though I never
thought of it, and I have been addressing her as Miss Grey all this
time. She certainly is old enough to be married."

"Is she cross, papa, I wonder?" I further inquired.

"Not cross--perhaps a little severe. 'She whipped two female 'prentices
to death, and hid them in the coal-hole,' or something of that kind, but
she has a very cool temper;" and so he amused himself with my curiosity.

Now, although we knew that all this, including the quotation, was spoken
in jest, it left an uncomfortable suspicion. Was this woman old and
ill-tempered? A great deal was in the power of a governess here. An
artful woman, who liked power, and did not like us, might make us very
miserable.

At length the little party in the housekeeper's room did hear sounds at
which we all started up with one consent. They were the trot of a
horse's hoofs and the roll of wheels, and before we reached the
hall-door the bell was ringing.

Rebecca swung open the door, and we saw in the shadow of the house, with
the wheels touching the steps, a one-horse conveyance, with some luggage
on top, dimly lighted by the candles in the hall.

A little bonnet was turned towards us from the windows; we could not see
what the face was like; a slender hand turned the handle, and a lady,
whose figure, though enveloped in a tweed cloak, looked very slight and
pretty, came down, and ran up the steps, and hesitated, and being
greeted encouragingly by Rebecca Torkill, entered the hall smiling, and
showed a very pretty and modest face, rather pale, and very young.

"My name is Grey; I am the new governess," she said, in a pleasant
voice, which, with her pretty looks, was very engaging; "and these are
the young ladies?" she continued, glancing at Rebecca and back again at
us; "you are Ethel, and you Helen Ware?" and a little timidly she
offered her hand to each.

I liked her already.

"Shall I go with you to your room," I asked, "while Rebecca is making
tea for us in the housekeeper's room? We thought we should be more
comfortable there to-night."

"I'm so glad--I shall feel quite at home. It is the very thing I should
have liked," she said; and talked on as I led her to her room, which,
though very old-fashioned, looked extremely cosy, with a good fire
flickering abroad and above on walls and ceiling.

I remember everything about that evening so well. I have reason to
remember Miss Laura Grey. Some people would have said that there was not
a regular feature in her face, except her eyes, which were very fine;
but she had beautiful little teeth, and a skin wonderfully smooth and
clear, and there was refinement and energy in her face, which was pale
and spiritual, and indescribably engaging. To my mind, whether according
to rule or not, she was nothing short of beautiful.

I have reason to remember that pale, pretty young face. The picture is
clear and living before me this moment, as it was then in the
firelight. Standing there, she smiled on me very kindly--she looked as
if she would have kissed me--and then, suddenly thoughtful, she
stretched her slender hands to the fire, and, in a momentary reverie,
sighed very deeply.

I left her, softly, with her trunks and boxes, which Thomas Jones had
already carried up, and ran downstairs.

I remember the pictures of that night with supernatural distinctness;
for at that point of time fate changed my life, and with pretty Miss
Grey another pale figure entered, draped in black, and calamity was my
mate for many a day after.

Our tea-party, however, this night in Mrs. Torkill's room, was very
happy. I don't remember what we talked about, but we were in high
good-humour with our young lady-superioress, and she seemed to like us.

I am going to tell you very shortly my impressions of this lady. I never
met any one in my life who had the same influence over me; and, for a
time, it puzzled me. When we were not at French, German, music--our
studies, in fact--she was exactly like one of ourselves, always ready to
do whatever we liked best, always pleasant, gentle, and, in her way,
even merry. When she was alone, or thinking, she was sad. That seemed
the habit of her mind; but she was naturally gay and sympathetic, as
ready as we for a walk on the strand to pick up shells, for a ride on
the donkeys to Penruthyn Priory, to take a sail or a row on the estuary,
or a drive in our little pony-carriage anywhere. Sometimes on our
rambles we would cross the stile and go into the pretty little
churchyard that lies to the left of Malory, near the sea, and if it was
a sunny day we would read the old inscriptions and loiter away half an
hour among the tombstones.

And when we came home to tea we would sit round the fire and tell
stories, of which she had ever so many, German, French, Scotch, Irish,
Icelandic, and I know not what; and sometimes we went to the
housekeeper's room, and, with Rebecca Torkill's leave, made a hot cake,
and baked it on the griddle there, with great delight.

The secret of Laura Grey's power was in her gentle temper, her
inflexible conscience, and her angelic firmness in all matters of duty.
I never saw her excited, or for a moment impatient; and at idle times,
as I said, she was one of ourselves. The only threat she ever used was
to tell us that she could not stay at Malory as our governess if we
would not do what she thought right. There is in young people an
instinctive perception of motive, and no truer spirit than Laura Grey
ever lived on earth. I loved her. I had no fear of her. She was our
gentle companion and playmate; and yet, in a certain sense, I never
stood so much in awe of any human being.

Only a few days after Laura Grey had come home, we were sitting in our
accustomed room, which was stately, but not uncomfortably spacious, and,
like many at the same side of the house, panelled up to the ceiling. I
remember, it was just at the hour of the still early sunset, and the
ruddy beams were streaming their last through the trunks of the great
elms. We were in high chat over Helen's little sparrow, Dickie, a
wonderful bird, whose appetite and spirits we were always discussing,
when the door opened, and Rebecca said, "Young ladies, please, here's
Mr. Carmel;" and Miss Grey, for the first time, saw a certain person who
turns up at intervals and in odd scenes in the course of this
autobiography.

The door is at some distance from the window, and through its panes
across that space upon the opposite wall the glow of sunset fell
mistily, making the clear shadow, in which our visitor stood, deeper.
The figure stood out against this background like a pale old portrait,
his black dress almost blended with the background; but, indistinct as
it was, it was easy to see that the dress he wore was of some
ecclesiastical fashion not in use among Church of England men. The coat
came down a good deal lower than his knees. His thin slight figure gave
him an effect of height far greater than his real stature; his fine
forehead showed very white in contrast with his close dark hair, and his
thin, delicate features, as he stepped slowly in, with an ascetic smile,
and his hand extended, accorded well with ideas of abstinence and
penance. Gentle as was his manner, there was something of authority also
in it, and in the tones of his voice.

"How do you do, Miss Ethel? How do you do, Miss Helen? I am going to
write my weekly note to your mamma, and--oh! Miss Grey, I believe?"--he
interrupted himself, and bowed rather low to the young governess,
disclosing the small tonsure on the top of his head.

Miss Grey acknowledged his bow, but I could see that she was puzzled and
surprised.

"I am to tell your mamma, I hope, that you are both quite well?" he
said, addressing himself to me, and taking my hand: "and in good
spirits, I suppose, Miss Grey?" he said, apparently recollecting that
she was to be recognized; "I may say that?"

He turned to her, still holding my hand.

"Yes, they are quite well, and, I believe, happy," she said, still
looking at him, I could see, with curiosity.

It was a remarkable countenance, with large earnest eyes, and a mouth
small and melancholy, with those brilliant red lips that people
associate with early decay. It was a pale face of suffering and
decision, which so vaguely indicated his years that he might be any age
you please, from six-and-twenty up to six-and-thirty, as you allowed
more or less in the account for the afflictions of a mental and bodily
discipline.

He stood there for a little while chatting with us. There was something
engaging in this man, cold, severe, and melancholy as his manner was. I
was conscious that he was agreeable, and, young as I was, I felt that he
was a man of unusual learning and ability.

In a little time he left us. It was now twilight, and we saw him, with
his slight stoop, pass our window with slow step and downcast eyes.



                              CHAPTER II.

                       OUR CURIOSITY IS PIQUED.


And so that odd vision was gone; and Laura Grey turned to us eagerly for
information.

We could not give her much. We were ourselves so familiar with the fact
of Mr. Carmel's existence, that it never occurred to us that his
appearance could be a surprise to any one.

Mr. Carmel had come about eight months before to reside in the small old
house in which the land-steward had once been harboured, and which,
built in continuation of the side of the house, forms a sort of
retreating wing to it, with a hall-door to itself, but under the same
roof.

This Mr. Carmel was, undoubtedly, a Roman Catholic, and an ecclesiastic;
of what order I know not. Possibly he was a Jesuit. I never was very
learned or very curious upon such points; but some one, I forgot who,
told me that he positively was a member of the Society of Jesus.

My poor mother was very High Church, and on very friendly terms with
Catholic personages of note. Mr. Carmel had been very ill, and was still
in delicate health, and a quiet nook in the country, in the
neighbourhood of the sea, had been ordered for him. The vacant house I
have described she begged for his use from my father, who did not at all
like the idea of lending it, as I could gather from the partly jocular
and partly serious discussions which he maintained upon the point,
every now and then, at the breakfast-table, when I was last in town.

I remember hearing my father say at last, "You know, my dear Mabel, I'm
always ready to do anything you like. I'll be a Catholic myself, if it
gives you the least pleasure, only be sure, first, about this thing,
that you really do like it. I shouldn't care if the man were hanged--he
very likely deserves it--but I'll give him my house if it makes you
happy. You must remember, though, the Cardyllion people won't like it,
and you'll be talked about, and I daresay he'll make nuns of Ethel and
Helen. He won't get a great deal by that, I'm afraid. And I don't see
why those pious people--Jesuits, and that sort of persons, who don't
know what to do with their money--should not take a house for him if he
wants it, or what business they have quartering their friars and rubbish
upon poor Protestants like you and me."

The end of it was that about two months later this Mr. Carmel arrived,
duly accredited by my father, who told me when he paid us one of his
visits of a day, soon after, that he was under promise not to talk to us
about religion, and that if he did I was to write to tell him
immediately.

When I had told my story to Laura Grey, she was thoughtful for a little
time.

"Are his visits only once a week?" she asked.

"Yes," said I.

"And does he stay as short a time always?" she continued.

We both agreed that he usually stayed a little longer.

"And has he never talked on the subject of religion?"

"No, never. He has talked about shells, or flowers, or anything he found
us employed about, and always told us something curious or interesting.
I had heard papa say that he was engaged upon a work from which great
things were expected, and boxes of books were perpetually coming and
going between him and his correspondents."

She was not quite satisfied, and in a few days there arrived from London
two little books on the great controversy between Luther and the Pope;
and out of these, to the best of her poor ability, she drilled us, by
way of a prophylactic against Mr. Carmel's possible machinations.

It did not appear, however, to be Mr. Carmel's mission to flutter the
little nest of heresy so near him. When he paid his next visit, it so
happened that one of these duodecimo disputants lay upon the table.
Without thinking, as he talked, he raised it, and read the title on the
cover, and smiled gently. Miss Grey blushed. She had not intended
disclosing her suspicions.

"In two different regiments, Miss Grey," he said, "but both under the
same king;" and he laid the book quietly upon the table again, and
talked on of something quite different.

Laura Grey, in a short time, became less suspicious of Mr. Carmel, and
rather enjoyed his little visits, and looked forward with pleasure to
them.

Could you imagine a quieter or more primitive life than ours, or, on
earth, a much happier one?

Malory owns an old-fashioned square pew in the aisle of the pretty
church of Cardyllion. In this spacious pew we three sat every Sunday,
and on one of these occasions, a few weeks after Miss Grey's arrival,
from my corner I thought I saw a stranger in the Verney seat, which is
at the opposite side of the aisle, and had not had an occupant for
several months. There was certainly a man in it; but the stove that
stood nearly between us would not allow me to see more than his elbow,
and the corner of an open book, from which I suppose he was reading.

I was not particularly curious about this person. I knew that the
Verneys, who were distant cousins of ours, were abroad, and the visitor
was not likely to be very interesting.

A long, indistinct sermon interposed, and I did not recollect to look at
the Verney pew until the congregation were trooping decorously out, and
we had got some way down the aisle. The pew was empty by that time.

"Some one in the Verney's pew," I remarked to our governess, so soon as
we were quite out of the shadow of the porch.

"Which is the Verney's pew?" she asked.

I described it.

"Yes, there was. I have got a headache, my dear. Suppose we go home by
the Mill Road?"

We agreed.

It is a very pretty, and in places rather a steep road, very narrow, and
ascending with a high and wooded bank at its right, and a precipitous
and thickly-planted glen to its left. The opposite side is thickly
wooded also, and a stream far below splashes and tinkles among the rocks
under the darkening foliage.

As we walked up this shadowy road, I saw an old gentleman walking down
it, towards us. He was descending at a brisk pace, and wore a
chocolate-coloured great-coat, made with a cape, and fitting his figure
closely. He wore a hat with a rather wide brim, turned up at the sides.
His face was very brown. He had a thin, high nose, with very thin
nostrils, rather prominent eyes, and carried his head high. Altogether
he struck me as a particularly gentleman-like and ill-tempered looking
old man, and his features wore a character of hauteur that was perfectly
insolent.

He was pretty near to us by the time I turned to warn our governess, who
was beside me, to make way for him to pass. I did not speak; for I was a
little startled to see that she was very much flushed, and almost
instantly turned deadly pale.

We came nearly to a standstill, and the old gentleman was up to us in a
few seconds. As he approached, his prominent eyes were fixed on Laura
Grey. He stopped, with the same haughty stare, and, raising his hat,
said in a cold, rather high key, "Miss Grey, I think? Miss Laura Grey?
You will not object, I dare say, to allow me a very few words?"

The young lady bowed very slightly, and said, in a low tone, "Certainly
not."

I saw that she looked pained, and even faint. This old gentleman's
manner, and the stern stare of his prominent eyes, embarrassed even me,
who did not directly encounter them.

"Perhaps we had better go on, Helen and I, to the seat; we can wait for
you there?" I said softly to her.

"Yes, dear, I think it will be as well," she answered gently.

We walked on slowly. The bench was not a hundred steps up the steep. It
stands at the side of the road, with its back against the bank. From
this seat I could see very well what passed, though, of course, quite
out of hearing.

The old gentleman had a black cane in his fingers, which he poked about
in the gravel. You would have said from his countenance that at every
little stab he punched an enemy's eye out.

First, the gentleman made a little speech, with his head very high, and
an air of determination and severity. The young lady seemed to answer,
briefly and quietly. Then ensued a colloquy of a minute or more, during
which the old gentleman's head nodded often with emphasis, and his
gestures became much more decided. The young lady seemed to say little,
and very quietly: her eyes were lowered to the ground as she spoke.

She said something, I suppose, which he chose to resent, for he smiled
sarcastically, and raised his hat; then, suddenly resuming his gravity,
he seemed to speak with a sharp and hectoring air, as if he were laying
down the law upon some point once for all.

Laura Grey looked up sharply, with a brilliant colour, and with her head
high, replied rapidly for a minute or more, and turning away, without
waiting for his answer, walked slowly, with her head still high, towards
us.

The gentleman stood looking after her with his sarcastic smile, but that
was gone in a moment, and he continued looking, with an angry face, and
muttering to himself, until suddenly he turned away, and walked off at a
quick pace down the path towards Cardyllion.

A little uneasily, Helen and I stood up to meet our governess. She was
still flushed and breathing quickly, as people do from recent agitation.

"No bad news? Nothing unpleasant?" I asked, looking very eagerly into
her face.

"No; no bad news, dear."

I took her hand. I felt that she was trembling a little, and she had
become again more than usually pale. We walked homeward in silence.

Laura Grey seemed in deep and agitated thought. We did not, of course,
disturb her. An unpleasant excitement like that always disposes one to
silence. Not a word, I think, was uttered all the way to the steps of
Malory. Laura Grey entered the hall, still silent, and when she came
down to us, after an hour or two passed in her room, it was plain she
had been crying.



                             CHAPTER III.

                        THE THIEF IN THE NIGHT.


Of what happened next I have a strangely imperfect recollection. I
cannot tell you the intervals, or even the order, in which some of the
events occurred. It is not that the mist of time obscures it; what I do
recollect is dreadfully vivid; but there are spaces of the picture gone.
I see faces of angels, and faces that make my heart sink; fragments of
scenes. It is like something reflected in the pieces of a smashed
looking-glass.

I have told you very little of Helen, my sister, my one darling on
earth. There are things which people, after an interval of half a life,
have continually present to their minds, but cannot speak of. The idea
of opening them to strangers is insupportable. A sense of profanation
shuts the door, and we "wake" our dead alone. I could not have told you
what I am going to write. I did not intend inscribing here more than the
short, bleak result. But I write it as if to myself, and I will get
through it.

To you it may seem that I make too much of this, which is, as Hamlet
says, "common." But you have not known what it is to be for all your
early life shut out from all but one beloved companion, and never after
to have found another.

Helen had a cough, and Laura Grey had written to mamma, who was then in
Warwickshire, about it. She was referred to the Cardyllion doctor. He
came; he was a skilful man. There were the hushed, dreadful moments,
while he listened, through his stethoscope, thoughtfully, to the "still,
small voice" of fate, to us inaudible, pronouncing on the dread issues
of life or death.

"No sounder lungs in England," said Doctor Mervyn, looking up with a
congratulatory smile.

He told her, only, that she must not go in the way of cold, and
by-and-by sent her two bottles from his surgery; and so we were happy
once more.

But doctors' advices, like the warnings of fate, are seldom obeyed;
least of all by the young. Nelly's little pet-sparrow was ailing, or we
fancied it was. She and I were up every hour during the night to see
after it. Next evening Nelly had a slight pain in her chest. It became
worse, and by twelve o'clock was so intense that Laura Grey, in alarm,
sent to Cardyllion for the doctor. Thomas Jones came back without him,
after a delay of an hour. He had been called away to make a visit
somewhere, but the moment he came back he would come to Malory.

It came to be three o'clock; he had not appeared; darling Nelly was in
actual torture. Again Doctor Mervyn was sent for; and again, after a
delay, the messenger returned with the same dismaying answer. The
governess and Rebecca Torkill exhausted in vain their little list of
remedies. I was growing terrified. Intuitively I perceived the danger.
The doctor was my last earthly hope. Death, I saw, was drawing nearer
and nearer every moment, and the doctor might be ten miles away. Think
what it was to stand, helpless, by her. Can I ever forget her poor
little face, flushed scarlet, and gasping and catching at breath, hands,
throat, every sinew quivering in the mortal struggle!

At last a knock and a ring at the hall-door. I rushed to the window; the
first chill grey of winter's dawn hung sicklily over the landscape. No
one was on the steps, or on the grey gravel of the court. But, yes--I do
hear voices and steps upon the stair approaching. Oh! Heaven be thanked,
the doctor is come at last!

I ran out upon the lobby, just as I was, in my dressing-gown, with my
hair about my shoulders, and slippers on my bare feet. A candlestick,
with the candle burnt low, was standing on the broad head of the clumsy
old bannister, and Mr. Carmel, in a black riding-coat, with his hat in
his hand, and that kind of riding-boots that used to be called clerical,
on, was talking in a low, earnest tone to our governess.

The faint grey from the low lobby window was lost at this point, and the
delicate features of the pale ecclesiastic, and Miss Grey's pretty and
anxious face, were lighted, like a fine portrait of Schalken's, by the
candle only.

Throughout this time of agony and tumult, the memory of my retina
remains unimpaired, and every picture retains its hold upon my brain.
And, oh! had the doctor come? Yes, Mr. Carmel had ridden all the way,
fourteen miles, to Llwynan, and brought the doctor back with him. He
might not have been here for hours otherwise. He was now downstairs
making preparations, and would be in the room in a few minutes.

I looked at that fine, melancholy, energetic face as if he had saved me.
I could not thank him. I turned and entered our room again, and told
Nelly to be of good courage, that the doctor was come. "And, oh! please
God, he'll do you good, my own darling, darling--precious darling!"

In a minute more the doctor was in the room. My eyes were fixed upon his
face as he talked to his poor little patient; he did not look at all as
he had done on his former visit. I see him before me as I write; his
bald head shining in the candle-light, his dissatisfied and gloomy face,
and his shrewd light blue eyes, reading her looks askance, as his
fingers rested on her pulse.

I remember, as if the sick-room had changed into it, finding myself in
the small room opposite, with no one there but the doctor and Miss Grey,
we three, in the cold morning light, and his saying, "Well all this
comes of violating directions. There is very intense inflammation, and
her chest is in a most critical state."

Then Miss Grey said, after a moment's hush, the awful words, "Is there
any danger?" and he answered shortly, "I wish I could say there wasn't."
I felt my ears sing as if a pistol had been fired. No one spoke for
another minute or more.

The doctor stayed, I think, for a long time, and he must have returned
after, for he mixed up in almost every scene I can remember during that
jumbled day of terror.

There was, I know, but one day, and part of a night. But it seems to me
as if whole nights intervened, and suns set and rose, and days uncounted
and undistinguished passed, in that miserable period.

The pain subsided, but worse followed; a dreadful cough, that never
ceased--a long, agonised struggle against a slow drowning of the lungs.
The doctor gave her up. They wanted me to leave the room, but I could
not.

The hour had come at last, and she was gone. The wild cry--the terrible
farewell--nothing can move inexorable death. All was still.

As the ship lies serene in the caverns of the cold sea, and feels no
more the fury of the wind, the strain of cable, and the crash of wave,
this forlorn wreck lay quiet now. Oh! little Nelly! I could not believe
it.

She lay in her nightdress under the white coverlet. Was this whole scene
an awful vision, and was my heart breaking in vain? Oh, poor simple
little Nelly, to think that you should have changed into anything so
sublime and terrible!

I stood dumb by the bedside, staring at the white face that was never to
move again. Such a look I had never seen before. The white glory of an
angel was upon it.

Rebecca Torkill spoke to me, I think. I remember her kind, sorrowful old
face near me, but I did not hear what she said. I was in a stupor, or a
trance. I had not shed a tear; I had not said a word. For a time I was
all but mad. In the light of that beautiful transfiguration my heart was
bursting with the wildest rebellion against the law of death that had
murdered my innocent sister before my eyes; against the fate of which
humanity is the sport; against the awful Power who made us! What spirit
knows, till the hour of temptation, the height or depth of its own
impiety?

Oh, gentle, patient little Nelly! The only good thing I can see in
myself in those days is my tender love of you, and my deep inward
certainty of my immeasurable inferiority. Gentle, humble little Nelly,
who thought me so excelling in cleverness, in wisdom, and countless
other perfections, how humble in my secret soul I felt myself beside
you, although I was too proud to say so! In your presence my fierce
earthy nature stood revealed, and wherever I looked my shadow was cast
along the ground by the pure light that shone from you.

I don't know what time passed without a word falling from my lips. I
suppose people had other things to mind, and I was left to myself. But
Laura Grey stole her hand into mine, she kissed me, and I felt her tears
on my cheek.

"Ethel, darling, come with me," she said, crying, very gently. "You can
come back again. You'll come with me, won't you? Our darling is happier,
Ethel, than ever she could have been on earth, and she will never know
change or sorrow again."

I began to sob distractedly. I do really believe I was half out of my
mind. I began to talk to her volubly, vehemently, crying passionately
all the time. I do not remember now a word I uttered; I know its purport
only from the pain, and even horror, I remember in Laura Grey's pale
face. It has taken a long and terrible discipline to expel that evil
spirit. I know what I was in those days. My pilgrimage since then has
been by steep and solitary paths, in great dangers, in darkness, in
fear; I have eaten the bread of affliction, and my drink has been of the
waters of bitterness; I am tired and footsore yet, though through a
glass darkly, I think I can now see why it all was, and I thank God with
a contrite heart for the terrors and the mercies he has shown me. I
begin to discover through the mist who was the one friend who never
forsook me through all those stupendous wanderings, and I long for the
time when I shall close my tired eyes, all being over, and lie at the
feet of my Saviour.



                              CHAPTER IV.

                              MY FATHER.


Forth sped Laura Grey's letter to mamma. She was then at Roydon; papa
was with her. The Easter recess had just sent down some distinguished
visitors, who were glad to clear their heads for a few days of the hum
of the Houses and the smell of the river; and my father, although not in
the House, ran down with them. Little Nelly had been his pet, as I was
mamma's.

There was an awkwardness in post-office arrangements between the two
places then, and letters had to make a considerable circuit. There was a
delay of three clear days between the despatch of the letter and the
reply.

I must say a word about papa. He was about the most agreeable and
careless man on earth. There are men whom no fortune could keep out of
debt. A man of that sort seems to me not to have any defined want or
enjoyment, but the horizon of his necessities expands in proportion as
he rises in fortune, and always exceeds the ring-fence of his estate.
What its periphery may be, or his own real wants, signifies very little.
His permanent necessity is always to exceed his revenue.

I don't think my father's feelings were very deep. He was a good-natured
husband, but, I am afraid, not a good one. I loved him better than I
loved mamma. Children are always captivated by gaiety and indulgence. I
was not of an age to judge of higher things, and I never missed the
article of religion, of which, I believe, he had none. Although he lived
so much in society that he might almost be said to have no domestic life
whatever, no man could be simpler, less suspicious, or more easily
imposed upon.

The answer to Miss Grey's letter was the arrival of my father. He was in
passionate grief, and in a state of high excitement. He ran upstairs,
without waiting to take off his hat; but at the door of our darling's
room he hesitated. I did not know he had arrived till I heard him, some
minutes later, walking up and down the room, sobbing. Though he was
selfish, he was affectionate. No one liked to go in to disturb him. She
lay by this time in her coffin. The tint of clay darkened her pretty
features. The angelic beauty that belongs to death is transitory beyond
all others. I would not look at her again, to obscure its glory. She lay
now in her shroud, a forlorn sunken image of decay.

When he came out he talked wildly and bitterly. His darling had been
murdered, he said, by neglect. He upbraided us all round, including
Rebecca Torkill, for our cruel carelessness. He blamed the doctor. He
had no right, in a country where there was but one physician, to go so
far away as fourteen miles, and to stay away so long. He denounced even
his treatment. He ought to have bled her. It was, every one knew, the
proper way of treating such a case.

Than Laura Grey, no one could have been more scrupulously careful. She
could not have prevented, even if she had suspected the possibility of
such a thing, her stealing out of bed now and then to look at her sick
sparrow. All this injustice was, however, but the raving of his grief.

In poor little Nelly's room my father's affectionate nature was
convulsed with sorrow. When he came down I cried with him for a long
time. I think this affliction has drawn us nearer. He was more tender to
me than I ever remembered him before.

At last the ghastly wait and suspense were ended. I saw no more strange
faces in the lobbies; and the strange voices on the stairs and footsteps
in the room, and the muffled sounds that made me feel faint, were heard
no more. The funeral was over, and pretty Nelly was gone for ever and
ever, and I would come in and go out and read my books, and take my
walks alone; and the flowers, and the long summer evenings, and the song
of birds would come again, and the leaves make their soft shadow in the
nooks where we used to sit together in the wood, but gentle little Nelly
would never come again.

During these terrible days, Laura Grey was a sister to me, both in
affection and in sorrow. Oh, Laura, can I ever forget your tender,
patient sympathy? How often my thoughts recall your loved face as I lay
my head upon my lonely pillow, and my blessings follow you over the wide
sea to your far-off home!

Papa took a long solitary ride that day through the warren, and away by
Penruthyn Priory, and did not return till dark.

When he did, he sent for me. I found him in the room which, in the
old-fashioned style, was called the oak parlour. A log-fire--we were
well supplied from the woods in the rear of the house--lighted the room
with a broad pale flicker. My father was looking ill and tired. He was
leaning with his elbow on the mantel-piece, and said:

"Ethel, darling, I want to know what you would like best. We are going
abroad for a little time; it is the only thing for your mamma. This
place would kill her. I shall be leaving this to-morrow afternoon, and
you can make up your mind which you would like best--to come with us and
travel for some months, or to wait here, with Miss Grey, until our
return. You shall do precisely whatever you like best--I don't wish you
to hurry yourself, darling. I'd rather you thought it over at your
leisure."

Then he sat down and talked about other things; and turned about to the
fire with his decanter of sherry by him, and drank a good many glasses,
and leaned back in his chair before he had finished it.

My father, I thought, was dozing, but was not sure; and being a good
deal in awe of him--a natural consequence of seeing so little of him--I
did not venture either to waken him, or to leave the room without his
permission.

There are two doors in that room. I was standing irresolutely near that
which is next the window, when the other opened, and the long whiskers
and good-humoured, sensible face of portly Wynne Williams, the
town-clerk and attorney of Cardyllion, entered. My father awoke, with a
start, at the sound, and seeing him, smiled and extended his hand.

"How d'ye do, Williams? It's so good of you to come. Sit down. I'm off
to-morrow, so I sent you a note. Try that sherry; it is better than I
thought. And now I must tell you, that old scoundrel, Rokestone, is
going to foreclose the mortgage, and they have served one of the tenants
at Darlip with an ejectment; that's more serious; I fancy he means
mischief there also. What do you think?"

"I always thought he might give us annoyance there; but Mandrick's
opinion was with us. Do you wish me to look after that?"

"Certainly. And he's bothering me about that trust."

"I know," said Mr. Wynne Williams, with rather gloomy rumination.

"That fellow has lost me--I was reckoning it up only a day or two
ago--between five and six thousand pounds in mere law costs, beside all
the direct mischief he has done me; and he has twice lost me a seat in
the House--first by maintaining that petition at King's Firkins, a thing
that must have dropped but for his money; he had nothing on earth to do
with it, and no motive but his personal, fiendish feelings; and next by
getting up the contest against me at Shillingsworth, where, you know, it
was ten to one; by Heavens! I should have had a walk over. There is not
an injury that man could do me he has not done. I can prove that he
swore he would strip me of everything I possessed. It is ever so many
years since I saw him--you know all about it--and the miscreant pursues
me still relentlessly. He swore to old Dymock, I'm told, and I believe
it, that he would never rest till he had brought me to a prison. I could
have him before a jury for that. There's some remedy, I suppose, there's
some protection? If I had done what I wished ten years ago, I'd have had
him out; it's not too late yet to try whether pistols can't settle it. I
wish I had not taken advice; in a matter like that, the man who does
always does wrong. I daresay, Williams, you think with me, now it's a
case for cutting the Gordian knot?"

"I should not advise it, sir; he's an old man, and he's not afraid of
what people say, and people know he has fought. He'd have you in the
Queen's Bench, and as his feelings are of that nature, I'd not leave him
the chance--I wouldn't trust him."

"It's not easy to know what one should do--a miscreant like that. I hope
and pray that the curse of----"

My father spoke with a fierce tremble in his voice, and at that moment
he saw me. He had forgotten that I was in the room, and said instantly:

"You may as well run away, dear; Mr. Williams and I have some business
to talk over--and tiresome business it is. Good night, darling."

So away I went, glad of my escape, and left them talking. My father rang
the bell soon, and called for more wine; so I suppose the council sat
till late. I joined Laura Grey, to whom I related all that had passed,
and my decision on the question, which was, to remain with her at
Malory. She kissed me, and said, after a moment's thought:

"But will they think it unkind of you, preferring to remain here?"

"No," I said; "I think I should be rather in the way if I went; and,
besides, I know papa is never high with any one, and really means what
he says; and I should feel a little strange with them. They are very
kind, and love me very much, I know, and so do I love them; but I see
them so little, and you are such a friend, and I don't wish to leave
this place; I like it better than any other in all the world; and I feel
at home with you, more than I could with any one else in the world."

So that point was settled, and next day papa took leave of me very
affectionately; and, notwithstanding his excited language, I heard
nothing more of pistols and Mr. Rokestone. But many things were to
happen before I saw papa again.

I remained, therefore, at Malory, and Laura Grey with me; and the
shadow of Mr. Carmel passed the window every evening, but he did not
come in to see us, as he used. He made inquiries at the door instead,
and talked, sometimes for five minutes together, with Rebecca Torkill. I
was a little hurt at this; I did not pretend to Laura to perceive it;
but in our walks, or returning in the evening, if by chance I saw his
tall, thin, but graceful figure approaching by the same path, I used to
make her turn aside and avoid him by a detour. In so lonely a place as
Malory the change was marked; and there was pain in that neglect. I
would not let him fancy, however, that I wished, any more than he, to
renew our old and near acquaintance.

So weeks passed away, and leafy May had come, and Laura Grey and I were
sitting in our accustomed room, in the evening, talking in our desultory
way.

"Don't you think papa very handsome?" I asked.

"Yes, he is handsome," she answered; "there is something refined as well
as clever in his face; and his eyes are fine; and all that goes a great
way. But many people might think him not actually handsome, though very
good-looking and prepossessing."

"They must be hard to please," I said.

She smiled good-naturedly.

"Mamma fell in love with him at first sight, Rebecca Torkill says," I
persisted, "and mamma was not easily pleased. There was a gentleman who
was wildly in love with her; a man of very old family, Rebecca says, and
good-looking, but she would not look at him when once she had seen
papa."

"I think I heard of that. He is a baronet now; but he was a great deal
older than Mr. Ware, I believe."

"Yes, he was; but Rebecca says he did not look ten years older than
papa, and _he_ was very young indeed then," I answered. "It was well for
mamma she did not like him, for I once heard Rebecca say that he was a
very bad man."

"Did you ever hear of mamma's aunt Lorrimer?" I resumed, after a little
pause.

"Not that I recollect."

"She is very rich, Rebecca says. She has a house in London, but she is
hardly ever there. She's not very old--not sixty. Rebecca is always
wondering whom she will leave her money to; but that don't much matter,
for I believe we have more than we want. Papa says, about ten years ago,
she lived for nothing but society, and was everywhere; and now she has
quite given up all that, and wanders about the Continent."

Our conversation subsided; and there was a short interval in which
neither spoke.

"Why is it, Laura," said I, after this little silence, "that you never
tell me anything about yourself, and I am always telling you everything
I think or remember? Why are you so secret? Why don't you tell me your
story?"

"My story; what does it signify? I suppose it is about an average story.
Some people are educated to be governesses; and some of us take to it
later, or by accident; and we are amateurs, and do our best. The Jewish
custom was wise; every one should learn a mechanic's business. Saint
Paul was a tent-maker. If fortune upsets the boat, it is well to have
anything to lay hold of--anything rather than drowning; an hospital
matron, a companion, a governess, there are not many chances, when
things go wrong, between a poor woman and the workhouse."

"All this means, you will tell me nothing," I said.

"I am a governess, darling. What does it matter what I was? I am happier
with you than ever I thought I could be again. If I had a story that was
pleasant to hear, there is no one on earth I would tell it to so
readily; but my story---- There is no use in thinking over misfortune,"
she continued; "there is no greater waste of time than regretting,
except wishing. I know, Ethel, you would not pain me. I can't talk about
those things; I may another time."

"You shan't speak of them, Laura, unless you wish it. I am ashamed of
having bothered you so," I kissed her. "But, will you tell me one thing,
for I am really curious about it? I have been thinking about that very
peculiar-looking old gentleman, who wore a chocolate-coloured
great-coat, and met us in the Mill Walk, and talked to you, you
remember, on the Sunday we returned from church that way. Now, I want
you to tell me, is that old man's name Rokestone?"

"No, dear, it is not; I don't think he even knows him. But isn't it time
for us to have our tea? Will you not make it, while I put our books up
in the other room?"

So I undertook this office, and was alone.

The window was raised, the evening was warm, and the sun by this time
setting. It was the pensive hour when solitude is pleasant; when grief
is mellowed, and even a thoughtless mind, like mine, is tinged with
melancholy. I was thinking now of our recluse neighbour. I had seen him
pass, as Miss Grey and I were talking. He still despatched those little
notes about the inmates of Malory; for mamma always mentioned, when she
wrote to me, in her wanderings on the Continent, that she had heard from
Mr. Carmel that I was well, and was out every day with my governess, and
so on. I wondered why he had quite given up those little weekly visits,
and whether I could have unwittingly offended him.

These speculations would recur oftener than perhaps was quite consistent
with the disdain I affected on the subject. But people who live in
cities have no idea how large a space in one's thoughts, in a solitude
like Malory, a neighbour at all agreeable must occupy.

I was ruminating in a great arm-chair, with my hand supporting my head,
and my eyes fixed on my foot, which was tapping the carpet, when I heard
the cold, clear voice of Mr. Carmel at the window. I looked up, and my
eyes met his.



                              CHAPTER V.

                        THE LITTLE BLACK BOOK.


Our eyes met, I said; they remained fixed for a moment, and then mine
dropped. I had been, as it were, detected, while meditating upon this
capricious person. I daresay I even blushed; I certainly was
embarrassed. He was repeating his salutation, "How d'ye do, Miss Ware?"

"Oh, I'm very well, thanks, Mr. Carmel," I answered, looking up;
"and--and I heard from mamma on Thursday. They are very well; they are
at Genoa now. They think of going to Florence in about three weeks."

"I know; yes. And you have no thoughts of joining them?"

"Oh! none. I should not like to leave this. They have not said a word
about it lately."

"It is such a time, Miss Ethel, since I had the pleasure of seeing
you--I don't mean, of course, at a distance, but near enough to ask you
how you are. I dared not ask to see you too soon, and I thought--I
fancied--you wished your walks uninterrupted."

I saw that he had observed my strategy; I was not sorry.

"I have often wished to thank you, Mr. Carmel; you were so very kind."

"I had no opportunity, Miss Ethel," he answered, with more feeling than
before. "My profession obliges me to be kind--but I had no
opportunity--Miss Grey is quite well?"

"She is very well, thanks."

With a softened glory, in level lines, the beams of the setting sun
broke, scattered, through the trunks of the old elms, and one touched
the head of the pale young man, as he stood at the window, looking in;
his delicate and melancholy features were in the shade, and the golden
light, through his thick, brown hair, shone softly, like the glory of a
saint. As, standing thus, he looked down in a momentary reverie, Laura
Grey came in, and paused, in manifest surprise, on seeing Mr. Carmel at
the window.

I smiled, in spite of my efforts to look grave, and the governess,
advancing, asked the young ecclesiastic how he was? Thus recalled, by a
new voice, he smiled and talked with us for a few minutes. I think he
saw our tea-equipage, and fancied that he might be, possibly, in the
way; for he was taking his leave when I said, "Mr. Carmel, you must take
tea before you go."

"Tea!--I find it very hard to resist. Will you allow me to take it, like
a beggar-man, at the window? I shall feel less as if I were disturbing
you; for you have only to shut the window down, when I grow prosy."

So, laughing, Laura Grey gave him a cup of tea, which he placed on the
window-stone, and seating himself a little sideways on the bench that
stands outside the window, he leaned in, with his hat off, and sipped
his tea and chatted; and sitting as Miss Grey and I did, near the
window, we made a very sociable little party of three.

I had quite given up the idea of renewing our speaking acquaintance with
Mr. Carmel, and here we were, talking away, on more affable terms than
ever! It seemed to me like a dream.

I don't say that Mr. Carmel was chatting with the _insouciance_ and
gaiety of a French abbé. There was, on the contrary, something very
peculiar, both in his countenance and manner, something that suggested
the life and sufferings of an ascetic. Something also, not easily
defined, of command; I think it was partly in the severe though gentle
gravity with which he spoke anything like advice or opinion.

I felt a little awed in his presence, I could not exactly tell why; and
yet I was more glad than I would have confessed that we were good
friends again. He sipped his cup of tea slowly, as he talked, and was
easily persuaded to take another.

"I see, Miss Ethel, you are looking at my book with curious eyes."

It was true; the book was a very thick and short volume, bound in black
shagreen, with silver clasps, and lay on the window-stone, beside his
cup. He took it up in slender fingers, smiling as he looked at me.

"You wish to know what it is; but you are too ceremonious to ask me. I
should be curious myself, if I saw it for the first time. I have often
picked out a book from a library, simply for its characteristic binding.
Some books look interesting. Now what do you take this to be?"

"Haven't you books called breviaries? I think this is one," said I.

"That is your guess; it is not a bad one--but no, it is not a breviary.
What do you say, Miss Grey?"

"Well, I say it is a book of the offices of the Church."

"Not a bad guess, either. But it is no such thing. I think I must tell
you--it is what you would call a storybook."

"Really!" I exclaimed, and Miss Grey and I simultaneously conceived a
longing to borrow it.

"The book is two hundred and seventy years old, and written in very old
French. You would call them stories," he said, smiling on the back of
the book; "but you must not laugh at them; for I believe them all
implicitly. They are legends."

"Legends?" said I, eagerly--"I should so like to hear one. Do, pray,
tell one of them."

"I'll read one, if you command me, into English. They are told here as
shortly as it is possible to relate them. Here, for instance, is a
legend of John of Parma. I think I can read it in about two minutes."

"I'm sorry it is so short; do, pray, begin," I said.

Accordingly, there being still light enough to read by, he translated
the legend as follows:--

"John of Parma, general of the order of Friars Minors, travelling one
winter's night, with some brothers of the order, the party went astray
in a dense forest, where they wandered about for several hours, unable
to find the right path. Wearied with their fruitless efforts, they at
length knelt down, and having commended themselves to the protection of
the mother of God, and of their patron, Saint Francis, began to recite
the first nocturn of the Office of the Blessed Virgin. They had not been
long so engaged, when they heard a bell in the distance, and rising at
once, and following the direction whence the sound proceeded, soon came
to an extensive abbey, at the gate of which they knocked for admittance.
The doors were instantly thrown open, and within they beheld a number of
monks evidently awaiting their arrival, who, the moment they appeared,
led them to a fire, washed their feet, and then seated them at a table,
where supper stood ready; and having attended them during their meal,
they conducted them to their beds. Wearied with their toilsome journey,
the other travellers slept soundly; but John, rising in the night to
pray, as was his custom, heard the bell ring for matins, and quitting
his cell, followed the monks of the abbey to the chapel, to join with
them in reciting the divine office.

"Arrived there, one of the monks began with this verse of the
Thirty-fifth Psalm, 'Ibi ceciderunt qui operantur iniquitatem;' to which
the choir responded, 'Expulsi sunt nec potuerunt stare.' Startled by the
strange despairing tone in which the words were intoned, as well as by
the fact that this is not the manner in which matins are usually
commenced, John's suspicions were aroused, and addressing the monks, he
commanded them, in the name of the Saviour, to tell him who and what
they were. Thus adjured, he who appeared an abbot replied, that they
were all angels of darkness, who, at the prayer of the Blessed Virgin,
and of Saint Francis, had been sent to serve him and his brethren in
their need. As he spoke, all disappeared; and the next moment John found
himself and his companions in a grotto, where they remained, absorbed in
prayer and singing the praises of God, until the return of day enabled
them to resume their journey."

"How picturesque that is!" I said, as he closed the little book.

He smiled, and answered:

"So it is. Dryden would have transmuted such a legend into noble verse;
painters might find great pictures in it--but, to the faithful, it is
more. To me, these legends are sweet and holy readings, telling how the
goodness, vigilance, and wisdom of God work by miracles for his
children, and how these celestial manifestations have never ceased
throughout the history of his Church on earth. To you they are, as I
said, but stories; as such you may wish to look into them. I believe,
Miss Grey, you may read them without danger." He smiled gently, as he
looked at the governess.

"Oh! certainly, Laura," cried I. "I am so much obliged."

"It is very kind of you," said Miss Grey. "They are, I am sure, very
interesting; but does this little book contain anything more?"

"Nothing, I am afraid, that could possibly interest you: nothing, in
fact, but a few litanies, and what we call elevations--you will see in a
moment. There is nothing controversial. I am no proselytiser, Miss
Grey,"--he laughed a little--"my duty is quite of a different kind. I am
collecting authorities, making extracts and precis, and preparing a
work, not of my own, for the press, under a greater than I."

"Recollect, Laura, it is lent to me--isn't it, Mr. Carmel?" I pleaded,
as I took the little volume and turned over its pages.

"Very well--certainly," he acquiesced, smiling.

He stood up now. The twilight was deepening; he laid his hand on the
window sash, and leaned his forehead upon it, as he looked in, and
continued to chat for a few minutes longer; and then, with a slight
adieu, he left us.

When he was gone, we talked him over a little.

"I wonder what he is?--a priest only or a Jesuit," said I; "or, perhaps,
a member of some other order. I should like so much to know."

"You'd not be a bit wiser if you did," said Laura.

"Oh, you mean because I know nothing of these orders; but I could easily
make out. I think he would have told us to-night in the twilight, if we
had asked him."

"I don't think he would have told us anything he had not determined
beforehand to tell. He has told us nothing about himself we did not know
already. We know he is a Roman Catholic, and an ecclesiastic--his
tonsure proclaims that; and your mamma told you that he is writing a
book, so that is no revelation either. I think he is profoundly
reserved, cautious, and resolute; and with a kind of exterior
gentleness, he seems to me to be really inflexible and imperious."

"I like that unconscious air of command, but I don't perceive those
signs of cunning and reserve. He seemed to grow more communicative the
longer he stayed." I answered.

"The darker it grew," she replied. "He is one of those persons who
become more confident the more effectually their countenances are
concealed. There ceases to be any danger of a conflict between looks and
language--a danger that embarrasses some people."

"You are suspicious this evening," I said. "I don't think you like him."

"I don't know him; but I fancy that, talk as he may to us, neither you
nor I have for one moment a peep into his real mind. His world may be
perfectly celestial and serene, or it may be an ambitious, dark, and bad
one; but it is an invisible world for us."

The candles were by this time lighted, and Miss Grey was closing the
window, when the glitter of the silver clasp of the little book caught
her eye.

"Have you found anything?" said I.

"Only the book--I forgot all about it. I am almost sorry we allowed him
to lend it."

"We borrowed it; I don't think he wanted to lend it," said I; "but,
however it was, I'm very glad we have got it. One would fancy you had
lighted on a scorpion. I'm not afraid of it; I know it can't do any one
the least harm, for they are only stories."

"Oh, I think so. I don't see myself that they can do any harm; but I am
almost sorry we have got into that sort of relation with him."

"What relation, Laura?"

"Borrowing books and discussing them."

"But we need not discuss them; I won't--and you are so well up in the
controversy with your two books of theology, that I think he's in more
danger of being converted than you. Give me the book, and I'll find out
something to read to you."



                              CHAPTER VI.

                          A STRANGER APPEARS.


Next day Miss Grey and I were walking on the lonely road towards
Penruthyn Priory. The sea lies beneath it on the right, and on the left
is an old grass-grown bank, shaggy with brambles. Round a clump of
ancient trees that stand at a bend of this green rampart, about a
hundred steps before us, came, on a sudden, Mr. Carmel, and a man
dressed also in black, slight, but not so tall as he. They were walking
at a brisk pace, and the stranger was talking incessantly to his
companion.

That did not prevent his observing us, for I saw him slightly touch Mr.
Carmel's arm with his elbow as he looked at us. Mr. Carmel evidently
answered a question, and, as he did so, glanced at us; and immediately
the stranger resumed his conversation. They were quickly up to us, and
stopped. Mr. Carmel raised his hat, and asked leave to introduce his
friend. We bowed, so did the stranger; but Mr. Carmel did not repeat his
name very distinctly.

This friend was far from prepossessing. He was of middle height, and
narrow-shouldered, what they call "putty-faced," and closely shorn, the
region of the beard and whisker being defined in smooth dark blue. He
looked about fifty. His movements were short and quick, and restless; he
rather stooped, and his face and forehead inclined as if he were looking
on the ground. But his eyes were not upon the ground; they were very
fierce, but seldom rested for more than a moment on any one object. As
he made his bow, raising his hat from his massive forehead, first to me,
and afterwards to Miss Grey, his eyes, compressed with those wrinkles
with which near-sighted people assist their vision, scrutinised us each
with a piercing glance under his black eyebrows. It was a face at once
intellectual, mean, and intimidating.

"Walking; nothing like walking, in moderation. You have boating here
also, and you drive, of course; which do you like best, Miss Ware?" The
stranger spoke with a slightly foreign accent, and, though he smiled,
with a harsh and rapid utterance.

I forget how I answered this, his first question--rather an odd one. He
turned and walked a little way with us.

"Charming country. Heavenly weather. But you must find it rather lonely,
living down here. How you must both long for a week in London!"

"For my part, I like this better," I answered. "I don't like London in
summer, even in winter I prefer this."

"You have lived here with people you like, I dare say, and for their
sakes you love the place?" he mused.

We walked on a little in silence. His words recalled darling Nelly. This
was our favourite walk long ago; it led to what we called the blackberry
wilderness, rich in its proper fruits in the late autumn, and in May
with banks all covered with cowslips and primroses. A sudden thought,
that finds simple associations near, is affecting, and my eyes filled
with tears. But with an effort I restrained them. The presence of a
stranger, the sense of publicity, seals those fountains. How seldom
people cry at the funerals of their beloved! They go through the public
rite like an execution, pale and collected, and return home to break
their hearts alone.

"You have been here some months, Miss Grey. You find Miss Ware a very
amenable pupil, I venture to believe. I think I know something of
physiognomy, and I may congratulate you on a very sweet and docile
pupil, eh?"

Laura Grey, governess as she was, looked a little haughtily at this
officious gentleman, who, as he put the question, glanced sharply for a
moment at her, and then as rapidly at me, as if to see how it told.

"I think--I hope we are very happy together," said Miss Grey. "I can
answer for myself."

"Precisely what I expected," said the stranger, taking a pinch of snuff.
"I ought to mention that I am a very particular acquaintance, friend I
may say, of Mrs. Ware, and am, therefore, privileged."

Mr. Carmel was walking beside his friend in silence, with his eyes
apparently lowered to the ground all this time.

My blood was boiling with indignation at being treated as a mere child
by this brusque and impertinent old man. He turned to me.

"I see, by your countenance, young lady, that you respect authority. I
think your governess is very fortunate; a dull pupil is a bad bargain,
and you are not dull. But a contumacious pupil is utterly intolerable;
you are not that, either; you are sweetness and submission itself, eh?"

I felt my cheeks flushing, and I directed on him a glance which, if the
fire of ladies' eyes be not altogether a fable, ought at least to have
scorched him.

"I have no need of submission, sir. Miss Grey does not think of
exercising authority over me. I shall be eighteen my next birthday. I
shall be coming out, papa says, in less than a year. I am not treated
like a child any longer, sir. I think, Laura, we have walked far enough.
Hadn't we better go home? We can take a walk another time--any time
would be pleasanter than now."

Without waiting for her answer, I turned, holding my head very high,
breathing quickly, and feeling my cheeks in a flame.

The odious stranger, nothing daunted by my dignified resentment, smiled
shrewdly, turned about quite unconcernedly, and continued to walk by my
side. On my other side was Laura Grey, who told me afterwards that she
greatly enjoyed my spirited treatment of his ill-breeding.

She walked by my side, looking straight before her, as I did. Out of the
corners of my eyes I saw the impudent old man marching on as if quite
unconscious, or, at least, careless of having given offence. Beyond him
I saw, also, in the same oblique way, Mr. Carmel, walking with downcast
eyes as before.

He ought to be ashamed, I thought, of having introduced such a person.

I had not time to think a great deal, before the man of the harsh voice
and restless eyes suddenly addressed me again.

"You are coming out, you say, Miss Ware, when you are eighteen?"

I made him no answer.

"You are now seventeen, and a year intervenes," he continued, and
turning to Mr. Carmel, "Edwyn, run you down to the house, and tell the
man to put my horse to."

So Mr. Carmel crossed the stile at the road-side, and disappeared by the
path leading to the stables of Malory. And then turning again to me, the
stranger said:

"Suppose your father and mother have placed you in my sole charge, with
a direction to remove you from Malory, and take you under my immediate
care and supervision, to-day; you will hold yourself in readiness to
depart immediately, attended by a lady appointed to look after you, with
the approbation of your parents--eh?"

"No, sir, I'll not go. I'll remain with Miss Grey. I'll not leave
Malory," I replied, stopping short, and turning towards him. I felt
myself growing very pale, but I spoke with resolution.

"You'll not? what, my good young lady, not if I show you your father's
letter?"

"Certainly not. Nothing but violence shall remove me from Malory, until
I see papa himself. He certainly would not do anything so cruel!" I
exclaimed, while my heart sank within me.

He studied my face for a moment with his dark and fiery eyes.

"You are a spirited young lady; a will of your own!" he said. "Then you
won't obey your parents?"

"I'll do as I have said," I answered, inwardly quaking.

He addressed Miss Grey now.

"You'll make her do as she's ordered?" said this man, whose looks seemed
to me more sinister every moment.

"I really can't. Besides, in a matter of so much importance, I think she
is right not to act without seeing her father, or, at least, hearing
directly from him."

"Well, I must take my leave," said he. "And I may as well tell you it is
a mere mystification; I have no authority, and no wish to disturb your
stay at Malory; and we are not particularly likely ever to meet again;
and you'll forgive an old fellow his joke, young ladies?"

With these brusque and eccentric sentences, he raised his hat, and with
the activity of a younger man, ran up the bank at the side of the road;
and, on the summit, looked about him for a moment, as if he had
forgotten us altogether; and then, at his leisure, he descended at the
other side and was quite lost to view.

Laura Grey and I were both staring in the direction in which he had just
disappeared. Each, after a time, looked in her companion's face.

"I almost think he's mad!" said Miss Grey.

"What could have possessed Mr. Carmel to introduce such a person to us?"
I exclaimed. "Did you hear his name?" I asked, after we had again looked
in the direction in which he had gone, without discovering any sign of
his return.

"Droqville, I think," she answered.

"Oh! Laura, I am so frightened! Do you think papa can really intend any
such thing? He's too kind. I am sure it is a falsehood."

"It is a joke, he says himself," she answered. "I can't help thinking a
very odd joke, and very pointless; and one that did not seem to amuse
even himself."

"Then you do not think it is true?" I urged, my panic returning.

"Well, I can't think it is true, because, if it were, why should he say
it was a joke? We shall soon know. Perhaps Mr. Carmel will enlighten
us."

"I thought he seemed in awe of that man," I said.

"So did I," answered Miss Grey. "Perhaps he is his superior."

"I'll write to-day to papa, and tell him all about it; you shall help
me; and I'll implore of him not to think of anything so horrible and
cruel."

Laura Grey stopped short, and laid her hand on my wrist for a moment,
thinking.

"Perhaps it would be as well if we were to turn about and walk a little
further, so as to give him time to get quite away."

"But if he wants to take me away in that carriage, or whatever it is,
he'll wait any time for my return."

"So he would; but the more I think over it, the more persuaded I am that
there is nothing in it."

"In any case, I'll go back," I said. "Let us go into the house and lock
the doors; and if that odious Mr. Droqville attempts to force his way
in, Thomas Jones will knock him down; and we'll send Anne Owen to
Cardyllion, for Williams, the policeman. I hate suspense. If there is to
be anything unpleasant, it is better to have it decided, one way or
other, as soon as possible."

Laura Grey smiled, and spoke merrily of our apprehensions; but I don't
think she was quite so much at ease as she assumed to be.

Thus we turned about, I, at least, with a heart thumping very fast; and
we walked back towards the old house of Malory, where, as you have this
moment heard, we had made up our minds to stand a siege.



                              CHAPTER VII.

                                 TASSO.


I daresay I was a great fool; but if you had seen the peculiar and
unpleasant face of Monsieur Droqville, and heard his harsh nasal voice,
in which there was something of habitual scorn, you would make excuses.
I confess I was in a great fright by the time we had got well into the
dark avenue that leads up to the house.

I hesitated a little as we reached that point in the carriage-road, not
a long one, which commands a clear view of the hall-door steps. I had
heard awful stories of foolish girls spirited away to convents, and
never heard of more. I have doubts as to whether, had I seen Monsieur
Droqville or his carriage there, I should not have turned about, and ran
through the trees. But the courtyard in front of the house was, as
usual, empty and still. On its gravel surface reposed the sharp shadows
of the pointed gables above, and the tufts of grass on its surface had
not been bruised by recent carriage wheels. Instead, therefore, of
taking to flight, I hurried forward, accompanied by Laura Grey, to seize
the fortress before it was actually threatened.

In we ran, lightly, and locked the hall door, and drew chain and bolt
against Monsieur Droqville; and up the great stairs to our room, each
infected by the other's panic. Safely in the room, we locked and bolted
our door, and stood listening, until we had recovered breath. Then I
rang our bell furiously, and up came Anne Owen, or, as her countrymen
pronounce it, Anne Wan. There had been, after all, no attack; no human
being had attempted to intrude upon our cloistered solitude.

"Where is Mrs. Torkill?" I asked, through the door.

"In the still-room, please, miss."

"Well, you must lock and bolt the back-door, and don't let any one in,
either way."

We passed an hour in this state of preparation, and finally ventured
downstairs, and saw Rebecca Torkill. From her we learned that the
strange gentleman who had been with Mr. Carmel had driven away more than
half an hour before; and Laura Grey and I, looking in one another's
faces, could not help laughing a little.

Rebecca had overheard a portion of a conversation, which she related to
me; but not for years after. At the time she had no idea that it could
refer to any one in whom she was interested; and even at this hour I am
not myself absolutely certain, but only conjecture, that I was the
subject of their talk. I will tell it to you as nearly as I can
recollect.

Rebecca Torkill, nearly an hour before, being in the still-room, heard
voices near the window, and quietly peeped out.

You must know that immediately in the angle formed by the junction of
the old house, known as the steward's house, which Mr. Carmel had been
assigned as a residence, and the rear of the great house of Malory,
stand two or three great trees, and a screen of yews, behind which, so
embossed in ivy as to have the effect of a background of wood, stands
the gable of the still-room. This strip of ground, lying immediately in
the rear of the steward's house, was a flower-garden; but a part of it
is now carpeted with grass, and lies under the shadow of the great
trees, and is walled round with the dark evergreens I have mentioned.
The rear of the stable-yard of Malory, also mantled with ivy, runs
parallel to the back of the steward's house, and forms the other
boundary of this little enclosure, which simulates the seclusion of a
cloister; and but for the one well-screened window I have mentioned,
would really possess it. Standing near this window she saw Mr. Carmel,
whom she always regarded with suspicion, and his visitor, that gentleman
in black, whose looks nobody seemed to like.

"I told you, sir," said Mr. Carmel, "through my friend Ambrose, I had
arranged to have prayers twice a week, at the Church in Paris, for that
one soul."

"Yes, yes, yes; that is all very well, very good, of course," answered
the hard voice; "but there are things we must do for ourselves--the
saints won't shave us, you know."

"I am afraid, sir, I did not quite understand your letter," said Mr.
Carmel.

"Yes, you did, pretty well. You see she may be, one day, a very valuable
acquisition. It is time you put your shoulder to the wheel--d'ye see?
Put your shoulder to the wheel. The man who said all that is able to do
it. So mind you put your shoulder to the wheel forthwith."

The younger man bowed.

"You have been sleeping," said the harsh, peremptory voice. "You said
there was enthusiasm and imagination. I take that for granted. I find
there is spirit, courage, a strong will; obstinacy--impracticability--no
milksop--a bit of a virago! Why did not you make out all that for
yourself? To discover character you must apply tests. You ought in a
single conversation to know everything."

The young man bowed again.

"You shall write to me weekly; but don't post your letters at
Cardyllion. I'll write to you through Hickman, in the old way."

She could hear no more, for they moved away. The elder man continued
talking, and looked up at the back-windows of Malory, which became
visible as they moved away. It was one of his fierce, rapid glances; but
he was satisfied, and continued his conversation for two or three
minutes more. Then he abruptly turned, and entered the steward's house
quickly; and, in two or three minutes more, was driving away from Malory
at a rapid pace.

A few days after this adventure--for in our life any occurrence that
could be talked over for ten minutes was an adventure--I had a letter in
mamma's pretty hand, and in it occurred this passage:

"The other day I wrote to Mr. Carmel, and I asked him to do me a
kindness. If he would read a little Italian with you, and Miss Grey I am
sure would join, I should be so much pleased. He has passed so much of
his life in Rome, and is so accomplished in Italian; simple as people
think it, that language is more difficult to pronounce correctly even
than French. I forget whether Miss Grey mentioned Italian among the
languages she could teach. But however that may be, I think, if Mr.
Carmel will take that trouble, it would be very desirable."

Mr. Carmel, however, made no sign. If the injunction to "put his
shoulder to the wheel" had been given for my behoof, the promise was but
indifferently kept, for I did not see Mr. Carmel again for a fortnight.
During the greater part of that interval he was away from Malory, we
could not learn where. At the end of that time, one evening, just as
unexpectedly as before, he presented himself at the window. Very much
the same thing happened. He drank tea with us, and sat on the bench--his
bench, he called it--outside the window, and remained, I am sure, two
hours, chatting very agreeably. You may be sure we did not lose the
opportunity of trying to learn something of the gentleman whom he had
introduced to us.

Yes, his name was Droqville.

"We fancied," said Laura, "that he might be an ecclesiastic."

"His being a priest, or not, I am sure you think does not matter much,
provided he is a good man, and he is that; and a very clever man, also,"
answered Mr. Carmel. "He is a great linguist: he has been in almost
every country in the world. I don't think Miss Ethel has been a
traveller yet, but you have, I dare say." And in that way he led us
quietly away from Monsieur Droqville to Antwerp, and I know not where
else.

One result, however, did come of this visit. He actually offered his
services to read Italian with us. Not, of course, without opening the
way for this by directing our talk upon kindred subjects, and thus
deviously up to the point. Miss Grey and I, who knew what each expected,
were afraid to look at each other; we should certainly have laughed,
while he was leading us up so circuitously and adroitly to his "palpable
ambuscade."

We settled Monday, Wednesday, and Friday in each week for our little
evening readings. Mr. Carmel did not always now sit outside, upon his
bench, as at first. He was often at our tea-table, like one of
ourselves; and sometimes stayed later than he used to do. I thought him
quite delightful. He certainly was clever, and, to me, appeared a
miracle of learning; he was agreeable, fluent, and very peculiar.

I could not tell whether he was the coldest man on earth, or the most
impassioned. His eyes seemed to me more enthusiastic and extraordinary
the oftener and longer I beheld them. Their strange effect, instead of
losing, seemed to gain by habit and observation. It seemed to me that
the cold and melancholy serenity that held us aloof was artificial, and
that underneath it could be detected the play and fire of a nature
totally different.

I was always fluctuating in my judgment upon this issue; and the problem
occupied me during many an hour of meditation.

How dull the alternate days had become; and how pleasant even the
look-forward to our little meetings! Thus, very agreeably, for about a
fortnight our readings proceeded, and, one evening on our return,
expecting the immediate arrival of our "master," as I called Mr. Carmel,
we found, instead, a note addressed to Miss Grey. It began: "Dear Miss
Eth," and across these three letters a line was drawn, and "Grey" was
supplied. I liked even that evidence that his first thought had been of
me. It went on:

     "Duty, I regret, calls me for a time away from Malory, and our
     Italian readings, I have but a minute to write to tell you not to
     expect me this evening, and to say I regret I am unable, at this
     moment, to name the day of my return.

        "In great haste, and with many regrets,
                             "Yours very truly,
                                           "E. Carmel."

"So he's gone again!" I said, very much vexed. "What shall we do
to-night?"

"Whatever you like best; I don't care--I'm sorry he's gone."

"How restless he is! I wonder why he could not stay quietly here; he
can't have any real business away. It may be duty; but it looks very
like idleness. I dare say he began to think it a bore coming to us so
often to read Tasso, and listen to my nonsense; and I think it a very
cool note, don't you?"

"Not cool; a little cold; but not colder than he is," said Laura Grey.
"He'll come back, when he has done his business; I'm sure he has
business; why should he tell an untruth about the matter?"

I was huffed at his going, and more at his note. That pale face, and
those large eyes, I thought the handsomest in the world. I took up one
of Laura's manuals of The Controversy, which had fallen rather into
disuse after the first panic had subsided, and Mr. Carmel had failed to
make any, even the slightest, attack upon our faith. I was fiddling with
its leaves, and I said:

"If I were an inexperienced young priest, Laura, I should be horribly
afraid of those little tea-parties. I dare say he is afraid--afraid of
your eyes, and of falling in love with you."

"Certainly not with me," she answered. "Perhaps you mean he is afraid of
people talking? I think you and I should be the persons to object to
that, if there was a possibility of any such thing. But we are talking
folly. These men meet us, and talk to us, and we see them; but there is
a wall between, that is simply impassable. Suppose a sheet of plate
glass, through which you see as clearly as through air, but as thick as
the floor of ice on which a Dutch fair is held. That is what their vow
is."

"I wonder whether a girl ever fell in love with a priest. That would be
a tragedy!" I said.

"A ridiculous one," answered Laura; "you remember the old spinster who
fell in love with the Apollo Belvedere? It could happen only to a
madwoman."

I think this was a dull evening to Laura Grey; I know it was for me.



                              CHAPTER VIII.

                                THUNDER.


We saw or heard nothing for a week or more of Mr. Carmel. It was
possible that he would never return. I was in low spirits. Laura Grey
had been shut up by a cold, and on the day of which I am now speaking
she had not yet been out. I therefore took my walk alone towards
Penruthyn Priory, and, as dejected people not unfrequently do, I was
well enough disposed to indulge and even to nurse my melancholy.

A thunder-storm had been for hours moving upwards from the south-east,
among the grand ranges of distant mountains that lie, tier beyond tier,
at the other side of the estuary, and now it rested on a wide and lurid
canopy of cloud upon the summits of the hills and headlands that
overlook the water.

It was evening, later than my usual return to tea. I knew that Laura
Grey minded half-an-hour here or there as little as I did, and a
thunder-storm seen and heard from the neighbourhood of Malory is one of
the grandest spectacles in its way on earth. Attracted by the mighty
hills on the other side, these awful elemental battles seldom visit our
comparatively level shore, and we see the lightning no nearer than about
half-way across the water. Vivid against blackening sky and purple
mountain, the lightning flies and shivers. From broad hill-side, through
rocky gorges, reflected and returned from precipice to precipice,
through the hollow windings of the mountains, the thunder rolls and
rattles, dies away, explodes again, and at length subsides in the
strangest and grandest of all sounds, spreading through all that
mountainous region for minutes after, like the roar and tremble of an
enormous seething cauldron.

Suppose these aërial sounds reverberating from cliff to cliff, from peak
to peak, and crag to crag, from one hill-side to another, like the
cannon in the battles of Milton's angels; suppose the light of the
setting sun, through a chink in the black curtain of cloud behind me,
touching with misty fire the graves and headstones in the pretty
churchyard, where, on the stone bench under the eastern window, I have
taken my seat, near the grave of my darling sister; and suppose an
uneasy tumult, not a breeze, in the air, sometimes still, and sometimes
in moaning gusts, tossing sullenly the boughs of the old trees that
darken the churchyard.

For the first time since her death I had now visited this spot without
tears. My thoughts of death had ceased to be pathetic, and were, at this
moment, simply terrible. "My heart was disquieted within me, and the
fear of death had fallen upon me." I sat with my hands clasped together,
and my eyes fixed on the thunderous horizon before me, and the grave of
my darling under my eyes, and she, in her coffin, but a few feet
beneath. The grave, God's prison, as old Rebecca Torkill used to say,
and then the Judgment! This new sense of horror and despair was, I dare
say, but an unconscious sympathy with the vengeful and melancholy aspect
of nature.

I heard a step near me, and turned. It was Mr. Carmel who approached. He
was looking more than usually pale, I thought, and ill. I was surprised,
and a little confused. I cannot recall our greeting. I said, after that
was over, something, I believe, about the thunder-storm.

"And yet," he answered, "you understand these awful phenomena--their
causes. You remember our little talk about electricity--here it is! We
know all that is but the restoration of an equilibrium. Think what it
will be when God restores the moral balance, and settles the equities of
eternity! There are moods, times, and situations in which we contemplate
justly our tremendous Creator. Fear him who, after he has killed the
body, has power to cast into hell. Yea, I say unto you, fear him. Here
all suffering is transitory. Weeping may endure for a night, but joy
cometh in the morning. This life is the season of time and of mercy; but
once in hell, mercy is no more, and eternity opens, and endures, and has
no end."

Here he ceased for a time to speak, and looked across the estuary,
listening, as it seemed, to the roll and tremble of the thunder. After a
little while, he said:

"That you are to die is most certain; nothing more uncertain than the
time and manner; by a slow or a sudden death; in a state of grace or
sin. Therefore, we are warned to be ready at all hours. Better twenty
years too soon than one moment late; for to perish once is to be lost
for ever. Your death depends upon your life; such as your life is, such
will be your death. How can we dare to live in a state that we dare not
die in?"

I sat gazing at this young priest, who, sentence after sentence, was
striking the very key-note of the awful thought that seemed to peal and
glare in the storm. He stood with his head uncovered, his great earnest
eyes sometimes raised, sometimes fixed on me, and the uncertain gusts at
fitful intervals tossed his hair this way and that. The light of the
setting sun touched his thin hand, and his head, and glimmered on the
long grass; the graves lay around us; and the voice of God himself
seemed to speak in the air.

Mr. Carmel drew nearer, and in the same earnest vein talked on. There
was no particle of which is termed the controversial in what he had
said. He had not spoken a word that I could not subscribe. He had
quoted, also, from our version of the Bible; but he presented the
terrors of revelation with a prominence more tremendous than I was
accustomed to, and the tone of his discourse was dismaying.

I will not attempt to recollect and to give you in detail the
conversation that followed. He presented, with a savage homeliness of
illustration, with the same simplicity and increasing force, the same
awful view of Christianity. Beyond the naked strength of the facts, and
the terrible brevity with which he stated them in their different
aspects, I don't know that there was any special eloquence in his
discourse, but in the language of Scripture, his words made "both my
ears tingle."

He did not attempt to combat my Protestant tenets directly; that might
have alarmed me; he had too much tact for that. Anything he said with
that tendency was in the way simply of a discourse of the teaching and
practice of his own Church.

"In the little volume of legends you were so good as to say you would
like to look into," he said, "you will find the prayer of Saint Louis de
Gonzaga; you will also find an anonymous prayer, very pathetic and
beautiful. I have drawn a line in red ink down the margin at its side,
so it is easily found. These will show you the spirit in which the
faithful approach the Blessed Virgin. They may interest you. They will,
I am sure, interest your sympathies for those who have suffered, like
you, and have found peace and hope in these very prayers."

He then spoke very touchingly of my darling sister, and my tears at last
began to flow. It was the strangest half-hour I had ever passed.
Religion during that time had appeared in a gigantic and terrible
aspect. My grief for my sister was now tinged with terror. Do not we
from our Lutheran pulpits too lightly appeal to that potent
emotion--fear?

For awhile this tall thin priest in black, whose pale face and earnest
eyes seemed to gleam on me with an intense and almost painful
enthusiasm, looked like a spirit in the deepening twilight; the thunder
rattled and rolled on among the echoing mountains, the gleam of the
lightning grew colder and wilder as the darkness increased, and the
winds rushed mournfully, and tossed the churchyard grass, and bowed the
heads of the great trees about us; and as I walked home, with my head
full of awful thoughts, and my heart agitated, I felt as if I had been
talking with a messenger from that other world.



                              CHAPTER IX.

                               AWAKENED.


We do these proselytising priests great wrong when we fancy them
cold-blooded practisers upon our credulity, who seek, for merely selfish
ends, to entangle us by sophistries, and inveigle us into those mental
and moral catacombs from which there is no escape. We underrate their
danger when we deny their sincerity. Mr. Carmel sought to save my soul;
nobler or purer motive, I am sure, never animated man. If he acted with
caution, and even by stratagem, he believed it was in the direct service
of Heaven, and for my eternal weal. I know him better, his strength and
his weakness, now--his asceticism, his resolution, his tenderness. That
young priest--long dead--stands before me, in the white robe of his
purity, king-like. I see him, as I saw him last, his thin, handsome
features, the light of patience on his face, the pale smile of suffering
and of victory. His tumults and his sorrows are over. Cold and quiet he
lies now. My thanks can never reach him; my unavailing blessings and
gratitude follow my true and long-lost friend, and tears wrung from a
yearning heart.

Laura Grey seemed to have lost her suspicions of this ecclesiastic. We
had more of his society than before. Our reading went on, and sometimes
he joined us in our walks. I used to see him from an upper window every
morning early, busy with spade and trowel, in the tiny flower-garden
which belonged to the steward's house. He used to work there for an hour
punctually, from before seven till nearly eight. Then he vanished for
many hours, and was not seen till nearly evening, and we had, perhaps,
our _Gerusalemme Liberata_, or he would walk with us for a mile or more,
and talk in his gentle but cold way, pleasantly, on any topic we
happened to start. We three grew to be great friends. I liked to see him
when he, and, I may add, Laura Grey also, little thought I was looking
at his simple garden-work under the shadow of the grey wall from which
the old cherry and rose-trees drooped, in picturesque confusion, under
overhanging masses of ivy.

He and I talked as opportunity occurred more and more freely upon
religion. But these were like lovers' confidences, and, by a sort of
tacit consent, never before Laura Grey. Not that I wished to deceive
her; but I knew very well what she would think and say of my imprudence.
It would have embarrassed me to tell her; but here remonstrances would
not have prevailed; I would not have desisted; we should have
quarrelled; and yet I was often on the point of telling her, for any
reserve with her pained me.

In this quiet life we had glided from summer into autumn, and suddenly,
as before, Mr. Carmel vanished, leaving just such a vague little note as
before.

I was more wounded, and a great deal more sorry this time. The solitude
I had once loved so well was irksome without him. I could not confess to
Laura, scarcely to myself, how much I missed him.

About a week after his disappearance, we had planned to drink tea in the
housekeeper's room. I had been sitting at the window in the gable that
commanded the view of the steward's garden, which had so often shown me
my hermit at his morning's work. The roses were already shedding their
honours on the mould, and the sear of autumn was mellowing the leaves of
the old fruit-trees. The shadow of the ancient stone house fell across
the garden, for by this time the sun was low in the west, and I knew
that the next morning would come and go, and the next, and bring no sign
of his return, and so on, and on, perhaps for ever.

Never was little garden so sad and silent! The fallen leaves lay
undisturbed, and the weeds were already peeping here and there among the
flowers.

"Is it part of your religion?" I murmured bitterly to myself, as, with
folded hands, I stood a little way back, looking down through the open
window, "to leave willing listeners thus half-instructed? Business? What
is the business of a good priest? I should have thought the care and
culture of human souls was, at least, part of a priest's business. I
have no one to answer a question now--no one to talk to. I am, I
suppose, forgotten."

I dare say there was some affectation in this. But my dejection was far
from affected, and hiding my sorrowful and bitter mood, I left the
window and came down the back-stairs to our place of meeting. Rebecca
Torkill and Laura Grey were in high chat. Tea being just made, and
everything looking so delightfully comfortable, I should have been, at
another time, in high spirits.

"Ethel, what do you think? Rebecca has been just telling me that the
mystery about Mr. Carmel is quite cleared up. Mr. Prichard, the grocer,
in Cardyllion, was visiting his cousin, who has a farm near Plasnwyd,
and whom should he see there but our missing friar, in a carriage
driving with Mrs. Tredwynyd, of Plasnwyd. She is a beautiful woman
still, and one of the richest widows in Wales, Rebecca says; and he has
been living there ever since he left this; and his last visit, when we
thought he was making a religious sojourn in a monastery, was to the
same house and lady! What do you think of that? But it is not near ended
yet. Tell the rest of the story, Mrs. Torkill, to Miss Ethel--please
do."

"Well, miss, there's nothin' very particular, only they say all round
Plasnwyd that she was in love with him, and that he's goin' to turn
Protestant, and it's all settled they're to be married. Every one is
singin' to the same tune all round Plasnwyd, and what every one says
must be true, as I've often heard say."

I laughed, and asked whether our teacake was ready, and looked out of
the window. The boughs of the old fruit-trees in the steward's garden
hung so near it that the ends of the sprays would tap the glass, if the
wind blew. As I leaned against the shutter, drumming a little tune on
the window, and looking as careless as any girl could, I felt cold and
faint, and my heart was bursting. I don't know what prevented my
dropping on the floor in a swoon.

Laura, little dreaming of the effect of this story upon me, was chatting
still with Rebecca, and neither perceived that I was moved by the news.

That night I cried for hours in my bed, after Laura Grey was fast
asleep. It never occurred to me to canvass the probability of the story.
We are so prone to believe what we either greatly desire or greatly
fear. The violence of my own emotions startled me. My eyes were opened
at last to a part of my danger.

As I whispered, through convulsive sobs, "He's gone, he's gone--I have
lost him--he'll never be here any more! Oh! why did you pretend to take
an interest in me? Why did I listen to you? Why did I like you?" All
this, and as much more girlish lamentation and upbraiding as you please
to fancy, dispelled my dream and startled my reason. I had an interval
to recover in; happily for me, this wild fancy had not had time to grow
into a more impracticable and dangerous feeling. I felt like an awakened
somnambulist at the brink of a precipice. Had I become attached to Mr.
Carmel, my heart must have broken in silence, and my secret have
perished with me.

Some weeks passed, and an advent occurred, which more than my girlish
pride and resolutions turned my thoughts into a new channel, and
introduced a memorable actor upon the scene of my life.



                              CHAPTER X.

                       A SIGHT FROM THE WINDOWS.


We are now in stormy October; a fierce and melancholy month! August and
September touch the greenwood leaves with gold and russet, and gently
loosen the hold of every little stalk on forest bough; and then, when
all is ready, October comes on in storm, with sounds of trump and
rushing charge and fury not to be argued or dallied with, and thoroughly
executes the sentence of mortality that was recorded in the first faint
yellow of the leaf, in the still sun of declining July.

October is all the more melancholy for the still, golden days that
intervene, and show the thinned branches in the sunlight, soft, and
clear as summer's, and the boughs cast their skeleton shadows across
brown drifts of leaves.

On the evening I am going to speak of, there was a wild, threatening
sunset, and the boatmen of Cardyllion foretold a coming storm. Their
predictions were verified.

The breeze began to sigh and moan through the trees and chimney-stacks
of Malory shortly after sunset, and in another hour it came on to blow a
gale from the northwest. From that point the wind sweeps right up the
estuary from the open sea; and after it has blown for a time, and the
waves have gathered their strength, the sea bursts grandly upon the
rocks a little in front of Malory.

We were sitting cosily in our accustomed tea-room. The rush and strain
of the wind on the windows became momentarily more vehement, till the
storm reached its highest and most tremendous pitch.

"Don't you think," said Laura, after an awful gust, "that the windows
may burst in? The wind is frightful! Hadn't we better get to the back of
the house?"

"Not the least danger," I answered; "these windows have small panes, and
immensely strong sashes; and they have stood so many gales that we may
trust them for this."

"There again!" she exclaimed. "How awful!"

"No danger to us, though. These walls are thick, and as firm as rock;
not like your flimsy brick houses; and the chimneys are as strong as
towers. You must come up with me to the window in the tawny-room; there
is an open space in the trees opposite, and we can see pretty well. It
is worth looking at; you never saw the sea here in a storm."

With very little persuasion, I induced her to run upstairs with me.
Along the corridor, we reached the chamber in question, and placing our
candle near the door, and running together to the window, we saw the
grand spectacle we had come to witness.

Over the sea and land, rock and wood, a dazzling moon was shining.
Tattered bits of cloud, the "scud" I believe they call it, were whirling
over us, more swiftly than the flight of a bird, as far as your eye
could discern: till the sea was lost in the grey mist of the horizon it
was streaked and ridged with white. Nearer to the stooping trees that
bowed and quivered in the sustained blast, and the little churchyard
dormitory that nothing could disturb, the black peaked rock rose above
the turmoil, and a dark causeway of the same jagged stone, sometimes
defined enough, sometimes submerged, connected it almost with the
mainland. A few hundred yards beyond it, I knew, stretched the awful
reef on which the Intrinsic, years before I could remember, had been
wrecked. Beyond that again, we could see the waves leaping into sheets
of foam, that seemed to fall as slowly and softly as clouds of snow.
Nearer, on the dark rock, the waves flew up high into the air, like
cannon-smoke.

Within these rocks, which make an awful breakwater, full of mortal peril
to ships driving before the storm, the estuary, near the shores of
Malory, was comparatively quiet.

At the window, looking on this wild scene, we stood, side by side, in
the fascination which the sea in its tumultuous mood never fails to
exercise. Thus, not once turning our eyes from the never-flagging
variety of the spectacle, we gazed for a full half-hour, when, suddenly,
there appeared--was it the hull of a vessel shorn of its masts? No, it
was a steamer--a large one, with low chimneys. It seemed to be about a
mile and a half away, but was driving on very rapidly. Sometimes the
hull was quite lost to sight, and then again rose black and sharp on the
crest of the sea. We held our breaths. Perhaps the vessel was trying to
make the shelter of the pier of Cardyllion; perhaps she was simply
driving before the wind.

To me there seemed something uncertain and staggering in the progress of
the ship. Before her lay the ominous reef, on which many a good ship and
brave life had perished. There was quite room enough, I knew, with good
steering, between the head of the reef and the sandbank at the other
side, to make the pier of Cardyllion. But was there any one on board who
knew the intricate navigation of our dangerous estuary? Could any
steering in such a tempest avail? And, above all, had the ship been
crippled? In any case, I knew enough to be well aware that she was in
danger.

Reader, if you have never witnessed such a spectacle, you cannot
conceive the hysterical excitement of that suspense. All those on board
are, for the time, your near friends; your heart is among them--their
terrors are yours. A ship driving with just the hand and eye of one man
for its only chance, under Heaven, against the fury of sea and wind, and
a front of deadly rock, is an unequal battle; the strongest heart
sickens as the crisis nears, and the moments pass in an unconscious
agony of prayer.

Rebecca Torkill joined us at this moment.

"Oh! Rebecca," I said, "there is a ship coming up the estuary--do you
think they can escape?"

"The telescope should be on the shelf at the back stair-head," she
answered, as soon as she had taken a long look at the steamer. "Lord ha'
mercy on them, poor souls!--that's the very way the Intrinsic drove up
before the wind the night she was lost; and I think this will be the
worse night of the two."

Mrs. Torkill returned with the long sea telescope, in its worn casing of
canvas.

I took the first "look out." After wandering hither and thither over a
raging sea, and sometimes catching the tossing head of some tree in the
foreground, the glass lighted, at length, upon the vessel. It was a
large steamer, pitching and yawing frightfully. Even to my inexperienced
eye, it appeared nearly unmanageable. I handed the glass to Laura. I
felt faint.

Some of the Cardyllion boatmen came running along the road that passes
in front of Malory. I saw that two or three of them had already arrived
on the rising ground beside the churchyard, and were watching events
from that wind-swept point. I knew all the Cardyllion boatmen, for we
often employed them, and I said:

"I can't stay here--I must hear what the boatmen say. Come, Laura, come
with me."

Laura was willing enough.

"Nonsense! Miss Ethel," exclaimed the housekeeper. "Why, dear Miss Grey,
you could not keep hat or bonnet on in a wind like that! You could not
keep your feet in it!"

Remonstrance, however, was in vain. I tied a handkerchief tight over my
head and under my chin--Laura did the same; and out we both sallied,
notwithstanding Rebecca Torkill's protest and entreaty. We had to go by
the back door; it would have been impossible to close the hall-door
against such a gale.

Now we were out in the bright moonlight under the partial shelter of the
trees, which bent and swayed with the roar of a cataract over our heads.
Near us was the hillock we tried to gain; it was next to impossible to
reach it against the storm. Often we were brought to a standstill, and
often forced backward, notwithstanding all our efforts.

At length, in spite of all, we stood on the little platform, from which
the view of the rocks and sea beyond was clear. Williams, the boatman,
was close to me, at my right hand, holding his low-crowned hat down on
his head with his broad, hard hand. Laura was at my other side. Our
dresses were slapping and rattling in the storm like the cracking of a
thousand whips; and such a roaring was in my ears, although my
handkerchief was tied close over them, that I could scarcely hear
anything else.



                              CHAPTER XI.

                             CATASTROPHE.


The steamer looked very near now and large. It was plain it had no
longer any chance of clearing the rocks. The boatmen were bawling to one
another, but I could not understand what they said, nor hear more than a
word or two at a time.

The steamer mounted very high, and then seemed to dive headlong into the
sea, and was lost to sight. Again, in less than a minute, the black mass
was toppling at the summit of the sea, and again it seemed swallowed up.

"Her starboard paddle!" shouted a broad-shouldered sailor in a
pilot-coat, with his palm to the side of his mouth.

Thomas Jones was among these men, without a hat, and on seeing me he
fell back a little. I was only a step or two behind them.

"Thomas Jones," I screamed, and he inclined his ear to my shrill
question, "is there no life-boat in Cardyllion?"

"Not one, miss," he roared; "and it could not make head against that if
there was."

"Not an inch," bawled Williams.

"Is there any chance?" I cried.

"An anchor from the starn! A bad hold there--she's draggin' of it!"
yelled Williams, whose voice, though little more than two feet away,
sounded faint and half smothered in the storm.

Just then the steamer reared, or rather swooped, like the enchanted
horse, in the air, and high above its black shape shot a huge canopy of
foam; and then it staggered over and down, and nothing but raging sea
was there.

"O God! are they all lost?" I shrieked.

"Anchor's fast. All right now," roared the man in the pilot-coat.

In some seconds more the vessel emerged, pitching high into the
brilliant moonlight, and nearly the same thing was repeated again and
again. The seafaring men who were looking on were shouting their
opinions to one another, and from the little I was able to hear and
understand, I gathered that she might ride it out if she did not drag
her anchor, or "part" or "founder." But the sea was very heavy, and the
rocks just under her bows now.

In this state of suspense a quarter of an hour or more must have passed.
Suddenly the vessel seemed to rise nearer than before. The men crowded
forward to the edge of the bank. It was plain something decisive had
happened. Nearer it rose again, and then once more plunged forward and
disappeared. I waited breathless. I waited longer than before, and
longer. Nothing was there but rolling waves and springing foam beyond
the rocks. The ship rose no more!

The first agony of suspense was over. Where she had been the waves were
sporting in the ghastly moonlight. In my wild horror I screamed--I wrung
my hands. I could not turn for a moment from the scene. I was praying
all the time the same short prayer over and over again. Minute after
minute passed, and still my eyes were fixed on the point where the ship
had vanished; my hands were clasped over my forehead, and tears welled
down my cheeks.

What's that? Upon the summit of the bare rock, all on a sudden, the
figure of a man appeared; behind this mass of black stone, as each wave
burst in succession, the foam leaped in clouds. For a moment the figure
was seen sharp against the silvery distance; then he stooped, as if to
climb down the near side of the rock, and we lost sight of him. The
boatmen shouted, and held up each a hand (their others were holding
their hats on) in token of succour near, and three or four of them, with
Thomas Jones at their head, ran down the slope, at their utmost speed
to the jetty, under which, in shelter, lay the Malory boat. Soon it was
moving under the bank, four men pulling might and main against the gale;
though they rowed in shelter of the reef, on the pinnacle of which we
had seen the figure for a moment, still it was a rough sea, and far from
safe for an open boat, the spray driving like hail against them, and the
boat pitching heavily in the short cross sea.

No other figure crossed the edge of the rock, or for a a moment showed
upon the bleak reef, all along which clouds of foam were springing high
and wild into the air.

The men who had been watching the event from the bank, seemed to have
abandoned all further hope, and began to descend the hill to the jetty
to await the return of the boat. It did return, bearing the one rescued
man.

Laura Grey and I went homeward. We made our way into the back-yard,
often forced to run, by the storm, in spite of ourselves. We had hardly
reached the house when we saw the boatmen coming up.

We were now in the yard, about to enter the house at the back-door,
which stood in shelter of the building. I saw Mrs. Torkill in the
steward's house, with one of the maids, evidently in a fuss. I ran in.

"Oh, Miss Ethel, dear, did you see that? Lord a'mercy on us! A whole
shipful gone like that! I thought the sight was leaving my eyes."

I answered very little. I felt ill, I was trembling still, and ready to
burst again into tears.

"Here's bin Thomas Jones, miss, to ask leave for the drownded man to
rest himself for the night, and, as Mr. Carmel's away, I knew your papa
and mamma would not refuse; don't you think so, miss? So I said, ay,
bring him here. Was I right, miss? And me and Anne Wan is tidyin' a bed
for him."

"Quite right, I'm sure," said I, my interest again awakened, and almost
at the same moment into the flagged passage came Thomas Jones, followed
by several of the Cardyllion boatmen, their great shoes clattering over
the flags.

In the front rank of these walked the one mortal who had escaped alive
from the ship that was now a wreck on the fatal reef. You may imagine
the interest with which I looked at him. I saw a graceful but manly
figure, a young man in a short sailor-like coat, his dress drenched and
clinging, his hat gone, his forehead and features finely formed, very
energetic, and, I thought, stern--browned by the sun; but, allowing for
that tint, no drowned face in the sea that night was paler than his, his
long black hair, lank with sea-water, thrown back from his face like a
mane. There was blood oozing from under its folds near his temple; there
was blood also on his hand, which rested on the breast of his coat; on
his finger there was a thick gold ring. I had little more than a moment
in which to observe all this. He walked in, holding his head high, very
faint and fierce, with a slight stagger in his gait, a sullen and
defiant countenance, and eyes fixed and gazing straight before him, as I
had heard somnambulists described. I saw him in the candle-light for
only a moment as he walked by, with boatmen in thick shoes, as I said,
clattering beside him. I felt a strange longing to run and clasp him by
the hand!

I got into our own back-door, and found Laura Grey in the room in which
we usually had our tea. She was as much excited as I.

"Could you have imagined," she almost cried, "anything so frightful? I
wish I had not seen it. It will always be before my eyes."

"That is what I feel also; but we could not help it, we could not have
borne the suspense. That is the reason why the people who are least able
to bear it sometimes see the most dreadful sights."

As we were talking, and wondering where the steamer came from, and what
was her name, and how many people were probably on board, in came
Rebecca Torkill.

"I sent them boatmen home, miss, that rowed the boat out to the rock for
that poor young man, with a pint o' strong ale, every one round, and no
doubt he'll give them and Thomas Jones something in hand for taking him
off the rock when he comes to himself a bit. He ought to be thanking the
Almighty with a contrite heart."

"He did not look as if he was going to pray when I saw him," I said.

"Nor to thank God, nor no one, for anything," she chimed in. "And he sat
down sulky and black as you please, at the side o' the bed, and said
never a word, but stuck out his foot to Thomas Jones to unbutton his
boot. I had a pint o' mulled port ready, and I asked him if I should
send for the doctor, and he only shook his head and shrugged his
shoulders, as he might turn up his nose at an ugly physic. And he fell
a-thinking while Jones was takin' off the other boot, and in place of
prayin' or thanks-giving, I heard him muttering to himself and
grumbling; and, Lord forgive me if I wrong him, I think I heard him
cursing some one. There was a thing for a man just took alive out o' the
jaws o' death by the mercy o' God to do! There's them on earth, miss,
that no lesson will teach, nor goodness melt, nor judgment frighten, but
the last one, and then all's too late."

It was late by this time, and so we all got to our beds. But I lay long
awake in the dark, haunted by the ceaseless rocking of that dreadful
sea, and the apparition of that one pale, bleeding messenger from the
ship of death. How unlike my idea of the rapture of a mortal just
rescued from shipwreck! His face was that of one to whom an atrocious
secret has been revealed, who was full of resentment and horror; whose
lips were sealed.

In my eyes he was the most striking figure that had ever appeared before
me. And the situation and my own dreadful excitement had elevated him
into a hero.



                             CHAPTER XII.

                              OUR GUEST.


The first thing I heard of the stranger in the morning was that he had
sent off early to the proprietor of the "Verney Arms" a messenger with a
note for two large boxes which he had left there, when the yacht Foam
Bell was at Cardyllion about a fortnight before. The note was signed
with the letters R. M.

The Foam Bell had lain at anchor off the pier of Cardyllion for only two
hours, so no one in the town knew much about her. Two or three of her
men, with Foam Bell across the breasts of their blue shirts and on the
ribbons of their flat glazed hats, had walked about the quaint town, and
drunk their beer at the "George and Garter." But there had not been time
to make acquaintance with the townspeople. It was only known that the
yacht belonged to Sir Dives Wharton, and that the gentleman who left the
boxes in charge of the proprietor of the "Verney Arms," was not that
baronet.

The handwriting was the same as that in the memorandum he had left with
the hotel-keeper, and which simply told him that the big black boxes
were left to be called or written for by Edward Hathaway, and mentioned
no person whose initials were R. M. So Mr. Hughes, of the "Verney Arms,"
drove to Malory to see the gentleman at the steward's house, and having
there recognised him as the very gentleman who left the boxes in his
charge, he sent them to him as directed.

Shortly after, Doctor Mervyn, our old friend walked up the avenue, and
saw me and Laura at the window.

It was a calm, bright morning; the storm had done its awful work, and
was at rest, and sea and sky looked glad and gentle in the brilliant
sun. Already about fifty drowned persons had been carried up and laid
upon the turf in the churchyard in rows, with their faces upward. I was
glad it was upon the slope that was hid from us.

How murderous the dancing waves looked in the sunlight! And the black
saw-edged reef I beheld with a start and a shudder. The churchyard, too,
had a changed expression. What a spectacle lay behind that familiar
grassy curve! I did not see the incongruous muster of death. Here a
Liverpool dandy; there a white-whiskered City man; sharp bag-men; little
children--strange companions in the churchyard--hard-handed sailors;
women, too, in silk or serge--no distinction now.

I and Laura could not walk in that direction till all this direful
seeking and finding were over.

The doctor, seeing us at the open window, raised his hat. The autumn sun
through the thin leaves touched his bald head as he walked over to the
window-stool, and placing his knee on the bench on which Mr. Carmel used
sometimes to sit, he told us all he knew of the ship and the disaster.
It was a Liverpool steamer called the Conway Castle, bound for Bristol.
One of her paddles was disabled early in the gale, and thus she drove to
leeward, and was wrecked.

"And now," said the doctor, "I'm going to look in upon the luckiest man
in the kingdom, the one human being who escaped alive out of that ship.
He must have been either the best or the worst man on board--either too
good to be drowned or too bad, by Jove! He is the gentleman you were so
kind as to afford shelter to last night in the steward's house there,
round the corner, and he sent for me an hour ago. I daresay he feels
queer this morning; and from what Thomas Jones says, I should not be
surprised if he had broken a bone somewhere. Nothing of any great
consequence, of course; but he must have got a thund'ring fling on those
rocks. When I've seen him--if I find you here--I'll tell you what I
think of him."

After this promise, you may be sure we did wait where we were, and he
kept his word. We were in a fever of curiosity; my first question was,
"Who is he?"

"I guessed you'd ask that the first moment you could," said the doctor,
a little pettishly.

"Why?" said I.

"Because it is the very question I can't answer," he replied. "But I'll
tell you all I do know," he continued, taking up his old position at the
window, and leaning forward with his head in the room.

Every word the oracle spoke we devoured. I won't tell his story in his
language, nor with our interruptions. I will give its substance, and in
part its details, as I received them. The doctor was at least as curious
as we were.

His patient was up, sitting by the fire, in dressing-gown and slippers,
which he had taken with other articles of dress from the box which stood
open on the floor. The window-curtain was partly drawn, the room rather
dark. He saw the young man with his feet on the fender, seated by the
wood fire. His features, as they struck the doctor, were handsome and
spirited; he looked ill, with pale cheek and lips, speaking low and
smiling.

"I'm Doctor Mervyn," said the doctor, making his bow, and eyeing the
stranger curiously.

"Oh! Thanks, Doctor Mervyn! I hope it is not a long way from your house,
I am here very ridiculously circumstanced. I should not have had any
clothes, if it had not been for a very lucky accident, and for a day or
two I shall be totally without money--a mere Robinson Crusoe."

"Oh, that don't matter; I shall be very happy to see after you in the
meantime, if there should be anything in my way," answered the doctor,
bluntly.

"You are very kind, thanks. This place, they tell me, is called Malory.
What Mr. Ware is that to whom it belongs?"

"The Honourable Mr. Ware, brother of Lord H----. He is travelling on the
Continent at present with his wife, a great beauty some fifteen years
since; and his daughter, his only child, is at present here with her
governess."

"Oh, I thought some one said he had two?"

The doctor re-asserted the fact, and for some seconds the stranger
looked on the floor abstractedly.

"You wished a word or two of advice, I understand?" interrupted the
doctor at length. "You have had a narrow escape, sir--a tremendous
escape! You must have been awfully shaken. I don't know how you escaped
being smashed on those nasty rocks."

"I am pretty well smashed, I fancy," said the young man.

"That's just what I wanted to ascertain."

"From head to foot, I'm covered with bruises," continued the stranger;
"I got off with very few cuts. I have one over my temple, and
half-a-dozen here and there, and one here on my wrist; but you need not
take any trouble about them--a cut, when I get one, heals almost of
itself. A bit of court-plaster is all I require for them, and Mrs.
Something, the housekeeper here, has given me some; but I'm rather
seedy. I must have swallowed a lot of salt water, I fancy. I've got off
very well, though, if it's true all the other people were drowned. It
was a devil of a fluke; you'd say I was the luckiest fellow alive, ha,
ha, ha! I wish I could think so."

He laughed, a little bitterly.

"There are very few men glad to meet death when it comes," said Doctor
Mervyn. "Some think they are fit to die, and some know they are not. You
know best, sir, what reason you have to be thankful."

"I'm nothing but bruises and aches all over my body. I'm by no means
well, and I've lost all my luggage, and papers, and money, since one
o'clock yesterday, when I was flourishing. Two or three such reasons for
thankfulness would inevitably finish me."

"All except you were drowned, sir," said the doctor, who was known in
Cardyllion as a serious-minded man, a little severely.

"Like so many rats in a trap, poor devils," acquiesced the stranger.
"They were hatched down. I was the only passenger on deck. I must have
been drowned if I had been among them."

"All those poor fellow-passengers of yours," said Doctor Mervyn, in
disgust, "had souls, sir, to be saved."

"I suppose so; but I never saw such an assemblage of snobs in my life. I
really think that, except poor Haworth--he insisted it would be ever so
much pleasanter than the railway; I did not find it so; he's drowned of
course--I assure you, except ourselves, there was not a gentleman among
them. And Sparks, he's drowned too, and I've lost the best servant I
ever had in my life. But I beg your pardon, I'm wasting your time. Do
you think I'm ill?"

He extended his wrist, languidly, to enable the doctor to feel his
pulse. The physician suppressed his rising answer with an effort, and
made his examination.

"Well, sir, you have had a shock."

"By Jove! I should not wonder," acquiesced the young man, with a sneer.

"And you are a good deal upset, and your contusions are more serious
than you seem to fancy. I'll make up a liniment here, and I'll send you
down something else that will prevent any tendency to fever; and I
suppose you would like to be supplied from the 'Verney Arms.' You must
not take any wine stronger than claret for the present, and a light
dinner, and if you give me a line, or tell me what name----"

"Oh, they know me there, thanks. I got these boxes from there this
morning, and they are to send me everything I require."

The doctor wanted his name. The town of Cardyllion, which was in a
ferment, wanted it. Of course he must have the name; a medical
practitioner who kept a ledger and sent out accounts, it was part of his
business to know his patients' names. How could he stand before the wags
of the news-room, if he did not know the name of his own patients--of
this one, of all others.

"Oh! put me down as R. M. simply," said the young man.

"But wouldn't it be more--more usual, if you had no objections--a little
more at length?" insinuated the doctor.

"Well, yes; put it down a little more at length--say R. R. M. Three
letters instead of two."

The doctor, with his head inclined, laughed patiently, and the
stranger, seeing him about to return to the attack, said a little
petulantly: "You see, doctor, I'm not going to give my very
insignificant name here to any one. If your book-keeper had it, every
one in the town would know it; and Cardyllion is a place at which idle
people turn up, and I have no wish to have my stray friends come up to
this place to bother me for the two or three days I must stay here. You
may suppose me an escaped convict, or anything else you please that will
amuse the good people; but I'm hanged if I give my name, thank you!"

After this little interruption, the strictly professional conversation
was resumed, and the doctor ended by directing him to stay quiet that
day, and not to walk out out until he had seen him again next morning.

The doctor then began to mix the ingredients of his liniment. The young
man in the silk dressing-gown limped to the window, and leaned his arm
upon the sash, looking out, and the doctor observed him, in his
ruminations, smiling darkly on the ivy that nodded from the opposite
wall, as if he saw a confederate eyeing him from its shadow.

"He didn't think I was looking at him," said the doctor; "but I have
great faith in a man's smile when he thinks he is all to himself; and
that smile I did not like; it was, in my mind, enough to damn him."

All this, when his interview was over, the doctor came round and told
us. He was by no means pleased with his patient, and being a religious
man, of a quick temper, would very likely have declined the office of
physician in this particular case, if he had not thought, judging by his
"properties," which were in a certain style that impressed Doctor
Mervyn, and his air, and his refined features, and a sort of
indescribable superiority which both irritated and awed the doctor, that
he might be a "swell."

He went the length, notwithstanding, of calling him, in his conversation
with us, an "inhuman puppy," but he remarked that there were certain
duties which no Christian could shirk, among which that of visiting the
sick held, of course, in the doctor's mind, due rank.



                             CHAPTER XIII.

                         MEETING IN THE GARDEN.


I was a little shy, as country misses are; and, curious as I was, rather
relieved when I heard that the shipwrecked stranger had been ordered to
keep his quarters strictly, for that day at least. So, by-and-by, as
Laura Grey had a letter to write, I put on my hat, and not caring to
walk towards the town, and not daring to take the Penruthyn Road, I ran
out to the garden. The garden of Malory is one of those monastic
enclosures whose fruit-trees have long grown into venerable timber;
whose walls are stained by time, and mantled in some places with ivy;
where everything has been allowed, time out of mind, to have its own
way; where walks are grass-grown, and weeds choke the intervals between
old standard pear, and cherry, and apple-trees, and only a little plot
of ground is kept in cultivation by a dawdling, desultory man, who
carries in his daily basket of vegetables to the cook. There was a
really good Ribston-pippin or two in this untidy, but not unpicturesque
garden; and these trees were, I need scarcely tell you, a favourite
resort of ours.

The gale had nearly stripped the trees of their ruddy honours, and
thrifty Thomas Jones had, no doubt, carried the spoil away to store them
in the apple-closet. One pippin only dangled still within reach, and I
was whacking at this particularly good-looking apple with a long stick,
but as yet in vain, when I suddenly perceived that a young man, whom I
recognised as the very hero of the shipwreck, was approaching. He
walked slowly and a little lame, and was leaning on a stick. He was
smiling, and, detected in my undignified and rather greedy exercise--I
had been jumping from the ground--I was ready to sink into the earth
with shame. Perhaps, if I had been endowed with presence of mind, I
should have walked away. But I was not, on that occasion at least; and I
stood my ground, stick in hand, affecting not to see his slow advance.

It was a soft sunny day. He had come out without a hat; he had sent to
Cardyllion to procure one, and had not yet got it, as he afterwards told
me, with an apology for seeming to make himself so very much at home.
How he introduced himself I forget; I was embarrassed and disconcerted;
I know that he thanked me very much for my "hospitality," called me his
"hostess," smiling, and told me that, although he did not know my
father, he yet saw him everywhere during the season. Then he talked of
the wreck; he described his own adventures very interestingly, and spoke
of the whole thing in terms very different from those reported by Doctor
Mervyn, and with a great deal of feeling. He asked me if I had seen
anything of it from our house; and then it became my turn to speak. I
very soon got over my shyness; he was so perfectly well-bred that it was
impossible, even for a rustic such as I was, not to feel very soon quite
at her ease in his company.

So I talked away, becoming more animated; and he smiled, looking at me,
I thought, with a great deal of sympathy, and very much pleased. I
thought him very handsome. He had one point of resemblance to Mr.
Carmel. His face was pale, but, unlike his, as dark as a gipsy's. Its
tint showed the white of his eyes and his teeth with fierce effect. What
was the character of the face I saw now? Very different from the
death-like phantom that had crossed my sight the night before. It was a
face of passion and daring. A broad, low forehead, and resolute mouth,
with that pronounced under-jaw which indicates sternness and decision. I
contrasted him secretly with Mr. Carmel. But in his finely-cut features,
and dark, fierce eyes, the ascetic and noble interest of the sadder
face was wanting; but there was, for so young a person as I, a different
and a more powerful fascination in the beauty of this young man of the
world.

Before we parted I allowed him to knock down the apple I had been trying
at, and this rustic service improved our acquaintance.

I began to think, however, that our interview had lasted quite long
enough; so I took my leave, and I am certain he would have accompanied
me to the house, had I not taken advantage of his lameness, and walked
away very quickly.

As I let myself out at the garden-door, in turning I was able,
unsuspected, to steal a parting look, and I saw him watching me intently
as he leaned against the stem of a gigantic old pear-tree. It was rather
pleasant to my vanity to think that I had made a favourable impression
upon the interesting stranger.

Next day our guest met me again, near the gate of the avenue, as I was
returning to the house.

"I had a call this morning from your clergyman," he said. "He seems a
very kind old gentleman, the rector of Cardyllion; and the day is so
beautiful, he proposed a sail upon the estuary, and if you were
satisfied with him, by way of escort, and my steering--I'm an old
sailor--I'm sure you'd find it just the day to enjoy a little boating."

He looked at me, smiling eagerly.

Laura Grey and I had agreed that nothing would tempt us to go upon the
water, until all risk of lighting upon one of those horrible discoveries
from the wreck, that were now beginning to come to the surface from hour
to hour, was quite over. So I made our excuses as best I could, and told
him that since the storm we had a horror of sailing. He looked vexed and
gloomy. He walked beside me.

"Oh! I understand--Miss Grey? I was not aware--I ought, of course, to
have included her. Perhaps your friend would change her mind and induce
you to reconsider your decision. It is such a charming day."

I thanked him again, but our going was quite out of the question. He
smiled and bowed a little, but looked very much chagrined. I fancied
that he thought I meant to snub him, for proposing any such thing on so
very slight an acquaintance. I daresay if I had I should have been quite
right; but you must remember how young I was, and how unlearned in the
world's ways. Nothing, in fact, was further from my intention. To soften
matters a little, I said:

"I am very sorry we can't go. We should have liked it, I am sure, so
much; but it is quite impossible."

He walked all the way to the hall-door with me; and then he asked if I
did not intend continuing my walk a little. I bid him good-bye, however,
and went in, very full of the agreeable idea that I had made a conquest.

Laura Grey and I, walking to Cardyllion, met Doctor Mervyn, who stopped
to tell us that he had just seen his Malory patient, "R. R. M.,"
steering Williams's boat, with the old vicar on board.

"By Jove! one would have fancied he had got enough of the water for some
time to come," remarked the doctor, in conclusion. "That is the most
restless creature I ever encountered in all my professional experience!
If he had kept himself quiet yesterday and to-day, he'd have been pretty
nearly right by to-morrow; but if he goes on like this I should not
wonder if he worked himself into a fever."



                             CHAPTER XIV.

                             THE INTRUDER.


Next morning, at about nine o'clock, whom do I see but the restless
stranger, to my surprise, again upon the avenue as I return towards the
house. I had run down to the gate before breakfast to meet our
messenger, and learn whether any letters had come by the post. He, like
myself, has come out before his breakfast. He turns on meeting me, and
walks towards the house at my side. Never was man more persistent. He
had got Williams's boat again, and not only the vicar, but the vicar's
wife, was coming for a sail; surely I would venture with her? I was to
remember, besides, that they were to sail to the side of the estuary
furthest from the wreck; there could be no possible danger there of what
I feared--and thus he continued to argue and entreat.

I really wished to go. I said, however, that I must ask Miss Grey, whom,
upon some excuse which I now forget, he regretted very much he could not
invite to come also. I had given him a conditional promise by the time
we parted at the hall-door, and Laura saw no objection to my keeping it,
provided old Mrs. Jermyn, the vicar's wife, were there to chaperon me.
We were to embark from the Malory jetty, and she was to call for me at
about three o'clock.

The shipwrecked stranger left me, evidently very well pleased. When he
got into his quarters in the steward's house and found himself all
alone, I dare say his dark face gleamed with the smile of which Doctor
Mervyn had formed so ill an opinion. I had not yet seen that smile.
Heaven help me! I have had reason to remember it.

Laura and I were sitting together, when who should enter the room but
Mr. Carmel. I stood up and shook hands. I felt very strangely. I was
glad the room was a dark one. I was less observed, and therefore less
embarrassed.

It was not till he had been in the room some time that I observed how
agitated he looked. He seemed also very much dejected, and from time to
time sighed heavily. I saw that something had gone strangely wrong. It
was a vague suspense. I was secretly very much frightened.

He would not sit down. He said he had not a moment to stay; and yet he
lingered on, I fancied, debating something within himself. He was
distrait, and, I thought, irresolute.

After a little talk he said:

"I came just to look in on my old quarters and see my old friends for a
few minutes, and then I must disappear again for more than a month, and
I find a gentleman in possession."

We hastened to assure him that we had not expected him home for some
time, and that the stranger was admitted but for a few days. We told
him, each contributing something to the narrative, all about the
shipwreck, and the reception of the forlorn survivor in the steward's
house.

He listened without a word of comment, almost without breathing, and
with his eyes fixed in deep attention on the floor.

"Has he made your acquaintance?" he asked, raising them to me.

"He introduced himself to me," I answered, "but Miss Grey has not seen
him."

Something seemed to weigh heavily upon his mind.

"What is your father's present address?" he asked.

I told him, and he made a note of it in his pocket-book. He stood up
now, and did at length take his leave.

"I am going to ask you to do a very kind thing. You have heard of sealed
orders, not to be opened till a certain point has been reached in a
voyage or a march? Will you promise, until I shall have left you fully
five minutes, not to open this letter?"

I almost thought he was jesting, but I perceived very quickly that he
was perfectly serious. Laura Grey looked at him curiously, and gave him
the desired promise as she received the note. His carriage was at the
door, and in another minute he was driving rapidly down the avenue. What
had led to these odd precautions?--and what had they to do with the
shipwrecked stranger?

At about eleven o'clock--that is to say, about ten minutes before Mr.
Carmel's visit to us--the stranger had been lying on a sofa in his
quarters, with two ancient and battered novels from Austin's Library in
Cardyllion, when the door opened unceremoniously, and Mr. Carmel, in
travelling costume, stepped into the room. The hall-door was standing
open, and Mr. Carmel, on alighting from his conveyance, had walked
straight in without encountering any one in the hall. On seeing an
intruder in possession he stopped short; the gentleman on the sofa,
interrupted, turned towards the door. Thus confronted, each stared at
the other.

"Ha! Marston," exclaimed the ecclesiastic, with a startled frown, and an
almost incredulous stare.

"Edwyn! by Jove!" responded the stranger, with a rather anxious smile,
which faded, however, in a moment.

"What on earth brings you here?" said Mr. Carmel, sternly, after a
silence of some seconds.

"What the devil brings you here?" inquired the stranger, almost at the
same moment. "Who sent you? What is the meaning of it?"

Mr. Carmel did not approach him. He stood where he had first seen him,
and his looks darkened.

"You are the last man living I should have looked for here," said he.

"I suppose we shall find out what we mean by-and-by," said Marston,
cynically; "at present I can only tell you that when I saw you I
honestly thought a certain old gentleman, I don't mean the devil, had
sent you in search of me."

Carmel looked hard at him. "I've grown a very dull man since I last saw
you, and I don't understand a joke as well as I once did," said he;
"but if you are serious you cannot have learnt that this house has been
lent to me by Mr. Ware, its owner, for some months at least; and these,
I suppose, are your things? There is not room to put you up here."

"I didn't want to come. I am the famous man you may have read of in the
papers--quite unique--the man who escaped alive from the Conway Castle.
No Christian refuses shelter to the shipwrecked; and you are a
Christian, though an odd one."

Edwyn Carmel looked at him for some seconds in silence.

"I am still puzzled," he said. "I don't know whether you are serious;
but, in any case, there's a good hotel in the town--you can go there."

"Thank you--without a shilling," laughed the young man, a little
wickedly.

"A word from me will secure you credit there."

"But I'm in the doctor's hands, don't you see?"

"It is nothing very bad," answered Mr. Carmel; "and you will be nearer
the doctor there."

The stranger, sitting up straight, replied:

"I suppose I shall; but the doctor likes a walk, and I don't wish him a
bit nearer."

"But this is, for the time being, my house, and you must go," replied
Edwyn Carmel, coldly and firmly.

"It is also my house, for the time being; for Miss Ware has given me
leave to stay here."

The ecclesiastic's lips trembled, and his pale face grew paler, as he
stared on the young man for a second or two in silence.

"Marston," he said, "I don't know, of all men, why you should specially
desire to pain me."

"Why, hang it! Why should I wish to pain you, Edwyn? I don't. But I have
no notion of this sort of hectoring. The idea of your turning me out of
the--my house--the house they have lent me! I told you I didn't want to
come here; and now I don't want to go away, and I won't."

The churchman looked at him, as if he strove to read his inmost
thoughts.

"You know that your going to the hotel could involve no imaginable
trouble," urged Edwyn Carmel.

"Go to the hotel yourself, if you think it so desirable a place. I am
satisfied with this, and I shall stay here."

"What can be the motive of your obstinacy?"

"Ask that question of yourself, Mr. Carmel, and you may possibly obtain
an answer," replied the stranger.

The priest looked again at him, in stern doubt.

"I don't understand your meaning," he said, at last.

"I thought my meaning pretty plain. I mean that I rather think our
motives are identical."

"Honestly, Marston, I don't understand you," said Mr. Carmel, after
another pause.

"Well, it is simply this: that I think Miss Ware a very interesting
young lady, and I like being near her--don't you?"

The ecclesiastic flushed crimson; Marston laughed contemptuously.

"I have been away for more than a month," said the priest, a little
paler, looking up angrily; "and I leave this to-day for as long a time
again."

"Conscious weakness! Weakness of that sentimental kind sometimes runs in
families," said the stranger with a sneer. It was plain that the
stranger was very angry; the taunt was wicked, and, whatever it meant,
stung Mr. Carmel visibly. He trembled, with a momentary quiver, as if a
nerve had been pierced.

There was a silence, during which Mr. Carmel's little French clock over
the chimney-piece, punctually wound every week by old Rebecca, might be
heard sharply tick, tick, ticking.

"I shall not be deterred by your cruel tongue," said he, very quietly,
at length, with something like a sob, "from doing my duty."

"Your duty! Of course, it is always duty; jealousy is quite unknown to a
man in holy orders. But there is a difference. You can't tell me the
least what I'm thinking of; you always suppose the worst of every one.
Your duty! And what, pray, is your duty?"

"To warn Miss Ware and her governess," he answered promptly.

"Warn her of what?" said the stranger, sternly.

"Warn her that a villain has got into this house."

The interesting guest sprang to his feet, with his fists clenched. But
he did not strike. He hesitated, and then he said:

"Look here; I'll not treat you as I would a man. You wish me to strike
you, you Jesuit, and to get myself into hot water. But I shan't make a
fool of myself. I tell you what I'll do with you--if you dare to injure
me in the opinion of any living creature, by one word of spoken or
hinted slander, I'll make it a police-office affair; and I'll bring out
the whole story you found it on; and we'll see which suffers most, you
or I, when the world hears it. And now, Mr. Carmel, you're warned. And
you know I'm a fellow that means what he says."

Mr. Carmel turned with a pale face, and left the room.

I wonder what the stranger thought. I have often pondered over that
scene; and, I believe, he really thought that Mr. Carmel would not, on
reflection, venture to carry out his threat.



                              CHAPTER XV.

                              A WARNING.


We had heard nothing of Mr. Carmel's arrival. He had not passed our
windows, but drove up instead by the back avenue; and now he was gone,
and there remained no record of his visit but the letter which Laura
held in her fingers, while we both examined it on all sides, and turned
it over. It was directed, "To Miss Ware and Miss Grey. Malory." And when
we opened it we read these words:

     "Dear Young Ladies,--I know a great deal of the gentleman who has
     been permitted to take up his residence in the house adjoining
     Malory. It is enough for me to assure you that no acquaintance
     could be much more objectionable and unsafe, especially for young
     ladies living alone as you do. You cannot, therefore, exercise too
     much caution in repelling any advances he may make.--

     Your true friend,                  "E. Carmel."

The shock of reading these few words prevented my speaking for some
seconds. I had perfect confidence in Mr. Carmel's warning. I was very
much frightened. And the vagueness of his language made it the more
alarming. The same thoughts struck us both. What fools we were! How is
he to be got out of the house? Whom have we to advise with? What is to
be done?

In our first panic we fancied that we had got a burglar or an assassin
under our roof. Mr. Carmel's letter, however, on consideration, did not
bear out quite so violent a conclusion. We resolved, of course, to act
upon that letter; and I blamed myself too late for having permitted the
stranger to make, even in so slight a way, my acquaintance.

In great trepidation, I despatched a note to Mrs. Jermyn, to say I could
not join her boating party. To the stranger I could send neither note
nor message. It did not matter. He would, of course, meet that lady at
the jetty, and there learn my resolve. Two o'clock arrived. Old Rebecca
came in, and told us that the gentleman in the steward's house had asked
her whether Mr. Carmel was gone; and on learning that he had actually
driven away, hardly waited till she was out of the room "to burst out
a-laughing," and talking to himself, and laughing like mad.

"And I don't think, with his laughing and cursing, he's like a man
should be that fears God, and is only a day or two out of the jaws of
death!"

This description increased our nervousness. Possibly this person was a
lunatic, whose keeper had been drowned in the Conway Castle. There was
no solution of the riddle which Mr. Carmel had left us to read, however
preposterous, that we did not try; none possible, that was not alarming.

About an hour after, passing through the hall, I saw some one, I
thought, standing outside, near the window that commands the steps
beside the door. This window has a wire-blind, through which, from
outside, it is impossible to see. From within, however, looking towards
the light, you can see perfectly. I scarcely thought our now distrusted
guest would presume to approach our door so nearly; but there he was. He
had mounted the steps, I suppose, with the intention of knocking, but he
was, instead, looking stealthily from behind the great elm that grows
close beside; his hand was leaning upon its trunk, and his whole
attention absorbed in watching some object which, judging from the
direction of his gaze, must have been moving upon the avenue. I could
not take my eyes off him. He was frowning, with compressed lips and eyes
dilated; his attitude betokened caution, and as I looked he smiled
darkly.

I recovered my self-possession. I took, directly, Doctor Mervyn's view
of that very peculiar smile. I was suddenly frightened. There was
nothing to prevent the formidable stranger from turning the handle of
the door and letting himself into the hall. Two or three light steps
brought me to the door, and I instantly bolted it. Then drawing back a
little into the hall, I looked again through the window, but the
intending visitor was gone.

Who had occupied his gaze the moment before? And what had determined the
retreat? It flashed upon me suddenly again that he might be one of those
persons who are described as "being known to the police," and that Mr.
Carmel had possibly sent constables to arrest him.

I waited breathlessly at the window, to see what would come of it. In a
minute more, from the direction in which I had been looking for a party
of burly policemen, there arrived only my fragile friend, Laura Grey,
who had walked down the road to see whether Mr. and Mrs. Jermyn were
coming.

Encouraged by this reinforcement, I instantly opened the hall-door, and
looked boldly out. The enemy had completely disappeared.

"Did you see him?" I exclaimed.

"See whom?" she asked.

"Come in quickly," I answered. And when I had shut the hall-door, and
again bolted it, I continued. "The man in the steward's house. He was on
the steps this moment."

"No, I did not see him; but I was not looking towards the hall-door. I
was looking up at the trees, counting the broken boughs--there are
thirteen trees injured on the right hand, as you come up."

"Well, I vote we keep the door bolted; he shan't come in here," said I.
"This is the second siege you and I have stood together in this house. I
do wish Mr. Carmel had been a little more communicative, but I scarcely
think he would have been so unfriendly as to leave us quite to ourselves
if he had thought him a highwayman, and certainly, if he is one, he is a
very gentleman-like robber."

"I think he can merely have meant, as he says, to warn us against making
his acquaintance," said Miss Grey; "his letter says only that."

"I wish Mr. Carmel would stay about home," I said, "or else that the
steward's house were locked up."

I suppose all went right about the boating party, and that Mrs. Jermyn
got my note in good time.

No one called at Malory; the dubious stranger did not invade our steps
again. We had constant intelligence of his movements from Rebecca
Torkill; and there was nothing eccentric or suspicious about them, so
far as we could learn.

Another evening passed, and another morning came; no letter by the post,
Rebecca hastened to tell us, for our involuntary guest; a certain sign,
she conjectured, that we were to have him for another day. Till money
arrived he could not, it was plain, resume his journey.

Doctor Mervyn told us, with his customary accuracy and plenitude of
information respecting other people's affairs, when he looked in upon
us, after his visit to his patient, that he had posted a letter the
morning after his arrival, addressed to Lemuel Blount, Esquire, 5,
Brunton Street, Regent's Park; and that on reference to the London
Directory, in the news-room, it was duly ascertained by the subscribers
that "Blount, Lemuel," was simply entered as "Esquire," without any
further clue whatsoever to guide an active-minded and inquiring
community to a conclusion. So there, for the present, Doctor Mervyn's
story ended.

Our panic by this time was very much allayed. The unobtrusive conduct of
the unknown, ever since his momentary approach to our side of the house,
had greatly contributed to this. I could not submit to a blockade of any
duration; so we took heart of grace, and ventured to drive in the little
carriage to Cardyllion, where we had some shopping to do.



                             CHAPTER XVI.

                               DOUBTS.


I have been searching all this morning in vain for a sheet of written
note paper, almost grown yellow by time when I last saw it. It contains
three stanzas of very pretty poetry. At least I once thought so. I was
curious to try, after so many years, what I should think of them now.
Possibly they were not even original, though there certainly was no lack
in the writer of that sort of cleverness which produces pretty verses.

I must tell you how I came by them. I found that afternoon a note, on
the window-stool in our tea-room, addressed "Miss Ethel." Laura Grey did
not happen to be in the room at the moment. There might have been some
debate on the propriety of opening the note if she had been present. I
could have no doubt that it came from our guest, and I opened and read
it instantly.

In our few interviews I had discovered, once or twice, a scarcely
disguised tenderness in the stranger's tones and looks. A very young
girl is always pleased, though ever so secretly, with this sort of
incense. I know I was. It is a thing hard to give up; and, after all,
what was Mr. Carmel likely to know about this young man?--and if he did
not know him, what were the canons of criticism he was likely to apply?
And whatever the stranger might be, he talked and looked like a
gentleman; he was unfortunate, and for the present dependent, I
romantically thought, on our kindness. To have received a copy of verses
was very pleasant to my girlish self-importance; and the flattery of the
lines themselves was charming.

The first shock of Mr. Carmel's warning had evaporated by this time;
and I was already beginning to explain away his note. I hid the paper
carefully. I loved Laura Grey; but I had, in my inmost soul, a secret
awe of her; I knew how peremptory would be her advice, and I said not a
word about the verses to her. At the first distant approach of an affair
of the heart, how cautious and reserved we grow, and in most girls how
suddenly the change from kittens to cats sets in! It was plain he had no
notion of shifting his quarters to the hotel. But a little before our
early tea-hour, Rebecca Torkill came in and told us what might well
account for his not having yet gone to Cardyllion.

"That poor young man," she said, "he's very bad. He's lying on his back,
with a handkercher full of eau-de-Cologne on his forehead, and he's sent
down to the town for chloroform, and a blister for the back of his neck.
He called me in, and indeed, though his talk and his behaviour might
well be improved, considering how near he has just bin to death, yet I
could not but pity him. Says he, 'Mrs. Torkill, for heaven's sake don't
shake the floor, step as light as you can, and close the shutter next
the sun,' which I did; and says he, 'I'm in a bad way; I may die before
morning. My doctor in town tells me these headaches are very dangerous.
They come from the spine.' 'Won't you see Doctor Mervyn, please, sir?'
say I. 'Not I,' says he. 'I know all about it better than he'--them were
his words--'and if the things that's coming don't set me to rights, I'm
a gone man.' And indeed he groaned as he might at parting of soul and
body--and here's a nice kettle o' fish, if he should die here, poor,
foolish young man, and we not knowing so much as where his people lives,
nor even his name. 'Tis a mysterious thing of Providence to do. I can't
see how 'twas worth while saving him from drowning, only to bring him
here to die of that headache. But all works together, we know. Thomas
Jones is away down at the ferry; a nice thing, among a parcel o' women,
a strange gentleman dying on a sofa, and not a man in the house! What do
you think is best to be done, Miss Grey?"

"If he grows worse, I think you should send for the doctor without
asking his leave," she answered. "If it is dangerous, it would not do
to have no advice. It is very unlucky."

"Well, it is what I was thinking myself," said the housekeeper; "folks
would be talking, as if we let him die without help. I'll keep the
boiler full in case he should want a bath. He said his skull was
fractured once, where that mark is, near his temple, and that the wound
has something to do with it, and, by evil chance, it was just there he
got the knock in the wreck of the Conway Castle; the Lord be good to us
all!"

So Mrs. Torkill fussed out of the room, leaving us rather uncomfortable;
but Laura Grey, at least, was not sorry, although she did not like the
cause, that there was no reason to apprehend his venturing out that
evening.

Our early tea-things came in. A glowing autumn sunset was declining; the
birds were singing their farewell chorus from thick ivy over branch and
wall, and Laura and I, each with her own secret, were discussing the
chances of the stranger's illness, with exaggerated despondency and
alarm. Our talk was interrupted. Through the window, which, the evening
being warm, we, secure from intrusion, had left open, we heard a clear
manly voice address us as "Miss Ethel and Miss Grey."

Could it be Mr. Carmel come back again? Good Heavens! no; it was the
stranger in Mr. Carmel's place, as we had grown to call it. The same
window, his hands, it seemed, resting on the very same spot on the
window-stone, and his knee, just as Mr. Carmel used to place his, on the
stone bench. I had no idea before how stern the stranger's face was; the
contrast between the features I had for a moment expected, and those of
our guest, revealed the character of his with a force assisted by the
misty red beam that glanced on it, with a fierce melancholy, through the
trees.

His appearance was as unexpected as if he had been a ghost. It came in
the midst of a discussion as to what should be done if, by ill chance,
he should die in the steward's house. I can't say how Laura Grey felt; I
only know that I stared at his smiling face for some seconds, scarcely
knowing whether the apparition was a reality or not.

"I hope you will forgive me; I hope I am not very impertinent; but I
have just got up from an astounding headache all right again; and in
consequence, in such spirits, that I never thought how audacious I was
in venturing this little visit until it was too late."

Miss Grey and I were both too much confounded to say a word. But he
rattled on: "I have had a visitor since you were so good as to give me
shelter in my shipwrecked state--one quite unexpected. I don't mean my
doctor, of course. I had a call to-day much more curious, and wholly
unlooked for; an old acquaintance, a fellow named Carmel. I knew him at
Oxford, and I certainly never expected to see him again."

"Oh! You know Mr. Carmel?" I said, my curiosity overcoming a kind of
reluctance to talk.

"Know him? I rather think I do," he laughed. "Do you know him?"

"Yes," I answered; "that is, not very well; there is, of course, a
little formality in our acquaintance--more, I mean, than if he were not
a clergyman."

"But do you really know him? I fancied he was boasting when he said so."
The gentleman appeared extremely amused.

"Yes; we know him pretty well. But why should it be so unlikely a thing
our knowing him?"

"Oh, I did not say that." He still seemed as much amused as a man can
quietly be. "But I certainly had not the least idea I should ever see
him again, for he owes me a little money. He owes me money, and a grudge
besides. There are some men you cannot know anything about without their
hating you--that is, without their being afraid of you, which is the
same thing. I unluckily heard something about him--quite accidentally, I
give you my honour, for I certainly never had the pleasure of knowing
him intimately. I don't think he would exactly come to me for a
character. I had not an idea that he could be the Mr. Carmel who, they
told me, had been permitted by Mr. Ware to reside in his house. I was a
good deal surprised when I made the discovery. There can't have been, of
course, any inquiry. I should not, I assure you, have spoken to Mr.
Carmel had I met him anywhere else; but I could not help telling him
how astonished I was at finding him established here. He begged very
hard that I would not make a fuss about it, and said that he was going
away, and that he would not wait even to take off his hat. So, if that
is true, I shan't trouble anyone about him. Mr. Ware would naturally
think me very impertinent if I were to interfere."

He now went on to less uncomfortable subjects, and talked very
pleasantly. I could see Laura Grey looking at him as opportunity
occurred; she was a good deal further in the shade than I and he. I
fancied I saw him smile to himself, amused at baffling her curiosity,
and he sat back a little further.

"I am quite sorry, Miss Ware," he said, "that I am about to be in funds
again. My friends by this time must be weaving my wings--those wings of
tissue-paper that come by the post, and take us anywhere. I'm awfully
sorry, for I've fallen in love with this place. I shall never forget
it." He said these latter words in a tone so low as to reach me only. I
was sitting, as I mentioned, very much nearer the window than Laura
Grey.

There was in this stranger for me--a country miss, quite inexperienced
in the subtle flatteries of voice, manner, looks, which town-bred young
ladies accept at their true value--a fascination before which suspicions
and alarms melted away. His voice was low and sweet; he was animated,
good-humoured, and playful; and his features, though singular, and
capable of very grim expression, were handsome.

He talked to me in the same low tone for a few minutes. Happening to
look at Laura Grey, I was struck by the anger expressed in her usually
serene and gentle face. I fancied that she was vexed at his directing
his attentions exclusively to me, and I was rather pleased at my
triumph.

"Ethel, dear," she said, "don't you think the air a little cold?"

"Oh, I so very much hope not," he almost whispered to me.

"Cold?" said I. "I think it is so very sultry, on the contrary."

"If you find it too cold, Miss Grey, perhaps you would do wisely, I
think, to sit a little further from the window," said Mr. Marston,
considerately.

"I am not at all afraid for myself," she answered a little pointedly,
"but I am uneasy about Miss Ware. I do think, Ethel, you would do wisely
to get a little further from that window."

"But I do assure you I am quite comfortable," I said, in perfect good
faith.

I saw Mr. Marston glance for a moment with a malicious smile at Laura
Grey. To me the significance of that smile was a little puzzling.

"I see you have got a piano there," he said to me, in his low tones, not
meant for her ear. "Miss Grey plays, of course?"

"Yes; very well indeed."

"Well, then, would you mind asking her to play something?"

I had no idea at the time that he wanted simply to find occupation for
her, and to fill her ears with her own music, while he talked on with
me.

"Laura, will you play that pretty thing of Beethoven's that you tried
last night?" I asked.

"Don't ask me, Ethel, dear, to-night; I don't think I could," she
answered, I thought a little oddly.

"Perhaps, if Miss Grey knew," he said, smiling, "that she would oblige a
shipwrecked stranger extremely, and bind him to do her any service she
pleases to impose in return, she might be induced to comply."

"The more you expect from my playing, the less courage I have to play,"
she said, in reply to his appeal, which was made, I fancied, in a tone
of faint irony that seemed to suggest an oblique meaning; and her
answer, I also fancied, was spoken as if answering that hidden meaning.
It was very quietly done, but I felt the singularity of those tones.

"And why so? Do, I entreat--do play."

"Shouldn't I interrupt your conversation?" she answered.

"I'll not allow you even that excuse," he said; "I'll promise (and won't
you, Miss Ware?) to talk whenever we feel inclined. There, now, it's all
settled, isn't it? Pray begin."

"No, I am not going to play to-night," she said.

"Who would suppose Miss Grey so resolute; so little a friend to harmony?
Well, I suppose we can do nothing; we can't prevail; we can only
regret."

I looked curiously at Laura, who had risen, and was approaching the
window, close to which she took a chair and sat down.

Mr. Marston was silent. I never saw man look angrier, although he
smiled. To his white teeth and vivid eyes his dark skin gave marked
effect; and to me, who knew nothing of the situation, the whole affair
was most disagreeably perplexing. I was curious to see whether there
would be any sign of recognition; but I was sitting at the side that
commanded a full view of our guest, and the table so near me that Laura
could not have introduced her chair without a very pointed disclosure of
her purpose. If Mr. Marston was disposed to snarl and snap at Miss Grey,
he very quickly subdued that desire. It would have made a scene, and
frightened me, and that would never do.

In his most good-humoured manner, therefore, which speedily succeeded
this silent paroxysm, he chatted on, now and then almost whispering a
sentence or two to me. What a contrast this gay, reckless, and in a
disguised way, almost tender talk, presented to the cold, peculiar, but
agreeable conversation of the ascetic enthusiast, in whom this
dark-faced, animated man of the world had uncomfortably disturbed my
faith!

Laura Grey was restless all this time, angry, frightened. I fancied she
was jealous and wounded; and although I was so fond of her, it did not
altogether displease me.

The sunlight failed. The reflected glow from the western sky paled into
grey, and twilight found our guest still in his place at the window,
with his knee on the bench, and his elbows resting on the window-stone,
our candles being lighted, chatting, as I thought, quite delightfully,
talking sense and nonsense very pleasantly mixed, and hinting a great
many very agreeable flatteries.

Laura Grey at length took courage, or panic, which often leads in the
same direction, and rising, said quietly, but a little peremptorily: "I
am going now, Ethel."

There was, of course, nothing for it but to submit. I confess I was
angry. But it would certainly not have been dignified to show my
resentment in Mr. Marston's presence. I therefore acquiesced with
careless good-humour. The stranger bid us a reluctant good-night, and
Laura shut down the window, and drew the little bolt across the
window-sash, with, as it seemed to me, a rather inconsistent parade of
suspicion. With this ungracious dismissal he went away in high
good-humour, notwithstanding.

"Why need we leave the drawing-room so very early?" said I, in a pet.

"We need not go now, as that man is gone," she said, and quickly closed
the window-shutters, and drew the curtains.

Laura, when she had made these arrangements, laid her hand on my
shoulder, and looked with great affection and anxiety in my face.

"You are vexed, darling, because I got rid of that person."

"No," said I; "but I'm vexed because you got rid of him rudely."

"I should have prevented his staying at the window for a single minute,
if I had been quite sure he is the person I suppose. If he is--oh! how I
wish he were a thousand miles away!"

"I don't think you would be quite so hard upon him, if he had divided
his conversation a little more equally," I said with the bluntness of
vexation.

Laura hardly smiled. There was a pained, disappointed look in her face,
but the kindest you can imagine.

"No, Ethel, I did not envy your good fortune. There is no one on earth
to whom I should not prefer talking."

"But who is he?" I urged.

"I can't tell you."

"Surely you can say the name of the person you take him for?" I
insisted.

"I am not certain; if he be the person he resembles, he took care to
place himself so that I could not, or, at least, did not, see him well;
there are two or three people mixed up in a great misfortune, whom I
hate to name, or think of. I thought at one time I recognised him; but
afterwards I grew doubtful. I never saw the person I mean more than
twice in my life; but I know very well what he is capable of; his name
is Marston; but I am not at all certain that this is he."

"You run away with things," I said. "How do you know that Mr. Carmel's
account may not be a very unfair one?"

"I don't rely on Mr. Carmel's account of Mr. Marston, if this is he. I
knew a great deal about him. You must not ask me how that was, or
anything more. He is said to be, and I believe it, a bad, selfish, false
man. I am terrified when I think of your having made his acquaintance.
If he continues here, we must go up to town. I am half distracted. He
dare not give us any trouble there."

"How did he quarrel with Mr. Carmel?" I asked, full of curiosity.

"I never heard; I did not know that he was even acquainted with him; but
I think you may be perfectly certain that everything he said about Mr.
Carmel is untrue. He knows that Mr. Carmel warned us against making his
acquaintance; and his reason for talking as he does, is simply to
discredit him. I dare say he'll take an opportunity of injuring him
also. There is not time to hear from Mr. Ware. The only course, if he
stays here for more than a day or two, is, as I said, to run up to your
papa's house in town, and stay there till he is gone."

Again my belief in Mr. Marston was shaken; and I reviewed my hard
thoughts of Mr. Carmel with something like compunction. The gloom and
pallor of Laura's face haunted me.



                             CHAPTER XVII.

                             LEMUEL BLOUNT.


Next morning, at about half-past ten, as Laura and I sat in our
breakfast-room, a hired carriage with two horses, which had evidently
been driven at a hard pace, passed our window at a walk. The driver, who
was leading his beasts, asked a question of Thomas Jones, who was
rolling the gravel on the court-yard before the window; and then he led
them round the corner toward the steward's house. The carriage was
empty; but in another minute it was followed up by the person whom we
might presume to have been its occupant. He turned towards our window as
he passed, so that we had a full view of this new visitor.

He was a man who looked past sixty, slow-paced, and very solemn; he was
dressed in a clumsy black suit; his face was large, square, and sallow;
his cheek and chin were smoothly shorn and blue. His hat was
low-crowned, and broad in the brim. He had a cotton umbrella in his big
gloved hand, and a coloured pocket-handkerchief sticking out of his
pocket. A great bunch of seals hung from his watch-chain under his black
waistcoat. He was walking so slowly that we had no difficulty in
observing these details; and he stopped before the hall-door, as if
doubtful whether he should enter there. A word, however, from Thomas
Jones set him right, and he in turn disappeared round the corner.

We did not know what to make of this figure, whom we now conjectured to
have come in quest of the shipwrecked stranger.

Thomas Jones ran round before him to the door of the steward's house,
which he opened; and the new-comer thanked him with a particularly kind
smile. He knocked on chance at the door to the right, and the voice of
our unknown guest told him to come in.

"Oh, Mr. Blount!" said the young gentleman, rising, hesitating, and then
tendering his hand very respectfully, and looking in the sensible,
vulgar face of the old man as if he were by no means sure how that
tender might be received. "I hope, sir, I have not quite lost your
friendship. I hope I retain some, were it ever so little, of the
goodwill you once bore me. I hope, at least, that you will allow me to
say that I am glad to see you: I feel it."

The old man bowed his head, holding it a little on one side while the
stranger spoke; it was the attitude of listening rather than of respect.
When the young gentleman had done speaking, his visitor raised his head
again. The young man smiled faintly, and still extended his hand,
looking very pale. Mr. Blount did not smile in answer; his countenance
was very sombre, one might say sad.

"I never yet, sir, refused the hand of any man living when offered to me
in sincerity, especially that of one in whom I felt, I may say, at one
time a warm interest, although he may have given me reason to alter the
opinion I then entertained of him."

Thus speaking, he gravely took the young man's hand, and shook it in a
thoughtful, melancholy way, lowering his head again as he had done
before.

"I don't ask how my uncle feels towards me," said the young man, half
inquiringly.

"You need not," answered the visitor.

"I am at all events very much obliged to you," said the young man,
humbly, "for your friendship, Mr. Blount. There is, I know, but one way
of interesting your sympathy, and that is by telling you frankly how
deep and true my repentance is; how I execrate my ingratitude; how I
deplore my weakness and criminality." He paused, looking earnestly at
the old man, who, however, simply bowed his head again, and made no
comment.

"I can't justify anything I have done; but in my letter I ventured to
say a few words in extenuation," he continued. "I don't expect to soften
my uncle's just resentment, but I am most anxious, Mr. Blount, my best
friend on earth, to recover something, were it ever so little, of the
ground I have lost in your opinion."

"Time, sir, tries all things," answered the new-comer, gently; "if you
mean to lead a new life, you will have opportunity to prove it."

"Was my uncle softened, ever so little, when he heard that the Conway
Castle had gone down?" asked the young man, after a short silence.

"I was with him at breakfast when the morning paper brought the
intelligence," said Mr. Blount. "I don't recollect that he expressed any
regret."

"I dare say; I can quite suppose it; I ought to have known that he was
pleased rather."

"No; I don't think he was pleased. I rather think he exhibited
indifference," answered Mr. Blount.

With some grim remarks I believe the young man's uncle had received the
sudden news of his death.

"Did my uncle see the letter I wrote to you, Mr. Blount?"

"No."

"And why not?"

"You will not think, I hope, that I would for any consideration use a
phrase that could wound you unnecessarily when I tell you?"

"Certainly not."

"Your letter mentioned that you had lost your papers and money in the
ship. Now, if it should turn out that you had, in short, misstated
anything----"

"Told a lie, you mean," interrupted the young man, his face growing
white, and his eyes gleaming.

"It would have been discourteous in me to say so, but such was my
meaning," he answered, with a very kind look. "It has been one object
with me during my life to reconcile courtesy with truth. I am happy in
the belief that I have done so, and I believe during a long life I have
never once offended against the laws of politeness. Had you deceived him
so soon again it would have sunk you finally and for ever. I thought it
advisable, therefore, to give you an opportunity of reconsidering the
statements of your letter before committing you by placing them before
him as fact."

The young man flushed suddenly. It was his misfortune that he could not
resent suspicion, however gross, although he might wince under the
insult, all the more that it was just. Rather sulkily he said:

"I can only repeat, sir, that I have not a shilling, nor a cheque; I
left every paper and every farthing I possessed in my despatch-box, in
my berth. Of course, I can't prove it; I can only repeat that every
guinea I had in the world has gone to the bottom."

Mr. Blount raised his head. His square face and massive features
confronted the younger man, and his honest brown eyes were fixed upon
him with a grave and undisguised inquiry.

"I don't say that you have any certainty of recovering a place in your
uncle's esteem, but the slightest prevarication in matters of this kind
would be simply suicidal. Now, I ask you, sir, on your honour, did no
part of your money, or of your papers, go by rail either to Bristol or
to London?"

"Upon my honour, Mr. Blount, not a farthing. I had only about ten pounds
in gold, all the rest was in letters of credit and cheques; and, bad as
I am, I should scarcely be fool enough to practise a trick, which, from
its nature, must be almost instantaneously self-exposed. My uncle could
have stopped payment of them; probably he has done so."

"I see you understand something of business, sir."

"I should have understood a great deal more, Mr. Blount, and been a much
better man, if I had listened to you long ago. I hope, in future, to be
less my own adviser, and more your pupil."

To this flattering speech the old man listened attentively, but made no
answer.

"Your letter followed me to Chester," said Mr. Blount, after an
interval. "I received it last night. He was in London when I saw him
last; and my letter, telling him that you are still living, may not
reach him, possibly, for some days. Thus, you see, you would have the
start of him, if I may so describe it, without rudeness; and you are
aware he has no confidence in you; and, certainly, if you will permit me
to say so, he ought not to have any. I have a note of the number of the
cheque; you can write a line saying that you have lost it, and
requesting that payment may be stopped; and I will enclose it to Messrs.
Dignum and Budget."

"There's pen and ink here; I'll do it this moment. I thought you had
renounced me also; and I was going to write again to try you once more,
before taking to the high road," he said, with dismal jocularity.

It wrung the pride of the young man sorely to write the note. But the
bitter pill was swallowed; and he handed it, but with signs of
suppressed anger, to Mr. Blount.

"That will answer perfectly," said the man in black.

"It enables you to stop that cheque by this post, without first seeing
my uncle; and it relieves you," said the young man, with bitter and
pitiless irony, "of the folly of acting in the most trifling matter upon
my word of honour. It is certainly making the most of the situation. I
have made one great slip--a crime, if you like----"

"Quite so, sir," acquiesced Mr. Blount, with melancholy politeness.

"Under great momentary temptation," continued the young man, "and
without an idea of ultimately injuring any human being to the amount of
a single farthing. I'm disowned; any one that pleases may safely spit in
my face. I'm quite aware how I stand in this infernal pharisaical
world."

Mr. Blount looked at him gravely, but made him no answer. The young
gentleman did not want to quarrel with Mr. Blount just then. He could
not afford it.

"I don't mean you, of course," he said; "you have been always only too
much my friend. I am speaking of the world; you know, quite well, if
this unlucky thing takes wind, and my uncle's conduct towards me is the
very thing to set people talking and inquiring, I may as well take off
my hat to you all, drink your healths in a glass of prussic acid, and
try how a trip to some other world agrees with me."

"You are speaking, of course, sir, in jest," said Mr. Blount, with some
disgust in his grave countenance; "but I may mention that the
unfortunate occurrence is known but to your uncle and to me, and to no
other person on earth. You bear the name of Marston--you'll excuse me
for reminding you, sir--and upon that point he is sensitive and
imperious. He considered, sir, that your bearing that name, if I may so
say, without being supposed guilty of a rudeness, would slur it; and,
therefore, you'll change it, as arranged, on embarking at Southampton.
It would be highly inexpedient to annoy your uncle by any inadvertence
upon this point. Your contemplating suicide would be--you will pardon
the phrase--cowardly and impious. Not, indeed, if I may so say
consistently with the rules of politeness," he added, thoughtfully,
"that your sudden removal would involve any loss to anybody, except,
possibly, some few Jews, and people of that kind."

"Certainly--of course. You need not insist upon that. I feel my
degradation, I hope, sufficiently. It is not his fault, at least, if I
don't."

"And, from myself, I suggest that he will be incensed, if he learns that
you are accepting the hospitality of Mr. Ware's house. I think, sir,
that men of the world, especially gentlemen, will regard it, if the
phrase be not discourteous, in the light of a shabby act."

"Shabby, sir! what do you mean by shabby?" said Mr. Marston, flaming up.

"I mean, sir--you'll excuse me--paltry; don't you see?--or mean. His
feelings would be strongly excited by your partaking of Mr. Ware's
hospitality."

"Hospitality! Shelter, you mean; slates, walls--little more than they
give a beast in a pound! Why, I don't owe them a crust, or a cup of tea.
I get everything from the hotel there, at Cardyllion; and Mr. Ware is a
thousand miles away!"

"I speak of it simply as a question of expediency, sir. He will be
inflamed against you, if he hears you have, in ever so small a matter,
placed yourself under any obligation to Mr. Ware."

"But he need not hear of it; why should you mention it?"

"I cannot practise reserve with a man who treats me with unlimited
confidence," he answered, gently. "Why should you not go to the hotel?"

"I have no money."

"But you get everything you want there on credit?"

"Well, yes, that's true; but it would scarcely do to make that move; I
have been as ill as ever I was in my life since that awful night on the
rocks down there. You can have no idea what it was; and the doctor says
I must keep quiet. It isn't worth while moving now; so soon as I have
funds, I'll leave this."

"I will lend you what you require, with much pleasure, sir," proffered
Mr. Blount.

"Well, thanks, it is not very much, and it's hard to refuse; one feels
such a fool without a shilling to give to a messenger, or to the
servants; I haven't even a fee for the doctor who has been attending
me."

Determined by this pathetic appeal, Mr. Blount took a bank-note of ten
pounds from his purse and lent it to Mr. Marston.

"And, I suppose, you'll remove forthwith to the hotel," he said.

"The moment I feel equal to it," he replied. "Why, d---- it, don't you
think I'm ready to go, when I'm able? I--I---- Don't mind me, pray. Your
looks reprove me. I'm shocked at myself when I use those phrases. I know
very well that I have just escaped by a miracle from death. I feel how
utterly unfit I was to die; and, I assure you, I'm not ungrateful. You
shall see that my whole future life will be the better for it. I'm not
the graceless wretch I have been. One such hour as preceded my scaling
that rock out there is a lesson for a life. You have often spoken to me
on the subjects that ought to interest us all. I mean when I was a boy.
Your words have returned upon me. You derive happiness from the good you
do to others. I thought you had cast your bread upon the waters to see
it no more; but you have found it at last. I am very grateful to you."

Did Mr. Marston believe that good people are open, in the manner of
their apostleship, to flattery, as baser mortals are in matters of
another sort? It was to be hoped that Mr. Marston felt half what he
uttered. His words, however, did produce a favourable and a pleasant
impression upon Mr. Blount. His large face beamed for a moment with
honest gratification. His eyes looked evil upon him, as if the
benevolence of his inmost heart spoke out through them.

"If anything can possibly please him, sir, in connection with you," said
Mr. Blount, with all his customary suavity and unconscious bluntness,
"it will be to learn that recent events have produced a salutary
impression and a total change in you. Not that I suppose he cares very
much; but I'm glad to have to represent to him anything favourable in
this particular case. I mean to return to London direct, and if your
uncle is still there you shall hear in a day or two--at all events very
soon; but I wish you were in the hotel."

"Well, I'll go to the hotel, if they can put me up. I'll go at once;
address to me to the post-office--Richard Marston, I suppose?"

"Just so, sir, Richard Marston."

Mr. Blount had risen, and stood gravely, prepared to take his leave.

"I have kept you a long time, Mr. Blount; will you take anything?"

Mr. Blount declined refreshments.

"I must leave you now, sir; there is a crisis in every life. What has
happened to you is stupendous; the danger and the deliverance. That hour
is past. May its remembrance be with you ever--day and night! Do not
suppose that it can rest in your mind without positive consequences. It
must leave you a great deal better or a great deal worse. Farewell,
sir."

So they parted. Mr. Marston seemed to have lost all his spirits and half
his energy in that interview. He sat motionless in the chair into which
he had thrown himself, and gazed listlessly on the floor in a sulky
reverie. At length he said--

"That is a most unpleasant old fellow; I wish he was not so
unscrupulously addicted to telling truth."



                             CHAPTER XVIII.

                              IDENTIFIED.


It was a gloomy day; I had left Laura Grey in the room we usually
occupied, where she was now alone, busy over some of our accounts. I
dare say her thoughts now and then wandered into speculations respecting
the identity of the visitor who, the night before, evaded her
recognition, if indeed he was recognisable by her at all. Her doubts
were now resolved. The room door opened, and the tenant of the steward's
house entered coolly, and approached the table where she was sitting.
Laura Grey did not rise; she did not speak; she sat, pen in hand,
staring at him as if she were on the point of fainting. The star-shaped
scar on his forehead, fixed there by some old fracture, and his stern
and energetic features, were now distinctly before her. He kept his eye
fixed upon her, and smiled, dubious of his reception.

"I saw you, Miss Grey, yesterday afternoon, though you did not see me. I
avoided your eye then; but it was idle supposing that I could continue
even a few days longer in this place without you seeing me. I came last
night with my mind made up to reveal myself, but I put it off till we
should be to ourselves, as we are now. I saw you half guessed me, but
you weren't sure, and I left you in doubt."

He approached till his hands rested upon the table opposite, and said,
with a very stern and eager face,

"Miss Grey, upon my honour, upon my soul, if I can give you an assurance
which can bind a gentleman, I entreat you to believe me. I shan't offer
one syllable contrary to what I now feel to be your wishes. I shan't
press you, I shan't ask you to hear me upon the one subject you say you
object to. You allege that I have done you a wrong. I will spare no
pains to redress it. I will do my utmost in any way you please to
dictate. I will do all this, I swear by everything a gentleman holds
most sacred, upon one very easy condition."

He paused. He was leaning forward, his dark eyes were fixed upon her
with a piercing gaze. She did not, or could not, speak. She was
answering his gaze with a stare wilder and darker, but her very lips
were white.

"I know I have stood in your way; I admit I have injured you, not by
accident; it was with the design and wish to injure you, if the
endeavour to detach a fellow like that be an injury. You shall forgive
me; the most revengeful woman can forgive a man the extravagances of his
jealousy. I am here to renounce all, to retrieve everything. I admit the
injury; it shall be repaired."

She spoke now for the first time, and said, hardly above her breath:

"It's irreparable. It can't be undone--quite irreparable."

"When I undertake a thing I do it; I'll do this at any sacrifice--yes,
at any, of pride or opinion. Suppose I go to the persons in question,
and tell them that they have been deceived, and that I deceived them,
and now confess the whole thing a tissue of lies?"

"You'll never do that."

"By Heavens, as I stand here, I'll do it! Do you suppose I care for
their opinion in comparison with a real object? I'll do it. I'll write
and sign it in your presence; you shall have it to lock up in that desk,
and do what you please with it, upon one condition."

A smile of incredulity lighted Laura Grey's face faintly, as she shook
her head.

"You don't believe me, but you shall. Tell me what will satisfy
you--what practicable proof will convince you. I'll set you right with
them. You believe in a Providence. Do you think I was saved from that
wreck for nothing?"

Laura Grey looked down upon her desk; his fierce eyes were fixed on her
with intense eagerness, for he thought he read in her pale face and her
attitude signs of compliance. It needed, he fancied, perhaps but a
slight impulse to determine her.

"I'll do it all; but, as I told you, on one condition."

There was a silence for a time. He was still watching her intently.

"Let us both be reasonable," he resumed. "I ought, I now know, to have
seen long ago, Miss Grey, that there was no use in my talking to you as
I did. I have been mad. There's the whole story; and now I renounce it
all. I despair; it's over. I'll give you the very best proof of that. I
shall devote myself to another, and you shall aid me. Pray, not a word,
till you have heard me out; that's the condition. If you accept it,
well. If not, so sure as there is life in me, you may regret it."

"There's nothing more you can do I care for now," she broke out with a
look of agony. "Oh, Heaven help me!"

"You'll find there is," he continued, with a quiet laugh. "You can talk
as long as you please when your turn comes. Just hear me out. I only
want you to have the whole case before you. I say you can help me, and
you shall. I'm a very good fellow to work with, and a bitter one to work
against. Now, one moment. I have made the acquaintance of a young lady
whom I wish to marry. Upon my sacred honour, I have no other intention.
She is poor; her father is over head and ears in debt; she can never
have a guinea more than two thousand pounds. It can't be sordid, you'll
allow. There is a Jesuit fellow hanging about this place. He hates me;
he has been in here telling lies of me. I expect you to prevent my being
prejudiced by that slanderer. You can influence the young lady in my
favour, and enable me to improve our acquaintance. I expect you to do
so. These are my conditions. She is Miss Ethel Ware."

The shock of a disclosure so entirely unexpected, and the sting possibly
of wounded vanity, made her reply more spirited than it would have been.
She stood up, and said, quietly and coldly:

"I have neither right nor power in the matter; and if I had, nothing on
earth could induce me to exercise them in your favour. You can write, if
you please, to Mr. Ware, for leave to pay your addresses to his
daughter. But without his leave you shall not visit here, nor join her
in her walks; and if you attempt to do either, I will remove Miss Ware,
and place her under the care of some one better able than I to protect
her."

The young man looked at her with a very pale face.

"I thought you knew me better, Miss Grey," he said, with an angry sneer.
"You refuse your chance of reconciliation."

He paused, as if to allow her time to think better of it.

"Very well; I'm glad I've found you out. Don't you think your situation
is rather an odd one--a governess in Mr. Ware's country quarters? We all
know pretty well what sort of gentleman Mr. Ware is, a gentleman
particularly well qualified by good taste and high spirits to make his
house agreeable. He was here, I understand, for about a week a little
time ago, but his wife does not trouble your solitude much; and now that
he is on his travels, he is succeeded by a young friar. I happen to know
what sort of person Carmel was, and is. Was ever young lady so
fortunate? One only wonders that Mr. Ware, under these circumstances, is
not a little alarmed for the Protestantism of his governess. I should
scarcely have believed that you had found so easily so desirable a home;
but fate has ordained that I should light upon your retreat, and hear
with my own ears the good report of the neighbours, and see with my own
eyes how very comfortable and how extremely happy you are."

He smiled and bowed ironically, and drew towards the door.

"There was nothing to prevent our being on the friendliest
terms--nothing."

He paused, but she made him no answer.

"No reason on earth why we should not. You could have done me a very
trifling kindness. I could have served you vitally."

Another pause here.

"I can ascribe your folly to nothing but the most insensate malice. I
shall take care of myself. You ought to know me. Whatever befalls, you
have to thank but your own infatuated obstinacy for it."

"I have friends still," she cried, in a sudden burst of agony. "Your
cowardice, your threats and insults, your persecution of a creature
quite defenceless and heart-broken, and with no one near to help
her----"

Her voice faltered.

"Find out your friends, if you have got them; tell them what you please;
and, if it is worth while, I will contradict your story. I'll fight your
friends. I'll pit my oath against yours."

There was no sneer on his features now, no irony in his tones; he was
speaking with the bitter vehemence of undisguised fury.

"I shrink from nothing. Things have happened since to make me more
reckless, and by so much the more dangerous. If you knew a little more
you would scarcely dare to quarrel with me." He dashed his hand as he
spoke upon the table.

"I am afraid--I'm frightened; but nothing on earth shall make me do what
you ask."

"That's enough--that closes it," said he. There was a little pause. "And
remember, the consequences I promise are a great deal nearer than you
probably dream of."

With these words, spoken slowly, with studied meaning, he left the room
as suddenly as he had appeared. Laura Grey was trembling. Her thoughts
were not very clear. She was shocked, and even terrified.

The sea, which had swallowed all the rest, had sent up that one wicked
man alive. How many good, kind, and useful lives were lost to earth, she
thought, in those dreadful moments, and that one life, barren of all
good, profligate and cruel, singled out alone for mercy!



                             CHAPTER XIX.

                           PISTOLS FOR TWO.


I knew nothing of all this. I was not to learn what had passed at that
interview till many years later. Laura Grey, on my return, told me
nothing. I am sure she was right. There were some things she could not
have explained, and the stranger's apparently insane project of marrying
penniless me was a secret better in her own keeping than in that of a
simple and very self-willed girl.

When I returned there were signs of depression and anxiety in her looks,
and her silence and abstraction excited my curiosity. She easily put me
off, however. I knew that her spirits sometimes failed her, although she
never talked about her troubles; and therefore her dejection was, after
all, not very remarkable. We heard nothing more of our guest till next
day, when Rebecca Torkill told us that he was again suffering from one
of his headaches. The intelligence did not excite all the sympathy she
seemed to expect. Shortly after sunset we saw him pass the window of our
room, and walk by under the trees.

With an ingrained perversity, the more Laura Grey warned me against this
man, the more I became interested in him. She and I were both unusually
silent that evening. I think that her thoughts were busy with him; I
know that mine were.

"We won't mind opening the window to-night," said Laura.

"I was just thinking how pleasant it would be. Why should we not open
it?" I answered.

"Because we should have him here again; and he is not the sort of person
your mamma would like you to become acquainted with."

I was a little out of humour, but did not persist. I sat in a sullen
silence, my eyes looking dreamily through the window. The early twilight
had faded into night by the time the stranger re-appeared. I saw him
turn the line of his walk near the window; and seeing it shut, pause for
a moment. I dare say he was more vexed than I. He made up his mind,
however, against a scene. He looked on the ground and over his shoulder,
again at the window.

Mr. Marston walked round the corner to the steward's house. The vague
shadows and lights of night were abroad by this time. Candles were in
his room; he found Rebecca Torkill there, with a small tankard and a
tea-cup on a salver, awaiting his return.

"La! sir, to think of you doing such another wild thing, and you, only
this minute, at death's door with your head! And how is it now, please,
sir?"

"A thousand thanks. My head is as well as my hat. My headache goes as it
comes, in a moment. What is this?"

"Some gruel, please, sir, with sugar, white wine, and nutmeg. I thought
you might like it."

"Caudle, by Jove!" smiled the gentleman, "isn't it?"

"Well, it is; and it's none the worse o' that."

"All the better," exclaimed Mr. Marston, who chose to be on friendly
terms with the old lady. "How can I thank you?"

"It's just the best thing in the world to make you sleep after a
headache. You'll take some while it's hot."

"I can't thank you half enough," he said.

"I'll come back, sir, and see you by-and-by," and the good woman toddled
out, leaving him alone with his gruel.

"I must not offend her." He poured some out into his cup, tasted it, and
laughed quietly. "Sipping caudle! Well, this is rather a change for
Richard Marston, by Jove! A change every day. Let us make a carouse of
it," he said, and threw it out of the window.

Mr. Marston threw on his loose wrapper, and folded his muffler about his
throat, replaced his hat, and with his cane in his fingers, was about to
walk down to the town of Cardyllion. A word or two spoken, quite
unsuspiciously, by Doctor Mervyn that morning, had touched a sensitive
nerve, and awakened a very acute anxiety in Mr. Marston's mind. The
result was his intended visit, at the fall of night, to the High-street
of the quaint little town.

He was on the point of setting out, when Rebecca Torkill returned with a
sliced lemon on a plate.

"Some likes a squeeze of a lemon in it," she observed, "and I thought I
might as well leave it here."

"It is quite delicious, really," he replied, as Mrs. Torkill peeped into
the open flagon.

"Why," said she, in unfeigned admiration, "I'm blest if he's left a
drop! Ah! ah! Well, it was good; and I'll have some more for you before
you go to bed. But you shouldn't drink it off, all at a pull, like that.
You might make yourself ill that way."

"We men like good liquor so well--so well--we--we--what was I saying?
Oh! yes, we like our liquor so well, we never know when we have had
enough. It's a bad excuse; but let it pass. I'm going out for a little
walk, it always sets me up after one of those headaches. Good evening,
Mrs. Torkill."

He was thinking plainly of other matters than her, or her caudle; and,
before she had time to reply, he was out of the door.

It was a sweet, soft night; the moon was up. The walk from Malory to the
town is lonely and pretty. He took the narrow road that approaches
Cardyllion in an inland line, parallel to the road that runs by the
shore of the estuary. His own echoing footsteps among the moon-lit trees
was the only sign of life, except the distant barking of a watch-dog,
now and then, that was audible. A melancholy wind was piping high in the
air, from over the sea; you might fancy it the aërial lamentations of
the drowned.

He was passing the churchyard now, and stopped partly to light a cigar,
partly to look at the old church, the effect of which, in the moonlight,
was singular. Its gable and towers cast a sharp black shadow across the
grass and gravestones, like that of a gigantic hand whose finger pointed
towards him. He smiled cynically as the fancy struck him.

"Another grave there, I should not wonder if the news is true. What an
ass that fellow is! Another grave, I dare say; and in my present luck, I
suppose I shall fill it--fill it! That's ambiguous; yes, the more like
an oracle. That shadow does look curiously like a finger pointing at
me!"

He smoked for a time, leaning on the pier of the iron wicket that from
this side admits to the churchyard, and looking in with thoughts very
far from edifying.

"This will be the second disagreeable discovery, without reckoning
Carmel, I shall have made since my arrival in this queer corner of the
world. Who could have anticipated meeting Laura here?--or that whining
fool, Carmel? Who would have fancied that Jennings, of all men, would
have turned up in this out-of-the-way nook? By Jove! I'm like Saint
Paul, hardly out of the shipwreck when a viper fastens on my hand. Old
Sprague made us turn all that into elegiacs. I wonder whether I could
make elegiacs now."

He loitered slowly on, by the same old road, into Castle Street, the
high-street of the quaint little town of steep roofs and many gables.
The hall-door of the "Verney Arms" was open, and the light of the lamp
glowed softly on the pavement.

Mr. Marston hated suspense. He would rather make a bad bargain,
off-hand, than endure the torture of a long negotiation. He would stride
out to meet a catastrophe rather than await its slow, sidelong
approaches. This intolerance of uncertainty made him often sudden in
action. He had come down to the town simply to reconnoitre. He was
beginning, by this time, to meditate something more serious. Under the
shadow of the houses opposite, he walked slowly up and down the silent
flagway, eyeing the door of the "Verney Arms" askance, as he finished
his cigar.

It so happened, that exactly as he had thrown away the stump of it, a
smoker, who had just commenced his, came slowly down the steps of the
"Verney Arms," and stood upon the deserted flagway, and as he puffed
indolently, he looked up the street, and down the street, and up at the
sky.

The splendid moon shone full on his face, and Mr. Marston knew him. He
was tall and slight, and rather good-looking, with a face of great
intelligence, heightened with something of enthusiasm, and stood there
smoking, in happy unconsciousness that an unfriendly eye was watching
him across the street.

Mr. Marston stood exactly opposite. The smoker, who had emerged from the
"Verney Arms," stood before the centre of the steps, and Mr. Marston, on
a sudden, as if he was bent on walking straight through him into the
hotel, walked at a brisk pace across the street, and halted, within a
yard, in front of him.

"I understand," said Marston instantly, in a low, stern tone, "that you
said at Black's, when I was away yachting, that you had something to say
to me."

The smoker had lowered his cigar, and was evidently surprised, as well
he might be; he looked at him hard for some time, and at length replied
as grimly: "Yes, I said so; yes I do; I mean to speak to you."

"All right; no need to raise our voices here though; I think you had
better find some place where we can talk without exciting attention."

"Come this way," said the tall young man, turning suddenly and walking
up the street at a leisurely pace. Mr. Marston walked beside him, a yard
or two apart. They might be very good friends, for anything that
appeared to a passer-by. He turned down a short and narrow by-street,
with only room for a house or two, and they found themselves on the
little common that is known as the Green of Cardyllion. The sea, at its
further side, was breaking in long, tiny waves along the shingle, the
wind came over the old castle with a melancholy soughing; the green was
solitary; and only here and there, from the windows of the early little
town, a light gleamed. The moon shone bright on the green, turning the
grass to grey, and silvering the ripples on the dark estuary, and
whitening the misty outlines of the noble Welsh mountains across the
water. A more tranquillising scene could scarcely be imagined.

When they had got to the further end, they stopped, as if by common
consent.

"I'm ready to hear you," said Marston.

"Well, I have only to tell you, and I'm glad of this opportunity, that I
have ascertained the utter falsehood of your stories, and that you are a
coward and a villain."

"Thanks; that will do, Mr. Jennings," answered Marston, growing white
with fury, but speaking with cold and quiet precision. "You have
clenched this matter by an insult which I should have answered by
cutting you across the face with this,"--and he made his cane whistle in
the air,--"but that I reserve you for something more effectual, and
shall run no risk of turning the matter into a police-office affair. I
have neither pistols nor friend here. We must dispense with formalities;
we can do all that is necessary for ourselves, I suppose. I'll call
to-morrow, early, at the 'Verney Arms.' A word or two will settle
everything."

He raised his hat ever so little, implying that that conference, for the
present, was over; but before he could turn, Mr. Jennings, who did not
choose to learn more than was unavoidable to his honour, said:

"You will find a note at the bar."

"Address it Richard Wynyard, then."

"Your friend?"

"No; myself."

"Oh! a false name?" sneered Mr. Jennings.

"You may use the true one, of course. My tailor is looking for me a
little more zealously, I fancy, than you were; and if you publish it in
Cardyllion, it may lead to his arresting me, and saving you all further
trouble in this, possibly, agitating affair." The young man accompanied
these words with a cold laugh.

"Well, Richard Wynyard be it," said Mr. Jennings, with a slight flush.

And with these words the two young men turned their backs on each other.
Mr. Jennings walked along beside the shingle, with the sound of the
light waves in his ear, and thinking rather hurriedly, as men will, whom
so serious a situation has suddenly overtaken. Marston turned, as I
said, the other way, and without entering the town again, approached
Malory by the narrow road that passes close under the castle walls, and
follows the line of the high banks overlooking the estuary.

If there be courage and mental activity, and no conscience, we have a
very dangerous devil. A spoiled child, in which self is supreme, who has
no softness of heart, and some cleverness and energy, easily degenerates
into that sort of Satan. And yet, in a kind of way, Marston was popular.
He could spend money freely--it was not his own--and when he was in
spirits he was amusing.

When he stared in Jennings' face this evening, the bruise and burning of
an old jealousy were in his heart. The pain of that hellish hate is
often lightly inflicted; but what is more cruel than vanity? He had
abandoned the pursuit in which that jealousy was born, but the hatred
remained. And now he had his revenge in hand. It is a high stake, one's
life on a match of pistol-shooting. But his brute courage made nothing
of it. It was an effort to him to think himself in danger, and he did
not make that effort. He was thinking how to turn the situation to
account.



                              CHAPTER XX.

                         THE WOOD OF PLAS YLWD.


Next morning, Mr. Marston, we learned, had been down to Cardyllion
early. He had returned at about ten o'clock, and he had his luggage
packed up, and despatched again to the proprietor of the "Verney Arms."
So we might assume that he was gone.

The mountain that had weighed on Laura Grey's spirits was perceptibly
lightened. I heard her whisper to herself, "Thank God!" when she heard
Rebecca Torkill's report, and the further intelligence that their guest
had told her and Thomas Jones that he was going to the town, to return
no more to Malory. Laura was now, again, quite like herself. For my
part, I was a little glad, and (shall I confess it?) also a little
sorry! I had not quite made up my mind respecting this agreeable Mr.
Marston, of whom Mr. Carmel and Miss Grey had given each so alarming a
character.

About an hour later, I was writing to mamma, and sitting at the window,
when, raising my eyes, I saw Laura Grey and Mr. Marston, much to my
surprise, walking side by side up the avenue towards the hall-door. They
appeared to be in close conversation; Mr. Marston seemed to talk volubly
and carelessly, and cut the heads of the weeds with his cane as he
sauntered by her side. Laura Grey held her handkerchief to her eyes,
except now and then, when she spoke a few words, as it seemed
passionately.

When they came to the court-yard, opposite to the hall-door, she broke
away from him, hurried across, ran up the steps, and shut the door. He
stood where she had left him, looking after her and smiling. I thought
he was going to follow; he saw me in the window, and raised his hat,
still smiling, and with this farewell salute he turned on his heel and
walked slowly away towards the gate. I ran to the hall, and there found
Laura Grey. She had been crying, and was agitated.

"Ethel, darling," she said, "let nothing on earth induce you to speak to
that man again. I implore of you to give me your solemn promise. If he
speaks truth it will not cost you anything, for he says he is going away
this moment, not to return."

It certainly looked very like it, for he had actually despatched his two
boxes, he had "tipped" the servants handsomely at the steward's house,
and having taken a courteous leave of them, and left with Mrs. Torkill a
valedictory message of thanks for me, he had got into a "fly" and driven
off to the "Verney Arms."

Well, whether for good or ill, he had now unquestionably taken his
departure; but not without leaving a sting. The little he had spoken to
Miss Grey, at the moment of his flight, had proved, it seemed, a
Parthian arrow tipped with poison. She seemed to grow more and more
miserable every hour. She had lain down on her bed, and was crying
bitterly, and trembling. I began to grow vexed at the cruelty of the man
who had deliberately reduced her to that state. I knew not what gave him
the power of torturing her. If I was angry, I was also intensely
curious. My questions produced no clearer answers than this: "Nothing,
dear, that you could possibly understand without first hearing a very
long story. I hope the time is coming when I may tell it all to you. But
the secret is not mine; it concerns other people; and at present I must
keep it."

Mr. Marston had come and gone, then, like a flash of light, leaving my
eyes dazzled. The serenity of Malory seemed now too quiet for me; the
day was dull. I spent my time sitting in the window, or moping about the
place. I must confess that I had, by no means, the horror of this
stranger that the warnings of Mr. Carmel and Laura Grey ought, I
suppose, to have inspired. On the contrary, his image came before me
perpetually, and everything I looked at, the dark trees, the
window-sill, the garden, the estuary, and the ribs of rock round which
the cruel sea was sporting, recalled the hero of a terrible romance.

I tried in vain to induce Laura to come with me for a walk, late in the
afternoon. So I set out alone, turning my back on Cardyllion, in the
direction of Penruthyn Priory. The sun was approaching the western
horizon as I drew near the picturesque old farm-house of Plas Ylwd.

A little to the south of this stretches a fragment of old forest,
covering some nine or ten acres of peaty ground. It is a decaying wood,
and in that melancholy and miserable plight, I think, very beautiful. I
would commend it as a haunt to artists in search of "studies," who love
huge trees with hollow trunks, some that have "cast" half their boughs
as deer do their antlers; some wreathed and laden with ivy, others that
stretch withered and barkless branches into the air; ground that is
ribbed and unequal, and cramped with great ringed, snake-like roots,
that writhe and knot themselves into the earth; here and there
over-spread with little jungles of bramble, and broken and burrowed by
rabbits.

Into this grand and singular bit of forest, now glorified by the
coloured light of evening, I had penetrated some little way. Arrested in
my walk by the mellow song of a blackbird, I listened in the sort of
ecstasy that every one has, I suppose, experienced under similar
circumstances; and I was in the full enjoyment of this sylvan melody,
when I was startled, and the bird put to flight, by the near report of
fire-arms. Once or twice I had heard boys shooting at the birds in this
wood, but they had always accompanied their practice with shouting and
loud talking. A dead silence followed this. I had no reason for any
misgivings about so natural an interruption in such a place, but I did
feel an ominous apprehension. I began to move, and was threading my way
through one of these blackberry thickets, when I heard, close to my
side, the branches of some underwood thrust aside, and Mr. Marston,
looking pale and wicked, walked quickly by. It was plain he did not see
me; I was screened by the stalks and sprays through which I saw him. He
had no weapon as he passed me; he was drawing on his glove. The sudden
appearance of Mr. Marston whom I believed to be by this time miles
away--at the other side of Cardyllion--was a shock that rather confirmed
my misgivings.

I waited till he was quite gone, and then passed down the path he had
come by. I saw nothing to justify alarm, so I walked a little in the
same direction, looking to the right and left. In a little opening among
the moss-grown trunks of the trees, I soon saw something that frightened
me. It was a man lying on his back, deadly pale, upon the ground; his
waistcoat was open, and his shirt-front covered with blood, that seemed
to ooze from under his hand, which was pressed on it; his hat was on the
ground, some way behind. A pistol lay on the grass beside him, and
another not far from his feet.

I was very much frightened, and the sight of blood made me feel faint.
The wounded man saw me, I knew, for his eyes were fixed on me; his lips
moved, and there was a kind of straining in his throat; he said a word
or two, though I could not at first hear what. With a horrible
reluctance, I came near and leaned a little over him, and then heard
distinctly:

"Pray send help."

I bethought me instantly of the neighbouring farm-house of Plas Ylwd,
and knowing this little forest tract well, I ran through it nearly
direct to the farm-yard, and quickly succeeded in securing the aid of
Farmer Prichard and all his family, except his wife, who stayed at home
to get a bed ready for the reception of the wounded stranger. We all
trooped back again through the woods, at a trot, I at their head, quite
forgetting my dignity in my excitement. The wounded man appeared
fainter. But he beckoned to us with his hand, without raising his arm,
and with a great effort he said: "The blame is mine--all my
fault--remember, if I die. I compelled this meeting."

I got Prichard to send his son, without a moment's delay, to Cardyllion,
to bring Dr. Mervyn, and as they got the bleeding man on towards Plas
Ylwd, I, in a state of high excitement, walked swiftly homeward, hoping
to reach Malory before the declining light failed altogether.



                             CHAPTER XXI.

                      THE PATIENT AT PLAS YLWD.


I got home just as the last broad beam of the setting sun was spent, and
twilight over-spread churchyard and manor-house, sea and land, with its
grey mantle. Lights were gleaming from the drawing-room window as I
approached; a very welcome light to me, for it told me that Laura Grey
had come down, and I was longing to tell her my story. I found her, as I
expected, seated quietly at our tea-table, and saw, in her surprised and
eager looks, how much she was struck by the excitement which mine
exhibited, as, without waiting to take off my hat or coat, I called on
her to listen, and stumbled and hurried through the opening of my
strange story.

I had hardly mentioned the sudden appearance of Mr. Marston, when Laura
Grey rose with her hands clasped:

"Was any one shot? For God's sake, tell me quickly!"

I described all I had seen. She pressed her hand hard to her heart.

"Oh! he has killed him--the villain! His threats are always true--his
promises never. Oh! Ethel, darling, he has been so near me, and I never
dreamed it."

"Who? What is it, Laura? Don't, darling, be so frightened; he's not
killed--nobody's killed. I daresay it is very trifling, and Doctor
Mervyn is with him by this time."

"I am sure he's badly wounded; he has killed him. He has hated him so
long, he would never have left him till he had killed him."

She was growing quite distracted; I, all the time, doing my utmost to
re-assure her.

"What is his name?" at length I asked.

The question seemed to quiet her. She looked at me, and then down; and
then again at me.

Once or twice she had mentioned a brother whom she loved very much, and
who was one of her great anxieties. Was this wounded man he? If not, was
he a lover? This latter could hardly be; for she had once, after a long,
laughing fencing with my close questions, told me suddenly, quite
gravely, "I have no lover, and no admirer, except one whom I despise and
dislike as much as I can any one on earth." It was very possible that
her brother was in debt, or in some other trouble that made her, for the
present, object to disclose anything about him. I thought she was going
to tell me a great deal now--but I was disappointed. I was again put
off; but I knew she spoke truth, for she was the truest person I ever
met, when she said that she longed to tell me all her story, and that
the time would soon come when she could. But now, poor thing! she was,
in spite of all I could say, in a state, very nearly, of distraction.
She never was coherent, except when, in answer to her constantly
repeated questioning, I again and again described the appearance of the
wounded man, which each time seemed to satisfy her on the point of
identity, but without preventing her from renewing her inquiries with
increasing detail.

That evening passed miserably enough for us both. Doctor Mervyn, on his
way to his patient, looked in upon us early next morning, intent on
learning all he could from me about the circumstances of the discovery
of his patient. I had been too well drilled by prudent Rebecca Torkill,
to volunteer any information respecting the unexpected appearance of Mr.
Marston so suspiciously near the scene of the occurrence. I described,
therefore, simply the spectacle presented by the wounded man, on my
lighting upon him in the wood, and his removal to the farm-house of Plas
Ylwd.

"It's all very fine, saying it was a accident," said the doctor, with a
knowing nod and a smile. "Accident, indeed! If it was, why should he
refuse to say who had a hand in the accident, besides himself? But
there's no need to make a secret of the matter, for unless something
unexpected should occur, he must, in the ordinary course of things, be
well in little more than a week. It's an odd wound. The ball struck the
collar bone and broke it, glancing upward. If it had penetrated
obliquely downward instead, it might have killed him on the spot."

"Do you know his name?" I inquired.

"No; he's very reserved; fellows in his situation often are; they don't
like figuring in the papers, you understand; or being bound over to be
of good behaviour; or, possibly, prosecuted. But no trouble will come of
this; and he'll be on his legs again in a very few days."

With this re-assuring news the doctor left us. Miss Grey was relieved.
One thing seemed pretty certain; and that was that the guilty and
victorious duellist would not venture to appear in our part of the world
for some time to come.

"Will you come with me to-day, to ask how he gets on?" I said to Laura
as soon as the doctor was gone.

"No, I can't do that; but it would be very kind of you: that is, if you
have no objection."

"None in the world; we must get Rebecca to make broth, or whatever else
the doctor may order, and shall I mention your name to Mrs. Prichard? I
mean, do you wish the patient--shall we call him--to know that you are
here?"

"Oh! no, pray. He is the last person on earth----"

"You are sure?"

"Perfectly. I entreat, dear Ethel, that you run no risk of my name being
mentioned."

"Why, Mr. Marston knows that you are here," I said persistently.

"Bad as that was, this would be intolerable. I know, Ethel, I may rely
on you."

"Well, I won't say a word--I won't mention your name, since you so
ordain it."

Two or three days passed. As I had been the good Samaritan, in female
garb, who aided the wounded man in his distress, I was now the visiting
Sister of Mercy, the ministering angel--whatever you are good enough to
call me--who every day saw after his wants, and sent, sometimes soup,
and sometimes jelly, to favour the recovery of which the doctor spoke so
sanguinely.

I did not feel the romantic interest I ought perhaps to have felt in the
object of my benevolence. I had no wish to see his face again. I was
haunted by a recollection of him that was ghastly. I am not wanting in
courage, physical or moral. But I should have made a bad nurse, and a
worse soldier; at the sight of blood I immediately grow faint, and a
sense of indescribable disgust remains.

I sometimes think we women are perverse creatures. For there is an
occult interest about the guilty and audacious, if it be elevated by
masculine courage and beauty, and surrounded by ever so little of
mystery and romance. Shall I confess it? The image of that wicked Mr.
Marston, notwithstanding all Laura's hard epithets, and the startling
situation in which I had seen him last, haunted me often, and with
something more of fascination than I liked to confess. Let there be
energy, cleverness, beauty, and I believe a reckless sort of wickedness
will not stand the least in the way of a foolish romance. I think I had
energy; I know I was impetuous. Insipid or timid virtue would have had
no chance with me.

I was going to the farm-house one day, I forget how long after the
occurrence which had established my interesting relations with Plas
Ylwd. My mother had a large cheval-glass; it had not often reflected her
pretty image; it was the only one in the house, the furniture of which
was very much out of date. It had been removed to my room, and before it
I now stood, in my hat and jacket, to make a last inspection before I
started. What did I see before me? I have courage to speak my real
impressions, for there is no one near to laugh at me. A girl of
eighteen, above the middle height, slender, with large, dark, grey eyes
and long lashes, not much colour, not pink and white, by any means, but
a very clear-tinted and marble-smooth skin; lips of carmine-scarlet, and
teeth very white; thick, dark brown hair; and a tendency, when talking
or smiling, to dimple in cheek and chin. There was something, too,
spirited and energetic in the face that I contemplated with so much
satisfaction.

I remained this day a little longer before my glass than usual. Half an
hour later, I stood at the heavy stone doorway of Plas Ylwd. It is one
of the prettiest farm-houses in the world. Round the farm-yard stand
very old hawthorn and lime trees, and the farm-house is a composite
building in which a wing of the old Tudor manor-house of Plas Ylwd is
incorporated, under a common thatch, which has grown brown and
discoloured, and sunk and risen into hillocks and hollows by time. The
door is protected by a thatched porch, with worn stone pillars; and here
I stood, and learned that "the gentleman upstairs" was very well that
afternoon, and sitting up; the doctor thought he would be out for a walk
in two or three days. Having learned this, and all the rest that it
concerned Rebecca Torkill to hear, I took my leave of good Mrs.
Prichard, and crossing the stile from the farm-yard, I entered the
picturesque old wood in which the inmate of Plas Ylwd had received his
wound. Through this sylvan solitude I intended returning to Malory.



                            CHAPTER XXII.

                             THE OUTLAW.


As I followed my path over the unequal flooring of the forest, among the
crowded trunks of the trees and the thickets of brambles, I saw, on a
sudden, Mr. Marston almost beside me. I was a good deal startled, and
stood still. There was something in his air and looks, as he stood with
his hat raised, so unspeakably deprecatory, that I felt at once
re-assured. Without my permission it was plain he would not dream of
accompanying me, or even of talking to me. All Laura's warnings and
entreaties sounded at that moment in my ears like a far-off and
unmeaning tinkle. He had no apologies to make; and yet he looked like a
penitent. I was embarrassed, but without the slightest fear of him. I
spoke; but I don't recollect what I said.

"I have come here, Miss Ware, as I believe, at some risk; I should have
done the same thing had the danger been a hundred times greater. I tried
to persuade myself that I came for no other purpose than to learn how
that foolish fellow, who would force a quarrel on me, is getting on. But
I came, in truth, on no such errand; I came here on the almost desperate
chance of meeting you, and in the hope, if I were so fortunate, that you
would permit me to say a word in my defence. I am unfortunate in having
two or three implacable enemies, and fate has perversely collected them
here. Miss Grey stands in very confidential relations with you, Miss
Ethel; her prejudices against me are cruel, violent, and in every way
monstrous."

He was walking beside me as he said this.

"Mr. Marston," I interposed, "I can't hear you say a word against Miss
Grey. I have the highest opinion of her; she is my very dearest
friend--she is truth itself."

"One word you say I don't dispute, Miss Ware. She means all she says for
truth; but she is cruelly prejudiced, and, without suspecting it, does
me the most merciless injustice. Whenever she is at liberty to state her
whole case against me--at present I haven't so much as heard it--I
undertake to satisfy you of its unfairness. There is no human being to
whom I would say all this, or before whom I would stoop to defend myself
and sue for an acquittal, where I am blameless, but you, Miss Ware."

I felt myself blushing. I think that sign of emotion fired him.

"I could not tell," he said, extending his hand towards Plas Ylwd,
"whether that foolish man was dead or living; and this was the last
place on earth I should have come to, in common prudence, while that was
in doubt; but I was willing to brave that danger for a chance of seeing
you once more--I could not live without seeing you."

He was gazing at me, with eyes glowing with admiration. I thought he
looked wonderfully handsome. There was dash and recklessness, I thought,
enough for an old-world outlaw, in his talk and looks, and, for all I
knew, in his reckless doings; and the scene, the shadow, this solemn
decaying forest, accorded well, in my romantic fancy, with the wild
character I assigned him. There was something flattering in the devotion
of this prompt and passionate man.

"Make me no answer," he continued--"no answer, I entreat. It would be
mere madness to ask it now; you know nothing of me but, perhaps, the
wildest slanders that prejudice ever believed, or hatred forged. From
the moment I saw you, in the old garden at Malory, I loved you! Love at
first sight! It was no such infatuation. It was the recalling of some
happy dream. I had forgotten it in my waking hours; but I recognised,
with a pang and rapture, in you, the spirit that had enthralled me. I
loved you long before I knew it. I can't escape, Ethel, I adore you!"

I don't know how I felt. I was pretty sure that I ought to have been
very angry. And I was half angry with myself for not being angry. I was,
however--which answered just as well, a little alarmed; I felt as a
child does when about to enter a dark room, and I drew back at the
threshold.

"Pray, Mr. Marston, don't speak so to me any longer. It is quite true, I
do not know you; you have no right to talk to me in my walks--pray leave
me now."

"I shall obey you, Miss Ware; whatever you command, I shall do. My last
entreaty is that you will not condemn me unheard; and pray do not
mention to my enemies the infatuation that has led me here, with the
courage of despair--no, not quite despair, I won't say that. I shall
never forget you. Would to Heaven I could! I shall never forget or
escape you; who can disenchant me? I shall never forget, or cease to
pursue you, Ethel, I swear by Heaven!"

He looked in my face for a moment, raised my hand gently, but quickly,
and pressed it to his lips, before I had recovered from my momentary
tumult. I did not turn to look after him. I instinctively avoided that,
but I heard his footsteps, in rapid retreat, in the direction of the
farm-house which I had just left.

It was not until I had got more than half-way on my return to Malory
that I began to think clearly on what had just occurred. What had I been
dreaming of? I was shocked to think of it. Here was a total stranger
admitted to something like the footing of a declared lover! What was I
to do? What would papa or mamma say if my folly were to come to their
ears? I did not even know where Mr. Marston was to be found. Some one
has compared the Iliad to a frieze, which ceases, but does not end; and
precisely of the same kind was this awkward epic of the wood of Plas
Ylwd. Who could say when the poet might please to continue his work? Who
could say how I could now bring the epic to a peremptory termination?

I must confess, however, although I felt the embarrassment of the
situation, this lawless man interested me. Like many whimsical young
ladies, I did not quite know my own mind.

On the step of the stile that crosses the churchyard wall, near Malory,
I sat down, in rather uncomfortable rumination. I was interrupted by the
sound of a step upon the road, approaching from the direction of Malory.
I looked up, and, greatly to my surprise, saw Mr. Carmel, quite close to
me. I stood up, and walked a few steps to meet him; we shook hands, he
smiling, very glad, I knew, to meet me.

"You did not expect to see me so soon again, Miss Ware? And I have ever
so much to tell you. I can't say whether it will please or vex you; but
if you and Miss Grey will give me my old chair at your tea-table, I will
look in for half an hour this evening. I have first to call at old
Parry's, and give him a message that reached me from your mamma
yesterday."

He smiled again, as he continued his walk, leaving me full of curiosity
as to the purport of his news.



                            CHAPTER XXIII.

                              A JOURNEY.


Behold us now, about an hour later, at our tea-table. Mr. Carmel, as he
had promised, came in and talked, as usual, agreeably; but, if he had
any particular news to tell us, he had not yet begun to communicate it.

"You found your old quarters awaiting your return. We have lost our
interesting stranger," I said; "I wish you would tell us all you know
about him."

Mr. Carmel's head sank; his eyes were fixed, in painful thought, upon
the table. "No," he said, looking up sharply, "God knows all, and that's
enough. The story could edify no one."

He looked so pained, and even agitated, that I could not think of
troubling him more.

"I had grown so attached to this place," said Mr. Carmel, rising and
looking from the window, "that I can scarcely make up my mind to say
good-bye, and turn my back on it for ever; yet I believe I must in a few
days. I don't know. We soldiers, ecclesiastics, I mean, must obey
orders, and I scarcely hope that mine will ever call me here again. I
have news for you, also, Miss Ethel; I had a letter from your mamma, and
a note from Mr. Ware, last night, and there is to be a break-up here,
and a movement townward; you are to come out next season, Miss Ethel;
your mamma and papa will be in town, for a week or so, in a few days;
and, Miss Grey, she hopes you will not leave her on account of the
change."

He paused; but she made no answer.

"Oh! darling Laura, you won't leave me?" I exclaimed.

"Certainly not, dear Ethel; and whenever the time for parting comes,"
she said very kindly, "it will cost me a greater pang than perhaps it
will cost you. But though I am neither a soldier nor an ecclesiastic, my
movements do not always depend upon myself."

Unrestrained by Mr. Carmel's presence, we kissed each other heartily.

"Here is a note, Miss Grey, enclosed for you," he murmured, and handed
it to Laura.

In our eagerness we had got up and stood with Mr. Carmel in the recess
of the window. It was twilight, and the table on which the candles
burned stood at a considerable distance. To the light Laura Grey took
her letter, and as she read it, quite absorbed, Mr. Carmel talked to me
in low tones.

As he stood in the dim recess of the window, with trains of withered
leaves rustling outside, and the shadow of the sear and half-stript elms
upon the court and window, he said, kindly and gently:

"And now, at last, Miss Ethel forsakes her old home, and takes leave of
her humble friends, to go into the great world. I don't think she will
forget them, and I am sure they won't forget her. We have had a great
many pleasant evenings here, and in our conversations in these happy
solitudes, the terrors and glories of eternal truth have broken slowly
upon your eyes. Beware! If you trifle with Heaven's mercy, the world, or
hell, or heaven itself, has no narcotic for the horrors of conscience.
In the midst of pleasure and splendour, and the tawdry triumphs of
vanity, the words of Saint Paul will startle your ears like thunder. It
is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of
the heavenly gift, and the good word of God, and the powers of the world
to come, if they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance.
The greater the privilege, the greater the liability. The higher the
knowledge, the profounder the danger. You have seen the truth afar off;
rejoice, therefore, and tremble."

He drew back and joined Miss Grey.

I had been thinking but little, for many weeks, of our many
conversations. Incipient convictions had paled in the absence of the
sophist or the sage--I knew not which. When he talked on this theme, his
voice became cold and stern; his gentleness seemed to me to partake of
an awful apathy; he looked like a man who had witnessed a revelation
full of horror; my fancy, I am sure, contributed something to the
transformation; but it did overawe me. I never was so impressed as by
him. The secret was not in his words. It was his peculiar earnestness.
He spoke like an eye-witness, and seemed under unutterable fear himself.
He had the preacher's master-gift of alarming.

When Mr. Carmel had taken his leave for the night, I told Laura Grey my
adventure in the wood of Plas Ylwd. I don't think I told it quite as
frankly as I have just described it to you. The story made Miss Grey
very grave for a time.

She broke the silence that followed by saying, "I am rather glad, Ethel,
that we are leaving this. I think you will be better in town; I know I
shall be more comfortable about you. You have no idea, and I earnestly
hope you never may have, how much annoyance may arise from an
acquaintance with that plausible, wicked man. He won't venture to force
his acquaintance upon you in town. Here it is different, of course."

We sat up very late together, chatting this night in my room. I did not
quite know how I felt about the impending change. My approaching journey
to London was, to me, as great an event as her drive to the ball in her
pumpkin-coach was to Cinderella. Of course there was something dazzling
and delightful in the prospect. But the excitement and joy were like
that of the happy bride who yet weeps because she is looking her last on
the old homely life, that will always be dear and dearer as the
irrevocable separation goes on. So, though she is sure she is passing
into paradise, it is a final farewell to the beloved past. I felt the
conflict; I loved Malory better than I could ever love a place again.
But youth is the season of enterprise. God has ordained it. We go like
the younger son in the parable, selfish, sanguine, adventurous; but the
affections revive and turn homeward, and from a changed heart sometimes
breaks on the solitude a cry, unheard by living ear, of yearning and
grief, that would open the far-off doors, if that were possible, and
return.

Next day arrangements took a definite form. All was fuss and
preparation. I was to go the day following; Mr. Carmel was to take
charge of me on the journey, and place me safely in the hands of Mrs.
Beauchamp, our town housekeeper. Laura Grey, having wound up and settled
all things at Malory, was to follow to town in less than a week; and, at
about the same time, mamma and papa were to arrive.

A drive of ten miles or so brought us to the station; then came a long
journey by rail. London was not new to me; but London with my present
anticipations was. I was in high spirits, and Mr. Carmel made a very
agreeable companion, though I fancied he was a little out of spirits.

I was tired enough that night when I at length took leave of Mr. Carmel
at the door of our house in ---- Street. The street lamps were already
lighted. Mrs. Beauchamp, in a black silk dress, received me with a great
deal of quiet respect, and rustled up-stairs before me to show me my
room. Her grave and regulated politeness contrasted chillily with the
hearty, and sometimes even boisterous welcome of old Rebecca Torkill.
Mamma and papa were to be home, she told me, in a few days--she could
not say exactly the day. I was, after an hour or so, a great deal
lonelier than I had expected to be. I wrote a long letter to Laura, of
whom I had taken leave only that morning (what a long time it seemed
already!), and told her how much I already wished myself back again in
Malory, and urged her to come sooner than she had planned her journey.



                             CHAPTER XXIV.

                               ARRIVALS.


Laura had not waited any longer than I for a special justification of a
letter. She had nothing to say, and she said it in a letter as long as
my own, which reached me at breakfast next morning.

Sitting in a spacious room, looking out into a quiet fashionable street,
in a house all of whose decorations and arrangements had an air of cold
elegance and newness, the letter, with the friendly Cardyllion postmark
on it, seemed to bring with it something of the clear air, and homely
comfort, and free life of Malory, and made me yearn all the more for the
kind faces, the old house, and beloved scenery I had left behind. It was
insufferably dull here, and I soon found myself in that state which is
described as not knowing what to do with oneself. For two days no
further letter from Laura reached me. On the third, I saw her well-known
handwriting on the letter that awaited me on the breakfast-table. As I
looked, as people will, at the direction before opening the envelope, I
was struck by the postmark "Liverpool," and turning it over and over, I
nowhere saw Cardyllion.

I began to grow too uncomfortable to wait longer; I opened the letter
with misgivings. At the top of the note there was nothing written but
the day of the week. It said--

     "My Dearest Ethel,--A sudden and total change in my unhappy
     circumstances separates me from you. It is impossible that I should
     go to London now; and it is possible that I may not see you again
     for a long time, if ever. I write to say farewell; and in doing so
     to solemnly repeat my warning against permitting the person who
     obtained a few days' shelter in the steward's house, after the
     shipwreck, to maintain even the slightest correspondence or
     acquaintance with you. Pray, dearest Ethel, trust me in this. I
     implore of you to follow my advice. You may hear from me again. In
     the meantime, I am sure you will be glad to know that your poor
     governess is happy--happier than she ever desired, or ever hoped to
     be. My fond love is always yours, and my thoughts are hourly with
     you.--Ever your loving

                                                       Laura Grey."

     "May God for ever bless you, darling! Good-bye."

I don't think I could easily exaggerate the effect of this letter. I
will not weary you with that most tiresome of all relations, an account
of another person's grief.

Mamma and papa arrived that evening. If I had lived less at Malory, and
more with mamma, I should not, in some points, have appreciated her so
highly. When I saw her, for the first time, after a short absence, I was
always struck by her beauty and her elegance, and it seemed to me that
she was taller than I recollected her. She was looking very well, and so
young! I saw papa but for a moment. He went to his room immediately to
dress, and then went off to his club. Mamma took me to her room, where
we had tea. She said I had grown, and was very much pleased with my
looks. Then she told me all her plans about me. I was to have masters,
and I was not to come out till April.

She then got me to relate all the circumstances of Nelly's death, and
cried a good deal. Then she had in her maid Lexley, and they held a
council together over me on the subject of dress. My Malory wardrobe,
from which I had brought up to town with me what I considered an
unexceptionable selection, was not laughed at, was not even
discussed--it was simply treated as non-extant. It gave me a profound
sense of the barbarism in which I had lived.

Laura Grey's letter lay heavy at my heart, but I had not yet mentioned
it to mamma. There was no need, however, to screw my courage to that
point. Among the letters brought up to her was one from Laura. When she
read it she was angry in her querulous way. She threw herself into a
chair in a pet. She had confidence in Laura Grey, and foresaw a good
deal of trouble to herself in this desertion. "I am so particularly
unfortunate!" she began--"everything that can possibly go wrong!
everything that never happens to any one else! I could have got her to
take you to Monsieur Pontet's, and your drives, and to shop--and--she
must be a most unprincipled person. She had no right to go away as she
has done. It is too bad! Your papa allows every one of that kind to
treat me exactly as they please, and really, when I am at home, my life
is one continual misery! What am I to do now? I don't believe any one
else was ever so entirely at the mercy of her servants. I don't know, my
dear, how I can possibly do all that is to be done for you without
assistance--and _there_ was a person I thought I could depend upon. A
total stranger I should not like, and really, for anything I can see at
present, I think you must go back again to Malory, and do the best you
can. I am not a strong person. I was not made for all this, and I really
feel I could just go to my bed, and cry till morning."

My heart had been very full, and I was relieved by this opportunity of
crying.

"I wonder at your crying about so good-for-nothing a person," exclaimed
mamma, impatiently. "If she had cared the least about you, she could not
have left you as she has done. A satisfactory person, certainly, that
young lady has turned out!"

Notwithstanding all this, mamma got over her troubles, and engaged a
dull and even-tempered lady, named Anna Maria Pounden, whose manners
were quiet and unexceptionable, and whose years were about fifty. She
was not much of a companion for me, you may suppose. She answered,
however, very well for all purposes intended by mamma. She was lady-like
and kind, and seemed made for keeping keys, arranging drawers, packing
boxes, and taking care of people when they were ill. She spoke French,
besides, fluently, and with a good accent, and mamma insisted that she
and I should always talk in that language. All the more persistently for
this change, my thoughts were with my beloved friend, Laura Grey.

From Malory, Rebecca Torkill told me, in a rather incoherent letter, the
particulars of Laura Grey's departure from Malory. She had gone out for
a walk, leaving her things half packed, for she was to go from Malory
next day. She did not return; but a note reached Mrs. Torkill, next
morning, telling her simply she could not return; and that she would
write to mamma and to me in London the same day. Mrs. Torkill's note,
like mine, had the Liverpool postmark; and her conjecture was thus
expressed: "I don't think, miss, she had no notions to leave that way
when she went out. It must have bin something sudding. She went fest, I
do sepose to Olyhed, and thens to Liverpule in one of them pakkats. Mr.
Williams, the town-clerk, and the vicar and his lady, and Doctor Mervyn,
is all certing sure it could be no other wise."

Mamma did not often come down to breakfast, during her short stay at
this unseasonable time of year in town. On one of those rare occasions,
however, something took place that I must describe.

Mamma was in a pretty morning _negligé_ as we used to call such careless
dresses then, looking as delicately pretty as the old china tea-cups
before her. Papa was looking almost as perplexingly young as she, and I
made up the little party to the number of the Graces. Mamma must have
been forty, and I really don't think she looked more than
two-and-thirty. Papa looked about five-and-thirty; and I think he must
have been at least ten years older than he looked. That kind of life
that is supposed to wear people out, seemed for them to have had an
influence like the elixir vitæ; and I certainly have seen rustics, in
the full enjoyment of mountain breezes, simple fare, and early hours,
look many a day older than their years. The old rule, so harped upon,
that "early to bed and early to rise" is the secret of perpetual youth,
I don't dispute; but then, if it be early to go to bed at sunset in
winter, say four in the evening, and to rise at four in the morning, is
it not still earlier to anticipate that hour, and go to bed at four in
the morning, and get up at one in the afternoon? At all events, I know
that this mode of life seemed to agree with papa and mamma. I don't
think, indeed, that either suffered much from the cares that poison
enjoyment, and break down strength. Mamma threw all hers unexamined upon
papa; who threw all his with equal nonchalance upon Mr. Norman, a kind
of factotum, secretary, comptroller, diplomatist, financier, and every
other thing that comes within the words "making oneself generally
useful."

I never knew exactly what papa had a year to live upon. Mamma had money
also. But they were utterly unfit to manage their own affairs, and I
don't think they ever tried. Papa had his worries now and then; but they
seldom seemed to last more than a day, or at most a week or two. There
were a number of what he thought small sums, varying from two to five
thousand pounds, which under old settlements dropped in opportunely, and
extricated him. These sums ought to have been treated, not as income,
but as capital, as I heard a moneyed man of business say long ago; but
papa had not the talent of growing rich, or even of continuing rich, if
a good fairy had gifted him with fortune.

Papa was in a reverie, leaning back in his chair; mamma yawned over a
letter she was reading; I was drumming some dance music with my fingers
on my knee under the table-cloth, when suddenly he said to mamma:

"You don't love your aunt Lorrimer very much?"

"No, I don't love her--I never said I did, did I?"

"No, but I mean, you don't like her, you don't care about her?"

"No," said mamma, languidly, and looking wonderingly at him with her
large pretty eyes. "I don't very much--I don't quite know--I have an
affection for her."

"You don't love her, and you don't even like her, but you have an
affection for her," laughed papa.

"You are so teasing. I did not say that; what I mean is, she has a great
many faults and oddities, and I don't like them--but I have an affection
for her. Why should it seem so odd to you that one should care for one's
relations? I do feel that for her, and there let it rest."

"Well, but it ought not to rest there--as you do like her."

"Why, dear--have you heard anything of her?"

"No; but there is one thing I should not object to hear about her just
now."

"One thing? What do you mean, dear?"

"That she had died, and left us her money. I know what a brute I am, and
how shocked you are; but I assure you we rather want it at this moment.
You write to her, don't you?"

"N-not very often. Once since we saw her at Naples."

"Well, that certainly is not very often," he laughed. "But she writes to
you. You thought she seemed rather to like us--I mean you?"

"Yes."

"She has no one else to care about that I know of. I don't pretend to
care about her--I think her an old fool."

"She isn't that, dear," said mamma, quietly.

"I wish we knew where she is now. Seriously, you ought to write to her a
little oftener, dear; I wish you would."

"I'll write to her, certainly, as soon as I am a little more myself. I
could not do it just to-day; I have not been very well, you know."

"Oh! my darling, I did not mean to hurry you. Of course, not till you
feel perfectly well; don't suppose I could be such a monster. But--I
don't want, of course, to pursue her--but there is a middle course
between that and having to drop her. She really has no one else, poor
old thing! to care about, or to care about her. Not that _I_ care about
her, but you're her kinswoman, and I don't see why----"

At this moment the door opened, and there entered, with the air of an
assumed intimacy and a certain welcome, a person whom I little expected
to see there. I saw him with a shock. It was the man with the fine eyes
and great forehead, the energetic gait and narrow shoulders. The grim,
mean-looking, intelligent, agreeable man of fifty, Mr. Droqville.



                             CHAPTER XXV.

                          THE DOCTOR'S NEWS.


"Oh! how do you do, Doctor Droqville?" said mamma, with a very real
welcome in looks and accent.

"How d'ye do, Droqville?" said my father, a little dryly, I fancied.

"Have you had your breakfast?" asked mamma.

"Two hours ago."

"We are very late here," said papa.

"I should prefer thinking I am very early, in my primitive quarters,"
answered Mr. Droqville.

"I had not an idea we should have found you in town, just now."

"In season or out of season, a physician should always be at his post.
I'm beginning to learn rather late there's some truth in that old
proverb about moss, you know, and rolling stones, and it costs even a
bachelor something to keep body and soul together in this mercenary,
tailoring, cutlet-eating world." At this moment he saw me, and made me a
bow. "Miss Ware?" he said, a little inquiringly to mamma. "Yes, I knew
perfectly it was the young lady I had seen at Malory. Some faces are not
easily forgotten," he added, gallantly, with a glance at me. "I
threatened to run away with her, but she was firm as fate," he smiled
and went on; "and I paid a visit to our friend Carmel, you know."

"And how did you think he was?" she asked; and I listened with interest
for the answer.

"He's consumptive. He's at this side of the Styx, it is true; but his
foot is in the water, and Charon's obolus is always between his finger
and thumb. He'll die young. He may live five years, it is true; but he
is not likely to live two. And if he happens to take cold and begins to
cough, he might not last four months."

"My wife has been complaining," said papa; "I wish you could do
something for her. You still believe in Doctor Droqville? I think she
half believes you have taken a degree in divinity as well as in
medicine; if so, a miracle, now and then, would be quite in your way."

"But I assure you, Doctor Droqville, I never said any such thing. It was
you who thought," she said to my father, "that Doctor Droqville was in
orders."

Droqville laughed.

"But, Doctor Droqville, I think," said mamma, "you would have made a
very good priest."

"There are good priests, madame, of various types; Madame de Genlis, for
instance, commends an abbé of her acquaintance; he was a most
respectable man, she says, and never ridiculed revealed religion but
with moderation."

Papa laughed, but I could see that he did not like Doctor Droqville.
There was something dry, and a little suspicious in his manner, so
slight that you could hardly define it, but which contrasted strikingly
with the decision and _insouciance_ of Doctor Droqville's talk.

"But, you know, you never do that, even with moderation; and you can
argue so closely when you please."

"There, madame, you do me too much honour. I am the worst logician in
the world. I wrote a part of an essay on Christian chivalry, and did
pretty well, till I began to reason; the essay ended, and I was
swallowed up in this argument--pray listen to it. To sacrifice your life
for the lady you adore is a high degree of heroism; but to sacrifice
your soul for her is the highest degree of heroism. But the highest
degree of heroism is but another name for Christianity; and, therefore,
to act thus can't sacrifice your soul, and if it doesn't you don't
practise a heroism, and therefore no Christianity, and, therefore, you
do sacrifice your soul. But if you do sacrifice your soul, it is the
highest heroism--therefore Christianity; and, therefore, you don't
sacrifice your soul, and so, _da capo_, it goes on for ever--and I can't
extricate myself. When I mean to make a boat, I make a net; and this
argument that I invented to carry me some little way on my voyage to
truth, not only won't hold water, but has caught me by the foot,
entangles, and drowns me. I never went on with my essay."

In this cynical trifling there was a contemptuous jocularity quite
apparent to me, although mamma took it all in good faith, and said:

"It is very puzzling, but it can't be true; and I should think it almost
a duty to find out where it is wrong."

Papa laughed, and said:

"My dear, don't you see that Doctor Droqville is mystifying us?"

I was rather glad, for I did not like it. I was vexed for mamma. Doctor
Droqville's talk seemed to me an insolence.

"It is quite true, I am no logician; I had better continue as I am. I
make a tolerable physician; if I became a preacher, with my defective
ratiocination, I should inevitably lose myself and my audience in a
labyrinth. You make but a very short stay in town, I suppose?" he broke
off suddenly. "It isn't tempting, so many houses sealed--a city of the
dead. One does not like, madame, as your Doctor Johnson said to Mrs.
Thrale, to come down to vacuity."

"Well, it is only a visit of two or three days. My daughter Ethel is
coming out next spring, and she came up to meet us here. I wish her to
have a few weeks with masters, and there are more things to be thought
of than you would suppose. Do you think there is anything a country miss
would do well to read up that we might have forgotten?"

"Read? read? Oh! yes, two things."

"What are they?"

"If she has a sound knowledge of the heathen mythology, and a smattering
of the Bible, she'll do very well."

"But she won't talk about the Bible," laughed papa; "people who like it,
read it to themselves."

"Very true," said Doctor Droqville, "you never mention it; but, quite
unconsciously, you are perpetually alluding to it. Nothing strikes a
stranger more, if he understands your language as I do. You had a note
from Lady Lorrimer?"

"No," said mamma.

The word "note," I think, struck papa as implying that she was nearer
than letter-writing distance, and he glanced quickly at Doctor
Droqville.

"And where is Lady Lorrimer now?" asked papa.

"That is what I came to tell you. She is at Mivart's. I told her you
were in town, and I fancied you would have had a note from her; but I
thought I might as well look in and tell you."

"She's quite well, I hope?" said mamma.

"Now did you ever, Mrs. Ware, in all your life, see her quite well? I
never did. She would lose all pleasure in life, if she thought she
wasn't leaving it. She arrived last night, and summoned me to her at ten
this morning. I felt her pulse. It was horribly regular. She had slept
well, and breakfasted well, but that was all. In short, I found her
suffering under her usual chronic attack of good health, and, as the
case was not to be trifled with, I ordered her instantly some medicine
which could not possibly produce any effect whatever; and in that
critical state I left her, with a promise to look in again in the
afternoon to ascertain that the more robust symptoms were not gaining
ground, and in the interval I came to see you and tell you all about
it."

"I suppose, then, I should find her in her bed?" said mamma.

"No; I rather think she has postponed dying till after dinner--she
ordered a very good one--and means to expire in her sitting-room, where
you'll find her. And you have not been very well?"

"Remember the story he has just told you of your aunt Lorrimer, and take
care he doesn't tell her the same story of you," said papa, laughing.

"I wish I could," said Doctor Droqville; "few things would please me
better. That pain in the nerves of the head is a very real torment."

So he and mamma talked over her head-aches in an undertone for some
minutes; and while this was going on there came in a note for mamma.
The servant was was waiting for an answer in the hall.

"Shall I read it?" said papa, holding it up by the corner. "It is Lady
Lorrimer's, I'm sure."

"Do, dear," said mamma, and she continued her confidences in Doctor
Droqville's ear.

Papa smiled a little satirically as he read it. He threw it across the
table, saying:

"You can read it, Ethel; it concerns you rather."

I was very curious. The hand was youthful and pretty, considering Lady
Lorrimer's years. It was a whimpering, apathetic, selfish little note.
She was miserable, she said, and had quite made up her mind that she
could not exist in London smoke. She had sent for the doctor.

She continued: "I shall make an effort to see you, if you can look in
about three, for a few minutes. Have you any of your children with you?
If they are very quiet I should like to see them. It would amuse me. It
is an age since I saw your little people, and I really forget their
ages, and even their names. Say if I am to expect you at three. I have
told the servant to wait."

People who live in the country fancy themselves of more importance than
they really are. I was mortified, and almost shocked at the cool
sentences about "the little people," etc.

"Well, you promise to be very quiet, won't you? You won't pull the cat's
tail, or light paper in the fire, or roar for plum-cake?" said papa.

"I don't think she wants to see us. I don't think she cares the least
about us. Perhaps mamma won't go," I said, resentfully, hoping that she
would not pay that homage to the insolent old woman.

Doctor Droqville stood up, having written a prescription.

"Well, I'm off; and I think this will do you a world of good. Can I do
any commission for you about town; I shall be in every possible
direction in the next three hours?"

No, there was nothing; and this man, whom I somehow liked less than
ever, although he rather amused me, vanished, and we saw his cab drive
by the window.

"Well, here's her note. You'll go to see her, I suppose?" said papa.

"Certainly; I have a great affection for my aunt. She was very kind to
me when there was no one else to care about me."

Mamma spoke with more animation than I believed her capable of--I
thought I even saw tears in her eyes. It struck me that she did not like
papa's tone in speaking about her. The same thing probably struck him.

"You are quite right, darling, as you always are in a matter of feeling,
and you'll take Ethel, won't you?"

"Yes, I should like her to come."

"And you know, if she should ask you, don't tell her I'm a bit better
off than I really am. I have had some awful losses lately. I don't like
bothering you about business, and it was no fault or negligence of mine;
but I really--it is of very great importance she should not do anything
less that she intended for you, or anything whimsical or unjust. I give
you my honour there isn't a guinea to spare now, it would be a positive
cruelty."

Mamma looked at him, but she was by this time so accustomed to alarms of
that kind that they did not make a very deep impression upon her.

"I don't think she's likely to talk about such matters, dear," said
mamma; "but if she should make any inquiries, I shall certainly tell her
the truth."

I remembered Lady Lorrimer long ago at Malory. It was a figure seen in
the haze of infancy, and remembered through the distance of many years.
I recollect coming down the stairs, the nursery-maid holding me by the
hand, and seeing a carriage and servants in the court before the door. I
remember, as part of the same dream, sitting in the lap of a strange
lady in the drawing-room, who left a vague impression of having been
richly dressed, who talked to me in a sweet, gentle voice, and gave me
toys, and whom I always knew to have been Lady Lorrimer. How much of
this I actually saw, and how much was picked up with the vivid power of
reproducing pictures from description that belongs to children, I cannot
say; but I always heard of Aunt Lorrimer afterwards with interest, and
now at length I was about to see her. Her note had disappointed me,
still I was curious.



                            CHAPTER XXVI.

                            LADY LORRIMER.


My curiosity was soon gratified. After luncheon we drove to Mivart's,
and there in her sitting-room I saw Lady Lorrimer. I was agreeably
surprised. Her figure was still beautiful. She was, I believe, past
sixty then; but, like all our family whom I have ever seen, she looked a
great deal younger than her years. I thought her very handsome, very
like my idea of Mary Queen of Scots in her later years; and her good
looks palpably owed nothing to "making up." Her smile was very winning,
and her eyes still soft and brilliant. Through so many years, her voice
as she greeted us returned with a strange and very sweet recognition
upon my ear.

She put her arms about mamma's neck, and kissed her tenderly. In like
manner she kissed me. She made me sit beside her on a sofa, and held my
hands in hers. Mamma sat opposite in a chair.

Lady Lorrimer might be very selfish--lonely people often are; but she
certainly was very affectionate. There were tears in her fine eyes as
she looked at me. It was not such a stare as a dealer might bestow on a
picture, to which, as a child, I had sometimes been subjected by old
friends in search of a likeness. By-and-by she talked of me.

"The flight of my years is so silent," she said, with a sad smile to
mamma, "that I forgot, as I wrote to you, how few are left me, and that
Ethel is no longer a child. I think her quite lovely; she is like what I
remember you, but it is only a likeness--not the same; she does not
sacrifice her originality. I'm not afraid, dear, to say all that before
you," she said, turning on me for a moment her engaging smile. "I think,
Ethel, in this world, where people without a particle of merit are
always pushing themselves to the front, young people who have beauty
should know it. But, my dear," she said, looking on me again, "good
looks don't last very long. Your mamma, there, keeps hers wonderfully;
but look at me. I was once a pretty girl, as you are now; and see what I
am!

    'Le même cours des planètes
      Régle nos jours et nos nuits;
    On me vit ce que vous êtes,
      Vous serez ce que je suis.'

"So I qualify my agreeable truths with a little uncomfortable morality.
She'll be coming out immediately?"

Mamma told her, hereupon, all her plans about me.

"And so sure as you take her out, her papa will be giving her away; and,
remember, I'm to give her her diamonds whenever she marries. You are to
write to me whenever anything is settled, or likely to come about. They
always know at my house here, when I am on my travels, where a letter
will find me. No, you're not to thank me," she interrupted us. "I saw
Lady Rimington's, and I intend that your daughter's shall be a great
deal better than hers."

Our old Malory housekeeper, Rebecca Torkill, had a saying, "Nothing so
grateful as pride." I think I really liked my aunt Lorrimer better for
her praises of my good looks than for her munificent intentions about my
bridal brilliants. But for either I could only show my pleasure by my
looks. I started up to thank her for her promised diamonds. But, as I
told you, she would not hear a word, and drew me down gently with a
smile again beside her.

Then she talked, and mamma talked. For such a recluse, Lady Lorrimer was
a wonderful gossip, and devoured all mamma's news, and told her old
stories of all the old people who figured in such oral history. I must
do her justice. There seemed to me to be no malice whatever in her
stories. The comic was what she enjoyed most. Her lively pictures
amused even me, who knew nothing of the originals; and the longer I sat
with her, the more confidence did I feel in her good-nature.

A good deal of this conversation was all but whispered, and she had
despatched me with her maid to look at some china she had brought home
for her cabinets in London, at the other end of the room. When I
returned their heads were still very near, and they were talking low
with the same animation. I sat down again beside Lady Lorrimer. I had
spun out my inspection of the china as long as I could. Lady Lorrimer
patted my head gently, as I sat down again, without, I fancy,
remembering at the moment that I had been away. She was answering, I
think, a remark of mamma's, and upon a subject which had lain rather
heavily at my heart since Monsieur Droqville's visit to our
breakfast-table that morning.

"I don't know," she said; "Monsieur Droqville is a clever physician, but
it seems to me he has always made too much of Mr. Carmel's illness, or
delicacy, or whatever it is. I do not think Mr. Carmel is in any real
danger--I don't think there is anything seriously wrong with him--more,
in fact, than with any other thin young man, and now and then he has a
cough. Three years ago, when I first made his acquaintance--and what a
charming creature he is!--Monsieur Droqville told me he could not live
more than two years; and this morning, when I asked how Mr. Carmel was,
he allowed him three years still to live; so if he goes on killing him
at that easy rate, he may live as long as Old Parr. And now that I think
of it, did you hear a rumour about Sir Harry?"

"There are so many Sir Harrys," said mamma. "Do you mean Sir Harry
Rokestone?"

"Of course I mean Sir Harry Rokestone," she answered; "have you heard
anything of him?"

"Nothing, but the old story," said mamma.

"And what is that?" asked Lady Lorrimer.

"Only that he hates us with all his heart and soul, and never loses an
opportunity of doing us all the mischief he can. He has twice prevented
my husband getting into the House--and cost him a great deal more money
than he could afford; and he has had opportunities, from those old
money dealings that you know of between the two families, of
embarrassing my poor husband most cruelly. If you knew what enormous law
expenses we have been put to, and all the injuries he has done us, you
would say that you never heard of anything so implacable, so malignant,
and----"

"So natural," said Lady Lorrimer. "I don't mean to fight Sir Harry
Rokestone's battle for him. I dare say he has been stern and vindictive;
he was a proud, fierce man; and, my dear Mabel, you treated him very
ill; so did Francis Ware. If he treats you as you have treated him,
nothing can be much worse. I always liked him better than your husband;
he was better, and is better. I use the privilege of an old kinswoman;
and I say nothing could have been more foolish than your treatment of
him, except your choice of a husband. I think Francis Ware is one of
those men who never ought to have married. He is a clever man; but in
some respects, and these of very great importance, he has always acted
like a fool. Harry Rokestone was worth twenty of him, and would have
made a much better husband than ever he did. I always thought he was the
handsomer man; he had twice the real ability of Francis Ware; he had all
the masculine attributes of mind. I say nothing about his immensely
superior wealth; that you chose to regard as a point quite unworthy of
consideration. The only thing not in his favour was that he was some
years older."

"Twenty years nearly," said mamma.

"Well, my dear, a man with his peculiar kind of good looks, and his
commanding character, wears better than a younger man. You recollect the
answer of the old French mareschal to the young _petit-maître_ who asked
him his age. '_Je ne vous le dirai pas precisement; mais soyez sur qu'un
âne est plus âgé à vingt ans qu'un homme ne l'est à soixante._' I don't
say that the term would have fairly described Francis Ware. I know very
well he was brilliant; but those talents, if there are no more solid
gifts to support them, grow less and less suitable as men get into
years, until they become frivolous. However, I am sure that Harry
Rokestone does hate you both; and he's just the man to make his hatred
felt. The time has passed for forgiveness. When the fire of romance has
expired, the metal that might have taken another shape cools down and
hardens in the mould. He will never forgive or change, I am afraid; and
you must both lay your account with his persevering animosity. But, you
say, you haven't heard any story about him lately?"

"No, nothing."

"Well, old Mrs. Jennings, of Golden Friars, sometimes writes to me, and
she says he is going to marry that rich spinster, Miss Goulding of
Wrybiggins. She only says she hears so; and I thought you might know."

"I should not wonder--it is not at all an unlikely thing. I don't see
that they could do better; there's nothing to prevent it, so far as I
can see."

But although mamma thus applauded the arrangement, I could see that in
her inmost heart she did not like it. There is something of desertion in
these late marriages of long-cast-off lovers, who have worshipped our
shadows in secret, through lonely years; and I could see dimly a sad
little mortification in mamma's pretty face.

As we drove home I mused over Lady Lorrimer. The only disagreeable
recollection that disturbed my pleasant retrospect was that part of her
conversation that referred to papa. She said she "used the privilege of
an old kinswoman." I should have said abused it rather. But mamma did
not seem to resent it--I suppose they were on terms to discuss him; and
they either forgot me, or thought I had no business to be in the way. In
every other respect, I was very much pleased with my visit, as I well
might be. She was much more clever than I expected, more animated, more
fascinating. I was haunted with the thought how lovely she must have
been when she was young!

"Don't a great many older women than Lady Lorrimer go out a great deal?"
I asked.

"Yes," answered mamma, "but they have young people to take out very
often."

"But papa mentioned some this morning, who are everywhere, and never
chaperon any one."

"I suppose they enjoy it, as they can't live without it. Pull up that
window, dear."

"I wonder very much she doesn't go out; she's so handsome, really
beautiful, considering her years, I think; and so very agreeable."

"I suppose she doesn't care," she answered, a little drily.

"But she complained of being lonely," I resumed, "and I thought she
sighed when she spoke of my coming out, as if she would like a look at
the gay world again."

"My dear, you bore me; I suppose Lady Lorrimer will do, with respect to
that, as she does about everything else--precisely what pleases her
best."

These words mamma spoke in a way that very plainly expressed: "Now you
have heard, once for all, everything I mean to say on this subject; and
you will be good enough to talk and think of something quite different."



                            CHAPTER XXVII.

                          WHAT CAN SHE MEAN?


We had promised to go and see Lady Lorrimer again next day at the same
hour. My head was still full of her. Mamma did not come down to
breakfast; so I interrupted papa at his newspaper to sound him, very
much as I had sounded her.

"Why doesn't she stay at home, and go out?" he repeated, smiling faintly
as he did so. "I suppose she understands her own business; I can't
say--but you mustn't say anything of that kind before her. She has done
some foolish things, and got herself talked about; and you'll hear it
all, I daresay, time enough. She's not a bit worse than other people,
but a much greater fool; so don't ask people those questions, it would
vex your mamma, and do nobody any good, do you see?"

Shortly after this, Miss Pounden came down to tell me that we were not
going to see Lady Lorrimer that day. I was horribly disappointed, and
ran up to the drawing-room, where mamma then was, to learn the cause of
our visit being put off.

"Here, dear, is my aunt's note," she said, handing it to me, and
scarcely interrupting her consultation with her maid about the millinery
they were discussing. It was open, and I read these words:

     "My dear Mabel,--I must say good-bye a little earlier than I had
     intended. My plans are upset. I find my native air insupportable,
     and fly northward for my life! I am thinking at present of Buxton
     for a few days; the weather is so genial here, that my doctor tells
     me I may find it still endurable in that cold region. It grieves
     me not to see your dear faces before I go. Do not let your pretty
     daughter forget me. I may, it is just possible, return through
     London--so we may meet soon again. I shall have left Mivart's and
     begun my journey before this note reaches you. God bless you, my
     dear Mabel!--Your affectionate

                                                           Aunt."

So she was actually gone! What a dull day it would be! Well, there was
no good in railing at fate. But was I ever to see that charming lady
more?

In my drive that day with Miss Pounden, thinking it was just possible
that Lady Lorrimer, whimsical as she was said to be, might have once
more changed her mind, I called at Mivart's to inquire. She was no
longer there. She had left with bag and baggage, and all her servants,
that morning at nine o'clock. I had called with very little hope of
finding that her journey had been delayed, and I drove away with even
that small hope extinguished. She was my Mary, Queen of Scots. She had
done something too rash and generous for the epicurean, sarcastic, and
specious society of London. From the little that papa had said, I
conjectured that Lady Lorrimer's secession from society was not quite
voluntary; but she interested me all the more. In my dull life the loss
of my new acquaintance so soon was a real blow. Mamma was not much of a
companion to me. She liked to talk of people she knew, and to people who
knew them. Except what concerned my dress and accomplishments, we had as
yet no topics in common.

Dear Laura Grey, how I missed you now! The resentment I had felt at
first was long since quite lost in my real sorrow, and there remained
nothing but affectionate regrets.

I take up the thread of my personal narrative where I dropped it on the
day of my ineffectual visit at Lady Lorrimer's hotel. In the afternoon
Doctor Droqville came to see mamma. He had been to see Lady Lorrimer
that morning, just before she set out on her journey.

"She was going direct to Buxton, as she hinted to you," said Doctor
Droqville, "and I advised her to make a week's stay there. When she
leaves it, she says she is going on to Westmoreland, and to stay for a
fortnight or three weeks at Golden Friars. She's fanciful; there was
gout in her family, and she is full of gouty whims and horrors. She is
as well as a woman of her years need be, if she would only believe it."

"Have you heard lately from Mr. Carmel?" asked mamma.

I listened with a great deal of interest for the answer.

"Yes, I heard this morning," he replied. "He's in Wales."

"Not at Malory?" said mamma.

"No, not at Malory; a good way from Malory."

I should have liked to ask how long he had been in Wales, for I had been
secretly offended at his apparent neglect of me; but I could not muster
courage for the question.

Next morning I took it into my head that I should like a walk; and with
mamma's leave, Miss Pounden and I set out, of course keeping among the
quiet streets in the neighbourhood. While, as we walked, I was in high
chat with Miss Pounden, who was chiefly a listener, and sometimes, I
must admit, a rather absent one, I raised my eyes and could scarcely
believe their report. Not ten yards away, walking up the flagged way
towards us, were two figures. One was Lady Lorrimer I was certain. She
was dressed in a very full velvet cloak, and had a small book in her
hand. At her left, at a distance of more than a yard, walked a woman in
a peculiar costume. This woman looked surly, and stumped beside her with
a limp, as if one leg were shorter than the other. They approached at a
measured pace, looking straight before them, and in total silence.

My eyes were fixed on Lady Lorrimer with a smile, which I every moment
expected would be answered by one of recognition from her. But no such
thing. She must have seen me; but nearer and nearer they came. They
never deviated from their line of march. Lady Lorrimer continued to look
straight before her. It was the sternest possible "cut," insomuch that I
felt actually incredulous, and began to question my first
identification. Her velvet actually brushed my dress as I stood next
the railings. She passed me with her head high, and the same stony look.

"Shall we go on, dear?" asked Miss Pounden, who did not understand why
we had come to a standstill.

I moved on in silence; but the street being a very quiet one, I turned
about for a last look. I saw them ascend the steps of a house, and at
the same moment the door opened, and Mr. Carmel came out, with his hat
in his hand, and followed the two ladies in. The door was then shut. We
resumed our walk homeward. We had a good many streets to go through, and
I did not know my way. I was confounded, and walked on in utter silence,
looking down in confused rumination on the flags under my feet.

Till we got home I did not say a word; and then I sat down in my room,
and meditated on that odd occurrence, as well as my perturbation would
let me. It was a strange mixture of surprise, doubt, and intense
mortification. It was very stupid of me not to have ascertained at the
time the name of the street which was the scene of this incident. Miss
Pounden had never seen either Lady Lorrimer or Mr. Carmel; and the
occurrence had not made the least impression upon her. She could not
therefore help me, ever so little, next day, to recover the name of the
street in which I had stood still for a few seconds, looking at she knew
not what. There was just a film of doubt, derived from the inexplicable
behaviour of the supposed Lady Lorrimer. When I told mamma, she at first
insisted it was quite impossible. But, as I persisted, and went into
detail, she said it was very odd. She was thoughtful for a little time,
and sighed. Then she made me repeat all I had told her, and seemed very
uncomfortable, but did not comment upon it. At length she said:

"You must promise me, Ethel, not to say a word about it to your papa. It
would only lead to vexation. I have good reasons for thinking so. Speak
of it to no one. Let the matter rest. I don't think I shall ever
understand some people. But let us talk about it no more."

And with this charge the subject dropped.



                           CHAPTER XXVIII.

                           A SEMI-QUARREL.


Mamma did not remain long in town. Bleak as the weather now was, she and
papa went to Brighton for a fortnight. They then went, for a few days,
to Malory; and from that, northward, to Golden Friars. I dare say papa
would have liked to find Lady Lorrimer there. I don't know that he did.

I, meanwhile, was left in the care of Miss Pounden, who made a very
staid and careful chaperon. I danced every day, and pounded a piano, and
sang a little, and spoke French incessantly to Miss Pounden. My spirits
were sustained by the consciousness that I was very soon to come out. I
was not entirely abandoned to Miss Pounden's agreeable society. Mr.
Carmel re-appeared. Three times a week he came in and read, and spoke
Italian with me for an hour, Miss Pounden sitting by--at least, she was
supposed to be sitting there on guard--but she really was as often out
of the room as in it. One day I said to him:

"You know Lady Lorrimer, my aunt?"

"Yes," he answered, carelessly.

"Did you know she was my aunt?"

"Your great-aunt, yes."

"I wonder, then, why you never mentioned her to me," said I.

"There is nothing to wonder at," he replied, with a smile. "Respecting
her, I have no curiosity, and nothing to tell."

"Oh! But you must know something about her--ever so little--and I
really know nothing. Why does she lead so melancholy a life?"

"She has sickened of gaiety, I have been told."

"There's something more than that," I insisted.

"She's not young, you know, and society is a laborious calling."

"There's some reason; none of you will tell me," I said. "I used to tell
every one everything, until I found that no one told me anything; now I
say, 'Ethel, seal your lips, and open your ears; don't you be the only
fool in this listening, sly, suspicious world.' But, if you'll tell
nothing else, at least you'll tell me this. What were you all about when
you opened the door of a house, in some street not far from this, to
Lady Lorrimer, and an odd-looking woman who was walking beside her, on
the day after she had written to mamma to say she had actually left
London. What was the meaning of that deception?"

"I don't know whether Lady Lorrimer out-stayed the time of her intended
departure or not," he answered; "she would write what she pleased, and
to whom she pleased, without telling me. And now I must tell you, if
Lady Lorrimer had confided a harmless secret to me, I should not betray
it by answering either 'yes' or 'no' to any questions. Therefore, should
you question me upon any such subject, you must not be offended if I am
silent."

I was vexed.

"One thing you must tell me," I persisted. "I have been puzzling myself
over her very odd looks that day; and also over the odd manner and
disagreeable countenance of the woman who was walking at her side. Is
Lady Lorrimer, at times, a little out of her mind?"

"Who suggested that question?" he asked, fixing his eyes suddenly on me.

"Who suggested it?" I repeated. "No one. People, I suppose, can ask
their own questions."

I was surprised and annoyed, and I suppose looked so. I continued: "That
woman looked like a keeper, I fancied, and Lady Lorrimer--I don't know
what it was--but there was something so unaccountable about her."

"I don't know a great deal of Lady Lorrimer, but I am grateful to her
for, at least, one great kindness, that of having introduced me to your
family," he said; "and I can certainly testify that there is no clearer
mind anywhere. No suspicion of that kind can approach her; she is said
to be one of the cleverest, shrewdest intellects, and the most
cultivated, you can imagine. But people say she is an _esprit fort_, and
believes in nothing. It does not prevent her doing a kind office for a
person such as I. She has more charity than many persons who make loud
professions of faith."

I had felt a little angry at this short dialogue. He was practising
reserve, and he looked at one time a little stern, and unlike himself.

"But I want to ask you a question--only one more," I said, for I wished
to clear up my doubts.

"Certainly," he said, more like himself.

"About my meeting Lady Lorrimer that day, and seeing you, as I told
you." I paused, and he simply sat listening. "My question," I continued,
"is this--I may as well tell you; the whole thing appeared to me so
unaccountable that I have been ever since doubting the reality of what I
saw; and I want you simply to tell me whether it did happen as I have
described?"

At this renewed attack, Mr. Carmel's countenance underwent no change,
even the slightest, that could lead me to an inference; he said, with a
smile:

"It might, perhaps, be the easiest thing in the world for me to answer
distinctly, 'no;' but I remember that Dean Swift, when asked a certain
question, said that Lord Somers had once told him never to give a
negative answer, although truth would warrant it, to a question of that
kind; because, if he made that his habit, when he could give a denial,
whenever he declined to do so, would amount to an admission. I think
that a wise rule, and all such questions I omit to answer."

"That is an evasion," I replied, in high indignation.

"Forgive me, it is no evasion--it is simply silence."

"You know it is cowardly, and indirect, and--characteristic," I
persisted, in growing wrath.

He was provokingly serene.

"Well, let me give you another reason for silence respecting Lady
Lorrimer. Your mamma has specially requested me to keep silence on the
subject; and in your case, Miss Ethel, her daughter, can I consider that
request otherwise than as a command?"

"Not comprehending casuistry, I don't quite see how your promise to
papa, to observe silence respecting the differences of the two Churches,
is less binding than your promise to mamma of silence respecting Lady
Lorrimer."

"Will you allow me to answer that sarcasm?" he asked, flushing a little.

"How I hate hypocrisy and prevarication!" I repeated, rising even above
my old level of scorn.

"I have been perfectly direct," he said, "upon that subject; for the
reason I have mentioned, I can't and won't speak."

"Then for the present, I think, we shall talk upon no other," I said,
getting up, going out of the room, and treating him at the door to a
haughty little bow.

So we parted for that day.

I understood Mr. Carmel, however; I knew that he had acted as he always
did when he refused to do what other people wished, from a reason that
was not to be overcome; and I don't recollect that I ever renewed my
attack. We were on our old terms in a day or two. Between the stanzas of
Tasso, often for ten minutes unobserved, he talked upon the old
themes--eternity, faith, the Church, the saints, the Blessed Virgin. He
supplied me with books; but this borrowing and lending was secret as the
stolen correspondence of lovers.

I have thought over that strange period of my life: the little books
that wrought such wonders, the spell of whose power is broken now; the
tone of mind induced by them, by my solitude, my agitations, the
haunting affections of the dead; and all these influences re-acting
again upon the cold and supernatural character of Mr. Carmel's talk. My
exterior life had been going on, the rural monotony of Malory, its
walks, its boating, its little drives; and now the dawning ambitions of
a more vulgar scene, the town life, the excitement of a new world were
opening. But among these realities, ever recurring, and dominating all,
there seemed to be ever present a stupendous vision!

So it seemed to me my life was divided between frivolous realities and a
gigantic trance. Into this I receded every now and then, alone and
unwatched. The immense perspective of a towering cathedral aisle seemed
to rise before me, shafts and ribbed stone, lost in smoke of incense
floating high in air; mitres and gorgeous robes, and golden furniture of
the altar, and chains of censers and jewelled shrines, glimmering far
off in the tapers' starlight, and the inspired painting of the
stupendous Sacrifice reared above the altar in dim reality. I fancied I
could hear human voices, plaintive and sublime as the aërial choirs
heard high over dying saints and martyrs by faithful ears; and the
mellow thunder of the organ rolling through unseen arches above.
Sometimes, less dimly, I could see the bowed heads of myriads of
worshippers, "a great multitude, which no man could number, of all
nations, and kindreds, and peoples, and tongues." It was, to my
visionary senses, the symbol of the Church. Always the self-same
stupendous building, the same sounds and sights, the same high-priest
and satellite bishops; but seen in varying lights--now in solemn beams,
striking down and crossing the shadow in mighty bars of yellow, crimson,
green, and purple through the stained windows, and now in the dull red
gleam of the tapers.

Was I more under the influence of religion in this state? I don't
believe I was. My imagination was exalted, my anxiety was a little
excited, and the subject generally made me more uncomfortable than it
did before. Some of the forces were in action which might have pushed
me, under other circumstances, into a decided course. One thing, which
logically had certainly no bearing upon the question, did affect me, I
now know, powerfully. There was a change in Mr. Carmel's manner which
wounded me, and piqued my pride. I used to think he took an interest in
Ethel Ware. He seemed now to feel none, except in the discharge of his
own missionary duties, and I fancied that, if it had not been for his
anxiety to acquit himself of a task imposed by others, and exacted by
his conscience, I should have seen no more of Mr. Carmel.

I was a great deal too proud to let him perceive my resentment--I was
just as usual--I trifled and laughed, read my Italian, and made
blunders, and asked questions; and, in those intervals of which I have
spoken, I listened to what he had to say, took the books he offered, and
thanked him with a smile, but with no great fervour. The temperature of
our town drawing-room was perceptibly cooler than that of Malory, and
the distance between our two chairs had appreciably increased.
Nevertheless, we were apparently, at least, very good friends.

But terms like these are sometimes difficult to maintain. I was vexed at
his seeming to acquiesce so easily in my change of manner, which,
imperceptible to any one else, I somehow knew could not be hidden from
him. I had brought down, and laid on the drawing-room table at which we
sat, the only book which I then had belonging to Mr. Carmel. It was
rather a dark day. Something in the weather made me a little more cross
than usual. Miss Pounden was, according to her wont, flitting to and
fro, and not minding in the least what we read or said. I laid down my
Tasso, and laughed. Mr. Carmel looked at me a little puzzled.

"That, I think, is the most absurd stanza we have read. I ought, I
suppose, to say the most sublime. But it is as impossible to read it
without laughing as to read the rest without yawning."

I said this with more scorn than I really felt, but it certainly was one
of those passages in which good Homer nods. A hero's head is cut off, I
forget his name--a kinsman, I daresay, of Saint Denis; and he is so
engrossed with the battle that he forgets his loss, and goes on fighting
for some time.

"I hope it is not very wrong, and very stupid, but I am so tired of the
_Gerusalemme Liberata_."

He looked at me for a moment or two. I think he did not comprehend the
spirit in which I said all this, but perhaps he suspected something of
it--he looked a little pained.

"But, I hope, you are not tired of Italian? There are other authors."

"Yes, so there are. I should like Ariosto, I daresay. I like
fairy-tales, and that is the reason, I think, I like reading the lives
of the saints, and the other books you have been so kind as to lend me."

I said this quite innocently, but there was a great deal of
long-husbanded cruelty in it. He dropped his fine eyes to the table, and
leaned for a short time on his hand.

"Well, even so, it is something gained to have read them," meditated Mr.
Carmel, and looking up at me, he added, "and we never know by what
childish instincts and simple paths we may be led to the sublimest
elevations."

There was so much gentleness in his tone and looks that my heart smote
me. My momentary compunction, however, did not prevent my going on, now
that I had got fairly afloat.

"I have brought down the book you were so kind as to lend me last week.
I am sure it is very eloquent, but there's so much I cannot understand."

"Can I explain anything?" he began, taking up the book at the same time.

"I did not mean that--no. I was going to return it, with my very best
thanks," I said. "I have been reading a great deal that is too high for
me--books meant for wiser people and deeper minds than mine."

"The mysteries of faith remain, for all varieties of mind, mysteries
still," he answered sadly. "No human vision can pierce the veil. I do
not flatter you, but I have met with no brighter intelligence than
yours. In death the scales will fall from our eyes. Until then, yea must
be yea, and nay, nay, and let us be patient."

"I don't know, Mr. Carmel, that I ought to read these books without
papa's consent. I have imperceptibly glided into this kind of reading.
'I will tell you about Swedenborg,' you said; 'we must not talk of Rome
or Luther--we can't agree, and they are forbidden subjects,' do you
remember? And then you told me what an enemy Swedenborg was of the
Catholic Church--you remember that? And then you read me what he said
about vastation, as he calls it; and you lent me the book to read; and
when you took it back, you explained to me that his account of vastation
differs in no respect from purgatory; and in the same way, when I read
the legends of the saints, you told me a great deal more of your
doctrine; and in the same way, also, you discussed those beautiful old
hymns, so that in a little while, although, as you said, Rome and Luther
were forbidden subjects, or rather names, I found myself immersed in a
controversy, which I did not understand, with a zealous and able priest.
You have been artful, Mr. Carmel!"

"Have I been artful in trying to save you?" he answered gently.

"You would not, I think, practise the same arts with other people--you
treat me like a fool," I said. "You would not treat that Welsh lady so,
whom you visit--I mean--I really forget her name, but you remember all
about her."

He rose unconsciously, and looked for a minute from the window.

"A good priest," he said, returning, "is no respecter of persons.
Blessed should I be if I could beguile a benighted traveller into
safety! Blessed and happy were my lot if I could die in the endeavour
thus to save one human soul bent on self-destruction!"

His answer vexed me. The theological level on which he placed all human
souls did not please me. After all our friendly evenings at Malory, I
did not quite understand his being, as he seemed to boast, no "respecter
of persons."

"I am sure that it is quite right," I said, carelessly, "and very
prudent, too, because, if you were to lose your life in converting me,
or a Hottentot chief, or anyone else, you would, you think, go straight
to heaven; so, after all, the wish is not altogether too heroic for this
selfish world."

He smiled; but there was doubt, I thought, in the eyes which he turned
for a moment upon me.

"Our motives are so mixed," he said, "and death, besides, is to some men
less than happier people think; my life has been austere and afflicted;
and what remains of it will, I know, be darker. I see sometimes where
all is drifting. I never was so happy, and I never shall be, as I have
been for a time at Malory. I shall see that place perhaps no more. Happy
the people whose annals are dull!" he smiled. "How few believe that
well-worn saying in their own case! Yet, Miss Ethel, when you left
Malory, you left quiet behind you, perhaps for ever!"

He was silent; I said nothing. The spirit of what he had said echoed,
though he knew it not, the forebodings of my own heart. The late evening
sun was touching with its slanting beams the houses opposite, and the
cold grimy brick in which the dingy taste of our domestic architecture
some forty years before delighted; and as I gazed listlessly from my
chair, through the window, on the dismal formality of the street, I saw
in the same sunlight nothing of those bricks and windows: I saw Malory
and the church-tower, the trees, the glimmering blue of the estuary, the
misty mountains, all fading in the dreamy quietude of the declining
light, and I sighed.

"Well, then," he said, closing the book, "we close Tasso here. If you
care to try Ariosto, I shall be only too happy. Shall we commence
to-morrow? And as for our other books, those I mean that you were good
enough to read----"

"I'm not afraid of them," I said: "we shan't break our old Malory custom
yet; and I ought to be very grateful to you, Mr. Carmel."

His countenance brightened, but the unconscious reproach of his wounded
look still haunted me. And after he was gone, with a confusion of
feelings which I could not have easily analysed, I laid my hands over my
eyes, and cried for some time bitterly.



                            CHAPTER XXIX.

                             MY BOUQUET.


I remember so vividly the night of my first ball. The excitement of the
toilet; mamma's and the maid's consultations and debates; the tremulous
anticipations; the "pleasing terror;" the delightful, anxious flutter,
and my final look in the tall glass. I hardly knew myself. I gazed at
myself with the irrepressible smile of elation. I never had looked so
well. There are degrees of that delightful excitement that calls such
tints to girlish cheeks, and such fires to the eyes, as visit them no
more in our wiser after-life. The enchantment wanes, and the flowers and
brilliants fade and we soon cease to see them. I went down to the
drawing-room to wait for mamma. The candles were lighted, and whom
should I find there but Mr. Carmel?

"I asked your mamma's leave to come and see you dressed for your first
ball," he said. "How very pretty it all is!"

He surveyed me, smiling with a melancholy pride, it seemed to me, in my
good looks and brilliant dress.

"No longer, and never more, the Miss Ethel of my quiet Malory
recollections. Going out at last! If any one can survive the ordeal and
come forth scathless, you, I think, will. But to me it seems that this
is a farewell, and that my pupil dies to-night, and a new Miss Ethel
returns. You cannot help it; all the world cannot prevent it, if so it
is to be. As an old friend, I knew I might bring you these."

"Oh, Mr. Carmel, what beautiful flowers!" I exclaimed.

It was certainly an exquisite bouquet; one of those beautiful and costly
offerings that perish in an hour, and seems to me like the pearl thrown
into the cup of wine.

"I am so grateful. It was so kind of you. It is too splendid a great
deal. It is quite impossible that there can be anything like it in the
room."

I was really lost in wonder and admiration, and I suppose looked
delighted. I was pleased that the flowers should have come from Mr.
Carmel's hand.

"If you think that the flowers are worthy of you, you think more highly
than I do of them," he answered, with a smile that was at once sad and
pleased. "I am such an old friend, you know; a month at quiet Malory
counts for a year anywhere else. And as you say of the flowers, I may
say more justly of my pupil, there will be no one like her there. It is
the compensation of being such as I, that we may speak frankly, like
good old women, and no one be offended. And, oh, Miss Ethel, may God
grant they be not placed like flowers upon a sacrifice or on the dead.
Do not forget your better thoughts. You are entering scenes of illusion,
where there is little charity, and almost no sincerity, where cruel
feelings are instilled, the love of flattery and dominion awakened, and
all the evil and enchantments of the world beset you. Encourage those
good thoughts; watch and pray, or a painless and even pleasant death
sets in, and no one can arrest it."

How my poor father would have laughed at such an exhortation at the
threshold of a ball-room! No doubt it had its comic side, but not for
me, and that was all Mr. Carmel cared for.

This was a ball at an official residence, and besides the usual muster,
Cabinet and other Ministers would be there, and above all, that
judicious rewarder of public virtue, and instructor of the conscience of
the hustings, the patronage secretary of the Treasury. Papa had at last
discovered a constituency which he thought promised success, he had made
it a point, of course, to go to places where he had opportunities for a
talk with that important personage. Papa was very sanguine, and now, as
usual, whenever he had a project of that kind on hand, was in high
spirits.

He came into the drawing-room. He always seemed to me as if he did not
quite know whether he liked or disliked Mr. Carmel. Whenever I saw them
together, he appeared to me, like Mrs. Malaprop, to begin with a little
aversion, and gradually to become more and more genial. He greeted Mr.
Carmel a little coldly, and brightened as he looked on me; he was
evidently pleased with me, and talked me over with myself very
good-humouredly. I took care to show him my flowers. He could not help
admiring them.

"These are the best flowers I have seen anywhere. How did you contrive
to get them? Really, Mr. Carmel, you are a great deal too kind. I hope
Ethel thanked you. Ethel, you ought really to tell Mr. Carmel how very
much obliged you are."

"Oh! she has thanked me a great deal too much; she has made me quite
ashamed," said he.

And so we talked on, waiting for mamma, and I remember papa said he
wondered how Mr. Carmel, who had lived in London and at Oxford, and at
other places, where in one kind of life or another one really does live,
contrived to exist month after month at Malory, and he drew an amusing
and cruel picture of its barbarism and the nakedness of the town of
Cardyllion. Mr. Carmel took up the cudgels for both, and I threw in a
word wherever I had one to say. I remember this laughing debate, because
it led to this little bit of dialogue.

"I fortunately never bought many things there--two brushes, I remember;
all their hairs fell out, and they were bald before the combs they sent
for to London arrived. If I had been dependent on the town of
Cardyllion, I should have been reduced to a state of utter simplicity."

"Oh, but I assure you, papa, they have a great many very nice things at
Jones's shop in Castle Street," I remonstrated.

"Certainly not for one's dressing room. There are tubs at the regattas,
and sponges at their dinners, I daresay," papa began, in a punning
vein.

"But you'll admit that London supplies no such cosmetics as Malory,"
said Mr. Carmel, with a kind glance at me.

"Well, you have me there, I admit," laughed papa, looking very
pleasantly at me, who, no doubt, was at that moment the centre of many
wild hopes of his.

Mamma came down now; there was no time to lose. My heart bounded, half
with fear. Mr. Carmel came downstairs with us, and saw us into the
carriage. He stood at the door-steps smiling, his short cloak wrapped
about him, his hat in his hand. Now the horses made their clattering
scramble forward; the carriage was in motion. Mr. Carmel's figure, in
the attitude of his last look, receded; he was gone; it was like a
farewell to Malory, and we were rolling on swiftly towards the
ball-room, and a new life for me.

I am not going to describe this particular ball, nor my sensations on
entering this new world, so artificial and astonishing. What an arduous
life, with its stupendous excitement, fatigues, and publicity! There
were in the new world on which I was entering, of course, personal
affections and friendships, as among all other societies of human
beings. But the canons on which it governs itself are, it seemed to me,
inimical to both. The heart gives little, and requires little there. It
assumes nothing deeper than relations of acquaintance; and there is no
time to bestow on any other. It is the recognised business of every one
to enjoy, and if people have pains or misfortunes they had best keep
them to themselves, and smile. No one has a right to be ailing or
unfortunate, much less to talk as if he were so, in that happy valley.
Such people are "tainted wethers of the flock," and are bound to abolish
themselves forthwith. No doubt kind things are done, and charitable, by
people who live in it. But they are no more intended to see the light of
that life than Mr. Snake's good-natured actions were. This dazzling
microcosm, therefore, must not be expected to do that which it never
undertook. Its exertions in pursuit of pleasure are enormous; its
exhaustion prodigious; the necessary restorative cycle must not be
interrupted by private agonies, small or great. If that were permitted,
who could recruit for his daily task? I am relating, after an interval
of very many years, the impressions of a person who, then very young,
was a denizen of "the world" only for a short time; but the application
of these principles of selfishness seemed to me sometimes ghastly.

One thing that struck me very much in a little time was that society, as
it is termed, was so limited in numbers. You might go everywhere, it
seemed to me, and see, as nearly as possible, the same people night
after night. The same cards always, merely shuffled. This, considering
the size and wealth of England and of London, did seem to me
unaccountable.

My first season, like that of every girl who is admired and danced with
a great deal, was glorified by illusions, chief among which was that the
men who danced with me as they could every night did honestly adore me.
We learn afterwards how much and how little those triumphs mean; that
new faces are liked simply because they are new; and that girls are
danced with because they are the fashion and dance well. I am not
boasting--I was admired; and papa was in high good-humour and spirits.
There is sunshine even in that region; like winter suns, bright but
cold. Such as it is, let the birds of that enchanted forest enjoy it
while it lasts; flutter their wings and sing in its sheen, for it may
not be for long.



                             CHAPTER XXX.

                    THE KNIGHT OF THE BLACK CASTLE.


My readings with Mr. Carmel totally ceased; in fact, there was no time
for any but that one worship which now absorbed me altogether. Every now
and then, however, he was in London, and mamma, in the drawing-room,
used at times to converse with him, in so low a tone, so earnestly and
so long, that I used to half suspect her of making a shrift, and
receiving a whispered absolution. Mamma, indeed, stood as it were with
just one foot upon the very topmost point of our "high church," ready to
spread her wings, and to float to the still more exalted level of the
cross on the dome of St. Peter's. But she always hesitated when the
moment for making the aërial ascent arrived, and was still trembling in
her old attitude on her old pedestal.

I don't think mamma's theological vagaries troubled papa. Upon all such
matters he talked like a good-natured Sadducee; and if religion could
have been carried on without priests, I don't think he would have
objected to any of its many forms.

Mamma had Mr. Carmel to luncheon often, during his stay in town.
Whenever he could find an opportunity, he talked with me. He struggled
hard to maintain his hold upon me. Mamma seemed pleased that he should;
yet I don't think that she had made up her mind even upon my case. I
daresay, had I then declared myself a "Catholic," she would have been in
hysterics. Her own religious state, just then, I could not perfectly
understand. I don't think she did. She was very uncomfortable about once
a fortnight. Her tremors returned when a cold or any other accident had
given her a dull day.

When the season was over, I went with papa and mamma to some country
houses, and while they completed their circuit of visits Miss Pounden
and I were despatched to Malory. The new world which had dazzled me for
a time had not changed me. I had acquired a second self; but my old self
was still living. It had not touched my heart, nor changed my simple
tastes. I enjoyed the quiet of Malory, and its rural ways, and should
have been as happy there as ever, if I could only have recovered the
beloved companions whom I missed.

My loneliness was very agreeably relieved one day, as I was walking home
from Penruthyn Priory, by meeting Mr. Carmel. He joined me, and we
sauntered towards home in very friendly talk. He was to make a little
stay at the steward's house. We agreed to read _I Promessi Sposi_
together. Malory was recovering its old looks. I asked him all the news
that he was likely to know and I cared to hear.

"Where was Lady Lorrimer?" I inquired.

Travelling, he told me, on the Continent, he could not say where. "We
must not talk of her," he said, with a shrug and a laugh. "I think, Miss
Ware, we were never so near quarrelling upon any subject as upon Lady
Lorrimer, and I then resolved never again to approach that irritating
topic."

So with common consent we talked of other things, among which I asked
him:

"Do you remember Mr. Marston?"

"You mean the shipwrecked man who was quartered for some days at the
steward's house?" he asked. "Yes--I remember him very well." He seemed
to grow rather pale as he looked at me, and added, "Why do you ask?"

"Because," I answered, "you told me that he was in good society, and I
have not seen him anywhere--not once."

"He was in society; but he's not in London, nor in England now, I
believe. I once knew him pretty well, and I know only too much of him. I
know him for a villain; and had he been still in England I should have
warned you again, Miss Ethel, and warned your mamma, also, against
permitting him to claim your acquaintance. But I don't think he will be
seen again in this part of the world--not, at all events, until after
the death of a person who is likely to live a long time."

"But what has he done?" I asked.

"I can't tell you--I can't tell you how cruelly he has wounded me," he
answered. "I have told you in substance all I know, when I say he is a
villain."

"I do believe, Mr. Carmel, your mission on earth is to mortify my
curiosity. You won't tell me anything of any one I'm the least curious
to hear about."

"He is a person I hate to talk of, or even to think of. He is a
villain--he is incorrigible--and, happen what may, a villain, I think,
he will be to the end."

I was obliged to be satisfied with this, for I had learned that it was a
mere waste of time trying to extract from Mr. Carmel any secret which he
chose to keep.

Here, then, in the old scenes, our quiet life began for awhile once
more. I did not see more of Mr. Carmel now than formerly, and there
continued the slightly altered tone, in talk and manner, which had
secretly so sorely vexed me in town, and which at times I almost
ascribed to my fancy.

Mr. Carmel's stay at Malory was desultory, too, as before; he was often
absent for two or three days together. During one of these short
absences, there occurred a very trifling incident, which, however, I
must mention.

The castle of Cardyllion is a vast ruin, a military fortress of the
feudal times, built on a great scale, and with prodigious strength. Its
ponderous walls and towers are covered thick with ivy. It is so vast
that the few visitors who are to be found there when the summer is over,
hardly disquiet its wide solitudes and its silence. For a time I induced
Miss Pounden to come down there nearly every afternoon, and we used to
bring our novels, and she, sometimes her work; and we sat in the old
castle, feeling, in the quiet autumn, as if we had it all to ourselves.
The inner court is nearly two hundred feet square, and, ascending a
circular stair in the angle next the great gate, you find yourself at
the end of a very dark stone-floored corridor, running the entire
length of the building. This long passage is lighted at intervals by
narrow loop-holes placed at the left; and in the wall to the right,
after having passed several doors, you come, about mid-way, to one
admitting to the chapel. It is a small stone-floored chamber, with a
lofty groined roof, very gracefully proportioned; a tall stone-shafted
window admits a scanty light from the east, over the site of the
dismantled altar; deep shadow prevails everywhere else in this pretty
chapel, which is so dark in most parts that, in order to read or work,
one must get directly under the streak of light that enters through the
window, necessarily so narrow as not to compromise the jealous rules of
mediæval fortification. A small arch, at each side of the door, opens a
view of this chamber from two small rooms, or galleries, reached by
steps from this corridor.

We had placed our camp-stools nearly under this window, and were both
reading; when I raised my eyes they encountered those of a very
remarkable-looking old man, whom I instantly recognised, with a start.
It was the man whom we used, long ago, to call the Knight of the Black
Castle. His well-formed, bronzed face and features were little changed,
except for those lines that time deepens or produces. His dark, fierce
eyes were not dimmed by the years that had passed, but his long black
hair, which was uncovered, as tall men in those low passages were
obliged to remove their hats, was streaked now with grey. This stern old
man was gazing fixedly on me, from the arch beside the door, to my left,
as I looked at him, and he did not remove his eyes as mine met his.
Sullen, gloomy, stern was the face that remained inflexibly fixed in the
deep shadow which enhanced its pallor. I turned with an effort to my
companion, and said:

"Suppose we come out, and take a turn in the grounds."

To which, as indeed to everything I proposed, Miss Pounden assented.

I walked for a minute or two about the chapel before I stole a glance
backward at the place where I had seen the apparition. He was gone. The
arch, and the void space behind, were all that remained; there was
nothing but deep shadow where that face had loomed. I asked Miss
Pounden if she had seen the old man looking in; she had not.

Well, we left the chapel, and retraced our steps through the long
corridor, I watching through the successive loop-holes for the figure of
the old man pacing the grass beneath; but I did not see him. Down the
stairs we came, I peeping into every narrow doorway we passed, and so
out upon the grassy level of the inner court. I looked in all directions
there, but nowhere could I see him. Under the arched gateway, where the
portcullis used to clang, we passed into the outer court, and there I
peeped about, also in vain.

I dare say Miss Pounden, if she could wonder at anything, wondered what
I could be in pursuit of; but that most convenient of women never
troubled me with a question.

Through the outer gate, in turn, we passed, and to Richard Pritchard's
lodge, at the side of the gate admitting visitors from Castle Street to
the castle grounds. Tall Richard Pritchard, with his thin stoop, his
wide-awake hat, brown face, lantern jaws, and perpetual smirk, listened
to my questions, and answered that he had let in such a gentleman, about
ten minutes before, as I described. This gentleman had given his horse
to hold to a donkey-boy outside the gate, and Richard Pritchard went on
to say, with his usual volubility, and his curious interpolation of
phrases of politeness, without the slightest regard to their connection
with the context, but simply to heighten the amiability and polish of
his discourse:

"And he asked a deal, miss, about the family down at Malory, I beg your
pardon; and when he heard you were there, miss, he asked if you ever
came down to the town--yes, indeed. So when I told him you were in the
castle now--very well, I thank you, miss--he asked whereabout in the
castle you were likely to be--yes, indeed, miss, very true--and he gave
me a shilling--he did, indeed--and I showed him the way to the chapel--I
beg your pardon, miss--where you very often go--very true indeed, miss;
and so I left him at the top of the stairs. Ah, ha! yes, indeed, miss;
and he came back just two or three minutes, and took his horse and
rode down towards the water gate--very well, I thank you, miss."

This was the substance of Richard Pritchard's information. So, then, he
had ridden down Castle Street and out of the town. It was odd his caring
to have that look at me. What could he mean by it? His was a countenance
ominous of nothing good. After so long an interval, it was not pleasant
to see it again, especially associated with inquiries about Malory and
its owners, and the sinister attraction which had drawn him to the
chapel to gaze upon me, and, as I plainly perceived, by no means with
eyes of liking. The years that had immediately followed his last visit,
I knew had proved years of great loss and peril to papa. May heaven
avert the omen! I silently prayed. I knew that old Rebecca Torkill could
not help to identify, him, for I had been curious on the point before.
She could not bring to her recollection the particular scene that had so
fixed itself upon my memory; for, as she said, in those evil years there
was hardly a day that did not bring down some bawling creditor from
London to Malory in search of papa.



                            CHAPTER XXXI.

                            RUSTICATION.


Malory was not visited that year by either papa or mamma. I had been so
accustomed to a lonely life there that my sojourn in that serene and
beautiful spot never seemed solitary. Besides, town life would open
again for me in the early spring. Had it not been for that near and
exciting prospect, without Laura Grey, I might possibly have felt my
solitude more; but the sure return to the whirl and music of the world
made my rural weeks precious. They were to end earlier even than our
return to town. I was written for, to Roydon, where mamma and papa then
were making a short visit, and was deposited safely in that splendid but
rather dull house by Miss Pounden, who sped forthwith to London, where I
suppose she enjoyed her liberty her own quiet way.

I enjoyed very much our flitting from country-house to country-house,
and the more familiar society of that kind of life. As these
peregrinations and progresses, however, had no essential bearing upon my
history, I shall mention them only to say this. At Roydon I met a person
whom I very little expected to see there. The same person afterwards
turned up at a very much pleasanter house--I mean Lady Mardykes's house
at Carsbrook, where a really delightful party were assembled. Who do you
think this person was? No titled person--not known to the readers of
newspapers, except as a name mentioned now and then as forming a unit in
a party at some distinguished house; no brilliant name in the lists of
talent; a man apparently not worth propitiating on any score: and yet
everywhere, and knowing everybody! Who, I say, do you suppose he was?
Simply Doctor Droqville! In London I had seen him very often. He used to
drop in at balls or garden-parties for an hour or two, and vanish. There
was a certain decision, animation, and audacity in his talk, which
seemed, although I did not like it, to please better judges very well.
No one appeared to know much more about him than I did. Some people, I
suppose, like mamma, did know quite enough; but by far the greater part
took him for granted, and seeing that other people had him at their
houses, did likewise.

Very agreeably the interval passed; and in due time we found ourselves
once more in London.

My second season wanted something of the brilliant delirium of the
first; and yet, I think I enjoyed it more. Papa was not in such spirits
by any means. I dare say, as my second season drew near its close, he
was disappointed that I was not already a peeress. But papa had other
grounds for anxiety; and very anxious he began to look. It was quite
settled now that at the next election he was to stand for the borough of
Shillingsworth, with the support of the Government. Every one said he
would do very well in the House; but that we ought to have begun
earlier. Papa was full of it; but somehow not quite so sanguine and
cheery as he used to be about his projects. I had seen ministers looking
so haggard and overworked, and really suffering at times, that I began
to think that politics were as fatiguing a pursuit almost as pleasure.
The iron seemed to have entered into poor papa's soul already.

Although our breakfast hour was late, mamma was hardly ever down to it,
and I not always. But one day when we did happen to be all three at
breakfast together, he put down his newspaper with a rustle on his knee,
and said to mamma, "I have been intending to ask you this long time, and
I haven't had an opportunity--or at least it has gone out of my head
when I might have asked; have you been writing lately to Lady Lorrimer?"

"Yes, I--at least, I heard from her, a little more than a week ago--a
very kind letter--she wrote from Naples--she has been there for the
winter."

"And quite well?"

"Complaining a little, as usual; but I suppose she is really quite
well."

"I wish she did not hate me quite so much as she does," said papa. "I'd
write to her myself--I dare say you haven't answered her letter?"

"Well, really, you know, just now it is not easy to find time," mamma
began.

"Oh! hang it, time! Why, you forget you have really nothing to do,"
answered papa, more tartly than I had ever heard him speak to mamma
before. "You don't answer her letters, I think; at least not for months
after you get them! I don't wish you to flatter her--I wish that as
little as you do--but I think you might be civil--where's the good of
irritating her?"

"I never said I saw any," answered mamma, a little high.

"No; but I see the mischief of it," he continued; "it's utter folly--and
it's not right, besides. You'll just lose her, that'll be the end of
it--she is the only one of your relations who really cares anything
about you--and she intends making Ethel a present--diamonds--it is just,
I do believe, that she wishes to show what she intends further. You are
the person she would naturally like to succeed her in anything she has
to leave; and you take such a time about answering her letters, you seem
to wish to vex her. You'll succeed at last--and, I can tell you, you
can't afford to throw away friendship just now. I shall want every
friend, I mean every real friend, I can count upon. More than you think
depends on this affair. If I'm returned for Shillingsworth, I'm quite
certain I shall get something very soon--and if I once get it, depend
upon it, I shall get on. Some people would say I'm a fool for my pains,
but it is money very well spent--it is the only money, I really think, I
ever laid out wisely in my life, and it is a very serious matter our
succeeding in this. Did not your aunt Lorrimer say that she thought she
would be at Golden Friars again this year?"

"Yes, I think so; why?" said mamma, listlessly.

"Because she must have some influence over that beast Rokestone--I often
wonder what devil has got hold of my affairs, or how Rokestone happens
to meet me at so many points--and if she would talk to him a little, she
might prevent his doing me a very serious mischief. She is sure to see
him when she goes down there."

"He's not there often, you know; I can always find a time to go to
Golden Friars without a chance of seeing him. I shall never see him
again, I hope." I thought mamma sighed a little, as she said this. "But
I'll write and ask Lady Lorrimer to say whatever you wish to him, when
her visit to Golden Friars is quite decided on."

So the conversation ended, and upon that theme was not resumed, at least
within my hearing, during the remainder of our stay in town.

My journal, which I kept pretty punctually during that season, lies open
on the table before me. I have been aiding my memory with it. It has,
however, helped me to nothing that bears upon my story. It is a
register, for the most part, of routine. Now we lunched with Lady
This--now we went to the Duchess of So-and-so's garden-party--every
night either a ball, or a musical party, or the opera. Sometimes I was
asked out to dinner, sometimes we went to the play. Ink and leaves are
discoloured by time. The score years and more that have passed, have
transformed this record of frivolity into a solemn and melancholy
Mentor. So many of the names that figure there have since been carved on
tombstones! Among those that live still, and hold their heads up, there
is change everywhere--some for better, some for worse; and yet riven,
shattered, scattered, as this muster-roll is, with perfect continuity
and solidity, that smiling Sadduceeic world without a home, the
community that lives out of doors, and accepts, as it seems to me,
satire and pleasure in lieu of the affections, lives and works on upon
its old principles and aliment; diamonds do not fail, nor liveries, nor
high-bred horses, nor pretty faces, nor witty men, nor chaperons, nor
fools, nor rascals.

I must tell you, however, what does not distinctly appear in this diary.
Among the many so-called admirers who asked for dances in the ball-room,
were two who appeared to like me with a deeper feeling than the others.
One was handsome Colonel Saint-George Dacre, with an estate of thirty
thousand a year, as my friends told mamma, who duly conveyed the fact to
me. But young ladies, newly come out and very much danced with, are
fastidious, and I was hard to please. My heart was not pre-occupied, but
even in my lonely life I had seen men who interested me more. I liked my
present life and freedom too well, and shrank from the idea of being
married. The other was Sir Henry Park, also rich, but older. Papa, I
think, looked even higher for me, and fancied that I might possibly
marry so as to make political connection for him. He did not, therefore,
argue the question with me; but overrating me more than I did myself,
thought he was quite safe in leaving me free to do as I pleased.

These gentlemen, therefore, were, with the most polite tenderness for
their feelings, dismissed--one at Brighton, in August; the other, a
little later, at Carsbrook, where he chose to speak. I have mentioned
these little affairs in the order in which they occurred, as I might
have to allude to them in the pages that follow.

Every one has, once or twice, in his or her life, I suppose, commenced a
diary which was to have been prosecuted as diligently and perseveringly
as that of Samuel Pepys. I did, I know, oftener than I could now tell
you; I have just mentioned one of mine, and from this fragmentary
note-book I give you the following extracts, which happen to help my
narrative at this particular point.

"At length, thank Heaven! news of darling Laura Grey. I can hardly
believe that I am to see her so soon. I wonder whether I shall be able,
a year hence, to recall the delight of this expected moment. It is true,
there is a great deal to qualify my happiness, for her language is
ominous. Still it will be delightful to meet her, and hear her
adventures, and have one of our good long talks together, such as made
Malory so happy.

"I was in mamma's room about half-an-hour ago; she was fidgeting about
in her dressing-gown and slippers, and had just sat down before her
dressing-table, when Wentworth (her maid) came in with letters by the
early post. Mamma has as few secrets, I think, as most people, and her
correspondence is generally very uninteresting. Whenever I care to read
them, she allows me to amuse myself with her letters when she has opened
and read them herself. I was in no mood to do so to-day; but I fancied I
saw a slight but distinct change in her careless looks as she peeped
into one. She read it a second time, and handed it to me. It is, indeed,
from Laura Grey! It says that she is in great affliction, and that she
will call at our town house 'to-morrow,' that is to-day, 'Thursday,' at
one o'clock, to try whether mamma would consent to see her.

"'I think that very cool. I don't object to seeing her, however,' said
mamma; 'but she shall know what I think of her.'

"I don't like the idea of such an opening as mamma would make. I must
try to see Laura before she meets her. She must have wonders to tell me;
it cannot have been a trifling thing that made her use me, apparently,
so unkindly.

"Thursday--half-past one. No sign of Laura yet.

"Thursday--six o'clock. She has not appeared! What am I to think?

"Her letter is written, as it seems to me, in the hurry of agitation. I
can't understand what all this means.

"Thursday night--eleven o'clock. Before going to bed. Laura has not
appeared. No note. Mamma more vexed than I have often seen her. I fancy
she had a hope of getting her back again, as I know I had.

"Friday. I waked in the dark, early this morning, thinking of Laura, and
fancying every horrible thing that could have befallen her since her
note of yesterday morning was written.

"Went to mamma, who had her breakfast in her bed, and told her how
miserable I was about Laura Grey. She said, 'There is nothing the matter
with Miss Grey, except that she does not know how to behave herself.' I
don't agree with mamma, and I am sure that she does not really think any
such thing of Laura Grey. I am still very uneasy about her; there is no
address to her note.

"I have just been again with mamma, to try whether she can recollect
anything by which we could find her out. She says she can remember no
circumstance by which we can trace her. Mamma says she had been trying
to find a governess at some of the places where lists of ladies seeking
such employment are kept, but without finding one who exactly answered;
papa had then seen an advertisement in the _Times_, which seemed to
promise satisfactorily, and Miss Grey answered mamma's note, and
referred to a lady, who immediately called on her; mamma could only
recollect that she knew this lady's name, that she had heard of her
before, and that she spoke with the greatest affection of Miss Grey, and
shed tears while she lamented her determination to seek employment as a
governess, instead of living at home with her. The lady had come in a
carriage, with servants, and had all the appearance of being rich, and
spoke of Laura as her cousin. But neither her name nor address could
mamma recollect, and there remained no clue by which to trace her. It
was some comfort to think that the lady who claimed her as a kinswoman,
and spoke of her with so much affection, was wealthy, and anxious to
take her to her own home; but circumstances are always mutable, and life
transitory--how can we tell where that lady is now?"

"I have still one hope--Laura may have written one o'clock 'Thursday,'
and meant Friday. It is only a chance--still I cling to it.

"Friday--three o'clock. Laura has not appeared. What are we to think? I
can't get it out of my head that something very bad has happened. My
poor Laura!

"Saturday night--a quarter to eleven. Going to bed. Another day, and no
tidings of Laura. I have quite given up the hope of seeing her."

She did not come next day. On the subject on which mamma felt so
sharply, she had not an opportunity of giving her a piece of her mind
then, or the next day.

       *       *       *       *       *

So the season being over, behold us again in the country!

After our visit to Carsbrook, mamma and papa were going to Haitly Abbey.
For some reason, possibly the very simple one that I had been forgotten
in the invitation, I was not to accompany them; I was despatched in
charge of old Lady Hester Wigmore, who was going that way, to Chester,
where Miss Pounden took me up; and with her, "to my great content," as
old Samuel Pepys says, I went to Malory, which I always re-visited with
an unutterable affection, as my only true home.

Nothing happened during my stay at Malory, which was unexpectedly
interrupted by a note from mamma appointing to meet me at Chester. Papa
had been obliged to go to town to consult with some friends, and he was
then to go down to Shillingsworth to speak at a public dinner. She and I
were going northward. She would tell me all when we met. I need not
bring any of my finery with me.

With this scanty information, and some curiosity as to our destination
in the North, I arrived at Chester, and there met mamma, from whom I
soon learned that our excursion was to lead us into wild and beautiful
scenery quite new to me.



                            CHAPTER XXXII.

                       AT THE GEORGE AND DRAGON.


We had to wait for a long time at some station, I forget its name. The
sun set, and night overtook us before we reached the end of our journey
by rail. We had then to drive about twelve miles. The road, for many
miles, lay through a desolate black moss. I could not have believed
there was anything so savage in England. A thin mist was stretched like
a veil over the more distant level of the dark expanse, on which, here
and there, a wide pool gleamed faintly under the moonlight. To the right
there rose a grand mass of mountain. We were soon driving through a sort
of gorge, and found ourselves fenced in by the steep sides of gigantic
mountains, as we followed a road that wound and ascended among them. I
shall never forget the beautiful effect of the scene suddenly presented,
and for the first time, as the road reached its highest elevation, and I
saw, with the dark receding sides of the mountain we had been
penetrating for a proscenium, my first view of Golden Friars. Oh! how
beautiful!

Surrounded by an amphitheatre of Alpine fells, the broad mere of Golden
Friars glimmered cold under the moonlight, and the quaint little town of
steep gables, built of light grey stone, rose from its grassy margin
surrounded by elms, single or in clumps, that looked almost black in
contrast with the gleaming lake and the white masonry of the town. It
looked like enchanted ground. A silvery hoar-frost seemed to cover the
whole scene, giving it a filmy and half-visionary character that
enhanced its beauty. I was exclaiming in wonder and delight as every
minute some new beauty unfolded itself to view. Mamma was silent, as she
looked from the window; I saw that she cried gently, thinking herself
unobserved. A beautiful scene, where childish days were passed, awakes
so many sweet and bitter fancies! The yearnings for the irrevocable, the
heartache of the memory, opened the fountains of her tears; and I was
careful not to interrupt her lonely thoughts. I left her to the
enjoyment of that melancholy luxury, and gazed on in strange delight.

Here, then, was the dwelling-place of that redoubted enemy of our house
whom fate seemed to have ordained as our persecutor. Here lived the old
enchanter whose malign spells were woven about us, in busy London and
quiet Malory, or the distant scenes of France and Italy. Even this
thought added interest to the romantic scene.

We had now descended to the level of the shore of the lake, along whose
margin our road swept in a gentle curve. The fells from this level rose
stupendous, all around, striking their silvery peaks into the misty
moonlight, and looking so aërial that one might fancy a stone thrown
would pass through their sides as if they were vapour. Now we passed
under the shadow of the first clump of mighty elms; and now the white
fronts and chimneys of the village houses rose in the foreground. There
was no sign of life but the barking of the watch-dogs, and the cackling
of the vigilant geese, and the light that glanced from the hall of the
"George and Dragon," the substantial old inn that, looking across the
road, faces the lake and distant fells. At the door of this ancient and
comfortable inn drew up our chaise and four horses, no mere ostentation,
but a simple necessity, where carriage and luggage were pulled, towards
the close of so long a stage, over the steeps where the road pushes its
way high among the fells.

So our journey was over; and we stood in the hall. Before we went up to
our rooms mamma inquired whether Lady Lorrimer had arrived. Yes, her
ladyship had been there since the day before yesterday. Mamma seemed
nervous and uncomfortable. She sent down her maid to find out whether
Sir Harry Rokestone was in the country; and when the servant returned
and told her that he was not expected to arrive at Dorracleugh before a
fortnight, she sighed, and I heard her say faintly, "Thank God!"

I confess it was rather a disappointment than a relief to me. I rather
wished to see this truculent old wizard. After a sound sleep, which we
both needed, I got up and had a little peep at that beautiful place, in
the early sunlight, before breakfast. Lady Lorrimer's maid came with
inquiries from her mistress, for mamma and me. Her ladyship was not very
well, and could not see us till about twelve. She was so vexed at having
to put us off, and hoped we were not tired; and also that we would take
our dinner with her. To this mamma agreed.

I was curious to see Lady Lorrimer once more. My ideas had grown
obscure, and my theory of that kinswoman had been disagreeably
disturbed, ever since the evening on which she, or her double, had
passed by me so resolutely in the street.

Having heard that she was quite ready to see us, we paid our visit. I
wondered how she would receive me, and my suspense amounted almost to
excitement as I reached the door. A moment more, and I could not believe
that Lady Lorrimer and the woman who so resembled her were the same.
Nothing could be more affectionate than Lady Lorrimer. She received us
with a very real welcome, and so much pleasure in her looks, tones, and
words. She was not, indeed, looking well, but her spirits seemed
cheerful. She embraced mamma, and kissed her very fondly; then she
kissed me over and over again. I was utterly puzzled, and more than
doubted the identity of this warm-hearted, affectionate woman with the
person who had chosen to cut me with such offensive and sinister
persistence.

"See how this pretty creature looks at me!" she said to mamma, laughing,
as she detected my conscious scrutiny.

I blushed and looked down; I did not know what to say.

"I'm very much obliged to you, dear, for looking at me, so few people do
now-a-days; and I was just going to steal a good look at you, when I
found I was anticipated. I have just been saying to your mamma that I
have ordered a boat, and we must all have a sail together on the lake
after dinner; what do you say?"

Of course I was delighted; I thought the place perfectly charming.

"I lived the earlier part of my life here," she resumed, "and so did
your mamma, you know--when she was a little girl, and until she came to
be nineteen or twenty--I forget which you were, dear, when you were
married?" she said, turning to mamma.

"Twenty-two," said mamma, smiling.

"Twenty-two? Really! Well, we lived at Mardykes. I'll point out the
place on the water when we take our sail; you can't see it from these
windows."

"And where does Sir Harry Rokestone live?" I asked.

"You can't see that either from these windows. It is further than
Mardykes, at the same side. But we shall see it from the boat."

Then she and mamma began to talk, and I went to the window and looked
out.

Lady Lorrimer, with all her airs of conventual seclusion, hungered and
thirsted after gossip; and whenever they met, she learned all the
stories from mamma, and gave her, in return, old scandal and ridiculous
anecdotes about the predecessors of the people with whose sayings,
doings, and mishaps mamma amused her.

Two o'clock dinners, instead of luncheons, were the rule in this part of
the world. And people turned tea into a very substantial supper, and
were all in bed and asleep before the hour arrived at which the London
ladies and gentlemen are beginning to dress for a ball.

You are now to suppose us, on a sunny evening, on board the boat that
had been moored for some time at the jetty opposite the door of the
"George and Dragon." We were standing up the lake, and away from the
Golden Friars shore, towards a distant wood, which they told me was the
forest of Clusted.

"Look at that forest, Ethel," said Lady Lorrimer. "It is the haunted
forest of Clusted--the last resort of the fairies in England. It was
there, they say, that Sir Bale Mardykes, long ago, made a compact with
the Evil One."

Through the openings of its magnificent trees, as we nearer, from time
to time, the ivied ruins of an old manor-house were visible. In this
beautiful and, in spite of the monotony of the gigantic fells that
surround the lake, ever-varying scenery, my companions gradually grew
silent for a time; even I felt the dreamy influence of the scene, and
liked the listless silence, in which nothing was heard but the rush of
the waters, and the flap of the sail now and then. I was living in a
world of fancy: they in a sadder one of memory.

In a little while, in gentle tones, they were exchanging old
remembrances; a few words now and then sufficed; the affecting
associations of scenes of early life re-visited were crowding up
everywhere. As happens to some people when death is near, a change, that
seemed to be quite beautiful, came over mamma's mind in the air and
lights of this beautiful place! How I wished that she could remain
always as she was now!

With the old recollections seemed to return the simple rural spirit of
the early life. What is the town life, of which I had tasted, compared
with this? How much simpler, tenderer, sublimer, this is! How immensely
nearer heaven! The breeze was light, and the signs of the sky assured
the boatmen that we need fear none of those gusts and squalls that
sometimes burst so furiously down through the cloughs and hollows of the
surrounding mountains. I, with the nautical knowledge acquired at
Malory, took the tiller, under direction of the boatmen. We had a good
deal of tacking to get near enough to the shore at Clusted to command a
good view of that fine piece of forest. We then sailed northward, along
the margin of the "mere," as they call the lake; and, when we had gone
in that direction for a mile or more, turned the boat's head across the
water, and ran before the breeze towards the Mardykes side. There is a
small island near the other side, with a streak of grey rock and bushes
nearly surrounding what looked like a ruined chapel or hermitage, and
Lady Lorrimer told me to pass this as nearly as I could.

The glow of evening was by this time in the western sky. The sun was
hidden behind the fells that form a noble barrier between Golden Friars
and the distant moss of Dardale, where stands Haworth Hall. In deepest
purple shadow the mountains here closely overhang the lake. Under these,
along the margin, Lady Lorrimer told me to steer.

We were gliding slowly along, so that there was ample leisure to note
every tree and rock upon the shore as we passed. As we drifted, rather
than sailed, along the shore, there suddenly opened from the margin a
narrow valley, reaching about a quarter of a mile. It was a sudden dip
in the mountains that here rise nearly from the edge of the lake.
Steep-sided and wild was this hollow, and backed by a mountain that, to
me, looking up from the level of the lake, appeared stupendous.

The valley lay flat in one unbroken field of short grass. A
broad-fronted, feudal tower, with a few more modern buildings about it,
stood far back, fronting the river. A rude stone pier afforded shelter
to a couple of boats, and a double line of immense lime-trees receded
from that point about half-way up to the tower. Whether it was
altogether due to the peculiar conformation of the scene, or that it
owed its character in large measure to its being enveloped in the deep
purple shadow cast by the surrounding mountain, and the strange effect
of the glow reflected downward from the evening clouds, which touched
the summits of the trees, and the edges of the old tower, like the light
of a distant conflagration, I cannot say; but never did I see a spot
with so awful a character of solitude and melancholy.

In the gloom we could see a man standing alone on the extremity of the
stone pier, looking over the lake. This figure was the only living thing
we could discover there.

"Well, dear, now you see it. That's Dorracleugh--that's Harry
Rokestone's place," said Lady Lorrimer.

"What a spot! Fit only for a bear or an anchorite. Do you know," she
added, turning to mamma, "he is there a great deal more than he used to
be, they tell me. I know if I were to live in that place for six months
I should never come out of it a sane woman. To do him justice, he does
not stay very long here when he does come, and for years he never came
at all. He has other places, far away from this; and if a certain event
had happened about two-and-twenty years ago," she added, for my behalf,
"he intended building quite a regal house a little higher up, on a site
that is really enchanting, but your mamma would not allow him; and so,
and so----" Lady Lorrimer had turned her glasses during her sentence
upon the figure which stood motionless on the end of the pier; and she
said, forgetting what she had been telling me, "I really think--I'm
nearly certain--that man standing there is Harry Rokestone!"

Mamma started. I looked with all my eyes; little more than a hundred
yards interposed, but the shadow was so intense, and the effect of the
faint reflected light so odd and puzzling, that I could be certain of
nothing, but that the man stood very erect, and was tall and powerfully
built. Lady Lorrimer was too much absorbed in her inspection to offer me
her glasses, which I was longing to borrow, but for which I could not
well ask, and so we sailed slowly by, and the hill that flanked the
valley gradually glided between us and the pier, and the figure
disappeared from view. Lady Lorrimer, lowering her glasses, said:

"I can't say positively, but I'm very nearly certain it was he."

Mamma said nothing, but was looking pale, and during the rest of our
sail seemed absent and uncomfortable, if not unhappy.



                           CHAPTER XXXIII.

                           NOTICE TO QUIT.


We drank tea with Lady Lorrimer. Mamma continued very silent, and I
think she had been crying in her room.

"They can't tell me here whether Harry has arrived or not," said Lady
Lorrimer. "He might have returned by the Dardale Road, and if so, he
would not have passed through Golden Friars, so it is doubtful. But I'm
pretty sure that was he."

"I wish I were sure of that," said mamma.

"Well, I don't know," said Lady Lorrimer, "what to advise. I was just
going to say it might be a wise thing if you were to make up your mind
to see him, and to beard the lion in his den."

"No," said mamma; "if you mean to meet him and speak to him, I could not
do that. I shall never see him again--nothing but pain could come of it;
and he would not see me, and he ought not to see me; and he ought not to
forgive me--never!"

"Well, dear, I can't deny it, you did use him very ill. And he is, and
always was, a fierce and implacable enemy," answered Lady Lorrimer. "I
fancied, perhaps, if he did see you, the old chord might be touched
again, and yield something of its old tone on an ear saddened by time.
But I daresay you are right. It was a Quixotic inspiration, and might
have led to disaster; more probably, indeed, than to victory."

"I am quite sure of that--in fact, I know it," said mamma.

And there followed a silence.

"I sometimes think, Mabel--I was thinking so all this evening," said
Lady Lorrimer, "it might have been happier for us if we had never left
this lonely place. We might have been happier if we had been born under
harder conditions; the power of doing what pleases us best leads us so
often into sorrow."

Another silence followed. Mamma was looking over her shoulder, sadly,
through the window at the familiar view of lake and mountain, indolently
listening.

"I regret it, and I don't regret it," continued Lady Lorrimer. "If I
could go back again into my early self--I wish I could--but the
artificial life so perverts and enervates one, I hardly know, honestly,
what I wish. I only know there is regret enough to make me discontented,
and I think I should have been a great deal happier if I had been
compelled to stay at Golden Friars, and had never passed beyond the
mountains that surround us here. I have not so long as you to live,
Mabel, and I'm glad of it. I am not quite so much of a Sadducee as you
used to think me, and I hope there may be a happier world for us all.
And, now that I have ended my homminy, as they call such long speeches
in this country, will you, dear Ethel, give me a cup of tea?"

Lady Lorrimer and I talked. I was curious about some of the places and
ruins I had seen, and asked questions, which it seemed to delight her to
answer. It is a region abounding in stories strange and marvellous,
family traditions, and legends of every kind.

"I think," said mamma, _à propos des bottes_, "if he has returned they
are sure to know in the town before ten to-night. Would you mind asking
again by-and-by?"

"You mean about Harry Rokestone?"

"Yes."

"I will. I'll make out all about him. We saw his castle to-day," she
continued, turning to me. "Our not knowing whether he was there or not
made it a very interesting contemplation. You remember the short speech
Sheridan wrote to introduce Kelly's song at Drury Lane--'There stands
my Matilda's cottage! She must be in it, or else out of it?'"

Again mamma dropped out, and the conversation was maintained by Lady
Lorrimer and myself. In a little while mamma took her leave, complaining
of a headache; and our kinswoman begged that I would remain for an hour
or so, to keep her company. When mamma had bid her good night, and was
gone, the door being shut, Lady Lorrimer laughed, and said:

"Now, tell me truly, don't you think if your papa had been with us
to-day in the boat, and seen the change that took place in your mamma's
looks and spirits from the moment she saw Dorracleugh, and the tall man
who stood on the rock, down to the hour of her headache and early good
night, he would have been a little jealous?"

I did not quite know whether she was joking or serious, and I fancy
there was some puzzle in my face as I answered:

"But it can't be that she liked Sir Harry Rokestone; she is awfully
afraid of him--that is the reason, I'm sure, she was so put out. She
never liked him."

"Don't be too sure of that, little woman," she answered, gaily.

"Do you really think mamma liked him? Why, she was in love with papa."

"No, it was nothing so deep," said Lady Lorrimer; "she did not love your
papa. It was a violent whim, and if she had been left just five weeks to
think, she would have returned to Rokestone."

"But there can be no sentiment remaining still," I remarked. "Sir Harry
Rokestone is an old man!"

"Yes, he is an old man; he is--let me see--he's fifty-six. And she did
choose to marry your papa. But I'm sure she thinks she made a great
mistake. I am very sure she thinks that, with all his faults, Rokestone
was the more loveable man, the better man, the truer. He would have
taken good care of her. I don't know of any one point in which he was
your papa's inferior, and there are fifty in which he was immeasurably
his superior. He was a handsomer man, if that is worth anything. I think
I never saw so handsome a man, in his peculiar style. You think me a
very odd old woman to tell you my opinion of your father so frankly; but
I am speaking as your mamma's friend and kinswoman, and I say your papa
has not used her well. He is good-humoured, and has good spirits, and he
has some good-nature, quite subordinated to his selfishness. And those
qualities, so far as I know, complete the muster-roll of his virtues.
But he has made her, in no respect, a good husband. In some a very bad
one. And he employs half-a-dozen attorneys, to whom he commits his
business at random; and he is too indolent to look after anything. Of
course he's robbed, and everything at sixes and sevens; and he has got
your mamma to take legal steps to make away with her money for his own
purposes; and the foolish child, the merest simpleton in money matters,
does everything he bids her; and I really believe she has left herself
without a guinea. I don't like him--no one could who likes _her_. Poor,
dear Mabel, she wants energy; I never knew a woman with so little will.
She never showed any but once, and that was when she did a foolish
thing, and married your father."

"And did Sir Harry Rokestone like mamma very much?" I asked.

"He was madly in love with her, and when she married your papa, he
wanted to shoot him. I think he was, without any metaphor, very nearly
out of his mind. He has been a sort of anchorite ever since. His money
is of no use to him. He is a bitter and eccentric old man."

"And he can injure papa now?"

"So I'm told. Your papa thinks so; and he seldom takes the trouble to be
alarmed about danger three or four months distant."

Then, to my disappointment and, also, my relief, that subject dropped.
It had interested and pained me; and sometimes I felt that it was
scarcely right that I should hear all she was saying, without taking up
the cudgels for papa. Now, with great animation, she told me her
recollections of her girlish days here at Golden Friars, when the old
gentry were such bores and humorists as are no longer to be met with
anywhere. And as she made me laugh at these recitals, her maid, whom
she had sent down to "the bar" to make an inquiry, returned, and told
her something in an undertone. As soon as she was gone, Lady Lorrimer
said:

"Yes, it is quite true. Tell your mamma that Harry Rokestone is at
Dorracleugh."

She became thoughtful. Perhaps she was rehearsing mentally the mediatory
conference she had undertaken.

We had not much more conversation that night; and we soon parted with a
very affectionate good-night. My room adjoined mamma's, and finding that
she was not yet asleep, I went in and gave her Lady Lorrimer's message.
Mamma changed colour, and raised herself suddenly on her elbow, looking
in my face.

"Very well, dear," said she, a little flurried. "We must leave this
to-morrow morning."



                            CHAPTER XXXIV.

                          SIR HARRY'S ANSWER.


About eleven o'clock next morning our chaise was at the door of the
"George and Dragon." We had been waiting with our bonnets on to say
good-bye to Lady Lorrimer. I have seen two or three places in my life to
which my affections were drawn at first sight, and this was one of them.
I was standing at the window, looking my last at this beautiful scene.
Mamma was restless and impatient. I knew she was uneasy lest some
accident should bring Sir Harry Rokestone to the door before we had set
out upon our journey.

At length Lady Lorrimer's foreign maid came to tell us that milady
wished to see us now. Accordingly we followed the maid, who softly
announced us.

The room was darkened; only one gleam, through a little opening in the
far shutter, touched the curtains of her bed, showing the old-fashioned
chintz pattern, like a transparency, through the faded lining. She was
no longer the gay Lady Lorrimer of the evening before. She was sitting
up among her pillows, nearly in the dark, and the most melancholy,
whimpering voice you can imagine came through the gloom from among the
curtains.

"Is my sweet Ethel there, also?" she asked when she had kissed mamma.
"Oh, that's right; I should not have been happy if I had not bid you
good-bye. Give me your hand, darling. And so you are going, Mabel? I'm
sorry you go so soon, but perhaps you are right--I think you are. It
would not do, perhaps, to meet. I'll do what I can, and write to tell
you how I succeed."

Mamma thanked and kissed her again.

"I'm not so well as people think, dear, nor as I wish to think myself.
We may not meet for a long time, and I wish to tell you, Mabel--I wish
to tell you both--that I won't leave you dependent on that reckless
creature, Francis Ware. I want you two to be safe. I have none but you
left me to love on earth." Here poor Lady Lorrimer began to cry.
"Whenever I write to you, you must come to me; don't let anything
prevent you. I am so weak. I want to leave you both very well, and I
intend to put it out of my power to change it--who's that at the door?
Just open it, Ethel, dear child, and see if any one is there--my maid, I
mean--you can say you dropped your handkerchief--hush!"

There was no one in the lobby.

"Shut it quietly, dear; I'll do what I say--don't thank me--don't say a
word about it to any one, and if you mention it to Francis Ware, charge
him to tell no one else. There, dears, both, don't stay longer. God
bless you! Go, go; God bless you!"

And with these words, having kissed us both very fondly, she dismissed
us.

Mamma ran down, and out to the carriage very quickly, and sat back as
far as she could at the far side. I followed, and all being ready, in a
minute more we were driving swiftly from the "George and Dragon," and
soon town, lake, forest, and distant fells were hidden from view by the
precipitous sides of the savage gorge, through which the road winds its
upward way.

Our drive into Golden Friars had been a silent one, and so was our drive
from it, though from different causes. I was thinking over our odd
interview with poor Lady Lorrimer. In what a low, nervous state she
seemed, and how affectionately she spoke! I had no inquisitive
tendencies, and I was just at the age when people take the future for
granted. No sordid speculations therefore, I can honestly say, were busy
with my brain.

We were to have stayed at least ten days at Golden Friars, and here we
were flying from it before two days were spent. All our plans were upset
by the blight of Sir Harry Rokestone's arrival at least a fortnight
before the date of his usual visit, just as Napoleon's Russian
calculations were spoilt by the famous early winter of 1812. I was vexed
in my way. I should not have been sorry to hear that he had been well
ducked in the lake. Mamma was vexed in her own way, also, when, about an
hour after, she escaped from the thoughts that agitated her at first,
and descended to her ordinary level. A gap of more than a week was made
in her series of visits. What was to be done with it?

"Where are you going, mamma?" I asked, innocently enough.

"Nowhere--everywhere. To Chester," she answered, presently.

"And where then?" I asked.

"Why do you ask questions that I can't answer? Why should you like to
make me more miserable than I am? Everything is thrown into confusion.
I'm sure I don't know the least. I have no plans. I literally don't know
where we are to lay our heads to-night. There's no one to take care of
us. As usual, whenever I want assistance, there's none to be had, and my
maid is so utterly helpless, and your papa in town. I only know that I'm
not strong enough for this kind of thing; you can write to your papa
when we come to Chester. We shan't see him for Heaven knows how long--he
may have left London by this time; and he'll write to Golden Friars--and
now that I think of it--oh! how am I to live through all this!--I forgot
to tell the people there where to send our letters. Oh! dear, oh! dear,
it is such a muddle! And I could not have told them, literally, for I
don't know where we are going. We had better just stay at Chester till
he comes, whenever that may be; and I really could just lie down and
cry."

I was glad we were to ourselves, for mamma's looks and tones were so
utterly despairing that in a railway carriage we should have made quite
an excitement. In such matters mamma was very easy to persuade by any
one who would take the trouble of thinking on himself, and she consented
to come to Malory instead; and there, accordingly, we arrived next day,
much to the surprise of Rebecca Torkill, who received us with a very
glad welcome, solemnized a little by a housekeeper's responsibilities.

Mamma enjoyed her simple life here wonderfully--more, a great deal, than
I had ventured to hope. She seemed to me naturally made for a rural
life, though fate had consigned her to a town one. She reminded me of
the German prince mentioned in Tom Moore's journal, who had a great
taste for navigation, but whose principality unfortunately was inland.

Papa did not arrive until the day before that fixed for his and mamma's
visit to Dromelton. He was in high spirits, everything was doing well;
his canvass was prospering, and now Lady Lorrimer's conversation at
parting, as reported by mamma, lighted up the uncertain future with a
steady glory, and set his sanguine spirit in a blaze. Attorneys,
foreclosures, bills of exchange hovering threateningly in the air, and
biding their brief time to pounce upon him, all lost their horrors, for
a little, in the exhilarating news.

Mamma had been expecting a letter from Lady Lorrimer--one, at length,
arrived this morning. Papa had walked round by the mill-road to visit
old Captain Etheridge. Mamma and I were in the drawing-room as she read
it. It was a long one. She looked gloomy, and said, when she had come to
the end:

"I was right--it was not worth trying. I'm afraid this will vex your
papa. You may read it. You heard Aunt Lorrimer talk about it. Yes, I was
right. She was a great deal too sanguine."

I read as follows:--

     "My Dearest Mabel,--I have a disagreeable letter to write. You
     desired me to relate with rigour every savage thing he said--I mean
     Harry Rokestone, of course--and I must keep my promise, although I
     think you will hate me for it. I had almost given him up, and
     thinking that for some reason he was resolved to forget his usual
     visit to me, and I being equally determined to make him see me, was
     this morning thinking of writing him a little cousinly note, to say
     that I was going to see him in his melancholy castle. But to-day,
     at about one, there came on one of those fine thunder-storms among
     the fells that you used to admire so much. It grew awfully
     dark--portentous omen!--and some enormous drops of rain, as big as
     bullets, came smacking down upon the window-stone. Perhaps these
     drove him in; for in he came, announced by the waiter, exactly as a
     very much nearer clap of thunder startled all the echoes of Golden
     Friars into a hundred reverberations; a finer heralding, and much
     more characteristic of the scene and man than that flourish of
     trumpets to which kings always enter in Shakespeare. In he came, my
     dear Mabel, looking so king-like, and as tall as the Catstean on
     Dardale Moss, and gloomy as the sky. He is as like Allan Macaulay,
     in the 'Legend of Montrose,' as ever. A huge dog, one of that grand
     sort you remember long ago at Dorracleugh, came striding in beside
     him. He used to smile long ago. But it is many years, you know,
     since fortune killed that smile; and he took my poor thin fingers
     in his colossal hand, with what Clarendon calls a 'glooming'
     countenance. We talked for some time as well as the thunder and the
     clatter of the rain, mixed with hail, would let us.

     "By the time its violence was a little abated, I, being as you
     know, not a bad diplomatist, managed, without startling him, to
     bring him face to face with the subject on which I wished to move
     him. I may as well tell you at once, my dear Mabel, I might just as
     well (to return to my old simile) have tried to move the Catstean.
     When I described the danger in which the proceedings would involve
     you, as well as your husband, he suddenly smiled; it was his first
     smile, so far as I remember, for many a day. It was not pleasant
     sunlight--it was more like the glare of the lightning.

     "'We have not very far to travel in life's journey,' I said, 'you
     and I. We have had our enemies and our quarrels, and fought our
     battles stoutly enough. It is time we should forget and forgive.'

     "'I have forgotten a great deal,' he answered. 'I'll forgive
     nothing.'

     "'You can't mean you have forgotten pretty Mabel?' I exclaimed.

     "'Let me bury my dead out of my sight,' was all he said. He did not
     say it kindly. It was spoken sulkily and peremptorily.

     "'Well, Harry,' I said, returning upon his former speech, 'I can't
     suppose you really intend to forgive nothing.'

     "'It is a hypocritical world,' he answered. 'If it were anything
     else, every one would confess what every one knows, that no one
     ever forgave any one anything since man was created.'

     "'Am I, then, to assume that you will prosecute this matter, to
     their ruin, through revenge?' I asked, rather harshly.

     "'Certainly not,' said he. 'That feud is dead and rotten. It is
     twenty years and more since I saw them. I'm tired of their names.
     The man I sometimes remember--I'd like to see him flung over the
     crags of Darness Heugh--but the girl I never think of--she's clean
     forgot. To me they are total strangers. I'm a trustee in this
     matter; why should I swerve from my duty, and incur, perhaps, a
     danger for those whom I know not?'

     "'You are not obliged to do this--you know you are not,' I urged.
     'You have the power, that's all, and you choose to exercise it.'

     "'Amen, so be it; and now we've said enough,' he replied.

     "'No,' I answered, warmly, for it was impossible to be diplomatic
     with a man like this. 'I must say a word more. I ask you only to
     treat them as you describe them, that is as strangers. You would
     not put yourself out of your way to crush a stranger. There was a
     time when you were kind.'

     "'And foolish,' said he.

     "'Kind,' I repeated; 'you were a kind man.'

     "'The volume of life is full of knowledge,' he answered, 'and I
     have turned over some pages since then.'

     "'A higher knowledge leads us to charity,' I pleaded.

     "'The highest to justice,' he said, with a scoff. 'I'm no
     theologian, but I know that fellow deserves the very worst. He
     refused to meet me, when a crack or two of a pistol might have
     blown away our feud, since so you call it--feud with such a
     mafflin!' Every now and then, when he is excited, out pops one of
     these strange words. They came very often in this conversation, but
     I don't remember them. 'The mafflin! the coward!'

     "I give you his words; his truculent looks I can't give you. It is
     plain he has not forgiven him, and never will. Your husband, we all
     know, did perfectly right in declining that wild challenge. All his
     friends so advised him. I was very near saying a foolish thing
     about you, but I saw it in time, and turned my sentence
     differently; and when I had done, he said:

     "'I am going now--the shower is over.' He took my hand, and said
     'Good-bye.' But he held it still, and looking me in the face with
     his gloomy eyes, he added: 'See, I like you well; but if you will
     talk of those people, or so much as mention their names again, we
     meet as friends no more.'

     "'Think better of it, do, Harry,' I called after him, but he was
     already clanking over the lobby in his cyclopean shoes. Whether he
     heard me or not, he walked down the stairs, with his big brute at
     his heels, without once looking over his shoulder.

     "And now, dear Mabel, I have told you everything. You are, of
     course, to take for granted those Northumbrian words and idioms
     which drop from him, as I reminded you, as he grows warm in
     discussion. This is a 'report' rather than a letter, and I have sat
     up very late to finish it, and I send it to the post-office before
     I go to bed. Good night, and Heaven bless you, and I hope this
     gloomy letter may not vex you as much as its purport does me;
     disappoint you, judging from what you said to me when we talked the
     matter over, I scarcely think it can."

There is a Latin proverb, almost the only four words of Latin I possess,
which says, _Omne ignotum pro magnifico_, for which, and for its
translation, I am obliged to Mr. Carmel: "The unknown is taken for the
sublime." I did not at the time at all understand the nature of the
danger that threatened, and its vagueness magnified it. Papa came in. He
read the letter, and the deeper he got in it the paler his face grew,
and the more it darkened. He drew a great breath as he laid it down.

"Well, it's not worse than you expected?" said mamma at last. "I hope
not. I've had so much to weary, and worry, and break me down; you have
no idea what the journey to the Golden Friars was to me. I have not
been at all myself. I've been trying to do too much. Ethel there will
tell you all I said to my aunt; and really things go so wrong and so
unluckily, no matter what one does, that I almost think I'll go to my
bed and cry."

"Yes, dear," said papa, thinking, a little bewildered. "It's--it's--it
is--it's very perverse. The old scoundrel! I suppose this is something
else."

He took up a letter that had followed him by the same post, and
nervously broke the seal. I was watching his face intently as he read.
It brightened.

"Here--here's a bit of good luck at last! Where's Mabel? Oh, yes! it's
from Cloudesly. There are some leases just expired at Ellenston, and we
shall get at least two thousand pounds, he thinks, for renewing. That
makes it all right for the present. I wish it had been fifteen hundred
more; but it's a great deal better than nothing. We'll tide it over,
you'll find." And papa kissed her with effusion.

"And you can give three hundred pounds to Le Panier and Tarlton; they
have been sending so often lately," said mamma, recovering from her
despondency.



                             CHAPTER XXXV.

                         LADY MARDYKES'S BALL.


The autumn deepened, and leaves were brown, and summer's leafy honours
spread drifting over the short grass and the forest roots. Winter came,
and snow was on the ground, and presently spring began to show its buds,
and blades, and earliest flowers; and the London season was again upon
us.

Lady Lorrimer had gone, soon after our visit to Golden Friars, to Naples
for the winter. She was to pass the summer in Switzerland, and the
autumn somewhere in the north of Italy, and again she was to winter in
her old quarters at Naples. We had little chance, therefore, of seeing
her again in England for more than a year. Her letters were written in
varying spirits, sometimes cheery, sometimes _de profundis_. Sometimes
she seemed to think that she was just going to break up and sink; and
then her next letter would unfold plans looking far into the future, and
talking of her next visit to England. There was an uneasy and even
violent fluctuation in these accounts, which did not exactly suggest the
idea of a merely fanciful invalid. She spoke at times, also, of intense
and exhausting pain. And she mentioned that in Paris she had been in the
surgeons' hands, and that there was still uncertainty as to what good
they might have done her. This may have been at the root of her
hysterical vacillations. But, in addition to this, there was something
very odd in Lady Lorrimer's correspondence. She had told mamma to write
to her once a fortnight, and promised to answer punctually; but nothing
could be more irregular. At one time, so long an interval as two whole
months passed without bringing a line from her. Then, again, she would
complain of mamma's want of punctuality. She seemed to have forgotten
things that mamma had told her; and sometimes she alluded to things as
if she had told them to mamma, which she had never mentioned before.
Either the post-office was playing tricks with her letters, or poor Lady
Lorrimer was losing her head.

I think, if we had been in a quiet place like Malory, we should have
been more uneasy about Lady Lorrimer than, in the whirl of London, we
had time to be. There was one odd passage in one of her letters; it was
as follows: "Send your letters, not by the post, I move about so much;
but, when you have an opportunity, send them by a friend. I wish I were
happier. I don't do always as I like. If we were for a time
together--but all I do is so uncertain!"

Papa heard more than her letters told of her state of health. A friend
of his, who happened to be in Paris at the time, told papa that one of
the medical celebrities whom she had consulted there had spoken to him
in the most desponding terms of poor Lady Lorrimer's chances of
recovery, I do not know whether it was referable to that account of her
state of health or simply to the approach of the time when he was to
make his _début_ in the House; but the fact is that papa gave a great
many dinner-parties this season; and mamma took her drives in a new
carriage, with a new and very pretty pair of horses; and a great deal of
new plate came home; and it was plain that he was making a fresh start
in a style suited to his new position, which he assumed to be certain
and near. He was playing rather deep upon this throw. It must be
allowed, however, that nothing could look more promising.

Sir Luke Pyneweck, a young man, with an estate and an overpowering
influence in the town of Shillingsworth, had sat for three years for
that borough, not in the House, but in his carriage, or a Bath-chair, in
various watering-places at home and abroad--being, in fact, a miserable
invalid. This influential young politician had written a confidential
letter, with only two or three slips in spelling and grammar, to his
friend the Patronage Secretary, telling him to look out for a man to
represent Shillingsworth till he had recovered his health, which was not
returning quite so quickly as he expected, and promising his strenuous
support to the nominee of the minister. Papa's confidence, therefore,
was very reasonably justified, and the matter was looked upon by those
sages of the lobbies who count the shadowy noses of unborn Houses of
Commons as settled. It was known that the dissolution would take place
early in the autumn.

Presently there came a letter to the "whip," from his friend Sir Luke
Pyneweck, announcing that he was so much better that he had made up his
mind to try once more before retiring.

This was a stunning blow to papa. Sir Luke could do without the
government better than the government could do without him. And do or
say what they might, no one could carry the borough against him. The
Patronage Secretary really liked my father; and, I believe, would have
wished him, for many reasons, in the House. But what was to be done? Sir
Luke was neither to be managed nor bullied; he was cunning and
obstinate. He did not want anything for himself, and did not want
anything for any other person. With a patriot of that type who could do
anything?

It was a pity the "whip" did not know this before every safe
constituency was engaged. A pity papa did not know it before he put an
organ into Shillingsworth church, and subscribed six hundred pounds
towards the building of the meeting-house. I never saw papa so cast down
and excited as he was by this disappointment. Looking very ill, however,
he contrived to rally his spirits when he was among his friends, and
seemed resolved, one way or other, to conquer fortune.

Balls, dinners, concerts, garden-parties, nevertheless, devoured our
time, and our drives, and shopping, and visits went on, as if nothing
had happened, and nothing was impending.

Two notable engagements for the next week, because they were connected,
in the event, with my strange story, I mention now. On Tuesday there was
Lady Mardykes's ball, on that day week papa had a political party to
dinner, among whom were some very considerable names indeed. Lady
Mardykes's balls were always, as you know, among the most brilliant of
the season. While dancing one of those quadrilles that give us breathing
time between the round dances, I saw a face that riveted my attention,
and excited my curiosity. A slight old gentleman, in evening costume,
with one of those obsolete under-waistcoats, which seemed to me such a
pretty fashion (his was of blue satin), was the person I mean. A
forbidding-looking man was this, with a thin face, as brown as a nut,
hawk's eyes and beak, thin lips, and a certain character of dignified
ill-temper, and even insolence, which, however, did not prevent its
being a very gentleman-like face. I instantly recognised him as the old
man, in the chocolate-coloured coat, who had talked so sharply, as it
seemed to me and poor Nelly, with Laura Grey on the Milk-walk, in the
shadow of the steep bank and the overhanging trees.

"Who is that old gentleman standing near the door at the end of the
room, with that blue satin about his neck? Now he's speaking to Lady
Westerbroke."

"Oh! that's Lord Rillingdon," answered my friend.

"He does not go to many places? I have seen him, I think, but once
before," I said.

"No, I fancy he does not care about this sort of thing."

"Doesn't he speak very well? I think I've heard----"

"Yes, he speaks only in Indian debates. He's very well up on India--he
was there, you know."

"Don't you think he looks very cross?" I said.

"They say he is very cross," said my informant, laughing: and here the
dance was resumed, and I heard no more of him.

Old Lord Rillingdon had his eyes about him. He seemed, as much as
possible, to avoid talking to people, and I thought was looking very
busily for somebody. As I now and then saw this old man, who, from time
to time, changed his point of observation, my thoughts were busy with
Laura Grey, and the pain of my uncertainty returned--pain mingled with
remorse. My enjoyment of this scene contrasted with her possible lot,
upbraided me, and for a time I wished myself at home.

A little later I thought I saw a face that had not been seen in London
for more than a year. I was not quite sure, but I thought I saw Monsieur
Droqville. In rooms so crowded, one sometimes has so momentary a peep of
a distant face that recognition is uncertain. Very soon I saw him again,
and this time I had no doubt whatever. He seemed as usual, chatty, and
full of energy; but I soon saw, or at least fancied, that he did not
choose to see mamma or me. It is just possible I may have been doing him
wrong. I did not see him, it is true, so much as once glance towards us;
but Doctor or Monsieur Droqville was a man who saw everything, as
Rebecca Torkill would say, with half an eye--always noting everything
that passed; full of curiosity, suspicion, and conclusion, and with an
eye quick and piercing as a falcon's.

This man, I thought, had seen, and was avoiding us, without wishing to
appear to do so. It so happened, however, that some time later, in the
tea-room, mamma was placed beside him. I was near enough to hear. Mamma
recognised him with a smile and a little bow. He replied with just
surprise enough in his looks and tones to imply that he had not known,
up to that moment, that she was there.

"You are surprised to see me here?" he said; "I can scarcely believe it
myself. I've been away thirteen months--a wanderer all over Europe; and
I shall be off again in a few days. By-the-bye, you hear from Lady
Lorrimer sometimes: I saw her at Naples, in January. She was looking
flourishing then, but complaining a good deal. She has not been so well
since--but I'll look in upon you to-morrow or the next day. I shall be
sure to see her again, immediately. Your friends, the Wiclyffs, were at
Baden this summer, so were the D'Acres. Lord Charles is to marry that
French lady; it turns out she's rather an heiress; it is very nearly
arranged, and they seemed all very well pleased. Have you seen my friend
Carmel lately?"

"About three weeks ago; he was going to North Wales," she said.

"He is another of those interesting people who are always dying, and
never die," said Monsieur Droqville.

I felt a growing disgust for this unfeeling man. He talked a little
longer, and then turned to me and said:

"There's one advantage, Miss Ware, in being an old fellow--one can tell
a young lady, in such charming and brilliant looks as yours to-night,
what he thinks, just as he might give his opinion upon a picture. But I
won't venture mine; I'll content myself with making a petition. I only
ask that, when you are a very great lady, you'll remember a threadbare
doctor, who would be very glad of an humble post about the court, and
who is tired of wandering over the world in search of happiness, and
finding a fee only once in fifty miles."

I do not know what was in this man's mind at that moment. If he was a
Jesuit, he certainly owed very little to those arts and graces of which
rumour allows so large a share to the order. But brusque and almost
offensive as I thought him, there was something about him that seemed to
command acceptance, and carry him everywhere he chose to go. He went
away, and I saw him afterwards talking now to one great lady, and now to
another. Lord Rillingdon, who looked like the envious witch whom Madame
D'Aulnois introduces sometimes at the feasts of her happy kings and
queens, throwing a malign gloom on all about them, had vanished.

That night, however, was to recall, as unexpectedly, another face, a
more startling reminder of Malory and Laura Grey.



                           CHAPTER XXXVI.

                       NEWS OF LADY LORRIMER.


Old Lord Verney, of all persons in the world, took a fancy to take me
down to the tea-room. I think he believed, as other wiser people did,
that papa, who was certainly clever, and a very shrewd club-house
politician, might come to be somebody in the House, in time.

As usual, he was telling an interminable story, without point or
beginning or end, about himself, and all mixed up with the minister, and
the opposition leader, and an amendment, and some dismal bill, that I
instantly lost my way in. As we entered the tea-room, a large room
opening from the landing, he nodded, without interrupting his story, to
a gentleman who was going downstairs. My eye followed this recognition,
and I saw a tall, rather good-looking young man. I saw him only for a
moment. I was so startled that I involuntarily almost stopped Lord
Verney as we passed; but I recovered myself instantly. It was
tantalising. He always talks as if he were making a speech; one can't,
without rudeness, edge in a word; he is so pompous, I dare not interrupt
him. He did that office for himself, however, by taking an ice; and I
seized the transitory silence, and instantly asked him the name of the
gentleman to whom he had bowed; I thought he said, "Mr. Jennings," and
as a clever artist of that odd name had lately painted a portrait of
Lord Verney, I was satisfied that I had heard him aright.

This was to be a night of odd recognitions. I was engaged to Lord John
Roxford, who came up, and saying, "I think this is our dance, Miss
Ware?" took me away, to my great relief, from Lord Verney. Well, we
danced and talked a little; and I learned nothing that I remember,
except that he was to return to Paris the next day. Before he took me to
mamma, however, he said:

"A very dear friend has asked me, as the greatest favour I can do him,
to introduce him to you, Miss Ware; you will allow me?"

He repeated, I thought--for he was looking for him, and his face at that
moment was turned a little away, and the noise considerable--the same
name that Lord Verney had mentioned. As Rebecca Torkill used to say, "my
heart jumped into my mouth," as I consented. A moment more, and I found
myself actually acquainted with the very man! How strange it seemed! Was
that smiling young man of fashion the same I had seen stretched on the
rugged peat and roots at Plas Ylwd, with white face and leaden lips, and
shirt soaked in blood? He was, with his white-gloved hand on the
pier-table beside me, inquiring what dance I could give him. I was
engaged for this; but I could not risk the chance of forfeiting my talk
with my new acquaintance. I gave it to him, and having the next at my
disposal, transferred it to the injured man whom I had ousted.

The squabble, the innocent surprise, the regrets, the other hypocrisies,
and finally the compromise over, away we went to take our places in the
quadrille. I was glad it was not a round dance. I wanted to hear him
talk a little. How strange it seemed to me, standing beside him in this
artificial atmosphere of wax-light and music! Each affecting the air of
an acquaintance made then and there; each perfectly recognising the
other, as we stood side by side talking of the new primo tenore, the
play, the Aztecs, and I know not what besides!

This young man's manner was different from what I had been accustomed to
in ball-rooms. There was none of the trifling, and no sign of the
admiration which the conversation and looks of others seemed to imply.
His tone, perfectly gentleman-like, was merely friendly, and he seemed
to take an interest in me, much as I fancied an unknown relation might.
We talked of things of no particular interest, until he happened to ask
something of my occasional wanderings in the country. It was my
opportunity, and I seized it like a general.

"I like the country," I said. "I enjoy it thoroughly; I've lived nearly
all my life in the country, in a place I am so fond of, called Malory. I
think all about there so beautiful! It is close to Cardyllion--have you
ever seen Cardyllion?"

"Yes, I've been to Cardyllion once--only once, I think. I did not see a
great deal of it. But you, now, see a great deal more of the
country--you have been to the lakes?"

"Oh! yes; but I want to ask how you liked Cardyllion. How long is it
since you were there?"

"About two years, or a little more, perhaps," he answered.

"Oh! that's just about the time the Conway Castle was wrecked--how awful
that was! I had a companion then, my dearest friend--Laura Grey was her
name; she left us so suddenly, when I was away from Malory, and I have
never seen her since. I have been longing so to meet any one who could
tell me anything about her. You don't happen to know any one, do you,
who knows a young lady of that name? I make it a rule to ask every one I
can; and I'm sure I shall make her out at last."

"Nothing like perseverance," said he. "I shall be most happy to be
enlisted; and if I should light upon a lady of that name, I may tell her
that Miss Ware is very well, and happy?"

"No, not happy--at least, not quite happy, until she writes to tell me
where she is, or comes to see me; and tell her I could not have believed
she would have been so unkind."

Conversations are as suddenly cut short in ball-rooms as they are in a
beleaguered city, where the head of one of the interlocutors is carried
off by a round-shot. Our dialogue ended with the sudden arrival of the
ill-used man, whom I could no longer postpone, and who carried me off,
very much vexed, as you may suppose, and scarcely giving my companion
time to make a bow.

Never was "fast dance" so slow as this! At length it was over, and
wherever I went my eyes wandered hither and thither in search of the
tall young man with whom I had danced. The man who had figured in a
scene which had so often returned to my imagination was now gone; I saw
him neither in the dancing-rooms nor in any others. By this time there
was a constant double current to and from the supper-room, up and down
the stairs. As I went down, immediately before me was Monsieur
Droqville. He did not follow the stream, but passed into the hall.

       *       *       *       *       *

Monsieur Droqville put on his loose black wrapper, and wound a shawl
about his throat, and glanced, from habit, with his shrewd, hard eyes at
the servants as he passed through them in the hall. He jumped into a
cab, told the driver where to stop, lighted a cigar, and smoked.

He got out at the corner of a fashionable but rather dingy street not
very far away. Then he dismissed his vehicle, walked up the pavement
smoking, passed into a still quieter street, also fashionable, that
opens from it at an obtuse angle. Here he walked slowly, and, as it
were, softly. The faint echo of his own steps was the only sound that
met him as he entered it. He crossed, threw his head back, and shrewdly
scanned the upper windows, blowing out a thin stream of tobacco-smoke as
he looked.

"Not flown yet, _animula_, _vagula blandula_? Still on the perch," he
said, as he crossed the street again.

His cigar was just out, and he threw it away as he reached the steps. He
did not need to knock or ring; he admitted himself with a latch-key. A
bedroom candlestick in the hall had a candle still burning in it. He
took it and walked quietly up. The boards of the stairs and lobbies were
bare, and a little dust lay on the wall and bannister, indicating the
neglected state of a house abandoned by its tenants for a journey or a
very long stay in the country. He opened the back drawing-room door and
put his head in. A pair of candles lighted the room. A thin elderly
lady, in an odd costume, was the only person there. She wore a white,
quilted headcloth, a black robe, and her beads and cross were at her
side. She was reading, with spectacles on, a small book which she held
open in both hands, as he peeped in. With a slight start she rose. There
was a little crucifix on the table, and a coloured print of the Madonna
hung on the wall, on the nail from which a Watteau had been temporarily
removed.

"Has your patient been anointed yet?" said Monsieur Droqville, in his
short nasal tones.

"Not yet, reverend father," she answered. They were both speaking
French.

"Has she been since nearly _in articulo_?"

"At about eleven o'clock, reverend father, her soul seemed at her very
lips."

"In this complaint so it will often be. Is Sister Cecilia upstairs?"

"Yes, reverend father."

"Father Edwyn here?"

"Yes, reverend father."

He withdrew his head, closed the door, and walked upstairs. He tapped
gently at the door of the front bedroom.

A French nun, in a habit precisely similar to that of the lady
downstairs, stood noiselessly at the door. She was comparatively young,
wore no spectacles, and had a kind and rather sad countenance. He
whispered a word to her, heard her answer softly, and then he entered
the room with a soundless step--it was thickly carpeted, and furnished
luxuriously--and stood at the side of a huge four-post bed, with stately
curtains of silk, within which a miserable shrunken old woman, with a
face brown as clay, sunk and flaccid, and staring feebly with wide
glassy eyes, with her back coiled into a curve, and laden with shawls,
was set up, among pillows, breathing, or rather gasping, with
difficulty.

Here she was, bent, we may say, in the grip of two murderers, heart
complaint and cancer. The irresistible chemistry of death had set in;
the return of "earth to earth" was going on. Who could have recognised,
in this breathing effigy of death, poor Lady Lorrimer? But disease now
and then makes short work of such transformations.

The good nurse here, like the other downstairs, had her little picture
against the wall, and had been curtseying and crossing herself before
it, in honest prayer for the dying old lady, to whom Monsieur Droqville
whispered something, and then leaned his ear close to her lips. He felt
her pulse, and said, "Madame has some time still to meditate and pray."

Again his ear was to her lips. "Doubt it not, madame. Every
consolation."

She whispered something more; it lasted longer, and was more earnest
this time. Her head was nodding on her shoulders, and her eyes were
turned up to his dark energetic face, imploringly.

"You can't do that, madame--it is not yours--you have given it to God."

The woman turned her eyes on him with a piteous look.

"No, madame," he said, sharply; "it is too late to withhold a part.
This, madame, is temptation--a weakness of earth; the promises are to
her that overcometh."

Her only answer was an hysterical whimper and imperfect sobbing.

"Be calm," he resumed. "It is meritorious. Discharge your mind of it,
and the memory of your sacrifice will be sweeter, and its promise more
glorious the nearer you draw to your darkest hour on earth."

She had another word to say; her fingers were creeping on the coverlet
to his hand.

"No, madame, there won't be any struggle--you will faint, that is all,
and waken, we trust among the blest. I'm sorry I can't stay just now.
But Father Edwyn is here, and Dr. Garnet."

Again she turned her wavering head towards him, and lifted her eyes, as
if to speak.

"No, no, you must not exert yourself--husband your strength--you'll want
it, madame."

It was plain, however, she would have one last word more, and a little
sourly he stooped his ear again.

"Pardon me, madame, I never said or supposed that after you signed it
you were still at liberty to deal with any part; if you have courage to
take it back, it is another matter. I won't send you before the Judge
Eternal with a sacrilege in your right hand."

He spoke quietly, but very sternly, raising his finger upward, with his
eyes fixed upon her, while his dark face looked pale.

She answered only with the same helpless whimper. He beckoned to the
nun.

"Let me see that book."

He looked through its pages.

"Read aloud to madame the four first elevations; agony is near."

As he passed from the room, he beckoned the lady in the religious habit
again, and whispered in her ear in the lobby:

"Lock this door, and admit none but those you know."

He went down this time to the front drawing-room, and entered it
suddenly. Mr. Carmel was seated there, with candles beside him, reading.
Down went his book instantly, and he rose.

"Our good friend upstairs won't last beyond three or four
hours--possibly five," began Monsieur Droqville. "Garnet will be here in
a few minutes; keep the doors bolted! people might come in and disturb
the old lady. You need not mind now. I locked the hall-door as I came
in. Why don't you make more way with Miss Ware? Her mother is no
obstacle--favourable rather. Her father is a mere pagan, and never at
home; and the girl likes you."

Mr. Carmel stared.

"Yes, you are blind; but I have my eyes. Why don't you read your
Montaigne? '_Les agaceries des femmes sont des declarations d'amour._'
You interest her, and yet you profit nothing by your advantage. There
she is, romantic, passionate, Quixotic, and makes, without knowing it, a
hero of you. You are not what I thought you."

Mr. Carmel's colour flushed to his very temples; he looked pained and
agitated; his eyes were lowered before his superior.

"Why need you look like a fool? Understand me," continued Monsieur
Droqville, in his grim, harsh nasals. "The weaknesses of human nature
are Heaven's opportunities. The godly man knows how to use them with
purity. She is not conscious of the position she gives you; but you
should understand its powers. You can illuminate, elevate, save her."

He paused for a moment; Mr. Carmel stood before him with his eyes
lowered.

"What account am I to give of you?" he resumed. "Remember, you have no
business to be afraid. You must use all influences to save a soul, and
serve the Church. A good soldier fights with every weapon he has--sword,
pistol, bayonet, fist--in the cause of his king. What shall I say of
you? A loyal soldier, but wanting head, wanting action, wanting presence
of mind. A theorist, a scholar, a deliberator. But not a man for the
field; no _coup d'oeil_, no promptitude, no perception of a great law,
where it is opposed by a small quibble, no power of deciding between a
trifle and an enormity, between seeing your king robbed or breaking the
thief's fingers. Why, can't you see that the power that commands is also
the power that absolves? I thought you had tact--I thought you had
insinuation. Have I been mistaken? If so, we must cut out other work for
you. Have you anything to say?"

He paused only for a second, and in that second Mr. Carmel raised his
head to speak; but with a slight downward motion of his hand, and a
frown, Droqville silenced him, and proceeded:

"True, I told you not to precipitate matters. But you need not let the
fire go out, because I told you not to set the chimney in a blaze. There
is Mrs. Ware; her most useful position is where she is, _in equilibrio_.
She can serve no one by declaring herself a Catholic; the _eclat_ of
such a thing would spoil the other mission, that must be conducted with
judgment and patience. The old man I told you of is a Puritan, and must
see or suspect nothing. While he lives there can be no avowal. But up to
that point all must now proceed. Ha! there goes a carriage--that's the
third I have heard--Lady Mardykes's party breaking up. The Wares don't
return this way. I'll see you again to-morrow. To-night you accomplish
your duty here. The old woman upstairs will scarcely last till dawn."

He nodded and left the room as suddenly as he had entered it.



                           CHAPTER XXXVII.

                            A LAST LOOK.


At about eleven o'clock next morning, mamma came to my bedside, having
thrown her dressing-gown on, and holding a note in her hand. I was
awakened by her calling me by my name; and the extraordinary exertion of
getting out of her bed at such an hour, the morning after a ball, even
if there had not been consternation in her looks, would have satisfied
me that something unusual had happened. I sat up staring at her.

"Oh, dear Ethel, here's a note from Doctor Droqville; I'm so
shocked--poor, dear Aunt Lorrimer is dead." And mamma burst into tears,
and, sobbing, told me to read the note, which, so soon as I had a little
collected myself, I did. It said:

     "Dear Mrs. Ware,--I could not, of course, last night tell you the
     sad news about Lady Lorrimer. She arrived, it seems, on Tuesday
     last, to die in England. On leaving Lady Mardykes's last night, I
     went to her house to make inquiries; she was good enough to wish to
     see me. I found her in a most alarming state, and quite conscious
     of her danger. She was sinking rapidly. I was, therefore, by no
     means surprised, on calling about half an hour ago, to learn that
     she was no more. I lose no time in communicating the sad
     intelligence. It will be consolatory to you to learn that the
     nurses, who were present during her last moments, tell me that she
     died without any pain or struggle. I shall call to morrow, as near
     twelve as I can, to learn whether there is anything in which you
     think my poor services can be made available.--I remain, dear Mrs.
     Ware, Ever yours sincerely,

                                                     P. Droqville."

I was very sorry. I even shed some tears, a thing oftener written about
than done.

Mamma cried for a long time. She had now no near kinswoman left. When we
are "pretty well on," and the thinned ranks of one generation only stand
between us and death, the disappearance of the old over the verge is a
serious matter. Between mamma and Lady Lorrimer, too, there were early
recollections and sympathies in common, and the chasm was not so wide.

But for the young, and I was then young, the old seem at best a sort of
benevolent ghosts, whose presence, more or less, chills and awes, and
whose home is not properly with the younger generation. Their memories
are busy with a phantom world that passed away before we were born. They
are puckered masks and glassy eyes, peeping from behind the door of the
sepulchre that stands ajar, closing little by little to shut them in for
ever. I am now but little past forty, yet I feel this isolation stealing
upon me. I acquiesce in the law of nature, though it seems a cynical
one. I know I am no longer of the young; I grow shy of them; there is a
real separation between us.

The world is for the young--it belongs to them, and time makes us ugly,
and despised, and solitary, and prepares for our unregretted removal,
for nature has ordained that death shall trouble the pleasure and
economy of the vigorous, high-spirited world as little as may be.

Mamma was more grieved, a great deal, than I at all expected. I am
writing now in solitude, and from my interior convictions, under a sort
of obligation to tell, not only nothing but the truth, but the whole
truth also; and I confess that mamma was selfish, and, in a degree,
exacting. The education of her whole married life had tended to form
those habits; but she was also affectionate, and her grief was vehement,
and did not subside, as I thought it would, after its first outburst.
The only practical result of her grief was a determination to visit the
house, and see the remains of the poor lady.

I never could understand the comfort that some people seem to derive
from contemplating such a spectacle! To me the sight is simply shocking.
Mamma made it a point, however, that I should accompany her. She could
not make up her mind to go that day. The next day Doctor Droqville
called. Mamma saw him. After they had talked for a little, mamma
declared her intention of seeing poor Lady Lorrimer as she lay in her
bed.

"Allow me to advise you, as a physician, to do no such thing," said
Droqville. "You'll inflict a great deal of pain on yourself, and do
nobody any good."

"But unless I see her once more I shall be miserable," pleaded mamma.

"You have not nerve for such scenes," he replied; "you'd not be yourself
again for a month after."

I joined my entreaties to Doctor Droqville's representations, and I
thought we had finally prevailed over mamma's facile will.

He gave us a brief account of Lady Lorrimer's illness and last moments,
and then talked on other subjects; finally he said, "You told me you
wished me to return a bracelet that does not answer, to St. Aumand, when
I pass again through Paris. I find I shall be there in a few days--can
you let me have it now?"

Mamma's maid was out, so she went to get it herself, and, while she was
away, Doctor Droqville said to me, with rather a stern look:

"Don't you allow her to go; your mamma has a form of the same affection
of the heart. We can't tell her that; but quiet nerves are essential to
her. She touches the spring of the mischief, and puts it in action at
any moment by agitating herself."

"I think she has given up that intention," I answered; "but for Heaven's
sake, Doctor Droqville, tell me, is mamma in any danger?"

"No, if she will only keep quiet. She may live for many years to come;
but every woman, of course, who has a weakness of the kind, may kill
herself easily and quickly; but--I hear her--don't allow her to go."

Mamma returned, and Doctor Droqville soon took his departure, leaving me
very miserable, and very much alarmed. She now talked only of postponing
her last look at poor Lady Lorrimer until to-morrow. Her vacillations
were truly those of weakness, but they were sometimes violent; and when
her emotions overcame her indolence, she was not easily managed.

The dark countenance of Doctor Droqville, as he urged his prohibition,
excited vague suspicions. It was by no means benevolent--it was grim,
and even angry. It struck me instinctively that he might have some
motive, other than the kind one which he professed, in wishing to scare
away mamma from the house of death.

Doctor Droqville was, I believe, a very clever physician; but his visits
to England, being desultory, he could not, of course, take the position
of any but an occasional adviser. He had acquired an influence over
mamma, and I think if he had been a resident in London, she would have
consulted no other. As matters were, however, Sir Jacob Lake was her
"physician in ordinary." To him I wrote the moment I had an opportunity,
stating what had occurred, enclosing his fee, and begging of him to look
in about two next day, on any pretext he could think of, to determine
the question.

Next day came, and with two o'clock, just as we were sitting down to
lunch, Sir Jacob arrived. I ran up instantly to the drawing-room,
leaving mamma to follow, for sages of his kind have not many minutes to
throw away. He relieved my mind a little about mamma, but not quite, and
before he had spoken half-a-dozen sentences she came in. He made an
excuse of poor Lady Lorrimer's death, and had brought with him two or
three letters of hers, describing her case, which he thought might be
valuable should any discussion arise respecting the nature of her
disease.

The conversation thus directed, I was enabled to put the question on
which Doctor Droqville had been so peremptory. Sir Jacob said there was
nothing to prevent mamma's going, and that she was a great deal more
likely to be agitated by a dogged opposition to a thing she had so set
her heart on.

Now that mamma found herself quite at liberty to go, I think she grew a
little frightened. She was looking ill; she had eaten nearly nothing for
the last two days, seen nobody but Doctor Droqville and the doctor who
had just now called, and her head was full of her mourning and mine.
Her grief was very real. Through Lady Lorrimer's eyes she had been
accustomed to look back into her own early life. They had both seen the
same scenes and people that she remembered, and now there was no one
left with whom she could talk over old times. Mamma was irresolute till
late in the afternoon, and then at last she made up her mind.

We drove through half-a-dozen streets. I did not know in what street my
poor aunt Lorrimer's house was. We suddenly pulled up, and the footman
came to the door to say that there was a chain across the street at each
end. We had nothing for it but to get out and to walk past the paviors
who had taken possession of it. The sun was, I suppose, at this time
about setting. The sunlight fell faintly on the red brick chimneys
above, but all beneath was dark and cold. In its present state it was a
melancholy and silent street. It was, I instantly saw, the very same
street in which Lady Lorrimer had chosen to pass me by.

"Is that the house, the one with the tan before it?" I asked.

It was. I was now clear upon the point. Into that house I had seen her
go. The woman in the odd costume who had walked beside her, Mr. Carmel's
thin figure and melancholy ascetic face, and the silence in which they
moved, were all remembered, and recalled the sense of curious mystery
with which I had observed the parting, more than two years ago, and
mingled an unpleasant ingredient in the gloom that deepened about me as
I now approached the door.

It was all to be cleared up soon. The door was instantly opened by a man
in black placed in the hall. A man also in black, thin, very
perpendicular, with a long neck, sallow face, and black eyes, very
stern, passed us by in silence with a glance. He turned about before he
reached the hall door, and in a low tone, a little grimly, inquired our
business. I told him, and also who we were.

We were standing at the foot of the stairs. On hearing our names he took
off his hat, and, more courteously, requested us to wait for a moment
where we were, till he should procure a person to conduct us to the
room. This man was dressed something in the style of our own
High-Church divines, except that his black coat was longer, I think. He
had hardly left us when there was a ring at the bell, and a poor woman,
holding a little girl by the hand, came in, whispered to the man in the
hall, and then, passing us by, went up the stairs in silence and
disappeared. They were met by a second clergyman coming down, rather
corpulent, with a tallowy countenance and spectacles, who looked at us
suspiciously, and went out just as a party of three came into the hall,
and passed us by like the former.

Almost immediately the clergyman we had first met returned, and
conducted us up the stairs as far as the first landing, where we were
met by a lady in a strange brown habit, with a rosary, and a hood over
her head, whom I instantly knew to be a nun. We followed her up the
stairs. There was a strange air of mystery and of publicity in the
proceedings; the house seemed pretty well open to all comers; no one who
whispered a few words satisfactorily to the porter in the hall failed to
obtain immediate access to the upper floor of the house. Everything was
carried on in whispers, and there was a perpetual tramping of feet
slowly going up and down stairs.

It was much more silent as we reached the level of the drawing-rooms.
The nun opened the back drawing-room, and without more ceremony than a
quiet movement of her hand, signed to us to go in. I think mamma's heart
half failed her; I almost hoped she would change her mind, for she
hesitated, and sighed two or three times heavily, with her hand pressed
to her heart, and looked very faint.

The light that escaped through the half-opened door was not that of day,
but the light of candles. Mamma took my arm, and in silence hurried me
into the room.

Now I will tell you what I saw. The room was hung with black, which
probably enhanced the effect of its size, for it appeared very large.
The windows were concealed by the hangings of black cloth, which were
continued without interruption round all the walls of the room. A great
many large wax candles were burning in it, and the black background,
reflecting no light, gave to all the objects standing in the room an odd
sharpness and relief.

At the far end of the apartment stood a sort of platform, about as wide
as a narrow bed, covered with a deep velvet cushion, with a drapery of
the same material descending to the floor. On this lay the body of Lady
Lorrimer, habited in the robes and hood of the order, I think, of the
Carmelites; her hands were placed together on her breast, and her rosary
was twined through her fingers. The hood was drawn quite up about the
head and cheeks of the corpse. Her dress, the cushion on which she lay,
the pillow creased by the pressure of her cold head, were strewn with
flowers. I had resolved not to look at it--such sights haunt me
afterwards; but an irresistible curiosity overcame me. It was just one
momentary glance, but the picture has remained on my inner sight ever
since, as if I had gazed for an hour.

There was at the foot of this catafalque an altar, on which was placed a
large crucifix; huge candlesticks with tall tapers stood on the floor
beside it. Many of the strangers who came in kneeled before the crucifix
and prayed, no doubt for the departed spirit. Many smaller crucifixes
were hung upon the walls, and before these also others of the visitors
from time to time said a prayer. Two nuns stood one at each side of the
body, like effigies of contemplation and prayer, telling their beads. It
seemed to me that there was a profusion of wax-lights. The transition
from the grey evening light, darker in the house, into this illumination
of tapers, had a strange influence upon my imagination. The reality of
the devotion, and the more awful reality of death, quite overpowered the
theatrical character of the effect.

I saw the folly of mamma's irrepressible desire to come here. I thought
she was going to faint; I dare say she would have done so, she looked so
very ill, but that tears relieved her. They were tears in which grief
had but a subordinate share; they were nervous tears, the thunder-shower
of the hysteria which had been brewing ever since she had entered the
room. I don't know whether she was sorry that she had come. I am sure
she would have been better if she had never wished it.



                           CHAPTER XXXVIII.

                                STORM.


A few days later, mamma and I were talking in the drawing-room, when the
door opened, and papa came in, his umbrella in his hand, and his hat on
his head, looking as white as death. He stood for a time without
speaking. We were both staring in his face, as dumb as he.

"Droqville's a villain!" he said, suddenly. "They have got that
miserable old fool's money--every guinea. I told you how it would be,
and now it has all happened!"

"What has happened?" asked mamma, still gazing at him, with a look of
terror. I was myself freezing with horror. I never saw despair so near
the verge of madness in a human face before as in papa's.

"What? We're ruined! If there's fifty pounds in the bank it's all, and
only that between us and nothing."

"My God!" exclaimed mamma, whiter than ever, and almost in a whisper.

"Your God! What are you talking about? It is you that have done it
all--filling the house with priests and Jesuits. I knew how it would be,
you fool!"

Papa was speaking with the sternness of actual fury.

"I'm not to blame--it is not my doing. Frank, for Heaven's sake, don't
speak so--you'll drive me mad! I don't know what they have done--I don't
understand it!" cried mamma, and burst into a helpless flood of tears.

"You may as well stop that crying--you can do it in the streets
by-and-by. Understand it? By Heaven, you'll understand it well enough
before long. I hope you may, as you deserve it!"

With those dreadful looks, and a voice hoarse with passion, poor papa
strode out of the room, and we heard him shut the hall-door after him
with a crash.

We were left with the vaguest ideas of the nature of our misfortune; his
agitation was so great as to assure me that an alarming calamity had
really befallen us. Mamma cried on. She was frightened by his evident
alarm, and outraged by his violence, so shocking in one usually so gay,
gentle, and serene. She went up to her room to cry there, and to declare
herself the most miserable of women. Her maid gave her sal-volatile, and
I, seeing no good or comfort in my presence, ran down to the
drawing-room. I had hardly got into the room, when whom should I see
arriving at the door in a cab, with some papers in his hand, but Mr.
Forrester, papa's principal attorney. I knew papa was out, and I was so
afraid of his attorney's going away without giving us any light on the
subject of our alarms that I ran downstairs, and told the servant to
show him into the dining-room, and on no account to let him go away. I
went into the room myself, and there awaited him. In came Mr. Forrester,
and looked surprised at finding me only.

"Oh! Mr. Forrester," I said, going quickly to him, and looking up in his
eyes, "what is this about Lady Lorrimer, and--are we quite ruined?"

"Ruined?" he repeated. "Oh, dear, not at all," and he threw a cautionary
glance towards the door, and lowered his voice a little. "Why should you
be ruined? It's only a disappointment. It has been very artfully done,
and I was only this moment at the Temple talking the will over with one
of the best men at the Bar, to whom I'm to send a brief, though I can't
see, myself, any good that is likely to come of it. Everything has been
done, you see, under the best possible advice, and all the statutes
steered clear of. Her estates were all turned into money--that is, the
reversions sold--two years ago. The whole thing is very nearly a quarter
of a million, all in money, and the will declares no trust--a simple
bequest. I haven't the slightest hope of any case on the ground of undue
influence. I daresay she was, in the meaning of the law, a perfectly
free agent; and if she was not, depend upon it we shall never find it
out."

"But does it do us any particular injury?" I inquired, not understanding
one sentence in three that he spoke.

"Why, no injury, except a disappointment. In the natural course of
things, all this, or the bulk of it, might very likely have come to you
here. But only that. It now goes elsewhere; and I fear there is not the
least chance of disturbing it."

"Then we are not ruined?" I repeated.

He looked at me, as if he were not quite sure of my meaning, and with a
smile, answered:

"You are not a bit worse off than you were a year ago. She might have
left you money, but she could take nothing from you. You have property
at Cardyllion, I think, a place called Malory, and more at Golden
Friars, and other things besides. But your country solicitors would know
all about those things."

And thus having in some measure reassured me, he took his leave, saying
he would go to papa's clubs to look for him.

I ran up to mamma, more cheerful than when I had left her. She, also,
was cheered by my report, and being comforted on the immediate subject
of her alarm, she began to think that his excitement was due to some
fresh disappointment in his electioneering projects, and her resentment
at his ill-temper increased.

This was the evening of papa's political dinner-party. A gentleman's
party strictly it was to be, and he did not choose to allow poor Aunt
Lorrimer's death to prevent it. Perhaps he was sorry now that he had not
postponed it; but it was too late to think of that. We were very near
the close of the session. The evenings were perceptibly shortening. I
remember every particular connected with that evening and night, with a
sharp precision.

Papa came in at dusk. He ran upstairs, and before dressing he came into
mamma's bedroom, where I was sitting at her bedside. He looked tired and
ill, but was comparatively tranquil now.

"Never mind, May," he said; "it will all come right, I daresay. I wish
this dinner was not to be till to-morrow. They are talking of putting me
up for Dawling. One way or other, we must not despair yet. I'll come up
and see you when they go away. We are a small party--only nine, you
know--and I don't think there are two among them who won't be of very
real use to me. If I get in, I don't despair. I have been very low
before, two or three times, and we've got up again. I don't see why we
shouldn't now, as we did before."

Judging by his looks, you would have said that papa had just got out of
a sick-bed, pale, ill, haggard. He looked at his watch; it was later
than he thought, and he went away. We heard him ring for his man, and
presently the double knocks began at the hall-door, and his party were
arriving. Mamma was not very well, and whenever she was, or fancied
herself ill, papa slept in another bed-room, adjoining hers, with a
dressing-room off it. Ours was a large house, handsomer than would
naturally have fallen to our lot; it had belonged to my grandfather,
Lord Chellwood, and when he built the new house in Blank Street settled
this upon his younger son.

Mamma and I had some dinner in her room, and some tea there also. She
had got over her first alarm. Papa's second visit had been re-assuring,
and she took it very nearly for granted that, after some harassing
delays, and possibly a good deal of worry, the danger, whatever it was,
would subside, as similar dangers had subsided before, and things would
run again in their accustomed channel.

It was a very animated party; we could hear the muffled sound of their
talking and laughing from the drawing-room, where they were now taking
their tea and coffee, and talking, as it seemed, nearly all together. At
length, however, the feast was ended, the guests departed, and papa,
according to promise, came upstairs, and, with hardly a knock at the
door, came in. Had he been drinking more than usual? I don't know. He
was in high spirits. He was excited, and looked flushed, and talked
incessantly, and laughed ever so much at what seemed to me very
indifferent jokes.

I tried to edge in a question or two about the election matters, but he
did not seem to mind, or even to hear what I said, but rattled and
laughed on in the same breathless spirits.

"I'm going to bed now," he said, suddenly. "I've ever so much to do
to-morrow, and I'm tired. I shall be glad when this thing is all ended."

Mamma called after him, "But you did not bid us good-night." The candle,
however, vanished through the second bed-room into the dressing-room,
and we heard him shut the door.

"He did not hear," said mamma; "his head is so full of his election. He
seems very well. I suppose everything will be right, after all."

So mamma and I talked on for a little; but it was high time that she
should settle to rest. I kissed her, and away I went to my own room.
There my maid, as she brushed my hair, told me all the rumours of the
servants' hall and the housekeeper's room about papa's electioneering
prospects. All promised great things, and, absurd as these visions were,
there was something cheering in listening to them. It was past twelve by
the time my maid left me.

Very shortly after I heard a step come to my door, and papa asked, "Can
I come in, dear, to say a word?"

"Oh! yes; certainly, papa," I answered, a little curious.

"I won't sit down," he said, looking round the room vaguely. He laid his
candle on my table; he had a small box in his hand, in which mamma had
told me he kept little lozenges of opium, his use of which had lately
given her a great deal of secret uneasiness. "I have found it all out.
It was that villain Droqville who did it all. He has brought us very
low--broken my heart, my poor child!" He heaved a great sigh. "If that
woman had never lived, if we had never heard of her, I should not have
been so improvident. But that's all over. You must read your Bible,
Ethel; it is a good book; there's something in it--something in it. That
governess, Miss Grey, was a good woman. I say you are young; you are not
spoiled yet. You must read a little bit every night, or I'll come and
scold you. Do you mind? You look very well, Ethel. You must not let your
spirits down--your courage. I wish it was morning. All in good time. Get
to sleep, darling. Good night--good-bye." He kissed me on the cheek and
departed.

I was soon fast asleep. I think the occurrences of the earlier part of
the day had made me nervous. I awoke with a start, and a vague
consciousness of having been in the midst of an unpleasant dream. I
thought I heard mamma call me. I jumped out of bed, threw my
dressing-gown about me, and, with bare feet, walked along the lobby, now
quite dark, towards mamma's door. When I got almost to it I suddenly
recollected that I could not have heard mamma's voice in my room from
hers. In total darkness, solitude, and silence, I experienced the sort
of chill which accompanies the discovery of such an illusion. I was just
turning about, to make a hasty retreat to my own room, when I did hear
mamma's voice. I heard her call papa's name, and then there was a
silence. I changed my mind. I went on, and tapped at her door. Rather
nervously she asked, "Who's there?" and on hearing me answer, told me to
come in. There was only the night-light she usually had burning in her
room. She was sitting up in her bed, and told me she had been startled
by seeing papa looking in at the door (she nodded toward the one that
opened to his bedroom). The night-light was placed on a little table
close beside it.

"And oh! my dear Ethel, he looked so horribly ill I was frightened; I
hardly knew him, and I called to him, but he only said, 'That's enough,'
and drew back, and shut the door. He looked so ill, that I should have
followed him in, but I found the door locked, and I heard him shut the
door of his dressing-room. Do you think he is ill?"

"Oh! no, mamma; if he had been ill he'd have told you so; I'm sure it
was the miserable light in this room--everything looks so strange in
it." And so with a few words more we bid good-night once again; and,
having seen her reclining with her head on her pillow, I made my way
back again to my own room.

I felt very uncomfortable; the few words mamma had said presented an
image that somehow was mysterious and ill-omened. I held my door open,
and listened with my head stretched into the dark. Papa's dressing-room
door was nearly opposite. I was re-assured by hearing his step on the
floor; then I heard something move; I closed my door once more, and got
into bed.

The laws of acoustics are, I believe, well ascertained; and, of course,
they never vary. But their action, I confess, has often puzzled me.

In the house where I now write, there are two rooms separated only by a
narrow passage, in one of which, under a surgical operation, three
dreadful shrieks were uttered, not one of which was, even faintly, heard
in the other room, where two near and loving relations awaited the
result in the silence and agony of suspense. In the same way, but not so
strikingly, because the interposing space is considerably greater, no
sound was ever heard in mamma's room, from papa's dressing-room, when
the doors were shut. But from my door, when the rest of the house was
silent, you could very distinctly hear a heavy step, or any other noise,
in that room.

My visit to mamma's room had, as nurses say, "put my sleep astray," and
I lay awake until I began to despair of going to sleep again till
morning. From my meditations in the dead silence, I was suddenly
startled by a sound like the clapping of the dressing-room door with one
violent clang. I jumped up again; I thought I should hear papa's step
running down the stairs, and all my wild misgivings returned. I put my
head out of the door, and listened. I heard no step--nothing stirring.
Once more in my dressing-gown I stole out; his candle was still burning,
for I saw a ray of light slanting towards the lobby floor from the
keyhole of his room, with the motes quivering in it. It pointed like a
wand to something white that lay upon the ground. I remembered that this
was the open leaf of the old Bible--too much neglected book, alas! in
our house--that had fallen from its little shelf on the lobby, and which
I had been specially moved to replace as I passed it an hour or two
before, seeing, in my superstitious mood, omens in all things. Hurried
on, however, by mamma's voice calling me, I had not carried out my
intention.

"Dislodged from your place, you may be," I now thought, as I stooped to
take the book in my hand; "but never to be trampled on!"

I was interrupted by a voice, a groan, I thought from inside the
dressing-room.

I was not quite certain; staring breathlessly at the door, I listened;
no sound followed. I stepped to the door and knocked. No answer came.
With my lips close to the door, and my hand upon the handle, I called,
"Papa, papa, papa!" I was frightened; I pushed open the door, and
hesitated. I called again, "Papa--answer, answer! Are you there, papa?"
I was calling upon silence. With a little effort I stepped in.

The candle was burning on the table; there was a film of blue smoke
hovering in the air--a faint smell of burning. I saw papa lying on the
floor; he appeared to have dropped from the arm-chair, and to have
fallen over on his back; a pistol lay by his half-open hand; the side of
his face looked black and torn, as if a thunderbolt had scorched him,
and a stream of blood seemed throbbing from his ear.

The smell of powder, the smoke, the pistol on the ground, told what had
happened. Freezing with terror, I screamed the words, "Papa, papa! O
God! speak! He's killed!" I was on my knees beside him; he was not quite
dead. His eyes were fixed in the earnest stare of the last look, and
there was a faint movement of the mouth, as if he were trying to speak.
It was only for a few seconds. Then all motion ceased--his jaw fell--he
was dead.

I staggered back against the wall, uttering a frightful scream.

Under excitement so tremendous as mine, people, I think, are more than
half spiritualized. We seem to find ourselves translated from place to
place by thought rather than effort.

It seemed to me only a second after I had left that frightful room, that
I stood beside Miss Pounden's bed upstairs. She slept with not only her
shutters, but the window open. It was so perfectly silent, the street as
well as the house, that through the wall from the nursery next door I
could faintly hear a little baby crying. The moonlight shone dazzlingly
on the white curtains of Miss Pounden's bed. I shook her by the
shoulder, and called her. She started up, and I remember the odd effect
of her wide open eyes, lighted by the white reflection, and staring
from the shadow at me with a horror that she caught from my looks.

"Merciful Heaven! Miss Ware--my dear child--why are you here?--what is
it?"

"Come with me; we must get help. Papa is dreadfully hurt in the
dressing-room. Mamma knows nothing of it; don't say a word as you pass
her door."

Together we went down, steadily drawing towards the awful room, from
which we saw, at the end of the dark passage, the faint flush of the
candle fall on the carpet.

When I told Miss Pounden what had happened, nothing would induce her to
come with me beyond the lobby. I had to go into the room alone; I had to
look in to be sure that he was actually dead. Oh! it was appalling,
incredible. I, Ethel Ware, looking at my handsome, gay, good-natured
father, killed by his own hands, the smoke of the fatal shot not yet
quite cleared away! Why was there no pitying angel near to call me but a
minute earlier? My tap at the door would have arrested his hand, and the
moment of temptation would have passed harmlessly by. All too late--for
time and eternity all is irretrievable now. One glance was sufficient. I
could not breathe; I could not, for some dreadful moments, withdraw my
eyes. With a faint cry, I stepped backward. I was trembling violently as
I asked Miss Pounden to send any one of the servants for Sir Jacob Lake,
and to tell whoever was going not to leave his house without him.

I waited in the drawing-room while she went down, and I heard her call
to the servants over the stairs. The message was soon arranged, and the
messenger gone. I had not cried all this time; I continued walking
quickly about the drawing-room, with my hands clenched together, talking
wildly to myself and to God. When Miss Pounden returned, I implored of
her not to leave me.

"Come up to my room; we'll wait there till Sir Jacob Lake comes. Mamma
must not know it, except as he advises. If she learned it too suddenly,
she would lose her mind."



                            CHAPTER XXXIX.

                         FAREWELL, MISS WARE.


I do not mean to describe the terrible scenes that followed. When death
comes attended with a scandal like this, every recollection connected
with it is torture. The gross and ghastly publicity, the merciless
prying into details, and over all the gloom of the maddest and most
mysterious of crimes! You look in vain in the shadow for the consoling
image of hope and repose; a medium is spread around that discolours and
horrifies, and the Tempter seems to haunt the house.

Then, the outrage of a public tribunal canvassing the agitations and
depressions of "the deceased" in the house which within a few days was
his own, handling the fatal pistol, discussing the wounds, the silent
records of a mental agony that happy men cannot even imagine, and that
will for life darken the secret reveries of those who loved the dead!

But as one of our proverbs, old as the days of Glastonbury, says:

  "Be the day never so long,
  At length cometh the even song."

Mamma is now in her crape and widow's cap; I in my deep mourning also,
laden with crape. A great many people have called to inquire, and have
left cards. A few notes, which could not be withheld, of embarrassed
condolence, have come from the more intimate, who thought themselves
obliged to make that sacrifice and exertion. Two or three were very kind
indeed. Sore does one feel at the desertions that attend a great and
sudden change of fortune. But I do not, on fairly thinking it over,
believe that there is more selfishness or less good-nature in the world
in which we were living than in that wider world which lies at a lower
social level. We are too ready to take the intimacies of pleasure or
mere convenience as meaning a great deal more than they ever fairly can
mean. They are not contracted to involve the liabilities of friendship.
If they did, they would be inconveniently few. You must not expect
people to sacrifice themselves for you merely because they think you
good company or have similar tastes. When you begin the _facilis
deccensus_, people won't walk with you very far on the way. The most you
can expect is a graceful, and sometimes a compassionate, farewell.

It was about a fortnight after poor papa's death that some law-papers
came, which, understanding as little about such matters as most young
ladies do, I sent, with mamma's approval, to Mr. Forrester, who, I
mentioned, had been poor papa's man of business in town.

Next day he called. I was with mamma in her room at the time, and the
servant came up with a little pencilled note. It said, "The papers are
important, and the matter must be looked after immediately, to prevent
unpleasantness." Mamma and I were both startled. "Business," which we
had never heard of before, now met us sternly face to face, and demanded
instant attention. The servant said that Mr. Forrester was waiting in
the drawing-room, to know whether mamma wished to see him. She asked me
to go down instead, which accordingly I did.

As I entered, he was standing looking from the window with a thoughtful
and rather disgusted countenance, as if he had something disagreeable to
tell. He came forward and spoke very kindly, and then told me that the
papers were notices to the effect that unless certain mortgages were
paid off upon a certain early day, which was named, the house and
furniture would be sold. He saw how startled I was. He looked very
kindly, and as if he pitied me.

"Has your mamma any relation, who understands business, to advise with
under her present circumstances?" he asked.

"Chellwood, I think, ought," I began.

"I know. But this will be very troublesome; and they say Lord Chellwood
is not a man of business. He'll never undertake it, I'm sure. We can
try, if you like; but I think it is merely losing time and a sheet of
paper, and he's abroad, I know, at Vichy; for I wrote to him to try to
induce him to take an assignment of this very mortgage, and he would
not, or said he could not, which means the same thing. I don't think
he'll put himself out of his way for anybody. Can you think of no one
else?"

"We have very few kinsmen," I answered; "they are too remote, and we
know too little about them, to have any chance of their taking any
trouble for us."

"But there was a family named Rokestone connected with you at Golden
Friars?"

"There is only Sir Harry Rokestone, and he is not friendly. We have
reason to know he is very much the reverse," I answered.

"I hope, Miss Ware, you won't think me impertinent, but it is right you
should ascertain, without further loss of time, how you stand. There are
expenses going on. And all I positively know is that poor Mr. Ware's
affairs are left in a very entangled state. Does your mamma know what
balance there is in the bank?"

"How much money in the bank?" I repeated. "Papa said there was fifty
pounds."

"Fifty pounds! Oh, there must be more than that," he replied, and looked
down, with a frown, upon the floor, and, with his hands in his pockets,
meditated for a minute or two.

"I don't like acting alone, if it can be helped," he began again; "but
if Mrs. Ware, your mamma, wishes it, I'll write to the different
professional men, Mr. Jarlcot at Golden Friars, and Mr. Williams at
Cardyllion, and the two solicitors in the south of England, and I'll
ascertain for her, as nearly as we can, what is left, and how everything
stands, and we must learn at the bank what balance stands to your
credit. But I think your mamma should know that she can't possibly
afford to live in the way she has been accustomed to, and it would only
be prudent and right that she should give all the servants, except two
or three whom she can't do without, notice of discharge. Is there a
will?"

"I don't know. I think not--mamma thinks not," I said.

"I don't believe there is," he added. "It's not likely, and the law
makes as good a will for him as he could have made for himself." He
thought for a minute, and then went on. "I felt a great reluctance, Miss
Ware, to talk upon these unpleasant subjects: but it would not have been
either kind or honest to be silent. You and your mamma will meet your
change of circumstances with good sense and good feeling, I am sure. A
very great change, I fear, it will be. You are not to consider me as a
professional man, tell your mamma. I am acting as a friend. I wish to do
all I can to prevent expense, and to put you in possession of the facts
as quickly and clearly as I can, and then you will know exactly the case
you have to deal with."

He took his leave, with the same air of care, thought, and suppressed
fuss which belongs to the overworked man of business.

When these people make a present of their time, they are giving us
something more than gold. I was not half grateful enough to him then.
Thought and years have enabled me to estimate his good-nature.

I was standing at the window of a back drawing-room, a rather dark room,
pondering on the kind but alarming words, at which, as at the sound of a
bell, the curtain seemed to rise for a new act in my life. These worldly
terrors were mingling a new poison in my grief. The vulgar troubles,
which are the hardest to bear, were near us. At this inopportune moment
I heard the servant announce some one, and, looking over my shoulder
quickly, I saw Mr. Carmel come in. I felt myself grow pale. I saw his
eye wander for a moment in search, I fancied, of mamma. I did not speak
or move. The mirror reflected my figure back upon myself as I turned
towards him. What did he see? Not quite the same Ethel Ware he had been
accustomed to. My mourning-dress made me look taller, thinner, and paler
than before. I could not have expected to see him; I looked, I suppose,
as I felt, excited, proud, pained, resentful.

He came near; his dark eyes looked at me inquiringly. He extended his
hand, hesitated, and said:

"I am afraid I did wrong. I ought not to have asked to see you."

"We have not seen anyone--mamma or I--except one old friend, who came a
little time ago."

My own voice sounded cold and strange in my ear; I felt angry and
contemptuous. Had I not reason? I did not give him my hand, or appear to
perceive that he had advanced his. I could see, though I did not look
direct at him, that he seemed pained.

"I thought, perhaps, that I had some claim, also, as an old friend," he
began, and paused.

"Oh! I quite forgot that," I repeated, in the same tones; "an old
friend, to be sure." I felt that I smiled bitterly.

"You look at me as if you hated me, Miss Ware," he said--"why should
you? What have I done?"

"Why do you ask me? Ask yourself. Look into your conscience. I think,
Mr. Carmel, you are the last person who should have come here."

"I won't affect to misunderstand you; you think I influenced Lady
Lorrimer," he said.

"The whole thing is coarse and odious," I said. "I hate to speak or
think of it; but, shocking as it is, I must. Lady Lorrimer had no near
relations but mamma; and she intended--she told her so in my
hearing--leaving money to her by her will. It is, I think, natural and
right that people should leave their money to those they love--their own
kindred--and not to strangers. I would not complain if Lady Lorrimer had
acted of her own thought and will in the matter. But it was far
otherwise; a lady, nervous and broken in health, was terrified, as death
approached, by people, of whom you were one, and thus constrained to
give all she possessed into the hands of strangers, to forward
theological intrigues, of which she could understand nothing. I say it
was unnatural, cruel, and rapacious. That kind lady, if she had done as
she wished, would have saved us from all our misery."

"Will you believe me, Miss Ware?" he said, in the lowest possible tones,
grasping the back of the chair, on which his hand rested, very hard, "I
never knew, heard, or suspected that Lady Lorrimer had asked or received
any advice respecting that will, which I see has been publicly
criticised in some of the papers. I never so much as heard that she had
made a will. I entreat, Miss Ware, that you will believe me."

"In matters where your Church is concerned, Mr. Carmel, I have heard
that prevarication is a merit. With respect to all that concerns poor
Lady Lorrimer, I shall never willingly hear another word from you, nor
ever speak to you again."

I turned to the window, and looked out for a minute or two, with my
fingers on the window-sash. Then I turned again rather suddenly. He was
standing on the same spot, in the same attitude, his hands clasped
together, his head lowered, his eyes fixed in a reverie on the ground,
and I thought I saw the trace of tears on his cheek.

My moving recalled him, and he instantly looked up and said:

"Let me say a word--whatever sacrifice my holy calling may impose, I
accept with gratitude to Heaven. We are not pressed into this
service--we are volunteers. The bride at the altar never took vow more
freely. We have sworn to obey, to suffer, to fight, to die. Forewarned,
and with our eyes opened, we have cast all behind us: the vanities,
hopes, and affections of mortality--according to the word of God, hating
father, mother, sister, brother; we take up the heavy cross, and follow
in the blood-stained footsteps of our Master, pressing forward; with
blind obedience and desperate stoicism, we smile at hunger, thirst, heat
and cold, sickness, perils, bonds, and death. Such soldiers, you are
right in thinking, will dare everything but treason. If I had been
commanded to withhold information from my dearest friend, to practise
any secresy, or to exert for a given object any influence, I should have
done so. All human friendship is subject with me to these inexorable
conditions. Is there any prevarication there? But with respect to Lady
Lorrimer's will, I suggested nothing, heard nothing, thought nothing."

All this seemed to me very cool. I was angry. I smiled again, and said:

"You must think all that very childish, Mr. Carmel. You tell me you are
ready to mislead me upon any subject, and you expect me to believe you
upon this."

"Of course that strikes you," he said, "and I have no answer but this: I
have no possible motive in deceiving you--all that is past, inexorable,
fixed as death itself!"

"I neither know nor care with what purpose you speak. It is clear to me,
Mr. Carmel, that with your principles, as I suppose I must call them,
you could be no one's friend, and no one but a fool could be yours. It
seems to me you are isolated from all human sympathies; toward such a
person I could feel nothing but antipathy and fear; you don't stand
before me like a fellow-creature, but like a spirit--and not a good
one."

"These principles, Miss Ware, of which you speak so severely,
Protestants, the most religious, practise with as little scruple as we,
in their warfare, in their litigation, in their diplomacy, in their
ordinary business, wherever, in fact, hostile action is suspected. If a
Laodicean community were as earnest about winning souls as they are
about winning battles, or lawsuits, or money, or elections, we should
hear very little of such weak exceptions against the inevitable strategy
of zeal and faith."

I made him no answer; perhaps I could not do so at the moment. I was
excited; his serene temper made me more so.

"I have described my obligations, Miss Ware," he said. "Your lowest view
of them can now charge me with no treachery to you. It is true I cannot
be a friend in the sense in which the world reads friendship. My first
allegiance is to Heaven; and in the greatest, as in the minutest things,
all my obedience is due to that organ of its will which Heaven has
placed above me. If all men thought more justly, such relations would
not require to be disclosed or defended; they would simply be taken for
granted--reason deduces them from the facts of our faith; we are the
creatures of one God, who has appointed one Church to be the interpreter
of his will upon earth."

"Every traitor is a sophist, sir; I have neither skill nor temper for
such discussions," I answered, proving my latter position sufficiently.
"I had no idea that you could have thought of visiting here, and I
hoped I should have been spared the pain of seeing you again. Nor should
I like to continue this conversation, because I might be tempted to say
even more pointedly what I think than I care to do. Good-bye, Mr.
Carmel, good-bye, sir," I repeated, with a quiet emphasis meant to
check, as I thought, his evident intention to speak again.

He so understood it. He paused for a moment, undecided, and then said:

"Am I to understand that you command me to come no more?"

"Certainly," I answered, coldly and angrily.

His hand was on the door, and he asked very gently, but I thought with
some little agitation:

"And that you now end our acquaintance?"

"Certainly," I repeated, in the same tone.

"Heaven has sent my share of sorrow," he said; "but no soldier of Christ
goes to his grave without many scars. I deserve my wounds and submit. It
must be long before we meet again under any circumstances; never,
perhaps, in this life."

He looked at me. He was very pale, and his large eyes were full of
kindness. He held out his hand to me silently, but I did not take it. He
sighed deeply, and placed it again on the handle of the door, and said,
very low:

"Farewell, Miss Ware--Ethel--my pupil, and may God for ever bless you!"
So the door opened, and he went.

I heard the hall door shut. That sullen sound smote my heart like a
signal telling me that my last friend was gone.

Few people who have taken an irrevocable step on impulse, even though
they have done rightly, think very clearly immediately after. My own act
for a while confounded me. I don't think that Mr. Carmel was formed by
nature for deception. I think, in my inmost soul, I believed his denial,
and was sure that he had neither act nor part in the management of Lady
Lorrimer's will. I know I felt a sort of compunction, and I experienced
that melancholy doubt as to having been quite in the right, which
sometimes follows an angry scene. In this state I returned to mamma to
tell her all that had passed.



                              CHAPTER XL.

                             A RAINY DAY.


Mamma knew nothing distinctly about the state of our affairs, but she
knew something generally of the provision made at her marriage, and she
thought we should have about a thousand a year to live upon.

I could hardly recognise the possibility of this, with Mr. Forrester's
forbodings. But if that, or even something like it, were secured to us,
we could go down to Malory, and live there very comfortably. Mamma's
habits of thinking, and the supine routine of her useless life, had
sustained a shock, and her mind seemed now to rest with pleasure on the
comparative solitude and quiet of a country life.

All our servants, except one or two, were under notice to go. I had also
got leave from mamma to get our plate, horses, carriages, and other
superfluous things valued, and fifty other trifling measures taken to
expedite the winding-up of our old life, and our entrance upon our new
one, the moment Mr. Forrester should tell us that our income was
ascertained, and available.

I was longing to be gone, so also was mamma. She seemed very easy about
our provision for the future, and I, alternating between an overweening
confidence and an irrepressible anxiety, awaited the promised
disclosures of Mr. Forrester, which were to end our suspense.

Nearly a fortnight passed before he came again. A note reached us the
day before, saying that he would call at four, unless we should write
in the meantime to put him off. He did come, and I shall never forget
the interview that followed. Mamma and I were sitting in the front
drawing-room, expecting him. My heart was trembling. I know of no state
so intolerable as suspense upon a vital issue. It is the state in which
people in money troubles are, without intermission. How it is lived
through for years, as often as it is, and without the loss of reason, is
in my eyes the greatest physical and psychological wonder of this
sorrowful world.

A gloomier day could hardly have heralded the critical exposition that
was to disclose our future lot. A dark sky, clouds dark as coal-smoke,
and a steady down-pour of rain, large-dropped and violent, that keeps up
a loud and gusty drumming on the panes, down which the wet is rushing in
rivers. Now and then the noise rises to a point that makes conversation
difficult. Every minute at this streaming window I was looking into the
street, where cabs and umbrellas, few and far between, were scarcely
discoverable through the rivulets that coursed over the glass.

At length I saw a cab, like a waving mass of black mist, halt at the
door, and a double knock followed. My breath almost left me. In a minute
or two the servant, opening the door, said, "Mr. Forrester," and that
gentleman stepped into the gloomy room, with a despatch-box in his hand,
looking ominously grave and pale. He took mamma's hand, and looked, I
thought, with a kind of doubtful inquiry in her face, as if measuring
her strength to bear some unpleasant news. I almost forgot to shake
hands with him, I was so horribly eager to hear him speak.

Mamma was much more confident than I, and said, as soon as he had placed
his box beside him, and sat down:

"I'm so obliged to you, Mr. Forrester; you have been so extremely kind
to us. My daughter told me that you intended making inquiries, and
letting us know all you heard; I hope you think it satisfactory?"

He looked down, and shook his head in silence. Mamma flushed very much,
and stood up, staring at him, and grew deadly pale.

"It is not--it can't be less--I hope it's not--than nine hundred a year.
If it is not that, what is to become of us?"

Mamma's voice sounded hard and stern, though she spoke very low. I, too,
was staring at the messenger of fate with all my eyes, and my heart was
thumping hard.

"Very far from satisfactory. I wish it were anything at all like the sum
you have named," said Mr. Forrester, very dejectedly, but gathering
courage for his statement as he proceeded. "I'll tell you, Mrs. Ware,
the result of my correspondence, and I am really pained and grieved that
I should have such a statement to make. I find that you opened your
marriage settlement, except the provision for your daughter, which, I
regret to say, is little more than a thousand pounds, and she takes
nothing during your life, and then we can't put it down at more than
forty pounds a year."

"But--but I want to know," broke in poor mamma, with eyes that glared,
and her very lips white, "what there is--how much we have got to live
on?"

"I hope from my heart there may be something, Mrs. Ware, but I should
not be treating you fairly if I did not tell you frankly that it seems
to me a case in which relations ought to come forward."

I felt so stunned that I could not speak.

"You mean, ask their assistance?" said mamma. "My good God! I can't--we
can't--I could not do that!"

"Mamma," said I, with white lips, "had not we better hear all that Mr.
Forrester has to tell us?"

"Allow me," continued mamma, excitedly; "there must be something,
Ethel--don't talk folly. We can live at Malory, and, however small our
pittance, we must make it do. But I won't consent to beg." Mamma's
colour came again as she said this, with a look of haughty resentment at
Mr. Forrester. That poor gentleman seemed distressed, and shifted his
position a little uneasily.

"Malory," he began, "would be a very suitable place, if an income were
arranged. But Malory will be in Sir Harry Rokestone's possession in two
or three days, and without his leave you could not get there; and I'm
afraid I dare not encourage you to entertain any hopes of a favourable,
or even a courteous, hearing in that quarter. Since I had the pleasure
of seeing Miss Ware here, about ten days or a fortnight since, I saw Mr.
Jarlcot, of Golden Friars; a very intelligent man he evidently is, and
does Sir Harry Rokestone's business in that part of the world, and
seemed very friendly; but he says that in that quarter"--Mr. Forrester
paused, and shook his head gloomily, looking on the carpet--"we have
nothing good to look for. He bears your family, it appears an implacable
animosity, and does not scruple to express it in very violent language
indeed."

"I did not know that Sir Harry Rokestone had any claim upon Malory,"
said mamma; "I don't know by what right he can prevent our going into my
house."

"I'm afraid there can be no doubt as to his right as a trustee; but it
was not obligatory on him to enforce it. Some charges ought to have been
paid off four years ago; it is a very peculiar deed, and, instead of
that, interest has been allowed to accumulate. I took the liberty of
writing to Sir Harry Rokestone a very strong letter, the day after my
last interview with Miss Ware; but he has taken not the slightest notice
of it, and that is very nearly a fortnight ago, and Jarlcot seems to
think that, if he lets me off with silence, I'm getting off very easily.
They all seem afraid of him down there."

I fancied that Mr. Forrester had been talking partly to postpone a
moment of pain. If there was a shock coming, he wanted resolution to
precipitate the crisis, and looked again with a perplexed and uneasy
countenance on the carpet. He glanced at mamma, once or twice, quickly,
as if he had nearly made up his mind to break the short silence that had
followed. While he was hesitating, however, I was relieved by mamma's
speaking, and very much to the point.

"And how much do you think, Mr. Forrester, we shall have to live upon?"

"That," said he, looking steadfastly on the table, with a very gloomy
countenance, "is the point on which, I fear, I have nothing
satisfactory--or even hopeful," he added, raising his head, and looking
a little stern, and even frightened, "to say. You must only look the
misfortune in the face; and a great misfortune it is, accustomed as you
have been to everything that makes life happy and easy. It is, as I said
before, a case in which relations who are wealthy, and well able to do
it, should come forward."

"But do say what it is," said mamma, trembling violently. "I shan't be
frightened, only say distinctly. Is it only four hundred?--or only three
hundred a year?" She paused, looking imploringly at him.

"I should be doing very wrong if I told you there was anything--anything
like that--anything whatever certain, in fact, however small. There's
nothing certain, and it would be very wrong to mislead you. I don't
think the assets and property will be sufficient to pay the debts."

"Great Heaven! Sir--oh! oh!--is there nothing left?"

He shook his head despondingly. The murder was out now; there was no
need of any more questioning--no case could be simpler. We were not
worth a shilling!

If in my vain and godless days the doctor at my bedside had suddenly
told me that I must die before midnight, I could not have been more
bewildered. Without knowing what I did, I turned and walked to the
window, on which the rain was thundering, and rolling down in rivers. I
heard nothing--my ears were stunned.



                             CHAPTER XLI.

                            THE FLITTING.


We were ruined! What must the discovery have been to poor mamma? She saw
all the monstrous past--the delirium was dissipated. An abyss was
between her and her former life. In the moment of social death, all that
she was leaving had become almost grotesque, incredibly ghastly. Here in
a moment was something worse than poverty, worse even than death.

During papa's life the possibility of those vague vexations known as
"difficulties" and "embarrassments," might have occurred to me, but that
I should ever have found myself in the plight in which I now stood had
never entered my imagination.

Suppose, on a fine evening, a ship, with a crash like a cannon, tears
open her planks on a hidden rock, and the water gushes and whirls above
the knees, the waists, the throats of the polite people round the
tea-table in the state-cabin, without so much as time interposed to say
God bless us! between the warning and the catastrophe, and you have our
case!

Young ladies, you live in a vague and pleasant dream. Gaslight in your
hall and lobbies, wax lights, fires, decorous servants, flowers,
spirited horses, millinery, soups and wines, are products of nature, and
come of themselves. There is, nevertheless, such a thing as poverty, as
there is such a thing as death. We hold them both as doctrines, and, of
course, devoutly believe in them, but when either lays its cold hand on
your shoulder, and you look it in the face, you are as much appalled as
if you had never heard its name before.

Carelessness, indolence, a pleasurable supineness, without any other
grievous fault or enormous mistake, had, little by little, prepared all
for the catastrophe. Mamma was very ill that night. In the morning Mr.
Forrester came again. Mamma could not see him; but I had a long
interview with him. He was very kind. I will tell you, in a few words,
the upshot of our conference.

In the first place, the rather startling fact was disclosed that we had,
in the world, but nine pounds, eight shillings, which mamma happened
still to have in her purse, out of her last money for dress. Nine
pounds, eight shillings! That was all that interposed between us and the
wide republic of beggary. Then Mr. Forrester told me that mamma must
positively leave the house in which we were then residing, to avoid
being made, as he said, "administratrix in her own wrong," and put to
great annoyance, and seeing any little fund that relations might place
at her disposal wasted in expenses and possible litigation.

So it was settled we were to leave the house, but where were we to go?
That was provided for. Near High Holborn, in a little street entered
between two narrow piers, stood an odd and ancient house, as old as the
times of James the First, which was about to be taken down to make way
for a model lodging-house. The roof was sound, and the drainage good,
that was all he could say for it; and he could get us leave to occupy
it, free of rent, until its demolition should be commenced. He had, in
fact, already arranged that for mamma.

Poor papa had owed him a considerable sum for law costs. He meant, he
said, to remit the greater part of it, and whatever the estate might
give him, on account of them, he would hand over to mamma. He feared the
sum would be a small one. He thought it would hardly amount to a hundred
pounds, but in the meantime she could have fifty pounds on account of
it.

She might also remove a very little furniture, but no more than would
just suffice, in the scantiest way, for our bed-rooms and one
sitting-room, and such things as a servant might take for the kitchen.
He would make himself responsible to the creditors for these.

I need not go further into particulars. Of course there were many
details to be adjusted, and the conduct of all these arrangements
devolved upon me. Mr. Forrester undertook all the dealings with the
servants whom it was necessary to dismiss and pay forthwith.

The house was now very deserted. There was no life in it but that
feverish fuss like the preparations that condemned people make for their
executions. The arrangements for our sorrowful flight went on like the
dismal worry of a sick dream. In our changed state we preferred country
servants, and I wrote for good old Rebecca Torkill and one of her rustic
maids at Malory, who arrived, and entered on their duties the day before
our departure. How outlandish these good creatures appeared when
transplanted from the primitive life and surroundings of Malory to the
artificial scenes of London! But how comfortable and kindly was their
clumsiness, compared with the cynical politeness and growing contempt of
the cosmopolitan servants of London!

Well, at last we were settled in our strange habitation. It was by no
means so uncomfortable as you might have supposed. We found ourselves in
a sitting-room of handsome dimensions, panelled with oak up to its
ceiling, which, however, from the size of the room, appeared rather low.
It was richly moulded, after the style of James the First's reign, but
the coarse smear of newly-applied whitewash covered its traceries.

Our scanty furniture was collected at the upper end of the apartment,
which was covered with a piece of carpet, and shut off from the lower
part of the room by a folding screen. Some kind friend had placed
flowers in a glass on the table, and three pretty plants in full blow
upon the window-stones. Some books from a circulating library were on
the table, and some volumes also of engravings. These little signs of
care and refinement took off something of the gaunt and desolate
character which would have, otherwise, made this habitation terrifying.

A rich man, with such a house in the country, might have made it
curiously beautiful; but where it was, tenanted by paupers, and
condemned to early demolition, who was to trouble his head about it?

Mamma had been better in the morning, but was now suffering, again, from
a violent palpitation, and was sitting up in her bed; it was her own
bed, which had been removed for her use. Rebecca Torkill, who had been
for some hours managing everything to receive her, was now in her room.
I was in our "drawing-room," I suppose I am to call it, quite alone. My
elbows rested on the table, my hands were over my eyes, and I was crying
vehemently. These were tears neither of cowardice nor of sorrow. They
were tears of rage. I was one of those impracticable and defiant spirits
who, standing more in need than any other of the chastisements of
Heaven, resent its discipline as an outrage, and upbraid its justice
with impious fury. I dried my eyes fiercely. I looked round our strange
room with a bitter smile. Black oak floor, black oak panelling up to the
ceiling; as evening darkened how melancholy this grew!

I looked out of the window. The ruddy sky of evening was fading into
grey. A grass-grown brick wall, as old as the house perhaps, and
springing from the two piers, enclosed the space once occupied by the
street in which it had stood. Nothing now remained of the other houses
but high piles of rubbish, broken bricks, and plaster, through which,
now and then, a black spar or plank of worn wood was visible in this
dismal enclosure; beyond these hillocks of ruin, and the jagged and worn
brick wall, were visible the roofs with slates no bigger than
oyster-shells, and the clumsy old chimneys of poverty-stricken
dwellings, existing on sufferance, and sure to fall before long beneath
the pick and crowbar; beyond these melancholy objects spread the
expiring glow of sunset with a veil of smoke before it.

As I looked back upon this sombre room, and then out upon the still more
gloomy and ruinous prospect, with a feeling of disgust and fear, and the
intolerable consciousness that we were here under the coercion of actual
poverty, you may fancy what my ruminations were. I don't know whether,
in my family, there was a vein of that hereditary melancholy called
suicidal. I know I felt, just then, its horrible promptings. Like the
invitations of the Erl-king in Goethe's ballad, it "whispered low in
mine ear." There is nothing so startling as the first real allurement
to this tremendous step. There remains a sense of an actual
communication at which mind and soul tremble. I felt it once afterwards.

Its insidiousness and power are felt on starting from the dream, and
finding oneself, as I did, alone, with silence and darkness and
frightful thoughts. I think that, but for mamma, it would have been
irresistible. The sudden exertion of my will, and in spite of my impious
mood, I am sure, an inward cry to God for help, scared away the brood
that had gathered about me with their soft monotonous seduction. Have
you ever experienced the same thing? The temptation breaks from you like
a murmur changed to a laugh, and leaves you horrified. I hated life; my
energies were dead already. Why should I drag on, with broken heart, in
solitude and degradation?

Some pitying angel kept me in remembrance of mamma, sick, helpless, so
long and entirely in the habit of leaning upon others for counsel and
for action. When sickness follows poverty, fate has little left to
inflict. One good thing in our present habitation was the fact of its
being as completely out of sight as the inmost cavern of the catacombs.
That was consolatory. I felt, at first, as if I never should wish to see
the light again. But every expression of life is strong in the young;
energy, health, spirits, hope.

The dread of this great downfall began to subside, and I could see a
little before me; my head grew clearer, and was already full of plans
for earning my bread. That, I dare say, would have been easy enough, if
I could have made up my mind to leave mamma, or if she could have
consented to part with me. But there were many things I could do at
home. Mamma was sometimes better, but her spirits never rallied. She
cried almost incessantly; I think she was heart-broken. If she could
have given me some of her gentleness, and if I could have inspired her
with some of my courage, we should have done better.

The day after our arrival, as I looked out of the window listlessly, I
saw a van drive between the piers. Two men were on the driver's seat.
They stopped before they had got very far. It was difficult navigation
among the promontories and islands of rubbish. The driver turned a
disgusted look up towards our windows, and made some remark to his
companion. They got down and led the horses with circumspection, and
with many turns and windings up to the door, and then began to speak to
our servant; but, at this interesting moment, I was summoned by Rebecca
Torkill to mamma's room, where I forgot all about the van.

But, on returning a few minutes later, I found a piano in our
drawing-room. Our rustic maid had not heard or even asked from whom it
came; and when a tuner arrived an hour later, I found that nothing could
prevail on him to disclose the name of the person or place from which it
had come. It had not any indication but the maker's name and that was no
guide.

Two or three days after our flight to this melancholy place, Mr.
Forrester called. I saw him in our strange sitting-room. It was pleasant
to see a friendly face. He had not many minutes to give me. He listened
to my plans, and rather approved of them; told me that he had some
clients who might be useful, and that he would make it a point to do
what he could with them. Then I thanked him very much for the flowers,
and the books, and the piano. But it was not he who had sent them. I
began to be rather unpleasantly puzzled about the quarter from which
these favours came. Our melancholy habitation must be known to more
persons than we supposed. I was thinking uncomfortably on this problem
when he went on to say:

"As Mrs. Ware is not well enough to see me, I should like to read to you
a draft of the letter I was thinking of sending to-day to Lord
Chellwood's house. He's to be home, I understand, for a day or two
before the end of this week; and I want to hit him on the wing, if I
can."

He then read the letter for me.

"Pray leave out what you say of me," I said.

"Why, Miss Ware?"

"Because, if I can't live by my own labour, I will die," I answered. "I
think it is his duty to do something for mamma, who is ill, and the
widow of his brother, and who has lost her provision by poor papa's
misfortunes; but I mean to work; and I hope to earn quite enough to
support me; and if I can't, as I said, I don't wish to live. I will
accept nothing from him."

"And why not from him, Miss Ware? You know he's your uncle. Whom could
you more naturally look to in such an emergency?"

"He's not my uncle; papa was his half-brother only, by a later marriage.
He never liked papa--nor us."

"Never mind--he'll do something. I've had some experience; and I tell
you, he can't avoid contributing in a case like this; it comes too near
him," said Mr. Forrester.

"I have seen him--I have heard him talk; I know the kind of person he
is. I have heard poor papa say, 'I wish some one would relieve Norman's
mind: he seems to fancy we have a design on his pocket, or his will. He
is always keeping us at arm's-length. I don't think my wife is ever
likely to have to ask him for anything.' I have heard poor papa say, I
think, those very words. Bread from his hand would choke me, and I can't
eat it."

"Well, Miss Ware, if you object to that passage, I shall strike it out,
of course. I wrote a second time to Sir Harry Rokestone, and have not
yet had a line in reply, and I don't think it likely I ever shall. I'll
try him once more; and if that doesn't bring an answer, I think we may
let him alone for some time to come."

And now Mr. Forrester took his leave and was gone. The forlorn old house
was silent again.



                             CHAPTER XLII.

                            A FORLORN HOPE.


Another week passed; mamma was better--not much better in spirits, but
very much apparently in health. She was now a good deal more tranquil,
though in great affliction. Poor mamma! No book interested her now but
the Bible; the great, wise, gentle friend so seldom listened to when all
goes well--always called in to console, when others fail.

Mr. Forrester had got me some work to do--work much more interesting
than I had proposed for myself. It was to make a translation of a French
work for a publisher. For a few days it was simply experimental, but it
was found that I did it well and quickly enough; and I calculated that
if I could only obtain constant employment of this kind, I might earn
about seventy pounds a year. Here was a resource--something between us
and actual want--something between me and the terrible condition of
dependence. My ambition was humble enough now.

For about two days this discovery of my power, under favourable
circumstances, to make sixty or seventy pounds a year, actually cheered
me; but this healthier effect was of short duration. The miseries of our
situation were too obvious and formidable to be long kept out of view.
Gloom and distraction soon returned--the same rebellious violence
inflamed by the fresh alarm of mamma's returning illness.

She was very ill again the night but one after the good news about my
translation--breathless, palpitating. I began to grow frightened and
desponding about her. I had fancied before that her symptoms were mere
indications of her state of mind; but now, when her mind seemed more
tranquil, and her nerves quiet, their return was ominous. I was urging
her to see Sir Jacob Lake, when Mr. Forrester called, and I went to our
drawing-room to see him. He had got a note, cold and petulant, from my
uncle, Lord Chellwood, that morning. This letter said that "no person
who knew of the number and magnitude of the charges affecting his
property could be so unreasonable as to suppose that he could, even if
he had the power, which was not quite so clear, think of charging an
annuity upon it, however small, for the benefit of any one." That "he
deeply commiserated the distressing circumstances in which poor Frank's
widow found herself; but surely he, Lord Chellwood, was not to blame for
it. He had never lost an opportunity of pressing upon his brother the
obligation he conceived every married man to be under, to make provision
for his wife; and had been at the trouble to show him, by some very
pertinent figures, how impracticable it was for him to add to the
burdens that weighed on the estates, and how totally he, Lord Chellwood,
was without the power of mitigating to any extent the consequences of
his rashness, if he should leave his wife without a suitable provision."
So it went on; and ended by saying that "he might possibly be able, next
spring, to make--it could be but a small one--a present to the poor
lady, who had certainly much to answer for in the imprudent career in
which she had contributed to engage her husband, and during which she
had wilfully sacrificed her settlement to the pleasures and vanities of
an expensive and unsuitable life." The letter went on in this strain,
and hinted that the present he spoke of could not exceed a hundred and
fifty pounds, and could not possibly be repeated.

"This looks very black, you see," said the good-natured solicitor. "But
I hope it may not be quite so bad as he says. If he could be got to do a
little more, a small annuity might be purchased."

I did not like my uncle. It is very hard to get over first impressions,
and the repulsion of an entirely uncongenial countenance. There was
nothing manly in his face--it was narrow, selfish, conceited. He was
pale as wax. He had manners at once dry and languid; and whether it was
in his eye or not, I can't say, but there was something in his look,
though he smiled as much as was called for, and never said a
disagreeable thing, that conveyed very clearly to me, although neither
papa nor mamma seemed to perceive it, that he positively disliked us,
each and every one, not even excepting poor, gay, good-natured papa. We
all knew he was stingy; he had one hobby, and that was the nursing and
rehabilitation of the estates which had come to him, with the title, in
a very crippled state.

With these feelings, and the pride which is strongest in youth, I
fancied that I should have died rather than have submitted to the
humiliation of accepting, much less asking, money from his hand.

       *       *       *       *       *

I must carry you three weeks further on. It was dark; I can't tell you
now what o'clock it was; I am sure it was not much earlier than nine. I
had my cloak and bonnet on; Rebecca Torkill was at my side, and her thin
hand was upon my arm.

"And where are you going, my darling, at this time of night?" she said,
looking frightened into my face.

"To see Lord Chellwood; to see papa's unnatural brother; to tell him
that mamma must die unless he helps her."

"But, my child, this is no time--you would not go out through them
wicked streets at this hour--you shan't go!" she said sturdily, taking a
firm hold of my arm.

I snatched it from her grasp angrily, and walked quickly away. I looked
over my shoulder, as I reached the two piers, and saw the figure of old
Rebecca looking black in the doorway, with a background of misty light
from the candle at the foot of the stairs. I think she was wavering
between the risk of leaving the house and mamma only half protected, and
the urgent necessity of pursuing and bringing me back. I was out of her
reach, however, before she could make up her mind.

I was walking as quickly as I could through the streets that led towards
Regent Street. I had studied them on the map.

These out-of-the-way streets were quiet now, but not deserted; now and
then I passed the blaze of a gin-palace. It was a strange fear and
excitement to me to be walking through these poor by-streets by
gas-light. No fugitive threading the streets of a town in the throes
of revolution had a keener sense of danger, or moved with eye and sinew
more ready every moment to start from a walk into a run. I suppose they
allow poor people, such as I might well be taken for, walking quickly
upon their business, to pass undisturbed. I was not molested.

At length I was in Regent Street. I felt safe now; the broad pavement,
the stream of traffic, the long line of gas-lamps, and the still open
shops, enabled me, without fear, a little to slacken my pace. I required
this relief. I had been ill for two days, and was worse. I felt chilly
and aguish; I was suffering from one of those stupendous headaches which
possibly give the sufferer some idea of the action of that iron "cap of
silence" with which, during the reign of good King Bomba, so many
Neapolitan citizens were made acquainted. I can afford to speak lightly
of it now; but I was very ill. I ought to have been in my bed. Nothing
but my tremor about mamma would have given me nerve and strength for
this excursion.

She had that day had a sudden return of the breathlessness and
palpitation from which she had suffered so much, and I had succeeded in
getting Sir Jacob Lake to come to see her.

It was a hurried visit, as his visits always were. He saw her, gave some
general directions, wrote a prescription, spoke cheerfully to her, and
his manner seemed to say he apprehended nothing. I came with him to the
stairs, which we went down together, and in the drawing-room I heard the
astounding words that told me mamma could not live many months, and
might be carried off at any moment in one of those attacks. He told me
to get her to the country, her native air, if that could be managed,
immediately. That might prolong her life a little. It was only a chance,
and at best a reprieve. But without it he could not answer for a week.
He told me that I must be careful not to let mamma know that he thought
her in danger. She was in a critical state, and any agitation might be
fatal. He took his leave, and I was alone with his dreadful words in my
ears.

Now, how was I to carry out his directions? The journey to Golden
Friars, as he planned it, would cost us at least twenty pounds, and he
ordered claret, then a very expensive wine, for mamma. He did not know
that he was carrying away our last guinea in his pocket. I had but half
a sovereign and a few shillings in my purse. Mr. Forrester was out of
town; and even if he were within reach, it was scarcely likely that he
would lend or bestow anything like the sum required. The work was not
sufficiently advanced to justify a hope that he would give me, a
stranger, a sum of money on account of a task which I might never
complete. Poverty had come in its direst shape. In the distraction of
that dreadful helplessness my pride broke down. This was the reason of
my wild excursion.

As I now walked at a more moderate pace, I felt the effect of my
unnatural exertion more painfully--every pulse was a throb of torture.
It was an effort to keep my mind clear, and to banish perpetually rising
confusions, the incipient exhalations of fever. What drowsiness is to
the system in health, this tendency to drop into delirium is to the
sick.

I found myself, at length, almost exhausted, at my noble kinsman's door.
I knocked; I asked to see him. The footman did not recognise me. He
simply said, looking across the street over my head, with a careless
disdain:

"I say, what's the row, miss?"

Certainly such a visitor as I, and at such an hour, had no very
recognisable claim to a ceremonious reception.

"Charles," I said, "don't you know me?--Miss Ware."

The man started a little, looked hard at me, drew himself up formally,
as he made his salutation, receding a step, with the hall-door open in
his hand.

"Is his lordship at home?" I asked.

"No, miss, he dined out to-day."

"But I must see him, Charles. If he knew it was I he could not refuse.
Tell him mamma is dangerously ill, and I have no one to help me."

"He is out, miss; and he sleeps out of town--at Colonel Anson's
to-night."

I uttered an exclamation of despair.

"And when is he to return?"

"He will not be in town again for a fortnight, miss; he's going to
Harleigh Castle."

I stood on the steps for a minute, stunned by the disappointment,
staring helplessly into the man's face.

"Please, shall I call a cab, miss?"

"No--no," I said dreamily. I turned and went away quickly. It troubled
me little what the servants might say or think of my strange visit.

This blow was distracting. The doctor had distinctly said that mamma's
immediate removal to country air was a necessity.

As people will under excitement, I was walking at the swiftest pace I
could. I was pacing under the evergreens of the neighbouring square,
back and forward, again and again; I saw young ladies get from a house
opposite into a carriage, and drive away, as I once used to do. I hated
them--I hated every one who was as fortunate as I once was. I hated the
houses on the other side with their well-lighted halls. I hated even the
great prosperous shop-keeping class, with their overgrown persons and
purses. Why did not fortune take other people, the purse-proud, the
scheming, the vicious, the arrogant, the avaricious, instead of us--drag
them from their places, and batter and trundle them in the gutter? Here
was I, for no fault--none, none!--reduced to a worse plight than a
beggar's. The beggar has been brought up to his calling, and can make
something of it; while I could not set about it, had not even that form
of pluck which people call meanness, and was quite past the age at which
the art is to be learned.

All this time I was growing more and more ill. The breathless walking
and the angry agitation were precipitating the fever that was already
upon me. I had an increasing horror of the dismal abode which was now my
home. Distraction like mine demands rapid locomotion as its proper and
only anodyne. Despair and quietude quickly subside into madness.

Some public clock not far off struck the hour; I did not count it; but
it reminded me suddenly of the risk of exciting alarm at home by
delaying my return. So with an effort, and as it were an awakening, I
began to direct my steps homewards. But before I reached that melancholy
goal, an astounding adventure was fated to befall me.



                            CHAPTER XLIII.

                              COLD STEEL.


I am quite certain now that the impious sophistries to which some proud
minds in affliction abandon themselves, are the direful suggestions of
intelligences immensely superior in power to themselves. When they call
to us in the air we listen; when they knock at the door we go down and
open to them; we take them in to sup with us, we make them our guests,
they become sojourners in the house, and are about our paths, and about
our beds, and spying out all our ways; their thoughts become our
thoughts, their wickedness our wickedness, their purposes our purposes,
till, without perceiving it, we are their slaves. And then when a fit
opportunity presents itself, they make, in Doctor Johnson's phrase, "a
snatch of us." Something like this was near happening to me. You shall
hear.

I grew, on a sudden, faint and cold; a horror of returning home stole
over me. I could not go home, and yet I had no other choice but death. I
had scarcely thought of death, when a longing seized me. Death grew so
beautiful in my eyes! The false smile, the mysterious welcome, the sweep
of deep waters, the vague allurement of a profound endless welcome, drew
me on and on.

Two men chatting passed me by as one said to the other, "The tide's full
in at Waterloo Bridge now; the moon must look quite lovely there." It
was spoken in harmony with my thoughts. I had read in my happier days
in the papers how poor girls had ended their misery by climbing over the
balustrade of Waterloo Bridge, over the black abyss, dotted with the
reflected lamps, and stepping off it into the dark air into death. I was
going now to that bridge--people would direct me--by the time I reached
it the thoroughfare would be still and deserted enough. I can't say I
had determined upon this--I can't say I ever thought about it--it was
only that the scene and the event had taken possession of me, with the
longing of a child for its home.

The streets were quieter now; but some shops were still open. Among
these was a jeweller's. The shutters were up, and only the door open. I
stepped in, I don't in the least know why. The fever, I suppose, had
touched my brain. There were only three men in the shop--one behind the
counter, a smiling, ceremonious man, whom I believe to have been the
owner--the two others were customers. One was a young man, sitting on a
chair with his elbow on the counter, examining and turning over some
jewellery that glittered in a little heap on the counter. The other,
older and dressed in black, was leaning over the counter, with his back
to me, and discussing, in low, careless tones, the merits of a dagger,
which, from their talk, not distinctly heard, I conjectured the young
man had been recommending as a specific against garotters. I was in no
condition to comprehend or care for the debate. The elder man, as he
talked, sometimes laid the little weapon down upon the counter, and
sometimes took it up, fitting it in his hand.

The intense light of the gas striking on my eyes made them ache acutely.
I don't know why, or how, I entered the shop; I only know that I found
myself standing within the door in a blaze of gaslight.

The jeweller, looking at me sharply across the counter, said:

"Well, ma'am?"

I answered:

"Can you give me change for a sovereign?"

I must have been losing my head; for though I spoke in perfect good
faith, I had not a shilling about me. It was not forgetfulness, but
distinctly an illusion; for I not only had the picture of the imaginary
sovereign distinctly before me, but thought I had it actually in my
hand.

The jeweller was talking in subdued and urbane accents to his customer,
and pointing out, no doubt, the special beauties and workmanship of his
_bijouterie_.

"Sorry I can't oblige you; you must try elsewhere," he said, again
directing a hard glance at me. I think he was satisfied that I was not a
thief; and he continued his talk with the young man who was making his
selection, and who was probably a little hard to please. I turned to
leave the shop, and the jeweller went into the next room, possibly in
search of something more likely to please his fastidious client at the
counter.

I had not yet seen the face of either of the visitors to the shop, but I
was conscious that the younger of the two had once or twice looked over
his shoulder at me. He now said, taking his purse from his pocket--it
was but as a parenthesis in his talk with his companion:

"I beg pardon; perhaps I can manage that change for you."

I drew nearer. What occurred next appeared to me like an incident in a
dream, in which our motives are often so obscure that our own acts take
us by surprise. Whether it was a mad moment or a lucid moment I don't
know; for in extreme misery, if our courage does not fail us, our
thoughts are always wicked.

I stood there, a slight figure, in crape, cloaked, veiled--in pain,
giddy, confused. I cannot tell you what interest the common-place
spectacle before me had for me, nor why I stayed there, gazing towards
the three gas lamps that seemed each girt with a dazzling halo that made
my eyes ache. What sounds and sights smote my sick senses with a jarring
recognition? The hard, nasal tones of the elderly man in black, who
leaned over the counter, and the pallid, scornful face, with its fine,
restless eyes and sinister energy, were those of Monsieur Droqville!

He was talking to his companion, and did not trouble himself to look at
me. He little dreamed what an image of death stood at his elbow!

They were not talking any longer about the pretty dagger that lay on
the counter, by his open fingers. Monsieur Droqville was now indulging
his cynical vein upon another theme. He was finishing a satirical
summing up of poor papa's character. I saw the sneer, the shrug; I heard
in his hard, bitter talk the name made sacred to me by unutterable
calamity; I listened to the outrage from the lips of the man who had
done all. Oh, beloved, ruined father! Can I ever forget the pale smile
of despair, the cold, piteous voice with which, on that frightful night,
he said, "Droqville has done it all--he has broken my heart." And here
was the very Droqville, with the scoff, the contempt, the triumph in his
pitiless face; and poor papa in his bloody shroud, and mamma dying! What
cared I what became of me? An icy chill seemed to stream from my brain
through me, to my feet, to my finger tips; as a shadow moves, I had
leaned over, and the hand that holds this pen had struck the dagger into
Droqville's breast.

In a moment his face darkened, with a horrified, vacant look. His mouth
opened, as if to speak or call out, but no sound came; his deep-set
eyes, fixed on me, were darkening; he was sinking backward, with a
groping motion of his hand, as if to ward off another blow.

Was it real? For a second I stared, freezing with horror; and then, with
a gasp, darted through the shop-door.

An accident, as I afterwards learned, had lamed Droqville's companion,
and thus favoured my escape. Before many seconds, however, pursuit was
on my track. I soon heard its cry and clatter. The street was empty when
I ran out. My echoing steps were the only sound there for some seconds.
I fled with the speed of the wind. I turned to the left down a narrow
street, and from that to the right into a kind of stable lane. I heard
shouting and footsteps in pursuit. I ran for some time, but the shouting
of sounds and pursuit continued. My strength failed me; I stopped short
behind a kind of buttress, beside a coach-house gate; I was hardly a
second there. An almost suicidal folly prompted me. I know not why, but
I stepped out again from my place of concealment, intending to give
myself up to my pursuers. I walked slowly back a few steps towards them.
One was now close to me. A man without a hat, crying, "Stop, stop,
police!" ran furiously past me. It clearly never entered his mind that
I, walking slowly towards him, could possibly be the fugitive.

So this moment, as I expected of perdition, passed innocuously by.

By what instinct, chance, or miracle I made the rest of my way home, I
know not. When I reached the door-stone, Rebecca Torkill was standing
there watching for me in irrepressible panic.

When she was sure it was I, she ran out, crying, "Oh! God be thanked,
miss, it's you, my child!" She caught me in her arms, and kissed me with
honest vehemence. I did not return her caress--I was worn out; it all
seemed like a frightful dream. Her voice sounded ever so far away. I saw
her, as raving people see objects mixed with unrealities. I did not say
a word as she conveyed me upstairs with her stalwart arm round my waist.

I heard her say, "Your mamma's better; she's quite easy now." I could
not say, "Thank God!" I was conscious that I showed no trace of
pleasure, nor even of comprehension, in my looks.

She was looking anxiously in my face as she talked to me, and led me
into the drawing-room. I did not utter a word, nor look to the right or
left. With a moan I sat down on the sofa. I was shivering
uncontrollably.

Another phantom was now before me, talking with Rebecca. It was Mr.
Carmel; his large, strange eyes--how dark and haggard they looked--fixed
on my face with a gaze almost of agony! Something fell from my hand on
the table as my fingers relaxed. I had forgotten that I held anything in
them. I saw them both look at it, and then on one another with a glance
of alarm, and even horror. It was the dagger, stained with blood, that
had dropped upon that homely table.

I was unable to follow their talk. I saw him take it up quickly, and
look from it to me, and to Rebecca again, with a horrible uncertainty.
It was, indeed, a rather sinister waif to find in the hand of a person
evidently so ill as I was, especially with a mark of blood also upon
that trembling hand. He looked at it again very carefully; then he put
it into Rebecca's hand, and said something very earnestly.

They talked on for a time. I neither understood nor cared what they
said; nor cared, indeed, at all what became of me.

"You're not hurt, darling?" she whispered, with her earnest old eyes
very near mine.

"I? No. Oh, no!" I answered.

"Not with that knife?"

"No," I repeated.

I was rapidly growing worse.

A little time passed thus, and then I saw Mr. Carmel pray with his hands
clasped for a few moments, and I heard him distinctly say to Rebecca,
"She's very ill. I'll go for the doctor;" and he added some words to
her. He looked ghastly pale: as he gazed in my face, his eyes seemed to
burn into my brain. Then another figure was added to the group; our maid
glided in, and stood beside Rebecca Torkill, and as it seemed to me,
murmured vaguely. I could not understand what she or they said. She
looked as frightened as the rest. I had perception enough left to feel
that they all thought me dying. So the thought filled my darkened mind
that I was indeed passing into the state of the dead. The black curtain
that had been suspended over me for so long at last descended, and I
remember no more for many days and nights.

The secret was, for the present, mine only. I lay, as the old writers
say, "at God's mercy," the sword's point at my throat, in the privation,
darkness, and utter helplessness of fever. Safe enough it was with me.
My brain could recall nothing; my lips were sealed. But though I was
speechless, another person was quickly in possession of the secret.

Some weeks, as I have said, are simply struck out of my existence. When
gradually the cold, grey light of returning life stole in upon me, I
almost hoped it might be fallacious. I hated to come back to the
frightful routine of existence. I was so very weak that even after the
fever left me I might easily have died at any moment.

I was promoted at length to the easy-chair, in which, in dressing-gown
and slippers, people recover from dangerous illness. There, in the
listlessness of exhaustion, I used to sit for hours, without reading,
without speaking, without even thinking. Gradually, by little, my spirit
revived, and, as life returned, the black cares and fears essential to
existence glided in, and gathered round with awful faces.

One day old Rebecca, who, no doubt, had long been anxious, asked:

"How did you come by that knife, Miss Ethel, that you fetched home in
your hand the night you took ill?"

"A knife? Did I?" I spoke, quietly suppressing my horror. "What was it
like?"

I was almost unconscious until then that I had really taken away the
dagger in my hand. This speech of Rebecca's nearly killed me. They were
the first words I had heard connecting me distinctly with that ghastly
scene.

She described it, and repeated her question.

"Where is it?" I asked.

"Mr. Carmel took it away with him," she replied, "the same night."

"Mr. Carmel?" I repeated, remembering with a new terror his connexion
with Monsieur Droqville. "You had no business to allow him to see it,
much less--good Heaven!--to take it."

I stood up in my terror, but I was too weak, and stumbled back into the
chair.

I would answer no question of hers. She saw that she was agitating me,
and desisted.

The whole scene in the jeweller's shop remained emblazoned in vivid
tints and lights on my memory. But there was something more, and that
perhaps the most terrible ingredient in it.

I had recognised another face besides Droqville's. It started between me
and the wounded man as I recoiled from my own blow. One hand was
extended towards me, to prevent my repeating the stroke--the other held
up the wounded man.

Sometimes I doubted whether the whole of that frightful episode was not
an illusion. Sometimes it seemed only that the pale face, so much
younger and handsomer than Monsieur Droqville's--the fiery eyes, the
frown, the scarred forehead, the suspended smile that had for only that
dreadful moment started into light before me so close to my face, were
those of a spectre.

The young man who had been turning over the jewels at the counter, and
who had offered to give me change for my imaginary sovereign, was the
very man I had seen shipwrecked at Malory; the man who had in the wood
near Plas Ylwd fought that secret duel; and who had afterwards made,
with so reckless an audacity, those mad declarations of love to me; the
man who, for a time, had so haunted my imagination, and respecting whom
I had received warnings so dark and formidable.

Nothing could be more vivid than this picture, nothing more uncertain
than its reality. I did not see recognition in the face; all was so
instantaneous. Well, I cared not. I was dying. What was the world to me?
I had assigned myself to death; and I was willing to accept that fate
rather than re-ascend to my frightful life.

My poor mother, who knew nothing of my strange adventure, had
experienced one of those deceitful rallies which sometimes seem to
promise a long reprieve, in that form of heart-complaint under which she
suffered. She only knew that I had had brain-fever. How near to death I
had been she never knew. She was spared, too, the horror of my dreadful
adventure. I was now recovering rapidly and surely; but I was so utterly
weak and heart-broken that I fancied I must die, and thought that they
were either deceived themselves, or trying kindly, but in vain, to
deceive me. I was at length convinced by finding myself able, as I have
said, to sit up. Mamma was often with me, cheered by my recovery, I dare
say she had been more alarmed than Rebecca supposed.

I learned from mamma that the money that had maintained us through my
illness had come from Mr. Carmel. Little as it was, it must have cost
him exertion to get it; for men in his position cannot, I believe, own
money of their own. It was very kind. I said nothing, but I was
grateful; his immovable fidelity touched me deeply. I wondered whether
Mr. Carmel had often made inquiries during my illness, or had shown an
interest in my recovery. But I dared not ask.



                            CHAPTER XLIV.

                          AN OMINOUS VISIT.


I have sometimes felt that, even without a revelation, we might have
discovered that the human race was born to immortality. Death is an
intrusion here. Children can't believe in it. When they see it first, it
strikes them with curiosity and wonder. It is a long time before they
comprehend its real character, or believe that it is common to all; to
the end of our days we are hardly quite sincere when we talk of our own
deaths.

Seeing mamma better, I thought no more of her danger than if the angel
of death had never been within our doors, and I had never seen the
passing shadow of that spectre in her room.

As my strength returned, I grew more and more gloomy and excited. I was
haunted by never-slumbering, and very reasonable, fore-castings of
danger. In the first place, I was quite in the dark as to whether
Monsieur Droqville was dangerously or mortally hurt, and I had no way of
learning anything of him. Rebecca, it is true, used to take in, for her
special edification, a Sunday paper, in which all the horrors of the
week were displayed, and she used to con it over regularly, day after
day, till the next number made its appearance. If Monsieur Droqville's
name, with which she was familiar, had occurred in this odious register,
she had at least had a fair chance of seeing it, and if she had seen it,
she would be pretty sure to have mentioned it. Secretly, however, I was
in miserable fear. Mr. Carmel had not returned since my recovery had
ceased to be doubtful, and he was in possession of the weapon that had
fallen from my hand.

In his retention of this damning piece of evidence, and his withdrawing
himself so carefully from my presence, coupled with my knowledge of the
principles that bound him to treat all private considerations, feelings,
and friendships as non-existent, when they stood ever so little in the
way of his all-pervading and supreme duty to his order--there was a
sinister augury. I lived in secret terror; no wonder I was not
recovering quickly.

One day, when we had sat a long time silent, I asked Rebecca how I was
dressed the night I had gone to Lord Chellwood's. I was immensely
relieved when she told me, among other things, that I had worn a thick
black veil. This was all I wanted to be assured of; for I could not
implicitly rely upon my recollection through the haze and mirage of
fever. It was some comfort to think that neither Monsieur Droqville nor
Mr. Marston could have recognised my features.

In this state of suspense I continued for two or three weeks. At the end
of that time a little adventure happened. I was sitting in an arm-chair,
in our drawing-room, with pillows about me, one afternoon, and had
fallen into a doze. Mamma was in the room, and, when I had last seen
her, was reading her Bible, which she now did sometimes for hours
together--sometimes with tears, always with the trembling interest of
one who has lost everything else.

I had fallen asleep. I was waked by tones that terrified me. I thought
that I was still dreaming, or that I had lost my reason. I heard the
nasal and energetic tones of Monsieur Droqville, talking with his
accustomed rapidity in the room--not to mamma, for, as I afterwards
found, she had left the room while I was asleep, but to Rebecca.

Happily for me, a screen stood between me and the door, and I suppose he
did not know that I was in the room. At every movement of his foot on
the floor, at every harsh emphasis in his talk, my heart bounded. I was
afraid to move, almost to breathe, lest I should draw his attention to
me.

My illness had quite unnerved me. I was afraid that, restless and
inquisitive as I knew him to be, he would peep round the screen, and see
and talk to me. I did not know the object of his visit; but in terror I
surmised it, and I lay among my pillows, motionless, and with my eyes
closed, while I heard him examine Rebecca, sharply, as to the date of my
illness, and the nature of it.

"When was Miss Ware last out, before her illness?" he asked at length.

"I could not tell you that exactly, sir," answered Rebecca, evasively.
"She left the house but seldom, just before she was took ill; for her
mamma being very bad, she was but little out of doors then."

He made a pretence of learning the facts of my case simply as a
physician, and he offered in that capacity to see me at the moment. He
asked the question in an off-hand way. "I can see her, I dare say? I'm a
doctor, you know. Where is Miss Ware?"

The moment of silence that intervened before her answer seemed to me to
last five minutes. She answered, however, quite firmly:

"No, sir; I thank you. She's attended by a doctor, quite reg'lar, and
she's asleep now."

Rebecca had heard me speak with horror of Monsieur Droqville, and did
not forget my antipathy.

He hesitated. I heard his fingers drumming, as he mused, upon the other
side of the screen.

"Well," he said, dwelling on the word meditatively, "it doesn't matter
much. I don't mind; only it might have been as well. However, you can
tell Mrs. Ware a note to my old quarters will find me, and I shall be
very happy."

And so saying, I heard him walk, at first slowly, from the room, and
then run briskly down the stairs. Then the old hall-door shut smartly
after him.

The fear that this man inspired, and not without reason, in my mind, was
indescribable. I can't be mistaken in my recollection upon that point,
for, as soon as he was gone, I fainted.

When I recovered, my fears returned. No one who has not experienced that
solitary horror, knows what it is to keep an undivulged secret, full of
danger, every hour inspiring some new terror, with no one to consult,
and no courage but your own to draw upon. Even mamma's dejected spirits
took fire at what she termed the audacity of Monsieur Droqville's visit.
My anger, greater than hers, was silenced by fear. Mamma was roused; she
ran volubly--though interrupted by many sobs and gushes of tears--over
the catalogue of her wrongs and miseries, all of which she laid to
Monsieur Droqville's charge.

The storm blew over, however, in an hour or so. But later in the evening
mamma was suffering under a return of her illness, brought on by her
agitation. It was not violent; still there was suffering; and, to me,
gloomier proof that her malady was established, and the grave in a
nearer perspective. This turned my alarms into a new channel.

She was very patient and gentle. As I sat by her bedside, looking at her
sad face, what unutterable tenderness, what sorrow trembled at my heart!
At about six o'clock she had fallen asleep, and with this quietude my
thoughts began to wander, and other fears returned. It was for no good,
I was sure, that Monsieur Droqville had tracked us to our dismal abode.
Whatever he might do in this affair of my crime, or mania, passion would
not guide it, nor merely social considerations; it would be directed by
a policy the principles of which I could not anticipate. I had no clue
to guide me; I was in utter darkness, and surrounded by all the fancies
that imagination conjures from the abyss.

I was not destined to wait very long in uncertainty.



                             CHAPTER XLV.

                             CONFIDENTIAL.


The sun was setting, when, on tip-toe, scarcely letting my dress rustle,
so afraid I was of disturbing mamma's sleep, I stole from her room,
intending to give some directions to Rebecca Torkill. As I went down the
dusky stairs I passed our Malory maid, who said something, pointing to
the drawing-room. I saw her lips move, but, as will happen when one is
pre-occupied, I took in nothing of what she said, but, with a mechanical
acquiescence, followed the direction of her hand, and entered the
sitting-room.

Our house stood upon high ground, and the nearest houses between our
front-windows and the west were low, so that the last beams of sunset,
red with smoke and mist, passed over their roofs, and shone dimly on the
oak panels opposite. The windows were narrow, and the room rather dark.
I saw some one standing at the window-frame in the shade. I was
startled, and hesitated, close to the door. The figure turned quickly,
the sun glancing on his features. It was Mr. Carmel. He came towards me
quickly; and he said, as I fancied, very coldly,

"Can you spare me two or three minutes alone, Miss Ware? I have but
little to say," he added, as I did not answer. "But it is important, and
I will make my words as few as possible."

We were standing close to the door. I assented. He closed it gently, and
we walked slowly, side by side, to the window where he had been
standing. He turned. The faint sun, like a distant fire, lighted his
face. What singular dark eyes he had, so large, so enthusiastic! and
had ever human eye such a character of suffering? I knew very well what
he was going to speak of. The face, sad, sombre, ascetic, with which I
was so familiar, I now, for the first time, understood.

The shadow of the confessional was on it. It was the face of one before
whom human nature, in moments of terrible sincerity, had laid bare its
direful secrets, and submitted itself to a melancholy anatomisation. To
some minds, sympathetic, proud, sensitive the office of the confessor
must be full of self-abasement, pain, and horror. We who know our own
secrets, and no one else's, know nothing of the astonishment, and
melancholy, and disgust that must strike some minds on contemplating the
revelations of others, and discovering, for certain, that the standard
of human nature is not above such and such a level.

"I have brought you this," he said, scarcely above his breath, holding
the knife so that it lay across the hollow of his hand. His haggard eyes
were fixed on me, and he said, "I know the whole story of it. Unless you
forbid me, I will drop it into the river to-night; it is the evidence of
an act for which you are, I thank God, no more accountable than a
somnambulist for what she does in her dream. Over Monsieur Droqville I
have neither authority nor influence; on the contrary, he can command
me. But of this much I am sure--so long as your friends do not attack
Lady Lorrimer's will--and I believe they have no idea of taking any such
step--you need fear no trouble whatever from him."

I made him no reply, but I think he saw something in my face that made
him add, with more emphasis:

"You may be sure of that."

I was immensely and instantly relieved, for I knew that there was not
the slightest intention of hazarding any litigation on the subject of
the will.

"But," he resumed, in the same cold tones, and with the same anxiety in
his dark eyes, "there is a person from whom you may possibly experience
annoyance. There are circumstances of which, as yet, you know nothing,
that may, not unnaturally, bring you once more into contact with Mr.
Marston. If that should happen, you must be on your guard. I understand
that he said something that implies his suspicions. It may have been no
more than conjecture. It may be that it was impossible he could have
recognised you with certainty. If, I repeat, an untoward destiny should
bring you together under the same roof, be wise, stand aloof from him,
admit nothing; defeat his suspicions and his cunning by impenetrable
caution. He has an interest in seeking to disgrace you, and where he has
an object to gain he has neither conscience nor mercy. I wish I could
inspire you with the horror of that mean and formidable character which
so many have acquired by a bitter experience. I can but repeat my
warning, and implore of you to act upon it, if the time should come.
This thing I retain for the present"--he glanced at the weapon in his
hand--"and dispose of it to-night, as I said."

There was no emotion in his manner; no sign of any special interest in
me; but his voice and looks were unspeakably earnest, and inspired me
with a certain awe.

I had not forgiven Mr. Carmel yet, or rather my pride would not retract;
and my parting with him at our former house was fresh in my
recollection. So it was, I might suppose, in his; for his manner was
cold, and even severe.

"Our old acquaintance ended, Miss Ware, by your command, and, on
reflection, with my own willing submission. When last we parted, I
thought it unlikely that we should ever meet again, and this interview
is not voluntary--necessity compelled it. I have simply done my duty,
and, I earnestly hope, not in vain. It must be something very unlooked
for, indeed, that shall ever constrain me to trouble you again."

He showed no sign of wishing to bid me a kindlier farewell. The actual,
as well as metaphorical, distance between us had widened; he was by this
time at the door; he opened it, and took his leave, very coldly. It was
very unlike his former parting. I had only said:

"I am very grateful, Mr. Carmel, for your care of me--miserable me!"

He made no answer; he simply repeated his farewell, as gently and coldly
as before, and left the room, and I saw him walk away from our door in
the fast-fading light. Heavier and heavier was my heart, as I saw him
move quickly away. I had yearned, during our cold interview, to put out
my hand to him, and ask him, in simple phrase, to make it up with me. I
burned to tell him that I had judged him too hardly, and was sorry; but
my pride forbade it. His pride too, I thought, had held him aloof, and
so I had lost my friend. My eyes filled with tears, that rolled heavily
over my cheeks.

I sat at one of our windows, looking, over the distant roofs, towards
the discoloured and disappearing tints of evening and the melancholy
sky, which even through the smoke of London has its poetry and
tenderness, until the light faded, and the moon began to shine through
the twilight. Then I went upstairs, and found mamma still sleeping. As I
stood by the bed looking at her, Rebecca Torkill at my side whispered:

"She's looking very pale, poor thing, don't you think, miss? Too pale, a
deal."

I did think so; but she was sleeping tranquilly. Every change in her
looks was now a subject of anxiety, but her hour had not quite come yet.
She looked so very pale that I began to fear she had fainted; but she
awoke just then, and said she would sit up for a little time. Her colour
did not return; she seemed faint, but thought she should be more herself
by-and-by.

She came down to the drawing-room, and soon did seem better, and chatted
more than she had done, I think, since our awful misfortune had befallen
us, and appeared more like her former self; I mean, that simpler and
tender self that I had seen far away from artificial London, among the
beautiful solitudes of her birthplace.

While we were talking here, Rebecca Torkill, coming in now and then, and
lending a word, after the manner of privileged old rustic servants, to
keep the conversation going, the business of this story was being
transacted in other places.

       *       *       *       *       *

Something of Mr. Carmel's adventures that night I afterwards learned. He
had two or three calls to make before he went to his temporary home. A
friend had lent him, during his absence abroad, his rooms in the Temple.
Arrived there, he let himself in by a latch-key. It was night, the
shutters unclosed, the moon shining outside, and its misty beams,
slanting in at the dusky windows, touched objects here and there in the
dark room with a cold distinctness.

To a man already dejected, what is more dispiriting than a return to
empty and unlighted rooms? Mr. Carmel moved like a shadow through this
solitude, and in his melancholy listlessness, stood for a time at the
window.

Here and there a light, from a window in the black line of buildings
opposite, showed that human thought and eyes were busy; but if these
points of light and life made the prospect less dismal, they added by
contrast to the gloom that pervaded his own chambers.

As he stood, some dimly-seen movement caught his eye, and, looking over
his shoulder, he saw the door through which he himself had come in
slowly open, and a man put in his head, and then enter silently, and
shut the door. This figure, faintly seen in the imperfect light,
resembled but one man of all his acquaintance, and he the last man in
the world, as he thought, who would have courted a meeting. Carmel stood
for a moment startled and chilled by his presence.

"I say, Carmel, don't you know me?" said a very peculiar voice. "I saw
you come in, and intended to knock; but you left your door open."

By this time he had reached the window, and stood beside Mr. Carmel,
with the moonlight revealing his features sharply enough. That pale
light fell upon the remarkable face of Mr. Marston.

"I'm not a ghost, though I've been pretty near it two or three times. I
see what you're thinking--death may have taken better men? I might have
been very well spared? and having escaped it, I should have laid the
lesson to heart? Well, so I have. I was very nearly killed at the great
battle of Fuentas. I fought for the Queen of Spain, and be hanged to
her! She owes me fifteen pounds ten and elevenpence, British currency,
to this day. It only shows my luck. In that general action there were
only four living beings hit so as to draw blood--myself, a venerable
orange-woman, a priest's mule, and our surgeon-in-chief, whose thumb and
razor were broken off by a spent ball, as he was shaving a grenadier,
under an umbrella, while the battle was raging. You see the Spaniard is
a discreet warrior, and we very seldom got near enough to hurt each
other. I was hit by some blundering beast. He must have shut his eyes,
like Gil Blas, for there was not a man in either army who could ever hit
anything he aimed at. No matter, he very nearly killed me; half an inch
higher, and I must have made up my mind to see you, dear Carmel, no
more, and to shut my eyes on this sweet, jesuitical world. It was the
first ugly wound of the campaign, and the enemy lived for a long time on
the reputation of it. But the truth is, I have suffered a great deal in
sickness, wounds, and fifty other ways. I have been as miserable a devil
as any righteous man could wish me to be; and I am changed; upon my
honour, I'm as different a man from what I was as you are from me. But I
can't half see you; do light your candles, I entreat."

"Not while you are here," said Carmel.

"Why, what are you afraid of?" said Marston. "You haven't, I hope, got a
little French milliner behind your screen, like Joseph Surface, who, I
think, would have made a very pretty Jesuit. Why should you object to
light?"

"Your ribaldry is out of place here," said Carmel, who knew very well
that Marston had not come to talk nonsense, and recount his adventures
in Spain; and that his business, whatever it may be, was likely to be
odious. "What right have you to enter my room? What right to speak to me
anywhere?"

"Come, Carmel, don't be unreasonable; you know very well I can be of use
to you."

"You can be of none," answered Carmel, a little startled; "and if you
could, I would not have you. Leave my room, sir."

"You can exorcise some evil spirits, but not me, till I've said my say,"
answered Marston, with a smile that looked grim and cynical in the
moonlight. "I say I can be of use to you."

"It's enough; I won't have it; go," said Carmel, with a sterner
emphasis.

Marston smiled again, and looked at him.

"Well, I can be of use," he said, "and I don't want particularly to be
of use to you; but you can do me a kindness, and it is better to do it
quietly than upon compulsion. Will you be of use to me? I'll show you
how?"

"God forbid!" said Carmel, quickly. "It is nothing good, I'm sure."

Marston looked at him with an evil eye; it was a sneer of intense anger.

After some seconds he said, his eyes still fixed askance on Mr. Carmel:

"Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive, et cæa--eh? I suppose you
sometimes pray your paternoster? A pretty time you have kept up that old
grudge against me--haven't you--about Ginevra?"

He kept his eyes on Carmel, as if he enjoyed the spectacle of the
torture he applied, and liked to see the wince and quiver that
accompanied its first thrill.

At the word, Edwyn Carmel's eyes started up from the floor, to which
they had been lowered, with a flash to the face of his visitor. His
forehead flushed; he remained speechless for some seconds. Marston did
not smile; his features were fixed, but there was a secret, cruel smile
in his eyes as he watched these evidences of agitation.

"Well, I should not have said the name; I should not have alluded to it;
I did wrong," he said, after some seconds; "but I was going, before you
riled me, to say how really I blame myself, now, for all that deplorable
business. I do, upon my soul! What more can a fellow say, when
reparation is impossible, than that he is sorry? Is not repentance all
that a man like me can offer? I saw you were thinking of it; you vexed
me; I was angry, and I could not help saying what I did. Now do let that
miserable subject drop; and hear me, on quite another, without
excitement. It is not asking a great deal."

Carmel placed his hand to his head, as if he had not heard what he said,
and then groaned.

"Why don't you leave me?" he said, piteously, turning again towards
Marston; "don't you see that nothing but pain and reproach can result
from your staying here?"

"Let me first say a word," said Marston; "you can assist me in a very
harmless and perfectly unobjectionable matter. Every fellow who wants to
turn over a new leaf marries. The lady is poor--there is that proof, at
least, that it is not sordid; you know her, you can influence her----"

"Perhaps I do know her; perhaps I know who she is--I may as well say, at
once, I do. I have no influence; and if I had, I would not use it for
you. I think I know your reasons, also; I think I can see them."

"Well, suppose there are reasons, it's not the worse for that," said
Marston, growing again angry. "I thought I would just come and try
whether you chose to be on friendly terms. I'm willing; but if you
won't, I can't help you. I'll make use of you all the same. You had
better think again. I'm pleasanter as a friend than an enemy."

"I don't fear you as an enemy, and I do fear you as a friend. I will aid
you in nothing; I have long made up my mind," answered Carmel, savagely.

"I think, through Monsieur Droqville, I'll manage that. Oh, yes, you
will give me a lift."

"Why should Monsieur Droqville control my conduct?" asked Mr. Carmel
sharply.

"It was he who made you a Catholic; and I suspect he has a fast hold on
your conscience and obedience. If he chooses to promote the matter, I
rather think you must."

"You may think as you please," said Carmel.

"That's a great deal from your Church," sneered Marston; and, changing
his tone again, he said: "Look here, Carmel, once more; where's the good
in our quarrelling? I won't press that other point, if you don't like;
but you must do this, the most trifling thing in the world--you must
tell me where Mrs. Ware lives. No one knows since old Ware made a fool
of himself, poor devil! But I think you'll allow that, with my feelings,
I may, at least, speak to the young lady's mother? Do tell me where they
are. You know, of course?"

"If I did know, I should not tell you; so it does not matter," answered
Carmel.

Marston looked very angry, and a little silence followed.

"I suppose you have now said everything," resumed Carmel; "and again I
desire that you will leave me."

"I mean to do so," said Marston, putting on his hat with a kind of
emphasis, "though it's hard to leave such romantic, light, and brilliant
company. You might have had peace, and you prefer war. I think there are
things you have at heart that I could forward, if all went right with
me." He paused, but Carmel made no sign. "Well, you take your own way
now, not mine; and, by-and-by, I think you'll have reason to regret it."

Marston left the room, with no other farewell. The clap with which he
shut the door, as he went, had hardly ceased to ring round the walls,
when Carmel saw him emerge in the court below, and walk away with a
careless air, humming a tune in the moonlight.

Why is it that there are men upon earth whose secret thoughts are always
such as to justify fear; and nearly all whose plans, if not through
malice, from some other secret obliquity, involve evil to others? We
have most of us known something of some such man; a man whom we are
disposed to watch in silence; who, smile as he may, brings with him a
sense of insecurity, and whose departure is a real relief. Such a man
seems to me a stranger on earth; his confidences to be with unseen
companions; his mental enjoyments not human; and his mission here cruel
and mysterious. I look back with wonder and with thankfulness. Fearful
is the strait of any one who, in the presence of such an influence,
under such a fascination, loses the sense of danger.



                            CHAPTER XLVI.

                         AFTER OFFICE HOURS.


Next day our doctor called. He was very kind. He had made mamma many
visits, and attended me through my tedious fever, and would never take a
fee after the first one. I daresay that other great London physicians,
whom the world reputes worldly, often do similar charities by stealth.
My own experience is that affliction like ours does not lower the
sufferer's estimate of human nature. It is a great discriminator of
character, and sifts men like wheat. Those among our friends who are all
chaff it blows away altogether; those who have noble attributes, it
leaves all noble. There is no more petulance, no more hurry or
carelessness; we meet, in after-contact with them, be it much or little,
only the finer attributes, gentleness, tenderness, respect, patience.

I do not remember one of those who had known us in better days, among
the very few who now knew where to find us, who did not show us even
more kindness than they could have had opportunity of showing if we had
been in our former position. Who could be kinder than Mr. Forrester? Who
more thoughtful than Mr. Carmel, to whom at length we had traced the
flowers, and the books, and the piano, that were such a resource to me;
and who had, during my illness, come every day to see mamma?

In his necessarily brief visits, Sir Jacob Lake was energetic and
cheery; there was in his manner that which inspired confidence; but I
fancied this day, as he was taking his leave of mamma, that I observed
something like a shadow on his face, a transitory melancholy, that
alarmed me. I accompanied him downstairs, and he stopped for a moment in
the lobby outside the drawing-room.

"Has there been anything done since about that place--Malory, I think
you call it?" he asked.

"No," I answered; "there is not the least chance. Sir Harry Rokestone is
going to sell it, Mr. Jarlcot says; just through hatred of us, he
thinks. He's an old enemy of ours; he says he hates our very name; and
he won't write; he hasn't answered a single letter of Mr. Forrester's."

"I was only going to say that it wouldn't do; she could not bear so long
a journey just now. I think she had better make no effort; she must not
leave this at present."

"I'm afraid you think her very ill," I said, feeling myself grow pale.

"She is ill; and she will never be much better; but she may be spared to
you for a long time yet. This kind of thing, however, is always
uncertain; and it may end earlier than we think--I don't say it is
likely, only possible. You must send for me whenever you want me; and
I'll look in now and then, and see that all goes on satisfactorily."

I began to thank him earnestly, but he stopped me very good-naturedly.
He could spare me little more than a minute; I walked with him to the
hall-door, and although he said but little, and that little very
cautiously, he left me convinced that I might lose my darling mother any
day or hour. He had implied this very vaguely, but I was sure of it.
People who have suffered great blows like mine, regard the future as an
adversary, and believe its threatenings.

In flurry and terror I returned to the drawing-room, and shut the door;
then, with the instinct that prevails, I went to mamma's room and sat
down beside her.

I suppose every one has felt as I have felt. How magically the society
of the patient, if not actually suffering, reassures us! The mere
contiguity, the voice, the interest she takes in the common topics of
our daily life, the cheerful and easy tone, even the little peevishness
about the details of the sick-room, soon throw death again into
perspective, and the instinct of life prevails against all facts and
logic.

The form of heart-complaint from which my mother suffered had in it
nothing revolting. I think I never remember her so pretty. The tint of
her lips, and the colour of her cheeks, always lovely, were now more
delicately brilliant than ever; and the lustre of her eyes, thus
enhanced, was quite beautiful. The white tints a little paler, and her
face and figure slightly thinner, but not unbecomingly, brought back a
picture so girlish that I wondered while I looked; and when I went away
the pretty face haunted me as the saddest and gentlest I had ever seen.

So many people have said that the approach of death induces a change of
character, that I almost accept it for a general law of nature. I saw
it, I know, in mamma. Not exactly an actual change, perhaps, but,
rather, a subsidence of whatever was less lovely in her nature, and a
proportionate predominance of all its sweetness and gentleness. There
came also a serenity very different from the state of mind in which she
had been from papa's death up to the time of my illness. I do not know
whether she was conscious of her imminent danger. If she suspected it,
she certainly did not speak of it to me or to Rebecca Torkill. But death
is a subject on which some people, I believe, practise as many reserves
as others do in love.

Next day mamma was much better, and sat in our drawing-room, and I read
and talked to her, and amused her with my music. She sat in slippers and
dressing-gown in an easy-chair, and we talked over a hundred plans which
seemed to interest her. The effort to cheer mamma did me good, and I
think we were both happier that day than we had been since ruin had so
tragically overtaken us.

While we were thus employed at home, events connected with us and our
history were not standing still in other places.

Mr. Forrester's business was very large; he had the assistance of two
partners; but all three were hard worked. The offices of the firm
occupied two houses in one of the streets which run down from the Strand
to the river, at no great distance from Temple Bar. I saw these offices
but once in my life; I suppose there was little to distinguish them and
their arrangements from those of other well-frequented chambers; but I
remember being struck with their air of business and regularity, and by
the complicated topography of two houses fused into one.

Mr. Forrester, in his private office, had locked up his desk. He was
thinking of taking his leave of business for the day. It was now past
four, and he had looked into the office where the collective firm did
their business, and where his colleagues were giving audience to a
deputation about a complicated winding-up. This momentary delay cost him
more time than he intended, for a clerk came in and whispered in his
ear:

"A gentleman wants to see you, sir."

"Why, hang it! I've left the office," said Mr. Forrester, tartly--"don't
you see? Here's my hat in my hand! Go and look for me in my office, and
you'll see I'm not there."

Very deferentially, notwithstanding this explosion, the messenger added:

"I thought, sir, before sending him away, you might like to see him; he
seemed to think he was doing us a favour in looking in, and he has been
hearing from you, and would not take the trouble to write; and he won't
call again."

"What's his name?" asked Mr. Forrester, vacillating a little.

"Sir Harry Rokestone," he said.

"Sir Harry Rokestone? Oh! Well, I suppose I must see him. Yes, I'll see
him; bring him up to my private room."

Mr. Forrester had hardly got back, laid aside his hat and umbrella, and
placed himself in his chair of state behind his desk, when his
aide-de-camp returned and introduced "Sir Harry Rokestone."

Mr. Forrester rose, and received him with a bow. He saw a tall man, with
something grand and simple in his gait and erect bearing, with a brown
handsome face, and a lofty forehead, noble and stern as if it had caught
something of the gloomy character of the mountain scenery among which
his home was. He was dressed in the rustic and careless garb of an
old-fashioned country gentleman, with gaiters up to his knees, as if he
were going to stride out upon the heather with his gun on his shoulder
and his dogs at his heel.

Mr. Forrester placed a chair for this gentleman, who, with hardly a nod,
and without a word, sat down. The door closed, and they were alone.



                            CHAPTER XLVII.

                           SIR HARRY SPEAKS.


"You're Mr. Forrester?" said Sir Harry, in a deep, clear voice, quite in
character with his appearance, and with a stern eye fixed on the
solicitor.

That gentleman made a slight inclination of assent.

"I got all your letters, sir--every one," said the rustic baronet.

Mr. Forrester bowed.

"I did not answer one of them."

Mr. Forrester bowed again.

"Did it strike you, as a man of business, sir, that it was rather an odd
omission your not mentioning where the ladies representing the late Mr.
Ware's interests--if he had any remaining, which I don't believe--are
residing?"

"I had actually written----" answered Mr. Forrester, turning the key in
his desk, and slipping his hand under the cover, and making a momentary
search. He had hesitated on the question of sending the letter or not;
but, having considered whether there could be any possible risk in
letting him know, and having come to the conclusion that there was none,
he now handed this letter, a little obsolete as it was, to Sir Harry
Rokestone.

"What's this?" said Sir Harry, breaking the seal and looking at the
contents of the note, and thrusting it, thinking as it seemed all the
time of something different, into his coat-pocket.

"The present address of Mrs. and Miss Ware, which I understood you just
now to express a wish for," answered Mr. Forrester.

"Express a wish, sir, for their address!" exclaimed Sir Harry, with a
scoff. "Dall me if I did, though! What the deaul, man, should I want o'
their _address_, as ye call it? They may live where they like for me.
And so Ware's dead--died a worse death than the hangman's; and died not
worth a plack, as I always knew he would. And what made you write all
those foolish letters to me? Why did you go on plaguing me, when you saw
I never gave you an answer to one of them? You that should be a man of
head, how could ye be such a mafflin?" His northern accent became
broader as he became more excited.

The audacity and singularity of this old man disconcerted Mr. Forrester.
He did not afterwards understand why he had not turned him out of his
room.

"I think, Sir Harry, you will find my reasons for writing very
distinctly stated in my letters, if you are good enough to look into
them."

"Ay, so I did; and I don't understand them, nor you neither."

It was not clear whether he intended that the reasons or the attorney
were beyond his comprehension. Mr. Forrester selected the first
interpretation, and, I daresay, rightly, as being the least offensive.

"Pardon me, Sir Harry Rokestone," said he, with a little dry dignity; "I
have not leisure to throw away upon writing nonsense; I am one of those
men who are weak enough to believe that there are rights besides those
defined by statute or common law, and duties, consequently, you'll
excuse me for saying, even more obligatory--Christian duties, which, in
this particular case, plainly devolve upon you."

"Christian flam! Humbug! and you an attorney!"

"I'm not accustomed, sir, to be talked to in that way," said Mr.
Forrester, who felt that his visitor was becoming insupportable.

"Of course you're not; living in this town you never hear a word of
honest truth," said Sir Harry; "but I'm not so much in the dark; I
understand you pretty well, now; and I think you a precious impudent
fellow."

Both gentlemen had risen by this time, and Mr. Forrester, with a flush
in his cheeks, replied, raising his head as he stooped over his desk
while turning the key in the lock:

"And I beg to say, sir, that I, also, have formed my own very distinct
opinion of you!"

Mr. Forrester flushed more decidedly, for he felt, a little too late,
that he had perhaps made a rather rash speech, considering that his
visitor seemed to have so little control over his temper, and also that
he was gigantic.

The herculean baronet, however, who could have lifted him up by the
collar, and flung him out of the window, only smiled sardonically, and
said:

"Then we part, you and I, wiser men than we met. You write me no more
letters, and I'll pay you no more visits."

With another cynical grin, he turned on his heel, and walked slowly down
the stairs, leaving Mr. Forrester more ruffled than he had been for many
a day.



                           CHAPTER XLVIII.

                            THE OLD LOVE.


The hour had now arrived at which our room looked really becoming. It
had been a particularly fine autumn; and I have mentioned the effect of
a warm sunset streaming through the deep windows upon the oak panelling.
This light had begun to fade, and its melancholy serenity had made us
silent. I had heard the sound of wheels near our door, but that was
nothing unusual, for carts often passed close by, carrying away the
rubbish that had accumulated in the old houses now taken down.

Annie Owen, our Malory maid, peeped in at the door--came in, looking
frightened and important, and closed it before she spoke. She was
turning something about in her fingers.

"What is it, Anne?" I asked.

"Please, miss, there's an old gentleman downstairs; and he wants to
know, ma'am," she continued, now addressing mamma, "whether you'll be
pleased to see him."

Mamma raised herself, and looked at the girl with anxious, startled
eyes.

"What is that you have got in your hand?" I asked.

"Oh! I beg your pardon, ma'am; he told me to give you this, please." And
she handed a card to mamma. She looked at it and grew very pale. She
stood up with a flurried air.

"Are you sure?" she said.

"Please, ma'am?" inquired the girl in perplexity.

"No matter. Ethel, dear, it is he. Yes, I'll see him," she said to the
girl, in an agitated way; "show him up. Ethel, it's Harry
Rokestone--don't go; he is so stern--I know how he'll speak to me--but I
ought not to refuse to see him."

I was angry at my mother's precipitation. If it had rested with me,
what an answer the savage old man should have had! I was silent. By this
time the girl was again at the hall-door. The first moment of
indignation over, I was thunderstruck. I could not believe that anything
so portentous was on the eve of happening.

The moments of suspense were not many. My eyes were fixed on the door as
if an executioner were about to enter by it. It opened, and I saw--need
I tell you?--the very same tall, handsome old man I had seen in the
chapel of Cardyllion Castle.

"Oh! Mabel," he said, and stopped. It was the most melancholy, broken
voice I had ever heard. "My darling!"

My mother stood with her hand stretched vaguely towards him, trembling.

"Oh! Mabel, it is you, and we've met at last!"

He took her hand in one of his, and laid the other suddenly across his
eyes and sobbed. There was silence for a good while, and then he spoke
again.

"My pretty Mabel! I lost ye; I tried to hate ye, Mabel; but all would
not do, for I love ye still. I was mad and broken-hearted--I tried to
hate ye, but I couldn't; I'd a' given my life for you all the time, and
you shall have Malory--it's your own--I've bought it--ye'll not be too
proud to take a gift from the old man, my only darling! The spring and
summer are over, it's winter now wi' the old fellow, and he'll soon lie
under the grass o' the kirk-garth, and what does it all matter then? And
you, bonny Mabel, there's wonderful little change wi' you!"

He was silent again, and tears coursed one another down his rugged
cheeks.

"I saw you sometimes a long way off, when you didn't think I was
looking, and the sight o' ye wrung my heart, that I didn't hold up my
head for a week after. A lonely man I've been for your sake, Mabel; and
down to Gouden Friars, and among the fells, and through the lonnins of
old Clusted Forest, and sailin' on the mere, where we two often were,
thinkin' I saw ye in the shaddas, and your voice in my ear as far away
as the call o' the wind--dreams, dreams--and now I've met ye."

He was holding mamma's hand in his, and she was crying bitterly.

"I knew nothing of all this till to-day--I got all Forrester's letters
together. I was on the Continent--and you've been complaining, Mabel;
but you're looking so young and bonny! It was care, care was the matter,
care and trouble; but that's all over, and you shall never know anxiety
more--you'll be well again--you shall live at Malory, if you like it, or
Gouden Friars--Mardykes is to let. I've a right to help you, Mabel, and
you have none to refuse my help, for I'm the only living kinsman you
have. I don't count that blackguard lord for anything. You shall never
know care again. For twenty years and more an angry man and dow I've
been, caring for no one, love or likin, when I had lost yours. But now
it is past and over, and the days are sped."

A few melancholy and broken words more, and he was gone, promising to
return next day at twelve, having seen Mr. Forrester in the meantime at
his house in Piccadilly, and had a talk with him.

He was gone. He had not spoken a word to me--had not even appeared
conscious that I was present. I daresay he was not. It was a little
mortifying. To me he appeared a mixture, such as I never saw before, of
brutality and tenderness. The scene had moved me.

Mamma was now talking excitedly. It had been an agitating meeting, and,
till he had disclosed his real feelings, full of uncertainty. To prevent
her from exerting herself too much, I took my turn in the conversation,
and, looking from the window, still in the direction in which his cab
had disappeared, I descanted with immense delight on the likelihood of
his forthwith arranging that Malory should become our residence.

As I spoke, I turned about to listen for the answer I expected from
mamma. I was shocked to see her look so very ill. I was by her side in a
moment. She said a few words scarcely audible, and ceased speaking
before she had ended her sentence. Her lips moved, and she made an eager
gesture with her hand; but her voice failed. She made an effort, I
thought, to rise, but her strength forsook her, and she fainted.



                           CHAPTER XLIX.

                        ALONE IN THE WORLD.


Sir Harry did not find Mr. Forrester at home; the solicitor was at a
consultation in the Temple. Thither drove the baronet, who was impetuous
in most things, and intolerant of delay where an object lay near his
heart. Up to the counsel's chambers in the Temple mounted Sir Harry
Rokestone. He hammered his double knock at the door as peremptorily as
he would have done at his own hall door.

Mr. Forrester afforded him just half a minute; and they parted good
friends, having made an appointment for the purpose of talking over poor
mamma's affairs, and considering what was best to be done.

Sir Harry strode with the careless step of a mountaineer, along the
front of the buildings, till he reached the entrance to which, in answer
to a sudden inquiry, Mr. Forrester had directed him. Up the stairs he
marched, and stopped at the door of the chambers occupied by Mr. Carmel.
There he knocked again as stoutly as before. The door was opened by
Edwyn Carmel himself.

"Is Mr. Carmel here?" inquired the old man.

"I am Mr. Carmel," answered he.

"And I am Sir Harry Rokestone," said the baronet. "I found a letter from
you this morning; it had been lying at my house unopened for some time,"
said the baronet.

Mr. Carmel invited him to come in. There were candles lighted, for it
was by this time nearly dark; he placed a chair for his visitor: they
were alone.

Sir Harry Rokestone seated himself, and began:

"There was no need, sir, of apology for your letter; intervention on
behalf of two helpless and suffering ladies was honourable to you; but I
had also heard some particulars from their own professional man of
business; that, however, you could not have known. I have called to tell
you that I quite understand the case. So much for your letter. But, sir,
I have been informed that you are a Jesuit."

"I am a Catholic priest, sir."

"Well, sir, I won't press the point; but the ruin of that family has
been brought about, so far as I can learn, by gentlemen of that order.
They got about that poor foolish creature, Lady Lorrimer; and, by
cajoleries and terror, they got hold of every sixpence of her fortune,
which, according to all that's right and kind in nature, should have
gone to her nearest kindred."

Sir Harry's eyes were fixed on him, as if he expected an answer.

"Lady Lorrimer did, I suppose, what pleased her best in her will," said
the young man, coldly; "Mrs. Ware had expectations, I believe, which
have been, you say, disappointed."

"And do you mean to tell me that you don't know that fact for certain?"
said the old gentleman, growing hot.

"I'm not certain of anything of which I have no proof, Sir Harry,"
answered Mr. Carmel. "If I were a Jesuit, and your statement were a just
one, still I should know no more about the facts than I do now; for it
would not be competent for me to inquire into the proceedings of my
superiors in the order. It is enough for me to say that I know nothing
of any such influence exerted by any human being upon Lady Lorrimer; and
I need scarcely add that I have never, by word or act, endeavoured ever
so slightly to influence Lady Lorrimer's dealings with her property!
Your ear, sir, has been abused by slander."

"By Jea! Here's modesty!" said Sir Harry, exploding in a gruff laugh of
scorn, and standing up. "What a pack o' gaumless gannets you must take
us for! Look-ye now, young sir. I have my own opinion about all that.
And tell your superiors, as you call them, they'll never get a plack of
old Harry Rokestone's money, while hand and seal can bind, and law's
law; and if I catch a priest in my house, ye may swear he'll get out of
it quicker than he came in. I'd thank you more for your letter, sir, if
I was a little more sure of the motive; and now I've said my say, and I
wish ye good evening."

With a fierce smile, the old man looked at him steadily for a few
seconds, and then turning abruptly, left the room and shut the door,
with a firm clap, after him.

That was, to me, an anxious night. Mamma continued ill; I had written
rather a wild note for our doctor; but he did not come for many hours.
He did not say much; he wrote a prescription, and gave some directions;
he was serious and reserved, which, in a physician, means alarm. In
answer to my flurried inquiries, as I went downstairs by his side, he
said:

"I told you, you recollect, that it is a capricious kind of thing; I
hope she may be better when I look in in the morning; the nature of it
is that it may end at any time, with very little warning; but with
caution she may live a year, or possibly two years. I've known cases, as
discouraging as hers, where life has been prolonged for three years."

Next morning came, and I thought mamma much better. I told her all that
was cheery in the doctor's opinion, and amused her with plans for our
future. But the hour was drawing near when doctors' opinions, and
friends' hopes and flatteries, and the kindly illusions of plans looking
pleasantly into an indefinite future, were to be swallowed in the
tremendous event.

About half an hour before our kind doctor's call, mamma's faintness
returned. I now began, and not an hour too soon, to despair. The
medicine he had ordered the day before, to support her in those
paroxysms, had lost its power. Mamma had been for a time in the
drawing-room, but having had a long fainting-fit there, I persuaded her,
so soon as she was a little recovered, to return to her bed.

I find it difficult, I may say, indeed, impossible, to reduce the
occurrences of this day to order. The picture is not, indeed, so chaotic
as my recollection of the times and events that attended my darling
Nelly's death. The shock, in that case, had affected my mind. But I do
not believe that any one retains a perfectly arranged recollection of
the flurried and startling scenes that wind up our hopes in the dread
catastrophe. I never met a person yet who could have told the story of
such a day with perfect accuracy and order.

I don't know what o'clock it was when the doctor came. There is
something of the character of sternness in the brief questions, the low
tone, and the silent inspection that mark his last visit to the
sick-room. What is more terrible than the avowed helplessness that
follows, and his evident acquiescence in the inevitable?

"Don't go. Oh, don't go yet; wait till I come back, only a few minutes;
there might be a change, and something might be done."

I entreated; I was going up to mamma's room; I had come down with him to
the drawing-room.

"Well, my dear, I'll wait." He looked at his watch. "I'll remain with
you for ten minutes."

I suppose I looked very miserable, for I saw a great compassion in his
face. He was very good-natured, and he added, placing his hand upon my
arm, and looking gently in my face, "But, my poor child, you must not
flatter yourself with hopes, for I have none--there are none."

But what so headstrong and so persistent as hope? Terrible must be that
place where it never comes.

I had scarcely left the drawing-room, when Sir Harry Rokestone, of the
kindly change in whom I had spoken to our good doctor, knocked at the
hall-door. Our rustic maid, Anne Owen, who was crying, let him in, and
told him the sudden news; he laid his hand against the door-post and
grew pale. He did not say a word for as long as you might count twenty,
then he asked:

"Is the doctor here?"

The girl led the way to the drawing-room.

"Bad news, doctor?" said the tall old man, in an agitated voice, as he
entered, with his eyes fixed on Sir Jacob Lake. "My name is
Rokestone--Sir Harry Rokestone. Tell me, is it so bad as the servant
says? You have not given her up?"

The doctor shook his head; he advanced slowly a step or two to meet Sir
Harry, and said, in a low tone:

"Mrs. Ware is dying--sinking very fast."

Sir Harry walked to the mantelpiece, laid his hand on it, and stood
there without moving. After a little he turned again, and came to Sir
Jacob Lake.

"You London doctors--you're so hurried," he said, a little wildly, "from
place to place. I think--I think--look, doctor; save her! save her,
man!"--he caught the doctor's wrist in his hand--"and I'll make your
fortune. Ye need never do an hour's work more. Man was never so
rewarded, not for a queen."

The doctor looked very much offended; but, coarse as the speech was, it
was delivered with a pathetic and simple vehemence that disarmed him.

"You mistake me, sir," he said. "I take a very deep interest in this
case. I have known Mrs. Ware from the time when she came to live in
London. I hope I do my duty in every case, but in this I have been
particularly anxious, and I do assure you, if----What's that?"

It was, as Shakespeare says, "a cry of women," the sudden shrilly
clamour of female voices heard through distant doors.

The doctor opened the door, and stood at the foot of the stairs.

"Ay, that's it," he said, shaking his head a little. "It's all over."



                              CHAPTER L.

                             A PROTECTOR.


I was in mamma's room; I was holding up her head; old Rebecca and Anne
Owen were at the bedside. My terrified eyes saw the doctor drawing near
softly in the darkened room. I asked him some wild questions, and he
answered gently, "No, dear; no, no."

The doctor took his stand at the bedside, and, with his hands behind his
back, looked down at her face sadly. Then he leaned over. He laid his
hand gently on mamma's, put his fingers to her wrist, felt, also, for
the beating of her heart, looked again at her face, and rose from his
stooping posture with a little shake of the head and a sigh, looked in
the still face once more for a few seconds, and turning to me, said
tenderly:

"You had better come away, dear; there's nothing more to be done. You
must not distress yourself."

That last look of the physician at his patient, when he stands up, and
becomes on a sudden no more than any other spectator, his office over,
his command ended, is terrifying.

For two or three minutes I scarcely knew who was going or coming. The
doctor, who had just gone downstairs, returned with an earnest request
from Sir Harry Rokestone that in an hour or so he might be permitted to
come back and take a last look of mamma. He did come back, but his heart
failed him. He could not bear to see her now. He went into the
drawing-room, and, a few minutes later, Rebecca Torkill came into my
room, where, by this time, I was crying alone, and said:

"Ye mustn't take on so, my darling; rouse yourself a bit. That old man,
Sir Harry Rokestone, is down in the drawing-room in a bit of a taking,
and he says he must see you before he goes."

"I can't see him, Rebecca," I said.

"But what am I to say to him?" said she.

"Simply that. Do tell him I can't go down to see anybody."

"But ain't it as well to go and have it over, miss?--for see you he
will, I am sure of that; and I can't manage him."

"Does be seem angry?" I said, "or only in grief? I daresay he is angry.
Yesterday, when he was here, he never spoke one word to me--he took no
notice of me whatever."

At another time an interview with Sir Harry Rokestone might have
inspired many more nervous misgivings; as it was, I had only this: I
knew that he had hated papa, and I, as my father's child, might well
"stand within his danger," as the old phrase was. And the eccentric and
violent old man, I thought, might, in the moment and agony of having
lost for ever the object of an affection which my father had crossed,
have sent for me, his child, simply to tell me that with my father's
blood I had inherited his curse.

"I can't say, miss, indeed. He was talking to himself, and stamping with
his thick shoes on the floor a bit as he walked. But ain't it best to
have done with him at once, if he ain't friendly, and not keep him here,
coming and going?--for see you he will, sooner or later."

"I don't very much care. Perhaps you are right. Yes, I will go down and
see him," I said. "Go you down, Rebecca, and tell him that I am coming."

I had been lying on my bed, and required to adjust my hair, and dress a
little.

As I came downstairs a few minutes later, I passed poor mamma's door;
the key turned in it. Was I walking in a dream? Mamma dead, and Sir
Harry Rokestone waiting in the drawing-room to see me! I leaned against
the wall, feeling faint for a minute.

As I approached the drawing-room door, which was open, I heard
Rebecca's voice talking to him; and then the old man said, in a broken
voice:

"Where's the child? Bring her here. I will see the bairn."

I was the "bairn" summoned to his presence. This broad north-country
dialect, the language, I suppose, of his early childhood, always
returned to him in moments when his feelings were excited. I entered the
room, and he strode towards me.

"Ha! the lassie," he cried, gently. There was a little tremor in his
deep voice; a pause followed, and he added, vehemently, "By the God
above us, I'll never forsake you!"

He held me to his heart for some seconds without speaking.

"Gimma your hand. I love you for her sake," he said, and took my hand
firmly and kindly in his, and he looked earnestly in my face for awhile
in silence. "You're like her; but, oh! lassie, you'll never be the same.
There'll never be another such as Mabel."

Tears, which he did not dry or conceal, trickled down his rugged cheeks.

He had been talking with Rebecca Torkill, and had made her tell him
everything she could think of about mamma.

"Sit ye down here, lass," he said to me, having recovered his
self-possession. "You are to come home wi' me, to Gouden Friars, or
wherever else you like best. You shall have music and flowers, and books
and dresses, and you shall have your maid to wait on you, like other
young ladies, and you shall bring Rebecca with you. I'll do my best to
be kind and helpful; and you'll be a blessing to a very lonely old man;
and as I love you now for Mabel's sake, I'll come to love you after for
your own."

I did not think his stern old face could look so gentle and sorrowful,
and the voice, generally so loud and commanding, speak so tenderly. The
light of that look was full of compassion and melancholy, and indicated
a finer nature than I had given the uncouth old man credit for. He
seemed pleased by what I said; he was doing, he felt, something for
mamma in taking care of the child she had left so helpless.

Days were to pass before he could speak to me in a more business-like
way upon his plans for my future life, and those were days of agitation
and affliction, from which, even in memory, I turn away.

I am going to pass over some little time. An interval of six weeks finds
me in a lofty wainscoted room, with two stone-shafted windows, large and
tall, in proportion, admitting scarcely light enough however, to make it
cheerful. These windows are placed at the end of an oblong apartment,
and the view they command is melancholy and imposing. I was looking
through the sudden hollow of a mountain gorge, with a level of pasture
between its craggy sides, upon a broad lake, nearly three hundred yards
away, a barrier of mountains rising bold and purple from its distant
margin. A file of gigantic trees stretches from about midway down to the
edge of the lake, and partakes of the sombre character of the scene. On
the steeps at either side, in groups or singly, stand some dwarf oak and
birch-trees, scattered and wild, very picturesque, but I think enhancing
the melancholy of the view.

For me this spot, repulsive as it would have been to most young people,
had a charm; not, indeed, that of a "happy valley," but the charm of
seclusion, which to a wounded soul is above price. Those who have
suffered a great reverse will understand my horror of meeting the people
whom I had once known, my recoil from recognition, and how welcome are
the shadows and silence of the cloister compared with the anguish of a
comparative publicity.

Experience had early dissipated the illusions of youth, and taught me to
listen to the whisperings of hope with cold suspicion. I had no trust in
the future--my ghastly mischances had filled me with disgust and terror.
My knowledge haunted me; I could not have learned it from the experience
of another, though my instructor had come to me from the dead. I was
here, then, under no constraint, not the slightest. It was of my own
free choice that I came, and remained here. Sir Harry Rokestone would
have taken me anywhere I pleased.

Other people spoke of him differently; I can speak only of my own
experience. Nothing could be more considerate and less selfish than his
treatment of me, nothing more tender and parental. Kind as he was,
however, I always felt a sort of awe in his presence. It was not,
indeed, quite the awe that is founded on respect--he was old--in most
relations stern--and his uneducated moral nature, impetuous and fierce,
seemed capable of tragic things. It was not a playful nature, with which
the sympathies and spirits of a young person could at all coalesce.

Thormen Fell, at the north of the lake, that out-topped the rest, and
shielded us from the wintry wind, rearing its solemn head in solitude,
snowy, rocky, high in air, the first of the fells visible, the first to
greet me, far off in the sunshine, with its dim welcome as I returned to
Golden Friars. It was friendly, it was kindly, but stood aloof and high,
and was always associated in my mind with danger, isolation, and
mystery. And I think my liking for Sir Harry Rokestone partook of my
affection for Thormen Fell.

So, as you have no doubt surmised, I was harboured in the old baronet's
feudal castle of Dorracleugh. A stern, wild, melancholy residence, but
one that suited wonderfully my present mood.

He was at home; another old gentleman, whose odd society I liked very
well, was also at that time an inmate of the house. I will tell you more
about him in my next chapter.



                              CHAPTER LI.

                              A WARNING.


The old gentleman I speak of, I had seen once before--it was at Malory.
He was that very Mr. Lemuel Blount whom I and Laura Grey had watched
with so much interest as he crossed the court-yard before our windows,
followed by a chaise.

As Sir Harry and I, at the end of our northward journey from London,
arrived before the door of his ancient house of Dorracleugh, Mr. Blount
appeared at the threshold in the light, and ran down, before the servant
could reach it, to the door of our chaise. There was something kindly
and pleasant in the voice of this old man, who was so earnest about our
comforts. I afterwards found that he was both wise and simple, a sound
adviser, and as merry often as a good-natured boy. He contrasted, in
this latter respect, very agreeably for me, with Sir Harry Rokestone,
whom solitary life, and a habit of brooding over the irreparable, had
made both gloomy and silent.

Mr. Blount was easily amused, and was something of an innocent gossip.
He used to go down to the town of Golden Friars every day, and gather
all the news, and bring home his budget, and entertain me with it,
giving all the information I required with respect to the _dramatis
personæ_. He liked boating as well as I did, and although the storms of
the equinox prevailed, and the surrounding mountains, with their gorges,
made the winds squally and uncertain, and sailing upon the lake in
certain states of the weather dangerous, he and I used to venture out I
daresay oftener than was strictly prudent. Sir Harry used to attack him
for these mad adventures, and once or twice grew as tempestuous almost
as the weather. Although I was afraid of Sir Harry, I could not help
laughing at Mr. Blount's frightened and penitent countenance, and his
stolen glances at Sir Harry, so like what I fancied those of a fat
schoolboy might be when called up for judgment before his master.

Sir Harry knew all the signs of the weather, and it ended by his putting
us under condition never to go out without his leave, and old Mr.
Blount's pleadings and quarrelsome resentment under his prohibition were
almost as laughable as his alarms.

In a little time neighbours began to call upon me, and I was obliged, of
course, to return these visits; but neighbours do not abound in these
wild regions, and my quiet, which I had grown to love, was wonderfully
little disturbed.

One morning at breakfast, among the letters laid beside Sir Harry was
one, on opening which his face darkened suddenly, and an angry light
glowed in his deep-set eyes. He rapped his knuckles on the table, he
stood up and muttered, sat down again in a little while, and once more
looked into the letter. He read it through this time; and then turning
to Lemuel Blount, who had been staring at him in silence, as it seemed
to me knowing very well what the subject of the letter must be:

"Look at that," said the Baronet, whisking the letter across the table
to Mr. Blount, "I don't understand him--I never did."

Mr. Blount took the letter to the window and read it thoughtfully.

"Come along," said the Baronet, rising, and beckoning him with his
finger, "I'll give him an answer."

Sir Harry, with these words, strode out of the room, followed by Mr.
Blount; and I was left alone to my vain conjectures. It was a serene and
sunny day; the air, as in late autumn it always is, though the sun has
not lost its power, was a little sharp. Some hours later, I and my old
comrade, Mr. Blount, had taken to the water. A boatman sat in the bow. I
held the tiller, abandoned to me by my companion, in right of my
admitted superiority in steering, an art which I had learned on the
estuary at Cardyllion. Mr. Blount was not so talkative as usual. I said
to him at last:

"Do you know, Mr. Blount, I once saw you, before I met you here."

"Did you?" said he. "But I did not see you. Where was that?"

"At Malory, near Cardyllion, after the wreck of the Conway Castle, when
Mr. Marston was there."

"Yes, so he was," said the old gentleman; "but I did not know that any
of Mr. Ware's family were at home at the time. You may have seen me, but
I did not see you--or, if I did, you made no impression upon me."

This was one of my good friend's unconscious compliments which often
made me smile.

"And what became of that Mr. Marston?" I asked. "He had a wonderful
escape!"

"So he had--he went abroad."

"And is he still abroad?"

"About six weeks ago he left England again; he was here only for a
flying visit of two or three months. It would be wise, I think, if he
never returned. I think he has definitely settled now, far away from
this country, and I don't think we are likely to see his face again.
You're not keeping her near enough to the wind."

I was curious to learn more about this Mr. Marston, of whom Mr. Carmel
and Laura Grey--each judging him, no doubt, from totally different
facts, and from points of view so dissimilar--had expressed such
singularly ill opinions.

"You know Mr. Marston pretty well, do you?" I asked.

"Yes, very well; I have been trying to do him a service," answered Mr.
Blount. "See, see, there--see--those can't be wild ducks? Blessed are
the peace-makers. I wish I could, and I think I may. Now, I think you
may put her about, eh?"

I did as he advised.

"I have heard people speak ill of that Mr. Marston," I said; "do you
know any reason why he should not be liked?"

"Why, yes--that is by people who sit in judgment upon their
neighbours--he has been an ill friend to himself. I know but one bad
blot he has made, and that, I happen to be aware, hurt no one on earth
but himself; but there is no use in talking about him, it vexes me."

"Only one thing more--where is he now?"

"In America. Put this over your feet, please--the air is cold--allow me
to arrange it. Ay, the Atlantic is wide enough--let him rest--out of
sight, out of mind, for the present at least, and so best."

Our talk now turned upon other subjects, and returned no more to Mr.
Marston during our sail.

In this house, as in most other old country-houses, there is a room that
is called the library. It had been assigned to Mr. Blount as his special
apartment. He had made me free of it--either to sit there and read,
whenever I should take a fancy to do so, or to take away any of the
books to the drawing-room. My life was as quiet and humdrum as life
could be; but never was mortal in the enjoyment of more absolute
liberty. Except in the matter of drowning myself and Mr. Blount in the
mere, I could do in all respects exactly as I pleased. Dear old Rebecca
Torkill was established as a retainer of the house, to my great
comfort--she talked me to sleep every night, and drank a cup of tea
every afternoon in my room. The quietude and seclusion of my life
recalled my early days, and the peaceful routine of Malory. Of course, a
time might come when I should like all this changed a little--for the
present, it was the only life I thought endurable.

About a week after my conversation with Mr. Blount during our sail, Sir
Harry Rokestone was called away for a short time by business; and I had
not been for many days in the enjoyment of my _tête-à-tête_ with Mr.
Blount, when there occurred an incident which troubled me extremely, and
was followed by a state of vague suspense and alarm, such as I never
expected to have known in that quiet region.

One morning as I sat at breakfast with Mr. Blount for my _vis-à-vis_,
and no one by but the servant who had just handed us our letters, I
found before me an envelope addressed with a singularity that struck me
as a little ominous. The direction was traced, not in the ordinary
handwriting, but in Roman characters, in imitation of printing; and the
penmanship was thin and feeble, but quite accurate enough to show that
it was not the work of a child.

I was already cudgelling my brains to discover whether I could remember
among my friends any waggish person who might play me a trick of this
kind; but I could recollect no one; especially at a time when my
mourning would have made jesting of that kind so inopportune. Odder
still, it bore the Malory post-mark, and unaccountable as this was, its
contents were still more so. They were penned in the same Roman
character, and to the following effect:

     "Miss Ware,--Within the next ten days, a person will probably visit
     Golden Friars, who intends you a mischief. So soon as you see, you
     will recognize your enemy. Yours,--A Friend."

My first step would have been to consult Mr. Blount upon this letter;
but I could tell him nothing of my apprehensions from Monsieur
Droqville, in whom my fears at once recognised the "enemy" pointed at by
the letter. It might possibly, indeed, be some one else, but by no
means, I thought so probable as the other. Who was my "friend," who
subscribed this warning? If it was not Mr. Carmel, who else could he be?
And yet, why should not Mr. Carmel write to me as frankly as he had
spoken and written before? If it came from him, the warning could not
point to Monsieur Droqville. There was more than enough to perplex and
alarm one in this enigmatical note.



                             CHAPTER LII.

                              MINE ENEMY.


I was afraid to consult even Rebecca Torkill; she was a little given to
talking, and my alarms might have become, in a day or two, the property
of Sir Harry's housekeeper. There is no use in telling you all the
solutions which my fears invented for this riddle.

In my anxiety I wrote to the Rector's wife at Cardyllion, telling her
that I had got an anonymous note, bearing the Malory post-mark,
affecting so much mystery that I was totally unable to interpret it. I
begged of her therefore to take every opportunity of making out, if
possible, who was the author, and to tell me whether there was any
acquaintance of mine at present there, who might have written such a
note by way of a practical joke to mystify me; and I entreated of her to
let me know her conjectures. Then I went into the little world of
Cardyllion and inquired about all sorts of people, great and small, and
finally I asked if Mr. Carmel had been lately there.

In addition to this, I wrote to the post-master, describing the
appearance of the letter I had got, and asked whether he could help me
to a description of the person who had posted it? Every time a new
theory struck me, I read my "friend's" note over again.

At length I began to think that it was most probably the thoughtless
production of some real but harmless friend, who intended herself paying
me a visit here, on visiting the Golden Friars. A female visitor was
very likely, as the note was framed so as to indicate nothing of the sex
of the "enemy;" and two or three young lady friends, not very
reasonable, had been attacking me in their letters for not answering
more punctually.

My mind was perpetually working upon this problem. I was very
uncomfortable, and at times frightened, and even agitated. I don't, even
now, wonder at the degree to which I suffered.

A note of a dream in one of my fragmentary diaries at that time will
show you how nervous I was. It is set down in much greater detail than
you or I can afford it here. I will just tell you its "heads," as old
sermons say. I thought I had arrived here, at Dorracleugh, after a long
journey. Mr. Blount and a servant came in carrying one of my large black
travelling boxes, and tugged it along the ground. The servant then went
out, and Mr. Blount, who I fancied was very pale, looked at me fixedly,
and placing his finger to his lip in token of silence, softly went out,
also, and shut the door, leaving me rather awe-struck. My box, I
thought, on turning my eyes upon it again, from my gaze at Mr. Blount,
seemed much longer, and its shape altered; but such transformations do
not trouble us in our dreams, and I began fumbling with the key, which
did not easily fit the lock. At length I opened it, and instead of my
dresses I saw a long piece of rumpled linen, and perceived that the box
was a coffin. With the persistent acquiescence in monstrosities by which
dreams are characterized, I experienced the slightest possible
bewilderment at this, and drew down the linen covering, and discovered
the shrouded face of Mr. Marston. I was absolutely horrified, and more
so when the dead man sat up, with his eyes open, in the coffin, and
looked at me with an expression so atrocious that I awoke with a scream,
and a heart bounding with terror, and lay awake for more than an hour.
This dream was the vague embodiment of one of my conjectures, and
pointed at one of the persons whom, against all probability, I had
canvassed as the "enemy" of my warning.

Solitude and a secret fear go a long way towards making us
superstitious. I became more and more nervous as the suspense extended
from day to day. I was afraid to go into Golden Friars, lest I should
meet my enemy. I made an excuse, and stayed at home from church on
Sunday for the same reason. I was afraid even of passing a boat upon the
lake. I don't know whether Mr. Blount observed my increased depression;
we played our hit of backgammon, nevertheless, as usual, in the evening,
and took, when the weather was not boisterous, our little sail on the
lake.

I heard from the Rector's wife. She was not able, any more than the
Cardyllion postmaster, to throw the least light upon my letter. Mr.
Carmel had not been in that part of the world for a long time. I was
haunted, nevertheless, by the image of Mr. Marston, whom my dream had
fixed in my imagination.

These letters had reached me as usual as we sat at breakfast. Mine
absorbed me, and by demolishing all theories, had directed me upon new
problems. I sat looking into my tea-cup, as if I could divine from it. I
raised my eyes at length and said:

"When did you say--I forget--you last heard from Mr. Marston?"

He looked up. I perceived that he had been just as much engrossed by his
letter as I had been with mine. He laid it down, and asked me to repeat
my question. I did. Mr. Blount smiled.

"Well, that is very odd. I have just heard from him," said he, raising
the letter he had been reading by the corner. "It came by the mail that
reached London yesterday evening."

"And where is he?" I asked.

"He's at New York now; but he says he is going in a few days to set out
for Canada, or the backwoods--he has not yet made up his mind which. I
think, myself, he will choose the back-settlements; he has a passion for
adventure."

At these words of Mr. Blount, my theories respecting Mr. Marston fell to
the ground, and my fears again gathered about the meaner figure of
Monsieur Droqville; and as soon as breakfast was ended, I sat down in
the window, and studied my anonymous letter carefully once more.

Business called Mr. Blount that evening to Golden Friars; and after
dinner I went into the library, and sat looking out at the noble
landscape. A red autumnal sunset illuminated the summits of the steep
side of the glen, at my left, leaving all the rest of the cleugh in
deep, purple-grey shadow. It opens, as I told you, on the lake, which
stretched before me in soft shadow, except where its slow moving ripple
caught the light with a fiery glimmer; and far away the noble fells,
their peaks and ribs touched with the same misty glow, stood out like
majestic shadows, and closed the view sublimely.

I sat here, I can't say reading, although I had an old book open upon my
knees. I was too anxious, and my head too busy, to read. Twilight came,
and then gradually a dazzling, icy moonlight transformed the landscape.
I leaned back in my low chair, my head and shoulders half hidden among
the curtains, looking out on the beautiful effect.

This moonlight had prevailed for, I dare say, ten or fifteen minutes,
when something occurred to rouse me from my listless reverie. Some
object moved upon the window-stone, and caught my eye. It was a human
hand suddenly placed there; its fellow instantly followed; an elbow, a
hat, a head, a knee; and a man kneeled in the moonlight upon the
window-stone, which was there some eight or ten feet from the ground.

Was I awake or in a dream? Gracious Heaven! There were the scarred
forehead and the stern face of Mr. Marston with knit brows, and his hand
shading his eyes, as he stared close to the glass into the room.

I was in the shadow, and cowered back deeper into the folds of the
curtain. He plainly did not see me. He was looking into the further end
of the room. I was afraid to cry out; it would have betrayed me. I
remained motionless, in the hope that, when he was satisfied that there
was no one in the room, he would withdraw from his place of observation,
and go elsewhere.

I was watching him with the fascinated terror of a bird, in its ivied
nook, when a kite hovers at night within a span of it.

He now seized the window-sash--how I prayed that it had been
secured--and with a push or two the window ascended, and he stepped in
upon the floor. The cold night air entered with him; he stood for a
minute looking into the room, and then very softly he closed the window.
He seemed to have made up his mind to establish himself here, for he
lazily pushed Mr. Blount's easy-chair into the recess at the window, and
sat down very nearly opposite to me. If I had been less shocked and
frightened, I might have seen the absurdity of my situation.

He leaned back in Mr. Blount's chair, like a tired man, and extended his
heels on the carpet; his hand clutched the arm of the chair. His face
was in the bright white light of the moon, his chin was sunk on his
chest. His features looked haggard and wicked. Two or three times I
thought he saw me, for his eyes were fixed on me for more than a minute;
but my perfect stillness, the deep shadow that enveloped me, and the
brilliant moonlight in his eyes, protected me.

Suddenly I heard a step--it was Mr. Blount; the door opened, and the
step was arrested; to my infinite relief a voice, it was Mr. Blount's,
called a little sternly:

"Who's that?"

"The prodigal, the outcast," answered Mr. Marston's deep voice,
bitterly. "I have been, and am, too miserable not to make one more
trial, and to seek to be reconciled. You, sir, are very kind--you are a
staunch friend; but you have never yet done all you could do for me. Why
have you not faith? Your influence is unlimited."

"My good gracious!" exclaimed Mr. Blount, not moving an inch from where
he stood. "Why, it is only this morning I received your letter from New
York. What is all this? I don't understand."

"I came by the same mail that brought my letter. Second thoughts are the
best. I changed my mind," said the young man, standing up. "Why should I
live the sort of life he seems to have planned for me, if he intends
anything better at any time? And if he don't, what do I owe him? It is
vindictive and unnatural. I'm worn out; my patience has broken down."

"I could not have believed my eyes," said Mr. Blount. "I did not--dear,
dear me! I don't know what to make of it; he'll be very much displeased.
Mr. Marston, sir, you seem bent on ruining yourself with him, quite."

"I don't know--what chance have I out there? Out of sight out of mind,
you used to say. He'd have forgotten me, you'd have forgotten me; I
should not have had a friend soon, who knew or cared whether I was alive
or dead. Speak to him; tell him he may as well listen to me. I'm
perfectly desperate," and he struck his open hand on the back of the
chair, and clenched the sentence with a bitter oath.

"I am not to blame for it," said Mr. Blount.

"I know that; I know it very well, Mr. Blount. You are too good a friend
of our family. I know it, and I feel it--I do, indeed; but look here,
where's the good of driving a fellow to desperation? I tell you I'll do
something that will bring it to a crisis; I can't stand the hell I live
in. And let him prosecute me if he likes; it is very easy for me to put
a pistol to my head--it's only half a second and it's over--and I'll
leave a letter telling the world how he has used me, and then see how
he'll like the mess he has made of it."

"Now, pardon me, sir," said Mr. Blount, ceremoniously, "that's all
stuff; I mean he won't believe you. When I have an unacceptable truth to
communicate, I make it a rule to do so in the most courteous manner;
and, happily, I have, hitherto, found the laws of truth and of
politeness always reconcilable; he has told me, my dear sir, fifty
times, that you are a great deal too selfish ever to hurt yourself.
There is no use, then, in trying, if I may be permitted the phrase, to
bully him. If you seek, with the smallest chance of success, to make an
impression upon Sir Harry Rokestone, you must approach him in a spirit
totally unlike that. I'll tell you what you must do. Write me a penitent
letter, asking my intercession, and if you can make, with perfect
sincerity, fair promises for the future, and carefully avoid the
smallest evidence of the spirit you chose to display in your last--and
it is very strange if you have learned nothing--I'll try again what I
can do."

The young man advanced, and took Mr. Blount's hand and wrung it
fervently.

I don't think Mr. Blount returned the demonstration with equal warmth.
He was rather passive on the occasion.

"Is he--here?" asked Mr. Marston.

"No, and you must not remain an hour in this house, nor at Golden
Friars, nor shall you go to London, but to some perfectly quiet place;
write to me, from thence, a letter such as I have described, and I will
lay it before him, with such representations of my own as perhaps may
weigh with him, and we shall soon know what will come of it. Have the
servants seen you?"

"No one."

"So much the better."

"I scaled your window about ten minutes ago. I thought you would soon
turn up, and I was right. I know you will forgive me."

"Well, no matter, you had better get away as you came; how was that?"

"By boat, sir; I took it at the Three Oaks."

"It is all the better you were not in the town; I should not like him to
know you are in England, until I have got your letter to show him; I
hope, sir, you will write in it no more than you sincerely feel. I
cannot enter into any but an honest case. Where did your boat wait?"

"At the jetty here."

"Very good; as you came by the window, you may as well go by it, and I
will meet you a little way down the path; I may have something more to
say."

"Thank you, sir, from my heart," said Marston.

"No, no, don't mind, I want you to get away again; there, get away as
quickly as you can." He had opened the window for him. "Ah, you have
climbed that many a time when you were a boy; you should know every
stone by heart."

"I'll do exactly as you tell me, sir, in all things," said the young
man, and dropped lightly from the window-stone to the ground, and I saw
his shadowy figure glide swiftly down the grass, towards the great
lime-trees that stand in a receding row between the house and the water.
Mr. Blount lowered the window quietly, and looked for a moment after
him.

"Some men are born to double sorrow--sorrow for others--sorrow for
themselves. I don't quite know what to make of him."

The old man sighed heavily, and left the room. I felt very like a spy,
and very much ashamed of myself for having overheard a conversation
certainly not intended for my ears. I can honestly say it was not
curiosity that held me there; that I was beyond measure distressed at my
accidental treachery; and that, had there been a door near enough to
enable me to escape unseen I should not have overheard a sentence of
what had passed. But I had not courage to discover myself; and wanting
nerve at the beginning to declare myself, I had, of course, less and
less as the conference proceeded, and my situation became more
equivocal.

The departure of Mr. Blount, whom I now saw descending the steps in
pursuit of his visitor, relieved me, and I got away from the room,
haunted by the face that had so lately appeared to me in my ominous
dream, and by the voice whose tones excited a strange tremor, and
revived stranger recollections.

In the drawing-room, before a quarter of an hour, I was joined by Mr.
Blount. Our _tête-à-tête_ was an unusually silent one, and, after tea,
we played a rather spiritless hit or two at backgammon.

I was glad when the time came to get to my room, to the genial and
garrulous society of Rebecca Torkill; and after my candle was put out, I
lay long enough awake, trying to put together the as yet imperfect
fragments of a story and a situation which were to form the ground-work
of the drama in which I instinctively felt that I was involved.



                            CHAPTER LIII.

                           ONE MORE CHANCE.


Sir Harry came home, and met me more affectionately and kindly than
ever. I soon perceived that there was something of more than usual
gravity under discussion between him and Mr. Blount. I knew, of course,
very well what was the question they were debating. I was very
uncomfortable while this matter was being discussed; Mr. Blount seemed
nervous and uneasy; and it was plain that the decision was not only
suspended but uncertain. I don't suppose there was a more perturbed
little family in all England at that moment, over whom, at the same
time, there hung apparently no cloud of disaster.

At last I could perceive that something was settled; for the discussions
between Mr. Blount and Sir Harry seemed to have lost the character of
debate and remonstrance, and to have become more like a gloomy
confidence and consultation between them. I can only speak of what I may
call the external appearance of these conversations, for I was not
permitted to hear one word of their substance.

In a little while Sir Harry went away again. This time his journey, I
afterwards learned, was to one of the quietest little towns in North
Wales, where his chaise drew up at the Bull Inn. The tall northern
baronet got out of the chaise, and strode to the bar of that rural
hostelry.

"Is there a gentleman named Marston staying here?" he asked of the plump
elderly lady who sat within the bow-window of the bar.

"Yes, sir, Mr. Marston, Number Seven, up one pair of stairs."

"Upstairs now?" asked Sir Harry.

"He'll be gone out to take his walk, sir, by this time," answered the
lady.

"Can I talk to you for a few minutes, anywhere, madam, in private?"
asked Sir Harry.

The old lady looked at him, a little surprised.

"Yes, sir," she said. "Is it anything very particular, please?"

"Yes, ma'am, very particular," answered the baronet.

She called to her handmaid, and installed her quickly in her seat, and
so led the baronet to an occupied room on the ground-floor. Sir Harry
closed the door, and told her who he was. The landlady recognised his
baronetage with a little courtesy.

"I'm a relation of Mr. Marston's, and I've come down here to make an
inquiry; I want to know whether he has been leading an orderly, quiet
life since he came to your house."

"No one more so, please, sir; a very nice regular gentleman, and goes to
church every Sunday he's been here, and that is true. We have no
complaint to make of him, please, sir; and he has paid his bill twice
since he came here."

The woman looked honest, with frank, round eyes.

"Thank you, ma'am," said Sir Harry; "that will do."

An hour later it was twilight, and Mr. Marston, on entering his
sitting-room after his walk, saw the baronet, who got up from his chair
before the fire as he came in.

The young man instantly took off his hat, and stood near the door, the
very image of humility. Sir Harry did not advance, or offer him his
hand; he gave him a nod. Nothing could be colder than this reception.

"So, Richard, you have returned to England, as you have done most other
things, without consulting me," said the cold, deep voice of Sir Harry.

"I've acted rashly sir, I fear. I acted on an impulse. I could not
resist it. It was only twelve hours before the ship left New York when
the thought struck me. I ought to have waited, I ought to have thought
it over. It seemed to me my only chance, and I'm afraid it has but sunk
me lower in your esteem."

"It is clear you should have asked my leave first, all things
considered," said Sir Harry, in the same tone.

The young man bowed his head.

"I see that very clearly now, sir; but I have been so miserable under
your displeasure, and I do not always see things as my calmer reason
would view them. I thought of nothing but my chance of obtaining your
forgiveness, and, at so great a distance, I despaired."

"So it was to please me you set my authority at naught? By Jea! that's
logic."

Sir Harry spoke this with a scornful and angry smile.

"I am the only near kinsman you have left, sir, of your blood and name."

"My name, sir!" challenged Sir Harry, fiercely.

"My second name is Rokestone--called after you," pleaded Mr. Marston.

"By my sang, young man, if you and I had borne the same name, I'd have
got the Queen's letter, and changed mine to Smith."

To this the young gentleman made no reply. His uncle broke the silence
that followed.

"We'll talk at present, if you please, as little as need be; there's
nothing pleasant to say between us. But I'll give you a chance; I'll see
if you are a changed man, as your letter says. I'll try what work is in
you, or what good. You said you'd like farming. Well, we'll see what
sort of farmer you'll make. You'll do well to remember 'tis but a trial.
In two or three days Mr. Blount will give you particulars by letter.
Good evening. Don't come down; stay here. I'll go alone. Say no more;
I'll have no thanks or professions. Your conduct, steadiness, integrity,
shall guide me. That's all. Farewell."

Mr. Marston, during this colloquy, had gradually advanced a little, and
now stood near the window. Sir Harry accompanied his farewell with a
short nod, and stalked down the stairs. Mr. Marston knew he meant what
he said, and therefore did not attempt to accompany him downstairs. And
so, with a fresh pair of horses, Sir Harry immediately started on his
homeward journey.

I, who knew at the time nothing of what I afterwards learned, was still
in a suspense which nobody suspected. It was ended one evening by Sir
Harry Rokestone, who said:

"To-morrow my nephew, Richard Marston, will be here to stay, I have not
yet determined for how long. He is a dull young man. You'll not like
him; he has not a word to throw at a dog."

So, whatever his description was worth, his announcement was conclusive,
and Richard Marston was to become an inmate of Dorracleugh next day. I
find my diary says, under date of the next day:

"I have been looking forward, with a trepidation I can hardly account
for, to the arrival which Sir Harry announced yesterday. The event of
the day occurred at three o'clock. I was thinking of going out for a
walk, and had my hat and jacket on, and was standing in the hall. I
wished to postpone, as long as I could, the meeting with Mr. Marston,
which I dreaded. At that critical moment his double knock at the
hall-door, and the distant peal of our rather deep-mouthed bell,
startled me. I guessed it was he, and turned to run up to my room, but
met Sir Harry, who said, laying his hand gently on my shoulder:

"'Wait, dear--this is my nephew. I saw him from the window. I want to
introduce him.'

"Of course I had to submit. The door was opened. There he was, the
veritable Mr. Marston, of Malory, the hero of the Conway Castle, of the
duel, and likewise of so many evil stories--the man who had once talked
so romantically and so madly to me. I felt myself growing pale, and then
blushing. Sir Harry received him coldly enough, and introduced me,
simply mentioning my name and his; and then I ran down the steps, with
two of the dogs as my companions, while the servants were getting in Mr.
Marston's luggage.

"I met him again at dinner. He is very little changed, except that he is
much more sun-burnt. He has got a look, too, of command and melancholy.
I am sure he has suffered, and suffering, they say, makes people better.
He talked very little during dinner, and rather justified Sir Harry's
description. Sir Harry talked about the farm he intends for him--they
are to look at it to-morrow together. Mr. Blount seems to have got a
load off his mind.

"The farm is not so far away as I had imagined--it is only at the other
side of the lake, about five hundred acres at Clusted, which came to Sir
Harry, Mr. Blount says, through the Mardykes family. I wonder whether
there is a house upon it--if so, he will probably live at the other side
of the lake, and his arrival will have made very little difference to
us. So much the better, perhaps.

"I saw him and Sir Harry, at about eight o'clock this morning, set out
together in the big boat, with two men, to cross the lake.

"Farming is, I believe, a very absorbing pursuit. He won't feel his
solitude much; and Mr. Blount says he will have to go to fairs and
markets. It is altogether a grazing farm."

The reader will perceive that I am still quoting my diary.

"To-day, old Miss Goulding, of Wrybiggins, the old lady whom the gossips
of Golden Friars once assigned to Sir Harry as a wife, called with a
niece who is with her on a visit, so I suppose they had heard of Mr.
Marston's arrival, and came to see what kind of person he is. I'm rather
glad they were disappointed. I ordered luncheon for them, and I saw them
look toward the door every time it opened, expecting, I am sure, to see
Mr. Marston. I maliciously postponed telling them, until the very last
moment, that he was at the other side of the mere, as they call the
lake, although I suffered for my cruelty, for they dawdled on here
almost interminably.

"Sir Harry and Mr. Marston did not return till tea-time, when it was
quite dark; they had dined at a farm-house at the other side. Sir Harry
seems, I think a little more friendly with him. They talked, it is true,
of nothing but farming and live stock; and Mr. Blount joined. I took,
therefore, in solitude, to my piano, and, when I was tired of that, to
my novel.

"A very dull evening--the dullest, I think, I've passed since we came to
Dorracleugh. I daresay Mr. Marston will make a very good farmer. I hope
very much there may be a suitable residence found for him at the other
side of the lake."

Next my diary contains the following entry:

"Mr. Marston off again at eight o'clock to his farm. Mr. Blount and I
took a sail to-day, with Sir Harry's leave, in the small boat. He tells
me that there is no necessity for Mr. Marston's going every day to the
farm--that Sir Harry has promised him a third of whatever the farm,
under his management, makes. He seems very anxious to please Sir Harry.
I can't conceive what can have made me so nervous about the arrival of
this very humdrum squire, whose sole object appears to be the prosperity
of his colony of cows and sheep.

"Sunday.--Of course to-day he has taken a holiday, but he has not given
us the benefit of it. He chose to walk all day, instead of going to
church with us to Golden Friars. It is not far from Haworth. So he
prefers a march of four and twenty miles to the fatigue of our society!"

On the Tuesday following I find, by the same record, Sir Harry went to
visit his estate of Tarlton, about forty miles from Golden Friars, to
remain away for three or four days. That day I find also Mr. Marston
was, as usual, at his farm at Clusted, and did not come home till about
nine o'clock.

I went to my room immediately after his arrival, so that he had an
uninterrupted _tête-à-tête_ with Mr. Blount.

Next day he went away at his usual early hour, and returned not so late.
I made an excuse of having some letters to write, and left the two
gentlemen to themselves a good deal earlier than the night before.

"Mr. Marston certainly is very little in my way; I have not spoken
twenty words to him since his arrival. I begin to think him extremely
impertinent."

The foregoing is a very brief note of the day, considering how diffuse
and particular I often was when we were more alone. I make up for it on
the following day. The text runs thus:

"Mr. Marston has come off his high horse, and broken silence at last. It
was blowing furiously in the morning, and I suppose, however melancholy
he may be, he has no intention of drowning himself. At all events, there
has been no crossing the mere this morning.

"He has appeared, for the first time since his arrival, at breakfast.
Sir Harry's absence seems to have removed a great constraint. He talked
very agreeably, and seemed totally to have forgotten the subject of
farming; he told us a great deal of his semi-military life in Spain,
which was very amusing. I know he made me laugh heartily. Old Mr. Blount
laughed also. Our breakfast was a very pleasant meal. Mr. Blount was
himself in Spain for more than a year when he was young, and got up and
gave us a representation of his host, an eccentric fan-maker, walking
with his toes pointed and his chest thrown out, and speaking sonorous
Spanish with pompous gesture. I had no idea he had so much fun in him.
The good-natured old man seemed quite elated at our applause and very
real laughter.

"Mr. Marston suddenly looked across the lake, and recollected his farm.

"'How suddenly that storm went down!' he said. 'I can't say I'm glad of
it, for I suppose I must make my usual trip, and visit my four-footed
friends over the way.'

"'No,' said Mr. Blount; 'let them shift for themselves to-day; I'll take
it on myself. There's no necessity for you going every day as you do.'

"'But how will it be received by the authorities? Will my uncle think it
an omission? I should not like him to suppose that, under any
temptation, I had forgotten my understanding with him.'

"He glanced at me. Whether he thought me the temptation, or only wished
to include me in the question, I don't know.

"'Oh! no,' said Mr. Blount; 'stay at home for this once--I'll explain it
all; and we can go out and have a sail, if the day continues as fine as
it promises.'

"Mr. Marston hesitated; he looked at me as if for an opinion, but I said
nothing.

"'Well,' he said, 'I can't resist. I'll take your advice, Mr. Blount,
and make this a holiday.'

"I think Mr. Marston very much improved in some respects. His manners
and conversation are not less spirited, but gentler; and he is so very
agreeable! I think he has led an unhappy life, and no doubt was often
very much in the wrong. But I have remarked that we condemn people not
in proportion to their moral guilt, but in proportion to the
inconvenience their faults inflict on us. I wonder very much what those
stories were which caused Mr. Carmel and Laura Grey to speak of him so
bitterly and sternly? They were both so good that things which other
people would have thought lightly enough of, would seem to them
enormous. I dare say it is all about debt, or very likely play; and
people who have possibly lost money by his extravagance have been
exaggerating matters, and telling stories their own way. He seems very
much sobered now, at all events. One can't help pitying him.

"He went down to the jetty before luncheon. I found afterwards that it
was to get cloaks and rugs arranged for me.

"He lunched with us, and we were all very talkative. He certainly will
prevent our all falling asleep in this drowsy place. We had such a
pleasant sail. I gave him the tiller; but his duties as helmsman did not
prevent his talking. We could hear one another very well, in spite of
the breeze, which was rather more than Sir Harry would have quite
approved of.

"Mr. Marston had many opportunities to-day of talking to me without any
risk of being overheard. He did not, however, say a single word in his
old vein. I am very glad of this; it would be provoking to lose his
conversation, which is amusing, and, I confess, a great resource in this
solitude.

"He is always on the watch to find if I want anything, and gets or does
it instantly. I wish his farm was at this side of the lake. I dare say
when Sir Harry comes back we shall see as little as ever of him. It will
end by his being drowned in that dangerous lake. It seems odd that Sir
Harry, who is so tender of my life and Mr. Blount's, should have
apparently no feeling whatever about his. But it is their affair. I'm
not likely to be consulted; so I need not trouble my head about it.

"I write in my room, the day now over, and dear old Rebecca Torkill is
fussing about from table to wardrobe, and from wardrobe to drawers,
pottering, and fidgeting, and whispering to herself. She has just told
me that Mrs. Shackleton, the housekeeper here at Dorracleugh, talked to
her a good deal this evening about Mr. Marston. She gives a very good
account of him. When he went to school, and to Oxford, she saw him only
at intervals, but he was a manly, good-natured boy she said, 'and never,
that she knew, any harm in him, only a bit wild, like other young men at
such places.' I write, as nearly as I can, Rebecca's words.

"The subject of the quarrel with Sir Harry Rokestone, Mrs. Shackleton
says, was simply that Mr. Marston positively refused to marry some one
whom his uncle had selected for a niece-in-law. That is exactly the kind
of disobedience that old people are sometimes most severe upon. She told
Rebecca to be very careful not to say a word of it to the other
servants, as it was a great secret.

"After all there may be two sides to this case, as to others, and Mr.
Marston's chief mutiny may have been of that kind which writers of
romance and tragedy elevate into heroism.

"He certainly is very much improved."

Here my diary for that day left Mr. Marston, and turned to half-a-dozen
trifles, treated, I must admit, with much comparative brevity.



                             CHAPTER LIV.

                           DANGEROUS GROUND.


Old Mr. Blount was a religious man. Sir Harry, whose ideas upon such
subjects I never could exactly divine, went to church every Sunday; but
he scoffed at bishops, and neither loved nor trusted clergymen. He had,
however, family prayers every morning, at which Mr. Blount officiated,
with evident happiness and peace in the light of his simple countenance.

No radiance of this happy light was reflected on the face of Sir Harry
Rokestone, who sat by the mantelpiece, in one of the old oak arm chairs,
a colossal image of solitude, stern and melancholy, and never, it seemed
to me, so much alone as at those moments which seem to draw other
mortals nearer. I fancied that some associations connected with such
simple gatherings long ago, perhaps, recalled mamma to his thoughts. He
seemed to sit in a stern and melancholy reverie, and he would often come
over to me, when the prayer was ended, and, looking at me with great
affection, ask gently:

"Well, my little lass, do they try to make you happy here? Is there
anything you think of that you'd like me to get down from Lunnon? You
must think. I'd like to be doing little things for you; think, and tell
me this evening." And at such times he would turn on me a look of
full-hearted affection, and smoothe my hair caressingly with his old
hand.

Sometimes he would say: "You like this place, you tell me; but the
winters here, I'm thinking, will be too hard for you."

"But I like a good, cold, frosty winter," I would answer him. "There is
nothing I think so pleasant."

"Ay, but maybe ye'll be getting a cough or something."

"No, I assure you I'm one of the few persons on earth who never take
cold," I urged, for I really wished to spend the winter at Golden
Friars.

"Well, pretty lass, ye shall do as you like best, but you mustn't fall
sick; if you do, what's to become o' the auld man?"

You must allow me here to help myself with my diary once more. I am
about to quote from what I find there, dated the following Sunday:

"We went to Golden Friars to church as usual; and Mr. Marston, instead
of performing his devotions twelve miles away, came with us.

"After the service was ended, Sir Harry, who had a call to make, took
leave of us. The day was so fine that we were tempted to walk home
instead of driving.

"We chose the path by the lake, and sent the carriage on to Dorracleugh.

"Mr. Blount chooses to talk over the sermon, and I am sure thinks it
profane to mention secular subjects on Sunday. I think this a mistake;
and I confess I was not sorry when good Mr. Blount stopped and told us
he was going into Shenstone's cottage. I felt that a respite of five
minutes from the echoes of the good vicar's sermon would be pleasant.
But when he went on to say that he was going in to read some of the
Bible and talk a little with the consumptive little boy, placing me
under Mr. Marston's escort for the rest of the walk, which was about a
mile, I experienced a new alarm. I had no wish that Mr. Marston should
return to his old heroics.

"I did not well know what to say or do, Mr. Blount's good-bye came so
suddenly. My making a difficulty about walking home with Mr. Marston
would to him, who knew nothing of what had passed at Malory, have
appeared an unaccountable affectation of prudery. I asked Mr. Blount
whether he intended staying any time. He answered, 'Half an hour at
least; and if the poor boy wishes it, I shall stay an hour,' he added.

"Mr. Marston, who, I am sure, perfectly understood me, did not say a
word. I had only to make the best of an uncomfortable situation, and,
very nervous, I nodded and smiled my farewell to Mr. Blount, and set out
on my homeward march with Mr. Marston.

"I need not have been in such a panic--it was very soon perfectly plain
that Mr. Marston did not intend treating me to any heroics.

"'I don't know any one in the world I have a much higher opinion of than
Mr. Blount,' he said; 'but I do think it a great mercy to get away from
him a little on Sundays; I can't talk to him in his own way, and I turn
simply into a Trappist--I become, I mean, perfectly dumb.'

"I agreed, but said that I had such a regard for Mr. Blount that I could
not bring myself to vex him.

"'That is my rule also,' he said, 'only I carry it a little further,
ever since I received my education,' he smiled, darkly; 'that is, since
I begun to suffer, about three years ago, I have learned to practise it
with all my friends. You would not believe what constraint I often place
upon myself to avoid saying that which is in my heart and next my lips,
but which I fear--I fear with too good reason--might not be liked by
others. There was a time, I daresay, when Hamlet blurted out everything
that came into his mind, before he learned in the school of sorrow to
say, "But break my heart, for I must hold my tongue."'

"He looked very expressively, and I thought I knew perfectly what he
meant, and that if by any blunder I happened to say a foolish thing, I
might find myself, before I knew where I was, in the midst of a
conversation as wild as that of the wood of Plas Ylwd.

"In reply to this I said, not very adroitly:

"And what a beautiful play _Hamlet_ is! I have been trying to copy
Retsch's outline, but I have made such a failure. The faces are so fine
and forcible, and the expression of the hands is so wonderful, and my
hands are so tame and clumsy; I can do nothing but the ghost, and that
is because he is the only absurd figure in the series."

"'Yes,' he acquiesced, 'like a thing in an _opera bouffe_.'

"I could perceive very plainly that my rather precipitate and incoherent
excursion into Retsch's outlines, into which he had followed me with the
best grace he could, had wounded him. It was equally plain, however,
that he was in good faith practising the rule he had just now mentioned,
and was by no means the insolent and overbearing suitor he had shown
himself in that scene, now removed alike by time and distance, in which
I had before seen him.

"No one could be more submissive than he to my distinct decision that
there was to be no more such wild talk.

"For the rest of our walk he talked upon totally indifferent subjects.
Certainly, of the two, I had been the most put out by his momentary
ascent to a more tragic level. I wonder now whether I did not possibly
suspect a great deal more than was intended. If so, what a fool I must
have appeared! Is there anything so ridiculous as a demonstration of
resistance where no attack is meditated? I began to feel so confused and
ashamed that I hardly took the trouble to follow what he said. As we
approached Dorracleugh, I began to feel more like myself. After a little
silence he said what I am going to set down; I have gone over it again
and again in my mind; I know I have added nothing, and I really think I
write very nearly exactly as he spoke it.

"'When I had that strange escape with my life from the Conway Castle,'
he said, 'no man on earth was more willing and less fit to die than I. I
don't suppose there was a more miserable man in England. I had
disappointed my uncle by doing what seemed a very foolish thing. I could
not tell him my motive--no one knew it--the secret was not
mine--everything combined to embarrass and crush me. I had the hardest
thing on earth to endure--unmerited condemnation was my portion. Some
good people, whom, notwithstanding, I have learned to respect, spoke of
me to my face as if I had committed a murder. My uncle understands me
now, but he has not yet forgiven me. When I was at Malory, I was in a
mood to shoot myself through the head; I was desperate, I was bitter, I
was furious. Every unlucky thing that could happen did happen there.
The very people who had judged me most cruelly turned up; and among them
one who forced a quarrel on me, and compelled that miserable duel in
which I wished at the time I had been killed.'

"I listened to all this with more interest than I allowed him to see, as
we walked on together side by side, I looking down on the path before
us, and saying nothing.

"'If it were not for one or two feelings left me, I should not know
myself for the shipwrecked man who thanked his young hostess at Malory
for her invaluable hospitality,' he said; 'there are some things one
never forgets. I often think of Malory--I have thought of it in all
kinds of distant, out-of-the-way, savage places; it rises before me as I
saw it last. My life has all gone wrong. While hope remains, we can bear
anything--but my last hope seems pretty near its setting--and, when it
is out, I hope, seeing I cross and return in all weathers, there is
drowning enough in that lake to give a poor fool, at least, a cool head
and a quiet heart.'

"Then, without any tragic pause, he turned to other things lightly, and
never looked towards me to discover what effect his words were
producing; but he talked on, and now very pleasantly. We loitered a
little at the hall-door. I did not want him to come into the
drawing-room, and establish himself there. Here were the open door, the
hall, the court-yard, the windows, all manner of possibilities for
listeners, and I felt I was protected from any embarrassment that an
impetuous companion might please to inflict if favoured by a
_tête-à-tête_.

"I must, however, do him justice: he seemed very anxious not to
offend--very careful so to mask any disclosure of his feelings as to
leave me quite free to 'ignore' it, and, as it seemed to me, on the
watch to catch any evidence of my impatience.

"He is certainly very agreeable and odd; and the time passed very
pleasantly while we loitered in the court-yard.

"Mr. Blount soon came up, and after a word or two I left them, and ran
up to my room."



                              CHAPTER LV.

                      MR. CARMEL TAKES HIS LEAVE.


About this time there was a sort of fête at Golden Friars. Three very
pretty fountains were built by Sir Richard Mardykes and Sir Harry, at
the upper end of the town, in which they both have property; and the
opening of these was a sort of gala.

I did not care to go. Sir Harry Rokestone and Mr. Blount, were, of
course, there; Mr. Marston went, instead, to his farm, at the other
side; and I took a whim to go out on the lake, in a row-boat, in the
direction of Golden Friars. My boatmen rowed me near enough to hear the
music, which was very pretty; but we remained sufficiently far out, to
prevent becoming mixed up with the other boats which lay near the shore.

It was a pleasant, clear day, with no wind stirring, and although we
were now fairly in winter, the air was not too sharp, and with just a
rug about one's feet, the weather was very pleasant. My journal speaks
of this evening as follows:

"It was, I think, near four o'clock, when I told the men to row towards
Dorracleugh. Before we reached it, the filmy haze of a winter's evening
began to steal over the landscape, and a red sunset streamed through the
break in the fells above the town with so lovely an effect that I told
the men to slacken their speed. So we moved, with only a dip of the oar,
now and then; and I looked up the mere, enjoying the magical effect.

"A boat had been coming, a little in our wake, along the shore. I had
observed it, but without the slightest curiosity; not even with a
conjecture that Sir Harry and Mr. Blount might be returning in it, for I
knew that it was arranged that they were to come back together in the
carriage.

"Voices from this boat caught my ear; and one suddenly that startled me,
just as it neared us. It glided up. I fancy about thirty yards were
between the sides of the two boats; and the men, like those in my boat,
had been ordered merely to dip their oars, and were now moving abreast
of ours; the drips from their oars sparkled like drops of molten metal.
What I heard--the only thing I now heard--was the harsh nasal voice of
Monsieur Droqville.

"There he was, in his black dress, standing in the stern of the boat,
looking round on the landscape, from point to point. The light, as he
looked this way and that, touched his energetic bronzed features, the
folds of his dress, and the wet planks of the boat, with a fire that
contrasted with the grey shadows behind and about.

"I heard him say, pointing with his outstretched arm, 'And is that
Dorracleugh?' To which, one of the people in the boat made him an
answer.

"I can't think of that question without terror. What has brought that
man down here? What interest can he have in seeking out Dorracleugh,
except that it happens to be my present place of abode?

"I am sure he did not see me. When he looked in my direction, the sun
was in his eyes, and my face in shadow; I don't think he can have seen
me. But that matters nothing if he has come down for any purpose
connected with me."

A sure instinct told me that Monsieur Droqville would be directed
inflexibly by the interests of his order, to consult which, at all
times, unawed by consequences to himself or others, was his stern and
narrow duty.

Here, in this beautiful and sequestered corner of the world, how far,
after all, I had been from quiet. Well might I cry with Campbell's
exile--

  "Ah! cruel fate, wilt thou never replace me
  In a mansion of peace where no perils can chase me?"

My terrors hung upon a secret I dared not disclose. There was no one to
help me; for I could consult no one.

The next day I was really ill. I remained in my room. I thought Monsieur
Droqville would come to claim an interview; and perhaps would seek, by
the power he possessed, to force me to become an instrument in
forwarding some of his plans, affecting either the faith or the property
of others. I was in an agony of suspense and fear.

Days passed; a week; and no sign of Monsieur Droqville. I began to
breathe. He was not a man, I knew, to waste weeks, or even days, in
search of the picturesque, in a semi-barbarous region like Golden
Friars.

At length I summoned courage to speak to Rebecca Torkill. I told her I
had seen Monsieur Droqville, and that I wanted her, without telling the
servants at Dorracleugh, to make inquiry at the "George and Dragon,"
whether a person answering that description had been there. No such
person was there. So I might assume he was gone. He had come with Sir
Richard Mardykes, I conjectured, from Carsbrook, where he often was. But
such a man was not likely to make even a pleasure excursion without an
eye to business. He had, I supposed, made inquiries; possibly, he had
set a watch upon me. Under the eye of such a master of strategy as
Monsieur Droqville I could not feel quite at ease.

Nevertheless, in a little time, such serenity as I had enjoyed at
Dorracleugh gradually returned; and I enjoyed a routine life, the
dulness of which would have been in another state of my spirits
insupportable, with very real pleasure.

We were now deep in winter, and in its snowy shroud how beautiful the
landscape looked! Cold, but stimulating and pleasant was the clear, dry
air; and our frost-bound world sparkled in the wintry sun.

Old Sir Harry Rokestone, a keen sportsman, proof as granite against
cold, was out by moonlight on the grey down with his old-fashioned
duck-guns, and, when the lake was not frozen over, with two hardy men
manoeuvring his boat for him. Town-bred, Mr. Blount contented himself
with his brisk walk, stick in hand, and a couple of the dogs for
companions to the town; and Mr. Marston was away upon some mission, on
which his uncle had sent him, Mr. Blount said, to try whether he was
"capable of business and steady."

One night, at this time, as I sat alone in the drawing-room, I was a
little surprised to see old Rebecca Torkill come in with her bonnet and
cloak on, looking mysterious and important. Shutting the door, she
peeped cautiously round.

"What do you think, miss? Wait--listen," she all but whispered, with her
hand raised as she trotted up to my side. "Who do you think I saw, not
three minutes ago, at the lime-trees, near the lake?"

I was staring in her face, filled with shapeless alarms.

"I was coming home from Farmer Shenstone's, where I went with some tea
for that poor little boy that's ailing, and just as I got over the
stile, who should I see, as plain as I see you now, but Mr. Carmel, just
that minute got out of his boat, and making as if he was going to walk
up to the house. He knew me the minute he saw me--it is a very bright
moon--and he asked me how I was; and then how you were, most particular;
and he said he was only for a few hours in Golden Friars, and took a
boat on the chance of seeing you for a minute, but that he did not know
whether you would like it, and he begged of me to find out and bring him
word. If you do, he's waiting down there, Miss Ethel, and what shall I
say?"

"Come with me," I said, getting up quickly; and, putting on in a moment
my seal-skin jacket and my hat, without another thought or word, much to
Rebecca's amazement, I sallied out into the still night air. Turning the
corner of the old building, at the end of the court-yard, I found myself
treading with rapid steps the crisp grass, under a dazzling moon, and
before me the view of the distant fells, throwing their snowy speaks
high into the air, with the solemn darkness of the lake, and its silvery
gleams below, and the shadowy gorge and great lime-trees in the
foreground. Down the gentle slope I walked swiftly, leaving Rebecca
Torkill a long way behind.

I was now under the towering lime-trees. I paused: with a throbbing
heart I held my breath. I heard hollow steps coming up on the other
side of the file of gigantic stems. I passed between, and saw Mr. Carmel
walking slowly towards me. In a moment he was close to me, and took my
hand in his old kindly way.

"This is very kind; how can I thank you, Miss Ware? I had hardly hoped
to be allowed to call at the house; I am going a long journey, and have
not been quite so well as I used to be, and I thought that if I lost
this opportunity, in this uncertain world, I might never see my pupil
again. I could hardly bear that, without just saying good-bye."

"And you are going?" I said, wringing his hand.

"Yes, indeed; the ocean will be between us soon, and half the world, and
I am not to return."

All his kindness rose up before me--his thoughtful goodness, his
fidelity--and I felt for a moment on the point of crying.

He was muffled in furs, and was looking thin and ill, and in the light
of the moon the lines of his handsome face were marked as if carved in
ivory.

"You and your old tutor have had a great many quarrels, and always made
it up again; and now at last we part, I am sure, good friends."

"You are going, and you're ill," was all I could say; but I was
conscious there was something of that wild tone that real sorrow gives
in my voice.

"How often I have thought of you, Miss Ethel--how often I shall think of
you, be my days many or few. How often!"

"I am so sorry, Mr. Carmel--so awfully sorry!" I repeated. I had not
unclasped my hand; I was looking in his thin, pale, smiling face with
the saddest augury.

"I want you to remember me; it is folly, I know, but it is a harmless
folly; all human nature shares in it, and"--there was a little tremble,
and a momentary interruption--"and your old tutor, the sage who lectured
you so wisely, is, after all, no less a fool than the rest. Will you
keep this little cross? It belonged to my mother, and is, by permission
of my superiors, my own, so you may accept it with a clear conscience."
He smiled. "If you wear it, or even let it lie on your table, it will
sometimes"--the same momentary interruption occurred again--"it may
perhaps remind you of one who took a deep interest in you."

It was a beautiful little gold cross, with five brilliants in it.

"And oh, Ethel! let me look at you once again."

He led me--it was only a step or two--out of the shadow of the tree into
the bright moonlight, and, still holding my hand, looked at me intently
for a little time with a smile, to me, the saddest that ever mortal face
wore.

"And now, here she stands, my wayward, generous, clever Ethel! How proud
I was of my pupil! The heart knoweth its own bitterness," he said
gently. "And oh! in the day when our Redeemer makes up his jewels, may
you be precious among them! I have seen you; farewell!"

Suddenly he raised my hand, and kissed it gently, twice. Then he turned,
and walked rapidly down to the water's edge, and stepped into the boat.
The men dipped their oars, and the water rose like diamonds from the
touch. I saw his dark figure standing, with arm extended, for a moment,
in the stern, in his black cloak, pointing towards Golden Friars. The
boat was now three lengths away; twenty--fifty; out on the bosom of the
stirless water. The tears that I had restrained burst forth, and sobbing
as if my heart would break I ran down to the margin of the lake, and
stood upon the broad, flat stone, and waved my hand wildly and unseen
towards my friend, whom I knew I was never to see again.

I stood there watching, till the shape of the boat and the sound of the
oars were quite lost in the grey distance.



                             CHAPTER LVI.

                   "LOVE TOOK UP THE GLASS OF TIME."


Weeks glided by, and still the same clear, bright frost, and low, cold,
cheerful suns. The dogs so wild with spirits, the distant sounds
travelling so sharp to the ear--ruddy sunsets--early darkness--and the
roaring fires at home.

Sir Harry Rokestone's voice, clear and kindly, often heard through the
house, calls me from the hall; he wants to know whether "little Ethel"
will come out for a ride; or, if she would like a drive with him into
the town to see the skaters, for in the shallower parts the mere is
frozen.

One day I came into Sir Harry's room, on some errand, I forget what. Mr.
Blount was standing, leaning on the mantelpiece, and Sir Harry was
withdrawing a large key from the door of an iron safe, which seemed to
be built into the wall. Each paused in the attitude in which I had found
him, with his eyes fixed on me, in silence. I saw that I was in their
way, and said, a little flurried:

"I'll come again; it was nothing of any consequence," and I was drawing
back, when Sir Harry said, beckoning to me with his finger:

"Stay, little Ethel--stay a minute--I see no reason, Blount, why we
should not tell the lassie."

Mr. Blount nodded acquiescence.

"Come here, my bonny Ethel," said Sir Harry, and turning the key again
in the lock, he pulled the door open. "Look in; ye see that shelf? Well,
mind that's where I'll leave auld Harry Rokestone's will--ye'll remember
where it lies?"

Then he drew me very kindly to him, smoothed my hair gently with his
hand, and said:

"God bless you, my bonny lass!" and kissed me on the forehead.

Then locking the door again, he said:

"Ye'll mind, it's this iron box, that's next the picture. That's all,
lassie."

And thus dismissed, I took my departure.

In this retreat, time was stealing on with silent steps. Christmas was
past. Mr. Marston had returned; he lived, at this season, more at our
side of the lake, and the house was more cheerful.

Can I describe Mr. Marston with fidelity? Can I rely even upon my own
recollection of him? What had I become? A dreamer of dreams--a dupe of
magic. Everything had grown strangely interesting--the lonely place was
lonely no more--the old castle of Dorracleugh was radiant with unearthly
light. Unconsciously, I had become the captive of a magician. I had
passed under a sweet and subtle mania, and was no longer myself. Little
by little, hour by hour, it grew, until I was transformed. Well, behold
me now, wildly in love with Richard Marston.

Looking back now on that period of my history, I see plainly enough that
it was my inevitable fate. So much together, and surrounded by a
solitude, we were the only young people in the little group which formed
our society. Handsome and fascinating--wayward, and even wicked he might
have been, but that I might hope was past--he was energetic, clever,
passionate; and of his admiration he never allowed me to be doubtful.

My infatuation had been stealing upon me, but it was not until we had
reached the month of May that it culminated in a scene that returns
again and again in my solitary reveries, and always with the same tumult
of sweet and bitter feelings.

One day before that explanation took place, my diary, from which I have
often quoted, says thus:

"May 9th.--There was no letter, I am sure, by the early post from Mr.
Marston; Sir Harry or Mr. Blount would have been sure to talk of it at
breakfast. It is treating his uncle, I think, a little cavalierly.

"Sailed across the lake to-day, alone, to Clusted, and walked about a
quarter of a mile up the forest road. How beautiful everything is
looking, but how melancholy! When last I saw this haunted wood, Sir
Harry Rokestone and Mr. Marston were with me.

"It seems odd that Mr. Marston stays away so long, and hard to believe
that if he tried he might not have returned sooner. He went on the 28th
of April, and Mr. Blount thought he would be back again in a week: that
would have been on the 5th of this month. I dare say he is glad to get
away for a little time--I cannot blame him; I dare say he finds it often
very dull, say what he will. I wonder what he meant, the other day, when
he said he was 'born to be liked least where he loved most'? He seems
very melancholy. I wonder whether there has been some old love and
parting? Why, unless he liked some one else, should he have quarrelled
with Sir Harry, rather than marry as he wished him? Sir Harry would not
have chosen any one for him who was not young and good-looking. I heard
him say something one morning that showed his opinion upon that point;
and young men, who don't like any one in particular, are easily
persuaded to marry. Well, perhaps his constancy will be rewarded; it is
not likely that the young lady should have given him up.

"May 10th.--How shall I begin? What have I done? Heaven forgive me if I
have done wrong! Oh! kind, true friend, Sir Harry, how have I requited
you? It is too late now--the past is past. And yet, in spite of this,
how happy I am!

"Let me collect my thoughts, and write down as briefly as I can an
outline of the events of this happy, agitating day. No lovelier May day
was ever seen. I was enjoying a lonely saunter, about one o'clock, under
the boughs of Lynder Wood, here and there catching the gleam of the
waters through the trees, and listening from time to time to the call of
the cuckoo from the hollows of the forest. In that lonely region there
is no more lonely path than this.

"On a sudden, I heard a step approaching fast from behind me on the
path, and, looking back, I saw Mr. Marston coming on, with a very glad
smile, to overtake me. I stopped; I felt myself blushing. He was
speaking as he approached: I was confused, and do not recollect what he
said; but hardly a moment passed till he was at my side. He was smiling,
but very pale. I suppose he had made up his mind to speak. He did not
immediately talk of the point on which hung so much; he spoke of other
things--I can recollect nothing of them.

"He began at length to talk upon that other theme that lay so near our
hearts; our pace grew slower and slower as he spoke on, until we came to
a stand-still under the great beech-tree, on whose bark our initials,
now spread by time and touched with lichen, but possibly still legible,
are carved.

"Well, he has spoken, and I have answered--I can't remember our words;
but we are betrothed in the sight of Heaven by vows that nothing can
ever cancel, till those holier vows, plighted at the altar-steps, are
made before God himself, or until either shall die.

"Oh! Richard, my love, and is it true? Can it be that you love your poor
Ethel with a love so tender, so deep, so desperate? He has loved me, he
says, ever since he first saw me, on the day after his escape, in the
garden at Malory!

"I liked him from the first. In spite of all their warnings, I could not
bring myself to condemn or distrust him long. I never forgot him during
the years we have been separated; he has been all over the world since,
and often in danger, and I have suffered such great and unexpected
changes of fortune--to think of our being brought together at last! Has
not Fate ordained it?

"The only thing that darkens the perfect sunshine of to-day is that our
attachment and engagement must be a secret. He says so, and I am sure he
knows best. He says that Sir Harry has not half forgiven him yet, and
that he would peremptorily forbid our engagement. He could
unquestionably effect our separation, and make us both inexpressibly
miserable. But when I look at Sir Harry's kind, melancholy face, and
think of all he has done for me, my heart upbraids me, and to-night I
had to turn hastily away, for my eyes filled suddenly with tears."



                            CHAPTER LVII.

                         AN AWKWARD PROPOSAL.


I will here make a few extracts more from my diary, because they contain
matters traced there merely in outline, and of which it is more
convenient to present but a skeleton account.

"May 11th.--Richard went early to his farm to-day. I told him last night
that I would come down to see him off this morning. But he would not
hear of it; and again enjoined the strictest caution. I must do nothing
to induce the least suspicion of our engagement, or even of our caring
for each other. I must not tell Rebecca Torkill a word about it, nor
hint it to any one of the few friends I correspond with. I am sure he is
right; but this secrecy is very painful. I feel so treacherous, and so
sad, when I see Sir Harry's kind face.

"Richard was back at three o'clock; we met by appointment, in the same
path, in Lynder Wood. He has told ever so much, of which I knew nothing
before. Mr. Blount told him, he says, that Sir Harry means to leave me
an annuity of two hundred a year. How kind and generous! I feel more
than ever the pain and meanness of my reserve. He intends to leave
Richard eight hundred a year, and the farm at the other side of the
lake. Richard thinks, if he had not displeased him, he would have done
more for him. All this, that seems to me very noble, depends, however,
upon his continuing to like us, as he does at present. Richard says that
he will settle everything he has in the world upon me. It hurts me, his
thinking me so mercenary, and talking so soon upon the subject of money
and settlements; I let him see this, for the idea of his adding to what
my benefactor Sir Harry intended for me had not entered my mind.

"'It is just, my darling, because you are so little calculating for
yourself that I must look a little forward for you,' he said, and so
tenderly. 'Whose business is it now to think of such things for you, if
not mine? And you won't deny me the pleasure of telling you that I can
prevent, thank Heaven, some of the dangers you were so willing to
encounter for my sake.'

"Then he told me that the bulk of Sir Harry's property is to go to
people not very nearly related to him, called Strafford; and he gave me
a great charge not to tell a word of all this to a living creature, as
it would involve him in a quarrel with Mr. Blount, who had told him Sir
Harry's intentions under the seal of secrecy.

"I wish I had not so many secrets to keep; but his goodness to me makes
me love Sir Harry better every day. I told him all about Sir Harry's
little talk with me about his will. I can have no secrets now from
Richard."

For weeks, for months, this kind of life went on, eventless, but full of
its own hopes, misgivings, agitations. I loved Golden Friars for many
reasons, if things so light as associations and sentiments can so be
called--founded they were, however, in imagination and deep affection.
One of these was and is that my darling mother is buried there; and the
simple and sad inscription on her monument, in the pretty church, is
legible on the wall opposite the Rokestone pew.

"That's a kind fellow, the vicar," said Sir Harry; "a bit too simple;
but if other sirs were like him, there would be more folk in the church
to hear the sermon!"

When Sir Harry made this speech, he and I were sitting in the boat, the
light evening air hardly filled the sails, and we were tacking slowly
back and forward on the mere, along the shore of Golden Friars. It was a
beautiful evening in August, and the little speech and our loitering
here were caused by the sweet music that pealed from the organ through
the open church windows. The good old vicar was a fine musician; and
often in the long summer and autumn evenings, the lonely old man visited
the organ-loft and played those sweet and solemn melodies that so well
accorded with the dreamlike scene.

It was the music that recalled the vicar to Sir Harry's thoughts--but
his liking for him was not all founded upon that, nor even upon his holy
life and kindly ways. It was this: that when he read the service at
mamma's funeral, the white-haired vicar, who remembered her a beautiful
child, wept--and tears rolled down his old cheeks as with upturned eyes
he repeated the noble and pathetic farewell.

When it was over, Sir Harry, who had a quarrel with the vicar before,
came over and shook him by the hand, heartily and long, speaking never a
word--his heart was too full. And from that time he liked him, and did
not know how to show it enough.

In these long, lazy tacks, sweeping slowly by the quaint old town in
silence, broken only by the ripple of the water along the planks, and
the sweet and distant swell of the organ across the water, the time flew
by. The sun went down in red and golden vapours, and the curfew from the
ivied tower of Golden Friars sounded over the darkened lake--the organ
was heard no more--and the boat was making her slow way back again to
Dorracleugh.

Sir Harry looked at me very kindly, in silence, for awhile. He arranged
a rug about my feet, and looked again in my face.

"Sometimes you look so like bonny Mabel--and when you smile--ye mind her
smile? 'Twas very pretty."

Then came a silence.

"I must tell Renwick, when the shooting begins, to send down a brace of
birds every day to the vicar," said Sir Harry. "I'll be away myself in a
day or two, and I shan't be back again for three weeks. I'll take a
house in London, lass--I won't have ye moping here too long--you'd begin
to pine for something to look at, and folks to talk to, and sights to
see."

I was alarmed, and instantly protested that I could not imagine any life
more delightful than this at Golden Friars.

"No, no; it won't do--you're a good lass to say so--but it's not the
fact--oh, no--it isn't natural--I can't take you to balls, and all that,
for I don't know the people that give them--and all my great lady
friends that I knew when I was a younker, are off the hooks by this
time--but there's plenty of sights to see besides--there's the waxworks,
and the wild beasts, and the players, and the pictures, and all the
shows."

"But I assure you, I like Golden Friars, and my quiet life at
Dorracleugh, a thousand times better than all the sights and wonders in
the world," I protested.

If he had but known half the terror with which I contemplated the
possibility of my removal from my then place of abode, he would have
given me credit for sincerity in my objections to our proposed migration
to the capital.

"No, I say, it won't do; you women can't bring yourselves ever to say
right out to us men what you think; you mean well--you're a good little
thing--you don't want to put the auld man out of his way--but you'd like
Lunnon best, and Lunnon ye shall have. You shall have a house you can
see your auld acquaintance in, such, I mean, as showed themselves
good-natured when all went wrong wi' ye. You shall show them ye can haud
your head as high as ever, and are not a jot down in the world. Never
mind, I have said it."

In vain I protested; Sir Harry continued firm. One comfort was that he
would not return to put his threat into execution for, at least, three
weeks. If anything was wanting to complete my misery, it was Sir Harry's
saying after a little silence:

"And see, lass; don't you tell a word of it to Richard Marston; 'twould
only make him fancy I'm going to take him; and I'd as lief take the
devil--so mind ye, it's a secret."

I smiled as well as I could, and said something that seemed to satisfy
him, or he took it for granted, for he went on and talked, being much
more communicative this evening than usual; while my mind was busy with
the thought of a miserable separation, and all the difficulties of
correspondence that accompany a secret engagement.

So great was the anguish of these anticipations that I hazarded one more
effort to induce him to abandon his London plans, and to let me
continue to enjoy my present life at Dorracleugh.

He was, however, quite immovable; he laughed; he told me, again and
again, that it would not "put him out of his way--not a bit;" and he
added, "You're falling into a moping, unnatural life, and you've grown
to like it, and the more you like it, the less it is fit for you; if you
lose your spirits, you can't keep your health long."

And when I still persisted, he looked in my face a little darkly, on a
sudden, as if a doubt as to my motive had crossed his mind. That look
frightened me. I felt that matters might be worse.

Sir Harry had got it into his head, I found, that my health would break
down, unless he provided the sort of change and amusement which he had
decided on. I don't know to which of the wiseacres of Golden Friars I
was obliged for this crotchet, which promised me such an infinity of
suffering, but I had reason to think, afterwards, that old Miss Goulding
of Wrybiggins was the friend who originated these misgivings about my
health and spirits. She wished, I was told, to marry her niece to
Richard Marston, and thought, if I and Sir Harry were out of the way,
her plans would act more smoothly.

Richard was at home--it was our tea-time--I had not an opportunity of
saying a word to him unobserved. I don't know whether he saw by my looks
that I was unhappy.



                            CHAPTER LVIII.

                                DANGER.


Sir Harry took his coffee with us, and read to me a little now and then
from the papers which had come by the late mails. Mr. Blount had farming
news to tell Richard. It was a dreadful tea-party.

I was only able that night to appoint with Richard to meet me, next day,
at our accustomed trysting-place.

Three o'clock was our hour of meeting. The stupid, feverish day dragged
on, and the time at length arrived. I got on my things quickly, and
trembling lest I should be joined by Sir Harry or Mr. Blount, I betook
myself through the orchard, and by the wicket in the hedge, to the
lonely path through the thick woods where we had, a few months since,
plighted our troth.

Richard appeared very soon; he was approaching by the path opposite to
that by which I had come.

The foliage was thick and the boughs hang low in that place. You could
have fancied him a figure walking in the narrow passage of a monastery,
so dark and well-defined is the natural roofing of the pathway there. He
raised his open hand, and shook his head as he drew near; he was not
smiling; he looked very sombre.

He glanced back over his shoulder, and looked sharply down the path I
had come by, and being now very near me, with another gloomy shake of
the head, he said, with a tone and look of indescribable reproach and
sorrow: "So Ethel has her secrets, and tells me but half her mind."

"What can you mean, Richard?"

"Ah! Ethel, I would not have treated you so," he continued.

"You distract me, Richard; what have I done?"

"I have heard it all by accident, I may say, from old Mr. Blount, who
has been simpleton enough to tell me. You have asked my uncle to take
you to London, and you are going."

"Asked him! I have all but implored of him to leave me here. I never
heard a word of it till last night, as we returned together in the boat.
Oh! Richard, how could you think such things? That is the very thing I
have been so longing to talk to you about."

"Ethel, darling, are you opening your heart entirely to me now; is there
no reserve? No; I am sure there is not; you need not answer."

"It is distracting news; is there nothing I can do to prevent it?" I
said.

He looked miserable enough, as walking slowly along the path, and
sometimes standing still, we talked it over.

"Yes," he said; "the danger is that you may lead him by resistance to
look for some secret motive. If he should suspect our engagement, few
worse misfortunes could befall us. Good heavens! shall I ever have a
quiet home? Ethel, I know what will happen--you will go to London; I
shall be forgotten. It will end in the ruin of all my hopes." So he
raved on.

I wept, and upbraided, and vowed my old vows over again.

At length after this tempestuous scene had gone on for some time, we two
walking side by side up and down the path, and sometimes stopping short,
I crying, if you will, like a fool, he took my hand and looked in my
face very sadly, and he said after a little:

"Only I know that he would show more anger, I should have thought that
my uncle knew of our engagement, and was acting expressly to frustrate
it. He has found work for me at his property near Hull, and from that I
am to go to Warwickshire, so that I suppose I can't be here again before
the middle of October, and long before then you will be at Brighton,
where, Mr. Blount says, he means to take you first, and from that to
London."

"But you are not to leave this immediately?" I said.

He smiled bitterly, and answered:

"He takes good care I shall. I am to leave this to-morrow morning."

I could not speak for a moment.

"Oh, Richard, Richard, how am I to live through this separation?" I
cried wildly. "You must contrive some way to see me. I shall die unless
you do."

"Come, Ethel, let us think it over; it seems to me that we have nothing
for it, for the present, but submission. I am perfectly certain that our
attachment is not suspected. If it were, far more cruel and effectual
measures would be taken. We must, therefore, be cautious. Let us betray
nothing of our feelings. You shall see me undergo the ordeal with the
appearance of carelessness, and even cheerfulness, although my heart be
bursting. You, darling, must do the same; one way or other I will manage
to see you sometimes, and to correspond regularly. We are bound each to
the other by promises we dare not break, and when I desert you, may God
desert me! Ethel, will you say the same?"

"Yes, Richard," I repeated, vehemently, through sobs, "when I forsake
you, may God forsake me! You know I could not live without you. Oh!
Richard, darling, how shall I see you all this evening, knowing it to be
the last? How can I look at you, or hear your voice, and yet no sign,
and talk or listen just as usual, as if nothing had gone wrong? Richard,
is there no way to escape? Do you think if we told your uncle? Might it
not be the best thing after all? Could it possibly make matters worse?"

"Yes, it would, a great deal worse; that is not to be thought of," said
Richard, with a thoughtful frown; "I know him better than you do. No; we
have nothing for it but patience, and entire trust in one another. As
for me, if I am away from you, the more solitary I am, the more bearable
my lot. With you it will be different; you will soon be in the stream
and whirl of your old life. I shall lose you, Ethel." He stamped on the
ground, and struck his forehead with his open hand in sheer distraction.
"As for me, I can enjoy nothing without you; I may have been violent,
wicked, reckless, what you will; but selfish or fickle, no one ever
called me."

I was interrupting him all the time with my passionate vows of fidelity,
which he seemed hardly to hear; he was absorbed in his own thoughts.
After a silence of a minute or two, he said, suddenly:

"Look here, Ethel; if you don't like your London life, you can't be as
well there as here, and you can, if you will, satisfy my uncle that you
are better, as well as happier, here at Golden Friars. You can do that,
and that is the way to end it--the only way to end it that I see. You
can write to me, Ethel, without danger. You will, I know, every day,
just a line; and when you tell me how to address mine, you shall have an
answer by every post. Don't go out in London, Ethel; you must promise
that."

I did, vehemently and reproachfully. I wondered how he could suspect me
of wishing to go out. But I could not resent the jealousy that proved
his love.

It was, I think, just at this moment that I heard a sound that made my
heart bound within me, and then sink with terror. It was the clear, deep
voice of Sir Harry, so near that it seemed a step must bring him round
the turn in the path, and full in view of us.

"Go, darling, quickly," said Richard, pressing me gently with one hand,
and with the other pointing in the direction furthest from the voice
that was so near a signal of danger. He himself turned, and walked
quickly to meet Sir Harry, who was conferring with his ranger about
thinning the timber.

I was out of sight in a moment, and, in agitation indescribable, made my
way home.



                             CHAPTER LIX.

                             AN INTRUDER.


It was all true. Richard left Dorracleugh early next morning. Those who
have experienced such a separation know its bitterness, and the
heartache and apathy that follow.

I was going to be left quite alone, and mistress at Dorracleugh for
three weeks at least; perhaps for twice as long. Mr. Blount was to leave
next day for France, to pay a visit of a fortnight to Vichy. Sir Harry
Rokestone, a few days later, was to leave Dorracleugh for Brighton.

Nothing could be kinder than Sir Harry. It was plain that he suspected
nothing of the real situation.

"You'll be missing your hit of backgammon with Lemuel Blount," he said,
"and your sail on the mere wi' myself, and our talk round the tea-table
of an evening. 'Twill be dowly down here, lass; but ye'll be coming soon
where you'll see sights and hear noise enough for a dozen. So think o'
that, and when we are gone you munnon be glumpin' about the house, but
chirp up, and think there are but a few weeks between you and Brighton
and Lunnon."

How directly this kind consolation went to the source of my dejection
you may suppose.

So the time came, and I was alone. Solitude was a relief. I could sit
looking at the lake, watching the track where his boat used to come and
go over the water, and thinking of him half the day. I could walk in the
pathway, and sit under the old beech-tree, and murmur long talks with
him in fancy, without fear of interruption; but oh! the misgivings, the
suspense, the dull, endless pain of separation!

Not a line reached me from Richard. He insisted that while I remained at
Dorracleugh there should be no correspondence. In Golden Friars, and
about the post-office, there were so many acute ears and curious eyes.

Sir Harry had been gone about three weeks, when he sent me a really
exquisite little enamelled watch, set in brilliants; it was brought to
Dorracleugh by a Golden Friars neighbour whom he had met in his travels.
Then, after a silence of a week, another letter came from Sir Harry. He
was going up to London, he said, to see after the house, and to be sure
that nothing was wanted to "make it smart."

Then some more days of silence followed, interrupted very oddly. I was
out, taking my lonely walk in the afternoon, when a chaise with a
portmanteau, a hat-box, and some other luggage on top, drove up to the
hall-door; the driver knocked and rang, and out jumped Richard Marston,
who ran up the steps, and asked the servant, with an accustomed air of
command, to take the luggage up to his room.

He had been some minutes in the hall before he inquired whether I was in
the house. He sat down on a hall-chair, in his hat and great-coat, just
as he had come out of the chaise, lost in deep thought. He seemed for a
time undecided where to go; he went to the foot of the stairs, and
stopped short, with his hand on the banister, and turned back; then he
stood for a little while in the middle of the hall, looking down on his
dusty boots, again in deep thought; then he walked to the hall-door,
stood on the steps in the same undecided state, and sauntered in again,
and said to the servant:

"And Miss Ware, you say, is out walking? Well, go you and tell the
housekeeper that I have come, and shall be coming and going for a few
days, till I hear from London."

The man departed to execute his message. Richard Marston had paid the
vicar a visit of about five minutes, as he drove through the town of
Golden Friars, and had had a very private and earnest talk with him. He
seemed very uncomfortable and fidgety. He took off his hat and laid it
down, and put it on again, and looked dark and agitated, like a man in a
sudden danger, who expects a struggle for his life. He went again to the
foot of the stairs, and listened for a few seconds; and then, without
much ado, he walked over and turned the key that was in Sir Harry's
study-door, took it out, and went into the room, looking very stern and
nervous.

In a little more than five minutes Mrs. Shackleton, the housekeeper, in
her thick brown silk, knocked sharply at the door.

"Come in," called Richard Marston's voice.

"I can't, sir."

"Can't? Why? What's the matter?"

"You've bolted it, please, on the inside," she answered, very tartly.

"I? I haven't bolted it," Richard Marston answered, with a quiet laugh.
"Try again."

She did, a little fiercely; but the door opened, and disclosed Richard
Marston sitting in his uncle's easy chair, with one of the newspapers he
had bought in his railway carriage expanded on his knees. He looked up
carelessly.

"Well, Mrs. Shackleton, what's the row?"

"No row, sir, please," she answered, sharply rustling into the room, and
looking round. She didn't like him. "But the door was bolted, I assure
you, sir, only a minute before, when I tried it first; and my master,
Sir Harry, told me no one was to be allowed into this room while he's
away."

"So I should have thought; his letters lying about--but I found the door
open, and the key in the lock--here it is; so I thought it safer to take
it out."

The old woman made a short curtsey as she took it, dryly, from his
fingers; and she stood, resolutely waiting.

"Oh! I suppose," he said, starting up, and stretching himself, with a
smile and a little yawn, "you want me to turn out?"

"Yes, sir, please," said Mrs. Shackleton peremptorily.

The young gentleman cast a careless glance through the far window,
looked lazily round, as if to see that he had not forgotten anything,
and then said, with a smile:

"Mrs. Shackleton, happy the man who has such a lady to take care of his
worldly goods."

"I'm no lady, sir; I'm not above my business," she said, with another
hard little curtsey. "I tries to do my dooty accordin' to my conscience.
Sorry to have to disturb you, sir."

"Not the least; no disturbance," he said, sauntering out of the room,
with another yawn.

He was cudgelling his brains to think what civility he could do the old
lady, or how he could please or make her friendly; but Mrs. Shackleton
had her northern pride, he knew, which was easily ruffled, and he must
approach her very cautiously.



                              CHAPTER LX.

                            SIR HARRY'S KEY.


Up to his room he went; his things were all there--he wished to get rid
of the dust and smuts of his railway journey.

He made his toilet rapidly; and just as he was about to open his door, a
knock came to it.

"What is it?" he asked.

"The vicar has called, sir, and wants to know if you can see him."

"Certainly. Tell him I'll be down in a moment."

Mr. Marston had foreseen this pursuit with a prescience of which he was
proud. He went downstairs, and found the white-haired vicar alone in the
drawing-room.

"I am so delighted you have come," said Richard Marston, advancing
quickly, with an outstretched hand, from the door, without giving him a
moment to begin. "I have only had time to dress since I arrived, and I
have made up my mind that it is better to replace this key in your hand,
without using it--and, in the meantime, it is better in your keeping
than in mine. Don't you think so?"

"Well, sir," said the good vicar, "I do. It is odd, but the very same
train of thought passed through my mind, and, in fact, induced me to pay
you this visit. You see it was placed in my charge, and I think, until
it is formally required of me, I should not part with it."

"Just so," acquiesced the young man.

"We both acted, perhaps, a little too precipitately."

"So we did, sir," said Richard Marston, "but I take the entire blame on
myself. I'm too apt to be impulsive and foolish. I generally think too
late; happily this time, however, I did reflect, and with your
concurrence, I am now sure I was right."

The young man paused and thought, with his hand on the vicar's arm.

"One thing," he said, "I would stipulate, however; as we are a good deal
in the dark, my reason for declining to take charge of the key would be
but half answered, as I must be a great deal in this house, and there
may be other keys that open it, and I can't possibly answer for
servants, and other people who will be coming and going, unless you will
kindly come into the next room with me for a moment."

The vicar consented; and Mr. Marston was eloquent. Mrs. Shackelton was
sent for, and with less reluctance opened the door for the vicar, whom
she loved. She did not leave it, however--they did not stay long. In a
few minutes the party withdrew.

"Won't you have some luncheon?" asked Richard, in the hall.

"No, thank you," said the vicar, "I am very much hurried. I am going to
see that poor boy to whom Mr. Blount has been so kind, and who is, I
fear, dying."

And with a few words more, and the key again in his keeping, he took his
leave.

I was all this time in my favourite haunt, alone, little thinking that
the hero of my dreams was near, when suddenly I saw him walking rapidly
up the path. With a cry, I ran to meet him. He seemed delighted and
radiant with love as he drew me to him, folded me for a moment in his
arms, and kissed me passionately. He had ever so much to say; and yet,
when I thought it over, there was nothing in it but one delightful
promise; and that was that henceforward, he expected to see a great deal
more of me than he had hitherto done.

There was a change in his manner, I thought--he spoke with something of
the confidence and decision of a lover who had a right to command. He
was not more earnest, but more demonstrative. I might have resented his
passionate greeting, if I had been myself less surprised and happy at
his sudden appearance. He was obliged to go down to the village, but
would be back again, he said, very soon. It would not do to make people
talk, which they would be sure to do, if he and I were not very
cautious.

Therefore I let him go, without entreaty or remonstrance, although it
cost me an indescribable pang to lose him, even for an hour, so soon
after our long separation. He promised to be back in an hour, and
although that was nearly impracticable, I believed him. "Lovers trample
upon impossibilities."

By a different route I came home. He had said:

"When I return, I shall come straight to the drawing-room--will you be
there?"

So to the drawing-room I went. I was afraid to leave it even for a
moment, lest some accident should make him turn back, and he should find
the room empty. There was to me a pleasure in obeying him, and I liked
him to see it. How I longed for his return! How restless I was! How
often I played his favourite airs on the piano; how often I sat at the
window, looking down at the trees and the mere, in the direction from
which I had so often seen his boat coming, you will easily guess.

All this time I had a secret misgiving. There was a change in Richard's
manner, as I have said; there was confidence, security, carelessness--a
kind of carelessness--not that he seemed to admire me less--but it was a
change. There seemed something ominous about it.

As time wore on I became so restless that I could hardly remain quiet
for a minute in any one place. I was perpetually holding the door open,
and listening for the sound of horses' hoofs, or wheels, or footsteps.
In vain.

An hour beyond the appointed time had passed; two hours. I was beginning
to fancy all sorts of horrors. Was he drowned in the mere? Had his horse
fallen and killed him? There was no catastrophe too improbable to be
canvassed among the wild conjectures of my terror.

The sun was low, and I almost despairing, when the door opened, and
Richard came in. I had heard no sound at the door, no step approaching,
only he was there.



                             CHAPTER LXI.

                             A DISCOVERY.


I started to my feet and was going to meet him, but he raised his hand,
as I fancied to warn me that some one was coming. So I stopped short,
and he approached.

"I shall be very busy for two or three days, dear Ethel; and," what he
added was spoken very slowly, and dropped word by word, "you are such a
rogue!"

I was very much astonished. Neither his voice nor look was playful. His
face at the moment wore about the most disagreeable expression which
human face can wear. That of a smile, not a genuine but a pretended
smile, which, at the same time, the person who smiles affects to try to
suppress. To me it looks cruel, cynical, mean. I was so amazed, as he
looked into my eyes with this cunning, shabby smile, that I could not
say a word, and stood stock-still looking in return, in stupid wonder,
in his face.

At length I broke out, very pale, for I was shocked, "I can't
understand! What is it? Oh, Richard, what can you mean?"

"Now don't be a little fool. I really believe you are going to cry. You
are a great deal too clever, you lovely little rogue, to fancy that a
girl's tears ever yet did any good. Listen to me; come!"

He walked away, still smiling that insulting smile, and he took my hand
in his, and shook his finger at me, with the same cynical affectation of
the playful. "What did I mean?"

"Yes, what can you mean?" I stamped the emphasis on the floor, with
tears in my eyes. "It is cruel, it is horrible, after our long
separation."

"Well, I'll tell you what I mean," he said, and for a moment the smile
almost degenerated to a sneer. "Look here; come to the window."

I faltered; I accompanied him to it, looking in his face in an agony of
alarm and surprise. It seemed to me like the situation of a horrid
dream.

"Do you know how I amused myself during the last twenty miles of my
railway journey?" he said. "Well, I'll tell you: I was reading all that
time a curious criminal trial, in which a most respectable old
gentleman, aged sixty-seven, has just been convicted of having poisoned
a poor girl forty years ago, and is to be hanged for it before three
weeks!"

"Well?" said I, with an effort--I should not have known my own voice,
and I felt a great ball in my throat.

"Well?" he repeated; "don't you see?"

He paused with the same horrid smile; this time, in the silence, he
laughed a little; it was no use trying to hide from myself the fact that
I dimly suspected what he was driving at. I should have liked to die
that moment, before he had time to complete another sentence.

"Now, you see, the misfortune of that sort of thing is that time neither
heals nor hides the offence. There is a principle of law which says that
no lapse of time bars the Crown. But I see this kind of conversation
bores you."

I was near saying something very wild and foolish, but I did not.

"I won't keep you a moment," said he--"just come a little nearer the
window; I want you to look at something that may interest you."

I did go a little nearer. I was moving as he commanded, as if I had been
mesmerised.

"You lost," he continued, "shortly before your illness, the only
photograph you possessed of your sister Helen? But why are you so put
out by it? Why should you tremble so violently? It is only I, you know;
you need not mind. You dropped that on the floor of a jeweller's shop
one night, when I and Droqville happened to be there together, and I
picked it up; it represents you both together. I want to restore it;
here it is."

I extended my hand to take it. I don't know whether I spoke, but the
portrait faded suddenly from my sight, and darkness covered everything.
I heard his voice, like that of a person talking in excitement, a long
way off, at the other side of a wall in another room--it was no more
than a hum, and even that was growing fainter. I forgot everything, in
utter unconsciousness, for some seconds. When I opened my eyes, water
was trickling down my face and forehead, and the window was open. I
sighed deeply. I saw him looking over me with a countenance of gloom and
anxiety. In happy forgetfulness of all that had passed, I smiled and
said:

"Oh, Richard! Thank God!" and stretched my arms to him.

"That's right--quite right," he said; "you may have every confidence in
me."

The dreadful recollection began to return.

"Don't get up yet," he said, earnestly, and even tenderly; "you're not
equal to it. Don't think of leaving me--you must have confidence in me.
Why didn't you trust me long ago?--trust me altogether? Fear nothing
while I am near you."

So he continued speaking, until my recollection had quite returned.

"Why, darling, will you not trust me? Can you be surprised at my being
wounded by your reserve? How have I deserved it? Forget the pain of this
discovery, and remember only that against all the world, to the last
hour of my life, with my last thought, the last drop of my blood, I am
your defender."

He kissed my hands passionately; he drew me towards him, and kissed my
lips. He murmured caresses and vows of unalterable love--nothing could
be more tender and impassioned. I was relieved by a passionate burst of
tears.

"It's over now," he said--"it's all over; you'll forgive me, won't you?
I have more to forgive, darling, than you--the hardest of all things to
forgive in one whom we idolise--a want of confidence in us. You ought
to have told me all this before."

I told him, as well as I could between my sobs, that there was no need
to tell any one of a madness which had nothing to do with waking
thoughts or wishes, and was simply the extravagance of delirium--that I
was then actually in fever, had been at the point of death, and that Mr.
Carmel knew everything about it.

"Well, darling," he said, "you must trouble your mind no more. Of course
you are not accountable for it. If people in brain fever were not
carefully watched and restrained, a day would not pass without some
tragedy. But what care I, Ethel, if it had been a real crime of passion?
Nothing. Do you fancy it would or could, for an instant, have shaken my
desperate love for you? Don't you remember Moore's lines:

  'I ask not, I care not, if guilt's in thy heart;
  I but know that thou lov'st me, whatever thou art.'

"That is my feeling, fixed as adamant; never suspect me. I can't I never
can, tell you how I felt your suspicion of my love; how cruel I thought
it. What had I done to deserve it? There, darling, take this--it is
yours." He kissed the little photograph, he placed it in my hand, he
kissed me again fervently. "Look here, Ethel, I came all this way, ever
so much out of my way, to see you. I made an excuse of paying the vicar
a visit on business--my real business was to see you. I must be this
evening at Wrexham, but I shall be here again to-morrow, as early as
possible. I am a mere slave at present, and business hurries me from
point to point; but cost what it may, I shall be with you some time in
the afternoon to-morrow."

"To stay?" I asked.

He smiled, and shook his head.

"I can't say that, darling," he said; he was going towards the door.

"But you'll be here early to-morrow; do you think before two?"

"No, not before two, I am afraid. I may be delayed, and it is a long
way; but you may look out for me early in the evening."

Then came a leave-taking. He would not let me come with him to the
hall-door--there were servants there, and I looked so ill. I stood at
the window and saw him drive away. You may suppose I did feel miserable.
I think I was near fainting again when he was gone.

In a little time I was sufficiently recovered to get up to my room, and
then I rang for Rebecca Torkill.

I don't know how that long evening went by. The night came, and a
miserable nervous night I passed, starting in frightful dreams from the
short dozes I was able to snatch.



                            CHAPTER LXII.

                         SIR HARRY WITHDRAWS.


Next morning, when the grey light came, I was neither glad nor sorry.
The shock of my yesterday's interview with the only man on earth I
loved, remained. It was a shock, I think, never to be quite recovered
from. I got up and dressed early. How ill and strange I looked out of
the glass in my own face!

I did not go down. I remained in my room, loitering over the hours that
were to pass before the arrival of Richard. I was haunted by his changed
face. I tried to fix in my recollection the earnest look of love on
which my eyes had opened from my swoon. But the other would take its
place and remain; and I could not get rid of the startled pain of my
heart. I was haunted now, as I had been ever since that scene had taken
place, with a vague misgiving of something dreadful going to happen.

I think it was between four and five in the evening that Rebecca Torkill
came in, looking pale and excited.

"Oh, Miss Ethel, dear, what do you think has happened?" she said,
lifting up both hands and eyes as soon as she was in at the door.

"Good Heaven, Rebecca!" I said, starting up; "is it anything bad?"

I was on the point of saying "anything about Mr. Marston?"

"Oh, miss! what do you think? Poor Sir Harry Rokestone is dead."

"Sir Harry dead!" I exclaimed.

"Dead, indeed, miss," said Rebecca. "Thomas Byres is just come up from
the vicar's, and he's had a letter from Mr. Blount this morning, and the
vicar's bin down at the church with Dick Mattox, the sexton, giving him
directions about the vault. Little thought I, when I saw him going
away--a fine man he was, six feet two, Adam Bell says, in his
boots--little thought I, when I saw him walk down the steps, so tall and
hearty, he'd be coming back so soon in his coffin, poor gentleman. But,
miss, they say dead folk's past feeling, and what does it all matter
now? One man's breath is another man's death. And so the world goes on,
and all forgot before long.

  'To the grave with the dead,
  And the quick to the bread.'

"A rough gentleman he was, but kind--the tenants will be all sorry.
They're all talking, the servants, downstairs. He was one that liked to
see his tenants and his poor comfortable."

All this and a great deal more Rebecca discoursed. I could hardly
believe her news. A letter, I thought, would have been sure to reach
Dorracleugh, as soon as the vicar's house, at least.

Possibly this dismaying news would turn out to be mere rumour, I
thought, and end in nothing worse than a sharp attack of gout in London.
Surely we should have heard of his illness before it came to this
catastrophe. Nevertheless I had to tear up my first note to the vicar--I
was so flurried, and it was full of blunders--and I was obliged to write
another. It was simply to entreat information in this horrible
uncertainty, which had for the time superseded all my other troubles.

A mounted messenger was despatched forthwith to the vicar's house. But
we soon found that the rumour was everywhere, for people were arriving
from all quarters to inquire at the house. It was, it is true, so far as
we could learn, mere report; but its being in so many places was worse
than ominous.

The messenger had not been gone ten minutes, when Richard Marston
arrived. From my room I saw the chaise come to the hall-door, and I ran
down at once to the drawing-room. Richard had arrived half an hour
before his time. He entered the room from the other door as I came in,
and met me eagerly, looking tired and anxious, but very loving. Not a
trace of the Richard whose smile had horrified me the day before.

Almost my first question to him was whether he had heard any such
rumour. He was holding my hand in his as I asked the question--he laid
his other on it, and looked sadly in my eyes as he answered, "It is only
too true. I have lost the best friend that man ever had."

I was too much startled to speak for some seconds, then I burst into
tears.

"No, no," he said, in answer to something I had said. "It is only too
certain--there can be no doubt; look at this."

He took a telegraph paper from his pocket and showed it to me. It was
from "Lemuel Blount, London." It announced the news in the usual
shocking laconic manner, and said, "I write to you to Dykham."

"I shall get the letter this evening when I reach Dykham, and I'll tell
you all that is in it to-morrow. The telegraph message had reached me
yesterday, when I saw you, but I could not bear to tell you the dreadful
news until I had confirmation, and that has come. The vicar has had a
message, about which there can be no mistake. And now, darling, put on
your things, and come out for a little walk--I have ever so many things
to talk to you about."

Here was a new revolution in my troubled history. More or less of the
horror of uncertainty again encompassed my future years. But grief,
quite unselfish, predominated in my agitation. I had lost a benefactor.
His kind face was before me, and the voice, always subdued to tenderness
when he spoke to me, was in my ear. I was grieved to the heart.

I got on my hat and jacket, and with a heavy heart went out with
Richard.

For many reasons the most secluded path was that best suited for our
walk. Richard Marston had just told the servants the substance of the
message he had received that morning from Mr. Blount, so that that they
could have no difficulty about answering inquiries at the hall-door.

We soon found ourselves in the path that had witnessed so many of our
meetings. I wondered what Richard intended talking about. He had been
silent and thoughtful. He hardly uttered a word during our walk, until
we had reached what I may call our trysting-tree, the grand old
beech-tree, under which a huge log of timber, roughly squared, formed a
seat.

Though little disposed myself to speak, his silence alarmed me.

"Ethel, darling," he said, suddenly, "have you formed any plans for the
future?"

"Plans!" I echoed. "I don't know--what do you mean, Richard?"

"I mean," he continued, sadly, "have you considered how this misfortune
may affect us? Did Sir Harry ever tell you anything about his
intentions--I mean what he thought of doing by his will? Don't look so
scared, darling," he added, with a melancholy smile; "you will see just
now what my reasons are. You can't suppose that a sordid thought ever
entered my mind."

I was relieved.

"No; he never said a word to me about his will, except what I told you,"
I answered.

"Because the people who knew him at Wrexham are talking. Suppose he has
cut me off and provided for you, could I any longer in honour hold you
to an engagement, to fulfil which I could contribute nothing?"

"Oh, Richard, darling, how can you talk so? Don't you know, whatever I
possess on earth is yours."

"Then my little woman refuses to give me up, even if there were
difficulties?" he said, pressing my hands, and smiling down upon my face
in a kind rapture.

"I could not give you up, Richard--you know I couldn't," I answered.

"My darling!" he exclaimed, softly, looking down upon me still with the
same smile.

"Richard, how could you ever have dreamed such a thing? You don't know
how you wound me."

"I never thought it, I never believed it, darling. I knew it was
impossible; whatever difficulties might come between us, I knew that I
could not live without you; and I thought you loved me as well. Nothing
then shall part us--nothing. Don't you say so? Say it, Ethel. I swear
it, nothing."

I gave him the promise; it was but repeating what I had often said
before. Never was vow uttered from a more willing heart. Even now I am
sure he reminded me, and, after his manner, loved me with a vehement
passion.

"But there are other people, Ethel," he resumed, "who think that I shall
be very well off, who think that I shall inherit all my uncle's great
fortune. But all may not go smoothly, you see; there may be great
difficulties. Promise me, swear it once more, that you will suffer no
obstacles to separate us; that we shall be united, be they what they
may; that you will never, so help you Heaven, forsake me or marry
another."

I did repeat the promise. We walked towards home; I wondering what
special difficulty he could be thinking of now; but, restrained by a
kind of fear, I did not ask him.

"I'm obliged to go away again, immediately," said he, after another
short silence; "but my business will be over to-night, and I shall be
here again in the morning, and then I shall be my own master for a time,
and have a quiet day or two, and be able to open my heart to you,
Ethel."

We walked on again in silence. Suddenly he stopped, laying his hand on
my shoulder, and looking sharply into my face, said:

"I'll leave you here--it is time, Ethel, that I should be off." He held
my hand in his, and his eyes were fixed steadily upon mine. "Look here,"
he said, after another pause, "I must make a bitter confession, Ethel;
you know me with all my faults--I have no principle of calculation in
me--equity and all that sort of thing, would stand a poor chance with me
against passion--I am all passion; it has been my undoing, and will yet
I hope," and he looked on me with a wild glow in his dark eyes, "be the
making of me, Ethel. No obstacle shall separate us, you have sworn; and
mind, Ethel, I am a fellow that never forgives, and as Heaven is my
judge, if you give me up, I'll not forgive you. But that will never be.
God bless you, darling--you shall see me early to-morrow. Go you in that
direction--let us keep our secret a day or two longer. You look as if
you thought me mad--I'm not that--though I sometimes half think so
myself. There has been enough in my life to make a steadier brain than
mine crazy. Good-bye, Ethel, darling, till to-morrow. God bless you!"

With these words he left me. His reckless language had plainly a meaning
in it. My heart sank as I thought on the misfortune that had reduced me
again to uncertainty, and perhaps to a miserable dependence. It was by
no means impossible that nothing had been provided for either him or me
by Sir Harry Rokestone. Men, prompt and accurate in everything else, so
often go on postponing a will until "the door is shut to," and the hour
passed for ever. It was horrible allowing such thoughts to intrude; but
Richard's conversation was so full of the subject, and my position was
so critical and dependent, that it did recur, not with sordid hopes, but
in the form of a great and reasonable fear.

When Richard was out of sight, as he quickly was among the trees, I
turned back, and sitting down again on the rude bench under our own
beech-tree, I had a long and bitter cry, all to myself.



                            CHAPTER LXIII.

                          AT THE THREE NUNS.


When Richard Marston left me, his chaise stood at the door, with a team
of four horses, quite necessary to pull a four-wheeled carriage over the
fells, through whose gorges the road to the nearest railway-station is
carried.

The pleasant setting sun flashed over the distant fells, and glimmered
on the pebbles of the courtyard, and cast a long shadow of Richard
Marston, as he stood upon the steps, looking down upon the yellow, worn
flags, in dark thought.

"Here, put this in," he said, handing his only piece of luggage, a black
leather travelling-bag, to one of the post-boys. "You know the town of
Golden Friars?"

"Yes, sir."

"Well, stop at Mr. Jarlcot's house."

Away went the chaise, with its thin roll of dust, like the smoke of a
hedge-fire, all along the road, till they pulled up at Mr. Jarlcot's
house.

Out jumped Mr. Marston, and knocked a sharp summons with the brass
knocker on the hall-door.

The maid opened the door, and stood on the step with a mysterious look
of inquiry in Mr. Marston's face. The rumour that was already slowly
spreading in Golden Friars had suddenly been made sure by a telegraphic
message from Lemuel Blount to Mr. Jarlcot. His good wife had read it
just five minutes before Mr. Marston's arrival.

"When is Mr. Jarlcot to be home again?"

"Day after to-morrow, please, sir."

"Well, when he comes, don't forget to tell him I called. No, this is
better," and he wrote in pencil on his card the date and the words,
"Called twice--most anxious to see Mr. Jarlcot;" and laid it on the
table. "Can I see Mr. Spaight?" he inquired.

Tall, stooping Mr. Spaight, the confidential man, with his bald head,
spectacles, and long nose, emerged politely, with a pen behind his ear,
at this question, from the door of the front room, which was Mr.
Jarlcot's office.

"Oh! Mr. Spaight," said Richard Marston, "have you heard from Mr.
Jarlcot to-day?"

"A short letter, Mr. Marston, containing nothing of business--only a few
items of news; he's in London till to-morrow--he saw Mr. Blount there."

"Then he has heard, of course, of our misfortune?"

"Yes, sir; and we all sympathise with you, Mr. Marston, deeply, sir, in
your affliction. Will you please to step in, sir, and look at the
letter?"

Mr. Marston accepted the invitation.

There were two or three sentences that interested him.

"I have had a conversation with Mr. Blount this morning. He fears very
much that Sir Harry did not execute the will. I saw Messrs. Hutt and
Babbage, who drafted the will; but they can throw no light upon the
matter, and say that the result of a search, only, can; which Mr. Blount
says won't take five minutes to make."

This was interesting; but the rest was rubbish. Mr. Marston took his
leave, got into the chaise again, and drove under the windows of the
"George and Dragon," along the already deserted road that ascends the
fells from the margin of the lake.

Richard Marston put his head from the window and looked back; there was
no living creature in his wake. Before him he saw nothing but the
post-boys' stooping backs, and the horses with their four patient heads
bobbing before him. The light was failing, still it would have served to
read by for a little while; and there was something he was very anxious
to read. He was irresolute--there was a risk in it--he could not make
up his mind.

He looked at his watch--it would take him nearly three hours to reach
the station at the other side of the fells. Unlucky the delay at
Dorracleugh!

The light failed. White mists began to crawl across the road, and were
spreading and rising fantastically on the hill-sides. The moon came out.
He was growing more impatient. In crossing a mountain the eye measures
so little distance gained for the time expended. The journey seemed, to
him, interminable.

At one of the zig-zag turns of the road, there rises a huge fragment of
white stone, bearing a rude resemblance to a horseman; a highwayman, you
might fancy him, awaiting the arrival of the travellers. In Richard's
eye it took the shape of old Sir Harry Rokestone, as he used to sit,
when he had reined in his tall iron-grey hunter, and was waiting to have
a word with some one coming up.

He muttered something as he looked sternly ahead at this fantastic
reminder. On they drove; the image resolved itself into its rude sides
and angles, and was passed; and the pale image of Sir Harry no longer
waylaid his nephew.

Slowly the highest point of the road was gained, and then begins the
flying descent; and the well-known landmarks, as he consults his watch,
from time to time, by the moonlight, assure him that they will reach the
station in time to catch the train.

He is there. He pays his post-boys, and with his black travelling-bag in
hand, runs out upon the gravelled front, from which the platform extends
its length.

"The up-train not come yet?" inquired the young man, looking down the
line eagerly.

"Not due for four minutes, Mr. Marston," said the station-master, with
officious politeness, "and we shall hardly have it up till some minutes
later. They are obliged to slacken speed in the Malwyn cutting at
present. Your luggage all right, I hope? Shall I get your ticket for
you, Mr. Marston?"

The extraordinary politeness of the official had, perhaps, some
connection with the fact that the rumour of Sir Harry's death was there
already, and the Rokestone estates extended beyond the railway. Richard
Marston was known to be the only nephew of the deceased baronet, and to
those who knew nothing of the interior politics of the family, his
succession appeared certain.

Mr. Marston thanked him, but would not give him the trouble; he fancied
that the station-master, who was perfectly innocent of any treacherous
design, wished to play the part of a detective, and find out all he
could about his movements and belongings.

Richard Marston got away from him as quickly as he civilly could,
without satisfying his curiosity on any point. The train was up, and the
doors clapping a few minutes later; and he, with his bag, rug, and
umbrella, got into his place with a thin, sour old lady in black,
opposite; a nurse at one side, with two children in her charge, who were
always jumping down on people's feet, or climbing up again, and running
to the window, and bawling questions with incessant clamour; and at his
other side, a mummy-coloured old gentleman with an olive-green cloth
cap, the flaps of which were tied under his chin, and a cream-coloured
muffler.

He had been hoping for a couple of hours' quiet--perhaps a tenantless
carriage. This state of things for a man in search of meditation was
disappointing.

They were now, at length, at Dykham. A porter in waiting, from the inn
called the "Three Nuns," took Marston's bag and rug, and led the way to
that house, only fifty yards off, where he took up his quarters for the
night.

He found Mr. Blount's promised letter from London there. He did not wait
for candles and his sitting-room. In his hat and overcoat, by the
gas-light at the bar, he read it breathlessly. It said substantially
what Mr. Jarlcot's letter had already told him, and nothing more. It was
plain, then, that Sir Harry had left every one in the dark as to whether
he had or had not executed the will.

In answer to the waiter's hospitable inquiries about supper, he said he
had dined late. It was not true; but it was certain that he had no
appetite.

He got a sitting-room to himself; he ordered a fire, for he thought the
night chilly. He had bought a couple of books, two or three magazines,
and as many newspapers. He had his window-curtains drawn; and their
agreeable smell of old tobacco smoke assured him that there would be no
objection to his cigar.

"I'll ring when I want anything," he said; "and, in the meantime, let me
be quiet."

It was here, when he had been negotiating for Sir Harry the renewal of
certain leases to a firm in Dykham, that the telegraph had brought him
the startling message, and Mr. Blount said in the same message that he
was writing particulars by that day's post.

Mr. Marston had not allowed grass to grow under his feet, as you see;
and he was now in the same quarters, about to put the case before
himself, with a thorough command of its facts.



                            CHAPTER LXIV.

                              THE WILL.


Candles lighted, shutters closed, curtains drawn, and a small but
cheerful fire flickering in the grate. The old-fashioned room looked
pleasant; Richard Marston was nervous, and not like himself. He looked
over the "deaths" in the papers, but Sir Harry's was not among them. He
threw the papers one after the other on the table, and read nothing.

He got up and stood with his back to the fire. He looked like a man who
had got a chill, whom nothing could warm, who was in for a fever. He was
in a state he had not anticipated--he almost wished he had left undone
the things he had done.

He bolted the door--he listened at it--he tried it with his hand. He had
something in his possession that embarrassed and almost frightened him,
as if it had been some damning relic of a murdered man.

He sat down and drew from his breastpocket a tolerably bulky paper, a
law-paper with a piece of red tape about it, and a seal affixing the
tape to the paper. The paper was endorsed in pencil, in Sir Harry's
hand, with the words, "Witnessed by Darby Mayne and Hugh Fenwick," and
the date followed.

A sudden thought struck him; he put the paper into his pocket again, and
made a quiet search of the room, even opening and looking into the two
old cupboards, and peeping behind the curtains to satisfy his nervous
fancy that no one was concealed there.

Then again he took out the paper, cut the tape, broke the seal, unfolded
the broad document, and holding it extended in both hands, read, "The
last will and testament of Sir Harry Rokestone, of Dorracleugh, in the
County of ----, Baronet."

Here, then, was the great sacrilege. He stood there with the spoils of
the dead in his hands. But there was no faltering now in his purpose.

He read on: "I, Harry Rokestone, etc., Baronet, of Dorracleugh, etc.,
being of sound mind, and in good health, do make this my last will,"
etc.

And on and on he read, his face darkening.

"Four trustees," he muttered, and read on for awhile, for he could not
seize its effect as rapidly and easily as an expert would. "Well, yes,
two thousand two hundred pounds sterling by way of annuity--annuity!--to
be paid for the term of his natural life, in four equal sums, on the
first of May, the first of August--yes, and so on--as a first charge
upon all the said estates, and so forth. Well, what else?"

And so he went on humming and humming over the paper, his head slowly
turning from side to side as he read.

"And Blount to have two hundred a year! I guessed that old Methodist
knew what he was about; and then there's the money. What about the
money?" He read on as before. "Five thousand pounds. Five thousand for
me. Upon my soul! out of one hundred and twenty thousand pounds in
government stock. That's modest, all things considered, and an annuity
just of two thousand two hundred a year for my life, the rental of the
estates, as I happen to know, being nearly nine thousand." This he said
with a sneering, uneasy chuckle. "And that is all!"

And he stood erect, holding the paper by the corner between his finger
and thumb, and letting it lie against his knee.

"And everything else," he muttered, "land and money, without exception,
goes to Miss Ethel Ware. She the lady of the fee; I a poor annuitant!"

Here he was half stifled with rage and mortification.

"I see now, I see what he means. I see the drift of the whole thing. I
see my way. I mustn't make a mistake, though--there can't be any.
Nothing can be more distinct."

He folded up the will rapidly, and replaced it in his pocket.

Within the last half hour his forehead had darkened, and his cheeks had
hollowed. How strangely these subtle muscular contractions correspond
with the dominant moral action of the moment!

He took out another paper, a very old one, worn at the edges, and
indorsed "Case on behalf of Richard Rokestone Marston, Esquire." I
suppose he had read it at least twenty times that day, during his
journey to Dorracleugh. "No, nothing on earth can be clearer or more
positive," he thought. "The whole thing is as plain as that two and two
make four. It covers everything."

There were two witnesses to this will corresponding with the
indorsement, each had signed in presence of the other; all was
technically exact.

Mr. Marston had seen and talked with these witnesses on his arrival at
Dorracleugh, and learned enough to assure him that nothing was to be
apprehended from them. They were persons in Sir Harry's employment, and
Sir Harry had called them up on the day that the will was dated, and got
them to witness in all about a dozen different documents, which they
believed to be leases, but were not sure. Sir Harry had told them
nothing about the nature of the papers they were witnessing, and had
never mentioned a will to them. Richard Marston had asked Mrs.
Shackelton also, and she had never heard Sir Harry speak of a will.

While the news of Sir Harry's death rested only upon a telegraphic
message, which might be forged or precipitate, he dared not break the
seal and open the will. Mr. Blount's and Mr. Jarlcot's letters, which he
had read this evening, took that event out of the possibility of
question.

He was safe also in resolving a problem that was now before him. Should
he rest content with his annuity and five thousand pounds, or seize the
entire property, by simply destroying the will?

If the will were allowed to stand he might count on my fidelity, and
secure possession of all it bequeathed by marrying me. He had only to
place the will somewhere in Sir Harry's room, where it would be sure to
be found, and the affair would proceed in its natural course without
more trouble to him.

But Mr. Blount was appointed, with very formidable powers, my guardian,
and one of his duties was to see, in the event of my marrying, that
suitable settlements were made, and that there was no reasonable
objection to the candidate for my hand.

Mr. Blount was a quiet but very resolute man in all points of duty.
Knowing what was Sir Harry's opinion of his nephew, would he, within the
meaning of the will, accept him as a suitor against whom no reasonable
objection lay? And even if this were got over, Mr. Blount would
certainly sanction no settlement which did not give me as much as I
gave. My preponderance of power, as created by the will, must therefore
be maintained by the settlement. I had no voice in the matter; and thus
it seems that in most respects, even by marriage, the operation of the
will was inexorable. Why, then, should the will exist? and why, with
such a fortune and liberty within his grasp, should he submit to
conditions that would fetter him?

Even the pleasure of depriving Mr. Blount of his small annuity,
ridiculous as such a consideration seemed, had its influence. He was
keenly incensed with that officious and interested agent. The vicar, in
their first conversation, had opened his eyes as to the action of that
pretended friend.

"Mr. Blount told me, just before he left this," said the good vicar,
"that he had been urging and even entreating Sir Harry for a long time
to execute a will which he had by him, requiring nothing but his
signature, but, as yet, without success, and that he feared he would
never do it."

Now approached the moment of decision. He had read a trial in the
newspapers long before, in which a curious case was proved. A man in the
position of a gentleman had gone down to a deserted house that belonged
to him, for the express purpose of there destroying a will which would
have injuriously affected him.

He had made up his mind to destroy it, but he was haunted with the idea
that, do it how he might in the village where he lived, one way or
other the crime would be discovered. Accordingly he visited, with many
precautions, this old house, which was surrounded closely by a thick
wood. From one of the chimneys a boy, in search of jackdaws, saw one
little puff of smoke escape, and his curiosity being excited, he climbed
to the window of the room to which the chimney corresponded, and peeping
in, he saw something flaming on the hob, and near it a man, who started,
and hurriedly left the room on observing him.

Fancying pursuit, the detected man took his departure, without venturing
to return to the room.

The end of the matter was that his journey to the old house was tracked,
and not only did the boy identify him, but the charred pieces of burnt
paper found on the hob, having been exposed to chemical action, had
revealed the writing, a portion of which contained the signatures of the
testator, and the witnesses, and these and other part thus rescued,
identified it with the original draft in possession of the dead man's
attorney. Thus the crime was proved, and the will set up and
supplemented by what, I believe, is termed secondary evidence.

Who could be too cautious, then, in such a matter? It seemed as hard to
hide away effectually all traces of a will destroyed as the relics of a
murder.

Again he was tempted to spare the will, and rest content with an annuity
and safety. It was but a temptation, however, and a passing one.

He unbolted the door softly, and rang the bell. The waiter found him
extended on a sofa, apparently deep in his magazine.

He ordered tea--nothing else; he was precise in giving his order--he did
not want the servant pottering about his room--he had reasons for
choosing to be specially quiet.

The waiter returned with his tea-tray, and found him buried, as before,
in his magazine.

"Is everything there?" inquired Richard Marston.

"Everything there? Yes, sir, everything."

"Well, then, you need not come again till I touch the bell."

The waiter withdrew.

Mr. Marston continued absorbed in his magazine for just three minutes.
Then he rose softly, stepped lightly to the door, and listened. He
bolted it again; tried it, and found it fast.

In a moment the will was in his hand. He gave one dark, searching look
round the room, and then he placed the document in the very centre of
the embers. He saw it smoke sullenly, and curl and slowly warp, and
spring with a faint sound, that made him start more than ever cannon
did, into sudden flame. That little flame seemed like a bale-fire to
light up the broad sky of night with a vengeful flicker, and throw a
pale glare over the wide parks and mosses, the forests, fells, and mere,
of dead Sir Harry's great estate; and when the flame leaped up and died,
it seemed that there was no light left in the room, and he could see
nothing but the myriad little worms of fire wriggling all over the black
flakes which he thrust, like struggling enemies, into the hollow of the
fire.

Richard Marston was a man of redundant courage, and no scruple. But have
all men some central fibre of fear that can be reached, and does the
ghost of the conscience they have killed within them sometimes rise and
overshadow them with horror? Richard Marston, with his feet on the
fender and the tongs in his hands, pressed down the coals upon the ashes
of the will, and felt faint and dizzy, as he had done on the night of
the shipwreck, when, with bleeding forehead, he had sat down for the
first time in the steward's house at Malory.

An event as signal had happened now. After nearly ten minutes had
passed, during which he had never taken his eyes off the spot where the
ashes were glowing, he got up and took the candle down to see whether a
black film of the paper had escaped from the grate. Then stealthily he
opened the window to let out any smell of burnt paper.

He lighted his cigar, and smoked; and unbolted the door, rang the bell,
and ordered brandy-and-water. The suspense was over, and the crisis
past.

He was resolved to sit there till morning, to see that fire burnt out.



                             CHAPTER LXV.

                         THE SERPENT'S SMILE.


There came on a sudden a great quiet over Dorracleugh--the quiet of
death.

There was no longer any doubt, all the country round, as to the fact
that the old baronet was dead. Richard Marston had placed at all the
gates notices to the effect that the funeral would not take place for a
week, at soonest--that no day had yet been fixed for it, and that early
notice should be given.

The slight fuss that had prevailed within doors, for the greater part of
a day, had now quite subsided--and, quiet as it always was, Dorracleugh
was now more silent and stirless than ever.

I could venture now to extend my walks anywhere about the place, without
the risk of meeting any stranger.

If there is a melancholy there is also something sublime and consolatory
in the character of the scenery that surrounds it. Every one has felt
the influence of lofty mountains near. This region is all beautiful; but
the very spirit of solitude and grandeur is over it.

I was just consulting with my maid about some simple provisional
mourning, for which I was about to despatch her to the town, when our
conference was arrested by the appearance of Richard Marston before the
window.

I had my things on, for I thought it not impossible he might arrive
earlier than he had the day before.

I told my maid to come again by-and-by; and I went out to meet him.

Well, we were now walking on the wild path, along the steep side of the
cleugh, towards the lake. What kind of conversation is this going to be?
His voice and manner are very gentle--but he looks pale and stern, like
a man going into a battle. The signs are very slight, but dreadful. Oh!
that the next half-hour was over! What am I about to hear?

We walked on for a time in silence.

The first thing he said was:

"You are to stay here at Dorracleugh--you must not go--but I'm afraid
you will be vexed with me."

Then we advanced about twenty steps; we were walking slowly, and not a
word was spoken during that time.

He began again:

"Though, after all, it need not make any real difference. There is no
will, Ethel; the vicar can tell you that; he had the key, and has made
search--no will; and you are left unprovided for--but that shan't affect
you. I am heir-at-law, and nearest-of-kin. You know what that means.
Everything he possessed, land or money, comes to me. But--I've put my
foot into it; it is too late regretting. I can't marry."

There was an interval of silence--he was looking in my face.

"There! the murder's out. I knew you would be awfully vexed. So am
I--miserable--but I can't. That is, perhaps, for many years."

There was another silence. I could no more have spoken than I could, by
an effort of my will, have lifted the mountain at the other side of the
lake from its foundation.

Perhaps he misinterpreted my silence.

"I ought to have been more frank with you, Ethel--I blame myself very
much, I assure you. Can't you guess? Well, I was an awful fool--I'll
tell you everything. I feel that I ought to have done so, long ago; but
you know, one can't always make up one's mind to be quite frank, and
tell a painful story. I am married. In an evil hour, I married a woman
in every way unsuited to me--pity me. In a transitory illusion, I
sacrificed my life--and, what is dearer, my love. I have not so much as
seen her for years, and I am told she is not likely to live long. In the
meantime I am yours only--yours entirely and irrevocably, your own. I
can offer you safety here, and happiness, my own boundless devotion and
adoration, an asylum here, and all the authority and rights of a wife.
Ethel--dearest--you won't leave me?"

I looked up in his face, scared--a sudden look, quite unexpected. I saw
a cunning, selfish face gloating down on me, with a gross, confident,
wicked simper.

That odious smile vanished, his eye shrank; he looked detected or
disconcerted for a moment, but he rallied.

"I say, I look on myself, in the sight of heaven, as married to you. You
have pledged yourself to me by every vow that can tie woman to man; you
have sworn that no obstacle shall keep us apart. That oath was not
without a meaning, and you know it wasn't; and, by heaven! you shan't
break my heart for nothing! Come, Ethel, be a girl of sense--don't you
see we are controlled by fate? Look at the circumstances. Where's the
good in quarrelling with me? Don't you see the position I'm placed in,
about that miserable evidence? Don't you see that I am able and anxious
to do everything for you? Could a girl in your situation do a better or
a wiser thing than unite her interests with mine, indissolubly? For
God's sake, where's the use of making me desperate? What do you want to
drive me to? Why should you insist on making me your enemy? How do you
think it's all to end?"

Could I have dreamed that he could ever have looked at me with such a
countenance, and spoken to me in such a tone? I felt myself growing
colder and colder; I could not move my eyes from him. His image seemed
to swim before me; his harsh, frightful tones grow confused. My hands
were to my temples, I could not speak; my answer was one piteous scream.

I found myself hurrying along the wild path, towards the house, with
hardly a clear recollection, without one clear thought. I don't know
whether he tried to detain me, or began to follow me. I remember, at the
hall-door, from habit, going up a step or two, in great excitement--we
act so nearly mechanically! A kind of horror seized me at sight of the
half-open door. I turned and hurried down the avenue.

It was not until I had reached the "George and Dragon"--at the sleepiest
hour, luckily, of the tranquil little town of Golden Friars--that I
made a first effectual effort to collect my thoughts.

I was simply a fugitive. To return to Dorracleugh, where Richard Marston
was now master, was out of the question. I was in a mood to accept all
ill news as certain. It never entered my mind that he had intended to
deceive me with respect to Sir Harry's will. Neither had he as to my
actually unprovided state. Here then I stood a fugitive.

I walked up to Mr. Turnbull, the host of the "George and Dragon," whom I
saw at the inn-door, and having heard his brief but genuine condolences,
without half knowing what he was saying, I ordered a carriage to bring
me to the railway station; and while I was waiting I wrote a note in the
quiet little room, with a window looking across the lake, to the good
vicar.

Mr. Turnbull was one of those heavy, comfortable persons who are willing
to take everybody's business and reasons for granted. He therefore bored
me with no surmises as to the reasons of my solitary excursion at so
oddly chosen a time.

I think, now, that my wiser course would have been to go to the vicar,
and explaining generally my objections to remaining at Dorracleugh, to
have asked frankly for permission to place myself under his care until
the arrival of Mr. Blount.

There were fifty other things I ought to have thought of, though I only
wonder, considering the state in which my mind was at the moment, that I
was able to write so coherently as I did to the vicar. I had my purse
with me, containing fifty pounds, which poor Sir Harry had given me just
before he left Dorracleugh. With no more than this, which I had
fortunately brought down with me to the drawing-room, for the purpose of
giving my maid a bank-note to take to the town to pay for my intended
purchases, I was starting on my journey to London! Without luggage, or
servant, or companion, or plan of any kind--inspired by the one
instinct, to get as rapidly as possible out of sight and reach of
Dorracleugh, and to earn my bread by my own exertions.



                            CHAPTER LXVI.

                             LAURA GREY.


You are to suppose my journey safely ended in London. The first thing I
did after securing lodgings, and making some few purchases, was to go to
the house where my great friend Sir Harry Rokestone, had died. But Mr.
Blount, I found, had left London for Golden Friars, only a few hours
before my arrival.

Another disappointment awaited me at Mr. Forrester's chambers--he was
out of town, taking his holiday.

I began now to experience the consequences of my precipitation. It was
too late, however, to reflect; and if the plunge was to be made, perhaps
the sooner the better. I wrote to the vicar, to give him my address,
also to Mr. Blount, telling him the course on which I had decided. I at
once resolved to look for a situation, as governess to very young
children. I framed an advertisement with a great deal of care, which I
published in the _Times_; but no satisfactory result followed, and two
or three days passed in like manner.

After paying for my journey, and my London purchases, there remained to
me, of my fifty pounds, about thirty-two. My situation was not so
frightful as it might have been. But with the strictest economy a
limited time must see my store exhausted; and no one who has not been in
such a situation can fancy the ever-recurring panic of counting, day
after day, the diminishing chances between you and the chasm to whose
edge you are slowly sliding.

A few days brought me a letter from the good vicar. There occurred in it
a passage which finally quieted the faint struggle of hope now and then
reviving. He said, "I observe by your letter that you are already
apprised of the disappointing result of my search for the will of the
late Sir Harry Rokestone. He had informed several persons of the spot
where, in the event of his executing one, which he always, I am told,
treated as very doubtful, it would be found. He had placed the key of
the safe along with some other things at his departure, but without
alluding to his will. At the request of Mr. Marston I opened the safe,
and the result was, I regret to say, that no will was found." I was now,
then, in dread earnest to lay my account for a life of agitation and
struggle.

At last a promising answer to my advertisement reached me. It said, "The
Countess of Rillingdon will be in town till this day week, and will be
happy to see L.Y.L.X., whose advertisement appeared in the _Times_ of
this morning, if possible to-day before two." The house was in Belgrave
Square. It was now near twelve. I called immediately with a note, to say
I would call at a quarter to two, and at that hour precisely I returned.

It was plain that this was but a flying visit of the patrician owners of
the house. Some luggage, still in its shiny black casings, was in the
hall; the lamps hung in bags; carpets had disappeared; curtains were
pinned up; and servants seemed scanty, and more fussy than in the
organized discipline of a household. I told the servant that I had
called in consequence of a note from Lady Rillingdon, and he conducted
me forthwith up the stairs. We passed on the way a young lady coming
down, whom I conjectured to be on the same errand as myself. We
exchanged stolen looks as we passed, each, I daresay, conjecturing the
other's chances.

"Her ladyship will see you presently," he said, opening a door.

I entered, and whom should I see waiting in the room, in a chair, in her
hat, with her parasol in her hand, but Laura Grey.

"Ethel!"

"Laura!"

"Darling!"

And each in a moment was locked in the other's embrace. With tears, with
trembling laughter, and more kisses than I can remember, we signalized
our meeting.

"How wonderful that I should have met you here, Laura!" said I; though
what was the special wonder in meeting her there more than anywhere
else, I could not easily have defined. "You must tell me, darling, if
you are looking to come to Lady Rillingdon, for, if you are, I would not
for the world think of it."

Laura laughed very merrily at this.

"Why, Ethel, what are you dreaming of? I'm Lady Rillingdon!"

Sometimes a mistake seizes upon us with an unaccountable obstinacy.
Laura's claiming to be Lady Rillingdon seemed to me simply a jest of
that poor kind which relies entirely on incongruity, without so much
colour of possibility as to make it humorous.

I laughed, faintly enough, with Laura, from mere politeness, wondering
when this poor joke would cease to amuse her; and the more she looked in
my face, the more heartily she laughed, and the more melancholy became
my endeavour to accompany her.

"What can I do to convince you, darling?" she exclaimed at length, half
distracted.

She got up and touched the bell. I began to be a little puzzled. The
servant appeared, and she asked:

"Is his lordship at home?"

"I'll inquire, my lady," he answered, and retired.

This indeed was demonstration; I could be incredulous no longer. We
kissed again and again, and were once more laughing and gabbling
together, when the servant returned with:

"Please, my lady, his lordship went out about half an hour ago."

"I'm so sorry," she said, turning to me, "but he'll be back very soon,
I'm sure. I want so much to introduce him; I think you'll like him."

Luncheon soon interrupted us; and when that little interval was over,
she took me to the same quiet room, and we talked and mutually
questioned, and got out of each the whole history of the other.

There was only one little child of this marriage, which seemed, in every
way but that, so happy--a daughter. Their second, a son, had died. This
pretty little creature we had with us for a time, and then it went out
with its nurse for a drive, and we, over our afternoon tea, resumed our
confessions and inquiries. Laura had nearly as much to tell as I. In the
midst of our talk Lord Rillingdon came in. I knew whom I was to meet. I
was therefore not surprised when the very man whom I had seen faint and
bleeding in the wood of Plas Ylwd, whom Richard Marston had shot, and
whom I had seen but once since at Lady Mardykse' ball, stood before me.
In a moment we were old friends.

He remained with us for about ten minutes, talked kindly and pleasantly,
and drank his cup of tea.

These recollections, in my present situation, were agitating. The image
of Richard Marston had re-appeared in the sinister shadow in which it
had been early presented to me by the friends who had warned me so
kindly, but in vain.

In a little time we talked on as before, and everything she told me
added to the gloom and horror in which Marston was now shrouded in my
sorrowful imagination.

As soon as the first delighted surprise of meeting Laura had a little
subsided, my fears returned, and all I had to dread from the active
malice of Richard Marston vaguely gathered on my stormy horizon again.



                           CHAPTER LXVII.

                     A CHAPTER OF EXPLANATIONS.


Laura's long talk with me resulted in these facts. They cleared up her
story.

She was the only daughter of Mr. Grey, of Halston Manor, of whom I had
often heard. He had died in possession of a great estate, and of shares
in the Great Central Bank worth two hundred thousand pounds. Within a
few weeks after his death the bank failed, and the estate was drawn into
the ruin. Of her brother there is no need to speak, for he died only a
year after, and has no connection with my story.

Laura Grey would have been a suitable, and even a princely match for a
man of rank and fortune, had it not been for this sudden and total
reverse. Old Lord Rillingdon--Viscount Rillingdon, his son, had won his
own position in the peerage by brilliant service--had wished to marry
his son to the young lady. No formal overtures had been made; but Lord
Rillingdon's house, Northcot Hall, was near, and the young people were
permitted to improve their acquaintance into intimacy, and so an
unavowed attachment was formed. The crash came, and Lord Rillingdon
withdrew his son, Mr. Jennings, from the perilous neighbourhood.

A year elapsed before the exact state of Mr. Grey's affairs was
ascertained. During that time Richard Marston, who had seen and admired
Laura Grey, whose brother was an intimate friend of his, came to the
neighbourhood and endeavoured to insinuate himself into her good graces.
He had soon learned her ruined circumstances, and founded the cruellest
hopes upon this melancholy knowledge.

To forward his plans he had conveyed scandalous falsehoods to Mr.
Jennings, with the object of putting an end to his rivalry. These Mr.
Jennings had refused to believe; but there were others no less
calculated to excite his jealousy, and to alienate his affection. He had
shown the effect of this latter influence by a momentary coldness, which
roused Laura Grey's fiery spirit; for gentle as she was, she was proud.

She had written to tell Mr. Jennings that all was over between them, and
that she would never see him more. He had replied in a letter which did
not reach her till long after, in terms the most passionate and
agonising, vowing that he held himself affianced to her while he lived,
and would never marry any one but her.

In this state of things Miss Grey had come to us, resolved to support
herself by her own exertions.

Lord Rillingdon, having reason to suspect his son's continued attachment
to Laura Grey, and having learned accidentally that there was a lady of
that name residing at Malory, made a visit to Cardyllion. He was the old
gentleman in the chocolate-coloured coat, who had met us as we returned
from church, and held a conversation with her, under the trees, on the
mill-road.

His object was to exact a promise that she would hold no communication
with his son for the future. His tone was insolent, dictatorial, and in
the highest degree irritating. She repelled his insinuations with
spirit, and peremptorily refused to make any reply whatever to demands
urged in a temper so arrogant and insulting.

The result was that he parted from her highly incensed, and without
having carried his point, leaving my dear sister and me in a fever of
curiosity.

Richard Rokestone Marston was the only near relation of Sir Harry
Rokestone. He had fallen under the baronet's just and high displeasure.
After a course of wild and wicked extravagance, he had finally ruined
himself in the opinion of Sir Harry by committing a fraud, which,
indeed, would never have come to light had it not been for a combination
of unlucky chances.

In consequence of this his uncle refused to see him; but at Mr. Blount's
intercession agreed to allow him a small annual sum, on the strict
condition that he was to leave England. It was when actually on his way
to London, which, for reason that, except in its result, has no
connection with my story, he chose to reach through Bristol, that he had
so nearly lost his life in the disaster of the Conway Castle.

Here was the first contact of my story with his.

His short stay at Malory was signalised by his then unaccountable suit
to me, and by his collision with Mr. Jennings, who had come down there
on some very vague information that Laura Grey was in the neighbourhood.
He had succeeded in meeting her, and in renewing their engagement, and
at last had persuaded her to consent to a secret marriage, which at
first involved the anguish of a long separation, during which a
dangerous illness threatened the life of her husband.

I am hurrying through this explanation, but I must relate a few more
events and circumstances which throw a light upon some of the passages
in the history I have been giving you of my life.

Why did Richard Marston conceive, in perfect good faith, a fixed purpose
to marry a girl of whom he knew enough to be aware that she was without
that which prudence would have insisted on as a first necessity in his
circumstances--money.

Well, it turned out to have been by no means so imprudent a plan. I
learned from Mr. Blount the particulars that explained it.

Mr. Blount, who took an interest in him, and had always cherished a
belief that he was reclaimable, told him repeatedly that Sir Harry had
often said that he would take one of Mabel Ware's daughters for his
heiress. This threat he had secretly laughed at, knowing the hostility
that subsisted between the families. He was, however, startled at last.
Mr. Blount had shown him a letter in which Sir Harry distinctly stated
that he had made up his mind to leave everything he possessed to me.
This he showed him for the purpose of inducing a patient endeavour to
regain his lost place in the old man's regard. It effectually alarmed
Richard Marston; and when a chance storm threw him at our door, the idea
of averting that urgent danger, and restoring himself to his lost
position, by an act of masterly strategy, occurred to him, and instantly
bore fruit in action.

After his return, and his admission as an inmate at Dorracleugh, the
danger appeared still more urgent, and his opportunities were endless.

He had succeeded, as I have told you, in binding me by an engagement. In
that position he was safe, no matter what turned up. He had, however,
now made his election; and how cruelly, you already know. Did he,
according to his low standard, love me? I believe, so far as was
consistent with his nature, he did. He was furious at my having escaped
him, and would have pursued, and no doubt discovered me, had he been
free at the moment to leave Dorracleugh.

His alleged marriage was, I believe, a fiction. But he could not bear, I
think, to lose me; and had he obtained another interview, he would have
held very different language. Mr. Blount thought that he had, perhaps,
formed some scheme for a marriage of ambition, in favour of which I was
to have been put aside. If so, however, I do not think that he would
have purchased the enjoyment of such ambition at the price of losing me
at once and for ever. I dare say you will laugh at the simplicity of
this vanity in a woman who, in a case like this, could suppose such a
thing. I do suppose it, notwithstanding. I am sure that, so far as his
nature was capable of love, he did love me. With the sad evidences on
which this faith was grounded, I will not weary you. Let those vain
conclusions rest where they are, deep in my heart.

The important post which Lord Rillingdon had filled, in one of our
greatest dependencies, and the skill, courage, and wisdom with which he
had directed affairs during a very critical period, had opened a way for
him to still higher things. He and Laura were going out in about six
months to India, and she and he insisted that I should accompany them as
their guest. This would have been too delightful under happier
circumstances; but the sense of dependence, however disguised, is
dreadful. We are so constructed that for an average mind it is more
painful to share in idle dependence the stalled ox of a friend than to
work for one's own dinner of herbs.

They were going to Brighton, and I consented to make them a visit there
of three or four weeks; after which I was to resume my search for a
"situation." Laura entreated me at least to accept the care of her
little child; but this, too, I resolutely declined. At first sight you
will charge me with folly; but if you, being of my sex, will place
yourself for a moment in my situation, you will understand why I
refused. I felt that I should have been worse than useless. Laura would
never have ordered me about as a good mother would like to order the
person in charge of her only child. She would have been embarrassed and
unhappy, and I conscious of being in the way.

Two other circumstances need explanation. Laura told me, long after,
that she had received a farewell letter from Mr. Carmel, who told her
that he had written to warn me, but with much precaution, as Sir Harry
had a strong antipathy to persons of his profession, of a danger which
he was not then permitted to define. Monsieur Droqville, whom Mr.
Marston had courted, and sought to draw into relations with him, had
received a letter from that young man, stating that he had made up his
mind to leave America by the next ship, and establish himself once more
at Dorracleugh. It was Mr. Carmel, then, who had written the note that
puzzled me so much, and conveyed it, by another hand, to the post-office
of Cardyllion.

Monsieur Droqville had no confidence in Richard Marston. He had been
informed, besides, of the exact nature of Sir Harry's will, and of a
provision that made his bequest to me void, in case I should embrace the
Roman Catholic faith.

It was in consequence of that provision in the draft-will of Sir Harry
Rokestone, and from a consideration of the impolicy of any action while
Lady Lorrimer's death was so recent, and my indignation so hot, that
Droqville had resolved that, for a time, at least, the attempt to gain
me to the Church of Rome should not be renewed.

Taking the clear, hard view they do of the office of the Church upon
earth, they are right to discriminate. In the sight of Heaven, the
souls of Dives and of Lazarus are equally precious. In electing which to
convert, then, they discharge but a simple duty in choosing that
proselyte who will most strengthen the influence and action of the
Church upon earth. In that respect, considering the theories they hold,
they do right. Common sense acquits them.

I have now ended my necessary chapter of explanation, and my story goes
on its way.



                            CHAPTER LXVIII.

                      THE LAST OF THE ROKESTONES.


A solemn low-voiced fuss was going on in the old house at Dorracleugh;
preparations and consultations were afoot; a great deal was not being
done, but there were the whispering and restlessness of expectation, and
the few grisly arrangements for the reception of the coffined guest.

Old Mrs. Shackleton, the housekeeper, crept about the rooms, her
handkerchief now and then to her eyes; and the housemaid-in-chief, with
her attendant women, was gliding about.

Sir Harry had, years before, left a letter in Mr. Blount's hands, that
there might be no delay in searching for a will, directing all that
concerned his funeral.

The coffin was to be placed in the great hall of the house, according to
ancient custom, on tressels, under the broad span of the chimney. This
arrangement is more than once alluded to in Pepys's Diary. He was to be
followed to the grave by his tenantry, and such of the gentry, his
neighbours, as might please to attend. There was to be ample repast for
all comers, consisting of as much "meat and drink of the best as they
could consume;" what remained was to be distributed among the poor in
the evening.

He was to be laid in the family vault adjoining the church of Golden
Friars; a stone with the family arms, and a short inscription, "but no
flatteries," was to be set up in the church, on the south wall, next the
vault, and near the other family monuments, and it was to mention that
he died unmarried, and was the last of the old name of Rokestone, of
Dorracleugh.

The funeral was to proceed to Golden Friars, not by the "mere road,"
but, as in the case of other family funerals, from Dorracleugh to Golden
Friars, by the old high-road.

If he should die at home, at Dorracleugh, but not otherwise, he was to
be "waked" in the same manner as his father and his grandfather had
been.

There were other directions, presents to the sexton and parish-clerk,
and details that would weary you.

About twelve o'clock the hearse arrived, and two or three minutes after
Mr. Blount drove up in a chaise.

The almost gigantic coffin was carried up the steps, and placed under
the broad canopy assigned to it at the upper end of the hall.

Mr. Blount, having given a few directions, inquired for Mr. Marston, and
found that gentleman, in a suit of black, in the drawing-room.

He came forward; he did not intend it, but there was something in the
gracious and stately melancholy of his reception, which seemed to
indicate not only the chief mourner, but the master of the house.

"Altered circumstances--a great change," said Mr. Marston, taking his
hand. "Many will feel his death deeply. He was to me--I have said it a
thousand times--the best friend that ever man had."

"Yes, yes, sir; he did show wonderful patience and forbearance with you,
considering his temper, which was proud and fiery, you know--poor
gentleman!--poor Sir Harry!--but grandly generous, sir, grandly
generous."

"It is a consolation to me, having lost a friend, and, I may say, a
father, who was, in patience, forbearance, and generosity, all you
describe, and all you know, that we were lately, thanks, my good friend,
mainly to your kind offices, upon the happiest terms. He used to talk to
me about that farm; he took such an interest in it--sit down,
pray--won't you have some sherry and a biscuit--and such a growing
interest in me."

"I think he really was coming gradually not to think quite so ill of
you as he did," said good Mr. Blount. "No sherry, no biscuit--no, I
shan't mind. I know, sir, that under great and sudden temptation a man
may do the thing he ought not to have done, and repent from his heart
afterwards, and from very horror of his one great lapse, may walk, all
the rest of his life, not only more discreetly, but more safely than a
man who has never slipped at all. But Sir Harry was sensitive and fiery.
He had thought that you were to represent the old house, and perhaps to
bear the name after his death; and that both should be slurred by, if I
may be allowed the expression, a shabby crime...."

"Once for all, Mr. Blount, you'll be good enough to remember that such
language is offensive and intolerable," interrupted Richard Marston,
firmly and sharply. "My uncle had a right to lecture me on the
subject--you can have none."

"Except as a friend," said Mr. Blount. "I shall, however, for the
future, observe your wishes upon that subject. You got my letter about
the funeral, I see."

"Yes, they are doing everything exactly as you said," said Marston,
recovering his affability.

"Here is the letter," said Mr. Blount. "You should run your eye over
it."

"Ha! It is dated a long time ago," said Mr. Marston. "It was no sudden
presentiment, then. How well he looked when I was leaving this!"

"We are always astonished when death gives no warning," said Mr. Blount;
"it hardly ever does to the persons most interested. Doctors, friends,
they themselves, are all in a conspiracy to conceal the thief who has
got into the bed-room. It matters very little that the survivors have
had warning."

Richard Marston shook his head and shrugged his shoulders.

"Some day I must learn prudence," said he.

"Let it be the true prudence," said Mr. Blount. "It is a short foresight
that sees no further than the boundary of this life."

Mr. Marston opened the letter, and the old gentleman left him, to see
after the preparations.

Some one at Golden Friars--I think it was the vicar--sent me the country
paper, with a whole column in mourning, with a deep black edge, giving a
full account of the funeral of Sir Harry Rokestone, of Dorracleugh. The
ancient family whose name he bore was now extinct. I saw in the list the
names of county people who had come in their carriages more than twenty
miles to attend the funeral, and people who had come by rail hundreds of
miles. It was a great county gathering mostly that followed the last of
the Rokestones, of Dorracleugh, to the grave.



                             CHAPTER LXIX.

                          SEARCH FOR THE WILL.


The funeral was over; but the old house of Dorracleugh was not quiet
again till the night fell, and there was no more to-ing and fro-ing in
the stable-yard, and the last tenant had swallowed his last draught of
beer, and mounted and ridden away through the mist, over the fells, to
his distant farm.

The moon shone peacefully over mere and fell, and on the time-worn
church of Golden Friars, and through the window, bright, on the grey
flags that lie over Sir Harry Rokestone. Never did she keep serener
watch over the first night of a mortal's sleep in his last narrow bed.

Richard Marston saw this pure light, and musing, looked from the window.
It shone, he thought, over his wide estate. Beyond the mere, all but
Clusted, for many a mile was his own. At this side, away in the
direction of distant Haworth, a broad principality of moss and heath,
with scattered stretches of thin arable and pasture, ran side by side
with the Mardykes estate, magnificent in vastness, if not in rental.

His dreams were not of feudal hospitality and the hearty old-world life.
His thoughts were far away from this grand scenery or lonely
Dorracleugh. Ambition built his castles in the air; nothing very noble.
It was not even the tawdry and tradesman-like ambition of modern times.
He had no taste for that particular form of meanness, nor patience for
its drudgery. He would subscribe to election funds, place his county
influence at the disposal of the minister; spend money on getting and
keeping a seat; be found in his place whenever a critical vote was
impending; and by force of this, and of his county position, and the old
name--for he would take the name of Rokestone, in spite of his uncle's
awkward direction about his epitaph, and no one could question his
relationship--by dint of all this, with, I daresay, the influence of a
high marriage, he hoped to get on, not from place to place, but what
would answer him as well, from title to title. First to revive the
baronetage, and then, after some fifteen or twenty years more of
faithful service, to become Baron Rokestone, of Dorracleugh.

It was not remorse, then, that kept the usurper's eyes wide open, as he
lay that night in the dark in his bed, his brain in a fever. His
conscience had no more life in it than the window-stone. It troubled him
with no compunction. There was at his heart, on the contrary, a
vindictive elation at having defeated with so much simplicity the
unnatural will of his uncle.

Bright rose the sun next morning over Dorracleugh, a sun of good omen.
Richard Marston had appointed three o'clock as the most convenient hour
for all members of the conference, for a meeting and a formality. A mere
formality, in truth, it was, a search for the will of Sir Harry
Rokestone. Mr. Blount had slept at Dorracleugh. Mr. Jarlcot, a short,
plump man, of five-and-fifty, with a grave face and a bullet head,
covered with short, lank, black hair, accompanied by his confidential
man, Mr. Spaight, arrived in his gig, just as the punctual clock of
Dorracleugh struck three.

Very soon after the old vicar rode up, on his peaceable pony, and came
into the drawing-room, where the little party were assembled, with sad,
kind face, and gentle, old-fashioned ceremony, with a little powdering
of dust in the wrinkles of his clerical costume.

It was with a sense of pleasant satire that Richard Marston had observed
old Lemuel Blount ever since he had been assured that the expected will
was not forthcoming. These holy men, how they love an annuity! Not that
they like money, of course; that's Mammon; but because it lifts them
above earthy cares, and gives them the power of relieving the wants of
their fellow-Christians. How slyly the old gentleman had managed it! How
thoughtful his appointing himself guardian to the young lady! What
endless opportunities his powers over the settlements would present of
making handsome terms for himself with an intending bridegroom!

On arriving, in full confidence that the will was safe in its iron
repository, Christian could not have looked more comfortable when he
enjoyed his famous prospect from the delectable mountains. But when it
turned out that the will was nowhere, the same Christian, trudging on up
the hill of difficulty in his old "burdened fashion," could not have
looked more hang-dog and overpowered than he.

His low spirits, his sighs and ejaculations, amused Richard Marston
extremely. When he heard him say to himself, when first he learned that
the vicar had looked into the safe and found nothing, "How sad! How
strange! How very sad!" as he stood at the window, with his head
lowered, and his fingers raised, he was tempted to rebuke his audacity
with some keen and cautious irony; but those who win may laugh--he could
afford to be good-humoured, and a silent sneer contented him.

Mr. Blount, having, as I said, heard that the vicar had searched the
"safe," and that Mr. Spaight, accompanied by Mr. Marston, and the
housekeeper, had searched all the drawers, desks, boxes, presses, and
other lock-up places in the house in vain, for any paper having even a
resemblance to a will, said: "It is but a form; but as you propose it,
be it so."

And now this form was to be complied with. Mr. Marston told the servant
to send Mrs. Shackelton with the keys. Mr. Marston led the way, and four
other gentlemen followed, attended by the housekeeper.

There was not much talking; a clatter of feet on uncarpeted floors, the
tiny jingle of small keys, the opening of doors, and clapping of lids,
and now and then Mrs. Shackelton's hard treble was heard in answer to an
interrogatory.

This went on for more than twenty minutes up-stairs, and then the
exploring party came down the stairs again, Richard Marston talking to
the vicar, Mr. Blount to Mr. Spaight, while Mr. Jarlcot, the attorney,
listened to Mrs. Shackleton, the housekeeper.

Richard Marston led the party to Sir Harry's room. The carpet was still
on the floor, the curtains hanging still, in gloomy folds, to the
ground. Sir Harry's hat and stick lay on the small round table, where he
had carelessly thrown them when he came in from his last walk about
Dorracleugh, his slippers lay on the hearthrug before his easy-chair,
and his pipe was on the mantelpiece.

The party stood in this long and rather gloomy room in straggling
disarray, still talking.

"There's Pixie," said old Mr. Spaight, who had been a bit of a
sportsman, and loved coursing in his youth, as he stopped before a
portrait of a greyhound, poking his long nose and spectacles, with a
faint smirk, close into the canvas. "Sir Harry's dog; fine dog, Pixie,
won the cup twice on Doppleton Lea thirty-two years ago." But this was a
murmured meditation, for he was a staid man of business now, and his
liking for dogs and horses was incongruous, and no one in the room heard
him. Mr. Jarlcot's voice recalled him.

"Mr. Marston was speaking to you, Mr. Spaight."

"Oh! I was just saying I think nothing could have been more careful,"
said Mr. Marston, "than the search you made upstairs, in the presence of
me and Mrs. Shackleton, on Thursday last?"

"No, sir--certainly nothing--it could not possibly have escaped us,"
answered Mr. Spaight.

"And that is your opinion also?" asked Mr. Jarlcot of Richard Marston.

"Clearly," he answered.

"I'll make a note of that, if you'll allow me," said Mr. Jarlcot; and he
made an entry, with Mr. Marston's concurrence, in his pocket-book.

"And now about this," said Mr. Jarlcot, with a clumsy bow to Mr.
Marston, and touching the door of the safe with his open hand.

"You have got the key, sir?" said Marston to the good vicar with silver
hair, who stood meekly by, distrait and melancholy, an effigy of saintly
contemplation.

"Oh, yes," said the vicar wakening up. "Yes; the key, but--but you know
there's nothing there."

He moved the key vaguely about as he looked from one to the other, as if
inviting any one who pleased to try.

"I think, sir, perhaps it will be as well if you will kindly open it
yourself," said Marston.

"Yes, surely--I suppose so--with all my heart," said the vicar.

The door of the safe opened easily, and displayed the black iron void,
into which all looked.

Blessed are they who expect nothing, for they shall not be disappointed.
Of course no one was surprised. But Mr. Blount shook his head, lifted up
his hands, and groaned audibly, "I am very sorry."

Mr. Marston did not affect to hear him.



                             CHAPTER LXX.

                           A DISAPPOINTMENT.


"I think," said Mr. Jarlcot, "it will be desirable that I should take a
note of any information which Mr. Marston and the vicar may be so good
as to supply with respect to the former search in the same place. I
think, sir," he continued, addressing the vicar, "you mentioned that the
deceased, Sir Harry Rokestone, placed that key in your charge on the
evening of his departure from this house for London?"

"So it was, sir," said the vicar.

"Was it out of your possession for any time?"

"For about three quarters of an hour. I handed it to Mr. Marston on his
way to this house; but as I was making a sick-call near this, I started
not many minutes after he left me, and on the way it struck me that I
might as well have back the key. I arrived here, I believe, almost as
soon as he, and he quite agreed with me that I had better get the key
again into----"

"Into your own custody," interposed Marston. "You may recollect that it
was I who suggested it the moment you came."

"And the key was not out of your possession, Mr. Marston, during the
interval?" said Mr. Jarlcot.

"Not for one moment," answered Richard Marston, promptly.

"And you did not, I think you mentioned, open that safe?"

"Certainly not. I made no use whatever of that key at any time. I never
saw that safe open until the vicar opened it in my presence, and we
both saw that it contained nothing; so did Mrs. Shackleton, as
intelligent a witness as any. And, I think, we can all--I know I can,
for my part--depose, on oath, to the statements we have made."

Mr. Jarlcot raised his eyebrows solemnly, slowly shook his head, and
having replaced his note-book in his pocket, drew a long breath in
through his rounded lips, with a sound that almost amounted to a
whistle.

"Nothing could be more distinct; it amounts to demonstration," he said,
raising his head, putting his hands into his trousers-pockets, and
looking slowly round the cornice. "Haven't you something to say?" he
added, laying his hand gently on Mr. Blount's arm, and then turning a
step or two away; while Marston, who could not comprehend what he
fancied to be an almost affected disappointment at the failure to
discover a will, thought he saw his eyes wander, when he thought no one
was looking, curiously to the grate and the hobs; perhaps in search, as
he suspected, of paper ashes.

"I am awfully sorry," exclaimed Mr. Blount, throwing himself into a
chair in undisguised despondency. "The will, as it was drafted, would
have provided splendidly for Miss Ethel Ware, and left you, Mr. Marston,
an annuity of two thousand five hundred a year, and a sum of five
thousand pounds. For two or three years I had been urging him to execute
it; it is evident he never did. He has destroyed the draft, instead of
executing it. That hope is quite gone--totally."

Mr. Blount stood up and said, laying his hand upon his forehead, "I am
grieved--I am shocked--I am profoundly grieved."

Mr. Marston was strongly tempted to tell Mr. Blount what he thought of
him. Jarlcot and he, no doubt, understood one another, and had intended
making a nice thing of it.

He could not smile, nor even sneer, just then, but Mr. Marston fixed on
Lemuel Blount a sidelong look of the sternest contempt.

"There is, then," said Mr. Blount, collecting himself, "no will."

"That seems pretty clear," said Mr. Marston, with, in spite of himself,
a cold scorn in his tone. "I think so; and I rather fancy you think so
too."

"Except this," continued Mr. Blount, producing a paper from his pocket,
at which he had been fumbling. "Mr. Jarlcot will hand you a copy. I
urged him, God knows how earnestly, to revoke it. It was made at the
period of his greatest displeasure with you; it leaves everything to
Miss Ethel Ware, and gives you, I grieve to say, but an annuity of four
hundred a year. It appoints me guardian to the young lady, in the same
terms that the latter will would have done, and leaves me, besides, an
annuity of five hundred a year, half of which I shall, if you don't
object, make over to you."

"Oh! oh! a will! That's all right," said Marston, trying to smile with
lips that had grown white; "I, of course, you--we all wish nothing but
what is right and fair."

Mr. Jarlcot handed him a new neatly-folded paper, endorsed "Copy of the
Will of the late Sir Harry Rokestone, Bart." Richard Marston took it
with a hand that trembled, a hand that had not often trembled before.

"Then, I suppose, Mr. Blount, you will look in on me, by-and-by, to
arrange about the steps to be taken about proving it," said Mr. Jarlcot.

"It's all right, I dare say," said Mr. Marston, vaguely, looking from
man to man uncertainly. "I expected a will, of course: I don't suppose I
have a friend among you, gentlemen, why should I? I am sure I have some
enemies. I don't know what country attorneys, and nincompoops, and
Golden Friars' bumpkins may think of it, but I know what the world will
think, that I'm swindled by d--d conspiracy, and that that old man,
who's in his grave, has behaved like a villain."

"Oh, Mr. Marston, your dead uncle!" said the good vicar, lifting his
hand in deprecation, with gentle horror. "You wouldn't, you can't!"

"What the devil is it to you, sir?" cried Marston, with a look as if he
could have struck him. "I say it's all influence, and d--d juggling--I'm
not such a simpleton. No one expected, of course, that opportunities
like those should not have been improved. The thing's transparent. I
wish you joy, Mr. Blount, of your five hundred a year, and you, Mr.
Jarlcot, of your approaching management of the estates and the money. If
you fancy a will like that, turning his own nephew adrift on the world
in favour of methodists and attorneys, and a girl he never saw till the
other day, is to pass unchallenged, you're very much mistaken; it's just
the thing that always happens when an old man like that dies--there's a
will of course--every one understands it. I'll have you all where you
won't like."

Mrs. Shackleton, with her mouth pursed, her nose high in the air, and
her brows knit over a vivid pair of eyes, was the only one of the group
who seemed ready to explode in reply; Mr. Blount looked simply shocked
and confounded; the vicar maintained his bewildered and appealing stare;
Mr. Spaight's eyebrows were elevated above his spectacles, and his mouth
opened, as he leaned forward his long nose; Mr. Jarlcot's brow looked
thunderous, and his chops a little flushed; all were staring for some
seconds in silence on Mr. Marston, whose concluding sentences had risen
almost to a shriek, with a laugh running through it.

"I think, Mr. Marston," said Jarlcot, after a couple of efforts, "you
would do well to--to consider, a little, the bearing of your language; I
don't think you can quite see its force."

"I wish you could--I mean it; and I'm d--d but you shall feel it too!
You shall hear of me sooner than you all think. I'm not a fellow to be
pigeoned so simply."

With these words, he walked into the hall, and a few moments after they
heard the door shut with a violent clang.

A solemn silence reigned in the room for a little time; these peaceable
people seemed stunned by the explosion.

"Evasit, erupit," murmured the vicar, sadly, raising his hands, and
shaking his head. "How very painful!"

"I don't wonder--I make great allowances," said Mr. Blount, "I have been
very unhappy myself, ever since it was ascertained that he had not
executed the new will. I am afraid the young man will never consent to
accept a part of my annuity--he is so spirited."

"Don't be uneasy on that point," said Mr. Jarlcot; "if you lodge it,
he'll draw it; not--but I think--you might do--better--with your money."

There was something in the tone, undefinable, that prompted a dark
curiosity.

Mr. Blount turned on him a quick look of inquiry. Mr. Jarlcot lowered
his eyes, and then turned them to the window, with the remark that the
summer was making a long stay this year.

Mr. Blount looked down and slowly rubbed his forehead, thinking, and
sighing deeply, as he said, "It's a wonderful world, this--may the Lord
have mercy on us all!"



                            CHAPTER LXXI.

                           A WOMAN'S HEART.


Two or three notices, which, Mr. Jarlcot said, would not cost five
pounds, were served on behalf of Mr. Marston, and with these the faint
echo of his thunders subsided. There was, in fact, no material for
litigation.

"The notices," Mr. Jarlcot said, "came from Marshall and Whitaker, the
solicitors who had years before submitted the cases for him, upon his
uncle's title, and upon the question of his own position as nearest of
kin and heir-at-law. He was very carefully advised as to how exactly he
should stand in the event of his uncle's dying intestate."

I was stunned when I heard of my enormous fortune, involving, as it did,
his ruin. I would at once have taken measures to deal as generously with
him as the other will, of which I then knew no more than that Sir Harry
must have contemplated, at one time, the possibility at least of signing
it.

When I left Golden Friars I did so with an unalterable resolution never
to see Richard Marston again. But this was compatible with the spirit of
my intention to provide more suitably for him. I took Mr. Blount into
council; but I was disappointed. The will had been made during my
father's lifetime, and in evident apprehension of his influence over me,
and deprived me of the power of making any charge upon the property,
whether land or money. I could do nothing but make him a yearly present
of a part of my income, and even that was embarrassed by many ingenious
conditions and difficulties.

It was about this time that a letter reached me from Richard Marston,
the most extraordinary I had ever read--a mad letter in parts, and
wicked--a letter, also, full of penitence and self-upbraiding. "I am a
fiend. I have been all cruelty and falsehood, you all mercy and truth,"
it said. "I have heard of your noble wishes--I know how vain they are.
You can do nothing that I would accept. I am well enough. Think no more
of the wretch. I have found, too late, I cannot live without you. You
shall hear of me no more; only forgive me."

There are parts of this strange letter that I never understood, that may
bear many interpretations, no one distinctly.

When Mr. Blount spoke of him he never gave me his conclusions, and it
was always in the sad form "Let us hope;" he never said exactly what he
suspected. Mr. Jarlcot plainly had but one opinion of him, and that the
worst.

I agreed, I think, with neither. I relied on instinct, which no one can
analyse or define--the wild inspiration of nature--the saddest, and
often the truest guide. Let me not condemn, then, lest I be condemned.

The good here are not without wickedness, nor the wicked without
goodness. With death begins the defection. Each character will be sifted
as wheat. The eternal Judge will reduce each, by the irresistible
chemistry of his power and truth, to its basis, for neither hell nor
heaven can receive a mixed character.

I did hear of Richard Marston again once more--it was about five months
later, when the news of his death by fever, at Marseilles, reached Mr.
Blount.

Since then my life has been a retrospect. Two years I passed in India
with my beloved friend, Laura. But my melancholy grew deeper; the
shadows lengthened--and an irrepressible yearning to revisit Golden
Friars and Malory seized me. I returned to England.

I am possessed of fortune. I thank God for its immunities--I well know
how great they are. For its pleasures, I have long ceased to care. To
the poor, I try to make it useful--but I am quite conscious that in
this there is no merit. I have no pleasure in money. I think I have none
in flattery. I need deny myself nothing, and yet be in the eyes of those
who measure charity arithmetically a princely Christian benefactress. I
wish I were quite sure of having ever given a cup of cold water in the
spirit that my Maker commends.

A few weeks after my return, Mr. Blount showed me a letter. The
signature startled me. It was from Monsieur Droqville, and a very short
one. It was chiefly upon some trifling business, and it said, near the
end:

"You sometimes see Miss Ware, I believe; she will be sorry to hear that
her old friend, Mr. Carmel, died last summer at his missionary post in
South America. A truer soldier of Christ never fell in the field of his
labours. Requiescat!"

There was a tremble at my heart, and a swelling. I held the sentence
before my eyes till they filled with tears.

My faithful, noble friend! At my side in every trouble. The one of all
mortals I have met who strove with his whole heart to win me, according
to his lights, to God. May God receive and for ever bless you for it,
patient, gentle Edwyn Carmel! His griefs are over. To me there seems an
angelic light around him--the pale enthusiast in the robe of his purity
stands saint-like before me. I remember all your tender care. I better
understand, too, the wide differences that separated us, now, than in my
careless girlhood--but these do not dismay me. I know that "in my
father's house are many mansions," and I hope that when the clouds that
darken this life are passed, we may yet meet and thank and bless you, my
noble-hearted friend, where, in one love and light, the redeemed shall
walk for evermore.

At Golden Friars I lived again for a short time. But the associations of
Dorracleugh were too new and harrowing. I left that place to the care of
good Mr. Blount, who loves it better than any other. He pays me two or
three visits every year at Malory, and advises me in all matters of
business.

I do not affect the airs of an anchorite. But my life is, most people
would think, intolerably monotonous and lonely. To me it is not only
endurable, but the sweetest that, in my peculiar state of mind, I could
have chosen.

With the flight of my years, and the slow approach of the hour when dust
will return to dust, the love of solitude steals on me, and no regrets
for the days I have lost, as my friends insist, and no yearnings for a
return to an insincere and tawdry world, have ever troubled me. In
girlhood I contracted my love of this simple rural solitude, and my
premature experience of all that is disappointing and deplorable in life
confirms it. But the spell of its power is in its recollections. It is a
place, unlike Dorracleugh, sunny and cheerful, as well as beautiful, and
this tones the melancholy of its visions, and prevents their sadness
from becoming overpowering.

I wonder how many people are living, like me, altogether in the past,
and in hourly communion with visionary companions?

Richard Marston, does awaking hour ever pass without, at some moment,
recalling your image? I do not mistake you; I have used no measured
language in describing you. I know you for the evil, fascinating,
reckless man you were. Such a man as, had I never seen you, and only
known the sum of his character, I ought to have hated. A man who, being
such as he was, meditated against me a measureless wrong. I look into my
heart, is there vengeance there against you? Is there judgment? Is there
even alienation?

Oh! how is it that reason, justice, virtue, all cannot move you from a
secret place in my inmost heart? Can any man who has once been an idol,
such as you were, ever perish utterly in that mysterious shrine--a
woman's heart? In solitary hours, as I, unseen, look along the sea, my
cheeks are wet with tears; in the wide silence of the night my lonely
sobs are heard. Is my grief for you mere madness? Why is it that man so
differs from man? Why does he often so differ from the noble creature he
might have been, and sometimes almost was?

Over an image partly dreamed and partly real, shivered utterly, but
still in memory visible, I pour out the vainest of all sorrows.

In the wonderful working that subdues all things to itself--in all the
changes of spirit, or the spaces of eternity, is there, shall there
never be, from the first failure, evolved the nobler thing that might
have been? I care for no other. I can love no other; and were I to live
and keep my youth through eternity, I think I never could be interested
or won again. Solitude has become dear to me, because he is in it. Am I
giving this infinite true love in vain? I comfort myself with one vague
hope. I cannot think that nature is so cynical. Does the loved phantom
represent nothing? And is the fidelity that nature claims, but an
infatuation and a waste?



    London: Swift and Co., 1 to 5, Newton Street, High Holborn, W.C.
  21/3/76.





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