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

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Old Kensington" ***

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                           OLD KENSINGTON

                          BY MISS THACKERAY


LONDON SMITH, ELDER, & CO.,
15 WATERLOO PLACE
1908.

[_All rights reserved_]


T'is life whereof our nerves are scant,
Oh! life, not death, for which we pant,
More life and fuller that I want.

Alfred Tennyson.



A DEDICATION

_TO SOME NEW FRIENDS._


Sometimes new friends meet one along the mid-way of life, and come
forward with sweet unknown faces and with looks that seem strangely
familiar to greet us.

To some of these new friends I must dedicate my story. It was begun ten
years ago, and is older than my god-daughter Margie herself, who is the
oldest among them. She is playing with her sister and her little cousins
in the sunny Eton nurseries. Harry has a crown on. Annie is a queen who
flies on errands. Ada and Lilly are Court ladies.

My neighbour Dolly and the little Dorotheas, however, have a first right
to a presentation copy. It is true that the little ones cannot read, but
they need not regret it; for Margie will take them on her knee and show
them the pictures, and Georgie and Stella and Molly shall stand round
too, and dark-eyed little Margaret can tell them her own sweet little
stories, while Francis chimes in from the floor. Eleanor cannot talk,
but she can sing; and so can our Laura at home and her song is her own;
a sweet home song; the song of all children to those who love them. It
tells of the past, and one day brings it back without a pang; it tells
of a future, not remorselessly strange and chill and unknown, but bound
to us by a thousand hopes and loving thoughts--a kingdom-come for us
all, not of strangers, but of little children. And meanwhile Laura,
measures the present with her soft little fingers as she beats time upon
her mother's hand to her own vague music.

8 Southwell Gardens: _March 20, 1873_



CONTENTS.


I. BRICKS AND IVY

II. DUTCH TILES

III. TO OLD STREET BY THE LANES

IV. AN AFTERNOON AT PENFOLD'S

V. STEEL PENS AND GOOSE QUILLS

VI. DOWNSTAIRS IN THE DARK

VII. CLOUD-CAPPED TOWERS AND GORGEOUS PALACES

VIII. IMMORTELLES

IX. THE BOW-WINDOWED HOUSE

X. A SNOW GARDEN

XI. RABAN MEETS THE SHABBY ANGEL

XII. DOROTHEA BY FIRELIGHT

XIII. LITTLE BROTHER AND LITTLE SISTER

XIV. RAG DOLLS

XV. GEORGE'S TUNES

XVI. A WALKING PARTY

XVII. 'INNER LIFE'

XVIII. AN AUTUMN MORNING

XIX. KENSINGTON PALACE CHAPEL

XX. RHODA TO DOLLY

XXI. CINDERS

XXII. MRS. PALMER

XXIII. THE TERRACE AT ALL SAINTS' COLLEGE

XXIV. ROSES HAVE THORNS, AND SILVER FOUNTAINS MUD

XXV. GOOD-NIGHT

XXVI. GOOD-MORNING

XXVII. LOVE LANE FROM KENSINGTON TO FULHAM

XXVIII. UNBORN TO-MORROW AND DEAD YESTERDAY

XXIX. UNDER THE GREAT DOME

XXX. WAVE OR FLAME

XXXI. A BOAT UPON THE WATER

XXXII. TRUST ME

XXXIII. CIRCUMSTANCE

XXXIV.  WHITE ROSES

XXXV. 'ONLY GEORGE'

XXXVI. THE SLOW SAD HOURS

XXXVII. IN AN EMPTY ROOM

XXXVIII. THE POLLARD-TREES

XXXIX. THUS FAR THE MILES ARE MEASURED FROM THY FRIEND

XL. UNDER THE CLOCK-TOWER

XLI. I BRING YOU THREE LETTERS--I PRAY YOU READ ONE

XLII. RACHEL

XLIII. CRAGS AND FRESH AIR

XLIV. WHITE WITH GAZING

XLV. WHAT AUNT SARAH LEFT FOR DOLLY

XLVI. THE SORROWFUL MESSAGE

XLVII. FROM HEART OF VERY HEART

XLVIII. AN EXPLANATION

XLIX. SHEEP-SHEARING

L. TEMPERED WINDS

LI. 'SING HOARSE, WITH TEARS BETWEEN'

LII. AN ANDANTE OF HAYDN'S

LIII. THAT THOU ART BLAMED SHALL NOT BE THY DEFECT

LIV. HOLY ST. FRANCIS, WHAT A CHANGE IS HERE!

LV. SEE YOU NOT SOMETHING BESIDE MASONRY?

LVI. THE PLAY IS PLAYED, THE CURTAIN DROPS



OLD KENSINGTON.



CHAPTER I.

BRICKS AND IVY.

     From the ivy where it dapples
     A grey ruin, stone by stone,
     Do you look for grapes and apples,
     Or for sad green leaves alone?

     --E. B. Browning.


A quarter of a century ago the shabby tide of progress had not spread to
the quiet old suburb where Lady Sarah Francis's house was standing, with
its many windows dazzling as the sun travelled across the old-fashioned
house-tops to set into a distant sea of tenements and echoing life. The
roar did not reach the old house. The children could listen to the
cawing of the rooks, to the echo of the hours, as they struck on from
one day to another, vibrating from the old square tower of the church.
At night the strokes seemed to ring more slowly than in the day. Little
Dolly Vanborough, Lady Sarah's niece, thought each special hour had its
voice. The church clock is silent now, but the rooks caw on undisturbed
from one spring to another in the Old Kensington suburb. There are
tranquil corners still, and sunny silent nooks, and ivy wreaths growing
in the western sun; and jessamines and vine-trees, planted by a former
generation, spreading along the old garden-walls. But every year the
shabby stream of progress rises and engulfs one relic or another,
carrying off many and many a landmark and memory. Last year only, the
old church was standing, in its iron cage, at the junction of the
thoroughfares. It was the Church of England itself to Dolly and George
Vanborough in those early church-going days of theirs. There was the old
painting of the lion and the unicorn hanging from the gallery; the light
streaming through the brown saints over the communion-table. In
after-life the children may have seen other saints more glorious in
crimson and in purple, nobler piles and arches, but none of them have
ever seemed so near to heaven as the old Queen Anne building; and the
wooden pew with its high stools, through which elbows of straw were
protruding, where they used to kneel on either side of their aunt,
watching with awe-stricken faces the tears as they came falling from the
widow's sad eyes.

Lady Sarah could scarcely have told you the meaning of those tears as
they fell--old love and life partings, sorrows and past mercies, all
came returning to her with the familiar words of the prayers. The tears
fell bright and awe-stricken as she thought of the present--of distances
immeasurable--of life and its inconceivable mystery; and then her heart
would warm with hope perhaps of what might be to come, of the
overwhelming possibilities--how many of them to her lay in the warm
clasp of the child's hand that came pushing into hers!--For her, as for
the children, heaven's state was in the old wooden pew. Then the
sing-song of the hymn would flood the old church with its homely
cadence.

    Prepare your glad voices;
      Let Hisreal rejoice,

sang the little charity children; poor little Israelites, with blue
stockings, and funny woollen knobs to their fustian caps, rejoicing,
though their pastures were not green as yet, nor was their land
overflowing with milk and honey. How ever, they sang praises for others,
as all people do at times, thanks be to the merciful dispensation that
allows us to weep, to work, to be comforted, and to rejoice with one
another's hearts, consciously or unconsciously, as long as life exists.

Every lane, and corner, and archway had a childish story for Dolly and
her brother--for Dolly most especially, because girls cling more to the
inanimate aspects of life than boys do. For Dolly the hawthorn bleeds as
it is laid low and is transformed year after year into iron railings and
areas, for particulars of which you are requested to apply to the
railway company, and to Mr. Taylor, the house-agent. In those days the
lanes spread to Fulham, white with blossom in spring, or golden with the
yellow London sunsets that blazed beyond the cabbage-fields. In those
days there were gardens, and trees, and great walls along the high-road
that came from London, passing through the old white turnpike. There
were high brown walls along Kensington Gardens, reaching to the Palace
Gate; elms spread their shade, and birds chirrupped, and children played
behind them.

Dolly Vanborough and her brother had had many a game there, and knew
every corner and haunt of this sylvan world of children and ducks and
nursemaids. They had knocked their noses against the old sun-dial many
and many a time. Sometimes now, as she comes walking along the straight
avenues, Dolly thinks she can hear the echo of their own childish voices
whooping and calling to one another as they used to do. How often they
had played with their big cousin, Robert Henley, and the little Morgans,
round about the stately orange-house, and made believe to be statues in
the niches!

'I am Apollo,' cries George Vanborough, throwing himself into an
attitude.

'Apollo?' cries Robert, exploding with schoolboy wit: 'an Apollo-guy,
you mean.'

Dolly does not understand why the Morgan boys laugh and George blushes
up furiously. When they are tired of jumping about in the sun, the
statues straggle homewards, accompanied by Dolly's French governess, who
has been reading a novel on a bench close by. They pass along the front
of the old palace that stands blinking its sleepy windows across elmy
vistas, or into tranquil courts where sentries go pacing. Robert has his
grandmother living in the Palace, and he strides off across the court to
her apartments. The children think she is a witch, and always on the
watch for them, though they do not tell Robert so. The Morgans turn up
Old Street, and George and Dolly escort them so far on their way home.
It is a shabby street, with shops at one end and old-fashioned houses,
stone-stepped, bow-windowed at the other. Dear Old Street! where an echo
still lingers of the quaint and stately music of the past, of which the
voice comes to us like a song of Mozart, sounding above the dreamy
flutterings of a Wagner of the present! Little Zoe Morgan would linger
to peep at the parrot that lived next door in the area, with the little
page-boy, who always winked at them as they went by; little Cassie would
glance wistfully at a certain shop-front where various medals and
crosses were exposed for sale. There were even in those days convents
and Catholics established at Kensington, and this little repository had
been opened for their use.

When they have seen the little Morgans safe into their old brown
house--very often it is John Morgan who comes to the door to admit
them--(John is the eldest son, the curate, the tutor, the mainstay of
the straggling establishment)--Dolly and her brother trudge home through
the Square, followed by Mademoiselle, still lost in her novel. The
lilacs are flowering behind the rusty rails, the children know every
flagstone and window; they turn up a passage of narrow doorways and
wide-eaved roofs, and so get out into the high-road again. They look up
with friendly recognition at the little boy and girl in their quaint
Dutch garb standing on their pedestals above the crowd as it passes the
Vestry-hall; then they turn down a sunshiny spring lane, where ivy is
growing, and bricks are twinkling in the western sunshine; and they ring
at a gateway where an iron bell is swung. The house is called Church
House, and all its windows look upon gardens, along which the sunshine
comes flowing. The light used to fill Dolly's slanting wooden
school-room at the top of the house. When the bells were ringing, and
the sun-flood came in and made shadows on the wall, it used to seem to
her like a chapel full of music.

George wanted to make an altar one day, and to light Lady Sarah's toilet
candles, and to burn the sandal-wood matches; but Dolly, who was a
little Puritan, blew the matches out and carried the candles back to
their places.

'I shall go over to the Morgans,' said George, 'since you are so
disagreeable.'

Whether Dolly was agreeable or not, this was what George was pretty sure
to do.



CHAPTER II.

DUTCH TILES.

    O priceless art! O princely state,
    E'en while by sense of change opprest,
    Within to antedate
    Heaven's age of fearless rest.

    --J. H. Newman.


There are many disconnected pictures in Dorothea Vanborough's gallery,
drifting and following each other like the images of a dissolving-view.
There are voices and faces changing, people whom she hardly knows to be
the same appearing and disappearing. Looking back now-a-days through a
score or two of years, Dorothea can see many lights crossing and
reflecting one another, many strange places and persons in
juxtaposition. She can hear, as we all can, a great clamour of words and
of laughter, cries of pain and of sorrow and anger, through all of which
sound the sacred voices that will utter to her through life--and beyond
life she humbly prays.

Dorothea's pictures are but mist and fancy work, not made of paint and
canvas as is that one which hangs over the fire-place in the wainscot
dining-room at Church House in Kensington, where my heroine passed so
much of her life. It is supposed by some to be a Van der Helst. It
represents a golden brown grandmother, with a coiffe and a ruffle and a
grand chain round her neck, and a ring on her forefinger, and a
double-winged house in the background. This placid-faced Dutchwoman,
existing two centuries ago, has some looks still living in the face of
the Dorothea Vanborough of these days. Her descendants have changed
their name and their dress, cast away their ruffles, forgotten the story
of their early origin; but there is still a something that tells of it:
in Dolly's slow quaint grace and crumpled bronze hair, in her brother
George's black brows, in their aunt Lady Sarah Francis's round brown
eyes and big ears, to say nothing of her store of blue Dutch china. Tall
blue pots, with dragon handles, are ranged in rows upon the
chimney-board under the picture. On either side of the flame below are
blue tiles, that Lady Sarah's husband brought over from the Hague the
year before he died. Abraham, Jonah, Noah, Balaam tumbling off his blue
ass; the whole sacred history is there, lighted up by the flaring flame
of the logs.

When first George and Dolly came to live in the old house, then it was
the pictures came to life. The ass began to call out Balaam! Balaam! The
animals to walk two by two (all blue) into the ark. Jonah's whale
swallowed and disgorged him night after night, as George and Dolly sat
at their aunt's knee listening to her stories in the dusk of the
'children's hour;' and the vivid life that childhood strikes even into
inanimate things, awakened the widow's dull heart and the silent house
in the old by-lane in Kensington.

The lady over the fire-place had married in King Charles's reign; she
was Dorothea Vanborough and the first Countess of Churchtown. Other
countesses followed in due course, of whom one or two were engraved in
the passage overhead; the last was a miniature in Lady Sarah's own room,
her mother and my heroine's grandmother; a beautiful and wilful person,
who had grievously offended by taking a second husband soon after her
lord's demise in 1806. This second husband was himself a member of the
Vanborough family a certain Colonel Stanham Vanborough, a descendant of
the lady over the chimney-piece. He was afterwards killed in the
Peninsula. Lady Sarah bitterly resented her mother's marriage, and once
said she would never forgive it. It was herself that she never forgave
for her own unforgiveness. She was a generous-hearted woman, fantastic,
impressionable, reserved. When her mother died soon after Colonel
Vanborough, it was to her own home that Lady Sarah brought her little
step-brother, now left friendless, and justly ignored by the peerage,
where the elder sister's own life was concisely detailed as 'dau. John
Vanborough, last Earl of Churchtown, b. 1790, m. 1807, to Darby Francis,
Esq., of Church House, Kensington.'

Young Stanham Vanborough found but a cold welcome from Mr. Francis, but
much faithful care and affection, lavished, not without remorse, by the
sister who had been so long estranged. The boy grew up in time, and went
out into the world, and became a soldier as his father had been. He was
a simple, straightforward youth, very fond of his sister, and loth to
leave her, but very glad to be his own master at last. He married in
India, the daughter of a Yorkshire baronet, a pretty young lady, who had
come out to keep her brother's house. Her name was Philippa Henley, and
her fortune consisted chiefly in golden hair and two pearly rows of
teeth. The marriage was not so happy as it might have been; trouble
came, children died, the poor parents, in fear and trembling, sent their
one little boy home to Lady Sarah to save his life. And then, some three
years later, their little daughter Dolly was making her way, a young
traveller by land and by sea coming from the distant Indian station,
where she had been born, to the shelter of the old house in the old
by-lane in Kensington. The children found the door open wide and the
lonely woman on her threshold looking out for them. Mr. Francis was
dead, and it was an empty house by this time, out of which a whole home
had passed away. Lady Sarah's troubles were over, leaving little behind;
the silence of mid-life had succeeded to the loving turmoils and
jealousies and anxieties of earlier days, only some memories remained of
which the very tears and words seem wanting now and then, although other
people may have thought that if words failed the widow, the silent deeds
were there that should belong to all past affection.

One of the first things Dolly remembers is a landing-place one bitter
east-winded morning, with the white blast blowing dry and fierce from
the land, and swirling out to sea through the leafless forest of
shipping; the squalid houses fast closed and double-locked upon their
sleeping inmates: the sudden storms of dust and wind; the distant
clanking of some awakening pail, and the bewildered ayah, in her rings
and bangles, squatting on the ground and veiling her face in white
muslin.

By the side of the ayah stands my heroine, a little puppy-like girl,
staring as Indian children stare, at the strange dismal shores upon
which they are cast; staring at the lady in the grey cloak, who had come
on board with her papa's face, and caught her in her arms, and who is
her Aunt Sarah; at the big boy of seven in the red mittens, whose
photograph her papa had shown her in the verandah, and who is her
brother George; at the luggage as it comes bumping and stumbling off the
big ship; at the passengers departing. The stout little gentleman, who
used to take her to see the chickens, pats Dolly on the head, and says
he shall come and see her; the friendly sailor who carried her on shore
shakes hands, and then the clouds close in, and the sounds and the faces
disappear....

Presently, into Dolly's gallery come pleasanter visions of the old house
at Kensington, to which Lady Sarah took her straight away, with its
brick wall, and ivy creepers, and many-paned windows, and the stone
balls at either side of the door--on one of which a little dark-eyed
girl is sitting, expecting them.

'Who is dat?' says little three-year-old Dolly, running up, and pulling
the child's pinafore, to make sure that she is _real_.

Children believe in many things, in fairies, and sudden disappearances;
they would not think it very strange if they were to see people turn to
fountains and dragons in the course of conversation.

'That is a nice little girl like you,' said Lady Sarah, kindly.

'A nice little girl lite me?' said Dolly.

'Go away,' says the little strange girl, hiding her face in her hands.

'Have you come to play wiss me? My name is Dolliciavanble,' continues
Dolly, who is not shy, and quite used to the world, having travelled so
far.

'Is that your name? What a funny name,' says the little girl, looking
up. 'My name is Rhoda, but they call me Dody at our house. I'se four
years old.'

Dolly was three years old, but she could not speak quite plain; she took
the little girl's hand and stood by the ayah, watching the people
passing and repassing, the carriage being unpacked, Lady Sarah directing
and giving people money, George stumping about in everybody's way, and
then, somehow, everything and everybody seems going up and down stairs,
and in confusion; she is very tired and sleepy, and forgets all the
rest.

Next day Dolly wakes up crying for her papa. It is not the ship any
more. Everything is quite still, and her crib does not rock up and down.
'I sought he would be here,' said poor little Dolly, in a croaking,
waking voice, sitting up with crumpled curls and bright warm cheeks. It
is not her papa, but Aunt Sarah, who takes her up and kisses her, and
tries to comfort her, while the ayah, Nun Comee, who has been lying on
the floor, jumps up and dances in her flowing white garment and snaps
her black fingers, and George brings three tops to spin all at once.
Dolly is interested, and ceases crying and begins to smile and to show
all her little white teeth.

Lady Sarah rarely smiled. She used to frown so as not to show what she
felt. But Dolly from the first day had seemed to understand her; she was
never afraid of her; and she used to jump on her knee and make her
welcome to the nursery.

'_Is_ you very pretty?' said little Dolly one day, looking at the grim
face with the long nose and pinched lips. 'I think you is a very ugly
aunt.' And she smiled up in the ugly aunt's face.

'O Dolly! how naughty!' said Rhoda, who happened to be in Dolly's
nursery.

Rhoda was a little waif _protégée_, of Lady Sarah's. She came from the
curate's home close by, and was often sent in to play with Dolly, who
would be lonely, her aunt thought, without a companion of her own age;
Rhoda was Mr. Morgan's niece, and a timid little thing; she was very
much afraid at first of Dolly; so she was of the ayah, with her brown
face and earrings and monkey hands; but soon the ayah went back to India
with silver pins in her ears, taking back many messages to the poor
child-bereft parents, with a pair of Dolly's shoes, as a remembrance,
and a couple of dolls for herself as a token of good-will from her young
mistress. They were for her brothers, Nun Comee said, but it was
supposed that she intended to worship them on her return to her native
land.

The ayah being gone, little Rhoda soon ceased to be afraid of Dolly, the
kind, merry, helpful little playmate, who remained behind, frisking
along the passages and up and down the landing-places of Church House.
She was much nicer, Rhoda thought, than her own real cousins the Morgans
in Old Street.

As days go by, Dolly's pictures warm and brighten from early spring into
summer-time. By degrees they reach above the table and over and beyond
the garden roller. They are chiefly of the old garden, whose brick walls
seem to enclose sunshine and gaudy flowers all the summer through; of
the great Kensington parks, where in due season chestnuts are to be
found shining among the leaves and dry grasses; of the pond, where the
ducks are flapping and diving; of the house, which was little Rhoda's
home. This was the great bare house in Old Street, with plenty of noise,
dried herbs, content, children without end, and thick bread-and-butter.
There was also cold stalled ox on Sundays at one.

In those days life was a simple matter to the children, their days and
their legs lengthened together; they loved, they learned, and they
looked for a time that was never to be--when their father and mother
should come home and live with them again, and everybody was to be
happy. As yet the children thought they were only expecting happiness.

George went to school at Frant, near Tunbridge Wells, and came home for
the holidays. Dolly had a governess too, and she used to do her lessons
with little Rhoda in the slanting school-room at the top of Church
House. The little girls did a great many sums, and learnt some French,
and read little Arthur's _History of England_ to everybody's
satisfaction.

Kind Lady Sarah wrote careful records of the children's progress to her
brother, who had sent them to the faithful old sister at home. He heard
of the two growing up with good care and much love in the sunshine that
streamed upon the old garden; playing together on the terrace that he
remembered so well; pulling up the crocuses and the violets that grew in
the shade of the white holly-tree. George was a quaint, clever boy,
Sarah wrote; Dolly was not so quick, but happy and obedient, and growing
up like a little spring flower among the silent old bricks.

Lady Sarah also kept up a desultory correspondence with Philippa, her
sister-in-law. Mrs. Vanborough sent many minute directions about the
children; Dolly was to dine off cold meat for her complexion's sake, and
she wished her to have her hair crimped; and George was to wear
kid-gloves and write a better hand; and she hoped they were very good,
and that they sometimes saw their cousin Robert, and wrote to their
uncle, Sir Thomas Henley, Henley Court, Smokethwaite, Yorkshire: and she
and dear papa often and often longed for their darlings. Then came
presents--a spangled dress for Lady Sarah, and silver ornaments for
Dolly, and an Indian sword for George, with which he nearly cut off
Rhoda's head.



CHAPTER III.

TO OLD STREET BY THE LANES.

    And after April when May follows,
    And the white-throat builds, and all the swallows,
    ... And buttercups the little children's dower.

    --R. Browning.


In those days, as I have said, the hawthorn spread across the fields and
market-gardens that lay between Kensington and the river. Lanes ran to
Chelsea, to Fulham, to North End, where Richardson once lived and wrote
in his garden-house. The mist of the great city hid the horizon and
dulled the sound of the advancing multitudes; but close at hand, all
round about the old house, were country corners untouched--blossoms
instead of bricks in spring-time, summer shade in summer. There were
strawberry-beds, green, white, and crimson in turn. The children used to
get many a handful of strawberries from Mr. Penfold, the market-gardener
at the end of the lane, and bunches of radish when strawberries were
scarce. They gathered them for themselves on a bank where paving-stones
and coal-holes are now and a fine growth of respectable modern villas. I
believe that in those days there were sheep grazing in Kensington Gore.
It is certain that Mr. Penfold kept Alderneys in the field beyond his
orchard; and that they used to come and drink in a pond near his
cottage. He lived with his wife and his daughter, under an old tiled
roof, and with a rose-tree growing on the wall. In the window of the
cottage a little card was put up, announcing that "Curds-and-whey were
to be had within," and the children sometimes went there to drink the
compound out of Emma Penfold's doll's tea-things. The old pond was at
the garden-gate: there was a hedge round about it, and alder-trees
starting up against the sunset, and the lanes, and orchards beyond. The
water reflected the sunset in the sky and the birds flying home to the
sound of the evening bells. Sometimes Emma would come out of the
cottage, and stand watching the children play. She was a pretty girl,
with rosy cheeks and dark soft eyes. It was a quaint old corner, lonely
enough in the daytime; but of evenings, people would be
passing--labourers from their work, strollers in the fields, neighbours
enjoying the air. The cottage must have been as old as Church House
itself. It was chiefly remarkable for its beautiful damask rose-trees,
of which the red leaves sprinkled the threshold, across which pretty
Emma Penfold would step. I think it was for the sake of the rose-tree
that people sometimes stopped and asked for curds-and-whey. Emma would
dispense the horrible mixture, blushing beneath her basket-work plaits.

Sometimes in May mornings the children would gather hawthorn branches
out of the lanes, and make what they liked to call garlands for
themselves. The white blossoms looked pretty in Rhoda's dark hair; and
Mademoiselle coming to give them their music-lesson, would find the
little girls crowned with May-flower wreaths. It was hard work settling
down to lessons on those days. How slowly the clocks ticked when the
practice hour began; how the little birds would come hopping on the
window-ledge, before Dolly had half finished her sum; how cruel it was
of Mademoiselle to pull down the blind and frighten the poor little
birds away. Many pictures in Dolly's gallery belong to this bit of her
life. It seems one long day as she looks back to it, for when the sun
set Dolly too used to be put to bed.

As for little Rhoda she would be sent back to Old Street. When prayers
were over, long after Dolly was asleep, she would creep upstairs alone
to the very top of the house, and put herself to bed and blow out her
own candle if Zoe did not come for it. How bare and chill and lonely it
was to be all by oneself at the top of that busy house! 'I don't think
they would come, even if I screamed,' Rhoda would think as she lay
staring at the cupboard-door, and wondering if there was any one behind
it.

Once the door burst open and a great cat jumped out, and Rhoda's shriek
brought up one of John Morgan's pupils, who had been reading in his
room.

'Is anything the matter?' said the young man at the door.

'Oh, no, no--o! Please don't say I screamed?' said little Rhoda,
disappearing under the bed-clothes.

'Silly child!' (This was Aunt Morgan's voice in the passage.) 'Thank
you, Mr. Raban, I will go to her. A little girl of ten years old
frightened at a cat! For shame, Rhoda! There--go to sleep directly,' and
her Aunt Morgan vigorously tucked her up and gave her a kiss.

The Morgans were a cheerful and noisy household; little Rhoda lived
there, but she scarcely seemed to belong to it: she was like a little
stray waif born into some strange nest full of active, early, chirping
birds, all bigger and stronger than herself. The Rev. John Morgan was
master of the nest, which his step-mother kept in excellent order and
ruled with an active rod. There were two pupils, two younger brothers,
two sisters, and Rhoda Parnell, the forlorn little niece they had
adopted. Downstairs the fat parlour-maid and the old country cook were
established, and a succeeding generation of little charity-boys, who
were expected by Mrs. Morgan to work in the garden, go errands, and
learn their catechisms, while blacking the young gentlemen's boots in a
vault-like chamber set apart for that purpose.

Mrs. Morgan was a thrifty woman, and could not bear to think of time or
space being wasted, much less comestibles. Her life had been one long
course of early rising, moral and physical rectitude. She allowed John
to sit in an arm-chair, but no one else if she could help it. When poor
little Rhoda was tired, she used to go up to the room she shared with
Zoe, her youngest cousin, and lie down on the floor. If Zoe told her
mother, a message would come immediately for Rhoda to help with the poor
flannel.

This poor flannel was Mrs. Morgan's own kingdom. She used to preside
over passive rolls of grey and blue. She could cut out any known garment
in use in any civilized community. She knew the right side of the stuff,
the right way to turn the scissors. She could contrive, direct, turn
corners, snip, snap on occasions, talking the whole time; she was
emphatic always. In her moments of relaxation she dearly loved a
whisper. She wore a front of curls with a velvet band and
Kensington-made gowns and shoes. Cassie and Zoe, when they grew up to be
young ladies, used to struggle hard for Knightsbridge fashions. The
Kensington style was prim in those days. The ladies wore a dress
somewhat peculiar to themselves and cut to one pattern by the Misses
Trix in their corner house. There was a Kensington world (I am writing
of twenty years ago) somewhat apart from the big uneasy world surging
beyond the turnpike--a world of neighbours bound together by the old
winding streets and narrow corners in a community of venerable elm-trees
and traditions that are almost levelled away. Mr. Awl, the bootmaker, in
High Street, exhibited peculiar walking-shoes long after high-heels and
kid brodekins had come into fashion in the metropolis. The last time I
was in his shop I saw a pair of the old-fashioned, flat, sandalled
shoes, directed to Miss Vieuxtemps, in Palace Green. Tippets,
poke-bonnets, even a sedan-chair, still existed among us long after they
had been discarded by more active minds. In Dolly's early days, in
Kensington Square itself, high-heels and hoops were not unknown; but
these belonged to ladies of some pretension, who would come in state
along the narrow street leading from the Square, advancing in powder,
and hoops, and high-heeled shoes--real hoops, real heels, not modern
imitations, but relics unchanged since the youth of the ghost-like old
sisters. They lived in a tall house, with a mansard roof. As the
children passed they used to look up at the cobweb-windows, at the
narrow doorway with its oaken daïs, and the flagged court and the worn
steps. Lady Sarah told Dolly that Mrs. Francis had known Talleyrand,
when he was living there in one of the old houses of the Square. At any
time it would be easy to conjure up ghosts of great people with such
incantations of crumbling wall and oaken device and panel. Not
Talleyrand only, but a whole past generation, still lives for us among
these quaint old ruins.

The Kensington tradespeople used to be Conservative, as was natural,
with a sentry in the High Street, and such a ménagerie of lions and
unicorns as that which they kept over their shop-fronts. They always
conversed with their customers while they measured a yard of silk or
sold a skein of thread across their counters. Dolly would feel flattered
when Mr. Baize found her grown. Even Lady Sarah would graciously reply
to his respectful inquiries after her health on the rare occasions when
she shopped herself. Mrs. Morgan never trusted anybody with her
shopping.

'_I_ always talk to Baize,' she would say, complacently, coming away
after half-an-hour's exchange of ideas with that respectable man. She
would repeat his conversation for the benefit of her son and his pupils
at tea-time. 'I think tradespeople are often very sensible and
well-informed persons,' said Mrs. Morgan, 'when they do not forget
themselves, Mr. Raban. Radical as you are, you must allow that
Kensington tradespeople are always respectful to the clergy--our
position is too well established; they know what is due to us,' said
Mrs. Morgan gravely.

'They don't forget what is due to themselves,' said Mr. Raban, with an
odd sort of smile.

'That they don't,' said Robert Henley, who was Morgan's other pupil at
that time. 'I daresay Master George wishes they would; he owes a
terrible long bill at Baize's for ties and kid-gloves.'

Presently came a ring at the bell. 'Here he is,' cries John, starting up
hastily. 'No more tea, thank you, mother.'

George Vanborough used also to read with John Morgan during the
holidays. The curate's energy was unfailing; he slaved, taught, panted,
and struggled for the family he had shouldered. What a good fellow he
was! Pack clouds away, no shades or evil things should come near him as
he worked; who ever piped to him that he did not leap, or call to him
that he did not shout in answer. With what emphasis he preached his dull
Sunday sermon, with what excitement he would to his admiring sisters and
mother read out his impossible articles in the _Vestryman's Magazine_ or
elsewhere, how liberally he dashed and italicised his sentences, how
gallantly he would fly to his pen or his pulpit in defence of friend or
in attack of foe (the former being flesh and blood, and the latter
chiefly spiritual). And then he was in love with a widow--how he admired
her blue and pink eyes; he could not think of marrying until the boys
were out in the world and the girls provided for. But with Joe's wit and
Tom's extraordinary powers, and the girls' remarkable amiability, all
this would surely be settled in the course of a very short time.

The Morgan family was certainly a most united and affectionate clan. I
don't know that they loved each other more than many people do, but they
certainly believed in each other more fervently. They had a strange and
special fascination for George, who was not too young to appreciate the
curate's unselfishness.

The younger Morgans, who were a hearty, jolly race, used to laugh at
George. Poor boy, he had already begun to knock his head, young as it
was, against stone walls; his schoolfellows said he had cracked it with
his paradoxes. At twelve he was a stout fellow for his age, looking
older than he really was. He was slow and clumsy, he had a sallow
complexion, winking blue eyes, a turn-up nose, and heavy dark eyebrows;
there was something honest and almost pathetic at times in the glance of
these blue eyes, but he usually kept them down from shyness as well as
from vanity, he didn't dare look in people's faces, he thought he should
see them laughing at him. He was very lazy, as sensitive people often
are; he hated games and active amusements; he had a soft melancholy
voice that was his one endowment, besides his gift for music; he could
work when he chose, but he was beginning life in despair with it, and he
was not popular among his companions; they called him conceited, and
they were right; but it was a melancholy conceit, if they had but known
it. The truth was, however, that he was too ugly, too clever, too clumsy
to get on with boys of a simpler and wholesomer mind. Even John Morgan,
his friend and preceptor, used to be puzzled about him and distressed at
times. 'If George Vanborough were only more like his own brothers, there
would be something to be done with him,' thought honest John as those
young gentlemen's bullet-heads passed the window where the pupil and his
preceptor were at work. If only--there would be a strange monotony in
human nature, I fancy, if all the 'if onlys' could be realised, and we
had the moulding of one another, and pastors and masters could turn
assenting pupils out by the gross like the little chalk rabbits Italian
boys carry about for sale.

Dolly was very well contented with her brother just as he was. She
trusted his affection, respected his cleverness, and instinctively
guessed at his vanities and morbidities. Even when she was quite a
child, Dolly, in her sweet downright way, seemed to have the gift of
healing the wounds of her poor St. Sebastian, who, when he was a little
boy, would come home day after day smarting and bleeding with the arrows
of his tormentors. These used to be, alternately, Lady Sarah herself,
Cassie Morgan, and Zoe, the two boys when they were at home for the
holidays, and little Rhoda, whom he declared to be the most malicious of
them all. The person who treated George with most sympathy and
confidence was Mrs. Morgan, that active and garrulous old lady, to whom
anybody was dear who would listen to the praises of her children.

Robert Henley, as I have said, was also studying with John Morgan. He
had just left Eton. Lady Sarah asked him to Church House at her
sister-in-law's request; but he did not often find time to come and see
them. He used to be tramping off to Putney, where he and his friend
Frank Raban kept a boat; or they would be locked up together with ink
and blots and paper in John Morgan's study. Raban was older than Henley.
He was at College, but he had come up for a time to read for his degree.

Old Betty, the cook at John Morgan's, was a Yorkshire woman, and she
took a motherly interest in the pupils. She had much to say about young
Mr. Raban, whose relations she knew in Yorkshire. Betty used to call
Frank Raban 'a noist young man.'

'He's Squoire's hair and grandsun loike,' she told Rhoda and Dolly one
day. 'They cannot do n' less nor roast a hox when 'a cooms t' hage.'

After this Rhoda used to stand on tip-toe and respectfully peep through
the study window at the heads and the books and the tobacco-smoke
within; but there was a big table in the way, and she could never see
much more than her own nose reflected in the glass. Once or twice, when
George was in the way, as a great favour he would be allowed to
accompany the young men in one of their long expeditions in big boots.
They would come home late in the evening, tired and hungry and calling
out for food. At whatever hour they came old Betty had a meal of cold
meat and cake for them, of which George partook with good appetite. At
Church House, if George was late for dinner he had to wait for tea and
thin bread-and-butter at eight o'clock. Lady Sarah, who had fought many
a battle for George's father, now--from some curious retrospective
feeling--seemed to feel it her duty to revive many of her late husband's
peculiarities, and one of them was that nothing was to be allowed to
interfere with the routine of the house. Routine there was none at the
curate's, although there were more hours, perhaps, than in any other
house in Old Street. The sun rose and set, the seasons drifted through
the back garden in changing tints and lights, each day brought its
burden, and the dinner-time was shifted to it.



CHAPTER IV.

AN AFTERNOON AT PENFOLD'S.

    Whilst yet the calm hours creep,
      Whilst flowers are gay,
    Whilst eyes that change ere night
      Make glad the day,
    Whilst yet the calm hours creep,
    Dream thou, and from thy sleep
    Then wake to weep.


To this day Dolly remembers the light of a certain afternoon in May when
all was hot and silent and sleepy in the school-room at Church House.
The boards cracked, the dust-moats floated; down below, the garden burnt
with that first summer glow of heat that makes a new world out of such
old, well-worn materials as twigs, clouds, birds, and the human beings
all round us. The little girls had been at work, and practised, and
multiplied, and divided again; they had recollected various facts
connected with the reign of Richard the Second. Mademoiselle had
suppressed many a yawn, Dolly was droning over her sum--six and five
made thirteen--over and over again. 'That I should have been, that thou
shouldst have been, that he shouldst have been,' drawled poor little
Rhoda. Then a great fly hums by, as the door opens, and Lady
Sarah appears with a zigzag of sunlight shooting in from the
passage--a ray of hope. Lady Sarah has her bonnet on, and a sort of
put-away-your-lessons-children face.

Is there any happiness like that escape on a summer's day from the dull
struggle with vacuity, brown paper-covered books, dates, ink-blots,
cramps, and crotchets, into the open air of birds, sounds, flowers,
liberty everywhere? As the children come out into the garden with Lady
Sarah, two butterflies are flitting along the terrace. The Spanish
jessamine has flowered in the night, and spreads its branches out
fragrant with its golden drops. Lady Sarah gathers a sprig and opens her
parasol. She is carrying a book and a shawl, and is actually smiling.
The pigeons go whirring up and down from their pigeon-cote high up in
the air. Four o'clock comes sounding across the ivy-wall, the notes
strike mellow and distinct above the hum of human insects out and about.
Half Lady Sarah's district is sunning itself on the door-steps, children
are squatting in the middle of the road. The benches are full in
Kensington Gardens, so are the steamers on the river. To these people
walking in their garden there comes the creaking sound of a large
wheelbarrow, and at the turn of the path they discover Mr. Penfold
superintending a boy and a load of gravel. Mr. Penfold is a cheerful
little man, with gloomy views of human nature. According to Penfold's
account there were those (whoever they might be) who was always a
plotting against you. They was hup to everything, and there was no
saying what they was not at the bottom of. But Penfold could be heven
with them, and he kep' hisself to hisself, and named no names. Dolly
felt grateful to these unknown beings when she heard Mr. Penfold telling
Lady Sarah they had said as how that Miss Dorothea 'ad been makin'
hinquiry respectin' of some puppies. He did not know as how she wished
it generally know'd, but he might mention as he 'ad two nice pups down
at his place, and Miss Dorothea was welcome to take her choice.

It is a dream Dolly can scarcely trust herself to contemplate. Lady
Sarah does not say no, but she looks at her watch, telling Dolly to run
back to the house, and see if the post is come in, and continues
graciously, 'I am much obliged to you, Penfold; I have no doubt Miss
Dorothea will be glad to have one of your puppies. What is your daughter
doing? Is she at home?'

'Yes, my lady,' says Penfold, mysteriously pointing over his shoulder
with his thumb. 'They would have 'ad us send the gurl away, but she is a
good gurl, though she takes her own way, and there are those as puts her
hup to it.'

'We all like our own way, without anybody's suggestions,' said Lady
Sarah, smiling. Then Dolly comes flying from the house, and tumbles over
a broom-stick, so that she has to stop to pick up her handful of
letters.

'Thank you, my dear: now if you like we will go and see the puppies,'
says Aunt Sarah. 'No Indian letter' (in a disappointed voice). 'I wish
your mother would----. Run on, Dolly.'

So Dolly runs on with Rhoda, thinking of puppies, and Lady Sarah follows
thinking of her Indian letter, which is lying under the laurel-tree
where Dolly dropped it, and where Penfold presently spies it out and
picks it up, unconscious of its contents. After examining the seal and
some serious thought, he determines to follow the trio. They have been
advancing in the shadow of the hedges, through the gaps of which they
can see people at work in the sunshiny cabbage-fields. Then they come to
Earl's Court, and its quaint old row of houses, with their lattices
stuffed with spring-flowers, and so to the pond by the road-side (how
cool and deep it looked as they passed by), and then by the wicket-gate
they wander into Penfold's orchard, of which some of the trees are still
in flower, and where Lady Sarah is soon established on the stump of a
tree. Her magazine pages flutter as the warm, sweet winds come blowing
from across the fields--the shadows travel on so quietly that you cannot
tell when they go or whither. There is no sound but a little calf
bleating somewhere. Rhoda is picking daisies in the shade, Dolly is
chirping to herself by the hedge that separates the orchard from the
Penfolds' garden. There is a ditch along one part of the hedge, with a
tangle of grass and dock-leaves and mallows; a bird flies out of the
hedge, close by Dolly's nose, and goes thrilling and chirping up into
the sky, where the stars are at night; the daisies and buttercups look
so big, the grass is so long and so green; there are two purple flowers
with long stalks close at hand, but Dolly does not pick them; her little
heart seems to shake like the bird's song, it is all so pretty; the
dandelions are like lamps burning. She tries to think she is a bird, and
that she lives in the beautiful hedges.

From behind the hawthorn hedge some voices come that Dolly should
certainly know....

'You'll believe me another time,' cries some one, with a sort of sniff,
and speaking in tones so familiar that Dolly, without an instant's
hesitation, sets off running to the wicket-gate, which had been left
open, and through which she now sees, as she expects, George with his
curly head and his cricketing cap standing in the Penfolds' garden, and
with him her cousin Robert, looking very tall as he leans against a
paling, and talks to Mrs. Penfold. There is also another person whom
Dolly recognises as Mr. Raban, and she thinks of the 'hox,' as she gazes
with respect at the pale young man with his watch-chain and horseshoe
pin. He has a straw hat and white shoes and a big knobstick in his hand,
and nodding to Robert, he strides off towards the cottage. Dolly watches
him as he walks in under the porch: no doubt he is going to drink curds
and whey, she thinks.

'Why, Dolly! are _you_ here?' says Robert, coming towards her.

'Missy is often here,' says Mrs. Penfold, looking not over-pleased. 'Is
Mrs. Marker with you, my dear?'

Dolly would have answered, but from the farther end of the garden behind
Mrs. Penfold, two horrible apparitions advance, rusty black, with many
red bobs and tassels dangling, and deliberate steps and horrible crinkly
eyes. Old Betty would call them Bubbly Jocks; Dolly has no name for
them, but shrinks away behind her big cousin.

'Here are Dolly's bogies,' says George, who is giving himself airs on
the strength of his companionship and his short cut. 'Now then, Dolly,
they are going to bite like ghosts.'

'Don't,' cried Dolly.

'Are you afraid of turkeys, Dolly! Little girls of eight years old
shouldn't be afraid of anything,' said Rhoda, busy with her flowers.
Alas! Rhoda's philosophy is not always justified by subsequent
experience. It is secondhand, and quoted from Mrs. Morgan.

'We are going to see the puppies,' says Dolly, recovering her courage as
the turkey-cocks go by. 'Won't you come, Robert?'

'Puppies!' said Robert. 'Are you fond of puppies, Dolly? My Aunt Henley
says she prefers them to her own children.'

'So should I,' says Dolly, opening her eyes.

Presently Robert and Dolly come back, with two little fuzzy heads wildly
squeaking from Dolly's lap, and old Bunch, the mother of the twins,
following, half-agonised, half-radiant. They set the little staggering
bundles down upon the ground, and Dolly squats in admiration while
Robert goes off upon his business, and Mrs. Penfold hurries back into
the house as Mr. Penfold appears crossing the lane.

Mr. Penfold was gone: Dolly was still watching with all-absorbed eyes,
when George started up. 'I say, Dolly! look there at Aunt Sarah.'

Aunt Sarah! What had come to her, and how strange she looked walking
through the orchard with a curious rapid step, and coming towards the
open wicket-gate through which the children could see her. Her bonnet
was falling off her face, her hair was pushed back, she came very quick,
straight on, looking neither to the right nor to the left, with her
fixed eyes and pale cheeks. Penfold seemed hurrying after her; he
followed Lady Sarah into the garden, and then out again into the road.
She hardly seemed to know which way she went.

What had happened? Why didn't she answer when Dolly called her? As she
passed so swiftly, the children thought that something must have
happened; they did not know what. George set off running after her;
Dolly waited for a minute.

'Why did she look so funny?' said Rhoda, coming up.

'I don't know,' said Dolly, almost crying.

'She had a black-edged letter in her hand,' said Rhoda, 'that Mr.
Penfold brought. When people think they are going to die they write and
tell you on black paper.'

Then Mrs. Penfold came running out of the cottage with a shriek, and the
children running too, saw the gardener catch Aunt Sarah in his arms, as
she staggered and put out her hands. When they came up, she lay back in
his arms scarce conscious, and he called to them to bring some water
from the pond. No wonder Dolly remembered that day, and Aunt Sarah lying
long and straight upon the grass by the road-side. The letter had fallen
from her hand, they threw water upon her face; it wetted her muslin
dress, and her pale cheeks; a workman crossing from the field, stood and
looked on awhile; and so did the little children from the carpenter's
shed up the road, gazing with wondering eyes at the pale lady beginning
to move again at last and to speak so languidly.

The labourer helped to carry her into the cottage as she revived. George
had already run home for Marker. Dolly and Rhoda, who were shut out by
Mrs. Penfold, wandered disconsolately about the garden and into the
orchard again, where Aunt Sarah's parasol was lying under the tree, and
her book thrown face downwards: presently the little girls came
straggling back with it to the garden-house once more.

The parlour door was shut close when they reached it, the kitchen door
was open. What was that shrill shivering cry? Who could it be? Perhaps
it was some animal, thought Dolly.

In the kitchen some unheeded pot was cooking and boiling over; the
afternoon sun was all hot upon the road outside, and Bunch and the
puppies had lain down to sleep in a little heap on the step of the
house.

Long, long after, Dolly remembered that day, everything as it happened:
Marker's voice inside the room; young Mr. Raban passing by the end of
the lane talking to Emma Penfold. (Mrs. Penfold had unlocked the
back-door, and let them out.) After a time the shrill sobs ceased; then
a clock struck, and the boiling pot in the kitchen fell over with a
great crash, and Rhoda ran to see, and at that moment the parlour door
opened, and Lady Sarah came out, very pale still and very strange,
leaning, just as if she was old, upon Marker and Mr. Penfold. But she
started away and seemed to find a sudden strength, and caught Dolly up
in her arms. 'My darling, my darling,' she said, 'you have only me
now--only me. Heaven help you, my poor, poor children.' And once more
she burst into the shrill sighing sobs. It was Aunt Sarah who had been
crying all the time for her brother who was dead.

This was the first echo of a mourning outcry that reached the children.
They were told that the day was never to come now of which they had
spoken so often; their father would never come home--they were orphans.
George was to have a tall hat with crape upon it. Marker went into town
to buy Dolly stuff for a new black frock. Aunt Sarah did not smile when
she spoke to them, and told them that their mamma would soon be home
now. Dolly could not understand it all very well. Their father had been
but a remembrance; she did not remember him less because Lady Sarah's
eyes were red and the letters were edged with black. Dolly didn't cry
the first day, though Rhoda did; but in the night when she woke up with
a little start and a moan from a dream in which she thought it was her
papa who was lying by the pond, Aunt Sarah herself came and bent over
her crib.

But next morning the daisies did not look less pretty, nor did the puppy
cease to jump, nor, if the truth be told, did Dolly herself; nor would
kind Stanham Vanborough have wished it....

Robert came into the garden and found the children with a skipping-rope,
and was greatly shocked, and told them they should not skip about.

'I was not skipping,' said Rhoda. 'I was turning the rope for Dolly.'

Dolly ran off, blushing. Had she done wrong? She had not thought so. I
cannot say what dim unrealised feelings were in her little heart;
longings never to be realised, love never to be fulfilled. She went up
into her nursery, and hid there in a corner until Rhoda came to find her
and to tell her dinner was ready.



CHAPTER V.

STEEL PENS AND GOOSE QUILLS.

    Virtue, how frail it is,
      Friendship too rare;
    Love, how it sells poor bliss
      For proud despair.


The letter announcing poor Stanham's death came from a Captain Palmer, a
friend of Stan's, whose ship was stationed somewhere in that latitude,
and who happened to have been with him at the time. They had been out
boar-hunting in the marshes near Calcutta. The poor Major's illness was
but a short one, produced by sunstroke, so the Captain wrote. His
affairs were in perfect order. He had been handsomely noticed in the
Bengal _Hurkaru_. Of his spiritual state Captain Palmer felt less able
to speak. Although not a professed Christian, poor Stanham had for some
time past attended the services of the Scotch chapel at Dum Dum, where
Mr. McFlaggit had been permitted to awaken many sleepers to a deep sense
of spiritual unrest. Captain Palmer believed that Major Vanborough had
insured his life for 2,000_l._, and the widow and children would also be
entitled to something from the regimental fund. Captain Palmer then went
on to say that he had been attending another deathbed, that of a native
gentleman, whose wives and orphan children having been left unprovided
for, had been happily brought to see the past errors of their faith and
had come forward in a body. They were about to be sent to England under
the charge of Miss M'Grudder, who had done so much good work among the
Zenanas. Captain Palmer wound up by a friendly offer of assistance and a
message from Mrs. Vanborough. She did not feel equal to writing, she was
utterly prostrate. She sent fondest love, and would write by the next
mail.

So this was the children's first taste of the fruit of the tree of life
and death growing in that garden of Eden and childhood through which we
all come wandering into life, a garden blooming still,--it may be, in
the square before the house,--where little Adams and Eves still sport,
innocent and uncareful for the future, gathering the fruits as they
ripen in the sunshine, hearing voices and seeing their childish visions,
naming the animals as a new creation passes before them.

Lady Sarah longed to get away when her first burst of grief was over.
The sleepy, drowsy old place seemed to stifle her with its calm content
and sunny indifference. But she wanted to hear more of Philippa's plans
before she formed any of her own, and meanwhile she could cry unobserved
within the old walls where she had loved poor Stan, and seen him grow up
from a boy; no wonder, no triumphant paragon; but a kindly, gentle,
simple creature, whom she had loved with all her heart, as Dolly now
loved George, and without whom the world seemed a wanting place--though
there were many wiser and more brilliant men left in it than poor
Stanham Vanborough. Robert, after some incompetent attempts at
consolation, was obliged to return to Cambridge.

Poor Mrs. Vanborough's 'plans' were rather vague, and all crossed one
another and came on different scraps of papers, contradicting and
utterly bewildering, though good Lady Sarah had docketed them and tied
them up together for more convenient reference. They were to write to
her by every post, Philippa said. Why could they not come to her? She
longed for her children. She scarcely knew how to bear her sorrow. She
dreaded the journey, the cold, empty, home-coming, the life in England,
so different from what she had dreamed. The doctor said it would be
madness for her to move as yet. Her brother, Colonel Henley ('Dear
Charles! he was goodness itself'), suggested Italy. Would Lady Sarah
consent to this, and meet her with the children? Or would she even come
as far as Paris? But there were difficulties in everything
everywhere--cruel money difficulties, she was told. There was a lawsuit
now coming on in the Calcutta Courts with the insurance office in which
poor dear Stan had insured his life. Captain Palmer said her presence
was necessary. If it was given against her, she was utterly penniless;
and, meanwhile, harassed, detained.... Perhaps, on her return, she might
take boarders or Indian children--would lady Sarah advertise at once...?
What did George advise? When should she see them all again? Her heart
yearned in vain--months might elapse. Dependence she could not bear.
Even Sarah's kindness was bitter to her, when she thought of the past.
All were kind--all was sad. The poor thing seemed utterly distracted.

Lady Sarah had written that Church House was her home, and that she must
come at once to her home and her children.

Mrs. Vanborough wrote that this could not be. Alas, alas! it was only a
bright dream, from which she sometimes awoke (so Philippa wrote) to find
herself a mourner in a foreign land, watching the slow progress of the
law.

'Why didn't she come?' wrote Lady Henley from the Court. 'When will she
come?' the children asked. Her room was ready, the bed was made, the
fire burning. Dolly used to pick nosegays for her mamma's toilet-table,
and stick pins in the cushion in stars. She made little bags of lavender
to scent the great cabinet. It was one of those welcomes that are wasted
in life, one of those guest-chambers made ready to which the guest does
not come. They look just like any other rooms unless you know their
history.

Dolly often followed Marker when she went in to see that all was in
order. One day the fire blazed comfortably; although the rain was
beating against the window, a gleam of sun came from the inner
dressing-room, that looked out cross-ways along the garden. 'Do you
think she will come soon, Marker?' Dolly asked, peeping about the room.

'I don't think nothing at all, my dear,' said Marker, poking the fire.
'Why don't you go and play with Miss Rhoda? She came with Mrs. Morgan
just now.'

'Is Rhoda here?' cries Dolly, starting off instantly.

Rhoda was there; she had come with her aunt, who was talking to Lady
Sarah in the drawing-room.

Mrs. Morgan took a very long time to say what she had to say, and had
left Rhoda outside in the hall. The little girls listened to Mrs.
Morgan's voice as it went on, and on, and on. They sat on the stairs and
played at being ladies too, and Rhoda told Dolly a great many secrets
that she was not to tell, in a mysterious whisper just like her aunt's.
Mr. Raban was gone away, she said, and he had married somebody, and Aunt
Morgan said she should never speak to him again, and Mrs. Penfold came
crying, and Aunt Morgan scolded and scolded, and Rhoda thought Emma
Penfold was gone too, and just then the drawing-room door opened; Mrs.
Morgan came out, looking very busy and bustled off with Rhoda. Lady
Sarah cut Dolly's questions very short and forbade her going to the
cottage again.

It was the very next day that Dolly and Rhoda met old Penfold walking in
the lane, as they were coming home with Mademoiselle.

Grumbo ran to meet him, barking, wagging his tail, and creeping along
the ground with delight.

Penfold, who had been passing on, stooped to caress the puppy's head
with his brown creased hand, and seeing Dolly, he nodded kindly to her
as she walked by with Mademoiselle.

'Has Emma come home to the cottage?' asked Rhoda, lingering.

Penfold frowned. His honest red face turned crimson. 'She's not come
back, nor will she,' he said. 'She has got a 'usband now, and she is
gone a-travellin', and if they hast you, you can tell them as I said so,
Miss Rhoda, nor should I say otherwise if they was here to contradic'
me.' He spoke in a fierce defiant way. Mademoiselle called shrilly to
the children to come on.

Dolly looked after the old gardener as he slowly walked away down the
lane: he looked very old and tired, and she wished her aunt had not told
her to keep away from the cottage.

Emma's name was never mentioned; Raban's, too, was forgotten; Mrs.
Vanborough still delayed from one reason and another.

     _From_ MRS. VANBOROUGH
     _to the_ LADY SARAH FRANCIS,
     _Church House, Kensington_.

     _Bugpore, April 1--, 18--._

     DEAREST SARAH,--I fear that you will be totally unprepared (not
     more so, however, than I was myself) for a great and sudden
     change in my life of sad regrets (sad and regretful it will
     ever be), notwithstanding the altered circumstances which fate
     has forced upon me during the last few months that I have spent
     in sorrowful retirement, with spirits and health shattered and
     nerves unstrung. During these long lonely months, weighed down
     by care and harassed by business, which I was utterly incapable
     of understanding, I know not what would have become of me if
     (during my brother's absence on regimental duties) it had not
     been for the unremitting attention and generous devotion of one
     without whose support I now feel I could not bring myself to
     face the struggle of a solitary life. For the sake of my poor
     fatherless children more even than for my own, I have accepted
     the name and protection of Captain Hawtry Palmer, of the Royal
     Navy, a sailor, of a family of sailors. Joanna, my brother's
     wife, was a Palmer, and from her I have often heard of Hawtry
     at a time when I little thought.... You, dearest, who know me
     as I am, will rejoice that I have found rest and strength in
     another, though happiness I may not claim.

     Captain Palmer is a man of iron will and fervent principle. He
     must make me good, I tell him, unless sadness and resignation
     can be counted for goodness. Your poor Philippa is but a faulty
     creature, frail and delicate, and of little power; and yet,
     with all my faults, I feel that I am necessary to him, and,
     wreck as I am, there are those who do not utterly forget me.
     And, as he says with his quaint humour, there is not much to
     choose between the saints and sinners of the world. A thousand
     thousand kisses to my precious children. You will bring them to
     meet me next year, will you not, when Captain Palmer promises
     that I shall return to my real home--for your home is my home,
     is it not?

     For the present, I remain on a visit to my friend Mrs.
     M'Grudder, an intimate friend of Captain Palmer, with one only
     daughter.

     The marriage will not, of course, take place for six weeks.
     Joanna will describe her brother to you. I am anxious to hear
     all she says about Hawtry and myself and our marriage. Pray
     announce my great news to my darlings. Let them write to me
     without reserve.

     Ever, dearest Sarah,

     Your very devoted

     PHILIPPA.

Poor Lady Sarah read the letter one white, cold, east-windy day, when
the sun shone, and the dry, parching wind blew the wreaths of dust along
the ground. As she read the curious, heartless words, it seemed to her
that the east-wind was blowing into the room,--into her heart,--drying
up all faith in life, all tears for the past, all hope for the future.
Had she a heart, this cruel woman, poor Stan's wife and Dolly's mother?
Can women live and be loved, and bear children, and go through life
without one human feeling, one natural emotion; take every blessing of
God, and every sacred sorrow, and live on, without knowing either the
blessing or the sorrow? Lady Sarah tore the letter up carefully and very
quietly, for Dolly was by her side, and would have asked to see it. She
was not angry just then, but cold and sad, unspeakably sad. 'Poor
woman!' she thought, 'was this all; this the end of Stan's tender life
devotion; this the end of his pride and tender trust?' She could see him
now, whispering to Philippa, as they sat together on the old bench by
the pond, a handsome pair, people said, and well suited. Well suited!
She got up shivering from her chair, and went to the fire, and threw the
letter in, shred by shred, while the sun poured in fierce, and put out
the flames.

'Are you cold, Aunt Sarah?' said Dolly, coming to her side. Sarah moved
away. She was afraid that even now it was burnt Dolly might read the
cruel letter in the fire. 'For my children's sake!' The little red
flames seemed to be crackling the words, as they smouldered among the
coals, and a shrill, sudden blast against the window seemed hissing out
that Captain Palmer was a man of iron will. As they stood side by side,
Lady Sarah looked steadily away from little Dolly's eyes, and told her
that her mamma was going to marry again.

Poor Dolly turned the colour of the little flames when her aunt told
her. She said nothing, not even to Rhoda, nor to Mrs. Morgan, who called
immediately upon hearing the rumour. Lady Sarah was not at home, but
Mrs. Morgan came in all the same, and closely questioned Dolly upon the
subject.

'What is the gentleman's name, my dear?' she asked.

'I don't know,' said Dolly.

'Why, Mr. Palmer, to be sure,' said Rhoda.

In due time the news came of the marriage, and then poor Aunt Sarah had
to wipe her eyes, and to give up writing on black-edged paper. The
clocks went round and round, and the earth rolled on, and seasons spread
their feasts, and the winds swept them away in turn; summer burnt into
autumn in cloud and vapour. The winter came closing in, and the snow
fell thick upon the lanes and the gardens, on the Kensington house-tops
and laurel-trees, on the old church tower, and the curate's well-worn
waterproof cape, as he trudged to and fro. It fell on the old garden
walls and slanting roof of Church House, with little Dolly, safe
sheltered within, warming herself by the baked Dutch tiles.



CHAPTER VI.

DOWNSTAIRS IN THE DARK.

    D'un linceuil de point d'Angleterre
    Que l'on recouvre sa beauté ...
    Que des violettes de parme
    Au lieu des tristes fleurs des morts,
    Où chaque fleur est une larme,
    Pleuvent en bouquets sur son corps.

    --T. Gautier.


There are old houses in other places besides Kensington. Perhaps, it is
from early associations that Dolly has always had so great a liking for
walls furnished with some upholstery of the past, and set up by strong
hands that seem to have had their own secrets for making their work last
on. Some of these old piles stand like rocks, defying our lives as they
have defied the generations before us. We come upon them everywhere, set
upon high hills, standing in wide country-places, crowded into the
narrow streets of a city. Perhaps it is the golden Tiber that flows past
the old doorways, perhaps it is the Danube rushing by, or the grey
Thames running to the marshes, or the Seine as it shines between the
banks. There is an old house in the Champs Elysées at Paris where most
English people have lived in turn, and to which Dolly's fate brought her
when she was about twelve years old.

The prompter rings the bell, and the scene shifts to the Maison Vâlin,
and to one night, twenty years ago, when the two little girls were
tucked up in bed. The dim night-light was put on the round marble table,
the curtains were drawn, but all the same they could hear the noise of
the horses trampling and the sabots clanking in the courtyard down
below. Lady Sarah had sent her little niece to bed, and she now stood at
the door and said, 'Good-night, my dears.' The second nightcap was only
that of a little stray school-girl come to spend a holiday, from one of
those vast and dreary establishments scattered all about the deserted
suburbs of the great city: of which the lights were blazing from the
uncurtained drawing-room windows, and its great semicircle of dark hills
flashing.

Lady Sarah had come to Paris to meet Dolly's mamma, who had been married
more than a year by this time, and who was expected home at last. She
was coming _alone_, she wrote. She had at length received Captain
Palmer's permission to visit her children; but not even her wishes could
induce him to quit his beloved frigate. She should, therefore, leave him
cruising along the Coromandel coast, and start in January, for which
month her passage was taken. She implored Lady Sarah to meet her in
Paris, where some weeks' rest would be absolutely necessary, she said,
to recruit her strength after the fatigue of her journey; and Lady
Sarah, with some misgiving, yielded to Dolly's wistful entreaties, and
wrote to her old friend the Rev. W. Lovejoy, of the Marmouton Chapel, to
take rooms for her for a few weeks, during which Dolly might improve her
French accent and her style of dancing (Dolly had been pronounced clumsy
by Mrs. Morgan) in the companionship of little Rhoda, who had been sent
some time before to be established for a year in a boarding-school near
Paris, there to put on the armour of accomplishments that she would
require some day in the dismal battle of life.

John Morgan had been loth that the little girl should go; he was afraid
the child might feel lonely away from them all; but Rhoda said, very
sensibly, that, if she was to be a governess, she supposed she had
better learn things. So Rhoda was sent off for a year to Madame
Laplanche's, towards the end of which time Lady Sarah came to Paris with
Dolly and the faithful Marker in attendance.

Dolly did not trouble her head very much about her accent, but she was
delighted to be with her friend again, to say nothing of seeing the
world and the prospect of meeting her mother. She went twice a week to
Rhoda's school to learn to point her bronze toes and play on the
well-worn piano; and then every morning came Madame de St. Honoré, an
old lady who instructed Mademoiselle Dolli in the grammar and literature
of the country to which she belonged. French literature, according to
Madame de St. Honoré, was in one snuffy volume which she happened to
possess. Dolly asked no questions, and greatly preferred stray scenes
out of _Athalie_ and odd pages from _Paul and Virginia_ to Noel and
Chapsal, and l'Abbé Gaultier's _Geography_. The two would sit at the
dining-room table with the windows open, and the cupboards full of
French china, and with the head of Socrates staring at them from over
the stove.

Mr. Lovejoy had selected for his old friend a large and dilapidated set
of rooms, the chairs and tables of which had seen better days, and had
been in their prime during the classic furniture period of the Great
Napoleon.

The tall white marble clock on the chimney-piece had struck nine, and
Lady Sarah was sitting alone in the carpetless drawing-room on one of
the stiff-backed chairs. It was early times for two girls of eleven and
twelve to be popped away out of the world; but Lady Sarah was at that
time a strict disciplinarian, and seemed to think that one of the grand
objects of life was to go to bed and to be up again an hour in advance
of everybody else.

'And so there is only dreaming till to-morrow morning,' thought Dolly,
with a dreary wide-awake sigh. Dolly and Henriette her maid had two beds
side by side. Dolly used to lie wide-awake in hers, watching the dawn as
it streamed through the old-flowered chintz curtains, and the shadows
and pictures flying from the corners of the room; or, when the
night-light burnt dimly, and the darkness lay heaped against the walls,
Dolly, still childish for her age, could paint pictures for herself upon
it, bright phantasmagorias woven out of her brain, faces and flowers and
glittering sights such as those she saw when she was out in the daytime.
Dolly thought the room was enchanted, and that fairies came into it as
soon as Henriette was asleep and snoring. To-night little Rhoda was
sleeping in the bed, and Henriette and Marker were sitting at work in
the next room. They had left the door open; and, presently, when they
thought the children were asleep, began a low, mysterious conversation
in French.

'She died on Tuesday,' said Henriette, 'and is to be buried to-morrow.'

'She could not have been twenty,' said Marker; 'and a sweet pretty lady.
I can't think where it is I have seen such another as her.'

'Pauvre dame,' said Henriette. 'He feels her death very much. He is
half-distracted, Julie tells me.'

'Serve him right, the brute! I should like to give it him!' cries the
other.

'He looks such a handsome smiling gentleman, that Mr. Rab--Rap--Who
could have thought it possible?'

'Oh, they're all smiling enough,' said Marker, who knew the world.
'There was a young man in a grocer's shop----' And her voice sank into
confidences still more mysterious.

'When they came to measure her for her coffin,' said Henriette, who had
a taste for the terrible, 'they found she had grown since her death,
poor thing. Julie tells me that she looks more beautiful than you can
imagine. He comes and cries out, "Emma! Emma!" as if he could wake her
and bring her to life.'

'Wake her and bring her to life to kill her again, the wretch!' said
Marker, 'with his neglect and cruelty.'

'He is very young--a mere boy,' said Henriette. 'The concierge says
there was no malice in him; and then he gave her such beautiful gowns!
There was a moire-antique came home the day she died, with lace
trimmings. Julie showed it me: she expects to get all the things. They
were going to a ball at the Tuileries. How beautiful she would have
looked!'

'Poor child!' said Marker.

'To die without ever putting it on! Dame, I should not like that; but I
should like to have a husband who would buy me such pretty things. I
would not mind his being out of temper now and then, and leaving me to
do as I liked for a month or two at a time. I should have amused myself,
instead of crying all day, as she did. Julie tells me she has tried on
the black velvet, and it fits her perfectly.'

'Julie ought to be ashamed of herself,' growled Marker, 'with the poor
child lying there still.'

'Not in the least,' said Henriette; 'Julie was very fond of her when she
was alive--now she is dead--that is another thing. She says she would
not stop in the room for worlds. She thought she saw her move yesterday,
and she rushed away into the kitchen and had an _attaque de nerfs_ in
consequence.'

'But did she tell nobody--could it have been true?'

'Françoise told _him_, and they went in immediately, but it was all
silent as before. I am glad I sleep upstairs: I should not like to be in
the room over that one. It is underneath there where are _les petites_.'

'She would do no one harm, now or when she was alive, poor thing,' said
Marker. 'I should like to flay that man alive.'

'That would be a pity, Mrs. Marker,' said Henriette: 'a fine young man
like that! He liked her well enough, allez! She cried too much: it was
her own fault that she was not happy.'

'I would rather be her than him at this minute,' said Marker. 'Why he
sulked and sneered and complained of the bills when he was at home, and
went away for days together without telling her where he was going. I
know where he was: he was gambling and spending her money on other
people--I'd pickle him, I would!' said Marker; 'and I don't care a snap
for his looks; and her heart is as cold as his own now, poor little
thing.'

'It's supper-time, isn't it?' yawned Henriette.

Then Dolly heard a little rustle as they got up to go to their supper,
and the light in the next room disappeared, and everything seemed very
silent. The night-light spluttered a little, the noises in the courtyard
were hushed, the familiar chairs and tables looked queer and unknown in
the darkness. Rhoda was fast asleep and breathing softly; Dolly was
kicking about in her own bed, and thrilling with terror and excitement,
and thinking of what she had heard of the poor pretty lady downstairs.
She and Rhoda always used to rush to the window to see her drive off in
her smart little carriage, wrapped in her furs, but all alone. Poor
little lady! her unkind husband never went with her, and used to leave
her for weeks at a time. Her eyes used to shine through the veil that
she always wore when they met her on the stairs; but Aunt Sarah would
hurry past her, and never would talk about her. And now she was dead.
Dolly looked at Rhoda lying so still on her white pillow. How would
Rhoda look when she was dead, thought Dolly.

'Being asleep is being dead.... I daresay people would be more afraid of
dying if they were not so used to go to sleep. When I am dying--I
daresay I shall die about seventeen--I shall send for John Morgan, and
George will come from Eton, and Aunt Sarah will be crying, and, perhaps,
mamma and Captain Palmer will be there; and I shall hold all their hands
in mine and say, "Now be friends, for my sake." And then I shall urge
George to exert himself more, and go to church on week-days; and then to
Aunt Sarah I shall turn with a sad smile, and say, "Adieu! dear aunt,
you never understood me--you fancied me a child when I had the feelings
of a woman, and you sneered at me, and sent me to bed at eight o'clock.
Do not crush George and Rhoda as you have crushed me: be gentle with
them;" and then I shall cross my hands over my chest and--and what
then?' And a sort of shock came over the girl as, perhaps for the first
time in her life, she realised the awful awakening. 'Suppose they bury
me alive? It is very common, I know--oh! no, no, no; that would be too
horrible! Suppose that poor young lady is not dead downstairs--suppose
she is alive, and they bury her to-morrow, and she wakes up, and it is
all dark, and she chokes and cries out, and nobody hears.... Surely they
will take precautions?--they will make sure.... Who will, I wonder? Not
that wicked husband--not that horrid maid. That wicked man has gone to
gamble, I daresay; and Julie is trying on her dresses, and perhaps her
eyes are opening now and nobody to see--nobody to come. Ah! this is
dreadful. I must go to sleep and forget it.'

Little Rhoda turned and whispered something in her dreams; Dorothy
curled herself up in her nest and shut her eyes, and did go to sleep for
a couple of hours, and then woke up again with a start, and thought it
must be morning. Had not somebody called her by name? did not somebody
whisper Dolly in her ear? so loud that it woke her out of a strange
dream: a sort of dream in which strange clanging sounds rung round and
round in the air; in which Dolly herself lay powerless, gasping and
desperate on her bed. Vainly she tried to move, to call, to utter; no
one came.

Julie, in white satin, was looking at herself in the glass; the wicked
husband was standing in the door with a horrible scowl. Rhoda, somehow,
was quietly asleep in her bed. Ah! no, she, too, was dead; she would
never wake; she would not come and save her. And just then Dolly awoke,
and started up in bed with wide open childish eyes. What a still quiet
room--what a dim light from the lamp--who had spoken? Was it a warning?
was it a call? was this dream sent to her as a token? as the people in
the Bible dreamt dreams and dared not disobey them? Was this what was
going on in the room below? was it for her to go down and save the poor
lady, who might be calling to her? Something within her said 'Go, go,'
and suddenly she found herself standing by the bedside, putting on her
white dressing-gown, and then pattering out bare-footed across the
wooden floors, out into the dark dining-room, out into the ante-room,
all dark and black, opening the front door (the key was merely turned in
the lock), walking downstairs with the dim lamps glimmering and the
moonlight pouring in at the blindless window; and standing at the door
of the apartment below. Her only thought was wonder at finding it so
easy. Then she laid her hand softly on the lock and turned it, and the
door opened, and she found herself in an ante-room like their own, only
carpeted and alight. The room was under her own: she knew her way well
enough. Into the dark dining-room she passed with a beating heart, and
so came to a door beneath which a ray of light was streaming. And then
she stopped. Was this a dream? was this really herself? or was she
asleep in bed upstairs? or was she, perhaps, dead in her coffin? A qualm
of terror came over her--should she turn and go?--her knees were
shaking, her heart was beating so that she could hardly breathe; but she
would not turn back--that would be a thousand times too cowardly. Just
then she thought she heard a footstep in the dining-room. With a
shuddering effort she raised her hand, and in an instant she stood in
the threshold of the chamber. What, was this a sacred chapel? Silence
and light, many flowers, tall tapers burning. It seemed like an awful
dream to the bewildered child: the coffin stood in the middle of the
room, she smelt a faint odour of incense, of roses, of scented tapers,
and then her heart stood still as she heard a sudden gasping sigh, and
against the light an awful shrouded figure slowly rising and seeming to
come towards her. It was more than she could bear: the room span round,
once more the loud clanging sounded in her ears, and poor Dolly, with a
shuddering scream, fell to the ground.

       *       *       *       *       *

A jumble of whispers, of vinegar, of water trickling down her back, and
of an officious flapping wet handkerchief; of kind arms enfolding her:
of nurse saying, 'Now she is coming to;' of Lady Sarah answering, 'Poor
little thing, she must have been walking in her sleep'--a strange new
birth, new vitality pouring in at all her limbs, a dull identity coming
flashing suddenly into life, and Dolly opened her eyes to find herself
in the nurse's arms, with her aunt bending over her, in the warm
drawing-room upstairs. Other people seemed standing about--Henriette and
a man whom she could scarcely see with her dim weary eyes, and Julie.
Dolly hid her face on the nurse's shoulder.

'Oh, nurse, nurse! have you saved me?' was all she could say.

'What were you doing downstairs, you naughty child?' said Lady Sarah, in
her brisk tones. 'Marker heard a noise and luckily ran after you.'

'Oh, Aunt Sarah, forgive me!' faltered Dolly. 'I went to save the
lady--I thought if she opened her eyes and there was no one there--and
Julie trying on the dresses, and the wicked husband--I heard Henriette
telling Marker----Oh, save me, save me!' and the poor little thing burst
into tears and clung closer and closer.

'You are all safe, dear,' said Marker, 'and the young lady is at rest
where nothing will frighten or disturb her. Hush! don't cry.'

'Poor little thing,' said the man, taking her hand; 'the nuns must have
frightened her.' And he raised the child's, hand to his lips and kissed
it, and then seemed to go away.

'I'm ashamed of myself, my lady,' said Marker, 'for having talked as I
did with the chance of the children being awake to hear me. It was
downright wicked, and I should like to bite my tongue out. Go to bed,
Henriette. Be off, Mamzelle July, if you please.'

'We are all going to bed; but Henriette will get Miss Dolly a cup of
chocolate first,' said Lady Sarah.

Dolly was very fond of chocolate; and this little impromptu supper by
the drawing-room fire did more to quiet and reassure her than anything
else. But she was hardly herself as yet, and could only cling to
Marker's arm and hide her face away from them all. Her aunt kissed her
once more, saying, 'Well, I won't scold you to-night; indeed, I am not
sure but that you were quite right to go,' and disappeared into her own
room. Then Henriette carried the candle, and Marker carried great big
Dolly and laid her down by Rhoda in her bed, and the wearied and tired
little girl fell asleep at last, holding Rhoda's hand.



CHAPTER VII.

CLOUD-CAPPED TOWERS AND GORGEOUS PALACES.

    Lo! what wrong was her life to thee, Death?

    --Rossetti


When Dolly awoke next morning Rhoda was dressed and her bed was empty.
The window had been opened, but the light was carefully shaded by the
old brown curtains. Dolly lay quite still; she felt strangely tired, and
as if she had been for a very long journey, toiling along a weary road.
And so she had, in truth; she had travelled along a road that no one
ever retraces, she had learnt a secret that no one ever forgets.
Henceforth in many places and hours the vision that haunts each one of
us was revealed to her; that solemn ghost of Death stood before her with
its changing face, at once sad and tender and pitiless. Who shall speak
of it? With our own looks, with the familiar eyes of others, it watches
us through life, the good angel and comforter of the stricken and
desolate, the strength of the weak, the pitiless enemy of home and
peaceful love and tranquil days. But perhaps to some of us the hour may
come when we fall into the mighty arms, feeling that within them is the
home and the love and the peace that they have torn from us.

Dolly was still lying quite quiet and waiting for something to happen,
when the door opened, and her aunt's maid came in carrying a nice little
tray with breakfast upon it. There was a roll, and some French butter in
a white scroll-like saucer, and Dolly's favourite cup.

'My lady is gone out, Miss Dolly,' said Marker, 'but she left word you
was not to be disturbed. It is eleven o'clock, and she is going to take
you and Miss Rhoda for a treat when she gets back.'

'A treat!' said Dolly, languidly; 'that will be nice. Marker, I have to
push my arms to make them go.'

But when Dolly had had her bath and eaten her breakfast, her arms began
to go of themselves. Once, indeed, she turned a little sick and giddy,
for, happening to look out of window into the courtyard below, she saw
that they were carrying away black cloths and silver-spangled draperies,
which somehow brought up the terror of the night before; but her nurse
kissed her, and made her kneel down and say her prayers, and told her in
her homely way that she must not be afraid, that life and death were
made by the same Hand, and ruled over by the same Love. 'The poor young
lady was buried this morning, my dear,' said Marker, 'before you were
awake. Your aunt went with the poor young man.'

Marker was a short, stout, smiling old woman. Lady Sarah was tall and
thin, and silent, and scant in dress, with a brown face and grey hair;
she came in, in her black gown, from the funeral, with her shaggy kind
eyes red with tears.

'You won't forget, my lady, that you promised the young ladies a treat,'
said Marker, who was anxious that Dolly should have something fresh to
think of.

'I have not forgotten,' said Dolly's aunt, smiling, as she looked at the
two children. 'Rhoda must get a remembrance to take back to school,
mustn't she, Dolly? I have ordered a carriage at two.'

There is a royal palace familiar to many of us of which the courts are
shining and busy, and crowded with people. Flowers are growing among
fountains and foliage, and children are at play; there is a sight of
high gabled roofs overhead enclosing it, so do the long lines of the
ancient arcades. Some music is playing to which the children are
dancing. In this strange little world the children seem to grow up to
music in beautiful ready-made little frocks and pinafores, the grown-up
people seem to live on grapes and ices and bonbons, and on the enormous
pears displayed in the windows of the cafés. Everything is more or less
gilt and twinkling,--china flowers bloom delicate and scentless; it
would seem as if the business of life consisted in wandering here and
there, and sipping and resting to the sound of music in the shade of the
orange-trees, and gazing at the many wonders displayed; at the gimcracks
and trinkets and strings of beads, the precious stones, and the silver
and gold, and the fanciful jewels. Are these things all dust and ashes?
Here are others, again, of imitation dross and dust, shining and
dazzling too; and again, imitations of imitations for the poorest and
most credulous, heaped up in harmless glitter and array. Here are
opera-glasses to detect the deceptions, and the deceptions to deceive
the glasses,--bubbles of pomp, thinnest gilding of vanity and
good-humour.

Some twenty years ago Dorothea Vanborough and a great many ladies and
gentlemen her contemporaries were not the respectable middle-aged people
they are now, but very young folks standing on tip-toe to look at life,
which they gazed at with respectful eyes, believing all things, hoping
all things, and interested in all things beyond words or the power of
words to describe. My heroine was a blooming little girl, with her thick
wavy hair plaited into two long tails. She wore a great flapping hat and
frilled trousers, according to the barbarous fashion of the time. Little
Rhoda was shorter and slighter, with great dark eyes and a wistful pale
face; she was all shabbily dressed, and had no frills like Dolly, or
flowers in her hat. The two stood gazing at the portrait of a smiling
little Prince with a blue ribbon, surmounted by a wreath of flowers,
glazed and enclosed in a gilt-locket. I suppose the little girls of the
present[1] bear the same sort of allegiance to the Prince Imperial that
Dolly felt for the little smiling Count of Paris of those days. For the
King his grandfather, for the Dukes and Princes his uncles, hers was a
very vague devotion; but when the old yellow royal coaches used to come
by rumbling and shaking along the Champs Elysées, Dolly for one,
followed by her protesting attendant, would set off running as hard as
she could, and stand at the very edge of the pavement in the hopes of
seeing her little smiling Prince peep out of the carriage-window. He was
also to be seen in effigy on cups, on pin-boxes, and bonbons, and, above
all, to be worn by the little girls in the ornamental fashion I have
described. He smiled impartially from their various tuckers; and,
indeed, many of the youthful possessors of those little gilt lockets are
true to this day to their early impressions.

[Footnote 1: Written before recent events in France.]

So both Dolly and Rhoda came to tell Lady Sarah that they had made up
their minds, what they most admired.

The widow had been sitting upon one of the benches in the garden,
feeling not unlike the skeleton at a feast--a scanty figure in the
sunshine, with a heart scarcely attuned to the bustle and chatter around
her, but she began to tell herself that there must be some use even in
the pomps and vanities of life, when she saw how happy the little girls
looked, how the light had come into Dolly's eyes, and then she gave them
each a solid silver piece out of a purse, which, contrary to the custom
of skeletons, she held ready in her hand.

'Oh, thank you,' says Dolly; 'now I can get no end of things. There's
George and Robert and----'

'It is much better to buy _one_ nice thing to take care of than a great
many little ones,' said Rhoda, philosophically. 'Dolly, you don't manage
well. I don't want to get everything I see. I shall buy that pretty
locket. None of the girls in my class have got one as pretty.'

'Come along quick then,' said Dolly, 'for fear they should have sold
it.'

They left the Palais Royal at last and drove homewards with their
treasures. Dolly never forgot that evening; the carriage drove along
through the May-lit city, by teeming streets, by shady avenues, to the
sounds of life and pleasure-making. Carriages were rolling along with
them; long lines of trees, of people, of pavements led to a great
triumphal archway, over which the little pink clouds were floating,
while an intense sweet thrill of spring rung in the air and in the
spirits of the people. Henriette opened the door to them when they got
home.

'The poor gentleman from below,' she said, 'is waiting for you in the
drawing-room. I told him you would not be long.'

       *       *       *       *       *

The gentleman was waiting in the drawing-room as Lady Sarah came in with
the two little girls shyly following. She would have sent them away, but
a sort of shyness habitual to her made her shrink from a scene or an
explanation. It may have been some feeling of the same sort which had
induced the widower to go away to the farthest window of the room, where
he stood leaning out with his back turned for an instant after they had
come in.

Coming in out of the dazzle of the streets, the old yellow drawing-room
looked dark and dingy; the lights reflected from the great amphitheatre
without struck on the panelled doors and fusty hangings. All these
furnished houses have a family likeness: chairs with Napoleon backs and
brass-bound legs, tables that cry _vive l'empire_ as plain as tables can
utter, old-fashioned secretaries standing demure with their backs
against the wall, keeping their counsel and their secrets (if there
_are_ such things as secrets). The laurel-crowned clocks tick beneath
their wreaths and memorials of bygone victories, the looking-glasses
placidly relate the faces, the passing figures, the varying lights and
changes as they pass before them. To-night a dusky golden light was
streaming into the room from behind the hills, that were heaving, so
Dolly thought, and dimming the solemn glow of the sky: she saw it all in
an instant; and then, with a throb she recognised this wicked husband
coming from the window where he had been standing with his back to them.
She had never seen him before so close, and yet she seemed to know his
face. He looked very cruel, thought Dolly; he had a pale face and white
set lips, and a sort of dull black gleam flashed from his eyes. He spoke
in a harsh voice. He was very young--a mere boy, with thick fair hair
brushed back from his haggard young face. He might have been, perhaps,
about two or three and twenty.

'I waited for you, Lady Sarah. I came to say good-by,' he said. 'I am
going back to London to-night. I shall never forget your----' His voice
broke. 'How good you have been to me,' he said hoarsely, as he took the
two thin hands in his and wrung them again and again.

The widow's sad face softened as she told him 'to have trust, to be
brave.'

'You don't know what you say,' he said in a common-place way. 'God bless
you.' He was going, but seeing the two, Dolly and Rhoda, standing by the
door looking at him with wondering faces, he stopped short. 'I forgot,'
he said, still in his hard matter-of-fact voice, 'I brought a cross of
Emma's; I thought she would wish it. It won't bring ill-luck,' he said,
with a ghastly sort of laugh. 'She bore crosses enough in her life, poor
soul, but this one, at least, had no nails in it. May I give it to your
little girl?' he said, 'unless she is afraid to take anything from me.'

Lady Sarah did not say no, and the pale young man looked vaguely from
one to the other of the two little girls as they stood there, and then
he took one step towards Dolly, who was the biggest, and who was
standing, straight and tall for her age, in her light-coloured dress,
with her straw hat hanging on her arm. I don't know how to write this of
my poor little heroine. If he had seemed more unhappy, if he had not
looked so strangely and spoken so oddly, she might have understood him
better; but as it was, she thought he was saying terrible things,
laughing and jeering and heartless; so judged Dolly in an innocent
severity. Is it so? Are not the children of this world wiser in their
generation than the children of light? Are there not depths of sin and
repentance undreamt of by the pure in spirit? One seems to grasp at a
meaning which eludes one as one strains at it, wondering what is the
sermon to be preached upon this text.... It was one that little Dolly,
still playing in her childish and peaceful valley, could not understand.
She might forgive as time went on; she had not lived long enough yet
either to forgive or to forget; never once had it occurred to her that
any thought of hers, either of blame or forgiveness, could signify to
any other human being, or that any word or sign of hers could have a
meaning to any one except herself.

Dolly was true to herself, and in those days she used to think that all
her life long she would be always true, and always say all she felt. As
life grows long, and people, living on together through time and sorrow
and experience, realise more and more the complexities of their own
hearts, and sympathise more and more with the failings and sorrows of
others, they are apt to ask themselves with dismay if it is a reality of
life to be less and less uncompromising as complexities increase, less
true to themselves as they are more true to others, and if the very
angels of God are wrestling and at war in their hearts. All through her
life Dolly found, with a bitter experience, that these two angels of
charity and of truth are often very far apart until the miracle of love
comes to unite them. She was strong and true; in after days she prayed
for charity; with charity came sorrow, and doubt, and perplexity.
Charity is long-suffering and kind, and thinks no evil; but then comes
truth crying out, 'Is not wrong wrong; is not falsehood a lie?' Perhaps
it is because truth is not for this life that the two are at variance,
until the day shall come when the light shall come, and with the light
peace and knowledge and love, and then charity itself will be no longer
needed.

And so Dolly, who in those days had scarcely realised even human charity
in her innocent young heart, looked up and saw the wicked man who had
been so cruel to his wife coming towards her with a gift in his hand;
and as she saw him coming, black against the light of the sunset, she
shrank away behind Rhoda, who stood looking up with her dark wistful
eyes. The young man saw Dolly shrink from him, and he stopped short; but
at the same instant he met the tranquil glance of a trustful upturned
face, and, with a sigh, he put the cross (shimmering with a sudden flash
of light) into little Rhoda's soft clasping hand.

'You are not afraid, like your sister? Will you keep it for Emma's
sake?' he said again, in a softer voice.

There was a moment's silence. Lady Sarah, never, at the best of times, a
ready woman, tried to say something, but the words died away. Dolly
looked up, and her eyes met the flash of the young man's two wild
burning eyes. They seemed to her to speak. 'I saw you shrink away,' they
seemed to say. 'You are right; don't come near me--don't come near me.'
But this was only unspoken language.

'Good-by,' he said suddenly to Lady Sarah. 'I am glad to have seen you
once more,' and then he went quickly out of the room without looking
back, leaving them all standing scared and saddened by this melancholy
little scene.

The lights were burning deeper behind the hills; the reflections were
darker. Had there been a sudden storm? No; the sun had set quietly
behind Montmartre, where the poor girl was lying there upon the heights
above the city. Was it Dolly who was trembling, or was it the room that
seemed vibrating to the echo of some disastrous chords that were still
ringing in her ears?

Dolly went to the window and leant out over the wooden bar, looking down
into the rustling glooming lilac garden below. How sad the scent of the
lilac-trees in flower seemed as it came flooding up! She was still
angry, but she was sorry too, and two great tears fell upon the wooden
bar against which she was leaning. She always remembered that evening
when she smelt lilac in flower.

Rhoda was very much pleased with her cross.

'I shall hang it on a black ribbon,' said the child, 'and always think
of the poor gentleman when I wear it; and I shall tell the girls in
class all about him and how he gave it to me.'

'How you took it from him, you mean,' said Lady Sarah, shortly.

'No, indeed, Lady Sarah; he gave it to me,' cried Rhoda, clutching her
treasure quite tight.



CHAPTER VIII.

IMMORTELLES.

    O lieb so lang du lieben kannst,
    O lieb so lang du lieben magst,
    Die Stunde kommt, die Stunde kommt.
    Wo du am Graben stehst und klagst.


Frank Raban, having left the three standing silent and sorry in the calm
sunset room, ran down to his own apartment on the floor beneath. He was
to go back to England that night: he felt he could not stay in that
place any longer; the memories seemed to choke him, and to rise up and
madden him. As he came now down the echoing stairs he heard the voices
of his servants: the front door was wide open. The concierge was
standing in the passage in his shirt-sleeves; M. Adolphe was
discoursing; a milliner was waiting with her bill. 'Not two years
married,' he heard them saying; 'as for him, he will console himself.'
Their loud voices suddenly hushed as he appeared. Adolphe flung the door
open still wider for his master; but the master could not face them all,
with their curious eyes fixed upon him, and he turned and fled
downstairs. Only two years since he had carried her away from her home
in the quiet suburban cottage--poor Emma, who wanted to be married, and
who had never loved him! Where was she now? Married only two years! What
years! And now his remorse seemed almost greater than he could bear. He
crossed the crowded road, heedless of the warning cries of the drivers,
pushing his way across the stream; then he got into a deserted country
close upon the bustle of the main thoroughfare (they call it Beaujon),
where great walls run by lonely avenues, and great gates stand closed
and barred. Would they burst open? Would _she_ come out with a pale
avenging face and strike him? She, poor child! Whom did she ever strike
in word or thought? Once he got a little ease: he thought he had been a
very long way, and he had wandered at last into an ancient lane by a
convent wall, beyond the modern dismal Beaujon, in the friendly older
quarter. Lime-trees were planted in this tranquil place. There was a dim
rain-washed painting upon the wall, a faint vista of fountains and
gardens, the lilac-trees were blooming behind it, and the vesper song of
the nuns reached his ears. He stood still for an instant, but the song
ceased.

The old avenue led back to the great round Place in front of the Arc;
for, in those days, neither the ride nor the great new roads were made
which now lead thronging to the Bois. And the tide came streaming to the
end of the long avenue of the Champs Elysées and no farther, and turned
and ebbed away again from the gates of the Douane. Beyond them, the
place was silent. The young man hurried on, not caring where he went. If
I had loved her, if I had loved her--was the burthen of his remorse. It
was almost heavier than he could bear. There were some children swinging
on the chains that separate the great arch from the road; the last rays
of the sun were lighting the stones and the gritty platform; twilight
was closing in. I think if it had not been for the children, he would
have thrown himself down upon the ground. They screamed shrilly at their
play, and the echo from under the great vault gave back their voices. A
few listless people were standing about; a countryman spelling out by
the dying lights the pompous lists of victories that had been carved
into the stone--Jena, Marengo, Austerlitz. Chiller and more deathlike
came the twilight creeping on: the great carved figures blew their
trumpets, waved their stony laurels, of which the shadows changed so
many times a day. He staggered to a bench; he said to himself, 'I should
like this Arc to fall down upon my head and crush me. I am a devil, I am
not a man. I killed her with neglect, with reproach, and suspicion! But
for me she would have been alive now, smiling as when I first saw her. I
will go away and never be heard of any more. Go away--how can I go from
this curse? could Cain escape?' Then he began to see what was all round
about him again, see it distorted by his mad remorse. All the great
figures seemed writhing their arms and legs; the long lists of battle
seemed like funeral processions moving round and round him, fighting and
thundering and running into one another. The Arc itself was a great tomb
where these legions lay buried. Was it not about to fall with a
stupendous crash; and would the dead people come rising round about at
the blast of the trumpets of stone. Here was an Emperor who had wanted
to conquer the whole world, and who had all but attained his object.
Here was he, a man who had not striven for victory, but yielded to
temptation; a man who had deserted his post, betrayed his trust, cursed
a life that he should have cherished. Though his heart were broken on a
wheel and his body racked with pain, that would not mend the past,
sanctify it, and renew it again.

A sort of cold sweat lay upon his forehead; some children were playing,
and had come up to the stone bench where he was sitting, and were making
little heaps of dust upon it. One of them looked into his face and saw
him clench his hand, and the little thing got frightened and burst out
crying. The other, who was older, took the little one by the hand and
led it away.

Of what good was it thinking over the past? It was over. Emma was dead,
lying up on the heights towards which Dolly had been looking from her
window. He had been to blame: but not to blame as he imagined in his mad
remorse and despair. He had been careless and impatient, and hard upon
her, as he was now hard upon himself. He had married her from a sense of
honour, when his boyish fancy was past. His duty was too hard for him,
and he had failed, and now he was free.

       *       *       *       *       *

It was that very evening--Dolly remembered it afterwards--a letter came
from her mother, written on thin lilac paper, in a large and twisted
handwriting, sealed and stamped with many Indian stamps. Dolly's
mother's letters always took a long time to read; they were written up
and down and on different scraps of paper. Sometimes she sent whole
bouquets of faded flowers in them to the children, sometimes patterns
for dresses to be returned. Henriette brought the evening's mail in with
the lamp and the tea-tray, and put the whole concern down with a clatter
of cups and saucers on the table before Lady Sarah. There was also a
thick blue lawyer-looking letter with a seal. The little girls peeped up
shyly as Lady Sarah laid down her correspondence unopened beside her.
She was a nervous woman and afraid of unread letters: but after a little
she opened the lilac epistle, and then began to flush, and turned
eagerly to the second.

'Who is that from?' Dolly asked at last. 'Is it from Captain Palmer?'

Her aunt laid one thin brown hand upon the letter, and went on pouring
out the tea without speaking. Rhoda looked for a moment, and then
stooped over her work once more. Long years afterwards the quiet
atmosphere of that lamp-lit room used to come round about Dolly again.
The log fire flamed, the clock ticked on. How still it was! the leaves
of her book scraped as she turned them, and Rhoda stuck her silken
stitches. The roll of the carriages was so far away that it sounded like
a distant sea. They were still sitting silent, and Dolly was wondering
whether she might speak of the letter again and of its contents, when
there came an odd muffled sound of voices and exclamations from the room
underneath.

'Listen!' said Rhoda.

'What can it be?' said Dolly, shutting up her book and starting up from
her chair as Henriette appeared at the door, with her white cap-strings
flying, breathless.

'They were all disputing downstairs,' she said. 'Persons had arrived
that evening. It was terrible to hear them.'

Lady Sarah impatiently sent Henriette about her business, and the sounds
died away, and the little girls were sent off to bed. In the morning,
her aunt's eyes were so red that Dolly felt sure she must have been
crying. Henriette told them that the gentleman was gone. 'Milady had
been sent for before he left: she had lent him some money,' said
Henriette, 'and paid the milliner's bill;' but the strange people who
had come had been packing up and carrying off everything, to Julie's
disgust.

Events and emotions come very rarely alone, they fly in troops, like the
birds. It was that very day that Lady Sarah told Dolly that she had had
some bad news--she had lost a great deal of money. An Indian bank had
failed in which they all had a share.

'Your mamma writes in great trouble,' said Lady Sarah, reading out from
a lilac scrap. '"Tell my precious Dolly that this odious bank will
interfere once more with my heart's longing to see her. Captain Palmer
insists upon a cruel delay. I am not strong enough to travel round the
Cape as he proposes. You, dear Sarah, might be able to endure such
fatigue; but I, alas! have not the power. Once more my return is
delayed."'

'Oh, Aunt Sarah, will she ever come?' said Dolly, struggling not to
cry.... Dolly only cheered up when she remembered that they were ruined.
She had forgotten it, in her disappointment, about her mother. 'Are we
really ruined?' she said, more hopefully. 'We should not have spent that
money yesterday. Shall we have to leave Church House? Poor mamma! Poor
Aunt Sarah!'

'Poor Marker is most to be pitied,' said Lady Sarah, 'for we shall have
to be very careful, and keep fewer maids, and wear out all our old
dresses; but we need not leave Church House, Dolly.'

'Then it is nothing after all,' said Dolly, again disappointed. 'I
thought we should have had to go away and keep a shop, and that I should
have worked for you. I should like to be your support in your old age,
and mamma's too.'

Then Lady Sarah suddenly caught Dolly in her arms, and held her tight
for a moment--quite tight to her heart, that was beating tumultuously.

The next time Rhoda came out of her school for a day's holiday, Lady
Sarah took the little girls to a flower-shop hard by. In the window
shone a lovely rainbow of sun-rays and flowers; inside the shop were
glass globes and china pots, great white sprays of lilacs, lilies,
violets, ferns, and hyacinths, and golden bells, stuck into emerald-blue
vases, all nodding their fragrant heads. Lady Sarah bought a great bunch
of violets, and two yellow garlands made of dried immortelles.

'Do you know where we are going?' she asked.

Dolly didn't answer; she was sniffing, with her face buried in a green
pot of mignonette.

'May I carry the garlands?' said Rhoda, raising her great round eyes. 'I
know we are going to the poor lady's grave.'

Then they got into the carriage, and it rolled off towards the heights.

They went out beyond the barriers of the town by dusty roads, with
acacia-trees; they struggled up a steep hill, and stopped at last at the
gate of the cemetery. All round about it there were stalls, with more
wreaths and chaplets to sell, and little sacred images for the mourners
to buy for the adornment of the graves. Children were at play, and birds
singing, and the sunlight streamed bright. Dolly cried out in admiration
of the winding walks, shaded with early green, the flowers blooming, the
tombs and the garlands, and the epitaphs, with their notes of
exclamation. She began reading them out, and calling out so loudly, that
her aunt had to tell her to be quiet. Then Dolly was silent for a
little, but she could not help it. The sun shone, the flowers were so
bright; sunshine, spring-time, sweet flowers, all made her tipsy with
delight; the thought of the kind, pretty lady, who had never passed her
without a smile, did not make her sad just then, but happy. She ran away
for a little while, and went to help some children, who were picking
daisies and tying them by a string.

When she came back, a little sobered down, she found that her aunt had
scattered the violets over a new-made grave, and little Rhoda had hung
the yellow wreath on the cross at its head.

Dolly was silent, then, for a minute, and stood, looking from her aunt,
as she stood straight and grey before her, to little Rhoda, whose eyes
were full of tears. What was there written on the cross?

    TO EMMA,

    THE WIFE OF FRANCIS RABAN,

    AND ONLY DAUGHTER OF DAVID PENFOLD, OF EARLSCOURT,

    IN THE PARISH OF KENSINGTON.

    DIED MARCH 20, 18--. AGED 22.

'Aunt Sarah,' Dolly cried, suddenly, seizing her aunt's gown, 'tell me,
was that young Mr. Raban from John Morgan's house and Emma from the
cottage? When he looked at me once I thought I knew him, only I didn't
know who he could be.'

'Yes, my dear,' said Lady Sarah; 'I did not suppose that you would
remember them.'

'I remembered,' said Rhoda, nodding her head; 'but I thought you did not
wish me to say so.'

'Why not?' asked Lady Sarah. 'You are always imagining things, Rhoda. I
had forgotten all about them myself; I had other things on my mind at
the time they married,' and she sighed and looked away.

'It was when Dolly's papa----' Rhoda began.

'Mr. Raban reminded me of Kensington before he left, said Lady Sarah,
hastily, in her short voice. 'I was able to help him, foolish young man.
It is all very sad, and he is very unhappy and very much to blame.'

This was their only visit to poor Emma Raban's grave. A few days after,
Lady Sarah, in her turn, left Paris, and took Dolly and little Rhoda,
whose schooling was over, home to England. Rhoda was rather sorry to be
dropped at home at the well-known door in Old Street, where she lived
with her Aunt Morgan. Yes, it would open in a minute, and all her old
life would begin again. Tom and Joe and Cassie were behind it, with
their loud voices. Dolly envied her; it seemed to her to be a noisy
elysium of welcoming exclamations into which Rhoda disappeared.



CHAPTER IX.

THE BOW-WINDOWED HOUSE.

    You'll love me yet, and I can tarry
      Your love's protracted growing;
    You reared that bunch of flowers you carry,
      From seeds of April's sowing.


Rhoda, as she sat at her work, used to peep out of the bow-windows at
the people passing up and down the street--a pretty girlish head, with
thick black plaits pinned away, and a white frill round the slender
throat. Sometimes, when Mrs. Morgan was out, Rhoda would untwist and
unpin, and shake down a cloud upon her shoulders; then her eyes would
gleam with a wild wilful light, as she looked at herself in the little
glass in the workbox, but she would run away if she heard any one
coming, and hastily plait up her coils. The plain-speaking and
rough-dealing of a household not attuned to the refinements of more
sensitive natures had frightened instead of strengthening hers. She had
learnt to be afraid and reserved. She was timid and determined, but
things had gone wrong with her, and she was neither brave nor frightened
in the right way. She had learnt to think for herself, to hold her own
secretly against the universal encroachments of a lively race. She was
obliging, and ready to sacrifice her own for others, but when she gave
up, she was conscious of the sacrifice. She could forgive her brother
unto seven times. She was like the disciple, whose sympathy did not
reach unto seventy times seven.

Rhoda was not strong, like Cassie and Zoe. She was often tired, as she
sat there in the window-corner. She could not always touch the huge
smoking heaps that came to table. When all the knives and forks and
voices clattered together, they seemed to go through her head. The bells
and laughter made her start. She would nervously listen for the boys'
feet clattering down the stairs. At Church House there was a fresh
silence. You could hear the birds chirruping in the garden all the time
Lady Sarah was reading aloud. There were low comfortable seats covered
with faded old chintz and tapestry. There were Court ladies hanging on
the walls. One wore a pearl necklace; she had dark bright eyes, and
Rhoda used to look at her, and think her like herself, and wonder. There
were books to read and times to read them at Church House, and there was
Dolly always thinking how to give Rhoda pleasure. If she exacted a
certain fealty and obedience from the little maiden, her rule was
different from Aunt Morgan's. Dolly had no sheets to sew, no dusty
cupboards to put straight, no horrible boys' shirts to front or socks to
darn and darn and darn, while their owners were disporting themselves
out of doors, and making fresh work for the poor little Danaides at
home.

To Dolly, Old Street seemed a delightful place. She never could
understand why Rhoda was so unhappy there. It seemed to Dolly only too
delightful, for George was for ever going there when he was at home. The
stillness of Church House, its tranquil order and cheerful depression,
used to weary the boy; perhaps it was natural enough. Unless, as Rhoda
was, they are constitutionally delicate, boys and girls don't want to
bask all day long like jelly-fish in a sunny calm; they want to tire
themselves, to try their lungs; noise and disorder are to them like
light and air, wholesome tonics with which they brace themselves for the
coming struggles of life. Later in life there are sometimes quite old
girls and boys whose vitality cannot be repressed. They go up mountains
and drive steam-engines. They cry out in print, since it would no longer
be seemly for them to shriek at the pitch of their voices, or to set off
running, violently, or to leap high in the air.

'The Morgans' certainly meant plenty of noise and cheerful clatter, the
short tramp of schoolboy feet, huge smoking dishes liberally dispensed.
John Morgan would rush in pale, breathless, and over-worked; in a limp
white neckcloth as befitted his calling, he would utter a breathless
blessing on the food, and begin hastily to dispense the smoking heap
before him.

'Take care, John, dear,' cries Mrs. Morgan.

'What? where?' says John. 'Why, George! come to lunch? Just in time.'

It was in John Morgan's study that George established himself after
luncheon. The two windows stood open as far as the old-fashioned sashes
would go. The vine was straggling across the panes, wide-spreading its
bronzed and shining leaves. The sunlight dazzled through the green,
making a pleasant flicker on the walls of the shabby room, with its worn
carpet and old-fashioned cane chairs and deal bookcases.

A door opened into an inner room, through which George, by leaning
forward from his arm-chair behind the door, can see Mrs. Morgan's
cap-ribbons all on end against the cross-light in the sitting-room
windows. Cassie is kneeling on the floor, surrounded by piles of
garments; while her brother, standing in the middle of the room, is
rapidly checking off a list of various ailments and misfortunes that are
to be balanced in the scales of fate by proportionate rolls of flannel
and calico. Good little Cassie Morgan feels never a moment's doubt as
she piles her heaps--so much sorrow, so many petticoats: so much
hopeless improvidence, so many pounds of tea and a coal-ticket. In cases
of confirmed wickedness, she adds an illuminated text sometimes, and a
hymn-book. Do they ever come up, these hymn-books and bread-tickets cast
upon the waters? Is it so much waste of time and seed? After all, people
can but work in their own way, and feel kindly towards their
fellow-creatures. One seed is wasted, another grows up; as the buried
flora of a country starts into life when the fields are ploughed in
after years.

'Go on, Cassie,' says Mrs. Morgan: 'Bonker--Wickens--Costello.'

'Costello is again in trouble,' says John. 'It is too bad of him, with
that poor wife of his and all those children. I have to go round to the
Court about him now. Tell George I shall be back in ten minutes.'

'I have kept some clothes for them,' said Cassie. 'They are such nice
little children,' and she looks up flushed and all over ravellings at
the relenting curate, who puts Mrs. Costello down in his relief-book.

All over John Morgan's study, chairs and tables, such books are lying,
with pamphlets, blue books, black books, rolls and registers, in
confusion, and smelling of tobacco.

In this age of good reports and evil reports people seem like the two
boys in Dickens's story, who felt when they had docketed their bills
that they were as good as paid. So we classify our wrongs and tie up our
miseries with red tape; we pity people by decimals, and put our
statistics away with satisfied consciences. John Morgan wrote articles
from a cold and lofty point of view, but he left his reports about all
over the room, and would rush off to the help of any human being,
deserving or undeserving. He had a theory that heaven had created
individuals as well as classes; and at this very moment, with another
bang of the door, he was on his way to the police-court, to say a good
word for the intemperate Costello, who was ruefully awaiting his trial
in the dark cell below.

George, although comfortably established in the Morgan study, was also
tired of waiting, and found the house unusually dull. For some time past
he had been listening to a measured creaking noise in the garden; then
came a peal of bells from the steeple; and he went to the window and
looked out. The garden was full of weeds and flowers, with daisies on
the lawn, and dandelions and milkwort among the beds. It was not trimly
kept, like the garden at home; but George, who was the chief gardener,
thought it a far pleasanter place, with its breath of fresh breeze, and
its bit of blue over-roof. For flowers, there were blush-roses, nailed
against the wall, that Rhoda used to wear in her dark hair sometimes,
when there were no earwigs in them; and blue flags, growing in the beds
among spiked leaves, and London pride, and Cape jessamine, very sweet
upon the air, and also ivy, creeping in a tangle of leaves and tendrils.
The garden had been planted by the different inhabitants of the old
brown house--each left a token. There was a medlar-tree, with one rotten
medlar upon a branch, beneath which John Morgan would sit and smoke his
pipe in the sun, while his pupils construed Greek upon the little lawn.
Only Carlo was there now, stretching himself comfortably in the dry
grass (Carlo was one of Bunch's puppies, grown up to be of a gigantic
size and an unknown species). Tom Morgan's tortoise was also basking
upon the wall. The creaking noise went on after the chimes had ceased,
and George jumped out of window on to the water-butt to see what was the
matter. He had forgotten the swing. It hung from a branch of the
medlar-tree to the trellis, and a slim figure, in a limp cotton dress,
stood clinging to the rope--a girl with a black cloud of hair falling
about her shoulders. George stared in amazement. Rhoda had stuck some
vine-leaves in her hair, and had made a long wreath, that was hanging
from the swing, and that floated as she floated. She was looking up with
great wistful eyes, and for a minute she did not see him. As the swing
rose and fell, her childish wild head went up above the wall and the
branches against the blue, and down 'upon a background of pure gold,'
where the Virginian creeper had turned in the sun. George thought it was
a sort of tune she was swinging, with all those colours round about her
in the sultry summer day. As he leaped down, a feeling came over him as
if it had all happened before, as if he had seen it and heard the
creaking of the ropes in a dream. Rhoda blushed and slackened her
flight. He seemed still to remember it all while the swing stopped by
degrees; and a voice within the house began calling, 'Rhoda! Rhoda!'

'Oh! I must go,' said Rhoda, sighing. 'I am wasting my time. Please
don't tell Aunt Morgan I was swinging.'

'Tell her!' said George. 'What a silly child you are. Why shouldn't you
swing?'

'Oh! she would be angry,' said Rhoda, looking down. 'I _am_ very silly.
I can't bear being scolded.'

'Can't you?' says George, with his hands in his pockets. 'I'm used to
it, and don't mind a bit.'

'I shouldn't mind it if ... if I were you, and any one cared for me,'
said Rhoda, with tearful eyes. She spoke in a low depressed voice.

'Nonsense,' said George; 'everybody cares for everybody. Dolly loves
you, so--so do we all.'

'Do you?' said Rhoda, looking at him in a strange wistful way, and
brightening suddenly, and putting back all her cloudy hair with her
hands. Then she blushed up, and ran into the house.

When George told Dolly about it, Dolly was very sympathising, except
that she said Rhoda ought to have answered when her aunt called her.
'She is too much afraid of being scolded,' said Dolly.

'Poor little thing!' said George. 'Listen to this,' and he sat down to
the piano. He made a little tune he called 'The Swing,' with a minor
accompaniment recurring again and again, and a pretty modulation.

'It is exactly like a swing,' said Dolly. 'George, you must have a
cathedral some day, and make them sing all the services through.'

'I shall not be a clergyman,' said George, gravely. 'It is all very well
for Morgan, who is desperately in love. He has often told me that it
would be his ruin if he were separated from Mrs. Carbury.'

George, during his stay in Old Street (he had boarded there for some
weeks during Lady Sarah's absence), had been installed general
confidante and sympathiser, and was most deeply interested in the young
couple's prospects.

'I believe Aunt Sarah has got a living when old Mr. Livermore dies,' he
went on, shutting up the piano and coming to the table where Dolly was
drawing. 'We must get her to present it to John Morgan.'

'But she always says it is for you, George, now that the money is lost,'
said Dolly. 'I am afraid it will not be any use asking her. George, how
much is prudent?'

'How much is how much?' says George, looking with his odd blue eyes.

'I meant prudent to marry on?' says Dolly.

'Oh, I don't know,' says George, indifferently. 'I shall marry on
anything I may happen to have.'

'What are you children talking about?' said Lady Sarah, looking up from
her corner by the farthest chimney-piece. She liked one particular place
by the fire, from which she could look down the room at the two heads
that were bending together over the round table, and out into the
garden, where a west wind was blowing, and tossing clouds and ivy
sprays.

'We are talking about prudence in marriage,' says George.

'How can you be so silly!' says Lady Sarah, sharply, at which George
starts up offended and marches through the window into the garden.

'What is it?' said the widow. 'Yes, Dolly, go to him,' she said, in
answer to Dolly's pleading eyes. 'Foolish boy!'

The girl was already gone. Her aunt watched the white figure, flying
with wind-blown locks and floating skirts along the ivy wall. Dolly
caught her brother up by the speckled holly-tree, and the two went on
together, proceeding in step to a triumphant music of sparrows overhead,
a wavering of ivy along their path; soft winds blew everywhere,
scattering light leaves; the summer's light was in the day, and shining
from the depth of Dolly's grey eyes. The two went and sat down on the
bench by the pond, the old stone-edged pond, that reflected scraps of
the blue green overhead; a couple of gold-fishes alternately darted from
side to side. George forgot that he was not understood as he sat there
throwing pebbles into the water. Presently the wind brought some sudden
voices close at hand, and, looking up, they saw two people advancing
from the house, Robert Henley walking by Lady Sarah and carrying her old
umbrella.

'Oh, he is always coming,' said George, kicking his heels, and not
seeming surprised. 'He is staying with his grandmother at the Palace,
but they don't give him enough to eat, and so he drops into the
Morgans', and now he comes here.'

'Hush!' said Dolly, looking round.

Robert Henley was a tall, handsome young fellow, about twenty, with a
straight nose and a somewhat pompous manner. He was very easy and
good-natured when it was not too much trouble; he would patronise people
both younger and older than himself with equally good intentions.
George's early admiration for his cousin I fear is now tinged with a
certain jealousy of which Robert is utterly unconscious; he takes the
admiration for granted. He comes up and gives Dolly an affable kiss.
'Well, Dolly, have you learnt to talk French? I want to hear all about
Paris.'

'What shall I tell you?' says simple Dolly, greatly excited. 'We had
such a pretty drawing-room, Robert, with harps on all the doors, and
yellow sofas, and such a lovely, lovely view.' And Lady Sarah smiled at
Dolly's enthusiasm, and asked Robert if he could stay to dinner.

'I shall be delighted,' says Robert, just like a man of the world. 'My
grandmother has turned me out for the day.'



CHAPTER X.

A SNOW GARDEN.

    For every shrub, and every blade of grass,
    And every pointed thorn seemed wrought in glass;
    In pearls and rubies rich the hawthorns show,
    While through the ice the crimson berries glow ...
    The spreading oak, the beech, and towering pine,
    Glazed over, in the freezing æther shine;
    The frighted birds the rattling branches shun,
    That wave and glitter in the distant sun.

    --Phillips.


Is it that evening or another that they were all assembled in the little
bow-windowed drawing-room in Old Street listening to one of Rhoda's
interminable 'pieces' that she learnt at her French school? And then
came a quartette, but she broke down in the accompaniment, and George
turned her off the music-stool.

The doors were open into John's inner room, from which came a last
western gleam of light through the narrow windows, and beyond the
medlar-tree. It would have been dark in the front room but for those
western windows. In one of them sat Lady Sarah leaning back in John's
old leathern chair, sitting and listening with her hands lying loosely
crossed in her lap; as she listened to the youthful din of music and
voices and the strumming piano and the laughter. She had come by Dolly's
special request. Her presence was considered an honour by Mrs. Morgan,
but an effort at the same time. In her endeavours to entertain her
guest, Mrs. Morgan, bolt upright in another corner, had fallen asleep,
and was nodding her head in this silent inner room. There was noise and
to spare in the front room, people in the street outside stopped to
listen to the music.

When George began to play it seemed another music altogether coming out
of the old cracked yellow piano, smash, bang, crack, he flew at it,
thumping the keys, missing half the notes, sometimes jumbling the
accompaniment, but seizing the tune and spirit of the music with a
genuine feeling that was irresistible.

'Now all together,' cries George, getting excited.

It was an arrangement of one of Mendelssohn's four-part songs. 'As pants
the hart,' sang Rhoda, shrill and sweet, leading the way. 'As pants the
hart,' sang George, with a sort of swing. 'As pants the hart,' sang
Dolly, carefully and restrainedly. She sang with great precision for a
child of her age, quietly, steadily; but even her brother's enthusiasm
did not inspire her. George flung his whole impulse into his music, and
banged a chord at her in indignation at her tameness. John Morgan piped
away with a face of the greatest seriousness, following his pupil's
lead; he had much respect for George's musical capabilities. Cassie and
Zoe sang one part together, and now and then Robert Henley came out with
a deep trumpet-like note, placing it when he saw an opportunity. Dolly
laughed the first time, but Rhoda's dark eyes were raised admiringly. So
they all stood in the twilight, nodding their heads and clearing their
voices, happy and harmlessly absorbed. They might have stood for a choir
of angels; any one of the old Italian masters might have painted them as
they sang, with the addition of lilies and wings, and gold glories, and
the little cherubim who seemed to have flitted quite innocently out of
ancient mythologies into the Légende Dorée of our own days;
indifferently holding the music for a St. Cecilia, or the looking-glass
for the Mother of Love.

Dolly, with her flowing locks, stood like a little rigid Raphael maiden,
with eyes steadily fixed upon her scroll. Rhoda blushed, and shrilled
and brightened. How well a golden glory would have become her dark
cloudy hair.

As the room darkened Cassie set some lights, and they held them to read
their music by. George kept them all at work, and gave no respite except
to Rhoda, whose feelings he feared he had hurt. 'Please come and turn
over my music, Rhoda,' he said. 'Dolly's not half quick enough.'

He had found some music in an old box at home the day before, some
old-fashioned glees, with a faded and flourishing dedication to the
Right Honourable the Countess of Church town, and then in faint ink, S.
C. 1799.

It was easy music, and they all got on well enough, picking out the
notes. Lady Sarah could remember her mother playing that same old ballad
of 'Ye gentlemen of England' when she was herself quite a little girl.
One old tune after another came, and mingled with Mrs. Morgan's
sleeping, Lady Sarah's waking dreams of the past that was her own, and
of the future that was to be for others; as the tunes struck upon her
ear, they seemed to her like the new lives all about her repeating the
old notes with fresh voices and feelings. George was in high good
humour, behaving very well until Robert displeased him by taking
somebody else's part; the boy stopped short, and there might have been
some discussion, but Mrs. Morgan's fat maid came in with the tray of
gingerbread nuts, and the madeira and orange wine, that the hospitable
old lady delighted to dispense, and set it down with a jingle in the
back-room where the elder ladies were sitting.

This gingerbread tray was the grand closing scene of the entertainment,
and Robert affably handed the wine-glasses, and John Morgan, seizing the
gingerbread nuts, began scattering them all about the room as he forced
them upon his unwilling guests. He had his sermon to finish for the next
day, and he did not urge them to remain. There was a little chattering
in the hall: Dolly was tied up and kissed and tucked up in her shawl;
Lady Sarah donned a capoche (as I think she called it); they stepped out
into the little starlit street, of which the go-to-bed lights were
already burning in the upper windows. Higher still Orion and his mighty
company looked down upon the humble illumination of the zigzag roofs.
The door of the bow-windowed house opened to let out the voices.
'Good-night,' cried everybody, and then the door closed and all was
silent again, except for the footsteps travelling down the street.

Fifteen or twenty years ago, as I have said, Dolly Vanborough and the
other ladies and gentlemen her contemporaries were not the respectable
middle-aged people they are now, but for the most part foolish young
folks just beginning their lives, looking out upon the world with
respectful eyes, arrogant,--perhaps dogmatic, uncertain,--but with a
larger belief, perhaps a more heroic desire, than exists among them now.
To-day, for a good many of them, expediency seems a great discovery, and
the stone that is to turn everything to gold. Take things as you find
them, do so and so, not because you feel inclined, or because it is
right and generous, but because the neighbours are looking on, it is
expected of you; and then, with our old friend the donkey-man, we
stagger off, carrying the ass upon our shoulders. I suppose it is a law
of nature that the horizon should lower as we climb down the hill of
life, only some people look upwards always, 'And stumble among the
briers and tumble into the well.' This is true enough, as regards my
heroine, who was often in trouble, often disappointed, ashamed, angry,
but who will persist in her star-gazing to the end of her journey.

When Dolly was nearly fifteen, her brother George was eighteen, and had
just gone to college, starting in high spirits, and with visions of all
the letters of the alphabet before him, and many other honourable
distinctions. Dolly, dazzled, helped to pack his portmanteau.

'Oh, I wish I was going too!' Dolly said; 'girls never do anything, or
go anywhere.'

'Mamma wants you to go to India,' said George.

'But the Admiral won't have me,' says Dolly; 'he wrote to Aunt Sarah
about it, and said they were coming home. Are you going to take all
these pipes and French novels?'

'I can never study without a pipe,' said George; 'and I must keep up my
French.'

Dolly and Lady Sarah were disappointed when George, notwithstanding
these appliances for study, returned without any special distinctions.
The first Christmas that he came back, he brought Robert Henley with
him. The old grandmother in the Palace was dead, and the young man had
no longer a lodging in Kensington. The two arrived after dinner, and
found Lady Sarah established by the fire in the oak parlour. They had
come up driving through a fierce Christmas wind from the station, and
were glad of Dolly's welcome and comfortable cups of tea.

When Dolly awoke next morning up in her little room, the whole country
was white with snow. The iron wind was gone, the rigid breath of winter
had sobbed itself away, the soft new-fallen snow lay heaped on the
fields and the hedges, on the fir-trees and laurels. Dolly ran to the
window. George and Robert were out in the garden already. Overhead was a
blue, high heaven; the white snow-country she could see through her
window was sparkling and dazzling white. Sharp against the heavens stood
the delicate branches of the trees, prismatic lights were radiating from
the sloping lawns, a light veil of fallen drift wreathed the distant
coppices; and Dolly, running downstairs soon after, found the
dining-room empty, except for the teapot, and she carried her breakfast
to the window. She had scarcely finished when George and Robert both
came tapping at the pane.

'Come out,' cried George.

'Let her finish her breakfast,' said Robert.

'I've done,' cried Dolly, gaily jumping up and running to fetch her hat
and her coat, and to tie up her long skirts. Dolly possessed a warm fur
cloak, which had been Lady Sarah's once, in the days of her prosperity,
and which became the girl so well that her aunt liked her to wear it.
Henley, standing by a frozen cabbage in the kitchen-garden, watched her
approvingly as she came along the snowy path. All her brown furs were
glistening comfortably; the scarlet feather in her hat had caught the
light and reflected it on her hair.

Dolly's hair was very much the colour of seal-skin, two-coloured, the
hollows of its rippling locks seemed dark while the crests shone like
gold. There was something autumnal in her colours. Dolly's was a
brilliant russet autumn, with grey skies and red berries and warm
lights. She had tied a scarlet kerchief round her neck, but the snow did
not melt for all her bright colours. How pretty it was! leaves lying
crisped and glittering upon the white foaming heaps, tiny tracks here
and there crossing the pathways, and then the bird-steps, like chainlets
lightly laid upon the smooth, white field. Where the sun had melted the
snow in some sheltered corner, some red-breasts were hopping and
bobbing; the snow-sheets glittered, lying heavy on the laurel-leaves on
the low fruit walls.

Robert watched her coming, with her honest smiling face. She stopped at
the end of the walk to clear away a corner of the bed, where a little
colony of snowdrops lay crushed by a tiny avalanche that had fallen upon
their meek heads. It was the work of an instant, but in that instant
Dolly's future fate was decided.

For, as my heroine comes advancing unconscious through this snow and
diamond morning, Henley thinks that is the realization of a dream he has
sometimes dreamt, and that the mistress of his future home stands there
before him, bright and bonnie, handsome and outspoken. Dorothy rules him
with the ascendency of a youthful, indifferent heart, strong in its own
reliance and hope; and yet this maiden is not the person that she thinks
herself, nor is she the person that Henley thinks her. She is strong,
but with an artificial strength not all her own; strong in the love of
those round about her, strong in youth and in ignorance of evil.

They walked together down the garden walks and out into the lanes, and
home again across the stile. 'Dolly,' said Robert, as they were going
in, 'I shall not forget our morning's expedition together--will you,
too, promise me----?' He stopped short. 'What are those?' he said,
sentimentally; 'snowdrops?' and he stooped to pick one or two. Dolly
also turned away. 'Here is something that will remind you----' Robert
began.

'And you,' cries Dolly, flinging a great snow heap suddenly into his
face and running away. It was very babyish and vulgar, but Robert looked
so solemn that she could not resist the impulse. He walked back to the
house greatly offended.



CHAPTER XI.

RABAN MEETS THE SHABBY ANGEL.

    Christ hath sent us down the angels,
    And the whole earth and the skies
    Are illumed by altar-candles,
    Lit for blessed mysteries.
    And a Priest's hand through creation
    Waveth calm and consecration....

    --E. B. B.


Sometimes winter days come in autumn, just as hours of old age and
middle age seem to start out of their places in the due rotation of life
and to meet us on the way. One October evening in the following year a
damp fog was spreading over London, the lights from the windows streamed
faintly upon the thick veils of vapour. Many noisy shadows were out and
about, for it was Saturday night, and the winding Kensington
thoroughfare was almost blocked by the trucks and the passers-by. It was
only six o'clock, but the last gleam of light had died away behind the
western chimney-tops; and with the darkness and notwithstanding the fog,
a cheerful saturnalia had begun. A loitering, a clamouring through the
clouds of mist, witches with and without broomsticks, little imps
darting through the crowd, flaring trucks drawn up along the road,
housewives bargaining their Sunday dinners. It seemed a confusion of
darkness, candles, paper-shades, oranges, and what not. Now and then
some quiet West End carriage would roll by, with lamps burning, through
the mist, and horses trampling steadily. Here and there, a bending head
might be seen in some lighted window--it was before the time of Saturday
half-holidays--the forge was blazing and hard at work, clink clank fell
the iron strokes, and flames flashed from the furnace.

Beyond the church, and the arch, and the forge, the shop-lights cease,
the fog seems to thicken, and a sudden silence to fall upon everything;
while the great veils spread along the road, hiding away how many faces,
hearths, and home-like rays. There are sometimes whole years in one's
life that seem so buried beneath some gloomy shadow; people come and go,
lights are burning, and voices sound, but the darkness hangs over
everything, and the sun never seems to rise. A dull-looking
broad-shouldered young man with a beard had come elbowing his way
through the crowd, looking about him as he came along. After a moment's
hesitation he turned up a side lane, looming away out of the region of
lamps. It was so black and silent that he thought at first he must have
been mistaken. He had been carefully directed, but there seemed no
possibility of a house. He could just make out two long walls; a cat ran
hissing along the top of one of them, a wet foggy wind flickered in his
face, and a twig broke from some branch overhead. Frank Raban, for it
was he, wondered if the people he was in search of could be roosting on
the trees or hiding behind the walls this damp evening.

He was turning back in despair when suddenly a door opened, with a flash
of light, through the brickwork, and a lantern was held out.

'Good-night,' said a loud, cheerful voice; 'why, your street lamp is
out; take my arm, Zoe. Go in, Dorothea, you will catch cold.' And two
figures, issuing from the wall like apparitions in the _Arabian Nights_,
passed by hurrying along--a big, comfortable great-coat and a small dark
thing tripping beside it. Meanwhile, the person who had let them out
peeped for an instant into the blackness, holding the lantern high up so
as to throw its light upon the lane. There came a sudden revelation of
the crannies of an old brick wall; of creeping, green ivy, rustling in
the light which seemed to flow from leaf to leaf; and of a young face
smiling upon the dim vapours. It was all like the slide of a
magic-lantern passing on the darkness. Raban almost hesitated to come
forward, but the door was closing on the shining phantasmagoria.

'Does Lady Sarah Francis live here?' he said, coming up.

The girl started--looked at him. She, in turn, saw a red beard and a
pale face appearing unexpectedly, and with a not unnatural impulse she
half closed the door. 'Yes,' she said, retreating a step or two towards
the house, which Raban could now see standing ghost-like within the
outer wall. It was dimly lighted, here and there, from the deep windows;
it seemed covered with tangled creepers; over the open hall door an
old-fashioned stone canopy still hung, dripping with fog and overgrown
with ivy.

The girl, with her lantern, stood waiting on the steps. A blooming
maiden, in a dark green dress, cut in some quaint old-fashioned way, and
slashed with black. Her dress was made of coarse homely stuff, but a
gold chain hung round her neck; it twinkled in the lantern light. Her
reddish-brown hair was pinned up in pretty twists, and some berries
glistened among its coils.

'If you want to _see_ Lady Sarah,' she said, a little impatiently, 'come
in, and shut the garden door.'

He did as he was bid. She ran up the steps into the house, and stood
waiting in the old hall, scanning him still by her lamplight. She had
put the lantern on a corner of the carved chimney-sill, from whence its
glimmers fell upon oaken panels and black-and-white flags of marble,
upon a dark oak staircase winding up into the house.

'Will you go in there?' said the girl, in a low voice, pointing to an
open door.

Then she quickly and noiselessly barred and fixed the heavy bolts; her
hands slid along the old iron hasps and hooks. Raban stood watching her
at work; he found himself comparing her to an ivy plant, she seemed to
bloom so freshly in the damp and darkness, as she went moving hither and
thither in her odd green gown. The next minute she was springing up the
staircase. She stopped, however, on the landing, and leaned over the
banisters to point again, with a stiff quick gesture, to the open door.

Raban at last remembered that he had not given his name. 'Will you
kindly say that----'

But the green dress was gone, and Raban could only walk into the dark
room, and make his way through unknown passes to a smouldering fire
dying on the hearth. On his way he tumbled over a growl, a squeak. Then
a chair went down, and a cat gave a yell, and sprang into the hall. It
was an odd sort of place, and not like anything that Raban had expected.
The usual proprieties of life have this advantage, that people know what
is coming, and pull at a wire with a butler or a parlour-maid at the
other end of it, who also know their parts and in their turn correspond
with an invisible lady upstairs, at the right-hand corner of the drawing
room fire-place. She is prepared to come forward with a nice bow, and to
point to the chair opposite, which is usually on castors, so that you
can pull it forward, and as you sit down you say, 'I daresay you may
remember,' or 'I have been meaning to,' or, &c.

But the whole machinery seemed wanting here, and Frank Raban remained in
the dark, looking through the unshuttered black windows, or at the
smouldering ashes at his feet. At first he speculated on the ivy-maiden,
and then as the minutes went by and no one came, his mind travelled back
through darkness all the way to the last time he had met Lady Sarah
Francis, and the old sickening feeling came over him at the thought of
the past. In these last few years he had felt that he must either fight
for life or sink for ever. It was through no merit of his own that he
had not been utterly wrecked; that he was here to-night, come to repay
the debt he owed; that, more fortunate than many, he had struggled to
shore. Kind hands had been held out to help him to drag safe out of the
depths. Lady Sarah's was the first; then came the younger, firmer grasp
of some of his companions, whom he had left but a year or two ago in the
old haunts, before his unlucky start in life. It was habit that had
taken him back to these old haunts at a time when, by a fortunate
chance, work could be found for him to do. His old friends did not fail
him; they asked no questions; they did not try to probe his wounds; they
helped him to the best of their ability, and stood by him as men stand
by each other, particularly young men. No one was surprised when Mr.
Raban was elected to one of the tutorships at All Saints'. He had taken
a good degree, he had been popular in his time, though now he could not
be called a popular man. Some wondered that it should be worth his while
to settle down upon so small an inducement. Henley, of St. Thomas's, had
refused it when it was pressed upon him. Perhaps Raban had private
means. He had lived like a rich man, it was said, after he left college.
Poor Frank! Those two fatal years had eaten up the many lean kine that
were to follow. All he had asked for now was work, and a hope of saving
up enough to repay those who had trusted him in his dismay. His
grandfather had refused to see him after his marriage. Frank was too
proud a man to make advances, but not too proud to work. He gratefully
took the first chance that came in his way. The morning he was elected
he went to thank one or two of his supporters. He just shook hands, and
said 'Thank you;' but they did not want any fine speeches, nor was Frank
inclined to make them.

Three years are very long to some people, while they are short to
others. Mrs. Palmer had spent them away from her children not
unpleasantly, except for one or two passing differences with the
Admiral, who had now, it was said, taken to offering up public prayers
for Philippa's conversion. Lady Sarah had grown old in three years. She
had had illness and money troubles, and was a poor woman comparatively
speaking. Her hair had turned white, her face had shrunk, while Dolly
had bloomed into brightness, and Frank Raban had grown into middle age,
as far as hope and feeling went. There he sat in the warm twilight,
thinking of the past--ah, how sadly! He was strong enough for to-day,
and not without trust in the future; but he was still almost hopeless
when he thought of the past. He had not forgiven himself. His was not a
forgiving nature, and as long as he lived, those two fatal years of his
life would make part of his sorrowful experience. Once Sarah Francis had
tried to tell him--(but many things cannot be understood except by those
who have first learnt the language)--that for some people the only
possible repentance is to do better. Mere repentance, that dwelling upon
past misery and evil doing, which people call remorse, is, as often as
not, madness and meaningless despair.

Sometimes Frank wondered now at the irritation which had led him to
rebel so furiously at his fate. Poor, gentle fate! he could scarcely
understand his impatience with it now. Perhaps, if Emma had lived----

We often, in our blindness, take a bit of our life, and look at it apart
as an ended history. We take a phase incomplete, only begun, perhaps,
for the finished and irrevocable whole. Irrevocable it may be, in one
sense, but who shall say that the past is completed because it is past,
any more than that we ourselves are completed because we must die? Frank
had not come to look at his own personal misdoings philosophically (as
what honest man or woman would), or with anything but shrinking pain, as
yet; he could bear no allusion to those sad days.

'You know Paris well, I believe Mr. Raban,' said some young lady. 'How
long is it since----'

He looked so odd and angry that she stopped quite frightened. Dark
fierce lines used to come under his heavy eyes at the smallest attempt
to revive what was still so recent and vivid. If it was rude he could
not help it.

He never spoke of himself. Strangers used to think Raban odd and abrupt
when he sometimes left them in the middle of a sentence, or started away
and did not answer. His old friends thought him changed, but after a
great crisis we are used to see people harder. And this one talks, and
you think he has told you all; and that one is silent, and he thinks he
has told you nothing. And feelings come and go, the very power to
understand them comes and goes, gifts and emotions pass, our inmost
feelings change as we go on wandering through the narrow worlds that lie
along the commonest common-places and ways of life. Into what worlds had
poor Frank been wandering as he stood watching the red lights dull into
white ashes by the blue tiles of the hearth!

Presently a lantern and two dark heads passed the window.

'Where is he?' said a voice in the hall. 'Dolly, did you say Mr. Raban
was here? What! all in the dark?'

The voice had reached the door by this time, and some one came and stood
there for an instant. How well he remembered the kindly croaking tones!
When he heard them again, it seemed to him as if they had only finished
speaking a minute before.

Some one came and stood for an instant at the doorway. No blooming young
girl with a bright face and golden head, but a grey-haired woman,
stooping a little as she walked. She came forward slowly, set her light
upon the table, and then looked at him with a pair of kind shaggy eyes,
and put out her long hand as of old.

Raban felt his heart warm towards the shabby face, the thick kindly
brows. Once that woman's face had seemed to him like an angel's in his
sorest need. Who says angels must be all young and splendid; will there
not be some comforting ones, shabby and tender, whose radiance does not
dazzle nor bewilder; whose faces are worn, perhaps, while their stars
shine with a gentle tremulous light, more soothing to our aching,
earth-bound hearts than the glorious radiance of brighter spirits? Raban
turned very red when he saw his old friend. 'How could you know I was
here? You have not forgotten me?' he said; not in his usual reluctant
way, but speaking out with a gentle tone in his voice. 'I should have
come before, but I----' Here he began to stammer and to feel in his
pocket. 'Here it is,' and he pulled out a packet. 'If it hadn't been for
you I should never have had the heart to set to work again. I don't know
what I should have done,' he repeated, 'but for you.' And then he looked
at her for an instant, and then, with a sudden impulse, Raban
stooped--as he did so she saw his eyes were glistening--he stooped and
kissed her cheek.

'Why, my dear?' said Lady Sarah, blushing up. She had not had many
kisses in her life. Some people would as soon have thought of kissing
the poker and tongs.

Frank blushed up too and looked a little foolish; but he quickly sobered
down again. 'You will find it all right,' said Raban, folding her long
thin hand over the little parcel, 'and good-night, and thank you.'

Still Lady Sarah hesitated. She could not bear to take it. She felt as
though he had paid her twice over; that she ought to give it back to
him, and say, 'Here, keep it. I don't want your money, only your kiss
and your friendship. I was glad to help you.' She looked up in his pale
face in a strange wistful way, scanning it with her grey eyes. They
almost seemed to speak, and to say, 'You don't know how I want it, or I
would not take it from you.'

'How changed you are!' she said at last, speaking very slowly. 'I am
afraid you have been working too hard to pay me. I oughtn't to----' He
was almost annoyed by this wistful persistency. Why did she stand
hesitating? Why did she not take it, and put it in her pocket, and have
done with it? Now again she was looking at the money with a pathetic
look. And meanwhile Raban was wondering, Could it be that this woman
cared for money--this woman, who had forced her help upon him so
generously? He hated himself for the thought. This was the penalty, he
told himself, for his own past life. This fatal suspicion and mistrust
of others: even his benefactress was not to be spared.

'I must be going,' he said, starting away in his old stiff manner. 'You
will let me come again, won't you?'

'Come again! Of course you will come again,' Lady Sarah said, laying her
thin fingers on his arm. 'I shall not let you go now until you have seen
my Dolly.' And so saying, she led him back into the hall. 'Go in, you
will find her there. I will come back,' said Lady Sarah, abruptly, with
her hand on the door-handle. She looked quite old and feeble as she
leant against the oak. Then again she seemed to remember herself.
'You--you will not say anything of this,' she added, with a sudden
imploring look; and she opened her thin fingers, still clutching the
packet of bank-notes and gold, and closed them again.

Then he saw her take the lantern from the chimney and hurriedly toil up
the stairs, and he felt somehow that she was going to hide it away.

What would he have thought if he could have seen her safe in her own
room, with the sovereigns spread out upon the bed and the bank-notes,
while the poor soul stood eagerly counting over her store. Yes, she
loved money, but there were things she loved still more. Sarah Francis,
alone in the world, might have been a miser if she had not loved Dolly
so dearly--Dolly, who was Stan's daughter. There was always just this
difference between Lady Sarah and open-handed people. With them money
means little--a moment's weakness, a passing interest. With Lady Sarah
to give was doubt, not pleasure; it meant disorder in her balanced
schemes; it meant truest self-denial: to give was to bestow on others
what she meant for Dolly's future ease and happiness; and yet she gave.



CHAPTER XII.

DOROTHEA BY FIRELIGHT.

    The waunut logs shot sparkles out
    Towards the pootiest, bless her,
    An' leetle fires danced all about
    The chiny on the dresser;
    The very room, coz she was in,
    Looked warm from floor to ceilin'.

    --Lowell.


Lady Sarah had left Raban to go into the drawing-room alone. It was all
very strange, he thought, and more and more like a crazy dream. He found
himself in a long room of the colour of firelight, with faded hangings,
sweeping mysteriously from the narrow windows, with some old chandeliers
swinging from the shadows. It seemed to him, though he could not clearly
see them, that there were ghosts sitting on the chairs, denizens of the
kingdom of mystery, and that there was a vague flit and consternation in
the darkness at the farther end of the room, when through the opening
door the gleam of the lantern, which by this time was travelling
upstairs, sped on with a long slanting flash. For a moment he thought
the place was empty; the atmosphere was very warm and still; the
firelight blazed comfortably; a coal started from the grate, then came a
breath, a long, low, sleepy breath from a far-away corner. Was this a
ghost? And then, as his eyes got accustomed, he saw that the girl who
had let him in sat crouching by the fire. Her face was turned away; the
light fell upon her throat and the harmonious lines of her figure.
Raban, looking at her, thought of one of Lionardo's figures in the
Louvre. But this was finer than a Lionardo. What is it in some attitudes
that is so still, and yet that thrills with a coming movement of life
and action? It is life, not inanimately resting, but suspended from
motion as we see it in the old Greek art. That flying change from the
now to the future is a wonder sometimes written in stone; it belongs to
the greatest creations of genius as well as to the living statues and
pictures among which we live.

So Dolly, unconscious, was a work of art, as she warmed her hands at the
fire: her long draperies were heaped round about her, her hair caught
the light and burnt like gold. If Miss Vanborough had been a conscious
work of art she might have remained in her pretty attitude, but being a
girl of sixteen, simple and somewhat brusque in manners, utterly
ignoring the opinions of others, she started up and came to meet Raban,
advancing quick through the dimness and the familiar labyrinth of
chairs.

'Hush--sh!' she said, pointing to a white heap in a further corner,
'Rhoda is asleep; she has been ill, and we have brought her here to
nurse.' Then she went back in the same quick silence, brought a light
from the table, and beckoning to him to follow her, led the way to the
very darkest and shadiest end of the long drawing-room, where the ghosts
had been flitting before them. There was a tall oak chair, in which she
established herself. There was an old cabinet and a sofa, and a faded
Italian shield of looking-glass, reflecting waves of brown and reddish
light. Again Dolly motioned. Raban was to sit down there on the sofa
opposite.

Since he had come into the house he had done little but obey the orders
he had received. He was amused and not a little mystified by this young
heroine's silent imperious manners. He did not admire them, and yet he
could not help watching her, half in wonder, half in admiration of her
beauty. She, as I have said, did not think of speculating upon the
impression she had created: she had other business on hand.

'I knew you at once,' said Dolly, with the hardihood of sixteen, 'when I
saw you at the gate.' As she spoke in her girlish voice, somehow the
mystery seemed dispelled, and Raban began to realise that this was only
a drawing-room and a young lady after all.

'Ever since your letter came last year,' she continued, unabashed, 'I
have hoped that you would come, and--and you have paid her the money she
lent you, have you not?' said the girl, looking into his face
doubtfully, and yet confidingly too.

Raban answered by an immense stare. He was a man almost foolishly
fastidious and reserved. He was completely taken aback and shocked by
her want of discretion--so he chose to consider it. Dolly, unused to the
ways of the world, had not yet appreciated those refinements of delicacy
with which people envelop the simplest facts of life.

As for Raban, he was at all times uncomfortably silent respecting
himself. 'Dolly' conveyed no meaning whatever to his mind, although he
might have guessed who she was. Even if Lady Sarah had not asked it of
him, he would not have answered her. Whatever they may say, reserved
people pique themselves upon some mental superiority in the reservations
they make. Miss Vanborough misinterpreted the meaning of the young man's
confused looks and silence.

He had not paid the money! she was sorry. Oh, how welcome it would have
been for Aunt Sarah's sake and for George's sake! Poor George! how
should she ever ask for money for him now? Her face fell; she tried to
speak of other things to hide her disappointment. Now she wished she had
not asked the question--it must be so uncomfortable for Mr. Raban she
thought. She tried to talk on, one little sentence came jerking out
after another, and Raban answered more or less stiffly. 'Was he not at
Cambridge? Did he know her brother there--George Vanborough?'

Raban looked surprised, and said, 'Yes, he knew a Mr. Vanborough
slightly. He had known him at his tutor's years before.' Here a vision
of a stumpy young man flourishing a tankard rose before him. Could he be
this beautiful girl's brother?

'Did he know her cousin, Robert Henley?' continued Dolly, eagerly.

Raban (who had long avoided Henley's companionship) answered even more
stiffly that he did not see much of him. So the two talked on; but they
had got into a wrong key, as people do at times, and they mutually
jarred upon each other. Even their silence was inharmonious.
Occasionally came a long, low, peaceful breath: it seemed floating on
the warm shadows.

Everything was perfectly common-place, and yet to Raban there seemed an
element of strangeness and incongruity in the ways of the old house.
There was something weird in the whole thing--the defiant girl, the
sleeping woman, Lady Sarah, with her strange hesitations and emotions,
and the darkness.--How differently events strike people from different
points of view. Here was a common-place half-hour, while old Sam
prepared the seven-o'clock tea with Marker's help--while Rhoda slept a
peaceful little sleep: to Raban it seemed a strange and puzzling
experience, quite out of the common run of half-hours.

Did he dislike poor Dolly? That off-hand manner was not Frank Raban's
ideal of womanliness. Lady Sarah, with her chilled silence and
restrained emotions, was nearer to it by far, old and ugly though she
was. And yet he could not forget Dolly's presence for a single instant.
He found himself watching, and admiring, and speculating about her
almost against his will. She, too, was aware of this silent scrutiny,
and resented it. Dolly was more brusque and fierce and uncomfortable
that evening than she had ever been in all her life before. Dorothea
Vanborough was one of those people who reflect the atmosphere somehow,
whose lights come and go, and whose brilliance comes and goes. Dull fogs
would fall upon her sometimes, at others sunlight, moonlight, or faint
reflected rays would beam upon her world. It was a wide one, and open to
all the winds of heaven.

So Frank Raban discovered when it was too late. He admired her when he
should have loved her. He judged her in secret when he should have
trusted or blamed her openly. A day came when he felt he had forfeited
all right even to help her or to protect her, and that, while he was
still repenting for the past, he had fallen (as people sometimes do who
walk backwards) into fresh pitfalls.

'My cousin Robert has asked me and Rhoda to spend a day at Cambridge in
the spring,' said Dolly, reluctantly struggling on at conversation.

Frank Raban was wondering if Lady Sarah was never coming back.

There was a sigh, a movement from the distant corner.

'Did you call me?' said a faint, shrill voice, plaintive and tremulous,
and a figure rose from the nest of soft shawls and came slowly forward,
dispersing the many wraps that lay coiling on the floor.

'Have I been asleep? I thought Mr. Henley was here?' said the voice,
confusedly.

Dolly turned towards her. 'No, he is not here, Rhoda. Sit down, don't
stand; here is Mr. Raban come to see us.'

And then in the dim light of the fire and distant candle, Raban saw two
dark eyes looking out of a pale face that he seemed to remember.

'Mr. Raban!' said the voice.

'Have you forgotten?' said Dolly, hastily, going up to the distant sofa.
'Mr. Raban, from Paris----' she began; then seeing he had followed her,
she stopped; she turned very red. She did not want to pain him. And
Raban, at the same moment, recognised the two girls he had seen once
before, and remembered where it was that he had known the deep grey
eyes, with their look of cold repulsion and dislike.

'Are you Mr. Raban?' repeated Rhoda, looking intently into his face. 'I
should have known you if it had not been so dark.' And she instinctively
put up her hand and clasped something hanging round her neck.

The young man was moved.

'I ought indeed to remember you,' he said, with some emotion.

And as he spoke, he saw a diamond flash in the firelight. This, then,
was the child who had wandered down that terrible night, to whom he had
given his poor wife's diamond cross.

Rhoda saw with some alarm that his eyes were fixed upon the cross.

'I sometimes think I ought to send this back to you,' she faltered on,
blushing faintly, and still holding it tightly clasped in her hand.

'Keep it,' said Raban, gravely; 'no one has more right to it than you.'
Then they were all silent.

Dolly wondered why Rhoda had a right to the cross, but she did not ask.

Raban turned still more hard and more sad as the old memories assailed
him suddenly from every side. Here was the past living over again.
Though he might have softened to Lady Sarah, he now hardened to himself;
and, as it often happens, the self-inflicted pain he felt seemed
reflected in his manner towards the girls.

'I know you both now,' he said, gravely, standing up. 'Good-night; will
you say good-by to your aunt for me?'

He did not offer to shake hands; it was Dolly who put out hers. He was
very stiff, and yet there was a humble look in his pale face and dark
eyes that Dolly could not forget. She seemed to remember it after he was
gone.

Lady Sarah came in only a minute after Frank had left. She looked
disappointed.

'I have just met him in the hall,' she said.

'Is he gone?' said Dolly. 'Aunt Sarah, he is still very unhappy.'

A few minutes afterwards Rhoda said what a pity that Mr. Raban was gone,
when she saw how smartly the tea-table was set out, how the silver
candlesticks were lighted, and some of the good old wine that George
liked sparkling in the decanter. Dolly felt as if Mr. Raban was more
disagreeable than ever for giving so much trouble for nothing. Rhoda was
very much interested in Lady Sarah's visitor, and asked Dolly many more
questions when they were alone upstairs. She had been ill, and was
staying at Church House to get well in quiet and away from the
schoolboys.

'Of course one can't ever like him,' Dolly said, 'but one is very sorry
for him. Good-night, Rhoda.'

'No, I don't like her,' said Raban to himself; and he thought of Dolly
all the way home. Her face haunted him. He dined at his club, and drove
to the shabby station in Bishopsgate. He seemed to see her still as he
waited for his train, stamping by the station fire, and by degrees that
bitter vision of the past vanished away and the present remained.
Dolly's face seemed to float along before him all the way back as the
second-class carriage shook and jolted through the night, out beyond
London fog into a region of starlit plains and distant glimmering
lights. Vision and visionary travelled on together, until at last the
train slackened its thunder and stopped. A few late Cambridge lights
shone in the distance. It was past midnight. When Raban, walking through
the familiar byways, reached his college-gates, he found them closed and
barred; one gas-lamp flared--a garish light of to-day shining on the
ancient carved stones and mullions of the past. A sleepy porter let him
in, and as he walked across the dark court he looked up and saw here and
there a light burning in a window, and then some far-away college-clock
clanged the half-hour, then another, and another, and then their own
clock overhead, loud and stunning. He reached his own staircase at last
and opened the oak door. Before going in, Raban looked up through the
staircase-window at George Vanborough's rooms, which happened to be
opposite his own. They were brilliantly illuminated, and the rays
streamed out and lighted up many a deep lintel and sleeping-window.



CHAPTER XIII.

LITTLE BROTHER AND LITTLE SISTER.

    Go; when the instinct is stilled, and when the deed is accomplished,
    What thou hast done, and shalt do, shall be declared to thee then;
    Go with the sun and the stars, and yet evermore in thy spirit
    Say to thyself: 'It is good, yet is there better than it;
    This that I see is not all, and this that I do is but little,
    Nevertheless it is good, though there is better than it.'

    --A. Clough.


As the actors pass across the stage of life and play their parts in its
great drama, it is not difficult at the outset to docket them for the
most part 'a lawyer,' 'a speculator,' 'an amiable person,' 'an
intelligent, prosy man,' 'a parson,' &c.; but after watching the piece a
little (on this all-the-world stage it is not the play that ends, but
the actors and speculators that come and go), we begin to see, that
although some of the performers may be suited to their parts, there are
others whose characters are not so well cast to the piece--Robert
Henley, for instance, who is not quite in his element as a very young
man. But every one is in earnest in a certain fashion upon this
life-stage, and that is why we find the actors presently beginning to
play their own characters, instead of those which they are supposed to
represent--to the great confusion, very often, of the drama itself. We
have all read of a locksmith who had to act the part of a king; of a
nephew who tried to wear his uncle's cocked hat, of a king who
proclaimed himself a god; and of the confusion that ensued; and it is
the same in private as in public life, where people are set to work
experiments in love, money, sermon, hay, or law-making, with more or
less aptitude for the exercise--what a strange jumble it is! Here is the
lawyer making love to his client, instead of writing her will; the lover
playing on the piano while his mistress is expecting him; the farmer,
while his crops are spoiling, pondering on the theory of original sin.
Among women, too, we find wives, mothers, daughters, and even professed
aunts and nieces, all with their parts reversed by the unkind freaks of
fate. Some get on pretty well, some break down utterly. The higher
natures, acting from a wider conception of life, will do their best to
do justice to the character, uncongenial though it may be, which happens
to be assigned to them. Perhaps they may flag now and then, specially
towards the middle of the performance; but by degrees they come to hear
the music of 'duty done.' And duty is music, though it may be a hard
sort of fugue, and difficult to practise--one too hard, alas, for our
poor George as yet to master. Henley, to be sure, accomplished his
ambitions; but then it was only a one-fingered scale that he attempted.

Dolly's was easy music in those early days of her life: at home or in
Old Street the girl herself and her surroundings were in a perfect
harmony. Dolly's life was a melody played to an accompaniment of loving
tones and tender words among the tranquil traditions of the old house
and the old ivy-grown suburb in which it stood. Rhoda used to wonder why
people cared so much for Dolly, who was so happy, who never sacrificed
herself, but did as she liked, and won all hearts to her, even Robert
Henley's, thought Rhoda, with a sigh. As for Dolly, she never thought
about her happiness, though Rhoda did. The girl's life sped on
peacefully among the people who loved her. She knew she meant so well
that it had not yet occurred to her that she might make mistakes in life
and fail, and be sorry some day as other folks. Rhoda, comparing her own
little back-garret life in the noisy Morgan household with her friend's,
used to think that everybody and everything united to spoil her. Dolly
was undoubtedly Dorothea Regina--ruler of the household--a benevolent
tyrant. The province of the teapot was hers--the fortress of the
store-room. She had her latch-key. Old Marker and George were the only
people who ever ventured to oppose her. When they did so, Dolly gave in
instantly with a smile and a sweet grace that was specially her own. She
was a somewhat impetuous and self-diffident person in reality, though as
yet she did not know what she was. In looks she could see a tall and
stately maiden, with a sweet, round, sleepy face, reflected in the
glass, and she took herself for granted at the loving valuation of those
about her, as people, both old and young, are apt to do.

Dolly was one of those persons who travel on eagerly by starts, and then
sit down to rest. Notwithstanding her impetuous, youthful manner, she
was full of humility and diffidence, and often from very shyness and
sincerity she would seem rude and indignant when she was half-frightened
at her own vehemence; then came passionate self-reproach, how passionate
none can tell but some of those who seem to have many selves and many
impulses, all warring with one another. There are two great classes of
women--those who minister, and those who are taken care of by others;
and the born care-takers and workers are apt to chafe in early life,
before people will recognise their right to do. Something is wrong,
tempers go wrong, hearts beat passionately, boil over, ache for nothing
at all; they want to comfort people, to live, to love, to come and go,
to feel they are at work. It may be wholesome discipline for such
natures to live for years in a kingdom of education of shadows and
rules. They may practise their self-denial on the keys of the piano,
they may translate their hearts' interest into German exercises and back
into English again; but that is poor work, and so far the upper classes
pay a cruel penalty unknown to girls of a humbler birth. And so time
goes on. For some a natural explanation comes to all their nameless
difficulties. Others find one sooner or later, or the bright edge of
impatient youth wears off. Raban once called Dolly a beautiful sour
apple. Beautiful apples want time and sunshine to ripen and become
sweet. If Dolly blamed others, she did not spare herself; but she was
much beloved, and, as I have said, she meant so well that she could not
help trusting in herself.

Something of Dolly's life was written in her face, in her clear, happy
eyes, in her dark and troubled brow. Even as a girl, people used to say
that she had always different faces, and so she had for the multitude;
but for those who loved her it was always the same true, trusting look,
more or less worn as time went on, but still the same. She had a
peculiar, sudden, sweet smile, that went to the very heart of the lonely
old aunt, who saw it often. Dolly never had the training of repression,
and perhaps that is why, when it fell upon her in later life, the lesson
seemed so hard. She was not brilliant. She could not say things as
George did. She was not witty. Though she loved to be busy, and to
accomplish, Dolly could not do things as Rhoda did--clearly, quickly,
completely. But how many stupid people there are who have a touch of
genius about them. It would be hard to say in what it consists. They may
be dull, slow, cross at times, ill-informed, but you feel there is
something that outweighs dulness, crossness, want of information.

Dorothy Vanborough had a little genius in her, though she was apt to
look stupid and sulky and indifferent when she did not feel at her ease.
Sometimes when reproved for this, she would stand gaping with her grey
eyes, and looking so oddly like her Aunt Sarah that Mrs. Palmer, when
she came home, would lose all patience with her. There was no knowing
exactly what she was, her mother used to say. One day straight as an
arrow--bright, determined; another day, grey and stiff, and almost ugly
and high-shouldered. 'If Dolly had been more taking,' said Mrs. Palmer,
judging by the light of her own two marriages, 'she might have allowed
herself these quirks and fancies; but as it was, it was a pity.' Her
mother declared that she did it on purpose.

Did she do it on purpose? In early life she didn't care a bit what
people thought of her. In this she was a little unwomanly, perhaps, but
unwomanly in the best and noblest sense. When with time those mysterious
other selves came upon her that we meet as we travel along the road,
bewildering her and pointing with all their different experiences, she
ceased to judge either herself or others as severely; she loved faith
and truth, and hated meanness and dissimulation as much as ever. Only,
being a woman too honest to deceive herself, she found she could no
longer apply the precepts that she had used once to her satisfaction. To
hate the devil and all his works is one thing, but to say who is the
devil and which are his works is another.

       *       *       *       *       *

As for George Vanborough, his temper was alternately uproarious and
melancholy: there was some incongruity in his nature that chafed and
irritated him. He had abilities, but strange and cross-grained ones, of
no use in an examination for instance. He could invent theories, but
somehow he never got at the facts; he was rapid in conclusion, too rapid
for poor Dolly, who was expected to follow him wherever he went, and who
was sometimes hard put to it, for, unlike George's, her convictions were
slower than her sympathies.

A great many people seem to miss their vocations because their bodies do
not happen to fit their souls. This is one of the advantages of middle
age: people have got used to their bodies and to their faults; they know
how to use them, to spare them, and they do not expect too much. George
was at war with himself, poor fellow: by turns ascetic and
self-indulgent, morbid, and overconfident. It is difficult to docket
such a character, made up of all sorts of little bits collected from one
and another ancestor; of materials warring against each other, as we
have read in Mr. Darwin.

George's rooms at Cambridge were very small, and looked out across the
green quadrangle at All Saints'. Among other instincts, he had inherited
that of weaving his nest with photographs and old china, and lining it
comfortably from Church House. There were papers and music-books,
tankards (most of them with inscriptions), and a divining crystal. The
old windows were deep and ivy-grown: at night they would often be
cheerfully lighted up. 'Far too often,' say George's counsellors.

'I should like to entertain well enough,' says Henley, with a wave of
the hand, 'but I can't afford it prudently. Bills have a knack of
running up, particularly when they are not paid,' the young man remarks,
with great originality, 'and then one can't always meet them.'

George only answers by a scowl from his little ferret eyes. 'You can pay
your own bills twice over if you like,' he grunts out impatiently; 'mine
don't concern you.'

Robert said no more; he had done his part, and he felt he could now face
Dolly and poor Lady Sarah of the bleeding purse with a clear conscience;
but he could not help remembering with some satisfaction two neatly
tied-up bundles of bills lying with a cheque-book in his despatch-box at
home. He was just going when there came a knock at the door, and a pale
man with a red beard walked in and shook hands with George, then
somewhat hesitatingly with his companion, and finally sat down in
George's three-sided chair.

Need I say that this was Raban, who had come to recommend a tutor to
George? Was it to George or to Dorothea that Raban was so anxious to
recommend a tutor?

George shrugged his shoulders, and did not seem in the least grateful.

Henley delayed a moment. 'I am glad you agree with me,' he said. 'I also
have been speaking to my cousin on the subject.'

Raban bowed in the shy way peculiar to him. You never could tell if he
was only shy or repelled by your advances.

'You and I have found the advantage of a good coach all our lives,' the
other continued, with a subdued air of modest triumph. It seemed to say,
'You will be glad to know that I am one of the most rising men of the
University;' and at the same time Robert looked down apologetically at
poor scowling George, who was anything but rising, poor fellow, and well
up to his knees in the slough of despond. Nor was it destined that
Robert Henley was to be the man to pull him out. Although he had walked
over from St. Thomas's to do so, he walked back again without having
effected his purpose.

'I did not know, till your sister told me, that Mr. Henley was your
cousin,' said Raban, as Robert left the room.

'Didn't you?' said George. 'I suppose you did not see any likeness in me
to that grenadier with the cameo nose?' and turning his back abruptly
upon Raban, he began strumming Yankee-doodle on the piano, standing as
he played, and putting in a quantity of pretty modulations. It was only
to show off; but Raban might have been tempted to follow Henley
downstairs if he had not caught sight of a photograph of a girl with
circling eyes in some strange old-fashioned dress, with a lantern in her
hand. It was the work of a well-known amateur, who has the gift of
seizing expression as it flies, and giving you a breathing friend,
instead of the image of an image. But it was in vain the young professor
stayed on, in vain that he came time after time trying to make friends
with young Vanborough and to urge him to work. He once went so far as to
write a warning letter to Lady Sarah. It did no good, and only made
Dolly angry. At Christmas, George wrote that he had not passed, and
would be home on the 23rd. He did not add that he had been obliged to
sign some bills before he could get away.

George came home; with or without his laurels, he was sure of an
ovation. Dolly, by her extra loving welcome, only showed her
disappointment at his want of success.

The fatted calf was killed, and the bottle of good wine was opened. 'Old
Sam insisted on it,' said Lady Sarah, who had got into a way of taking
shelter behind old Sam when she found herself relenting. It was
impossible not to relent when Dolly, hearing the cab-wheels, came with a
scream of delight flying down the staircase from George's room, where
she had been busy making ready. A great gust of cold wind burst into the
hall with the open door, by which George was standing, with his bag, a
little fussy and a little shy; but Dolly's glad cry of welcome and
loving arms were there to reassure him.

'Shut the door,' said Dolly, 'the wind will blow us away. Have you paid
your cab?' As she spoke the horse was turning round upon its haunches,
and the cab was driving off, and a pale face looked out for an instant.

'It's no matter,' said George, pushing to the door. 'Raban brought me.
He is going on to dine somewhere near.'

'Horrid man!' said Dolly. 'Come, George, and see Aunt Sarah. She is in
the drawing-room.'

Lady Sarah looked at George very gravely over her knitting, and her
needles began to tremble a little.

'What do you wish me to say, George? That you failed because you
couldn't or because you wouldn't try?'

'Some one must fail,' said George.

'It is not fair upon me,' said Lady Sarah, 'that you should be the one.
No, Dolly, I am not at all unkind.'

I have said very little of the changes and economies that had been made
at Church House, they affected Lady Sarah and Dolly so little; but when
George came home, even in disgrace, a certain difference was made in the
still ways of the house. Old Sam's niece, Eliza Twells, stayed all day,
and was transformed into a smiling abigail, not a little pleased with
her promotion. One of Lady Sarah's old grey gowns was bestowed upon her.
A cap and ribbons were concocted by Dolly; the ribbons were for ever
fluttering in and out of the sitting-room, and up and down the passages.
There was a sound of voices now, a show of life. Dolly could not talk to
herself all through the long months when George was away; but when she
had him safe in his little room again the duet was unceasing.

Eliza Twells down below in the pan-decorated kitchen, in all the
excitement of her new dignities, kept the ball going. You could hear old
Sam's chuckles all the way upstairs, and the maiden's loud, croaking,
cheerful voice.

'It's like a saw-mill,' said George, 'but what is that?'

'That is Eliza laughing,' said Dorothea, laughing herself; 'and there is
dear old Marker scolding. Oh! George, how nice it is to have you home
again; and then, as most happy vibrations bring a sadder after-tone,
Dolly sighed and stopped short.

'Disgrace _is_ hard to bear,' said George moodily.

'Disgrace! What do you mean?' wondered Dolly, who had been thinking of
something quite apart from those unlucky examinations--something that
was not much, and yet she would have found it hard to put her thought
into words. For how much there is that is not in words, that never
happens quite, that is never realised altogether; and yet it is as much
part of our life as anything else.



CHAPTER XIV.

RAG DOLLS.

    And slight Sir Robert, with his watery smile
    And educated whisker.


These were days not to be forgotten by Dolly or by her aunt. Don't we
all know how life runs in certain grooves, following phases of one sort
or another? how dreams of coming trouble haunt us vaguely all through a
night? or, again, is it hope that dawns silently from afar to lighten
our hearts and to make sweet visions for us before we awake to the heat
of the day?

It was all tranquil progress from day to day. Raban came to see them
once or twice while George was away. It seemed all peace and silence
during those years in the old house, where the two women lived so
quietly each their own life, thinking their own thoughts. Rumours came
now and then of Mrs. Palmer's return; but this had been put off so
often, from one reason or another, that Dolly had almost ceased to dwell
upon it. She had settled down to her daily occupations. John Morgan had
set her to work in one of his districts. She used to teach in the
Sunday-school, help her aunt in a hundred ways. This eventful spring she
went into Yorkshire with Marker and a couple of new gowns, on a visit to
her uncle, Sir Thomas Henley, at Smokethwaite. She enjoyed herself
extremely, and liked her uncle and the girls very much. Her aunt was not
very kind; 'at least, not so kind as I'm used to,' said Dolly
afterwards. They had gone for long walks across the moors; they had
ridden for twenty miles one day. She had seen her mother's picture, and
slept in the room that used to be hers when she was a girl, and her
cousin Norah had taken her about; but her Aunt Henley was certainly very
cross and always saying uncomfortable things, and she was very glad to
be home again, and didn't want to go away for years and years. Robert
Henley had been there for a couple of days, and had come up to town with
her. Jonah Henley was a very kind, stupid boy, not at all like Robert.
He was very friendly to Dolly, and used to confide in her. He had made
his mother very angry by insisting upon going into the Guards.

'She asked my advice,' said Dolly. 'She wanted to know if I didn't think
it a foolish, idle sort of life.'

'And what did you say?' said Lady Sarah.

'I said that it might be so for some people who were clever and
thoughtful, but that he seemed to have no interests at all, and never
opened a book.'

'My dear child,' cried Lady Sarah, 'no wonder Lady Henley was annoyed!'

'Oh, dear me! I am so very sorry,' cries Dolly, penitently, as she
walked along. They were going along one of the narrow alleys leading to
the Square.

Day after day Lady Sarah used to leave home and trudge off with her
basket and her well-known shabby cloak--it was warm and green like the
heart that beat under it--from house to house, in and out, round and
about the narrow little Kensington streets. The parents, who had tried
to impose upon her at first, soon found that she had little sympathy for
pathetic attitudes, and that her quick tongue paid them back in their
own coin. They bore no malice. Poor people only really respect those who
know them as they are, and whose sympathy is personal and not ideal.
Lady Sarah's was genuine sympathy; she knew her flock by name, and she
spared no trouble to help those who were trying to help themselves. The
children would come up shyly when they saw the straight, scant figure
coming along, and look into her face. Sometimes the basket would open
and red apples would come out--shining red apples in the dirty little
back streets and by-lanes behind Kensington Square. Once Robert Henley,
walking to Church House, across some back way, came upon his aunt
sitting on an old chair on the step of a rag-shop with a little circle
of children round her, and Dolly standing beside her, straight and
upright. Over her head swung the legless form of a rag doll, twirling in
the wind. On one side of the door was some rhymed doggerel about 'Come,
cookey, come,' and bring 'your bones,' plastered up against the wall.
Lady Sarah, on the step, seemed dispensing bounties from her bag to
half-a-dozen little clamorous, half-fledged creatures.

'My dear Lady Sarah, what does this mean?' said Robert, trying to laugh,
but looking very uncomfortable.

'I was so tired, Robert, I could not get home without resting,' said
Lady Sarah, 'and Mr. Wilkins kindly brought me out a chair. These are
some of my Sunday-school children, and Dolly and I were giving them a
treat.'

'But really this is scarcely the place to----If any one were to
pass--if----Run away, run away, run away,' said Mr. Henley affably to
the children, who were all closing in a ragged phalanx and gazing
admiringly at his trousers. 'I'll get you a cab directly,' said the
young man, looking up and down. 'I came this short cut, but I had no
idea----'

'There are no cabs anywhere down here,' said Dolly, laughing. 'This is
Aunt Sarah's district; that is her soup-kitchen.' And Dolly pointed up a
dismal street with some flapping washing-lines on one side. It looked
all empty and deserted, except that two women were standing in the
doorways of their queer old huddled-up houses. A little further off came
a branch street, a blank wall, and some old Queen Anne railings and
doorways leading into Kensington Square.

'Good-by, little Betty,' said Lady Sarah, getting up from her old straw
chair, and smiling.

She was amused by the young man's unaffected dismay. Philanthropy was
quite in Henley's line, but that was, Robert thought, a very different
thing from familiarity.

'Now then, Betty, where's your curtsey?' says Dolly, 'and Mick, sir!'

Mick grinned, and pulled at one of his horrible little wisps of hair.
The children seemed fascinated by the 'gentleman.' They were used to the
ladies, and, in fact, accustomed to be very rude to Dolly, although she
was so severe.

'If you will give me an arm, Robert,' said Lady Sarah, 'and if you are
not ashamed to be seen with me----'

'My dear Lady Sarah!' said Robert, hastily, offering his arm.

'Now, children, be off,' says Dolly.

'Please, sir, won't you give us 'napeny?' said Mick, hopping along with
his little deft, bare feet.

'Go away,--for shame, Mick!' cried Dolly again, while Henley impatiently
threw some coppers into the road, after which all the children set off
scrambling in an instant.

'Oh, Robert, you shouldn't have done that,' cried Dolly, rushing back to
superintend the fair division of kicks and halfpence.

Robert waited for her for a moment, and looked at her as she stood in
her long grey cloak, with a little struggling heap at her feet of legs
and rags and squeaks and contortions. The old Queen Anne railings of the
corner house, and the dim street winding into rags, made a background to
this picture of modern times: an old slatternly woman in a nightcap came
to her help from one of the neighbouring doorways, and seizing one of
the children out of the heap, gave it a cuff and dragged it away. Dolly
had lifted Mick off the back of a smaller child--the crisis was over.

'Here she comes,' said Lady Sarah, in no way discomposed.

Robert was extremely discomposed. He hated to see Dolly among such
sights and surroundings. He tried to speak calmly as they walked on, but
his voice sounded a little cracked.

'Surely,' he said, 'this is too much for you at times. Do you go very
often?'

'Nearly every day, Robert,' said Dorothea. 'You see what order I have
got the children into.'

She was laughing again, and Henley, as usual, was serious.

'Of course I cannot judge,' said he, 'not knowing what state they were
in originally.' Then he added, gravely turning to Lady Sarah, 'Don't you
somehow think that Dolly is very young to be mixed up with a--rag-shops
and wickedness?'

'Dolly is young,' said her aunt, not over pleased; 'but she is very
prudent, and I am not afraid of her pawning her clothes and taking to
drink.'

'My dear aunt, you don't suppose I ever thought of such a possibility,'
Robert exclaimed. 'Only ladies do not always consider things from our
point of view, and I feel in a certain degree responsible and bound to
you as your nearest male protector (take care--here is a step). I should
not like other people, who might not know Dolly as we do, to imagine
that she was accustomed already to----'

'My dear Robert,' said Lady Sarah, 'Dolly has got an aunt and a brother
to take care of her; do you suppose that we would let her do anything
that we thought might hurt her in other people's opinion? Dolly, here is
Robert horrified at the examples to which you are exposed. He feels he
ought to interfere.'

'You won't understand me,' said Robert, keeping his temper very
good-naturedly. 'Of course I can't help taking an interest in my
relations.'

'Thank you, Robert,' said Dolly, smiling and blushing.

Their eyes met for an instant, and Robert looked better pleased. It was
a bright delightful spring morning. All the windows were shining in the
old square, there was a holiday thrill in the air, a sound of life, dogs
barking, people stirring and coming out of their hiding-places, animals
and birds exulting.

Dolly used to get almost tipsy upon sunshine. The weather is as much
part of some people's lives as the minor events which happen to them.
She walked along by the other two, diverging a little as they travelled
along, the elder woman's bent figure beating time with quick fluttering
footsteps to the young man's even stride. Dolly liked Robert to be nice
to her aunt, and was not a little pleased when he approved of herself.
She was a little afraid of him. She felt that beneath that calm manner
there were many secrets that she had not yet fathomed. She knew how good
he was, how he never got into debt. Ah me! how she wished George would
take pattern by him. Dolly and Rhoda had sometimes talked Robert over.
They gave him credit for great experience, a deep knowledge of the world
(he dined out continually when he was in town), and they also gave him
full credit for his handsome, thoughtful face, his tall commanding
figure. You cannot but respect a man of six foot high.

So they reached the doorway at last. The ivy was all glistening in the
sunshine, and as they rang the bell they heard the sound of Gumbo's bark
in the garden, and then came some music, some brilliant
pianoforte-playing, which sounded clear and ringing as it overflowed the
garden-wall and streamed out into the lane.

'Listen! Who can that be playing?' cries Dolly, brightening up still
brighter, and listening with her face against the ivy.

'George,' says Robert. 'Has George come up again?'

'It's the overture to the _Freischütz_,' says Dolly, conclusively; 'it
_is_ George.'

And when old Sam shuffled up at last to open the door, he announced,
grinning, that 'Mr. Garge had come, and was playing the peanner in the
drawing-room.'

At the same moment, through the iron gate, they saw a figure advancing
to meet them from the garden, with Gumbo caracolling in advance.

'Why there is Rhoda in the garden,' cries Dolly. 'Robert, you go to her.
I must go to George.'



CHAPTER XV.

GEORGE'S TUNES.

    ... Sing our fine songs that tell in artful phrase
    The secrets of our lives, and plead and pray
    For alms of memory with the after time.

    --O. W. H.


There is George sitting at the old piano in the drawing-room. The window
is wide open. The Venetian glass is dazzling over his head, of which the
cauliflower shadow is thrown upon the wall. By daylight, the old damask
paper looks all stained and discoloured, and the draperies hang fainting
and turning grey and brown and to all sorts of strange autumnal hues in
this bright spring sunshine.

The keys answer to George's vigorous fingers, while the shadow bobs in
time from side to side. A pretty little pair of slim gloves and a
prayer-book are lying on a chair by the piano; they are certainly not
George's, nor Eliza Twells', who is ostensibly dusting the room, but who
has stopped short to listen to the music. It has wandered from the
_Freischütz_ overture to _Kennst Du das Land?_ which, for the moment,
George imagines to be his own composition. How easily the chords fall
into their places! how the melody flows loud and clear from his fingers!
(It's not only on the piano that people play tunes which they imagine to
be their own.) As for Eliza, she had never heard anything so beautiful
in all her life.

'Can it play hymn toones, sir?' says she, in a hoarse voice.

Hymn tunes! George goes off into the Hundredth Psalm. The old piano
shakes its cranky sides, the pedals groan and creak, the music echoes
all round; then another shadow comes floating along the faded wall, two
fair arms are round his neck, the music stops for an instant, and Eliza
begins to rub up the leg of a table.

'How glad I am you have come; but _why_ have you come, George--oughtn't
you to be reading?'

'Oh,' says George, airily, 'I have only come for the day. Look here:
have you ever heard this Russian tune? I've been playing it to Miss
Parnell; I met her coming from church.'

'Miss Parnell? Do you mean Rhoda?' said Dolly, as she sits down in the
big chair and takes up the gloves and the prayer-book, which opens wide,
and a little bit of fresh-gathered ivy falls out. It is Rhoda's
prayer-book, as Dolly knows. She puts back the ivy, while George goes on
playing.

'How pretty!' says she, looking at him with her two admiring eyes, and
raising her thick brows.

George, much pleased with the compliment, goes on strumming louder than
ever.

'Robert is here,' says Dolly, still listening. 'He is in the garden with
Rhoda.'

'Oh, is he?' says George, not over-pleased.

It was at this moment that Lady Sarah came to the garden-window, still
in her district equipments. Eliza Twells, much confused by her
mistress's appearance, begins to dust wildly.

'How d'ye do, George?' said his aunt, coming up to him. 'We didn't
expect you so soon again.'

George offered his cheek to be kissed, and played a few chords with his
left hand.

'I hadn't meant to come,' he said; 'but I was up at the station this
morning, seeing a friend off, and as the train was starting I got in.
I've got a return-ticket.'

'Of course you have,' said Lady Sarah, 'but where will you get a
return-ticket for the time you are wasting? It is no use attempting to
speak to you. Some day you will be sorry;' and then she turned away, and
walked off in her gleaming goloshes, and went out at the window again.
She did not join Robert and Rhoda, who were pacing round and round the
garden walk, but wandered off her own way alone.

'There!' says George, looking up at Dolly for sympathy.

Dolly doesn't answer, but turns very pale, and her heart begins to beat.

'It is one persecution,' cries George, speaking for himself, since Dolly
won't speak for him. 'She seems to think she has a right to insult
me--that she has bought it with her hateful money.'

He began to crash out some defiant chords upon the piano.

'Don't, dear,' said Dolly, putting her hand on his. 'You don't know,'
she said, hesitating, 'how bitterly disappointed Aunt Sarah has been
when--when you have not passed. She is so clever herself. She is so
proud of you. She hopes so much.'

'Nonsense,' said George, hunching up sulkily. 'Dolly, you are for ever
humbugging. You love me, and perhaps others appreciate me a little; but
not Aunt Sarah. She don't care that' (a crash) 'for me. She thinks that
I can bear insult like Robert, or all the rest of them who are after her
money-bags.'

He was working himself up more and more, as people do who are not sure
they are right. He spoke so angrily that Dolly was frightened.

'Oh, George,' she said, 'how can you say such things; you mustn't, do
you hear? not to me--not to yourself. Of course Robert scorns anything
mean, as much as you do. Her savings! they all went in that horrid bank.
She does not know where to go for money sometimes, and we ought to spare
her, and never to forget what we do owe her. She denies herself every
day for us. She will scarcely see a doctor when she is ill, or take a
carriage when she is tired.'

Dolly's heart was beating very quick; she was determined that, come what
might, George should hear the truth from her.

'If you are going to lecture me, too, I shall go,' said George; and he
got up and walked away to the open window, and stood grimly looking out.
He did not believe Dolly; he could not afford to believe her. He was in
trouble; he wanted money himself. He had meant to confide in Dolly that
was one of the reasons why he had come up to town. He should say nothing
to her now. She did not deserve his confidence; she did not understand
him, and always sided with her aunt. 'Look here, I had better give the
whole thing up at once,' he said, sulkily; 'I don't care to be the
object of so many sacrifices.' As he stood there glowering, he was
unconsciously watching the two figures crossing the garden and going
towards the pond; one of them, the lady, turned, and seeing him at the
window, waved a distant hand in greeting. George's face cleared. He
would join Rhoda; it was no use staying here.

As he was leaving the room poor Dolly looked up from the arm-chair in
which she had been sitting despondently: she had tears in her heart
though her eyes were dry: she wanted to make friends. 'You know,
George,' she said, 'I _must_ say what I think true to you. Aunt Sarah
grudges nothing----'

'She makes the very most,' says George, stopping short, of what she
does, and so do you;' and he looked away from Dolly's entreating face.

Again poor Dolly's indignation masters her prudence. 'How can you be so
mean and ungrateful?' she says.

'Ungrateful!' cries George, in a passion; 'you get all you like out of
Aunt Sarah; to me she doles out hard words and a miserable pittance, and
you expect me to be grateful. I can see what Robert and Frank Raban
think as well as if they said it.'

Dolly sprang past him and rushed out of the room in tears.

'Dolly! Dolly! forgive me, do forgive me! I'm a brute,' says George,
running after her,--he had really talked on without knowing what he
said--'please stop!'

'Dolly!' cries Lady Sarah from the breakfast-room.

Dolly went flying along the oak hall and up the old staircase and across
the ivy window. She could not speak. She ran up to her room, and slammed
the door, and burst out sobbing. She did not heed the voices calling
then, but in after days, long, long after, she used to hear them at
times, and how plainly they sounded, when all was silent--'Dolly,
Dolly!' they called. People say that voices travel on through
space,--they travel on through life, and across time,--is it not so?
Years have passed since they may have been uttered, but do we not hear
them again and again, and answer back longing into the past?

Meanwhile poor Dolly banged the door in indignation She was glad George
was sorry, but how dared he suspect her? How dared Mr. Raban--Mr. Raban,
who did not pay his debts--What did she care?--What did they know?
_They_ did not understand how she loved her brother in her own way, her
very own; loving him and taking care for him and fighting his
battles....

'Oh, George, how cruel you are,' sobbed poor Dolly, sitting on her
window-sill. The warm sun was pouring through the open casement,
spreading the shadow of the panes and the framework upon the carpetless
floor; in a corner of the window a little pot of mignonette stood ready
to start to life; a bird came with the shadow of its little breast upon
the bars, and chirruped a cheerful chirp. Dolly looked up, breathed in
the sun and the bird-chirp, how could she help it? Then her wooden clock
struck, it distracted her somehow, and her indignation abated; the girl
got up, bathed her red eyes, and went to the glass to straighten her
crisp locks and limp tucker. 'Who is knocking?--come in,' said Dolly.
She did not look round, she was too busy struggling with her laces:
presently she saw a face reflected in the glass beside her own, a pale
brown face with black hair and slow, dark eyes, and close little red
lips.

'Why, Rhoda, have you come for me?' said Dolly, looking round, sighing
and soothed.

At the same time a voice from the garden below cried out, 'Dolly, come
down! Have you forgiven me?'

'Yes, George,' said Dolly, looking out from her window.

'Here, let me help you,' cried Rhoda. 'Dolly, Mr. Robert and your
brother sent me to find you.'



CHAPTER XVI.

A WALKING PARTY.

    Not wholly in the busy world, nor quite
    Beyond it blooms the garden that I love;
    News from the teeming city comes to it,
    In sound of funeral or marriage bells.


The young people were starting for another walk that afternoon. Rhoda
and Dolly were holding up their parasols and their white dresses out of
the dust. They were half-way down the sunshiny lane when they met Frank
Raban (of whom they had been speaking) coming to call at Church House.

'You had much better come along with us, Frank,' said George, who was
always delighted to welcome his friends, however soon he might quarrel
with them afterwards.

'I have an appointment at five o'clock,' said Raban, hesitating, and
with a glance at Miss Vanborough, who was standing a little apart, and
watching the people passing up and down the road.

'Five o'clock!' said George; 'five o'clock is ever so far away--on board
a steamer, somewhere in the Indian Ocean; the passengers are looking
over the ship's side at the porpoises. Where is your appointment?'

'Do you know a place called Nightingale Lane?' said Frank.

'I know Nightingale Lane; it is as good a place as any other. Come, we
will show you the way;' and, putting his arm through Frank's, George
dragged him along.

'I wish George had not asked him,' said Robert, in a low voice. 'There
were several things I wanted to consult you about, Dolly! but I must get
a quiet half-hour. Not now, at some better opportunity.'

'Why, Robert!' said Dolly; 'what can you have to say that will take
half-an-hour! 'She was, however, much flattered that Robert should wish
to consult her, and she walked along brightly.

It was a lovely spring afternoon: people were all out in the open air;
the little Quaker children who lived in the house at the corner of the
terrace were looking out of window with their prim little bonnets, and
Dolly, who knew them, nodded gaily as she passed. She was quite happy
again. Robert had looked at her so kindly. She was in charity with the
whole world. She had scarcely had a word of explanation with George, but
she had made it up with him in her heart. When he asked her for a second
help of cold pie at luncheon, she took it as a sign of forgiveness. They
went on now by the brown houses of Phillimore Terrace, until they
reached a place where the bricks turn into green leaves, and branches
arch overhead, and two long avenues lead from the ancient high road of
the Trinobants all the way to the palatine heights of Campden Hill.

When they were in the avenue, the young people went and stood under the
shade of a tree. George was leaning against the iron rail that separates
the public walk from the park beyond. They were standing with their feet
on the turf in a cris-cross of shadow, of twigs, and green blades
sprouting between. Beyond the rail the lawns and fields sloped to where
the old arcades and the many roofs and turrets of Holland House rose,
with their weather-cocks veering upon the sky. Great trees were
spreading their shadows upon the grass. Some cows were trailing across
the meadow, and from beyond the high walls came the echo of the streets
without--a surging sound of voices and wheels, a rising tide of life, of
countless feet beating upon the stones. Here, behind the walls, all was
sweet and peaceful afternoon, and high overhead hung a pale daylight
moon.

'Are not you glad to have seen this pretty view of the old house, Mr.
Raban?' said Dolly to Frank, who happened to be standing next to her.
'Don't you like old houses?' she added, graciously, in her new-found
amenity.

'I don't know' said Frank. 'They are too much like coffins and full of
dead men's bones. Modern lath and plaster has the great advantage of
being easily swept away with its own generation. These poor old places
seem to me all out of place among omnibuses and railway whistles.'

'The associations of Holland House must be very interesting,' said
Robert.

'I hate associations,' said Frank, looking hard at Dolly. 'To-day is
just as good as yesterday.'

Dolly looked surprised, then blushed up.

It is strange enough, after one revelation of a man or woman, to meet
with another of the same person at some different time. The same person
and not the same. The same voice and face, looking and saying such other
things, to which we ourselves respond how differently. Here were Raban
and Dolly, who had first met by a grave, now coming together in another
world and state, with people laughing and talking; with motion, with
festivity. Walking side by side through the early summer streets, where
all seemed life, not death; hope and progress, not sorrow and
retrospect--for Dolly's heart was full of the wonder of life and of the
dazzling present. After that first meeting, she had begun to look upon
the Raban of to-day as a new person altogether, a person who interested
her, though she did not like him. Even Dorothea in her softest moods
seemed scarcely to thaw poor Frank. When he met her, his old, sad,
desperate self used to rise like a phantom between them--no wonder he
was cold, and silent, and abrupt. He could talk to others--to Rhoda, who
wore his poor wife's shining cross, and had stood by her coffin, as he
thought, and who now met him with looks of sympathy, and who seemed to
have forgotten the past. To Miss Vanborough he rarely spoke; he barely
answered her if she spoke to him; and yet I don't think there was a word
or look of Dolly's that Raban ever forgot. All her poor little faults he
remembered afterwards; her impatient ways, and imperious gestures, her
hasty impulse and her innocent severity. What strange debtor and
creditor account was this between them?

There are some people we only seem to love all the more because they
belong to past sorrow. Perhaps it is that they are of the guild of those
who are initiated into the sad secrets of life. Others bring back the
pain without its consolation; and so Dolly, who was connected with the
tragedy of poor Frank Raban's life, frightened him. When, as now, he
thought he had seen a remembering look in her eyes, the whole
unforgettable past would come before him with cruel vividness. She
seemed to him like one of the avenging angels with the flaming swords,
ready to strike. Little he knew her! The poor angel might lift the heavy
sword, but it would be with a trembling hand. She might remember, but it
was as a child remembers--with awe, but without judgment. The little
girl he had known had pinned up her locks in great brown loops; her
short skirts now fell in voluminous folds; she was a whole head taller,
and nearly seventeen: but if the truth were told, I do not think that
any other particular change had come to her, so peaceful had been her
experience. Frank was far more changed. He had fought a hard fight with
himself since that terrible day he had sat under the arch in the
twilight. He had conquered Peace in some degree, and now already he felt
it was no longer peace that he wanted, but more trouble. Already, in his
heart, he rebelled at the semi-claustration of the tranquil refuge he
had found, where the ivy buttresses and scrolled iron gateways seemed to
shut out wider horizons. But hitherto work was what he wanted, not
liberty. He had made debts and difficulties for himself during that
wild, foolish time at Paris! These very debts and difficulties were his
best friends now, and kept him steady to his task. He accepted the yoke,
thankful for an honest means of livelihood. He took the first chance
that offered, and he put a shoulder to the old pulley at which he had
tugged as a boy with a dream of something beyond, and at which he
laboured as a man with some sense of duty done. He went on in a dogged,
hopeless way from day to day. He is a man of little faith, and yet of
tender heart.

Some one says that the world is a mirror that reflects the faces that we
bring to the surface. Frank's scepticisms met him at every turn. He even
judged his own ideal; and as he could not but think of Dolly every hour
of the day, he doubted her unceasingly. There seemed scarcely a
responsive chord left to him with which to vibrate to the song of those
about him. Until he believed in himself again, he could not heartily
believe in others.

Others, meanwhile, were happily not silent because of his reserve, and
were chattering and laughing gaily. Rhoda was sitting on the shady
corner of a bench, George was swinging his legs on the railing. Dolly
did not sit down. She was not tired; she was in high spirits. By
degrees, she seemed to absorb all her companion's life and brightness.
So Raban thought as he glanced from Rhoda's pale face to Miss
Vanborough's beaming countenance. Dolly's brown hair was waving in a
pretty drift, her violet ribbons seemed to make her grey eyes look
violet. She had a long neck, a long chin; her white ample skirt almost
hid Rhoda as she sat in her corner. The girl shifted gently from her
seat, and slid away when Dolly--Dolly sobering down--began to tell some
of Lady Sarah's stories of Holland House and its inmates.

'There was beautiful Lady Diana Rich,' said Dorothea, pointing with her
gloved hand.

'Don't say Diana,' cries George; 'say Diãna.'

'She was walking in the Park,' continues his sister, unheeding the
interruption, 'when she met a lady coming from behind a tree dressed, as
she was herself, in a habit. Then she recognised herself,' Dolly said,
slowly, opening her grey eyes; 'and she went home, and she died within
a----'

Dolly, hearing a rustle, looked over her shoulder, and her sentence
broke down. A white figure was coming from behind the great stem of the
elm-tree, near which they were standing. In a moment, Dolly recovered
herself, and began to laugh.

'Rhoda!' she said. 'I did not know you had moved. I thought you were my
fetch.'

'No; I'm myself, and I don't like ghost stories,' said Rhoda, in her
shrill voice. 'They frighten me so, though I don't believe a word of
them. Do you, Mr. Raban?'

'Not believe!' cries George, putting himself in between Frank and Rhoda.
'Don't you believe in the White Lady of Holland House? She flits through
the rooms once a year all in white satin, on the day of her husband's
execution. They cut off his head in a silver nightcap, and she can't
rest in her grave when she thinks of it.'

'Poor ghost!' said Dolly. 'I'm so sorry for ghosts. I sometimes think I
know some live ones,' the girl added, looking at Frank unconsciously,
and with more softness than he had believed her capable of.

'The first Lord Holland was a Rich,' said Henley, tapping with his cane
upon the iron bars. 'He must have been the father of Lady Diana. He
married a Cope. The Copes built the house, you know. I believe Aubrey de
Vere was the original possessor of the property. It then passed to the
monks of Abingdon.'

'What a fund of information!' said George, laughing. 'Raban is immensely
impressed.'

Raban could not help smiling; but Dolly interposed. She saw that her
cousin was only half pleased by the levity with which his remarks were
received. 'What had Lord Holland done?' she asked.

'He betrayed everybody,' said Robert; 'first one side, then another. He
earned his fate--he was utterly unreliable and inconsistent.'

'How can an honest man be anything else?' cried George, with his usual
snort, rushing to battle. 'No honest men are consistent. Take Sir Robert
Peel, take Oliver Cromwell. Lord Holland joined the Commonwealth, and
then gave his head to save the King's. It was gloriously inconsistent.'

'For my part,' Robert answered, with some asperity, I must confess that
I greatly dislike such impulsive characters. They are utterly
unscrupulous....'

'Some consciences might have been more scrupulously consistent than Lord
Holland's, and kept their heads upon their shoulders,' said Raban,
drily.

Dolly wondered what he meant, and whether he was serious. He spoke so
shortly that she did not always understand him.

'I am sure I shall often change my mind,' she said, to her cousin.

'You are a woman, you know,' answered Henley, mollified by her sweet
looks.

'And women need not trouble themselves about their motives?' said Frank,
speaking in his most sententious way, and ignoring Henley altogether.

'Their motives don't concern anybody but themselves, cried Dolly, rather
offended by Frank's manner. He seemed to look upon her as some naughty
child, to be constantly reproved and put down. Why did he dislike her?
Dolly wondered. She couldn't understand anybody disliking her. Perhaps
it says well for human nature, on the whole, that people are so
surprised to find themselves odious to others.

Just then some church-bell began to ring for evening service. Five
o'clock had come to Kensington, and George proposed that they should
walk on with Raban to the house in Nightingale Lane.

'This way, Rhoda,' he said; 'are you tired? Take my arm.'

Rhoda, however, preferred tripping by Dolly's side.

A painter lived in the house to which Raban was going. It stood, as he
said, in Nightingale Lane, within garden-walls. It looked like a
farm-house, with its many tiles and chimneys, standing in the sweet
old garden fringed with rose-bushes. There were poplar-trees
and snowball-trees, and may-flowers in their season, and
lilies-of-the-valley growing in the shade. The lawn was dappled with
many shadows of sweet things. From the thatched porch you could hear the
rural clucking of poultry and the lowing of cattle, and see the sloping
roof of a farm-house beyond the elms. Henley did not want to come in;
but Dolly and Rhoda had cried out that it was a dear old garden, and had
come up to the very door, smiling and wilfully advancing as they looked
about them.

The old house--we all know our way thither--has stood for many a year,
and seen many a change, and sheltered many an honoured head. One can
fancy Addison wandering in the lanes round about, and listening to the
nightingale 'with a much better voice than Mrs. Tofts, and something of
Italian manners in her diversions;' or Newton, an old man with faded
blue eyes, passing by on his way from Pitt House, hard by. Gentle Mrs.
Opie used to stay here, and ugly Wilkes to come striding up the lane in
the days of Fox and Pitt and fiery periwigs. Into one of the old
raftered rooms poor Lord Camelford was carried to die, when he fell in
his fatal duel with Mr. Best in the meadows hard by. Perhaps Sir Joshua
may have sometimes walked across from Holland House, five minutes off,
where he was, a hundred years ago, painting two beautiful young ladies.
Only yesterday I saw them; one leant from a window in the wall, the
other stood without, holding a dove in her extended hand; a boy was by
her side. Those ladies have left the window long since; but others, not
less beautiful, still come up Nightingale Lane, to visit the Sir Joshua
of our own time in his studios built against the hospitable house. My
heroine comes perforce, and looks at the old gables and elm-trees, and
stands under the rustic porch.

Robert was seriously distressed. 'Do come away,' said he; 'suppose some
one were to see us.'

Rhoda, with a little laugh, ran down one of the garden-walks, and George
went after her. Dolly stood leaning up against the doorway. She paid no
attention to Robert's remonstrance, and was listening, with upraised
eyes, to the bird up in the tree. Frank's hand was on the bell, when, as
Robert predicted, the door suddenly opened wide. A servant, carrying
papers and parcels, came out, followed by a lady in a flowing silk
dress, with a lace hood upon her head, and by a stately-looking
gentleman, in a long grey coat; erect, and with silver hair and a noble
and benevolent head.

'Why is not the carriage come up?' said the lady to the servant, who set
off immediately running with his parcels in his arms; then seeing Dolly,
who was standing blushing and confused by the open door, she said
kindly, 'Have you come to see the studios?'

'No,' said Dolly, turning pinker still: 'it was only the garden, it
looked so pretty; we came to the door with Mr. Raban.'

'I had an appointment with Mr. Royal,' said Raban, also shyly, 'and my
friends kindly showed me the way.'

'Why don't you take your friends up to see the pictures?' said the
gentleman. 'Go up all of you now that you are here.'

'My servant shall show you the way,' said the lady, with a smile, and as
the servant came back, followed by a carriage, she gave him a few
parting directions. Then the Councillor and the lady drove off to the
India Office as hard as the horses could go.

It was a white-letter day with Dolly. She followed the servant up an oak
passage, and by a long wall, where flying figures were painted. The
servant opened a side door into a room with a great window, and my
heroine found herself in better company than she had ever been in all
her life before. Two visitors were already in the studio. One was a lady
with a pale and gentle face--Dolly remembered it long afterwards when
they met again--but just then she only thought of the pictures that were
crowding upon the walls sumptuous and silent--the men and women of our
day who seem already to belong to the future, as one looks at the solemn
eyes watching from the canvas. Sweet women's faces lighted with some
spiritual grace, poets, soldiers, rulers, and windbags, side by side,
each telling their story in a well-known name. There were children too,
smiling, and sketches, half done, growing from the canvas, and here and
there a dream made into a vision, of Justice or of Oblivion. Of Silence,
and lo! Titans from their everlasting hills lie watching the mists of
life: or infinite Peace, behold, an Angel of Death is waiting against a
solemn disc. Dolly felt as though she had come with Christian to some
mystical house along the way. For some minutes past she had been gazing
at the solemn Angel--she was absorbed, she could not take her eyes away.
She did not know that the painter had come in, and was standing near
her.

'Do you know what that is?' said he, coming up to her.

'Yes,' answered Dolly in a low voice; 'I have only once seen death. I
think this must be it; only it is not terrible, as I thought.'

'I did not mean to make it terrible,' the painter said, struck by her
passing likeness to the face at which she was gazing so steadfastly.

Raban also noticed the gentle and powerful look, and in that moment he
understood her better than he had ever done before; he felt as if a
sudden ray of faith and love had fallen into his dark heart.

Before they left, Mr. Royal introduced Dolly to the two ladies who were
in the studio. He had painted the head of one of them upon a little
wooden panel that leant upon an easel by which the two ladies were
standing. One of them spoke: 'How her children will prize your gift, Mr.
Royal; it is not the likeness only, it is something more than likeness.'

'Life is short; one cannot do all things,' said the painter, quietly. 'I
have tried not so much to imitate what I see as to paint people and
things as I feel them, and as others appear to me to feel them.'

Dolly thought how many people he must have taught to feel, to see with
their eyes, and to understand.

All the way home she was talking of the pictures.

'I saw a great many likenesses which were really admirable,' said
Robert. 'I have met several of the people out at dinner.'

Rhoda could not say a single word about the pictures.

'Why, what were you about?' said Dolly, after she had mentioned two or
three one after another. 'You don't seem to have looked at anything.'

'You didn't come into the back room, Dolly. I had an excellent cup of
tea there,' said George; 'that kind lady had it sent up for us.'



CHAPTER XVII.

'INNER LIFE.'

     The idea of a man's interviewing himself is rather odd to be
     sure. But then that is what we are all of us doing every day. I
     talk half the time to find out my own thoughts, as a schoolboy
     turns his pockets inside out to see what is in them.

     --O. W. Holmes.


The next time Raban came to town, he called again at Church House. Then
he began to go to John Morgan's, whom he had known and neglected for
years. He was specially kind to Rhoda and gentle in his manner when he
spoke to her. Cassie, who had experience, used to joke her about her
admirer. Not unfrequently Dolly would be in Old Street during that
summer, and the deeply-interested recipient of the girls' confidences.

'Cassie, do you really mean that he has fallen in love with Rhoda?' said
Dolly. 'Indeed he is not half good enough for her.' But all the same,
the thought of his admiration for her friend somewhat softened Dolly's
feelings towards Raban.

Rhoda herself was mysterious. One day she gave up wearing her diamond
cross, and appeared instead with a pretty pearl locket. She would not
say where she had got it. Zoe said it was like Cassie's. 'Had John given
it to her?' Rhoda shook her head.

Dolly did not like it, and took Rhoda seriously to task. 'Rhoda, how
silly to make a mystery about nothing!' Rhoda laughed.

Except for occasional troubles about George, things were going well at
Church House that autumn. Raban sent a warning letter once, which made
Dolly very angry. The Admiral talked of coming home in the following
spring. Dolly's heart beat at the thought of her mother's return. But
meanwhile she was very happy. Robert used to come not unfrequently.
Rhoda liked coming when he was there; they would all go out when dinner
was over, and sit upon the terrace and watch the sun setting calmly
behind the medlar-tree and the old beech walk. Kensington has special
tranquil hours of its own, happy jumbles of old bricks and sunset. The
pigeons would come from next door with a whirr, and with round breasts
shining in the light; the ivy-leaves stood out green and crisp; the
birds went flying overhead and circling in their evening dance. Three
together, then two, then a lonely one in pursuit.

Dolly stood watching them one evening, in the autumn of that year, while
her aunt and Henley were talking. John Morgan, who had come to fetch
Rhoda home, was discoursing, too, in cheerful tones, about the voice of
nature I think it was. 'You do not make enough allowance for the voice
of nature,' the curate was saying. 'You cannot blame a man because he is
natural, because his impulse cries out against rules and restrictions.'
As he spoke a bell in the ivy wall began to jangle from outside, and
Dolly and Rhoda both looked up curiously, wondering who it could be.

'Rules are absolutely necessary restrictions,' said Henley, stirring his
coffee; 'we are lost if we trust to our impulses. What are our bodies
but concrete rules?'

'I wonder if it could be George?' interrupted Dolly.

'Oh, no,' said Rhoda, quickly, 'because----' Then she stopped short.

'Because what, Rhoda?' said Lady Sarah, looking at her curiously. The
girl blushed up, and seemed embarrassed, and began pulling the ribbon
and the cross round her neck. It had come out again the last few days.

'Have you heard anything of George?' Lady Sarah went on.

'How should I?' said Rhoda, looking up; then she turned a little pale,
then she blushed again. 'Dolly, look,' she said, 'who is it?'

It was Mr. Raban, the giver of the diamond cross, who came walking up
along the side-path, following old Sam. There was a little scrunching of
chair-legs to welcome him. John Morgan shook him by the hand. Lady Sarah
looked pleased.

'This was kind of you,' she said.

Raban looked shy. 'I am afraid you won't think so,' he said. 'I wanted a
few minutes' conversation with you.'

Rhoda opened her wide brown eyes. Henley, who had said a stiff
'How-dy-do?' and wished to go on with the conversation, now addressed
himself to Dolly.

'I always doubt the fact when people say that impulse is the voice of
one's inner life. I consider that principle should be its real
interpretation.'

Nobody exactly understood what he meant, nor did he himself, if the
truth were to be told; but the sentence had occurred to him.

'An inner life,' said Dolly, presently, looking at the birds. 'I wonder
what it means? I don't think I have got one.'

'No, Dolly,' said Lady Sarah, kindly, 'it is very often only another
name for remorse. Not yet, my dear--that has not reached you yet.'

'An inner life,' repeated Rhoda, standing by. 'Doesn't it mean all those
things you don't talk about--religion and principles?' she said,
faltering a little, with a shy glance at Frank Raban. Henley had just
finished his coffee, and heard her approvingly. He was going again to
enforce the remark, when Dolly, as usual, interrupted him.

'But there is _nothing_ one doesn't talk about,' said the Dolly of those
days, standing on the garden-step, with all her pretty loops of brown
hair against the sun.

'I wish you would preach a sermon, Mr. Morgan, and tell people to take
care of their outer lives,' said Lady Sarah, over her coffee-pot, 'and
keep _them_ in order while they have them, and leave their souls to take
care of themselves. We have all read of the figs and the thistles. Let
us cultivate figs; that is the best thing we can do.'

'Dear Aunt Sarah,' said Dolly prettily, and looking up suddenly, and
blushing, 'here we all are sitting under your fig-tree.'

Dolly having given vent to her feelings suddenly blushed up. All their
eyes seemed to be fixed upon her. What business had Mr. Raban to look at
her so gravely?

'I wonder if the cocks and hens are gone to roost,' said my heroine,
confused; and, jumping down from the step, she left the coffee-drinkers
to finish their coffee.

Lady Sarah had no great taste for art or for _bric-à-brac_. Mr. Francis
had been a collector, and from him she had inherited her blue china, but
she did not care at all for it. She had one fancy, however,--a poultry
fancy,--which harmlessly distracted many of her spare hours. With a
cheerful cluck, a pluming, a spreading out of glistening feathers, a
strutting and champing, Lady Sarah's cocks and hens used to awake
betimes in the early morning. The cocks would chaunt matutinal hymns to
the annoyance of the neighbourhood, while the hens clucked a cheerful
accompaniment to the strains. The silver trumpets themselves would not
have sounded pleasanter to Lady Sarah's ears than this crowing noise of
her favourites. She had a little temple erected for this choir. It was a
sort of pantheon, where all parts of the world were represented, divided
off by various latitudinal wires. There were crêve-coeurs from the
Pyrenees, with their crimson crests and robes of black satin; there were
magi from Persia, puffy, wind-blown, silent, and somewhat melancholy:
there were Polish warriors, gallant and splendid, with an air of
misfortune so courageously surmounted that fortune itself would have
looked small beside it. Then came the Dorkings, feathery and speckly,
with ample wings outstretched, clucking common-place English to one
another.

To-night, however, the clarions were silent, the warriors were sleepy,
the cocks and hens were settling themselves comfortably in quaint fluffy
heaps upon their roosts, with their portable feather-beds shaken out,
and their bills snugly tucked into the down.

Dolly was standing admiring their strength of mind, in retiring by broad
daylight from the nice cheerful world, into the dismal darkened
bed-chamber they occupied. As Dolly stood outside in the sunset, peeping
into the dark roosting-place, she heard voices coming along the path,
and Lady Sarah speaking in a very agitated voice.

'Cruel boy,' she said, 'what have I done, what have I left undone that
he should treat me so ill?'

They were close to Dolly, who started away from the hen-house, and ran
up to meet her aunt with a sudden movement.

'What is it? Why is he----_Who_ is cruel?' said Dolly, and she turned a
quick, reproachful look upon Raban. What had he been saying?

'I meant to spare you, my dear,' said Lady Sarah, trembling very much,
and putting her hand upon Dolly's shoulder. 'I have no good news for
you; but sooner or later you must know it. Your brother has been
behaving as badly as possible. He has put his name to some bills. Mr.
Raban heard of it by chance. Wretched boy! he might be arrested. It is
hard upon me, and cruel of George.'

They were standing near the hen-house still, and a hen woke up from her
dreams with a sleepy cluck. Lady Sarah was speaking passionately and
vehemently, as she did when she was excited; Raban was standing a little
apart in the shadow.

Dolly listened with a hanging head. She could say nothing. It all seemed
to choke her; she let her Aunt Sarah walk on--she stood quite still,
thinking it over. Then came a gleam of hope. She felt as if Frank Raban
must be answerable somehow for George's misdemeanours. Was it all true,
she began to wonder. Mr. Raban, dismal man that he was, delighted in
warnings and croakings. Then Dolly raised her head, and found that the
dismal man had come back, and was standing beside her. He looked so
humble and sorry that she felt he must be to blame.

'What have you been telling Aunt Sarah?' said Dolly, quite fiercely.
'Why have you made her so angry with my brother?'

'I am afraid it is your brother himself who has made her angry,' said
Raban. 'I needn't tell you that I am very sorry,' he added, looking very
pale; 'I would do anything I could to help him. I came back to talk to
you about it now.'

'I don't want to hear any more,' cried Dolly, with great emotion. 'Why
do you come at all? What can I say to you, to ask you to spare my poor
George? It only vexes _her_. You don't understand him--how should you?'
Then melting, 'If you knew all his tenderness and cleverness?'--she
looked up wistfully; for once she did not seem stern, but entreating;
her eyes were full of tears as she gazed into his face. There was
something of the expression that he had seen in the studio.

'It is because I do your brother full justice,' said Raban, gravely,
looking at her fixedly, 'that I have cared to interfere.'

Dolly's eyes dilated, her mouth quivered. Why did she look at him like
that? He could not bear it. With a sudden impulse--one of those which
come to slow natures, one such as that which had wrecked his life
before--he said in a low voice, 'Do you know that I would do anything in
the world for you and yours?'

'No, I don't know it,' said Dolly. 'I know that you seem to disapprove
of everything I say, and that you think the worst of my poor George;
that you don't care for him a bit.'

'The worst!' Raban said. 'Ah! Miss Vanborough, do you think it so
impossible to love those people of whose conduct you think the worst?'

She was beginning to speak. He would not let her go on. 'Won't you give
me a right to interfere?' he said; and he took a step forward, and stood
close up to her, with a pale, determined face. 'There are some past
things which can never be forgotten, but a whole life may atone for
them. Don't you think so?' and he put out his hand. Dolly did not in the
least understand him, or what was in his mind.

'Nobody ever did any good by preaching and interfering,' cried the angry
sister, ignoring the outstretched hand. 'How can _you_, of all
people----?' She stopped short; she felt that it was ungenerous to call
up the past: but in George's behalf she could be mean, spiteful, unjust,
if need be, to deliver him from this persecution,--so Dolly chose to
call it.

She was almost startled by the deep cold tone of Frank's voice, as he
answered, 'It is because I know what I am speaking of, Miss Vanborough,
that I have an excuse for interfering before it is too late. You, at all
events, who remember my past troubles, need not have reminded me of
them.'

Heartless, cruel girl, she had not understood him. It was as well that
she could not read his heart or guess how cruelly she had wounded him.
He would keep his secret henceforth. Who was he to love a beautiful,
peerless woman, in her pride and the triumph of her unsullied youth. He
looked once more at the sweet, angry face. No, she had not understood
him; so much he could see in her clear eyes. A minute ago they had been
full of tears. The tears were all dry now; the angel was gone!

So an event had occurred to Dolly of which she knew nothing. She was
utterly unconscious as she came sadly back to the house in the twilight.
The pigeons were gone to roost. Lady Sarah was sitting alone in the
darkling room.

'What a strange man Mr. Raban is, and how oddly and unkindly he talks,'
said Dolly, going to the chimney and striking a light.

'What did he say?' said Lady Sarah.

'I don't quite remember,' said Dolly; 'it was all so incoherent and
angry. He said he would do anything for us, and that he could never
forgive George.'



CHAPTER XVIII.

AN AUTUMN MORNING.

    Fain would I but I dare not; I dare and yet I may not;
    I may although I care not, for pleasure when I play not.
    You laugh because you like not; I jest whenas I joy not
    You pierce although you strike not; I strike and yet annoy not.

    --The Shepherd's Description of Love.


The Palace clock takes up the echo of the Old Church steeple, the
sun-dial is pointing with its hooked nose to the Roman figures on its
copper face--eleven o'clock says the Palace clock. People go crossing
and re-crossing the distant vistas of Kensington Gardens; the children
are fluttering and scampering all over the brown turf, with its autumnal
crop of sandwich-papers and orange-peel; governesses and their pupils
are walking briskly up and down the flower-walk that skirts Hyde Park.
There is a tempting glitter of horsemanship in the distance, and the
little girls glance wistfully towards it, but the governesses for the
most part keep their young charges to the iron railings and the varied
selection of little wooden boards, with Latin names, that are sprouting
all along the tangled flower-beds; the gravel paths are shaken over with
fallen leaves, old, brown, purple--so they lie twinkling as the sun
shines upon them.

One or two people are drinking at the little well among the trees where
the children are at play.

'Hoy! hugh! houp!' cries little Betty, jumping high into the air, and
setting off, followed by a crew of small fluttering rags. What a crisp
noise the dead leaves make as the children wade and splash and tumble
through the heaps that the gardeners have swept together. The old place
echoes with their jolly little voices. The children come, like the
leaves themselves, and disport year after year in the sunshine, and the
ducks in the round pond feed upon the crumbs which succeeding
generations bring from their tables. There are some of us who still know
the ducks of twenty years apart. Where is the gallant grey (goose) that
once used to chase unhappy children flying agonized before him? Where is
the little duck with the bright sparkling yellow eyes and the orange
beak? Quick-witted, eager, unabashed, it used to carry off the spoils of
the great grey goose itself, too busy careering upon the green and
driving all before it, to notice the disappearance of its crusts,
although the foolish floundering white ducks, placidly impatient in the
pond, would lift up their canary noses and quack notes of warning. One
would still be glad to know where human nature finishes and where ducks
begin.

Overhead the sky lies in faint blue vaults crossed by misty autumnal
streamers; the rooks sweep cawing and circling among the tree-tops; a
bell is going quick and tinkling: it comes from the little chapel of the
Palace hard by. The old royal bricks and windows look red and purple in
the autumn sunlight, against gold and blue vapours, and with canopies of
azure and grey.

All the people are coming and going their different ways this October
morning. A slim girl, in black silk, is hurrying along from the wide
door leading from the Palace Green. She stops for an instant to look at
the shadow on the old sun-dial, and then hurries on again; and as she
goes the brazen hour comes striking and sounding from across the
house-roofs of the old suburb. A little boy, playing under a tree,
throws a chestnut at the girl as she hurries by. It falls to the ground,
slipping along the folds of her black silk dress. At the same moment two
young men, who have met by chance, are parting at the end of one of the
long avenues. The girl, seeing them, stops short and turns back
deliberately and walks as far as the old sun-dial before she retraces
her steps.

How oddly all our comings and goings, and purposes and cross-purposes
combine, fulfil, frustrate each other. It is like a wonderful symphony,
of which every note is a human life. The chapel bell had just finished
ringing, as Rhoda (for it is Rhoda) turned in through the narrow door
leading to the garden, and John Morgan, with Dolly beside him, came
quickly across the worn green space in front of the barracks.

'I'm glad I caught you up,' panted good old John, tumbling and flying
after Dolly. 'So this is your birthday, and you are coming to church! I
promised to take the duty for Mr. Thompson this morning. I have had two
funerals on, and I couldn't get home before. We shall just do it. I'm
afraid I'm going too quick for you?'

'Not at all,' said Dolly. I always go quick. I was running after Rhoda.
She started to go, and then Aunt Sarah sent me after her. Do you know,'
Dolly said, 'George, too, has become so very--I don't know what to call
it----? He asked me to go to church more often that day he came up.'

'Well,' said John, looking at her kindly, and yet a little troubled,
'for myself, I find there's nothing like it; but then I'm paid for it,
you know: it is in my day's work. I hope George is keeping to his?'

'Oh, I hope so,' said Dolly, looking a little wistful.

'H'm,' says John, doubtfully; 'here we are. Go round to the left, where
you see those people.' And he darts away and leaves her.

The clock began striking eleven slowly from the archway of the old
Palace; some dozen people are assembled together in the little Palace
chapel, and begin repeating the responses in measured tones. It is a
quiet little place. The world rolls beyond it on its many chariot-wheels
to busier haunts, along the great high-roads. As for the flesh and the
devil, can they be those who are assembled here? They assemble to the
sound of the bell, advancing feebly, for the most part skirting the
sunny wall, past the sentry at his post, and along the outer courtyard
of the Palace, where the windows are green and red with geranium-pots,
where there is a tranquil glimmer of autumnal sunshine and a crowing of
cocks. Then the little congregation turns in at a side-door of the
Palace, and so through a vestibule, comes into the chapel, of which the
bell has been tinkling for some week-day service: it stops short, and
the service begins quite suddenly as a door opens in the wall, and a
preacher, in a white surplice, comes out and begins in a deep voice
almost before the last vibration of the bell has died away. As for the
congregation, there is not much to note. There are some bent white
heads, there is some placid middle-age, a little youth to brighten to
the sunshine. The great square window admits a silenced light; there are
high old-fashioned pews on either side of the place, and opposite the
communion-table, high up over the heads of the congregation, a great
square-curtained pew, with the royal arms and a curtained gallery. It
was like Dugald Dalgetty's hiding-place, one member of the congregation
thought. She used to wonder if he was not concealed behind the heavy
curtains. This reader of the _Legend of Montrose_ is standing alone in a
big pew, with one elbow on the cushioned ledge, and her head resting on
her hand. She has a soft brown scroll of hair, with a gleam of sunlight
in it. She has soft oval cheeks that flush up easily, grey eyes, and
black knotted eyebrows, and a curious soft mouth, close fixed now, but
it trembles at a word or a breath. She had come to meet her friend. But
Rhoda, who is not very far off, goes flitting down the broad walk
leading to the great summer-house. It used to stand there until a year
or two ago, when the present generation carried it bodily away--a
melancholy, stately, grandiose old pile, filling one with no little
respect for the people who raised so stately a mausoleum to rest in for
a moment. There was some one who had been resting there many moments on
this particular morning: a sturdy young man, leaning back against the
wall and smoking a cigar. He jumped up eagerly when he saw the girl at
last, and, flinging his cigar away, came forward to meet her as she
hurried from under the shade of the trees in which she had been keeping.

'At last, you unpunctual girl,' he cried, meeting her and pulling her
hand through his arm. 'Do you know how many cigars I have smoked while
you have been keeping me waiting?'

She did not answer, but looked up at him with a long slow look.

'Dear George, I couldn't get away before; and when I came just now there
was some one talking to you. Your aunt came, and Dolly, and they stayed,
oh, such a time. I was so cross, and I kept thinking of my poor George
waiting for me here.'

She could see George smiling and mollified as she spoke, and went on
more gaily.

'At last, I slipped away; but I am afraid Dolly must have thought it so
strange.'

'Dolly!' said George Vanborough, impatiently (for, of course, it was
George, who had come up to town again with another return-ticket); 'she
had better take care and not keep you from me again. Come and sit down,'
said he. 'I have a thousand things to say to you....'

'Oh George! it must only be for a moment,' said Rhoda hesitating; 'if
anybody were to----'

'Nonsense!' cried George, already agitated by the meeting, and
exasperated by his long waiting; 'you are always thinking of what people
will say; you have no feeling for a poor wretch who has been counting
the minutes till he could see you again--who is going to the devil
without you. Rhoda! I cannot stand this much longer--this waiting and
starving on the crumbs that you vouchsafe to scatter from your table.
What the deuce does it matter if they _don't_ approve? Why won't you
marry me this minute, and have done with it? There goes a parson with an
umbrella. Shall I run after him and get him to splice us off-hand?'

Rhoda looked seriously alarmed. 'George, don't talk like this,' she
said, putting her slim hand on his. 'You would never speak to me again
if I consented to anything so dishonourable; Lady Sarah would never give
you her living; she would never forg----'

'My aunt be hanged!' cried George, more and more excited. 'If she were
ever so angry she could not divide us if we were married. I am not at
all sure that I shall take her living. I only want to earn enough bread
and butter for you, Rhoda. _Now_, I believe she might starve you into
surrender. Rhoda, take me or leave me, but don't let us go on like this.
A woman's idea of honour, I confess, passes my comprehension,' said he,
somewhat bitterly.

'Can't you understand my not wanting to deceive them all?' Rhoda said.

'Deceive them all?' said George. 'What are we doing now? I don't like
it. I don't understand it. I am ashamed to look Dolly in the face when
she talks to me about you. Rhoda, be a reasonable, good, kind little
Rhoda.' And the young fellow wrung the little hand he held in his, and
thumped the two hands both down together upon the seat.

He hurt her, but the girl did not wince. She again raised her dark eyes
and looked fixedly into his face. When she looked like that she knew
very well that George, for one--poor tamed monster that he was--could
never defy her.

'Dearest George, you know that if I could, I would marry you this
moment,' she said. 'But how can I ruin your whole future:--you, who are
so sensitive and ill able to bear things? How could we tell Lady Sarah
just now, when--when you have been so incautious and unfortunate----?'

'When I owe three hundred pounds!' cried George, at the pitch of his
voice: 'and I must get it from my aunt one way or another--that is the
plain English, Rhoda. Don't be afraid; nothing you say will hurt my
feelings. If only,' he added, in a sweet changing voice--'if only you
love me a little, and will help a poor prodigal out of the mire----But
no: you virtuous people pass on with your high-minded scruples, and
leave us to our deserts,' he cried, with a sudden change of manner; and
he started up and began walking up and down hastily in front of the
summer-house.

The girl watched him for an instant--a hasty, stumpy figure going up and
down, and up and down again.

'George! George!' faltered Rhoda, frightened--and her tears brimmed over
unaffectedly--'haven't you any trust in my love? won't you believe me
when I tell you, I--I----you _know_ I would give my life for you if I
could!'

George Vanborough's own blue eyes were twinkling. 'Forgive me, darling,'
he said, utterly melting in one instant, and speaking in that sweet
voice peculiar to him. It seemed to come from his very heart. He sank
down by her again. 'You are an angel--there, Rhoda--a thousand thousand
miles away from me, though we are sitting side by side; but when you are
unhappy, then I am punished for all my transgressions,' said George, in
his gentle voice. 'Now I will tell you what we will do: we will tell
Dolly all about it, and she will help us.'

'Oh! not Dolly,' said Rhoda, imploring; 'George! everybody loves her,
and she doesn't know what it means to be unhappy and anxious. Let us
wait a little longer, George: we are happy now together, are we not? You
must pass your examination, and take your degree, and it will be easier
to tell them then. Come.'

'Come where?' said George.

'There are so many people here,' said Rhoda, 'you mustn't write to me
again to meet you. You had much better come and see me at the house.'

'I will come and see you there, too,' said George. 'I met Raban just
now. He will be telling them I am in town; he says my aunt wants to see
me on business. Confound him!'

'Was that Mr. Raban?' said Rhoda, opening her eyes. 'Oh! I hope he will
not tell them.' She led him across the grass, into a quiet place, deep
among the trees, where they were safe enough; for where so many come and
go, two figures, sitting on a felled trunk, on the slope of a leafy
hollow, are scarcely noticed. The chestnuts fell now and then plash into
the leaves and grasses, the breezes stirred the crisp leaves, the brown
sunset of autumn glow tinted and swept to gold the changing world: there
were still birds and blue overhead, a sea of gold all round them. George
was happy. He forgot his debts, his dreams, the deaths and doubts and
failures of life--everything except two dark eyes, a soft harmony of
voice and look beside him.

'You are like Mendelssohn's _Songs without Words_, Rhoda,' said George.

Rhoda didn't answer.

'George, what o'clock is it?' she said.



CHAPTER XIX.

KENSINGTON PALACE CHAPEL.

    An' I hallus comed to's choorch afoar moy Sally wur deäd,
    An' eerd un a bummin' awaäy loike a buzzard clock ower my yeäd,
    An' I niver knaw'd whot a meän'd, but I thowt a ad summut to saäy,
    An' I thowt a said what a owt to 'a said an' I comed awaäy.


Meanwhile Dolly, who has been looking for Rhoda in vain, stands alone in
the pew, listening to the opening exhortation, and, at the same time,
wondering alongside of it, as she used to do when she and Rhoda were
little girls at Paris long ago. Her thoughts run somewhat in this
fashion:--'Inner life,' thinks Dolly. 'What is inner life? George says
he knows. John Morgan makes it all into the day's work and being tired.
Aunt Sarah says it is repentance. Robert won't even listen to me when I
speak of it. Have I got it? What am I?' Dolly wonders if she is sailing
straight off to heaven at that moment in the big cushioned pew, or if
the ground will open and swallow it up one day, like the tents of Korah
and Abiram. This is what she is at that instant--so she thinks at least:
Some whitewashed walls, a light through a big window; John Morgan's
voice echoing in an odd melancholy way, and her own two hands lying on
the cushion before her. Nothing more: she can go no farther at that
minute towards 'the eternal fact upon which man may front the destinies
and the immensities.'

So Dolly, at the outset of life, at the beginning of the longest five
years of her life, stands in the strangers' great pew in Kensington
Palace Chapel--a young Pharisee, perhaps, but an honest one, speculating
upon the future, making broad her phylacteries; and with these, strange
flashes of self-realisation that came to puzzle her all her life
long--standing opposite the great prayer-books, with all the faded
golden stamps of lions and unicorns. It was to please her brother George
that Dolly had come to church this Saint's Day. What wouldn't she have
done to please him? Through all his curious excursions of feeling he
expected her always to follow, and Dolly tried to follow as she was
expected.

'For our creation, preservation, and all the blessings of life,' the
reader ran on. Dolly was ready enough to be grateful for all these
mercies, only she thought that out of doors, in the gardens, she would
have felt as grateful as she did now; and she again wondered why it was
better to tender thanks in a mahogany box with red stuffings, out of a
book, instead of out of her heart, in the open air. 'Can this be because
I have no inner life?' thought Dolly, with her vacant eyes fixed on the
clergyman. A bird's shadow flitted across the sun-gleam on the floor.
Dolly looked up and saw the branch of the tree through the great window,
and the blue depths shining, dazzling, and dominant. Then the girl
pushed her hand across her eyes, and tried to forget other thoughts as
she stood reading out of the big brown prayer-book. Dolly's gloves had
fallen over the side of the pew, and were lying in the oak-matted
passage-place, at the feet of a little country cookmaid from one of the
kitchens of the Palace, who alternately stared down at the grey gloves
and up at the young lady. The little cook, whose mistress was away, had
wandered in to the sound of the bell, and sat there with her rosy
cheeks, like some russet apple that had fallen by chance into a faded
reliquary belonging to a sumptuous shrine. Was it because it was
Saturday, Dolly wondered, that she could not bring her heart to the
altar?--that the little chapel did not seem to her much more than an
allegory? Are royal chapels only echoes and allegories? Do people go
there to pray real prayers, to long passionately, with beating hearts?
Have dried-up tears ever fallen upon the big pages of the old books with
their curling _t_'s and florid _s_'s? Books in whose pages King George
the Third still rules over a shadowy realm, Queen Charlotte heads the
Royal Family!

Dolly had started away from her vague excursions when the Epistle ended.
'Of the tribe of Zabulon twelve thousand, of the tribe of Joseph twelve
thousand, of the tribe of Benjamin twelve thousand....' It seemed to
Dolly but a part of the state and the ceremony that oppressed her. As
the armies passed before her, she seemed to hear the chaunt of the
multitude, to follow the endless processions of the elect filing past
with the seals on their triumphant brows, the white robes and palms in
their extended hands!

But listen, what is this? John Morgan thundered out the long lists of
the tribes; but his voice softened as he came to the well-loved gospel
of the day:--'Blessed are the poor, for theirs is the kingdom: blessed
are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted; blessed are the
merciful, the pure, the peacemakers....'

'Are these the real tribes upon earth for whom the blessing is kept? Am
I of the tribe of the merciful, of the peacemakers?' Dolly asked herself
again. 'How can I make peace?--there is no one angry,' thought the girl;
'and I'm sure no one has ever done me any harm to be forgiven,
except--except Mr. Raban, when he spoke to Aunt Sarah so cruelly about
George. Ought I to forgive that?' thought the sister, and yet she wished
she had not spoken so unkindly....

When the end came there was a rustle. The old ladies got up off their
knees, the curtains stirred in the big Dugald Dalgetty pew: Dolly was to
meet John Morgan in the outer room, but the old clerk gave her a message
to say that Mr. Morgan had gone to the chaplain's, and would meet her in
the clock court of the Palace.

'There was a gentleman asking for him just a minute by,' said the old
clerk.

So Dolly, instead of filing off with the rest of the congregation, went
sweeping along the dark vaulted passages with the sunlight at either
end--a grey maiden floating in the shade.

Dolly's dress was demure enough: for though she liked bright colours, by
some odd scruples she denied herself the tints she liked. If she
sometimes wore a rose or a blue ribbon, it was Lady Sarah who bought
them, and who had learnt of late to like roses and blue ribbons by
proxy. Otherwise, she let Dolly come, go, dress as she liked best; and
so the girl bought herself cheap grey gowns and economical brown
petticoats: luckily she could not paint her pretty cheeks brown, nor her
bright hair grey. Sometimes Rhoda had proposed that they should dress in
black with frill caps and crosses, but this Aunt Sarah peremptorily
refused to permit. Lady Sarah was a clever woman, with a horror of
attitudinising, and some want of artistic feeling. The poor people whom
she visited, Rhoda herself, soon discovered the futility of any of the
little performances they sometimes attempted for Lady Sarah's benefit.

Dolly stepped out from the dark passage into the Palace courtyard, with
its dim rows of windows, its sentinel, its brasses shining, the old
doorways standing at prim intervals with knobs and iron bells, which may
be pulled to-day, but which seem to echo a hundred years ago, as they
ring across the Dutch court. The little cookmaid was peeping out of her
kitchen-door, and gave a kind little smile. Some one else was waiting,
pacing up and down that quiet place, where footsteps can be heard
echoing in the stillness. But as Dolly advanced, she discovered that it
was not John Morgan, as she imagined. The gentleman, who had reached the
end of his walk, now turned, came towards her, looking absently to the
right and the left. It was the very last person in the whole world she
had expected or wished to see. It was Frank Raban, with his pale face,
who stopped short when he saw her. They had not met since that day when
he had talked so strangely.

If Dolly looked as if she was a little sorry to see Mr. Raban, Mr. Raban
also looked as if he had rather not have met Dolly. He gave a glance
round, but there was no way by which he could avoid her, unless he was
prepared, like harlequin in the pantomime, to take a summersault and
disappear through one of the many windows. There was no help for it.
They both came forward.

'How do you do, Miss Vanborough?' said Raban, gravely, holding out his
hand, and thinking of the last time they had met.

'How do you do?' said Dolly, coldly, just giving him her fingers. Then
melting a little, as people do who have been over-stiff--'Have you seen
George lately? how is he?' said Dolly, more forgivingly.

Raban looked surprised. 'He is quite well ... Don't you--has he not----'
he interrupted himself, and then he went on, looking a little confused:
'I am only in town for an hour or two. I have been calling at John
Morgan's, and they sent me here to find him. Shall I find Lady Sarah at
home this afternoon?'

Dolly flushed up. In a moment all her coldness was gone. Something in
his manner made her suspect that all was not well. 'It is something more
about George?' she said, frightened, and she fixed her two circling eyes
upon the man. Why was he for ever coming--evil messenger of ill tidings?
She guessed it, she felt it, she seemed to have some second sight as
regards Raban. She almost hated him. A minute ago she had thought she
could forgive him.

Dolly's cheeks flushed in vain, her eyes flashed harmless lightning.

'Yes, it is about your brother,' said the young man, looking away. 'I
have at last been able to make that arrangement to help him, as Lady
Sarah wished. It has taken me some time and some trouble;' and without
another word he turned and walked away towards the passage.

I think this was the first time Dolly had ever been snubbed in all her
life, except by George, and that did not count.

A furtive, quick, yet hesitating footstep flutters after Frank. 'Mr.
Raban,' says Miss Vanborough.

He stopped.

'I did not mean to pain you,' blushing up (she was very indignant still,
and half-inclined to cry. But she was in the wrong, and bent upon
apology). 'I beg your pardon,' she said, in a lofty, condoning,
half-ashamed, half-indignant sort of way; and she held out her hand.

Frank Raban did not refuse the outstretched hand; he took it in his, and
held it tight for an instant, with a grip of which he was scarcely
aware, and then he dropped it. 'You don't know,' he said, with some
emotion,--'I hope you will never know, what it is to have done another
great wrong. I cannot forget what you said to me that last evening we
met; but you must learn more charity, and believe that even those who
have failed once may mean to do right another time.'

How little she guessed that, as he spoke, he was thinking what a madness
had been his; wondering what infatuation had made him, even for one
instant, dream they could ever be anything to one another.

As the two made it up, after a fashion, a bell tinkled through the
court, a door opened, and John Morgan came running down some worn steps,
twirling his umbrella like a mill.

'Here I am, Dolly. Why, Raban!' he shouts, 'where do you come from? Dr.
Thompson is better--he kept me discussing the church-rates. I couldn't
get away. You see, where the proportion of Dissenters----Will you have
an arm?'

'No, thank you,' said Dolly.

'----where the proportion is one-fiftieth of the population----'

The curate, always enthusiastic, seized Raban's arm, and plunged with
him into the very depths of Dr. Thompson's argument. Dolly lingered
behind for a minute, and came after them, along the passage again and
out by a different way into an old avenue which leads from the Palace
stables, and by a garden enclosed in high brick walls. It used to be
Lady Henley's garden, and Dolly sometimes walked there. Now she only
skirted the wall. The sun was casting long shadows, the mists were gone,
a sort of sweet balmy ripeness was in the air, as they came out upon the
green. The windows of the old guard-house were twinkling; some soldiers
were lounging on the grass. Some members of the congregation were
opening the wicket-gates of one of the old houses that stood round about
in those days, modest dependencies of the Palace, quaint-roofed, with
slanting bricks and tiles, and narrow panes, from whence autumnal
avenues could be descried.

There is a side-door leading from Palace Green to Kensington Gardens.
Within the door stands an old stone summer-house, which is generally
brimming over with little children, who for many years past have sat
swinging their legs upon the seat.

As Dolly passed the gate she heard a shout, and out of the summer-house
darted a little ragged procession, with tatters flying--Mikey and his
sister, who had spied their victim, and now pursued her with triumphant
cries.

'Tsus!--hi, Mikey!--Miss Vamper!' (so they called her).

'Give us a 'napeny,' says Mikey. 'Father's got no work, mother was
buried on Toosdy! We's so 'ungry.'

'Why, Betty,' said Dolly, stopping short, and greatly shocked, 'is this
true?'

'Ess,' says little Betty, grinning, and running back through the wicket.

'What did you have for dinner yesterday?' says Dolly, incredulous, and
pursuing Betty towards the summer-house.

'Please, Miss, mother give us some bread-and-drippin',' says Mikey, with
a caper. 'I mean father did. We's so....'

'You mean that you have been telling me a wicked story,' interrupted
Dolly. 'I am _very_ angry, Mikey. I _never_ forgive deception. I shall
give you no apples--nothing. I....' She stopped short; her voice
suddenly faltered. She stood quite still watching two people, who came
advancing down the avenue that led to the little door, arm-in-arm, and
so absorbed in each other, that for a minute they did not see that she
was standing in the way. It was a chance. If it had not happened then,
it would have happened at some other time and place.

Rhoda had waited until the service was over, and in so doing she had
come upon the last person whom she wished to see just then. There stood
Dolly by the summer-house, with a pale face, confronting her, with the
little ragged crew about her knees. Mikey, looking up, thought that for
once 'Miss Vamper' was in the tantrums.

Rhoda started back instinctively, meeting two blank wondering eyes, and
would have pulled George away, but it was too late.

'Nonsense,' said George; and he came forward, and then they all were
quite silent for a minute, George a little in advance, Rhoda lingering
still.

'What does this mean?' said Dolly, coldly, speaking at last.

'What does it mean!' George burst out. 'Don't you see us? don't you
guess? It is good news, isn't it?--Dolly, she loves me. Have you not
guessed it all along--ever since--months ago?'

He was half-distracted, half-excited, half-laughing. His eyes were dim
with moisture. Any one might see him. What did he care for the ragged
children, the people passing by--those silent crowds that flit through
our lives! He came up to Dolly.

'You will be tender to her, won't you, and help her, for my sake, and
you will be our friend, Dolly? We had not meant to tell you yet; but you
wish us joy, won't you, dear?'

'Tender to her? Help her? What help could she want?' thought Dolly,
looking at Rhoda, who stood silent still, but who made a little dumb
movement of entreaty. 'Was it George who was asking her to befriend him?
Was it George, who had mistrusted her all this long time, and kept her
in ignorance...?'

'Why don't you answer? Why do you look like that? Do you wonder that I
or that anybody else should love her?' he went on eagerly.

'What do you want me to do?' Dolly asked. 'I cannot understand it.'

Her voice sounded hard and constrained: she was hurt and bewildered.

George was bitterly disappointed. Her coldness shocked him. Could it be
possible that Rhoda was right and Dolly hard and unfeeling?

Poor Dolly! A bitter wave of feeling seemed suddenly to rise from her
heart and choke her as she stood there. So! there was an understanding
between them? Did he come to see Rhoda in secret, while she was counting
the days till they should meet? Was it only by chance that she was to
learn their engagement? They had been stopping up the way; as they moved
a little aside to let the people pass, Rhoda timidly laid one hand on
Dolly's arm,--'Won't you forgive me? won't you keep our secret?' she
said.

'Why should there be any secret?' cried Dolly, haughtily. 'How could I
keep one from Aunt Sarah? I am not used to such manoeuvrings.'

Rhoda began to cry. George, exasperated by Dolly's manner, burst out
with 'Tell her, then! Tell them all--tell them everything! Tell them of
my debts! Part us!' he said. 'You will make your profit by it, no doubt,
and Rhoda, poor child, will be sacrificed.' He felt he was wrong, but
this made him only the more bitter. He turned away from Dolly, and
pulled Rhoda's hand through his arm.

'I will take care of you, darling,' he said.

'George! George!' from poor Dolly, sick and chilled.

'Dolly!' cried another voice from without the gate. It was John
Morgan's. He had missed her, and was retracing his steps to find her.

Poor weak-minded Dolly! now brought to the trial and found wanting: how
could she withstand those she loved? All her life long it was so with
her. As George turned away from her, her heart went after him.

'Oh, George! don't look at me so. My profit! You have made it impossible
for me to speak,' she faltered, as she moved away to meet the curate and
Frank Raban.

'What is the matter? are you ill?' said John Morgan, meeting Dorothea in
the doorway. 'Why did you wait behind?'

'Mikey detained me. I am quite well, thank you,' said Dolly, slowly,
with a changed face.

Raban gave her a curious look. He had seen some one disappear into the
summer-house, and he thought he recognised the stumpy figure.

John Morgan noticed nothing; he walked on, talking of the serious aspect
things were taking in the East--of Doctor Thompson's gout--of the
church-rates. Frank Raban looked at Dolly once or twice, and slackened
his steps to hers. They left her at the corner of her lane.



CHAPTER XX.

RHODA TO DOLLY.

                      Make denials,
    Increase your services: so seem as if
    You were inspired to do those duties which
    You tender to her....

    --Cymbeline.


Dolly heard the luncheon-bell ringing as she walked slowly homewards. It
seemed to her as if she had been hearing a story which had been told her
before, with words that she remembered now, though she had listened once
without attaching any meaning to them. Now she seemed to awake and
understand it all--a hundred little things, unnoticed at the time,
crowded back into her mind and seemed to lead up to this moment. Dolly
suddenly remembered Rhoda's odd knowledge of George's doings, her
blushes, his constant comings of late: she remembered everything, even
to the gloves lying by the piano. The girl was bitterly hurt, wounded,
impatient. Love had never entered into her calculations, except as a
joke or a far-away impossibility. It was no such very terrible secret
after all that a young man and a young woman should have taken a fancy
to each other; but Dolly, whose faults were the faults of inexperience
and youthful dominion and confidence, blamed passionately as she would
have sympathised. Then in a breath she blamed herself.

How often it happens that people meaning well, as Dolly did, undoubtedly
slide into some wrong groove from the overbalance of some one or other
quality. Dolly cared too much and not too little, and that was what made
her so harsh to George, and then, as if to atone for her harshness, too
yielding to his wish--to Rhoda's wish working by so powerful a lever.

Lady Sarah came home late for luncheon, and went up to her room soon
after. Dolly gave Frank Raban's message. She herself stopped at home all
day expecting George, but no George came, not even Rhoda, whom she both
longed and hated to see again. Every one seemed changed to Dolly; she
felt as if she was wandering lost in the familiar rooms, as if George
and her aunt and Rhoda were all different people since the morning.

'Why are you looking at me, child?' said Lady Sarah, suddenly. Dolly had
been wistfully scanning the familiar lines of the well-known face; there
was now a secret between them, thought the girl.

Mr. Raban came in the afternoon, as he had announced, and Dolly, going
into the oak room, found him there, standing in the shadow, with a
bundle of papers under his arm, and looking more like a lawyer's clerk
than a friend who had been working hard in their service.

Dolly was leaving the room again, when her aunt called her back for a
minute.

'Did George tell you anything of his difficulties the last time he was
in town?' Lady Sarah asked from her chimney-corner. 'When was it you saw
him, Dolly?' She was nervously tying some papers together that slipped
out of her hands and fell upon the floor.

Poor Dolly turned away. There was a minute's silence.

Dolly flushed crimson. 'I--I don't--I can't tell you,' she said,
confusedly.

She saw Frank Raban's look of surprise as she turned. What did she care
what he thought of her? What was it to him if she chose to tell a lie
and he guessed it? Oh. George! cruel boy! what had he asked?

Frank Raban wondered at Dolly's silence. Since she wished to keep a
secret, he did not choose to interfere; but he blamed her for that, as
for most other things; and yet the more he blamed her the more her face
haunted him. Those girl's eyes, with their great lights and clouds; that
sweet face, that looked so stern and yet so tender too. When he was away
from her he loved her; when he was with her he accused her.

It was a long, endless day. Miss Moineaux was welcome at tea-time, with
her flannel bindings and fluttering gossip.

It seemed like a little bit of common-place, familiar everyday coming
in. Dolly went to the door with her when she left them, and saw black
trees swaying, winds chasing across the dreary sky, light clouds sailing
by. The winds rose that night, beating about the house. A chimney-pot
fell crashing to the ground; elm-branches broke off from the trees and
were scattered along the parks. Dolly, in her little room, lay listening
to the sobs and moans without, to the fierce hands beating and
struggling with her window. She fell into a sleep, in which it seemed to
her that she was railing and raving at George again: she awoke with a
start to find that it was the wind. She dreamt the history of the day
over and over. She dreamt of Raban, and somehow he always looked at her
reproachfully. She awoke very early in the morning, long before it was
time to get up, with penitent, loving words on her lips. Had she been
harsh to George? Jealous--was she jealous? Dolly scorned to be jealous,
she told herself. It was her hatred of wrong, her sense of justice, that
had made her heart so bitter. Poor Dolly had yet to discover how far she
fell short of her own ideal. My poor little heroine was as yet on the
eve of her long and lonely expedition in life. There might be arid
places waiting for her, dreary passes, but there were also cool waters
and green pastures along the road. Nor had she yet journeyed from their
shade, and from the sound of her companions' voices and the shelter of
their protection.

       *       *       *       *       *

This was Rhoda's explanation. She was standing before Dolly, looking
prettier than ever. She held a flower in her hand, which she had offered
her friend, who silently rejected it. Rhoda had looked for Dolly in vain
in the house. She found her at last, disconsolately throwing crumbs to
the fishes in the pond. Dolly stood sulky and miserable, scarcely
looking up when Rhoda spoke. They were safe in the garden out of reach
of the quiet old guardians of the house. Rhoda began at once.

'He urged it,' said Rhoda, fixing her great dark eyes steadily upon
Dolly, 'indeed he did. I said no at first; I would not even let him be
bound. One day I was weak and consented to be engaged. I sinned against
my own conscience; I am chastised.'

'Sinned?' said Dolly, impatiently; 'chastised? Rhoda, Rhoda, you use
long words that mean nothing. Oh! why did you not tell Aunt Sarah from
the beginning? She loves George so dearly--so dearly that she would have
done anything, consented to everything, and this wretchedness would have
been spared. How shall I tell her? How shall I ever tell her? I can't
keep such a secret. Already I have had to tell a lie.'

'I could not bear to be the means of injuring him,' Rhoda said, flushing
up. 'I daresay you won't understand me or believe me, but it is true.
Indeed, indeed, it is true, Dolly. Lady Sarah would never forgive him
now if he were to marry me. She does not like me. Dolly, you know it. I
have been culpably foolish; but I will not damage his future.'

'Of course it is foolish to be engaged,' said Dolly; 'but there are
worse things, Rhoda, a thousand times.'

'Yes,' said Rhoda. 'Dolly, you don't know half. He has been
gambling--dear, foolish boy--borrowing money from the Jews. Uncle John
heard of it through a pupil of his. He wrote to Mr. Raban. Oh, Dolly, I
love him so dearly, that it breaks my heart. How can I trust him? How
can I? Oh, how difficult it is to be good, and to know what one should
do.'

Rhoda flung herself down upon the wooden bench as she spoke, leaning her
head against the low brick wall, with its ivy sprays. Dolly stood beside
her, erect, indignant, half softened by the girl's passion, and half
hardened when she thought of the deception that she had kept up. Beyond
the low ivy wall was the lane of which I have spoken, where some people
were strolling; overhead the sky was burning deep, the afternoon shadows
came trembling and shimmering into the pond. Lady Sarah had had a screen
of creepers put up to shelter her favourite seat from the winds; the
great leaves were still hanging to the trellis, gold and brown.

'If I thought only of myself should I not have told everybody?' said
Rhoda, excitedly, and she clasped her hands; 'but I feel there is a
higher duty to him. I will be his good angel and urge him to work. I
will leave him if I stand in his way, and keep to him if it is for good.
Do you think I want to be a cause of trouble between him and Lady Sarah?
She might disinherit him. It is you she cares for, and not poor George;
I heard Mr. Raban say so only yesterday,' cried Rhoda, in a sudden burst
of tears. 'He told me so.'

Dolly waited for a moment, and then slowly turned away, leaving Rhoda
still sobbing against the bricks. She couldn't forgive her at that
instant; her heart was bitter against her. What had she done to deserve
such taunts? Why had Rhoda come making dissension and unhappiness
between them? It was hard, oh, it was hard. There came a jangling burst
of music from the church bells, as if to add to her bewilderment.

'Dear Rhoda,' said Dolly, coming back, and melting suddenly, 'do listen
to me. Tell them all. I cannot see one reason against it.'

'Except that we are no longer engaged,' said Rhoda, gravely. 'I have set
him free, Dolly; that is what I wanted to tell you. I wrote to him, and
set him free; for anything underhand is as painful to me as to you. It
was only to please George I consented. Hush! They are calling me.'

Engaged or not, poor Dorothea felt that all pleasure in her friend's
company was gone; there was a tacit jar between them--a little rift.
Dolly for the first time watched Rhoda with critical eyes, as she walked
away down the path that led to the house, fresh and trim in her pretty
dress, and her black silk mantlet, and with her flower in her hand.
Dolly did not follow her. She thought over every single little bit of
her life after Rhoda had left her, as she sat there alone, curled up on
the wooden seat, with her limp violet dress in crumpled folds, and her
brown hair falling loose, with pretty little twirls and wavings. Her
grey eyes were somewhat sad and dim from the day's emotion. No, she must
not tell her aunt what had happened until she had George's leave. She
would see him soon; she would beg his pardon; she would _make_ him tell
Aunt Sarah. She had been too hasty. She had spoken harshly, only it was
difficult not to be harsh to Rhoda, who was so cold--who seemed as if
she would not understand. All she said sounded so good, and yet,
somehow, it did not come right. Then she began to wonder if it could be
that Rhoda loved George more than Dolly imagined. Some new glimmer had
come to the girl of late--not of what love was, but of what it might be.
Only Dolly was fresh and prim and shy, as girls are, and she put the
thought far away from her. Love! Love was up in the stars, she thought
hastily. All the same she could not bring herself to feel cordially to
Rhoda. There was something miserably uncomfortable in the new relations
between them; and Dolly showed it in her manner plainly enough.

Lady Sarah told Dolly that afternoon that she had written to George to
come up at the end of the week. 'He has had no pity on us, Dolly,' she
said. 'I have some money that a friend paid back, and with that and the
price of a field at Bartlemere, I shall be able to pay for his pastimes
during the last year.

'Aunt Sarah,' said Dolly suddenly illuminated, 'can't you take some of
my money; do, please, dearest Aunt Sarah.'

'What would be the use of that?' said Lady Sarah. 'I want the interest
for your expenses, Dolly.' She spoke quite sharply, as if in pain, and
she put her hand to her side and went away. If Lady Sarah had not been
ill herself and preoccupied, she might have felt that something also
ailed Dolly, that the girl was constrained at times, and unlike herself.
Dolly only wondered that her aunt did not guess what was passing before
her, so patent did it seem, now that she had the key.

One day Marker persuaded her mistress to go to a doctor. Lady Sarah came
back with one of those impossible prescriptions that people give. Avoid
all anxiety; do not trouble yourself about anything; live generously;
distract yourself when you can do so without fatigue.

Lady Sarah came home to find a Cambridge letter on the table, containing
some old bills of George's, which a tradesman had sent on to her; a
fresh call from the unlucky bank in which Mr. Francis had invested so
much of her money: an appeal from Mikey's fever-stricken cellar, and a
foreign scented letter, that troubled her more than all the rest
together:--

     _Trincomalee, September 25, 18--._

     DEAREST SARAH,--I have many and many a time begun to write to
     you, only to destroy bitter records of those sorrows which I
     must continue to bear _alone_. Soon we shall be leaving this
     ill-fated shore, where I have passed so many miserable years
     gazing with longing eyes at the broad expanse lying so calm and
     indifferent before me.

     Before long Admiral Palmer sails for England. He gives up his
     command with great reluctance, and returns _viá_ the Cape; but
     I, in my weak state of health, dare risk no longer delay.
     Friends--kind, good friends, Mrs. and Miss M'Grudder--have
     offered to accompany me overland, sharing all expenses, and
     visiting Venice and Titian's--the great master's glorious
     works--_en route_, to say nothing of Raphael, and Angelo the
     divine. We shall rest a week at Paris. I feel that after so
     long a journey utter prostration will succeed to the excitement
     which carries me through where I see others, more robust than
     myself, failing on every side. And then I am in rags--a study
     for Murillo himself! I cannot come among you all until my
     wardrobe is replenished. How I look forward to the time when I
     shall welcome my Dorothea--ours, I may say--for you have been
     all but a mother to her. On my return I trust to find some
     corner to make my nest; and for that purpose I should wish to
     spend a week or two in London, so as to be within easy reach of
     all. Sarah, my first husband's sister, will you help me; for
     the love of 'auld lang syne,' will you spare a little corner in
     your dear old house? Expensive hotels I cannot afford. My dear
     friends here agree that Admiral Palmer's ungraciously-given
     allowances are beggarly and unworthy of his high position. How
     differently dear Stan would have wished him to act! Silver and
     gold have I none--barely sufficient for my own dress. Those
     insurances were most unfairly given against the widow and the
     orphan. Tell my darlings this; tell them, too, that all that I
     have is theirs. When I think that for the last six years, ever
     since my second marriage, a tyrant will has prevented me from
     folding them to my heart, indignation nearly overcomes the
     prudence so foreign to my nature. Once more, fond love to you,
     to my boy, and to _ma fille_; and trusting before long to be
     once more at home,

     Ever your very affectionate

     PHILIPPA.

     P.S.--Since writing the above few lines, I find that my husband
     wishes to compass my death. He again proposes my returning with
     him by the Cape. Sarah, will you spare me the corner of a
     garret beneath your roof?

The letter was scented with some faint delicious perfume. 'Here, take it
away,' says Lady Sarah. 'Faugh! Of course she knows very well that she
can have the best bed-room, and the dressing-room for her maid; and you,
my poor Dolly, will have a little amusement and some one better fitted
to----'

'Don't,' cries Dolly, jumping forward with a kiss.



CHAPTER XXI.

CINDERS.

            'Mid the wreck of IS and WAS,
    Things incomplete and purposes betrayed
    Make sadder transits o'er thought's optic glass
    Than noblest objects utterly decayed!


Dolly went to afternoon church the day George was expected. When she
came home she heard that her brother was upstairs, and she hurried along
the passage with a quick-beating heart, and knocked at his door. It was
dark in the passage, and Dolly stood listening--a frightened, grey-eyed,
pent-up indignation, in a black dress, with her bonnet in her hand.
There was a dense cloud of smoke and tobacco in the room when Dolly
turned the lock at last, and she could only cough and blink her eyes. As
the fumes cleared away, she saw that George was sitting by the low
wooden fire-place. He had been burning papers. How eagerly the flames
leaped and travelled on, in bright blue and golden tongues, while the
papers fell away black and crackling and changing to cinder. Dolly
looked very pale and unlike herself. George turned with a bright haggard
sort of smile.

'Is that you, Dolly?' he said. 'Come in; the illumination is over. You
don't mind the smell of tobacco. I have been burning a box of cigars
that Robert gave me. He knows no more about cigars than you do.'

'Oh, George,' cried Dolly. 'Is this all you have to say, after making us
so unhappy----?'

'What do you want me to say?' said George, shrugging his shoulders.

'I want you to say that you have told her everything, and that there are
no more concealments,' Dolly cried, getting angry. 'When Aunt Sarah
asked me about you last I felt as if it was written in my face that I
was lying.'

He was going to answer roughly, but he looked up at Dolly's pale
agitated face, and was sorry for her. He spoke both kindly and crossly.

'Don't make such a talk, Dolly, and a fuss. We have had it out--John
Morgan--council of state--she has been--she has been--'--his voice
faltered a little bit--'a great deal kinder than I deserve or had any
reason to expect, judging by _you_, Dolly. It's not _your_ business to
scold, you know.'

'And she knows all,' said Dolly, eagerly and brightening.

'She knows all about my debts,' said George, expressively. 'She is going
to let me try once more for the next scholarship. She shan't be
disappointed this time. However, the past is past, and can't be helped.
I've been burning a whole drawer full of it....' And he struck his foot
into the smouldering heap.

People think that what is destroyed is over, forgetting that what has
been is never over, and that it is in vain you burn and scatter the
cinders of many a past hope and failure, and of a debt to pay, a promise
broken. Debts, promises, failures are there still. There were the poems
George had tried to write, the account-books he had not filled up, the
lists of books he had not read, a dozen mementoes of good intentions
broken.

'And did you not tell Aunt Sarah about Rhoda?' repeated Dolly,
disappointed. 'Oh, George, what does Rhoda mean when she says you are no
longer engaged? What does it all mean?'

'It means, it means,' said George, impatiently, 'that I am an idiot, but
I am not a sneak; and if a woman trusts me, I can keep her counsel, so
long as you don't betray me, Dolly. Only there are some things one can't
do, not even for the woman one loves.' Then he looked up suddenly, and
seeing Dolly's pained face, he went on: 'Dolly, I think you would cut
off your head if I were to ask you for it: Rhoda won't snip off one
little lock of hair. Poor dear, she is frightened at every shadow. She
has given me back this,' he said, opening his hand, which he had kept
closed before, and showing Dolly a little pearl locket lying in his
palm. Then he went on in a low voice, looking into the fire, 'I love her
enough, God knows, and I would tell the whole world, if she would let
me. But she says no--always, no; and I can trust her, Dolly, for she is
nearer heaven than I am. It is her will to be silent,' he said, gently;
'angels vanish if we would look into their faces too closely. She would
like me to have a tranquil spirit, such as her own; she thinks me a
thousand times better than I am,' said George, 'and if I did as she
wishes, I could be happy enough, but not contented.' Dolly wondered of
what he was thinking, as he went on pacing up and down the room. 'I
cannot tell lies to myself, not even for her sake. I cannot take this
living as she wishes. If I may not believe in God my own way, I should
blaspheme and deny Him, while I confessed Him in some one else's words.
You asked me one day if I had an inner life, Dolly,' George said, coming
back to the oak chimney-piece again. 'Inner life is only one's self and
the responsibility of this one life to the Truth. Sometimes I think that
before I loved Rhoda I was not all myself, and though the truth was the
same it did not concern me in the same degree, and I meant to do this or
that as it might be most advisable. Now, through loving her, Dolly, I
seem to have come to something beyond us both, and what is advisable
don't seem to matter any more. Can you understand this?'

'Yes, George,' said Dolly, looking at him earnestly--his sallow face had
flushed up, his closed eyes had opened out. Dolly suddenly flung her
arms round his neck and kissed him. She felt proud of her brother as she
listened to him. She had come to blame, she remained to bless him. Ah,
if every one knew him as well as she did. She was happier than she had
been for many a day, and ready to believe that George could not be
wrong. She could not even say no that evening after dinner, when George
proposed that they should go over to the Morgans'.

'Go, my dears,' said Lady Sarah; and Dolly got up with a sort of sigh to
get her bonnet. Just as they were starting, her cousin Robert walked in
unexpectedly, and proposed to accompany them. He had come in with a
serious face, prepared to sympathise in their family troubles, and to
add a few words in season, if desired, for George's benefit. He found
the young man looking most provokingly cheerful and at home, Lady Sarah
smiling, and if Dolly was depressed she did not show it, for, in truth,
her heart was greatly lightened. The three walked off together.

'We shall not be back to tea,' said Robert, who always liked to settle
things beforehand. But on this occasion Mrs. Morgan's hospitable teapot
was empty for once. The whole party had gone off to a lecture and
dissolving views in the Town Hall. The only person left behind was Tom
Morgan, who was sitting in the study reading a novel, with his heels on
the chimney-piece, when they looked in.

'Good-night, Tom,' said Dolly, with more frankness than necessary; 'we
won't stay, since there is only you.'

'Good-evening,' said Robert, affably. And they came out into the street
again. He went on: 'I am sorry John Morgan was not at home. I want him
to fix some time for coming down to Cambridge. You must come with him,
Dolly. I think it might amuse you.'

'Oh, thank you,' says Dolly, delighted.

This prospect alone would have been enough to make her walk back
enjoyable, even if George had not been by her side; if it had not been
so lovely a night; if stars had not burnt sweet and clear overhead; if
soft winds had not been stirring. The place looked transformed, gables
and corners standing out in sudden lights. They could see the dim shade
of the old church, and a clear green planet flashing with lambent
streams beyond the square tower. Then they escaped from the crowd and
turned down by the quiet lane where Church House was standing gabled
against the great Orion. They found the door ajar when they reached the
ivy gate; the hall door, too, was wide open, and there seemed to be
boxes and some confusion.

'Oh, don't let us go in; come into the garden,' said Dolly, running to
the little iron garden-gate inside the outer wall. There was a strange
glimmer behind the gate against which the slim white figure was pushing.
The garden was dark, and rustling with a trembling in the branches. A
great moon had come up, and was hanging over London, serenely silvering
the house-tops and spires; its light was rippling down the straight
walks of which the gravel was glittering.

'Yes, come,' said George, and the three young people flitted along to
their usual haunt by the pond.

'What is that?' said Dolly, pointing in the darkness; 'didn't somebody
go by?' She was only a girl in her teens, and still afraid of unseen
things.

'A rat,' cried George, dashing forward.

'Oh, stop,' from Dolly.

'Don't be a goose,' said Robert; and as he spoke George met them,
flourishing an old garden shawl of Lady Sarah's, which had been
forgotten upon the bench. He flung it weirdly down upon the gravel walk.
'"Dead for a ducat, dead,"' said he. Then he started forward with a
strange moonlight gleam upon his face. '"This counsellor is now most
still, most secret, and most grave,"' he said, '"who was in life a
foolish prating knave."' His voice thrilled, he got more and more
excited.

Robert began to laugh: 'What is that you are acting?' he said.

'Acting?' cried George, opening his eyes; '"that skull had a tongue in
it and could sing once." "Dost thou think Alexander looked o' this
fashion i' the earth----?"'

'Do be quiet,' said Henley, impatiently. 'Is not some one calling?'

Some one was calling: lights were appearing and disappearing; the
drawing-room window was wide open, and their aunt stood on the terrace
making signs, and looking out for them.

'Look, there goes a falling star,' said George.

'Ah! who is that under the tree?' cried Dolly again, with a little
shriek. 'I knew I had seen some one move;' and as she spoke, a figure
emerging from the gloom came nearer and nearer to them, almost running
with two extended arms; a figure in long flowing garments, silver in the
moonlight, a woman advancing quicker and quicker.

'Children, children!' said a voice. 'It is I,--George--your mother!
Don't you know me--darlings? I have come. I was looking for you. Yes, it
is I, your mother, children.'

Dolly's heart stood still, and then began to throb, as the lady flung
her arms round Robert, who happened to be standing nearest.

'Is this George? I should have known him anywhere,' she cried.

Was this their mother? this beautiful, sweet, unseen woman, this
pathetic voice?

Dolly had seized George's hand in her agitation, and was crunching it in
hers. Robert had managed to extricate himself from the poor lady's
agitated clutch.

'Here is George. I am Robert Henley,' he said. 'But, my dear aunt,
why--why did you not write? I should have met you. I----'

It was all a strange confusion of moonlight, and bewilderment, and of
tears, presently, for Mrs. Palmer began to cry and then to laugh, and
finally went off into hysterics in her son's arms.



CHAPTER XXII.

MRS. PALMER.

    Le Baron--'Je vais m'entermer pour m'abandonner à ma douleur.
    Dites-lui s'il me demande, que je suis enfermé et que je m'abandonne
    à ma douleur ...'

    --A. De Musset.


When they were a little calmed down, when they had left the moon and the
stars outside in the garden, and were all standing in a group in the
drawing-room round the chair in which Mrs. Palmer had been placed, Dolly
saw her mother's face at last. She vaguely remembered her out of the
long ago, a very young and beautiful face smiling at her: this face was
rounder and fuller than the picture, but more familiar than her
remembrance. Mrs. Palmer was a stout and graceful woman, with a sort of
undulating motion peculiar to her, and with looks and ways some of which
Dolly recognised, though she had forgotten them before. There was a
strong likeness to Dolly herself, and even a little bit of George's look
when he was pleased, though poor George's thick complexion and snub nose
were far, far removed from any likeness to that fair and delicate
countenance. Dolly gazed admiringly at the soft white hand, with the
great Louis-Quinze ring upon the forefinger. Though Mrs. Palmer had come
off a journey in semi-hysterics, she was beautifully dressed in a black
silk dress, all over rippling waved flounces, that flowed to her feet.
She was leaning back in the chair, with half-closed eyes, but with a
tender, contented smile.

'I knew you would take me in,' she said to Lady Sarah. 'I felt I was
coming home--to my dear sister's home. See,' she said, 'what dear Stan
gave me for my wedding-gift. I chose it at Lambert's myself. We spared
no expense. I have never taken off his dear ring;' and she put out her
soft hand and took hold of Lady Sarah's mitten.' Oh, Sarah, to think--to
think----'

Lady Sarah shrunk back as usual though she answered not unkindly: 'Not
now, Philippa,' she said, hastily. 'Of course this house is your home,
and always open to you; at least, when we know you are coming. Why did
you not write? There is no bed ready. I have had the maids called up. If
Admiral Palmer had let me know----'

'He did not know,' said Mrs. Palmer, getting agitated. 'I will tell you
all. Oh, Dolly, my darling, beware how you marry; promise me----'

'He did not know?' interrupted Lady Sarah.

Dolly's mother got more and more excited.

'I had some one to take care of me,' she said. 'My old friend Colonel
Witherington was on board, and I told him everything as we were coming
along. I telegraphed to you, did I not? But my poor head fails me. Oh,
Sarah, exile is a cruel thing; and now, how do I know that I have not
come home too soon?' she said, bursting into tears. 'If you knew
all----'

'You shall tell us all about it in the morning, when you are rested,'
said Lady Sarah, with a glance at Robert.

'Yes, in the morning, yes,' said Mrs. Palmer, looking relieved, and
getting up from her chair, and wiping her eyes. 'How good you are to me!
Am I to have my old room where I used to stay as a girl? Oh, Sarah, to
think of my longings being realised at last, and my darling
children--dear Stan's children--there actually before me.' And the poor
thing, with a natural emotion, once more caught first one, then the
other, to her, and sat holding her son's hand in both hers. When he
tried to take it away she burst into fresh tears, and, as a last
resource, Marker was summoned.

Poor Mrs. Palmer! her surprise had been something of a failure; George
was not expansive, nor used to having his hand held: the boy and girl
were shy, stiff, taken aback, Aunt Sarah was kind, but cross and
bewildered: Mrs. Palmer herself exhausted after twelve hours' railway
journey, and vaguely disappointed.

'It was just like her,' said Lady Sarah, wearily, to Marker, as they
were going upstairs some two hours later, after seeing Mrs. Palmer safe
into her room, and bolting the doors, and putting out the lights of this
eventful evening. 'What can have brought her in this way?'

Marker looked at her mistress with her smiling round face. 'The wonder
to me was whatever kept her away so long from those sweet children, to
say nothing of you, my lady.'

'She has chosen to make other ties,' said Lady Sarah; 'her whole duty is
to her husband. Good-night, Marker: I do not want you to-night.'

'Of course you know best, my lady,' says Marker doubtfully. 'Good-night,
my lady.'

And then all was quite silent in the old house. The mice peeped out of
their little holes and sniffed at the cheese-trap; a vast company of
black beetles emerged from secret places and corners; the clocks began
to tick like mad. Dolly lay awake a long time, and then dreamt of her
new mamma, and of the moonlight that evening, and of a floating sea.
Mrs. Palmer slept placidly between her linen sheets. Sarah Francis lay
awake half the night crying her eyes and her aching heart away in bitter
tears. Philippa was come. She knew of old what her advent meant. She
loved Philippa, but with reserve and pain; and now she would claim her
Dolly, she would win her away, and steal her treasure from her
again--what chance had she, sad and sorry and silent, with no means of
uttering her love? She was a foolish, jealous woman; she knew it, and
with all her true heart she prayed for strength and for love to overcome
jealousy and loneliness. Once in her life her difficult nature had
caused misery so great between her and her husband that the breach had
never been repaired, and it was Philippa who had brought it all about.
Now Sarah knew that to love more is the only secret for overcoming that
cruellest madness of jealousy, and to love more was her prayer. The dawn
came at last, stealing tranquilly through the drawn curtains: with what
peace and tranquillity the faint light flowed, healing and quieting her
pain.

       *       *       *       *       *

Dolly's new mamma's account of herself next morning was a little
incoherent. Her health was very indifferent; she suffered agonies, and
was living upon morphia when the doctor had ordered her home without
delay. She had been obliged to come off at a few hours' notice; she
didn't write. The Admiral was fortunately absent on a cruise, or he
never would have let her go. He knew what a helpless creature she was.
She had borrowed the passage-money from a friend. Would Lady Sarah
please advance her a little now, as she was literally penniless, and she
wished to make George and Dolly some presents, and to engage a French
maid at once? She supposed she should hear by the next post and receive
some remittances. She was not sure, for Hawtry was so dreadfully close
about money. She did not know _what_ he would say to her running away.
No doubt he would use dreadful language, pious as he was; _that_ she was
used to; Colonel Witherington could testify to it.... And then she
sighed. 'I have made my own fate; I must bear my punishment,' she said.
'I shall try some German baths before his return, to brace my nerves for
the--the future.'

There was something soft, harmonious, gently affecting about Dolly's
mamma. When Mrs. Palmer spoke she looked at you with two brown eyes
shining out of a faded but charming face: she put out an earnest white
hand; there was a charming, natural affectation about her. She delighted
in a situation. She was one of those fortunate people whose parts in
life coincide with their dispositions. She had been twice married. As a
happy wife people had thought her scarcely aware of the prize she had
drawn. As an injured woman she was simply perfect. She did not feel the
Admiral's indifference deeply enough to lose her self-possession, as he
did. Admiral though he was, and extempore preacher, he could not always
hold his own before this susceptible woman. Her gentle impressiveness
completely charmed and won the children over.

The conversation of selfish people is often far more amusing than that
of the unselfish, who see things too _diffusedly_, and who have not, as
a rule, the gift of vivid description. Mrs. Palmer was deeply, deeply
interested in her own various feelings. She used to whisper long stories
to George and Dolly about her complicated sorrows, her peculiar
difficulties. Poor thing! they were real enough, if she had but known
them; but the troubles that really troubled her were imaginary for the
most part. She had secured two valiant champions before breakfast next
morning, at which meal Robert appeared. He had slept upon the crisis,
and now seemed more than equal to it; affectionate to his aunt, with
whom he was charmed, readily answering her many questions, skilfully
avoiding the subject of her difficulties with the Admiral, of which he
had heard before at Henley Court. He was pleased by his aunt's manner
and affectionate dependence, and he treated her from the first with a
certain manly superiority. And yet--so she told Dolly--even Robert
scarcely understood her peculiar difficulties.

'How can he, dear fellow? He is prejudiced by Lady Henley--odious woman!
I can trace her influence. She was a Palmer, you know, and she is worthy
of the name. I dread my visit to Yorkshire. This is my real home.'

Mrs. Palmer's mother, Lady Henley, had been an Alderville, and the
Aldervilles are all young, beautiful, helpless, stout, and elegantly
dressed. Mrs. Palmer took after them, she said. But helpless as Philippa
was, her feebleness always leant in the direction in which she wished to
go, and, in some mysterious fashion, she seemed to get on as well as
other stronger people. Some young officer, in a complimentary copy of
verses, had once likened her to a lily. If so, it was a water-lily that
she resembled most, with its beautiful pale head drifting on the water,
while underneath was a long, limp, straggling stalk firmly rooted. Only
those who had tried to influence her knew of its existence.

Dolly and George hung upon her words. George felt inclined to go off to
Ceylon on purpose to shoot the Admiral with one of his own Colt's
revolvers. Dolly thrilled with interest and excitement and sympathy. Her
mother was like a sweet angel, the girl said to her brother. It was a
wonderful new life that had begun for them. The trouble which had so
oppressed Dolly of late seemed almost forgotten for a time. Lady Sarah,
coming and going about the house, would look with a strange half-glad,
half-sad glance at the three heads so near together in the recess of
the window: Philippa leaning back, flushed and pathetic; George by her
side, making the most hideous faces, as he was used to do when
excited; Dolly kneeling on the floor, with her two elbows in her
mother's lap, and her long chin upturned in breathless sympathy.
Admiral--jealousy--meanness-cruel--mere necessaries: little words like
this used to reach Lady Sarah, creaking uneasily and desolately,
unnoticed, round and round the drawing-room.

'Is it not a pity, Philippa, to put such ideas into their heads?' says
Lady Sarah, from the other end of the room.

Then three pair of eyes would be turned upon her with a sort of
reproachful wonder, and the trio would wait until she was out of hearing
to begin again.

Mrs. Palmer was certainly an adaptable woman in some ways: one husband
or another, one life or another. So long as she had her emotions, her
maid, her cups of tea, her comfortable sofa, and some one to listen to
her, she was perfectly happy. She carried about in herself such an
unfailing source of interest and solicitude, that no other was really
necessary to her; although, to hear her speak, you would imagine her
fate to be one long regret.

'My spirit is quite broken,' she would say, cheerfully. 'Give me that
small hand-screen, Dolly; for _your_ sake, Sarah, I will gladly
chaperone Dolly to Cambridge, as Robert proposes (it must be after my
return from Yorkshire); but I do wish you would let me write and ask for
an invitation for you. George, poor fellow, wants me to bring Rhoda and
the Morgan girls. I do hate girls. It is really wicked of him.'

'If that were George's worst offence----,' said his Aunt Sarah, grimly.

'My poor boy!' said Mrs. Palmer. 'Sarah, you are not a mother, and do
not understand him. Come here, darling George. How I wish I could spare
you from going back to those horrid examinations!'

George flushed up very red. 'I should be very sorry to be spared,' he
muttered.

Mrs. Palmer used to ask Robert endless questions about Henley Court, and
his aunt Lady Henley. 'Was she looking as weather-beaten as ever? Did
she still wear plaids? Vulgar woman!' whispered Mrs. Palmer to Dolly.
Robert pretended not to hear. 'I shall make a point of going there,
Robert,' she said, 'and facing the Henley buckram.' Robert gravely
assured her that she would be most welcome.

'Welcome, my dear Robert! You cannot imagine what an impertinent letter
I have received from Joanna,' says Mrs. Palmer. 'I shall go when it is
convenient to me, if only to show her that I do not care for anything
she can say. Joanna's style is only to be equalled by the Admiral's. The
mail will be in on Monday.'

So Philippa remained a victim, placidly sipping her coffee and awaiting
the Admiral's insulting letters. The only wonder was that they had not
burst their envelopes and seals, so explosive were they. His fury lashed
itself into dashes and blots and frantic loops and erasures. The bills
had come in for her bracelets and mufflers and tinkling ornaments. Had
she forgotten the fate of the daughters of Jerusalem, that went mincing
and tinkling with their feet? She might take a situation as a
kitchen-maid for all he cared. She was a spendthrift, idle, extravagant,
good-for-nothing, &c. &c. Not one farthing would he allow her, &c. &c.;
and so on. Mrs. Palmer used to go up to her room in high spirits to lie
down to rest on the days they arrived, and send for Colonel Witherington
to consult upon them.

She would not come down till dinner was just over, and appeared on these
occasions in a long grey sort of dressing-gown and a _négligé_ little
lace cap; she used to dine off almonds and raisins and cups of coffee,
to Lady Sarah's secret indignation. 'Oh, Sarah, _you_ will not turn me
away?' Mrs. Palmer would say, leaning back in languid comfort. Lady
Sarah was very sorry, but somewhat sceptical. She would meet Pauline
carrying French novels to the library after scenes which had nearly
unnerved them all.



CHAPTER XXIII.

THE TERRACE AT ALL SAINTS' COLLEGE.

    Die Rose, die Lilie, die Taube, die Sonne,
    Die liebt ich einst alle in Liebeswonne.

    --Heine.


Somewhere in the fairyland of Dorothea's imagination rises a visionary
city, with towers and gables straggling against the sky. The streets go
up hill and down hill, leading by cloisters and gateways and by walls,
behind which gardens are lying like lakes of green among the stones and
the ivy. A thrush is singing, and the shrill echoes of some boyish
melancholy voices come from a chapel hard by. It is a chapel with a pile
of fantastic columns standing in the quiet corner of a lane. All round
the side door are niches and winding galleries, branches wreathing,
placed there by faithful hands, crisp saints beatified in stony glory.
Are these, one is tempted to ask, as one looks at the generous old
piles, the stones that cry out now-a-days when men are silent? They
have, for the last century or two, uttered warnings and praises to many
a generation passing by: speaking to some of a bygone faith, to others
of a living one. They still tell of past love and hope, and of past and
present charity.

But in these times charity is a destroying angel; even the divine
attributes seem to have changed, and Faith, Hope, and Charity have gone
each their separate way.

To Dolly Vanborough, who had thought happiness was over for ever, it was
the first great song of her youth that these old stones sang to her on
her eighteenth birthday. She hears it still, though her youth is past.
It is the song of the wonder of life, of the divine in the human. As we
go on its echoes reach us repeated again and again, reverberating from
point to point; who that has heard them once will ever forget them? To
some they come with happiness and the delight of new undreamt-of
sympathy, to others with sorrow and the realisation of love.... Its
strains came with prayer and long fasting to the saints of old. This
song of Pentecost, I know no better name for it, echoes on from
generation to generation from one heart to another. Sometimes by chance
one has looked into a stranger's face and seen its light reflected.
Frank Raban saw its light in Dolly's face that day as she came out of
the chapel to where her brother had left her. Just for an instant it was
there while the psalm still sung in her heart. And yet the light in
Dolly's face dimmed a little when she saw, not the person she had
expected to see, but Mr. Raban waiting there.

'I came in Henley's place,' said he, hastily, guessing her thought. 'He
was sent for by the Vice-Chancellor, and begged me to come and tell you
this. He will join us directly.'

Mr. Raban had been waiting in the sunshiny street while Dolly
deliberately advanced down the worn steps of the chapel, crossed the
flagged court, and came out of the narrow iron wicket of which the
barred shadow fell upon her white fête-day dress. Miss Vanborough's face
was shaded by a broad hat with curling blue feathers; she wore a pink
rose in her girdle; it was no saintly costume; she was but a
common-place mortal maiden in sprigged muslin, and saints wear, as we
all know, red and blue, and green stained glass and damask and
goatskins; and yet Frank Raban thought there was something saint-like in
her bright face, which, for an instant, seemed reflecting all her heart.

'Henley lives on my staircase,' continued Raban. 'Those pink frills are
his. He makes himself comfortable, as you see.'

'I'm glad of that,' said Dolly, smiling. 'How nice it must be for you to
have him so near.'

'He always takes ladies to see his rooms,' Raban continued. 'He is a
great favourite with them, and gives tea-parties.'

'A great favourite!' said Dolly, warmly. 'Of course one likes people who
are kind and good and clever and true and nice.'

'Who are, in short, an addition sum, made up of equal portions of all
the cardinal virtues,' said Raban.

He was ashamed of himself, and yet he did not care to hear Henley's
praises from Dolly. It seemed to him dishonest to acquiesce.

Dolly stopped for half a second and looked at him.

Dorothea was a tall woman and their eyes were on a line, and their looks
met. My heroine was at no pains to disguise the meaning of her indignant
glances. 'How can you be so ungenerous?' she said, as plainly as if she
had spoken.

Frank answered her silence in words.

'No, I don't like him,' he said, 'and he don't like me; and I don't care
to pretend to better feelings than I really have. We are civil enough,
and pull very well together. I beg your pardon. I own he deserves to
succeed,' said the young man. 'There, Miss Vanborough, this is our
garden, where we refresh ourselves with cigars and beer after our
arduous studies.'

Dolly was still too much vexed to express her admiration.

They all began calling to them from under the tree. John Morgan, who was
of the party, was lying flat upon his broad back, beaming at the
universe, and fanning away the flies, Rhoda was sitting on the grass, in
a foam of white muslin and Algerian shawls. George Vanborough,
privileged for the day, was astride on a wooden table; a distant peacock
went strutting across the lawn; a little wind came blowing gently,
stirring all the shadows; a college bell began to tinkle a little, and
then left off.

'Glorious afternoon, isn't it?' says John Morgan, from the grass.

'It is like heaven,' says Dolly, looking up and round and about.

Rhoda's slim fingers clasp her pearl locket, which has come out again.
They were in the shade, the sun was shining hot and intense upon the old
garden. The roses, like bursting bubbles, were breaking in the heat
against the old baked bricks, upon rows of prim collegiate flowers:
lilies, and stocks, and marigolds. There was a multiplicity of sweet
scents in the air, of shadows falling on the lawns (they flow from the
old gates to the river); a tone is struck, an insect floats away along
the garden wall. With its silence and flowers, and tremulous shades and
sunshine, I know no sweeter spot than the old garden of All Saints'.

The gardener had placed seats and a bench under the old beech-tree for
pilgrims to rest upon, weary with their journeys from shrine to shrine.
Mrs. Palmer was leaning back in a low garden-chair; the sweep of her
flowing silks seemed to harmonise with her languid and somewhat
melancholy grace. Rhoda was helping to open her parasol (the parasol was
dove-coloured and lined with pink). There was a row of Morgans upon the
bench; Mrs. Morgan upright in the midst, nicely curled and trimmed with
satin bows and a white muslin daughter on either side.

It all happened in a moment: the sky burnt overhead, the sun shone upon
the river, upon the colleges, with their green gardens: the rays seemed
to strike fire where they met the water. The swans were sailing along
the stream in placid state, followed by their grey brood, skimming and
paddling in and out among the weeds and the green stems and leaves that
sway with the ripple of the waters; a flight of birds high overhead
crossed the vault of the heavens and disappeared in the distance.
Dorothea Vanborough was standing on the terrace at the end of the old
college garden, where everything was so still, so sweet, and so intense
that it seemed as if time was not, as if the clocks had stopped on their
travels, as if no change could ever be, nor hours nor seasons sweep
through the tranquil old place.

They were all laughing and talking; but Dolly, who was too lazy and too
happy to talk, wandered away from them a little bit, to the garden's
end, where she stood stooping over the low wall and watching the water
flow by; there was a man fishing on the opposite bank, and casting his
line again and again. In the distance a boat was drifting along the
stream, some insects passed out towards the meadows humming their summer
drone, a wasp sailed by. Dolly was half standing, half-sitting, against
the low terrace wall; with one hand she was holding up her white muslin
skirt, with the other she was grasping the ledge of the old bricks upon
which the lichen had been at work spreading their gold and grey. So the
girl waited, sunning herself; herself a part of the summer's day, and
gently blooming and rejoicing in its sweetness like any rose upon the
wall.

There are blissful moments when one's heart seems to beat in harmony
with the great harmony: when one is oneself light and warmth, and the
delight of light, and a voice in the comfortable chorus of contentment
and praise all round about. Such a minute had come to Dolly in her white
muslin dress, with the Cam flowing at her feet and the lights dazzling
her grey eyes.

Mrs. Morgan gave a loud sneeze under the tree, and the beautiful minute
broke and dispersed away.

'I wonder what it can be like to grow old,' Dolly wonders, looking up;
'to remember back for years and years, and to wear stiff curls and
satinette?' Dolly began to picture to herself a long procession of
future selves, each older and more curiously bedizened than the other.
Somehow they seemed to make a straight line between herself and Mrs.
Morgan under the tree. It was an uncomfortable fancy. Dolly tried to
forget it, and leant over the wall, and looked down into the cool depths
of the stream again. Was that fish rising? What was this? Her own face
again looking up from the depth. Then Dolly turned, hearing a step upon
the gravel, to see Robert Henley coming towards her. He was dressed in
his college cap and gown, and he advanced, floating balloon-like, along
the terrace. He looked a little strange, she thought, as he came up to
her.

'I couldn't get away before,' he said. 'I hope you have been well looked
after.'

'Yes, indeed. Come and sit down here, Robert. What a delicious old
garden this is! We are all so happy! Look at those dear little swans in
the river!'

'Do you like the cygnets?' said Robert, abruptly, as he looked her full
in the face, and sat down on the low wall beside her. 'Do you remember
Charles Martindale?' he asked; 'we met once at John Morgan's, who went
out to India? He is coming home next October.'

'Is he?' said Dolly. 'Look at that little grey cygnet scuttling away!'

'Dolly,' said Henley, quickly, 'they sent for me to offer me his place,
and I--I--have accepted it.'

'Accepted it?' said his cousin, forgetting the cygnets, and looking up a
little frightened. 'Will you have to go to India and leave everybody?'

Her face changed a little, and Robert's brightened, though he tried to
look as usual.

'Not everybody,' he said. 'Not if----' He took the soft hand in his that
was lying on the wall beside him. 'Dolly! will you come too?' he said.

'Me?' cried the unabashed Dolly. 'Oh, Robert, how could I?'

'You could come if I married you,' said Robert, in his quiet voice and
most restrained manner. 'Dearest Dorothea, don't you think you can learn
to love me? It will be nearly five months before I start.'

It was all so utterly incomprehensible that the girl did not quite
realise her cousin's words. Robert was looking very strange and unlike
himself; Dolly could hardly believe that it was not some effect of the
dazzle of light in her own eyes. He was paler than usual; he seemed
somehow stirred from his habitual ways and self. She thought it was not
even his voice that she heard speaking. 'Is this being in love?' she was
saying to herself. A little bewildered flush came into her cheeks. She
still saw the sky, and the garden, and the figures under the tree; then
for a minute everything vanished, as tangible things vanish before the
invisible,--just as spoken words are hushed and lose their meaning when
the silent voices cry out.

It was but for a moment. There she stood again, staring at Robert with
her innocent, grey-eyed glance.

Henley was a big, black-and-white melancholy young man, with a blue
shaved chin. To-day his face was pale, his mouth was quivering, his hair
was all on end. Could this be Robert who was so deliberate; who always
knew his own mind; who looked at his watch so often in church while
music was going on? Even now, from habit, he was turning it about in his
pocket. This little trick made Dolly feel more than anything else that
it was all true--that her cousin loved her--incredible though it might
appear--and yet even still she doubted.

'_Me_, Robert?' repeated Dorothea, in her clear, childish tones, looking
up with her frank yet timid eyes. 'Are you _sure_?'

'I have been sure ever since I first saw you,' said Henley, smiling down
at her, 'at Kensington, three years ago. Do you remember the snowball,
Dolly?'

Then Dolly's eyes fell, and she stood with a tender, puzzled face,
listening to her first tale of love. She suddenly pulled away her hand,
shy and blushing.

The swans had hardly passed beyond the garden-terrace; the fisherman had
only thrown his line once again; Dolly's mamma had time to shift her
parasol; that was all. Henley waited, with his handsome head a little
bent. He was regaining his composure; he knew too much of his cousin's
uncompromising ways to be made afraid by her silence. He stood pulling
at his watch, and looking at her--at the straight white figure amid
dazzling blue and green; at the line of the sweet face still turned away
from him.

'I thought you would have understood me better?' he said, reproachfully.

Still Dolly could not speak. For a moment her heart had beat with an
innocent triumph, and then came a doubt. Did she love him--could she
love him? Had he then cared for her all this time, when she herself had
been so cold and so indifferent, and thinking so little of him? Only
yesterday she had told Rhoda she would never marry. Was it yesterday?
No, it was to-day, an hour ago.... What had she done to deserve so much
from him?--what had she done to be so overprized and loved? At the
thought quick upspringing into her two grey eyes came the tears,
sparkling like the diamonds in Rhoda's cross.

'I never thought you thought,' Dolly began. 'Oh, Robert! you have been
in earnest all this time, and I only--only playing.'

'Don't be unhappy,' said her cousin. 'It was very natural; I should not
have wished it otherwise. I did not want to speak to you till I had
something worth your acceptance.'

'All this long time!' repeated Dolly.

Did the explanations of true love ever yet run smooth? 'Dolly!' cried
Mrs. Palmer, from under the tree.

'Hulloa, Robert!' shouted George, coming across the grass towards them.

'Oh, Robert!' said Dorothea, earnestly, unexpectedly, with a sudden
resolution to be true--true to him and to herself, 'thank you a thousand
times for what you have told me: only it mustn't be--I don't care enough
for you, dear Robert! You deserve----'

Henley said not a word. He stood with a half-incredulous smile; his eyes
were still fixed on Dolly's sweet face; he did not answer George, who
again called out something as he came up. As for Dolly, she turned to
her brother and sprang to meet him, and took his arm as if for
protection, and then she walked quickly away without another look, and
Henley remained standing where she had been. Instead of the white-muslin
maiden, the cygnets may have seen a black-silk young man, who looked at
his watch, and then walked away too; while the fisherman quietly baited
his line and went on with his sport.



CHAPTER XXIV.

ROSES HAVE THORNS AND SILVER FOUNTAINS MUD.

    Love me with thine hand stretched out,
    Freely, open-minded,
    Love me with thy loitering foot,
    Hearing one behind it.


The doors of the old Library at All Saints' were open wide to admit the
sunshine: it lighted up the starched frill collars of _Fundator noster_
as he hung over the entrance. It was good stiff starch, near four
hundred years old. The volumes stood in their places, row upon row, line
after line, twinkling into the distant corners of the room; here and
there a brass lock gleamed, or some almost forgotten title in faded
gold, or the links of the old Bible chained to its oaken stand.... So
the books stood marshalled in their places: brown, and swept by time, by
dust, brushed by the passing generations that had entered one by one,
bringing their spoils, and placing them safe upon the shelves, and
vanishing away. What a silent Babel and medley of time, and space, and
languages, and fancies, and follies! Here and there stands a fat
dictionary, or prophetic grammar, the interpreter of echoes to other
echoes. So, from century to century, the tradition is handed down, and
from silent print and signs it thrills into life and sound....

Those are not books, but living voices in the recess of the old library.
There is a young man stumping up and down the narrow passage, a young
woman leaning against a worm-eaten desk. Are they talking of roots, of
curves? or are they youthful metaphysicians speculating upon the unknown
powers of the soul?

'Oh! George,' Dolly says, 'I am glad you think I was right.'

'Right! Of course you would have been very wrong to do otherwise,' says
George, as usual, extremely indignant. 'Of course you are right to
refuse him: you don't care for him; I can see that at a glance.... It is
out of the question. Poor fellow! He is a very good fellow, but not at
all worthy of you. It is altogether preposterous. No, Dolly,' said the
young fellow, melting; 'you don't know--how should you?--what it
is--what the real thing is. Never let yourself be deceived by any
Brummagem and paste, when the real Koh-i-noor is still to be found--a
gem of the purest water,' said George, gently.

Dolly listened, but she was only half convinced by George's earnestness.
'I would give anything that this had not happened,' the young man went
on. Dolly listened, and said but little in answer. When George scolded
her for having unduly encouraged Robert, she meekly denied the
accusation, though her brother would not accept her denial.

'Had she then behaved so badly? Was Robert unhappy? Would he never
forgive her? Should she never see him again?' Dolly listened sadly,
wondering, and leaning against the old desk. There was a book lying open
upon it--the History of the Universe--with many pictures of strange
beasts and serpents, roaring, writhing, and whisking their tails, with
the Garden of Eden mapped out, and the different sorts of angels and
devils duly enumerated. Dolly's mind was not on the old book, but in the
world outside it; she was standing again by the river and listening to
Robert's voice. The story he told her no longer seemed new and strange.
It was ended for ever, and yet it would never finish as long as she
lived. She had thought no one would ever care for her, and he had loved
her, and she had sent him away; but he had loved her. Had she made a
mistake, notwithstanding all that George was saying? Dolly, loving the
truth, loving the right, trying for it heartily, in her slow circuitous
way, might make mistakes in life, but they would be honest ones, and
that is as much as any of us can hope for, and so, if she strained at a
gnat and swallowed a camel, it will be forgiven her. George's opposition
was too vague to influence her. When he warned her against Henley, it
sounded unreasonable. Warning! There was no need of warning. She had
said no to her cousin. Already the terrace seemed distant miles and
miles off, hours and hours ago, though she could see it through the
window, and the swans on the river, and the sunlight striking flame upon
the water: she could hardly realise that she had been there, and that
with a word and a hasty movement she had sent Robert away of her own
deliberate will.

'Yes,' said George, coming up and banging his hand down upon the big
book before her; 'you were right, Dolly. He isn't half good enough for
you. This is not like the feeling that I and Rhoda----'

But Dolly interrupted him almost angrily. 'Not good enough! It is
because he is too good, George, that I--I am not--not worthy of him.'

It was more than she could bear to hear George speaking so.

Was Robert unhappy? had she used him ill? The thoughts seemed to smite
her as they passed. She began to cry again--foolish girl!--and George,
as he watched her worthless tears dribbling down upon the valuable
manuscript, began to think that perhaps, after all, his sister had
wished him to blame, instead of approving of her decision. He was bound
to sympathise, since she had kept his secret. 'Don't, Dolly,' he said;
'you will spoil the little devils if you cry over the book.' He spoke so
kindly, that Dolly smiled, and began to wipe her eyes. It was not a
little thing that George should speak so kindly to her again. When she
looked up she saw that he was signalling, and bowing, and waving his cap
through the open window.

'It is the girls. They ought not to miss our college library,' he said,
gravely; and then he walked towards the door, to meet a sound of voices
and a trampling of feet.

As for Dorothea, with a sudden shy impulse she escaped, tears,
handkerchief, and all, and disappeared into the most distant niche of
the gallery: many footsteps came sounding up the wooden staircase, and
Henley's voice was mingling with the Miss Morgans' shrill treble.

'How funny to see so many books!' said Zoe, who was a very stupid girl.
(Clever people generally make the same remarks as stupid ones, only they
are in different words.)

'What a delicious old place!' cried Rhoda, coming in. She was usually
silent, and not given to ecstasies.

'Why didn't John bring us here before?' said Cassie. 'I do envy you, Mr.
George. How nice to be able to read all these books!'

'I am not so sure of that,' said George, laughing.

Meanwhile, Zoe had stumped up to the desk, where the history of the
whole world was lying open.

'Why, look here,' she said; 'somebody has been reading, I do believe.
How funny!'

As for Henley, he had already begun to examine the pictures that hung
over every niche. He did not miss one of them as he walked quickly down
the gallery. In the last niche of all he found the picture he was in
search of. It was not that of a dignitary of the church. It was a sweet
face, with brown crisp locks, and clear grey eyes shining from beneath a
frown. The face changed, as pictures don't change, when he stood in the
arch of the little recess. The pale cheeks glowed, the frown trembled
and cleared away. She wondered if he would speak to her or go away.
Henley hesitated for an instant, and--spoke.

'Dolly, that was not an answer you gave me just now. You did not think
that would content me, did you?' he said; and as he looked at her
fixedly, her eyes fell. 'Dolly, you do love me a little?' he cried; 'you
cannot send me away?'

'I thought I ought to send you away,' she faltered, looking up at last,
and her whole heart was in her face. 'Robert, I don't know if I love
you; but I love you to love me,' she said. And her sweet voice trembled
as she spoke.

He had no misgivings. 'Dearest Dolly,' he said, in a low voice. 'In
future you must trust to me. _I_ will take care of you. You need not
have been afraid. I quite understood your feelings just now, and I would
not urge you then. Now....' He did not finish the sentence.

When Dolly, the frigid maiden, surrendered, it was with a shy reluctant
grace. Hers was not a passionate nature, but a loving one; feeling with
her was not a single simple emotion, but a complicated one of many
impulses: of self-diffidences, of deep, deep, strange aspirations, that
she herself could scarcely understand. Humility, a woman's pride, the
delight of companionship and sympathy, and of the guidance of a stronger
will: a longing for better things. All these things were there. Ah! she
would try to be worthier of him. It was a snow and ice and fire maiden
who put her trembling hand into Robert's, and whom he clasped for an
instant in his arms.

Meanwhile some of the party had straggled off again to the hotel after
Mrs. Palmer. George was to escort the young ladies, who seemed
determined to stay on turning over the manuscripts; the unlucky Zoe was
babbling innocently, knocking over stools and playfully pulling Latin
sermons and dictionaries out of their places on the shelves. George,
while he made himself agreeable in his peculiar fashion, was wondering
what was going on at the farther end of the library. He longed to tell
Rhoda and ask her advice; but that tiresome Zoe was for ever
interrupting. Was this a very old book? Did he like Greek or Latin best?
She thought it all looked very stupid. Was Rhoda coming to the hotel to
rest before dinner? And so on. Rhoda must have guessed what was in
George's mind, for presently she started away from the page over which
she was leaning, and went to the window.

'Shall we go out a little way?' she said, gently. 'One would like to be
everywhere to-day.'

'I'm sure we have been everywhere,' said Zoe.

'I know you are tired. I shall not allow you to come, dear Zoe,' said
Rhoda, affectionately. 'You must rest; I insist upon it. You look quite
worn out. Mr. George, will you help me?' And Rhoda began struggling with
a heavy chair, which she pulled into the window. 'And here is a stool,'
said Rhoda, 'for your feet. We will come back for you directly. My head
aches; I want a little fresh air.'

'Oh, thank you,' said Zoe, doubtfully. '_Do_ I look tired, Rhoda? I am
sure....' But Rhoda was gone before she had time to say more. Zoe was
not sure if she was pleased or not. It was just like Rhoda: she never
could understand what people wanted, really; she was always kissing them
and getting them chairs out of the way. No doubt she meant to be kind.
Rest! anybody could rest for themselves. What was that noise? 'Who is
there?' says Zoe, out loud, but there was no answer. Yes, she wanted to
be with the others. Why did they poke her away up here? by leaning out
of the open window she could just see the ivy wall, and the garden
beyond. There was no one left under the tree. They were all gone: just
like them. How was she to find her way to the hotel! It was all very
well for Rhoda, who had George Vanborough at her beck and call; they
knew well enough _she_ had nobody to take care of her, and they should
have waited for her. That was what Zoe thought. There was that noise
again, and a murmur, and some one stirring. Poor Zoe jumped up with her
heart in her mouth; she knocked over the stool; she stood prepared to
fly; she heard some one whispering; they might be garotters, ghosts,
proctors--horror! Her terrors overpower her. Her high heels clatter down
the wooden stairs, out into the sunny, silent court, where her footsteps
echo as she runs--poor nymph flying from an echo! George and Rhoda are
walking quietly up and down in the sunshine just beyond the ivy gate:
their two shadows are flitting as they go. John Morgan is coming in at
the great entrance. Zoe rushes up to him, panting with her terror.

'Oh, John,' she says, 'I didn't know where to go. Why don't you stop
with me? I was all alone, and....'

'Why, Zoe, tired already! Come along quick to the hotel,' says John, 'or
you won't get any rest before dinner.'

They caught up the Morgans on their way, and met Raban, coming out of
Trinity. Meanwhile Robert and Dorothea are leisurely following along the
street. Henley had regained his composure by this time, and could meet
the others with perfect equanimity. Not so his cousin. So many lights
were coming and going in her face, so many looks and apparitions, that
Robert thought every one must guess what had happened, as they came into
the common sitting-room, where some five-o'clock tea was spread. But
there is nothing more true than that people don't see the great facts
that are starting before their very eyes, so busy are they with the
details of life. Mrs. Palmer was trying to disentangle the silk strings
of her bag as they came in (she had a fancy for carrying a bag), and she
did not observe her daughter's emotion.

Then came a clatter of five-o'clock teacups at the hotel; of young men
coming and going, or waiting to escort them according to the kindly
college fashion. Dolly was not sorry that she could find no opportunity
to speak to her mother. Mrs. Palmer's feelings were not to be trifled
with; and Dolly, in her agitation, scarcely felt strong enough to bear a
scene. Robert stayed for a few minutes, rang the bell for hot water,
helped to move a horsehair sofa, to open the window.

What foolish little memories Dolly treasured up in after-life of
tea-making and tea-talking. Poor child, her memories were not so very
many, but nothing is small and nothing is great at times.

Frank Raban stood a little apart talking to Rhoda, whose wonderful
liquid eyes were steadily fixed upon him. George, on the sofa by his
mother, was alternately biting his lips, frowning at Dolly over her tea
and love-making, and at Rhoda and her companion.

'Darling George, cannot you keep your feet still?' said Mrs. Palmer.
'Are you going, Mr. Raban? Shall we not see you again?'

'I shall have the honour of meeting you at dinner,' said Raban, stiffly.
'I would come and show you the way, but Mr. Henley has promised to see
you safe.'

Every one seemed coming into the room at once, drinking tea, going away.
There seemed two or three Georges: there were certainly two Dorotheas
present. Henley only was composed enough for them all, and twice
prevented his cousin from pouring all the sugar into the milk-jug.

In the middle of the table there was a plateful of flowers, arranged by
the waiter. Robert took out a little sprig of verbena, which he gave to
Dorothea. She stuck it in her girdle, and put it away, when she got
home, between the leaves of her prayer-book, where it still lies, in
memory of the past, a dried-up twig that was once green and sweet.
Rhoda, after Raban had left her, came up with her teacup, and, for want
of something to do, began pulling the remaining flowers out of the dish.

'I can't bear to see flowers so badly used,' said Rhoda, piling up the
sand with her quick, clever fingers. 'George, will you give me some
water?'

In a few minutes the ugly flat dishful began to bloom quite freshly.

'That is very nicely done,' George said, sarcastically. 'Why didn't you
get Raban to help you to arrange the flowers, Rhoda, before he left?

'We were talking, and I didn't like to interrupt him,' said Rhoda. 'I
was asking him all about political economy.'

George's ugly face flushed.

'Are you satisfied that the supply of admiration equals the demand?'
said George.

'George, how can you talk so?' says Rhoda.

An hour later they were all straggling down the narrow cross-streets
that led to the college again.

Dolly came, walking shyly by her lover's side; Mrs. Palmer leant heavily
upon John Morgan's arm. Every moment she dropped her long dress, and had
to wait to gather the folds together. Surely the twilight of that
summer's day was the sweetest twilight that Dolly had ever set eyes
upon. It came creeping from the fields beyond the river, from alley to
alley, from one college to another. It seemed to the excited girl to be
a soft tranquillising veil let down upon the agitations and excitements
of the day. She watched it growing in the old hall, where she presently
sat at the cross-table under the very glance of the ubiquitous
_Fundator_, who was again present in his frill and short cloak, between
the two deep-cut windows.

The long table crossed the hall, with a stately decoration of gold and
silver cups all down the centre; there were oaken beams overhead; old
college servants in attendance. The great silver tankards went round
brimming with claret and hock, and with straggling stems of burrage
floating on fragrant seas.

By what unlucky chance did it happen that some one had written out the
names of the guests, each in their place, and that Dolly found a strange
young don on one side of her plate, and Raban on the other? Henley did
not wish to excite remark, and subsided into the place appointed for
him, when he found that he was not to sit where he chose.

'Drink, Dolly,' said George, who was sitting opposite to her; 'let us
drink a toast.'

'What shall I drink?' asked Dolly.

'Shall we drink a toast to fortune?' said George, leaning forward.

'I shall drink to the new President of the College of Boggleywollah,'
says John Morgan, heartily.

Dolly raised her eyes shyly as she put her lips to the enormous tankard
and sipped a health.

As for Raban, he did not drink the toast, although he must have guessed
something of what had happened. He never spoke to Dolly, though he duly
attended to her wants, and handed bread, and salt, and silver flagons,
and fruit, and gold spoons: still he never spoke. She was conscious that
he was watching her. In some strange way the dislike and mistrust he
felt for Henley seemed reflected upon poor Dorothea again. Why had she
been flirting and talking to that man? She, of all women, Robert Henley,
of all men, thought Raban, as he handed her a pear. Mrs. Palmer looked
at Dorothea more than once during dinner. The girl had two burning
cheeks; she did not eat; she scarcely answered the young don when she
was spoken to by him; but once Henley leant forward and said something,
then she looked up quickly. Stoicism is after all but a relic of
barbarous times, and may be greatly over-rated.

Dolly had not yet grown so used to her thick-coming experience that she
could always look cold when she was moved, dull when she was troubled,
indifferent when her whole heart was in a moment's decision. Later it
all came easier to her, as it does to most of us. As the ladies left the
dining-room Henley got up to let them out, and made a little sign to
Dolly to wait behind. Being in a yielding mood, she lingered a minute in
the ante-room, looking for her cloak, and allowed the others to pass on.
Henley had closed the door behind him and come out, and seemed to be
searching too. It was very dark in the ante-room, of which the twilight
windows were small and screened by green plants. While her aunt was
being draped in bournouses by Rhoda, and Mrs. Morgan's broad back was
turned upon them, Dorothea waited for an instant, and said, 'What is it,
Robert?' looking up with her doubtful, yet kindly glance.

'Dear Dorothea, I wanted to make sure it was all true,' said Robert,
with one of the few touches of romance which he had experienced in all
his well-considered existence. 'I began to think it was a dream, and I
thought I should like to ask you.'

'Whether it is all a dream?' said Dolly, almost sadly. 'It is not I who
can answer that question; but you see,' she added, smiling, 'that I have
begun to do as you tell me. They will think I am lost.' And she sprang
away, with a little wave of the hand.



CHAPTER XXV.

GOOD-NIGHT.

    Love us, God! love us, man! we believe, we achieve.
    Let us live, let us love,
    For the acts correspond:
    We are Glorious, and DIE.

    --E. B. B.


Good-night, dearest Dolly,' whispered Henley, as they all stood waiting
for their train in the crowded station. 'You can tell your mother as you
go home.'

'Here, Dolly! jump in,' cried John Morgan, standing by an open
railway-door; 'your aunt is calling you.'

'I can't come up till Tuesday,' Henley went on in a low voice, 'but I
shall write to your mother to-night.'

He helped her into the dark carriage: everybody seemed to lean forward
at once and say good-night; there was a whistle, a guard banged the
door, Mrs. Palmer stretched her long neck through the window, but the
train carried her off before she could speak her last words.

Dolly just saw Henley turning away, and George under a lamp-post; then
they were gone out of the station into the open country; wide and dim it
flowed on either side into the dusk. The day had come to an end--the
most wonderful day in Dolly's life. Was it a real day; was it a day out
of somebody else's existence? As Dolly sat down beside her mother she
had felt as if her heart would break with wonder and happiness; it was
not big enough to hold the love that was her portion. He loved her! She
had floated into some new world where she had never been before; where
people had been living all their lives, thought Dolly, and she had never
even guessed at it.

Had her mother felt like this? Had Frank Raban's poor young wife felt
this when he married her? So she wondered, looking up at the clear
evening sky. Might not death itself be this, only greater still and
completer--too complete for human beings? Dolly had got her mother's
hand tight in hers. 'My dear child, take care, take care!' cried Mrs.
Palmer, sharply; 'my poor fingers are so tender, Mr. Morgan; and Dolly's
is _such_ a grip. I remember once when the Admiral, with his great
driving gloves....' Her voice sank away, and Dolly's mamma began telling
John Morgan all about one episode in her life.

Meanwhile, Dolly went on with her speculations. How surprised Aunt Sarah
would be; how surprised she was herself. Dolly had had a dream, so have
most young maidens, formless, voiceless, indefinitely vague, but with a
meaning to it all the same, and a _soul_; and here was Robert, and the
soul was his, and he loved her! 'Thanks, half-way up,' murmured Mrs.
Palmer to a strange passenger who did not belong to the party.

'Tired, Zoe?' said John to his sister: 'a little bit sleepy, eh?'

'Everybody thinks I'm always tired,' said Zoe, in an aggrieved tone:
'Rhoda made me rest ever so long when I didn't want to; she popped me
down on a stool in that stupid old library, and said I looked quite worn
out, and then she was off in a minute, and I had to wait, oh! ever so
long, and I was frightened by noises.'

'Poor Zoe!' said John, laughing.

'It was too bad of her; and then they all kept leaving me behind,'
continued Zoe, growing more and more miserable 'and now you say it has
been too much for me: I am sure I wouldn't have missed coming for
anything.'

'Next time we go anywhere you keep with me, Zoe,' said John,
good-humouredly, 'and you shan't be left behind.'

'I think we are all tired,' said Mrs. Palmer, languidly, 'and we shall
be thankful to get home. Dolly, my darling, you don't speak; are you
quite worn out too?'

Dolly looked out from her dreams with a glance of so much life and
sweetness in her bright face--even the dim lamplight could not hide her
happy looks--that her mother was struck by it. 'You strange child,' she
said, 'what are you made of? You look brighter than when we started.'

'Dolly is made of a capital stuff called youth and good spirits,' said
John Morgan, kindly.

The rest of the journey was passed in shifting the windows to Mrs.
Palmer's various sensations. They all parted hurriedly, as people do
after a long day's pleasuring, only Dolly found time to give Rhoda a
kiss. She felt more kindly towards her than she had done for many a day
past. Rhoda looked curiously, and a little maliciously, into Dolly's
face. But she could not read anything more than she guessed already.

Mrs. Palmer was greatly disturbed to find herself driving home alone
with Dolly in the hansom.

'I am afraid of cabmen. I am not accustomed to them. John Morgan should
have come with me,' Mrs. Palmer said. 'I am sure the Admiral would not
approve of this! Ah! he will be over. Dolly, darling, ask the man if he
is sober. Dear me, I wish Robert was here.'

Dolly, too, was wishing that Robert was there instead of herself. Her
heart began to beat as she thought of what she had to say. She looked up
at Mrs. Palmer's pale face in the bright moonlight through which they
were driving homewards; through parks silver and silent and transformed.
They come to the river and cross the bridge; the water is flowing,
hushed, and mysterious: the bridge throws a great shadow upon the water;
one barge is slowly passing underneath the arch. The dim, distant crowd
of spires, of chimneys, and slated roofs, are illumined and multiplied
by strange silver lights. Overhead a planet is burning and sinking where
the sun set while they were still in the college garden. The soft
moon-wind comes sweeping fresh into their faces, and Dolly from this
trance awakens to whisper, 'Mamma! I have something to tell
you--something that Robert----'

'He will throw us over! I know he will!' interrupts Mrs. Palmer, as the
cab gave a jolt. 'It is quite unsafe, Dolly, without a gentleman.'

Poor Dolly forced herself to go on. She took her mother's hand: 'Dear
mamma, don't be afraid.'

'He was not sober. I thought so at the time,' cried Mrs. Palmer, with a
nervous shriek, as they came off the bridge.

Then the cab went more quietly, and Dolly found words to tell her news.
So the hansom drove on, carrying many agitations and exclamations along
with it. The driver from his moonlit perch may have heard the sounds
within. Mrs. Palmer spared herself and Dolly no single emotion. She was
faint, she was hysterical, she rallied, she was overcome. Why had she
not been told before? she had known it all along; she had mentioned it
to the Admiral before her departure; he had sneered at her foolish
dreams. Dolly would never have to learn the bitter deception of some
wasted lives. Cruel boy! why had he not told her? why so reserved?

'He feared that it would agitate you,' Dolly said, feeling that Robert
had been right. 'He told me to tell you now, dear.'

'Dear fellow, he is so thoughtful,' said Mrs. Palmer. 'Now he will be my
son, Dolly, my real son. I never could have endured any one of those
Henley girls for him. How angry Lady Henley will be. I warned Robert
long ago that she would want him for one of them. Dolly, you must not be
married yet. You must wait till the Admiral returns. He must give you
away.'

When Dolly told her that Robert wanted to be married before he left for
India, Mrs. Palmer said it was preposterous. He might have to sail any
day,--that Master told her so; the fat old gentleman in the white
neckcloth. 'No, my Dolly, we shall have you till Robert comes back. Let
the man keep the shilling for his own use.'

They had reached the turnpike by this time, with its friendly
beacon-fire burning, and the red-faced man had come out with three
pennies ready in his hand. Then by dark trees, rustling behind the walls
of the old gardens; past the palace avenue-gates, where the sentry was
pacing, with the stars shining over his head; they come to the ivy-gate
at home, and with its lamp burning red in the moonlight. Marker opened
the door before they had time to ring.

'Softly, my dear,' said Marker to Dolly, in a sort of whisper. 'My lady
is asleep; she has not been well, and--'

'Not well!' said Mrs. Palmer. 'How fortunate she did not come. What
should we have done with her? I am quite worn out, Marker; we have had a
long day. Let Julie make me a cup of coffee, and bring it up to my room.
Good-night, my precious Dolly. Don't speak to me, or I shall scream!'

'Marker, is Aunt Sarah ill?' said Dolly, anxious, she knew not why.

'Don't be frightened, my dear,' said Marker; 'it is nothing; that is,
the Doctor says she only wants rest.'

Dolly went up to her own room, flitting carefully along the passage, and
shading her light. Lady Sarah's door was closed. Mrs. Palmer was safe
for the night, with Julie in attendance. Dolly could hear their voices,
as she went by. In her own little room all was in order, and cool and
straight for her coming. The window was open, the moonlight fell upon
her little bed, where she had dreamt so many peaceful dreams, and Dolly
set her light upon the window-seat, and stood looking out. She was half
radiant still, half saddened. All the sights and sounds of that long,
eventful day were passing before her still: ringing, dazzling, repeating
themselves on the darkness.... Was it possible that he loved her--that
she loved him? The trees rustled, the familiar strokes of the church
clock came striking twelve, swinging through darkness into silence. 'Do
I love him? I think so,' said Dolly to herself. 'I hope so.' And with an
honest heart, she told herself that all should be well. Then she
wondered if she should sleep that night; she seemed to be living over
every single bit of her life at once. She longed to tell Aunt Sarah her
wonderful story. A cockchafer sailed in at the open window, and Dolly
moved the light to save its straggling legs; a little wind came blowing
in, and then Dolly thought she heard a sound as of a door below opening
softly. Was her aunt awake and stirring? She caught up the light and
crept down to see. She could hear Julie and Mrs. Palmer still
discoursing.

There is something sacred about a sick-room at times. It seems like holy
ground to people coming in suddenly out of the turmoil and emotion of
life. Dolly's excitement was hushed as she entered and saw Lady Sarah
lying quietly stretched out asleep upon a sofa. It had been wheeled to
the window, which was wide open. The curtain was flapping, all the
medicine bottles stood in rows on the table and along the shelves. There
lay Sarah, with her grey hair smoothed over her brown face, very still
and sleeping peacefully--as peacefully as if she was young still, and
loved, and happy, with life before her: though, for the matter of that,
people whose life is nearly over have more right to sleep at peace than
those who have got to encounter they know not what trials and
troubles--struggles with others, and, most deadly of all, with that
terrible shadow of self that rises with fresh might, striking with so
sure an aim. What does the mystery mean? Who is the familiar enemy that
our spirit is set to overcome and to struggle with all the night until
the dawn? There lay poor Sarah's life-adversary, then, nearly worn,
nearly overcome, sleeping and resting while the spirit was travelling I
know not to what peaceful regions.

Dolly crept in and closed the door. Lady Sarah never stirred. A long
time seemed to pass. The wind rose again, the curtain flapped, and the
light flickered, and time seemed creeping slowly and more slowly to the
tune of the sleeping woman's languid breath. It was a strange ending to
the long, glittering day, but at last a flush came into Sarah Francis's
cheeks, and she opened her eyes.... A strange new something was in that
placid face--a look. What is it, that first look of change and blurr in
features that have melted so tranquilly before us from youth to
middle-age, or from middle-age to age, modulating imperceptibly? The
light of Dolly's own heart was too dazzling for her to be in a very
observant mood just then.

'Is that my Dolly?' said the sick woman.

Dolly sprang forward. 'Oh! I am so glad you are awake,' said the girl.
'Dear Aunt Sarah, has your sleep done you good? Are you better? Can you
listen to something? Can you guess?' And she knelt down so as to bring
her face on a level with the other; but she couldn't see it very plainly
for a dazzle between them. 'Robert says he loves me; and, indeed, if he
loves me I must love him,' Dolly whispered; and her face fell hidden
against the pillow, and the mist turned to haze. Some bird in the garden
outside began to whistle in its sleep. A belated clock struck something
a long way off, and then all was silence and darkness again.

Lady Sarah held Dolly close to her, as the girl knelt beside her. 'Do
you care for him? Is it possible?' said Lady Sarah, bewildered.

Dolly was hurt by her doubt. 'Indeed I do,' she answered, beginning to
cry once more, from fatigue and excitement.

One of the two women in that midnight room was young, with the new
kindling genius of love in her heart, and she was weeping; the other was
old, with the first knell of death ringing in her ear; but when Dolly
looked up at last she saw that her aunt was smiling very tenderly. Lady
Sarah smiled, but she could not trust herself to speak. She had awakened
startled, but in a minute she had realised it all. She had felt all
along that this must be. She had not wished for it, but it was come. It
was not only of Dolly and of Robert that Lady Sarah thought that night;
other ghosts came into the room and stood before her. And then came
every day, very real, into this dream-world--Marker with a bed-chamber
candlestick, walking straight into conflicting emotions, and indignant
with Miss Dolly for disturbing her mistress. She had been shutting up
and seeing to Mrs. Palmer's coffee. She was scarcely mollified by the
great news. Lady Sarah was awake; Dolly had awakened her.

'Let people marry who they like,' said Marker; 'but don't let them come
chattering and disturbing at this time o' night, when they should a'
known better.



CHAPTER XXVI.

GOOD-MORNING.

    Qu'un jeune amour, plein de mystère,
    Pardonne à la vieille amitié.


Dolly passed through the sleeping house, crept by the doors, slid down
the creaking stairs, into the hall. The shutters were unopened as yet,
the dawning day was bolted out, and the place was dark and scattered
over with the shreds of the day before. A newspaper was lying on the
hall table, pieces of string upon the ground, a crumpled letter, and the
long brown-paper coffin in which the silk for her new gown had come home
the night before. Each day scatters its dust as it hurries by, and
leaves its broken ends and scraps for the coming hours to collect and
sort away, dust of mind, and dust of matter. The great kaleidoscope of
the world turns round once in its twenty-four hours; the patterns and
combinations shift and change and disperse into new combinations.
Perhaps some of us may think that, with each turn, the fragments are
shaken up and mixed and broken away more and more, until only an
undistinguishable uniform dazzle remains in place of the beautiful blue
and red and golden stars and wheels that delighted our youth.

Dorothea gave a cautious pull to the bolt of the outer door and opened
it, letting a sudden sweet chill rush of light and fresh air into the
closed house, where they had all been asleep through the night. What a
morning! All her sudden fears seemed lightened, and she jumped across
the step on to the gravel walk, and looked up and round and about. Dark
green, gold, glistening bricks, slanting lights, and sweet tremulous
shadows; the many crowding house-roofs and tree-tops aflame in the
seven-o'clock sunshine, the birds flapping and fluttering, the mellow
old church clock striking seven: the strokes come in solemn procession
across the High Street and the old brick-walled garden, and pass on I
don't know to what distant blue realms in the vault overhead.

She stopped to look at a couple of snails creeping up among the nails in
the wall. I think she then practised a little mazourka along the
straight garden walk. She then took off her hat and stopped to pin back
some of the russet of which I have spoken, then she looked up again and
drew a great breath; and then, passing the green beech and the two cut
yew-trees, she came to the placid pond in its stone basin at the end of
the garden. There it lay in its darkness and light. There were the
gold-fish wide-awake, darting and gaping as they rose to the surface;
and the water reflected the sky and the laurel-bushes, and the chipped
stone edge of the basin. When Dorothea came and looked over the brink
she saw her own smiling, disjointed face looking up at her. It was not
so bright a face as her own, somehow. It looked up grey and sad from out
of this trembling, mystical looking-glass. What was it? A cloud passing
overhead, a little, soft, fleecy, white cloud bobbing along, and then
some birds flying by, and then a rustle among the leaves. It was only a
moment, during which it had seemed to her as if the throb of nature beat
a little more slowly, and as if its rhythm had halted for an instant;
and in that moment the trouble of the night before, the doubt of
herself, came back to her. Sometimes Dorothea had wondered, as others
have done before her, if there is such a thing as real happiness in
nature. Do clouds love to sail quickly on the wind? Are pools glad to
lie placid refracting the sunshine? When the trees rustle, is it just a
chatter and a quiver, or the thrill of life answering life? The thought
of a living nature without consciousness had always seemed to her
inexpressibly sad. She had sometimes thought how sad a human life might
be that was just a human life, living and working and playing, and
coming to an end one day, and falling to the ground. It was, in truth,
not very unlike the life she might have led herself, and now--now she
was alone no longer. There was a meaning to life now, for Henley loved
her. She thought this, and then, seeing a spider's web suddenly gleam
with a long lightning flash, she turned with another glad spring of
youth to the light.

On the table, lay a letter sealed and stamped and addressed--'Miss
Vanborough, Church House, Kensington.' It was for her. There was no
mistaking it. Her first love-letter. There it lay in black and in white,
signed and dated and marked with a crest. Robert must have written it
the night before, after they had left.

A few minutes ago, in the fresh morning air, it had all seemed like a
dream of the night; here were tangible signs and wonders to recall her
to her allegiance.

Dolly took it up shyly, this first love-letter, come safe into her hands
from the hands which had despatched it. She was still standing reading
it in the window when Lady Sarah, who had made an effort, came in,
leaning on Marker's arm. The girl was absorbed; her pretty brown curly
head was bent in the ivylight, that dazzled through the leaves; she
heard nothing except the new voice speaking to her; she saw no one
except that invisible presence which was so vividly before her. This was
the letter:--

     MY DEAREST DORA,--I write you one line, which will, I hope,
     reach you in the morning. You are gone, and already I wish you
     back again. Your sweetness, your trust in me, have quite
     overpowered me. I long to prove to you that I am all you
     believed me, and worthy of your choice. Do not fear to trust
     your happiness to me. I have carefully studied your character.
     I know you even better than you know yourself; and when you
     hesitated I could appreciate your motives. I feel convinced
     that we have acted for the best. I would say more, but I must
     write to your mother and to Lady Sarah by to-night's post.
     Write to me fully and without reserve.

     Ever yours, dearest Dora,

     R. V. H.

Inside Dolly's letter was a second letter, addressed to the Lady Sarah
Francis, sealed and addressed in the same legible hand. This was not a
love-letter; nobody could reasonably be expected to send two by the same
post:--

     MY DEAR LADY SARAH,--Dora will have informed you of what has
     occurred, and I feel that I must not delay expressing to you
     how sincerely I trust that you will not disapprove of the step
     we have taken. Although my appointment is not a very lucrative
     one, the salary is increasing; and I shall make a point of
     insuring my life before leaving England, for our dear girl's
     benefit. I do not know whether Dorothea is herself entitled to
     any of her father's fortune, or whether it has been settled
     upon George; perhaps you would kindly inform me upon this
     point, as I am most anxious not to overstep the line of
     prudence, and my future arrangements must greatly depend upon
     my means. You will have heard of my appointment to the
     presidentship of the College of Boggleywollah. India is a long
     way off, but time soon passes to those who are able to make
     good use of it; and I trust that in the happiness of one so
     justly dear to you, you will find consolation for her absence.

     Believe me, my dear Lady Sarah, very truly yours,

     R. HENLEY.

     P.S.--My widow would be entitled to a pension by the provisions
     of the Fund.

This was what Dolly, with so much agitation, put into her aunt's hand,
watching her face anxiously as she read it.

'May I read it?' said Dolly.

'It is only business,' said Lady Sarah, crumpling it up, and Dolly
turned away disappointed, and began to pour out the tea.

It was a very agitated breakfast, happy and shy and rather silent,
though so much had to be said. Mrs. Palmer came drifting in, to their
surprise, before breakfast was over, in a beautiful white wrapper with
satin bows. She also had received a letter. She embraced Dolly and Lady
Sarah.

'Well, what do you say to our news, Sarah? I have heard from our dear
Robert,' said she. 'You may read his letter--both of you. Sarah, I am
sorry to hear you have been ailing. If it would not be giving too much
trouble--I have been so upset by all this agitation--I should prefer
coffee this morning. I was quite frightened about myself last night,
Dolly, after I left you.... Dear me, what memories come back to one. Do
you remember our marriage, Sarah, and...?'

'Pray ring again, Dolly,' said Lady Sarah, abruptly, and she went to the
door and called Marker, shrilly and impatient.

'There is no one but me,' says Mrs. Palmer, pulling out her frills with
a deep sigh, 'who cares for those old stories. The Admiral cannot endure
them.'

       *       *       *       *       *

Dolly's cup of happiness, so full before, seemed overflowing now, it
spread and spread. Happiness and sorrow overflow into other cups besides
our own. John Morgan looked in opportunely to hear the news and to ask
how they all were: his hearty congratulations came with a grateful sense
of relief. Dolly longed for sympathy in her happiness. She was glad to
be a little stunned by the cheerful view he took of what must be so sad
as well as so sweet. The news spread rapidly.

Old Sam came up with a shining face and set down the copper
coal-scuttle, the better to express his good wishes. Eliza Twells
tumbled down the kitchen-stairs with a great clatter from sheer
excitement, and when Marker, relenting, came up in her big flowing apron
for orders, her round face was rippling with smiles.

'God bless you kindly, Miss Dolly, my dear,' said the good old woman,
giving her a kiss on each cheek. 'I never took up with a husband myself,
but I don't blame ye. It is well to have some one to speak our mind to.
And did he give you a ring, my dear?'

Dolly laughed and held up her two hands. 'No ring, Marker. I don't like
rings. I wish one could be married without one.'

'Don't say that, dearie,' said Marker, gravely.



CHAPTER XXVII.

LOVE LANE FROM KENSINGTON TO FULHAM.

    Where are the great, whom thou wouldst wish to praise thee?
    Where are the pure, whom thou wouldst choose to love thee?
    Where are the brave, to stand supreme above thee,
    Whose high commands would cheer, whose chiding raise thee?
    Seek, seeker, in thyself, submit to find
    In the stones bread, and life in the blank mind.

    --A. T. Clough.


Robert came up to town on the Tuesday, as he had promised Dolly. As he
came along, he told himself that he had deserved some reward for his
patience in waiting. He had resisted many a sentimental impulse, not
wishing to distract his mind until the summer term was over. He might
almost have trusted himself to propose at Easter, and to go on calmly
with his papers, for he was not like George, whose wandering attention
seemed distracted by every passing emotion. Robert's stiff black face
melted a little as he indulged in a lover-like dream. He saw Dolly as
she would be one day, ruling his household, welcoming his guests,
admired by them all. Henley had too good taste to like a stupid woman.
Nothing would ever have induced him to think of a plain one. He wished
for a certain amount of good-breeding and habit of the world.... All
these qualifications he had discovered in his cousin, not to speak of
other prospects depending on her aunt's good pleasure.

Old Sam opened the door, grinning his congratulations. Robert found
Dolly sitting with her mother on the terrace. Philippa jumped up to meet
him, and embraced him too with effusion.

'We were expecting you,' she said. 'I have _much_ to say to you; come
with me.' And clasping her hands upon his arm, she would have
immediately drawn him away into the house, if Robert had not said with
some slight embarrassment, 'Presently, my dear aunt, I shall be quite at
your service; but I have not yet spoken to Dolly.' Dolly did not move,
but waited for Robert to come to her--then she looked up suddenly.

Dolly's manner was charming in those days--a little reserved, but
confident and sympathetic, a little abrupt at times, but bright and
melancholy at once. Later in life some of its shadows seemed to drown
the light in her honest face; her mistakes made her more shy, and more
reserved; she caught something of Henley's coldness of manner, and was
altered, so her friends thought.

I don't, for my own part, believe that people change. But it is not the
less true that they have many things in them, many emotions and passing
moods, and as days and feelings follow, each soul's experience is
written down here and there, and in other souls, and by signs, and by
work done, and by work undone, and by what is forgotten, as well as that
which is remembered, by the influence of to-day, and of the past that is
not over. Perhaps, one day, we may know ourselves at last, and read our
story plainly written in our own and other people's lives.

Dolly, in those days, was young and confident and undismayed. It seems
strange to make a merit as we do of youth, of inexperience, of hardness
of heart. Her untroubled young spirit had little sympathy for others
more weary and wayworn. She loved, but without sympathy; but all the
same, the brightness of her youth and its unconscious sweetness spread
and warmed, and comforted those upon whom its influence fell.

Dorothea Vanborough was a woman of many-changing emotions and
sentiments; frank to herself, doubting herself all the while; diffident
where she should have been bold, loving the right above all things, and
from very excess of scruples, troubled at times, and hard to others.
Then came regret and self-abasement and reproach, how bitter none can
tell but those who, like her, have suffered from many and complicated
emotions--trusting, mistrusting, longing for truth, and, from this very
longing, failing often. She loved because she was young and her heart
was tender and humble. She doubted because she was young and because the
truth was in her, urging her to do that which she would not have done,
and to feel the things that she would not have felt. But all this was
only revealed to her later, only it was there from the beginning. Dolly
was very shy and very happy all these early days.

Frank Raban thought Dolly careless, hard in her judgments, spoiled by
the love that was showered upon her; he thought she was not kind to
Rhoda. All this he dwelt upon, nor could he forget her judgment upon
himself. Poor Raban acknowledged that for him no judgment could be too
severe, and yet he would have loved Dolly to be pitiful; although she
could now never be anything to him--never, so long as they both lived.
When the news came of her engagement, it was a pain to him that he had
long expected, and that he accepted. One failure in life was enough. He
made no advance; he watched her; he let her go, foolish man! without a
word. Sometimes Rhoda would talk to him about Dolly. Frank always
listened.

'She does not mean to be cold. Indeed, I don't think so--I am so used to
her manner that I do not think of it,' Rhoda would say. 'Dear Dolly is
full of good and generous impulses. She will make Robert Henley a noble
wife if he only gives in to her in everything. I would I were half as
good as she is; but she is a little hasty at times, and wants every one
to do as she tells them.'

'And you do as everybody tells you,' said Raban.

And to do Rhoda justice, she worked her fingers to the bone, she walked
to poor people's houses through the rain and mud; she was always
good-tempered, she was a valuable inmate in the household. Zoe said she
couldn't think how Rhoda got through half what she did. 'Here, there,
and everywhere,' says Zoe, in an aggrieved voice, 'before I have time to
turn.'

Notwithstanding the engagement, the little household at Church House
went its usual course. Lady Sarah had followed her own beaten ways so
long, that she seemed, from habit, to travel on whether or not her
interest went with her. Those old days are almost forgotten now, even by
the people who lived in them. With a strange, present thrill Dolly
remembers sometimes, as she passes through the old haunts of her early
youth, a past instant of time, a past state of sentiment, as bygone as
the hour to which it belonged. Passing by the old busy corner of the
church not long ago, Dolly remembered how she and Robert had met Raban
there one day, just after their news had been made public. He tried to
avoid them, then changed his mind and came straight up and shook hands,
uttering his good wishes in a cold, odd manner, that Dolly thought
almost unkind.

'I am afraid my good wishes can add little to your happiness, but I
congratulate you,' he said to Robert; 'and I wish you all happiness,' he
said to Dolly; and then they were all silent for a minute.

'You will come soon, won't you?' said Dolly, shyly.

'Good-by,' said Frank Raban, walking away very quickly.

He had meant to keep away, but he came just as usual to Church House,
and was there even more constantly. Lady Sarah was glad of his
companionship for George, who seemed in a very strange and excited state
of mind.

The summer of '54 was an eventful summer; and while Dolly was living in
her own youthful world, concentrated in the overwhelming interests that
had come of late, in old and the new ties, so hard to grasp, so hard to
loose, armies were marching, fleets were sailing, politicians and
emperors were pondering upon the great catastrophe that seemed imminent.
War had been declared; with it the great fleets had come speeding across
the sea from one horizon to another. The events of the day only reached
Dolly in echoes from a long way off, brought by Robert and by George,
printed in the paper. Robert was no keen politician. He was too full of
his own new plans and new career. George was far more excited, and of a
more fiery temper. Frank Raban and George and he used to have long and
angry arguments Raban maintained that the whole thing was a mistake, a
surrender to popular outcry. George and Robert were for fighting at any
price: for once they agreed.

'I don't see,' said George, 'what there is in life to make it so
preferable to anything else, to every sense of honour and of
consideration, of liberty of action. Life, to be worth anything, is only
a combination of all these things; and for one or any of them I think a
man should be willing to play his stake.'

'Of course, of course, if it were necessary,' said Henley, 'one would do
what was expected of one. There is my cousin, Jonah Henley, joining his
regiment next week. I confess it is on different grounds from you that I
approve of this war. I do not like to see England falling in
the--a--estimation of Europe: we can afford to go to war. Russia's
pretensions are intolerable; and, with France to assist us, I believe
the Government is thoroughly justified in the course it is pursuing.'

'I don't think we are ready,' said Raban, in his odd, constrained voice.
'I don't think we _are_ justified. We sit at home and write heroic
newspaper articles, and we send out poor fellows by rank and by file to
be pounded at and cut to mincemeat, for what? Suppose we put things back
a hundred years, what good shall we have done?'

'But think of our Overland Route,' said Henley; 'suppose the future
should interfere with the P. and O.'

       *       *       *       *       *

There were green lanes in those days leading from the far end of that
lane in which Church House was built to others that crossed a wide and
spreading country: it is not even yet quite overflooded by the waves of
brick--that tide that flows out in long, strange furrows, and never ebbs
away. Dolly and Henley went wandering along these lanes one fine
afternoon; they were going they knew not where; into a land of Canaan,
so Dolly thought it: green cabbages, a long, gleaming canal, hawthorn
hedges, and a great overarched sky that began to turn red when the sun
set. Now and then they came to some old house that had outstood storms
and years, fluttering signals of distress in the shape of old shirts and
clothes hung out to dry; in the distance rose Kensington spires and
steeples; now and then a workman trudged by on his way home; distant
bells rang in this wide, desolate country. Women come tramping home from
their long day's work in the fields, and look hard at the handsome young
couple, Dolly with cast-down eyes, Robert with his nose up in the air.
The women trudge wearily home; the young folks walk step by step into
life. The birds cross the sky in a sudden flight; the cabbages grow
where they are planted.

They missed the Chelsea Lane. Dolly should have known the way, but she
was absorbed and unobservant, and those cross-ways were a labyrinth
except for those who were well used to them. They found themselves
presently in the Old Brompton Road, with its elm-trees and old gable
roofs darkening against the sunset. How sweet it was, with red lights
burning, people slowly straggling like themselves, and enjoying the
gentle ease of the twilight and of the soft west wind. Dolly led Henley
back by the old winding road, with its bends and fancies; its cottages,
within close-built walls; and stately old houses, with iron scroll-work
on their garden gates, and gardens not yet destroyed. Then they came to
a rueful row of bricks and staring windows. A young couple stood side by
side against the low rail in front of their home. Dolly remembered this
afterwards; for the sky was very splendid just then, and the young
woman's violet dress seemed to blaze with the beautiful light, as she
stood in her quaint little garden, looking out across the road to the
well-remembered pond and some fields beyond. Along the distant line of
the plains great soft ships of vapour were floating; the windows of the
distant houses flashed; the pond looked all splendid and sombre in its
shady corner. The evening seemed vast and sweet, and Dolly's heart was
full.

'Are you tired?' said Robert, seeing that she lingered.

'Tired? no,' said Dorothea. 'I was looking at the sky, and wondering how
it would have been if you had gone away and never----?' She stopped.

'Why think about it?' said Robert. 'You would have married somebody
else, I suppose.'

He said it in a matter-of-fact sort of way, and for a moment Dolly's
eyebrows seemed to darken over her eyes. It was a mere nothing, the
passing shadow of a thought.

'You are right,' said Dolly, wistfully. 'It is no use thinking how
unhappy one might have been. Have you ever been very unhappy, Robert?'
Now that she was so happy, Dolly seemed, for the first time, to realise
what sorrow might be.

'A certain young lady made me very unhappy one day not long ago,' said
Robert, 'when she tried to freeze me up with a snowball.'

This was not what Dolly meant: she was in earnest, and he answered her
with a joke; she wanted a sign, and no sign was given to her.

They had just reached home, when Robert said, with his hand on the bell:
'This has not been unhappy, has it, Dolly? We shall have a great many
more walks together when I can spare the time. But you must talk to me
more, and not be so shy, dearest.'

Something flew by as he spoke, and went fluttering into the ivy.

'That was a bat,' said Dolly, shrinking, while Robert stood shaking his
umbrella-stick among the ivy leaves; but it was too dark to see anything
distinctly.

'I hope,' said Robert, sentimentally, 'to come and see you constantly
when this term is over. Then we shall know more of each other, Dora.'

'Don't we know each other?' asked Dolly, with one of her quick glances;
'I think I know you quite well, Robert--better than I know myself
almost,' she added, with a sigh.

When they came into the drawing-room the lamp was alight, and George and
Rhoda were there with Lady Sarah. George was talking at the very pitch
of his melancholy voice, Lady Sarah was listening with a pale, fixed
face, like a person who has made up her mind.

Rhoda was twirling her work round and round her fingers. She had broken
the wool, and dropped the stitches. It was by a strong effort that she
sat so still.

'Here is George announcing his intentions,' said Lady Sarah, as they
came in. 'Perhaps you, Robert, will be able to preach good sense to
him.'

'Oh, Aunt Sarah!' Dolly cried, springing forward, 'at last he has told
you.... Has Rhoda?' Dolly's two hands were clasped in excitement. Lady
Sarah looked at her in some surprise.

There was a crash, a scream from Rhoda. The flower-glass had gone over
on the table beside her, and all the water was running about over the
carpet.

'My dress--my Sunday best!' cried Rhoda. 'Lady Sarah, I am so sorry.'

Dolly bent over to pick up the table, and, as she did so, Rhoda
whispered, 'Be silent, or you will ruin George.'

'Ruined?' said Robert. 'Your dress is not ruined, Rhoda. I speak from
experience, for I wear a silk gown myself.'

'George says he will not take my living,' said Lady Sarah. 'He wishes to
be----What do you wish to be, George?'

George, somewhat confused, said he wished to be a soldier--anything but
a clergyman.

'You don't mean to say you are going to be such a--that you refuse seven
hundred a year?' said Henley, stopping short.

'Confound it!' cried George, 'can't you all leave a poor fellow in
peace?' And he burst out of the room.

'Come here, Dolly,' said Mrs. Palmer, from a distant corner of the room;
'make this foolish darling do as his aunt wishes. I am sure the Admiral
would quite feel as I do.'

'Seven hundred a year,' said Lady Sarah. 'Wretched boy! I shall sell the
presentation.'

'Oh, Robert!' said Dolly, 'he is right if he can't make up his mind. I
know Aunt Sarah thinks so.'

Dolly could not help being vexed with Robert. He shrugged his shoulders,
said that George would regret his decision, and went on to talk of
various plans that he himself had at heart, just as if George had never
existed.

'I want you to trust Dolly to me for a few days,' said he. 'I want to
take her down to Smokethwaite with my aunt. She must see Jonah before he
leaves. They all write, and urge her coming.'

Lady Sarah agreed, with a sigh, and her eyes filled with tears. She
turned away abruptly to hide them.

Many and many were the tears she wiped away, for fear Dolly should see
them. George's whole body was not so dear to her as Dolly's little
finger. She blamed herself in vain afterwards, when it was too late.
Sometimes she could hardly bear to see her niece come into the room with
her smiling face, and she scarcely answered when the sweet girl's voice
came echoing and calling about the house. Could it be true that it was
going, that sweet voice? Laughing, scolding, chattering, hour by
hour--were the many footsteps going, too, and the rustle of her dress,
and the look of her happy eyes? was the time already come for Dolly to
fly away from the old nest that had sheltered her for so short a time?
She seemed scarcely to have come--scarcely to have begun her sweet home
song--and already she was eager to go!

But Rhoda had come up, looking very pale, to say good-night. As she said
good-by, Dolly followed her out, and tried to put in some little word
for George. 'Rhoda, he has been true to himself,' she whispered; 'that
is best of all--is not it?'

'Let him be true to himself, by all means,' said Rhoda.

She was thoroughly out of temper. Dolly had not improved matters by
talking about them. George came out of the oak room prepared to walk
back with her. 'No, thank you,' said Rhoda, trembling very much. 'I
won't trouble you to come home with me.'

She was tying her bonnet and pinning on her shawl in an agitated way.
George watched her in silence. When she was ready to go, he held out his
hand. 'Good-night,' he said.

'Good-night,' said Rhoda, hurrying off without looking up, and passing
out into the street.

It was unbearable. If George loved her he might do as she wished. But he
would sacrifice nothing--not one fancy. Her Uncle John was a clergyman.
It was a very high calling. Rhoda thought of the pretty little
parsonage-house, and the church, and the cottages all round about, only
waiting to be done good to, while the apples were baking on the trees
and cakes in the oven, all of which good things George had
refused--George, who did not know one bit what he was doing, nor what it
was to scrape, and starve, and live with dull, stinted, scraping people.
She was quite tired of it all. It was not a real life that she led; it
was a housekeeper's situation, just like Aunt Morgan. She had done her
best, and she had earned a rest, and she would not begin all over again.
George might be as true as he liked. Rhoda ran up the steps of the old
brown house in a silent passion, and gave a sharp pull at the bell. Yes,
she hated it all. She was utterly tired of it all--of the noisy home, of
Aunt Morgan's precepts and flannels. She could hear the clink of plates
in the dining-room, where the inevitable anters of cheese and cold meat
were set out on the shabby table-cloth, where her Aunt Morgan stood in
her black cap and stiff brown curls, carving slice after slice for the
hungry curate. 'You are late, Rhoda,' said her aunt. 'I suppose you
stayed to late dinner with your friends?'

'No; but I am not hungry,' said Rhoda, shrinking away.

'Why, Rhoda, what is the matter?' said John, kindly, and he held out his
big hand to her.



CHAPTER XXVIII.

UNBORN TO-MORROW AND DEAD YESTERDAY.

                Alas, thrice-gentle Cassio,
    My advocation is not now in tune;
    My lord is not my lord; nor should I know him,
    Were he in favour, as in humour, alter'd.

    --Othello.


Whatever Lady Sarah may have thought, Mrs. Palmer used to consider Dolly
a most fortunate girl, and she used to say so, not a little to Lady
Sarah's annoyance.

'Extremely fortunate,' repeats Dolly's mamma, looking thoughtfully at
her fat satin shoes. 'What a lottery life is! I was as pretty as Dolly,
and yet dear Stanham had not anything like Robert's excellent prospects.
Even the Ad----Don't go, Sarah.'

Poor Lady Sarah would start up, with an impatient movement, and walk
across the room to get away from Philippa's retrospections. They were
almost more than she had patience for just then. She could scarcely
have found patience for Philippa herself, if it had not been that
she was Dolly's mother. What did she mean by her purrings and
self-congratulations? Lady Sarah used to feel most doubtful about
Dolly's good fortune just when Philippa was most enthusiastic on the
subject, or when Robert himself was pointing out his excellent prospects
in his lucid way.

Philippa would listen, nodding languid approbation. Dolly would make
believe to laugh at Robert's accounts of his coming honours; but it was
easy to see that it was only make-believe incredulity.

Her aunt could read the girl's sweet conviction in her eyes, and she
loved her for it. Once, remembering her own youth, this fantastic woman
had made a vow never, so long as she lived, to interfere in the course
of true love. True love! Is this true love, when one person is in love
with a phantom, another with an image reflected in a glass? True love is
something more than phantoms, than images and shadows; and yet stirred
by phantoms and living among shadows, its faint dreams come to life.

Lady Sarah was standing by the bookcase, in a sort of zigzag mind of her
own old times and of Dolly's to-day. She had taken a book from the
shelf--a dusty volume of Burns's poems--upon the fly-leaf of which the
name of another Robert Henley was written. She holds the book in her
hand, looks at the crooked writing--'S. V., from Robert Henley, May,
1808.' She beats the two dusty covers together, and puts it back into
its place again. That is all her story. Philippa never heard of it,
Robert never heard of it, nor did he know that Lady Sarah loved his
name--which had been his father's too--better than she loved him.
'Perhaps her happiness had all gone to Dolly,' the widow thought, as she
stood, with a troubled sort of smile on her face, looking at the two
young people through a pane of glass; and then, like a good woman as she
is, tries to silence her misgivings into a little prayer for their
happiness.

Let us do justice to the reluctant prayers that people offer up. They
are not the less true because they are half-hearted and because those
who pray would sometimes gladly be spared an answer to their petitions.
Poor Lady Sarah! her prayers seemed too much answered as she watched
Dolly day by day more and more radiant and absorbed.

'My dear creature, what are you doing with all those dusty books? Can
you see our young people?' says Mrs. Palmer, languidly looking over her
arm-chair. 'I expect Colonel Witherington this afternoon. He admires
Dolly excessively, Sarah; and I really think he might have proposed, if
Robert had not been so determined to carry her off. You dear old thing,
forgive me; I don't believe she would ever have married at all if I had
not come home. You are in the clouds, you know. I remember saying so to
Hawtry at Trincomalee. I should have disowned her if she had turned out
an old maid. I know it. I detest old maids. The Admiral has a perfect
craze for them, and they all adore him. I should like you to see Miss
M'Grudder--there never was anything so ludicrous, asthmatic,
sentimental--frantic. We must introduce Miss Moineaux to him, and the
Morgan girls. I often wonder how he ever came to marry a widow, and I
tell him so. It was a great mistake. Can you believe it?--Hawtry now
writes that second marriages are no marriages at all. Perhaps you agree
with him? I'm sure Dolly is quite ready to do so. I never saw a girl so
changed--_never_. We have lost her, my dear; make up your mind to it.
She is Robert, not Dolly any more--no thought for any one else, not for
_me_, dear child! And don't you flatter yourself she will ever ... Dear
me! Gone? What an extraordinary creature poor Sarah is! touched,
certainly; and _such_ a wet blanket!'

Mrs. Palmer, rising from her corner, floats across the room, sweeping
over several footstools and small tables on her way. She goes to the
window, and not caring to be alone, begins to tap with her diamond
finger upon the pane, to summon the young couple, who pay not the
slightest attention. Fortunately the door opens, and Colonel
Witherington is announced. He is a swarthy man, with shiny boots, a
black moustache; his handkerchief is scented with Esse-bouquet, which
immediately permeates the room; he wears tight dogskin gloves and
military shirt-collars. Lady Sarah thinks him vulgar and odious beyond
words; Mrs. Palmer is charmed to see him, and graciously holds out her
white hand. She is used to his adoration, and accepts it with a certain
swan-like indifference.

People had different opinions about Mrs. Palmer. In some circles she was
considered brilliant and accomplished; in others, silly and affected.
Colonel Witherington never spoke of her except with military honours.
'Charming woman,' he would say; 'highly cultivated; you might give her
five-and-twenty at the outside. Utterly lost upon that spluttering, old
psalm-singing Palmer. Psalms are all very well in their _proper_
place--in the prayer-books, or in church; but after dinner, when one has
got a good cigar, and feels inclined for a little pleasant conversation,
it is _not_ the time to ring the bell for the servants, and have 'em
down upon their knees all of a row, and up again in five minutes to
listen to an extempore sermon. The Admiral runs on like a clock. I used
to stay with them at the Admiralty House. Pity that poor woman most
heartily! Can't think how she keeps up as she does!'

Little brown Lady Henley at Smokethwaite would not have sympathised with
Colonel Witherington's admiration. She made a point of shrugging her
shoulders whenever she heard Philippa's name mentioned. 'If you ask me,'
she would say, 'I must frankly own that my sister-in-law is not to be
depended on. She is utterly selfish; she only lives for the admiration
of gentlemen. My brother Hawtry is a warm-hearted, impulsive man, who
would have made any woman happy. If he _has_ looked for consolation in
his domestic trials, and found it in religious interests, it is not I
who would blame him. Sir Thomas feels as I do, and deeply regrets
Philippa's deplorable frivolity. I do not know much of that poor girl of
hers. I have no doubt Robert has been dazzled by mother and daughter.
They are good-looking, and, as I am told, thoroughly well understand the
art of setting themselves off to the best advantage. I am fond of Robert
Henley; but I cannot pretend to have any feeling for Dorothea one way or
another. We have asked them here, of course. They are to come after
their marriage. I only hope my sister-in-law appreciates her daughter's
good luck, and has the sense to know the value of such a man as Robert
Henley.'

Mrs. Palmer was perfectly enchanted with her future son-in-law. He could
scarcely get rid of her. Robert, with some discomposure, would find
himself sitting on his aunt's sofa, hand-in-hand, listening to long and
very unpleasant extracts from her correspondence. 'You dear boy!' Mrs.
Palmer would say, with her soft, fat fingers firmly clasped round his;
'you have done me good. Your dear head is able to advise my poor
perplexed heart. Dolly, he is my prop. I give you up, my child, gladly,
to this dear fellow!' These little compliments mollified the young man
at first, although he found that by degrees the tax of his aunt's
constant dependence became heavier and heavier. Briareus himself could
scarcely have supplied arms to support her unsparing weakness, to hand
her parcels and footstools about, to carry her shawls and cushions, and
to sort the packets of her correspondence. She had the Admiral's
letters, tied up with various-coloured ribbons, and docketed, 'Cruel,'
'Moderately Abusive,' 'Apologetic,' 'Canting,' 'Business.' She was
always sending for Robert. Her playful tap at the window made him feel
quite nervous.

Mrs. Palmer had begun to knit him a pair of muffetees, and used slowly
to twist pink silk round ivory needles. Lady Henley laughed very loud
when she heard this 'Poor Robert! He will have to pay dearly for those
mittens,' she said.

For a long time past Mrs. Palmer had rarely left the house, but the
trousseau now began to absorb her; she used to go driving for long hours
at a time with Dolly, in a jaded fly--she would invite Robert to
accompany them--to Baker Street Bazaar, to Soho Square, to St. Paul's
Churchyard, back again to Oxford Street, a corner shop of which she had
forgotten the number. On one occasion, after trying three or four corner
shops, Robert called to the coachman to stop, and jumped out. 'I think
Dolly and I will walk home,' he said, abruptly; 'I'm afraid you must
give up your shop, Aunt Philippa. It is impossible to find the place.'

Poor Dolly, who was longing to escape, brightened up, but before she
could speak, Mrs. Palmer had grasped her tightly by both hands. 'My dear
Robert, what a proposal! I could not _think_ of letting Dolly walk all
the way home. She would be _quite_ done up. And it is _her_ business,
her shopping, you know.' Then reproachfully and archly, 'And I _must_
say that even the Admiral would scarcely have deserted us so
ungallantly, with all this work on our hands, and all these parcels, and
no servant. You dear fellow, you really must not leave us.'

Robert stood holding the door open, and looking particularly black. 'I
am very sorry indeed,' he said, with a short laugh, 'but you will be
quite safe, my dear aunt, and you really seem to have done enough
shopping to last for many years to come.' And he put out his hand as a
matter of course, to help Dorothea to alight.

'But she _cannot_ leave me,' says Philippa, excitedly: 'she would not
even wish it. Would you, my child? I never drive alone--never; I am
afraid of the coachman. It is most unreasonable to propose such a
thing.'

'I will answer for your safety,' persisted Robert. 'My dear aunt, you
must get used to doing without your Dolly now. Come, Dora, the walk will
freshen you up.'

'But I don't want to walk, Robert,' said poor Dolly, with a glance at
her mother. 'You may come for me to-morrow instead. You will, won't
you?' she added, as he suddenly turned away without answering, and she
leant out of the carriage-window, and called after him, a little
frightened by his black looks and silence. 'Robert! I shall expect you,'
she said.

'I shall not be able to come to-morrow, Dora,' said Henley, very
gravely; and then, raising his hat, he walked off without another word.

Even then Dolly could not believe that he was seriously angry. She saw
him striding along the pavement, and called to him, and made a friendly
little sign with her hand as the brougham passed close by a place where
he was waiting to cross the road. Robert did not seem to see either the
brougham nor the kind face inside that was smiling at him. Dorothea's
eyes suddenly filled up with tears.

'Boorish! Boorish!' cried Mrs. Palmer, putting up both hands. 'Robert is
like all other men, they leave you at any moment, Dolly--that is my
experience,--bitterly gained--without a servant even, and I have ever so
much more to do. There is Parkins and Grotto's for India-paper. If only
I had known that he was going to be so rude, I should have asked for old
Sam.' Mrs. Palmer was still greatly discomposed. 'Pray put up that
window, Dolly,' she said, 'and I do wish you would attend to those
parcels--they are falling off the seat.'

Dolly managed to wink away her tears as she bent over the parcels.
Forgive her for crying! This was her first quarrel with Robert, if
quarrel it could be called. She thought it over all the way home, surely
she had been right to do as her mother wished--why was Robert vexed?

Philippa was in a very bad humour all that evening She talked so
pathetically of a mother's feelings, and of the pangs of parting from
her child, that Lady Sarah for once was quite sorry for her--she got a
little shawl to put over Philippa's feet as she lay beating a tattoo
upon the sofa. As for Dolly, she had gone to bed early, very silent and
out of spirits.

That evening's post brought a couple of letters; one was from George to
his mother, written in his cranky, blotted handwriting:--

     _Cambridge: All Saints' College._

     DEAREST MAMMA,--I am coming up for a couple of days. I have,
     strange as it may sound, been working too hard. Tell Aunt
     Sarah. Love to Dolly.

     Yours affectionately,

     GEORGE.

The other was for Dolly, and Marker took it up to her in her room. This
letter flowed in even streams of black upon the finest hot-pressed
paper:

     DEAREST DORA,--I was much disappointed that you would not come
     with me, and condemned me to that solitary walk. I hope that a
     day may come, before very long, when your duty and your
     pleasures may seem less at variance to you than at present;
     otherwise I can see little chance of happiness in our future
     life.

     Yours,

     R. V. H.

'Was he still vexed?' Dolly, who had relented the moment she saw the
handwriting, wrote him a little note that evening, by moonlight, and
asked Marker to post it.

     I could not leave Mamma all alone (she wrote). I wanted to walk
     home with you--couldn't you see that I did? I shall expect you
     to come to luncheon to-morrow, and we will go wherever you
     like.--D.

Dolly lay awake after this for a long moonlight hour. She was living in
what people call the world of feeling. She was absorbed, she was happy,
but it was a happiness with a reserve in it. It was peace indeed, but
Dolly was too young, her life had been too easy, for peace to be
all-sufficient to her. She had found out, by her new experience, that
Robert loved her, but in future that he would rule her too. In her life,
so free hitherto, there would be this secret rule to be obeyed, this
secret sign. Dolly did not know whether on the whole she liked the
thought, or whether she resented it. She had never spoken of it, even to
Robert. 'You see you have to do as you are told,' Henley sometimes said;
he meant it in fun, but Dorothea instinctively felt that there was truth
in his words--he was a man who held his own. He was not to be changed by
an impulse. Dolly, conscious of some hidden weakness in her own nature,
deified obstinacy, as many a woman has done before her, and made excuses
out of her own loving heart for Henley's selfish one.

It was summer still, though August had come again; the Virginian
creepers along the west wall glowed; crimson-tinted leaves fell in
golden rain, the gardener swept up golden dollars and fairy money into
heaps and carted them away; the geraniums put out shoots; the creepers
started off upon excursions along the gravel-paths: it was a comfortable
old-fashioned world, deep-coloured, russet-tinted, but the sun was hot
still and burning, and Dolly dressed herself in white, and listened to
every bell.

The day passed, however, without any sign of Robert, or any word from
him. But George walked in just as they were sitting down to luncheon. He
looked very pale and yellow, and he had black lines under his eyes. He
had been staying down at Cambridge, actually reading for a scholarship
that Raban had advised his trying for. It was called the Bulbul
scholarship for Oriental languages, and it had been founded by an
enlightened Parsee, who had travelled in Europe in shiny boots and an
oilskin hat, and who had been so well received at Cambridge that he
wished to perpetuate his name there.

George had taken up Persian some time ago, when he should have been
reading mathematics. He was fond of quoting the 'Roubaiyát' of Omar
Khayyám, of which the beautiful English version had lately appeared. It
was this poem, indeed, which had set him to study the original. He had a
turn for languages, and a fair chance of success, Raban said, if he
would only go to bed, and not sit up all night, with soda-water and wet
towels round his head. This time he had nearly made himself ill, by
sitting up three nights in succession, and the doctor had him sent home
for a holiday.

'My dear child, what a state your complexion is in! How ill you look!'
said his mother. 'It is all those horrid examinations!'

Restless George wandered out into the garden after dinner, and Dolly
followed him. She began to water her roses in the cool of the evening,
and George filled the cans with water from the tank and brought them to
her. Splashing and overflowing, the water lapped into the dry earth and
washed the baked stems of the rose-trees. George said suddenly, 'Dolly,
do you ever see Raban now, and do you still snub him?'

'I don't snub him,' said Dolly, blushing. 'He does not approve of me,
George. He is so bitter, and he never seems satisfied.'

George began to recite--

    'Ah, love! could you and I with fate conspire
    To grasp this sorry Scheme of Things entire.
      Would we not shatter it to bits, and then
    Remould it nearer to the Heart's Desire?

There is Robert at last, Dolly.'

Dolly looked wonderingly at her brother. He had spoken so pointedly,
that she could not help wondering what he meant; but the next moment she
had sprung forward to meet Henley, with a sweet face alight.

'Oh, Robert, why have you been so long coming? she said. 'Did you not
get my note?'



CHAPTER XXIX.

UNDER THE GREAT DOME.

    Fantasio--'Je n'en suis pas, je n'en suis pas.'

    --A. de Musset.


The wedding was fixed for the middle of September. In October they were
to sail.

Dolly was to be married at the Kensington parish church. Only yesterday
the brown church was standing--to-day a white phoenix is rising from
its ashes. The old people and the old prayers seem to be passing away
with the brown walls. One wonders as one looks at the rising arches what
new tides of feeling will sweep beneath them, what new teachings and
petitions, what more instant charity, what more practical faith and
hope. One would be well content to see the old gates fall if one might
deem that these new ones were no longer to be confined by bolts of human
adaptation, against which, day by day, the divine decrees of mutation
and progress strike with blows that are vibrating through the aisles,
drowning the voice of the teachers, jarring with the prayers of the
faithful.

As the doors open wide, the congregations of this practical age in the
eternity of ages, see on the altars of to-day new visions of the time.
Unlike those of the fervent and mystical past, when kneeling anchorites
beheld, in answer to their longing prayers, pitiful saints crowned with
roses and radiant with light, and vanishing away, visions of hearts on
fire and the sacred stigmata, the rewards of their life-long penance;
to-day, the Brother whom we have seen appears to us in the place of
symbols of that which it hath not entered into the heart of man to
conceive. The teaching of the Teacher, as we understand it now, is
translated into a new language of daily toil and human sympathy; our
saints are the sinners helped out of the mire; our visions do not
vanish; our heavenly music comes to us in the voices of the
school-children; surely it is as sweet as any that ever reached the
enraptured ears of penitents in their cells.

If people are no longer on their knees as they once were, and if some
are afraid and cry out that the divine images of our faith are waxing
dimmer in their niches; if in the Calvaries of these modern times we
still see truth blasphemed, thieves waiting on their crosses of
ignorance and crime, sick people crying for help, and children weeping
bitterly, why should we be afraid if people, rising from their knees,
are setting to their day's work with honest and loving hearts, and
going, instead of saying, 'I go,' and remaining and crying, 'Lord,
Lord.'

Once Dolly stopped to look at the gates as she was walking by, thinking,
not of Church reform, in those old selfish days of hers, but of the new
life that was so soon to begin for her behind those baize doors, among
the worm-eaten pews and the marble cherubs, under the window, with all
the leaden-patched panes diverging. She looked, flushed up, gathered her
grey skirts out of the mud, and went on with her companion.

The old days were still going on, and she was the old Dolly that she was
used to. But there was this difference now. At any time, at any hour,
coming into a room suddenly she never knew but that she might find a
letter, a summons, some sign of the new existence, and interests that
were crowding upon her. She scarcely believed in it all at times; but
she was satisfied. She was walking with her hand on Robert's strong arm.
She could trust to Robert--she could trust herself. She sometimes
wondered to find herself so calm. Robert assured her that, when people
_really_ loved each other, it was always so; they were always calm, and,
no doubt, he was right.

The two were walking along the Sunday street on their way to St. Paul's.
Family groups and prayer-books were about: market-carts, packed with
smiles and ribbons, were driving out in a long train towards the river.
Bells far and near were ringing fitfully. There is no mistaking the day
as it comes round, bringing with it a little ease into the strain of
life, a thought of peace and home-meeting and rest, and the echo of a
psalm outside in the City streets, as well as within its churches.

Robert called a hansom, and they drove rapidly along the road towards
town. The drifting clouds and lights across the parks and streets made
them look changed from their usual aspect. As they left the suburbs and
drove on towards the City, Henley laughed at Dorothea's enthusiasm for
the wet streets, of which the muddy stones were reflecting the lights of
a torn and stormy sky. St. Clement's spire rose sharp against a cloud,
the river rolled, fresh blown by soft winds, towards the east, while the
lights fell upon the crowding house-tops and spires. Dolly thought of
her moonlight drive with her mother. Now, everything was alight and
awake again; she alone was dreaming, perhaps. As they went up a steep
crowded hill the horse's feet slipped at every step. 'Don't be afraid,
Dora,' said Robert, protectingly. Then they were driving up a straiter
and wider street, flooded with this same strange light, and they
suddenly saw a solemn sight; of domes and spires uprearing; of mist, of
stormy sky. There rose the mighty curve, majestically flung against the
dome of domes! The mists drifting among these mountains and pinnacles of
stone only seemed to make them more stately.

'Robert, I never knew how beautiful it was,' said Dolly. 'How glad I am
we came! Look at that great dome and the shining sky. It is like--"see
how high the heavens are in comparison with the earth!"'

'I forget the exact height,' said Robert. 'It is between three and four
hundred feet. You see the ball up at the top--they say that twenty-four
people----'

'I know all that, Robert,' said Dolly, impatiently. 'What does it
matter?'

'I thought it might interest you,' said Robert, slightly huffed, 'since
you appear to be so little acquainted with St. Paul's. It is very fine,
of course; but I myself have the bad taste to prefer Gothic
architecture; it is far more suitable to our church. There is something
painfully--how shall I express it?--paganish about these capitals and
pilasters.'

'But that is just what I mean,' said Dolly, looking him full in the
face. 'Think of the beautiful old thoughts of the Pagans helping to pile
up a Cathedral here now. Don't you think,' she said, hesitating, and
blushing at her own boldness, 'that it is like a voice from a long way
off coming and harmonising now with ours? Robert, imagine building a
curve that will make some one happy thousands of years afterwards....'

'I am glad it makes _you_ happy, my dear Dorothea. I tell you I have the
bad taste not to admire St. Paul's,' Robert repeated; 'but here is the
rain, we had better make haste.'

They had come to an opening in the iron railings by this time, and
Robert led the way--a stately figure--climbing the long flight of
weather-worn steps that go circling to the peristyle. Dolly followed
slowly: as she ascended, the lights seemed to uprise, the columns to
stand out more boldly.

'Come in,' Robert said, lifting up the heavy leather curtain.

Dolly gave one look at the city at her feet, flashing with the many
lights and shadows of the impending storm, and then she followed him
into the great Cathedral.

They were late. The evening service was already begun, and a voice was
chanting and ringing from column to column. 'Rejoice in the Lord alway,'
it sang, 'and again I say, again I say unto you, rejoice! rejoice!' A
number of people were standing round a grating, listening to the voice,
but an old verger, pleased with the looks of the two young people,
beckoned to them and showed them up a narrow stair into a little oaken
gallery, whence they could look down upon the echoing voice and the
great crowd of people listening to it; many lights were burning, for it
was already dark within the building. Here a light fell, there the
shadow threw some curve into sudden relief; the rolling mist that hung
beyond the distant aisles and over the heads seemed like a veil, and
added to the mystery. The music, the fire, the arches overhead, made
Dolly's heart throb. The Cathedral itself seemed like a great holy heart
beating in the midst of the city. Once, when Dolly was a child in the
green ditch, her heart had overflowed with happiness and gratitude; here
she was a woman, and the future had not failed her--here were love and
faith to make her life complete--all the vibration of fire and music,
and the flow of harmonious lines, to express what was beyond words.

'Oh! Robert, what have we done to be so happy?' she whispered, when the
service was over and they were coming away in the crowd. 'It almost
frightens me,' the girl said.

Robert did not hear her at first; he was looking over the people's
heads, for the clouds had come down, and the rain was falling heavily.

'Frighten you,' said Robert presently, opening his umbrella; 'take my
arm, Dolly; what is there to frighten you? I don't suppose we are any
happier than other people under the same circumstances. Come this way;
let us get out of the crowd.'

Robert led the girl down a narrow lane closed by an iron gate. It looked
dark and indistinct, although the west still shone with changing lights.
Dolly stood up under a doorway, while the young man walked away down the
wet flags to look for a cab to take them home. The rain fell upon the
pavement, upon the stone steps where Dolly was standing, and with fresh
cheeks blooming in the mist, and eyes still alight with the radiance and
beauty of the psalm she had been singing in her heart. 'I don't suppose
we are any happier than other people.' She wished Robert had not said
that, it seemed cold, ungrateful almost. The psalm in her ears began to
die away to the dull patter of the rain as it fell. What was it that
came to Dolly as she stood in the twilight of the doorway--a sudden
chill coming she knew not from whence--some one light put out on the
altar?

Dolly, strung to some high quivering pitch, felt a sudden terror. It was
nothing; a doubt of a doubt--a fear of a terror--fearing what--doubting
whom?

'The service was very well performed,' said Robert, coming up. 'I have
got you a cab.' He helped her in, and then, as he seated himself beside
her, began again: 'We shall not have many more opportunities of
attending the Cathedral service before we start.'

Dolly was very silent; Robert talked on. He wondered at her seeming want
of interest, and yet he had only talked to her about her plans and
things that she must have cared to hear. 'I shall know definitely about
our start to-morrow, or the day after,' he said, as the cab drew up at
the door of Church House. Poor Dolly! She let him go into the
drawing-room alone, and ran up to her own little nest upstairs. The
thought of the possible nearness of her departure had suddenly
overwhelmed her. When it was still far off she had never thought about
it. Now she sat down on the low window-sill, leant her head against the
shutter, and watched the last light die out above the ivy wall. The
garden shadows thickened; the night gathered slowly; Dolly's heart beat
sadly, oh! how sadly. What hopeless feeling was this that kept coming
over her again and again? coming she knew not from what recesses of the
empty room, from behind the fleeting clouds, from the secret chambers of
her traitorous heart? The voice did not cease persecuting. 'So much of
you that lives now,' it said, 'will die when you merge your life into
Robert's. So much love will be more than he will want. He takes but a
part of what you have to give.' The voice was so distinct that she
wondered whether Marker, who came in to put away her things, would hear
it. Did she love Robert? Of course she loved him. There was his ring
upon her finger. She could hear his voice sounding from the hall
below.... Were they not going off alone together to a lonely life,
across a tempestuous sea? For a moment she stood lost, and forgetting
that her feet were still upon the home-hearth and that the far-off sea
was still beating upon distant shores. Then she started up impatiently,
she would not listen any more. With a push to the door she shut her
doubts up in the cupboard where she was used to hang her cloak, and then
she came slowly down the wooden stairs to the oak-room below.

Dolly found a candle alight, a good deal of darkness, some conversation,
a sofa drawn out with her mamma reposing upon it, Robert writing at a
table to Mrs. Palmer's dictation.

'My child,' said Mrs. Palmer, 'come here. You have been to St. Paul's. I
have been alone the whole afternoon. Your Aunt Sarah never comes near
me. I am now getting this dear fellow to write and order a room for us
at Kingston. I told you of my little plan. He is making all the
arrangements. It is to be a little _festa_ on my husband's birthday;
shall we say Tuesday, if fine, Robert? The Admiral will hear of it, and
understand that we do not forget him. People say I have no resentment in
my nature. It is as well, perhaps, that I should leave untasted a few of
the bitter dregs of my hard lot,' continued Mrs. Palmer, cheerfully.
'Have you written to Raban, Robert? My George would wish him
remembered.'

'Oh, don't let us have Raban, Aunt Philippa,' said Robert. 'There will
be Morgan, and George, and your little friend Rhoda will like to
come,--and any one else?'

'I am thankful to say that Mrs. Morgan and those dreadful two girls are
going into the country for two days; that is one reason for fixing upon
Tuesday,' says Mrs. Palmer. 'I don't want them, Dolly, dearest. Really
the society your poor aunt lives in is something too ludicrous. She will
be furious; I have not dared tell her, poor creature. I have accepted an
invitation for you on Wednesday. Colonel Witherington's sister, in Hyde
Park Gardens, has a large dinner-party. She has asked us all three in
the kindest manner. Colonel Witherington called himself with the note
this afternoon. I wanted him to stay to dinner. I'm afraid your aunt was
vexed. Robert, while you are about it, just write a line for us all to
Mrs. Middleton.'

Robert wrote Mrs. Palmer's notes, sealed, and stamped them, and,
betweenwhiles, gave a cheerful little description of their expedition.
'Dolly was delighted with the service,' said he; 'but I am afraid she is
a little tired.' Then he got up and pulled an arm-chair for her up to
the fire, and then he went back and finished putting up Mrs. Palmer's
correspondence. He was so specially kind that evening, cheerful, and
nice to Mrs. Palmer, doing her behests so cleverly and naturally, that
Dolly forgot her terrors and wondered what evil spirit had possessed
her. She began to feel warm and happy once more, and hopeful, and she
was unaffectedly sorry when Henley got up and said he must go.

He was no sooner gone and the door shut than Mrs. Palmer said,
languidly, 'I think I should like Frank Raban to be asked, poor fellow.
It will please Rhoda, at all events.'

Dolly blushed up crimson. She had not seen Frank since that curious
little talk she had had with George.

'But Robert doesn't wish it, mamma,' said Dolly.

'Nonsense, child. I wish it. Robert is not your husband yet,' said Mrs.
Palmer; 'and if he were----'

'Shall I bring you a pen and ink?' Dolly asked, shyly.

'Just do as I tell you, dearest,' said her mother, crossly. 'Write,
"Dear Mr. Raban,--My mother desires me to write and tell you with what
pleasure she would welcome you on Tuesday next, if you would join a
small expedition we are meditating, a water-party, in honour of Admiral
Palmer's 57th birthday."'

'That is not a bit like one of my letters,' said Dolly, finishing
quickly. 'Where can Aunt Sarah be?'

'I am sure I don't know, my dear. She left in the rudest manner when
Witherington called. I have seen nothing of her.'

Lady Sarah was sitting upstairs alone--oh, how alone!--in the cheerless
bed-room overhead, where she used to take her griefs and her sad
mistrusts. They seemed to hang from the brown faded curtains by the
window; they seemed to haunt all round the bed, among its washed-out
draperies; they were ranged along the tall chimney-piece in bottles.
Here is morphia and chlorodyne, or its equivalent of those days; here is
the 'linament'--linament for a strained heart! chloroform for anxious
love! Are not each one of those the relics of one or another wound,
reopening again and again with the strains of the present. Sarah's hands
are clasped and her head is bent forward as she sits in this
half-darkness--leaden grey without, chill within--by the empty hearth.
Did Robert love Dolly? Had he love in him? Had she been right to see him
through Dolly's eyes?

Just then the door opens, and Dolly, flushed, brightening the dull
twilight, comes into the room.

'Come down directly, you wicked woman,' she says. 'You will be catching
cold here all by yourself.'



CHAPTER XXX.

WAVE OR FLAME.

               And you have gained a ring.
    What of it? 'Tis a figure, a symbol, say
    A thing's sign.

    --R. Browning.


How sweet they are, those long sunset evenings on the river! the stream,
flowing by swift and rippling, reflects the sky--sometimes, in the still
gleams and depths of dying light, it would seem as if the sky itself
reflected the waters. The distant woods stand out in bronzed shadow; low
sunset fires burn into dusk beyond the fringe of trees; sudden sweet
glooms fall upon the boats as they glide in and out by dim creeks and
ridges. Perhaps some barge travels past through the twilight, drawn by
horses tramping along the towing-path, and dragging against the sky. As
the boats float shorewards, peaceful sights and sounds are all about,
borne upon the flowing water.

'I am so sorry it is over,' said Dolly, tying on her straw hat.

The sun was setting, a little star was shining overhead, the last bird
had flown home to its nest. Robert pushed them right through a bed of
rustling reeds on their way to the landing-place. It was crowded with
dancing boats; many people were standing along the shore; the gables of
the 'Red Lion' had been all aglow for a few minutes past. They could
hear the laugh of a boating-party scrambling to land. Here and there
heads were peeping from the bridge, from the landing-places and windows;
some twinkled with the last sunset gleams, others with lights already
burning. Dolly had been silent for the last half-hour, scarcely
listening to its desultory talk. They had exchanged broadsides with
George and John Morgan in the other boat; but by degrees that
vigorously-manned craft had outrun them, rounded a corner, and left them
floating mid-stream. Robert was in no hurry, and Frank was absent, and
sometimes almost forgot to row. Looking up now and then, he saw Dolly's
sweet face beaming beneath her loose straw hat, with Hampton Court and
all its prim terraces for a background.

'You are not doing your share of the work, Raban, by any means,' said
Robert, labouring and not over-pleased.

'Oh, let us float,' murmured Mrs. Palmer. She was leaning over the side
of the boat, weighing it heavily down, and dabbling one fat white hand
in the water; with the other she was clasping Dolly's stiff young
fingers. 'Truant children!' she said, 'you don't know your own
happiness. How well I remember one evening just like this, Dolly, when
your papa and I were floating down the Hooghly; and, now that I think of
it, my Admiral Palmer was with us--he was captain then. How little we
either of us thought in those days. The Palmers are so close one needs a
lifetime to understand their ways. I should like to show you a letter,
Mr. Raban, that I received only this morning from my sister-in-law,
Joanna--was that a fish or a little bit of stick? Sweet calm! Robert, I
am thankful you have never been entangled by one of those ugly girls at
Smokethwaite. I know Joanna and her----'

'There was never any thought, I assure you,' interrupted Robert, not
displeased, and unable to refrain from disclaiming the accusation. 'My
aunt has always been most kind; she would never have wished to influence
my inclinations--she is very much tried just now, parting from Jonah,
who joins his regiment immediately. They are coming up to London with
him next Saturday.'

'Ah! I know what it is to part from one's child,' said Philippa, tapping
Dolly's fingers. 'I am glad to hear Joanna shows _any_ feeling. My
Dolly, if it were not to Robert, who is so thoughtful, should I be able
to bear the thought of parting from you? Take care--pray take care. You
are running into this gentleman's boat. Push off--push off. Ah! ah!
thank you, Mr. Raban. Look, there is John Morgan. I wish he were here to
steer us.'

'Don't be frightened, dear,' said Dolly, still holding her mother's
hand, as the little rocking-boat made towards the steps, where John
Morgan was standing welcoming them all with as much heartiness as if
they were returning from some distant journey, and had not met for
years. Some people reserve themselves for great occasions, instead of
spending their sympathies lavishly along the way. Good old John
certainly never spared either sympathy or the expression of his hearty
good-will. I don't know that the people, who sometimes smiled at his
honest exuberances, found that he was less reliable when greater need
arose, because he had been kind day after day about nothing at all. He
saved Mrs. Palmer from a ducking on this occasion, as she precipitately
flung herself out of the boat on to his toes. Frank Raban also jumped on
shore. Robert said he would take the _Sarah Anne_ back to her home in
the boat-house.

'Then I suppose Dolly will have to go too,' said Mrs. Palmer, archly;
and Dolly, with a blush and a smile, settled herself once more
comfortably on the low cushioned seat. She looked after her mother
trailing up the slope, leaning on the curate's arm, and waving farewells
until they passed by the garden-gate of the inn. Frank Raban was slowly
following them. Then Dolly and Robert were alone, and out on the river
again. The lightened boat swayed on the water. The air seemed to
freshen, the ripples flowed in from a distance, the banks slid by.
Robert smiled as he bent over the sculls. How often Dolly remembered the
last golden hour that came to her that day before the lights had died
away out of her sky, before the waters had risen, before her boat was
wrecked, and Robert far away out of the reach of her voice!

There were many other people coming back to the boat-house. The men were
busy, the landing was crowded, and the _Sarah Anne_ had to wait her
turn. Robert disliked waiting extremely. He also disliked the looks of
open admiration which two canoes were casting at the _Sarah Anne_.

'There are some big stones by the shore, Dolly,' said Robert. 'Do you
think you could manage to land?'

'Of course I can,' said active Dolly; 'and then you can tie the boat to
that green stake just beyond them.' As she stood up to spring on shore,
she looked round once more. Did some instinct tell her that this was the
end of it all, and the last of the happy hours? She jumped with steady
feet on to the wet stone, and stood balancing herself for a moment. The
water rippled to her feet as she stood, with both hands outstretched,
and her white dress fluttering, and all the light of youth and happiness
in her radiant face. And then with another spring she was on land.

'Well done!' said one of the canoes. Robert turned round with a fierce
look.

When he rejoined Dolly, he found her looking about in some distress.

'My ring, my pretty ring, Robert,' she said, 'I have dropped it.' It was
a ring he had given her the day before. Dolly had at last consented to
wear one, but this was large for her finger.

'You careless girl,' said Robert; 'here are your gloves and your
handkerchief. Do you know what that ring cost?'

'Oh, don't tell me,' said Dolly; 'something dreadful, I know.' And she
stood penitently watching Robert scrambling back into the boat, and
overthrowing and thumping the cushions. And yet, as she stood there, it
came into her mind how many treasures were hers just then, and that of
them all a ring was that which she could best bear to lose.

One of the canoes had come close into shore by this time, and the young
man, who was paddling with his two spades, called out, saying, 'Are you
looking for anything? Is it for this?' and carefully putting his hand
into the water he pulled out something shining. The ring had dropped off
Dolly's finger as she jumped, and was lying on a stone that was half in
and half out of the water, and near to the big one upon which she had
been standing.

'How very fortunate!' exclaimed Henley from the boat.

Miss Vanborough was pleased to get back her pretty trinket, and thanked
the young man with a very becoming blush.

'It is a very handsome coral,' Robert said; 'it would have been a great
pity to lose it. We must have it made smaller, Dora. It must not come
off again.'

Dolly was turning it round thoughtfully and looking at the Medusa head
carved and set in gold.

'Robert,' she said once more, 'does happiness never frighten you?'

'Never,' said Henley, smiling, as she looked up earnestly into his face.

The old town at Kingston, with its many corners and gables, has
something of the look of a foreign city heaped upon the river-side. The
garden of the old inn runs down with terraces to the water. A side-door
leads to the boat-houses. By daylight this garden is somewhat mouldy;
but spiders' webs do not obtrude on summer evenings, and the Londoners
who have come out of town for a breath of fresh air, stroll along the
terraces, and watch the stream as it flows, unconscious of their
serenity. They come here of summer evenings, and sit out in the little
arbours, or walk along the terraces and watch the boats drift with the
stream. If they look to the opposite banks they may see the cattle
rearing their horned heads upon the sunset, and the distant chestnut
groves and galleries of Hampton Court at the bend of the river.

Near the corner of one of these terraces, a little green weather-cocked
summer-house stands boldly facing the regattas in their season, and
beyond it again are a steep bank and some steps to a second terrace,
from whence there is the side-door leading to the boats.

On this particular evening Frank Raban came quietly zigzagging along
these terraces, perhaps with some vague hope of meeting Dorothea on her
return.

There are some years of one's life when one is less alive than at
others, as there are different degrees of strength and power to live in
the course of the same existence. Frank was not in the despairing state
in which we first knew him, but he was not yet as other people are, and
in hours of depression such as this, he was used to feel lonely and
apart. He was used to see other people happy, anxious, busy, hurrying
after one another, and he would look on as now, with his hands in his
pockets, not indifferent, but feeling as if Fate had put him down
solitary and silent, into the world--a dumb note (so he used to think)
in the great music. And yet he knew that the music was there--that
mighty human vibration which exists independent of all the dumb notes,
cracked instruments, rifted lutes, and broken lyres of which we hear so
much, and he had but to open his ears to it.

Two voices, anything but dumb, were talking inside the little
summer-house. Raban had scarcely noticed them as he came along,
listening with the vaguest curiosity, as people do, to reproaches and
emotions which do not concern them; but presently, as he approached the
summer-house, a tone struck him familiarly, and at the same instant he
saw a dark figure rush wildly from the little wooden house, and leap
right over the side of the terrace on to the path below; and then Frank
recognised the frantic action--it could only be George. A moment
afterwards a woman--he knew her too--came out of the summer-house and
stood for an instant panting against the doorway, leaning with her two
hands against the lintel. She looked pale, troubled; her hair was pushed
back from her white face; her eyes looked dark, beautiful. Never before
had Raban seen Rhoda (for it was Rhoda) so moved. When she saw him a
faint flush came into her cheeks. She came forward a few steps, then she
stopped short again.

She was dragging her silk mantle, which had fallen off. One end was
trailing after her along the gravel.

'Mr. Raban, is that you?' she said, in an agitated way. 'Why did you
come? Is it--is it nearly time to go? Is Mrs. Palmer come back? Oh,
_please_ take me to her!' And then she suddenly burst into tears, and
the long black silk mantle fell to the ground as she put out two
fluttering hands.

Raban had flung his cigar over the terrace after George.

'What is it?' he said, anxiously. 'Can I help you in any way? What has
happened?'

The young man spoke kindly, but in his usual matter-of-fact voice; and
Rhoda, even in her distress, wondered at his coldness. No one before
ever responded so calmly to whom she had appealed.

'Oh, you don't know,' she said; 'I can't tell you.' And the poor little
hands went up again with a desperate gesture.

Raban was very much touched; but, as I have said, he had little power of
showing his sympathy, and, foolish fellow, doing unto others as he would
be done by; he only said, 'I have guessed something before now, Miss
Parnell. I wish I could help you, with all my heart. Does not Miss
Vanborough know of this? Cannot _she_ advise...?'

Rhoda was in no mood to hear her friend's praises just then.

'Dolly, cried Rhoda, passionately, 'she would have every one sacrificed
to George. I _would_ love him if I could,' she said, piteously, 'but how
_can_ I? he frightens me and raves at me; how can I love him? Oh! Mr.
Raban, tell me that it is not wrong to feel thus?' And once more the
fluttering hands went up, and the dark wistful eyes gazed childishly,
piteously into his face. Rhoda was looking to Frank for the help that
should have come to her from her own heart; she dimly felt that she must
win him over, that if he would he could help her.

Rhoda pitied herself sincerely, she sobbed out her history to Frank with
many tears. 'How can I tell them all? she said; 'it will only make
wretchedness, and now it is only I who am unhappy.'

Was it only Rhoda who was unhappy? George, flying along the garden half
distracted, aching, repentant, might have told another story. She had
sent him away. He would do nothing that she wished, she said, he would
not accept the independence that Lady Sarah had offered him, Rhoda did
not believe in his love, she only wanted him to go, to leave her. Yes,
she meant it. And poor George had rushed away frantic and indignant. He
did not care where he went. He had some vague idea that he would get a
boat and row away for ever, but as he was hurrying headlong towards the
boat-house he saw Dorothea and Robert coming arm-in-arm up the little
path, and he turned and hurried back towards the inn. Dolly called to
him, but he did not answer. Rhoda had sent him away, poor Dolly could
not call him back. Robert shrugged his shoulders.

'Why do you do that?' said Dolly, annoyed; 'he looked quite ill.



CHAPTER XXXI.

A BOAT UPON THE WATER.

    Ich stand gelehnet an den Mast,
    Und zählte jede Welle.
    Ade mein schönes Vaterland,
    Mein Schiff, das segelt schnelle!

    Ich kam schon Liebchen's Haus vorbei,
    Die Fensterscheiben blinken;
    Ich guck' mir fast die Augen aus,
    Doch will mir Niemand winken.

    Ihr Thränen bleibt mir aus dem Aug,
    Dass ich nicht dunkel sehe.
    Mein krankes Herz, brich mir nicht
    Vor allzugrossem Wehe!

    --Heine.


George was shivering and sick at heart; the avenue led to a door that
opened into the bar of the hotel, and George went in and called for some
brandy. The spirits seemed to do him good; no one seeing a clumsy young
fellow in a boating dress tossing off one glassful of brandy after
another would have guessed at all the grief and passion that were
tearing at his poor foolish heart. Rhoda had sent him away. Had he
deserved this? Could not she read the truth? Poor timid faithless little
thing. Why had he been so fierce to her, why had he told her he was
jealous? George had a curious quickness of divination about others,
although he was blind about his own concerns. He had reproached Rhoda
because she had been talking to Frank, but he knew well enough that
Frank did not care for Rhoda. Poor child, did she know how it hurt him
when she shrank from him and seemed afraid? Ah! she would not have been
so cruel if she had known all. Thinking of it all he felt as if he had
had some little bird in his rough grasp, frightened it, and hurt its
wings. Then he suddenly said to himself that he would go back and find
his poor frightened bird and stroke it and soothe it, ask it to forgive
him. And then he left the place, and as hastily as he had entered; there
was a last glass of brandy untasted on the counter, and he hurried back
towards the terrace. He passed the window of the room where Mrs. Palmer
was ordering tea from the sofa. Dolly, who had just come in, saw him
pass by; she did not like his looks, and ran out after him, although
both Robert and her mother called her back. George did not see her this
time; he flew past the family groups sitting out in the warm twilight;
he came to the terrace where he had been a few minutes before, and where
the two were still standing--Raban, of whom he had said he was jealous,
Rhoda, whom he loved--the two were slowly advancing, Frank's square
shoulders dark against the light and Rhoda's slight figure bending
forward; she was talking to Raban as she had so often talked to George
himself, with that language of earnest eyes, tremulous tones, shrinking
movements--how well he knew it all. What was she saying? Was she
appealing to Frank to protect her from his love and despair, from the
grief that she had done her best to bring about? Rhoda laid her hand
upon Raban's arm in her agitation.

It maddened George beyond bearing, and he stamped his heavy foot upon
the gravel. Some people passing up from the boats stared at him, but
went on their way; and Frank, looking up, saw George coming up swinging
his angry arms; his eyes were fierce, his hat was pushed aside. He put
Rhoda aside very gently, and took a step forward between her and George,
who stood for a minute looking from one to another, as if he did not
understand, and then he suddenly burst out, with a fierce oath: 'Who
told you to put yourself in my way?' And, as he spoke, he struck a heavy
blow straight at Raban, who had barely time to parry it with his arm.

It was an instant's anger--one of those fatal minutes that undo days and
months and years that have gone before; and that blow of George's struck
Rhoda's feeble little fancy for him dead on the spot, as she gave a
shrill cry of 'For shame!' and sprang forward, and would have clung to
Raban's arm. That blow ached for many and many a day in poor Dorothea's
heart, for she saw it all from a turn of the path. As for Frank, he
recovered himself in an instant.

'Go back, George,' he said; 'I will speak to you presently.'

He did not speak angrily. His voice and the steady look of his resolute
eyes seemed to sober the poor reprobate. Not so Rhoda's cry of, 'Go, yes
go, for shame!'

'Go! What is it to you if I go or stay? Am I in your way?' shouts
George. 'Have you promised to marry him too? Have you tortured him too,
and driven him half mad, and then--and then----Oh, Rhoda, do you really
wish me gone?' he cried, breaking down.

There was a tone in his voice that touched Raban, for whom the cry was
not intended. Nothing would have melted Rhoda just then. She was angry
beyond all power of expression. She wanted him gone, she wanted him
silent; she felt as if she hated him.

'You are not yourself; you are not speaking the truth,' said the girl,
in a hard voice, drawing herself up. Then, as she spoke, all the brandy
and all the fury seemed to mount once more into George's head.

'I am myself, and that is why I leave you,' he shouts, 'you are
heartless: you have neither love nor charity in you, and now I leave
you. Do you hear me?' he cried, getting louder and louder.

Any one could hear. Dolly could hear as she came hurrying up from the
end of the terrace to the spot where her poor boy stood shouting out his
heart's secret to unwilling ears. More than one person had stopped to
listen to the angry voice. The placid stillness of the evening seemed to
carry its echo along the dusky garden bowers, out upon the water flowing
down below. Some boatmen had stopped to listen; one or two people were
coming up through the twilight.

'He is not sober,' said Rhoda to Dolly. She spoke with a sort of cold
disgust.

Dolly hardly heard her at the time. All she saw then was her poor
George, with his red angry face--Frank trying to pacify him. Should she
ever forget the miserable scene? For long years after it used to rise
before her; she used to dream of it at night--of the garden, the river,
the figures advancing in the dark.

Dolly ran up to her brother, and instinctively put out her arms as if to
shield him from every one.

'Come, dear; come with me,' she said flurriedly; 'don't let them see you
like this.'

'It would shock their elegant susceptibilities,' cries the irrepressible
George; 'it don't shock them to see a woman playing fast-and-loose with
a poor wretch who would have given his life for her--yes, his life, and
his love, and his heart's blood!'

Dolly had got her arms tight round George by this time. She had a
shrinking dread of Henley seeing him so--he might be coming, she
thought.

'Robert might see you. Oh, George, please come,' she whispered, still
clinging to him; and suddenly, to Dolly's surprise, George collapsed,
with a sigh. His furious fit was over, and he let his sister lead him
where she would.

'Go down by the river-side,' said Raban, coming after them; 'there are
too many people the other way.' He spoke in a grave, anxious tone, and
as the brother and sister went their way, he looked after them for a
moment. Dolly had got her arm fast linked in George's. The young man was
walking listlessly by her side. They neither of them looked back; they
went down the steps and disappeared.

The place was all deserted by this time; the disturbance being over, the
boatmen had gone on their way. George and Dolly went and sat down upon a
log which had been left lying near the water-side; they were silent;
they could see each other's faces, but little more. He sat crouching
over with his chin resting on his hands. Dolly was full of compassion,
and longing to comfort; but how could she comfort? Such pain as his was
not to be eased by words spoken by another person. When George began to
speak at last, his voice sounded so sad and so jarred from its usual
sweetness that Dorothea was frightened, as if she could hear in it the
echo of a coming trouble.

'I wanted that woman to love me,' he said. 'Dolly, you don't know how I
loved her.' He was staring at the stream with his starting eyes, and
biting his nails. 'We have no luck, either of us,' he said; 'I don't
deserve any, but you do. Tell Frank I'm sorry I struck him; she had made
me half mad; she looks at me with those great eyes of hers, and says,
"Go!" and she makes me mad: she does it to them all.... But now I have
left her! left her! left her!' repeated ugly George, with a sort of sob.
'What does she care?' and he got up and shook himself, as a big dog
might have done, and went out a step into the twilight, and then came
back.

'Thank you, old Dolly, for your goodness,' he said, standing before her.
'I can't face them all again, and Robert with his confounded
supercilious airs. I beg your pardon, Dolly; don't look angry. I see how
good you are, and I see,' he said, staring her full in the face, 'that
we have been both running our heads against a wall.'

He walked on a little way, and Dolly followed. She could not answer him
just then. She felt with a pang that George and Robert would never be
friends; that she must love them apart; even in heart she must keep them
asunder.

They had come to the place where not an hour ago she had jumped ashore.
The boat was still there, as they had left it--tied to the stake. The
boatmen were at supper, and had not yet taken it in. 'What are you
doing?' said Dolly, as George stopped, and began to untie the rope;
'George, be careful.'

'The fresh air will do me good,' he said; 'don't be afraid; I'll take
care, if you wish it;' then he nodded, and got into the boat, where the
sculls were lying, and he began to shove off with a rattle of the keel
upon the shore. 'I will leave the boat at Teddington,' he said, 'and
walk home. Good-night! good-by!' he said. A boatman hearing the voices,
came out of the boat-house close by, and while Dolly was explaining, the
boat started off with a dull plash of oars falling upon dark waters.
George was rowing very slowly, his head was turned towards the garden of
the inn. There were lights in the windows, and figures coming and going;
the water swirled against the wall of the terrace; the scent of the
autumnal flowers seemed to fill the air and to stifle him as he passed;
a bird chirped from the darkness of some overhanging bushes. He could
hear his mother's voice: 'Robert! it is getting late; why don't they
come in to tea? I must say it is nasty stuff, and not to compare to that
delicious Rangoon flavour.' He paused for a moment; her voice died away,
and then all was silent. The evening was growing chill; some mists were
rising. George felt the cool damp wind against his hot brow as he rowed
doggedly on--past the lights of the windows of the inn, past the town,
under the darkness of the bridge.

He left them all behind, and his life and his love, he thought, and his
mad passion; and himself, and Dolly, and Rhoda, and all the hopeless
love he longed for and that was never to be his. There were other things
in life. So he rowed away into the darkness with mixed anger and peace
in his heart. What would Rhoda say when she heard he was gone? Nothing
much! He knew her well enough to know that Dolly would understand, but
her new ties would part them more entirely than absence or silence.

There is a song of Schubert's I once heard a great singer sing. As she
sang, the dull grey river flowed through the room, the bright lamp-lit
walls opened out, the mists of a closing darkness surrounded us, the
monotonous beat of the rowlocks kept time to the music, and the man
rowed away, and silence fell upon the waters.

So Dolly stood watching the boat as it disappeared along the dark wall;
for a time she thought she heard the plash of the oars out upon the
water, and a dark shade gliding away past the wharves, and the houses
that crowd down to the shore.

She was saying her prayers for her poor boy as she walked back slowly to
join the others. Robert met her with a little remonstrance for having
hidden away so long. She took his arm and clung to it for a minute,
trembling, with her heart beating. 'Oh! Robert; you won't let things
come between us?' said the girl greatly moved; 'my poor George is so
unhappy. He is to blame, but Rhoda has been hard upon him. Have you
guessed it all?' 'My dear Dolly,' said Robert, gravely, 'Rhoda has told
us everything. She is most justly annoyed. She is quite overcome. She
has just gone home with her uncle, and I must say....'

'Don't, don't say anything,' said Dolly, passionately bursting into
tears, and her heart went out after her poor George rowing away along
the dark river.



CHAPTER XXXII.

TRUST ME.

    How tired we feel, my heart and I!

    --E. B. Browning.


The much-talked-of tea was standing, black as the waters of oblivion, in
the teapot when they rejoined Mrs. Palmer. Philippa was sitting
tête-à-tête with Raban, and seemed chiefly perturbed at having been kept
waiting, and because John Morgan had carried off Rhoda.

'I can't think why he did it,' said Mrs. Palmer, crossly; 'it is much
pleasanter all keeping together, and it is too silly of that little
Rhoda to make such a disturbance. As if George would have said anything
to annoy her with all of us present. Tell me, what did really happen,
Robert? Why was I not sent for?'

'I am afraid George was a good deal to blame,' said Robert, in a
confidential voice. 'I only came up after the fracas, but, from what I
hear, I am afraid he had been drinking at the bar. Dolly can tell you
more than I can, for she was present from the beginning.'

Dolly was silent: she could not speak. Frank looked at her and saw her
blush painfully. He was glad that Miss Vanborough should be spared any
farther explication, and that Mrs. Palmer beckoned him into a window to
tell him that the Admiral had the greatest horror of intemperance, and
that she remembered a fearful scene with a kitmutghar who had drained
off a bottle of her eau-de-Cologne. 'Dear George, unfortunately, was of
an excitable disposition. As for the poor Admiral, he is perfectly
ungovernable when he is roused,' said Mrs. Palmer, in her heroic manner.
'I have seen strong men like yourself, Mr. Raban, turn pale before him.
I remember a sub-lieutenant trembling like an aspen leaf: he had
neglected to call my carriage. Is it not time to be off? Dolly, what
have I done with my little blue shawl? You say George is _not_ coming?'

'Here is your little blue shawl, mamma,' said Dolly, wearily. She was
utterly dispirited: she could not understand her mother's indifference,
nor Robert's even flow of conversation: she forgot that they did not
either of them realise how serious matters had been.

'It is really too naughty of George,' was all that Mrs. Palmer said;
'and, now that I think of it, he certainly told me he might have to go
back to Cambridge to-night, so we may not see him again. Mr. Raban, if
you see him, tell him----But, I forgot,' with a gracious smile, 'we meet
you to-morrow at the Middletons'. Robert tells me my brother and his
family are come to town this week. It will be but a painful meeting I
fear. Dolly, remind me to call there in the morning. They have taken a
house in Dean's Yard, of all places. And there is Madame Frisette at
nine. How tiresome those dressmakers are.'

'Is Madame Frisette at work for Dorothea?' asked Robert, with some
interest.

Dolly did not reply, nor did she seem to care whether Madame Frisette
was at work or not. She sat leaning back in her corner, with two hands
lying listless in her lap, pale through the twilight. Frank Raban, as he
looked at her, seemed to know, almost as if she had told him in words,
what was passing in her mind. His jealous intuition made him understand
it all, he knew too, as well as if Robert had spoken, something of what
he was _not_ feeling. They went rolling on through the dusk, between
villas and dim hedges and nursery-gardens, beyond which the evening
shadows were passing; and all along the way it seemed to Dolly that she
could hear George's despairing voice ringing beyond the mist, and,
haunted by this echo, she could scarcely listen with any patience to her
companion's ripple of small talk, to Mrs. Palmer's anecdotes of Captains
and Colonels and anticipation of coming gaiety and emotions. What a
season was before her! The Admiral's return, Dolly's marriage, Lady
Henley's wearing insinuations--she dreaded to think of it all.

'You must call for us to-morrow at half-past seven, Robert, and take us
to the Middletons'. I couldn't walk into the room alone with Dolly. I
suppose Joanna, too, will be giving some at-homes. I shall have to go,
however little inclined I may feel.'

'It is always well to do what other people do,' said Robert; 'it answers
much best in the long run.'

He did not see Dolly's wondering look. Was this the life Dolly had
dreamt of? a sort of wheel of common-place to which poor unquiet souls
were to be bound, confined by platitudes, and innumerable threads, and
restrictions, and silences. She had sometimes dreamt of something more
meaningful and truer, something responding to her own nature, a life
coming straighter from the heart. She had not counted much on happiness.
Perhaps she had been too happy to wish for happiness; but to-night it
occurred to her again what life might be--a life with a truth in it and
a genuine response and a nobler scheme than any she had hitherto
realised.

Frank heard a sigh coming from her corner. They were approaching the
street where he wanted to be set down, and he, too, had something in his
mind, which he felt he must say before they parted. As he wished
Dorothea good-night he found a moment to say, in a low voice, 'I hope
you may be able to tell Lady Sarah everything that has happened, without
reserve. Do trust me. It will be best for all your sakes;' and then he
was gone before Dolly could answer.

'What did he say?' said Robert Henley. 'Are you warm enough, Dolly? Will
you have a shawl?'

He spoke so affectionately that she began to wonder whether it was
because they were not alone that he had been cold and disappointing.

They reached the house, and old Sam came to the door and Robert helped
to unpack the wrecks of the day's pleasures--the hampers, and umbrellas,
and armfuls of crumpled muslins. Then the opportunity came for Robert to
be impulsive if he chose, for Mrs. Palmer floated upstairs with her
candle to say good-night to Lady Sarah. She was kissing her hand over
the banisters, and dropping all the wax as she went along.

Robert came up to Dolly, who was standing in the hall. 'Good-night,' he
said. 'It might have been a pleasant day upon the whole if it had not
been for George. You must get him to apologise to Rhoda, Dora. I mean to
speak very plainly to him when I see him next.'

His calmness exasperated her as he stood there with his handsome face
looking down a little reproachfully at her flushed cheeks and sparkling
eyes.

'Speaking won't do a bit of good, Robert,' she said, hastily. 'Pray
don't say much to him----'

'I wonder when you will learn to trust me, Dora,' said her cousin taking
her hand. 'How shall we ever get on unless you do?'

'I am sure I don't know,' Dolly answered, wearily; 'we don't seem to
want the same things, Robert, or to be going together a bit.'

'What do you mean?' said Henley. 'You are tired and out of spirits
to-night.'

With a sudden reaction Dolly caught hold of his arm, with both hands.
'Robert! Robert! Robert!' she said, holding him fast and looking as if
she could transform him with her eyes to be what she wanted.

'Silly child,' he answered, 'I don't think you yourself know what you
want. Good-night. Don't forget to be ready in time to-morrow.'

Then he was gone, having first looked for his umbrella, and the door
banged upon Robert and the misty stars, and Dolly remained standing at
the foot of the stairs. Frank Raban's words had borne fruit as sensible
words should do. 'Trust me,' he had said; and Henley had used the same
phrase, only with Robert 'Trust me' meant believe that I cannot be
mistaken; with Frank 'Trust me' meant trust in truth in yourself and in
others. Dolly, with one of those quick impulses which come to
impressionable people, suddenly felt that he was right. All along she
had been mistaken. It would have been better, far better, from the
beginning, to have told Lady Sarah everything. She had been blinded,
over-persuaded. Marker came up to shut bolts and put out the lights.
Dolly looked up, and she went and laid her tired head on the old nurse's
shoulder, and clung to her for an instant.

'Is anything the matter, my dearie?' said Marker.

'Nothing new,' Dolly said. 'Marker, George is not come home. I have so
much to say to him! Don't bolt the door, and please leave a light.'

But George did not come home that night, although the door was left
unbolted and the light kept burning on purpose. When the morning came
his bed was folded smooth, and everything looked straight and silent in
his room, which was orderly as places are when the people are away who
inhabit them.



CHAPTER XXXIII.

CIRCUMSTANCE.

    The largest minds, still earthward bent, are small,
    Who, knowing much, are ignorant of all.

    --Hamilton Aide.


For some days before the picnic Mrs. Palmer and Julie had been absorbed
in the preparation of two beautiful garments that were to be worn at
Mrs. Middleton's dinner, and at a ball at Bucklersbury House, for which
Mrs. Palmer was expecting an invitation. Lady Sarah had written at her
request to ask for one. Meanwhile the dresses had been growing under
Julie's art; throwing out fresh flounces and trimmings, and ribbons,
hour by hour, until they had finally come to perfection, and were now
lying side by side on the bed in the spare room, ready to be tried on
for the last time.

'Must it be _now_, mamma?' said Dolly. 'Breakfast is just ready, and
Aunt Sarah will be waiting.'

'Julie, go downstairs and beg Lady Sarah not to wait,' said Mrs. Palmer,
with great decision.

Julie came back, saying that Miss Rhoda was with Lady Sarah below, and
asking for Miss Dolly.

'Presently,' said Mrs. Palmer. 'Very pretty, indeed, Julie!' Then she
suddenly exclaimed, 'You cannot imagine what it is, Dolly, to be linked
to one so utterly uncongenial, you who are so fortunate in our dear
Robert's perfect sympathy and knowledge of London life. He quite agrees
with me in my wish that you should be introduced. Admiral Palmer hates
society, except to preach at it--such a pity, is it not! I assure you,
strange as it may seem, I quite dread his return.'

Dolly stood bolt upright, scarcely conscious of the dress or the pins,
or her mother's monologue. She was still thinking over the great
determination she had come to. George had not come back, but Dolly had
made up her mind to tell Lady Sarah everything. She was not afraid; it
was a relief to have the matter settled. She would say no word to injure
him. It was she who had been to blame throughout. Her reflections were
oddly intermingled with snips and pricks other than those of her
conscience. Once, as Julie ran a pin into her arm, she thought how
strange it was that Mr. Raban should have guessed everything all along.
Dolly longed and feared to have her explanation over.

'Have you nearly done? Let me go down, Julie,' said Dolly, becoming
impatient at last.

But Julie still wanted to do something to the set of the sleeve.

And while Julie was pinning poor Dolly down, the clock struck nine, and
the time was over, and Dolly's opportunity was lost for ever. It has
happened to us all. When she opened the dining-room door at last she
knew in one instant that it was too late.

The room seemed full of people. Lady Sarah was there, Mrs. Morgan
bristling by the window; Rhoda was there, kneeling at Lady Sarah's knee,
in some agitation: her bonnet had fallen off, her hair was all curling
and rough. She started up as Dolly came in, and ran to meet her.

'Oh! Dolly,' she said, 'come, come,' and she seized both her hands. 'I
have told Lady Sarah everything; she knows all. Oh! why did we not
confide in her long ago?' and Rhoda burst into tears. 'Oh, I feel how
wrong we have been,' she sobbed.

'Rhoda has told me everything, Dolly,' said Lady Sarah, in a cold
voice--'everything that those whom I trusted implicitly saw fit to
conceal from me.'

Was it Aunt Sarah who had spoken in that cold harsh-sounding tone?

'Rhoda has acted by my advice, and with my full approval,' said Mrs.
Morgan, stepping forward. 'She is not one to look back once her hand is
to the plough. When I had seen George's letter--it was lying on the
table--I said at once that no time should be lost in acquainting your
aunt, Dolly. It is inconceivable to me that you have not done so before.
We started immediately after our eight-o'clock breakfast, and all is now
clearly understood, I trust, Lady Sarah; Rhoda's frankness will be a
lesson to Dolly.'

Poor Dolly! she was stiff, silent, overwhelmed. She looked appealingly
at her aunt, but Lady Sarah looked away. What could she say? how was it
that she was there a culprit while Rhoda stood weeping and forgiven?
Rhoda who had enforced the silence, Rhoda now taking merit for her tardy
frankness! while George was gone; and Dolly in disgrace.

'Indeed, Aunt Sarah, I would have told you everything,' cried the girl,
very much agitated, 'only Rhoda herself made me promise----'

'Dolly! you never promised,' cried Rhoda. 'But we were all wrong,' she
burst out with fresh penitence; 'only Lady Sarah knows all, and we shall
be happier now,' she said, wiping her eyes.

'Happy in right-doing,' interrupted Mrs. Morgan.

'Have we done wrong, Aunt Sarah? Forgive us,' said Dolly, with a
touching ring in her voice.

Lady Sarah did not answer. She was used to her nephew's misdeeds, but
that Dolly--her own Dolly--should have been the one to plot against her
cut the poor lady to the heart. She could not speak. 'And Dolly knew it
all the time,' she had said to Rhoda a minute before Dolly came in.
'Yes, she knew it,' said Rhoda. 'She wished it, and feared----' Here
Rhoda blushed very red. 'George told me she feared that you might not
approve and do for him as you might otherwise have done. Oh! Lady Sarah,
what injustice we have done you!'

'Perhaps Dolly would wish to see the letter,' said Mrs. Morgan, offering
her a paper; there was no mistaking the cramped writing. There was no
date nor beginning to the note:--

     I have been awake all night thinking over what has happened. It
     is not your fault that you do not know what love is, nor what a
     treasure I have wasted upon you. I have given you my best, and
     to you it is worthless. You can't realise such love as mine.
     You will not even understand the words that I am writing to
     you: but it is not your fault, any more than it is mine, that I
     cannot help loving you. Oh, Rhoda, you don't care so much for
     my whole life's salvation as I do for one moment's peace of
     mind for you. I see it now--I understand all now. Forgive me if
     I am hurting you, for the sake of all you have made me suffer.
     I feel as if I could no longer bear my life here. I must go,
     and yet I must see you once more. You need not be afraid that I
     should say anything to frighten or distress you. Your terror of
     me has pained me far more than you have any conception of, God
     bless you. I had rather your hands smote me than that another
     blessed.

'It is most deplorable that a young man of George's ability should write
such nonsense,' said Mrs. Morgan.

Poor Dolly flushed up and began to tremble. Her heart ached for her poor
George's trouble.

'It is not nonsense,' she said, passionately; 'people call what they
cannot feel themselves nonsense. Aunt Sarah, you understand, though they
don't. You must see how unhappy he is. How can Rhoda turn against him
now? How can she after all that has passed? What harm has he done? It
was not wicked to love her more than she loved him.'

'Do you see no cruelty in all this long deception?' said Lady Sarah,
with two red spots burning in her cheeks. 'You must both have had some
motive for your silence. Have I ever shown myself cold or unfeeling to
you?' and the flushed face was turned away from her.

'It was not for herself, Lady Sarah,' said Mrs. Morgan, wishing to see
justice done. 'No doubt she did not wish to injure George's prospects.'

Dolly was silent. She had some dim feeling of what was in Lady Sarah's
mind; but it was a thought she put aside--it seemed unworthy of them
both. She was ashamed to put words to it.

If Dolly and her aunt had only been alone all might have been well, and
the girl might have made Lady Sarah understand how true she had been to
her and loyal at heart, although silent from circumstances. Dolly looked
up with wistful speaking eyes, and Lady Sarah almost understood their
mute entreaty.

The words of love are all but spoken when some one else speaks other
words; the hands long to grasp each other, and other fingers force them
asunder. Alas! Rhoda stood weeping between them, and Mrs. Palmer now
appeared in an elegant morning wrapper.

'My dearest child, Madame Frisette is come and is waiting,' said Dolly's
mamma, sinking into a chair. 'She is a delightful person, but utterly
reckless for trimmings. How do you do, Mrs. Morgan; why do you not
persuade Lady Sarah to let Madame Frisette take her pattern, and----?'

But, as usual, Lady Sarah, freezing under Mrs. Palmer's sunny influence,
got up and left the room.

       *       *       *       *       *

Rhoda, tearful and forgiven, remained for some time giving her version
of things to Mrs. Palmer. She had come to speak to Lady Sarah by her
aunt's advice. Aunt Morgan had opened George's letter as it lay upon the
breakfast-table, and had been as much surprised as Rhoda herself by its
contents. They had come to talk things over with Lady Sarah, to tell her
of all that had been making Rhoda so unhappy of late.

'I thought she and you, Mrs. Palmer, would have advised me and told me
what was right to do,' said the girl, with dark eyes brimming over. 'How
can I help it if he loves me? I know that he might have looked higher.'

'The boy is perfectly demented,' said Mrs. Palmer, 'to dream of
marrying. He has not a sixpence, my dear child--barely enough to pay his
cab-hire. He has been most ridiculous. How we shall ever persuade Lady
Sarah to pay his debts I cannot imagine! Dolly will not own to it, but
we all know that she does not like parting with her money. I do hope and
trust she has made her will, for she looks a perfect wreck.'

'Oh, mamma!' entreated poor Dolly.

Mrs. Palmer paid no heed, except to say crossly, 'I do wish you had
shown a little common sense. Dolly, you have utterly injured your
prospects. Robert will be greatly annoyed; he counts so much upon dear
Sarah's affection for you both. As for me, I have been disappointed far
too often to count upon anything. By the way, Dolly, I wish you would go
up and ask your aunt whether that invitation has come to Bucklersbury
House. Go, child; why do you look so vacant?'

Poor Dolly! One by one all those she trusted most seemed to be failing
and disappointing her. Hitherto Dolly had idealised them all. She shrank
to learn that love and faith must overcome evil with good, and that this
is their reward even in this life, and that to love those who love you
is not the whole of its experience.

Rhoda's letter, miserable as it was, had relieved Dolly from much of her
present anxiety about George. That hateful dark river no longer haunted
her. He was unhappy, but he was safe on shore. All the same, everything
seemed dull, and sad, and undefined that afternoon, and Robert coming
in, found her sitting in the oak-room window with her head resting on
her hand and her work lying in her lap. She had taken up some work, but
as she set the stitches, it seemed to her,--it was but a fancy--that
with each stitch George was going farther and farther away, and she
dropped her work at last into her lap, and reasoned herself into some
composure; only when her lover came in cheerfully and talking with the
utmost ease and fluency, her courage failed her suddenly.

'What is the matter; why do you look so unhappy?' said Robert.

'Nothing is the matter,' said Dolly, 'only most things seem going wrong,
Robert; and I have been wrong, and there is nothing to be done.'

'What is the use of making yourself miserable?' said Robert,
good-naturedly scolding her; 'you are a great deal too apt, Dolly, to
trouble yourself unnecessarily. You must forgive me for saying so. This
business between George and Rhoda is simply childish, and there is
nothing in it to distress you.'

'Do you think that nothing is unhappiness,' said Dolly, going on with
her own thought, 'unless it has a name and a definite shape?'

'I really don't know,' said Henley. 'It depends upon ... What is this
invitation, Dora? You don't mean to say the Duchess has not sent one
yet?' he said in a much more interested voice.

'There is only the card for Aunt Sarah. I am afraid mamma is vexed, and
it is settled that I am not to go.'

'Not to go?' Robert cried; 'my dear Dolly, of course you must go: it is
absolutely necessary you should be seen at one or two good houses, after
all the second-rate society you have been frequenting lately. Where is
your mother?'

When Mrs. Palmer came in, in her bonnet, languid and evidently out of
temper, and attended by Colonel Witherington, Robert immediately asked,
in a heightened tone of voice, whether it was true that Dolly was not to
be allowed to go to the ball.

Philippa replied in her gentlest accents that no girl should be seen
without her mother. If an invitation came for them both, everything was
ready; and, even at the last moment, she should be willing to take
Dorothea to Bucklersbury House.

'Too bad,' said the Colonel, sitting heavily down in Lady Sarah's chair.
'A conspiracy, depend upon it. They don't wish for too much
counter-attraction in a certain quarter.'

'One never knows what to think,' said Mrs. Palmer, thoughtfully; 'I have
left a card this afternoon, Robert, upon which I wrote a few words in
pencil, to explain my connection with Sarah. I wished to show that I at
least was not unacquainted with the usages of civilised society. Kindly
hand me that _Peerage_.'

'My dear Aunt Philippa,' cried Robert, walking up and down in a state of
the greatest perturbation, 'what induced you to do such a preposterous
thing? What will the Duchess think of us all?'

Mrs. Palmer, greatly offended, replied that she could not allow Robert
to speak to her in such disrespectful tones. The Duchess might think
what she chose; Dolly should not go without her.



CHAPTER XXXIV.

WHITE ROSES.

    If thou must love me, let it be for nought
    Except for love's sake only.


Some one sent Dolly a great bunch of white roses that afternoon; they
came in with a late breath of summer--shining white with dark leaves and
stems--and, as Dolly bent her head over the soft zones, breathing their
sweet breath, it seemed to carry her away into cool depths of fragrance.
The roses seemed to come straight from some summer garden, from some
tranquil place where all was peace and silence. As she stood, holding
them in her two hands, the old garden at All Saints' came before her,
and the day when Robert first told her that he loved her. How different
things seemed already--the roses only were as sweet as she remembered
them. Every one seemed changed since then--Robert himself most of all;
and if she was herself disappointed, was she not as changed as the rest?

But these kind, dear roses had come to cheer her, and to remind her to
be herself, of all that had gone before. How good of Robert to think of
them! She wished they had come before he left, that she might have
thanked him. She now remembered telling him, as they were driving down
to the river, that no roses were left in their garden.

'Very pretty,' said her mother. 'Take them away, Dolly; they are quite
overpowering. You know, Colonel Witherington, how much better people
understand these things at Trincomalee: and what quantities of flowers I
used to receive there. Even the Admiral once ordered in six dozen
lemon-shrubs in tubs for my fête. As for the people in this country,
they don't do things by halves, but by quarters, my dear Colonel.'

Mrs. Palmer was still agitated, nor did she regain her usual serenity
until about six o'clock, when, in answer to a second note from Lady
Sarah, the persecuted Duchess sent a blank card for Mrs. Palmer to fill
up herself if she chose.

When Dolly came to say good-night to Lady Sarah she held her roses in
her hand: some of the leaves shook down upon her full white skirts; it
was late in the summer, and the sweet heads hung languid on their
stalks. They were the last roses that Dolly wore for many and many a
day.

'So you are going,' said Lady Sarah.

'Yes,' said Dolly, waiting for one word, one sign to show that she was
forgiven: she stood with sun-gilt hair in the light of the western
window. 'Dear Aunt Sarah, you are not well. You must not be left all
alone,' she went on timidly.

'I am quite well--I shall not be alone,' said Lady Sarah. 'Mr. Tapeall
is coming, and I am going to sign my will, Dolly,' and she looked her
niece hard in the face. 'I shall not change it again whatever may
happen. You will have no need in future to conceal anything from me, for
the money is yours.' And Lady Sarah sighed, deeply hurt.

Dolly blushed up. 'Dear Aunt Sarah, I do not want your money,' she said.
'You could never have thought----'

'I can only judge people by their deeds,' said Lady Sarah, coldly still.
'You and George shall judge me by mine, whether or not I have loved
you;' and the poor old voice failed a little, and the lips quivered as
she held up her cheek for Dolly to kiss.

'Dear, dearest,' said Dolly, 'only forgive me too. If you mean that you
are going to leave me money, I shall not be grateful. I have enough.
What do I want? Only that you should love us always. Do you think I
would marry Robert if he did not think so too?'

'Mademoiselle! Madame is ready,' cried Julie, coming to the door, and
tapping.

'George, too, would say the same, you know he would,' Dolly went on,
unheeding Julie's call. 'But if you give him what you meant for me, dear
Aunt Sarah; indeed that would make me happiest, and then I should know
you forgive me.'

The door creaked, opened, and Mrs. Palmer stood there impatient in her
evening dress.

'My dear Dolly, what have you got to say to Aunt Sarah? We shall be
dreadfully late, and Robert is fuming. _Do_ pray come. Good-night,
Sarah--so sorry to leave you.'

Rather than keep dinner waiting people break off their talk, their
loves, their prayers. The Middletons' dinner was waiting, and Dolly had
to come away. Some of the rose-leaves were lying on the floor after she
had left, and the caressing fragrance still seemed to linger in the
room.

Dolly left home unforgiven, so she thought. Aunt Sarah had not smiled
nor spoken to her in her old voice once since that wretched morning
scene.

But, in truth, Lady Sarah was clearer-sighted than people gave her
credit for; she was bitterly hurt by Dolly's want of confidence, but she
began to understand the struggle which had been going on in the girl's
mind, and so far, things were not so sad as she had imagined at first.
They were dismal enough.

When Marker came to tell Lady Sarah that Mr. Tapeall and his clerks were
below, she got up from her chair wearily, and went down to meet the
lawyer. What did she care now? She had saved, and pinched, and laid by
(more of late than any one suspected), and Dolly was to benefit, and
Dolly did not care; Robert only seemed to count upon the money. It is
often the most cautious people who betray themselves most unexpectedly.
Something in Henley's manner had annoyed Lady Sarah of late. He had
spoken of George with constant disparagement. More than once Robert had
let slip a word that showed how confidently he looked for Dolly's
inheritance.

One day Mrs. Palmer had noticed Lady Sarah's eyes upon him, and
immediately tried to cover his mistake. Not so Dolly, who said, 'Robert!
what are you thinking of? How should we ever be able to afford a
country-house if you go into Parliament?'

'Robert thinks he is marrying an heiress, I suppose,' said Lady Sarah.

'No, he doesn't,' Dolly answered; 'that would spoil it all.'

This was all the gratitude poor Lady Sarah had saved and pinched herself
to win.

Lady Sarah, as I have said, might have been a money-lover, if her warm
heart had not saved her. But she was human, and she could not help
guessing at Robert's comfortable calculations, and she resented them.
Did she not know what it was to be married, not for herself, but for
what she could bring? Was _that_ to be her Dolly's fate? Never, never!
Who knows? Let her have her own way; it may be best after all, thought
Lady Sarah, wearily. She was tired of battling. Let George inherit, if
it so pleased them. To please them was all she had wished or hoped for,
and now even the satisfaction of pleasing them in her own way was denied
her. But her girl was true; this she felt. No sordid thoughts had ever
come between them, and for this she thanked God in her heart.

'You may burn it, Mr. Tapeall,' said Lady Sarah, as the lawyer produced,
a beautiful neatly-written parchment, where Miss Dorothea Vanborough's
name was emblazoned many times. 'I want you to make me another. Yes,
make it directly, and I will sign it at once, and old Sam can bear
witness.'

'I shall be happy to receive any further instructions.' said the lawyer;
'I shall have to take the memorandum home with me to prepare----'

'I will sign the memorandum,' said Lady Sarah. 'You can have it copied,
if you like, Mr. Tapeall; but I wish to have this business settled at
once, and to hear no more of it. There is a pen and some ink on that
table.'

       *       *       *       *       *

'Where did you get your roses?' said Robert to Dolly. 'I thought you
told me they were over.'

'Did not you send them?' said Dolly, disappointed. 'Who can have sent
them? _Not_ Colonel Witherington?'

'Mr. Raban is more likely,' said Mrs. Palmer. 'Julie tells me he came to
the door this afternoon.'

'How kind of him!' cried Miss Vanborough.

'It was quite unnecessary,' said Robert. 'Nobody, in society, carries
bouquets now.'

'Then I am not in society,' said Dolly, laughing; but although she
laughed, she felt sad and depressed.

When the door opened and Mrs. Palmer, followed by her beautiful daughter
and Henley, came into the room at Mrs. Middleton's, Colonel Witherington
declared, upon his honour, they quite brightened up the party. White and
gracious with many laces and twinklings, Mrs. Palmer advances, taking to
society as a duck takes to the water, and not a little pleased with the
sensation she is creating. Dolly follows, looking very handsome, but, it
must be confessed, somewhat absent. Her mother had excellent taste, and
had devised a most becoming costume, and if Dolly had only been herself
she would certainly have done credit to it; but she had not responded to
Mademoiselle Julie's efforts--a sudden fit of dull shyness seemed to
overpower her. If Frank Raban had been there she would have liked to
thank him for her flowers; but Mrs. Middleton began explaining to Robert
how sorry she was that his friend Mr. Raban had been obliged to go off
to Cambridge. Dolly was a little disappointed. The silvery folds of her
dress fell each in juxtaposition; but Dolly sat silent and pale and far
away, and for some time she scarcely spoke.

'That girl does not look happy,' said some one.

Robert overheard the speech, and was very much annoyed by it. These
constant depressions were becoming a serious annoyance to him. He took
Dolly down to dinner, but he devoted himself to a sprightly lady on his
left hand, who, with many shrieks of laughter and wrigglings and
twinklings of diamonds, spurred him on to a brilliance foreign to his
nature. Young as he was, Robert was old for his age, and a capital
diner-out, and he had the art of accommodating himself to his audience.
Mrs. Palmer was radiant sitting between two white neckcloths: one
belonged to the Viscount Portcullis, the other to the faithful
Witherington; and she managed to talk to them both at once.

Dolly's right-hand neighbour was an upright, rather stern,
soldierly-looking man, with a heavy white moustache.

He spoke to her, and she answered with an effort, for her thoughts were
still far away, and she was preoccupied still. Dolly was haunted by the
sense of coming evil; she was pained by Robert's manner. He was still
displeased, and he took care to show that it was so. She was troubled
about George; she was wondering what he was about. She had written to
him at Cambridge that afternoon a loving, tender, sisterly little
letter, begging him to write to his faithful sister Dolly. Again she
told herself that it was absurd to be anxious, and wicked to be cross,
and she tried to shake off her depression, and to speak to the courteous
though rather alarming neighbour on her right hand.

It was a dinner-party just like any other. They are pretty festivals on
the whole, although we affect to decry them. In the midst of the
Middleton dinner-table was an erection of ice and ferns and cool green
grass, and round about this circled the entertainment--flowers, dried
fruit, processions of cut glass and china, with entrées, diversities of
chicken and cutlet, and then ladies and gentlemen alternate, with a host
at one end and a hostess at the other, and an outermost ring of
attendants, pouring out gold and crimson juices into the crystal cups.

It is fortunate, perhaps, that other people are not silent always
because we are sad. With all its objections--I have read this in some
other book--there is a bracing atmosphere in society, a Spartan-like
determination to leave cares at home, and to try to forget all the ills
and woes and rubs to which we are subject, and to think only of the
present and the neighbours fate has assigned for the time. Little by
little, Dolly felt happier and more reassured. Where everything was so
common-place and unquestioning, it seemed as if tragedy could not exist.
Comedy seems much more real at times than tragedy. Three or four
tragedies befall us in the course of our existence, and a hundred daily
comedies pass before our eyes.

Dolly, hearing her mother's silver laugh and Robert's cheerful duet, was
reassured, and she entered little by little into the tune of the hour,
and once, glancing up shyly, she caught a very kind look in her
neighbour's keen dark eyes.

He knew nothing of her, except a sweet girlish voice and a blush; but
that was enough almost, for it was Dolly's good fortune to have a voice
and a face that told of her as she was. There are some smiles and
blushes that mean nothing at all, neither happy emotion nor quick
response; and, again, are there not other well-loved faces which are but
the homely disguises in which angels have come into our tents? Dolly's
looks pleased her neighbour, nor was he disappointed when he came to
talk to her; he felt a kindness towards the girl, and a real interest
when he discovered her name. He had known her father in India many years
before. 'Had she ever heard of David Fane?' Colonel Fane seemed pleased
when Dolly brightened up and exclaimed. He went on to tell her that he
was on his way to the Crimea: his regiment was at Southampton, waiting
its orders to sail.

'And you are going to that dreadful war!' said Dolly in her girlish
tones, after a few minutes' talk.

Colonel Fane looked very grave.

'Your father was a brave soldier,' he said; 'he would have told you that
war is a cruel thing; but there are worse things than fighting for a
good cause.'

'You mean _not_ fighting,' said Dolly; 'but how can we who sit at home
in peace and safety be brave for others?'

'I have never yet known a woman desert her post in the time of danger,'
said Colonel Fane, speaking with gentle, old-fashioned courtesy. 'You
have your own perils to affront: they find you out even in your homes. I
saw a regiment of soldiers to-day,' he said, smiling, 'in white caps and
aprons, who fight with some very deadly enemies. They are under the
command of my sister, my brother's widow. She is a hospital-nurse, and
has charge of a fever-ward at present.'

Then he went on to tell Dolly that his brother had died of small-pox not
long before, and his wife had mourned him, not in sackcloth and ashes,
but in pity and love and devotion to others. Dolly listened with an
unconscious look of sympathy that touched Colonel Fane more than words.

'And is she quite alone now?' said Dolly.

'I should like you to know her some day,' he said, 'She is less alone
than anybody I know. She lives near St. Barnabas' Hospital; and if you
will go and see her sometime when she is at home and away from her sick,
she will make, not acquaintance, but friends with you, I hope.'

Then he asked Dolly whether she was an only child, and the girl told him
something--far more than she had any idea of--about George.

'I might have been able to be of some little use to your brother if he
had chosen the army for a profession,' said Colonel Fane, guessing that
something was amiss.

Dolly was surprised to find herself talking to Colonel Fane, as if she
had known him all her life. A few minutes before he had been but a name.
When he offered to help George, Dolly blushed up, and raised two
grateful eyes.

There is something in life which is not love, but which plays as great a
part almost--sympathy, quick response--I scarcely know what name to give
it; at any moment, in the hour of need perhaps, a door opens, and some
one comes into the room. It may be a common-place man in a shabby coat,
a placid lady in a smart bonnet; does nothing tell us that this is one
of the friends to be, whose hands are to help us over the stony places,
whose kindly voices will sound to us hereafter voices out of the
infinite. Life has, indeed, many phases, love has many a metempsychosis.
Is it a lost love we are mourning--a lost hope? Only dim, distant stars,
we say, where all was light. Lo, friendship comes dawning in generous
and peaceful streams!

Before dinner was over, Colonel Fane said to Dolly, 'I hope to have
another talk with you some day. I am not coming upstairs now; but, if
you will let me do so, I shall ask my sister, Mrs. William Fane, to
write to you when she is free.'

Robert was pleased to see Dolly getting on so well with her neighbour.
He was a man of some mark, and a most desirable acquaintance for her.
Robert was just going to introduce himself, when Mrs. Middleton bowed to
Lady Portcullis, and the ladies began to leave the room.

'Good-by,' said Dolly's new friend, very kindly; 'I shall ask you not to
forget your father's old companion. If I come back, one of my first
visits shall be to you.'

Then Dolly stood up blushing, and then she said, 'Thank you, very much;
I shall never forget you. I, too, am going away--to India--with----' and
she looked at Henley, who was at that moment receiving the parting fire
of the lively lady. There was no time to say more; she put out her hand
with a grateful pressure. Colonel Fane watched Dolly as she walked away
in the procession. For her sake he said a few civil words to Henley; but
he was disappointed in him. 'I don't think poor Stan Vanborough would
have approved of such a cut-and-dry son-in-law,' the Colonel said to
himself as he lighted his cigar and came away into the open street.



CHAPTER XXXV.

'ONLY GEORGE.'

    Nicht mitzuhassen, mitzulieben bin ich da.

    --Antigone.


Thoughts seem occasionally to have a life of their own--a life
independent; sometimes they are even stronger than the thinkers, and
draw them relentlessly along. They seize hold of outward circumstances
with their strong grip. How strangely a dominant thought sometimes runs
through a whole epoch of life!

With some holy and serene natures, this thought is peace in life; with
others, it is human love, that troubled love of God.

The moonlight is streaming over London; and George is not very far away,
driven by his master thought along a bright stream that flows through
the gates and by the down-trodden roads that cross Hyde Park. The skies,
the streets, are silver and purple; abbey-towers and far-away houses
rise dim against the stars; lights burn in shadowy windows. The people
passing by, and even George, hurrying along in his many perplexities,
feel the life and the echo everywhere of some mystical chord of nature
and human nature striking in response. The very iron rails along the
paths seemed turned to silver. George leaps over a silver railing, and
goes towards a great sea of moonlight lying among the grass and
encircled by shadowy trees.

In this same moonlit stream, flowing into the little drawing-room of the
bow-windowed house in Old Street, sits Rhoda, resting her head against
the pane of the lantern-like window, and thinking over the events of the
last two days.

On the whole, she feels that she has acted wisely and for the best. Lady
Sarah seemed to think so--Uncle John said no word of blame. It was
unfortunate that Aunt Morgan's curiosity should have made her insist
upon reading George's letter; but no harm had come of it. Dolly, of
course, was unreasonable. Rhoda, who was accustomed to think of things
very definitely, began to wonder what Frank Raban would think of it all,
and whether Uncle John would tell him. She thought that Mr. Raban would
not be sorry to hear of what had occurred. What a pity George was not
more like Mr. Raban or Robert Henley. How calm they were; while he--he
was unbearable; and she was very glad it was all over between them. Lady
Sarah was evidently deeply offended with him.

'I hope she will leave him _something_,' thought Rhoda. 'He will never
be able to make his way. I can see that; and he is so rough, and I am
such a poor little thing,' and Rhoda sighed. 'I shall always feel to him
as if he were a brother, and I shall tell Mr. Raban so if----'

Here Rhoda looked up, and almost screamed out, for there stood George,
rippling with moonlight, watching her through the window from the
opposite side of the street. He looked like a ghost as he leant against
the railings. He did not care who noticed him, nor what other people
might think of him. He had come all this way only to see Rhoda once
more, and there she was, only separated from him by a pane of glass.

When Rhoda looked up, George came across and stood under the window. The
moonlight stream showed him a silver figure plain marked upon the
darkness. There she sat with a drooping head and one arm lightly resting
against the bar. Poor boy! He had started in some strange faith that he
should find her. He had come up all the way only to look at her once
more. All his passionate anger had already died away. He had given up
hope, but he had not given up love; and so he stood there wild and
haggard, with pulses throbbing. He had scarcely eaten anything since the
evening before. He had gone back to Cambridge he knew not why. He had
lain awake all night, and all day he had been lying in his boat hiding
under the trees along the bank, looking up at the sky and cursing his
fate.

Rhoda looked up. George, with a quick movement, pointed to the door, and
sprang up the steps of the house. He must speak to her now that she had
seen him. For what else had he come? She was frightened, and did not
move at first in answer to his signs. She was alone. Aunt Morgan and the
girls were drinking tea at the schools, but Uncle John was in the study.
She did not want him to see George. It would only make a fuss and an
explanation--there had been too much already. She got up and left the
window, and then went into the hall and stood by the door undecided; and
as she stood there she heard a low voice outside say, 'Rhoda! let me
in.'

Rhoda still hesitated. 'Let me in,' said the voice again, and she opened
the door a very little way, and put her foot against it.

'Good-night, George,' she said, in a whisper. 'Good-night. Go home.
Dolly is so anxious about you.'

'I have come to see you,' said George. 'Why won't you let me in, Rhoda?'

'I am afraid,' said Rhoda.

'You need not be afraid, Rhoda,' he said, going back a step. 'Dear, will
you forgive me for having frightened you?' and he came nearer again.

'I can't--go, go,' cried Rhoda, hastily. 'Here is some one,' and
suddenly, with all her might, she pushed the door in his face. It shut
with a bang, with all its iron knobs and locks rattling.

'What is it?' said John Morgan, looking out of his study.

'I had opened the door, Uncle John,' said Rhoda. Her heart beat a
little. Would George go away? She thought she heard footsteps striking
down the street. Then she felt more easy. She told herself once more
that it was far better to have no scenes nor explanations, and she sat
down quietly to her evening's task in a corner of her uncle's study. She
was making some pinafores for the little Costellos, and she tranquilly
stitched and tucked and hemmed. John Morgan liked to see her busy at her
womanly work, her little lamp duly trimmed, and her busy fingers working
for others more thriftless.

And outside in the moonlight George walked away in a new fury. What
indignity had he subjected himself to? He gave a bitter sort of laugh.
He had not expected much, but this was worse than anything he had
expected. Reproaches, coldness, indifference, all these he was prepared
for. He knew in his heart of hearts that Rhoda did not care for him; and
what further wrong could she do him than this injury that people inflict
every day upon each other? She had added scorn to her indifference; and
again George laughed to himself, thinking of this wooden door Rhoda had
clapped upon his passion, and her summary way of thrusting him out.

At one time, instead of banging the door, she used to open it wide. She
used to listen to him, with her wonderful dark eyes fixed on his face.
Now, what had happened? He was the same man, she was the same woman, and
nothing was the same. George mechanically walked on towards his own
home--if Church House could be so called. He went across the square, and
by a narrow back street, and he tried the garden gate, and found it
open, and went in, with some vague idea of finding Dolly, and calling
her to the bench beside the pond, and of telling her of all his trouble.
That slam of the door kept sounding in his ears, a sort of knell to his
love.

But George was in no vein of luck that night. The garden was deserted
and mysterious, heavy with sweet scents in the darkness. He went down
the dark path and came back again, and there was a rustle among the
trees; and as he walked across the lawn towards the lighted window of
the oak room, he heard two voices clear in the silence, floating up from
some kitchen below. He knew Sam's croak; he did not recognise the other
voice.

'Mademoiselle is gone to dance. I like to dance too,' it said. 'Will you
come to a ball and dance with me, Mr. Sam?'

Then followed old Sam's chuckle. 'I'll dance with you, Mademoiselle,' he
said.

George thought it sounded as if some evil spirit of the night were
mocking his trouble. And so Dolly was dancing while he was roaming about
in his misery. Even Dolly had forgotten his pain. Even Rhoda had turned
him out. Who cared what happened to him now?

He went to the window of the oak room and looked in. Lady Sarah was
sitting there alone, shading her eyes from the light. There were papers
all round about her. The lamp was burning behind her, and the light was
reflected in the narrow glass above her tall chimney-piece.

He saw her put out her hand and slowly take a paper that was lying on
the table, and tear it down the middle. Poor Aunt Sarah! she looked very
old and worn and sad. How ill he had repaid her kindness! She should be
spared all further anxiety and trouble for him. Then he put out his two
hands with a wild farewell motion. He had not meant her to see him, but
the window was ajar and flew open, and then he walked in; and Lady
Sarah, looking up, saw George standing before her. He was scarcely
himself all this time: if he had found Dolly all might have ended
differently.

'George?' said Lady Sarah, frightened by his wild looks, 'what has
happened, my dear?'

'I have come to say good-by to you,' he wildly cried. 'Aunt Sarah, you
will never have any more trouble with me. You have been a thousand
thousand times too good to me!' And he flung his two arms round her neck
and kissed her, and almost before she could speak he was gone....

A few minutes later Marker heard a fall, and came running upstairs. She
found Lady Sarah lying half-conscious on the ground.



CHAPTER XXXVI.

THE SLOW SAD HOURS.

    And thou wert sad, yet I was not with thee;
    And thou wert sick, and yet I was not there.

    --Byron.


Dolly and her mother had left the Middletons' when John Morgan drove up
in a hansom, with a message from his mother to bring them back at once.
The servant told him that they were only just gone, and he drove off in
pursuit. Bucklersbury House was blazing in the darkness, with its many
windows open and alight, and its crowds pouring in and its music
striking up. Morgan sprang out of his cab and hurried across the court,
and under the horses' noses, and pushed among the footmen to the great
front door where the inscribing angels of the _Morning Post_ were
stationed. The servants would have sent him back, but he told his errand
in a few hasty words, and was allowed to walk into the hall. He saw a
great marble staircase all alight, and people going up; and, by some
good fortune, one of the very first persons he distinguished was Dolly,
who had only just come, and who was following her mother and Robert.
She, too, caught sight of the familiar face in the hall below, and
stopped short.

'Mamma,' she said, 'there is John Morgan making signs. Something has
happened.'

Mrs. Palmer did not choose to hear. She was going in; she was at the
gates of Paradise: she was not going to be kept back by John Morgan.
There came a cheerful clang of music from above.

Dolly hesitated; the curate beckoned to her eagerly. 'Mamma, I must go
back to him,' said Dolly, and before her mother could remonstrate she
had stopped short and slid behind a diplomat, a lord with a blue ribbon,
an aged countess; in two minutes she was at the foot of the staircase,
Robert meanwhile serenely proceeding ahead, and imagining that his
ladies were following.

In two words, John Morgan had told Dolly to get her shawl, that her aunt
was ill, that she had been asking for her. Dolly flew back to the
cloak-room: she saw her white shawl still lying on the table, and she
seized it and ran back to John Morgan again, and then they had hurried
through the court and among the carriages to the place where the hansom
was waiting.

'And I was away from her!' said Dolly. That was nearly all she said. It
was her first trouble--overwhelming, unendurable, bewildering, as first
troubles are. When they drove up to Church House, the front looked
black, and closed, and terrible somehow. Dolly's heart beat as she went
in.

Everything seemed a little less terrible when she had run upstairs, and
found her aunt lying in the familiar room, with a faint odour of camphor
and chloroform, and Marker coming and going very quietly. Mrs. Morgan
was there with her bonnet cocked a little on one side; she came up and
took Dolly's hand with real kindness, and said some words of
encouragement, and led her to the bedside. As Dolly looked at Aunt
Sarah's changed face, she gulped for the first time one of life's bitter
draughts. They don't last long, those horrible moments; they pass on,
but they leave a burning taste; it comes back again and again with the
troubles of life.

Lady Sarah seemed to recognise Dolly when she first came in, then she
relapsed again, and lay scarce conscious, placid, indifferently waiting
the result of all this nursing and anxious care. The struggles of life
and its bustling anxieties had passed away from that quiet room, never
more to return.

Dolly sat patiently by the bedside. She had not taken off her evening
dress, she never moved, she scarcely breathed, for fear of disturbing
her dear sick woman. If Frank Raban could have seen her then, he would
not have called her cold! Those loving looks and tender ways might
almost have poured new life into the worn-out existence that was ebbing
away. The night sped on, as such nights do pass. She heard the sound of
carriage-wheels coming home at last, and crept downstairs to meet the
home-comers.

Dolly did not ask her mother what had delayed her when the two came in.
She met them with her pale face. She was still in her white dress, with
the dying roses in her hair. Henley, who had meant to reproach her for
deserting them without a word, felt ashamed for once before her. She
seemed to belong to some other world, far away from that from which he
had just come. She told her story very simply. The doctors said there
had been one attack such as this once before, which her aunt had kept
concealed from them all. They ordered absolute quiet. Marker was to be
nurse, and one other person. 'Of course that must be me, mamma. I think
Aunt Sarah would like me best,' she said, with a faint smile. 'Mrs.
Morgan! No, dear mamma, not Mrs. Morgan.' Then suddenly she burst into
tears. 'Oh, mamma, I have never seen any one so ill,' she said; but the
next minute she had overcome her emotion, and wiped her eyes.

'My dearest child, it is most distressing, and that you should have
missed your ball, too' said Philippa. 'I said all along, if you
remember, that she was looking a perfect wreck. You would not listen to
me. Robert, turn that sofa out of the draught. I shall not go to bed.
Julie can come down here and keep me company after you go.'

'I must go,' said Robert; 'I have still some work to finish. Take care
of yourself, Dora--remember you belong to me now. I hope there will be
better news in the morning.'

From one room to the other, all the next day, Dolly went with her heavy
heart--it seemed to drag at her as she moved, to dull her very anxiety.
It was only a pain, it did not rise to the dignity of an emotion. Mrs.
Palmer felt herself greatly neglected; she was taken ill in the
afternoon and begged to see the doctor, who made light of her ailment;
towards evening Mrs. Palmer was a great deal better. She came down into
the drawing-room, and sent Eliza Twells over for John Morgan. Lady Sarah
still lay stricken silent, but her pulse was better, the doctor said:
she could move her arm a little: it had been lying helpless before.
Faithful Marker sat by her side, rubbing her cold hands.

'Aunt Sarah, do you know me?' whispered Dolly, bending over her.

Lady Sarah faintly smiled in answer.

'Tell George to come back,' she said slowly. 'Dolly, I did as you
wished; are you satisfied?' She had gone back to the moment when she was
taken ill.

'Dearest Aunt Sarah,' said Dolly, covering her hand with kisses. Then
she ran down to tell her mother the good news. 'Aunt Sarah was rallying,
was talking more like herself again. We only want George to make her
well again. He must come. Where is he? Why does he not come?'

'Don't ask _me_ anything about George,' said Mrs. Palmer, putting up her
hands.

This was the day after the ball, but no George came, although Dolly
looked for him at every instant. John Morgan, of his own accord, sent a
second message to him and another to Raban. In the course of the day an
answer arrived from the tutor: '_G. left Cambridge yesterday. Your
telegram to him lying unopened._'



CHAPTER XXXVII.

IN AN EMPTY ROOM.

    Nor dare I chide the world-without-end hour.

    --Shakspeare.


The next day Dolly, coming down into the garden, found Raban with her
mother, and she went up eagerly to meet him, hoping for the news she was
looking for. But news there was none, although her mother, arm-in-arm
with Raban, had been for the last hour slowly pacing the gravel-walks,
recapitulating all their anxieties and all the complaints they had
against that tiresome boy.

'The Admiral will be so shocked. I expect him hourly; and I look to
_you_, Mr. Raban, to tell me the plain truth.'

The plain truth was that Frank could discover nothing of George. All
that long day he had followed up every trace, been everywhere,
questioned every one, including Rhoda, without result. He had come now
in the faint hope of finding him at home after all. When Dolly came to
meet them, he thought she looked anxious enough already, and he made
light of his long efforts, and shrugged his shoulders.

'I have no doubt George will turn up at Cambridge in the course of a day
or two. I have some business calls me away. I will write immediately on
my return,' he said.

Frank saw Dolly's look of surprise and disappointment as she turned
away, and his heart ached for her; but what could he do? He watched her
as she turned back towards the house again, walking slowly and with a
thoughtful bent head.

'It is quite painful to see Dolly, she has no feeling whatever for me
left,' cried Mrs. Palmer. 'Ever since dear George's conduct, I see the
saddest change in her. I can do nothing. I would drive her out. Colonel
Witherington offered me his sister's barouche any day, but Dolly won't
hear of it. Dolly, you know, is simply impossible,' said Mrs. Palmer. 'I
never knew a more desponding nature.'

'Indeed?' said Raban.

It was not his place to be sorry for her. He was not able to shield her
from grief. It was not his place to think for her, to love her in her
trouble. It was not for him: all this was for Robert Henley to do.

There was a great red sunset in the sky, islands floating, and lakes and
seas of crimson light overhead, as Dolly walked sadly and slowly into
the house, and went back to the dim sick-room.

There is no need to dwell upon the slow hours. Dolly found that they
came to an end somehow. And all the time one miserable conviction
pursued her--George was gone. Of this she was convinced, notwithstanding
all they could say to reassure her. While they had been expecting him,
and blaming him, and wondering, and discussing his plans, he had fled
from them all. Dolly at first did not face the truth, for she had sat by
her aunt's bedside half dull, half absorbed by her present anxiety; but
when Lady Sarah began to rally a little, the thought of George grew more
constant, the longing for news more unendurable; time seemed longer: it
became an eternity at last. One day she felt as if she could bear it no
longer.

Robert found her looking very much moved; her cheeks were glowing, her
eyes were shining blue; she had a cloak on her arm, and some white
summer dress, and she began tying her bonnet-strings nervously.

'Robert, I want you to take me to Cambridge,' she said. 'I want to go
now. I know I could find him--I dreamt it. Aunt Sarah wants him back
directly....'

'You are quite unreasonable, dearest,' said Robert, soothingly.

'I am not; I am reasonable,' poor Dolly said, with an effort at
self-control. 'Mr. Raban cannot find him. Robert, let me go.' And Robert
yielded reluctantly to her wish.

'Have you got a _Bradshaw_ in the house?' said he.

Dolly had got one all ready, with the page turned down--she could spare
but a few hours, and was in a hurry to get back.

After all, sympathy is more effectually administered by indirect means
than by the crowbars of consolation with which our friends, even the
kindest, are apt to belabour our grief. According to some, people don't
die, they don't fall ill, they don't change, everything always goes
right. Some reproach us with our want of faith; others drag it
forth--that silent sorrow that would fain lie half-asleep and resting in
our hearts. Poor Dolly could not speak of George scarcely even to
Robert. She sat very silently in the railway-carriage, her hands lying
listlessly in her lap, while he refuted all the fears she had not even
allowed herself to realise. This state of things annoyed Robert. He
hated to see people dull and indifferent. It was distressing and
tiresome too.

Few people were about when Robert and Dolly came across the great
triumphant court of St. Thomas, with its gateways and many stony eyes
and narrow doorways. They were on their way to All Saints', close by.
The place seemed chiefly given over to laundresses. A freshman was
standing under the arched gateway that leads to the inner court; he was
reading some neatly-written announcement in the glass shrine hanging
outside the buttery. The oaken doors were closed. Robert, seeing a
friend crossing the court, went away to speak to him. Dolly walked on a
little, and stood by the railings, and the flight of steps that lead
into the beautiful inner court of this great Palace of Art. She watched
the many lines flowing in waves of stone, of mist. At the far end of the
arched enclosure were iron-scrolled gates, with green and gold, and
misty veils of autumn drifting in the gardens beyond. And then she
remembered the summer's day when she last stood there with George, and
as she thought of him suddenly his image came before her so distinctly
that she almost called out his name. It was but an instant's impression;
it was gone; the steps were Robert's; the image was in her own mind.

'Are you tired of waiting?' said Henley. 'Now, if you like we will go on
to All Saints',' he said.

It seemed to Dolly as if she was looking at the old summer day, dimmed,
silenced, saddened, seen through some darkened pane, as they went on
together, passing under archways and galleries, and coming at last into
the quaint and tranquil court that Dolly remembered so vividly. There
she had stood; and there was George's staircase, and there was his name
painted up, and there was his window with its lattice.

Robert went off for the key of George's room, and Dolly waited. It was
so sweet, so sad, so tranquil, like the end of a long life. Dolly
wandered in and out the narrow galleries; the silence of the place
comforted her. She was glad to be alone a little bit, unconstrained, to
feel as she felt, and not as she ought to feel; quietly despondent, not
nervously confident, as they would all have her be. It was a crumbling,
sweet, sunshiny sort of waking dream. Some gleams had broken through the
clouds, and shone reflected from the many lattice windows round about
the little court. She heard some voices, and some young men hurried by,
laughing as they went. They did not see the young lady with the sweet
sad face standing under the gallery. Chrysanthemums were growing up
against the wall, with faint lilac and golden heads, the last bright
tints left upon the once gorgeous palette of summer. A delicate cool sky
hung overhead, and the light was becoming brighter. Dolly passed an open
door, and peeped in from the quaint gallery to a warm and darkened room,
panelled and carpeted. It was dark and untenanted; a fire was burning in
the grate.

'That is Fieldbrook's room; he will give us some tea presently,' said
Robert, coming up; 'but now we can get into George's.'

Robert, who seemed to have keys for every keyhole, opened an oak door,
and led the way up some stone steps. George's room was on the first
floor. Henley went in first, opened the window, dragged forward a chair.
'If you will rest here,' he said, 'I will go and find Fieldbrook. They
tell me he last heard from George. I have to speak to the
Vice-Chancellor too.' Then he was gone again, after looking about to see
that there was nothing he could do for her.

Dolly was glad to be alone. She sat down in George's three-sided chair,
resting her head upon her hand. She was in his room. Everything in the
place seemed to have a voice, and to speak to her--'George, George,' it
all said. She looked out of the little window across the court. She
could see the old windows of the library shining, and then she heard
more voices, and more young men hurried by, with many footsteps.

Ever after, Dolly remembered that last half-hour spent in George's rooms
_with_ George: so it seemed to her looking back from a time when she had
ceased to hope. She went to the writing-table, and mechanically began to
straighten the toys and pens lying on the cloth. There was the little
dagger his mother had sent him from India years before; the desk she had
given him out of her savings; and it occurred to her to open the lid, of
which she knew the trick. She pushed the spring, and the top flew up
with a sudden jerk, as it always did. Then Dolly saw that the box was
full of papers hastily thrown in, verses, notes of lectures, and a
letter torn through. 'Dearest Rh--' it began. She had no great shame
looking over George's papers, a tear fell on the dear heap as she bent
over the signs and ink-marks that told of her poor boy's trouble. What
was this? a letter stamped and addressed to herself. Had it been thrown
in with the rest by mistake? She tore it open hastily, with eager hands.
He must have written the night of their water-party: it had no date:--

     DEAREST DOLLY (said the crooked lines)--This is one more
     good-by, and one more service that I want you to do me; and you
     have never grudged any human being love or help. I am going,
     and before I go I shall make my will, and I shall leave what
     little I have--not to you--but to Rhoda, and will you see to
     this? I sometimes think she has not even a heart to help her
     through life; she will like my money better than me. It is
     quite late at night, but I cannot sleep; she comes and awakens
     me in my dreams. I shall go away from this as soon as the gates
     are open. It is no use struggling against my fate; others are
     giving their lives for a purpose, and I shall join them if I
     can. I have been flung from my anchor here, and the waves seem
     to close over me. If I live you will hear from me. Dearest old
     Dolly, take warning by me and don't expect too much. God bless
     you!

     G. V.

     Will you pay Miller at the boat-house 2_l._ 10_s._ I owe him? I
     think I have cleared up all other scores. I will leave the
     papers with him. I shall not come back here any more.

That was all. She was standing with her letter still in her hand,
blankly looking at it, when the door opened and Tom Morgan came in. '"If
I live." What did he mean? "Ask at the boat-house?"' She laid the letter
down and went on turning over the papers without noticing the young man.

Tom walked in with a broad grin and great volubility. 'Well!' said he,
cheerfully, 'I thought it was you! I was walking with Magniac and some
others, and noticed the windows open, and I saw you standing just where
you are now, and I said to Magniac, "I know that lady." He wouldn't
believe me; but I was right, knew I was. How are you and how is Lady
Sarah? Where is George? When did he come back?' Then suddenly
remembering some rumour to which he had paid but little heed at first,
'Nothing wrong, I hope?' said Tom.

'Tom! where is this?' said Dolly, without any preamble, in her old
abrupt way, and she gave him a crumpled bill which she had been
examining.

    MR. VANBUG _to_ J. MILLER--
    To hieir of the _Wave_ twelve hours.
    To man's time, &c. &c.
    To new coteing hir with tare, &c.

'I want to go there,' she said. 'Will you show me the way?'

'To the boat-house?' said Tom, doubtfully, looking at the bill.
'Miller's, you mean?'

She saw him hesitate.

'I must go,' she cried. 'You must take me. Is it Miller's? Show me the
way, Tom.'

'Of course I can show you the way if you wish it,' said Tom.

He looked even more stupid than usual, but he did not like to refuse. He
had to be in Hall by three o'clock, that was why he had hesitated. He
had been thinking of his dinner; but Dolly began to tie on her bonnet.
She hurried out, and ran downstairs, and he followed her across the
court into the street. He was not loth to be seen walking with so pretty
a young lady. He nodded to several of his friends with velvet bands upon
their gowns; a professor went by, Tom raised his well-worn cap.

Dolly might have been amused at any other time by the quaint mediæval
ways of the old place.

It was out of term-time, but there had been some special meeting of the
college magnates. Crimson coats and black, square caps and tassels, and
quaint old things were passing. The fifteenth century was standing at a
street corner. To-day heartily shook hands with 1500 and hurried on.
Dolly saw it all without seeing it. Tom Morgan tried to give her the
latest news.

'That is Brown,' said he, 'the new Professor of Modern Literature.'
Dolly never even turned her head to look after Brown.

'There's Smith,' said Tom: 'they say he will be in the first six for the
Mathematical Tripos.'

Then they came out of the busy High Street by a narrow lane, with brick
walls on either side. It led to the mill by the river, and beyond the
river spread a great country of water-meadows. It was a world, not of
to-day or of 1500, but of all times and all hours. Pollards were growing
at intervals, the river flowed by dull and sluggish, the land, too,
seemed to flow dull and sluggish to meet a grey horizon. There were no
animals to be seen, only these pollard-trees at intervals, and the
spires of Cambridge crowding in the mist.



CHAPTER XXXVIII.

THE POLLARD-TREES.

    Next Camus, reverend sire, went footing slow--
    His mantle hairy and his bonnet sedge,
    Inwrought with figures dim, and on the edge
    Like to that sanguine flower inscribed with woe.

    --Lycidas.


Miss Vanborough walked on; she seemed to know the way by some instinct;
sometimes she looked at the water, but it gave her a sort of vertigo.
Tom looked at Dolly with some admiration as she passed along the bank,
with her clear-cut face and stately figure, following the narrow
pathway. They came at last to a bend of the river where some boats were
lying high and dry in the grass, and where a little boat-house stood
upon a sort of jutting-out island among tall trees upspringing suddenly
in the waste: tall sycamore, ivy-grown stumps, greens of every autumnal
shade, golden leaves dropping in lazy showers on the grass or drifting
into the sluggish stream, along which they floated back to Cambridge
once more. It was a deserted-looking grove, melancholy and romantic. But
few people came there. But there was a ferryman and a black boat-house,
and a flat ferry-boat anchored to the shore. Some bird gave a cry and
flew past, otherwise the place was still with that peculiar river
silence of tall weeds straggling, of trees drooping their green
branches, of water lapping on the brink.

'Is this the place you wanted?' said Tom, 'or was it the other
boat-house after all?'

Dolly walked on, without answering him. She beckoned to the boatman; and
then, as he came towards her, her heart began to beat so that she could
scarcely speak or ask the question that she had in her mind to ask. 'Has
my brother been here? Where is his letter? Is the _Wave_ safe in your
little boat-house?' This was what she would have said, only she could
not speak. Some strange fever had possessed her and brought her so far:
now her strength and courage suddenly forsook her, and she stopped
short, and stood holding to an old rotten post that stood by the
river-side.

'Take care,' said Tom; 'that ain't safe. You might fall in, and the
river is deep just here.'

She turned such a pale face to him that the young man suddenly began to
wonder if there was more in it all than he had imagined.

'It's perfectly safe I mean,' he said. 'Why, you don't mean to say----'

He turned red; he wished with all his heart that he had never brought
her there--that he could jump into the river--that he had stayed to dine
in Hall. To his unspeakable relief unexpected help appeared.

'Why, there is Mr. Raban!' said Tom, as Raban came out of the
boat-house, and walked across under the trees to meet them.

Dolly waited for the two men to come up to her, as she stood by her
stump among the willow-trees. Raban did not seem surprised to see her.
He took no notice of Tom, but he walked straight up to Dolly.

'You have come,' he said; 'I had just sent you a telegraphic message.'

His manner was so kind and so gentle that it frightened her more than if
he had spoken with his usual coldness.

'What is it?' she said, 'and why have you come here? Have you too
heard...?'

She scanned his face anxiously.

Then she looked from him to the old boatman, who was standing a few
steps off in his shabby red flannel-shirt, with a stolid brown face and
white hair: a not unpicturesque figure standing by the edge of the
stream. Winds and rain and long seasons had washed all expression out of
old Miller's bronzed face.

'George came here on Tuesday,' said Raban to Dolly; 'I only heard of it
this morning. Miller tells me he gave him a letter or a paper to keep.'

'I know it,' said Dolly, turning to the old boatman. 'I am Mr.
Vanborough's sister; I have come for the letter,' she said quickly, and
she held out her hand.

'This gentleman come and asked me for the paper,' said the old man,
solemnly, 'and he stands by to contradict me if I speak false; but if
the right party as was expected to call should wish for to see it, my
wish is to give satisfaction all round,' said the old man. 'I knows your
brother well, Miss, and he know me, and my man too, for as steady a
young man and all one could wish to see. The gentleman come up quite
hearty one morning, and ask Bill and me as a favour to hisself to sign
the contents of the paper; and he seal it up, and it is safe, as you
see, with the seal compact;' and then from his pockets came poor
George's packet, a thin blue paper folded over, and sealed with his
ring. 'Mr. Vanbug he owe me two pound twelve and sixpence,' old Miller
went on, still grasping his paper as if loth to give it up, 'and he said
as how you would pay the money, Miss.'

Dolly's hands were fumbling at her purse in a moment.

'I don't want nothing for my trouble,' said the old fellow. 'I knows Mr.
Vanbug well, and I thank you, Miss, and you will find it all as the
gentleman wished, and good-morning,' said old Miller, trudging hastily
away, for a passenger had hailed him from the opposite shore.

'I know what it is,' said Dolly. 'See, he has written my name upon it,
Mr. Raban: it is his will. He told me to come here. He is gone. I found
his letter.' She began to quiver. 'I don't know what he means.'

'Don't be frightened,' said Raban smiling, and very kindly. 'He was seen
at Southampton quite well and in good spirits. He has enlisted. That is
what he means. You have interest, we must get him a commission; and if
this makes him more happy, it is surely for the best.'

'Perhaps you are right,' she said, struggling not to cry. 'How did you
hear? How kind you have been. How shall we ever thank you!' Her colour
was coming and going.

'It was a mere chance,' Raban said. (It was one of those chances that
come to people who have been working unremittingly to bring a certain
result to pass.) 'Don't thank me,' he continued in a low voice; 'you
have never understood how glad I am to be allowed to feel myself your
friend sometimes.'

Raban might have said more, but he looked up, and saw Robert's black
face frowning down upon them. Robert was the passenger who had hailed
old Miller. For an instant Frank had forgotten that Robert existed. He
turned away hastily, and went and stared into the water at a weed
floating by. The old boatman waiting by the punt sat on the edge of the
shore, watching the little scene, and wondering what the pretty lady's
tears might be about. Tom also assisted, open-mouthed--the Morgan family
were not used to tears. Mrs. Morgan never cried; not even when Tom broke
his leg upon the ice.

Robert was greatly annoyed. He had come all the way, along the opposite
bank, looking for Dolly, who had not waited for him; who had gone off
without a word from the place where he had expected to find her. Not
even her incoherent 'Oh, Robert, I am so sorry--I have heard, Mr. Raban
has heard--he has found George for us!' not even her trustful, gentle
look, as she sprang to meet him, seemed to mollify him. He looked
anything but sympathising as he said, 'I have been looking for you
everywhere.'

('Brown must have told him,' thought Tom Morgan, who was wondering how
he had found them out.)

'You really must not run off in this way. I told you all along that all
this--a--anxiety was quite unnecessary. George is well able to take care
of himself. If I had not met Professor Brown, I really don't know
now----'

'But what is to be done, Robert? Listen,' interrupted Dolly. 'He has
enlisted; he was at Southampton yesterday.'

And together they told Henley what had happened. Robert took it very
coolly.

'Of course he has turned up,' said Robert, 'and we must now take the
matter into our own hands, and see what is best to be done. I really
think' (with a laugh) 'he has done the best thing he could do.'

Dolly was hurt again by his manner. Raban had said the same thing, but
it had not jarred upon her.

'I see you do not agree with me,' continued Robert. 'Perhaps, Raban, you
will give me the name of the person who recognised George Vanborough? I
will see him myself.'

'He is a man whom we all know,' said Raban, gravely, '--Mr. Penfold, my
late wife's father,' and he looked Robert full in the face.

Dolly wondered why Robert flushed and looked uncomfortable.

'Come,' he said, suddenly drawing her hand through his arm with some
unnecessary violence, 'shall we walk back, Dora? There are some other
things which I must see about and I should be glad to consult you
immediately.' And he would have walked away at once, but she hung back
for a moment to say one more grateful word to Frank.

Then Robert impatiently dragged her off, and Raban, with his foot,
kicked at a stone that happened to be lying in the path, and it fell
with a circling plash into the river.

Meanwhile, Robert was walking away, and poor Dolly, who had not yet
recovered from her agitation, was stumbling alongside, weary and
breathless. He had her arm in his; he was walking very rapidly; she
could hardly keep up with his strides.

This was the moment chosen by Robert Henley to say:--'I want you now to
bring your mind to something which concerns myself, Dora, and you. I
came here to-day, not only to please you, but also because I had
business to attend to. The Vice-Chancellor has, really in the most
pleasant and flattering manner, been speaking to me about my
appointment, and I have brought a letter for you.'

'I am so confused, Robert,' said Dolly.

'I will read it to you, then,' said Robert: and immediately, in a clear,
trumpet-like voice, he began to do so, stopping every now and then to
give more emphasis to his sentences.

The letter was from the Board of Management of the College of
Boggleywollah. They seemed to be in a difficulty. The illness of Mr.
Martindale had already caused great delay and inconvenience; the number
of applications had never been so numerous; the organisation never so
defective. In the event of Mr. Henley's being able to anticipate his
departure by three weeks, the Board was empowered to offer him a
quarter's additional salary, dating from Midsummer instead of from
Michaelmas: it would be a very great assistance to them if he could fall
in with this proposal. A few lines of entreaty from Mr. Martindale were
added.

'It will have to come sooner or later,' said Henley; 'it is unfortunate
everything happening just now. My poor Dora, I am so sorry for all the
anxiety you have had,' he said, 'and yet I am not sure that this is the
best thing that could happen under the circumstances;' and he attempted
to take her hand and draw her to him.

Dolly stood flushed and troubled, and unresponding. She hardly took
Robert's meaning in, so absorbed had she been in other thoughts. For a
moment after he spoke she stood looking away across the river to the
plain beyond.

'The college must wait,' said she, wearily; then suddenly--'You know I
couldn't leave them now, Aunt Sarah and every one, and you, Robert,
couldn't leave me. Don't let us talk about it!'

Robert did not answer immediately. 'It is no use,' he said deliberately,
'shirking disagreeable subjects. My dearest Dora, life has to be faced,
and one's day's work has to be done. My work is to organise the College
at Boggleywollah; you must consider that; and a woman's work is to
follow her husband. Every woman, when she marries, must expect to give
up her old ties and associations, or there could be no possible union
otherwise; and my wife can be no exception to the general rule----'

'Robert, don't talk in this way,' said Dolly, passionate and nervous. 'I
don't want you to frighten me.'

'You are unreasonable again, dearest,' said Robert, in his usual
formula. 'You must be patient, and let me settle for us both.'

Robert might have been more touched if Dolly had spoken less angrily and
decidedly.

'If I put off going,' said Robert, soothingly, 'I lose a great deal more
than a quarter's salary--I lose the prestige; the great advantage of
finding Martindale. I lose three months, which in the present state of
affairs may cause irreparable hindrance. Three months?--six months! Lady
Sarah's illness may last any indefinite period: who can say how long it
may last? and Lady Sarah herself, I am convinced, would never wish you
to change your plans, and your mother will soon have her husband to
protect her. You would not have the heart to send me off alone, Dolly.
Is the alternative so very painful to you?' he said again. And Robert
smiled with a calm and not very anxious expression, and looking down at
her.

Suddenly it all rushed over Dolly. He was in earnest!--in
earnest!--impossible. He meant her to go off now,--directly--without
seeing George; without hearing from him again; while her aunt was lying
on her sick bed. How could she go? He should not have asked such a
sacrifice. She did not pause to think.

'No, a thousand times no, Robert!' she cried passionately. 'You _can't_
go. If you love me, stay,' she said, with great agitation. 'I know you
love me. I know you will do as I wish--as it is right to do. Don't go.
Dearest Robert, you _mustn't_ go.' Her voice faltered; she spoke in her
old soft tone, with imploring looks, and trembling hands put out. Robert
Henley might have hesitated, but the '_must not_' had spoilt it all.

'You know what pain it gives me to refuse your request, said Robert;
'but I have considered the subject as anxiously on your account as mine.
I--really I cannot give up my career at this juncture. You have promised
to come with me. If you love me you will not hesitate. You can do your
aunt no real good by remaining. You can do George no good; and, besides,
you belong to me,' said Robert, growing more and more annoyed. 'As I
told you before, I must now be your first consideration; otherwise----'
He stopped.

'Otherwise what?' said Dolly.

'Otherwise you would not be happy as my wife,' he said, beating his foot
upon the gravel, and looking steadily before him.

'Robert!' said Dolly, blushing up, 'you would not wish me to be
ungrateful.'

'To whom?' said Robert. 'You propose to postpone everything
indefinitely, at a time when I had fully calculated upon being settled
in life; when I had accepted an appointment chiefly with a view to our
speedy marriage. There is no saying how long your conscience may detain
us,' cried Henley, getting more and more provoked; 'nor how many people
may fall ill, nor how often George may think proper to make off. You do
not perceive how matters stand, dear Dora.'

Was this all he had to say? Her heart began to beat with a swift
emotion.

'I understand you quite well,' she said, in a low voice. 'But, Robert,
I, too, have made up my mind, and I cannot leave them, not even for you.
You should never have asked it of me,' she cried, with pardonable
indignation.

'I am not aware that I have ever asked anything that was not for your
good as well as my own,' said Henley, in an offended tone. 'I begin to
think you have never loved me, Dora, or you would not reproach me with
my love for you. Who has influenced you?' said he, jealously. 'What does
it all mean?'

She stopped short, and stood looking at him steadily, wistfully--not as
she used to look once, but with eyes that seemed to read him through and
through, until the tears came once more to blind their keen sight.

Raban, who had crossed by the ferry, and who was walking back along the
opposite side, saw the two standing by the river-side, a man and a
woman, with a plain beyond, and a city beyond the plain.

The sun was setting sadly grey and russet; the long day's mists
dispersing; light clouds were slowly rising; turf and leaves stood out
against the evening; it was all clear and sweet, and faintly coloured: a
tranquil peace seemed to have fallen everywhere. It was not radiance,
but peace and subdued calm. Who does not know these evenings? are they
sad? are they happy? A break in the shadow. A passing medley of the
lights of heaven and earth, of sweet winds and rising vapours.... The
cool breeze came blowing into their faces, and Dolly turned her head
away and looked across the river to the opposite bank. When she spoke
again she was her old self once more.

She was quite calm now; her eyes no longer wet. 'Robert,' she said, 'I
have something to tell you. I have been thinking things over, and I see
that it is right that you should go; but it is also right that I should
stay,' said Dolly, looking him steadily in the face; 'and perhaps in
happier times you will let me come to you, or come back for me, and you
must not--you will not--think I do not love you because of this.'

What was it in her voice that seemed to haunt him--to touch, to thrill
that common-place man for one instant into some emotion? She was so
simple and so sad; she looked so fair and wistful.

But it was only for an instant. 'Do you mean that you wish to break the
engagement?' he asked in his coldest voice.

'If we love each other what does it matter that we are free?' said
Dorothea, with a very sweet look in her face. 'You need fear no change
in me,' she said, 'but I want you to be free.' Her voice failed, and she
began to walk on quickly.

'Remember, it is your own doing,' she heard him say, as Tom Morgan, who
had lingered behind, caught them up. 'But we will speak of all this
again,' he added.

Dolly bent her head, she could not trust herself to answer.



CHAPTER XXXIX.

THUS FAR THE MILES ARE MEASURED FROM THY FRIEND.

    If I leave all for thee, wilt thou exchange,
    And be all to me? Shall I never miss
    Home-talk and blessing and the common kiss
    That comes to each in turn, nor count it strange,
    When I look up, to drop on a new range
    Of walls and floors, another home than this?

    --E. B. Browning.


The three came back to All Saints' by many a winding way. Raban met them
at the college gate in his rusty black gown; he had to attend some
college meeting after chapel. Two or three young men were standing about
expecting them.

'You will find the tea is all ready,' said Fieldbrook, gaily; 'are you
sure, Miss Vanborough, that you would not like something more
substantial? My bedmaker has just been here to ask whether you were an
elderly lady, and whether you would wish your bread-and-butter cut thick
or thin? Let me introduce Mr. Magniac, Mr. Smith, Mr. Irvine, Mr.
Richmond; Mr. Morgan you know.'

Dolly smiled. The young men led her back across the court (as she
crossed it the flowers were distilling their colours in the evening
light); they opened the oak door of the very room she had looked into in
the morning, and stood back to let her pass. The place had been prepared
for her coming. Tea was laid, and a tower of bread-and-butter stood in
the middle of the table. Books were cleared away, some flowers were set
out in a cup. Fieldbrook heaped on the coals and made the tea, while
Raban brought her the arm-chair to rest in. It was a pretty old
oak-panelled room beneath the library. A little flat kettle was boiling
on the fire; the young men stood round about, kind and cheery: Dolly was
touched and comforted by their kindness, and they, too, were charmed
with her sweet natural grace and beauty.

It was difficult not to compare this friendly courtesy and readiness
with Robert's coldness. There was Raban ready to do her bidding at any
hour; here was Mr. Fieldbrook emptying the whole canister into the
teapot to make her a cup of tea; Smith had rushed off to order a fly for
her. Robert stood silent and black by the chimney; he never moved, nor
seemed to notice her presence. If she looked at him he turned his head
away, and yet he saw her plainly enough. He saw Raban too. Frank was
standing behind Dolly's chair in the faint green light of the old oriel
window. It tinted his old black gown and Dolly's shadowy head as she
leant back against the oaken panel. One of the young men thought of an
ivory head he had once seen set in a wooden frame. As for Frank, he knew
that for him a pale ghost would henceforth haunt that oriel--a fair,
western ghost, with anxious eyes, that were now following Robert as he
crossed the room with measured steps and went to look out for the fly.

As he left the room, they all seemed to breathe more freely. Tom Morgan
and Mr. Magniac began a series of jokes; Mr. Richmond poked the fire;
Mr. Irvine opened the window. Raban sat down by Dolly, and began telling
her of a communication he had had from Yorkshire, from his old
grandfather, who seemed disposed to take him into favour again, and who
wanted him to go back and manage the estate.

'I am very much exercised about it,' said Frank. 'It is going into the
land of bondage, you know. The old couple have used me very ill.'

'But of course you must go to them,' said Dolly, trying to be
interested, and to forget her own perplexities. 'We shall miss you
dreadfully, but you must go.'

'You will not miss me as I shall miss you,' said Frank.

And as he spoke, Robert's head appeared at the window.

'The fly is come; don't keep it waiting, Dora,' said Robert,
impatiently.

'And you will let me know if ever I can do anything for you?' persisted
Frank, in defiance of Henley's black looks.

'Of course I will. I shall never forget your kindness,' said Dolly,
quickly putting on her shawl.

The bells were clanging all over the place for an evening service. Doors
were banging, voices calling, figures came flitting from every archway.

'There goes the reader! he is late,' said Tom Morgan, as a shrouded form
darted across their path. Then he pointed out the Rector, a stately
figure in a black and rustling silk, issuing from a side door; and then
Rector, friendly young men, arches, gable-ends had vanished, and Dolly
and Robert were driving and jolting through the streets together,
jolting along through explanation and misunderstanding, and over one
another's susceptibilities, and over chance ruts and stones on their way
to the station. He began immediately:

'We were interrupted in our talk just now; but I have really very little
more to say. If you are dissatisfied, if you really wish to break off
your engagement, it is much better to say so at once, without making me
appear ridiculous before all those men. Perhaps,' said Henley, 'we may
have both made some great mistake, and you have seen some one whom you
would prefer to myself?'

'You must not say such things, Robert,' answered Dolly, with some
emotion. 'You know how unhappy I am. I only want you to let me love you.
What more can I say?'

'Your actions and your words scarcely agree, then,' said Henley, jealous
and implacable. 'I confess I shall be greatly surprised, on my return
from India at some indefinite period, to find you still in the same
mind. I myself make no professions of extra constancy----'

'Oh, you are too cruel,' cried poor Dolly, exasperated.

'Will you promise me never to see Raban, for instance?' said Robert.

'How can I make such a promise?' cried Dolly, indignant. 'To turn off a
kind friend for an unjust fancy! If you trust me, Robert, you must
believe what I say. Anyhow, you are free. Only remember that I shall
trust in your love until you yourself tell me that you no longer care
for me.'

The carriage stopped as she spoke. Robert got out and helped her down,
produced the tickets, and paid the flyman.

The two went back in a dreary _tête-à-tête_; she wanted a heart's
sympathy, and he placed a rug at her feet and pulled up the carriage
window for fear of a draught. She could not thank him, nor look pleased.
Her head ached, her heart ached; one expression of love, one word of
faithful promise would have made the world a different place, but he had
not spoken it. He had taken her at her word. She was to be bound, and he
was to be free. The old gentleman opposite never looked at them, but
instantly composed himself to sleep; the old lady in the corner thought
she had rarely seen a more amiable and attentive young man, a more
ungracious young lady.

Once only Robert made any allusion to what had passed. 'There will be no
need to enter into explanations at present,' he said, in a somewhat
uneasy manner. 'You may change your mind, Dora.'

'I shall never change my mind.' said Dolly, wearily, 'but it is no use
troubling mamma and Aunt Sarah; I will tell them that I am not going
away. They shall know all when you are gone.'

Dolly might have safely told Mrs. Palmer, who was not often disquieted
by other people's sacrifices. With Lady Sarah it was different. But she
was ill, and she had lost her grasp of life. She asked no question, only
she seemed to revive from the day when Dolly told her that she was not
going to leave her. It was enough for her that the girl's hand was in
hers.

What is Dolly thinking of, as she stands by the sick bed, holding the
frail hand? To what future does it guide her? Is it to that which Dolly
has sometimes imagined contained within the walls of a home; simple, as
some people's lives are, and hedged with wholesome briers, and darling
home-ties, and leading straight, with great love and much happiness and
sacred tears, to the great home of love? or is it to a broad way,
unhedged, unfenced, with a distant horizon, a way unsheltered in stormy
weather, easily missed, but wide and free and unshackled...?

Mrs. Palmer, who troubled herself little about the future, was for ever
going off to Dean's Yard, where the Henleys were comfortably
established. The eldest daughter was married, but there were two lively
girls still at home; there were young officers coming and going about
the place. There was poor Jonah preparing to depart on his glorious
expedition. He was in good spirits, he had a new uniform. One day,
hearing his aunt's voice, he came in to show himself, accoutred and
clanking with chains. He was disappointed to find that Dolly was not
there as he had expected. Bell admired loudly, but her mother almost
screamed to him to go and take the hideous thing off. The dry,
brisk-tongued little woman was feeling his departure very acutely. She
still made an effort to keep up her old cynical talk, but she broke
down, poor soul, again and again; she had scarcely spirit left to
contradict Philippa, or even to forbid her the house.

The first time she had seen Dolly, she had been prepared to criticise
the girl; Norah and Bell were more cordial, but Lady Henley offered her
niece a kid glove and a kid cheek, and was slightly disappointed to find
that Dolly's frivolity, upon which she had been descanting all the way
to Church House, consisted in an old grey gown and a black apron, and in
two black marks under her eyes, for poor Dolly had not had much sleep
after that dismal talk with Robert. This was the day after the Cambridge
expedition. Miss Vanborough was looking very handsome, notwithstanding
the black marks, and she unconsciously revenged herself upon Lady Henley
by a certain indifference and pre-occupation, which seemed to put her
beyond the reach of that lady's passing shafts; but one of them wounded
her at last.

'I suppose Lady Sarah will be left to servants when you go?' says Lady
Henley. 'Your mother is certainly not to be counted on; Hawtry is a much
better nurse than she is. Poor dear Philippa! she sees everything
reflected in a looking-glass. Your school is a different one altogether
from our plain, old-fashioned country ways.'

Dolly looked surprised; she had not deserved this unprovoked attack from
the little gaily-dressed lady perched upon the sofa. Norah was very much
distressed by her mother's rudeness; Bell was struggling with a nervous
inclination to giggle, which was the effect it always produced upon her.

'I have no doubt mamma would take care of my aunt if it were necessary,'
said Dolly, blushing with annoyance. 'But I am not going away,' she
said. 'Robert and I have settled that it is best I should stay behind.
We have made up our minds to part.'

The two girls were listening open-eared. 'Then she has never cared for
him, after all,' thought Bell.

But Lady Henley knew better: notwithstanding a more than usual share of
jealousy and cross-grainedness, she was not without a heart. Dolly's
last words had been spoken very quietly, but they told the whole story.
'My dear,' said the little woman, jumping up suddenly and giving her a
kiss, 'I did not know this' (there were tears shining among the new
green bonnet-strings)--'my trial is close at hand. You must forgive me,
I--I am very unhappy.' She made a struggle, and recovered herself
quickly, but from that minute Dolly and her Aunt Joanna were good
friends.

The next time Robert called in Dean's Yard he was put through a
cross-examination by Lady Henley. 'When was he coming back for Dolly?
what terms were they on?' Sir Thomas came in to hear all about it, and
then Jonah sauntered in. 'Only wish I could get a chance,' said Jonah.
Robert felt disinclined to give Jonah the chance he wished for. Lady
Henley was now praising Dolly as much as she had abused her before, and
Robert agreed to everything. But he gave no clue to the state of his
mind. He was surprised to find how entirely Lady Henley ignored his
feelings and sympathised with Dolly's determination to remain behind. He
walked away thinking that it was far from his intention to break
entirely with Dolly, but he had not forgiven her yet; he was not sorry
to feel his liberty in his own hands again. He meant to come back, but
he chose to do it of his own free will, and not because he was bound by
any promise.

As for Dolly, she was absorbed, she was not feeling very much just then,
she had been over-wrought and over-strained. A dull calm had succeeded
to her agitation, and besides Robert was not yet gone.



CHAPTER XL.

UNDER THE CLOCK-TOWER.

    I will tell you when they parted.
    When plenteous autumn sheaves were brown,
    Then they parted heavy-hearted.
    The full rejoicing sun looked down
    As grand as in the days before:
    Only to them those days of yore
    Could come back nevermore.

    --C. Rossetti.


An archway leads out of the great thoroughfare from Westminster Bridge
into the sudden silence of Dean's Yard, where Sir Thomas had taken the
house of a country neighbour. It stood within the cloisters of the
Abbey, over-towered, over-clocked, with bells pealing high overhead
(ringing the hours away, the poor mother used to think). Dolly found
time one day to come for half-an-hour to see Jonah before he left. She
had a great regard for him. She had also found a staunch friend in Norah
with the grey eyes like her own. Bell told Dolly in confidence that her
mother had intended Robert to marry Norah, but this had not at all
interfered with the two girls' liking for one another. Mrs. Palmer, who
was going on farther, set Dolly down at the archway, and as the girl was
crossing the Yard she met Robert coming from the house. He was walking
along by the railing, and among the dead leaves that were heaped there
by the wind. Dolly's heart always began to beat now when she saw Robert.
This time he met her, and, with something of his old manner, said, 'Are
you in a hurry? Will you come with me a little way? I have something to
say.' And he turned into the cloister: she followed him at once.

From Dean's Yard, one gateway leads to common life and to the day's
work, struggling by with creaks and whips and haste; another gateway
brings you to a cloister arched, silent. The day's work is over for
those who are lying in the peaceful enclosure. A side door from this
cloister leads into the Abbey, where, among high piles and burning
windows, and the shrill sweet echoes of the Psalms, a silent voice
sometimes speaks of something beyond rest, beyond our feeble mode of
work and praise, and our music and Gothic types--of that which is, but
which we are not.

The afternoon service was pealing on and humming within the Abbey as
Dolly and Robert walked slowly along the cloister. He was silent a long
time. She tried to ask him what he had to say, but she found it
difficult to speak to him now. She was shy, and she scarcely knew upon
what terms they were: she did not care to know. She had said that he
should be free, and she meant it, and she was too generous to seek to
extort unwilling promises from him, or to imply that she was
disappointed that he had given none.

At last Robert spoke. 'Dolly, shall you write to me?' he said.

'Yes, Robert, if you wish it,' she answered, simply. 'I should like to
write to you.'

As she looked at him, fair and blushing, Robert said suddenly, 'Tell me,
Dora, have you never regretted your decision?'

Dolly turned away--she could not meet his eyes. Hers fell upon a slab to
the memory of some aged woman, who had, perhaps, gone through some such
experience before she had been turned into a stone. Dolly was anything
but stone. Tears slowly gathered in her eyes, and Robert saw them, and
caught hold of her hand, and at that minute there came some pealing echo
of an organ, and of voices bursting into shrill amens. All her life
Dolly remembered that strange moment of parting, for parting she felt it
to be. She must tell him the truth. She turned. 'No, Robert--never
once,' she said; 'although it is even harder than I thought to let you
go.'

They were standing by the door at the end of the first cloister. For the
last time he might have spoken then, and told her that he only loved her
the more, that distance was nothing to him, that time was nothing; but
the service had come to an end, and while he hesitated a verger came out
in his black gown, and the congregation followed--one or two strangers,
then Jonah and Bell, with red eyes both of them, looking foolish
somehow, and ashamed of being seen; then more strangers, and then with
the last remaining verger, came Rhoda and Zoe Morgan, who sometimes went
to church at the Abbey. They all joined the young couple and walked back
to the house with them.

This was Dolly's last chance for an explanation with her cousin. The
time was drawing to an end, fate came in between them now, for this very
afternoon it was settled rather suddenly, at Sir Thomas's request, that
Robert and Jonah should go as far as Marseilles together. This was
Thursday, and the young men were to start on the Saturday evening.

Lady Henley bore up very well at first, and clenched her teeth, and said
they should all come to dinner on Friday.

'It is no use sitting alone and crying one's eyes out,' said the poor
woman valiantly, and she made Sir Thomas ask a couple of Yorkshire
friends to the feast. One was a county hero, in great favour with Bell.
The other was Mr. Anley, Jonah's godfather. He had a great affection for
the family, and regularly dined with them upon grave crises and great
occasions.

Lady Henley, being liberal in her hospitality, ordered in her viands and
her champagne-bottles, and the girls went to Covent Garden and bought
fruit and pineapples and autumn flowers to dress the table, and poor
Jonah brought in a great baked pie from Gunter's.

'It's pâté-de-foie-gras,' said he. 'My father likes it. I thought I
might as well have it to celebrate the occasion.' And he held it up
triumphantly.

Poor Lady Henley had almost over-rated her powers of endurance, for she
looked into his honest sallow face, and then suddenly got up and rushed
out of the room.

'Go to her, Jonah,' said the girls, looking very pale.

Jonah came down after a little while with a very red nose, and then he
went out again to buy something else. All day long he kept coming and
going in cabs, bringing home one thing after another--a folding-chair, a
stick to open out suddenly, a whole kitchen battery fitted into a
tea-kettle, brooches for the girls, toys for his eldest sister's
children. As for the contrivances, they served to make one evening pass
a little less heavily, and amused them for the time, and gave them
something to talk about. But soon after, all poor Jonah's possessions
went down in the Black Sea, in an ill-fated ship, that foundered with
far more precious freight on board than tin pans and folding-chairs.

Punctual to her time on the Friday, Lady Henley was there to receive her
guests in her stiffest silks, laces, and jewels, looking like some
battered fetish out of a shrine, as she sat at the head of the table.

Dolly came to dinner sorely against her will, but she was glad she had
come when she saw how Jonah brightened up, and when the poor little
wooden mother held up her face and kissed her.

Lady Henley said, 'How do you do?' to her guests, but never spoke to any
of them. It was a dreary feast. Robert failed at the last moment, and
they sat down to a table with a gap where his place should have been. No
one ate the pie except Sir Thomas, who swallowed a little bit with a
gulp; then he called for champagne, and his face turned very red, and he
looked hard at his son, and drank a long draught.

Jonah quickly filled his glass, and muttered something as he tossed it
off. He had got his mother's hand under the table in his long bony
fingers. Lady Henley was sitting staring fixedly before her. As Jonah
drank their healths, Norah gave a little gasp. Mr. Anley took snuff. One
of the country neighbours, young Mr. Jack Redmayne, whom Miss Bell used
to meet striding, riding, and walking round about Smokethwaite, had
begun a story about some celebrated mare; he paused for an instant, then
suddenly rallying, went on and on with it, although nobody was
listening, not even Miss Bell.

'I thought it best to go on talking,' he said afterwards. 'I hope they
don't think it unfeeling. I'm sure I don't know what I said. I put my
horse a dozen times over the same gate; even old Firefly wouldn't stand
such treatment.' So the dinner went on; the servants creaked about, and
the candles burnt bright, but no one could rally, and Lady Henley was
finally obliged to leave the table.

Immediately after dinner came old Sam with his cab, and Dolly and her
mother got up to go.

'I cannot think what possessed Joanna to give that funeral-feast,' said
Mrs. Palmer, as they were putting on their cloaks.

'Hush, mamma,' said Dolly, for Jonah was coming running and tumbling
downstairs breathless from his mother's room.

'Look here, Dolly,' he said: 'mother wants you to come and see her
to-morrow after I am gone, and don't let her worry too much, and would
you please take this?' he said. 'Please do.'

This was a pretty little crystal watch that he had bought for her, and
when Dolly hesitated and exclaimed, he added, entreatingly, 'It is my
wedding present. I thought in case we never--I mean that I should like
to give it to you myself,' he said.

'Oh! Jonah,' Dolly answered in a low voice, 'perhaps I may never want a
wedding present.'

'Never mind, keep it,' said Jonah, staring at her hand, 'and I'll look
up George the first thing. You know my father has written to his
colonel. Keep a good heart, Dolly; we are all in the same boat.'

He stood watching the cab as it drove away under the stars.

Dolly was not thinking of Jonah any more. She was looking at all the
passers-by, still hoping to see Robert.

'He ought to have come, mamma, this last night?' she said.

'My dear, do you ever expect a man to think of anything but his own
convenience?' said Mrs. Palmer, with great emphasis.

'Oh! mamma, why must one ever say good-by?' said Dolly, going on with
her own thoughts.

'I believe, even now he might persuade you to run off with him,' said
Mrs. Palmer, laughing....

       *       *       *       *       *

It was over. He was gone. He had come and gone. Dolly had both dreaded
and longed to be alone with Robert, but her mother had persistently
stayed in the room. It was about four o'clock when he came, and Dolly
left her aunt's bedside and came down to the summons, and stood for an
instant at the drawing-room door. She could hear his voice within. She
held the door-handle, as she stood dizzy and weary. She thought of the
Henleys parting from their son, and envied them. Ah! how much easier to
part where love is a certainty; and now this was the last time--and he
was going, and she loved him, and she had sent him away, and he had
never said one word of regret, nor promised once to come back.

She had offered to set him free; she had said she could not leave them
all. At this moment, in her heart, Dolly felt as if she _could_ have
left them; and as if Robert, in going and in ceasing to love her, was
taking away all the light and the strength of her life. He seemed to be
making into a certainty that which she had never believed until now, and
proving to her by his deeds that his words were true, although she had
refused to believe them. She had given him a heart out of her own tender
heart, a soul out of her own loving imagination, and now where were her
imaginations? Some dry blast seemed to her to be beating about the
place, choking her parched throat and drying her tears. Her eyes were
dull and heavy-lidded; her face looked pale and frightened as she opened
the door and walked in. 'Dolly is so strong,' Mrs. Palmer was saying,
'she has courage for us all. I do not fear for her.'

'Perhaps it is best as it is,' Henley answered a little hurriedly. 'I
shall go out solely with a view to making money, and come home all the
sooner. It is certainly better not to disturb Lady Sarah with
leave-takings.'

He looked up and saw Dolly coming across the room, and was shocked by
the girl's pale face.

'My dearest Dora,' said Henley, going to meet her, 'how ill you look;
you would never have been fit for the journey.'

'Perhaps not,' said Dolly. She was quite passive, and let him hold her
hand, but a cold shadow of bitterness seemed to have fallen upon her. It
was a chilly August day. They had lit a small wood fire, and they now
brought some coffee to warm Robert before he left. Robert was very much
moved, for him.

He put down his coffee-cup untasted, and stood by the tall chimney
looking down into the fire. Then he looked at his watch, and went up to
his aunt and said good-by, and then he came and stood opposite Dolly,
who was by the window, and looked her steadily in the face. She could
not look up, though she felt his eyes upon her, and he kissed her. 'God
bless you,' he said, deserting his post with a prayer, as people do
sometimes, and without looking back once, he walked out of the room.

Robert left the room. Dolly stood quite still where he had left her; she
heard the servants' voices outside in the hall, the carriage starting
off, some one calling after it, but the wheels rolled on. She stood
dully looking through the window at some birds that were flying across
the sky. There were cloud heaps sailing, and dead leaves blowing along
the terrace, the bitter parching wind was still blowing. It was not so
much the parting as the manner of it. She had thought it so simple to
love and to be loved; she had never believed that a word would change
him. Was it her fault? Had she been cold, unkind? She was very young
still, she longed for one word of sympathy. She turned to her mother
with a sudden impulse.

'Oh, mamma!' she said, piteously.

'I cannot think how you can have been so hard-hearted, Dolly,' said her
mother. '_I_ could not have let him go alone. How long the time will
seem, poor fellow! Yes, you have been very tyrannical, Dolly.'

Was this all the comfort Mrs. Palmer had to give?

Something seemed choking in Dolly's throat; was it her hard heart that
was weighing so heavily?

'Oh! mamma, what could I do?' she said. 'I told him he was free: he
knows that I love him, but indeed he is free.'

Mrs. Palmer uttered an impatient exclamation. She had been wandering up
and down the room. She stopped short.

'Free! what do you mean. You have never said one word to me. What _have_
you been about? Do you mean that he may never come back to you?'

But Dolly scarcely heard her mother's words. The door had opened and
some one came in. Never come back? This was Robert himself who was
standing there. He had come to say one more farewell. He went straight
up to her and he caught her in his arms. 'There was just time,' he said.
'Good-by once more, dearest Dora!' It was but a moment; it was one of
those moments that last for a lifetime. Dolly lived upon it for many a
day to come. He loved her, she thought to herself, or he would never
have come back to her, and if he loved her the parting had lost its
sting.



CHAPTER XLI.

I BRING YOU THREE LETTERS--I PRAY YOU READ ONE.

            Nay, if you read this line,
    Remember not the hand that writ it.


The partings were over. Dolly lived upon that last farewell for many a
day to come. Such moments are states, and not mere measures of life.
Everything else was sad enough. Lady Sarah still lingered. Poor little
Lady Henley in her home in Dean's Yard was yellow and silent, and fierce
in her anxiety. What was it to her that Sebastopol was to fall before
the victorious armies if the price she had to pay was the life of her
son? She kept up as best she could, but the strain told upon her health
and her temper. Sir Thomas kept meekly out of the way. The servants
trembled and gave warning; the daughters could not give warning. Woe
betide Norah if she were late for breakfast. Ill-fated Bell used to make
_mal-àpropos_ speeches, which were so sternly vented upon her that she
used to go off in tears to her father. Sir Thomas himself was in an
anxious, unsettled state, coming and going from his desk, poring over
maps and papers, and the first of those awful broadsheets of fated names
overcame him completely. He burnt the paper, and would not let it go
upstairs; but how keep out the lurid gleam of Victory that was spreading
over the country? Her flaming sword hung over all their heads by one
single thread, it was the life of one man against the whole campaign for
many of them. Hoarse voices would come shouting and shrieking in the
streets; there was but one thought in everybody's mind. All day long it
seemed in the air, and a nightmare in the darkness. Poor Sir Thomas had
no heart to go out, and used to sit gloomily in a little back study,
with a wire blind, and four pairs of boots, and _The Times_ and a
blotted cheque-book; he determined at last to take his wife home to
Yorkshire again. There at least some silence was to be found among the
moors and the rocky ridges, and some seeming of peace.

But for a long time Lady Henley refused to go. She was nearer Jonah in
London, she said. The post came in one day sooner. It must have brought
news to many an anxious home. What letters they are, those letters
written twenty years ago, with numbed fingers, in dark tents, on chill
battle-fields, in hospital wards. All these correspondents are well and
in good heart, according to their own accounts. They don't suffer much
from their wounds; they don't mind the cold; they think of the dear
people at home, and write to them after a weary night's watch, or a
fierce encounter, in the gentlest words of loving remembrance. The dying
man sends his love and a recommendation for some soldier's children or
widow at home; the strong man is ready to meet his fate, and is full of
compassion for suffering. 'I am writing on poor ----'s sabretache. I am
keeping it for his brother at home,' says one. Another has been to see
his sick friend, and sends cheering accounts of his state. Then, too, we
may read, if we choose, the hearty, ill-spelt correspondence of the
common soldiers, all instinct with the same generous and simple spirit.
There are also the proclamations of the generals. The French announce:
'The hour is come to fight, to conquer, to triumph over the demoralised
columns of the enemy. The enterprise is great and worthy of their
heroism. Providence appears to be on their side, as well as an immense
armament of guns and forces, and the high valour of their English allies
and the chosen forces of the Ottoman Empire. The noble confidence of the
generals is to pass into the souls of the soldiers.' At the same time,
as we read in the English correspondent's letter, Lord Raglan issues his
memorandum, requesting Mr. Commissary-General Filder 'to take steps to
insure that the troops shall all be provided with a ration of porter for
the next few days.'

There is the record of it all in the old newspapers. Private Vance's
letters are not given, for Dolly kept them for her own reading when they
came at last. By the same mail came news from the two last departing
travellers. Marker, who had brought in the letters one evening, waited
in the doorway.

'George!' cried Dolly, tearing her first envelope open, and then
half-laughing, half-crying, she read her letter out.

George seemed in good spirits. He wrote from Varna. A previous packet
must have been lost, for he said he had written before. This was a
cheerful and affectionate letter, quite matter-of-fact, and with no
complaints or railings at fate.

     'I daresay people think me a great fool,' he said, 'but, on the
     whole, I don't regret what I have done, except for any
     annoyance it may have caused you. If you and mamma would go to
     the Horse Guards and ask for a commission for me, perhaps two
     such pretty ladies might mollify the authorities. They say
     commissions are not difficult to get just now. I shall consult
     the colonel about it; I am to see him again in a day or two. I
     don't know why I did not speak to him just now when he sent for
     me.' Then he went on to say that his Bulbul scholarship had
     stood him in good service, and his little Turkish had been
     turned to account. He had already passed as second-class
     interpreter, and he had got hold of some books and was getting
     on. 'This is the reason why the Colonel sent for me yesterday
     morning. I am Private Vance, remember, only just out of the
     awkward squad. Our Colonel is a grand old man, with bright
     eagle eyes, and the heroic manner. He is like one of your
     favourite heroes. Do you remember Aunt Sarah's talking of David
     Fane, our father's old friend? When I found out who he was I
     felt very much inclined to tell him my real name. He said to me
     at once, "I see you are not exactly what you appear to be. If
     you will come to me in a day or two I shall be glad to talk to
     you about your prospects; in the meanwhile don't forget what a
     good influence one man of good education and feeling can exert
     in the ranks of a regiment." Old Fane himself is no bad
     specimen of a true knight; we all feel the better for knowing
     him. He walks with a long swift stride like a deer, tossing his
     head as he goes. I have never seen him in battle, but I can
     imagine him leading his men to victory, and I am glad of the
     chance which has given me such a leader. I wish there were more
     like him. Tell Raban, if you see him, that I am getting on very
     well, and that, far from being a black sheep here, no lambskin
     can compare with my pipe-clay.' Then came something erased.
     'Dearest Dolly, you don't know what your goodness has been to
     me all this time. I hope Robert appreciates his good luck. This
     will reach you about the time of your wedding-day. I will send
     you a little Russian belt when I can find an opportunity. My
     love to them all, and be kind to Rhoda, for the sake of your
     most affectionate 'G. V.'

There was a P.S.

     'I forgot to ask you when I last wrote whether you got the
     letter I wrote you at Cambridge, and if old Miller gave you my
     packet. I bought the form in the town as I walked down to the
     boats; it all seems a horrid dream as I think of it now, and I
     am very much ashamed of that whole business; and yet I should
     like to leave matters as they are, dear, and to feel that I
     have done my best for that poor little girl. My love to old
     John; tell him to write. There has been a good deal of sickness
     here, but the worst is over.'

The paper trembled in Dolly's hand as she dwelt upon every crooked line
and twist of the dear handwriting that wrote 'George is safe.'

'I told you all along it was absurd to make such a disturbance about
him. You see he was enjoying himself with his common associates,' said
Mrs. Palmer crossly. 'Strangely peculiar,' she added after a moment.
'Dolly, did it ever occur to you that the dear boy was a little----?'
and she tapped her fair forehead significantly.

'He was only unhappy, mamma, but you see he is getting better now,' said
Dolly.

The next time Dolly saw Rhoda she ran up and kissed her, looking so kind
that Rhoda was quite surprised and wondered what had happened to make
Dolly so nice again.



CHAPTER XLII.

RACHEL.

    Shepherd, what's love, I pray thee tell.
    It is that fountain and that well
    Where pleasure and repentance dwell,
    It is perhaps that sauncing bell
    That tolls all into heaven or hell.
    And this is love as I heard tell.


It was not only in the hospitals at Varna that people were anxious and
at work at the time when George wrote. While the English ships were
embarking their stores and their companies, their horses and their
battalions, transporting them through surf and through storm to the
shores of the fierce Russian Empire; while Eastern hospitals were
organising their wards, nurses preparing to start on their errand; while
generals were sitting in council,--an enemy had attacked us at home in
the very heart of our own great citadel and store place, and the
peaceful warriors sent to combat this deadly foe are fighting their own
battles. Cholera was the name of the enemy, and among those who had been
expecting the onslaught, haranguing, driving companies of somewhat
reluctant officials, good old John Morgan had been one of the most
prominent. His own district at Kensington was well armed and prepared,
but John Morgan's life at Kensington was coming to an end, and he had
accepted a certain small living in the city called St. Mary Outh'gate,
of which the rector was leaving after five or six years' hard work. 'It
is a case of bricks without straw,' said the poor worn-out rector.
Morgan was full of courage and ready to try his hand. Mrs. Morgan, with
a sigh given to the old brown house and its comfortable cupboards, had
agreed to move goods and chattels shortly into the dark little rectory
in the City court, with its iron gates and its one smutty tree. To the
curate's widow and mother there was an irresistible charm in the thought
of a rectory.

St. Mary Outh'gate was a feeble saint, and unable to protect her
votaries from the evil effects of some open sewers and fish-heaps when
the cholera broke out--at John's request the move was delayed. The girls
remained at Kensington, while Mrs. Morgan travelled backwards and
forwards between the homes. Every day the accounts grew more and more
serious, and in the month of September the mortality had reached its
height.

John's new parish of St. Mary Outh'gate lies on the river side of a
great thoroughfare, of which the stream of carts and wheels rolls by
from sunrise until the stars set. The rectory-house stood within its
iron gates, in a court at the end of a narrow passage. The back of the
house looked into a cross lane leading to the river. The thoroughfare
itself was squalid, crowded, bare; there was nothing picturesque about
it; but in the side streets were great warehouse cranes starting from
high windows, and here and there some relic of past glories. Busy to-day
had forgotten some old doorway perhaps, or left some garden or
terrace-wall, or some old banqueting-room still standing. It had swept
the guests into the neighbouring churchyards on its rapid way. To-day
was in a fierce and reckless mood: at home and abroad were anxious
people watching the times, others were too busy to be anxious. John was
hard at work and untiring. He had scarcely had time to unpack his
portmanteau and to put up his beloved books and reports. His start had
been a dispiriting one. People had been dying by scores in the little
lane at the back of the rectory. Mrs. Morgan herself fell ill of anxiety
and worry, and had to go home. It must be confessed that the cares of
the move and the capabilities of the drawing-room carpet added not a
little to the poor lady's distress. Betty remained to take care of her
master, and to give him her mind. John bore the old woman's scolding
with great sweetness of temper. 'You do your work, Betty, and let me do
mine,' said he. He had taken in two professional nurses after his mother
left, and his curate, whose landlady had died of the prevailing
epidemic. The two men worked with good will. John came, went, preached,
fumed, wrote letters to _The Times_. Frank, who was in town, came to see
him one day. He found the curate in good spirits. Things were beginning
to look a little less dark, and John was one of those who made the best
of chance lights. He received his friend heartily, wheeled his one
arm-chair up for him, and lit a pipe in his honour. The two sat talking
in the old bare black room leading into the court. John gave a short
account of his month's work.

'It's over now--at least, the worst is over,' he said, 'and the artisans
are at work again. It's the poor little shop-keepers I pity, they have
lost everything--health, savings, customers--they are quite done up.
However, I have a friend in the neighbourhood to whom I go, and Lady
Sarah heard of my letter to _The Times_ and sent me fifty pounds for
them the other day. Dolly brought it herself. I was sorry to see her
looking worn, poor dear. I think it is a pity that Mrs. Palmer takes so
very desponding a view of her daughter's prospects. Dolly seemed
disinclined to speak on the subject, so I did not press her, and we all
know,' said the curate, in a constrained sort of voice, 'that Henley is
a high-minded man, his good judgment, and sense of....'

'His own merit,' said Raban, testily. 'What a thing it is to have a
sense of one's own virtue. He will get on in India, he will get on in
every quarter of the world, he will go to heaven and be made an
archangel. He has won a prize already that he does not know how to value
at its worth, and never will as long as he lives.'

John Morgan looked very much disturbed. 'I am very sorry to hear you say
this. Tell me as a friend, when Mrs. Palmer declares the engagement is
broken off, do you really think there is any fear of....'

Frank jumped up suddenly.

'Broken off!' he cried, trying to hide his face of supreme satisfaction,
and he began walking up and down the room. 'Does she say so?'

The dismal little room seemed suddenly illumined; the smoky court, the
smutty-tree, the brown opposite foggy houses were radiant. Frank could
not speak. His one thought was to see Dolly, to find out the truth; he
hardly heard the rest of the curate's sentence. 'I have been so busy,'
he was saying, 'that I have scarcely had one minute to think about it
all; but I love Dolly dearly, she is a noble creature, and I should
heartily grieve to hear that anything bad occurred to trouble her. Are
you going already?'

       *       *       *       *       *

There is a little well of fresh water in Kensington Gardens, sparkling
among the trees, and dripping into a stone basin. A few stone steps lead
down to the lion's head, from whence the slender stream drips drop by
drop into the basin; the children and the birds, too, come and drink
there. Somewhere near this well a fairy Prince was once supposed to hold
his court. The glade is lovely in summer, and pleasant in autumn,
especially late in the day, when the shadows are growing long, and the
stems of the murmurous elm-trees shine with western gold.

Frank Raban was crossing from the high-road towards the Palace gate, and
he was walking with a long shadow of his own, when he chanced to see a
nymph standing by the railing and waiting while the stream trickled into
the cup below. As he passed she looked up, their eyes met, and Frank
stopped short, for the nymph was that one of which he had been thinking
as he came along--Dorothea of the pale face and waving bronze hair.

As he stopped Eliza came up the steps of the well, bringing her young
mistress the glass; it was still very wet with the spray of the water,
and Dolly, smiling, held it out to Raban, who took it with a bow from
her hand. It was more than he had ever hoped, to meet her thus alone at
the moment when he wanted to see her, to be greeted so kindly, so
silently. No frowning Robert was in the background, only Eliza waiting
with her rosy face, while Dolly stood placid in the sloping light, in
the sunset, and the autumn. Her broad feathered hat was pushed back, her
eyes were alight.

'I am so glad to see you,' she said. 'You have heard our good news from
George? it came two nights ago. My aunt has been asking for you, Mr.
Raban. What have you been doing all this time?'

'I have been at Cambridge,' said Frank. 'I am only up in town for two
days; I was afraid of being in your way. Is everybody gone? Are you
alone? How is Lady Sarah?'

'She is better, I think. I am going back to her now,' said Dolly. 'I
came here with Eliza to get her some of this chalybeate water. Will you
come with me part of the way home?'

Of course he would come. He was engaged to dine at the club, and his
hosts never forgave him for failing; he had letters to answer and they
remained on the table. He had left John Morgan in a hurry, too much
excited by the news he had heard to smoke out his pipe in tranquillity,
but here was peace under the chestnut-trees where the two shadows were
falling side by side and lengthening as the world heaved towards the
night.

As they were walking along Frank began telling Dolly about a second
letter he had received from his grandfather; he could never resist the
wish to tell her all about himself; even if she did not care to hear, he
liked to tell her.

'I am in an uncertain state of mind,' he said. 'Since I saw you my
grandfather has taken me into favour again: after these seven years he
offers me Leah. He wants me to give up driving young gentlemen and to
take to sheep-shearing and farming and a good allowance. He writes to me
from Harrogate. I should have a house and serve in bondage, and live
upon him, and rescue him from the hands of the agents who now perform
that office very effectually,' said Raban, dryly.

'What do you mean?' said Dolly, looking at him doubtfully.

'This is what I mean,' said Frank; 'I cannot forget how badly the old
people used me, and how for seven years they have left me to shift for
myself. I have always failed in ambition. I shall never win Rachel,' he
said, 'and I want nothing else that anybody can give me; and what is the
use of putting my head under the tyrannic old yoke?'

'It is so difficult to be just,' Dolly answered, leading the way under
the trees. 'When I try to think of right and wrong it all seems to turn
into people and what they wish and what I would like to do for them. I
wonder if some people can love by rule? And yet love must be the best
rule, mustn't it? and if your poor old grandfather is sorry and begs you
to go to him, it seems cruel to refuse.'

She seemed to be speaking in tune to some solemn strain of music which
was floating in the air.

Frank was looking at the ground, and without raising his eyes he
presently said,--'Well, I suppose you are right, I shall take your
advice and give up the dry crust of liberty and try to be content with
cakes and ale; such strong ale, Miss Vanborough, such heavy cakes,' he
added, looking at her absently.

Dolly blushed up, hesitated: she was rather frightened by the
responsibility Frank seemed to put upon her.

'Could not you ask some one else?' she said, confusedly. 'Perhaps
Rachel,' she added, not without a little jealous pang, lest Rachel might
be Rhoda, and her poor boy's last chance undone.

The light seemed to come from Raban's dark eyes. 'I _have_ asked
Rachel,' he said, in a low voice that seemed to thrill clear and
distinct on her ears. 'Is it possible? do you not know it? Is not your
name Rachel to me? are you not the only Rachel in the whole world for
me? I never thought I should tell you this,' cried Frank, 'until just
now, when I heard from John Morgan that you were free; but now, whatever
your answer may be, I tell you, that you may know that you are the one
only woman whom I shall ever love. My dear, don't look frightened, don't
turn away. Robert Henley never loved you as I do.'

His coldness was gone; his half sarcastic, half sulky, careless manner
was gone. It had given way to a sort of tender domination; the real
generous fire of truth and unselfish love, that belonged to the man and
had always been in him, seemed to flash out. The music still clanged on,
solemnly jarring with his words. Dolly turned pale and cold.

'I am not free; it has all been a mistake,' she said, very quickly. 'You
must not speak to me of Robert like that.'

His face changed. 'Are you still engaged to him?' he asked, looking at
her steadily.

'I promised to wait for him, and you have no right to ask me anything at
all,' she cried, turning upon him. 'Oh, why did you--how can you speak
to me so?' She spoke vehemently, passionately.

He was silent; but she had answered his eyes, not his spoken words. He
saw that her eyes were full of tears. He had read her too carefully to
have had much hope. He saw that she was overpowered, that she was bound
to Robert still, that his wild dream of happiness was but a vision. It
was no new revelation to him. 'You might have guessed it all long ago,'
said he, shortly. 'But you would not understand me before, when I tried
to tell you that I loved you. Now you know all,' he said, with a sigh.
'Forget it if you like.'

He would have left her, but Eliza had disappeared, and a crowd of people
were gathered outside the gate, rough-looking Irish among them from the
buildings opposite. A military funeral was passing by, the music had
ceased, and the soldiers went tramping down the street in a long and
solemn line; the slow fall of their feet struck upon the hard road and
echoed with a dull throb. People were looking on in silence and crowding
to the windows and in the doorways. As the dead man's horse was led by
with the empty saddle and the boots swinging from the side, Dolly turned
away pale and trembling, and Raban was glad then he had not left her.
She put out her hand for a moment. She seemed blinded and scared.

Then she recovered herself quickly, and when the crowd gave way, she
walked on in silence by his side until they came to the turning that led
to the old house. 'Thank you,' she said, a little tremulously. 'Forgive
me if I spoke harshly; it was best to tell you the truth.'

Raban had meant to leave her without a word: now he suddenly changed his
mind. He held out his hand.

'Good-by, Rachel,' he said, still looking at her with silent reproach.
'Do not fear that I shall trouble and annoy you again; it would be hard
to take your friendship and confidence away from me because of John
Morgan's mistake.'

'How can you be my friend?' cried poor Dolly suddenly, passionate and
angry once more. 'Leave me now--only go please go.'

Henley would have been satisfied if he had been present.

Frank walked away, bitterly hurt and wounded; she seemed to resent his
love as if it had been an insult. He was disappointed in Dolly, in life;
the light was gone out, that one flash of happiness had shown him his
own disappointment all the more plainly. We don't hope, and yet our
hearts sink with disappointment: we expect nothing, but that nothing
overwhelms us. And meanwhile life is going on, and death, and the many
interests and changes of mortals coming and going on their journey
through space. When Frank got back to Cambridge he found a telegram
summoning him at once to Harrogate. It was sent by some unknown person.

People part--each carries away so much of the other's life; very often
the exchange is a hard-driven bargain, willingly paid indeed, which the
poor debtor is in no inclination to resent:--a whole heart's fidelity
and remembrance in sleepless nights, tendered prayers and blessings, and
exchange for a little good grammar, a pleasant recollection, and some
sand and ink and paper, all of which Dolly duly received that evening.
All day long she had been haunted by that little scene at the well; it
seemed to bring her nearer to Henley, and his letter came as an answer
to her thoughts. George's letter had been for them all. Robert's was for
herself alone, and she took it up to her room to read.

Robert's letter was not very short: it was sufficiently stamped: it said
all that had to be said; and yet, 'How unreasonable I am! how can men
feel as women do?' thought Dolly, kissing the letter to make up for her
passing disappointment. Then came a thought, but she put it away with a
sort of anger and indignation. She would not let herself think of Frank
with pity or sympathy. It seemed disloyal to Robert to be sorry for the
poor tutor.

Lady Henley also received a blotted scrawl from Jonah by that same post,
and she made up her mind at last to go home, and she sent the brougham
for Dolly and her mother to come and wish her good-by. On her first
arrival Dolly was pounced upon by her cousins and taken in to Sir
Thomas. When she came upstairs at last, she found her aunt and her
mother in full committee, apparently on good terms, and with their heads
close together. The little lady was upon the sofa. Mrs. Palmer was upon
the floor, in a favourite attitude. There only could she find complete
rest, she said. Lady Henley had a great heap of Jonah's clothes upon the
sofa beside her; she had been folding them up and marking them with her
own hands. The drawing-room seemed full of the sound of the bells from
the towers outside, and autumn leaves were dropping before the windows.

'Come here,' said Lady Henley, holding out her hand to Dolly. 'I have
been talking to your mother about you. Look at her--as if there were no
chairs in the room! I wanted to show you Jonah's letter. Foolish boy, he
sends you his love! I don't know why I should give the message. You know
you don't care for him, Dolly. Have you heard from Robert? Is he
properly heart-broken?' with a sort of hoarse laugh. 'Jonah mentions
that he seems in very good spirits.' Then Lady Henley became agitated.
Dolly stood silent and embarrassed. 'Why don't you answer,' said her
aunt, quite fiercely. 'You can't answer; you can't show us his letter;
you know in your heart that it has been a foolish affair. Your mother
has told me all.'

Lady Henley was flushed and getting more and more excited, and, at the
same time, Philippa gave one of her silvery laughs, and starting
actively to her feet, came and put her arm round Dolly's waist.

'All! no, indeed, Joanna. Delightful creature as he is, Robert tells one
nothing. Forgive me, dearest, it is a fact. He really seemed quite to
forget what was due to me, a lady in her own drawing-room, when he said
good-by to you. I only mention it, for he is not generally so
_empressé_, and if he had only explained himself----'

'What have you been saying, mamma?' said Dolly, blushing painfully.
'There is nothing to explain.'

'There is everything to explain,' burst in Lady Henley from her corner;
'and if you were my own daughter, Dolly, I should think it my duty to
remonstrate with you, and to tell you frankly what I have always said
from the beginning. There never was the slightest chance of happiness in
this entanglement for either of you; take the advice of an older woman
than yourself. Robert has no more feeling for you than--than--a fish, or
do you think he would consent to be free? Ah! if you were not so
blinded.... There is one honest heart,' she said, incoherently, breaking
down for an instant. She quickly recovered, however, and Dolly, greatly
distressed, stood looking at her, but she could not respond; if ever she
had swerved, her faithful heart had now fully returned to its first
allegiance. All they said seemed only to make her feel more and more how
entirely her mind was made up.

'Robert and I understand each other quite well,' said Dolly, gravely. 'I
wish him to be free. It is my doing, not his; please don't speak of this
to me, or to any one else again.'

She had promised to herself to be faithful, whatever came. Her whole
heart had gone after Robert as he left her. She knew that she loved him.
With all her humility, the thought that she had made a mistake in him
had been painful beyond measure. It seemed to her now that she was
answerable for his faith, for his loyalty, and she eagerly grasped at
every shadow of that which she hoped to find in him.

She walked away to the window to hide her own gathering tears. The bells
had come to an end suddenly. Some children were playing in the middle of
the road and pursuing one another, and a stray organ-man, seeing a lady
at the window, pulled out his stop and struck up a dreary tune--'Partant
pour la Syrie, le jeune et beau Dunois.' It was the tune of those times,
but Dolly could never hear it afterwards without a sickening dislike.
Dolly, hearing the door bang, turned round at last.

'My dear Dolly, she is gone--she is in a passion--she will never forgive
you,' said Philippa, coming up in great excitement.

But she was mistaken. Lady Henley sent Dolly a little note that very
evening:--

     My Dear,--I was very angry with you to-day. Perhaps I was wrong
     to be angry. I will not say forgive an old woman for speaking
     the truth; it is only what you deserve. You must come and see
     us when you can in Yorkshire. We all feel you belong to us now.

     Yours affectionately,

     JOANNA HENLEY.

     P.S.--I see in this evening's paper that our poor old
     neighbours at Ravensrick died at Harrogate within a day of one
     another. I suppose your friend Frank Raban comes into the
     property.



CHAPTER XLIII.

CRAGS AND FRESH AIR.

    My prayers with this I used to charge:
    A piece of land not very large,
    Wherein there should a garden be;
    A clear spring flowing ceaselessly;
    And where, to crown the whole, there should
    A patch be found of growing wood.
    All this and more the gods have sent.

    --Horace: T. Martin.


The old town of Pebblesthwaite, in Yorkshire, slides down the side of a
hill into the hollow. Rocks overtop the town-hall, and birds flying from
the crags can look straight down into the greystone streets, and upon
the flat roofs of the squat houses. Pebblesthwaite lies in the heart of
Craven,--a country little known, and not yet within the tramp of the
feet of the legions. It is a district of fresh winds and rocky summits,
of thymy hill-sides, and of a quaint and arid sweetness. The rocks, the
birds, the fresh rush of the mountain streams as they dash over the
stones, strike Southerners most curiously. We contrast this pleasant
turmoil with the sleepy lap of our weed-laden waters, the dull
tranquillity of our fertile plains. If we did not know that we are but a
day's journey from our homes, we might well wonder and ask ourselves in
what unknown country we are wandering. Strange-shaped hills heave
suddenly from the plains; others, rising and flowing tumultuously, line
the horizon: overhead great clouds are advancing, heaped in massive
lines against a blue and solid sky. These clouds rise with the gusts of
a sudden wind that blows into Frank Raban's face as he comes jogging
through the old town on his way to the house, from which he had been
expelled seven years before, and to which he was now returning as
master. Smokethwaite is the metropolis of Pebblesthwaite, near which is
Ravensrick. The station is on a little branch line of rail, starting off
from the main line towards these rocks and crags of Craven.

Frank had come down with the Henleys, and seen them all driving off in
the carriages and carts that had come down to meet them from the Court.
Nothing had come for him, and he had walked to the inn and ordered the
trap.

'Where art goin'?' shouts a pair of leather-gaiters standing firm upon
the door-step of an old arched house opposite.

'Ravensrick Court,' says the driver.

''Tis a blustering day,' says old leather-gaiters.

The driver cracks his whip, and begins to do the honours of
Pebblesthwaite as the horse clatters over the stones. 'Do ye ken t'
shambles?' he says, pointing to an old arched building overtopped by a
great crag.

'I know it as well as you do,' says Frank, smiling.

Can it be seven years since he left? Raban looks about: every stone and
every pane of glass seems familiar. The town was all busy and awake. The
farmers, sturdy, crop-headed, with baskets on their arms, were
chattering and selling, standing in groups, or coming in and out of
shops and doorways, careful as any housewives over their purchases.
There were strange stores--shoes, old iron, fish, all heaped together;
seven years older than when the last market-day Frank was there, but
none the worse for that. There was the old auctioneer, in his tall,
battered hat, disposing of his treasures. He was holding up a horse's
yoke to competition. 'Three shillin'! four shillin'!' says he. The
people crowd and gape round. One fellow, in a crimson waistcoat, driving
past in a donkey-cart, stops short and stares hard at the trap and at
Raban. Frank knew him, and nodded with a smile. Two more stumpy
leather-gaiters, greeting each other, looked up as he drove by, and
grinned. He remembered them too. There was the old Quaker, in his white
neckcloth, standing at the door of his handsome old shop; and Squire
Anley, walking along to the bank, all dressed from head to foot in loose
grey clothes, with his bull-terrier at his heels. And then they drove
out into the straight country roads, under the bridge between stone
hedges, beyond which the late flames of summer green were still
gleaming,--the meadows still shone with spangling autumn flowers. Far
away in the hollow hung the smoke of the factory, with its many windows;
a couple of tall chimneys spouted blackness; a train was speeding
northward; close at hand a stream was dashing; the great trees seemed
full of birds. It was a different world from that in which he had been
basking. Frank already felt years younger as he drove along the
road,--the old boyish impulses seemed waiting at every turn. 'Why, there
goes old Brand,' he cried, leaning forward eagerly to look after an old
keeper, with a couple of dogs, walking off with a gun towards the hills.

Frank called after the keeper, but the wind carried away his voice. As
he drove along by each stile and corner that seemed to have awaited his
coming, he suddenly thought of his talk with Dorothea. She had been
cruelly hard to him, but he was glad to think now that he had followed
her advice about forgiveness of injuries, and made an advance to the
poor old people who were now gone. It would have been absurd to pretend
to any great sorrow for their death. They had lived their life and shown
him little kindness while it lasted. It was a chance now that brought
him back to Ravensrick again.

He had written an answer to his grandfather's letter and accepted his
offer, but the only answer which ever came to this was the telegram
summoning him to Harrogate. It had been delayed on the way; and as he
went down in the train, the first thing he saw was a paragraph in _The
Times_,--'At the Mitre Hotel, Harrogate, on the 28th instant, John
Raban, Esq., of Ravensrick, Pebblesthwaite, aged 86; and on the
following day, Antonia, widow of the above John Raban, Esq., aged 75.'
The old squire had gone to Harrogate for the benefit of his health, but
he had died quite suddenly; and the poor lady to whom he had left
everything, notwithstanding his injunctions and elaborate directions as
to her future disposal of it, sank the night after his death, unable to
struggle through the dark hours.

And then came confusion, undertakers, lawyers, and agents, in the midst
of which some one thought of sending for Frank. He was the old couple's
one grandson, and the old lady had left no will. So the tutor came in
for the savings of their long lives--the comfortable old house, the
money in the bank, the money in the funds, the ox and the ass, and the
man-servant and the maid-servant, who had had their own way for so many
years past, and preyed upon the old couple with much fidelity. They all
attended the funeral in new suits of mourning ordered by the agent.
Frank recognised many of them. There was the old housekeeper who used to
box his ears as a little boy; the butler who used to complain of him. He
was oppressed by all these yards of black cloth and these dozens of
white pocket-handkerchiefs; and he let them return alone to Ravensrick,
and followed in the course of a day or two.

There are harsh words and unkind judgments in life, but what a might of
nature, of oblivion and distraction is arrayed in battle against them;
daylight, lamplight, sounds of birds and animals come in between, and
turn the slander, the ill-spoken sentence and its fierce retort from its
path. What do harsh words matter that were spoken a week ago? Seven
days' sunshine have brightened since then. While I am railing at false
friends and harsh interpretations, the clematis' flowers have starred
the wavering curtain of green that shades my window from the light; the
old Norman steeple has clanged the blue hours, the distant flow of the
sea has reached me, with a sound of the twitter of birds in
accompaniment. Is it six months ago since A. judged B. unkindly? A. and
B., walking by the opal light of the distant horizon, are thinking no
more of coldness and unkindness, but of the fresh sweetness of the
autumnal sea.

As Frank comes driving along the well-known road, and the fresh
blustering winds blow into his face, past unkindness matters little,
every gust sends it farther away. He thinks, with a vague sense of pity,
of a poor little ghost that used to run hiding and shrinking away in
dark corners, a little fatalist doomed to break windows, slam doors, and
leave gates ajar, through which accusing geese, sheep, ponies would
straggle to convict him. He used to think they were all in one league
against him. Twice a week on an average he was led up into his
grandfather's study to be cross-examined and to criminate himself
hopelessly before that inexorable old judge:--a handsome old man with
flowing white locks and a grand manner and opinion upon every subject.
If old Mrs. Raban generally supplied the opinions, the language was the
Squire's own. Mrs. Raban had been a spoiled old beauty, rouged and
frizzed and rustling; she disliked every one who interfered with her own
importance. She adored her husband, and was jealous of him to the last.
Some chance speech had set her against the poor little 'heir' as some
one called him, and she had decreed that he was a naughty and stupid
little boy and was to be kept in his place. There rises Frank's little
doppelgänger before him, hanging his head, convicted of having broken
the carriage-window, or some such offence; there sits the old judge in
his arm-chair by the library-table, dignified, stately, uttering
magnificent platitudes, to which the ancestor in the cauliflower wig is
listening with deep attention. Frank seems to hear the echo of his voice
and the rustle of his grandmother's dress as she leaves the room: but
the horse starts, a partridge scuffles across the road, and he comes
back to the present again.

'Yan goes,' says the driver, excitedly, standing up on his box. Then
they pass a little tumble-down village, and there at a turn of the road
rise the chimneys of Ravensrick, and Pen-y-ghent rearing its huge back
behind them, and the iron gates, and the old avenue, and the crows
flying, whirling, dancing, sliding in twos and threes and twenties--how
often the little doppelgänger had watched their mystic dance. Had it
been going on for seven years?

'There's t' Court,' said Frank's companion--a good-humoured, talkative
man. 'T' owd Squire, he were respectit, but he let things go.' As he
spoke they were passing by a cottage with a broken roof and a generally
dilapidated, half-patched look; a ragged woman was standing at the door,
two wild-looking children were rolling in the dust; at the same time a
man on horseback, coming the contrary way, rode past them on the road.
The driver touched his cap, the woman disappeared into the house.

'That's Thomas Close, t' agent,' said Frank's companion.

Frank, looking back as the carriage turned, saw a curious little scene.
One of the children, who was standing in the road, suddenly stamped and
clenched his little fist at the agent as he passed. The man reined in
his horse, leant back, and cut at the child with his whip; the little
boy, howling, ran into the cottage.

Frank asked the driver what he knew of the people in the cottage.

The man shrugged his shoulders. 'Mary Styles she is queer in her ways,'
said he: 'i' t' habit o' snuffin' and drinkin'. Joe Styles he follows t'
Squire's cart; t' agent give him notice la-ast Monday--he wer' down at
our ya-ard wantin' work, poor chap,' said the man, with a crack of the
whip. 'Thomas Close he says he will have nought nor bachelors upon t'
farm. He's a----'

'Stop,' said Frank: 'I'll get down here: take my portmanteau to the
front door and tell them to pay you, and say that--a--I am coming.'

The man stared, and suddenly gave a low whistle as he drove off.
Meanwhile the new Squire walked up by the back way. He crossed the
kitchen-garden and got on to the terrace. How well he knew the way; the
lock of the gate was easier than it used to be--the walls were greener
and thicker with leaves and trellis. The old couple were coming back no
more, but the beds they had planted were bright with Michaelmas daisies
and lilies, and crimson and golden berries with purple leaves were
heaping the terrace, where a man was at work snipping at the overgrowth
of the box hedges. There was the iron scrolled gate through which you
could see the distant view of Pen-y-ghent. There was the old
summer-house, where he once kept a ménagerie of snails, until they were
discovered by Miss Meal, his grandmother's companion. Coming out of the
garden he found himself face to face with the long rows of doors and of
windows--those deadly enemies of his youth; a big brown dog, like a fox,
with a soft skin and a friendly nose, came trotting up with a friendly
expression. It followed Frank along the back passage leading straight
into the hall: it was one of those huge stone halls such as people in
Yorkshire like. The man in armour stood keeping watch in his corner--the
lantern swung, every chair was in its place, and the old man's hat and
his dogskin gloves lay ready for him on the oak table.

Then Frank opened the dining-room door. It faced westward, and the light
came sliding upon the floors and walls and shining old mirrors, just as
he remembered it. There was the doctor of divinity in his gown and band,
who used to make faces at him as he sat at luncheon; there was the King
Charles's beauty, leaning her cheek upon her hand, and pensively
contemplating the door and watching her descendants pass through. This
one walks firm and quick; he does not come shuffling and with care;
though give him but time enough, and it may come to that. But,
meanwhile, the ancestry on canvas, the old chairs with their fat seats
and slim bandy legs, the old spoons curling into Queen Anne scrolls, the
books in the bookcases--all have passed out of the grasping old hands,
and Frank, who had been denied twenty pounds often when he was in need,
might help himself now, there was no one to oppose his right.

The next room is the library, and his heart beats a little as he opens
the door. There is no one sitting there. The place is empty and in
order; the chair is put against the wall; the oracle is silent; there is
nothing to be afraid of any more.

Frank, as he stands in the torture chamber, makes a vow to remember his
own youth, if, as time goes on, he should ever be tempted to be hard
upon others. Then he walks across to the fire-place and rings the bell.
It jangles long and loud; it startles all the respectable old servants,
who are drinking hot beer, in their handsome mourning, in the
housekeeper's room. Frank has to ring again before anybody finds courage
to come.

Perrin, the butler, refusing to move, two of the housemaids appear at
last, hand in hand. They peep in at the door, and give a little shriek
when they see the window open and Frank standing there. They are
somewhat reassured when a very civil young master, with some odd
resemblance to the old eagle-faced Squire, requests them to light a fire
and show him to a room.

'I came in the back way,' he said. 'I am Mr. Raban.'

Frank declines the Squire's room, the great four-post bedstead, and the
mahogany splendour, and chooses a more modest apartment on the stairs,
with a pretty view of the valley.

He came down to a somewhat terrible and solitary meal in the great
dining-room; more than once he looked up at his ancestor, now too
well-mannered to make faces at the heir. All that evening Frank was busy
with Mr. Close. He said so little, and seemed so indifferent, that the
agent began to think that another golden age was come, and that, with a
little tact and patience, he might be able to rule the new Squire as
completely as he had ruled the old one. Close was a vulgar, ambitious
man, of a lower class than is usual in his profession. He had begun life
as a house-agent. Most of the Squire's property consisted in houses; he
had owned a whole street in Smokethwaite, as well as a couple of mills
let out to tenants.

'I daresay you won't care to be troubled with all these details,' said
the agent, taking up his books as he said good-night.

'You may as well leave them,' said Frank, sleepily. 'They will be quite
safe if you leave them there, Mr. Close. I will just look them over once
more.'

And Mr. Close rather reluctantly put them down, and set out on his
homeward walk.

It was very late. Frank threw open the window when he was alone, and
stood on the step looking into the cool blackness; hazy and peaceful, he
could just distinguish the cows in the fields, just hear the rush of the
torrent at the bridge down below. He could see the dewy, veiled flash of
the lights overhead. From all this he turned away to Mr. Close's books
again. Until late into the night he sat adding and calculating and
comparing figures. He had taken a prejudice against the agent, but he
wanted to be sure of the facts before he questioned him about their
bearing. It was Frank's habit to be slow, and to take his time. About
one o'clock, as he was thinking of going to bed, something came
scratching at the window, which opened down to the ground. It was the
brown dog Pixie, who came in, and springing up into the Squire's empty
chair, went fast asleep. When Frank got up to go to bed, Pixie jumped
down, shook himself, and trotted upstairs at his heels.

Frank took a walk early next morning. What he saw did not give him much
satisfaction. He first went to the little farm near the bridge. He
remembered it trim and well kept. Many a time he had come to the kitchen
door and poured out his troubles to kind Mrs. Tanner, the farmer's wife.
But the farmer's wife was dead, and the farm had lost its trim, bright
look. The flowers were in the garden, the torrent foamed, but the place
looked forlorn; there was a bad smell from a drain; there was a gap in
the paling, a general come-down-in-the-world look about the stables; and
yet it was a pretty place, even in its present neglect. A stableman was
clanking about the yard, where some sheep were penned. A girl with gipsy
eyes and a faded yellow dress stood at the kitchen-door. She made way
for Frank to pass. Tanner himself, looking shrunken, oldened, and worn
out, was smoking his pipe by the hearth. He had been out in the fields,
and was come in to rest among his old tankards and blackened pipes.

Frank was disappointed by the old man's dull recognition. He stared at
him and tapped his pipe.

'Ay, sir,' he said, 'I know you, why not? Joe Sturt from t' "Ploo" told
me you bed com'. Foalks com's and go's. T' owd Squire he's gone his way.
He's com' oop again a young squire. T' owd farmer maybe will foller
next. T' young farmer is a wa-aiting to step into his clogs.'

Old Tanner turned a surly back upon Frank.

'Well, good-by,' said the young landlord at last. 'If Mrs. Tanner had
been alive she would have been more friendly than you have been.'

This plain-speaking seemed to suit the old farmer, who turned stiffly
and looked over his shoulder.

'She wer' kind to all,' said he; 'even to gra-aspin' landlords that
bring ruin on the farmer, and think nought o' doublin' t' rent. I wo-ant
leave t' owd pla-ace,' said Tanner. 'Ye ca-ant turn me out. I know ye
would like to thraw it into t' pa-ark, but I'll pay t' la-ast farthin'.
Close he wer' here again a-spyin', and he tould me ye had given him the
lease. D---- him.'

'Don't swear, Tanner,' said Frank, laughing. 'Who wants your farm? what
is it all about?' And then it all came out. 'There is some mistake; I
will speak to Close,' Frank said, walking off abruptly to hide his
annoyance.

'T' cold-blooded fella,' said old Tanner, settling down to his pipe
again; but somehow it had a better flavour than before.

Close had not been prepared for Frank's early walk, and the new lease he
was bringing for the new landlord to sign was already on its way to the
Court. The old Squire had refused to turn Tanner out, but the lease was
up, and year by year the agent had added to the rent. It was a pretty
little place, capable of being made into a comfortable dwelling-house,
where Mr. Close felt he could end his days in peace. Old Tanner was past
his work, it was absurd of him to cling on. There had been a battle
between the two, and poor old Tanner had been going to the wall.

Presently Frank forgot his indignation, for he met an old friend down
the steep lane that led to the moor.

James Brand was a picturesque figure, advancing between the hedges this
bright September morning. He had heavy gaiters, a gun was slung across
his shoulders, and a lurcher was leaping at his heels. The old fellow
was straight and active, with two blue eyes like pools, and a face as
seamed and furrowed as the rocks among which he lived.

'Thought ye wer' ne'er coomin', Mr. Frank,' said he, quietly; 't'wife
she sent me to look,' and he held out a horny hand.

He was very quiet: he turned silently and led the way back to the little
stone house built against the slope of the hill. The two trudged
together: the keeper went a little ahead. Every now and then he looked
over his shoulder with a glance of some satisfaction. Frank followed,
stooping under the low doorway that led into the old familiar stone
kitchen, with the long strings of oat-cake hanging to dry, its oak
cupboard and deep window-sills, the great chimney, where Mrs. Brand was
busied. Frank remembered everything: the guns slung on the walls, the
framed almanack, the stuffed wild-fowl, the gleam of the mountain lake
through the deep window, the face of his old nurse as she came to meet
him. People who have been through trouble, and who have been absorbed in
their own interests, sometimes feel ashamed when time goes on and they
come back to some old home and discover what faithful remembrance has
followed them all along, and love, to which, perhaps, they never gave a
thought. If old things have a charm, old love and old friendship are
like old wine with a special gentle savour of their own.

Frank had always remembered the Brands with kindness once or twice at
Christmas he had sent his old nurse a little remembrance, but that was
all; he had never done anything to deserve such affection as that which
he read written upon her worn face. Her eyes were full of tears as she
welcomed him. She said very little, but she took his hand and looked at
him silently, and then almost immediately began to busy herself,
bringing out oat-cake and wine from an oak chest that stood in the
window.

'There is the old oak chest,' said Frank, looking about, 'why, nothing
is changed, James!'

'We do-ant change,' said James, looking about, with a silent sort of
chuckle. Neither he, nor the old dame, nor the stout-built stone lodge
were made to change. It was piled up with heavy stones; winter storms
could not shake it, nor summer heats penetrate the stout walls.

This part of Craven country flows in strange and abrupt waves to the
east and to the west. Rocks heap among the heather, winds come blowing
across the moors, that lie grey and purple at mid-day, and stern and
sweet in the evening and morning; rivers flow along their rocky beds,
hawks fly past, eagles sometimes swoop down into this quaint world of
stones and flowers.

Frank, standing at the door of the keeper's lodge, could look across to
the court and to the hills beyond where the woods were waving; some
natural feeling of exultation he may have felt, thinking that all this
had come to him when he least expected it; well, he would do his best,
and use it for the best; he thought of one person who might have told
him what to do, with whom, if fate had been propitious, he would gladly
have shared these sweet moors and wild-flowers, these fresh winds and
foaming torrents, but she had failed him, and sent him away with harsh
words that haunted him still.

James, when they started again, brought him a light for his pipe, and
the two trudged off together. James still went ahead. The dogs followed
baying.

'So t' Squoire's in his grave,' said James. 'He were a good friend to
us,' he said. 'I'm glad no strangers coom t' fore. Ye should a' cottoned
oop t' old man, Mr. Frank.'

'What could I do, James?' said Frank, after a moment's silence. 'He
forbade me the house. I am only here now by a chance. If there had been
a will, I should probably have been far away.'

'T'wer' no cha-ance,' said old James. 'He ne'er thought o' disinheritin'
ye; he were a proud ma-an. T'wer' a moonth sin' I last saw t'ould man.
He said, "Wall! I'm a-going from Pebblesthwaite. Ye'll hav' another
master, James, afore long; tell him t' thin the Walden wood, and tak'
Mr. Fra-ank down t' hollow whar t' covers lie." He took on sorely ne'er
seeing ye, sir.'

Frank turned very red. 'I wish I had known it sooner, James.'

Frank came home from his talk with his keeper in a softened and grateful
mind. The thought that no injustice had been meant, that his grandfather
had been thinking of him with kindness, touched him, and made him
ashamed of his long rancour. Now he could understand it all, for he felt
that in himself were the germs of this same reticence and difficulty of
expression. The letter he had thought so unkind had only meant kindness.
It was too late now to regret what was past, and yet the thought of the
dead man's good-will made him happier than he could have supposed
possible. The whole place looked different, more home-like, less
bristling with the past; the lonely little ghost of his childhood was
exorcised, and no longer haunted him at every turn.

Frank, notwithstanding his outward calm, was apt to go to extremes when
roused, and, after a few mornings spent over accounts with Mr. Close, he
gave that gentleman very plainly to understand that, although he did not
choose to criticise what had passed, he wished his affairs to be
conducted, in future, in an entirely different manner. The cottages were
in a shameful state of disrepair; the rents were exorbitantly high for
the accommodation given....

Mr. Close stared at Frank. The young Squire must be a little touched in
the head. When Raban, carried away by his vexation, made him a little
speech about the duties of a country gentleman and his agent, Mr. Close
said, 'Very true, sir. Indeed, sir? Jest so.' But he did not understand
one word of it, and Frank might just as well have addressed one of the
fat oxen grazing in the field outside.

'You will find I have always studied your interests, sir,' said Mr.
Close, rubbing his hands, 'and I shall continue to do so. Perhaps you
will allow me to point out that the proposed improvements will amount to
more than you expect. You will have heavy expenses, sir. Some parties
let their houses for a time: I have an offer from a wealthy gentleman
from Manchester,' said the irrepressible Close.

Frank shortly answered that he did not wish to let the house, and that
he must arrange for the improvements. A domestic revolution was the
consequence, for when the new master proposed to reduce the
establishment, the butler gasped, choked, and finally burst into tears.
He could not allow such aspersions upon his character. What would his
old master and mistress have said? His little savings were earned by
faithful service, and sooner than see two under-footmen dismissed, he
should wish to leave.

Mrs. Roper, the housekeeper, also felt that the time was come for rest
and a private bar. She had been used to three in the kitchen, and she
should not be doing her duty by herself if she said she could do with
less.

Raban let them all go, with a couple of years' wages. For the present he
only wanted to be left alone. He stayed on with a groom and a couple of
countrywomen sent in by Mrs. Brand. They clattered about the great
kitchen, and their red shock heads might be seen half a mile off. Of
course the neighbours talked: some few approved; old friends who had
known him before troubled themselves but little; the rest loudly blamed
his proceedings. He was a screw: he had lived on a crust, and he now
grudged every halfpenny. He was cracked (this was Mr. Close's version);
he had been in a lunatic asylum; he had murdered his first wife.

When the county began to call in friendly basket-carriages and
waggonettes, it would be shown in by Betty and Becky to the library and
the adjoining room, in which Mr. Raban lived. Frank had brought the
lurcher away from the keeper's lodge; it had made friends with the foxy
terrier, and the two dogs would follow him about, or lie comfortably on
the rug while he sat at work upon his papers. The periwigged ancestor
looked on from the wall, indifferently watching all these changes. One
table in the window was piled with business papers, leases,
cheque-books, lawyers' letters in bundles. A quantity of books that
Frank had sent for from London stood in rows upon the floor. After the
amenities and regularities of the last few years, this easy life came as
a rest and reinvigoration. He did not want society. Frank was so taken
up with schemes for sweeping clean with his new broom, that he was glad
to be free for a time, and absolved from the necessity of dressing, of
going out to dinner, and making conversation. He would open his windows
wide on starry nights. The thymy wind would sough into his face: clear
beam the solemn lights; the woods shiver softly. Does a thought come to
him at such times of a sick woman in an old house far away, of a girl
with dark brows and a tender smile, watching by her bedside?

People who had been used to the pale and silent college tutor in his
stuff-gown, might scarcely have recognised Frank riding about from farm
to farm in the new and prosperous character of a country gentleman,
be-gaitered and be-wideawaked. The neighbours who exclaimed at the
shabbiness of Mr. Frank's indoor establishment might also, and with more
reason, exclaim at the regiment of barrows and men at work, at the
drains digging, roofs repairing, fences painting. The melancholy
outside, tumble-down looking houses were smartening up. The people stood
at their doors watching with some interest and excitement the works as
they hammered on.

Frank superintended it all himself. He was up to his waist in a ditch
one day when the Henley party drove past in the break on their way to
call at Ravensrick. They left a heap of cards--Sir Thomas and Lady
Henley, Mr. Jonah Anley, Captain Boswarrick--and an invitation for him
to dine and sleep the following day. The red-headed girls took the cards
in, and grinned at the fine company; the fine company grinned in return
at Sukey.

'Why, what sort of society can he have been used to?' cried little Mrs.
Boswarrick. She was the eldest daughter: a pretty, plump little woman,
very much spoilt by her husband, and by her father, too, whose favourite
she was.

'He has evidently not been used to associate with butlers and footmen,'
said Mr. Anley.

'Hulloh!' shouted Sir Thomas, as he drove out at the park-gates. 'Look
there, Anley! he is draining Medmere, and there is a new window to the
schools. By Jove!'

'Foolish young man!' said Mr. Anley, 'wasting his substance, draining
cottages and lighting school-rooms!' and he looked out with some
interest.

'Then, Uncle Jonah, you are foolish yourself,' said Bell.

'Are you turned philanthropist, Uncle Jonah?' said Mrs. Boswarrick. 'I
wish some one would take me and Alfred up. What have you been doing?'

I make it a rule never to do anything at the time that can be put off
till the morrow,' said Mr. Anley, apologetically. 'My cottages were
tumbling down, my dear, so I was obliged to prop them up.'

'He bought them from papa,' said Bell. 'I can't think why.'

'It is all very well for bachelors like you and Raban to amuse
yourselves with rebuilding,' said Sir Thomas, joining in from his box in
an aggravated tone; 'if you were a married man, Anley, with a wife and
daughters and milliners bills, you would see how much was left at the
end of the year for improvements.'

'To hear them talk, one oughtn't to exist at all,' says Mrs. Boswarrick,
with a laugh.



CHAPTER XLIV.

WHITE WITH GAZING.

     'The tender heart beat no more; it was to have no more pangs,
     no more doubts, no more griefs and trials: its last throb was
     love!

     --Pendennis.


     The Harbingers are come: see, see their mark! White is their
     colour....

     --G. Herbert.


Frank, accepted Lady Henley's invitation and arrived at Henley Court
just before dinner-time one day. The place lies beyond Pebblesthwaite,
on the Smokethwaite road. It was a more cheerful house than
Ravensrick--a comfortable, modern, stone-piled house, built upon a hill,
with windows north and south, and east and west, with wide distant views
of valleys and winding roads and moors. Through one break of the hills,
when the wind blew south, the chimneys of Smokethwaite stood out clear
against the sky; at other times a dull black cloud hung over the gap.
The garden was charming: on one side a natural terrace overhung the
valley; a copper beech rustled upon the lawn; and a few great
chestnut-trees gave shade in summer to the young people of the house, to
the cows browsing in the meadow, who would come up to the boundary fence
to watch Miss Bell's flirtations with gentle curiosity, or the children
at play, or to listen to Sir Thomas reading out the newspaper. He had a
loud voice and a secret longing for parliamentary distinction. When he
read the speeches he would round his periods, address Lady Henley as
'sir,' and imagine himself in his place, a senator in the company of
senators. He was a stupid man, but hospitable, and popular in the
neighbourhood, far more so than Lady Henley, who was greatly disliked.
Bell was fast, handsome. Norah was a gentle, scatter-brained creature,
who looked up to everybody; she especially adored her sister, Mrs.
Boswarrick, who had captivated Captain Boswarrick one evening at a York
ball, where she had danced down a whole regiment of officers. The
captain himself was a small and languid man, and he admired energy in
others. If Sir Thomas was fond of thundering out the debates, Captain
Boswarrick had a pretty turn for amateur acting and reciting to select
audiences. Some one once suggested private theatricals.

'Never while I live,' said Lady Henley, 'shall there be such mummeries
in this house. If Alfred chooses to make a fool of himself and repeat
verses to the girls, I have no objection, so long as he don't ask me to
sit by.'

'I never should have thought of asking you to sit by, Lady Henley,'
drawled Alfred.

When Frank was announced, he found the young ladies in fits of laughter,
Captain Boswarrick declaiming in the middle of the room, with Squire
Anley and Mr. Redmayne for audience. Everybody turned round, and the
performance suddenly ceased when he entered. The Squire nodded without
getting up.

'How d'ye do?' said Mrs. Boswarrick, holding out half-a-dozen bracelets.
'Mr. Raban forgets me, I can see. Sit down. Alfred hates being
interrupted. Go on, Alfred!'

Captain Boswarrick's manner would quite change when he began to recite.
He would stamp, start, gesticulate, and throw himself into the part with
more spirit than could have been reasonably expected.

And now, with a glance at his wife, he began again with a stamp, and
suddenly pointing--

    That morn owd York wor all alive
      Wi' leal an' merry hearts;
    For t' country foalks com' i' full drive
      I' gigs an' market-carts,
    An' girt lang trains, wi' whistlin' din,
      Com' w-w-whirrlin' up.

The little captain, suiting the action to the word, raised his arm with
some action to represent the train. It was caught from behind by a firm
grasp. Frank had not seen that he had been followed into the room by a
stout little man in bran-new clothes, who joined the circle.

'Take care,' said the stranger,--he spoke with a slight Yorkshire
accent. 'What are you about, yo'ng man? What is all this? Very
fascinating, very brilliant, very seductive, very much so, but leading
to--what?' with a sudden drop of the voice, and the hand he held. Bell
went off into a shriek of laughter.

Captain Boswarrick flushed up. He might have resented the interruption
still more if he had not been somewhat mollified by the string of
compliments.

'Leading to----You would have heard all about it, Mr. Stock, if you had
not stopped him,' said Mr. Anley.

'Shall I make my meaning plainer?' said the little man, not heeding the
interruption. 'Shall I tell you what I mean? Social intercourse, music,
poetry,--dazzling, I own. I, too, have experienced the charm; I, too,
have studied to please; but I have also discovered the vanity of
vanities; so will you one day. A fact, though you don't believe me.'

'But in the meanwhile, Mr. Stock, don't grudge us our fun,' said Bessie
Boswarrick, coming to the rescue.

'I don't grudge it; far from it,' said the stranger; 'I was just like
you all once: now--I am not afraid of ridicule--I can give you something
better than that; better than that, better than that. You can choose
between us: _his_ poetry, _my_ plain speaking. I'm a plain man,--a very
plain man; he, brilliant, highly educated.'

Captain Boswarrick scarcely knew how to accept all these compliments and
in what sense to take them. Mr. Anley listened with the profoundest
gravity. Bell giggled and stuffed her handkerchief into her mouth; but
everybody was glad when the door opened and Lady Henley came in, making
a diversion. The scene was getting embarrassing.

'After dinner, dear Mr. Stock,' said Joanna, courteously, 'we shall be
glad to hear _anything_ you may have to say. Let us leave them to their
folly, Mr. Raban. Do you know your neighbour?--our excellent friend and
minister?'

Frank was quite prepared to make Mr. Stock's acquaintance--he was an
amateur preacher, a retired cavalry officer, living not far from
Ravensrick--but he found himself carried off by Sir Thomas. The baronet
had been in town that week, and was in a communicative mood. He had seen
the ladies at Church House, who had asked after Raban. The Admiral had
been heard of from Gibraltar.

'He has been writing in the most ill-judged way to know the exact state
of affairs between Dolly and my nephew Robert,' Sir Thomas said
confidentially. Sir Thomas always reflected the people with whom he had
been living. 'I found my sister greatly overcome--hers is a nervous
susceptibility, almost amounting to genius, but _not_ under control.'
And then, dropping his oratorical tone of voice, he went on to say that
they all seemed much disturbed and greatly in want of cheering; that he
had promised to run up again. 'Lady Sarah still lingering, poor thing,'
he added. 'She has a most devoted nurse in my young niece.'

Frank asked as indifferently as he could how Miss Vanborough was
looking.

'Not so blooming as I could wish,' said Sir Thomas. 'Far from it. My
wife is anxious that our friend, Mr. Stock, should impart some of his
admirable ministration to her, but we cannot expect her to leave home at
present.'

Mr. Stock's ministration seemed to have won over the simple baronet,
whose conversation was deeply interesting to Frank, for he went on
alternately praising Mr. Stock and talking about Dolly. Sir Thomas was
not the discreetest of men. 'I had a--some painful explanation with my
niece,' he continued, lowering his voice (people seem to think that is a
sort of charm against indiscretion); 'to you, who are such an old
friend, I may safely say that I do _not_ like this vagueness and
uncertainty in a matter which so closely concerns Dolly's happiness. The
engagement seems to be neither on nor off.... She tells me that Robert
is free, but she seems to consider herself bound.... I have thought it
best to write to him plainly on the subject.... My wife, as you know,
wishes the engagement entirely broken ... at least I think so....'

The baronet suddenly stopped short, and looking rather foolish, began to
talk of Mr. Stock again.

Lady Henley was not so absorbed in her conversation that she had not
overheard Sir Thomas's too candid confidences. She was shaking her head
at her husband over her shoulder.

Frank moved away, and went and stared through one of the windows. Once
more hope came to dazzle him. In some moods people grasp at faintest
dreams. There was everything smiling, shining, every ridge seemed
illuminated; there lay the happy valley flooded with sunlight, life,
brightness. Children's voices reached him, and meanwhile the recitation
had begun again. 'Yan morn in May,' the Captain was saying. But a loud
dinner-bell brought it all to a close.

       *       *       *       *       *

The sun had set, they had all done dinner. Norah used to feed the cows
of an evening with oat-cake prepared for Sir Thomas, and she now came
out into the twilight, calling to her favourites, who stood expecting
with their horns rearing against a golden streak. One bolder than the
rest was making a hissing noise to attract attention, as Norah came out
with her oat-cake. She called her favourites by name and softly stroked
their long noses over the railings. Mr. Redmayne followed soon after,
advancing with some precaution.

'Miss Norah,' he said, 'Mr. Stock is putting the drawing-room chairs in
order--he evidently expects a large congregation. A Miss M'Grudder has
come. Is it absolutely necessary that one should be present, or may one
stop here and feed the cows?'

'I must go in,' said Norah, demurely. 'Here is the oat-cake, Mr.
Redmayne,' and so saying she put the remains into his hand and tripped
hastily away.

Mr. Redmayne, however, preferred to follow Miss Norah. Frank came out as
the two went in together--he did not want to be present at the oration.
He was distracted and thinking of many things.

Those few words of Sir Thomas had given him a strange longing to go
back, if only for a day, to see Dolly again. He thought of his old
friend also lying stricken. He had been very forgetful all these days
past, and his conscience reproached him, and his inclination spoke too.
There was an early train from Smokethwaite--he had business in town; why
should he not go? Cruel girl! was she sad, and could he do nothing to
help her?

As Frank walked up and down in the twilight, he would hear the boom of
Mr. Stock's voice through the open drawing-room windows. When they
started a hymn, the cows, who are fond of music, all crowded up to
listen. As for Frank, he was in charity with all men, and prepared to
believe that all that people did was good. If Mr. Stock liked to give a
peculiar expression to the faith which was in him, Raban for one had no
mind to quarrel with it. His own was a silent belief: it seemed growing
with happier emotions that were overflooding his heart, but it found its
best expression in silence. He took leave of his hosts that evening when
he went upstairs to bed.

The servant had put Frank into Jonah's room. It was a mistake--and Lady
Henley did not know of it. There were the poor boy's pistols, his whips,
on the wall boxing-gloves and foils. He had somehow got hold of one of
those photographs of Dolly of which mention has been made, and hung it
up over his chimney. There were a few books on the shelf, Captain Mayne
Reid, _Ivanhoe_, a few old school-books and poetry-books, and Frank took
one down. Frank thought very kindly of poor Jonah as he looked about at
his possessions. He was a long time before he could get to sleep, and he
got up and lighted his candle and read one of the books off the
shelf--it happened to be Kingsley's _Andromeda_--till he fell asleep.
Then it was only to dream a confused dream: Jonah fighting desperately
with some finny monster, like that one on Lady Sarah's tiles, Dolly
chained to a rock, and calling for help, while Mrs. Palmer and the
Admiral stood wringing their hands on the shore. Was this George coming
to their help? The monster changed to mist, out of which came lightning
and thunder--the lightning was the gleam of a sword. The thunder shook
the air; the mists parted; George, pale and wounded, stretched out his
hand and gave Raban the sword; he looked weary with the fight; Frank in
his dream rushed forward and struck wildly; the monster gave a horrible
scream. He started up wide awake. He had left his window open; the
morning mist had filled the room, but the scream was a real one; it was
in his ears still. It came from the room below; there was a stir of
voices, then all was silent again.

When Frank came down to an early breakfast in the big dining-room he
asked the butler if any one had been ill in the night. 'I heard a
scream,' he said.

'It is my lady in her sleep,' the man answered. 'She often do scream at
night since Mr. Jonah left.'

'I want my man called,' said Frank; 'I am going to town by the early
train.'

As Frank was changing carriages at one of the stations, the London train
went by, and he thought he saw a glimpse of a familiar face; a grey kid
glove was waved. Surely it was Mrs. Palmer, on her way to Henley Court!

     _From_ DOROTHEA VANBOROUGH
     _to_ ROBERT HENLEY, ESQ.,
     _Calcutta_.

     I have been hoping for a chance letter, but none has come since
     that last one from Alexandria. Aunt Sarah is asleep; the house
     is empty, and I am writing to you in the oak-room by the
     window. Dear Robert, what shall I say in answer to your letter?
     That I _do_ trust you; that I do know how to love you, and that
     you in turn must trust me. I could almost scold you for what
     you say about Mr. Raban if I did not think that you are only
     unfair because you love me. I never see him now. He is in
     Yorkshire; so is mamma--she is gone for a couple of days. As
     for me, I cannot leave Aunt Sarah, who depends upon me more and
     more. I had a long talk with my uncle before he left. He asked
     me a great many questions about you. He tells me he has
     written. I do not know what he has written; but please send him
     a nice letter. Dear Robert, it is so painful to me to be
     cross-questioned about your affection for me. I must speak
     honestly and without disguise to you of all people in the whole
     world, and so I will confess that if I had known  all----

Dolly, who had written thus far, looked up, for old Sam came into the
room with a card.

'It's Mr. Raban, Miss,' said he.

Dolly blushed up crimson. 'I--I can't see him, Sam,' she answered. 'Aunt
Sarah is asleep. Say I am engaged.'

Sam came back with Frank's card. 'Mr. Raban is in town till Monday,
Miss.'

'Put down the card, Sam,' said Dolly, and she bent her head over her
letter and went on writing.

Frank walked away disappointed. 'She might have spared five minutes to a
friend who had come a hundred miles to see her,' he said to John Morgan
that evening, as they walked back together to Frank's hotel. The waiter
met Frank with a note, which had been left during his absence.

Raban suddenly brightened up; he read a few words, very stiff, very shy.
'Lady Sarah heard he had called, and wanted to see him; would he come
the following day at five o'clock? 'It was signed, 'Yours truly,
Dorothea Vanborough.'

'Well,' said John Morgan, 'that is Dolly's writing, isn't it?'

'Yes,' said Frank. 'Lady Sarah wants to see me. As for Miss Vanborough,
she seems to be studying the art of keeping old friends at a distance.'

'Nonsense,' said Morgan, 'since she asks you to go. What is the matter
with you?'

The second time old Sam let Frank in at once, and showed him into the
drawing-room. 'My lady will be ready directly,' he said.

Frank waited his summons; when he was tired of waiting he stepped out
upon the terrace, attracted by the beauty of the autumnal evening, and
wondering what inexpressible charm the old home had for him. Ravensrick,
with all the graces of possession, did not seem to him so much like home
as this silent old house where he had no right, no single stake; where
the mistress lay stricken, and parting from this world; where Dolly
lived, but where her heart's interest was not. Already strangers were
speculating upon the fate of the old house, and wondering who would come
there after Lady Sarah's death. And yet Frank Raban, as he paced the
terrace, felt a tranquil satisfaction and sense of completeness that
existed for him in no other place.

When Dolly came into Lady Sarah's room to tell her that Frank was there,
Marker, who had been sitting in a corner, got up gently and left the
room. Lady Sarah was not asleep; she was sitting up on her sofa by the
window, of which the sash was half raised to let in the air. Her grey
hair was hanging loose; grey though it was, it fell in shining silver
curls about the withered face.

'Is that you, Dolly? I have had a dream,' she said, a little wildly.
'Your father was standing by me and we were looking at a river, and
George was a child again, and I held him in my arms, and when I looked
into his face it was like the face of that Raphael child at Dresden.
Look out,' she said, beginning to wander again, 'and tell me if the
river is there.'

Dolly unconsciously obeyed, and looked out at the garden, in its
shifting, changing lights and tremulous tones of radiance and
golden-sombres. She could almost have imagined her aunt's dream to be
true if Frank Raban had not been walking on the terrace. She looked
back.

'Dear Aunt Sarah, it is the sunset that made you dream.'

'It was a dream,' said Lady Sarah, 'but I think I have sometimes seen
that river before, Dolly. Christian and Christiana and all the company
have crossed it.' Then, smiling: 'I am afraid I have been a tiresome old
pilgrim at times.' She pushed back her grey hair and lay looking into
the girl's face. 'It is nearly over now,' she said.

Dolly tried to speak, but some sudden tears seemed to choke her, and
Lady Sarah stroked her hand.

'Try to be a thankful woman, Dolly,' she said. 'God has blessed you and
given you love and trust in others. I see now where I failed.' Then, in
her usual tone, she said, 'I should like to see Frank Raban again.'

Dolly was beginning to say that she would go for him, when Lady Sarah
suddenly cried,--'Open the window wide! open! let the river come in.'

Dolly, frightened, threw open the pane, and, as she did so, some evening
bell began to ring from a distant chapel, and a great flight of birds
passed across the sky.

The next minute Frank from the terrace below heard a cry. It was Dolly
calling for help.

'I am here,' he answered, and, without waiting to think, he sprang up
the old oak staircase, and hurried along the passage to the door of Lady
Sarah's room.

It was all dark in the passage, but the sun was in the room. Dolly was
holding up her aunt in her arms; her strength seemed to be failing.
Frank sprang to help her, and together they raised her up. A little soft
breeze came in at the window, and Lady Sarah opened her eyes. She was
still wandering.

'Is this George?' she said. 'I have been waiting for you, dear.'

Then she seemed to recognise Frank, and she let his hand fall upon his
sleeve.

'Ah! he will take care of Dolly,' she whispered, 'for this is----'

A quick silent brightness came into her face: it may have been some
change in the sunset lights. She was dead--lying in a serene and royal
peace.



CHAPTER XLV.

WHAT AUNT SARAH LEFT FOR DOLLY.

    ...One that was a woman, sir;
    But, rest her soul--she's dead!

    --Shakspeare.


For an hour Frank kept watch alone in the empty rooms below. The doctor
had come and gone. He said, as they knew he would, that all was over,
there was nothing more to be done for Sarah Francis.

Frank had been for the doctor. He had sent a telegram to Mrs. Palmer;
then he came back and waited below in the twilight room, out of which
the mistress was gone for ever.

When death enters a house there is a moment's silence; then comes the
silent tumult that follows death, everybody scared and bustling to the
door, acquaintances leave their own names on bits of pasteboard, friends
write notes, relations encamp in the dining-room, the pale faces of the
living come and look at the place out of which a life has passed away.
Servants come and go, busy with the fussy paraphernalia. It means
kindness and honour to the dead, but it seems all contrived to make
sorrow grotesque and horrible instead of only sorrowful.

When the rush of strangers and of neighbours came, it pushed in between
Frank and the solemn silence up above. 'How had he come there?' they
asked him. 'What had the doctor said?' 'How old was Lady Sarah?' 'Was it
known how things were left?' Then Frank heard Mrs. Morgan sending out
for black-edged paper in a whisper, and he started up and left them, for
it all jarred upon him and he could bear it no longer.

He went up and stood for a minute at the door of the room where he had
left Dolly in her first burst of grief. At the moment the door opened
softly, and Marker came out. Frank turned away, but in that instant he
saw it all again. The light had passed away, but some stars were shining
through a mist, and Dolly was kneeling in the silver shadow, with a pale
upturned face.

There was no sound. As Frank walked away he thought of two peaceful
faces in that upper chamber. Death might be in that room, but sorrow
waited abashed for a time in the presence of the Peace of Peace.

Alas! though Dolly's friend was faithful and strong, and would gladly
have saved her from all sorrow and wiped all tears from her eyes, it was
in vain he wished her good wishes; poor Dolly's cup that day was filled
to the very brim with a draught more bitter than she knew of as she
knelt in that silent room.

The sun had set upon a day long to be remembered, when a great victory
was won. Since mid-day the guns had been thundering along the heights,
the waters of the Alma were crimson in the sunset. The long day was over
now, the heights were won, the dreadful guns were silent; but all that
night men were awake and at work upon the battle-field, sailors from the
fleet and others bringing help to the wounded, carrying them to the
shore, and burying the dead.

       *       *       *       *       *

They laid Lady Sarah in her grave one quiet autumn day, and came away
silently. The blinds were drawn up when they got back to Church House,
all the windows were open, the people who had not loved her came and
went freely now; it struck Dolly strangely to hear Mrs. Palmer calling
Julie over the stairs. There was a little water-colour of Lady Sarah in
her youth, with a dislocated arm and a harp, that George and Dolly had
often laughed over together. Now, as she took it down from the niche by
the window in the oak room, a sudden burst of longing tears came raining
over her hands and the glass, dimming the simpering lady in
water-colours. Dolly felt at that minute how much she would have given
to have had a fuller explanation with her aunt. A complete clearing up
between them had never come in words, and yet the look of Lady Sarah's
tender eyes following her about the room, the clasp of that silent hand
seemed to say, 'I understand, I trust you,' more plainly than words. 'I
have done as you wished,' she had said. Was George forgiven too?

And now at least there were no more hidden things between them, and all
was peace in that troubled life. It seemed hard to Dolly at this parting
time to be separated from the two she most loved--from Robert and from
George--who would have shared her grief. Her long watch had told upon
her strength and spirits; every sound made her start, and seemed the
harbinger of bad news. She had a longing fancy, of which John Morgan
told Frank one day: she wanted to go off to the East, to be allowed to
nurse her brother on the spot, and she would learn as others had done if
need be. John Morgan spoke of a friend, Mrs. Fane, who had a home for
training nurses; would he not take her there one day? John Morgan agreed
to take Dolly to Mrs. Fane's if she wished it. He was glad to do
anything she told him, but as for her scheme, they were all opposed to
it. She was not strong enough to bear much fatigue. And so, as the
kindest people do, they condemned her to ease, to rest of body, to
wearing trouble of mind.

'We should have her laid up, sir, if we let her go,' said John Morgan;
'and she is a good girl, and has promised to wait patiently until she
hears from George. Robert, I am sure, would greatly disapprove of such a
plan.'

'I have been thinking of going to the East myself,' said Frank, who had
made up his mind for about two seconds. 'Some men I know are taking out
stores in a yacht, and want me to join them. If you see Miss
Vanborough--I never see her--will you tell her I am going, and will find
out her brother...?'

'You had better tell her yourself,' said John Morgan. 'I am sure she
would like to know it from you.' Frank only shook his head.

Frank Raban used to come to Church House every day; he saw Sir Thomas,
who had come up; he saw Mrs. Palmer, but, except once, he never saw
Dolly. Sometimes he could hear her step turn at the door, once he saw
her black dress as she walked away. One day, having gone upstairs,
summoned by Mrs. Palmer, he looked through a window and caught sight of
Dolly in the distance, sitting wrapped in a shawl, on the bench at the
garden-end, alone, by the pond where she and George used to go together.
She knew Raban was in the house. She waited there until he was gone.

What strange feeling was it that made her avoid Frank Raban of all the
people that came to the house? Was she not generous enough to forget
what had passed that day by the fountain?

'You are quite cold, my dear child,' said her mother, when Dolly came in
pale and shivering. 'Why did you not come in before?'

She had asked herself that very question that day. It was one she could
not answer. It was no want of trust in him, no want of gratitude for his
kindness, that made her unkind. This much she told herself. She acted by
an instinct, and she was right to follow it. She belonged to Robert. She
had deliberately given him her word, her love, her trust. It was not a
half fidelity, a half love that she had promised, and she would be true
to her word and to herself. Only it seemed to be her fate, and to come
round again and again in her life, short as it was, that what she loved
should be at variance with what she felt; that, loving truth, and
longing for one simple and uncomplicated response and sympathy, she
found herself hesitating, fearing to look forward, living from day to
day with a secret consciousness of something that she would not face.

This was the saddest time of Dolly's life. Brighter days were to come;
hours that she had not yet dreamt of were in store for her; but the
present was cold and drear: and though chill winds of spring help to
ripen a heart for happiness in later life as well as the warm summer
rays, Dolly could not know this yet.

One thing remained to be done. It interested no one less than those
principally concerned. Lady Sarah's will was to be read; and Frank
received a note from Mr. Tapeall, inviting him to come to Church House
at a certain time. To-day, thanks to the lawyer's letter, he met Dolly
at last. She was coming downstairs as he was crossing the hall. Her
black dress made her look older, more stately. She seemed to him to
change every time he met her now; and yet when she spoke she was herself
again. She smiled a little, gave him her hand. She seemed inclined to
say something, but she stopped short, and walked on into the
drawing-room, where the others were already waiting. The Morgans were
there, and Rhoda, all sitting silently round the room.

It was a dull and dismal afternoon: the rain splashed, the sky came down
in gray, vaporous glooms; the red tape was the most cheerful thing in
the room. Mr. Tapeall sat untying his parcels at the table; Sir Thomas,
with a silver pencil-case and crossed legs, was prepared to listen
attentively, and make notes, if necessary. Mr. Tapeall looked round. 'We
are all here,' he said, drawing in his chair. 'It is unfortunate that
Admiral Palmer should not have been able to arrive in time.'

As Mr. Tapeall looked round, Mrs. Palmer replied, with a languid shrug,
'We are used to do without him, Mr. Tapeall. I had proposed that he
should meet me at Paris, but of course he makes his usual difficulties.
What a climate!' she said. 'Just look at the atmosphere! And yet the
Admiral wishes to keep us in this dreadful country!'

'Dear Philippa, this is not the moment. If you will kindly listen to our
excellent--to Mr. Tapeall,' Sir Thomas began, in his oratorical voice.

Mrs. Palmer put on the resigned air, and murmured something about the
climate, with an expressive glance at the window; Dolly sat listening,
looking down, and quite silent; Frank thought of the first time he had
seen her sitting by the fire. Mr. Tapeall began. 'Lady Sarah had
intended to execute a more formal document, which I have had prepared
from the memorandum in my possession,' said he, 'of which I will, with
your permission, at once proceed to read the contents.'

And so in the silence, by Mr. Tapeall's voice, Sarah Francis spoke for
the last time in a strange jargon that in her life time she had never
used. Her house at Kensington, in the county of Middlesex; her house in
Yorkshire, in the parish of Pebblesthwaite; all other her messuages,
tenements; all her personal property, monies invested in Government or
landed securities, her foreign bonds, &c. &c., she left to her nephew,
George Francis Vanborough, of All Saints' College, Cambridge. If he
should die without issue or a will, it was to revert to Dorothea Jane
Vanborough, of Church House, in the parish of Kensington, to whom she
left her blessing, and, at the said Dorothea's own wish, nothing but the
picture in the dining-room, as a token of affection, confidence, and
most loving remembrance, and her trinkets. There were also
legacies:--250_l._ to the Rev. John Morgan, 275_l._ to Frank Raban,
Esq.; and, to Philippa's utter amazement and surprise, the sum of
5,000_l._ to Philippa, the wife of Admiral Hawtry Palmer, which was to
revert to Dolly at her mother's death. There were legacies to Marker and
old Sam. Mr. Tapeall and Frank Raban were appointed trustees and
executors.

'But the will is not signed,' said Sir Thomas, making a note.

'The memorandum is signed and attested,' said Mr. Tapeall. 'Lady Sarah
had proposed making me sole trustee, but to that I objected; she then
suggested Mr. Raban.'

'I _quite_ understand,' said Dolly, starting up and looking suddenly
bright and beaming. 'I am so glad,' she said, and her eyes filled with
tears.

'My dear child, we deeply feel for you,' said Mrs. Morgan, stepping
forward with a heavy foot.

Raban too glanced rather anxiously; but he was reassured: there was no
mistaking the look of relief and content in the girl's face. It was as
if her aunt had spoken; a sign to Dolly that she had forgiven the past;
and George must come home now, he must be happy now; all was as she
wished, his long disgrace was over; she clasped her two hands together.

Mr. Tapeall continued--'The whole thing has been complicated by previous
trusts and claims, making it desirable that the estate should be
administered by a business man. This was Lady Sarah's reason for making
me trustee,' said Mr. Tapeall. 'For the present my co-trustee's presence
will not be necessary,' and he politely bowed to Frank Raban.

'Thomas, did you hear? 5,000_l._!' cried Mrs. Palmer. 'The poor dear
extraordinary old thing must have lost her head. Why, we _detested_ each
other. However, it is quite right; yes, it would have been a thousand
pities to dwell upon trifles. As for my poor Dolly, I must say I do not
at all see why George is to have all those things and Dolly nothing at
all. Dolly, what _will_ Robert say, poor fellow? _How_ disappointing.
Come here, dearest, and let me give you a kiss.'

Dolly smiled as she bent over her mother. 'I did not want it, mamma; you
will let me live with you.' And then, as she raised her head, her eyes
met Raban's anxious glance with a frank smiling answer.

Rhoda sat perfectly bewildered and amazed. Was George heir after all?
Was this a part that Dolly was acting? Everything to George. Rhoda began
to think vaguely that there was George's chair, his carpet, his four
walls, and there might have been her carpet, her chair. It might have
been hers. Her head seemed going round; she was in a rage with herself,
with her Aunt Morgan, with everybody. As for Dolly, she did not know
about poverty. How admiringly Mr. Raban had looked at her. How strangely
Dolly was behaving. After all, thought Rhoda enviously, hearing Mrs.
Palmer chatter on to Mr. Tapeall, Dolly would be cared for.

'Certainly, winter abroad,' Mrs. Palmer was saying. 'I require change
and rest and a warmer clime; Mr. Raban. You must bring George back to us
at Paris. So you really go to-morrow! What a curious sum she has left
you; really the poor dear seems peculiar to the last. How much did you
say, Mr. Tapeall--5,000_l._--is it only 200_l._ a year?'

'Mr. Vanborough should be communicated with at once,' said Mr. Tapeall.
'I presume he has left no instructions?'

Mrs. Palmer here began shaking her head emphatically. 'He had nothing to
leave,' she cried. 'Nonsense, Dolly: that paper you have is nothing at
all. Yes, Mr. Raban, we must meet at Paris,' she continued, changing the
subject, 'when you come back, as you say, to see to poor Sarah's
affairs. It is, however, quite enough that I should be attached to any
one or any thing----'

'Philippa,' said Sir Thomas, coming up with a note he had just made,
'Tapeall wishes to know something more about this paper of George's. Do
you know anything of it?'

'Oh! you may tell Tapeall to burn it,' said Mrs. Palmer, indifferently.
'It is nothing.'

'I think it is a will, mamma,' said Dolly, steadily. 'I will give it to
Mr. Tapeall, and he can judge.' And she left the room to fetch the
paper.

'You know nothing of business, my dear Philippa,' said the baronet, with
a grim smile. 'Tapeall must not burn wills that are sent to him to
keep.'

'Shall I ask him to give it back to me?' said Mrs. Palmer, rapidly, in a
low voice. 'It is only some whim of the boy's. He could not know of poor
Sarah's extraordinary arrangements, putting everything out. How childish
of Dolly to have spoken of the paper to Tapeall. Pray don't make so much
noise with your fingers,' for the baronet, who had many restless little
tricks, was drubbing the table energetically.

Frank came up to take leave, and no more was said at the time. He was to
be away for two months, and meanwhile Mr. Tapeall had promised to act
for him.

Mrs. Palmer was very much annoyed with Dolly. She treated her with great
coldness, and, to show her displeasure, invited Rhoda to come out with
her for a drive every day. As they went along she used to ask Rhoda a
great many inconsistent questions, which Rhoda could not in the least
understand. Rhoda wondered what she meant.

One day they drove to Gray's Inn. Mrs. Palmer said she liked to explore
odd nooks. Then she had a chance idea, and stopped the carriage at Mr.
Tapeall's office, and went up to see him. She came down smiling,
flushed, and yet almost affectionate in her manner to the grim,
bald-headed lawyer, who followed her to the door.

'Do as you like, dear Mr. Tapeall. As a mother, I should have treasured
the memorandum. Of course, your scruples do you the greatest credit.
Good-morning.'

'A complete fool, my dear,' said she, with a sudden change of manner to
Rhoda, as the carriage drove off; 'and as for your friend Dolly, she has
not common sense.'

'Would he not do what you wanted?' said Rhoda, wonderingly. 'What a
stupid, tiresome man. But oh, Mrs. Palmer, I'm afraid he heard what you
said.'

'I do not care if he did. He would do nothing but bob his vulgar bald
head,' cried Mrs. Palmer, more and more irate. 'Coachman, drive to Hyde
Park Gardens; coachman, go to Marshall and Snellgrove's. I suppose,
Rhoda, you would not know your way home from here on foot?' said Mrs.
Palmer, very crossly. 'Of course I must take you back, but it is quite
out of the way. What is that they are crying in the street? It ought to
be forbidden. Those wretched creatures make one quite nervous.'

As Rhoda waited at the shop door, she heard them still crying the news;
but two people passing by said, 'It is nothing. There is no news;' and
she paid no more heed to the voices. But this time there was truth in
the lying voices. News had come, and the terrible details of the battle
were all in the paper next day.

Sir Thomas came to the house early, before any one was up, and carried
off the papers, desiring the servants to let no one in until his return.
He came back in a couple of hours, looking fagged and wearied. He heard
with dismay that Dolly had gone out. Mrs. Palmer was still in her room.
Terrible news had come, and words failed him to tell it.



CHAPTER XLVI.

THE SORROWFUL MESSAGE.

    I have no wealth of grief; no sobs, no tears.
    Nor any sighs, no words, no overflow,
    Nor storms of passion; no reliefs; yet oh!
    I have a leaden grief, and with it fears
    Lest they who think there's nought where nought appears
    May say I never loved him.

    --Hon. Mrs. Knox.


Dolly was with John Morgan. At that minute they were coming up the steps
at the end of a narrow street near the Temple. The steps led up from the
river, and came from under an archway. The morning was fine, and the
walk had brought some colour into Dolly's pale cheeks as she came up,
emerging from the gloom of the arch. John thought he had not seen her
look so like herself for a long time past. Dolly liked the quaint old
street, the steps, the river beyond, the alternate life and sleep of
these old City places.

As they came along, John Morgan had been telling Dolly something that
had touched her and made her forget for a time the sad preoccupations
from which she found it so difficult to escape. He had been confiding in
her--George had known the story he told her--no one else. It was a
melancholy, middle-aged episode of Mrs. Carbury's faithlessness. 'She
had waited so long,' said poor John, 'and with so much goodness, that it
has, I confess, been a blow to me to find that her patience could ever
come to an end. I can't wonder at it, but it has been a disappointment.
She is Mrs. Philcox now. Philcox is a doctor at Brighton.... It is all
over now,' said John, slowly, 'but I was glad to leave Kensington at the
time.'

'I am so sorry and so glad, too, for she could not have been at all
worthy of you,' cried Dolly, sympathising. 'Of course, she ought to have
waited. People who love don't count time.'

'Hush, my dear girl,' said John. 'She was far too good for me, and I was
a selfish fool to hope to keep her. How could I expect her to wait for
me? What man has a right to waste a woman's life in uncertainty?'

'Why, I am waiting for Robert,' said Dolly.

John muttered uncomfortably that that was different. 'Robert is a very
different person to me,' said John. 'This is the house.'

'What a nice old house,' said Dolly. 'I should like to live here for a
little.' John rang at the bell. It was a door with a handsomely carved
lintel, over which a few odd bow-windows were built out to get gleams of
the river. There was a blank wall, too, leading to the arch; the steady
stream of traffic dinned in the distance of the misty street end.

Mrs. Fane lived in one of the streets that lead out of the Strand. At
one time she had worked for the Sisters of St. James, who lived not far
off; but when, for various reasons, she ceased to become an active
member of the community, she set up a little house of refuge, to which
the Sisters often sent their convalescents. She had a sick kitchen for
people who were leaving the hospitals, weak still and unfit for their
work: mutton-chops and words of encouragement were dealt out to them; a
ground-floor room had been fitted up as a reading-room, in which she
gave weekly banquets of strong congon and dripping-cake, such as her
guests approved. She was a clever, original-minded woman; she had once
thought of being a Sister, but life by rule had become intolerable to
her, and she had gone her own way, and set to work to discover a clue of
her own in the labyrinth in which people go wandering in pursuit of the
good intentions which are said to lead to a dreary terminus. London
itself may be paved with good intentions for all we know. Who shall say
what her stones might cry out if they had voices? But there they lie
cold and hard and silent, except for the monotonous roll of the wheels
passing on from suburbs to markets, to docks, and to warehouses, those
cities within a city.

Charlotte Fane's clue in the labyrinth was a gift for other people's
happiness, and a sympathy that no sorrow could ever over-darken. She had
not been beautiful in her youth, but now in her middle age all her life
seemed written in her kind face, in the clear brown eyes, in the gentle
rectitude of her understanding sympathy. Some human beings speak to us
unconsciously of trust and hope, as others, in their inner discordance,
seem to jar and live out before our very eyes our own secret doubts and
failings, and half-acknowledged fears.

I have a friend, a philosopher, who thinks more justly than most
philosophers. The other day when he said, 'To be good is such a
tremendous piece of luck,' we all laughed, but there was truth in his
words, and I fear this luck of being born good, does not belong to all
the people in my little history. John Morgan is good. His soul and his
big body are at peace, and evenly balanced. Everything is intensely
clear to him. The present is present, the past is past. Present the
troubles and the hopes of the people among whom he is living; past the
injuries and disappointments, the failures and grievances of his lot;
once over they are immediately put away and forgotten. Charlotte Fane's
instincts were higher and keener, perhaps, than the curate's, but she,
too, was born in harmony with sweet and noble things.

'Yes,' said Morgan, 'I come here whenever I want help and good advice.
There are a few sick people upstairs that I visit. Mrs. Fane will show
you her little hospital. Two of her nurses have just gone out to the
East. She has been nursing some cholera patients with great success. I
sent a letter to _The Times_ on the subject; I don't know if they have
put it in; I have not seen the paper to-day.' As he spoke, there came a
sudden, deep, melodious sound.

'That is Big Ben,' said John. 'Three-quarters. We are late.' The strokes
fell one by one and filled the air and echoed down the street; they
seemed to sound above the noise and the hurry of the day.

Dolly remembered afterwards how a man with an organ had come to the end
of the street and had begun playing that tune of Queen Hortense's as
they went into the house. The door was opened by a smiling-looking girl
in a blue dress with some stiff white coiffe and a big apron.

'Mrs. Fane expected them; she would be down directly; would Mr. Morgan
go up and speak to her first? Mrs. Connor was dying they feared. Would
the lady wait in the nurses' sitting-room?' The little maid opened the
door into a back room looking on to a terrace, beyond which the river
flowed. There was a bookcase in the room: some green plants were growing
in the window, a photograph hung over the chimney of one of Mr. Royal's
pictures. Dolly knew it again, that silent figure, that angel that ruled
the world; she had come face to face with the solemn face since she had
looked at the picture two years ago in the painter's studio. Seeing it
brought back that day very vividly--the young men's talk in the green
walk: how Rhoda startled her when she came from behind the tree. The
clocks were still going on tolling out the hour one by one and ringing
it out with prosy reiteration, some barges were sailing up the river,
some children were at play, and the drone of that organ reached her
occasionally; so did the dull sound of voices in the room overhead. She
saw two more white caps pass the window. She had waited some minutes,
when she saw a paper lying on a chair, and Dolly, remembering John's
letter to _The Times_, took it up and looked to see if it had been
inserted. The letter was almost the first thing she saw, and she read it
through quietly. It was signed 'Clericus,' and advocated a certain
treatment for cholera. Long afterwards she talked it over quite calmly;
then she turned the page. A quarter of an hour had passed by, for the
clock in the room had begun to strike twelve. Did it strike into her
brain? Did the fatal words come with a shriek from the paper? What was
this? For a minute she sat stunned, staring at the printed words--then
she knew that she had known it all along, that she never had had hope
not for one instant since he left them. For one minute only she could
not believe that harm had happened to him, and that was the minute when
she read a list printed in pitiless order--'Killed on the 20th of
September; wounded at the battle of the Alma; died on the following day
of wounds received in action, Captain Errington Daubigney, Lieutenant
Alexander Thorpe, --th Regiment, Ensign George Francis Vanborough....'
There were other names following, but she could read no more. No one
heard her cry, 'My George, oh, my George!' but when the door opened and
two nurses came in quietly in their white coiffes and blue dresses, they
found a poor black heap lying upon the floor in the sunlight.

       *       *       *       *       *

I heard a sailor only the other day telling some women of his watch on
the night of the Alma, and how he had worked on with some of the men
from his ship, and as they went he searched for the face of a comrade
who came from his own native town. 'His friends lived next door to us,'
said Captain B----, 'and I had promised his mother to look after him. I
could hear nothing of the poor fellow. They said he was dead, and his
name was in the papers; and they were all in mourning for him at home,
when he walked in one day long after. They found it harder to tell his
mother that he was alive than that he was dead.' Alas! many a tender
heart at home had been struck that day by a deadly aim from those fatal
heights for whom no such happy shock was in store.

'If it had not been for George,' Jonah afterwards wrote to his mother,
'you would never have seen me again.'

On that deadly slope, as they struggled up through the deadly storm of
which 'the hail lashed the waters below into foam,' Jonah fell, wounded
in the leg, and as he fell the bugles sounded, and he was left alone and
surrounded. A Russian came up to cut him down. He had time to see the
muzzle of a gun deliberately aimed. Jonah himself could hardly tell what
happened. Suddenly some soldier, springing from behind, fired, and the
gun went up, and Jonah was able to struggle to his feet. He saw his new
ally run one man through with his bayonet, and then, with his clenched
fist, strike down a third who had come to close quarters. It was a
gallant rescue. When a moment came to breathe again Jonah turned. 'Thank
you, my man,' he gasped. The man looked at him and smiled. Jonah's
nerves were sharpened, for even in that instant he recognised George
dressed in his private's dress: his cap had gone, and he was
bare-headed.

As Jonah exclaimed, he was carried on by a sudden rush from behind; he
looked back, and he thought he saw George leap forward and fall. It was
a sudden rally--a desperate push--men fell right and left. The Colonel,
too, was down a few paces off, and then came a blinding crash. Jonah
himself was knocked over a second time by a spent shell. When he came to
himself, he was being carried to the rear, and the tide of battle had
swept on.

That night, while Dolly was at home watching in the mourning house, two
men were searching along a slope beyond a vineyard, where a fierce
encounter had taken place. A village not far off had been burned to the
ground; there were shreds and wrecks of the encounter lying all about.
Some sailors came up with lanterns and asked the men what they were
doing.

'They were looking for a man of their own corps. The Colonel had been
making inquiry,' said the two soldiers. A reward had been offered--it
was to be doubled if they brought him in alive.

'A gentleman run away from his friends,' said one of the men. 'There is
an officer in the Guards has offered the money; he's wounded himself,
and been carried to the shore.'

'Do you take money for it?' said one of the sailors, turning away, and
then he knelt down and raised some one in his arms, and turned his
lantern upon the face.

It was that of a young fellow, who might have seemed asleep at first. He
had been shot through the temple in some close encounter. There was no
mark except a dull red spot where the bullet had entered. He had been
lying on his back on the slope, with his feet towards the sea; his brows
were knit, but his mouth was smiling.

'Why, that's him, poor fellow!' said Corporal Smith, kneeling down and
speaking below his breath. 'So he's dead: so much the worse for him, and
for us too--twenty pound is twenty pound.'

'Here is a letter to his sweetheart,' said one of the sailors, laying
the head gently down, and holding out a letter that had fallen from the
dead man's belt.

'Miss Vanbur--Vanborough; that's the name,' said Smith.

The sailors had moved on with their lanterns: they had but little time
to give to the dead in their search for the living; and then the
soldiers, too, trudged back to the camp.

All that night George lay still under the stars, with a strange look of
Dolly's own steadfast face that was not there in life. It was nobler
than hers now, tear-stained and sorrowing, in the old house at home.
Afterwards, looking back, it seemed some comfort to Dolly to remember
how that night of mourning had been spent, not discordantly separated
from her George whom she had loved, but with him in spirit.

All that night George lay still under the stars. In the morning, just at
sunrise, they laid him in his grave. A breeze blew up from the sea in
the soldiers' faces, and they could hear the echo of some music that the
French were playing on the heights. Some regiment was changing quarters,
and the band was playing 'Partant pour la Syrie,' and the music from the
heights swelled over the valley. Then the armies passed on to fresh
battle, leaving the soldiers who had fallen lying along the valley and
by the sea.

Jonah, on board ship, heard a rumour that George had been found
desperately wounded, but alive. When he came back to the camp he found,
to his bitter disappointment, that it was but a vain hope. George's name
was on the list of the officers who had died of their wounds on the day
after the battle. That unlucky reward had made nothing but confusion.
Smith and his companion declared they had found him alive and sent him
to the shore to be taken on board. He must have died on the way, they
said. Jonah paid the twenty pounds without demur when the men came to
claim it. The letter they brought made their story seem true. Jonah
asked them a few questions. 'Did he send me this letter for his sister?'
he said: 'was he able to speak?'

Jonah was choking something down as he tried to speak quietly.

'He sent his duty, sir,' said Smith, 'and gave me the letter. He said we
should meet in a better world.'

'Did he use those words?' said Jonah, doubtfully. Something in the man's
tone seemed odd to him.

Smith gained courage as he went on. 'He couldn't speak much, poor
gentleman. Joe can tell you as well as me. He said, "Smith, you are a
good fellow," says he, didn't he, Joe?'

Joe did not like being appealed to, and stopped Smith short. 'Come
along,' he said, gruffly, 'the Captain don't want you now.'

Jonah let them go. He was giddy and weak from illness, and overcome. He
began to cry, poor fellow, and he did not want them to see it; he walked
up and down, struggling with his grief. His was a simple, grateful
heart.

Colonel Fane, too, saw the men, who had gained confidence, and whose
story seemed probable: they said nothing of the money that Jonah had
offered. Poor George's commission had come only the day before the
battle. Colonel Fane sent his name home with the list of the officers
who had fallen. He thought of the sweet-looking girl, his old friend's
daughter, and remembered their talk together. His heart ached for her as
he wrote her a few words of remembrance and feeling for her sorrow. His
praise of George was Dolly's best comfort at that miserable time, and
the few words he enclosed written by her brother on the very morning of
the battle.



CHAPTER XLVII.

FROM HEART OF VERY HEART.

    Silent silver lights and darks undreamed of,
    Where I hush and bless myself with silence.

    --R. Browing.


It was as well perhaps that the cruel news should have come to Dolly as
it did, suddenly, without the torture of apprehension, of sympathy. She
knew the worst now, she had seen it printed for all the world to read;
she knew the worst even while they carried her upstairs half conscious;
some one said 'higher up,' and then came another flight, and she was
laid on a bed and a window was opened, and a flapping handkerchief that
she seemed to remember came dabbing on her face. It was evening when she
awoke, sinking into life. She was lying on a little bed like her own,
but it was not her own room. It was a room with a curious cross corner
and a window with white curtains, through which the evening lights were
still shining. There was a shaded green lamp in a closet opening out of
the room, in the corner of which a figure was sitting at work with a
coiffe like that one she had seen pass the window as she waited in the
room down below.

A low sob brought the watcher to Dolly's side. She came up carrying the
little shaded lamp. Dolly saw in its light the face of a sweet-looking
woman that seemed strangely familiar. She said, 'Lie still, my dear
child. I will get you some food,' and in a few minutes she came back
with a cup of broth, which she held to her lips, for to her surprise
Dolly found that her hands were trembling so that she could not hold the
cup herself.

'You must use my hands,' said the lady, smiling. 'I am Mrs. Fane. You
know my brother David. I am a nurse by trade.'

And nursed by these gentle hands, watched by these kind eyes, the days
went by. Dolly 'had narrowly escaped a nervous fever,' the doctor said.
'She must be kept perfectly quiet; she could not have come to a better
place to be taken care of.'

Mrs. Fane reminded Dolly one day of their first meeting in Mr. Royal's
studio. 'I have been expecting you,' she said, with a smile. 'We seem to
belong to each other.'

Marker came, and was installed in the inner closet. One day Mrs. Palmer
came bursting in with much agitation and many tears; she had one grand
piece of news. 'The Admiral was come,' she said; 'he should come and see
Dolly before long; but Mrs. Palmer's visit did the girl no good, and at
a hint from Mrs. Fane, the Admiral also kept away. He left many parcels
and friendly messages. They were all full of sympathy and kindness, and
came many times a day to the door of the nurses' home. But Mrs. Fane was
firm, and after that one visit from Mrs. Palmer she kept everyone out,
otherwise they would all have wished to sit by Dolly's bed all day long.
The kindness of leaving people alone is one which warm-hearted people
find least easy to practise; and, in truth, the best quiet and
completest rest comes with a sense of kindness waiting, of friends at
hand when the time is come for them.

One evening, when Dolly was lying half asleep, dreaming of a dream of
her waking hours, a heavy step came to the door, some one knocked, and
when Marker opened with a hush! a gruff voice asked how Dolly was, and
grumbled something else, and then the step went stumping down to the
sitting-room below. When Dolly asked who had knocked, Marker said, 'It
was only an old man with a parcel, my dear. I soon sent him off,' she
added, complacently.

Dolly was disappointed when Mrs. Fane, coming in, in the morning, told
her that the Admiral had called the night before. He had left a message.
He would not disturb the invalid. He had come to say that he was ordered
off to Ireland on a special mission. He had brought some more guava
jelly and tins of turtle soup, also a parcel of tracts, called 'The
Sinners' Cabinet.' He told Mrs. Fane that he was taking Mrs. Palmer into
Yorkshire, for he did not like leaving her alone. He also brought a note
for Dolly. It was a hurried scrawl from Philippa:--

     _Church House, October 30._

     DARLING,--My heart is torn. I am off to-morrow morning by
     cock-crow, _of course_, travelling in the same train, but in a
     _different carriage_, with my husband. This is his arrangement,
     not mine, for he knows that I cannot and will not submit to
     those odious fumes of tobacco. Dearest, how gladly would I have
     watched by your pillow for hours had Mrs. Fane permitted the
     mother that one sad privilege; but she is trained in a sterner
     school than I. And, since I must not be with you, come to me
     without delay. They expect you--your room is prepared. My
     brother will come for you at a moment's notice. You will find
     Thomas a far pleasanter travelling companion than Joanna (with
     whom you are threatened). _Do not hesitate between them._ As
     for the Admiral, he, as usual, wishes to arrange everything for
     everybody. Opposition is useless until he is gone. And heaven
     knows I have little strength wherewith to resist just now.

There was a P.S.

     You may as well get that memorandum back from Tapeall if you
     can.

Dolly was not used to expect very much from her mother. Mrs. Fane was
relieved to find that she was not hurt by Mrs. Palmer's departure; but
this seemed to her, perhaps, saddest of all, and telling the saddest
story. Her mother had sent Dolly baskets of flowers, Mrs. Morgan called
constantly with prescriptions of the greatest value. Mrs. Fane had more
faith in her own beef-tea than in other people's prescriptions. She used
to come in to see her patient several times a day. Sometimes she was on
her way to the hospital in her long cloak and veiled bonnet. She would
tell Dolly many stories of the poor people in their own homes. At
certain hours of the day there would be voices and a trampling of feet
on the stairs outside.

'It is some more of them nurses,' said Marker, peeping out cautiously.
'White caps and aprons--that's what this institootion seems to be kep'
for.'

Marker had an objection to institootions. 'Let people keep themselves to
theirselves,' she used to say. She could not bear to have Dolly ill in
this strange house, with its silence and stiff orderly ways. She would
gladly have carried her home if she could, but it was better for Dolly
to be away from all the sad scenes of the last few months. Here she was
resting with her grief--it seemed to lie still for a while. So the hours
passed. She would listen with a vague curiosity to the murmur of voices,
to the tramp of the feet outside; bells struck from the steeples round
about, high in the air and melodiously ringing; Big Ben would come
swelling over the house-tops: the river brought the sound to Dolly's
open window.

       *       *       *       *       *

Clouds are in the sky, a great heavy bank is rising westward. Yellow
lights fall fitfully upon the water, upon the barges floating past, the
steamers, the boats; the great spanning bridge and the distant towers
are confused and softened by a silver autumnal haze; a few yellow leaves
drop from the creeper round the window; the water flows cool and dim;
the far distant sound of the wheels drones on continually. Dolly looks
at it all. It does not seem to concern her, as she sits there sadly and
wearily. Who does not know these hours, tranquil but sad beyond words,
when the pain not only of one's own grief, but of the sorrow of life
itself, seems to enter into the soul. It was a pain new to Dolly, and it
frightened her. Some one coming in saw Dolly's terrified look, and came
and sat down beside her. It was Mrs. Fane, with her kind face, who took
her hand, and seemed to know it all as she talked to her of her own
life, talked to her of those whom she had loved and who were gone. Each
word she spoke had a meaning, for she had lived her words and wept them
out one by one.

She had seen it all go by. Love and friendship had passed her along the
way; some had hurried on before, some had lagged behind, or strayed away
from her grasp, and then late in life had come happiness, and to her
warm heart tenderest dreams of motherhood, and then the final cry of
parting love and of utter anguish and desolation, and that too had
passed away. 'But the love is mine still,' she said, 'and love is life.'

To each one of us comes the thought of those who live most again, when
we hear of a generous deed, of a truthful word spoken; of those who
hated evil and loved the truth, for the truth was in them and common to
all; of those whose eyes were wise to see the angels in the field at
work among the devils.... The blessing is ours of their love for great
and noble things. We may not all be gifted with the divinest fires of
their nobler insight and wider imagination, but we may learn to live as
they did, and to seek a deeper grasp of life, a more generous sympathy.
Overwhelmed we may be with self-tortures, and wants, and remorses,
swayed by many winds, sometimes utterly indifferent from very weariness,
but we may still return thanks for the steadfast power of the noble
dead. It reigns unmoved through the raving of the storm; it speaks of a
bond beyond death and beyond life. Something of all this Mrs. Fane
taught Dolly by words in this miserable hour of loneliness, but still
more by her simple daily actions.... The girl, hearing her friend speak,
seemed no longer alone. She took Mrs. Fane's hand and looked at her, and
asked whether she might not come and live there some day, and try to
help her with her sick people.

'Did I ever tell you that, long ago, Colonel Fane told me I was to
come?' said Dolly, smiling.

'You shall come whenever you like,' said Mrs. Fane, smiling, 'but you
will have other things to do, my dear, and you must ask your cousin's
leave.'

'Robert! I don't think he would approve,' said Dolly, looking at a
letter which had come from him only that morning. 'There are many
things, I fear...' She stopped short and blushed painfully as one of the
nurses came to the door. Only that day Dolly had done something of which
she feared he might disapprove. She had written to Mr. Tapeall, in reply
to a letter from him, and asked him to lose no time in acting upon
George's will. She had a feverish longing that what he had wished should
be done without delay.

There is a big van at the door of the house in Old Street: great
packing-cases have been hoisted in; a few disconsolate chairs and tables
are standing on the pavement; the one looking-glass of the establishment
comes out sideways, and stuffed with straw; the creepers hang for sole
curtains to the windows; George's plants are growing already into tangle
in the garden; John's study is no longer crammed with reports,--the very
flavour of his tobacco-smoke in it is gone, and the wind comes blowing
freshly through the open window. Cassie and Zoe are away in the country
on a visit; the boys are away; Rhoda and Mrs. Morgan are going back to
join John in the City. The expense of the double household is more than
the family purse can conveniently meet. The gifts the rector has to
bestow are not those of gold or of silver.

They have been working hard all the morning, packing, directing: Rhoda
showing great cleverness and aptitude, for she was always good at an
emergency; and now, tired out, with dusty hands and soiled apron, she is
resting on the one chair which remained in the drawing-room, while Mrs.
Morgan, downstairs, is giving some last directions. Rhoda is glad to go;
to leave the old tiresome house; and yet, as she told Dolly, it is but
the old grind over again, which is to recommence, and she hates it more
and more. Vague schemes cross her mind--vague and indirect regrets. Is
she sorry for George? Yes, Rhoda is as sorry as it is in her nature to
be. She put on a black dress when she heard he was dead; but again and
again the thought came to her how different things might have been. If
she had only known all, thought Rhoda, naïvely, how differently she
would have acted. As they sat in the empty room, where they used to make
music once, she thought it all over. How dull they had all been! She
felt ill and aggrieved. There was Raban, who never came near her now. It
was all a mistake from the beginning.... Then she began to think about
her future. She had heard of a situation in Yorkshire--Mrs. Boswarrick
wanted a governess for her children. Should she offer herself? Was it
near Ravensrick she wondered? This was not the moment for such
reflections. One of the men came for the chair on which she was sitting.
Rhoda then went into the garden, and looked about for the last time,
walking once more round the old gravel-walk. George's strawberry-plants
had spread all over the bed; the verbena was green and sprouting; the
vine-wall was draped with falling sprays and tendrils. She pulled a
great bunch down and came away, tearing the leaves one by one from the
stem. Yes, she would write to Mrs. Boswarrick, she thought.

Old Betty was standing at the garden door. 'T' missus was putten her
bonnet an', she said; 't' cab was at door; and t' poastman wanted to
knaw whar' to send t' letters: he had brought one,'--and Betty held out
a thick envelope, addressed to Miss Parnell.

It was a long letter, and written in a stiff round hand, on very thick
paper. Rhoda understood not one word of it at first; then she looked
again more closely.

'As she stood there reading it, absorbed, with flushed cheeks, with a
beating heart, Mrs. Morgan called her hastily. 'Come, child,' she said,
'we shall have to give the cabman another sixpence for waiting!' but
Rhoda read on, and Mrs. Morgan came up, vexed and impatient, and tapped
her on the shoulder.

'Don't,' said Rhoda, impatiently, reading still, and she moved away a
step.

'Are you going to keep me all day, Rhoda?' said Mrs. Morgan, indignant
and surprised.

'Aunt Morgan,' said Rhoda, looking up at last, 'something has happened.'
Her eyes were glittering, her lips were set tight, her cheeks were
burning bright. 'It is all mine, they say.'

'What do you mean?' said the old lady. 'Were the keys in the box,
Betty?' Rhoda laid her hand upon her aunt's arm.

'George Vanborough has left me all his money!' she said in a low voice.
For a moment her aunt looked at her in amazement.

'But you mustn't take it, my dear!' said Mrs Morgan, quite breathless.

'Poor George! it was his last wish,' said Rhoda, gazing fixedly before
her.

Mr. Tapeall was a very stupid old man, weaving his red tape into
ungracious loops and meshes, acting with due deliberation. If an address
was to be found in the Red Book, he would send a clerk to certify it
before despatching a letter by post. When Dolly some time before had
sent him George's will, he put it carefully away in his strong box; now
when she wrote him a note begging him to do at once what was necessary,
he deliberated greatly, and determined to write letters to the whole
family on the subject.

Mrs. Palmer replied by return of post. She was not a little indignant
when the old lawyer had announced to her that he could not answer for
the turn which circumstances might take, nor for the result of an appeal
to the law. He was bound to observe that George's will was perfectly
valid. It consisted of a simple gift, in formal language, of all his
property, real and personal, to Rhoda. By the late 'Wills Act' of 1837,
this gift would pass all the property as it stood at his death; or, as
Mr. Tapeall clearly expressed it, 'would speak as from his death as to
the property comprised therein.' Mr. Tapeall recommended that his
clients should do nothing for the present. The onus of proof lay with
the opposite side. Mr. Raban had promised to ascertain all particulars,
as far as might be: on his return from the Crimea they would be in a
better position to judge.

Mrs. Palmer wrote back furious. Mr. Tapeall had reasons of his own. He
knew perfectly well that it was a robbery, that every one would agree in
this. It was a plot, she would not say by whom concocted. She was so
immoderate in her abuse that Mr. Tapeall was seriously offended. Mrs.
Palmer must do him the justice to withdraw her most uncalled-for
assertions. Miss Vanborough herself had requested him to prove her
brother's will and carry out his intentions as trustee to her property.
He considered it his duty to acquaint Miss Parnell with the present
state of affairs. Mr. Tapeall happened to catch cold and to be confined
to his room for some days. He had a younger partner, Mr. Parch, a man of
a more energetic and fiery temperament, and when, in Mr. Tapeall's
absence, a letter arrived signed Philippa Palmer, presenting her
compliments, desiring them _at once_ to destroy that will of her son's,
to which, for their own purposes, no doubt, they were pretending to
attach importance, Mr. Parch, irritated and indignant, sat down then and
there and wrote off to Mrs. Palmer and to Miss Rhoda Parnell by that
same post.

The letter to Mrs. Palmer was short and to the purpose. She was at
liberty to consult any other member of the profession in whom she placed
more confidence. To Miss Parnell, Mr. Parch related the contents of his
late client's will.



CHAPTER XLVIII.

AN EXPLANATION.

    Oh! purblind race of miserable men,
    How many among us at this very hour
    Do forge a life-long trouble for ourselves,
    By taking true for false, and false for true.
    Here, thro' the feeble twilight of this world,
    Groping, how many, until we pass and reach
    That other, where we see as we are seen.'

    --Alfred Tennyson.


Lady Sarah had left much more than anybody expected. She had invested
her savings in houses. Some had sold lately at very high prices. A
builder had offered a large sum for Church House itself and the garden.
It was, as Mr. Tapeall said: the chief difficulty lay in the proof of
George's death. Alas for human nature! after an enterprising visit from
Rhoda to Gray's Inn (she had been there before with Mrs. Palmer), after
a not very long interview, in which Rhoda opened her heart and her
beautiful eyes, and in the usual formula expressed her helpless
confidence in Mr. Tapeall's manly protection, the old lawyer was
suddenly far more convinced than he had been before of the justice of
Miss Parnell's claims. Her friend and benefactor had died on the 21st.
He was Lady Sarah's heir, he had _wished_ her to have this last token of
his love, but she would give everything up, she said, rather than go to
law with those whom she must ever revere, as belonging to him.

Mr. Tapeall was very much touched by her generosity.

'Really, you young ladies are outvieing each other,' said he. 'When you
know a little more of the world and money's use----'

Rhoda started to go.

'I must not stay now; but then I shall trust to you _entirely_, Mr.
Tapeall,' she said. 'You will always tell me what to do? Promise me that
you will.'

'Perhaps, under the circumstances,' said Mr. Tapeall, hesitating, 'it
might be better if you were to take some other opinion.'

'No, no,' said the girl, 'there is no division between us. All I wish is
to do what is _right_, and to carry out dear George's wishes.'

It is not the place here to enter into details which Mr. Tapeall alone
could properly explain. It was after an interview with him that Dolly
wrote to Rhoda:--'Mr. Tapeall tells me of your generous offer, dear
Rhoda, and that you are ready to give everything up sooner than go to
law. Do not think that I am not glad that you should have what would
have been yours if you had married my brother. I must always wish what
he wished, and I write this to tell you that you must not think of me:
my best happiness now is doing what he would have liked.'

To Dolly it seemed, in her present morbid and over-wrought state, as if
this was a sort of expiation for her hardness to Rhoda, whom George had
loved, and indeed money seemed to her at that time but a very small
thing, and the thought of Church House so sad that she could never wish
to go back to it. And Robert's letters seemed to grow colder and colder,
and everything was sad together.

Frank came to see her one day before she left London; he had been and
come back, and was going again with fresh supplies to the East; he
brought her a handful of dried grass from the slope where George had
fallen. Corporal Smith had shown him the place where he had found the
poor young fellow lying. Frank had also seen Colonel Fane, who had made
all inquiries at the time. The date of the boy's death seemed
established without doubt.

When Frank said something of business, and of disputing the will, Dolly
said,--'Please, please let it be. There seems to be only one pain left
for me now--that of not doing as he wished.' People blamed Raban very
much afterwards for having so easily agreed to give up Miss Vanborough's
rights.

The storm of indignation, consternation, is over. The shower of lawyers'
letters is dribbling and dropping more slowly. Mrs. Palmer had done all
in her power, sat up all night, retired for several days to bed, risen
by daybreak, gone on her knees to Sir Thomas, apostrophised Julie,
written letter after letter, and finally come up to town, leaving Dolly
at Henley Court. Dolly was in disgrace, direst disgrace. It was all her
fault, her strange and perverted obstinacy, that led her to prefer
others to her own mother. The Admiral, too, how glad he would have been
of a home in London. How explain her own child's conduct? Dear George
had never for one instant intended to leave anything but his own fortune
to Rhoda. How could Dolly deny this? How could she? Poor Dolly never
attempted to deny it. Sir Thomas had tried in vain to explain to his
sister that Dolly had nothing whatever to do with the present state of
the law. It was true that she steadily refused to put the whole thing
into Chancery, as many people suggested; but Rhoda, too, refused to
plead, and steadily kept to her resolution of opposing everything first.

'Painful, indeed, very painful,' said Mr. Stock, 'but absolutely
necessary under the circumstances; otherwise I should say' (with a
glance at poor pale Dolly), 'let it go, let it go, worm and moth, dross,
dross, dross.'

'Mr. Stock, you are talking nonsense,' said Mrs. Palmer, quite testily.

Then Mrs. Palmer came to London with Sir Thomas, and all day long the
faded fly--it has already appeared in these pages--travelled from Gray's
Inn to Lincoln's Inn, to the Temple, and back to Mr. Tapeall's again.
Mrs. Palmer left a card at the Lord Chancellor's private residence, then
picked up her brother at his Club, went off to the City to meet Rhoda
face to face, and to insist upon her giving up her ill-gotten wealth.
She might have spared herself the journey. Rhoda had left the Rectory.
John Morgan received Mrs. Palmer and her companion with a very grave
face. Cassie and Zoe left the room. Mrs. Morgan came down in an old cap
looking quite crushed and subdued. The poor old lady began to cry.

John was greatly troubled: he said, 'I don't know how to speak of this
wretched business. What can you think of us, Mrs. Palmer?'

'You had better not ask me, Mr. Morgan,' said Mrs. Palmer. 'I have come
to speak to your niece.'

'I am sorry to say that Rhoda has left our house,' John said; 'she no
longer cares for our opinion: she has sent for one of her own father's
relations.'

'Perhaps you can tell me where to find her?' said Mrs. Palmer, in her
most sarcastic tone. She thought Rhoda was upstairs and ashamed to come
down.

'Oh! Mrs. Palmer, she is at Church House,' burst in Mrs. Morgan; 'we
entreated her not to go. John forbade her. Mr. Tapeall gave her leave.
If only Frank Raban were back.

Mrs. Palmer gave a little shriek. 'At Church House already! It is
disgraceful, utterly disgraceful, _that_ is what I think. Dolly and all
of you are behaving in the most scandalous----'

'Poor Dolly has done no harm,' said Morgan, turning very red. 'She has
not unjustly and ungratefully grasped at a quibble, taken what does not
belong to her, paid back all your kindness with ingratitude....'

Good-natured Sir Thomas was touched by the curate's earnestness. He held
out his hand.

'You, of course, Morgan, have nothing to do with the circumstances,'
said he. 'Something must be done; some arrangement must be made.
Anything is better than going to law.'

'If Mrs. Palmer would only see her,' said Mrs. Morgan, earnestly. 'I
know Rhoda would think it most kind.'

'I refuse to see Miss Parnell,' said Mrs. Palmer, with dignity. 'As for
Tapeall, Thomas, let us go to him.'

'They certainly do not seem to have profited by Rhoda's increase of
fortune, living on in that horrible dingy place,' Sir Thomas said, as
the fly rolled away towards Gray's Inn once more. On the road Mrs.
Palmer suddenly changed her mind, and desired the coachman to drive to
Kensington.

'Do you really propose to go there?' said Sir Thomas, rather doubtfully.

'You are like the Admiral, Thomas, for making difficulties,' said Mrs.
Palmer, excitedly, and calling to the coachman to go quicker.

It was late in the afternoon when they reached the door of Church House.
A strange servant opens to them; a strange stream of light comes from
the hall, where a bright chandelier had been suspended. The whole place
seemed different already. A broad crimson carpet had been put down; some
flowers had been brought in and set out on great china jars. Mrs. Palmer
was rather taken aback as she asked, with her head far out of the
carriage-window, whether Miss Parnell was at home.

The drawing-room door opens a little bit, Rhoda listens, hesitates
whether or not to go out, but Mrs. Palmer is coming in, and Rhoda
retreats, only to give herself room to advance once more as the two
visitors are ushered in. The girl comes flying from the other end of the
room, bursts out crying, and clings kneeling to Philippa's dress.

'At last,' she says. 'Oh, Mrs. Palmer, I did not dare to hope, but oh!
how good of you to come!'

'Good, indeed! No, do not thank _me_,' said Mrs. Palmer, drawing herself
up. 'Have you the face, Rhoda, to meet me--to wish to see me after all
the harm you have done to me and to my poor child? I wonder you dare
stay in the same room with me!'

Rhoda did not remark that it was Mrs. Palmer herself who had come to
her. Her eyes filled with big tears.

'What have I done?' she said, appealing to Sir Thomas. 'It is all
theirs, and they know it. It will _always_ be theirs. Oh, Mrs. Palmer,
if you would only take it all, and let me be your--your little
companion, as before!' cried the girl, with a sob, fixing those
wonderful constraining eyes of hers upon Philippa. 'Will you send me
away--I, who owe everything to you?' she said. And she clasped her hands
and almost knelt. The baronet instinctively stepped forward to raise
her.

'Do not kneel, Rhoda. This is all pretence,' cried Mrs. Palmer. 'Sir
Thomas is easily deceived. If the Admiral were here he would see through
your--your ungrateful duplicity.' Rhoda only persisted. How her eyes
spoke! how her hands and voice entreated!

'You would believe me,' she said, 'indeed, you would, if you could see
my heart. My only thought is to do as you wish, and to show you that I
am not ungrateful.'

'Then you will give it all back,' said Mrs. Palmer, coming to the point
instantly, and seizing Rhoda's hand tight in hers.

'Of course I will,' said Rhoda, still looking into Mrs. Palmer's eager
face. 'I have done so already. It is all yours; it always will be yours,
as before. Dear Mrs. Palmer, this is your house; your room is ready: I
have put some flowers there. It is, oh, so sad here all alone! the walls
seem to call for you! If you send me away I don't know what will happen
to me!' and she began to cry. 'My own have sent me away; there is no one
left but you, and the memory of his love for me.'

I don't know how or where Rhoda had studied human nature, nor how she
had learnt the art of suiting herself to others. Mrs. Palmer came in
meaning to speak her mind plainly, to overwhelm the girl with reproach;
before she had been in the room two minutes she had begun to soften.
There was the entreating Rhoda: no longer shabby little Rhoda from the
curate's house, but an elegant lady in a beautiful simple dress, falling
in silken folds; her cloud of dark hair was fashionably frizzed; her
manner had changed--it was appealing and yet dignified, as befitted an
heiress. All this was not without its effect upon Philippa's experienced
eye.

Rhoda had determined from the first to win Mrs. Palmer over, to show the
world that hers was no stolen wealth, on false position. She felt as if
it would make everything comfortable both to her own conscience, which
was not over easy, and to those from whom she was taking her wealth, if
only a reconciliation could be brought about: what need was there for a
quarrel--for going to law, if only all could be reconciled. She would do
anything they wished--serve them in a hundred ways. Uncle John, who had
spoken so unkindly, would see then who was right; Aunt Morgan, too, who
had refused to come with her, would discover her mistake. There was a
certain triumph in the thought of gaining over those who had most right
to be estranged, so thought Rhoda, unconsciously speculating upon
Dolly's generosity, upon Mrs. Palmer's suddenness of character.

'This is all _most_ painful to me,' Philippa cried, more and more
flurried. 'Rhoda, you cannot expect----'

'I expect nothing--nothing, only I ask _everything_,' said Rhoda,
passionately, to Sir Thomas. 'Oh, Mrs. Palmer, you can send me away from
you, if you will; or you can let me be your daughter. I would give up
everything; I would follow you anywhere--anywhere--everywhere!'

Mrs. Palmer sank, still agitated, into the nearest arm-chair. It was a
new one of Gillow's, with shining new cushions and castors. Rhoda came
and knelt beside it, with her lustrous eyes still fixed upon Mrs.
Palmer's face. Sir Thomas cleared his throat; he was quite affected by
the little scene. Mrs. Palmer actually kissed Rhoda at parting.



CHAPTER XLIX.

SHEEP-SHEARING.

    Ba, Ba, black sheep,
    Have you any wool?
    Yes, Master, that I have,--
    Three bags full.


Lady Henley had always piqued herself upon a certain superiority to
emotion of every kind,--youth, love, sorrow had seemed to her ridiculous
things for many years. This winter, however, had changed the little
wooden woman and brought her grief and anxiety, and revealed secrets to
her that she had never guessed before. Often the very commonest facts of
life are not facts, only sounds, until they have been lived. One can't
listen to happiness, or love, or sorrow--one must have been some things
in order to understand others. Lady Henley married somewhat late in
life--soberly, without romance. Until then, her horse, her dog, her
partner at the last ball, had been objects of about equal interest. She
had always scouted all expressions of feeling. She had but little
experience; and coldness of heart comes more often from ignorance than
from want of kindness or will to sympathise.

Sometimes the fire of adversity warms a cold heart, and then the story
is not all sorrowful. The saddest story is that of some ice-bound souls,
whom the very fires of adversity cannot reach. Poor Dolly sometimes felt
the chill when Philippa, unconscious of the stab, would say something,
do some little thing, that brought a flush of pain into her daughter's
cheek.

The girl would not own it to herself, but there is a whole life
reluctant as well as a life consenting. The involuntary words, the
thoughts we would not think, the things we would not do, and those that
we do not love, are among the strongest influences of our lives. Dolly
at this time found herself thinking many things she would gladly have
left unthought, hoping things sometimes that she hated herself for
hoping, indifferent to others that all those round about her seemed to
imagine of most consequence, and that she tried in vain to care for too.
When Philippa began to recover from her first burst of hysteric grief,
her spirits seemed to revive. They were enough to overwhelm Dolly at
times, for she had inherited her mother's impressionability, and at the
same time her father's somewhat morbid fidelity.

Lady Henley's dislike to her sister-in-law made her clear-sighted as to
what was going on, and she tried in many ways to shield the girl from
her mother's displeasure and incessant worry of recrimination. With a
view to Jonah's possible interest, she had regretted Dolly's decision
not to dispute the will as much as Mrs. Palmer herself, but she could
not see her worried.

'Philippa is really too bad,' she said one day. 'Thomas, can't you do
something--send for some one--suggest something?'

Sir Thomas meekly suggested Robert Henley.

'The very last person I should wish to see,' cried Lady Henley, sharply.
'Bell, did you ever know your father understand anything one said to
him?'

Lady Henley's concern was relieved without Sir Thomas's assistance.
Before the end of the winter Mrs. Palmer had left Henley Court and
firmly established herself at Paris. Dolly remained behind. It was
Philippa's arrangement, and Dolly had been glad to agree to her cousins'
eager proposal that she should stay on at Henley for a time. Nobody
quite knew how it had happened, except, indeed, that Philippa had
intended it all along; and she now wrote in raptures with the climate,
so different from what they had been enduring in Yorkshire. But Joanna
did not care for climate--her Palmer constitution was not susceptible to
the influence of atmosphere.

All through that sad winter Dolly stayed on in Yorkshire. Their kindness
was unwearied. Then, when the snow began to melt at last, the heavy
clouds of winter to lighten, when the spring began to dawn, and the
summer sun and the sweet tones of natural things to thrill and stir the
world to life, Dolly, too, began to breathe again; she could not enjoy
all this beauty, but it comforted her, nevertheless.

The silence of the country was very tranquillising and quieting. She had
come like a tired child, sad and over-wearied. Mother Nature was hushing
her off to sleep at last. She spent long mornings in the meadows down by
the river; sometimes her cousins took her for walks across the moors,
but to Dolly they seemed more like birds than human beings, and she had
not strength for their ten-mile flights.

'You know what our life is,' she wrote to Robert, 'and I need not
describe it. I try to help my uncle a little of a morning. I go out
driving with my aunt, or into the village of an afternoon with Norah;
the wind comes cutting through the trees by the lodge-gate--all the
roads are heavy with snow. Everything seems very cold and
sad--everything except their kindness, which I shall never forget.
Yesterday Aunt Joanna kissed me, and looked at me so kindly that I found
myself crying suddenly. Dear Robert, she showed me the letter you wrote
her. I cannot help saying one word about that one word in it in which
you speak of your doubting that I wish for your return. Why do you say
such things or think such unjust thoughts of me? Your return is the one
bright spot in my life just now. Did I not tell you so when you went
away? If I have ever failed, even loved you less than you wished, scold
me, dear Robert, as I am scolding you now, and I will love you the more
for it. You and I can understand, but it is hard to explain, even to my
aunt, how things stand between us. I trust you utterly, and I am quite
content to leave my fate to you.'

She sat writing by the fire on her knee as she warmed herself by the
embers. She paused once or twice and looked into the flame with her
sweet dreamy eyes. Where do people travel to as they sit quietly
dreaming and warming their feet at the fire? What long, aimless journeys
into other countries, into other hearts! What strange starts and
returns! Dolly finds herself by the little well in Kensington Gardens,
and some one is there, who says things in a strange voice that thrills
as Robert's never did. Does he call her his Rachel? Is love a chord? It
had seemed to her one single note until Frank Raban had spoken. Is this
Robert who is saying that she is the one only woman in all the world for
him? Dolly blushes a burning blush of shame all alone as she sits in the
twilight when she discovers of what she had been thinking.

'What are you burning, Dolly?' said her aunt, coming in.

It was her letter that Dolly had thrown into the fire. It had seemed to
her false somehow, and yet she wrote another to the same effect next
day.

Mr. Anley was going to Paris, and Dolly was to go with him. On the last
day before she left her uncle took her for a drive. He had business
beyond Pebblesthwaite, and while he went into a house Dolly wandered on
through an open gate, and by a little path that led across a field to a
stream and a great bleating and barking and rushing of waters. It was
early spring. As she came round by the bridge she saw a penned crowd of
sheep, a stout farmer in gaiters was flinging them one by one into the
river, they splashed and struggled in vain; a man stood up to his waist
in the midst of the stream dowsing the poor gentle creatures one by one,
as they swam past. The stream dashed along the narrow gully. The dogs
were barking in great excitement. The sheep went in black and came out
white and fleecy and flurried, scrambling to land. Young Farmer Rhodes
stood watching the process mounted on his beautiful mare; James Brand,
with the lurcher in a leash, had also stopped for a moment. He looked up
with his kind blue eyes at Dolly as she crossed the bridge, and stood
watching the rural scene. The hedges and the river banks were quivering
with coming spring, purple buds and green leaves, and life suddenly
rising out of silent moors. James Brand came up to where Dolly was
standing. He stood silent for an instant, then he spoke in his soft
Yorkshire tones:

'T' ship doan't like it,' he said. 'T' water's cold and deep, poor
things. 'Tis not t' ship aloan has to be dipped oft-times and washed in
t' waters of affliction,' moralised James, who attended at the chapel
sometimes.

Just then Sir Thomas came up. He knew James Brand and Farmer Tanner too;
he had come to buy some of these very sheep that were now struggling in
the water; and he turned and walked on with Tanner towards the little
farm. Dolly would not go in, she preferred waiting outside. All the
flowers were bursting into blaze again in the pretty garden. Geraniums
coming out in the window, ribës and lilies, dandies, early pansies,
forget-me-nots, bachelor's buttons, all the homely garland of cottage
flowers was flung there. Beyond the walls were the chimneys of a house
showing among the trees. Some men were working and chopping wood. The
red leaves of last winter's frost still hung to the branches. Brand was
coming and going with his dog at his heels, and he stopped again, seeing
Dolly standing alone; she had some curious interest for him. She had
rallied that day from a long season of silent depression. The spring
birds seemed to be singing to her, the grass seemed to spread green and
soft for her feet, the incense to be scenting the high air; it was a
sweet and fresh and voiceful stillness coming after noise and sorrow and
confusion of heart. The farmer's garden was half flower, half kitchen
garden; against one wall, rainbowed with moss and weather stains,
clustered the blossom of a great crop of future autumn fruits; the
cabbages stood in rows marshalled and glistening too. The moors were
also shining, and the birds whistling in the air.

'Dolly,' said Sir Thomas, coming out fussily, 'I find Raban is expected
immediately. I will go up to the house and leave a note for him. I
thought you had been here before,' said Sir Thomas, as Dolly opened her
eyes. This then was Ravensrick.

The worthy baronet was not above a condescending gossip with James
Brand, as they walked up to the house. The number of men employed, the
cottages, the schoolmaster's increase of salary. 'Nice old place,' Sir
Thomas said, looking round: then he went on--

'We must have a lady at Ravensrick some of these days.'

'Wall,' said old Brand, 'he were caught in t' net once, Sir Thomas; 'tis
well nigh eno' to make a yong man wary. They laid their toils for
others, as ye know, but others were sharper than he----'

'Yes, yes; what a very pretty view,' said Sir Thomas, hastily pointing
to a moor upon which a great boulder of rock was lying.

'That is t' crag,' said Brand: 'there's a watter-fo' beyond. I ca' that
romantic; Mr. Frank were nigh killed as a boy fallin' fra t' side.... I
have known him boy and man,' the old fellow went on, with unusual
expansion, striking his gun against a felled tree; 'none could be more
fair and honourable than my ma-aster; people slandered him and lied to
t' Squire, but Mr. Fra-ank scorned to take mean adva-antage o' silly
women, and they made prey of him....' They had reached the garden by
this time, where old Mrs. Raban used to take her daily yards of walking
exercise, and where the old Squire used to sun himself hour after hour.

The ragged green leaves of the young chestnuts were coming out, and the
red blossoms of the sycamore, and the valley was full of light and
blending green. But the house looked dark and closed, only one window
was open. It was the library window, and Sir Thomas walked in to write
his note. And Dolly followed, looking round and about; she thought to
herself that she was glad to have come--glad to have heard the old
keeper's kindly praise of his young master. Frank must be her friend
always, even though she never saw him again. The manner of his life and
the place of it could never be indifferent to her. But she must never
see him again, never think of him, if she could help it.

The door opened suddenly, and Dolly started from the place where she had
been standing; it was only Becky of the beacon head, who had come in to
ask if anything was wanted.

'We must be off,' said Sir Thomas; 'my compliments to Mr. Raban and this
note. Tell him we hope to see him as soon as he can conveniently come
over. Your poor Aunt is very anxious always,' he said to Dolly in an
explanatory voice, and then he stepped out through the window again,
where Brand was still waiting.

Dolly looked back once as she left the room. 'Good-by,' she said in her
most secret heart. 'Good-by, forgive me if I have ever wronged you.' As
she went out, her dress caught in the window, and with an impatient,
hurried movement she stooped and disentangled it.

As they were driving off again, Sir Thomas complacently announced that
the works at Medmere were certainly a failure. 'One would not think so
from his manner; but Raban is a most incautious man,' said he; 'we must
come again when you come back to us, Dolly. Perhaps a certain traveller
will be home by then,' he added, good-naturedly.

'I shall be gone before Mr. Raban comes back,' said Dolly.

'Robert--Robert. I was speaking of Robert, of course,' said Sir Thomas,
pulling at the reins.

Dolly blushed crimson as she stooped to look for a glove that she had
dropped. That night again she awoke suddenly in a strange agony of shame
for her involuntary slip. It seemed to reveal her own secret heart, from
which she fain would fly; she had promised to be true, and she was not
false, but was this being true?

What is it that belongs to a woman of a right, inalienably, as to a man
probity, or a high-minded sense of honour--is it for women, womanliness
and the secret rectitude of self-respect? My poor Dolly felt suddenly as
if even this last anchor had failed, and for a cruel dark hour she lay
sobbing on her pillow. Then in the dawn she fell asleep.



CHAPTER L.

TEMPERED WINDS.

                        Oh, all comforters,
    All soothing things that bring mild ecstasy,
    Came with her coming.

    --G. Eliot.


Frank Raban arrived that evening. The fires were burning a cheerful
greeting; the table was laid in the library; his one plate, his one
knife and fork, were ready. After all, it was home, though there was no
one to greet him except the two grinning maidens. The dogs were both up
at the lodge. As Frank was sitting down to dinner he saw something black
lying in one of the windows. He picked it up. It was a glove. Becky
roared with laughter when Frank asked her if it was hers; she was
setting down a huge dish with her honest red hands. _Her_ gloves! 'They
were made o' cotton,' she said; 'blue, wi' red stitchens'.' She
suggested that 'this might be t' young lady's; t' gentleman and t' young
lady had come and had walked about t' house wi' James Brand.'

'What gentleman?--what young lady?' asked Raban.

'A pale-faced young lady in bla-ack cloathes,' said Becky. 'T' gentleman
were called Sir Tummas. James Brand, he knawed.'

'Sir Thomas! A pale young lady in black!'

Frank stuck the little glove up on the tall chimney. It seemed a
welcoming hand put out to greet him on his return. He had guessed to
whom the glove belonged even before he saw a little inky D marked in the
wrist.

'So she had been there!' While he had been away life in its fiercest
phases had met him, and at such times people's own feelings and
histories seem to lose in meaning, in vividness, and importance. When
whole nations are concerned, and the life of thousands is the stake by
which the game is played; then each private story seems lost, for a
time, in the great rush of fate. Frank had been twice to the East during
that winter. He had seen Jonah, he had disposed of his stores. The
little yacht had done her work bravely, and was now cruising in summer
seas, and Raban had come home to his sheep and his furrows--to his old
furrows of thought; how curiously the sight of that little glove brought
it all back once more.

As Frank rode along the lanes, it was difficult to believe that all was
tranquil as it seemed. That no ambush was lurking behind the hedges;
that the rumble of carts travelling along with their load from the
quarry was no echo of distant guns; that no secret danger was to be
dreaded. This was the second morning after his arrival. The sunshine
which Dolly had liked seemed to him also of good omen. The lilacs were
coming into flower, the banks were sparkling with flowers: primroses and
early hyacinths, summer green and summer light were brightening along
the road. Frank rode quietly along on his way to the Court, sure of a
welcome from Lady Henley, for had he not seen Jonah? Bloom, little
flowers, along the path; sing, little birds, from overarching boughs;
beat, honest heart, along the road that leads to the goal of thy life's
journey!

Lady Henley was the first person he saw when he rode into the park.
Sunshiny though it was, she was tucked up in some warm furs and sitting
on the lawn in front of the house.

'How do you do?' said Lady Henley. 'My husband told me you were expected
back. I hoped you might come. Well, have you brought me any news?'

When Lady Henley heard that Jonah was looking well, that Frank had seen
him ten days before, had dined with him in his hut, she could not make
enough of the messenger of good tidings. He must stay to luncheon; he
must come to dinner: he must see the girls. The luncheon bell rang
double-loud in Frank's honour, and Frank was ushered in; Norah and Bell
bounced in almost immediately; an extra plate was set for Frank. The
butler appeared and the page with some smoking dishes on a tray. That
was all. Frank looked up in vain, hoping to see the door open once more.

'I am so sorry Sir Thomas is gone up to town with Mr. Anley,' said Lady
Henley. 'It is some tiresome business of my sister-in-law's. My niece
started with them this morning. We have had her all the winter, poor
thing. It is really most provoking about the property, and how Philippa
can have made it up with that Parnell girl I cannot imagine. They are
inseparable, I hear. Just like Philippa. Dolly is going on to Paris
immediately with the Squire to join her mother--quite unnecessary. Have
you heard that Robert Henley is expected back? It seems to me every one
is gone mad,' said Lady Henley. 'He has only been out six months....'

Frank asked how Miss Vanborough was looking.

Bell immediately volunteered a most dismal account.

'I am sure Dolly will go into a decline if some one does not cheer her
up. Norah and I have done our best. We wanted to take her to the York
ball, and we wanted to take her to Lynn Grill, and across the moor to
Keithburn, and we tried to get her to come out huntin' one day. What she
wants is stirring up, and so I told papa; and, for my part, I'm not at
all sorry Robert is to come home,' says Bell.

Mamma was evidently very much annoyed.

'What is the use talking nonsense, Bell? Robert would have done much
better if he had stayed where he was, and Dolly too,' said Lady Henley.
'Everybody seems to have lost their head. Here is a letter from the
Admiral. He is in town, on his way to America. He wants to meet Dolly;
he will just miss her. As for Hawtry, I think he is possessed. Not that
I am at all surprised, poor fellow,' said Lady Henley, expressively. 'We
know what he finds at home....'

Frank went back very much dispirited after his luncheon. It was later in
the day, and the flowers and the sunshine seemed to have lost their
brightness; but when he got home the little glove was still on the
chimney-piece, with limp fingers extended.

       *       *       *       *       *

The Hôtel Molleville stands in one of the back streets near the English
Embassy at Paris. One or two silent streets run out of the Faubourg St.
Honoré, and cross and recross each other in a sort of minuet, with a
certain stately propriety that belongs to tall houses, to closed gates,
enclosed courtyards, and high roofs. There is a certain false air of the
Faubourg St. Germain about this special quarter. Some of the houses
appear to have drifted over by mistake to the wrong side of the Seine.
They have seen many a dynasty go by, heard many a shriek of liberty;
they stand a little on one side of the march of events, that seem to
prefer the main thoroughfares.

The Hôtel Molleville is somewhat less stately than its companions. The
gates are not quite so lofty; the windows have seen less of life, and
have not been so often broken by eager patriotism. It belongs to a noble
family that is somewhat come down in the world. The present marquis, a
stout, good-humoured man, had been in the navy in his youth, and there
made friends with the excellent Admiral Pallmere, at whose suggestion he
had consented to let a little apartment on the first floor to his lady,
who had elected to reside in Paris during her husband's absence.

Paris comes with a cheerful flash of light, a sudden multitudinous
chorus. The paved streets rattle, the voices chatter, the note is not so
deep as the hollow London echo that we all know, that slow chord of a
great city.

Dolly and the Squire come driving along from the station with many
jingles and jolts. Little carriages rattle past. It is evening playtime
for those in the street. The shops are not yet closed; there is a lady
sitting in every little brilliant shrine along the way. They drive on;
they see long rivers of lamps twinkling into far vistas; they cross a
great confluence of streams of light, of cries of people.

'Here we are at the Madeleine,' says Mr. Anley, looking out.

In another ten minutes they have driven on and reached the English
Embassy. Then, with a sudden turn that sends old Marker with her parcels
tumbling into Dolly's lap, they drive up a side street and stop at the
door of the house where Mrs. Palmer is living.

'I shall call and see how you are in the morning,' says Mr. Anley,
helping Dolly out. He would have accompanied her upstairs, but she
begged him to go on.

The door of the house opens; Dolly and Marker come into a
_porte-cochère_ pervaded with a smell of dinner that issues from an open
door that leads into a great lighted kitchen, where brazen covers and
dials are shining upon the wall, where a dinner is being prepared, not
without some excitement and clanking of saucepans. The cook comes to the
door to see Dolly go by. A _concierge_ comes forward, and Dolly runs up
the polished stairs. It all returns to her with strange vividness.

Dolly rang at the bell, and waited on the first landing, as she had been
desired. A man in a striped waistcoat opened the door, and stared in
some surprise at the young lady with her parcels and wraps, and at the
worthy Marker, also laden with many bags, who stood behind her young
mistress.

'Does Mrs. Palmer live here?' Dolly said, speaking English.

The man in stripes, for all answer, turned, drew a curtain that hid an
inner hall, and stood back to let them pass. The hall was carpeted,
curtained, lighted with hanging lamps. Dolly had not expected anything
so luxurious. Her early recollections did not reach beyond the bare
wooden floors and the china stoves in the old house in the Champs
Elysées. She looked round wondering, and she was still more surprised
when the servant flung open two folding-doors and signed to her to pass.

She entered, silently treading on the heavy carpet. The place was dim,
warm with a fragrant perfume of flowers: a soft lamplight was
everywhere, a fragrant warmth. There was a sense of utter comfort and
luxury: tall doors fast closed, draperies shining with dim gold gleams,
pictures on the walls, couches, lace cushions; some tall glasses in
beautiful old frames repeated it all--the dim light, the flowers' golden
atmosphere. In the middle of the room a lamp hung over a flower-table,
of which the tall pointed leaves were crimsoning in the soft light, the
ferns glittering, a white camelia head opening to this alabaster moon.

The practical Dolly stopped short. There must be some mistake she
thought. A lady in a white dress was standing by the chimney, leaning
against the heavy velvet top; a gentleman also standing there was
listening with bent head to something she was saying. The two were
absorbed. They did not notice her, they were so taken up with one
another. Dolly had expected to find her mother and the Admiral. She had
come to some wrong place. For an instant she vaguely thought of
strangers. Then her heart gave a warning thump before she had put words
to her thoughts. She was standing under the lamp by the great spiked
leaves, and she suddenly caught hold of the marble table, for the room
seemed to shake.

'Who is it, Casimir?' said the lady, impatiently, as the servant came up
to her.

The tall gentleman also looked up.

Dolly's dazzled eyes were gazing at him in bewildered amazement. He had
quickly stepped back when the man approached, and he now turned his full
face and looked at Dolly, who could not speak. She could only stand
silent, holding out her trembling hands, half happy, half incredulous.
It was Robert--Robert, whom she had thought miles away--Robert, whose
letter had come only the day before--Robert, who had been there with
Rhoda, so absorbed that even now he scarcely seemed to recognise Dolly
in her travel-worn black clothes, looking like a blot upon all this
splendour.

This, then, was the moment for which she had waited, and thought to wait
so long. He had come back to her. 'Robert!' she cried at last.

Perhaps if they had been alone, the course of their whole lives might
have been changed; if their meeting had been unwitnessed, if Casimir had
not been there, if Rhoda had not come up with many an exclamation of
surprise, if all those looking-glasses and chairs and tables had not
been in the way.... Robert stood looking down from the length of his six
feet. He held a cold hand in his. He did not kiss Dolly, as he had done
when he went away. He spoke to her, but with a slight constraint. He
seemed to have lost his usual fluency and presence of mind. He was
shocked at the change he saw. Those few months had worn her radiant
beauty. She was tired by the journey, changed in manner. All her sweet
faith and readiness to believe, and all her belief in Henley, had not
made this meeting, to which she had looked forward as 'her one bright
spot,' anything like that which she had expected. Something in Robert's
voice, his slight embarrassment, something in the attitude of the two as
she had seen them when she first came in and thought them strangers,
something indefinite, but very present, made her shy and strange, and
the hand that held her cold fingers let go as Rhoda flung her arms
affectionately round her. Then with gentle violence Dolly was led to the
fire and pushed down into a satin chair.

'I only came last night,' said Henley. 'I was afraid of missing you, or
I should have gone to meet you.'

'We expected you to-morrow, Dolly,' interrupted Rhoda, in her sweet
voice: 'we were so surprised to see _him_ walk in;' and she quietly
indicated Henley with a little motion of the head.

'Everybody seems to have been running after everybody else. I am ashamed
of myself for startling you all,' said Robert, jerking his watch-chain.
'It is a whole series of changes. I will tell you all about it, Dolly,
when you are rested. I found I could get leave at the very last instant,
and I came off by the steamer. I wrote from Marseilles, but you must
have missed my letter. This is altogether a most fortunate, unexpected
meeting,' he added, turning to Rhoda.

Henley's utter want of tact stood him in good service, and made it
possible for him to go on talking. Dolly seemed frozen. Rhoda was very
much agitated. There seemed to be a curious understanding and sympathy
between Robert and Miss Parnell.

'Have you seen your mother?' said Rhoda, putting her white hand upon
Dolly's shoulder. 'How cold and tired you must be? Who did you come
with, after all?'

'I came with--I forget,' said Dolly. 'Where is mamma?' and she started
up, looking still bewildered.

'Your mother lives next door. I myself made the same mistake last
night,' said Robert, and he picked up Dolly's bags and shawls from the
floor, where she had dropped them. Rhoda started up to lead the way.

'You may as well come through my room,' she said, opening a door into a
great dim room scented with verbena, and all shining with lace frills
and satin folds. A middle-aged lady in a very smart cap, who was reading
the paper by the light of a small lamp, looked up as they passed. Rhoda
carelessly introduced her as Miss Rougemont.

'My companion,' she said, in a low voice, as she opened another door.
'She is very good-natured and is never put out by anything.'

Dolly followed straight on over the soft carpets, on through another
dark room, and then another, to a door from whence came a gleam of
light.

As Rhoda opened the door there came the sudden jingling of music and a
sound of voices; a man met them carrying a tray of refreshments; a
distant voice was singing to the accompaniment of a piano. Julie stood
at a table pouring out coffee; she put down the pot with an exclamation:
'Good heavens, mademoiselle! Who ever would have thought----?' Some one
came up to ask for coffee, and Julie took up her pot again.

'How stupid of me to forget!' said Rhoda. 'It is your mother's day at
home, Dolly. I will send her to you. Wait one minute.'

Poor Dolly, it was a lesson to her not to come unexpectedly.

'Madame _will_ be distressed,' said Julie, coming forward, 'to receive
Mademoiselle in such a confusion! The gentlemen all came; they brought
music; they want coffee at every instant, or _thé à l'Anglaise_.'

As she spoke a little fat man came up to the table, and Julie darted
back to her post.

Meanwhile the music went on.

    'Petits, petits, petits oiseaux!

sang a tenor voice--

    'Jolis, jolis, jolis, petits!'

sang a bass--

    'Jolis, petits, chéris!'

sang the two together.

But at that instant, with a rush, with a flutter, with her hair dressed
in some strange new style, Mrs. Palmer at last appeared and clasped
Dolly, with many reproaches.

'You naughty child, who _ever_ expected you to-day! and the Admiral
started off to meet you! How provoking. A wreck! utterly tired out! Come
to your room directly, dearest. It is quite ready, only full of cloaks
and hats. Here, Rhoda, cannot you take her in?'

'Never mind the cloaks and hats, mamma,' said Dolly, with a smile. 'I
had rather stay here; and Julie will give me and Marker some coffee.'

'Marker! Good gracious! I had forgotten all about Marker,' exclaimed
Mrs. Palmer.



CHAPTER LI.

'SING HOARSE, WITH TEARS BETWEEN.'

    'Sing sorrow, sing sorrow, triumph the good.'

    --Æschylus, _Agamemnon_.


Robert had come back from India prepared to fight Dolly's battle.
Although expressing much annoyance that this disagreeable task should
have been left to him, he remembered Rhoda as an inoffensive little
thing, and he had no doubt but that she would hear reason, if things
were clearly put before her. She was too much in her right to be
expected to give up everything, but Robert had but little doubt that he
should be able to effect a compromise; he had lived long enough to
realise how much weight one definite, clearly-expressed opinion may have
in the balance. It was most fortunate that his official duties should
have brought him home at this juncture. Dolly must consent to be guided
by him. He was in some sense her natural protector still, although he
felt at times that there was not that singleness of purpose about his
cousin which he should have wished to find in the woman whom he looked
upon as his future wife. At this time he had no intention of breaking
with her. He wished to keep her in suspense. She deserved it: she had
not once thought of him; she had behaved most childishly--yielded where
she should have been firm, sacrificed everything to a passing whim; she
had been greatly tried, of course, but even all this might have been
partly avoided if she had done as he recommended. So thought Robert as
he was tying his white neckcloth in the glass at his hotel. The gilt
frame reflected back a serious young man and a neatly-tied cravat, and
he was satisfied with both. He came back to a late dinner with Rhoda
after Mrs. Palmer's Thursday Afternoon had departed, taking away its
cloaks and hats. Signor Pappaforte was the last to go. M. de Molleville
took leave. Mrs. Palmer, needless to say, was charmed with the
Molleville family--counts, marquises, dukes. They all lived in the
house, overhead, underfoot. Mdme. la Comtesse was a most delightful
person. M. le Comte was the only one of the family she did not take to,
M. le Comte being a sensible man, and somewhat abruptly cutting short
Mrs. Palmer's many questions and confidences.

The table was prettily laid in the big dining-room; the lamplight
twinkled upon the firmament of plates and silver spoons, and the flowers
that Rhoda had herself arranged. She was waiting for her guests. Robert
having, as in duty bound, first rung at his aunt's door, and learned
from Julie that Mademoiselle was resting, and that Madame was dressing
still, came across to the other apartment, where all was in order and
ready to make him comfortable. Rhoda was sitting in her usual place on
the little low chair by the fire. She had taken off her white dress--she
had put on a velvet gown; in her dark hair were two diamond stars: they
_shone_ in the firelight as she sat thoughtfully watching the little
flame. 'Have you brought them?' she said, without looking round. 'Are
you alone? Come and sit down here and be warmed while you wait.'

Rhoda's voice was like a bell, it rang so clear; when she was excited it
seemed to rise and fall and vibrate. At other times she would sit
silent; but though she sat silent, she held her own. Some people have
this gift of voiceless emotion, of silent expression. Rhoda was never
unnoticed: in her corner, crossing a street, or passing a stranger in a
crowded room, she would mark her way as she passed along. It was this
influence which had haunted poor George all his life, which made itself
felt now as it had never done before. Rhoda now seemed suddenly to have
bloomed into the sweetness and delicate brightness which belongs to some
flowers, such as cyclamen and others I could name. She had been
transplanted into clear air, into ease of mind and of body; she suddenly
seemed to have expanded into her new life, and her nature had kindled to
all sorts of new and wonderful things. Many of these were to be bought
with silver and gold; it was not for affection, nor for the highest
emotions, that little Rhoda had pined: hers was the enthusiasm of
common-place: it was towards bright things of every kind that this
little flame spirit turned so eagerly. Sometimes A gets credit for
saying what B may have thought and felt, what C has lived for years with
courage and self-denial; then comes a Rhoda, who _looks_ it all without
an effort or a single word, and no wonder that Robert and many others
were struck by her strange beauty and touched by her gentle magnetism of
expression and of grace.

Henley came up, and without any hesitation established himself in the
warm corner she indicated. The stiffness he had undoubtedly felt when
they first met had worn off since that 'business talk'--so Rhoda called
it; and now he did not know whether it was business or pleasure as he
listened to Rhoda's low song of explanation, and watched her white
fingers opening to the fire. Signor Pappaforte's tenor was not to
compare to Rhoda's soft performance. Perhaps I am wrong to use such a
word; for, after all, she was as genuine as Dolly herself in her way--as
Dolly who had fallen asleep, and was far away in spirit, dreaming a
little dream of all that had happened that day.

Rhoda resumed their conversation quite naturally. 'We may be
interrupted,' she said earnestly, 'and there is one more thing I want to
say to you. You know better than I do; you must judge for me. I always
hoped that when you came, all would be arranged. I know nothing of
business,' she said, smiling. 'I only know that I like my pretty things,
and that it makes me happy to live here, and to have my flowers and my
nice dresses and fresh air. Is it wrong? It seems a sort of new life to
me;' and a wistful face was gently upraised. 'If Dolly wishes it I will
give it all back--everything,' said Rhoda, who knew that she was pretty
safe in making this generous offer, and she smoothed the soft velvet
fold wistfully with her fingers, as if she felt it was no longer her
own. 'Dolly refused, when I begged her to take it all long ago,' she
added. 'Now I wish she had agreed before I became accustomed to this new
life. I confess that I do not like to look back. Serge and smoke and
omnibuses all seem more horrid than ever.'

Robert scarcely knew how to answer the poor little thing. 'Did you offer
to give it all up?' he said, starting up, and walking up and down with
long strides to hide his embarrassment. 'I was never told of it, or I
should certainly have ac----Dolly should have told me,' he said
quickly--all his embarrassment turning into wrath against Dolly.

'Don't blame her,' said Rhoda, in a low voice; 'she is so generous, so
noble. I can understand her refusing for herself; though I think if I
had loved any one as--as Dolly must love--I should have thought of his
interest first of all, and not of my own impulse. I know people might
say it is very foolish of me and weak-minded,' she said, faltering.

'They could only say that _you_ were a true woman, and respect you for
your generous devotion,' said Robert, taking her hand. He dropped it
rather awkwardly as Miss Rougemont came into the room, followed almost
immediately by Mrs. Palmer.

'That tired child of mine is still asleep,' said Mrs. Palmer. 'Marker
wouldn't let me awaken her.'

'Then perhaps we had better not wait,' said Rhoda, whose dark eyes were
never more wakeful. 'Ring the bell, Miss Rougemont.'

So Rhoda and her guests sat down with a very good appetite to dinner;
she charmed them all by her grace as a hostess. Miss Rougemont, who was
not a guest, discreetly retired as soon as the meal was over.

Robert passed a very disturbed night. It was near twelve o'clock next
morning when he rang at the door of his aunt's apartment. Dolly had been
expecting him for a long time. The baker, the water-carrier with his
clanking wooden pails, Mr. Anley's familiar tones, inquiring whether
Miss Vanborough was '_engagée_'--every ring, every voice had made her
heart beat. Robert found Mr. Anley still sitting with Dolly. They were
by an open window full of spring flowers. The cheerful rattle of the
street below, the cries of itinerant vendors, the noisy song of a bird
in the sunshine, and the bright morning light itself poured into the
room in a great stream of dazzling motes and gold, through which the
girl came blushing to meet her kinsman.

'I am afraid your long sleep has not rested you,' he said, looking at
her hard, as she stood in the slanting stream, all illuminated for an
instant--her rough hair radiant, her black gown changed to a purple
primrose mist; then she came out of the light into every day, and again
he thought how changed she was.

'I have brought you some violets,' and he gave her a bunch that he held
in his hand. Robert thought Dolly changed. How shall I describe her at
this time of her life? The dominant radiance of early youth was gone; a
whole lifetime had come into the last few months. But if the brightest
radiance was no longer there, a less self-absorbed person than Robert
Henley might have been touched by the tender sweetness of that pale
face. Its peaceful serenity did not affect him in the same way as
Rhoda's appealing glances; it seemed to tell of a whole experience far
away, in which he was not, and which, in his present frame of mind, only
seemed to reproach him.

Dorothea had no thought of reproach. She was a generous girl, unselfish,
able to forgive, as it is not given to many to forgive. She might
remember, but malice was not in her. Malice and uncharitableness as
often consist in the vivid remembrance of the pang inflicted, as in that
of the blow which caused it. Dolly never dwelt long upon the pain she
had suffered, and so, when the time came to forgive, she could forgive.
She had all along been curiously blind to Robert's short-comings; she
had taken it for granted that she was in fault when he asserted the fact
with quiet conviction; and now in the morning light she had been telling
herself (all the time Squire Anley had been talking of his plans and
benevolent schemes for a dinner at a café, presents for half the county,
etc. etc.) that perhaps she herself had been surprised and embarrassed
the night before, that Rhoda was looking on, that Robert was never very
expansive or quick to say all that he really felt, that this would be
their real meeting.

The kind squire soon went off pleased at the idea of a happy lovers'
meeting. He knew that there had been some misunderstanding. He looked
back as he left the room, but the stream of light was dazzling between
them, and he could not see their faces for it.

He might have stayed; his presence would have been a relief, so Dolly
thought afterwards, to that sad sunshiny half-hour through which her
heart ached so bitterly. She grasped the poor little bunch of violets
tight in her fingers, clenching the bitter disappointment. It was
nothing that she had to complain of, only everything. Had sorrow opened
her eyes, had her own remorse opened her eyes?

'I did not think,' Robert was saying, 'I should see you so soon again,
Dora. Poor Lady Sarah, of course, one could not expect.... I remember
driving away,' he added, hastily, as her eyes filled, 'and wondering
when I should get back; and then--yes, Marker called the cab back. I was
glad of it afterwards. I had just time to come in and say good-by again.
Do you remember?' And he tried to get up a little sentiment.

Dolly looked up suddenly. 'Why did Marker call you back, Robert?' she
asked, in a curious voice.

'I had forgotten my great-coat,' said Robert. 'One wants all one's wraps
in the sunny Mediterranean. How pleasant this is! Is it possible I have
ever been away?' And then he sat down in an affectionate attitude by
Dolly on the green velvet sofa. He would not scold her yet; he would try
kindness he thought. He asked her about herself, tried to reproach her
playfully for her recklessness in money matters, spoke of his own
prospects, and the scheme which had brought him home. Martindale had
resumed his old post at the college for six months. It is not necessary
here to enter into all Robert's details. He spoke of a growing spirit of
disaffection in the East, and suddenly he discovered that Dolly was no
longer listening.

'Why do you tell me all this, Robert?' she said, hoarsely, forgetting
the rôle of passive acquiescence she had promised herself to play.

It hurt Dolly somehow, and wearied her to talk to Robert upon
indifferent subjects. The hour had come--the great hour that she had
dreaded and longed for--and was this all that it had brought? Sometimes
in a tone of his voice, in a well-known look, it would seem to her that
reconciliation was at hand; but a word more, but a look more, and all
separation was over for ever--all reproach; but neither look nor word
came. The key-note to all these variations of feeling never sounded.
Poor Dolly hated and loved alternately during this cruel hour; loved the
man she had loved so long, hated this strange perversion of her heart's
dream. We love and we hate--not the face, nor the voice, nor the actions
of this one or that one, but an intangible essence of all. And there sat
Henley, talking very pleasantly, and changed somehow. Was that Robert?
Was this herself? Was Robert dead too, or was it her own heart that was
so cold.

Rhoda met her leaving the room some few minutes after.

'I have come to fetch you to luncheon,' said Miss Parnell. 'Is Mr.
Henley there? I see you have got your violets, Dolly. Miss Rougemont and
I showed him the way to the flower-market. We met at the door. I am
afraid she kept him too long. It was very wicked of her.'

Mrs. Palmer joined them at luncheon. Miss Rougemont carved and attended
to their wants. Dolly was grateful for a Benjamin-like portion that she
found heaped upon her plate, but she could not eat it. Everything tasted
bitter somehow. Miss Rougemont was an odd, battered woman, with an
inexpressive face; but she was not so insensible as Rhoda imagined. More
than once during luncheon Dolly found her black rolling eyes fixed upon
her face. Once, watching her opportunity, the companion came close up to
Dolly and said, in a low voice, 'I wished to say to you that I hope you
do not think that it was I who detained Mr. Henley this morning. Miss
Parnell, who rarely considers other people's feelings, told me that she
had told you that _I_----' Dolly blushed up.

'He came in very fair time,' she said, gently. Miss Rougemont did not
seem satisfied. 'Forgive me,' she said. 'I am old and you are young. It
is well to be upon one's guard. It was not I who detained Mr. Henley.'
She meant well, poor woman; but Dolly started away impatiently, blushing
up with annoyance. How dare Miss Rougemont hint, and thrust her
impertinent suspicions before her?

Squire Anley, with his loose clothes flying, with a parcel under each
arm, with bonbons enough in his pockets for all the children in
Pebblesthwaite, a list of names and addresses in his hand, was inquiring
his way to a dressmaker, Mademoiselle Hays, whose bill he had promised
Mrs. Boswarrick to pay. (Squire Anley often paid Mrs. Boswarrick's
bills, and was repaid or not, as the case might be. At all events, he
had the satisfaction of seeing the little lady in her pretty Paris
dresses.) All day long the sunshine has been twinkling, carriages are
rattling cheerfully over the stones, sightseers are sightseeing, the
shops are full of pretty things.

Lord Cowley has just driven out of the great gates of the British
Embassy, and the soldier has presented arms. Flash goes the bayonet in
the sunshine. Squire Anley, looking about, suddenly sees Dorothea on the
other side of the street, and crosses to meet her.

'Alone?' said he. 'This is very wrong. What are you doing? Where is
everybody?'

'I am not alone,' said Dolly; 'they are in that shop. Rhoda went in to
buy something, and she called Robert to give his advice.'

The Squire opened his eyes.

'It was very exemplary of Robert Henley to go when he was called,' he
said, laughing. 'And where are you all going to?'

'I have to take some money from Mrs. Fane to a sick man in the English
Hospital,' Dolly said. 'It is a long way off, I'm afraid. Mamma thought
it too far, but they are coming with me.'

Here Robert came out of the shop to look for Dolly.

'I did not know you had stayed outside,' he said in his old
affectionately dictatorial way, drawing her hand through his arm, 'I
should have scolded you, but I see you have done us good service.' And
he shook hands with the Squire.

'I was on my way to try and find you,' said the Squire. 'I have ordered
dinner at the "Trois Frères" at six. Don't be late. I am the most
punctual of men, as Miss Dolly knows by sad experience.'

'Punctuality always seems to me a struggle between myself and all
eternity,' said Dolly, smiling.

Robert looked at his watch, and then back at the shop. 'There is nothing
more necessary,' he said. 'I promised Rhoda to come for her again in
twenty minutes. She is divided between blue and sea-green. I am afraid
we shall be almost too late for the hospital to-day. Can't you come
back, Dolly, and help her in her choice?'

Dolly's face fell.

'I can't wait; I _must_ go,' she said. 'The man is expecting his money
to get home, and Mrs. Fane is expecting him.'

'To-morrow will do just as well, my dear Dolly. You are as impetuous as
ever, I see,' said Robert. 'We can't leave Rhoda alone, now that we have
brought her out.'

'To-morrow _won't_ do,' cried Dolly, and she suddenly let go his arm.
'_I_ will go alone. I am used to it. I must go,' she insisted, with a
nervous vehemence which surprised Mr. Anley. It was very unlike Dolly to
be vexed about small matters.

But here Rhoda, smiling, came in turn from the door of the shop. She was
dressed in violet and lilac and bright spring colours; in her hand she
held a little bunch of flowers, not unlike that one which Robert had
given Dolly at her suggestion.

'What is all this? Now we are going to the hospital?' she said. 'I
should have had my pony-carriage to-morrow--that was my only reason for
wishing to put off the expedition.'

A large open carriage with four places was passing by; Robert stopped
it, and they all three got in. Mr. Anley watched them as they drove
away. He did not quite like the aspect of affairs. He had thought Dolly
looking very sad when he met her standing at the shop door. What was
Rhoda being so amiable about? He saw the lilac bonnet bending forward,
and Dolly's crape veil falling as the carriage drove round the corner.



CHAPTER LII.

AN ANDANTE OF HAYDN'S.

    On admire les fleurs de serre,
    Qui, loin de leur soleil natal,
    Comme des joyaux mis sous verre,
    Brillent sous un ciel de crystal.

    --T. Gautier.


The carriage drove through the Place de la Concorde. The fountains were
tossing and splashing sunlight, the shadow of the Obelisk was travelling
across the pavement. The old palace still stood in its place, with its
high crowding roofs, and shadows, and twinkling vanes. The early green
was in every tree, lying bright upon avenues and slopes. It was all
familiar--every dazzle and echo brought back Dolly's youthful
remembrance. The merry-go-rounds were whirling under the trees.
'Tirez--tirez,' cried the ladies of the rouge-et-noir tables. 'For a
penny the lemonade,' sang an Assyrian-looking figure, with a very hoarse
voice, and a great tin box on his back. Then came Guignol's distant
shriek, the steady roll of the carriages, and a distant sound of music
as a regiment came marching across the bridge. The tune that they were
playing sounded like a dirge to poor Dolly's heart, and so she sank back
silently and let down her crape veil.

Meanwhile Rhoda and Robert were talking very happily together. They did
not see that Dolly was crying behind her veil.

The hospital is a tranquil little place at the end of long avenues of
plane-trees that run their dreary lengths for miles out of the gates of
Paris. A blouse, a heap of stones, a market cart--there is nothing else
to break the dreary monotone of straight pavement and shivering
plane-tree repeated many hundred times. Sometimes you reach a
cross-road: it is the same thing again. They came to the iron gates of
the hospital at last, and crossed the front garden, and looked up at the
open windows while they waited for admission. A nurse let them in
without difficulty, and opened the door of a great airy, tranquil ward,
where three or four invalids in cotton nightcaps were resting. The
windows opened each way into silent gardens. It was all still and hushed
and fresh; it must have seemed a strange contrast to some of the
inmates. A rough, battered-looking man was lying on his back on his bed,
listlessly tracing the lines of the ceiling with his finger. It was to
him that the nurse led Dolly. 'This is Smith,' she said; 'he is very
anxious to go home to England.'

The man hearing his name, sat up and turned a thin and stubbly-bearded
face towards Dolly, and as he looked at her he half rose to his feet and
stared at her hard: while she spoke to him, he still stared with an odd
frightened look that was not rude, but which Dolly found embarrassing.

She hastily gave him the money and the message from Mrs. Fane. He was to
come back to the home in ---- Street. The nurse who had nursed him in
the Crimea had procured his admission. He had been badly wounded; he was
better, and his one longing was to get to England again. He had a little
money, he said. He wanted to see his boy and give him the money. It was
prize-money--the nurse had it to take care of; and still he went on
staring at Dolly.

Dolly could not shake off the impression of that curious, frightened
look. She told the Squire about it when they met at the café that
evening, as they sat after dinner in the starlight at little tables with
coffee and ices before them, and cheerful crowds wandering round and
round the arcades--some staring at the glittering shops, others, more
sentimentally inclined, gazing at the stars overhead. Mrs. Palmer was
absorbed in an ice.

Voices change in the twilight as colours do, and it seemed to Dolly that
all their voices had the cadence of the night, as they sat there talking
of one thing and another. Every now and then came little bursts of
revelry, toned down and softened by the darkness. How clear the night
was! What a great peaceful star was pausing over the gable of the old
palace!

The Squire was giving extracts from his Yorkshire correspondence. 'Miss
Bell said nothing of a certain report which had got about, to the effect
that she was going to be married to Mr. Stock.' ('Pray, pray spare us,'
from Mrs. Palmer.) But Bell did say something of expecting to have some
news for the Squire on his return, if Norah did not forestall her with
it. 'Mr. Raban is always coming. He is out riding now with papa and
Norah; and we all think it an awfully jolly arrangement, and everybody
is making remarks already.'

'One would really think Joanna had brought up her girls in the stables,'
said Mrs. Palmer. 'I am sure I am very glad that Norah is likely to do
so well. Though I _must_ say I always thought Mr. Raban a poor creature,
and so did you, Dolly.'

'I think he is one of the best and kindest friends I ever had,' said
Dolly, abruptly.

'Nonsense, dearest,' said her mother. 'And so you really leave us,'
continued Mrs. Palmer, sipping the pink and green ice, with her head on
one side, and addressing Mr. Anley.

'I promised Miss Bell that I would ride with her on Thursday,' said the
Squire; 'and a promise, you know....'

'It is not every one who has your high sense of honour,' said Mrs.
Palmer, bitterly. 'Some promises--those made before the altar, for
instance--seem only made to be broken.'

'Those I have never pledged myself to, Madam,' said the Squire, rubbing
his hands.

'If some people only had the frankness to promise to neglect, to rob and
to ill-use their wives, one could better understand their present
conduct,' Mrs. Palmer continued, with a raised voice.

'A promise--what is a promise?' Rhoda asked in her clear soft flute;
'surely people change their minds sometimes, and then no one would wish
to keep another person bound.'

'That is a very strange doctrine, my dear young lady,' said Mr. Anley,
abruptly. 'Forgive me, if I say it is a ladies' doctrine. I hope I
should not find any price too dear for my honour to pay. I am sure
Henley agrees with me.'

Robert felt the Squire's eyes upon him: he twirled his watch-chain. 'I
don't think it is a subject for discussion,' he said, impatiently. 'A
gentleman keeps his word, of course, at a--every inconvenience.'

'Surely a mosquito?' exclaimed Mrs. Palmer. As she spoke, a sudden flash
of zigzag light from some passage overhead suddenly lighted up the table
and the faces of the little party assembled round it; it lit up one face
and another, and flickered for an instant upon Rhoda's dark head: it
flashed into Robert's face, and vanished.

And in that instant Dolly, looking up, had seen Rhoda, as she had never
seen her before, leaning forward breathless, with one hand out, with
beautiful gloomy eyes dilating and fixed upon Robert; but the light
disappeared, and all was dark again.

They were all silent. Robert was recovering his ruffled temper. Mr.
Anley was calling for the bill. Dolly was still following that zigzag
ray of light in the darkness. Had it flashed into her dreams? had it
revealed their emptiness and that of my poor Dolly's shrine? Even Frank
Raban was gone then. A painful incident came to disturb them all as they
were still sitting there. The noise in the room overhead had been
getting louder and louder. Mr. Anley suggested moving, and went to hurry
the bill. Presently this noisy window was flung open wide, with a sudden
loud burst of shrieks and laughter, and remonstrance, and streams of
light--in the midst of which a pistol-shot went off, followed by a loud
scream and a moment's silence. Mrs. Palmer shrieked. Robert started up
exclaiming. Then came quick confusion, rising, as confusion rises, no
one knows how nor from whence: people rushed struggling out of the café,
hurrying up from the four sides of the quadrangle: a table was
overturned. Rhoda flung herself upon Robert's arm, clinging to him for
protection. Dolly caught hold of her mother's hand. 'Hush, mamma, don't
be frightened,' she said, and she held her fingers tight. In all the
noise and flurry and anxiety of that moment, she had again seen Robert
turn to Rhoda with undisguised concern. He seemed to have forgotten that
there was any one else in all that crowd to think of. The Squire, who
had been but a few steps away, came hurrying back, and it was he who now
drew Dolly and her mother safe into the shelter of an archway.

The silence of the summer night was broken, the placid beam of the stars
overhead put out by flaring lights--and anxious, eager voices, that were
rung on every side. 'He has killed himself--'He wounded her,' said some.
'Wounded three,' said others. 'She shot the pistol,' cried others. Then
came a man pushing through the crowd--a doctor. 'Let him pass, let him
pass!' said the people, surging back to make way. Squire Anley looked
very grave as he stood between the two ladies and the crowd: every
minute it grew more dense and more confused. Robert and Rhoda had been
swept off in a different direction.

Afterwards they learnt that some unhappy wretch, tired of life and
ashamed of his miserable existence, had drawn out a pistol and attempted
to shoot himself that night as they were sitting under the window. His
companions had thought he was in fun, and only laughed until he had
drawn the trigger. They were thankful to escape from the crowd, and to
walk home through the cheerful streets, rattling and flaring among these
unnumbered tragedies.

The pistol-shot was still in Dolly's ears, and the ray of light still
dazzling in her eyes, as she walked home, following her mother and the
Squire.

As she threaded her way step by step, she seemed to be in a sort of
nightmare, struggling alone against the overwhelming rush of
circumstances, the remorseless partings and histories of life--threading
her way alone through the crowds. The people seemed to her absorbed and
hurrying by. Were they too alone in the world? Had that woman passing by
been deceived in her trust? Dolly was surprised at the throb in her
heart, at the curious rush of emotions in her mind. They were unlike
those to which she was used. 'Your part is played,' said some voice
dinning in her ears. 'For him the brand of faithless coldness of heart;
for him the discredit, for him the shame of owning to his desertion. You
are not to blame. You have kept your word; you have been faithful. He
has failed. Explanations cannot change the truth of facts. Even
strangers see it all. Mr. Anley sees it. Now at last you are convinced.'

Dolly followed her mother and Mr. Anley upstairs. Rhoda and Robert were
not come in. Mr. Anley, looking very grave, said he would go and look
for them. Philippa flung herself wearily upon the drawing-room sofa: the
fire was burning, and the little log of wood crumbling in embers. Dolly
raked the embers together, and then came and stood by her mother.
'Good-night, mamma,' she said. 'I am tired; I am going to bed,'she said,
in a sort of fixed, heavy way.

'It is your own fault,' answered her mother, bursting out in vague
answer to her own thoughts. 'Mr. Anley says that Robert is behaving very
strangely. If you think he is too attentive to Rhoda, you should tell
him so, instead of looking at me in that heavy, disagreeable way. You
know as well as I do that he means nothing; and you are really so
depressed, dearest, that it is no wonder a young man prefers joking and
flirting with an agreeable girl,' and Mrs. Palmer thumped the cushions.
'Give me a kiss, Dolly,' she said. To do her justice, she was only
scolding her daughter out of sympathy, and because she did not know what
other tone to take.

Dolly did not answer. She felt hard and fierce; a sort of scorn had come
over her. There seemed no one to go to now--no, not one. If George had
been there, all would have been so different, she thought; and then his
warning words came back to her once more.

Dolly put her hand to her heart and stood silent until her mother had
finished. There was pain and love and fire in a heart like poor Dolly's,
humble and passionate, faithful and impressionable, and sadly tried just
now by one of the bitter trials that come to young lives--blows that
seem to jar away the music for ever. Later comes the peaceful possession
of life, which is as a revelation when the first flare of youth has
passed away; but for Dorothea that peaceful time was not yet. Everything
was sad. She was not blind. She could understand what was passing before
her eyes. She seemed to read Robert's secret set plainly before her. She
had stopped Miss Rougemont more than once when she had begun some
mysterious word of warning; but she knew well enough what she would have
said.

'A man must keep his word, at every inconvenience,' said Robert.

Perhaps if Frank had never spoken, never revealed his story, Dolly might
still have been unconscious of the meaning of the signs and words and
symbols that express the truth.

Marker asked no questions. She brushed Dolly's long tawny mane, and left
her at last in her white wrapper sitting by the bed.

'Are you well, my dearie?' said the old woman, coming back and stroking
her hair with her hand.

Dolly smiled, and answered by holding up her face to be kissed, and
Marker went away more happy.

Whatever she felt, whatever her secret determination may have been,
Dolly said not one word neither to her mother nor to her friend the
Squire. She avoided Miss Rougemont's advances with a sort of horror. To
Robert and Rhoda she scarcely spoke, although she did not avoid them.
Robert thought himself justified in remonstrating with her for her
changed manner.

'I am waiting until I know what my manner should be, Robert,' said
Dolly, bitterly.

Robert thought Dolly very much altered indeed. As Dolly shrank back more
and more into herself, Rhoda seemed to bloom and brighten--she thought
of everybody and everything, she tried in a hundred ways to please her
friend. Dolly, coming home lonely and neglected, would find, perhaps,
fresh roses on her toilet. 'Miss Rhoda put them there,' Marker would
say, grimly, and Dolly would laugh a hard sort of laugh. But all this
time she said no word, gave no sign. 'For _them_ should be the shame of
confessing their treachery,' said this angry sullen demon that seemed to
have possessed the poor child. And all the while Robert, serene in his
ultimate intentions and honourable sentiments, came and went, and Rhoda
put all disagreeable thoughts of the future away. She had never
deliberately set herself to supplant her friend, but she had
deliberately set herself to win over Henley, and, if possible, to gain
his support to her claims. It had seemed an impossible task. Rhoda was
surprised, flattered, and bewildered to find how easily she had gained
her wish, how soon her dream had come true. There it stood solid and
complacent before her, laughing at one of her sallies; Rhoda began to
realise that this was, of all dreams, the one she believed in most. It
was something for Rhoda to have found a faith of any sort. At all
events, there was now one other person besides herself in Rhoda's world.
If Dolly was cross, it was her own fault. Miss Rougemont, too, had been
disagreeable and prying of late--she must go. And as for Uncle John, if
he wrote any more letters like that last one which had come, she should
burn them unread.

No one ever knew the struggle that went on in Dolly's mind all through
these bright spring days, while Rhoda was dreaming her tranquil little
visions, while Robert was agreeably occupied, flirting with Rhoda, while
they were all coming and going from one pleasant scene to another, and
the roses were blooming once more in the garden at All Saints', while
Signor Pappaforte was warbling to Mrs. Palmer's accompaniment, and Frank
Raban, riding across the moors, was hard at work upon one scheme and
another. He did not know it, but the crisis had come.

       *       *       *       *       *

It was a crowded hall, a thousand people sitting in silent and
breathless circles. An andante of Haydn's was in the air. It was a sweet
and delicate music, both merry and melancholy, tripping to a sunshiny
measure that set everybody's heart beating in time. There was a childish
grace about the strain that charmed all the listeners to a tender
enthusiasm. It made them cry and laugh at once; and though many sat
motionless and stolid, you might see eyes shining and dilating, as
mothers' eyes dilate sometimes when they watch their children at play.
The childless were no longer childless while that gentle, irresistible
music shook from the delicate strings of the instruments; the lonely and
silent had found a voice; the hard of heart and indifferent were moved
and carried away; pent-up longings were set free. Other strings were
sounding with the Haydn; and it was not music, though it was harmony, of
some sort that struck and shook those mysterious fibres that bind men
and women to life. The hopelessness of the lonely, the mad longings of
the parted, the storm of life, all seemed appeased. To Dolly, it was
George's voice that was speaking once again. 'Peace, be still,' said the
music, and a divine serenity was in the great hall where the little tune
was thrilling.

In former times men and women assembled in conclave to see wild beasts
tearing their prey; to-day it was to listen to a song of Haydn's--a
little song, that did not last five minutes.

It had not ended when Rhoda whispered something into Robert's ear.

While the music was lasting Dolly was transported; as it ended her mind
seemed clear. She was at peace, she understood it all, all malice and
uncharitableness seemed _dissolved_--I know no better word--pangs of
wounded pride, bitterness of disappointed trust, shame of unfulfilled
promise--such things were, but other things, such as truth, honest
intention, were beyond them, and Dolly felt at that moment as if she
could rise above her fate, above her own faults, beyond her own
failures. She would confess the truth to Robert: she had meant to be
faithful to him; she had failed; she would take what blame there was
upon herself, and that should be her punishment. She was too
keen-sighted not to understand all that had been passing before her
eyes. At first wounded and offended, and not unjustly pained, she had
determined to wait in silence, to let Henley explain his own intentions,
acknowledge his own short-comings.

But something more generous, more truthful, impelled her now to speak.
Rhoda and Robert were whispering. 'Hush,' Dolly said, and she laid her
hand upon Robert's arm. He started a little uncomfortably, and then
began suddenly to nod his head and to twirl his umbrella in time. Rhoda
buttoned her long gloves and leant back in a pensive attitude. Dolly sat
staring at the violins, of which the bows were flowing like the waves of
a spring-tide on either side of the circle: beyond the violins were the
wind instruments and the great violoncellos throbbing their full hearts.
There was instant silence, then a clapping of hands and a sort of murmur
and sigh coming from a hundred breasts. As it all died away, Dolly stood
up and turned to Robert: an impulse came to her to do now what was in
her heart, to wait no longer.

'Robert----' her voice sounded so oddly that he started and half rose,
looking down at her upturned face. 'Robert, I want you to listen to me,'
said Dolly. 'I must tell you now when I can speak. I see it all. You
were right to doubt me. I know it now. I have not been true to you. You
must marry Rhoda,' she said; then, stopping short, 'I'm not jealous,
only I am bewildered.... I am going home.... Don't come with me; but you
forgive me, don't you, Robert?'

There was a sudden burst from some overture--the music was beginning
again. Before Robert could stop her, Dolly was gone; she had started up,
she had left her seat, her gloves were lying on the ground, her veil was
lying on the bench, but it was too late to follow or to call her back;
the people, thinking she was ill, had made way for her, and closed in
round the door.

'What has happened?' said Rhoda. 'Is she ill or angry? is she gone? Oh,
what has happened? Don't leave me here alone, let me come too.

Robert flushed up. 'The eyes of the whole place are upon us,' he
muttered: then came something like an oath.

'Hush, silence,' said the people behind.

Robert bit his lip and sat staring at the conductor's rod; every now and
then he gave a little impatient jerk of the head.

Rhoda waited her time; he had not followed Dolly. The music went on; not
one note did she hear; the time seemed interminable. But Robert, hearing
a low sigh, turned at last; he did not speak, but he looked at her.

'You are angry?' whispered Rhoda.

'Why should I be angry with you?' he answered, more gently.



CHAPTER LIII.

THAT THOU ART BLAMED SHALL NOT BE THY DEFECT.

    Yesterday _this_ day's madness did prepare,
    To-morrow's silence, triumph, or despair.
    Drink! for you know not whence you came, nor why;
    Drink! for you know not why you go, nor where.

    --Omar Khayyám.


Once, as Dolly was hurrying away through the passages to the great front
entrance, she looked back, for she thought she heard Robert's step
coming after her. It was only Casimir, the servant, who had been
loitering by a staircase, and had seen her pass. She came to the great
wide doors of the music-hall, where the people were congregated, the
servants carrying their mistresses' carriage cloaks over their arms, the
touters and vendors of programmes. The music was still in her ears; she
felt very calm, very strange. Casimir would have darted off for the
carriage if she had not stopped him.

'Is Mademoiselle indisposed? Shall I accompany her?' he asked.

But although Dolly looked very pale, she said she was not ill; she would
go home alone: and when she was safely seated in the little open
carriage he called for her, the colour came back into her cheeks. She
leant back, for she was very tired. As she drove along she tried to
remember what had happened, to think what more would happen, but she
could not do so. It was a feeling, not an event, that had moved her so;
and the outward events that relate these great unseen histories to
others are to the actors themselves of little consequence. As for the
future, Dolly could scarcely believe in a future. Was anything left to
her now? Her life seemed over, and she was scarcely twenty; she was
sorry for herself. She did not regret what she had done, for he did not
love her. It was Rhoda whom he loved; Rhoda who seemed to have absorbed
everything, little by little. There was nothing that she had spared.
Dolly wondered what they would say at the Court. She thought of Frank
Raban, too. If the Squire's news was true, Frank Raban would be thinking
no more of her, but absorbed in other interests. Even Frank--was any one
faithful in life? Then she thought of George: he had not failed: he had
been true to the end, and this comforted her.

Everything seemed to have failed with her, and yet--how shall I explain
it?--Dolly was at peace with herself. In her heart she knew that she had
tried, almost tried to do her best. No pangs of conscience assailed her
as she drove home through this strange chaos of regrets and
forgetfulness. Her hands fell into her lap as she leant back in the
little carriage: it was bringing her away through the dull rattle of the
streets to a new home, a new life, swept and garnished, so it seemed to
Dolly, where everything was strange and bare--one in which, perhaps,
little honour was to be found, little credit. What did she care! She was
too true a lady to trouble herself about resentments and petty slights
and difficulties. They had both meant to do right. As for Rhoda, Dolly
would not think of Rhoda just then, it hurt her. For George's sake she
must try to think kindly of her; was it for _her_ to cast a stone? Dolly
came upstairs slowly and steadily, opened the door, which was on the
latch, and came in, looking for her mother. Miss Vanborough had never,
not even in the days of her happy love, looked more beautiful than she
did as she came into the little sitting-room at home. A light was in her
face; it was the self-forgetful look of someone who has passed for a
moment beyond the common state of life, escaping the assaults of selfish
passion, into a state where feeling is not destroyed but multiplied
beyond itself. In these moods sacrifice scarcely exists. The vanities of
the world glitter in vain, discord cannot jar, and in the midst of
tumult and sorrow souls are at peace.

Mrs. Palmer was not alone; the Squire was there. He had brought news. He
had been detained by a peremptory telegram from Norah--'_Jonah arrives
Paris to-morrow; mamma says, remain; bring Jonah home_'--and Jonah, who
had come almost at the same time as the telegram, had accompanied the
Squire, and was waiting impatiently enough hoping to see Dolly. He had
been somewhat bored by the little elderly flirtation which had been
going on for the last half-hour between his aunt and his godfather
(which sort of _pot-pourri_, retaining a certain faint perfume of bygone
roses, is not uncommon); but he did not move, except to go and stand out
upon the balcony and stare up and down the street; he was leaning over
the slender railing when Dolly came in, and so it happened that at first
she only saw the Squire sitting by her mother's easy-chair. She gave him
her hand. He stood holding it in his, and looking at her, for he saw
that something had happened.

'Alone!' said Mrs. Palmer. 'Is Robert with you? I have some news for
you; guess, Dolly;' and Philippa looked archly towards the window.

Dolly looked at her mother. 'I left them at the concert,' she said, not
asking what the news was.

'What made you leave them? Why do you stare at me like that?' cried Mrs.
Palmer, forgetting her news. 'Have you had another quarrel? Dolly, I
have only just been saying so to Mr. Anley; under the circumstances you
really should _not_--you _really_ should----'

'It has all been a mistake, mamma,' said Dolly, looking up, though she
did not see much before her. 'Everything is over. Robert and I have
parted, quite parted,' she repeated sadly.

'Parted!' exclaimed the Squire; 'has it come to this?'

'Parted!' cried poor exasperated Philippa. 'I warned you. It is your own
fault, Dolly; you have been possessed all along. Mr. Anley, what is to
be done?' cried the poor lady, turning from one to the other. 'Is it
your doing or Robert's? Dolly, what is it all about?'

Dolly did not answer for an instant, for she could not speak.

The Squire began muttering something between his teeth, as he strode up
and down the room with his hands in his pockets.

'Take care, you will knock over the jardinière,' cried Mrs. Palmer.

Dolly's eyes were all full of tears by this time. As he turned she laid
her hand upon the old man's arm. 'It is my doing, not his,' she said.
'You must not be hard upon him; indeed it is all my doing.'

'It is your doing now, and most properly,' said the Squire, very
gravely, and not in the least in his usual half-joking manner. 'I can
only congratulate you upon having got rid of that abominable prig; but
you must not take it all upon yourself, my poor child.'

Dolly blushed up. 'You think it is not my fault,' she said, and the glow
spread and deepened; 'he was not bound when he left me, only I had
promised to wait'--then with sudden courage, 'You will not blame him
when I tell you this,' she said: 'I have not been true to him, not quite
true--I told him so; it was a pity, all a pity,' she said, with a sigh.
She stood with hanging hands and a sweet, wistful, tender face; her
voice was like a song in its unconscious rhythms, for deep feeling gives
a note to people's voices that is very affecting sometimes.

'You told him so--what will people say?' shrieked poor Mrs. Palmer; 'and
here is Jonah, whom we have quite forgotten.'

Jonah was standing listening with all his honest ears. It seemed to the
young soldier that he also had been listening to music, to some sweet
sobbing air played with tender touch. It seemed to fill the room even
after Dolly had left it; for when she turned and suddenly saw her cousin
it was the climax of that day's agitation. She came up and kissed him
with a little sob of surprise and emotion, tried to speak in welcome,
and then shook her head and quickly went away, shutting the door behind
her. As Dolly left the room the two men looked at one another. They were
almost too indignant with Henley to care to say what they thought of his
conduct. 'Had not we better go?' said Jonah, awkwardly, after a pause.

But Mrs. Palmer could not possibly dispense with an audience on such an
occasion as this; she made Jonah promise to return to dinner, she
detained the Squire altogether to detail to him the inmost feelings of a
mother's heart; she sent for cups of tea. 'Is Miss Dolly in her room,
Julie?' she asked.

'Yes, Madame; she has locked the door,' said Julie.

'Go and knock, then, immediately, Julie; and come and tell me what she
says, poor dear.'

Then Mrs. Palmer stirs her own tea, and describes all that she has felt
ever since first convinced of Robert's change of feeling. Her experience
had long ago taught her to discover those signs of indifference
which.... The poor Squire listens in some impatience.

       *       *       *       *       *

Meanwhile Robert and Rhoda are driving home together from the concert,
flattered, dazzled, each pursuing their own selfish schemes, each seeing
the fulfilment of small ambitions at hand, and Dolly, sitting at the
foot of her bed, is saying good-by again and again. The person she had
loved, and longed to see, and thought of day after day and hour after
hour, was not Henley, but some other quite different man, with his face,
perhaps, but with another soul and nature.... That Robert, who had been
so dear to her at one time, so vivid, so close a friend, so wise, so
sympathetic, so strong, and so tender, was nothing, no one--he had never
existed. The death of this familiar friend, the dispersion of this
familiar ghost seemed, for a few hours, as if it meant her own
annihilation. All her future seemed to have ended here. It was true that
she had accused herself openly of want of faithfulness; but the mere
fact of having accused herself seemed to make that self-reproach lighter
and more easy to bear. After some time she roused herself; Marker was at
the door and saying that it was dinner-time, and Dolly let her in and
dressed for dinner in a dreamy sort of way, taking the things, as Marker
handed them to her, in silence, one by one. The Squire and Jonah were
both in the sitting-room when Dolly came in in the white dress she
usually wore, with some black ribbons round her waist, and tied into her
bronze hair. She did not want to look as if she was a victim, and she
tried to smile as usual.

'You must not mind me,' she said presently, in return for the Squire's
look of sympathy. 'It is not to-day that this has happened; it began so
long ago that I am used to it now.' Then she added, 'Mamma, I should
like to see Robert again this evening, for I left him very abruptly, and
I am afraid he may be unhappy about me.'

'Oh, as to that, Dolly, from what the Squire tells me, I don't think you
need be at all alarmed,' cried Dolly's mamma: 'Jonah met him on the
stairs with Rhoda, and really, from what I hear, I think he must have
already proposed. I wonder if he will have the face to come in himself
to announce it.'

Both Jonah and the Squire began to talk together, hoping to stop Mrs.
Palmer's abrupt disclosures; but who was there who could silence Mrs.
Palmer? She alluded a great deal to a certain little bird, and
repeatedly asked Dolly during dinner whether she thought this dreadful
news could be true, and Robert really engaged to Rhoda?

'I think it is likely to be true before long, mamma,' said Dolly,
patiently: 'I hope so.'

She seemed to droop and turn paler and paler in the twilight. She was
not able to pretend to good spirits that she did not feel; but her
sweetness and simplicity went straight to the heart of her two
champions, who would have gladly thrown Robert out of the first-floor
window if Dolly had shown the slightest wish for it.

After dinner, as they all sat in the front room, with wide-evening
windows, Julie brought in the lamp. She would have shut out the evening
and drawn down the blinds if they had not prevented her. The little
party sat silently watching the light dancing and thrilling behind the
house-tops; nobody spoke. Dolly leant back wearily. From time to time
Mrs. Palmer whispered any fresh surmise into the Squire's ear: 'Why did
not Robert come? Was _she_ keeping him back?'

Presently Mrs. Palmer started up: a new idea had occurred to her. She
would go in herself, unannounced: she would learn the truth: the Squire,
he too, must come. The Squire did as he was bid: as they left the room
Jonah got up shyly from his seat, and went and stood out on the balcony.
Dolly asked him whether there was a moon.

'There is a moon rising,' said the Captain, 'but you can't see it from
where you sit; there from the sofa you can see it.' And then he came
back, and wheeled the sofa round, and began turning down the wheel of
the lamp, saying it put the moonlight out.

As the lamp went out suddenly with a splutter, all the dim radiance of
the silver evening came in a soft vibration to light the darkened room.
One stream of moonlight trickled along the balcony, another came lapping
the stone coping of the window: the moon was rising in state and in
silence, and Dolly leant back among her cushions, watching it all with
wide open eyes. Jonah's dark cropped head rose dark against the Milky
Way. As the moon rose above the gable of the opposite roof a burst of
chill light flooded the balcony, and overflowed, and presently reached
the foot of the couch where Dolly was lying, worn out by her long day.

       *       *       *       *       *

Robert, who had been taking a rapid walk on the pavement outside, had
not noticed the moon: he was preoccupied by more important matters.
Rhoda's speeches were ringing in his ears. Yet it was Dolly's fault all
along; he was ready to justify himself; to meet complaint with
complaint; she might have been a happy woman. He had behaved honourably
and forbearingly; and now it was really unfair that she should expect
anything more from him, or complain because he had found his ideal in
another and more feminine character.

Dolly had heard the roll of the wheels of the carriage that brought
Robert and Rhoda home, but she had not heard the short little dialogue
which was being spoken as the wheels rolled under the gateway. The two
had not said much on the way. Rhoda waited for Robert to speak. Robert
sat gazing at his boots.

'One knows what everybody will say,' he said at last very crossly.

'The people who know you as I do will say that Dolly might have been a
happy woman,' Rhoda answered; 'that she has wrecked her own happiness;'
and then they were both again silent.

Rhoda was frightened, and trembled as she looked into Robert's offended
face. She thought that the end of it all might be that he would
go--leave her and all other complications, and Rhoda had not a few of
her own. If he were to break free? Rhoda's heart beat with apprehension;
her feeling for Robert was more genuine than most of her feelings, and
this was her one excuse for the part she had played. Her nature was so
narrow, her life had been so stinted, that the first touch of sentiment
overbalanced and carried her away. Dolly possessed the genius of living
and loving and being to a degree that Rhoda could not even conceive;
with all her tact and quickness she could not reach beyond herself. For
some days past she had secretly hoped for some such catastrophe as that
which had just occurred. She had taken the situation for granted.

'One sometimes knows by instinct what people feel,' she said at last. 'I
have long felt that Dolly did not understand you; but then, indeed, you
are not easy to understand.' And Robert, raising his eyes from his
boots, met the beautiful gloom of her speaking eyes.

One has sometimes watched a cat winding its way between little perils of
every sort. Rhoda softly and instinctively avoided the vanities of
Robert's mind; she was presently telling him of her troubles, money
troubles among the rest. She had spent more than her income; she did not
dare confess to Mr. Tapeall; she felt utterly incapable of managing that
fortune which ought never to have been hers--which she was ready to give
up at any hour.

'Cleverer people than I am might do something with all this money,' said
Rhoda. 'Something worth doing: but I seem only to get into trouble. You
say you will help me, but you will soon be gone.'

'I shall be always ready to advise you,' said Robert. 'If there is
anything at any time----'

'But when you are gone?' said Rhoda, with great emotion.

There was a pause; the horses clattered in under the gateway.

'You must tell me to stay,' said Robert in a low voice, as he helped
Rhoda out of the carriage.

As the two slowly mounted the staircase which Dolly had climbed, Jonah,
coming away from his aunt's apartment, almost ran up against them.
Robert exclaimed, but Jonah passed on. What did Rhoda care that he
brushed past as if he had not seen them? She was sure he had seen them,
and Rhoda had her own reasons for wishing no time to be lost before her
news was made public. She had won her great stake, secured her prize:
her triumph was not complete until others were made aware of all that
had happened. She urged Robert to tell his aunt at once.

'It is only fair to yourself. Dolly will be telling her story--dear
Dolly, she is always so kind; but still, as you have often said, there
are two sides to a question. I am afraid your cousin passed us
intentionally,' said Rhoda. 'Not that I care for anything now.'

'Let us have our dinner in peace,' said Robert; 'and then I will tell
them anything you like,' and he sank down comfortably into one of the
big arm-chairs, not sorry to put after dinner out of her mind. While he
was with Rhoda he was at ease with himself, and thought of nothing else;
but he had vague feelings of a conscience standing outside on the
landing and ready to clutch him as he passed out of the charm of her
presence.

He did not go straight off to his aunt when he left Rhoda, and so it
happened that he missed Mrs. Palmer when she burst in upon Rhoda and
Miss Rougemont. The resolute Robert was pacing the pavement outside and
trying to make up his mind to face those who seemed to him now more like
life-long enemies than friends. He took courage at last and determined
to get it over, and he turned up the street again and climbed the
staircase once more. Philippa had left the hall-door open, and Robert
walked in as he had been used to do; he opened the drawing-room door. He
was angry with Dolly still, angry with her mother, and ready to resent
their reproaches. Robert opened the drawing-room door and stopped short
at the threshold....

The room was not dark, for the bright moonlight was pouring in. Dolly
was still lying asleep. A log burnt low in the fire-place, crimsoning
the silver light. Robert was startled. He came forward a few steps and
stood in the darkened room looking at the sleeping girl: something in
her unconsciousness, in the utter silence, in the absence of reproach,
smote him as no words of blame or appeal could have done. His excuses,
his self-assertions, of what good were they here--who cared for them
here? She scarcely moved, she scarcely seemed to breathe; her face
looked calm, it was almost like the face of a dead person; and so she
was--dead to him.

For an instant he was touched; taken by surprise; he longed to awaken
her, to ask her to forgive him for leaving her; but as he stood there a
dark figure appeared in the open window; it was Jonah, who did not
speak, but who pointed to the door.

At any other time Robert might have resented this, but to-night
something had moved his cold and selfish heart, some ray from Dolly's
generous spirit had unconsciously reached him at last. He turned away
and went quietly out of the room, leaving her sleeping still.

He did not see her again; two days later she left for England.



CHAPTER LIV.

HOLY ST. FRANCIS, WHAT A CHANGE IS HERE.

    If when in cheerless wanderings dull and cold,
    A sense of human kindliness hath found us,
    We seem to have around us
    An atmosphere all gold.

    --A. Clough.


Twelve o'clock is striking in a bare room full of sunshine. A woman, who
is spending her twelfth year in bed, is eating tripe out of a basin;
another sitting by the fire is dining off gruel; beds and women
alternate all down the ward; two nurses are coming and going, one of
them with a black eye. Little garlands of paper, cleverly cut out,
decorate the place in honour of some Royal birthday. Two little flags
are stuck up against the wall and flying triumphantly from the farther
end of the room. A print of the Royal Family, brilliantly coloured, is
also pinned up. Mrs. Fane is walking down the middle of the workhouse
infirmary with a basket on her arm, when one of the old women puts out a
wrinkled hand to call her back.

'Ain't we grand, mum?' says the old woman, looking up. 'It does us all
good;' and she nods and goes on with her gruel again.

'How is Betty Hodge to-day?' says Mrs. Fane. The old woman points
significantly.

All this time some one has been lying quite still at the further end of
the room, covered by a sheet.

'At eight o'clock this morning she went off werry comfortable,' says the
old woman. 'Mrs. Baker she is to scrub the steps now; the matron sent
word this morning.'

That is all. In this infirmary of the workhouse it is a matter of course
that people should die. It does not mean a black carriage, nodding
feathers, nor blinds drawn, and tombstones with inscriptions. It means,
ease at last, release from the poor old body that used to scrub the
steps so wearily day after day. There it was, quite still in the
sunshine, with the garlands on the wall.

'_I_ shan't be long,' said the old tripe-woman, sententiously. 'She has
been expecting to go for months. A friend has sent her a shroud and some
silver paper ready cut; she says it is all ready, and she has seen the
priest.'

'Ah! Mrs. Blaney, you are a sufferer,' says the nurse with the black
eye. 'She can't eat, mum, but she likes her cup of tea;' and the nurse,
who also likes her cup of tea, eyes the little packet which she sees
coming out of Mrs. Fane's basket, and fetches a canister, into which she
elaborately shakes the refreshing shower.

Mrs. Fane hurries on, for she has a guest at home expecting her, and a
tea-party organising for that afternoon, and she has still a visit to
pay in the men's ward. Some one brought her a message--a man called
Smith wanted to speak to her; and she walked along the whitewashed walls
and past check blue counterpanes, looking for her petitioner. By one of
the high windows of the ward lay a brown haggard face, with a rough
chin, and the little old slip-shod messenger pointed to attract Mrs.
Fane's attention. She remembered the man at once. He had come to see her
not long before. She had sent him some money to Paris--his own money,
that he had given to a nurse to keep. Mrs. Fane looked with her kind
round eyes into the worn face that tried to upraise itself to greet her.

'I am sorry to see you here,' she said. 'Did you not find your friends?'

'Gone to America,' gasped the man.

'You know I have still got some of your money,' said Mrs. Fane, sitting
down by the bedside.

'It were about that I made so bold as to hask for to see you, mum,' said
the man. 'I have a boy at Dartford,' he went on, breathing painfully.
'He ain't a good boy, but I've wrote to him to go to you, and if you
would please keep the money for him, mum--three pound sixteen the
Reverend calc'lated it--with what you sent for my journey here. I had
better have stopped where I was and where the young lady found me. Lord!
what a turn she giv' me. I know'd it was all up when I seed her come
in.'

He was muttering on vacantly, as people do who are very weak. Mrs.
Fane's kind heart ached for his lonely woebegone state. She took his
hand in hers--how many sick hands had she clasped in her healing
palm--but poor Smith was beyond her help.

'I see a young fellow that died beside me at the battle of the Alma,'
said Smith, 'and when that young lady came up, as you might be, it
brought it all back as it might be now. He was a gentleman, they said;
he weren't half a bad chap.'

'Who are you speaking of?' said Mrs. Fane, not quite following.

'They called him George--George Vance,' said the man; 'but that were not
his name no more than Smith is mine.'

'I have heard of a man of that name who was wounded at the Alma; I did
not know that he had died there,' said Mrs. Fane. Her hand began to
tremble a little, but she spoke very quietly.

Smith hesitated for a minute, then he looked up into the clear
constraining eyes that seemed to him to be expecting his answer. 'It
ain't no odds to me now,' he said, hoarsely, whether I speak the
tru--uth or not; you're a lady, and will keep the money safe for my poor
lad. Captain Henley he offered a matter o' twenty pound if we found poor
Vance alive. He were a free-handed chap were poor Vance. We know'd he
would not grudge the money.... And when the Roosians shot him, poor
fellow, it wasn't no odds to him.

Mrs. Fane looking round saw the chaplain passing, and she whispered to
the old attendant to bring him to her.

'And so you said that you had found him alive, I suppose?' said Mrs.
Fane, quickly guessing at the truth.

'Well, mum, you ain't far wrong,' said Smith, looking at his thin brown
fingers. 'There was another chap of our corps died on the way to the
ships. It were a long way to carry them down to the shore: we changed
their names. We didn't think we had done no great harm; for twenty pound
is twenty pound; but I have heard as how a fortune was lost thro' it
all--a poor chap like me has no fortune to lose.'

'It was the young lady you saw who lost her fortune,' said Mrs. Fane,
controlling herself, and trying to hide her agitation. 'You did her
great injury, you see, though you did not mean it. But you can repair
this wrong. I think you will like to do so,' she said, 'and--and--we
shall all be very much obliged to you.' 'Mr. Morgan,' Mrs. Fane
continued, turning to the chaplain, who had come up to the bedside,
'here is a poor fellow who wishes to do us a service, and to make a
statement, and I want you to take it down.' She had writing materials in
her basket. She often wrote the sick people's letters for them.

'What is it, my man?' said the chaplain; but as he listened his face
changed. He gave one amazed and significant glance at Mrs. Fane, then
biting his lips and trying to seem unmoved, he wrote and signed the
paper; Mrs. Fane signed it; and then, at her request, poor bewildered
Smith feebly scrawled his name. He did it because he was told: he did
not seem to care much one way or another for anything more.

'Joe can tell you all about it,' he said. 'Joe Carter--he has took his
discharge. I don't know where he is--Liverpool may be.'

John Morgan could hardly contain his excitement, and his umbrella
whirled like a mill, as he left the workhouse. 'You _are_ a good woman;
you _have_ done a good morning's work,' said the chaplain, as he came
away with Mrs. Fane; 'say nothing more at present. We must find out this
Joe who was with him. Whatever we do let us be silent, and keep this
from that wretched, scheming girl.'

Afterwards, it turned out, that it would have been better far if John
Morgan had spoken openly at the time; but his terror of Rhoda's schemes
was so great that he felt that if she only knew all, she would lay hands
on Joe, carry off Smith himself, make him unsay all he had said. 'There
is no knowing what that woman may not do,' said Morgan. 'She wrote to
me; I have not answered the letter. Do you know that the marriage is
actually fixed? I am very glad that you have got Dolly away from that
adder's nest.'

'So am I,' said Mrs. Fane, beaming for an instant; she had long ago
taken Dolly to her heart with a confused feeling of some maternal fibre
strung, of something more tender and more enduring than the mere
friendship between a girl and an older woman.

I cannot help it if most of those who knew my Dolly persisted in
spoiling her. She wanted every bit of kindness and sunshine that came in
her way. And yet she was free from the strain that had wrenched her poor
little life, she need no longer doubt her own feelings, nor blind
herself to that which she would so gladly escape.

The morbid fight was over, and the world was at peace. It was at peace,
but unutterably sad, empty, meaningless. When people complain that their
lives are dull and have no meaning, it is that they themselves have no
meaning. Dolly felt as if she had been in the thick of the fight, and
come away wounded. 'I may as well be here as anywhere else,' she had
said that moonlight evening when poor Jonah had entreated her in vain to
come away with him.

Dolly would not go back to Henley; she had her own reasons for keeping
away. But next morning, when an opportune letter came from Mrs. Fane,
Dolly, who had lain awake all night, went to her mother, who had slept
very comfortably, and said, 'Mamma, if you can spare me, I think I will
go over to England with the Squire and Jonah for a little time, until
the marriage is over.' Mrs. Palmer was delighted. 'To Yorkshire? Yes,
dearest, the very best thing you can do.'

'Not to Henley, mamma,' Dolly said; 'I should like, please, to go to
Mrs. Fane's, if you do not object.'

'What a child you are,' cried Mrs. Palmer; 'you prefer poking yourself
away in that horrid, dismal hospital, when poor Jonah is on his knees to
you to go back to Henley with him.'

'Perhaps that is the reason why I must not go, mamma,' said Dolly,
smiling. 'I must not have any explanations with Jonah.' Mrs. Palmer was
seriously angry, and settled herself down for another nap.

       *       *       *       *       *

So Dolly came to England one summer's afternoon, escorted by her
faithful knights. All the streets were warm and welcoming; the windows
were open, and the shadows were painting the pretty old towers and
steeples of the city; some glint of an Italian sky had come to visit our
northern world.

John Morgan met her at the train, Mrs. Fane stood on the door-step to
welcome her, the roar of the streets sounded home-like and hopeful once
more.

As for Lady Henley she was furiously jealous when she heard of Dolly in
London, and with Mrs. Fane. She abused her to everybody for a fortnight.
Jonah had come home for two days and then returned to town again. 'That
is all we get of him after all we have gone through,' cried poor Lady
Henley; 'however, perhaps there is a good reason for it, all one wants
is to see one's children happy,' said the little lady to Mr. Redmayne,
who was dining at the Court.

John Morgan lost no time in writing to his confessor, Frank Raban, to
tell him of the strange turn that events had taken. 'I entreat you to
say no word of this to any one,' said Morgan. 'I am afraid of other
influence being brought to bear upon this man that we are in search of,
and it is most necessary that we should neglect no precautions. Dolly's
interests have been too carelessly served by us all.' Raban was rather
annoyed by this sentence in Morgan's letter. What good would it have
done to raise an opposition that would have only pained a person who was
already sorely tried in other ways? Frank somewhat shared Dolly's
carelessness about money, as we know. Perhaps in his secret heart it had
seemed to him that it was not for him to be striving to gain a fortune
for Dolly--a fortune that she did not want. Now he suddenly began to
blame himself and determined to leave no stone unturned to find the
evidence that was wanted. And yet he was more estranged from Dolly at
this moment than he had ever been in his life before. He had purposely
abstained from any communication with her. He knew she was in London and
he kept away.

Frank Raban was a man of a curious doggedness and tenderness of nature.
When he had once set his mind to a thing he went through with his mind.
He could not help himself any more than some people can help being
easily; moved and dissuaded from their own inclinations; only he could
not help listening to the accounts that now reached him of the
catastrophe at Paris, and feeling that any faint persistent hope was now
crushed for ever.

Lady Henley's wishes were apt to colour her impression of events as they
happened. According to her version, it was for Jonah's sake that Dolly
had broken with Robert. It was to Jonah that Dolly had confided her real
reason for parting from her cousin. 'You know it yourself, Squire. It
was painful, but far better than the alternative.'--'Miss Vanborough's
confidences did not extend so far as you imagine, my dear lady,' said
Mr. Anley: 'I must honestly confess that I heard nothing of the sort.'

Lady Henley was peremptory. She was not at liberty to show her son's
last letter, but she had _full_ authority for her information. She was
not in the habit of speaking at random. Time would show. Lady Henley
looked obstinate. The Squire seemed annoyed. Frank Raban said nothing;
he walked away gloomily; he came less and less to the Court; he looked
very cross at times, although the work he had taken in hand was
prospering. Whitewashed cottages were multiplying, a cricket-field had
been laid out for the use of the village, Medmere was drained and sown
with turnip-seed. Frank was now supposed to be an experienced
agriculturist. He looked in the _Farmer's Friend_ regularly. Tanner used
to consult him upon a variety of subjects. What was to be done about the
sheep? Pitch plaster was no good, should they try Spanish ointment?
Those hurdles must be seen to, and what about the flues and the grinders
down at the mill?

Notwithstanding these all-absorbing interests, Frank no sooner received
Morgan's letter, with its surprising news, than he started off at once
to concert measures with the Rector. 'Joe' was supposed to be at
Liverpool, and Frank started for Liverpool and spent a fruitless week
looking up all the discharged and invalided soldiers for ten miles
round. He thought he had found some trace of the man he was in search
of, but it was tiresome work, even in Dorothea's interest. John Morgan
wrote that Jonah was in London, kind and helpful. Foolish Frank, who
should have known better by this time, said to himself that they could
have settled their business very well without Jonah's help. Frank did
him justice, and wished him back in Yorkshire. May he be forgiven.
Diffidence and jealousy are human failings, that bring many a trouble in
their train. True love should be far beyond such pitiful preoccupations:
and yet, if ever any man loved any woman honestly and faithfully, Frank
Raban loved Dorothea: although his fidelity may have shown want of
spirit, and his jealousy want of common sense. Dolly had vaguely hoped
that Raban might have written to her, but the jealous thought that she
might show Jonah his letter had prevented him from writing. John Marplot
wrote that Jonah was often in S---- Street. Why did not the good Rector
add that it was Mrs. Fane who asked him to come there? Dolly was rather
provoked when Jonah reappeared time after time; one day he offered
himself to join them in a little expedition that Mrs. Fane had planned.
Mrs. Fane was pleased to welcome the Captain and the Rector too. Six
hours of country were to set John Morgan up for his Sunday services.
Dolly looked pale, some fresh air would do her good, said her friend.
'Do I want to be done good to?' said Dolly, smiling.

Dolly was standing out on the balcony, carefully holding her black silk
dress away from the dusty iron bars. It was a bright gentle-winded
Sunday morning, and the countless bells of the district were jangling
together, and in different notes calling their votaries to different
shrines. The high bell striking quick and clear, the low bell with
melancholy cadence, the old-fashioned parish bell swinging on in a
sing-song way: a little Catholic chapel had begun its chime an hour
before. From the house doors came Sunday folks--children trotting along,
with their best hats and conscious little legs, mammas radiant,
maid-servants running, cabs going off laden. All this cheerful
jingle-jangling filled Dolly's heart with a happy sadness. It was so
long since she had heard it, and it was all so dear and so familiar, as
she stood listening to it all, that it was a little service in her heart
of grateful love, and thanks--for love and for praise; for life to utter
her love, for the peace which had come to her after her many troubles.
She was not more happy outwardly in circumstance, but how much more
happy in herself none but she herself could tell. How it had come about
she could scarcely have explained; but so it was. She had ceased to
struggle; the wild storm in her heart had hushed away; she was now
content with the fate, which had seemed to her so terrible in the days
of her girlhood. Unloved, misunderstood, was this her fate? she had in
some fashion risen above it--and she felt that the same peace and
strength were hers. Peace, she knew not why, strength coming, she
scarcely knew how or whence. It was no small thing to be one voice in
the great chorus of voices, to be one aspiration in the great breath of
life, and to know that her own wishes and her own happiness were not the
sum of all her wants.



CHAPTER LV.

SEE YOU NOT SOMETHING BESIDE MASONRY?

                            Entering then,
    Right o'er a mount of newly-fallen stones,
    The dusky-raftered many-cobwebbed Hall,
    He found an ancient dame in dun brocade,
    And near her, like a blossom vermeil-white,
    That lightly breaks a faded flower-sheath,
    Moved the fair Enid....

    --Idylls of the King.


On the Friday before they were to start on their little expedition, Mrs.
Fane was busy; Dolly had been sitting alone for some time.

She suddenly called to old Marker, asked her to put on her bonnet and
come out with her. Dolly made Marker stop a cab, and they drove off; the
old nurse wanted to turn back when she found out where Dolly was going,
but she could not resist the girl's pleading looks. 'It will do me good,
Marker,' said Dolly, 'indeed it will. I want to see the dear old place
again.'

All that morning she felt a longing to see the old place once more:
something seemed to tell her that she must go. One often thinks that to
be in such a place would bring ease, that the sight of such a person
would solve all difficulties, and one travels off, and one seeks out the
friend, and it was but a fancy after all. Poor old Church House! All
night long Dolly had been dreaming of her home, unwinding the skeins of
the past one by one. It may have been a fancy that brought Dolly, but it
was a curious chance.

They had come to the top of the lane, and Dolly got out and paid her
cab. Her eyes were dim with the past, that was coming as a veil or a
shroud between her and the present. She had no faint suspicion of what
was at hand. They walked on unsuspiciously to the ivy gate: suddenly
Marker cried out, and then Dolly too gave a little gasp. What cruel blow
had fallen? what desecrating hand had dared to touch the dear old haunt?
What was this? She had not dreamt _this_. The garden wall, so sweet with
jessamine, was lying low, the prostrate ivy was struggling over a heap
of bricks and rubbish, tracks of wheel-barrows ran from the house to the
cruel heap, the lawn was tossed up, a mound of bricks stood raised by
the drawing-room windows; the windows were gone, black hollows stood in
their places, a great gap ran down from Dolly's old bed-room up above to
the oak room on the terrace, part of the dining-room was gone: pathetic,
black, charred, dismantled, the old house stood stricken and falling
from its foundation. Dolly's heart beat furiously as she caught Marker's
arm.

'What has happened?' she said; 'it is not fire--it is--oh, Marker, this
is too much.'

Poor Marker could not say one word; the two women stood clinging to each
other in the middle of the garden walk. The sky was golden, the shadows
were purple among the fallen bricks.

'This is too much,' Dolly repeated a little wildly, and then she broke
away from Marker, crying out, 'Don't come, don't come.'

The workmen were gone: for some reason the place was deserted and there
was no one to hear Dolly's sobs as she impatiently fled across the lawn.
Was it foolish that those poor old bricks should be so dear to her,
foolish that their fall should seem to her something more than a symbol
of all that had fallen and passed away? Ah no, no. While the old house
stood she had not felt quite parted, but now the very place of her life
would be no more; all the grief of that year seemed brought back to her
when she stopped short suddenly and stood looking round and about in a
scared sort of way. She was looking for something that was not any more,
listening for silent voices. Dolly! cried the voices, and the girl's
whole heart answered as she stood stretching out her arms towards the
ulterior shores. At that minute she would have been very glad to lie
down on the old stone terrace and never rise again. Time was so long, it
weighed and weighed, and seemed to be crushing her. She had tried to be
brave, but her cup was full, and she felt as if she could bear no more,
not one heavy hour more. This great weight on her heart seemed to have
been gathering from a long way off, to have been lasting for years and
years; no tears came to ease this pain. Marker had sat down on the stone
ledge and was wiping her grief in her handkerchief. Dolly was at her old
haunt by the pond, and bending over and looking into the depth with
strange circling eyes.

This heavy weight seemed to be weighing her down and drawing her to the
very brink of the old pond. She longed to be at rest, to go one step
beyond the present, to be lying straight in the murky grey water,
resting and at peace. Who wanted her any more? No one now. Those who had
loved her best were dead; Robert had left her: every one had left her.
The people outside in the lane may have seen her through the gap in the
wall, a dark figure stooping among the purple shadows; she heard their
voices calling, but she did not heed them, they were only living voices:
then she heard a step upon the gravel close at hand, and she started
back, for looking up, she saw it was Frank Raban, who came forward.
Dolly was not surprised to see him. Everything to-day was so strange, so
unnatural, that this sudden meeting seemed but a part of all the rest.
She threw up her hands and sank down upon the old bench.

His steady eyes were fixed upon her. 'What are you doing here?' he said,
frightened by the look in her face, and forgetting in his agitation to
greet her formally.

'What does it all matter?' said Dolly, answering his reproachful glance,
and speaking in a shrill voice: 'I don't care about anything any more, I
am tired out, yes very tired,' the girl repeated. She was wrought up and
speaking to herself as much as to him, crying out not to be heard, but
because this heavy weight was upon her, and she was struggling to be rid
of it and reckless: she must speak to him, to anybody, to the shivering
bushes, to the summer dust and silence, as she had spoken to the
stagnant water of the pond. She was in a state which is not a common
one, in which pain plays the part of great joy, and excitement unloosens
the tongue, forces men and women into momentary sincerity and
directness, carries all before it; her long self-control had broken
down, she was at the end of her powers--she was only thinking of her own
grief and not of him just then. As she turned her pale stone-cut face
away and looked across the low laurel bushes, Frank Raban felt a pang of
pity for her of which Dorothea had no conception. He came up to the
bench.

'Don't lose courage,' he said--'not yet; you have been so good all this
time.'

It was not so much what he said which touched her, as the way in which
he said it. He seemed to know how terribly she had been suffering, to be
in tune even with this remorseless fugue of pain repeated. His kindness
suddenly overcame her and touched her; she hid her face in her hands and
burst out crying, and the tears eased and softened her strained nerves.

'It was coming here that brought it all back,' she said, 'and
finding----' Her voice failed.

'I am very sorry,' he said. 'How can I forgive myself? It is all my----'
He turned quite pale, stopped abruptly, and walked away for a few steps.
When he came back he spoke almost in his usual voice, and then and there
began to tell Dolly all that had happened, of the curious discovery
which Mrs. Fane had made, of Smith's confession, and of all that it
involved, that she was now the one person interested in the property,
that Rhoda Parnell had no single right to Lady Sarah's inheritance. He
told her very carefully, sparing her in every way, thinking of the words
which would be simplest and least likely to give pain.

'We ought to have told you before,' he repeated. 'We meant to spare you
until all the facts were clearly ascertained. We have made a fatal
mistake, and now I am only adding to your pain.'

But the tears with which Dolly listened to him were not bitter, his
voice was so kind, his words so manly and simple. He did not shirk the
truth as some people sometimes do when they speak of sorrow, but he
faced the worst with the simplicity and directness of a man who had seen
it all very near.

If there are certain states of mind in which facts seem exaggerated, and
every feeling is over-wrought, it is at these very times that people are
most ready to accept the blessings of consolation. 'Peace, be still,'
said the Divine Voice, speaking to the tossing waves. And voices come,
speaking in human tones to many a poor tempest-tossed soul. It may be
only a friend who speaks, only a lover perhaps, or a brother or sister's
voice. Love, friendship, brotherhood give a meaning to the words. Only
that day Dolly had thought that all was over, and already the miracle
was working, the storm was passing from her heart.

It all seemed as a dream in the night, when she thought it over
afterwards. She had not seen Frank again, but to have seen him once more
made all the difference to her.



CHAPTER LVI.

THE PLAY IS PLAYED, THE CURTAIN DROPS.

     In the battle of life are we all going to try for the honours
     of championship? If we can do our duty, if we can keep our
     place pretty honourably through the combat, let us say 'Laus
     Deo' at the end of it, as the firing ceases and the night falls
     over the field.

     --Roundabout Papers.


Colonel Fane was not a rich man, but he had a house which had been his
father's before him, and to which he returned now and again in the
intervals of service. It stood at a bend of the river, and among hollows
and ivy. He looked forward to ending his work there some day, and
resting for a year or two. In the meanwhile the old house was often let
in summer, and Mrs. Fane looked after the repairs and necessary
renovations. She sometimes spent a few hours among the sedges and shady
chestnut-trees. She loved the old place--as who does not love it who has
ever been there?--and discovered this sleeping bower, where one may
dream of chivalry, of fairy land, or of peace on earth, or that one is
sunshine, or a river washing between heavy banks; or turning one's back
to the stream see a pasture-country sliding away towards the hills,
through shade and fragrant hours, with songs from the hedges and mellow
echoes from the distant farms.

The little party came down, not unprepared to be happy. Mrs. Fane, who
never wasted an opportunity, had also brought a little girl from her
orphanage, who was to remain for a time with the housekeeper at
Queensmede--that was the name of the old house. The child was a bright
little creature, with merry soft eyes flashing in wild excitement, and
the kind lady was somewhat divided between her interest in some news
that John Morgan was giving her and her anxiety lest little Charlotte,
her god-daughter, should jump out of window.

'We have to thank the Captain here,' said John Morgan, 'for finding the
man we were in search of, his evidence fully bears out poor Smith's
dying declaration. I have sent to Tapeall,' said John, shaking his head.
'I find that after all my precautions, Rhoda got a hint from him last
week. However, it is all right--thanks to the Captain--as right as
anything so unfortunately managed can ever be.'

'I don't deserve any thanks,' said Jonah. 'Poor Carter found me out. He
wanted to borrow 10s.'

'When did all this happen?' said Mrs. Fane.

'Only yesterday,' answered the Rector. 'I telegraphed to Raban--poor
fellow, he had gone off to Shoeburyness on some false scent; I left word
at home in case he should call.'

Dolly stooped down and held up little Charlotte to see the pretty golden
fields fly past, and the sheep and the lambs frisking.

'Are they gold flowers?' said the little girl. 'Is that where ladies
gets their money? Is you going to be very rich?'

Dolly did not answer. The strange news had overcome her; she had
scarcely heard what they all were saying, so many other voices were
speaking to her, as she watched the flying fields. Was it all to be
hers? The old house was gone--and this was what she most dwelt
upon--money was but little in comparison to the desolate home. Could she
ever forgive Rhoda this cruel blow? Ah! she might have had it all, if
she had but spared the dear home. A letter had come from Robert only
that morning, and all this time Dolly was carrying it unopened in her
pocket, failing courage to break the seal and open up the past.

Shadows and foreboding clouds were far away from that tranquil valley,
from the shady chestnut-tree beneath which Dolly is sitting, resting and
shading her eyes from the light.

When the banquet is over they get up from their feast and stroll down to
the river side, through the silent village into the overgrown meadow,
where green waving things are throwing their shadows, where an old
half-ruined nunnery stands fronting the sun and the silver river beyond
the fields.

There were nuns at Queensmede once: one might fancy a Guinevere ending
her sad life there in tranquil penitence; a knight on his knees by the
river; a horse browsing in the meadow. The old building still stands
among wild-flowers and hay, within sight of the river bend; the deserted
garden is unfenced, and the roses, straggling in the field, mingle their
petals with the clover and poppies that spring luxuriantly. The stable
is a gabled building with slender lancet windows, with open doors
swinging on the latch. The nuns have passed out one by one from the Lady
House, so they call it still. Dolly peeped in at the dismantled walls
and pictured their former occupants to herself--women singing and
praying with pale sweet faces radiant in the sweet tranquillity of the
old place, and yet their life seemed thin and sad somehow. It was here
that she found courage at last to read Robert's letter as she stood in
the doorway. She pulled it out and broke the seal:--

     MY DEAR DOROTHEA,--

     Notwithstanding all that has happened, I still feel that it is
     no common tie of friendship and interest which must always bind
     us together, and that it is due to you that I myself should
     inform you of a determination which will, as I trust,
     eventually contribute to everybody's happiness. After what you
     said to me it will, I know, be no surprise to you to have heard
     that I have proposed to Rhoda, and been accepted by her; but I
     am anxious to spare your learning from anybody but myself the
     fact, that we have determined to put on our marriage, and that
     this letter will reach you on our wedding day.

     Your friend Rhoda has entirely thrown herself upon my guidance,
     and under the circumstances it has seemed advisable to me to
     urge no longer delay. My affairs require my presence in
     England; hers also need the most careful management. I am not
     satisfied with the manner in which certain investments have
     been disposed of: notwithstanding some perhaps not unnatural
     reluctance on her part, I propose returning to Church House
     immediately after our wedding, where, let me tell you, my dear
     Dora, you will ever find a hearty welcome, and a home if need
     be. Although I am anxious to forget the past, particularly
     under my present circumstances, I cannot but recall once more
     to you how differently events might have turned out. I have
     never had an opportunity of explaining that to you, but I hope
     you do me the justice to believe that it was not your change of
     fortune which affected my decision to abide by your
     determination. I have been most anxious to assure you of this.
     It was your want of trust which first made me feel how
     dissimilar we were in many ways, how little chance there was in
     my being able to influence you as a husband. Forgive me for
     saying that you did not understand my motives, nor do entire
     justice to the feelings which made me endeavour to persuade you
     for your own advantage as well as mine. If you had come to
     India when I wished it much anxiety to yourself and much sorrow
     would have been spared you. Now it is too late to think of what
     might or might not have been, only this fact remains, and do
     not forget it, dear Dora, that you will never have a more
     sincere friend nor one more ready to advise and assist you in
     any difficulty than

     Your affectionate cousin,

     R. HENLEY.

     Rhoda (did she know I was writing) would unite in most
     affectionate love. I find her society more and more congenial
     and delightful to me.

'What are you reading, Dolly?' said Jonah, coming up. 'I ought to know
that confounded blue paper. Has that fellow the impudence to write to
you?' Then he asked more shyly, 'May I see the letter?'

'No, dear Jonah,' Dolly said, folding it up. 'It is a kind letter,
written kindly.'

Then she looked hard at him and blushed a little. 'This is his wedding
day,' she said; 'that is why he wrote to me.'

Dolly would not show her letter to any one, except to Mrs. Fane. She
felt that it would be commented on; she was grateful to Robert for
writing it; and yet the letter made her ashamed now that she began to
see him not as he was, but to judge from another standard, and to look
at him with other people's eyes. In after days she scarcely ever spoke
of him even to her nearest and dearest. To-day she merely repeated the
news. No one made any comment in her hearing. They were anxious at
first, but Dolly's face was serene, and they could see that she was not
unhappy.

One thing Mrs. Fane could not understand. Robert evidently knew nothing
of the destruction of Church House.

'I am glad Robert had nothing to do with it,' said Dolly, with a sigh.

'Will you come wiss me?' said little Charlotte, running up and taking
Dolly's hand. Miss Vanborough was not sorry to leave the discussion of
Robert's prospects to others, and she walked away, with the little girl
still holding by her hand, and went and stood for a minute on the
bridge, looking down at the river and the barge floating by; it slid
under her feet with its cargo of felled wood, and its wild and silent
human cargo, and then it went floating away between the summer banks.

The waters deepened and wavered. Tall waving grasses were also floating
and dragging upon the banks, crimson poppies starting here and there,
golden iris hanging their heads by the river. Little Charlotte presently
ran away, and half sunk in the grasses, stood struggling with a daisy. A
sunshiny man came leading a horse from the sleepy old barn that stood
beyond the Lady House. Its old bricks were hung with green veils, and
with purple and golden nets of lichen and of moss.

Dolly stopped--was it a burst of music? It was a sweet overpowering rush
of honeysuckle scent coming from the deserted garden. In this pastoral
landscape there was no sound louder than the lap of the water, or the
flowing gurgle of the pigeons straggling from one to another moss-grown
ledge. Chance lights stole from the sedge to the grassy banks, from the
creek by sweet tumbled grasses to the deserted old grange. Round about
stood the rose-trees, flowering in the wilderness, dropping their
blossoms; the swallows were flying about the eaves; the daisies sparkled
where they caught the sunlight.

While Dolly and little Charlotte were gathering their flowers Frank
Raban, who came walking along the fields by the river, had joined the
others by the Lady House. Morgan's telegram had summoned him back to
London, and his message had brought him on to Queensmede.

'Where is Miss Vanborough?' he asked presently.

'Don't you see her on the bridge?' said Jonah, pointing.

Frank walked on a few steps. He saw her standing on the bridge, high
above the torrent. Then he saw her come slowly along, followed by her
little companion....

They were walking slowly away from the field and the deserted garden. As
they all straggled slowly homewards with shadows at their feet, the old
ivy buttresses of the walls were beginning to shine with vesper light,
with deeper and crisper lines in the pure illumination all around. Dolly
thought of Haydn's andante again, only here it was light that brought
music out of all these instruments; silences, perfumes, and heavy
creepers; from the bewildering, sweet old place, overflown with birds,
heaped up and falling into hollows.

Frank walked silently beside Dolly. He had come prepared to sympathise,
full of concern for her, and she did not seem to want his help or to
care for it any more. That day by the pond, when she had first turned to
him in her grief, he had felt nearer to her than now, when in her
reserve she said no word of all that he knew she must be feeling. Could
this be pride? Did she show this indifferent face to the world, was she
determined that no one should guess at the secret strain? Was she
treating him as the first come acquaintance? It was very proper, no
doubt, and very dignified, but he was disappointed. He could not
understand it. She must be unhappy, and yet as he looked at her face he
saw no effort there--only peace shining from it. She had stopped before
a garland of briony that was drooping with beautiful leaves, making a
garland of shadows upon the bricks. She pointed it out to him.

'It is very pretty,' said Raban, 'but I am in no appreciative mood;' and
he looked back at Jonah, who came up just then, and began admiring. Why
was Jonah always with her? Why did he seem to join into all their talk?
Frank was jealous of Jonah, but he was still more jealous of Dorothea's
confidence. There seemed to be no end to Dolly's cousins. Here was
Jonah, to whom she had already given more of her confidence than to him;
Jonah, who had served her effectually, while he, Frank, had done
nothing, worse than nothing, for Dolly, who was walking along, still
looking at the bunches of briony she had gathered. It was not a very
heroic mood, and I am truly ashamed of my hero's passing ill humour,
coming as it did at this inopportune moment to trouble Miss Vanborough's
tardy happiness. And yet somehow it did not trouble her; she saw that
Frank was silent and gloomy, but with her instinct for idealising those
she loved, she supposed there was some good reason for it, and she felt
that she might perhaps even try to find out what was amiss; it was no
longer wrong to take an interest in all that affected him--even Dolly's
conscience allowed this--and, when the others walked on, in her sweet
voice she asked 'if anything was wrong,' and as she spoke her grey eyes
opened kindly. Dolly loved to take care of the people she loved. There
was a motherly instinct in all her affection.

'My only concern is for you, and for the news that Jonah Henley has told
me,' said Frank; 'but you did not tell me yourself, so I did not like to
speak of it to you.'

Dolly sighed--then looked up again. 'I do not know how to talk of it
all,' she said, 'and that is why I said nothing.'

'You are right!' Frank answered; 'when one comes to think of it, there
are no words in common language to----'

'Please don't,' said Dolly, pained; then she added, 'I have been so
unhappy, that I must not ever pretend to feel what I am not feeling.
Perhaps you may think it strange, I am happy, not unhappy, to-day. You
are all so kind; everything is so kind. I hope they too will have a
great deal of happiness in their lives. Is not Jonah calling us?' Jonah
was waiting for them at the gate of the house, and waving a long,
shadowy arm, that seemed to reach across the road.

'Happiness,' said Frank, lingering, and bitter still, and looking round.
'This is the sort of thing people mean, I suppose; green pastures and
still waters, and if one can be satisfied with grass, so much the better
for oneself; one may enjoy all the things one didn't particularly
want--and watch another man win the prize; another perhaps who doesn't
even----' Frank stopped short--what was he saying? he might be giving
pain, and he hated himself and his ill humour, jarring and jangling in
the peaceful serenity.

But Dolly finished the sentence calmly enough. 'Who doesn't care for it;
perhaps the prize isn't worth having,' she said very slowly. She did not
think of herself until she had spoken; then suddenly her heart began to
beat, and she blushed crimson; for her eyes met his, and his looks spoke
plainly enough--so plainly, that Dolly's grey orbs fell beneath that
fixed dreamy gaze. It seemed to look through her heart. Could he read
all that she was thinking? Ah! he might read her heart, for she was only
thinking as she stood there of all her friend's long fidelity and steady
friendship. What had she ever done to deserve it all? And her heart
seemed to answer her thought with a strange silent rapture. Now she
might own to herself the blessing of his unfailing friendship; it was no
longer a wrong to any human being. Even if she were never anything more
to him, she might openly and gratefully accept his help and his
interest; acknowledge the blessing, the new life it had brought her. She
had struggled so long to keep the feeling hidden away, it was an
unspeakable relief to have nothing more to conceal from herself nor from
others--nothing more. She knew at last that she loved him, and she was
not ashamed. What a journey she had travelled since they had stood by
the spring that autumn day, not a year ago; what terrible countries she
had visited, and had it come to this once more? Might she love now in
happiness as well as in sorrow? Was she not happy standing in this
golden hollow, with the person whom she loved best in all the world? No
other human being was in sight, nothing but the old shady village,
floating into overflowing green, the sleepy haycocks, the empty barn,
the heaping ivy on the wall, the sunlight slanting upon the silence. She
did not mean to speak, but Frank, in this utter silence, heard her
secret thought at last. 'Don't you know?' said Dorothea. 'Oh! Frank,
don't you know?' Did she speak the words or look them? He could scarcely
tell, only with unutterable tenderness and rapture in his heart he knew
that she was his, that life is kind, that true hearts do come together,
that one moment of such happiness and completeness lights up a whole
night's wild chaos, and reveals the sweetness of a dawning world.

Jonah, who had gone on with Mrs. Fane, came to the door to call them
again, but they did not see him, and he went back into the house, where
Mrs. Fane and John Morgan were hard at work upon an inventory.

'Here, let me help you,' said Jonah; 'I'm not too clumsy to count
teacups.' Little Charlotte made herself very useful by carrying a plate
from one chair to another. She finally let it drop, and would have cried
when it broke, if the good-natured young captain had not immediately
given her the ink to hold. This mark of confidence filled her with
pride, and dried her tears. 'Sall I 'old it up very high?' she said.
'Can you draw a ziant? I can, wiss your pen.'

It took them nearly an hour to get through their task, and by this time
the tea was ready in the library, the old-fashioned urn hissing and
steaming, and Jonah and John Morgan were preparing to set out on their
journey home. Frank went with them, and then when he was gone Dolly told
her friend her story, and the two sat talking until late into the
starlight.

Two days afterwards an announcement appeared in _The Times_, and the
world learnt that Robert Henley and Miss Rhoda Parnell had been married
at the British Embassy at Paris by special licence by the Bishop of
Oronoco. The next news was that of Dolly's marriage to Frank Raban.
Pebblesthwaite was very much excited. Lady Henley's indignation was
boundless at first, but was happily diverted by the news of her
favourite daughter Norah's engagement to Mr. Jack Redmayne.

James Brand's blue eyes twinkled a kindly sympathy, when the letter came
announcing Frank's happiness. He came up to be present at the wedding.
It was in the little city church with its smoke-stained windows. John
Morgan's voice failed as he read the opening words and looked down at
the bent heads of the two who had met at last hand-in-hand. 'In perfect,
love and peace,' he said; and, as he said it, he felt that the words
were no vain prayers.

He had no fear for them, nor had they fear for each other. Some one
standing in the drizzle of the street outside saw them drive off with
calm and happy faces. It was Robert Henley, who was passing through
London with his wife. Philippa, who saw him, kissed her hand and would
have stopped him, but he walked on without looking back. He had been to
Mr. Tapeall's that morning, after a painful explanation with
Rhoda--Rhoda, who was moodily sitting at the window of her room in the
noisy hotel, and going over the wretched details of that morning's talk.
It was true that she had sold Church House, tempted by the builder's
liberal offer, and wanting money to clear the many extravagances of her
Paris life; it was true that she had concealed the lawyer's letter from
Robert in which she learnt that her title to the property was about to
be disputed. She had hurried on their wedding, she had won the prize for
which her foolish soul had longed; it was not love so much as the pride
of life and of gratified vanity. These things had dazzled her, for these
things this foolish little creature had sacrificed her all. Dolly might
have been happy in time, even married to Robert, but for Rhoda what
chance was there? Would her French kid gloves put out their primrose
fingers to help her in her lonely hours? would her smart bonnets crown
her home with peace and the content of a loving spirit? She lived long
enough to find out something of the truth, and to come to Dolly one day
to help her in her sorest need. This was long after, when Dolly had long
been living at Ravensrick, when her children were playing round about
her, and the sunshine of her later life had warmed and brightened the
sadness of her youth. What more shall I say of my heroine? That sweet
and generous soul, ripening by degrees, slow and credulous, not
embittered by the petty pains of life, faithful and tender and vibrating
to many tones, is no uncommon type. Her name is one that I gave her long
ago, but her real names are many, and are those of the friends whom we
love.

Church House was never rebuilt. At Dolly's wish a row of model lodgings,
with iron balconies, patent boilers, ventilators, and clothes hanging
out to dry on every floor, have been erected on the site of the place
where Lady Sarah lived, and so the kind woman's dreams and helpful
schemes have come true.

'We could not put back the old house,' said Dolly, 'and we thought this
would be the next best thing to do.' The rooms are let at a somewhat
cheaper rate than the crowded lodging-houses round about. People, as a
rule, dislike the periodical whitewashing, and are fond of stuffing up
the ventilators, but otherwise they are very well satisfied.

Dolly did not receive many wedding presents. Some time after her
marriage, Rhoda sent Dolly a diamond cross; it was that one that Frank
Raban had given her many years before. She was abroad at the time, and
for many years neither Rhoda nor Dolly met again. Mrs. Palmer used to
write home accounts of Rhoda's beauty and fashion from Ems, and other
watering-places where she used to spend her summers.

The Admiral, who was still abroad, made it an especial point, so
Philippa declared, that she should spend her summers on the Continent.

One day Mrs. Raban was turning out some papers in a drawer in her
husband's writing-table, when she came upon a packet that she thought
must belong to herself. They were written in a familiar writing that she
knew at once, for it was Henley's. They were not addressed, and Dolly
could not at first imagine how these letters had come there, nor when
she had received them. As she looked she was still more bewildered. They
were letters not unlike some that she had received, and yet they had
entirely passed from her mind; presently turning over a page she read,
not her own name on the address, but that of Emma Penfold, and a
sentence--'It is best for your welfare that we should not meet again,'
wrote Henley. 'I am not a marrying man myself; circumstances render it
impossible. May you be as happy in your new life. You will have an
excellent husband, and one who....'

'What have you got there?' said Frank, who had come in.

'Oh, Frank, don't ask me,' said Dolly, hastily going to the fire that
was burning in the grate and flinging the packet into the flames; then
she ran up to him, and clung hold of his arm for a minute. She could not
speak.

Frank looked at the burning packet--at the open drawers--and then he
understood it all. 'I thought I had burnt those letters long ago,' he
said; and stooping he took his wife's hand in his and kissed it.

       *       *       *       *       *

As I write the snow lies thick upon the ground outside, upon the
branches of the trees, upon the lawns. Here, within, the fire leaps
brightly in its iron cage; the children cluster round the chair by the
chimney corner, where the mother sits reading their beloved fairy tales.
The hearth was empty once--the home was desolate; but time after time,
day by day, we see the phoenix of home and of love springing from the
dead ashes; hopes are fulfilled that seemed too sweet to dream of; love
kindles and warms chilled hearts to life. Take courage, say the happy to
those in sorrow and trouble; are there not many mansions even here?
seasons in their course; harvests in their season, thanks be to the
merciful ordinance that metes out sorrow and peace, and longing and
fulfilment, and rest after the storm.

Take courage, say the happy--the message of the sorrowful is harder to
understand. The echoes come from afar, and reach beyond our ken. As the
cry passes beyond us into the awful unknown, we feel that this is,
perhaps, the voice in life that reaches beyond life itself. Not of
harvests to come, not of peaceful home hearths do they speak in their
sorrow. Their fires are out, their hearths are in ashes, but see, it was
the sunlight that extinguished the flame.



THE WORKS OF MISS THACKERAY


    1. OLD KENSINGTON.
    2. THE VILLAGE ON THE CLIFF.
    3. FIVE OLD FRIENDS AND A YOUNG PRINCE.
    4. TO ESTHER; and other Sketches.
    5. BLUEBEARD'S KEYS; and other Stories
    6. THE STORY OF ELIZABETH; TWO HOURS; FROM AN ISLAND.
    7. TOILERS AND SPINSTERS; and other Essays.
    8. MISS ANGEL; FULHAM LAWN.
    9. MISS WILLIAMSON'S DIVAGATIONS.
    10. MRS. DYMOND.





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