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Title: Guy Deverell, v. 1 of 2
Author: Le Fanu, Joseph Sheridan, 1814-1873
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 "Guy Deverell, v. 1 of 2" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.



                         COLLECTION OF BRITISH AUTHORS.

                                   VOL. 803.


                         GUY DEVERELL BY J. S. LE FANU.

                                IN TWO VOLUMES.

                                    VOL. I.

                        *       *       *       *       *

                                 GUY DEVERELL.

                               BY J. S. LE FANU,

                         AUTHOR OF "UNCLE SILAS," ETC.


    _COPYRIGHT EDITION._

    IN TWO VOLUMES.

    VOL. I.

    LEIPZIG BERNHARD TAUCHNITZ

    1865.

    _The Right of Translation is reserved._

       *       *       *       *       *

                      TO THAT WRITER,
         SO GENIAL, SO BRILLIANT, SO PHILOSOPHIC,
              WHOM ALL THE WORLD READS AS
        HARRY LORREQUER AND AS CORNELIUS O'DOWD,
                   AND TO THAT FRIEND
                 HOW LOVED AND HONOURED!
                KNOWN TO THE PRIVILEGED AS
                      CHARLES LEVER,
                       THIS STORY,
    HOW UNWORTHY AN OFFERING ALL BUT HE WILL PERCEIVE,
                      IS DEDICATED
                          BY
                      THE AUTHOR.



CONTENTS OF VOLUME I.


        I. Sir Jekyl Marlowe at the Plough Inn                       1

       II. The Baronet visits Wardlock Manor                        12

      III. Concerning two Remarkable Persons who appeared
           in Wardlock Church                                       25

       IV. The Green Chamber at Marlowe                             35

        V. Sir Jekyl bethinks him of Pelter and Crowe               46

       VI. Sir Jekyl's Room is visited                              56

      VII. The Baronet pursues                                      63

     VIII. The House begins to fill                                 71

       IX. Dinner                                                   79

        X. Inquiries have been made by Messrs. Pelter and
           Crowe                                                    88

       XI. Old Gryston Bridge                                       97

      XII. The Strangers appear again                              106

     XIII. In the Drawing-room                                     114

      XIV. Music                                                   122

       XV. M. Varbarriere converses with his Nephew                131

      XVI. Containing a Variety of Things                          141

     XVII. The Magician draws a Diagram                            150

    XVIII. Another Guest prepares to come                          159

      XIX. Lady Alice takes Possession                             167

       XX. An Altercation                                          174

      XXI. Lady Alice in Bed                                       182

     XXII. How Everything went on                                  191

    XXIII. The Divan                                               200

     XXIV. Guy Strangways and M. Varbarriere converse              208

      XXV. Lady Alice talks with Guy Strangways                    215

     XXVI. Some talk of a Survey of the Green Chamber              223

    XXVII. M. Varbarriere talks a little more freely               230

   XXVIII. Some private Talk of Varbarriere and Lady Alice
           at the Dinner-table                                     238

     XXIX. The Ladies and Gentlemen resume Conversation
           in the Drawing-room                                     243

      XXX. Varbarriere picks up Something about Donica Gwynn       250

     XXXI. Lady Jane puts on her Brilliants                        259

    XXXII. Conciliation                                            266

   XXXIII. Lady Jane and Beatrix play at Croquet                   274

    XXXIV. General Lennox receives a Letter                        281

     XXXV. The Bishop at Marlowe                                   290

    XXXVI. Old Scenes recalled                                     296

   XXXVII. In which Lady Alice pumps the Bishop                    304



GUY DEVERELL.



CHAPTER I.

Sir Jekyl Marlowe at the Plough Inn.


The pretty little posting station, known as the Plough Inn, on the Old
London Road, where the Sterndale Road crosses it, was in a state of fuss
and awe, at about five o'clock on a fine sharp October evening, for Sir
Jekyl Marlowe, a man of many thousand acres, and M.P. for the county,
was standing with his back to the fire, in the parlour, whose bow-window
looks out on the ancient thoroughfare I have mentioned, over the row of
scarlet geraniums which beautify the window-stone.

"Hollo!" cried the Baronet, as the bell-rope came down in answer to an
energetic but not angry pull, and he received Mrs. Jones, his hostess,
who entered at the moment, with the dismantled bell-handle still in his
hand. "At my old tricks, you see. I've been doing you a mischief, hey?
but we'll set it right in the bill, you know. How devilish well you
look! wonderful girl, by Jove! Come in, my dear, and shut the door. Not
afraid of me. I want to talk of ducks and mutton-chops. I've had no
luncheon, and I'm awfully hungry," said the comely Baronet in a
continued chuckle.

The Baronet was, by that awful red-bound volume of dates, which is one
of the melancholy drawbacks of aristocracy, set down just then, and by
all whom it might concern, ascertainable to be precisely forty-nine
years and three months old; but so well had he worn, and so cleverly was
he got up, that he might have passed for little more than forty.

He was smiling, with very white teeth, and a gay leer on pretty Mrs.
Jones, an old friend, with black eyes and tresses, and pink cheeks, who
bore her five-and-thirty years as well almost as he did his own burthen.
The slanting autumnal sun became her, and she simpered and courtesied
and blushed the best she could.

"Well, you pretty little devil, what can you do for me--hey? You know
we're old friends--hey? What have you got for a hungry fellow? and don't
stand at the door there, hang it--come in, can't you? and let me hear
what you say."

So Mrs. Jones, with a simpering bashfulness, delivered her bill of fare
off book.

The Baronet was a gallant English gentleman, and came of a healthy race,
though there were a 'beau' and an archbishop in the family; he could
rough it good-humouredly on beefsteak and port, and had an accommodating
appetite as to hours.

"That will do very nicely, my dear, thank you. You're just the same dear
hospitable little rogue I remember you--how long is it, by Jove, since I
stopped here that day, and the awful thunderstorm at night, don't you
recollect? and the whole house in such a devil of a row, egad!" And the
Baronet chuckled and leered, with his hands in his pockets.

"Three years, by Jove, I think--eh?"

"Four years in August last, Sir Jekyl," she answered, with a little toss
of her head and a courtesy.

"Four years, my dear--four devils! Is it possible? why upon my life it
has positively improved you." And he tapped her cheek playfully with his
finger. "And what o'clock is it?" he continued, looking at his watch,
"just five. Well, I suppose you'll be ready in half-an-hour--eh, my
dear?"

"Sooner, if you wish, Sir Jekyl."

"No, thank you, dear, that will do very nicely; and stay," he added,
with a pluck at her pink ribbon, as she retreated: "you've some devilish
good port here, unless it's all out--old Lord Hogwood's stock--eh?"

"More than two dozen left, Sir Jekyl; would you please some?"

"You've hit it, you wicked little conjurer--a bottle; and you must give
me a few minutes after dinner, and a cup of coffee, and tell me all the
news--eh?"

The Baronet, standing on the threadbare hearthrug, looked waggishly, as
it were, through the panels of the shut door, after the fluttering cap
of his pretty landlady. Then he turned about and reviewed himself in the
sea-green mirror over the chimneypiece, adjusted his curls and whiskers
with a touch or two of his fingers' ends, and plucked a little at his
ample silk necktie, and shook out his tresses, with his chin a little
up, and a saucy simper.

But a man tires even of that prospect; and he turned on his heel, and
whistled at the smoky mezzotint of George III. on the opposite wall.
Then he turned his head, and looked out through the bow-window, and his
whistling stopped in the middle of a bar, at sight of a young man whom
he espied, only a yard or two before the covered porch of the little
inn.

This young gentleman was, it seemed, giving a parting direction to some
one in the doorway. He was tall, slender, rather dark, and decidedly
handsome. There were, indeed, in his air, face, and costume, that
indescribable elegance and superiority which constitute a man
"distinguished looking."

When Sir Jekyl beheld this particularly handsome young man, it was with
a disagreeable shock, like the tap on a big drum, upon his diaphragm. If
anyone had been there he would have witnessed an odd and grizzly change
in the pleasant Baronet's countenance. For a few seconds he did not
move. Then he drew back a pace or two, and stood at the further side of
the fire, with the mantelpiece partially between him and the young
gentleman who spoke his parting directions, all unconscious of the
haggard stare which made Sir Jekyl look a great deal less young and
good-natured than was his wont.

This handsome young stranger, smiling, signalled with his cane, as it
seemed, to a companion, who had preceded him, and ran in pursuit.

For a time Sir Jekyl did not move a muscle, and then, with a sudden
pound on the chimneypiece, and a great oath, he exclaimed--

"I could not have believed it! What the devil can it mean?"

Then the Baronet bethought him--"What confounded stuff one does talk and
think, sometimes! Half the matter dropt out of my mind. Twenty years
ago, by Jove, too. _More_ than that, egad! How could I be such an ass?"

And he countermarched, and twirled on his heel into his old place, with
his back to the fire, and chuckled and asked again--

"How the plague _could_ I be such a fool?"

And after some more of this sort of catechism he began to ruminate oddly
once more, and, said he--

"It's plaguy _odd_, for all that."

And he walked to the window, and, with his face close to the glass,
tried in vain to see the stranger again. The bow-window did not command
the road far enough to enable him to see any distance; and he stuck his
hat on his head, and marched by the bar, through the porch, and,
standing upon the road itself, looked shrewdly in the same direction.

But the road makes a bend about there, and between the hedgerows of that
wooded country the vista was not far.

With a cheerful air of carelessness, Sir Jekyl returned and tapped on
the bar window.

"I say, Mrs. Jones, who's that good-looking young fellow that went out
just now?"

"The gentleman in the low-crowned hat, sir, with the gold-headed cane,
please?"

"Yes, a tall young fellow, with large dark eyes, and brown hair."

"That will be Mr. Strangers, Sir Jekyl."

"Does he sleep here to-night?"

"Yes, sir, please."

"And what's his business?"

"Oh, dear! No business, Sir Jekyl, please. He's a real gentleman, and no
end of money."

"I mean, how does he amuse himself?"

"A looking after prospects, and old places, and such like, Sir Jekyl.
Sometimes riding and sometimes a fly. Every day some place or other."

"Oh! pencils and paint-boxes--eh?"

"I aven't seen none, sir. I can't say how that will be."

"Well, and what is he about; where is he gone; where is he now?"
demanded the Baronet.

"What way did Mr. Strangers go, Bill, just now?" the lady demanded of
boots, who appeared at the moment.

"The Abbey, ma'am."

"The Abbey, please, Sir Jekyl."

"The Abbey--that's Wail Abbey--eh? How far is it?"

"How far will it be, Bill?"

"'Taint a mile all out, ma'am."

"Not quite a mile, Sir Jekyl."

"A good ruin--isn't it?" asked the Baronet.

"Well, they do say it's _very_ much out of repair; but I never saw it
myself, Sir Jekyl."

"Neither did I," said Sir Jekyl. "I say, my good fellow, you can point
it out, I dare say, from the steps here?"

"Ay, please, Sir Jekyl."

"You'll have dinner put back, Sir--please, Sir Jekyl?" asked Mrs. Jones.

"Back or forward, _any_ way, my dear child. Only I'll have my walk
first."

And kissing and waving the tips of his fingers, with a smile to Mrs.
Jones, who courtesied and simpered, though her heart was perplexed with
culinary solicitudes "how to keep the water from getting into the trout,
and prevent the ducks of overroasting," the worthy Baronet, followed by
Bill, stept through the porch, and on the ridge of the old high-road,
his own heart being oddly disturbed with certain cares which had given
him a long respite; there he received Bill's directions as to the route
to the Abbey.

It was a clear frosty evening. The red round sun by this time, near the
horizon, looked as if a tall man on the summit of the western hill might
have touched its edge with his finger. The Baronet looked on the
declining luminary as he buttoned his loose coat across his throat, till
his eyes were almost dazzled, thinking all the time of nothing but that
handsome young man; and as he walked on briskly toward the Abbey, he saw
little pale green suns dancing along the road and wherever else his
eyes were turned.

"I'll see this fellow face to face, and talk a bit with him. I dare say
if one were near he's not at all so like. It _is_ devilish odd though;
twenty-five years and not a relation on earth--and dead--hang him! Egad,
its like the Wandering Jew, and the what do you call 'em, _vitæ_. Ay,
here it is."

He paused for a moment, looking at the pretty stile which led a little
pathway across the fields to the wooded hollow by the river, where the
ruin stands. Two old white stone, fluted piers, once a doorway, now
tufted with grass, and stained and worn by time, and the stile built up
between.

"I know, of course, there's nothing in it; but it's so odd--it _is_ so
_devilish_ odd. I'd like to know all about it," said the Baronet,
picking the dust from the fluting with the point of his walking-cane.
"Where has he got, I wonder, by this time?" So he mounted the stile, and
paused near the summit to obtain a commanding view.

"Well, I suppose he's got among the old walls and rubbish by this time.
I'll make him out; he'll break cover."

And he skipped down the stile on the other side, and whistled a little,
cutting gaily in the air with his cane as he went.

But for all he could do the same intensely uncomfortable curiosity
pressed upon him as he advanced. The sun sank behind the distant hills,
leaving the heavens flooded with a discoloured crimson, and the faint
silver of the moon in the eastern sky glimmered coldly over the fading
landscape, as he suddenly emerged from the hedged pathway on the rich
meadow level by the slow river's brink, on which, surrounded by lofty
timber, the ruined Abbey stands.

The birds had come home. Their vesper song had sunk with the setting
sun, and in the sad solitude of twilight the grey ruins rose dimly
before him.

"A devilish good spot for a picnic!" said he, making an effort to
recover his usual agreeable vein of thought and spirits.

So he looked up and about him, and jauntily marched over the sward, and
walked along the line of the grey walls until he found a doorway, and
began his explorations.

Through dark passages, up broken stairs, over grass-grown piles of
rubbish, he peeped into all sorts of roofless chambers. Everything was
silent and settling down into night. At last, by that narrow doorway,
which in such buildings so oddly gives entrance here and there into vast
apartments, he turned into that grand chamber, whose stone floor rests
on the vaults beneath; and there the Baronet paused for a moment with a
little start, for at the far end, looking towards him, but a little
upward, with the faint reflected glow that entered through the tall row
of windows, on the side of his face and figure, stood the handsome young
man of whom he was in pursuit.

The Baronet being himself only a step or two from the screw stairs, and
still under the shadow of the overhanging arch in the corner, the
stranger saw nothing of him, and to announce his approach, though not
much of a musician, he hummed a bar or two briskly as he entered, and
marched across and about as if thinking of nothing but architecture or
the picturesque.

"Charming ruin this, sir," exclaimed he, raising his hat, so soon as he
had approached the stranger sufficiently near to make the address
natural. "Although I'm a resident of this part of the world, I'm ashamed
to say I never saw it before."

The young man raised his hat too, and bowed with a ceremonious grace,
which, as well as his accent, had something foreign in it.

"While I, though a stranger, have been unable to resist its fascination,
and have already visited it three times. You have reason to be proud of
your county, sir, it is full of beauties."

The stranger's sweet, but peculiar, voice thrilled the Baronet with a
recollection as vivid and detested. In fact this well-seasoned man of
the world was so much shocked that he answered only with a bow, and
cleared his voice, and chuckled after his fashion, but all the time felt
a chill creeping over his back.

There was a broad bar of a foggy red light falling through the ivy-girt
window, but the young man happened to stand at that moment in the shadow
beside it, and when the Baronet's quick glance, instead of detecting
some reassuring distinction of feature or expression, encountered only
the ambiguous and obscure, he recoiled inwardly as from something
abominable.

"Beautiful effect--beautiful sky!" exclaimed Sir Jekyl, not knowing very
well what he was saying, and waving his cane upwards towards the fading
tints of the sky.

The stranger emerged from his shadow and stood beside him, and such
light as there was fell full upon his features, and as the Baronet
beheld he felt as if he were in a dream.



CHAPTER II.

The Baronet Visits Wardlock Manor.


In fact Sir Jekyl would have been puzzled to know exactly what to say
next, so odd were his sensations, and his mind so pre-occupied with a
chain of extremely uncomfortable conjecture, had not the handsome young
gentleman who stood beside him at the gaping window with its melancholy
folds of ivy, said--

"I have often tried to analyse the peculiar interest of ruins like
these--the mixture of melancholy and curiosity. I have seen very many
monasteries abroad--perhaps as old as this, even older--still peopled
with their monks, with very little interest indeed, and no sympathy; and
yet here I feel a yearning after the bygone age of English monasticism,
an anxiety to learn all about their ways and doings, and a sort of
reverence and sadness I can't account for, unless it be an expression of
that profound sympathy which mortals feel with every expression of decay
and dissolution."

The Baronet fancied that he saw a lurking smile in the young man's face,
and recoiled from psychologic talk about mortality.

"I dare say you're right, sir, but I am the worst metaphysician in the
world." He thought the young man smiled again. "In your liking for the
picturesque, however, I quite go with you. Do you intend extending your
tour to Wales and Scotland?"

"I can hardly call this little excursion a tour. The fact is, my
curiosity is pretty much limited to this county; there are old reasons
which make me feel a very particular interest in it," said the young
man, with a very pointed carelessness and a smile, which caused the
Baronet inwardly to wince.

"I should be very happy," said Sir Jekyl, "if you would take Marlowe in
your way: there are some pictures there, as well as some views you might
like to see. I am Sir Jekyl Marlowe, and own two or three places in this
county, which are thought pretty--and, may I give you my card?"

The snowy parallelogram was here presented and accepted with a mutual
bow. The stranger was smiling oddly as Sir Jekyl introduced himself,
with an expression which he fancied he could read in spite of the dark,
as implying "rather old news you tell me."

"And--and--what was I going to say?--oh!--yes--if I can be of any use to
you in procuring access to any house or place you wish to see, I shall
be very happy. You are at present staying at my occasional quarters, the
'Plough.' I'm afraid you'll think me very impertinent and intrusive; but
I should like to be able to mention your name to some of my friends, who
don't usually allow strangers to see their places."

This was more like American than English politeness; but the Baronet was
determined to know all about the stranger, commencing with his name,
and the laws of good breeding, though he knew them very well, were not
likely to stand long in his way when he had made up his mind to
accomplish an object.

"My name is Guy Strangways," said the stranger.

"O--ho--it's very odd!" exclaimed the Baronet, in a sharp snarl, quite
unlike his previous talk. I think the distance between them was a little
increased, and he was looking askance upon the young gentleman, who made
him a very low foreign bow.

There was a silence, and just then a deep metallic voice from below
called, "Guy--hollo!"

"Excuse me--just a moment," and the young man was gone. The Baronet
waited.

"He'll be back," muttered Sir Jekyl, "in a minute."

But the Baronet was mistaken. He waited at that open window, whistling
out upon the deepening twilight, till the edges of the ivy began to
glitter in the moonbeams, and the bats to trace their zigzags in the
air; and at last he gave over expecting.

He looked back into the gloomy void of that great chamber, and listened,
and felt rather angry at his queer sensations. He had not turned about
when the stranger withdrew, and did not know the process of his
vanishing, and for the first time it struck him, "who the plague could
the fellow who _called_ him be?"

On the whole he wished himself away, and he lighted a cigar for the sake
of its vulgar associations, and made his way out of the ruins, and
swiftly through darkened fields toward the Old London Road; and was
more comfortable than he cared to say, when he stepped through the porch
into the open hall of the "Plough," and stopped before the light at the
bar, to ask his hostess once more, quite in his old way, whether Mr.
Strangways had returned.

"No, not yet; always uncertain; his dinner mostly overdone."

"Has he a friend with him?"

"Yes, sir, sure."

"And what is he like?"

"Older man, Sir Jekyl, a long way than young Mr. Guy Strangways; some
relation I do think."

"When do they leave you?"

"To-morrow evening, with a chaise and pair for Aukworth."

"Aukworth? why, that's another of my properties!--ha, ha, ha, by Jove!
Does he know the Abbey here is mine?"

"I rayther think not, Sir Jekyl. Would you please to wish dinner?"

"To be sure, you dear little quiz, dinner by all means; and let them get
my horses to in half-an-hour; and if Mr. Strangways should return before
I go, I'd like to see him, and don't fail to let me know--do ye see?"

Dinner came and went, but Mr. Strangways did not return, which rather
vexed Sir Jekyl, who, however, left his card for that gentleman,
together with an extremely polite note, which he wrote at the bar with
his hat on, inviting him and his companion to Marlowe, where he would be
at home any time for the next two months, and trusted they would give
him a week before they left the country.

It was now dark, and Sir Jekyl loitered under the lamplight of his
chaise for a while, in the hope that Mr. Strangways would turn up. But
he did not; and the Baronet jumped into the vehicle, which was forthwith
in motion.

He sat in the corner, with one foot on the cushion, and lighted a cigar.
His chuckling was all over, and his quizzing, for the present. Mrs.
Jones had not a notion that he was in the least uneasy, or on any but
hospitable thoughts intent. But anyone who now looked in his face would
have seen at a glance how suddenly it had become overcast with black
care.

"Guy Strangways!" he thought; "those two names, and his wonderful
likeness! Prowling about this county! Why this more than another? He
seemed to take a triumphant pleasure in telling me of his special fancy
for this county. And his voice--a tenor they call it--I hate that sweet
sort of voice. Those d---- singing fellows. I dare say he sings. They
never do a bit of good. It's very odd. It's the same voice. I forgot
that odd silvery sound. The _same_, by Jove! I'll come to the bottom of
the whole thing. D---- me, I will!"

Then the Baronet puffed away fast and earnestly at his cigar, and then
lighted another, and after that a third. They steadied him, I dare say,
and helped to oil the mechanism of thought. But he had not recovered his
wonted cheer of mind when the chaise drew up at a pair of time-worn
fluted piers, with the gable of an old-fashioned dwelling-house
overlooking the road at one side. An iron gate admitted to a courtyard,
and the hall door of the house was opened by an old-fashioned footman,
with some flour on the top of his head.

Sir Jekyl jumped down.

"Your mistress quite well, hey? My daughter ready?" inquired the
Baronet. "Where are they? No, I'll not go up, thank you; I'll stay
here," and he entered the parlour. "And, do you see, you just go up and
ask your mistress if she wishes to see me."

By this time Sir Jekyl was poking up the fire and frowning down on the
bars, with the flickering glare shooting over his face.

"Can the old woman have anything to do with it? Pooh! no. I'd like to
see her. But who knows what sort of a temper she's in?"

As he thus ruminated, the domestic with the old-fashioned livery and
floured head returned to say that his mistress would be happy to see
him.

The servant conducted him up a broad stair with a great oak banister,
and opening a drawing-room door, announced--

"Sir Jekyl Marlowe."

He was instantly in the room, and a tall, thin old lady, with a sad and
stately mien, rose up to greet him.

"How is little mamma?" cried the Baronet, with his old chuckle. "An age
since we met, hey? How well you look!"

The old lady gave her thin mittened hand to her son-in-law, and looked
a grim and dubious sort of welcome upon him.

"Yes, Jekyl, an age; and only that Beatrix is here, I suppose another
age would have passed without my seeing you. And an old woman at my
years has not many ages between her and the grave."

The old lady spoke not playfully, but sternly, like one who had suffered
long and horribly, and who associated her sufferings with her visitor;
and in her oblique glance was something of deep-seated antipathy.

"Egad! you're younger than I, though you count more years. You live by
clock and rule, and you show it. You're as fresh as that bunch of
flowers there; while I am literally knocking myself to pieces--and I
know it--by late hours, and all sorts of nonsense. So you must not be
coming the old woman over me, you know, unless you want to frighten me.
And how is Beatrix? How do, Beatrix? All ready, I see. Good child."

Beatrix at this moment was entering. She was tall and slightly formed,
with large dark eyes, hair of soft shadowy black, and those tints of
pure white and rich clear blush, scarlet lips, and pearly teeth, and
long eyelashes, which are so beautiful in contrast and in harmony. She
had the prettiest little white nose, and her face was formed in that
decided oval which so heightens the charm of the features. She was not a
tragic heroine. Her smile was girlish and natural--and the little ring
of pearls between her lips laughed beautifully--and her dimples played
on chin and cheek as she smiled.

Her father kissed her, and looked at her with a look of gratification,
as he might on a good picture that belonged to him; and turning her
smiling face, with his finger and thumb upon her little dimpled chin,
toward Lady Alice, he said--

"Pretty well, this girl, hey?"

"I dare say, Jekyl, she'll do very well; she's not formed yet, you
know,"--was stately Lady Alice's qualified assent. She was one of that
school who are more afraid of spoiling people than desirous of pleasing
them by admiration. "She promises to be like her darling mother; and
that is a melancholy satisfaction to me, and, of course, to you. You'll
have some tea, Jekyl?"

The Baronet was standing, hat in hand, with his outside coat on, and his
back to the fire, and a cashmere muffler loosely about his throat.

"Well, as it is here, I don't mind."

"May I run down, grandmamma, and say good-bye to Ellen and old Mrs.
Mason?"

"Surely--you mean, of course to the parlour? You may have them there."

"And you must not be all night about it, Beatrix. We'll be going in a
few minutes. D'ye mind?"

"I'm quite ready, papa," said she; and as she glided from the room she
stole a glance at her bright reflection in the mirror.

"You are always in a hurry, Jekyl, to leave me when you chance to come
here. I should be sorry, however, to interfere with the pleasanter
disposition of your time."

"Now, little mother, you mustn't be huffed with me. I have a hundred
and fifty things to look after at Marlowe when I get there. I have not
had a great deal of time, you know--first the session, then three months
knocking about the world."

"You never wrote to me since you left Paris," said the old lady, grimly.

"Didn't I? That was very wrong! But you knew those were my holidays, and
I detest writing, and you knew I could take care of myself; and it is so
much better to tell one's adventures than to put them into letters,
don't you think?"

"If one could tell them all in five minutes," replied the old lady,
drily.

"Well, but you'll come over to Marlowe--you really must--and I'll tell
you everything there--the truth, the whole truth, and as much more as
you like."

This invitation was repeated every year, but like Don Juan's to the
statue, was not expected to lead to a literal visit.

"You have haunted rooms there, Jekyl," she said, with an unpleasant
smile and a nod. "You have not kept house in Marlowe for ten years, I
think. Why do you go there now?"

"Caprice, whim, what you will," said the Baronet, combing out his
favourite whisker with the tips of his fingers, while he smiled on
himself in the glass upon the chimneypiece, "I wish _you'd_ tell me, for
_I_ really don't know, except that I'm tired of Warton and Dartbroke, as
I am of all monotony. I like change, you know."

"Yes; you _like change_," said the old lady, with a dignified sarcasm.

"I'm afraid it's a true bill," admitted Sir Jekyl, with a chuckle, "So
you'll come to Marlowe and see us there--won't you?"

"No, Jekyl--certainly _not_," said the old lady, with intense emphasis.

A little pause ensued, during which the Baronet twiddled at his whisker,
and continued to smile amusedly at himself in the glass.

"I wonder you could think of asking me to Marlowe, considering all that
has happened there. I sometimes wonder at myself that I can endure to
see you at all, Jekyl Marlowe; and I don't think, if it were not for
that dear girl, who is so like her sainted mother, I should ever set
eyes on you again."

"I'm glad we have that link. You make me love Beatrix better," he
replied. He was now arranging the elaborate breast-pin with its tiny
chain, which was at that date in vogue.

"And so you are going to keep house at Marlowe?" resumed the lady,
stiffly, not heeding the sentiment of his little speech.

"Well, so I purpose."

"I don't like that house," said the old lady, with a subdued fierceness.

"Sorry it does not please you, little mother," replied Sir Jekyl.

"You know I don't like it," she repeated.

"In that case you need not have told me," he said.

"I choose to tell you. I'll say so as often as I see you--as often as I
like."

It was an odd conference--back to back--the old lady stiff and
high--staring pale and grimly at the opposite wall. The Baronet looking
with a quizzical smile on his handsome face in the mirror--now plucking
at a whisker--now poking at a curl with his finger-tip--and now in the
same light way arranging the silken fall of his necktie.

"There's nothing my dear little mamma can say, I'll not listen to with
pleasure."

"There is much I might say you could not listen to with pleasure." The
cold was growing more intense, and bitter in tone and emphasis, as she
addressed the Italian picture of Adonis and his two dogs hanging on the
distant wall.

"Well, with _respect_, _not_ with pleasure--no," said he, and tapped his
white upper teeth with the nail of his middle finger.

"Assuming, then, that you speak truth, it is high time, Jekyl Marlowe,
that you should alter your courses--here's your daughter, just come out.
It is ridiculous, your affecting the vices of youth. Make up as you
will--you're past the middle age--you're an elderly man now."

"You can't vex me that way, you dear old mamma," he said, with a
chuckle, which looked for the first time a little vicious in the glass.
"We baronets, you know, are all booked, and all the world can read our
ages; but you women manage better--you and your two dear sisters,
Winifred and Georgiana."

"They are _dead_," interrupted Lady Alice, with more asperity than
pathos.

"Yes, I know, poor old souls--to be sure, peers' daughters die like
other people, I'm afraid."

"And when they do, are mentioned, if not with sorrow, at least with
decent respect, by persons, that is, who know how to behave themselves."

There was a slight quiver in Lady Alice's lofty tone that pleased Sir
Jekyl, as you might have remarked had you looked over his shoulder into
the glass.

"Well, you know, I was speaking not of deaths but births, and only going
to say if you look in the peerage you'll find all the men, poor devils,
pinned to their birthdays, and the women left at large, to exercise
their veracity on the point; but you need not care--you have not
pretended to youth for the last ten years I think."

"You are excessively impertinent, sir."

"I _know_ it," answered Sir Jekyl, with a jubilant chuckle.

A very little more, the Baronet knew, and Lady Alice Redcliffe would
have risen gray and grim, and sailed out of the room. Their partings
were often after this sort.

But he did not wish matters to go quite that length at present. So he
said, in a sprightly way, as if a sudden thought had struck him--

"By Jove, I believe I _am devilish_ impertinent, without knowing it
though--and you have forgiven me so often, I'm sure you _will_ once
more, and I am really so much obliged for your kindness to Beatrix. I
am, indeed."

So he took her hand, and kissed it.



CHAPTER III.

Concerning two Remarkable Persons who appeared in Wardlock Church.


Lady Alice carried her thin Roman nose some degrees higher; but she
said--

"If I say anything disagreeable, it is not for the pleasure of giving
you pain, Jekyl Marlowe; but I understand that you mean to have old
General Lennox and his artful wife to stay at your house, and if so, I
think it an arrangement that had better be dispensed with. I don't think
her an eligible acquaintance for Beatrix, and you know very well she's
_not_--and it is not a respectable or creditable kind of thing."

"Now, what d--d fool, I beg pardon--but who the plague has been filling
your mind with those ridiculous stories--my dear little mamma? You know
how ready I am to confess; you _might_ at least; I tell you everything;
and I do assure you I _never_ admired her. She's good looking, I know;
but so are fifty pictures and statues I've seen, that don't please me."

"Then it's true, the General and his wife are going on a visit to
Marlowe?" insisted Lady Alice, drily.

"No, they are not. D---- me, I'm not thinking of the General and his
wife, nor of any such d--d trumpery. I'd give something to know who the
devil's taking these cursed liberties with my name."

"Pray, Jekyl Marlowe, command your language. It can't the least signify
who tells me; but you see I do sometimes get a letter."

"Yes, and a precious letter too. Such a pack of lies did any human being
ever hear fired off in a sentence before? I'm _épris_ of Mrs. General
Lennox. Thumper number one! She's a lady of--I beg pardon--easy virtue.
Thumper number two! and I invite her and her husband down to Marlowe, to
make love of course to her, and to fight the old General. Thumper number
three!"

And the Baronet chuckled over the three "thumpers" merrily.

"Don't talk slang, if you please--gentlemen don't, at least in
addressing ladies."

"Well, then, I won't; I'll speak just as you like, only you must not
blow me up any more; for really there is no cause, and we here only two
or three minutes together, you know; and I want to tell you something,
or rather to ask you--do you ever hear anything of those _Deverells_,
you know?"

Lady Alice looked quite startled, and turned quickly half round in her
chair, with her eyes on Sir Jekyl's face. The Baronet's smile subsided,
and he looked with a dark curiosity in hers. A short but dismal silence
followed.

"You've heard from them?"

"No!" said the lady, with little change in the expression of her face.

"Well, _of_ them?"

"No," she repeated; "but _why_ do you ask? It's _very_ strange!"

"_What's_ strange? Come, now, you _have_ something to say; tell me what
it is."

"I wonder, Jekyl, you ask for them, in the first place."

"Well--well, of course; but what next?" murmured the Baronet, eagerly:
"why is it so strange?"

"Only because I've been thinking of them--a great deal--for the last few
days; and it seemed very odd your asking; and in fact I fancy the same
thing has happened to us both."

"Well, may be; but what _is_ it?" demanded the Baronet, with a sinister
smile.

"I have been startled; most painfully and powerfully affected; I have
seen the most extraordinary resemblance to my beautiful, _murdered_
Guy."

She rose, and wept passionately, standing with her face buried in her
handkerchief.

Sir Jekyl frowned with closed eyes and upturned face, waiting like a
patient man bored to death, for the subsidence of the storm which he had
conjured up. Very pale, too, was that countenance, and contracted for a
few moments with intense annoyance.

"I saw the same fellow," said the Baronet, in a subdued tone, so soon as
there was a subsidence, "this evening; he's at that little inn on the
Sterndale Road. Guy Strangways he calls himself; I talked with him for a
few minutes; a gentlemanly young man; and I don't know what to make of
it. So I thought I'd ask you whether _you_ could help me to a guess;
and that's all."

The old lady shook her head.

"And I don't think you need employ quite such hard terms," he said.

"I don't want to speak of it at all," said she; "but if I do I can't say
less; nor I won't--no, never!"

"You see it's very odd, those two names," said Sir Jekyl, not minding;
"and as you say, the likeness so astonishing--I--I--what do _you_ think
of it?"

"Of course it's an accident," said the old lady.

"I'm glad you think so," said he, abruptly.

"Why, what could it be? you don't believe in apparitions?" she replied,
with an odd sort of dryness.

"I rather think not," said he; "I meant he left no very near relation,
and I fancied those Deverell people might have contrived some trick, or
intended some personation, or something, and I thought that you,
perhaps, had heard something of their movements."

"Nothing--what could they have done, or why should they have sought to
make any such impression? I don't understand it. It is very
extraordinary. But the likeness in church amazed and shocked me, and
made me ill."

"In church, you say?" repeated Sir Jekyl.

"Yes, in church," and she told him in her own way, what I shall tell in
mine, as follows:--

Last Sunday she had driven, in her accustomed state, with Beatrix, to
Wardlock church. The church was hardly five hundred yards away, and the
day bright and dry. But Lady Alice always arrived and departed in the
coach, and sat in the Redcliffe seat, in the centre of the gallery. She
and Beatrix sat face to face at opposite sides of the pew.

As Lady Alice looked with her cold and steady glance over the
congregation in the aisle, during the interval of silence that precedes
the commencement of the service, a tall and graceful young man, with an
air of semi-foreign fashion, entered the church, accompanied by an
elderly gentleman, of whom she took comparatively little note.

The young man and his friend were ushered into a seat confronting the
gallery. Lady Alice gazed and gazed transfixed with astonishment and
horror. The enamelled miniature on her bosom was like; but there, in
that clear, melancholy face, with its large eyes and wavy hair, was a
resurrection. In that animated sculpture were delicate tracings and
touches of nature's chisel, which the artist had failed to represent,
which even memory had neglected to fix, but which all now returned with
the startling sense of identity in a moment.

She had put on her gold spectacles, as she always did on taking her
seat, and opened her "Morning Service," bound in purple Russia, with its
golden clasp and long ribbons fringed with the same precious metal, with
the intent to mark the proper psalms and lessons at her haughty leisure.
She therefore saw the moving image of her dead son before her, with an
agonizing distinctness that told like a blight of palsy on her face.

She saw his elderly companion also distinctly. A round-shouldered man,
with his short caped cloak still on. A grave man, with a large, high,
bald forehead, a heavy, hooked nose, and great hanging moustache and
beard. A dead and ominous face enough, except for the piercing glance of
his full eyes, under very thick brows, and just the one you would have
chosen out of a thousand portraits, for a plotting high-priest or an old
magician.

This magus fixed his gaze on Lady Alice, not with an ostentation of
staring, but sternly from behind the dark embrasure of his brows; and
leaning a little sideways, whispered something in the ear of his young
companion, whose glance at the same moment was turned with a dark and
fixed interest upon the old lady.

It was a very determined stare on both sides, and of course ill-bred,
but mellowed by distance. The congregation were otherwise like other
country congregations, awaiting the offices of their pastor, decent,
listless, while this great stare was going on, so little becoming the
higher associations and solemn aspect of the place. It was, with all its
conventional screening, a fierce, desperate scrutiny, cutting the dim
air with a steady congreve fire that crossed and glared unintermittent
by the ears of deceased gentlemen in ruffs and grimy doublets, at their
posthumous devotions, and brazen knights praying on their backs, and
under the eyes of all the gorgeous saints, with glories round their
foreheads, in attitudes of benediction or meekness, who edified
believers from the eastern window.

Lady Alice drew back in her pew. Beatrix was in a young-lady reverie,
and did not observe what was going on. There was nothing indeed to make
it very conspicuous. But when she looked at Lady Alice, she was shocked
at her appearance, and instantly crossed, and said--

"I am afraid you are ill, grandmamma; shall we come away?"

The old lady made no answer, but got up and took the girl's arm, and
left the seat very quietly. She got down the gallery stairs, and halted
at the old window on the landing, and sate there a little, ghastly and
still mute.

The cold air circulating upward from the porch revived her.

"I am better, child," said she, faintly.

"Thank Heaven," said the girl, whose terror at her state proved how
intensely agitated the old lady must have been.

Mrs. Wrattles, the sextoness, emerging at that moment with repeated
courtesies, and whispered condolence and inquiries, Lady Alice, with a
stiff condescension, prayed her to call her woman, Mason, to her.

So Lady Alice, leaning slenderly on Mason's stout arm, insisted that
Beatrix should return and sit out the service; and she herself, for the
first time within the memory of man, returned from Wardlock church on
foot, instead of in her coach. Beatrix waited until the congregation had
nearly disgorged itself and dispersed, before making her solitary
descent.

When she came down, without a chaperon, at the close of the rector's
discourse, the floured footman in livery, with his gold-headed cane,
stood as usual at the coach door only to receive her, and convey the
order to the coachman, "home."

The churchyard gate, as is usual, I believe, in old places of that kind,
opens at the south side, and the road to Wardlock manor leads along the
churchyard wall and round the corner of it at a sharp angle just at the
point where the clumsy old stone mausoleum or vault of the Deverell
family overlooks the road, with its worn pilasters and beetle-browed
cornice.

Now that was a Sunday of wonders. It had witnessed Lady Alice's
pedestrian return from church, an act of humiliation, almost of penance,
such as the memory of Wardlock could furnish no parallel to; and now it
was to see another portent, for her ladyship's own gray horses, fat and
tranquil beasts, who had pulled her to and from church for I know not
how many years, under the ministration of the careful coachman, with
exemplary sedateness, on this abnormal Sabbath took fright at a musical
performance of two boys, one playing the Jew's harp and the other
drumming tambourine-wise on his hat, and _suadente diabolo_ and so
forth, set off at a gallop, to the terror of all concerned, toward home.
Making the sharp turn of the road, where the tomb of the Deverells
overhangs it from the churchyard, the near-gray came down, and his
off-neighbour reared and plunged frightfully.

The young lady did not scream, but, very much terrified, she made
voluble inquiries of the air and hedges from the window, while the
purple coachman pulled hard from the box, and spoke comfortably to his
horses, and the footman, standing out of reach of danger, talked also in
his own vein.

Simultaneously with all this, as if emerging from the old mausoleum,
there sprang over the churchyard fence, exactly under its shadow, that
young man who had excited emotions so various in the Baronet and in Lady
Alice, and seized the horse by the head with both hands, and so
cooperated that in less than a minute the two horses were removed from
the carriage, and he standing, hat in hand, before the window, to assure
the young lady that all was quite safe now.

So she descended, and the grave footman, with the Bible and Prayer-book,
followed her steps with his gold-headed rod of office, while the lithe
and handsome youth, his hat still in air which stirred his rich curls,
walked beside her with something of that romantic deference which in one
so elegant and handsome has an inexpressible sentiment of the tender in
it.

He walked to the door of Wardlock Manor, and I purposely omit all he
said, because I doubt whether it would look as well in this
unexceptionable type as it sounded from his lips in Beatrix Marlowe's
pretty ear.

If the speaker succeed with his audience, what more can oratory do for
him? Well! he was gone. There remained in Beatrix's ear a music; in her
fancy a heaven-like image--a combination of tint, and outline, and
elegance, which made every room and scene without it lifeless, and every
other object homely. These little untold impressions are of course
liable to fade and vanish pretty quickly in absence, and to be
superseded even sooner. Therefore it would be unwarranted to say that
she was in love, although I can't deny that she was haunted by that
slightly foreign young gentleman.

This latter portion of the adventure was not divulged by old Lady Alice,
because Beatrix, I suppose, forgot to tell her, and she really knew
nothing about it. All the rest, her own observation and experience, she
related with a grim and candid particularity.



CHAPTER IV.

The Green Chamber at Marlowe.


So the Baronet, with a rather dreary chuckle, said:--

"I don't think, to say truth, there is anything in it. I really can't
see why the plague I should bore myself about it. You know your pew in
the middle of the gallery, with that painted hatchment thing, you
know...."

"Respect the dead," said Lady Alice, looking down with a dry severity on
the table.

"Well, yes; I mean, you know, it is so confoundedly conspicuous, I can't
wonder at the two fellows, the old and young, staring a bit at it, and,
perhaps, at _you_, you know," said Sir Jekyl, in his impertinent vein.
"But I agree with you they are no ghosts, and I really shan't trouble my
head about them any more. I wonder I was such a fool--hey? But, as you
say, you know, it is unpleasant to be reminded of--of those things; it
can't be helped now, though."

"Now, nor ever," said Lady Alice, grimly.

"Exactly; neither now, nor ever," repeated Sir Jekyl; "and we both know
it can't possibly be poor--I mean anyone concerned in that transaction;
so the likeness must be accidental, and therefore of no earthly
significance--eh?"

Lady Alice, with elevated brows, fiddled in silence with some crumbs on
the table with the tip of her thin finger.

"I suppose Beatrix is ready; may I ring the bell?"

"Oh! here she is. Now, bid grandmamma good-night," said the Baronet.

So slim and pretty Beatrix, in her cloak, stooped down and placed her
arms about the neck of the old lady, over whose face came a faint flush
of tender sunset, and her old grey eyes looked very kindly on the
beautiful young face that stooped over her, as she said, in a tone that,
however, was stately--

"Good-bye, my dear child; you are warm enough--you are certain?"

"Oh! yes, dear grandmamma--my cloak, and this Cashmere thing."

"Well, darling, good-night. You'll not forget to write--you'll not fail?
Good-night, Beatrix, dear--good-bye."

"Good-night," said the Baronet, taking the tips of her cold fingers
together, and addressing himself to kiss her cheek, but she drew back in
one of her whims, and said, stiffly, "There, not to-night. Good-bye,
Jekyl."

"Well," chuckled he, after his wont, "another time; but mind, you're to
come to Marlowe."

He did not care to listen to what she replied, but he called from the
stairs, as he ran down after his daughter--

"Now, mind, I won't let you off this time; you really must come.
Good-night, _au revoir_--good-night."

I really think that exemplary old lady hated the Baronet, who called her
"little mamma," and invited her every year, without meaning it, most
good-naturedly, to join his party under the ancestral roof-tree. He took
a perverse sort of pleasure in these affectionate interviews, in
fretting her not very placid temper--in patting her, as it were,
wherever there was a raw, and in fondling her against the grain; so that
his caresses were cruel, and their harmony, such as it was, amounted to
no more than a flimsy deference to the scandalous world.

But Sir Jekyl knew that there was nothing in this quarter to be gained
in love by a different tactique; there was a dreadful remembrance, which
no poor lady has ostrich power to digest, in the way; it lay there,
hard, cold, and irreducible; and the morbid sensation it produced was
hatred. He knew that "little mamma," humanly speaking, ought to hate
him. His mother indeed she was not; but only the step-mother of his
deceased wife. Mother-in-law is not always a very sweet relation, but
with the prefix "step" the chances are, perhaps, worse.

There was, however, as you will by-and-by see, a terrible accident, or
something, always remembered, gliding in and out of Wardlock Manor like
the Baronet's double, walking in behind him when he visited her, like
his evil genius, and when they met affectionately, standing by his
shoulder, black and scowling, with clenched fist.

Now pretty Beatrix sat in the right corner of the chariot, and Sir
Jekyl, her father, in the left. The lamps were lighted, and though there
was moonlight, for they had a long stretch of road always dark, because
densely embowered in the forest of Penlake. Tier over tier, file behind
file, nodding together, the great trees bent over like plumed warriors,
and made a solemn shadow always between their ranks.

Marlowe was quite new to Beatrix; but still too distant, twelve miles
away, to tempt her to look out and make observations as she would on a
nearer approach.

"You don't object to my smoking a cigar, Beatrix? The smoke goes out of
the window, you know," said the Baronet, after they had driven about a
mile in silence.

What young lady, so appealed to by a parent, ever did object? The fact
is, Sir Jekyl did not give himself the trouble to listen to her answer,
but was manifestly thinking of something quite different, as he lighted
his match.

When he threw his last stump out of the window they were driving through
Penlake Forest, and the lamplight gleamed on broken rows of wrinkled
trunks and ivy.

"I suppose she told you all about it?" said he, suddenly pursuing his
own train of thought.

"Who?" inquired Beatrix.

"I never was a particular favourite of her's, you know--grandmamma's, I
mean. She does not love me, poor old woman! And she has a knack of
making herself precious disagreeable, in which I try to imitate her,
for peace' sake, you know; for, by George, if I was not uncivil now and
then, we could never get on at all."

Sir Jekyl chuckled after his wont, as it were, between the bars of this
recitative, and he asked--

"What were the particulars--the adventure on Sunday--that young fellow,
you know?"

Miss Beatrix had heard no such interrogatory from her grandmamma, whose
observations in the church-aisle were quite as unknown to her; and thus
far the question of Sir Jekyl was a shock.

"Did not grandmamma tell you about it?" he pursued.

"About what, papa?" asked Beatrix, who was glad that it was dark.

"About her illness--a young fellow in a pew down in the aisle staring at
her. By Jove! one would have fancied that sort of thing pretty well
over. Tell me all about it."

The fact was that this was the first she had heard of it.

"Grandmamma told me nothing of it," said she.

"And did not you see what occurred? Did not you see him staring?" asked
he.

Beatrix truly denied.

"You young ladies are always thinking of yourselves. So you saw nothing,
and have nothing to tell? That will do," said Sir Jekyl, drily; and
silence returned.

Beatrix was relieved on discovering that her little adventure was
unsuspected. Very little was there in it, and nothing to reflect blame
upon her. From her exaggeration of its importance, and her quailing as
she fancied her father was approaching it, I conclude that the young
gentleman had interested her a little.

And now, as Sir Jekyl in one corner of the rolling chariot brooded in
the dark over his disappointed conjectures, so did pretty Beatrix in the
other speculate on the sentences which had just fallen from his lips,
and long to inquire some further particulars, but somehow dared not.

Could that tall and handsome young man, who had come to her rescue so
unaccountably--the gentleman with those large, soft, dark eyes, which
properly belong to heroes--have been the individual whose gaze had so
mysteriously affected her grandmamma? What could the associations have
been that were painful enough so to overcome that grim, white woman? Was
he a relation? Was he an outcast member of that proud family? Or, was he
that heir-at-law, or embodied Nemesis, that the yawning sea or grave
will sometimes yield up to plague the guilty or the usurper?

For all or any of these parts he seemed too young. Yet Beatrix fancied
instinctively that he could be no other than the basilisk who had
exercised so strange a spell over her grim, but withal kind old
kinswoman.

Was there not, she thought, something peculiar in the look he threw
across the windows of old stone-fronted Wardlock manor--reserved,
curious, half-smiling--as if he looked on an object which he had often
heard described, and had somehow, from personal associations or
otherwise, an interest in? It was but a momentary glance just as he took
his leave; but there was, she thought, that odd character in it.

By this time the lamps were flashing on the village windows and
shop-fronts; and at the end of the old gabled street, under a canopy of
dark trees, stood the great iron gate of Marlowe.

Sir Jekyl rubbed the glass and looked out when they halted at the gate.
The structures of his fancy had amused him, rather fearfully indeed, and
he was surprised to find that they were entering the grounds of Marlowe
so soon.

He did not mind looking out, or speaking to the old gamekeeper, who
pulled open the great barriers, but lay back in his corner sullenly, in
the attitude of a gentleman taking a nap.

Beatrix, however, looked out inquisitively, and saw by the misty
moonlight a broad level studded with majestic timber--singly, in clumps,
and here and there in solemn masses; and soon rose the broad-fronted
gabled house before them, with its steep roofs and its hospitable clumps
of twisted chimneys showing black against the dim sky.

Miss Marlowe's maid, to whom the scene was quite as new as to her
mistress, descended from the back seat, in cloaks and mufflers, and
stood by the hall-door steps, that shone white in the moonlight, before
their summons had been answered.

Committing his daughter to her care, the Baronet--who was of a bustling
temperament, and never drank tea except from motives of
gallantry--called for Mrs. Gwynn, the housekeeper, who presently
appeared.

She was an odd-looking woman--some years turned of fifty, thin, with a
longish face and a fine, white, glazed skin. There was something queer
about her eyes: you soon discovered it to arise from their light colour
and something that did not quite match in their pupils.

On entering the hall, where the Baronet had lighted a candle, having
thrown his hat on the table, and merely loosed his muffler and one or
two buttons of his outside coat, she smiled a chill gleam of welcome
with her pale lips, and dropped two sharp little courtesies.

"Well, old Donica, and how do ye do?" said the Baronet, smiling, with a
hand on each thin grey silk shoulder. "Long time since I saw you. But,
egad! you grow younger and younger, you pretty old rogue;" and he gave
her pale, thin cheek a playful tap with his fingers.

"Pretty well, please, Sir Jekyl, thank ye," she replied, receding a
little with dry dignity. "Very welcome, sir, to Marlowe. Miss Beatrix
looks very well, I am happy to see; and you, sir, also."

"And you're glad to see us, I know?"

"Certainly, sir, glad to see you," said Mrs. Gwynn, with another short
courtesy.

"The servants not all come? No, nor Ridley with the plate. He'll arrive
to-morrow; and--and we shall have the house full in little more than a
week. Let us go up and look at the rooms; I forget them almost, by
Jove--I really do--it's so long since. Light you another, and we'll do
very well."

"You'll see them better by daylight, sir. I kept everything well aired
and clean. The house looks wonderful--it do," replied Mrs. Gwynn,
accompanying the Baronet up the broad oak stairs.

"If it looks as fresh as you, Donica, it's a miracle of a house--egad!
you're a wonder. How you skip by my side, with your little taper, like a
sylph in a ballet, egad!"

"You wear pretty well yourself, Sir Jekyl," drily remarked the
white-faced sylph, who had a sharp perpendicular line between her
eyebrows, indicative of temper.

"So they tell me, by Jove. We're pretty well on though, Donnie--eh?
Everyone knows my age--printed, you know, in the red book. You've the
advantage of me there--eh, Don?"

"I'm just fifty-six, sir, and I don't care if all the world knewd it."

"All the world's curious, I dare say, on the point; but I shan't tell
them, old Gwynn," said Sir Jekyl.

"Curious or no, sir, it's just the truth, and I don't care to hide it.
Past that folly now, sir, and I don't care if I wor seventy, and a
steppin' like a--"

"A sylph," supplied he.

"Yes--a sylph--into my grave. It's a bad world, and them that's suffered
in it soon tires on it, sir."

"_You_ have not had a great deal to trouble you. Neither chick, nor
child, nor husband, egad! So here we are."

They were now standing on the gallery, at the head of the great
staircase.

"These are the rooms your letter says are not furnished--eh? Let us come
to the front gallery."

So, first walking down the gallery in which they were, to the right, and
then entering a passage by a turn on the left, they reached the front
gallery which runs parallel to that at the head of the stairs.

"Where have you put Beatrix?"

"She wished the room next mine, please, sir, up-stairs," answered the
housekeeper.

"Near the front--eh?"

"The left side, please, sir, as you look from the front," replied she.

"_From_ the front?" he repeated.

"From the front," she reiterated.

"Over there, then?" he said, pointing upward to the left.

"That will be about it, sir," she answered.

"How many rooms have we here in a row?" he asked, facing down the
gallery, with its file of doors at each side.

"Four bed-rooms and three dressing-rooms at each side."

"Ay, well now, I'll tell you who's coming, and how to dispose of them."

So Sir Jekyl quartered his friends, as he listed, and then said he--

"And the large room at the other end, here to the right--come along."

And Sir Jekyl marched briskly in the direction indicated.

"Please, sir," said the slim, pale housekeeper, with the odd leer in her
eye, overtaking him quietly.

"Ay, here it is," said he, not minding her, and pushing open the door of
a dressing-room at the end of the gallery. "Inside this, I remember."

"But that's the green chamber, sir," continued Mrs. Gwynn, gliding
beside him as he traversed the floor.

"The room we call Sir Harry's room, I know--capital room--eh?"

"I don't suppose," began the pale lady, with a sinister sharpness.

"Well?" he demanded, looking down in her face a little grimly.

"It's the green chamber, sir," she said, with a hard emphasis.

"You said so before, eh?" he replied.

"And I did not suppose, sir, you'd think of putting anyone there," she
continued.

"Then you're just as green as the chamber," said Sir Jekyl, with a
chuckle.

And he entered the room, holding the candle high in air, and looking
about him a little curiously, the light tread and sharp pallid face of
Donica Gwynn following him.



CHAPTER V.

Sir Jekyl bethinks him of Pelter and Crowe.


The Baronet held his candle high in air, as I have said, as he gazed
round him inquisitively. The thin housekeeper, with her pale lips
closed, and her odd eyes dropped slantingly toward the floor, at the
corner of the room, held hers demurely in her right finger and thumb,
her arms being crossed.

The room was large, and the light insufficient. Still you could not help
seeing at a glance that it must be, in daylight, a tolerably cheerful
one. It was roomy and airy, with a great bow-window looking to the front
of the building, of which it occupied the extreme left, reaching about
ten feet from the level of the more ancient frontage of the house. The
walls were covered with stamped leather, chiefly green and gold, and the
whole air of the room, even in its unarranged state, though somewhat
quaint and faded, was wonderfully gay and cozy.

"This is the green chamber, sir," she repeated, with her brows raised
and her eyes still lowered askance, and some queer wrinkles on her
forehead as she nodded a sharp bitter emphasis.

"To be sure it is, damme!--why not?" he said, testily, and then burst
into a short laugh.

"You're not a going, I suppose, Sir Jekyl, to put anyone into it?" said
she.

"I don't see, for the life of me, why I should not--eh? a devilish
comfortable room."

"Hem! I can't but suppose you are a joking me, Sir Jekyl," persisted the
gray silk phantom.

"Egad! you forget how old we're growing; why the plague should I quiz
you! I want the room for old General Lennox, that's all--though I'm not
bound to tell you for whom I want it--am I?"

"There's a plenty o' rooms without this one, Sir Jekyl," persevered the
lady, sternly.

"Plenty, of course; but none so good," said he, carelessly.

"No one ever had luck that slept in it," answered the oracle, lifting
her odd eyes and fixing them on Sir Jekyl.

"I don't put them here for luck. We want to make them comfortable,"
answered Sir Jekyl, poking at the furniture as he spoke.

"You know what was your father's wish about it, sir?" she insisted.

"My father's wish--egad, he did not leave many of his wishes
unsatisfied--eh?" he answered, with another chuckle.

"And your poor lady's wish," she said, a good deal more sharply.

"I don't know why the devil I'm talking to you, old Gwynn," said the
Baronet, turning a little fiercely about.

"_Dying_ wishes," emphasised she.

"It is time, Heaven knows, all that stuff should stop. You slept in it
yourself, in my father's time. I remember you, here, Donica, and I don't
think I ever heard that you saw a ghost--did I?" he said, with a
sarcastic chuckle.

She darted a ghastly look to the far end of the chamber, and then, with
a strange, half-frozen fury, she said--

"I wish you good-night, Sir Jekyl," and glided like a shadow out of the
room.

"Saucy as ever, by Jupiter," he ejaculated, following her with his
glance, and trying to smile; and as the door shut, he looked again down
the long apartment as she had just done, raising the candle again.

The light was not improved of course by the disappearance of Mrs.
Gwynn's candle, and the end of the room was dim and unsatisfactory. The
great four-poster, with dark curtains, and a plume at each corner, threw
a vague shadow on the back wall and up to the ceiling, as he moved his
candle, which at the distance gave him an uncomfortable sensation, and
he stood for a few seconds sternly there, and then turned on his heel
and quitted the room, saying aloud, as he did so--

"What a d--d fool that old woman is--always _was_!"

If there was a ghost there, the Baronet plainly did not wish it to make
its exit from the green chamber by the door, for he locked it on the
outside, and put the key in his pocket. Then, crossing the dressing-room
I have mentioned, he entered the passage which crosses the gallery in
which he and Mrs. Gwynn, a few minutes before, had planned their
dispositions. The dressing-room door is placed close to the window
which opens at the end of the corridor in the front of the house.
Standing with his back to this, he looked down the long passage, and
smiled.

For a man so little given to the melodramatic, it was a very well
expressed smile of mystery--the smile of a man who knows something which
others don't suspect, and would be surprised to learn.

It was the Baronet's fancy, as it had been his father's and his
grandfather's before him, to occupy very remote quarters in this old
house. Solitary birds, their roost was alone.

Candle in hand, Sir Jekyl descended the stairs, marched down the long
gaunt passage, which strikes rearward so inflexibly, and at last reaches
the foot of a back staircase, after a march of a hundred and forty feet,
which I have measured.

At top of this was a door at his left, which he opened, and found
himself in his own bed-room.

You would have said on looking about you that it was the bed-room of an
old campaigner or of a natty gamekeeper--a fellow who rather liked
roughing it, and had formed tastes in the matter like the great Duke of
Wellington. The furniture was slight and plain, and looked like
varnished deal; a French bed, narrow, with chintz curtains, and a plain
white coverlet, like what one might expect in a barrack dormitory or an
hospital; a little strip of carpet lying by the bed, and a small square
of Turkey carpet under the table by the fire, hardly broke the shining
uniformity of the dark oak floor; a pair of sporting prints decorated
the sides of the chimneypiece, and an oil-portrait of a grey hunter
hung in the middle. There were fishing-rods and gun-cases, I dare say
the keys were lost of many, they looked so old and dingy.

The Baronet's luggage, relieved of its black japanned casings, lay on
the floor, with his hat-case and travelling-desk. A pleasant fire burnt
in the grate, and a curious abundance of wax-lights, without which Sir
Jekyl, such was his peculiarity, could not exist, enlivened the chamber.

As he made his toilet at his homely little dressing-table, he bethought
him suddenly, and rang the bell in his shirt-sleeves.

"My letters."

"Yes, sir."

And up came a salver well laden with letters, pamphlets, and newspapers,
of all shapes and sizes.

"And tell Miss Beatrix I shan't have any tea, and get some brandy from
Mrs. Gwynn, and cold water and a tumbler, and let them leave me
alone--d'ye see?--and give me that."

It was a dressing-gown which Tomlinson's care had already liberated from
its valise, and expanded before the fire.

The Baronet's tastes, as we might see, were simple. He could dine on a
bit of roast mutton, and a few glasses of sherry. But his mutton was
eight years old, and came all the way from Dartbroke, and his sherry
cost more than other men's Madeira, and he now lighted one of those
priceless cigars, which so many fellows envied, and inhaled the
disembodied aroma of a tobacco which, perhaps, Jove smokes in his easy
chair on Olympus, but which I have never smelt on earth, except when Sir
Jekyl dispensed the inestimable treasures of his cigar-case.

Now, the Baronet stood over his table, with a weed between his lips,
tall in his flowered silk dressing-gown, his open hands shoving apart
the pile of letters, as a conjurer at an exhibition spreads his pack of
cards.

"Ha! poor little thing!" he murmured, with a sly simper, in a petting
tone, as he plucked an envelope, addressed in a lady's hand, between two
fingers, caressingly, from the miscellaneous assortment.

He looked at it, but reserved it as a _bon-bouche_ in his waistcoat
pocket, and pursued his examination.

There were several from invited guests, who were either coming or not,
with the customary expressions, and were tossed together in a little
isolated litter for conference with Mrs. Gwynn in the morning.

"Not a line from Pelter and Crowe! the d--d fellows don't waste their
ink upon me, except when they furnish their costs. It's a farce paying
fellows to look after one's business--no one ever does it but yourself.
If those fellows were worth their bread and butter, they'd have known
all about this thing, whatever it is, and I'd have had it all _here_,
d---- it, to-night."

Sir Jekyl, it must be confessed, was not quite consistent about this
affair of the mysterious young gentleman; for, as we have seen, he
himself had a dozen times protested against the possibility of there
being anything in it, and now he was seriously censuring his respectable
London attorneys for not furnishing him with the solid contents of this
"windbag."

But it was only his talk that was contradictory. Almost from the moment
of his first seeing that young gentleman, on the open way under the sign
of the "Plough," there lowered a fantastic and cyclopean picture, drawn
in smoke or vapour, volcanic and thunderous, all over his horizon, like
those prophetic and retrospective pageants with which Doree loves to
paint his mystic skies. It was wonderful, and presaged unknown evil; and
only cowed him the more that it baffled analysis and seemed to mock at
reason.

"Pretty fellows to keep a look-out! It's well I can do it for
myself--who knows where we're driving to, or what's coming? Signs
enough--whatever they mean--he that runs may read, egad! Not that
there's anything in it _necessarily_. But it's not about drawing and
ruins and that stuff--those fellows have come down here. Bosh! looking
after my property. I'd take my oath they are advised by some lawyer; and
if Pelter and Crowe were sharp, they'd know by whom, and all about it,
by Jove!"

Sir Jekyl jerked the stump of his cigar over his shoulder into the grate
as he muttered this, looking surlily down on the unprofitable papers
that strewed the table.

He stood thinking, with his back to the fire, and looking rather cross
and perplexed, and so he sat down and wrote a short letter. It was to
Pelter and Crowe, but he began, as he did not care which got it, in his
usual way--

     "MY DEAR SIR,--I have reason to suspect that those ill-disposed
     people, who have often threatened annoyance, are at last seriously
     intent on mischief. You will be good enough, therefore, immediately
     to set on foot inquiries, here and at the other side of the water,
     respecting the movements of the D---- family, who, I fancy, are at
     the bottom of an absurd, though possibly troublesome,
     demonstration. I don't fear them, of course. But I think you will
     find that some members of that family are at present in this
     country, and disposed to be troublesome. You will see, therefore,
     the urgency of the affair, and will better know than I where and
     how to prosecute the necessary inquiries. I do not, of course,
     apprehend the least _danger_ from their machinations; but you have
     always thought _annoyance_ possible; and if any be in store for me,
     I should rather not have to charge it upon our supineness. You
     will, therefore, exert your vigilance and activity on my behalf,
     and be so good as to let me know, at the earliest possible
     day--which, I think, need not be later than Wednesday next--the
     result of your inquiries through the old channels. I am a little
     disappointed, in fact, at not having heard from you before now on
     the subject.

     "Yours, my dear sir, very sincerely,

     "JEKYL M. MARLOWE."

Sir Jekyl never swore on paper, and, as a rule, commanded his temper
very creditably in that vehicle. But all people who had dealings with
him knew very well that the rich Baronet was not to be trifled with. So,
understanding that it was strong enough, he sealed it up for the
post-office in the morning, and dropped it into the post-bag, and with
it the unpleasant subject for the present.

And now, a little brandy and water, and the envelope in the well-known
female hand; and he laughed a little over it, and looked at himself in
the glass with a vaunting complacency, and shook his head playfully at
the envelope. It just crossed his sunshine like the shadow of a flying
vapour--"that cross-grained old Gwynn would not venture to meddle?" But
the envelope was honestly closed, and showed no signs of having been
fiddled with.

He made a luxury of this little letter, and read it in his easy chair,
with his left leg over the arm, with the fragrant accompaniment of a
weed.

"Jealous, by Jove!" he ejaculated, in high glee; "little fool, what's
put that in your head?"

"Poor, little, fluttering, foolish thing!" sang the Baronet, and then
laughed, not cynically, but indulgently rather.

"How audacious the little fools are upon paper! Egad, it's a wonder
there is not twice as much mischief in the world as actually happens. We
must positively burn this little extravagance."

But before doing so he read it over again; then smiling still, he
gallantly touched it to his lips, and re-perused it, as he drew another
cigar from the treasury of incense which he carried about him. He
lighted the note, but did not apply it to his cigar, I am bound to
say--partly from a fine feeling, and partly, I am afraid, because he
thought that paper spoiled the flavour of his tobacco. So, with a
sentimental smile, a gentle shrug, and a sigh of the Laurence Sterne
pattern, he converted that dangerous little scrawl into ashes--and he
thought, as he inhaled his weed--

"It is well for you, poor little fanatics, that we men take better care
of you than you do of yourselves, sometimes!"

No doubt; and Sir Jekyl supposed he was thinking only of his imprudent
little correspondent, although there was another person in whom he was
nearly interested, who might have been unpleasantly compromised also, if
that document had fallen into other hands.



CHAPTER VI.

Sir Jekyl's Room is Visited.


It was near one o'clock. Sir Jekyl yawned and wound his watch, and
looked at his bed as if he would like to be in it without the trouble of
getting there; and at that moment there came a sharp knock at his door,
which startled him, for he thought all his people were asleep by that
time.

"Who's there?" he demanded in a loud key.

"It's me, sir, please," said Donica Gwynn's voice.

"Come in, will you?" cried he; and she entered.

"Are you sick?" he asked.

"No, sir, thank you," she replied, with a sharp courtesy.

"You look so plaguy pale. Well, I'm glad you're not. But what the deuce
can you want of me at this hour of night? Eh?"

"It's only about that room, sir."

"Oh, curse the room! Talk about it in the morning. You ought to have
been in your bed an hour ago."

"So I was, sir; but I could not sleep, sir, for thinking of it."

"Well, go back and think of it, if you must. How can I stop you? Don't
be a fool, old Gwynn."

"No more I will, sir, please, if I can help, for fools we are, the most
on us; but I could not sleep, as I said, for thinking o't; and so I
thought I'd jist put on my things again, and come and try if you, sir,
might be still up."

"Well, you see I'm up; but I want to get to bed, Gwynn, and not to talk
here about solemn bosh; and you must not bore me about that green
chamber--do you see?--to-night, like a good old girl; it will do in the
morning--won't it?"

"So it will, sir; only I could not rest in my bed, until I said, seeing
as you mean to sleep in this room, it would never do. It won't. I can't
stand it."

"Stand what? Egad! it seems to me you're demented, my good old Donica."

"No, Sir Jekyl," she persisted, with a grim resolution to say out her
say. "You know very well, sir, what's running in my head. You know it's
for no good anyone sleeps there. General Lennox, ye say; well an' good.
You know well what a loss Mr. Deverell met with in that room in Sir
Harry, your father's time."

"And you slept in it, did not you, and saw something? Eh?"

"Yes, I _did_" she said, in a sudden fury, with a little stamp on the
floor, and a pale, staring frown.

After a breathless pause of a second or two she resumed.

"And you know what your poor lady saw there, and never held up her head
again. And well you know, sir, how your father, Sir Harry, on his
death-bed, desired it should be walled up, when you were no more than a
boy; and your good lady did the same many a year after, when _she_ was a
dying. And I tell ye, Sir Jekyl, ye'll sup sorrow yourself yet if you
don't. And take a fool's counsel, and shut up that door, and never let
no one, friend or foe, sleep there; for well I know it's not for
nothing, with your dead father's dying command, and your poor dear
lady's dying entreaty against it, that you put anyone to sleep there. I
don't know who this General Lennox may be--a good gentleman or a bad;
but I'm sure it's for no righteous reason he's to lie there. You would
not do it for nothing."

This harangue was uttered with a volubility, which, as the phrase is,
took Sir Jekyl aback. He was angry, but he was also perplexed and a
little stunned by the unexpected vehemence of his old housekeeper's
assault, and he stared at her with a rather bewildered countenance.

"You're devilish impertinent," at last he said, with an effort. "You
rant there like a madwoman, just because I like you, and you've been in
our family, I believe, since before I was born; you think you may say
what you like. The house is mine, I believe, and I rather think I'll do
what I think best in it while I'm here."

"And you going to sleep in this room!" she broke in. "What else can it
be?"

"You mean--what the devil do you mean?" stammered the Baronet again,
unconsciously assuming the defensive.

"I mean you know very well _what_, Sir Jekyl," she replied.

"It was my father's room, hey?--when I was a boy, as you say. It's good
enough for his son, I suppose; and I don't ask _you_ to lie in the green
chamber."

"_I'll_ be no party, sir, if you please, to any one lying there," she
observed, with a stiff courtesy, and a sudden hectic in her cheek.

"Perhaps you mean because my door's a hundred and fifty feet away from
the front of the house, if any mischief should happen, I'm too far
away--as others were before me--to prevent it, eh?" said he, with a
flurried sneer.

"What I mean, I mean, sir--you ought not; that's all. You won't take it
amiss, Sir Jekyl--I'm an old servant--I'm sorry, sir; but I'a made up my
mind what to do."

"You're not thinking of any folly, surely? You seemed to me always too
much afraid, or whatever you call it, of the remembrance, you know, of
what you _saw_ there--eh?--_I_ don't know, of course, _what_--to speak
of it to me. I never pressed you, because you seemed--you know you
did--to have a horror; and surely you're not going now to talk among the
servants or other people. You can't be far from five-and-thirty years in
the family."

"Four-and-thirty, Sir Jekyl, next April. It's a good while; but I won't
see no more o' that; and unless the green chamber be locked up, at the
least, and used no more for a bed-room, I'd rather go, sir. Nothing may
happen, of course, Sir Jekyl--it's a hundred to one nothing _would_
happen; but ye see, sir, I've a feeling about it, sir; and there has
been these things ordered by your father that was, and by your poor
lady, as makes me feel queer. Nothing being done accordingly, and I
could not rest upon it, for sooner or later it would come to this, and
stay I could not. I judge no one--Heaven forbid,--Sir Jekyl--oh, no! my
own conscience is as much as I can look to; so sir, if you please, so
soon as you can suit yourself I'll leave, sir."

"Stuff! old Gwynn; don't mind talking to-night," said the Baronet, more
kindly than he had spoken before; "we'll see about it in the morning.
Good-night. We must not quarrel about nothing. I was only a school-boy
when you came to us, you know."

But in the morning "old Gwynn" was resolute. She was actually going, so
soon as the master could suit himself. She was not in a passion, nor in
a panic, but in a state of gloomy and ominous obstinacy.

"Well, you'll give me a little time, won't you, to look about me?" said
the Baronet, peevishly.

"Such is my intention, sir."

"And see, Gwynn, not a word about that--that green chamber, you know, to
Miss Beatrix."

"As you please, sir."

"Because if you begin to talk, they'll all think we are haunted."

"Whatever you please to order, sir."

"And it was not--it was my grandfather, you know, who built it."

"Ah, so it was, sir;" and Gwynn looked astonished and shook her head, as
though cowed by the presence of a master-spirit of evil.

"One would fancy you saw his ghost, Gwynn; but he was not such a devil
as your looks would make him, only a bit wild, and a favourite with the
women, Gwynn--always the best judge of merit--hey? Beau Marlowe they
called him--the best dressed man of his day. How the devil could such a
fellow have any harm in him?"

There is a fine picture, full length, of Beau Marlowe, over the
chimneypiece of the great hall of Marlowe. He has remarkably
gentlemanlike hands and legs; the gloss is on his silk stockings still.
His features are handsome, of that type which we conventionally term
aristocratic; high, and smiling with a Louis-Quatorze insolence. He
wears a very fine coat of cut velvet, of a rich, dusky red, the
technical name of which I forget. He was of the gilded and powdered
youth of his day.

He certainly was a handsome fellow, this builder of the "green chamber,"
and he has not placed his candle under a bushel. He shines in many parts
of the old house, and has repeated himself in all manner of becoming
suits. You see him, three-quarters, in the parlour, in blue and silver;
you meet him in crayon, and again in small oil, oval; and you have him
in half a dozen miniatures.

We mention this ancestor chiefly because when his aunt, Lady Mary, left
him a legacy, he added the green chamber to the house.

It seems odd that Sir Jekyl, not fifty yet, should have had a
grandfather who was a fashionable and wicked notoriety of mature years,
and who had built an addition to the family mansion so long as a
hundred and thirty years ago. But this gentleman had married late, as
rakes sometimes do, and his son, Sir Harry, married still
later--somewhere about seventy; having been roused to this uncomfortable
exertion by the proprietorial airs of a nephew who was next in
succession. To this matrimonial explosion Sir Jekyl owed his entrance
and agreeable sojourn upon the earth.

"I won't ask you to stay now; you're in a state. I'll write to town for
Sinnott, as you insist on it, but you won't leave us in confusion, and
you'll make her _au fait_--won't you? Give her any hints she may
require; and I know I shall have you back again when you cool a little,
or at all events when we go back to Dartbroke; for I don't think I shall
like this place."

So Donica Gwynn declared herself willing to remain till Mrs. Sinnott
should arrive from London; and preparations for the reception of guests
proceeded with energy.



CHAPTER VII.

The Baronet Pursues.


Sir Jekyl Marlowe was vexed when the letters came, and none from Pelter
and Crowe. There are people who expect miracles from their doctors and
lawyers, and, in proportion to their accustomed health and prosperity,
are unreasonable when anything goes wrong. The Baronet's notion was that
the legal firm in question ought to think and even dream of nothing else
than his business. It was an impertinence their expecting _him_ to think
about it. What were _they_ there for? He knew that London was a pretty
large place, and England still larger; and that it was not always easy
to know what everybody was about in either, and still less what each man
was doing on the Continent. Pelter and Crowe had some other clients too
on their hands, and had hitherto done very satisfactorily. But here was
a serious-looking thing--the first really uncomfortable occurrence which
had taken place under his reign--the first opportunity for exhibiting
common vigilance--and he ventured to say those fellows did not know
these Strangways people were in these kingdoms at all!

Sir Jekyl, though an idle fellow, was a man of action, so he ordered his
horse, and rode nine miles to the "Plough Inn," where he hoped to see
Mr. Strangways again, improve his intimacy, and prevail with the
gentlemen to return with him to Marlowe, and spend a fortnight there,
when, or the devil was in it, he should contrive to get at the bottom of
their plans.

He looked shrewdly in at the open door as he rode up, and halloed for
some one to take his horse. The little porch smiled pleasantly, and the
two gables and weather-cock, in the sunlight; and the farmer on the
broad and dingy panel, in his shirt-sleeves, low-crowned, broad-leafed
hat, crimson waistcoat, canary-coloured shorts, and blue stockings, and
flaxen wig, was driving his plump horses, and guilding his plough
undiscouraged, as when last he saw him.

Boots and Mrs. Jones came out. Sir Jekyl was too eager to wait to get
down; so from the saddle he accosted his buxom hostess, in his usual
affable style. The Baronet was not accustomed to be crossed and thwarted
as much as, I have been told, men with less money sometimes are; and he
showed his mortification in his face when he learned that the two
gentlemen had left very early that morning.

"This morning! Why you said yesterday they would not go till _evening_.
Hang it, I wish you could tell it right; and what the d--l do you mean
by Strangers? Call him Strangways, can't you. It's odd people can't say
names."

He must have been very much vexed to speak so sharply; and he saw,
perhaps, how much he had forgotten himself in the frightened look which
good Mrs. Jones turned upon him.

"I don't mean you, my good little soul. It's _their_ fault; and where
are they gone to? I wanted to ask them both over to Marlowe. Have you a
notion?"

"They took our horses as far as the 'Bell and Horns,' at Slowton." She
called shrilly to Boots, "They're not stoppin' at the 'Bell and Horns,'
sure. Come here, and tell Sir Jekyl Marlowe about Mr. Strangers."

"You said last night they were going to Awkworth;" and Sir Jekyl
chuckled scornfully, for he was vexed.

"They changed their minds, sir."

"Well, we'll say so. You're a wonderful fascinating sex. Egad! if you
could only carry anything right in your heads for ten minutes, you'd be
too charming." And at this point Boots emerged, and Sir Jekyl continued,
addressing him--

"Well, where are the gentlemen who left this morning?" asked he.

"They'll be at the 'Bell and Horns,' sir."

"Where's that?"

"Slowton, sir."

"I know. What hour did they go?"

"Eight o'clock, sir."

"Just seven miles. The Sterndale Road, isn't it?"

"Yes, sir."

And that was all Boots had to tell.

"Will ye please to come in, sir?" inquired Mrs. Jones.

"No, my good creature. I haven't time. The old gentleman--what's his
name?"

"I don't know, Sir, please. He calls the young gentleman Guy, and the
young gentleman calls him _sir_."

"And both the same name?"

"We calls 'em both Strangers, please, sir."

"I know. Servants, had they?"

"Yes, sir, please. But they sent 'em on."

"Rich--don't want for money, I suppose. Eh?"

"Oh! plenty money, sir."

"And the servants called the men Strangways, I suppose, eh?"

"Yes, Sir Jekyl, please; and so the letters came."

"You never happened to hear any other name?"

"No, Sir Jekyl."

"_Think._"

Mrs. Jones did think, but could recall nothing.

"Nothing with a D?"

"D, sir! What, sir?"

"No matter what," said the Baronet. "No name beginning with D--eh?"

"No, sir. You don't think they're going by a false name?" inquired the
lady, curiously.

"What the devil puts that in your head? Take care of the law; you must
not talk that way, you foolish little rogue."

"I did not know, sir," timidly answered Mrs. Jones, who saw in Sir
Jekyl, the Parliament-man, Deputy-Lieutenant, and Grand Juror, a great
oracle of the law.

"I only wanted to know whether you had happened to hear the name of the
elder of the two gentlemen, and could recollect what letter it begins
with."

"No, sir, please."

"So you've no more to tell me?"

"Nothing, sir."

"If they come back tell them I rode over to offer them some shooting,
and to beg they'd remember to come to Marlowe. You won't forget?"

"No sir."

"Do they return here?"

"I think not, sir."

"Well, I believe there's nothing else," and the Baronet looked up
reflectively, as if he expected to find a memorandum scribbled on the
blue sky, leaning with his hand on the back of his horse. "No, nothing.
You won't forget my message, that's all. Good-bye, my dear."

And touching the tips of his gloves to his lips, with a smile and a nod
he cantered down the Sterndale Road.

He pulled up at the "Bell and Horns," in the little town of Slowton, but
was disappointed. The entire party, servants and all, had taken the
train two hours before, at the station three miles away.

Now Sir Jekyl was blooded, and the spirit of the chase stirred within
him. So he rode down in his jack-boots, and pulled up his steaming horse
by the station, and he went in and made inquiry.

A man like him is received even at one of these cosmopolitan
rallying-points within his own county with becoming awe. The
station-master was awfully courteous, and the subaltern officials
awfully active and obliging, and the resources of the establishment
were at once placed at his sublime disposal. Unhappily, two branch lines
converge at this point, causing the usual bustle, and there was
consequently a conflict and confusion in the evidence; so that Sir
Jekyl, who laughed and chatted agreeably amidst all the reverential zeal
that surrounded him, could arrive at nothing conclusive, but leaned to
the view that the party had actually gone to Awkworth, only by rail,
instead of by road.

Sir Jekyl got on his horse and walked him through the town, uncertain
what to do next. This check had cooled him; his horse had his long trot
home still. It would not do to follow to Awkworth; to come in, after a
four-and-twenty miles' ride, bespattered like a courier, merely to
invite these gentlemen, _vivâ voce_, who had hardly had his note of
invitation a score hours. It would be making too much of them with a
vengeance.

As he found himself once more riding under the boughs of Marlowe, the
early autumnal evening already closing in, Sir Jekyl experienced one of
those qualms and sinkings of the heart, which overcome us with a vague
anticipation of evil.

The point of the road which he had now gained, commands a view of the
old hall of Marlowe, with that projecting addition, and its wide
bow-window, every pane of which was now flaming in the sunset light,
which indicated the green chamber.

The green chamber! Just at that moment the glare of its broad window
flashed with a melancholy and vengeful light upon his brain, busied
with painful retrospects and harassing conjecture.

Old Gwynn going away! It was an omen. Marlowe without old Gwynn. Troy
without its palladium. Old Gwynn going with something like a
denunciation on her lips! That stupid old woman at Wardlock, too, who
really knew nothing about it, undertaking also to prophesy! Out of the
mouths of babes and sucklings! There was no sense in it--scarcely
articulation. Still it was the croak of the raven--the screech of the
owl.

He looked across the gentle slope at the angle of the inauspicious room.
Why should old General Lennox be placed within the unhallowed precincts
of that chamber? The image of old Gwynn as she gabbled her grim protest
on the preceding night, rose before him like a ghost. What business was
it of hers, and how could she divine his motives? Still, if there was
anything wrong, did not this vehement warning make the matter worse.

An old man he felt himself on a sudden that evening, and for the first
time. There was some failure of the electric fire, and a subsidence of
the system. His enterprise was gone. Why should he take guilt, if such
it were, on his soul for vanity and vexation of spirit? If guilt it
were, was it not of a kind inexcusably cold-blooded and long-headed. Old
Gwynn, he did not like to lose you on those terms--just, too, as those
unknown actors were hovering at the wing, and about to step upon the
stage, this old man and young, who, instinctively he felt, were
meditating mischief against him. Mischief--_what_? Such, perhaps, as
might shatter the structure of his greatness, and strew its pinnacles in
the dust. Perhaps all this gloom was but the depression of a long ride,
and still longer fast. But he was accustomed to such occasional strains
upon his strength without any such results. Ah, no! He had come within
the edge of the shadow of judgment, and its darkness was stealing over
him, and its chill touched his heart.

These were the dreamy surmisings with which he rode slowly toward the
house, and a few good resolutions in a nebulous state hovered
uncomfortably about him.

No letter of any interest had come by the early post, and Sir Jekyl sat
down _tête-à-tête_ with his pretty daughter, in very dismal spirits, to
dinner.



CHAPTER VIII.

The House begins to Fill.


Beatrix was fond of her father, who was really a good-natured man, in
the common acceptance of the term, that is to say, he had high animal
spirits, and liked to see people pleasant about him, and was probably as
kind as a tolerably selfish and vicious man can be, and had a liking,
moreover, for old faces, which was one reason why he hated the idea of
his housekeeper's leaving him. But Beatrix was also a little in awe of
him, as girls often are of men of whom they see but little, especially
if they have something of the masculine decision of temper.

"You may all go away now," said the Baronet suddenly to the servants,
who had waited at dinner; and when the liveried phantoms had withdrawn,
and the door had closed on the handsome calves of tall and solemn
Jenkins, he said--

"Nothing all day--no adventure, or visitor, Trixie--not a word of news
or fun, I dare say?"

"Nothing--not a creature, papa; only the birds and dogs, and some new
music."

"Well, it is not much worse than Wardlock, I suppose; but we shall have
a gay house soon--at all events plenty of people. Old General Lennox is
coming. His nephew, Captain Drayton, is very rich; he will be Lord
Tewkesbury--that is, if old Tewkesbury doesn't marry; and, at all
events, he has a very nice property, and does not owe a guinea. You need
not look modest, Trixie. You may do just as you please, only I'd be
devilish glad you liked one another--there, don't be distressed, I say;
I'll mention it no more if you don't like; but he'll be here in a few
days, and you mayn't think him so bad."

After this the Baronet drank two glasses of sherry in silence, slowly,
and with a gloomy countenance, and then, said he--

"I think, Trixie, if you were happily placed, I should give the whole
thing up. I'm tired of that cursed House of Commons. You can't imagine
what a bore it is, when a fellow does not want anything from them, going
down there for their d----d divisions. I'm not fit for the hounds
either. I can't ride as I used--egad! I'm as stiff as a rusty hinge when
I get up in the morning. And I don't much like this place, and I'm tired
to death of the other two. When you marry I'll let them, or, at all
events, let them alone. I'm tired of all those servants. I know they're
robbing me, egad! You would not believe what my gardens cost me last
year, and, by Jove, I don't believe all that came to my table was worth
two hundred pounds. I'll have quite a different sort of life. I haven't
any time to myself, looking after all those confounded people one must
keep about them. Keepers, and gardeners, and devil knows who beside. I
don't like London half as well as the Continent. I hate dinner-parties,
and the season, and all the racket. It doesn't pay, and I'm growing
old--you'll not mind if I smoke it?" (he held a cigar between his
fingers)--"a complaint that doesn't mend by time, you know. Oh! yes, I
_am_ old, you little rogue. Everybody knows I'm just fifty; and the fact
is I'm tired of the whole thing, stock, lock, and barrel; and I believe
what little is to be got of life is best had--that is, if you know how
to look for it--abroad. A fellow like me who has got places and
properties--egad! they expect him to live _pro bono publico_, and not to
care or think twopence about himself--at least it comes to that. How is
old Gwynn?"

"Very well, I think."

"And what has she to say for herself; what about things in general?"

"She's not very chatty, poor old Gwynn, and I think she seems a
little--just ever so little--cross."

"So she does--damnably cross. She was always a bit of a vixen, and she
isn't improving, poor old thing; but don't be afraid, I like old Donnie
for all that, though I don't think I ever quite understood her, and I
don't expect either." These observations concluded the conversation
subsided, and a long silence supervened.

"I wonder who the devil he is," said the Baronet abruptly, as he threw
the stump of his cigar into the fire. "If it's a fluke, it's as like a
miracle as anything I ever saw."

He recollected that he was talking without an interlocutor, and looked
for a moment hesitatingly at his daughter.

"And your grandmamma told you nothing of her adventure in church?"

"No, papa--not a word."

"It seems to me, women can hold their tongues sometimes, but always in
the wrong places."

Here he shook the ashes of his cigar into the grate.

"Old Granny's a fool--isn't she, Trixie, and a little bit vicious--eh?"

Sir Jekyl put his question dreamily, in a reverie, and it plainly needed
no answer. So Beatrix was spared the pain of making one; which she was
glad of, for Lady Alice was good to her after her way, and she was fond
of her.

"We must ask her to come, you know. You write. Say I thought _you_ would
have a better chance of prevailing. She won't, you know; and so much the
better."

So as the Baronet rose, and stood gloomily with his back to the fire;
the young lady rose also, and ran away to the drawing-room and her desk;
and almost at the same moment a servant entered the room, with a letter,
which had come by the late post.

Oddly enough, it had the Slowton postmark.

"Devilish odd!" exclaimed Sir Jekyl, scowling eagerly on it; and seating
himself hastily on the side of a chair, he broke it open and read at the
foot the autograph, "Guy Strangways."

It was with the Napoleonic thrill, "I have them, then, these English!"
that Sir Jekyl read, in a gentlemanlike, rather foreign hand, a
ceremonious and complimentary acceptance of his invitation to Marlowe,
on behalf both of the young man and of his elder companion. His
correspondent could not say exactly, as their tour was a little
desultory, where a note would find them; but as Sir Jekyl Marlowe had
been so good as to permit them to name a day for their visit, they would
say so and so.

"Let me see--what day's this--why, that will be"--he was counting with
the tips of his fingers, pianowise, on the table--"Wednesday week, eh?"
and he tried it over again with nature's "Babbage's machine" and of
course with an inflexible result. "Wednesday week--Wednesday," and he
heaved a great sigh, like a man with a load taken off him.

"Well, I'm devilish glad. I hope nothing will happen to stop them now.
It can't be a _ruse_ to get quietly off the ground? No--that would be
doing it too fine." He rang the bell.

"I want Mrs. Gwynn."

The Baronet's spirit revived within him, and he stood erect, with his
back to the fire, and his hands behind him, and when the housekeeper
entered, he received her with his accustomed smile.

"Glad to see you, Donnie. Glass of sherry? No--well, sit down--won't
take a chair!--why's that? Well, we'll be on pleasanter terms
soon--you'll find it's really no choice of mine. I can't help using that
stupid green room. Here are two more friends coming--not till Wednesday
week though--two gentlemen. You may put them in rooms beside one
another--wherever you like--only not in the garrets, of course. _Good_
rooms, do ye see."

"And what's the gentlemen's names, please, Sir Jekyl," inquired Mrs.
Gwynn.

"Mr. Strangways, the young gentleman; and the older, as well as I can
read it, is Mr. Varbarriere."

"Thank ye, sir."

The housekeeper having again declined the kindly distinction of a glass
of sherry, withdrew.

In less than a week guests began to assemble, and in a few days more old
Marlowe Hall began to wear a hospitable and pleasant countenance.

The people were not, of course, themselves all marvels of agreeability.
For instance, Sir Paul Blunket, the great agriculturist and eminent
authority on liquid manures, might, as we all know, be a little livelier
with advantage. He is short and stolid; he wears a pale blue muslin
neck-handkerchief with a white stripe, carefully tied. His countenance,
I am bound to say, is what some people would term heavy--it is frosty,
painfully shaven, and shines with a glaze of transparent soap. He has
small, very light blue round eyes, and never smiles. A joke always
strikes him with unaffected amazement and suspicion. Laughter he knows
may imply ridicule, and he may himself possibly be the subject of it. He
waits till it subsides, and then talks on as before on subjects which
interest him.

Lady Blunket, who accompanies him everywhere, though not tall, is stout.
She is delicate, and requires nursing; and, for so confirmed an
invalid, has a surprising appetite. John Blunket, the future baronet, is
in the Diplomatic Service, I forget exactly where, and by no means
young; and lean Miss Blunket, at Marlowe with her parents, though known
to be older than her brother, is still quite a girl, and giggles with
her partner at dinner, and is very _naïve_ and animated, and sings arch
little chansons discordantly to the guitar, making considerable play
with her eyes, which are black and malignant.

This family, though neither decorative nor entertaining, being highly
respectable and ancient, make the circuit of all the good houses in the
county every year, and are wonderfully little complained of. Hither also
they had brought in their train pretty little Mrs. Maberly, a cousin,
whose husband, the Major, was in India--a garrulous and good-humoured
siren, who smiled with pearly little teeth, and blushed easily.

At Marlowe had already assembled several single gentlemen too. There was
little Tom Linnett, with no end of money and spirits, very good-natured,
addicted to sentiment, and with a taste for practical joking too, and a
very popular character notwithstanding.

Old Dick Doocey was there also, a colonel long retired, and well known
at several crack London clubs; tall, slight, courtly, agreeable, with a
capital elderly wig, a little deaf, and his handsome high nose a little
reddish. Billy Cobb--too, a gentleman who could handle a gun, and knew
lots about horses and dogs--had arrived.

Captain Drayton had arrived: a swell, handsome, cleverish, and
impertinent, and, as young men with less reason will be, egotistical. He
would not have admitted that he had deigned to make either plan or
exertion with that object, but so it happened that he was placed next to
Miss Beatrix, whom he carelessly entertained with agreeable ironies, and
anecdotes, and sentiments poetic and perhaps a little vapid. On the
whole, a young gentleman of intellect, as well as wealth and
expectations, and who felt, not unnaturally, that he was overpowering.
Miss Beatrix, though not quite twenty, was _not_ overpowered, however,
neither was her heart pre-occupied. There was, indeed, a shadow of
another handsome young gentleman--only a shadow, in a different
style--dark, and this one light; and she heart-whole, perhaps
fancy-free, amused, delighted, the world still new and only begun to be
explored. One London season she had partly seen, and also made her
annual tour twice or thrice of all the best county-houses, and so was
not nervous among her peers.



CHAPTER IX.

Dinner.


Of the two guests destined for the green chamber, we must be permitted
to make special mention.

General and Lady Jane Lennox had come. The General, a tall, soldier-like
old gentleman, who held his bald and pink, but not very high forehead,
erect, with great grey projecting moustache, twisted up at the corners,
and bristling grey eyebrows to correspond, over his frank round grey
eyes--a gentleman with a decidedly military bearing, imperious but
kindly of aspect, good-natured, prompt, and perhaps a little stupid.

Lady Jane--everybody knows Lady Jane--the most admired of London belles
for a whole season. Golden brown hair, and what young Thrumly of the
Guards called, in those exquisite lines of his, "slumbrous eyes of
blue," under very long lashes and exquisitely-traced eyebrows, such
brilliant lips and teeth, and such a sweet oval face, and above all, so
beautiful a figure and wonderful a waist, might have made one marvel how
a lady so well qualified for a title, with noble blood, though but a
small _dot_, should have wrecked herself on an old general, though with
eight thousand a year. But there were stories and reasons why the
simple old officer, just home from India, who knew nothing about London
lies, and was sure of his knighthood, and it was said of a baronetage,
did not come amiss.

There were people who chose to believe these stories, and people who
chose to discredit them. But General Lennox never had even heard them;
and certainly, it seemed nobody's business to tell him now. It might not
have been quite pleasant to tell the General. He was somewhat muddled of
apprehension, and slow in everything but fighting; and having all the
old-fashioned notions about hair-triggers, and "ten paces," as the
proper ordeal in a misunderstanding, people avoided uncomfortable topics
in his company, and were for the most part disposed to let well alone.

Lady Jane had a will and a temper; but the General held his ground
firmly. As brave men as he have been henpecked; but somehow he was not
of the temperament which will submit to be bullied even by a lady; and
as he was indulgent and easily managed, that tactique was the line she
had adopted. Lady Jane was not a riant beauty. Luxurious, funeste,
sullen, the mystery and melancholy of her face was a relief among the
smirks and simpers of the ball-room, and the novelty of the style
interested for a time even the _blazé_ men of twenty seasons.

Several guests of lesser note there were; and the company had sat down
to dinner, when the Reverend Dives Marlowe, rector of the succulent
family living of Queen's Chorleigh, made his appearance in the parlour,
a little to the surprise of his brother the Baronet, who did not expect
him quite so soon.

The Rector was a tall man and stalwart, who had already acquired that
convex curve which indicates incipient corpulence, and who, though
younger than his brother, looked half a dozen years his senior. With a
broad bald forehead, projecting eyebrows, a large coarse mouth, and with
what I may term the rudiments of a double chin--altogether an ugly and
even repulsive face, but with no lack of energy and decision--one looked
with wonder from this gross, fierce, clerical countenance to the fine
outlines and proportions of the Baronet's face, and wondered how the two
men could really be brothers.

The cleric shook his brother's hand in passing, and smiled and nodded
briefly here and there, right and left, and across the table his
recognition, and chuckled a harsher chuckle than his brother's, as he
took his place, extemporized with the quiet legerdemain of a consummate
butler by Ridley; and answered in a brisk, abrupt voice the smiling
inquiries of friends.

"Hope you have picked up an appetite on the way, Dives," said the
Baronet. Dives generally carried a pretty good one about with him. "Good
air on the way, and pretty good mutton here, too--my friends tell me."

"Capital air--capital mutton--capital fish," replied the ecclesiastic,
in a brisk, business-like tone, while being a man of nerve, he got some
fish, although that esculent had long vanished, and even the entrées had
passed into history, and called over his shoulder for the special
sauces which his soul loved, and talked, and compounded his condiments
with energy and precision.

The Rector was a shrewd and gentlemanlike, though not a very pretty,
apostle, and had made a sufficient toilet before presenting himself, and
snapped and gobbled his fish, in a glossy, single-breasted coat, with
standing collar; a ribbed silk waistcoat, covering his ample chest,
almost like a cassock, and one of those transparent muslin dog-collars
which High Churchmen affect.

"Well, Dives," cried Sir Jekyl, "how do the bells ring? I gave them a
chime, poor devils" (this was addressed to Lady Blunket at his elbow),
"by way of compensation, when I sent them Dives."

"Pretty well; they don't know how to pull 'em, I think, quite," answered
Dives, dabbing a bit of fish in a pool of sauce, and punching it into
shape with his bit of bread. "And how is old Parson Moulders?" continued
the Baronet, pleasantly.

"I haven't heard," said the Hector, and drank off half his glass of
hock.

"Can't believe it, Dives. Here's Lady Blunket knows. He's the aged
incumbent of Droughton. A devilish good living in my gift; and of course
you've been asking how the dear old fellow is."

"I haven't, upon my word; not but I ought, though," said the Rev. Dives
Marlowe, as if he did not see the joke.

"He's very severe on you," simpered fat Lady Blunket, faintly, across
the table, and subsided with a little cough, as if the exertion hurt
her.

"Is he? Egad! I never perceived it." The expression was not clerical,
but the speaker did not seem aware he had uttered it. "How dull I must
be! Have you ever been in this part of the world before, Lady Jane?"
continued he, turning towards General Lennox's wife, who sat beside him.

"I've been to Wardlock, a good many years ago; but that's a long way
from this, and I almost forget it," answered Lady Jane, in her languid,
haughty way.

"In what direction is Wardlock," she asked of Beatrix, raising her
handsome, unfathomable eyes for a moment.

"You can see it from the bow-window of your room--I mean that
oddly-shaped hill to the right."

"That's from the green chamber," said the Rector. "I remember the view.
Isn't it?"

"Yes. They have put Lady Jane in the haunted room," said Beatrix,
smiling and nodding to Lady Jane.

"And what fool, pray, told you that," said the Baronet, perhaps just a
little sharply.

"Old Gwynn seems to think so," answered Beatrix, with the surprised and
frightened look of one who fancies she has made a blunder. "I--of course
we know it is all folly."

"You must not say that--you shan't disenchant us," said Lady Jane.
"There's nothing I should so like as a haunted room; it's a charming
idea--isn't it, Arthur?" she inquired of the General.

"We had a haunted room in my quarters at Puttypoor," observed the
General, twiddling the point of one of his moustaches. "It was the
store-room where we kept pickles, and olives, and preserves, and plates,
and jars, and glass bottles. And every night there was a confounded
noise there; jars, and bottles, and things tumbling about, made a devil
of a row, you know. I got Smith--my servant Smith, you know, a very
respectable man--uncommon steady fellow, Smith--to watch, and he did. We
kept the door closed, and Smith outside. I gave him half-a-crown a night
and his supper--very well for Smith, you know. Sometimes he kept a
light, and sometimes I made him sit in the dark with matches ready."

"Was not he very much frightened?" asked Beatrix, who was deeply
interested in the ghost.

"I hope you gave him a smelling-bottle?" inquired Tom Linnett, with a
tender concern.

"Well, I don't suppose he was," said the General, smiling
good-humouredly on pretty Beatrix, while he loftily passed by the
humorous inquiry of the young gentleman. "He was, in fact, on dooty, you
know; and there were occasional noises and damage done in the
store-room--in fact, just the same as if Smith was not there."

"Oh, possibly Smith himself among the bottles!" suggested Linnett.

"He always got in as quick as he could," continued the General; "but
could not see anyone. Things were broken--bottles sometimes."

"How very strange," exclaimed Beatrix, charmed to hear the tale of
wonder.

"We could not make it out; it was very odd, you know," resumed the
narrator.

"_You_ weren't frightened, General?" inquired Linnett.

"_No_, sir," replied the General, who held that a soldier's courage,
like a lady's reputation, was no subject for jesting, and conveyed that
sentiment by a slight pause, and a rather alarming stare from under his
fierce grey eyebrows. "No one was frightened, I suppose; we were all men
in the house, sir."

"At home, I think, we'd have suspected a rat or a cat," threw in the
Rector.

"Some did, sir," replied the General; "and we made a sort of a search;
but it wasn't. There was a capital tiled floor, not a hole you could put
a ramrod in; and no cat, neither--high windows, grated; and the door
always close; and every now and then something broken by night."

"Delightful! That's what Mrs. Crowe, in that charming book, you know,
"The Night Side of Nature," calls, I forget the name; but it's a German
word, I think--the noisy ghost it means. Racket--something, isn't it,
Beet?" (the short for Beatrix). "I do so _devour_ ghosts!" cried sharp
old Miss Blunket, who thought Beatrix's enthusiasm became her; and chose
to exhibit the same pretty fanaticism.

"I didn't _say_ it was a ghost, mind ye," interposed the General, with a
grave regard for his veracity; "only we were puzzled a bit. There _was_
something there we all knew; and something that could reach up to the
high shelves, and break things on the floor too, you see. We had been
watching, off and on, I think, some three or four weeks, and I heard one
night, early, a row in the store-room--a devil of a row it was; but
Smith was on dooty, as we used to say, that night, so I left it to him;
and he could have sung out, you know, if he wanted help--poor fellow!
And in the morning my native fellow told me that poor Smith was dead in
the store-room; and, egad! so he was, poor fellow!"

"How awful!" exclaimed Beatrix.

And Miss Blunket, in girlish horror, covered her fierce black eyes with
her lank fingers.

"A bite of a cobra, by Jove! above the knee, and another on the hand. A
fattish fellow, poor Smith, the natives say they go faster--that sort of
man; but no one can stand a fair bite of a cobra--I defy you. We killed
him after."

"What! _Smith?_" whispered Linnett in his neighbour's ear.

"He lay in a basket; you never saw such a brute," continued the General;
"he was very near killing another of my people."

"So _there_ was your ghost?" said Doocey, archly.

"Worse than a ghost," observed Sir Paul Blunket.

"A dooced deal," acquiesced the General gravely.

"You're very much annoyed with vermin out there in India?" remarked Sir
Paul.

"So we are, sir," agreed the General.

"It's very hard, you see, to meet with a genuine ghost, Miss Marlowe;
they generally turn out impostors," said Doocey.

"I should like to think my room was haunted," said Lady Jane.

"Oh! _dear_ Lady Jane, how _can_ you be so _horribly_ brave?" cried Miss
Blunket.

"We have no cobras here, at all events," said Sir Paul, nodding to Sir
Jekyl, with the gravity becoming such a discovery.

"No," said Sir Jekyl, gloomily. I suppose he was thinking of something
else.

The ladies now floated away like summer clouds, many-tinted, golden,
through the door, which Doocey held gracefully open; and the mere
mortals of the party, the men, stood up in conventional adoration, while
the divinities were translated, as it were, before their eyes, and
hovered out of sight and hearing into the resplendent regions of
candelabra and mirrors, nectar and ambrosia, tea and plum-cake, and
clouds of silken tapestry, and the musical tinkling of their own
celestial small-talk.



CHAPTER X.

Inquiries have been made by Messrs, Pelter and Crowe.


Before repairing to bed, such fellows, young or old, as liked a talk and
a cigar, and some sherry--or, by'r lady, brandy and water--were always
invited to accompany Sir Jekyl to what he termed the back settlement,
where he bivouacked among deal chairs and tables, with a little
camp-bed, and plenty of wax candles and a brilliant little fire.

Here, as the Baronet smoked in his homely little "hut," as he termed it,
after his guests had dispersed to their bed-rooms, the Rev. Dives
Marlowe that night knocked at the door, crying, "May I come in, Jekyl?"

"Certainly, dear Dives."

"You really mean it?"

"Never was parson so welcome."

"By Jove!" said the Rector, "it's later than I thought--you're sure I
don't bore you."

"Not sure, but you _may_, Dives," said Sir Jekyl, observing his
countenance, which was not quite pleasant. "Come in, and say your say.
Have a weed, old boy?"

"Well, well--a--we're alone. I don't mind--I don't generally--not that
there's any harm; but some people, very good people, object--the weaker
brethren, you know."

"Consummate asses, we call them; but weaker brethren, as you say, does
as well."

The Rector was choosing and sniffing out a cigar to his heart's content.

"Milk for babes, you know," said the Rector, making his preparations.
"Strong meats--"

"And strong cigars; but you'll find these as mild as you please. Here's
a match."

The Rector sat down, with one foot on the fender, and puffed away
steadily, looking into the fire; and his brother, at the opposite angle
of the fender, employed himself similarly.

"Fine old soldier, General Lennox," said the cleric, at last. "What stay
does he make with you?"

"As long as he pleases. Why?" said Sir Jekyl.

"Only he said something to-night in the drawing-room about having to go
up to town to attend a Board of the East India Directors," answered the
parson.

"Oh, did he?"

"And I think he said the day after to-morrow. I thought he told you,
perhaps."

"Upon my life I can't say--perhaps he did," said Sir Jekyl, carelessly.
"Lennox is a wonderful fine old fellow, as you say, but a little bit
slow, you know; and his going or staying would not make very much
difference to me."

"I thought he told his story pretty well at dinner--that haunted room
and the cobra, you remember," said the Rector.

The Baronet grunted an assent, and nodded, without removing his cigar.
The brothers conducted their conversation, not looking on one another,
but each steadily into the grate.

"And, apropos of haunted rooms, Lady Jane mentioned they are in the
green chamber," continued the Rector.

"Did she? I forgot--so they are, I think," answered the Baronet.

Here they puffed away in silence for some time.

"You know, Jekyl, about that room? Poor Amy, when she was dying, made
you promise--and you did promise, you know--and she got me to promise to
remind you to shut it up; and then, you know, my father wished the
same," said the Rector.

"Come, Dives, my boy, somebody has been poking you up about this. You
have been hearing from my old mother-in-law, or talking to her, the
goosey old shrew!"

"Upon my honour!" said the Rector, solemnly resting the wrist of his
cigar-hand upon the black silk vest, and motioning his cheroot
impressively, "you are quite mistaken. One syllable I have not heard
from Lady Alice upon the subject, nor, indeed, upon any other, for two
months or more."

"Come, come, Dives, old fellow, you'll not come the inspired preacher
over me. Somebody's been at you, and if it was not poor old Lady Alice
it was stupid old Gwynn. You need not deny it--ha! ha! ha! your speaking
countenance proclaims it, my dear boy."

"I'm not thinking of denying it. Old Donica Gwynn did write to me," said
the pastor.

"Let me see her note?" said Sir Jekyl.

"I threw it in the fire; but I assure you there was nothing in it that
would or could have vexed you. Nothing, in fact, but an appeal to me to
urge you to carry out the request of poor Amy, and not particularly well
spelt or written, and certainly not the sort of thing I should have
liked anyone to see but ourselves, so I destroyed it as soon as I had
read it."

"I'd like to have known what the plague could make you come here two
days--of course I'm glad to see you--two days before you intended, and
what's running in your mind."

"Nothing in particular--nothing, I assure you, but this. I'm certain it
will be talked about--it will--the women will talk. You'll find there
will be something very unpleasant; take my advice, my dear Jekyl, and
just do as you promised. My poor father wished it, too--in fact,
directed it, and--and it ought to be done--you know it ought."

"Upon my soul I know no such thing. I'm to pull down my house, I
suppose, for a sentiment? What the plague harm does the room to anybody?
It doesn't hurt me, nor you."

"It may hurt _you_ very much, Jekyl."

"I can't see it; but if it does, that's my affair," said Sir Jekyl,
sulkily.

"But, my dear Jekyl, surely you ought to consider your promise."

"Come, Dives, no preaching. It's a very good trade, I know, and I'll do
all I can for you in it; but I'm no more to be humbugged by a sermon
than you are. Come! How does the dog I sent you get on? Have you bottled
the pipe of port yet, and how is old Moulders, as I asked you at dinner?
Talk of shooting, eating and drinking, and making merry, and getting up
in your profession--by-the-bye, the Bishop is to be here in a fortnight,
so manage to stay and meet him. Talk of the port, and the old parson's
death, and the tithes small and great, and I'll hear you with respect,
for I shall know you are speaking of things you understand, and take a
real interest in; but pray don't talk any more about that stupid old
room, and the stuff and nonsense these women connect with it; and, once
for all, believe me when I say I have no notion of making a fool of
myself by shutting up or pulling down a room which we want to use--I'll
do no such thing," and Sir Jekyl clenched the declaration with an oath,
and chucking the stump of his cigar into the fire, stood up with his
back to it, and looked down on his clerical Mentor, the very
impersonation of ungodly obstinacy.

"I had some more to say, Jekyl, but I fancy you don't care to hear it."

"Not a word of it," replied the Baronet.

"That's enough for me," said the parson, with a wave of his hand, like a
man who has acquitted himself of a duty.

"And how soon do you say the Bishop is to be here?" he inquired, after a
pause.

"About ten days, or _less_--egad! I forget," answered Sir Jekyl, still a
good deal ruffled.

The Rector stood up also, and hummed something like "Rule Britannia" for
a while. I am afraid he was thinking altogether of himself by this time,
and suddenly recollecting that he was not in his own room, he wished his
brother good-night, and departed.

Sir Jekyl was vexed. There are few things so annoying, when one has made
up his mind to a certain course, as to have the unavowed misgivings and
evil auguries of one's own soul aggravated by the vain but ominous
dissuasions of others.

"I wish they'd keep their advice to themselves. What hurry need there
be? Do they want me to blow up the room with old Lennox and his wife in
it? I don't care twopence about it. It's a gloomy place." Sir Jekyl was
charging the accidental state of his own spirits upon the aspect of the
place, which was really handsome and cheerful, though antique.

"They're all in a story, the fools! What is it to me? I don't care if I
never saw it again. They may pull it down after Christmas, if they like,
for me. And Dives, too, the scamp, talking pulpit. He thinks of nothing
but side-dishes and money. As worldly a dog as there is in England!"

Jekyl Marlowe could get angry enough on occasion, but he was not prone
to sour tempers and peevish humours. There was, however, just now,
something to render him uncomfortable and irritable, and that was that
his expected guests, Mr. Guy Strangways and M. Varbarriere had not kept
tryste. The day appointed for their visit had come and gone, and no
appearance made. In an ordinary case a hundred and fifty accidents might
account for such a miscarriage; but there was in this the unavowed
specialty which excited and sickened his mind, and haunted his steps and
his bed with suspicions; and he fancied he could understand a little how
Herod felt when he was mocked of the wise men.

Next morning's post-bag brought Sir Jekyl two letters, one of which
relieved, and the other rather vexed him, though not very profoundly.
This latter was from his mother-in-law, Lady Alice, in reply to his
civil note, and much to his surprise, accepting his invitation to
Marlowe.

"Cross-grained old woman! She's coming, for no reason on earth but to
vex me. It shan't though. I'll make her most damnably welcome. We'll
amuse her till she has not a leg to stand on; we'll take her an
excursion every second day, and bivouac on the side of a mountain, or in
the bottom of a wet valley. We'll put the young ponies to the phaeton,
and Dutton shall run them away with her. I'll get up theatricals, and
balls, and concerts; and I'll have breakfast at nine instead of ten.
I'll entertain her with a vengeance, egad! We'll see who'll stand it
longest."

A glance at the foot of the next letter, which was a large document, on
a bluish sheet of letter-paper, showed him what he expected, the
official autograph of Messrs. Pelter and Crowe; it was thus expressed--

     "MY DEAR SIR JEKYL MARLOWE,--

     "Pursuant to yours of the --th, and in accordance with the
     instructions therein contained, we have made inquiries, as therein
     directed, in all available quarters, and have received answers to
     our letters, and trust that the copies thereof, and the general
     summary of the correspondence, which we hope to forward by this
     evening's post, will prove satisfactory to you. The result seems to
     us clearly to indicate that your information has not been well
     founded, and that there has been no movement in the quarter to
     which your favour refers, and that no member--at all events no
     prominent member--of that family is at present in England. In
     further execution of your instructions, as conveyed in your favour
     as above, we have, through a reliable channel, learned that Messrs.
     Smith, Rumsey, and Snagg, have nothing in the matter of Deverell at
     present in their office. Nor has there been, we are assured, any
     correspondence from or on the part of any of those clients for the
     last five terms or more. Notwithstanding, therefore, the
     coincidence of the date of your letter with the period to which, on
     a former occasion, we invited your attention, as indicated by the
     deed of  1809--"

"What the plague is that?" interpolated Sir Jekyl. "They want me to
write and ask, and pop it down in the costs;" and after a vain endeavour
to recall it, he read the passage over again with deliberate emphasis.

     "Notwithstanding, therefore, the coincidence of the date of your
     letter with the period to which, on a former occasion, we invited
     your attention, as indicated by the deed of 1809, we are clear upon
     the evidence of the letters, copies of which will be before you as
     above by next post, that there is no ground for supposing any
     unusual activity on the part or behalf of the party or parties to
     whom you have referred.

     "Awaiting your further directions,

     "I have the honour to remain,

     "My dear Sir Jekyl Marlowe,

     "Your obedient servant,

     "N. CROWE.

     "For PELTER and CROWE.

     "Sir Jekyl Marlowe, Bart.

     "Marlowe, Old Swayton."

When Sir Jekyl read this he felt all on a sudden a dozen years younger.
He snapped his fingers, and smiled, in spite of himself. He could
hardly bring himself to acknowledge, even in soliloquy, how immensely
he was relieved. The sun shone delightfully: and his spirits returned
quite brightly. He would have liked to cricket, to ride a
steeple-chase--anything that would have breathed and worked him well,
and given him a fair occasion for shouting and cheering.



CHAPTER XI.

Old Gryston Bridge.


Very merry was the Baronet at the social breakfast-table, and the whole
party very gay, except those few whose natures were sedate or
melancholic.

"A tremendous agreeable man, Sir Jekyl--don't you think so, Jennie?"
said General Lennox to his wife, as he walked her slowly along the
terrace at the side of the house.

"I think him intolerably noisy, and sometimes absolutely vulgar,"
answered Lady Jane, with a languid disdain, which conveyed alike her
estimate of her husband's discernment and of Sir Jekyl's merits.

"Well, I thought he was agreeable. Some of his jokes I think, indeed,
had not much sense in them. But sometimes I don't see a witty thing as
quick as cleverer fellows do, and they were all laughing, except you;
and I don't think you like him, Jennie."

"I don't dislike him. I dare say he's a very worthy soul; but he gives
me a headache."

"He _is_ a little bit noisy, maybe. Yes, he certainly _is_," acquiesced
the honest General, who in questions of taste and nice criticism, was
diffident of his own judgment, and leaned to his wife's. "But I thought
he was rather a pleasant fellow. I'm no great judge; but I like to see
fellows laughing, and that sort of thing. It looks good-humoured, don't
you think?"

"I hate good-humour," said Lady Jane.

The General, not knowing exactly what to say next, marched by her side
in silence, till Lady Jane let go his arm, and sat down on the rustic
seat which commands so fine a view, and, leaning back, eyed the
landscape with a dreamy indolence, as if she was going to "cut" it.

The General scanned it with a military eye, and his reconnoitering
glance discerned, coming up the broad walk at his right, their host,
with pretty Mrs. Maberly on his arm, doing the honours plainly very
agreeably.

On seeing the General and Lady Jane, he smiled, quickened his pace, and
raised his hat.

"So glad we have found you," said he. "Charming weather, isn't it? _You_
must determine, Lady Jane, what's to be done to-day. There are two
things you really ought to see--Gryston Bridge and Hazelden Castle. I
assure you the great London artists visit both for studies. We'll take
our luncheon there, it's such a warm, bright day--that is, if you like
the plan--and, which do you say?"

"My husband always votes for me. What does Mrs. Maberly say?" and Lady
Jane looked in her face with one of her winning smiles.

"Yes, what does Mrs. Maberly say?" echoed the General, gallantly.

"So you won't advise?" said the Baronet, leaning toward Lady Jane, a
little reproachfully.

"I won't advise," she echoed, in her indolent way.

"Which is the best?" inquired Mrs. Maberly, gleefully. "What a charming
idea!"

"For my part, I have a headache, you know, Arthur--I told you, dear; and
I shall hardly venture a long excursion, I think. What do you advise
to-day?"

"Well, I think it might do you good--hey? What do _you_ say, Sir Jekyl?"

"So very sorry to hear Lady Jane is suffering; but I really think your
advice, General Lennox--it's so very fine and mild--and I think it might
amuse Lady Jane;" and he glanced at the lady, who, however, wearing her
bewitching smile, was conversing with Mrs. Maberly about a sweet little
white dog, with long ears and a blue ribbon, which had accompanied her
walk from the house.

"Well, dear, Sir Jekyl wants to know. What do you say?" inquired the
General.

"Oh, pray arrange as you please. I dare say I can go. It's all the
same," answered Lady Jane, without raising her eyes from silvery little
Bijou, on whom she bestowed her unwonted smiles and caresses.

"You belong to Beatrix, you charming little fairy--I'm sure you do; and
is not it very wicked to go out with other people without leave, you
naughty little truant?"

"You must not attack her so. She really loves Beatrix; and though she
has come out just to take the air with me, I don't think she cares
twopence about me; and I know I don't about her."

"What a cruel speech!" cried pretty Mrs. Maberly, with a laugh that
showed her exquisite little teeth.

"The _fact_ is cruel--if you will--not the speech--for she can't hear
it," said Sir Jekyl, patting Bijou.

"So they _act_ love to your face, poor little dog, and say what they
please of you behind your back," murmured Lady Jane, soothingly, to
little Bijou, who wagged his tail and wriggled to her feet. "Yes, they
do, poor little dog!"

"Well, I shall venture--may I? I'll order the carriages at one. And
we'll say Gryston Bridge," said Sir Jekyl, hesitating notwithstanding,
inquiry plainly in his countenance.

"Sir Jekyl's waiting, dear," said General Lennox, a little imperiously.

"I really don't care. _Yes_, then," she said, and, getting up, she took
the General's arm and walked away, leaving Mrs. Maberly and her host to
their _tête-à-tête_.

Gryston Bridge is one of the prettiest scenes in that picturesque part
of the country. A river slowly winds its silvery way through the level
base of a beautifully irregular valley. No enclosure breaks the dimpling
and undulating sward--for it is the common of Gryston--which rises in
soft pastoral slopes at either side, forming the gentle barriers of the
valley, which is closed in at the further end by a bold and Alpine hill,
with a base rising purple and domelike from the plain; and in this
perspective the vale of Gryston diverges, and the two streams, which at
its head unite to form the slow-flowing current of the Greet, are lost
to sight. Trees of nature's planting here and there overhang its stream,
and others, solitarily or in groups, stud the hill-sides and the soft
green plain. A strange row of tall, gray stones, Druidic or monumental,
of a bygone Cyclopean age, stand up, time-worn and mysterious, on a
gentle slope, with a few bending thorn and birch trees beside them, in
the near distance; and in the foreground, the steep, Gothic bridge of
Gretford, or Gryston, spans the river, with five tall arches, and a
loop-holed gate-house, which once guarded the pass, now roofless and
ruined.

In this beautiful and sequestered scene the party from Marlowe had
loitered away that charming afternoon. The early sunset had been rapidly
succeeded by twilight, and the moon had surprised them. The servants
were packing up hampers of plates and knives and forks, and getting the
horses to for the return to Marlowe; while, in the early moonlight a
group stood upon the bridge, overlooking from the battlement the sweet
landscape in its changing light.

Sir Jekyl could see that Captain Drayton was by Beatrix's side, and
concluded, rightly, I have no doubt, that his conversation was tinted by
the tender lights of that romantic scenery.

"The look back on this old bridge from those Druidic stones there by
moonlight is considered very fine. It is no distance--hardly four
hundred steps from this--although it looks so misty," said the Baronet
to Lady Jane, who leaned on his arm. "Suppose we make a little party,
will you venture?"

I suppose the lady acquiesced, for Sir Jekyl ordered that the carriages
should proceed round by the road, and take them up at the point where
these Druidic remains stand.

The party who ventured this little romantic walk over the grass, were
General Lennox, in charge of the mature Miss Blunket, who loved a frolic
with all her girlish heart; Sir Jekyl, with Lady Jane upon his arm; and
Captain Drayton, who escorted Beatrix. Marching gaily, in open column,
as the General would have said, they crossed the intervening hollow, and
reached the hillock, on which stand these ungainly relics of a bygone
race; and up the steep bank they got, each couple as best they could.
Sir Jekyl and Lady Jane, for he knew the ground, by an easy path, were
first to reach the upper platform.

Sir Jekyl, I dare say, was not very learned about the Druids, and I
can't say exactly what he was talking about, when on a sudden he
arrested both his step and his sentence, for on one of these great
prostrate stones which strew that summit, he saw standing, not a dozen
steps away, well illuminated by the moon, the figure of that very Guy
Strangways, whom he so wished and hated to see--whom he had never beheld
without such strange sensations, and had not expected to see again.

The young man took no note of them apparently. He certainly did not
recognise Sir Jekyl, whose position placed his face in the shade, while
that of Mr. Strangways was full in the white light of the moon.

They had found him almost in the act of descending from his pedestal;
and he was gone in a few moments, before the Baronet had recovered from
his surprise.

The vivid likeness which he bore to a person whom the Baronet never
wished to think of, and the suddenness of his appearance and his
vanishing, had reimpressed him with just the same secret alarms and
misgivings as when first he saw him; and the serene confidence induced
by the letter of Messrs. Pelter and Crowe was for a moment demolished.
He dropped Lady Jane's arm, and forgetting his chivalry, strode to the
brow of the hillock, over which the mysterious young man had
disappeared. He had lost sight of him, but he emerged in a few seconds,
about fifty yards away, from behind a screen of thorn, walking swiftly
toward the road close by, on which stood a chaise, sharp in the misty
moonlight.

Just in time to prevent his shouting after the figure, now on the point
of re-entering the vehicle, he recollected and checked himself. Confound
the fellows, if they did not appreciate his hospitality, should he run
after them; or who were they that he should care a pin about them? Had
he not Pelter and Crowe's letter? And suppose he did overtake and engage
the young rogue in talk, what could he expect but a parcel of polite
lies. Certainly, under the circumstances, pursuit would have been
specially undignified; and the Baronet drew himself up on the edge of
the eminence, and cast a haughty half-angry look after the young
gentleman, who was now stepping into the carriage; and suddenly he
recollected how very ill he had treated Lady Jane, and he hastened to
rejoin her.

But Sir Jekyl, in that very short interval, had lost something of his
spirits. The sight of that young man had gone far to undo the
tranquillising effect of his attorneys' letter. He would not have cared
had this unchanged phantom of the past and his hoary mentor been still
in England, provided it were at a distance. But here they were, on the
confines of his property, within a short drive of Marlowe, yet affecting
to forget his invitation, his house, and himself, and detected prowling
in its vicinity like spies or poachers by moonlight. Was there not
something insidious in this? It was not for nothing that so well-bred a
person as that young man thus trampled on all the rules of courtesy for
the sake of maintaining his incognito, and avoiding the obligations of
hospitality.

So reasoned Sir Jekyl Marlowe, and felt himself rapidly relapsing into
that dreamy and intense uneasiness, from which for a few hours he had
been relieved.

"A thousand apologies, Lady Jane," cried he, as he ran back and
proffered his arm again. "I was afraid that fellow might be one of a
gang--a very dangerous lot of rogues--poachers, I believe. There were
people robbed here about a year ago, and I quite forgot when I asked you
to come. I should never have forgiven myself--so selfishly
forgetful--never, had you been frightened."

Sir Jekyl could, of course, tell fibs, especially by way of apology, as
plausibly as other men of the world. He had here turned a negligence
skilfully into a gallantry, and I suppose the lady forgave him.

The carriages had now arrived at the bend of this pretty road; and our
Marlowe friends got in, and the whole cortège swept away merrily towards
that old mansion. Sir Jekyl had been, with an effort, very lively all
the way home, and assisted Lady Jane to the ground, smiling, and had a
joke for General Lennox as he followed; and a very merry party mustered
in the hall, prattling, laughing, and lighting their candles, to run
up-stairs and dress for a late dinner.



CHAPTER XII.

The Strangers appear again.


Sir Jekyl was the last of the party in the hall; and the last joke and
laugh had died away on the lobby above him, and away fled his smiles
like the liveries and brilliants of Cinderella to the region of
illusions, and black care laid her hand on his shoulder and stood by
him.

The bland butler, with a grave bow, accosted him in mild accents--

"The two gentlemen, sir, as you spoke of to Mrs. Sinnott, has arrived
about five minutes before you, sir; and she has, please sir, followed
your directions, and had them put in the rooms in the front, as you
ordered, sir, should be kept for them, before Mrs. Gwynn left."

"_What_ two gentlemen?" demanded Sir Jekyl, with a thrill. "Mr.
Strangways and M. Varbarriere?"

"Them, sir, I think, is the names--Strangways, leastways, I am sure on,
'aving lived, when young, with a branch of the Earl of Dilbury's family,
if you please, sir--which Strangways is the name."

"A good-looking young gentleman, tall and slight, eh?"

"Yes, sir; and a heavy gentleman haccompanies him--something in years--a
furriner, as I suppose, and speaking French or Jarmin; leastways, it is
not English."

"Dinner in twenty minutes," said Sir Jekyl, with the decision of the
Duke of Wellington in action; and away he strode to his dressing-room in
the back settlements, with a quick step and a thoughtful face.

"I shan't want you, Tomlinson, you need not stay," said he to his man;
but before he let him go, he asked carelessly a word or two about the
new guests, and learned, in addition to what he already knew, nothing
but that they had brought a servant with them.

"So much the worse," thought Sir Jekyl; "those confounded fellows hear
everything, and poke their noses everywhere. I sometimes think that
rascal, Tomlinson, pries about here."

And the Baronet, half-dressed, opened the door of his study, as he
called it, at the further end of his homely bedchamber, and looked
round.

It is or might be a comfortable room, of some five-and-twenty feet
square, surrounded by bookshelves, as homely as the style of the
bed-room, stored with volumes of the "Annual Register," "Gentleman's
Magazine," and "Universal History" sort--long rows in dingy
gilding--moved up here when the old library of Marlowe was broken up.
The room had a dusty air of repose about it. A few faded pieces of
old-fashioned furniture, which had probably been quartered here in
genteel retirement, long ago, when the principal sitting-rooms were
undergoing a more modern decoration.

Here Sir Jekyl stood with a sudden look of dejection, and stared
listlessly round on the compact wall of books that surrounded him,
except for the one door-case, that through which he had entered, and the
two windows, on all sides. Sir Jekyl was in a sort of collapse of
spirits. He stepped dreamily to the far shelf and took down a volume of
Old Bailey Reports, and read the back of it several times, then looked
round once more dejectedly, and blew the top of the volume, and wondered
at the quantity of dust there, and replacing it, heaved a deep sigh.
Dust and death are old associations, and his thoughts were running in a
gloomy channel.

"Is it worth all this?" he thought. "I'm growing tired of it--utterly.
I'm half sorry I came here; perhaps they are right. It might be a
devilish good thing for me if this rubbishy old house were burnt to the
ground--and I in it, by Jove! 'Out, out, brief candle!' What's that
Shakspeare speech?--'A tale told by an idiot--a play played by an
idiot'--egad! I don't know why I do half the things I do."

When he looked in the glass he did not like the reflection.

"Down in the mouth--hang it! this will never do," and he shook his
curls, and smirked, and thought of the ladies, and bustled away over his
toilet; and when it was completed, as he fixed in his jewelled
wrist-buttons, the cold air and shadow of his good or evil angel's wing
crossed him again, and he sighed. Capricious were his moods. Our wisdom
is so frivolous, and our frivolities so sad. Is there time here to
think out anything completely? Is it possible to hold by our
conclusions, or even to remember them long? And this trifling and
suffering are the woof and the warp of an eternal robe--wedding garment,
let us hope--maybe winding-sheet, or--toga molesta.

Sir Jekyl, notwithstanding his somewhat interrupted toilet, was in the
drawing-room before many of his guests had assembled. He hesitated for a
moment at the door, and turned about with a sickening thrill, and walked
to the table in the outer hall, or vestibule, where the post-bag lay. He
had no object in this countermarch, but to postpone for a second or two
the meeting with the gentlemen whom, with, as he sometimes fancied, very
questionable prudence, he had invited under his roof.

And now he entered, frank, gay, smiling. His eyes did not search, they
were, as it were, smitten instantaneously with a sense of pain, by the
image of the young man, so handsome, so peculiar, sad, and noble, the
sight of whom had so moved him. He was conversing with old Colonel
Doocey, at the further side of the fireplace. In another moment Sir
Jekyl was before him, his hand very kindly locked in his.

"Very happy to see you here, Mr. Strangways."

"I am very much honoured, Sir Jekyl Marlowe," returned the young
gentleman, in that low sweet tone which he also hated. "I have many
apologies to make. We have arrived two days later than your note
appointed; but an accident--"

"Pray, not a word--your appearance here is the best compensation you
can make me. Your friend, Monsieur Varbarriere, I hope--"

"My uncle--yes; he, too, has the honour. Will you permit me to present
him? Monsieur Varbarriere," said the young man, presenting his relative.

A gentleman at this summons turned suddenly from General Lennox, with
whom he had been talking; a high-shouldered, portly man, taller a good
deal when you approached him than he looked at first; his hair, "all
silvered," brushed up like Louis Philippe's, conically from his
forehead; grey, heavily projecting eyebrows, long untrimmed moustache
and beard; altogether a head and face which seemed to indicate that
combination of strong sense and sensuality which we see in some of the
medals of Roman Emperors; a forehead projecting at the brows, and keen
dark eyes in shadow, observing all things from under their grizzled
pent-house; these points, and a hooked nose, and a certain weight and
solemnity of countenance, gave to the large and rather pallid aspect,
presented suddenly to the Baronet, something, as we have said, of the
character of an old magician. Voluminous plaited black trousers,
slanting in to the foot, foreshadowed the peg-top of more recent date; a
loose and long black velvet waistcoat, with more gold chain and
jewellery generally than Englishmen are accustomed to wear, and a wide
and clumsy black coat, added to the broad and thick-set character of his
figure.

As Sir Jekyl made his complimentary speech to this gentleman, he saw
that his steady and shrewd gaze was attentively considering him in a
way that a little tried his patience; and when the stranger spoke it was
in French, and in that peculiar metallic diapason which we sometimes
hear among the Hebrew community, and which brings the nasals of that
tongue into sonorous and rather ugly relief.

"England is, I dare say, quite new to you, Monsieur Varbarriere?"
inquired Sir Jekyl.

"I have seen it a very long time ago, and admire your so fine country
very much," replied the pallid and bearded sage, speaking in French
still, and in those bell-like tones which rang and buzzed unpleasantly
in the ear.

"You find us the same foggy and tasteless islanders as before," said the
host. "In art, indeed, we have made an advance; _there_, I think, we
have capabilities, but we are as a people totally deficient in that fine
decorative sense which expresses itself so gracefully and universally in
your charming part of the world."

When Sir Jekyl talked of France, he was generally thinking of Paris.

"We have our barbarous regions, as you have; our vineyards are a dull
sight after all, and our forest trees you, with your grand timber, would
use for broom-sticks."

"But your capital; why every time one looks out at the window it is a
fillip to one's spirits. To me, preferring France so infinitely, as I
do," said Sir Jekyl, replying in his guest's language, "it appears a
mystery why any Frenchman, who can help it, ever visits our dismal
region."

The enchanter here shrugged slowly, with a solemn smile.

"No wonder our actions are mysterious to others, since they are so often
so to ourselves."

"You are best acquainted with the south of France?" said Sir Jekyl,
without any data for such an assumption, and saying the reverse of what
he suspected.

"Very well with the south; pretty well, indeed, with most parts."

Just at this moment Mr. Ridley's bland and awful tones informed the
company that dinner was on the table, and Sir Jekyl hastened to afford
to Lady Blunket the support of his vigorous arm into the parlour.

It ought to have been given to Lady Jane; but the Blunket was a huffy
old woman, and, on the score of a very decided seniority, was indulged.

Lady Blunket was not very interesting, and was of the Alderman's
opinion, that conversation prevents one's tasting the green fat; Sir
Jekyl had, therefore, time, with light and careless glances, to see
pretty well, from time to time, what was going on among his guests.
Monsieur Varbarriere had begun to interest him more than Mr. Guy
Strangways, and his eye oftener reviewed that ponderous and solemn face
and form than any other at the table. It seemed that he liked his
dinner, and attended to his occupation. But though taciturn, his shrewd
eyes glanced from time to time on the host and his guests with an air of
reserved observation that showed his mind was anything but sluggish
during the process. He looked wonderfully like some of those enchanters
whom we have seen in illustrations of Don Quixote.

"A deep fellow," he thought, "an influential fellow. That gentleman
knows what he's about; that young fellow is in his hands."



CHAPTER XIII.

In the Drawing-Room.


Sir Jekyl heard snatches of conversation, sometimes here, sometimes
there.

Guy Strangways was talking to Beatrix, and the Baronet heard him say,
smiling--

"But you don't, I'm sure, believe in the elixir of life; you only mean
to mystify us." He was looking more than ever--identical with that other
person, whom it was not pleasant to Sir Jekyl to be reminded
of--horribly like, in this white waxlight splendour.

"But there's another process, my uncle, Monsieur Varbarriere, says, by
slow refrigeration: you are first put to sleep, and in that state
frozen; and once frozen, without having suffered death, you may be kept
in a state of suspended life for twenty or thirty years, neither
conscious, nor growing old; arrested precisely at the point of your
existence at which the process was applied, and at the same point
restored again whenever for any purpose it may be expedient to recall
you to consciousness and activity."

One of those restless, searching glances which the solemn, portly old
gentleman in black directed, from time to time, as he indulged his
taciturn gulosity, lighted on the Baronet at this moment, and Sir Jekyl
felt that they exchanged an unintentional glance of significance. Each
averted his quickly; and Sir Jekyl, with one of his chuckles, for the
sake merely of saying something, remarked--

"I don't see how you can restore people to life by freezing them."

"He did not speak, I think, of restoring life--did you, Guy?" said the
bell-toned diapason of the old gentleman, speaking his nasal French.

"Oh, no--suspending merely," answered the young man.

"To restore life, you must have recourse, I fancy, to a higher process,"
continued the sage, with an ironical gravity, and his eye this time
fixed steadily on Sir Jekyl's; "and I could conceive none more
embarrassing to the human race, _under certain circumstances_," and he
shrugged slowly and shook his head.

"How delightful!--no more death!" exclaimed enthusiastic Miss Blunket.

"Embarrassing, of course, I mean, to certain of the survivors."

This old gentleman was hitting his tenderest points rather hard and
often. Was it by chance or design? Who was he?

So thought the Baronet as he smiled and nodded.

"Do you know who that fat old personage is who dresses like an
undertaker and looks like a Jew?" asked Captain Drayton of Beatrix.

"I think he is a relative of Mr. Strangways."

"And who is Mr. Strangways?"

"He's at my right, next me," answered she in a low tone, not liking the
very clear and distinct key in which the question was put.

But Captain Drayton was not easily disconcerted, being a young gentleman
of a bold and rather impertinent temperament, and he continued leaning
back in his chair and looking dreamily into his hock-glass.

"Not a friend of yours, is he?"

"Oh, no."

"Really--not a friend. You're _quite_ certain?"

"Perfectly. We never saw either--that is, papa met them at some posting
place on his way from London, and invited them; but I think he knows
nothing more."

"Well, I did not like to say till I knew, but I think him--the old
fellow--I have not seen the young man--a most vulgar-looking old person.
He's a wine-jobber, or manager of a factory, or something. You never
saw--I know Paris by heart--you _never saw_ such a thing in gentlemanly
society there."

And the young lady heard him say, _sotto voce_, "Brute!" haughtily to
himself, as an interjection, while he just raised the finger-tips of the
hand which rested on the table, and let them descend again on the snowy
napery. The subject deserved no more troublesome gesture.

"And where is the young gentleman?" asked Captain Drayton, after a
little interval.

Beatrix told him again.

"Oh! _That's_ he! Isn't his French very bad--did it strike you? Bad
_accent_--I can tell in a moment. That's not an accent one hears
anywhere."

Oddly enough, Sir Jekyl at the same time, with such slight interruptions
as his agreeable attentions to Lady Blunket imposed, was, in the
indistinct way in which such discussions are mentally pursued, observing
upon the peculiarities of his two new guests, and did not judge them
amiss.

The elder was odd, take him for what country you pleased. Bearded like a
German, speaking good French, with a good accent, but in the loud full
tones of a Spaniard, and with a quality of voice which resounds in the
synagogue, and a quietude of demeanour much more English than
continental. His dress, such as I have described it, fine in material,
but negligent and easy, though odd. Reserved and silent he was, a little
sinister perhaps, but his bearing unconstrained and gracious when he
spoke. There was, indeed, that odd, watchful glance from under his heavy
eyebrows, which, however, had nothing sly, only observant, in it. Again
he thought, "Who could he be?" On the whole, Sir Jekyl was in nowise
disposed to pronounce upon him as Captain Drayton was doing a little way
down the table; nor yet upon Guy Strangways, whom he thought, on the
contrary, an elegant young man, according to French notions of the
gentlemanly, and he knew the French people a good deal better than the
youthful Captain did.

The principal drawing-room of Marlowe is a very large apartment, and
people can talk of one another in it without any risk of detection.

"Well, Lady Jane," said the Baronet, sitting down before that handsome
woman, and her husband the General, so as to interrupt a conjugal
_tête-à-tête_, probably a particularly affectionate one, for he was to
leave for London next day. "I saw you converse with Monsieur
Varbarriere. What do you think of him?"

"I don't think I conversed with him--did I? He talked to me; but I
really did not take the trouble to think about him."

The General laughed triumphantly, and glanced over his shoulder at the
Baronet. He liked his wife's contempt for the rest of the sex, and her
occasional--_only_ occasional--enthusiasm for him.

"Now you are much too clever, Lady Jane, to be let off so. I really want
to know something about him, which I don't at present; and if anyone can
help me to a wise conjecture, you, I am certain, can."

"And don't you really know who he is?" inquired General Lennox, with a
haughty military surprise.

"Upon my honour, I have not the faintest idea," answered Sir Jekyl. "He
may be a cook or a rabbi, for anything I can tell."

The General's white eyebrows went some wrinkles up the slanting ascent
of his pink forehead, and he plainly looked his amazement that Lady Jane
should have been subjected at Marlowe to the risk of being accosted on
equal terms by a cook or a rabbi. His lips screwed themselves
unconsciously into a small o, and his eyes went in search of the
masquerading menial.

"We had a cook," said the General, still eyeing M. Varbarriere, "at
Futtychur, a French fellow, fat like that, but shorter--a capital cook,
by Jove! and a very gentlemanly man. He wore a white cap, and he had a
very good way of stewing tomatas and turkeys, I think it was, and--yes
it was--and a monstrous gentlemanlike fellow he was; rather too
expensive though; he cost us a great deal," and the General winked
slyly. "I had to speak to him once or twice. But an uncommon
gentlemanlike man."

"He's not a cook, my dear. He may be a banker, perhaps," said Lady Jane,
languidly.

"You have exactly hit my idea," said Sir Jekyl. "It was his knowing all
about French banking, General, when you mentioned that trick that was
played you on the Bourse."

At this moment the massive form and face of M. Varbarriere was seen
approaching with Beatrix by his side. They were conversing, but the
little group we have just been listening to dropped the discussion of M.
Varbarriere, and the Baronet said that he hoped General Lennox would
have a fine day for his journey, and that the moon looked particularly
bright and clear.

"I want to show Monsieur Varbarriere the drawings of the house, papa;
they are in this cabinet. He admires the architecture very much."

The large enchanter in black made a solemn bow of acquiescence here, but
said nothing and Beatrix took from its nook a handsome red-leather
portfolio, on the side of which, in tall golden letters, were the
words--

          VIEWS AND ELEVATIONS
                   OF
          MARLOWE MANOR HOUSE.
             PAULO ABRUZZI,
               ARCHITECT.
                 1711.

"Capital drawing, I am told. He was a young man of great promise," said
Sir Jekyl, in French. "But the style is quite English, and, I fear, will
hardly interest an eye accustomed to the more graceful contour of
southern continental architecture."

"Your English style interests me very much. It is singular, and suggests
hospitality, enjoyment, and mystery."

Monsieur Varbarriere was turning over these tinted drawings carefully.

"Is not that very true, papa--hospitality, enjoyment, mystery?" repeated
Beatrix. "I think that faint character of mystery is so pleasant. We
have a mysterious room here." She had turned to M. Varbarriere.

"Oh, a dozen," interrupted Sir Jekyl. "No end of ghosts and devils, you
know. But I really think you excel us in that article. I resided for
five weeks in a haunted house once, near Havre, and the stories were
capital, and there were some very good noises too. We must get Dives to
tell it by-and-by; he was younger than I, and more frightened."

"And Mademoiselle says you have a haunted apartment here," said the
ponderous foreigner with the high forehead and projecting brows.

"Yes, of course. We are very much haunted. There is hardly a crooked
passage or a dark room that has not a story," said Sir Jekyl. "Beatrix,
why don't you sing us a song, by-the-bye?"

"May I beg one other favour first, before the crowning one of the song?"
said M. Varbarriere, with an imposing playfulness. "Mademoiselle, I am
sure, tells a story well. Which, I entreat, is the particular room you
speak of?"

"We call it the green chamber," said Beatrix.

"The green chamber--what a romantic title!" exclaimed the large
gentleman in black, graciously; "and where is it situated?" he pursued.

"We must really put you into it," said Sir Jekyl.

"Nothing I should like so well," he observed, with a bow.

"That is, of course, whenever it is deserted. You have not been plagued
with apparitions, General? Even Lady Jane--and there are no ghost-seers
like ladies, I've observed--has failed to report anything horrible."

His hand lay on the arm of her chair, and, as he spoke, for a moment
pressed hers, which, not choosing to permit such accidents, she, turning
carelessly and haughtily toward the other speakers, slipped away.



CHAPTER XIV.

Music.


"And pray, Mademoiselle Marlowe, in what part of the house is this so
wonderful room situated?" persisted the grave and reverend signor.

"Quite out of the question to describe to one who does not already know
the house," interposed Sir Jekyl. "It is next the six-sided
dressing-room, which opens from the hatchment gallery--that is its exact
situation; and I'm afraid I have failed to convey it," said Sir Jekyl,
with one of his playful chuckles.

The Druidic-looking Frenchman shrugged and lifted his fingers with a
piteous expression of perplexity, and shook his head.

"Is there not among these drawings a view of the side of the house where
this room lies?" he inquired.

"I was looking it out," said Beatrix.

"I'll find it, Trixie. Go you and sing us a song," said the Baronet.

"I've got them both, papa. Now, Monsieur Varbarriere, here they are.
This is the front view--this is the side."

"I am very much obliged," said Monsieur examining the drawings
curiously. "The room recedes. This large bow-window belongs to it. Is
it not so?--wide room?--how long? You see I want to understand
everything. Ah! yes, here is the side view. It projects from the side of
the older building, I see. How charming! And this is the work of the
Italian artist? The style is quite novel--a mixture partly
Florentine--really very elegant. Did he build anything more here?"

"Yes, a very fine row of stables, and a temple in the grounds," said Sir
Jekyl. "You shall see them to-morrow."

"The chamber green. Yes, very clever, very pretty;" and having eyed them
over again carefully, he said, laying them down--

"A curious as well as a handsome old house, no doubt. Ah! very curious,
I dare say," said the sage Monsieur Varbarriere. "Are there here the
ground plans?"

"We have them somewhere, I fancy, among the title-deeds, but none here,"
said Sir Jekyl, a little stiffly, as if it struck him that his visitor's
curiosity was a trifle less ceremonious than, all things considered, it
might be.

Pretty Beatrix was singing now to her own accompaniment; and Captain
Drayton, twisting the end of his light moustache, stood haughtily by her
side. The music in his ear was but a half-heard noise. Indeed, although
he had sat out operas innumerable, like other young gentlemen, who would
sit out as many hours of a knife-grinder's performance, or of a railway
whistle, if it were the fashion, had but an imperfect recollection of
the airs he had paid so handsomely to hear, and was no authority on
music of any sort.

Now Beatrix was pretty--more than pretty. Some people called her lovely.
She sang in that rich and plaintive contralto--so rare and so
inexplicably moving--the famous "Come Gentil," from Don Pasquale. When
she ceased, the gentleman at her other side, Guy Strangways, sighed--not
a complimentary--a real sigh.

"That is a wonderful song, the very spirit of a serenade. Such
distance--such gaiety--such sadness. Your Irish poet, Thomas Moore,
compares some spiritual music or kind voice to sunshine spoken. This is
_moonlight_--moonlight _sung_, and _so_ sung that I could dream away
half a life in listening, and yet sigh when it ceases."

Mr. Guy Strangway's strange, dark eyes looked full on her, as with an
admiring enthusiasm he said these words.

The young lady smiled, looking up for a moment from the music-stool, and
then with lowered eyes again, and that smile of gratification which is
so beautiful in a lovely girl's face.

"It is quite charming, really. I'm no musician, you know; but I enjoy
good music extravagantly, especially singing," said Captain Drayton. "I
don't aspire to talk sentiment and that kind of poetry." He was,
perhaps, near using a stronger term--"a mere John Bull; but it _is_,
honestly, charming."

He had his glass in his eye, and turned back the leaf of the song to the
title-page.

"Don Pasquale--yes. Sweet opera that. How often I have listened to
Mario in it! But never, Miss Marlowe, with more real pleasure than to
the charming performance I have just heard."

Captain Drayton was not making his compliment well, and felt it somehow.
It was clumsy--it was dull--it was meant to override the tribute offered
by Guy Strangways, whose presence he chose, in modern phrase, to ignore;
and yet he felt that he had, as he would have expressed it, rather "put
his foot in it;" and, with just a little flush in his cheek and rather
angry eyes, he stooped over the piano and read the Italian words half
aloud.

"By-the-bye," he said, suddenly recollecting a topic, "what a sweet
scene that is of Gryston Bridge? Have you ever been to see it before?"

"Once since we came, we rode there, papa and I," answered Miss Marlowe.
"It looked particularly well this evening--quite beautiful in the
moonlight."

"Is it possible, Miss Marlowe, that _you_ were there this evening? I and
my uncle stopped on our way here to admire the exquisite effect of the
steep old bridge, with a wonderful foreground of Druidic monuments, as
they seemed to me."

"Does your father preserve that river?" asked Captain Drayton, coolly
pretermitting Mr. Strangways altogether.

"I really don't know," she replied, in a slight and hurried way that
nettled the Captain; and, turning to Guy Strangways, she said, "Did you
see it _from_ the bridge?"

"No, Mademoiselle; from the mound in which those curious stones are
raised," answered Mr. Strangways.

Captain Drayton felt that Miss Marlowe's continuing to talk to Mr.
Strangways, while _he_ was present and willing to converse, was
extremely offensive, choosing to entertain a low opinion in all respects
of that person. He stooped a little forward, and stared at the stranger
with that ill-bred gaze of insolent surprise which is the peculiar
weapon of Englishmen, and which very distinctly expresses, "who the
devil are you?"

Perhaps it was fortunate for the harmony of the party that just at this
moment, and before Captain Drayton could say anything specially
impertinent, Sir Jekyl touched Drayton on the shoulder, saying--

"Are you for whist?"

"No, thanks--I'm no player."

"Oh! Mr. Strangways--I did not see--do _you_ play?"

Mr. Strangways smiled, bowed, and shook his head.

"Drayton, did I present you to Mr. Strangways?" and the Baronet made the
two young gentlemen technically known to one another--though, of course,
each knew the other already.

They bowed rather low, and a little haughtily, neither smiling. I
suppose Sir Jekyl saw something a little dangerous in the countenance of
one at least of the gentlemen as he approached, and chose to remind
them, in that agreeable way, that he was present, and wished them
acquainted, and of course friendly.

He had now secured old Colonel Doocey to make up his party--the sober
old Frenchman and Sir Paul Blunket making the supplementary two; and
before they had taken their chairs round the card-table, Captain Drayton
said, with a kind of inclination rather insolent than polite--

"You are of the Dilbury family, of course? I never knew a Strangways
yet--I mean, of course, a Strangways such as one would be likely to
meet, you know--who was not."

"You know one now, sir; for I am not connected ever so remotely with
that distinguished family. My family are quite another Strangways."

"No doubt quite as respectable," said Captain Drayton, with a bow, a
look, and a tone that would have passed for deferential with many; but
which, nevertheless, had the subtle flavour of an irony in it.

"Perhaps more so; my ancestors are the Strangways of Lynton; you are
aware they had a peerage down to the reign of George II."

Captain Drayton was not as deep as so fashionable and moneyed a man
ought to have been in extinct peerages, and therefore he made a little
short supercilious bow, and no answer. He looked drowsily toward the
ceiling, and then--

"The Strangways of Lynton are on the Continent or something--one does
not hear of them," said Captain Drayton, slightly but grandly. "We are
the Draytons of Drayton Forest, in the same county."

"Oh! then my uncle is misinformed. He thought that family was extinct,
and lamented over it when we saw the house and place at a distance."

Captain Drayton coloured a little above his light yellow moustache. He
was no Drayton, but a remotely collateral Smithers, with a queen's
letter constituting him a Drayton.

"Aw--yes--it is a fine old place--quite misinformed. I can show you our
descent if you wish it."

If Drayton had collected his ideas a little first he would not have made
this condescension.

"Your descent is high and pure--_very_ high, I assume--mine is only
respectable--presentable, as you say, but by no means so high as to
warrant my inquiring into that of other people."

"Inquiry! of course. I did not say inquiry," and with an effort Captain
Drayton almost laughed.

"Nothing more dull," acquiesced Mr. Strangways slightly.

Both gentlemen paused--each seemed to expect something from the
other--each seemed rather angrily listening for it. The ostensible
attack had all been on the part of the gallant Captain, who certainly
had not been particularly well bred. The Captain, nevertheless, felt
that Mr. Strangways knew perfectly all about Smithers, and that Smithers
really had not one drop of the Drayton blood in his veins; and he felt
in the sore and secret centre of his soul that the polished, handsome
young gentleman, so easy, so graceful, with that suspicion of a foreign
accent and of foreign gesture, had the best of the unavowed battle. He
had never spoken a word or looked a look in the course of this little
dialogue which could have suggested an idea of altercation, or any kind
of mutual unpleasantness, to the beautiful young girl; who, with one
hand on the keys of the piano, touched them so lightly with her fingers
as to call forth a dream of an air rather than the air itself.

To her Guy Strangways turned, with his peculiar smile--so winning, yet
so deep--an enigmatic smile that had in it a latent sadness and
fierceness, and by its very ambiguousness interested one.

"I upbraid myself for losing these precious moments while you sit here,
and might, perhaps, be persuaded to charm us with another song."

So she was persuaded; Captain Drayton still keeping guard, and
applauding, though with no special goodwill toward the unoffending
stranger.

The party broke up early. The ladies trooped to their bed-room candles
and ascended the great staircase, chatting harmoniously, and bidding
mutual sweet goodnights as in succession they reached their doors. The
gentlemen, having sat for awhile lazily about the fire, or gathered
round the tray whereon stood sherry and seltzer water, repaired also to
the cluster of bedchamber candlesticks without, and helped themselves,
talking together in like sociable manner.

"Would you like to come to my room and have a cigar, Monsieur
Varbarriere?" asked the Baronet in French.

Monsieur was much obliged, and bowed very suavely, but declined.

"And you, Mr. Strangways?"

He also, with many thanks, a smile and a bow, declined.

"My quarters are quite out of reach of the inhabited part of the
house--not very far from two hundred feet from this spot, by Jove! right
in the rear. You must really come to me there some night; you'll be
amused at my deal furniture and rustic barbarism; we often make a party
there and smoke for half an hour."

So, as they were not to be persuaded, the Baronet hospitably accompanied
them to their rooms, at the common dressing-room door of which stood
little Jacque Duval with his thin, bronzed face, candle in hand, bowing,
to receive his master.



CHAPTER XV.

M. Varbarriere converses with his Nephew.


Here then Sir Jekyl bid them good-night, and descended the great
staircase, and navigated the long line of passage to the back stairs
leading up to his own homely apartment.

The elder man nodded to Jacque, and moved the tips of his fingers
towards the door--a silent intimation which the adroit valet perfectly
understood; so, with a cheerful bow, he withdrew.

There was a gay little spluttering fire in the grate, which the
sharpness of the night made very pleasant. The clumsy door was shut, and
the room had an air of comfortable secrecy which invited a talk.

It was not to come, however, without preparation. He drew a chair before
the fire, and sat down solemnly, taking a gigantic cigar from his case,
and moistening it diligently between his lips before lighting it. Then
he pointed to a chair beside the hearth, and presented his cigar-case to
his young companion, who being well versed in his elder's ways, helped
himself, and having, like him, foreign notions about smoking, had of
course no remorse about a cigar or two in their present quarters.

Up the chimney chiefly whisked the narcotic smoke. Over the ponderous
features and knotted forehead of the sage flushed the uncertain light of
the fire, revealing all the crows' feet--all the lines which years,
thought, passion, or suffering had traced on that large, sombre, and
somewhat cadaverous countenance, reversing oddly some of its shadows,
and glittering with a snakelike brightness on the eyes, which now gazed
grimly into the bars under their heavy brows.

The large and rather flat foot, shining in French leather, of the portly
gentleman in the ample black velvet waistcoat, rested on the fender, and
he spoke not a word until his cigar was fairly smoked out and the stump
of it in the fire. Abruptly he began, without altering his pose or the
direction of his gaze.

"You need not make yourself more friendly with any person here than is
absolutely necessary."

He was speaking French, and in a low tone that sounded like the boom of
a distant bell.

Young Strangways bowed acquiescence.

"Be on your guard with Sir Jekyl Marlowe. Tell him _nothing_. Don't let
him be kind to you. He will have no kind motive in being so. Fence with
his questions--don't answer them. Remember he is an artful man without
any scruple. I know him and all about him."

M. Varbarriere spoke each of these little sentences in an isolated way,
as a smoker might, although he was no longer smoking, between his puffs.
"Therefore, not a word to him--no obligations--no intimacy. If he
catches you by the hand, even by your little finger, in the way of
friendship, he'll cling to it, so as so impede your _arm_, should it
become necessary to exert it."

"I don't understand you, sir," said the young man, in a deferential
tone, but looking very hard at him.

"You _partly_ don't understand me; the nature of my direction, however,
is clear. Observe it strictly."

There was a short silence here.

"I don't understand, sir, what covert hostility can exist between us;
that is, why I should, in your phrase, keep my hand free to exert it
against him."

"No, I don't suppose you do."

"And I can't help regretting that, if such are our possible relations, I
should find myself as a guest under his roof," said the young man, with
a pained and almost resentful look.

"You can't help regretting, and--you can't help the circumstance,"
vibrated his Mentor, in a metallic murmur, his cadaverous features
wearing the same odd character of deep thought and apathy.

"I don't know, with respect to _him_--I know, however, how it has
affected me--that I have felt unhappy, and even guilty since this
journey commenced, as if I were a traitor and an impostor," said the
young man, with a burst of impatience.

"Don't, sir, use phrases which reflect back upon _me_," said the other,
turning upon him with a sudden sternness. "All you have done is by my
direction."

The ample black waistcoat heaved and subsided a little faster than
before, and the imposing countenance was turned with pallid fierceness
upon the young man.

"I am sorry, uncle."

"So you should--you'll see one day how little it is to me, and how much
to you."

Here was a pause. The senior turned his face again toward the fire. The
little flush that in wrath always touched his forehead subsided slowly.
He replaced his foot on the fender, and chose another cigar.

"There's a great deal you don't see now that you will presently. I did
not want to see Sir Jekyl Marlowe any more than you did or do; but I did
want to see this place. You'll know hereafter why. I'd rather not have
met him. I'd rather not be his guest. Had he been as usual at Dartbroke,
I should have seen all I wanted without that annoyance. It is an
accident his being here--another, his having invited me; but no false
ideas and no trifling chance shall regulate, much less stop, the action
of the machine which I am constructing and will soon put in motion."

And with these words he lighted his cigar, and after smoking for a while
he lowered it, and said--

"Did Sir Jekyl put any questions to you, with a view to learn
particulars about you or me?"

"I don't recollect that he did. I rather think not; but Captain Drayton
did."

"I know, _Smithers_?"

"Yes, sir."

"With an object?" inquired the elder man.

"I think not--merely impertinence," answered Guy Strangways.

"You are right--it is nothing to him. I do not know that even Marlowe
has a suspicion. Absolutely impertinence."

And upon this M. Varbarriere began to smoke again with resolution and
energy.

"You understand, Guy; you may be as polite as you please--but no
friendship--nowhere--you must remain quite unembarrassed."

Here followed some more smoke, and after it the question--

"What do you think of the young lady, Mademoiselle Marlowe?"

"She sings charmingly, and for the rest, I believe she is agreeable; but
my opportunities have been very little."

"What do you think of our fellow Jacque--is he trustworthy?"

"Perfectly, so far as I know."

"You never saw him peep into letters, or that kind of thing?"

"Certainly not."

"There is a theory which must be investigated, and I should like to
employ him. You know nothing against him, nor do I."

"Suppose we go to our beds?" resumed the old gentleman, having finished
his cigar.

A door at either side opened from the dressing-room, by whose fire they
had been sitting.

"See which room is meant for me--Jacque will have placed my things
there."

The young man did as he was bid, and made his report.

"Well, get you to bed, Guy, and remember--no friendships and no
follies."

And so the old man rose, and shook his companion's hand, not smiling,
but with a solemn and thoughtful countenance, and they separated for the
night.

Next morning as the Rev. Dives Marlowe stood in his natty and
unexceptionable clerical costume on the hall-door steps, looking with a
pompous and, perhaps, a somewhat forbidding countenance upon the morning
prospect before him, his brother joined him.

"Early bird, Dives, pick the worm--eh? Healthy and wise already, and
wealthy to be. Slept well, eh?"

"Always well here," answered the parson. He was less of a parson and
more like himself with Jekyl than with anyone else. His brother was so
uncomfortably amused with his clerical airs, knew him so well, and so
undisguisedly esteemed him of the earth earthy, that the cleric,
although the abler as well as the better read man, always felt
invariably a little sheepish before him, in his silk vest and
single-breasted coat with the standing collar, and the demi-shovel,
which under other eyes he felt to be imposing properties.

"You look so like that exemplary young man in Watt's hymns, in the
old-fashioned toggery, Dives--the fellow with the handsome round
cheeks, you know, piously saluting the morning sun that's rising with a
lot of spokes stuck out of it, don't you remember?"

"I look like something that's ugly, I dare say," said the parson, who
had not got up in a good temper. "There never was a Marlowe yet who
hadn't ugly points about him. But a young man, though never so ugly, is
rather a bold comparison--eh? seeing I'm but two years your junior,
Jekyl."

"Bitterly true--every word--my dear boy. But let us be pleasant. I've
had a line to say that old Moulders is very ill, and really dying this
time. Just read this melancholy little bulletin."

With an air which seemed to say, "well, to please you," he took the note
and read it. It was from his steward, to mention that the Rev. Abraham
Moulders was extremely ill of his old complaint, and that there was
something even worse the matter, and that Doctor Winters had said that
morning he could not possibly get over this attack.

"Well, Dives, there is a case of 'sick and weak' for you; you'll have
prayers for him at Queen's Chorleigh, eh?"

"Poor old man!" said Dives, solemnly, with his head thrown back, and his
thick eyebrows elevated a little, and looking straight before him as he
returned the note, "he's very ill, indeed, unless this reports much too
unfavourably."

"Too favourably, you mean," suggested the Baronet.

"But you know, poor old man, it is only wonderful he has lived so long.
The old people about there say he is eighty-seven. Upon my word, old
Jenkins says he told him, two years ago, himself, he was eighty-five;
and Doctor Winters, no chicken--just sixty--says his father was in the
same college with him, at Cambridge, nearly sixty-seven years ago. You
know, my dear Jekyl, when a man comes to that time of life, it's all
idle--a mere pull against wind and tide, and everything. It is appointed
unto all men once to die, you know, and the natural term is threescore
years and ten. All idle--all in vain!"

And delivering this, the Rev. Dives Marlowe shook his head with a
supercilious melancholy, as if the Rev. Abraham Moulders' holding out in
that way against the inevitable was a piece of melancholy bravado,
against which, on the part of modest mortality, it was his sad duty to
protest.

Jekyl's cynicism was tickled, although there was care at his heart, and
he chuckled.

"And how do you know you have any interest in the old fellow's demise?"

The Rector coughed a little, and flushed, and looked as careless as he
could, while he answered--

"I said nothing of the kind; but you have always told me you meant the
living for me. I've no reason, only your goodness, Jekyl."

"No goodness at all," said Jekyl, kindly. "You shall have it, of course.
I always meant it for you, Dives, and I wish it were better, and I'm
very glad, for I'm fond of you, old fellow."

Hereupon they both laughed a little, shaking hands very kindly.

"Come to the stable, Dives," said the Baronet, taking his arm. "You must
choose a horse. You don't hunt now?"

"I have not been at a cover for _ten_ years," answered the reverend
gentleman, speaking with a consciousness of the demi-shovel.

"Well, come along," continued the Baronet. "I want to ask you--let's be
serious" (everybody likes to be serious over his own business). "What do
you think of these foreign personages?"

"The elder, I should say, an able man," answered Dives; "I dare say
could be agreeable. It is not easy to assign his exact rank though, nor
his profession or business. You remarked he seems to know something in
detail and technically of nearly every business one mentions."

"Yes; and about the young man--that Mr. Guy Strangways, with his foreign
accent and manner--did anything strike you about him?"

"Yes, certainly, could not fail. The most powerful likeness, I think, I
ever saw in my life."

They both stopped, and exchanged a steady and anxious look, as if each
expected the other to say more; and after a while the Rev. Dives Marlowe
added, with an awful sort of nod--

"Guy Deverell."

The Baronet nodded in reply.

"Well, in fact, he appeared to me something _more_ than like--the
same--identical."

"And old Lady Alice saw him in Wardlock Church, and was made quite
ill," said the Baronet gloomily. "But you know he's gone these thirty
years; and there is no necromancy now-a-days; only I wish you would take
any opportunity, and try and make out all about him, and what they want.
I brought them here to pump them, by Jove; but that old fellow seems
deuced reserved and wary. Only, like a good fellow, if you can find or
make an opportunity, you must get the young fellow on the subject--for I
don't care to tell you, Dives, I have been devilish uneasy about it.
There are things that make me confoundedly uncomfortable; and I have a
sort of foreboding it would have been better for me to have blown up
this house than to have come here; but ten to one--a hundred to
one--there's nothing, and I'm only a fool."

As they thus talked they entered the gate of the stable-yard.



CHAPTER XVI.

Containing a Variety of Things.


"Guy Deverell left no issue," said Dives.

"No; none in the world; neither chick nor child. I need not care a brass
farthing about any that can't inherit, if there were any; but there
isn't one; there's no real danger, you see. In fact, there _can't_ be
_any_--eh? _I_ don't see it. Do _you_? You were a sharp fellow always,
Dives. _Can_ you see anything threatening in it?"

"_It! What?_" said the Rev. Dives Marlowe. "I see _nothing--nothing
whatever--absolutely_ nothing. Surely you can't fancy that a mere
resemblance, however strong, where there can't possibly be identity, and
the fact that the young man's name is Guy, will make a case for alarm!"

"Guy _Strangways_, you know," said Sir Jekyl.

"Well, what of Strangways? I don't see."

"Why, Strangways, you remember, or _don't_ remember, was the name of the
fellow that was always with--with--that cross-grained muff."

"With Guy Deverell, you mean?"

"Ay, with him that night, and constantly, and abroad I think at those
German gaming-places where he played so much."

"I forgot the name. I remember hearing there _was_ a person in your
company that unlucky night; but you never heard more of him?"

"No, of course; for he owed me a precious lot of money;" and from habit
he chuckled, but with something of a frown. "He could have given me a
lot of trouble, but so could I him. My lawyers said he could not
seriously affect me, but he might have annoyed me; and I did not care
about the money, so I did not follow him; and, as the lawyers say, we
turned our backs on one another."

"Strangways," murmured the Rector, musingly.

"Do you remember him now?" asked Sir Jekyl.

"No; that is, I'm not sure. I was in orders then though, and could
hardly have met him. I am sure I should recollect him if I had. What was
he like?"

"A nasty-looking Scotch dog, with freckles--starved and tall--a hungry
hound--large hands and feet--as ugly a looking cur as you ever beheld."

"But Deverell, poor fellow, was a bit of a dandy--wasn't he? How did he
come to choose such a companion?"

"Well, maybe he was not quite as bad as he describes, and his family was
good, I believe; but there must have been something more, he hung about
him so. Yes, he _was_ a most objectionable-looking fellow--so awkward,
and not particularly well dressed; but a canny rascal, and knew what he
was about. I could not make out what use Deverell made of him, nor
exactly what advantage he made of Deverell."

"I can't for the life of me, see, Jekyl, anything in it except a
resemblance, and that is positively nothing, and a Christian name, that
is all, and Guy is no such uncommon one. As for Strangways, he does not
enter into it at all--a mere accidental association. Where is that
Strangways--is he living?"

"I don't know now; ten years ago he was, and Pelter and Crowe thought he
was going to do me some mischief, a prosecution or something, they
thought, to extort money; but I knew they were wrong. I had a reason--at
least it was unlikely, because I rather think he had repaid me that
money about then. A year or so before a large sum of money was lodged to
my account by Herbert Strangways, that was his name, at the
International Bank in Lombard Street; in fact it was more than I thought
he owed me--interest, I suppose, and that sort of thing. I put Pelter
and Crowe in his track, but they could make out nothing. The bank people
could not help us. Unluckily I was away at the time and the lodgment was
two months old when I heard of it. There were several raw Scotch-looking
rascals, they said, making lodgments about then, and they could not tell
exactly what sort of fellow made this. I wanted to make out about him.
What do you think of it?"

"I don't see anything suspicious in it. He owed you the money and chose
to pay."

"He was protected by the Statute of Limitations, my lawyer said, and I
could not have recovered it. Doesn't it look odd?"

"Those Scotch fellows."

"He's not Scotch, though."

"Well, whatever he is, if he has good blood he's proud, perhaps, and
would rather pay what he owes than not."

"Well, of course, a fellow's glad of the money; but I did not like it;
it looked as if he wanted to get rid of the only pull I had on him, and
was going to take steps to annoy me, you see."

"That's ten years ago?"

"Yes."

"Well, considering how short life is, I think he'd have moved before now
if he had ever thought of it. It is a quarter of a _century_ since poor
Deverell's time. It's a good while, you know, and the longer you wait in
matters of that kind the less your chance;" and with a brisk decision
the Rector added, "I'll stake, I think, all I'm worth, these people have
no more connection with poor Deverell than Napoleon Bonaparte, and that
Strangways has no more notion of moving any matter connected with that
unhappy business than he has of leading an Irish rebellion."

"I'm glad you take that view--I know it's the sound one. I knew you
_would_. I think it's just a little flicker of gout. If I had taken
Vichy on my way back I'd never have thought of it. I've no one to talk
to. It's a comfort to see you, Dives. I wish you'd come oftener." And he
placed his hand very kindly on his brother's shoulder.

"So I will," said Dives, not without kindness in his eyes, though his
mouth was forbidding still. "You must not let chimeras take hold of you.
I'm very glad I was here."

"Did you remark that fat, mountainous French fellow, in that cursed suit
of black, was very inquisitive about the green chamber?" asked Sir
Jekyl, relapsing a little.

"No, I did not hear him mention it; what was it?" asked Dives.

"Well, not a great deal; only he seemed to want to know all about that
particular room and its history, just as if there was already something
in his head about it."

"Well, I told you, Jekyl," said Dives, in a subdued tone and looking
away a little, "you ought to do something decisive about that room, all
things considered. If it were mine, I can tell you, I should pull it
down--not, of course, in such a way as to make people talk and ask
questions, but as a sort of improvement. I'd make a conservatory, or
something; you _want_ a conservatory, and the building is positively
injured by it. It is not the same architecture. You might put something
there twice as good. At all events I'd get rid of it."

"So I will--I _intend_--I think you're right--I really do. But it was
brought about by little Beatrix talking about haunted rooms, you know,
and that sort of nonsense," said Sir Jekyl.

"Oh! then she mentioned it? He only asked questions about what she told
him. Surely you're not going to vex yourself about that?"

Sir Jekyl looked at him and laughed, but not quite comfortably.

"Well, I told you, you know, I do believe it's great; and whatever it
is, I know, Dives, you've done me a great deal of good. Come, now, I've
a horse I think you'll like, and you shall have him; try him to-day, and
I'll send him home for you if he suits you."

While the groom was putting up the horse, Sir Jekyl, who was quick and
accurate of eye, recognised the dark-faced, intelligent little valet,
whom he had seen for a moment, candle in hand, at the dressing-room
door, last night, to receive his guests.

With a deferential smile, and shrug, and bow, all at once, this little
gentleman lifted his cap with one hand, removing his German pipe with
the other.

He had been a courier--clever, active, gay--a man who might be trusted
with money, papers, diamonds. Beside his native French, he spoke English
very well, and a little German. He could keep accounts, and write a neat
little foreign hand with florid capitals. He could mend his own clothes,
and even his shoes. He could play the flute a little, and very much the
fiddle. He was curious, and liked to know what was taking place. He
liked a joke and the dance, and was prone to the tender passion, and
liked, in an honest way, a little bit of intrigue, or even espionage.
Such a man he was as I could fancy in a light company of that marvellous
army of Italy, of which Napoleon I. always spoke with respect and
delight.

In the stable-yard, as I have said, the Baronet found this dark sprite
smoking a German pipe; and salutations having been exchanged, he bid him
try instead two of his famous cigars, which he presented, and then he
questioned him on tobacco, and on his family, the theatres, the
railways, the hotels; and finally Sir Jekyl said,

"I wish you could recollect a man like yourself--I want one
confoundedly. I shall be going abroad in August next year, and I'd give
him five thousand francs a year, or more even, with pleasure, and keep
him probably as long as he liked to stay with me. Try if you can
remember such a fellow. Turn it over in your mind--do you see? and I
don't care how soon he comes into my service."

The man lifted his cap again, and bowed even lower, as he undertook to
"turn it over in his mind;" and though he smiled a great deal, it was
plain his thoughts were already seriously employed in turning the
subject over, as requested by the Baronet.

Next morning M. Varbarriere took a quiet opportunity, in the hall, of
handing to his host two letters of introduction, as they are called--one
from the Baronet's old friend, Charteris, attached to the embassy at
Paris--a shrewd fellow, a man of the world, amphibious, both French and
English, and equally at home on either soil--speaking unmistakably in
high terms of M. Varbarriere as of a gentleman very much respected in
very high quarters. The other was equally handsome. But Charteris was
exactly the man whose letter in such a case was to be relied upon.

The Baronet glanced over these, and said he was very glad to hear from
his friend Charteris--the date was not a week since--but laughed at the
formality, regretting that he had not a note from Charteris to present
in return, and then gracefully quoted an old French distich, the
sentiment of which is that "chivalry proclaims itself, and the gentleman
is no more to be mistaken than the rose," and proceeded to ask his
guest, "How is Charteris--he had hurt his wrist when I saw him last--and
is there any truth in the report about his possible alliance with that
rich widow?" and so forth.

When Sir Jekyl got into his sanctum I am afraid he read both letters
with a very microscopic scrutiny, and he resolved inwardly to write a
very sifting note to Charteris, and put it upon him, as an act of
friendship, to make out every detail of the past life and adventures of
M. Varbarriere, and particularly whether he had any young kinsman,
nephew or otherwise, answering a certain description, all the items of
which he had by rote.

But writing of letters is to some people a very decided bore. The
Baronet detested it, and his anxieties upon these points being
intermittent, the interrogatories were not so soon despatched to his
friend Charteris.

Old General Lennox was away for London this morning; and his host took a
seat beside him in the brougham that was to convey him to the station,
and was dropped on the way at the keeper's lodge, when he bid a kind and
courteous adieu to his guest, whom he charged to return safe and soon,
and kissed his hand, and waved it after the florid smiling countenance
and bushy white eyebrows that were protruded from the carriage-window as
it glided away.

"You can manage it all in a day or two, can't you?" said the Baronet,
cordially, as he held the General's wrinkled hand, with its knobby and
pink joints, in his genial grasp. "We positively won't give you more
than three days' leave. Capital shooting when you come back. I'm going
to talk it over with the keeper here--that is, if you come back before
we've shot them all."

"Oh! yes, hang it, you must leave a bird or two for me," laughed the
General, and he bawled the conclusion of the joke as the vehicle drove
away; but Sir Jekyl lost it.

Sir Jekyl was all the happier for his morning's talk with his brother.
An anxiety, if only avowed and discussed, is so immensely lightened; but
Dives had scouted the whole thing so peremptorily that the Baronet was
positively grateful. Dives was a wise and clear-headed fellow. It was
delightful his taking so decided a view. And was it not on reflection
manifestly, even to him, the sound view?



CHAPTER XVII.

The Magician Draws a Diagram.


The Baronet approached Marlowe Manor on the side at which the stables
and out-offices lie, leaving which to his left, he took his way by the
path through the wood which leads to the terrace-walk that runs parallel
to the side of the old house on which the green chamber lies.

On this side the lofty timber approaches the walks closely, and the
green enclosure is but a darkened strip and very solitary. Here, when
Sir Jekyl emerged, he saw M. Varbarriere standing on the grass, and
gazing upward in absorbed contemplation of the building, which on the
previous evening seemed to have excited his curiosity so unaccountably.

He did not hear the Baronet's approaching step on the grass. Sir Jekyl
felt both alarmed and angry; for although it was but natural that his
guest should have visited the spot and examined the building, it yet
seemed to him, for the moment, like the act of a spy.

"Disappointed, I'm afraid," said he. "I told you that addition was the
least worth looking at of all the parts of this otherwise ancient
house."

He spoke with a sort of sharpness that seemed quite uncalled for; but it
was unnoticed.

M. Varbarriere bowed low and graciously.

"I am much interested--every front of this curious and handsome house
interests me. This indeed, as you say, is a good deal spoiled by that
Italian incongruity--still it is charming--the contrast is as beautiful
frequently as the harmony--and I am perplexed."

"Some of my friends tell me it spoils the house so much I ought to pull
it down, and I have a great mind to do so. Have you seen the lake? I
should be happy to show it to you if you will permit me."

The Baronet, as he spoke, was, from time to time, slyly searching the
solemn and profound face of the stranger; but could find there no clue
to the spirit of his investigation. There was no shrinking--no
embarrassment--no consciousness. He might as well have looked on the
awful surface of the sea, in the expectation of discovering there the
secrets of its depths.

M. Varbarriere, with a profusion of gratitude, regretted that he could
not just then visit the lake, as he had several letters to write; and so
he and his host parted smiling at the hall-door; and the Baronet, as he
pursued his way, felt some stirrings of that mental dyspepsia which had
troubled him of late.

"The old fellow had not been in the house two hours," such was his train
of thought, "when he was on the subject of that green chamber, in the
parlour and in the drawing-room--again and again recurring to it; and
here he was just now, alone, absorbed, and gazing up at its windows, as
if he could think of nothing else!"

Sir Jekyl felt provoked, and almost as if he would like a crisis; and
half regretted that he had not asked him--"Pray can I give you any
information; is there anything you particularly want to know about that
room? question me as you please, you shall see the room--you shall sleep
in it if you like, so soon as it is vacant. Pray declare yourself, and
say what you want."

But second thoughts are said to be best, if not always wisest; and this
brief rehearing of the case against his repose ended in a "dismiss," as
before. It was so natural, and indeed inevitable, that he should himself
inspect the original of those views which he had examined the night
before with interest, considering that, being a man who cared not for
the gun or the fishing-rod, and plainly without sympathies with either
georgics or bucolics, he had not many other ways of amusing himself in
these country quarters.

M. Varbarriere, in the meantime, had entered his chamber. I suppose he
was amused, for so soon as he closed the door he smiled with a
meditative sneer. It was not a fiendish one, not even moderately wicked;
but a sneer is in the countenance what irony is in the voice, and never
pleasant.

If the Baronet had seen the expression of M. Varbarriere's countenance
as he sat down in his easy-chair, he would probably have been much
disquieted--perhaps not without reason.

M. Varbarriere was known in his own neighbourhood as a dark and
inflexible man, but with these reservations kind; just in his dealings,
bold in enterprise, and charitable, but not on impulse, with a due
economy of resource, and a careful measurement of desert; on the whole,
a man to be respected and a little feared, but a useful citizen.

Instead of writing letters as, of course, he had intended, M.
Varbarriere amused himself by making a careful little sketch on a leaf
of his pocket-book. It seemed hardly worth all the pains he bestowed
upon it; for, after all, it was but a parallelogram with a projecting
segment of a circle at one end, and a smaller one at the side, and he
noted his diagram with figures, and pondered over it with a thoughtful
countenance, and made, after a while, a little cross at one end of it,
and then fell a-whistling thoughtfully, and nodded once or twice, as a
thought struck him; and then he marked another cross at one of its
sides, and reflected in like manner over this, and as he thought,
fiddling with his pencil at the foot of the page, he scribbled the word
"hypothesis." Then he put up his pocket-book, and stood listlessly with
his hands in the pockets of his vast black trowsers, looking from the
window, and whistled a little more, the air hurrying sometimes, and
sometimes dragging a good deal, so as to come at times to an actual
standstill.

On turning the corner of the mansion Sir Jekyl found himself on a sudden
in the midst of the ladies of his party, just descending from the
carriages which had driven them round the lake. He was of that gay and
gallant temperament, as the reader is aware, which is fired with an
instantaneous inspiration at sight of this sort of plumage and flutter.

"What a fortunate fellow am I!" exclaimed Sir Jekyl, forgetting in a
moment everything but the sunshine, the gay voices, and the pretty sight
before him. "I had laid myself out for a solitary walk, and lo! I'm in
the midst of a paradise of graces, nymphs, and what not!"

"We have had such a charming drive round the lake," said gay little Mrs.
Maberly.

"The lake never looked so well before, I'm sure. So stocked, at least,
with fresh-water sirens and mermaids. Never did mirror reflect so much
beauty. An instinct, you see, drew me this way. I assure you I was on my
way to the lake; one of those enamoured sprites who sing us tidings in
such tiny voices, we can't distinguish them from our own fancies,
warbled a word in my ear, only a little too late, I suppose."

The Baronet was reciting his admiring nonsense to pretty Mrs. Maberly,
but his eye from time to time wandered to Lady Jane, and rested for a
moment on that haughty beauty, who, with downcast languid eyes, one
would have thought neither heard nor saw him.

This gallant Baronet was so well understood that every lady expected to
hear that kind of tender flattery whenever he addressed himself to the
fair sex. It was quite inevitable, and simply organic and constitutional
as blackbird's whistle and kitten's play, and, in ninety-nine cases out
of a hundred, I am sure, meant absolutely nothing.

"But those sprites always come with a particular message; don't they?"
said old Miss Blunket, smiling archly from the corners of her fierce
eyes. "Don't you think so, Mr. Linnett?"

"You are getting quite above me," answered that sprightly gentleman, who
was growing just a little tired of Miss Blunket's attentions. "I suppose
it's spiritualism. I know nothing about it. What do you say, Lady Jane?"

"I think it very heathen," said Lady Jane, tired, I suppose, of the
subject.

"I like to be heathen, now and then," said Sir Jekyl, in a lower key; he
was by this time beside Lady Jane. "I'd have been a most pious Pagan. As
it is, I can't help worshipping in the Pantheon, and trying sometimes
even to make a proselyte."

"Oh! you wicked creature!" cried little Mrs. Maberly. "I assure you,
Lady Jane, his conversation is quite frightful."

Lady Jane glanced a sweet, rather languid, sidelong smile at the little
lady.

"You'll not get Lady Jane to believe all that mischief of me, Mrs.
Maberly. I appeal for my character to the General."

"But he's hundreds of miles away, and can't hear you," laughed little
Mrs. Maberly, who really meant nothing satirical.

"I forgot; but he'll be back to-morrow or next day," replied Sir Jekyl,
with rather a dry chuckle, "and in the meantime I must do without one, I
suppose. Here we are, Mr. Strangways, all talking nonsense, the
pleasantest occupation on earth. Do come and help us."

This was addressed to Guy Strangways, who with his brother angler,
Captain Doocey, in the picturesque negligence and black wide-awakes of
fishermen, with baskets and rods, approached.

"Only too glad to be permitted to contribute," said the young man,
smiling, and raising his hat.

"And pray permit me, also," said courtly old Doocey. "I could talk it, I
assure you, before he was born. I've graduated in the best schools, and
was a doctor of nonsense before _he_ could speak even a word of sense."

"Not a bad specimen to begin with. Leave your rods and baskets there;
some one will bring them in. Now we are so large a party, you must come
and look at my grapes. I am told my black Hamburgs are the finest in the
world."

So, chatting and laughing, and some in other moods, toward those
splendid graperies they moved, from which, as Sir Jekyl used to
calculate, he had the privilege of eating black Hamburg and other grapes
at about the rate of one shilling each.

"A grapery--how delightful!" cried little Mrs. Maberly.

"I quite agree with you," exclaimed Miss Blunket, who effervesced with a
girlish enthusiasm upon even the most difficult subjects. "It is not the
grapes, though they are so pretty, and a--bacchanalian--no, I don't
mean that--why do you laugh at me so?--but the atmosphere. Don't you
love it? it is so like Lisbon--at least what I fancy it, for I never
was there; but at home, I bring my book there, and enjoy it so. I call
it mock Portugal."

"It has helped to dry her," whispered Linnett so loud in Doocey's ear as
to make that courteous old dandy very uneasy.

It was odd that Sir Jekyl showed no sort of discomfort at sight of Guy
Strangways on his sudden appearance; a thrill he felt indeed whenever he
unexpectedly beheld that handsome and rather singular-looking young
man--a most unpleasant sensation--but although he moved about him like a
resurrection of the past, and an omen of his fate, he yet grew in a sort
of way accustomed to this haunting enigma, and could laugh and talk
apparently quite carelessly in his presence. I have been told of men,
the victims of a spectral illusion, who could move about a saloon, and
smile, and talk, and listen, with their awful tormentor gliding always
about them and spying out all their ways.

Just about this hour the clumsy old carriage of Lady Alice Redcliffe
stood at her hall-door steps, in the small square courtyard of Wardlock
Manor, and the florid iron gates stood wide open, resting on their
piers. The coachman's purple visage looked loweringly round; the
footman, with his staff of office in hand, leaning on the door-post,
gazed with a peevish listlessness through the open gateway across the
road; the near horse had begun to hang his head, and his off-companion
had pawed a considerable hole in Lady Alice's nattily-kept gravel
enclosure. From these signs one might have reasonably conjectured that
these honest retainers, brute and human, had been kept waiting for their
mistress somewhat longer than usual.



CHAPTER XVIII.

Another Guest Prepares to Come.


Lady Alice was at that moment in her bonnet and ample black velvet cloak
and ermines, and the rest of her travelling costume, seated in her
stately parlour, which, like most parlours of tolerably old mansions in
that part of the country, is wainscoted in very black oak. In her own
way Lady Alice evinced at least as much impatience as her dependants out
of doors; she tapped with her foot monotonously upon her carpet; she
opened and shut her black shining leather bag, and plucked at and
rearranged its contents; she tattooed with her pale prolix fingers on
the table; sometimes she sniffed a little; sometimes she muttered. As
often as she fancied a sound, she raised her chin imperiously, and with
a supercilious fixity, stared at the door until expectation had again
expired in disappointment, when she would pluck out her watch, and
glancing disdainfully upon it, exclaim--

"Upon my life!" or, "Very pretty behaviour!"

At last, however, the sound of a vehicle--a "fly" it was--unmistakably
made itself heard at the hall-door, and her ladyship, with a preparatory
shake of her head, as a pugnacious animal shakes its ears, and a "hem,"
and a severe and pallid countenance, sat up, very high and stiffly, in
her chair.

The door opened, and the splendid footman inquired whether her ladyship
would please to see Mrs. Gwynn.

"Show her in," said Lady Alice with a high look and an awful quietude.

And our old friend, Donica, just as thin, pallid, and, in her own way,
self-possessed, entered the room.

"Well, Donica Gwynn, you've come at _last_! you have kept my horses
standing at the door--a thing I never do myself--for three-quarters of
an hour and four minutes!"

Donica Gwynn was sorry; but she could not help it. She explained how the
delay had occurred, and, though respectful, her explanation was curt and
dry in proportion to the sharpness and dryness of her reception.

"Sit down, Donica," said the lady, relenting loftily. "How do you do?"

"Pretty well, I thank your ladyship; and I hope I see _you_ well, my
lady."

"As well as I can ever be, Donica, and that is but poorly. I'm going,
you know, to Marlowe."

"I'm rayther glad on it, my lady."

"And I wish to know _why_?" said Lady Alice.

"I wrote the why and the wherefore, my lady, in my letter," answered the
ex-house-keeper, looking askance on the table, and closing her thin lips
tightly when she had spoken.

"Your letter, my good Donica, it is next to impossible to read, and
quite impossible to understand. What I want to know distinctly is, why
you have urged me so vehemently to go to Marlowe."

"Well, my lady, I thought I said pretty plain it was about my Lady Jane,
the pretty creature you had on visits here, and liked so well, poor
thing; an' it seemed to me she's like to be in danger where she is. I
can't explain how exactly; but General Lennox is gone up to London, and
I think, my lady, you ought to get her out of that unlucky room, where
he has put her; and, at all events, to keep as near to her as you can
yourself, at _all_ times."

"I've listened to you, Donica, and I can't comprehend you. I see you are
hinting at something; but unless you are explicit, I don't see that I
can be of any earthly use."

"You can, my lady--that is, you _may_, if you only do as I say--I
_can't_ explain it more, nor I _won't_," said Donica, peremptorily,
perhaps bitterly.

"There can be no good reason, Donica, for reserve upon a point of so
much moment as you describe this to be. Wherever reserve exists there is
mystery, and wherever mystery--_guilt_."

So said Lady Alice, who was gifted with a spirit of inquiry which was
impatient of disappointment.

"Guilt, indeed!" repeated Gwynn, in an under-key, with a toss of her
head and a very white face; "there's secrets enough in the world, and no
guilt along of 'em."

"What room is it you speak of--the green chamber, is not it?"

"Yes, sure, my lady."

"I think you are all crazed about ghosts and devils over there,"
exclaimed Lady Alice.

"Not much of ghosts, but devils, maybe," muttered Gwynn, oddly, looking
sidelong over the floor.

"It is that room, you say," repeated Lady Alice.

"Yes, my lady, the green chamber."

"Well, what about it--come, woman, did not you sleep for years in that
room?"

"Ay, my lady, a good while."

"And what did you see there?"

"A deal."

"_What_, I say?"

"Well, supposin' I was to say devils," replied Donica.

Lady Alice sneered.

"What did poor Lady Marlowe see there?" demanded Donica, looking with
her odd eyes askance at Lady Alice's carpet, and backing her question
with a nod.

"Well, you know I never heard exactly; but my darling creature was, as
you remember, dying of a consumption at the time, and miserably nervous,
and fancied things, no doubt, as people do."

"Well, she did; I knew it," said Donica.

"You may have conjectured--every one can do that; but I rather think my
poor dear Amy would have told _me_, had she cared to divulge it to any
living being. I am persuaded she herself suspected it was an
illusion--fancy; but I know she had a horror of the room, and I am sure
my poor girl's dying request ought to have been respected."

"So it ought, my lady," said Donica, turning up her eyes, and raising
her lean hands together, while she slowly shook her head. "So I said to
him, and in like manner his own father's dying _orders_, for such they
was, my lady; and they may say what they will of Sir Harry, poor
gentleman! But he was a kind man, and good to many that had not a good
word for him after, though there may a' been many a little thing that
was foolish or the like; but there is mercy above for all, and the
bishop that is now, then he was the master of the great school where our
young gentlemen used to go to, was with him."

"When he was dying?" said Lady Alice.

"Ay, my lady, a beautiful summer it was, and the doctor, nor I, thought
it would be nothing to speak of; but he was anxious in his mind from the
first, and he wrote for Doctor Wyndale--it was the holidays then--asking
him to come to him; and he did, but Sir Harry had took an unexpected
turn for the worse, and not much did he ever say, the Lord a' mercy on
us, after that good gentleman, he's the bishop now, came to Marlowe, and
he prayed by his bed, and closed his eyes; and I, in and out, and wanted
there every minute, could not but hear some of what he said, which it
was not much."

"He said something about that green chamber, as you call it, I always
understood?" said Lady Alice, interrogatively.

"Yes, my lady, he wished it shut up, or taken down, or summat that way;
but 'man proposes and God disposes,' and there's small affection and
less gratitude to be met with now-a-days."

"I think, Donica Gwynn, and I always thought, that you knew a good deal
more than you chose to tell me. Some people are reserved and secret, and
I suppose it is your way; but I don't think it could harm you to treat
me more as your friend."

Donica rose, and courtesied as she said--

"You have always treated me friendly, I'm sure, my lady, and I hope I am
thankful; and this I know, I'll be a faithful servant to your ladyship
so long as I continue in your ladyship's service."

"I know that very well; but I wish you were franker with me, that's
all--here are the keys."

So Donica, with very little ceremony, assumed the keys of office.

"And pray what _do_ you mean exactly?" said Lady Alice, rising and
drawing on her glove, and not looking quite straight at the housekeeper
as she spoke; "do you mean to say that Lady Jane is giddy or imprudent?
Come, be distinct."

"I can't say what she is, my lady, but she may be brought into folly
some way. I only know this much, please my lady, it will be good for her
you should be nigh, and your eye and thoughts about her, at least till
the General returns."

"Well, Gwynn, I see you don't choose to trust me."

"I have, my lady, spoke that free to you as I would not to any other, I
think, alive."

"No, Gwynn, you don't trust me; you have your reasons, I suppose; but I
think you are a shrewd woman--shrewd and mean well. I don't suppose
that you could talk as you do without a reason; and though I can't see
any myself, not believing in apparitions or--or--"

She nearly lost the thread of her discourse at this point, for as she
spoke the word apparition, the remembrance of the young gentleman whom
she had seen in Wardlock Church rose in her memory--handsome, pale, with
sealed lips, and great eyes--unreadable as night--the resurrection of
another image. The old yearning and horror overpowered the train of her
thoughts, and she floundered into silence, and coughed into her
handkerchief, to hide her momentary confusion.

"What was I going to say?" she said, briskly, meaning to refer her
break-down to that little fit of coughing, and throwing on Gwynn the
onus of setting her speech in motion again.

"Oh! yes. I _don't_ believe in those things not a bit. But Jennie, poor
thing, though she has not treated me quite as she might, is a young
wife, and very pretty; and the house is full of wicked young men from
London; and her old fool of a husband chooses to go about his business
and leave her to her devices--_that's_ what you mean, Gwynn, and that's
what I _understand_."

"I have said all I can, my lady; you can help her, and be near her night
and day," said Donica.

"Sir Jekyl in his invitation bid me choose my own room--so I shall. I'll
choose that oddly-shaped little room that opens into hers--if I
remember rightly, the room that my poor dear Amy occupied in her last
illness."

"And, my lady, do you take the key of the door, and keep it in your bag,
please."

"Of the door of communication between the two rooms?"

"Yes, my lady."

"_Why_ should I take it; you would not have me lock her up?"

"Well, no, to be sure, my lady."

"Then _why_?"

"Because there is no bolt to her door, inside or out. You will see what
I mean, my lady, when you are there."

"Because she can't secure her door without it, I'm to take possession of
her key!" said Lady Alice, with a dignified sneer.

"Well, my lady, it may seem queer, but you'll see what I mean."

Lady Alice tossed her stately head.

"Any commands in particular, please, my lady, before you leave?"
inquired Donica, with one of her dry little courtesies.

"No; and I must go. Just hand this pillow and bag to the man; and I
suppose you wish your respects to Miss Beatrix?"

To all which, in her own way, Donica Gwynn assented; and the old lady,
assisted by her footman, got into the carriage, and nodded a pale and
silent farewell to her housekeeper; and away drove the old carriage at a
brisk pace toward Marlowe Manor.



CHAPTER XIX.

Lady Alice takes Possession.


What to the young would seem an age; what, even in the arithmetic of the
old, counts for something, about seventeen years had glided into the
eternal past since last Lady Alice had beheld the antique front and
noble timber of Marlowe Manor; and memory was busy with her heart, and
sweet and bitter fancies revisiting her old brain, as her saddened eyes
gazed on that fair picture of the past. Old faces gone, old times
changed, and she, too, but the shadow of her former self, soon, like
those whom she remembered there, to vanish quite, and be missed by no
one.

"Where is Miss Beatrix?" inquired the old lady, as she set her long slim
foot upon the oak flooring of the hall. "I'll rest a moment here." And
she sat down upon a carved bench, and looked with sad and dreaming eyes
through the open door upon the autumnal landscape flushed with the
setting sun, the season and the hour harmonising regretfully with her
thoughts.

Her maid came at the summons of the footman. "Tell her that granny has
come," said the old woman gently. "_You_ are quite well, Jones?"

Jones made her smirk and courtesy, and was quite well; and so tripped
up the great stair to apprise her young mistress.

"Tell the new housekeeper, please, that Lady Alice Redcliffe wishes very
much to see her for a moment in the hexagon dressing-room at the end of
the hatchment-gallery," said the old lady, names and localities coming
back to her memory quite naturally in the familiar old hall.

And as she spoke, being an active-minded old lady, she rose, and before
her first message had reached Beatrix, was ascending the well-known
stairs, with its broad shining steps of oak, and her hand on its
ponderous banister, feeling strangely, all in a moment, how much more
she now needed that support, and that the sum of the seventeen years was
something to her as to others.

On the lobby, just outside this dressing-room door, which stood open,
letting the dusky sunset radiance, so pleasant and so sad, fall upon the
floor and touch the edges of the distant banisters, she was met by
smiling Beatrix.

"Darling!" cried the girl, softly, as she threw her young arms round the
neck of the stately and thin old lady. "Darling, darling, I'm so glad!"

She had been living among strangers, and the sight and touch of her true
old friend was reassuring.

Granny's thin hands held her fondly. It was pretty to see this embrace,
in the glow of the evening sun, and the rich brown tresses of the girl
close to the ashen locks of old Lady Alice, who, with unwonted tears in
her eyes, was smiling on her very tenderly. She was softened that
evening. Perhaps it was her real nature, disclosed for a few genial
moments, generally hidden under films of reserve or pride--the veil of
the flesh.

"I think she does like her old granny," said Lady Alice, with a gentle
little laugh; one thin hand on her shoulder, the other smoothing back
her thick girlish tresses.

"I do love you, granny; you were always so good to me, and you are
so--so _fond_ of me. Now, you are tired, darling; you must take a little
wine--here is Mrs. Sinnott coming--Mrs. Sinnott."

"No, dear, no wine; I'm very well. I wish to see Mrs. Sinnott, though.
She's your new housekeeper, is not she?"

"Yes; and I'm so glad poor, good old Donnie Gwynn is with you. You know
she would not stay; but our new housekeeper is, I'm told, a very good
creature too. Grandmamma wants to speak to you, Mrs. Sinnott."

Lady Alice by this time had entered the dressing-room, three sides of
which, projecting like a truncated bastion, formed a great window, which
made it, for its size, the best lighted in the house. In the wall at the
right, close to this entrance, is the door which admits to the green
chamber; in the opposite wall, but nearer the window, a door leading
across the end of the hatchment-gallery, with its large high window, by
a little passage, screened off by a low oak partition, and admitting to
a bed-room on the opposite side of the gallery.

In the middle of the Window dressing-room stood Lady Alice, and looked
round regretfully, and said to herself, with a little shake of the
head--

"Yes, yes, poor thing!"

She was thinking of poor Lady Marlowe, whom, with her usual perversity,
although a step-daughter, she had loved very tenderly, and who in her
last illness had tenanted these rooms, in which, seventeen years ago,
this old lady had sat beside her and soothed her sickness, and by her
tenderness, no doubt, softened those untold troubles which gathered
about her bed as death drew near.

"How do you do, Mrs. Sinnott?" said stately Lady Alice, recovering her
dry and lofty manner.

"Lady Alice Redcliffe, my grandmamma," said Beatrix, in an undertoned
introduction, in the housekeeper's ear.

Mrs. Sinnott made a fussy little courtesy.

"Your ladyship's apartments, which is at the other end of the gallery,
please, is quite ready, my lady."

"I don't mean to have those rooms, though--that's the reason I sent for
you--please read this note, it is from Sir Jekyl Marlowe. By-the-bye, is
your master at home?"

"No, he was out."

"Well, be so good as to read this."

And Lady Alice placed Beatrix's note of invitation in Mrs. Sinnott's
hand, and pointed to a passage in the autograph of Sir Jekyl, which
spoke thus:--

"P.S.--Do come, dearest little mamma, and you shall command everything.
Choose your own apartments and hours, and, in short, rule us all. With
all my worldly goods I thee endow, and place Mrs. Sinnott at your
orders."

"Well, Mrs. Sinnott, I choose _these_ apartments, if you please," said
Lady Alice, sitting down stiffly, and thereby taking possession.

"Very well, my lady," said Mrs. Sinnott, dropping another courtesy; but
her sharp red nose and little black eyes looked sceptical and uneasy;
"and I suppose, Miss," here she paused, looking at Beatrix.

"You are to do whatever Lady Alice directs," said the young lady.

"This here room, you know, Miss, is the dressing-room properly of the
green chamber."

"Lady Jane does not use it, though?" replied the new visitor.

"But the General, when he comes back," insinuated Mrs. Sinnott.

"Of course, he shall have it. I'll remove then; but in the meantime,
liking these rooms, from old remembrances, best of any, I will occupy
them, Beatrix; _this_ as a dressing-room, and the apartment _there_ as
bed-room. I hope I don't give you a great deal of trouble," added Lady
Alice, addressing the housekeeper, with an air that plainly said that
she did not care a pin whether she did or not.

So this point was settled, and Lady Alice sent for her maid and her
boxes; and rising, she approached the door of the green chamber, and
pointing to it, said to Beatrix--

"And so Lady Jane has this room. Do you like her, Beatrix?"

"I can't say I know her, grandmamma."

"No, I dare say not. It is a large room--too large for my notion of a
cheerful bed-room."

The old lady drew near, and knocked.

"She's not there?"

"No, she's in the terrace-garden."

Lady Alice pushed the door open, and looked in.

"A very long room. That room is longer than my drawing-room at Wardlock,
and that is five and thirty feet long. Dismal, I say--though so much
light, and that portrait--Sir Harry smirking there. What a look of
duplicity in that face! He was an old man when I can remember him; an
old beau; a wicked old man, rouged and whitened; he used to paint under
his eyelashes, and had, they said, nine or ten sets of false teeth, and
always wore a black curled wig that made his contracted countenance more
narrow. There were such lines of cunning and meanness about his eyes,
actually crossing one another. Jekyl hated him, I think. I don't think
anybody but a fool could have really liked him; he was so curiously
selfish, and so contemptible; he was attempting the life of a wicked
young man at seventy!"

Lady Alice had been speaking as it were in soliloquy, staring drearily
on the clever portrait in gold lace and ruffles, stricken by the spell
of that painted canvas into a dream.

"Your grandpapa, my dear, was not a good man; and I believe he injured
my poor son irreparably, and your _father_. Well--these things, though
never forgotten, are best not spoken of when people happen to be
connected. For the sake of others we bear our pain in silence; but the
heart knoweth its own bitterness."

And so saying, the old lady drew back from the threshold of Lady Jane's
apartment, and closed the door with a stern countenance.



CHAPTER XX.

An Altercation.


Almost at the same moment Sir Jekyl entered the hexagon, or, as it was
more pleasantly called, the Window dressing-room, from the lobby. He was
quite radiant, and, in that warm evening light, struck Lady Alice as
looking quite marvellously youthful.

"Well, Jekyl Marlowe, you see you have brought me here at last," said
the old lady, extending her hand stiffly, like a wooden marionette, her
thin elbow making a right angle.

"So I have; and I shall always think the better of my eloquence for
having prevailed. You're a thousand times welcome, and not tired, I
hope; the journey is not much after all."

"Thanks; no, the distance is not much, the fatigue nothing," said Lady
Alice, drawing her fingers horizontally back from his hospitable
pressure. "But it is not always distance that separates people, or
fatigue that depresses one."

"No, of course; fifty things; rheumatism, temper, hatred, affliction:
and I am so delighted to see you! Trixie, dear, would not grandmamma
like to see her room? Send for--"

"Thank you, I mean to stay here," said Lady Alice.

"_Here!_" echoed Sir Jekyl, with a rather bewildered smile.

"I avail myself of the privilege you give me; your postscript to
Beatrix's note, you know. You tell me there to choose what rooms I like
best," said the old lady, drily, at the same time drawing her bag toward
her, that she might be ready to put the documents in evidence, in case
he should dispute it.

"Oh! did I?" said the Baronet, with the same faint smile.

Lady Alice nodded, and then threw back her head, challenging
contradiction by a supercilious stare, her hand firmly upon the bag as
before.

"But this room, you know; it's anything but a comfortable one--don't you
think?" said Sir Jekyl.

"I like it," said the inflexible old lady, sitting down.

"And I'm afraid there's a little difficulty," he continued, not minding.
"For this is General Lennox's dressing-room. Don't you think it might be
awkward?" and he chuckled agreeably.

"General Lennox is absent in London, on business," said Lady Alice, grim
as an old Diana; "and Jane does not use it, and there _can_ be no
_intelligible_ objection to my having it in his absence."

There was a little smile, that yet was not a smile, and a slight play
about Sir Jekyl's nostrils, as he listened to this speech. They came
when he was vicious; but with a flush, he commanded himself, and only
laughed slightly, and said--

"It is really hardly a concern of mine, provided my guests are happy.
You don't mean to have your bed into this room, do you?"

"I mean to sleep _there_," she replied drily, stabbing with her long
forefinger toward the door on the opposite side of the room.

"Well, I can only say I'd have fancied, for other reasons, these the
very last rooms in the house you would have chosen--particularly as this
really belongs to the green chamber. However, you and Lady Jane can
arrange that between you. You'd have been very comfortable where we
would have put you, and you'll be very _un_comfortable here, I'm afraid;
but perhaps I'm not making allowance for the affection you have for Lady
Jane, the length of time that has passed since you've seen her, and the
pleasure of being so near her."

There was an agreeable irony in this; for the Baronet knew that they had
never agreed very well together, and that neither spoke very handsomely
of the other behind her back. At the same time, this was no conclusive
proof of unkindness on Lady Alice's part, for her goodwill sometimes
showed itself under strange and uncomfortable disguises.

"Beatrix, dear, I hope they are seeing to your grandmamma's room; and
you'll want candles, it is growing dark. Altogether I'm afraid you're
very uncomfortable, little mother; but if _you_ prefer it, you know, of
course I'm silent."

With these words he kissed the old lady's chilly cheek, and vanished.

As he ran down the darkening stairs the Baronet was smiling
mischievously; and when, having made his long straight journey to the
foot of the back stairs, he re-ascended, and passing through the two
little ante-rooms, entered his own homely bedchamber, and looked at his
handsome and wonderfully preserved face in the glass, he laughed
outright two or three comfortable explosions at intervals, and was
evidently enjoying some fun in anticipation.

When, a few minutes later, that proud sad beauty, Lady Jane, followed by
her maid, sailed rustling into the Window dressing-room--I call it so in
preference--and there saw, by the light of a pair of wax candles, a
stately figure seated on the sofa at the further end in grey silk
draperies, with its feet on a boss, she paused in an attitude of sublime
surprise, with just a gleam of defiance in it.

"How d' y' do, Jenny, my dear?" said a voice, on which, as on the tones
of an old piano, a few years had told a good deal, but which she
recognised with some little surprise, for notwithstanding Lady Alice's
note accepting the Baronet's invitation, he had talked and thought of
her actually coming to Marlowe as a very unlikely occurrence indeed.

"Oh! oh! Lady Alice Redcliffe!" exclaimed the young wife, setting down
her bed-room candle, and advancing with a transitory smile to her old
kinswoman, who half rose from her throne and kissed her on the cheek as
she stooped to meet her salutation. "You have only arrived a few
minutes; I saw your carriage going round from the door."

"About forty minutes--hardly an hour. How you have filled up, Jane;
you're quite an imposing figure since I saw you. I don't think it
unbecoming; your _embonpoint_ does very well; and you're quite well?"

"_Very_ well--and you?"

"I'm pretty well, dear, a good deal fatigued; and so you're a wife,
Jennie, and very happy, I hope."

"I can't say I have anything to trouble me. I am quite happy, that is,
as happy as other people, I suppose."

"I hear nothing but praises of your husband. I shall be so happy to make
his acquaintance," continued Lady Alice.

"He has had to go up to town about business this morning, but he's to
return very soon."

"How soon, dear?"

"In a day or two," answered the young wife.

"To-morrow?" inquired Lady Alice, drily.

"Or next day," rejoined Lady Jane, with a little stare.

"Do you _really_, my dear Jane, expect him here the day after
to-morrow?"

"He said he should be detained only a day or two in town."

Old Lady Alice shook her incredulous head, looking straight before her.

"I don't think he can have said that, Jane, for he wrote to a friend of
mine, the day before yesterday, mentioning that he should be detained by
business at least a week."

"Oh! did he?"

"Yes, and Jekyl Marlowe, I dare say, thinks he will be kept there
_longer_."

"I should fancy _I_ am a better opinion, rather, upon that point, than
Sir Jekyl Marlowe," said Lady Jane, loftily, and perhaps a little
angrily.

The old lady, with closed lips, at this made a little nod, which might
mean anything.

"And I can't conceive how it can concern Sir Jekyl, or even you, Lady
Alice, what business my husband may have in town."

It was odd how sharp they were growing upon this point.

"Well, Sir Jekyl's another thing; but _me_, of course, it does concern,
because I shall have to give him up his room again when he returns."

"What room?" inquired Lady Jane, honestly puzzled.

"_This_ room," answered the old lady, like one conscious that she drops,
with the word, a gage of battle.

"But this is _my_ room."

"You don't use it, Lady Jane. _I_ wish to occupy it. I shall, of course,
give it up on your husband's return; in the meantime I deprive you of
nothing by taking it. Do I?"

"That's not the question, Lady Alice. It is _my_ room--it is _my
dressing_-room--and I don't mean to give it up to _any_ one. You are the
last person on earth who would allow _me_ to take such a liberty with
_you_. I don't _understand_ it."

"Don't be excited, my dear Jenny," said Lady Alice--an exhortation
sometimes a little inconsistently administered by members of her
admirable sex when they are themselves most exciting.

"I'm not in the least excited, Lady Alice; but I've had a note from
you," said Lady Jane, in rather a choking key.

"You have," acquiesced her senior.

"And I connect your extraordinary intrusion here, with it."

Lady Alice nodded.

"I do, and--and I'm right. You mean to insult me. It is a shame--an
_outrage_. What do you mean, madam?"

"I'd have you to remember, Jane Chetwynd (the altercation obliterated
her newly-acquired name of Lennox), that I am your relation and your
senior."

"Yes, you're my cousin, and my senior by fifty years; but an old woman
may be very impertinent to a young one."

"_Compose_ yourself, if you please, _compose_ yourself," said Lady
Alice, in the same philosophic vein, but with colour a little
heightened.

"I don't know what you mean--you're a disgraceful old woman. I'll
complain to my husband, and I'll tell Sir Jekyl Marlowe. Either you or I
must leave this house to-night," declaimed Lady Jane, with a most
beautiful blush, and eyes flashing lurid lightnings.

"You forget yourself, my dear," said the old lady, rising grimly and
confronting her.

"No, I don't, but _you_ do. It's perfectly disgusting and intolerable,"
cried Lady Jane, with a stamp.

"One moment, if you please--you can afford to listen for one moment, I
suppose," said the old lady, in a very low, dry tone, laying two of her
lean fingers upon the snowy arm of the beautiful young lady, who, with a
haughty contraction and an uplifted head, withdrew it fiercely from her
touch. "You forget your maid, I think. You had better tell her to
withdraw, hadn't you?"

"I don't care; why should I?" said Lady Jane, in a high key.

"Beatrix, dear, run into my bed-room for a moment," said "Granny" to
that distressed and perplexed young lady, who, accustomed to obey,
instantly withdrew.



CHAPTER XXI.

Lady Alice in Bed.


"We may be alone together, if _you_ choose it; if not, _I_ can't help
it," said Lady Alice, in a very low and impressive key.

"Well, it's nothing to me," said Lady Jane, more calmly and
sullenly--"nothing at all--but as you insist--Cecile, you may go for a
few minutes."

This permission was communicated sulkily, in French.

"Now, Jane, you shall hear me," said the old lady, so soon as the maid
had disappeared and the doors were shut; "you must hear me with
patience, if not with respect--_that_ I don't expect--but remember you
have no mother, and I am an old woman and your kinswoman, and it is my
duty to speak--"

"I'm rather tired standing," interrupted Lady Jane, in a suppressed
passion. "Besides, you say you don't want to be overheard, and you can't
know who may be on the _lobby there_," and she pointed with her jewelled
fingers at the door. "I'll go into my bed-room, if you please; and I
have not the slightest objection to hear everything you can possibly
say. Don't fancy I'm the least afraid of you."

Saying which Lady Jane, taking up her bed-room candle, rustled out of
the room, without so much as looking over her shoulder to see whether
the prophetess was following.

She did follow, and I dare say her lecture was not mitigated by Lady
Jane's rudeness. That young lady was lighting her candles on her
dressing-table when her kinswoman entered and shut the door, without an
invitation. She then seated herself serenely, and cleared her voice.

"I live very much out of the world--in fact, quite to myself; but I
learn occasionally what my relations are doing; and I was grieved, Jane,
to hear a great deal that was very unpleasant, to say the least, about
you."

Something between a smile and a laugh was her only answer.

"Yes, extremely foolish. I don't, of course, say there was anything
wicked, but very foolish and reckless. I know perfectly how you were
talked of; and I know also why you married that excellent but old man,
General Lennox."

"I don't think anyone talked about me. Everybody is talked about. There
has been enough of this rubbish. I burnt your odious letter," broke in
Lady Jane, incoherently.

"And would, no doubt, burn the writer, if you could."

As there was no disclaimer, Lady Alice resumed.

"Now, Jane, you have married a most respectable old gentleman; I dare
say you have nothing on earth to conceal from him--remember I've said
all along I don't suppose there is--but as the young wife of an old
man, you ought to remember how very delicate your position is."

"What do you mean?"

"I mean, _generally_," answered the old lady, oracularly.

"I do declare this is perfectly insufferable! What's the meaning of this
lecture? I'm as little likely, madam, as _you_ are to disgrace myself.
You'll please to walk out of my room."

"And how dare you talk to me in that way, young lady; how dare you
attempt to hector me like your maid there?" broke out old Lady Alice,
suddenly losing her self-command. "You know what I mean, and what's
more, _I_ do, too. We _both_ know it--you a young bride--what does Jekyl
Marlowe invite you down here for? Do you think I imagine he cares
twopence about your stupid old husband, and that I don't know he was
once making love to you? Of course I do; and I'll have nothing of the
sort here--and that's the reason I've come, and that's why I'm in that
dressing-room, and that's why I'll write to your husband, so sure as you
give me the slightest uneasiness; and you had better think well what you
do."

The old lady, in a towering passion, with a fierce lustre in her cheeks,
and eyes flashing lightning over the face of her opponent, vanished from
the room.

Lady Alice had crossed the disputed territory of the Window
dressing-room, and found herself in her elected bed-room before she had
come to herself. She saw Lady Jane's face still before her, with the
lurid astonishment and fear, white and sharp, on it, as when she had
threatened a letter to General Lennox.

She sat down a little stunned and confused about the whole thing,
incensed and disgusted with Lady Jane, and confirmed in her suspicion by
a look she did not like in that young lady's face, and which her
peroration had called up. She did not hear the shrilly rejoinder that
pursued her through the shut door. She had given way to a burst of
passion, and felt a little hot and deaf and giddy.

When the party assembled at dinner Lady Jane exerted herself more than
usual. She was agreeable, and even talkative, and her colour had not
been so brilliant since her arrival. She sat next to Guy Strangways, and
old Lady Alice at the other side of the table did not look triumphant,
but sick and sad; and to look at the two ladies you would have set her
down as the defeated and broken-spirited, and Lady Jane as the victrix
in the late encounter.

The conversation at this end of the table resembled a dance, in which
sometimes each man sets to his partner and turns her round, so that the
whole company is frisking and spinning together; sometimes two perform;
sometimes a _cavalier seul_. Thus was it with the talk of this section
of the dinner-table, above the salt, at which the chief people were
seated.

"I've just been asked by Lady Blunket how many miles it is to Wardlock,
and I'm ashamed to say I can't answer her," cried Sir Jekyl diagonally
to Lady Alice, so as to cut off four people at his left hand, whose
conversation being at the moment in a precarious way, forthwith expired,
and the Baronet and his mother-in-law were left in possession of this
part of the stage.

The old lady, as I have said, looked ill and very tired, and as if she
had grown all at once very old; and instead of answering, she only
nodded once or twice, and signed across the table to Lady Jane.

"Oh! I forgot," said Sir Jekyl; "you know Wardlock and all our
distances, don't you, Lady Jane--can you tell me?"

"I don't remember," said Lady Jane, hardly turning toward him; "ten or
twelve miles--is not it? it may be a good deal more. I don't really
recollect;" and this was uttered with an air which plainly said, "I
don't really care."

"I generally ride my visits, and a mile or two more or less does not
signify; but one ought to know all the distances for thirty miles round;
you don't know otherwise who's your neighbour."

"Do you think it an advantage to know that any particular person _is_
your neighbour?" inquired impertinent Drayton, with his light moustache,
leaning back and looking drowsily into his glasses after his wont.

"Oh! Mr. Drayton, the country without neighbours--how dreadful!"
exclaimed Miss Blunket. "Existence without friends."

"Friends--bosh!" said Drayton, confidentially, to his wine.

"There's Drayton scouting friendship, the young cynic!" cried Sir
Jekyl. "Do call him to order, Lady Jane."

"I rather incline to agree with Mr. Drayton," said Lady Jane, coldly.

"Do you mean to say you have no friends?" said Sir Jekyl, in well-bred
amazement.

"Quite the contrary--I have too many."

"Come--that's a new complaint. Perhaps they are very new friends?"
inquired the Baronet.

"Some of them very old, indeed; but I've found that an old friend means
only an old person privileged to be impertinent."

Lady Jane uttered a musical little laugh that was very icy as she spoke,
and her eye flashed a single insolent glance at old Lady Alice.

At another time perhaps a retort would not have been wanting, but now
the old woman's eye returned but a wandering look, and her face
expressed nothing but apathy and sadness.

"Grandmamma, dear, I'm afraid you are very much tired," whispered
Beatrix when they reached the drawing-room, sitting beside her after she
had made her comfortable on a sofa, with cushions to her back; "you
would be better lying down, I think."

"No, dear--no, darling. I think in a few minutes I'll go to my room. I'm
not very well. I'm tired--_very_ tired."

And poor old granny, who was speaking very gently, and looking very pale
and sunken, sighed deeply--it was almost a moan.

Beatrix was growing very much alarmed, and accompanied, or rather
assisted, the old lady up to the room, where, aided by her and her maid,
she got to her bed in silence, sighing deeply now and then.

She had not been long there when she burst into tears; and after a
violent paroxysm she beckoned to Beatrix, and threw her lean old arms
about her neck, saying--

"I'm sorry I came, child; I don't know what to think. I'm too old to
bear this agitation--it will kill me."

Then she wept more quietly, and kissed Beatrix, and whispered--"Send her
out of the room--let her wait in the dressing-room."

The maid was sitting at the further end of the apartment, and the old
lady was too feeble to raise her voice so as to be heard there. So soon
as her maid had withdrawn Lady Alice said--

"Sit by me, Beatrix, darling. I am very nervous, and tell me who is that
young man who sat beside Jane Lennox at dinner."

As she ended her little speech Lady Alice, who, though I dare say
actually ill enough, yet did not want to lose credit for all the
exhaustion she fancied beside, closed her eyelids, and leaned a little
back on her pillow motionless. This prevented her seeing that if she
were nervous Beatrix was so also, though in another way, for her colour
was heightened very prettily as she answered.

"You mean the tall, slight young man at Lady Jane's right?" inquired
Beatrix.

"That beautiful but melancholy-looking young man whom we saw at
Wardlock Church," said Lady Alice, forgetting for the moment that she
had never divulged the result of her observations from the gallery to
any mortal but Sir Jekyl. Beatrix, who forgot nothing, and knew that her
brief walk at Wardlock with that young gentleman had not been confessed
to anyone, was confounded on hearing herself thus, as she imagined,
taxed with her secret.

She was not more secret than young ladies generally are; but whom could
she have told at Wardlock? which of the old women of that time-honoured
sisterhood was she to have invited to talk romance with her? and now she
felt very guilty, and was blushing in silent confusion at the pearl ring
on her pretty, slender finger, not knowing what to answer, or how to
begin the confession which she fancied her grandmamma was about to
extort.

Her grandmamma, however, relieved her on a sudden by saying--

"I forgot, dear, I told you nothing of that dreadful day at Wardlock
Church, the day I was so ill. I told your papa _only_; but the young man
is here, and I may as well tell you now that he bears a supernatural
likeness to my poor lost darling. Jekyl knew how it affected me, and he
never told me. It was so like Jekyl. I think, dear, I should not have
come here at all had I known that dreadful young man was here."

"Dreadful! How is he dreadful?" exclaimed Beatrix.

"From his likeness to my lost darling--my dear boy--my poor, precious,
murdered Guy," answered the old lady, lying back, and looking straight
toward the ceiling with upturned eyes and clasped hands. She
repeated--"Oh! Guy--Guy--Guy--my poor child!"

She looked like a dying nun praying to her patron saint.

"His name is Strangways--Mr. Guy Strangways," said Beatrix.

"Ah, yes, darling! Guy was the name of my dear boy, and Strangways was
the name of his companion--an evil companion, I dare say."

Beatrix knew that the young man whom her grandmamma mourned had fallen
in a duel, and that, reasonably or unreasonably, her father was blamed
in the matter. More than this she had never heard. Lady Alice had made
her acquainted with thus much; but with preambles so awful that she had
never dared to open the subject herself, or to question her "Granny"
beyond the point at which her disclosure had stopped.

That somehow it reflected on Sir Jekyl prevented her from inquiring of
any servant, except old Donica, who met her curiosity with a sound
jobation, and told her if ever she plagued her with questions about
family misfortunes like that, she would speak to Sir Jekyl about it.
Thus Beatrix only knew how Guy Deverell had died--that her grandmamma
chose to believe he had been murdered, and insisted beside in blaming
her father, Sir Jekyl, somehow for the catastrophe.



CHAPTER XXII.

How Everything went on.


"Go down, dear, to your company," resumed Lady Alice, sadly; "they will
miss you. And tell your father, when he comes to the drawing-room, I
wish to see him, and won't detain him long."

So they parted, and a little later Sir Jekyl arrived with a knock at the
old lady's bed-room door.

"Come in--oh! yes--Jekyl--well, I've only a word to say. Sit down a
moment at the bedside."

"And how do you feel now, you dear old soul?" inquired the Baronet,
cheerfully. He looked strong and florid, as gentleman do after dinner,
with a genial air of contentment, and a fragrance of his wonderful
sherry about him; all which seemed somehow brutal to the nervous old
lady.

"Wonderfully, considering the surprise you had prepared for me, and
which might as well have killed me as not," she made answer.

"I know, to be sure--Strangways, you mean. Egad! I forgot. Trixie ought
to have told you."

"_You_ ought to have told me. I don't think I should have come here,
Jekyl, had I known it."

"If I had known _that_," thought Sir Jekyl, with a regretful pang, "I'd
have made a point of telling you." But he said aloud--

"Yes. It was a _sottise_; but _I_'ve got over the likeness so completely
that I forgot how it agitated you. But I ought to tell you they have no
connexion with the family--none in the world. Pelter and Crowe, you
know--devilish sharp dogs--my lawyers in town--they are regular
detectives, by Jove! and know everything--and particularly have had for
years a steady eye upon them and their movements; and I have had a most
decided letter from them, assuring me that there has not been the
slightest movement in that quarter, and therefore there is, absolutely,
as I told you from the first, nothing in it."

"And what Deverells are now living?" inquired the old lady, very pale.

"Two first cousins, they tell me--old fellows now; and one of them has a
son or two; but not one called Guy, and none answering this description,
you see; and neither have a shadow of a claim, or ever pretended; and as
for that unfortunate accident--"

"Pray _spare_ me," said the old lady, grimly.

"Well, they did not care a brass farthing about the poor fellow, so they
would never move to give me trouble in that matter; and, in fact, people
never do stir in law, and put themselves to serious expense, purely for
a sentiment--even a bad one."

"I remember some years ago you _were_ very _much_ alarmed, Jekyl."

"No, I was not. Who the plague says that? There's nothing, thank
Heaven, I need fear. One does not like to be worried with
lawsuits--that's all--though there is and can be no real danger in
them."

"And was it from these cousins you apprehended lawsuits?" inquired Lady
Alice.

"No, not exactly--no, not at all. I believe that fellow Strangways--that
fellow that used to live on poor Guy--I fancy he was the mover of
it--indeed I know he was."

"What did they proceed for?" asked the old lady. "You never told me--you
are so secret, Jekyl."

"They did not proceed at all--how could I? Their attorneys had cases
before counsel affecting me--that's all I ever heard; and they say now
it was all Strangways' doing--that is, Pelter and Crowe say so. I wish I
_were_ secret."

Old Lady Alice here heaved a deep groan, and said, not with asperity,
but with a fatigued abhorrence--

"Go away; I wonder I can bear you near me."

"Thank you very much," said the Baronet, rising, with one of his
pleasant chuckles. "I can't tell you how glad I am to see you here, and
I know you'll be very glad to see me in the morning, when you are a
little rested."

So he kissed the tips of his fingers and touched them playfully to the
back of her thin hand, which she withdrew with a little frown, as if
they chilled her. And by her direction he called in her maid, whom he
asked very smilingly how she did, and welcomed to Marlowe; and she,
though a little _passé_, having heard the fame of Sir Jekyl, and many
stories of his brilliant adventures, was very modest and fluttered on
the occasion. And with another little petting speech to Lady Alice, the
radiant Baronet withdrew.

It is not to be supposed that Lady Alice's tremors communicated
themselves to Beatrix. Was it possible to regard that handsome, refined
young man, who spoke in that low, sweet voice, and smiled so
intelligently, and talked so pleasantly, and with that delicate flavour
of romance at times, in the light of a goblin?

The gentlemen had made their whist-party. The Rev. Dives Marlowe was
chatting to, not with, Lady Jane, who sat listlessly on an ottoman. That
elderly girl, Miss Blunket, with the _naïve_ ways, the animated,
smiling, and rather malevolent countenance, had secured little Linnett,
who bore his imprisonment impatiently and wearily it must be owned. When
Miss Blunket was enthusiastic it was all very well; but her playfulness
was wicked, and her satire gaily vitriolic.

"Mr. Marlowe is fascinated, don't you think?" she inquired of harmless
little Linnett, glancing with an arch flash of her fierce eyes at the
Rev. Dives.

"She's awfully handsome," said Linnett, honestly.

"Oh, dear, you wicked creature, you can't think I meant that. She is
some kind of cousin, I think--is not she? And her husband has that
great living--what's its name?--and no relation in the Church; and Lady
Jane, they say, rules him--and Sir Jekyl, some people say, rules her."

Linnett returned her arch glance with an honest stare of surprise.

"I had no idea of that, egad," said he.

"She thinks him so wise in all worldly matters, you know; and people in
London fancied she would have been the second Lady Marlowe, if she had
not met General Lennox just at a critical time, and fallen in love with
him;" and as she said this she laughed.

"Really!" exclaimed Linnett; and he surveyed Lady Jane in this new light
wonderingly.

"I really don't know; I heard it said merely; but very likely, you know,
it is not true," she answered with an artless giggle.

"I knew you were quizzing--though, by Jove, you did sell me at first;
but I really think Sir Jekyl's a little spoony on that pretty little
Mrs. Maberly. Is she a widow?"

"Oh, dear, no--at least, not quite; she has a husband in India, but
then, poor man, he's so little in the way she need hardly wish him
dead."

"I _see_," said Linnett, looking at Mrs. Maberly with a grave interest.

While Miss Blunket was entertaining and instructing little Linnett with
this sort of girlish chatter, and from the whist-table, between the
deals, arose those critical discussions and reviews, relieved now and
then by a joke from the Baronet, or from his partner, Colonel Doocey, at
the piano, countenanced by old Lady Blunket, who had come to listen and
remained to doze, Beatrix, her fingers still on the keys, was listening
to young Strangways.

There are times, lights, accidents, under which your handsome young
people become incredibly more handsome, and this Guy Strangways now
shared in that translated glory, as he leaned on the back of a tall
carved chair, sometimes speaking, sometimes listening.

"It is quite indescribable, Miss Marlowe, how your music interests me--I
should say, haunts me. I thought at first it was because you loved
ballad music, which I also love; but it is not that--it is something
higher and more peculiar."

"I am sure you were right at first, for I _know_ I am a very indifferent
musician," said Beatrix, looking down under her long lashes on the keys
over which the jewelled fingers of her right hand wandered with hardly a
tinkle, just tracing dreamily one of those sweet melancholy airs which
made in fancy an accompaniment to the music of that young fellow's
words.

How beautiful she looked, too, with eyes lowered and parted lips, and
that listening smile--not quite a smile--drinking in with a strange
rapture of pride and softness the flatteries which she refused and yet
invited.

"It _is_ something higher and mysterious, which, perhaps, I shall never
attempt to explain, unless, indeed, I should risk talking very
wildly--too wildly for you to understand, or, if you did, perhaps--to
forgive."

"You mentioned a Breton ballad you once heard," said Beatrix,
frightened, as girls will sometimes become whenever the hero of their
happy hours begins on a sudden to define.

"Yes," he said, and the danger of the crisis was over. "I wish so much I
could remember the air, you would so enter into its character, and make
its wild unfathomable melancholy so beautifully touching in your clear
contralto."

"You must not flatter me; I want to hear more of that ballad."

"If flattery be to speak more highly than one thinks, who can flatter
Miss Marlowe?" Again the crisis was menacing. "Besides, I did not tell
you we are leaving, I believe, in a day or two, and on the eve of so
near a departure, may I not improve the few happy moments that are left
me, and be permitted the privilege of a leave-taking, to speak more
frankly, and perhaps less wisely than one who is destined to be all his
life a neighbour?"

"Papa, I am sure, will be very sorry to hear that you and Monsieur
Varbarriere are thinking of going so soon; I must try, however, to
improve the time, and hear all you can tell me of those interesting
people of Brittany."

"Yes, they are. I will make them another visit--a sadder visit,
Mademoiselle--for me a far more interesting one. You have taught me how
to hear and see them. I never felt the spirit of Villemarque, or the
romance and melancholy of that antique region, till I had the honour of
knowing you."

"My friends always laughed at me about Brittany. I suppose different
people are interested by different subjects; but I do not think anyone
could read at all about that part of the world and not be fascinated.
You promised to tell all you remember of that Breton ballad."

"Oh, yes; the haunted lady, the beautiful lady, the heiress of Carlowel,
now such a grand ruin, became enamoured of a mysterious cavalier who
wooed her; but he was something not of flesh and blood, but of the
spirit world."

"There is exactly such a legend, _so_ far, at least, of a castle on the
Rhine. I must show it to you. Do you read German?"

"Yes, Mademoiselle."

"And does the ballad end tragically?"

"Most tragically. You shall hear."

"Where are you, Guy?" in French, inquired a deep ringing voice.

And on the summons, Guy glanced over his shoulder, and replied.

"Oh," exclaimed the same voice, "I demand pardon. I am disturbing
conversation, I fear; but an old man in want of assistance will be
excused. I want my road book, Guy, and you have got it. Pray, run
up-stairs and fetch it."

With great pleasure, of course, Guy Strangways ran up-stairs to tumble
over block-books, letters, diaries, and the general residuum of a
half-emptied valise.

Miss Beatrix played a spirited march, which awoke Lady Blunket, whom she
had forgotten; and that interesting woman, to make up for lost time,
entertained her with a history of the unreasonableness of Smidge, her
maid, and a variety of other minute afflictions, which, she assured
Beatrix seriously, disturbed her sleep.



CHAPTER XXIII.

The Divan.


That night Sir Jekyl led the gentlemen in a body to his outpost
quarters, in the rear of civilisation, where they enjoyed their cigars,
brandy and water, and even "swipes," prodigiously. It is a noble
privilege to be so rich as Sir Jekyl Marlowe. The Jewish price for
frankincense was thrice its own weight in gold. How much did that
aromatic blue canopy that rolled dimly over this Turkish divan cost that
off-handed Sybarite? How many scruples of fine gold were floating in
that cloud?

Varbarriere was in his way charmed with his excursion. He enjoyed the
jokes and stories of the younkers, and the satiric slang and
imperturbable good-humour of their host. The twinkle of his eye, from
its deep cavern, and the suavity of his solemn features, testified to
his profound enjoyment of a meeting to which he contributed, it must be
owned, for his own share, little but smoke.

In fact, he was very silent, very observant--observant of more things
than the talk perhaps.

All sorts of things were talked about. Of course, no end of horse and
dog anecdote--something of wine, something of tobacco, something of the
beauties of the opera and the stage, and those sad visions, the fallen
angelic of the demimonde--something, but only the froth and sparkle, of
politics--light conjecture, and pungent scandal, in the spirit of gay
satire and profligate comedy.

"He's a bad dog, St. Evermore. Did not you hear that about the duel?"
said Drayton.

"What?" asked the Baronet, with an unconscious glance at Guy Strangways.

"He killed that French fool--what's his name?--unfairly, they say. There
has been a letter or something in one of the Paris papers about it.
Fired before his time, I think, and very ill feeling against the English
in consequence."

"Oh!" said the Baronet.

"But you know," interposed Doocey, who was an older clubman than
Drayton, and remembering further back, thought that sort of anecdote of
the duel a little maladroit just then and there, "St. Evermore has been
talked about a good deal; there were other things--that horse, you know;
and they say, by Jove! he was licked by Tromboni, at the wings of the
opera, for what he called insulting his wife; and Tromboni says he's a
marquess, and devil knows what beside, at home, and wanted to fight, but
St. Evermore wouldn't, and took his licking."

"He's not a nice fellow by any means; but he's devilish good
company--lots of good stories and capital cigars," said Drayton.

At this point M. Varbarriere was seized with a fit of coughing; and Sir
Jekyl glanced sharply at him; but no, he was not laughing.

The conversation proceeded agreeably, and some charming stories were
told of Sir Paul Blunket, who was not present; and in less than an hour
the party broke up and left Sir Jekyl to his solitary quarters.

The Baronet bid his last guest good-night at the threshold, and then
shut his door and locked himself in. It was his custom, here, to sleep
with his door locked.

"What was that fellow laughing at--Varbarriere? I'm certain he was
laughing. I never saw a fellow with so completely the cut of a
charlatan. I'll write to Charteris to-night. I _must_ learn all about
him."

Then Sir Jekyl yawned, and reflected what a fool Drayton was, what a
fellow to talk, and what asses all fellows were at that age; and, being
sleepy, he postponed his letter to Charteris to the next morning, and
proceeded to undress.

Next morning was bright and pleasant, and he really did not see much
good in writing the letter; and so he put it off to a more convenient
time.

Shortly after the ladies had left the drawing-room for their bed-rooms,
Beatrix, having looked in for a moment to her grandmamma's room, and,
with a kiss and a good-night, taken wing again, there entered to Lady
Alice, as the old plays express it, then composing herself for the
night, Lady Jane's maid, with--

"Please, my lady, my lady wants to know if your ladyship knows where her
ladyship's key may be?"

"_What_ key?"

"The key of her bedchamber, please, my lady."

"Oh! the key of my dressing-room. Tell Lady Jane that I have got the key
of the Window dressing-room, and mean to keep it," replied the old lady,
firmly.

The maid executed a courtesy, and departed; and Lady Alice sank back
again upon her pillow, with her eyes and mouth firmly closed, and the
countenance of an old lady who is conscious of having done her duty upon
one of her sex.

About two minutes later there came a rustle of a dressing-gown and the
patter of a swift-slippered tread through the short passage from the
dressing-room, and, without a knock, Lady Jane, with a brilliant flush
on her face, ruffled into the room, and, with her head very high, and
flashing eyes, demanded--

"Will you be so good, Lady Alice Redcliffe, as to give me the key of my
bed-room?"

To which Lady Alice, without opening her eyes, and with her hands mildly
clasped, in the fashion of a mediæval monument, over her breast, meekly
and firmly made answer--

"If you mean the key of the Window dressing-room, Jane, I have already
told your maid that I mean to _keep_ it!"

"And I'll not leave the room till I get it," cried Lady Jane, standing
fiercely beside the monument.

"Then you'll not leave the room to-night, Jane," replied the statuesque
sufferer on the bed.

"We shall _see_ that. Once more, will you give me my key or not?"

"The key of my dressing-room door is in my possession, and I mean to
keep it," repeated the old lady, with a provoking mildness.

"You shan't, madam--you'll do no such thing. You shall give up the key
you have stolen. I'll lose my life but I'll make you."

"Jane, Jane," said the old lady, "you are sadly changed for the worse
since last I saw you."

"And if _you're_ not, it's only because there was no room for it. Sadly
changed indeed--very true. I don't suffer you to bully me as you used at
Wardlock."

"May Heaven forgive and pardon you!" ejaculated the old lady, with great
severity, rising perpendicularly and raising both her eyes and hands.

"Keep your prayers for yourself, madam, and give me my key," demanded
the incensed young lady.

"I'll do no such thing; I'll do as I said; and I'll pray how I please,
ma'am," retorted the suppliant, fiercely.

"Your prayers don't signify twopence. You've the temper of a fiend, as
all the world knows; and no one can live in the same house with you,"
rejoined Lady Jane.

"That's a wicked lie: my servants live all their days with me."

"Because they know no one else would take them. But you've the temper of
a fury. You haven't a friend left, and everyone hates you."

"Oh! oh! oh!" moaned Lady Alice, sinking back, with her hand pressed to
her heart piteously, and closing her eyes, as she recollected how ill
she was.

"Ho! dear me!" exclaimed Lady Jane, in high disdain. "Had not you better
restore my key before you die, old lady?"

"Jane!" exclaimed Lady Alice, recovering in an instant, "have you no
feeling--you know the state I'm in; and you're bent on killing me with
your unfeeling brutality?"

"You're perfectly well, ma'am, and you look it. I wish I was half as
strong; you oblige me to come all this way, this bitter night, you
odious old woman."

"I see how it is, and why you want the key. A very little more, and I'll
write to General Lennox."

"Do; and he'll horsewhip you."

Lady Jane herself was a little stunned at this speech, when she heard it
from her own lips; and I think would have recalled it.

"Thank you, Jane; I hope you'll _remember_ that. Horsewhip me! No doubt
you wish it; but General Lennox is a gentleman, I hope, _although_ he
has married you; and I don't suppose he would murder a miserable old
woman to gratify you."

"You know perfectly what I mean--if you were a _man_ he would horsewhip
you; you have done nothing but insult me ever since you entered this
house."

"Thank you; it's quite plain. I shan't forget it. I'll ask him, when he
comes, whether he's in the habit of beating women. It is not usual, I
believe, among British officers. It _usen't_ at least; but everything's
getting on--young ladies, and, I suppose, old men--all getting on
famously."

"Give me my key, if you please; and cease talking like a fool," cried
Lady Jane.

"And what _do_ you want of that key? Come, now, young lady, what is it?"

"I don't choose to have my door lie open, and I won't. I've no bolt to
the inside, and I _will_ have my key, madam."

"If that's your object, set your mind at ease. I'll lock your door
myself when you have got to your bed."

"So that if the house takes fire I shall be burnt to death!"

"Pooh! nonsense!"

"And if I am they'll hang _you_, I hope."

"Thank you. Flogged and hanged!" And Lady Alice laughed an exceeding
bitter laugh. "But the wicked violence of your language and _menaces_
shan't deter me from the duty I've prescribed to myself. I'll define my
reasons if you like, and I'll write as soon as you please to General
Lennox."

"I think you're _mad_--I do, I assure you. I'll endure it for once, but
depend on it I'll complain to Sir Jekyl Marlowe, in my husband's
absence, in the morning; and if this sort of thing is to go on, I had
better leave the house forthwith--that's all."

And having uttered these dignified sentences with becoming emphasis, she
sailed luridly away.

"Good-night, Jane," said Lady Alice, with a dry serenity.

"Don't dare, you insupportable old woman, to wish me good-night," burst
out Lady Jane, whisking round at the threshold.

With which speech, having paused for a moment in defiance, she
disappeared, leaving the door wide open, which is, perhaps, as annoying
as clapping it, and less vulgar.



CHAPTER XXIV.

Guy Strangways and M. Varbarriere converse.


When M. Varbarriere and his nephew this night sat down in their
dressing-room, the elder man said--

"How do you like Sir Jekyl Marlowe?"

"A most agreeable host--very lively--very hospitable," answered Guy
Strangways.

"Does it strike you that he is _anxious_ about anything?"

The young man looked surprised.

"No; that is, I mean, he appears to me in excellent spirits. Perhaps,
sir, I do not quite apprehend you?"

"Not unlikely," said the old gentleman. "He does not question you?"

"No, sir."

"Yet he suspects me, and I think suspects you," observed M. Varbarriere.

The young man looked pained, but said nothing.

"That room where poor Lady Marlowe was--was so shocked--the green
chamber--it is connected with the misfortunes of your family."

"How, sir?"

"Those papers you have heard my lawyer mention as having been lost at
Dubois' Hotel in London, by your grandfather, it is my belief were lost
in this house and in that room."

A gentleman smoking a cigar must be very much interested indeed when he
removes his weed from his lips and rests the hand whose fingers hold it
upon his knee, to the imminent risk of its going out while he pauses and
listens.

"And how, sir, do you suppose this occurred--by what agency?" inquired
the handsome young gentleman.

"The ghost," answered M. Varbarriere, with a solemn sneer.

Guy Strangways knew he could not be serious, although, looking on his
countenance, he could discern there no certain trace of irony as he
proceeded.

"Many years later, poor Lady Marlowe, entering that room late at
night--her maid slept there, and she being ill, for a change, in the
smaller room adjoining (you don't know those rooms, but I have looked in
at the door)--beheld what we call the ghost, and never smiled or held up
her head after," said the portly old gentleman between the puffs of his
cigar.

"Beheld the ghost!"

"So they say, and I believe it--what they _call_ the ghost."

"Did she make an alarm or call her husband?"

"Her husband slept in that remote room at the very back of the house,
which, as you see, he still occupies, quite out of hearing. You go
down-stairs first, then up-stairs; and as he slept the greater part of
two hundred feet away from the front of the house, of course he was out
of the question;" and M. Varbarriere sneered again solemnly.

"A housekeeper named Gwynn, I am told, knows all about it, but I believe
she is gone."

"And do you really think, sir, that my grandfather lost those deeds
_here_?"

"I always thought so, and so I told your father, and my information got
him into a bad scrape."

"You don't, I know, think it occurred supernaturally?" said Guy, more
and more bewildered.

"Supernaturally; of course it was--how else could it be?" answered the
old gentleman, with a drowsy irony. "That room has been haunted, as I
have heard, by a devil from the time it was built, in the reign of
George II. Can you imagine why General Lennox was put to sleep there?"

The young man shook his head. The old one resumed his smoking, leaving
his problem unsolved.

"It shall be my business to evoke and to lay that devil," said the
elderly gentleman, abruptly.

"Ought not Lady Jane Lennox to be warned if you really think there is
any--any _danger_?"

"The danger is to _General_ Lennox, as I suppose."

"I don't understand, sir."

"No, you don't--better not. I told your poor father my belief once, and
it proved fatal knowledge to him. In the day that he ate thereof he
died. Bah! it is better to keep your mind to yourself until you have
quite made it up--you understand?--and even then till the time for
action has come, and not even then, unless you want help. Who will sum
up the mischief one of those prating fellows does in a lifetime?"

The gentlemen were silent hereupon for a period which I may measure by
half a cigar.

"That green chamber--it is a hypocrite," said the solemn old man,
looking drowsily on the smoke that was ascending the chimney, into which
he threw the butt-end of his cigar--"mind you, a hypocrite. I have my
theory. But we will not talk; no--_you_ will be less embarrassed, and
_I_ more useful, with this reserve. For the purpose I have in view I
will do fifty things in which you could and would have no partnership.
Will you peep into that letter, Monsieur?" The ponderous gentleman grew
dramatic here. "Will you place your ear to that door, _s'il vous
plait_--your eye to that keyhole? Will you oblige me by bribing that
domestic with five pounds sterling? Bah! I will be all ear, all
eye--omnipresent, omniscient, omnipotent!--by _all_ means for this
END--ay, all means--what _you_ call secret, shabby, blackguard;" and the
sonorous voice of the old man, for the first time since his arrival,
broke into a clangorous burst of laughter, which, subsiding into a sort
of growl, died, at last, quite away. The old gentleman's countenance
looked more thoughtful and a shade darker than he had seen it. Then
rising, he stood with his back to the fire, and fumbled slowly at the
heavy links of his watch-chain, like a ghostly monk telling his beads,
while he gazed, in the abstraction of deep thought, on the face of the
young man.

Suddenly his face grew vigilant, his eyes lighted up, and some stern
lines gathered about them, as he looked down full upon his nephew.

"Guy," said he, "you'll keep your promise--your word--your oath--that
not one syllable of what passes between us is divulged to mortal, and
that all those points on which I have enjoined reserve shall be held by
you scrupulously secret."

Guy bowed his acquiescence.

"What nonsense was that going on at the piano to-night? Well, you need
not answer, but there must be no more of it. I won't burden you with
painful secrets. You will understand me hereafter; but no more of
_that_--observe me."

The old gentleman spoke this injunction with a lowering nod, and that
deliberate and peremptory emphasis to which his metallic tones gave
effect.

Guy heard this, leaning in an unchanged attitude on his elbow over the
chimneypiece, in silence and with downcast eyes.

"Yes, Guy," said the old man, walking suddenly up to him, and clapping
his broad hand upon his shoulder, "I will complete the work I have begun
for you. Have confidence in me, don't mar it, and you shall know all,
and after I am gone, perhaps admire the zealous affection with which I
laboured in your interest. Good-night, and Heaven bless you, dear Guy;"
and so they parted for the night.

Guy Strangways had all his life stood in awe of this reserved despotic
uncle--kind, indulgent in matters of pleasure and of money, but
habitually secret, and whenever he imposed a command, tyrannical. Yet
Guy felt that even here there was kindness; and though he could not
understand his plans, of his motives he could have no doubt.

For M. Varbarriere, indeed, his nephew had a singular sort of respect.
More than one-half of his character was enveloped in total darkness to
his eyes. Of the traits that were revealed some were positively evil. He
knew, by just one or two proofs, that he was proud and vindictive, and
could carry revenge for a long time, like a cold stone, in his sleeve.
He could break out into a devil of a passion, too, on occasion; he could
be as unscrupulous, in certain ways, as Machiavel; and, it was fixed in
Guy's mind, had absolutely no religion whatsoever. What were the
evidences? M. Varbarriere led a respectable life, and showed his solemn
face and person in church with regularity, and was on very courteous
relations with the clergy, and had built the greater part of a church in
Pontaubrique, where prayers are, I believe, still offered up for him.
Ought not all this to have satisfied Guy? And yet he knew quite well
that solemn M. Varbarriere did not believe one fact, record, tradition,
or article of the religion he professed, or of any other. Had he
denounced, ridiculed, or controverted them?--Never. On the contrary, he
kept a civil tongue in his head, or was silent. What, then, were the
proofs which had long quite settled the question in Guy's mind? They
consisted of some half-dozen smiles and shrugs, scattered over some
fifteen years, and delivered impressively at significant moments.

But with all this he was kindly. The happiness of a great number of
persons depended upon M. Varbarriere, and they were happy. His
wine-estates were well governed. His great silk-factory in the south was
wisely and benevolently administered. He gave handsomely to every
deserving charity. He smiled on children and gave them small coins. He
loved flowers, and no man was more idolised by his dogs.

Guy was attached by his kindness, and he felt that be his moral system
exactly what it might, he had framed one, and acted under it, and he
instinctively imbibed for him that respect which we always cherish for
the man who has submitted his conduct consistently to a code or
principle self-imposed by intellect--even erring.



CHAPTER XXV.

Lady Alice talks with Guy Strangways.


When Guy had bid this man good-night and entered his chamber, he threw
himself into his easy-chair beside the fire, which had grown low and
grey in the grate. He felt both sad and alarmed. He now felt assured
that M. Varbarriere was fashioning and getting together the parts of a
machine which was to work evil against their host and his family. His
family? His _daughter_ Beatrix. He had no other.

Already implicated in deception, the reasons for which he knew not, the
direction of which he only suspected--bound as he was to secrecy by
promises the most sacred, to his stern old kinsman and benefactor, he
dared not divulge the truth. Somehow the blow meditated, he was
confident, against this Baronet, was to redound to _his_ advantage. What
a villain should he appear when all was over! Sir Jekyl his host, too,
frank and hospitable--how could he have earned the misfortune, be it
great or small, that threatened? And the image of Beatrix--like an
angel--stood between her father and the unmasked villain, Guy, who had
entered the house in a borrowed shape, ate and drank and slept, talked
and smiled, and, he now feared, _loved_, and in the end--struck!

When Mr. Guy Strangways came down next morning he looked very pale. His
breakfast was a sham. He talked hardly at all, and smiled but briefly
and seldom.

M. Varbarriere, on the contrary, was more than usually animated, and
talked in his peculiar vein rather more than was his wont; and after
breakfast, Sir Jekyl placed his hand kindly on Guy Strangways' arm as he
looked dismally from the window. The young man almost started at the
kindly pressure.

"Very glad to hear that Monsieur Varbarriere has changed his mind," said
Sir Jekyl, with a smile.

What change was this? thought Guy, whose thoughts were about other plans
of his uncle's, and he looked with a strange surprise in Sir Jekyl's
face.

"I mean his ill-natured idea of going so soon. I'm so glad. You know you
have seen nothing yet, and we are going to kill a buck to-day, so you
had better postpone the moor to-morrow, and if you like to take your rod
in the afternoon, you will find--Barron tells me--some very fine trout,
about half a mile lower down the stream than you fished yesterday--a
little below the bridge."

Guy thanked him, I fancy, rather oddly. He heard him in fact as if it
was an effort to follow his meaning, and he really did feel relieved
when his good-natured host was called away, the next moment, to settle a
disputed question between the two sportsmen, Linnett and Doocey.

"How is grandmamma this morning?" inquired Sir Jekyl of Beatrix, before
she left the room.

"Better, I think. She says she will take a little turn up and down the
broad walk, by-and-by, and I am to go with her."

"Very pleasant for you, Trixie," said her papa, with one of his
chuckles. "So you can't go with your ladies to Lonsted to-day?"

"No--it can't be helped; but I'm glad poor granny can take her little
walk."

"Not a bit of you, Trixie."

"Yes, _indeed_, I am. Poor old granny!"

The incredulous Baronet tapped her cheek with his finger, as he chuckled
again roguishly, and with a smile and a shake of his head, their little
talk ended.

In the hall he found Guy Strangways in his angling garb, about to start
on a solitary excursion. He preferred it. He was very much obliged. He
did not so much care for the chase, and liked walking even better than
riding.

The Baronet, like a well-bred host, allowed his guests to choose
absolutely their own methods of being happy, but he could not but
perceive something in the young gentleman's manner that was new and
uncomfortable. Had he offended him--had anything occurred during the
sitting after dinner last night? Well, he could not make it out, but his
manner was a little odd and constrained, and in that slanting light from
above, as he had stood before him in the hall, he certainly did look
confoundedly like that other Guy whose memory was his chief
spoil-sport. But it crossed him only like a neuralgic pang, to be
forgotten a minute later. And so the party dispersed--some mounted, to
the park; others away with the keeper and dogs for the moor; and
Strangways, dejected, on his solitary river-side ramble.

His rod and fly-book were but pretexts--his object was solitude. It was
a beautiful autumnal day, a low sun gilding the red and yellow foliage
of wood and hedgerow, and the mellow songs of birds were quivering in
the air. The cheer and the melancholy of autumn were there--the sadness
of a pleasant farewell.

"It is well," thought Strangways, "that I have been so startled into
consciousness, while I yet have power to escape my fate--that beautiful
girl! I did not know till last night how terrible I shall find it to say
farewell. But, cost what it may, the word must be spoken. She will never
know what it costs me. I may call it a dream, but even dreams of
paradise are forgotten; my dream--never! All after-days dark without
her. All my future life a sad reverie--a celestial remembrance--a vain
yearning. These proud English people--and those dark designs, what are
they? No, they shan't hurt her--never. I'll denounce him first. What is
it to me what becomes of me if I have saved her--in so few days grown to
be so much to me--my idol, my darling, though she may never know it?"

Guy Strangways, just five-and-twenty, had formed, on the situation, many
such tremendous resolutions as young gentlemen at that period of life
are capable of. He would speak to her no more; he would think of her no
more; he would brave his uncle's wrath--shield her from all possibility
of evil--throw up his own stakes, be they what they might--and depart in
silence, and never see Beatrix again.

The early autumn evening had begun to redden the western clouds, as Guy
Strangways, returning, approached the fine old house, and passing a
thick group of trees and underwoods, he suddenly found himself before
Beatrix and Lady Alice. I dare say they had been talking about him, for
Beatrix blushed, and the old lady stared at him from under her grey
brows, with lurid half-frightened eyes, as she leaned forward, her thin
fingers grasping the arms of the rustic chair, enveloped in her
ermine-lined mantle.

Lady Alice looked on him as an old lady might upon a caged monster--with
curiosity and fear. She was beginning to endure his presence, though
still with an awe nearly akin to horror--though that horror was fast
disappearing--and there was a strange yearning, too, that drew her
towards him.

He had seen Beatrix that morning. The apparition had now again risen in
the midst of his wise resolutions, and embarrassed him strangely. The
old lady's stare, too, was, you may suppose, to a man predisposed to be
put out, very disconcerting. The result was that he bowed very low
indeed before the ladies, and remained silent, expecting, like a ghost,
to be spoken to.

"Come here, sir, if you please," said the old lady, with an odd mixture
of apprehension and command. "How d'ye do, Mr. Strangways? I saw you
yesterday you know, at dinner; and I saw you some weeks since at
Wardlock Church. I have been affected by a resemblance. Merciful Heaven,
it is miraculous! And things of that sort affect me now more than they
once might have done. I'm a sickly old woman, and have lost most of my
dearest ties on earth, and cannot expect to remain much longer behind
them."

It was odd, but the repulsion was still active, while at the same time
she was already, after a fashion, opening her heart to him.

It was not easy to frame an answer, on the moment, to this strange
address. He could only say, as again he bowed low--

"I do recollect, Lady Alice, having seen you in Wardlock Church. My
uncle, Monsieur Varbarriere--"

At this point the handsome young gentleman broke down. His uncle had
whispered him, as they sat side by side--

"Look at that old lady costumed in mourning, in the seat in the gallery
with the marble tablet and two angels--do you see?--on the wall behind.
That is Lady Alice Redcliffe. I'll tell you more about her by-and-by."

"By-and-by," as Guy Strangways had come to know, indicated in M.
Varbarriere's vocabulary that period which was the luminous point in his
perspective, at which his unexplained hints and proceedings would all be
cleared up. The sudden rush of these recollections and surmises in such
a presence overcame Guy Strangways, and he changed colour and became
silent.

The old lady, however, understood nothing of the causes of his sudden
embarrassment, and spoke again.

"Will you forgive an old woman for speaking with so little
reserve?--your voice, too, sir, so wonderfully resembles
it--wonderfully."

Old Lady Alice dried her eyes a little here, and Guy, who felt that his
situation might soon become very nearly comical, said very gently--

"There are, I believe, such likenesses. I have seen one or two such
myself." And then to Beatrix, aside, "My presence and these
recollections, I fear, agitate Lady Alice."

But the old lady interposed in a softened tone--"No, sir; pray don't go;
pray remain. You've been walking, fishing. What a sweet day, and
charming scenery near here. I know it all very well. In my poor girl's
lifetime I was a great deal here. She was very accomplished--she drew
beautifully--poor thing; my pretty Beatrix here is very like her. You
can't remember your poor mamma? No, hardly."

All this time Lady Alice was, with aristocratic ill-breeding,
contemplating the features of Guy Strangways, as she might a picture,
with saddened eyes. She was becoming accustomed to the apparition. It
had almost ceased to frighten her; and she liked it even, as a help to
memory.

Five minutes later she was walking feebly up and down the plateau, in
the last level beams of the genial sunset, leaning on the arm of the
young man, who could not refuse this courtesy to the garrulous old lady,
although contrary to his prudent resolutions--it retained him so near to
Beatrix.

"And, Mr. Strangways, it is not every day, you know, I can walk out; and
Trixie here will sometimes bring her work into the boudoir--and if you
would pay me a visit there, and read or talk a little, you can't think
what a kindness you would do me."

What could he do but hear and smile, and declare how happy it would make
him? Although here, too, he saw danger to his wise resolutions. But have
not the charities of society their claims?

These were their parting words as they stood on the stone platform,
under the carved armorial bearings of the Marlowes, at the hall-door;
and old Lady Alice, when she reached her room, wept softer and happier
tears than had wet her cheeks for many a year.



CHAPTER XXVI.

Some Talk of a Survey of the Green Chamber.


The red sunset beam that had lighted the group we have just been
following, glanced through the windows of M. Varbarriere's
dressing-room, and lighted up a letter he was at that moment reading. It
said--

"The woman to whom you refer is still living. We heard fully about her
last year, and, we are informed, is now in the service of Lady Alice
Redcliffe, of Wardlock, within easy reach of Marlowe. We found her, as
we thought, reliable in her statements, though impracticable and
reserved; but that is eight years since. She was, I think, some way past
fifty then."

M. Varbarriere looked up here, and placed the letter in his pocket,
beholding his valet entering.

"Come in, Jacques," exclaimed the ponderous old gentleman, in the
vernacular of the valet.

He entered gaily bowing and smiling.

"Well, my friend," he exclaimed good-humouredly, "you look very happy,
and no wonder--you, a lover of beauty, are fortunate in a house where so
much is treasured."

"Ah! Monsieur mocks himself of me. But there are many beautiful ladies
assembled here, my faith!"

"What do you think of Lady Jane Lennox?"

"Oh, heavens! it is an angel!"

"And only think! she inhabits, all alone, that terrible green chamber!"
exclaimed the old gentleman, with an unwonted smile, "I have just been
wondering about that green chamber, regarding which so many tales of
terror are related, and trying from its outward aspect to form some
conjecture as to its interior, you understand, its construction and
arrangements. It interests me so strangely. Now, I dare say, by this
time so curious a sprite as you--so clever--so potent with that fair sex
who hold the keys of all that is worth visiting, there is hardly a nook
in this house, from the cellar to the garret, worth looking at, into
which you have not contrived a peep during this time?"

"Ah, my faith! Monsieur does me too much honour. I may have been
possibly, but I do not know to which of the rooms they accord that
name."

Now upon this M. Varbarriere described to him the exact situation of the
apartment.

"And who occupies the room at present, Monsieur?"

"Lady Jane Lennox, I told you."

"Oh! then I am sure I have not been there. That would be impossible."

"But there must be no impossibility here," said the old gentleman, with
a grim "half joke and whole earnest" emphasis. "If you satisfy me during
our stay in this house I will make you a present of five thousand
francs--you comprehend?--this day three weeks. I am curious in my way as
you are in yours. Let us see whether your curiosity cannot subserve
mine. In the first place, on the honour of a gentleman--your father was
a Captain of Chasseurs, and his son will not dishonour him--you promise
to observe the strictest silence and secrecy."

Jacques bowed and smiled deferentially; their eyes met for a moment, and
Monsieur Varbarriere said--

"You need not suppose anything so serious--_mon ami_--there is no
tragedy or even _fourberie_ intended. I have heard spiritual marvels
about that apartment; I am inquisitive. Say, I am composing a philosophy
and writing a book on the subject, and I want some few facts about the
proportions of it. See, here is a sketch--oblong square--that is the
room. You will visit it--you take some pieces of cord--you measure
accurately the distance from this wall to that--you see?--the length;
then from this to this--the breadth. If any projection or recess, you
measure its depth or prominence most exactly. If there be any door or
buffet in the room, beside the entrance, you mark where. You also
measure carefully the thickness of the wall at the windows and the door.
I am very curious, and all this you shall do."

The courier shrugged, and smiled, and pondered.

"Come, there may be difficulties, but such as melt before the light of
your genius and the glow of this," and he lifted a little column of a
dozen golden coins between his finger and thumb.

"Do you think that when we, the visitors, are all out walking or
driving, a chamber-maid would hesitate for a couple of these counters
to facilitate your enterprise and enable you to do all this? Bah! I know
them too well."

"I am flattered of the confidence of Monsieur. I am _ravi_ of the
opportunity to serve him."

There was something perhaps cynical in the imposing solemnity of
gratitude with which M. Varbarriere accepted these evidences of
devotion.

"You must so manage that she will suppose nothing of the fact that it is
_I_ who want all these foolish little pieces of twine," said the grave
gentleman; "she would tell everybody. What will you say to her?"

"Ah, Monsieur, please, it will be Margery. She is a charming rogue, and
as discreet as myself. She will assist, and I will tell her nothing but
fibs; and we shall make some money. She and I together in the servants'
hall--she shall talk of the ghosts and the green chamber, and I will
tell how we used to make wagers who would guess, without having seen it,
the length of such a room in the Chateau Mauville, when we were visiting
there--how many windows--how high the chimneypiece; and then the nearest
guesser won the pool. You see, Monsieur--you understand?--Margery and I,
we will play this little trick. And so she will help me to all the
measurements before, without sharing of my real design, quite simply."

"Sir, I admire your care of the young lady's simplicity," said M.
Varbarriere, sardonically. "You will procure all this for me as quickly
as you can, and I shan't forget my promise."

Jacques was again radiantly grateful.

"Jacques, you have the character of being always true to your chief. I
never doubted your honour, and I show the esteem I hold you in by
undertaking to give you five thousand francs in three weeks' time,
provided you satisfy me while here. It would not cost me much, Jacques,
to make of you as good a gentleman as your father."

Jacques here threw an awful and indescribable devotion into his
countenance.

"I don't say, mind you, I'll do it--only that if I pleased I very easily
might. You shall bring me a little plan of that room, including all the
measurements I have mentioned, if possible to-morrow--the sooner the
better; that to begin with. Enough for the present. Stay; have you had
any talk with Sir Jekyl Marlowe--you must be quite frank with me--has he
noticed you?"

"He has done me that honour."

"Frequently?"

"Once only, Monsieur."

"Come, let us hear what passed."

M. Varbarriere had traced a slight embarrassment in Jacques'
countenance.

So with a little effort and as much gaiety as he could command, Jacques
related tolerably truly what had passed in the stable-yard.

A lurid flush appeared on the old man's forehead for a moment, and he
rang out fiercely--

"And why the devil, sir, did you not mention that before?"

"I was not aware, Monsieur, it was of any importance," he answered
deferentially.

"Jacques, you must tell me the whole truth--did he make you a present?"

"No, Monsieur."

"He gave you nothing then or since?"

"_Pas un sous, Monsieur_--nothing."

"Has he _promised_ you anything?"

"Nothing, Monsieur."

"But you understand what he means?"

"Monsieur will explain himself."

"You understand he has made you an offer in case you consent to transfer
your service."

"Monsieur commands my allegiance."

"You have only to say so if you wish it."

"Monsieur is my generous chief. I will not abandon him for a
stranger--never, while he continues his goodness and his preference for
me."

"Well, you belong to _me_ for a month, you know, by our agreement. After
that you may consider what you please. In the meantime be true to me;
and not one word, if you please, of me or my concerns to anybody."

"Certainly, Monsieur. I shall be found a man of honour now as always."

"I have no doubt, Jacques; as I told you, I know you to be a
gentleman--I rely upon you."

M. Varbarriere looked rather grimly into his eye as he uttered this
compliment; and when the polite little gentleman had left the room, M.
Varbarriere bethought him how very little he had to betray--how little
he knew about him, his nephew, and his plans; and although he would not
have liked his inquiries to be either baulked or disclosed, he could yet
mentally snap his fingers at Monsieur.



CHAPTER XXVII.

M. Varbarriere talks a little more freely.


After his valet left him, M. Varbarriere did not descend, but remained
in his dressing-room, thinking profoundly; and, after a while, he opened
his pocket-book, and began to con over a number of figures, and a
diagram to which these numbers seemed to refer.

Sometimes standing at the window, at others pacing the floor, and all
the time engrossed by a calculation, like a man over a problem in
mathematics.

For two or three minutes he had been thus engaged when Guy Strangways
entered the room.

"Ho! young gentleman, why don't you read your prayer-book?" said the old
man, with solemn waggery.

"I don't understand," said the young gentleman.

"No, you don't. I am the old sphynx, you see, and some of my riddles I
can't make out, even myself. My faith! I have been puzzling my head till
it aches over my notebook; and I saw you walking with that old lady,
Lady Alice Redcliffe, up and down so affectionately. _There_ is another
riddle! My faith! the house itself is an enigma. And Sir Jekyl--what do
you think of _him_; is he going to marry?"

"To marry!" echoed Guy Strangways.

"Ay, to marry. I do not know, but he is so sly. We must not let him
marry, you know; it would be so cruel to poor little Mademoiselle
Beatrix--eh?"

Guy Strangways looked at him doubtingly.

"He is pretty old, you know, but so am I, and _older_, my faith! But I
think he is making eyes at the _married_ ladies--eh?"

"I have not observed--perhaps so," answered Guy, carelessly. "He does
walk and talk a great deal with that pretty Madame Maberly."

"Madame Maberly? Bah!" And M. Varbarriere's "bah" sounded like one of
those long sneering slides played sometimes on a deep chord of a double
bass. "No, no, it is that fine woman, Miladi Jane Lennox."

"Lady Jane! I fancied she did not like him. I mean that she positively
_dis_liked him; and to say truth, I never saw, on his part, the
slightest disposition to make himself agreeable."

"I do not judge by words or conduct--in presence of others those are
easily controlled; it is when the eyes meet--you can't mistake. Bah! I
knew the first evening we arrived. Now see, you must have your eyes
about you, Guy. It is _your_ business, not mine. Very important to you,
mon petit garçon; of no sort of imaginable consequence to me, except as
your friend; therefore you shall watch and report to me. You
understand?"

Guy flushed with a glow of shame and anger, and looked up with gleaming
eyes, expecting to meet the deep-set observation of the old man. Had
their eyes encountered, perhaps a quarrel would have resulted, and the
fates and furies would have had the consequences in their hands; but M.
Varbarriere was at the moment reading his attorney's letter again. Guy
looked out of the window, and thought resolutely.

"One duplicity I have committed. It is base enough to walk among these
people masked, but to be a spy--_never_."

And he clenched his hand and pressed his foot upon the floor.

It was dreadful to know that these moral impossibilities were expected
of him. It was terrible to feel that a rupture with his best, perhaps
his only friend, was drawing slowly but surely on; but he was quite
resolved. Nothing on earth could tempt him to the degradation of which
his kinsman seemed to think so lightly.

Happily, perhaps, for the immediate continuance of their amicable
relations, the thoughts of M. Varbarriere had taken a new turn, or
rather reverted to the channel from which they had only for a few
minutes diverged.

"You were walking with that old woman, Lady Alice Redcliffe. She seemed
to talk a great deal. How did she interest you all that time?"

"To say truth, she did _not_ interest me all that time. She talked
vaguely about family afflictions, and the death of her son; and she
looked at me at first as if I were a brigand, and said I was very like
some one whom she had lost."

"Then she's a friendly sort of old woman, at least on certain topics,
and garrulous? Who's there? Oh! Jacques; very good, you need not stay."

The old gentleman was by this time making his toilet.

"Did she happen to mention a person named Gwynn, a housekeeper in her
service?"

"No."

"I'm glad she is an affable old lady; we shall be sure to hear something
useful," said the old gentleman, with an odd smile. "That housekeeper I
must see and sift. They tell me she's impracticable; _they_ found her
so. I shall see. While you live, Guy, do your own business; no one else
will do it, be sure. I did mine, and I've got on."

The old gentleman, who was declaiming before the looking-glass in his
shirt-sleeves and crimson silk suspenders, brushing up that pyramid of
grizzled hair which added to the solemnity of his effect, now got into
his black silk waistcoat. The dressing-bell had rung, and the candles
had superseded daylight.

"You'll observe all I told you, Guy. Sir Jekyl shan't marry--he would
grow what they call impracticable, like Madame Gwynn; Miss Beatrix,
_she_ shan't marry either--it would make, perhaps, new difficulties; and
you, I may as well tell you, _can't_ marry her. When you know the
reasons you will see that such an event _could not be contemplated_. You
understand?"

And he dropped his haircomb, with which he had been bestowing a last
finish on his spire of hair, upon his dressing-table, with a slight
emphasis.

"Therefore, Guy, you will understand you must not be a fool about that
young lady; there are many others to speak to; and if you allow yourself
to like her, you will be a miserable stripling till you forget her."

"There is no need, sir, to warn me; I have resolved to avoid any such
feeling. I have sense enough to see that there are obstacles
insurmountable to my ever cherishing that ambition, and that I never
could be regarded as worthy."

"Bravo! young man, that is what I like; you are as modest as the devil;
and _here_, I can tell you, modesty, which is so often silly, is as wise
as the serpent. You understand?"

The large-chested gentleman was now getting into his capacious coat,
having buttoned his jewelled wrist-studs in; so he contemplated himself
in the glass, with a touch and a pluck here and there.

"One word more, about that old woman. Talk to her all you please, and
let _her_ talk--and talk _more_ than you, so much the better; but
observe, she will question you about yourself and your connections, and
one word you shall not answer; observe she learns nothing from you, that
is, in the spirit of your solemn promise to me."

M. Varbarriere had addressed this peremptory reminder over his shoulder,
and now retouched his perpendicular cone of hair, which waved upwards
like a grey flame.

"Guy, you will be late," he called over his shoulder. "Come, my boy; we
must not be walking in with the entremets."

And he plucked out that huge chased repeater, a Genevan masterpiece,
which somehow harmonised, with his air of wealth and massiveness, and
told him he had hut eight minutes left; and with an injunction to haste,
which Guy, with a start, obeyed, this sable and somewhat mountainous
figure swayed solemnly from the room.

"Who _is_ that Monsieur Varbarriere?" inquired Lady Alice of her host,
as the company began to assemble in the drawing-room, before that
gentleman had made his appearance.

"I have not a notion."

"Are you serious? No, you're _not_ serious," served Lady Alice.

"I'm _always_ serious when I talk to you."

"Thank you. I'm sure that is meant for a compliment," said the old lady,
curtly.

"And I assure you I mean what I say," continued Sir Jekyl, not minding
the parenthesis. "I really don't know, except that he comes from
France--rather a large place, you know--_where_ he comes from. I have
not a notion what his business, calling, or trade may be."

"_Trade!_" replied Lady Alice, with dry dignity.

"Trade, to be sure. _You're_ a tradesman yourself, you know--a
miner--_I_ bought twenty-two shares in that for you in June last; you're
an iron ship-builder--you have fifteen in that; you're a 'bus-man--you
have ten there; and you were devilish near being a brewer, only it
stopped."

"Don't talk like a fool--a joint-stock company I hope is one thing, and
a--a--the other sort of thing quite another, I fancy."

"You fancy, yes; but it is not. It's a firm--Smith, Brown, Jones,
Redcliffe, and Co., omnibus drivers, brewers, and so forth. So if he's
not a rival, and doesn't interfere with _your_ little trade, I really
don't care, my dear little mamma, what sort of shop my friend
Varbarriere may keep; but as I said, I don't know; maybe he's too fine a
fellow to meddle, like us, with vats and 'busses."

"It appears odd that you should know absolutely nothing about your own
guests," remarked Lady Alice.

"Well, it would be odd, only I do," answered Sir Jekyl--"all one needs
to know or ask. He presented his papers, and comes duly accredited--a
letter from old Philander the Peer. Do you remember Peery still? I don't
mind him; he was always a noodle, though in a question of respectability
he's not quite nothing; and another from Bob Charteris--you don't know
him--Attaché at Paris; a better or more reliable quarter one could not
hear from. I'll let you read them to-morrow; they speak unequivocally
for his respectability; and I think the inference is even that he has a
soul above 'busses. Here he is."

M. Varbarriere advanced with the air of a magician about to conduct a
client to his magic mirror, toward Lady Alice before whom he made a low
bow, having been presented the day before, and he inquired with a grave
concern how she now felt herself and expressed with a sonorous suavity
his regrets and his hopes.

Lady Alice, having had a good account of him, received him on the whole
very graciously; and being herself a good Frenchwoman, the conversation
flowed on agreeably.



CHAPTER XXVIII.

Some private Talk of Varbarriere and Lady Alice at the Dinner-table.


At dinner he was placed beside the old lady. He understood good cookery,
and with him to dine was to analyse and contemplate. He was usually
taciturn and absorbed during the process; but on this occasion he made
an effort, and talked a good deal in a grave, but, as the old lady
thought, an agreeable and kindly vein.

Oddly enough, he led the conversation to his nephew, and found his
companion very ready indeed to listen, as perhaps he had anticipated,
and even to question him on this theme with close but unavowed interest.

"He bears two names which, united, remind me of some of my bitterest
sorrows--Guy was my dear son's Christian name, and Mr. Strangways was
his most particular friend; and there is a likeness too," she continued,
looking with her dim and clouded eyes upon Guy at the other side, whom
fate had placed beside Miss Blunket--"a likeness so wonderful as to make
me, at times, quite indescribably nervous; at times it is--how handsome!
don't you consider him wonderfully handsome?--at times the likeness is
so exact as to become all but insupportable."

She glanced suddenly as she spoke, and saw an expression on the
countenance of M. Varbarriere, who looked for no such inspection at that
moment, which she neither liked nor understood.

No, it was _not_ pleasant, connected with the tone in which she spoke,
the grief and the agitation she recounted, and above all with the sad
and horrible associations connected indissolubly in her mind with those
names and features. It was a face both insincere and mocking--such a
countenance as has perhaps shocked us in childhood, when in some grief
or lamentation, looking up for sympathy, we behold a face in which lurks
a cruel enjoyment, or a sense of an undivulged joke.

Perhaps he read in the old lady's face something of the shock she
experienced; for he said, to cover his indiscretion, "I was, at the
moment, reminded of a strange mistake which once took place in
consequence of a likeness. Some of the consequences were tragic, but the
rest so ridiculous that I can never call the adventure to mind without
feeling the comedy prevail. I was thinking of relating it, but, on
recollection, it is too vulgar."

M. Varbarriere, I am certain, was telling fibs; but he did it well. He
did not hasten to change his countenance, but allowed that expression to
possess his features serenely after she had looked, and only shifted it
for a grave and honest one when he added--

"You think then, perhaps, that, my nephew had formerly the honour of
being a companion of Mr. Redcliffe, your son?"

"Oh, dear, no. He was about Jekyl's age. I dare say I had lost him
before that young man was born."

"Oh! that surprises me very much. Monsieur Redcliffe--your son--is it
possible he should have been so much older?"

"My son's name was Deverell," said the old lady, sadly.

"Ah! that's very odd. He, Guy, then, had an uncle who had a friend of
that name--Guy Deverell--long ago, in this country. That is very
interesting."

"_Is_ not it?" repeated Lady Alice, with a gasp. "I feel, somehow, it
must be he--a tall, slight young man."

"Alas! madam, he is much changed if it be he. He must have been older
than your son, madam. He must be, I think, near sixty now, and grown
rather stout. I've heard him talk at times of his friend Guy Deverell."

"And with affection, doubtless."

"Well, yes, with affection, certainly, and with great indignation of his
death--the mode of it."

"Ah! yes," said Lady Alice, flushing to the roots of her grey hair, and
looking down on her plate.

Here there was silence for the space of a minute or more.

"Yes, Monsieur Varbarriere; but you know, even though we cannot always
forget, we must forgive."

"Champagne, my lady?" inquired the servant over her shoulder.

"_No_, thank you," murmured Lady Alice.

M. Varbarriere took some and sipped it, wondering how Sir Jekyl
contrived to get such wines, and mentally admitting that even in the
champagne countries it would task him--M. Varbarriere--to find its
equal. And he said--

"Yes, Lady Alice, divine philosophy, but not easy to practise. I fear it
is as hard to do one as the other."

"And how _is_ Mr. Strangways?" inquired Lady Alice.

They were talking very confidentially and in a low tone, as if old
Strangways' health was the subject of conspiracy.

"Growing old, Lady Alice; he has not spared himself; otherwise well."

"And this, you say, is his nephew?" continued the old lady. "And you?"

"I am Guy's uncle--his _mother's_ brother."

"And his mother, is _she_ living?"

"No, poor thing! gone long ago."

Lady Alice looked again unexpectedly into M. Varbarriere's face, and
there detected the same unreliable expression.

"Monsieur Varbarriere," said old Lady Alice a little sternly in his ear,
"you will pardon me, but it seems to me that you are trifling, and not
quite sincere in all you tell me."

In a moment the gravity of all the Chief Justices that ever sat in
England was gathered in his massive face.

"I am shocked, madam, at your thinking me capable of trifling. How have
I showed, I entreat, any evidences of a disposition so contrary to my
feelings?"

"I tell you frankly--in your countenance, Monsieur Varbarriere; and I
observed it before, Monsieur."

"Believe me, I entreat, madam, when I assure you, upon the honour of a
gentleman, every word I have said is altogether true. Nor would it be
easy for me to describe how profound is my sympathy with you."

From this time forth Lady Alice saw no return, of that faint but odious
look of banter that had at first shocked and then irritated her; and
fortified by the solemn assurance he had given, she fell into a habit of
referring it to some association unconnected with herself, and tried to
make up for her attack upon him by an increased measure of courtesy.

Dwelling on those subjects that most interested Lady Alice, he and she
grew more and more confidential, and she came, before they left the
parlour, to entertain a high opinion of both the wisdom and the
philanthropy of M. Varbarriere.



CHAPTER XXIX.

The Ladies and Gentlemen resume Conversation in the Drawing-room.


"Dives, my boy," said the Baronet, taking his stand beside his brother
on the hearthrug, when the gentlemen had followed the ladies into the
drawing-room, and addressing him comfortably over his shoulder, "the
Bishop's coming to-morrow."

"Ho!" exclaimed Dives, bringing his right shoulder forward, so as nearly
to confront his brother. They had both been standing side by side, with
their backs, according to the good old graceful English fashion, to the
fire.

"Here's his note--came to-night. He'll be here to dinner, I suppose, by
the six o'clock fast train to Slowton."

"Thanks," said Dives, taking the note and devouring it energetically.

"Just half a dozen lines of three words each--always so, you know. Poor
old Sammy! I always liked old Sammy--a good old cock at school he
was--great fun, you know, but always a gentleman."

Sir Jekyl delivered these recollections standing with his hands behind
his back, and looking upwards with a smile to the ceiling, as the Rev.
Dives Marlowe read carefully every word of the letter.

"Sorry to see his hand begins to shake a little," said Dives, returning
the interesting manuscript.

"Time for it, egad! He's pretty well on, you know. We'll all be shaky a
bit before long, Dives."

"How long does he stay?"

"I think only a day or two. I have his first note up-stairs, if I did
not burn it," answered the Baronet.

"I'm glad I'm to meet him--_very_ glad indeed. I think it's five years
since I met his lordship at the consecration of the new church of
Clopton Friars. I always found him very kind--very. He likes the
school-house fellows."

"You'd better get up your parochial experiences a little, and your
theology, eh? They say he expects his people to be alive. You used to be
rather good at theology--usen't you?"

Dives smiled.

"Pretty well, Jekyl."

"And what do you want of him, Dives?"

"Oh! he could be useful to me in fifty ways. I was thinking--you know
there's that archdeaconry of Priors." Dives replied pretty nearly in a
whisper.

"By Jove! yes--a capital thing--I forgot it;" and Sir Jekyl laughed
heartily.

"Why do you laugh, Jekyl?" he asked, a little drily.

"I--I really don't know," said the Baronet, laughing on.

"I don't see anything absurd or unreasonable in it. That archdeaconry
has always been held by some one connected with the county families.
Whoever holds it must be fit to associate with the people of that
neighbourhood, who won't be intimate, you know, with everybody; and the
thing really is little more than a feather, the house and place are
expensive, and no one that has not something more than the archdeaconry
itself can afford it."

The conversation was here arrested by a voice which inquired--

"Pray, can you tell me what day General Lennox returns?"

The question was Lady Alice's. She had seemed to be asleep--probably
was--and opening her eyes suddenly, had asked it in a hard, dry tone.

"_I?_" said Sir Jekyl. "I don't know, I protest--maybe to-night--maybe
to-morrow. Come when he may, he's very welcome."

"You have not heard?" she persisted.

"No, I have not," he answered, rather tartly, with a smile.

Lady Alice nodded, and raised her voice--

"Lady Jane Lennox, you've heard, no doubt--pray, when does the General
return?"

If the scene had not been quite so public, I dare say this innocent
little inquiry would have been the signal for one of those keen
encounters to which these two fiery spirits were prone.

"He has been detained unexpectedly," drawled Lady Jane.

"You hear from him constantly?" pursued the old lady.

"Every day."

"It's odd he does not say when you may look for him," said Lady Alice.

"Egad, you want to make her jealous, I think," interposed Sir Jekyl.

"Jealous? Well, I think a young wife may very reasonably be jealous,
though not exactly in the vulgar sense, when she is left without a clue
to her husband's movements."

"You said you were going to write to him. I wish you would, Lady Alice,"
said the young lady, with an air of some contempt.

"I can't believe he has not said how soon his return may be looked for,"
observed the old lady.

"I suppose he'll say whenever he can, and in the meantime I don't intend
plaguing him with inquiries he can't answer." And with these words she
leaned back fatigued, and with a fierce glance at Sir Jekyl, who was
close by, she added, so loud that I wonder Lady Alice did not hear
her--"Why don't you stop that odious old woman?"

"Stop an odious old woman!--why, who ever did? Upon my honour, I know no
way but to kill her," chuckled the Baronet.

Lady Jane deigned no reply.

"Come here, Dives, and sit by me," croaked the old lady, beckoning him
with her thin, long finger. "I've hardly seen you since I came."

"Very happy, indeed--very much obliged to you, Lady Alice, for wishing
it."

And the natty but somewhat forbidding-looking Churchman sat himself down
in a prie-dieu chair vis-à-vis to the old gentlewoman, and folded his
hands, expecting her exordium.

"Do you remember, Sir Harry, your father?"

"Oh, dear, yes. I recollect my poor father very well. We were at Oxford
then or just going. How old was I?--pretty well out of my teens."

It must be observed that they sat in a confidential proximity--nobody
listened--nobody cared to approach.

"You remember when he died, poor man?"

"Yes--poor father!--we were at home--Jekyl and I--for the holidays--I
believe it _was_--a month or so. The Bishop, you know, was with him."

"I know. He's coming to-morrow."

"Yes; so my brother here just told me--an excellent, exemplary, pious
prelate, and a true friend to my poor father. He posted fifty
miles--from Doncaster--in four hours and a half, to be with him. And a
great comfort he was. I shall never forget it to him."

"I don't think you cared for your father, Dives; and Jekyl positively
disliked him," interposed Lady Alice agreeably.

"I trust there was no feeling so unchristian and monstrous ever
harboured in my brother's breast," replied Dives, loftily, and with a
little flush in his cheeks.

"You can't believe any such thing, my dear Dives; and you know you did
not care if he was at the bottom of the Red Sea, and I don't wonder."

"Pray don't, Lady Alice. If you think such things, I should prefer not
hearing them," murmured Dives, with clerical dignity.

"And what I want to ask you now is this," continued Lady Alice; "you are
of course aware that he told the Bishop that he wanted that green
chamber, for some reason or another, pulled down?"

Dives coughed, and said--

"Well, yes, I _have_ heard."

"What was his reason, have you any notion?"

"He expressed none. My father gave, I believe, no reason. I never heard
any," replied the Reverend Dives Marlowe.

"You may be very sure he had a reason," continued Lady Alice.

"Yes, very likely."

"And why is it not done?" persisted Lady Alice.

"I can no more say why, than you can," replied Dives.

"But why don't you see to it?" demanded she.

"See to it! Why, my dear Lady Alice, you must know I have no more power
in the matter than Doocey there, or the man in the moon. The house
belongs to Jekyl. Suppose you speak to him."

"You've a tongue in your head, Dives, when you've an object of your
own."

Dives flushed again, and looked, for an apostle, rather forbidding.

"I have not the faintest notion, Lady Alice, to what you allude."

"Whatever else he may have been, Dives, he was your father," continued
Lady Alice, not diverted by this collateral issue; "and as his son, it
was and is your business to give Jekyl no rest till he complies with
that dying injunction."

"Jekyl's his own master; what can I do?"

"Do as you do where your profit's concerned; tease him as you would for
a good living, if he had it to give."

"I don't press my interests much upon Jekyl. I've never teased him or
anybody else, for anything," answered Dives, grandly.

"Come, come, Dives Marlowe; you have duties on earth, and something to
think of besides yourself."

"I trust I don't need to be reminded of that, Lady Alice," said the
cleric, with a bow and a repulsive meekness.

"Well, speak to your brother."

"I _have_ alluded to the subject, and an opportunity _may_ occur again."

"_Make_ one--make an opportunity, Dives."

"There are rules, Lady Alice, which we must all observe."

"Come, come, Dives Marlowe," said the lady, very tartly, "remember
you're a clergyman."

"I hope I _do_, madam; and I trust _you_ will too."

And the Rector rose, and with an offended bow, and before she could
reply, made a second as stiff, and turned away to the table, where he
took up a volume and pretended to read the title.

"Dives," said the old lady, making no account of his huff, "please to
tell Monsieur Varbarriere that I should be very much obliged if he would
afford me a few minutes here, if he is not better engaged; that is, it
seems to me he has nothing to do there."

M. Varbarriere was leaning back in his chair, his hands folded, and the
points of his thumbs together; his eyes closed, and his bronzed and
heavy features composed, as it seemed, to deep thought; and one of his
large shining shoes beating time slowly to the cadences of his
ruminations.

The Reverend Dives Marlowe was in no mood just at that moment to be
trotted about on that offensive old lady's messages. But it is not
permitted to gentlemen, even of his sacred calling, to refuse, in this
wise, to make themselves the obedient humble servants of the fair sex,
and to tell them to go on their own errands.

Silently he made her a slight bow, secretly resolving to avail himself
sparingly of his opportunities of cultivating her society for the
future.

Perhaps it was owing to some mesmeric reciprocity, but exactly at this
moment M. Varbarriere opened his eyes, arose, and walked towards the
fireplace, as if his object had been to contemplate the ornaments over
the chimneypiece; and arriving at the hearthrug, and beholding Lady
Alice, he courteously drew near, and accosted her with a deferential
gallantry, saving the Reverend Dives Marlowe, who was skirting the other
side of the round table, the remainder of his tour.



CHAPTER XXX.

Varbarriere picks up something about Donica Gwynn.


Drawing-room conversation seldom opens like an epic in the thick of the
plot, and the introductory portions, however graceful, are seldom worth
much. M. Varbarriere and Lady Alice had been talking some two or three
minutes, when she made this inquiry.

"When did you last see the elder Mr. Strangways, whom you mentioned at
dinner?"

"Lately, very lately--within this year."

"Did he seem pretty well?"

"Perfectly well."

"What does he think about it all?"

"I find a difficulty. If Lady Alice Redcliffe will define her
question----"

"I mean--well, I should have asked you first, whether he ever talked to
you about the affairs of that family--the Deverell family--I mean as
they were affected by the loss of a deed. I don't understand these
things well; but it involved the loss, they say, of an estate; and then
there was the great misfortune of my life."

M. Varbarriere here made a low and reverential bow of sympathy; he knew
she meant the death of her son.

"Upon this latter melancholy subject he entirely sympathises with you.
His grief of course has long abated, but his indignation survives."

"And well it may, sir. And what does he say of the paper that
disappeared?"

"He thinks, madam, that it was stolen."

"Ha! So do I."

The confidential and secret nature of their talk had drawn their heads
together, and lowered their voices.

"He thinks it was abstracted by one of the Marlowe family."

"Which of them? Go on, sir."

"Well, by old Sir Harry Marlowe, the father of Sir Jekyl."

"It certainly _was_ he; it could have been no other; it was stolen, that
is, I don't suppose by his hand; I don't know, perhaps it was; he was
capable of a great deal; _I_ say nothing, Monsieur Varbarriere."

Perhaps that gentleman thought she had said a good deal; but he was as
grave on this matter as she.

"You seem, madam, very positive. May I be permitted to inquire whether
you think there exists proof of the fact?"

"I don't speak from proof, sir."

Lady Alice sat straighter, and looked full in his face for a moment, and
said--

"I am talking to you, Monsieur Varbarriere, in a very confidential way.
I have not for ever so many years met a human being who cared, or indeed
knew anything of my poor boy as his friend. I have at length met you,
and I open my mind, my conjectures, my suspicions; but, you will
understand, in the strictest confidence."

"I have so understood all you have said, and in the same spirit I have
spoken and mean to speak, madam, if you permit me, to you. I do feel an
interest in that Deverell family, of whom I have heard so much. There
was a servant, a rather superior order of person, who lived as
housekeeper--a Mrs. Gwynn--to whom I would gladly have spoken, had
chance thrown her in my way, and from whom it was hoped something
important might be elicited."

"She is my housekeeper now," said Lady Alice.

"Oh! and--"

"I think she's a sensible person; a respectable person, I believe, in
her rank of life, although they chose to talk scandal about her; as what
young woman who lived in the same house with that vile old man, Sir
Harry Marlowe, could escape scandal? But, poor thing! there was no
evidence that ever I could learn; nothing but lies and envy: and she has
been a very faithful servant to the family."

"And is now in your employment, madam?"

"My housekeeper at Wardlock," responded Lady Alice.

"Residing there now?" inquired M. Varbarriere.

Lady Alice nodded assent.

I know not by what subtle evidences, hard to define, seldom if ever
remembered, we sometimes come to a knowledge, by what seems an
intuition, of other people's intentions. M. Varbarriere was as silent as
Lady Alice was; his heavy bronzed features were still, and he looking
down on one of those exquisite wreaths of flowers that made the pattern
of the carpet; his brown, fattish hands were folded in his lap. He was
an image of an indolent reverie.

Perhaps there was something special and sinister in the composure of
those large features. Lady Alice's eye rested on his face, and instantly
a fear smote her. She would have liked to shake him by the arm, and cry,
"In God's name, do you mean us any harm?" But it is not permitted even
to old ladies such as she to explode in adjuration, and shake up old
gentlemen whose countenances may happen to strike them unpleasantly.

As people like to dispel an omen, old Lady Alice wished to disturb the
unpleasant pose and shadows of those features. So she spoke to him, and
he looked up like his accustomed self.

"You mentioned Mr. Herbert Strangways just now, Monsieur. I forget what
relation you said he is to the young gentleman who accompanies you, Mr.
Guy Strangways."

"Uncle, madam."

"And, pray, does he perceive--did he ever mention a most astonishing
likeness in that young person to my poor son?"

"He has observed a likeness, madam, but never seemed to think it by any
means so striking as you describe it. Your being so much moved by it has
surprised me."

Here Lady Alice's old eyes wandered toward the spot where Guy Strangways
stood, resting them but a moment; every time she looked so at him, this
melancholy likeness struck her with a new force. She sighed and
shuddered, and removed her eyes. On looking again at M. Varbarriere, she
saw the same slightly truculent shadow over his features, as again he
looked drowsily upon the carpet.

She had spent nearly a quarter of a century in impressing her limited
audience with the idea that if there were thunderbolts in heaven they
ought to fall upon Sir Jekyl Marlowe. Yet, now that she saw in that face
something like an evil dream, a promise of judgment coming, a feeling of
compunction and fear agitated her.

She looked over his stooping shoulders and saw pretty Beatrix leaning on
the back of her father's chair, the young lady pleading gaily for some
concession, Sir Jekyl laughing her off.

"How pretty she looks to-night--poor Trixie!" said Lady Alice,
unconsciously.

M. Varbarriere raised his head, and looked, directed by her gaze, toward
father and daughter. But his countenance did not brighten. On the
contrary, it grew rather darker, and he looked another way, as if the
sight offended him.

"Pretty creature she is--pretty Beatrix!" exclaimed the old lady,
looking sadly and fondly across at her.

No response was vouchsafed by M. Varbarriere.

"Don't you think so? Don't you think my granddaughter very lovely?"

Thus directly appealed to, M. Varbarriere conceded the point, but not
with effusion.

"Yes, Mademoiselle is charming--she is very charming--but I am not a
critic. I have come to that time of life, Lady Alice, at which our
admiration of mere youth, with its smooth soft skin and fresh tints,
supersedes our appreciation of beauty."

In making this unsatisfactory compliment, he threw but one careless
glance at Beatrix.

"That girl, you know, is heiress of all this--nothing but the title goes
to Dives, and the small estate of Grimalston," said Lady Alice. "Of
course I love my grandchild, but it always seems to me wrong to strip a
title of its support, and send down the estates by a different line."

"Miss Beatrix Marlowe has a great deal too much for her own happiness.
It is a disproportioned fortune, and in a young lady so sensible will
awake suspicions of all her suitors. 'You are at my feet, sir,' she will
think, 'but is your worship inspired by love or by avarice?' She is in
the situation of that prince who turned all he touched into gold; while
it feeds the love of money, it starves nature."

"I don't think it has troubled her head much as yet. If she had no dot
whatever, she could not be less conscious," said the old lady.

"Some people might go through life and never feel it; and even of those
who do, I doubt if there is one who would voluntarily surrender the
consequence or the power of exorbitant wealth for the speculative
blessing of friends and lovers more sincere. I could quite fancy,
notwithstanding, a lady, either wise or sensitive, choosing a life of
celibacy in preference to marriage under conditions so suspicious. Miss
Marlowe would be a happier woman with only four or five hundred pounds
a-year."

"Well, maybe so," said the old lady, dubiously, for she knew something
of the world as well as of the affections.

"She will not, most likely, give it away; but if it were taken, she
would be happier. Few people have nerve for an operation, and yet many
are the more comfortable when it is performed."

"Beatrix has only been out one season, and that but interruptedly. She
has been very much admired, though, and I have no doubt will be very
suitably married."

"There are disadvantages, however."

"I don't understand," said Lady Alice, a little stiffly.

"I mean the tragedy in which Sir Jekyl is implicated," said M.
Varbarriere, rising, and looking, without intending it, so sternly at
Lady Alice, that she winced under it.

"Yes, to be sure, but you know the world does not mind that--the world
does not choose to believe ill of fortune's minions--at least, to
remember it. A few old-fashioned people view it as you and I do; but
Jekyl stands very well. It is a wicked world, Monsieur Varbarriere."

"It is not for me to say. Every man has profited, more or less, at one
time or another, by its leniency. Perhaps I feel in this particular case
more strongly than others; but, notwithstanding the superior rank,
wealth, and family of Sir Jekyl Marlowe, I should not, were I his
equal, like to be tied to him by a close family connexion."

Lady Alice did not feel anger, nor was she pleased. She did not look
down abashed at discovering that this stranger seemed to resent on so
much higher ground than she the death of her son. She compressed her
thin lips, looking a little beside the stern gentleman in black, at a
distant point on the wall, and appeared to reflect.



CHAPTER XXXI.

Lady Jane puts on her Brilliants.


That evening, by the late post, had arrived a letter, in old General
Lennox's hand, to his wife. It had come at dinner-time, and it was with
a feeling of _ennui_ she read the address. It was one of those billets
which, in Swift's phrase, would "have kept cool;" but, subsiding on the
ottoman, she opened it--conjugal relations demanded this attention; and
Lady Jane, thinking "what a hand he writes!" ran her eye lazily down
those crabbed pages in search of a date to light her to the passage
where he announced his return; but there was none, so far as she saw.

"What's all this about? 'Masterson, the silkmercer at Marlowe--a
very'--something--'fellow--_honest_.' Yes, that's the word. So he may
be, but I shan't buy his horrid trash, if that's what you mean," said
she, crumpling up the stupid old letter, and leaning back, not in the
sweetest temper, and with a sidelong glance of lazy defiance through her
half-closed lashes, at the unconscious Lady Alice.

And now arrived a sleek-voiced servant, who, bowing beside Lady Jane,
informed her gently that Mr. Masterson had arrived with the parcel for
her ladyship.

"The parcel! what parcel?"

"I'm not aware, my lady."

"Tell him to give it to my maid. Ridiculous rubbish!" murmured Lady
Jane, serenely.

But the man returned.

"Mr. Masterson's direction from the General, please, my lady, was to
give the parcel into your own hands."

"Where is he?" inquired Lady Jane, rising with a lofty fierceness.

"In the small breakfast-parlour, my lady."

"Show me the way, please."

When Lady Jane Lennox arrived she found Mr. Masterson cloaked and
muffled, as though off a journey, and he explained, that having met
General Lennox yesterday accidentally in Oxford Street, in London, from
whence he had only just returned, he had asked him to take charge of a
parcel, to be delivered into her ladyship's own hands, where,
accordingly, he now placed it.

Lady Jane did not thank him; she was rather conscious of herself
conferring a favour by accepting anything at his hands; and when he was
gone she called her maid, and having reached her room and lighted her
candles, she found a very beautiful set of diamonds.

"Why, these are really superb, beautiful brilliants!" exclaimed the
handsome young lady. The cloud had quite passed away, and a beautiful
light glowed on her features.

Forthwith to the glass she went, in a charming excitement.

"Light all the candles you can find!" she exclaimed.

"Well, my eyes, but them is beautiful, my lady!" ejaculated the maid,
staring with a smirk, and feeling that at such a moment she might talk a
little, without risk, which, indeed, was true.

So with bed-room and dressing-table candles, and a pair purloined even
from old Lady Alice's room, a tolerably satisfactory illumination was
got up, and the jewels did certainly look dazzling.

The pendants flashed in her ears--the exquisite collar round her
beautiful throat--the tiara streamed livid fire over her low Venus-like
forehead, and her eager eyes and parted lips expressed her almost
childlike delight.

There are silver bullets against charmed lives. There are women from
whose snowy breasts the fire-tipped shafts of Cupid fall quenched and
broken; and yet a handful of these brilliant pellets will find their way
through that wintry whiteness, and lie lodged in her bleeding heart.

After I know not how long a time spent before the glass, it suddenly
struck Lady Jane to inquire of the crumpled letter, in which the name of
Masterson figured, and of whose contents she knew, in fact, nothing, but
that they named no day for the General's return. She had grown curious
as to who the donor might be. Were those jewels a gift from the
General's rich old sister, who had a splendid suit, she had heard, which
she would never put on again? Had they come as a bequest? How was it,
and whose were they?

And now with these flashing gems still dangling so prettily in her ears,
and spanning her white throat, as she still stood before the glass, she
applied herself to spell out her General's meaning in better temper than
for a long time she had read one of that gallant foozle's kindly and
honest rigmaroles. At first the process was often interrupted by those
glances at the mirror which it is impossible under ordinary
circumstances to withhold; but as her interest deepened she drew the
candle nearer, and read very diligently the stiffly written lines before
her.

They showed her that the magnificent present was from himself alone. I
should be afraid to guess how many thousand pounds had been lavished
upon those jewels. An uxorious fogey--a wicked old fool--perhaps we,
outside the domestic circle, may pronounce him. Lady Jane within that
magic ring saw differently.

The brief, blunt, soldier-like affection that accompanied this
magnificent present, and the mention of a little settlement of the
jewels, which made them absolutely hers in case her "old man" should
die, and the little conjecture "I wonder whether you would sometimes
miss him?" smote her heart strangely.

"What a gentleman--what an old darling!"--and she--how heinously had she
requited his manly but foolish adoration.

"I'll write to him this moment," she said, quite pale.

And she took the casket in her hands and laid it on her bed, and sat
down on the side of it, and trembled very much, and suddenly burst into
tears, insomuch that her maid was startled, and yielding forthwith to
her sympathy, largely leavened with curiosity, she came and stood by her
and administered such consolation as people will who know nothing of
your particular grief, and like, perhaps, to discover its causes.

But after a while her mistress asked her impatiently what she meant,
and, to her indignation and surprise, ordered her out of the room.

"I wish he had not been so good to me. I wish he had ever been unkind to
me. I wish he would beat me, Good Heaven! is it all a dream?"

So, quite alone, with one flashing pendant in her ear, with the necklace
still on--incoherently, wildly, and affrighted--raved Lady Jane, with a
face hectic and wet with tears.

Things appeared to her all on a sudden, quite in a new character, as
persons suddenly called on to leave life, see their own doings as they
never beheld them before; so with a shock, and an awakening, tumbled
about her the whole structure of her illusions, and a dreadful void with
a black perspective for the first time opened round her.

She did not return to the drawing-room. When Beatrix, fearing she might
be ill, knocked at the door of the green chamber, and heard from the far
extremity Lady Jane's clear voice call "Come in," she entered. She found
her lying in her clothes, with the counterpane thrown partially over
her, upon the funereal-looking old bed, whose dark green curtains
depended nearly from the ceiling.

"Well!" exclaimed Lady Jane, almost fiercely, rising to her elbow, and
staring at Beatrix.

"I--you told me to come in. I'm afraid I mistook."

"Did I? I dare say. I thought it was my maid. I've got such a bad
headache."

"I'm very sorry. Can I do anything?"

"No, Beatrix--no, thank you; it will go away of itself."

"I wish so much, Lady Jane, you would allow me to do anything for you.
I--I sometimes fear I have offended you. You seemed to like me, I
thought, when I saw you this spring in London, and I've been trying to
think how I have displeased you."

"_Displeased_ me! _you_ displease _me_! Oh! Beatrix, Beatrix, dear, you
don't know, you can never know. I--it is a feeling of disgust and
despair. I hate myself, and I'm frightened and miserable, and I wish I
dare cling to you."

She looked for a moment as if she would have liked to embrace her, but
she turned away and buried her face in her pillow.

"Dear Lady Jane, you must not be so agitated. You certainly are not
well," said Beatrix, close to the bedside, and really a good deal
frightened. "Have you heard--I hope you have not--any ill news?"

If Lady Jane had been dead she could not have seemed to hear her less.

"I hope General Lennox is not ill?" inquired she timidly.

"Ill? No--I don't know; he's very well. I hope he's very well. I hope he
is; and--and I know what I wish for myself."

Beatrix knew what her grandmamma thought of Lady Jane's violence and
temper, and she began to think that something must have happened to
ruffle it that evening.

"I wish you'd go, dear, you _can_ do nothing for me," said Lady Jane,
ungraciously, with a sudden and sombre change of manner.

"Well, dear Lady Jane, if you think of anything I can do for you, pray
send for me; by-and-by you might like me to come and read to you; and
would you like me to send your maid?"

"Oh! no--no, no, _no_--nothing--good-night," repeated Lady Jane,
impatiently.

So Beatrix departed, and Lady Jane remained alone in the vast chamber,
much more alone than one would be in a smaller one.



CHAPTER XXXII.

Conciliation.


That night again, old Lady Alice, just settling, and having actually
swallowed her drops, was disturbed by a visit from Lady Jane, who stood
by her dishevelled, flushed, and with that storm-beaten look which
weeping leaves behind it. She looked eager, even imploring, so that Lady
Alice challenged her with--

"What on earth, Jane, brings you to my bedside at this hour of the
night?"

"I've come to tell you, Lady Alice, that I believe I was wrong the other
night to speak to you as I did."

"I thought, Jane," replied the old lady with dignity, "you would come to
view your conduct in that light."

"I thought you were right all the time; that is, I thought you meant
kindly. I wished to tell you so," said Lady Jane.

"I am glad, Jane, you can now speak with temper."

"And I think you are the only person alive, except poor Lennox, who
really cares for me."

"I knew, Jane, that reflection and conscience would bring you to this
form of mind," said Lady Alice.

"And I think, when I come to say all this to you, you ought not to
receive me so."

"I meant to receive you kindly, Jane; one can't always in a moment
forget the pain and humiliation which such scenes produce. It will help
me, however, your expressing your regret as you do."

"Well, I believe I am a fool--I believe I deserve this kind of treatment
for lowering myself as I have done. The idea of my coming in here, half
dressed, to say all this, and being received in this--in this
indescribable way!"

"If you don't feel it, Jane, I'm sorry you should have expressed any
sorrow for your misconduct," replied Lady Alice, loftily.

"Sorrow, madam! I never said a word about sorrow. I said I thought you
cared for me, and I don't think so now. I am sure you don't, and I care
just as little for you, not a pin, madam, with your ridiculous airs."

"Very good, dear--then I suppose you are quite satisfied with your
former conduct?"

"Perfectly--of _course_ I am, and if I had had a notion what kind of
person you are I should not have come near you, I promise you."

Lady Alice smiled a patient smile, which somehow rather provoked the
indignant penitent.

"I'd as soon have put my hand in the fire, madam. I've borne too much
from you--a great deal too much; it is you who should have come to me,
madam, and I don't care a farthing about you."

"And I'm still under sentence, I presume, when General Lennox, returns
with his horsewhip," suggested Lady Alice, meekly.

"It would do you nothing but good."

"You are excessively _impertinent_," said Lady Alice, a little losing
her self-command.

"So are you, madam."

"And I desire you'll leave my room," pursued Lady Alice.

"And don't you address me while we remain in this house," exclaimed Lady
Jane, with flaming cheeks.

"Quit the room!" cried Lady Alice, sitting up with preternatural
rigidity.

"Open the door!" exclaimed Lady Jane, fiercely, to the scared maid, "and
carry this candle."

And the maid heard her mutter forcibly as she marched before her through
the passage--"wicked old frump."

I am afraid it was one of those cases of incompatibility of temper, or
faults on both sides, in which it is, on the whole, more for the
interests of peace and goodwill that people should live apart, than
attempt that process under the same roof.

There was a smoking party that night in Sir Jekyl's room. A line had
reached him from General Lennox, regretting his long stay in town, and
fearing that he could hardly hope to rejoin his agreeable party at
Marlowe before a week or possibly ten days. But he hoped that they had
not yet shot all the birds--and so, with that mild joke and its
variations, the letter humorously concluded.

He had also had a letter from the London legal firm--this time the
corresponding limb of the body was Crowe--who, in reply to some fresh
interrogatories of the Baronet's, wrote to say that his partner, Mr.
Pelter, being called to France by legal business connected with Craddock
and Maddox, it devolved on him to "assure Sir Jekyl that, so far as they
could ascertain, everything in the matter to which he referred was
perfectly quiet, and that no ground existed for apprehending any stir
whatsoever."

These letters from Pelter and Crowe, who were shrewd and by no means
sanguine men of business, had always a charming effect on his
spirits--not that he quite required them, or that they gave him any new
ideas or information, but they were pleasant little fillips, as
compliments are to a beauty. He was, therefore, this evening, more than
usually lively, and kept the conversation in a very merry amble.

Guy Strangways was absent; but his uncle, M. Varbarriere, was present,
and in his solemn, sly, porcine way, enjoyed himself with small exertion
and much unction, laughing sometimes sardonically and without noise, at
things which did not seem to amuse the others so much; but, in all he
said, very courteous, and in his demeanour suave and bowing. He was the
last man to take leave of his host, on the threshold, that night.

"I always lock myself in," said Sir Jekyl, observing his guest's eye
rest for a moment on the key, on which his own finger rested, "and I
can't think why the plague I do," he added, laughing, "except that my
father did so before me."

"It makes your pleasant room more a hermitage, and you more of a
recluse," said Monsieur Varbarriere.

"It is very well to be a recluse at pleasure, and take monastic vows of
five hours' duration, and shut yourself up from the world, with the key
of the world, nevertheless, in your pocket," said Sir Jekyl.

Monsieur Varbarriere laughed, and somehow lingered, as if he expected
more.

"You don't mean that you assert your liberty at capricious hours, and
affright your guests in the character of a ghost?" said Monsieur
Varbarriere, jocosely.

Sir Jekyl laughed.

"No," said he, "on the contrary, I make myself more of a prisoner than
you imagine. My man sleeps in the little room in which you now stand,
and draws his little camp-bed across the door. I can't tell you the
least why I do this, only it was my father's custom also, and I fancy my
throat would be cut if my guard did not lie across the threshold. The
world is a mad tree, and we are branches, says the Italian proverb.
Good-night, Monsieur Varbarriere."

"Good-night," said the guest, with a bow and a smile; and both, with a
little laugh, shook hands and parted.

Monsieur Varbarriere was a tolerably early riser, and next morning was
walking in the cheering morning sun, under the leaves of the evergreens,
glittering with dew. A broad walk, wide enough for a pony-carriage,
sweeps along a gentle wooded elevation, commanding a wide prospect of
that rich country.

He leaned on the low parapet, and with his pocket field-glass lazily
swept the broad landscape beneath. Lowering his telescope, he stood
erect, and looked about him, when, to his surprise, for he did not think
that either was an early riser, he saw Sir Jekyl Marlowe and Lady Jane
Lennox walking side by side, and approaching.

Monsieur Varbarriere was blessed with very long and clear sight, for his
time of life. There was something in the gait of these two persons, and
in the slight gesture that accompanied their conversation, as they
approached, which struck M. Varbarriere as indicating excitement, though
of different kinds.

In the pace of the lady, who carried her head high, with a slight wave
sometimes to this side, sometimes to that, was as much of what we term
swagger as is compatible with feminine grace. Sometimes a sudden halt,
for a moment, and a "left face" movement on her companion. Sir Jekyl, on
the other hand, bore himself, he thought, like a gentleman a good deal
annoyed and irritated.

All this struck M. Varbarriere in a very few seconds, during which,
uncertain whether he ought to come forward or not, he hesitated where he
stood.

It was plain, however, that he was quite unobserved standing in a recess
of the evergreens; so he leaned once more upon the parapet, and applied
his glass to his eye.

Now he was right in his conjecture. This had been a very stormy walk,
though the cool grey light of morning is not the season for exciting
demonstrations. We will take them up in the midst of their conversation,
a little before Monsieur Varbarriere saw them--just as Sir Jekyl said
with a slight sneer--

"Oh, of course, it was very kind."

"More, it's _princely_, sir," cried Lady Jane.

"Well, princely--very princely--only, pray, dear Jane, do not talk so
very loud; you can't possibly wish the keepers and milkmaids to hear
every word you say."

"I don't care, Jekyl. I think you have made me mad."

"You _are_ a bit mad, Jane, but it is not I who made you so."

"Yes, Jekyl, you've made me mad--you have made me a fiend; but, bad as I
am, I can never face that good man more."

"Now don't--now don't. What _can_ be the matter with you?" urged Sir
Jekyl in a low tone.

"This, sir--I'll see him no more--you must. You _shall_ take me away."

"Now, now, now--_come_! Are you talking like a sane person, Jane? What
the devil can have come over you about these trumpery diamonds?"

"You shan't talk that way."

"Come! I venture to say they are nothing like as valuable as you fancy,
and whatever they are, Lennox got them a devilish good bargain, rely on
it. He knows perfectly well what he's about. Everyone knows how rich he
is, and the wife of a fellow like that ought to have jewels; people
would talk--I give you my honour they would, if you had not; and then he
is in town, with nothing to keep him there--no business, I mean--an old
military man, and he wants to keep you in good-humour."

"It's a lie. I know what you mean."

"Upon my soul, it's fact," he laughed, looking very pale. "Surely you
don't mistake an old East Indian general for a Joseph!"

"Talk any way but that, you wretch! I know him. It's no use--he's the
soul of honour. Oh Jekyl, Jekyl! why did not you marry me when you
might, and save me from all this?"

"Now, Janet, _is_ this reasonable--you know you never thought of it--you
know it would not have done--would you have liked Beatrix? Besides, you
have really done better--a great _deal_ better--he's not so old as he
looks--I dare say not much older than I--and a devilish deal richer,
and--a--what the devil you want, for the life of me, I can't see."

It was about at this point in their conversation that, on a sudden, they
came upon Monsieur Varbarriere, looking through his field-glass. Lady
Jane moved to turn short about, but Sir Jekyl pressed his arm on hers
impatiently, and kept her straight.



CHAPTER XXXIII.

Lady Jane and Beatrix play at Croquet.


"Good morning, Monsieur Varbarriere," cried the Baronet, who divined
truly that the fattish elderly gentleman with the bronzed features, and
in the furred surtout, had observed them.

"Ah!" cried Monsieur Varbarriere, turning toward them genially, his
oddly shaped felt hat in one hand, and his field-glass still extended in
the other. "What a charming morning! I have been availing myself of the
clear sunlight to study this splendid prospect, partly as a picture,
partly as a map."

Lady Jane with her right hand plucked some wild flowers from the bank,
which at that side rises steeply from the walk, while the gentlemen
exchanged salutations.

"I've just been pointing out some of our famous places to Lady Jane
Lennox. A little higher up the walk the view is much more commanding.
What do you say to a walk here after breakfast? There's a capital glass
in the hall, much more powerful than that can be. Suppose we come
by-and-by?"

"You are very good--I am so obliged--my curiosity has been so very much
piqued by all I have seen."

Monsieur Varbarriere was speaking, as usual, his familiar French, and
pointed with his telescope toward a peculiarly shaped remote hillock.

"I have just been conjecturing could that be that Gryston which we
passed by on our way to Marlowe."

"Perfectly right, by Jove! what an eye for locality you must have!"

"Have I? Well, sometimes, perhaps," said the foreign gentleman,
laughing.

"The eye of a general. Yes, you are quite right--it is Gryston."

Now Sir Jekyl was frank and hearty in his talk; but there was an air--a
something which would have excited the observation of Monsieur
Varbarriere, even had he remarked nothing peculiar in the bearing of his
host and his companion as they approached. There was a semi-abstraction,
a covert scrutiny of that gentleman's countenance, and a certain sense
of uneasiness.

Some more passed--enough to show that there was nothing in the slightest
degree awkward to the two pedestrians in having so unexpectedly fallen
into an ambuscade while on their route--and then Sir Jekyl, with a word
of apology to Lady Jane, resumed his walk with her towards the
pleasure-grounds near the house.

That day Lady Jane played croquet with Beatrix, while Sir Jekyl
demonstrated half the country, from the high grounds, to Monsieur
Varbarriere.

The croquet-ground is pretty--flowerbeds lie round it, and a "rockery,"
as they called it, covered with clambering flowers and plants, and
backed by a thick grove of shrubs and evergreens, fenced it in to the
north.

Lady Jane was kind, ill-tempered, capricious; played wildly, lazily,
badly.

"Do you like people in spite of great faults ever, Beatrix?" she asked,
suddenly.

"Every one has great faults," said Trixie, sporting a little bit of
philosophy.

"No, they have not; there are very good people, and I hate them," said
Lady Jane, swinging her mallet slowly like a pendulum, and gazing with
her dark deep eyes full into her companion's face.

"Hate the good people!" exclaimed Beatrix; "then how do you feel towards
the bad?"

"There are some whose badness suits me, and I like them; there are
others whose badness does not, and them I hate as much as the good
almost."

Trixie was puzzled; but she concluded that Lady Jane was in one of her
odd moods, and venting her ill temper in those shocking eruptions of
levity.

"How old are you, Beatrix?"

"Nineteen."

"Ha! and I am five-and-twenty--six years. There is a great deal learned
in those six years. I don't recollect what I was like when I was
nineteen."

She did not sigh; Lady Jane was not given to sighing, but her face
looked sad and sullen.

"It all came of my having no friend," she said, abruptly. "Not one. That
stupid old woman might have been one, but she would not. I had no
one--it was fate; and here I am, such as I am, and I don't blame myself
or anything. But I wish I had one true friend."

"I am sure, Lady Jane, you must have many friends," said Beatrix.

"Don't be a little hypocrite, Beatrix; why should I more than another?
Friends are not picked up like daisies as we walk along. If you have
neither mother nor sisters, nor kith nor kin to care about you, you will
find it hard to make strangers do so. As for old Lady Alice, I think she
always hated me; she did nothing but pick holes in everything I said or
did; I never heard anything from her but the old story of my faults. And
then I was thrown among women of the world--heartless, headless
creatures. I don't blame them, they knew no better--perhaps there is no
better; but I do blame that egotistical old woman, who, if she had but
controlled her temper, might have been of so much use to me, and _would_
not. Religion, and good principles, and all that, whether it is true or
false, is the safest plan; and I think if she had been moderately kind
and patient, she might have made me as good as others. Don't look at me
as if I had two heads, dear. I'm not charging myself with any enormity.
I only say it is the happiest way, even if it be the way of fools."

"Shall we play any more?" inquired Beatrix, after a sufficient pause had
intervened to soften the transition.

"Yes, certainly. Which is my ball?"

"The red. You are behind your hoop."

"Yes; and--and it seems to me, Beatrix, you are a cold little stick,
like your grandmamma, as you call her, though she's no grandmamma of
yours."

"Think me as stupid as you please, but you must not think me cold; and,
indeed, you wrong poor old granny."

"We'll talk no more of her. I think her a fool and a savage. Come, it's
your turn, is not it, to play?"

So the play went on for a while in silence, except for those questions
and comments without which it can hardly proceed.

"And now you have won, have not you?" said Lady Jane.

"Should you like another game?" asked Beatrix.

"Maybe by-and-by; and--I sometimes wish you liked me, Beatrix; but I
don't know you, and you are little better than a child still;
and--no--it could not be--it never could--you'd be sure to hate me in a
little while."

"But I do like you, Lady Jane. I liked you very much in London, you were
so kind; and I don't know why you were so changed to me when you came
here; you seem to have taken a positive dislike to me."

"So I had, child--I detested you," said Lady Jane, but in a tone that
had something mocking in it. "Everything has grown--how shall I express
it?--disgusting to me--yes, _disgusting_. You had done nothing to cause
it; you need not look so contrite. I could not help it either. I am
odious--and I can't love or like anybody."

"I am sure, Lady Jane, you are not at all like what you describe."

"You think me faultless, do you?"

Beatrix smiled.

"Well, I see you don't. What _is_ my fault?" demanded Lady Jane, looking
on her not with a playful, but with a lowering countenance.

"It is a very conceited office--pointing out other people's faults, even
if one understood them, which I do not."

"Well, I give you leave; tell me one, to begin with," persisted Lady
Jane Lennox.

Beatrix laughed.

"I wish, Lady Jane, if you insist on my telling your faults, that you
would not look so stern."

"Stern--do I?" said Lady Jane; "I did not intend; it was not with you,
but myself, that I was angry; not angry either, for my faults have been
caused by other people, and to say truth, I don't very much wish to mend
them."

"No, Lady Jane," said Beatrix, merrily. "I won't say in cold blood
anything disagreeable. I don't say, mind, that I really could tell you
any one fault you may fancy you have--but I won't try."

"Well, let us walk round this oval; I'll tell you what you think. You
think I am capricious--and so I may appear--but I am not; on the
contrary, my likings or aversions are always on good grounds, and last
very long. I don't say people always know the grounds, but they know it
is not whim; they know--those that have experienced either--that my love
and aversion are both very steady. You think I am ill-tempered, too, but
I am not--I am isolated and unhappy; but my temper is easy to get on
with--and I don't know why I am talking to you," she exclaimed, with a
sudden change in her looks and tone, "as if you and I could ever by any
possibility become friends. Good-bye, Beatrix; I see your grandmamma
beckoning."

So she was--leaning upon the arm of her maid, a wan lank
figure--motioning her toward her.

"Coming, grandmamma," cried Beatrix, and smiled, and turning to say a
parting word to Lady Jane, she perceived that she was already moving
some way off toward the house.



CHAPTER XXXIV.

General Lennox receives a Letter.


Monsieur Varbarriere was charmed with his host this morning. Sir Jekyl
spent more than an hour in pointing out and illustrating the principal
objects in the panorama that spread before and beneath them as they
stood with field-glasses scanning the distance, and a very agreeable
showman he made.

Very cheery and healthful among the breezy copse to make this sort of
rural survey. As they parted in the hall, Monsieur Varbarriere spoke his
eloquent appreciation of the beauties of the surrounding country; and
then, having letters to despatch by the post, he took his leave, and
strode up with pounding steps to his dressing-room.

Long before he reached it, his smile had quite subsided, and it was with
a solemn and stern countenance that he entered and nodded to his valet,
whom he found awaiting him there.

"Well, Jacques, any more offers? Does Sir Jekyl still wish to engage
you?"

"I can assure Monsieur there has not been a word since upon that
affair."

"_Good!_" said Monsieur Varbarriere, after a second's scrutiny of the
valet's dark, smirking visage.

The elderly gentleman unlocked his desk, and taking forth a large
envelope, he unfolded the papers enclosed in it.

"Have we anything to note to-day about that apartment verd? Did you
manage the measurement of the two recesses?"

"They are three feet and a half wide, two feet and a half deep, and the
pier between them is, counting in the carved case, ten feet and six
inches; and there is from the angle of the room at each side, that next
the window and that opposite, to the angle of the same recesses,
counting in, in like manner, the carved case, two feet and six inches
exactly. Here Monsieur has the threads of measurement," added Jacques,
with a charming bow, handing a little paper, containing certain pieces
of tape cut at proper lengths and noted in pen and ink, to his master.

"Were you in the room yourself since?"

"This afternoon I am promised to be again introduced."

"Try both--particularly that to your right as you stand near the
door--and rap them with your knuckles, and search as narrowly as you
can."

Monsieur Jacques bowed low and smiled.

"And now about the other room," said Monsieur Varbarriere; "have you had
an opportunity?"

"I have enjoyed the permission of visiting it, by the kindness of Sir
Jekyl's man."

"He does not suppose any object?" inquired Monsieur Varbarriere.

"None in the world--nothing--merely the curiosity of seeing everything
which is common in persons of my rank."

Monsieur Varbarriere smiled dimly.

"Well, there is a room opening at the back of Sir Jekyl's room--what is
it?"

"His study."

Varbarriere nodded--"Go on."

"A room about the same size, surrounded on all sides except the window
with books packed on shelves."

"Where is the door?"

"There is no door, visible at least, except that by which one enters
from Sir Jekyl Marlowe's room," answered Monsieur Jacques.

"Any sign of a door?"

Monsieur Jacques smiled a little mysteriously.

"When my friend, Monsieur Tomlinson, Sir Jekyl's gentleman, had left me
alone for a few minutes, to look at some old books of travels with
engravings, for which I had always a liking, I did use my eyes a little,
Monsieur, upon other objects, but could see nothing. Then, with the head
of my stick I took the liberty to knock a little upon the shelves, and
one place I did find where the books are not real, but made of wood."

"Made of wood?" repeated Monsieur Varbarriere.

"Yes--bound over to imitate the tomes; and all as old and dingy as the
books themselves."

"You knew by the sound?"

"Yes, Monsieur, by the sound. I removed, moreover, a real book at the
side, and I saw there wood."

"Whereabout is that in the wall?"

"Next to the corner, Monsieur, which is formed by the wall in which the
windows are set--it is a dark corner, nearly opposite the door by which
you enter."

"That's a door," said Monsieur Varbarriere, rising deliberately as if he
were about to walk through it.

"I think Monsieur conjectures sagely."

"What more did you see, Jacques?" demanded Monsieur Varbarriere,
resuming his seat quietly.

"Nothing, Monsieur; for my good friend returned just then, and occupied
my attention otherwise."

"You did not give him a hint of your discovery?"

"Not a word, sir."

"Jacques, you must see that room again, quietly. You are very much
interested, you know, in those books of travel. When you have a minute
there to yourself again, you will take down in turn every volume at each
side of that false bookcase, and search closely for hinge or bolt--there
must be something of the kind--or keyhole--do you see? Rely upon me, I
will not fail to consider the service handsomely. Manage that, if
possible, to-day."

"I will do all my possible, Monsieur."

"I depend upon you, Jacques. Adieu."

With a low bow and a smirk, Jacques departed.

Monsieur Varbarriere bolted his dressing-room door, and sat down musing
mysteriously before his paper. His large, fattish, freckled hand hung
down over the arm of the low chair, nearly to the carpet, with his
heavy gold pencil-case in its fingers. He heaved one deep, unconscious
sigh, as he leaned back. It was not that he quailed before any coming
crisis. He was not a soft-hearted or nervous general, and had quite made
up his mind. But he was not without good nature in ordinary cases, and
the page he was about to open was full of terror and bordered all round
with black.

Lady Jane Lennox was at that moment seated also before her desk, very
pale, and writing a few very grateful and humble lines of thanks to her
General--vehement thanks--vehement self-abasement--such as surprised him
quite delightfully. He read them over and over, smiling with all his
might, under his stiff white moustache, and with a happy moisture in his
twinkling grey eyes, and many a murmured apostrophe, "Poor little
thing--how pleased she is--poor little Janet!" and resolving how happy
they two should be, and how much sunshine was breaking into their world.

Monsieur Varbarriere was sitting in deep thought before his desk.

"Yes, I think I _may_," was the result of his ruminations.

And in his bold clear hand he indited the following letter, which we
translate:--

     _Private and Confidential._

     Marlowe Manor, --th October, 1849.

     General Lennox.

     SIR,--I, in the first place, beg you to excuse the apparent
     presumption of my soliciting a private audience of a gentleman to
     whom I have the honour to be but so slightly known, and of claiming
     the protection of an honourable secrecy. The reason of my so doing
     will be obvious when I say that I have certain circumstances to lay
     before you which nearly affect your honour. I decline making any
     detailed statement by letter, nor will I explain my meaning at
     Marlowe Manor; but if, without _fracas_, you will give me a private
     meeting, at any place between this and London, I will make it my
     business to see you, when I shall satisfy you that I have not made
     this request without the gravest reasons. May I entreat that your
     reply may be addressed to me, _poste restante_, Slowton.

     Accept the assurance, &c., &c., &c.,

     H. VARBARRIERE.

Thus was the angelic messenger, musical with silvery wings, who visited
honest General Lennox in his lodgings off Piccadilly, accompanied all
the way, in the long flight from Slowton to the London terminus, by a
dark spirit of compensation, to appal him with a doubt.

Varbarriere's letter had been posted at Wardlock by his own servant
Jacques--a precaution he chose to adopt, as he did not care that anyone
at the little town of Marlowe, far less at the Manor, should guess that
he had anything on earth to say to General Lennox.

When the two letters reached that old gentleman, he opened Lady Jane's
first; for, as we know, he had arrived at the amorous age, and was
impatient to read what his little Jennie had to say; and when he had
read it once, he had of course to read it all over again; then he kissed
it and laughed tremulously over it, and was nearer to crying than he
would have confessed to anyone--even to her; and he read it again at the
window, where he was seen by seedy Captain Fezzy, who was reading
_Bell's Life_, across, the street, in the three-pair-of-stairs window,
and by Miss Dignum, the proprietress, from the drawing-room, with a
countenance so radiant and moved as to interest both spectators from
their different points of view.

Thus, with many re-perusals and pleasant castle-buildings, and some airs
gently whistled in his reveries, he had nearly forgotten M.
Varbarriere's letter.

He was so gratified--he always knew she cared for her old man, little
Jennie--she was not demonstrative, all the better perhaps for that; and
here, in this delightful letter, so grateful, so sad, so humble, it was
all confessed--demonstrated, at last; and old General Lennox thought
infinitely better of himself, and far more adoringly of his wife than
ever, and was indescribably proud and happy. Hitherto his good angel had
had it all his own way; the other spirit was now about to take his
turn--touched him on the elbow and presented Monsieur Varbarriere's
letter, with a dark smile.

"Near forgetting this, by Jove!" said the old gentleman with the white
moustache and eyebrows, taking the letter in his gnarled pink fingers.

"What the devil can the fellow mean? I think he's a fool," said the
General, very pale and stern, when he had read the letter twice through.

If the people at the other side had been studying the transition of
human countenance, they would have had a treat in the General's, now
again presented at his drawing-room window, where he stood leaning
grimly on his knuckles.

Still oftener, and more microscopically, was this letter spelled over
than the other.

"It can't possibly refer to Jane. It _can't_. I put that out of my
head--_quite_," said the poor General energetically to himself, with a
short wave of his hand like a little sabre-cut in the air.

But what could it be? He had no kinsman near enough in blood to "affect
his honour." But these French fellows had such queer phrases. The only
transaction he could think of was the sale of his black charger in
Calcutta for two hundred guineas, to that ill-conditioned fellow,
Colonel Bardell, who, he heard, had been grumbling about that bargain,
as he did about every other.

"I should not be surprised if he said I cheated him about that horse!"

And he felt quite obliged to Colonel Bardell for affording this
hypothesis.

"Yes, Bardell was coming to England--possibly at Marlowe now. He knows
Sir Jekyl. Egad, that's the very thing. He's been talking; and this
officious old French bourgeois thinks he's doing a devilish polite thing
in telling me what a suspected dog I am."

The General laughed, and breathed a great sigh of relief, and recalled
all the cases he could bring up in which fellows had got into scrapes
unwittingly about horse-flesh, and how savagely fellows sometimes spoke
when they did not like their bargains.



CHAPTER XXXV.

The Bishop at Marlowe.


So he laboured in favour of his hypothesis with an uneasy sort of
success; but, for a few seconds, on one sore point of his heart had
there been a pressure, new, utterly agonising, and there remained the
sense of contusion.

The General took his hat, and came and walked off briskly into the city
a long way, thinking he had business; but when he reached the office,
preferring another day--wishing to be back at Marlowe--wishing to see
Varbarriere--longing to know the worst.

At last he turned into a city coffee-house, and wrote a reply on a
quarto sheet of letter-paper to Monsieur Varbarriere. He was minded
first to treat the whole thing with a well-bred contempt, and simply to
mention that as he expected soon to be at Marlowe, he would not give
Monsieur Varbarriere the trouble of making an appointment elsewhere.

But, seated in his box, he read Monsieur Varbarriere's short letter over
again before committing himself, and it struck him that it was _not_ an
intimation to be trifled with--it had a certain gravity which did not
lose its force by frequent reading. The gentleman himself,
too--reserved, shrewd, with an odd mixture of the unctuous and the
sardonic--his recollection of this person, the writer, came
unpleasantly in aid of the serious impression which his letter was
calculated to make; and he read again--

"I have certain circumstances to lay before you which nearly affect your
honour."

The words smote his heart again with a tremendous augury; somehow they
would not quite fit his hypothesis about the horse, but it might be
something else. Was there any lady who might conceive herself jilted?
Who could guess what it might be?

Jennie's letter he read then again in his box, with the smell of
beef-steaks, the glitter of pewter pots, and the tread of waiters about
him.

Yes, it was--he defied the devil himself to question it--an
affectionate, loving, grateful letter. And Lady Alice had gone to
Marlowe, and was staying there--Lady Alice Redcliffe, that stiff,
austere duenna--Jane's kinswoman. He was glad of it, and often thinking
of it. But, no--oh! no--it could not possibly refer to Jane: upon that
point he had perfectly made up his mind.

Well, with his pen between his fingers, he considered when he could go,
and where he should meet this vulgar Frenchman. He could not leave
London to-morrow, nor next day, and the day following he had to give
evidence on the question of compensation to that native prince, and so
on: so at last he wrote, naming the nearest day he could command, and
requesting, in a postscript which he opened the letter to add, that
Monsieur Varbarriere would be so very good as to let him know a little
more distinctly to what specific subject his letter referred, as he had
in vain taxed his recollection for the slightest clue to his meaning;
and although he was perfectly satisfied that he could not have the
smallest difficulty in clearing up anything that could possibly be
alleged against him as a soldier or a gentleman--having, he thanked
Heaven, accomplished his career with honour--he yet could not feel quite
comfortable until he heard something more explicit.

As the General, with this letter in his pocket, was hurrying to the
post-office, the party at Marlowe were admiring a glorious sunset, and
Monsieur Varbarriere was describing to Lady Jane Lennox some gorgeous
effects of sunlight which he had witnessed from Lisbon on the horizon of
the Atlantic.

The Bishop had already arrived, and was in his dressing-room, and Dives
was more silent and thoughtful than usual.

Yes, the Bishop had arrived. He was venerable, dignified, dapper, with,
for his time of life, a wonderfully shapely leg in his black silk
stocking. There was in his manner and tones that suavity which reminds
one at the same time of heaven and the House of Lords. He did not laugh.
He smiled and bowed sometimes. There was a classical flavour in his
conversation with gentlemen, and he sometimes conversed with ladies, his
leg crossed horizontally, the ankle resting on his knee, while he mildly
stroked the shapely limb I have mentioned, and murmured well-bred
Christianity, to which, as well as to his secular narratives, the ladies
listened respectfully.

Don't suppose he was a hypocrite or a Pharisee. He was as honest as
most men, and better than many Christians. He was a bachelor, and
wealthy; but if he had amassed a good deal of public money, he had also
displayed a good deal of public spirit, and had done many princely and
even some kind actions. His family were not presentable, making a
livelihood by unmentionable practices, such as shop-keeping and the
like. Still he cut them with moderation, having maintained affable
though clandestine relations with his two maiden aunts, who lived and
died in Thames Street, and having twice assisted a nephew, though he
declined seeing him, who was a skipper of a Russian brig.

He was a little High-Church. But though a disciplinarian in
ecclesiastical matters, and with notions about self-mortification, his
rule as master of the great school he had once governed had been kindly
and popular as well as firm. I do not know exactly what interest got him
his bishopric. Perhaps it was his reputation only; and that he was
thinking of duty, and his fasts, and waked in his cell one morning with
a mitre on instead of his nightcap. The Trappist, mayhap, in digging his
grave had lighted on a pot of gold.

"I had no idea," exclaimed Miss Blunket, when the Bishop's apron and
silk stockings had moved with the Rev. Dives Marlowe to the opposite
extremity of the drawing-room, where the attentive Rector was soon deep
in demonstrations, which evidently interested the right reverend prelate
much, drawn from some manuscript notes of an ancestor of Dives's who had
filled that see, which had long known him no more, and where he had
been sharp in his day in looking up obscure rights and neglected
revenues.

"I had no idea the Bishop was so young; he's by _no means_ an
old-looking man; and so very admirable a prelate--is not he?"

"He has neglected one of St. Paul's conditions though," said Sir Jekyl;
"but you will not think the worse of him for that. It may be mended, you
know."

"What's that?" inquired Miss Blunket.

"Why, he's not the husband of one wife."

"Nonsense, you wretch!" cried Miss Blunket, with a giggle, jerking a
violet which she was twiddling between her fingers at the Baronet.

"He has written a great deal, has not he?" continued Miss Blunket. "His
tract on mortification has gone to fifteen thousand copies, I see by the
newspaper."

"I wonder he has never married," interposed Lady Blunket, drowsily, with
her usual attention to the context.

"I wonder he never tried it as a species of mortification," suggested
Sir Jekyl.

"You horrid Vandal! Do you hear him, mamma?" exclaimed Miss Blunket.

Lady Blunket rather testily--for she neither heard nor understood very
well, and her daughter's voice was shrill--asked--

"_What_ is it? You are always making mountains of molehills, my dear,
and _startling_ one."

Old Lady Alice Redcliffe's entrance at this moment made a diversion.
She entered, tall, grey, and shaky, leaning on the arm of pretty
Beatrix, and was encountered near the door by the right reverend
prelate, who greeted her with a dignified and apostolic gallantry, which
contrasted finely with Sir Jekyl's jaunty and hilarious salutation.

The Bishop was very much changed since she had seen him last. He, no
doubt, thought the same of her. Neither intimated this little reflection
to the other. Each estimated, with something of wonder and pity, the
other's decay, and neither appropriated the lesson.

"I dare say you think me very much altered," said Lady Alice, so soon as
she had made herself comfortable on the ottoman.

"I was about putting the same inquiry of myself, Lady Alice; but, alas!
why should we? 'Never continueth in one stay,' you know; change is the
universal law, and the greatest, last."

The excellent prelate delivered this _ex cathedrâ_, as an immortal to a
mortal. It was his duty to impress old Lady Alice, and he courteously
included himself, being a modest priest, who talked of sin and death as
if bishops were equally subject to them with other men.



CHAPTER XXXVI.

Old Scenes recalled.


At dinner the prelate, who sat beside Lady Alice, conversed in the same
condescending spirit, and with the same dignified humility, upon all
sorts of subjects--upon the new sect, the Huggletonians, whom, with
doubtful originality, but considerable emphasis, he likened to "lost
sheep."

"Who's lost his sheep, my lord?" inquired Sir Paul Blunket across the
table.

"I spoke metaphorically, Sir Paul. The Huggletonians, the sheep who
should have been led by the waters of comfort, have been suffered to
stray into the wilderness."

"Quite so--I see. Shocking name that--the Huggletonians. I should not
like to be a Huggletonian, egad!" said Sir Paul Blunket, and drank some
wine. "Lost sheep, to be sure--yes; but that thing of bringing sheep to
water--you see--it's a mistake. When a wether takes to drinking water,
it's a sign he's got the rot."

The Bishop gently declined his head, and patiently allowed this little
observation to blow over.

Sir Paul Blunket, having delivered it, merely added, after a decent
pause, as he ate his dinner--

"Dartbroke mutton this--five years old--eh?"

"Yes. I hope you like it," answered his host.

Sir Paul Blunket, having a bit in his mouth, grunted politely--

"Only for your own table, though?" he added, when he'd swallowed it.

"That's all," answered Sir Jekyl.

"Never pay at market, you know," said Sir Paul Blunket. "I consider any
sheep kept beyond two years as lost."

"A lost sheep, and sell him as a Huggletonian," rejoined Sir Jekyl.

"It is twenty years," murmured the Bishop in Lady Alice's ear, for he
preferred not hearing that kind of joke, "since I sate in this parlour."

"Ha!" sighed Lady Alice.

"Long _before_ that I used, in poor Sir Harry's time, to be here a good
deal--a hospitable, kind man, in the main."

"I never liked him," croaked Lady Alice, and wiped her mouth.

They sat so very close to Sir Jekyl that the Bishop merely uttered a
mild ejaculation, and bowed toward his plate.

"The arrangements of this room--the portraits--are just what I remember
them."

"Yes, and you were here--let me see--just thirty years since, when Sir
Harry died--weren't you?"

"So I was, my dear Lady Alice--very true," replied the Bishop in his
most subdued tones, and he threw his head back a little, and nearly
closed his eyes; and she fancied he meant, in a dignified way, to say,
"I should prefer not speaking of those particular recollections while we
sit so near our host." The old lady was much of the same mind, and said
to him quietly--

"I'll ask you a few questions by-and-by. You remember Donica Gwynn.
She's living with me now--the housekeeper, you know."

"Yes, perfectly, a very nice-looking quiet young woman--how is she?"

"A dried-up old woman now, but very well," said Lady Alice.

"Yes, to be sure; she must be elderly now," said he, hastily; and the
Bishop mentally made up one of those little sums in addition, the result
of which surprises us sometimes in our elderly days so oddly.

When the party transferred themselves to the drawing-room, Lady Alice
failed to secure the Bishop, who was seized by the Rev. Dives Marlowe
and carried into a recess--Sir Jekyl having given his clerical brother
the key of a cabinet in which were deposited more of the memoranda, and
a handsome collection of the official and legal correspondence of that
episcopal ancestor whose agreeable MSS. had interested the Bishop so
much before dinner.

Jekyl, indeed, was a good-natured brother. As a match-making mother will
get the proper persons under the same roof, he had managed this little
meeting at Marlowe. When the ladies went away to the drawing-room, he
had cried--

"Dives, I want you here for a moment," and so he placed him on the chair
which Lady Jane Lennox had occupied beside him, and what was more to the
purpose, beside the Bishop; and, as Dives was a good scholar, well made
up on controversies, with a very pretty notion of ecclesiastical law and
a turn for Latin verse, he and the prelate were soon in a state of very
happy and intimate confidence. This cabinet, too, was what the game of
chess is to the lovers--a great opportunity--a seclusion; and Dives
knowing all about the papers, was enabled really to interest the Bishop
very keenly.

So Lady Alice, who wanted to talk with him, was doomed to a jealous
isolation, until that friend, of whom she was gradually coming to think
very highly indeed, Monsieur Varbarriere, drew near, and they fell into
conversation, first on the recent railway collision, and then on the
fruit and flower show, and next upon the Bishop.

They both agreed what a charming and venerable person he was, and then
Lady Alice said--

"Sir Harry Marlowe, I told you--the father, you know, of Jekyl there,"
and she dropped her voice as she named him, "was in possession at the
time when the deed affecting my beloved son's rights was lost."

"Yes, madame."

"And it was the Bishop there who attended him on his death-bed."

"Ho!" exclaimed M. Varbarriere, looking more curiously for a moment at
that dapper little gentleman in the silk apron.

"They said he heard a great deal from poor wretched Sir Harry. I have
never had an opportunity of asking him in private about it, but I mean
to-morrow, please Heaven."

"It may be, madame, in the highest degree important," said Monsieur
Varbarriere, emphatically.

"How can it be? My son is dead."

"Your son is"----and M. Varbarriere, who was speaking sternly and with a
pallid face, like a man deeply excited, suddenly checked himself, and
said--

"Yes, very true, your son is dead. Yes, madame, he is dead."

Old Lady Alice looked at him with a bewildered and frightened gaze.

"In Heaven's name, sir, what do you mean?"

"Mean--mean--why, what have I said?" exclaimed Monsieur Varbarriere,
very tartly, and looking still more uncomfortable.

"I did not say you had said anything, but you do mean something."

"No, madame, I _forgot_ something; the tragedy to which you referred is
not to be supposed to be always as present to the mind of another as it
naturally is to your own. We forget in a moment of surprise many things
of which at another time we need not to be reminded, and so it happened
with me."

Monsieur Varbarriere stood up and fiddled with his gold double
eye-glasses, and seemed for a while disposed to add more on that theme,
but, after a pause, said--

"And so it was to the _Bishop_ that Sir Harry Marlowe communicated his
dying wish that the green chamber should be shut up?"

"Yes, to him; and I have heard that more passed than is suspected, but
of that I know nothing; only I mean to put the question to him directly,
when next I can see him alone."

Monsieur Varbarriere again looked with a curious scrutiny at the Bishop,
and then he inquired--

"He is a prelate, no doubt, who enjoys a high reputation for integrity?"

"This I know, that he would not for worlds utter an untruth," replied
Lady Alice.

"What a charming person is Lady Jane Lennox!" exclaimed Monsieur
Varbarriere, suddenly diverging.

"H'm! do you think so? Well, yes, she is very much admired."

"It is not often you see a pair so unequal in years so affectionately
attached," said Monsieur Varbarriere.

"I have never seen her husband, and I can't, therefore, say how they get
on together; but I'm glad to hear you say so. Jane has a temper, you
know, which _every_ one might not get on with; that is," she added,
fearing lest she had gone a little too far, "sometimes it is not quite
pleasant."

"No doubt she was much admired and much pursued," observed Varbarriere.

"Yes, I said she was admired," answered Lady Alice, drily.

"How charming she looks, reading her book at this moment!" exclaimed
Varbarriere.

She was leaning back on an ottoman, with a book in her hand; her rich
wavy hair, her jewels and splendid dress, her beautiful braceleted arms,
and exquisitely haughty features, and a certain negligence in her
_pose_, recalled some of those voluptuous portraits of the beauties of
the Court of Charles II.

Sir Jekyl was seated on the other side of the cushioned circle, leaning
a little across, and talking volubly, and, as it seemed, earnestly. It
is one of those groups in which, marking the silence of the lady and the
serious earnestness of her companion, and the flush of both
countenances, one concludes, if there be nothing to forbid, that the
talk is at least romantic.

Lady Alice was reserved, however; she merely said--

"Yes, Jane looks very well; she's always well got up."

Monsieur Varbarriere saw her glance with a shrewd little frown of
scrutiny at the Baronet and Lady Jane, and he knew what was passing in
her mind; she, too, suspected what was in his, for she glanced at him,
and their eyes met for a moment and were averted. Each knew what the
other was thinking; so Lady Alice said--

"For an old gentleman, Jekyl is the most romantic I know; when he has
had his wine, I think he'd flirt with any woman alive. I dare say he's
boring poor Jane to death, if we knew but all. She can't read her book.
I assure you I've seen him, when nobody better was to be had, making
love to old Susan Blunket--Miss Blunket there--after dinner, of course:
and by the time he has played his rubber of whist he's quite a sane man,
and continues so until he comes in after dinner next evening. We all
know Jekyl, and never mind him." Having thus spoken, she asked Monsieur
Varbarriere whether he intended a long stay in England, and a variety of
similar questions.



CHAPTER XXXVII.

In which Lady Alice pumps the Bishop.


Lady Jane Lennox, who complained of a headache, departed early for her
room. The Baronet's passion for whist returned, and he played with more
than his usual spirit and hilarity; Monsieur Varbarriere, his partner,
was also in great force, and made some very creditable sallies between
the deals. All went, in fact, merry as a marriage-bell. But in that
marriage-bell booms unmarked the selfsame tone which thrills in the
funeral-knell. There was its somewhat of bitter rising probably in each
merry soul in that gay room. Black care walked silently among those
smiling guests, and on an unseen salver presented to each his sprig of
rue or rosemary. Another figure also, lank, obsequious, smirking
dolorously, arrayed in the Marlowe livery, came in with a bow, and stood
with an hour-glass in his long yellow claw at the back of Sir Jekyl's
chair; you might see the faint lights of his hollow eyes reflected on
the Baronet's cards.

"A little chilly to-night, is not it?" said Sir Jekyl, and shook his
shoulders. "Have we quite light enough, do you think?"

In that serene company there were two hearts specially sore, each with a
totally different anguish.

In Lady Alice's old ears continually beat these words, "Your son
is"----ending, like an interrupted dream, in nothing. Before her eyes
was Varbarriere's disturbed countenance as he dropped the curtain over
his meaning, and affected to have forgotten the death of Guy Deverell.

"Your son is"----Merciful Heaven! could he have meant living?

Could that shape she had seen in its coffin, with the small blue mark in
its serene forehead, where the bullet had entered, been a
simulacrum--not her son--a cast--a fraud?

Her reason told her loudly such a thought was mere insanity; and yet
what could that sudden break in Varbarriere's sentence have been meant
to conceal, and what did that recoiling look imply?

"Your son is"----It was for ever going on. She knew there was
something to tell, something of which M. Varbarriere was thoroughly
cognisant, and about which nothing could ever induce him to open his
lips.

If it was not "your son is living," she cared not what else it might be,
and _that_--could it?--no, it could not be. A slight hectic touched each
thin cheek, otherwise she looked as usual. But as she gazed dreamily
over the fender, with clouded eyes, her temples were throbbing, and she
felt sometimes quite wild, and ready to start to her feet and adjure
that awful whist-player to disclose all he knew about her dead boy.

Beatrix was that evening seated near the fireplace, and Drayton making
himself agreeable, with as small trouble as possible to himself.
Drayton! Well, he was rather amusing--cleverish--well enough up upon
those subjects which are generally supposed to interest young ladies;
and, with an affectation of not caring, really exerting himself to be
entertaining. Did he succeed? If you were to judge by her animated looks
and tones, you would have said very decidedly. Drayton's self-love was
in a state of comfort, even of luxury, that evening. But was there
anything in the triumph?

A pale face, at the farther end of the room, with a pair of large, dark,
romantic eyes, a face that had grown melancholy of late, she saw every
moment, though she had not once looked in that direction all the
evening.

As Drayton saw her smile at his sallies, with bright eyes and heightened
colour, leaning back in her cushioned chair, and looking under her long
lashes into the empty palm of her pretty hand, he could not see that
little portrait--painted on air with the colours of memory--that lay
there like a locket;--neither his nor any other eyes, but hers alone.

Guy Strangways was at the farther end of the room, where were
congregated Lady Blunket and her charming daughter, and that pretty Mrs.
Maberly of whom we have spoken; and little Linnett, mounted straddlewise
on his chair, leaning with his elbows on the back, and his chin on his
knuckles, helped to entertain them with his inexhaustible
agreeabilities. Guy Strangways had indeed very little cast upon him, for
Linnett was garrulous and cheerful, and reinforced beside by help from
other cheery spirits.

Here was Guy Strangways undergoing the isolation to which he had
condemned himself; and over there, engrossed by Drayton, the lady whose
peer he had never seen. Had she missed him? He saw no sign. Not once
even casually had she looked in his direction; and how often, though she
could not know it, had his eyes wandered toward her! Dull to him was the
hour without her, and she was engrossed by another, who, selfish and
shallow, was merely amusing himself and pleasing his vanity.

How is it that people in love see so well without eyes? Beatrix saw,
without a glance, exactly where Guy Strangways was. She was piqued and
proud, and chose perhaps to show him how little he was missed. It was
his presence, though he suspected it so little, that sustained that
animation which he resented; and had _he_ left the room, Drayton would
have found, all at once, that she was tired.

Next day was genial and warm, one of those days that bygone summer
sometimes gives us back from the past to the wintry close of autumn, as
in an old face that we love we sometimes see a look, transitory and how
pathetic, of the youth we remember. Such days, howsoever pleasant, come
touched with the melancholy of a souvenir. And perhaps the slanting
amber light nowhere touched two figures more in harmony with its tone
than those who now sat side by side on the rustic seat, under the two
beech trees at the farther end of the pleasure-ground of Marlowe.

Old Lady Alice, with her cushions disposed about her, and her cloaks and
shawls, had one arm of the seat; and the Bishop, gaitered and prudently
buttoned up in a surtout of the finest black cloth, and with that
grotesque (bequeathed of course by the Apostles) shovel-hat upon his
silvery head, leaned back upon the other, and, with his dapper leg
crossed, and showing the neat sole of his shoe to Lady Alice, stroked
and patted, after his wont, the side of his calf.

"Upwards of three-and-thirty years," said the Bishop.

"Yes, about that--about three-and-thirty years; and what did you think
of him? A very bad man, I'm sure."

"Madam, _de mortuis_. We have a saying, 'concerning the dead, nothing but
good.'"

"Nothing but _truth_, say I," answered Lady Alice. "Praise can do them
no good, and falsehood will do us a great deal of harm."

"You put the point strongly, Lady Alice; but when it is said, 'nothing
but good,' we mean, of course, nothing but the good we may _truly_ speak
of them."

"And that, as you know, my lord, in his case was not much. You were with
him to the moment of his death--nearly a week, was it not?"

"Three days precisely."

"Did he know from the first he was dying?" inquired Lady Alice.

"He was not aware that his situation was desperate until the end of the
second day. Nor was it; but he knew he was in danger, and was very much
agitated, poor man; very anxious to live and lead a better life."

"And you prayed with him?"

"Yes, yes; he was very much agitated, though; and it was not easy to fix
his thoughts, poor Sir Harry! It was very sad. He held my hand in
his--my hand--all the time I sat by the bed, saying, 'Don't you think
I'll get over it?--I feel that I shall--I feel quite safe while I hold
your hand.' I never felt a hand tremble as his did."

"You prayed for him, and read with him?" said Lady Alice. "And you
acted, beside, as his confessor, did not you, and heard some revelation
he had to make?"

"You forget, my dear Lady Alice, that the office of confessor is unknown
to the Church. It is not according to our theory to extract a specific
declaration of particular sins."

"H'm! I remember they told me that you refused at school to read the
Absolution to the boys of your house until they had made confession and
pointed out an offender they were concealing."

The Bishop hemmed and slightly coloured. It might have amused an
indifferent auditor to see that eminent and ancient divine taken to
task, and made even to look a little foolish, by this old woman, and
pushed into a corner, as a wild young curate might be by him on a
question of Church doctrine.

"Why, as to that, the fact may be so; but it was under very special
circumstances, Lady Alice. The Church refuses even the Sacrament of the
Lord's Supper to an intending communicant who is known to be living in
wilful sin; and here was a wilful concealment of a grave offence, to
which all had thus made themselves, and were continuing to make
themselves, accessory. It is, I allow, a doubtful question, and I do not
say I should be prepared to adopt that measure now. The great Martin
Luther has spoken well and luminously on the fallacy of taking his
convictions at any one period of his life as the measure of his doctrine
at a later one. The grain of mustard-seed, the law of perpetual
expansion and development, applies to faith as well as to motive and
action, to the Christian as a spiritual individual as well as to the
Church as an aggregate."

This apology for his faith did the Right Reverend the Lord Bishop of
Queen's Copely urge in his citation before old Lady Alice Redcliffe,
whom one would have thought he might have afforded to despise in a
Christian way; but for wise purposes the instincts of self-defence and
self-esteem, and a jealousy of even our smallest neighbour's opinion, is
so deeply implanted, that we are ready to say a good word for ourselves
to anyone who misconceives the perfect wisdom of our words, or the
equally perfect purity of our motives.


END OF VOL. I.

PRINTING OFFICE OF THE PUBLISHER.





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