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Title: Miles Tremenhere, Vol 2 of 2 - A Novel
Author: Maillard, Annette Marie
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Miles Tremenhere, Vol 2 of 2 - A Novel" ***

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                              MILES TREMENHERE.

                 "For such a love, O Rachel! years are few,
                  and life is short!"--LOPEZ DE VEGA.

                          BY ANNETTE MARIE MAILLARD.

    AUTHORESS OF "THE COMPULSORY MARRIAGE," "ZINGRA THE GIPSY," ETC., ETC.


    IN TWO VOLUMES.
    VOL. II.

    LONDON:
    G. ROUTLEDGE & CO., FARRINGDON STREET.
    1853.

    M'CORQUODALE AND CO., PRINTERS, LONDON.
    WORKS--NEWTON.



[Illustration: Minnie parting with Lord Randolph]



MILES TREMENHERE.



CHAPTER I.


Tremenhere did not return to dinner at six, as usual. He was not one of
those careless husbands, who dine out unexpectedly with a friend, and
leave their wives to wait in ignorance of their movements; so he sent a
messenger immediately after Lady Dora had quitted the villa, and Minnie
felt as if his absence _for the first time_ gave her pleasure. It
afforded her time to collect her resolution for meeting him with this
concealment in her heart. The long hours passed sadly enough, for every
thing around her seemed distasteful; the sunny noon of her heart was
growing into twilight. Tremenhere generally returned early from his
occasional parties. Ten o'clock came--a late hour for their quiet
cottage--then half-past. Minnie grew restless--her conscience was not at
rest; moreover, she was quite alone. The servant and the boy they
kept--all their household, had retired. Miles always had his key, when
late. Minnie watched a short time longer, and then, going up-stairs to
her dressing-room, partially undressed, enfolding herself in a long
loose wrapper, of pale pink cashmere, in which she looked even more
beautiful than when richly attired. Next, she unbound her long, fair
hair, and, unweaving it, flung the rich mantle over her shoulders, which
it completely covered; and thus, at perfect ease, she sat down in a
large chair before the fire. She had been unused to much deep thought of
late, and the events of the past two days had wearied her brain.
Gradually the head fell listlessly back, a little on one side--the
clasped hands, so perfect in form, supported it, an elbow resting on the
arm of the chair--the lips were slightly parted, and a warm glow, like a
sleeping infant's, ruddied her cheek, while the fair hair literally
swept the ground. So soundly she slept, that Tremenhere entered the room
unheard; he, too, had passed a day of deep meditation. Matter-of-fact
persons may laugh at the idea; but to sensitive minds, coming events
have often, as _avant courier_, presentiment. He had been thoroughly
wretched all day; so much so, that without knowing any tangible cause of
fear, he entered his home with a beating heart, as if he should find it
vacant! How can we account for such sensations? They are purely
spiritual. A deep sigh of joy trembled his lip, when he saw all he loved
so well, so exclusively in safety, and sleeping calm as an angel might,
rocked in a sailing cloud,--if angels ever sleep. He crept on tiptoe
nearer; involuntarily his hands clasped as in prayer, as he gazed upon
her, then, fearful lest that magnetic influence of an eye watching over
us, which makes us start up affrighted, with throbbing hearts, from our
sleep, should awake her rudely, he bent slowly downwards on his knee,
and looked upon her as on a saint, so pure, so unearthly was his love at
that moment. Some moments he knelt thus, then, unclasping his hands, he
raised the mass of sweeping hair gently, and pressed it to his lips; it
was slightly perfumed, like new-mown grass. Insensibly his hands
commenced turning fold over fold, tress over tress, till it grew to a
rope of brightness in his hands, which they could just clasp; smiling,
he twisted it, wondering at her prolonged sleep--suddenly a thought
flashed through his brain, a demon's thought--jealousy; his fears of the
day were parent to it. If she _ever_ should love another! if those
dreaming thoughts, which he then felt were his, should wander to
another! What temptation had she yet known?--none. What men had she ever
seen, to make her what so many were, even if only in idea--faithless? He
should care but little for actual virtue, if the soul of it were gone;
and as these maddening fancies crept through his mind, tighter and
tighter he twisted the fair hair in his grasp.

"I could still her life with this," he muttered; "once round that small,
fair infant neck, and I should save her from ever having a sinful wish.
She is pure as one of those little things, whose faces are not veiled
even by their own wings, as they say other angels are in heaven. O
Minnie! so much I love you thus, that I could find in my heart almost
to kill you now, and bear the weight of that heavy sin, to save you from
even knowing remorse." And in the agony of that moment of demoniacal
temptation, he rose to his full height, while the livid face and brow
were studded by agonized sweat-drops, his temples throbbed, he felt his
mental power of reflection every moment becoming more condensed, and
almost lost in impulse--impulse to commit murder, and, damning himself,
save her! At that supreme moment a deep sigh struggled through her
parted lips, the brow knit in mental pain, and Minnie awoke. Like a tree
blasted at the roots, Tremenhere dropped on his knees, which gave way
beneath his weight, and, burying his face in the terrified girl's lap,
he sobbed convulsively--it was not weeping, but his heart's bursting,
coming sorrow.

"Miles--dearest Miles--my own love!" cried she in terror, trying to
raise his head--"What has occurred? Are you ill? Speak to me, Miles."
She lifted up the face at last; it was pale as death, and on the fringes
of the closed eyes hung unfalling tears: they were as the heat drops
from the clouds before they burst asunder, sending forth sheet upon
sheet of flame.

"Minnie!" he cried wildly, looking up at last, "I have dreamed a horrid
waking dream while you slept: I was mad; for I thought if a day should
ever come wherein you would not love me, but another----"

"Miles--Miles!" cried the trembling girl. "Do not think of so fearful a
thing; 'tis tempting some demon to try you."

"_Try_ me, Minnie! How so?" There was almost madness in his look.

"By giving you _real_ trouble for this unchecked vision of impossible
things."

"You are right, dearest," he said, rising more calmly, yet he shivered
with emotion. "Heaven keep me from _real_ doubt! I could not support it.
Come, let us leave this room; it chills my heart, Minnie;" and he placed
his arm around her--as he did so, and it came in contact with the living
rope he had so madly twisted, a cold shudder passed over him.

"You are not well, dear Miles," she said, tenderly. "Let us leave this
room; it seems filled with fancies and spirits--I grow superstitious."
She tried to smile up in his face as usual, but the dimpling peace had
left her--she was tacitly deceiving him.

The next day came with a bright sunshine, which imparted its light to
Tremenhere's heart. He looked back upon his mad thoughts of the past
night, half in laughter, half in horror, fully resolving for the future
to check those wild, jealous, unfounded fears. Minnie could not rally,
as he had done; she crept about that cottage like a troubled spirit,
from one room to another, restless and unhappy. She was counting the
moments until Lady Dora should arrive, and she could fling her arms
round Miles's neck, and, telling him all, make him promise to be as ever
towards Lord Randolph, who had in truth not insulted her in any way. The
more she reflected, the less cause could she see for this secresy; and
but for her hasty promise to her cousin, certainly would have told him
at once.

"Minnie, dearest," cried her husband, laughing; "what are you creeping
about in that miserable manner for? Poor child! I startled you out of
your sleep last night--you are quite pale."

She would have looked doubly so had she known his mad thoughts while she
slept; as it was, she blushed painfully when he noticed her.

"I declare," he said, bending over her fondly, "you have been crying,
dear child. What is grieving you?--have I unintentionally pained you?"
And he kissed the bent brow.

"No, dearest Miles," she answered with quivering lips--she felt so
nervous. "You are all kindness, all love. I----" and she was choking
with her efforts to subdue her tears.

"My darling child--my own wife!" he said tenderly, raising her to his
bosom, "do not give way to nervous depression--you can have no cause--I
will not leave you so much alone; but you know, dearest, why it is--not
choice, as heaven hears me--but necessity. Where will be our
long-projected voyage to Gibraltar, for our good object, if I do not
work? Every hour away from you is one of regret; and, as I am painting
some grim portrait, I long to carry my model, easel, and all, to my
quiet painting-room here, with my Minnie to hang over my shoulder."

She was silently weeping most bitter tears; they were standing near the
table in the centre of the room. "Come, come," he said, cheeringly,
"you shall not give way to this--come into my studio; I want you to mix
my colours. Silly child--silly child! to cry so much for nothing."

She was on the point of telling him all, and imploring pardon, when he
turned his head aside, and the eye caught sight of a sheet of paper on
the table. "Since when has Minnie," he said laughingly, as he took it in
his hand, "turned copyist, and whose writing is this she has been
imitating? I have seen it somewhere before--where have I seen it?" She
was almost sinking to earth. It was a note which Lord Randolph had
commenced; yet, in her speechless agony, she clung to his arm. There
were only a few words--they ran thus:--

"Dear Tremenhere,--I am much annoyed at not finding you at home----"

"What does it mean, Minnie?" he cried, still smiling, and yet a strange,
uncertain light bursting over him. "Surely this is not your writing? has
any one been here? I will ring, and ask Bruce." He had his hand on the
bell: she had slid from his arm unperceived to a seat. Before the bell
sounded, the servant boy entered the room with a letter, which he handed
to Tremenhere.

"Has any one called during my----"

Tremenhere said no more, his eye fell on the letter--one glance
sufficed; for in his other hand he held the slip of paper.

"You may go," he said hastily to the boy. Without uttering another word
he tore open the letter, and read, (we have said Lord Randolph had not
much variety of thought; this note was a copy, in the past tense, of
the other one commenced.)

    "Dear Tremenhere,--I was much annoyed at not finding you at home
    when I called to-day," (it had been posted the previous evening,)
    "as I particularly wished to see you. I know, under the emergency of
    the case, you will pardon my intrusion at your villa, the fair
    inhabitant of which did me the great honour of mistaking me for you,
    and, rushing in to meet you, brought me acquainted with the fairest
    face and form I ever beheld. 'Pon my life, Tremenhere, you are a
    lucky fellow, and a selfish one too, for possessing so fair an
    original. Surely you might bestow the copy on a friend, to create
    the loveliest Aurora ever seen! I am off to Uplands. As I _most_
    particularly wish to see you, come down without delay; I shall
    expect you to-morrow night, and you must stop a few days. Make my
    best compliments to your fair companion, and believe me to be, ever
    yours truly,

    "RANDOLPH GRAY."

Miles read the letter through without a word uttered; it was only on his
face his soul broke forth, and there it became, step by step, as he read
on--surprise, grief, cold desolation--a man waking from a dream of home
and love, to the rigid reality of a field of blood and battle. All these
emotions, one by one, passed like shadows over his face, which grew
paler with each. When he looked up, all had given place to a stern
resolution, which sat on his troubled brow as he turned towards his
wife. She, poor child, had covered her face with both hands, and was
weeping bitterly. He laid a cold unearthly hand on her arm--"You have
deceived me," he uttered; and, with that almost inarticulate sound, his
soul seemed to pass, so great was his agony. "Whom can we trust?" he
whispered almost, as though speaking to himself. "She has deceived me!"
and a sigh, almost a sob, burst from his bosom.

Our readers must picture to themselves the jealous temperament of this
man--his intense, all-absorbing love for his wife--and then they may
form some idea of his present agony; for this it was. His heart-strings
seemed tightened as if a breath would snap them, like a lute too finely
strung, over which we pass the fingers in dread.

"Miles!" she cried, clasping his arm, "hear me--hear all! I--I--I was
afraid to tell you!" and the tears gushed from her eyes anew.

He released her grasp, and quietly reseating her, but as some one he
touched with repulsion, said, with his cold, stern eyes bent on her,
"Afraid to tell me! Am I then so much an object of terror to you? I
who----" The tone was unnatural, for his heart was bursting. "I," he
continued, gradually raising his voice till it trembled with various
emotions, "who have been gentle as a woman with you. I thought you so
loving, so timid in your love, I feared to startle you by a rough
tone--and you are afraid of me! All my love for you has only brought
forth this--fear! Oh! when I said my heart was too old for yours, I was
indeed right. I am not old--young still--but old at heart; and there,
where I have given all, I meet only fear!" He passed his hand over his
brow, as if his brain were burning within. "Only fear--only fear!" he
muttered; "and I, fool, thought she loved me!"

"So I do, Miles, my own dear husband," she cried, dropping on her knees,
and holding her trembling hands up to him in supplication, while the
tears rolled heavily down her upturned face; "I do love you, Miles--on
my soul, I do, more than all the world beside; but I feared to tell you,
for Dora frightened me so much about this man's visit."

"Lady Dora!" he cried--"when was she here?"

"Yesterday, Miles," sobbed she. "In my trouble, I forgot to tell you;"
and, rising, she dropped on a seat.

"There was a time, Minnie," he said bitterly, looking at the girl as he
stood with crossed arms before her, where she sat trembling, "you never
_forgot_ or _concealed_ any thing from me. Times are sadly changed; or,
perhaps, 'tis I who have been self-deceived all this long time, and read
you as I hoped, not as you really are. In good truth, we know no one
till we try them. 'Tis your nature, perhaps, child. You tried your young
wings at home, and now you are giving me the advantage of your perfected
flight. I have walked with you against others on this crooked road: I
deserve to meet with a path where you turn round upon--myself!"

"Miles! for pity's sake," she articulated, almost suffocated by emotion,
"have mercy on me; you are unjust and cruel!"

He strode the room with clenched hands, endeavouring to subdue the many
passions in his breast. She rose like a spirit so noiselessly, and,
gliding beside him, grasped his arm again. "Forgive me, Miles," she
whispered with quivering lips. Her touch roused all the indignation he
was endeavouring to subdue.

"Forgive you!" he exclaimed, flinging her hand from him as if it burned
him with its contact. "Forgive you!" and he stood before her with a wild
look of passion. "You, who have so bitterly wounded and deceived me--and
for whom? A man--the stranger of a day! Yet how do I know this? Perhaps
you have met often; and now I think of it, he does not name in his note
having been presented to you by your cousin. Fools!" he laughed--"poor
fools! you have ill-managed your duplicity. I read you all--all--and so
you will discover." So saying, he rushed from the room; and in a few
minutes afterwards quitted the house. Poor Minnie could not stay
him--she had fainted.

It would be difficult to say to what extremities he might not
have proceeded, but a gentler thought came over the Parque who
had raised this first sorrow. As Tremenhere strode onwards towards
town, not looking to the right or left, but in deep thought,
scarcely knowing whither to go, or what to do, a brougham passed
rapidly--stopped--turned, and Lady Dora's voice said, "Mr. Tremenhere,
may I speak one word to you?" Hers trembled--it ever did when addressing
him: there was much warring in that girl's mind. She would have given
worlds never to see his face again, as, by a concatenation of strange
circumstances, she was forced to seek, or meet him. Her voice burst on
his deep reverie, and startled him.

We have shewn that he had quitted home without any actual explanation
from Minnie. As he bowed to Lady Dora, there was more than the ordinary
constraint which marked his manner towards her on all occasions, she at
once remarked it, and a gleam of truth passed through her mind. "May I
speak to you?" she said, opening the door; for in these visits to
Minnie, she only brought her groom with her, on whose discretion, as an
old servant, she knew she could rely--not that she would condescend to
ask silence of any one; but in this man she had confidence.

"If not of immediate moment, Lady Dora," he said bluntly, "I will beg to
be excused the honour you propose to me, of a seat beside you. I have
business of the utmost importance in town--meeting you on this road, I
presume your drive will be extended to Chiswick; Mrs. Tremenhere is at
home." He was moving away, having coldly raised his hat.

Lady Dora was sincerely pained at the trouble she read in those eyes, on
that brow. "I must speak to you!" she cried hastily; "and, if you will
not step in, permit me to accompany you in your walk a short
distance--'tis of poor Minnie I would speak."

The "poor Minnie" touched a chord in his heart which was strung to
harmony; it had been vibrating to the desire of his soul, to prove her
innocent. He stopped:--

"I will not trouble your ladyship so much," he said, stepping in and
closing the door. "Where shall I bid the man drive?" "Any where," she
answered in some confusion, leaning back in the corner. "I will not
detain you very long--let it be slowly towards town; you were going
there."

But he did not continue that route above half a mile. Lady Dora had a
good heart, she really loved Minnie, and once you could, by her better
sentiments, penetrate through her pride, she was a kind, gentle girl.
Unhesitatingly she told Miles how every thing had occurred, every word
his little wife had uttered, her horror at deceiving him, even tacitly;
and _the fear_ explained, was so kindly a one, lest he should fly into
trouble, that his heart expanded with joy, and, involuntarily seizing
Lady Dora's hand, he pressed it to his lips. "You are a messenger of
peace and joy," he cried, looking in her face, which was very pale.
Something like a tear dimmed his eye as the thought of his poor little
wife--it was half love, and half regret.

How very slowly the horse, even at a good long trot, seemed to go, as
the brougham turned once more towards his home! Lady Dora told him, that
having vainly expected Lord Randolph the previous evening, that morning
she sent to his residence, and learned he had gone off to Uplands. What
she had to tell him about Minnie, she could not write, and when Miles
met her, she was coming down to see him, and consult on what had best be
done. It was decided in their short drive, that he should accept Lord
Randolph's invitation, and start for Uplands at once, and himself
explain all. Lady Dora stopped the brougham before arriving at the
villa; nothing could have induced her to be present at the meeting
between the husband and wife: it was a scene she felt it would have
pained her to witness, much as she desired their re-union. Miles did not
urge it upon her, and as the carriage, with its pale occupant, turned
away, he hastily entered his own home. Poor Minnie was lying on her
couch, scarcely recovered from her swoon; when she heard his step, she
started up in terror, and with eyes distended and trembling frame,
awaited his coming.

The door opened, and, before she could articulate, his arms were about
her, and we are not quite certain the tears which fell were all from her
eyes, there is something so soothing, so heavenly in reconciliation--it
is indeed the halcyon from above, descending with peaceful, unfluttering
wings!



CHAPTER II.


As Minnie lay nestled to his heart, and once more, as of yore, smiling
in his face, he told her of his intention of going to Uplands without
delay, resolved upon confiding all to Lord Randolph, to prevent further
mistakes. Minnie fully concurred in his opinion; and yet, she could not
name this latter without a painful blush. It was the recollection of
Miles's suspicion which called up this evidence against him.

"I will not have you even blush at his name," he whispered fondly;
"though not in love, I shall be perhaps envious of the emotion which
creates it. I am a jealous wretch, darling; I would have every flutter
of your heart for myself alone." Much more he said in the sweet
half-hour he gave to reconciliation, and sincere regret for his cruelty;
and then, with a heart free from every cloud of doubt, he took an
affectionate leave of her; twice, indeed, he returned, as though it were
impossible to quit her, and at last, with a rude effort, tore himself
away, determining to remain as short a time as possible. His carpet-bag
was in a fly at the door--Minnie watching him step in from the window,
when a gentleman's cab drew hastily up, and Mr. Vellumy's voice
exclaimed "Hallo, Tremenhere!"

Miles was leaning forward, to kiss his hand once more to his wife. The
appellation startled him not a little. He turned hastily round. A frown
crossed over his brow.

"G_w_ay told me last night," said the other, in reply to his cool "How
d'ye do," "that you would be coming down to-day, and, as I am returning,
I thought we might go down together. I see you have your carpet-bag, so
of course you are off there--lucky I just caught you--here, step into my
cab, and send away your fellow; I'll spin you to the railroad in no
time."

All this looked fair and above board. It was not written on Vellumy's
brow, that he had a correct list of all the trains in his pocket; he had
been for half an hour watching on the road, expecting what had happened,
namely--the departure from home of Tremenhere.

"You're very good," answered he, still distantly; "but it is scarcely
worth while changing for so short a distance."

"Pa_w_don me," lisped Vellumy. "'Tis a long way; come, do be sociable, I
hate t_w_a_w_elling alone."

"He's a good-natured fool," thought Miles; "why refuse? conciliation is
my object, so here goes;" and, making some sort of apology for his
abruptness at first, he stepped out of the fly into the cab, and casting
a long look at the curtain, behind which he saw Minnie's face, they
drove away, and arrived without accident at London bridge station--just
caught the train--and started for Uplands. We should mention that
Vellumy stopped for an instant at his club--threw the reins to
Tremenhere--and in less than five minutes was again by his side.

Tremenhere was in unusually good spirits; he felt almost mirthful. He
was going to place his beloved wife on a pedestal whence no slander
could shake her; henceforth he was resolved openly to speak of her; he
had learned the evil attending concealment. His heart was full of sweet
thoughts of her; he determined, however, to speak first to Lord
Randolph, and then let him present him, in his new character of
Benedick, to his friends.

"Do you know," he asked, starting from a reverie, "why Lord Randolph
desires my company so especially at Uplands?"

"Cannot say," answered Vellumy, smiling, "unless it be to call your
palette into requisition, to pourt_w_ay the beauties of his ladye-love."

"Lady Dora Vaughan?" asked the other in surprise. "I thought she had
quitted Up--. Indeed, I _know_ she has," he added hastily; "I saw her
to-day."

"Not Lady Do_w_a," answered Vellumy, with a knowing smile. "Some one else
he is ve_w_y much in love with, a----" Up to the present moment he had
been talking at random, just to divert Tremenhere's ideas from any thing
singular in the summons the other had received. Some thread from the
Parque's weaving surely, tangled round his shallow mind at this
juncture, and drew him on, without thinking on his part, to add, by way
of "fun:" "I don't know that I ought to tell you"--this was said
confidentially--"but G_w_ay is deucedly in love with some married woman,
q_w_ite a beauty, I hear."

"Indeed!" was the thoughtful, half painful reply, yet he could not tell
where this information galled him.

"Oh yes!" continued the confidential Vellumy; "it is a recent
affair--G_w_ay is te_w_ibly in love," he glanced smilingly at the
thoughtful Tremenhere.

"Do you know her?" asked he.

"No, he's ne_w_er let me see her; it is quite a romantic affair, of
_w_ecent date."

"Married, you say?" inquired Tremenhere, trembling he scarcely knew why.
"Then of course the passion is a hopeless one?"

"What an innocent you would make me think you!" laughed Vellumy. "Her
husband, I hear, is a jealous cu_w_mudgeon; she's af_w_aid of her life
of him, but, f_w_om all I hear, I should certainly say she loved G_w_ay,
and not a little."

A cold chill passed through the other's frame, then suddenly recalling
his cruel suspicions of Minnie, which had been so completely obliterated
from his mind, he shook off the incubus hanging round his heart, and
said mentally, "I am again playing the madman! There are thousands of
married women with whom Lord Randolph is acquainted." And, resolved to
banish these thoughts, he started a totally different subject, and
conversing indifferently they arrived at the end of their journey. They
found their host absent, however; he and some friends were out shooting,
so a servant said, but would of course return for dinner. Tremenhere
took possession of the room awarded him, and afterwards he and Vellumy
amused themselves with billiards for an hour or two. Lord Randolph was
one of the most oblivious personages in the world; he totally forgot, in
the turmoil of other thoughts, that Marmaduke Burton had on a previous
occasion declined meeting Tremenhere; great, then, was the unpleasing
surprise of both, when Lord Randolph entered in shooting trim,
accompanied by the latter. Tremenhere's brow flushed with pride as Lord
Randolph said, slightly presenting them, "I suppose you two have met
before?"

Burton looked pale and uncomfortable; Tremenhere said boldly, "We have
met often."

Their host looked up at the tone, and, bursting into a reckless,
good-tempered laugh, said, turning round on one heel, "Egad, now I
recollect! Burton, you fought shy of Tremenhere last time he was here,
and shirked a meeting. Come, I'll be sworn you've quarrelled about some
woman; you must oblige _me_, and make it up: this I intend to be a day
of peace-making;" and he gave a peculiar look at Vellumy, who responded
to it in an equally significant manner. All this by-play was unnoticed
by Miles, who, in answer to Lord Randolph, said, "Your lordship is quite
right; that gentleman and I have quarrelled about a woman, yet not quite
as you suppose, possibly."

"'Pon my life," answered their host more seriously, "I'm a thoughtless,
forgetful fellow, or I ought to have called to mind, Burton, that when
you and Tremenhere were down here together the other day, you quitted to
avoid him. This should convince you, Tremenhere, that Burton bears no
animosity towards you; come, oblige me: be friends, forget old
grievances."

"Animosity! and forgetfulness!" cried Tremenhere. Then, lowering his
tone, he added coldly, "Lord Randolph, there are persons with whom
estrangement is more consonant to our feelings than friendship; but his
presence--I mean the presence of my worthy cousin----"

"Cousin!" exclaimed their host and Vellumy in a breath.

"I disclaim it!" cried Burton, trying to appear calm; "that is, except
indirectly--left-handed."

"Man!" said Tremenhere, energetically making an involuntary step towards
him. The other two made a movement to prevent any collision; but
Tremenhere stopped as Burton shrunk back. "I am a fool," he said, "to
forget my noble part--patience. Pardon me, Lord Randolph; whilst I am in
your house as guest, I will no more so offend--I will conduct myself as
if such a person as that man had never existed. When I proclaim our
relationship again, he shall tremble more than he does even now--look at
him!" And, turning contemptuously away, he quietly interrupted an
awkward apology which their host was commencing, by--"Has your lordship
had good sport to-day? We artists lose these more wholesome pleasures,
amidst our palettes and pencils."

Lord Randolph was well pleased at the turn affairs had taken: he had
not brains enough to carry out two things at once. All his ideas were
now fixed upon one great achievement, foreign to this. Burton seemed so
awkwardly ill at ease, that Tremenhere could almost have found it in his
heart to pity him. After the first feeling of annoyance occasioned by
his presence, he felt gratified, as he would be a witness of the public
justice he purposed doing Minnie; and, in this mood, he quickly
recovered his equanimity of temper; and, when he took his place at the
dinner-table, Lord Randolph was fain to admit, even with the then
prejudice against him, that certainly honest uprightness sat upon his
brow, and lightness of conscience in his easy gaiety; whereas Burton
looked pale, discontented, and gloomy. Tremenhere took not the slightest
notice of him; there was no sneer, no avoidance, but a quiet
obliviousness of his existence, especially annoying. Their host was in
high spirits, and, with the well-bred ease of a perfect gentleman, put
all his guests, as far as he could, on that pleasant footing. Several
peculiar looks passed between Vellumy and himself, more especially after
the former's return to table, whence he had been summoned by Lord
Randolph's valet.

"Vellumy," he cried, laughing, "you look as if you had seen a ghost;
'pon my life you're pale."

"Am I?" responded the other in the same tone; "I have, howe_w_er, seen
no ghost, but a spi_w_it of g_w_ace and beauty."

"Where?" asked the others, in a breath.

"Ask Randolph," said Vellumy; "I ne_w_er tell tales out of school."

"Pshaw!" answered the host, giving a half-frowning look at his friend,
"there's not a living woman here, that I ever see, now the women folk
and their maids have departed."

"Talking of that," said Burton, "when do you become one apart from us--a
respectable married man?"

"Probably never," was the decided reply. "Lady Dora frowns upon my suit;
and----"

"You have little pressed it of late," hazarded some one.

"I never saw two less like lovers than you were, down here the other
day."

"By George, no!" cried Burton; "you were always running up to
town--there must be some magnet there, I fear. Lady Dora should look to
it."

Vellumy laughed aloud.

"Oh, Vel is in the secret!" exclaimed the first speaker. "Tell us, is
she dark or fair?--fair for a guinea! for this morning at breakfast he
was raving about golden hair, and cheeks blushing like the inside of a
sea-shell, which the amorous sea bathes in tears."

"Poetically described," said Lord Randolph, colouring slightly; and
almost inadvertently his eye rested on Tremenhere, who was pale and
silent. "I shall, probably, _never_ marry," continued he; "that is, not
till I grow a cranky old bachelor."

"You have changed," said Tremenhere in rather a low tone, feeling it
necessary to say something; "and not for the better, I think. If people
must marry, why, let them do it in youth--that is, not extreme youth,
but not with too much disparity--a year or two on the man's side."

"Only _that_!" exclaimed Burton sarcastically, half addressing
Tremenhere, who looked him full in the face, but made no reply; the
blood, however, painfully rose to his brow. The remark was not lost
where he intended it to tell.

"The misfortune is," said one of the guests, "that we men do not gain
wisdom with age--our wise teeth are the first to decay and desert us. We
forget how many years have gone over our heads; and at sixty expect some
lovely girl of twenty to love us for ourselves alone."

"A grave error," answered Tremenhere, laughing. He was resolved, if
possible, to chase painful thought, and the cold, unfounded suspicions
gathering round his heart. "For an old man, marrying a young girl,
generally becomes like a hoop in a child's hands; which it trundles
before it whither it will, giving it hard knocks at every step!"

"Bravo!" cried several.

"It is not always thus," said their host, laughing. "Some old fellows
weary their young wives to death; these always remind me of a punishment
I have read of somewhere, where a living person was chained to a corpse
till death came--some old men are brutes."

"I'd poison such a one!" exclaimed one man, laughing.

"I know such a being now," responded Lord Randolph, "with his hair dyed
a purple black, idem whiskers, and one of our celebrated dentists is
guilty of affording him the means of mastication, and life."

"If I were his wife," said Tremenhere, "I'd take away his teeth, and
starve him! 'Twould be a decay of nature, nothing to affect the
conscience!"

Some more jests were passed on this subject; and when silence was a
little restored, Burton asked, "But Vellumy has not yet accounted for
the fair spirit he spoke of--where is she?"

"In the picture gallery," answered Lord Randolph, hastily. "Tremenhere,
you are such a deucedly lazy fellow, that, till you send me your
'Aurora,' I have gladdened my eyes with a Venus; you must give me your
opinion of her by candle-light. Vellumy loses himself in ecstasy before
her."

"By whom is she?" asked Tremenhere.

"Gad I forget! some young aspirant. I have a fancy of my own, to bring
forward unknown genius and beauty."

Here again he looked at Vellumy, and again a cloud passed over
Tremenhere's heart. Much more was said on various subjects. The cloth
was removed--the wine circulated freely. Vellumy whispered Tremenhere,
"Come along; leave those fellows drinking; let's go and have a quiet hit
at billiards."

Both rose. "Where are you off to?" exclaimed Lord Randolph; "I'll have
no shirking, Vel. You and Tremenhere remain--we'll all go shortly."

"You can join us," answered Vellumy; "we're going to see the Venus
first," and he moved to the door.

"I'll be shot if you do!" cried their host springing towards, and
locking it.

"That's right!" cried several; "keep them in! That's not fair to leave
so soon."

"Done, my boy!" exclaimed Vellumy, rushing to another--a side one. "Come
along, Tremenhere; we can find our way through this passage."

"Try, try!" shouted Lord Randolph after them; "the doors are locked that
way, you must come back."

"This way, Tremenhere," called Vellumy, running on before; "up this side
passage, and the private stair, to G_w_ay's own rooms; I know the way,
come along!"

They had both been drinking rather freely, and in the cup Tremenhere had
forgotten all annoyance.



CHAPTER III.


Up the narrow stair they hurried laughing, then down a passage, at the
further end of which was a door.

"G_w_ay forgot this," laughed the conductor; "this leads to the
g_w_allery."

Apparently Gray had not forgotten it; for, for some unexplained purpose,
it was fastened.

"Confound it!" exclaimed the speaker; "what can he have locked up all
these doors for? Try that one on your left; that leads to his own
apa_w_tments."

"Locked, too," said Tremenhere, after trying it.

"I won't be b_w_eaten!" cried Vellumy; "st_w_op a moment. I'll run down
the p_w_assage, and g_w_et the keys out of the other doors; they'll most
likely op_w_en this;" and back he ran. Tremenhere stood looking after
him.

"Here," he called out, though under his breath, from the end of the
passage; "here's a key--t_w_y it;" and he flung it down the carpeted
corridor. "I'll go look for m_w_ore."

Tremenhere raised the key and applied it to the lock, which yielded at
once; he entered unhesitatingly, with that freedom natural to a
bachelor-house, and found himself in a small antechamber leading to Lord
Randolph's own rooms; for an instant he stood irresolute. Which way
turn? the picture-gallery was the object of his search. There were two
doors in this room--one opposite the one by which he had entered;
towards this he moved, and, gently turning the handle, found himself at
the entrance of a small, but elegantly-furnished sitting-room. There
were no lights, except from the fire, which threw a wide, cheerful blaze
over all. A sofa was drawn close to it, and on this sat a lady, leaning
half over the arm of it; her back was turned to the door, which had
opened noiselessly. The light was not uncertain, and it threw its
fullest blaze on that fair form--and that fair form was Minnie's!

Tremenhere stood still--a statue-like stillness. Life seemed fading away
in horror. He felt drunk for a moment with suffering; then vision,
thought--all cleared away into perfect sobriety, and he strode silently
towards her. She started, and, dropping her book, uttered a cry of
surprise, and, by an involuntary feeling of sudden alarm, shrunk back;
then, seeing who it was, exclaimed in joy, if he could so have read
it,--

"Oh, Miles, is that you? but you startled me, indeed, standing like a
ghost, there. You look as if you did not expect me!"

"You here--you here!" he muttered with cold lips. "In these rooms! and
why here at all?" And he held his hands before him to keep her back.

"Miles," she cried, still advancing; and though the face grew pale with
some sudden fear of untimely birth, for it was so unexpected, yet the
brow was clear and pure to all but a jealous man. "You know wherefore I
am here; think--you must be mad!"

"Mad!" he echoed, staring wildly; "I must be mad, or dreaming!--you were
locked in, and in _these_ rooms."

"Where am I?" she cried, looking hurriedly round.

"Do you not know," he articulated beneath his breath, "or are you
deceiving me? These are Lord Randolph Gray's private apartments."

"His!" she whispered, dropping on a seat; "I thought they were yours."
Poor girl! her limbs tottered beneath her weight.

"You will drive me mad," he cried, seizing her trembling hands; "tell
me, in Heaven's name--tell me how you came here, and why?"

"I came," she ejaculated half in surprise and half in fear, "because you
sent for me; but why am I in these rooms, why not in yours?" She did not
yet understand his suspicions; her fears arose from his strange
excitement; she began to fear for his reason, thinking that he had sent
for her.

"Woman!" he cried in agony, wringing her cold hands, "I never called you
hither, and this you must know." She could not speak, but sat silently
staring at him, her eyes distended with terror. "Speak--speak truth, if
you _dare_--and tell me why you are here? and how? for I am nearly mad;
do you not see it, woman? I conjure you, speak."

"Speak you!" she whispered, "and tell me your hidden meaning; you
affright me with these spirit thoughts. Embody them, Miles; for I dare
not believe my heart's fear."

"Speak them!" he exclaimed, "do they need speech? No! your guilty soul
has uttered them to your terror-stricken frame; you have done, and now
you shudder at your own act. Woman, I am doubly deceived, deceived when
this day I took you to my loving heart, deceived when I was lured from
my home that you might come hither in secret, but I will have revenge,
where revenge may be taken." And casting her hands from him, which he
had held grasped in his, he sprung towards the door, but like lightning
she was before him, and placing her slight form, now nerved by
resolution against it, she said, "Miles, I bore much this day patiently,
for I had been guilty of concealment, though done for a worthy purpose;
but now, that my soul is clear of any wilful sin against you, in the
sight of Heaven, I _demand_ that you should hear me."

"Speak," he said coldly folding his arms, "my revenge can wait."

"When," she articulated faintly, for the nerve of a moment had passed
away--"when you left me to-day, an hour elapsed in thoughts of you, all
you Miles, and joy--that deep joy which reconciliation brings. I was
aroused from this dream of peace and rest, after my recent sorrow, by a
messenger who came, he said, with a letter from you, which you had given
him on starting, and this letter bade me at once come to Uplands to
rejoin you, placing myself under the care of this messenger; you had a
project in view for our mutual happiness, and my presence was necessary;
so, dear Miles, I did not delay a moment,"--here the long restrained
tears overflowed her eyes at the calling of that gentle word on her
lip--"but fearlessly quitted home, knowing your judgment must be best in
all things for my benefit, I could not err in following your guidance,"
her full eye looked all its love on him as she spoke.

"The letter," he said hoarsely, holding out a hand; he durst not take
her, as he longed to do, to his heart, without this proof.

"Are _you_ mad, or am _I_?" exclaimed the affrighted girl--his calmness
awed her. "I have burned that letter, you know you bade me do so."

"By heavens!" he laughed wildly, "your cold-hearted assurance proves you
the most consummate deceiver in the world. Girl--woman--demon! I _never_
bade you come--I never wrote to you; and you _know_ I did not, but your
paramour knew me safe here; and in safety lodged you here also. By
heaven it was a bold, daring game, worthy a better cause!" How often, in
our bitterest or most serious moments, some passage either ludicrous, or
irreverent, will cross our minds; through his flitted the words of
Iago,--

     "She did deceive her father, marrying you!"

"Yes," he continued, following the thought, "she deceived them all,
cleverly and calmly; and what wonder I should follow?"

"Oh!" cried Minnie, dropping on her knees and looking upwards; "if
spirits in pain may summon their kindred from heaven, oh! my own dear
mother, look on your orphan, and pity her; pray for her, mother
dear--pray for her!" and, covering her face with her hands, she wept
bitterly. There is not in the regions of darkness a blacker demon than
jealousy; it brands all--perverts all. There was a time when a tear from
Minnie would have torn his soul. Now he looked on, almost exultingly; he
thought she was sorrowing for another.

"Tremenhere, Tremenhere, open the door!" exclaimed Lord Randolph
without, agitatedly--he heard a woman in tears. "For heaven's sake open
the door, I will explain all!"

"Oh!" ejaculated Miles in a deep tone of satisfaction, yet it seemed as
a groan, "here is something tangible to deal with." And without casting
a look on his sobbing wife, who was bowed to earth, he hastily
unfastened the door, which she had locked to prevent Miles's egress.
"Come in, my lord," he said, perfectly calm, "and witness your day's
worthy occupation! Look up, woman; here is one for whom you have cast me
off! You, my lord, to-day, reign master of that fickle heart; and
another--and another--and another, to-morrow!" and he strode
contemptuously to the fireplace; but the hands were clenched in agony,
which he would let no one witness.

"Come in, Vellumy!" cried Lord Randolph, whose voice trembled. He had
created a storm which was mastering him.

"Let no one else in!" shouted Miles, turning round, all his forced calm
giving way to intense passion. "Or, yes," he added, springing to the
door and forcing it wide open from Vellumy's grasp, who strove to close
it. "Come in, one, all--all--Burton too--come, glory, triumph over the
proud man biting the bitter dust of betrayed trust."

"Are you mad?" exclaimed his host, pale with agitation. "Hear me,
Tremenhere; I will explain all. Vellumy knows all--we will explain."

As they entered Minnie crept to her feet, and silently dropping on the
sofa, sat watching all with a bewildered look of extreme terror; her
shaken mind could not comprehend it.

"I am ready to hear all you may have to say, gentlemen," Miles said
coldly, and sarcastically; "you will, however, permit me to hold my own
opinions, and act upon them, as a man so much injured should."

"Tell him, my lord," whispered Minnie, who had silently crept to Lord
Randolph's side, and grasped his arm--"tell him; for _you_ must know how
I came here, if, indeed, he is not mad, as I feared, but truly in
ignorance."

Tremenhere stood as one doubtful whether to drag her from the arm she
energetically grasped, or else kill her as she stood there; assuredly
there was murder in the thought of that ungoverned, erring, but most
devoted heart. He passed his hand over his brow, and dashed aside the
cold drops of suspense and doubt.

"Pray, calm yourself, madam," said Lord Randolph, gently laying his hand
on her trembling one; "I will explain all. Indeed, I never expected
matters to take so biased a turn as this." She shrunk back from the
touch of his hand. Her terror assumed so many forms, she scarcely knew
where to find the end of that tangled web to unravel it. Vellumy looked
even more alarmed than Lord Randolph; besides which, for the first time,
he looked upon Minnie, and perhaps she never had appeared more beautiful
than in that moment of anxiety and suffering. Instinctively he drew near
to the girl, who sat like one awakened from a fearful dream, gazing
wildly from one to the other, and incapable of the least exertion; her
very arms hung nerveless, yet essaying to grasp the sofa for support.

Vellumy whispered gently, "Don't c_w_y; we will make it all
_w_ight--G_w_ay has brought you here for that purpose." But she stared
wildly at him, not hearing or understanding his meaning. Meanwhile, Lord
Randolph, who really had done all with a good intention, gained energy
from the uprightness of his conscience, and said calmly--

"Now hear me, Tremenhere; I may possibly offend you by my interference,
but my object in bringing that most unfortunate, most injured girl here,
has been----"

"Stop, my lord!" cried Miles, recovering his dignity, and soothing down
his passion like a smouldering fire, more concentrated and intense in
that apparent calm. "Though lost to all shame--though lost to me and my
love, permit me still to claim a certain respect for the name she still
bears--you forget that _girl_ is my wife--Mrs. Tremenhere!"

"Your _wife_!" exclaimed both the other men in a voice. "Your wife! Good
heavens! can this be?"

"True!" answered Miles, coldly. "I forgot this was unknown to you--that
is, _through me_. I came hither to-day, to leave you no longer in
ignorance of my exact position, as you had done my wife the honour of a
visit."

"Merciful heavens!" cried Lord Randolph, agitatedly. "If this be indeed
the case, I have been led into a grievous, but not irretrievable, error.
Is this lady truly your wife?"

"As truly as a twice-told ceremony can make her," answered the other,
with a cold, doubting smile. "Is your lordship indeed in ignorance of
this fact? and does the responsibility of your crime alarm you? Fear
not--it is not by _law_ I shall seek redress when I demand it. There may
be honour--if you know that thing more than by name--but there will be
no laws to satisfy."

Lord Randolph was pacing the room, uncertain how to explain
himself;--Vellumy looked thunderstruck.

"What!" continued Miles, in the same tone of bitterness; "did you think
that was a frail creature, you were only making frailer still? that you
were only deceiving a deceiver? giving to the giver his own again? I
tell you, no; the creature was to me as the light of heaven--pure,
sunny, gladdening all!--a gift of God to cheer me on my pilgrimage! Do
you think I could look up to heaven, and bless it for its light, when I
had condemned a soul like hers to crime and darkness?--to walk with me
onward to the judgment-seat, and there kneel down and condemn me to
hell, for the wrong I had done her? I tell you no, my lord; she _was_
my own loved, virtuous _wife--once_!" And the stern man's voice
trembled with emotion.

"And, by heavens, Tremenhere! that _still_ for me, or any thought of
mine. Give me your hand: forgive me--I have been led to wrong you
deeply; I rejoice in being able once again to call you friend. I
respect--I pity you; for some, to me unknown, unhappy circumstances,
must have made you condemn a being like that to the shade of a
suspicion. Mrs. Tremenhere," he added, approaching her, as Miles drew
coldly back from the proffered hand, "forgive me the involuntary pain I
have caused you, but plead for me to Tremenhere; he cannot resist you!"

Minnie stared like one idiotic; she was wounded too deeply; her native
delicacy was sullied by these cruel suspicions.

"Tell Miles all," she articulated, in a low tone--"I cannot speak to
him; tell him all--pray, do!" And her voice was choked with tears.

"You _must_ hear me, Tremenhere!" he cried.

"_Must!_" laughed the other incredulously. "May I ask is this an
impromptu, or a part of a well-arranged whole? I ask a simple
question--favour me with a simple reply, my lord. How came Mrs.
Tremenhere in this apartment, where I by accident found her? Words will
not do--I ask proofs!"

"Will not my pledged and sacred honour suffice?"

"Some men deem it a duty, where a lady's reputation is concerned, to
clear her from suspicion at any price."

"By heavens! you are blunt, sir," answered Lord Randolph haughtily;
"and but that a well-meant act of mine, has caused this scene--this
mistake--I should leave you to seek your remedy where and how you would;
but I am resolved to state all, and then leave you to be just, if just
you can be in your present state."

He then proceeded to relate the scheme arranged between Vellumy and
himself, believing Minnie wronged by Tremenhere--a scheme to bring her
down, and call upon Miles's better feelings to do her justice. What she
had told her husband was perfectly true. When Vellumy entered the club,
on their way to the railroad, it was to despatch a trusty person, to
whom the letter had been confided, which lured Minnie unsuspecting from
home. We have seen how Vellumy's cab had been in waiting with its
master, to secure the positive departure of Miles. Vellumy had a great
talent--(for one it is, though dangerous in the extreme)--an
extraordinary power of copying handwriting. He wrote a letter so exactly
like Miles's, that even Minnie was deceived. It ran thus (they were
ignorant of her name, it will be remembered)--

    "Dearest Love--I have just received a letter at my club, on my way
    to the station, which contains something of so much importance to
    our future welfare, that I earnestly desire you should follow me to
    Uplands. Place yourself unfearing under the care of the trusty
    bearer, and he will bring you safe to your

    "MILES.

"Burn this; I will explain all when we meet."

This letter might have misled a more experienced person than poor
Minnie; what could she suspect? Miles's word was law, unquestioned;
without hesitating one moment, she quitted home with the messenger, who
was none other than Lord Randolph's valet, one he could securely confide
in. The plan for Tremenhere to discover her, was all arranged
beforehand; but, most unfortunately, the well-intentioned plotters were
quite ignorant of Miles's jealous disposition, as also of the scene of
that morning on his lordship's account; and, to crown all, there was no
letter forthcoming in proof. Vellumy, by the latter's desire, quitted
the room to keep the guests below in good temper; he was, like his
friend, a well-meaning man, but not a gifted one, by wisdom. Of all the
persons below, he selected Burton for his confident, to whom he might
unburthen his overcharged bosom. Secrets were of leaden weight with him.
This man listened with avidity and delight to the strange tale, but made
no like confidence himself. What he knew about it, remained in his own
breast; but he, who before chid his fate for bringing him in contact
with his cousin, now rejoiced in it: these revelations raised a host of
ideas in his mind, which he promised himself not to lose sight of.

All these circumstances, as we have related them, were laid before
Tremenhere, and though he allowed himself at last to be convinced of
Minnie's truth, yet there was a power within him stronger than his own
will. It was an offspring of nature--wild and ungovernable jealousy: it
ran like a muddy current through every vein, and though he took Minnie
once again in love and reconciliation to his heart, and shook Lord
Randolph's hand in sincerity of gratitude for the manly wish which
prompted this ill-advised act of kindness to Minnie, still the demon
shook his heart when he saw her, in the warmth of her generous,
guileless heart, shake Lord Randolph gratefully by the hand, and,
looking up in his face, bid "Heaven bless him;" for he felt no man could
forget that face, that look, and he dreaded lest what was not, might be
engendered by that beauty and grace of nature, which had driven even his
stern heart almost to madness; and the restless demon whispered, "I
would you had seen the letter," but letter, Vellumy, Burton, Lord
Randolph--all, were forgotten and forgiven, when he held his Minnie once
again to his heart, and their host descended to make some plausible
excuse for his non-appearance again.

Early next morning he and Minnie returned to town, and Burton, too,
quitted Uplands.

"That fool Dalby made a confounded mistake," said Lord Randolph to his
crony, Vellumy, next day; "but it has all turned out most fortunately.
What an exquisite creature Mrs. Tremenhere is! Ten thousand times
handsomer even than her cousin. Lady Dora," (for Miles had related all,
to leave no further doubt or suspicion about Minnie.)

"B_w_ootiful!" responded Vellumy, "and such a sweet l_w_oving woman! I
hope T_w_emenhere will t_w_eat her well, he's so d_w_eucedly jealous!"

And thus terminated a good intention. If it went where such too often
are said to go, it left its germ in earth to bud and blossom.



CHAPTER IV.


If Lord Randolph had possessed as good sense as he had kindness of
heart, even yet all might have passed into oblivion; but he was that
_rara avis_ of fashionable life--a moral man; that is, one too much so,
to attempt the seduction of a friend's wife. Minnie became sacred to him
from the moment he shook Tremenhere's hand in reconciliation; him, he
liked, and still more, his fair little wife. It was, then, not to be
wondered at if he claimed the privilege of an old friend, and made
frequent calls at the villa near Chiswick. It would have been much more
wisely done to have remained away; but, in conscious rectitude, we often
are guilty of very compromising acts, viewed by prejudiced or evil
minds. Tremenhere's pride forbade any observations to Minnie, who
received him with pleasure, looking upon him in two lights--both as her
husband's friend, and Lady Dora's suitor, for such he still was; and as
she occasionally, but not very frequently called, they met at the villa.
Still there was--burned as it were into Miles's brain--the memory of all
Vellumy had said that fatal day about his friend's love for a married
woman--fair, too; in all, answering Minnie's description. And, worse
than all, there was that unfortunate letter which Vellumy had written,
and, for self-security, bade her burn immediately. All these things
combined were ever floating before Tremenhere's brain; and, to complete
the impression, Lord Randolph was constantly urging him to finish the
"Aurora," by giving her a worthy representative in the face of his fair,
young, sylph-like wife.

In the most well-meaning manner, this man was ever doing something to
keep alive the other's suspicions. He was no longer in ignorance of
Tremenhere's position regarding Marmaduke Burton; and, as a sincere
friend and generous-hearted man, pressed his purse upon Miles, to
proceed at once to Gibraltar, and prosecute all possible research. It
need scarcely be said, that he had dropped all acquaintance with
Marmaduke, which created a double hatred and desire of revenge on his
part, towards his cousin and his young wife.

When Lord Randolph made the generous offer of his purse, he concluded by
saying, naturally and without thought of harm--

"You could leave Mrs. Tremenhere with her aunt, Lady Ripley; I will
undertake to arrange that. Or, I know my own good, kind one, Lady
Lysson, would most gladly offer her a home during your absence."

Tremenhere was painting at the moment the other said this; he flushed
deeply, then dropping a pencil, stooped to pick it up, and thus partly
covered his confusion.

"I cannot be sufficiently grateful," he answered; "but--" there was an
almost imperceptible tone of sarcasm in his voice; "but I never have
been parted from my wife, Lord Randolph; and I do not think she would
desire or like it--that is, I hope not." And he fixed his eye for a
moment on the other's face, who saw nothing, and consequently more than
once urged the subject upon Miles, who grew at last almost rude, beyond
his power of control.

"Tremenhere's out of temper to-day," said the visitor to himself. "I'm
sure it would be the best thing he could do, and a duty, to place that
sweet wife of his, in her proper sphere; I'll be at him again."

All these groundless suspicions wore on his really noble nature, every
thing giving way before them; even the sacred hope which once had been
so dear to him, the re-establishing his mother's fame, became a blank.
He cared for nothing, except to watch and verify his doubts; he became
weary, feverish, ill, and an enigma to all! almost too--oh, worse than
all--a terror to poor Minnie, who was lost in wonder and perplexity. If
she quitted the room for a longer time than was pleasing to him, he
stole from his easel, and listened; if he saw her writing, he could not
rest till the letter was placed in his hands, even the book on which she
had written it was examined, to trace whether the blotting-paper had
kept the words confided to it; and, when all had been done with feverish
haste, the man sat down, and hated himself for his meanness, and seeking
out Minnie, drew her to his heart, as if he would keep her ever there,
and almost wept over her in penitence and love; for never a man loved
more madly or fatally for the peace of both.

He would start from some mad dream of desertion, and, stilling his very
heart to listen, find her sleeping purely and calmly as an infant beside
him. Such a state could not last; Minnie, every one noticed it, but
few--or better said, none--guessed the cause, so well did he veil his
thoughts.

We have spoken little of Minnie's late home, but there was little to
interest the reader in that tranquil abode,--tranquil, except when
Dorcas sought to recall Minnie there, and to their hearts; this might
have been accomplished long before the present time of which we write,
had there not been extraneous influence to keep alive the feeling
against her. Marmaduke Burton was not only a visiter, but a constant
correspondent, when absent, of Juvenal's; nothing was left undone which
could widen the breach, and it was with the "deepest regret," he said,
that he felt compelled, by a sacred duty, to inform Juvenal, as her
uncle, that the once pure Minnie was deceiving her husband, as she had
all of them.

Alas! the girl who flies her home, leaves an unanswerable argument
against her, when the world afterwards adds sin, shame, or a levity to
her charge; however innocent she may be, the "once" is a precedent for
all.

Dorcas, and even poor Mrs. Gillett, loudly exclaimed against this; the
former refused positively to meet or sit in company with Burton; Sylvia
shook her head, and looked more sinister than ever, as she said, "It
might very likely be; she never expected any thing better from her
marriage with such a man; she had indeed raised a barrier between them,"
and chapters more to the same effect. Poor Dorcas cried bitterly, and
reproached herself for her supineness in the first instant, in not
vigorously opposing Minnie's incarceration. She knew the girl better
than any, and knew nothing would have tempted her honest nature to
duplicity, had she not been driven half frantic by wrong accusations,
and suspicion of her truth. In her trouble, Dorcas sought her only
comforter, Mr. Skaife, and urged him so anxiously to see her beloved
niece, that he quitted Yorkshire for town; before he arrived, sorrow was
gathering fast over both those he felt so much interested about.

Our readers will recall to mind, that Mary Burns had obtained teaching,
by which she principally supported her mother; for she felt a delicacy
in receiving succour from Tremenhere, however generously offered. Of
late he seldom quitted home, never except when absolutely forced to do
so, and generally he so arranged it, to be driven in by Lord Randolph;
thus only could he feel secure. One thing we forgot to mention sooner,
that nothing was wanting to urge a jealous man to madness; he was in the
constant habit of receiving anonymous letters, those vile arms of coward
strength; these were written, so bearing upon acts of actual occurrence,
that, though he read and flung them into the fire, still they left an
unerring shaft behind, piercing his heart with doubt, for in every one
there was but the one name registered, which was eating into his
soul--Lord Randolph's. He was truly a man fighting with shadows; he
feared every thing, seeing nothing. It was a state of irritability
which could not last much longer. He was borne to earth with the
tortures of his mind; and Minnie crept, like the ghost of herself,
through those almost silent rooms--once all light and happiness.

It must not be supposed that Marmaduke Burton, who was working
under-ground like some vermin, did it for mere revenge, or wanton
wickedness; no, he was impelled to it by fear; he knew in his heart that
Miles had _right_ on his side, and he saw that _might_, too, would
probably become his. Environed as he was by powerful friends, whom he
was daily gaining by his talents as an artist, he felt his only security
lay in driving Tremenhere to some act of desperation, which would make
him fly the country, either in despair or to conceal Minnie from all. He
had known his cousin's disposition from boyhood; he knew every turn of
his hasty, but noble heart; and all the harsher feelings of it had been
drawn forth, as stains by fire, in the wrongs of his mother and his own
Minnie. There are so many vile ones on earth, who know no law where
money is proffered in exchange for evil, that Burton found ready tools
to watch all--report all; even the household hearth was not sacred from
this pollution.

Some weeks had passed; Minnie had not seen Mary Burns for a considerable
time, when, one day, a note reached her from her, brought by a messenger
who said it required immediate attention. Tremenhere had left home about
half an hour, on business which would occupy him nearly the whole day.
His manner had been feverish and excited all the morning, and Minnie
would not have wondered had she read the contents of another of those
vile missives which he had received an hour before leaving. After
reading it, by an involuntary movement of disgust, he pushed her from
him, as she stooped her head over him while he sat motionless at his
easel, the uplifted brush awaiting the command of genius to call life on
the lifeless canvass; but his thoughts were more of death, than any
existing, glowing creation.

"Miles, dearest," and she bent down to embrace him, and her always
slight figure, looked now like a lithe graceful withey, so fragile its
outline; "what are you thinking of?"

He pushed her from him, and then, as the girl stood, pale and alarmed at
his violence, his haggard eye forgot its troubled glance, to soften into
tenderness, as he drew her passionately to his heart. And the trembling
voice said--

"Forgive me, again, Minnie--forgive me; I am a very wretched man, loving
you as I love you, and----" He paused.

"And what? my own husband."

"Never mind, Minnie--never mind! You will not, will you? Oh! promise me
you will not." He was speaking to his thoughts.

"Any thing, Miles!" she answered, old fears of his perfect sanity making
her shudder. "What is it you wish me to promise?"

"Never to forsake me, come what may; be your feelings towards me what
they may, hide them, Minnie; let me be deceived if you will, but never
let me see it; and oh! do not forsake me, or I shall go mad!"

She could not answer. Her tears were frozen by fear. She really thought
him deranged; and so he was--that worst madness--jealousy. For the
overwrought mind was not fighting with idle fancies, evanescent as vain;
but with a cold, tangible reality, built on many a doubt and distorted
act or word of hers, and still worse on the letters of his anonymous
correspondent, whose last letter, received that morning, ran thus--

    "If you wish to verify all, leave home early, professedly for the
    day, and watch your house; be in readiness to follow, and you will
    need no further proof or admonition to enable you to convince
    yourself. A hired brougham will be at the end of your lane. The
    driver, ignorant of all, will place himself at your disposal, on
    your giving the name of--'Gray,' as well as another--'twill keep him
    in your memory.

    "Your sincere, but unsuspected FRIEND."

And Miles was resolved at last to have proof, or else never again
suspect--never read another letter, but burn them unopened.

"You do not speak," he said, again drawing her, shrinking from terror,
close to his heart, by the arm which clasped her. "Poor child--poor
Minnie! I have frightened you; forget it, my child, I am unfitting for
so frail a thing as you. I should have mated with my own kind, something
lion-born, and you--you with----Minnie," he cried, changing his tone
suddenly, and looking full in her face with his dark, gloomy eyes, "you
should have married such a man as Lord Randolph Gray, and have led a
life of luxury and peace. He would never have terrified you, as _I_ do;
I think you would have been very happy--I think he loves you, Minnie."

The suddenness of the words, his change of manner, all combined to call
the warm blood to her cheek.

"Miles," she said in agitation, "do not say things like these; even in
jest, Lord Randolph's name should never be mingled with mine in a breath
of doubt, after that one painful scene at Uplands--you forget, too, he
is Dora's----"

"Oh!" laughed he hoarsely, "those things are soon broken off. Now,
Minnie, were you free, on your sacred soul, do you not think that man
would propose to marry you?"

"On my sacred soul, Miles," she answered solemnly, shrinking from his
arms, almost with a feeling of dislike towards him at the manner of his
speech,--"I do not think so; and this I _know_, were I free, fifty times
over, I would refuse his lordship."

"Forgive me, Minnie, forgive me--forget this!" and he once more folded
his arms around her, as he rose from his seat. "I am unworthy of you,
yet _indeed_ I love you." His smile was almost as of old, and once again
they were at peace; _he had forgotten the letter_, but it was only the
merciful oblivion of a moment; their peace was like a house built on a
blasted rock, through the caverns of which the wind whistles mournfully,
shewing the hollowness beneath.

Shortly afterwards he quitted the house for "nearly the whole day," he
said. He was gone; and she sat silently thinking, as now was her wont
when alone; there was nothing to restrain her feelings having full play.
Before him, she often forced a gaiety she did not feel; now she sat in
sorrow, and the once laughing face looked pale and care-worn.

"A letter, if you please, ma'am," said the footboy, presenting one. She
took it, the characters were familiar. "Poor Mary!" she said, refolding
it when read; "I have indeed much neglected you of late; and it was a
sacred duty to do otherwise, lest by that neglect your heart had once
again grown callous or reckless in the midst of troubles. We should
uphold a fallen sister who has risen, lest the weakened limbs totter
again, and sink, never to rise! I will go at once and see her; I am sure
my doing so must please Miles--poor Miles, my own dear husband! John,"
she asked, as the boy obeyed her summons to the room again, "who brought
this note?"

"I don't know, ma'am. A man; he said there was no answer required."

"Go," she said, "round to the stables, and order me a fly immediately,
without delay."

The letter said--

    "Dear Mrs. Tremenhere--I am sure you will pardon my writing to ask
    you, as a very great favour, to come here to-day. I am in much
    trouble, and have only you to comfort and support me in it, by your
    counsel and advice. Pray, forgive the trouble I am imposing upon
    you; and pray be here if possible by two o'clock.

    "Humbly and sincerely yours,

    "MARY BURNS."

The fly drove to the door in a quarter of an hour: it was one o'clock.

"Drive quickly!" cried Minnie, as she stepped in and gave Mary's
address; "I am late." The man touched his hat, and obeyed. There was a
lane leading to the road from their house; at the corner of this a
brougham appeared, coming towards the villa. "It is Dora!" exclaimed she
to herself. "If I stop, she will delay me; moreover, she does not see
all as I do; dear Dora is more coldly calculating, and lectures me for
visiting poor Mary; I will not stop now, but write and tell her
to-morrow; she will call again, and for worlds I would not forsake Mary
in her trouble." As she thought all this, with one hand she hastily drew
down the blinds, and leaned back in the carriage. She did not see Dora,
neither did she see the occupant of another brougham, with the blinds
half down, who was watching all, with a pale, anxious face.

"Follow that fly," he said, in a scarcely articulate voice, pointing
after Minnie's--"not too closely, but keep it in sight----She did not
even speak to her cousin," he whispered to his trembling heart, "but
drew down the blinds to avoid observation!" And he pressed his hands
over his strained and burning eyes.



CHAPTER V.


It was scarcely two when Minnie stopped at the door of Mary Burns's
cottage; alighting, she rapped. The servant of whom Dalby made mention,
opened the door. But, let us hasten to say, of all this he was ignorant;
the game was too deep a one to be entrusted even to him.

"Is Miss Burns at home?" asked Minnie.

"No, ma'am; she has been out some time, but I expect her very shortly.
Will you walk up-stairs, in the drawing-room?"

Minnie obeyed, desiring the fly to wait. Before going to this apartment,
however, she entered the parlour, and there found Mary's old mother
sitting, childish and insensible as ever to all around. She spoke a few
words to the deaf ear, and looked her sympathy in the unconscious face;
then turning, followed the servant up-stairs. Here she paced the room
impatiently some moments; then, sitting down, looked in the fire to seek
some associations for her thoughts in the "faces in the fire." She was
in deep meditation; she felt nervous, and full of thought.

Thought! What are our thoughts? They are like dissolving views passing
over the soul. One fades imperceptibly into another, brighter and
totally different; then this one in its turn yields place to others, and
so on, until at last the curtain falls over the last--and where are we?
In an immensity of tangled imaginings, wide and spreading like eternity!

A long time she sat thus, and then a rap at the street door startled
her; a step was on the stairs, light and bounding; it was not calm as
Mary's generally, nevertheless she rose to meet it; the door opened, and
she found herself face to face with Lord Randolph! She could not speak,
but shrunk silently back, gazing on him.

"I shame to see it," he cried, advancing with extended hands, "that you,
my dear Mrs. Tremenhere, have arrived first."

There was nothing libertine in his manner, nothing more than usual--glad
to see her, and most respectful. "You are annoyed," he continued, as she
involuntarily drew back; "but pray, pardon me: I was unavoidably
delayed, and prove your forgiveness by telling me how, in what manner, I
can serve or oblige you?"

"There is some strange mistake in this, some incomprehensible mystery,
my lord," she whispered in terror, though scarcely knowing of what. "I
never expected to see you here; why are you in this house?"

"Merciful heavens!" he cried in amazement, "did you not write,
requesting my presence here? Stay! I have the note about me: I came
unhesitatingly, knowing well that you were in the habit of calling here
occasionally."

"I never wrote, Lord Randolph; there is some extraordinary meaning in
this, coupled with the absence of her I came to see," and she seated
herself tremblingly on the couch.

"Here is the note," he cried, not less agitated; "is not this exactly
your handwriting?"

"Sufficiently like it to deceive an inexperienced eye; but I never wrote
it, believe me."

"I do, Mrs. Tremenhere, most truly; but believe also that I obeyed the
summons without one wronging thought of one I respect so sincerely as I
do yourself."

"Alas! alas!" she said in a tone of despondency, "I have felt some time
past that there was a web weaving around me, I knew not where; my
husband is changed, and I--oh! I am so far from happy," and she burst
into tears, covering her face with her hands.

"Do not weep thus; pray, do not weep," he said with much feeling,
leaning one hand on the back of the couch on which she sat. "I will sift
this to the bottom; there must be treachery somewhere--but where? and
why?" He read Mary Burns's letter to Minnie carefully over. "Where is
this girl?" he asked; "can she be false, for some demoniacal motive?"

"I do not think so: I would she were returned. Pray, let me hear the
contents of the letter you received--I cannot read it." Lord Randolph
hastened to obey; it merely contained a few hurried lines, as if written
in trouble, imploring him to meet the writer at the place indicated, at
a friend of hers, as she had something of importance to communicate, and
begging secresy to all. It was signed "M. T., Chiswick," adding in a
N.B.--"Inquire for me; you know my name. Should I not have arrived, ask
to be shewn to the drawing-room, and wait."

Minnie's tears fell thick and fast, her terror was so great. She felt
she must be surrounded by enemies, and the worst, hidden ones--he was
leaning forward, endeavouring to soothe, to guide, and counsel, where he
himself felt so much in the dark: as he sat beside the weeping woman,
the door opened quietly, and the servant looked in. "There was a
gentleman there," she said, "wanting to look at the apartments which
were to let, might she show them? Her mistress left orders for her to do
so, when she was out." As she spoke, with an apparently innocent manner
she flung open the door to the person, who stood behind her. A wolf
driven to despair for food dares all--so will a coward for revenge.

Marmaduke Burton stepped into the room--Lord Randolph sprang from the
sofa, and Minnie in alarm, without reflection, lowered her veil.

"I beg ten thousand pardons, Mrs. Tremenhere," he cried, starting back
as if in surprise. "I was little aware I should meet you here! I beg ten
thousand pardons," and he drew back.

"Sir!" exclaimed Lord Randolph with _hauteur_, "your presence here
solves the enigma of the forged letters, which have brought Mrs.
Tremenhere and myself hither, but it is not here you must answer for
it."

"I do not comprehend you, Lord Randolph," he answered, advancing; "we
mistake each other, doubtless. I have known the lady of this house from
childhood; and, being commissioned by a friend to seek apartments for
him, I deemed it an act of kindness to benefit her, if possible, knowing
how circumscribed her means are; and her troubles, I grieve to say,
occasioned by an unworthy relative of my own."

He said this, not feeling positive that Minnie might not be shaken
enough to doubt her husband's veracity about his (Burton's) seduction of
the girl; it might do good any way, and materially change Lord
Randolph's opinion of, and consequent interest in, Tremenhere.

"Oh, it is untrue!" cried Minnie, starting up, forgeting every thing but
the slander of her husband. "Do not believe that man, my lord--ask Mary
herself. Miles has been as a brother to her; and shame--oh! shame on the
base tongue which proclaims the wrongs of his victim!"

"I see, madam," answered Burton, "that your old and natural prejudice
against me has nothing abated; and I make no doubt, even my truly good
motive in visiting this house will be misconstrued by you."

"There can be no further occasion, then, for prolonging your stay here,
I presume," said Lord Randolph coldly; and here be it said, the
indifferent, or rather neutral portion of his lordship's character
appeared as the active and better had shone forth in his desire, however
awkwardly executed, of making Tremenhere from shame do Minnie justice,
when he supposed her an injured woman. Had he now taken up the intrusion
differently, and alarmed Burton's coward heart, by his resolution of
sifting the mystery thoroughly, and in the presence of Mary Burns, who
was momentarily expected, as the servant had told Minnie, Burton could
not have refused, under the accusation of a knowledge of the
mystification which had been practised upon the other two, to await
Mary's coming; and thus have exonerated himself, if possible. Under any
circumstances, fear of Lord Randolph would have silenced him elsewhere.
On this subject, as it was, the other's supineness and policy emboldened
him, and left a fearful arm in his hands to injure Minnie. Lord Randolph
said to himself, "I have a very great regard for Mrs. Tremenhere; I like
her husband, too; there is some mystery here; if I involve myself to
unravel it, or punish Burton, whom I firmly believe to be at the bottom,
I shall bring my name into question; and as Lady Dora, who, most
probably, some day will become my wife, is Mrs. Tremenhere's cousin, all
these unpleasant circumstances had better be left to die away; nothing
will come of it; I shall withdraw from the acquaintance."

And so poor Minnie was sacrificed for the want of a resolute, sterling,
English heart, to bring the darkness of the affair to light. Poor woman!
all her strength of mind seemed to have deserted her, after those few
words uttered in defence of Miles; and she sat like one bewildered by
passing events, intoxicating from their combination.

"I have no wish to intrude further," said Burton, as he turned round. "I
have only to apologize sincerely for the alarm my inopportune visit has
occasioned this lady and your lordship."

"I trust, sir," exclaimed this latter, "that you do not mean to
insinuate aught against Mrs. Tremenhere? Our meeting here remains an
unsolved mystery, which we can only leave to time."

"Far be it from me to wrong the purity of one so fair," answered the
other, bowing lowly, with as much sarcasm in his manner as he durst
shew. "Mrs. Tremenhere has a husband to judge her--I leave all to him."

And with this last bitter phrase of doubtful meaning, he quitted the
room. Poor Minnie could not speak; she was thunderstruck, and crushed
with presentiment and fear.

"This has been a most inexplicable affair," said Lord Randolph, as the
door closed. "Can you devise any means for discovering the authors, dear
Mrs. Tremenhere? I am, indeed, truly distressed at your annoyance; but,
believe me, there will be, there can be, no unpleasant results--it has
been some foolish jest."

"Jest!" she exclaimed, looking up; she was very pale. "It is more than
that; there is some villainy in it, and that man is the author."

There was a garden attached to the back of the house, through the door
of which, leading into a lane, Burton passed out as he had entered,
conducted by the servant, whose physiognomy had not deceived the acute
Dalby. At the same moment Mary Burns rapped at the front; and our
readers will not fail to remember the occupant of the hired brougham who
had followed, and was witness to the arrival of all except Burton.

Mary Burns went up immediately to the drawing-room, when her servant
told her Mrs. Tremenhere was there. In an instant this latter was at her
side--the presence of that girl seemed so great a protection--her
coming, the only means of elucidating this painful mystery. Lord
Randolph bowed rather uneasily as Minnie presented him. He wished much
that he had sooner quitted the house. Yet, when he looked at her, he
could not but feel deep commiseration for her, she was so agitated; in a
few brief words she explained all to Mary, it would be impossible to
describe her anxious state. Without the slightest hesitation she
pronounced that Marmaduke Burton was the author of it for some vile
purpose. It was not alone fear which agitated Minnie. There was a sense
of degraded delicacy in it, that she should be drawn into even a
fictitious intrigue with any man. She blushed deeply when this feeling
came over her in all its force; especially when Lord Randolph said,
meaning well, but certainly not advising wisely, "I should seriously
counsel Mrs. Tremenhere not to name this affair to her husband, he has
shewn himself so prone to jealousy; and _I_ will take means to silence
the servant who admitted us--thus the affair will die away quietly."

"Not name it to Miles!" exclaimed Minnie. "Pardon me, my lord, he shall
instantly be made acquainted with it; and as one who, I trust, has too
much reliance on me to suspect me of wrong. Let him seek those who cast
so unworthy an imputation upon me."

Poor Minnie, in her earnest defence of her husband, forgot the past
unhappy scene to which Lord Randolph had been a witness, but he
remembered it; and, fixing an eye of deep pity upon her, said, "Think
well, Mrs. Tremenhere, before you act; your future happiness may be
wrecked by one false step."

"I think Mrs. Tremenhere is correct in her resolution," said Mary
timidly. "Candour is ever best; and if I may presume to suggest to your
lordship, I should assuredly beg that no bribe for secresy should be
given to my servant. Honest uprightness, like Mrs. Tremenhere's and your
own, needs no mask to hide its face."

"Perhaps you are right," he said; and, taking up his hat and gloves from
the table, added--"And now I think it would be more advisable for me to
take my leave; that is, unless I can in any way serve you," he said,
addressing Minnie.

"Not in any," she answered, offering her hand; "it is far better you
should leave. Most probably Miles will seek you to consult about
discovering this affair; may I tell him your lordship will willingly
lend any aid in your power?"

"Assuredly," he answered, taking her proffered hand; "and now farewell,
dear Mrs. Tremenhere. I sincerely trust this effort of your enemy,
whosoever he may be, will prove abortive in any way to annoy you."

"God grant it!" sighed she.

"I earnestly pray so, too," responded Mary, as the door closed on Lord
Randolph, who reached the street, entered his cab and drove off, without
noticing the brougham, drawn up some doors off, through the window, at
the back of which Tremenhere's pale face was watching him.

"It can only be the work of that wicked man, Mr. Burton," said the
agitated Mary; "and let me pray and entreat of you, dear Mrs.
Tremenhere, not to lose a moment in returning, and stating all to your
husband."

"Assuredly he shall know all," answered she earnestly. "Poor Miles, it
will grieve him deeply I know; but he will at once devise the best plan
to frustrate our enemy: and now Mary, before I go, tell me, are you
prospering in your teaching?"

Mary's face grew very pale; the corners of her mouth twinged, and vain
was the effort to repress her tears, she burst into sobs. "I have
learned a severe lesson of late," she said, "that though there may be
those in the world, in pure Christian charity, to take the fallen by the
hand, there are more who close their gates against her: may Heaven not
close the eternal ones to them!--I have had two shut against me since we
met; I have not dared tell you, dear madam; I knew how your kind heart
would suffer for me."

"Good heavens!" cried Minnie, "how has it happened?"

"Some enemy," answered the other with quivering lips, "or better said,
_my_ enemy--the one who seems to seek the misery of all, alone can have
done it. Past events have been by letter detailed; I was charged with
them, and would not deny that the accusation was true. I accepted the
shame as retribution."

"And have you then lost your pupils in consequence?"

"_All_," answered the unhappy woman; "for of the three families I
attended, two were acquainted. One lady spoke of 'regret,' but 'there
were worldly prejudices to be bowed down to.' I humbled myself, I
implored them, for my poor old mother's sake, but it mattered little. At
the other houses I was driven with insult from the place, and told that
my manners bespoke no contrition or humility. Oh! if they could but
witness the bowing down of my heart before Heaven for pardon, my
sincere, my earnest repentance, they would not have condemned me so
harshly."

"I fear," said Minnie taking her hand kindly between her own trembling
ones, on which the tears of sympathy fell, "that the world in general
judges only from outward seeming; the hypocrite may be pardoned and
believed, but the lowly penitent woman, walking before her God, and
seeking his will in all things, to gain pardon and peace, is rejected by
man, because her tears are silent, and hidden, save to the one to whom
all her thoughts are directed; and let this be your consolation, Mary,
that there is a limit to man's power, and then the tears of contrition
will shine like stars to light you on your road to where they will all
be wiped away."

"May a better than myself bless you!" cried the stricken woman
emphatically. "I did not intend saying so much to-day. May your
consolation to me descend upon your own head in peace and happiness; and
now, dear Mrs. Tremenhere, let me urge you to go, and tell your husband
all, for only openness and candour can defeat the demon warring against
us all."

"I will go," answered Minnie, pressing her hand warmly. "You are right,
Mary; but do not you despond. I will see you again in a few days--now I
will go at once."

And with a kind, gentle word to the sorrowing woman, she quitted the
cottage, and, entering the fly awaiting her, drove rapidly towards home;
and the brougham quitted its station too, and followed.



CHAPTER VI.


Minnie arrived at home, and, hastily taking off her walking-dress, sat
down to think, as calmly as might be, of the events of that day. Despite
all her efforts, a pang shot through her heart at the idea of seeing
Miles. His temper had of late been so uncertain, that she trembled lest
any fault should be imputed to herself; the more narrowly she examined
her heart, the less could she find any thing to blame herself for in
this affair. While she sat thus, Miles appeared at the outer gate. As he
traversed the front garden, she thought she had never seen him look so
pale; and, when he raised his eyes towards the windows, there was an
intense look in them, which made their hazel darkness seem like blackest
night--this was probably owing to the excessive pallor of his cheek and
brow. When he entered the room where she sat, a choking sensation arose
in his throat--he had paused, too, outside the door, to still the
bounding of his heart. She rose to meet him; there was a smile on her
lip, but it was forced, constrained--fear kept it from expanding into
cheerfulness.

"You are home earlier than you promised to be, dear Miles," she said.

His eyes were riveted on her face. "Yes," he answered in a deep, hollow
tone, which he endeavoured to render tranquil; "but I hope not less
welcome for that?"

"Ever welcome--ever the one to come too late, and leave too early," she
answered. "Where have you been, Miles?"

"In several places, Minnie,"--and he stifled almost a groan.

"Are you not well?" she inquired, delaying what she had to say in
terror, and really anxious too about him; his pallor struck her as so
unusual, but without one dawning thought of the truth.

"Quite well, Minnie; but I am weary--very weary," and he sunk exhausted
in a chair--it was the mind which had lost all nerve. She drew a
footstool close to his feet, and, in kneeling upon it, took both his
hands in hers; but, in so doing, she did not feel the thrill which
passed over them; it was horror--the horror of doubt--no, she did not
feel it; but holding them tightly, and leaning on his knees, she looked
up in the face, whose rigid, intense gaze was fixed upon her uplifted
countenance.

"Miles, I have something to tell you," she said at last; but her lip
quivered as she spoke.

"Something to tell me!" he uttered, repeating her words; and a shadow of
hope crossed over his face.

"Yes, dear Miles; but promise you will not fly in a passion: you do not
know how you terrify me in doing so. Hear all I have to say, and then
let us, as calmly as may be, consult what is to be done." He could not
speak; he was like one fluttering between life and death. She did not
wait, however, for him to do so, but hurriedly told him the events of
the morning; so anxious was she to say all, that she scarcely noticed
his extraordinary silence. When she paused, he quietly drew his hands
from hers, and still keeping his fixed gaze upon her, though the
countenance had changed with every word of hers, still the eye had not
one instant quitted her face. Withdrawing his hands, he placed them both
on her shoulders as she knelt before him, and said in a low, measured
tone, "Minnie, I know all you have told me; I followed you to-day. It
may seem mean, unmanly, my doing so; but I was resolved to prove you--I
knew all!"

"Knew all!" she ejaculated, shrinking back from his touch, as if it
pained her.

"Why do you shrink from me, Minnie?"

"Because," she said, rising slowly to her feet, "you then have done it
yourself, doubting, to prove me!"

"No, by heavens, I have not! Kneel down again, Minnie;" and he drew her
reluctantly before him again. "Look upon me, Minnie, for I am your judge
now, to hear, but not condemn. You have forced that character upon me; I
came, fully determined to say nothing, to close my heart to proof and
conviction, to bear all my wrongs, if such they were, and seek no
elucidation, leaving all to time to prove you whatever you might be!"

"Oh, Miles--Miles!" she cried, looking up trembling in his face; "and
can you suspect me still? And could you live with me a day, believing
me so false to you?"

"Listen--I have passed three hours of the bitterest anguish man ever
suffered--a thousand mad thoughts and resolutions passing through my
brain; and at last I came to the determination which you know, for I,
mere man, cannot fathom this affair. I would not for all the world
condemn you; for though not a man prone to superstitious thoughts, I
feel there must be some demoniacal power in all this, Minnie," and he
raised her face upwards in his hands. "You are either the falsest woman
that ever drew breath--and if so, the breath which gives you life must
be the vapour of hell, from whence you draw it; or else there is a power
around us which we cannot combat with, and 'tis best to still the
heart's beatings, to subdue ourselves to callousness, and wait for time!
I am resolved _to bear_ and wait. Now, sit beside me here," and he rose
and drew her to the ottoman calmly and composedly, "and shew me the
letter you received."

She was so lost in terror at his extraordinary manner, that it was in
vain she essayed to utter a word; in cold silence she placed the letter
in his hand; he opened, and silently read it through, and over again.

"One of three persons wrote this letter," he said--"I, or Mary Burns, or
Marmaduke Burton, for from childhood we had the same masters."

"'Tis Marmaduke Burton!" she cried with energy, seeing at last a path
through this tangled forest of brushwood. "'Tis Marmaduke; for, as you
must have seen, he came to Mary's cottage whilst Lord Randolph and I
were there?"

A cold shudder passed through Miles's heart, which had been awakening
from its stupor of sorrow and suspicion, to take his proved faithful
wife to it. This then, was the cause of her candour. Burton's most
unexpected arrival at Mary's had induced her, from fear of discovery, to
choose the wiser part, and tell him herself, lest another should! Oh,
what a demon jealousy is! how unsleeping, how grasping in intellect;
though all is perverted to harm!

"Tell me all that passed," he uttered, without replying to her question;
and, while she related, his mind formed all into the well-connected
reality of a diseased brain. The same person who had so often warned
him, none other than Marmaduke, had discovered this intrigue, and
followed it up. The letter was probably written by Mary Burns, as an arm
in Minnie's favour, should any thing be discovered by him; her absence,
etc. Mary, who had once fallen, had doubly done so again, by pandering
to the meetings of Lord Randolph and Minnie; he was a target for the
scorn and contempt of all, and all these maddening thoughts passed
through his soul, leaving him in outward seeming calm. There is
_nothing_ more fearful than this concentrated, chained passion--'tis
this which leads the best man to cold, deliberate murder. Silently he
thought all this, and then, when the mind had compassed all his misery,
it paused to deliberate on revenge. Then it was that mercy crept in,
like the last ray of sunshine to the eyes dimmed by death, and he said
to himself, "If she should be innocent still?"

And, lifting his eyes, they rested upon hers, troubled, but pure and
holy in their dove-like innocence of expression.

"Minnie," he said, placing his arms around her, "I have many bitter
thoughts in my heart. I am a very wretched man _now_--so happy once! But
I feel my greatest sorrow would be your loss; as I before said to you, I
_wish_ to think you innocent. I would rather know we were compassed by
fiends, and be ever waging war with them in darkness, than know, or
believe you false to me; _that_ would be my moral death, and make me the
most reckless man on earth! I _will_ believe you innocent."

"I am, Miles; believe me. I have not even a thought which has ever
wronged you."

"I will believe you, Minnie, against all evidence but proof," and he
took the trembling woman to his heart, so shaken, but so true.

It cannot be imagined, that with that pardon, or reconciliation,
Tremenhere became calm and happy; true it was, that Minnie never quitted
home without him, scarcely ever quitted his side, but the mad dream
which had been, left its trace on his every action; he was a
broken-spirited man. His profession was a toil of every instant--a
necessity, not a pleasure. He saw Minnie growing daily paler and sadder,
and, though his heart ached to see it, still he could not overcome his
sensations of doubt.

"She is perhaps fretting about Lord Randolph," he thought to himself,
"and after all I said, in condemnation of her, poor child! she perhaps
deserves more pity; for I took her almost one, from her home. She had
seen no one to fancy herself in love with, till I came. Unjust coercion
drove her into my arms; it was probably more from indignation than from
love, yet, too, I think she loved me once," and here he pondered on many
an unmistakeable proof of affection; her watchings for his return, the
lighting up of the whole countenance, which no art could imitate. "Yes,"
he continued, "she certainly loved me once, but then she is of a gentle,
loving nature; she knew not the vast difference between _affection_ and
_love_, until _he_, perhaps, taught her. Poor child--poor Minnie! what a
life of misery we have created for one another; but we must bear it, and
linger on!"

And so completely did the thought take possession of his soul that these
ideas were well founded, that for a while his feelings towards her
assumed a tone of almost fatherly pity, so worn and old his heart felt.
He had vainly endeavoured to trace who sent the brougham, the
letters--in short, to _prove_ it Marmaduke; but all failed.

The hire of the brougham, and order to send it to Chiswick, had been
brought to the stables by a boy, who was not known or detained; there
was nothing in the act to excite suspicion of wrong. He wrote to Lord
Randolph a calm, deliberate letter, requesting, but in all politeness,
that his visits might be discontinued. He was certain, he said, that
Lord Randolph would see the absolute necessity of such a thing, after
the many unaccountable circumstances which had taken place. And the
"Aurora" was taken, unfinished, from her easel, and placed aside, and
not a word on the subject passed between Minnie and her husband; it was
a state of coldness which could not last. The affair had been so painful
a one, that by mutual consent neither ever spoke of it, nor even named
it to Lady Dora, whose visits were not of very frequent occurrence. One
day, however, she called, having been absent a month at Brighton; she
was more excited than usually happened to her. After sitting some time
in evident uneasiness, she at last begged Minnie to let her speak with
her alone. Minnie rose to quit the drawing-room; she grew trembling;
every thing new, startled her.

"I will not trouble your ladyship to leave the room," said Miles, rising
coldly from his seat. "I am going to my studio; I should have remembered
that husbands are often _de trop_."

"Pray, stay, Miles!" exclaimed Minnie, seizing his arm, like the Minnie
of old. "There _can_ be nothing which you may not hear, that is, if it
only concerns me," and she looked at Dora inquiringly.

"I should prefer speaking to you alone," answered the other coldly. "It
is something which distresses me much, yet almost too painful, I hope,
to be true."

"May I ask," said he, pausing on the threshold of the door, "if it be
any thing relating to Lord Randolph Gray?"

"It is!" answered she, with a look of surprise.

"And--my wife?" he asked, after a moment's hesitation.

"Then you are not in ignorance of it?" she inquired, with an amazed
look, mingled with one of contempt. "And you and Minnie are----"

"Friends, as you see," he said, turning back and reseating himself, and
by a movement of generous feeling, taking his wife's trembling hand in
his. "Now, Lady Dora," he continued, "you may tell all you have heard,
and we may be able in a measure, to correct any inaccuracies."

"How do you mean, Mr. Tremenhere?" she said haughtily. "Do you accuse me
of possible untruth?"

"Not you, Lady Dora, but your informant, whoever he may be."

"It was a lady," she replied. "The conversation turned one evening, in
Brighton, on paintings; your name was mentioned flatteringly as an
artist of genius," and then she paused. The remainder was embarrassing
to tell.

"Go on, Lady Dora," he said, in outward seeming calm.

"I had better tell you," she hastily rejoined; "for, if untrue, you may
find means of silencing the slander."

"_If_," he uttered; "then your ladyship gives credit to the world's vile
attack upon this poor girl; for I guess all you would say." Whatever his
own fears at times might be in the warring of his spirit, he was
resolved to uphold Minnie before all.

Lady Dora related all she had heard. In short, the whole affair of
Minnie's discovery at Uplands, and her subsequent meeting with Lord
Randolph at Mary's. It had been told with severe animadversions on the
meanness of Mr. Tremenhere, whose marriage had been kept a secret from
the world until this affair brought it to light, and who could receive
his wife again, and even Lord Randolph, knowing, to say the least, of
great imprudence on his wife's part. Much of this Lady Dora allowed to
escape her, as having been freely discussed at the club to which Miles
belonged.

"Oh, Dora!" cried the agitated Minnie, "how could you, for one moment,
believe so wicked a thing against me!--To think I could love any one but
Miles! And I must be doubly base, to even listen to common flattery or
gallantry from Lord Randolph, to whom you are engaged!"

"Pardon me, Minnie," answered her cousin decidedly. "I am _not_ engaged
to that gentleman, and never shall be; for, if you are innocent, as I
will believe even without knowing all, _he_ assuredly must have been
connected in some manner with the affair."

Minnie then related all from the first, and though her cousin acquitted
her of all blame, except linking herself, as she termed it, "with an
improper woman--that Mary Burns," still she could not divest her mind of
the idea that Lord Randolph was quite innocent. She begged Tremenhere's
pardon for the wrong she had done him in her mind, and, whatever her
feelings might be to Minnie, her heart rejoiced in not knowing him base,
who had once been more than a passing thought. Tremenhere received her
apologies with cold reserve, and, stifling feelings which were
distracting him, he inquired from whom all this information had
emanated. Lady Dora, however, could give no exact account. She had heard
it openly spoken of by those who were not aware that she was in any way
allied to either party. With some difficulty--for he was obliged to veil
his intentions from observation--Miles ascertained that the affair had
been spoken of at his club by more than one person. This satisfied him;
he knew then how to act; so he changed the subject, and affected a
cheerfulness he was far from feeling, which continued even after Lady
Dora had quitted the house. He did not allude to the reports; but there
was something so noble in the heart of that man, that he banished all
his own suffering from the surface, that evening, to soothe and cheer
Minnie, who was low and depressed, beyond her own power to control the
feeling.

The following day Miles rose more cheerfully than he had done of late;
and, as soon as breakfast was over, he started for town. He really felt
lighter at heart, for he had something tangible--not a mere shadow--to
deal with. He had, without appearing anxious on the subject, elicited
from Lady Dora the names of one or two persons who had spoken of this
affair--and now it was to their houses he went. After a long research,
he found one of them was still in Brighton; so sitting down at a
friend's, for he avoided his club, he wrote a kind note to Minnie,
telling her not to alarm herself, but possibly he might not return that
evening. His manner had so completely thrown her off her guard, that
she did not dream of the possible business occupying him.

He arrived in Brighton, and in perfect composure proceeded to the hotel
of the gentleman who had mentioned the affair. The meeting was at first
one of extreme frigidity on the part of both, especially the
gentleman's. Miles was determined and calm, having right on his side;
the other hem'd and haw'd, evading a direct answer, when the former
demanded from whom he had heard the reports in question.

"It will only then, sir, remain for me to treat you as the author," said
Miles coldly, turning to quit the room.

"What do you mean?" cried the other, advancing.

"Simply what I say. If a gentleman propagates a vile, calumnious report
of a virtuous woman, and then refuses to state the author, that he may
be made publicly retract his slander, and re-establish the lady's fame,
there is but one path possible, and that is, through the only known
medium. I hold you, sir, responsible."

His cool determination alarmed the other. It is not a very pleasant
thing to have a hole made through one's body, by either sword or bullet,
because one possesses a talkative friend. A parley ensued; and then at
last Miles went forth with another name--this was a lady's, rather more
difficult to deal with. The only way, then, is to find out the lady's
nearest household tie; and, in case of refusal on her part, appeal to
him. They say men have an easy time of it; but assuredly such would not
be the case, were some less pacific than they are in demanding reason
and authority from ladies for all they utter; and were their fathers,
husbands, brothers, etc., looked upon as responsible agents to act for
them. In such a case, were I a man, I would marry a woman who always
wore a respirator. She would talk but little, if compelled to whistle
her phrases through layers of wires. Assuredly, these things were
invented by some clever man with a Xantippe for wife.

But to return to Tremenhere. The lady he waited upon was one of those
beings whose milk of human kindness had, at her birth, been turned to
vinegar and gall. She never said a kind thing, except from some motive,
and to those even she professed, or was bound to like; she delighted in
uttering the most galling innuendoes; and she looked her character.

When Tremenhere was announced, she received him, though almost a
stranger, with an air of pity, perfectly dreadful--that kind of air
which inclines one to exclaim at once, "Don't pity me, for there's
nothing in my case to excite that feeling--I won't be pitied!"

Here he had little difficulty at first, for no sooner did he name the
motive of his visit, than the old lady commenced a string of
well-arranged untruths, which amazed Tremenhere, and clearly showing how
wisely he had acted in sifting the affair thoroughly. When she
concluded--for the _historiette_ was delivered as crudely to his ears,
as if he were a perfectly indifferent personage in it--he could not but
bite his lip; but seeing at a glance the nature of his informant, he
deprived her by his coolness of half her satisfaction. Verily, dame
Nature has three tubs at hand, in which she dips her children when she
creates them, according to the caprice of the moment--one containing
honey and milk, one vinegar and gall, and the other an amalgamation of
spices.

When this abluted thing in the second tub had told her tale, she
paused--this was not what Tremenhere intended, so he simply inquired her
informant's name. Oh! this she never could give! It had been related to
her under a promise never to divulge the name; she never could!

"And so, madam," he said contemptuously, "though you feel bound in
honour to conceal the name, no such feeling prevents your blasting the
fame of a pure, innocent woman, by promulgating infamous falsehoods,
which I am resolved to silence; since, then, you decline giving me the
vile author's name, it is to your son I must apply!"

This was a lesson the lady had never learned, and it would be well if it
were more frequently taught to those who only exist with satisfaction to
themselves, by ruining the fame of the innocent, whom they detest, and
cannot comprehend. A loud shriek burst from the terrified woman; for, if
she did love any thing but herself on earth, it was her tall rawbone
son, in the Grenadiers--but not all her entreaties could avail,
Tremenhere was resolute, he was on the track, one footprint lost, his
game might elude his grasp. With many sighs, and beatings of her chest,
for heart she had none, the name burst forth of Mr. Marmaduke Burton,
and with its utterance a deep groan struggled from Miles's bosom, but it
was one of satisfaction; for not only did he hold his bitter enemy, but
the union of events for the moment convinced him of Minnie's innocence,
and the other's authorship of the plot to destroy his peace. With a
lightened heart, he quitted the bewailing woman, who allowed it to
escape her, that it had been confided to her, on a solemn promise given
_not to name him_; and Burton, in doing so, imagined she would not, for
a fellowship of feeling and mind made him an especial favourite of hers,
and he well knew, in telling her, the facts would lose nothing, and
Miles be irretrievably lost in all respectable society; he did not
calculate upon its arriving so quickly at his ears, neither of his
determined conduct should it do so. He did not yet know his cousin.



CHAPTER VII.


Tremenhere lost no time now in following up his intentions; he inquired
every where, and at last discovered that Burton was in town. Late that
same evening, he returned home, and great was his satisfaction to find
Skaife domiciled there. He, we have said, was the only man in the world,
perhaps, of whom he could not feel jealous; where lay the germ of
extraordinary confidence, 'tis impossible to say, but with open-hearted
confidence he wrung Skaife's hand, which cheered poor Minnie's heart,
for she was terrified at the fancies her mind had been conjuring up
about Miles's return; and when he said to the other, "I am delighted to
see you," there was no mistaking the truth of the feeling: Miles could
not feign a cordiality he did not feel. The union of these three gave
rise to one of the few happy evenings, or even tranquil ones, Minnie had
passed of late. Skaife came laden with letters and love from Dorcas, and
even poor Mrs. Gillett. Of the many painful things they had heard at
Gatestone, he said nothing before Minnie; he spoke cheeringly, and did
not even utter what he thought, of her being unhappy, when he gazed with
a stifled sigh on her altered face. It was in good truth Minnie
spiritualized; for she seemed scarcely mortal, so thin, pale, and
heavenly patient she looked.

When she had retired, then Tremenhere, no longer under any restraint,
spoke of all his care, his wretchedness, which he strove to conceal from
her; but though he mentioned the reports which had reached him through
Lady Dora, he passed them over lightly. There was no man to whom he
would sooner have applied, as a friend in such a case, than to Skaife,
but his calling forbade it; he could not act with Tremenhere, and this
was what he now required in a friend; neither durst he confide in the
other all his plans; they might be betrayed in kindness to Minnie, or,
even more seriously, to authorities which would frustrate them. He spoke
painedly of them, but yet, rather to Skaife's surprise, also added, that
time alone must clear them up.

"I am a wretched man!" he said. "There is a weight on my heart nothing,
I fear, can remove."

"Surely," cried the other, "you cannot, for an instant, suspect your
wife? You must see, and know, that the deep villainy of one man alone,
has produced all these sad events? Let me conjure you, do not give him
the triumph of seeing that he has succeeded in estranging your heart
from one so good and pure."

"Skaife, I never shall love any one as I love her; 'tis that love which
makes my existence one of torture, for my base nature is fighting
against my better judgment, and at times it gains the mastery. There are
moments," and his voice trembled as he uttered these last words, "that I
wish she were dead; for then I could alone, bear my crushing sorrow;
but the fear that she may ever love another, or even survive myself, is
worse than the bitterest death could be!"

"Do not utter such things!" exclaimed Skaife, with a cold shudder.
"Place all your faith and reliance on her: _she_ will never deceive you,
but your own heart may, and prove your basest traitor."

"Well, let us not speak more of it now. A day of retribution must come
for that villain, Burton; leave him to fate--she has long arms and
clutching hands." His apparent coolness disappointed the other; for he
felt, without thinking of a hostile meeting, that Tremenhere might, and
ought to seek means of silencing these slanders, and he resolved on a
future occasion to suggest as much to him.

Before returning to Chiswick from Brighton, Tremenhere had sought a
friend on whom he could rely; and, placing the affair in his hands,
requested that no time might be lost in seeking Burton, to solicit the
name of a friend who would act for him, in a meeting with Tremenhere. No
apology would suffice, unless he consented to publish to the world, in
terms not to be misunderstood, the whole part he had taken in the
affair, from first to last; and this it was scarcely likely he would do.
Having arranged this, he returned, in the more tranquil mood in which we
have seen him, to his home.

Early the following morning his friend came to the villa. He had called
upon Burton, who essayed with white lips to deny any participation in
the affair, from first to last. The evidence of the persons whom
Tremenhere had seen in Brighton, he treated with perfect contempt, as
inventions to screen some other person; and finally refused most
positively to meet his cousin. He had a prejudice against duelling, he
said, especially with one whom he had known from boyhood; he sincerely
pitied him for his turbulent, ungovernable temper, and great hatred
towards himself. In short, he summed up all by hypocritically drawling
forth, that could he serve him in any way, he too gladly would do so;
and assuredly, to injure him, was farthest from his thoughts; and
concluded with much deceitful, mawkish sentiment.

When his friend related this, Tremenhere paced the room, at first in
indignant, contemptuous rage; then an unwonted calm came over him, and
he smiled as he said, stepping before his visiter--"This man has taught
me a talent I never might have possessed without him: that of watching,
unseen, the movements of others. I will return to town with you; I have
paved the way for doing so without exciting suspicion. I must act
decidedly and secretly, for that coward else, will seek the protection
of the law, and defeat my object. Let us be off."

And, quitting the studio where they were, he entered the drawing-room
where sat Minnie and Skaife, she looking so much happier than of late
had been the case. Tremenhere, too, seemed light at heart. He was a man
so generous by nature, that the greater the sacrifice he made for a
person, the better he loved them. He was ready to offer up his life for
Minnie, for in his moments of energetic feeling he _knew_ her innocent.
'Twas only when the muscular power relaxed with thought and care, that
he doubted her; it had removed a load of suspicion from his heart, the
knowing who really, beyond mistake, was his enemy, he knew so well all
he was capable of. As he took his hat to quit the room, his full, deep
glance fell on his wife, who was looking timidly at him. Skaife saw the
look. It spoke so much wretchedness, that his heart ached bitterly for
her. Coming towards her, Miles stooped, and, unheeding the presence of
the other two, warmly embraced her. "Be a good girl, Minnie," he said
cheerfully, "and amuse our good friend, Skaife, and I'll bring you--a
fairing," he added laughing, "from town." His glance crossed his
friend's as he spoke.

"Bring yourself soon," she said, smiling in his face; "'twill be my best
present."

He pressed her hand warmly in reply. There was so much renewal of love,
that she felt her heart full of hope--long foreign to it.

Tremenhere and his friend drove quickly to town; the former's object
was, to watch Burton to his club, whither he went about twelve every
day--and his, was Miles's. It is probable, that had this latter been in
the habit of going himself every day, Burton would have quitted the
field; as it was, Tremenhere had, by his absence, left him master of it;
and here, as Tremenhere had ascertained, was the spot where he
circulated his scandals freely to his own set. The two friends drove to
the top of the street where Burton's hotel was, and stopping the cab
where it would not attract notice, they resolved to watch for awhile,
before inquiring for him of the hall porter. Fortune favoured them this
time, for in less than half an hour, Burton came forth on foot; and
glancing carelessly up the street, walked on, and the cab followed. As
they hoped, he proceeded to his club, within a few doors of which the
others alighted, and walked quickly towards it. Burton entered the
reading-room, where sat some dozen or more men, poring over their
papers; thence he stepped into another, nor noticed his cousin, who
followed at a distance, keeping him in view.

Tremenhere's aim was attained: in the reading-room he met several
friends,--acquaintances were better said; hastily addressing each,
without appearing to notice the chilling looks of some, he said, calling
each by name, "Leave your papers awhile, and follow me; I will give you
something better worth seeing than aught you may meet with there."

And most did so, for curiosity is a spirit fluttering over the heads of
the many, few indeed are those eschewing her worship. On walked
Tremenhere, accompanied by his friend, and in his wake came the others.
At last he stood silently, surveying all in the room, where dozens were
collected, some in knots talking, others at breakfast, others reading.
In a glance Tremenhere took in all this, and the faces of friend and
foe. He advanced a step. Burton stood with his back towards him,
conversing with two or three persons. Was it instinct which made him
suddenly turn, and grow white as the snowiest cloth on those tables,
when he saw Tremenhere _erect_, smiling, and towering in height and
manly beauty, as lie gave him a glance of scorn? He stopped suddenly in
what he was uttering, and made a movement to quit the room by a
side-door. There is a power, an irresistible spell, in dignity and right
combined, (indeed the former cannot exist without the latter,) which
make the meaner mind bow down before them.

"Stop, Marmaduke Burton!" cried Tremenhere with his full, rich voice of
command. Burton made an involuntary pause, and then, with a quick
shuffling gait, attempted to seem dignified as he moved towards the
door. "Stop him!" cried Tremenhere again, calmly waving his hand, "that
he may at least have the satisfaction of hearing me, face to face,
proclaim him slanderer, liar, and coward!"

Burton was forced to turn. At these words a movement passed over the
whole room--no one, however, spoke.

"Look at him!" said Tremenhere, contemptuously. "He dare not face what
he has done; were it not from inability to move--for no shame withholds
him--he would fly!"

"These are harsh words," said an officer, advancing; "are you prepared
to prove them?"

"That I am," answered the other; and in words as brief as possible he
told the tale, and his visit to Brighton--the evidence there--summing up
all with the refusal on Burton's part to meet him.

"It pains me deeply," continued Tremenhere, with much emotion, "to drag
the name of my wife before this assembly; but her accusations have been
openly spoken, or whispered in every select circle where my humble name
is known. 'Tis true I might have sought my remedy by law; but I leave
such to colder hearts and heads than mine. I forgot," he added, looking
round upon all, "to present myself to many who may not know me. I
am Miles Tremenhere, now an humble artist, once heir of the
manor-house, ----, Yorkshire; that, my worthy cousin, who from childhood
had been my companion, has for a while--_only for a while_--deprived me
of----but let that rest. I came to-day to proclaim him what you have all
heard, and he _dare_ not deny it. Once I have horsewhipped him for his
base seduction of an innocent girl,--flogging is thrown away on callous
skins like his; so I brand him--liar and coward!"

"Sir," said Burton, endeavouring to seem calm, "you shall answer for
this, and bitterly rue it."

"Answer it!" laughed the other, "when and where you will; this is all I
ask at your hands."

"Ah, T_w_emenhere!" exclaimed a voice, as the speaker just entered the
room, amazed at the _fracas_, but ignorant of the cause, "is that
you?--what a st_w_anger you are," and he held out a hand. Tremenhere's
trembled as he warmly shook it: he was all woman in gentler emotions,
and never was there a more grateful heart than his; he felt Vellumy's
act deeply. This act seemed the signal which many had been awaiting, not
from wavering indifference, but for want of the electric spark, which
moves Englishmen more slowly than others, but surer, when its propelling
force comes, than all the very warm and sudden impulses in the world.
In an instant Tremenhere was surrounded. Those who a day before had
condemned him, perhaps too hastily, on the whispered calumnies of
Burton, now pressed forward to press his hand. Some few, whose
dislocated nerves can never be strengthened to any thing warmer than
zero, grumbled at the disturbance, and talked of secretaries, rules,
etc., etc.; but the majority rejoiced as over a lost brother restored,
for Miles had been a favourite with all.

In the midst of this, Burton had slunk away; he could not bully, nor
defy; Tremenhere had proof in the evidence of his (Burton's) kindred
spirit, and betraying confidant, at Brighton. And certainly there was no
table so merry as the one at which Tremenhere sat, surrounded by his
friends, to repair a scarcely touched breakfast at home. He would have
preferred leaving at once, to return to Minnie and Skaife, especially to
remove from the latter's brow that not-to-be-mistaken cloud of
disappointment, which he had seen gathered there, at his own supposed
coolness and indifference about his wife's fame. But policy dictated
another course; there was much he had not explained, and he took this
opportunity of doing so. It is indeed to be regretted, that the finest
natures admit of passions dark and overwhelming, and the strongest minds
are, in some things, the weakest. To see Tremenhere amidst his friends,
glowing with joy at having restored Minnie to fame, who could imagine
that he ever again would be led down the bitter path of doubt and
suspicion, or that these two poisons were only awhile dormant in his
breast?

When he entered his home, for some moments he could scarcely speak,
then, grasping Skaife's hand, he said--

"Give me a grasp from your heart, my friend--to-day you could not, I saw
that--now you may, for I have done what a man should."

"You do not mean!" exclaimed the man of peace, with a feeling akin to
alarm, "that you----"

"No, no," laughed Miles; "the coward would not fight; I tried him, but
he refused. 'Tis better, done as it is."

Poor Minnie had crept tremblingly to his side. In her fear she almost
forgot he was safe before her.

"I _do_ congratulate you," cried Skaife warmly; "for it was not a thing
to be passed quietly over."

"Poor Minnie--poor child!" said her husband, placing his arms round her,
and bending his deep, loving eyes upon her; "how you tremble! Think,
darling, I have silenced all who calumniated you--justice, like truth,
will eventually win in any fight. The devil deserts his children in the
utmost need; we deal with brighter spirits, dear, and will triumph over
all!"

"Heaven grant it, dearest Miles! You have indeed been good and kind to
me to-day--and always," she added hastily. "You have been tried
severely; we shall be _so_ happy now. Dear Mr. Skaife, you have been
indeed a messenger of peace. I feel as if all would turn to me now,
even my uncle Juvenal, and aunt Sylvia."

It was a day of deep rejoicing--each heart was light and glad.

The following one Mr. Skaife visited Mary Burns; but there he had little
joy to see--the unerring hand of deep malice had done its worst. She had
been dismissed from every house, some less coldly than others; but even
the kindest said, only in excuse, that, though they would gladly, _if
possible_, serve her, yet it would be a thing unexampled for them to fly
in the face of society's laws, as by the world laid down; quite
overlooking the fact, that there _will be_ a world where they might be
called to severe account for uncharitableness and harsh judgment of a
repentant sinner; but this is worldly wisdom, and worldly virtue, which
dictate all. Few are virtuous from truly religious motives--we speak of
the world _en masse_. It is either from a sense of innate delicacy,
morality, and fear of the public reprehension, should discovery take
place; few indeed, in comparison, place first on the list, the condemned
sin which makes the devils rejoice, and angels weep. So Mary was left to
starve, beg, or return to evil, that society might be kept untainted.
She had assuredly found forgiveness, where it is too joyfully given, and
with rejoicing; but with man--that is, on these cold, unforgetting
shores--to fallen woman, she found none with the mass; so Minnie and
Skaife both advised her to quit England. 'Tis sad, but true. Much as we
love our native land, we are obliged to own that our neighbours look
more to the present than past; and if a woman evince an earnest desire
to become honest, there will indeed be _few_ to point and say, "Avoid
her, she has sinned;" and _many_ to hold a hand forth to a tottering
mortal. It was with difficulty Mary could be persuaded to strive once
more. She felt sad enough to lie down and die; but when those two, whose
hearts were such sterling gold, upheld her, comforted, encouraged, and
commanded in her mother's name, she once more arose, and with her
knowledge of French quitted England for Paris, under the escort of
Skaife, who was empowered by Tremenhere to settle her in some suitable
business.

"I would not have my poor mother look down and see I had neglected one
she loved almost as a child," he said; "and possibly we may all meet
soon on those shores. I hate England."

And so strange is it, that great events of our lives are the offspring
of some momentary inspiration, or thoughtlessly uttered word, that,
until that instant, Tremenhere had not dreamed of quitting England; and,
from that hour, an insurmountable desire seized upon him to leave
London, the villa--all which had become hateful to him. His wishes were
laws to Minnie. She would gladly have seen her aunts again--have been
friends with her uncle before leaving; consequently she wrote, imploring
pardon of the two hearts in rebellion against her, and begging aunt
Dorcas to come and see her. But even this was denied her. Dorcas had
been made to suffer so severely by the other two on the occasion of the
former visit, that she deemed it better not to enrage them further by
coming; but to remain, and patiently work for Minnie's future pardon.
She wrote most affectionately, and completely repudiated every thought
of her niece's impropriety of conduct, which had been imparted to
Juvenal by his friend, Marmaduke Burton. On this subject, too,
Tremenhere wrote to Minnie's uncle, and detailed the whole affair as it
had occurred, not forgetting the last discomfiture of his enemy in the
exposure at the club. Whatever Juvenal's opinions might have been, had
he permitted them full play, is uncertain; for he was one of those
narrow-minded, prejudiced persons, who, having espoused an idea, find it
completely out of the pale of their governing law to divorce it from
their belief. Minnie was guilty--she must be guilty; Burton said she
was. She had been imprudent once, and consequently, assuredly, would be
again; in short, prejudice, with its narrow ideas and venomed breath,
stood between poor Minnie and her home. Juvenal might have forgiven, if
left to himself, for sometimes a memory would come over him of her
gentle tones, her loving, girlish heart; besides which, he could not
refuse to believe all Tremenhere wrote--there was evidence and proof;
though he left the letter unanswered, it influenced his mind in his
niece's favour. Gillett too spoke, and at last decidedly, in the
rejected one's favour; but to counteract these healthful influences,
came the soured heart, and acrid tongue, of one who hated Minnie for
entering that state without her permission, which, in the whole course
of her own life, no one had ever held open the door to, though but a
little ajar, for her to peep into--matrimony. Not a soul had once said a
civil, or even word of doubtful meaning, for her to build a hope or an
hour's dream upon, and she felt a double pleasure in stamping Minnie
with her reprehension and condemnation. So she, poor girl, bade adieu to
their pretty villa and England, to seek peace and happiness in a
stranger land, with the one whom she loved as freshly and well as on the
day she vowed to leave all for his sake. Skaife had returned, after a
few weeks' absence, to his duties, near Minnie's childhood's home; but
his heart was heavy. The man foresaw clouds in the horizon, over one he
now loved as a dear sister; for, with all Tremenhere's worth, no one
could be blind to his unconquered passion--jealousy, which only lay
still to gain strength, and rise, like a giant refreshed from slumber,
to overwhelm all.

Marmaduke Burton was gone abroad, no one knew whither, "on a tour."
Dalby was a resident in town. Mary Burns was established in a small
business for fancy work; her poor mother no longer burthened her--she
slept in the quiet home, alike for rich and poor. And thus all stood on
the day Minnie and Tremenhere started for Paris, where he had many
friends to forward his views as an artist; moreover, he had orders from
friends at home, and all seemed to smile on them as they quitted their
native land.

"And now, Minnie," he said, tenderly embracing her, "no more care. I
will banish all, and begin anew our life of love, and the labour of love
I have sadly neglected, though not forgotten. My poor mother--I must
toil for you both, darling, now, and for _our child_, my Minnie, for I
should indeed wish it to see the light in my lawful home; I will try so
to have it."



CHAPTER VIII.


Assuredly there is something very exhilarating in the air of Paris, when
compared with our heavier, smoky atmosphere; this, and a complete
removal from painful scenes, were all sufficient causes for the change
in Tremenhere and Minnie. They seemed indeed to have commenced a new
life; all annoyances had ceased, her colour had returned, the frown had
quitted his brow, the past seemed like a dream, as his confidence was
restored, and not unfrequently he laughed with her, over those
reasonless fears which had once agonized him so much. Many of their
mornings were passed in the Louvre together, he copying the old masters,
or the glowing sunset pictures in the Spanish gallery; whilst she sat
beside him, either talking, reading, or working, and thus two very happy
months passed, and Christmas drew nigh. They were residing in an
apartment, not far from the Louvre, in one of the principal streets, _Au
Troisième_, where he found a room admirably adapted for him, having been
used as a studio. _Au Troisième_ seems a frightful height to English
ears; nevertheless, to the many who are acquainted with Paris, it has
nothing extraordinary.

All suspicion even seemed lulled to rest on his part; for frequently
Minnie went alone to visit Mary, who was, at all events, peaceful, if
not happy, in her present successful path. Tremenhere talked of being
obliged, very shortly, to revisit England, consequent on some paintings
he was completing to order. A shudder crept over Minnie at the thought;
she had almost hoped never to see it again, except perhaps some day to
revisit Gatestone, but certainly not London; however, the patient loving
wife said nothing, she was contented to go whither he went. They had not
received any communication from Lady Dora, in short from no one but
Dorcas and Skaife--all else was in quiet oblivion around them; and they,
not the less happy, though sometimes Minnie would sigh when she thought
of her cousin's unkindness. Marmaduke Burton, too, was lost to them,
almost in thought; the truth was, he had made a tour to Italy, and so
bitter had been his disgrace, consequent upon Miles's discovery of his
wickedness, that he resolved to leave them in peace, despairing of
success in separating them. In good, as unfortunately often in bad, when
all human power has failed, fate steps in, and accomplishes in an
instant that which years might else not have matured. Poor Minnie was
one of those kindly-disposed creatures, full of thoughtfulness to
surprise those she loved by some great joy--nothing had changed, or
could chill her heart; and frequently some little quiet secret of her's
to please Miles, tortured him once again into dormant, but not
eradicated suspicion, until the perfection of her plot enabled her to
give it to the light, and thus remove a weight from his mind, which had
oppressed it for days perhaps. She never saw this,--she was a very child
at heart, forgetting in her present happiness her past bitter suffering.
For some days she had been in a state of much excitement, and her visits
had been more frequent than usual to Mary's. Other friends she had in
Paris; but though there existed a certain constraint and distance
between herself and this unfortunate girl, still we often cling more
kindly to the person we have served, whatever their station, than to the
one who has obliged ourselves,--a noble nature loves better giving, than
receiving. Thus Minnie delighted in watching her _protégée's_ progress
towards honest prosperity, for Mary was so humble and grateful. Miles
noticed her frequent visits to Mary, her distraction of manner, followed
by sudden lightness of heart, as of hidden joy. Then, too, she often
made a plea of laziness to remain at home, and he went alone to the
Louvre. This worried him; nevertheless he said nothing, but he was not
at ease. Suspicions arose; but he chid them down--he _would_ be happy.
Sometimes Minnie looked sad and disappointed, still she said nothing;
and he forebore questioning, though not a glance of her's escaped him.
The cause of all this was as follows:--One day Mary Burns drew Minnie
into the little quiet back room adjoining the shop, and exclaimed, "Dear
Mrs. Tremenhere! I have been so anxiously looking for your arrival the
last two days; I did not like calling, or I should have done so."

"Why not, Mary? we should have been glad to see you."

"I know, dear madam, you are always so kind; but I wished to see you
alone--my motive is this. You must have heard from Mr. Tremenhere, of
his meeting me one night at his cousin's?" She looked down, and spoke
with difficulty and pain. "I am forced to allude to this, to explain how
I became possessed of what I now wish to speak of. Have you ever," she
cried, changing her tone, "heard Mr. Tremenhere mention any one named
d'Estrées?"

"Never," answered Minnie, after a moment's pause.

"On that evening in question," continued Mary, "there were several torn
papers scattered about the floor,--a sudden impulse induced me, unseen,
to secure one--and here it is. I found it only to-day; for I shame to
say, in my own selfish troubles, I had forgotten it sooner," and she
placed the torn piece of letter, which we have seen in the first volume,
in Minnie's hand.

"Oh!" exclaimed she, after carefully perusing it, "this must have been
written by Miles's father, before his birth. Oh, Mary! how may we
discover this man? he must have been the person who married them," and
the delighted wife almost danced with joy, to think of Miles's
rejoicing. "Shall we tell him yet?" asked she after a pause, "or
wait--search every thing ourselves? Poor dear Miles will suffer so
keenly should he be disappointed; and then, too, he is seriously
occupied now with a painting which engages all his attention. Let us
work unknown to him, Mary; and, oh! think of our joy if we can, some
day, place the proof in his hands!"

"I think your idea will be the better one to pursue," said Mary
quietly, after a moment's thought--she was less sanguine, and more
cautious than warm-hearted Minnie; "but we must not too soon reckon upon
success, we may not succeed--he may be dead. Oh! how I wish I had
secured the remainder of the letter! we might then have told Mr.
Tremenhere, and he could have directed us how to act, we are so
powerless alone."

"Do not say that; we will inquire how we had better commence our
research. I do not like telling dear Miles yet; it would be so happy a
surprise!"

And this it was which caused a mystery in Minnie's manner, which raised
the demon suspicion once more in Tremenhere. All her energies were
exerted in this anxious search, and in consequence she became thoughtful
and pre-occupied. Mary had some acquaintances, from whom she inquired
which would be the better way of discovering a lost address, and she was
told to search the passport-office at the _Prefecture_.

The most timid woman will find energy and resolution for all, when the
happiness of one she loves is at stake. In the first instance, the two
women employed a man to go to the office for them; but this did not
satisfy Minnie when he proclaimed his want of success.

"How can we be quite certain he went, or searched as we should have
done?" asked she. "I will go myself."

"You cannot do so alone!" cried Mary, "and I am unable to leave my
shop."

"Why not? Oh, but I can! Miles will be all day to-morrow at the Louvre;
I will not accompany him, and putting on a close bonnet and veil, lest
I should meet any one, take a _fiacre_ and go."

Mary tried to dissuade her for some short time, and then she
relinquished the task herself, convinced that it would be the most
secure and satisfactory thing to do. Minnie had no one to advise or
assist her, and on Mary she almost looked as upon a sister, from the
circumstances of her childhood passed with Miles and his mother; then
again, they were mutually interested in this affair, and Mary was so
humble and contrite in manner, it would have been impossible for the
other not to love her. All this intimacy, however, did not pass without
censure on Miles's part, not that he doubted Mary then; but he deemed,
in worldly wisdom, that where Minnie's name had been in question,
however innocent she had proved, too much caution could not be observed;
then, too, the one dark spot in his happiness ever arose before him--her
imprudence in flying with himself, which would ever leave one place in
her fame open to animadversion; but he spoke to the least worldly woman
ever created, and then at this moment she had so strong a motive in
seeking Mary, that all his arguments terminated in a tacit consent on
his part, however unwillingly given, when Minnie's arms encircled his
neck, and her smiling cheek pressed itself like a child's to his, as she
coaxed him into good temper; then, too, there was a fonder hope in his
heart than any he had ever yet known, whatever he had once said of being
even jealous of his own child.

Thus weeks crept on, and as disappointment followed disappointment in
their search, Minnie grew saddened and uneasy; still, every day she
rejoiced that she bore her trouble alone, and that Miles was exempt.
Poor creature! she did not perceive that her unexplained, altered
manner, was making him once again most unhappy. Doubts, fears,
suspicions of all, arose in his mind, and he began to ask himself,
"Could Burton be in Paris, and at some fiendish plot?" He resolved to
verify this doubt by inquiry. He went to several of the principal
hotels, without success. No such name was on their books; then, as a man
perfectly acquainted with Paris and its habits, he went to the passport
office, and searched; he was on the point of leaving, perfectly assured
no Burton was in Paris, consequently it must be something else preying
upon her mind and directing her actions, when a woman's figure flitted
through the office, closely enveloped and veiled. But it was Minnie, and
none other; for the second time, she had come to the prefecture to seek
d'Estrées. Miles stood transfixed with surprise. Whom could she be
seeking? Quietly he stole after her; without turning, she entered a
_fiacre_ and drove away. This was a day on which he was supposed to be
engaged at the Louvre. He stood irresolute a moment, then, walking
composedly back again, commenced a search after another passport and
name--the act was the offspring of a moment's thought. "Yes, monsieur,"
answered the functionary, rather more civilly than these men generally
speak in all public offices in France; "the gentleman, _ce milord_, is
in Paris, I know--I remember the name--ah! here's the passport, and
address, _Rue Castiglione_ 7," and he gave the shuddering Tremenhere
_his own address_.

This method of seeking persons is most common in France, where, within
twenty-four hours of your arrival, your passport and address have to be
left at the prefecture's, under the penalty of a fine, should it not be
done. It is needless to say that Minnie had not been inquiring for Lord
Randolph, but following up what she had hoped might prove a trace of her
all-absorbing thought, d'Estrées. Tremenhere said nothing; but, calmly
thanking the official, walked forth. There was no cloud on his
brow--nothing of anger or sorrow--but a cold, stern, desolation, far
more dreadful to behold. At last the blow had fallen; there could be no
longer any doubt, still less hope, of reclaiming her. She must be
wickedly, wilfully bad, and false as the falsest thing that ever
breathed. His brain, nevertheless, was in a chaos of perplexity. For
whom could she have been inquiring? No one, perhaps; but why there? The
residence of Lord Randolph, even in his own hotel, in nowise astonished
him after a moment's thought,--it was a part of her unparalleled
audacity. Those who have resided in France will know, how easily
families may live for months in the same hotel or house, and never meet.
Lord Randolph had come to Paris for a short time, and, disliking a
regular hotel, had taken an _entresol_ in this most popular and
fashionable street, without having an idea of meeting with the
Tremenheres in any way. And thus an event, the most likely and
commonplace, did more for Marmaduke Burton's revenge, than all his own
plotting and scheming. Tremenhere returned home--he stopped carelessly
in the _loge de concièrge_, and inquired, "If Lord Randolph Gray resided
there?"

"Yes," answered the man, "_milord_ has been here several days; but he
does not go out much--he is not in good health, I think."

"Thank you," was the calm reply, and Tremenhere turned from his door,
and entered the gardens of the Tuileries. Here he proceeded to the
loneliest part, and, relaxing his quick pace, reviewed all the events of
this fatal day. Not for an instant did he doubt Minnie's perfect
knowledge of Lord Randolph's being in their hotel. Here was no
Burton--no Dalby to entangle their victims in a snare. How he laughed
aloud at his own folly and blindness, in having been so long deceived.
"In the very house with me!" he cried--"O, fool!--mad, blind fool! And
O, woman!--falsest, basest! what a shrine, too, hath the devil chosen
for his abode! so much seeming candour and lovely purity--even in the
look. I could find it in my heart to shed tears of blood for this
perverted creature, on whom I have lavished my soul's love, for I can
never love again."

People may laugh and say, "'Tis very well for fiction," but there are
many circumstances in everyday life far more extraordinary, far more
fatally organized by a genius of good or evil, than any things the mind
could conjure up. Are they sent as trials? as punishments? or the mighty
Hand directing all, though through pain and suffering, for our ultimate
benefit? or is it, that there are moments in every one's life, wherein
the spirit of evil has permitted sway? Who may divine this?

As Tremenhere turned again through the gardens, near the centre alley,
half hidden by the trees, he saw two persons; they were shaking hands
and parting: these were Minnie and Lord Randolph! She had quitted her
_fiacre_ on the Quay, and was hastening home across the gardens, when
she most unexpectedly met this, to her, fatal man. Only a few words
passed, and they parted, he in indifference and calm, she in almost
terror at the meeting--but it was enough Tremenhere saw not hearts, but
acts. He turned back again; a cold bolt of iron entered his soul; no
anger was there, no passionate desire for revenge--nothing but calm
resolution, which only became more intense, when he reflected on
Minnie's position. At one instant he thought of returning to London, and
suing for a divorce; then a bitterer feeling crossed his heart. "No!" he
cried, "she has branded me for ever with infamy; _she_ shall never
become his wife, nor _their_ child legitimate; this shall be my
revenge--let her bear my name, blast it, degrade it, what care I? Name!"
he exclaimed after a moment's pause, "I have no name; what am I? the
castaway offspring of Helena Nunoz! All women are false; I believe in
none, I am the blasted child of an impure woman--Nunoz--Nunoz--only
this, and Marmaduke Burton has right, to carry him onward!" and the
wretched man laughed aloud--laughed in the bitterness of a holy thought
of childhood, and dream of manhood, desecrated--his mother. His last
hope was gone; he could believe none pure, proving Minnie false. He was
not a man to sit down, and pine, and regret over his fate; but one to
act vigorously, a resolution once taken. His heart had turned to stone,
there was no "if" in it--not for an instant did he pause to think, or
hope, but sped away to act. He was determined to inquire into nothing,
in this last hopeless affair; he felt some demoniacal artifice would be
employed to persuade him against all reason; he would not degrade his
reason farther by listening--guilty she must be. Her presence at the
prefecture had something in it in connection with Lord Randolph, he
scarcely cared to inquire how, for assuredly she must, before that day,
have been privy to his residence under the same roof with herself; Mary,
too, was a party to it! What a web had been, and was around him!--he
shuddered as he thought of his deceived heart, for so long a time. When
his mind had compassed all coolly and deliberately, he proceeded to the
apartment of a friend, a brother artist, unfortunately not a Skaife, to
breathe justice or patience to him, but a man to whom woman had ever
been a merely beautiful creation for art to copy, soulless, and unworthy
a higher place in man's thought. To him Tremenhere told all, coolly,
dispassionately from the first, not to seek counsel, but to act for, and
with him. His listener shrugged his shoulder and smiled.

"Well," he said, "'tis better thus, perhaps; for with your genius, you
will rise to high things _alone_. Hampered with a wife and children, you
would possibly have remained stationary, a good father of a family, fit
only to paint a _bonne mère_ and her _bambins_!--leave such positions
to others--soar, _mon ami_--soar!"

Alas! he overlooked the fact, that to every one possessing real heart
and soul--soaring is sorry work when there is no loving eye to mark our
flight.

"Now, what can I do for you? command me," said his friend.

"See her!" answered Tremenhere sternly. "I would not leave that woman
unprovided for; arrange how and where she will receive it; you will have
tears and prayers--_I_ have had them; disregard them, be firm, tell her
_we never meet again_; do not say where I am; remove all my
paintings--all--I will give you written authority to do so. Arrange
every thing; and then I have other work for you. Stay, I will write one
line to her; and that will be a warrant for all you may do."

And with a calmness, amazing to himself, he sat down and wrote coldly,
dispassionately, to her; merely saying he knew all. He did not
condescend even to tell her his accusations, adding, "of course, what I
_know_, will reach you from another quarter. 'Tis vain to seek an
interview; nothing shall induce me to see you--throw off all disguise,
'twill suit you better than this audacious duplicity. Farewell."

Minnie read this letter, and it did not kill her! yet her life seemed
awhile to stand still. There was but one idea in her mind, that by that
fatality which seemed to hang over her, Miles had witnessed her
accidental meeting with Lord Randolph. A more than mortal fear oppressed
her. There arose in her mind a belief in spiritual agency--spirits of
evil around her. She became almost lifeless with this strange fear. She
sat like a statue; and saw one after another, the paintings, depart,
which had been commenced beneath her eye, her caresses, her love. She
was totally speechless, thoughtless; all stood still, even to her very
blood, for she was cold as marble. At last the easel was taken past her;
then the man stood still, as if awaiting some questioning from her; but
though she had watched every action of his with intense gaze, idea of
what was passing--she had none. So he went forth, and closed the door of
the outer apartment, mentally ejaculating, "What a cold, heartless
creature! Evidently she is glad to be released from Tremenhere, for this
_freluquet de milord_! What a blessing for her husband to lose such a
woman!" And this man, so talented in portraying the human face, was
powerless _on it_ to read the breaking heart! When the door closed,
Minnie fell back on the ottoman, not fainting; but the lifeless blood
was insufficient to bid the heart beat above mere existence. She was
living, but lifeless to the touch, or memory--and thus she lay for hours
alone!



CHAPTER IX.


"She did not speak, or expostulate?" asked Tremenhere.

"No," answered his friend; "she was too much taken by surprise, but I
never saw a woman look more confounded in her guilt."

Miles did not speak for some time. Strange, how wrongs, supposed or
real, darken the heart to every gleam of pity! It was not his vanity
which was wounded--not any feeling of false pride, which urged him to so
much apparent heartlessness; it was a disgust pervading his noble
nature, at so much infamy in one so young and fair. Had he deemed her
reclaimable, he would have nobly, generously, endeavoured to do so; but,
believing what he did, he felt that any further contact with her would
irretrievably sully his own honour, and plunge her still deeper into
duplicity and sin. _If_ she ever could repent, their separation--his
utter contempt for her--might, through shame, open that channel to her.
There was uprightness and conscience in his every thought; he even felt
then, that, if he could be convinced she would be true and faithful to
his rival, he would seek by the law that release which should enable
him (Lord Randolph) to do her justice. With these thoughts in his mind,
after a calm survey of all remaining in the ruined temple of his heart,
he wrote to this latter, and despatched his friend with the missive,
which contained little of accusation, beyond a quiet, cool detail of
facts, as he believed them, and giving him a choice of two things,
either a solemn assurance to marry Minnie if he divorced her--he,
thereby, submitting to the reprehension of the world at large--wherein
many might blame him for the calmness of the act, so little in
consonance with his real feelings, in preference to the more manly one
of first demanding retribution at his hands in a struggle for life, or
to meet him muzzle to muzzle, where often the luckier aim carries it
above the more skilful. But we are wrong, for the luckier aim would
carry undying remorse with it, in any noble heart, however wronged.
"Live, and let live," and leave vengeance to Heaven.

It would be vain to attempt portraying Lord Randolph's amazement on
receipt of this note; he was preparing to leave his apartment to dine
with some friends when it reached him. He read, and re-read it; and
then, with an air of wonder which would have convinced any unprejudiced
person, asked whether really Mr. Tremenhere resided in that hotel?

"Apparently," was the laconic reply, sarcastically delivered.

"He must be mad, then, and deserving only _le Bicêtre_," answered Lord
Randolph; "where may he be found?"

"By letter or message through me," was the reply.

"You are abrupt, monsieur," said the other, sitting down to write;
"nevertheless, pray be seated."

"I prefer standing, _milord_," and he folded his arms doggedly.

It will be seen this was the last person who could successfully
conciliate persons in so painful a position.

Lord Randolph wrote:--"You must be mad. I most solemnly assure you,
until this moment, I knew not you were in this hotel. True, I met Mrs.
Tremenhere to-day by accident; but she never named her address, nor I
mine. You are at liberty to appeal to law, if it so please you to cast
fresh ridicule on yourself; but though I most highly esteem Mrs.
Tremenhere, enough to deem myself a most fortunate man could I call her
lawfully mine; still, I have too much self-respect and vanity, under any
circumstances, to seek a certain refusal, by proposing to her. For the
rest, your good sense, and I hope, heart, will guide you aright, and
make you see the folly of your conduct."

His lordship was ignorant of the manner in which Minnie had been
treated, or he would have written more forcibly in her favour. Thus he
dismissed his visiter, and departed to dinner. This letter almost shook
Tremenhere's calmness to an outburst of rage; he only saw in it cool
audacity, and that feeling of honour which makes a man oftentimes
perjure himself to redeem a wrong act, and save a woman's reputation.

"Let us seek him," he said, moving towards the door. "I will await you
in the street; you can enter and inquire for him." And, with a
resolution he did not think himself capable of, well as he knew his own
stern nature in wrong, he stood almost on the threshold of his once
happy home, whilst his friend entered to inquire where Lord Randolph
might be found. This was easily ascertained, and thither the two men
followed; he was dining with some friends at the _restaurant_ of great
renown, "_Les Trois Frères_," and was in the act of detailing his most
extraordinary and unpleasant affair, when a card was handed to him, and
on it was "Miles Tremenhere!"

"Show the gentleman into another room," said his lordship with perfect
composure, for not one spark of cowardice was in his composition. The
waiter obeyed, and in a few minutes he stood before Miles and his
companion.

"Your lordship will pardon this unusual method of proceeding," said
Tremenhere, with dignity; "but the unsatisfactory nature of your reply
to my letter obliges me to call in person, and demand another."

"_Demand!_" exclaimed the other. "What if I refuse?"

"Then it will but remain with me to attach to your lordship's name, one
I should regret being forced to call into requisition."

Lord Randolph bit his lip to restrain an angry retort. After a moment's
pause, to collect his coolness, he said, "Mr. Tremenhere, I do not deal
with you as I should with another, for I look upon you as a lunatic; but
for the sake of your most innocent, injured wife, I implore you consider
well what you are doing!"

"My lord," answered his opponent, "I have not come to listen to idle
words, still less to be again a dupe. I come to demand, unless your
heart fail you too much to meet me, to give me the name of _your_
friend, to whom _mine_ may apply; the rest will then regard them."

"Think well, sir," said Lord Randolph again, as calmly as he could be
under so much aggravation. "You may some day rue this. I would, for an
innocent woman's sake, save you from remorse, and her from ruin."

"By heavens!" exclaimed Miles, turning sarcastically towards his friend,
"this man would have me take his mistress to my arms again, and receive
him, perchance, as friend! My lord," and he turned wildly in rage upon
him, "if there be a coward here, 'tis not Miles Tremenhere, or his
friend."

"Oh!" ejaculated Lord Randolph, drawing a long breath, then keeping
silence a moment to subdue himself, he replied, holding out a hand to
Miles's friend, "Your card, monsieur, and I will immediately place it in
the hands of my friend. I think now, sir," and he bowed to Tremenhere,
"our interview may terminate; and may you never regret the day's work
which will follow this."

And, holding the card given by the other in his hand, he quietly quitted
the apartment. "After all," he said to himself as he moved to the room
where his friends were awaiting him, "this fellow requires a severe
lesson; it will cure his jealousy." And none was gayer that evening at
table than Lord Randolph Gray. Tremenhere was otherwise. There was a
monitor in his breast, not silent, for it was full of questionings. Yet
to all he replied, "It is justice and retribution,"--and then he sat
down with perfect composure, and drew a rough copy of his will, which he
purposed having legally executed on the morrow. "I will not leave her
unprovided for," he whispered to himself; "this shall be my revenge on
her."

The next day but one, Lord Randolph and his adversary met; and
Tremenhere was carried from the spot severely, though not dangerously,
wounded--a bullet having traversed his side, without, however, touching
any vital part, though he became insensible from loss of blood. His
opponent, with the manly self-possession which had characterised him
throughout, remained until well assured there existed no danger from the
actual wound, and then quitted the Bois de Bologne, where they met, and
next day Paris, for Italy. Tremenhere was transported to the nearest
house, and there he lay unconscious for many days.

Minnie recovered from her stupor, to find herself in the arms of her
attendant, who was too much terrified to quit her and summon assistance.
This woman had not entered the apartment where her mistress was for some
hours; and her absence at the moment of her master's friend's arrival,
prevented her knowing what had occurred. As Minnie returned to the
warmth of life, and something of its consciousness, she inquired whether
Mr. Tremenhere had returned. A reply in the negative being given, she
for a moment was lost in wonder; then thought after thought crowded
through her brain, and she found amidst them, one to lead her partially
to light. Tremenhere was gone--but where, or wherefore, she could not
remember for hours. She wandered hastily from room to room, touching
every thing there which had been his--her manner was flighty, half
idiotic; the suddenness of the blow found her unprepared. At last the
terrified servant beheld a cold, grey look steal over her face, the
hectic flush disappeared, memory had returned, and desolation sat
triumphant above all; and nothing could equal that desolation of
heart--she did not imagine, for an instant, that Miles believed her
guilty. It will be remembered that she was unconscious of Lord
Randolph's residence in their hotel; she had hurried home, trembling, it
is true, to inform Tremenhere of her meeting with him, and this was the
only clue she had to his cruel conduct and desertion. She read his
letter over and over; her first supernatural fears passed away, and she
felt convinced either that he was mad, or changed in heart, so changed
that the parting was pleasurably done by him. After viewing all his
recent conduct, she dismissed the idea of madness, his coldness, and
absence of manner for some time, since, in fact, her own mysterious
search after D'Estrées, which had given him fresh cause for suspicion,
arose before her, and her eyes seemed to open on the truth. She looked
back to many things; his meetings with Lady Dora, first in the holly
field at home, that had puzzled her, then at Uplands, so sedulously
concealed from her--all arose, and without jealousy of her cousin, she
felt, and more firmly in that it was an unworn, up-springing thought of
an instant, that Miles _had_ once loved Dora, and possibly marrying her
for pique, subsequent disgust had ensued. "Oh! if he really loved me, he
could not have sought to prove me false so often," she said, "neither
now have left me for so slight a cause, without even seeking an
explanation, as my accidental meeting with Lord Randolph. He never truly
loved me." And with this fixed thought, a cold desolation crept over her
soul. Minnie had yet to learn all the madness of jealousy, therefore she
was incompetent to judge him. She was not long left in any uncertainty
about her desertion; her servant informed her that Mr. Tremenhere's
friend had authorized the landlord to apply to him for all expenses,
when madame quitted the hotel, as some unfortunate differences had
occasioned a separation. This had been gratuitous pain inflicted in
total indifference to her feelings on this man's part. Tremenhere had
bid him say that he had quitted Paris.

Minnie, in all her keen suffering, had but one friend, Mary; our good
deeds seldom are lost in the waves of life's ocean--they return again,
to break at our feet. Minnie felt all this girl's kindness, but she had
grown so cold at heart in a few days, that all failed to warm her to
life. Of the duel they heard nothing; those kind of things are of more
ordinary occurrence in France than among ourselves, and from whom could
they hear it? Mary had written several letters to Miles's friend, their
only clue, to beseech Tremenhere to listen to reason. After some days
deep anxiety, they were returned, with a request in his name, that none
more might be sent; he was leaving France, search after him would be
useless. At length a letter arrived from himself; the characters were
trembling, for he was scarcely able to write them. In this he spoke
little of wrongs, merely by the tone of it, implying Mary to be as
guilty as his own wife. There was no regret, nothing to excite hope. He
spoke deliberately of never again seeing her; he was resolved; he had no
desire to do so; he had long been unhappy; now the tie was severed, he
felt content. Of her pecuniary wants he had taken care, _however she
might be circumstanced_. He named a banker in whose hands a sufficiency
for her support would be placed quarterly, and then all care for her
ended. With this letter Minnie's last hope died; it was indeed a
hopeless one. Had she seen him, pale, haggard, and suffering, as he sat
up in the bed to write it, she would have felt that he was less to blame
than she deemed him. He scarcely knew what he wrote, still he felt
anxious to settle all for her comfort, in case Lord Randolph should
forsake her; for the idea was a fixed one in his mind, that though they
might not meet publicly for a while, eventually, finding him no longer
to be duped, they would fly together.

Nothing could induce Minnie to touch a farthing of the money Miles had
allotted her; forsaken by him, he was as a stranger to her. Had she
known he still loved her--had she known all, she would have followed to
the farthest end of the earth, to find and plead to him. As it was, her
heart sickened; she had been deceiving herself--deceived by him. Her
pride arose, and, enwraping herself in it, she sat down, and forbore
even to name him. One thing she wrung from Mary in sacred promise: this
was--that neither Dorcas nor Skaife should be informed of the whole
truth.

"Let me bear my misery alone," she said. "Tell them, for I cannot write
now, that he and I have parted: that there was incompatibility of
temper--any thing you will; but do not--pray, do not, say he has
forsaken me! Let them think it has been mutual consent, but do not blame
him; they all hate him enough already," and the heart whispered even
still, "poor Miles!"



CHAPTER X.


It was not, however, for some time that Minnie allowed Mary to write
even this; for she still hoped at times, in her heart, that Miles would
return. But when months passed, and she ascertained, beyond a doubt,
from a visit Mary made to his artist friend, that he had quitted for
Florence, then she hoped no more, and nothing remained but to act.

Dorcas was most uneasy at her silence, and then Mary wrote, and
afterwards she summoned courage to do so herself, though every word
written was penned in the bitterness of worse than death; for we may die
happy in hope, and the love of those dear ones around us, smoothing the
pillow as we depart in peace and faith to happy shores, beyond life's
troubled sea. Minnie's grief had nothing of this. She was on a wreck in
a dark stormy night--a wild sea foaming over her head--a dark sky, and
impenetrable darkness above and around; but nevertheless she spoke of
contentment, and a wish to be left in quiet. "We deemed it better to
part than live in estrangement of heart," she wrote, "and I am resigned.
If you love me, let the subject drop; nothing can change our fate.
Leave me in quiet awhile, I shall remain some time longer abroad."

But this letter did not tranquillize Dorcas, to whom it was written. She
carefully abstained from speaking of its contents to any one but Mr.
Skaife, and he, like herself, was too deeply interested in Minnie, not
to be the confidant of all. Dorcas wrote most anxiously to her, and
Skaife promised, as soon as his duties would admit of it, to go to
Paris, and endeavour to reconcile them. He guessed a portion of the
truth; but, alas, nor he, nor Dorcas knew a tithe of it!

Minnie, we have said, resolutely refused to touch her husband's
allowance. He had gone to Florence (as far he might be, in his
spirit-broken state,) contented in the thought that she was provided
for, and in following his art, now a toil undertaken to banish care--he
strove to obliterate her memory. Minnie's pride forbade her accepting
existence at the expense of Mary; when all her means had become
exhausted--the slender ones her purse and jewels afforded, her pride
arose in proportion to her poverty. It was not false pride, but the
honest, upright determination, to burthen no one. "I will leave Paris,"
she said to herself, "and go where no one may hear of me."

This could not be accomplished without some difficulty; nevertheless, at
last she succeeded, and one day, when Mary sought her in the humble room
she had been residing in, she was gone. A letter reached her faithful
friend, telling her that cares such as hers were better borne alone;
even _her_ sympathy pained her. She would go where only her own heart
should know her sorrow, and breathe it to her. She bade her not fear for
her; she was safe, and would shortly give her proof of it by letter; but
she implored her to breathe to no one that she had fled. Mary, however,
in kindness of heart, wrote immediately to Mr. Skaife; the secret was
too a heavy a one for her own conscience to support in peace. This
intelligence caused the most bitter sorrow to him and Dorcas, to whom
alone it was told; and he hastened to seek some one to take charge of
his parish duties awhile, at her earnest prayer, and his own heart's
promptings, to follow Minnie whithersoever she might be gone.

It sometimes, but rarely happens in life, that where we only expected to
find a merely common acquaintance, we meet a warm and sincere
friend--one who, through years of sorrow, never forsakes us--one who
forgets self, to help us onward on life's weary track with our
burthens--who, when all have forsaken save himself, clings to us still,
and whose best, and only reward sought, is, when a gleam of sunshine
flits across our dreary way. To such a one, honour and blessing--gifts,
which his own good conscience will bring him, when, at the end of life's
journey, he makes up his account, and reckons with his Creator. Such a
copy of an original, was Skaife. But there was a machine working which
he could not stay or controul; it would spin its wool, and weave its
woof, before man might overcome it.

Tremenhere was in Florence; but yet he heard of Minnie whilst she was
in Paris. So blinded was he by his passions, that even her poverty--her
refusal tacitly to touch his allowance, were snares in his eyes, to lure
him back to deception. Again, if at times his heart softened, 'twas but
for a moment--he grew cold again, and pitiless. Living too, as he lived,
steeled his heart to gentler scenes or thoughts; he avoided all society,
and, shut up in his studio, labouring to banish the bosom's emotions,
became sullen, morose, and vindictive.

Months passed since their separation, and in the delicate, frail woman,
living in almost privation in Marseilles, toiling at her needle for her
daily bread, who might have known Minnie Dalzell? With the little money
remaining to her, she crossed to England, to prevent discovery and
pursuit; here remaining hidden a short time, she then returned on her
footsteps, and hastened to Marseilles. She knew Miles was in Italy, and
her yearning heart led her to the port, whence she might some day,
perhaps, be called upon to follow his path. Bowed and saddened she was
by sorrow, still her heart's conscious uprightness, and honest pride,
upheld her; if she suffered, no one knew it; if sometimes she ate her
bread in tears, and only _that_, for a day's nourishment, who saw her?
No mere _person_, but One who sees and reckons to us our patience and
confidence in him however he may try us, and Him, Minnie never forgot.
Even as the trembling fingers, pale and attenuated, broke the hardened
crust, the eyes, once violet in their depth and richness, now paler,
clearer, more serene in their sadness, looked up and blessed the Giver
of it in their tearful gratitude. In all this patient sorrow came an
almost overwhelming, unhoped-for joy; she held a living child on her
bosom, small, frail little creature; its tones were as a bird's, so soft
and sad, and through the little thin fingers the light shone, as you
held them up, and only then did a ruddy colour, like pale ruby, show in
them, proving they were not merely wax, an imitation of life. "I shall
not have you long to comfort me, my boy," she whispered, when the
sobered first joy gave place to reason; "but you will go to a better
place, and plead for your mother, darling, and oh! do not forget
him--your father. I would you might have seen him _here_, my child, to
know him in heaven; but I trust in spirit meetings, spirit sight will
show him to you, and we may all three rejoice, reconciled in peace and
everlasting joy, which nothing human can attain to!"

He was christened Miles, and though the pale, fair mother grew paler
each day, and toiled more, as the embroidery, in which she excelled,
became more sought after, still the boy thrived, and as she laid him
upon her lap, like a model of rare beauty, her lip smiled in placid
thankfulness and joy, as she counted the dimples which day by day seemed
to deepen in the now rosy cheeks and fingers. Hers was not a heart to
keep its joy to itself; she wrote to Mary. True she did not give her
address, but she wrote to bid her rejoice with her; her child was born
and lived. A deep hope sustained her for some time. If Miles ever had
truly loved her, he must think of the expected tie which bound them
closer than ever. He would remember how he had spoken with almost
boyish delight of the hoped-for period, and he would seek her, and
come. Alas! he did remember it; but in bitterness of spirit, and laughed
in scorn over those boyish hopes, of which he had been the dupe.

Mary replied, in haste and deep anxiety, to the Post-Office, as
directed; she spoke of Dorcas's trouble, Skaife's arrival and anxious
search for her, but not one word of Miles! and then her heart sunk in
utter despondency. "Not even now!" she uttered, as the big tears fell on
her boy's sleeping face; "oh, he must hate me much!" Then succeeded a
fear lest Mary should seek her, or Skaife, or Dorcas; she would fly
again.

Among her employers was one lady who had taken a deep interest in her;
she had a daughter about Minnie's age, and married to a Maltese
merchant; she was about to become a mother herself, and, being called
upon to join her husband in Malta, her mother implored Minnie, who was
thought a young widow, to accompany her as nurse to the expected child.
The offer was a tempting one; thus she could fly, fly all, and in change
of scene, more than place, still, busy thought. A large offer was
proposed to her to wean her own child when another should claim her
care, but this she resolutely refused. "You will be too delicate to
nurse both!" exclaimed the lady.

"I shall gain strength for all, Madame," she replied, with confidence.
"I am stronger than I seem," and she thought of all she had mentally
borne and wrestled successfully with, and mere physical labour could not
daunt her strong heart.

She waited upon the lady, and, disdaining all deceit, at the risk of
losing possibly the situation which she much desired to obtain, told all
her story. She had truly said, when asked, that she had no husband, and
others concluded he was dead. At all events, as we have said, assuredly
on the Continent people more charitably judge a sister woman by present
good conduct, than they seek, by diving from _curiosity_ into the past,
to discover, perhaps, some deep sorrow, or more deeply repented error.
We deny that our Continental neighbours are less virtuous than
Englishwomen, _in general_; but they are less severe, more charitable,
less censorious. Minnie's candour raised her high in the opinion of
those, now doubly bound to her, from pity. All her energies were called
into play, to meet the emergency of outfit--money was required. The lady
advanced her some, still she required more.

We are not relating a mere tale of romance, where fairy and unexpected
gifts come to help the toiling and virtuous, but a story of everyday
life, where the good and conscientious, by undeserved misfortunes, are
thrown in much trouble, degradation, poverty, and _often_ want; where
the fingers once destined to be jewelled, must learn to toil, that the
lip which had been born to command a host of servants, may eat its daily
bread.

Minnie had been guilty of but one imprudent act, and this was the
penalty due to it, and unmurmuringly she was prepared to pay it to the
last farthing. Her hours of sleep became shortened; the earliest morning
light saw her working, while her boy slept. Oh, woman--fellow-woman!
when some pale mother places in your gemmed hand the work you have
commanded her to do for you, pause, and think that she may be in _all_
things superior to yourselves. Pause and reflect, grow humble and
grateful, where all your gratitude is due. Turn not away in pride, do
not bid her seek some insolent menial for payment, who will grudge the
hardly-earned sum, and insult, while giving it. Pay her yourselves--pay
well, and in conscience, and above all, pay kindly; for how know you but
that, in another place, this woman may plead for, or condemn you?

Time hastened on; the day shone fair and bright; it was in October, and
the quay was thronged with gallant vessels coming and going, and friends
were receiving in joy those who returned, and others weeping over the
departing; but none were there to press Minnie to their heart in sorrow
or fear, as, clasping her child to her bosom, she stepped on board the
steamer "Hirondelle," for Malta. Once she looked back, and scanned the
crowd, every face--it was a last hope, but it faded in the sigh which
heaved her heart, where little Miles slept in peace. She turned away,
nor looking again, went below. The anchor weighed, the steam gushed
upwards in a cloud, the paddles commenced sending the spray around, and
the port faded insensibly from view.

"Don't cry, madame," said Minnie, whose eyes were overflowing for
another's grief. A mother had just seen her daughter for the last time.
"Don't cry, dear madame," and she knelt and clasped her hands in both
her own (her boy was sleeping in her berth.) "We shall soon be at
Malta, and then you will see your husband, who so anxiously expects
you." Here she may be pardoned if a tear fell for herself; this chord
jarred on her heart, but she checked the vain dream, and awoke to
comfort another.

On--on they sailed with wind and tide, until night set in, and then the
former suddenly changed, and a high sea arose. Minnie had lain down
dressed beside her boy; her mistress slept in a berth above her.
Suddenly there arose a noise more than usual over-head, footsteps, and
voices calling fore and aft. She sat up and listened. Some of the ladies
slept, others were partially awakened by the noise, and murmuringly
called the attendant. Some sat up, the better to listen. Minnie was very
pale, but spoke not. At this moment a man appeared at the cabin door; he
was in a sailor's heaviest dress, for weathering rough weather. He
whispered the attendant, who grew paler; then he crept almost
noiselessly in, and commenced putting in and securing, what are called
the dead-lights. Then he stole away as he had entered; but, as he
mounted the companion ladder, he closed and fastened the door. Minnie
did not shriek, but she arose, and, though scarcely able to keep her
footing, held on to the side of the berth, and whispered her mistress,
"Madame, madame, awake and dress!" The lady started up; just at that
moment something crashed on deck, and went over the side. A simultaneous
scream burst from all in that cabin; then for an instant, which seemed
as an age in duration, there were breathless silence and watching for
the expected signal again, of disaster; but nothing was heard save
hurrying footsteps over-head, and the heavy ploughing of the steamer
through the waves, which broke with a monotonous sound against the
vessel, which seemed like some poor, breathing, overwhelmed animal,
struggling for its life. After this moment's suspense, wherein every ear
expected to be startled by some fierce cry of despair, all in that cabin
looked from one to another in terror. This lasted another minute--then
one, endowed with a sudden desire to fly the gloomy silence of that
almost dark cabin, where only one small lamp flickered to and fro in the
centre, sprang up the ladder and endeavoured to open the door; but it
resisted all her efforts. With a wild cry she shook it madly; then,
struggling in her fear, fell headlong downwards, and lay on the floor,
terrifying the inmates of that prison-house by her shrieks of wild,
hysterical agony. Some rose, some kneeled and prayed, with trembling
upraised hands. Others were too lifeless to think, but leaned stupefied
against the side of the cabin. One woman lay still--perfectly still, and
beside her were two beautiful sleeping children; her pale lips alone
breathed a prayer for mercy, as she clasped both to her bosom. Minnie
had awakened her mistress, whose personal attendant was too much alarmed
to think except of herself; and Tremenhere's deserted wife, with her boy
clasped in one arm to her heart, yet found courage with the other to
enfold the almost paralyzed lady, and breathe words of hope; and thus
the vessel toiled on with its death-expecting cargo. For nearly an hour,
it seemed as if for one plunge she took despairingly forward, she was
driven double the distance back again; assuredly she made no way in that
heavy sea. At length there was a pause, as though she had some
impossible wave to cut through; every heart stood still; then her sides
creaked and heaved; the timbers seemed like complaining spirits. She had
had both wind and tide against her; in an instant, as if by magic, she
appeared to swing round, with her head to the wind, and onward she flew,
like a soul loosened from bondage, and seeking its haven of rest. She
was returning to Marseilles. It was a race for life; but, like many an
overwrought gallant steed, her strength failed where her spirit upheld.
Onward she dashed, and one wild shriek mingled with the severing crash,
as "L'Hirondelle" broke upon the rocks, her crew was powerless to keep
her off, and went to pieces in that dark, dreary night.

It is not our province, even though we portray a true scene, to speak of
all in that doomed steamer; it is with Minnie we have to buffet over the
waves of that dark sea, in a small boat, into which many--far too many,
had crowded. Her child was clasped in a grasp like death, (for only that
could have parted them,) to her shivering breast powerless to warm it,
while its faint cry broke in agony on her stricken heart. Still she
hoped; she knew something more than human force would be requisite to
separate her from her infant, strained as it was to her bosom. So the
shivering mother sat still, uncomplaining in her anguish, and thus they
drifted on in that laden boat. Morning broke, and the boat was keel
uppermost, riding on a calm sea; to that keel clung two living beings,
the mother and child, yet the latter scarcely lived. The tone of that
little voice was a faint murmur of expiring nature, which echoed in a
heavy sob from the mother's heart, as she clung to the keel in almost
despairing hope, and thus they drifted to and fro, a mockery of life, so
nigh death they seemed on that calm sea, until her benumbed hand, for
one grasped her child, could scarcely cling on, and insensibility was
stealing over both, slowly and gradually, so much so that it seemed as a
dream, two rough, but friendly arms, lifting her into a boat, where she
was gently laid at the bottom on sails and coats, and covered up
carefully from the spray, which dashed over her, as in playfulness. What
means of restoration they had at hand, were supplied by those rough
nurses, two fishermen on the Marseilles coast, who, quitting their toil
for that day, sailed in, as quickly as possible, to their humble
village-home, of a few poor cottages up the coast. A long, insensible
sleep was Minnie's, when she was laid in the cotter's bed. Her long,
fair hair hung in heavy, damp masses on the coverlet, and on her bosom
lay the living thing she still clasped in her straining arms, loving
almost unto death. It was nearly two long days before she awoke to
perfect consciousness, to find herself tended with care and every
kindness their poverty could afford, by the two men who had rescued her,
and who, calling in a woman from a neighbouring hut, placed the mother
and child under her care. Her first awakening was a loud cry of terror,
as in a horrid dream she saw the past, and her first thought was her
boy. Startled by her cry, the woman ceased a low monotonous song she was
singing, to lull an infant to sleep with by the fire. Minnie sprang from
the bed towards her, and in an instant memory gave her back all; for one
doubting moment she held her child at arm's length to recall the
features, then folding those arms in gentle, but strong hold around it,
she sunk tremblingly on her knees, and the fair veil of hair sweeping
the ground, made her seem a spirit from another world, in purity and
holiness, as, raising her streaming eyes upwards, her lips murmured in
deep, heartfelt gratitude--"Oh, I am not worthy of so much mercy! so
great a blessing! teach me to deserve it!"

And her tears baptized anew her child, spared from death.



CHAPTER XI.


With her memory and return to life, came a strange desire over Minnie's
heart. She learned by the inquiries of the fisherman, that almost all on
board the ill-fated Hirondelle had been lost. Only one or two of the
passengers, and a few of the crew, had been picked up. Her sorrow was
keen and heart-rending, on hearing that the lady whom she had vainly
endeavoured to save, was amongst the lost--all were reported so, except
the few we have named; and one of the men returning from Marseilles one
day, brought her a paper containing a list of those lost, or supposed to
be; and almost the first name she read there was, "Madame Tremenhere,
and child." Her first feeling was a shudder, as she thought of what
might have been. Then an idea rushed through her brain of, "What would
Miles's feelings be should he read this? Would he regret her?--still
hate her? Or, his once strong love reviving, would he remember her only
through that medium, and sorrow over her fate?"

"Should he," she mentally said, "what heartfelt joy it would be to seek
him, and, casting myself at his feet, pray him to take me once again to
his arms and heart!"

This thought gave rise to the earnest desire of proving him. This task
did not seem difficult or impossible. Her humble friends were not of
that class to carry the news of her existence far and wide; her name,
too, was unknown to them. More than thanks she had little to give,
reserving to herself in some hereafter, to reward them amply. Her object
was to gain Paris once again, and then ponder upon the best means of
carrying out her project; it seemed to her as a last hope. The only
articles of value she possessed were a watch and chain, which her
ill-fated mistress had given her the day before they sailed. On these,
her late friends, the fishermen, had raised her a sum of money in
Marseilles; a small sum she forced upon them, and with the remainder,
after purchasing a few absolute necessaries, the still hoping woman
left, unrecognized, for Paris. She had confided to her friends a wish to
be unknown, until she reached her relatives, and thus a passport was
obtained in the name of Deval. With her she took the paper containing
the list of passengers supposed to be lost, and thus she started for
Paris.

Minnie had not calculated all in doing this; she overlooked, in her
haste to put a last hope of reconciliation in practice, the grief many
might feel. But it was done, and thought came afterwards. She knew that,
by sending the paper to Tremenhere's artist-friend, in Paris, it
assuredly would reach him, directed to himself; consequently, on her
arrival, her first act was to seek the box of one of those curiously
occupied persons in that large city, who sit at the corners of some
streets, and, for a trifle, write letters for the illiterate or
mysterious. Here she got her paper addressed to Tremenhere, to his
friend's care, in a strange hand, and sent it by a porter, with an order
to leave it in the _loge de concièrge_, without answering any questions,
merely inquiring if they knew the address of the gentleman. The man
returned to her, and said--

"The person to whom it was addressed, was daily expected in Paris, and
it should be given to him." Her heart bounded with a joy, long a
stranger to it, at this information; all seemed to favour her scheme.
Then, however, for the first time she sat down to reflect, and thought
of Mary's certain grief--Dorcas--Skaife--all, perhaps; but she consoled
herself with the reflection--"It will not be for long: Miles will come
to Paris--when he receives the paper, he will go to Mary. I will watch
for him near her house, and his friend's; and when I see his fine head
bowed in sorrow, I will bid it raise itself up, rejoicing!"

And with this idea she took a small, almost garret, within view of his
friend's residence, and through the _concièrge_, and at shops obtained
some work, whereby to support life, and her dearer than own--that of
Tremenhere's child's.

Miles had remained at Florence, in retirement and bitterness, until his
feelings outwore themselves. He wanted fuel to feed his thoughts against
Minnie. He was tormented in soul; for sometimes a till then silent
monitor awoke, and said--

"You were perhaps too hasty--you had no proof, but presumptive
evidence--the most deceiving of any: return to Paris." And his fate took
him by the hand, and led him thither.

Before Minnie brought the newspaper to Paris, the journals, both there
and in England, were teeming with accounts of the loss of the
"Hirondelle," and a list given of the passengers' names. Who may depict
the heavy gloom which fell upon her family at Gatestone, when her name,
coupled with her infant's, appeared amongst those lost! Dorcas was
almost broken-hearted. If Minnie could have seen her, she would indeed
have regretted the _ruse_ of a moment, which could cause so much bitter
anguish to one she loved--she would no longer accuse her aunt of
coldness, but rather have pitied that want of energy, which made her
seem what she was not. On Juvenal and Sylvia, too, it fell heavily, but
in a different manner. On him, it awakened remorse and gloom for unjust
severity, and a consequent hatred towards those who had urged him to it.
He would not listen to the name of Burton, or Dalby, without violent
passion, followed by almost tears; and this feeling was constantly
awakened by Sylvia, who became more acrimonious in proportion as her
conscience told her she had taken a good part in the oppression of her
poor niece; and her greatest satisfaction was in torturing others.

Dorcas and Skaife were the two who, in almost silence, bore the heaviest
burthen; they spoke of her to one another, but beyond this, they were
silent. Dorcas crept about her home in quiet grief; every little object
which had belonged to Minnie was gradually taken from public gaze, to be
treasured up in her own saddened room, and there she would sit for
hours, looking upon them, and recalling when and how Minnie employed
them.

The old hall clock ticked no more: this was Juvenal's act--it awakened
such painful feelings whenever its tongue proclaimed the hour; so one
day, unknown to any one, he sent early for a carpenter, and the friend
of years was consigned to a lumber-room!--_à propos_, this is too often
the fate of old, tried friends, who would recall us to thought and duty
by reminding us of wasted hours!

Mrs. Gillett had but one phrase in her sorrow to cut Juvenal to the
soul; and this was--

"I told you something bad would come of all your severity! Poor
darling!--only for your cruelty she might be smiling amongst us now, and
her blessed, crowing babby!" She spoke of it as if it had been a young
game-cock. "And to think," she continued, "that that pretty creatur',
long hair and all, has become food for fishes! There--never don't send
no more into this house; for, as long as I'm in it, none sha'n't be
cooked, I can tell you!"

And the poor woman, having thus energetically delivered herself of her
opinions, would creep away, and, shutting the door of her
pleasant-looking room, sit rocking to and fro, crying, as she would
fancy she again beheld Minnie and her handsome Tremenhere there, side by
side.

The authorities at Marseilles were written to, and all confirmed the sad
news; some few had been rescued, but nothing had been heard of Minnie,
except that the boat in which she and others had escaped from the wreck,
was found keel uppermost by a steamer. The fishermen far on the coast,
had little intercourse with the town; and then Minnie had implored
secresy at their hands, and her wishes were obeyed. Mary, too, wrote to
Skaife in broken-heartedness. Nothing was wanting to confirm it; and,
just when all else were in their sorrow, Tremenhere arrived in Paris.
While at Florence, he had heard that Lord Randolph was cruising in a
yacht in the Mediterranean. This partially urged his return to France--a
fear of meeting _them_. He felt he should not be master of himself were
such to take place; so strong on his mind was the idea of their being
together. Yet, too, sometimes a doubt arose; and, to clear up all, he
returned to France--he could not rest. His first idea was to go direct
to Mary's, and inquire about her in seeming indifference; then he
changed his intention, and went hastily to his friend's. This man was
from home when Miles arrived, so he went to his studio and awaited his
return. Miles was one of those whose busy mind ever found employment for
the fingers; he could not sit down patiently and wait, doing
nothing--the busy thoughts when the mind is in trouble, become too acute
then. Thus he looked round the studio--to read was impossible--taking a
blank sheet of pasteboard, he placed it on an easel, and commenced
sketching. He was not thinking willingly of Minnie; but somehow she was
the spirit of the man's innermost soul. Beneath his pencil grew two
figures--a Madonna and child, lightly sketched. Something passed over
his heart like a footstep in a deserted hall, and echoed. He laid down
the pencil, and brushing back his hair with a hasty hand, resumed the
pencil, but reversed the sketch, and commenced another--as he did so, a
step sounded without. He started up; it was his friend--friend to him,
and a worthy man, which made him the more severe towards Minnie,
supposing her so faithless. The cordial grasp of friendship given, his
friend said,--

"Oh! I've got some letters and papers for you, which have come
recently," and he hastened to seek them. Miles's heart beat high. They
most probably, in some manner, related to the overflowing thought of his
heart. He took them with trembling hands from the other, and scrutinized
them all; a cold feeling of disappointment filled his heart--not a line
in her handwriting!--then she was truly lost, and indifferent to him!
All this time the other was gazing at him with an embarrassed look, not
knowing when or how to commence--something he had to give utterance to;
this look had come over him immediately after their first salutation.
Miles tore open the Marseilles paper, and flung it down with a "pshaw."
The name caught his friend's eye, and he took it up. As he did so,
Miles, to conceal his disappointed look, hastily seated himself at the
easel, and commenced finishing his sketch. "Look," he said, "Duplin,
this is the model of the sweet villa where I have been sojourning
often, in Florence--I must return--already I grow weary in France!" In
good truth, he looked so; he was pale, care-worn, and his smile passed
like a breath on glass, leaving a dark, dim vapour behind.

"Tremenhere," said the other at last, "have you heard aught of madame,
lately?"

The question made his hand tremble.

"No," he replied, continuing his sketch. "How should I? Have you?" and
he looked up wistfully.

"Nor of _ce milord_?" asked Duplin, again interrogatively, without
replying to his demand.

"He is in the Mediterranean," answered Miles bitterly, "cruising in a
yacht."

"Then it _was_ the case," fell from his friend's lip, as if in
self-satisfaction, at a doubt solved.

"What?" cried Miles, looking up hastily; "speak out, I can bear it--I
suspect all, from the reports I have heard."

"Well, then, after you left I resolved to discover all; I deemed it
right towards you, and also a satisfaction, where madame would fain have
seemed so wronged. I found out that milord went to Italy and the
Mediterranean, and shortly afterwards madame quitted Paris for England;
but this must have been a _ruse_ to mislead, for she was recently in
Marseilles with her child."

Tremenhere groaned aloud at the thoughts this communication awakened;
there was something so bitter in the memory of all the happiness her
supposed infamy had cost him, wife, child, home--all but a vain dream.

"And thence," continued Duplin, anxious, by fortifying his (Miles's)
heart with contempt for her, to prepare him to receive calmly the
intelligence he had gained through the public prints, "madame with her
child, sailed the other day for the _Mediterranean_ for Malta; in fact,
where I last heard of milord's yacht."

"True!" ejaculated Miles through his closed teeth, as he bent over his
sketch.

"And now, _mon ami_," added the other hurriedly, "I have something more
to tell you. I do not think you need much courage to hear it; for after
all, 'tis better, far better thus."

"What would you tell me, Duplin? speak?" and he looked up perfectly
unconscious of the truth.

"Well then, Tremenhere, you are free; madame is dead!"

"Dead!" exclaimed Miles, starting up pale and rigid; and, strange
contradiction of the thought which the other endeavoured to convey to
his mind, the fair, living Minnie seemed to stand before him.

"Be a man!" said Duplin, soothingly; "think how false she was; think how
painful a tie--of the disgrace!" and he grasped his arm.

"Where did she die?" asked Miles, passing his hand over his brow to
collect his thoughts; for he was in a stupor, not understanding really
what the other meant to convey to him.

"She was lost; the vessel was wrecked going to Malta," answered Duplin,
who had unfolded the Marseilles paper, and, suspecting the contents sent
by some unknown hand, placed the open sheet before the stupefied
Tremenhere on the easel. Gradually the glazed eyes fell upon the page,
and the names stood out bold and clear before him, "Madame Tremenhere
(_Anglaise_) _et son enfant_," he dropped silently on the seat, and,
shading his eyes, gazed on the sheet motionless and speechless.

"Be yourself--be a man!" said Duplin, once more touching his arm.

"I am!" cried Tremenhere, in a hoarse but steady voice, looking up. "I
rejoice; better know her dead, than _his_!" and he rose and strode
across the room. "I do rejoice, Duplin; see, my hand even does not
tremble. Now I can bear my sorrow; now the world is one huge blank
before me. I have lost that leper spot which was tainting all my flesh;
I have no past, no present, no future--all is alike a blank. I can walk
on in the darkness, nor fear to meet her form at every step!"

Duplin stood awed by his calmness, it seemed so terrific over those
young graves. "Who can have sent that paper?" he asked, taking the
journal in his hand.

"An enemy; but I guess him. I defy them all now! They can wound no
more--my wound is cleansed, and healed; I defy them! the plague spot has
left me! Rejoice Duplin, rejoice!"

When he went forth from that house, his step was exact, the brow stern
and cold, but untroubled, the mouth compressed and calm, and the pale
woman closely veiled, who was concealed in a gateway watching the exit
of him whom she had seen enter Duplin's abode, felt her hopeful heart
loosen all its chords, and wellnigh burst in its sorrow, as she failed
to read one regret on that face of stone. She knew he must have received
the paper which told him all, and now indeed she felt he had never loved
her--all was lost. She had but three things to comfort her; first, her
own upright conscience, her boy, and the morbid satisfaction of being
indeed dead to all, lone, and uncomforted, and thus she crept back to
her gloomy garret.

Once again she saw Miles; her dress touched him in the half-lighted
street at night. He was cold, unmoved, as before. She stretched a hand
to touch him; his name was on her lips; but he passed on, and the
whispered word died away in a hysterical sob.

Next day he quitted for England, without seeking any communication with
Mary, and Minnie remained to weep and toil.



CHAPTER XII.


Four months passed away, and February, with its cold assumption of
earliest spring, found a crowd of fashionables assembled in the French
capital; and, amongst others, Lady Ripley, Lady Lysson, and Lady Dora.

It would be impossible to convey to many minds, or easily describe, the
chilling effect which pride, and a luxuriously-indulged fashionable
existence, throw over a heart which otherwise might have been warm,
generous, and loving. Lady Dora was painfully shocked when she heard of
Minnie's death; but then she had her mother's cold reasonings to soothe
her grief.

"Minnie had disgraced her family; her name had, since her unfortunate
marriage, been brought in question. Assuredly, though Mr. Tremenhere had
hushed slander by resolution, yet Minnie must have given some room for
it! It was very unfortunate that she had ever been known, by the
publicity he had given at the club, as his wife; and perhaps some day,
as a relative of their's--for people always _will_ inquire who's who?
Therefore they must, of course, for decency sake, put on mourning.
Perhaps it was better so to do; it would silence whisperings, as it was
known to many that the husband and wife had been separated before her
death. Something, too, was rumoured, of a duel having been fought; but
as no public scandal had been given by a divorce, an assumption of
sorrow would appear in favour of her memory, should the truth ever
become known!"

So Lady Ripley and her daughter swept the floors of their hotel in Paris
(whither they had gone, to seek oblivion of sorrow in change of scene)
in robes of sombre hue, craped and bugled with jet, and only in a very
quiet soirée permitted themselves to be "at home" or "abroad."

Tremenhere had been a favourite in Florence before his marriage, with
many a high dame; that event threw a partial veil over him: he grew
domestic.

Now he came forth again in a new character. In the first state he had an
absorbing idea--his mother's fame; this was his guiding star. With
Minnie's supposed fall, this fell too; it "sought the sea," and was
engulfed.

Tremenhere now was a thoroughly heartless, reckless man. Without hope,
present or future, he lived for the moment. At first he hesitated, in
the candour of his heart, even to wear mourning for Minnie; then a
thought--a more generous one to the dead--arose; he forgave her, and
would spare her memory from calumny, by any act of his, so glaring in
disrespect. As the pale, interesting widower, one whose fate had been so
mysterious--one ejected from his high estate by his parents' error--he
became the fashionable rage, the pet artist, the sought-after guest; and
the man _submitting_ to all, courted nothing, for nothing moved him.

It will not be our province to betray beforehand Lady Dora's heart--let
it work its own way, and shew itself. Lady Ripley could not close her
doors against Tremenhere, without risking scandal to her relative's
memory, should any busy tongue ever proclaim she had been such to them;
besides, he was the fashion, and received every where, as more than an
artist even of fame, as a man who ranked their equal by birth, though a
cloud now obscured him. Burton had never been a favourite in society,
and not a few hoped yet to see Tremenhere restored to his home. So Lady
Ripley did the more prudent thing, received him with something
approaching to cordiality. Moreover, he was every where; not to receive
him, would be to shut fashion out of doors. No portrait was perfect
unless he painted it, no bust a model unless he chiseled it; and the man
walked among all like a soul in transmigration, seeking the one hidden
thing, which should bid it back to the heaven it had lost, and was
striving to regain.

"Come here, you dreadful man!" exclaimed Lady Lysson, as he entered her
apartments one day in the Hotel Mirabeau, "and account for yourself.
Here is Lady Dora complaining bitterly that her portrait, as '_Diane
Chasseresse_,' will never be completed! I shame to hear so bad an
account of my protegé."

"Lady Lysson," he said, taking her cordially proffered hand, "I cannot
plead guilty; the fault is Lady Dora Vaughan's. Three days have I placed
it upon my easel, and, after impatiently awaiting her ladyship to give
me a sitting, have been compelled to remove it for some other claimant."

"What have you to answer to this charge, Lady Dora?" asked the lively
hostess with mock gravity, appealing to the lady, who was sitting at
another table sketching when Tremenhere entered, and who had received
him as usual with a constrained air, merely bowing.

"I reply," answered that lady, "that my mother, having been particularly
engaged, it was impossible for me to wait upon Mr. Tremenhere; and
indeed, dear Lady Lysson, you are well aware I have not complained of
the delay. It is a matter of indifference to me, the completion of that
portrait."

"I declare you are ungracious enough to induce Mr. Tremenhere to cast
the care of it off his hands, and but that I have its perfecting at
heart, before my truant nephew's return from afar, to gladden his eyes
with, I should advise him to leave Diane _à la chasse_ for ever, and
unfinished."

If the allusion to Lord Randolph made him wince, no eye saw it. As soon
as the discussion between the ladies commenced, he had very coolly
seated himself in a corner of the sofa; and with pencil and paper was
silently sketching Lady Lysson's spaniel, which lay before the fire.
Lady Ripley, too, had apartments in the Hotel Mirabeau--consequently,
the ladies were as one family. We have seen before, the desire of the
two families for an union between Lady Dora and Lord Randolph--a
marriage now equally sought for by the gentleman. Though Minnie's death
had affected him much, yet he knew not all the circumstances of the
case; and, in truth, he was so innocent of any wrong towards her, that
the memory soon passed away. On Tremenhere he looked as upon a sort of
madman, really being incapable to dive into the recesses of a heart so
filled with love, and its _ever-accompanying_ pang--jealousy; and he was
now daily expected in Paris to plead his own cause with Lady Dora, who
had, unpromising any thing, alone consented, at his aunt's request, to
sit for "La Diane," _nominally_ for herself.

There was a feeling of deep repulsion in Lady Dora's heart towards Lord
Randolph. Thinking, as she did, that he had at the very least sought to
compromise her cousin--if in truth he had not done so--knowing, as she
also did, that he and Tremenhere had met in a hostile manner, she felt
any thing but easy at the inevitable meeting between them now, courted
and sought after as the latter was every where, for his exalted talent,
manners, wit, when he pleased, and a certain romance about him, which
made him a hero--and what were his feelings at the prospect of seeing
Lord Randolph? They were part of a whole of sorrow and suffering. He was
resolved to fly nothing which might still more harden his heart; he
would apply the iron to every part till he burned out and scarred the
vitality still in it. He had but one desire--total callousness--that
thus he might find peace; and before the world he had attained that
wish--but in the privacy of his own room, unseen, unheard, who might
tell the agony he endured? Something of this Lady Dora suspected; and
beneath that pride-encased heart there was a woman's thought for him.
She could not but respect him, and she dreaded him now more than
ever--and this dread made her desire ardently the return of Lord
Randolph, that she might _endeavour_ to meet the wishes of all, and,
becoming his wife, place him in barrier between Tremenhere and herself;
but her fortification would not be a very strong one where her own heart
was more than half traitor. Lord Randolph, too, knew Tremenhere was in
Paris; but, as nothing forced him to remain, he presumed the meeting
would have nothing very painful for him. He looked upon it in this
light: that in life, more than once, it has happened, that the law's
divorcing power has made wives strangers to their husbands; and society,
backed by the rules of etiquette and politeness, has brought these same
husbands into almost daily intercourse, without collision--thus he felt
it would be between Tremenhere and himself. There was something of a
jealous pang, a memory of past insinuations, which made him wish to
secure Lady Dora at once--all his love, as _he_ knew that passion, had
revived for her. Now we will resume our narrative, where we left Miles
sketching the dog.

"Mr. Tremenhere," cried Lady Lysson, "why don't you speak, and assist me
in fighting your battles?"

"Mine? Lady Lysson!" he exclaimed, looking up. "Pardon me; I am
compelled, though in gratitude for the intention doubtless, on your
part, to disavow them as such. It has not been to oblige me, however
pleasant the task, that Lady Dora sat for her portrait."

"I am tired of the subject," uttered that lady, pettishly curling her
haughty lip, and at the same time etching her sketch with a hasty pen.

"I am perfectly ashamed of the length of time I have expended in
pourtraying your beauties, Tiney," said Tremenhere; gravely shaking his
head, "when I am compelled to notice the energy with which Lady Dora
sketches her----What _is_ Lady Dora sketching?" he asked, rising slowly
from his quiet seat, and crossing towards her. As he did so, however,
pausing an instant before Lady Lysson, and dropping her favourite's
picture in her outstretched hand, with--

"An offering, Lady Lysson, though not by a Landseer. May I look at your
labour?" he asked, gently leaning over Lady Dora's chair. She felt his
warm breath on her bent neck, and her cheek coloured. She tried to
persuade herself it was indignation at his cool audacity, and
indifference to her haughtiness; but her heart rejected the excuse, for
Tremenhere was her equal, and now received every where as one thrown by
accident, or roguery, from his allotted sphere. Even the least liberal
could not speak of him as one raised above his real position. She felt
herself colouring, and felt also that his eyes were bent upon her; and,
hastily tearing the etching in two, cast it aside, saying--

"Pshaw! Mr. Tremenhere; my child's play could never interest a person
of your genius; and I am too proud to play second to any one!"

"_That_ you never could," he said, gallantly taking up the pieces, and
rejoining them.

"I declare, Lady Dora, I never saw you so cross in my life!" cried the
gentle-tempered, lively Lady Lysson. "What has Mr. Tremenhere done to
offend you? One would really take you for two----" She paused, suddenly
and awkwardly--"children," she added, colouring. _Both_ felt the word
she had omitted.

"This looks like a sketch of an early scene of my boyhood," he said, not
appearing to notice the pause which the other lady had made. "A holly
field!--true, it is so: here is the quickset hedge, the old stile, and
the hall in the distance. Lady Dora, you have a faithful memory--a clear
vision--a skilful pen: may I keep this?" and he fixed his eye full upon
her. Their eyes met, and in that schooled look, speaking only of the
past in reference to herself--not a shade of bitter regret in it--who
might have read that only one thought at that moment was gnawing at his
heart--his lost Minnie? For it was on that stile he had sat full often,
watching for her; 'twas there she came the night they fled. Lady Dora
dropped her eyes, and a shudder passed over her; for she, too, saw
Minnie before her, and her heart upbraided her for more than the
weakness of the present moment, which was insensibly stealing over her.
She felt that, in all her sorrow, she had not acted the part of one,
almost a sister to that poor girl; and she asked herself, "What can this
man's heart be, to forget so soon, and by so many ways lead me to
suppose I am not an object of indifference to him? And what must I seem
to him, even to cross a glance with him, engendering thoughtful
dreaming?"

Then vanity, the ruling queen of earth, whispered, "He loved you before
he saw her, or his half-uttered words were traitors; and, if she proved
unworthy the love he gave her _in pique_, why should he regret her
loss?"

"You are thoughtful, Lady Dora," he said gently, taking a seat beside
her.

"I was going to make the same remark," cried Lady Lysson, who overheard
the words, though the tone was so very low. "I declare English girls
bring English hearts every where, and are always gloomy or sentimental."

"Do not accuse me of the latter!" exclaimed Lady Dora, starting up, and
shaking off the incubus overwhelming her; "I beg to disclaim all
acquaintance with so missy-ish a creation as mawkish sentiment."

"You are quite right, my dear," answered the other lady; "I know nothing
more dreadful than a bread and butter miss. If a man but look at her,
she drops her eyes and blushes; she disowns any thing so dreadful as a
corn; consequently all accidental treadings on the toe, make her heart
flutter, and become so many gentle avowals of love, oddly enough
conveyed though they may be."

"I disagree with your ladyship," said Miles, "about the oddity of the
act; 'tis wittily imagined, for, in doing so, a man stoops to conquer!"

"Oh, dreadful!" cried Lady Lysson; "but, to continue my sketch. If you
speak to her of any one particular flower, even if it were the humble
daisy itself, she would mow a field to obtain a sufficient quantity to
convince you, you were most completely understood, and sympathized with;
and as to colours--why, you could make a chameleon of her, every hour
different in hue, if it so pleased you."

"What, if you played 'cat's cradle' with her, Lady Lysson? you once
spoke feelingly to me on this same subject."

"What did I say? Oh, now I remember--I spoke of my poor Lysson, and
myself, and----"

"You advised me not to play at the game with Lady Dora--now I like
_daring_ all, Lady Dora; will you show me how you play 'cat's cradle?'"
and he took a piece of twisted silk from the table.

"I don't know the game," she answered coldly.

"I daresay Lady Lysson will instruct us; will you not?" and he held the
silk towards her.

"Willingly, beneath my own eye," she replied.

"Not beyond?"

"No! Lady Dora might use her feline qualities upon you."

"Oh! I should little care," he answered pointedly, "to alter slightly
the words of a talented, most unfortunate, and I believe most innocent
woman, Madame Laffarge, if Lady Dora scratch me like a cat, so she will
but love me like a dog."

There was a dead silence of a moment--Lady Dora interrupted it by an
allusion to the first portion of his speech, not seeming to have noticed
the latter.

"Do you believe Madame Laffarge was innocent?"

"I believe all so, till proved otherwise. There was no proof but
presumptive evidence against her; and she was surrounded by deceit and
enemies."

"Too often the case with many an innocent woman who has been falsely
condemned!" ejaculated Lady Lysson, partially ignorant of Tremenhere's
history.

Lady Dora blushed painfully. The conversation had glided imperceptibly
into this channel--how stop the current?

"Right," he said calmly; "but in some cases a demon, or guilt alone, can
collect this evidence. If we condemn, we do so innocently in the former
case; and assuredly full many a crown of martyrdom has been more lightly
won, than a woman's, thus condemned, thus punished!"

Nothing seemed to touch him. Lady Dora had shuddered as this strange
conversation commenced; for none there better than herself knew how much
poor Minnie had suffered. She was lost in wonder at Tremenhere's
sternness of heart; and yet, as a lioness loves her mate, so her proud,
almost unwomanly nature, admired this man's, daily, more and more.

"We forget 'cat's cradle!'" he cried, almost boyishly. "Lady Lysson,
behold my willing hands."

And, laughingly, that lady adjusted the silk on his fingers, and,
drawing Lady Dora's trembling hand towards him, commenced the task of
teaching them. Child's play is foolish for two who should not fall in
love; for so much more is done in innocence, than the mature heart can
calmly bear unmoved. People are thrown off their guard, and then some
watchful sprite is sure to step in with his assistance. Lady Lysson
taught them, and at last even Lady Dora laughingly joined in the caprice
of a moment's childishness. Their fingers came in contact--(a thing much
better avoided, where the woman's weakening heart needs every possible
bulwark to keep out Love. He is very apt to glide into the citadel in a
gentle pressure of thrilling joy; but if not accomplished the _first_
time, the besieged has nothing to fear; in these cases, "_ce n'est que
le premier pas qui coute_")--and while puzzling unnecessarily over her
silken entanglements, he found time to press her for another sitting for
_Diane_ soon.

"Let it be to-morrow--shall it, Lady Dora?" he asked, as Lady Lysson
drew her attention elsewhere, to scold 'Tiney,' who was tearing the
leaves of a book dropped on the floor.

"Well, yes; to-morrow," uttered Lady Dora gently, as he held her hands
imprisoned by the silken cord. She did not withdraw them, so he stooped,
with the quiet gentleness peculiar to himself, and touched the prisoners
with his lip. She started, but did not utter a word.

"You are tired of our child's play," he said; "let me release your
hands. Lady Lysson, a thousand thanks for your teaching; you did well in
cautioning me against it with Lady Dora--I shall remember it!" And
rising, a glance fell on her, and this was scarcely more than one of
respect and interest: shaking Lady Lysson warmly by the hand, he bowed
merely to the other, and said--"Then to-morrow, Lady Dora, I may expect
you?"

She bowed, and he quitted the room.

"What an exceedingly awkward turn the conversation took!" cried Lady
Lysson as he left. "It was a most painful thing that affair about his
wife, which has ever appeared involved, to me, in some strange mystery.
How was it, my dear? I asked Randolph about it before he quitted
England, and he said Mr. Tremenhere was jealous of his own shadow; and
this was all the satisfaction I received."

It will be seen Lady Lysson was totally ignorant of the relationship
existing between Minnie and Lady Dora. Lord Randolph had, for his own
sake, as a suitor to the latter, hushed it up as much as possible.

"There was something strange about it!" dropped from Lady Dora, with
perfect self-possession; she was again herself.

"There must have been some indiscretion on her part," continued the
other, even charitable as she was, "for they were separated some time
before her unhappy death. I heard,"--here she lowered her voice--"that
Randolph had flirted with her, and this excited Mr. Tremenhere's
jealousy, and that subsequently he discovered a decided intrigue
elsewhere, and shot, or dangerously wounded the lover. I admired him for
it; for, though it may be wrong, 'tis more natural than a cold-blooded
divorce and damages: it always seems to me like making a fortune of
one's own dishonour!"

"I doubt whether Lord Randolph really were guilty of seeking the lady's
dishonour," answered Lady Dora; though she _thought_ it herself, she
would not admit any thing to another, so galling to her vanity.

"'My lord, beware of jealousy!'" quoted Lady Lysson laughing. "Don't be
alarmed; a reformed rake makes the best husband, they say."

"I should be sorry to try one," was the dry rejoinder. "The reformation
is too often skin deep, and they always make suspicious husbands, severe
fathers--look around at all our neighbours!"

"But I defend Randolph from the charge of being one; he is a black
swan," said his aunt.

"Oh, that example of a _rara avis_ is no longer orthodox!" cried the
other smiling. "We have many specimens of them, and, to my thinking,
they are over fond of seeking crumbs of comfort at the hands of the fair
sex, if we take for example those on the Serpentine, to make perfect,
and exclusively loving mates."

"Come, I will not have a word against my Randolph, even _sous entendu_,
in epigrams. I have set my heart on his subduing yours, and giving me a
right to call you my dear niece."

"I thank you for the cordial wish, dear Lady Lysson; we shall see--_à
propos_, I have promised Mr. Tremenhere a, sitting for _Le Diane_
to-morrow, will you accompany me?--or mamma?"

"Oh, I will, gladly! I delight in that man's society; and he is so very
reserved towards women, so totally devoid of love-making, except _par
badinage_--that one feels quite comfortable in cultivating the
acquaintance--I speak as relates to you young marrying girls."

"Stop, stop Lady Lysson! you are too fascinating, too young at heart, to
exclude yourself from love's attacks yet."

"My dear girl, I have played 'cat's cradle' once too often, ever to
attempt it again. I could not unravel the very simplest;" she looked
down and thought of "poor Lysson," as she ever termed him. Lady Dora
looked down too, and began to think _she_ had played rather too
earnestly _once_ at "cat's cradle," and would not resume it again.



CHAPTER XIII.


Tremenhere was in his studio alone--that is, free from living witnesses;
but what crowding memories were around him! Here he was himself; not the
man seeking oblivion of the past, in society with which he had no
fellowship of soul, but the stern, sobered being, whose peace of mind
seemed wrecked for ever, and on a rock so minute in appearance, as an
"if!" Ever before him stood this word, blistering his eyesight.

Had he been _assured_ of Minnie's infidelity, nothing could have induced
him to meet Lord Randolph; as it was, he had a feverish desire to see
him, as though in his eyes, by some superhuman power, he could read the
whole truth, and either cast her memory for ever from him, or else sit
down with every thought of her, collected around him like household
gods, on his hearth, and live with them, cherish them, and, stilling the
beating of his heart, bid it break amidst them, like a shattered,
valueless vase, whose rich essences were poured upon the ground.

"But she _was_ false!" he cried, pacing the floor with hasty steps.
"What fiend could ever have weaved together in one web, so much black
evidence against her? And what a face she had to cover her lie with!
Who could have doubted her--her smile, her clear, seraphic eye! Minnie,
'twas madness to love as I did; and, far more than that, to lose you
even, even _if_ you were false! Why could I not have closed my heart
against all evidence? Why not have known sooner, that _nothing_ here is
perfect! Her mad fancy passed, she _might_ have loved me again--she
_did_ love me once! Love me again!--love me again! and could I have
waited for that love's return, as we watch the healthful glow coming
back to the pale cheek we cherish? Oh no, no, no!--not _that_! To sit
and watch the silent tear, to feel the form shrink from our kindly
enfolding; and at last see repulsion become toleration--toleration,
patience--patience, friendship, and the heart pause there? Oh no, no!
better ten thousand times separation and death!" He stopped, and then
creeping silently across that large room, drew back a curtain hanging
before a niche, and in this was a statue in marble. It was
Minnie--Minnie in her desolation! The face was still, hopeless life;
every feature perfection; but disenchantment sat over all, stealing away
its life! She stood leaning against a broken pillar--fitting emblem of
her fate. The forehead was pressed against the left arm; the heavy
plaits of hair, as she had often worn them, looped down the side of her
face, hung forward, shewing all the pale chiseling of that hopeless
agony there depicted. The whole body denoted utter prostration; and the
right arm drooped powerless at her side, holding by its stem a cup
reversed! It was an inspiration of memory; and beneath, at its base, was
inscribed, "Life's Chalice." It was one of those magically wrought
creations which thrill the soul when we look upon them. Tremenhere stood
with folded arms contemplating it.

"Night and day--night and day," he murmured, "have I passed to complete
my thought, my _dream_--for I dreamed I saw her thus; and how like it
is! What is wanting? the spark of life to make it move and speak to me.
Speak to me! No, she would turn away, either in indifference, and love
for another, or horror of me! Perhaps I have murdered her!" and the
man's voice sank to a hollow whisper--"her, and her infant! Oh, if I
have!" and the cold dew stood on his brow at the thought. "What a bitter
reckoning there will be against me when they stand before heaven to
condemn! Not only here, but hereafter! Never to find peace again, nor
rest, nor happy thought? Oh! life is indeed a burthen; and death a
terror!" He sank for some time in silent thought before her; then
brushing away the dew from his brow, and hastily drawing the curtain
before the statue, he turned away. "Poor, weak fool!" he cried
contemptuously, "I am not fit to be alone. She _was_ false--false to
them, the nurses of her childhood--false to me, her loving
husband--false to heaven! I will destroy all memory of her." He tore
back the curtain, and raised his arm to do so--but the arm fell. "No,"
he said, turning away, "'tis a work of art--only that; only these have I
to spur me over the mountains of sorrow, before I meet death--art and
occupation, inactivity would be madness. And she, her cousin!" and he
laughed aloud in scorn, "thinks I love her. That having loved Minnie, I
could give even the memory of that affection so base a counterfeit!
Heartless, worldly, proud earth-worm!--only this! to place herself
beside----But I will not dream of her! If that other had held in her
veins one drop of human blood, she would have shielded, upheld, watched
over _her_, and she had not been lost. I was too rude a guardian; I
loved her with a lion's love, and the shrinking thing, in terror, sought
refuge where words were soft, and the hand gentler; but the heart--the
heart, his did not love like mine! Mine would have poured out its every
drop of life's current, to spare one hair of her fair head from
suffering.----I am growing weak--weak--womanly weak," and he moved
feverishly about the room, whispering to himself, "I must shake this
off, I have a part to play; I must avoid solitude, seek excitement; time
may do much, bring oblivion, as it darkens the mental vision. _She_ will
be here to-day--she who loves to entangle--to wanton with the insect
awhile, and then crush it with her heel. Crush me!--me!!" and he laughed
aloud. "I will bring her down, in her subdued pride, to acknowledge that
she envies even the place in hatred, which her once despised cousin
holds in my heart. I will bring her to marry another in hate, and love
me in unloved bitterness, and be false to him--_if I will_. I will
revenge Minnie, even though I cast her from me--_only I_ had a right to
condemn and blast her." A bell sounded in the outer chamber. "'Tis she!"
he cried. "Not _here yet_; there is a spirit in the place--I have evoked
it." And, hastily closing the door, he passed into a _salon_ luxuriantly
furnished.

In a moment more, Lady Dora entered in all the pride of her glowing,
majestic beauty, set off to greater advantage by her mourning robes,
which floated in mockery of woe around her--Lady Ripley accompanied her.
How false some positions are, in what's called society! Here were three
persons, nearly allied, meeting as mere strangers, almost in coldness,
without an allusion even to the past. Lady Ripley was gracious; her
daughter strove by an unconstrained cordiality, where pride towered in
majestic condescension, to seem perfectly indifferent, though Tremenhere
smiled in his heart, as he read her well--his manner was so free from
any significance of tone or look, so calm and unembarrassed, that Lady
Dora asked herself involuntarily, "Have I dreamed the past of
yesterday?" and she felt humbled on reflecting how weary an hour she had
passed that morning, in schooling her looks and heart to meet, without
betraying herself to him.

"You will scarcely pardon me, I fear," he said, "when I tell you, Lady
Dora, that I had totally forgotten this engagement this morning, and was
going to pass a morning at the Louvre."

"Oh, pray, do not let us detain you, Mr. Tremenhere!" she exclaimed
haughtily. "I, too, had other engagements, but mamma wished me to come,
having promised."

"You cannot doubt, Lady Dora," he gallantly said--but it was mere
gallantry; no hidden tone of meaning could be detected by the nicest
ear--"the great pleasure this remembrance gives me. I was blaming my
own wretched memory, and anxious to convey to you the forgotten
happiness, which was driving me for a morning's amusement among the dead
beauties in the Spanish gallery, instead of immortalizing my pencil, by
endeavouring to pourtray your living loveliness."

She bowed, and, biting her lip, accepted this overstrained compliment at
its full value--empty as the wind; and in this mood she sat down to lend
herself to his pencil. Lady Ripley had not noticed the by-play of all
this, indeed how could she, ignorant as she was of the previous scene,
and totally incapable of comprehending the possibility of _her_
daughter, even condescending to the slightest approach to flirtation
even with an artist, whatever his pretensions to birth might be? She was
unusually gracious this day, which removed much of the embarrassment the
others could not otherwise have failed to feel. As some little revenge
for his cool impertinence when they entered, Lady Dora suddenly
inquired--

"Mr. Tremenhere, how many days' journey do you reckon it from Paris to
Florence? I mean," she added, fearful that her meaning might be
misunderstood, "from Florence to Paris, supposing a person to travel as
expeditiously as possible?"

"As many," he answered, smiling blandly in her face, and with perfect
sincerity of tone, "as it would take a person to go from Paris to
Florence."

"Is he a fool?" she thought, "or only insensible? Thank you," she added
aloud. "I presume they would be the same, but my question remains
unanswered."

"True," he replied, smiling; "I am very rude, but my attention was so
engrossed by this most lovely Diana. I will endeavour to answer you:
were _I_ a happy man, whom one so fair as yourself, Lady Dora, expected
impatiently, I should not choose the commonplace mode of transporting
myself; but, borrowing the wings of the wind (that is, supposing them
disengaged,) flutter to her feet."

"Mr. Tremenhere is pleased to be facetious," answered Lady Dora,
pettishly.

"Pardon me, I never was more serious. I am trying to convey to your mind
how great my impatience would be; but you have interrupted, without
hearing all I had to say. If fate and inclination together, had cast me
upon the waters--we will say, for example, in a yacht--why, I would
summon to my aid some fairy spell, and, like the peterel, run over the
surface of the waters, from the blue Mediterranean to the dusky Seine,
till I found myself, web-footed, and incapable of running thence, on the
polished floors of your hotel!"

There is nothing more disagreeable than to have taken up a weapon to
wound, and suddenly to find the point in your own bosom. She felt he was
laughing at her.

"Mamma," she cried, "did Lady Lysson show you a letter she received
to-day?"

"My love?" asked her mother, looking up from a book she had been
perusing. Lady Dora repeated the question.

"Yes, his lordship wrote much pleased with his cruise."

"I trust Lord Randolph Gray is quite well?" inquired Tremenhere, with
perfect composure. "Lady Lysson mentioned, in my presence, that he was
shortly expected from Malta."

"Quite well!" ejaculated Lady Dora, amazed at his coolness; "but you are
mistaken about his locality, Mr. Tremenhere; he was at Florence when she
last heard from him."

"Indeed! Then," he continued, laughing, "I will sketch him as the
peterel of my idea; shall I?"

"He will feel flattered, doubtless, at any notice from your pencil, Mr.
Tremenhere," was her cold reply. Her mother was again deep in her book.

"I have an ornithological thought in my brain, hatching, Lady Dora; I
propose sketching all my friends, _à la plume_."

"What will you make me?" she asked, hoping to change the style of their
previous conversation.

"You!" and he lowered his tone, and looked fixedly at her. She could not
withdraw her gaze, he was sketching her brow--"You!--you shall be the
fabled weevil, and I, the sick man, fit to die, turning my face to you
to implore for life. Do not turn your head away, and thus bid that
sickness be to death; but, extracting my heart's disease, with your
sweet breath, fly upwards to heaven, and burn it out by the sun that we
may so live together!"

"You must be mad!" she involuntarily cried, turning her eyes hastily to
where her mother sat. But _she_ had heard nothing; they were at some
distance from her, and he spoke so low.

"Yes, perhaps I am; but madmen have happy dreams sometimes, we cannot
refuse them these, where their reality is so hopeless and sad. But you
have not answered me; may I place you among my ornithological specimens,
as the milkwhite weevil of my thoughts?"

"And if not the sick man," she asked, and the voice trembled, though she
endeavoured to smile as in jesting, "what will you depict yourself?"

"A goose!" he answered, laughing; "and I will lend your ladyship my
quills to write to Florence! Am I not a _bon enfant_?"

This term in French, so completely in keeping with the character of the
bird he chose as his representative, provoked a laugh even from Lady
Dora, beneath which she covered, at least she fancied she covered, her
confusion.

"How very lively you are, Dora!" said her mother approaching. "What has
occurred?"

"A most absurd error on my part," he answered. "Only fancy, Lady Ripley:
I was to-day forgetting sex, character--all, and (the quiver of arrows
misled me) was going to transform Lady Dora into Cupid! Ye gods! who
could withstand arrows from such a bow?"

"How could you imagine so absurd a thing, Mr. Tremenhere?" asked the not
very imaginative Lady Ripley, not certain whether to feel offended or
no.

"I really cannot conceive! Altogether it would have been out of place;
for love, they say, flies out of the window when poverty enters at the
door. This never could be applicable to Lady Dora," and he bowed in
seeming excuse before her. So much did his heart war against her, that,
even desirous as he was to gain his point, he could not restrain his
tongue from words of bitterness; yet she felt it impossible to think he
meant them: she looked upon it as a natural sarcasm of character, which
made a gentle word doubly dangerous.

"You are going in a huge body to see a Parisian wonder to English eyes,
to-night, I understand, Lady Ripley," he said, turning the conversation.

"Yes, truly; I am curious to see a _Bal Masqué à l'Opera_, never having
witnessed one."

"Indeed! shall you go early?"

"I really do not know. I was averse to going, and especially taking Lady
Dora; but Lady Lysson has made up her party, and, closely concealed by
dominoes, I presume we shall pass unnoticed."

"You accompany us, I believe?" hazarded Lady Dora, addressing him.

"I hope to meet you there," was the reply; "accompany, _that_ I shall
not be able to accomplish. Lady Lysson spoke of a signal by which her
party should know one another; a rose on the left breast, I think?"

"Yes; but it seems unnecessary to me," replied Lady Ripley; "for, of
course, we shall none of us separate."

"But in mercy to those forced to come late and rejoin the party, it is
done," he answered.

"_A propos_, Mr. Tremenhere!" cried Lady Dora. "I have not yet chosen my
domino; until this moment I had forgotten it. Madame ---- had promised
to have two or three for my choice, completed this afternoon. We will,
if you please, leave 'Diane' for to-day," and she rose.

"With regret, then, Lady Dora; but where so grave an occupation calls
you, I must submit;" and with a few constrained words they parted.
Parting is very awkward, where two persons have been trying their wings
together in a flight of love; one or the other is sure to lose some
feathers in endeavouring to smooth them down into sober propriety at the
last moment. Tremenhere was perfectly calm, and all a mamma like Lady
Ripley might wish to see him. Lady Dora blushed--half held out her
hand--half withdrew it.

"Permit me to fasten your glove, Lady Dora," he said quietly; "I see it
embarrasses you."

She held it towards him, colouring deeply. Scarcely touching the hand,
he buttoned it; and, bowing with perfect ease, he led the way to the
outer door.

       *       *       *       *       *

"Has the workwoman sent in those dominoes?" asked Madame ----, of her
forewoman, that afternoon.

"No."

"Then send directly, and say they _must_ come in at once; for _cette
belle Anglaise Milady_ Dora Vaughan, is coming to select one of them,
and _Milady_ Lysson, and several others, who are going _en cachette_ to
a _bal de l'opera_, this evening."

This message was given to the workwoman; and Minnie's pale fingers
trembled violently as she finished off the last hood, for she was the
workwoman, in her little, sad garret!



CHAPTER XIV.


Need we describe a _bal de l'opera_?--we mean, in all its varied groups,
its mystery, its joyousness! Or only skim over the surface, and speak of
the mounting the carpeted stair, with the immense mirrors on the
landing, where you are startled at first by the shadow you cast upon
it--a gloomy vision pourtraying _tout en noir_! Then the almost silent
whispering groups, like muffled demons. Here, a couple _en costume_;
there, a man leaning against a pillar, looking frightfully sheepish, and
trying to smile and retort.

'Tis an Englishman, _sans masqué_, of course, (no gentleman covers his
face, unless he has a motive for so doing,) who is dreadfully intrigued
by two black dominoes, who are telling him all he has been doing the
last fortnight. He has been lured hither by an anonymous letter, asking
him to come and meet a blue domino; twice he has furtively looked at
this letter, to be certain it said blue, being positive in his own mind
that one of these two must be the writer. Shall we leave him in his
perplexity, and, standing on the stair leading down into the _salle de
danse_, where a dense crowd, in every imaginable dress, is jostled
together, endeavouring to dance, and, looking on, admire the sober,
judge-like gravity of several men--authors, artists, men of the highest
rank, semi-disguised--who are dancing the most grotesque figures without
a smile on their countenances? They look as if they had made a pact, for
an allotted time, with some mocking spirit, to make fools of themselves.
Or shall we look up in a _loge au premier_, and see a group of many, the
ladies all in black dominoes, the gentlemen in plain evening dress,
unmasked?

Yes; we will pause here. This is Lady Lysson's box; for see!--every lady
has a rose on the left breast. How amused they all appear! Some had been
before, others never; and there is something peculiarly exciting and
novel to an English lady the first time she sees a _bal de l'opera_: she
has heard so much of and against them, it is almost as a forbidden tree,
which makes the fruit the sweeter.

Tremenhere came in rather late, and alone. He was standing in the
_foyer_, looking around him: this large saloon was crowded to excess.
Near the clock (that place for rendezvous) he stood, well assured there
he should soon be seen by some of the party; but for some time he looked
in vain: they were all in their _loge_, too much delighted with the
scene to quit hastily. As he stood thus, some one brushed past him;
rather, they were pushed by the crowd. _He_ had not previously noticed
them, but they had been fixed, statue-like, regarding him; and the crowd
pushed them from their contemplative position against him.

"Oh!" ejaculated a trembling voice; "I beg pardon. I----"

He turned: it was a black domino, with the significant rose on its
breast. He instantly offered his arm, and the woman clung to it as in
terror.

"I see," he said in a low tone, "that I have been fortunate enough to
offer my protection to one of the 'Roses of the Left,' but to whom, I am
totally ignorant. How have you lost your party? 'Tis unpleasant in so
great a crowd; you might be insulted."

"Sir," she uttered in a low, scarcely audible, voice, and in French,
"you are mistaken--we are strangers."

"Strangers!" he cried, stopping an instant, and gazing at the
closely-concealed face and figure. "Impossible! else you had not taken
my arm; for you must be one of Lady L----'s party by your dress."

The girl was silent; but a sigh escaped her.

"You are terrified," he said kindly. "Do not fear; we are safe, and soon
shall meet some of our friends. I must indeed be accused of great
forgetfulness, when I admit I have no recollection or idea who you can
be. May I not know?"

"We are strangers," she uttered again, in a tone scarcely audible, still
in French. "I do not understand English."

"Well, as you will," he replied gaily. "I like it thus--'tis in keeping
with the place--this mystery. Only pardon me for reminding you, for
consistency sake, that your first words were decidedly not in French;
and though you cannot _understand English_, you have been replying to
all my questions addressed to you in that tongue. However, as you prefer
the other, _changeons_," and he commenced a fluent conversation in
Gallic. She had visibly started when he pointed out to her the error of
her confused mind. For some time their conversation was merely
monosyllabic on her part. "Some silly young English girl Lady Lysson has
brought with her," thought he, "who thinks she must sustain a character,
and this very stupid attempt at intriguing me is the result. How can she
have lost her party?--scarcely prudent in Lady Lysson to leave her so
unguarded; she is evidently young. Who can she be?"

In a few minutes more, he was fain to admit that the lady _did_ however
intrigue him, and considerably; for, by an evident effort over herself,
she overcame some cause of trepidation, and, if not easy in manner, was
sufficiently ingenuous and pleasing in her remarks to interest him much.

"Where have I heard her voice?" he mentally said. "It is evidently
subdued and disguised, and 'tis only when an unguarded tone escapes,
that I seem to hear a remembered one; yet 'tis too imperfectly uttered
to convey memory to my ear. Certainly she has intrigued me! Were she the
veriest Frenchwoman that ever made a vow to miss no one _bal masqué_,
and perfect in the amusements and mystifications of all, she could not
have more cleverly accomplished her purpose than this girl; for she has
called me by name, and I can guess no one she can be!"

"Here is a seat," he said, after a moment's pause in their
conversation; "shall we take advantage of it, or would you prefer going
to Lady Lysson's box?"

"Oh, not there!" she whispered shrinkingly.

"Why not there? On my life, lady, you puzzle me much. Come, confide in
me: I am addressing some one--some fair, young, unexpected guest, who,
having heard of the projected party, has escaped from governesses, etc.,
to come hither also--am I not right?" This was the only solution he
could find for the enigma, engendered by her strange fear at the
proposal he made, to go to Lady Lysson's box.

"You are wrong," she uttered. "I have no one to restrain my wishes. I
came here to-night for a purpose, but _alone_!"

"Alone!" and he started. "Then why this signal?" and he pointed to the
rose.

"I cannot tell you. Is Lady Dora Vaughan here to-night?"

"By heavens, you know them all! Who are you? Pray, tell me; confide in
my honour--I have never broken faith in my life!"

A sigh, almost a sob, escaped from her bosom. He turned amazed.
Tremenhere was not a vain man, but the strangeness of the whole scene
made him ask himself, whether it might not be some love-sick girl's
_escapade_; but the question, for which he could find no answer, was,
"Who can she be?" Her abrupt mention of Lady Dora's name confirmed this
idea.

"Lady Dora is here," he said, "that is, she was to be; but I came alone.
I have seen no one but yourself, my fair incognita, and now let me ask,
wherefore were you beneath the clock?"

"Because--because, 'tis a good point for observation; and I was looking
for some one."

"Then I have carried you away--shall we seek them?"

"No, I am content; that is, I have changed my mind."

"How did you know the reputation 'the clock' has as a point of
observation, as you term it; _we_ call it one of _rendezvous_--have you
been here often?"

"Heaven forbid! 'tis my _first_ visit."

"Indeed! then a powerful motive must have urged you to take so hazardous
a step, if in truth, as I believe, you are connected with some one of
Lady Lysson's society, and here _en cachette_."

"I have a motive--let it rest; I am satisfied it should do so; but
having had it, I was told _sous l'horloge_ I should most probably see
every one in the saloon better than elsewhere."

"Well, _mon domino_, you are a mystery; in truth, 'tis a scene from the
_Domino Noir_. I would I were the happy Horace; I dare not think so."

She was perfectly silent.

"Surely I have no fair _pensionnaire_ escaped from her convent, at my
side?"

"No, truly--one her own mistress. Is not Lady Dora Vaughan very
handsome?"

"Very!" and he started at the sudden transition in her speech. "Don't
you know her?"

"Well; but I wished to hear your opinion as an artist--you must be
better enabled to judge than I can."

"Now tell me when you saw her last? Give me at least a chance of
guessing who you are?"

She paused an instant, then added, "Yesterday, walking with you in the
Tuileries, and with several other ladies."

"True! _Pray_, tell me something of yourself; let me see your eyes, your
mouth, or hand," and he took the one resting on her knee.

"Not for worlds!" she exclaimed in unmistakable terror, clasping them
together.

"Do not be alarmed, I would not use any violence; you are with one
incapable of an ungentlemanly act, I trust."

"I know _that_," she said emphatically, "or of one wilfully unkind or
cruel, if you allowed your heart to act freely."

"For mercy's sake, what do you mean? I entreat you tell me who you are.
I swear to you, your secret shall be safe." A strange, unaccountable
tremor crept over him, yet without a suspicion of any thing approaching
the truth.

"I cannot, dare not--I would I durst!" and again she sighed.

A thought crossed his mind, and he turned and looked fixedly at her, but
not a hair was visible, or of the eye, more than a speck. "No," he said,
after the survey, "you are not tall enough; yet this dress so disguises!
Tell me, I conjure you, is your name Mary?"

"No, on my honour; but cease guessing--you will not know me
to-night--some day you will, perhaps."

At that moment a group of several persons came up. The ladies had roses
on their breasts. One of the gentlemen, on whom a tall figure leaned,
stood still, but unbending, before Tremenhere, who was attentively
watching every turn in his domino's figure, to guess some known
style--but all was vain, graceful in every movement, but to him, still a
mystery.

"I declare," whispered a lady's voice, "you are the worst cavalier in
the world! We have been expecting you in our box this hour, and here you
are playing deserter." Miles started; his eye fell on Lord Randolph
Gray, on whose arm Lady Dora was leaning. He knew her figure at a
glance.

"Lady Lysson," he said, in an under tone to the speaker, "you should not
accuse me, for here have I been taking care of one of your strayed
lambs, which has singularly intrigued me! I fail to discover my fair
friend; pray, present me to her." He had risen to Lady Lysson as she
spoke; when he turned round again, the place beside him was vacant! The
domino had glided away, like a phantom. "Good heavens!" he exclaimed,
"where is she?"

"That lady beside you when we came up? She rose, and walked hurriedly
away when I spoke to you."

"But she is one of your party! She had a rose on her breast!" he cried
in amazement.

"Pardon me, this is some error. All my party is safe here," (she looked
round on the two behind her, Lady Dora and Lord Randolph, who were
conversing together,) "or up in the box. Your eyes have deceived you."

"Nay, I will not admit that; for though she persisted in speaking
French, her accent was English, though evidently disguised, and she knew
you all, and inquired about you, by name!"

"Oh!" laughed the lady, "I dare say it was one of our attendants, who,
with the true spirit of intrigue, has borrowed our disguise to amuse
herself at your expense."

"It was no servant," he emphatically said. And his wonder increased, the
more he thought of it.

"Come, leave off puzzling about your incognita. I should have deemed you
_trop Français_ to be scared by an intrigue _de bal masqué_. Come, Mr.
Tremenhere," she lowered her voice, "I have a favour to ask--something
to command," she added, smiling. "I made this party to-night, knowing
that my nephew would be here, and knowing also, that the laws of these
balls forbid serious acts--I mean angry ones----In good honest truth,
you must shake hands. He declares, that whatever you may have against
him, he is as ever kindly disposed towards you, and whatever your
quarrel, of the cause of which I am innocent, let me beg of you, for my
friendship sake towards both, to shake hands, forget, and forgive."

"Tremenhere," cried Lord Randolph, coming forward with a hand out, and
candour unmistakable on his brow, "I see my aunt is urging you; come,
give me your hand, and a grasp in friendship. On my soul you wronged
me, and from my soul I pity you!" He glanced upwards at the black band
on Miles's hat. This latter fixed his deep eyes on him, and in that
glance he read the other's inmost soul; no, guilt could never wear that
look! Lord Randolph he had thought led away by passion to commit an
unworthy act, for he knew he was no cold-blooded villain. A still, small
voice had been some time whispering to him, that look--the calm,
unblenching, feeling expression on the other's face brought a cold, grey
light of despair to his heart, like that of early winter's dawn, when,
for the first time by day, we look upon a loved face, whose spirit had
fled by torch-light.

"I believe you!" he uttered, in a husky voice, grasping his hand. "_Let
us forget it._" There was something so broken-hearted in the tone, that
Lord Randolph felt his bosom swell--something choked him; for he was a
man, as we have seen, of feeling.

"Better so," he said, in a low tone. "Forget it, Tremenhere--'twas
destiny!"

Miles did not reply, but burst into a discordant laugh.

"I have done so," he said; "you see I have! _This_," and he pointed
towards his hat, "is only the usage of society. Obligation! form! let us
_never_ speak of it!" And, wringing his hand, he turned to the ladies,
who had discreetly conversed apart; but Lady Dora's eyes never quitted
Tremenhere's face. But she did not read him as Lord Randolph did: as
their hands parted, this latter mentally said--

"Poor fellow! _There_ is a man who _never_ will know peace, whatever he
may seem to the world. From my soul I pity him!"

Nothing was perceptible in Miles's manner. From that night he grew paler
perhaps, but the canker was unseen. He was gayer, wittier, more amusing
than ever; but as the door of his studio closed on the world, the man
sat down with his conviction and undying remorse. One glance at Lord
Randolph had enlightened his darkened mind. There were two feelings
which grew apace in his heart from that moment--one was, a restless
desire to be ever in the other's presence; he never gave utterance to a
word of friendship, never spoke or alluded to Minnie; but, as if it
could restore fame to her memory, his every earthly tie was Lord
Randolph; and, to the utter amazement of all, an intimacy the most
complete sprung up between them--both knew why, but neither ever noticed
it. This horror of naming his wife prevented Miles seeking Mary Burns;
he felt it would kill or madden him, to speak of her. He would crush her
memory before all eyes, by a mask the most complete; only one eye should
read his soul--Heaven's!

The other collateral feeling which he alluded to was, hatred towards
Lady Dora, the most intense; for he felt the unkindness of her family
had left Minnie exposed to all his own ungovernable passions; and she
had been the first to place her cousin in an equivocal point of view
with Lord Randolph. But these were feelings of after hours: we must
return to the ball.

"Thank you," said Lady Lysson, pressing his hand, to thank him for his
reconciliation with Lord Randolph. "Now give me your arm." And they
passed on.

Persons talk of suffering; but could there be any to surpass
Tremenhere's this evening? Obliged to listen to, and join in amusement
and gaiety! Among all the masks there, there was not one more complete
in disguising, than his face; for no one could have guessed, in the
unconcerned laughter which at times crossed it, that it was as sunshine
on ice--all cold and frozen beneath.

Lady Dora felt extremely piqued and galled at his manner. She had hoped
for a triumph for her pride--vanity, it was not--in seeing him frown in
jealous rage upon Lord Randolph; or else favour her with some of those
sarcasms which spoke of vitality, even while they wounded. But nothing
of the kind occurred. He was courteous in the extreme, witty, gay, and
most attentive and polite to herself--nothing more.

Only one person there read his heart, and keenly felt for that man,
laughing over the tomb in his heart; for Lord Randolph had seen that
conviction had been the inspiration of a moment, born of a glance at his
own unshrinking face. Moore, in speaking of a heart, said, "Grief
brought all its music forth." So it was with Lord Randolph. The shock he
received on hearing of Minnie's death, called to vigour and beauty all
the dormant qualities of a really sterling heart; and made him capable
of feeling deeply for the man, whose hopeless woe was as an open page
before him.

In the course of their rambles through that crowd, Lady Dora found
herself on Tremenhere's arm, whose eye was searching every where for his
mysterious domino. In spite of himself, she pre-occupied his mind; but
amidst the dozens there, he failed to see any one at all resembling her,
either in dress or that nameless grace perceptible in every undulation,
of her unrelieved disguise.

"You are pre-occupied, Mr. Tremenhere," she said, after half a dozen
absent replies had escaped his lips.

"Pardon me; I am boyish enough to be amused at this scene."

"One would not think it, for I never beheld a more seeking, anxious
countenance--possibly you would prefer solitude."

"Solitude, and here? Lady Dora."

"Yes--Byron's."

"Oh! 'with some sweet spirit for my minister?' Nay, if that were the
case, where find a fairer than the one who for awhile blesses me?" and
he almost pressed her arm; and, aroused by her questioning, became
Tremenhere as the world had made him.

"I certainly am pre-occupied," he said at last, "by that black domino,
with whom you found me so very quietly tête-à-tête. The rose is
emblematical in this case--a wild mystery."

"Oh! Lady Lysson, I make no doubt, was correct. Some one of our maids
has made an _escapade_; and, proving the rose's privilege, has intrigued
you."

"Assuredly, she was no servant; but her sudden disappearance when you
came puzzles me. Let us talk of something else; it would be madness in
me to waste these moments on another, when I have so few accorded me in
your society. Lady Dora, tell me, does this amuse you, much?"

"Yes, 'tis something so original to me, unconceived before, the hundreds
congregated. I ask whence do they come, whither will they go?"

"Probably, most of them to supper at some celebrated restaurant," he
said laughing, and changing the vein of her moralizing; "and some to
regret, some to rejoice. What will your feeling be?"

"It must be rejoicing, for the regret has been seized upon. Did you hear
that deep sigh near us?"

He turned; they were leaning near a _loge_ door, and almost beside them
stood a domino in brown, with blue ribbons. He glanced at the figure.

"Some _pauvre delaissée_," he said laughing; then turning towards the
girl, cried, "do not sigh, _il reviendra_."

"_Jamais_," was the low reply, and the figure moved aside.

"Never mind her," he continued, turning towards Lady Dora; "but tell me,
how will you rejoice, and why?"

"I am rejoicing, am I not?--I feel much amused."

'Twas true; the influence of the place was creeping over her cold
nature. She was not the Lady Dora of any day yet in which he had seen
her.

"You have not told me _why_ you should be glad. You are silent--shall
_I_ tell you?"

"Do, I wish to know; I feel like one in a dream--how shall I wake?"

"Your dream will be unlike many--a realized one. You are happy--one you
love is near you."

"How do you mean?" she cried starting; and almost, in her alarm,
withdrawing her arm from his.

"Oh! you mistake me, Lady Dora; I am not so presumptuous--I allude to
Lord Randolph."

"To him!" she exclaimed hastily and unthinkingly; "he will never make a
pulse of mine beat quicker or slower."

"Indifference is worse than hate. I would rather hold the sentiment I
inspire you with, than his."

"You speak in enigmas, Mr. Tremenhere."

"I would rather be hated than looked upon with indifference. We seek to
crush a snake, but we step over a worm!"

"A man may be neither."

"What, then? A caged bird, to serve a woman's caprice; or a chained
monkey, to amuse her?"

"Nay; you are looking on the species in degradation. Why not a creature
free to come or go--thought of in absence--loved in presence--going, to
return more gladly--sure of a kindly welcome?"

He looked fixedly at her. Could this be Lady Dora? An idea crossed his
mind--she was one of two things, either luring him on to enchain, then
crush him beneath the weight of those manacles; or else the arrival of
Lord Randolph, the necessity of deciding her fate, the scene around,
their isolation from all, and freedom from restraint, had combined to
make her cast off the wearying mantle of her self-imposed pride, which
had cloaked her in a corslet of impervious steel: it was a battle
between them well _finessed_; both were on their guard.

"I will prove, before I advance," he thought, "and woe to the day she
places herself in my hands. I will be unsparing, as she was merciless
and cold-hearted. Right!" he said aloud, in answer to her last sentence.
"I would be an eagle, free and soaring, mated with one wild and
ambitious as myself--towering and untameable. Such a one I could
choose--to such a one yield love for love, and, like the fabled bird,
consume with the ardour of my affections, and rise again from my ashes
to live again--love again!" His warmth aroused her to a sense of her
danger.

"We are in truth playing our parts in the madness around us!" she said,
in a voice which struggled to be calm.

"True; but we play our parts _con amore_, admit that; and the better,
that we know two things--one is, _you cannot_ love--the other, _I_ dare
not."

"I should have thought you a man to dare all things!"

"You give me credit for more than I deserve. There are many things I
would not encounter willingly--one is----"

"What?"

Despite his self-command, a cloud crossed his brow.

"I will tell you some day," he hastily answered; "but if I met this
spectre, _even_ as spectre, I would fly it."

"I would fly nothing; _there_ is the difference between us."

"What if your wayward heart--for all hearts are so--fixed itself upon
some unworthy object, would you not fly them?"

"No; were I to do so, I should never conquer; it would pursue me
ever--flight would be vain. I would live near it, seek it, familiarize
myself with it, till the inconstant heart grew tired of its bauble, then
I----" she paused.

"Would dash it to earth, and trample on it, reckless of its fragile
nature. Believe me, vases of potter's clay are as fragile as the finest
Sèvres ever produced by fire."

"Perhaps so; but such should rest satisfied with draughts from water
spring, nor seek to hold the ruby wine which a monarch sips; only
degradation could ensue."

She was not actually thinking of him when she said this: it was only the
overflowing of her cup of pride, which coloured her speech; but he
remembered every word, and it strengthened his determination, if
possible, to humble this spirit to the dust.

"What is it 'Ruy Blas' says so admirably, '_un ver de terre, amoureux
d'une étoile_,' the star shines on it, though it cannot abase itself,
and sends its light to guide the poor worm of the earth to its home in a
dark sod, where it may pine and die, rejected, despised, unloved,
because it has been created only for that fate of grovelling
insignificance!"

Neither heard the almost sob behind them; he was turned towards Lady
Dora, and in the crowd stood the "Brown Domino," who had crept back
unnoticed, to hear these last words.

"I have been a sceptic in love," she almost whispered.

"_Have_ been; are you not now? I should fancy so." She was perfectly
silent.

"If you have _present_ faith, on what is it grounded?"

"Perhaps on the dream of an hour!" she ejaculated, scarcely above her
breath.

"Then watch its waking, and if it survive the glare of day, cherish it;
if not in all freshness, banish it--'tis a temptation, not a rock to
build upon. May I call to-morrow, and see if it be in existence? or
passed, leaving no sweet savour behind of truth and futurity of joy?
Here is Lady Lysson seeking you--may I call to-morrow?"

"Yes, but--but, come in forgetfulness of this night. I surely am
spellbound. This is a part of some witchcraft in this giddy scene.
Remember, and forget this--and--me--other than this, were vain madness!"

"I will only remember what I read then in your eyes; let _them_ answer
me--_not_ your lip; words are false, tears are recorded untruths, the
eyes are scholars of the soul. They shall learn all its truth, and
impart it to me in a glance. I will call to-morrow. And to-morrow,"
thought he, "I shall start for Marseilles; I _must_ go there and know
all!"

"I thought we should find you in this corridor!" exclaimed Lord
Randolph, without an idea of jealous fear. "Hollo! what is this bustle
about? Oh! only a lady has fainted. I don't wonder--'tis deucedly warm!"

Some gentlemen were carrying a lady in a brown domino towards a private
box. She was apparently lifeless in their arms. Unheeding, the party
turned away laughing, and mounted the staircase to seek their box, and
the remainder of their friends.



CHAPTER XV.


It would be a task of pain and sorrow to tell all the bitterness of a
woman's life, thrown friendless, delicate, and poor, in any land, but
especially a stranger one, for one who had been nurtured so gently.
Surely--surely, the wind is ever tempered to the shorn lamb!

As the cares of life increased, so grew Minnie's energy; even when a dry
crust alone broke her fast of the long, toiling day, her spirits upheld
her. "If I have lost _him_," she mentally said, "it has been for some
wise purpose; even though my stubborn heart rebels, still I am not
comfortless; have I not my boy?--all my own!--no one to tear his love
from me--no one to prejudice him against me: so Heaven preserve him to
me, I may yet be content, if not happy!" and the young mother knelt
beside him, and prayed fervently for strength to bear all! Poor Minnie
knew herself so innocent, she could pray in hope.

There are, unhappily, those who scoff at religion, and call it cant.
None are so cheerful and hopeful as those who place their reliance on
it, in all afflictions; for they know 'tis a flower which will never
fade, and 'tis in our sorrows we so truly discover all its worth, and
weep for those who are in ignorance of its powers. Religion is indeed
like an Arabian tree, shedding its odorous gums on those who lean
against it for support!

Minnie found it so, and she discovered, too, that even in her
wretchedness there were others more so. Her room was a poor garret, a
_cinquième_, for as yet she had little work, there are so many seeking
life through the same channel--she had no friends--then, too, her child
was a burthen to her efforts; she could not at all times leave him, and
little Miles was now nearly five months old. Sometimes the _concièrge_
of the house, who was better than most of that most mercenary class,
would take her child for her, while she sought work. There was ever a
fear over her, in going out, lest she should meet Tremenhere. What her
hopes were respecting him, who might say? Did she know them herself? or
were they those inseparable clingings of the heart, which, like a limpet
on a rock, adheres, inseparable from it, however rough the dashing
waves? She had hope, else life would have fled. She still resided near
Tremenhere's friend, Duplin, whither he often came, and thus, from her
high window, she could see his tall figure pass. Ever closely, doubly
veiled, and muffled up, she had watched, and met him in the dusk--she
had followed too, by day, and seen him, too frequently for her peace of
mind, accompany Lady Dora in walks and rides. True, others were there;
but he was ever by _her_ side, and she began to question how it might
terminate. Of such an event as marriage she had not dreamed, when,
allowing all to believe her death, she had become so chilled at heart
from the belief of the indifference of all, even poor sorrowing Dorcas,
that she had no courage to make a friend there in confidence. "No," she
said, in her disheartenment, "not to any of them will I betray my
existence; they deserted me living, let them believe me dead!" and a
morbid satisfaction at the thought crept over her. But when so fearful a
consequence as his marriage with another broke in upon her mind, she
became feverish, restless, and incapable of guiding herself aright.
Before, however, this terror came to add to her sufferings, she used to
toil cheerfully--her boy, lying perhaps on a pillow at her feet, crowing
and laughing in her gentle face. Then he was so like his father--the
same large brown eyes, and shading lashes, which tempered so much their
fire--it was all Miles's face, but with her own light hair, in glossy
curls, with a rich, sunny glow on the cheek; and with all the love she
lavished on him, the little voice was seldom raised in tears, only
laughter--laughter, which convulsed the bright face, as he hung,
shrieking with it, round the fair mother's neck. We have said that, even
in her wretchedness, Minnie had learned that there were others more so,
in outward seeming. In the garret adjoining her own, she frequently
heard, as the hours of the night crept on, and she was sitting up
completing some work, a quiet, heavy step plodding up and down the room,
in evident thought or pain. Often had she listened to this sad
neighbour; and his sorrows and loneliness seemed to add to her own. A
laugh beside her might have cheered; but this lonely watching wore on
her already chastened heart. She asked the _concièrge_ one day if she
knew who it was.

"A poor old Frenchman," she replied; "very poor, I think, and all
alone--but he seems proud in his necessity. And then, madame, you know I
cannot do much for any one--I am not rich; and he never gives me an
opportunity of speaking. He pays regularly; but I think, poor old man,
that his means of existence are very small."

This decided kind-hearted Minnie. "We are never so poor," she said to
herself, "but what we can assist one another, even if only by a kind
word to lighten life's weary load. I will try and speak to this poor
man."

Where a woman resolves upon doing a good action, she generally succeeds
in some way. There was something about her, in her voice and manner,
which at once inspired confidence and affection in the worthy; and when
this pretty, delicate creature, with her little boy in her arms, tapped
gently one evening at the next door, and asked for a light, if he had
one, of the thin tenant, who was almost bent double by age, and still
more, sorrow and poverty, the man's cold face brightened as he answered,
while the poor lips trembled with cold, and possibly hunger, "My child,
I have none; I am going--going out."

Alas, poor creature! he was going out in the bitterer cold, thinly clad,
to endeavour to circulate the nearly frozen blood, before returning to
creep into a half-covered bed, and there strive to practise the French
proverb of "_qui dort dîne_," for he was dinnerless. There was
something in the accent not strictly Gallic, though he spoke French.

"Don't go out to-night, _mon voisin_," she said smiling; "it is wet and
cold; you are alone, so am I save for _mon enfant_. Do you like
children?"

"Yes," and he laid his thin hand on little Miles's head; "I love them
well; I once had two of my own," and he stifled a sigh.

"Well, then, you shall come in, and do me a neighbourly kindness; I am a
poor _ouvrière_, and must work hard to-night--come in, I am going to
make a fire; you shall nurse my boy whilst I work--will you oblige me?"

"Willingly," he answered, "if I can serve you."

"That you greatly can. Stay in your room till I have made mine
comfortable, and then I will call you, I am so much obliged to you, it
will help me greatly, for a child is an _embarras_ sometimes, and I like
working and talking--'tis very kind of you."

She had a talent for making the obliged seem her creditors, and thus
placing them at perfect ease. So hurrying back to her room, Miles was
laid on his accustomed place, a pillow on the floor; lest he should fall
off, she seldom placed him on her bed. And then an Asmodeus might have
seen Minnie--the fair and gentle--the one on whom the winds of heaven
were once almost chidden, if they blew coldly--on her knees, lighting
the stove in her room, for she soon found a match; the search for one
was an excuse, and her face looked glad--that lip forgot its
sadness--she was doing angels' work--charity. In an incredibly short
space of time the room looked cheerful--the door of the stove was left
open--the wood crackled in it--the glare lighted the humble garret. She
drew the old, but clean curtain before the window--lit her lamp--placed
her second chair (she had but two) and then she summoned her shivering
guest.

"Stay," she cried, as he seated himself, springing up herself; "I have
forgotten my _bouillotte_;" (we cannot call it kettle--it had no
resemblance to such a thing; neither can we translate the word, to give
any idea of that queer, tin sort of jug, which rattles as if it had
marbles in its head, and which is pushed into hot ashes to boil.) "I
have forgotten my _bouillotte_," cried she; "and what should I do
without a cup of tea? Do you like tea, monsieur?"

"Yes, madame," he answered, faintly smiling; "but I have not taken any
for some time."

"Then we will have a cup together. Are you not English?" she asked,
pausing in her arrangement of the _bouillotte_ in the stove; and as she
knelt on one knee to do so, she rested the tips of her white fingers
(even still) on the floor, to support herself, and looked up in his face
like a child. She looked like a picture thus; for the pale face was
glowing with pleasure at her good deed, and the close neat little
_grisette_ cap concealing all that fair hair, except the braids on her
forehead; she looked so innocent and pure, the old man bent his eyes
upon that upturned face, and like a father, placing a hand on her
shoulder, said in perfect English, though with a slightly foreign
accent--

"I have lived much among English, and been in England; but that is long
ago. I am a Swiss by birth."

"Oh!" she burst forth in English, "I am so happy to meet some one who
speaks my own tongue, it has been a stranger to me so long a time; let
us converse always in it: the sound has been lost to me. I have been
teaching my child to speak his first word in my native tongue."

"What is your boy's name?" he asked, deeply interested in this fair
young mother.

She hesitated a moment. In christening him he had been named "William,"
as second name, after her father, and by this she generally now called
him to strangers; his father's might lead somehow to detection, for
frequently the _concièrge_ took him in her arms for a walk, when she was
too busy to leave home, and always returned with an account of the many
persons who stopped to inquire the boy's name. As William, or Guillaume
Deval, who might recognize the parents? Almost an impulse induced her to
give him Miles's name when this other inquired; but, checking herself,
she said "William."

"Has he no father?" asked the old man, caressing the boy, who now sat on
his mother's knee; and he looked searchingly at her. But any thought of
error fled when you gazed in Minnie's pure face: sin never could look
thus.

"We are parted," she said sadly. "Some day, perhaps, monsieur, I may
tell you all, and ask your advice; for indeed you seem as an old friend,
and father to me. I hope we shall often meet."

And they did; and it seemed as if a blessing followed her good deed, for
work came pouring in, and she found constant employment, as we have
seen, even from the first dressmakers in Paris--thus she knew of Lady
Lysson's party to the _bal de l'opera_; and her fingers made the domino
in which Lady Dora leaned on Tremenhere and listened to his love--so
strange a thing is fate! An impulse, impossible to resist, impelled her
to visit that scene, whose gaiety harmonized so little with her
feelings. She had the two dominoes to make; and in the black one we have
seen how much she intrigued Tremenhere--the other she had left with the
woman keeping the cloaks, and her foresight served her purpose well, of
knowing all. Who may tell the agony of this woman, leaning once again on
his arm, and listening to those accents which thrilled her inmost
soul--words too of interest fell from his lips, and her bursting heart
said, "Throw off your mask, and he will fly you in horror or hate;" but
nothing could ever equal in agony that moment when, leaning against the
pillar in her second dress, she heard the greater portion of his
conversation with Lady Dora; and, worse than all, the promise of the
morrow! How could she dive into his heart, and read its sorrow, remorse,
and revenge, prompting it to the part he was playing with her cousin?
She only saw facts--heard words. She saw him friendly and kind with Lord
Randolph; and in his face, whose every look she knew full well, she read
confidence and friendship towards that man; then all the hate was her
own--it was not mere jealousy, but personal dislike, or he could not so
soon have forgotten her! No wonder then she fainted; and, when recovered
from her swoon, she declined--nay, peremptorily refused all assistance
to take her home--that toiling home, now made doubly painful; she
returned to it nearly mad. The _concièrge_, who had taken charge of her
boy, was terrified at the paleness of that still face. Minnie said she
had a motive for wishing much to go; and the good-natured woman,
thinking it so natural, at once consented to keep the boy with her.

"_Pauvre pétite_," said the woman to herself, as she gave the almost
silent Minnie her key and lamp. "She has seen her monsieur, I dare say.
Ah! I always thought she was not married--but forsaken, and with her
child, too! _pauvre pétite!_ I will bring up Guillaume," she said aloud.
"_Tenez!_ you can scarcely support your own weight, much less his! I'll
bring him up to you."

And Minnie thanked her in a whisper, and crept almost lifeless up the
stairs.

As yet she had confided nothing of her history to her old neighbour,
whom she only knew as a poor man named Georges, who had lost place and
fortune. By persuading him that he was useful to her, she had succeeded
in making him more frequently her guest, than his own solitary
companion. She feared speaking of the past; yet, so much did she love
the venerable old man, that she longed to dare confide all, and ask his
advice. Now she felt her total inability to act for herself, and
resolved to tell him not later than the following day. But there is a
destiny ever above ruling, far superior to our puny wills. Next day she
was too ill to speak, or see him; she was confined to her bed, where
the intense anguish of her mind drove madness through her frame; and the
following one she was delirious, and her shrieking voice could only
utter one name--"Tremenhere!" It was no moment for false delicacy. The
old man, whom she had befriended, stood by her in her need, and the
trembling hands wiped the cold moisture from her brow, or held the cup
of _tizane_ to her lips. Little Miles was nursed below; and though her
eye wandered, seeking something in her madness, she uttered but the one
name, sometimes in accents of prayer, sometimes in shrieking horror, for
the promised morrow was with her, even in her delirium!



CHAPTER XVI.


On that morrow, which she so much dreaded, Tremenhere was away from
Paris, and hurrying onward towards Marseilles. Once arrived there, his
task was an easy one; there were tongues enough to speak to him of the
toiling little _ouvrière_, so frail, so persevering, and of the child
which came to solace her hours; even her beauty had not unstrung one
malevolent tongue against her fame--all was toil, gentleness, and worth.
As he drank down each bitter draught, his soul grew sterner--there was
not a tear in it to quench the fire of remorse. All, too, had one tale
to tell: she always said, when she had saved enough to pay her journey,
she should follow her husband, who was an artist at Florence. To fill up
the measure of all, he waited upon the lady, whose daughter, Minnie had
accompanied on board the fated "Hirondelle." He presented himself as a
relative of her husband; he durst not trust his feelings to say, "I am
the man," lest all should shrink from him in horror. He spoke of an
unhappy quarrel, their separation, and consequent ignorance of where she
was. Here he heard of her with tears from the childless mother, of the
affection her daughter bore Minnie, whom she had employed as a
workwoman at first, but won by her gentleness, piety, and goodness, had
besought her to accompany her to Malta, as nurse to her child--of
Minnie's love and devotion for her little "Miles," for thus she had
called him there--her firm refusal to wean him, for any sum, from her
breast, and her eventually consenting to go to Malta, on their promise
to send her, in six months, to Florence--the one dream of her loving
wife's heart! 'Tis wonderful Miles could command his feelings enough to
listen calmly to all this; but there is a calm far beyond that of
perfect peace--'tis that of despair. His face changed not--'twas as
though it had been chiseled in marble, by some cunning artificer, to
imitate life, for none was there--not a muscle moved--not a shade
crossed it; it was the tombstone of hope, whose ashes lay beneath. One
thing he did: he sought the room where she had resided in her
sorrow--the room where her child's first accents struck upon her ear; it
had not been let since, so he sat down alone there for hours, and his
wandering eyes looked on every spot on that dingy wall; nothing he left
unregarded where her eyes had dwelt, and he saw, as in a vision, all the
many thoughts she had left behind her to people the place. He rejoiced
no one had ever inhabited the same room since. Seeking the landlord, he
rented it for a year, and, paying in advance, carefully locked, and put
his seal on it, lest any one should desecrate it.

"No voice in joy shall ever fill that place where she has wept so many
silent tears--there, where she loved me still, our spirits have met
again. Minnie, forgive me!" And the man knelt in that desolate abode,
and prayed fervently. "If," he said, "I should ever be tempted to forget
her sorrow, I will return hither, and fill my heart with memory, and
hatred of myself!"

And in this mood he returned to Paris: and a week had elapsed since the
ball. It will not seem strange if, on his arrival, he shut himself up in
his studio, away from the world, for days. How commune with that?--or
those who had known her, and now smiled over her grave?

Every moment his feelings became more vindictive towards Lady Dora: it
was the only passion surviving in his heart--all the others were
wrecked, and had gone down with the "Hirondelle."

Perhaps it was well that Marmaduke Burton had gone, no one knew whither,
or a worse one than vindictiveness might have revived. Assuredly he
might have been driven to murder, had he once given way to his prompting
fiend.

It will seem almost strange to many, perhaps, that with this anguish
raging in his heart, he never once thought even of suicide. Tremenhere
was a brave man--an essentially courageous one; he feared nothing in
this world. But he had a strong religious sense, implanted by his
mother: he feared the suicide's unfailing hell, when madness comes not
to plead for the act before Heaven. He was preparing himself, in the
solitude of his chamber, for a pilgrimage of suffering and repentance,
before he should meet her spirit, doomed in its other state to throw off
the garb of mercy and forgiveness _she_ would ever have worn, and
before Heaven accuse, perhaps condemn, him. He was preparing to face the
world, and veil his suffering--to toil on; and then he asked himself,
"For what?" Here his mother arose before him.

"Yes," he said, "I have deserted, forgotten, reviled her; it shall be my
task to place her high in brightness and purity. And if, in my passage,
one lip breathes Minnie's name in shadow before me, then will I bare all
my own heavy sorrow, and, condemning myself, clear her! Now, it would
but sully a fame like hers, to drag her forth uncalled for. I must watch
my opportunity; and the day I debase _her_ enemies--her enemy, her
heartless cousin--I will elevate her where none shall dare attaint her
again!"

He heard Lord Randolph had called; and here it was that his heart turned
towards that man. He remembered the kindly, though unadvisedly done, act
at Uplands; this man's kindness of manner; his respectfulness towards
her. Now the veil of darkness had fallen, he saw all aright; and a
love--a love almost of womanly weakness--arose in his heart towards him.
He was the first person whom he received; and when the other started at
his pale cheek, he simply answered, he had been ill; a sudden obligation
to visit the country, where illness had seized upon him. He started,
however, when Lord Randolph begged his congratulations on his
approaching marriage with Lady Dora, who had accepted him the previous
day. However, his start was not perceptible to his friend, and he spoke
all the speeches of usage as warmly as such are generally spoken; and,
taking his arm, they proceeded together to the Hotel Mirabeau.

Lady Dora and her mother sat alone when they entered. The former,
despite her general self-possession, coloured painfully, and then became
of marble whiteness, while the pale, curling lip alone spoke her
internal battle to seem calm.

"I bring you an invalid friend," said Lord Randolph; "Tremenhere has
been very ill."

She looked fixedly at him; his eyes were hollow, his cheeks white; but
even these were not sufficient excuse, to that despotic heart. "He
should have kept his appointment," she mentally said, "any way."

"Have you been at home?" asked Lady Ripley; "for Lord Randolph told us
you were not there when he called."

A sudden thought seized Tremenhere; he would make this illness
subservient to his plans. "I was forced to leave Paris--circumstances
obliged me," he said, and for an instant his eye lighted on Lady Dora;
"and something of a slow, nervous fever has overwhelmed me ever since."

"Egad, yes!" cried Lord Randolph; "I found him seated listlessly at his
easel, attempting to paint; and when I entered _sans ceremonie_, the
fellow mistook me for a rival artist, and hastily threw a covering over
some _chef d'oeuvre_ he was completing."

A faint colour crossed Miles's pale cheek, and unthinkingly his eye fell
on Lady Dora, and theirs met in an instant; he read her thoughts, and
saw where it might be made available to his purpose.

"I was painting from memory," he said--so he had been, but _not_ Lady
Dora, as she imagined. His look, his illness, all combined to make her
believe herself the cause, or rather jealousy at Lord Randolph's return;
and the exulting heart of the woman bounded with gratified pride; there
was not one thought of sincere affection in it. Still she could not
quite forgive his departure without seeking her. When a woman feels she
has stepped rather too far, and in haste, and passes a sleepless night,
collecting herself to undo the evil by apparent indifference, it is most
provoking to find all thrown away, and that uttered words which we
fancied were sunk deep into another's soul, generating loving thoughts
and hopes, had passed over the surface like a meteor across the sky,
leaving not the slightest trace of its passage.

"May I be permitted," he said, after a pause, in rather a low tone, for
Lord Randolph was warmly discussing some political point with his
mother-in-law elect, "to offer my congratulations on your approaching
happiness? May you be so--I sincerely desire it."

"Thank you," she answered trembling, and biting her lip at his coolness.

"You appear to have held the happiness of more than his in your
keeping--your own I mean, in suspense; and now, the battle over, the sun
of joy bursts over all. Lord Randolph is perfectly happy, and I never
saw your ladyship looking so well!"

"Then, taking you at your own judgment," she answered hastily, without
thinking, and acrimoniously, "you are an exception to the general
happiness, for you certainly do not look well; you should have
placed----" She paused suddenly, and coloured, remembering what her
words implied.

"You are right, Lady Dora. I ought to have placed my happiness in your
keeping; would you have well guarded it?"

"I do not understand you, Mr. Tremenhere; and I fear you mistake my
meaning," was the haughty reply.

"I fear I have mistaken much; forgive me, the error will have no
mate--like myself, it will be lone--forgive me."

There was so much sadness in his voice, that her hand trembled with the
emotion her pride even could not quell; she had accepted Lord Randolph
in pique at Tremenhere's supposed trifling with her, and now those
chains were already galling her; yet, how throw them off? how find
courage to cast herself away on him--the man she had once so much
despised? It was a fearful war within her. At this juncture Lord
Randolph came to their aid in words, but every one was significant to
their thoughts.

"Tremenhere!" he cried, "I appeal to you," and he turned to where the
two sat, a little apart; she was knitting a purse. "Do you think a _bal
masqué_, as we went the other night, a place where no man should take
his wife?"

"That depends much on the lady," was the reply.

"I said," answered Lady Ripley, "that in my opinion, from the
description given me by Lady Lysson (for I thank goodness I was not
there,) that scenes so totally at variance with decorum as men in female
attire, and _vice versâ_, and the heterogeneous mass of persons
collected there--their freedom of speech, want of all ceremony and
obedience to the commonest rules of society, must leave an unfavourable
trace on the mind--I declare, even Dora savours of it; for ever since
she went there has been a restlessness of spirit, an unquietness of
manner, I never noticed before. I should scarcely have wondered at any
absurdity she might have committed."

"Oh, mamma!" exclaimed that lady, in painful confusion.

"On my life," laughed Lord Randolph, "Lady Ripley, you are epigrammatic
in your speech. Has Lady Dora been guilty of any absurdity since?"

"You mistake me," hastily answered she, remembering the engagement
contracted within a few days; "of any serious fault I trust _my_
daughter will never be guilty; but I mean, were she not perfect, as I
may, I believe, call her, in strict propriety of thought and action, I
should indeed dread what such influence might effect."

"Lady Dora could never forget what is due to her rank and station," said
Tremenhere. "There may be a certain excitement in the scene, especially
to a person visiting it for the first time; but we will leave all
casualties of this kind to your unsophisticated girl, believing in such
an absurdity as love different to what the world has viewed it, and
thrown with one she fancied destined to call into being that feeling,
there is really no saying whether such a one might not be led away by
the atmosphere around her to give love for love, and speak her heart
freely where the generous mask concealed her blushes from the eye
envious to behold that record of her sincerity; but you will all
perceive, I am depicting an imaginary scene, and persons. We are all too
sage and old in fashion's ways to commit the like follies."

"Oh, of course!" answered the unseeing mother; but every word had echoed
in Lady Dora's heart, or its facsimile; for the thing itself she did not
possess--it had long been choked by pride.

"I believe," continued Lord Randolph, "that the masques in olden
times--at court and elsewhere--were made the medium of intrigues, state
and others; but surely nothing could be more innocent than the one the
other night!" Lord Randolph was rather primitive in his ideas as regards
a _bal masqué a l'opera_, even in our days--Lady Dora did not internally
agree with him, but she said nothing.

"Have you secured one box for the _Français_ this evening?" asked Lady
Ripley, changing the subject. "I quite forgot it," answered Lord
Randolph; "come along, Tremenhere, we will go and look for it, and you
shall bring it back to the ladies, for I am unavoidably engaged till
dinner; of course, you will be of the party?"

"I fear not," he answered; "I have much occupation on hand."

"Nonsense, man! you shut yourself up with your mysterious portrait, till
you become perfectly gloomy; it must have a deep interest for you."

"You mistake; 'tis an altar-piece which I am completing to order--a
Madonna and child."

"Then, why cover it up so mysteriously?"

"We artists are jealous of our unfinished works being criticised; 'tis,
however, not _that_ which would detain me to-night, but another claim."

"Pray, set it aside, and accompany us, Mr. Tremenhere," said Lady
Ripley, graciously; Lord Randolph's evident friendship for him, stamped
him above what he was before, in her eyes--he still hesitated, when Lady
Dora looked up, as if glancing at the clock on the mantelpiece, and
almost imperceptibly, 'twas so quickly done, her glance crossed his.

"Then I will do as you _command_," he said, bowing to Lady Ripley; but
her daughter felt his eye was upon her, and the _command_, accentuated
for her ear alone.

"We can perhaps spare you the trouble of going to the theatre, if you
are engaged," cried Lady Ripley. "Dora, we may as well drive there
ourselves."

"I shall not leave home to-day, mamma," was the reply.

"But you know, my dear, I _must_ call upon the Montagus at four."

"Lady Lysson will willingly accompany you; I know she too purposes a
visit to them."

"But your resolution is sudden, Dora; to-day you promised to go with me
at four."

"My head aches," she answered coldly; "pray excuse me."

"Oh! if that be the case," replied her ladyship, "I can urge no more;
you had better lie down, my dear child, and prepare yourself for the
evening's fatigue."

"No, thank you, mamma; with your permission I shall remain here--I have
a letter to write."

She never once looked up, but a man the least vain might have fancied,
as Tremenhere did, that "the morrow" of the _bal masqué_, was presented
to his view, especially after what Lord Randolph had said about his
returning with the ticket for the theatre. Making their adieux, the
gentlemen left with the understanding that one or both should return,
after calling at the _Français_ to secure the box.

For a moment Tremenhere hesitated how to act. He asked himself whether
his conduct was right towards his friend--the title he gave him in his
heart decided him. "She is unworthy of him," he said; "'tis an act of
kindness to break off this marriage."

And, consequently at four, he called with the ticket. Lady Dora had been
schooling her heart, and received him with perfect composure, much
regretting all the trouble he had taken; and she sat with an unfinished
letter before her, and the pen between her fingers, as though expecting
him to take leave. He read her as an open leaf in a book; and the want
of all candour in her disposition made him more than ever resolved to
bend her. Every day she had become more warped since he had first seen
her; even when he and Minnie had been residing at Chiswick, she could
be capable of a generous action; now, not one--she was the world's
child!

"Is letter-writing advisable for a headache?" he asked, after the first
salutations were over.

"Possibly not," was the cold reply; "but it is one of neglected duty,
and I was resolved to finish it to-day."

"Then I will take my leave; a visiter is never more unfortunate than
when he cuts the thread of some pleasant narrative by pen or lip," and
he was going towards the door. "I have forgotten half my message!" he
cried, returning. "Lord Randolph desired me to say, that he had taken
upon himself the pleasant task of choosing your ladyship's bouquet for
this evening, which will arrive in due season," and he moved towards the
door.

"If you see him, Mr. Tremenhere," she said hastily, at the same time
throwing down her pen and closing her letter-book, "pray prevent his
lordship from giving himself so much trouble; I dislike bouquets in the
hand."

"Indeed! permit me to wonder, flowers are kindred to the beautiful--you
should not be so unnatural, as to disclaim your own."

"I presume I am expected to bow; but I seldom--_never_ do, to
compliments; they are so vapid, made up, like these said bouquets, to
suit every occasion, every taste, and thus doled out alike to all. Could
we listen to half a dozen conversations at once, on the average they
would be nearly word for word alike, between an idle man, and a silly
woman."

"Why silly?" he asked smiling, still standing, hat in hand, near the
door.

"Because all must be, to listen to them," and she pushed away her chair,
and rising, dropped down amid the cushions of the ottomans. Without
another word, he crossed the room, laid his hat on the table, and,
drawing off the one glove remaining on his hand, flung the two into his
hat; and then, quietly seating himself beside her, asked with gentle
interest,--

"How is your headache--is it better? You look pale!" and he took her
hand. For an instant it struggled, then lay still. This was her first
false step of bad generalship. His action was so natural, considering
their relationship, though only by marriage, that what else had been
freedom passed as a right; her struggle to release it denoted a thought
of wrong, and he was not slow to take advantage of it.

"Do not deny me even the privilege of a friend--I once possessed that,
Lady Dora."

She made no reply.

"You have not answered my question. Is your headache better, or gone?
You would do well to banish that, like all other hurtful things."

"_Hurtful_ things?" she uttered in echo. "You are right."

"About what? Do we understand one another at last?"

"Tell me," she cried hurriedly, looking up, "whilst we are alone and
uninterrupted, where have you been, Mr. Tremenhere?"

She looked, but could not read the anguish which crossed his brow; he
made an effort, and subdued it before her.

"Been? shall I tell you truly?"

"Do, and quickly. I would know all _now_ at once."

"I fled, to prove many things--I fled, to live with a memory--I fled, to
come back a slave!"

His tone was full of soul, for every word was truth; but she applied it
wrongly to herself. He had withdrawn his hand, and passed it over his
brow. As it fell listlessly on his knee, she laid hers upon it, and it
trembled; it was the action of a moment, and as quickly withdrawn.

"What have you proved?" she asked, almost imploringly.

"That we must never trust our own false hearts--they lead us on to
destruction; still less, any _living_ woman." His thoughts were with the
dead, as he deemed.

"Do not look so pale--so afflicted: look as you did on that night."

"_That night_, which never knew a morrow! and yet it held the promise of
one, Lady Dora."

"Who cast that promise from his memory, as worthless?"

"Not that, as dangerous, incapable of leading to happiness, as a
snare--any thing you will, but a promise of that joy, which another has
obtained."

"I will not misunderstand you. There is one thing we may give in pique,
the hand, but the heart defies our power--'tis our master."

"Is yours?"

"Yes; I have in vain struggled with it--it daunts me."

"Mine is a slave," he answered, "chained, but not by me; and yours will
become so too, and follow the manacled hand, and thus you will be calm
and happy."

"I? never. Do you know--do you not see, that my position terrifies me? I
have none to counsel--be my guide, and as an error led me to the steps I
have taken, direct me how to escape its penalty."

"You mean your marriage with Lord Randolph?" he took her hand as he
spoke, and, looking upon it, thought of the day he first held Minnie's
thus!

"'Tis a fair hand," he said, regarding it. "Oh! pity this should break
hearts, sever ties of love--this little tiny thing, which holds so much
fearful power. Are you sure you do not love Lord Randolph?"

"Sure? I almost hate him, and should, were he my husband."

"Are you mad? You must have been to pledge yourself to him, such as you
are--one to be loved, worshipped, adored, if with this hand you gave
your heart."

"Thus I would have it--and only thus!" she uttered, her pride subdued in
her feelings. He had urged her on by his manner; she had prepared
herself against his prayers, but not against his ambiguous manner; for
he looked as one fearful of speaking--of one on his guard. She fancied
he durst not, and she dared all to prove him at last. For an instant he
thought, "Shall I doom her to misery, such as she has not dreamed of,
and, marrying her, tell her why I wooed her?" but a thought, even yet
of pity, came over him; he knew the worse than death he could condemn
her to, by making her his unloved, despised wife; then, too, Minnie
stood between them, and forbade it. He felt he _never_ could place
another, even in hate, or revenge, where her head alone, though but in
memory might lie--on his heart.

"Can you love? Do you love?" he asked, in a low whisper; and the arm
stole round her waist. "Could you for that love renounce all--give up
rank, station, home--all?"

"Freely," she uttered; and at that moment she was sincere. "Freely--so I
break this hated tie, and----"

"Forge another where you could love?--_do_ love; and, forgetting all
false pride, know the only true one--that of the man your soul has
elected?--the man equal to you in all things but an empty title?"

"You have taught me to know myself," she whispered; "teach me to read
you aright; for my intellect cannot comprehend you, and I doubt, where I
would have faith."

"Do not doubt me," he said, coldly releasing her waist, and taking her
hand; "I will counsel you well--lead you aright, and for your happiness.
Never love, Lady Dora--never love; but if they will you should marry,
make Lord Randolph a good and faithful wife, nor cast away your
affections on one scarcely worthy of them. He is my friend--if you
_must_ love, love him; but _I_ counsel all, never love, for _I_ dread
and eschew the passion!" And, dropping her hand, he rose calmly from
the ottoman, and listlessly taking up his hat and gloves, scarcely
looking at her, bowed, and quitted the room.

When he was gone she sprang from the ottoman, and, pacing the apartment
like one bewildered by a sudden shock, ended by leaning her head on the
table, and weeping the bitterest tears she had ever shed; for they were
over her crushed pride--her abased heart, which he had probed to the
quick, and then, as a worthless toy, cast from him. It was long before
she could recall all the scene to her mind, and when she did it might
have ended in almost madness had her unfailing pride and self-love not
come hand in hand to say, "He loves, and dreads his love. Randolph is
his friend--be patient--watchful, and your reward will be, in subduing
all his feelings and resolutions."

And thus cheered, she rose, to own to herself that for his love she
would brave any thing. She even hated Minnie's memory when she thought,
that though it had proved evanescent, as she deemed it had, he certainly
_once_ loved that girl.

"I will bind him yet, and in iron bands," she cried, as her tall, proud
figure strode the room; "not as she did--silk could never hold so bold a
heart as his--they shall be iron, and _I_ will rivet them; there shall
be no key lest another undo them--riveted, Tremenhere--riveted!" and the
girl smiled already, in triumph over his defeat.



CHAPTER XVII.


Days and days passed away, and Minnie lay almost in death's grasp, and
the old man sat beside her as a father might have done, nursing the poor
sick woman; his bitterest thought was his own poverty, and her great
need of every care. The little money she had by her, was fast
disappearing, sickness brings so many unaccustomed claims into a
sufferer's room; there was a doctor, too, but here again she learned the
charity still existing, despite all march of intellect, or railroad of
worldliness; there was this one hallowed thing standing still, since the
day of the good Samaritan. Nothing could induce this man to take a fee,
and assuredly he came with more interest, and oftener, to see the sick
woman, than if gold awaited his palm at every visit. The _concièrge_,
too, was all kindness; she kept poor little Miles, and thus the weary
days crept on, and nearly a fortnight passed, before Minnie returned to
a perfect recollection of the past. When she did so, her first idea was
to ask the length of time she had lain thus--two weeks! and in that
period what might not have occurred? She struggled to rise from her bed,
but her strength failed her; she had no one around in whom she might
confide, feeling her own total incapacity to act, and knowing how
necessary it was that some immediate steps should be taken, even though
in taking them, her existence would, of necessity, be betrayed. There
was but one person of whom she could think in her despair, and this was
Mary Burns. Summoning all her fortitude and strength, she in a few,
half-coherent words confided to Monsieur Georges that a mystery existed,
and imploring caution, and otherwise total silence on his part, she
besought him to seek Mary, and telling her a sick woman wished to see
her immediately, having something of importance to communicate, beg of
her to come, without delay. This he gladly promised to do; for, in his
perplexity, he knew not himself where to apply, how to act; in her
ravings she had said enough to convince him, some dreadful secret
oppressed her. Mary, who had been alone informed by the papers at first
of Minnie's supposed fate, and subsequently by Skaife, had mourned her
with the sincerity of an humble sister; for some time she had been
incapable of almost any exertion of mind or body; there was a blank
around her, a disheartenment--for well she knew the purity of the
unfortunate victim of Tremenhere's jealousy. When she received the
mysterious summons, delivered to her by Georges, not a thought of Minnie
crossed her mind; her deep, and truly mourning dress, bespoke her faith
in the report of her untimely fate, but, though much puzzled as to whom
the person could be desiring to see her, she was too sincere a Christian
to refuse the prayer of any one in trouble. Minnie had said to Monsieur
Georges, that she desired to see the person alone; consequently he
brought her to the room door, and there left her. The name Deval could
not possibly enlighten her at all, and the respectability of the house
removed any fear she might otherwise have felt, in following a stranger.
It would be impossible for any words adequately to describe her almost
supernatural terror, when entering the room alone, on the humble bed,
almost pallet, in the pale, worn ghastly face lying there, she beheld
Mrs. Tremenhere! Her first feeling was one of doubt, of her own perfect
sanity; she thought some extraordinary likeness deceived her, and
standing breathless, with clasped hands, she gazed in fear and wonder.

"Mary," whispered Minnie, turning her eyes, now hollow and wild, upon
her--"Mary, 'tis I! come to me!" And she stretched forth her thin hands
towards her. A shriek burst from the other: it was like an awakening
from some dreadful dream. Dropping on her knees beside that bed, she
clasped the wan hands in hers, and wept tears of so much heartfelt joy,
that years of misery were washed from her memory in that stream of
heaven-sent rapture.

In a few brief words, Minnie, raised up, and lying on her bosom, told
all, first binding her to solemn secresy about her existence, unless
released from it by herself. If Mary wept over her sufferings, her heart
became soothed as she wept, feeling that there must be a term to it now.
_She_ knew Miles even better than his poor wife could; she had known his
warm, generous, but hasty disposition, from boyhood; and even though
her heart trembled when the other related the conversation which she had
overheard at the opera, nothing could persuade her that he would so soon
forget one he had loved as he once had Minnie: and so much does the fond
heart of friendship soothe and cheer us, that Minnie too, became calm,
and impressed with the conviction of her humble friend.

While they were still conversing, the _concièrge_ rapped at the door,
carrying little Miles in her arms; and, as Mary clasped the beautiful
boy to her bosom, she felt how impossible it would be for Tremenhere to
resist so strong an appeal to his heart as this woman and child, or the
conviction of the latter's parentage, in whose young face his own every
look breathed.

After cheering, again and again, the now calmed woman, Mary hastily
quitted, on her search for positive information. This had to be
guardedly done, but she thought it might be accomplished through the
medium of the waiting-woman of Lady Dora. Accordingly, she hurried home,
and, selecting some articles of _lingèrie_, carried them to the Hotel
Mirabeau, under pretence that some one had ordered her to bring patterns
for selection, for the approval of Lady Dora Vaughan.

It will be remembered that her person, her present position, both were
equally unknown to this lady, who alone knew her by name. Her success
was greater than she had at first ventured to hope. _Lingères_ and
ladies'-maids soon open a conversation together, especially as Mary,
having so much at stake, threw off all her usual reserve, and became a
perfect Parisienne in manner. She came, she said, having heard Milady
Vaughan was making up a _trousseau_, in hopes some of her _lingèrie_
might be worthy of a place in it--taking care, however, to give a wrong
name and address. After the usual preliminary of presenting the
attendant with a handsome collar, to propitiate her good-will, she
learned, with a tremor at first, which ended in amazement and joy, that
Lady Dora was going very shortly to be married, but positively to Milord
Randolph Gray, who was then in Paris; and the _soubrette_, warmed by the
handsome present she had received, threw off all reserve, and spoke in
raptures--true Parisian raptures--of her lady's beauty, and the justice
it was meeting at the hands of a celebrated painter, a Monsieur
Tremenhere, who was pourtraying her as Diana, to please Milord Randolph.

Mary could scarcely contain herself in the bounds of moderation, at
this, to her, delightful intelligence; she abridged the visit as much as
possible, promising to call again in a few days with more patterns, as
Lady Dora was then out. She flew almost to poor Minnie's abode, to whom
every moment had been as days. When Mary entered the room, her eyes were
wild and excited; one glance, however, sufficed. Minnie read so much
real joy in the other's kind face, that she fell back on her pillow
almost fainting, from her previously overwrought feelings.

"Cheer up, madam--dear madam, I bring you joyful news!" exclaimed the
other; and she hurriedly related all she had heard.

Minnie could not utter a word for many moments; then, as memory of those
words crossed her mind, she could but torture herself with a solution of
them, by supposing that Lady Dora's pride had stood between them. Not
all Mary could urge against it, could banish the idea; and all she could
do was to promise secresy, and employ means to discover the truth. She
left, but only to make some necessary arrangements, and then return. One
thing she resolved upon doing, and this she put into immediate
practice--namely, to write to Mr. Skaife without hinting a word of the
truth, but implored him to lose not a day in coming to Paris, asking
secresy to all on the subject of her request--a hint of Minnie she durst
not give; she only spoke of the absolute necessity there existed for his
immediate arrival. This done, she felt at ease; and returning to
Minnie's, after providing many little comforts until then unknown there,
she took up her abode beside that sick-bed, and watched with delight the
change a few hours had made in that sick woman, whose mind diseased had
defied all medicine. Our good deeds, not unfrequently even in this
world, bring home their ripe fruits! Here was the girl whom she had
taken from error to her bosom, from poverty to be almost her friend, now
in this extreme moment, soothing, consoling, and returning to her all
she had herself given her; and Mary's eye filled with honest joy as she
felt this. Could she have laid down her life she would freely have done
it, to prove all her gratitude. It was, in truth, a day when Minnie was
made to feel that our good gifts often return tenfold to us. She did not
in her peace forget him, who had watched over her in sickness and
delirium. She had explained to Mary all she knew of Monsieur Georges;
and, as the shades of evening were closing in, Minnie heard the stealthy
step plodding up and down his solitary room. He feared to intrude now,
knowing she had a friend to watch and guard her.

"Oh!" cried she, "I have forgotten poor Monsieur Georges in all my
selfish happiness. Mary, open that door, and say I would speak with
him--will you? He has been indeed both father and friend to me!" Mary
rose hastily to obey, and re-entered, almost dragging in the poor,
solitary old man, from his own cold, comfortless chamber; for he was
poorer than ever, having spent every _sou_ he could command on the sick
woman who had befriended him.

"Come in--pray, come in!" cried Minnie, stretching out a hand to him.
"Come, and see how much better I am to-night; and your little boy, too,
see how calmly he is sleeping beside me. You must not forget him; he has
more than once slept in your arms when mine were powerless to retain
him."

Georges stooped over the bed, and a tear fell on her cheek, as the
shivering man pressed his lips to her forehead.

"My child," he said, "I never can forget you or him; you seem as
something belonging to me, and yet I must lose you soon. I know you will
recover, and go among friends. I felt from the first, your being as you
were must have a cruel mystery attached to it--all will clear away for
you, you are so good, and then you will go, and I shall remain!" and the
desolate old man's voice trembled.

"I will never forsake you!" exclaimed Minnie. "I could not; you have
been with me in too much sorrow, for me ever to forget you! The friends
of those hours we may not banish, like the ones who pass with our
laughter."

"I cannot account for it, Monsieur Georges," said Mary; "but from the
first moment I saw you, your face seemed to me like one I had known,
though altered by time, in some far away days of childhood; and yet it
cannot be, for I am not a native of France."

"They say," he replied, "that not two persons in the world resemble one
another; yet there are likenesses so strong, you may have seen some one
like me. The impressions of childhood, on thoughtful minds, come across
us, like dreams in after years."

"Oh!" she answered, "it is not alone your face and figure, but something
in the tone of your voice is, and was from the first, most familiar,
though dreamy."

She gazed earnestly, as she spoke, at the dignified, though bent figure
of the old man, as he sat beside the stove, where the light of the lamp
fell on his venerable head and silvered hair.

"There is something," he said, "I have intended asking, when our poor
invalid should be better. I do not want to pry into, perhaps painful
family secrets, for few are exempt from these," he sighed deeply; "but
there can be no indiscretion in my inquiring, I hope, whether the name
of 'Tremenhere,' which she uttered so frequently in her ravings, is one
of family connection, or merely of acquaintanceship."

"Tremenhere!" exclaimed Minnie, and the truth hung on her lip, yet
something of fear of betrayal withheld her from uttering it. "Do you
know the name?" she inquired, changing her original thought, and
supporting herself on her arm, she looked anxiously at him.

"I did," he answered, "long ago."

"Where?" asked Mary, fixing a surprised look on his face.

"Far from hence," he replied. "Abroad, and in England."

"For mercy's sake!" exclaimed Minnie, "tell me, my good father (for such
indeed you have been to me,) what Tremenhere did you know--the name is
so uncommon?"

"One," he answered, "whom you cannot have known, at least I think not,
for he had no daughter--only one child--a son."

"Do not hesitate; you may freely speak before me," cried Mary,
anxiously; "you little know, perhaps, what your words may lead to. _I am
sure_ I have seen you--heard your voice."

"How can that be?" he asked, still doubting what it were prudent to do.
"You would have forgotten me, you must have been so young, had we ever
met. I should remember you, for I am an old man."

"Were you ever in Yorkshire?" asked Mary, with a trembling voice.
Something stilled Minnie's tongue; she could not speak.

"Yorkshire!" he cried in almost terror. "Do you mean at an old
manor-house?"

"Come here," whispered Minnie, scarcely audible. She felt something
strange was surrounding her. "Come nearer--here, beside me. I am too
weak to speak loud--there," and she clasped his hand. "Father, by the
love you have shown me--to me, a poor orphan child, a deserted
wife--tell me, who are you? My name is Tremenhere, and I know the
manor-house well; it _was_ my husband's father's!"

"Merciful heavens!" exclaimed Georges, in agitation. "Then how are you
thus? and how have we met? Tell me--is your husband the son--the only
son of the _late_ Miles Tremenhere, of the manor-house? for you speak of
the father as being no more."

Mary sat speechless, and yet she knew not what her hopes or fears were;
she was in a stupor.

"Miles Tremenhere, the son, is my husband," answered Minnie; "but he has
forsaken me--forsaken me!" and her tears gushed forth.

"I will tell you," said Mary, in a whisper, drawing near and clasping
Minnie in her arms. "This poor lady has been the victim of a villain,
Marmaduke Burton, who, when old Mr. Tremenhere died, put in a claim to
the property, on the plea of the son's illegitimacy; and, having driven
him forth, was not content without destroying his young wife's fame, to
drive him to desperation."

"Illegitimacy!" exclaimed Georges, like one in a dream. "That was false;
for _I_ married his parents--baptized him!"

"Oh!" shrieked Minnie, starting from Mary's arms, and grasping his arm;
"your name then is not Georges--'tis d'Estrées!"

"I will tell you all, my poor child," he said, when his overflowing
tears had subsided; and he leaned over the pillow, where lay the pale
and exhausted Minnie from over-excitement. "I was chaplain in Gibraltar
to Lord Dillon, who was governor there, and I knew, and became most
intimate with Tremenhere, who was quartered there. For family reasons he
did not wish his marriage with Helena Nunoz, with whom he had become
acquainted, known to any one, on account of the obscurity of her family,
during his father's lifetime. I married them privately: shortly
afterwards they left for England: here, in Paris, they were re-married
on account of her religion, she insisted upon it, by a catholic priest:
all was legally, correctly done. Mr. Tremenhere was too good a man to
have it otherwise. When his wife, than whom a better creature never
existed, was near her confinement, he felt desirous the child should be
baptized by me; and for that purpose I obtained permission of Lord
Dillon, who had quitted Gibraltar, to go to Yorkshire, and there the
ceremony was performed, and registered, in the parish church.

"True," answered Mary, "but no one could discover whither Mr. d'Estrées
who officiated had gone; besides, 'twas the marriage which was disputed,
not baptism."

"I have now," he continued sighing, "to touch upon a passage of agony in
my own life, which will account for my concealment. Shortly afterwards I
quitted Lord Dillon, sufficiently provided for, for all moderate wants;
I had a son of my own, a fine youth of fourteen. After leaving his
lordship, at Mr. Tremenhere's prayer I repaired to Yorkshire with my
son, who was to be as companion and friend to his son, then a boy of
ten; all was happiness and peace for nearly a year. There was something
in my child I could never fully understand--a disposition difficult to
govern; something not open and candid--but I hoped time might make him
otherwise, and the society of those around him. A year passed--I will
but touch upon this; it is too painful," the poor father trembled as he
spoke. "The manor-house was robbed one night; after a long, painful
investigation, you may guess my horror at the discovery, my son was
implicated in it. A sum to a considerable amount had been abstracted
from Mr. Tremenhere's old cabinet; he, in mercy to me, hushed up the
affair; my son fled, and I became a broken-hearted man. To stay was
impossible; Mr. Tremenhere felt this too, so I left, to the deep regret
of himself and his angel wife. Little more remains to be said--after
awhile, all communication ceased between us, my unhappy boy discovered
me, with him I shared the little I had, and he went to America,
promising me to reform. I have never heard from him, and I became as
Monsieur Georges what you see!"

"Do you not remember me?" asked Mary, pale with emotion and memory. "I
was Mary Burns, the child whom you have often caressed; I knew I had
seen you in days of youth!"

Let us pass over the remainder of this scene; Mary told him all that
which was strange to him, but what our readers already know. Minnie
could but weep in joy, in hope; for now, indeed, she had a rich present
to lay at Miles's feet--a mother's fame!

"Think, my dear child," he said, when all was told, "that the night your
kind heart (for I read it truly) called the shivering old man to your
fire, your guardian angel led him in to bring you a blessing. And you
will be blessed; doubt it not--here with your husband's love, hereafter
with a better than even that, for our good deeds come home to roost far
more than our bad ones; there is much mercy around us, poor, weak,
mortal children, that we are."



CHAPTER XVIII.


Skaife arrived in Paris, and, after a lengthened interview with Mary, he
quitted her abode. If he was very pale, it was the pallor of sudden, and
almost deemed impossible, joy. Minnie lived! and he was wending his way
to a now scarcely sad chamber, where Hope sat beside the still pale, but
recovering woman, reclining near a cheerful wood blaze, in a more
comfortable, though still very humble, room. This is all she would
consent to at Mary's expense; for personal resources she had none.
Skaife found himself incapable of much speech; he could but press
Minnie's hand between his own with the affection of a brother, to whom a
loved sister was suddenly restored from death. He, however, endeavoured
to persuade her to return at once to Gatestone, promising her a joyful
welcome from all, who mourned her loss severely. To this she was deaf;
nothing could induce her to quit Paris, and leave Tremenhere's vicinity.
Skaife had bound himself, by a solemn promise, not to reveal her
existence without her permission, unless he saw the absolute necessity
for so doing, to prevent the marriage of Tremenhere with Lady Dora.
After vainly endeavouring to urge her to another course, he quitted the
house to visit Miles, and, if possible, discover what his real feelings
were; for a certain pride prevented Minnie from throwing herself at his
feet, until she knew whether his heart still remembered her.

Our readers will recollect, that she knew nothing of his visit to
Marseilles--his conviction of her innocence. She only knew the fatal
words, which, ringing in her ears, had driven her frantic--his avowed
love for Lady Dora. Tremenhere was pained and surprised by Skaife's
visit. He felt in himself so guilty towards Minnie, that one who had
known all her worth seemed as an accusing spirit. Skaife's manner, too,
after the first hasty meeting, was so embarrassed, that it added to the
suffering his presence inflicted.

It would have been impossible for a friend to look upon Miles without
reading all his deep care, however veiled to the world in
general;--there was the clouded eye, without fire, full of soul and
expression; but the changing fire was gone--'twas one settled, calm,
uncomplaining trouble. Skaife spoke of his journey to Paris as one of
mere pleasure; of course Minnie's family was never alluded to. Miles had
been painting when the other entered, and drawing the cover, of which
Lord Randolph had spoken, over the easel, he rose to welcome him with a
start of pleasure, which, however, almost instantaneously settled into a
look of pain and embarrassment. For some time they spoke on indifferent
subjects, things most difficult to find for two so closely drawn
together in one painful one. There was a moment's pause, when Tremenhere
suddenly exclaimed--

"Skaife, I am surprised--much surprised, to see you here."

"How so?" the other asked, colouring, and amazed.

"Because, were I in your place, I should shun the atmosphere where
breathed such another as myself, like that of a pest-house."

"Pardon me, Tremenhere, you would do as I do--feel sincere pity for a
man, whose severest punishment must be his own bitter remorse and
regret."

Tremenhere looked silently at him a moment.

"You have indeed said truly," he uttered at last, and turned away
towards the covered picture before him.

"Tremenhere," said Skaife, laying a hand on his arm, "I rejoice to hear
you speak as you do; for vain as it may be, 'twill solace you all the
remaining years of your life to remember _her_--as she was. You see I
know to what you allude."

"Remember her, Skaife! What can that do for me? Remember that, but for
the insane promptings of some demon, jealous of my happiness, I might
now have her beside me, a living, breathing creature, instead of only
this!" And he drew back the veil from his painting, and there, on the
speaking canvass, was Minnie--oh, Minnie, as though she breathed before
him! There is nothing so faithful as memory. It was an altar-piece, of
which he had before spoken--a Madonna and child. The eyes looked forth
serene and beautiful, patient, and with that predestined look which such
a face should have--a look of future sorrow, future and immortal hope.
Minnie's was all a face should be for so holy a purpose; and when
Skaife remembered all she had suffered, he felt how well Tremenhere had
chosen the subject, to call her features into life's seeming.

"It is like her, is it not?" asked the latter, fixing his deep, earnest
gaze upon the face. "And I have tried to throw into the countenance
something of the trouble I _have_ seen there--something of what must
have been, when she was at Marseilles! Skaife, I went there a week
since, and learned all; since my return, I have passed the heavy hours
of day and night in pourtraying the look which I divined hers, in that
sad room where my child was born!"

"Have you been there?" exclaimed the other, a joy almost beyond controul
bursting his heart; for he had come to that room in fear, of what he
might hear.

"Yes," answered Tremenhere, looking up, surprised at his tone; "but I do
not think you quite understand me, by your tone. I have been in the
humble house of the toiling woman and mother--of the one I lured from
every luxury, to cast, with a blighted name, into _want_!--want,
Skaife--for this she has known! _Now_ do you comprehend my utter
wretchedness? Oh, believe that there can be no sorrow, no remorse like
mine! I sit here for hours searching in my memory for every tone of her
voice, every look of her sweet face! I tell _you_ this, for
self-abasement; _you_, at least shall know me as I am, though to the
world I may be a mystery--to some, a monster!"

"From my soul I pity you, Tremenhere; but oh! I rejoice that her memory
is now so sacred in your eyes from stain."

"Sacred and pure as an angel's, Skaife! Yet what can that avail now?"

"I feared," uttered the other, "that--I scarcely know how to speak my
thought--that, in short, you might be--were, dazzled by Lady Dora
Vaughan!"

"By her!" and he laughed in derision. "Have you, too, known the human
heart so ill, to suppose that, having once loved Minnie, even though
unjust, cruel, her murderer, I could ever place another, and such a one
as Lady Dora, near her? No, no; be my feelings what they may, I never
will dream even of so vain a thing as alleviating them by any union;
still less with Lady Dora, than another!"

"I have, nevertheless, heard strange rumours."

"Have you? well, 'tis well. I would have it thus; 'tis----" He paused.
"Let us change the subject," he said hastily; "time will prove all of
us."

They were silent some moments.

"Do you know what grieves me most in this my task?" He pointed to the
picture. "I cannot find in my mind a thought of what _our_ child was
like. I would I could thus complete my subject. But all is a blank!" He
pointed to the infant, of which there was but an outline; indeed, all
but the Madonna's face was this only, for he had not long commenced the
picture, which had been one ordered some time previously.

A sudden thought struck Skaife.

"I was visiting in a house, yesterday," he said, "and there was struck
by the unearthly beauty of a boy I saw in the arms of the _concièrge_. I
asked to whom it belonged, and was told, to a poor woman residing in the
house. I make no doubt I could induce them to bring the child to you--it
is the loveliest I ever saw."

"Thank you, Skaife," he answered sadly; "but I do not think _any_ child
could give me the faintest idea of what hers must have been; it must
have had a look of more than mortal sorrow on its young face, born in so
much woe and care. I will try and dream what it could have been; nothing
living can even pourtray it."

Skaife said no more on the subject; but, leaving shortly afterwards,
hastened to Minnie, and with thankfulness of joy, watched the calm beam
of hope in her eye, when he told her all that had passed between them.
Skaife urged her to allow him, by degrees, to break the truth to her
sorrowing husband; but there was still on her memory, unobliterated, the
recollection of his words to her cousin, which nothing could efface, but
proof to the contrary. One thing, however, they arranged, and Monsieur
d'Estrées was the person chosen to carry out the scheme--namely, to take
little Miles, or William as he was called, to his father's studio. The
child had become so accustomed to the old man during Minnie's illness,
that he would go any where unfearingly with him. We should vainly
attempt to depict the mother's feelings, when she saw her boy next day
departing under the care of her two sincere friends, to see his father
for the first time. Thrice she called them back in mother's pride to
arrange some curl on the noble brow, or again kiss the cheek, where
perhaps his lip might be pressed. There was something hallowing in the
thought to her beautiful mind, that their child should be the medium of
communication between them, though to him unknown. Skaife had previously
written to apprise Tremenhere, that at that hour he should call; and
when he entered, and after a few moments, by way of prefacing the visit,
mentioned he had asked a friend of the mother's, who often nursed the
child in her absence, to call with him. Tremenhere coolly thanked him;
at the same time expressing his firm conviction, that it could not
answer his views or exalted ideas of what it should be. When d'Estrées
entered as Monsieur Georges, and the boy with a quiet, contemplative
air, most uncommon in one so young, looked in childish questioning at
the tall, dark, strange man, Tremenhere stood transfixed. It was not
that a look of the mother shook his heart--it was not the thought, that
of such an age would his own be, were it living. No, it was the artist's
realized dream--such a dream as inspiration might have given him. A
child born in so much sorrow could not look as others would; every
beautiful lineament was grave as of early woe, if so young a heart might
feel it; but yet this was more--it was a soul's sorrow implanted by a
mother's cares, watered by her tears, on the boy's countenance.
Tremenhere looked at him, then at the old man--a memory crossed his
imagination.

"Surely I have seen you before," he cried, gazing earnestly at
d'Estrées.

"I think not, monsieur," said the other; but his voice trembled, for
he, too, remembered him, and then he so ably recalled his father and
d'Estrées's best friend to his mind; "for I am an old man, seldom
leaving home." He spoke in French.

"Strange--strange!" he replied in thought; "you seem very familiar to
me."

"And the boy?" asked Skaife; "is he not all I promised you?"

"He might have been _hers_," was the reply, which spoke volumes. He
approached, and the child used to many strange faces looked fearlessly
upon him, but with the strange, grave look we have before noticed.
Tremenhere opened his arms, and the little boy's were around his neck,
and the eyes, so like his own, fixed upon him. Something for the first
time passed through the father's heart; he thought of his own, and
involuntarily passed his hand over the head, where the golden curls were
springing up, thick and clustering. He turned up the little unsmiling
face, and his stern lip pressed the baby cheek.

"Bless you, my boy!" he whispered.

Strange, he never asked his name, or any thing about him, but gazed, and
gazed on the face in bitterness of thought. As he did so, he turned
towards the picture. The child stared a moment--the eyes distended--and
then the whole sad face lighted up with a smile of angel beauty, as he
paid the highest compliment which could be offered to Miles's art, by
stretching forth his arms towards it; and the little tongue tried to
syllable a name. The boy knew his mother!

D'Estrées and Skaife turned pale, as a hasty glance passed between them:
they deemed it impossible so strange a recognition could pass
unsuspected: they trembled for the moment of avowal. But Miles's mind
was obscured from all thought of the truth; he only saw a childish
rapture on beholding a picture; and again kissing the boy and hastily
passing him to d'Estrées, seated himself at the easel, and beneath his
pencil placed the outline of his boy in its mother's arms.

Tremenhere had resolved upon one thing both as a duty--a sacred one--and
secondly, if possible, to give some more healthy tone to his heart, by
the necessity for activity of mind and body. This was, to labour for the
means of proceeding to Gibraltar, to seek proof of his mother's
marriage. With his conviction of Minnie's innocence, this thought had
sprung up with renewed vigour; for this reason he remained more at home,
working at the picture for which his own unknown child was daily
sitting. For this, when completed, he expected a large sum, with which
he purposed at once proceeding to Gibraltar. Moreover, it was a labour
of love, though of deep sorrow; for Minnie lived again before him, and
the hours passed, in contemplating the face and form perfecting beneath
his hand.

Lady Dora was lost in vain conjectures as to the cause of his
estrangement; though a momentary doubt might arise, yet her unfailing
pride came in to soothe her--"he durst not trust himself!" Thus she
thought, and with this conviction arose a determination to go to his
studio; this was not difficult of accomplishment. By a cleverly turned
hint to her mother about Lord Randolph's impatience respecting her
picture, Lady Ripley wrote, expressing a desire for its completion, as
soon as he conveniently might attend to it; and soliciting an hour when
Lady Dora might give him a sitting. This lady so arranged it, that her
mother asked from herself without naming any impatience on her part, but
Tremenhere smiled in scorn and triumph; for he saw the whole affair, as
though it had been planned beneath his eye. He wrote, regretting much
occupation had obliged him to banish himself from her ladyship's circle;
for the happy indolence which there crept over him, unfitted him for
other less pleasing occupations, but fixing an hour in which he should
be too happy to see Lady Dora. Every line of this had been guardedly
penned; and each word had a signification in that lady's eyes,
flattering to herself. Lord Randolph had seen him several times, and
always reported something about the mysteriously veiled picture; she was
convinced in her own mind, that this was some portrait of herself, and
she resolved, if practicable, to verify the fact; however, when she
arrived there with an appearance of calm dignity, accompanied by her
mother, nothing was to be seen but herself as Diana on the easel, and as
unfinished as when she had last seen it. This confirmed her impression
of some strange mystery; and Tremenhere's suffering face, which nothing
could disguise, made her heart bound high in triumphant pride--it was
suffering on her account. His manner still further strengthened this
deep error on her part,--her mother accompanied her, consequently their
words, beyond mere general ones, were few; still, when she spoke of his
absenting himself from all society, the significance with which he
whispered, "Better live with a sad memory, than a vain and dangerous
reality," lost nothing of the effect he intended it to convey. The real
truth was, he felt too worn in spirit, even for revenge sake, just then
to continue his comedy with herself--he had only courage to suffer; but
his absenting himself was as politic a thing as he could have done; and
she left the studio with a tremor in her heart, of which she had thought
herself incapable--one which not a little startled her yet rebelling
pride, and made her look every hour with deeper gloom, or nervous
excitement, on the preparations which were progressing for her marriage
with Lord Randolph, whom she almost hated, and yet had not the courage
to come to an open rupture with, lest Tremenhere should quite read her
heart. She was bent upon bringing him to her feet, and then permitting a
hope to gleam over his doubts.



CHAPTER XIX.


She was in this mood one day when he called, and found her in a
tête-à-tête with Lord Randolph. She was dressed _à l'Amazone_, for her
horse was awaiting its lovely mistress below.

"I have arrived _mal à propos_," he said, after the salutations of
meeting were over. "I see your ladyship is going out."

"Come with us," asked Lord Randolph, shaking his hand warmly. "A gallop
will chase away the clouds of study from your brow. Lady Dora, did you
ever behold so altered a face? Why, man, your studio will be the death
of you."

"Not _that_," he replied, looking gloomily downwards; then, as suddenly
raising his head, he seemed to chase away shades and clouds, for the
face became calm and smiling.

"Will you take me _en croupe_?" he asked, addressing Lord Randolph, in
answer to his question. "I saw but two horses below--yours and Lady
Dora's."

"Oh, no! I will send my groom away, if you will mount his. You must
accompany us."

"Lady Dora says nothing; the lady may have too much excellent taste to
admire a trio. In my opinion much pleasure is often lost in them, either
in music or society."

"How so, Mr. Tremenhere?" she asked coldly.

"Why," he answered, laughing,--"there are the soprano, the contralto,
and the mezzo; this last I have ever looked upon as an almost
indistinct, useless sort of 'lend-its-aid' to support and show off the
other two."

"Then I'll play mezzo," cried Lord Randolph good-humouredly, but with
singular, though unconscious truth; "for I have a bad headache, and you
two shall sing, and I will listen, occasionally throwing in a note."

"Don't let it be one of discord," cried Tremenhere, in the same tone as
before. "We must have harmony; if Lady Dora consent to this, I will
gladly take your groom's horse."

Her eyes said more than her lips, as she replied--"We shall be most
happy of your company."

"Might I have chosen a character, in which to have handed Lady Dora
down, by my humble skill, to posterity, I should have selected her
present one. Lady, I never saw you so perfect as in your Amazonian
costume; it suits your style far better than Diana even," and Tremenhere
bent his eyes in well-schooled admiration upon her; still the effort was
not an immense one, for, as an artist, he could not but have admired her
perfection of beauty in this dress; then, too, she was grace personified
in the management of a spirited horse, which seemed as a part of herself
in pride of beauty.

"Why do you object to Diana?" she inquired, fixing her full gaze upon
him undauntedly, in all its fire.

"Diana," said Lord Randolph, before the other could reply, "conveys to
my mind the idea of a lady over fond of being out at night, not a
loving bride or wife," and he laughed significantly at Lady Dora, who
turned away towards Tremenhere.

"You have not answered my question," she said.

"Something of Lord Randolph's thought is mine," he replied. "Diana is
cold, uncheered, uncheering; she sails onward in her dignity and
splendour, surrounded by satellites, uncaring for them all, beautiful,
but unloving."

"What do you say to Endymion?" she asked, and her glance crossed his.

"She loved him, and he slept!" was the calm reply.

"That was _his_ fault; 'she could not wake his eye-lids with her kiss,'"
fell from her lips.

"Because," answered Tremenhere, "it was too queenly, too cold; had Venus
embraced him, he would have started into waking life and love!" Her eye
fell beneath his glance.

"The 'Mezzo' must put in a note," said Lord Randolph.

At the word "Mezzo," a gentle, but involuntary laugh escaped from Lady
Dora. Tremenhere was grave. He despised while he played with this girl;
and, turning to the other, asked in a tone almost too serious and
feeling for the occasion, "What is your thought?"

"I think Diana was an arrant, heartless flirt, and certainly deceitful.
She assumed to herself a character not deserved--a strictly chaste
goddess would never have come down o' night to embrace a shepherd on a
hill. I think it is very fortunate he _did_ sleep; had he awakened, he
would have had a very different opinion of the lady, and have been fully
justified in nodding significantly when her name was mentioned. I only
wonder she should have told of herself; for unless she did so--how was
this midnight visit known?"

"Oh! she perhaps wanted the cleverness which some possess, of keeping
her own counsel," answered Tremenhere.

"Most probably," hazarded Lady Dora, not liking to keep too painful a
silence where the subject had become so strangely epigrammatic, "some
star betrayed her mistress."

"True!" replied Tremenhere, "as in 'Love's Witnesses,'" and he repeated
in a soft, impressive voice--

    "Love! when we last night, embracing,
    Sigh'd farewell--who saw us part?
    Was it night? or sly Aurora?
    Or the stars? or the moon who heard?"

    "A star shot down and told the ocean--
    Ocean told a mariner;
    Then the mariner told his mistress;
    She--she told it every where!"

"'Gad, that's how Madam Diana's escapade became known, I bet my life!"
cried Lord Randolph.

She did not reply; she was dreaming over the tone in which "Love! when
we last night, embracing," had dropped from his lips, and was lost in
that tone's significance, which sent up the harmony to her eyes, with
which her softened glance lit on Tremenhere's; and then faded into shade
beneath her trembling lashes, consumed, Phoenix-like, by its own fire.

"Then Diana was cruel, too," continued Lord Randolph, hunting down the
huntress. "Unsparing with her darts; the wound from which, like wound of
hart, never heals!"

"Let her rest," said Lady Dora, fixing a full look of meaning on
Tremenhere; "those skilled in venery say, there _is_ a balm for wound of
hart."

"Yes, from the animal which has inflicted it," answered Tremenhere.

"Let us have a canter!" cried Lady Dora, starting off down an avenue of
the _Bois de Boulogne_, where the sand deadened the sound of their
flying horses' feet. It was a lovely day, and there were groups of
equestrians. They had ridden some time, when they met three or four
gentlemen together. After bowing _en passant_, Lord Randolph suddenly
stopped--

"That's Gillingham!" he exclaimed; "and riding the very horse he wants
me to buy. Lady Dora, may I leave you five minutes, _à regret_, however,
on my own account, under Tremenhere's care. I will rejoin you near the
pond."

She merely bowed.

"Beware of the '_Mare au Diable_!'" cried Tremenhere to him, as he
cantered off. "Have you read George Sand's tale of that name?" asked he
of Lady Dora.

"No; that is, I am not certain of having done so--what is the plot?"

"Oh! one full of intense interest; simply told, and of simple persons.
It may not interest you."

"I like simplicity," she replied.

"Do you? I am glad to hear that. True feeling is _always_ simple, meek,
and confiding."

"But the tale?" she asked, to change his tone. She wanted time to
prepare herself for a _tête-à-tête_. She began to fear her own sudden
impulses.

"Well," he said, "the plot is told in a few words; 'tis the working out
of various feelings which is so perfect:--A man loves a girl whom he
should not love----

"Why?" and she stilled her heart, and looked calmly at him.

"Because _he_ was rich, and _she_ only a poor, simple, peasant girl.
Could I _reverse_ the case, I might find tongue to speak more eloquently
on the subject; as it is, I can only tell your ladyship facts."

"And what were these facts?"

"They journeyed together, on horseback--_not_ as _we_ are doing, but in
more primitive style, she on a pillion behind him. _He was a young
widower_"--(these words were each distinctly articulated)--"and his boy
rode before him, on his knee: 'tis a pretty scene! Night, however, comes
on, and they lose their way, and at last find themselves beside the
_'Mare au Diable_,' noted as fatal to all approaching it; and beside
this they pass the night."

"And?" she asked, deeply interested.

"The place _was_ fatal; for Love was the spirit there. Probably," he
added, laughing, "as _Le Diable_ is often said to '_émporte l'amour_,'
he might have brought him to that spot. Certain it is, there he was, and
he prompted two, to know their own hearts who had never known them
before."

"I am all impatience for the conclusion."

"I am a bad story-teller; besides, the case is so _completely_ against
_my_ position, that I cannot fully, soulfully, enter into it; however, I
will satisfy your ladyship's impatience. Hearts _will_ speak at
last--theirs did; and he, for her sake, relinquished a rich marriage,
station, all--and married the simple girl."

"And was happy?"

"Blest--so the tale has it; and never looked back to the '_Mare au
Diable_' without a feeling of gratitude. Here we are at the pond, Lady
Dora. I wonder where Lord Randolph is!"

"I cannot think love so hastily created," she said, not attending to his
other words; "'tis of slower growth."

"_Growth!_ yes; but I tried to give you the author's idea. They,
unacknowledged, loved one another a long time, and a word opened their
eyes to the truth."

"There are few who make sacrifices for love," she replied, "and such,
when made, are seldom appreciated."

"Pardon me, we differ. When _truly_ made, from sincere affection, we bow
down in almost adoration of the giver--'tis so sweet to give! The heart
feels so light when it has yielded all its store; buoyant and
healthful, it only grieves at its own poverty and ungathering powers;
for it would fain, like a bee, renew the sweet store, to carry all home
to one hive."

"How may we know such a gift would be prized?"

"By reading in a never closed page, by the eyes writ; but some do not
love making sacrifices,--they cost dear."

She felt, if this subject were continued in this strain, her courage
would fail her. "Not yet!" she thought; "he shall suffer for all I felt
the day he quitted me so abruptly."

"Sacrifices are foolish things," she said aloud; "good for boys and
girls--men do not value them; they are like water poured on the ground."

"Which brings forth flowers," he added; "but I quite agree with you,
they _are_ foolish; but then the mere human heart cannot boast of
unerring wisdom. How stupid it is," he said, changing his tone, "to be
walking round this _mare_! This is no god or _diable_ there; let us
pursue that avenue before us; we will return hither. Now," he continued,
when they were side by side in a quiet alley, "tell me _how_ one may
school the heart not to offer itself up in sacrifice?"

"There is no such thing as an appreciated sacrifice," she said proudly,
"for a woman; to offer one, there must be a not desecrated altar--man's
heart never _could_ be such; they are all deceitful, and profaned--on
the like, I should trample as on a reptile!"

"It might turn, and leave an unerring sting."

"How? I do not understand you!"

"In bruising a weed, we may trample on a flower; and our own heart never
arise to vigour or life again." As he spoke, he leaned almost over her
saddle-bow, and looked in her face.

"I do not fear that, but we were speaking of the thing we _dare_ not
love. Such a love I would look upon, in all its phases, till my eye grew
tired, and my heart sunk to rest."

"What constitutes that which we _dare_ not love?"

"The thing we should sacrifice too much in loving, and, so doing, lose
our own weight in the balance, and--"

"And," he interrupted, "be slighted by the person we _fear_ to love, not
being certain of gaining love for love, and gratitude, everlasting
gratitude, for the word which raised us from despair to generous hope!"

Her hand trembled on the bridle-rein, his eyes were fixed upon her
downcast lid, and her lip was quivering with its effort not to speak. At
that moment a close carriage passed them, in which was an invalid, a
lady, and child. It was going very slowly--the invalid was Minnie, the
child and woman, little Miles and Mary. This latter endeavoured to veil
the vision before them by leaning across, but Minnie had seen all; his
look, air, their closely-drawn figures, and grasping Mary's hand she
became pale as death. Mary had been urging, and she had almost consented
to Skaife's telling Tremenhere that she lived!

"Oh, I have done well to refuse!" she cried. "Mere sufferance from him
would kill me! Oh, would that I were dead!--would that he were free!
Then he might marry her! Poor Miles--poor Miles, he never will be
happy! Were I gone, her proud heart would not perhaps reject him at
last; I know her well, and how difficult his task must be; is he not
deserving all pity? He _thought_ he loved me, to awaken and know another
held his heart in bondage! He loves her well! no wonder he looks so sad
and ill: poor Miles!" and the generous heart bled more for him than for
its own breaking sorrow!

A few moments afterwards, Lady Dora and her two attendant suitors passed
the quiet carriage in a hand-canter.



CHAPTER XX.


Days passed after the events related in the last chapter, and Tremenhere
did not make his appearance in Lady Ripley's apartments, at l'Hotel
Mirabeau; to a person of Lady Dora's despotic temper, his conduct was
maddening. He never lost an opportunity of uttering words leading her to
believe his affections entangled beyond remedy; no one could look at him
without seeing that he suffered keenly from some mental cause, and
something of recent occurrence; therefore, it was not Minnie's loss--but
this she would not permit herself to think for a moment--no, 'twas
herself; consequently his manner of acting was the more inexplicable. He
never sought her, but when they met; he seemed unable to controul his
feelings, his avowal of love; but this was not all she would have. She
would have him throw himself, a slave enchained before her, beseeching
her love, to loosen his bonds, or rivet them for ever. In her impatient
rage she hated all, even Lord Randolph at last, for the very friendship
he had for Tremenhere. It was this, she thought, which, acting on an
overstrained (to her) idea of honour, prevented his admitting all, and
claiming a return. Her every thought became bitterness. Nothing is
nearer love than hate; they are two extremes a child's tiny hand might
unite. Thus, then, she fostered in absence a bitter hatred towards
Tremenhere, which melted like a waxen flower in the sun when he
approached, and became quite as impressionable, capable of any feeling
he might stamp there in its place. In her rage she looked around for
some one wherewith to wound him, and the thought after appeared in the
person of Marmaduke Burton, who returned to Paris from a long tour in
Italy and elsewhere. Coward-like, he had fled at first, then, not
finding himself pursued, he stopped, and, looking around, thought he had
deserted the field too soon.

It was at a ball Lady Dora met him, nearly a week after the events of
the past chapter. He stood for a moment uncertain how to act. She knew
Tremenhere was there; they had just spoken, and he had passed on. In an
instant she saw her advantage--for so she deemed it; and, holding out a
hand, cordially welcomed Burton's return amongst them. Her mother, among
others, had almost dropped the acquaintance, in consequence of the
coward slur attached to his name; but so completely was Lady Dora
mistress of all around her, that her mother, though still doubting the
policy of it, remembering how decidedly Lord Randolph had cut him, was
fain to receive him politely when Lady Dora came up, leaning on his arm.

"I will bend him now!" she thought, as she reflected upon the only one
occupying her mind. As she moved through the rooms, she met Lord
Randolph, who was seeking her.

He started: Marmaduke looked embarrassed, and then attempted to smile;
but the other was one of those to whom wealth was as dross, compared
with honour. All the weaker parts of his character were sinking to the
bottom, and the more sterling ones rising to the surface. Possibly it
was from constant association with so noble a mind as Tremenhere's--and
Lady Lysson's, too. Be it as it may, the struggling artist was more to
him than the wealthy but dishonourable Burton. Without glancing at him,
he held out an arm to Lady Dora, saying--

"Will you take my arm? I have been seeking you; Lady Lysson is anxious
to speak to you."

"Thank you," she replied with _hauteur_; "but you must see I am
otherwise engaged--I am going to dance with Mr. Burton. Allow me to
recall to your memory, an old friend."

Lord Randolph took not the slightest notice. This cool reprehension of
her conduct, the unworthy motive of which she was thus doubly made to
feel, drove her frantic, and she turned aside with a--

"Come, Mr. Burton--we shall be late for this _deux temps_!"

Lord Randolph moved another way, and looked anxiously about him. He soon
perceived the object of his search, as Tremenhere's tall figure rose
before him.

"Come along, Tremenhere," he said, familiarly linking his arm in his--"I
want to show you somebody."

"Any one I know?" asked the other unsuspectingly.

"A very pretty girl," replied Lord Randolph.

"Indeed! But where is Lady Dora?"

"Lady Dora?--oh, there!" And he pointed her out, where she stood with
Burton. A thrill passed through Tremenhere's frame, and the other felt
it: the former felt all the delicacy and thought which had made Lord
Randolph take him thus boldly by the arm, to publish his feelings
towards him to his cousin; and also leading him, as a jockey takes his
horse up and shows him what he has to overleap, lest he should shy at
the difficulties suddenly placed before him.

"Gray!" exclaimed he--using a term hitherto never uttered in his proud
humility--"you are a good, generous, noble fellow; I thank you!" And he
grasped his hand.

These few words were volumes from him, and the other felt them so. As
they moved on, not another word passed on the subject, and shortly
afterwards the two met Lady Dora and Burton; and Tremenhere's
countenance was free and unclouded, as he stopped and reminded her of a
prior engagement for the following dance. Burton looked cowed and
uneasy: her rage almost broke through the bounds of politeness, for in
her heart she despised Burton, and now doubly so when her revenge had
failed, and she saw herself abased in the abasement of her _protegé_.
She was almost rude in speech as she acknowledged the engagement, and
appointed where he might find her, this _valse_ concluded.

And during these heavy hours poor Minnie sat at home in her sorrow. She
had refused to leave the house since the day she met Lady Dora and
Tremenhere; nothing could persuade her but that he loved her cousin: he
might regret _her_ sad fate, but he loved Dora. She urged Skaife to give
him the proof of his mother's fame--of his own legitimacy; but Skaife
had resolved that she alone should lay this treasure, in reconciliation,
at her husband's feet. Moreover, Skaife was a man of the world, and
though he knew Tremenhere _now_ loved only Minnie, he had justly read
her cousin and Lady Ripley; and he knew man as he too generally is,
easily led by his vanity and a woman's love, even against his better
reason and judgment. He saw Lady Dora loved Tremenhere, and felt assured
only the "poor artist" stood between her love and pride. Once master of
the manor-house he would answer for nothing, and like a wise man,
resolved to spare him the temptation, and Minnie the pain, of seeing a
fruitless effort to forget her, in an impossible marriage.

We left Lady Dora dancing with Marmaduke Burton; she did so, but it was
spiritless. She had played a game unpleasing to herself, and the success
had not been all she hoped for. Tremenhere seemed perfectly indifferent;
and when she rejoined Lady Lysson, a freezing manner towards herself,
and complete ignorance of Marmaduke Burton's existence, were the things
which they met, as she approached, leaning on his arm. To make her still
more uncomfortable, she saw Tremenhere and Lord Randolph, as she passed
through an inner saloon, laughing and talking with several ladies in the
most unconcerned manner possible. At last the dance was proclaimed for
which she was engaged to the former. Had she been behind him and his
friend, as they stood unobserved by her in a doorway, watching her, she
would not have felt perfectly comfortable. Lord Randolph's face was
severe, but in nowise sad, as he said to the other--

"Tremenhere, that woman does not love me--better said, she rather
dislikes me. Look at her now. What she has done this night, has opened
my eyes to a fact some time suspected, that another motive than even
indifferent liking has induced her to accept me. She has some hidden
thought, or hidden affection in her heart, and she is struggling with
it, for whom I know not; but to me she is indifferent."

"Perhaps you judge hastily," answered Tremenhere. "She has her oddity of
temper, doubtless, like all women. Let time, he is my greatest ally,
decide every thing; he has means of bringing hidden thought to light, of
which our puny imaginings can form no idea. I must leave you; I am
engaged this _Schottische_ to her ladyship," and, loosening his arm, he
crossed over to where she stood with Burton. "May I claim my promised
_Schottische_?" he asked, offering an arm.

It was an immense relief for her to leave Burton. She felt many had
looked coldly upon her that night. A man is not publicly branded
slanderer and coward without the titles clinging to him, more especially
among an English set, acquainted with most of the persons implicated in
the affair. She expected, made up her mind to a few bitter words, or
implied doubts of her motives in having chosen Burton for her cavalier;
but though Tremenhere read her perfectly, he was a sealed book to her,
without an effort, or any thing to make her say, "He is playing a part."
He was perfectly unembarrassed in his manner--attentive, without being
gallant--gentle, without any thing overstrained--full of that quiet,
unostentatious wit which charms so much. She had never seen him to more
advantage; and every moment she felt his superiority over her own narrow
thoughts and mind; and she felt disgusted with the part she had been
playing. A word would have made her express all her overtaxed feelings
to him, but he gave her no opportunity; she was as an agreeable partner
and stranger to him--nothing more. The dance was over; he evinced no
desire to leave her, no particular wish to retain her near him; he was
the impersonation of a thoroughly idle, indifferent man. As they passed
near Lady Lysson, a fan gently touched his arm.

"Amidst more youthful engagements, don't forget you are engaged to me
for a _contredanse_," she said. "When a man solicits a thing, I hold it
as a point of conscience to make him accomplish it; you have urged me to
this folly--I wish to fulfil my kismet."

"I have _not_ forgotten it, Lady Lysson; I am counting the moments by my
stop-watch."

Lady Dora would have given worlds to hear him speak to her in such a
tone. There was a total change in the intonation when he addressed Lady
Lysson. From one to the other it seemed to say, "I know you, and you
know me; there exists a freemasonry between us."

And when she stood in the same quadrille with Lord Randolph as partner,
she felt it still more keenly. There was a freedom between Tremenhere
and Lady Lysson to which she never had attained, though related to
him--it was the familiarity of kindred spirits.

She and her mother quitted early. There was a reception at the embassy
this same evening, to which they were going. Before doing so, however,
they returned home, as it was close at hand, and Lady Dora entered her
room to re-arrange her dress, nominally; but, in fact, to collect her
shattered nerves by a few moments quiet. Accordingly, dismissing her
maid, she sat alone. There was a large mirror opposite the chair where
she sat. After surveying herself some time in the distance, she rose,
and pacing the room with her proud, queenly air, stood before it,
glowing in beauty. Never mirror gave back any thing more richly
beautiful than her face; her eyes of dazzling fire--eyes to make a man
bow down in wonder before their power--and then the long heavy ringlet
of dark chestnut falling across the heaving bosom, to the waist. She
surveyed her beauty, not in petty vanity, but in wonder herself, that so
perfect a work of nature had not awed that man to love her, and confess
his love--how could he resist her? and loving her, as assuredly he
_did_. With this thought a grim doubt arose, like a breath passing over
that mirror, to shade her beauty--almost unconsciously she dropped on a
seat opposite the glass, which her eyes never quitted; and, as if
involuntarily, her hands unclasped the massive bracelets one by one, and
laid them on a table beside her. Her maid had placed a bouquet of rich
damask roses, looped round the stem with a string of gems, on the side
of her beautiful head; for she was not simple in her dress, as Minnie--a
more gorgeous style suited her best. Her fingers, though unused to tasks
like these, unfastened them, and they dropped from her hand on the
floor--all, save the rich dress of antique _moire_, lay around her; and
then the girl, unladen by gems, unadorned but by nature, dispirited,
broken-hearted, at that nature's bidding covered her face with her
hands, and wept bitterly; she _felt_ he could not love her,--to have
been so calm beneath her bitter insult in choosing his cousin's society,
she felt how much, how madly she loved him; and the proud Lady Dora
sobbed in her bitterness. "An artist's wife! the wife of a nameless,
illegitimate man! I would be any thing he might become, if he but loved
me! But he does!" she cried with sudden energy; "he must! His every word
betokened it at once; this one fatal night cannot have made him hate me!
He does, and I will prove him! Less would be madness, a longer suspense,
the working of that hollow pride which has made me what I am!" When her
maid tapped to say, "Lady Ripley was waiting!" she found Lady Dora pale,
and with the tears still on her cheek, incapable of aught but an essay
at rest on her feverish couch. Her mother was not unused of late to her
whims, though she never had carried them to so much excess. It was her
own fault. Had she trained this fair plant otherwise, it would have
reared itself in cultured beauty towards heaven; as it was rotten at the
root, it would either decay from its own want of power, or trail
worthless on the ground, only fit to be torn from its parent earth as a
weed--nothing more.



CHAPTER XXI.


Nothing could adequately pourtray to our readers the unhappy state of
all at Gatestone. Juvenal had sunk into a querulous old man; Sylvia's
bile had spread itself over all: she silenced any qualms of conscience
she might otherwise have felt, by keeping every one as uncomfortable as
possible. If she beheld the faintest gleam of forgetfulness passing
across the horizon, she immediately drew down the blinds of despair, and
threw every one into darkness again, and sorrow; they could not even for
a moment lose sight of their loss. If the wind whistled she gave a
shiver, and talked of storms at sea, and drowning persons; if the
railway whistle, borne on the air for miles, came faintly over
Gatestone, she put her handkerchief to a dry eye, and _snivelled_ over
the recollection thus suddenly recalled to her aching memory, of Gretna
Green and its consequences. She was an inexhaustible fund of woe; for
when Juvenal had been lured by the kind-hearted Dorcas into some other
train of thought, Sylvia would suddenly remind them that this was the
anniversary of a day in which Minnie had said, done, worn, or completed
something, and consequently she had the house in as miserable a state
as she could desire; all crept about from pantry to garret in listen
shoes, that they might not break in on the general woe; this was another
happy invention of Sylvia's, which made the large house as silent as if
death were abiding there. Dorcas was lost, indeed, when Mr. Skaife left
his curacy for Paris; for, without naming Minnie often, they consoled
one another by gentle words, and works of charity accomplished together.
Now Dorcas was fain to betake herself principally to her own room; for
her means of consoling Juvenal were hourly more severed from her grasp.
He became perfectly disconsolate, and rocked to and fro, like one
bordering on idiotcy. Of Marmaduke Burton's return he never would listen
to; he never should enter _his_ house, for his guidance had led him to
oppress Minnie, and drive her to desperation. Mrs. Gillett's woe was
beyond even the others; for she carried it even into sleep--she was
constantly dreaming some dreadful dream. Either she saw Minnie a corpse
or in bridal gear; both were bad--the first proved her spirit was
unquiet--the second, an unerring sign of death. Now, as Minnie _was_
dead, she couldn't die again; consequently, it must be the death of some
one at Gatestone--but whose? And she would seek the sympathizing Sylvia,
and break into loud prognostications of evil.

"Oh, my dear master! my dear master!" she would cry, wringing her hands;
"I know he's going, and then we shall all have to go, and leave the old
place; whereas, if any of you had married, and had a boy, or Miss
Minnie either, we might have remained; but her boy went along with her,
and I often see a beautiful baby in my sleep, all covered with long
hair, like Miss Minnie, sitting on a rock, wringing out the sea-water."

Her description of Minnie was not very correct, but she didn't exactly
and literally mean what she said. Poor Gillett certainly looked older by
many years; and in proof of how much her memory was affected, she had
been seen more than once sitting on the stile in the holly field,
without her pattens. The manor-house was desolate--only servants
inhabited it; Farmer Weld plodded over his fields in gloom, for now he
lost all hope of ever seeing good Madam Tremenhere's son back again.

Skaife had been so solemnly bound down not to betray Minnie's actual
existence, that he durst not do so; besides he felt assured that an
eventual day of brightness would shine over all, by Tremenhere's and
Minnie's reconciliation. He wisely felt that this was too serious an
act, after the fatal suspicions on his part, to be risked in its full
and perfect self-accomplishment by any interference of friends; when
both hearts should be firmly convinced of each other's worth, then they
might be safely brought together. But when he told Minnie all the bitter
grief her beloved aunt Dorcas felt, her gentle heart consented to a hope
which might be held out to alleviate her pain; and this was in the
accomplishment of a desire, she had so often expressed, that Minnie's
boy even, had been saved.

"Oh!" she often said to Skaife, "I could with time have become
reconciled to all. If only I had held her child in my arms, it would
have recalled her to me in all her childish love and kindness, but even
this is denied me!"

Skaife accordingly wrote to her, requesting that secresy which he knew
would be faithfully kept; and stating that through Mary Burns he had
strong hope of one day placing her Minnie's boy in her arms, as he had
reason to believe he had been saved from the wreck!

Minnie would indeed have rejoiced had she seen her aunt's joy; next to
seeing herself once more, this was the dearest blessing she could have
received. "Minnie's boy!" and as she sat, and hoped and prayed for his
coming, the step grew lighter, the eye less dim--even Sylvia's bolts
fell more harmlessly around her; and at last this amiable one had the
cruelty to accuse her of want of feeling, and "unnatural mirth," because
she once saw the ghost of a smile pass over her lip; but not all her
indignation could make poor Dorcas hopeless; she felt Skaife would not
lightly buoy her up with hopes, to destroy them.

Skaife had indeed a difficult task in hand; he himself feared hurrying
events between Tremenhere and Minnie. He dreaded many things; he
trembled lest he should become captivated by Lady Dora; and then her
flirtation with his cousin Burton, the motive of which Skaife plainly
perceived, alarmed him--this, through revenge, might lead to infatuation
on Miles's part, and how _then_ ever pursuade Minnie that really he only
loved herself? and all her future happiness and contentment with him,
depended on her strong conviction on this point. He might easily have
effected a meeting, a most joyful one, and reconciliation; but he felt
that it must be even more than the first confidence of love--it must be
one which had been tried in the fire, proved and purified--and how
accomplish this? Her meeting him and Lady Dora in the Bois de Boulogne,
had thrown so heavy a doubt over her heart.

One only thing he could imagine, and this was privately to bring her to
the studio, and let her own ears hear Miles's words--something must be
done, and done quickly.

Some days had passed, and Tremenhere made no effort to see Lady Dora in
private; true he called there; it was urged upon him by Lord Randolph
and Lady Lysson, who most nobly spoke to him on the subject, without
knowing the relationship between them, only knowing of that between
Burton and himself.

"Lady Dora is capricious, like most beauties," she said, "my dear Mr.
Tremenhere, and, for some extraordinary reason, chooses to receive Mr.
Burton's visits contrary to my advice; it will not therefore do, for
your own dignity sake, for you to absent yourself from their circle; my
doors are open to you at all times; we are only too happy when we can
secure you within them; and I strongly advise your visiting Lady Ripley,
even more frequently than usual." He could but press the little soft
hand held out to him in gratitude to his lips.

Lady Ripley and her daughter had, however, another motive besides
pleasure or pique in seeking Marmaduke Burton. They feared him, dreading
what he might utter about Tremenhere's wife, as a relative of theirs.
By policy, and seeming kindness towards him, they bound him to silence;
for he read their hearts, and never alluded to the unpleasant subject.
It mattered little to him _how_ he secured their support, that he had
it, and as he believed, thus galled Tremenhere, was sufficient. Lady
Dora would gladly have cut Burton after the ball where they had met; but
crooked policy costs full many a bitter pang, spared to straightforward
candour: in concealing their relationship to Tremenhere's wife--they
took from her memory that, which might have shielded it from many a
cloud.

Lady Dora met Tremenhere. Her heart was now beyond her own controul, had
he spoken; but he was attentive, courteous--nothing more by word or
look. He had resolved now to let another open Lord Randolph's eyes, for
this had been a part of his motive lately; and he saw those eyes _were_
extending their power of vision through his cousin, so he left all in
other hands. This maddened her. A man may not _speak_ his love for many
reasons; but he cannot but _look_ it, if he love; it is the soul which
finds tongue through the eyes. If we might govern or quite controul
this, what perfect creatures we should be, _with good intentions_.

Skaife had obtained permission from Miles to visit his studio whenever
he pleased, even during his absence, as the latter had a well-chosen
library, in which Skaife delighted. He had asked leave so to do, for a
half-formed plan in his mind.

One day he brought this to perfection, as far as he could foresee.
Tremenhere was going to pass some early hours in the morning at the
Louvre. At two o'clock Lady Dora had requested a sitting, and so
arranged it that Lord Randolph should accompany her to Tremenhere's, and
leave her there for awhile, as he too had an engagement. Lady Dora was
independent in all she did, and this day was resolved finally to know if
she were beloved or not by Tremenhere. Skaife knew all the latter's
appointments, and hours of them. He had made himself master of these
facts, and, in accordance with his plan, deemed it better Lady Dora
should come in almost immediately after the meeting and re-union of the
husband and wife, that no proof further need be wanting to convince her
of their mutual love; he dreaded this cold-hearted girl.

All this was very nicely planned; but it had to be as well accomplished.
It occupied him and Mary Burns for days, in preparing poor Minnie for
her visit to Tremenhere's rooms, and when the day arrived her limbs
almost refused to support her. With much difficulty he reached her
husband's abode with her, and, leaving her in a fiacre, entered the
_loge de concièrge_, and inquired whether Tremenhere was within, as a
precautionary measure. The man answered in the negative, and handed him
the key of the apartment, saying--

"Perhaps, monsieur would like to walk up?"

The next thing to be done was easy of accomplishment. This man, of that
most corruptible class, was open to a little quiet bribery, "Not to
tell Monsieur Tremenhere that a lady was in his rooms, as he (Skaife)
wished to surprise him."

"_Allez!_ monsieur," answered the man, "I see nothing."

And Skaife and Minnie passed in. How her heart and limbs trembled when
she entered those rooms where he had so lately been! where he sat and
talked, thought of, and _perhaps_ so deeply regretted her! She stood in
the centre of that studio, and turned round and round, and her pale face
and figure, which moved so mechanically, as if afraid of a natural
undulation, made her seem like a statue. Skaife had arranged all in his
mind before bringing her, and in the space behind the bed in the alcove
he concealed her. This room adjoined the studio by one door, and by an
opposite from this latter you entered the saloon.

Skaife's idea had been, immediately on Tremenhere's entrance to lead him
to speak of Minnie, and she, by creeping from her place of concealment,
would be enabled to listen to all--he reserving to himself the task of
keeping Miles at his easel, and thus preventing him from entering his
bedroom, without giving her sufficient time to conceal herself. All this
was admirably arranged; but in such plans there is always the
presumption that nothing untoward will occur to mar their perfect
completion. Miles entered at one o'clock, as appointed, and after
wandering through his apartment, passing close to the half lifeless
Minnie, he threw off his coat, and put on the artistic jacket of
scarlet, in which he was in the habit of painting. Minnie through the
curtains watched all this, and saw him stand in deep thought a moment,
then, passing a weary hand over a wearier brow, he entered his studio,
where Skaife stood very pale. He durst not follow him to his bedroom--it
would have looked extraordinary his doing so; and so he stood, almost
retaining his breath, expecting every moment to hear Minnie shriek forth
the other's name--but all passed quietly, and Miles came out, and sat
down to touch up Lady Dora's portrait before her arrival. The saloon, we
have said, was on the opposite side to the bedroom, and facing
Tremenhere's easel; from the saloon you passed into an antechamber, and
thence out of the apartment. Skaife had calculated upon having the
catastrophe over before Lady Dora's arrival, who would come in, and
share the surprise, with Lord Randolph, of finding the long lost wife in
her husband's fond arms. He knew that if Tremenhere could be led to
speak of her again, as he had done to him, Minnie would no longer doubt
the joy her coming would afford him, and at once rush forth. So it might
most probably have been all smooth and fair sailing; but they were
doomed to meet with some rocks yet, and one of these was the entrance,
before the hour appointed, of Lady Dora and Lord Randolph Gray! Skaife,
though a most patient man, would assuredly have sworn, but for the
colour of his cloth--as it was, he stamped, and coloured violently.

"Trem.," said Lord Randolph, using the abbreviation by which he
frequently addressed his friend, "I've brought Lady Dora before the
hour, because I have a particular engagement, and must leave her in
your care for half an hour."

Be it said, Lady Ripley imagined Lord Randolph was going to remain the
whole time during her sitting, else her ideas of propriety, most justly,
would have forbidden allowing her to stop alone in a painter's studio.
Lord Randolph had no thought of harm of his friend, when Lady Dora
said,--

"I am most anxious to get my sittings over for this Diana; so don't tell
mamma you are going to leave me there alone, or she will not allow me to
go."

English mothers, perhaps too freely, permit their daughters to walk out
_only_ accompanied by their intended husbands! French ones say, "The
marriage may never take place; 'tis better to avoid bringing a girl's
name in question."

Lord Randolph looked at "Diana," and at the fair original, and departed
fearless and confiding. Lady Dora trembled with annoyance. Every moment
was an hour. She was resolved to have an explanation; and how accomplish
this with Skaife present? However, there was a fate to turn all to its
will. This latter felt choking with impatience. He could not remain
there all the period of the sitting, for nothing could be done until
Lady Dora left. So he rose, and entering the bedroom, approached the
alcove, where he had placed a chair for Minnie to rest upon; in a low
whisper he told her the state of the case, and bade her be patient--all
would go well. Be it remembered that, whatever his suspicions of the
state of Lady Dora's heart, he had no proof, he knew nothing of the
scarcely ambiguous conversations which took place between them, whenever
they met. To collect his thoughts, he deemed it best to go out for a
walk; consequently he went, to Lady Dora's great joy, and, pulling the
outer door after him, _thought_ he closed it, but he did not--it
remained ajar.

Lady Dora sat some moments listening, then her impatience began to
manifest itself by a movement of the foot. Tremenhere's calmness and
cheerful ease drove her mad.

"Mr. Tremenhere," she said at last, "were you not surprised to see me
dancing with your----with Mr. Burton, the other evening?"

"Who--I, Lady Dora?" he asked in extreme surprise, but most placidly;
"not in the least--why should I be?"

"Because--because, it was strange my doing so."

"Strange! Lady Dora--you use a wrong term, I think; there is nothing
strange in a natural action. Mr. Burton, to do him justice, is tall,
gentlemanly in appearance, can converse on general topics most agreeable
to ladies, dances very well--and what more does a lady require?"

"True--for all this you speak freely and truthfully; but you forget the
character of the man--you forget----"

"And pray, my dear Lady Dora, what _has_ character to do with a
schottische or a polka? Even if a man be a slanderer, a liar, (pardon me
the harsh, but truthful word,) and coward, the two first will not
prevent his paying just compliments to your beauty, nor the last make
him fail in keeping the time of a _deux temps_, though it _might_ that
of a hostile meeting, to answer for the two first."

"You are bitter, Mr. Tremenhere."

"Bitter! and towards him?" and he laughed. "No; pardon me, I feel too
thorough a contempt for the man to waste bitterness upon him; I reserve
that for those who may yet be saved by a little wholesome bark, or
quinine, medicinally speaking."

"Expend it then on me. You _must_ despise, or condemn me; you cannot
approve."

"I do not judge you, Lady Dora; I do but try to hand down to posterity
those perfect features of yours, and you sadly distort them," and he
laid down his palette. "You are grieved, vexed; has any thing annoyed
you? Can I serve you? Pray, command me!"

Minnie had crept from behind the bed. An irresistible impulse impelled
her to do so when she found herself alone, and knew Lady Dora to be
unaccompanied by any one, with Tremenhere. And pale, almost lifeless,
she leaned against the door, and--oh! most scrupulous reader, forgive
the fault!--listened.

"Mr. Tremenhere!" Lady Dora cried, rising hastily in reply to his
question, and standing pale, erect, but trembling; "I would ask
you,--I--I am in a position of much suffering." She clasped her hands
together as if to still her nervous pain. "I would ask you," she
uttered, "whether your memory is perfect?"

"In all things, Lady Dora," was the calm reply.

"Do you remember when first we met in Florence?"

"Well--well. I was then a man, comparatively speaking, full of hope;
now----"

"And you loved _then_. You (better said) loved me, and I treated your
half-avowed affection with scorn; that was pride!" She spoke in hurried
confusion.

"True--most true!" he uttered.

"You quitted, believing me a cold, heartless flirt. You met, and married
my cousin; was this love, or--pique?"

"I cannot answer, lady, till I know why you ask."

"Since her death" (the words fell in cold awe from her lips) "we have
met often, and on each occasion words of implied tenderness fell from
your tongue."

Neither heard the almost groan from the sinking woman, leaning against
the half-closed door to the bedroom.

"All these I was deaf to, and I accepted Lord Randolph as my future
husband. This, too, was pride."

Tremenhere stood looking earnestly at her, as one of her hands nervously
played on the back of a chair; but he did not utter a word, though the
deep, speaking eye was fixed upon her.

"Man!" she cried at last, stamping her foot with energy; "do you not see
how I suffer? Pride--woman's delicacy--all are forgotten. Tremenhere, I
love you! For this love I accepted your cousin's attention, hateful as
he was to me, to urge you to say the last words; for all but those have
been said between us. Tremenhere, for mercy's sake," she cried
impetuously, "do not stand looking on me thus; but say those words at
last!"

"Lady Dora," he said, as a deep sigh of heartfelt joy struggled upwards,
but his tone was calm and low, and he approached and clasped her hand,
"_now_ I will answer you. When we met in Florence I could have loved
you; I thought I did, till I measured the error afterwards by the
intensity of my love for Minnie. When I brought her, a child almost, to
my artist's home, who came and upheld that child? who came, and by her
presence gave countenance to our love? Did you--did any? True, after a
while, a few tardy visits were paid! But when I, fiendlike, drove her by
my passions to become a wanderer--who sought her out to cheer and
uphold? I blamed you less even then than now; for now you have shewn me
how despotic your will can be, when it pleases you to be so! Love you!"
he cried, striding across the room and dragging back the curtain before
the statue of his wife--"love you, Lady Dora! the cold, heartless woman
of the world; with this too looked upon--the marble dream of my adored,
my murdered Minnie! Oh no, no!" he added, almost weeping. "By the long,
long nights I watched, creating this memory--by her purity, which I now
know too late--I scorn you, Lady Dora; and, unmanly as it may seem, have
trifled with your semblance of heart, your vanity in short, to open the
eyes of a worthy man, too worthy for you--Lord Randolph."

She had stood transfixed by horror, crushed in her pride, and bending
to earth. As he spoke the last words, a heavy fall in the bedroom
resounded in their ears. She turned hastily, and in terror gazing at the
door, through which he passed in haste. Not a thought of the truth burst
upon him as he raised the closely enveloped and veiled figure, fainting
on the ground. Placing her on a couch, he hurriedly tore off the bonnet
to give her air; as he did so, the long fair hair rolled heavily to the
ground, which it swept. He uttered a cry; it was one of pain and
fear--for one hurried moment something supernatural crept through his
blood and stilled it--then drawing near the couch, as if a spirit lay
there, he gently lifted back the fallen hair, and gliding on one knee,
gazed with distended eyes on the pale, unconscious face, then, placing
his lips near hers, he held his own breath to feel if she breathed. A
gentle sigh came over his cheek--with that sigh the truth rushed almost
in maddening power over his mind. One loud cry came from his soul; and
clasping her in his arms he strained her to his breast, and wild,
hysteric sobs burst from his lips, but the eyes were burning and
tearless.

"Minnie--Minnie!" he sobbed; "speak to me--my wife--my Minnie, speak to
me!"

But though the blue eyes opened, and tried to comprehend all, they were
haggard and without speculation. By degrees memory returned; and the
first look of terror passing, the languid arms raised above the head on
her bosom, and grew in a circle round his neck, and strained him to her
heart.

"Miles!" she whispered, "it would have killed me if----" she glanced
towards the door. "Let us together thank that unfailing power," she
uttered, "which has kept us from sin, and through so much sorrow, in
faith and love," and the trembling knees clung to the ground beside
where he knelt supporting her; and the eyes, pure as an angel's, looked
upwards in prayer, while his arms clasped her, and the speechless lips
were pressed on the upraised hands which pleaded for both.

Lady Dora had stood unnoticed in the doorway, when he rushed in. No
words can convey an idea of her mingled sensations. At a glance she
guessed the truth--'twas Minnie in life. As she stood, a hand touched
her arm.

"Lady Dora," said a grave voice, "I was there." He pointed to the
saloon. "An open door permitted me to enter, and hear all. I meant not
to listen--your words arrested me. Come, let me take you to Lady
Ripley's; _this_ is no place for you."

She started--gazed on him--then, all her pride coming to her aid, she
cried haughtily--

"My lord, I need no counsellor; I can act alone!"

And, hastily throwing on her bonnet and shawl, she quitted the studio.
Lord Randolph stood an instant, then, taking up a pencil, wrote on a
card, and placed it on the easel:--

     "Heaven bless you both! Tremenhere, when you call me to your joy, I
     shall rejoice with you, indeed!

     "RANDOLPH."

Skaife returned, and let himself in with the key which he had taken; but
he was not alone. When he quitted the apartment, he hurried off (as men
very often do) to a woman for advice; and now he entered with Mary and
little Miles, resolved to tell all boldly. But when he arrived all had
been said, and, creeping to the bedroom door, he saw Minnie's head on
Tremenhere's beating heart, and his other arm clasped round her, as
though he still dreaded some power might separate them again. Her face
was upturned to his, whose deep, dark eyes were riveted on every look,
as she told him all. Skaife moved aside, and Mary crept in. Miles looked
up; but he could not for an instant loose his grasp, or move. Mary came
quietly on, and round the mother's neck were clasped the arms of her
child. Miles started. One glance told him all the truth. Something
thrilled through him. It was what he once expressed--"Minnie, I should
be jealous of my own child;" but the momentary gleam of that fatal
passion left, ere matured, and, folding both in one clasp, his tears
unrestrained baptized their re-union of love.

"_You_ did this!" he cried, grasping the hands of Skaife and Mary, as he
pointed to his boy's portrait in his mother's arms. "Thank you; it was
nobly done, and oh, a lovely thought!"

Tremenhere had married Minnie dowerless; but what a rich fortune she
laid before him in the proofs of his mother's fame! It was only by
degrees Minnie told him all she had suffered--all her vain search for
d'Estrées, until aided from on high, whence comes all for good, though
our little minds cannot always see it thus. For without these trials he
would never have overcome his jealousy--never have been truly happy.
What a room that saloon was of overflowing joy, as Tremenhere, Minnie,
Mary, Skaife, and d'Estrées, sat and talked of the past and future! Nor
must we forget the child, sleeping on its mother's knee, beneath the
loving eyes which watched him!

Lady Dora and her mother quitted Paris hastily for Switzerland; the
former, whose wishes were law, broke off all engagement, as the latter
believed, with Lord Randolph, without assigning any cause, and insisted
upon leaving France; but the rupture was by mutual consent. Nothing
would have induced him to marry her, after the conversation he
overheard.

Lady Lysson and himself were the first to call upon and congratulate
Tremenhere and his wife. Lord Randolph confided all to her, except, as a
feeling of honour, Lady Dora's confession; and, beneath the patronage of
Lady Lysson, the young couple became the lions of the place, which they
were shortly quitting, to solace those who still mourned Minnie, and
whom she wished to surprise so joyfully. And who may depict that
happiness? 'Twas like the throwing off of some horrid nightmare, which
had oppressed all in a long, heavy sleep. Skaife went before, to prepare
them for it.

Dorcas, who had hoped to see the child, held once more to her heart the
living mother. Juvenal wept in childish mirth, as he clasped her in his
arms, and sued for pardon. Sylvia, even _then_, could not forbear her
old habits, but called to Minnie's mind, again and again, all she had
suffered through Miles's treachery, (as she termed it)--imploring her to
be cautious for the future, for of course it was in him, and would break
out somewhere. She never could expect to be a perfectly happy woman;
there were things she _always_ must remember, and would do well to do
so! She could _never really_ love him again, but _perhaps_ a re-union
was wiser than a separation!

However, despite all, Minnie _did_ look happy, for Miles was beside her;
and Juvenal shook hands warmly with him, too, and Farmer Weld and buxom
Sally.

Marmaduke Burton followed Lady Dora to Switzerland, and both, in utter
ignorance of D'Estrée's revelations, from the same motive--revenge
towards Tremenhere--entered into a hasty marriage, the bell of which had
scarcely rung, when a trumpet resounded, summoning him to yield up the
manor-house to the incontestable proof of Miles's legitimacy.

Minnie would fain, if it might have been, have spared her cousin so
severe a blow; but the honour of her husband was more to her than all.
And when the day of triumph came, and the bells rang out in praise of
"good Madam Tremenhere's son"--and the carriage, though plain and
unostentatious, drove up with him, his fair smiling wife, and child, one
loud shout rang through the air; and, turning from the many,
Tremenhere, with a warm clasp, grasped the hand of Farmer Weld, and
presented him to Minnie as the truest friend of his day of shadow.

And Skaife, d'Estrées, all were there; the latter became the tutor
nominally of little Miles, and friend of both his doating parents. Mrs.
Gillett!--who may speak of her? How she cried, and laughed, and dreamed
all sorts of _couleur de rose_ dreams; and how she appeared for the
first time in her life with a profusion of white satin ribbons in her
cap! Mary remained in Paris, happy in the joy of others, which she had
helped to create anew; prospering, content, and more, grateful for the
peace Heaven had sent to repentance. Spring passed, Summer came, then
Autumn, then Christmas; and despite Sylvia's prognostications, "that
little Miles was a doomed child, for he looked it!"--the boy throve, and
lisped papa and mamma to a large circle of friends round the Christmas
fire at the manor-house. Among others were the faces of Lord Randolph,
Lady Lysson, Skaife, Juvenal, now rosy and himself again, Dorcas, _not_
Sylvia, she had a toothache which did not improve her temper, and
therefore stayed at home alone; for Mrs. Gillett presided over some
luxuries of her own handiwork, for the table. All were smiling and
happy, and in the gallery of family paintings hung "Aurora chasing the
Shades of Night," in which Minnie's lovely face shone; for she had
indeed brought light to Tremenhere's heart and home. None might have
known him; he was as we have never seen him; for, in the midst of the
gaiety of those now joyous halls, he looked up, and beheld his mother's
picture smiling on the son who had loved, and suffered so much for her.
And when the ringing laughter or falling footsteps were stilled, on the
quiet ear sounded the tick-tack, tick-tack, tick-tack, of the old hall
clock, now transferred to the manor-house.

       *       *       *       *       *

Let us end with a moral we have tried to carry out in these pages. If
curses like chickens come home to roost, assuredly our good deeds bring
nestling joys to our bosom, nor is a cup of cold water cast on the
earth.


THE END.





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