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´╗┐Title: A Life's Morning
Author: Gissing, George, 1857-1903
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.

*** Start of this LibraryBlog Digital Book "A Life's Morning" ***

A Life's Morning


George Gissing





Wilfrid Athel went down invalided a few days after the beginning of
Trinity term. The event was not unanticipated. At Christmas it had been
clear enough that he was overtaxing himself; his father remarked on the
fact with anxiety, and urged moderation, his own peculiar virtue.
Wilfrid, whose battle with circumstances was all before him, declined to
believe that the body was anything but the very humble servant of the
will. So the body took its revenge.

He had been delicate in childhood, and the stage of hardy naturalism
which interposes itself between tender juvenility and the birth of
self-consciousness did not in his case last long enough to establish his
frame in the vigour to which it was tending. There was nothing sickly
about him; it was only an excess of nervous vitality that would not
allow body to keep pace with mind. He was a boy to be, intellectually,
held in leash, said the doctors. But that was easier said than done.
What system of sedatives could one apply to a youngster whose
imagination wrought him to a fever during a simple walk by the seashore,
who if books were forcibly withheld consoled himself with the
composition of five-act tragedies, interspersed with lyrics to which he
supplied original strains? Mr. Athel conceived a theory that such
exuberance of emotionality might be counterbalanced by studies of a
strictly positive nature; a tutor was engaged to ground young Wilfrid in
mathematics and the physical sciences. The result was that the tutor's
enthusiasm for these pursuits communicated itself after a brief
repugnance to the versatile pupil; instincts of mastery became as vivid
in the study of Euclid and the chemical elements as formerly in the
humaner paths of learning; the plan had failed. In the upshot Wilfrid
was sent to school; if that did not develop the animal in him, nothing

He was not quite three-and-twenty when the break-down removed him from
Oxford. Going to Balliol with a scholarship, he had from the first been
marked for great things, at all events by the measure of the schools.
Removal from the system of home education had in truth seemed to answer
in some degree the ends aimed at; the lad took his fair share of cricket
and football, and kept clear of nervous crises. At the same time he made
extraordinary progress with his books. He acquired with extreme
facility, and his ambition never allowed him to find content in a second
place; conquest became his habit; he grew to deem it the order of nature
that Wilfrid Athel's name should come first in the list. Hence a
reputation to support. During his early terms at Balliol he fagged as
hard as the mere dullard whose dear life depended upon a first class and
a subsequent tutorship. What he would make of himself in the end was
uncertain; university distinctions would probably be of small moment to
him as soon as they were achieved, for already he spent the greater
portion of his strength in lines of study quite apart from the
curriculum, and fate had blessed him with exemption from sordid cares.
He led in a set devoted to what were called advanced ideas; without
flattering himself that he was on the way to solve the problem of the
universe, he had satisfaction in reviewing the milestones which removed
him from the unconscious man, and already clutched at a measure of
positive wisdom in the suspicion that lie might shortly have to lay
aside his school-books and recommence his education under other
teachers. As yet he was whole-hearted in the pursuit of learning. The
intellectual audacity which was wont to be the key-note of his
conversation did not, as his detractors held, indicate mere
bumptiousness and defect of self-measurement; it was simply the florid
redundancy of a young mind which glories in its strength, and plays at
victory in anticipation. It was true that he could not brook the
semblance of inferiority; if it were only five minutes' chat in the
Quad, he must come off with a phrase or an epigram; so those duller
heads who called Athel affected were not wholly without their
justification. Those who shrugged their shoulders with the remark that
he was overdoing it, and would not last out to the end of the race,
enjoyed a more indisputable triumph. One evening, when Athel was taking
the brilliant lead in an argument on 'Fate, free-will, foreknowledge
absolute,' his brain began to whirl, tobacco-smoke seemed to have dulled
all the lights before his eyes, and he fell from his chair in a

He needed nothing but rest; that, however, was imperative. Mr. Athel
brought him to London, and the family went down at once to their house
in Surrey. Wilfrid was an only son and an only child. His father had
been a widower for nearly ten years; for the last three his house had
been directed by a widowed sister, Mrs. Rossall, who had twin girls. Mr.
Athel found it no particular hardship to get away from town and pursue
his work at The Firs, a delightful house in the midst of Surrey's
fairest scenery, nor would Mrs. Rossall allow that the surrender of high
season cost her any effort. This lady had just completed her
thirty-second year; her girls were in their tenth. She was comely and
knew it, but a constitutional indolence had preserved her from becoming
a woman of fashion, and had nurtured in her a reflective mood, which, if
it led to no marked originality of thought, at all events contributed to
an appearance of culture. At the time of her husband's death she was at
the point where graceful inactivity so often degenerates into
slovenliness. Mrs. Rossall's homekeeping tendencies and the growing
childhood of her twins tended to persuade her that her youth was gone;
even the new spring fashions stirred her to but languid interest, and
her music, in which she had some attainments, was all but laid aside.
With widowhood began a new phase of her life. Her mourning was
unaffected; it led her to pietism; she spent her days in religious
observance, and her nights in the study of the gravest literature. She
would have entered the Roman Church but for her brother's interposition.
The end of this third year of discipline was bringing about another
change, perhaps less obvious to herself than to those who marked her
course with interest, as several people did. Her reading became less
ascetic, she passed to George Herbert and the 'Christian Year,' and by
way of the decoration of altars proceeded to thought for her personal
adornment. A certain journal of society which she had long ago abandoned
began to show itself occasionally in her rooms, though only as yet by
oversight left to view. She spoke with her brother on the subject of
certain invitations, long neglected, and did not seem displeased when he
went beyond her own motion to propose the issuing of cards for a
definite evening. Then came Wilfrid's break-down. There was really no
need, said Mr. Athel, that she should transfer herself immediately to
the country, just when everybody was well settled in town. But Mrs.
Rossall preferred to go; she was not sure that the juncture had not some
connection with her own spiritual life. And she maintained, on the
whole, a seemly cheerfulness.

Mr. Athel was an Egyptologist of some distinction. Though not in person
or manner suggestive of romantic antecedents, he had yet come by this
taste in a way which bordered on romance. Travelling in Southern Europe
at about the age which Wilfrid had now reached, he had the good fortune
to rescue from drowning an Italian gentleman then on a tour in Greece.
The Italian had a fair daughter, who was travelling with him, and her,
after an acquaintance of a few weeks, Athel demanded by way of
recompense. Her father was an enthusiastic student of Egyptian
antiquities; the Englishman plied at one and the same time his wooing
and the study of hieroglyphics, with marked success in both directions.
The Mr. Athel who at that time represented parental authority, or at all
events claimed filial deference, was anything but pleased with the step
his son had taken; he was a highly respectable dealer in grain, and,
after the manner of highly respectable men of commerce, would have had
his eldest son espouse some countrywoman yet more respectable. It was
his opinion that the lad had been entrapped by an adventurous foreigner.
Philip Athel, who had a will of his own, wedded his Italian maiden,
brought her to England, and fought down prejudices. A year or two later
he was at work in Egypt, where lie remained for some twelve months; his
studies progressed. Subsequently he published certain papers which were
recognised as valuable. Wilfrid found the amusement of his childhood in
his father's pursuit; he began to decipher hieratic not much later than
he learned to read English. Scarabs were his sacred playthings, and by
the time of his going to school he was able to write letters home in a
demotic which would not perhaps have satisfied Champollion or Brugsch,
but yet was sufficiently marvellous to his schoolfellows and gratifying
to his father.

For the rest, Philip Athel was a typical English gentleman. He enjoyed
out-of-door sports as keenly as he did the pursuit of his study; he had
scarcely known a day's illness in his life, owing, he maintained, to the
wisdom with which he arranged his day. Three hours of study was, he
held, as much as any prudent man would allow himself. He was always in
excellent spirits, ever ready to be of service to a friend, lived with
much moderation on victuals of the best quality procurable, took his
autumnal holiday abroad in a gentlemanly manner. With something of
theoretic Radicalism in his political views, he combined a stout respect
for British social institutions; affecting to be above vulgar
prejudices, he was in reality much prepossessed in favour of hereditary
position, and as time went on did occasionally half wish that the love
he had bestowed on his Italian wife had been given to some English lady
of 'good' family. He was liberal, frank, amiably autocratic in his home,
apt to be peppery with inferiors who missed the line of perfect respect,
candid and reasonable with equals or superiors. For his boy he reserved
a store of manly affection, seldom expressing itself save in bluff
fashion; his sister he patronised with much kindness, though he despised
her judgment. One had now and then a feeling that his material
circumstances aided greatly in making him the genial man he was, that
with beef and claret of inferior quality he might not have been
altogether so easy to get along with. But that again was an illustration
of the English character.

We find the family assembling for breakfast at The Firs one delightful
morning at the end of July. The windows of the room were thrown open,
and there streamed in with the sunlight fresh and delicious odours,
tonics alike of mind and body. From the Scotch firs whence the dwelling
took its name came a scent which mingled with wafted breath from the
remoter heather, and the creepers about the house-front, the lovely
bloom and leafage skirting the lawn, contributed to the atmosphere of
health and joy. It was nine o'clock. The urn was on the gleaming table,
the bell was sounding, Mr. Athel stepped in straight from the lawn,
fresh after his ten minutes' walk about the garden. Wilfrid Athel
appeared at the same moment; he was dark-complexioned and had black,
glossy hair; his cheeks were hollower than they should have been, but he
had not the aspect of an invalid. Mrs. Rossall glided into the room
behind him, fresh, fair, undemonstrative. Then came the twins, by name
Patty and Minnie, delicate, with promise of their mother's English style
of beauty; it was very hard to distinguish them, their uncle had
honestly given up the pretence long ago, and occasionally remonstrated
with his sister on the absurdity of dressing them exactly alike. The
last to enter the room was the governess, Miss Emily Hood.

Mr. Athel, having pronounced a grace, mentioned that he thought of
running up to town; did anybody wish to give him a commission? Mrs.
Rossall looked thoughtful, and said she would make a note of two or
three things.

'I haven't much faith in that porridge regimen, Wilf,' remarked the
master of the house, as he helped himself to chicken and tongue. 'We are
not Highlanders. It's dangerous to make diet too much a matter of
theory. Your example is infectious; first the twins; now Miss Hood.
Edith, do you propose to become a pervert to porridge?'

'I have no taste for it,' replied his sister, who had become

'There's a certain dishonesty about it, moreover,' Mr. Athel pursued.
'Porridge should be eaten with salt. Milk _and_ sugar--didn't I hear a
suggestion of golden syrup, more honestly called treacle, yesterday?
These things constitute evasion, self-deception at the least. In your
case, Miss Hood, the regimen is clearly fruitful of ill results.'

'Of what kind, Mr. Athel?'

'Obviously it leads to diminution of appetite. You were in the habit of
eating a satisfactory breakfast; at present some two ounces of that
farinaceous mess--'

'My dear Philip!' interposed Mrs. Rossall, still absently.

I hold that I am within my rights,' asserted her brother. 'If Miss Hood
goes down into Yorkshire in a state of emaciation--'

Wilfrid and the twins showed amusement.

'To begin with,' pursued Mr. Athel, 'I hold that sweet food the first
thing in the morning is a mistake; the appetite is checked in an
artificial way, and impaired. Even coffee--'

'You would recommend a return to flagons of ale?' suggested Wilfrid.

'I am not sure that it wasn't better dietetically.'

Mrs. Rossall had taken an egg, but, after fruitlessly chipping at the
shell throughout this conversation, put down her spoon and appeared to
abandon the effort to commence her meal. Presently she broke silence,
speaking with some diffidence.

'I really think I will go to town with you, Philip,' she said. 'I want
some things you can't very well get me, and then I ought to go and see
the Redwings. I might persuade Beatrice to come to us for a day or two.'

'Do so by all means. You're quite sure,' he added with a smile, 'that I
couldn't save you the trouble of the journey? I have no objection to
visiting the Redwings.'

'I think it will be better if I go myself,' replied Mrs. Rossall, with a
far-off look. 'I might call on one or two other people.'

Having decided this point, she found herself able to crack the egg. The
anticipation of her day in London made her quite gay throughout the

The carriage was at the door by ten o'clock, to drive to Dealing, the
nearest station, some four miles away. The twins had gone upstairs with
Miss Hood to their lessons, and Wilfrid was sauntering about the hall.
His father paused by him on the way to the carriage.

'What do you propose to do with yourself, Wilf?' lie asked.

'Ride, I think.'

'Do. Go over to Hilstead and lunch there. Capital lunch they give you at
the inn; the last time I was there they cooked me one of the best chops
I ever ate. Oberon wants exercise; make a day of it.'

'Very well.'

'You're not looking quite so well, I'm afraid,' remarked his father,
with genuine solicitude in his tone. 'Haven't been reading, have you?'


'No imprudences, mind. I must stop that porridge regimen; it doesn't
suit you. Ready, Edith?' he shouted heartily at the foot of the stairs.

Mrs. Rossall came down, buttoning her gloves.

'If I were you, Wilf,' she said, 'I'd go off somewhere for the day. The
twins will only worry you.'

Wilfrid laughed.

'I am going to eat unexampled chops at the "Waggoner" in Hilstead,' he

'That's right. Good-bye, my dear boy. I wish you'd get fatter.'

'Pooh, I'm all right.'

The landau rolled away. Wilfrid still loitered in the hall, a singular
look of doubt on his face. In a room above one of the twins was having a
music lesson; a certain finger-exercise was being drummed with
persistent endeavour at accuracy.

'How can she bear that morning after morning?' the young man murmured to

He took his straw hat and went round to the stables. Oberon was being
groomed. Wilfrid patted the horse's sleek neck, and talked a little with
the man. At length he made up his mind to go and prepare for riding;
Oberon would be ready for him in a few minutes.

In the porch Patty ran to meet him.

'Truant!' Wilfrid exclaimed. 'Have I caught you in the act of escape?'

'I was going to look for you,' said the child, putting her arm through
his and swinging upon him. 'We want to know if you'll be back for

'Who wants to know?'

'I and Minnie and Miss Hood.'

'Oh, you are Patty, then, are you?'

This was an old form of joke. The child shook her dark curls with a
half-annoyed gesture, but still swung on her cousin as he moved into the
house. Wilfrid passed his arm about her playfully.

'Can't you make up your mind, Wilf?' she asked.

'Oh yes, my mind is quite made up,' he replied, with a laugh.

'And won't you tell me?'

'Tell you? Ah, about lunch. No, I shall not be back.'

'You won't? Oh, I am sorry.'

'Why are you sorry, indistinguishable little maiden?' he asked, drawing
out one of her curls between his fingers, and letting it spring back
again into its circling beauty.

'We thought it would be so nice, we four at lunch.'

'I am warned to avoid you. The tone of conversation would try my weak
head; I am not capable yet of intellectual effort.'

The little girl looked at him with puzzled eyes.

'Well, it can't be helped,' she said. 'I must go back to my lessons.'

She ran off, and Wilfrid went up to his dressing-room. When he came
down, Oberon was pawing the gravel before the door. He mounted and rode

His spirits, which at first seemed to suffer some depression, took
vigour once more from the air of the downs. He put Oberon at a leap or
two, then let the breeze sing in his ears as he was borne at a gallop
over the summer land, golden with sunlight. In spite of his still worn
look, health was manifest in the upright vigour of his form, and in his
eyes gleamed the untroubled joy of existence. Hope just now was strong
within him, a hope defined and pointing to an end attainable; he knew
that henceforth the many bounding and voiceful streams of his life would
unite in one strong flow onward to a region of orient glory which shone
before him as the bourne hitherto but dimly imagined. On, Oberon, on! No
speed that would not lag behind the fore-flight of a heart's desire. Let
the stretch of green-shadowing woodland sweep by like a dream; let the
fair, sweet meadow-sides smile for a moment and vanish; let the dark
hill-summits rise and sink. It is the time of youth and hope, of
boundless faith in the world's promises, of breathless pursuit.

Hilstead was gained long before lunch could be thought of. Wilfrid rode
on, and circled back towards the hostelry famous for chops about the
hour of noon. He put up his horse, and strayed about the village till
his meal was ready; after he had eaten it he smoked a cigar among
hollyhocks and sunflowers. Then impatience possessed him. He looked at
his watch several times, annoyed to find that so little of the day was
spent. When he at last set forth again, it was to ride at walking pace
in the direction of home. He reached a junction of roads, and waited
there for several minutes, unable to decide upon his course. He ended by
throwing the reins on Oberon's neck.

'Go which way you will,' he said aloud.

Oberon paced forward to the homeward route.

'So be it. On, then! An hour will bring us to The Firs.'

The house was all but reached, when Wilfrid caught a glimpse of a straw
hat moving into a heath-clad hollow a hundred yards from the road. He
pressed on. At the gate stood a gardener.

'James,' he cried, leaping down, 'take the horse to the stable, will

And, instead of going up to the house, he walked back in the direction
he had come till he reached the hollow in which the straw hat had
disappeared. Miss Hood sat on the ground, reading. She was about to
rise, but Wilfrid begged her not to move, and threw himself into a
reclining posture.

'I saw you as I rode past,' he said, in a friendly way. 'I suppose the
twins are straying?'

'They are at Greenhaws,' was the reply, 'Mrs. Winter called for them
immediately after lunch. She will bring them back early in the evening.'


He plucked sprigs of heather. Miss Hood turned to her book.

'I've had a magnificent ride,' Wilfrid began again. 'Surely there is no
country in England so glorious as this. Don't you enjoy it?'

'Very much.'

'I have never seen the Yorkshire moors. The scenery, of course, is of a
much wilder kind?'

'I have not seen them myself,' said the governess.

'I thought you might have taken your holidays sometimes in that

'No. We used to go to a seaside place in Lincolnshire called
Cleethorpes. I suppose you never heard of it?'

'I think not.'

Wilfrid continued to pluck heather, and let his eyes catch a glimpse of
her face now and then. Miss Hood was a year younger than himself, and
had well outgrown girlishness. She was of very slight build, looked
indeed rather frail; but her face, though lacking colour, had the
firmness of health. It was very broad at the forehead, and tapered down
into narrowness; the eyes seemed set at an unusual distance from each
other, though the nose was thin and of perfect form, its profile making
but a slight angle away from the line of the brows. Her lips were large,
but finely curved; the chin was prominent, the throat long. She had warm
brown hair.

Few would at first sight have called her face beautiful, but none could
deny the beauty of her hands. Ungloved at present, they lay on the open
pages of the book, unsurpassable for delicate loveliness. When he did
not venture to look higher, Wilfrid let his eyes feed on the turn of the
wrist, the faint blue lines and sinuous muscles, the pencilling about
the finger-joints, the delicate white and pink nails.

Miss Hood was habitually silent when in the company of others than the
children. When she replied to a question it was without timidity, but in
few, well-chosen words. Yet her manner did not lack cheerfulness; she
impressed no one as being unhappy, and alone with the twins she was
often gay enough. She was self-possessed, and had the manners of a lady,
though in her position this was rather to be observed in what she
refrained from doing than in what she did. Wilfrid had, on first meeting
her, remarked to himself that it must imply a Certain force of
individuality to vary so distinctly from the commonplace even under the
disadvantage of complete self-suppression; he had now come to understand
better the way in which that individuality betrayed itself.

'Shall you go to Cleethorpes this year?' was his next question.

'I think not. I shall most likely pass the holidays at home.'

'And study electricity?'

In a former conversation she had surprised him by some unexpected
knowledge of the principles of electricity, and explained the
acquirement by telling him that this subject was her father's favourite
study. Wilfrid put the question now with a smile.

'Yes, very likely,' she replied, smiling also, but faintly. 'It gives my
father pleasure when I do so.'

'You have not a keen interest in the subject yourself?'

'I try to have.'

Her voice was of singular quality; if she raised it the effect was not
agreeable, owing possibly to its lack of strength, but in low tones,
such as she employed at present, it fell on the ear with a peculiar
sweetness, a natural melody in its modulation.

'The way in which you speak of your father interests me,' said Wilfrid,
leaning his chin upon his hand, and gazing at her freely. 'You seem so
united with him in sympathy.'

She did not turn her eyes to him, but her face gathered brightness.

'In sympathy, yes,' she replied, speaking now with more readiness. 'Our
tastes often differ, but we are always at one in feeling. We have been
companions ever since I can remember.'

'Is your mother living?'


Something in the tone of the brief affirmative kept Wilfrid from further

'I wonder,' he said, 'what you think of the relations existing between
myself and my father. We are excellent friends, don't you think?
Strange--one doesn't think much about such things till some occasion
brings them forward. Whether there is deep sympathy between us, I
couldn't say. Certainly there are many subjects on which I should not
dream of speaking to him unless necessity arose; partly, I suppose, that
is male reserve, and partly English reserve. If novels are to be
trusted, French parents and children speak together with much more
freedom; on the whole that must be better.'

She made no remark.

'My father,' he continued, 'is eminently a man of sense if I reflect on
my boyhood, I see how admirable his treatment of me has always been. I
fancy I must have been at one time rather hard to manage; I know I was
very passionate and stubbornly self-willed. Yet he neither let me have
my own way nor angered me by his opposition. In fact, he made me respect
him. Now that we stand on equal terms, I dare say he has something of
the same feeling towards myself. And So it comes that we are excellent

She listened with a scarcely perceptible smile.

'Perhaps this seems to you a curiously dispassionate way of treating
such a subject,' Wilfrid added, with a laugh. 'It illustrates what I
meant in saying I doubted whether there was deep sympathy between us.
Your own feeling for your father is clearly one of devotedness. You
would think no sacrifice of your own wishes too great if he asked it of

'I cannot imagine any sacrifice, which my father could ask, that I
should refuse.'

She spoke with some difficulty, as if she wished to escape the subject.

'Perhaps that is a virtue that your sex helps to explain,' said Wilfrid,

'You do not know,' he added, when a bee had hummed between them for half
a minute, 'how constant my regret is that my mother did not live till I
was old enough to make a friend of her. You know that she was an
Italian? There was a sympathy taken out of my life. I believe I have
more of the Italian nature than the English, and I know my mother's
presence would be priceless to me now that I could talk with her. What
unsatisfactory creatures we are as children, so imperfect, so deficient!
It is worse with boys than with girls. Compare, for instance, the twine
with boys often. What coarse, awkward, unruly lumps of boisterousness
youngsters mostly are at that age! I dislike boys, and more than ever
when I remember myself at that stage. What an insensible, ungrateful,
brainless, and heartless brat I was!'

'You must be wrong in one respect,' she returned, watching a large
butterfly. 'You could not have been brainless.'

'Oh, the foundation of tolerable wits was there, no doubt; but it is
just that undeveloped state that irritates me. Suppose I were now ten
years old, and that glorious butterfly before me; should I not leap at
it and stick a pin through it--young savage? Precisely what a Hottentot
boy would do, except that he would be free from the apish folly of
pretending a scientific interest, not really existing. I rejoice to have
lived out of my boyhood; I would not go through it again for anything
short of a thousand years of subsequent maturity.'

She just glanced at him, a light of laughter in her eyes. She was
abandoning herself to the pleasure of hearing him speak.

'That picture of my mother,' he pursued, dropping his voice again, 'does
not do her justice. Even at twelve years old--(she died when I was
twelve)--I could not help seeing and knowing how beautiful she was. I
have thought of her of late more than I ever did; sometimes I suffer a
passion of grief that one so beautiful and lovable has gone and left a
mere dumb picture. I suppose even my memory of her will grow fainter and
fainter, founded as it is on imperfect understanding, dim appreciation.
She used to read Italian to me--first the Italian, then the English--and
I thought it, as often as not, a bore to have to listen to her!
Thank Heaven, I have the book she used, and can now go over the pieces,
and try to recall her voice.'

The butterfly was gone, but the bee still hummed about them. The hot
afternoon air was unstirred by any breeze.

'How glad I am,' Wilfrid exclaimed when he had brooded for a few
moments, 'that I happened to see you as I rode past! I should have
wandered restlessly about the house in vain, seeking for some one to
talk to. And you listen so patiently. It is pleasant to be here and talk
so freely of things I have always had to keep in my own mind. Look, do
look at that bastion of cloud over the sycamore! What glorious gradation
of tints! What a snowy crown!'

'That is a pretty spray,' he added, holding to her one that he had

She looked at it; then, as he still held It out, took it from him. The
exquisite fingers touched his own redder and coarser ones.

'Have you friends in Dunfield?' he asked.


'Any real friend, I mean--any girl who gives you real companionship?'

'Scarcely that.'

'How shall you spend your time when you are not deep in electrics? What
do you mean to read these holidays?'

'Chiefly German, I think. I have only just begun to read it.'

'And I can't read it at all. Now and then I make a shot at the meaning
of a note in a German edition of some classical author, every time
fretting at my ignorance. But there is so endlessly much to do, and a
day is so short.'

'Isn't it hateful,' he broke forth, 'this enforced idleness of mine? To
think that weeks and weeks go by and I remain just where I was, when the
loss of an hour used to seem to me an irreparable misfortune. I have
such an appetite for knowledge, surely the unhappiest gift a man can be
endowed with it leads to nothing but frustration. Perhaps the appetite
weakens as one grows in years; perhaps the sphere of one's keener
interests contracts; I hope it may be so. At times I cannot work--I
mean, I could not--for a sense of the vastness of the field before me.
I should like you to see my rooms at Balliol. Shelves have long since
refused to take another volume; floor, tables, chairs, every spot is
heaped. And there they lie; hosts I have scarcely looked into, many I
shall never have time to take up to the end of my days.'

'You have the satisfaction of being able to give your whole time to

'There is precisely the source of dissatisfaction My whole time, and
that wholly insufficient. I have a friend, a man I envy intensely; he
has taken up the subject of Celtic literature; gives himself to it with
single-heartedness, cares for nothing that does not connect itself
therewith; will pursue it throughout his life; will know more of it than
any man living. My despair is the universality of my interests. I can
think of no branch of study to which I could not surrender myself with
enthusiasm; of course I shall never master one. My subject is the
history of humanity; I would know everything that man has done or
thought or felt. I cannot separate lines of study. Philology is a
passion with me, but how shall I part the history of speech from the
history of thought? The etymology of any single word will hold me for
hours; to follow it up I must traverse centuries of human culture. They
tell me I have a faculty for philosophy, in the narrow sense of the
word; alas! that narrow sense implies an exhaustive knowledge of
speculation in the past and of every result of science born in our own
time Think of the sunny spaces in the world's history, in each of which
one could linger for ever I Athens at her fairest, Borne at her
grandest, the glorious savagery of Merovingian courts, the kingdom of
Frederick II., the Moors in Spain, the magic of Renaissance Italy--to
become a citizen of any one age means a lifetime of endeavour. It is
easy to fill one's head with names and years, but that only sharpens my
hunger. Then there is the world of art; I would know every subtlest
melody of verse in every tongue, enjoy with perfectly instructed taste
every form that man has carved or painted. I fear to enter museums and
galleries; I am distracted by the numberless desires that seize upon me,
depressed by the hopelessness of satisfying them. I cannot even enjoy
music from the mere feeling that I do not enjoy it enough, that I have
not had time to study it, that I shall never get at its secret....
And when is one to live? I cannot lose myself in other men's activity
and enjoyments. I must have a life of my own, outside the walls of a
library. It would be easy to give up all ambition of knowledge, to
forget all the joy and sorrow that has been and passed into nothingness;
to know only the eternity of a present hour. Might one not learn more in
one instant of unreflecting happiness than by toiling on to a mummied
age, only to know in the end the despair of never having lived?'

He again raised his eyes to her face. It was fixed in a cold, absent
gaze; her lips hardened into severity, the pose of her head impressive,
noble. Athel regarded her for several moments; she was revealing to him
more of her inner self than he had yet divined.

'What are your thoughts?' he asked quietly.

She smiled, recovering her wonted passiveness.

'Have you not often much the same troubles?'

'They arc only for the mind which is strong enough to meet and overcome
them,' she replied.

'But look, my mind has given way already! I am imbecile. For ever I
shall be on the point of a break-down, and each successive one will
bring me nearer to some final catastrophe--perhaps the lunatic
asylum--who knows?'

'I should think,' she said gravely, 'that you suggested a truth. Very
likely your mind will contract its range and cease to aim at the

'But tell me, have you not yourself already attained that wisdom? Why
should you make pretences of feebleness which does not mark you? You
have a mind as active as my own; I know that perfectly well. What is
your secret of contentment? Won't you help me in this miserable plight?'

'No, Mr. Athel, I have none but very ordinary powers of mind, and
perhaps it is my recognition of that which keeps me contented. There is
indeed one principle of guidance which I have worked out for myself--'

'Ah! And that?'

'It will not enlighten you, for it is only the choice of a natural and
easy course, seeing that difficult ones are closed. The literature of
learning is out of my reach, so I limit myself to the literature of
beauty, and in this I try to keep to the best.'

'You are right, you are right! To know the masterpieces of literature,
pure literature, poetry in its widest sense; that is the wise choice.
Think; we feed ourselves with the secondhand wisdom of paltry
philosophisers and critics, and Shakespeare waits outside the door with
the bread of life. From Homer--Alas! you do not read Greek?'

She shook her head.

'And you work at German! In Heaven's name change your language
forthwith! Why should you not know Greek? You _must_ know Greek! I will
give you books, I will advise you, show you the essentials to begin
with. There are still a few days before you go into Yorkshire; you can
work during the holidays on lines I shall set you; you can write and
tell me your--'

He paused, for her face had lost its smile, and wore again that coldly
respectful look which she seldom put off save in her privacy with the
children. For the last quarter of an hour he had marked in her quite
another aspect; the secret meanings of her face had half uttered
themselves in eye and lip. His last words seemed to recall her to the
world of fact. She made a slight movement and closed the book on her

'Greek is more than I can undertake, Mr. Athel,' she said in a quietly
decided tone. 'I must be content with translations.'

'Translations You would not say that so calmly if you knew what you were
renouncing. Everything, everything in literature, I would give up to
save my Greek. You will learn it, I know you will; some day I shall hear
you read the hexameters as beautifully as you read English poetry to the
girls. Will you not begin if I beg you to?'

The elbow on which he rested moved a few inches nearer to her. He saw
the pearly shadows waver upon her throat, and her lips tremble into

'My time in the holidays will be very limited,' she said. 'I have
undertaken to give some help to a friend who is preparing to become a
teacher, and'--she tried to smile--'I don't think I must do more work
whilst at home than is really necessary.'

'No, that is true,' Wilfrid assented unwillingly. 'Never mind, there is
plenty of time. Greek will be overcome, you will see. When we are all
back in town and the days are dull, then I shall succeed in persuading

She looked about her as if with thought of quitting her place. Her
companion was drawn into himself; he stroked mechanically with his
finger-tips the fronds of bracken near him.

'I suppose I shall go up again in October,' he began. 'I wish there were
no necessity for it.'

'But surely it is your one desire?' the other replied in genuine

'Not to return to Oxford. A few months ago it would have been, but this
crisis in my life has changed me. I don't think I shall adapt myself
again to those conditions. I want to work in a freer way. I had a
positive zeal even for examinations; now that seems tame--well, boyish.
I believe I have outgrown that stage; I feel a reluctance to go back to
school. I suppose I must take my degree, and so on, but it will all be
against the grain.'

'Your feeling will most likely alter when you have thoroughly recovered
your health.'

'No, I don't think it will. Practically my health is all right. You
don't,' he added with a smile, 'regard me as an irresponsible person,
whose feeble remarks are to be received with kind allowance?'

'No, I did not mean that.'

He gazed at her, and his face showed a growing trouble.

'You do not take too seriously what I said just now about the weakness
of my mind? It would be horrible if you thought I had worked myself into
a state of amiable imbecility, and was incapable henceforth of acting,
thinking, or speaking with a sound intellect. Tell me, say in plain
words that is not your way of interpreting me.'

He had become very much in earnest. Raising himself to a position in
which he rested on one hand, lie looked straight into her face.

'Why don't you reply? Why don't you speak?'

'Because, Mr. Athel, it is surely needless to say that I have no such

'No, it is not needless; and even now you speak in a way which troubles
me. Do not look away from me. What has my aunt told you about me?'

She turned her face to him. Her self-command was so complete that not a
throb of her leaping heart betrayed itself in vein or muscle. She even
met his eyes with a placid gaze which he felt as a new aspect of her

'Mrs. Rossall has never spoken to me of your health,' she said.

'But my father's jokes; he has a way of humorous exaggeration. You of
course understand that; you don't take seriously all he says?'

'I think I can distinguish between jest and earnest.'

'For all that, you speak of the recovery of my health as if I were still
far from the wholly rational stand-point. So far from my being mentally
unsound, this rest has been a growing-time with me. Before, I did
nothing but heap my memory with knowledge of hooks; now I have had
leisure to gather knowledge of a deeper kind. I was a one-sided
academical monster; it needed this new sense to make me human. The old
college life is no longer my ideal; I doubt if it will be possible. At
any rate, I shall hurry over the rest of my course as speedily as may
be, that I may begin really to live. You must credit what I am saying; I
want you to give me distinct assurance that you do so. If I have the
least doubt, it will trouble my mind in earnest.'

Miss Hood rose to her feet in that graceful effortless way of which
girls have the secret.

'You attribute a meaning to my words that I never thought of,' she said,
again in the distant respectful manner.

Wilfrid also rose.

'And you give me credit for understanding myself, for being as much
master of my mind as I am of my actions?'

'Surely I do, Mr. Athel.'

'You are going to the house? It is nearly five o'clock your conscience
tells you that a civilised being must drink tea. I think I shall walk
over to Greenhaws; I may as well save Mrs. Winter the trouble of
bringing back the children.'

He hesitated before moving away.

'How little that cloud has changed its form! I should like to stay here
and watch it till sunset. In a week I suppose I shall be looking at some
such cloud over Mont Blanc. And you, in Dunfield.'

'No, there we have only mill-smoke.'

She smiled, and passed from the hollow to the road.



Midway in breakfast next morning, at a moment when Mrs. Rossall was
describing certain originalities of drawing-room decoration observed on
the previous day at a house in town, the half-open door admitted a young
lady who had time to glance round the assembled family before her
presence was observed. In appearance she was very interesting. The tints
of her fine complexion were warmed by exercise in the morning air, and
her dark eyes brightened by pleasurable excitement; she carried her hat
in her hand, and seemed to have been walking bare-headed, for there were
signs of wind-play in her abundant black hair. But neither face nor
attire suggested rusticity: the former was handsome, spirited, with a
hint of uncommon things in its changeful radiance; the latter was the
result of perfect taste choosing at will among the season's costumes. At
her throat were fastened two blossoms of wild rose, with the dew still
on them, and the hand which held her lace-trimmed sunshade carried also
a spray of meadow-sweet.

Mr. Athel, looking up from the end of the table, was the first to
perceive her.

'_Guardami ben: ben son, ben son Beatrice_!' he exclaimed, rising and
moving from his place. 'But how in the world has she got here?'

'Beatrice!' cried Mrs. Rossall, following the general direction of eyes.
'Here already! But you surely haven't come from town this morning?'

'But indeed I have,' was the reply, in a joyous voice, whose full, rich
quality took the ear captive. 'Will you let me sit down just as I am?
Patty, here's a rose for you, and, Minnie, another for you.' She took
them from her dress. 'How do you do, Mr. Wilfrid?'

The governess was mentioned to her by name; Beatrice looked at her
steadfastly for a moment.

'But how have you got here?' inquired Mrs. Rossall. 'You must have left
London at an unheard-of hour; and how have yen come from Dealing?'

'Clearly she has walked,' said Mr. Athel. 'Don't you see the spoils of
her progress?'

'Oh yes, I have walked,' replied the girl. 'I suppose I'm in a dreadful
state towards the end I almost ran. I was so afraid lest I should miss
breakfast, and you can't imagine how hungry I am. Is that oatmeal
porridge you are eating, Mr. Wilfrid? Oh, do let me have some; how
delicious it will be!'

'Nonsense, Beatrice,' interposed Mrs. Rossall. 'Let Mr. Athel give you
some of that pate, or will you have--'

'I've been a vegetarian for a month,' was the reply.

'You don't mean it?'

'Most strictly. No--eggs are not permitted; only the feebler school
allows them. You can't think how much better I have been in body and
mind since I adopted the new diet.'

'But Whatever train did you start by?' pressed Mrs. Rossall.

'Half-past six. I never can sleep these short summer nights. I was up
about five o'clock, and just as I was going to read I saw the railway
time-table. I looked for the first train and determined to come by it. I
wrote a short note to let mother know what had become of me, then in a
minute or two I got my things packed, and last of all stole out of the
house to find a cab. Luckily, a policeman was just passing the door; he
found one for me in no time. Not a soul was up, so I dragged the trunk
out on to the landing, and then made the cabman creep upstairs like a
burglar to fetch it. Of course he thought I was running away; he enjoyed
the joke wonderfully; you should have seen his smile when I paid him at
the station. Perhaps you'll let them fetch my luggage before lunch?'

'But won't your mother be alarmed?' asked Mrs. Rossall.

'Why should she? She knows I am very capable of taking care of myself. I
wouldn't have missed this walk for anything. I only lost my way once,
and then, luckily, a farmer came driving along: he told me I had half a
mile more. I trebled his distance, which made it about right.'

'It's a good four miles from the station,' remarked Mr. Athel.

'Is it? If I hadn't been so hungry I shouldn't have minded as much
again. You're not angry with me, Mrs. Rossall, for coming before I was

A curious note of irresponsible childishness came out now and then in
her talk, as in this last question; it was the more noticeable for the
air of maturity and self-possession which on the whole characterised
her. She continued to talk with much vivacity, making at the same time a
hearty meal. Her place at the table was between Wilfrid and Patty; on
the opposite side sat Miss Hood and Minnie. As often as her eyes fell
upon the governess's face, they rested there for a moment, searchingly,
as if with endeavour to recall some memory.

'Who is responsible for your vegetarianism?' Wilfrid asked. 'Is Mr.
Cresset preaching the doctrine?'

'No, Mr. Cresset is not preaching the doctrine,' was the reply, in a
tone which evidently contained reference to previous dissensions.

'Surely there is nothing offensive in the suggestion?' remarked the
young man mildly.

'Yes, there is something offensive. Your references to Mr. Cresset are
always offensive.'

'You do me injustice. Aunt, I take you to witness, didn't I praise
ungrudgingly a sermon of his we heard last Christmas?'

'I remember quite well,' said Beatrice; 'you regarded it as
extraordinary that anything good could come from that source, Mr. Athel,
I take you to witness, wasn't that his tone?'

'Patty,' interposed Mrs. Rossall, 'do change your place and sit between
those two; they never can be next each other without quarrelling.'

Breakfast drew out to unusual length. Miss Redwing was full of the
season's news, and Mrs. Rossall's reviving interest in such vanities
scarcely affected concealment. Mr. Athel, too, though he supported a
jesting tone, clearly enjoyed listening to the girl's vivacious comments
on the world which amuses itself. Wilfrid talked less than usual.

He and his father strolled together into the garden an hour later, and
found Beatrice reclining in a hammock which had recently been suspended
in a convenient spot. She had one hand beneath her head, the other held
a large fan, with which she warded off stray flakes of sunlight falling
between the leaves.

'Isn't this exquisite?' she cried. 'Let no one hint to me of stirring
before lunch-time. I am going to enjoy absolute laziness.'

'I thought you would have preferred a gallop over the downs,' said Mr.

'Oh, we'll have that this afternoon; you may talk of it now, and I shall
relish it in anticipation. Or, better still, sit down and tell us old
stories about Egypt, and let us forget the age we live in.'

'What is amiss with the age?' inquired Mr. Athel, who stood smoking a
cigar and was in his wonted state of satisfaction with himself and the

'Everything is amiss. If you had been with me yesterday in a street I
was visiting, not a quarter of a mile from home--But I'm going to forget
all that now. How deliciously warm it is here in the shade! I must have
a hammock in our garden at Cowes.'

'When do you go back?' Mr. Athel asked.

'In about a fortnight. It has done mother no end of good; don't you
think she looks remarkably well, Mrs. Rossall? I'm afraid she finds it a
little dull though.'

When his father had returned to the house, Wilfrid sat en the grass and
rested his head against the arm of the low garden chair in which Mrs.
Rossall was reclining. The sound of a grass-cutter alone mingled with
the light rustling of the trees. It was one of those perfect summer
mornings when the sun's rays, though streaming from a cloudless sky, are
tempered by a gentle haze in the upper regions of the air, when the
zenith has a tinge of violet and on the horizon broods a reddish mist.
From this part of the garden only a glimpse of the house was visible; an
upper window with white curtains, cool, peaceful. All else on every side
was verdure and bloom.

'Is it possible,' Beatrice asked, when there had been silence for a few
moments, 'that I can have met Miss Hood anywhere before to-day? Her face
is strangely familiar to me.'

'She has never been in London before she came to us,' said Mrs. Rossall.

'But you have relatives in Dunfield, I think?' remarked Wilfrid.

'To be sure,' said his aunt; 'she comes from Dunfield, in Yorkshire. Do
you think you can have met her there?'

'Ah, that explains it,' Beatrice cried eagerly. 'I knew I had seen her,
and I know now where it was. She gave lessons to my uncle's children. I
saw her when I was staying there the last time, three--no, four years
ago. I can't recall her by her name, but her face, oh, I remember it as
clearly as possible.'

'What a memory you have, Beatrice!' said Mrs. Rossall.

'I never forget a face that strikes me.'

'In what way did Miss Hood's face strike you?' Wilfrid asked, as if in
idle curiosity, and with some of the banter which always marked his tone
to Beatrice.

'You would like some deep, metaphysical reason, but I am not advanced
enough for that. I don't suppose I thought much about her at the time,
but the face has stayed in my mind. But how old is she?'

'Two-and-twenty,' said Mrs. Rossall, smiling.

'A year older than myself; my impression was that she was more than
that. I think I only saw her once; she was with us at lunch one day. We
spoke of her shyness, I remember; she scarcely said a word all the

'Yes, she is very shy,' assented Mrs. Rossall.

'That's a mistake, I think, aunt,' said Wilfrid; 'shyness is quite a
different thing from reticence.'

'Reticent, then,' conceded the lady, with a smile to Beatrice. 'At all
events, she is very quiet and agreeable and well-bred. It is such a good
thing to have a governess who really seems well-bred; it does make it so
much easier to treat her with consideration.'

'Do the children like her?' Beatrice asked.

'Very much indeed. And it's wonderful how she controls them; they are
scatter-brained little creatures.'

'Will she go abroad with you?'

'Oh, no, I don't think that necessary.'

Wilfrid presently left the two to their gossip. The conversation
naturally turned to him.

'How is his health?' Beatrice asked.

'He seems quite recovered. I don't think there was ever anything to
occasion much alarm, but his father got frightened. I expect we shall
bring him back from Switzerland as well as ever he was.'

'What ever has he done with himself the last two months?' mused the

'Well, it has been rather hard to keep him occupied away from books. He
has been riding a good deal, and smoking a good deal.'

'And talking a good deal?'

'Well, yes, Wilf is fond of talking,' admitted Mrs. Rossall, 'but I
don't think he's anything like as positive as he was. He does now and
then admit that other people may have an opinion which is worth
entertaining. Celia Dawlish was with us a fortnight ago; she declared
him vastly improved.'

'She told him so?'

'No, that was in private to me.'

'But I think Celia and he always got on well together,' said Beatrice in
an idly meditative tone, moving the edge of her fan backwards and
forwards a few inches above her face.

A few minutes later, after a silence, she said--

'Do you know what I am thinking?'

'What?' asked Mrs. Rossall, with an air of interest.

'That if I were to close my eyes and keep quiet I should very soon be
fast asleep.'

The other laughed at the unexpected reply.

'Then why not do so, dear? It's warm enough; you couldn't take any

'I suppose the walk has tired me.'

'But if you had no sleep last night? How is it you can't sleep, I
wonder? Is it the same when you are at Cowes?'

'No, only in London. Something troubles me; I feel that I have neglected
duties. I hear voices, as distinct as yours now, reproving me for my
idle, frivolous life.'

'Nonsense! I am sure you are neither idle nor frivolous. Do doze off, if
you can, dear; I'll go and get something to read.'

'You won't be angry with me?' the girl asked, in the tone of an
affectionate weary child.

'I shall if you use ceremony with me.'

Beatrice sighed, folded her hands upon the fan, and closed her lids.
When Mrs. Rossall returned from the house with a magazine and a light
shawl, the occupant of the hammock was already sound asleep. She threw
the shawl with womanly skill and gentleness over the shapely body. When
she had resumed her seat, she caught a glimpse of Wilfrid at a little
distance; her beckoned summons brought him near.

'Look,' she whispered, pointing to the hammock. 'When did you see a
prettier picture?'

The young man gazed with a free smile, the expression of critical
appreciativeness. The girl's beauty stirred in him no mood but that. She
slept with complete calm of feature the half-lights that came through
the foliage made an exquisite pallor on her face, contrasting with the
dark masses of her hair. Her bosom rose and fell in the softest sighing;
her pure throat was like marble, and her just parted lips seemed to need
a protector from the bees....

While she sleeps, let us learn a little more of her history. Some
five-and-twenty years previously, Alfred Redwing was a lecturer on Greek
and Latin at a small college in the North of England, making shift to
live on a beggarly stipend. Handsome, pleasing, not quite thirty, he was
well received in such semblance of society as his town offered, and, in
spite of his defects as a suitor, he won for his wife a certain Miss
Baxendale, the daughter of a well-to-do manufacturer. She brought him at
once a few hundreds a year, and lie pursued his college work in improved
spirits. His wife had two brothers; one had early gone to America, the
other was thriving as a man of business in the town of Dunfield. With
Laurence Baxendale, who dated his very occasional letters from various
parts of the United States, the family might be said to have parted for
good; before leaving England he had got on ill terms with his father and
brother, and it was only a persistent affection for his sister that
caused him to give any sign of himself year after year. When this sister
had been Mrs. Redwing for about two years, she one day received an
intimation from solicitors that Laurence was dead and had left her the
whole of a very considerable fortune, the product, mainly, of dealings
in lumber. Mr. and Mrs. Redwing in fact found themselves possessed of
nearly fourteen thousand a year, proceeding from most orderly
investments. This would naturally involve a change in their mode of
life. In the first place they paid a visit to America; then they settled
in London, where, about the same time, their only child, Beatrice was
born. A month after the child's coming into the world, the father
withdrew from it--into a private lunatic asylum. He had not been himself
from the day when he heard of the fortune that had come to him; such an
access of blessedness was not provided for in the constitution of his
mind. Probably few men of his imaginative temperament and hard
antecedents could have borne the change without some little unsettling
of mental balance; we are framed to endure any amount of ill, but have
to take our chance in the improbable event of vast joy befalling us.
Poor Redwing conceived a suspicion that his wife desired to murder him;
one night as she was following him into their bedroom, he suddenly
turned round, caught hold of her with violence, and flung her to the
ground, demanding the knife which he protested he had seen gleam in her
hand. It was no longer safe to live with him; he was put under
restraint, and never again knew freedom. In less than a year he died, a
moping maniac.

Mrs. Redwing was an invalid thenceforth; probably it was only the
existence of her child that saved her life. An affection of the heart in
course of time declared itself, but, though her existence was believed
to hang on a thread, she lived on and on, lived to see Beatrice grow to
womanhood. She kept a small house in London, but spent the greater part
of the year at home or foreign health-resorts. Her relatives had
supposed that she would return to her own country, but Mrs. Redwing had
tastes which lacked gratification in a provincial manufacturing town.
Without having achieved much positive culture, she had received from her
husband an impulse towards the development of certain higher
possibilities in her nature, and she liked the society of mentally
active people. The state of her health alone withheld her from a second
marriage; she was not a very patient invalid, and suffered keenly in the
sense of missing the happiness which life had offered her. In the matter
of her daughter's education she exercised much care. Doctrinal religion
had a strong hold upon her, and it was her solicitude that Beatrice
should walk from the first in the ways of Anglican salvation. She
dreaded the 'spirit of the age.' With a better judgment in pure
literature than falls to the lot of most women--or men either--she yet
banished from her abode, wherever it might be anything that remotely
savoured of intellectual emancipation; her aesthetic leanings she deemed
the great temptation of her life, for she frankly owned to her friends
that many things powerfully attracted her, which her con science bade
her shun as dangerous. Her generosity made her a shining light in the
world which busies itself in the dispensing or receiving of
ecclesiastical charity. The clerical element was very strong in the
circle that surrounded her. At the same time her worldly tastes did not
go altogether ungratified. She was very fond of music, and her unlimited
powers in the provision of first-rate musical entertainment brought to
her house acquaintances of a kind that would not otherwise have been
found there. The theatre she tabooed, regarding this severity as an
acceptable sacrifice, and not troubling to reflect what share her
ill-health had in rendering it a fairly easy one. In brief, she was a
woman of a genial nature, whose inconsistencies were largely due to her
inability to outgrow early conditions.

Beatrice inherited her mother's mental restrictions, but was endowed
with a subtlety of nature, which, aided by her circumstances, made her
yet more a being of inconsistencies and contradictions. Iii religion it
was not enough for her to conform; zeal drove her into the extremest
forms of ritualistic observance. Nor did care for her personal salvation
suffice; the logic of a compassionate nature led her on to various forms
of missionary activity; she haunted vile localities, ministering alike
to soul and body. At the same time she relished keenly the delights of
the masquerading sphere, where her wealth and her beauty made her doubly
welcome. From praying by the bedside of a costermonger's wife, she would
speed away to shine among the brightest in phantasmagoric drawing-rooms;
her mother could seldom accompany her, but there was always some one
ready to chaperon Beatrice Redwing. Once in the world from which thought
is banished, she seemed as thoughtless as any. Her spiritual convictions
put no veto even upon dancing. Yet her mood at such times was not the
entire self-abandonment of the girl who is born but to waltz. In spite
of the sanction of custom, she could not wholly suppress her virginal
instincts, and, however unconsciously, something in her nature held
itself aloof. She led a life of indecision. Combining in herself such
contradictory elements, she was unable to make close friendships. Her
intimacy with Mrs. Rossall, which dated from her late childhood, was not
the perfect accord which may subsist between women of very different
characters, yet here she gave and received more sympathy than elsewhere.
It was her frequent saying that she came to Mrs. Rossall's house when
she wanted to rest. Here she could be herself, could pass without
interval from pietistic argument to chatter about her neighbours, could
indulge in impulses of confession as with no one else, could put off the
strain of existence which was the result of her conflicting impulses.
But it was only during a portion of the year that she could have Mrs.
Rossall's society at other times, though no one suspected it, she
suffered much from loneliness. With her mother she was in accord on the
subjects of religion and music, but even natural affection, blending
with these sympathies, could not bring about complete unity in her home
there was the same lack that she experienced in the outer world. For all
her versatility, she was not in appearance emotional; no one seemed less
likely to be overcome by passion. Her enthusiasms fell short of the last
note of sincerity. Perhaps it was on this account that she produced no
strong impression, in spite of her beauty. Her personality suffered on
acquaintance from defect of charm. Was it a half-consciousness of this
that led her now and then into the curious affectation of childishness
already remarked? Did she feel unable to rely for pleasing upon those
genuine possessions which for sonic reason could never advantageously
display themselves?....

For more than an hour she slept. At her waking she found Minnie standing
by her side.

'Are your lessons over?' she asked, passing at once into full
consciousness, without sign of having slept.

The child replied that they were.

'Where is Miss Hood?'

'In the summer-house.'

Beatrice rose, and they walked towards the summer-house together. It was
in a corner of the garden, hidden among acacias and laurels, a circular
hut in the ordinary style. Patty and the governess were seated within.
Beatrice entered, and took a scat with them.

'Is your memory as good as my own, Miss Hood?' she said pleasantly. 'Do
you remember our meeting four years ago?'

The other regarded her with quiet surprise, and said she had no
recollection of the meeting.

'Not at Mr. Baxendale's, my uncle's, one day that you lunched with us
when I was staying there?'

Miss Hood had wholly forgotten the circumstance. It served, however, for
the commencement of a conversation, which went en till Mrs. Rossall,
finding the hammock deserted, was guided by the sound of voices to where
the two girls and the children sat.

In the afternoon there was a setting forth into the country. Mr. Athel
drove his sister and the children; Wilfrid and Beatrice accompanied them
on horseback. The course to be pursued having been determined, the
riders were not at pains to keep the carriage always within sight.

'Why did Miss Hood decline to come?' Mr. Athel inquired, shortly after
they had started.

She gave no reason, Mrs. Rossall replied. 'It was her choice to stay at

'Of course you asked her in a proper way?'

'Why, Philip, of course I did.'

'Miss Hood never alters her mind,' remarked Patty.

'Never,' exclaimed the other twin with decision.

'An admirable characteristic,' commented their uncle, 'provided her
decision is right to begin with.'

Beatrice had just led off at a gallop; Wilfrid necessarily followed her.
When the pace slackened they began to talk of Indifferent things. On the
crest of a hill, whence the carriage could be seen far away on the white
road, the girl reined in, and, turning to her companion, asked

'What is your opinion of Miss Hood?'

'Why do you ask such a question?'

'Because I should like to know. She interests me, and you must have had
opportunities enough lately of studying her character?'

'Why does she interest you?'

'I can't say. I thought you might help me to discover the reason. You
have often said that you liked women of strongly marked character.'

'How do you conclude that she is one?'

'I feel it; we were talking together before lunch. I don't think I like
her; I don't think she has principles.'

Wilfrid laughed.

'Principles! The word is vague. You mean, no doubt, that she doesn't
seem to have commonplace prejudices.'

'That's just what I wanted you to say.'

She let her horse move on. The young man followed, his eyes gazing
absently before him, a smile fixed upon his lips.

Beatrice looked over her shoulder.

'Does she read the same kind of books that you do?'

'Unfortunately I read no books at all.'

She paused again to let him get to her side.

'What a pity it can't continue!'


'Your inability to read.'

'That is the kindest remark I have heard for a long time!' exclaimed
Wilfrid with a good-natured laugh.

'Very likely it is, though you don't mean it. When you read, you only
poison your mind. It is your reading that has made you what you are,
without faith, without feeling. You dissect everything, you calculate
motives cynically, you have learnt to despise everyone who believes what
you refuse to, you make your own intellect the centre of the world. You
are dangerous.'

'What a character! To whom am I dangerous?'

'To anyone whom it pleases you to tempt, in whom you find the beginnings
of disbelief.'

'In brief, I have no principles?'

'Of course you have none.'

'In other words, I am selfish?'

'Intensely so.'

It was hard to discover whether she were in earnest. Wilfrid examined
her for a moment, and concluded that she must be. Her eyes were gleaming
with no mock seriousness, and there was even a slight quiver about her
lips. In all their exchanges of banter he had never known her look and
speak quite as she did now. As he regarded her there came a flush to her
cheek. She turned her head away and rode on.

'And what moves you to visit me with this castigation at present, Miss
Redwing?' he asked, still maintaining his jesting tone.

'I don't know,' she answered carelessly. 'I felt all at once able to say
what I thought.'

'Then you do really think all this?'

'Assuredly I do.'

He kept silence a little.

'And you can't see,' he began, rather more seriously, 'that you are
deplorably lacking in the charity which surely should be among _your_

'There are some things to which charity must not be extended.'

'Let us say, then, discretion, insight.' He spoke yet more earnestly.
'You judge me, and, in truth, you know as little of me as anyone could.
The attitude of your mind prevents you from understanding me in the
least; it prevents you from understanding any human being. You are
consumed with prejudice, and prejudice of the narrowest, most hopeless
kind. Am I too severe?'

'Not more so than you have often been. Many a time you have told me how
you despised me.'

He was silent, then spoke impulsively.

'Well, perhaps the word is not too strong; though it is not your very
self that I despise, but the ignorance and bigotry which possess you. It
is a pity; I believe you might be a woman of quite a different kind.'

'Of pronounced character?'

'Precisely. You are neither one thing nor another. You have told me what
you think of me; shall I be equally frank and speak as if you were a
college friend? For at all events we _are_ friends.'

'I am not sure of that.'

'Oh, but I am; and we shall be friends none the worse for ingenuousness
on both sides. Look at the position in which you stand. One moment you
arc a woman of the world, the next you run frantic with religious zeal,
another turn and you are almost an artist, at your piano; when you are
tired of all these you become, or try to become, a sort of _ingenue_. In
the name of consistency, be one thing or another. You are quite mistaken
in thinking that I despise religious enthusiasm in itself. Become a
veritable Beatrice, and I will venerate you infinitely. Give up
everything to work in London slums, and you shall have my warmest
admiration. But you are not sincere.'

'I am sincere!' she broke in, with more passion than he had ever
imagined her capable of uttering.

'I cannot call it sincerity. It is impossible that you should be
sincere; you live in the latter end of the nineteenth century; the
conditions of your birth and education forbid sincerity of this kind.'

'I am sincere,' she repeated, but in a low voice, without looking at

'On the other hand,' lie proceeded, 'surrender yourself entirely to the
life of society, and I will still respect you. You are a beautiful
woman; you might be inexpressibly charming. Frankly recognise your
capabilities, and cultivate your charm. Make a study of your loveliness;
make it your end to be a queen in drawing-rooms.'

'You insult me.'

'I can't see that I do. There is nothing contemptible in such an aim;
nothing is contemptible that is thorough. Or you have the third course.
Pursue music with seriousness. Become a real artist; a public singer,
let us say. No amateur nonsense; recognise that you have a superb voice,
and that by dint of labour you may attain artistic excellence. You talk
of getting up concerts in low parts of London, of humanising ruffians by
the influence of music. Pshaw! humanise humanity at large by devotion to
an artistic ideal; the other aim is paltry, imbecile, charlatan.'

He tried to see her face; she rode on, holding it averted.

'Follow any one of these courses, and you will make of yourself a true
woman. By trying to be a bit of everything you become insignificant.
Napoleon the Great was a curse to mankind, but one thinks more of him
than of Napoleon the Little, who wasn't quite sure whether to be a curse
or a blessing. There is a self in every one of us; the end of our life
is to discern it, bring it out, make it actual. You don't yet know your
own self; you have not the courage to look into your heart and mind; you
keep over your eyes the bandage of dogmas in which you only half
believe. Your insincerity blights the natural qualities of your
intellect. You have so long tried to persuade yourself of the evil of
every way of thinking save ecclesiastical dogmatism, that you cannot
judge fairly even those to whom you are most friendly. Cannot you see
that the world has outgrown the possibility of one universal religion?
For good or for evil, each of us must find a religion in himself, and
you have no right whatever to condemn before you have understood.'

'You cannot say that you have any religion,' she said, facing him. He
saw to his astonishment that there had been tears in her eyes.

'You cannot say that I have none. The radical fault of your uninstructed
way of looking at things is that you imagine mankind and the world to be
matters of such simple explanation. You learn by heart a few maxims,
half a dozen phrases, and there is your key to every mystery. That is
the child's state of mind. You have never studied, you have never
thought. Your self-confidence is ludicrous; you and such as you do not
hesitate to judge offhand men who have spent a long life in the
passionate pursuit of wisdom. You have no reverence. It is the fault you
attribute to me, but wrongly; if you had ever brought an open mind to
our conversations, you would have understood that my reverence even for
your ideal is not a wit less than your own; it is only that I see it in
another light. You say that I have no religion: what if I have not? Are
one's final conclusions to be achieved in a year or two of early
manhood? I have my inner voices, and I try to understand them. Often
enough they are ambiguous, contradictory; I live in hope that their
bidding will become clearer. I search for meanings, try to understand
myself, strive after knowledge.'

'You might as well have been born a pagan. One voice has spoken; its
bidding is the sufficient and only guide.'

'Say rather that so it seems to you. Your inheritance of conviction is
not mine; your mode of reasoning and my own have nothing in common. We
inhabit different worlds.'

Beatrice let her eyes turn slowly to his face. The smile with which he
met her found no reflection on her countenance; her look was that of one
who realises a fatality.

'Shall we join them?' she asked in a moment, nodding towards the far-off
carriage which was about to hide itself among trees.

Wilfrid mused instead of answering. She began to ride on.

'Stay one minute,' he said. 'I have been anything but courteous in my
way of speaking to you, but it was better to put off idle forms, was it

'Yes; I shall know henceforth what you think of me.'

'Not from this one conversation, if you mean that.'

'Well, it does not matter.'

'Perhaps not. Difference of opinion has fortunately little to do with
old-standing kindness.'

'I am not sure that you are right, at all events when it has expressed
itself in words of contempt.'

It was not resentment that her voice conveyed, but some thing which
Wilfrid found it harder to bear. Her drooped eyelids and subdued tone
indicated a humble pride, which the protest of her beauty made pathetic.

'We will never speak of such things again,' he said gently. 'Let me have
your forgiveness. When we join them down there, they will laugh at us
and say we have been quarrelling as usual; in future I think we mustn't
quarrel, we are both of us getting too old for the amusement. When you
sing to us to-night, I shall remember how foolish I was even to pretend

'You will be thinking,' she said, 'that I am a mere amateur.'

'If I do, I shall be an ungrateful wretch--and an insensible one, to

She rode down the hill without replying.



Miss Hood did not, of course, dine with the family. Though, as Mrs.
Rossall said, it was a distinct advantage to have in the house a
governess whom one could in many respects treat as an equal, yet there
was naturally a limit, in this as in all other matters. We have not yet,
either in fact or in sentiment, quite outgrown the social stage in which
personal hiring sets on the hired a stigma of servitude. Mrs. Rossall
was not unaware that, in all that concerned intellectual refinement, her
governess was considerably superior to herself, and in personal
refinement not less a lady; but the fact of quarterly payments, spite of
all this, inevitably indicated a place below the salt. Mr. Athel,
though, as we have seen, anxious to indulge himself in humane regard
whenever social regulations permitted, was the last man to suffer in his
household serious innovations upon traditional propriety.

So Miss Hood--Emily, as she was called by the little group of people
away in Yorkshire, to whom she was other than a governess; Emily; as we
will permit ourselves to call her henceforth--always had the meal of tea
with the children. After that the evening was her own, save that the
twins kept her company until their hour of bedtime. The school-room was
also her sitting-room. After half-past eight in the evening she had it
to herself, and there she passed many an hour of quiet content, playing
softly on the piano, reading, dreaming. In the matter of books she was
well off; Mr. Athel and his sister had subscriptions at several London
libraries, and of these the governess was invited to make free use. It
was some restraint upon her that her choice of reading always passed
under Mrs. Bossall's eyes, but not so much after the first few weeks.
The widow was by this time well advanced in the resumption of purely
mundane literature, and the really liberal tone which prevailed in the
house removed apprehension in the pursuit of modern studies. For it was
rather an ideal towards which she was working than an attainment in
fact, that eclecticism of which she spoke to Wilfrid Athel. The monthly
library lists which came under her eyes offered many a sore temptation.
She was true on the whole to her system; she did not read at random, and
never read frivolously; but a taste strongly directed to the best in
literature will find much in the work of our day, especially its
criticism, which is indispensable as guidance, or attractive by its
savour. This was not Emily's first access, fortunately, to the streams
of contemporary thought; already she had enjoyed and largely used
opportunities of the most various reading. She was able now to choose
with discretion, and in a great degree to make her study serve directly
the scheme of culture which she had devised for herself.

Few governesses had so pleasant a life. Mrs. Rossall, supported by her
brother's views, imposed on her children a minimum of brain-work. Bodily
health was after all the first thing, especially in the case of girls. A
couple of hours' school in the morning, one hour given to preparation of
lessons after tea--this for the present was deemed quite enough. 'Your
companionship throughout the day will always be forming their minds,'
Mrs. Rossall said in one of her earliest conversations with Emily; it
was pleasantly put, and truer than it would have been in the ease of
many instructresses. The twins were not remarkably fond of their
lessons, but in Emily's hands they became docile and anxious to please.
She had the art of winning their affection without losing control over
them; had Mrs. Bossall's rather languid habits of mind allowed her to
give attention to the subject, she would have been struck with the
singular combination of tenderness and reverence which the two
entertained towards their teacher. Little laxities of behaviour arid
phrase upon which their mother's presence would be no check, they did
not venture to allow themselves when with Emily; her only reproof was a
steady gaze, eloquent of gentleness, but it proved quite sufficient. The
twins were in truth submitting to the force of character. They felt it
without understanding what it meant; one ether person in the house
experienced the same influence, but in his case it led to reflection.

Wilfrid was at Balliol when Miss Hood first arrived; he saw her for the
first time when he came to town after his collapse. All hastened away to
The Firs together. Wilfrid suffered no positive illness; he shared in
the amusements of the family, and, with the exception of a good deal of
pishing and pshawing at the restraints put upon him, had the appearance
of one taking an ordinary holiday. There was undeniable truth in
Beatrice Redwing's allusion to his much talking; without social
intercourse he would soon have become ill in earnest; association with
intelligent--all the better if argumentative--people was an
indispensable condition of his existence. In his later school, and early
college, days this tendency to give free utterance to his thoughts made
him not altogether the most delightful of companions to such as were
older than himself; his undeniable cleverness and the stores of
knowledge he had already acquired needed somewhat more of the restraint
of tact than his character at that time supplied. People occasionally
called him a prig; now and then he received what the vernacular of youth
terms 'a sitting upon.' The saving feature of his condition was that he
allowed himself to be sat upon gracefully; a snub well administered to
him was sure of its full artistic, and did not fail in its moral,
effect: there was no vulgar insolence in the young fellow. What he
received he could acknowledge that he deserved. A term or two at Balliol
put this right; in mingling with some that were his equals, and one or
two who were his superiors, he learned prudence in the regulation of his

For a brief time he perhaps talked not quite so much. When his 'set' was
formed, the currents of argument and rhetoric had once more free course,
but they were beginning to flow less turbidly. His nature, as we know,
was not merely vehement; he had the instincts of a philosophical
inquirer, and his intellect speedily outgrew the stage of callowness.
When he came down for his first 'long' the change in him was so marked
that it astonished all who met him; that he appeared wholly unconscious
of the ripening he had undergone only made his development more
impressive. He had gone away a boy, and returned a man. He talked no
less than ever, but in a markedly improved tone. He was graver, more
seemly in the buoyant outbreaks in which he still occasionally indulged.
One reason of his rapid maturing no doubt lay in the fact that he was
already working too hard; his sprightliness was in a measure subdued by
wear of tissue. His father was shrewd enough to suspect something of
this, but it was difficult to interfere in any way. A month in
Switzerland seemed to set things right. On the present more serious
occasion, it had been deemed better not to set forth on a journey
forthwith; perfect repose at the house in Surrey was all that was
advised in the first instance. But it was clear that Wilfrid must have
some one to talk with. A succession of visits from such friends as were
available was speedily arranged. By the end of the first week, Wilfrid
had accommodated himself to his circumstances. His fretting at the
regulations imposed for his health almost ceased. At first this change
was viewed with suspicion, especially when he became more absorbed in
reflectiveness, and seemed to have less taste for conversation. However,
he was perfectly cheerful; there were no further symptoms to excite
alarm. Nor did the brooding period last very long. The only permanent
change was that he ceased to grumble at his hard lot, and appeared to
find his position very tolerable.

'It is the physical reaction,' observed Mr. Athel to his sister. 'The
body is indulging itself; recovery of health absorbs his energies.'

Opportunities for anything like sustained converse with Miss Hood,
Wilfrid found very few and far between; only once before the long talk
in the hollow had he been able to gratify his curiosity--perhaps
already some other feeling--in a dialogue of any intimacy. In a
situation such as this, delicacy prescribed a very rigid discretion;
Emily, moreover, was not facile of approach. Throughout the day she was
scarcely away from the children; of course he could and did often
exchange words with her in the presence of the twins, but he felt
himself held at a distance by a tact which was perfect; without undue
reserve, without a shadow of unrefined manoeuvring, Emily limited their
intercourse in precisely the way that Mr. Athel or Mrs. Rossall would
have deemed becoming. Then there were almost always guests at the house.
With prudent regard to the character of these visitors, Mrs. Rossall
chose opportunities for inviting the governess to the drawing-room
during the evening, but Emily was not wholly at her ease under such
conditions, and Wilfrid was withheld by only half-conscious motives from
talking with her at these times. He shrank from subjecting himself to
examination whilst encouraging her to speak on the subjects he would
naturally choose; he felt, too, that she desired him not to address her,
though this perception came to him in subtle ways of which he could
render to himself no account. For all this, their acquaintance, nay
their intimacy, grew. If ever eyes habitually expressed a
self-respecting frankness, if ever any were incapable of ignoble
artifice, they were Emily's; yet as time went on Wilfrid began to long
for the casual meeting with her glance for the mere reason that he felt
it as an exchange of words between her and himself. Thus it was that,
when at length the first real conversation came, it seemed the sequel of
many others, seemed so to both of them. They had divined each other;
speech did but put the seal of confirmation on knowledge gained by
mutual sympathy.

It may be presumed that neither Mr. Athel nor Mrs. Rossall was
altogether regardless of possibilities suggested by the abiding beneath
the same roof of an impetuous young man, forced into idleness, and a
girl who was above the average in mental endowments, whilst, on the
whole, she might be considered interesting in appearance. They exchanged
no remark on the subject; it was scarcely likely they should; but during
the first few weeks both were observant. Their observations were
reassuring to them. And indeed they had not anticipated trouble, for the
simple reason that both believed Wilfrid's affections to tend already in
a marked direction, and one of which they altogether approved. That he
would some day take for his wife Beatrice Redwing was a conclusion upon
which father and aunt had settled their minds; the conclusion was
reasonable enough, and well supported by such evidence as the ease
admitted. Mr. Athel had at an earlier period entertained certain
misgivings as to the desirability of such a marriage; misgivings which
had reference to the disastrous story of the Redwing household; the
conception of hereditary tendencies has become a strong force in our
time, and pronounced madness in a parent cannot as easily be disregarded
as it once was. But the advantages of the alliance were so considerable,
its likelihood so indisputable, that prudence had scarcely fair play;
besides, Beatrice had reached her twenty-first year without any sign of
mental trouble, and seemed as sound a girl as could anywhere be
discovered. The habitual sword-crossing between her and Wilfrid was
naturally regarded as their mode of growing endeared to each other;
their intellectual variances could not, by a sober gentleman of
eight-and-forty and by a young widow whose interest in the world was
reviving, be regarded as a bar to matrimony. 'Family,' Beatrice would
not bring, but she was certain to inherit very large fortune, which,
after all, means more than family nowadays. On the whole it was a
capital thing for Wilfrid that marriage would be entered upon in so
smooth a way. Mr. Athel was not forgetful of his own course in that
matter; he understood his father's attitude as he could not when
resisting it, and was much disposed to concede that there might have
been two opinions as to his own proceeding five-and-twenty years ago.
But for Beatrice, the young man's matrimonial future would have been to
his father a subject of constant apprehension; as it was, the situation
lost much of its natural hazard.

In Emily there was nothing that suggested sentimentality; rather one
would have thought her deficient in sensibility, judging from the tone
of her conversation. She did not freely express admiration, even in the
form of assent to what was said by others. To interpret her reticence as
shyness was a misunderstanding, or a misuse of words, natural in the
case of an inexact observer like Mrs. Rossall. Four years ago, when
Beatrice met her in Dunfield, her want of self-confidence was pronounced
enough; she had at that time never quitted her provincial home, and was
in the anomalous position of one who is intellectually outgrowing very
restricted social circumstances. The Baxendales were not wrong in
discussing her as shy. But that phase of her life was now left far
behind. Her extreme moderation was deliberate; it was her concession to
the fate which made her a governess. Courtesy and kindliness might lead
those whose bread she ate to endeavour occasionally to remove all show
of social distinction; neither her temperament nor her sense of
comeliness in behaviour would allow her to shrink from such advances,
but she could not lose sight of the unreality of the situations to which
they led. Self-respect is conditioned by the influence of circumstance
on character; in Emily it expressed itself as a subtle sensitiveness to
grades of sympathy. She could not shut her eyes to the actuality of
things; sincerity was the foundation of her being, and delicate
appreciation of its degrees in others regulated her speech and demeanour
with an exactitude inappreciable by those who take life in a rough and
ready way. When engaged in her work of teaching, she was at ease; alone
in the room which had been set apart for her, she lived in the freedom
of her instincts; but in Mrs. Rossall's drawing-room she could only act
a part, and all such divergence from reality was pain. It was not that
she resented her subordination, for she was almost devoid of social
ambitions and knew nothing of vulgar envy; still less did it come of
reasoned revolt against the artificial ordering of precedences; Emily's
thoughts did not tend that way. She could do perfect justice to the
amiable qualities of those who were set above her; she knew no
bitterness in the food which she duly earned; but, by no one's fault,
there was a vein of untruth in the life she had to lead. To remind
herself that such untruth was common to all lives, was an outcome of the
conditions of society, did not help her to disregard it; nature had
endowed her with a stern idealism which would not ally itself with
compromise. She was an artist in life. The task before her, a task of
which in these days she was growing more and more conscious, was to
construct an existence every moment of which should serve an
all-pervading harmony. The recent birth within her of a new feeling was
giving direction and vigour to the forces of her being; it had not as
yet declared itself as a personal desire; it wrought only as an
impassioned motive in the sphere of her intellectual aspirations, She
held herself more persistently apart from conventional intercourse; she
wished it had been possible to keep wholly to herself in the hours when
her services were not demanded. Mr. Athel, who liked to express himself
to young people with a sort of paternal geniality, rallied her one day
on her excessive study, and bade her be warned by a notorious example.
This had the effect of making her desist from reading in the presence of
other people.

She had known much happiness during these two months at The Firs,
happiness of a kind to dwell in the memory and be a resource in darker
days. Though mere personal ease was little the subject of her thoughts,
she prized for its effect upon her mind the air of graceful leisure, of
urbane repose, which pervaded the house. To compare The Firs with that
plain little dwelling on the skirts of a Yorkshire manufacturing town
which she called her home, was to understand the inestimable advantage
of those born into the material refinement which wealth can command, of
those who breathe from childhood the atmosphere of liberal enjoyment,
who walk from the first on clean ways, with minds disengaged from
anxiety of casual soilure, who know not even by domestic story the
trammels of sordid preoccupation. Thus it was with a sense of well-being
that she stepped on rich carpets, let her eyes wander over the light and
dark of rooms where wealth had done the bidding of taste, watched the
neat and silent ministering of servants. These things to her meant
priceless opportunity, the facilitating of self-culture. Even the little
room in which she sat by herself of evenings was daintily furnished;
when weary with reading, it eased and delighted her merely to gaze at
the soft colours of the wall-paper, the vases with their growing
flowers, the well-chosen pictures, the graceful shape of a chair; she
nursed her appreciation of these Joys, resisted the ingress of
familiarity, sought daily for novel aspects of things become intimately
known. She rose at early hours that she might have the garden to herself
in all its freshness; she loved to look from her window into the calm
depth of the summer midnight. In this way she brought into consciousness
the craving of her soul, made the pursuit of beauty a religion, grew to
welcome the perception of new meaning in beautiful things with a
spiritual delight. This was the secret of her life, which she guarded so
jealously, which she feared even by chance to betray in the phrasings of
common intercourse. Wilfrid had divined it, and it was the secret
influence of this sympathy that had led her to such unwonted frankness
in their latest conversation.

Mrs. Rossall had spoken to her of Beatrice Redwing's delightful singing,
and had asked her to come to the drawing-room during the evening; having
declined the afternoon's drive, Emily did not feel able to neglect this
other invitation. The day had become sultry towards its close; when she
joined the company about nine o'clock, she found Beatrice with Mrs.
Rossall sitting in the dusk by the open French windows, Mr. Athel in a
chair just outside, and Wilfrid standing by him, the latter pair
smoking. The sky beyond the line of dark greenery was still warm with
after-glow of sunset.

Emily quietly sought a chair near Mrs. Rossall, from whom she received a
kind look. Mr. Athel was relating a story of his early wanderings in
Egypt, with a leisurely gusto, an effective minuteness of picturing, the
result of frequent repetition. At the points of significance he would
pause for a moment or two and puff life into his cigar. His anecdotes
were seldom remarkable, but they derived interest from the enjoyment
with which he told them; they impressed one with a sense of mental
satisfaction, of physical robustness held in reserve, of life content
among the good things of the world.

'Shall we have lights?' Mrs. Rossall asked, when the story at length
came to an end.

'Play us something first,' said Beatrice. 'This end of twilight is so

Mrs. Rossall went to the piano, upon which still fell a glimmer from
another window, and filled the room with harmony suiting the hour.
Wilfrid had come in and seated himself on a couch in a dark corner; his
father paced up and down the grass. Emily watched the first faint gleam
of stars in the upper air.

Then lamps and candles were brought in. Beatrice was seen to be dressed
in dark blue, her hair richly attired, a jewelled cross below her
throat, her bosom and arms radiant in bare loveliness. Emily, at the
moment that she regarded her, found herself also observed. Her own dress
was of warm grey, perfectly simple, with a little lace at the neck and
wrists. Beatrice averted her eyes quickly, and made some laughing remark
to Mr. Athel.

'I know you always object to sing without some musical preparation,'
said Mrs. Rossall, as she took a seat by the girl's side. 'I wonder
whether we ought to close the windows; are you afraid of the air?'

'Oh, leave them open!' Beatrice replied. 'It is so close.'

Her cheeks had a higher colour than usual; she lay back in the chair
with face turned upwards, her eyes dreaming.

'You are tired, I am afraid,' Mrs. Rossall said, 'in spite of your sleep
in the hammock. The first day in the country always tires me

'Yes, I suppose I am, a little,' murmured Beatrice.

'Not too tired, I hope, to sing,' said Wilfrid, coming from his couch in
the corner to a nearer seat. His way of speaking was not wholly natural;
like his attitude, it had something constrained; he seemed to be
discharging a duty.

'Observe the selfishness of youth,' remarked Mr. Athel.

'Age, I dare say, has its selfishness too in the present instance,' was
Mrs. Rossall's rejoinder.

'To whom does that refer?' questioned her brother, jocosely.

Beatrice turned her head suddenly towards Emily.

'Shall I sing, Miss Hood?' she asked, with a touch of her _ingenue_
manner, though the playfulness of her words rang strangely.

'It will give me much pleasure to hear you,' was the sober reply, coming
after an instant of embarrassment.

Beatrice rose. Her movement across the room had a union of conscious
stateliness and virgin grace which became her style of beauty; it was in
itself the introduction to fine music. Mrs. Rossall went to accompany.
Choice was made of a solo from an oratorio; Beatrice never sang
trivialities of the day, a noteworthy variance from her habits in other
things. In a little while, Wilfrid stirred to enable himself to see
Emily's face; it showed deep feeling. And indeed it was impossible to
hear that voice and remain unmoved; its sweetness, its force, its skill
were alike admirable. Beatrice conversing was quite other than Beatrice
when she sang; music was her mode of self-utterance; from the first
sustained note it was felt that a difficulty of expression had been
overcome, and that she was saying things which at other times she could
not, disclosing motives which as a rule the complexities of her
character covered and concealed, which were not clear to her own
consciousness till the divine impulse gave them form. It was no shallow
nature that could pour forth this flood of harmony. The mere gift of a
splendid voice, wrought to whatever degree of perfection, would not
invest with this rare power. In technical qualities she might have much
still to learn, but the passionate poetry of her notes was what no
training could have developed, and it would never evince itself with
more impressiveness than to-night.

It seemed frivolous to speak thanks. Wilfrid gazed out into the dark of
the garden; Emily kept her eyes bent downward. She heard the rustle of
Beatrice's dress near her. Mr. Athel began to speak of the piece the
sound of Beatrice's voice replying caused Emily at length to look up,
and she met the dark eyes, still large with the joy of song. Her own
gaze had a beautiful solemnity, a devout admiration, of which it was
impossible to doubt the genuineness; Beatrice, observing it, smiled very
slightly before turning away again.

A quarter of an hour after, Emily withdrew. Mrs. Rossall played a
little, and talk of an idle kind followed. Wilfrid was not disposed to
take his usual part in conversation, and his casual remarks were
scarcely ever addressed to Beatrice. Presently Mrs. Rossall wished to
refer to the 'Spectator,' which contained a criticism of a new pianist
of whom there was much talk just then.

'Have you had it, Wilf?' Mr. Athel asked, after turning over a heap of
papers in vain.

'Oh, the "Spectator,"' Wilfrid replied, rousing himself from absentness.
'Yes, I had it in the summer-house just before dinner; I believe I left
it there. Shall I fetch it?'

'It would serve you right if I said yes,' admonished Mrs. Rossall. 'In
the first place you had no business to be reading it--'

'I will go,' Wilfrid said, rising with an effort.

'No, no; it will do to-morrow.'

'May as well get it now,' he said indifferently, and went out by the

That part of the garden through which he walked lay in the shadow of the
house; the sky was full of moonlight, but the moon itself was still low.
A pathway between laurels led to the summer-house. Just short of the
little building, he passed the edge of shade, and, before entering,
turned to view the bright crescent as it hung just above the house-roof.
Gazing at the forms of silvered cloud floating on blue depths, he heard
a movement immediately behind him; he turned, to behold Emily standing
in the doorway. The moon's rays shone full upon her; a light shawl which
seemed to have covered her head had slipped down to her shoulders, and
one end was held in a hand passed over her breast. There was something
in the attitude which strikingly became her; her slight figure looked
both graceful and dignified. The marble hue of her face, thus gleamed
upon, added to the statuesque effect; her eyes had a startled look,
their lids drooped as Wilfrid regarded her.

'You have been sitting here since you left us?' he asked, in a voice
attuned to the night's hush.

'I was tempted to come out; the night is so beautiful.'

'It is.'

He uttered the assent mechanically; his eyes, like hers, had fallen, but
he raised them again to her face. It seemed to him in this moment the
perfect type of spiritual beauty; the brow so broad and pure, the eyes
far-seeing in their maidenly reserve, the lips full, firm, of infinite
refinement and sweetness. He felt abashed before her, as he had never
done. They had stood thus but a moment or two, yet it seemed long to
both. Emily stepped from the wooden threshold on to the grass.

'Somebody wants the "Spectator,"' he said hurriedly. 'I believe I left
it here.'

'Yes, it is on the table.'

With a perfectly natural impulse, she quickly re-entered the house, to
reach the paper she had seen only a minute ago. Without reflection,
heart-beats stifling his thought, he stepped after her. The shadow made
her turn rapidly; a shimmer of silver light through the lattice-work
still touched her features; her lips were parted as if in fear.


He did not know that he had spoken. The name upon his tongue, a name he
had said low to himself often to-day and yesterday, was born of the
throe which made fire-currents of his veins, the passion which at the
instant seized imperiously upon his being. She could not see his face,
and hers to him was a half-veiled glory, yet each knew the wild gaze,
the all but terror, in the other's eyes, that anguish which indicates a
supreme moment in life, a turning-point of fate.

She had no voice. Wilfrid's words at length made way impetuously.

'I thought I could wait longer, and try in the meanwhile to win your
kind thoughts for me; but I dare not part from you for so long, leaving
it a mere chance that you will come back. I must say to you what it
means, the hope of seeing you again. All the other desires of my life
are lost in that. You are my true self, for which I shall seek in vain
whilst I am away from you. Can you give me anything--a promise of kind
thought--a hope--to live upon till I see you?'

'I cannot come back.'

But for the intense stillness he could not have caught the words; they
were sighed rather than spoken.

'Because I have said this?--Emily!'

He saw the white shape of her hand resting upon the table, and held it
in his own, that exquisite hand which he had so often longed to touch;
how cold it was! yet how soft, living! She made no effort to draw it

'I cannot say now what I wish to,' he spoke hurriedly. 'I must see you
to-morrow--you will not refuse? I _must_ see you! You are often out very
early; I shall be at the hollow, where we talked yesterday, early, at
seven o'clock--you will come? If the morning is not fine, then the day
after. Emily, you will meet me?'

'I will meet you.'

He touched her fingers with his lips, took the paper, and hastened back
to the house. His absence had not seemed long: it was only of five
minutes. Reaching the open windows, he did not enter at once, but stood
there and called to those within to come and admire the night; he felt
his face hot and flushed.

'What is there remarkable about the night?' asked Mr. Athel, sauntering

'Come and look at this glorious moon, Miss Redwing,' Wilfrid exclaimed,
once more with the natural friendliness of his habitual tone to her.

'It seems to have put you into excellent spirits,' remarked Mrs.
Rossall, as, followed by Beatrice, she approached the window. 'Have you
found the "Spectator?" that's the point.'

Wilfrid continued speaking in a raised voice, for it was just possible,
he thought, that Emily might come this way round to enter, and he wished
her to be apprised of their presence. All went back into the room after
a few moments, and, as the air had grown cooler, the windows were
closed. As Wilfrid seated himself in a dusky part of the room, he
noticed that Beatrice was regarding him steadily. She had not spoken
since his return, and did not do so till she presently rose to say
good-night. To Wilfrid she used no form of words, merely giving him her
hand; that other had been so cold, how hot this was!

She laughed as she turned from him.

'What is the source of amusement?' inquired Mr. Athel, who was standing
by with his hands upon his hips.

'Indeed I don't know,' returned Beatrice, laughing again slightly. 'I
sometimes laugh without cause.'

Emily had passed upstairs and gone to her bedroom but a moment before,
treading with quick soundless steps. When Wilfrid left her in the
summer-house, she stood unmoving, and only after a minute or two changed
her attitude by putting her palms against her face, as if in the gloom
she found too much light. It was a sensation of shame which came upon
her, a tremor of maidenhood in re-living, swift instant by instant, all
that had just passed. Had she in any way aided in bringing about that
confession? Had she done anything, made a motion, uttered a tone, which
broke away the barrier between herself and him? When she could recover
self-consciousness, disembarrass herself of the phantom moments which
would not fleet with the rest of time, it was scarcely joy which she
read in her heart; apprehension, dismay, lack of courage to look forward
beyond this night, these oppressed her. Then, close upon the haunting
reality of his voice, his touch, came inability to believe what had
happened. Had a transient dreamful slumber crept upon her as she sat
here alone? So quickly had the world suffered re-creation, so magical
the whelming of old days in a new order, so complete the change in
herself. One word she knew which had power from eternity to do these
things, and that word neither he nor she had uttered. But there was no
need, when the night spoke it in every beat of time.

Fearful of being seen, she at length ventured to return to the house.
Moonlight streamed full upon her bed; it would have irked her as yet to
take off her clothes, she lay in the radiance, which seemed to touch her
with warm influences, and let her eyes rest upon the source of light.
Then at length joy came and throned in her heart, joy that would mate
with no anxious thought, no tremulous brooding. This was _her_ night!
There might be other happy beings in the world to whom it was also the
beginning of new life, but in _her_ name was its consecration, hers the
supremacy of blessedness. Let the morrow wait on the hour of waking, if
indeed sleep would ever come; this moment, the sacred _now_, was all
that she could comprehend.

She undressed at length, and even slept, fitfully, always to start into
wakefulness with a sense of something to be thought upon, to be
realised, to be done. The weariness of excitement perturbed her joy; the
meeting which was to take place in a few hours became a nervous
preoccupation. The moonlight had died away; the cold light of dawn began
to make objects in the room distinct. Was it good to have consented so
readily to meet him? Nay, but no choice had been left her; his eagerness
would take no refusal; and it was impossible for things to remain as
they were, without calmer talk between them. It was her resource to
remember his energetic will, his force of character; the happiness of
passively submitting to what he might dictate; sure of his scrupulous
honour, his high ideal. Could she indeed have borne to go into exile
from his presence, without a hope that this the noblest and most
aspiring life that had ever approached her might be something more than
a star to worship? If wealth comes, we wonder how we drew breath in
poverty; yet we lived, and should have lived on. Let the gods be
thanked, whom it pleases to clothe the soul with joy which is
superfluous to bare existence Might she not now hallow herself to be a
true priestess of beauty? Would not life be vivid with new powers and
possibilities? Even as that heaven was robing itself in glory of
sunrise, with warmth and hue which strengthened her again to overcome
anxieties. Was he waking? Was he impatient for the hour of his meeting
with her? She would stand face to face with him in the full Sunlight
this time, but with what deep humility! Should she be able to find
words? She had scarcely spoken to him, ever, as yet, and now there was
more to say than hours of solitude would leave time for. She knew not
whether to bid the sun linger or speed.

There was nothing unusual in her rising and going forth early, though
perhaps she had never issued from the house quite so early as this
morning; it was not yet six o'clock when she gently closed the
garden-gate behind her, and walked along the road which led on to the
common. The sun had already warmed the world, and the sheen of earth and
heaven was at its brightest; the wind sweeping from the downs was like
the breath of creation, giving life to forms of faultless beauty.
Emily's heart lacked no morning hymn; every sense revelled in that pure
joy which is the poetry of praise. She wished it had been near the hour
of meeting, yet again was glad to have time to prepare herself. Walking,
she drank in the loveliness about her, marked the forms of trees, the
light and shade of heavy leafage, the blendings of colour by the
roadside, the grace of remote distances; all these things she was making
part of herself, that in memory they might be a joy for ever. It is the
art of life to take each moment of mental joy, of spiritual openness, as
though it would never be repeated, to cling to it as a pearl of great
price, to exhaust its possibilities of sensation. At the best, such
moments will be few amid the fateful succession of common cares, of
lassitudes, of disillusions. Emily had gone deep enough in thought
already to understand this; in her rapture there was no want of
discerning consciousness. If this morning were to be unique in her life,
she would have gained from it all that it had to give. Those subtle
fears, spiritual misgivings, which lurked behind her perceptions would
again have their day, for it was only by striving that she had attained
her present modes of thought; her nature concealed a darker strain, an
instinct of asceticism, which had now and again predominated, especially
in the period of her transition to womanhood, when the material
conditions of her life were sad and of little hope. It was no spirit of
unreflective joy that now dwelt within her, but the more human happiness
extorted from powers which only yield to striving. Hitherto her life's
morning had been but cold and grey; she had trained herself to expect no
breaking forth of gleams from the sober sky. This sudden splendour might
be transitory.

But who was that already standing by the hollow? Was it likely that he
would be later than she at the place of meeting! Emily stood with a
shock of life at the gates of her heart. She tried to keep her eyes
raised to his as she approached slowly, he with more speed. Would she
not after all find voice for the things she had to say?

Wilfrid came to her with bare head, and took her hand; no more than took
her hand, for he was in awe of the solemn beauty of her countenance.

'You thought I should keep you waiting?' he asked in a low voice
trembling with joy. 'I have watched the sun rise.'

'The door had not been opened--'

'My window is not high above the ground,' he answered, with an uncertain

They walked side by side over the heather, towards the beginning of a
wood, young fir trees mingling with gorse and bracken. Beyond was the
dense foliage of older growths. He had again taken one of her hands, and
so led her on.


She was able to look into his face for a moment, but the moving of her
lips gave no sound.

'I could not sleep,' he went on, 'so I read of you till dawn in the
Knightes Tale. It is a name I have always loved, sweet, musical, but of
deep meaning. Will you not let me hear you speak, Emily?'

She uttered a few timid words, then they passed on in silence till the
wood was all about them.

'May I tell you the plan which I have made in the night?' he said, as
they stood on a spot of smooth turf, netted with sunlight. 'You leave us
in two days. Before we start for London, I shall speak with my father,
and tell him what has come about. You remember what I was saying about
him the day before yesterday; perhaps it was with a half-thought of
this--so daring I was, you see! I have no fear of his kindness, his good
sense. At the same time, it is right you should know that my
independence is assured; my grandfather left me far more than enough for
mere needs. By the summer of next year I shall be free of Oxford. I care
little now for such honours as those; you have honoured me more than any
other voice has power to do. But my father would be disappointed if I
did not go on to the end, and do something of what is expected. Now you
must tell me freely is there absolute necessity for your maintaining
yourself in the meanwhile, for your leaving home?'

'There is,' she replied.

'Then will you continue to teach the children as usual?'

She was touched with apprehension.

'Gladly I would do so--but is it possible? Would you conceal from Mrs.

Wilfrid mused.

'I meant to. But your instincts are truer than mine; say what you think.
I believe my father would countenance it, for it involves no real

'If you wish it,' Emily said, after a silence, in a low voice.

'Of my aunt,' pursued Wilfrid, 'I have just this degree of doubt. She
might make difficulties; her ways of thinking differ often from ours.
Yet it is far better that you should continue to live with us. I myself
shall scarcely ever be at home; it will not be as if I dwelt under the
roof; I will make my visits as short as possible, not to trouble you. I
could not let you go to the house of other people--you to lack
consideration, perhaps to meet unkindness! Rather than that, you shall
stay in your own home, or I will not return to Oxford at all.'

Emily stood in anxious thought. He drew a step nearer to her; seemed
about to draw nearer still, but checked himself as she looked up.

'I fear we must not do that,' she said. 'Mrs. Rossall would not forgive

Woman's judgment of woman, and worth much more than Wilfrid's rough and
ready scheming.

Wilfrid smiled.

'Then she also shall know,' he exclaimed. 'She shall take nay view of
this; I will not be gainsaid. What is there in the plan that common
sense can object to? Your position is not that of a servant; you are
from the first our friend you honour us by the aid you give, efficient
as few could make it. Yes, there shall be no concealment far better so.'

'You have no fear of the views they will take?'

'None!' he said, with characteristic decision. 'If they are
unreasonable, absurd, our course is plain enough. You will be my wife
when I ask you to, Emily?'

She faltered, and held her hand to him.

'Is it worth while to go hack to Oxford?' he mused, caressing the
fingers he had kissed.

'Oh, yes; you must,' Emily urged, with a sort of fear in her sudden
courage. 'You must not disappoint them, your father, your friends.'

'My fair wise one!' he murmured, gazing rapturously at her. 'Oh, Emily,
think what our life will be! Shall we not drain the world of its wisdom,
youth of its delight! Hand in hand, one heart, one brain--what shall
escape us? It was you I needed to give completeness to my thought and

The old dream, the eternal fancy. This one, this and no other, chosen
from out the myriads of human souls. Individuality the servant of
passion; mysteries read undoubtingly with the eye of longing. Bead
perhaps so truly; who knows?

She came nearer, imperceptibly, her raised face aglow like the morning.

'Wilfrid--you believe--you know that I love you?'

The last word breathed out in the touching of lips with lips. What could
he reply, save those old, simple words of tenderness, that small
vocabulary of love, common to child and man? The goddess that made
herself woman for his sake--see, did he not hold her clasped to him! But
she was mute again. The birds sang so loudly round about them, uttered
their hearts so easily, but Emily could only speak through silence. And
afterwards she knew there was so much she should have said. What matter?
One cannot find tongue upon the threshold of the holy of holies.



Beatrice Redwing's visit only extended over the second day, and during
that there was little, if any, separate conversation between her and
Wilfrid. The change in her from the free gaiety and restfulness of the
morning of her arrival could not escape notice, though she affected a
continuance of the bright mood. Mr. Athel and his sister both observed
her real preoccupation, as if of trouble, and mentally attributed it to
something that had passed during the afternoon's ride. Mrs. Rossall did
not look for confidences. Beatrice would gossip freely enough of trivial
experiences, or of the details of faith and ritual, but the innermost
veil of her heart was never raised; all her friends felt that, though
they could not easily have explained in what way they became conscious
of this reserve, she seemed so thoroughly open, not to say so shallow.
She left The Firs to return to town, and thence in a week or two went to
Cowes, a favourite abode of her mother's.

The next day, Emily also left, journeying to London on her way to the
north, Wilfrid and she had no second meeting; their parting was formal,
in the family circle. Mr. Athel displayed even more than his usual
urbanity; Mrs. Rossall was genuinely gracious; the twins made many
promises to write from Switzerland. Emily was self-possessed, but
Wilfrid read in her face that she was going through an ordeal. He felt
the folly of his first proposal, that she should play a part before Mrs.
Rossall through the winter months. He decided, moreover, that no time
should be lost in making the necessary disclosure to his father.
Naturally it would be an anxious time with Emily till she had news from
him. She had asked him to direct letters to the Dunfield post office,
not to her home; it was better so for the present.

Wilfrid, though anything but weakly nervous, was impatient of suspense,
and, in face of a situation like the present, suffered from the
excitability of an imaginative temperament. He had by no means yet
outgrown the mood which, when he was a boy, made the anticipation of any
delight a physical illness. In an essentially feeble nature this extreme
sensibility is fatal to sane achievement; in Wilfrid it merely enforced
the vigour of his will. As a child he used to exclaim that he _could_
not wait; at present he was apt to say that he would not. He did not, in
very truth, anticipate difficulties with his father, his conviction of
the latter's reasonableness being strongly supported by immense
confidence in his own powers of putting a case incontrovertibly. As he
had said to Emily, he could scarcely allow that deep affection for his
father dwelt within him, nor did the nature of the case permit him to
feel exactly reverent; these stronger emotions were reserved for the
memory of the parent who was long dead. He thought of his father with
warm friendliness, that temper which is consistent with clear perception
of faults and foibles, which makes of them, indeed, an occasion for the
added kindliness of indulgence, and which, on the other hand, leaves
perfect freedom in judgment and action. We know that it is for the most
part a misfortune to be the son of a really great man, and for the
reason that nature, so indifferent to the individual, makes the
well-being of each generation mainly consist in early predominance over
the generation which gave it birth. Wilfrid suffered no such exceptional
hardship. At three-and-twenty he felt himself essentially his father's
superior. He would not have exposed the fact thus crudely, for he was
susceptible to the comely order of things. The fact was a fact, and
nature, not he, was responsible for it. That, and the circumstance of
his material independence, would necessarily keep the ensuing interview
well within the limits of urbane comedy. The young man smiled already at
the suggested comparison with his father's own choice in matrimony.
Wilfrid had never had the details of that story avowedly represented to
him, but it was inevitable that he should have learnt enough to enable
him to reconstruct them with tolerable accuracy.

Emily was gone long before the hour of luncheon. After that meal, Mr.
Athel lit a cigar and went to a favourite seat in the garden. Mrs.
Rossall was going with the twins to make a farewell call on neighbouring
friends. As soon as the carriage had left the house, Wilfrid sought his
father, who was amusing himself with a review.

'I thought you would have gone with your aunt,' Mr. Athel remarked,
after a glance to see who was approaching him.

'I had an object in remaining behind,' Wilfrid returned, composedly,
seating himself on a camp-stool which he had brought out. 'I wished to
talk over with you a matter of some importance.'


Mr. Athel stroked his chin, and smiled a little. It occurred to him at
once that something relative to Beatrice was about to be disclosed.

'What is it?' he added, throwing one leg over the other, and letting the
review lie open on his lap.

'It concerns Miss Hood,' pursued the other, assuming the same attitude,
save that he had nothing to lean hack against. 'A day or two ago I asked
her to engage herself to me, and she consented.'

Perhaps this was the simplest way of putting it. Wilfrid could not utter
the words with complete calmness; his hands had begun to tremble a
little, and his temples were hot. By an effort he kept his eyes steadily
fixed on his father's face, and what he saw there did not supply
encouragement to proceed in the genial tone with which he had begun. Mr.
Athel frowned, not angrily, but as if not quite able to grasp what had
been told him. He had cast his eyes down.

There was silence for a moment.

'I have chosen the earliest moment for telling you of this,' Wilfrid
continued, rather hurriedly. 'It was of course better to leave it till
Miss Hood had gone.'

On the father's face displeasure had succeeded to mere astonishment.

'You could have told me few things that I should be so sorry to hear,'
were his first words, delivered in an undertone and with grave

'Surely that does not express your better thought,' said Wilfrid, to
whom a hint of opposition at once gave the firmness he had lacked.

'It expresses my very natural thought. In the first place, it is not
pleasant to know that clandestine proceedings of this kind have been
going on under my roof. I have no wish to say anything disrespectful of
Miss Hood, but I am disposed to think that she has mistaken her
vocation; such talents for dissimulation would surely have pointed to--'

Mr. Athel had two ways of expressing displeasure. Where ceremony was
wholly unnecessary, he gave vent to his feelings in an outburst of
hearty English wrath, not coarsely, for his instincts were invariably
those of a gentleman, but in the cultivated autocratic tone; an
offending. groom, for instance, did not care to incur reproof a second
time. Where this mode of utterance was out of place, he was apt to have
recourse to a somewhat too elaborate irony, to involve himself in
phrases which ultimately led to awkward hesitations, with the effect
that he grew more heated by embarrassment. Had he been allowed to
proceed, he would at present have illustrated this failing, for he had
begun with extreme deliberation, smoothing the open pages with his right
hand, rounding his words, reddening a little in the face. But Wilfrid

'I must not let you speak or think of Miss Hood so mistakenly,' he said
firmly, but without unbecoming self-assertion. 'She could not possibly
have behaved with more reserve to me than she did until, three days ago,
I myself gave a new colour to our relations. The outward propriety which
you admit has been perfectly genuine; if there is any blame in the
matter--and how can there be any?--it rests solely upon me. I dare say
you remember my going out to fetch the "Spectator," after Miss Redwing
had been singing to us. By chance I met Miss Hood in the garden. I was
led to say something to her which made a longer interview inevitable;
she consented to meet me on the common before breakfast, the following
morning. These are the only two occasions which can be called
clandestine. If she has disguised herself since then, how could she have
behaved otherwise? Disguise is too strong a word; she has merely kept
silence. I need not inquire whether you fully believe what I say.'

'What you say, I believe, as a matter of course,' replied Mr. Athel, who
had drummed with his fingers as he listened impatiently. 'It can
scarcely alter my view of the position of things. Had you come to me
before offering yourself to this young lady, and done me the honour of
asking my advice, I should in all probability have had a rather strong
opinion to express; as it is, I don't see that there is anything left to
be said.'

'What would your opinion have been?' Wilfrid asked.

'Simply that for an idle fancy, the unfortunate result of unoccupied
days, you were about to take a step which would assuredly lead to regret
at least, very probably to more active repentance. In fact, I should
have warned you not to spoil your life in its commencement.'

'I think, father, that you would have spoken with too little knowledge
of the case. You can scarcely know Miss Hood as I do. I have studied her
since we came here, and with--well, with these results.'

Mr. Athel looked up with grave sadness.

'Wilf, this is a deeply unfortunate thing, my boy. I grieve over it more
than I can tell you. I am terribly disappointed. Your position and your
hopes pointed to very different things. You have surprised me, too; I
thought your mind was already made up, in quite a different quarter.'

'You refer to Miss Redwing?'


'You have, indeed, been mistaken. It was impossible that I should think
of her as a wife. I must have sympathy, intellectual and moral. With her
I have none. We cannot talk without flagrant differences--differences of
a serious, a radical nature. Be assured that such a thought as this
never occurred to Miss Redwing herself; her very last conversation with
me forbids any such idea.'

Mr. Athel still drummed on the book, seemingly paying little heed to the

'You find sympathy in Miss Hood?' he asked suddenly, with a touch of

'The deepest. Her intellectual tendencies are the same as my own; she
has a mind which it refreshes and delights me to discover. Of course
that is not all, but it is all I need speak of. I know that I have
chosen well and rightly.'

'I won't be so old-fashioned,' remarked Mr. Athel, still with subdued
sarcasm, 'as to hint that some thought of me might have entered into
your choosing' (did he consciously repeat his own father's words of
five-and-twenty years back, or was it but destiny making him play his
part in the human comedy?) 'and, in point of fact' (perhaps the parallel
touched him at this point), 'you are old enough to judge the affair on
its own merits. My wonder is that your judgment has not been sounder.
Has it occurred to you that a young lady in Miss Hood's position would
find it at all events somewhat difficult to be unbiassed in her assent
to what you proposed?'

'Nothing has occurred to me,' replied Wilfrid, more shortly than
hitherto, 'which could cast a shadow of suspicion on her perfect truth.
I beg that you will not suggest these things. Some day you will judge
her with better knowledge.'

'I am not sure of that,' was the rejoinder, almost irritably uttered.

'What do you mean by that, father?' Wilfrid asked in a lower tone.

'I mean, Wilf, that I am not yet in the frame of mind to regard the
children's governess as my daughter-in-law. Miss Hood may be all you
say; I would not willingly be anything but scrupulously just. The fact
remains that this is not the alliance which it became you to make. It
is, in a very pronounced sense, marrying beneath you. It is not easy for
me to reconcile myself to that.'

It was Wilfrid's turn to keep silence. What became of his plans? They
were hardly in a way to be carried out as he had conceived them. A
graver uneasiness was possessing him. Resolve would only grow by
opposition, but there was more of pain in announcing an independent
course than he had foreseen.

'What are your practical proposals?' his father inquired, his mollified
tone the result of observing that he had made a certain impression, for
he was distinctly one of the men who are to be overcome by yielding.

'I had a proposal to make, but of such a kind that it is hardly worth
while to speak of it. I shall have to reflect.'

'Let me hear what you were going to say. There's no harm in that, at all

'My idea was, that, with your consent and my aunt's, Miss Hood should
return just as if nothing had happened, and continue to teach the twins
till next summer, when I should have done with Oxford. There appears to
me to be nothing irrational or unseemly in such a plan. If she were our
cook or housemaid, there might be reasonable objections. As it is, it
would hardly involve a change even in your tone to her, seeing that you
are in the habit of treating her as a lady, and with a certain degree of
familiar kindness. I confess I had anticipated no difficulties. We are
not a household of bigoted Conservatives; it is hard for me to imagine
you taking any line but that of an enlightened man who judges all things
from the standpoint of liberal reflection. I suppose my own scorn of
prejudices is largely due to your influence. It is not easy to realise
our being in conflict on any matter involving calm reasonableness.'

In another this would have been a shrewd speech. Wilfrid was incapable
of conscious artifice of this kind; this appeal, the very strongest he
could have made to his father, was urged in all sincerity, and derived
its force from that very fact. He possessed not a little of the
persuasive genius which goes to make an orator--hereafter to serve him
in fields as yet undreamed of--and natural endowment guided his feeling
in the way of most impressive utterance. Mr. Athel smiled in spite of

'And what about your aunt?' he asked. 'Pray remember that it is only by
chance that Miss Hood lives under my roof. Do you imagine your aunt
equally unprejudiced?'

Mr. Athel was, characteristically, rather fond of side-glancings at
feminine weaknesses. An opportunity of the kind was wont to mellow his

'To be quite open in the matter,' Wilfrid replied, 'I will own that my
first idea was to take you alone into my confidence; to ask you to say
nothing to Aunt Edith. Miss Hood felt that that would be impossible, and
I see that she was right. It would involve deceit which it is not in her
nature to practise.'

'You and Miss Hood have discussed us freely,' observed the father, with
a return to his irony.

'I don't reply to that,' said Wilfrid, quietly. 'I think you must give
me credit for the usual measure of self-respect; and Miss Hood does not
fall short of it.'

The look which Mr. Athel cast at his son had in it something of pride.
He would not trust himself to speak immediately.

'I don't say,' he began presently, with balancing of phrase, 'that your
plan is not on the face of it consistent and reasonable. Putting aside
for the moment the wretchedly unsatisfactory circumstances which
originate it, I suppose it is the plan which naturally suggests itself.
But, of course, in practice it is out of the question.'

'You feel sure that aunt would not entertain it?'

'I do. And I don't see how I could recommend her to do so.'

Wilfrid reflected.

'In that case,' he said, 'I have only one alternative. I must give up my
intention of returning to Oxford, and marry before the end of the year.'

The words had to his own ears a somewhat explosive sound. They were
uttered, however, and he was glad of it. A purpose thus formulated he
would not swerve from. Of that his father too was well aware.

Mr. Athel rose from his seat, held the rolled-up magazine in both hands
behind his back, and took a turn across a few yards of lawn. Wilfrid sat
still, leaning forward, watching his father's shadow. The shadow
approached him.

'Wilf, is there no _via media_? Cannot Miss Hood remain at home for a
while? Are you going to throw up your career, and lay in a stock of
repentance for the rest of your life?'

'I don't think you quite understand me, father. I contemplate no career
which could possibly be injured even by my immediate marriage. If you
mean University honours--I care nothing about them. I would go through
the routine just for the sake of completeness; it is her strong wish
that I should. But my future, most happily, does not depend on success
of that kind. I shall live the life of a student, my end will be
self-culture. And Miss Hood is unfortunately not able to remain at home.
I say unfortunately, but I should have regarded it as preferable that
she should continue in her position with us. You and aunt Edith would
come to know her, and the air of a home like ours would, I believe, suit
her better than that of her own. There is nothing in her work that might
not be performed by any lady.'

'What do you know of her people?'

'Nothing, except that her father has scientific interests. It is plain
enough, though, that they cannot be without refinement. No doubt they
are poor; we hardly consider that a crime.'

He rose, as if he considered the interview at an end.

'Look here,' said Mr. Athel, with a little bluffness, the result of a
difficulty in making concessions; 'if Miss Hood returned to us, as you
propose, should you consider it a point of honour to go on with your
work at Balliol as if nothing had happened, and to abstain from
communication with her of a kind which would make things awkward?'

'Both, undoubtedly. I could very well arrange to keep away from home
entirely in the interval.'

'Well, I think we have talked enough for the present. I have no kind of
sympathy with your position, pray understand that. I think you have made
about as bad a mistake as you could have done. All the same, I will
speak of this with your aunt--'

'I think you had better not do that,' interrupted Wilfrid, 'I mean with
any view of persuading her. I am afraid I can't very well bring myself
to compromises which involve a confession of childish error. It is
better I should go my own way.'

'Well, well, of course, if you take the strictly independent attitude--'

Mr. Athel took another turn on the lawn, his brows bent. It was the
first time that there had ever been an approach to serious difference
between himself and his son. The paternal instinct was strong in him,
and it was inevitable that he should be touched by sympathetic
admiration of his past self as revived in Wilfrid's firm and dignified
bearing. He approached the latter again.

'Come to me in the study about ten to-night, will you?' he said.

It was the end of the discussion for the present.

Shortly after dinner, when coffee had been brought to the drawing-room,
Wilfrid wandered out to the summer-house. Emily would be home by this
time. He thought of her....

'The deuce of it is,' exclaimed Mr. Athel, conversing with his sister,
'that it's so hard to find valid objections. If he had proposed to marry
a barmaid, one's course would be clear, but as it is--'

Mrs. Rossall had listened in silence to a matter-of-fact disclosure of
Wilfrid's proceedings. In the commencement her attention had marked
itself by a slight elevation of the brows; at the end she was cold and
rather disdainful. Observation of her face had the result of confirming
her brother in the apologetic tone. He was annoyed at perceiving that
Edith would justify his prediction.

'I am sorry to hear it, of course,' were her first words, 'but I suppose
Wilfrid will act as he chooses.'

'Well, but this isn't all,' pursued Mr. Athel, laying aside an
affectation of half-humorous indulgence which he had assumed. 'He has
urged upon me an extraordinary proposal. His idea is that Miss Hood
might continue to hold her position here until he has taken his degree.'

'I am not surprised. You of course told him that such a thing was out of
the question?'

'I said that _you_ would probably consider it so.'

'But surely--Do you hold a different view?'

'Really, I hold no views at all. I am not sure that I have got the right
focus yet. I know that the plans of a lifetime are upset; I can't get
much beyond that at present.'

Mrs. Rossall was deeply troubled. She sat with her eyes drooped, her
lower lip drawn in.

'Do you refer to any plan in particular?' she asked next.

'Yes, I suppose I do.'

'I am very, very sorry for Beatrice,' she said, in a subdued voice.

'You think it will---'

Mrs. Rossall raised her eyebrows a little, and kept her air of pained

'Well, what is to be done?' resumed her brother, always impatient of
mere negatives. 'He has delivered a sort of ultimatum. In the event of
this proposal--as to Miss Hood's return--being rejected, he marries at

'And then goes back to Balliol?'

'No, simply abandons his career.'

Mrs. Rossall smiled. It was not in woman's nature to be uninterested by
decision such as this.

'Do you despair of influencing him?' she asked.

'Entirely. He will not hear of her taking another place in the interval,
and it seems there are difficulties in the way of her remaining at home.
Of course I see very well the objections on the surface to her coming

'The objections are not on the surface at all, they are fundamental. You
are probably not in a position to see the ease as I do. Such a state of
things would be ludicrous; we should all be playing parts in a farce. He
cannot have made such a proposal to her; she would have shown him at
once its absurdity.'

'But the fact of the matter is that she acceded to it,' said Mr. Athel,
with a certain triumph over female infallibility.

'Then I think worse of her than I did, that's all.'

'I'm not at all sure that you are right in that,' observed her brother,
with an impartial air. 'Pray tell me your serious opinion of Miss Hood.
One begins, naturally, with a suspicion that she has not been altogether
passive in this affair. What Wilf says is, of course, nothing to the
point; he protests that her attitude has been irreproachable.'

'Especially in making assignations for six o'clock in the morning.'

'Well, well, that is merely granting the issue; you are a trifle'
illogical, Edith.'

'No doubt I am. You, on the other hand, seem to be very much of Wilf's
opinion. I am sorry that I can't do as you wish.'

'Well, we shall not gain anything by giving way to irritation. He must
be told how matters stand, and judge for himself.'

As Mr. Athel was speaking, Wilfrid entered the room. Impatience had
overcome him. He knew of course that a discussion was in progress
between his father and his aunt, and calm waiting upon other people's
decisions was not in his nature. He came forward and seated himself.

'I gather from your look, aunt,' he began, when the others did not seem
disposed to break silence, 'that you take my father's view of what he
has been telling you.'

'I am not sure what your father's view is,' was Mrs. Rossall's reply,
given very coldly. 'But I certainly think you have proposed what is

'Yes, you are right,' rejoined Wilfrid, to the surprise of both. 'The
plan was not well considered. Pray think no more of it.'

'What do you substitute?' his father inquired, after another long

'I cannot say.' He paused, then continued with some emotion, 'I would
gladly have had your sympathy. Perhaps I fail to see the whole matter in
the same light as yourselves, but it seems to me that in the step I have
taken there is nothing that should cause lasting difference between us.
I involve the family in no kind of disgrace--that, I suppose, you

Mrs. Rossall made no answer. Mr. Athel moved uneasily upon his chair,
coughed, seemed about to speak, but in the end said nothing.

'I am afraid I shall not be able to leave England with you,' continued
Wilfrid, rising. 'But that fortunately need cause no change in your

Mr. Athel was annoyed at his sister's behaviour. He had looked to her
for mediation; clearly she would offer nothing of the kind. She was
wrapping herself in a cloak of offended dignity; she had withdrawn from
the debate.

'Come with me to my room,' he said moving from his chair.

'I think it will be better to have no further discussion, Wilfrid
replied firmly, 'at all events to-night.'

'As you please,' said his father, shortly.

He went from the room, and Wilfrid, without further speech to his aunt,
presently followed.



The house which was the end of Emily's journey was situated two miles
outside the town of Dunfield, on the high road going southward, just
before it enters upon a rising tract of common land known as the Heath.
It was one of a row of two-storied dwellings, built of glazed brick,
each with a wide projecting window on the right hand of the front door,
and with a patch of garden railed in from the road, the row being part
of a straggling colony which is called Banbrigg. Immediately opposite
these houses stood an ecclesiastical edifice of depressing appearance,
stone-built, wholly without ornament, presenting a corner to the
highway, a chapel-of-ease for worshippers unable to go as far as
Dunfield in the one direction or the village of Pendal in the other.
Scattered about were dwelling-houses old and new; the former being
cottages of the poorest and dirtiest kind, the latter brick structures
of the most unsightly form, evidently aiming at constituting themselves
into a thoroughfare, and, in point of fact, already rejoicing in the
name of Regent Street. There was a public-house, or rather, as it
frankly styled itself in large letters on the window, a dram-shop; and
there were two or three places for the sale of very miscellaneous
articles, exhibiting the same specimens of discouraging stock throughout
the year. At no season, and under no advantage of sky, was Banbrigg a
delectable abode. Though within easy reach of country which was not
without rural aspects, it was marked too unmistakably with the squalor
of a manufacturing district. Its existence impressed one as casual; it
was a mere bit of Dunfield got away from the main mass, and having
brought its dirt with it. The stretch of road between it and the bridge
by which the river was crossed into Dunfield had in its long, hard
ugliness something dispiriting. Though hedges bordered it here and
there, they were stunted and grimed; though fields were seen on this
side and on that, the grass had absorbed too much mill-smoke to exhibit
wholesome verdure; it was fed upon by sheep and cows, seemingly turned
in to be out of the way till needed for slaughter, and by the sorriest
of superannuated horses. The land was blighted by the curse of what we
name--using a word as ugly as the thing it represents--industrialism.

As the cab brought her along this road from Dunfield station, Emily
thought of the downs, the woodlands, the fair pastures of Surrey. There
was sorrow at her heart, even a vague tormenting fear. It would be hard
to find solace in Banbrigg.

Hither her parents had come to live when she was thirteen years old, her
home having previously been in another and a larger manufacturing town.
Her father was a man marked for ill-fortune: it pursued him from his
entrance into the world, and would inevitably--you read it in his
face--hunt him into a sad grave. He was the youngest of a large family;
his very birth had been an added misery to a household struggling with
want. His education was of the slightest; at twelve years of age he was
already supporting himself, or, one would say, keeping himself above the
point of starvation; and at three-and-twenty--the age when Wilfrid Athel
is entering upon life in the joy of freedom--was ludicrously bankrupt, a
petty business he had established being sold up for a debt something
short of as many pounds as he had years. He drifted into indefinite
mercantile clerkships, an existence possibly preferable to that of the
fourth circle of Inferno, and then seemed at length to have fallen upon
a piece of good luck, such as, according to a maxim of pathetic optimism
wherewith he was wont to cheer himself, must come to every man sooner or
later--provided he do not die of hunger whilst it is on the way. He
married a schoolmistress, one Miss Martin, who was responsible for the
teaching of some twelve or fifteen children of tender age, and who, what
was more, owned the house in which she kept school. The result was that
James Hood once more established himself in business, or rather in
several businesses, vague, indescribable, save by those who are unhappy
enough to understand such matters--a commission agency, a life insurance
agency and a fire insurance ditto, I know not what. Yet the semblance of
prosperity was fleeting. As if connection with him meant failure, his
wife's school, which she had not abandoned (let us employ negative terms
in speaking of this pair), began to fall off; ultimately no school was
left. It did in truth appear that Miss Martin had suffered something in
becoming Mrs. Hood. At her marriage she was five-and-twenty, fairly
good-looking, in temper a trifle exigent perhaps, sanguine, and capable
of exertion; she could not claim more than superficial instruction, but
taught reading and writing with the usual success which attends teachers
of these elements. After the birth of her first child, Emily, her moral
nature showed an unaccountable weakening; the origin was no doubt
physical, but in story-telling we dwell very much on the surface of
things; it is not permitted us to describe human nature too accurately.
The exigence of her temper became something generally described by a
harsher term; she lost her interest in the work which she had
unwillingly entrusted for a time to an assistant; she found the
conditions of her life hard. Alas, they grew harder. After Emily, two
children were successively born; fate was kind to them, and neither
survived infancy. Their mother fell into fretting, into hysteria; some
change in her life seemed imperative, and at length she persuaded her
husband to quit the town in which they lived, and begin life anew
elsewhere. Begin life anew! James Hood was forty years old; he
possessed, as the net result of his commercial enterprises, a capital of
a hundred and thirty pounds. The house, of course, could be let, and
would bring five-and-twenty pounds a year. This it was resolved to do.
He had had certain dealings in Dunfield, and in Dunfield he would strike
his tent--that is to say, in Banbrigg, whence he walked daily to a
little office in the town. Rents were lower in Banbrigg, and it was
beyond the range of certain municipal taxings.

Mrs. Hood possessed still her somewhat genteel furniture. One article
was a piano, and upon this she taught Emily her notes. It had been a
fairly good piano once, but the keys had become very loose. They were
looser than ever, now that Emily tried to play on them, on her return
from Surrey.

Business did not thrive in Dunfield; yet there was more than ever need
that it should, for to neglect Emily's education would be to deal
cruelly with the child--she would have nothing else to depend upon in
her battle with the world. Poor Emily A feeble, overgrown child, needing
fresh air, which she could not get, needing food of a better kind, just
as unattainable. Large-eyed, thin-checked Emily; she, too, already in
the clutch of the great brute world, the helpless victim of a
civilisation which makes its food of those the heart most pities. How
well if her last sigh had been drawn in infancy, if she had lain with
the little brother and sister in that gaunt, grimy cemetery, under the
shadow of mill chimneys! She was reserved for other griefs; for
consolations, it is true, but--

Education she did get, by hook or by crook; there was dire pinching to
pay for it, and, too well knowing this, the child strove her utmost to
use the opportunities offered her. Each morning going into Dunfield,
taking with her some sandwiches that were called dinner, walking home
again by tea-time, tired, hungry--ah, hungry No matter the weather, she
must walk her couple of miles--it was at least so far to the school. In
winter you saw her set forth with her waterproof and umbrella, the
too-heavy bag of books on her arm; sometimes the wind and rain beating
as if to delay her--they, too, cruel. In summer the hot days tried her
perhaps still more; she reached home in the afternoon well-nigh
fainting, the books were so heavy. Who would not have felt kindly to
her? So gentle she was, so dreadfully shy and timid, her eyes so eager,
so full of unconscious pathos. 'Hood's little girl,' said the people on
the way who saw her pass daily, and, however completely strangers, they
said it with a certain kindness of tone and meaning. A little thing that
happened one day--take it as an anecdote. On her way to school she
passed some boys who were pelting a most wretched dog, a poor, scraggy
beast driven into a corner. Emily, so timid usually she could not raise
her eyes before a stranger, stopped, quivering all over, _commanded_
them to cease their brutality, divine compassion become a heroism. The
boys somehow did her bidding, and walked on together. Emily stayed
behind, opened her bag, threw something for the dog to eat. It was half
her dinner.

Her mind braced itself. She had a passionate love of learning; all books
were food to her. Fortunately there was the library of the Mechanics'
Institute; but for that she would have come short of mental sustenance,
for her father had never been able to buy mole than a dozen volumes, and
these all dealt with matters of physical science. The strange things she
read, books which came down to her from the shelves with a thickness of
dust upon them; histories of Greece and Rome ('Not much asked for,
these,' said the librarian), translations of old classics, the Koran,
Mosheim's 'Ecclesiastical History,' works of Swedenborg, all the poetry
she could lay hands on, novels not a few. One day she asked for a book
on 'Gymnoblastic Hydroids'; the amazing title in the catalogue had
filled her with curiosity; she must know the meaning of everything. She
was not idle, Emily.

But things in the home were going from bad to worse. When Emily was
sixteen, her father scarcely knew where to look for each day's dinner.
Something must be done. Activity took a twofold direction. First of all,
Emily got work as a teacher in an infant's school. It was at her own
motion; she could bear her mother's daily querulousness no longer; she
must take some step. She earned a mere trifle; but it was earning,
instead of being a source of expense. And in the meantime she worked on
for certain examinations which it would benefit her to have passed. The
second thing done was that her father abandoned his office, and obtained
a place in the counting-house of a worsted-mill, under the firm of
Dagworthy and Son. His salary was small, but the blessing of it was its
certainty; the precariousness of his existence had all but driven poor
Hood mad. There came a season of calm. Emily's sphere of work extended
itself; the school only took her mornings, and for the afternoon there
was proposed to her the teaching of the little Baxendales. The
Baxendales were well-to-do people; the father was, just then, mayor of
Dunfield, the mother was related to the member of Parliament for the
town. We have had mention of them as connections of Beatrice Redwing.

At nineteen she for the first time left home. Through the Baxendales she
obtained the position of governess in a family residing in Liverpool,
and remained with them till she went to London, to the Athels. These
three years in Liverpool were momentous for her; they led her from
girlhood to womanhood, and established her character. Her home was in
the house of a prosperous ship-owner, a Lancashire man, outwardly a
blustering good-tempered animal, yet with an inner light which showed
itself in his love of books and pictures, in his easy walking under the
burden of self-acquired riches, in a certain generous freedom which
marked his life and thoughts. His forename was Laurence: Emily, in
letters to her father, used to call him Lorenzo the Magnificent, a title
which became him well enough. In the collection of works of art he was
really great; he must have spent appalling sums annually on his picture
gallery and the minor ornaments scattered about his house. He had a
personal acquaintance, through his pecuniary dealings, with the foremost
artists of the day; he liked to proclaim the fact and describe the men.
To Emily the constant proximity of these pictures was a priceless
advantage; the years she spent among them were equivalent to a
university course. Moreover, she enjoyed, as with the Athels later, a
free command of books; here began her acquaintance with the most modern
literature, which was needful to set her thoughts in order, to throw
into right perspective her previous miscellaneous reading, and to mark
out her way in the future. Her instinctive craving for intellectual
beauty acquired a reflective consistency; she reformed her ideals, found
the loveliness of much that in her immaturity had seemed barren, put
aside, with gentle firmness, much that had appeared indispensable to her
moral life. The meanings which she attached to that word 'moral' largely
modified themselves, that they should do so was the note of her
progress. Her prayer was for 'beauty in the inward soul,' which, if it
grew to be her conviction, was greatly--perhaps wholly--dependent on
the perception of external beauty. The development of beauty in the soul
would mean a life of ideal purity; all her instincts pointed to such a
life; her passionate motives converged on the one end of spiritual

One ever-present fear she had to strive with in her progress toward
serene convictions. The misery of her parents' home haunted her, and by
no effort could she expel the superstition that she had only escaped
from that for a time, that its claws would surely overtake her and fix
themselves again in her flesh. Analysing her own nature, she discerned,
or thought she did, a lack of independent vigour; it seemed as if she
were too reliant on external circumstances; she dreaded what might
follow if their assistance were withdrawn. To be sure she had held her
course through the countless discouragements of early years; but that,
in looking back, seemed no assurance for the future; her courage, it
appeared to her, had been of the unconscious kind, and might fail her
when she consciously demanded it. As a child she had once walked in her
sleep, had gone forth from the house, and had, before she was awakened,
crossed the narrow footing of a canal-lock, a thing her nervousness
would not allow her to do at other times. This became to her a figure.
The feat she had performed when mere vital instinct guided her, she
would have failed in when attempting it with the full understanding of
its danger. Suppose something happened which put an end to her
independence--failure of health, some supreme calamity at home--could
she hold on in the way of salvation? Was she capable of conscious
heroism? Could her soul retain its ideal of beauty if environed by

The vice of her age--nay, why call it a vice?--the necessary issue of
that intellectual egoism which is the note of our time, found as good
illustration in this humble life as in men and women who are the
mouthpieces of a civilisation. Pre occupied with problems of her own
relation to the world, she could not enjoy without thought in the rear,
ever ready to trouble her with suggestions of unreality. Her distresses
of conscience were all the more active for being purely human; in her
soul dwelt an immense compassion, which, with adequate occasion, might
secure to itself such predominance as to dwarf into inefficiency her
religion of culture. It was exquisite misery to conceive, as, from inner
observation, she so well could, some demand of life which would make her
ideals appear the dreams of bygone halcyon days, useless and worse amid
the threats of gathering tempest. An essentially human apprehension, be
it understood. The vulgarities of hysterical pietism Emily had never
known; she did not fear the invasion of such blight as that; the thought
of it was noisome to her. Do you recall a kind of trouble that came upon
her, during that talk in the hollow, when Wilfrid suggested the case of
her being called upon to make some great sacrifice in her father's
behalf? It was an instance of the weakness I speak of; the fact of
Wilfrid's putting forward such a thought had in that moment linked her
to him with precious bonds of sympathy, till she felt as if he had seen
into the most secret places of her heart. She dreaded the force of her
compassionateness. That dog by the roadside; how the anguish of its eyes
had haunted her through the day I It was the revolt of her whole being
against the cruelty inherent in life. That evening she could not read
the book she had in hand; its phrases seemed to fall into triviality.
Yet--she reasoned at a later time--it should not have been so; the
haggard gaze of fate should not daunt one; pity is but an element in the
soul's ideal of order, it should not usurp a barren sovereignty. It is
the miserable contradiction in our lot that the efficiency of the
instincts of beauty-worship waits upon a force of individuality
attainable only by a sacrifice of sensibility. Emily divined this. So it
was that she came to shun the thought of struggle, to seek an abode
apart from turbid conditions of life. She was bard at work building for
her soul its 'lordly pleasure-house,' its Palace of Art. Could she, poor
as she was, dependent, bound by such obvious chains to the gross earth,
hope to abide in her courts and corridors for ever?...

Friday was the day of her arrival at Banbrigg. On the Saturday afternoon
she hoped to enjoy a walk with her father; he would reach home from the
mill shortly after two o'clock, and would then have his dinner. Mrs.
Hood dined at one, and could not bring herself to alter the hour for
Saturday; it was characteristic of her. That there might be no culinary
cares on Sunday morning, she always cooked her joint of meat on the last
day of the week; partaking of it herself at one o'clock, she cut slices
for her husband and kept them warm, with vegetables, in the oven. This
was not selfishness in theory, however much it may have been so in
practice; it merely meant that she was unable to introduce variation
into a mechanical order; and, as her husband never dreamed of
complaining, Mrs. Hood could see in the arrangement no breach of the
fitness of things, even though it meant that poor Hood never sat down to
a freshly cooked meal from one end of the year to the other. To Emily it
was simply a detestable instance of the worst miseries she had to endure
at home. Coming on this first day, it disturbed her much. She knew the
uselessness, the danger, of opposing any traditional habit, but her
appetite at one o'clock was small.

Mrs. Hood did not keep a servant in the house; she engaged a charwoman
once a week, and did all the work at other times herself. This was not
strictly necessary; the expense of such a servant as would have answered
purposes could just have been afforded; again and again Emily had
entreated to be allowed to pay a girl out of her own earnings. Mrs. Hood
steadily refused. No, she had _once_ known what it was to have luxuries
about her (that was naturally before her marriage), but those days were
gone by. She thus entailed upon herself a great deal of labour, at once
repugnant to her tastes and ill-suited to the uncertainty of her health,
but all this was forgotten in the solace of possessing a standing
grievance, one obvious at all moments, to be uttered in a sigh, to be
emphasised by the affectation of cheerfulness. The love which was
Emily's instinct grew chill in the presence of such things.

Saturday was from of old a day of ills. The charwoman was in the house,
and Mrs. Hood went about in a fatigued way, coming now and then to the
sitting-room, sinking into a chair, letting her head fall back with
closed eyes. Emily had, of course, begged to be allowed to give
assistance, but her mother declared that there was nothing whatever she
could do.

'Shut the door,' she said, 'and then you won't hear the scrubbing so
plainly. I can understand that it annoys you; I used to have the same
feeling, but I've accustomed myself. You might play something; it would
keep away your thoughts.'

'But I don't want to keep away my thoughts,' exclaimed Emily, with a
laugh. 'I want to help you so that you will have done the sooner.'

'No, no, my dear; you are not used to it. You'll tell me when you'd like
something to eat if you get faint.'

'I am not likely to grow faint, mother, if I do nothing.'

'Well, well; I have a sinking feeling now and then, I thought you might
be the same.'

Just when his dinner in the oven had had time to grow crusty, Mr. Hood
arrived. He was a rather tall man, of sallow complexion, with greyish
hair. The peculiarly melancholy expression of his face was due to the
excessive drooping of his eyelids under rounded brows; beneath the eyes
were heavy lines; he generally looked like one who has passed through a
night of sleepless grief. He wore a suit of black, which had for several
years been his reserve attire, till it grew too seamy for use on
Sundays. The whole look of the man was saddening; to pass him in the
street as a stranger was to experience a momentary heaviness of heart.
He had very long slender fingers--Emily's matchless hand in a
rudimentary form--and it seemed to be a particular solicitude to keep
them scrupulously clean; he frequently examined them, and appeared to
have a pleasure in handling things in a dainty way--the pages of a
book, for instance. When he smiled it was obviously with effort--a
painful smile, for all that an exceedingly gentle one. In his voice
there was the same gentleness, a self-suppression, as it were; his way
of speaking half explained his want of success in life.

Emily was standing at the window in expectation of his coming. As soon
as he reached the iron gate in front of the house she ran to open the
door for him. He did not quicken his step, even stopped to close the
gate with deliberate care, but if his face could ever be said to light
up, it did so as he bent to the girl's kiss. She took his hat from him,
and went to see that his dinner was made ready.

'How fine it is!' he said in his subdued tone, when he came downstairs
and stood by the table stroking his newly washed hands. 'Shall we have a
walk before tea-time? Mother is too busy, I'm afraid.'

Mrs. Hood came into the room shortly, and seated herself in the usual

'Did you bring the cake?' she asked, when her presence had caused
silence for a few moments.

'The cake?' he repeated in surprise.

'Didn't I ask you to bring a cake? I suppose my memory is going; I meant
to, and thought I mentioned it at breakfast. I shall have nothing for
Emily's tea.'

Emily protested that it was needless to get unusual things on her

'We must do what we can to make you comfortable, my dear. I can't keep a
table like that you are accustomed to, but that I know you don't expect.
Which way are you going to walk this afternoon? If you pass a shop you
might get a cake, or buns, whichever you like.'

'Well, I thought we might have a turn over the Heath,' said Mr. Hood.
'However, we'll see what we can do.'

A thought of some anxious kind appeared suddenly to strike Mrs. Hood;
she leaned forward in her chair, seemed to listen, then started up and
out of the room.

Emily sat where she could not see her father eating; it pained,
exasperated her to be by him whilst he made such a meal. He ate slowly,
with thought of other things; at times his eye wandered to the window,
and he regarded the sky in a brooding manner. He satisfied his hunger
without pleasure, apparently with indifference. Shortly after three
o'clock the two started for their walk. Not many yards beyond the house
the road passed beneath a railway bridge, then over a canal, and at once
entered upon the common. The Heath formed the long side of a slowly
rising hill; at the foot the road divided itself into two branches, and
the dusty tracks climbed at a wide angle with each other. The one which
Emily and her father pursued led up to stone quarries, which had been
for a long time in working, and, skirting these, to the level ground
above them, which was the end of the region of furze and bracken. Here
began a spacious tract of grassy common; around it were houses of
pleasant appearance, one or two meriting the name of mansion. In one of
them dwelt Mr. Richard Dagworthy, the mill-owner, in whose
counting-house James Hood earned his living. He alone represented the
firm of Dagworthy and Son; his father had been dead two years, and more
recently he had become a widower, his wife leaving him one child still
an infant.

At the head of the quarries the two paused to look back upon Dunfield.
The view from this point was extensive, and would have been interesting
but for the existence of the town itself. It was seen to lie in a broad
valley, along which a river flowed; the remoter districts were
pleasantly wooded, and only the murkiness in the far sky told that a yet
larger centre of industry lurked beyond the horizon. Dunfield offered no
prominent features save the chimneys of its factories and its fine
church, the spire of which rose high above surrounding buildings; over
all hung a canopy of foul vapour, heavy, pestiferous. Take in your
fingers a spray from one of the trees even here on the Heath, and its
touch left a soil.

'How I wish you could see the views from the hills in Surrey!' Emily
exclaimed when they had stood in silence. 'I can imagine nothing more
delightful in English scenery. It realises my idea of perfect rural
beauty, as I got it from engravings after the landscape painters. Oh,
you shall go there with me some day.'

Her father smiled and shook his head a little.

'Perhaps,' he said; and added a favourite phrase of his, 'while there is
life there is hope.'

'Of course there is,' rejoined Emily, with gaiety which was unusual in
her. 'No smoke; the hills blue against a lovely sky! trees covered to
the very roots with greenness; rich old English homes and cottages--oh,
you know the kind your ideal of a cottage--low tiled roofs, latticed
windows, moss and lichen and climbing flowers. Farmyards sweet with hay,
and gleaming dairies. That country is my home!'

With how rich a poetry it clothed itself in her remembrance, the land of
milk and honey, indeed, her heart's home. It was all but impossible to
keep the secret of her joy, yet she had resolved to do so, and her
purpose held firm.

'I am very glad indeed that you are so happy there,' sail her father,
looking at her with that quiet absorption in another's mood of which he
was so capable. 'But it will be London through the winter. You haven't
told me much about London; but then you were there so short a time.'

'But I saw much. Mrs. Rossall could not have been kinder; for the first
few days it was almost as if I had been a visitor; I was taken

'I should like to see London before I die,' mused her father. 'Somehow I
have never managed to get so far.'

'Oh, we will see it together some day.'

'There's one thing,' said Mr. Hood, reflectively, 'that I wish
especially to see, and that is Holborn Viaduct. It must be a wonderful
piece of engineering; I remember thinking it out at the time it was
constructed. Of course you have seen it?'

'I am afraid not. We are very far away from the City. But I will go and
see it on the first opportunity.'

'Do, and send me a full description.'

His thoughts reverted to the views before them.

'After all, this isn't so bad. There's a great advantage in living so
near the Heath. I'm sure the air here is admirable; don't you smell how
fresh it is? And then, one gets fond of the place one's lived in for
years. I believe I should find it hard to leave Dunfield.'

Emily smiled gently.

'I wonder,' he pursued, 'whether you have the kind of feeling that came
to me just then? It struck me that, suppose anything happened that would
enable us to go and live in another place, there would be a sort of
ingratitude, something like a shabby action, in turning one's back on
the old spot. I don't like to feel unkind even to a town.'

The girl glanced at him with meaning eyes. Here was an instance of the
sympathetic relations of which she had spoken to Wilfrid; in these words
was disclosed the origin of the deepest sensibilities of her own nature.

They pursued their walk, across the common and into a tree-shaded lane.
Emily tried to believe that this at length was really the country; there
were no houses in view, meadows lay on either hand, the leafage was
thick. But it was not mere prejudice which saw in every object a
struggle with hard conditions, a degeneration into coarseness, a blight.
The quality of the earth was probably poor to begin with; the herbage
seemed of gross fibre; one would not risk dipping a finger in the stream
which trickled by the roadside, it suggested an impure source. And
behold, what creatures are these coming along the lane, where only
earth-stained rustics should be met? Two colliers, besmutted wretches,
plodding homeward from the 'pit' which is half a mile away. Yes, their
presence was in keeping with the essential character of the scene.

'One might have had a harder life,' mused Mr. Hood aloud, when the
pitmen were gone by.

'I think there's a fallacy in that,' replied Emily. 'Their life is
probably not hard at all. I used to feel that pity, but I have reasoned
myself out of it. They are really happy, for they know nothing of their
own degradation.'

'By the bye,' said her father presently, 'how is young Mr. Athel, the
young fellow who had to come home from college?'

'He is quite well again, I think,' was Emily's reply.

'I suppose, poor fellow, he has a very weak constitution?'

'Oh no, I think not.'

'What is he studying for? Going into the Church?'

Emily laughed; it was a relief to do so.

'Isn't it strange,' she said, 'how we construct an idea of an unknown
person from some circumstance or piece of description? I see exactly
what your picture of Mr. Athel is: a feeble and amiable young man, most
likely with the shocking voice with which curates sometimes read the

She broke off and laughed again.

'Well,' said her father, 'I admit I thought of him a little in that
way--I scarcely know why.'

'You could hardly have been further from the truth. Try to imagine the
intellectual opposite of such a young man, and you--That will be far
more like Mr. Athel.'

'He isn't conceited? My want of experience has an unfortunate tendency
to make me think of young fellows in his position as unbearably vain. It
must be so hard to avoid it.'

'Perhaps it is, if they have the common misfortune to be born without

Other subjects engaged their attention.

'When do you take your holiday, father?' Emily asked.

'I think about the middle of this month. It won't be more than a week or
ten days.'

'Don't you think you ought to go to Cleethorpes, if only for a day or

To suggest any other place of summer retreat would have been too
alarming. Mr. Hood's defect of imagination was illustrated in this
matter; he had been somehow led, years ago, to pay a visit to
Cleethorpes, and since then that one place represented for him the
seaside. Others might be just as accessible and considerably more
delightful, but it did not even occur to him to vary. It would have cost
him discomfort to do so, the apprehension of entering upon the unknown.
The present was the third summer which had passed without his quitting
home. Anxiety troubled his countenance as Emily made the proposal.

'Not this year, I think,' he said, as if desirous of passing the subject

'Father, what possible objection can there be to my bearing the expense
of a week at Cleethorpes? You know how well I can afford it; indeed I
should like to go; it is rather unkind of you to refuse.'

This was an old subject of discussion. Since Emily had lived away from
home, not only her father, but her mother just as strenuously, had
refused to take from her any of the money that she earned. It had been
her habit at first indirectly to overcome this resistance by means of
substantial presents in holiday time; but she found such serious
discomfort occasioned by the practice that most reluctantly she had
abandoned it. For the understanding of the Hoods' attitude in this
matter, it must be realised how deeply their view of life was coloured
by years of incessant preoccupation with pecuniary difficulties. The
hideous conception of existence which regards each individual as
fighting for his own hand, striving for dear life against every other
individual, was ingrained in their minds by the inveterate bitterness of
their own experience; when Emily had become a woman, and was gone forth
to wrest from the adverse world her own subsistence, her right to what
she earned was indefeasible, and affection itself protested against her
being mulcted for their advantage. As for the slight additional expense
of her presence at home during the holidays, she must not be above
paying a visit to her parents; the little inconsistency was amiable
enough. Father and mother both held forth to her in the same tone: 'You
have the battle of life before you; it is a terrible one, and the world
is relentless. Not only is it your right, but your very duty, to spare
every penny you can; for, if anything happened to prevent your earning
money, you would become a burden upon us--a burden we would gladly
strive to bear, but the thought of which would be very hard for
yourself. If, on the other hand, your mother were left a widow, think
how dreadful it would be if you could give her no assistance. You are
wrong in spending one farthing more than your absolute needs require; to
say you do it in kindness to us is a mere mistake of yours.' The logic
was not to be encountered; it was as irresistible as the social
conditions which gave it birth. Emily had abandoned discussion on these
points; such reasoning cost her sickness of heart. In practice she
obeyed her parents' injunctions, for she herself was hitherto only too
well aware of the fate which might come upon her in consequence of the
most trifling mishap; she knew that no soul in the world save her
parents would think it a duty to help her, save in the way of bare
charity. Naturally her old point of view was now changed; it was this
that led her to revive the discussion with her father, and to speak in a
tone which Mr. Hood heard with some surprise.

'Next year, perhaps, Emily,' he said. 'After Surrey, I don't think you
can really need another change. I am delighted to see how well you look.
I, too, am remarkably well, and I can't help thinking your mother gets
stronger. How do you find her looking?'

'Better than usual, I really think. All the same, it is clearly
impossible for you and her to live on year after year without any kind
of change.'

'Oh, my dear, we don't feel it. It's so different with older people; a
change rather upsets us than otherwise. You know how nervous your mother
gets when she is away from home.'

Their walk brought them round again to the top of the Heath. Mr. Hood
looked at his watch, and found that it was time to be moving homewards.
Tea was punctually at five. Mrs. Hood would take it ill if they were
late, especially on Saturday.

As they walked across the smooth part of the upper common, looking at
the houses around, they saw coming towards them a gentleman followed by
three dogs. He was dressed in a light tweed suit, and brandished a
walking-stick, as if animal spirits possessed him strongly.

'Why, here comes Mr. Dagworthy,' remarked Mr. Hood, in a low tone,
though the other was still at a considerable distance. 'He generally
goes off somewhere on Saturday afternoon. What a man he is for dogs! I
believe he keeps twenty or thirty at the house there.'

Emily evinced just a little self-consciousness. It was possible that Mr.
Dagworthy would stop to speak, for she had become, in a measure,
acquainted with him in the preceding spring. She was at home then for a
few weeks before her departure for London, and the Baxendales, who had
always shown her much kindness, invited her to an evening party, at
which Dagworthy was present. He had chatted with her on that occasion.

Yes, he was going to speak. He was a man of five-and-thirty, robust,
rather florid, with eyes which it was not disagreeable to meet, though
they gazed with embarrassing persistency, and a mouth which he would
have done well to leave under the natural shelter of a moustache; it was
at once hard and sensual. The clean-shaving of his face gave his
appearance a youthfulness to which his tone of speech did not

'How do you do, Miss Hood? Come once more into our part of the world,
then? You have been in London, I hear.'

It was the tone of a man long accustomed to have his own way in life,
and not overmuch troubled with delicacies of feeling. His address could
not be called disrespectful, but the smile which accompanied it
expressed a sort of good-natured patronage, perhaps inevitable in such a
man when speaking to his clerk's daughter. The presence of the clerk
himself very little concerned him. He kept his eyes steadily on the
girl's face, examining her with complete frankness. His utterance was
that of an educated man, but it had something of the Yorkshire accent, a
broadness which would have distressed the ear in a drawing-room.

Emily replied that she had been in London; it did not seem necessary to
enter into details.

'Pleasant afternoon, isn't it? Makes one want to get away to the moors.
I suppose you will be off somewhere soon with your family, Mr. Hood?'

He would not have employed the formal prefix to his clerk's name but for
Emily's presence; the father knew that, and felt grateful.

'Not this year, I think, sir,' he replied, with perfect cheerfulness.

Of the three dogs that accompanied Dagworthy, one was a handsome collie.
This animal came snuffing at Emily's hand, and involuntarily, glad
perhaps to have a pretence for averting her face, she caressed the silky

'Fine head, isn't it, Miss Hood?' said Dagworthy at once, causing her to
remove her hand quickly. 'Ay, but I've a finer collie than that. Just
walk in with me, will you?' he added, after a scarcely perceptible
pause. 'I always like to show off my dogs. You're in no hurry, I
suppose? Just come and have a look at the kennels.'

Emily was deeply annoyed, both because such a visit was in itself
distasteful to her, and on account of the irritation which she knew the
delay would cause her mother. She did not for a moment expect her father
to refuse; his position would not allow him to do so. Mr. Hood, in fact,
murmured thanks, after a mere half glance at his daughter, and the three
walked together to Dagworthy's house, the entrance to which was not
fifty yards from where they were standing.

The dwelling was neither large nor handsome, but it stood in a fine
garden and had an air of solid well-being. As soon as they had passed
the gates, they were met by a middle-aged woman carrying a child of two
years old, an infant of wonderfully hearty appearance. At the sight of
its father it chuckled and crowed. Dagworthy took it from the woman's
arms, and began a game which looked not a little dangerous; with
surprising strength and skill, he tossed it up some feet into the air,
caught it as it descended, tossed it up again. The child shrieked with
delight, for all that the swift descent positively stopped its breath,
and made a hiatus in the screaming.

'Theer, that's abaht enough, Mr. Richard,' said the woman, in broad
dialect, when the child had gone up half a dozen times; she was nervous,
and kept holding out her arms involuntarily. 'Ah doan't ovver much fancy
that kind o' laakin. What's more, he's allus reight dahn fratchy after a
turn o' that. See nah, he'll nivver want you to stop. Do a' done nah,
Mr. Richard.'

'Here you are then; take him in, and tell them I want some tea; say I
have friends with me.'

The child was carried away, roaring obstreperously, and Dagworthy,
laughing at the vocal power displayed, led the way round to the back of
the house. Here had been constructed elaborate kennels; several dogs
were pacing in freedom about the clean yard, and many more were chained
up. Much information was imparted to the visitors concerning the more
notable animals; some had taken prizes at shows, others were warranted
to do so, one or two had been purchased at fancy prices. Mr. Hood now
and then put a question, as in duty bound to do; Emily restricted her
speech to the absolutely necessary replies.

Dagworthy conducted them into the house. It appeared to be furnished in
a solid, old-fashioned way, and the ornaments, though few, were such as
might better have been dispensed with. Old Dagworthy had come to live
here some five-and-twenty years previously, having before that occupied
a small house in conjunction with his mill. He had been one of the
'worthies' of Dunfield, and in his time did a good deal of useful work
for the town. Personally, he was anything but amiable, being devoid of
education and refinement, and priding himself on his spirit of
independence, which exhibited itself in mere boorishness. Though
anything but miserly, he had, where his interests were concerned, an
extraordinary cunning and pertinacity; he was universally regarded as
one of the shrewdest men of business in that part of Yorkshire, and
report credited him with any number of remarkable meannesses. It was
popularly said that 'owd Dick Dagworthy' would shrink from no dirty
trick to turn a sixpence, but was as likely as not to give it away as
soon as he had got it. His son had doubtless advanced the character of
the stock, and, putting aside the breeding of dogs, possessed many
tastes of which the old man had no notion; none the less, he was
credited with not a little of his father's spirit in business. In
practical affairs he was shrewd and active; he never--as poor Hood might
have testified--paid a man in his employ a penny more than there was
need, and fell far short of the departed Dagworthy's generosity; to be
at his mercy in a pecuniary transaction was to expect and to receive
none. For all that, there was something in the man which hinted at
qualities beneath the surface; a glance, a tone, now and then, which
seemed on the point of revealing a hidden humanity.

When he chose, he could be courteous; he was so at present, as he
requested Emily and her father to seat themselves in a large homely room
which looked out upon the garden. The woman who had carried the child
reappeared and poured out cups of tea. When she had left the room--

'I must ask you to excuse the roughness of my establishment, Miss Hood,'
he said. 'I have to make shift for the resent with Mrs. Jenkins. She
isn't as refined as she might e, but she's been with us here for more
than twelve years, and I should be sorry to replace her with any other

Pieces of bread and butter of somewhat undue solidity were offered.
Emily 'declined anything but the cup of tea. She was very ill at ease,
though she succeeded in suppressing any manifestation of it; Dagworthy
kept his gaze on her constantly.

'Now I know you didn't care very much about the dogs,' he said to her
presently. 'I think I've got something here that will be rather more in
your line.'

He brought from a corner of the room a large portfolio, set it upon a
chair in front of Emily, and exposed its contents. These were a number
of fine photographs of continental cathedrals and churches.

'I bought these when I took my run through France and Germany last
year,' he explained. 'I've something of a turn for architecture, I
believe; at all events, I know I like a fine building, and I like to
find out all I can about it.'

He went through the collection, with remarks which proved that he had
certainly attained a rudimentary knowledge of the subject, and that his
appreciation was often keen when his technical understanding might be at

'The worst of it is,' he said, at one point, with a modesty which was a
new feature in his conversation, 'I can't pronounce the names properly.
Now, how do you read that, Miss Hood? To be sure; I know it when I hear
it. Have you ever been in France?'

The negative reply came.

'You'd like to see the old-fashioned streets in which some of these
churches stand.'

As soon as it was possible to do so, Emily looked meaningly at her
father, and he, just as anxious to be on his way homeward, rose for
leave-taking. Dagworthy offered no opposition; he went with them to the
gates, and shook hands with both, then stood gazing after them as they
walked across the common.

'Well, I never knew young Dagworthy anything like that before,' said Mr.
Hood, when they were at some distance from the gate. 'I couldn't believe
it when he asked us to go into the house.'

'I'm afraid mother will be very uneasy,' was Emily's reply.

'Yes, my dear, I'm afraid she will; let's walk sharply. But he was
really uncommonly pleasant; I shall think a good deal better of him than
I have done.'

This was the only aspect of the afternoon's adventure which presented
itself to Mr. Hood. Emily was divided between relief at having got away
from that persistent gaze and apprehension of what might meet them on
their arrival at home. The latter feeling was only too well justified.
Mrs. Hood sat in the kitchen, the window darkened. When speech was at
length elicited from her, it appeared that a headache to which she was
subject had come on in its severest form. Emily was at once active with
remedies, not that any of those that she urged were likely to avail
themselves, but because she was well aware that the more solicitude she
showed the sooner her mother would resume her ordinary state. Mrs. Hood
begged to be left to herself; let them have their tea and leave her in
the kitchen, she was best there, out of people's way; it would soon be
bedtime, the evening was practically gone. In the course of half an hour
she was at length prevailed upon to come into the sitting-room, and even
to taste a cup of tea. At first she had paid no attention to the reasons
alleged for the unpunctuality; little by little she began to ask
questions on her own account, petulantly but with growing interest.
Still, the headache was not laid aside, and all spent a very dolorous

In the relation these things have their humorous side; Emily may be
excused if she was slow to appreciate it. She knew very well that the
crisis meant for her father several days of misery, and perhaps in her
youthful energy she was disposed to make too little allowance for her
mother, whose life had been so full of hardship, and who even now was
suffering from cares and anxieties the worst of which her daughter was
not allowed to perceive. After the girl's early departure to her bedroom
the other two sat talking drearily; after one of her headaches Mrs. Hood
always dwelt in conversation on the most wretched features of her life,
with despairing forecast. Poor woman, there was little of a brighter
kind to occupy her thoughts. Two occasions of grave anxiety were at
present troubling her, and, though he spoke of them less, her husband in
no less a degree. It had just been announced to them that at the ensuing
Christmas their rent would be raised, and at the same time the tenant
who had for years occupied the house which they owned in the town of
Barnhill had given notice of departure. There was a certain
grotesqueness in the fact of James Hood being a proprietor of real
estate. Twice an attempt had been made to sell the house in question,
but no purchaser could be found; the building was in poor repair, was
constantly entailing expense to the landlord, and, in the event of its
becoming unoccupied, would doubtless wait long for another tenant. This
event had come about, or would in a couple of months, and the loss of
that five-and-twenty pounds a year would make the difficulty of
existence yet more desperate. Once more an attempt at sale must be made,
in itself involving outlays which, however petty, could ill be borne;
and to sell, even if it could be done, meant a serious loss of income.

'What did it mean, do you think?' Mrs. Hood asked, recurring to the
subject of Dagworthy and his astonishing behaviour. She put the question
dispiritedly, not venturing to hope for a solution that would help her
to a more cheerful frame of mind.

Hood scarcely dared to utter the words which came into his mind.

'You remember that they met at the Baxendales'--'

'How did Emily behave?' the mother next inquired.

'She was very quiet. I don't think she liked it. We must bear in mind
the kind of society she is used to. Young Dagworthy won't seem of much
account to her, I fancy.'

'But he has had a good education, hasn't he?'

'Pretty good, I suppose. He confessed to us, though, that he couldn't
pronounce French words.'

'It's quite certain,' said Mrs. Hood, 'he wouldn't have invited you in
if you had been alone.'

'Certain enough,' was the reply, in a tone wholly disinterested. 'But it
must have been just a fancy, a whim. Things of that kind don't happen

'Not to us, at all events,' murmured the other dejectedly.

'Well, there must come what will,' she added, leaning her head back once
more, and losing interest in the subject. 'I hope nothing and expect

Alas, these two sitting together in the dull little room, speaking in
disjointed phrases of despondency, exchanging no look, no word of mutual
kindness, had they not once loved each other, with the love of youth and
hope? Had it not once been enough to sit through long evenings and catch
with eagerness each other's lightest word? Time had robbed them of
youth, and the injustice of the world's order had starved love to less
than a shadow of itself, to a more habit of common suffering. Tender
memories were buried in the grave of children whom the resources of ever
so modest a fortune would have kept alive; the present was a mere
struggle to support existence, choking the impulses of affection. One
would not murmur at the kindly order of life, whereby passion gives
place to gentle habitudes, and the fiery soul of youth tames itself to
comely gravity; but that love and joy, the delights of eager sense and
of hallowed aspiration, should be smothered in the foul dust of a brute
combat for bread, that the stinted energies of early years should change
themselves to the blasted hopes of failing manhood in a world made ill
by human perverseness, this is not easily--it may be, not well--borne
with patience. Put money in thy purse; and again, put money in thy
purse; for, as the world is ordered, to lack current coin is to lack the
privileges of humanity, and indigence is the death of the soul.



It had been arranged that Emily should receive news from Wilfrid by the
first post on Monday morning. Her father left home at half-past eight,
and Emily, a little ashamed at so deceiving him, went into the town at
the same time on pretence of a desire to share his walk. Taking leave of
him as soon as the mill was in sight, she walked towards the
post-office. At this early hour there was no one before the counter: she
overcame her nervousness and asked for letters. That which she expected
was given to her, and at the same time a telegram.

The sight of the telegram agitated her. Drawing aside, she opened it at
once. Wilfrid had despatched it the previous night from London. 'I shall
be in Dunfield at one o'clock to-morrow. Please leave a note for me at
the post-office, appointing any place of meeting at any time you like. I
shall find the place from your description.'

The letter, as she could perceive by feeling it, was long; there was no
necessity to open it until she reached home. But the note she must write
at once. In agitation which would scarcely allow her to reflect, she
left the office and sought a small shop where she could procure
note-paper. On her way she devised a plan for meeting. In the shop where
she made her purchase, she was permitted also to write the note. Having
stamped the envelope, she returned to the post-office, and, to make sure
that no delay might disappoint Wilfrid, gave the letter into the hands
of a clerk, who promised, with a smile, that it should at once be put
into the right place. Emily found the smile hard to bear, but
fortunately she was unknown.

Then she set forth homewards. Such news as this, that she would see and
speak with Wilfrid in a few hours, set self-command at defiance. Between
joy at the thought that even now he was nearing her, and fear of the
events which might have led him to such a step, she was swayed in a
tumult of emotion. She longed to open the letter, yet felt she could not
do so in the public roads. She tried to think whether any ill chance
could possibly interpose to prevent her being at the place of meeting;
none was to be anticipated, unless, what was very unlikely, her mother
should propose to join her afternoon walk. But what could his coming
mean? She feared that she understood too well.

Often she had to check the over-haste of her pace, and the way seemed
terribly long, but at length she was at home and close shut in her
bedroom. The letter did not aid her to account for his coming; it had
been written late on Friday night, but made absolutely no reference to
what had passed between Wilfrid and his relations. It was a long and
passionate poem of his love, concerned not with outward facts, but with
states of feeling. Only at the end he had added a postscript, saying
that he should write again on Monday.

It was difficult to live through the morning. She felt that she must be
busy with her hands, and, her mother's objections notwithstanding, set
herself resolutely to active housework. Her anxious feelings in this way
toned themselves to mere cheerfulness. She listened with unfailing
patience to the lengthily described details of domestic annoyances of
which Mrs. Hood's conversation chiefly consisted, and did her best to
infuse into her replies a tone of hopefulness, which might animate
without betraying too much. The hours passed over, and at length it was
time to set forth. Mrs. Hood showed no desire to leave home. Emily,
though foreseeing that she might again be late for tea, did not venture
to hint at such a possibility, but started as if for a short walk.

Not much more than a mile from Banbrigg, in a direction away alike from
the Heath and from Dunfield, is the village of Pendal, where stand the
remains of an ancient castle. Very slight indeed are these relics, one
window and some shapeless masses of defaced masonry being alone exposed;
but a hill close beside them is supposed to cover more of the fabric,
though history tells not how or when the earth was so heaped up. The
circle of the moat is still complete, and generally contains water.
Pendal Castle Hill, as the locality is called, is approached by a rustic
lane leading from the village; it is enclosed like an ordinary meadow,
and shadowed here and there with trees. On Sundays and holidays it is a
resort much favoured by Dunfieldians; at other times its solitude is but
little interfered with. Knowing this, Emily had appointed the spot for
the meeting. She had directed Wilfrid to take a train from Dunfield to
Pendal, and had described the walk up to the castle hill.

He was not before her this time, and there were endless reasons for fear
lest she should wait in vain. She remained standing on the inner side of
the stile by which the field was entered, and kept her gaze on the point
where the lane turned. A long quarter of an hour passed, then of a
sudden the expected form appeared.

There had been no train to Pendal at the right time; he had taken a meal
at Dunfield station, and then had found a cab to convey him to the

Wilfrid was very calm, only the gleam of his fine eyes showed his
delight at holding her hands again. They walked to the side of the hill
remote from the road. Wilfrid looked about him, and remarked that the
place was interesting. He seemed in no hurry to speak of what had
brought him here; they walked hand in hand, like children. 'Emily'--and
then his name in return, with interchange of looks; was it not enough
for some minutes?

'There is a fallen trunk,' Wilfrid said, pointing to a remoter spot.
'Shall we sit there?'

'How well it has been managed,' he exclaimed when they had seated
themselves. 'You remember the fairy tales in which the old woman bids
some one go to a certain place and do such and such a thing and
something is sure to happen? "And it befell just as the old woman had

'And I am the old woman. They call her a witch in the stories.'

'A witch, yes; but so young and beautiful. What delight it was to find
your letter, dearest! What careful directions! I laughed at your
dreadful anxiety to make it quite, quite clear. Won't you take the glove
off? How your hand trembles; no, I will unbutton it myself.'

He kissed the fingers lightly, and then held them pressed.

'But why have you come all this distance, Wilfrid?'

'Would it not be enough if I said I had come to see you? What distance
would be too far for that?'

'But you were to have left England to-day?'

'So I was, but I shall not go--till you go with me, Emily.'

She looked at him with anxious eyes.

'Well, I will tell you all there is to tell. In the first place, my
father and my aunt think that the plan of your returning to teach the
little girls is not a very good one.'

He spoke with perfect cheerfulness, but firmly, as was his wont. Emily's
eyes fell.

'I have felt it myself,' she said.

'And so have I; so that we are happily all agreed. We talked it all over
after you had gone on Friday, and since then I have taken time to make
up my mind. I can see that you would be uncomfortable in the house under
such conditions; at the same time it is certainly out of the question
that you should go elsewhere; and so--come to London and let us be
married as soon as the arrangements can be made.'

'I don't quite understand, Wilfrid. Do you mean that your father
approves this?'

'They all went off to-day. He knows, no doubt, what my intention is. In
a matter like this I must judge for myself.'

She was silent, then asked with apprehension, 'Has it caused trouble?'

'Of the kind which passes as soon as it has been well talked about,' he
answered with a smile; 'nothing more serious.'

She could not meet his look.

'And you wish not to return to Oxford?'

'I have done with that. I see now that to go back and play the schoolboy
would have been impossible; all that is over and a new life
beginning--you will be in readiness to come up as soon as I scud for

She looked in his face now with pleading.

'It is too hasty, Wilfrid. It was better, far better, that we should
wait till next year. Can it be your father's wish that your marriage
should take place in his absence? You know that I have no foolish
desires; the more simply everything is done the better it will please
me. But I would, I would have it done with your father's goodwill. I
foresaw his objections only too well; they are natural, it could not be
otherwise; but I hoped that time would help. Let us wait!'

She closed both hands on his, and gazed at him steadily.

'I think you must be guided by me, Emily,' he replied, with his calm
self-assertiveness. 'There is no reason why we should wait. My father is
a man who very sensibly accepts the accomplished fact. His own marriage,
I may tell you, was an affair of decision in the face of superficial
objections, and he will only think the better of me for following his
example. You say, and I am sure, that you care nothing for the show of a
wedding; if you did, I should not be here at this moment. It is only for
that that we need postpone the marriage. I will take rooms till I can
find a house and have it made ready for us.'

Emily kept silence. She had released his hand. There were signs on her
face of severe inward conflict.

'Will you let me go and see your parents?' he asked. 'Shall our marriage
take place here? To me it is the same; I would only be ruled by your
choice. May I go home with you now?'

'I would say yes if I could make up my mind to a marriage at once,' she
answered. 'Dear, let me persuade you.'

'The sound of your words persuades too strongly against their sense,
Emily,' he said tenderly. 'I will not put off our marriage a day longer
than forms make necessary.'

'Wilfrid, let me say what--'

'I have scraps of superstition in my nature,' he broke in with a half
laugh. 'Fate does not often deal so kindly as in giving you to me; I
dare not _seem_ even to hesitate before the gift. It is a test of the
worth that is in us. We meet by chance, and we recognise each other;
here is the end for which we might have sought a lifetime; we are not
worthy of it if we hold back from paltry considerations. I dare not
leave you, Emily; everything points to one result--the rejection of the
scheme for your return, my father's free surrender of the decision to
myself, the irresistible impulse which has brought me here to you. Did I
tell you that I rose in the middle of the night and went to Charing
Cross to telegraph? It would have done just as well the first thing in
the morning, but I could not rest till the message was sent. I will have
no appearances come between us; there shall be no pause till you bear my
name and have entered my home; after that, let life do with us what it

Emily drank in the vehement flow of words with delight and fear. It was
this virile eagerness, this force of personality, which had before
charmed her thought into passiveness, and made her senses its subject;
but a stronger motive of resistance actuated her now. In her humility
she could not deem the instant gain of herself to be an equivalent to
him for what he would certainly, and what he might perchance, lose. She
feared that he had disguised his father's real displeasure, and she
could not reconcile herself to the abrupt overthrow of all the purposes
Wilfrid had entertained before he knew her. She strove with all the
energy of her own strong character to withstand him for his good.

'Wilfrid, let it at least be postponed till your father's return. If his
mind is what you say, he will by then have fully accepted your views. I
respect your father. I owe him consideration; he is prejudiced against
me now, and I would gain his goodwill. Just because we are perfectly
independent let us have regard for others; better, a thousand times
better, that he should be reconciled to our marriage before it takes
place than perforce afterwards. Is it for my constancy, or your own,
that you fear?'

'I do not doubt your love, and my own is unalterable. I fear
circumstances; but what has fear to do with it; I wish to make you my
own; the empire of my passion is all-subduing. I will not wait! If you
refuse me, I have been mistaken; you do not love me.'

'Those are only words,' she answered, a proud smile lighting the trouble
of her countenance. 'You have said that you do not doubt my love, and in
your heart you cannot. Answer me one question, Wilfrid: have you made
little of your father's opposition, in order to spare me pain? Is it
more serious than you are willing to tell me?'

The temptation was strong to reply with an affirmative. If she believed
his father to be utterly irreconcilable, there could be no excuse for
lingering; yet his nobler self prevailed, to her no word of falseness.

'I have told you the truth. His opposition is temporary. When you are my
wife he will be to you as to any wife I could have chosen, I am
convinced of it.'

'Then more than ever I entreat you to wait, only till his return to
England. If you fail then, I will resist no longer. Show him this much
respect, dearest; join him abroad now; let him see that you desire his
kindness. Is he not disappointed that you mean to break off your career
at Oxford? Why should you do that? You promised me--did you not promise
me, Wilfrid, that you would go on to the end?'

'I cannot! I have no longer the calmness, no longer the old
ambitions,--how trivial they were!'

'And yet there will come a day when you will regret that you left your
course unfinished, just because you fell in love with a foolish girl.'

'Do not speak like that, Emily; I hate that way of regarding love! My
passion for you is henceforth my life; if it is trifling, so is my whole
being, my whole existence. There is no sacrifice possible for me that I
should ever regret. Our love is what we choose to make it. Regard it as
a foolish pastime, and we are no better than the vulgar crowd--we know
how they speak of it. What detestable thoughts your words brought to my
mind! Have you not heard men and women, those who have outlived such
glimpses of high things as nature ever sent them, making a jest of love
in young lives, treating it, from the height of their wisdom forsooth,
as a silly dream of boys and girls? If we ever live to speak or think
like that, it will indeed be time to have done with the world. Even as I
love you now, my heart's darling, I shall love you when years of
intimacy are like some happy journey behind us, and on into the very
portal of death. Regret! How paltry all will seem that was not of the
essence of our love! And who knows how short our time may be? When the
end comes, will it be easy to bear, the thought that we lost one day,
one moment of union, out of respect for idle prejudices which vanish as
soon as they find themselves ineffectual? Will not the longest life be
all too short for us?'

'Forgive me the words, dear. Love is no less sacred to me.'

Her senses were playing the traitor; or--which you will--were seconding
love's triumph.

'I shall come home with you now,' he said. 'You will let me?'

Why was he not content to win her promise? This proposal, by reminding
her most strongly of the inevitable difficulties her marriage would
entail, forced her again into resistance.

'Not now, Wilfrid. I have not said a word of this; I must prepare them
for it.'

'You have not spoken of me?'

'I would not do so till I--till everything was more certain.'

'Certain!' he cried impatiently. 'Why do you torture me so, Emily? What
uncertainty is there? Everything is uncertain, if you like to make it
so. Is there something in your mind that I do not understand?'

'You must remember, Wilfrid, that this is a strange, new thing in my
life. It has come to me so suddenly, that even yet I cannot make it part
of my familiar self. It has been impossible to speak of it to others.'

'Do you think I take it as a matter of course? Is your love less a magic
gift to me? I wake in a terror lest I have only dreamed of it; but then
the very truth comes back, and shall I make myself miserable with
imagining uncertainties, when there need be none?'

Emily hesitated before speaking again.

'I have told you very little about my home,' she said. 'You know that we
are very poor.'

She could not say it as simply as she wished; she was angry with herself
to recognise how nearly her feeling was one of shame, what a long habit
of reason it needed to expel the unintelligent prejudice which the world
bestows at birth.

'I could almost say I am glad of it,' Wilfrid replied. 'We shall have it
in our power, you and I, to help so much.'

'There are many reasons,' she continued, too much occupied with her
thoughts to dwell on what he said, 'why I should have time to prepare my
father and mother. You will let me write the things which it is not very
easy to say.'

'Say what you will, and keep silence on what you will, Emily. I cannot
give so much consequence to these external things. You and I are living
souls, and as such we judge each other. Shall I fret about the
circumstances in which chance has cased your life? As reasonable if I
withdrew my love from you because one day the colour of your glove did
not please me. Time you need. You shall have it; a week, ten days. Then
I will come myself and fetch you,--or you shall come to London alone, as
you please.'

'Let it be till your father returns.'

'But he will be two months away.'

'You will join him in Switzerland. Your health requires it.'

'My health! Oh, how tired I am of that word! Spare it me, you at least,
Emily. I am well in body and mind; your love would have raised me if I
had lain at the point of death. I cannot leave England alone; I have
made up my mind that you shall go with me. Have I then no power to
persuade you? You will not indeed refuse?'

He looked at her almost in despair. He had not anticipated more than the
natural hesitancy which he would at once overcome by force of passion.
There was something terrible to him in the disclosure of a quiet force
of will equal to his own. Frustration of desire joined with irritated
instincts of ascendency to agitate him almost beyond endurance.

Emily gazed at him with pleading as passionate as his own need.

'Do you distrust me?' he asked suddenly, overcome with an intolerable
suspicion. At the same moment he dropped her hand, and his gaze grew

'Distrust you?' She could not think that she understood him.

'Do you fear to come to London with me?'


Her bosom heaved with passionate resentment of his thought.

'Is _that_ how you understand my motives?' she asked, with tremulous,
subdued earnestness, fixing upon him a gaze which he could not meet.

'Yes,' he answered, below his breath, 'in a moment when love of you has
made me mad.'

He turned away, leaning with one hand upon the trunk. In the silence
which followed he appeared to be examining the shapeless ruins, which,
from this point of view, stood out boldly against the sky.

'When was this castle destroyed?' he asked presently, in a steady voice.

He received no answer, and turned his eyes to her again. Emily's face
was strung into a hard intensity. He laid his hand once more upon hers,
and spoke with self-control.

'You do not know the strength of a man's love. In that moment it touched
the borders of hate. I know that your mind is incapable of such a
suspicion; try to think what it meant to be possessed for an instant by
such frenzy.'

'You felt able to hate me?' she said, with a shake in her voice which
might have become either a laugh or a sob. 'Then there are things in
love that I shall never know.'

'Because your soul is pure as that of the angels they dream of. I could
not love yen so terribly if you were not that perfection of womanhood to
which all being is drawn. Send me to do your bidding; I will have no
will but yours.'

How the light of rapture flashed athwart her face! It was hard for her
to find words that would not seem too positive, too insubmissive.

'Only till you have lived with your father in the thought of this
thing,' she murmured, 'and until I have taught myself to bear my
happiness. Are we not one already, dear? Why should you needlessly make
your life poorer by the loss--if only for a time--of all the old
kindnesses? I think, I know, that in a few days your mind will be the
same as my own. Do you remember how long it is since we first spoke to
each other?'

'Not so many days as make a week,' he answered, smiling.

'Is not that hard to believe? And hard to realise that the new world is
still within the old?'

'Sweet, still eyes--give to me seine of your wisdom! But you have a
terrible way of teaching calmness.'

'You will go straight to the Continent, Wilfrid?'

'Only with one promise.'

'And that?'

'You will bow to my judgment when I return.'

'My fate shall be in your hands.'

They talked still, while the shadows of the ruins moved ever towards
them. All the afternoon no footsteps had come near; it was the sight of
two strangers which at length bade Emily think of the time. It was after
six o'clock.

'Wilfrid, I must go. My absence will seem so strange what fables I shall
have to invent on the way home. Do you know of any train that you can
leave by?'

'No; it matters very little; I suppose there is a mail some time
to-night? I will go back to Dunfield and take my chance.'

'How tired you will be! Two such journeys in one day.'

'And a draught of the water of life between them. But even now there is
something more I ask for.'

'Something more?'

'One touch of the lips that speak so nobly.'

It was only then that her eyes gleamed for a moment through moisture.
But she strengthened herself to face the parting, in spite of a
heaviness at the heart like that which she had felt on leaving The Firs.
She meant at first to go no further than the stile into the lane, and
there Wilfrid held out his hand. She used it to aid herself in stepping

'I must go as far as Pendal station,' she said. 'Then you can look at
the time-table, and tell me what train you will take.'

They walked the length of the lane almost in silence, glancing at each
other once or twice. At the village station, Wilfrid discovered that a
good train left Dunfield shortly after nine o'clock. From Pendal to
Dunfield there would be a train in a quarter of an hour.

They stood together under the station shed. No other passenger was
waiting, and the official had not yet arrived to open the

'When shall I hear from you?' Emily asked, putting off from instant to
instant the good-bye, which grew ever harder to say.

'In less than a week. I shall leave London early tomorrow morning.'

'But it will give you no time for rest.'

'I am not able to rest. Go as often as you can to the castle, that I may
think of you as sitting there.'

'I will go very often.'

She could not trust herself to utter more than a few words. As she
spoke, the station-master appeared. They moved away to the head of the
stairs by which Emily had to leave.

'I shall see your train to-night as it passes Pendal,' she said.

Then there was the clasp of hands, and--good-bye. To Emily the way was
dark before her as she hurried onward....

Mrs. Hood had subsided into the calm of hitter resignation. Emily found
her in the kitchen, engaged in polishing certain metal articles, an
occupation to which she always had recourse when the legitimate work of
the day was pretty well over. Years ago, Mrs. Hood had not lacked
interest in certain kinds of reading, but the miseries of her life had
killed all that; the need of mechanical exertion was constantly upon
her; an automatic conscience refused to allow her repose. When she heard
Emily entering by the front door, a sickly smile fixed itself upon her
lips, and with this she silently greeted the girl.

'It is too bad of me, mother,' Emily said, trying to assume playfulness,
which contrasted strangely with an almost haggard weariness on her face.
'You will give me up as hopeless; I will promise, like the children,
that it shall never happen again.'

'It is your holiday, my dear,' was the reply, as Mrs. Hood went to stir
the fire. 'You must amuse yourself in your own way.'

'Of course you have had tea. I really want nothing till supper-time.'

'It was not worth while to make tea for one,' said her mother, with a

'And you have had none? Then I will make it this minute. When will
father be home?'

'It is quite uncertain. He gets more and more irregular.'

'Why should he be kept so beyond the proper time? It is really too bad.'

'My dear, your father is never satisfied with doing his own work; he's
always taking somebody else's as well. Of course, they find that out,
and they put upon him. I've talked and talked, but it's no use; I
suppose it'll go on in the same way to the end.'

Half an hour later Mr. Hood reached home, as usual, worn out. The last
half mile of the walk from Dunfield was always a struggle with
exhaustion. He had to sit several minutes before he was able to go
upstairs to refresh himself with cold water.

'I met Mrs. Cartwright,' he said, when an unexpected cup of tea from
Emily's hands had put him into good spirits. 'Jessie got home on
Saturday, and wants you to go and see her, Emily. I half promised you
would call to-morrow morning.'

'Yes, I will,' said Emily.

'I don't think it's altogether right,' remarked Mrs. Hood, 'that Emily
should have to work in her holidays; and I'm sure it's all no use;
Jessie Cartwright will never do any good if she has lessons from now to

'Well, it's very necessary she should,' replied Mr. Hood. 'How ever they
live as they do passes my comprehension. There was Mrs. Cartwright
taking home fruit and flowers which cost a pretty penny, I'll be bound.
And her talk! I thought I should never get away. There's one thing, she
never has any but good-natured gossip; I never leave her without feeling
that she is one of the best-hearted women I know.'

'I can't say that her daughters take after her,' Mrs. Hood remarked,
soothed, as always, by comment upon her acquaintances. 'Amy was here the
other afternoon, and all the time she never ceased making fun of those
poor Wilkinses; it really was all I could do to keep from telling her
she ought to be ashamed of herself. Mary Wilkins, at all events, makes
no pretences; she may be plain, but she's a good girl, and stays at home
to do what's required of her. As for the Cartwright girls--well, we
shall see what'll happen some day. It can't go on, that's quite

'I don't think there's any real harm in them. They're thoughtless, but
then they're very young. They oughtn't to have so much of their own way.
What's your opinion of Jessie, Emily? Do you think she'll ever be fit to

'She might, if she could live apart from her mother and sisters for a
time. I think she'll have to come here for her lessons; it's out of the
question to do anything at that house.'

It was Mr. Hood's habit to spend his evenings in a little room at the
top of the house, which he called his laboratory. It was furnished with
a deal table, a couple of chairs, and some shelves. On the table was his
apparatus for the study of electricity, mostly the product of his own
ingenuity; also a number of retorts, crucibles, test-tubes, and the
like, wherewith he experimented chemically. The shelves exhibited
bottles and jars, and the dozen or so volumes which made his scientific
library. These tastes he had kept up from boyhood; there was something
pathetic in the persistency with which he clung to the pretence of
serious study, though the physical fatigue which possessed him during
his few hours of freedom would in any case have condemned him to mere
trifling. Often he came upstairs, lit his lamp, and sat for a couple of
hours doing nothing more than play with his instruments, much as a child
might; at other times a sudden revival of zeal would declare itself, and
he would read and experiment till late in the night, always in fear of
the inevitable lecture on his reckless waste of lamp-oil. In the winter
time the temperature of this garret was arctic, and fireplace there was
none; still he could not intermit his custom of spending at least an
hour in what he called scientific study, with the result that he went to
bed numbed and shivering. It was but another illustration of
possibilities rendered futile by circumstances. It was more than likely
that the man might, with fair treatment, have really done something in
one or other branch of physics. To Emily, who strove to interest herself
in his subjects out of mere love and compassion, he appeared to have
gained not a little knowledge of facts and theories. She liked to
encourage herself in the faith that his attainments were solid as far as
they went, and that they might have been the foundation of good
independent work; it helped her to respect her father.

'Will you come up to-night, Emily?' he asked, with the diffidence which
he always put into this request.

She assented with apparent cheerfulness, and they climbed the stairs
together. The last portion of them was uncarpeted, and their footsteps
sounded with hollow echoes under the roof. It was all but dark by this
time; Mr. Hood found matches on the table and lit the lamp, which
illuminated the bare whitewashed walls and sloping ceiling with a dreary
dimness. There was no carpet on the floor, which creaked as they moved
here and there. When her father was on the point of drawing down the
blind, Emily interposed.

'Do you mind leaving it up, father?'

'Of course I will,' he assented with a smile. 'But why?'

'The last daylight in the sky is pleasant to look at.'

On the landing below stood an old eight-day clock. So much service had
it seen that its voice was grown faint, and the strokes of each hour
that it gave forth were wheezed with intervals of several seconds. It
was now striking nine, and the succession of long-drawn ghostly notes
seemed interminable.

The last daylight--how often our lightest words are omens!--faded out of
the sky. Emily kept her eyes upon the windows none the less. She tried
to understand what her father was saying sufficiently to put in a word
now and then, but her sense of hearing was strained to its utmost for
other sounds. There was no traffic in the road below, and the house
itself was hushed; the ticking of the old clock, performed with such
painful effort that it ever seemed on the point of failing, was the only
sign of life outside the garret. At length Emily's ear caught a remote
rushing sound; her father's low voice did not overcome it.

'These compounds of nitrogen and oxygen,' he was saying, 'are very
interesting. Nitrous oxide, you know, is what they call Laughing Gas.
You heat solid nitrate of ammonia, and that makes protoxide of nitrogen
and water.'

The words conveyed no sense to her, though she heard them. The rushing
sound had become a dull continuous thunder. Her eyes strained into the
darkness. Of a sudden the horizon flamed. A train was passing a quarter
of a mile away, and the furnace-door of the engine had just been opened
to feed the fire, whose strength sped the carriages to far-off London. A
streaming cloud of smoke reflected the glare; it was as though some
flying dragon vomited crimson fumes. Involuntarily the girl half rose
from her seat and pointed.

'What is it?' asked her father, looking round. 'Ah! pretty sight that
fire on the smoke. Well, this protoxide of nitrogen, you see--'



Not the least of many mysteries in the natural history of the
Cartwrights was, how they all managed to bestow themselves in the house
which they occupied. To be sure, the family--omitting Mr. Cartwright,
seldom at home--were all of one sex, which perhaps made the difficulty
less insuperable; but the fact remained that Mrs. Cartwright and her
five grown-up daughters, together with a maid-servant, lived, moved, and
had their being in an abode consisting of six rooms, a cellar, and a
lumber closet. A few years ago they had occupied a much more roomy
dwelling on the edge of the aristocratic region of Dunfield; though not
strictly in St. Luke's--the Belgravia of the town--they of course spoke
of it as if it were. A crisis in the fortunes of the family had
necessitated a reduction of their establishment; the district in which
they now dwelt was humbler, but then it could always be described as
'near North Parade, you know'; North Parade being an equivalent of
Mayfair. The uppermost windows commanded a view of the extensive
cattle-market, of a long railway viaduct, and of hilly fields beyond.

The five Misses Cartwright did not greatly relish the change; they were
disposed even to resist, to hold their ground on the verge of St.
Luke's, to toll their father that he must do his duty and still maintain
them in that station of life for which they were clearly designed by
Providence. But Mr. Cartwright, after many cries of 'Wolf,' found
himself veritably at close quarters with the animal, and female argument
had to yield to the logic of fact. 'Be thankful,' exclaimed the
hard-driven paterfamilias, when his long patience came to an end, 'that
we haven't all to go to the Union. It 'll come to that yet, mark my
word!' And, indeed, few people in Dunfield would have expressed surprise
at the actual incidence of this calamity. Mr. Cartwright was ostensibly
a commercial traveller, but obviously he must have joined with this main
pursuit many odds and ends of money-making activity, seeing that the
family kept out of debt, and still indulged themselves in extravagances
which many substantial households would have declared themselves unable
to afford. If the town were visited by an opera company, or by some
dramatic star going the round of the provinces, the Cartwrights were
sure to have prominent seats, and to exhibit themselves in becoming
costume. If a bazaar were held, their ready-money was always
forthcoming. At flower shows, galas, croquet parties, they challenged
comparison with all who were not confessedly of the Dunfield _elite_.
They regularly adorned their pew in the parish church, were liberal at
offertories, exerted themselves, not without expense, in the Sunday
school feast, and the like. How--cried all Dunfield--how in the name of
wonder was it done?

We are not concerned to probe the mystery; suffice it that the situation
be exhibited as it appeared to the eyes of the world. When the
afore-mentioned crisis declared itself, though every one enjoyed the
opportunity of exclaiming 'I told you so!' there were few who did not
feel really sorry for the Cartwrights, so little of envy mingled with
the incessant gossip of which the family were the subject. Mrs.
Cartwright was held in more or less affection by every one who knew her.
She was a woman of fifty, of substantial frame, florid, and somewhat
masculine in manner; a thorough Yorkshire-woman, her tone and demeanour
were marked by a frank good-nature which often exaggerated itself into
bluffness, and was never consistent with the delicacy of refined taste,
but which unmistakably evinced a sound and benevolent disposition. When
her sharp temper was stirred--and her daughters gave it abundant
exercise--she expressed herself in a racy and vigorous vernacular which
there was no opposing; never coarse, never, in the large sense,
unwomanly, she made her predominance felt with an emphasis which would
fain have been rivalled by many of the mothers of Dunfield. Lavishly
indulgent to her girls, she yet kept them thoroughly in hand, and won,
if not their tenderness, at all events their affection and respect. The
girls themselves were not outwardly charming; Jessie, the youngest but
one, had perhaps a certain claim to prettiness, but, like all her
sisters, she was of coarse type. Their education had been of the most
haphazard kind; their breeding was not a little defective; but a certain
tact, common to the family, enabled them to make the very most of
themselves, so that they more than passed muster among the middle-class
young ladies of the town. As long as they sojourned on the borders of
St. Luke's, nothing was farther from the thoughts of any one of them
than the idea that they might have to exert themselves to earn their own
living; it was only of late that certain emphatic representations on the
part of their father had led Mrs. Cartwright to consider which of the
girls was good for anything. Amy, the eldest, had rather a weak
constitution; it was plain that neither in body nor in mind could she be
called upon to exert herself. Eleanor who came next, had musical
faculties; after terrific family debates it was decided that she must
give lessons on the piano, and a first pupil was speedily found. Barbara
was good for nothing whatever, save to spend money on her personal
adornment; considering that she was the plainest of the family--her
sisters having repeatedly decided the point--her existence appeared on
the whole singularly superfluous. Then came Jessie. Of Jessie her father
had repeatedly said that she was the only girl of his who had brains;
those brains, if existent, must now be turned to account. But Jessie had
long since torn up her school-books into curl-papers, and, as learning
accumulated outside her head, it vanished from the interior. When she
declared that arithmetic was all but a mystery to her, and that she had
forgotten what French she ever knew, there was an unprecedented outbreak
of parental wrath: this was the result of all that had been spent on her
education! She must get it back as best she could, for, as sure as fate,
she should be packed off as a governess. Look at Emily Hood: why, that
girl was keeping herself, and, most likely, paying her mother's
butcher's bill into the bargain, and her advantages had been fewer than
Jessie's. After storms beyond description, Jessie did what her mother
called 'buckle to,' but progress was slight. 'You must get Emily Hood to
help you when she comes home for her holidays,' was Mrs. Cartwright's
hopeful suggestion one night that the girl had fairly broken down and
given way to sobs and tears. Emily was written to, and promised aid. The
remaining daughter, Geraldine, was held to be too young as yet for
responsible undertakings; she was only seventeen, and, besides, there
was something rather hopeful going on between her and young Baldwin, the
solicitor, who had just begun practice in Dunfield. So that, on the
whole, Geraldine's lot looked the most promising of all.

In previous years; the family had never failed to betake themselves for
three weeks or so to Scarborough, or Whitby, or Bridlington; this year
they had for the first time contented themselves with humbler
recreation; Mrs. Cartwright and four of the girls managed a week at
Ilkley, Jessie was fortunate enough to be invited to stay for a
fortnight with friends at the seaside. She was the latest to return.
Emily being now at home, there was no longer an excuse for postponing
study; books were procured, and Jessie, by way of preparation,
endeavoured to fathom the abysses of her ignorance.

We have heard Emily's opinion as to the possibility of studious
application in the house of the Cartwrights. Her own visits thither were
made as few as possible; she declared that she never came away without a
headache. In spite of restricted space, the Cartwrights found it
impossible to relinquish the habit of universal hospitality. As if
discontented with the narrow proportions of her own family, Mrs.
Cartwright was never thoroughly at ease unless she had three or four
friends to occupy every available square foot of floor in her diminutive
sitting-room, and to squeeze around the table when meals were served. In
vain did acquaintances hold apart from a sense of consideration, or time
their visits when eating and drinking could scarcely be in question;
they were given plainly to understand that their delicacy was an
offence, and that, if they stayed away, it would be put down to their
pride. It was almost impossible to hit an hour for calling at which the
family would be alone; generally, as soon as the front door opened, the
ear of the visitor was assailed with laughter loud and long, with
multitudinous vociferation, Mrs. Cartwright's rich voice high above all
others. The room itself was a spectacle for men and gods. Not a member
of the family had the most rudimentary instinct of order; no article,
whether of ornament or use, had its recognised station. Needlework lay
in heaps on table, chairs, and floor; you stretched out your legs too
far, and came in contact with a casual flower-vase, put down to be out
of the way; you desired to open the piano, and had first to remove a
tray of wineglasses. To listen to the girls' conversation for five
minutes was to understand their surroundings; they were hopelessly
feather-brained, they chattered and gabbled with deafening persistency.
If there was no good in their talk, there could scarcely be said to be
any harm; they lived so completely on the surface of things that they
impressed one as incapable even of a doubtful thought. One reason why
Geraldine was the only one who had yet definitely attracted a male
admirer might lie in the fact that there was no air of femininity about
the girls, nothing whatever to touch the most susceptible imagination; a
parcel of schoolboys would have been as provocative. And this
notwithstanding that they talked incessantly of love-making, of
flirtations, of the making and breaking of matches; it was the very
freedom and shallowness of such gossip that made it wholly unexciting;
their mother's presence put no check on the talk--she, indeed, was very
much like her daughters in choice of subject--and the young men who
frequented the house joined in discussion of sexual entanglements with a
disengaged air which, if it impugned their delicacy, at all events
seemed to testify to practical innocence.

Those young men! Dunfield was at that time not perhaps worse off in its
supply of marriageable males than other small provincial towns, but, to
judge from the extensive assortment which passed through the
Cartwrights' house, the lot of Dunfield maidens might beheld pathetic.
They were not especially ignorant or vulgar, these budding townsmen,
simply imbecile. One could not accuse them of positive faults, for they
had no positive qualities, unless it were here and there a leaning to
physical fatuity. Their interests were concerned with the pettiest of
local occurrences; their favouritisms and animosities were those of
overgrown infants. They played practical jokes on each other in the open
streets; they read the local newspapers to extract the feeblest of
gossip; they had a game which they called polities, and which consisted
in badging themselves with blue or yellow, according to the choice of
their fathers before them; they affected now and then to haunt
bar-parlours and billiard-rooms, and made good resolutions when they had
smoked or drunk more than their stomachs would support. If any Dunfield
schoolboy exhibited faculties of a kind uncommon in the town, he was
despatched to begin life on a more promising scene; those who remained,
who became the new generation of business men, of town councillors, of
independent electors, were such as could not by any possibility have
made a living elsewhere. Those elders who knew Dunfield best could not
point to a single youth of fair endowments who looked forward to
remaining in his native place.

The tone of Dunfield society was not high.

No wonder that Emily Hood had her doubts as to the result of study taken
up by one of the Cartwrights. Still, she held it a duty to give what
help she could, knowing how necessary it was that Jessie should, if
possible, qualify herself to earn a living. The first thing after
breakfast on Tuesday morning she set forth to visit her friends. It was
not quite ten o'clock when she reached the house, and she looked forward
with some assurance of hope to finding the family alone. Jessie herself
opened the door, and Emily; passing at once into the sitting-room,
discovered that not only had a visitor arrived before her, but this the
very person she would most have desired to avoid. Mr. Richard Dagworthy
was seated in conversation with Mrs. Cartwright and her daughters or
rather he had been conversing till Emily's arrival caused a momentary
silence. He had called thus early, on his way to the mill, to inquire
for Mr. Cartwright's present address having occasion to communicate with
him on business matters.

The room was so small that Emily had a difficulty in reaching Mrs.
Cartwright to shake hands with her, owing to Dagworthy's almost blocking
the only available way round the table. He stood up and drew back,
waiting his turn for greeting; when it came, he assumed the manner of an
old friend. A chair was found for Emily, and conversation, or what
passed for such, speedily regathered volume. The breakfast things were
still on the table, and Miss Geraldine, who was always reluctant to rise
of a morning, was engaged upon her meal.

'You see what it's come to, Mr. Dagworthy,' exclaimed the mother of the
family, with her usual lack of reticence. 'Jessie can't or won't learn
by herself, so she has to bother Emily to come and teach her. It's too
bad, I call it, just in her holiday time. She looks as if she wanted to
run about and get colour in her cheeks, don't _you_ think so?'

'Well, mother,' cried Jessie, 'you needn't speak as if Emily was a child
in short clothes.'

The other girls laughed.

'I dare say Emily wishes she was,' pursued Mrs. Cartwright. 'When you're
little ones, you're all for being grown up, and when you _are_ grown up,
then you see how much better off you were before,--that is, if you've
got common sense. I wish my girls had half as much all put together as
Emily has.'

'I'm sure I don't wish I was a child,' remarked Geraldine, as she bit
her bread-and-butter.

'Of course you don't, Geraldine,' replied Dagworthy, who was on terms of
much familiarity with all the girls. 'If you were, your mother wouldn't
let you come down late to breakfast, would she?'

'I never remember being in time for breakfast since I was born,' cried
the girl.

'I dare say your memory doesn't go far enough back,' rejoined Dagworthy,
with the smile of one who trifled from a position of superior age and

Mrs. Cartwright laughed with a little embarrassment. Amy, the eldest
girl, was quick with an inquiry whether Emily had been as yet to the
Agricultural Show, the resort at present of all pleasure-seeking
Dunfieldians. Emily replied that she had not, and to this subject the
talk strayed. Mr. Dagworthy had dogs on exhibition at the show. Barbara
wanted to know how much he would take for a certain animal which had
captivated her; if she had some idea that this might lead to an offer of
the dog as a present, she was doomed to disappointment, for Dagworthy
named his price in the most matter-of-fact way. But nothing had excited
so much interest in these young ladies as the prize pigs; they were in
raptures at the incredible degree of fatness attained; they delighted to
recall that some of the pigs were fattened to such a point that rollers
had to be placed under their throats to keep their heads up and prevent
them from being choked by the pressure of their own superabundant flesh.
In all this conversation Dagworthy took his part, but not quite with the
same freedom as before Emily's arrival. His eyes turned incessantly in
her direction, and once or twice he only just saved himself from
absent-mindedness when a remark was addressed to him. It was with
obvious reluctance that he at length rose to leave.

'When are you all coming to see me?' he asked, as he stood smoothing his
felt hat with the back of his hand. 'I suppose I shall have to give a
croquet party, and have some of the young fellows, then you'll come fast
enough. Old men like myself you care nothing about.'

'I should think not, indeed,' replied Barbara the plain. 'Why, your
hair's going grey. If you didn't shave, you'd have had grey whiskers
long ago.'

'When I invite the others,' he returned, laughing, 'you may consider
yourself excepted.'

Amid delicate banter of this kind he took his departure. Of course he
was instantly the subject of clamorous chatter.

'Will he really give a croquet party?' demanded one, eagerly.

'Not he!' was the reply from another. 'It would cost him too much in tea
and cakes.'

'Nonsense!' put in Mrs. Cartwright. 'He doesn't care for society, that's
what it is. I believe he's a good deal happier living there by himself
than he was when his wife was alive.'

'That isn't very wonderful,' exclaimed Amy. 'A proud, stuck-up thing,
she was! Served him right if she made him uncomfortable; he only married
her because her people were grand.'

'I don't believe they ever go near him now,' said the mother.

'What did they quarrel about, mother?' asked Jessie. 'I believe he used
his wife badly, that's the truth of it.'

'How do _you_ know what the truth of it is?' returned her mother,
contemptuously. 'I know very well he did nothing of the kind; whatever
his faults are, he's not that sort of man.'

'Well, you must confess, mother, he's downright mean; and you've often
enough said Mrs. Dagworthy spent more money than pleased him. I know
very well I shouldn't like to be his wife.'

'You wait till he asks you, Jessie,' cried Barbara, with sisterly

'I don't suppose he's very likely to ask any of you,' said Mrs.
Cartwright, with a laugh which was not very hearty. 'Now, Geraldine,
_when_ are you going to have done your breakfast? Here's ten o'clock,
and you seem as if you'd never stop eating. I won't have this
irregularity. Now tomorrow morning I'll have the table cleared at nine
o'clock, and if you're not down you'll go without breakfast altogether,
mind what I say.'

The threat was such an old one that Geraldine honoured it with not the
least attention, but helped herself abundantly to marmalade, which she
impasted solidly on buttered toast, and consumed with much relish.

'Now you've got Emily here,' pursued Mrs. Cartwright, turning her attack
upon Jessie, 'what are you going to do with her? Are you going to have
your lessons in this room?'

'I don't know. What do _you_ say, Emily?'

Emily was clearly of Opinion that lessons under such conditions were
likely to be of small profit.

'If it were not so far,' she said, 'I should propose that you came to me
every other day; I should think that will be often enough.'

'Why, it's just as far for you to come here,' exclaimed Mrs. Cartwright.
'If you're good enough to teach her--great, lazy thing that she is!--the
least she can do is to save you all the trouble she can.'

'I've got an idea,' observed Jessie. 'Why shouldn't we have lessons in
the garden?'

'That's just as bad. Emily 'll have the same distance to walk. Don't
hear of it, Emily; you make her come to Banbrigg!'

'I don't in the least mind the walk,' Emily said. 'Perhaps we might take
it in turns, one lesson in the garden and the next at Banbrigg.'

After ten minutes' vociferous discussion, during which Emily held her
peace, this plan was eventually agreed upon.

Jessie ran upstairs to prepare herself to go forth.

'Now don't you let her waste your time, Emily,' said Mrs. Cartwright, in
the girl's absence. 'If you see she's doing no good, just give it up. I
don't half like the thought of making you drudge in this way in your
holidays. I'm sure it's very kind of you to have offered to do it, and
it's certain she'll mind you more than she would any one else. She
doesn't care a scrap for all I say to her, though she knows well enough
it's as much as her father can do to keep things going at all. There
never was such bad times in _my_ recollection! How are things in London?
Did you hear much complaint?'

Emily found it hard to resist a smile at the thought of Mr. Athel or any
of those belonging to him indulging in complaints of this nature.

'And what sort of people are they you've got with this time?' the other
went on to ask. 'Do they treat you well?'

'Very well indeed.'

It would have been difficult for a stranger, comparing Emily, her tone
and bearing, with the members of the Cartwright family, to believe that
she came of the same class and had lived through her girlhood under
precisely similar conditions. So marked a difference could not but
impress even the Cartwrights themselves; the girls did not behave with
entire freedom in her presence, and influences to which they were
anything but readily susceptible were apparent in the tone they adopted
in addressing her. In spite of themselves, they bowed to a superiority
but vaguely understood. Jessie, perhaps, exhibited less of this
instinctive reverence than the others, although, in point of fact, her
endowments were decidedly above those of her sisters; the reason being,
no doubt, that acknowledged precedence in intellect had fostered in her
the worst kind of self-confidence. The girl was intolerably conceited.
Emily almost disliked her; she would have found it a more agreeable task
to endeavour to teach any one of the more stupid sisters. It was in the
certainty of a couple of hours' moral suffering that she left the house
with Jessie.

The garden which was to be the scene of study was ten minutes' walk away
from the house. To reach it, they had to pass along a road which
traversed the cattle market, a vast area of pens, filled on one day in
each week with multitudes of oxen, sheep, and swine. Beyond the market,
and in the shadow of the railway viaduct previously referred to, lay
three or four acres of ground divided up by hedges into small gardens,
leased by people who had an ambition to grow their own potatoes and
cabbages, but had no plot attached to their houses. Jessie opened a
rough wooden door, made fast by a padlock, and, closing it again behind
them, led the way along a narrow path between high hedges, a second
wooden door was reached, which opened into the garden itself. This was
laid out with an eye less to beauty than to usefulness. In the centre
was a patch of grass, lying between two pear trees; the rest of the
ground was planted with the various requisites of the kitchen, and in
one corner was a well. In the tool house were kept several Windsor
chairs; two of these were now brought forth and placed on the grass
between the pear trees. But Jessie was not disposed to apply herself on
the instant to the books which she had brought in a satchel; her first
occupation was to hunt for the ripest gooseberries and currants, and to
try her teeth in several pears which she knocked down with the handle of
a rake. When at length she seated herself, her tongue began to have its

'How I do dislike that Mr. Dagworthy!' she said, with transparent
affectation. 'I wonder what he came for this morning. He said he wanted
father's address, but I know that was only an excuse. He hasn't been to
see us for months. It was like his impudence to ever come at all, after
the way he behaved when he married that stuck-up Miss Hanmer.'

'Will you tell me how many of these French exercises you have written?'
Emily asked as soon as a pause gave her the opportunity.

'Oh, I don't know,' was the answer; 'about ten, I think. Do you know, I
really believe he thinks himself good-looking? And he's as plain as he
can be. Don't you think so, Emily?'

'I really have no opinion.'

'It was strange he should come this morning. It was only yesterday I met
him over there by the mill,'--Dagworthy's mill stood at one end of the
cattle-market,--'and you can't think the impudent way he talked. And,
oh, how did he know that you were going to give me lessons?'

'I can't say.'

'Well, he did know, somehow; I was astonished. Perhaps your father told

'That is not very likely.'

'Well, he knew. I wonder who he'll marry next. You may depend upon it he
did treat his wife badly; everybody said so. If he were to propose to
me, I should answer like that woman did to Henry the Eighth, you know.'
She tittered. 'I can't fancy marrying a man who's been married before,
could you? I said that to Mrs. Tichborne one day, at Bridlington, and
what do you think she answered? Oh, she said, they're the best husbands.
Only a good-natured fool marries a second time.'

This was the kind of talk that Emily knew she would have to endure; it
was unutterably repugnant to her. She had observed in successive
holidays the growth of a spirit in Jessie Cartwright more distinctly
offensive than anything which declared itself in her sisters' gabble,
however irritating that might be. The girl's mind seemed to have been
sullied by some contact, and previous indications disposed Emily to
think that this Mrs. Tichborne was very probably a source of evil. She
was the wife of an hotel-keeper, the more vulgar for certain
affectations of refinement acquired during bar-maidenhood in London, and
her intimacy with the Cartwrights was now of long standing. It was
Jessie whom she specially affected; with her Jessie had just been
spending a fortnight at the seaside. The evil caught from Mrs.
Tichborne, or from some one of similar character, did not associate
itself very naturally with the silly _naivete_ which marked the girl;
she had the air of assuming the objectionable tone as a mark of
cleverness. Emily could not trust herself to utter the kind of comment
which would naturally have risen to her lips; it would be practically
useless, and her relations to Jessie were not such as could engender
affectionate zeal in a serious attempt to overcome evil influences.
Emily was not of the women whose nature it is to pursue missionary
enterprise; instead of calling forth her energies, a situation like the
present threw her back upon herself; she sought a retreat from disgust
in the sheltered purity of her own heart. Outwardly she became cold; her
face expressed that severity which was one side of her character.

'Don't you think it would be better if we made a beginning this
morning?' she said, as soon as another pause in the flow of chatter gave
her opportunity.

'What a one you are for work!' Jessie protested. 'You seem to take to it
naturally, and yet I'm sure it isn't a natural thing. Just think of
having to muddle over French grammar at my age! And I know very well it
'll never come to anything. Can you imagine me teaching? I always hated
school, and I hate the thought of being a governess. It's different with
you; you're right down clever, and you make people take an interest in
you. But just think of me! Why I should be thought no more of than a
servant. I suppose I should have to make friends with the milkman and
the butcher's boy; I don't see who else I should have to talk to. How's
a girl to get married if she spends all her time in a nursery teaching
children grammar? You don't seem to care whether you're ever married or
not, but I do, and it's precious hard to have all my chances taken away.

This was Jessie's incessant preoccupation; she could not talk for five
minutes without returning to it. Herein she only exaggerated her
sisters' habits of mind. The girls had begun to talk of 'sweethearts'
and husbands before they were well out of the nursery. In earlier years
Emily had only laughed at what she called such foolishness; she could
not laugh now. Such ways of thinking and speaking were a profanation of
all she held holiest; words which she whispered in trembling to her
heart were vulgarised and defiled by use upon these tinkling tongues; it
was blasphemy against her religion.

Once more she endeavoured to fix the girl's thoughts on the work in
hand, and by steady persistence conquered at length some semblance of
attention. But an hour proved the utmost limit of Jessie's patience,
then her tongue got its way again, and the inevitable subjects were
resumed. She talked of the 'gentlemen' whose acquaintance, in a greater
or less degree, she had made at the seaside; described their manoeuvres
to obtain private interviews with her, repeated jokes of their
invention, specified her favourites, all at headlong speed of disjointed
narrative. Emily sat beneath the infliction, feeling that to go through
this on alternate days for some weeks would be beyond her power. She
would not rise and depart, for a gathering warmth within encouraged her
to await a moment when speech would come to her aid. It did so at
length; her thought found words almost involuntarily.

'Jessie, I'm afraid we shall not do much good if we always spend our
mornings like this!'

'Oh, but I thought we'd done enough for to-day.'

'Perhaps so, but--What I want to say is this. Will you, as a kindness
to me, forget these subjects when we are together? I don't mind what
else you talk about, but stories of this kind make me fidgety; I feel as
if I should be obliged to get up and run away.'

'Do you really mean it? You don't like me to talk about gentlemen? What
a queer girl you are, Emily! Why, you're not settling down to be an old
maid at your age, are you?'

'We'll say so; perhaps that explains it.'

'Well, that's queer. I can't see, myself, what else there is to talk
about. Grammar's all very well when we're children, but it seems to me
that what a grown-up girl has to do is to look out for a husband. How
you can be satisfied with books'--the infinite contempt she put into the
word!--'is more than I can make out.'

'But you will do what I ask, as a kindness? I am in earnest; I shall be
afraid of seeing you if you can't help talking of such things.'

Jessie laughed extravagantly; such a state of mind was to her comical
beyond expression.

'You _are_ a queer one! Of course I'll do as you wish; you shan't hear
me mention a single gentleman's name, and I'll tell all the others to be
careful whenever you come.'

Emily averted her face; it was reddened with annoyance at the thought of
being discussed in this way by all the Cartwright household.

'You can do that if you like,' she said coldly, 'though it's no part of
my wish. I spoke of the hours when we are together for study.'

'Very well, I won't say anything,' replied the girl, who was
good-natured enough beneath all her vulgarities. 'And now what shall we
do till dinner-time?'

'I must make the best of my way home.'

'Oh, nonsense! Why, you're going to have dinner with us; of course that
was understood.'

Not by Emily, however. It cost a good deal of firmness, for the
Cartwrights one and all would lay hands on you rather than lose a guest;
but Emily made good her escape. Once well on her way to Banbrigg, she
took in great breaths of free air, as if after a close and unwholesome
atmosphere. She cried mentally for an ounce of civet. There was upon
her, too, that uneasy sense of shame which is apt to possess a reticent
nature when it has been compelled, or tempted, to some unwonted freedom
of speech. Would it not have been better, she asked herself, to merely
avoid the talk she found so hateful by resolutely advancing other
topics? Perhaps not; it was just possible that her words might bear some
kind of fruit. But she wished heartily that this task of hopeless
teaching had never been proposed to her; it would trouble her waking
every other day, and disturb with a profitless annoyance the ideal
serenity for which she was striving.

Yet it had one good result; her mother's follies and weaknesses were
very easy to bear in comparison, and, when the midday meal was over, she
enjoyed with more fulness the peace of her father's room upstairs, where
she had arranged a table for her own work. Brilliant sunlight made the
bare garret, with its outlook over the fields towards Pendal, a cheerful
and homelike retreat. Here, whilst the clock below wheezed and panted
after the relentless hours, Emily read hard at German, or, when her mind
called for rest, sheltered herself beneath the wing of some poet, who
voiced for her the mute hymns of her soul. But the most sacred hour was
when her parents had gone to rest, and she sat in her bedroom, writing
her secret thoughts for Wilfrid some day to read. She had resolved to
keep for him a journal of her inner life from day to day. In this way
she might hope to reveal herself more truthfully than spoken words would
ever allow; she feared that never, not even in the confidence of their
married life, would her tongue learn to overcome the fear of its own
utterances. How little she had told him of herself, of her love! In
Surrey she had been so timid; she had scarcely done more than allow him
to guess her thoughts; and at their last meeting she had been compelled
into opposition of his purpose, so that brief time had been left for
free exchange of tenderness. But some day she would put this little book
of manuscript into his hands, and the shadowy bars between him and her
would vanish. She could only write in it late at night, when the still
voice within spoke clearly amid the hush. The only sound from the outer
world was that of a train now and then speeding by, and that carried her
thoughts to Wilfrid, who had journeyed far from her into other
countries. Emily loved silence, the nurse of the soul; the earliest and
the latest hours were to her most dear. It had never been to her either
an impulse or a joy to realise the existence of the mass of mankind; she
had shrunk, after the first excitement, from the thronged streets of
London, passing from them with delight to the quiet country. Others
might find their strength in the sense of universal human fellowship;
she would fain live apart, kindly disposed to all, but understanding
well that her first duty was to tend the garden of her mind. That it was
also her first joy was, by the principles of her religion, justification
in pursuing it.

In a few days she obliged her mother to concede to her a share in the
work of the house. She had nothing of the common feminine interest in
such work for its own sake, but it was a pleasure to lessen her mother's
toil. There was very little converse between them; for evidently they
belonged to different worlds. When Mrs. Hood took her afternoon's
repose, it was elsewhere than in the room where Emily sat, and Emily
herself did not seek to alter this habit, knowing that she often, quite
involuntarily, caused her mother irritation, and that to reduce their
intercourse as far as could be without marked estrangement was the best
way to make it endurable to both. But the evening hours she invariably
devoted to her father; the shortness of the time that she was able to
give him was a reason for losing no moment of this communion. She knew
that the forecast of the evening's happiness sustained him through the
long day, and even so slight a pleasure as that she bestowed in opening
the door at his arrival, she would not willingly have suffered him to
lose. It did not appear that Mrs. Hood reflected on this exclusive
attachment in Emily; it certainly troubled her not at all. This order in
the house was of long standing; it had grown to seem as natural as
poverty and hopelessness. Emily and her father reasoned as little about
their mutual affection; to both it was a priceless part of life, given
to them by the same dark powers that destroy and deprive. It behoved
them to enjoy it while permitted to do so.

Had she known the recent causes of trouble which weighed upon her
parents, Emily would scarcely have been able to still keep her secret
from them. The anxiety upon her father's face and her mother's ceaseless
complaining were too familiar to suggest anything unusual. She had come
home with the resolve to maintain silence, if only because her marriage
seemed remote and contingent upon many circumstances; and other reasons
had manifested themselves to her even before Wilfrid's visit. At any
time she would find a difficulty in speaking upon such a subject with
her mother; strange though it may sound, the intimacy between them was
not near enough to encourage such a disclosure, with all the
explanations it would involve. Nor yet to her father would she willingly
speak of what had happened, until it became necessary to do so. Emily's
sense of the sanctity of relations such as those between Wilfrid and
herself had, through so different a cause, very much the same effects as
what we call false shame. The complex motives of virgin modesty had with
her become a conscious sustaining power, a faith; of all beautiful
things that the mind could conceive, this mystery was the loveliest, and
the least capable of being revealed to others, however near, without
desecration. Perhaps she had been aided in the nurturing of this ideal
by her loneliness; no friend had ever tempted her to confidences; her
gravest and purest thoughts had never been imparted to any. Thus she had
escaped that blunting of fine perceptions which is the all but
inevitable result of endeavouring to express them. Not to speak of mere
vulgarity such as Jessie Cartwright exhibited, Emily's instinct shrank
from things which usage has, for most people, made matters of course;
the public ceremony of marriage, for instance, she deemed a barbarism.
As a sacrament, the holiest of all, its celebration should, she felt, be
in the strictest privacy; as for its aspect as a legal contract, let
that concession to human misery be made with the smallest, not the
greatest, violation of religious feeling. Thinking thus, it was natural
that she should avail herself of every motive for delay. And in that
very wretchedness of her home which her marriage would, she trusted, in
a great measure alleviate, she found one of the strongest. The
atmosphere of sordid suffering depressed her; it was only by an effort
that she shook off the influences which assailed her sadder nature; at
times her fears were wrought upon, and it almost exceeded her power to
believe in the future Wilfrid had created for her. The change from the
beautiful home in Surrey to the sad dreariness of Banbrigg had followed
too suddenly upon the revelation of her blessedness. It indisposed her
to make known what was so dreamlike. For the past became more dreadful
viewed from the ground of hope. Emily came to contemplate it as some
hideous beast, which, though she seemed to be escaping its reach, might
even yet spring upon her. How had she borne that past so lightly? Her
fear of all its misery was at moments excessive. Looking at her unhappy
parents, she felt that their lot would crush her with pity did she not
see the relief approaching. She saw it, yet too often trembled with the
most baseless fears. She tried to assure herself that she had acted
rightly in resisting Wilfrid's proposal of an immediate marriage, yet
she often wished her conscience had not spoken against it. Wilfrid's own
words, though merely prompted by his eagerness, ceaselessly came back to
her--that it is ill to refuse a kindness offered by fate, so seldom
kind. The words were true enough, and their truth answered to that
melancholy which, when her will was in abeyance, coloured her views of

But here at length was a letter from Wilfrid, a glad, encouraging
letter. His father had concluded that he was staying behind in England
to be married, and evidently would not have disturbed himself greatly
even if such had been the case. All was going well. Nothing of the past
should be sacrificed, and the future was their own.



It was an unusual thing for the middle of August to find Richard
Dagworthy still in Dunfield. Through all the other months of the year he
stuck closely to the mill, but the best three weeks of August were his
holiday; as a rule, he went to Scotland, sometimes in company with a
friend, more often alone. In the previous year he had taken a wider
flight, and made his first visit to the Continent, but this was not
likely to be repeated for some time. He always referred to it as more or
less of a feat. The expense, to begin with, was greater than he could
readily reconcile himself to, and the indulgence of his curiosity, not
inactive, hardly compensated for his lack of ease amid the unfamiliar
conditions of foreign travel. Richard represented an intermediate stage
of development between the hard-headed operative who conquers wealth,
and his descendant who shall know what use to make of it. Therein lay
the significance of the man's life.

Its pathos, moreover. Looking at him casually from the outside, one
found small suggestion of the pathetic in his hard face and brusque
manners; nearer companionship revealed occasional glimpses of a mood out
of harmony with the vulgar pursuits and solicitudes which for the most
part seemed to absorb him. One caught a hint of loneliness in his
existence; his reticences, often very marked in the flow of his
unpolished talk, seemed to indicate some disappointment, and a dislike
to dwell upon it. In point of fact, his life was rather lonely; his two
sisters were married in other towns, and, since the death of his wife,
he had held no communications with her relatives. The child was all he
had of family, and, though his paternal affections were strong, he was
not the man to content his hours of leisure with gambols in a nursery.
His dogs were doubtless a great resource, and in a measure made up to
him for the lack of domestic interests; yet there sometimes passed days
during which he did not visit the kennels, always a sign to the servants
to beware of his temper, which at such seasons was easily roused to
fury. The reputation he had in Dunfield for brutality of behaviour dated
from his prosecution for violent assault by a groom, whom, in one of his
fits of rage, he had all but pounded to a jelly. The incident occurred
early in his married life, and was, no doubt, the origin of the very
prevalent belief that he had ruled his wife by similar methods. Dunfield
society was a little shy of him for some time after, until, indeed, by
becoming a widower, he presented himself once more in an interesting
light. Though he possibly brought about his wife's death by ill-usage,
that did not alter the fact that he had a carriage and pair to offer to
the lady whom he might be disposed to make her successor.

His marriage had been of a kind that occasioned general surprise, and,
in certain circles, indignation. There had come to live, in one of the
smaller houses upon the Heath, a family consisting of a middle-aged lady
and her two daughters; their name was Hanmer, and their previous home
had been in Hebsworth, the large manufacturing town which is a sort of
metropolis to Dunfield and other smaller centres round about. Mr. Hanmer
was recently dead; he had been a banker, but suffered grave losses in a
period of commercial depression, and left his family poorly off. Various
reasons led to his widow's quitting Hebsworth; Dunfield inquirers
naturally got hold of stories more or less to the disgrace of the
deceased Mr. Hanmer. The elder of the two daughters Richard Dagworthy
married, after an acquaintance of something less than six months.
Dunfield threw up its hands in amazement: such a proceeding on young
Dagworthy's part was not only shabby to the families which had upon him
the claim of old-standing expectancy, but was in itself inexplicable.
Miss Hanmer might be good-looking, but Richard (always called 'young' to
distinguish him from his father) had surely outgrown such a very
infantile reason of choice, when other attractions were, to the Dunfield
mind, altogether wanting. The Hanmers were not only poor, but, more
shameful still, positively 'stuck up' in their poverty. They came
originally from the south of England, forsooth, and spoke in an affected
way, pronouncing their vowels absurdly. Well, the consoling reflection
was that his wife would soon make him see that she despised him, for if
ever there was a thorough Yorkshireman, it was Richard.

Dunfield comments on Mrs. Dagworthy seemed to find some justification in
the turn things took. Richard distinctly began to neglect those of his
old friends who smacked most of the soil; if they visited his house, his
wife received them with an affected graciousness which was so
unmistakably 'stuck up' that they were in no hurry to come again, and
her behaviour, when she returned visits, was felt to be so offensive
that worthy ladies--already prejudiced--had a difficulty in refraining
from a kind of frankness which would have brought about a crisis. The
town was perpetually busy with gossip concerning the uncomfortableness
of things in the house on the Heath. Old Mr. Dagworthy, it was declared,
had roundly bidden his son seek a domicile elsewhere, since joint
occupancy of the home had become impossible. Whether such a change was
in reality contemplated could never be determined; the old man's death
removed the occasion. Mrs. Dagworthy survived him little more than half
a year. So there, said Dunfield, was a mistake well done with; and it
was disposed to let bygones be bygones.

What was the truth of all this? That Dagworthy married hastily and found
his wife uncongenial, and that Mrs. Dagworthy passed the last two years
of her life in mourning over a fatal mistake, was all that could be
affirmed as fact, and probably the two persons most nearly concerned
would have found it difficult to throw more light upon the situation.
Outwardly it was as commonplace a story as could be told; even the
accession of interest which would have come of Dagworthy's cruelty was
due to the imagination of Dunfield gossips. Richard was miserable enough
in his home, and frequently bad-tempered, but his wife had nothing worse
from him than an angry word now and then. After the first few months of
their marriage, the two lived, as far as possible, separate lives; Mrs.
Dagworthy spent the days with her mother and sister, Richard at the
mill, and the evenings were got through with as little friction as might
be between two people neither of whom could speak half a dozen words
without irritating or disgusting the other. The interesting feature of
the case was the unexpectedness of Dagworthy's choice. It evinced so
much more originality than one looked for in such a man. It was, indeed,
the outcome of ambitions which were not at all clear to their possessor.
Miss Hanmer had impressed him as no other woman had done, simply because
she had graces and accomplishments of a kind hitherto unknown to him;
Richard felt that for the first time in his life he was in familiar
intercourse with a 'lady.' Her refined modes of speech, her little
personal delicacies, her unconscious revelation of knowledge which he
deemed the result of deep study, even her pretty and harmless witticisms
at the expense of Dunfield dignitaries, touched his slumbering
imagination with singular force. Miss Hanmer, speedily observing her
power, made the most of it; she was six-and-twenty, and poverty rendered
her position desperate. Dagworthy at first amused her as a specimen of
the wealthy boor, but the evident delight he found in her society
constrained her to admit that the boor possessed the elements of good
taste. The courtship was of rapid progress, the interests at stake being
so simply defined on either side, and circumstances presenting no kind
of obstacle. The lady accepted him without hesitation, and triumphed in
her good fortune.

Dagworthy conceived that his end was gained; in reality it was the
beginning of his disillusion. It speedily became clear to him that he
did not really care for his wife, that he had been the victim of some
self-deception, which was all the more exasperating because difficult to
be explained. The danger of brutality on his part really lay in this
first discovery of his mistake; the presence of his father in the house
was a most fortunate circumstance; it necessitated self-control at a
time when it was hardest to maintain. Later, he was too much altered
from the elementary creature he had been to stand in danger of grossly
ill-using his wife. His marriage developed the man surprisingly; it made
him self-conscious in a degree he could not formerly have conceived. He
had fully believed that this woman was in love with him, and the belief
had flattered him inexpressibly; to become aware that she regarded him
with disgust, only kept under by fear, was to receive light on many
things besides the personal relations between himself and her. If he had
not in reality regarded her at any time with strong feeling, what had
made him so bent on gaining her for his wife? To puzzle this over--the
problem would not quit his mind--was to become dimly aware of what he
had hoped for and what he had missed. It was not her affection: he felt
that the absence of this was not the worst thing he had to bear.
Gradually he came to understand that he had been deceived by
artificialities which mocked the image of something for which he really
longed, and that something was refinement, within and without, a life
directed by other motives and desires than those he had known, a spirit
aiming at things he did not understand, yet which he would gladly have
had explained to him. There followed resentment of the deceit that had
been practised on him; the woman had been merely caught by his money,
and it followed that she was contemptible. Instead of a higher, he had
wedded a lower than himself; she did not care even to exercise the
slight hypocrisy by which she might have kept his admiration; the
cruelest feature of the wrong he had suffered was that, by the
disclosure of her unworthiness, his wife was teaching him the real value
of that which he had aimed at blindly and so deplorably failed to gain.
Dagworthy had a period almost of despair; it was then that, in an access
of fury, he committed the brutality which created so many myths about
his domestic life. To be hauled into the police-court, and to be well
aware what Dunfield was saying about him, was not exactly an agreeable
experience, but it had, like his marriage, an educational value; he knew
that the thrashing administered to the groom had been a vicarious one,
and this actively awakened sense of a possible inner meaning of things
was not without its influence upon him. It was remarked that he heard
the imposition of his fine with a suppressed laugh. Dunfield, repeating
the story with florid circumstance, of course viewed it as an
illustration of his debauched state of mind; in reality the laugh came
of a perception of the solemn absurdity of the proceedings, and Richard
was by so much the nearer to understanding himself and the world.

His wife's death came as an unhoped-for relief; he felt like a man
beginning the world anew. He had no leaning to melancholy, and a
prolongation of his domestic troubles would not have made him less
hearty in his outward bearing, but the progress of time had developed
elements in his nature which were scarcely compatible with a continuance
of the life he had been leading. He had begun to put to himself ominous
questions; such, for instance, as--What necessity was he under to
maintain the appearance of a cheerful domesticity? If things got just a
trifle more unbearable, why should he not make for himself somewhere
else a new home? He was, it is true, startled at his own audacity, and
only some strangely powerful concurrence of motives--such as he was yet
to know--could in reality have made him reckless. For the other features
of his character, those which tended to stability, were still strong
enough to oppose passions which had not found the occasion for their
full development. He was not exactly avaricious, but pursuit of money
was in him an hereditary instinct. By mere force of habit he stuck
zealously to his business, and, without thinking much about his wealth,
disliked unusual expenditure. His wife had taunted him with meanness,
with low money-grubbing; the effect had been to make him all the more
tenacious of habits which might have given way before other kinds of
reproof. So he had gone on living the ordinary life, to all appearances
well contented, in reality troubled from time to time by a reawakening
of those desires which he had understood only to have them frustrated.
He groped in a dim way after things which, by chance perceived, seemed
to have a certain bearing on his life. The discovery in himself of an
interest in architecture was an instance; but for his visit to the
Continent he might never have been led to think of the subject. Then
there was his fondness for the moors and mountains, the lochs and
islands, of the north. On the whole, he preferred to travel in Scotland
by himself; the scenery appealed to a poetry that was in him, if only he
could have brought it into consciousness. Already he had planned for the
present August a tour among the Hebrides, and had made it out with his
maps and guidebooks, not without careful consideration of expense. Why
did he linger beyond the day on which he had decided to set forth?

For several days it had been noticed at the mill that he lacked
something of his wonted attention in matters of business. Certainly his
occupation about eleven o'clock one morning had little apparent bearing
on the concerns of his office; he was standing at the window of his
private room, which was on the first floor of the mill, with a large
field-glass at his eyes. The glass was focussed upon the Cartwrights'
garden, in which sat Jessie with Emily Hood. They were but a short
distance away, and Dagworthy could observe them closely; he had done so,
intermittently, for almost an hour, and this was the second morning that
he had thus amused himself. Yet, to judge from his face, when he turned
away, amusement was hardly his state of mind; his features had a
hard-set earnestness, an expression almost savage. And then he walked
about the little room, regarding objects absently.

Four days later he was again with his glass at the window; it wanted a
few minutes of ten o'clock. Emily Hood had just reached the garden; he
saw her enter and begin to pace about the walks, waiting for Jessie's
arrival. Dagworthy of a sudden put the glass aside, took his hat, and
hastened away from the mill. He walked along the edge of the
cattle-market, till he came into the road by which Jessie must approach
the garden; he saw her coming, and went on at a brisk pace towards her.
The girl was not hurrying, though she would be late; these lessons were
beginning to tax her rather too seriously; Emily was so exacting.
Already she had made a change in the arrangements, whereby she saved
herself the walk to Banbrigg; in the garden, too, it was much easier to
find excuses for trifling away time than when she was face to face with
Emily at a table. So she came along the road at a very moderate pace,
and, on seeing who it was that neared her, put on her pleasantest smile,
doubly glad of the meeting; it was always something to try her devices
on Richard Dagworthy, and at present the chat would make a delay for
which she could urge reasonable excuse.

'The very person I wanted to meet!' Dagworthy exclaimed. 'You've saved
me a run all the way up to your house. What are you doing this way?
Going to school?'

He pointed to the books she carried.

'Something like it,' replied Jessie, with a wry movement of her lips.
'Why did you want to meet me, though?'

'Because I want you to do something for me--that is, if you will. But,
really, where were you going? Perhaps you can't spare time?'

'I was going to the garden,' she said, pointing in that direction. 'I
have lessons there with Emily Hood. Beastly shame that I should have to
do lessons, isn't it? I feel too old for that; I've got other things to
think about.'

She put her head on one side, and rustled the pages of a French grammar,
at last throwing a glance at Richard from the corners of her eyes.

'But do you expect Miss Hood to come soon?' Dagworthy asked, playing his
part very well, in spite of a nervousness which possessed him.

'No doubt she's in the garden already. I've given her a key, so that if
she gets there first--But what do you want me to do?'

'Why, I was going to ask you to walk to the station and meet the ten
thirty-five train from Hebsworth. Your father will get in by it, I
expect, and I want him to come and see me at once at the mill.'

'All right,' Jessie exclaimed with eagerness, 'I'll go. Just let me run
and tell Emily--'

Dagworthy was consulting his watch.

'You've only bare time to get to the station, walking as quickly as you
can? Which is your garden? Let me go and tell her you are not coming.'

'Will you? The second door round the corner there, You'll have to
apologize properly--I hope you know how to.'

This was Jessie's maidenly playfulness; she held out her hand, with many
graces, to take leave.

'If he doesn't come,' said Dagworthy, 'will you just walk over to the
mill to let me know?'

'I don't know that I shall; I don't think it would be proper.'

'Ho, ho! I like that! But you'll have to be off, or you'll never get
there in time.'

She ran away, rejoicing in her escape from the lesson, Of course she
looked back several times; the first glance showed her Dagworthy still
gazing after her, at the second she saw that he was walking towards the

He pushed open the wooden door, and passed between the hedges; the next
door stood open, and he already saw Emily; she had seated herself under
one of the pear trees, and was reading. As soon as his eyes discovered
her he paused; his hands clasped themselves nervously behind him. Then
he proceeded more slowly. As soon as he stepped within the garden, Emily
heard his approach, and turned her head with a smile, expectant of
Jessie, At the sight of Dagworthy the smile vanished instantly, she
became noticeably pale, and at length rose with a startled motion.

Dagworthy drew near to her; when close enough to hold out his hand, he
could no longer keep his eyes upon her face; they fell, and his visage
showed an embarrassment which, even in her confusion--her all but
dread--Emily noticed as a strange thing. She was struggling to command
herself, to overcome by reason the fear which always attacked her in
this man's presence. She felt it as a relief to be spared the steady
gaze which, on former meetings, he had never removed from her.

'You are surprised to see me here?' he began, taking hold of the chair
which Emily had risen from and swaying it backwards and forwards. Even
his voice was more subdued than she had ever known it. 'I have come to
apologise to you for sending Miss Cartwright to meet her father at the
station. I met her by chance just out there in the road, and as I wanted
a messenger very badly I took advantage of her good-nature. But she
wouldn't go unless I promised to come here and explain her absence.'

'Thank you,' Emily replied, as naturally as she could. 'Will she still
come back for her lesson, do you think?'

'I'm afraid not; she said I had better ask you to excuse her this

Emily gathered up two or three books which lay on the other chair.

'You find her rather troublesome to teach, I should be afraid,'
Dagworthy pursued, watching her every moment. 'Jessie isn't much for
study, is she?'

'Perhaps she is a little absent now and then,' replied Emily, saying the
first thing that occurred to her.

She had collected her books and was about to fasten a strap round them.

'Do let me do that for you,' said Dagworthy, and he forestalled her
assent, which she would probably not have given, by taking the books
from her hands. He put up his foot on the chair, as if for the
convenience of doing the strapping on his knee, but before he had
finished it he spoke again.

'You are fond of teaching, I suppose?'

'Yes, I like it.'

She stood in expectant waiting, her hands held together before her, her
head just bent. The attitude was grace itself. Dagworthy raised his eyes
slowly from her feet to her face.

'But you wouldn't care to go on with it always?'

'I--I don't think about it,' she replied, nervousness again seizing her.
There was a new look in his eyes, a vehemence, a fervour, which she
dared not meet after the first glance. He would not finish the strapping
of the books, and she could not bid him do so. Had she obeyed her
instinct, she would have hastened away, heedless of anything but the
desire to quit his presence.

'How long will your holidays be?' he asked, letting the books fall to
the chair, as if by accident.

'Till the end of September, I think.'

'So long? I'm glad to hear that. You will come again some day to my
house with your father, won't you?'

The words trembled upon his lips; it was not like his own voice, he
could not control it.

'Thank you, Mr. Dagworthy,' she replied.

He bent to the books again, and this time succeeded in binding them
together. As he fastened the buckle, drops of perspiration fell from his

Emily thanked him, and held forth her hand for the books. He took it in
his own.

'Miss Hood--'

She drew her hand away, almost by force, and retreated a step; his face
terrified her.

'I sent Jessie off on purpose,' he continued. 'I knew you were here, and
wanted to speak to you alone. Since I met you that day on the Heath, I
have had no rest--I've wanted so to see you again. The other morning at
the Cartwrights' it was almost more than I could do to go away. I don't
know what's come to me; I can't put you out of my thoughts for one
minute; I can't give my attention to business, to anything. I meant to
have gone away before now, but I've put it off, day after day; once or
twice I've all but come to your house, to ask to see you--'

He spoke in a hurried, breathless way, almost with violence; passion was
forcing the words from him, in spite of a shame which kept his face on
fire. There was something boyish in the simplicity of his phrases; he
seemed to be making a confession that was compelled by fear, and at
length his speech lost itself in incoherence. He stood with his eyes
fixed on the ground; perspiration covered his face.

'Mr. Dagworthy--'

Emily tried to break the intolerable silence. Her strength was answering
now to the demand upon it; his utter abashment before her could not but
help her to calmness. But the sound of her first word gave him voice

'Let me speak first,' he broke forth, now looking full at her. 'That's
nothing of what I wanted to say; it sounds as if I wasn't man enough to
know my own mind. I know it well enough, and I must say all I have to
say, whilst you're here to listen to me. After all, you're only a girl;
but if you'd come here straight from heaven, I couldn't find it harder
to speak to you.'

'Mr. Dagworthy, don't speak like this--don't say more--I beg you not to!
I cannot listen as you would wish me to.'

'You can't listen? But you don't know what I have to say still,' he
urged, with hasty entreaty, his voice softer. 'I'm asking nothing yet; I
only want you to know how you've made me feel towards you. No feeling
will ever come to you like this that's come to me, but I want you to
know of it, to try and understand what it means--to try and think of
me. I don't ask for yes or no, it wouldn't be reasonable; you haven't
had to think of me in this way. But God knows how I shall live without
you; it would be the cruelest word woman ever said if you refused even
to give me a hope.'

'I cannot--do hear me--it is not in my power to give you hope.'

'Oh, you say that because you think you must, because I have come to you
so suddenly; I have offended you by talking in this way when we scarcely
know each other even as friends, and you have to keep me at a distance;
I see it on your face. Do you think there is a danger that I should be
less respectful to you than I ought? That's because you don't understand
me. I've spoken in rough, hasty words, because to be near you takes all
sense from me. Look, I'm quieter now. What I ought to have said at first
is this. You're prejudiced against me; you've heard all sorts of tales;
I know well enough what people say about me--well, I want you to know me
better. We'll leave all other feelings aside. We'll say I just wish you
to think of me in a just way, a friendly way, nothing more. It's
impossible for you to do more than that at first. No doubt even your
father has told you that I have a hasty temper, which leads me to say
and do things I'm soon sorry for. It's true enough, but that doesn't
prove that I am a brute, and that I can't mend myself. You've heard
things laid to my charge that are false--about my doings in my own
home--you know what I mean. Get to know me better, and some day I'll
tell you the whole truth. Now it's only this I ask of you--be just to
me. You're not a woman like these in Dunfield who talk and talk behind
one's back; though I have seen so little of you, don't I know the
difference between you and them? I'm ignorant enough, compared with you,
but I can feel what it is that puts you above all other women. It must
be that that makes me mad to gain a kind word from you. One word--that
you'll try to think of me; and I'll live on that as long as I can.'

The mere utterances help little to an understanding of the terrible
force of entreaty he put into this speech. His face, his hands, the
posture of his body, all joined in pleading. He had cast off all
shamefacedness, and spoke as if his life depended on the answer she
would return; the very lack of refinement in his tone, in his
pronunciation of certain words, made his appeal the more pathetic. With
the quickness of jealousy, he had guessed at the meaning there might lie
in Emily's reluctance to hear him, but he dared not entertain the
thought; it was his passionate instinct to plead it down. Whatever it
might be that she had in mind, she must first hear him. As he spoke, he
watched her features with the eagerness of desire, of fear; to do so was
but to inflame his passion. It was an extraordinary struggle between the
force of violent appetite and the constraint of love in the higher
sense. How the former had been excited, it would be hard to explain.
Wilfrid Athel had submitted to the same influence. Her beauty was of the
kind which, leaving the ordinary man untouched, addressed itself with
the strangest potency to an especially vehement nature here and there.
Her mind, uttering itself in the simplest phrases, laid a spell upon
certain other minds set apart and chosen. She could not speak but the
soul of this rude mill-owner was exalted beyond his own intelligence.

Forced to wait the end of his speech, Emily stood with her head bowed in
sadness. Fear had passed; she recognised the heart-breaking sincerity of
his words, and compassionated him. When he became silent, she could not
readily reply. He was speaking again, below his breath.

'You are thinking? I know how you can't help regarding me. Try only to
feel for me.'

'There is only one way in which I can answer you,' she said; 'I owe it
to you to hide nothing. I feel deeply the sincerity of all you have
said, and be sure, Mr. Dagworthy, that I will never think of you
unjustly or unkindly. But I can promise nothing more; I have already
given my love.'

Her voice faltered before the last word, the word she would never
lightly utter. But it must be spoken now; no paraphrase would confirm
her earnestness sufficiently.

Still keeping her eyes on the ground, she knew that he had started.

'You have promised to marry some one?' he asked, as if it were necessary
to have the fact affirmed in the plainest words before he could accept

She hoped that silence might be her answer.

'Have you? Do you mean that?'

'I have.'

She saw that he was turning away from her, and with an effort she looked
at him. She wished she had not; his anguish expressed itself like an
evil passion; his teeth were set with a cruel savageness. It was worse
when he caught her look and tried to smile.

'Then I suppose that's--that's the end,' he said, as if he would make an
effort to joke upon it, though his voice all but failed in speaking the
few words.

He walked a little apart, then approached her again.

'You don't say this just to put me off?' he asked, with a roughness
which was rather the effect of his attempt to keep down emotion than

'I have told you the truth,' Emily replied firmly.

'Do other people know it? Do the Cartwrights?'

'You are the only one to whom I have spoken of it.'

'Except your father and mother, you mean?'

'They do not know.'

Though so troubled, she was yet able to ask herself whether his delicacy
was sufficiently developed to enjoin silence. The man had made such
strange revelation of himself, she felt unable to predict his course. No
refinement in him would now have surprised her; but neither would any
outbreak of boorishness. He seemed capable of both. His next question
augured ill.

'Of course it is not any one in Dunfield?'

'It is not.'

Jealousy was torturing him. He was quite conscious that he should have
refrained from a single question, yet he could no more keep these back
than he could the utterance of his passion.

'Will you--'

He hesitated.

'May I leave you, Mr. Dagworthy?' Emily asked, seeing that he was not
likely to quit her. She moved to take the books from the chair.

'One minute more.--Will you tell me who it is?--I am a brute to ask you,
but--if you--Good God! How shall I bear this?'

He turned his back upon her; she saw him quiver. It was her impulse to
walk from the garden, but she feared to pass him.

He faced her again. Yes, the man could suffer.

'Will you tell me who it is?' he groaned rather than spoke. 'You don't
believe that I should speak of it? But I feel I could bear it better; I
should know for certain it was no use hoping.'

Emily could not answer.

'It is some one in London?'

'Yes, Mr. Dagworthy, I cannot tell you more than that. Please do not ask

'I won't. Of course your opinion of me is worse than ever. That doesn't
matter much.--If you could kill as easily as you can drive a man mad, I
would ask you to still have pity on me.--I'm forgetting: you want me to
go first, so that you can lock up the garden.--Good-bye!'

He did not offer his hand, but cast one look at her, a look Emily never
forgot, and walked quickly away.

Emily could not start at once homewards. When it was certain that
Dagworthy had left the garden, she seated herself; she had need of rest
and of solitude to calm her thoughts. Her sensation was that of having
escaped a danger, the dread of which thrilled in her. Though fear had
been allayed for an interval, it regained its hold upon her towards the
end of the dialogue; the passion she had witnessed was so rude, so
undisciplined, it seemed to expose elementary forces, which, if need be,
would set every constraint at defiance. It was no exaggeration to say
that she did not feel safe in the man's presence. The possibility of
such a feeling had made itself known to her even during the visit to his
house; to find herself suddenly the object of his almost frenzied desire
was to realize how justly her instinct had spoken. This was not love, as
she understood it, but a terrible possession which might find
assuagement in inflicting some fearful harm upon what it affected to
hold dear. The Love of Emily's worship was a spirit of passionate
benignity, of ecstatic calm, holy in renunciations, pure unutterably in
supreme attainment. Her knowledge of life was insufficient to allow her
to deal justly with love as exhibited in Dagworthy; its gross side was
too offensively prominent; her experience gave her no power of rightly
appreciating this struggle of the divine flame in a dense element.
Living, and having ever lived, amid idealisms, she was too subjective in
her interpretation of phenomena so new to her. It would have been easier
for her to judge impartially had she witnessed this passion directed
towards another; addressed to her, in the position she occupied, any
phase of wooing would have been painful; vehemence was nothing less than
abhorrent. Wholly ignorant of Dagworthy's inner life, and misled with
regard to the mere facts of his outward behaviour, it was impossible
that she should discern the most deeply significant features of the love
he expressed so ill, impossible for her to understand that what would be
brutality in another man was in him the working of the very means of
grace, could circumstances have favoured their action. One tribute her
instinct paid to the good which hid itself under so rude a guise; as she
pondered over her fear, analysing it as scrupulously as she always did
those feelings which she felt it behoved her to understand once for all,
she half discovered in it an element which only severe self-judgment
would allow; it seemed to her that the fear was, in an infinitesimal
degree, of herself, that, under other conditions, she might have known
what it was to respond to the love thus offered her. For she neither
scorned nor loathed the man, notwithstanding her abhorrence of his
passion as devoted to herself. She wished him well; she even found
herself thinking over those women in Dunfield whom she knew, if
perchance one of them might seem fitted to make his happiness. None the
less, it was terrible to reflect that she must live, perhaps for a long
time, so near to him, ever exposed to the risk of chance meetings, if
not to the danger of a surprise such as to-day's for she could not
assure herself that he would hold her answer final. One precaution she
must certainly take; henceforth she would never come to the garden save
in Jessie's company. She wondered how Dagworthy had known of her
presence here, and it occurred to her to doubt of Jessie; could the
latter have aided in bringing about this interview? Dagworthy,
confessing his own manoeuvre, would naturally conceal any conscious part
in it that Jessie might have taken.

Her spirits suffered depression as she communed thus with herself; all
the drearier aspects of her present life were emphasised; she longed,
longed with aching of the heart for the day which should set her free
for ever from these fears and sorrows. Another secret would henceforth
trouble her. Would that it might remain a secret! If Jessie indeed knew
of this morning's events, there was small likelihood that it would
remain unknown to others; then the whole truth must be revealed. Would
it not be better to anticipate any such discovery, to tell her father
this very day what had happened and why it was so painful to her? Yet to
speak of Dagworthy might make her father uneasy in his position at the
mill--would inevitably do so. Therein lay a new dread. Was Dagworthy
capable of taking revenge upon her father? Oh surely, surely not!--The
words passed her lips involuntarily. She would not, she could not,
believe so ill of him; had he not implored her to do him justice?...

When Mr. Hood returned from business on the following day, he brought
news that Dagworthy had at last gone for his holiday. It was time, he
said; Dagworthy was not looking himself; at the mill they had been in
mortal fear of one of his outbreaks.

'Did he speak harshly to you, father?' Emily was driven to ask, with
very slight emphasis on the 'you.'

'Fortunately,' was the reply, with the sad abortive laugh which was Mr.
Hood's nearest approach to mirth, 'fortunately he left me alone, and
spoke neither well nor ill. He didn't look angry, I thought, so much as
put out about something.'

Emily was relieved from one fear at least, and felt grateful to
Dagworthy. Moreover, by observation, she had concluded that Jessie could
not possibly be aware of what had taken place in the garden. And now
Dagworthy was likely to be away for three weeks. Her heart was lighter



Dagworthy was absent not quite a fortnight, and he returned looking
anything but the better for his holiday. The wholesome colour of his
cheeks had changed almost to sallowness those who met him in Dunfield
looked at him with surprise and asked what illness he had been
suffering. At the mill, they did not welcome his re-appearance; his
temper was worse than it had been since the ever-memorable week which
witnessed his prosecution for assault and battery. At home, the servants
did their best to keep out of his way, warned by Mrs. Jenkins. She, good
woman, had been rash enough to bring the child into the dining-room
whilst Dagworthy was refreshing himself with a biscuit and a glass of
wine upon his arrival; in a minute or two she retreated in high wrath.

'Let him dom me, if he loikes,' she went away exclaiming; 'ah'm ovver
auld to care much abaht such fond tantrums; but when he gets agaate o'
dommin his awn barn, it fair maaks my teeth dither ageean. The lad's aht
on his 'eead.'

That was seven o'clock in the evening. He dined an hour later, and when
it was dark left the house. Between then and midnight he was constantly
in and out, and Mrs. Jenkins, who was kept up by her fears that 't'
master' was seriously unwell, made at length another attempt to face
him. She knocked at the door of the sitting-room, having heard him enter
a minute or two before; no answer was vouchsafed, so she made bold to
open the door. Dagworthy was sitting with his head upon the table, his
arms stretched out; he appeared to be asleep.

'Mr. Richard!' she said softly. 'Mr. Richard!'

He looked up. 'Well? What is it?'

'Yo' scahr'd me; ah thowt summat 'ad come to yo'. What's wrong wi' yo',
Mr. Richard? You look as if you could hardly he'd your heead up.'

To her surprise he spoke quite calmly.

'Yes, I've got a bit of a headache. Get me some hot water, will you?
I'll have some brandy and go to bed.'

She began to advise other remedies, but Dagworthy speedily checked her.

'Get me some hot water, I tell you, and go to bed yourself. What are you
doing up at this hour?'

He went to business at the usual time next morning, and it seemed as if
the worst had blown over; at home he was sullen, but not violent.

The third day after his return, on entering his office at the mill, he
found Hood taking down one of a row of old ledgers which stood there
upon a shelf.

'What are you doing?' he asked abruptly, at the same time turning his
back upon the clerk.

Hood explained that he was under the necessity of searching through the
accounts for several years, to throw light upon a certain transaction
which was giving trouble.

'All right,' was the reply, as Dagworthy took his keys out to open his

A quarter of an hour later, he entered the room where Hood was busy over
the ledger. A second clerk was seated there, and him Dagworthy summoned
to the office, where he had need of him. Presently Hood came to replace
the ledger he had examined, and took away the succeeding volume. A few
minutes later Dagworthy said to the clerk who sat with him--

'I shall have to go away for an hour or so. I'm expecting a telegram
from Legge Brothers; if it doesn't come before twelve o'clock, you or
Hood must go to Hebsworth. It had better be Hood; you finish what you're
at. If there's no telegram, he must take the twelve-thirteen, and give
this note here to Mr. Andrew Legge; there'll be an answer. Mind you see
to this.'

At the moment when Dagworthy's tread sounded on the stairs, Mr. Hood was
on the point of making a singular discovery. In turning a page of the
ledger, he came upon an envelope, old and yellow, which had evidently
been shut up in the hook for several years; it was without address and
unsealed. He was going to lay it aside, when his fingers told him that
it contained something; the enclosure proved to be a ten-pound note,
also old and patched together in the manner of notes that have been sent
half at a time.

'Now I wonder how that got left there?' Hood mused. 'There's been rare
searching for that, I'll be bound. Here's something to put our friend
into a better temper.'

He turned the note over once or twice, tried in vain to decipher a
scribbled endorsement, then restored it to the envelope. With the letter
in his hand, he went to the office.

'Mr. Dagworthy out?' he asked of his fellow-clerk on looking round.

The clerk was a facetious youth. He rose from his seat, seized a ruler,
and began a species of sword-play about Hood's head, keeping up a
grotesque dance the while. Hood bore it with his wonted patience,
smiling faintly.

'Mr. Dagworthy out?' he repeated, as soon as he was free from
apprehension of a chance crack on the crown.

'He is, my boy. And what's more, there's a chance of your having a spree
in Hebsworth. Go down on your knees and pray that no telegram from Foot
Brothers--I mean, Legge--arrives during the next five-and-twenty


'If not, you're to takee this notee to Brother Andrew
Leggee,--comprenez? The boss was going to send me, but he altered his
mind, worse luck.'

'Twelve-thirteen?' asked Hood.

'Yes. And now if you're in the mind, I'll box you for half a
dollar--what say?'

He squared himself in pugilistic attitude, and found amusement in
delivering terrific blows which just stopped short of Hood's prominent
features. The latter beat a retreat.

Twelve o'clock struck, and no telegram had arrived; neither had
Dagworthy returned to the mill. Hood was indisposed to leave the
envelope to be given by other hands; he might as well have the advantage
of such pleasure as the discovery would no doubt excite. So he put it
safely in his pocket-book, and hastened to catch the train, taking with
him the paper of sandwiches which represented his dinner. These he would
eat on the way to Hebsworth.

It was a journey of ten miles, lying at first over green fields, with a
colliery vomiting blackness here and there, then through a region of
blight and squalor, finally over acres of smoke-fouled streets, amid the
roar of machinery; a journey that would have crushed the heart in one
fresh from the breath of heaven on sunny pastures. It was a slow train,
and there were half a dozen stoppages. Hood began to eat his sandwiches
at a point where the train was delayed for a few minutes by an adverse
signal; a coal-pit was close by, and the smoke from the chimney blew in
at the carriage windows, giving a special flavour to the bread and meat.
There was a drunken soldier in the same compartment, who was being
baited by a couple of cattle-drovers with racy vernacular not to be
rendered by the pen. Hood munched his smoky sandwich, and with his sad
eyes watched the great wheel of the colliery revolve, and the trucks
rise and descend. The train moved on again. The banter between the other
three passengers was taking an angry turn; to escape the foul language
as far as possible, Hood kept his head at the window. Of a sudden the
drunken soldier was pushed against him, and before he could raise his
hands, his hat had flown off on the breeze.

He turned round with angry remonstrance. The soldier had fallen back on
to the seat, and was grinning inanely; the drovers were enjoying the
joke beyond measure.

'Theer, lad!' one of them cried. 'Tha's doon it nah! Tha'll a' to buy
him a new 'at for his 'eead, soon as we get i'to Hebs'orth.'

''Appen he's got no brass,' suggested the other, guffawing.

It was the case; the soldier had a copper or two at most. The drovers of
course held themselves free of responsibility. Hood felt in his own
pocket; but he was well aware that a shilling and three-halfpence was
all he carried with him--save the bank-note in his pocket-book. Yet it
was impossible to go through Hebsworth with uncovered head, or to
present himself hatless at the office of Legge Brothers. Already the
train was slackening speed to enter the station. Would any hatter trust
him, on his representing whence he came? He feared not. Not the least
part of his trouble was the thought of having to buy a new hat at all;
such an expense was ill to be borne just now. Of course--he said to
himself, with dreary fatalism--a mishap is sure to come at the worst
time. It was the experience of his life.

Hood was a shy man; it was misery to have attention drawn to himself as
it naturally would be as soon as he stepped out on to the platform. But
there was no help; with a last angry look at the drunken soldier, he
nerved himself to face the ordeal. As he walked hurriedly out of the
crowd, the cry 'Cab, sir?' fell upon his ears. Impossible to say how he
brought himself to such a pitch of recklessness, but in a moment he was
seated in a hansom, having bidden the driver take him to the nearest
hatter's. The agony of embarrassment has driven shy men to strange
audacities, but who ever dared more than this? _He would be compelled to
change the note_!

Whatever might be the cause, whether it was the sudden sense of refuge
from observation, or the long unknown pleasure of riding in a cab, as he
sped along the streets he grew almost merry; at length he positively
laughed at the adventure which had befallen him. It mattered nothing
whether he gave Dagworthy the money in a note or in change, and, on
being told the story, his employer might even feel disposed to pay for
the hat. He _would_ pay for the hat! By the time the cab drew up, Hood
had convinced himself of this. He was in better spirits than he had been
for many a day.

'Can you change me a ten-pound note?' were his first words to the
hatter. 'If you can't, I must go elsewhere; I have nothing smaller.'

The salesman hesitated.

'You want a silk hat?'

'Yes, but not an expensive one.'

A pen was brought, and Hood was requested to endorse the note. What
security--under the circumstances--such a proceeding could give, the
hatter best knew; he appeared satisfied, and counted out his sovereigns.
Hood paid the cabman, and walked off briskly towards the office of Legge

He stopped in the middle of the pavement as if a shot had struck him.
Supposing Dagworthy had no recollection of a ten-pound note having been
lost, nor of any note having been lost; and supposing it occurred to him
that he, Hood, had in reality found a larger sum, had invented the story
of the lost hat, and was returning a portion only of his discovery, to
gain the credit of honesty? Such an idea could only possess the brain of
a man whose life had been a struggle amid the chicaneries and
despicabilities of commerce; who knew that a man's word was never
trusted where there could enter the slightest suspicion of an advantage
to himself in lying; whose daily terror had been lest some error, some
luckless chance, should put him within the nets of criminality. It is
the deepest curse of such a life as his that it directs the imagination
in channels of meanness, and preoccupies the thought with sordid fears.
What would it avail him, in the present instance, to call the shopman to
witness? The note, ten to one, would be paid away, and here also a man's
word was worth nothing. But Dagworthy might merely think such an
accusation: ay, that would be the worst. To lie henceforth under
suspicion of dishonesty: that meant, to lose his place before long, on
some pretence.

And he felt that, in spite of absolute sincerity, he could not stand
before Dagworthy and tell his tale with the face and voice of an honest
man,--felt it with a horrible certainty. In a man of Hood's character,
this state of mind was perfectly natural. Not only was he weakly
constructed, but his incessant ill-fortune had done him that last wrong
which social hardship can inflict upon the individual, it, had
undermined his self-respect. Having been so often treated like a dog, he
had come to expect such treatment, and, what was worse, but feebly to
resent it. He had lost the conscious dignity of manhood; nay, had
perhaps never possessed it, for his battle had begun at so early an age.
The sense that he was wretchedly poor, and the knowledge that poverty is
the mother of degradation, made him at any moment a self-convicted
criminal; accused, however wrongly, it was inevitable that his face
should be against him. To go to Dagworthy with sovereigns in his hand,
and this story upon his lips, would be to invite suspicion by every
strongest sign of guilt.

I am representing the poor fellow's thoughts and feelings. Whether or
not Dagworthy would really entertain such a suspicion is quite another
matter. For the first time in his life, Hood had used for his own
purposes money which did not belong to him; he did it under the pressure
of circumstances, and had not time to reflect till the act was
irrevocable. Then this horror came upon him. Forgetting his errand, he
drew aside into a quieter street, and struggled with his anguish. Do you
laugh at him for his imbecility? Try first to understand him.

But his business must be performed; with trembling limbs he hurried
onwards, and at length reached the office of Legge Brothers. The member
of the firm to whom the note which he bore was addressed had but a few
minutes ago left the place; he would return within an hour. How could
the time be spent? He began to wander aimlessly about the streets. In
passing a spot where scaffolding was erected before new buildings, the
wish entered his mind that something might fall and crush him. He
thought of such an end as a blessed relief.

A hand was laid upon his shoulder, and at the touch his heart leaped as
though it would burst his side. He turned and, with starting eyes,
glared at the man before him, a perfect stranger, he thought.

'Is it? Or isn't it? Hood, or his ghost?'

The man who spoke was of the shabbiest appearance, wearing an almost
napless high hat, a coloured linen shirt which should have been at the
laundress's, no neck-tie, a frock-coat with only one button, low shoes
terribly down at heel; for all that, the most jovial-looking man,
red-nosed, laughing. At length Hood was capable of recognising him.

'Cheeseman! Well, who on earth would have expected to meet you!'

'I've followed you half along the street; couldn't be sure. Afraid I
startled you at last, old friend.'

They had known each other as young men, and it was now ten years at
least since they had met. They were companions in ill-hap, the
difference between them being that Cheeseman bore the buffets of the
world with imperturbable good humour; but then he had neither wife nor
child, kith nor kin. He had tried his luck in all parts of England and
in several other countries; casual wards had known him, and he had
gained a supper by fiddling in the streets. Many a beginning had he
made, but none led to anything; he seemed, in truth, to enjoy a
haphazard existence. If Cheeseman had possessed literary skill, the
story of his life from his own hand would have been invaluable; it is a
misfortune that the men who are richest in 'material' are those who
would never dream of using it.

They were passing a public-house; Cheeseman caught his friend by the arm
and, in spite of resistance, drew him in.

'Two threes of gin hot,' was his order. 'The old drink, Hood, my boy;
the drink that has saved me from despair a thousand times. How many
times have you and I kept up each other's pecker over a three of gin!
You don't look well; you've wanted old Cheeseman to cheer you up. Things
bad? Why, damn it, of course things are bad; when were they anything
else with you and me, eh? Your wife, how is she? Remember me to her,
will you? She never took to me, but never mind that. And the little
girl? How's the little girl? Alive and well, please God?'

'Rather more than a little girl now,' returned Hood. 'And doing well,
I'm glad to say. She's a governess; has an excellent place in London.'

'You don't say so? I never was so glad to hear anything in my life! Ah,
but Hood, you're leaving me behind, old friend; with the little girl
doing so well you can't call yourself a poor devil; you can't, upon my
soul! I ought to have married; yes, I should ha' married long ago; it
'ud a' been the making of me. It's the sole speculation, I do believe,
that I haven't tried. Ah, but I've got something before me now! What say
you to a patent fire-escape that any man can carry round his waist? Upon
my soul, I've got it! I'm going to London about it as soon as I can get
my fare; and that I shall have to-morrow, please God.'

'What brings you to Hebsworth?'

'I don't care much to talk about it in a public place,' replied
Cheeseman, with caution which contrasted comically with his loud tone
hitherto. 'Only a little matter, but--Well, we'll say nothing about it;
I may communicate with you some day. And you? Do you live here?'

Hood gave an account of his position. Under the influence of the glass
of spirits, and of the real pleasure it gave him to see one of the very
few men he had ever called friend, he had cast aside his cares for the
moment. They went forth presently from the bar, and, after a few paces,
Cheeseman took his friend by the coat collar and drew him aside, as if
to impart a matter of consequence.

'Two threes of gin!' he said, with a roll of the eye which gave his face
a singularly humorous expression. 'That's sixpence. A tanner, Hood, was
the last coin I possessed. It was to have purchased dinner, a beefsteak
pudding, with cabbage and potatoes; but what o' that? When you and I
meet, we drink to old times; there's no getting out of that.'

Hood laughed, for once in a really natural way. His usual abstemiousness
made the gin potent.

'Why,' he said, 'I confess to feeling hungry myself; I've only had a
sandwich. Come along; we'll have dinner together.'

'You mean it, old friend?' cried the other, with irrepressible delight.

'Of course I mean it. You don't think I'll let you spend your last coin,
and send you off dinnerless? Things are bad, but not quite as bad as
that. I'm as hungry as a hunter; where is there an eating-house?'

They found one at a little distance.

'It must be beefsteak pudding, Hood,' whispered Cheeseman, as they
entered. 'I've set my heart on that. Whatever else you like, but a
beefsteak pudding to start with.'

The article was procurable, smoking, juicy. Cheeseman made an incision,
then laid down his knife and gloated over his plate.

'Hood,' he said, with much solemnity, 'you've done me many a kindness,
old friend, but this caps all. I'm bound to you for life and death. I
should have wandered about these streets a starving man.'

The other laughed still; he had a fit of laughter on him; he had not
laughed so since he was young.

'Stout-and-mild is my drink, Hood,' remarked Cheeseman, suggestively.
'It has body, and I need the support.'

They each had a pint, served in the native pewter. When Cheeseman had
taken a deep draught he leaned forward across the table.

'Hood, I don't forget it; never you believe that I forget it, however
appearances may be against me?'

'Forget what?--give me the mustard, as soon as you can spare it; ha,

'That ten-pound note!'

Hood dropped his knife and fork.

'What on earth's up? You look just like you did when I clapped you o'
the shoulder. Your nerves are out of order, old friend.'

'Why, so they are. I know now what you mean; I couldn't for the life of
me think what you were talking about.'

'Don't think I forget it,' pursued the other, after a mouthful.

'It's twelve years last Easter since you lent me that ten-pound note,
and it's been on my conscience ever since. But I shall repay it; never
you fear but I'll repay it. Did I mention a fire-escape that any man can
wear round his waist? Hush! wait a month or two. Let me make a note of
your address whilst I think of it. This pudding's hot, but it's a fault
on the right side, and time 'll mend it. You wouldn't mind, I daresay,
being my agent for Dunfield--for the fire-escape, you know? I'll
communicate with you, don't fear.'

A hot meal in the middle of the day was a luxury long unknown to Hood.
Now and again the thought of what he was doing flashed across him, but
mere bodily solace made his conscience dull. As the meal proceeded he
even began to justify himself. Was he never to know an hour's enjoyment?
Was his life to be unbroken hardship? What if he had borrowed a few
shillings without leave; somehow difficulties would be got over; why, at
the very worst, Emily would gladly lend him a pound. He began to talk of
Emily, to praise her, to wax warm in the recounting of her goodness, her
affection. What man living had so clever and so loving a daughter!

'It's what I said, Hood,' put in Cheeseman, with a shake of the head.
'You've left me behind. You've got into smooth water. The old
partnership of ill-luck is broken up. Well, well! I ought to have
married. It's been my one mistake in life.'

'Why, it's none too late yet,' cried Hood, merrily.

'None too late! Powers defend us! What have I got to marry on?'

'But the fire-escape?'

'Yes, yes, to be sure; the fire-escape! Well, we'll see; wait till
things are set going. Perhaps you're right; perhaps it isn't too late.
And, Hood--'


'You couldn't manage one single half-crown piece, could you? To be sure
there's always an archway to be found, when night comes on, but I can't
pretend to like it. I always try to manage a bed at least once a
week--no, no, not if there's the least difficulty. Times are hard, I
know. I'd rather say not another word about it.'

'Nonsense; take the half-crown and have done with it, Why, you've
cheered me up many a half-crownsworth; I feel better than I did. Don't I
look it? I feel as if I'd some warmth in my body. What say you,
Cheeseman? _One_ half-pint more?'

'Come, come, old friend; that's speaking feelingly. You shouldn't try me
in that way, you know. I shouldn't like to suggest a pint, with a scrap
of cheese. Eh? No, no; follow your own counsel, boy; half a pint be it.'

But the suggestion was accepted. Then at length it occurred to Hood that
time must be wearing away; he spoke of the obligation he was under to
finish his business and return to Dunfield as soon as possible.
Cheeseman declared himself the last man to stand in the way of business.
They left the eating-house and walked together part of the way to the
office of Legge Brothers.

'Old friend, I'm grateful to you,' said Cheeseman, when at length they
parted. 'I've got your address, and you shall hear from me; I've a
notion it won't be so long before we meet again. In any case it's
another day to look back upon; I little thought of it when I spent
twopence-halfpenny on my breakfast this morning and left sixpence for
dinner. It's a rum world, eh, Hood? Good-bye, and God bless you!'

Hood hurried on to the office, received his reply, and proceeded to the
station. He had more than half an hour to wait for a train. He took a
seat in the waiting-room, and began to examine the money in his pocket,
to ascertain exactly the sum he would have to replace. The deficit
amounted to a little less than eighteen shillings. After all, it was
very unlikely that Dagworthy would offer to bear the expense of the lost
hat. Say that a pound had to be restored.

He was in the comfortable mood, following upon unusual indulgence of the
appetite, in which the mind handles in a free and easy way the thoughts
it is wont to entertain with unquestionable gravity; when it has, as it
were, a slippery hold on the facts of life, and constructs a subjective
world of genial accommodations. A pound to restore; on the other hand,
nine pounds in pocket. The sight of the sovereigns was working upon his
imagination, already touched to a warmer life than was its habit. Nine
pounds would go a long way towards solving the financial difficulties of
the year; it would considerably more than replace the lacking rent of
the house in Barnhill; would replace it, and pay as well the increased
rent of the house at Banbrigg for twelve months to come. Looked at in
this way, the money became a great temptation.

His wife--how explain to her such a windfall? For it was of course
impossible to use it secretly. There was a way, seemingly of fate's
providing. If only he could bring himself to the lie direct and

After all, a lie that would injure no mortal. As far as Dagworthy was
concerned, the money had long since become the property of nobody;
Dagworthy did not even know that this sum existed; if ever missed, it
must have been put out of mind long ago. And very possibly it had never
belonged to Dagworthy; some cashier or other clerk might just as well
have lost it. Hood played with these speculations. He did not put to
himself the plain alternative: Shall I keep the money, or shall I give
it up? He merely let a series of reflections pass over his mind, as he
lay back on the cushioned seat, experiencing an agreeable drowsiness. At
the moment of finding the note, he would have handed it over to his
employer without a thought; it would perhaps not even have occurred to
him to regret that it was not his own. But during the last three hours a
singular chain of circumstances had led to this result: it was just as
possible as not that Hood would keep the coins in his pocket and say
nothing about them.

It was time to go to the train. Almost with the first moving of the
carriages he fell into a doze. A sense of mental uneasiness roused him
now and then, but only for a few moments together; he slumbered on till
Dunfield was reached.

At the entrance to the mill he was in fierce conflict with himself. As
is usually the case in like circumstances, the sleepy journey had
resulted in bodily uneasiness; he had a slight headache, was thirsty,
felt indisposed to return to work. When he had all but crossed the
threshold, he turned sharply back, and entered a little public-house a
few yards away; an extraordinary thing for him to do, but he felt that a
small glass of spirits would help him to quieter nerves, or at all
events would sustain his unusual exhilaration till the interview with
Dagworthy was over. At the very door of the office he had not decided
whether it should be silence or restitution.

'That you, Hood?' Dagworthy asked, looking up from a letter he was
writing. 'Been rather a long time, haven't you?'

The tone was unusually indulgent. Hood felt an accession of confidence;
he explained naturally the cause of his delay.

'All right,' was the reply, as Dagworthy took the note which his
correspondent had sent.

Hood was in his own room, and--the money was still in his pocket....

He did not set out to walk home with his usual cheerfulness that
evening. His headache had grown worse, and he wished, wished at every
step he took, that the lie he had to tell to his wife was over and done
with. There was no repentance of the decision which, it seemed on
looking back, he had arrived at involuntarily. The coin which made his
pocket heavy meant joy to those at home, and, if he got it wrongfully,
the wrong was so dubious, so shadowy, that it vanished in comparison
with the good that would be done. It was not--he said to himself--as if
he had committed a theft to dissipate the proceeds, like that young
fellow who ran away from the Dunfield and County Bank some months ago,
and was caught in London with disreputable associates. Here was a
ten-pound note lying, one might say, by the very roadside, and it would
save a family from privation. Abstractly, it was wrong; yes, it was
wrong; but would abstract right feed him and pay his rent for the year
to come? Hood had reached this stage in his self-examination; he
strengthened himself by protest against the order of things. His
headache nursed the tendency to an active discontent, to which, as a
rule, his temperament did not lend itself.

But there remained the telling of the lie. How he wished that Emily were
not at home! To lie before Emily, that was the hardest part of his
self-imposed task. He could not respect his wife, but before Emily,
since her earliest companionship with him, he had watched his words
scrupulously; as a little girl she had so impressed him with the purity
of her heart that his love for her had been the nearest approach he ever
knew to the spirit of worship; and since her attainment of mental and
moral independence, his reverence for' her had not been unmixed with
awe. When her eyes met his, he felt the presence of a nature
indefinitely nobler than his own; not seldom he marvelled in his dim way
that such a one called him father. Could he ever after this day approach
her with the old confidence? Nay, he feared her. His belief in her
insight was almost a superstition. Would she not read the falsehood upon
his face?

Strange state of mind; at one and the same time he wished that he had
thought of Emily sooner, and was glad that he had not. That weight in
his pocket was after all a joyous one, and to have been conscious of
Emily as he now was, might--would--have made him by so much a poorer

She, as usual, was at the door to meet him, her face even ladder than
its wont, for this morning there had been at the post-office a letter
from Switzerland. How she loved that old name of Helvetia, printed on
the stamps! Wilfrid wrote with ever fuller assurance that his father's
mind was growing well-disposed, and Emily knew that he would not tell
her other than the honest truth. For Wilfrid's scrupulous honesty she
would have vouched as--for her father's.

'You look dreadfully worn out,' she said, as Hood bent his head in

'I am, dear. I have been to Hebsworth, among other things.'

'Then I hope you had dinner there?'

He laughed.

'I should think I had!'

It was one of Mrs. Hood's bad days; she refused to leave the kitchen.
Emily had tried to cheer her during the afternoon, but in vain. There
had been a misunderstanding with the next-door neighbour, that lady
having expressed herself rather decidedly with regard to an incursion
made into her premises by the Hoods' cat.

'She speaks to me as if I was a mere working-woman,' Mrs. Hood
exclaimed, when Emily endeavoured to soothe her. 'Well, and what else am
I, indeed? There was a time when no one would have ventured to speak

'Mother, how can you be troubled by what such a woman says?'

'Yes, I know I am in the wrong, Emily; you always make me see that.'

So Emily had retreated to the upper room, and Mrs. Hood, resenting
neglect more even than contradiction, was resolved to sit in the kitchen
till bedtime.

Hood was glad when he heard of this.

'If you'll pour out my tea, Emily,' he said in an undertone, 'I'll go
and speak to mother for a few moments. I have news that will please

He went into the kitchen and, in silence, began to count sovereigns down
upon the table, just behind his wife, who sat over some sewing and had
not yet spoken. At the ring of each coin his heart throbbed painfully.
He fully realised, for the first time, what he had done.

At the ring of the fifth sovereign Mrs. Hood turned her head.

'What's that?' she asked snappishly.

He went on counting till the nine were displayed.

'What is it?' she repeated. 'Why do you fidget me so?'

'You'd never guess,' Hood answered, laughing hoarsely. 'I had to go to
Hebsworth to-day, and who ever do you think I met there? Why, old

He paused.

'And he--no, I'll never believe he paid his debt!' said his wife, with
bitter congratulation. For years the name of Cheeseman had been gall
upon her tongue; even now she had not entirely ceased to allude to him,
when she wished to throw especial force of sarcasm into a reminiscence
of her earlier days. A woman's powers in the direction of envenomed
memory are terrible.

'You have said it,' was Hood's reply under his breath. 'It was
providential. What did I do, but go and lose my hat out of the window of
the train--had it knocked off by a drunken fellow, in fact. But for this
money I should have gone about Hebsworth bareheaded, and come home so,

'A new hat! There's a pretty penny gone! Well, it's too much to hope
that any good luck should come without bad at the same time.'

'Well, now you won't fret so much about the rent, Jane?'

He laid his hand upon her shoulder. It was a movement of tenderness such
as had not come to him for years; he felt the need of sympathy; he could
have begged her to give him a kind look. But she had resumed her sewing;
her fingers were not quite steady, that was all.

He left the money on the table and went to Emily in the sitting-room.
She was sitting at the table waiting for him with her kindly eyes.

'And what has the wise woman been doing all day?' he asked, trying in
vain to overcome that terrible fluttering at his side which caught his
breath and made him feel weak.

They talked for some minutes, then footsteps were heard approaching from
the kitchen. Mrs. Hood entered with her sewing--she always took the very
coarsest for such days as this--and sat at a little distance from the
table. As the conversation had nothing to do with Cheeseman's debt, she
grew impatient.

'Have you told Emily?' she asked.

'No, I haven't. You shall do that.'

Hood tried to eat the while; the morsels became like sawdust in his
mouth, and all but choked him. He tried to laugh; the silence which
followed his effort was ghastly to him.

'You see, it never does to believe too ill of a man,' he said, when he
found Emily's look upon him.

Mrs. Hood grew mere at her ease, and, to his relief, began to talk
freely. Emily tortured him by observing that he had no appetite. He
excused himself by telling of his dinner in Hebsworth, and, as soon as
possible, left the table. He went upstairs and hoped to find solitude
for a time in the garret.

Emily joined him, however, before long. At her entrance he caught up the
first bottle his hand fell upon, and seemed to be examining it.

'What is that?' Emily asked, noticing his intentness, which in reality
had no meaning.

'This? Oh, cyanide of potassium. I was looking--no, it's nothing. Will
you read me something for half an hour, Emily?'

By this means he would avoid talking, and he knew that the girl was
always delighted by the request. She generally read poetry of a kind she
thought might touch him, longing to establish more of intellectual
sympathy between him and herself. So she did to-night. Hood scarcely
followed after the first line; he became lost in feverish brooding. When
she laid the volume down, he looked up and held out his hand to her.
She, at all events, would not disregard his caress; indeed, Emily took
the hand and kissed it.

Then began one of the more intimate conversations which sometimes took
place between them. Emily was driven now and then to endeavour to make
clear to him her inner life, to speak of her ideals, her intellectual
convictions. He listened always with an air of deep humility, very
touching in a parent before a child. Her meaning was often dark to his
sight, but he strove hard to comprehend, and every word she uttered had
for him a gospel sanction. To-night his thoughts strayed; her voice was
nothing but the reproach of his own soul; the high or tender words were
but an emphasis of condemnation, reiterated, pitiless. She was speaking
thus out of her noble heart to him--him, the miserable hypocrite; he
pretended to listen and to approve. His being was a loathed burden.

If she had spoken thus last night, surely her voice would have dwelt
with him through the hour of temptation. Oh, could it not be morning
again, and the day yet to live? The clock below wheezed out nine strokes
as if in answer.



Dagworthy in these days could scarcely be deemed a man, with humanity's
plenitude of interacting motives, of contrasting impulses, of varying
affections. He was become one passion, a personified appetite. He went
through his routine, at the mill and elsewhere, in a mechanical way; all
the time his instincts and habits subjugated themselves to the frenzy
which chafed at the centres of his life. In his face you saw the
monomaniac. His eyes were bloodshot; his lips had a parched yellowness
of tone; his skin seemed dry and burning. Through the day he talked,
gave orders, wrote letters, and, by mere force of lifelong habit, much
in his usual way; at night he wandered about the Heath, now at a great
pace, driven by his passions, now loitering, stumbling. Between dark and
dawn he was fifty times in front of the Hoods' house; he watched the
extinguishing of the lights in window after window, and, when all were
gone, made away with curses on his lips, only to return an hour later,
to torture himself with conjecture which room might be Emily's. His
sufferings were unutterable. What devil--he groaned--had sent upon him
this torment? He wished he were as in former days, when the indifference
he felt towards his wife's undeniable beauty had, as it seemed, involved
all womankind. In those times he could not have conceived a madness such
as this. How had it arisen? Was it a physical illness? Was it madness in
truth, or the beginning of it? Why had it not taken him four months ago,
when he met this girl at the Baxendales'? But he remembered that even
then she had attracted him strangely; he had quitted the others to talk
to her. He must have been prepared to conceive this frantic passion on
coming together with her again.

Love alone, so felt and so frustrated, would have been bad enough; it
was the added pang of jealousy that made it a fierce agony. It was well
that the man she had chosen was not within his reach; his mood was that
of a murderer. The very heat and vigour of his physical frame, the
native violence of his temper, disposed him to brute fury, if an
instinct such as this once became acute; and the imaginative energy
which lurked in him, a sort of undeveloped genius, was another source of
suffering beyond that which ordinary men endure. He was a fine creature
in these hours, colossal, tragic; it needed this experience to bring out
all there was of great and exceptional in his character. He was not of
those who can quit the scene of their fruitless misery and find
forgetfulness at a distance. Every searing stroke drove him more
desperately in pursuit of his end. He was further from abandoning it,
now that he knew another stood in his way, than he would have been if
Emily had merely rejected him. He would not yield her to another man; he
swore to himself that he would not, let it cost him and her what it

He had seen her again, with his glass, from the windows of the mill, had
scarcely moved his eyes from her for an hour. A hope came to him that
she might by chance walk at evening on the Heath, but he was
disappointed; Emily, indeed, had long shunned walks in that direction.
He had no other means of meeting her, yet he anguished for a moment's
glimpse of her face.

To-day he knew a cruel assuagement of his torture. He had returned from
his short absence with a resolve to risk an attempt which was only not
entirely base by virtue of the passion which inspired it, and it
appeared to him that his stratagem had succeeded. Scruples he had indeed
known, but not at all of the weight they would have possessed for most
men, and this not only because of his reckless determination to win by
any means; his birth and breeding enabled him to accept meanness as
almost a virtue in many of the relations and transactions of life. The
trickery and low cunning of the mercantile world was in his blood; it
would come out when great occasion saw use for it, even in the service
of love. He believed it was leading him to success. Certainly the first
result that he aimed at was assured, and he could not imagine a
subsequent obstacle. He would not have admitted that he was wronging the
man whom he made his tool; if honesty failed under temptation it was
honesty's own look-out. Ten to one he himself would have fallen into
such a trap, in similar circumstances; he was quite free from
pharisaical prejudice; had he not reckoned on mere human nature in
devising his plan? Nor would the result be cruel, for he had it in his
power to repay a hundredfold all temporary pain. There were no limits to
the kindness he was capable of, when once he had Emily for his wife; she
and hers should be overwhelmed with the fruits of his devotion. It was
to no gross or commonplace future that the mill-owner looked forward.
There were things in him of which he was beginning to be conscious,
which would lead him he could not yet see whither. Dunfield was no home
for Emily; he knew it, and felt that he, too, would henceforth have need
of a larger circle of life. He was rich enough, and by transferring his
business to other hands he could become yet richer, gaining freedom at
the same time. No disappointment would be in store for him as in his
former marriage; looking back on that he saw now how boyish he had been,
how easily duped. There was not even the excuse of love.

He held her gained. What choice would she have, with the alternative to
be put before her? It was strange that, in spite of what should have
been sympathetic intelligence, he made a slight account of that love
which, as she told him, she had already bestowed. In fact, he refused to
dwell upon the thought of it; it would have maddened him in earnest. Who
could say? It was very possible she had told him a falsehood; it was
quite allowable in any woman, to escape from a difficult position. In
his heart he did not believe this, knowing her better, though his
practical knowledge of her was so slight; but it was one of the devices
by which he mitigated his suffering now and then. If the engagement
existed, it was probably one of those which contemplated years of
waiting, otherwise why should she have kept silence about it at home? In
any case he held her; how could she escape him? He did not fear appeals
to his compassion; against such assaults he was well armed. Emily
pleading at his feet would not be a picture likely to induce him to
relax his purpose. She could not take to flight, the very terms of his
control restrained her. There might be flaws in his case, legally
speaking, but the Hoods were in no position to profit by these, seeing
that, in order to do so, they must begin by facing ruin. Emily was
assuredly his.

To-day was Friday. He knew, from talk with the Cartwrights, that
Jessie's lessons were on alternate days, and as he had seen the two in
the garden this morning, there would be no lesson on the morrow. It was
not easy to devise a plot for a private interview with Emily, yet he
must see her tomorrow, and of course alone. A few words with her would
suffice. To call upon her at the house would be only his last resource.
He felt assured that she had not spoken to her parents of the scene in
the garden; several reasons supported this belief, especially the
reflection that Emily would desire to spare her father the anxieties of
a difficult position. Taking this for granted, his relations with her
must still be kept secret in order to avoid risking his impunity in the
tactics he counted upon. His hope was that she would leave the house
alone in the course of the morning.

It has been mentioned that a railway bridge crossed the road a short
distance beyond the Hoods' house. On the embankment beyond this bridge,
twenty or thirty yards from the road, was a cluster of small trees and
shrubs, railed in from the grass which elsewhere grew upon the slope,
and from the field at its foot. Here, just hidden behind a hawthorn bush
and a climbing bramble, Dagworthy placed himself shortly before eight
o'clock on Saturday morning, having approached the spot by a long
circuit of trespass; from this position he had a complete view of the
house he wished to watch. He came thus early because he thought it
possible that Emily accompanied her father on his morning's walk into
Dunfield; in which case he would follow at a distance, and find his
opportunity as the girl returned. There had been rain in the night, and
his passage through the bushes covered him with moisture; the thick
grass, too, in which he stood, was so wet that before long his feet grew
damp and cold. He was little mindful of bodily discomfort; never moving
his eyes for a moment from the door which would give Emily to his view,
he knew nothing but the impatience which made it incredible that his
watch could keep pace with time; he seemed to have been waiting for
hours when yet it was only half-past eight. But at length the door
opened. He strained his sight across the distance, but with no reward.
Hood left the house alone, and walked off quickly in the direction of

He must wait. It might happen that Emily would not quit home at all
during the early part of the day, but he must wait on the chance. He
dreaded lest rain should fall, which would naturally keep her within
doors, but by nine o'clock the sky had cleared, and he saw the leaves
above him drying in the sunlight. Inactivity was at all times
intolerable to him to stand thus for hours was an exercise of impatient
patience which only his relentless passion made possible; his body
yielded to a sort of numbness, whilst the suffering expectancy of his
mind only grew keener. He durst not avert his eyes from the door for an
instant; his sight ached and dazzled. Still he waited.

At eleven o'clock Emily came forth. A savage delight seized him as he
watched her cross the patch of garden. At the gate she hesitated a
moment, then took the way neither to the Heath nor to Dunfield, but
crossed to the lane which led to Pendal. From his hiding-place Dagworthy
could follow her so far, and with ecstasy he told himself that she must
be going to the Castle Hill. She carried a book in her hand.

At length he moved. His limbs had stiffened; it was with difficulty that
he climbed to the top of the embankment. Thence he could see the whole
track of the lane, which went, indeed, almost parallel with the railway
line. He walked in the same direction, keeping at some distance behind
Emily. Before reaching the village of Pendal, he had to cross a field,
and enter the lane itself. There was now the danger that the girl might
look back. But she did not. She was reading as she walked, and continued
to do so the whole way to the stile which led into the Castle Hill. But
now it mattered little if she turned her head.

He let her pass the stile, and himself paused before following. He was
agitated; that which he was about to do seemed harder than he had
imagined; he had a horrible fear lest his resolution might fail at the
last moment. The brute in him for an instant almost slept. The woman in
the field yonder was not only the object of his vehement desire; all the
nobler possibilities of his nature united to worship her, as the highest
and holiest he knew. In his heart was a subtle temptation, the voice of
very love bidding him cast himself at her feet and sue but for the grace
of so much human kindness as would make life without her endurable. He
remembered the self-abasement which had come upon him when he tried to
tell her of his love; the offering had seemed so gross, so unworthy to
be brought before her. Would it not be the same now? He dreaded her
power to protect herself, the secret might of purity which made him
shrink at her steady gaze. But he had gone through much in the last
fortnight the brute forces had grown strong by habit of self-assertion.
He looked up, and the fact that Emily had gone from his sight stung him
into pursuit.

She was sitting where she had sat with Wilfrid, on the fallen tree; the
book lay at her side, and she was giving herself to memory. Treading on
the grass, he did not attract her attention till he almost stood before
her; then she looked at him, and at once rose. He expected signs of
apprehension or embarrassment, but she seemed calm. She had accustomed
herself to think of him, and could no longer be taken by surprise. She
was self-possessed, too, in the strength of the thoughts which he had

He fed his eyes upon her, and kept so long silent that Emily's cheek
coloured, and she half turned away. Then he spoke abruptly, yet with
humility, which the consciousness of his purpose could not overcome.

'You know that I have been away since I saw you last. I tried to put you
out of my mind. I couldn't do it, and I am driven back to you.'

'I hoped we should not meet again like this, Mr. Dagworthy,' Emily
replied, in a low voice, but firmly. She felt that her self-respect was
to be tested to the uttermost, but she was better able to control
herself than at the last interview. The sense of being passionately
sought cannot but enhance a woman's dignity in her own eyes, and Emily
was not without perception of the features in Dagworthy's character
which made him anything but a lover to be contemned. She dreaded him,
and could not turn away as from one who tormented her out of mere

'I cannot ask you to pardon me,' he returned, 'for however often you
asked me to leave you, I should pay no heed. I am here because I can't
help myself; I mean what I say--I can't, I can't help it! Since you told
me there was no hope, I seem to have been in hell. These are not words
to use to you--I know it. It isn't that I don't respect you, but because
I must speak what I feel. Look--I am worn out with suffering; I feel as
if it would take but a little more to kill me, strong man as I am. You
don't think I find a pleasure in coming and facing that look you have? I
don't know that I ever saw the man I couldn't meet, but before you I
feel--I can't put it into words, but I feel I should like to hide my
face. Still, I have come, I have followed you here. It's more than I can
do to give you up.'

At the last words he half sobbed. Her fear of him would not allow Emily
to feel deep distress, but she was awed by the terrible evidence of what
he endured. She could not at once find words for reply.

'Will you sit down?' he said. 'I will stand here, but I have more to say
to you before I go.'

'Why should you say more?' Emily urged. 'Can you not think how very
painful it is to hear you speak in this way? What purpose can it serve
to speak to me when I may not listen?'

'You must listen. I can't be sent away as you would another man; no
other on earth can love you as I do, no one. No one would do for you all
that I would do. My love gives me a claim upon you. It is you that have
brought me to this state; a woman owes a man something who is driven mad
by her. I have a right to be here and to say all I feel.'

He was struggling with a dread of the words he had come to utter; a wild
hope sprang in him that he might yet win her in other ways; he used
language recklessly, half believing that his arguments would seem of
force. His passion was in the death-grapple with reason and humanity.

'If your regard for me is so strong,' Emily replied, 'should you not
shrink from causing me pain? And indeed you have no such right as you
claim. Have I in any way sought to win your affection? Is it manly to
press upon me a suit which you know it is out of my power to favour? You
say you respect me; your words are not consistent with respect. I owe
you nothing, Mr. Dagworthy, and it is certainly my right to demand that
you will cease to distress and trouble me.'

He stood with his eyes on the ground.

'That is all you have to say?' he asked, almost sullenly.

'What more can I say? Surely you should not have compelled me to say
even so much. I appeal to your kindness, to your sense of what is due
from a man to a woman, to let me leave you now, and to make no further
attempt to see me. If you refuse, you take advantage of my
powerlessness. I am sure you are not capable of that.'

'Yes, I am capable of more than you think,' he replied, the words coming
between his teeth. His evil demon, not himself, was speaking; in finding
utterance at length it made him deadly pale, and brought a cold sweat to
his brow. 'When you think afterwards of what I say now, remember that it
was love of you that made me desperate. A chance you little dream of has
put power into my hands, and I am going to use it. I care for nothing on
this earth but to make you my wife--and I can do so.'

Terror weighed upon her heart. His tone was that of a man who would
stick at nothing, and his words would bear no futile meaning. Her
thoughts were at once of her father; through him alone could he have
power over her. She waited, sick with agonised anticipation, for what
would follow.

'Your father--'

The gulf between purpose and execution once passed, he had become cruel;
human nature has often enough exemplified the law in prominent
instances. As he pronounced the words, he eyed her deliberately, and,
before proceeding, paused just long enough to see the anguish flutter in
her breast.

'Your father has been guilty of dishonesty; he has taken money from the
mill. Any day that I choose I can convict him.'

She half closed her eyes and shook, as if under a blow. Then the blood
rushed to her face, and, to his astonishment, she uttered a strange

'_That_ is your power over me!' she exclaimed, with all the scorn her
voice could express. 'Now I know that you are indeed capable of shameful
things. You think I shall believe that of my father?'

Dagworthy knew what it was to feel despicable. He would, in this moment,
have relinquished all his hope to be able to retract those words. He was
like a beaten dog before her; and the excess of his degradation made him

'Believe it or not, as you choose. All I have to say is that your father
put into his pocket yesterday morning a ten-pound note of mine, which he
found in a ledger he took out of my room. He had to go to Hebsworth on
business, and there he changed the note to buy himself a new hat; I have
a witness of it. When he came back hoof course had nothing to say about
the money; in fact, he had stolen it.'

She heard, and there came into her mind the story of Cheeseman's debt.
That was of ten pounds. The purchase her father had been obliged to
make, of that also she had heard. Last night, and again this morning,
her mother had incessantly marvelled at this money having been at length
returned; it was an incredible thing, she had said; only the sight of
the coins could convince her of its truth. Emily's mind worked over the
details of the previous evening with terrible rapidity and insight. To
her directly her father had spoken not a word of the repayment; he had
bidden her keep in another room while he informed her mother of it; he
had shown disinclination to return to the subject when, later, they all
sat together. 'Well, here it is,' he had said, 'and we'll talk no more
about it.' She heard those words exactly as they were spoken, and she
knew their tone was not natural; even at the time that had struck her,
but her thought had not dwelt upon it.

She almost forgot Dagworthy's presence; he and his threats were of small
account in this shaking of the depths of her nature. She was awakened by
his voice.

'Do you think I am lying to you for my own purposes?'

'I cannot say,' she answered, with unnatural calm. 'It is more likely
than that what you say is true.'

He, by now, had attained a self-control which would not desert him. So
far in crime, there was no turning back; he could even enjoy the
anticipation of each new move in the game, certain of winning. He could
be cruel now for cruelty's sake; it was a form of fruition.

'Well,' he said, 'it is your own concern whether you believe me or not.
If you wish for evidence, you shall have it, the completest. What I have
to say is this. From now till Monday morning your father is free.
Whether I have him arrested then or not depends upon yourself. If you
consent to become my wife as soon as it is possible for us to be
married, neither you nor he will ever hear another word of the matter.
What's more, I will at once put him in a position of comfort. If you
refuse, there will be a policeman ready to arrest him as soon as he
comes to the mill; if he tries to escape, a warrant will be issued. In
any case he will be ruined.'

Then, after a pause--

'So you have till to-morrow night to make up your mind. You can either
send me a note or come and see me; I shall be at home whenever you

Emily stood in silence.

'I hope you quite understand what I mean,' Dagworthy continued, as if
discussing an ordinary matter of business. 'No one will ever dream that
your father has done anything to be ashamed of. After all, it is not so
impossible that you should marry me for my own sake;'--he said it with
bitterness. 'People will see nothing to wonder at. Fortunately, no one
knows of that--of what you told me. Your father and mother will be easy
for the rest of their lives, and without a suspicion that there has been
anything but what appears on the surface. I needn't say how things are
likely to look in the other event.'

Still she stood silent.

'I don't expect an answer now--'

Emily shook her head.

'But,' he continued, 'you mustn't leave it after to-morrow night. It
will be too late.'

She began to move away from him. With a step or two he followed her; she
turned, with a passionate movement of repulsion, terror, and hate
transfiguring her countenance, made for the expression of all sweet and
tender and noble things.

Dagworthy checked himself, turned about, and walked quickly from the



Emily reached home a few minutes before dinner-time. Her mother came to
her from the back of the house, where things were in Saturday tumult,
speaking with a voice of fretful satisfaction.

'I'd just given you up, and was wondering whether to let the meat spoil
or begin dinner alone.'

'I am sorry to be late, mother.'

'No, you're not late, my dear,' the mother admitted. 'It's only that
you're a little uncertain, and when one o'clock draws on I can never be
quite sure of you, if you're out. I must say I like punctuality, though
I dare say it's an old-fashioned kind of thing. Which would you like,
potatoes baked or boiled? I've got both, as I always think the baked
keep better for your father.'

'Whichever you have yourself, mother.'

'Now, child, do make a choice! As if you couldn't say which you would


'There now, you say that because you think there won't be enough of the
others. I know very well yen always like the baked, when I have them.
Don't you, now, Emily?'

'Mother, which you like! What _does_ it matter?'

'Well, my dear, I'm sure I only wanted to please you,' said Mrs. Hood,
in her tone of patience under injury. 'I can't see why you should be
angry with me. If I could give you more choice I would. No doubt you're
used to having potatoes done in all sorts of superior ways, but
unfortunately I wasn't brought up as a cook--'

The strange look with which Emily was regarding her brought her to a
pause; her voice dropped.

'Mother dear,' said the girl, in a low and shaken tone, 'I am neither
foolish nor unkind; do try to believe that. Something is troubling me.
To-day let your choice be mine.'

Mrs. Hood moved away, and served the dinner in silence.

'What is your trouble, my dear?' she asked presently. 'Can't you tell

Emily shook her head. Her mother relapsed into thoughtfulness, and they
finished their meal with little conversation. Mrs. Heed was just rising
from the table, when there was a sound of some one opening the gate
before the house; she looked to the window, and at once uttered an
exclamation of astonishment.

'Well! If that isn't--! He hasn't altered a bit all these years!'

'Who is it, mother?' Emily asked nervously.

'Why, my dear, it's that man Cheeseman! The very idea of his coming
here! Now, mark my words, he's come to ask for that money back again, or
for some of it, at all events. It was just showing off, pretending to
pay it back; exactly like him! But if your father's foolish enough to do
anything of the kind--There, he's knocking. I hoped never to see his
face again as long as I lived; how ever he can have the impudence to
come! I suppose I must let him in; but I'm sure I shan't offer him any

Emily had risen from her chair, and was trembling with excitement.

'Oh yes, mother,' she cried, with a joy which astonished Mrs. Heed, 'we
must behave kindly to him. He paid father the money; we must remember

'Well, you'll see if I'm net right. But I can't keep him standing at the
door. Do untie this apron, Emily; I'm so nervous, I can't get at the
knot. See, now, if he hasn't come for the money back again.'

'Never mind; he paid it! He paid it!'

'I can't understand you, child. What is there to be so pleased about?'

'Mother, do go to the door. Or shall I?'

The girl was overcome with a sudden light in utter darkness. She grasped
at her mother's explanation of the visitor's arrival; unable, in her
ardour, to calculate probabilities, to review details. Dagworthy had
been guilty of a base falsehood; the man approached who could assure her
of it. It was a plot, deeply planned. In some manner Dagworthy had
learned what had happened to her father in Hebsworth, and had risked
everything on the terror he could inspire in her. The coming of her
father's friend was salvation.

She found herself clasping his hand warmly.

'Well, Miss Hood,' Cheeseman came in exclaiming, 'you may perhaps have
half a recollection of me, when you're told who I am, but I'm quite sure
I shouldn't have known you. Your good father was telling me about you
yesterday; rare and proud he was to speak of you, too, and not without
reason, I see. Mrs. Hoed, you've no need to complain of your for tune.
Times have been hard, no doubt, but they've brought you a blessing. If I
had a young lady such as this to look at me and call me father--well,
well, it won't do to think of it.'

In spite of her determination, Mrs. Hoed was mollified into an offer of
dinner. Mr. Cheeseman affected to refuse, but at a word from Emily he
allowed himself to be persuaded. The two sat with him, and listened to
his talk of bygone days. Emily's face was flushed; she kept her eyes on
Cheeseman as if his arrival were that of a long-hoped-for friend. The
visitor abounded in compliments to mother and daughter alike. He ate,
the while, with extreme heartiness, and at length drew from the table in
the most effusive mood.

'Mrs. Hood,' he said, leaning forward, 'I owe you an apology, many
apologies. You and your good husband in times long past did me a service
of a very substantial kind. You thought I had forgotten it--yes, you
couldn't help but think it--'

'Oh, we won't talk about that, Mr. Cheeseman,' interposed Mrs. Hood, not
without a suggestion in her tone that she had indeed entertained the
thought attributed to her.

'Ah, but I can't help speaking of it,' said Cheeseman, feelingly. 'Miss
Hood, you probably don't know what I refer to; you were a very little
lady in those days. They were hard times with me; indeed, I've never
known anything else. I was saying to your good father yesterday that he
could no longer talk of his ill-luck. Many a day he and I have
encouraged each other to face fortune, but that's all over for him; he's
got his foot on firm ground, thank heaven! I'm still catching at straws,
you see; I dare say it's a good deal my own fault; and then I never had
a good wife to look after me, and a daughter growing up to teach me
prudence. Well but, Miss Hood, I was saying that your father did me a
great service; he lent me what was a large sum for him in those days--'

'Not a little one even in these, Mr. Cheeseman,' remarked Mrs. Hood.

'Well, well, but in those times it was a thing few men in his position
would have done. He lent me a ten-pound note, Miss Hood, and it's right
you should know it. Years have gone by, years, and any one would think
I'd kept out of the way to avoid paying the money back. I assure you,
Mrs. Hood, and to you, Miss Hood, I give my solemn word of honour, that
I've never from that day to this had more money than would just keep me
in bread and cheese and such poor clothing as this you see on me. Why,
even yesterday, as no doubt your good father has told you, I had but a
sixpenny-piece in the world, but one coin of sixpence. Ah, you may well
look sad, my good young lady. Please God, you'll never know what that
means. But one sixpence had I, and but for my old friend I should have
been hard driven to find a place of rest last night. Now do I look and
speak like an ungrateful man? Mrs. Hood, I've come here this day because
I felt in duty bound to call on you, being so near. I didn't know your
address, till that meeting by chance yesterday. When my old friend left
me, I got restless; I felt I must see you all again before I went south,
as I hope to do--to-morrow, perhaps. I felt I must clear myself from the
charge of in gratitude; I couldn't live easy under it. It was too much
like a piece of dishonesty, and that I've never yet been guilty of, for
all I've gone through, and, please God, never shall. My old friend Hood
and I, in days even before he had the happiness to meet you, Mrs. Hood,
we used to say to each other--Let luck do its worst, we'll live and die
honest men. And, thank heaven, we've kept our word; for an honester man
than James Hood doesn't walk the earth, and no one ever yet brought a
true charge of dishonesty against Alfred Cheeseman.'

He looked from mother to daughter. The former sat in helpless
astonishment, gazing about her; Emily had hardened her face.

'You find it a sad tale,' Cheeseman proceeded. 'Why, so it is, dear
ladies. If ever I had owned a ten-pound note, over and above the price
of a loaf of bread and a night's lodging, it should have been put aside
with the name of James Hood written on the back of it, and somehow I'd
have found him out. And I say the same thing now. Don't think, Mrs.
Hood, that I'm pleading my poverty as a way of asking you to forgive the
debt. The debt shall be paid; be assured of that. If I can only get to
London, there's a prospect before me; I have a project which I explained
to my old friend yesterday. You shall have the money, and, what's more,
you shall have interest--four per cent. per annum. Oh yes, you shall.
Only let me somehow get to London.'

The gate sounded again.

'Emily,' exclaimed Mrs. Hood, 'there's your father!'

She was pale, and the hand with which she pointed could not steady

'Mother,' said the girl, just above her breath, 'go! He is coming in!'

Mrs. Hood rose and left the room. Cheeseman could not but observe that
some strange agitation possessed them both. Possibly he explained it by
the light of his own conscience. He sat, smiling at Emily rather
uneasily. Then, seeing that there was likely to be a delay before Hood
entered, he bent forward to speak confidentially.

'Miss Hood, I see it in your face, you're as kind and warm-hearted as
your father is, and that's saying much. You won't think hardly of a poor
fellow who oftener misses a dinner than gets one? Every word I've said
to you's as true as the light of heaven, And my only chance is to get to
London. I've made an invention, and I feel sure I know a man who will
buy it of me. It took my last farthing to get here from Hebsworth. You
don't think hardly of me? I don't drink, on my word I don't; it's sheer
hard luck. Ah, if I had a home like this! It 'ud be like living in the
garden of Eden. Well, well!'

The door opened, and Hood came in, followed by his wife. He was
laughing, laughing loudly; the voice was so unlike his that this alone
would have caused Emily to gaze at him in astonishment.

'So you've looked us up!' he exclaimed, holding out his hand. 'Why, you
couldn't have done better; I was sorry afterwards I hadn't asked you. My
wife tells me you've had dinner; you won't mind sitting by whilst I eat?
And what do you think of Emily, eh? Grown a little since you saw her
last--ha, ha! So you've made up your mind to go to London? Emily had
dinner? Why, of course you have; I was forgetting. Baked potatoes!
Remember my old weakness for them baked, Cheeseman? We used to buy 'em
in the street at night, halfpenny apiece, eh? Old man with one arm,
remember? We used to hear him coming when he was half a mile off; what a
voice! And the man who sold peas; remember him? "All 'ot! All 'ot!" We
were lads then, eh, Cheeseman? Emily, just a mouthful, with butter? Let
me tempt you. No?--What train did you come by?'

He talked ceaselessly. There was a spot of red in the midst of each of
his sallow cheeks, and his eyes gleamed with excitement. On leaving the
mill a sudden thirst had come upon him, and he had quenched it with a
glass of spirits at the first public-house he passed. Perhaps that had
some part in his elation.

Emily almost immediately withdrew and went up to her bedroom. Here she
sat alone for more than an hour, in fear lest her mother should come to
the door. Then she heard the gate open, and, looking from the window,
saw her father and his friend pass into the road and walk away together,
the former still talking in an excited way. A minute or two later came
the knock which she dreaded. She opened the door, and her mother

'Emily, did you ever know your father so strange?' Mrs. Hood asked, in a
tone of genuine alarm. She had sunk upon a chair, and looked to the girl
as if overcome with physical weakness. 'What can it all mean? When I
asked him why he had told that story about the money, he only
laughed--said it was a joke, and he'd explain it all before long. I
can't think where the money came from! And now he's gone to pay that
man's fare to London, and no doubt to lend him more money too.'

Emily made no reply. She stood near the window, and looked out at the
clouds which were breaking after a brief shower.

'Wherever the money may have come from,' pursued her mother, 'it's cruel
that it should go in this way. We never wanted it worse than we do now.
It's my belief he's borrowed it himself; a nice thing to borrow for
one's own needs, and then throw it away on such a good-for-nothing as

Emily turned and put a question quietly.

'Are you in more than usual need of money?'

'Well, my dear, you know I always try to say as little about such things
as I can, but now your father's been and borrowed--as of course he must
have done--there's no choice but to tell you. The house at Barnhill's
going to be empty at the end of the quarter, and our rent here's going
to be raised, and, all things coming together, we've had a good deal to
make us anxious. It's just like your father--wanting to make me believe
that things are better than they really are; it always was his way, and
what's the good of it I never could see. Of course he means it well, but
he'd far better have been open about it, and have told me what he was
going to do.'

Emily was shaken with agitation.

'Mother!' she exclaimed, 'why have you both insisted on keeping silence
before me about your difficulties? There was no kindness in it; you have
done me the cruelest wrong. Had I not money in plenty beyond what I
needed? What if the future be uncertain? Has not the present its claims,
and can your needs be separated from mine? Because you have succeeded in
keeping me apart from the troubles of your life, you--you and
father--have thought you had done a praiseworthy thing. Is it not bad
enough that one human being should be indifferent to the wants of
another, just because they call each other strangers? Was it right to
bring such a hateful spirit of independence into a home, between parents
and child? If the world is base and unjust, is not that a reason the
more why we should draw ever more closely to each other, and be to each
other all that our power allows? Independent! Because I earned money and
could support myself, you have told me I must be independent, and leave
you the same. That is the lesson that life has taught you. It is well to
have understanding for lessons of a deeper kind.'

'Well, my child,' protested the mother, to whom the general tenor of
such reasoning was well-nigh as dark as its special application, 'we
have always felt we were doing our duty to you. At your age it is only
right you should have your money for yourself; who knows when you may
want it? I don't think you should be angry with us, just because we've
felt we'd rather put up with a little hardship now and then than have
you feel some day we'd been a burden on you. I haven't complained, and
I'm not complaining now. I'm sorry I came to speak to you about such a
thing. It seems as if you could never take a thing as I mean it. It's
like the potatoes at dinner; I meant to do you a kindness by giving you
the choice, and you flew out as if you hadn't patience with me.'

Emily kept her eyes upon the window.

'How you can say,' went on Mrs. Hood, 'that we've been cruel to you and
done you a wrong--I know we've very different ways of looking at most
things, but where we've wronged you is more than I can understand.'

'You have taken from me,' replied Emily, without moving her eyes, 'the
power to help you. I might have done much, now I can do nothing; and
your loss is mine.'

'No, indeed, it isn't, and shan't be, Emily. Your father and I have
always said that one thing, that you shouldn't suffer by us. What did
your father always say years ago? "Emily," he said, "shall have a good
education, however we stint ourselves; then, when she grows up, she'll
always be able to keep herself from want, and our poverty won't matter
to her." And in that, at all events, he was right, and it's come about
as he said. No, Emily, we're not going to be a burden to you, so don't
fear it.'

'Mother, will you let me be by myself a little? I will come down to you

'Aren't you well, my dear?' the mother asked, with a mixture of offended
reserve and anxiety occasioned by the girl's voice and aspect.

'I have a headache. I will rest till tea-time.'

Mrs. Hood had for a long time been unused to tend Emily with motherly
offices; like her husband, she was not seldom impressed with awe of this
nature so apart from her own. That feeling possessed her now; before
Emily's last words she moved away in silence and closed the door behind
her gently.

The irony of fate, coming out so bitterly in all that her mother had
said, was like a cold hand on Emily's heart. She sat again in the chair
from which she had risen, and let her head lie back. Her vitality was at
a low ebb; the movement of indignation against the cruelty which was
wrecking her life had passed and left behind it a weary indifference.
Happily she need not think yet. There were still some hours of respite
before her; there was the night to give her strength. The daylight was a
burden; it must be borne with what patience she could summon. But she
longed for the time of sacred silence.

To a spirit capable of high exaltations, the hour of lassitude is a
foretaste of the impotence of death. To see a purpose in the cold light
of intellectual conviction, and to lack the inspiring fervour which can
glorify a struggle with the obstacles nature will interpose, is to
realise intensely the rugged baldness of life stripped of illusion, life
as we shall see it when the end approaches and the only voice that
convinces tell us that all is vanity. It is the mood known by the artist
when, viewing the work complete within his mind, his heart lacks its joy
and his hand is cold to execute. Self-consciousness makes of life itself
a work of art. There are the blessed moments when ardour rises in
pursuit of the ideal, when it is supreme bliss to strive and overcome;
and there are the times of aching languor, when the conception is still
clear in every line, but the soul asks wearily--To what end? In Emily it
was reaction after the eagerness of her sudden unreasoning hope. Body
and mind suffered beneath a burden of dull misery. Motives seemed weak;
effort was weary and unprofitable; life unutterably mean. It could
scarcely be called suffering, to feel thus.

She was roused by voices below, and, immediately after, her mother came
to her door again.

'Isn't it vexatious?' Mrs. Hood whispered. 'Here are Jessie and
Geraldine. I'm obliged to ask them to stay tea. Do you feel well enough
to come down?'

Emily went down at once, almost with a sense of relief, and presented
herself to the girls very much in her usual way.

'Now, I know very well you don't want us,' said Jessie, with her
sprightly frankness. 'We shouldn't have thought of coming if it hadn't
been that we met Mr. Hood just this side of the bridge, and he forced us
to come on; he said it wouldn't be very long before he was back himself.
But of course we shan't stay tea, so it's no use--'

'Oh, of course not,' put in Geraldine. 'We know Mrs. Hood's always far
too busy on a Saturday afternoon. I didn't want to come; I told Jessie
it would be far better to put it off till to-morrow--'

'All the same,' resumed her sister, 'she wanted to see you very much.
She's got something to tell you. Now you may as well get it out and done
with, Jerry; you needn't expect I'm going to help you.'

The two giggled together.

'What is it,' inquired Mrs. Hood. 'I daresay I could guess if I tried
very hard. Couldn't you, Emily?'

'Now then, Jerry, for the awful news,' urged her sister.

'No, _you'll_ have to tell, Jessie,' said the other, giggling and

'Well, I suppose one of us must. She's been and engaged herself to Mr.
Baldwin. Of course we all knew--'

'Now, Jessie, you knew nothing of the kind!'

'Didn't I, though! Oughtn't she to be ashamed of herself, at her age,
Mrs. Hood! I know what Emily's opinion is; she's simply disgusted. Look
at her, and see if she isn't.'

The gabble of the two girls was worthy of the occasion their tongues
went like mill-clappers. Whilst her mother busied herself in preparing
tea, Emily sat and listened; fortunately there was little need for her
to talk. To herself she seemed to be suffering a kind of trance, without
detriment to her consciousness. The chattering and grimacing girls
appeared before her as grotesque unrealities, puppets animated in some
marvellous way, and set to caricature humanity. She tried to realise
that one of them was a woman like herself, who had just consented to be
a man's wife; but it was impossible to her to regard this as anything
but an aping of things which at other times had a solemn meaning. She
found herself gazing at Geraldine as one does at some singular piece of
mechanism with a frivolous purpose. And it was not only the individuals
that impressed her thus; these two represented life and the world. She
had strange, cynical thoughts, imaginings which revolted her pure mind
even whilst it entertained them. No endeavour would shake off this
ghastly clairvoyance. She was picturing the scene of Geraldine's
acceptance of the offer of marriage; then her thoughts passed on to the
early days of wedded life. She rose, shuddering, and moved about the
room; she talked to drive those images from her brain. It did but
transfer the sense of unreality to her own being. Where was she, and
what doing? Had she not dreamed that a hideous choice had been set
before her, a choice from which there was no escape, and which, whatever
the alternative she accepted, would blast her life? But that was
something grave, earnest, and what place was there for either
earnestness or gravity in a world where Geraldine represented womanhood
wooed and about to be wedded? There was but one way of stopping the
gabble which was driving her frantic; she threw open the piano and began
to play, to play the first music that came into her mind. It was a
passage from the Moonlight Sonata. A few moments, and the ghosts were
laid. The girls still whispered together, but above their voices the
pure stream of music flowed with gracious oblivion. When Emily ceased,
it was with an inward fervour of gratitude to the master and the
instrument, To know that, was to have caught once more the point of view
from which life had meaning. Now let them chatter and mop and mow; the
echo of that music still lived around.

Hood had not returned when they sat down to tea. Jessie began to ask
questions about the strange-looking man they had met in company with
him, but Mrs. Hood turned the conversation.

'I suppose you'll be coming with the same tale next, Jessie,' she said,
with reference to Geraldine.

'Me, Mrs. Hood? No, indeed; I haven't had lessons from Emily for
nothing. It's all very well for empty-headed chits like Jerry here, but
I've got serious things to attend to. I'm like Emily, she and I are
never going to be married.'

'Emily never going to be married?' exclaimed Mrs. Hood, half seriously.
'Ah, you mustn't believe all Emily tells you.'

'Oh, she hasn't told me that herself, but I'm quite sure she would be
offended if any one thought her capable of such frivolity.'

'Emily will keep it to herself till the wedding-day,' said Geraldine,
with a mocking shake of the bead. 'She isn't one to go telling her

At this point Hood made his appearance. His wife paid no heed to him as
he entered; Emily glanced at him furtively. He had the look of a man who
has predetermined an attitude of easy good-humour, nor had the parting
with Cheeseman failed to prove an occasion for fresh recourse to that
fiery adjuvant which of a sudden was become indispensable to him. Want
of taste for liquor and lifelong habit of abstemiousness had hitherto
kept Hood the soberest of men; he could not remember to have felt the
warm solace of a draught taken for solace' sake since the days when
Cheeseman had been wont to insist upon the glass of gin at their
meetings, and then it had never gone beyond the single glass, for he
felt that his head was weak, and dreaded temptation. Four-and-twenty
hours had wrought such a change in him, that already to enter a
public-house seemed a familiar act, and he calculated upon the courage
to be begotten of a smoking tumbler. Previously the mere outlay would
have made him miserable, but the command of unearned coin was affecting
him as it is wont to affect poor men. The new aid given to Cheeseman
left a few shillings out of the second broken sovereign. Let the two
pounds--he said to himself--be regarded as gone; eight remained
untouched. For the odd shillings, let them serve odd expenses. So when
he had purchased Cheeseman's ticket to King's Gross, he was free with
small change at the station bar. At the last moment it occurred to him
that he might save himself a walk by going in the train as far as
Pendal. So it was here that the final parting had taken place.

He seated himself with his legs across a chair, and began to talk to
Geraldine of the interesting news which Jessie had just whispered to him
when they met on the road. The character of his remarks was not quite
what it would have been a day or two ago; he joked with more freedom
than was his custom. Studiously he avoided the eyes of his wife and
daughter. He declined to sit up to the table, but drank a cup of tea
with his hands resting on the back of a chair.

The Cartwright sisters were anxious to use the evening for a visit to
certain other friends; shortly after six o'clock they took their
departure. While Emily and Mrs. Hood were seeing them away at the door,
Hood went upstairs to his laboratory.

'Emily, come here,' Mrs. Hood said, with anxious earnestness, leading
the way back into the sitting-room. And, when the door was closed--

'My dear, what _is_ the matter with him? Don't you notice his

'Yes, mother, I do.'

'Can he have--It's a thing he never does! You know what I mean? That
Cheeseman has been taking him to a public-house; I am sure of it.'

Emily had had no such thought. To her a squalid horror clung about the
suggestion. To picture her father in such circumstances was to realise a
fresh fall into degradation, no doubt the inevitable consequence of that
she already knew of. There was a painful stricture at her heart; a cry
of despair all but found utterance.

Her father's voice was calling from the stair-head--'Emily!' She darted
to the door in momentary terror and replied.

'Will you come up?' Hood said; 'I want you.'

She ascended to the garret. Hood was standing with his back to the
little window, so that his face was shadowed. Emily moved to the table,
and, with her hands resting upon it, her eyes bent, stood waiting.

'Emily,' he began, still with a remnant of artificial pleasantry, though
his voice was not entirely under control, 'I want to explain that
money-matter to you. It doesn't look well; I am a good deal ashamed of
myself; if I was a boy I should deserve a whipping for telling a fib,
shouldn't I?'

It was impossible to make reply to such words.

'The truth is this,' he went on more nervously; 'we've been in a little
difficulty, your mother and I, that we didn't see any good in troubling
you about. In fact, there's a raising of rent, and one or two other
little things. When I was in Hebsworth yesterday I had an opportunity of
borrowing ten pounds, and I thought it better to do so. Then I met
Cheeseman, and it was his mention of the debt put into my head the
stupid thought of trying to spare your mother anxiety. Of course, such
tricks never succeed; I might have known it. But there, that's the truth
of the matter, and I'm easier now--now I've told it.'

Her heart bled for him, so dreadful to her ears was the choking of his
voice upon the last words. At the same time she was hot with anguish of
shame. He stood before her a wretched culprit, hiding his guilt with lie
upon lie; he, her father, whom she had reverenced so, had compassionated
so, whom she loved despairingly. She could not raise her head; she could
not speak. She longed to spring to him and hold him in her arms, but
other thoughts paralysed the impulse. Had there lain nothing in the
background, had his falsehood, his weakness, been all, she could have
comforted and strengthened him with pure pity and love. But the
consciousness of what was before her killed her power to stead him in
his misery. She could not speak out her very thought, and to palter with
solemn words was impossible. Hypocrisy from her to him at this
moment--hypocrisy, however coloured with sincere feeling, would have
sunk her in her own eyes beyond redemption.

'Let us speak no more of it, father,' she replied without raising her

He was sober enough now, and in her voice, her attitude, he read his
hopeless condemnation. Between him and this high-hearted woman had conic
that which would never be removed; before her he was shamed to eternity.
Never again could he speak with her of truth, of justice, of noble aims;
the words would mock him. Never again could he take her kiss upon his
lips without shrinking. Her way henceforth lay ever further from his
own. What part had she in a life become so base? What place had she
under a roof dishonoured? If some day she wedded, his existence would be
to her a secret shame. For--worst thought of all--it was whispered to
his conscience that she did not credit even what he now told her. He
seemed to himself to have betrayed the second untruth by his way of
speaking it. In the silence which followed upon her words he heard
promptings of despair. How could he live in her presence from day to
day, not daring to meet her eyes? He looked back upon the years behind
him, and they seemed to overflow with peaceful happiness. Irretrievable,
his yielding and his shame; irrecoverable, the conscious rectitude
bartered so cheaply. He saw now that his life had held vast blessings,
and they were for ever lost.

Emily was speaking.

'Do you wish to stay here this evening, father?'

'No,' he answered hastily, 'I only called you up for--for that.'

Her heart reproached her with cruelty, but what remained save to leave
him to himself? They could not face each other, could not exchange a
natural word.


She turned at the door. He had called her, but did not continue to

'Yes, father?'

'It's only for to-night. You'll--you'll sit with me again as usual?'

'Oh, I hope so!'

A rush of tears had its way as she closed the door, something so deeply
pathetic had there been in that appeal. It was the first time that her
misery had found this outlet; unable to calm herself at once, she turned
aside into her bedroom. Tears did not come to her readily; indeed, it
was years since she had shed them; the fit shook her with physical
suffering. The weeping would not stay itself, and to force her sobs into
silence was almost beyond her power. She flung herself desperately by
the bedside, throwing out her arms in the effort to free her chest from
its anguishing constraint.

In an hour she went down. Her mother was sitting miserably in the
kitchen, and Emily, dreading to have to talk again, kept apart in the
parlour. When it began to dusk, Hood descended, and supper was prepared
for in the usual way. There was small pretence of conversation, and, as
soon as possible, Emily bade her parents good-night. It was long before
she heard them go to their room; they whispered together in passing her

And now the solemn hours shed about her guardian silence, and she could
listen to the voice of her soul. It was incredible that the morning of
the day which was not yet dead had witnessed that scene between her and
Dagworthy on the Castle Hill; long spaces of featureless misery seem to
stretch between. Perforce she had overborne reflection; one torment
coming upon another had occupied her with mere endurance; it was as
though a ruthless hand tore from her shred after shred of the fair
garment in which she had joyed to clothe herself, while a voice
mockingly bade her be in congruence with the sordid shows of the world
around. For a moment, whilst Beethoven sang to her, she knew the light
of faith; but the dull mist crept up again and thickened. Weeping had
not eased her bosom; she had only become more conscious of the load of
tears surcharging it. Now she lay upon her bed in the darkness, hushing
idle echoes of day, waiting upon the spirit that ever yet had comforted
and guided her.

What, divested of all horror due to imagination, was the threat to which
her life lay subject? Dagworthy had it in his power to ruin her father,
to blast his remaining years with a desolation to which the life-long
struggle with poverty would be the mere pleasantry of fate. She could no
longer entertain a doubt of the guilt the first suggestion of which
excited her scornful laughter, and she knew it to be more than probable
that her father had yielded to temptation purposely put in his way. She
was not unconscious of the power of reprisal which so gross a plot put
into her hands, though it was true that the secrecy Dagworthy had
maintained in his intercourse with her left but her bare assertion for
evidence against him. Yet the thought was profitless. Suppose he did not
venture to prosecute on the charge of theft, none the less could he work
the ruin he menaced; mere dismissal from his employment, with mention of
the cause to this and the other person, was all that was needed to
render the wretched clerk an outcast, hopeless of future means of
livelihood, for ever disgraced in the eyes of all who knew him. She felt
the cruelty of which this man, whose passions she had so frenzied, was
readily capable. She believed he would not spare her an item of
suffering which it was in his power to inflict. She knew that appeal to
him was worse than useless, for it was only too clear that for her to
approach him was to inflame his resolution. Her instinctive fear of him
was terribly justified.

With her alone, then, it lay to save her parents from the most dreadful
fate that could befal them, from infamy, from destitution, from despair.
For, even if her father escaped imprisonment, it would be impossible for
him to live on in Dunfield, and how, at his age, was a new life to be
begun? And it was idle to expect that the last degradation would be
spared him; his disgrace would involve her; Dagworthy's jealousy would
not neglect such a means of striking at her engagement. And Wilfrid must
needs know; to Emily not even the possibility of hiding such a thing
from him suggested itself. Could she become his wife with that stigma
upon her, bringing as dowry her beggared parents for him to support?

Did it mean that? Was this the thought that she had dreaded to face
throughout the day? Was it not only her father whose ruin was involved,
and must she too bid farewell to hope?

She let those ghastly eyes stare from the darkness into her own, and
tried to exhaust their horror. It overtaxed her courage with a smothered
cry of fear she sprang upright, and her shaking hands struck a flame to
bring light into the room. Not once, but again and again, did the chill
of terror pass through her whole frame. She caught a passing glimpse of
her image in the glass, and was fascinated into regarding it closely.
'You, who stand there in the pitiless night'--thus did thought speak
within her--'you, poor human thing, with the death-white face and eyes
staring in all but distraction, is this the very end of the rapturous
dream which has lulled you whilst destiny wrought your woe? Is it even
now too late to struggle? Is this the wild sorrow of farewell to love,
the beginning of an anguish which shall torture your soul to death? Have
you lost _him_?' For moments it was as though life fought with the last
and invincible enemy. On the spot where she had been standing she sank
powerless to her knees, clinging to the nearest object, her head falling

The clock outside her door struck one; how long the dull vibration
seemed to endure. She was conscious of it, though lying with all but
palsied faculties. It was the first of the divisions which marked her
long vigil; the hours succeeded each other quickly; between voice and
voice there seemed to pass but a single wave of surging thought. But
each new warning of coming day found her nearer the calm of resolve.

Look at this girl, and try to know her. Emily knew but one article of
religion, and that bade her preserve, if need be, at the cost of life,
the purity of her soul. This was the supreme law of her being. The
pieties of kindred were as strong in her as in any heart that ever beat,
but respect for them Could not constrain her to a course which opposed
that higher injunction. Growing with her growth, nourished by the
substance which developed her intellectual force, a sense of all that
was involved in her womanhood had conic to be the guiding principle of
her existence. Imagine the great artist Nature bent upon the creation of
a soul which should hold in subtlest perfection of consciousness every
element essential to the successive ideals of maiden, wife, mother, and
the soul of this girl is pictured. Her religion of beauty was the
symbolic expression of instincts wholly chaste; her body was to her a
temple which preserved a sacred flame, and she could not conceive
existence if once the shrine had suffered desecration. We are apt to
attribute to women indiscriminately at least the outlines of this
consciousness; for the vast majority it confuses itself with the
prescriptions of a traditional dogma, if not with the mere prejudice of
social usage. For Emily no external dogma existed, and the tenor of her
life had aided her in attaining independence of ignoble dictation. Her
views were often strangely at variance with those of the social tribunal
which sits in judgment on virtue and vice. To her, for instance, the
woman who sells herself with ecclesiastical sanction differed only in
degree of impurity from her whose track is under the street-lamps. She
was not censorious, she was not self-righteous; she spoke to no one of
the convictions that ruled her, and to herself held them a mystery of
holiness, a revelation of high things vouchsafed she knew not whence nor
how. Suppose her to have been heart-free at this juncture of her fate,
think you she would have found it a whit less impossible to save her
father by becoming Dagworthy's wife. There was in her thought but one
parallel to this dire choice which lay before her: it was the means
offered to Isabel of rescuing her brother Claudio. That passion of
purity which fired Isabel's speech was the breath of Emily's life. She
knew well that many, and women too, would spare no condemnation of what
they would call her heartless selfishness; she knew that the paltriest
considerations of worldly estate are deemed sufficient to exact from a
woman the sacrifice now demanded of her. That was no law to Emily. The
moral sense which her own nature had developed must here alone control
her. Purity, as she understood it--the immaculate beauty of the
soul--was her religion: if other women would die rather than deny the
object of their worship, to her the ideal of chastity was worth no less
perfect a zeal. Far removed from the world which theorises, she
presented in her character a solution of the difficulties entertained by
those who doubtingly seek a substitute for the old religious sanctions.
Her motives had the simplicity of elemental faith; they were indeed but
the primary instincts of womanhood exalted to a rare perfection and
reflected in a consciousness of exceeding lucidity.

The awakening of love in such a nature as this was, as it were, the
admission to a supreme sacrament. Here was the final sanction of the
creed that had grown from within. In the plighting of her troth to
Wilfrid Athel, Emily had, as she herself saw it, performed the most
solemn and sacred act of her life; instead of being a mere preliminary
to a holy observance which should in truth unite them, it made that
later formality all but trivial. It was the aspiration of her devoutest
hours that this interchange of loving promise might keep its binding
sanctity for ever, that no touch of mutability might come upon her heart
till the last coldness stayed its heating. A second love appeared to her
self-contradicted; to transfer to another those thoughts which had
wedded her soul to Wilfrid's would not merely be sin, it was an
impossibility. Did he ever cease to cherish her--a thought at which she
smiled in her proud confidence--that could in nothing affect her love
for him, which was not otherwise to be expressed than as the sum of her

The pale light of dawn began to glimmer through the window-blind. Emily
gave it full admission, and looked out at the morning sky; faintest blue
was growing between streaks of cold grey. Her eyes ached from the
fixedness of intense thought; the sweet broad brow was marble, the
disorder of her hair spoke of self-abandonment in anguish. She had no
thought of seeking rest; very far from her was sleep and the blessedness
of oblivion. She felt as though sleep would never come again.

But she knew what lay before her; doubt was gone, and there only
remained fear to shake her heart. A day and a night had to be lived
through before she could know her fate, so long must she suffer things
not to be uttered. A day and a night, and then, perchance--nay,
certainly--the vanguard of a vast army of pain-stricken hours. There was
no passion now in her thought of Wilfrid; her love had become the
sternness of resolve which dreads itself. An hour ago her heart had been
pierced with self-pity in thinking that she should suffer thus so far
away from him, without the possibility of his aid, her suffering
undreamt by him. Now, in her reviving strength, she had something of the
martyr's joy. If the worst came, if she had spoken to him her last word
of tenderness, the more reason that her soul should keep unsullied the
image of that bliss which was the crown of life. His and his only, his
in the rapture of ideal love, his whilst her tongue could speak, her
heart conceive, his name.



On six days of the week, Mrs. Hood, to do her justice, made no show of
piety to the powers whose ordering of life her tongue incessantly
accused; if her mode of Sabbatical observance was bitter, the
explanation was to be sought in the mere force of habit dating from
childhood, and had, indeed, a pathetic significance to one sufficiently
disengaged from the sphere of her acerbity to be able to judge fairly
such manifestations of character. A rigid veto upon all things secular,
a preoccupied severity of visage, a way of speaking which suggested
difficult tolerance of injury, an ostentation of discomfort in bodily
inactivity--these were but traditions of happier times; to keep her
Sunday thus was to remind herself of days when the outward functions of
respectability did in truth correspond to self-respect; and it is
probable that often enough, poor woman, the bitterness was not only on
her face. As a young girl in her mother's home she had learnt that the
Christian Sabbath was to be distinguished by absence of joy, and as she
sat through these interminable afternoons, on her lap a sour little book
which she did not read, the easy-chair abandoned for one which hurt her
back, the very cat not allowed to enter the room lest it should gambol,
here on the verge of years which touch the head with grey, her life must
have seemed to her a weary pilgrimage to a goal of discontent. How far
away was girlish laughter, how far the blossoming of hope which should
attain no fruitage, and, alas, how far the warm season of the heart, the
woman's heart that loved and trusted, that joyed in a newborn babe, and
thought not of the day when the babe, in growing to womanhood, should
have journeyed such lengths upon a road where the mother might not

Neither Hood nor his daughter went to church; the former generally spent
the morning in his garret, the latter helped herself against the
depression which the consciousness of the day engendered by playing
music which respect would have compelled her to refrain from had her
mother been present. The music was occasionally heard by an acquaintance
who for some reason happened to be abroad in church time, and Mrs. Hood
was duly informed of the sad things done in her absence, but she had the
good sense to forbid herself interference with Emily's mode of spending
the Sunday. She could not understand it, but her husband's indifference
to religion had taught her to endure, and, in truth, her own zeal, as I
have said, was not of active colour. Discussion on such subjects there
had never been. Her daughter, she had learnt to concede, was strangely
other than herself; Emily was old enough to have regard for her own

Breakfast on Sunday was an hour later than on other days, and was always
a very silent meal. On the day which we have now reached it was perhaps
more silent than usual. Hood had a newspaper before him on the table;
his wife wore the wonted Sabbath absentness, suggestive of a fear lest
she should be late for church; Emily made a show of eating, but the same
diminutive slice of bread-and-butter lasted her to the end of the meal.
She was suffering from a slight feverishness, and her eyes, unclosed
throughout the night, were heavy with a pressure which was not of
conscious fatigue. Having helped in clearing the table and ordering the
kitchen, she was going upstairs when her mother spoke to her for the
first time.

'I see you've still got your headache,' Mrs. Hood said, with
plaintiveness which was not condolence.

'I shall go out a little, before dinner-time,' was the reply.

Her mother dismally admitted the wisdom of the proposal, and Emily went
to her room. Before long the bell of the chapel-of-ease opposite began
its summoning, a single querulous bell, jerked with irregular rapidity.
The bells of Pendal church sent forth a more kindly bidding, but their
music was marred by the harsh clanging so near at hand, Emily heard and
did not hear. When she had done housemaid's office in her room, she sat
propping her hot brows, waiting for her mother's descent in readiness
for church. At the sound of the opening and closing bedroom door, she
rose and accompanied her mother to the parlour. Mrs. Hood was in her
usual nervous hurry, giving a survey to each room before departure,
uttering a hasty word or two, then away with constricted features.

The girl ascended again, and, as soon as the chapel bell had ceased its
last notes of ill-tempered iteration, began to attire herself hastily
for walking. When ready, she unlocked a drawer and took from it an
envelope, of heavy contents, which lay ready to her hand. Then she
paused for a moment and listened. Above there was a light footfall,
passing constantly hither and thither. Leaving the room with caution,
she passed downstairs noiselessly and quitted the house by the back
door, whence by a circuit she gained the road. Her walk was towards the
Heath. As soon as she entered upon it, she proceeded rapidly--so
rapidly, indeed, that before long she had to check herself and take
breath. No sun shone, and the air was very still and warm; to her it
seemed oppressive. Over Dunfield hung a vast pile of purple cloud,
against which the wreaths of mill smoke, slighter than on week-days, lay
with a dead whiteness. The Heath was solitary; a rabbit now and then
started from a brake, and here and there grazed sheep. Emily had her
eyes upon the ground, save when she looked rapidly ahead to measure the
upward distance she had still to toil over.

On reaching the quarry, she stayed her feet. The speed at which she had
come, and an agitation which was increasing, made breathing so difficult
that she turned a few paces aside, and sat down upon a rough block of
stone, long since quarried and left unused. Just before her was a small
patch of marshy ground, long grass growing about a little pool. A rook
had alighted on the margin, and was pecking about. Presently it rose on
its heavy wings; she watched it flap athwart the dun sky. Then her eye
fell on a little yellow flower near her feet, a flower she did not know.
She plucked and examined it, then let it drop carelessly from her hand.

The air was growing brown; a storm threatened. She looked about her with
a hasty fear, then resumed her walk to the upper part of the Heath.
Beaching the smooth sward, she made straight across it for Dagworthy's

Crossing the garden, she was just at the front door, when it was opened,
and by Dagworthy himself. His eyes fell before her.

'Will you come this way?' he said, indistinctly.

He led into the large sitting-room where he had previously entertained
Emily and her father. As soon as he had closed the door, he took eager
steps towards her.

'You have come,' he said. 'Something told me you would come this
morning. I've watched at the window for you.'

The assurance of victory had softened him. His voice was like that of
one who greets a loving mistress. His gaze clung to her.

'I have come to bring you this!' Emily replied, putting upon the table
the heavy envelope. 'It is the money we owe you.'

Dagworthy laughed, but his eyes were gathering trouble.

'You owe me nothing,' he said, affecting easiness.

'How do you mean that?' Emily gave him a direct look. Her manner had now
nothing of fear, nor even the diffidence with which she had formerly
addressed him. She spoke with a certain remoteness, as if her business
with him were formal. The lines of her mouth were hard; her heavy lids
only half raised themselves.

'I mean that you owe nothing of this kind,' he answered, rather
confusedly. His confidence was less marked; her look overcame his.

'Not ten pounds?'

'Well, _you_ don't.' He added, 'Whose is this money?'

'It is my own; I have earned it.'

'Does your father know you are paying it?'

He does not. I was not likely to speak to him of what you told me. There
is the debt, Mr. Dagworthy; we have paid it, and now I will leave you.

He examined her. Even yet he could not be sure that he understood. In
admitting her, he had taken it for granted that she could come with but
one purpose. It was but the confirmation of the certain hope in which he
had lived through the night. Was the girl a simpleton? Had she got it
into her head that repayment in this way discharged his hold upon her
father? It was possible; women are so ludicrously ignorant of affairs.
He smiled, though darkly.

'Why have you brought this money?' he asked.

She was already moving nearer to the door. He put himself in her way.

'What good do you imagine this is?'

'None, perhaps. I pay it because I wish to.'

'And--is it your notion that this puts your father straight? Do you
think this is a way out of his difficulty?'

'I have not thought that. But it was only to restore the money that I

There was silence.

'Have you forgotten,' he asked, half wonderingly, half with quiet
menace, 'what I said to you yesterday?'

'You see my answer,' said Emily, pointing hastily to the table. 'I owe
you that, but I can give you nothing more.' Her voice quivered, as she
continued, 'What you said to me yesterday was said without thought, or
only with evil thoughts. Since then you have had hours of reflection. It
is not in your power--it would be in the power of no man who is not
utterly base and wicked--to repeat such words this morning. Mr.
Dagworthy, I believe in the affection you have professed for me; feeling
that, you are incapable of dastardly cruelty. I will not believe your
tongue against yourself. In a moment of self-forgetfulness you spoke
words which you will regret through your life, for they were inhuman,
and were spoken to a defenceless girl. After hearing them, I cannot beg
your mercy for my father but you know that misfortune which strikes him
falls also upon me. You have done me the greatest wrong that man can do
to woman; you owe me what reparation is in your power.'

She had not thought to speak thus. Since daylight dawned her heart had
felt too numb, too dead; barely to tell him that she had no answer to
his words was the purpose with which she had set out. The moment
prompted her utterance, and words came without reflection. It was a
noble speech, and nobly delivered; the voice was uncertain at times, but
it betrayed no weakness of resolve, no dread of what might follow. The
last sentences were spoken with a dignity which rebuked rather than
supplicated. Dagworthy's head bowed as he listened.

He came nearer.

'Do you think me,' he asked, under his breath, 'a mere ignorant lout,
who has to be shamed before he knows what's manly and what isn't? Do you
think because I'm a manufacturer, and the son of one, that I've no
thought or feeling above my trade? I know as well as you can tell me,
though you speak with words I couldn't command, that I'm doing a mean
and a vile thing--there; hear me say it, Emily Hood. But it's not a
cruel thing. I want to compel you to do what, in a few years, you'll be
glad of. I want you to accept love such as no other man can give you,
and with it the command of pretty well everything you can wish for. I
want to be a slave at your feet, with no other work in life than finding
out your desires and satisfying them. You're not to be tempted with
money, and I don't try to; but I value the money because it will give me
power to show my love. And mind what I say ask yourself if it isn't
true. If you hadn't been engaged already, you'd have listened to me; I
feel that power in myself; I know I should have made you care for me by
loving you as desperately as I do. I wouldn't have let you refuse
me--you hear, Emily? Emily! Emily! Emily!--it does me good to call you
by your name--I haven't done so before to-day, have I, Emily? Not a
cruel thing, because I offer you more than any man living can, more of
that for which you care most, the life a highly educated woman can
appreciate. You shall travel where you will; you shall buy books and
pictures, and all else to your heart's content; and, after all, you
shall love me. That's a bold word, but I tell you I feel the power in me
to win your love. I'm not hateful to you, even now; you can't really
despise me, for you know that whatever I do is for no mean purpose.
There is no woman living like you, and to make you my wife I am prepared
to do anything, however vile it seems. Some day you'll forgive it all,
because some day you'll love me!'

It was speaking as he had never yet done. He assumed that his end was
won, and something of the triumph of passion endued his words with a
joyous fervour. Very possibly there was truth in much that he said, for
he spoke with the intense conviction which fulfils prophecies. But the
only effect was to force Emily back upon her cold defiance.

'I am in your house, Mr. Dagworthy,' she said, 'and you can compel me to
hear whatever you choose to say. But I have no other answer than that
you know. I wish to leave you.'

His flushed eagerness could not at once adapt itself to another tone.

'No, you don't wish to leave me. You want to see that I am a man of my
word, that I mean what I say, and am not afraid to stick to it. Emily,
you don't leave me till you have promised to be my wife. You're a noble
girl. You wouldn't be frightened into yielding. And it isn't that way I
want to have you. You're more now in my eyes than ever. It shall be love
for love. Emily, you will marry me?'

What resources of passion the man was exhibiting! By forethought he
could have devised no word of these speeches which he uttered with such
vigour; it was not he who spoke, but the very Love God within him. He
asked the last question with a voice subdued in tenderness; his eyes had
a softer fire.

Emily gave her answer.

'I would not marry you, though you stood to kill me if I refused.'

No bravado, no unmeasured vehemence of tone, but spoken as it would have
been had the very weapon of death gleamed in his hand.

He knew that this was final.

'So you are willing that your father shall be put into the dock at the
police-court to-morrow morning?'

'If you can do that, it must be so.'

'If I _can_? You know very well I have the power to, and you ought to
know by now that I stick at nothing. Go home and think about it.'

It is useless. I have thought. If you think still to make me yield by
this fear, it is better that you should act at once. I will tell you If
I were free, if I had the power to give myself to you in marriage, it
would make your threat of no more avail. I love my father; to you I
cannot say more than that; but though I would give my life to save his
from ruin, I could not give--my father would not wish me, oh never!--my
woman's honour. You will find it hard to understand me, for you seem not
to know the meaning of such words.'

She closed with stern bitterness, compelled to it by the tone of his
last bidding. A glorious beauty flashed in her face. Alas, Wilfrid Athel
would never know the pride of seeing thus the woman he knew so noble.
But Wilfrid was in her heart; his soul allied itself with hers and gave
her double strength. Dagworthy had wrought for her that which in the
night's conflict she could not bring about by her own force; knowing, in
the face of utter despair, the whole depth of the love with which she
held to her father, she could yet speak his doom with calmness, with
clear intelligence that the sacrifice she was asked to make was
disproportionate to the disaster threatened.

He answered with cold decision.

'It's you who don't know me. I've nothing more to say to you; you are at
liberty to go. To-morrow your father will be before the magistrates.'

Emily moved to the door. The sound of the words had blanched her lips.
She felt that, if she would keep hold upon her bodily strength, she must
breathe the outer air.

'Look here, I say,' he exclaimed, stepping to the table. 'Take the
money. I've nothing to do with that.'

She made a motion with her hand, but hastened still and escaped. Once in
the garden she all but ran, thinking she heard his footsteps in pursuit,
and smitten with that sudden terror which comes sometimes when a danger
is escaped. But she had gained the Heath, and it was certain now that he
had not tried to overtake her, a glance back showed her that no one was
in sight. She walked rapidly on, though her heart seemed about to burst,
walked without pausing till she had reached the quarry. Here she sat on
the same stone as before. She was in dread of fainting; the anguish of
her leaping blood was intolerable; she had neither sight nor hearing.
But the crisis of suffering passed; she let her head fall forward and
buried it upon her lap.

Perhaps for ten minutes she remained thus, then a great crash from the
near heavens caused her to look up. It was raining, had rained since she
sat there, though she had not known it. In the little pool before her
great drops splashed and made a miniature tempest. The yellow flower she
had plucked lay close by, and was beaten by the rain. It lightened
vividly, and there followed heavier thunder than before.

She wished to shed tears--tears were choking her, but would not rise and
shed themselves; she could only sob, aloud, hysterically. The words
'Father' and 'Wilfrid' broke from her lips several times. Was there
red-hot metal poured upon her forehead?

It cost her a great effort to rise and walk homewards. The rain streamed
down, but she could no longer hasten. Still she reached the house before
her mother's return from church, and she was glad of that.



For the final failure of his plot Dagworthy was in no wise prepared. He
had anticipated prolonged scenes, passionate pleadings, appeals to his
better nature, and to his shame; but that his threat should prove
ineffectual was not among his fears. Illustrating a well-known tendency
of human nature, his reckless egoism based its confidence on the
presumed existence of heroic self-devotion in his victim. Starting from
a knowledge of the close affection between Emily and her father, the
logic of desire had abundant arguments to prove that the girl must and
could act in but one way. Dagworthy's was not an original mind; the
self-immolation of daughters (not of sons) on their parents' behalf is
among vulgar conceptions of the befitting, and it is more than probable
that the mill-owner was half-consciously supported by precedents drawn
from his readings in popular fiction. His imagination, as is commonly
the case, was only strong in the direction of his wishes; neglecting
Emily's avowed attachment to an accepted lover--whose shadowiness made
him difficult to realise even as an obstacle--he dwelt persistently on
the thought of Hood's position, and found it impossible to imagine a
refusal on Emily's part to avert from her father the direst of
calamities. That other motive, the strength of which in Emily was
independent of her plighted troth, was not within the range of his
conceptions; that a woman should face martyrdom rather than marry
without love was a contingency alien to his experience and to the
philosophy wherewith nature had endowed him. In spite of the attributes
of nobleness which so impressed him in the object of his love, Dagworthy
could give no credit to the utterance of such a feeling. Whilst Emily
spoke, he was for the moment overcome by a vision of vague glories;
reflecting on her words, he interpreted them as merely emphasising her
determination to wed one only. Their effect was to give new food to his

That solace of men's unconscious pessimism, the faith, pathetically
clung to, that in frustration of desire is the soul's health, is but too
apt to prove itself fallacious just where its efficiency would show most
glorious. Is there not lurking somewhere in your mind, not withstanding
the protests of your realistic intelligence, more than half a hope that
Richard Dagworthy will emerge radiant from the gulf into which his
passions have plunged him? For the credit of human nature! But what if
human nature oft establishes its credit by the failures over which we
shake our heads? Of many ways to the resting-place of souls, the way of
affliction is but one; cling, if it please you, to the assurance that
this is the treading of the elect, instinct will justify itself in many
to whom the denial of a supreme need has been the closing of the upward
path. Midway in his life, when slow development waited but occasion to
establish the possibilities of a passionate character, Dagworthy
underwent the trial destined to determine the future course of his life.
One hesitates to impute it to him as a fault that he was not of the
elect. A mere uneducated Englishman, hitherto balancing always between
the calls from above and from below, with one miserable delusion and its
consequent bitterness ever active in his memory, he could make no
distinction between the objects which with vehemence he desired and the
spiritual advantage which he felt the attainment would bring to him; and
for the simple reason that in his case no such distinction existed. Even
as the childhood of civilisation knows virtue only in the form of a
concrete deity, so to Dagworthy the higher life of which he was capable
took shape as a mortal woman, and to possess her was to fulfil his
being. With the certainty that she was beyond his reach came failure of
the vital forces which promised so much. A pity for it flatters us poor
mortals to discern instances of the soul's independence of the body. I
would it had been otherwise with Dagworthy; I have but to relate the
facts. It was no dark angel that had whispered to him through the hours
of his waiting for Emily's surrender. High aims, pure ambitions, were
stronger in him than they ever had been; stronger than they ever would
be again. It was when Emily left him with those proud words of defiance
that the veritable demon took stand at his ear. The leaping, fruitful
sap of his being turned itself to gall. He sat with a brow of blackness;
cruel projects worked in his brain.

Not only had he lost her, but his loss was another's gain. The pricking
of jealousy, for a while suspended, again became maddening. He had heard
her say that she would die rather than be his wife; judge, then, what
must be her love of the man she bud chosen. His desire now was to do her
injury, and his fiercest torment was the thought that he dared not
fulfil the menace with which he had hoped to overwhelm her. If he
prosecuted Hood, all the circumstances of the case would inevitably come
out; Emily had friends in Dunfield, and if her father's guilt were once
disclosed, there would be no reason for her concealment of what had
happened; facts like these put forward in mitigation of punishment would
supply the town with a fearful subject of comment--nay, was he safe from
the clutch of the law? Of these things he had not troubled to think, so
assured was he that the mere threat would suffice. From his present
point of view it was easy enough to see that the plot had been a
wretched piece of bungling; in failing of its end it became the project
of a simpleton. Had the girl herself been cool enough to see this? Did
she defy him in knowledge of the weakness of his position? Probably not;
in that case she would have spoken differently she had granted, and
clearly with sincerity, his power to do what he threatened. And then the
fact remained that he could injure Hood irremediably by means short of
criminal proceedings. Emily--his reasoning was accurate enough--had not
been careful to distinguish between modes of injury, where each meant

What he dared to do, he would. He was acquainted with the wretched story
of struggle which had ended in Hood's taking refuge, as a clerk with a
mean salary, from the extremities of destitution. To dismiss the man
after private accusation would be to render his prospects worse than
ever, for it was easy to whisper here and there the grounds of
dismissal. Emily's mouth would be closed by the necessity of keeping
secret her father's dishonesty. But this revenge fell short of his
appetite for cruelty; it would strike the girl herself only indirectly.
And it was possible that her future husband might have it in his power
to give her parents aid. Yet he persuaded himself that the case was
otherwise; Emily's secrecy had impressed him with the belief that the
match she contemplated was anything but a brilliant one. Could he devise
no graver hurt? Through the Sunday afternoon and the night which
followed, he pondered ceaselessly on means of evil, delighted to flesh
his fangs even in imagination. Many a vile plan dwelt with him which he
knew he durst not put into practice. Monday morning came and found him
no further than the crime which had first suggested itself. Fevered with
eagerness to accomplish that at least, he left home earlier than usual.
It might be that the day would bring fresh counsel.

To Emily the hours following upon her visit to the house on the Heath
had brought unnatural quietness. Physical suffering troubled her, but
the energies of her mind were for the time expended; the aching of her
brow involved thought in sluggishness. She did not shun her parents, and
even talked with them in a listless way; solitude would have been
irksome to her just now. For once she felt glad of her mother's way of
spending Sunday; to sit inactive was all that she desired. It was
understood that her head distressed her.

In the afternoon, and again in the evening, the single bell of the
chapel clanged for worshippers. Mrs. Hood was not in the habit of
attending service more than once in the day; she sat on her uneasy
chair, at times appearing to read, more often gazing out of the windows.
The road had more traffic than on week-days, for it was the recreation
of a certain class of Dunfieldians to drive out in parties to the Heath,
either hiring a vehicle or using their own trade-carts. It would have
been a consolation to observe that in the latter case the quadruped
employed benefited by its owner's regard for his own interests; possibly
an acute spectator might have discerned gradations of inhumanity. To the
casual eye there showed but a succession of over-laden animals urged to
the utmost speed; the national predilection exhibiting itself crudely in
this locality. Towards nightfall the pleasure-seekers returned, driving
with the heightened energy attributable to Bacchic inspiration, singing,
shouting, exchanging racy banter with pedestrians. So the hours dragged
wearily on, wheezed out, one after one, by the clock on the stairs. Hood
was at no time fertile in topics of conversation; to-day he maintained
almost unbroken silence. Tea was prepared, partaken of, removed; supper,
three hours later. The day closed with rain and a rising wind.

Emily heard it about the house as she lay through hours of
sleeplessness. At first a light slumber had come to her; it was broken
by the clock striking eleven. Probably she was roused at the first
stroke, for, failing to count, the number seemed to her so interminable
that she started up and made to herself fretful complaint. Pain was
weakening her self-control; she found herself crying in a weary,
desolate way, and could not stop her tears for a long time. The gusts of
wind went by her windows and bore their voices away on to the common,
wailing and sobbing in the far distance; rain spattered the windows at
times. When her tears ceased, Emily hid her face in the pillow and
moaned; often she uttered Wilfrid's name. To-day she should by agreement
have written to him, but to do so had been impossible. He would be
uneasy at her silence. Oh, bow could she ever write to him again? What
might happen to-morrow? At the thought, she held her breath and lay in

She rose in time for breakfast, but at the last moment could not bring
herself to go down to the meal. To face her father was impossible. Her
mother came to the door, and Emily answered her that she would lie for
an hour or two longer, being still unwell. During the half-hour that
followed she sat listening intently to every sound in the house. Hood,
having breakfasted, came upstairs and entered his room; when, a few
minutes later, he came out, his steps made a pause at her threshold. Her
heart beat in sickening fear; she could not have found voice to reply to
him had he spoken. But he did not do so, and went downstairs. She heard
him open the front door, and sprang to the window to catch a glimpse of
him. At the gate he turned and looked up to her window; his face was
sorrowful. Emily held back that he might not see her; when it was too
late she could not understand this movement, and longed to wave him a
good-bye. She threw up the sash; her father did not turn again.

We follow him. Not very long after his arrival at the mill, Dagworthy
himself appeared. Hood's evil conscience led him to regard with
apprehension every unusual event. Dagworthy's unwonted earliness was
still troubling his mind, when a messenger summoned him to the private
room. There was nothing extraordinary in this, but Hood, as he crossed
the passage, shook with fear; before knocking and pushing open the door,
he dashed drops from his forehead with his hand. Dagworthy was alone,
sitting at the desk.

'Shut the door,' he said, without turning his eyes from a letter he was

The clerk obeyed, and stood for a full minute before anything more was
addressed to him. He knew that the worst had come.

Dagworthy faced half round.

'One day early last week,' he began, averting his eyes after a single
glance, 'I was looking over one of these ledgers'--he pointed to the
shelf--'and left an envelope to mark a place. I forgot about it, and
now that I look, the envelope has gone. It contained a bank-note. Of
course you came across it in the course of your work.'

It was rather an assertion than a question. Whilst he was speaking, the
courage of despair had taken hold upon his hearer. Like the terrible
flash of memory which is said to strike the brain of a drowning man,
there smote on Hood's mind a vision of the home he had just quitted, of
all it had been and all it might still be to him. This was his life, and
he must save it, by whatever means. He knew nothing but that necessity;
all else of consciousness was vague swimming horror.

'No, sir,' was his reply, given with perfect firmness, 'I found no

Dagworthy's coarse lips formed a smile, hard and cruel. He faced his

'Oh, you didn't?'

'In which ledger did you leave it, sir?' Hood asked, the dryness of his
throat rendering speech more difficult as he proceeded. Still, his eye
was fixed steadily on Dagworthy's face; it was life at stake. 'I have
not had them all.'

'I don't remember which it was,' replied the other, 'and it doesn't much
matter, since I happen to know the note. I dare say you remember buying
a new hat in Hebsworth last Friday?'

The love of inflicting pain for its own sake, an element of human nature
only overgrown by civilisation, was showing itself strongly in
Dagworthy. He was prolonging this scene. On his way to the mill he had
felt that the task would be rather disagreeable; but we cannot nurture
baseness with impunity, and, face to face with a man under torture, he
enjoyed the spectacle as he scarcely would have done a little while ago.
Perhaps the feeling that his first blow at Emily was actually struck
gave him satisfaction, which he dwelt upon.

Hood made no reply to the question. He would not admit to himself that
this was the end, but he had no voice.

'You hear me?' Dagworthy reminded him.

'Yes. I bought a hat.'

'And you paid for it with the note I have lost. I happen to know it.'

There was silence.

'Well, you understand that under ordinary circumstances you would be at
once given in charge.' Dagworthy spoke almost cheerfully. 'If I don't do
that it's out of consideration for your age and your family. But as you
are not to be trusted, of course I can't continue to employ you.'

A wild hope sprang in Hood's eyes, and the rush of gratitude at his
heart compelled him to speak.

'Oh, Mr. Dagworthy, you arc generous! You have always treated me with
kindness; and this is how I repay you. It was base; I deserve no mercy.
The temptation--' he grew incoherent; 'I have been driven hard by want
of money. I know that is no excuse. I had no intention at first of
taking the money; I came here to give it you; I should have done so
without a thought of dishonesty, but you happened to be away. In going
to Hebsworth I lost my hat, and I had not enough money of my own to buy
another; I had to change the note--that was the temptation--I will
return it.--But for this work here, I might by now have been in the
workhouse. Try, sir, to forgive my baseness; I cannot forgive myself.'

Dagworthy turned his face away.

'Well,' he said, with a wave of the hand, 'all that's too late.'

'Sir,' Hood pursued, spurred by foresight of penury perhaps as much as
by dread of having to explain his dismissal at home, for penury had been
his relentless foe through life Sir, is it in vain to ask you to give me
another chance? I am not a dishonest man; never before has such a
temptation come to me, and surely never would again. Will you--I entreat
you to think what it means--at my age--my wife--I ought to be content
with thanking you for having spared me--how few would have done that!
Let me continue to serve you--a lower salary--if it be ever so
little--till I have regained your confidence--'

Dagworthy was drumming with his fingers on the desk. Not for an instant
did he falter in his purpose, but it gave him pleasure to be thus prayed
to. The employer of labour is not as a rule troubled with a lively
imagination; a pity, for it would surely gratify him to feel in its
fulness at times his power of life and death. Native defect and force of
habit render it a matter of course that a small population should eat or
starve at his pleasure; possibly his resolution in seasons of strike is
now and then attributable to awakening of insight and pleasure in
prolonging his role of hunger-god. Dagworthy appreciated his victim's
despair all the more that it made present to him the wretchedness that
would fall on Emily. Think not that the man was unashamed. With
difficulty he could bring himself to meet Hood's look. But self-contempt
may well consist with perseverance in gratification of ignoble

When Hood ceased, there came this reply.

'I shall not grant what you ask, simply because it is against my
principles. I let you off, for it would do me no good to punish you, and
certainly, as regards yourself, the lesson will be enough. But I can't
keep you in my employ, so we'll talk no more about it. You were going to
take your holiday from the end of this week, I think? Very well, let it
be supposed that you begin to-day instead, and in a day or two write me
a note giving up your place.'

This was not yielding on Dagworthy's part; it merely occurred to him as
a way of protecting himself if there should be future need.

Hood was standing with bent head; he seemed unable either to speak or to

'You may go,' Dagworthy said.

'Sir,--I may refer to you?' asked the wretched man, roused by the

'No, I think not,' was the calm reply. 'Unless, of course, you are
willing that I should state the plain facts of the case?'

Hood staggered from the room....

When Emily came down in the course of the morning, her appearance was
such that her mother uttered an exclamation of alarm.

'Why, child, you are like a ghost! Why didn't you stay in bed? I was
just coming up to you, hoping you'd been asleep. I must go for Dr. Evans
at once.'

Emily resisted.

'But I certainly shall, say what you like. No headache would make you
look like that. And you're as feverish as you can be. Go up to bed
again; you hardly look, though, as if you could climb the stairs. I'll
put on my things and go round.'

It was only by affecting anger that Emily could overcome her mother's
purpose. She did indeed feel ill, but to submit to treatment was
impossible whilst this day lasted. Far worse than her bodily fever was
the mental anguish which would not allow her to remain in one place for
more than a few minutes at a time, and did not suffer the pretence of
occupation. How would it come about? Was her father at this moment in
the hands of the police? How would the first news come to Banbrigg, and
when? The sound of every vehicle on the road was an approaching terror;
she was constantly at the window to watch the people who came near. It
had seemed to her that she realised what this trial would be, yet her
anticipations had fallen far below the experience of these fearful
hours. At instants, she all but repented what she had done, and asked
herself if there was not even now a chance of somehow saving her father.
The face which he had raised to the window as he left home smote her
heart. Not a word of kindness had she spoken to him since Friday night.
Oh, what inconceivable cruelty had possessed her, that she let him go
this morning without even having touched his hand! Could her mind endure
this? Was she not now and then near to delirium? Once she went to the
window, and, to her horror, could see nothing; a blue and red mist
hovered before her eyes. It left her, but other symptoms of physical
distress grew from hour to hour, and she dreaded lest strength to endure
might wholly forsake her before night came. She tried to picture her
father returning as usual; human pity might have spoken even in
Dagworthy's heart; or if not so, then he might have been induced to
forbear by a hope of winning her gratitude. Very agony made her feel
almost capable of rewarding such mercy. For Wilfrid seemed now very far
away, and her love had fallen to the background; it was not the supreme
motive of her being as hitherto. Would she suffer thus for Wilfrid? The
question forced itself upon her, and for reply she shuddered; such bonds
seemed artificial compared with those which linked her to her father,
the love which was coeval with her life. All feeling is so relative to
circumstances, and what makes so stable as the cement of habit?

In the early hours of the afternoon a lull of utter weariness relieved
her; she lay upon the couch and all but slept; it was something between
sleep and loss of consciousness following on excessive pain. She awoke
to find the doctor bending over her; Mrs. Hood had become so alarmed
that she had despatched a neighbour secretly on the errand. Emily was
passive, and by her way of speaking half disguised the worst features of
her state. Nevertheless, the order was given that she should go to bed.
She promised to obey.

'As soon as father comes,' she said, when alone again with her mother.
'It cannot be long till his time.'

She would not yield beyond this. But the hour of return came, and her
father delayed. Then was every minute an eternity. No longer able to
keep her reclining position, she stood again by the window, and her eyes
lost their vision from straining upon one spot, that at which Hood would
first appear. She leaned her head upon the window-sill, and let her ears
take their turn of watching; the first touch of a hand at the gate would
reach her. But there came none.

Can hours thus be lived through? Ah, which of us to whom time has not
been a torment of hell? Is there no nether Circle, where dread
anticipation eternally prolongs itself, eternally varied with hope in
vain for ever?

Mrs. Hood had abandoned her useless protests; she came and sat by the

'I've no doubt he's gone to the Walkers',' she kept saying, naming
acquaintances with whom Hood occasionally spent an evening. Then, 'And
why need you wait for him, my dear? Can't he go up and see you as soon
as he gets in?'

'Mother,' Emily said at last, 'will you go to the Walkers' and ask? It
is not really very far. Will you go?'

But, my child, it will take me at least an hour to walk there and back!
I should only miss him on the way. Are you afraid of something?

'Yes, I am. I believe something has happened to him.'

'Those are your fancies. You are very poorly; it is cruel to me to
refuse to go to bed.'

'Will you go, mother?--If you do not, I must; ill or not, I must go.'

She started to her feet. Her mother gazed at her in fear,--believing it
the beginning of delirium.

'Emily, my dear child,' she pleaded, laying her hand on the girl's arm,
'won't you come upstairs,--to please me, dear?'

'Mother, if you will go, I promise to lie here quietly till you return.'

'But it is impossible to leave you alone in the house. Look, now, it is
nine o'clock; in half an hour, an hour at most, your father will be
back. Why, you know how often he stays late when he gets talking.'

Emily was silent for a few minutes. Then she said--

'Will you ask Mrs. Hopkins to send her servant?'

'But think--the trouble it will be giving.'

'Will you do it? I wish it. Will you go and ask her I will give the girl

'If you are so determined, of course I will ask her. But I'm sure--'

At length she left the room, to go out of the house by the back-door and
call at the neighbours'. Scarcely was she away, when Emily darted
upstairs, and in an instant was down again, with her hat and a cloak;
another moment, and she was out in the road. She did not forget the
terror her mother would suffer, on finding her gone; but endurance had
reached its limit. It was growing dark. After one look in the direction
of Dunfield, she took the opposite way, and ran towards the Heath, ran
till her breath failed and she had to drop into a quick walk. Once more
she was going to the Upper Heath, and to the house which was the source
of all her misery. When she reached the quarry it was quite dark at her
approach she saw the shape of a man move away into the shadow of the
quarried rock, and an unreasoning fear spurred her past the spot. Five
minutes more and she was at Dagworthy's gate. She rang the door-bell.

The servant told her that Mr. Dagworthy was at home; she declined to
give her name, but said she must see him at once. Speedily she was led
into a room, where her enemy sat alone.

He looked at her wonderingly, then with a deep flush--for now he surely
had gained his end,--he advanced towards her without speaking.

'Where is my father?' she asked; the voice which disabused him did not
seem Emily's.

'Isn't he at home?'

'He has not come home. What have you done?'

'Not come home?'

'Then he is free? He is safe--my father? You have spared him?'

Dagworthy inwardly cursed himself for shortsightedness. Were he but able
to answer 'Yes,' would she not yield him anything? Why had he not made
trial of this policy? Or was it now too late? But Hoed had not returned
home. The man had gone forth from him in despair. As he gazed at the
girl, a suspicion, all but a fear, touched him. Why should Hood remain
away from his house?

She was repeating her questions imploringly.

'He is free, as far as I am concerned, Emily.'

'You have forgiven him? Oh, you have had that mercy upon us?'

'Sit down, and let us talk about it,' said Dagworthy.

She did not seem to notice that he had taken her hand; but the next
moment he was holding her in his arm, and with a cry she broke away.

'There are others in the house,' she exclaimed, her wild, fearful eyes
seeking other exit than that which he stopped. 'I must call for their
help. Can you not see that I am suffering--ill? Are you pitiless? But
no--no--for you have spared him!'

Dagworthy mastered himself, though it cost him something, and spoke with
an effort at gentleness.

'What thanks have you to give me, Emily?'

'My life's gratitude--but that will be your least reward.'

'Ay, but how is the gratitude going to be shown?'

Her keen sense found a fear in his manner of speaking.

'You have not said a word to him,' she asked, seeming to forget his

Of what ultimate use was it to lie? And she would not suffer him within
reach of her.

'I couldn't very well help doing that,' he replied, unable to resolve
how it were best to speak, and uttering the first words that came,

'Then he knows you have discovered--'

Her voice failed. Such explanation of her father's absence was a new

'Yes, he knows,' Dagworthy answered, cruelty resuming its fascination.
'I couldn't keep him at the mill, you know, though I let him off his

'You dismissed him?'

'I did. It's not too late to have him back, and something better.'

'Let me go!' she said hoarsely.

He moved from the door; sight of such misery vanquished even him.

When she reached home, her mother was standing with two or three
neighbours in front of the house at the sight of Emily there were
exclamations of relief and welcome.

'My child, where can you have been?' Mrs. Hood cried, following the girl
who passed the garden-gate without pausing.

'Is father come?' was the reply.

'No, not yet. But where have you been? Why, you were coming from the
Heath, Emily, in the night air, and you so ill!'

'I have been to ask Mr. Dagworthy,' Emily said in a tired voice. 'He
knows nothing of him.'

Her strength bore her into the parlour, then she sank upon the couch and
closed her eyes. Mrs. Hood summoned the help of her friends.
Unresisting, with eyes still closed, silent, she was carried upstairs
and laid in her bed. Her mother sat by her. Midnight came, and Hood did
not return. Already Mrs. Hood had begun to suspect something mysterious
in Emily's anxiety; her own fears now became active. She went to the
front door and stood there with impatience, by turns angry and alarmed.
Her husband had never been so late. She returned to the bedroom.

'Emily, are you awake, dear?'

The girl's eyes opened, but she did not speak.

'Do you know any reason why your father should stay away?'

A slight shake of the head was the reply.

The deepest stillness of night was upon the house. As Mrs. Hood seated
herself with murmured bewailing of such wretchedness, there sounded a
heavy crash out on the staircase; it was followed by a peculiar ringing
reverberation. Emily rose with a shriek.

'My love--hush! hush!' said her mother. 'It's only the clock-weight
fallen. How that does shake my nerves! It did it only last week, and
gave me such a start.'

Grasping her mother's hand, the girl lay back, death-pale. The silence
was deeper than before, for not even the clock ticked....

Dagworthy could not sleep. At sunrise he had wearied himself so with
vain efforts to lie still, that he resolved to take a turn across the
Heath, and then rest if he felt able to. He rose and went into the still
morning air.

The Heath was beautiful, seen thus in the purple flush of the dawn. He
had called forth a dog to accompany him, and the animal careered in
great circles over the dewy sward, barking at the birds it started up,
leaping high from the ground, mad with the joy of life. He ran a race
with it to the wall which bounded the top of the quarry. The exercise
did him good, driving from his mind shadows which had clung about it in
the night. Beaching the wall he rested his arms upon it, and looked over
Dunfield to the glory of the rising sun. The smoke of the mill-chimneys,
thickening as fires were coaled for the day's work, caught delicate
reflection from the sky; the lofty spire of the church seemed built of
some beautiful rose-hued stone. The grassy country round about wore a
fresher green than it was wont to show; the very river, so foul in
reality with the refuse of manufactures, gleamed like a pure current.

Dagworthy's eyes fixed themselves on the horizon, and grew wide with the
sense of things half understood.

The dog had left him and was gone round into the quarry. A bark came
from below. At a second bark Dagworthy looked down. The dog was snuffing
at a man who lay between a big piece of quarried stone and a little
grass-bordered pool. Asleep--was he? Yet it was not the attitude in
which men sleep. The dog barked a third time.

He left his position, and followed the circuit which would bring him
down to where the man lay. Whilst still a few yards off, he checked
himself. If the man slept, his body was strangely distorted; one arm
seemed to be beneath him, the other was extended stiffly; the face
looked at the sky. A few steps, and Dagworthy, gazing upon the face,
knew it.

A cold shudder thrilled him, and he drew back. His foot struck against
something; it was a bottle. He picked it up, and read a word in large
print on the white label.

The temptation to look full into the face again was irresistible, though
horror shook him as he approached. The features were hideous, the eyes
starting from their sockets, the lips drawn back over the teeth. He
turned and walked away rapidly, followed by the dog, which roused the
quarry echoes with its barking.

'My God! I never thought of that.'

The words uttered themselves as he speeded on. Only at the garden-gate
he stayed, and then seemed to reflect upon what he should do. The
temptation was to return into the house and leave others to spread the
news; there would be workmen in the quarry in less than an hour. Yet he
did not do this, but hurried past his own door to the house of a doctor
not a hundred yards away. Him he called forth....

About midday a covered burden was brought in a cart to Banbrigg; the
cart stopped before the Hoods' house, and two men, lifting the burden,
carried it through the gate and to the door. Mrs. Hood had already
opened to them, and stood with her face half-hidden. The burden was
taken into the parlour, and placed upon the couch. The outline was that
of a man's form.

In the kitchen were two women, neighbours; as soon as the men had
departed, and the front door was closed, they stole forward, one
sobbing, the other pale with fear. They entered the sitting-room, and
Mrs. Hood went in with them. She was strangely self-controlled. All
three stood looking at the wrapped form, which was that of a man.

'I shan't dare to look at him!' Mrs. Hood whispered. 'The doctor told me
I wasn't to. Oh, my husband!'

With the sublime love of woman, conquering all dread, she dropped to her
knees and laid her head on the pillow of the couch by the side of that
head so closely shrouded.

'Thank God, Emily can't see this!' she groaned.

'Hadn't I better go up to her?' one of the women asked. Both of them
stood at a distance.

'Yes, perhaps you had. But you'll be wanted at home. Stay with me a
minute, then I'll lock this door and go up myself.'

At the sound of a hand on the door all turned with a movement of
surprise and affright. There entered Emily, hurriedly dressed, her hair
loose upon her shoulders. She looked round the room, with
half-conscious, pitiful gaze, then upon her mother, then at the form on
the couch. She pointed to it.

'He has come?'

Her voice was unearthly. The sound gave her mother strength to run to
her, and throw her arms about her, sobbing, terror-stricken.

She suffered herself to be led upstairs, and did not speak.



As a man who took the world as he found it, and on the whole found it
well worth accepting on such terms, Mr. Athel was not likely to allow
his annoyance with Wilfrid to threaten the habitual excellence of his
digestion. His disappointment was real enough. When of a sudden Wilfrid
had announced that he could not accompany the family party to
Switzerland, Mr. Athel was saved from undignified irresolution by a
hearty outburst of temper, which saw him well over the Straits before it
gave way to the natural reaction, under the influence of which he called
himself a blockhead. He had, beyond a doubt, precipitated the marriage,
when postponement was the only thing he really cared about. To abuse
himself was one thing, the privilege which an Englishman is ready enough
to exercise; to have his thoughts uttered to him by his sister with
feminine neatness and candour was quite another matter. Mrs. Rossall had
in vain attempted to stem the flood of wrath rushing Channelwards.
Overcome, she clad herself in meaning silence, until her brother, too
ingenuous man, was compelled to return to the subject himself, and,
towards the end of the journey, rashly gave utterance to half a wish
that he had not left 'that young fool' behind. Mrs. Rossall, herself a
little too impetuous when triumph was no longer doubtful, made such
pointed remarks on the neglect of good advice that the ire which was
cooling shot forth flame in another direction. Brother and sister
arrived at Geneva in something less than perfect amity. Their real
affection for each other was quite capable of bearing not infrequently
the strain of irritability on both sides. A day of mutual causticities
had well prepared the ground for the return of good temper, when the
arrival of Wilfrid, by astonishing both, hastened their complete
reconciliation. Wilfrid was mysterious; for a week he kept his counsel,
and behaved as if nothing unusual had happened. By that time Mr. Athel's
patience had reached its limit; he requested to be told how matters
stood. Wilfrid, determined not to compromise his dignity by speaking
first, but glad enough when his father broached the topic, related the
story of his visit to Dunfield. Possibly he laid needless emphasis on
Emily's unselfish prudence.

'I fail to see the striking meritoriousness of all that,' Mr. Athel
observed, put into a good humour by the result, and consequently
allowing himself a little captiousness. 'It merely means that she
behaved as any woman who respected herself would under the
circumstances. Your own behaviour, on the other hand--well, let it

'I don't see that I could have acted otherwise,' said Wilfrid, too
contented to care about arguing the point.

'You of course saw her parents?'

Wilfrid had given no detailed account of the way in which his interview
with Emily had been obtained. He mentioned it now, his father listening
with the frowning smile of a man who judges such puerilities from the
standpoint of comfortable middle age.

The tone between them returned before long to the friendliness never
previously interrupted. Mr. Athel shortly wrote a letter to Mr.
Baxendale of Dunfield, whom he only knew by name as Beatrice Redwing's
uncle, and begged for private information regarding Emily's family. He
received a courteous reply, the details not of course wholly palatable,
but confirmatory of the modest hopes he had entertained. This reply he
showed to his sister. Mrs. Rossall raised her eyebrows resignedly, and
returned the letter in silence.

'What one expected, I suppose?' said Mr. Athel.

'I suppose so. Mr. Baxendale probably thinks the man has been applying
for a position in your pantry.'

'Well, I was obliged, you know, to hint at my reasons for seeking

'You did? Then Beatrice knows all about it by this time. As well that
way as any other, I suppose.'

'We shall have to take the matter like reasonable beings, Edith,' said
her brother, a trifle annoyed by her failure to countenance him.

'Yes; but you seem anxious that I should rejoice. That would not be very

Something warned Mr. Athel that he had better abstain from rejoinder. He
pursed his lips and walked away.

Wilfrid had not spoken of the subject to his aunt since the disclosure
at The Firs, and Mrs. Rossall was offended by his silence at least as
much as by the prospect of his marrying Miss Hood. Clearly he regarded
the matter as no concern of hers, whereas a woman claims by natural
right a share in the matrimonial projects of all her male relatives with
whom she is on a footing of intimacy. Perhaps the main cause of her
displeasure in the first instance had been the fact that things should
have got to such a pass without her having as much as suspected the
imminence of danger; she regarded Emily as one that had outwitted her.
Dearly would she have liked to be able to meet her brother with the
assertion that she had suspected it all along; the impossibility of
doing so--not from conscientious scruples, but because in that case it
would clearly have been her duty to speak--exasperated her
disappointment at the frustration of the match she desired. Now that she
was getting used to the state of things, Wilfrid's behaviour to her
became the chief ground of her offence. It seemed to her that at least
he owed some kind of apology for the distress he had naturally caused
her; in truth she would have liked him to undertake the task of winning
her over to his side. Between her and her nephew there had never existed
a warm confidence, and Wilfrid's present attitude was too much a
confirmation of the feeling she had experienced now and then, that his
affection was qualified with just a little contempt. She was not, she
knew, a strong-minded woman, and on that very account cared more for the
special dominion of her sex. Since Wilfrid had ceased to be a
hobbledehoy, it would have become him to put a little more of the
courtier into his manner towards her. For are there not countries in
which their degree of kin is no bar to matrimony? Mrs. Rossall was of
the women who like the flavour of respectful worship in all men who are
neither father, brother, nor son. Wilfrid had fallen short of this, and
hence the affectation with which she had persisted in regarding him as a
schoolboy. His latest exploits were vastly more interesting to her than
anything he had done in academic spheres, and she suffered a sense of
exclusion in seeing him so determined to disregard her opinion.

She persuaded him to row her cut one evening on a lake by which they
were spending a few days. Wilfrid, suspecting that she aimed at a
_tete-a-tete_, proposed that his father should accompany them. Mrs.
Rossall overruled the suggestion.

'How wonderfully you are picking up,' she said, after watching him pull
for a few minutes. 'Do you know, Wilf, your tendency is to stoutness; in
a few years you will be portly, if you live too sedentary a life.'

He looked annoyed, and by so doing gratified her. She proceeded.

'What do you think I overheard one of our spectacled friends say this
morning--"_Sehen Sie mal_,"--you were walking at a little
distance--"_da haben Sie das Muster des englischen Aristokraten_. _O,
der gute, schlichte Junge_!"'

Wilfrid had been working up his German. He stopped rowing, red with

'That is a malicious invention,' he declared.

'Nothing of the kind! The truth of the remark struck me.'

'I am obliged to you.'

'But, my dear boy, what is there to be offended at? The man envied you
with all his heart; and it is delightful to see you begin to look so
smooth about the cheeks.'

'I am neither an aristocrat, nor _schlicht_!'

'An aristocrat to the core. I never knew any one so sensitive on points
of personal dignity, so intolerant of difference of opinion in others,
so narrowly self-willed! Did you imagine yourself to have the air of a
hero of romance, of the intense school?'

Wilfrid looked into her eyes and laughed.

'That is your way of saying that you think my recent behaviour
incongruous. You wish to impress upon me how absurd I look from the

'It is my way of saying that I am sorry for you.'

He laughed again.

'Then the English aristocrat is an object of your pity?'

'Certainly; when he gets into a false position.'

'Ah!--well, suppose we talk of something else. Look at the moon rising
over that shoulder of the hill.'

'That, by way of proving that you are romantic. No, we won't talk of
something else. What news have you from England?'

'None,' he replied, regarding the gleaming drops that fell from his
suspended oar.

'And you are troubled that the post brings you nothing?'

'How do you know?'

'Your emotions are on the surface.'

He made no reply.

'Ah!' Mrs. Rossall sighed, 'what a pity you are so independent. I often
think a man's majority ought to come ten years later than it does. Most
of you are mere boys till thirty at least, and you go and do things that
you repent all the rest of your lives. Dare you promise to come to me in
ten years and tell me with complete frankness what you think of--a
certain step?'

He smiled scornfully.

'Certainly; let us register the undertaking.'

After pausing a moment, he continued with an outburst of vehemence--a
characteristic of Wilfrid's speech.

'You illustrate a thought I have often had about women. The majority of
you, at all events as you get into the world, have no kind of faith in
anything but sordid motives. You are cynical beyond anything men can
pretend to; you scoff at every suggestion of idealism. I suppose it is
that which makes us feel the conversation of most women of refinement so
intolerably full of hypocrisies. Having cast away all faith, you cannot
dispense with the show of it; the traditions of your sex must be
supported. You laugh in your sleeves at the very things which are
supposed to constitute your claims to worship; you are worldly to the
core. Men are very Quixotes compared with you; even if they put on
cynicism for show, they are ashamed of it within themselves. With you,
fine feeling is the affectation. I have felt it again and again. Explain
it now; defend yourself, if you can. Show me that I am wrong, and I will
thank you heartily.'

'My word, what an arraignment!' cried Mrs. Rossall, between amusement at
his boldness and another feeling which warmed her cheeks a little. 'But
let us pass from broad accusation to particulars. I illustrate all these
shocking things--poor me! How do I illustrate them?'

'In the whole of your attitude towards myself of late. You pooh-pooh my
feelings, you refuse to regard me as anything but a donkey, you prophesy
that in a year or two I shall repent having made a disinterested
marriage. I observe the difference between your point of view and my
father's. The worst of it is you are sincere: the circumstances of the
case do not call upon you for an expression of graceful sentiments, and
you are not ashamed to show me how meanly you regard all that is highest
and purest in life.'

'Shall I explain it? Women are very quick to get at realities, to see
below the surface in conduct and profession. We become, you say, worldly
as soon as we get into the world. Precisely because we have to be so
wide awake to protect ourselves. We instinctively know the difference
between the ring of false and true, and as we hear the false so much the
oftener Your charge against us of want of real feeling is the result of
your ignorance of women; you don't see below the surface.'

'Well now, apply all this to the present instance. What has your insight
discerned in my proposed marriage to cause you to regard it as a piece
of folly?'

'Simply this. You ally yourself with some one from a class beneath your
own. Such marriages very, very seldom prove anything but miserable, and
_always_ bring a great many troubles. You will say that Miss Hood is
raised by education above the class in which she was born; but no doubt
she has relatives, and they can't be entirely got rid of. However, that
isn't the point I lay most stress on.'


'I am quite sure you will make her miserable. You are marrying too
young. Your character is not fixed. In a few years, before that, you
will want to get rid of her.'

'Well, that is at all events intelligible. And your grounds for the

'You are inconstant, and you are ambitious. You might marry a woman from
a class higher than your own, and when it is too late you will
understand what you have lost.'

'Worldly advantages, precisely.'

'And how if your keen appreciation of worldly advantages results in your
wife's unhappiness?'

'I deny the keen appreciation, in your sense.'

'Of course you do. Come to me in ten years and tell me your opinion of
women's ways of thinking.'

This was the significant part of their conversation. Wilfrid came to
land confirmed in his views; Mrs. Rossall, with the satisfaction of
having prophesied uncomfortable things.

She had a letter on the following morning on which she recognised
Beatrice Redwing's bend. To her surprise, the stamp was of Dunfield. It
proved that Beatrice was on a visit to the Baxendales. Her mother, prior
to going to the Isle of Wight, had decided to accept an invitation to a
house in the midland counties which Beatrice did not greatly care to
visit; so the latter had used the opportunity to respond to a summons
from her friends in the north, whom she had not seen for four years.
Beatrice replied to a letter from Mrs. Rossall which had been forwarded
to her.

After breakfast, Mrs. Rossall took her brother aside, and pointed out to
him a paragraph in Beatrice's letter. It ran thus:--

'A very shocking thing has happened, which I suppose I may mention, as
you will necessarily hear of it soon. Miss Hood's father has committed
suicide, poisoned himself; he was found dead on a common just outside
the town. Nobody seems to know any reason, unless it was trouble of a
pecuniary kind. Miss Hood is seriously ill. The Baxendales send daily to
make inquiries, and I am afraid the latest news is anything but hopeful.
She was to have dined with us here the day after her father's death.'

There was no further comment; the writer went on to speak of certain
peculiarities in the mode of conducting service at St. Luke's church.

Mr. Athel read, and, in his manner, whistled low. His sister looked

'I suppose we shall have to tell him,' said the former. 'Probably he has
no means of hearing.'

'I suppose we must. He has been anxious at not receiving letters he

'How do you know?'

'I had a talk with him last night.'

'Ah, so I thought. The deuce take it! Of course he'll pack off on the
moment. What on earth can have induced the man to poison himself?'

Such a proceeding was so at variance with Mr. Athel's views of life that
it made him seriously uncomfortable. It suggested criminality, or at
least lunacy, both such very unpleasant things to be even remotely
connected with. Poverty he could pardon, but suicide was really
disreputable. From the philosophic resignation to which he had attained,
he fell back into petulance, always easier to him than grave protest.

'The deuce take it!' he repeated.

Mrs. Rossall pointed to the words reporting Emily's condition at the
time of writing.

'That was more than two days ago,' she said meaningly.

'H'm!' went her brother.

'Will you tell him?'

'I suppose I must. Yes, it is hardly allowable even to postpone it.
Where is he?'

Wilfrid was found in the hotel garden.

'Your aunt has had a letter from Beatrice,' Mr. Athel began, with the
awkwardness of a comfortable Englishman called upon to break bad news.
'She is staying in Dunfield.'


'There's something in the letter you ought to know.'

Wilfrid looked anxiously.

'It appears that Miss Hood's father has--don't let it be a shock to
you--has just died, and died, in fact, by his own hands.'

'Has killed himself?' Wilfrid exclaimed, turning pale.

'Yes, I am sorry to say that is the report. Miss Hood is naturally
suffering from--from the shocking occurrence.'

'She is ill?' Wilfrid asked, when he had examined his father's face for
a moment.

'Yes, I am afraid she is. Beatrice gives no details.'

'You are not keeping anything from me?'

'Indeed, nothing. The words are that she is ill, and, it is feared,

'I must go at once.'

It was said with quiet decision. Wilfrid consulted his watch, and walked
rapidly to the hotel. He had to wait a couple of hours, however, before
he could start on his journey, and he spent the time by himself. His
father felt he could be of no use, and Mrs. Rossall found a difficulty
in approaching her nephew under such circumstances.

'You will telegraph?' Mr. Athel said, at the station, by way of
expressing himself sympathetically.

The train moved away; and the long, miserable hours of travelling had to
be lived through. Wilfrid's thoughts were all the more anxious from his
ignorance of the dead man's position and history. Even yet Emily had
said very little of her parents in writing to him; he imagined all
manner of wretched things to connect her silence with this catastrophe.
His fears on her own account were not excessive; the state of vigorous
health into which he had grown during late weeks perhaps helped him to
avoid thoughts of a desperate kind. It was bad enough that she lay ill,
and from such a cause; he feared nothing worse than illness. But his
uneasiness increased as time went on; the travelling seemed intolerably
tardy. He had to decide what his course would be on reaching Dunfield,
and decision was not easy. To go straight to the house might result in
painful embarrassments; it would at all events be better first to make
inquiries elsewhere. Could he have recourse to Beatrice? At first the
suggestion did not recommend itself, but nothing better came into his
mind, and, as his impatience grew, the obstacles seemed so trifling that
he overlooked them. He remembered that the address of the Baxendales was
unknown to him; but it could easily be discovered. Yes, he would go
straight to Beatrice.

Reaching London at ten o'clock in the morning, he drove directly to
King's Cross, and pursued his journey northwards. Though worn with
fatigue, excitement would not allow him more than a snatch of sleep now
and then. When at length he stepped out at Dunfield, he was in sorry
plight. He went to an hotel, refreshed himself as well as he could, and
made inquiry about the Baxendales' address. At four o'clock he presented
himself at the house, and sent in a card to Beatrice.

The Baxendales lived in St. Luke's, which we already know as the
fashionable quarter of Dunfield. Their house stood by itself, with high
walls about it, enclosing a garden; at the door were stone pillars, the
lower half painted a dull red. It seemed the abode of solid people, not
troubled with scruples of taste. It was with surprise that Wilfrid found
himself in a room abundantly supplied with books and furnished in
library fashion. His state of mind notwithstanding, he glanced along a
few shelves, discovering yet more unexpected things, to wit,
philosophical works. Unfortunately the corners of the room showed busts
of certain modern English statesmen: but one looks for weaknesses

Beatrice entered, rustling in a light, shimmery dress. Her face
expressed embarrassment rather than surprise; after the first exchange
of glances, she avoided his eager look. Her hand had lain but coldly in
his. Wilfrid, face to face with her, found more difficulty in speaking
than he had anticipated.

'I have come directly from Switzerland,' he began. 'You mentioned in a
letter to my aunt that--'

His hesitation of a moment was relieved by Beatrice.

'You mean Miss Hood's illness,' she said, looking down at her hands,
which were lightly clasped on her lap.

'Yes. I wish for news. I thought it likely you might know--'

Probably it was the effect of his weariness; he could not speak in his
usual straightforward way; hesitancy, to his own annoyance, made gaps
and pauses in his sentences.

'We heard this morning,' Beatrice said, looking past his face to the
window, 'that she is better. The danger seems to be over.'

'There has been danger?'

'The day before yesterday she was given up.'

'So ill as that.' Wilfrid spoke half to himself, and indeed it cost him
an effort to make his voice louder. He began, 'Can you tell me--' and
again paused.

'Have you heard nothing from any other quarter?' Beatrice asked, after a
silence of almost a minute.

He looked at her, wondering what she knew of his relations to Emily. It
was clear that his interest occasioned her no surprise.

'I came away immediately on hearing what your letter contained. There is
no one else with whom I could communicate. I hesitated to go to the
house, not knowing--Will you tell me what you know of this horrible

Beatrice stroked one hand with the other, and seemed to constrain
herself to lock up and to speak.

'I myself know nothing but the fact of Mr. Hood's death. It took place
some ten days ago, on Monday of last week. I arrived here on the

'Of course there was an inquest--with what results?'

'None, beyond the verdict of suicide. No definite cause could be
discovered. It is said that he suffered from very narrow means. His body
was found by Mr. Dagworthy.'

'Who is Mr. Dagworthy?'

'I thought you probably knew,' returned Beatrice, glancing quickly at
him. 'He was employed by Mr. Dagworthy as clerk in a manufactory. He had
just left for his summer holiday.'

'What evidence did his employer give?'

'He only stated that Mr. Hood had been perfectly regular and
satisfactory at his work.'

'Then in truth it is a mystery?'

'Mr. Baxendale thinks that there had been a long struggle with poverty,
quite enough to account for the end.'

Wilfrid sat in gloomy silence. He was picturing what Emily must have
endured, and reproaching himself for not having claimed a right to her
entire confidence, when it was in his power to make that hard path
smooth, and to avert this fearful misery. Looking up at length, he met
the girl's eyes.

'I need not explain myself to you, Beatrice,' he said, finding at last a
natural tone, and calling her by her Christian name because he had much
need of friendly sympathy. 'You appear to know why I have come.'

She answered rather hurriedly.

'I should not have known but for something that Mrs. Baxendale told me.
Mr. Athel wrote a short time ago to ask for information about
them--about the Hoods.'

'He wrote?'

Wilfrid heard it with a little surprise, but without concern.

'Do you know whether Mrs. Hood is alone--with her?' he went on to ask.

'I believe so.'

'And she is better?' He added quickly, 'Has she proper attendance? Have
any friends been of aid?'

'The Baxendales have shown much kindness. My aunt saw her yesterday.'

'Will it be long before she is able to leave her room, do you know?'

'I am not able to say. Mrs. Baxendale hopes you will go upstairs and see
her; she can tell you more. Will you go?'

'But is she alone? I can't talk with people.'

'Yes, she is alone, quite.'

He rose. The girl's eyes fixed themselves on him again, and she said:

'You look dreadfully tired.'

'I have not slept, I think, since I left Thun.'

'You left them all well?' Beatrice asked, with a change in her voice,
from anxious interest which would have veiled itself, to the tone of one
discharging a formal politeness.

Wilfrid replied with a brief affirmative, and they ascended the stairs
together to a large and rather dim drawing-room, with a scent of earth
and vegetation arising from the great number of growing plants arranged
about it. Beatrice presented her friend to Mrs. Baxendale, and at once

The lady with whom Wilfrid found himself talking was tall and finely
made, not very graceful in her bearing, and with a large face, the
singular kindness of which speedily overcame the first sense of
dissatisfaction at its plainness. She wore a little cap of lace, and
from her matronly costume breathed a pleasant freshness, akin to the
activity of her flame. Having taken the young man's hand at greeting,
she held it in both her own, and with large, grey eyes examined his face
shrewdly. Yet neither the action nor the gaze was embarrassing to
Wilfrid he felt, on the contrary, something wonderfully soothing in the
pressure of the warm, firm hands, and in her look an invitation to the
repose of confidence which was new in his experience of women--an
experience not extensive, by the bye, though his characteristic
generalisations seemed to claim the opposite. He submitted from the
first moment to an influence maternal in its spirit, an influence which
his life had lacked, and which can perhaps only be fully appreciated
either in mature reflection upon a past made sacred by death, or on a
meeting such as this, when the heart is open to the helpfulness of
disinterested sympathy. Mrs. Baxendale's countenance was grave enough to
suit the sad thoughts with which she sought to commune, yet showed an
under-smile, suggesting the consolation held in store by one much at
home in the world's sorrows. As she smiled, each of her cheeks dimpled
softly, and Wilfrid could not help noticing the marvellous purity of her
complexion, as well as the excellent white teeth just visible between
her lips.

'So you have come all the way from Switzerland,' she said, leading him
to a chair, and seating herself by him. Her voice had a touch of
masculine quality, even as her shape and features, but it chained
attention, and impressed as the utterance of a large and strong nature.
'You are tired, too, with travel; I can see that. When did you reach

'Half an hour ago.'

'And you came here at once. Beatrice and I were on the point of going to
Hebsworth this afternoon; I rejoice that we did not. I'm continually
afraid lest she should find the house dull. My husband and myself are
alone. My eldest girl was married three months ago, my younger one is
just gone to Germany, and my son is spending half a year in the United
States; the mother finds herself a little forsaken. It was really more
than kind of Beatrice to come and bury herself with me for a week or

She passed by tactful transition to the matter in hand.

'Wasn't it a strange link that she should meet Miss Hood at your house!
She has been so saddened. I never yet knew any one who could talk with
Emily without feeling deep interest in her. My daughter Louisa, I am
convinced, will never forget what she owes to her teacher She and my
youngest child used to be Miss Hood's pupils--perhaps you have heard?
My own Emily--she is dead--was passionately fond of her namesake; she
talked of her among the last words she ever spoke, poor little mite.'

'Miss Redwing tells me you saw her yesterday,' Wilfrid said.

'Yes, for the first time.'

'Was she conscious?'

'Quite. But I was afraid to talk to her more than a minute or two; even
that excited her too much. I fear you must not let her know yet of your

'I am glad I knew nothing of this till the worst was over. From the way
in which she spoke of her father I should have feared horrible things.
Did you know him with any intimacy?'

'Only slightly, I am sorry to say. The poor man seems to have had a very
hard life; it is clear to me that sheer difficulty in making ends meet
drove him out of his senses. Are you a student of political economy?'
she asked suddenly, looking into Wilfrid's face with a peculiar smile.

'I am not. Why do you ask?'

'It is the one subject on which my husband and I hold no truce. Mr.
Baxendale makes it one of his pet studies, whilst I should like to make
a bonfire of every volume containing such cruel nonsense. You must know,
Mr. Athel, that I have an evil reputation in Dunfield; my views are held
dangerous; they call me a socialist. Mr. Baxendale, when particularly
angry, offers to hire the hall in the Corn Exchange, that I may say my
say and henceforth spare him at home. Now think of this poor man. He had
a clerkship in a mill, and received a salary of disgraceful smallness;
he never knew what it was to be free of anxiety. The laws of political
economy will have it so, says my husband; if Mr. Hood refused, there
were fifty other men ready to take the place. He couldn't have lived at
all, it seems, but that he owned a house in another town, which brought
him a few pounds a year. I can't talk of such things with patience.
Here's my husband offering himself as a Liberal candidate for Dunfield
at the election coming on. I say to him: What are you going to do if you
get into Parliament? Are you going to talk political economy, and make
believe that everything is right, when it's as wrong as can be? If so, I
say, you'd better save your money for other purposes, and stay where you
are. He tells me my views are impracticable; then, I say, so much the
worse for the world, and so much the more shame for every rich man who
finds excuses for such a state of things. It is dreadful to think of
what those poor people must have gone through. They were so perfectly
quiet under it that no one gave a thought to their position. When Emily
used to come here day after day, I've often suspected she didn't have
enough to eat, yet it was impossible for me to ask questions, it would
have been called prying into things that didn't concern me.'

'She has told me for how much kindness she is indebted to you,' Wilfrid
said, with gratitude.

'Pooh! What could I do? Oh, don't we live absurdly artificial lives? Now
why should a family who, through no fault of their own, are in the most
wretched straits, shut themselves up and hide it like a disgrace? Don't
you think we hold a great many very nonsensical ideas about self-respect
and independence and so on? If I were in want, I know two or three
people to whom I should forthwith go and ask for succour; if they
thought the worse of me for it, I should tell them they ought to be
ashamed of themselves. We act, indeed, as if we ourselves had made the
world and were bound to pretend it an admirable piece of work, without a
screw loose anywhere. I always say the world's about as bad a place as
one could well imagine, at all events for most people who live in it,
and that it's our plain duty to help each other without grimacings. The
death of this poor man has distressed me more than I can tell you; it
does seem such a monstrously cruel thing. There's his employer, a man
called Dagworthy, who never knew what it was to be without
luxuries,--I'm not in the habit of listening to scandal, but I believe
there's a great deal of truth in certain stories told about his
selfishness and want of feeling. I consider Mr. Dagworthy this poor
man's murderer; it was his bounden duty to see that a man in his
employment was paid enough to live upon,--and Mr. Hood was not. Imagine
what suffering must have brought about such an end as this. A sad
case,--say people. I call it a case of crime that enjoys impunity.'

Wilfrid listened gloomily. The broad question stirred him to no strong
feeling, but the more he heard the more passionate was his longing to
bear Emily away from the scenes of such a past. With what devotion would
he mould his life to the one task of healing her memory! Yet he knew it
must be very long before her heart could recover from the all but deadly
wound it had received. A feeling which one may not call jealousy,--that
were too inhuman,--but still one of the million forms which jealousy
assumes to torture us, drove him to ask himself what the effect of such
a crisis in her life might be on Emily's love for him. There would
always remain in her inmost soul one profound sadness in which he had no
part, and which by its existence would impugn the supremacy of that bond
which united him and her.

'How does Mrs. Hood bear it?' he asked, when he found Mrs. Baxendale
again examining his face.

'I think Emily's illness has been her great help,--poor creatures that
we are, needing one great grief to balance another. But she seems in a
very weak state; I didn't like her look yesterday.'

'Will you describe her to me?' asked Wilfrid.

'She is not the kind of mother you would give to Emily. I'm afraid her
miserable life has told upon her greatly, both in mind and body.'

'Emily never spoke of her, though so often of her father.'

'That is what I should have expected. Still, you must not think her
quite unworthy. She speaks as an educated woman, and is certainly very

'What of her present position? She must be in extreme difficulties.'

'No, she wants nothing for the present. Friends have been very anxious
to help her. That's what I say,--only let your misery drive you out of
the world, and people will find out all at once how very easily they
might have saved you. A hundredth part of the interest that has been
shown in the family since poor Mr. Hood's death would have found endless
ways of making his life very different. All sorts of people have
suddenly discovered that he really was a very deserving man, and that
something ought long since to have been done for him. I don't know what
has been told you of his history. He was once in independent business; I
don't know exactly what. It was only utter failure that drove him to the
miserable clerkship. How admirable it was of a man in such circumstances
to have his daughter so well educated!'

Wilfrid smiled.

'Emily,' he said with gentle fervour, 'would have found her own way.'

'Ah, don't depreciate his care!' Mrs. Baxendale urged. 'You'll find out
by degrees what a great deal of heathen doubt there is in me; among
other things, I am impressed by the power of circumstances. Emily would
always have been a remarkable girl, no doubt; but, without her
education, you and I should not have been talking about her like this,
even if we had known her. We can't dispense with these aids; that's
where I feel the cruelty of depriving people of chances. Men and women
go to their graves in wretchedness who might have done noble things with
an extra pound a week to live upon. It does not sound lofty doctrine,
does it? But I have vast faith in the extra pound a week. Emily had the
advantage of it, however it was managed. I don't like to think of her as
she might have been without it. What was it Beatrice called me
yesterday? A materialist; yes, a materialist. It was a reproach, though
she said it in the kindest way; I took it as a compliment. We can't get
out of the world of material; how long will the mind support itself on
an insufficient supply of dry bread?'

Wilfrid's intellectual sympathies were being aroused by his new friend's
original way of talking. He began to feel a keen satisfaction at having
her near him in these troubles.

'Do you think,' he asked, returning to his immediate needs, 'that I
might write to her?'

'Not yet; you mustn't think of it yet.'

'Does Mrs. Hood--' he hesitated. 'Do you think Emily has told her
mother--has spoken to her of me?'

Mrs. Baxendale looked surprised. 'I can't say; I took it for granted.'

'I wonder why she was reluctant to do so?' Wilfrid said, already
speaking with complete freedom. 'Her father cannot have known; it would
have relieved his worst anxieties; he would surely never have been
driven to such things.'

'No; I think not. The poor girl will feel that, I fear. I suppose one
can get a glimpse of her reasons for keeping silence?' She gave Wilfrid
a friendly glance as she spoke.

'How glad I am,' he exclaimed, 'to be able to talk to you! I should have
been in the utmost difficulties. Think of my position if I had been
without a friend in the town. Then, indeed, but for Miss Redwing I
should have heard nothing even yet.'

'She wrote to you?'

'Not to me; she mentioned the matter in a letter to my aunt, Mrs.

'Did Beatrice--you let me question?--did she know?'

'Only, she says, in consequence of a letter my father addressed to Mr.

The lady smiled again.

'I ask because Beatrice is now and then a little mysterious to me. I
spoke to her of that letter in the full belief that she must have
knowledge of the circumstances. She denied it, yet, I thought, as if it
were a matter of conscience to do so.'

'I think it more than likely that my aunt had written to her on the
subject. And yet--no; she would not have denied it to you. That would
be unlike her.'

'Yes, I think it would.'

Mrs. Baxendale mused. Before she spoke again a servant entered the room
with tea.

'You will be glad of a cup, I am sure,' said the lady. 'And now, what do
you propose to do? Shall you return to London?'

'Oh, no! I shall stay in Dunfield till I am able to see her.'

'Very well. In that case you will not refuse our hospitality. The longer
you stay the better pleased I shall be.'

She would hear of no difficulties.

'I wouldn't ask you,' she said, 'if I were not able to promise you any
degree of privacy you like. A sitting-room is at your disposal--begging
to be occupied since my boy Charlie went away. My husband is over head
and ears in electioneering business, foolish man, and I can't tell you
how I feel the need of someone to talk to on other subjects than the
manufacture of votes. Where is your luggage?'

Wilfrid named the hotel.

'It shall be fetched. And now I'll ask my niece to come and pour out tea
for us.'

With the entrance of Beatrice the conversation naturally took a
different turn. She heard with becoming interest of Wilfrid's
establishment as a guest, and, after a little talk of Mrs. Rossall and
the twins, led to the subject of certain 'revivalist' meetings then
being held in Dunfield, an occasion of welcome excitement to such of the
inhabitants as could not absorb themselves in politics. Mrs. Baxendale
seemed to regard the religious movement dispassionately, and related a
story she had from her husband of a certain prominent townsman driven to
such a pass by his wife's perpetual absence from home on revivalist
expeditions, that he at length fairly turned the key on her in her
bedroom, and through the keyhole bade her stay there till she had
remembered her domestic duties. He was that night publicly prayed for at
a great meeting in the Corn Exchange as one who, not content with losing
his own soul, did his best to hold back others from the way of grace.

Beatrice affected to pay no heed to this anecdote.

'What is your side in politics?' she asked Wilfrid. 'Here we are all
either Blues or Yellows.'

'What do they represent?' Wilfrid inquired.

'Oh, you shouldn't ask that,' said Mrs. Baxendale. 'Yellow is yellow,
and Blue, blue; nothing else in the world. I think it an excellent idea
to use colours. Liberal and Conservative suggest ideas; names,
therefore, quite out of place in Dunfield politics--or any other
politics, I dare say, if the truth were known. My husband is a Yellow.
It pleases him to call himself a Liberal, or else a Radical. He may have
been a few months ago; now he's a mere Yellow. I tell him he's in
serious danger of depriving himself of two joys; in another month a
cloudless sky and the open sea will he detestable to him.'

'But what are you, Mr. Athel?' Beatrice asked. 'A Liberal or a
Conservative? I should really find it hard to guess.'

'In a Yellow house,' he replied, 'I am certainly Yellow.'

'Beatrice is far from being so complaisant,' said Mrs. Baxendale. 'She
detests our advanced views.'

'Rather, I know nothing of them,' the girl replied. The quiet air with
which she expressed her indifference evinced a measure of spiritual
pride rather in excess of that she was wont to show. Indeed, her manner
throughout the conversation was a little distant to both her companions.
If she jested with Wilfrid it was with the idleness of one condescending
to subjects below the plane of her interests. To her aunt she was rather
courteous than affectionate.

Whilst they still sat over tea, Mr. Baxendale came in. Like his wife, he
was of liberal proportions, and he had a face full of practical
sagacity; if anything, he looked too wide awake, a fault of shrewd men,
constitutionally active, whose imagination plays little part in their
lives. He wore an open frock-coat, with much expanse of shirt-front. The
fore part of his head was bald, and the hair on each side was brushed
forward over his ears in a manner which gave him a singular appearance.
His bearing was lacking in self-possession; each of his remarks was
followed by a short laugh, deprecatory, apologetic. It seemed impossible
to him to remain in a state of bodily repose, even with a cup of tea in
his hand he paced the room. Constantly he consulted his watch--not that
he had any special concern with the hour, but from a mere habit of

He welcomed the visitor with warmth, at the same time obviously
suppressing a smile of other than merely polite significance: then he
began at once to speak of electioneering matters, and did so, pacing the
carpet, for the next half hour. Wilfrid listened with such show of
interest as he could command; his thoughts were elsewhere, and weariness
was beginning to oppress him.

Shortly after dinner fatigue passed the point at which it could be
struggled against. Long waking, the harassment of fears at length
consoled, and the exhaustion consequent upon his journey, besieged him
with invincible drowsiness. Mrs. Baxendale, observing it, begged him to
discard ceremony and go to rest. Gladly he suffered himself to be led to
his room; once there, he could not note the objects about him; the very
effort of taking off his clothes was almost beyond his strength. Sleep
was binding his brows with oblivion, and relaxing every joint. His
dearest concerns were nothing to him; with a wave of the hand he would
have resigned an eternity of love; cry to him blood-chilling horrors,
and his eyelids would make no sign. The feather-softness moulded itself
to his limbs; the pillows pressed a yielding coolness to his cheek; his
senses failed amid faint fresh odours. Blessed state! How enviable above
all waking joys the impotence which makes us lords of darkness, the
silence which suffers not to reach our ears so much as an echo of the
farce of life.



A servant went to Banbrigg each morning for tidings; Emily, so the
report said, moved steadily towards recovery. On the second day after
Wilfrid's arrival Mrs. Baxendale took him with her in the brougham, and
let him wait for her whilst she made a call upon Mrs. Hood; Wilfrid saw
an upper window of which the blind was down against the sun, and would
gladly have lingered within sight of it. Beatrice had excused herself
from accompanying the two.

'I believe,' Mrs. Baxendale said on the way, 'she has gone to some
special service at St. Luke's.' She was mistaken, though Beatrice had in
truth been diligent at such services of late. 'Now there,' she added,
'is a kind of infatuation I find it difficult even to understand. How
can a girl of her sense and education waste her time in that way? Don't
think I have no religious belief, Mr. Athel; I'm not strong-minded
enough for that. But this deliberate working of oneself into a state of
nervous excitement seems to me, to speak plainly, indecent. Dr. Wardle,
with whom I chat rather wickedly now and then, tells me the revivals are
quite a windfall, subsequently, to him and his brethren. And, do you
know, I begin to see bad results even in my niece. I certainly wouldn't
have had her down just at this time if I had suspected her leanings that
way. Didn't you notice how absent she was last night, and again at
breakfast this morning? All revival, I assure you.'

'It's the want of a serious interest in life,' remarked Wilfrid,
remembering, with a smile, a certain conversation between Beatrice and

'Then it's so inconsistent,' continued the lady, 'for--you won't abuse
my confidence--a more worldly girl I never knew. In her heart I am
convinced she thinks nothing so important as the doings of fashionable
society. She asked me, the first day she was here, how I lived
without--what was it? I quite forget, but some paper or other which is
full of what they call fashionable intelligence. "My dear," I said, "I
know none of those people, and care not one grain of salt about their
flutterings hither and thither, their marryings and givings ill
marriage, their dresses and their--never mind what." And what do you
think she answered? "But you will care when my name begins to be
mentioned." And she went off with--just so much--toss of the head; you
know how Beatrice does it. Well, I suppose she really does to me an
honour by coming down to my poor dull house; no doubt she's very
brilliant in the world I know nothing about. I suppose you have seen her
at her best? She won't waste her graces upon me, wise girl; only
the--you know the movement--when I've shown my ignorance now and then.
Did you ever dance with her?'

'Oh, yes; frequently.'

'I should like to see her in a ball-room. Certainly there are few girls
more handsome; I suppose that is admitted?'

'Certainly; she queens it everywhere.'

'And her singing is lovely! Do you know a thought I often have? When I
hear her singing it seems to me as if she were not quite the same person
as at other times; she affects me, I can't quite tell you how; it's a
sort of disenchantment to talk to her immediately afterwards.'

Wilfrid liked Mrs. Baxendale the more, the more he talked with her; in a
day or two the confidence between them was as complete as if their
acquaintance had been life-long. With her husband, too, he came to be on
an excellent footing. Mr. Baxendale got him into the library when the
ladies retired for the night, and expatiated for hours on the details of
his electoral campaign. At first Wilfrid found the subject tedious, but
the energy and bright intelligence of the man ended by stirring his
interest in a remarkable way. It was new to Wilfrid to be in converse
with such a strenuously practical mind; the element of ambition in him,
of less noble ambition which had had its share in urging him to academic
triumphs, was moved by sympathetic touches; he came to understand the
enthusiasm which possessed the Liberal candidate, began to be concerned
for his success, to feel the stirrings of party spirit. He aided
Baxendale in drawing up certain addresses for circulation, and learned
the difference between literary elegance and the tact which gets at the
ear of the multitude. A vulgar man could not have moved him in this way,
and Baxendale was in truth anything but vulgar. Through his life he had
been, on a small scale, a ruler of men, and had ruled with conspicuous
success, yet he had preserved a native sincerity and wrought under the
guidance of an ideal. Like all men who are worth anything, either in
public or private, he possessed a keen sense of humour, and was too
awake to the ludicrous aspects of charlatanry to fall into the pits it
offered on every band. His misfortune was the difficulty with which he
uttered himself; even when he got over his nervousness, words came to
him only in a rough-and-tumble fashion; he sputtered and fumed and beat
his forehead for phrases, then ended with a hearty laugh at his own
inarticulateness, Something like this was his talk in the library of

'There's a man called Rapley, an old-clothes dealer--fellow I can't get
hold of. He's hanging midway--what do you call it?--trimming, with an
eye to the best bargain. Invaluable, if only I could get him, but a
scoundrel. Wants pay, you know; do anything for pay; win the election
for me without a doubt, if only I pay him; every blackguard in Dunfield
hand and glove with him. Now pay I won't, yet I'm bound to get that man.
Talked to him yesterday for two hours and thirty-five minutes by the
parish church clock, just over his shop--I mean the clock is. The fellow
hasn't a conviction, yet he can talk you blue; if I had his powers of
speech--there it is I fail, you see. I have to address a meeting
tomorrow; Rapley 'll be up at me, and turn me inside out. He'd do as
much for the other man, if only I'd pay him. That isn't my idea; I'm
going to win the election clean-handed; satisfaction in looking back on
an honest piece of work; what? I'll have another talk with him
to-morrow. Now look at this map of the town; I've coloured it with much
care. There you see the stronghold of the Blues. I'm working that
district street by street--a sort of moral invasion. No humbug; I set my
face against humbug. If a man's a rogue, or a sot, or a dirty rascal, I
won't shake hands with him and pretend--you know--respect, friendship,
how are your wife and children, so on. He's a vote, and I've only to
deal with him as a vote. Can he see that two and two make four? Good;
I'm at him by that side. There are my principles; what have you to urge
against them? He urges damned absurdities. Good; I _prove_ to him that
they are damned absurdities.'

At times Wilfrid managed to lead the talk to other subjects, such as
were suggested by the books around the room. Baxendale had read not a
little, and entirely in the spheres of fact and speculation. Political
economy and all that appertained to it was his speciality, but he was
remarkably strong in metaphysics. Wilfrid had flattered himself that he
was tolerably familiar with the highways of philosophy, but Baxendale
made him feel his ignorance. The man had, for instance, read Kant with
extraordinary thoroughness, and discussed him precisely as he did his
electioneering difficulties; the problems of consciousness he attacked
with hard-headed, methodical patience, with intelligence, moreover,
which was seldom at fault. Everything that bore the appearance of a knot
to be unravelled had for him an immense attraction. In mere mental
calculation his power was amazing. He took Wilfrid over his manufactory
one day, and explained to him certain complicated pieces of machinery;
the description was not so lucid as it might have been, owing to lack of
words, but it manifested the completest understanding of things which to
his companion were as hard as the riddle of the universe. His modesty,
withal, was excessive; to Wilfrid's humane culture he deferred at all
times; for all the learning which lay outside his own sphere he had
boundless reverence. Wilfrid's gain by him was not only of a pleasant
personal acquaintance; the intercourse extended his views, and in
particular gave direction to much that had hitherto been vague
potentiality in his character. In more than one sense this visit to
Dunfield was to prove a turning point in his life.

Beatrice, in the meantime, held herself apart; Wilfrid had never before
felt himself so little at ease in her presence. It was as though the
short time which had elapsed since their last meeting had effected a
permanent change in their mutual relations. Previously their intercourse
had gone as far in familiarity as was possible if it were not to take
quite a new colour; now all at once this past seemed to go for nothing.
Beatrice was the active source of change. She was deliberately--he could
not doubt it--extending the distance between them, annulling bygone
intimacy, shifting into ineffective remoteness all manner of common
associations. Things she would formerly have understood at a half-word
she now affected to need to have explained to her. He was 'Mr. Athel' to
an extent he had never been before; and even of his relatives she spoke
with a diminished familiarity. She emphasised at every moment the
characteristics which were alien to his sympathies, talked of the
'revival' _ad nauseam_, or changed with alarming suddenness from that to
topics of excessive frivolousness. Wilfrid little by little ceased to
converse with her, in the real sense of the word; he even felt
uncomfortable in her presence. And Mrs. Baxendale had clear eyes for at
all events the outward features of the situation.

On the fifth day of Wilfrid's presence in the house, Beatrice took the
opportunity of being alone with her aunt to observe that she must go
southwards by a certain train next morning.

'Oh, surely not!' protested Mrs. Baxendale. 'I can't spare you yet. And
your mother is still in Berkshire.'

'Yes, but that makes no difference to me, you know,' said Beatrice. 'I'm
often at home by myself. Indeed I must go to-morrow.'

'Won't you stay if I beg you? It's four years since you were here, and
who knows how long it will be before I entrap you again. You've already
threatened me, you know, with the peerage, and I'm very sure you won't
deign to honour me when that day comes. Now, there's a good girl--to the
end of the week at least.'

It seemed as though Beatrice would persist.

'Now, if it were not such an unlikely thing,' said her aunt, 'I should
be disposed to think it was Mr. Athel who is driving you away.'

'Mr. Athel!' the girl exclaimed, almost haughtily, and with a flush
which disappeared as rapidly as it came, leaving the lovely face with a
touch of exquisite paleness.

'I mean,' said Mrs. Baxendale quickly, averting her honest eyes, 'that I
fear he has offended you.'

'How can Mr. Athel have offended me?' Beatrice asked, with a certain

'I thought perhaps--a remark he made last night on the revival.'

Mrs. Baxendale felt ill at ease. Her first sentence had been
inconsiderate; she knew it as soon as it was uttered, and indeed did not
quite see what could have induced her to make such a remark. She had not
the habit of nice conversation which endows with complete command of the
tongue. But her wits had, as you see, come to her rescue.

'Mr. Athel's opinions on that subject are not likely to offend me,'
Beatrice replied, with the shadow of a smile.

'I am so afraid lest he should suspect anything of the kind. I am sure
it would grieve him dreadfully.'

The girl laughed outright, though not with much joyousness.

'Mr. Athel be grieved for such a cause! My dear aunt, you don't know
him. He's as little sensitive as any man could be. Why, he holds it a
duty to abuse people who do things he counts foolish.'

'You exaggerate,' returned her aunt, with a smile.

Beatrice continued, vivaciously.

'Oh, you don't know him as well as I do. We used to be always
wrangling--in the days of my simplicity. I have been marvelling at his
forbearance; it would have been nothing wonderful if he had called me an
idiot. Frankness of that kind is the mark of his friendship--haven't
you found that out? Hasn't he taken occasion yet to inform you that your
life is conducted on an utterly mistaken principle, that you are shallow
and inefficient, that you are worse than useless in the world, and
ought, if properly constituted, to be a torment to yourself? None of
these things he has said? Oh, then you are not admitted to Mr. Athel's
intimacy; you are not of the inner circle.'

She spoke with a kind of reckless gaiety, a mocking merriment which her
rich voice and command of facial expression made very effective. It
startled her hearer, who, when the girl ceased, took one of her hands
and patted it kindly.

'Why then,' she said, 'I have been altogether mistaken; for I did really
think he had offended you. But now I'm sure you'll stay--won't you?'

'Rather than you should think I run away from Mr. Athel's high

Then she became silent, and shortly left the room. Mrs. Baxendale sat by
herself musing.

She was a woman given to thoughtfulness, for all that she used her
tongue freely when with those she liked. She did not greatly seek such
society as Dunfield had to offer, and partly on that account, partly
owing to alarms excited by her caustic comments on matters of popular
interest, the ladies of the town left her abundance of leisure. She used
it well. Though not a highly-educated woman, she read constantly, and
books of a solid kind. Society in Dunfield had its book club, and Mrs.
Baxendale enjoyed the advantage of choosing literature which her
fellow-members were very willing to let her keep as long as she liked.
Beatrice derived much amusement from her aunt's method of reading.
Beatrice, with the run of Mr. Mudie's catalogues, would have
half-a-dozen volumes in her lap at the same time, and as often as not
get through them--_tant bien que mal_--in the same day. But to the
provincial lady a book was a solid and serious affair. To read a chapter
was to have provided matter for a day's reflection; the marker was put
at the place where reading had ceased, and the book was not re-opened
till previous matter had been thoroughly digested and assimilated. It
was a slow method, but not without its advantages, I assure you.

Perhaps to relieve her worthy aunt of any lingering anxiousness,
Beatrice, throughout the day, wore an appearance of much contentment,
and to Wilfrid was especially condescending, even talking with him
freely on a subject quite unconnected with her pet interests. That
evening two gentlemen, politicians, dined at the house; Beatrice, under
cover of their loud discussions in the drawing-room, exchanged certain
remarks with Wilfrid.

'My aunt was so good as to apologise to me on your behalf this morning,'
she began.

'Apologise? What have I been guilty of?'

'Oh, nothing. She doesn't appreciate the freemasonry between us. It
occurred to her that your remarks on my--well, my predilections, might
have troubled me. Judge how amused I was!'

She did not look at him from the first, and appeared to be examining,
even whilst she spoke, a book of prints.

'I sincerely hope,' Wilfrid replied, 'that I have uttered no thoughtless
piece of rudeness. If I have, I beg you to forgive me.'

She glanced at him. He appeared to speak seriously, and it was the kind
of speech he would never have dreamed of making to her in former days,
at all events in this tone.

'You know perfectly well,' she answered, with slow voice, bending to
look more closely at a page, 'that you never said anything to me which
could call for apology.'

'I am not so sure of that,' Wilfrid replied, smiling.

'Then take my assurance now,' said Beatrice, closing her book, and
rising to move towards her aunt. As she went, she cast a look back, a
look of curious blankness, as if into vacancy.

She sang shortly after, and the souls of the politicians were stirred
within them. For Wilfrid, he lay back with his eyes closed, his heart
borne on the flood of music to that pale-windowed room of sickness,
whose occupant must needs be so sadly pale. The security he felt in the
knowledge that Emily grew better daily made him able to talk cheerfully
and behave like one without preoccupation, but Emily in truth was never
out of his mind. He lived towards the day when he should kneel at her
feet, and feel once more upon his forehead those cold, pure lips. And
that day, as he believed, was now very near.

To her aunt's secret surprise, Beatrice allowed the end of the week to
come and go without any allusion to the subject of departure. It was all
the more strange, seeing that the girl's show of easy friendliness with
Wilfrid had not lasted beyond the day; she had become as distant and
self-centred as before. But on the morning of the following Tuesday, as
Mrs. Baxendale sat reading not long after breakfast, Beatrice entered
the room in her light travelling garb, and came forward, buttoning her

'You are going out?' Mrs. Baxendale asked, with some misgiving.

'Yes--to London. They are calling a cab. You know how I dislike
preparatory miseries.'

Her aunt kept astonished silence. She looked at the girl, then down at
her book.

'Well,' she said at length, 'it only remains to me to remember the old
proverb. But when is the train? Are you off this moment?'

'The train leaves in five-and-twenty minutes. May I disturb uncle, do
you think?'

'Ah, now I understand why you asked if he would be at home through the
morning. I'll go and fetch him.'

She went quickly to the library. Mr. Baxendale sat there alone.

'Beatrice is going,' she said, coming behind his chair. 'Will you come
and say good-bye?'

Mr. Baxendale jumped up.

'Going? Leaving?'

His wife nodded.

'Why? What is it? You haven't quarrelled with her about the

'No. It's a fancy of hers, that's all. Come along; she's only twenty
minutes to catch the train.'

When they reached the drawing-room, Beatrice was not there. Upon Mrs.
Baxendale's withdrawal she had gone to Wilfrid's door and knocked at it.
Wilfrid was pacing about in thought. It surprised him to see who his
visitor was; yet more, when she advanced to him with her hand extended,
saying a simple 'Good-bye.'

'Good-bye? Wherefore?'

Her attire explained. Beatrice possessed the beauty of form and face
which makes profit of any costume; in the light-brown cape, and hat to
match, her tall, lithe figure had a womanly dignity which suited well
with the unsmiling expressiveness of her countenance. The 'good-bye' was
uttered briefly and without emphasis, as one uses any insignificant form
of speech.

Wilfrid resolved at once to accept her whim; after all, it was but
another instance of frequent eccentricities.

'Who is going to the station with you?' he asked.

'No one. I hate partings on the platform.'

She moved away almost as far as the door, then turned again.

'You will be in town before going back to Oxford?'

Wilfrid hesitated.

'Oh, never mind,' she said; and was gone.

Ten minutes later Wilfrid went to the drawing-room. Mr. and Mrs.
Baxendale were talking together; they became silent as he entered.

'Has Miss Redwing gone?' he asked.

'She took leave of you, didn't she?' replied the lady.

'Yes. But it was So unprepared for, I half thought it might be a joke.'

'Oh, she's fond of these surprises,' Mrs. Baxendale said, in a tone of
good-natured allowance. 'On the whole I sympathise with her; I myself
prefer not to linger over such occasions.'

Later in the day Mrs. Baxendale drove out to Banbrigg, this time alone.
On her return, she sought Wilfrid and found him in his room. There was
concern on her face.

'I have heard something very painful from Mrs. Hood,' she began. 'It
seems that Emily is in ignorance of her father's death.'

Wilfrid looked at her in astonishment.

'I told you,' Mrs. Baxendale pursued, 'that she had not been altogether
well just before it happened, but it now appears that the dreadful
incident of her entering the room just when the body was brought in must
have taken place when she was delirious. The poor woman has had no
suspicion of that; but it is proved by Emily's questions, now that she
begins to talk. Of course it makes a new anxiety. Mrs. Hood has not
dared to hint at the truth, but it cannot be concealed for long.'

'But this is most extraordinary,' Wilfrid exclaimed, 'What, then, was
the origin of her illness?'

'That is the mystery. Mrs. Hood's memory seems to be confused, but I got
her to allow that the feverish symptoms were declared even the night
before the death was known. I hardly like to hint it, but it really
seemed to me as if she were keeping something back. One moment she said
that Emily had been made ill by anxiety at her father's lateness in
coming home that night, and the next she seemed, for some reason,
unwilling to admit that it was so. The poor woman is in a sad, sad
state, and no wonder. She wishes that somebody else might tell Emily the
truth; but surely it will come most easily from her.'

Wilfrid was deeply distressed.

'It is the very worst that still remains,' he said, 'and we thought the
worst was over. What does the doctor say? Can she bear it yet? It is
impossible to let her continue in ignorance.'

It was at length decided that Mrs. Baxendale should visit the doctor,
and hear his opinion. She had got into her mind a certain distrust of
Mrs. Hood, and even doubted whether Emily ought to be left in her hands
during convalescence; there was clearly no want of devotion on the
mother's part, but it appeared to Mrs. Baxendale that the poor woman had
been overtaxed, and was herself on the point of illness, perhaps of
mental failure. From going well things had suddenly taken an anxious



When Emily returned from the wastes of ravaged mind, and while yet the
images of memory were hardly distinguished from the ghosts of delirious
dream, the picture that haunted her with most persistency, with an
objective reality the more impressive the clearer her thought became,
was one which she could least comprehend or account for. She saw lying
before her a closely muffled form, the outline seeming to declare it
that of a man. The struggle of new-born consciousness was to associate
such a vision with the events which had preceded her illness. Perchance
for a day, perchance only for an hour, however long the unmeasured
transition from darkness to the dawn of self-knowledge, she suffered the
oppression of this mechanical questioning. At length the presence of her
mother by the bedside became a fact, and it led on to the thought of her
father. Her eyes moved in search for him.

The act of speech, in health a mere emphasis of thought, was only to be
attained by repetition of efforts; several times she believed herself to
have spoken whilst silence still pressed her lips. Only when the
recollection of her last waking day was complete, and when the absence
of her father from the room linked itself to memory of her anguished
waiting for him, did she succeed in uttering the words which represented
her fear. Her mother was bending over her, aware of the new light in her
questioning eyes.

'Where's father?' Emily asked.

'You shall see him, dear,' was the reply. 'Don't speak.'

'He came home?'

'Yes, he came home.'

Emily fell back into thought; this great fear allayed, the only now,
like an angel coming from afar over dark waters, past continued to
rebuild itself within her mind. And now, there gleamed the image of her
love. It had been expelled from memory by the all-possessing woe of
those last hours; it returned like a soothing warmth, an assuagement of
pain. As though soul-easing music sounded about her, she again lost her
hold on outward things and sank into a natural sleep.

Mrs. Hood feared the next waking. The question about her father, she
attributed to Emily's incomplete command of her faculties, for she had
not doubted that the muffled figure on the couch had been consciously
seen by the girl and understood. Yet with waking the error prolonged
itself; it became evident at length that Emily knew nothing of her
coming down to the sitting-room, and still had to learn that her father
no longer lived. It was a new suffering under which the poor woman gave
way. Already her natural affliction was complicated with a sense of
painful mysteries; in her delirium, Emily had uttered words which there
was no explaining, but which proved that there had been some hidden
connection between her mental trouble and her father's failure to return
at the usual hour. Dagworthy's name she had spoken frequently, and with
words which called to mind the sum of money her father had somehow
procured. Mrs. Hood had no strength to face trials such as these. As
long as her child's life seemed in danger, she strove with a mother's
predominant instinct to defend it; but her powers failed as Emily passed
out of peril. Her outlook became blank; physical exhaustion joined with
mental suffering began to render her incapable of further efforts.
Fortunately, Mrs. Baxendale perceived this in time. A nurse was
provided, in addition to the one who had assisted Mrs. Hood, and the
mother became herself the object of care.

Emily had been told that her father was ill, but this fiction it was
soon impossible to maintain. Three days after the last reported
conversation between Wilfrid and Mrs. Baxendale, it was determined that
the latter must take upon herself the office of telling Emily the truth.
Mrs. Hood implored her to do so; the poor mother was sinking into a
state which scarcely left her the command of her mind, and, though she
could not sustain the duty herself, it was her harassing desire that it
might quickly be performed. So at length the revelation was made, made
with all the forbearance and strengthening tenderness of which a
strong-souled woman is capable. But the first syllables prepared Emily
for the whole truth. A secret dread, which she had not dared to confess
to herself on that last evening, though probably it brought about the
crisis in her suffering, and which the false assurances recently given
her had perhaps not wholly overcome, rushed forth as soon as evil was
hinted at. The softened statement that her father had been stricken down
by a natural malady did not for a moment deceive her. She closed her
eyes; the pillows which supported her were scarcely whiter than her
face. But she was soon able to speak with perfect self-control.

'Was he brought home wrapped in something?' she asked. 'With his face

'He was, Emily.'

'How and where did I see him? For I know I did see him.'

'Your mother has told me that you rose from your bed, and went to the
room below. She did not realise that you were unconscious; she believed
that you knew of this.'

This was her dread vision. As if to protect herself from it, she raised
her hand and laid it across her eyes. Then it fell again to the
coverlet--thin, flower-like hand, which in its translucency of flesh
seemed to have been created by spirit for its chosen abode.

When silence had lasted some moments--

'Now that I know he is dead,' Emily resumed--oh, the sad music of the
last word!--'I can bear to hear the manner of it without disguise. Will
you tell me the whole truth, Mrs. Baxendale?'

It was spoken like herself. Ever clinging to sincerity, ever ready to
face the truth of things, in how many a matter of less moment had the
girl spoken with just this directness, inspiring respect in all who
heard her clear, candid voice.

Mrs. Baxendale sank her eyes, and hesitated.

'He died by his own hand,' Emily said, below her breath.

The lady kept silence. Emily again closed her eyes, and, as she so lay,
felt warm lips touch her forehead.

Mrs. Baxendale believed for a moment that the sufferer had lost
consciousness, but the utterance of her name caused Emily to raise her

'Why did he do this?' she asked, regarding her friend fixedly.

'No one can say, dear.'

Emily drew a deep sigh; a gleam passed over her face.

'There was an inquest?' she asked.


'Is it possible for me to see a newspaper in which it was reported?'

'If you really desire it,' said Mrs. Baxendale, with hesitation.

'I do; I wish to read it. Will you do me that great kindness?'

'I will bring it you in a day or two. But would it not be better to

'Is there anything,' Emily asked quickly, 'that you have kept from me?'

'Nothing; nothing.'

'Then I need not put off reading it. I have borne the worst.'

As Mrs. Baxendale left the house, she was passed at a short distance
along the road by a man on horseback. This rider gave a sign to the
coachman to stop, and a moment after presented himself at the window of
the brougham. It was Dagworthy; he wished to have news of Mrs. and Miss
Hood. The lady gave him full information.

'I fear I could not see Mrs. Hood?' Dagworthy said.

'Oh, she is far too ill!' was the reply.

Having assured himself on this point, Dagworthy took his leave, and,
when the carriage was remote, rode to the house. He made fast the reins
to the gate, entered, and knocked at the door. A girl who did
subordinate work for the nurses opened.

'I want you,' Dagworthy said, 'to give this note at once to Miss Hood.
You understand?--to Miss Hood. Will you do so?'

'I will, sir.'

He went away, and, immediately after, Emily was reading these lines:

'I wish to tell you that no one has heard, and no one ever will, of the
circumstances you would desire to have unknown. I send this as soon as
you are able to receive it. You will know from whom it comes.'

She knew, and the message aided her. The shook of what she had just
heard was not, in its immediate effect, as severe as others had feared
it would be. Perhaps Emily's own sojourn at the gates of death lessened
the distance between her and him who had passed them; perhaps the vast
misery which lay behind her, the darkness threatening in the future,
brought first to her mind death's attribute of deliverance. This, in the
hours that followed, she strove to dwell upon nothing could touch her
father now, he was safe from trouble. But, as the current in her veins
grew warmer, as life held her with a stronger hand and made her once
more participant in his fears and desires, that apparition of the
motionless veiled form haunted her with access of horror. If she slept
it came into her dreams, and her waking thoughts strove with hideous
wilfulness to unmuffle that dead face. When horror failed, its place was
taken by a grief so intense that it shook the fabric of her being. She
had no relapse in health, but convalescence was severed from all its
natural joys; she grew stronger only to mourn more passionately. In
imagination she followed her father through the hours of despair which
must have ensued on his interview with Dagworthy. She pictured his
struggle between desire to return home, to find comfort among those he
loved, and the bitter shame which forbade it. How had he spent the time?
Did he wander out of the town to lonely places, until daylight failed?
Did he then come back under the shadow of the night, come back all but
to the very door of his dwelling, make one last effort to face those
within, pass on in blind agony? Was he on the heath at the very hour
when she crossed it to go to Dagworthy's house? Oh, had that been his
figure which, as she hurried past, she had seen moving in the darkness
of the quarry?

A pity which at times grew too vast for the soul to contain absorbed her
life, the pity which overwhelms and crushes, which threatens reason.
That he should have lived through long years of the most patient
endurance, keeping ever a hope, a faith, so simple-hearted, so void of
bitter feeling, so kindly disposed to all men--only to be vanquished at
length by a moment of inexplicable weakness, only to creep aside, and
hide his shame, and die. Her father, whom it was her heart's longing to
tend and cherish through the brighter days of his age--lying there in
his grave, where no voice could reach him, remote for ever from the
solace of loving kindness, his death a perpetuation of woe. The cruelty
of fate had exhausted itself; what had the world to show more pitiful
than this?

No light ever came to her countenance; no faintest smile ever touched
her lips. Through the hours, through the days, she lay heedless of
things around her, solely occupied with the past, with affliction, with
remorse. Had it not been in her power to save him? A word from her, and
at this moment he would have been living in cheerfulness such as he had
never known. She would have had but to turn her head, and his smile
would have met her; the rare laugh, so touching to her always, would
have become less rare; his struggles would have been over. She had
willed that he should die, had sent him forth relentlessly to his last
trial, to his forsaken end. Without a leave-taking he had gone forth;
his last look had been at her blank windows. That hour was passed into
eternity, and with it the better part of her life.

On the first day that she rose from her bed, she went, with the nurse's
aid, to her mother's room. What she saw there was a new shock; her
mother's face had aged incredibly, and wore a look of such feeble
intelligence that to meet her eyes was more than painful. Upon the
artificial maintenance of her strength throughout Emily's illness had
followed a collapse of the vital powers; it seemed doubtful whether she
would ever regain her normal state of mind and body. She knew her
daughter, and, when Emily kissed her, the muscles of her haggard face
contracted in what was meant for a smile; but she could not use her
voice above a whisper, and her words were seldom consequent.

Two days later Mrs. Baxendale again paid a visit. Emily was sitting in
her bed-room, unoccupied, on her countenance the sorrow-stricken gravity
which never quitted it. The visitor, when she had made her inquiries,
seemed to prepare herself to speak of some subject at once important and

'For a fortnight,' she said, 'I have had staying with me someone whom
you will be glad to hear of--your nearest friend.'

Emily raised her eyes slowly to the speaker's face; clearly she
understood, but was accustoming herself to this unexpected relation
between Mrs. Baxendale and Wilfrid.

'Mr. Athel came from Switzerland as soon as he heard of your illness.'

'How did he hear?' Emily inquired, gravely.

'My niece, Miss Redwing, whom you knew, happened to be visiting me. She
wrote to Mrs. Rossall.'

Emily was silent. The lines of her mouth showed a slight tremor, but no
colour sought her cheeks. The news was affecting her strongly, but only
in the way in which she now received every impression; physical weakness
had the effect of reducing outward demonstration of feeling, and her
spiritual condition favoured passiveness.

'He has asked me to give you a letter, Emily,' pursued Mrs. Baxendale,
saddened by the sight of such intense sadness.

Emily took the letter, and laid it on a table near her, murmuring her

'He is well?' she asked, as the other did not speak.

'Quite; his holiday has completely restored him. You can't think how
glad I am to have come to know him, and to have him near me. Such
excellent friends we are! You can think how anxious he has been; and his
father scarcely less so. The inquiries have been constant. The others
have just got home; Mr. Athel had a letter from London this morning. The
little girls send you a message; I believe you will find the letter

At the mention of the twins, the slightest smile came upon Emily's lips.

'You are fond of them, I see,' said the lady. 'That they ire fond of
you, needs no telling. Oh, and Clara writes from Germany to ask if she
may write to you yet. Shall I let her?'

A few more words, and Mrs. Baxendale rose. Emily retained her hand.

'You have not yet had from me one word of gratitude, Mrs. Baxendale,'
she said. 'Indeed, I have no words in which to thank you.'

The lady kissed her forehead, pressed the thin hand again, and went for
a few moments to Mrs. Hood's room before departing.

It was nearly an hour before Emily took up the letter to open it. When
at length she did so, she found that it covered only a small sheet of
notepaper. Enclosed was a letter from Mr. Athel, announcing the family's
arrival in London, asking in a kind tone for the latest news, and
repeating the message from the twins of which Mrs. Baxendale had spoken.
Wilfrid wrote with admirable delicacy and feeling; he forgot himself
wholly in her affliction, and only in those simplest words which can
still be made the most powerful uttered the tenderness which he hoped
might speak some comfort to her heart. He did not ask to see her; would
she not bid him come to her in her own good time? And only if her
strength rendered it quite easy, he begged for one word of reply. Mrs.
Baxendale would visit her again very shortly, and to her the answer
could be given.

Emily returned the writings to their envelope, and sat through the day
as she had sat since morning, scarcely ever moving, without heed of
things that were said or done in the room. Before quitting the chair for
her bed, she went to spend a quarter of an hour by her mother, whose
hand she held throughout the time. Mrs. Hood lay in the same state of
semi-consciousness alternating with sleep. In the night she generally
wandered a little. But she did not seem to suffer pain.

To-night Emily could not sleep; hitherto her rest had been profound
between sunset and early morning. As she had sat through the day, so she
lay now, her eyes fixed in the same intent gaze, as on something
unfolding itself before her. When the nurses had ceased to move about,
the house was wrapped in a stillness more complete than of old, for the
clock had not been touched since the night when the weight fell. In the
room you might have heard now and then a deep sigh, such sigh as comes
from a soul overcharged.

Mrs. Baxendale allowed one day to intervene, then came again. She did
not directly speak of Wilfrid, and only when she sat in significant
silence, Emily said:

'To-morrow I shall go downstairs. Will you ask Mr. Athel to come and see

'Gladly I will. At what hour shall he come?'

'I shall be down by eleven.'

Later in the day, Mrs. Cartwright and Jessie called. Hitherto Emily had
begged that no one might be admitted save Mrs. Baxendale; she felt it
would be unkindness to refuse her friends any longer, and the visitors
came up and sat for a while with her. Both were awed by the face which
met them; they talked scarcely above a whisper, and were sadly troubled
by the necessity of keeping a watch upon their tongues.

Emily was now able to descend the stairs without difficulty. The first
sight of the little parlour cost her a renewal of her keenest suffering.
There was the couch on which his dead body had been placed; that the
chair in which he always rested after tea before going up to the
laboratory; in a little frame on the mantelpiece was his likeness, an
old one and much faded. She moved about, laying her hand on this object
and that; she took the seat by the window where she had waited each
evening, till she saw him at the gate, to rise at once and open to him.
She had not shed tears since that last day of his life, and now it was
only a passing mist that dimmed her eyes. Her sorrow was not of the kind
which so relieves itself.

She had come down early, in order to spend some time in the room before
Wilfrid's arrival. She sat in her father's chair, once more in the
attitude of motionless brooding. But her countenance was not as
self-controlled as during the past days; emotions, struggles, at work
within her found their outward expression. At times she breathed
quickly, as if in pain; often her eyes closed. In her worn face, the
features marked themselves with strong significance; it was beauty of a
kind only to be felt by a soul in sympathy with her own. To others she
would have appeared the image of stern woe. The gentleness which had
been so readily observable beneath her habitual gravity was absorbed in
the severity of her suffering and spiritual conflicts; only a touching
suggestion of endurance, of weakness bearing up against terrible
fatality, made its plea to tenderness. Withal, she looked no older than
in the days of her happiness; a young life, a young heart, smitten with
unutterable woe.

When the sound of the opening gate made itself heard, she lay back for a
moment in the very sickness of pain it recalled the past so vividly, and
chilled her heart with the fear of what she had now before her. She
stood, as soon as the knock came at the front door, and kept the same
position as Wilfrid entered.

He was startled at the sight of her, but in an instant was holding both
her hands, gazing deep into her eyes with an ecstasy of tenderness. He
kissed her lips, and, as he did so, felt a shudder in the hands he
pressed. A few whispered words were all that he could speak; Emily kept
silence. Then he sat near to her; her hand was still in his, but gave no
sign of responsive affection, and was very cold.

'It was kind to let me see you so soon,' he said. Her fixed look of hard
suffering began to impress him painfully, even with a kind of fear.
Emily's face at this moment was that of one who is only half sensible to
words spoken. Now she herself spoke for the first time.

'You will forgive me that I did not write. It would have been better,
perhaps; it would have been easier to me. Yet why should I fear to say
to you, face to face, what I have to say?'

The last sentence was like self-questioning uttered aloud; her eyes were
fixed on him, and with appeal which searched his heart.

'Fear to say to me?' Wilfrid repeated, gravely, though without
apprehension. 'Has your suffering made strangers of us?'

'Not in the way you mean, but it has so changed my life that I cannot
meet you as I should have done.' Her utterance quickened; her voice lost
its steadiness. 'Will you be very generous to me--as good and noble as
it is in your heart to be? I ask you to give me back my promise--to
release me.


He gazed at her in bewilderment. His thought was that she was not
herself; her manner since his entrance seemed to confirm it; the
tortured lines of her face seemed to express illusory fears.

'Emily! Do you know what you say, dearest?'

'Yes; I know what I say, and I know how hard you find it to believe me.
If I could explain to you what it is that makes this change, you would
not wonder at it, you would understand, you would see that I am doing
the only thing I can do. But I cannot give you my reasons; that must be
my sad secret to the end of my life. You feel you have a claim to hear
the truth; indeed, indeed, you have; but you will be forbearing and
generous. Release me, Wilfrid; I ask it as the last and greatest proof
of the love you gave me.'

He rose with a gesture of desperation.

'Emily, I cannot bear this! You are ill, my own darling; I should have
waited till you were stronger. I should have left you more time to turn
your thoughts to me from these terrible things you have passed through.'
He flung himself by her side, grasping her hands passionately. 'Dear
one, how you have suffered! It kills me to look into your face. I won't
speak; let me only stay by you, like this, for a few minutes. Will not
my love calm you--love the purest and tenderest that man ever felt? I
would die to heal your heart of its grief!'

With a great sob of uttermost anguish, she put back his hands, rose from
the chair, and stood apart. Wilfrid rose and gazed at her in dread. Had
the last calamity of human nature fallen upon her? He looked about, as
if for aid. Emily read his thoughts perfectly; they helped her to a
desperate composure.

'Wilfrid,' she said, 'do I speak like one not in her perfect mind?'

'I cannot say. Your words are meaningless to me. You are not the Emily I

'I am not,' was her sad answer. 'If you can bring yourself to believe
that truth, you will spare yourself and me.'

'What do you mean when you say that?' he asked, his voice intensified in
suppression. 'If you are in full command of yourself, if your memory
holds all the past, what can have made of you another being? We dare not
play with words at a time such as this. Tell me at least one thing. Do I
know what it was that caused your illness?'

'I don't understand you.'

Her eyes examined him with fear.

'I mean, Emily--was it solely due to that shock you received? Or was
there any previous distress?'

'Has anything led you to think there was?' she asked, urgently.

'Mrs. Baxendale tells me you--Emily, why have I to pain you in this

'But tell me--tell me What did she say?'

'That on coming to yourself you did not know of your father's death.'

'It is true; I did not. My illness began before.'

Wilfrid stood with his eyes on the ground.

'Tell me, again,' she said. 'What else did Mrs. Baxendale say?'

'Nothing. Her surprise when she heard this from your mother was as great
as mine when it was repeated to me.'

'It is true,' Emily repeated, more calmly, as if relieved. 'I don't try
to conceal that there is a reason I may not speak of. Will you not
believe that it is strong enough to change my life? If I did not tell
you this, you might indeed refuse to listen to me, thinking I was not
myself. I cannot tell you more--I cannot, I cannot!'

She pressed her palms upon her forehead; it throbbed with pain scarcely
to be borne. Wilfrid, after a moment of wretched hesitation, said

'What _you_ forbid me to ask, I may not even wish to know. I have come
to regard your will as the seal upon everything that is true and right.
Knowing this, seeing me here before you with my best hopes at stake, do
you tell me that something has happened which makes the bond between us
of no effect, which lays upon you a duty superior to that of the pledge
you gave me?'

She met his gaze, and answered firmly, 'I do.'

'Some duty,' he continued, with quivering voice, 'compared with which
the sacredness of our love is nothing?'

She trembled from head to foot; then, as if clutching at a last help,

'I do not love you.'

And she waited with her head bowed. Wilfrid, taking up his hat, went to
her and offered his hand. When hers was given:

'Raise your eyes and look at me, Emily.'

She did so.

'You are still in the shadow of a great grief, and it may well be that
all other things seem trivial. I wish to respect you to the uttermost,
and I will try to conceive that there is a motive high enough to justify
you. But those last words must be repeated--when time has come to your
aid--before I can regard them as final.'

He released her hand, and left her....

What was her first sensation, when the door had closed, then the gate
without, and Wilfrid in very deed was gone? Was it hopeless misery,
failure, dread foresight of the life which she still must live? Rather
her mood was that of the martyr who has held firm to the last wrench of
torture, who feels that agony is overcome and fear of self surpassed.
This possibility had there ever been in Emily, though associating with
such variant instincts. Circumstances had brought the occasion which
weighed one part of her nature against the other, and with this result.

You may not judge her coldly; yet it is possible to indicate those
points which connect her enthusiasm of sacrifice with the reasonings and
emotions of the impartial mind. In the moment that she heard of her
father's self-destruction, she knew that her own destiny was cast; the
struggle with desire, with arguments of her self-love, with claims of
others, this also she foresaw and measured. Her resolve came of the
interaction of intense feeling, feeling which only process of time could
reduce from its morbid predominance, and that idealism which was the
keynote of her personality. It was not that she condemned herself for
having refused to pay the price which would have saved her father; she
may have done so in her wildest paroxysms of grief, but in the silences
which ensued she knew that there is an arbiter above natural affection,
and that not with impunity could a life be purchased by the death of a
soul. She had refused; it might be she would still have refused had she
foreseen the worst; but could she move on over her father's body to a
life of joy? Not only did piety forbid it; the compassionate voice of
her heart cried against what she deemed such cruelty. Her father was
dead; nothing that she did henceforth would concern him for good or ill;
none the less in her eyes was his claim upon her, the claim of one she
had tenderly loved calling to her for pity from that desolate grave.
Which of us entirely out-reasons that surviving claim of the beloved
dead? Which of us would, in his purest hour, desire to do so? She could
not save him, but, as she valued her most precious human privileges, she
dared not taste the fruits of life of which he was for ever robbed.
Between her and happiness loomed that agonising face, She might
disregard it, might close her eyes and press on, might live down the old
sacred pity and give herself to absorbing bliss what would be the true
value of that she gained? Nay, it was idle to affect that she had the
choice. She felt that the first memory of that face in the midst of
enjoyment would break her heart. Those last dark hours of his she must
live and relive in her own mind. Dead? He was dead? Oh, did not the
very tones of his voice linger in the rooms where she sat? Could she not
see him enter, hold to her his hand, bend and kiss her? Did she not
fancy constantly that his foot sounded on the floor above her, up in the
bare little room, where she had parted from him unkindly? Why, death
meant but little, for at any moment he was in truth standing by her.
Years of unhappiness, and then to be put aside and forgotten as soon as
the heavy clods of earth had fallen upon him? To think of that was to be
driven almost to madness by the impotence of grief. Rather than allow a
joy to tempt her thought, she would cast life from her and be his
companion in that narrow home.

And her character brought it about that the very strength of her love
for Wilfrid acted as another impulse to renunciation. Which had been the
stronger motive in her refusal to sacrifice herself--the preservation of
her chaste womanhood, or the inability to give up him she loved? Could
she, at the tribunal of her conscience, affirm that her decision had
held no mixture of the less pure? Nay, had she not known that revolt of
self in which she had maintained that the individual love was supreme,
that no title of inferiority became it? She saw now more clearly than
then the impossibility of distinguishing those two motives, or of
weighing the higher and the lower elements of her love. One way there
was, and one way only, of proving to herself that she had not fallen
below the worthiness which purest love demanded, that she had indeed
offered to Wilfrid a soul whose life was chastity--and that must be
utterly to renounce love's earthly reward, and in spirit to be faithful
to him while her life lasted. The pain of such renunciation was twofold,
for did she not visit him with equal affliction? Had she the right to do
that? The question was importunate, and she held it a temptation of her
weaker self. Wilfrid would bear with her. He was of noble nature, and
her mere assurance of a supreme duty would outweigh his personal
suffering. On him lay no obligation of faithfulness to his first love; a
man, with the world before him, he would, as was right, find another to
share his life. To think that was no light test of steadfastness in
Emily the image of Wilfrid loving and loved by another woman wrung the
sinews of her heart. That she must keep from her mind; that was more
than her strength could face and conquer. It should be enough to love
him for ever, without hope, without desire. Faithfulness would cost her
no effort to purify herself in ideal devotion would be her sustenance,
her solace.

What of her religion of beauty, the faith which had seen its end in the
nourishment of every instinct demanding loveliness within and without?
What of the ideal which saw the crown of life in passion triumphant,
which dreaded imperfectness, which allowed the claims of sense equally
with those of spirit, both having their indispensable part in the
complete existence? Had it not conspicuously failed where religion
should be most efficient? She understood now the timidity which had ever
lurked behind her acceptance of that view of life. She had never been
able entirely to divest herself of the feeling that her exaltation in
beauty-worship was a mood born of sunny days, that it would fail amid
shocks of misfortune and prove a mockery in the hour of the soul's dire
need. It shared in the unreality of her life in wealthy houses, amid the
luxury which appertained only to fortune's favourites, which surrounded
her only by chance. She had presumptuously taken to herself the religion
of her superiors, of those to whom fate allowed the assurance of peace,
of guarded leisure wherein to cultivate the richer and sweeter flowers
of their nature. How artificial had been the delights with which she
soothed herself! Here, all the time, was the reality; here in this poor
home, brooded over by the curse of poverty, whence should come shame and
woe and death. What to her now were the elegance of art, the loveliness
of nature? Beauty had been touched by mortality, and its hues were of
the corpse, of the grave. Would the music of a verse ever again fill her
with rapture? How meaningless were all such toys of thought to one whose
path lay through the valley of desolation!

Thus did Emily think and feel in this sombre season, the passionate
force of her imagination making itself the law of life and the arbiter
of her destiny. She could not take counsel with time; her temperament
knew nothing of that compromise with ardours and impulses which is the
wisdom of disillusion. Circumstances willed that she should suffer by
the nobleness of her instincts those endowments which might in a happier
lot have exalted her to such perfection of calm joy as humanity may
attain, were fated to be the source of misery inconceivable by natures
less finely cast.



As Wilfrid quitted the house, the gate was opened by Jessie Cartwright,
who, accompanied by one of her sisters, was bringing Emily some fine
grapes, purchased, in the Cartwright manner, without regard to expense.
The girls naturally had their curiosity excited by the stranger of
interesting, even of aristocratic, appearance, who, as he hurried by,
east at them a searching look.

'Now, who ever may that be?' murmured Jessie, as she approached the

'A doctor, I dare say,' was her sister's suggestion.

'A doctor! Not he, indeed. He has something to do with Emily, depend
upon it.'

The servant, opening to them, had to report that Miss Hood was too
unwell to-day to receive visitors. Jessie would dearly have liked to ask
who it was that apparently had been an exception, but even she lacked
the assurance necessary to the putting of such a question. The girls
left their offering, and went their way home; the stranger afforded
matter for conversation throughout the walk.

Wilfrid did not go straight to the Baxendales'. In his distracted state
he felt it impossible to sit through luncheon, and he could not
immediately decide how to meet Mrs. Baxendale, whether to take her into
his confidence or to preserve silence on what had happened. He was not
sure that he would be justified in disclosing the details of such an
interview; did he not owe it to Emily to refrain from submitting her
action to the judgment of any third person? If in truth she were still
suffering from the effects of her illness, it was worse than unkind to
repeat her words; if, on the other hand, her decision came of adequate
motives, or such as her sound intelligence deemed adequate, was it
possible to violate the confidence implied in such a conversation
between her and himself? Till his mind had assumed some degree of
calmness, he could not trust himself to return to the house. Turning
from the main road at a point just before the bridge over the river, he
kept on the outskirts of the town, and continued walking till he had
almost made the circuit of Dunfield. His speed was that of a man who
hastened with some express object; his limbs seemed spurred to activity
by the gallop of his thoughts. His reason would scarcely accept the
evidence of consciousness that he had indeed just heard such things from
Emily's lips; it was too monstrous for belief; a resolute incredulity
sustained him beneath a blow which, could he have felt it to be meant in
very earnest, would have deprived him of his senses. She did not, she
could not, know what she had said! Yet she spoke with such cruel
appearance of reasoning earnestness; was it possible for a diseased mind
to assume so convincingly the modes of rational utterance? What
conceivable circumstances could bring her to such a resolution? Her
words, 'I do not love you,' made horrible repetition in his ears; it was
as though he had heard her speak them again and again. _Could they be
true_? The question, last outcome of the exercise of his imagination on
the track of that unimaginable cause, brought him to a standstill,
physically and mentally. Those words had at first scarcely engaged his
thought; it was her request to be released that seriously concerned him;
that falsehood had been added as a desperate means of gaining her end.
Yet now, all other explanations in vain exhausted, perforce he gave heed
to that hideous chime of memory. It was not her father's death that
caused her illness that she admitted, Had some horrible complication
intervened, some incredible change come upon her, since he left England?
He shook off this suggestion as blasphemy. Emily? His high-souled Emily,
upon whose faith he would stake the breath of his life? Was his own
reason failing him?

Worn out, he reached the house in the middle of the afternoon, and went
to his own sitting-room. Presently a servant came and asked whether he
would take luncheon. He declined. Lying on the sofa, he still tormented
himself with doubt whether he might speak with Mrs. Baxendale. That lady
put an end to his hesitation by herself coming to his room. He sprang

'Don't move, don't move!' she exclaimed in her cheery way. 'I have only
come to ask why you resolve to starve yourself. You can't have had lunch

'No; I am not hungry.'

'A headache?' she asked, looking at him with kind shrewdness.

'A little, perhaps.'

'Then at all events you will have tea. May I ask them to bring it here?'

She went away, and, a few minutes after her return, tea was brought.

'You found Emily looking sadly, I'm afraid?' she said, with one of the
provincialisms which occasionally marked her language.

'Yes,' Wilfrid replied; 'she looked far too ill to be up.'

He had seated himself on the sofa. His hands would not hold the tea-cup
steadily; he put it down by his side.

'I fear there is small chance of her getting much better in that house
of illness,' said Mrs. Baxendale, observing his agitation. 'Can't we
persuade her to go somewhere? Her mother is in excellent hands.'

'I wish we could,' Wilfrid replied, clearly without much attention to
his words.

'You didn't propose anything of the kind?'

He made no answer. A short silence intervened, and he felt there was no
choice but to declare the truth.

'The meeting was a very painful one,' he began. 'It is difficult to
speak to you about it. Do you think that she has perfectly
recovered?--that her mind is wholly--'

He hesitated; it was dreadful to be speaking in this way of Emily. The
sound of his voice reproached him; what words would not appear brutal in
such a case?

'You fear--?'

Wilfrid rose and walked across the room. It seemed impossible to speak,
yet equally so to keep his misery to himself.

'Mrs. Baxendale,' he said at length, 'I am perhaps doing a very wrong
thing in telling you what passed between us, but I feel quite unable to
decide upon any course without the aid of your judgment. I am in a
terrible position. Either I must believe Emily to speak without
responsibility, or something inexplicable, incredible, has come to pass.
She has asked me to release her. She says that something has happened
which makes it impossible for her ever to fulfil her promise, something
which must always remain her secret, which I may not hope to understand.
And with such dreadful appearance of sincerity--such a face of awful

His voice failed. The grave concern on Mrs. Baxendale's visage was not

'Something happened?' the latter repeated, in low-toned astonishment.
'Does she offer no kind of explanation?'

'None--none,' he added, 'that I can bring myself to believe.'

Mrs. Baxendale could only look at him questioningly.

'She said,' Wilfrid continued, pale with the effort it cost him to
speak, 'that she has no longer any affection for me.'

There was another silence, of longer endurance than the last. Wilfrid
was the first to break it.

'My reason for refusing to believe it is, that she said it when she had
done her utmost to convince me of her earnestness in other ways, and
said it in a way--How is it possible for me to believe it? It is only
two months since I saw her on the Castle Hill.'

'I thought you had never been here before?'

'I have never spoken to you of that. I came and left on the same day, It
was to see her before I went to Switzerland.'

'I am at a loss,' said Mrs. Baxendale. 'I can only suggest that she has
had a terrible shock, and that her recovery, or seeming recovery, has
been too rapid. Yet there is no trace of wandering in her talk with me.'

'Nor was there to-day. She was perfectly rational. Think of one's being
driven to hope that she only _seemed_ so!'

'Did you speak of correspondence?'

'No. I said that I could not agree to what she asked of me until she had
repeated it after a time. I left her scarcely knowing what I spoke. What
shall I do? How can I remain in doubt such as this? I said I wished for
your help, yet how can you--how can anyone--help me? Have I
unconsciously been the cause of this?'

'Or has anyone else consciously been so?' asked the lady, with meaning.

'What? You think--? Is it possible?'

'You only hinted that your relatives were not altogether pleased.'

Wilfrid, a light of anger flashing from his eyes, walked rapidly the
length of the room.

'She admitted to me,' he said, in a suppressed voice, 'that her illness
began before her father's death. It was not that that caused it. You
think that someone may have interfered? My father? Impossible! He is a
man of honour; he has written of her in the kindest way.'

But there was someone else. His father was honourable; could the same be
said of Mrs. Rossall? He remembered his conversation with her on the
lake of Thun; it had left an unpleasant impression on his mind--under
the circumstances, explicable enough. Was his aunt capable of dastardly
behaviour? The word could scarcely be applied to a woman's conduct, and
the fact that it could not made disagreeably evident the latitude
conceded to women in consideration of their being compelled to carry on
warfare in underhand ways. Suppose an anonymous letter. Would not Mrs.
Rossall regard that as a perfectly legitimate stratagem, if she had set
her mind on resisting this marriage? Easy, infinitely easy was it to
believe this, in comparison with any other explanation of Emily's
behaviour. In his haste to seize on a credible solution of the
difficulty, Wilfrid did not at first reflect that Emily was a very
unlikely person to be influenced by such means, still more unlikely that
she should keep such a thing secret from him. It must be remembered,
however, that the ways of treachery are manifold, and the idea had only
presented it to his mind in the most indefinite form. As it was, it
drove him almost to frenzy. He could not find a calm word, nor was it
indeed possible to communicate to Mrs. Baxendale the suspicion which
occupied him. She, watching him as he stood at a distance, all but
forgot her anxious trouble in admiration of the splendid passion which
had transformed his features. Wilfrid looked his best when thus
stirred--his best, from a woman's point of view. The pale cast of
thought was far from him; you saw the fiery nature asserting itself, and
wondered in what direction these energies would at length find scope.
Mrs. Baxendale, not exactly an impressionable woman, had a moment of

'Come here and sit down,' she said, the motherly insistance of the tone
possibly revealing her former thought.

He threw himself on the couch.

'Of course,' she continued, 'this must remain between Emily and yourself
my own relations to her must be precisely as they have been, as if I had
heard nothing. Now I think we may conclude that the poor girl is
perfectly aware of what she is doing, but I no more than yourself
believe her explanation. In some way she has come to regard it as a duty
to abandon you. Let Emily once think it a duty, and she will go through
with it if it costs her life; so much I know of her; so much it is easy
to know, if one has the habit of observing. May I advise you? Do not try
to see her again, but write briefly, asking her whether the mystery she
spoke of in any way connects itself with you. You will know how to put
it so as to exact the answer you require. Suppose you write such a note
at once; I will send it as soon as it is ready. You are in the torment
of doubts; no misery as bad as that. Does this plan recommend itself to

'Yes; I will write.'

'Then I will take myself off whilst you do so. Ring the bell and send
for me as soon as you are ready. It is only half-past four; Emily will
have your letter in an hour, and surely will reply at once.'

The letter was written, at greater length perhaps than was quite
necessary, and Mrs. Baxendale speeded it on its way. Wilfrid begged that
he might be excused from attendance at the dinner-table.

'By all means,' was Mrs. Baxendale's reply. 'The more so that we have
politicians again, and I fear you would not be in the mood to make fun
of them as you did the other night.'

'Make fun of them? No, I was in earnest. I got interested in their
subjects, and found I had more to say than I thought.'

'Well, well; that is your politeness. Now lie down again, poor boy. But
you must promise to cat what I send you; we have quite enough illness on
our hands, remember.'

'I may have the answer before then,' Wilfrid said, moodily.

He had; it came in less than two hours from the messenger's departure.
He was alone when the servant brought it to him. Emily wrote:--

'Wilfrid,--The change is in myself, in my heart, in my life. Nothing
have I heard against you; nothing have I imagined against you; the
influence of which I spoke is in no way connected with you. Let this, I
implore you, be final. Forgive me, forgive me, that I seem to inflict
pain on you so heedlessly. I act as I must; my purpose is unchangeable.'

Having been apprised of the messenger's return, Mrs. Baxendale entered
Wilfrid's room as soon as she had dressed for dinner. He sat at the
table, the letter lying open before him. As Mrs. Baxendale approached,
he held the sheet to her.

'Then my last conjecture is fruitless,' she said, letting her hand fall.
'We cannot doubt her word.'

'Doubt it? No. There is nothing for me but to believe all she said.'

He let his face fall upon his hands; the bitterness of fate was entering
his inmost heart.

'No, no, you shall not give way,' said his friend, just touching his
fingers. 'It all looks very sad and hopeless, but I will not believe it
is hopeless. Refuse to believe that one worst thing, the only thing for
which there is no remedy. Come, defy yourself to believe it! You are
strong enough for that; there is manhood in you for anything that is
worth bearing, however hard.'

He could not reply to her encouragement; who cannot devise words of
exhortation? and what idler than such words when the heart agonises?

'Try and listen to me, Wilfrid. If I make you angry with me, it is
better than abandoning yourself to despondency. I firmly believe that
this is a matter which time will bring right. Emily is acting hastily; I
am convinced of that. Time is on your side; try and accept him as a
friend. We are not living in a novel; there are no such things as
mysteries which last a lifetime. Your part is to draw upon all the
manliness you own, to have faith in yourself, and to wait. Have faith in
her, too; there are few like her; some day you will see that this only
made her better worth winning.--Now answer me a question.'

Wilfrid raised his head.

'Do you not in your heart believe that she is incapable of folly or

'I believe that no truer woman lives.'

'And rightly, be sure of it. Believing that, you know she cannot break
her word to you without some reason which you would yourself say was
good and sufficient. She imagines she has such a reason; imagines it in
all sincerity. Time will show her that she has been in error, and she
will confess it. She has all her faculties, no doubt, but a trial such
as this leads her to see things in ways we cannot realise.'

'You forget that it is _not_ this shock that has so affected her.'

'Wilfrid, remember that her father's death is itself mysterious. She may
know more of what led to it than anyone else does. She may very well
have foreseen it; it may have distracted her, the cause, whatever it
was. She could not disclose anything--some secret, perhaps--that nearly
concerned her father; you know how strong were the ties between them.'

Perhaps it was inevitable that a suggestion of this kind should
ultimately offer itself. Wilfrid had not hit upon the idea, for he had
from the first accepted without reflection the reasons for Hood's
suicide which were accepted by everyone who spoke of the subject. Mrs.
Baxendale only delivered herself of the thought in fervour of
kindly-devised argument. She paused, reviewing it in her mind, but did
netlike to lay more stress upon it. Wilfrid, also thoughtful, kept

'Now, there's the gong,' Mrs. Baxendale continued, 'and I shall have to
go to the politicians. But I think I _have_ given you a grain of
comfort. Think of a prosy old woman inciting _you_ to endure for the
sake of the greatest prize you can aim at? Keep saying to yourself that
Emily cannot do wrong; if she did say a word or two she didn't
mean--well, well, we poor women! Go to bed early, and we'll talk again
after breakfast to-morrow.'

She gave him her hand, and hurried away. Even in his wretchedness,
Wilfrid could not but follow her with his eyes, and _feel_ something
like a blessing upon her strong and tender womanhood.

Fortunate fellow, who had laid behind him thus much of his earthly
journey without one day of grave suffering. Ah, something he should have
sacrificed to the envious gods, some lesser joy, that the essential
happiness of his life might be spared him. Wilfrid had yet to learn that
every sun which rises for us in untroubled sky is a portent of
inevitable gloom, that nature only prolongs our holiday to make the
journey-work of misery the harder to bear. He had enjoyed the way of his
will from childhood upwards; he had come to regard himself as exempt
from ill-fortune, even as he was exempt from the degradation of material
need; all his doings had prospered, save in that little matter of his
overtaxed health, and it had grown his habit to map the future with a
generous hand, saying: Thus and thus will I take my conquering course.
Knowing love for the first time, he had met with love in return, love to
the height of his desire, and with a wave of the hand he had swept the
trivial obstacles from his path. Now that the very sum of his exultant
youth offered itself like a wine-cup to his lips, comes forth the
mysterious hand and spills relentlessly that divine draught. See how he
turns, with the blaze of royal indignation on his brow I Who of gods or
men has dared thus to come between him and his bliss? He is not wont to
be so thwarted; he demands that the cup shall be refilled and brought
again; only when mocking laughter echoes round him, when it is but too
plain that the spirits no longer serve him, that where he most desires
his power is least, does his resentment change by cold degrees to that
chill anguish of the abandoned soul, which pays the debt of so many an
hour of triumph. For the moment, words of kindness and sustaining hope
might seem to avail him; but there is the night waiting in ambush for
his weakness, that season of the sun's silence, when the body denuded of
vestment typifies the spirit's exposure to its enemies. Let him live
through his fate-imposed trial in that torture-chamber of ancient
darkness. He will not come forth a better man, though perchance a wiser;
wisdom and goodness are from of old at issue. Henceforth he will have
eyes for many an ugly spot in his own nature, hidden till now by the
veil of happiness. Do not pity him; congratulate him rather that the
inevitable has been so long postponed.

He put on a bold face at breakfast next morning, for he could not
suppose that Mrs. Baxendale would feel any obligation to keep his secret
from her husband, and it was not in his character to play the knight of
the dolorous visage. You saw the rings round his eyes, but he was able
to discuss the latest electioneering intelligence, and even to utter one
or two more of those shrewd remarks by which he had lately been proving
that politics were not unlikely to demand more of his attention some
day. But he was glad when he could get away to the drawing-room, to
await Mrs. Baxendale's coming. He tried to read in a volume of Boswell
which lay out; at other times the book was his delight, now it had the
succulence of a piece of straw. He was in that state of mind when five
minutes of waiting is intolerable. He had to wait some twenty before
Mrs. Baxendale appeared. Only a clinging remnant of common-sense kept
him from addressing her sourly. Wilfrid was not eminently patient.

'Well, what counsel has sleep brought?' she asked, speaking as if she
had some other matter on her mind--as indeed she had--a slight
difficulty which had just arisen with the cook.

'I should not be much advanced if I had depended upon sleep,' Wilfrid
replied cheerlessly. Always sensitive, he was especially so at this
moment, and the lady seemed to him unsympathetic. He should have allowed
for the hour; matters involving sentiment should never be touched till
the day has grown to ripeness. The first thing in the morning a poet is
capable of mathematics.

'I fear you are not the only one who has not slept,' said Mrs.

Wilfrid, after waiting in vain, went on in a tone very strange to him:

'I don't know what to do; I am incapable of thought. Another night like
the last will drive me mad. You tell me I must merely wait; but I cannot
be passive. What help is there? How can I kill the time?'

Mrs. Baxendale was visibly harder than on the previous evening. A
half-smile caused her to draw in her lips; she played with the
watch-chain at her girdle.

'I fear,' she said, 'we have done all that can be done. Naturally you
would find it intolerable to linger here.'

'I must return to London?'

'Under any other circumstances I should be the last to wish it, but I
suppose it is better that you should.'

He was prepared for the advice, but unreason strove in him desperately
against the facts of the situation. It was this impotent quarrel with
necessity which robbed him of his natural initiative and made Mrs.
Baxendale wonder at his unexpected feebleness. To him it seemed
something to stand his ground even for a few minutes. He could have
eased himself with angry speech. Remember that he had not slept, and
that his mind was sore with the adversary's blows.

'I understand your reluctance,' Mrs. Baxendale pursued. 'It's like a
surrendering of hope. But you know what I said last night; I could only
repeat the same things now. Don't be afraid; I will not.'

'Yes,' he murmured, 'I must go to London.'

'It would be far worse if you had no friend here. You shall hear from me
constantly. You have an assurance that the poor thing can't run away.'

In the expressive vulgar phrase, Wilfrid 'shook himself together.' He
began to perceive that his attitude lacked dignity; even in our misery
we cannot bear to appear ignoble.

'I will leave you to-day,' he said, more like his old self. 'But there
are other things that we must speak of. What of Emily's practical

'I don't think we need trouble about that. Mr. Baxendale tells me he has
no doubt that the house in Barnhill can be sold at all events for a sum
that will leave them at ease for the present. As soon as Mrs. Hood gets
better, they must both go away. You can trust me to do what can be

'It is my fear that Emily will find it difficult to accept your

'It will require tact. Only experience can show what my course must be.'

'I sincerely hope the house _will_ be sold. Otherwise, the outlook is

'I assure you it will be. My husband does not give up anything he has
once put his hand to.'

'I shall keep my own counsel at home,' Wilfrid said.

'Do so, certainly. And you will return to Oxford?'

'I think so. I shall find it easier to live there--if, indeed, I can
live anywhere.'

'I had rather you hadn't added that,' said Mrs. Baxendale with
good-natured reproof. 'You know that you will only work the harder just
to forget your trouble. That, depend upon it, is the only way of killing
the time, as you said; if we strike at him in other ways we only succeed
in making him angry.'

'Another apophthegm,' said Wilfrid, with an attempt at brightness. 'You
are the first woman I have known who has that gift of neatness in

'And you are the first man who ever had discernment enough to compliment
me on it. After that, do you think I shall desert your cause?'

Wilfrid made his preparations forthwith, and decided upon a train early
in the afternoon. At luncheon, Mr. Baxendale was full of good-natured
regrets that his visit could not be prolonged till the time of the
election--now very near.

'When your constituents have sent you to Westminster,' said Wilfrid, 'I
hope you will come and report to me the details of the fight?'

So he covered his retreat and retrieved in Mrs. Baxendale's eyes his
weakness of the morning. She took him to the station in her brougham,
but did not go on to the platform. Their parting was very like that of
lovers, for it ended with mutual promises to 'write often.' Mrs.
Baxendale was down-hearted as she drove home--in her a most unusual

Two days later she went to Banbrigg, carrying the satisfactory news that
at last a sale of the Barnhill property had been negotiated. To Emily
this intelligence gave extreme relief; it restored her independence.
Having this subject to speak of made the meeting easier on both sides
than it could otherwise have been. Emily was restlessly anxious to take
upon herself the task of nursing her mother; with the maid to help her,
she declared herself able to bear all responsibilities, and persisted so
strongly that Mrs. Baxendale had no choice but to assent to the nurse
who had remained being withdrawn. She could understand the need of
activity which possessed the girl, but had grave fears of the result of
an undertaking so disproportioned to her strength.

'Will you promise me,' she said, 'to give it up and get help if you find
it is trying you excessively?'

'Yes,' Emily replied, 'I will promise that. But I know I shall be better
for the occupation.'

'And you will let me still come and see you frequently?'

'I should miss you very much if you ceased to,' was Emily's answer.

Both felt that a difficulty had been surmounted, though they looked at
it from different sides.

October passed, and the first half of November. Mrs. Hood had not risen
from her bed, and there seemed slight chance that she ever would; she
was sinking into hopeless imbecility. Emily's task in that sick-room was
one which a hospital nurse would have found it burdensome to support;
she bore it without a sign of weariness or of failure in physical
strength. Incessant companionship with bodily disease was the least
oppressive of her burdens; the state of her mother's mind afflicted her
far more. Occasionally the invalid would appear in full possession of
her intellect, and those were the hardest days; at such times she was
incessantly querulous; hours long she lay and poured forth complaints
and reproaches. When she could speak no more for very weariness, she
moaned and wept, till Emily also found it impossible to check the tears
which came of the extremity of her compassion. The girl was superhuman
in her patience; never did she speak a word which was not of perfect
gentleness; the bitterest misery seemed but to augment the tenderness of
her devotion. Scarcely was there an hour of the day or night that she
could claim for herself; whilst it was daylight she tended the sufferer
ceaselessly, and her bed was in the same room, so that it often happened
that she lay down only to rise before she could sleep. Her task was
lighter when her mother's mind strayed from the present; but even then
Mrs. Hood talked constantly, and was irritated if Emily failed in
attention. The usual subject was her happiness in the days before her
marriage; she would revive memories of her school, give long accounts of
her pupils, even speak of proposals of marriage which she had had the
pleasure of declining. At no time did she refer to Hood's death, but
often enough she uttered lamentations over the hardships in which her
marriage had resulted, and compared her lot with what it might have been
if she had chosen this or that other man. Emily was pained unspeakably
by this revelation of her mother's nature, for she knew that it was idle
to explain such tendencies of thought as the effect of disease; it was,
in truth, only the emphasising of the faults she had always found it so
hard to bear with. She could not understand the absence of a single note
of affection or sorrow in all these utterances, and the fact was indeed
strange, bearing in mind Mrs. Hood's outburst of loving grief when her
husband was brought home, and the devotedness she had shown throughout
Emily's illness. Were the selfish habits of years too strong for those
better instincts which had never found indulgence till stirred by the
supreme shock? Thinking over the problem in infinite sadness, this was
the interpretation with which Emily had to satisfy herself, and she saw
in it the most dreadful punishment which a life-long fault could have

Though to her mother so sublimely forbearing, in her heart she knew too
well the bitterness of revolt against nature's cruelty; her own causes
of suffering became almost insignificant in her view of the tragedy of
life. Was not this calamity upon her surviving parent again a result of
her own action? Was it possible to avoid a comparison between this
blasted home and the appearance it might at this moment have presented
if she had sacrificed herself? What crime had she ever been guilty of
that such expiation could be demanded of her? She mocked at her misery
for so questioning; as if causes and effects were to be thus discerned
in fate's dealings. Emily had never known the phase of faith which finds
comfort in the confession of native corruptness, nor did the desolation
of her life guide her into that orthodox form of pessimism. She was not
conscious of impurity, and her healthy human intelligence could only see
injustice in the woe that had befallen her. From her childhood up she
had striven towards the light, had loved all that is beautiful, had
worshipped righteousness; out of this had it issued that her life was
sunk in woe unfathomable, hopeless of rescue for ever. She was the
sacrifice of others' wrong-doing; the evil-heartedness of one man, the
thoughtless error of another, had brought this upon her.

Her character, like the elemental forces of earth, converted to
beneficent energy the burden of corruption thrust upon it. Active at
first because she dreaded the self-communings of idleness, she found in
her labour and her endurance sources of stern inspiration; her
indestructible idealism grasped at the core of spiritual beauty in a
life even such as this. She did not reason with herself hysterically of
evil passions to be purified by asceticism, of mysterious iniquities to
be washed out in her very life's blood; but the great principles of
devotion and renunciation became soothing and exalting presences, before
which the details of her daily task lost their toilsome or revolting
aspect in a hallowed purpose. Her work was a work of piety, not only to
the living, but to the beloved dead. If her father could know of what
she was now doing, he would be comforted by it; if he knew that she did
it for his sake it would bring him happiness. This truth she saw: that
though life be stripped of every outward charm there may yet remain in
the heart of it, like a glorious light, that which is the source of all
beauty--Love. She strove to make Love the essence of her being. Her
mother, whom it was so hard to cherish for her own sake, she would and
could love because her father had done so; that father, whose only
existence now was in her own, she loved with fervour which seemed to
grow daily. Supreme, fostered by these other affections, exalted by the
absence of a single hope for self, reigned the first and last love of
her woman-soul. Every hard task achieved for love's sake rendered her in
thought more worthy of him whom she made the ideal man. He would never
know of the passion which she perfected to be her eternal support; but,
as there is a sense of sweetness in the thought that we may be held dear
by some who can neither come near us nor make known to us their
good-will, so did it seem to Emily that from her love would go forth a
secret influence, and that Wilfrid, all unknowing, would be blest by her



On the last day of the year, a Sunday, Dagworthy sat by his fireside,
alone; luncheon had been removed, and decanters stood within his reach.
But the glass of wine which he had poured out, on turning to the fire
half an hour ago, was still untasted, the cigar, of which he had cut the
end, was still between his fingers, unlighted. For the last three months
our friend had not lacked matter for thought; to do him justice, he had
exercised his mind upon it pretty constantly. To-day he had received
news which gave a fresh impulse to his rumination.

Dagworthy had never, since the years of early manhood, cared much for
any of the various kinds of society open to him in Dunfield, and his
failure to show himself at the houses of his acquaintance for weeks
together occasioned no comment; but during these past three months he
had held so persistently aloof that people had at length begun to ask
for an explanation--at all events, when the end of the political turmoil
gave them leisure to think of minor matters once more. The triumphant
return of Mr. Baxendale had naturally led to festive occasions; at one
dinner at the Baxendales' house Dagworthy was present, but, as it
seemed, in the body only. People who, in the provincial way, made old
jokes last a very long time, remarked to each other with a smile that
Dagworthy appeared to be in a mood which promised an item of interest in
the police reports before long. One person there was who had special
reason for observing him closely that evening, and even for inducing him
to converse on certain subjects; this was Mrs. Baxendale. A day or two
previously she had heard a singular story from a friend of hers, which
occupied her thought not a little. It interested her to discover how
Dagworthy would speak of the Hood family, if led to that topic. He did
not seem to care to dwell upon it, and the lady, after her experiment,
imagined that it had not been made altogether in vain.

With that exception Dagworthy had kept to his mill and his house. It was
seldom that he had a visitor, and those persons who did call could
hardly feel that they were desired to come again. Mrs. Jenkins, of the
Done tongue, ruled in the household, and had but brief interviews with
her master; provided that his meals were served at the proper time,
Dagworthy cared to inquire into nothing that went on--outside his
kennels--and even those he visited in a sullen way. His child he
scarcely saw; Mrs. Jenkins discovered that to bring the 'bairn' into its
father's presence was a sure occasion of wrath, so the son and heir took
lessons in his native tongue from the housekeeper and her dependents,
and profited by their instruction. Dagworthy never inquired about the
boy's health. Once when Mrs. Jenkins, alarmed by certain symptoms of
infantine disorder, ventured to enter the dining-room and broach the
subject, her master's reply was: 'Send for the doctor then, can't you?'
He had formerly made a sort of plaything of the child when in the mood
for it; now he was not merely indifferent--the sight of the boy angered
him. His return home was a signal for the closing of all doors between
his room and the remote nursery. Once, when he heard crying he had
summoned Mrs. Jenkins. 'If you can't stop that noise,' he said, 'or keep
it out of my hearing, I'll send the child to be taken care of in
Hebsworth, or somewhere else further off, and then I'll shut up the
house and send you all about your business. So just mind what I say.'

Of late it had become known that he was about to take a partner into his
business, a member of the Legge family--a name we remember. Dunfieldians
discussed the news, and revived their pleasure in speculating on the sum
total of Dagworthy's fortune. But it was as one talks of possible mines
of treasure in the moon; practical interest in the question could
scarcely be said to exist, for the chance of Dagworthy's remarriage
seemed remoter than ever. The man was beginning to be one of those
figures about whom gathers the peculiar air of mystery which ultimately
leads to the creation of myths. Let him live on in this way for another
twenty years, and stories would be told of him to children in the
nursery. The case of assault and battery, a thing of the far past, would
probably develop into a fable of manslaughter, of murder; his wife's
death was already regarded very much in that light, and would class him
with Bluebeard; his house on the Heath would assume a forbidding aspect,
and dread whispers would be exchanged of what went on there under the
shadow of night. Was it not already beginning to be remarked by his
neighbours that you met him wandering about lonely places at unholy
hours, and that he shunned you, like one with a guilty conscience? Let
him advance in years, his face lose its broad colour, his hair grow
scant and grey, his figure, per chance, stoop a little, his eyes acquire
the malignity of miserly old age--and there you have the hero of a
Dunfield legend. Even thus do such grow.

But he is sitting by his fireside this New Year's Eve, still a young
man, still fresh-coloured, only looking tired and lonely, and, in fact,
meditating an attempt to recover his interest in life. He had admitted a
partner to his business chiefly that he might be free to quit Yorkshire
for a time, and at present he was settling affairs to that end. This
afternoon he expected a visit from Mr. Cartwright, who had been serving
him in several ways of late, and who had promised to come and talk
business for an hour. The day was anything but cheerful; at times a
stray flake of snow hissed upon the fire; already, at three o'clock,
shadows were invading the room.

He heard a knock at the front door, and, supposing it to be Cartwright,
roused himself. As he was stirring the fire a servant announced--instead
of the father, the daughter. Jessie Cartwright appeared.

'Something amiss with your father?' Dagworthy asked, shaking hands with
her carelessly.

'Yes; I'm sorry to say he has such a very bad sore-throat that he
couldn't possibly come. Oh, what an afternoon it is, to be sure!'

'Why did _you_ come?' was Dagworthy's not very polite Inquiry. 'It
wasn't so important as all that. Walked all the way?'

'Of course. I'm afraid the wet 'll drip off my cloak on to the floor.'

'Take it off, then, and put it here by the fire to dry.'

He helped her to divest herself, and hung the cloak on to the back of a

'You may as well sit down. Shall I give you a glass of wine?'

'Oh, indeed, no! No, thank you!'

'I think you'd better have one,' he said, without heeding her. 'I
suppose you've got your feet wet? I can't very well ask you to take your
shoes off.'

'Oh, they're not wet anything to speak of,' said Jessie, settling
herself in a chair, as if her visit were the most ordinary event. She
watched him pour the wine, putting on the face of a child who is going
to be treated to something reserved for grown-up persons.

'What do they mean by sending you all this distance in such weather?'
Dagworthy said, as he seated himself and extended his legs, resting an
elbow on the table.

'They didn't send me. I offered to come, and mother wouldn't hear of


'Oh, I just slipped out of the room, and was off before anyone could get
after me. I suppose I shall catch it rarely when I get back. But we
wanted to know why you haven't been to see us--not even on Christmas
Day. Now that, you know, was too bad of you, Mr. Dagworthy. I said you
must be ill. Have you been?'

'Ill? No.'

'Oh!' the girl exclaimed, upon a sudden thought. 'That reminds me. I
really believe Mrs. Hood is dead; at all events all the blinds were down
as I came past.'

'Yes,' was the reply, 'she is dead. She died early this morning.'

'Well, I never! Isn't poor Emily having a shocking Christmas! I declare,
when I saw her last week, she looked like a ghost, and worse.'

Dagworthy gazed at the fire and said nothing.

'One can't be sorry that it's over,' Jessie went on, 'only it's so
dreadful, her father and mother dead almost at the same time. I'm sure
it would have killed me.'

'What is she going to do?' Dagworthy asked, slowly, almost as if
speaking to himself.

'Oh, I daresay it 'll be all right as soon as she gets over it, you
know. She's a lucky girl, in one way.'

'Lucky?' He raised his head to regard her. 'How?'

'Oh well, that isn't a thing to talk about. And then I don't know
anything for certain. It's only what people say you know.'

'_What_ do people say?' he asked, impatiently, though without much sign
of active interest. It was rather as if her manner annoyed him, than the
subject of which she spoke.

'I don't see that it can interest you.'

'No, I don't see that it can. Still, you may as well explain.'

Jessie sipped her wine.

'It's only that they say she's engaged.'

'To whom?'

'A gentleman in London--somebody in the family where she was teaching.'

'How do you know that?' he asked, with the same blending of indifference
and annoyed persistency.

'Why, it's only a guess, after all. One day Barbara and I went to see
her, and just as we got to the door, out comes a gentleman we'd never
seen before. Of course, we wondered who he was. The next day mother and
I were in the station, buying a newspaper, and there was the same
gentleman, just going to start by the London train. Mother remembered
she'd seen him walking with Mrs. Baxendale in St. Luke's, and then we
found he'd been staying with the Baxendales all through Emily's

'How did you find it out? You don't know the Baxendales.'

'No, but Mrs. Gadd does, and she told us.'

'What's his name?'

'Mr. Athel--a queer name, isn't it?'

Dagworthy was silent.

'Now you're cross with me,' Jessie exclaimed. 'You'll tell me, like you
did once before, that I'm no good but to pry into other people's

'You may pry as much as you like,' was the murmured reply.

'Just because you don't care what I do?'

'Drink your wine and try to be quiet just for a little.'


He made no answer, until Jessie asked--

'Why does it seem to interest you so much?'

'What?--all that stuff you've been telling me? I was thinking of
something quite different.'

'Oh!' exclaimed the girl, blankly.

There was a longer silence. Jessie let her eyes stray about the room,
stealing a glance at Dagworthy occasionally. Presently he rose, poked
the fire with violence, and drank his own wine, which had been waiting
so long.

'I must have out the carriage to send you back,' he said, going to the
window to look at the foul weather.

'The carriage, indeed!' protested the girl, with a secret joy. 'You'll
do no such thing.'

'I suppose I shall do as I choose,' he remarked, quietly. Then he came
and rang the bell.

'You're not really going to--?'

A servant answered, and the carriage was ordered.

'Well, certainly that's one way of getting rid of me,' Jessie observed.

'You can stay as long as you please.'

'But the carriage will be round.'

'Can't I keep it waiting half through the night if I choose? I've done
so before now. I suppose I'm master in my own house.'

It was strictly true, that, of the carriage. Once the coachman had been
five minutes late on an evening when Dagworthy happened to be
ill-tempered. He bade the man wait at the door, and the waiting lasted
through several hours.

The room was growing dusk.

'Aren't you very lonely here?' Jessie asked, an indescribable change in
her voice.

'Yes, I suppose I am. You won't make it any better by telling me so.'

'I feel sorry.'

'I dare say you do.'

'Of course you don't believe me. All the same, I _do_ feel sorry.'

'That won't help.'

'No?--I suppose it won't.'

The words were breathed out on a sigh. Dagworthy made no answer.

'I'm not much better off,' she continued, in a low-spirited voice.

'Nonsense!' he ejaculated, roughly, half turning his back on her.

Jessie fumbled a moment at her dress; then, succeeding in getting her
handkerchief out, began to press it against her eyes furtively.
Strangely, there was real moisture to be removed.

'What's the matter with you?' Dagworthy asked with surprise.

She no longer attempted concealment, but began to cry quietly.

'What the deuce has come to you, Jessie?'

'You--you--speak very unkindly to me,' she sobbed.

'Speak unkindly? I didn't know it. What did I say?'

'You won't believe when I say I'm sorry you feel lonely.'

'Why, confound it, I'll believe as much as you like, if it comes to
that. Put that handkerchief away, and drink another glass of wine.'

She stood up, and went to lean on the mantelpiece, hiding her face. When
he was near her again, she continued her complaints in a low voice.

'It's so miserable at home. They want me to be a teacher, and how can I?
I never pretended to be clever, and if I'd all the lessons under the
sun, I should never be able to teach French--and--arithmetic--and those
things. But I wish I could; then I should get away from home, and see
new people. There's nobody I care to see in Dunfield--nobody but one--'

She stopped on a sob.

'Who's that?' Dagworthy asked, looking at her with a singular
expression, from head to foot.

She made no answer, but sobbed again.

'What Christmas presents have you had?' was his next question,
irrelevant enough apparently.

'Oh, none--none to speak of--a few little things. What do I care for
presents? You can't live on presents.'

'Can't live on them? Are things bad at home?'

'I didn't mean that. But of course they're bad; they're always bad
nowadays. However, Barbara's going to be married in a week; she'll be
one out of the way. And of course I haven't a dress fit to be seen in
for the wedding.'

'Why then, get a dress. How much will it cost?' He went to a
writing-table, unlocked a drawer, and took out a cheque-book. 'Now
then,' he said, half jestingly, half in earnest, 'what is it to be?
Anything you like to say--I'll write it.'

'As if I wanted money!'

'I can give you that. I don't see what else I can do. It isn't to be

'No, you can do nothing else,' she said, pressing each cheek with her
handkerchief before putting it away. 'Will you help me on with my cloak,
Mr. Dagworthy?'

He took it from the chair, and held it for her. Jessie, as if by
accident, approached her face to his hand, and, before he saw her
purpose, kissed his hard fingers. Then she turned away, hiding her face.

Dagworthy dropped the garment, and stood looking at her. He had a half
contemptuous smile on his lips. At this moment it was announced that the
carriage was coming round. Jessie caught at her cloak, and threw it over
her shoulders. Then, with sunk head, she offered to shake hands.

'No use, Jessie,' Dagworthy remarked quietly, without answering her

'Of course, I know it's no use,' she said in a hurried voice of shame.
'I know it as well as you can tell me. I wish I'd never come.'

'But you don't act badly,' he continued.

'What do you mean?' she exclaimed, indignation helping her to raise her
eyes for a moment. 'I'm not acting.'

'You don't mean anything by it--that's all.'

'No, perhaps not. Good-bye.'

'Good-bye. I'm going away before very long. I dare say I shan't see you
again before then.'

'Where are you going to?'


'I suppose you'll bring back a foreign wife,' she said with sad

'No, I'm not likely to do that. I shouldn't wonder if I'm away for some
time, though--perhaps a couple of years.'

'Years!' she exclaimed in astonishment.

He laughed.

'That startles you. I shan't be back in time for your wedding, you see.'

She sobbed again, averting her face.

'I shan't ever be married. I'm one of those wretched things nobody ever
cares for.'

'You'll have to show you deserve it. Why, you couldn't give your word
and keep it for two years.'

Through this extraordinary scene Dagworthy was utterly unlike himself.
It was as if a man suffering physical agony should suddenly begin to
jest and utter wild mirth; there was the same unreality in his
behaviour. Throughout it all the lines of his face never lost their
impress of gloom. Misery had its clutch upon him, and he was driven by
an inexplicable spirit of self-mockery to burlesque the subject of his
unhappiness. He had no sense of responsibility, and certain instincts
were strongly excited, making a kind of moral intoxication.

Jessie answered his question with wide eyes.

'I couldn't?--Ah!'

She spoke under her breath, and with sincerity which was not a little

'It's New Year's Eve, isn't it?' Dagworthy pursued, throwing out his
words at random. 'Be here this day two years--or not, as you like. I'm
going to wander about, but I shall be here on that day--that is, if I'm
alive. You won't though. Good-bye.'

He turned away from her, and went to the 'window. Jessie moved a little

'Do you mean that?' she asked.

'Mean it?' he repeated, 'why, yes, as much as I mean anything. Be off;
you're keeping that poor devil in the snow.'

'Mr. Dagworthy, I shall be here, and you daren't pretend to forget, or
to say you weren't in earnest.'

He laughed and waved his hand.

'Be off to your carriage!'

Jessie moved to the door reluctantly; but he did not turn again, and she



Upon Emily had fallen silence. The tongue which for three months had
incessantly sounded in her ears, with its notes of wailing, of
upbraiding, of physical pain, of meaningless misery, was at rest for
ever. As she stood beside the grave--the grave whose earth had not had
time to harden since it received her father--she seemed still to hear
that feeble, querulous voice, with its perpetual iteration of her own
name; the casting of clay upon the coffin made a sound not half so real.
Returning home, she went up to the bedroom with the same hurried step
with which she had been wont to enter after her brief absences. The bed
was vacant; the blind made the air dim; she saw her breath rise before

There remained but a little servant-girl, who, coming to the
sitting-room to ask about meals, stood crying with her apron held to her
eyes. Emily spoke to her almost with tender kindness. Her own eyes had
shed but few tears; she only wept on hearing those passages read which,
by their promise of immortal life, were to her as mockery of her grief.
She did not venture to look into the grave's mouth she dreaded lest
there might be visible some portion of her father's coffin.

Mrs. Baxendale, the Cartwrights, and one or two other friends had
attended the funeral. At Emily's request no one accompanied her home.
Mrs. Baxendale drove her to the door, and went on to Dunfield.

The last link with the past was severed--almost, it seemed, the last
link with the world. A sense of loneliness grew about her heart; she
lived in a vast solitude, whither came faintest echoes of lamentation,
the dying resonance of things that had been. It could hardly be called
grief, this drawing off of the affections, this desiccation of the
familiar kindnesses which for the time seemed all her being. She forced
herself to remember that the sap of life would flow again, that love
would come back to her when the hand of death released her from its
cruel grip; as yet she could only be sensible of her isolation, her
forlorn oneness. It needs a long time before the heart can companion
only with memories. About its own centre it wraps such warm folds of
kindred life. Tear these away, how the poor heart shivers in its

She was alone. It no longer mattered where she lived, for her alliances
henceforth were only of the spirit. She must find some sphere in which
she could create for herself a new activity, for to sit in idleness was
to invite dread assaults. The task of her life was an inward one, but
her nature was not adapted to quiescence, and something must replace the
task which had come to an end by her mother's death. Already she had
shaped plans, and she dared not allow needless time to intervene before
practically pursuing them.

In the evening of that day Mrs. Baxendale again came to Banbrigg. She
found Emily with writing materials before her. Her object in coming was
to urge Emily to quit this lonely house.

'Come and stay with me,' she entreated. 'You shall be as unmolested as
here; no one but myself shall ever come near you. Emily, I cannot go
home and sleep with the thought of you here alone.'

'You forget,' Emily replied, 'that I have in reality lived alone for a
long time; I do not feel it as you imagine. No, I must stay here, but
not for long. I shall at once find a teacher's place again.'

'That is your intention?'

'Yes. I shall sell the furniture, and ask the landlord to find another
tenant as soon as possible. But till I go away I wish to live in this

Mrs. Baxendale knew that Emily's projects were not to be combated like a
girl's idle fancies. She did not persevere, but let sad silence be her

'Would you in no case stay in Dunfield?'

'No; I must leave Dunfield. I don't think I shall find it difficult to
get employment.'

Mrs. Baxendale had never ventured to ask for the girl's confidence, nor
even to show that she desired it. Emily was more perplexing to her now
than even at the time of Wilfrid Athel's rejection. She consoled herself
with the thought that a period of active occupation was no doubt the
best means of restoring this complex nature to healthy views of life;
that at all events it was likely to bring about an unravelling of the
mysteries in which her existence seemed to have become involved. You
could not deal with her as with other girls; the sources of her strength
and her weakness lay too deep; counsel to her would be a useless, an
impertinent, interference with her grave self-guiding. Mrs. Baxendale
could but speak words of extreme tenderness, and return whence she had
come. On going away, she felt that the darkest spot of night was over
that house.

Emily lived at Banbrigg for more than three weeks. After the first few
days she appeared to grow lighter in mind; she talked more freely with
those who came to see her, and gladly accepted friendly aid in little
practical matters which had to be seen to. Half-way between Banbrigg and
Dunfield lay the cemetery; there she passed a part of every morning,
sometimes in grief which opened all the old wounds, more often in
concentration of thought such as made her unaware of the passage of
time. The winter weather was not severe; not seldom a thin gleam of
sunshine would pass from grave to grave, and give promise of spring in
the said reign of the year's first month. Emily was almost the only
visitor at the hour she chose. She had given directions for the raising
of a stone at the grave-head; as yet there was only the newly-sodded
hillock. Close at hand was a grave on which friends placed hot-house
flowers, sheltering them beneath glass. Emily had no desire to express
her mourning in that way; the flower of her love was planted where it
would not die.

But she longed to bring her time of waiting to an end. The steps she had
as yet taken had led to nothing. She had not requested Mrs. Baxendale to
make inquiries for her, and her friend, thinking she understood the
reason, did not volunteer assistance, nor did she hear any particulars
of the correspondence that went on. Ultimately, Emily communicated with
her acquaintances in Liverpool, who were at once anxious to serve her.
She told them that she would by preference find a place in a school. And
at length they drew her attention to an advertisement which seemed
promising; it was for a teacher in a girls' school near Liverpool. A
brief correspondence led to her being engaged.

She was in perfect readiness to depart. For a day or two she had not
seen Mrs. Baxendale, and, on the afternoon before the day of her leaving
Banbrigg, she went to take leave of her friends. It was her intention to
visit Mrs. Baxendale first, then to go on to the Cartwrights'. As it
rained, she walked to Pendal and took train for Dunfield.

At Dunfield station she was delayed for some moments in leaving the
carriage by travellers who got out before her with complexities of
baggage. To reach the exit of the station she had to cross the line by a
bridge, and at the foot of this bridge stood the porter who collected
tickets. As she drew near to him her eyes fell upon a figure moving
before her, that of a young man, wearing thick travelling apparel and
carrying a bag. She did not need to see his face, yet, as he stopped to
give up his ticket, she caught a glimpse of it. The train by which she
had travelled had also brought Wilfrid to Dunfield.

She turned and walked to a little distance away from the foot of the
stairs. There was no room that she could enter on this platform. She
dropped her black veil, and seated herself on a bench. In truth she had
a difficulty in standing, her body trembled so.

For five minutes she remained seated, calming herself and determining
what course to take. She held it for certain that Wilfrid had come at
Mrs. Baxendale's bidding. But would he go to that house first, or
straight to her own? With the latter purpose he would probably have left
the train at Pendal. She would have time to get home before he could
come. At this moment a train was entering the station on the other side.
She hurried over the bridge, and, without stopping to obtain a ticket,
entered a carriage.

It was not without dread lest Wilfrid might have already arrived, and be
waiting within for her return that she approached the house door. Her
fears were groundless. The servant told her that no one had called.

'If anyone should call this evening,' she said, 'I cannot see them. You
will say that I shall not be able to see anyone--anyone, whoever it
is--till to-morrow morning.'...

At this same hour, Mrs. Baxendale, entering a shop in Dunfield, found
Dagworthy making purchases.

'I shall not see you again for a long time,' he said, as he was leaving.
'I start to-morrow on a long journey.'

'Out of England?'

He did not specify his route, merely said that he was going far from
England. They shook hands, and Mrs. Baxendale was left with a musing
expression on her face. She turned her eyes to the counter; the purchase
for which Dagworthy had just paid was a box of ladies' gloves. The
shopman put them aside, to be made into a parcel and sent away.

When, half an hour later, she reached home, she was at once informed
that Mr. Athel was in the drawing-room. The intelligence caused her to
bite her lower lip, a way she had of expressing the milder form of
vexation. She went first to remove her walking apparel, and did not
hasten the process. When she at length entered the drawing-room Wilfrid
was pacing about in his accustomed fashion.

'You here?' she exclaimed, with a dubious shake of the head. 'Why so

'So soon! The time has gone more quickly with you than with me, Mrs.

Clearly he had not spent the last three months in ease of mind. His
appearance was too like that with which he had come from Oxford on the
occasion of his break-down.

'I could bear it no longer,' he continued. 'I cannot let her go away
without seeing her.'

'You will go this evening?'

'Yes, I must. You have nothing hopeful to say to me?'

Mrs. Baxendale dropped her eyes, and answered, 'Nothing.' Then she
regarded him as if in preface to some utterance of moment, but after all
kept silence.

'Has she heard of anything yet?'

'I believe not. I have not seen her since Tuesday, and then she told me
of nothing. But I don't ask her.'

'I know--you explained. I think you have done wisely. How is she?'

'Well, seemingly.'

He let his feeling get the upper hand.

'I can't leave her again without an explanation. She _must_ tell me
everything. Have I not a right to ask it of her? I can't live on like
this; I do nothing. The days pass in misery of idleness. If only in pity
she will tell me all.'

'Don't you think it possible,' Mrs. Baxendale asked, 'that she has
already done so?'

He gazed at her blankly, despairingly.

'You have come to believe that? Her words--her manner--seem to prove

'I cannot say certainly. I only mean that you should be prepared to
believe if she repeated it.'

'Yes, if she repeats it. I shall have no choice. Well, I wished to see
you first; I will go to Banbrigg at once.'

Mrs. Baxendale seemed reluctant to let him go, yet at length she did. He
was absent an hour and a half. At his return Mrs. Baxendale had friends
with her in the drawing room. Wilfrid ascertained it from the servant,
and said that he would go to the sitting-room he had formerly occupied,
and wait there till the lady was alone.

She came to him before very long, and learnt that he had not been able
to see Emily; the servant had told him that she could see no one till
the next morning.

Mrs. Baxendale sighed.

'Then you must wait.'

'Yes, I must wait.'

He passed the night at the house. Mr. Baxendale was in London,
parliamentarily occupied. At eleven next morning he went again to
Banbrigg. Again he was but a short time absent, and in his face, as he
entered the drawing-room, Mrs. Baxendale read catastrophe.

'She has gone!' he said. 'She left very early this morning. The girl has
no idea where she has gone to, but says she won't return--that she has
left for good. What does this mean?'

'What does it mean?' the lady repeated musingly. 'I wonder, I wonder.'

'She knew I called yesterday; I left my name. She has gone to avoid me.'

'That may be. But all her preparations were evidently made.'

'But it may not be true. The girl of course would say whatever she was
bidden to. I don't believe that she has really gone.'

'I do,' said Mrs. Baxendale, with quiet significance.

'On what grounds? You know more than you will tell me. Is there no one
with common humanity? Why do you plot against me? Why won't you tell me
what you know?'

'I will, if you sit down there and endeavour to command yourself. That
is, I will tell you certain things that I have heard, and something that
I have seen. Then we will reason about them.'

Wilfrid's brow darkened. He prepared to listen.

'About six weeks ago,' the lady began, 'I went to see a friend of mine,
a lady who was recovering from an illness, someone who knows Emily,
though not intimately. In her illness she was nursed by the same woman
who helped poor Mrs. Hood when Emily was in her fever. This woman, it
appears, was induced to talk about Emily, and gave it as a secret that
Emily's illness had something to do with an attachment between her and
Mr. Dagworthy, her father's employer. Her grounds for believing this
were, first of all, the fact of Emily frequently uttering his name in
her delirium, with words which seemed to refer to some mystery between
them; then the circumstance of Mr. Dagworthy's having, shortly after,
left a note at the house, with special injunctions to the servant that
it should be given into Emily's own hands. This story, you may imagine,
surprised me not a little. A few days later Mr. Dagworthy dined with us,
and I took an opportunity of talking with him; it seemed to me certain
that Emily had some special place in his thoughts. I know, too, that he
was particularly anxious throughout the time of her illness, and that of
her mother.'

The listener was paralysed.

'Why have you kept this from me?' he asked, indignation blending with
his misery.

'Because it was no better than gossip and speculation. I had no right to
report such things--at all events, so it seemed to me. Now I am going to
add something which may be the wildest error, but which cannot trouble
you much if you imagine that the story is true. Yesterday, just before I
came home to find you here, I met Mr. Dagworthy by chance in a draper's
shop, and he told me that he was going away to-day, leaving England.'


'Yes. And I saw that he had been buying a box of ladies' gloves.'

'What do you mean?' Wilfrid stammered out.

'I know that he has no female relatives--except his wife's, who live in
another part of England, and are on bad terms with him.'

'His _wife_--you said?'

'His late wife; he is a widower. Now we may be imagining in the silliest
way, but--'

'But why--' Wilfrid checked himself. 'Do I understand you? You think
Emily has gone with him--has gone to be married to him?'

'It is almost impossible seriously to think it.'

'And you think she would shrink from being married here?'

'For one or two reasons--at all events, so soon.'

'But is it possible to believe that she deliberately deceived you--made
a pretence of seeking employment?'

'I can't say. She never gave me any details of what she was doing.
Another thing--she would not come to stay with me after her mother's
funeral. Mr. Dagworthy lives on the Heath, only just beyond Banbrigg.
You see to what things we can be led, if we begin interpreting shadows;
but Emily is a mystery to me, and, as I have begun, I must gossip to you
all I know.'

Mrs. Baxendale was certainly doing more in the way of gossiping
conjecture than perhaps she had ever done before; the occasion excited
her, and that coincidence of Dagworthy's purchase, together with his
departure this very day, struck her with a force which unsettled her
usual balance of thought. Wilfrid was as ready to believe; to him there
was a certain strange relief in feeling that he had at length reached
the climax of his sufferings. He had only to give credence to Emily's
own words. She had said that a change had come in her heart, in her
life, and that she no longer loved him. Understand it he of course could
not, nor ever would, unless he lost all faith in woman's honour.

'But this can be either confirmed or refuted speedily,' he exclaimed.
'Can you not make inquiries of this Mr. Dagworthy's friends? If they
know nothing yet, they will soon hear from him.'

'Yes, I can make such inquiries. But he has a peculiar reputation in
Dunfield; I think he scarcely has an intimate friend.'

'Well, there is, at all events, Emily herself. If this story is
baseless, she will be writing to you.'

'I think so. Again we must wait. Poor Wilfrid! from my heart I feel for

It was decided that Wilfrid should remain in Dunfield for a day or two,
till news might be obtained. News came, however, sooner than was
anticipated. In the afternoon a letter was delivered, posted by Emily at
Pendal in the morning. She wrote to Mrs. Baxendale to say that she had
left to take a place in a school; then continued:

'I have a reason for leaving suddenly. A reason you will understand. I
should have come to say good-bye to you yesterday, but something
happened to prevent me. The same reason has decided me to keep secret
even from you, my dear and honoured friend, the place to which I am
going; in time you shall hear from me, for I know I cannot have
forfeited your love, though I fear I have given you pain. Think of me
with forbearance. I do what I _must_ do.'

That was all. No word for Wilfrid.

'This proves it,' Wilfrid said, with bitter coldness. 'All she says is
false. She does what she is ashamed of, and lies to conceal it for a few
days or weeks.'

'Do not let us even yet be sure,' said Mrs. Baxendale, who was
recovering her calmer judgment.

'I _am_ sure! Why should she keep the place secret? She fears that I
should follow her? Could she not anywhere keep me off by her mere
bidding? Have I been brutally importunate? What secret can exist that
she might not disclose to me--that she was not bound to disclose? I
thought her incapable of a breath of falsehood, and she must have
deceived me from the first, from the very first!'

'Wilfrid, that is impossible. I cannot abandon my faith in Emily. New you
speak in this way, it convinces me that we are wrong, utterly and
foolishly mistaken. I believe what she says here; she has _not_ gone
with him.'

Wilfrid laughed scornfully.

'It is too late; I can't twist my belief so quickly. I do not need that
kind of comfort; far easier to make up my mind that I have always been
fooled--as I have!'

He was beyond the stage at which reasoning is possible; reaction, in
full flood, beat down the nobler features of his mind and swamped him
with the raging waters of resentment.

So here was a myth well on its way to establishment. For no one could
afford Mrs. Baxendale satisfactory news of Dagworthy. She would not take
the only step which remained, that of openly avowing to his partner the
information she desired to obtain, and getting him to make inquiries his
partner appeared to be the only person in direct communication with
Dagworthy. It had to be remembered that Emily's own statement might be
true; she must not be spoken of lightly. It was said that Mr. Legge, the
partner, pooh-poohed the idea that Dagworthy was secretly married. But
Mr. Legge might know as little as other people.

There were circles in Dunfield in which another and quite a different
myth grew up around the name of Emily Hood. The Cartwrights originated
it. They too had received a mysterious note of farewell, and their
interpretation was this Emily, they held, had gone to London, there to
be happily married to a certain Mr. Athel, a gentleman of aristocratic
appearance and enormously wealthy. Mrs. Baxendale heard this story now
and again; she neither affirmed nor contradicted. Jessie Cartwright
reflected much on Emily's slyness in keeping her affairs so secret. She
was not as envious as she would have been but for a certain compact
which she was determined should not--if it lay in her power to prevent
it--be some day laughed away as a mere joke. And had she not received,
on the very eve of Dagworthy's departure, a box of gloves, which could
only come from one person?

The second myth holds its ground, I believe, to the present day. The
more mischievous fable was refuted before very long, but only when it
had borne results for Wilfrid practically the same as if it had been a



Let time and change do their work for six years and six months, their
building and their destroying, their ripening for love, their ripening
for death. Then we take our way to the Capital, for, behold, it is
mid-season; the sun of late June is warm upon the many-charioted
streets, upon the parks where fashion's progress circles to the 'Io
Triumphe' of regardant throngs, even upon the quarters where life knows
but one perennial season, that of toil. The air is voiceful; every house
which boasts a drawing-room gathers its five o'clock choir; every
theatre, every concert-room resounds beneath the summer night; in the
halls of Westminster is the culmination of sustained utterance. There,
last night, the young member for a Surrey borough made his maiden
speech; his name, Mr. Wilfrid Athel.

The speech was better reported than such are wont to be, for it
contained clever things, and quite surprisingly resembled in its tone of
easy confidence and its mastery of relevant facts the deliverances of
men of weight in politics. It had elicited a compliment from a leader of
the opposing party; it had occasioned raisings of the eyebrows in
capable judges, and had led to remarks that a young man so singularly
self-possessed, so agreeably oracular, so remarkably long-headed, might
be expected, in the course of some five-and-twenty years, to go far. He
was, to be sure, a child--not yet thirty--but there were older children
in the House decidedly of less promise. Mr. Wilfrid Athel might go home,
and, if he could, go to sleep, in the assurance that his career had

The next day, a Saturday, this finished little piece of talk was the
starting-point of a vast amount of less coherent speech in a
drawing-room within sight of Kensington's verdure. Here Mrs. Ashley
Birks did her friends the honour of receiving them; a lady well regarded
in certain discriminating circles. A widow formerly, she had now been
two years married to a barrister new in silk. We have the pleasure of
knowing her; for she once bore the name of Mrs. Rossall.

At half-past five Mrs. Ashley Birks' drawing-room contained some two
dozen people, mostly ladies. Two of the gentlemen present are not
without interest for us. He whom you observe standing, so to speak, the
focus of a concave mirror of three gracious dames, with his back
somewhat difficultly bent, as if under ordinary circumstances he would
be as upright as any Briton who owes not a penny, with very wholesome
cheeks and lips which move in and out as he forms his well-rounded
periods, is, of course, Mr. Athel the elder; he plays with his
watch-guard, and is clearly in hearty mood, not at all disliking the
things that are being said about a certain member of the legislature.
The other is as emphatically an Englishman, but of a different type; his
clothes are good, but he does not wear them with grace; he is tall and
solidly built, but he walks awkwardly, and is not quite at home among
these gracious ladies of the silvern tongue, having much difficulty in
expressing himself on subjects which he perfectly understands, and
absolutely without faculty for speech on subjects unfamiliar to him.
When we saw him last he was in the heat of a contested election; there
has been another election since then, but Mr. Baxendale still represents

You see his wife at a little distance, still the same smooth-skinned,
well-preserved lady, with goodness declaring itself upon her large and
homely features. For three years now she has been in the habit of
spending her three months in town, finding it lonely in Dunfield, and
even nourishing a late ambition, which has not been altogether futile;
for there re people who have a peculiar liking for the little room in
which she holds her modest gatherings. She is talking at present with a
lady who, by her costume, is of the house, a lady of some
seven-and-twenty years or a little more, and strikingly beautiful.
Beatrice Redwing has not yet changed her name, though often enough
solicited to do so; when her mother died, now rather more than a year
ago, she willingly accepted the shelter of Mrs. Ashley Birks' roof, as
she would else have had to live alone. In one respect she has not
changed, her dress is exquisite; but to judge from her expression as she
talks, she has become somewhat graver. Visitors have a special reason
for regarding her with glances of curiosity and admiration. Though known
to be extremely wealthy, it was rumoured that she was about to appear
before the public as a vocalist, having prepared herself by a long
course of the most rigid study. Her first appearance was looked forward
to as an event of note in the musical world, for her native gifts were
unusual, and the results of her training proportionately significant.

'It must be very gratifying to you,' Mrs. Baxendale had said, as she
came to a chair by her niece and began to talk of Wilfrid's success.

'Yes, I am glad of it,' was the quiet reply.

'Will he be here this afternoon?'

'I'm not sure; I think so. Ah, there he is!'

For at that moment had come the announcement of the name they had on
their lips. Beatrice's exclamation was made in a very subdued voice, but
she moved slightly in her chair, and it was not within her resources to
subdue the glister of her dark eyes and the warmth softly expanding upon
her cheek. Mrs. Birks floated towards her nephew with airs of
rightly-tuned welcome; she could not, of course, make much of him, but
her very familiarity made graceful claim to a share in his glory.
Wilfrid was sensibly changed during the years we have allowed to pass
silently by. To begin with, he had grown a beard. His health seemed
finally to have established itself on a sound basis; his cheeks were
growing sunny, and he showed the proportions of a very complete man. At
the present moment, his consciousness of regards fixed upon him
heightened his colour; his fine eyes danced in light; he checked a
smile, and spoke sparingly here and there. One part of his nature
revelled in the joy of this foretaste of distinction; he had looked
forward to it, had laboured for it, its sweetness was beyond all
telling. Triumph had been his aim as a schoolboy; he held it fitting
that as a man he should become prominent amongst his fellows. This of
politics was the easiest way. To be sure, he told himself that it was a
way he would once have sneered at, that it was to rub shoulders with men
altogether his inferiors in culture, that, had he held to the ideals of
his youth, a longer, a wearier course would have been his, and the
chance of a simpler, nobler crown. But he had the gift of speech, and by
an effort could absorb himself as completely in blue-books as in the
pages of historian or poet. An hour such as this was the first of his

Two there were in this assembly who turned their eyes upon him with
adoration which could scarcely have fallen short of Wilfrid's utmost
demands. They were his cousins, Minnie and Patty Rossall. The twins were
'out,' very sweet girls, still too delicate in health, shadows of each
other. Had they regarded Wilfrid as a mere mortal, both would have been
dying for love of him; as it was they drooped before him the veiled eyes
of worshippers; a word from him made their pulses tingle blissfully
throughout the day. Such was their mutual love, that each schemed to win
his kindness for the other, his brotherly kindness, for they never
thought, had never dared to think, of anything else. Wilfrid was very
gracious to them both.

He shook hands with Beatrice, but neither spoke. After a few words with
Mrs. Baxendale, he passed on to other ladies. Wilfrid's manner was now
all that could be desired in a young man who, destined to succeed in
politics, would naturally make a figure in society. He was pliant, he
struck the note of good-breeding, he was unsurpassed in phrasing; with
ladies who chose to be 'superior,' he could find exactly the right tone,
keeping clear of pedantry, yet paying her with whom he spoke the
compliment of uttering serious opinions. With the more numerous class of
ladies, who neither were nor affected to be anything but delightful
chatterboxes, he could frolic on the lightest airs of society gossip. He
was fast making of himself an artist in talk; woe to him, if he began to
discover that exertion of his brain was waste of time, since his more
obvious ends could be gained equally well without it. As yet, though
hints of such a mood had come to him, he did not give way to the
temptations of loquacious idleness; he still worked, and purposed to
work still harder. Just of late he had spent a good deal of time in
rooms not exactly arranged for purposes of study--but for this there was
a special reason.

An hour later, when most of the visitors were departed, he went to
Beatrice's corner of the room.

'When shall I call for you?' he asked, standing before her.

'Oh, but you will dine here?'

She leaned forward, looking up into his face. The gaze would have
intoxicated most men; Wilfrid kept his calm smile.

'No, I am sorry to say I can't,' was his reply. 'I have things to see to
at home. Will 8.15 do?'

'Quite well; I need not be at the hall before a quarter to nine.'

His father came up.

'Walking my way, Wilf?'

'Yes, and in a hurry. I think we must have a hansom.'

Father and son still lived together, in the same house as formerly.
After a brief stretch of pavement, they hailed a conveyance.

'Going to St. James's Hall, I suppose?' Mr. Athel asked, as they drove

Wilfrid gave an affirmative.

'Is it the last time?'

The other laughed.

'I can't say. I fear it troubles you.'

Mr. Athel had, we know, long passed the time when the ardours of youth
put him above the prejudices of the solid Englishman. When it was first
announced to him that Beatrice was going to sing on a public platform,
he screwed up his lips as if something acid had fallen upon them; he
scarcely credited the story till his own eyes saw the girl's name in
print. 'What the deuce!' was his exclamation. 'It would be all very well
if she had to do it for her living, but she certainly owes it to her
friends to preserve the decencies as long as there is no need to violate
them.' The reasons advanced he utterly refused to weigh. Since then
events had come to pass which gave him even a nearer interest in Miss
Redwing, and his protests had grown serious.

'Why, yes,' he answered now, 'it does trouble me, and not a little. I
very strongly advise you to put an end to it. Let her sing in her
friends' houses; there's no objection to that. But to have her name
on--great heavens!--on placards! No, no; it must stop, Wilf. Every day
it becomes more imperative. Your position demands that she should become
a private lady.'

Wilfrid knew well that the question could not be argued, and, in his
secret mind, there was just a little tendency to take his father's view.
He would never have allowed this shade of thought to appear in his
speech; but was he not an Englishman and a member of Parliament?

This which had come about was inevitable. After his departure from
Dunfield on that winter day, when his life seemed crushed, he had for a
long time not even sought to hear of Emily. He did not write to Mrs.
Baxendale, and from her had no letters. Correspondence between them only
recommenced some ten months later, when Wilfrid had finally left Oxford,
and then there was no mention on either side of the old troubles.
Wilfrid began by writing that he had thoughts of taking up politics; his
father advised him to the step, and other friends seconded the
recommendation. 'I really believe I can talk,' he said, and Mrs.
Baxendale smiled at the confession. Three months more went by; then
Wilfrid at length asked plainly whether Emily had sent any news of
herself, or whether the suspicions had proved grounded. The reply was

'As I knew perfectly well, as soon as I came to my senses, Emily had
told us the truth. I heard from her for the first time nearly half a
year ago, but, as she appealed to my honour not to disclose the place of
her abode, I thought it needless to speak to you on the subject before
you yourself seemed desirous of hearing. She is teaching in a school,
and I am convinced that the story we together concocted was based on
some utter mistake; I don't think she was ever related to that man in
the way we thought. But it is more than probable that there was some
mystery about her father's death, in which Mr. D. was concerned. I
cannot imagine what it could be. Something it was which, to Emily's
mind, imposed upon her a necessity of breaking her engagement. I have
spoken to her of you, have asked her directly if she still thinks her
decision final; she assures me most solemnly that it is. I therefore
advise you once for all to accept this; I am convinced she will never
waver. Try to forget her; there is no choice. I don't think I am likely
to see her again for a very long time, if ever, and our correspondence
will be very slight, for I know she wishes it so. Let this, then, close
a sad, sad story.'

There was indeed no choice, as far as outward relations went, but so
profound a passion was not to be easily outgrown. The view which makes
first love alone eternally valid derives from a conception of the nature
of love which, out of the realm of poetry, we may not entertain; but it
sometimes happens that the first love is that which would at any period
of life have been the supreme one, and then it doubtless attains a
special intensity of hold from the fact of its being allied with the
earliest outburst of physical passion. Above all it is thus if the
attachment has been brought about by other charms than those of mere
personal beauty. Emily could not be called beautiful, in the ordinary
acceptation of the word; for all that, her face grew to possess for
Wilfrid a perfection of loveliness beyond anything that he would ever
again see in the countenance of fairest woman. Had he been markedly
susceptible to female beauty, it is certain that he would have fallen in
love with Beatrice Redwing long before he ever saw Emily, for Beatrice
was fair to look upon as few girls are. He had not done so; he had
scarcely--a strange thing--been tempted to think of doing so. That is to
say, it needed something more to fire his instincts. The first five
minutes that he spent in Emily's presence made him more conscious of
womanhood than years of constant association with Beatrice. This love,
riveting itself among the intricacies of his being, could not be torn
out, and threatened to resist all piecemeal extraction. Wilfrid regained
the command of his mind, and outwardly seemed recovered beyond all
danger of relapse; but he did not deceive himself into believing that
Emily was henceforth indifferent to him. He knew that to stand again
before her would be to declare again his utter bondage, body and soul.
He loved her still, loved her as his life; he desired her as
passionately as ever. She was not often in his thoughts no more is the
consciousness of the processes whereby our being supports itself. But he
had only to let his mind turn to her, and he scoffed at the hope that
any other could ever be to him what Emily had been, and was, and would

He saw very little of Beatrice, but it came to his ears that her life
had undergone a change in several respects, that she spent hours daily
in strenuous study of music, and was less seen in the frivolous world.
No hint of the purpose Beatrice secretly entertained ever reached him
till, long after, the purpose became action. He felt that she shunned
him, and by degrees he thought he understood her behaviour. Wilfrid had
none of the vulgarest vanity; another man would long ago have suspected
that this beautiful girl was in love with him; Wilfrid had remained
absolutely without a suspicion of the kind. He had always taken in good
faith her declared aversion for his views; he had believed that her
nature and his own were definitely irreconcilable. This was
attributable, first of all to his actual inexperience in life, then to
the seriousness with which he held those views which Beatrice vowed
detestable. He, too, was an idealist, and, in many respects, destined to
remain so throughout his life; for he would never become, on the one
hand, the coldly critical man who dissects motives--his own and those of
others--to the last fibre, nor yet the superficial cynic who professes,
and half-believes, that he can explain the universe by means of a few
maxims of cheap pessimism. So he took, and continued to take, Beatrice's
utterances without any grain of scepticism, and consequently held it for
certain that she grew less friendly to him as she grew older.

Was it Mrs. Baxendale or Mrs. Birks who at length gave him the hint
which set his mind at work in another direction? Possibly both about the
same time, seeing that it was the occasion of Mrs. Baxendale's first
making acquaintance with his aunt that dated the beginning of new
reflections In Wilfrid. One or other of these ladies--of course it was
managed so delicately that he really could not have determined to which
of them he owed the impulse--succeeded in suggesting to him that he had
missed certain obvious meanings in Beatrice's behaviour whilst he
resided with her at Dunfield. Certainly, when he looked back at those
days from his present standpoint, Beatrice did appear to have conducted
herself singularly, the mode of her departure and leave-taking being
above all curious. Was it possible that--? The question formed itself at
last, and was the beginning of conviction. He sought Beatrice's society,
at first merely for the sake of resolving his doubts, and behold, she no
longer shrank from him as formerly. Of course he might take it for
granted that she knew the details of his story, seeing that her closest
intimates, Mrs. Baxendale and Mrs. Birks, were ignorant of none of them.
Had she, then, waited for signs of his freedom? Did his revival of the
old tone in their conversations strike her as something meant to be
significant, meant to convey to her certain suggestions? It was so in
point of fact, and Wilfrid could not be long, his eyes now open, without
convincing himself that the girl loved him ardently, that it cost her
struggles with herself to avoid a revelation of her feeling. How did it
affect him?

Naturally, he was flattered. It afforded another instance of his
lordship among men; a woman whom others longed for desperately and in
vain was his when he chose to extend his hand to her. He saw, too, an
appropriateness in the chance which offered him such a wife; Beatrice
was in harmony with the future to which he aspired. Her property joined
to his would make him so wealthy that he might aim almost at anything;
political and social progress would aid each other, both rapid. Beatrice
was in many respects brilliant; there was no station that she would not
become; she had the tastes and habits of society. He compared her with
his career; she represented worldly success, the things which glitter on
the outside--action, voice; even her magnificent powers of song he used
as parallel--the gods forgive him!--to his own forensic abilities.
Supposing he must marry early, and not rather expect the day when he
might bid for a partner from a rank considerably above his own, Beatrice
was clearly the one wife for him. She would devote herself with ardour
to his worldly interests--for he began to understand that the
divergence of her expressed views meant little in comparison with her
heart's worship--and would enable him immediately to exchange the social
inferiority of bachelor life for the standing of a man with his own very
substantial roof-tree; she would have her drawing-room, which might be
made a _salon_, where politics and art might rule alternately.

This was doing injustice to Beatrice, and Wilfrid felt it; but it was
thus he regarded her as in distinction from the woman who should have
been his wife. She typified his chosen career; that other path which had
lain open to him, the path of intellectual endeavour, of idealism
incompatible with loud talk, of a worship which knew no taint of
time-serving, that for ever was represented by the image of the woman he
had lost. Her memory was encompassed with holiness. He never heard the
name she bore without a thrill of high emotion, the touch of exalted
enthusiasm; 'Emily' was written in starlight. Those aspects of her face
which had answered to the purest moments of his rapturous youth were as
present as if she had been his daily companion. He needed no picture to
recall her countenance; often he had longed for the skill of an artist,
that he might portray that grave sweetness, that impassioned faith, to
be his soul's altar-piece. Lost, lost! and, with her, lost the
uncompromising zeal of his earliest manhood. Only too consciously he had
descended to a lower level; politics tempted him because they offered a
field in which he could exercise his most questionable faculty, and earn
with it a speedy return of the praise to which he was so susceptible. It
marks his position to state that, when politics began seriously to hold
his thoughts, he was with difficulty able to decide to which party he
should attach himself. To be sure, if names could be taken as
sufficient, he was a Liberal, a Radical; but how different his
interpretation of such titles from that they bore to men of affairs!
Respect for the masses he had none; interest in their affairs he had
none either. On the other hand, the tone of uninstructed
Conservatism--that is to say, of the party so stamped--he altogether
despised. The motive which ultimately decided him to declare himself a
Liberal was purely of sentiment; he remembered what Mrs. Baxendale had
said about the hardships of poor Hood, and consequently allied himself
with those who profess to be the special friends of the toiling

From the first he talked freely with Beatrice of his projects; he even
exaggerated to her the cynicism with which he framed and pursued them.
He could never have talked in this way to Emily. With Beatrice the tone
did not injure him in the least, partly because she did not take it
altogether seriously, yet more owing to the habit of mind whereby women
in general subordinate principle to the practical welfare of the
individual. If Wilfrid found a sphere for the display of his talents,
Beatrice eared nothing to dwell upon abstract points. Politics were a
recognised profession for gentlemen, and offered brilliant prizes; that
was enough. She was pleased, on the whole, that his line should be one
of moderation; it was socially advantageous; it made things pleasant
with friends of the most various opinions. That Wilfrid took her into
his confidence was to her a great happiness. In secret she felt it would
be the beginning of closer intimacy, of things which women--heaven be
praised!--esteem of vastly more importance than intellectual convictions
or the interest of party.

But it was long, very long, before Wilfrid could bring himself to pass
the line which separates friendship from lovemaking. Of passion his
nature had no lack, but it seemed to be absorbed in memory; he shrank
from the thought of using to another those words he had spoken to Emily.
One of the points of intense secret sympathy between Emily and himself
was this chastity of temperament. Constitutionally incapable of vice, he
held in repugnance even that degree of materialism in the view of sexual
relations which is common to men who have grown their beards. Not only
had a coarse word never passed his lips; he intensely disliked the
frivolous way of discussing subjects which to him were more sacred than
any other. When he had decided with himself that it was his destiny to
wed Beatrice, he had a positive fear of taking this step from which
there would be no return. Before he could do so, he must have utterly
broken with the past, and how could that ever be I He had not even
moments of coldness in his thought of Emily; it was beyond his power to
foresee the day when she would have become to him a mere symbol of
something that was. Suppose that some day, when married, he again met
her? In spite of everything, he did not believe that she had ceased to
love him; somewhere she still kept her faith, martyred by the
incomprehensible fate which had torn her from his arms. To meet her
again would be to forget every tie save that holiest which made one of
his spirit and of hers.

One day--it was during the second season which Mrs. Baxendale passed in
London--he went to his friend and asked her where Emily was. Mrs.
Baxendale was too quick for him; Wilfrid thought he had put his question
unexpectedly, but the lady was ready for such a question at any moment,
and she replied, with appearance of absolute sincerity, that she had no
knowledge of Emily's place of abode.

'Where was she last--when you last heard from her?' Wilfrid asked, in
surprise at an answer so unanticipated.

Mrs. Baxendale named a town in Yorkshire. She had begun with a
calculated falsehood, and had no scruple in backing it up by others.

'What can it concern you, Wilfrid?' she continued. 'Shall I confess my
weakness? I mentioned your name in a letter to her; the result was this
complete ending of our correspondence. Now, will not even that satisfy

He did not doubt what he was told; Mrs. Baxendale's character for
veracity stood high. It was solely out of regard for Wilfrid that she
allowed herself to mislead him, for by this time it seemed obvious that
Beatrice was drawing near to her reward, and Mrs. Baxendale, with
pardonable error, took this last inquiry about Emily for a piece of
conscientiousness, which, once satisfied, Wilfrid would hold on his
course to a happy haven. 'She has given him up,' was her
self-justification. 'Beatrice now would suffer no less than she has

'Then tell me one thing more,' Wilfrid pursued. 'What has become of that
man Dagworthy?'

'That I can easily do. Long ago he married a young lady of Dunfield.'

'Then what did it mean? what _did_ it mean?'

Mrs. Baxendale merely shook her head.

A few months later, Beatrice astonished everyone by her first appearance
as a public singer. Wilfrid had as little anticipated such a step as any
other of Beatrice's friends. What was about to happen only became known
a day or two in advance. Mrs. Ashley Birks was paralysed with horror;
she implored, she reasoned, she put on her face of cold anger. Mr. Athel
cried 'What the deuce!' and forthwith held a serious colloquy with his
son. Wilfrid experienced a certain joy, only tempered with anxiety as to
the result of the experiment. If it proved a success, he felt that the
effect upon himself would be to draw him nearer to Beatrice; but it must
be a great success. He calculated on imaginative influences as other men
do on practical issues. Beatrice, acknowledged as more than an amateur,
perchance publicly recognised as really a great singer, would impress
him in a new way; he might overcome his impartial way of regarding her.
The result, outwardly, answered his fullest hopes. Beatrice had not idly
risked what would have been a deplorable fiasco; she had the
encouragement of those who did not speak in vain, and her ambition had
fired itself as she perceived the results of her conscientious labour.
Her nervousness throughout the day of the concert was terrible, but
little less than her life depended on the result, and at the hour of
trial she was strong to conquer. Very far behind her, as she stepped out
to that large audience, were the dilettante successes of drawing-room
and charitable concerts; she smiled at all that flow; since then she had
unlearnt so much and wrought with such humility. But what she strove for
was won; she knew it in the grasp of Wilfrid's hand when he led her to
her carriage. Her veil was down; behind it she was sobbing.

'Am I nothing more than a frivolous woman now?' she said, leaning to him
from the carriage.

Wilfrid could make no answer, and she was whirled away from him.

He went to her the next day, and asked her to be his wife. Beatrice
looked him in the face long and steadily. Then she asked:

'Do you love me, Wilfrid?'

'I love you.'

Another word trembled on her tongue, but the temptation of her bliss was
too great; the contained ardour of long years had its way, sweeping
doubt and memory before it.

'For your sake I have done it all. What do I care for a whole world's
praise, compared with one word of recognition from you! You remember the
morning when you told me of my faults, when we all but seemed to
quarrel? Ah! I have faults in abundance still, but have I not done one
thing worth doing, done it thoroughly, as net everyone could? I am not
only a woman of the world, of society and fashion? Do I not know how
contemptible that is? But only you could raise me above it.'

He left her, in a bewildered state; she had excited, impassioned him;
but how strange it all was after those other scenes of love! It seemed
so of the earth; the words he had spoken rang over again in his ears,
and stirred his blood to shame. He could not say whether in truth he
loved her or not; was it enough to feel that he could cherish her with
much tenderness, and intoxicate himself in gazing on her perfect face?
Women are so different! Emily had scarcely spoken when he made known to
her his love; could he ever forget that awe-struck face, dimly seen in
the moonlight? Her words to the end had been few; it was her eyes that
spoke. Beatrice was noble, and had a heart of gold; was there not heaven
in that ardour of hers, if only it had been his soul's desire?
Henceforth it must be; she loved him, and he must not wrong her. Alas!
the old name, the old name alone, was still star-written....

He passed with her the afternoon of each Sunday. Mrs. Birks' house was a
large one, and Beatrice had abundance of room to herself. Thither
Wilfrid took his way on the Sunday which we have reached, the day
following his drawing-room triumph. Already he was a little ashamed of
himself; he was experiencing again the feeling which had come over him
after his first speech to a political meeting. As he went home that
night, a demon in his head kept crying 'Clap-trap! clap-trap!' and there
was no silencing the voice. He had talked to the intelligence of the
mob. Now his talk had been addressed to--the representatives of the mob;
if the demon did not cry so loudly, it was only because he was weary of
his thankless task.

Beatrice was a superb coquette--but only for the man she loved. For
these Sunday afternoons she attired herself divinely; Wilfrid had learnt
to expect a new marvel at each of his comings. To-day she wore her
favourite colour, a dark-blue. Her rising to meet him was that of a
queen who bath an honoured guest. The jewels beneath her long dark
lashes were as radiant as when first she heard him say, 'I love you.'
All the impulses of her impetuous character had centred on this one end
of her life. Her eccentricities had tamed themselves in the long
discipline of frustrated desire. The breath of her body was love. About
her stole a barely perceptible perfume, which invaded the senses, which
wrapped the heart in luxury.

Wilfrid dropped on one knee before her and kissed her hand.

'You are in a happy mood,' Beatrice said. 'Who has been telling you the
last flattery?'

'I have seen no one to-day. If I look happy--should I not?'

She drew her finger along the line of his eyebrow.

'How does your picture get on?'

'I have to give two sittings next week. Thank goodness they are the

'Oh! why wasn't it in time for the Academy! But it must go next year.'

Wilfrid laughed as he seated himself opposite to her.

'I am not sure, after all, that you are happy,' she said, leaning her
head a little aside as she gazed at him. 'Now you are thoughtful. I
suppose you will be more and more thoughtful.'

'Deep on his front engraven
Deliberation sat, and public care--'

quoted Wilfrid, with a little wrying of the lips. 'This, you know, is
one of the penalties of greatness.'

She seemed about to rise, but it was only to slip forward and sink upon
her knees by his side, her arms embracing him. It was like the fall of
fair waters, so gracefully impulsive, so self-abandoning.

'Not one kiss to-day?' she murmured, her voice like the dying of a

And she raised to him a face lit from the inmost sanctuary of love.

'You are as beautiful,' he said, 'as any woman of whom fable ever told.
Your beauty frightens me. It is sometimes more than human--as though the
loveliest Greek goddess suddenly found breath and colour and the light
of eyes.'

Beatrice threw her head far back, laughing silently; he saw the laughter
dance upon her throat.

'My love! my own!' she whispered. 'Say you love me!'

'Dearest, I love you!'

'Ah! the words make my heart flutter so! I am glad, glad that I have
beauty; but for that you would never have loved me. Let me hide my face
as I tell you. I used to ask myself whether I was not really fairer than
other women--I thought--I hoped! But you were so indifferent. Wilfrid,
how long, how long I have loved you! I was quite a young girl when I
loved you first. That, I said, shall be my husband, or I will never have
one. And I knew so little how to win your thought. How ashamed it makes
me to think of things I said and did in those days!'

She was silent, leaning her head against his shoulder.

'Do you ever think of me as I was at Dunfield?' she asked presently,
with timid utterance, hardly above her breath, risking what she had
never yet dared.

'No,' he answered, 'I think of the present.'

His voice was a little hard, from the necessity of commanding it.

'You did not know that I loved you then? Think of me! Pity me!'

He made no answer. Beatrice spoke again, her face veiled against him,
her arms pressing closer.

'You love me with perfect love? I have your whole heart?'

'I love you only, Beatrice.'

'And with love as great as you ever knew? Say that to me--Wilfrid, say
that!' She clung to him with passion which was almost terrible. 'Forgive
me! Only remember that you are my life, my soul! I cannot have less than

He would have been cased in triple brass if music such as this had not
melted into his being. He gave her the assurance she yearned for, and,
in giving it, all but persuaded himself that he spoke the very truth.
The need of affirming his belief drew from him such words as he had the
secret of; Beatrice sighed in an anguish of bliss.

'Oh, let me die now! It is only for this that I have lived.'

Wilfrid had foreseen and dreaded this questioning. From any woman it was
sooner or later to be expected, and Beatrice was as exacting as she was
passionate. She knew herself, and strove hard to subdue these
characteristics which might be displeasing to Wilfrid; her years of
hopelessness, of perpetual self-restraint, were of aid to her now; three
months had passed without a word from her which directly revived the old
sorrows. Her own fear of trenching on indiscretion found an ally in
Wilfrid's habitual gravity; her remark, at their meeting, on his mood
was in allusion to a standing pleasantry between them; she had
complained that he seldom looked really happy in her presence. It was
true; his bearing as a rule was more than sober. Beatrice tormented
herself to explain this. He was not in ordinary intercourse so
persistently serious, though far more so than he had been in earlier
years, the change dating, as Beatrice too well had marked, from the time
of his supreme misery. With the natural and becoming gravity of mature
age there mingled a very perceptible strain of melancholy. You felt it
in his laugh, which was seldom hearty; it made his sprightliness in
social hours more self-conscious than it might have been. Beatrice had
always felt towards him a very real humility, even when the goading of
her unrequited love drove her into a show of scornful opposition.
Herself conscious of but average intelligence, and without studious
inclinations, she endowed him with acquisitions as vast as they were
vague to her discernment; she knew that it would always lie beyond her
power to be his intellectual companion. Therefore she desired to be
before everything womanly in his eyes, to make the note of pure
sentiment predominate in their private relations to each other. She had
but won him by her artistic faculty; she could not depend upon that to
retain and deepen his affection. Her constant apprehension was lest
familiarity should diminish her charm in his eyes. Wilfrid was no less
critical than he had ever been; she suspected that he required much of
her. Did he seek more than she would eventually be able to give? Was she
exhausting the resources of her personal charm? Such thoughts as these
made curious alternations in her manner towards him; one day she would
endeavour to support a reserve which should surpass his own, another she
lost herself in bursts of emotion. The very care which she bestowed upon
her personal appearance was a result of her anxiety on this point; in
the last resort she knew herself to be beautiful, and to her beauty he
was anything but insensible. Yet such an influence was wretchedly
insufficient; she must have his uttermost love, and never yet had she
attained full assurance of possessing it.

Little did Wilfrid suspect the extent to which her thoughts were
occupied with that faint, far-off figure of Emily Hood. It was her
despair that she had known Emily so slightly; she would have desired to
study to the depths the woman who had possessed such a secret of power.
In personal charm Emily could not compare with her; and yet--the
distinction struck her hard--that was perhaps only true if personal
charm merely meant charm of person, for she herself had experienced
something of the strange impressiveness which men--men of
imagination--submitted to in Emily's presence. Where did it lie, this
magic? It was indefinite, indefinable; perhaps a tone of the voice
represented it, perhaps a smile--which meant, of course, that it was
inseparable from her being, from her womanhood. Could one attribute to
Emily, even after the briefest acquaintance, a thought, an instinct,
which conflicted with the ideal of womanly purity? Was not her
loveliness of the soul? Moreover, she was intellectual beyond ordinary
women; for Wilfrid that must have been a rich source of attraction.
Scarcely less than the image of Wilfrid himself was that of Emily a
haunting presence in Beatrice's life. Recently she had spoken of her
both with Mrs. Birks and Mrs. Baxendale; it cost her something to do so,
but both of these had known Emily with intimacy, and might perhaps tell
her more than she herself remembered or could divine. Mrs. Birks was
disposed to treat Emily with little seriousness.

'You make the strangest mistake,' she said, 'if you think that was
anything but a boy's folly. To be sure the folly got very near the point
of madness--that was because opposition came in its way. Wilfrid has
for years thought as little of her as of the man in the moon's wife--if
he has one. You are surely not troubling yourself--what?'

Beatrice had thereupon retired into herself.

'You misunderstand me,' she said, rather coldly. 'It was only a
recollection of something that had seemed strange to me at the time.'

Mrs. Baxendale held another tone, but even she was not altogether
sincere--naturally it was impossible to be so. To begin with, she gave
Beatrice to understand, even as she had Wilfrid, that she had now for
some time lost sight of Emily, and, consequently, that the latter was
less actually interesting to her than was in fact the case. With her
aunt Beatrice could be more unreserved; she began by plainly asking
whether Mrs. Baxendale thought Wilfrid's regret had been of long
endurance--a woman in Beatrice's position clearly could not, in talking
to another, even suppose the case that the regret still endured. Her
aunt honestly replied that she believed he had suffered long and

'But,' she added, with characteristic tact, 'I did not need this
instance, my dear, to prove to me that a first love may be only a
preparation for that which is to last through life. I could tell you
stories--but I haven't my grandmother's cap on at present.'

(Mrs. Baxendale was, in truth, a grandmother by this time, and professed
to appreciate the authority she derived from the circumstance.)

That had drawn Beatrice out.

'She was strong-minded?'

'Or very weak, I really don't know which.'

'Yes,' mused Beatrice, 'she was a problem to you. You never troubled
yourself to puzzle over my character, aunt.'

'When a stream is of lovely clearness, Beatrice, we do not find it hard
to determine the kind of ground it flows over.'

'I will owe you a kiss for that,' said the girl, blushing hot with very
joy. 'But you are a flatterer, dear aunt, and just now I am very humble
in spirit. I think great happiness should make us humble, don't you? I
find it hard to make out my claim to it.'

'Be humble still, dear, and the happiness will not be withdrawn.'

'I do like to talk with you,' Beatrice replied. 'I never go away without
something worth thinking of.'

Humility she strove to nourish. It was a prime virtue of woman, and
'would sweeten her being. Unlike Emily, she was not inspired with an
ardent idealism independently of her affections; with love had begun her
conscious self-study, and love alone exalted her. Her many frivolous
tendencies she had only overcome by dint of long endeavour to approach
Wilfrid's standard. If in one way this was an item of strength, in
another it indicated a very real and always menacing weakness. Having
gained that to which her every instinct had directed itself, she made
the possession of her bliss an indispensable factor of life; to lose it
would be to fall into nether darkness, into despair of good. So widowed,
there would be no support in herself; she knew it, and the knowledge at
moments terrified her. Even her religious convictions, once very real
and strong, had become subordinate; her creed--though she durst not
confess it--was that of earthly love. Formerly she had been thrown back
on religious emotion as a solace, an anodyne; for that reason the
tendencies inherited from her mother had at one time reached a climax of
fanaticism. Of late years, music had been her resource, the more
efficient in that it ministered to hope. By degrees even her charitable
activity had diminished; since her mother's death she had abandoned the
habit of 'district visiting.' As confidence of the one supreme
attainment grew in her, the mere accessories of her moral life were
allowed to fall away. She professed no change of opinion, indeed under.
went none, but opinion became, as with most women, distinct from
practice. She still pretended to rejoice as often as she persuaded
Wilfrid to go to church, but it was noticeable that she willingly
allowed his preference for the better choral services, and seemed to
take it for granted that the service was only of full efficacy when
performed together with her....

'Let me die now! It is only for this that I have lived!'

The cry came from her very heart. For once Wilfrid had been overcome,
had thrown off his rather sad-coloured wooing, had uttered such words as
her soul yearned for. Yet she had scarcely time to savour her rapture
before that jealousy of the past mingled itself with the sensation. Even
such words as these he must have used to _her_, and had they not
perchance come more readily to his lips? Was he by nature so reserved?
Or, the more probable thing, was it that she failed at other times to
inspire him? How had _she_ been used to behave, to speak?

In her incessant brooding upon the details of Wilfrid's first affection,
Beatrice had found one point which never lost its power to distract her;
it was the thought of all the correspondence that must have passed
between him and Emily. What had become of those letters? Had they been
mutually returned? It was impossible to discover. Not even to her aunt
could she put such a question as that; and it might very well be that
Mrs. Baxendale knew nothing certainly. If the story as she, Beatrice,
had heard it was quite accurate, it seemed natural to suppose that Emily
had requested to have her letters returned to her when she declared that
the engagement must be at an end; but Wilfrid had refused to accept that
declaration, and would he not also have refused to let the writing which
was so precious to him leave his hands? In that case he probably had the
letters still; perhaps he still read them at times. Would it be
possible, even after marriage, to speak of such a subject with Wilfrid?
She had constantly tried to assure herself that, even if he had kept the
pledges through all these years, a sense of honour would lead Wilfrid to
destroy them when he gave and received a new love. In moments when it
was her conscious effort to rise to noble heights, to be as pure a woman
as that other--for Beatrice never sought the base comfort of refusing
to her rival that just homage--she 'would half persuade herself that no
doubt lingered in her mind; it was right to destroy the letters, and
whatever was right Wilfrid must have done. But she could not live at all
hours in that thin air; the defects of her blood were too enduring.
Jealousy came back from its brief exile, and was more insinuating than
ever, its suggestions more maddening. By a sort of reaction, these
thoughts assailed her strongly in the moments which followed her
outburst of passion and Wilfrid's response. Yet she could not--durst
not--frame words to tell him of her suffering. It was to risk too much;
it might strike a fatal blow at his respect for her. Even those last
words she had breathed with dread, involuntarily; already, perhaps, she
had failed in the delicacy he looked for, and had given him matter for
disagreeable thought as soon as he left her. She rose at length from her
kneeling attitude, and leaned back in her chair with a look of trouble
scarcely veiled.

Wilfrid did not notice it; he had already begun to think of other

'Beatrice,' he began, 'there's a subject I have avoided speaking of,
thinking you might perhaps be the first to mention it. Do you wish to
continue your singing?'

She smiled, and did not seem to attach great importance to the question.

'It is for you to decide,' she answered. 'You know why I began it; I am
ready to say my farewell whenever you bid me.'

'But what is your own feeling? I suppose you would in any case cease at
our marriage?'

'You are not ashamed of it?'

'It is true,' he replied humorously, 'that I am a member of the British
House of Commons, but I beg you won't think too meanly of me. I protest
that I have still something of my old self.'

'That means you are rather proud than ashamed. How' long,' she went on
to ask, lowering her eyes, 'is the British House of Commons likely to

'Probably the talk will hold out for some seven or eight weeks longer.'

'May I sing the two remaining engagements, if I take no more after

'To be sure, you must. Let it stand so, then.'

She fell back into her brooding.

'Now I, too, have something to ask,' she said, after a short silence.

'Whatever you ask is already granted.'

'Don't be too hasty. It's more than you think.'


'I want you to give me some work to do for you--to let me come and sit
with you in your study some mornings and 'write things for you.'

Wilfrid laughed cheerily.

'If I had a regard for my dignity,' he said, 'I certainly shouldn't let
you. What will become of my pretence of work when you are let into the
secrets? But come, by all means. You shall digest a blue-book for me.'

'When? To-morrow morning?'

'If you will.'

Beatrice was satisfied.



'Beatrice is coming to act as my secretary this morning,' Wilfrid said
to his father, as they sat at breakfast on Monday.

'Is she?' remarked Mr. Athel, drily. 'It had struck me that you were not
very busy just now,' he added, by way of natural comment.

The junior smiled.

'By the way, she has only two more engagements--then it ceases.'

'I am glad to hear it,' said his father, with much satisfaction.

'After all,' observed Wilfrid, 'you must remember that everyone knows
she doesn't sing for a living. Art, you know, is only contemptible when
it supports the artist.'

'Well, well, file your epigrams by all means; but we live in the world,
Wilf. Criticise as smartly as you like; the danger only begins when you
act upon your convictions.'

At half-past ten Beatrice arrived. She came into the study with a
morning colour on her cheeks, threw off her mantle and hat, and let
Wilfrid draw off her gloves, which somehow took a long time in the
doing. She was full of bright, happy talk, most of it tending to show
that she had already given the attention to the morning's 'leaders'
which was becoming in a politician's betrothed.

'Do you smoke whilst you are at work?' she asked, descending from those
high themes.

'I allow myself a few cigarettes.'

'Cigarettes? Surely that is too frivolous an accompaniment!'

'O, it is only when I am musing upon the arguments of the Opposition.'

'I see.' Beatrice took the reply quite seriously. 'But where is the
blue-book you want me to digest?'

Wilfrid shook his head, looking at her with a smile.

'You think me incompetent? But at least try me. I shan't spoil

'An illustration drawn from the art of millinery, I imagine.'

'Don't be unkind. I'm afraid you wouldn't let me write your letters?'

'By Jove! an excellent idea. Here's one of the free and independent
electors of G--writes to ask what my views are on the subject of
compulsory vaccination. Do pen a reply and I'll sign it.'

'But what am I to say?'

'The ghost of Jenner alone knows I offer it as an opportunity to show
your fitness for this post. You have applied to me for work, Miss--Miss
Redwing, I think your name is?' He assumed the air of one applied to.

'It is, sir.'

'Come, come; that's far too jaunty. You don't at all understand the
position of the person applying for work. You must be profoundly
depressed; there must be half a tear in your eye; you must look hungry.'

'O dear--I had such an excellent breakfast!'

'Which clearly disqualifies you for the post you seek. However,
Miss--Miss Redwing, I think you said?'

'I did, sir.'

'Vastly better. The applicant must always be a little ashamed of his
name; they learn that, you know, from the way in which they are
addressed by employers. Well, I'll give you a hint. Tell him he's an
ass, or he wouldn't have needed to ask my opinion.'

'I am to put that into parliamentary language?'


'And say nothing more definite?'

'Really Miss--Miss Redwing, I begin to doubt the genuineness of your
testimonials. You surely have learnt that the first essential of the art
of public letter-writing is to say nothing whatever in as convincing a
manner as possible.'

'But if I tell him he's a--a donkey?'

'You fear it will be deviating into truth. There's something in that.
Say, then, that the matter is occupying my gravest attention, and that I
hope to be able to reply definitely in the course of a few weeks.'

'Very well. Where may I sit? But I can't use a quill, dear boy.'

'Miss Redwing!'

'Oh, I forgot myself. Have you a nice, fine point, not too hard?'

'Let me see.'

Wilfrid unlocked one of the drawers in his desk. As he drew it out,
Beatrice stole to him, and peeped into the drawer.

'How neat, Wilfrid!' she exclaimed. 'What a pretty pocket-book that is
lying there. Do let me look at it.'

It was a morocco case, with an elastic band round it. Beatrice stretched
her hand towards it, but he arrested her movement.

'No, no,' he said, playfully, 'we can't have prying. Here are the pens.'

'But do let me look at the case, Wilfrid.'

He began to close the drawer. Beatrice laid her hand on it.

'My aunt gave it me, long ago,' Wilfrid said, as if to dismiss the
subject. 'Mind! I shall trap your fingers.'

'I'm sure you won't do that. But I do want to see it. The smell of
morocco is so delicious. Just one whiff of it.'

'Then you want to smell it, not to see it. If you're good, you shall
before you go away.'

'No, but now!--Wilfrid!'

He was pretending to squeeze her fingers in the shutting of the drawer.
She would not undo her grasp.

'Why mayn't I, Wilfrid?'

She looked at him. His expression was graver than became the incident;
he was trying to smile, but Beatrice saw that his eyes and lips were

'Why mayn't I?' she repeated.

'Oh, if you insist,' he exclaimed, moving back a step or two, 'of course
you may.'

She took up the case, and looked at it on either side.

'There are letters in it?' she said, without raising her eyes.

'Yes, I believe there are letters in it.'

'Important, I suppose?'

'I daresay; I suppose I had some reason for putting them there.'

He spoke with apparent indifference, and turned to light a cigarette.
Beatrice put back the case, and closed the drawer.

'Here is note-paper,' Wilfrid said, holding some to her.

She took it in silence, and seated herself. Wilfrid at tempted to pursue
the jest, but she could not reply. She sat as if about to 'write; her
eyes were drooped, and her mouth had set itself hard. Wilfrid affected
to turn over papers in search for something, still standing before the

'You find it difficult to begin,' he said. 'Pray call him "dear sir."
Society depends upon that "dear."'

'A word easily used,' remarked Beatrice, in a low' voice, as if she were

He cast a glance at her, then seated himself. He was at the side of the
table, she at the end. After a moment of silence, she leaned forward to

'Wilfrid,' she said, trying to smile, 'what letters are those, dear?'

'Of what possible moment can that be to you, Beatrice?'

'It seems--I can't help thinking they are--letters which you value
particularly. Might I not know?'

He looked away to the window.

'Of course, if you tell me I am rude,' Beatrice continued, pressing her
pen's point upon the table, 'I have no answer.'

'Well, yes,' he replied at length, as if having taken a resolve, 'they
are letters of--that I have put apart for a special reason. And now,
shall we forget them?'

His tone was not altogether suave; about his nostrils there was a
suspicion of defiance. He forced himself to meet her gaze steadily; the
effort killed a smile.

'We will cease to speak of them,' Beatrice answered, implying a

A minute later he saw' that she laid down her pen and rose. He looked up

'I don't feel able to do anything this morning,' she said.

Wilfrid made no reply. She went to the chair on which her hat and mantle

'You are not going?' he asked, in a tone of surprise.

'I think so; I can't be of use to you,' she added, impulsively; 'I have
not your confidence.'

He let her throw the mantle over her shoulders.

'Beatrice, surely this is not the result of such a trifle? Look!' He
pulled open the drawer once more and threw the pocket-hook on to the
table. 'Suppose that had lain there when you came into this room alone.
Should you have opened it and examined the contents?'

'I should not--you know it.'

'Very well. You would simply have taken it for granted that I was to be
trusted to look after my own affairs, until I asked someone else's aid
or advice. Is not that the case at present?'

A man more apt at dissimulation would have treated the matter from the
first with joking irony, and might have carried his point, though with
difficulty. Wilfrid had not the aptitude, to begin with, and he was
gravely disturbed. His pulses were throbbing; scarcely could he steady
his voice. He dreaded a disclosure of what might well be regarded as
throwing doubt upon his sincerity, the more so that he understood in
this moment how justifiable such a doubt would be. After the merriment
of a few minutes ago, this sudden shaking of his nerves was the harder
to endure. It revived with painful intensity the first great agitations
of his life. His way of speaking could not but confirm Beatrice's

'We are not exactly strangers to each other,' she said, coldly.

'No, we are not; yet I think I should have forborne to press you on any
matter you thought it needless to speak of.'

She put on her hat. Wilfrid felt his anger rising--our natural emotion
when we are disagreeably in the wrong, yet cannot condemn the cause
which has made us so. He sat to the table again, as if his part in the
discussion were at an end.

Beatrice stood for some moments, then came quickly to his side.

'Wilfrid, have you secrets from me?' she asked, the tremor of her voice
betraying the anguish that her suspicions cost her. 'Say I am
ill-mannered. It was so, at first; I oughtn't to have said anything. But
now it has become something different. However trifling the matter, I
can't bear that you should refuse to treat me as yourself. There is
nothing, nothing I could keep from you. I have not a secret in my life
to hide from you. It is not because they are letters--or not only that.
You put a distance between us you say there are affairs of yours in
which I have no concern. I cannot bear that! If I leave you, I shall
suffer more than you dream. I thought we were one. Is not your love as
complete as mine?'

He rose and moved away, saying--

'Open it! Look at the letters!'

'No, that I can't do. What can it be that troubles you so? Are they
letters that I _ought_ not to see?'

He could bear it no longer.

'Yes,' he answered, brusquely, 'I suppose they are.'

'You mean that you have preserved letters which, as often as you open
that drawer, remind you of someone else?--that you purposely keep them
so near your hand?'

'Beatrice, I had no right to destroy them.'

'No right!' Her eyes flashed, and her tongue trembled with its scorn.
'You mean you had no wish.'

'If I had no right, I could scarcely have the wish.'

Wilfrid was amazed at his own contemptible quibbling, but in truth he
was not equal to the occasion. He could not defend himself in choice
phrases; in a sort of desperate carelessness he flung out the first
retort that offered itself. He was on the point of throwing over
everything, of declaring that all must be at an end between them; yet
courage failed for that. Nor courage only; the woman before him was very
grand in her indignation, her pale face was surpassingly beautiful. The
past faded in comparison with her; in his heart he doubted of its power.

Beatrice was gazing at him in resentful wonder.

'Why have you done this?' she asked. 'Why did you come to me and speak
those words? What necessity was there to pretend what you did not feel?'

He met her eyes.

'I have not spoken falsely to you,' he said, with calmness which did not
strengthen the impression his words were meant to convey.

'When you said that you loved me? If it were true, you could not have
borne to have those letters under your eyes. You say you had no right to
destroy them. You knew that it was your duty to do so. _Could_ you have
kept them?'

Wilfrid had become almost absent-minded. His heart was torn in two ways.
He wished to take the letters from their case and destroy them at once;
probably it was masculine pride which now kept him from doing it.

'I think you must believe what I say, Beatrice,' was his answer. 'I am
not capable of deliberately lying to you.'

'You are not. But you are capable of deceiving yourself; I accuse you of
nothing more. You have deceived yourself, and I have been the cause of
it; for I had so little of woman's pride that I let you see my love; it
was as if I begged for your love in return. My own heart should have
taught me better; there can be no second love. You pitied me!'

Wilfrid was in no state of mind to weigh phrases; at a later time, when
he could look back with calmness, and with the advantage of extended
knowledge, he recognised in these words the uttermost confession of love
of 'which a woman is capable. In hearing them, he simply took them as a

'If such a thing had been possible,' he said, 'it would have been a
horrible injustice to you. I asked you to be my wife because I loved
you. The existence of these letters is no proof that I misunderstood my
own feeling. There are many things we cannot explain to another on the
moment. You must judge the facts as you will, but no hasty and obvious
judgment will hit the truth.'

She was not listening to him. Her eyes were fixed upon the letters, and
over her heart there crept a desire which all but expelled other
feeling, a desire to know what was there written. She would have given
her hand to be alone in the room with that pocket-book, now that she
knew what it contained; no scruple would have withheld her. The
impossibility that her longing could ever be satisfied frenzied her with

'I will leave you with them,' she exclaimed, speaking her' thought. 'You
do not want me; I come between you and her. Read, and forget me; read
them once more, and see then if you do not understand yourself. I know
now why you have often been so cold, why it cost you an effort to reply
to me. You shall never have that trouble again.'

She moved to quit the room. Wilfrid called her.

'Beatrice! Stay and listen to me. These letters are nothing, and mean
nothing; Stay, and see me burn them.'

Irrational as it was, she could not bear to see them destroyed. In her
distracted mind there was a sort of crazy hope that he would at last
give them to her to burn; she might even perhaps have brought herself to
take them away.

'That is childish,' she said. 'You know them by heart; the burning of
the paper would alter nothing.'

'Then I can say and do no more.'

It had been like a rending of his heartstrings to offer to destroy these
memories of Emily, though he at the same time persuaded himself that,
once done, he would be a stronger and a happier man. In truth, they had
made the chief strength of the link between him and the past; every day
they had reminded him how much of the old feeling lingered in his being;
the sanctity with which these relics were invested testified to the
holiness of the worship which had bequeathed them. He had not opened the
case since his betrothal to Beatrice, and scarcely a day passed that he
did not purpose hiding it somewhere away for ever--not destroying.
Beatrice's answer to his offer caused him half to repent that he had
made it. He turned away from her.

She, after looking at the pocket-book still for some moments, seemed to
force herself away. He heard her open the door, and did not try to stay

Half an hour later, Wilfrid restored the letters to their place in the
drawer. If they were to be destroyed, it must now be in Beatrice's
presence. With something like joy he turned the key upon them, feeling
that they were preserved, that the last farewell was once again
postponed. Wilfrid was not a very strong man where sacrifice 'was
demanded of him.

He neither saw nor heard from Beatrice till the evening of the following
day. Then it happened that they had to dine at the same house. On
meeting her in the drawing-room, he gave her his hand as usual; hers
returned no pressure. She seemed as cheerful as ever in her talk with
others; him she kept apart from. He could not make up his mind to write.
She had refused to accept such proof of his sincerity as it wag in his
power to offer, and Wilfrid made this an excuse--idle as he knew it to
be--for maintaining a dignified silence. Dignified, he allowed himself
to name it; yet he knew perfectly well that his attitude had one very
ignoble aspect, since he all but consciously counted upon Beatrice's
love to bring her back to his feet. He said to himself: Let her
interpret my silence as she will; if she regard it as evidence of
inability to face her--well, I make no objection. The conviction all the
while grew in him that he did veritably love her, for he felt that, but
for his knowledge of her utter devotedness, he would now be in fear lest
he should lose her. Such fear need not occupy a thought; a word, and she
flew to him. He enjoyed this sense of power; to draw out the
misunderstanding a little would make reconciliation all the pleasanter.
Then the letters should flame into ashes, and with them vanish even the
regret for the blessedness they had promised.

Wednesday morning, and still no letter from Beatrice. Mr. Athel joked
about her speedy resignation of the secretaryship. Wilfrid joined in the
joke, and decided that he would wait one more day, knowing not what a
day might bring forth.



Yielding to the urgency of Beatrice, who was supported in her entreaty
by Mrs. Birks, Wilfrid had, a little ere this, consented to sit for his
portrait to an artist, a friend of the family, who had already made a
very successful picture of Beatrice herself. The artist resided at
Teddington. Wilfrid was due for a sitting this Wednesday morning, and he
went down into the country, intending to be back for lunch and the House
of Commons. But the weather was magnificent, and, the sitting over,
truant thoughts began to assail the young legislator. Bushey Park was at
hand, with its chestnut avenue leading to Hampton Court. A ramble of
indefinite duration was, in his present frame of mind, much more
attractive than the eloquence of independent members. He determined to
take a holiday.

A very leisurely stroll across the park brought him to the King's Arms,
and the sight of the hostelry suggested pleasant thoughts of sundry
refreshing viands and cooling liquors. He entered and lunched. It was a
holiday, and a truant holiday; he allowed himself champagne. When he
came forth again, his intention to stroll through the galleries of the
Palace had given way before the remembered shadow of the chestnuts; he
returned to the park, and, after idly watching the fish in the shallow
water of the round lake, strayed away into cool retreats, where the
grass irresistibly invited to recumbency. He threw himself down, and let
his eyes dream upon the delicate blades and stalks and leafage which one
so seldom regards. If he chose to gaze further, there were fair tracts
of shadowed sward, with sunny gleamings scattered where the trees were
thinner, and above him the heaven of clustering leaves, here of
impenetrable dark-green, there translucent-golden. A rustling whisper,
in the air and on the ground, was the only voice that came thither.

He had set himself to think of Beatrice. He purposed writing her a long
letter to-night, wherein he would do his best to make her understand the
light in which the past appeared to him, and how little those memories
had to do with the present and its love and its duty. To be sure, he
could not use the words of very truth. He would much have preferred to
speak with unflinching honesty, to confess that he had, even of late,
often dwelt on the thought of Emily with tenderness, with something of
heart-ache; but that the new love had, for all that, triumphed over the
old, and would henceforth grow to perfectness. But the character of
Beatrice would not allow this; in her, feeling was too predominant over
intellect; she could not recognise in this very frankness the assurance
of an affection which would end by being no less than the utmost she
demanded. He had to seek for subtleties of explanation, for ingenuities
of argument, which, unsatisfactory as they seemed to himself, might yet,
he thought, help her to the reconciliation he knew she desired. He was
scarcely less anxious for it. For Beatrice he would never know that
limitless passion, that infinite yearning alike of spirit and of sense,
which had been his love for Emily; but she was very dear to him, and
with all his heart he desired to make her happiness. He imaged her
beauty and her talent with pride which made his veins warmer. Her
husband, he would be loyal to his last breath. Community of life would
establish that intimate alliance of heart and soul which every year
makes more enduring. Were they not young flesh and blood, he and she?
And could a bodiless ghost come between them, a mere voice of
long-vanished time, insubstantial, unseizable, as the murmur in these

He grew tired of the attitude which at first had been reposeful, and
rose to wander further. Someone else, it seemed, had been tempted to
this quiet corner, away from the road; a woman was walking at a little
distance, and reading as she walked. The thought passed through his mind
that a woman never looked more graceful than when walking with her head
bent over a book. When he looked that way again, he found that she had
come much nearer, still very intent upon her reading. She had, in truth,
a comely figure, one which suggested a face of the nobler kind. She
would look up presently.

Did not that form, that movement as she walked, stir memories? Yes, he
had known someone who might well have paced thus beneath spreading
trees, with her eyes upon a book of poetry; not unlike this stranger,
outwardly. In what black, skyless, leafless town was she pursuing her
lonely life?--Lonely? why should it be so? Emily could not go on her way
without meeting one whom her sweetness and her power would enthral, and
the reasons, whatever they were, that had forbidden her marriage six or
seven years ago, were not likely to resist time. He tried to hope that
the happier lot had by this solaced her. Do we not change so? His own
love--see how it had faded!

Half purposely, he had turned so as to pass near the reader. At the
distance of a few yards from her, he stayed his step. A little nearer
she came, then something made her aware of his presence. She raised her
eyes, the eyes of Emily Hood.

Her hands fell, one still holding the book open. He, who was prepared
already, could watch her countenance change from placid, if grave,
thought, to the awakening of surprise, to startled recognition; he could
see the colour die upon her cheeks, flee from her lips; he could observe
the great heartthrobs which shook her and left her bosom quivering. He
did not uncover his head; conventional courtesies have their season. It
seemed very long before they ceased to look into each other's eyes, but
at length hers fell.

'Is it possible that you are living in London?' were Wilfrid's first
words. He could affect no distance of manner. To him all at once it was
as though they had parted a few days ago.

'Yes,' she answered simply. 'In a far part of London.'

'And we meet here, where I seemed to find myself by the merest chance. I
saw a stranger in the distance, and thought of yourself; I knew you long
before you looked up from your reading.'

Emily tried to smile.

'How little you are changed!' Wilfrid continued, his voice keeping still
its awed quietness, with under-notes of feeling. 'Rather, you are not
changed at all.'

It was not true, but in the few minutes that he had gazed at her, past
and present had so blended that he could not see what another would have
noticed. Emily was appreciably older, and ill-health had set marks upon
her face. A stranger looking at her now would have found it hard to
imagine her with the light of joy in her eyes; her features had set
themselves in sorrow. Her cheeks were very thin; her eyes were dark and
sunken. Wilfrid saw only the soul in her gaze at him, and that was as it
had ever been.

She was unable to speak; Wilfrid found words.

'Do you often walk here? Is your home near?'

'Not very near. I came by the river,' she answered.

'I am very glad that I have met you.' The words sounded insufficient,
but Wilfrid was by this time at battle with himself, and succeeded in
saying less than he felt. 'You will let me walk on a little way with
you? We can't shake hands at once and say good-bye, can we, after such a
long time?'

He spoke in the tone one uses to jest over bygone sadness. Emily made no
verbal answer, but walked along by his side.

'You still have your old habits,' he said, casting an eye at the book.
'Are your tastes still the same, I wonder?'

'It is Dante,' she replied.

The name brought another to Wilfrid's consciousness; he averted his eyes
for a moment, but spoke again without much delay.

'Still faithful to the great names. This is a lovely place to make one's
study. Were you here when the chestnuts flowered?'

'Yes, once or twice.'

'I did not see them this year. And you have been walking here so often,'
he added, wondering again, half to himself. 'I have been to Teddington
several times lately, but only today came into the park.'

'I have not been here for a month,' Emily said, speaking at length with
more case. The shock had affected her physically more than she had
allowed to be seen; it was only now that her voice was perfectly at her
command. Her face remained grave, but she spoke in a tone free from
suggestion of melancholy. 'I teach in a school, and to-day there is a

'Do you live at the school?'

'No. I have my own lodgings.'

He was on the point of asking whether Mrs. Baxendale knew she was in
London, but it seemed better to suppress the question.

'Have you been there long?' he asked instead.

'Half a year.'

As he kept silence, Emily continued with a question, the first she had

'What have you chosen for your life's work?'

Wilfrid could not overcome the tendency of blood to his cheeks. He was
more than half ashamed to tell her the truth.

'You will laugh at me,' he said. 'I am in Parliament.'

'You are? I never see newspapers.'

She added it as if to excuse herself for not being aware of his public

'Oh, I am still far from being a subject of leading-articles,' Wilfrid
exclaimed. 'Indeed, I gave you no answer to your question. My life's
work is non-existent. All my old plans have come to nothing, and I have
formed no new ones, no serious plans. My life will be a failure, I

'But you aim at success in politics?'

'I suppose so. I was thinking of the other things we used to speak of.'

Emily hazarded a glance at him, as if to examine him again in this new

'You used to say,' she continued, 'that you felt in many ways suited for
a political life.'

'Did I? You mean at home, when I talked in a foolish way. It was not my
serious thought. I never said it to you.'

She murmured a 'No.' They walked on in silence.

'You didn't read Italian then,' Wilfrid said. 'You, I feel sure, have
not wasted your time. How much you must have read since we talked over
our favourite authors.'

'I have tried to keep up the habit of study,' Emily replied,
unaffectedly, 'but of course most of my time is occupied in teaching.'

Their walk had brought them from under the trees, and the lake was just
before them.

'I will go on to the bridge,' Emily said. 'The boat I return by will
leave shortly.'

She spoke as if expecting him to take leave of her. Wilfrid inwardly
bade himself do so. He had seen her, had talked with her; what more for
either? Yet it was beyond his power to stand here and see her walk away
from him. Things were stirring in his heart and mind of which he refused
to take cognisance; he would grant nothing more than a sense of pleasure
in hearing once again a voice which had so long been buried, and there
was no harm in that. Was not his strongest feeling merely surprise at
having met her thus? Even yet he found a difficulty in realising that it
was she with whom he spoke; had he closed his eyes and then looked round
for her in vain it would only have appeared the natural waking from
intense reverie. Why not dream on as long as he might?

'May I not walk as far as the bridge with you?' he asked. 'If I were not
afraid of being tiresome I should even like to go by the boat; it would
be the pleasantest way of getting back to town.'

'Yes, it is pleasant on the river,' Emily said rather absently.

They pursued their walk together, and conversed still much in the same
way. Wilfrid learned that her school was in Hammersmith, a large
day-school for girls; he led her to speak of the subjects she taught,
and of her pupils.

'You prefer it,' he asked, 'to private teaching?'

'I think so.'

Once on the boat their talk grew less consecutive; the few words they
exchanged now and then were suggested by objects or places passed. At
length even these remarks ceased, and for the last half-hour they held
silence. Other people close by were talking noisily. Emily sat with both
hands holding the book upon her lap, her eyes seldom moving from a point
directly before her. Wilfrid glanced at her frequently. He was more
observant now of the traces of bodily weakness in her; he saw how meagre
she had become, how slight her whole frame was. At moments it cost him a
serious effort to refrain from leaning to her and whispering words--he
knew not what--something kind, something that should change her fixed
sadness. Why had he forced his company upon her? Certainly he brought
her no joy, and presently he would take leave of her as any slight
acquaintance might; how otherwise? It would have been better to part
there by the lake where she offered the occasion.

The steamer reached Hammersmith. Only at this last moment he seemed to
understand where he was and with whom, that Emily was sitting by him, in
very deed here by his side, and directly would be gone--he knew not
whither--scarcely to be met again. The silence between them had come of
the difficulty they both had in realising that they were together, of
the dreaminess so strange an event had cast upon them. Were they to fall
apart again without a word, a sign? A sign of what, forsooth?

Wilfrid moved with her to the spot at which she would step from the
deck; seeing him follow, Emily threw back one startled glance. The next
moment she again turned, holding out her hand. He took it, held it,
pressed it; nothing could restrain that pressure; his muscles closed
upon her slight fingers involuntarily. Then he watched her walk
hurriedly from the landing-stage....

Her we follow. She had a walk of nearly half an hour, which brought her
at length to one of the streets of small lodging-houses which abound in
this neighbourhood, and to a door which she opened with her latch-key.
She went upstairs. Here two rooms were her home. That which looked upon
the street was furnished in the poor bare style which the exterior of
the dwelling would have led one to expect. A very hideous screen of
coloured paper hid the fireplace, and in front of the small oblong
mirror--cracked across one corner--which stood above the mantelpiece
were divers ornaments such as one meets with in poor lodging-houses;
certain pictures about the walls completed the effect of vulgarity.

Emily let herself sink upon the chintz-covered couch, and lay back,
closing her eyes; she had thrown off her hat, but was too weary, too
absent in thought, to remove her mantle. Her face was as colourless as
if she had fainted; she kept one hand pressed against her heart.
Unconsciously she had walked home with a very quick step, and quick
movement caused her physical suffering. She sat thus for a quarter of an
hour, when there came a tap at the door.

Her landlady entered.

'Oh, I thought, Miss Hood,' she began, 'you'd maybe rung the bell as
usual, and I hadn't heard it. I do sometimes think I'm getting a little
hard of hearing; my husband tell me of it. Will you have the tea made?'

'Thank you, Mrs. Willis,' Emily replied, rising.

She opened a low cupboard beside the fireplace, took out a tea-pot, and
put some tea into it.

'You'd have a long walk, I suppose,' continued the woman, 'and
delightful weather for it, too. But you must mind as you don't over-tire
yourself. You don't look very strong, if I may say it.'

'Oh, I am very well,' was the mechanical reply.

After a few more remarks the landlady took away the teapot. Emily then
drew out a cloth from the cupboard, and other things needful for her
evening meal. Presently the tea-pot returned filled with hot water.
Emily was glad to pour out a cup and drink it, but she ate nothing. In a
short time she rang the bell to have the things removed. This time a
little girl appeared.

'Eh, Miss,' was the exclamation of the child, on examining the state of
the table, 'you haven't eaten nothing!'

'No, I don't want anything just now, Milly,' was the quiet reply.

'Shall I leave the bread and butter out?'

'No, thank you. I'll have some later.'

'Is there anything I could get you, Miss?'

'Nothing, Milly. Take the things away, there's a good girl.'

Emily had seated herself on the couch again; when the girl was gone she
lay down, her hands beneath her head. Long, long since she had had so
much to think of as to-night.

At first she had found Wilfrid a good deal altered. He looked so much
older; his bearded face naturally caused that. But before he had spoken
twenty words how well she knew that the change was only of appearance.
His voice was a little deeper, but the tone and manner of his speaking
carried her back to the days when they had first exchanged words when
she was a governess at The Firs in Surrey, and Wilfrid was the
interesting young fellow who had overworked himself at college. The
circumstances of to-day's meeting had reproduced something of the
timidity with which he had approached her when they were strangers. This
afternoon she had scarcely looked into his eyes, but she felt their gaze
upon her, and felt their power as of old--ah, fifty-fold stronger!

Was he married? It was more than possible. Nothing had escaped him
inconsistent with that, and he was not likely to speak of it directly.
It would account for the nature of his embarrassment in talking with
her; her keen insight distinguished something more than the hesitation
which common memories would naturally cause. And that pressure of the
hand at parting which had made her heart leap with such agony, might
well be his way of intimating to her that this meeting would have no
sequel. Was it to be expected that he should remain unmarried? Had she
hoped it?

It could not be called hope, but for two or three years something had
grown in her which made life a succession of alternating longings and
despairs. For Emily was not so constituted that the phase of thought and
feeling which had been brought about by the tragedy of her home could
perpetuate itself and become her normal consciousness. When she fled
from Dunfield she believed that the impulses then so strong would
prevail with her to the end of her life, that the motives which were
then predominant in her soul would maintain their ruling force for ever.
And many months went by before she suspected that her imagination had
deceived her; imagination, ever the most potent factor of her being, the
source alike of her strength and her weakness. But there came a day when
the poignancy of her grief was subdued, and she looked around her upon a
world more desolate than that in which she found herself on the day of
her mother's burial. She began to know once more that she was young, and
that existence stretched before her a limitless tract of barren

The rare natures which are in truth ruled by the instinct of
renunciation, which find in the mortification of sense a spring of
unearthly joy brimming higher with each self-conquest, may experience
temptation and relapse, but the former is a new occasion for the arming
of the spirit, and the latter speedily leads to a remorse which is the
strongest of all incentives to ascetic struggle. Emily had not upon her
the seal of sainthood. It was certain that at some point of her life
asceticism would make irresistible claim upon the strongholds of her
imagination; none the less certain that it would be but for a time, that
it would prove but a stage in her development. To her misfortune the
occasion presented itself in connection with her strongest native
affections, and under circumstances which led her to an irretrievable
act. Had she been brought up in a Roman Catholic country she would
doubtless have thrown herself into a convent, finding her stern joy in
the thought that no future wavering was possible. Attempting to make a
convent of her own mind, she soon knew too well that her efforts mocked
her, that there was in her an instinct stronger than that of
renunciation, and that she had condemned herself to a life of futile

Her state of mind for the year following her father's death was morbid,
little differing from madness; and she came at length to understand
that. When time had tempered her anguish, she saw with clear eyes that
her acts had been guided by hallucination. Never would sorrow for her
parents cease to abide with her, but sorrow cannot be the sustenance of
a life through those years when the mind is strongest and the sensations
most vivid. Had she by her self-mortification done aught to pleasure
those dear ones who slept their last sleep? It had been the predominant
feature of her morbid passion to believe that piety demanded such a
sacrifice. Grief may reach such a point that to share the uttermost fate
of the beloved one seems blessedness; in Emily's mind that moment of
supreme agony had been protracted till unreasoning desire took to itself
the guise of duty. Duty so represented cannot maintain its sanction when
the wounds of nature grow towards healing.

She strove with herself. The reaction she was experiencing seemed to her
a shameful weakness. Must she cease to know the self-respect which comes
of conscious perseverance in a noble effort? Must she stand
self-condemned, an ignoble nature, incapable of anything good and
great--and that, after all her ambitions? Was she a mere waif, at the
mercy of the currents of sense? Never before had she felt this
condemnation of her own spirit. She had suffered beyond utterance, but
ever with a support which kept her from the last despair; of her anguish
had come inspiration. Now she felt herself abandoned of all spiritual
good. She came to loathe her life as a polluted stream. The image of
Wilfrid, the memory of her lost love, these grew to be symbols of her
baseness. It was too much to face those with whom daily duty brought her
in contact; surely they must read in her face the degradation of which
she was conscious. As much as possible she kept apart from all, nursing
her bitter self-reproach.

Then it was that she sought relief in the schemes which naturally occur
to a woman thus miserable. She would relinquish her life as a teacher,
and bury her wretchedness beneath physical hardship. There was anguish
enough in the world, and she would go to live in the midst of it, would
undertake the hardest and most revolting tasks in some infirmary: thus
might she crush out of herself the weakness which was her disgrace. It
remained only a vision. That which was terribly real, the waste and woe
of her heart, grew ever.

She yielded. Was not the true sin this that she tried to accomplish--the
slaying of the love which cried so from her inmost being? Glimpses of
the old faith began to be once more vouchsafed her; at moments she knew
the joy of beautiful things. This was in spring-time. Living in the
great seaport, she could easily come within sight of the blue line where
heaven and ocean met, and that symbol of infinity stirred once more the
yearnings for boundless joy which in bygone days she had taught herself
to accept as her creed. Supposing that her father had still knowledge of
the life she led, would it make him happy to know that she had deprived
herself of every pleasure, had for his sake ruined a future which might
have been so fair? Not thus do we show piety to the dead; rather in
binding our brows with every flower our hands may cull, and in drinking
sunlight as long as the west keeps for us one gleam.

She had destroyed herself. Joy could arise to her from but one source,
and that was stopped for ever. For it never came to Emily as the
faintest whisper that other love than Wilfrid's might bless her life.
That was constancy which nothing could shake; in this she would never
fall from the ideal she had set before herself. She no longer tried to
banish thoughts of what she had lost; Wilfrid was a companion at all
hours far more real than the people with whom she had to associate. She
had, alas, destroyed his letters she had destroyed the book in which she
wrote the secrets of her heart that he might some day read them. The
lack of a single thing that had come to her from him made the more
terribly real the severance of his life from hers. She anguished without

Then there came to her the knowledge that her bodily strength was
threatened by disease. She had fainting fits, and in the comfort
administered by those about her she read plainly what was meant to be
concealed. At times this was a relief; at least she might hope to be
spared long years of weary desolation, and death, come when he might,
would be a friend. In other hours the all but certainty of her doom was
a thought so terrible that reason well-nigh failed before it. Was there
no hope for her for ever, nothing but the grave to rest her tired heart?
Why had fate dealt with her so cruelly? She looked round and saw none
upon whom had fallen a curse so unrelieved.

At last the desire to go once more to the south of England grew
overpowering. If she could live in London, she felt it might console her
to feel that she was near Wilfrid; he would not seem, as now, in a world
utterly remote. Perchance she might one day even see him. If she had
knowledge of the approach of death, Wilfrid would not refuse to come and
see her at the last, and with her hand in his how easy it would be to
die. She sought for means of supporting herself in London; she still had
money saved from that which the sale of her father's house had brought
her, but she did not wish to use more of this than she could help,
keeping it for a certain cherished purpose. After many months of
fruitless endeavour, she found a place in a school in Hammersmith....

And Wilfrid had sat by her, had looked at her with something of the old
tenderness, had pressed her hand as no one else would. Far into the
night she lay thinking over every word he had spoken. Sometimes she
wept--poor Emily! He had not asked her where she lived; for that
doubtless there was good reason. But it was much to have seen him this
once. Again she wept, saying to herself that she loved him,--that he was
lost to her,--that she must die.



That Wilfrid did not at the last moment leap on shore and follow Emily
seemed to him less the result of self-control than obedience to outward
restraint; it was as though an actual hand lay on his shoulder and held
him back. He went back to his seat, and again fell into dreaminess.

The arrival of the boat at Chelsea pier reminded him that he must land;
thence he drove home. On reaching the house he found Mrs. Birks there;
she had called to see his father, and was in the hall on the point of
leaving as he entered. She stepped up to him, and spoke in a low voice.

'What is the matter with Beatrice?'

'The matter? How?'

'She seems out of sorts. Come round and see her, will you?'

'I really can't just now,' Wilfrid replied. 'Do you mean that she is not

'Something seems to be upsetting her. Why can't you come and see her?'

'I can't this evening. I have an engagement.'

'Very well. But you had better come soon, I think.'

'I don't understand you,' said Wilfrid, with some show of impatience.
'Is she ill?'

'Not exactly ill, I suppose. Of course I mustn't interfere. No doubt you

'I will come as soon as I can,' Wilfrid said. And he added, 'Has
she--spoken to you about anything?'

'I wish she had. She will speak neither to me nor to anyone else. It is
too bad, Wilf, if you let her fret herself into a fever. She is just the
girl to do it, you know.'

She nodded, smiled, and went off. Wilfrid, having committed himself to
an engagement, loitered about in his dressing-room for a while, then,
without seeing his father, betook himself to his club and dined there.
After passing the early part of the evening in an uncomfortable way,
with the help of newspapers and casual conversation, he went home again
and shut himself in his study.

He sat long, without attempting to do anything. About midnight he rose
as if to leave the room, but, instead of doing so, paced the floor for a
few minutes; then he opened a certain drawer in his writing-table, and
took out the morocco case which contained Emily's letters. He slipped
off the band. The letters were still in their envelopes, and lay in the
order in which he had received them. He drew forth the first and began
to read it. He read them all.

Till the early daybreak he remained in the room, sometimes walking
about, sometimes seating himself to re-read this letter and that.
Twenty-four hours ago these written words would have touched his heart
indeed, but only as does the memory of an irrecoverable joy; he could
have read them, and still have gone to meet Beatrice as usual, or with
but a little more than his ordinary reserve in her presence. It was
otherwise now. The very voice had spoken again, and its tones lingering
with him made the written characters vocal; each word uttered itself as
it met his eye; Emily spoke still. The paper was old, the ink faded, but
the love was of this hour. He grew fevered, and it was the fever of
years ago, which had only been in appearance subdued; it had lurked
still in his blood, and now asserted itself with the old dire mastery.

He marvelled that he had suffered her to leave him without even learning
where she lived. He could not understand what his mood had been, what
motives had weighed with him. He had not been conscious of a severe
struggle to resist a temptation; the temptation had not, in fact, yet
formed itself. What was her own thought? She had answered his questions
freely, perhaps would have told him without hesitation the address of
her lodgings. Clearly she no longer sought to escape him. But that, he
reminded himself, was only the natural response to his own perfectly
calm way of speaking; she could not suggest embarrassments when it was
his own cue to show that he felt none. She was still free, it seemed,
but what was her feeling towards him? Did she still love him? Was the
mysterious cause which had parted them still valid?

When already it was daylight, he went upstairs and lay down on the bed;
he was weary, but not with the kind of weariness that brings sleep. His
mind was occupied with plans for discovering where Emily lived. Mrs.
Baxendale had professed to have lost sight of her; Wilfrid saw now that
there was a reason for concealing the truth, and felt that in all
probability his friend had misled him; in any case, he could not apply
to her. Was there a chance of a second meeting in the same place? Emily
was sure to be free on Saturday afternoon; but only in one case would
she go to the park again--if she desired to see him, and imagined a
corresponding desire on his side. And that was an unlikely thing;
granting she loved him, it was not in Emily's character to scheme thus,
under the circumstances.

Yet why had she chosen to come and live in London?

Beatrice he had put out of his thoughts. He did not do it deliberately;
he made no daring plans; simply he gave himself over to the rising flood
of passion, without caring to ask whither it would bear him. Though it
fevered him, there was a luxury in the sense of abandonment once more to
desire which suffered no questioning. That he had ever really loved
Beatrice he saw now to be more than doubtful; that he loved Emily was as
certain as that he lived. To compare the images of the two women was to
set side by side a life sad and wan with one which bloomed like a royal
flower, a face whose lines were wasted by long desolation with one whose
loveliness was the fit embodiment of supreme joy. But in the former he
found a beauty of which the other offered no suggestion, a beauty which
appealed to him with the most subtle allurements, which drew him as with
siren song, which, if he still contemplated it, would inspire him with
recklessness. He made no effort to expel it from his imagination; every
hour it was sweeter to forget the facts of life and dream of what might

Through this day and that which followed he kept away from home, only
returning late at night. No more news of Beatrice came. He saw that his
father regarded him with looks of curiosity, but only conversation of
the wonted kind passed between them. When Saturday arrived he was no
longer in doubt whether to pursue the one faint hope of finding Emily
again in Bushey Park; the difficulty was to pass the time till noon,
before which it was useless to start. He was due for the last sitting in
the studio at Teddington, but that was an ordeal impossible to go
through in his present state of mind. He went to Hampton by train,
lunched again at the King's Arms, though but hastily, and at length
reached the spot in the park where his eyes had discovered Emily

It was not such a day as Wednesday had been; the sun shone
intermittently, but there was threatening of rain. A vehicle now and
then drove along the avenue taking holiday-makers to the Palace, and,
near the place where Wilfrid walked, a party was picnicking under the
trees. But he in vain sought for one who wandered alone, one who, in the
distance, could move him to uncertain hope.

Why had he come? Suppose he did again meet Emily, what had he to say to
her? Long and useless waiting naturally suggested such thoughts, and the
answer to them was a momentary failing at the heart, a touch of fear.
Was he prepared to treat this temporary coldness between Beatrice and
himself as a final rupture? Was his present behaviour exactly that of a
man who recognises rules of honour? If he had no purpose in wishing to
see Emily but the satisfaction of a desire about which he would not
reason, was it not unqualified treachery in which he was involving
himself, treachery to two women and to one of them utter cruelty? He
turned to walk towards the lake, desperate that his hope had failed, and
at the same time--strange contradiction--glad in the thought that,
having once yielded, he might overcome his madness. He passed the lake,
and reached the exit from the park. At the same moment Emily was

Her face expressed an agony of shame; she could not raise her eyes,
could not speak. She gave him her hand mechanically, and walked on with
her looks averted. Her distress was so unconcealed that it pained him
acutely. He could not find words till they had walked a distance of
twenty or thirty yards. Then he said:

'I came purposely to-day, in the hope that you might by chance be here.
Do I annoy you?'

She half turned her face to him, but the effort to speak was vain.

A still longer silence followed. Wilfrid knew at length what he had
done. That utterance of his had but one meaning, Emily's mute reply
admitted of but one interpretation. His eyes dazzled; his heart beat
violently. A gulf sank before him, and there was no longer choice but to
plunge into it. He looked at his companion, and--farewell the solid

'Emily, is it your wish that I should leave you?'

She faced him, moved her lips, motioned 'no' with her head. She was like
one who is led to death.

'Then I will not leave you. Let us walk gently on; you shall speak to me
when you feel able.'

He cared for no obstacle now. She was come back to him from the dead,
and to him it was enough of life to hold her. Let the world go; let all
speak of him as they would; this pale, weary-eyed woman should
henceforth represent existence to him. He would know no law but the
bidding of his sovereign love.

She spoke.

'Have I fallen in your eyes?'

'You have always been to me the highest, and will be whilst I live.'

They had passed into the shadow of the trees; he took her hand and held
it. The touch seemed to strengthen her, for she looked at him again and
spoke firmly.

'Neither was my coming without thought of you. I had no hope that you
would be here, no least hope, but I came because it was here I had seen

'Since Wednesday,' Wilfrid returned, 'I have read your letters many
times. Could you still speak to me as you did then?'

'If you could believe me.'

'You said once that you did not love me.'

'It was untrue.'

'May you tell me now what it was that came between us?'

She fixed upon him a gaze of sad entreaty, and said, under her breath,
'Not now.'

'Then I will never ask. Let it be what it might; your simple word that
you loved me is all I need.'

'I will tell you,' Emily replied, 'but I cannot now. It seemed to me at
the time that that secret would have to die with me; I thought so till I
met you here. Then I knew that, if you still loved me and had been
faithful to me so long, I could say nothing to myself which I might not
speak to you. My love for you has conquered every other love and
everything that I believed my duty.'

'Is it so, Emily?' he asked, with deepest tenderness.

'When I tell you all, you will perhaps feel that I have proved my own
weakness. I will conceal from you nothing I have ever thought; you will
see that I tried to do what my purest instincts urged, and that I have
been unable to persevere to the end. Wilfrid--'

'My own soul!'

'When I tell you all that happened at that time, I shall indeed speak to
you as if your soul and mine were one. It may be wrong to tell you--you
may despise me for not keeping such things a secret for ever. I cannot
tell whether I am right or wrong to do this. Is your love like mine?'

'I would say it was greater, if you were not so above me in all things.'

'Wilfrid, I was dying in my loneliness. It would not have been hard to
die, for, if I was weak in everything else, at least my love for you
would have grown to my last breath. If I speak things which I should
only prove in silence, it is that you may not afterwards judge me

'You shall tell me,' Wilfrid replied, 'when you are my wife. Till then I
will hear nothing but that you are and always have been mine.'

They came to a great tree about the trunk of which had been built a
circular seat. The glades on every side showed no disturbing approach.

'Let us sit here,' said Wilfrid. 'We have always talked with each other
in the open air, haven't we?'

He drew her to him and kissed her face passionately. It was the
satisfying of a hunger of years. With Beatrice his caresses had seldom
been other than playful; from the first moment of re-meeting with Emily,
he had longed to hold her to his heart.

'Can I hope to keep you now? You won't leave me again, Emily?'

'If I leave you, Wilfrid, it will be to die.'

Again he folded her in his arms, and kissed her lips, her cheeks, her
eyes. She was as weak as a trembling flower.

'Emily, I shall be in dread through every moment that parts us. Will you
consent to whatever I ask of you? Once before I would have taken you and
made you my wife, and if you had yielded we should have escaped all this
long misery. Will you now do what I wish?'

She looked at him questioningly.

'Will you marry me as soon as it can possibly be? On Monday I will do
what is necessary, and we can be married on Wednesday. This time you
will not refuse?'


'Yes. One day only need intervene between the notice and the marriage;
it shall be at the church nearest to you.'

'Wilfrid, why do you--'

Fear had taken hold upon her she could not face the thought. Wilfrid
checked her faint words with his lips.

'I wish it,' he said, himself shaken with a tempest of passion which
whelmed the last protest of his conscience. 'I shall scarcely tear
myself from you even till then. Emily, Emily, what has my life been
without your love? Oh, you will be the angel that raises me out of the
ignoble world into which I have fallen! Hold me to you--make me feel and
believe that you have saved me! Emily, my beautiful, my goddess! let me
worship you, pray to you! Mine now, mine, love, for ever and ever!

She burst into tears, unable to suffer this new denizen of her heart,
the sure and certain hope of bliss. He kissed away the tears as they
fell, whispering love that was near to frenzy. There came a Bob that
shook her whole frame, then Wilfrid felt her cheek grow very cold
against his; her eyes were half closed, from her lips escaped a faint
moan. He drew back and, uncertain whether she had lost consciousness,
called to her to speak. Her body could not fall, for it rested against a
hollow part of the great trunk. The faintness lasted only for a few
moments; she once more gazed at him with the eyes of infinite sadness.

'It is so hard to bear happiness,' were her first words.

'My dearest, you are weak and worn with trouble. Oh, we will soon leave
that far behind us. Are you better, my lily? Only give me your hands to
hold, and I will be very still. Your hands are so light; they weigh no
more than leaves. Do you suffer, dear?'

'A little pain--there;' she touched her heart.

Wilfrid looked into her face anxiously.

'Have you often that pain?'

'No, not often. I don't feel it now. Wilfrid! Every day I have spoken
that name, have spoken it aloud.'

'So have I often spoken yours, dear.'

They gazed at each other in silence.

'And it is to be as I wish?' Wilfrid said gently.

'So very soon?'

'So very long! This is only Saturday. If I had known this morning, it
could have been on Monday.'

'Your wife, Wilfrid? Really your wife?'

'How your voice has changed! Till now you spoke so sadly. Those words
are like the happiest of our old happy time. Three long days to be
passed, but not one day more. You promise me?'

'I do your bidding, now and always, always!'

For the moment she had forgotten everything but love and love's rapture.
It was as though life spread before her in limitless glory; she thought
nothing of the dark foe with whose ever-watchful, ever-threatening
presence she had become so familiar.

They talked long; only the lengthening and deepening shadow of the trees
reminded them at length that hours had passed whilst they sat here.

'The boat will have gone,' Emily said.

'Never mind. We will get a conveyance at the hotel. And you must have
refreshment of some kind. Shall we see what they can give us to eat at
the King's Arms? To be sure we will. It will be our first meal

They rose.


'Yes, Wilfrid?'

'I can trust you? You will not fail me?'

'Not if I am living, Wilfrid.'

'Oh, but I shall of course see you before Wednesday. To-morrow is

He checked himself. Sunday was the day he always gave to Beatrice. But
he durst not think of that now.

'On Sunday there are so many people about,' he continued. 'Will you come
here again on Monday afternoon?'

Emily promised to do so.

'I will write to you to-morrow, and again a letter for Tuesday, giving
you the last directions. But I may have to see you on Tuesday. May I
call at your lodgings?'

'If you need to. Surely you may? My--my husband?'

'My wife!'

They walked to the hotel, and thence, when dusk was falling, started to
drive homewards. They stopped at the end of Emily's street, and Wilfrid
walked with her to the door.

'Till Monday afternoon,' he said, grasping her hand as if he clung to it
in fear.

Then he found another vehicle. It was dark when he reached home.



Late in the evening Wilfrid received a visit from his father. Mr. Athel
had dined with his sister, and subsequently accompanied his nieces to a
concert. Beatrice should have sung, but had broken her engagement on the
plea of ill-health.

'Been at home all the evening?' Mr. Athel began by asking.

'I got home late,' Wilfrid answered, rising from his chair.

His father had something to say which cost him hesitation. He walked
about with his hands between the tails of his coat.

'Seen Beatrice lately?' he inquired at length.

'No; not since last Monday.'

'I'm afraid she isn't well. She didn't sing to-night. Didn't dine with
us either.'

Wilfrid kept silence.

'Something wrong?' was his father's next question.

'Yes, there is.'

'I'm sorry to hear that.'

Wilfrid went to the fireplace and leaned his arm upon the mantelpiece.
As he did not seem disposed to speak, his father continued--

'Nothing serious, I hope?'

'Yes; something serious.'

'You don't mean that? Anything you can talk about?'

'I'm afraid not. I shall go and see Beatrice as usual tomorrow. I may be
at liberty to tell you after that, though probably not for a few days.'

Mr. Athel looked annoyed.

'I hope this is not of your doing,' he said. 'They tell me the girl is
causing them a good deal of anxiety. For the last few days she has been
sitting alone, scarcely touching food, and refusing to speak to anyone.
If this goes on she will be ill.'

Wilfrid spoke hoarsely.

'I can't help it. I shall see her to-morrow.'

'All right,' observed his father, with the impatience which was his way
of meeting disorders in this admirable universe. 'Your aunt asked me to
tell you this; of course I can do no more.'

Wilfrid made no reply, and Mr. Athel left him.

It was an hour of terrible suffering that Wilfrid lived through before
he left the study and went to lay his head on the pillow. He had not
thought very much of Beatrice hitherto; the passion which had spurred
him blindly on made him forgetful of everything but the end his heart
desired. Now that the end was within reach, he could consider what it
was that he had done. He was acting like a very madman. He could not
hope that any soul would regard his frenzy even with compassion; on all
sides he would meet with the sternest condemnation. Who would recognise
his wife? This step which he was taking meant rupture with all his
relatives, perchance with all his friends; for it would be universally
declared that he had been guilty of utter baseness. His career was
ruined. It might happen that he would have to leave England with Emily,
abandoning for her sake everything else that he prized.

How would Beatrice bear the revelation? Mere suspense had made her ill;
such a blow as this might kill her. Never before had he been consciously
guilty of an act of cruelty or of wrong to any the least valued of those
with whom he had dealt; to realise what his treachery meant to Beatrice
was so terrible that he dared not fix his thought upon it. Her love for
him was intense beyond anything he had imagined in woman; Emily had
never seemed to him possessed with so vehement a passion. Indeed he had
often doubted whether Emily's was a passionate nature; at times she was
almost cold--appeared so, in his thought of her--and never had she
given way to that self-forgetful ardour which was so common in Beatrice.
Sweat broke out upon his forehead as he saw the tragic issues to which
his life was tending. There was no retreat, save by a second act of
apostasy so unspeakably shameful that the brand of it would drive him to
self-destruction. He had made his choice, or had been driven upon it by
the powers which ruled his destiny; it only remained to have the courage
of his resolve and to defy consequences. At least it was in no less a
cause than that of his life's one love. There was no stamp of turpitude
on the end for which he would sacrifice so much and occasion so much

He passed the time in his own rooms till the afternoon of the following
day; then, at the customary hour, he set forth to visit Beatrice. Would
she see him? In his heart he hoped that she would refuse to; yet he
dreaded lest he should be told that she was too unwell. It was a new
thing in Wilfrid's experience to approach any door with shame and dread;
between his ringing the bell and the servant's answer he learnt 'well
what those words mean.

He was admitted as usual, the servant making no remark. As usual, he was
led to Beatrice's room.

She was sitting in the chair she always occupied, and was dressed with
the accustomed perfection. But her face was an index to the sufferings
she had endured this past week. As soon as the door had closed, she
stood to receive him, but not with extended hand. Her eyes were fixed
upon him steadily, and Wilfrid, with difficulty meeting them,
experienced a shook of new fear, a kind of fear he could not account
for. Outwardly she was quite calm; it was something in her look, an
indefinable suggestion of secret anguish, that impressed him so. He did
not try to take her hand, but, having laid down his hat, came near to
her and spoke as quietly as he could.

'May I speak to you of what passed between us last Monday?'

'How can we avoid speaking of it?' she replied, in a low voice, her eyes
still searching him.

'I ought to have come to see you before this,' Wilfrid continued, taking
the seat to which she pointed, whilst she also sat down. 'I could not.'

'I have been expecting you,' Beatrice said, in an emotionless way.

The nervous tension with which he had come into her presence had yielded
to a fit of trembling. Coldness ran along his veins; his tongue refused
its office; his eyes sank before her gaze.

'I felt sure you would come to-day,' Beatrice continued, with the same
absence of pronounced feeling. 'If not, I must have gone to your house.
What do you wish to say to me?'

'That which I find it very difficult to say. I feel that after what
happened on Monday we cannot be quite the same to each other. I fear I
said some things that were not wholly true.'

Beatrice seemed to be holding her breath. Her face was marble. She sat

'You mean,' she said at length, 'that those letters represented more
than you were willing to confess?'

It was calmly asked. Evidently Wilfrid had no outbreak of resentment to
fear. He would have preferred it to this dreadful self-command.

'More,' he answered, 'than I felt at the time. I spoke no word of
conscious falsehood.'

'Has anything happened to prove to you what you then denied?'

He looked at her in doubt. Could she in any way have learnt what had
come to pass? Whilst talking, he had made up his mind to disclose
nothing definitely; he would explain his behaviour merely as arising
from doubt of himself. It would make the rest easier for her to bear

'I have read those letters again,' he answered.

'And you have learnt that you never loved me?'

He held his eyes down, unable to utter words. Beatrice also was silent
for a long time. At length she said--

'I think you are keeping something from me?'

He raised his face.

'Has nothing else happened?' she asked, with measured tone, a little
sad, nothing more.

The truth was forced from him, and its utterance gave him a relief which
was in itself a source of new agitation.

'Yes, something else has happened.'

'I knew it.'

'How did you--?'

'I felt it. You have met her again.'

Again he was speechless. Beatrice asked--

'Does she live in London?'

'She does.'

'You have met her, and have--have wished that you were free?'

'Beatrice, I have done worse. I have acted as though I were free.'

She shook, as if a blow had fallen upon her. Then a smile came to her

'You have asked her again to be your wife?'

'I have.'

'And she has consented?'

'Because I deceived her at the same time that I behaved dishonourably to

She fixed upon him eyes which had a strange inward look, eyes veiled
with reverie, vaguely troubled, unimpassioned. It was as though she
calmly readjusted in her own mind the relations between him and herself.
The misery of Wilfrid's situation was mitigated in a degree by mere
wonder at her mode of receiving his admissions. This interview was no
logical sequence upon the scene of a week ago; and the issue then had
been, one would have thought, less provocative of demonstration than

Directness once more armed her gaze, and again he was powerless to meet
it. Still no resentment, no condemnation. She asked--

'It is your intention to marry soon?'

He could not reply.

'Will you let me see you once more before your marriage?' she continued.
'That is, if I find I wish it. I am not sure. I may or may not.'

It was rather a debate with herself than an address to him.

'May I leave you now, Beatrice?' he said, suddenly. 'Every drop of blood
in me is shame-heated. In telling you this, I have done something which
I thought would be beyond my force.'

'Yes,' she murmured, 'it will be better if we part now.'

She rose and watched him as he stepped to the table and took his hat.
There was a moment's hesitation on either side, but Beatrice did not
offer her hand. She stood superbly, as a queen might dismiss one from
whom her thoughts were already wandering. He bowed, with inward
self-mockery, and left her.

Some hours later, when already the summer evening had cloaked itself,
Wilfrid found himself wandering by the river, not far from Hammersmith.
The influence of a great water flowing from darkness into darkness was
strong upon him; he was seeking for a hope in the transitoriness of all
things earthly. Would not the hour come when this present anguish, this
blood-poisoning shame, would have passed far away and have left no mark?
Was it not thinking too grandiosely to attribute to the actions of such
a one as himself a tragic gravity? Was there not supernal laughter at
the sight of him, Wilfrid Athel, an English gentleman, a member of the
Lower House of the British Parliament, posing as the arbiter of
destinies? What did it all come to? An imbroglio on the threshold of
matrimony; a temporary doubt which of two women was to enjoy the honour
of styling herself Mrs. Athel. The day's long shame led to this
completeness of self-contempt. As if Beatrice would greatly care! Why,
in his very behaviour he had offered the cure for her heartburn; and her
calmness showed how effective the remedy would be. The very wife whom he
held securely had only been won by keeping silence; tell her the story
of the last few days, and behold him altogether wifeless. He laughed
scornfully. To this had he come from those dreams which guided him when
he was a youth. A commonplace man, why should he not have commonplace

He had walked in this direction with the thought of passing beneath
Emily's window before he returned home, yet, now that he was not more
than half an hour's walk from her, he felt weary and looked aside for a
street which should lead him to the region of vehicles. As he did so, he
noticed a woman's form leaning over the riverside parapet at a short
distance. A thought drew him nearer to her. Yes, it was Emily herself.

'You were coming to see me?' she asked.

Love in a woman's voice--what cynicism so perdurable that it will bear
against that assailant? In the dusk, he put her gloved hand against his
lips, and the touch made him once more noble.

'I had meant to, beautiful, but it seemed too late, and I was just on
the point of turning back. You always appear to me when I most need

'You wanted to speak to me, Wilfrid?'

'When do I not? My life seems so thin and poor; only your breath gives
it colour. Emily, I shall ask so much of you. I have lost all faith in
myself; you must restore it.'

They stood close to each other, hand in hand, looking down at the dark

'If I had not met you, Wilfrid,' she said, or whispered, 'I think my end
must have been there--there, below us. I have often come here at night.
It is always a lonely place, and at high tide the water is deep.'

His hand closed upon hers with rescuing force.

'I am carrying a letter,' Emily continued, 'that I was going to post
before I went in. I will give it you now, and I am glad of the
opportunity; it seems safer. I have written what I feel I could never
say to you. Read it and destroy it, and never speak of what it

She gave him the letter, and then he walked with her homewards.

On the morrow, shortly after breakfast, he was sitting in his study,
when a knock came at the door. He bade enter, and it was Beatrice. She
came towards him, gave her hand mechanically, and said--

'Can you spare me a few minutes?'

He placed a chair for her. Her eyes had not closed since they last
looked at him; he saw it, though the expression of her features was not

'There is one thing, Wilfrid, that I think I have a right to ask you.
Will you tell me why she left you, years ago?'

Her tone was that of one continuing a conversation. There might have
been no break between yesterday and to-day. We cannot always gather from
the voice what struggle has preceded utterance.

Wilfrid turned away. On the table lay that letter of Emily's; he had
read it many times, and was reading it when the knock disturbed him.
With a sudden movement, he took up the sheet of paper and held it to

'It is there--the reason. I myself have only known it a few hours. Read
that. I have no right to show it you--and no right to refuse.'

Beatrice held the letter for a brief space without turning her eyes upon
it. Wilfrid walked to a distance, and at length she read. Emily had
recounted every circumstance of her father's death, and told the history
of her own feelings, all with complete simplicity, almost coldly. Only
an uncertainty in the hand-writing here and there showed the suffering
it had cost her to look once more into the very eyes of the past. Yet it
was of another than herself that she wrote; she felt that even in her
memory of woe.

They faced each other again. Beatrice's eyes were distended; their
depths lightened.

'I am glad! I am glad you met her before it was too late!'

Her voice quivered upon a low, rich note. Such an utterance was the
outcome of a nature strong to the last limit of self-conquest. Wilfrid
heard and regarded her with a kind of fear; her intensity passed to him;
he trembled.

'I have nothing to pardon,' she continued. 'You were hers long before my
love had touched your heart. You have tried to love me; but this has
come soon enough to save us both.'

And again--

'If I did not love you, I should act selfishly; but self is all gone
from me. In this moment I could do greater things to help you to
happiness. Tell me; have you yet spoken to--to the others?'

'To no one.'

'Then do not. It shall all come from me. No one shall cast upon you a
shadow of blame. You have done me no wrong; you were hers, and you
wronged her when you tried to love me. I will help you--at least I can
be your friend. Listen; I shall see her. It shall be I who have brought
you together again--that is how the shall all think of it. I shall see
her, and as your friend, as the only one to whom you have yet spoken. Do
you understand me, Wilfrid? Do you see that I make the future smooth for
her and you? She must never know what _we_ know, And the others--they
shall do as I will; they shall not dare to speak one word against you.
What right have they, if _I_ am--am glad?'

He stood in amaze. It was impossible to doubt her sincerity; her face,
the music of her voice, the gestures by which her eagerness expressed
herself, all were too truthful. What divine nature had lain hidden in
this woman! He gazed at her as on a being more than mortal.

'How can I accept this from you?' he asked hoarsely.

'Accept? How can you refuse? It is my right, it is my will! Would you
refuse me this one poor chance of proving that my love was unselfish? I
would have killed myself to win a tender look from you at the last
moment, and you shall not go away thinking less of me than I deserve.
You know already that I am not the idle powerless woman you once thought
me; you shall know that I can do yet more. If _she_ is noble in your
eyes, can _I_ consent to be less so?'

Passion the most exalted possessed her. It infected Wilfrid. He felt
that the common laws of intercourse between man and woman had here no
application; the higher ground to which she summoned him knew no
authority of the conventional. To hang his head was to proclaim his own

'You are not less noble, Beatrice,' his voice murmured.

'You have said it. So there is no longer a constraint between us. How
simple it is to do for love's sake what those who do not know love think
impossible. I will see her, then the last difficulty is removed. That
letter has told me where she lives. If I go there to-day, I shall find

'Not till the evening,' Wilfrid replied under his breath.

'When is your marriage?'

He looked at her without speaking.

'Very soon? Before the end of the session?'

'The day after to-morrow.'

She was white to the lips, but kept her eyes on him steadily.

'And you go away at once?'

'I had thought'--he began; then added, 'Yes, at once; it is better.'

'Yes, better. Your friend stays and makes all ready for your return.
Perhaps I shall not see you after to-day, for that time. Then we are to
each ether what we used to be. You will bring her to hear me sing? I
shall not give it up now.'

She smiled, moved a little away from him, then turned again and gave her
hand for leave-taking.



'She would not grudge it me. Kiss me--the last time--on my lips!'

He kissed her. When the light came again to his eyes, Beatrice had gone.

In the evening Emily sat expectant. Either Wilfrid would come or there
would be a letter from him; yes, he would come; for, after reading what
she had written, the desire to speak with her must be strong in him. She
sat at her window and looked along the dull street.

She had spent the day as usual--that is to say, in the familiar school
routine; but the heart she had brought to her work was far other than
that which for long years had laboriously pulsed the flagging moments of
her life. Her pupils were no longer featureless beings, the sole end of
whose existence was to give trouble; girl-children and budding womanhood
had circled about her; the lips which recited lessons made unconscious
music; the eyes, dark or sunny, laughed with secret foresight of love to
come. Kindly affection to one and all grew warm within her; what had
been only languid preferences developed in an hour to little less than
attachments, and dislikes softened to pity. The girls who gave promise
of beauty and tenderness she looked upon with the eyes of a sister;
their lot it would be to know the ecstasy of whispered vows, to give and
to receive that happiness which is not to be named lest the gods become
envious. Voices singing together in the class practice which had ever
been a weariness, stirred her to a passion of delight; it was the choral
symphony of love's handmaidens. Did they see a change in her? Emily
fancied that the elder girls looked at each other and smiled and
exchanged words in an undertone--about her.

It was well to have told Wilfrid all her secrets, yet in the impatience
of waiting she had tremors of misgiving; would he, perchance, think as
she so long had thought, that to speak to anyone, however near, of that
bygone woe and shame was a sin against the pieties of nature, least of
all excusable when committed at the bidding of her own desires? He would
never breathe to her a word which could reveal such a thought, but
Wilfrid, with his susceptibility to the beautiful in character, his
nature so intensely in sympathy with her own, might more or less
consciously judge her to have fallen from fidelity to the high ideal.
Could he have learnt the story of her life, she still persevering on her
widowed way, would he not have deemed her nobler? Aid against this
subtlety of conscience rose in the form of self-reproof administered by
that joyous voice of nature which no longer timidly begged a hearing,
but came as a mandate from an unveiled sovereign. With what right, pray,
did she desire to show in Wilfrid's eyes as other than she was? That
part in life alone becomes us which is the very expression of ourselves.
What merit can there be in playing the votary of an ascetic conviction
when the heart is bursting with its stifled cry for light and warmth,
for human joy, for the golden fruit of the tree of life? She had been
sincere in her renunciation; the way of worthiness was to cherish a
sincerity as complete now that her soul flamed to the bliss which fate
once more offered her.

The hours passed slowly; how long the night would be if Wilfrid neither
wrote to her nor came. But he had written; at eight o'clock the glad
signal of the postman drew her to the door of her room where she stood
trembling whilst someone went to the letter-box, and--oh, joy! ascended
the stairs. It was her letter; because her hands were too unsteady to
hold it for reading, she knelt by a chair, like a child with a new
picture-book, and spread the sheet open. And, having read it twice, she
let her face fall upon her palms, to repeat to herself the words which
danced fire-like b re her darkened eyes. He wrote rather sadly, but she
would not have had it otherwise, for the sadness was of love's innermost
heart, which is the shrine of mortality.

As Emily knelt thus by the chair there came another knock at the
house-door, the knock of a visitor. She did not hear it, nor yet the tap
at her own door which followed. She was startled to consciousness by her
landlady's voice.

'There's a lady wishes to see you, Miss Hood.'

'A lady?' Emily repeated in surprise. Then it occurred to her that it
must be Mrs. Baxendale, who knew her address and was likely to be in
London at this time of the year. 'Does she give any name?'

No name. Emily requested that the visitor should be introduced.

Not Mrs. Baxendale, but a face at first barely remembered, then growing
with suggestiveness upon Emily's gaze until all was known save the name
attached to it. A face which at present seemed to bear the pale signs of
suffering, though it smiled; a beautiful visage of high meanings,
impressive beneath its crown of dark hair. It smiled and still smiled;
the eyes looked searchingly.

'You do not remember me, Miss Hood?'

'Indeed, I remember you--your face, your voice. But your name--? You are
Mrs. Baxendale's niece.'

'Yes; Miss Redwing.'

'O, how could I forget!'

Emily became silent. The eyes that searched her so were surely kind, but
it was the time of fears. Impossible that so strange a visit should be
unconnected with her fate. And the voice thrilled upon her strung nerves
ominously; the lips she watched were so eloquent of repressed feeling.
Why should this lady come to her? Their acquaintance had been so very

She murmured an invitation to be seated.

'For a moment,' returned Beatrice, 'you must wonder to see me. But I
think you remember that I was a friend of the Athels. I am come with Mr.
Athel's leave--Mr. Wilfrid.'

Emily was agitated and could not smooth her features.

'Oh, don't think I bring you bad news!' pursued the other quickly,
leaning a little forward and again raising her eyes. She had dropped
them on the mention of Wilfrid's name. 'I have come, in fact, to put Mr.
Athel at ease in his mind.' She laughed nervously. 'He and I have been
close friends for a very long time, indeed since we were all but
children, and I--he--you won't misunderstand? He has told me--me alone
as yet--of what has happened, of the great good fortune that has come to
him so unexpectedly. If you knew the terms of our friendship you would
understand how natural it was for him to take me into his confidence,
Miss Hood. And I begged him to let me visit you, because'--again she
laughed in the same nervous way--'because he was in a foolish anxiety
lest you might have vanished; I told him it was best that he should have
the evidence of a very practical person's senses that you were really
here and that he hadn't only dreamt it. And as we did know each other,
you see--You will construe my behaviour kindly, will you not?'

'Surely I will, Miss Redwing,' Emily responded warmly. 'How else could I
meet your own great kindness?'

'I feared so many things; even at the door I almost turned away. There
seemed so little excuse for my visit. It was like intruding upon you.
But Mr. Athel assured me that I should not be unwelcome.'

Emily, overcome by the sense of relief after her apprehensions, gave
free utterance to the warm words in which her joy voiced itself. She
forgot all that was strange in Beatrice's manner or attributed it merely
to timidity. Sympathy just now was like sunshine to her; she could not
inquire whence or why it came, but was content to let it bathe her in
its divine solace.

'If you knew how it has flattered me!' Beatrice continued, with a
semblance of light-hearted goodness which her hearer had no thought of
criticising. 'It is the final proof of Mr. Athel's good opinion. You
know his poor opinion of conventional people and conventional behaviour.
He is determined that no one shall be told till--till after
Wednesday--making me the sole exception, you see. But seriously I am
glad he did so, and that I have been able to meet you again just at this
time. Now I can assure him that you are indeed a living being, and that
there is no danger whatever of your disappearing.'

Emily did not join the musical laugh, but her heart was full, and she
just laid her hand on that of Beatrice.

'It was only for a moment,' the latter said, rising as she felt the
touch. 'This is no hour for paying visits, and, indeed, I have to hurry
back again. I should like to--only to say that you have my very kindest
wishes. You forgive my coming; you forgive my hastening away so?'

'I feel I ought to thank you more,' broke from Emily's lips. 'To me,
believe, it is all very like a dream. O, it was kind of you to come! You
can't think,' she added, with only apparent irrelevance, 'how often I
have recalled your beautiful singing; I have always thought of you with
gratitude for that deep pleasure you gave me.'

'O, you shall hear me sing again!' laughed Beatrice. 'Ask Mr. Athel to
tell you something about that. Indeed, it must be good-bye.'

They took each other's hands, but for Emily it was not sufficient; she
stepped nearer, offering her lips.

Beatrice kissed her.



At eleven o'clock on Wednesday morning Beatrice called at the Athels'
house. Receiving the expected information that Wilfrid was not at home,
she requested that Mr. Athel senior might not be disturbed and went to
Wilfrid's study.

Alone in the room, she took from her hand-bag a little packet addressed
to Wilfrid on which she had written the word 'private,' and laid it on
the writing-table.

She appeared to have given special attention to her toilet this morning;
her attire was that of a lady of fashion, rich, elaborate, devised with
consummate art, its luxury draping well the superb form wherein blended
with such strange ardour the flames of heroism and voluptuousness. Her
moving made the air delicate with faint perfume; her attitude as she
laid down the packet and kept her hand upon it for a moment was
self-conscious, but nobly so; if an actress, she was cast by nature for
the great parts and threw her soul into the playing of them.

She lingered by the table, touching objects with the tips of her gloved
fingers, as if lovingly and sadly; at length she seated herself in
Wilfrid's chair and gazed about the room with languid, wistful eyes. Her
bosom heaved; once or twice a sigh trembled to all but a sob. She lost
herself in reverie. Then the clock near her chimed silverly half-past
eleven. Beatrice drew a deep breath, rose slowly, and slowly went from
the room.

A cab took her to Mrs. Baxendale's. That lady was at home and alone,
reading in fact; she closed her book as Beatrice entered, and a placid
smile accompanied her observation of her niece's magnificence.

'I was coming to make inquiries,' she said. 'Mrs. Birks gave me a
disturbing account of you yesterday. Has your headache gone?'

'Over, all over,' Beatrice replied quietly. 'They make too much of it.'

'I think it is you who make too little of it. You are wretchedly pale.'

'Am I? That will soon go. I think I must leave town before long. Advise
me; where shall I go?'

'But you don't think of going before--?'

'Yes, quite soon.'

'You are mysterious,' remarked Mrs. Baxendale, raising her eyebrows a
little as she smiled.

'Well, aunt, I will be so no longer. I want to cross-examine you, if you
will let me. Do you promise to answer?'

'To the best of my poor ability.'

'Then the first question shall be this,--when did you last hear of
Emily Hood?'

'Of Emily Hood?'

Mrs. Baxendale had the habit of controlling the display of her emotions,
it was part of her originality. But it was evident that the question
occasioned her extreme surprise, and not a little trouble.

'Yes, will you tell me?' said Beatrice, in a tone of calm interest.

'It's a strange question. Still, if you really desire to know, I heard
from her about six months ago.'

'She was in London then?'

Mrs. Baxendale had quite ceased to smile. When any puzzling matter
occupied her thought she always frowned very low; at present her frown
indicated anxiety.

'What reason have you to think she was in London, Beatrice?'

'Only her being here now.'

Beatrice said it with a show of pleasant artfulness, holding her head
aside a little and smiling into her aunt's eyes. Mrs. Baxendale relaxed
her frown and looked away.

'Have you seen her lately?' Beatrice continued.

'I have not soon her for years.'

'Ah! But you have corresponded with her?'

'At very long intervals.'

Before Beatrice spoke again, her aunt resumed.

'Don't lay traps for me, my dear. Suppose you explain at once your
interest in Emily Hood's whereabouts.'

'Yes, I wish to do so. I have come to you to talk about it, aunt,
because I know you take things quietly, and just now I want a little
help of the kind you can give. You have guessed, of course, what I am
going to tell you,--part of it at least. Wilfrid and she have met.'

'They have met,' repeated the other, musingly, her face still rather
anxious. 'In what way?'

'By chance, pure chance.'

'By chance? It was not, I suppose, by chance that you heard of the

'No. Wilfrid told me of it. He told me on Sunday--'

Her voice was a little uncertain.

'Give me your hand, dear,' said Mrs. Baxendale. 'There, now tell me the

Beatrice half sobbed.

'Yes, I can now more easily,' she continued, with hurried utterance.
'Your hand is just what I wanted; it is help, dear help. But you mustn't
think I am weak; I could have stood alone. Yes, he told me on Sunday.
And that of course was the end.'

'At his desire?'

'His and mine. He was honest with me. It was better than such
discoveries when it would have been too late.'

'And he is going to marry her?'

'They were married an hour ago.'

Mrs. Baxendale looked with grave inquiry into Beatrice's face.
Incredulity was checked by what she saw there. She averted her eyes
again, and both were silent for awhile.

'So it is all well over, you see,' Beatrice said at length, trying at

'Over, it seems. As to the well or ill, I can't say.'

'Surely well,' rejoined Beatrice. 'He loves her, and he would never have
loved me. We can't help it. She has suffered dreadful things; you see it
in her face.'

'Her face?'

'I went to see her on Monday evening,' Beatrice explained, with
simplicity, though her lips quivered. 'I asked leave of Wilfrid to do
so; he had told me all her story, as he had just heard it from herself,
and I--indeed I was curious to see her again. Then there was another
reason. If I saw her and brought her to believe that Wilfrid and I were
merely intimate friends, as we used to be--how much easier it would make
everything. You understand me, aunt?'

Mrs. Baxendale was again looking at her with grave, searching eyes, eyes
which began to glimmer a little when the light caught them. Beatrice's
hand she held pressed more and more closely in both her own. She made no
reply to the last question, and the speaker went on with a voice which
lost its clearness, and seemed to come between parched lips.

'You see how easy that makes everything? I want your help, of course; I
told Wilfrid that this was how I should act. It is very simple; let us
say that I prefer to be thought an unselfish woman: anyone can be
jealous and malicious. You are to think that I care as little as it
would seem; I don't yet know how I am to live, but of course I shall, it
will come in time. It was better they should be married in this way.
Then he must come back after the holidays, and everything be smooth for
him. That will be our work, yours and mine, dear aunt. You understand
me? You will talk to Mrs. Birks; it will be better from you; and then
Mr. Athel shall be told. Yes, it is hard for me, but perhaps not quite
in the way you think. I don't hate her, indeed I don't. If you knew that
story, which you never can I No, I don't hate her. I kissed her, aunt,
with my lips--indeed. She couldn't find me out; I acted too well for
that. But I couldn't have done it if I had hated her. She is so altered
from what she was. You know that I liked her years ago. She interested
me in a strange, strange way; it seems to me now that I foresaw how her
fate would be connected with mine. I knew that Wilfrid loved her before
anyone else had dreamt of such a thing. Now promise your help.'

'Have they gone away?' her aunt asked.

'I don't know. It is likely.'

Her face went white to the lips; for a moment she quivered.

'Beatrice, stay with me,' said Mrs. Baxendale. 'Stay 'with me here for a
day or two.'

'Willingly. I wished it. Mrs. Birks is all kindness, but I find it hard
to talk, and she won't let me be by myself. Don't think I am ill--no,
indeed no! It's only rest that I want. It seems a long time since
Sunday. But you haven't yet promised me, aunt. It will be much harder if
I have to do everything myself. I promised him that everything should be
made smooth. I want to show him that my--that my love was worth having.
It's more than all women would do, isn't it, aunt? Of course it isn't
only that; there's the pleasure of doing something for him. And he
cannot help being grateful to me as long as he lives. Suppose I had gone
and told her She would never have married him. She was never beautiful,
you know, and now her face is dreadfully worn, but I think I understand
why he loves her. Of course you cannot know her as well as I do. And you
will help me, aunt?'

'Are you perfectly sure that they have been married this morning?' Mrs.
Baxendale asked, with quiet earnestness.

'Sure, quite sure.'

'In any other case I don't know whether I should have done as you wish.'

'You would have tried to prevent it? Oh no, you are too wise! After all
this time, and he loves her as much as ever. Don't you see how foolish
it would be to fret about it? It is fete, that's all. You know we all
have our fate. Do you know what I used to think mine would he? I feared
madness; my poor father--But I shall not fear that now; I have gone
through too much; my mind has borne it. But I must have rest, and I can
only rest if I know that you are helping me. You promise?'

'I will do my best, dear.'

'And your best is best indeed, aunt. You will go to Mrs. Birks and tell
her where I am? The sooner you speak to her the better. I will lie down.
If you knew how worn-out I feel!'

She rose, but stood with difficulty. Mrs. Baxendale put her arm about
her and kissed her cheek. Then she led her to another room.

Tension in Beatrice was nearing the point of fever. She had begun the
conversation with every appearance of calmness; now she was only to be
satisfied by immediate action towards the end she had in view, every
successive minute of delay was an added torment. She pressed her aunt to
go to Mrs. Birks forthwith; that alone could soothe her. Mrs. Baxendale
yielded and set out.

But it was not to Mrs. Birks that she paid her first visit. Though it
was clear that Beatrice firmly believed all she said, Mrs. Baxendale
could not accept this as positive assurance; before taking upon herself
to announce such a piece of news she felt the need of some further
testimony. She had a difficulty in reconciling precipitate action of
this kind with Wilfrid's character as it had of late years developed
itself; political, even social, ambition had become so pronounced in him
that it was difficult to imagine him turning with such sudden vehemence
from the path in which every consideration of interest would tend to
hold him. The best of women worship success, and though Mrs. Baxendale
well knew that Wilfrid's aims had suffered a degradation, she could not,
even apart from her feeling for Beatrice, welcome his return to the high
allegiance of former days, when it would surely check or altogether
terminate a brilliant career. The situation had too fantastic a look.
Could it be that Beatrice was suffering from some delusion? Had a chance
discovery of Emily Hood's proximity, together perhaps with some
ambiguous behaviour on Wilfrid's part, affected her mind? It was an
extreme supposition, but on the whole as easy of acceptance as the story
Beatrice had poured forth.

In pursuit of evidence Mrs. Baxendale drove to the Athels'. It was about
luncheon-time. She inquired for Wilfrid, and heard with mingled feelings
that he was at home. She found him in his study; he had before him a
little heap of letters, the contents of a packet he had found on his
table on entering a quarter of an hour before.

Mrs. Baxendale regarded him observantly. The results of her examination
led her to come to the point at once.

'I have just left Beatrice,' she said. 'She has been telling me an
extraordinary story. Do you know what it was?'

'She has told you the truth,' Wilfrid replied, simply.

'And you were married this morning?'

Wilfrid bent his head in assent.

Mrs. Baxendale seated herself.

'My dear Wilfrid,' were her next words, 'you have been guilty of what is
commonly called a dishonourable action.'

'I fear I have. I can only excuse myself by begging you to believe that
no other course was open to me. I have simply cut a hard knot. It was
better than wasting my own life and others' lives in despair at its

Wilfrid was collected. The leap taken, he felt his foot once more on
firm ground. He felt, too, that he had left behind him much of which he
was heartily ashamed. He was in no mood to feign an aspect of

'You will admit,' observed the lady, 'that this Cutting of the knot
makes a rather harsh severance.'

'It would be impertinent to say that I am sorry for Beatrice. Her
behaviour to me has been incredibly magnanimous, and I feel sure that
her happiness as well as my own has been consulted. I don't know in what
sense she has spoken to you--'

'Very nobly, be sure of it.'

'I can only thank her and reverence her.'

Mrs. Baxendale remained for a moment in thought.

'Well,' she resumed, 'you know that it is not my part to make useless
scenes. I began with my hardest words, and they must stand. Beatrice
will not die of a broken heart, happily, and if your wife is one half as
noble you are indeed a fortunate man. Perhaps we had better talk no more
at present; it is possible you have acted rightly, and I must run no
risk of saying unkind things. Is your father informed?'

'Not yet.'

'You are leaving town?'

'This afternoon.'

'To go to a distance?'

'No. I shall be in town daily.'

'You doubtless inform your father before you leave?'

'I shall do so.'

'Then we will say good-bye.'

Mrs. Baxendale gave her hand. She did not smile, but just shook her head
as she looked Wilfrid steadily in the face.

It was later in the afternoon when she called upon Mrs. Birks. She was
conducted to that lady's boudoir, and there found Mr. Athel senior in
colloquy with his sister. The subject of the conversation was

'You know?' asked Mrs. Birks, with resignation, as soon as the door was
closed behind the visitor.

'I have come to talk it over with you.'

Mr. Athel was standing with his hands clasped behind him; he was rather
redder in the face than usual, and had clearly been delivering himself
of ample periods.

'Really, Mrs. Baxendale,' he began, 'I have a difficulty in expressing
myself on the subject. The affair is simply monstrous. It indicates a
form of insanity. I--uh--I--uh--in truth I don't know from what point to
look at it.'

'Where is Beatrice?' Mrs. Birks asked.

'She will stay with me for a day or two,' replied Mrs. Baxendale.

'How--how is she?' inquired Mr. Athel, sympathetically.

'Upset, of course, but not seriously, I hope.'

'Really,' Mrs. Birks exclaimed, 'Wilfrid might have had some
consideration for other people. Hero are the friendships of a lifetime
broken up on his account.'

'I don't know that that is exactly the point of view,' remarked her
brother, judicially. 'One doesn't expect such things to seriously
weigh--I mean, of course, when there is reason on the man's side. What
distresses me is the personal recklessness of the step.'

'Perhaps that is not so great as it appears,' put in Mrs. Baxendale,

'You defend him?' exclaimed Mrs. Birks.

'I'm not sure that I should do so, but I want to explain how Beatrice
regards it.'

'_She_ defends him?' cried Mr. Athel.

'Yes, she does. At present there is only one thing I fear for her, and
that is a refusal on your part to carry out her wishes. Beatrice has
made up her mind that as little trouble as possible shall result. I
bring, in fact, the most urgent request from her that you, Mr. Athel,
and you, Mrs. Birks, will join in a sort of conspiracy to make things
smooth for Wilfrid. She desires--it is no mere whim, I believe her
health depends upon it--that no obstacle whatever may be put in the way
of Wilfrid's return to society with his wife. We are to act as though
this old engagement had come to an end by mutual agreement, and as
approving the marriage. This is my niece's serious desire.'

'My dear Mrs. Baxendale!' murmured the listening lady. 'How very
extraordinary! Are you quite sure--'

'Oh, this surely is out of the question,' broke in her brother. 'That
Beatrice should make such a request is very admirable, but I--uh--I

Mr. Athel paused, as if expecting and hoping that someone would defeat
his objections.

'I admit it sounds rather unreal,' pursued Mrs. Baxendale, 'but
fortunately I can give you good evidence of her sincerity. She has
visited the lady who is now Mrs. Athel, and that with the express
purpose of representing herself as nothing more than a friend of
Wilfrid's. You remember she had a slight acquaintance with Miss Hood.
After this I don't see how we can refuse to aid her plan.'

'She visited Miss Hood?' asked Mrs. Birks, with the mild amazement of a
lady who respects her emotions. 'Does Wilfrid know that?'

'Beatrice asked his permission to go.'

'This is altogether beyond me,' confessed Mr. Athel, drawing down his
waistcoat and taking a turn across the room. Of course, if they have
been amusing themselves with a kind of game, well, we have nothing to do
but to regret that our invitation to join in it has come rather late.
For my own part, I was disposed to take a somewhat more serious view. Of
course it's no good throwing away one's indignation. I--uh--but what is
your own attitude with regard to this proposal, Mrs. Baxendale?'

'I think I must be content to do my niece's bidding,' said the lady

'There's one thing, it seems to me, being lost sight of,' came from Mrs.
Birks, in the disinterested tone of a person who wishes to deliver with
all clearness an unpleasant suggestion. 'We are very much in the dark as
to Miss Hood's--I should say Mrs. Athel's--antecedents. You yourself,'
she regarded Mrs. Baxendale, 'confess that her story is very mysterious.
If we are asked to receive her, really--doesn't this occur to you?'

At this moment the door opened and amid general silence Beatrice came
forward. Mrs. Birks rose quickly and met her. Mrs. Baxendale understood
at a glance what had brought her niece here. Agitation had grown
insupportable. It was not in Beatrice's character to lie still whilst
others decided matters in which she had supreme interest. The more
difficult her position the stronger she found herself to support it. The
culmination of the drama could not be acted with her behind the scenes.

Mrs. Birks, with a whispered word or two, led her to a seat. Beatrice
looked at her aunt, then at Mr. Athel. The proud beauty of her face was
never more impressive. She smiled as if some pleasant trifle were under

'I heard your voice as I came in,' she said to Mrs. Birks, bending
towards her gracefully. 'Were you on my side?'

'I'm afraid not, dear, just then,' was the reply, given in a
corresponding tone of affectionateness.

'You will tell me what you were saying?'

Mr. Athel looked as uncomfortable as even an English gentleman can in
such a situation. Mrs. Baxendale seemed to be finding amusement in
observing him. The lady appealed to plucked for a moment at her sleeve.

'May I make a guess?' Beatrice pursued. 'It had something to do with the
private circumstances of the lady Mr. Wilfrid Athel has married?'

'Yes, Beatrice, it had.'

'Then let me help you over that obstacle, dear Mrs. Birks. I have heard
from herself a full explanation of what you are uneasy about, and if I
were at liberty to repeat it you would know that she has been dreadfully
unhappy and has endured things which would have killed most women, all
because of her loyalty and purity of heart. I think I may ask you to
give as much effect to my words as if you knew everything. Mrs. Athel is
in every respect worthy to become a member of your family.'

Her voice began to express emotion,

'Mr. Athel, _you_ are not against me? It is so hard to find no sympathy.
I have set my heart on this. Perhaps I seem to ask a great deal, but
I--have I not some little--'

'My dear Miss Redwing,' broke in Mr. Athel then, correcting himself, 'My
dear Beatrice, no words could convey the anxiety I feel to be of service
to you. You see how difficult it is for me to speak decidedly, but I
assure you that I could not possibly act in opposition to your expressed
desire. Perhaps it would be better for me to withdraw. I am sure these

His speech hung in mid-air, and he stood nervously tapping his fingers
with his eyeglass.

'No, please remain,' exclaimed Beatrice. 'Aunt, you are not against me?
Mrs. Birks, you won't refuse to believe what I have told you?'

The two ladies glanced at each other. In Mrs. Baxendale's look there was

'Indeed, I believe you implicitly, my dear Beatrice,' said Mrs. Birks.
'My brother is the one to decide. You are mistaken in thinking I oppose
your wish. How could I?'

The last words were very sweetly said. With a smile which did not pass
beyond her lips, Beatrice rose from her seat and held her hand to Mr.

'Then it is understood? When Wilfrid brings his wife to you, you receive
her with all kindness. I have your promise?'

Mr. Athel drew himself up very straight, pressed the offered hand and

'It shall be as you wish.' ...

Beatrice returned with Mrs. Baxendale. Her desire to be alone was
respected during the rest of the day. Going to her the last thing at
night, her aunt was reassured; weariness had followed upon nervous
strain, and the beautiful eyes seemed longing for sleep.

But in the morning appearances were not so hopeful. The night had after
all been a troubled one: Beatrice declined breakfast and, having dressed
with effort, lay on a sofa, her eyes closed.

At noon Mrs. Baxendale came near and said gently:

'Dear, you are not going to be ill?'

The sufferer stirred a little, looked in her aunt's face, rose to a
sitting position.

'Ill?' She laughed in a forced way. 'O, that would never do! Ill after
all? Why, that would spoil everything. Are you going out this morning?'

'Certainly not. I should only have done some idle shopping.'

'Then you shall do the shopping, and I will go with you. Yes, yes, I
will go! It is the only way. Let us go where we shall see people; I wish
to. I will be ready in five minutes.'

'But, Beatrice--.'

'O, don't fear my looks; you shall see if I betray myself! Quick,
quick,--to Regent Street, Bond Street, where we shall gee people! I
shall be ready before you.'

They set forth, and Beatrice had no illness.



Once more at The Firs. Wilfrid had decided to make this his abode. It
was near enough to London to allow of his going backwards and forwards
as often as might be necessary; his father's town house offered the
means of change for Emily, and supplied him with a _pied-a-terre_ in
time of session. By limiting his attendance at the House as far as
decency would allow, he was able to enjoy with small interruption the
quiet of his home in Surrey, and a growing certainty that the life of
the present Parliament would be short encouraged him in looking forward
to the day when politics would no longer exist for him.

He and Emily established themselves at The Firs towards the end of
December, having spent a week with Mr. Athel on their return from the
Continent. Emily's health had improved, but there was no likelihood that
she would ever be other than a delicate flower, to be jealously guarded
from the sky's ruder breath by him to whom she was a life within life.
Ambition as he formerly understood it had no more meaning for Wilfrid;
the fine ardour of his being rejected grosser nourishment and burned in
altar-flame towards the passion-pale woman whom he after all called
wife. Emily was an unfailing inspiration; by her side the nobler zeal of
his youth renewed itself; in the light of her pure soul he saw the world
as poetry and strove for that detachment of the intellect which in Emily
was a gift of nature.

She, Emily--Emily Athel, as she joyed to write herself--moved in her new
sphere like a spirit humbled by victory over fate. It was a mild winter;
the Surrey hills were tender against the brief daylight, and gardens
breathed the freshness of evergreens. When the sun trembled over the
landscape for a short hour, Emily loved to stray as far as that hollow
on the heath where she had sat with Wilfrid years ago, and heard him for
the first time speak freely of his aims and his hopes. That spot was
sacred; as she stood there beneath the faint blue of the winter sky, all
the exquisite sadness of life, the memory of those whom death had led to
his kindly haven, the sorrows of new-born love, the dear heartache for
woe passed into eternity, touched the deepest fountains of her nature
and made dim her eyes. She would not have had life other than it was
given to her, for she had learned the secrets of infinite passion in the
sunless valleys of despair.

She rested. In the last few months she had traversed a whole existence;
repose was needful that she might assimilate all her new experiences and
range in due order the gifts which joy had lavishly heaped upon her. The
skies of the south, the murmur of blue seas on shores of glorious name,
the shrines of Art, the hallowed scenes where earth's greatest have
loved and wrought, these were no longer a dream with her bodily eyes she
had looked upon Greece and Italy, and to have done so was a
consecration, it cast a light upon her brows. 'Talk to me of Rome;'
those were always her words when Wilfrid came to her side in the
evening. 'Talk to me of Rome, as you alone can.' And as Wilfrid recalled
their life in the world's holy of holies, she closed her eyes for the
full rapture of the inner light, and her heart sang praise.

Wilfrid was awed by his blessedness. There were times when he scarcely
dared to take in his own that fine-moulded hand which was the symbol of
life made perfect; Emily uttered thoughts which made him fear to profane
her purity by his touch. She realised to the uttermost his ideal of
womanhood, none the less so that it seemed no child would be born of her
to trouble the exclusiveness of their love. He clad her in queenly
garments and did homage at her feet. Her beauty was all for him, for
though Emily could grace any scene she found no pleasure in society, and
the hours of absence from home were to Wilfrid full of anxiety to
return. All their plans were for solitude; life was too short for more
than the inevitable concessions to the outside world.

But one morning in February, Emily's eye fell upon an announcement in
the newspaper which excited in her a wish to go up to town. Among the
list of singers at a concert to be given that day she had caught the
name of Miss Beatrice Redwing. It was Saturday; Wilfrid had no occasion
for leaving home and already they had enjoyed in advance the two
unbroken days.

'But I should indeed like to hear her,' Emily said, 'and she seems to
sing so rarely.'

'She has only just returned to England,' Wilfrid remarked

They had heard of Beatrice having been in Florence a week or two prior
to their own stay there. She was travelling with the Baxendales. Emily
was anxious to meet her, and Wilfrid had held out a hope that this might
come about in Italy, but circumstances had proved adverse.

'Have you seen her?' Emily inquired.

Her husband had not. He seemed at first a little disinclined to go up
for the concert, but on Emily's becoming silent he hastened to give a
cheerful acquiescence.

'Couldn't we see her to-morrow?' she went on to ask.

'No doubt we can. It's only the facing of my aunt's drawing-room on a
Sunday afternoon.'

'O, surely that is needless, Wilfrid? Couldn't we go and see her
quietly? She would be at home in the morning, I should think.'

'I should think so. We'll make inquiries to-night.'

They left home early in the afternoon and procured tickets on their way
from the station to Mr. Athel's. Their arrival being quite unexpected,
they found that Mr. Athel had loft town for a day or two. It was all
that Emily needed for the completing of her pleasure; her father-in-law
was scrupulously polite in his behaviour to her, but the politeness fell
a little short as yet of entire ease, and conversation with him involved
effort. She ran a risk of letting Wilfrid perceive the gladness with
which she discovered an empty house; he did, in fact, attribute to its
true cause the light-heartedness she showed as they sat together at
dinner, and smiled to think that he himself shared in the feeling of
relief. There were reasons why he could not look forward to the evening
with unalloyed happiness, but the unwonted gaiety which shone on Emily's
face, and gave a new melody to her voice, moved him to tenderness and
gratitude. He felt that it would be well to listen again to the music of
that strong heart whose pain had been his bliss. He overcame his ignoble
anxieties and went to the concert as to a sacred office.

Their seats, owing to lateness in applying for them, were not in the
best part of the hall; immediately behind them was the first row of a
cheaper section, and two men of indifferent behaviour were seated there
within ear-shot; they were discussing the various names upon the
programme as if for the enlightenment of their neighbours. When Emily
had been sitting for a few minutes, she found that it had been unwise to
leave her mantle in the cloak-room; there was a bad draught. Wilfrid
went to recover it. Whilst waiting, Emily became aware that the men
behind her were talking of Miss Redwing; she listened.

'She's married, I think, eh?' said one.

'Was to have been, you mean. Why, wasn't it you told me the story? O no,
it was Drummond. Drummond knows her people, I think.'

'What story, eh?'

'Why, she was to have married a Member of Parliament; what the deuce was
his name? Something that reminded me of a race-horse, I remember. Was it
Blair? No--Athel! That's the name.'

'Why didn't it come off, then?'

'Oh, the honourable member found somebody he liked better.'

It was not the end of the conversation, but just then the conductor rose
in his place and there was 'hushing.' Wilfrid returned at the same
moment. He noticed that Emily shivered as he put the covering on her
shoulders. When he was seated she looked at him so strangely that he
asked her in a whisper what was the matter. Emily shook her head and
seemed to fix her attention on the music.

Beatrice Redwing was the third singer to come forward. Whilst she sang
Emily frequently looked at her husband. Wilfrid did not notice it, he
was absorbed in listening. Towards the end Emily, too, lost thought of
everything save the magic with which the air was charged. There was
vociferous demand for an encore and Beatrice gave another song.

When the mid-way interval was reached Emily asked her husband if he
would leave the hall. She gave no reason and Wilfrid did not question
her. When they were in the carriage she said the draught had been too
severe. Wilfrid kept silence; he was troubled by inexplicable

Servants hastened to light the drawing-room on their arrival earlier
than was expected. Emily threw off her wraps and seated herself near the

'Do you suffer from the chill?' Wilfrid asked, approaching her as if
with diffidence.

She turned her face to him, gazing with the sadness which was so much
more natural to her than the joy of two hours ago.

'It was not the draught that made me come away,' she said with gentle
directness. 'I must tell you what it was, Wilfrid. I cannot keep any of
my thoughts from you.'

'Tell me,' he murmured, standing by her.

She related the substance of the conversation she had overheard, always
keeping her eyes on him.

'Is it true?'

'It is true, Emily.'

Between him and her there could be no paltry embarrassments. A direct
question touching both so deeply could be answered only in one way. If
Emily had suffered from a brief distrust, his look and voice, sorrowful
but frank as though he faced Omniscience, restored her courage at once.
There might be grief henceforth, but it was shared between them.

He spoke on and made all plain. Then at the last:

'I felt it to be almost impossible that you should net some day know. I
could not tell you, perhaps on her account as much as on my own. But now
I may say what I had no words for before. She loved me, and I believed
that I could return her love. When I met you, how could I marry her? A
stranger sees my conduct--you have heard how. It is you who alone can
judge me.'

'And she came to me in that way,' Emily murmured. 'She could not only
lose _you_, but give her hand to the woman who robbed her!'

'And take my part with everyone, force herself to show a bright face, do
her best to have it understood that it was she herself who broke off the
marriage--all this.'

'Dare I go to her, Wilfrid? Would it be cruel to go to her? I wish to
speak--oh, not one word that would betray my knowledge, but to say that
I love her. Do you think I may go?'

'I cannot advise you, Emily. Wait until the morning and do then what you
think best.'

She decided to go. Beatrice still lived with Mrs. Birks, and it was
probable that she would be alone on Sunday morning. It proved to be so.

Wilfrid waited more than an hour for Emily's return. When at length she
entered to him, he saw that there was deep content on her countenance.
Emily embraced her husband and laid her head upon his breast. He could
hear her sigh gently.

'She wishes to see you, Wilfrid.'

'She received you kindly?'

'I will tell you all when I have had time to think of it. But she was
sorry you did not come with me. Will you go? She will be alone this

They held each other in silence. Then Emily, raising an awed face, asked

'Where does she find her strength? Is her nature so spotless that
self-sacrifice is her highest joy? Wilfrid, I could have asked pardon at
her feet; my heart bled for her.'

'Dearest, you least of all should wonder at the strength which comes of
high motive.'

'Oh, but to surrender you to another and to witness that other's
happiness! Was not my self-denial perhaps a form of selfishness? I only
shrank from love because I dreaded the reproaches of my own heart; I did
good to no one, was only anxious to save myself. She--I dare not think
of it! My nature is so weak. Take your love from me and you take my

Wilfrid's heart leaped with the wild joy of a mountain torrent.

'She will not always be alone,' he said, perhaps with the readiness of
the supremely happy to prophesy smooth things for all. There came the
answer of gentle reproach:

'After loving you, Wilfrid?'

'Beautiful, that is how it seems to you. There is second love, often
truer than the first.'

'Then the first was not love indeed! If I had never seen you again, what
meaning would love have ever had for me apart from your name? I only
dreamed of it till I knew you, then it was love first and last. Wilfrid,
my own, my husband--my love till I die!' ....

*** End of this LibraryBlog Digital Book "A Life's Morning" ***

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