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´╗┐Title: I Say No
Author: Collins, Wilkie, 1824-1889
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "I Say No" ***

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"I SAY NO"

By Wilkie Collins



BOOK THE FIRST--AT SCHOOL.



CHAPTER I. THE SMUGGLED SUPPER.

Outside the bedroom the night was black and still.

The small rain fell too softly to be heard in the garden; not a leaf
stirred in the airless calm; the watch-dog was asleep, the cats were
indoors; far or near, under the murky heaven, not a sound was stirring.

Inside the bedroom the night was black and still.

Miss Ladd knew her business as a schoolmistress too well to allow
night-lights; and Miss Ladd's young ladies were supposed to be fast
asleep, in accordance with the rules of the house. Only at intervals the
silence was faintly disturbed, when the restless turning of one of
the girls in her bed betrayed itself by a gentle rustling between the
sheets. In the long intervals of stillness, not even the softly audible
breathing of young creatures asleep was to be heard.

The first sound that told of life and movement revealed the mechanical
movement of the clock. Speaking from the lower regions, the tongue of
Father Time told the hour before midnight.

A soft voice rose wearily near the door of the room. It counted the
strokes of the clock--and reminded one of the girls of the lapse of
time.

"Emily! eleven o'clock."

There was no reply. After an interval the weary voice tried again, in
louder tones:

"Emily!"

A girl, whose bed was at the inner end of the room, sighed under
the heavy heat of the night--and said, in peremptory tones, "Is that
Cecilia?"

"Yes."

"What do you want?"

"I'm getting hungry, Emily. Is the new girl asleep?"

The new girl answered promptly and spitefully, "No, she isn't."

Having a private object of their own in view, the five wise virgins of
Miss Ladd's first class had waited an hour, in wakeful anticipation
of the falling asleep of the stranger--and it had ended in this way!
A ripple of laughter ran round the room. The new girl, mortified and
offended, entered her protest in plain words.

"You are treating me shamefully! You all distrust me, because I am a
stranger."

"Say we don't understand you," Emily answered, speaking for her
schoolfellows; "and you will be nearer the truth."

"Who expected you to understand me, when I only came here to-day? I have
told you already my name is Francine de Sor. If want to know more, I'm
nineteen years old, and I come from the West Indies."

Emily still took the lead. "Why do you come _here?_" she asked. "Who
ever heard of a girl joining a new school just before the holidays? You
are nineteen years old, are you? I'm a year younger than you--and I have
finished my education. The next big girl in the room is a year younger
than me--and she has finished her education. What can you possibly have
left to learn at your age?"

"Everything!" cried the stranger from the West Indies, with an outburst
of tears. "I'm a poor ignorant creature. Your education ought to have
taught you to pity me instead of making fun of me. I hate you all. For
shame, for shame!"

Some of the girls laughed. One of them--the hungry girl who had counted
the strokes of the clock--took Francine's part.

"Never mind their laughing, Miss de Sor. You are quite right, you have
good reason to complain of us."

Miss de Sor dried her eyes. "Thank you--whoever you are," she answered
briskly.

"My name is Cecilia Wyvil," the other proceeded. "It was not, perhaps,
quite nice of you to say you hated us all. At the same time we have
forgotten our good breeding--and the least we can do is to beg your
pardon."

This expression of generous sentiment appeared to have an irritating
effect on the peremptory young person who took the lead in the room.
Perhaps she disapproved of free trade in generous sentiment.

"I can tell you one thing, Cecilia," she said; "you shan't beat ME in
generosity. Strike a light, one of you, and lay the blame on me if Miss
Ladd finds us out. I mean to shake hands with the new girl--and how can
I do it in the dark? Miss de Sor, my name's Brown, and I'm queen of the
bedroom. I--not Cecilia--offer our apologies if we have offended you.
Cecilia is my dearest friend, but I don't allow her to take the lead in
the room. Oh, what a lovely nightgown!"

The sudden flow of candle-light had revealed Francine, sitting up in her
bed, and displaying such treasures of real lace over her bosom that
the queen lost all sense of royal dignity in irrepressible admiration.
"Seven and sixpence," Emily remarked, looking at her own night-gown and
despising it. One after another, the girls yielded to the attraction of
the wonderful lace. Slim and plump, fair and dark, they circled round
the new pupil in their flowing white robes, and arrived by common
consent at one and the same conclusion: "How rich her father must be!"

Favored by fortune in the matter of money, was this enviable person
possessed of beauty as well?

In the disposition of the beds, Miss de Sor was placed between Cecilia
on the right hand, and Emily on the left. If, by some fantastic turn of
events, a man--say in the interests of propriety, a married doctor, with
Miss Ladd to look after him--had been permitted to enter the room, and
had been asked what he thought of the girls when he came out, he would
not even have mentioned Francine. Blind to the beauties of the expensive
night-gown, he would have noticed her long upper lip, her obstinate
chin, her sallow complexion, her eyes placed too close together--and
would have turned his attention to her nearest neighbors. On one side
his languid interest would have been instantly roused by Cecilia's
glowing auburn hair, her exquisitely pure skin, and her tender blue
eyes. On the other, he would have discovered a bright little creature,
who would have fascinated and perplexed him at one and the same time. If
he had been questioned about her by a stranger, he would have been at
a loss to say positively whether she was dark or light: he would have
remembered how her eyes had held him, but he would not have known of
what color they were. And yet, she would have remained a vivid picture
in his memory when other impressions, derived at the same time, had
vanished. "There was one little witch among them, who was worth all the
rest put together; and I can't tell you why. They called her Emily. If
I wasn't a married man--" There he would have thought of his wife, and
would have sighed and said no more.

While the girls were still admiring Francine, the clock struck the
half-hour past eleven.

Cecilia stole on tiptoe to the door--looked out, and listened--closed
the door again--and addressed the meeting with the irresistible charm of
her sweet voice and her persuasive smile.

"Are none of you hungry yet?" she inquired. "The teachers are safe in
their rooms; we have set ourselves right with Francine. Why keep the
supper waiting under Emily's bed?"

Such reasoning as this, with such personal attractions to recommend
it, admitted of but one reply. The queen waved her hand graciously, and
said, "Pull it out."

Is a lovely girl--whose face possesses the crowning charm of expression,
whose slightest movement reveals the supple symmetry of her figure--less
lovely because she is blessed with a good appetite, and is not ashamed
to acknowledge it? With a grace all her own, Cecilia dived under
the bed, and produced a basket of jam tarts, a basket of fruit and
sweetmeats, a basket of sparkling lemonade, and a superb cake--all
paid for by general subscriptions, and smuggled into the room by kind
connivance of the servants. On this occasion, the feast was especially
plentiful and expensive, in commemoration not only of the arrival of the
Midsummer holidays, but of the coming freedom of Miss Ladd's two leading
young ladies. With widely different destinies before them, Emily and
Cecilia had completed their school life, and were now to go out into the
world.

The contrast in the characters of the two girls showed itself, even in
such a trifle as the preparations for supper.

Gentle Cecilia, sitting on the floor surrounded by good things, left it
to the ingenuity of others to decide whether the baskets should be all
emptied at once, or handed round from bed to bed, one at a time. In the
meanwhile, her lovely blue eyes rested tenderly on the tarts.

Emily's commanding spirit seized on the reins of government, and
employed each of her schoolfellows in the occupation which she was
fittest to undertake. "Miss de Sor, let me look at your hand. Ah! I
thought so. You have got the thickest wrist among us; you shall draw
the corks. If you let the lemonade pop, not a drop of it goes down your
throat. Effie, Annis, Priscilla, you are three notoriously lazy girls;
it's doing you a true kindness to set you to work. Effie, clear the
toilet-table for supper; away with the combs, the brushes, and the
looking-glass. Annis, tear the leaves out of your book of exercises, and
set them out for plates. No! I'll unpack; nobody touches the baskets but
me. Priscilla, you have the prettiest ears in the room. You shall act as
sentinel, my dear, and listen at the door. Cecilia, when you have done
devouring those tarts with your eyes, take that pair of scissors (Miss
de Sor, allow me to apologize for the mean manner in which this school
is carried on; the knives and forks are counted and locked up every
night)--I say take that pair of scissors, Cecilia, and carve the cake,
and don't keep the largest bit for yourself. Are we all ready? Very
well. Now take example by me. Talk as much as you like, so long as you
don't talk too loud. There is one other thing before we begin. The men
always propose toasts on these occasions; let's be like the men. Can any
of you make a speech? Ah, it falls on me as usual. I propose the first
toast. Down with all schools and teachers--especially the new teacher,
who came this half year. Oh, mercy, how it stings!" The fixed gas in the
lemonade took the orator, at that moment, by the throat, and effectually
checked the flow of her eloquence. It made no difference to the girls.
Excepting the ease of feeble stomachs, who cares for eloquence in
the presence of a supper-table? There were no feeble stomachs in that
bedroom. With what inexhaustible energy Miss Ladd's young ladies ate
and drank! How merrily they enjoyed the delightful privilege of talking
nonsense! And--alas! alas!--how vainly they tried, in after life, to
renew the once unalloyed enjoyment of tarts and lemonade!

In the unintelligible scheme of creation, there appears to be no
human happiness--not even the happiness of schoolgirls--which is ever
complete. Just as it was drawing to a close, the enjoyment of the feast
was interrupted by an alarm from the sentinel at the door.

"Put out the candle!" Priscilla whispered "Somebody on the stairs."



CHAPTER II. BIOGRAPHY IN THE BEDROOM.

The candle was instantly extinguished. In discreet silence the girls
stole back to their beds, and listened.

As an aid to the vigilance of the sentinel, the door had been left ajar.
Through the narrow opening, a creaking of the broad wooden stairs of
the old house became audible. In another moment there was silence. An
interval passed, and the creaking was heard again. This time, the
sound was distant and diminishing. On a sudden it stopped. The midnight
silence was disturbed no more.

What did this mean?

Had one among the many persons in authority under Miss Ladd's roof heard
the girls talking, and ascended the stairs to surprise them in the act
of violating one of the rules of the house? So far, such a proceeding
was by no means uncommon. But was it within the limits of probability
that a teacher should alter her opinion of her own duty half-way up the
stairs, and deliberately go back to her own room again? The bare idea
of such a thing was absurd on the face of it. What more rational
explanation could ingenuity discover on the spur of the moment?

Francine was the first to offer a suggestion. She shook and shivered in
her bed, and said, "For heaven's sake, light the candle again! It's a
Ghost."

"Clear away the supper, you fools, before the ghost can report us to
Miss Ladd."

With this excellent advice Emily checked the rising panic. The door was
closed, the candle was lit; all traces of the supper disappeared. For
five minutes more they listened again. No sound came from the stairs; no
teacher, or ghost of a teacher, appeared at the door.

Having eaten her supper, Cecilia's immediate anxieties were at an end;
she was at leisure to exert her intelligence for the benefit of her
schoolfellows. In her gentle ingratiating way, she offered a composing
suggestion. "When we heard the creaking, I don't believe there was
anybody on the stairs. In these old houses there are always strange
noises at night--and they say the stairs here were made more than two
hundred years since."

The girls looked at each other with a sense of relief--but they waited
to hear the opinion of the queen. Emily, as usual, justified the
confidence placed in her. She discovered an ingenious method of putting
Cecilia's suggestion to the test.

"Let's go on talking," she said. "If Cecilia is right, the teachers are
all asleep, and we have nothing to fear from them. If she's wrong, we
shall sooner or later see one of them at the door. Don't be alarmed,
Miss de Sor. Catching us talking at night, in this school, only means
a reprimand. Catching us with a light, ends in punishment. Blow out the
candle."

Francine's belief in the ghost was too sincerely superstitious to be
shaken: she started up in bed. "Oh, don't leave me in the dark! I'll
take the punishment, if we are found out."

"On your sacred word of honor?" Emily stipulated.

"Yes--yes."

The queen's sense of humor was tickled.

"There's something funny," she remarked, addressing her subjects, "in
a big girl like this coming to a new school and beginning with a
punishment. May I ask if you are a foreigner, Miss de Sor?"

"My papa is a Spanish gentleman," Francine answered, with dignity.

"And your mamma?"

"My mamma is English."

"And you have always lived in the West Indies?"

"I have always lived in the Island of St. Domingo."

Emily checked off on her fingers the different points thus far
discovered in the character of Mr. de Sor's daughter. "She's ignorant,
and superstitious, and foreign, and rich. My dear (forgive the
familiarity), you are an interesting girl--and we must really know more
of you. Entertain the bedroom. What have you been about all your life?
And what in the name of wonder, brings you here? Before you begin I
insist on one condition, in the name of all the young ladies in the
room. No useful information about the West Indies!"

Francine disappointed her audience.

She was ready enough to make herself an object of interest to her
companions; but she was not possessed of the capacity to arrange
events in their proper order, necessary to the recital of the simplest
narrative. Emily was obliged to help her, by means of questions. In
one respect, the result justified the trouble taken to obtain it. A
sufficient reason was discovered for the extraordinary appearance of a
new pupil, on the day before the school closed for the holidays.

Mr. de Sor's elder brother had left him an estate in St. Domingo, and a
fortune in money as well; on the one easy condition that he continued
to reside in the island. The question of expense being now beneath the
notice of the family, Francine had been sent to England, especially
recommended to Miss Ladd as a young lady with grand prospects, sorely
in need of a fashionable education. The voyage had been so timed, by
the advice of the schoolmistress, as to make the holidays a means of
obtaining this object privately. Francine was to be taken to Brighton,
where excellent masters could be obtained to assist Miss Ladd. With six
weeks before her, she might in some degree make up for lost time; and,
when the school opened again, she would avoid the mortification of being
put down in the lowest class, along with the children.

The examination of Miss de Sor having produced these results was
pursued no further. Her character now appeared in a new, and not very
attractive, light. She audaciously took to herself the whole credit of
telling her story:

"I think it's my turn now," she said, "to be interested and amused. May
I ask you to begin, Miss Emily? All I know of you at present is, t hat
your family name is Brown."

Emily held up her hand for silence.

Was the mysterious creaking on the stairs making itself heard once more?
No. The sound that had caught Emily's quick ear came from the beds, on
the opposite side of the room, occupied by the three lazy girls. With
no new alarm to disturb them, Effie, Annis, and Priscilla had yielded
to the composing influences of a good supper and a warm night. They were
fast asleep--and the stoutest of the three (softly, as became a young
lady) was snoring!

The unblemished reputation of the bedroom was dear to Emily, in her
capacity of queen. She felt herself humiliated in the presence of the
new pupil.

"If that fat girl ever gets a lover," she said indignantly, "I shall
consider it my duty to warn the poor man before he marries her.
Her ridiculous name is Euphemia. I have christened her (far more
appropriately) Boiled Veal. No color in her hair, no color in her
eyes, no color in her complexion. In short, no flavor in Euphemia. You
naturally object to snoring. Pardon me if I turn my back on you--I am
going to throw my slipper at her."

The soft voice of Cecilia--suspiciously drowsy in tone--interposed in
the interests of mercy.

"She can't help it, poor thing; and she really isn't loud enough to
disturb us."

"She won't disturb _you_, at any rate! Rouse yourself, Cecilia. We are
wide awake on this side of the room--and Francine says it's our turn to
amuse her."

A low murmur, dying away gently in a sigh, was the only answer. Sweet
Cecilia had yielded to the somnolent influences of the supper and the
night. The soft infection of repose seemed to be in some danger of
communicating itself to Francine. Her large mouth opened luxuriously in
a long-continued yawn.

"Good-night!" said Emily.

Miss de Sor became wide awake in an instant.

"No," she said positively; "you are quite mistaken if you think I am
going to sleep. Please exert yourself, Miss Emily--I am waiting to be
interested."

Emily appeared to be unwilling to exert herself. She preferred talking
of the weather.

"Isn't the wind rising?" she said.

There could be no doubt of it. The leaves in the garden were beginning
to rustle, and the pattering of the rain sounded on the windows.

Francine (as her straight chin proclaimed to all students of
physiognomy) was an obstinate girl. Determined to carry her point she
tried Emily's own system on Emily herself--she put questions.

"Have you been long at this school?"

"More than three years."

"Have you got any brothers and sisters?"

"I am the only child."

"Are your father and mother alive?"

Emily suddenly raised herself in bed.

"Wait a minute," she said; "I think I hear it again."

"The creaking on the stairs?"

"Yes."

Either she was mistaken, or the change for the worse in the weather
made it not easy to hear slight noises in the house. The wind was still
rising. The passage of it through the great trees in the garden began
to sound like the fall of waves on a distant beach. It drove the rain--a
heavy downpour by this time--rattling against the windows.

"Almost a storm, isn't it?" Emily said

Francine's last question had not been answered yet. She took the
earliest opportunity of repeating it:

"Never mind the weather," she said. "Tell me about your father and
mother. Are they both alive?"

Emily's reply only related to one of her parents.

"My mother died before I was old enough to feel my loss."

"And your father?"

Emily referred to another relative--her father's sister. "Since I have
grown up," she proceeded, "my good aunt has been a second mother to me.
My story is, in one respect, the reverse of yours. You are unexpectedly
rich; and I am unexpectedly poor. My aunt's fortune was to have been
my fortune, if I outlived her. She has been ruined by the failure of
a bank. In her old age, she must live on an income of two hundred a
year--and I must get my own living when I leave school."

"Surely your father can help you?" Francine persisted.

"His property is landed property." Her voice faltered, as she referred
to him, even in that indirect manner. "It is entailed; his nearest male
relative inherits it."

The delicacy which is easily discouraged was not one of the weaknesses
in the nature of Francine.

"Do I understand that your father is dead?" she asked.

Our thick-skinned fellow-creatures have the rest of us at their mercy:
only give them time, and they carry their point in the end. In sad
subdued tones--telling of deeply-rooted reserves of feeling, seldom
revealed to strangers--Emily yielded at last.

"Yes," she said, "my father is dead."

"Long ago?"

"Some people might think it long ago. I was very fond of my father. It's
nearly four years since he died, and my heart still aches when I think
of him. I'm not easily depressed by troubles, Miss de Sor. But his death
was sudden--he was in his grave when I first heard of it--and--Oh, he
was so good to me; he was so good to me!"

The gay high-spirited little creature who took the lead among them
all--who was the life and soul of the school--hid her face in her hands,
and burst out crying.

Startled and--to do her justice--ashamed, Francine attempted to make
excuses. Emily's generous nature passed over the cruel persistency
that had tortured her. "No no; I have nothing to forgive. It isn't your
fault. Other girls have not mothers and brothers and sisters--and get
reconciled to such a loss as mine. Don't make excuses."

"Yes, but I want you to know that I feel for you," Francine insisted,
without the slightest approach to sympathy in face, voice, or manner.
"When my uncle died, and left us all the money, papa was much shocked.
He trusted to time to help him."

"Time has been long about it with me, Francine. I am afraid there is
something perverse in my nature; the hope of meeting again in a better
world seems so faint and so far away. No more of it now! Let us talk of
that good creature who is asleep on the other side of you. Did I tell
you that I must earn my own bread when I leave school? Well, Cecilia
has written home and found an employment for me. Not a situation as
governess--something quite out of the common way. You shall hear all
about it."

In the brief interval that had passed, the weather had begun to change
again. The wind was as high as ever; but to judge by the lessening
patter on the windows the rain was passing away.

Emily began.

She was too grateful to her friend and school-fellow, and too deeply
interested in her story, to notice the air of indifference with which
Francine settled herself on her pillow to hear the praises of Cecilia.
The most beautiful girl in the school was not an object of interest to a
young lady with an obstinate chin and unfortunately-placed eyes.
Pouring warm from the speaker's heart the story ran smoothly on, to the
monotonous accompaniment of the moaning wind. By fine degrees Francine's
eyes closed, opened and closed again. Toward the latter part of the
narrative Emily's memory became, for the moment only, confused between
two events. She stopped to consider--noticed Francine's silence, in an
interval when she might have said a word of encouragement--and looked
closer at her. Miss de Sor was asleep.

"She might have told me she was tired," Emily said to herself quietly.
"Well! the best thing I can do is to put out the light and follow her
example."

As she took up the extinguisher, the bedroom door was suddenly opened
from the outer side. A tall woman, robed in a black dressing-gown, stood
on the threshold, looking at Emily.



CHAPTER III. THE LATE MR. BROWN.

The woman's lean, long-fingered hand pointed to the candle.

"Don't put it out." Saying those words, she looked round the room, and
satisfied herself that the other girls were asleep.

Emily laid down the extinguisher. "You mean to report us, of course,"
she said. "I am the only one awake, Miss Jethro; lay the blame on me."

"I have no intention of reporting you. But I have something to say."

She paused, and pushed her thick black hair (already streaked with gray)
back from her temples. Her eyes, large and dark and dim, rested on
Emily with a sorrowful interest. "When your young friends wake to-morrow
morning," she went on, "you can tell them that the new teacher, whom
nobody likes, has left the school."

For once, even quick-witted Emily was bewildered. "Going away," she
said, "when you have only been here since Easter!"

Miss Jethro advanced, not noticing Emily's expression of surprise. "I am
not very strong at the best of times," she continued, "may I sit down
on your bed?" Remarkable on other occasions for her cold composure, her
voice trembled as she made that request--a strange request surely, when
there were chairs at her disposal.

Emily made room for her with the dazed look of a girl in a dream. "I
beg your pardon, Miss Jethro, one of the things I can't endure is being
puzzled. If you don't mean to report us, why did you come in and catch
me with the light?"

Miss Jethro's explanation was far from relieving the perplexity which
her conduct had caused.

"I have been mean enough," she answered, "to listen at the door, and I
heard you talking of your father. I want to hear more about him. That is
why I came in."

"You knew my father!" Emily exclaimed.

"I believe I knew him. But his name is so common--there are so many
thousands of 'James Browns' in England--that I am in fear of making a
mistake. I heard you say that he died nearly four years since. Can you
mention any particulars which might help to enlighten me? If you think I
am taking a liberty--"

Emily stopped her. "I would help you if I could," she said. "But I was
in poor health at the time; and I was staying with friends far away in
Scotland, to try change of air. The news of my father's death brought on
a relapse. Weeks passed before I was strong enough to travel--weeks and
weeks before I saw his grave! I can only tell you what I know from my
aunt. He died of heart-complaint."

Miss Jethro started.

Emily looked at her for the first time, with eyes that betrayed a
feeling of distrust. "What have I said to startle you?" she asked.

"Nothing! I am nervous in stormy weather--don't notice me." She went on
abruptly with her inquiries. "Will you tell me the date of your father's
death?"

"The date was the thirtieth of September, nearly four years since."

She waited, after that reply.

Miss Jethro was silent.

"And this," Emily continued, "is the thirtieth of June, eighteen hundred
and eighty-one. You can now judge for yourself. Did you know my father?"

Miss Jethro answered mechanically, using the same words.

"I did know your father."

Emily's feeling of distrust was not set at rest. "I never heard him
speak of you," she said.

In her younger days the teacher must have been a handsome woman.
Her grandly-formed features still suggested the idea of imperial
beauty--perhaps Jewish in its origin. When Emily said, "I never heard
him speak of you," the color flew into her pallid cheeks: her dim eyes
became alive again with a momentary light. She left her seat on the bed,
and, turning away, mastered the emotion that shook her.

"How hot the night is!" she said: and sighed, and resumed the subject
with a steady countenance. "I am not surprised that your father never
mentioned me--to _you_." She spoke quietly, but her face was paler than
ever. She sat down again on the bed. "Is there anything I can do for
you," she asked, "before I go away? Oh, I only mean some trifling
service that would lay you under no obligation, and would not oblige you
to keep up your acquaintance with me."

Her eyes--the dim black eyes that must once have been irresistibly
beautiful--looked at Emily so sadly that the generous girl reproached
herself for having doubted her father's friend. "Are you thinking of
_him_," she said gently, "when you ask if you can be of service to me?"

Miss Jethro made no direct reply. "You were fond of your father?" she
added, in a whisper. "You told your schoolfellow that your heart still
aches when you speak of him."

"I only told her the truth," Emily answered simply.

Miss Jethro shuddered--on that hot night!--shuddered as if a chill had
struck her.

Emily held out her hand; the kind feeling that had been roused in
her glittered prettily in her eyes. "I am afraid I have not done you
justice," she said. "Will you forgive me and shake hands?"

Miss Jethro rose, and drew back. "Look at the light!" she exclaimed.

The candle was all burned out. Emily still offered her hand--and still
Miss Jethro refused to see it.

"There is just light enough left," she said, "to show me my way to the
door. Good-night--and good-by."

Emily caught at her dress, and stopped her. "Why won't you shake hands
with me?" she asked.

The wick of the candle fell over in the socket, and left them in the
dark. Emily resolutely held the teacher's dress. With or without light,
she was still bent on making Miss Jethro explain herself.

They had throughout spoken in guarded tones, fearing to disturb the
sleeping girls. The sudden darkness had its inevitable effect. Their
voices sank to whispers now. "My father's friend," Emily pleaded, "is
surely my friend?"

"Drop the subject."

"Why?"

"You can never be _my_ friend."

"Why not?"

"Let me go!"

Emily's sense of self-respect forbade her to persist any longer. "I beg
your pardon for having kept you here against your will," she said--and
dropped her hold on the dress.

Miss Jethro instantly yielded on her side. "I am sorry to have been
obstinate," she answered. "If you do despise me, it is after all no more
than I have deserved." Her hot breath beat on Emily's face: the unhappy
woman must have bent over the bed as she made her confession. "I am not
a fit person for you to associate with."

"I don't believe it!"

Miss Jethro sighed bitterly. "Young and warm hearted--I was once like
you!" She controlled that outburst of despair. Her next words were
spoken in steadier tones. "You _will_ have it--you _shall_ have it!"
she said. "Some one (in this house or out of it; I don't know which)
has betrayed me to the mistress of the school. A wretch in my situation
suspects everybody, and worse still, does it without reason or excuse.
I heard you girls talking when you ought to have been asleep. You all
dislike me. How did I know it mightn't be one of you? Absurd, to a
person with a well-balanced mind! I went halfway up the stairs, and felt
ashamed of myself, and went back to my room. If I could only have got
some rest! Ah, well, it was not to be done. My own vile suspicions kept
me awake; I left my bed again. You know what I heard on the other side
of that door, and why I was interested in hearing it. Your father never
told me he had a daughter. 'Miss Brown,' at this school, was any 'Miss
Brown,' to me. I had no idea of who you really were until to-night.
I'm wandering. What does all this matter to you? Miss Ladd has been
merciful; she lets me go without exposing me. You can guess what has
happened. No? Not even yet? Is it innocence or kindness that makes
you so slow to understand? My dear, I have obtained admission to
this respectable house by means of false references, and I have been
discovered. _Now_ you know why you must not be the friend of such a
woman as I am! Once more, good-night--and good-by."

Emily shrank from that miserable farewell.

"Bid me good-night," she said, "but don't bid me good-by. Let me see you
again."

"Never!"

The sound of the softly-closed door was just audible in the darkness.
She had spoken--she had gone--never to be seen by Emily again.

Miserable, interesting, unfathomable creature--the problem that night of
Emily's waking thoughts: the phantom of her dreams. "Bad? or good?" she
asked herself. "False; for she listened at the door. True; for she told
me the tale of her own disgrace. A friend of my father; and she never
knew that he had a daughter. Refined, accomplished, lady-like; and she
stoops to use a false reference. Who is to reconcile such contradictions
as these?"

Dawn looked in at the window--dawn of the memorable day which was, for
Emily, the beginning of a new life. The years were before her; and the
years in their course reveal baffling mysteries of life and death.



CHAPTER IV. MISS LADD'S DRAWING-MASTER.

Francine was awakened the next morning by one of the housemaids,
bringing up her breakfast on a tray. Astonished at this concession to
laziness, in an institution devoted to the practice of all virtues, she
looked round. The bedroom was deserted.

"The other young ladies are as busy as bees, miss," the housemaid
explained. "They were up and dressed two hours ago: and the breakfast
has been cleared away long since. It's Miss Emily's fault. She wouldn't
allow them to wake you; she said you could be of no possible use
downstairs, and you had better be treated like a visitor. Miss Cecilia
was so distressed at your missing your breakfast that she spoke to the
housekeeper, and I was sent up to you. Please to excuse it if the tea's
cold. This is Grand Day, and we are all topsy-turvy in consequence."

Inquiring what "Grand Day" meant, and why it produced this extraordinary
result in a ladies' school, Francine discovered that the first day of
the vacation was devoted to the distribution of prizes, in the
presence of parents, guardians and friends. An Entertainment was added,
comprising those merciless tests of human endurance called Recitations;
light refreshments and musical performances being distributed at
intervals, to encourage the exhausted audience. The local newspaper sent
a reporter to describe the proceedings, and some of Miss Ladd's young
ladies enjoyed the intoxicating luxury of seeing their names in print.

"It begins at three o'clock," the housemaid went on, "and, what with
practicing and rehearsing, and ornamenting the schoolroom, there's a
hubbub fit to make a person's head spin. Besides which," said the girl,
lowering her voice, and approaching a little nearer to Francine, "we
have all been taken by surprise. The first thing in the morning Miss
Jethro left us, without saying good-by to anybody."

"Who is Miss Jethro?"

"The new teacher, miss. We none of us liked her, and we all suspect
there's something wrong. Miss Ladd and the clergyman had a long talk
together yesterday (in private, you know), and they sent for Miss
Jethro--which looks bad, doesn't it? Is there anything more I can do for
you, miss? It's a beautiful day after the rain. If I was you, I should
go and enjoy myself in the garden."

Having finished her breakfast, Francine decided on profiting by this
sensible suggestion.

The servant who showed her the way to the garden was not favorably
impressed by the new pupil: Francine's temper asserted itself a little
too plainly in her face. To a girl possessing a high opinion of her own
importance it was not very agreeable to feel herself excluded, as
an illiterate stranger, from the one absorbing interest of her
schoolfellows. "Will the time ever come," she wondered bitterly, "when
I shall win a prize, and sing and play before all the company? How I
should enjoy making the girls envy me!"

A broad lawn, overshadowed at one end by fine old trees--flower beds and
shrubberies, and winding paths prettily and invitingly laid out--made
the garden a welcome refuge on that fine summer morning. The novelty
of the scene, after her experience in the West Indies, the delicious
breezes cooled by the rain of the night, exerted their cheering
influence even on the sullen disposition of Francine. She smiled, in
spite of herself, as she followed the pleasant paths, and heard the
birds singing their summer songs over her head.

Wandering among the trees, which occupied a considerable extent of
ground, she passed into an open space beyond, and discovered an old
fish-pond, overgrown by aquatic plants. Driblets of water trickled from
a dilapidated fountain in the middle. On the further side of the pond
the ground sloped downward toward the south, and revealed, over a low
paling, a pretty view of a village and its church, backed by fir woods
mounting the heathy sides of a range of hills beyond. A fanciful little
wooden building, imitating the form of a Swiss cottage, was placed so as
to command the prospect. Near it, in the shadow of the building, stood a
rustic chair and table--with a color-box on one, and a portfolio on the
other. Fluttering over the grass, at the mercy of the capricious breeze,
was a neglected sheet of drawing-paper. Francine ran round the pond, and
picked up the paper just as it was on the point of being tilted into
the water. It contained a sketch in water colors of the village and the
woods, and Francine had looked at the view itself with indifference--the
picture of the view interested her. Ordinary visitors to Galleries of
Art, which admit students, show the same strange perversity. The work of
the copyist commands their whole attention; they take no interest in the
original picture.

Looking up from the sketch, Francine was startled. She discovered a man,
at the window of the Swiss summer-house, watching her.

"When you have done with that drawing," he said quietly, "please let me
have it back again."

He was tall and thin and dark. His finely-shaped intelligent
face--hidden, as to the lower part of it, by a curly black beard--would
have been absolutely handsome, even in the eyes of a schoolgirl, but for
the deep furrows that marked it prematurely between the eyebrows, and at
the sides of the mouth. In the same way, an underlying mockery impaired
the attraction of his otherwise refined and gentle manner. Among
his fellow-creatures, children and dogs were the only critics who
appreciated his merits without discovering the defects which lessened
the favorable appreciation of him by men and women. He dressed neatly,
but his morning coat was badly made, and his picturesque felt hat was
too old. In short, there seemed to be no good quality about him which
was not perversely associated with a drawback of some kind. He was one
of those harmless and luckless men, possessed of excellent qualities,
who fail nevertheless to achieve popularity in their social sphere.

Francine handed his sketch to him, through the window; doubtful whether
the words that he had addressed to her were spoken in jest or in
earnest.

"I only presumed to touch your drawing," she said, "because it was in
danger."

"What danger?" he inquired.

Francine pointed to the pond. "If I had not been in time to pick it up,
it would have been blown into the water."

"Do you think it was worth picking up?"

Putting that question, he looked first at the sketch--then at the view
which it represented--then back again at the sketch. The corners of his
mouth turned upward with a humorous expression of scorn. "Madam Nature,"
he said, "I beg your pardon." With those words, he composedly tore his
work of art into small pieces, and scattered them out of the window.

"What a pity!" said Francine.

He joined her on the ground outside the cottage. "Why is it a pity?" he
asked.

"Such a nice drawing."

"It isn't a nice drawing."

"You're not very polite, sir."

He looked at her--and sighed as if he pitied so young a woman for having
a temper so ready to take offense. In his flattest contradictions he
always preserved the character of a politely-positive man.

"Put it in plain words, miss," he replied. "I have offended the
predominant sense in your nature--your sense of self-esteem. You don't
like to be told, even indirectly, that you know nothing of Art. In these
days, everybody knows everything--and thinks nothing worth knowing after
all. But beware how you presume on an appearance of indifference, which
is nothing but conceit in disguise. The ruling passion of civilized
humanity is, Conceit. You may try the regard of your dearest friend
in any other way, and be forgiven. Ruffle the smooth surface of your
friend's self-esteem--and there will be an acknowledged coolness between
you which will last for life. Excuse me for giving you the benefit of
my trumpery experience. This sort of smart talk is _my_ form of conceit.
Can I be of use to you in some better way? Are you looking for one of
our young ladies?"

Francine began to feel a certain reluctant interest in him when he spoke
of "our young ladies." She asked if he belonged to the school.

The corners of his mouth turned up again. "I'm one of the masters," he
said. "Are _you_ going to belong to the school, too?"

Francine bent her head, with a gravity and condescension intended
to keep him at his proper distance. Far from being discouraged, he
permitted his curiosity to take additional liberties. "Are you to have
the misfortune of being one of my pupils?" he asked.

"I don't know who you are."

"You won't be much wiser when you do know. My name is Alban Morris."

Francine corrected herself. "I mean, I don't know what you teach."

Alban Morris pointed to the fragments of his sketch from Nature. "I am a
bad artist," he said. "Some bad artists become Royal Academicians. Some
take to drink. Some get a pension. And some--I am one of them--find
refuge in schools. Drawing is an 'Extra' at this school. Will you take
my advice? Spare your good father's pocket; say you don't want to learn
to draw."

He was so gravely in earnest that Francine burst out laughing. "You are
a strange man," she said.

"Wrong again, miss. I am only an unhappy man."

The furrows in his face deepened, the latent humor died out of his eyes.
He turned to the summer-house window, and took up a pipe and tobacco
pouch, left on the ledge.

"I lost my only friend last year," he said. "Since the death of my dog,
my pipe is the one companion I have left. Naturally I am not allowed to
enjoy the honest fellow's society in the presence of ladies. They have
their own taste in perfumes. Their clothes and their letters reek with
the foetid secretion of the musk deer. The clean vegetable smell of
tobacco is unendurable to them. Allow me to retire--and let me thank you
for the trouble you took to save my drawing."

The tone of indifference in which he expressed his gratitude piqued
Francine. She resented it by drawing her own conclusion from what he
had said of the ladies and the musk deer. "I was wrong in admiring your
drawing," she remarked; "and wrong again in thinking you a strange man.
Am I wrong, for the third time, in believing that you dislike women?"

"I am sorry to say you are right," Alban Morris answered gravely.

"Is there not even one exception?"

The instant the words passed her lips, she saw that there was some
secretly sensitive feeling in him which she had hurt. His black brows
gathered into a frown, his piercing eyes looked at her with angry
surprise. It was over in a moment. He raised his shabby hat, and made
her a bow.

"There is a sore place still left in me," he said; "and you have
innocently hit it. Good-morning."

Before she could speak again, he had turned the corner of the
summer-house, and was lost to view in a shrubbery on the westward side
of the grounds.



CHAPTER V. DISCOVERIES IN THE GARDEN.

Left by herself, Miss de Sor turned back again by way of the trees.

So far, her interview with the drawing-master had helped to pass the
time. Some girls might have found it no easy task to arrive at a
true view of the character of Alban Morris. Francine's essentially
superficial observation set him down as "a little mad," and left him
there, judged and dismissed to her own entire satisfaction.

Arriving at the lawn, she discovered Emily pacing backward and forward,
with her head down and her hands behind her, deep in thought. Francine's
high opinion of herself would have carried her past any of the other
girls, unless they had made special advances to her. She stopped and
looked at Emily.

It is the sad fate of little women in general to grow too fat and to be
born with short legs. Emily's slim finely-strung figure spoke for itself
as to the first of these misfortunes, and asserted its happy freedom
from the second, if she only walked across a room. Nature had built her,
from head to foot, on a skeleton-scaffolding in perfect proportion. Tall
or short matters little to the result, in women who possess the first
and foremost advantage of beginning well in their bones. When they live
to old age, they often astonish thoughtless men, who walk behind them in
the street. "I give you my honor, she was as easy and upright as a
young girl; and when you got in front of her and looked--white hair, and
seventy years of age."

Francine approached Emily, moved by a rare impulse in her nature--the
impulse to be sociable. "You look out of spirits," she began. "Surely
you don't regret leaving school?"

In her present mood, Emily took the opportunity (in the popular phrase)
of snubbing Francine. "You have guessed wrong; I do regret," she
answered. "I have found in Cecilia my dearest friend at school. And
school brought with it the change in my life which has helped me to bear
the loss of my father. If you must know what I was thinking of just now,
I was thinking or my aunt. She has not answered my last letter--and I'm
beginning to be afraid she is ill."

"I'm very sorry," said Francine.

"Why? You don't know my aunt; and you have only known me since yesterday
afternoon. Why are you sorry?"

Francine remained silent. Without realizing it, she was beginning to
feel the dominant influence that Emily exercised over the weaker natures
that came in contact with her. To find herself irresistibly attracted
by a stranger at a new school--an unfortunate little creature, whose
destiny was to earn her own living--filled the narrow mind of Miss de
Sor with perplexity. Having waited in vain for a reply, Emily turned
away, and resumed the train of thought which her schoolfellow had
interrupted.



By an association of ideas, of which she was not herself aware, she
now passed from thinking of her aunt to thinking of Miss Jethro. The
interview of the previous night had dwelt on her mind at intervals, in
the hours of the new day.

Acting on instinct rather than on reason, she had kept that remarkable
incident in her school life a secret from every one. No discoveries had
been made by other persons. In speaking to her staff of teachers,
Miss Ladd had alluded to the affair in the most cautious terms.
"Circumstances of a private nature have obliged the lady to retire from
my school. When we meet after the holidays, another teacher will be
in her place." There, Miss Ladd's explanation had begun and ended.
Inquiries addressed to the servants had led to no result. Miss Jethro's
luggage was to be forwarded to the London terminus of the railway--and
Miss Jethro herself had baffled investigation by leaving the school
on foot. Emily's interest in the lost teacher was not the transitory
interest of curiosity; her father's mysterious friend was a person
whom she honestly desired to see again. Perplexed by the difficulty of
finding a means of tracing Miss Jethro, she reached the shady limit of
the trees, and turned to walk back again. Approaching the place at which
she and Francine had met, an idea occurred to her. It was just possible
that Miss Jethro might not be unknown to her aunt.

Still meditating on the cold reception that she had encountered, and
still feeling the influence which mastered her in spite of herself,
Francine interpreted Emily's return as an implied expression of regret.
She advanced with a constrained smile, and spoke first.

"How are the young ladies getting on in the schoolroom?" she asked, by
way of renewing the conversation.

Emily's face assumed a look of surprise which said plainly, Can't you
take a hint and leave me to myself?

Francine was constitutionally impenetrable to reproof of this sort; her
thick skin was not even tickled. "Why are you not helping them," she
went on; "you who have the clearest head among us and take the lead in
everything?"

It may be a humiliating confession to make, yet it is surely true that
we are all accessible to flattery. Different tastes appreciate different
methods of burning incense--but the perfume is more or less agreeable to
all varieties of noses. Francine's method had its tranquilizing effect
on Emily. She answered indulgently, "Miss de Sor, I have nothing to do
with it."

"Nothing to do with it? No prizes to win before you leave school?"

"I won all the prizes years ago."

"But there are recitations. Surely you recite?"

Harmless words in themselves, pursuing the same smooth course of
flattery as before--but with what a different result! Emily's face
reddened with anger the moment they were spoken. Having already
irritated Alban Morris, unlucky Francine, by a second mischievous
interposition of accident, had succeeded in making Emily smart next.
"Who has told you," she burst out; "I insist on knowing!"

"Nobody has told me anything!" Francine declared piteously.

"Nobody has told you how I have been insulted?"

"No, indeed! Oh, Miss Brown, who could insult _you?_"

In a man, the sense of injury does sometimes submit to the discipline of
silence. In a woman--never. Suddenly reminded of her past wrongs (by
the pardonable error of a polite schoolfellow), Emily committed the
startling inconsistency of appealing to the sympathies of Francine!

"Would you believe it? I have been forbidden to recite--I, the head girl
of the school. Oh, not to-day! It happened a month ago--when we were all
in consultation, making our arrangements. Miss Ladd asked me if I had
decided on a piece to recite. I said, 'I have not only decided, I have
learned the piece.' 'And what may it be?' 'The dagger-scene in Macbeth.'
There was a howl--I can call it by no other name--a howl of indignation.
A man's soliloquy, and, worse still, a murdering man's soliloquy,
recited by one of Miss Ladd's young ladies, before an audience of
parents and guardians! That was the tone they took with me. I was as
firm as a rock. The dagger-scene or nothing. The result is--nothing! An
insult to Shakespeare, and an insult to Me. I felt it--I feel it still.
I was prepared for any sacrifice in the cause of the drama. If Miss Ladd
had met me in a proper spirit, do you know what I would have done?
I would have played Macbeth in costume. Just hear me, and judge for
yourself. I begin with a dreadful vacancy in my eyes, and a hollow
moaning in my voice: 'Is this a dagger that I see before me--?'"

Reciting with her face toward the trees, Emily started, dropped the
character of Macbeth, and instantly became herself again: herself, with
a rising color and an angry brightening of the eyes. "Excuse me, I can't
trust my memory: I must get the play." With that abrupt apology, she
walked away rapidly in the direction of the house.

In some surprise, Francine turned, and looked at the trees. She
discovered--in full retreat, on his side--the eccentric drawing-master,
Alban Morris.

Did he, too, admire the dagger-scene? And was he modestly desirous of
hearing it recited, without showing himself? In that case, why should
Emily (whose besetting weakness was certainly not want of confidence in
her own resources) leave the garden the moment she caught sight of him?
Francine consulted her instincts. She had just arrived at a conclusion
which expressed itself outwardly by a malicious smile, when gentle
Cecilia appeared on the lawn--a lovable object in a broad straw hat
and a white dress, with a nosegay in her bosom--smiling, and fanning
herself.

"It's so hot in the schoolroom," she said, "and some of the girls, poor
things, are so ill-tempered at rehearsal--I have made my escape. I hope
you got your breakfast, Miss de Sor. What have you been doing here, all
by yourself?"

"I have been making an interesting discovery," Francine replied.

"An interesting discovery in our garden? What _can_ it be?"

"The drawing-master, my dear, is in love with Emily. Perhaps she doesn't
care about him. Or, perhaps, I have been an innocent obstacle in the way
of an appointment between them."

Cecilia had breakfasted to her heart's content on her favorite
dish--buttered eggs. She was in such good spirits that she was inclined
to be coquettish, even when there was no man present to fascinate. "We
are not allowed to talk about love in this school," she said--and hid
her face behind her fan. "Besides, if it came to Miss Ladd's ears, poor
Mr. Morris might lose his situation."

"But isn't it true?" asked Francine.

"It may be true, my dear; but nobody knows. Emily hasn't breathed a word
about it to any of us. And Mr. Morris keeps his own secret. Now and then
we catch him looking at her--and we draw our own conclusions."

"Did you meet Emily on your way here?"

"Yes, and she passed without speaking to me."

"Thinking perhaps of Mr. Morris."

Cecilia shook her head. "Thinking, Francine, of the new life before
her--and regretting, I am afraid, that she ever confided her hopes and
wishes to me. Did she tell you last night what her prospects are when
she leaves school?"

"She told me you had been very kind in helping her. I daresay I should
have heard more, if I had not fallen asleep. What is she going to do?"

"To live in a dull house, far away in the north," Cecilia answered;
"with only old people in it. She will have to write and translate for a
great scholar, who is studying mysterious inscriptions--hieroglyphics,
I think they are called--found among the ruins of Central America. It's
really no laughing matter, Francine! Emily made a joke of it, too. 'I'll
take anything but a situation as a governess,' she said; 'the children
who have Me to teach them would be to be pitied indeed!' She begged and
prayed me to help her to get an honest living. What could I do? I could
only write home to papa. He is a member of Parliament: and everybody
who wants a place seems to think he is bound to find it for them. As it
happened, he had heard from an old friend of his (a certain Sir Jervis
Redwood), who was in search of a secretary. Being in favor of letting
the women compete for employment with the men, Sir Jervis was willing to
try, what he calls, 'a female.' Isn't that a horrid way of speaking of
us? and Miss Ladd says it's ungrammatical, besides. Papa had written
back to say he knew of no lady whom he could recommend. When he got my
letter speaking of Emily, he kindly wrote again. In the interval, Sir
Jervis had received two applications for the vacant place. They were
both from old ladies--and he declined to employ them."

"Because they were old," Francine suggested maliciously.

"You shall hear him give his own reasons, my dear. Papa sent me an
extract from his letter. It made me rather angry; and (perhaps for that
reason) I think I can repeat it word for word:--'We are four old people
in this house, and we don't want a fifth. Let us have a young one
to cheer us. If your daughter's friend likes the terms, and is not
encumbered with a sweetheart, I will send for her when the school breaks
up at midsummer.' Coarse and selfish--isn't it? However, Emily didn't
agree with me, when I showed her the extract. She accepted the place,
very much to her aunt's surprise and regret, when that excellent person
heard of it. Now that the time has come (though Emily won't acknowledge
it), I believe she secretly shrinks, poor dear, from the prospect."

"Very likely," Francine agreed--without even a pretense of sympathy.
"But tell me, who are the four old people?"

"First, Sir Jervis himself--seventy, last birthday. Next, his unmarried
sister--nearly eighty. Next, his man-servant, Mr. Rook--well past sixty.
And last, his man-servant's wife, who considers herself young, being
only a little over forty. That is the household. Mrs. Rook is coming
to-day to attend Emily on the journey to the North; and I am not at all
sure that Emily will like her."

"A disagreeable woman, I suppose?"

"No--not exactly that. Rather odd and flighty. The fact is, Mrs. Rook
has had her troubles; and perhaps they have a little unsettled her. She
and her husband used to keep the village inn, close to our park: we know
all about them at home. I am sure I pity these poor people. What are you
looking at, Francine?"

Feeling no sort of interest in Mr. and Mrs. Rook, Francine was studying
her schoolfellow's lovely face in search of defects. She had already
discovered that Cecilia's eyes were placed too widely apart, and that
her chin wanted size and character.

"I was admiring your complexion, dear," she answered coolly. "Well, and
why do you pity the Rooks?"

Simple Cecilia smiled, and went on with her story.

"They are obliged to go out to service in their old age, through a
misfortune for which they are in no way to blame. Their customers
deserted the inn, and Mr. Rook became bankrupt. The inn got what they
call a bad name--in a very dreadful way. There was a murder committed in
the house."

"A murder?" cried Francine. "Oh, this is exciting! You provoking girl,
why didn't you tell me about it before?"

"I didn't think of it," said Cecilia placidly.

"Do go on! Were you at home when it happened?"

"I w as here, at school."

"You saw the newspapers, I suppose?"

"Miss Ladd doesn't allow us to read newspapers. I did hear of it,
however, in letters from home. Not that there was much in the letters.
They said it was too horrible to be described. The poor murdered
gentleman--"

Francine was unaffectedly shocked. "A gentleman!" she exclaimed. "How
dreadful!"

"The poor man was a stranger in our part of the country," Cecilia
resumed; "and the police were puzzled about the motive for a murder. His
pocketbook was missing; but his watch and his rings were found on the
body. I remember the initials on his linen because they were the same
as my mother's initial before she was married--'J. B.' Really, Francine,
that's all I know about it."

"Surely you know whether the murderer was discovered?"

"Oh, yes--of course I know that! The government offered a reward; and
clever people were sent from London to help the county police. Nothing
came of it. The murderer has never been discovered, from that time to
this."

"When did it happen?"

"It happened in the autumn."

"The autumn of last year?"

"No! no! Nearly four years since."



CHAPTER VI. ON THE WAY TO THE VILLAGE.

Alban Morris--discovered by Emily in concealment among the trees--was
not content with retiring to another part of the grounds. He pursued
his retreat, careless in what direction it might take him, to a footpath
across the fields, which led to the highroad and the railway station.

Miss Ladd's drawing-master was in that state of nervous irritability
which seeks relief in rapidity of motion. Public opinion in the
neighborhood (especially public opinion among the women) had long since
decided that his manners were offensive, and his temper incurably bad.
The men who happened to pass him on the footpath said "Good-morning"
grudgingly. The women took no notice of him--with one exception. She was
young and saucy, and seeing him walking at the top of his speed on the
way to the railway station, she called after him, "Don't be in a hurry,
sir! You're in plenty of time for the London train."

To her astonishment he suddenly stopped. His reputation for rudeness was
so well established that she moved away to a safe distance, before she
ventured to look at him again. He took no notice of her--he seemed to
be considering with himself. The frolicsome young woman had done him a
service: she had suggested an idea.

"Suppose I go to London?" he thought. "Why not?--the school is breaking
up for the holidays--and _she_ is going away like the rest of them." He
looked round in the direction of the schoolhouse. "If I go back to wish
her good-by, she will keep out of my way, and part with me at the last
moment like a stranger. After my experience of women, to be in love
again--in love with a girl who is young enough to be my daughter--what a
fool, what a driveling, degraded fool I must be!"

Hot tears rose in his eyes. He dashed them away savagely, and went on
again faster than ever--resolved to pack up at once at his lodgings in
the village, and to take his departure by the next train.

At the point where the footpath led into the road, he came to a
standstill for the second time.

The cause was once more a person of the sex associated in his mind
with a bitter sense of injury. On this occasion the person was only a
miserable little child, crying over the fragments of a broken jug.

Alban Morris looked at her with his grimly humorous smile. "So you've
broken a jug?" he remarked.

"And spilt father's beer," the child answered. Her frail little body
shook with terror. "Mother'll beat me when I go home," she said.

"What does mother do when you bring the jug back safe and sound?" Alban
asked.

"Gives me bren-butter."

"Very well. Now listen to me. Mother shall give you bread and butter
again this time."

The child stared at him with the tears suspended in her eyes. He went on
talking to her as seriously as ever.

"You understand what I have just said to you?"

"Yes, sir."

"Have you got a pocket-handkerchief?"

"No, sir."

"Then dry your eyes with mine."

He tossed his handkerchief to her with one hand, and picked up a
fragment of the broken jug with the other. "This will do for a pattern,"
he said to himself. The child stared at the handkerchief--stared at
Alban--took courage--and rubbed vigorously at her eyes. The instinct,
which is worth all the reason that ever pretended to enlighten
mankind--the instinct that never deceives--told this little ignorant
creature that she had found a friend. She returned the handkerchief in
grave silence. Alban took her up in his arms.

"Your eyes are dry, and your face is fit to be seen," he said. "Will you
give me a kiss?" The child gave him a resolute kiss, with a smack in
it. "Now come and get another jug," he said, as he put her down. Her red
round eyes opened wide in alarm. "Have you got money enough?" she asked.
Alban slapped his pocket. "Yes, I have," he answered. "That's a good
thing," said the child; "come along."

They went together hand in hand to the village, and bought the new jug,
and had it filled at the beer-shop. The thirsty father was at the upper
end of the fields, where they were making a drain. Alban carried the jug
until they were within sight of the laborer. "You haven't far to go," he
said. "Mind you don't drop it again--What's the matter now?"

"I'm frightened."

"Why?"

"Oh, give me the jug."

She almost snatched it out of his hand. If she let the precious minutes
slip away, there might be another beating in store for her at the drain:
her father was not of an indulgent disposition when his children were
late in bringing his beer. On the point of hurrying away, without a
word of farewell, she remembered the laws of politeness as taught at
the infant school--and dropped her little curtsey--and said, "Thank you,
sir." That bitter sense of injury was still in Alban's mind as he looked
after her. "What a pity she should grow up to be a woman!" he said to
himself.

The adventure of the broken jug had delayed his return to his lodgings
by more than half an hour. When he reached the road once more, the cheap
up-train from the North had stopped at the station. He heard the ringing
of the bell as it resumed the journey to London.

One of the passengers (judging by the handbag that she carried) had not
stopped at the village.

As she advanced toward him along the road, he remarked that she was
a small wiry active woman--dressed in bright colors, combined with
a deplorable want of taste. Her aquiline nose seemed to be her
most striking feature as she came nearer. It might have been fairly
proportioned to the rest of her face, in her younger days, before her
cheeks had lost flesh and roundness. Being probably near-sighted, she
kept her eyes half-closed; there were cunning little wrinkles at the
corners of them. In spite of appearances, she was unwilling to present
any outward acknowledgment of the march of time. Her hair was palpably
dyed--her hat was jauntily set on her head, and ornamented with a gay
feather. She walked with a light tripping step, swinging her bag, and
holding her head up smartly. Her manner, like her dress, said as plainly
as words could speak, "No matter how long I may have lived, I mean to
be young and charming to the end of my days." To Alban's surprise she
stopped and addressed him.

"Oh, I beg your pardon. Could you tell me if I am in the right road to
Miss Ladd's school?"

She spoke with nervous rapidity of articulation, and with a singularly
unpleasant smile. It parted her thin lips just widely enough to show her
suspiciously beautiful teeth; and it opened her keen gray eyes in the
strangest manner. The higher lid rose so as to disclose, for a moment,
the upper part of the eyeball, and to give her the appearance--not of
a woman bent on making herself agreeable, but of a woman staring in a
panic of terror. Careless to conceal the unfavorable impression that she
had produced on him, Alban answered roughly, "Straight on," and tried to
pass her.

She stopped him with a peremptory gesture. "I have treated you
politely," she said, "and how do you treat me in return? Well! I am not
surprised. Men are all brutes by nature--and you are a man. 'Straight
on'?" she repeated contemptuously; "I should like to know how far that
helps a person in a strange place. Perhaps you know no more where Miss
Ladd's school is than I do? or, perhaps, you don't care to take the
trouble of addressing me? Just what I should have expected from a person
of your sex! Good-morning."

Alban felt the reproof; she had appealed to his most readily-impressible
sense--his sense of humor. He rather enjoyed seeing his own prejudice
against women grotesquely reflected in this flighty stranger's prejudice
against men. As the best excuse for himself that he could make, he gave
her all the information that she could possibly want--then tried
again to pass on--and again in vain. He had recovered his place in her
estimation: she had not done with him yet.

"You know all about the way there," she said "I wonder whether you know
anything about the school?"

No change in her voice, no change in her manner, betrayed any special
motive for putting this question. Alban was on the point of suggesting
that she should go on to the school, and make her inquiries there--when
he happened to notice her eyes. She had hitherto looked him straight in
the face. She now looked down on the road. It was a trifling change;
in all probability it meant nothing--and yet, merely because it was a
change, it roused his curiosity. "I ought to know something about the
school," he answered. "I am one of the masters."

"Then you're just the man I want. May I ask your name?"

"Alban Morris."

"Thank you. I am Mrs. Rook. I presume you have heard of Sir Jervis
Redwood?"

"No."

"Bless my soul! You are a scholar, of course--and you have never heard
of one of your own trade. Very extraordinary. You see, I am Sir Jervis's
housekeeper; and I am sent here to take one of your young ladies back
with me to our place. Don't interrupt me! Don't be a brute again! Sir
Jervis is not of a communicative disposition. At least, not to me. A
man--that explains it--a man! He is always poring over his books and
writings; and Miss Redwood, at her great age, is in bed half the day.
Not a thing do I know about this new inmate of ours, except that I am
to take her back with me. You would feel some curiosity yourself in my
place, wouldn't you? Now do tell me. What sort of girl is Miss Emily
Brown?"

The name that he was perpetually thinking of--on this woman's lips!
Alban looked at her.

"Well," said Mrs. Rook, "am I to have no answer? Ah, you want leading.
So like a man again! Is she pretty?"

Still examining the housekeeper with mingled feelings of interest and
distrust, Alban answered ungraciously:

"Yes."

"Good-tempered?"

Alban again said "Yes."

"So much about herself," Mrs. Rook remarked. "About her family now?" She
shifted her bag restlessly from one hand to another. "Perhaps you can
tell me if Miss Emily's father--" she suddenly corrected herself--"if
Miss Emily's parents are living?"

"I don't know."

"You mean you won't tell me."

"I mean exactly what I have said."

"Oh, it doesn't matter," Mrs. Rook rejoined; "I shall find out at the
school. The first turning to the left, I think you said--across the
fields?"

He was too deeply interested in Emily to let the housekeeper go without
putting a question on his side:

"Is Sir Jervis Redwood one of Miss Emily's old friends?" he asked.

"He? What put that into your head? He has never even seen Miss Emily.
She's going to our house--ah, the women are getting the upper hand now,
and serve the men right, I say!--she's going to our house to be Sir
Jervis's secretary. You would like to have the place yourself, wouldn't
you? You would like to keep a poor girl from getting her own living?
Oh, you may look as fierce as you please--the time's gone by when a man
could frighten _me_. I like her Christian name. I call Emily a nice name
enough. But 'Brown'! Good-morning, Mr. Morris; you and I are not cursed
with such a contemptibly common name as that! 'Brown'? Oh, Lord!"

She tossed her head scornfully, and walked away, humming a tune.

Alban stood rooted to the spot. The effort of his later life had been to
conceal the hopeless passion which had mastered him in spite of himself.
Knowing nothing from Emily--who at once pitied and avoided him--of her
family circumstances or of her future plans, he had shrunk from making
inquiries of others, in the fear that they, too, might find out his
secret, and that their contempt might be added to the contempt which he
felt for himself. In this position, and with these obstacles in his
way, the announcement of Emily's proposed journey--under the care of
a stranger, to fill an employment in the house of a stranger--not
only took him by surprise, but inspired him with a strong feeling of
distrust. He looked after Sir Jervis Redwood's flighty housekeeper,
completely forgetting the purpose which had brought him thus far on the
way to his lodgings. Before Mrs. Rook was out of sight, Alban Morris was
following her back to the school.



CHAPTER VII. "COMING EVENTS CAST THEIR SHADOWS BEFORE."

Miss De Sor and Miss Wyvil were still sitting together under the trees,
talking of the murder at the inn.

"And is that really all you can tell me?" said Francine.

"That is all," Cecilia answered.

"Is there no love in it?"

"None that I know of."

"It's the most uninteresting murder that ever was committed. What shall
we do with ourselves? I'm tired of being here in the garden. When do the
performances in the schoolroom begin?"

"Not for two hours yet."

Francine yawned. "And what part do you take in it?" she asked.

"No part, my dear. I tried once--only to sing a simple little song. When
I found myself standing before all the company and saw rows of ladies
and gentlemen waiting for me to begin, I was so frightened that Miss
Ladd had to make an apology for me. I didn't get over it for the rest of
the day. For the first time in my life, I had no appetite for my dinner.
Horrible!" said Cecilia, shuddering over the remembrance of it. "I do
assure you, I thought I was going to die."

Perfectly unimpressed by this harrowing narrative, Francine turned
her head lazily toward the house. The door was thrown open at the same
moment. A lithe little person rapidly descended the steps that led to
the lawn.

"It's Emily come back again," said Francine.

"And she seems to be rather in a hurry," Cecilia remarked.

Francine's satirical smile showed itself for a moment. Did this
appearance of hurry in Emily's movements denote impatience to resume the
recital of "the dagger-scene"? She had no book in her hand; she never
even looked toward Francine. Sorrow became plainly visible in her face
as she approached the two girls.

Cecilia rose in alarm. She had been the first person to whom Emily had
confided her domestic anxieties. "Bad news from your aunt?" she asked.

"No, my dear; no news at all." Emily put her arms tenderly round her
friend's neck. "The time has come, Cecilia," she said. "We must wish
each other good-by."

"Is Mrs. Rook here already?"

"It's _you_, dear, who are going," Emily answered sadly. "They have sent
the governess to fetch you. Miss Ladd is too busy in the schoolroom to
see her--and she has told me all about it. Don't be alarmed. There is no
bad news from home. Your plans are altered; that's all."

"Altered?" Cecilia repeated. "In what way?"

"In a very agreeable way--you are going to travel. Your father wishes
you to be in London, in time for the evening mail to France."

Cecilia guessed what had happened. "My sister is not getting well," she
said, "and the doctors are sending her to the Continent."

"To the baths at St. Moritz," Emily added. "There is only one difficulty
in the way; and you can remove it. Your sister has the good old
governess to take care of her, and the courier to relieve her of all
trouble on the journey. They were to have started yesterday. You know
how fond Julia is of you. At the last moment, she won't hear of going
away, unless you go too. The rooms are waiting at St. Moritz; and your
father is annoyed (the governess says) by the delay that has taken place
already."

She paused. Cecilia was silent. "Surely you don't hesitate?" Emily said.

"I am too happy to go wherever Julia go es," Cecilia answered warmly; "I
was thinking of you, dear." Her tender nature, shrinking from the hard
necessities of life, shrank from the cruelly-close prospect of parting.
"I thought we were to have had some hours together yet," she said. "Why
are we hurried in this way? There is no second train to London, from our
station, till late in the afternoon."

"There is the express," Emily reminded her; "and there is time to catch
it, if you drive at once to the town." She took Cecilia's hand and
pressed it to her bosom. "Thank you again and again, dear, for all you
have done for me. Whether we meet again or not, as long as I live I
shall love you. Don't cry!" She made a faint attempt to resume her
customary gayety, for Cecilia's sake. "Try to be as hard-hearted as I
am. Think of your sister--don't think of me. Only kiss me."

Cecilia's tears fell fast. "Oh, my love, I am so anxious about you! I am
so afraid that you will not be happy with that selfish old man--in that
dreary house. Give it up, Emily! I have got plenty of money for both
of us; come abroad with me. Why not? You always got on well with Julia,
when you came to see us in the holidays. Oh, my darling! my darling!
What shall I do without you?"

All that longed for love in Emily's nature had clung round her
school-friend since her father's death. Turning deadly pale under the
struggle to control herself, she made the effort--and bore the pain of
it without letting a cry or a tear escape her. "Our ways in life lie far
apart," she said gently. "There is the hope of meeting again, dear--if
there is nothing more."

The clasp of Cecilia's arm tightened round her. She tried to release
herself; but her resolution had reached its limits. Her hands dropped,
trembling. She could still try to speak cheerfully, and that was all.

"There is not the least reason, Cecilia, to be anxious about my
prospects. I mean to be Sir Jervis Redwood's favorite before I have been
a week in his service."

She stopped, and pointed to the house. The governess was approaching
them. "One more kiss, darling. We shall not forget the happy hours we
have spent together; we shall constantly write to each other." She broke
down at last. "Oh, Cecilia! Cecilia! leave me for God's sake--I can't
bear it any longer!"

The governess parted them. Emily dropped into the chair that her friend
had left. Even her hopeful nature sank under the burden of life at that
moment.

A hard voice, speaking close at her side, startled her.

"Would you rather be Me," the voice asked, "without a creature to care
for you?"

Emily raised her head. Francine, the unnoticed witness of the parting
interview, was standing by her, idly picking the leaves from a rose
which had dropped out of Cecilia's nosegay.

Had she felt her own isolated position? She had felt it resentfully.

Emily looked at her, with a heart softened by sorrow. There was no
answering kindness in the eyes of Miss de Sor--there was only a dogged
endurance, sad to see in a creature so young.

"You and Cecilia are going to write to each other," she said. "I suppose
there is some comfort in that. When I left the island they were glad to
get rid of me. They said, 'Telegraph when you are safe at Miss Ladd's
school.' You see, we are so rich, the expense of telegraphing to the
West Indies is nothing to us. Besides, a telegram has an advantage over
a letter--it doesn't take long to read. I daresay I shall write home.
But they are in no hurry; and I am in no hurry. The school's breaking
up; you are going your way, and I am going mine--and who cares what
becomes of me? Only an ugly old schoolmistress, who is paid for caring.
I wonder why I am saying all this? Because I like you? I don't know that
I like you any better than you like me. When I wanted to be friends with
you, you treated me coolly; I don't want to force myself on you. I don't
particularly care about you. May I write to you from Brighton?"

Under all this bitterness--the first exhibition of Francine's temper, at
its worst, which had taken place since she joined the school--Emily saw,
or thought she saw, distress that was too proud, or too shy, to show
itself. "How can you ask the question?" she answered cordially.

Francine was incapable of meeting the sympathy offered to her, even half
way. "Never mind how," she said. "Yes or no is all I want from you."

"Oh, Francine! Francine! what are you made of! Flesh and blood? or stone
and iron? Write to me of course--and I will write back again."

"Thank you. Are you going to stay here under the trees?"

"Yes."

"All by yourself?"

"All by myself."

"With nothing to do?"

"I can think of Cecilia."

Francine eyed her with steady attention for a moment.

"Didn't you tell me last night that you were very poor?" she asked.

"I did."

"So poor that you are obliged to earn your own living?"

"Yes."

Francine looked at her again.

"I daresay you won't believe me," she said. "I wish I was you."

She turned away irritably, and walked back to the house.

Were there really longings for kindness and love under the surface of
this girl's perverse nature? Or was there nothing to be hoped from a
better knowledge of her?--In place of tender remembrances of Cecilia,
these were the perplexing and unwelcome thoughts which the more potent
personality of Francine forced upon Emily's mind.

She rose impatiently, and looked at her watch. When would it be her turn
to leave the school, and begin the new life?

Still undecided what to do next, her interest was excited by the
appearance of one of the servants on the lawn. The woman approached her,
and presented a visiting-card; bearing on it the name of _Sir Jervis
Redwood_. Beneath the name, there was a line written in pencil: "Mrs.
Rook, to wait on Miss Emily Brown." The way to the new life was open
before her at last!

Looking again at the commonplace announcement contained in the line of
writing, she was not quite satisfied. Was it claiming a deference toward
herself, to which she was not entitled, to expect a letter either from
Sir Jervis, or from Miss Redwood; giving her some information as to
the journey which she was about to undertake, and expressing with some
little politeness the wish to make her comfortable in her future home?
At any rate, her employer had done her one service: he had reminded her
that her station in life was not what it had been in the days when her
father was living, and when her aunt was in affluent circumstances.

She looked up from the card. The servant had gone. Alban Morris was
waiting at a little distance--waiting silently until she noticed him.



CHAPTER VIII. MASTER AND PUPIL.

Emily's impulse was to avoid the drawing-master for the second time.
The moment afterward, a kinder feeling prevailed. The farewell interview
with Cecilia had left influences which pleaded for Alban Morris. It
was the day of parting good wishes and general separations: he had only
perhaps come to say good-by. She advanced to offer her hand, when he
stopped her by pointing to Sir Jervis Redwood's card.

"May I say a word, Miss Emily, about that woman?" he asked

"Do you mean Mrs. Rook?"

"Yes. You know, of course, why she comes here?"

"She comes here by appointment, to take me to Sir Jervis Redwood's
house. Are you acquainted with her?"

"She is a perfect stranger to me. I met her by accident on her way
here. If Mrs. Rook had been content with asking me to direct her to the
school, I should not be troubling you at this moment. But she forced her
conversation on me. And she said something which I think you ought to
know. Have you heard of Sir Jervis Redwood's housekeeper before to-day?"

"I have only heard what my friend--Miss Cecilia Wyvil--has told me."

"Did Miss Cecilia tell you that Mrs. Rook was acquainted with your
father or with any members of your family?"

"Certainly not!"

Alban reflected. "It was natural enough," he resumed, "that Mrs. Rook
should feel some curiosity about You. What reason had she for putting
a question to me about your father--and putting it in a very strange
manner?"

Emily's interest was instantly excited. She led the way back to the
seats in the shade. "Tell me, Mr. Morris, exactly what the woman said."
As she spoke, she signed to him to be seated.

Alban observed the natural grace of her action when she set him the
example of taking a chair, and the little heightening of her color
caused by anxiety to hear what he had still to tell her. Forgetting the
restraint that he had hitherto imposed on himself, he enjoyed the luxury
of silently admiring her. Her manner betrayed none of the conscious
confusion which would have shown itself, if her heart had been
secretly inclined toward him. She saw the man looking at her. In simple
perplexity she looked at the man.

"Are you hesitating on my account?" she asked. "Did Mrs. Rook say
something of my father which I mustn't hear?"

"No, no! nothing of the sort!"

"You seem to be confused."

Her innocent indifference tried his patience sorely. His memory went
back to the past time--recalled the ill-placed passion of his youth, and
the cruel injury inflicted on him--his pride was roused. Was he
making himself ridiculous? The vehement throbbing of his heart almost
suffocated him. And there she sat, wondering at his odd behavior. "Even
this girl is as cold-blooded as the rest of her sex!" That angry thought
gave him back his self-control. He made his excuses with the easy
politeness of a man of the world.

"I beg your pardon, Miss Emily; I was considering how to put what I have
to say in the fewest and plainest words. Let me try if I can do it.
If Mrs. Rook had merely asked me whether your father and mother were
living, I should have attributed the question to the commonplace
curiosity of a gossiping woman, and have thought no more of it. What
she actually did say was this: 'Perhaps you can tell me if Miss Emily's
father--' There she checked herself, and suddenly altered the question
in this way: 'If Miss Emily's _parents_ are living?' I may be making
mountains out of molehills; but I thought at the time (and think still)
that she had some special interest in inquiring after your father, and,
not wishing me to notice it for reasons of her own, changed the form
of the question so as to include your mother. Does this strike you as a
far-fetched conclusion?"

"Whatever it may be," Emily said, "it is my conclusion, too. How did you
answer her?"

"Quite easily. I could give her no information--and I said so."

"Let me offer you the information, Mr. Morris, before we say anything
more. I have lost both my parents."

Alban's momentary outbreak of irritability was at an end. He was earnest
and yet gentle, again; he forgave her for not understanding how dear and
how delightful to him she was. "Will it distress you," he said, "if I
ask how long it is since your father died?"

"Nearly four years," she replied. "He was the most generous of men; Mrs.
Rook's interest in him may surely have been a grateful interest. He
may have been kind to her in past years--and she may remember him
thankfully. Don't you think so?"

Alban was unable to agree with her. "If Mrs. Rook's interest in your
father was the harmless interest that you have suggested," he said, "why
should she have checked herself in that unaccountable manner, when she
first asked me if he was living? The more I think of it now, the less
sure I feel that she knows anything at all of your family history. It
may help me to decide, if you will tell me at what time the death of
your mother took place."

"So long ago," Emily replied, "that I can't even remember her death. I
was an infant at the time."

"And yet Mrs. Rook asked me if your 'parents' were living! One of two
things," Alban concluded. "Either there is some mystery in this matter,
which we cannot hope to penetrate at present--or Mrs. Rook may have been
speaking at random; on the chance of discovering whether you are related
to some 'Mr. Brown' whom she once knew."

"Besides," Emily added, "it's only fair to remember what a common family
name mine is, and how easily people may make mistakes. I should like
to know if my dear lost father was really in her mind when she spoke to
you. Do you think I could find it out?"

"If Mrs. Rook has any reasons for concealment, I believe you would
have no chance of finding it out--unless, indeed, you could take her by
surprise."

"In what way, Mr. Morris?"

"Only one way occurs to me just now," he said. "Do you happen to have a
miniature or a photograph of your father?"

Emily held out a handsome locket, with a monogram in diamonds, attached
to her watch chain. "I have his photograph here," she rejoined; "given
to me by my dear old aunt, in the days of her prosperity. Shall I show
it to Mrs. Rook?"

"Yes--if she happens, by good luck, to offer you an opportunity."

Impatient to try the experiment, Emily rose as he spoke. "I mustn't keep
Mrs. Rook waiting," she said.

Alban stopped her, on the point of leaving him. The confusion and
hesitation which she had already noticed began to show themselves in his
manner once more.

"Miss Emily, may I ask you a favor before you go? I am only one of the
masters employed in the school; but I don't think--let me say, I hope I
am not guilty of presumption--if I offer to be of some small service to
one of my pupils--"

There his embarrassment mastered him. He despised himself not only
for yielding to his own weakness, but for faltering like a fool in the
expression of a simple request. The next words died away on his lips.

This time, Emily understood him.

The subtle penetration which had long since led her to the discovery
of his secret--overpowered, thus far, by the absorbing interest of the
moment--now recovered its activity. In an instant, she remembered that
Alban's motive for cautioning her, in her coming intercourse with Mrs.
Rook, was not the merely friendly motive which might have actuated him,
in the case of one of the other girls. At the same time, her quickness
of apprehension warned her not to risk encouraging this persistent
lover, by betraying any embarrassment on her side. He was evidently
anxious to be present (in her interests) at the interview with Mrs.
Rook. Why not? Could he reproach her with raising false hope, if she
accepted his services, under circumstances of doubt and difficulty which
he had himself been the first to point out? He could do nothing of the
sort. Without waiting until he had recovered himself, she answered him
(to all appearances) as composedly as if he had spoken to her in the
plainest terms.

"After all that you have told me," she said, "I shall indeed feel
obliged if you will be present when I see Mrs. Rook."

The eager brightening of his eyes, the flush of happiness that made him
look young on a sudden, were signs not to be mistaken. The sooner they
were in the presence of a third person (Emily privately concluded) the
better it might be for both of them. She led the way rapidly to the
house.



CHAPTER IX. MRS. ROOK AND THE LOCKET.

As mistress of a prosperous school, bearing a widely-extended
reputation, Miss Ladd prided herself on the liberality of her household
arrangements. At breakfast and dinner, not only the solid comforts but
the elegant luxuries of the table, were set before the young ladies
"Other schools may, and no doubt do, offer to pupils the affectionate
care to which they have been accustomed under the parents' roof," Miss
Ladd used to say. "At my school, that care extends to their meals, and
provides them with a _cuisine_ which, I flatter myself, equals the most
successful efforts of the cooks at home." Fathers, mothers, and friends,
when they paid visits to this excellent lady, brought away with them
the most gratifying recollections of her hospitality. The men, in
particular, seldom failed to recognize in their hostess the rarest
virtue that a single lady can possess--the virtue of putting wine on the
table which may be gratefully remembered by her guests the next morning.

An agreeable surprise awaited Mrs. Rook when she entered the house of
bountiful Miss Ladd.

Luncheon was ready for Sir Jervis Redwood's confidential emissary in the
waiting-room. Detained at the final rehearsals of music and recitation,
Miss Ladd was worthily represented by cold chicken and ham, a fruit
tart, and a pint decanter of generous sherry. "Your mistress is
a perfect lady!" Mrs. Rook said to the servant, with a burst of
enthusiasm. "I can carve for myself, thank you; and I don't care how
long Miss Emily keeps me waiting."

As they ascended the steps leading into the house, Alban asked Emily if
he might look again at her locket.

"Shall I open it for you?" she suggested.

"No: I only want to look at the outside of it."

He examined the side on which the monogram appeared, inlaid with
diamonds. An inscription was engraved beneath.

"May I read it?" he said.

"Certainly!"

The inscription ran thus: "In loving memory of my father. Died 30th
September, 1877."

"Can you arrange the locket," Alban asked, "so that the side on which
the diamonds appear hangs outward?"

She understood him. The diamonds might attract Mrs. Rook's notice; and
in that case, she might ask to see the locket of her own accord. "You
are beginning to be of use to me, already," Emily said, as they turned
into the corridor which led to the waiting-room.

They found Sir Jervis's housekeeper luxuriously recumbent in the easiest
chair in the room.

Of the eatable part of the lunch some relics were yet left. In the pint
decanter of sherry, not a drop remained. The genial influence of the
wine (hastened by the hot weather) was visible in Mrs. Rook's flushed
face, and in a special development of her ugly smile. Her widening lips
stretched to new lengths; and the white upper line of her eyeballs were
more freely and horribly visible than ever.

"And this is the dear young lady?" she said, lifting her hands in
over-acted admiration. At the first greetings, Alban perceived that
the impression produced was, in Emily's case as in his case, instantly
unfavorable.

The servant came in to clear the table. Emily stepped aside for a minute
to give some directions about her luggage. In that interval Mrs. Rook's
cunning little eyes turned on Alban with an expression of malicious
scrutiny.

"You were walking the other way," she whispered, "when I met you." She
stopped, and glanced over her shoulder at Emily. "I see what attraction
has brought you back to the school. Steal your way into that poor little
fool's heart; and then make her miserable for the rest of her life!--No
need, miss, to hurry," she said, shifting the polite side of her toward
Emily, who returned at the moment. "The visits of the trains to your
station here are like the visits of the angels described by the poet,
'few and far between.' Please excuse the quotation. You wouldn't think
it to look at me--I'm a great reader."

"Is it a long journey to Sir Jervis Redwood's house?" Emily asked, at a
loss what else to say to a woman who was already becoming unendurable to
her.

Mrs. Rook looked at the journey from an oppressively cheerful point of
view.

"Oh, Miss Emily, you shan't feel the time hang heavy in my company. I
can converse on a variety of topics, and if there is one thing more than
another that I like, it's amusing a pretty young lady. You think me a
strange creature, don't you? It's only my high spirits. Nothing strange
about me--unless it's my queer Christian name. You look a little dull,
my dear. Shall I begin amusing you before we are on the railway? Shall I
tell you how I came by my queer name?"

Thus far, Alban had controlled himself. This last specimen of the
housekeeper's audacious familiarity reached the limits of his endurance.

"We don't care to know how you came by your name," he said.

"Rude," Mrs. Rook remarked, composedly. "But nothing surprises me,
coming from a man."

She turned to Emily. "My father and mother were a wicked married
couple," she continued, "before I was born. They 'got religion,' as
the saying is, at a Methodist meeting in a field. When I came into the
world--I don't know how you feel, miss; I protest against being brought
into the world without asking my leave first--my mother was determined
to dedicate me to piety, before I was out of my long clothes. What
name do you suppose she had me christened by? She chose it, or made it,
herself--the name of 'Righteous'! Righteous Rook! Was there ever a poor
baby degraded by such a ridiculous name before? It's needless to say,
when I write letters, I sign R. Rook--and leave people to think it's
Rosamond, or Rosabelle, or something sweetly pretty of that kind.
You should have seen my husband's face when he first heard that his
sweetheart's name was 'Righteous'! He was on the point of kissing me,
and he stopped. I daresay he felt sick. Perfectly natural under the
circumstances."

Alban tried to stop her again. "What time does the train go?" he asked.

Emily entreated him to restrain himself, by a look. Mrs. Rook was still
too inveterately amiable to take offense. She opened her traveling-bag
briskly, and placed a railway guide in Alban's hands.

"I've heard that the women do the men's work in foreign parts," she
said. "But this is England; and I am an Englishwoman. Find out when the
train goes, my dear sir, for yourself."

Alban at once consulted the guide. If there proved to be no immediate
need of starting for the station, he was determined that Emily should
not be condemned to pass the interval in the housekeeper's company. In
the meantime, Mrs. Rook was as eager as ever to show her dear young lady
what an amusing companion she could be.

"Talking of husbands," she resumed, "don't make the mistake, my dear,
that I committed. Beware of letting anybody persuade you to marry an old
man. Mr. Rook is old enough to be my father. I bear with him. Of course,
I bear with him. At the same time, I have not (as the poet says) 'passed
through the ordeal unscathed.' My spirit--I have long since ceased
to believe in anything of the sort: I only use the word for want of
a better--my spirit, I say, has become embittered. I was once a pious
young woman; I do assure you I was nearly as good as my name. Don't let
me shock you; I have lost faith and hope; I have become--what's the last
new name for a free-thinker? Oh, I keep up with the times, thanks to
old Miss Redwood! She takes in the newspapers, and makes me read them
to her. What _is_ the new name? Something ending in ic. Bombastic? No,
Agnostic?--that's it! I have become an Agnostic. The inevitable result
of marrying an old man; if there's any blame it rests on my husband."

"There's more than an hour yet before the train starts," Alban
interposed. "I am sure, Miss Emily, you would find it pleasanter to wait
in the garden."

"Not at all a bad notion," Mrs. Rook declared. "Here's a man who can
make himself useful, for once. Let's go into the garden."

She rose, and led the way to the door. Alban seized the opportunity of
whispering to Emily.

"Did you notice the empty decanter, when we first came in? That horrid
woman is drunk."

Emily pointed significantly to the locket. "Don't let her go. The garden
will distract her attention: keep her near me here."

Mrs. Rook gayly opened the door. "Take me to the flower-beds," she said.
"I believe in nothing--but I adore flowers."

Mrs. Rook waited at the door, with her eye on Emily. "What do _you_ say,
miss?"

"I think we shall be more comfortable if we stay where we are."

"Whatever pleases you, my dear, pleases me." With this reply, the
compliant housekeeper--as amiable as ever on the surface--returned to
her chair.

Would she notice the locket as she sat down? Emily turned toward the
window, so as to let the light fall on the diamonds.

No: Mrs. Rook was absorbed, at the moment, in her own reflections. Miss
Emily, having prevented her from seeing the garden, she was maliciously
bent on disappointing Miss Emily in return. Sir Jervis's secretary
(being young) took a hopeful view no doubt of her future prospects.
Mrs. Rook decided on darkening that view in a mischievously-suggestive
manner, peculiar to herself.

"You will naturally feel some curiosity about your new home," she began,
"and I haven't said a word about it yet. How very thoughtless of me!
Inside and out, dear Miss Emily, our house is just a little dull. I say
_our_ house, and why not--when the management of it is all thrown on me.
We are built of stone; and we are much too long, and are not half high
enough. Our situation is on the coldest side of the county, away in
the west. We are close to the Cheviot hills; and if you fancy there is
anything to see when you look out of window, except sheep, you will find
yourself woefully mistaken. As for walks, if you go out on one side of
the house you may, or may not, be gored by cattle. On the other side, if
the darkness overtakes you, you may, or may not, tumble down a deserted
lead mine. But the company, inside the house, makes amends for it
all," Mrs. Rook proceeded, enjoying the expression of dismay which was
beginning to show itself on Emily's face. "Plenty of excitement for you,
my dear, in our small family. Sir Jervis will introduce you to plaster
casts of hideous Indian idols; he will keep you writing for him, without
mercy, from morning to night; and when he does let you go, old Miss
Redwood will find she can't sleep, and will send for the pretty young
lady-secretary to read to her. My husband I am sure you will like. He is
a respectable man, and bears the highest character. Next to the idols,
he's the most hideous object in the house. If you are good enough to
encourage him, I don't say that he won't amuse you; he will tell you,
for instance, he never in his life hated any human being as he hates
his wife. By the way, I must not forget--in the interests of truth, you
know--to mention one drawback that does exist in our domestic circle.
One of these days we shall have our brains blown out or our throats
cut. Sir Jervis's mother left him ten thousand pounds' worth of precious
stones all contained in a little cabinet with drawers. He won't let the
banker take care of his jewels; he won't sell them; he won't even wear
one of the rings on his finger, or one of the pins at his breast. He
keeps his cabinet on his dressing-room table; and he says, 'I like to
gloat over my jewels, every night, before I go to bed.' Ten thousand
pounds' worth of diamonds, rubies, emeralds, sapphires, and what not--at
the mercy of the first robber who happens to hear of them. Oh, my dear,
he would have no choice, I do assure you, but to use his pistols. We
shouldn't quietly submit to be robbed. Sir Jervis inherits the spirit
of his ancestors. My husband has the temper of a game cock. I myself,
in defense of the property of my employers, am capable of becoming a
perfect fiend. And we none of us understand the use of firearms!"

While she was in full enjoyment of this last aggravation of the horrors
of the prospect, Emily tried another change of position--and, this time,
with success. Greedy admiration suddenly opened Mrs. Rook's little eyes
to their utmost width. "My heart alive, miss, what do I see at your
watch-chain? How they sparkle! Might I ask for a closer view?"

Emily's fingers trembled; but she succeeded in detaching the locket from
the chain. Alban handed it to Mrs. Rook.

She began by admiring the diamonds--with a certain reserve. "Nothing
like so large as Sir Jervis's diamonds; but choice specimens no doubt.
Might I ask what the value--?"

She stopped. The inscription had attracted her notice: she began to read
it aloud: "In loving memory of my father. Died--"

Her face instantly became rigid. The next words were suspended on her
lips.

Alban seized the chance of making her betray herself--under pretense of
helping her. "Perhaps you find the figures not easy to read," he
said. "The date is 'thirtieth September, eighteen hundred and
seventy-seven'--nearly four years since."

Not a word, not a movement, escaped Mrs. Rook. She held the locket
before her as she had held it from the first. Alban looked at Emily.
Her eyes were riveted on the housekeeper: she was barely capable of
preserving the appearance of composure. Seeing the necessity of acting
for her, he at once said the words which she was unable to say for
herself.

"Perhaps, Mrs. Rook, you would like to look at the portrait?" he
suggested. "Shall I open the locket for you?"

Without speaking, without looking up, she handed the locket to Alban.

He opened it, and offered it to her. She neither accepted nor refused
it: her hands remained hanging over the arms of the chair. He put the
locket on her lap.

The portrait produced no marked effect on Mrs. Rook. Had the date
prepared her to see it? She sat looking at it--still without moving:
still without saying a word. Alban had no mercy on her. "That is the
portrait of Miss Emily's father," he said. "Does it represent the same
Mr. Brown whom you had in your mind when you asked me if Miss Emily's
father was still living?"

That question roused her. She looked up, on the instant; she answered
loudly and insolently: "No!"

"And yet," Alban persisted, "you broke down in reading the inscription:
and considering what talkative woman you are, the portrait has had a
strange effect on you--to say the least of it."

She eyed him steadily while he was speaking--and turned to Emily when he
had done. "You mentioned the heat just now, miss. The heat has overcome
me; I shall soon get right again."

The insolent futility of that excuse irritated Emily into answering
her. "You will get right again perhaps all the sooner," she said, "if
we trouble you with no more questions, and leave you to recover by
yourself."

The first change of expression which relaxed the iron tensity of the
housekeeper's face showed itself when she heard that reply. At last
there was a feeling in Mrs. Rook which openly declared itself--a feeling
of impatience to see Alban and Emily leave the room.

They left her, without a word more.



CHAPTER X. GUESSES AT THE TRUTH.

"What are we to do next? Oh, Mr. Morris, you must have seen all sorts of
people in your time--you know human nature, and I don't. Help me with a
word of advice!"

Emily forgot that he was in love with her--forgot everything, but the
effect produced by the locket on Mrs. Rook, and the vaguely alarming
conclusion to which it pointed. In the fervor of her anxiety she took
Alban's arm as familiarly as if he had been her brother. He was gentle,
he was considerate; he tried earnestly to compose her. "We can do
nothing to any good purpose," he said, "unless we begin by thinking
quietly. Pardon me for saying so--you are needlessly exciting yourself."

There was a reason for her excitement, of which he was necessarily
ignorant. Her memory of the night interview with Miss Jethro had
inevitably intensified the suspicion inspired by the conduct of Mrs.
Rook. In less than twenty-four hours, Emily had seen two women shrinking
from secret remembrances of her father--which might well be guilty
remembrances--innocently excited by herself! How had they injured him?
Of what infamy, on their parts, did his beloved and stainless memory
remind them? Who could fathom the mystery of it? "What does it mean?"
she cried, looking wildly in Alban's compassionate face. "You _must_
have formed some idea of your own. What does it mean?"

"Come, and sit down, Miss Emily. We will try if we can find out what it
means, together."

They returned to the shady solitude under the trees. Away, in front of
the house, the distant grating of carriage wheels told of the arrival of
Miss Ladd's guests, and of the speedy beginning of the ceremonies of the
day.

"We must help each other," Alban resumed.

"When we first spoke of Mrs. Rook, you mentioned Miss Cecilia Wyvil as
a person who knew something about her. Have you any objection to tell me
what you may have heard in that way?"

In complying with his request Emily necessarily repeated what Cecilia
had told Francine, when the two girls had met that morning in the
garden.

Alban now knew how Emily had obtained employment as Sir Jervis's
secretary; how Mr. and Mrs. Rook had been previously known to Cecilia's
father as respectable people keeping an inn in his own neighborhood;
and, finally, how they had been obliged to begin life again in domestic
service, because the terrible event of a murder had given the inn a bad
name, and had driven away the customers on whose encouragement their
business depended.

Listening in silence, Alban remained silent when Emily's narrative had
come to an end.

"Have you nothing to say to me?" she asked.

"I am thinking over what I have just heard," he answered.

Emily noticed a certain formality in his tone and manner, which
disagreeably surprised her. He seemed to have made his reply as a mere
concession to politeness, while he was thinking of something else which
really interested him.

"Have I disappointed you in any way?" she asked.

"On the contrary, you have interested me. I want to be quite sure that
I remember exactly what you have said. You mentioned, I think, that your
friendship with Miss Cecilia Wyvil began here, at the school?"

"Yes."

"And in speaking of the murder at the village inn, you told me that the
crime was committed--I have forgotten how long ago?"

His manner still suggested that he was idly talking about what she
had told him, while some more important subject for reflection was in
possession of his mind.

"I don't know that I said anything about the time that had passed since
the crime was committed," she answered, sharply. "What does the murder
matter to _us?_ I think Cecilia told me it happened about four years
since. Excuse me for noticing it, Mr. Morris--you seem to have some
interests of your own to occupy your attention. Why couldn't you say so
plainly when we came out here? I should not have asked you to help me,
in that case. Since my poor father's death, I have been used to fight
through my troubles by myself."

She rose, and looked at him proudly. The next moment her eyes filled
with tears.

In spite of her resistance, Alban took her hand. "Dear Miss Emily," he
said, "you distress me: you have not done me justice. Your interests
only are in my mind."

Answering her in those terms, he had not spoken as frankly as usual. He
had only told her a part of the truth.

Hearing that the woman whom they had just left had been landlady of an
inn, and that a murder had been committed under her roof, he was led to
ask himself if any explanation might be found, in these circumstances,
of the otherwise incomprehensible effect produced on Mrs. Rook by the
inscription on the locket.

In the pursuit of this inquiry there had arisen in his mind a monstrous
suspicion, which pointed to Mrs. Rook. It impelled him to ascertain
the date at which the murder had been committed, and (if the discovery
encouraged further investigation) to find out next the manner in which
Mr. Brown had died.

Thus far, what progress had he made? He had discovered that the date of
Mr. Brown's death, inscribed on the locket, and the date of the crime
committed at the inn, approached each other nearly enough to justify
further investigation.

In the meantime, had he succeeded in keeping his object concealed
from Emily? He had perfectly succeeded. Hearing him declare that her
interests only had occupied his mind, the poor girl innocently entreated
him to forgive her little outbreak of temper. "If you have any more
questions to ask me, Mr. Morris, pray go on. I promise never to think
unjustly of you again."

He went on with an uneasy conscience--for it seemed cruel to deceive
her, even in the interests of truth--but still he went on.

"Suppose we assume that this woman had injured your father in some
way," he said. "Am I right in believing that it was in his character to
forgive injuries?"

"Entirely right."

"In that case, his death may have left Mrs. Rook in a position to be
called to account, by those who owe a duty to his memory--I mean the
surviving members of his family."

"There are but two of us, Mr. Morris. My aunt and myself."

"There are his executors."

"My aunt is his only executor."

"Your father's sister--I presume?"

"Yes."

"He may have left instructions with her, which might be of the greatest
use to us."

"I will write to-day, and find out," Emily replied. "I had already
planned to consult my aunt," she added, thinking again of Miss Jethro.

"If your aunt has not received any positive instructions," Alban
continued, "she may remember some allusion to Mrs. Rook, on your
father's part, at the time of his last illness--"

Emily stopped him. "You don't know how my dear father died," she said.
"He was struck down--apparently in perfect health--by disease of the
heart."

"Struck down in his own house?"

"Yes--in his own house."

Those words closed Alban's lips. The investigation so carefully and so
delicately conducted had failed to serve any useful purpose. He had now
ascertained the manner of Mr. Brown's death and the place of Mr. Brown's
death--and he was as far from confirming his suspicions of Mrs. Rook as
ever.



CHAPTER XI. THE DRAWING-MASTER'S CONFESSION.

"Is there nothing else you can suggest?" Emily asked.

"Nothing--at present."

"If my aunt fails us, have we no other hope?"

"I have hope in Mrs. Rook," Alban answered. "I see I surprise you; but I
really mean what I say. Sir Jervis's housekeeper is an excitable woman,
and she is fond of wine. There is always a weak side in the character
of such a person as that. If we wait for our chance, and turn it to
the right use when it comes, we may yet succeed in making her betray
herself."

Emily listened to him in bewilderment.

"You talk as if I was sure of your help in the future," she said. "Have
you forgotten that I leave school to-day, never to return? In half an
hour more, I shall be condemned to a long journey in the company of that
horrible creature--with a life to look forward to, in the same house
with her, among strangers! A miserable prospect, and a hard trial of a
girl's courage--is it not, Mr. Morris?"

"You will at least have one person, Miss Emily, who will try with all
his heart and soul to encourage you."

"What do you mean?"

"I mean," said Alban, quietly, "that the Midsummer vacation begins
to-day; and that the drawing-master is going to spend his holidays in
the North."

Emily jumped up from her chair. "You!" she exclaimed. "_You_ are going
to Northumberland? With me?"

"Why not?" Alban asked. "The railway is open to all travelers alike, if
they have money enough to buy a ticket."

"Mr. Morris! what _can_ you be thinking of? Indeed, indeed, I am not
ungrateful. I know you mean kindly--you are a good, generous man. But
do remember how completely a girl, in my position, is at the mercy of
appearances. You, traveling in the same carriage with me! and that
woman putting her own vile interpretation on it, and degrading me in Sir
Jervis Redwood's estimation, on the day when I enter his house! Oh, it's
worse than thoughtless--it's madness, downright madness."

"You are quite right," Alban gravely agreed, "it _is_ madness. I lost
whatever little reason I once possessed, Miss Emily, on the day when I
first met you out walking with the young ladies of the school."

Emily turned away in significant silence. Alban followed her.

"You promised just now," he said, "never to think unjustly of me again.
I respect and admire you far too sincerely to take a base advantage of
this occasion--the only occasion on which I have been permitted to speak
with you alone. Wait a little before you condemn a man whom you don't
understand. I will say nothing to annoy you--I only ask leave to explain
myself. Will you take your chair again?"

She returned unwillingly to her seat. "It can only end," she thought,
sadly, "in my disappointing him!"

"I have had the worst possible opinion of women for years past," Alban
resumed; "and the only reason I can give for it condemns me out of my
own mouth. I have been infamously treated by one woman; and my wounded
self-esteem has meanly revenged itself by reviling the whole sex. Wait
a little, Miss Emily. My fault has received its fit punishment. I have
been thoroughly humiliated--and _you_ have done it."

"Mr. Morris!"

"Take no offense, pray, where no offense is meant. Some few years since
it was the great misfortune of my life to meet with a Jilt. You know
what I mean?"

"Yes."

"She was my equal by birth (I am a younger son of a country squire), and
my superior in rank. I can honestly tell you that I was fool enough to
love her with all my heart and soul. She never allowed me to doubt--I
may say this without conceit, remembering the miserable end of it--that
my feeling for her was returned. Her father and mother (excellent
people) approved of the contemplated marriage. She accepted my presents;
she allowed all the customary preparations for a wedding to proceed to
completion; she had not even mercy en ough, or shame enough, to prevent
me from publicly degrading myself by waiting for her at the altar, in
the presence of a large congregation. The minutes passed--and no bride
appeared. The clergyman, waiting like me, was requested to return to the
vestry. I was invited to follow him. You foresee the end of the story,
of course? She had run away with another man. But can you guess who the
man was? Her groom!"

Emily's face reddened with indignation. "She suffered for it? Oh, Mr.
Morris, surely she suffered for it?"

"Not at all. She had money enough to reward the groom for marrying
her; and she let herself down easily to her husband's level. It was a
suitable marriage in every respect. When I last heard of them, they were
regularly in the habit of getting drunk together. I am afraid I
have disgusted you? We will drop the subject, and resume my precious
autobiography at a later date. One showery day in the autumn of last
year, you young ladies went out with Miss Ladd for a walk. When you were
all trotting back again, under your umbrellas, did you (in particular)
notice an ill-tempered fellow standing in the road, and getting a good
look at you, on the high footpath above him?"

Emily smiled, in spite of herself. "I don't remember it," she said.

"You wore a brown jacket which fitted you as if you had been born in
it--and you had the smartest little straw hat I ever saw on a woman's
head. It was the first time I ever noticed such things. I think I could
paint a portrait of the boots you wore (mud included), from memory
alone. That was the impression you produced on me. After believing,
honestly believing, that love was one of the lost illusions of my
life--after feeling, honestly feeling, that I would as soon look at
the devil as look at a woman--there was the state of mind to which
retribution had reduced me; using for his instrument Miss Emily Brown.
Oh, don't be afraid of what I may say next! In your presence, and out
of your presence, I am man enough to be ashamed of my own folly. I am
resisting your influence over me at this moment, with the strongest of
all resolutions--the resolution of despair. Let's look at the humorous
side of the story again. What do you think I did when the regiment of
young ladies had passed by me?"

Emily declined to guess.

"I followed you back to the school; and, on pretense of having a
daughter to educate, I got one of Miss Ladd's prospectuses from the
porter at the lodge gate. I was in your neighborhood, you must know, on
a sketching tour. I went back to my inn, and seriously considered what
had happened to me. The result of my cogitations was that I went
abroad. Only for a change--not at all because I was trying to weaken the
impression you had produced on me! After a while I returned to England.
Only because I was tired of traveling--not at all because your influence
drew me back! Another interval passed; and luck turned my way, for
a wonder. The drawing-master's place became vacant here. Miss Ladd
advertised; I produced my testimonials; and took the situation. Only
because the salary was a welcome certainty to a poor man--not at all
because the new position brought me into personal association with Miss
Emily Brown! Do you begin to see why I have troubled you with all this
talk about myself? Apply the contemptible system of self-delusion which
my confession has revealed, to that holiday arrangement for a tour in
the north which has astonished and annoyed you. I am going to travel
this afternoon by your train. Only because I feel an intelligent longing
to see the northernmost county of England--not at all because I won't
let you trust yourself alone with Mrs. Rook! Not at all because I won't
leave you to enter Sir Jervis Redwood's service without a friend within
reach in case you want him! Mad? Oh, yes--perfectly mad. But, tell me
this: What do all sensible people do when they find themselves in the
company of a lunatic? They humor him. Let me take your ticket and see
your luggage labeled: I only ask leave to be your traveling servant.
If you are proud--I shall like you all the better, if you are--pay me
wages, and keep me in my proper place in that way."

Some girls, addressed with this reckless intermingling of jest and
earnest, would have felt confused, and some would have felt flattered.
With a good-tempered resolution, which never passed the limits of
modesty and refinement, Emily met Alban Morris on his own ground.

"You have said you respect me," she began; "I am going to prove that I
believe you. The least I can do is not to misinterpret you, on my side.
Am I to understand, Mr. Morris--you won't think the worse of me, I hope,
if I speak plainly--am I to understand that you are in love with me?"

"Yes, Miss Emily--if you please."

He had answered with the quaint gravity which was peculiar to him; but
he was already conscious of a sense of discouragement. Her composure was
a bad sign--from his point of view.

"My time will come, I daresay," she proceeded. "At present I
know nothing of love, by experience; I only know what some of my
schoolfellows talk about in secret. Judging by what they tell me, a
girl blushes when her lover pleads with her to favor his addresses. Am I
blushing?"

"Must I speak plainly, too?" Alban asked.

"If you have no objection," she answered, as composedly as if she had
been addressing her grandfather.

"Then, Miss Emily, I must say--you are not blushing."

She went on. "Another token of love--as I am informed--is to tremble. Am
I trembling?"

"No."

"Am I too confused to look at you?"

"No."

"Do I walk away with dignity--and then stop, and steal a timid glance at
my lover, over my shoulder?"

"I wish you did!"

"A plain answer, Mr. Morris! Yes or No."

"No--of course."

"In one last word, do I give you any sort of encouragement to try
again?"

"In one last word, I have made a fool of myself--and you have taken the
kindest possible way of telling me so."

This time, she made no attempt to reply in his own tone. The
good-humored gayety of her manner disappeared. She was in
earnest--truly, sadly in earnest--when she said her next words.

"Is it not best, in your own interests, that we should bid each other
good-by?" she asked. "In the time to come--when you only remember how
kind you once were to me--we may look forward to meeting again. After
all that you have suffered, so bitterly and so undeservedly, don't, pray
don't, make me feel that another woman has behaved cruelly to you, and
that I--so grieved to distress you--am that heartless creature!"

Never in her life had she been so irresistibly charming as she was at
that moment. Her sweet nature showed all its innocent pity for him in
her face.

He saw it--he felt it--he was not unworthy of it. In silence, he lifted
her hand to his lips. He turned pale as he kissed it.

"Say that you agree with me?" she pleaded.

"I obey you."

As he answered, he pointed to the lawn at their feet. "Look," he said,
"at that dead leaf which the air is wafting over the grass. Is it
possible that such sympathy as you feel for Me, such love as I feel for
You, can waste, wither, and fall to the ground like that leaf? I leave
you, Emily--with the firm conviction that there is a time of fulfillment
to come in our two lives. Happen what may in the interval--I trust the
future."



The words had barely passed his lips when the voice of one of the
servants reached them from the house. "Miss Emily, are you in the
garden?"

Emily stepped out into the sunshine. The servant hurried to meet her,
and placed a telegram in her hand. She looked at it with a sudden
misgiving. In her small experience, a telegram was associated with the
communication of bad news. She conquered her hesitation--opened it--read
it. The color left her face: she shuddered. The telegram dropped on the
grass.

"Read it," she said, faintly, as Alban picked it up.

He read these words: "Come to London directly. Miss Letitia is
dangerously ill."

"Your aunt?" he asked.

"Yes--my aunt."



BOOK THE SECOND--IN LONDON.



CHAPTER XII. MRS. ELLMOTHER.

The metropolis of Great Britain is, in certain respects, like no other
metropolis on the face of the earth. In the population that throngs the
streets, the extremes of Wealth and the extremes of Poverty meet, as
they meet nowhere else. In the streets themselves, the glory and the
shame of architecture--the mansion and the hovel--are neighbors in
situation, as they are neighbors nowhere else. London, in its social
aspect, is the city of contrasts.

Toward the close of evening Emily left the railway terminus for the
place of residence in which loss of fortune had compelled her aunt
to take refuge. As she approached her destination, the cab passed--by
merely crossing a road--from a spacious and beautiful Park, with its
surrounding houses topped by statues and cupolas, to a row of cottages,
hard by a stinking ditch miscalled a canal. The city of contrasts: north
and south, east and west, the city of social contrasts.

Emily stopped the cab before the garden gate of a cottage, at the
further end of the row. The bell was answered by the one servant now in
her aunt's employ--Miss Letitia's maid.

Personally, this good creature was one of the ill-fated women whose
appearance suggests that Nature intended to make men of them and altered
her mind at the last moment. Miss Letitia's maid was tall and gaunt and
awkward. The first impression produced by her face was an impression of
bones. They rose high on her forehead; they projected on her cheeks;
and they reached their boldest development in her jaws. In the cavernous
eyes of this unfortunate person rigid obstinacy and rigid goodness
looked out together, with equal severity, on all her fellow-creatures
alike. Her mistress (whom she had served for a quarter of a century and
more) called her "Bony." She accepted this cruelly appropriate nick-name
as a mark of affectionate familiarity which honored a servant. No other
person was allowed to take liberties with her: to every one but her
mistress she was known as Mrs. Ellmother.

"How is my aunt?" Emily asked.

"Bad."

"Why have I not heard of her illness before?"

"Because she's too fond of you to let you be distressed about her.
'Don't tell Emily'; those were her orders, as long as she kept her
senses."

"Kept her senses? Good heavens! what do you mean?"

"Fever--that's what I mean."

"I must see her directly; I am not afraid of infection."

"There's no infection to be afraid of. But you mustn't see her, for all
that."

"I insist on seeing her."

"Miss Emily, I am disappointing you for your own good. Don't you know me
well enough to trust me by this time?"

"I do trust you."

"Then leave my mistress to me--and go and make yourself comfortable in
your own room."

Emily's answer was a positive refusal. Mrs. Ellmother, driven to her
last resources, raised a new obstacle.

"It's not to be done, I tell you! How can you see Miss Letitia when she
can't bear the light in her room? Do you know what color her eyes are?
Red, poor soul--red as a boiled lobster."

With every word the woman uttered, Emily's perplexity and distress
increased.

"You told me my aunt's illness was fever," she said--"and now you speak
of some complaint in her eyes. Stand out of the way, if you please, and
let me go to her."

Mrs. Ellmother, still keeping her place, looked through the open door.

"Here's the doctor," she announced. "It seems I can't satisfy you; ask
him what's the matter. Come in, doctor." She threw open the door of the
parlor, and introduced Emily. "This is the mistress's niece, sir. Please
try if _you_ can keep her quiet. I can't." She placed chairs with the
hospitable politeness of the old school--and returned to her post at
Miss Letitia's bedside.

Doctor Allday was an elderly man, with a cool manner and a ruddy
complexion--thoroughly acclimatized to the atmosphere of pain and grief
in which it was his destiny to live. He spoke to Emily (without any
undue familiarity) as if he had been accustomed to see her for the
greater part of her life.

"That's a curious woman," he said, when Mrs. Ellmother closed the door;
"the most headstrong person, I think, I ever met with. But devoted
to her mistress, and, making allowance for her awkwardness, not a bad
nurse. I am afraid I can't give you an encouraging report of your aunt.
The rheumatic fever (aggravated by the situation of this house--built
on clay, you know, and close to stagnant water) has been latterly
complicated by delirium."

"Is that a bad sign, sir?"

"The worst possible sign; it shows that the disease has affected the
heart. Yes: she is suffering from inflammation of the eyes, but that is
an unimportant symptom. We can keep the pain under by means of cooling
lotions and a dark room. I've often heard her speak of you--especially
since the illness assumed a serious character. What did you say? Will
she know you, when you go into her room? This is about the time when the
delirium usually sets in. I'll see if there's a quiet interval."

He opened the door--and came back again.

"By the way," he resumed, "I ought perhaps to explain how it was that I
took the liberty of sending you that telegram. Mrs. Ellmother refused
to inform you of her mistress's serious illness. That circumstance,
according to my view of it, laid the responsibility on the doctor's
shoulders. The form taken by your aunt's delirium--I mean the apparent
tendency of the words that escape her in that state--seems to excite
some incomprehensible feeling in the mind of her crabbed servant. She
wouldn't even let _me_ go into the bedroom, if she could possibly help
it. Did Mrs. Ellmother give you a warm welcome when you came here?"

"Far from it. My arrival seemed to annoy her."

"Ah--just what I expected. These faithful old servants always end by
presuming on their fidelity. Did you ever hear what a witty poet--I
forget his name: he lived to be ninety--said of the man who had been his
valet for more than half a century? 'For thirty years he was the best
of servants; and for thirty years he has been the hardest of masters.'
Quite true--I might say the same of my housekeeper. Rather a good story,
isn't it?"

The story was completely thrown away on Emily; but one subject
interested her now. "My poor aunt has always been fond of me," she said.
"Perhaps she might know me, when she recognizes nobody else."

"Not very likely," the doctor answered. "But there's no laying down any
rule in cases of this kind. I have sometimes observed that circumstances
which have produced a strong impression on patients, when they are in
a state of health, give a certain direction to the wandering of their
minds, when they are in a state of fever. You will say, 'I am not a
circumstance; I don't see how this encourages me to hope'--and you will
be quite right. Instead of talking of my medical experience, I shall do
better to look at Miss Letitia, and let you know the result. You have
got other relations, I suppose? No? Very distressing--very distressing."

Who has not suffered as Emily suffered, when she was left alone? Are
there not moments--if we dare to confess the truth--when poor humanity
loses its hold on the consolations of religion and the hope of
immortality, and feels the cruelty of creation that bids us live, on the
condition that we die, and leads the first warm beginnings of love, with
merciless certainty, to the cold conclusion of the grave?

"She's quiet, for the time being," Dr. Allday announced, on his return.
"Remember, please, that she can't see you in the inflamed state of her
eyes, and don't disturb the bed-curtains. The sooner you go to her
the better, perhaps--if you have anything to say which depends on her
recognizing your voice. I'll call to-morrow morning. Very distressing,"
he repeated, taking his hat and making his bow--"Very distressing."

Emily crossed the narrow little passage which separated the two
rooms, and opened the bed-chamber door. Mrs. Ellmother met her on the
threshold. "No," said the obstinate old servant, "you can't come in."

The faint voice of Miss Letitia made itself heard, calling Mrs.
Ellmother by her familiar nick-name.

"Bony, who is it?"

"Never mind."

"Who is it?"

"Miss Emily, if you must know."

"Oh! poor dear, why does she come here? Who told her I was ill?"

"The doctor told her."

"Don't come in, Emily. It will only distress you--and it will do me no
good. God bless you, my love. Don't come in."

"There!" said Mrs. Ellmother. "Do you hear that? Go back to the
sitting-room."

Thus far, the hard necessity of controlling herself had kept Emily
silent. She was now able to speak without tears. "Remember the old
times, aunt," she pleaded, gently. "Don't keep me out of your room, when
I have come here to nurse you!"

"I'm her nurse. Go back to the sitting-room," Mrs. Ellmother repeated.

True love lasts while life lasts. The dying woman relented.

"Bony! Bony! I can't be unkind to Emily. Let her in."

Mrs. Ellmother still insisted on having her way.

"You're contradicting your own orders," she said to her mistress. "You
don't know how soon you may begin wandering in your mind again. Think,
Miss Letitia--think."

This remonstrance was received in silence. Mrs. Ellmother's great gaunt
figure still blocked up the doorway.

"If you force me to it," Emily said, quietly, "I must go to the doctor,
and ask him to interfere."

"Do you mean that?" Mrs. Ellmother said, quietly, on her side.

"I do mean it," was the answer.

The old servant suddenly submitted--with a look which took Emily by
surprise. She had expected to see anger; the face that now confronted
her was a face subdued by sorrow and fear.

"I wash my hands of it," Mrs. Ellmother said. "Go in--and take the
consequences."



CHAPTER XIII. MISS LETITIA.

Emily entered the room. The door was immediately closed on her from the
outer side. Mrs. Ellmother's heavy steps were heard retreating along the
passage. Then the banging of the door that led into the kitchen shook
the flimsily-built cottage. Then, there was silence.

The dim light of a lamp hidden away in a corner and screened by a dingy
green shade, just revealed the closely-curtained bed, and the table
near it bearing medicine-bottles and glasses. The only objects on
the chimney-piece were a clock that had been stopped in mercy to the
sufferer's irritable nerves, and an open case containing a machine for
pouring drops into the eyes. The smell of fumigating pastilles hung
heavily on the air. To Emily's excited imagination, the silence was like
the silence of death. She approached the bed trembling. "Won't you speak
to me, aunt?"

"Is that you, Emily? Who let you come in?"

"You said I might come in, dear. Are you thirsty? I see some lemonade on
the table. Shall I give it to you?"

"No! If you open the bed-curtains, you let in the light. My poor eyes!
Why are you here, my dear? Why are you not at the school?"

"It's holiday-time, aunt. Besides, I have left school for good."

"Left school?" Miss Letitia's memory made an effort, as she repeated
those words. "You were going somewhere when you left school," she said,
"and Cecilia Wyvil had something to do with it. Oh, my love, how cruel
of you to go away to a stranger, when you might live here with me!"
She paused--her sense of what she had herself just said began to grow
confused. "What stranger?" she asked abruptly. "Was it a man? What name?
Oh, my mind! Has death got hold of my mind before my body?"

"Hush! hush! I'll tell you the name. Sir Jervis Redwood."

"I don't know him. I don't want to know him. Do you think he means
to send for you. Perhaps he _has_ sent for you. I won't allow it! You
shan't go!"

"Don't excite yourself, dear! I have refused to go; I mean to stay here
with you."

The fevered brain held to its last idea. "_Has_ he sent for you?" she
said again, louder than before.

Emily replied once more, in terms carefully chosen with the one purpose
of pacifying her. The attempt proved to be useless, and worse--it seemed
to make her suspicious. "I won't be deceived!" she said; "I mean to know
all about it. He did send for you. Whom did he send?"

"His housekeeper."

"What name?" The tone in which she put the question told of excitement
that was rising to its climax. "Don't you know that I'm curious about
names?" she burst out. "Why do you provoke me? Who is it?"

"Nobody you know, or need care about, dear aunt. Mrs. Rook."

Instantly on the utterance of that name, there followed an unexpected
result. Silence ensued.

Emily waited--hesitated--advanced, to part the curtains, and look in at
her aunt. She was stopped by a dreadful sound of laughter--the cheerless
laughter that is heard among the mad. It suddenly ended in a dreary
sigh.

Afraid to look in, she spoke, hardly knowing what she said. "Is there
anything you wish for? Shall I call--?"

Miss Letitia's voice interrupted her. Dull, low, rapidly muttering, it
was unlike, shockingly unlike, the familiar voice of her aunt. It said
strange words.

"Mrs. Rook? What does Mrs. Rook matter? Or her husband either? Bony,
Bony, you're frightened about nothing. Where's the danger of those two
people turning up? Do you know how many miles away the village is? Oh,
you fool--a hundred miles and more. Never mind the coroner, the coroner
must keep in his own district--and the jury too. A risky deception? I
call it a pious fraud. And I have a tender conscience, and a cultivated
mind. The newspaper? How is _our_ newspaper to find its way to her, I
should like to know? You poor old Bony! Upon my word you do me good--you
make me laugh."

The cheerless laughter broke out again--and died away again drearily in
a sigh.

Accustomed to decide rapidly in the ordinary emergencies of her life,
Emily felt herself painfully embarrassed by the position in which she
was now placed.

After what she had already heard, could she reconcile it to her sense of
duty to her aunt to remain any longer in the room?

In the hopeless self-betrayal of delirium, Miss Letitia had revealed
some act of concealment, committed in her past life, and confided to
her faithful old servant. Under these circumstances, had Emily made
any discoveries which convicted her of taking a base advantage of her
position at the bedside? Most assuredly not! The nature of the act of
concealment; the causes that had led to it; the person (or persons)
affected by it--these were mysteries which left her entirely in the
dark. She had found out that her aunt was acquainted with Mrs. Rook, and
that was literally all she knew.

Blameless, so far, in the line of conduct that she had pursued, might
she still remain in the bed-chamber--on this distinct understanding
with herself: that she would instantly return to the sitting-room if she
heard anything which could suggest a doubt of Miss Letitia's claim to
her affection and respect? After some hesitation, she decided on leaving
it to her conscience to answer that question. Does conscience ever
say, No--when inclination says, Yes? Emily's conscience sided with her
reluctance to leave her aunt.

Throughout the time occupied by these reflections, the silence had
remained unbroken. Emily began to feel uneasy. She timidly put her hand
through the curtains, and took Miss Letitia's hand. The contact with
the burning skin startled her. She turned away to the door, to call the
servant--when the sound of her aunt's voice hurried her back to the bed.

"Are you there, Bony?" the voice asked.

Was her mind getting clear again? Emily tried the experiment of making
a plain reply. "Your niece is with you," she said. "Shall I call the
servant?"

Miss Letitia's mind was still far away from Emily, and from the present
time.

"The servant?" she repeated. "All the servants but you, Bony, have
been sent away. London's the place for us. No gossiping servants and no
curious neighbors in London. Bury the horrid truth in London. Ah, you
may well say I look anxious and wretched. I hate deception--and yet, it
must be done. Why do you waste time in talking? Why don't you find out
where the vile woman lives? Only let me get at her--and I'll make Sara
ashamed of herself."

Emily's heart beat fast when she heard the woman's name. "Sara" (as she
and her school-fellows knew) was the baptismal name of Miss Jethro. Had
her aunt alluded to the disgraced teacher, or to some other woman?

She waited eagerly to hear more. There was nothing to be heard. At this
most interesting moment, the silence remained undisturbed.

In the fervor of her anxiety to set her doubts at rest, Emily's faith in
her own good resolutions began to waver. The temptation to say
something which might set her aunt talking again was too strong to be
resisted--if she remained at the bedside. Despairing of herself she rose
and turned to the door. In the moment that passed while she crossed the
room the very words occurred to her that would suit her purpose. Her
cheeks were hot with shame--she hesitated--she looked back at the
bed--the words passed her lips.

"Sara is only one of the woman's names," she said. "Do you like her
other name?"

The rapidly-muttering tones broke out again instantly--but not in answer
to Emily. The sound of a voice had encouraged Miss Letitia to pursue
her own confused train of thought, and had stimulated the fast-failing
capacity of speech to exert itself once more.

"No! no! He's too cunning for you, and too cunning for me. He doesn't
leave letters about; he destroys them all. Did I say he was too cunning
for us? It's false. We are too cunning for him. Who found the morsels of
his letter in the basket? Who stuck them together? Ah, _we_ know! Don't
read it, Bony. 'Dear Miss Jethro'--don't read it again. 'Miss Jethro' in
his letter; and 'Sara,' when he talks to himself in the garden. Oh,
who would have believed it of him, if we hadn't seen and heard it
ourselves!"

There was no more doubt now.

But who was the man, so bitterly and so regretfully alluded to?

No: this time Emily held firmly by the resolution which bound her
to respect the helpless position of her aunt. The speediest way of
summoning Mrs. Ellmother would be to ring the bell. As she touched the
handle a faint cry of suffering from the bed called her back.

"Oh, so thirsty!" murmured the failing voice--"so thirsty!"

She parted the curtains. The shrouded lamplight just showed her the
green shade over Miss Letitia's eyes--the hollow cheeks below it--the
arms laid helplessly on the bed-clothes. "Oh, aunt, don't you know my
voice? Don't you know Emily? Let me kiss you, dear!" Useless to plead
with her; useless to kiss her; she only reiterated the words, "So
thirsty! so thirsty!" Emily raised the poor tortured body with a patient
caution which spared it pain, and put the glass to her aunt's lips. She
drank the lemonade to the last drop. Refreshed for the moment, she spoke
again--spoke to the visionary servant of her delirious fancy, while she
rested in Emily's arms.

"For God's sake, take care how you answer if she questions you. If _she_
knew what _we_ know! Are men ever ashamed? Ha! the vile woman! the vile
woman!"

Her voice, sinking gradually, dropped to a whisper. The next few words
that escaped her were muttered inarticulately. Little by little, the
false energy of fever was wearing itself out. She lay silent and still.
To look at her now was to look at the image of death. Once more, Emily
kissed her--closed the curtains--and rang the bell. Mrs. Ellmother
failed to appear. Emily left the room to call her.

Arrived at the top of the kitchen stairs, she noted a slight change.
The door below, which she had heard banged on first entering her aunt's
room, now stood open. She called to Mrs. Ellmother. A strange voice
answered her. Its accent was soft and courteous; presenting the
strongest imaginable contrast to the harsh tones of Miss Letitia's
crabbed old maid.

"Is there anything I can do for you, miss?"

The person making this polite inquiry appeared at the foot of the
stairs--a plump and comely woman of middle age. She looked up at the
young lady with a pleasant smile.

"I beg your pardon," Emily said; "I had no intention of disturbing you.
I called to Mrs. Ellmother."

The stranger advanced a little way up the stairs, and answered, "Mrs.
Ellmother is not here."

"Do you expect her back soon?"

"Excuse me, miss--I don't expect her back at all."

"Do you mean to say that she has left the house?"

"Yes, miss. She has left the house."



CHAPTER XIV. MRS. MOSEY.

Emily's first act--after the discovery of Mrs. Ellmother's
incomprehensible disappearance--was to invite the new servant to follow
her into the sitting-room.

"Can you explain this?" she began.

"No, miss."

"May I ask if you have come here by Mrs. Ellmother's invitation?"

"By Mrs. Ellmother's _request_, miss."

"Can you tell me how she came to make the request?"

"With pleasure, miss. Perhaps--as you find me here, a stranger to
yourself, in place of the customary servant--I ought to begin by giving
you a reference."

"And, perhaps (if you will be so kind), by mentioning your name," Emily
added.

"Thank you for reminding me, miss. My name is Elizabeth Mosey. I am well
known to the gentleman who attends Miss Letitia. Dr. Allday will speak
to my character and also to my experience as a nurse. If it would be in
any way satisfactory to give you a second reference--"

"Quite needless, Mrs. Mosey."

"Permit me to thank you again, miss. I was at home this evening, when
Mrs. Ellmother called at my lodgings. Says she, 'I have come here,
Elizabeth, to ask a favor of you for old friendship's sake.' Says I, 'My
dear, pray command me, whatever it may be.' If this seems rather a hasty
answer to make, before I knew what the favor was, might I ask you to
bear in mind that Mrs. Ellmother put it to me 'for old friendship's
sake'--alluding to my late husband, and to the business which we carried
on at that time? Through no fault of ours, we got into difficulties.
Persons whom we had trusted proved unworthy. Not to trouble you further,
I may say at once, we should have been ruined, if our old friend Mrs.
Ellmother had not come forward, and trusted us with the savings of her
lifetime. The money was all paid back again, before my husband's
death. But I don't consider--and, I think you won't consider--that the
obligation was paid back too. Prudent or not prudent, there is nothing
Mrs. Ellmother can ask of me that I am not willing to do. If I have put
myself in an awkward situation (and I don't deny that it looks so) this
is the only excuse, miss, that I can make for my conduct."

Mrs. Mosey was too fluent, and too fond of hearing the sound of her own
eminently persuasive voice. Making allowance for these little drawbacks,
the impression that she produced was decidedly favorable; and, however
rashly she might have acted, her motive was beyond reproach. Having said
some kind words to this effect, Emily led her back to the main interest
of her narrative.

"Did Mrs. Ellmother give no reason for leaving my aunt, at such a time
as this?" she asked.

"The very words I said to her, miss."

"And what did she say, by way of reply?"

"She burst out crying--a thing I have never known her to do before, in
an experience of twenty years."

"And she really asked you to take her place here, at a moment's notice?"

"That was just what she did," Mrs. Mosey answered. "I had no need to
tell her I was astonished; my lips spoke for me, no doubt. She's a hard
woman in speech and manner, I admit. But there's more feeling in her
than you would suppose. 'If you are the good friend I take you for,' she
says, 'don't ask me for reasons; I am doing what is forced on me, and
doing it with a heavy heart.' In my place, miss, would you have insisted
on her explaining herself, after that? The one thing I naturally wanted
to know was, if I could speak to some lady, in the position of mistress
here, before I ventured to intrude. Mrs. Ellmother understood that it
was her duty to help me in this particular. Your poor aunt being out of
the question she mentioned you."

"How did she speak of me? In an angry way?"

"No, indeed--quite the contrary. She says, 'You will find Miss Emily
at the cottage. She is Miss Letitia's niece. Everybody likes her--and
everybody is right.'"

"She really said that?"

"Those were her words. And, what is more, she gave me a message for you
at parting. 'If Miss Emily is surprised' (that was how she put it) 'give
her my duty and good wishes; and tell her to remember what I said, when
she took my place at her aunt's bedside.' I don't presume to inquire
what this means," said Mrs. Mosey respectfully, ready to hear what it
meant, if Emily would only be so good as to tell her. "I deliver the
message, miss, as it was delivered to me. After which, Mrs. Ellmother
went her way, and I went mine."

"Do you know where she went?"

"No, miss."

"Have you nothing more to tell me?"

"Nothing more; except that she gave me my directions, of course, about
the nursing. I took them down in writing--and you will find them in
their proper place, with the prescriptions and the medicines."

Acting at once on this hint, Emily led the way to her aunt's room.

Miss Letitia was silent, when the new nurse softly parted the
curtains--looked in--and drew them together again. Consulting her watch,
Mrs. Mosey compared her written directions with the medicine-bottles on
the table, and set one apart to be used at the appointed time. "Nothing,
so far, to alarm us," she whispered. "You look sadly pale and tired,
miss. Might I advise you to rest a little?"

"If there is any change, Mrs. Mosey--either for the better or the
worse--of course you will let me know?"

"Certainly, miss."

Emily returned to the sitting-room: not to rest (after all that she had
heard), but to think.


Amid much that was unintelligible, certain plain conclusions presented
themselves to her mind.

After what the doctor had already said to Emily, on the subject of
delirium generally, Mrs. Ellmother's proceedings became intelligible:
they proved that she knew by experience the perilous course taken by her
mistress's wandering thoughts, when they expressed themselves in words.
This explained the concealment of Miss Letitia's illness from her niece,
as well as the reiterated efforts of the old servant to prevent Emily
from entering the bedroom.

But the event which had just happened--that is to say, Mrs. Ellmother's
sudden departure from the cottage--was not only of serious importance in
itself, but pointed to a startling conclusion.

The faithful maid had left the mistress, whom she had loved and served,
sinking under a fatal illness--and had put another woman in her
place, careless of what that woman might discover by listening at the
bedside--rather than confront Emily after she had been within hearing of
her aunt while the brain of the suffering woman was deranged by fever.
There was the state of the case, in plain words.

In what frame of mind had Mrs. Ellmother adopted this desperate course
of action?

To use her own expression, she had deserted Miss Letitia "with a heavy
heart." To judge by her own language addressed to Mrs. Mosey, she
had left Emily to the mercy of a stranger--animated, nevertheless, by
sincere feelings of attachment and respect. That her fears had taken for
granted suspicion which Emily had not felt, and discoveries which Emily
had (as yet) not made, in no way modified the serious nature of the
inference which her conduct justified. The disclosure which this woman
dreaded--who could doubt it now?--directly threatened Emily's peace of
mind. There was no disguising it: the innocent niece was associated
with an act of deception, which had been, until that day, the undetected
secret of the aunt and the aunt's maid.

In this conclusion, and in this only, was to be found the rational
explanation of Mrs. Ellmother's choice--placed between the alternatives
of submitting to discovery by Emily, or of leaving the house.


Poor Miss Letitia's writing-table stood near the window of the
sitting-room. Shrinking from the further pursuit of thoughts which might
end in disposing her mind to distrust of her dying aunt, Emily looked
round in search of some employment sufficiently interesting to absorb
her attention. The writing-table reminded her that she owed a letter to
Cecilia. That helpful friend had surely the first claim to know why she
had failed to keep her engagement with Sir Jervis Redwood.

After mentioning the telegram which had followed Mrs. Rook's arrival at
the school, Emily's letter proceeded in these terms:

"As soon as I had in some degree recovered myself, I informed Mrs. Rook
of my aunt's serious illness.

"Although she carefully confined herself to commonplace expressions of
sympathy, I could see that it was equally a relief to both of us to feel
that we were prevented from being traveling companions. Don't suppose
that I have taken a capricious dislike to Mrs. Rook--or that you are in
any way to blame for the unfavorable impression which she has produced
on me. I will make this plain when we meet. In the meanwhile, I need
only tell you that I gave her a letter of explanation to present to Sir
Jervis Redwood. I also informed him of my address in London: adding a
request that he would forward your letter, in case you have written to
me before you receive these lines.

"Kind Mr. Alban Morris accompanied me to the railway-station, and
arranged with the guard to take special care of me on the journey to
London. We used to think him rather a heartless man. We were quite
wrong. I don't know what his plans are for spending the summer holidays.
Go where he may, I remember his kindness; my best wishes go with him.

"My dear, I must not sadden your enjoyment of your pleasant visit to the
Engadine, by writing at any length of the sorrow that I am suffering.
You know how I love my aunt, and how gratefully I have always felt her
motherly goodness to me. The doctor does not conceal the truth. At her
age, there is no hope: my father's last-left relation, my one dearest
friend, is dying.

"No! I must not forget that I have another friend--I must find some
comfort in thinking of _you_.

"I do so long in my solitude for a letter from my dear Cecilia. Nobody
comes to see me, when I most want sympathy; I am a stranger in this vast
city. The members of my mother's family are settled in Australia: they
have not even written to me, in all the long years that have passed
since her death. You remember how cheerfully I used to look forward to
my new life, on leaving school? Good-by, my darling. While I can see
your sweet face, in my thoughts, I don't despair--dark as it looks
now--of the future that is before me."

Emily had closed and addressed her letter, and was just rising from her
chair, when she heard the voice of the new nurse at the door.



CHAPTER XV. EMILY.

"May I say a word?" Mrs. Mosey inquired. She entered the room--pale
and trembling. Seeing that ominous change, Emily dropped back into her
chair.

"Dead?" she said faintly.

Mrs. Mosey looked at her in vacant surprise.

"I wish to say, miss, that your aunt has frightened me."

Even that vague allusion was enough for Emily.

"You need say no more," she replied. "I know but too well how my aunt's
mind is affected by the fever."

Confused and frightened as she was, Mrs. Mosey still found relief in her
customary flow of words.

"Many and many a person have I nursed in fever," she announced. "Many
and many a person have I heard say strange things. Never yet, miss, in
all my experience--!"

"Don't tell me of it!" Emily interposed.

"Oh, but I _must_ tell you! In your own interests, Miss Emily--in your
own interests. I won't be inhuman enough to leave you alone in the house
to-night; but if this delirium goes on, I must ask you to get another
nurse. Shocking suspicions are lying in wait for me in that bedroom, as
it were. I can't resist them as I ought, if I go back again, and hear
your aunt saying what she has been saying for the last half hour and
more. Mrs. Ellmother has expected impossibilities of me; and Mrs.
Ellmother must take the consequences. I don't say she didn't warn
me--speaking, you will please to understand, in the strictest
confidence. 'Elizabeth,' she says, 'you know how wildly people talk in
Miss Letitia's present condition. Pay no heed to it,' she says. 'Let it
go in at one ear and out at the other,' she says. 'If Miss Emily asks
questions--you know nothing about it. If she's frightened--you know
nothing about it. If she bursts into fits of crying that are dreadful
to see, pity her, poor thing, but take no notice.' All very well,
and sounds like speaking out, doesn't it? Nothing of the sort! Mrs.
Ellmother warns me to expect this, that, and the other. But there is one
horrid thing (which I heard, mind, over and over again at your aunt's
bedside) that she does _not_ prepare me for; and that horrid thing
is--Murder!"

At that last word, Mrs. Mosey dropped her voice to a whisper--and waited
to see what effect she had produced.

Sorely tried already by the cruel perplexities of her position, Emily's
courage failed to resist the first sensation of horror, aroused in her
by the climax of the nurse's hysterical narrative. Encouraged by
her silence, Mrs. Mosey went on. She lifted one hand with theatrical
solemnity--and luxuriously terrified herself with her own horrors.

"An inn, Miss Emily; a lonely inn, somewhere in the country; and a
comfortless room at the inn, with a makeshift bed at one end of it, and
a makeshift bed at the other--I give you my word of honor, that was
how your aunt put it. She spoke of two men next; two men asleep (you
understand) in the two beds. I think she called them 'gentlemen'; but I
can't be sure, and I wouldn't deceive you--you know I wouldn't deceive
you, for the world. Miss Letitia muttered and mumbled, poor soul. I own
I was getting tired of listening--when she burst out plain again, in
that one horrid word--Oh, miss, don't be impatient! don't interrupt me!"

Emily did interrupt, nevertheless. In some degree at least she had
recovered herself. "No more of it!" she said--"I won't hear a word
more."

But Mrs. Mosey was too resolutely bent on asserting her own importance,
by making the most of the alarm that she had suffered, to be repressed
by any ordinary method of remonstrance. Without paying the slightest
attention to what Emily had said, she went on again more loudly and more
excitably than ever.

"Listen, miss--listen! The dreadful part of it is to come; you haven't
heard about the two gentlemen yet. One of them was murdered--what do
you think of that!--and the other (I heard your aunt say it, in so many
words) committed the crime. Did Miss Letitia fancy she was addressing a
lot of people when _you_ were nursing her? She called out, like a person
making public proclamation, when I was in her room. 'Whoever you are,
good people' (she says), 'a hundred pounds reward, if you find the
runaway murderer. Search everywhere for a poor weak womanish creature,
with rings on his little white hands. There's nothing about him like
a man, except his voice--a fine round voice. You'll know him, my
friends--the wretch, the monster--you'll know him by his voice.' That
was how she put it; I tell you again, that was how she put it. Did you
hear her scream? Ah, my dear young lady, so much the better for you!
'O the horrid murder' (she says)--'hush it up!' I'll take my Bible oath
before the magistrate," cried Mrs. Mosey, starting out of her chair,
"your aunt said, 'Hush it up!'"

Emily crossed the room. The energy of her character was roused at last.
She seized the foolish woman by the shoulders, forced her back in the
chair, and looked her straight in the face without uttering a word.

For the moment, Mrs. Mosey was petrified. She had fully expected--having
reached the end of her terrible story--to find Emily at her feet,
entreating her not to carry out her intention of leaving the cottage
the next morning; and she had determined, after her sense of her own
importance had been sufficiently flattered, to grant the prayer of the
helpless young lady. Those were her anticipations--and how had they been
fulfilled? She had been treated like a mad woman in a state of revolt!

"How dare you assault me?" she asked piteously. "You ought to be ashamed
of yourself. God knows I meant well."

"You are not the first person," Emily answered, quietly releasing her,
"who has done wrong with the best intentions."

"I did my duty, miss, when I told you what your aunt said."

"You forgot your duty when you listened to what my aunt said."

"Allow me to explain myself."

"No: not a word more on _that_ subject shall pass between us. Remain
here, if you please; I have something to suggest in your own interests.
Wait, and compose yourself."

The purpose which had taken a foremost place in Emily's mind rested on
the firm foundation of her love and pity for her aunt.

Now that she had regained the power to think, she felt a hateful doubt
pressed on her by Mrs. Mosey's disclosures. Having taken for granted
that there was a foundation in truth for what she herself had heard in
her aunt's room, could she reasonably resist the conclusion that there
must be a foundation in truth for what Mrs. Mosey had heard, under
similar circumstances?

There was but one way of escaping from this dilemma--and Emily
deliberately took it. She turned her back on her own convictions; and
persuaded herself that she had been in the wrong, when she had attached
importance to anything that her aunt had said, under the influence
of delirium. Having adopted this conclusion, she resolved to face the
prospect of a night's solitude by the death-bed--rather than permit Mrs.
Mosey to have a second opportunity of drawing her own inferences from
what she might hear in Miss Letitia's room.

"Do you mean to keep me waiting much longer, miss?"

"Not a moment longer, now you are composed again," Emily answered. "I
have been thinking of what has happened; and I fail to see any necessity
for putting off your departure until the doctor comes to-morrow morning.
There is really no objection to your leaving me to-night."

"I beg your pardon, miss; there _is_ an objection. I have already told
you I can't reconcile it to my conscience to leave you here by yourself.
I am not an inhuman woman," said Mrs. Mosey, putting her handkerchief to
her eyes--smitten with pity for herself.

Emily tried the effect of a conciliatory reply. "I am grateful for your
kindness in offering to stay with me," she said.

"Very good of you, I'm sure," Mrs. Mosey answered ironically. "But for
all that, you persist in sending me away."

"I persist in thinking that there is no necessity for my keeping you
here until to-morrow."

"Oh, have it your own way! I am not reduced to forcing my company on
anybody."

Mrs. Mosey put her handkerchief in her pocket, and asserted her dignity.
With head erect and slowly-marching steps she walked out of the room.
Emily was left in the cottage, alone with her dying aunt.



CHAPTER XVI. MISS JETHRO.

A fortnight after the disappearance of Mrs. Ellmother, and the dismissal
of Mrs. Mosey, Doctor Allday entered his consulting-room, punctual to
the hour at which he was accustomed to receive patients.

An occasional wrinkling of his eyebrows, accompanied by an intermittent
restlessness in his movements, appeared to indicate some disturbance
of this worthy man's professional composure. His mind was indeed not at
ease. Even the inexcitable old doctor had felt the attraction which had
already conquered three such dissimilar people as Alban Morris, Cecilia
Wyvil, and Francine de Sor. He was thinking of Emily.

A ring at the door-bell announced the arrival of the first patient.

The servant introduced a tall lady, dressed simply and elegantly in dark
apparel. Noticeable features, of a Jewish cast--worn and haggard, but
still preserving their grandeur of form--were visible through her
veil. She moved with grace and dignity; and she stated her object in
consulting Doctor Allday with the ease of a well-bred woman.

"I come to ask your opinion, sir, on the state of my heart," she said;
"and I am recommended by a patient, who has consulted you with advantage
to herself." She placed a card on the doctor's writing-desk, and added:
"I have become acquainted with the lady, by being one of the lodgers in
her house."

The doctor recognized the name--and the usual proceedings ensued. After
careful examination, he arrived at a favorable conclusion. "I may tell
you at once," he said--"there is no reason to be alarmed about the state
of your heart."

"I have never felt any alarm about myself," she answered quietly. "A
sudden death is an easy death. If one's affairs are settled, it seems,
on that account, to be the death to prefer. My object was to settle
_my_ affairs--such as they are--if you had considered my life to be in
danger. Is there nothing the matter with me?"

"I don't say that," the doctor replied. "The action of your heart is
very feeble. Take the medicine that I shall prescribe; pay a little
more attention to eating and drinking than ladies usually do; don't run
upstairs, and don't fatigue yourself by violent exercise--and I see no
reason why you shouldn't live to be an old woman."

"God forbid!" the lady said to herself. She turned away, and looked out
of the window with a bitter smile.

Doctor Allday wrote his prescription. "Are you likely to make a long
stay in London?" he asked.

"I am here for a little while only. Do you wish to see me again?"

"I should like to see you once more, before you go away--if you can make
it convenient. What name shall I put on the prescription?"

"Miss Jethro."

"A remarkable name," the doctor said, in his matter-of-fact way.

Miss Jethro's bitter smile showed itself again.

Without otherwise noticing what Doctor Allday had said, she laid the
consultation fee on the table. At the same moment, the footman appeared
with a letter. "From Miss Emily Brown," he said. "No answer required."

He held the door open as he delivered the message, seeing that Miss
Jethro was about to leave the room. She dismissed him by a gesture; and,
returning to the table, pointed to the letter.

"Was your correspondent lately a pupil at Miss Ladd's school?" she
inquired.

"My correspondent has just left Miss Ladd," the doctor answered. "Are
you a friend of hers?"

"I am acquainted with her."

"You would be doing the poor child a kindness, if you would go and see
her. She has no friends in London."

"Pardon me--she has an aunt."

"Her aunt died a week since."

"Are there no other relations?"

"None. A melancholy state of things, isn't it? She would have been
absolutely alone in the house, if I had not sent one of my women
servants to stay with her for the present. Did you know her father?"

Miss Jethro passed over the question, as if she had not heard it. "Has
the young lady dismissed her aunt's servants?" she asked.

"Her aunt kept but one servant, ma'am. The woman has spared Miss Emily
the trouble of dismissing her." He briefly alluded to Mrs. Ellmother's
desertion of her mistress. "I can't explain it," he said when he had
done. "Can _you_?"

"What makes you think, sir, that I can help you? I have never even heard
of the servant--and the mistress was a stranger to me."

At Doctor Allday's age a man is not easily discouraged by reproof, even
when it is administered by a handsome woman. "I thought you might have
known Miss Emily's father," he persisted.

Miss Jethro rose, and wished him good-morning. "I must not occupy any
more of your valuable time," she said.

"Suppose you wait a minute?" the doctor suggested.

Impenetrable as ever, he rang the bell. "Any patients in the
waiting-room?" he inquired. "You see I have time to spare," he resumed,
when the man had replied in the negative. "I take an interest in this
poor girl; and I thought--"

"If you think that I take an interest in her, too," Miss Jethro
interposed, "you are perfectly right--I knew her father," she added
abruptly; the allusion to Emily having apparently reminded her of the
question which she had hitherto declined to notice.

"In that case," Doctor Allday proceeded, "I want a word of advice. Won't
you sit down?"

She took a chair in silence. An irregular movement in the lower part of
her veil seemed to indicate that she was breathing with difficulty. The
doctor observed her with close attention. "Let me see my prescription
again," he said. Having added an ingredient, he handed it back with a
word of explanation. "Your nerves are more out of order than I supposed.
The hardest disease to cure that I know of is--worry."

The hint could hardly have been plainer; but it was lost on Miss
Jethro. Whatever her troubles might be, her medical adviser was not made
acquainted with them. Quietly folding up the prescription, she reminded
him that he had proposed to ask her advice.

"In what way can I be of service to you?" she inquired.

"I am afraid I must try your patience," the doctor acknowledged, "if I
am to answer that question plainly."

With these prefatory words, he described the events that had followed
Mrs. Mosey's appearance at the cottage. "I am only doing justice to this
foolish woman," he continued, "when I tell you that she came here, after
she had left Miss Emily, and did her best to set matters right. I went
to the poor girl directly--and I felt it my duty, after looking at her
aunt, not to leave her alone for that night. When I got home the next
morning, whom do you think I found waiting for me? Mrs. Ellmother!"

He stopped--in the expectation that Miss Jethro would express some
surprise. Not a word passed her lips.

"Mrs. Ellmother's object was to ask how her mistress was going on," the
doctor proceeded. "Every day while Miss Letitia still lived, she came
here to make the same inquiry--without a word of explanation. On the day
of the funeral, there she was at the church, dressed in deep mourning;
and, as I can personally testify, crying bitterly. When the ceremony was
over--can you believe it?--she slipped away before Miss Emily or I could
speak to her. We have seen nothing more of her, and heard nothing more,
from that time to this."

He stopped again, the silent lady still listening without making any
remark.

"Have you no opinion to express?" the doctor asked bluntly.

"I am waiting," Miss Jethro answered.

"Waiting--for what?"

"I haven't heard yet, why you want my advice."

Doctor Allday's observation of humanity had hitherto reckoned want of
caution among the deficient moral qualities in the natures of women. He
set down Miss Jethro as a remarkable exception to a general rule.

"I want you to advise me as to the right course to take with Miss
Emily," he said. "She has assured me she attaches no serious importance
to her aunt's wanderings, when the poor old lady's fever was at its
worst. I don't doubt that she speaks the truth--but I have my own
reasons for being afraid that she is deceiving herself. Will you bear
this in mind?"

"Yes--if it's necessary."

"In plain words, Miss Jethro, you think I am still wandering from the
point. I have got to the point. Yesterday, Miss Emily told me that
she hoped to be soon composed enough to examine the papers left by her
aunt."

Miss Jethro suddenly turned in her chair, and looked at Doctor Allday.

"Are you beginning to feel interested?" the doctor asked mischievously.

She neither acknowledged nor denied it. "Go on"--was all she said.

"I don't know how _you_ feel," he proceeded; "_I_ am afraid of the
discoveries which she may make; and I am strongly tempted to advise
her to leave the proposed examination to her aunt's lawyer. Is there
anything in your knowledge of Miss Emily's late father, which tells you
that I am right?"

"Before I reply," said Miss Jethro, "it may not be amiss to let the
young lady speak for herself."

"How is she to do that?" the doctor asked.

Miss Jethro pointed to the writing table. "Look there," she said. "You
have not yet opened Miss Emily's letter."



CHAPTER XVII. DOCTOR ALLDAY.

Absorbed in the effort to overcome his patient's reserve, the doctor had
forgotten Emily's letter. He opened it immediately.

After reading the first sentence, he looked up with an expression of
annoyance. "She has begun the examination of the papers already," he
said.

"Then I can be of no further use to you," Miss Jethro rejoined. She made
a second attempt to leave the room.

Doctor Allday turned to the next page of the letter. "Stop!" he cried.
"She has found something--and here it is."

He held up a small printed Handbill, which had been placed between the
first and second pages. "Suppose you look at it?" he said.

"Whether I am interested in it or not?" Miss Jethro asked.

"You may be interested in what Miss Emily says about it in her letter."

"Do you propose to show me her letter?"

"I propose to read it to you."

Miss Jethro took the Handbill without further objection. It was
expressed in these words:

"MURDER. 100 POUNDS REWARD.--Whereas a murder was committed on the
thirtieth September, 1877, at the Hand-in-Hand Inn, in the village
of Zeeland, Hampshire, the above reward will be paid to any person or
persons whose exertions shall lead to the arrest and conviction of the
suspected murderer. Name not known. Supposed age, between twenty and
thirty years. A well-made man, of small stature. Fair complexion,
delicate features, clear blue eye s. Hair light, and cut rather short.
Clean shaven, with the exception of narrow half-whiskers. Small, white,
well-shaped hands. Wore valuable rings on the two last fingers of
the left hand. Dressed neatly in a dark-gray tourist-suit. Carried
a knapsack, as if on a pedestrian excursion. Remarkably good voice,
smooth, full, and persuasive. Ingratiating manners. Apply to the Chief
Inspector, Metropolitan Police Office, London."

Miss Jethro laid aside the Handbill without any visible appearance of
agitation. The doctor took up Emily's letter, and read as follows:

"You will be as much relieved as I was, my kind friend, when you look at
the paper inclosed. I found it loose in a blank book, with cuttings from
newspapers, and odd announcements of lost property and other curious
things (all huddled together between the leaves), which my aunt no doubt
intended to set in order and fix in their proper places. She must have
been thinking of her book, poor soul, in her last illness. Here is the
origin of those 'terrible words' which frightened stupid Mrs. Mosey! Is
it not encouraging to have discovered such a confirmation of my opinion
as this? I feel a new interest in looking over the papers that still
remain to be examined--"

Before he could get to the end of the sentence Miss Jethro's agitation
broke through her reserve.

"Do what you proposed to do!" she burst out vehemently. "Stop her at
once from carrying her examination any further! If she hesitates, insist
on it!"

At last Doctor Allday had triumphed! "It has been a long time coming,"
he remarked, in his cool way; "and it's all the more welcome on that
account. You dread the discoveries she may make, Miss Jethro, as I do.
And _you_ know what those discoveries may be."

"What I do know, or don't know, is of no importance." she answered
sharply.

"Excuse me, it is of very serious importance. I have no authority over
this poor girl--I am not even an old friend. You tell me to insist. Help
me to declare honestly that I know of circumstances which justify me;
and I may insist to some purpose."

Miss Jethro lifted her veil for the first time, and eyed him
searchingly.

"I believe I can trust you," she said. "Now listen! The one
consideration on which I consent to open my lips, is consideration for
Miss Emily's tranquillity. Promise me absolute secrecy, on your word of
honor."

He gave the promise.

"I want to know one thing, first," Miss Jethro proceeded. "Did she tell
you--as she once told me--that her father had died of heart-complaint?"

"Yes."

"Did you put any questions to her?"

"I asked how long ago it was."

"And she told you?"

"She told me."

"You wish to know, Doctor Allday, what discoveries Miss Emily may yet
make, among her aunt's papers. Judge for yourself, when I tell you that
she has been deceived about her father's death."

"Do you mean that he is still living?"

"I mean that she has been deceived--purposely deceived--about the
_manner_ of his death."

"Who was the wretch who did it?"

"You are wronging the dead, sir! The truth can only have been concealed
out of the purest motives of love and pity. I don't desire to disguise
the conclusion at which I have arrived after what I have heard from
yourself. The person responsible must be Miss Emily's aunt--and the old
servant must have been in her confidence. Remember! You are bound in
honor not to repeat to any living creature what I have just said."

The doctor followed Miss Jethro to the door. "You have not yet told me,"
he said, "_how_ her father died."

"I have no more to tell you."

With those words she left him.

He rang for his servant. To wait until the hour at which he was
accustomed to go out, might be to leave Emily's peace of mind at the
mercy of an accident. "I am going to the cottage," he said. "If anybody
wants me, I shall be back in a quarter of an hour."

On the point of leaving the house, he remembered that Emily would
probably expect him to return the Handbill. As he took it up, the first
lines caught his eye: he read the date at which the murder had been
committed, for the second time. On a sudden the ruddy color left his
face.

"Good God!" he cried, "her father was murdered--and that woman was
concerned in it."

Following the impulse that urged him, he secured the Handbill in his
pocketbook--snatched up the card which his patient had presented as her
introduction--and instantly left the house. He called the first cab that
passed him, and drove to Miss Jethro's lodgings.

"Gone"--was the servant's answer when he inquired for her. He insisted
on speaking to the landlady. "Hardly ten minutes have passed," he said,
"since she left my house."

"Hardly ten minutes have passed," the landlady replied, "since that
message was brought here by a boy."

The message had been evidently written in great haste: "I am
unexpectedly obliged to leave London. A bank note is inclosed in payment
of my debt to you. I will send for my luggage."

The doctor withdrew.

"Unexpectedly obliged to leave London," he repeated, as he got into the
cab again. "Her flight condemns her: not a doubt of it now. As fast
as you can!" he shouted to the man; directing him to drive to Emily's
cottage.



CHAPTER XVIII. MISS LADD.

Arriving at the cottage, Doctor Allday discovered a gentleman, who was
just closing the garden gate behind him.

"Has Miss Emily had a visitor?" he inquired, when the servant admitted
him.

"The gentleman left a letter for Miss Emily, sir."

"Did he ask to see her?"

"He asked after Miss Letitia's health. When he heard that she was dead,
he seemed to be startled, and went away immediately."

"Did he give his name?"

"No, sir."

The doctor found Emily absorbed over her letter. His anxiety to
forestall any possible discovery of the deception which had concealed
the terrible story of her father's death, kept Doctor Allday's vigilance
on the watch. He doubted the gentleman who had abstained from giving
his name; he even distrusted the other unknown person who had written to
Emily.

She looked up. Her face relieved him of his misgivings, before she could
speak.

"At last, I have heard from my dearest friend," she said. "You remember
what I told you about Cecilia? Here is a letter--a long delightful
letter--from the Engadine, left at the door by some gentleman unknown. I
was questioning the servant when you rang the bell."

"You may question me, if you prefer it. I arrived just as the gentleman
was shutting your garden gate."

"Oh, tell me! what was he like?"

"Tall, and thin, and dark. Wore a vile republican-looking felt hat.
Had nasty ill-tempered wrinkles between his eyebrows. The sort of man I
distrust by instinct."

"Why?"

"Because he doesn't shave."

"Do you mean that he wore a beard?"

"Yes; a curly black beard."

Emily clasped her hands in amazement. "Can it be Alban Morris?" she
exclaimed.

The doctor looked at her with a sardonic smile; he thought it likely
that he had discovered her sweetheart.

"Who is Mr. Alban Morris?" he asked.

"The drawing-master at Miss Ladd's school."

Doctor Allday dropped the subject: masters at ladies' schools were not
persons who interested him. He returned to the purpose which had brought
him to the cottage--and produced the Handbill that had been sent to him
in Emily's letter.

"I suppose you want to have it back again?" he said.

She took it from him, and looked at it with interest.

"Isn't it strange," she suggested, "that the murderer should have
escaped, with such a careful description of him as this circulated all
over England?"

She read the description to the doctor.

"'Name not known. Supposed age, between twenty-five and thirty years.
A well-made man, of small stature. Fair complexion, delicate features,
clear blue eyes. Hair light, and cut rather short. Clean shaven, with
the exception of narrow half-whiskers. Small, white, well-shaped hands.
Wore valuable rings on the two last fingers of the left hand. Dressed
neatly--'"

"That part of the description is useless," the doctor remarked; "he
would change his clothes."

"But could he change his voice?" Emily objected. "Listen to this:
'Remarkably good voice, smooth, full, and persuasive.' And here
again! 'Ingratiating manners.' Perhaps you will say he could put on an
appearance of rudeness?"

"I will say this, my dear. He would be able to disguise himself so
effectually that ninety-nine people out of a hundred would fail to
identify him, either by his voice or his manner."

"How?"

"Look back at the description: 'Hair cut rather short, clean shaven,
with the exception of narrow half-whiskers.' The wretch was safe from
pursuit; he had ample time at his disposal--don't you see how he could
completely alter the appearance of his head and face? No more, my dear,
of this disagreeable subject! Let us get to something interesting. Have
you found anything else among your aunt's papers?"

"I have met with a great disappointment," Emily replied. "Did I tell you
how I discovered the Handbill?"

"No."

"I found it, with the scrap-book and the newspaper cuttings, under
a collection of empty boxes and bottles, in a drawer of the
washhand-stand. And I naturally expected to make far more interesting
discoveries in this room. My search was over in five minutes. Nothing
in the cabinet there, in the corner, but a few books and some china.
Nothing in the writing-desk, on that side-table, but a packet of
note-paper and some sealing-wax. Nothing here, in the drawers, but
tradesmen's receipts, materials for knitting, and old photographs. She
must have destroyed all her papers, poor dear, before her last illness;
and the Handbill and the other things can only have escaped, because
they were left in a place which she never thought of examining. Isn't it
provoking?"

With a mind inexpressibly relieved, good Doctor Allday asked permission
to return to his patients: leaving Emily to devote herself to her
friend's letter.

On his way out, he noticed that the door of the bed-chamber on the
opposite side of the passage stood open. Since Miss Letitia's death the
room had not been used. Well within view stood the washhand-stand
to which Emily had alluded. The doctor advanced to the house
door--reflected--hesitated--and looked toward the empty room.

It had struck him that there might be a second drawer which Emily had
overlooked. Would he be justified in setting this doubt at rest? If
he passed over ordinary scruples it would not be without excuse. Miss
Letitia had spoken to him of her affairs, and had asked him to act (in
Emily's interest) as co-executor with her lawyer. The rapid progress
of the illness had made it impossible for her to execute the necessary
codicil. But the doctor had been morally (if not legally) taken into her
confidence--and, for that reason, he decided that he had a right in this
serious matter to satisfy his own mind.

A glance was enough to show him that no second drawer had been
overlooked.

There was no other discovery to detain the doctor. The wardrobe only
contained the poor old lady's clothes; the one cupboard was open
and empty. On the point of leaving the room, he went back to the
washhand-stand. While he had the opportunity, it might not be amiss
to make sure that Emily had thoroughly examined those old boxes and
bottles, which she had alluded to with some little contempt.

The drawer was of considerable length. When he tried to pull it
completely out from the grooves in which it ran, it resisted him. In his
present frame of mind, this was a suspicious circumstance in itself. He
cleared away the litter so as to make room for the introduction of his
hand and arm into the drawer. In another moment his fingers touched
a piece of paper, jammed between the inner end of the drawer and the
bottom of the flat surface of the washhand-stand. With a little care, he
succeeded in extricating the paper. Only pausing to satisfy himself
that there was nothing else to be found, and to close the drawer after
replacing its contents, he left the cottage.

The cab was waiting for him. On the drive back to his own house, he
opened the crumpled paper. It proved to be a letter addressed to
Miss Letitia; and it was signed by no less a person than Emily's
schoolmistress. Looking back from the end to the beginning, Doctor
Allday discovered, in the first sentence, the name of--Miss Jethro.

But for the interview of that morning with his patient he might have
doubted the propriety of making himself further acquainted with the
letter. As things were, he read it without hesitation.

"DEAR MADAM--I cannot but regard it as providential circumstance that
your niece, in writing to you from my house, should have mentioned,
among other events of her school life, the arrival of my new teacher,
Miss Jethro.

"To say that I was surprised is to express very inadequately what I felt
when I read your letter, informing me confidentially that I had employed
a woman who was unworthy to associate with the young persons placed
under my care. It is impossible for me to suppose that a lady in your
position, and possessed of your high principles, would make such a
serious accusation as this, without unanswerable reasons for doing so.
At the same time I cannot, consistently with my duty as a Christian,
suffer my opinion of Miss Jethro to be in any way modified, until proofs
are laid before me which it is impossible to dispute.

"Placing the same confidence in your discretion, which you have placed
in mine, I now inclose the references and testimonials which Miss Jethro
submitted to me, when she presented herself to fill the vacant situation
in my school.

"I earnestly request you to lose no time in instituting the confidential
inquiries which you have volunteered to make. Whatever the result may
be, pray return to me the inclosures which I have trusted to your care,
and believe me, dear madam, in much suspense and anxiety, sincerely
yours,

"AMELIA LADD."


It is needless to describe, at any length, the impression which these
lines produced on the doctor.

If he had heard what Emily had heard at the time of her aunt's last
illness, he would have called to mind Miss Letitia's betrayal of her
interest in some man unknown, whom she believed to have been beguiled
by Miss Jethro--and he would have perceived that the vindictive hatred,
thus produced, must have inspired the letter of denunciation which the
schoolmistress had acknowledged. He would also have inferred that Miss
Letitia's inquiries had proved her accusation to be well founded--if
he had known of the new teacher's sudden dismissal from the school. As
things were, he was merely confirmed in his bad opinion of Miss Jethro;
and he was induced, on reflection, to keep his discovery to himself.

"If poor Miss Emily saw the old lady exhibited in the character of an
informer," he thought, "what a blow would be struck at her innocent
respect for the memory of her aunt!"



CHAPTER XIX. SIR JERVIS REDWOOD.

In the meantime, Emily, left by herself, had her own correspondence to
occupy her attention. Besides the letter from Cecilia (directed to the
care of Sir Jervis Redwood), she had received some lines addressed to
her by Sir Jervis himself. The two inclosures had been secured in a
sealed envelope, directed to the cottage.

If Alban Morris had been indeed the person trusted as messenger by Sir
Jervis, the conclusion that followed filled Emily with overpowering
emotions of curiosity and surprise.

Having no longer the motive of serving and protecting her, Alban must,
nevertheless, have taken the journey to Northumberland. He must have
gained Sir Jervis Redwood's favor and confidence--and he might even
have been a guest at the baronet's country seat--when Cecilia's letter
arrived. What did it mean?

Emily looked back at her experience of her last day at school, and
recalled her consultation with Alban on the subject of Mrs. Rook. Was
he still bent on clearing up his suspicions of Sir Jervis's housekeeper?
And, with that end in view, had he followed the woman, on her return to
her master's place of abode?

Suddenly, almost irritably, Emily snatched up Sir Jervis's letter.
Before the doctor had come in, she had glanced at it, and had thrown it
aside in her impatience to read what Cecilia had written. In her present
altered frame of mind, she was inclined to think that Sir Jervis might
be the more interesting correspondent of the two.

On returning to his letter, she was disappointed at the outset.

In the first place, his handwriting was so abominably bad that she was
obliged to guess at his meaning. In the second place, he never hinted at
the circumstances under which Cecilia's letter had been confided to the
gentleman who had left it at her door.

She would once more have treated the baronet's communication with
contempt--but for the discovery that it contained an offer of employment
in London, addressed to herself.

Sir Jervis had necessarily been obliged to engage another secretary
in Emily's absence. But he was still in want of a person to serve his
literary interests in London. He had reason to believe that discoveries
made by modern travelers in Central America had been reported from time
to time by the English press; and he wished copies to be taken of any
notices of this sort which might be found, on referring to the files
of newspapers kept in the reading-room of the British Museum. If
Emily considered herself capable of contributing in this way to the
completeness of his great work on "the ruined cities," she had only
to apply to his bookseller in London, who would pay her the customary
remuneration and give her every assistance of which she might stand in
need. The bookseller's name and address followed (with nothing legible
but the two words "Bond Street"), and there was an end of Sir Jervis's
proposal.

Emily laid it aside, deferring her answer until she had read Cecilia's
letter.



CHAPTER XX. THE REVEREND MILES MIRABEL.

"I am making a little excursion from the Engadine, my dearest of all
dear friends. Two charming fellow-travelers take care of me; and we may
perhaps get as far as the Lake of Como.

"My sister (already much improved in health) remains at St. Moritz with
the old governess. The moment I know what exact course we are going to
take, I shall write to Julia to forward any letters which arrive in my
absence. My life, in this earthly paradise, will be only complete when I
hear from my darling Emily.

"In the meantime, we are staying for the night at some interesting
place, the name of which I have unaccountably forgotten; and here I am
in my room, writing to you at last--dying to know if Sir Jervis has yet
thrown himself at your feet, and offered to make you Lady Redwood with
magnificent settlements.

"But you are waiting to hear who my new friends are. My dear, one of
them is, next to yourself, the most delightful creature in existence.
Society knows her as Lady Janeaway. I love her already, by her Christian
name; she is my friend Doris. And she reciprocates my sentiments.

"You will now understand that union of sympathies made us acquainted
with each other.

"If there is anything in me to be proud of, I think it must be my
admirable appetite. And, if I have a passion, the name of it is Pastry.
Here again, Lady Doris reciprocates my sentiments. We sit next to each
other at the _table d'hote_.

"Good heavens, I have forgotten her husband! They have been married
rather more than a month. Did I tell you that she is just two years
older than I am?

"I declare I am forgetting him again! He is Lord Janeaway. Such a quiet
modest man, and so easily amused. He carries with him everywhere a dirty
little tin case, with air holes in the cover. He goes softly poking
about among bushes and brambles, and under rocks, and behind old wooden
houses. When he has caught some hideous insect that makes one shudder,
he blushes with pleasure, and looks at his wife and me, and says, with
the prettiest lisp: 'This is what I call enjoying the day.' To see the
manner in which he obeys Her is, between ourselves, to feel proud of
being a woman.

"Where was I? Oh, at the _table d'hote_.

"Never, Emily--I say it with a solemn sense of the claims of
truth--never have I eaten such an infamous, abominable, maddeningly bad
dinner, as the dinner they gave us on our first day at the hotel. I ask
you if I am not patient; I appeal to your own recollection of occasions
when I have exhibited extraordinary self-control. My dear, I held out
until they brought the pastry round. I took one bite, and committed
the most shocking offense against good manners at table that you can
imagine. My handkerchief, my poor innocent handkerchief, received the
horrid--please suppose the rest. My hair stands on end, when I think of
it. Our neighbors at the table saw me. The coarse men laughed. The sweet
young bride, sincerely feeling for me, said, 'Will you allow me to shake
hands? I did exactly what you have done the day before yesterday.' Such
was the beginning of my friendship with Lady Doris Janeaway.

"We are two resolute women--I mean that _she_ is resolute, and that
I follow her--and we have asserted our right of dining to our own
satisfaction, by means of an interview with the chief cook.

"This interesting person is an ex-Zouave in the French army. Instead of
making excuses, he confessed that the barbarous tastes of the English
and American visitors had so discouraged him, that he had lost all pride
and pleasure in the exercise of his art. As an example of what he meant,
he mentioned his experience of two young Englishmen who could speak
no foreign language. The waiters reported that they objected to their
breakfasts, and especially to the eggs. Thereupon (to translate the
Frenchman's own way of putting it) he exhausted himself in exquisite
preparations of eggs. _Eggs a la tripe, au gratin, a l'Aurore, a
la Dauphine, a la Poulette, a la Tartare, a la Venitienne, a la
Bordelaise_, and so on, and so on. Still the two young gentlemen
were not satisfied. The ex-Zouave, infuriated; wounded in his honor,
disgraced as a professor, insisted on an explanation. What, in heaven's
name, _did_ they want for breakfast? They wanted boiled eggs; and a fish
which they called a _Bloaterre_. It was impossible, he said, to express
his contempt for the English idea of a breakfast, in the presence
of ladies. You know how a cat expresses herself in the presence of a
dog--and you will understand the allusion. Oh, Emily, what dinners we
have had, in our own room, since we spoke to that noble cook!

"Have I any more news to send you? Are you interested, my dear, in
eloquent young clergymen?

"On our first appearance at the public table we noticed a remarkable air
of depression among the ladies. Had some adventurous gentleman tried to
climb a mountain, and failed? Had disastrous political news arrived from
England; a defeat of the Conservatives, for instance? Had a revolution
in the fashions broken out in Paris, and had all our best dresses become
of no earthly value to us? I applied for information to the only lady
present who shone on the company with a cheerful face--my friend Doris,
of course. "'What day was yesterday?' she asked.

"'Sunday,' I answered.

"'Of all melancholy Sundays,' she continued, the most melancholy in
the calendar. Mr. Miles Mirabel preached his farewell sermon, in our
temporary chapel upstairs.'

"'And you have not recovered it yet?'

"'We are all heart-broken, Miss Wyvil.'

"This naturally interested me. I asked what sort of sermons Mr. Mirabel
preached. Lady Janeaway said: 'Come up to our room after dinner. The
subject is too distressing to be discussed in public.'

"She began by making me personally acquainted with the reverend
gentleman--that is to say, she showed me the photographic portraits of
him. They were two in number. One only presented his face. The other
exhibited him at full length, adorned in his surplice. Every lady in the
congregation had received the two photographs as a farewell present. 'My
portraits,' Lady Doris remarked, 'are the only complete specimens. The
others have been irretrievably ruined by tears.'

"You will now expect a personal description of this fascinating man.
What the photographs failed to tell me, my friend was so kind as to
complete from the resources of her own experience. Here is the result
presented to the best of my ability.

"He is young--not yet thirty years of age. His complexion is fair; his
features are delicate, his eyes are clear blue. He has pretty hands, and
rings prettier still. And such a voice, and such manners! You will say
there are plenty of pet parsons who answer to this description. Wait a
little--I have kept his chief distinction till the last. His beautiful
light hair flows in profusion over his shoulders; and his glossy beard
waves, at apostolic length, down to the lower buttons of his waistcoat.

"What do you think of the Reverend Miles Mirabel now?

"The life and adventures of our charming young clergyman, bear eloquent
testimony to the saintly patience of his disposition, under trials which
would have overwhelmed an ordinary man. (Lady Doris, please notice,
quotes in this place the language of his admirers; and I report Lady
Doris.)

"He has been clerk in a lawyer's office--unjustly dismissed. He has
given readings from Shakespeare--infamously neglected. He has been
secretary to a promenade concert company--deceived by a penniless
manager. He has been employed in negotiations for making foreign
railways--repudiated by an unprincipled Government. He has been
translator to a publishing house--declared incapable by
envious newspapers and reviews. He has taken refuge in dramatic
criticism--dismissed by a corrupt editor. Through all these means of
purification for the priestly career, he passed at last into the
one sphere that was worthy of him: he entered the Church, under the
protection of influential friends. Oh, happy change! From that moment
his labors have been blessed. Twice already he has been presented
with silver tea-pots filled with sovereigns. Go where he may, precious
sympathies environ him; and domestic affection places his knife and fork
at innumerable family tables. After a continental career, which will
leave undying recollections, he is now recalled to England--at the
suggestion of a person of distinction in the Church, who prefers a mild
climate. It will now be his valued privilege to represent an absent
rector in a country living; remote from cities, secluded in pastoral
solitude, among simple breeders of sheep. May the shepherd prove worthy
of the flock!

"Here again, my dear, I must give the merit where the merit is due.
This memoir of Mr. Mirabel is not of my writing. It formed part of his
farewell sermon, preserved in the memory of Lady Doris--and it shows
(once more in the language of his admirers) that the truest humility may
be found in the character of the most gifted man.

"Let me only add, that you will have opportunities of seeing and
hearing this popular preacher, when circumstances permit him to address
congregations in the large towns. I am at the end of my news; and I
begin to feel--after this long, long letter--that it is time to go to
bed. Need I say that I have often spoken of you to Doris, and that she
entreats you to be her friend as well as mine, when we meet again in
England?

"Good-by, darling, for the present. With fondest love,

"Your CECILIA."

"P.S.--I have formed a new habit. In case of feeling hungry in the
night, I keep a box of chocolate under the pillow. You have no idea what
a comfort it is. If I ever meet with the man who fulfills my ideal, I
shall make it a condition of the marriage settlement, that I am to have
chocolate under the pillow."



CHAPTER XXI. POLLY AND SALLY.

Without a care to trouble her; abroad or at home, finding
inexhaustible varieties of amusement; seeing new places, making new
acquaintances--what a disheartening contrast did Cecilia's happy life
present to the life of her friend! Who, in Emily's position, could have
read that joyously-written letter from Switzerland, and not have lost
heart and faith, for the moment at least, as the inevitable result?

A buoyant temperament is of all moral qualities the most precious, in
this respect; it is the one force in us--when virtuous resolution proves
insufficient--which resists by instinct the stealthy approaches of
despair. "I shall only cry," Emily thought, "if I stay at home; better
go out."

Observant persons, accustomed to frequent the London parks, can hardly
have failed to notice the number of solitary strangers sadly endeavoring
to vary their lives by taking a walk. They linger about the flower-beds;
they sit for hours on the benches; they look with patient curiosity at
other people who have companions; they notice ladies on horseback and
children at play, with submissive interest; some of the men find company
in a pipe, without appearing to enjoy it; some of the women find a
substitute for dinner, in little dry biscuits wrapped in crumpled scraps
of paper; they are not sociable; they are hardly ever seen to make
acquaintance with each other; perhaps they are shame-faced, or proud, or
sullen; perhaps they despair of others, being accustomed to despair
of themselves; perhaps they have their reasons for never venturing to
encounter curiosity, or their vices which dread detection, or their
virtues which suffer hardship with the resignation that is sufficient
for itself. The one thing certain is, that these unfortunate people
resist discovery. We know that they are strangers in London--and we know
no more.

And Emily was one of them.

Among the other forlorn wanderers in the Parks, there appeared latterly
a trim little figure in black (with the face protected from notice
behind a crape veil), which was beginning to be familiar, day after
day, to nursemaids and children, and to rouse curiosity among harmless
solitaries meditating on benches, and idle vagabonds strolling over the
grass. The woman-servant, whom the considerate doctor had provided, was
the one person in Emily's absence left to take care of the house. There
was no other creature who could be a companion to the friendless girl.
Mrs. Ellmother had never shown herself again since the funeral. Mrs.
Mosey could not forget that she had been (no matter how politely)
requested to withdraw. To whom could Emily say, "Let us go out for a
walk?" She had communicated the news of her aunt's death to Miss Ladd,
at Brighton; and had heard from Francine. The worthy schoolmistress had
written to her with the truest kindness. "Choose your own time, my poor
child, and come and stay with me at Brighton; the sooner the better."
Emily shrank--not from accepting the invitation--but from encountering
Francine. The hard West Indian heiress looked harder than ever with
a pen in her hand. Her letter announced that she was "getting on
wretchedly with her studies (which she hated); she found the masters
appointed to instruct her ugly and disagreeable (and loathed the sight
of them); she had taken a dislike to Miss Ladd (and time only confirmed
that unfavorable impression); Brighton was always the same; the sea
was always the same; the drives were always the same. Francine felt a
presentiment that she should do something desperate, unless Emily joined
her, and made Brighton endurable behind the horrid schoolmistress's
back." Solitude in London was a privilege and a pleasure, viewed as the
alternative to such companionship as this.

Emily wrote gratefully to Miss Ladd, and asked to be excused.

Other days had passed drearily since that time; but the one day that had
brought with it Cecilia's letter set past happiness and present sorrow
together so vividly and so cruelly that Emily's courage sank. She had
forced back the tears, in her lonely home; she had gone out to seek
consolation and encouragement under the sunny sky--to find comfort for
her sore heart in the radiant summer beauty of flowers and grass, in
the sweet breathing of the air, in the happy heavenward soaring of the
birds. No! Mother Nature is stepmother to the sick at heart. Soon,
too soon, she could hardly see where she went. Again and again she
resolutely cleared her eyes, under the shelter of her veil, when passing
strangers noticed her; and again and again the tears found their way
back. Oh, if the girls at the school were to see her now--the girls
who used to say in their moments of sadness, "Let us go to Emily and be
cheered"--would they know her again? She sat down to rest and recover
herself on the nearest bench. It was unoccupied. No passing footsteps
were audible on the remote path to which she had strayed. Solitude at
home! Solitude in the Park! Where was Cecilia at that moment? In
Italy, among the lake s and mountains, happy in the company of her
light-hearted friend.

The lonely interval passed, and persons came near. Two sisters, girls
like herself, stopped to rest on the bench.

They were full of their own interests; they hardly looked at the
stranger in mourning garments. The younger sister was to be married, and
the elder was to be bridesmaid. They talked of their dresses and their
presents; they compared the dashing bridegroom of one with the timid
lover of the other; they laughed over their own small sallies of wit,
over their joyous dreams of the future, over their opinions of the
guests invited to the wedding. Too joyfully restless to remain inactive
any longer, they jumped up again from the seat. One of them said,
"Polly, I'm too happy!" and danced as she walked away. The other
cried, "Sally, for shame!" and laughed, as if she had hit on the most
irresistible joke that ever was made.

Emily rose and went home.

By some mysterious influence which she was unable to trace, the
boisterous merriment of the two girls had roused in her a sense of
revolt against the life that she was leading. Change, speedy change, to
some occupation that would force her to exert herself, presented the
one promise of brighter days that she could see. To feel this was to be
inevitably reminded of Sir Jervis Redwood. Here was a man, who had never
seen her, transformed by the incomprehensible operation of Chance into
the friend of whom she stood in need--the friend who pointed the way to
a new world of action, the busy world of readers in the library of the
Museum.

Early in the new week, Emily had accepted Sir Jervis's proposal, and
had so interested the bookseller to whom she had been directed to apply,
that he took it on himself to modify the arbitrary instructions of his
employer.

"The old gentleman has no mercy on himself, and no mercy on others,"
he explained, "where his literary labors are concerned. You must spare
yourself, Miss Emily. It is not only absurd, it's cruel, to expect you
to ransack old newspapers for discoveries in Yucatan, from the time when
Stephens published his 'Travels in Central America'--nearly forty years
since! Begin with back numbers published within a few years--say five
years from the present date--and let us see what your search over that
interval will bring forth."

Accepting this friendly advice, Emily began with the newspaper-volume
dating from New Year's Day, 1876.

The first hour of her search strengthened the sincere sense of gratitude
with which she remembered the bookseller's kindness. To keep her
attention steadily fixed on the one subject that interested her
employer, and to resist the temptation to read those miscellaneous items
of news which especially interest women, put her patience and resolution
to a merciless test. Happily for herself, her neighbors on either side
were no idlers. To see them so absorbed over their work that they never
once looked at her, after the first moment when she took her place
between them, was to find exactly the example of which she stood most in
need. As the hours wore on, she pursued her weary way, down one column
and up another, resigned at least (if not quite reconciled yet) to her
task. Her labors ended, for the day, with such encouragement as she
might derive from the conviction of having, thus far, honestly pursued a
useless search.

News was waiting for her when she reached home, which raised her sinking
spirits.

On leaving the cottage that morning she had given certain instructions,
relating to the modest stranger who had taken charge of her
correspondence--in case of his paying a second visit, during her absence
at the Museum. The first words spoken by the servant, on opening the
door, informed her that the unknown gentleman had called again. This
time he had boldly left his card. There was the welcome name that she
had expected to see--Alban Morris.



CHAPTER XXII. ALBAN MORRIS.

Having looked at the card, Emily put her first question to the servant.

"Did you tell Mr. Morris what your orders were?" she asked.

"Yes, miss; I said I was to have shown him in, if you had been at home.
Perhaps I did wrong; I told him what you told me when you went out this
morning--I said you had gone to read at the Museum."

"What makes you think you did wrong?"

"Well, miss, he didn't say anything, but he looked upset."

"Do you mean that he looked angry?"

The servant shook her head. "Not exactly angry--puzzled and put out."

"Did he leave any message?"

"He said he would call later, if you would be so good as to receive
him."

In half an hour more, Alban and Emily were together again. The light
fell full on her face as she rose to receive him.

"Oh, how you have suffered!"

The words escaped him before he could restrain himself. He looked at her
with the tender sympathy, so precious to women, which she had not seen
in the face of any human creature since the loss of her aunt. Even the
good doctor's efforts to console her had been efforts of professional
routine--the inevitable result of his life-long familiarity with sorrow
and death. While Alban's eyes rested on her, Emily felt her tears
rising. In the fear that he might misinterpret her reception of him, she
made an effort to speak with some appearance of composure.

"I lead a lonely life," she said; "and I can well understand that my
face shows it. You are one of my very few friends, Mr. Morris"--the
tears rose again; it discouraged her to see him standing irresolute,
with his hat in his hand, fearful of intruding on her. "Indeed, indeed,
you are welcome," she said, very earnestly.

In those sad days her heart was easily touched. She gave him her hand
for the second time. He held it gently for a moment. Every day since
they had parted she had been in his thoughts; she had become dearer to
him than ever. He was too deeply affected to trust himself to answer.
That silence pleaded for him as nothing had pleaded for him yet. In
her secret self she remembered with wonder how she had received his
confession in the school garden. It was a little hard on him, surely, to
have forbidden him even to hope.

Conscious of her own weakness--even while giving way to it--she felt the
necessity of turning his attention from herself. In some confusion, she
pointed to a chair at her side, and spoke of his first visit, when he
had left her letters at the door. Having confided to him all that she
had discovered, and all that she had guessed, on that occasion, it
was by an easy transition that she alluded next to the motive for his
journey to the North.

"I thought it might be suspicion of Mrs. Rook," she said. "Was I
mistaken?"

"No; you were right."

"They were serious suspicions, I suppose?"

"Certainly! I should not otherwise have devoted my holiday-time to
clearing them up."

"May I know what they were?"

"I am sorry to disappoint you," he began.

"But you would rather not answer my question," she interposed.

"I would rather hear you tell me if you have made any other guess."

"One more, Mr. Morris. I guessed that you had become acquainted with Sir
Jervis Redwood."

"For the second time, Miss Emily, you have arrived at a sound
conclusion. My one hope of finding opportunities for observing Sir
Jervis's housekeeper depended on my chance of gaining admission to Sir
Jervis's house."

"How did you succeed? Perhaps you provided yourself with a letter of
introduction?"

"I knew nobody who could introduce me," Alban replied. "As the event
proved, a letter would have been needless. Sir Jervis introduced
himself--and, more wonderful still, he invited me to his house at our
first interview."

"Sir Jervis introduced himself?" Emily repeated, in amazement. "From
Cecilia's description of him, I should have thought he was the last
person in the world to do that!"

Alban smiled. "And you would like to know how it happened?" he
suggested.

"The very favor I was going to ask of you," she replied.

Instead of at once complying with her wishes, he paused--hesitated--and
made a strange request. "Will you forgive my rudeness, if I ask leave to
walk up and down the room while I talk? I am a restless man. Walking up
and down helps me to express myself freely."

Her f ace brightened for the first time. "How like You that is!" she
exclaimed.

Alban looked at her with surprise and delight. She had betrayed an
interest in studying his character, which he appreciated at its full
value. "I should never have dared to hope," he said, "that you knew me
so well already."

"You are forgetting your story," she reminded him.

He moved to the opposite side of the room, where there were fewer
impediments in the shape of furniture. With his head down, and his hands
crossed behind him, he paced to and fro. Habit made him express himself
in his usual quaint way--but he became embarrassed as he went on. Was he
disturbed by his recollections? or by the fear of taking Emily into his
confidence too freely?

"Different people have different ways of telling a story," he said.
"Mine is the methodical way--I begin at the beginning. We will start, if
you please, in the railway--we will proceed in a one-horse chaise--and
we will stop at a village, situated in a hole. It was the nearest place
to Sir Jervis's house, and it was therefore my destination. I picked out
the biggest of the cottages--I mean the huts--and asked the woman at
the door if she had a bed to let. She evidently thought me either mad
or drunk. I wasted no time in persuasion; the right person to plead my
cause was asleep in her arms. I began by admiring the baby; and I ended
by taking the baby's portrait. From that moment I became a member of the
family--the member who had his own way. Besides the room occupied by
the husband and wife, there was a sort of kennel in which the husband's
brother slept. He was dismissed (with five shillings of mine to comfort
him) to find shelter somewhere else; and I was promoted to the vacant
place. It is my misfortune to be tall. When I went to bed, I slept with
my head on the pillow, and my feet out of the window. Very cool and
pleasant in summer weather. The next morning, I set my trap for Sir
Jervis."

"Your trap?" Emily repeated, wondering what he meant.

"I went out to sketch from Nature," Alban continued. "Can anybody (with
or without a title, I don't care), living in a lonely country house, see
a stranger hard at work with a color-box and brushes, and not stop to
look at what he is doing? Three days passed, and nothing happened. I was
quite patient; the grand open country all round me offered lessons of
inestimable value in what we call aerial perspective. On the fourth
day, I was absorbed over the hardest of all hard tasks in landscape
art, studying the clouds straight from Nature. The magnificent moorland
silence was suddenly profaned by a man's voice, speaking (or rather
croaking) behind me. 'The worst curse of human life,' the voice said,
'is the detestable necessity of taking exercise. I hate losing my time;
I hate fine scenery; I hate fresh air; I hate a pony. Go on, you brute!'
Being too deeply engaged with the clouds to look round, I had supposed
this pretty speech to be addressed to some second person. Nothing of the
sort; the croaking voice had a habit of speaking to itself. In a minute
more, there came within my range of view a solitary old man, mounted on
a rough pony."

"Was it Sir Jervis?"

Alban hesitated.

"It looked more like the popular notion of the devil," he said.

"Oh, Mr. Morris!"

"I give you my first impression, Miss Emily, for what it is worth. He
had his high-peaked hat in his hand, to keep his head cool. His wiry
iron-gray hair looked like hair standing on end; his bushy eyebrows
curled upward toward his narrow temples; his horrid old globular eyes
stared with a wicked brightness; his pointed beard hid his chin; he
was covered from his throat to his ankles in a loose black garment,
something between a coat and a cloak; and, to complete him, he had a
club foot. I don't doubt that Sir Jervis Redwood is the earthly alias
which he finds convenient--but I stick to that first impression which
appeared to surprise you. 'Ha! an artist; you seem to be the sort of man
I want!' In those terms he introduced himself. Observe, if you please,
that my trap caught him the moment he came my way. Who wouldn't be an
artist?"

"Did he take a liking to you?" Emily inquired.

"Not he! I don't believe he ever took a liking to anybody in his life."

"Then how did you get your invitation to his house?"

"That's the amusing part of it, Miss Emily. Give me a little breathing
time, and you shall hear."



CHAPTER XXIII. MISS REDWOOD.

"I got invited to Sir Jervis's house," Alban resumed, "by treating the
old savage as unceremoniously as he had treated me. 'That's an idle
trade of yours,' he said, looking at my sketch. 'Other ignorant people
have made the same remark,' I answered. He rode away, as if he was not
used to be spoken to in that manner, and then thought better of it, and
came back. 'Do you understand wood engraving?' he asked. 'Yes.'
'And etching?' 'I have practiced etching myself.' 'Are you a Royal
Academician?' 'I'm a drawing-master at a ladies' school.' 'Whose
school?' 'Miss Ladd's.' 'Damn it, you know the girl who ought to have
been my secretary.' I am not quite sure whether you will take it as a
compliment--Sir Jervis appeared to view you in the light of a reference
to my respectability. At any rate, he went on with his questions. 'How
long do you stop in these parts?' 'I haven't made up my mind.' 'Look
here; I want to consult you--are you listening?' 'No; I'm sketching.' He
burst into a horrid scream. I asked if he felt himself taken ill. 'Ill?'
he said--'I'm laughing.' It was a diabolical laugh, in one syllable--not
'ha! ha! ha!' only 'ha!'--and it made him look wonderfully like that
eminent person, whom I persist in thinking he resembles. 'You're an
impudent dog,' he said; 'where are you living?' He was so delighted when
he heard of my uncomfortable position in the kennel-bedroom, that
he offered his hospitality on the spot. 'I can't go to you in such a
pigstye as that,' he said; 'you must come to me. What's your name?'
'Alban Morris; what's yours?' 'Jervis Redwood. Pack up your traps when
you've done your job, and come and try my kennel. There it is, in a
corner of your drawing, and devilish like, too.' I packed up my traps,
and I tried his kennel. And now you have had enough of Sir Jervis
Redwood."

"Not half enough!" Emily answered. "Your story leaves off just at the
interesting moment. I want you to take me to Sir Jervis's house."

"And I want you, Miss Emily, to take me to the British Museum. Don't let
me startle you! When I called here earlier in the day, I was told that
you had gone to the reading-room. Is your reading a secret?"

His manner, when he made that reply, suggested to Emily that there was
some foregone conclusion in his mind, which he was putting to the test.
She answered without alluding to the impression which he had produced on
her.

"My reading is no secret. I am only consulting old newspapers."

He repeated the last words to himself. "Old newspapers?" he said--as if
he was not quite sure of having rightly understood her.

She tried to help him by a more definite reply.

"I am looking through old newspapers," she resumed, "beginning with the
year eighteen hundred and seventy-six."

"And going back from that time," he asked eagerly; "to earlier dates
still?"

"No--just the contrary--advancing from 'seventy-six' to the present
time."

He suddenly turned pale--and tried to hide his face from her by looking
out of the window. For a moment, his agitation deprived him of his
presence of mind. In that moment, she saw that she had alarmed him.

"What have I said to frighten you?" she asked.

He tried to assume a tone of commonplace gallantry. "There are limits
even to your power over me," he replied. "Whatever else you may do, you
can never frighten me. Are you searching those old newspapers with any
particular object in view?"

"Yes."

"May I know what it is?"

"May I know why I frightened you?"

He began to walk up and down the room again--then checked himself
abruptly, and appealed to her mercy.

"Don't be hard on me," he pleaded. "I am so fond of you--oh, forgive me!
I only mean that it distresses me to have any concealments from you. If
I could open my whole heart at this moment, I should be a happier man."

She understood him and believed him. "My curiosity shall never embarrass
you again," she answered warmly. "I won't even remember that I wanted to
hear how you got on in Sir Jervis's house."

His gratitude seized the opportunity of taking her harmlessly into his
confidence. "As Sir Jervis's guest," he said, "my experience is at your
service. Only tell me how I can interest you."

She replied, with some hesitation, "I should like to know what happened
when you first saw Mrs. Rook." To her surprise and relief, he at once
complied with her wishes.

"We met," he said, "on the evening when I first entered the house. Sir
Jervis took me into the dining-room--and there sat Miss Redwood, with
a large black cat on her lap. Older than her brother, taller than her
brother, leaner than her brother--with strange stony eyes, and a skin
like parchment--she looked (if I may speak in contradictions) like
a living corpse. I was presented, and the corpse revived. The last
lingering relics of former good breeding showed themselves faintly in
her brow and in her smile. You will hear more of Miss Redwood presently.
In the meanwhile, Sir Jervis made me reward his hospitality by
professional advice. He wished me to decide whether the artists whom
he had employed to illustrate his wonderful book had cheated him by
overcharges and bad work--and Mrs. Rook was sent to fetch the engravings
from his study upstairs. You remember her petrified appearance, when she
first read the inscription on your locket? The same result followed when
she found herself face to face with me. I saluted her civilly--she was
deaf and blind to my politeness. Her master snatched the illustrations
out of her hand, and told her to leave the room. She stood stockstill,
staring helplessly. Sir Jervis looked round at his sister; and I
followed his example. Miss Redwood was observing the housekeeper too
attentively to notice anything else; her brother was obliged to speak
to her. 'Try Rook with the bell,' he said. Miss Redwood took a fine old
bronze hand-bell from the table at her side, and rang it. At the shrill
silvery sound of the bell, Mrs. Rook put her hand to her head as if the
ringing had hurt her--turned instantly, and left us. 'Nobody can manage
Rook but my sister,' Sir Jervis explained; 'Rook is crazy.' Miss Redwood
differed with him. 'No!' she said. Only one word, but there were volumes
of contradiction in it. Sir Jervis looked at me slyly; meaning, perhaps,
that he thought his sister crazy too. The dinner was brought in at the
same moment, and my attention was diverted to Mrs. Rook's husband."

"What was he like?" Emily asked.

"I really can't tell you; he was one of those essentially commonplace
persons, whom one never looks at a second time. His dress was shabby,
his head was bald, and his hands shook when he waited on us at
table--and that is all I remember. Sir Jervis and I feasted on salt
fish, mutton, and beer. Miss Redwood had cold broth, with a wine-glass
full of rum poured into it by Mr. Rook. 'She's got no stomach,' her
brother informed me; 'hot things come up again ten minutes after they
have gone down her throat; she lives on that beastly mixture, and calls
it broth-grog!' Miss Redwood sipped her elixir of life, and occasionally
looked at me with an appearance of interest which I was at a loss to
understand. Dinner being over, she rang her antique bell. The shabby old
man-servant answered her call. 'Where's your wife?' she inquired. 'Ill,
miss.' She took Mr. Rook's arm to go out, and stopped as she passed me.
'Come to my room, if you please, sir, to-morrow at two o'clock,' she
said. Sir Jervis explained again: 'She's all to pieces in the morning'
(he invariably called his sister 'She'); 'and gets patched up toward the
middle of the day. Death has forgotten her, that's about the truth of
it.' He lighted his pipe and pondered over the hieroglyphics found among
the ruined cities of Yucatan; I lighted my pipe, and read the only book
I could find in the dining-room--a dreadful record of shipwrecks and
disasters at sea. When the room was full of tobacco-smoke we fell asleep
in our chairs--and when we awoke again we got up and went to bed. There
is the true story of my first evening at Redwood Hall."

Emily begged him to go on. "You have interested me in Miss Redwood," she
said. "You kept your appointment, of course?"

"I kept my appointment in no very pleasant humor. Encouraged by my
favorable report of the illustrations which he had submitted to
my judgment, Sir Jervis proposed to make me useful to him in a new
capacity. 'You have nothing particular to do,' he said, 'suppose you
clean my pictures?' I gave him one of my black looks, and made no other
reply. My interview with his sister tried my powers of self-command in
another way. Miss Redwood declared her purpose in sending for me the
moment I entered the room. Without any preliminary remarks--speaking
slowly and emphatically, in a wonderfully strong voice for a woman of
her age--she said, 'I have a favor to ask of you, sir. I want you to
tell me what Mrs. Rook has done.' I was so staggered that I stared at
her like a fool. She went on: 'I suspected Mrs. Rook, sir, of having
guilty remembrances on her conscience before she had been a week in
our service.' Can you imagine my astonishment when I heard that Miss
Redwood's view of Mrs. Rook was my view? Finding that I still said
nothing, the old lady entered into details: 'We arranged, sir,' (she
persisted in calling me 'sir,' with the formal politeness of the old
school)--'we arranged, sir, that Mrs. Rook and her husband should occupy
the bedroom next to mine, so that I might have her near me in case of
my being taken ill in the night. She looked at the door between the two
rooms--suspicious! She asked if there was any objection to her changing
to another room--suspicious! suspicious! Pray take a seat, sir, and tell
me which Mrs. Rook is guilty of--theft or murder?'"

"What a dreadful old woman!" Emily exclaimed. "How did you answer her?"

"I told her, with perfect truth, that I knew nothing of Mrs. Rook's
secrets. Miss Redwood's humor took a satirical turn. 'Allow me to ask,
sir, whether your eyes were shut, when our housekeeper found herself
unexpectedly in your presence?' I referred the old lady to her brother's
opinion. 'Sir Jervis believes Mrs. Rook to be crazy,' I reminded her.
'Do you refuse to trust me, sir?' 'I have no information to give you,
madam.' She waved her skinny old hand in the direction of the door.
I made my bow, and retired. She called me back. 'Old women used to
be prophets, sir, in the bygone time,' she said. 'I will venture on a
prediction. You will be the means of depriving us of the services of
Mr. and Mrs. Rook. If you will be so good as to stay here a day or two
longer you will hear that those two people have given us notice to
quit. It will be her doing, mind--he is a mere cypher. I wish you
good-morning.' Will you believe me, when I tell you that the prophecy
was fulfilled?"

"Do you mean that they actually left the house?"

"They would certainly have left the house," Alban answered, "if Sir
Jervis had not insisted on receiving the customary month's warning. He
asserted his resolution by locking up the old husband in the pantry. His
sister's suspicions never entered his head; the housekeeper's conduct
(he said) simply proved that she was, what he had always considered
her to be, crazy. 'A capital servant, in spite of that drawback,' he
remarked; 'and you will see, I shall bring her to her senses.' The
impression produced on me was naturally of a very different kind.
While I was still uncertain how to entrap Mrs. Rook into confirming my
suspicions, she herself had saved me the trouble. She had placed her own
guilty interpretation on my appearance in the house--I had driven her
away!"

Emily remained true to her resolution not to let her curiosity embarrass
Alban again. But the unexpressed question was in her thoughts--"Of what
guilt does he suspect Mrs. Rook? And, when he first felt his suspicions,
was my father in his mind?"

Alban proceeded.

"I had only to consider next, whether I could hope to make any further
discoveries, if I continued to be Sir Jervis's guest. The object of
my journey had been gained; and I had no desire to be employed as
picture-cleaner. Miss Redwood assisted me in arriving at a decision.
I was sent for to speak to her again. The success of her prophecy had
raised her spirits. She asked, with ironical humility, if I proposed to
honor them by still remaining their guest, after the disturbance that I
had provoked. I answered that I proposed to leave by the first train the
next morning. 'Will it be convenient for you to travel to some place at
a good distance from this part of the world?' she asked. I had my own
reasons for going to London, and said so. 'Will you mention that to my
brother this evening, just before we sit down to dinner?' she continued.
'And will you tell him plainly that you have no intention of returning
to the North? I shall make use of Mrs. Rook's arm, as usual, to help me
downstairs--and I will take care that she hears what you say. Without
venturing on another prophecy, I will only hint to you that I have my
own idea of what will happen; and I should like you to see for yourself,
sir, whether my anticipations are realized.' Need I tell you that this
strange old woman proved to be right once more? Mr. Rook was released;
Mrs. Rook made humble apologies, and laid the whole blame on her
husband's temper: and Sir Jervis bade me remark that his method had
succeeded in bringing the housekeeper to her senses. Such were
the results produced by the announcement of my departure for
London--purposely made in Mrs. Rook's hearing. Do you agree with me,
that my journey to Northumberland has not been taken in vain?"

Once more, Emily felt the necessity of controlling herself.

Alban had said that he had "reasons of his own for going to London."
Could she venture to ask him what those reasons were? She could only
persist in restraining her curiosity, and conclude that he would have
mentioned his motive, if it had been (as she had at one time supposed)
connected with herself. It was a wise decision. No earthly consideration
would have induced Alban to answer her, if she had put the question to
him.

All doubt of the correctness of his own first impression was now at an
end; he was convinced that Mrs. Rook had been an accomplice in the
crime committed, in 1877, at the village inn. His object in traveling
to London was to consult the newspaper narrative of the murder. He, too,
had been one of the readers at the Museum--had examined the back numbers
of the newspaper--and had arrived at the conclusion that Emily's father
had been the victim of the crime. Unless he found means to prevent it,
her course of reading would take her from the year 1876 to the year
1877, and under that date, she would see the fatal report, heading the
top of a column, and printed in conspicuous type.

In the meanwhile Emily had broken the silence, before it could lead to
embarrassing results, by asking if Alban had seen Mrs. Rook again, on
the morning when he left Sir Jervis's house.

"There was nothing to be gained by seeing her," Alban replied. "Now that
she and her husband had decided to remain at Redwood Hall, I knew where
to find her in case of necessity. As it happened I saw nobody, on the
morning of my departure, but Sir Jervis himself. He still held to his
idea of having his pictures cleaned for nothing. 'If you can't do it
yourself,' he said, 'couldn't you teach my secretary?' He described the
lady whom he had engaged in your place as a 'nasty middle-aged woman
with a perpetual cold in her head.' At the same time (he remarked) he
was a friend to the women, 'because he got them cheap.' I declined to
teach the unfortunate secretary the art of picture-cleaning. Finding me
determined, Sir Jervis was quite ready to say good-by. But he made use
of me to the last. He employed me as postman and saved a stamp. The
letter addressed to you arrived at breakfast-time. Sir Jervis said, 'You
are going to London; suppose you take it with you?'"

"Did he tell you that there was a letter of his own inclosed in the
envelope?"

"No. When he gave me the envelope it was already sealed."

Emily at once handed to him Sir Jervis's letter. "That will tell you who
employs me at the Museum, and what my work is," she said.

He looked through the letter, and at once offered--eagerly offered--to
help her.

"I have been a student in the reading-room at intervals, for years
past," he said. "Let me assist you, and I shall have something to do in
my holiday time." He was so anxious to be of use that he interrupted her
before she could thank him. "Let us take alternate years," he suggested.
"Did you not tell me you were searching the newspapers published in
eighteen hundred and seventy-six?"

"Yes."

"Very well. I will take the next year. You will take the year after. And
so on."

"You are very kind," she answered--"but I should like to propose an
improvement on your plan."

"What improvement?" he asked, rather sharply.

"If you will leave the five years, from 'seventy-six to 'eighty-one,
entirely to me," she resumed, "and take the next five years, reckoning
_backward_ from 'seventy-six, you will help me to better purpose. Sir
Jervis expects me to look for reports of Central American Explorations,
through the newspapers of the last forty years; and I have taken the
liberty of limiting the heavy task imposed on me. When I report my
progress to my employer, I should like to say that I have got through
ten years of the examination, instead of five. Do you see any objection
to the arrangement I propose?"

He proved to be obstinate--incomprehensibly obstinate.

"Let us try my plan to begin with," he insisted. "While you are looking
through 'seventy-six, let me be at work on 'seventy-seven. If you still
prefer your own arrangement, after that, I will follow your suggestion
with pleasure. Is it agreed?"

Her acute perception--enlightened by his tone as wall as by his
words--detected something under the surface already.

"It isn't agreed until I understand you a little better," she quietly
replied. "I fancy you have some object of your own in view."

She spoke with her usual directness of look and manner. He was evidently
disconcerted. "What makes you think so?" he asked.

"My own experience of myself makes me think so," she answered. "If _I_
had some object to gain, I should persist in carrying it out--like you."

"Does that mean, Miss Emily, that you refuse to give way?"

"No, Mr. Morris. I have made myself disagreeable, but I know when to
stop. I trust you--and submit."

If he had been less deeply interested in the accomplishment of his
merciful design, he might have viewed Emily's sudden submission with
some distrust. As it was, his eagerness to prevent her from discovering
the narrative of the murder hurried him into an act of indiscretion.
He made an excuse to leave her immediately, in the fear that she might
change her mind.

"I have inexcusably prolonged my visit," he said. "If I presume on your
kindness in this way, how can I hope that you will receive me again? We
meet to-morrow in the reading-room."

He hastened away, as if he was afraid to let her say a word in reply.

Emily reflected.

"Is there something he doesn't want me to see, in the news of the year
'seventy-seven?" The one explanation which suggested itself to her mind
assumed that form of expression--and the one method of satisfying her
curiosity that seemed likely to succeed, was to search the volume which
Alban had reserved for his own reading.

For two days they pursued their task together, seated at opposite desks.
On the third day Emily was absent.

Was she ill?

She was at the library in the City, consulting the file of _The Times_
for the year 1877.



CHAPTER XXIV. MR. ROOK.

Emily's first day in the City library proved to be a day wasted.

She began reading the back numbers of the newspaper at haphazard,
without any definite idea of what she was looking for. Conscious of the
error into which her own impatience had led her, she was at a loss
how to retrace the false step that she had taken. But two alternatives
presented themselves: either to abandon the hope of making any
discovery--or to attempt to penetrate Alban 's motives by means of pure
guesswork, pursued in the dark.

How was the problem to be solved? This serious question troubled her all
through the evening, and kept her awake when she went to bed. In despair
of her capacity to remove the obstacle that stood in her way, she
decided on resuming her regular work at the Museum--turned her pillow to
get at the cool side of it--and made up her mind to go asleep.

In the case of the wiser animals, the Person submits to Sleep. It is
only the superior human being who tries the hopeless experiment of
making Sleep submit to the Person. Wakeful on the warm side of the
pillow, Emily remained wakeful on the cool side--thinking again and
again of the interview with Alban which had ended so strangely.

Little by little, her mind passed the limits which had restrained it
thus far. Alban's conduct in keeping his secret, in the matter of
the newspapers, now began to associate itself with Alban's conduct in
keeping that other secret, which concealed from her his suspicions of
Mrs. Rook.

She started up in bed as the next possibility occurred to her.

In speaking of the disaster which had compelled Mr. and Mrs. Rook to
close the inn, Cecilia had alluded to an inquest held on the body of the
murdered man. Had the inquest been mentioned in the newspapers, at the
time? And had Alban seen something in the report, which concerned Mrs.
Rook?

Led by the new light that had fallen on her, Emily returned to the
library the next morning with a definite idea of what she had to look
for. Incapable of giving exact dates, Cecilia had informed her that the
crime was committed "in the autumn." The month to choose, in beginning
her examination, was therefore the month of August.

No discovery rewarded her. She tried September, next--with the same
unsatisfactory results. On Monday the first of October she met with some
encouragement at last. At the top of a column appeared a telegraphic
summary of all that was then known of the crime. In the number for the
Wednesday following, she found a full report of the proceedings at the
inquest.

Passing over the preliminary remarks, Emily read the evidence with the
closest attention.

                     -------------

The jury having viewed the body, and having visited an outhouse in which
the murder had been committed, the first witness called was Mr. Benjamin
Rook, landlord of the Hand-in-Hand inn.

On the evening of Sunday, September 30th, 1877, two gentlemen presented
themselves at Mr. Rook's house, under circumstances which especially
excited his attention.

The youngest of the two was short, and of fair complexion. He carried a
knapsack, like a gentleman on a pedestrian excursion; his manners were
pleasant; and he was decidedly good-looking. His companion, older,
taller, and darker--and a finer man altogether--leaned on his arm and
seemed to be exhausted. In every respect they were singularly unlike
each other. The younger stranger (excepting little half-whiskers) was
clean shaved. The elder wore his whole beard. Not knowing their names,
the landlord distinguished them, at the coroner's suggestion, as the
fair gentleman, and the dark gentleman.

It was raining when the two arrived at the inn. There were signs in the
heavens of a stormy night.

On accosting the landlord, the fair gentleman volunteered the following
statement:

Approaching the village, he had been startled by seeing the dark
gentleman (a total stranger to him) stretched prostrate on the grass at
the roadside--so far as he could judge, in a swoon. Having a flask with
brandy in it, he revived the fainting man, and led him to the inn.

This statement was confirmed by a laborer, who was on his way to the
village at the time.

The dark gentleman endeavored to explain what had happened to him. He
had, as he supposed, allowed too long a time to pass (after an early
breakfast that morning), without taking food: he could only attribute
the fainting fit to that cause. He was not liable to fainting fits. What
purpose (if any) had brought him into the neighborhood of Zeeland, he
did not state. He had no intention of remaining at the inn, except for
refreshment; and he asked for a carriage to take him to the railway
station.

The fair gentleman, seeing the signs of bad weather, desired to remain
in Mr. Rook's house for the night, and proposed to resume his walking
tour the next day.

Excepting the case of supper, which could be easily provided, the
landlord had no choice but to disappoint both his guests. In his small
way of business, none of his customers wanted to hire a carriage--even
if he could have afforded to keep one. As for beds, the few rooms which
the inn contained were all engaged; including even the room occupied by
himself and his wife. An exhibition of agricultural implements had
been opened in the neighborhood, only two days since; and a public
competition between rival machines was to be decided on the coming
Monday. Not only was the Hand-in-Hand inn crowded, but even the
accommodation offered by the nearest town had proved barely sufficient
to meet the public demand.

The gentlemen looked at each other and agreed that there was no help for
it but to hurry the supper, and walk to the railway station--a distance
of between five and six miles--in time to catch the last train.

While the meal was being prepared, the rain held off for a while. The
dark man asked his way to the post-office and went out by himself.

He came back in about ten minutes, and sat down afterward to supper with
his companion. Neither the landlord, nor any other person in the public
room, noticed any change in him on his return. He was a grave, quiet
sort of person, and (unlike the other one) not much of a talker.

As the darkness came on, the rain fell again heavily; and the heavens
were black.

A flash of lightning startled the gentlemen when they went to the window
to look out: the thunderstorm began. It was simply impossible that
two strangers to the neighborhood could find their way to the station,
through storm and darkness, in time to catch the train. With or without
bedrooms, they must remain at the inn for the night. Having already
given up their own room to their lodgers, the landlord and landlady had
no other place to sleep in than the kitchen. Next to the kitchen, and
communicating with it by a door, was an outhouse; used, partly as a
scullery, partly as a lumber-room. There was an old truckle-bed among
the lumber, on which one of the gentlemen might rest. A mattress on the
floor could be provided for the other. After adding a table and a basin,
for the purposes of the toilet, the accommodation which Mr. Rook was
able to offer came to an end.

The travelers agreed to occupy this makeshift bed-chamber.

The thunderstorm passed away; but the rain continued to fall heavily.
Soon after eleven the guests at the inn retired for the night. There was
some little discussion between the two travelers, as to which of them
should take possession of the truckle-bed. It was put an end to by the
fair gentleman, in his own pleasant way. He proposed to "toss up
for it"--and he lost. The dark gentleman went to bed first; the fair
gentleman followed, after waiting a while. Mr. Rook took his knapsack
into the outhouse; and arranged on the table his appliances for the
toilet--contained in a leather roll, and including a razor--ready for
use in the morning.

Having previously barred the second door of the outhouse, which led into
the yard, Mr. Rook fastened the other door, the lock and bolts of which
were on the side of the kitchen. He then secured the house door, and the
shutters over the lower windows. Returning to the kitchen, he noticed
that the time was ten minutes short of midnight. Soon afterward, he and
his wife went to bed.

Nothing happened to disturb Mr. and Mrs. Rook during the night.

At a quarter to seven the next morning, he got up; his wife being still
asleep. He had been instructed to wake the gentlemen early; and he
knocked at their door. Receiving no answer, after repeatedly knocking,
he opened the door and stepped into the outhouse.

At this point in his evidence, the witness's recollections appeared to
overpower him. "Give me a moment, gentlemen," he said to the jury. "I
have had a dreadful fright; and I don't believe I shall get over it for
the rest of my life."

The coroner helped him by a question: "What did you see when you opened
the door?"

Mr. Rook answered: "I saw the dark man stretched out on his bed--dead,
with a frightful wound in his throat. I saw an open razor, stained with
smears of blood, at his side."

"Did you notice the door, leading into the yard?"

"It was wide open, sir. When I was able to look round me, the other
traveler--I mean the man with the fair complexion, who carried the
knapsack--was nowhere to be seen."

"What did you do, after making these discoveries?"

"I closed the yard door. Then I locked the other door, and put the
key in my pocket. After that I roused the servant, and sent him to the
constable--who lived near to us--while I ran for the doctor, whose
house was at the other end of our village. The doctor sent his groom, on
horseback, to the police-office in the town. When I returned to the
inn, the constable was there--and he and the police took the matter into
their own hands."

"You have nothing more to tell us?"

"Nothing more."



CHAPTER XXV. "J. B."

Mr. Rook having completed his evidence, the police authorities were the
next witnesses examined.

They had not found the slightest trace of any attempt to break into
the house in the night. The murdered man's gold watch and chain were
discovered under his pillow. On examining his clothes the money was
found in his purse, and the gold studs and sleeve buttons were left in
his shirt. But his pocketbook (seen by witnesses who had not yet been
examined) was missing. The search for visiting cards and letters had
proved to be fruitless. Only the initials, "J. B.," were marked on his
linen. He had brought no luggage with him to the inn. Nothing could be
found which led to the discovery of his name or of the purpose which had
taken him into that part of the country.

The police examined the outhouse next, in search of circumstantial
evidence against the missing man.

He must have carried away his knapsack, when he took to flight, but
he had been (probably) in too great a hurry to look for his razor--or
perhaps too terrified to touch it, if it had attracted his notice. The
leather roll, and the other articles used for his toilet, had been
taken away. Mr. Rook identified the blood-stained razor. He had noticed
overnight the name of the Belgian city, "Liege," engraved on it.

The yard was the next place inspected. Foot-steps were found on the
muddy earth up to the wall. But the road on the other side had been
recently mended with stones, and the trace of the fugitive was lost.
Casts had been taken of the footsteps; and no other means of discovery
had been left untried. The authorities in London had also been
communicated with by telegraph.

The doctor being called, described a personal peculiarity, which he
had noticed at the post-mortem examination, and which might lead to the
identification of the murdered man.

As to the cause of death, the witness said it could be stated in
two words. The internal jugular vein had been cut through, with such
violence, judging by the appearances, that the wound could not have been
inflicted, in the act of suicide, by the hand of the deceased person. No
other injuries, and no sign of disease, was found on the body. The one
cause of death had been Hemorrhage; and the one peculiarity which called
for notice had been discovered in the mouth. Two of the front teeth, in
the upper jaw, were false. They had been so admirably made to resemble
the natural teeth on either side of them, in form and color, that the
witness had only hit on the discovery by accidentally touching the inner
side of the gum with one of his fingers.

The landlady was examined, when the doctor had retired. Mrs. Rook was
able, in answering questions put to her, to give important information,
in reference to the missing pocketbook.

Before retiring to rest, the two gentlemen had paid the bill--intending
to leave the inn the first thing in the morning. The traveler with the
knapsack paid his share in money. The other unfortunate gentleman looked
into his purse, and found only a shilling and a sixpence in it. He asked
Mrs. Rook if she could change a bank-note. She told him it could be
done, provided the note was for no considerable sum of money. Upon that
he opened his pocketbook (which the witness described minutely) and
turned out the contents on the table. After searching among many Bank
of England notes, some in one pocket of the book and some in another, he
found a note of the value of five pounds. He thereupon settled his bill,
and received the change from Mrs. Rook--her husband being in another
part of the room, attending to the guests. She noticed a letter in an
envelope, and a few cards which looked (to her judgment) like visiting
cards, among the bank-notes which he had turned out on the table. When
she returned to him with the change, he had just put them back, and
was closing the pocketbook. She saw him place it in one of the breast
pockets of his coat.

The fellow-traveler who had accompanied him to the inn was present all
the time, sitting on the opposite side of the table. He made a remark
when he saw the notes produced. He said, "Put all that money back--don't
tempt a poor man like me!" It was said laughing, as if by way of a joke.

Mrs. Rook had observed nothing more that night; had slept as soundly as
usual; and had been awakened when her husband knocked at the outhouse
door, according to instructions received from the gentlemen, overnight.

Three of the guests in the public room corroborated Mrs. Rook's
evidence. They were respectable persons, well and widely known in that
part of Hampshire. Besides these, there were two strangers staying
in the house. They referred the coroner to their employers--eminent
manufacturers at Sheffield and Wolverhampton--whose testimony spoke for
itself.

The last witness called was a grocer in the village, who kept the
post-office.

On the evening of the 30th, a dark gentleman, wearing his beard, knocked
at the door, and asked for a letter addressed to "J. B., Post-office,
Zeeland." The letter had arrived by that morning's post; but, being
Sunday evening, the grocer requested that application might be made for
it the next morning. The stranger said the letter contained news, which
it was of importance to him to receive without delay. Upon this, the
grocer made an exception to customary rules and gave him the letter.
He read it by the light of the lamp in the passage. It must have been
short, for the reading was done in a moment. He seemed to think over it
for a while; and then he turned round to go out. There was nothing to
notice in his look or in his manner. The witness offered a remark on the
weather; and the gentleman said, "Yes, it looks like a bad night"--and
so went away.

The postmaster's evidence was of importance in one respect: it suggested
the motive which had brought the deceased to Zeeland. The letter
addressed to "J. B." was, in all probability, the letter seen by Mrs.
Rook among the contents of the pocketbook, spread out on the table.

The inquiry being, so far, at an end, the inquest was adjourned--on the
chance of obtaining additional evidence, when the reported proceedings
were read by the public.

                    ........

Consulting a later number of the newspaper Emily discovered that the
deceased person had been identified by a witness from London.

Henry Forth, gentleman's valet, being examined, made the following
statement:

He had read the medical evidence contained in the report of the inquest;
and, believing that he could identify the deceased, had been sent by
his present master to assist the object of the inquiry. Ten days since,
being then out of place, he had answered an advertisement. The next day,
he was instructed to call at Tracey's Hotel, London, at six o'clock in
the evening, and to ask for Mr. James Brown. Arriving at the hotel he
saw the gentleman for a few minutes only. Mr. Brown had a friend with
him. After glancing over the valet's references, he said, "I haven't
time enough to speak to you this evening. Call here to-morrow morning
at nine o'clock." The gentleman who was present laughed, and said, "You
won't be up!" Mr. Brown answered, "That won't matter; the man can come
to my bedroom, and let me see how he understands his duties, on trial."
At nine the next morning, Mr. Brown was reported to be still in bed; and
the witness was informed of the number of the room. He knocked at the
door. A drowsy voice inside said something, which he interpreted as
meaning "Come in." He went in. The toilet-table was on his left hand,
and the bed (with the lower curtain drawn) was on his right. He saw on
the table a tumbler with a little water in it, and with two false
teeth in the water. Mr. Brown started up in bed--looked at him
furiously--abused him for daring to enter the room--and shouted to him
to "get out." The witness, not accustomed to be treated in that way,
felt naturally indignant, and at once withdrew--but not before he had
plainly seen the vacant place which the false teeth had been made to
fill. Perhaps Mr. Brown had forgotten that he had left his teeth on the
table. Or perhaps he (the valet) had misunderstood what had been said
to him when he knocked at the door. Either way, it seemed to be plain
enough that the gentleman resented the discovery of his false teeth by a
stranger.

Having concluded his statement the witness proceeded to identify the
remains of the deceased.

He at once recognized the gentleman named James Brown, whom he had
twice seen--once in the evening, and again the next morning--at Tracey's
Hotel. In answer to further inquiries, he declared that he knew nothing
of the family, or of the place of residence, of the deceased. He
complained to the proprietor of the hotel of the rude treatment that he
had received, and asked if Mr. Tracey knew anything of Mr. James Brown.
Mr. Tracey knew nothing of him. On consulting the hotel book it was
found that he had given notice to leave, that afternoon.

Before returning to London, the witness produced references which gave
him an excellent character. He also left the address of the master who
had engaged him three days since.

The last precaution adopted was to have the face of the corpse
photographed, before the coffin was closed. On the same day the jury
agreed on their verdict: "Willful murder against some person unknown."

                         ........


Two days later, Emily found a last allusion to the crime--extracted from
the columns of the _South Hampshire Gazette_.

A relative of the deceased, seeing the report of the adjourned inquest,
had appeared (accompanied by a medical gentleman); had seen the
photograph; and had declared the identification by Henry Forth to be
correct.

Among other particulars, now communicated for the first time, it was
stated that the late Mr. James Brown had been unreasonably sensitive on
the subject of his false teeth, and that the one member of his family
who knew of his wearing them was the relative who now claimed his
remains.

The claim having been established to the satisfaction of the
authorities, the corpse was removed by railroad the same day. No further
light had been thrown on the murder. The Handbill offering the reward,
and describing the suspected man, had failed to prove of any assistance
to the investigations of the police.

From that date, no further notice of the crime committed at the
Hand-in-Hand inn appeared in the public journals.

                         ........


Emily closed the volume which she had been consulting, and thankfully
acknowledged the services of the librarian.

The new reader had excited this gentleman's interest. Noticing how
carefully she examined the numbers of the old newspaper, he looked at
her, from time to time, wondering whether it was good news or bad of
which she was in search. She read steadily and continuously; but she
never rewarded his curiosity by any outward sign of the impression that
had been produced on her. When she left the room there was nothing to
remark in her manner; she looked quietly thoughtful--and that was all.

The librarian smiled--amused by his own folly. Because a stranger's
appearance had attracted him, he had taken it for granted that
circumstances of romantic interest must be connected with her visit to
the library. Far from misleading him, as he supposed, his fancy might
have been employed to better purpose, if it had taken a higher flight
still--and had associated Emily with the fateful gloom of tragedy, in
place of the brighter interest of romance.

There, among the ordinary readers of the day, was a dutiful and
affectionate daughter following the dreadful story of the death of
her father by murder, and believing it to be the story of a
stranger--because she loved and trusted the person whose short-sighted
mercy had deceived her. That very discovery, the dread of which had
shaken the good doctor's firm nerves, had forced Alban to exclude from
his confidence the woman whom he loved, and had driven the faithful
old servant from the bedside of her dying mistress--that very discovery
Emily had now made, with a face which never changed color, and a heart
which beat at ease. Was the deception that had won this cruel victory
over truth destined still to triumph in the days which were to come?
Yes--if the life of earth is a foretaste of the life of hell. No--if a
lie _is_ a lie, be the merciful motive for the falsehood what it may.
No--if all deceit contains in it the seed of retribution, to be ripened
inexorably in the lapse of time.



CHAPTER XXVI. MOTHER EVE.

The servant received Emily, on her return from the library, with a sly
smile. "Here he is again, miss, waiting to see you."

She opened the parlor door, and revealed Alban Morris, as restless as
ever, walking up and down the room.

"When I missed you at the Museum, I was afraid you might be ill," he
said. "Ought I to have gone away, when my anxiety was relieved? Shall I
go away now?"

"You must take a chair, Mr. Morris, and hear what I have to say for
myself. When you left me after your last visit, I suppose I felt the
force of example. At any rate I, like you, had my suspicions. I have
been trying to confirm them--and I have failed."

He paused, with the chair in his hand. "Suspicions of Me?" he asked.

"Certainly! Can you guess how I have been employed for the last two
days? No--not even your ingenuity can do that. I have been hard at work,
in another reading-room, consulting the same back numbers of the same
newspaper, which you have been examining at the British Museum. There is
my confession--and now we will have some tea."

She moved to the fireplace, to ring the bell, and failed to see the
effect produced on Alban by those lightly-uttered words. The common
phrase is the only phrase that can describe it. He was thunderstruck.

"Yes," she resumed, "I have read the report of the inquest. If I know
nothing else, I know that the murder at Zeeland can't be the discovery
which you are bent on keeping from me. Don't be alarmed for the
preservation of your secret! I am too much discouraged to try again."

The servant interrupted them by answering the bell; Alban once more
escaped detection. Emily gave her orders with an approach to the old
gayety of her school days. "Tea, as soon as possible--and let us have
the new cake. Are you too much of a man, Mr. Morris, to like cake?"

In this state of agitation, he was unreasonably irritated by that
playful question. "There is one thing I like better than cake," he said;
"and that one thing is a plain explanation."

His tone puzzled her. "Have I said anything to offend you?" she asked.
"Surely you can make allowance for a girl's curiosity? Oh, you shall
have your explanation--and, what is more, you shall have it without
reserve!"

She was as good as her word. What she had thought, and what she had
planned, when he left her after his last visit, was frankly and fully
told. "If you wonder how I discovered the library," she went on, "I must
refer you to my aunt's lawyer. He lives in the City--and I wrote to him
to help me. I don't consider that my time has been wasted. Mr. M orris,
we owe an apology to Mrs. Rook."

Alban's astonishment, when he heard this, forced its way to expression
in words. "What can you possibly mean?" he asked.

The tea was brought in before Emily could reply. She filled the cups,
and sighed as she looked at the cake. "If Cecilia was here, how she
would enjoy it!" With that complimentary tribute to her friend, she
handed a slice to Alban. He never even noticed it.

"We have both of us behaved most unkindly to Mrs. Rook," she resumed. "I
can excuse your not seeing it; for I should not have seen it either, but
for the newspaper. While I was reading, I had an opportunity of thinking
over what we said and did, when the poor woman's behavior so needlessly
offended us. I was too excited to think, at the time--and, besides, I
had been upset, only the night before, by what Miss Jethro said to me."

Alban started. "What has Miss Jethro to do with it?" he asked.

"Nothing at all," Emily answered. "She spoke to me of her own private
affairs. A long story--and you wouldn't be interested in it. Let me
finish what I had to say. Mrs. Rook was naturally reminded of the
murder, when she heard that my name was Brown; and she must certainly
have been struck--as I was--by the coincidence of my father's death
taking place at the same time when his unfortunate namesake was killed.
Doesn't this sufficiently account for her agitation when she looked at
the locket? We first took her by surprise: and then we suspected her of
Heaven knows what, because the poor creature didn't happen to have her
wits about her, and to remember at the right moment what a very common
name 'James Brown' is. Don't you see it as I do?"

"I see that you have arrived at a remarkable change of opinion, since we
spoke of the subject in the garden at school."

"In my place, you would have changed your opinion too. I shall write to
Mrs. Rook by tomorrow's post."

Alban heard her with dismay. "Pray be guided by my advice!" he said
earnestly. "Pray don't write that letter!"

"Why not?"

It was too late to recall the words which he had rashly allowed to
escape him. How could he reply?

To own that he had not only read what Emily had read, but had carefully
copied the whole narrative and considered it at his leisure, appeared
to be simply impossible after what he had now heard. Her peace of
mind depended absolutely on his discretion. In this serious emergency,
silence was a mercy, and silence was a lie. If he remained silent, might
the mercy be trusted to atone for the lie? He was too fond of Emily
to decide that question fairly, on its own merits. In other words, he
shrank from the terrible responsibility of telling her the truth.

"Isn't the imprudence of writing to such a person as Mrs. Rook plain
enough to speak for itself?" he suggested cautiously.

"Not to me."

She made that reply rather obstinately. Alban seemed (in her view) to be
trying to prevent her from atoning for an act of injustice. Besides,
he despised her cake. "I want to know why you object," she said; taking
back the neglected slice, and eating it herself.

"I object," Alban answered, "because Mrs. Rook is a coarse presuming
woman. She may pervert your letter to some use of her own, which you may
have reason to regret."

"Is that all?"

"Isn't it enough?"

"It may be enough for _you_. When I have done a person an injury, and
wish to make an apology, I don't think it necessary to inquire whether
the person's manners happen to be vulgar or not."

Alban's patience was still equal to any demands that she could make on
it. "I can only offer you advice which is honestly intended for your own
good," he gently replied.

"You would have more influence over me, Mr. Morris, if you were a little
readier to take me into your confidence. I daresay I am wrong--but I
don't like following advice which is given to me in the dark."

It was impossible to offend him. "Very naturally," he said; "I don't
blame you."

Her color deepened, and her voice rose. Alban's patient adherence to his
own view--so courteously and considerately urged--was beginning to try
her temper. "In plain words," she rejoined, "I am to believe that you
can't be mistaken in your judgment of another person."

There was a ring at the door of the cottage while she was speaking. But
she was too warmly interested in confuting Alban to notice it.

He was quite willing to be confuted. Even when she lost her temper,
she was still interesting to him. "I don't expect you to think me
infallible," he said. "Perhaps you will remember that I have had some
experience. I am unfortunately older than you are."

"Oh if wisdom comes with age," she smartly reminded him, "your friend
Miss Redwood is old enough to be your mother--and she suspected Mrs.
Rook of murder, because the poor woman looked at a door, and disliked
being in the next room to a fidgety old maid."

Alban's manner changed: he shrank from that chance allusion to doubts
and fears which he dare not acknowledge. "Let us talk of something
else," he said.

She looked at him with a saucy smile. "Have I driven you into a corner
at last? And is _that_ your way of getting out of it?"

Even his endurance failed. "Are you trying to provoke me?" he asked.
"Are you no better than other women? I wouldn't have believed it of you,
Emily."

"Emily?" She repeated the name in a tone of surprise, which reminded
him that he had addressed her with familiarity at a most inappropriate
time--the time when they were on the point of a quarrel. He felt the
implied reproach too keenly to be able to answer her with composure.

"I think of Emily--I love Emily--my one hope is that Emily may love me.
Oh, my dear, is there no excuse if I forget to call you 'Miss' when you
distress me?"

All that was tender and true in her nature secretly took his part. She
would have followed that better impulse, if he had only been calm enough
to understand her momentary silence, and to give her time. But the
temper of a gentle and generous man, once roused, is slow to subside.
Alban abruptly left his chair. "I had better go!" he said.

"As you please," she answered. "Whether you go, Mr. Morris, or whether
you stay, I shall write to Mrs. Rook."

The ring at the bell was followed by the appearance of a visitor. Doctor
Allday opened the door, just in time to hear Emily's last words. Her
vehemence seemed to amuse him.

"Who is Mrs. Rook?" he asked.

"A most respectable person," Emily answered indignantly; "housekeeper to
Sir Jervis Redwood. You needn't sneer at her, Doctor Allday! She has not
always been in service--she was landlady of the inn at Zeeland."

The doctor, about to put his hat on a chair, paused. The inn at Zeeland
reminded him of the Handbill, and of the visit of Miss Jethro.

"Why are you so hot over it?" he inquired

"Because I detest prejudice!" With this assertion of liberal feeling she
pointed to Alban, standing quietly apart at the further end of the room.
"There is the most prejudiced man living--he hates Mrs. Rook. Would you
like to be introduced to him? You're a philosopher; you may do him some
good. Doctor Allday--Mr. Alban Morris."

The doctor recognized the man, with the felt hat and the objectionable
beard, whose personal appearance had not impressed him favorably.

Although they may hesitate to acknowledge it, there are respectable
Englishmen still left, who regard a felt hat and a beard as symbols of
republican disaffection to the altar and the throne. Doctor Allday's
manner might have expressed this curious form of patriotic feeling, but
for the associations which Emily had revived. In his present frame of
mind, he was outwardly courteous, because he was inwardly suspicious.
Mrs. Rook had been described to him as formerly landlady of the inn at
Zeeland. Were there reasons for Mr. Morris's hostile feeling toward this
woman which might be referable to the crime committed in her house that
might threaten Emily's tranquillity if they were made known? It would
not be amiss to see a little more of Mr. Morris, on the first convenient
occasion.

"I am glad to make your acquaintance, sir."

"You are very kind, Doctor Allday."

The exchange of polite conventionalities having been accomplished, Alban
approached Emily to take his leave, with mingled feelings of regret and
anxiety--regret for having allowed himself to speak harshly; anxiety to
part with her in kindness.

"Will you forgive me for differing from you?" It was all he could
venture to say, in the presence of a stranger.

"Oh, yes!" she said quietly.

"Will you think again, before you decide?"

"Certainly, Mr. Morris. But it won't alter my opinion, if I do."

The doctor, hearing what passed between them, frowned. On what subject
had they been differing? And what opinion did Emily decline to alter?

Alban gave it up. He took her hand gently. "Shall I see you at the
Museum, to-morrow?" he asked.

She was politely indifferent to the last. "Yes--unless something happens
to keep me at home."

The doctor's eyebrows still expressed disapproval. For what object was
the meeting proposed? And why at a museum?

"Good-afternoon, Doctor Allday."

"Good-afternoon, sir."

For a moment after Alban's departure, the doctor stood irresolute.
Arriving suddenly at a decision, he snatched up his hat, and turned to
Emily in a hurry.

"I bring you news, my dear, which will surprise you. Who do you think
has just left my house? Mrs. Ellmother! Don't interrupt me. She has
made up her mind to go out to service again. Tired of leading an
idle life--that's her own account of it--and asks me to act as her
reference."

"Did you consent?"

"Consent! If I act as her reference, I shall be asked how she came
to leave her last place. A nice dilemma! Either I must own that she
deserted her mistress on her deathbed--or tell a lie. When I put it to
her in that way, she walked out of the house in dead silence. If she
applies to you next, receive her as I did--or decline to see her, which
would be better still."

"Why am I to decline to see her?"

"In consequence of her behavior to your aunt, to be sure! No: I have
said all I wanted to say--and I have no time to spare for answering idle
questions. Good-by."

Socially-speaking, doctors try the patience of their nearest and dearest
friends, in this respect--they are almost always in a hurry. Doctor
Allday's precipitate departure did not tend to soothe Emily's irritated
nerves. She began to find excuses for Mrs. Ellmother in a spirit of pure
contradiction. The old servant's behavior might admit of justification:
a friendly welcome might persuade her to explain herself. "If she
applies to me," Emily determined, "I shall certainly receive her."

Having arrived at this resolution, her mind reverted to Alban.

Some of the sharp things she had said to him, subjected to
after-reflection in solitude, failed to justify themselves. Her better
sense began to reproach her. She tried to silence that unwelcome monitor
by laying the blame on Alban. Why had he been so patient and so good?
What harm was there in his calling her "Emily"? If he had told her to
call _him_ by his Christian name, she might have done it. How noble he
looked, when he got up to go away; he was actually handsome! Women may
say what they please and write what they please: their natural instinct
is to find their master in a man--especially when they like him. Sinking
lower and lower in her own estimation, Emily tried to turn the current
of her thoughts in another direction. She took up a book--opened it,
looked into it, threw it across the room.

If Alban had returned at that moment, resolved on a reconciliation--if
he had said, "My dear, I want to see you like yourself again; will you
give me a kiss, and make it up"--would he have left her crying, when he
went away? She was crying now.



CHAPTER XXVII. MENTOR AND TELEMACHUS.

If Emily's eyes could have followed Alban as her thoughts were following
him, she would have seen him stop before he reached the end of the road
in which the cottage stood. His heart was full of tenderness and sorrow:
the longing to return to her was more than he could resist. It would be
easy to wait, within view of the gate, until the doctor's visit came
to an end. He had just decided to go back and keep watch--when he heard
rapid footsteps approaching. There (devil take him!) was the doctor
himself.

"I have something to say to you, Mr. Morris. Which way are you walking?"

"Any way," Alban answered--not very graciously.

"Then let us take the turning that leads to my house. It's not customary
for strangers, especially when they happen to be Englishmen, to place
confidence in each other. Let me set the example of violating that rule.
I want to speak to you about Miss Emily. May I take your arm? Thank
you. At my age, girls in general--unless they are my patients--are not
objects of interest to me. But that girl at the cottage--I daresay I
am in my dotage--I tell you, sir, she has bewitched me! Upon my soul, I
could hardly be more anxious about her, if I was her father. And, mind,
I am not an affectionate man by nature. Are you anxious about her too?"

"Yes."

"In what way?"

"In what way are you anxious, Doctor Allday?"

The doctor smiled grimly.

"You don't trust me? Well, I have promised to set the example. Keep your
mask on, sir--mine is off, come what may of it. But, observe: if you
repeat what I am going to say--"

Alban would hear no more. "Whatever you may say, Doctor Allday, is
trusted to my honor. If you doubt my honor, be so good as to let go my
arm--I am not walking your way."

The doctor's hand tightened its grasp. "That little flourish of temper,
my dear sir, is all I want to set me at my ease. I feel I have got hold
of the right man. Now answer me this. Have you ever heard of a person
named Miss Jethro?"

Alban suddenly came to a standstill.

"All right!" said the doctor. "I couldn't have wished for a more
satisfactory reply."

"Wait a minute," Alban interposed. "I know Miss Jethro as a teacher
at Miss Ladd's school, who left her situation suddenly--and I know no
more."

The doctor's peculiar smile made its appearance again.

"Speaking in the vulgar tone," he said, "you seem to be in a hurry to
wash your hands of Miss Jethro."

"I have no reason to feel any interest in her," Alban replied.

"Don't be too sure of that, my friend. I have something to tell you
which may alter your opinion. That ex-teacher at the school, sir, knows
how the late Mr. Brown met his death, and how his daughter has been
deceived about it."

Alban listened with surprise--and with some little doubt, which he
thought it wise not to acknowledge.

"The report of the inquest alludes to a 'relative' who claimed the
body," he said. "Was that 'relative' the person who deceived Miss Emily?
And was the person her aunt?"

"I must leave you to take your own view," Doctor Allday replied. "A
promise binds me not to repeat the information that I have received.
Setting that aside, we have the same object in view--and we must take
care not to get in each other's way. Here is my house. Let us go in, and
make a clean breast of it on both sides."

Established in the safe seclusion of his study, the doctor set the
example of confession in these plain terms:

"We only differ in opinion on one point," he said. "We both think it
likely (from our experience of the women) that the suspected murderer
had an accomplice. I say the guilty person is Miss Jethro. You say--Mrs.
Rook."

"When you have read my copy of the report," Alban answered, "I think you
will arrive at my conclusion. Mrs. Rook might have entered the outhouse
in which the two men slept, at any time during the night, while her
husband was asleep. The jury believed her when she declared that she
never woke till the morning. I don't."

"I am open to conviction, Mr. Morris. Now about the future. Do you mean
to go on with your inquiries?"

"Even if I had no other motive than mere curiosity," Alban answered, "I
think I should go on. But I have a more urgent purpose in view. All that
I have done thus far, has been done in Emily's interests. My object,
from the first, has been to preserve her from any association--in
the past or in the future--with the woman whom I believe to have been
concerned in her father's death. As I have already told you, she is
innocently doing all she can, poor thing, to put obstacles in my way."

"Yes, yes," said the doctor; "she means to write to Mrs. Rook--and you
have nearly quarreled about it. Trust me to take that matter in hand.
I don't regard it as serious. But I am mortally afraid of what you are
doing in Emily's interests. I wish you would give it up."

"Why?"

"Because I see a danger. I don't deny that Emily is as innocent of
suspicion as ever. But the chances, next time, may be against us. How
do you know to what lengths your curiosity may lead you? Or on what
shocking discoveries you may not blunder with the best intentions?
Some unforeseen accident may open her eyes to the truth, before you can
prevent it. I seem to surprise you?"

"You do, indeed, surprise me."

"In the old story, my dear sir, Mentor sometimes surprised Telemachus.
I am Mentor--without being, I hope, quite so long-winded as that
respectable philosopher. Let me put it in two words. Emily's happiness
is precious to you. Take care you are not made the means of wrecking it!
Will you consent to a sacrifice, for her sake?"

"I will do anything for her sake."

"Will you give up your inquiries?"

"From this moment I have done with them!"

"Mr. Morris, you are the best friend she has."

"The next best friend to you, doctor."

In that fond persuasion they now parted--too eagerly devoted to Emily
to look at the prospect before them in its least hopeful aspect.
Both clever men, neither one nor the other asked himself if any human
resistance has ever yet obstructed the progress of truth--when truth has
once begun to force its way to the light.

For the second time Alban stopped, on his way home. The longing to
be reconciled with Emily was not to be resisted. He returned to the
cottage, only to find disappointment waiting for him. The servant
reported that her young mistress had gone to bed with a bad headache.

Alban waited a day, in the hope that Emily might write to him. No letter
arrived. He repeated his visit the next morning. Fortune was still
against him. On this occasion, Emily was engaged.

"Engaged with a visitor?" he asked.

"Yes, sir. A young lady named Miss de Sor."

Where had he heard that name before? He remembered immediately that he
had heard it at the school. Miss de Sor was the unattractive new pupil,
whom the girls called Francine. Alban looked at the parlor window as
he left the cottage. It was of serious importance that he should set
himself right with Emily. "And mere gossip," he thought contemptuously,
"stands in my way!"

If he had been less absorbed in his own interests, he might have
remembered that mere gossip is not always to be despised. It has worked
fatal mischief in its time.



CHAPTER XXVIII. FRANCINE.

"You're surprised to see me, of course?" Saluting Emily in those terms,
Francine looked round the parlor with an air of satirical curiosity.
"Dear me, what a little place to live in!"

"What brings you to London?" Emily inquired.

"You ought to know, my dear, without asking. Why did I try to make
friends with you at school? And why have I been trying ever since?
Because I hate you--I mean because I can't resist you--no! I mean
because I hate myself for liking you. Oh, never mind my reasons. I
insisted on going to London with Miss Ladd--when that horrid woman
announced that she had an appointment with her lawyer. I said, 'I want
to see Emily.' 'Emily doesn't like you.' 'I don't care whether she likes
me or not; I want to see her.' That's the way we snap at each other, and
that's how I always carry my point. Here I am, till my duenna finishes
her business and fetches me. What a prospect for You! Have you got any
cold meat in the house? I'm not a glutton, like Cecilia--but I'm afraid
I shall want some lunch."

"Don't talk in that way, Francine!"

"Do you mean to say you're glad to see me?"

"If you were only a little less hard and bitter, I should always be glad
to see you."

"You darling! (excuse my impetuosity). What are you looking at? My new
dress? Do you envy me?"

"No; I admire the color--that's all."

Francine rose, and shook out her dress, and showed it from every point
of view. "See how it's made: Paris, of course! Money, my dear; money
will do anything--except making one learn one's lessons."

"Are you not getting on any better, Francine?"

"Worse, my sweet friend--worse. One of the masters, I am happy to say,
has flatly refused to teach me any longer. 'Pupils without brains I
am accustomed to,' he said in his broken English; 'but a pupil with no
heart is beyond my endurance.' Ha! ha! the mouldy old refugee has an eye
for character, though. No heart--there I am, described in two words."

"And proud of it," Emily remarked.

"Yes--proud of it. Stop! let me do myself justice. You consider tears
a sign that one has some heart, don't you? I was very near crying
last Sunday. A popular preacher did it; no less a person that Mr.
Mirabel--you look as if you had heard of him."

"I have heard of him from Cecilia."

"Is _she_ at Brighton? Then there's one fool more in a fashionable
watering place. Oh, she's in Switzerland, is she? I don't care where she
is; I only care about Mr. Mirabel. We all heard he was at Brighton for
his health, and was going to preach. Didn't we cram the church! As
to describing him, I give it up. He is the only little man I ever
admired--hair as long as mine, and the sort of beard you see in
pictures. I wish I had his fair complexion and his white hands. We were
all in love with him--or with his voice, which was it?--when he began
to read the commandments. I wish I could imitate him when he came to
the fifth commandment. He began in his deepest bass voice: 'Honor thy
father--' He stopped and looked up to heaven as if he saw the rest of
it there. He went on with a tremendous emphasis on the next word. '_And_
thy mother,' he said (as if that was quite a different thing) in a
tearful, fluty, quivering voice which was a compliment to mothers in
itself. We all felt it, mothers or not. But the great sensation was when
he got into the pulpit. The manner in which he dropped on his knees,
and hid his face in his hands, and showed his beautiful rings was, as a
young lady said behind me, simply seraphic. We understood his celebrity,
from that moment--I wonder whether I can remember the sermon."

"You needn't attempt it on my account," Emily said.

"My dear, don't be obstinate. Wait till you hear him."

"I am quite content to wait."

"Ah, you're just in the right state of mind to be converted; you're in
a fair way to become one of his greatest admirers. They say he is so
agreeable in private life; I am dying to know him.--Do I hear a ring at
the bell? Is somebody else coming to see you?"

The servant brought in a card and a message.

"The person will call again, miss."

Emily looked at the name written on the card.

"Mrs. Ellmother!" she exclaimed.

"What an extraordinary name!" cried Francine. "Who is she?"

"My aunt's old servant."

"Does she want a situation?"

Emily looked at some lines of writing at the back of the card. Doctor
Allday had rightly foreseen events. Rejected by the doctor, Mrs.
Ellmother had no alternative but to ask Emily to help her.

"If she is out of place," Francine went on, "she may be just the sort of
person I am looking for."

"You?" Emily asked, in astonishment.

Francine refused to explain until she got an answer to her question.
"Tell me first," she said, "is Mrs. Ellmother engaged?"

"No; she wants an engagement, and she asks me to be her reference."

"Is she sober, honest, middle-aged, clean, steady, good-tempered,
industrious?" Francine rattled on. "Has she all the virtues, and none of
the vices? Is she not too good-looking, and has she no male followers?
In one terrible word--will she satisfy Miss Ladd?"

"What has Miss Ladd to do with it?"

"How stupid you are, Emily! Do put the woman's card down on the table,
and listen to me. Haven't I told you that one of my masters has declined
to have anything more to do with me? Doesn't that help you to understand
how I get on with the rest of them? I am no longer Miss Ladd's pupil,
my dear. Thanks to my laziness and my temper, I am to be raised to the
dignity of 'a parlor boarder.' In other words, I am to be a young lady
who patronizes the school; with a room of my own, and a servant of my
own. All provided for by a private arrangement between my father and
Miss Ladd, before I left the West Indies. My mother was at the bottom of
it, I have not the least doubt. You don't appear to understand me."

"I don't, indeed!"

Francine considered a little. "Perhaps they were fond of you at home,"
she suggested.

"Say they loved me, Francine--and I loved them."

"Ah, my position is just the reverse of yours. Now they have got rid of
me, they don't want me back again at home. I know as well what my mother
said to my father, as if I had heard her. 'Francine will never get on
at school, at her age. Try her, by all means; but make some other
arrangement with Miss Ladd in case of a failure--or she will be returned
on our hands like a bad shilling.' There is my mother, my anxious,
affectionate mother, hit off to a T."

"She _is_ your mother, Francine; don't forget that."

"Oh, no; I won't forget it. My cat is my kitten's mother--there! there!
I won't shock your sensibilities. Let us get back to matter of fact.
When I begin my new life, Miss Ladd makes one condition. My maid is to
be a model of discretion--an elderly woman, not a skittish young person
who will only encourage me. I must submit to the elderly woman, or
I shall be sent back to the West Indies after all. How long did Mrs.
Ellmother live with your aunt?"

"Twenty-five years, and more.'

"Good heavens, it's a lifetime! Why isn't this amazing creature living
with you, now your aunt is dead? Did you send her away?"

"Certainly not."

"Then why did she go?"

"I don't know."

"Do you mean that she went away without a word of explanation?"

"Yes; that is exactly what I mean."

"When did she go? As soon as your aunt was dead?"

"That doesn't matter, Francine."

"In plain English, you won't tell me? I am all on fire with
curiosity--and that's how you put me out! My dear, if you have the
slightest regard for me, let us have the woman in here when she comes
back for her answer. Somebody must satisfy me. I mean to make Mrs.
Ellmother explain herself."

"I don't think you will succeed, Francine."

"Wait a little, and you will see. By-the-by, it is understood that
my new position at the school gives me the privilege of accepting
invitations. Do you know any nice people to whom you can introduce me?"

"I am the last person in the world who has a chance of helping you,"
Emily answered. "Excepting good Doctor Allday--" On the point of adding
the name of Alban Morris, she checked herself without knowing why, and
substituted the name of her school-friend. "And not forgetting Cecilia,"
she resumed, "I know nobody."

"Cecilia's a fool," Francine remarked gravely; "but now I think of it,
she may be worth cultivating. Her father is a member of Parliament--and
didn't I hear that he has a fine place in the country? You see, Emily,
I may expect to be married (with my money), if I can only get into good
society. (Don't suppose I am dependent on my father; my marriage portion
is provided for in my uncle's will.) Cecilia may really be of some use
to me. Why shouldn't I make a friend of her, and get introduced to her
father--in the autumn, you know, when the house is full of company? Have
you any idea when she is coming back?"

"No."

"Do you think of writing to her?"

"Of course!"

"Give her my kind love; and say I hope she enjoys Switzerland."

"Francine, you are positively shameless! After calling my dearest friend
a fool and a glutton, you send her your love for your own selfish ends;
and you expect me to help you in deceiving her! I won't do it."

"Keep your temper, my child. We are all selfish, you little goose. The
only difference is--some of us own it, and some of us don't. I shall
find my own way to Cecilia's good graces quite easily: the way is
through her mouth. You mentioned a certain Doctor Allday. Does he give
parties? And do the right sort of men go to them? Hush! I think I hear
the bell again. Go to the door, and see who it is."

Emily waited, without taking any notice of this suggestion. The servant
announced that "the person had called again, to know if there was any
answer."

"Show her in here," Emily said.

The servant withdrew, and came back again.

"The person doesn't wish to intrude, miss; it will be quite sufficient
if you will send a message by me."

Emily crossed the room to the door.

"Come in, Mrs. Ellmother," she said. "You have been too long away
already. Pray come in."



CHAPTER XXIX. "BONY."

Mrs. Ellmother reluctantly entered the room.

Since Emily had seen her last, her personal appearance doubly justified
the nickname by which her late mistress had distinguished her. The old
servant was worn and wasted; her gown hung loose on her angular body;
the big bones of her face stood out, more prominently than ever. She
took Emily's offered hand doubtingly. "I hope I see you well, miss,"
she said--with hardly a vestige left of her former firmness of voice and
manner.

"I am afraid you have been suffering from illness," Emily answered
gently.

"It's the life I'm leading that wears me down; I want work and change."

Making that reply, she looked round, and discovered Francine observing
her with undisguised curiosity. "You have got company with you," she
said to Emily. "I had better go away, and come back another time."

Francine stopped her before she could open the door. "You mustn't go
away; I wish to speak to you."

"About what, miss?"

The eyes of the two women met--one, near the end of her life,
concealing under a rugged surface a nature sensitively affectionate and
incorruptibly true: the other, young in years, with out the virtues of
youth, hard in manner and hard at heart. In silence on either side,
they stood face to face; strangers brought together by the force of
circumstances, working inexorably toward their hidden end.

Emily introduced Mrs. Ellmother to Francine. "It may be worth your
while," she hinted, "to hear what this young lady has to say."

Mrs. Ellmother listened, with little appearance of interest in anything
that a stranger might have to say: her eyes rested on the card which
contained her written request to Emily. Francine, watching her closely,
understood what was passing in her mind. It might be worth while to
conciliate the old woman by a little act of attention. Turning to Emily,
Francine pointed to the card lying on the table. "You have not attended
yet to Mr. Ellmother's request," she said.

Emily at once assured Mrs. Ellmother that the request was granted. "But
is it wise," she asked, "to go out to service again, at your age?"

"I have been used to service all my life, Miss Emily--that's one reason.
And service may help me to get rid of my own thoughts--that's another.
If you can find me a situation somewhere, you will be doing me a good
turn."

"Is it useless to suggest that you might come back, and live with me?"
Emily ventured to say.

Mrs. Ellmother's head sank on her breast. "Thank you kindly, miss; it
_is_ useless."

"Why is it useless?" Francine asked.

Mrs. Ellmother was silent.

"Miss de Sor is speaking to you," Emily reminded her.

"Am I to answer Miss de Sor?"

Attentively observing what passed, and placing her own construction on
looks and tones, it suddenly struck Francine that Emily herself might be
in Mrs. Ellmother's confidence, and that she might have reasons of her
own for assuming ignorance when awkward questions were asked. For the
moment at least, Francine decided on keeping her suspicions to herself.

"I may perhaps offer you the employment you want," she said to Mrs.
Ellmother. "I am staying at Brighton, for the present, with the lady who
was Miss Emily's schoolmistress, and I am in need of a maid. Would you
be willing to consider it, if I proposed to engage you?"

"Yes, miss."

"In that case, you can hardly object to the customary inquiry. Why did
you leave your last place?"

Mrs. Ellmother appealed to Emily. "Did you tell this young lady how long
I remained in my last place?"

Melancholy remembrances had been revived in Emily by the turn which the
talk had now taken. Francine's cat-like patience, stealthily feeling its
way to its end, jarred on her nerves. "Yes," she said; "in justice to
you, I have mentioned your long term of service."

Mrs. Ellmother addressed Francine. "You know, miss, that I served
my late mistress for over twenty-five years. Will you please remember
that--and let it be a reason for not asking me why I left my place."

Francine smiled compassionately. "My good creature, you have mentioned
the very reason why I _should_ ask. You live five-and-twenty years with
your mistress--and then suddenly leave her--and you expect me to pass
over this extraordinary proceeding without inquiry. Take a little time
to think."

"I want no time to think. What I had in my mind, when I left Miss
Letitia, is something which I refuse to explain, miss, to you, or to
anybody."

She recovered some of her old firmness, when she made that reply.
Francine saw the necessity of yielding--for the time at least, Emily
remained silent, oppressed by remembrance of the doubts and fears which
had darkened the last miserable days of her aunt's illness. She began
already to regret having made Francine and Mrs. Ellmother known to each
other.

"I won't dwell on what appears to be a painful subject," Francine
graciously resumed. "I meant no offense. You are not angry, I hope?"

"Sorry, miss. I might have been angry, at one time. That time is over."

It was said sadly and resignedly: Emily heard the answer. Her heart
ached as she looked at the old servant, and thought of the contrast
between past and present. With what a hearty welcome this broken woman
had been used to receive her in the bygone holiday-time! Her eyes
moistened. She felt the merciless persistency of Francine, as if it had
been an insult offered to herself. "Give it up!" she said sharply.

"Leave me, my dear, to manage my own business," Francine replied. "About
your qualifications?" she continued, turning coolly to Mrs. Ellmother.
"Can you dress hair?"

"Yes."

"I ought to tell you," Francine insisted, "that I am very particular
about my hair."

"My mistress was very particular about her hair," Mrs. Ellmother
answered.

"Are you a good needlewoman?"

"As good as ever I was--with the help of my spectacles."

Francine turned to Emily. "See how well we get on together. We are
beginning to understand each other already. I am an odd creature, Mrs.
Ellmother. Sometimes, I take sudden likings to persons--I have taken a
liking to you. Do you begin to think a little better of me than you did?
I hope you will produce the right impression on Miss Ladd; you shall
have every assistance that I can give. I will beg Miss Ladd, as a favor
to me, not to ask you that one forbidden question."

Poor Mrs. Ellmother, puzzled by the sudden appearance of Francine in the
character of an eccentric young lady, the creature of genial impulse,
thought it right to express her gratitude for the promised interference
in her favor. "That's kind of you, miss," she said.

"No, no, only just. I ought to tell you there's one thing Miss Ladd
is strict about--sweethearts. Are you quite sure," Francine inquired
jocosely, "that you can answer for yourself, in that particular?"

This effort of humor produced its intended effect. Mrs. Ellmother,
thrown off her guard, actually smiled. "Lord, miss, what will you say
next!"

"My good soul, I will say something next that is more to the purpose. If
Miss Ladd asks me why you have so unaccountably refused to be a servant
again in this house, I shall take care to say that it is certainly not
out of dislike to Miss Emily."

"You need say nothing of the sort," Emily quietly remarked.

"And still less," Francine proceeded, without noticing the
interruption--"still less through any disagreeable remembrances of Miss
Emily's aunt."

Mrs. Ellmother saw the trap that had been set for her. "It won't do,
miss," she said.

"What won't do?"

"Trying to pump me."

Francine burst out laughing. Emily noticed an artificial ring in her
gayety which suggested that she was exasperated, rather than amused, by
the repulse which had baffled her curiosity once more.

Mrs. Ellmother reminded the merry young lady that the proposed
arrangement between them had not been concluded yet. "Am I to
understand, miss, that you will keep a place open for me in your
service?"

"You are to understand," Francine replied sharply, "that I must have
Miss Ladd's approval before I can engage you. Suppose you come to
Brighton? I will pay your fare, of course."

"Never mind my fare, miss. Will you give up pumping?"

"Make your mind easy. It's quite useless to attempt pumping _you_. When
will you come?"

Mrs. Ellmother pleaded for a little delay. "I'm altering my gowns," she
said. "I get thinner and thinner--don't I, Miss Emily? My work won't be
done before Thursday."

"Let us say Friday, then," Francine proposed.

"Friday!" Mrs. Ellmother exclaimed. "You forget that Friday is an
unlucky day."

"I forgot that, certainly! How can you be so absurdly superstitious."

"You may call it what you like, miss. I have good reason to think as I
do. I was married on a Friday--and a bitter bad marriage it turned out
to be. Superstitious, indeed! You don't know what my experience has
been. My only sister was one of a party of thirteen at dinner; and she
died within the year. If we are to get on together nicely, I'll take
that journey on Saturday, if you please."

"Anything to satisfy you," Francine agreed; "there is the address. Come
in the middle of the day, and we will give you your dinner. No fear
of our being thirteen in number. What will you do, if you have the
misfortune to spill the salt?"

"Take a pinch between my finger and thumb, and throw it over my left
shoulder," Mrs. Ellmother answered gravely. "Good-day, miss."

"Good-day."

Emily followed the departing visitor out to the hall. She had seen
and heard enough to decide her on trying to break off the proposed
negotiation--with the one kind purpose of protecting Mrs. Ellmother
against the pitiless curiosity of Francine.

"Do you think you and that young lady are likely to get on well
together?" she asked.

"I have told you already, Miss Emily, I want to get away from my own
home and my own thoughts; I don't care where I go, so long as I do
that." Having answered in those words, Mrs. Ellmother opened the door,
and waited a while, thinking. "I wonder whether the dead know what is
going on in the world they have left?" she said, looking at Emily. "If
they do, there's one among them knows my thoughts, and feels for me.
Good-by, miss--and don't think worse of me than I deserve."

Emily went back to the parlor. The only resource left was to plead with
Francine for mercy to Mrs. Ellmother.

"Do you really mean to give it up?" she asked.

"To give up--what? 'Pumping,' as that obstinate old creature calls it?"

Emily persisted. "Don't worry the poor old soul! However strangely she
may have left my aunt and me her motives are kind and good--I am sure of
that. Will you let her keep her harmless little secret?"

"Oh, of course!"

"I don't believe you, Francine!"

"Don't you? I am like Cecilia--I am getting hungry. Shall we have some
lunch?"

"You hard-hearted creature!"

"Does that mean--no luncheon until I have owned the truth? Suppose _you_
own the truth? I won't tell Mrs. Ellmother that you have betrayed her."

"For the last time, Francine--I know no more of it than you do. If you
persist in taking your own view, you as good as tell me I lie; and you
will oblige me to leave the room."

Even Francine's obstinacy was compelled to give way, so far as
appearances went. Still possessed by the delusion that Emily was
deceiving her, she was now animated by a stronger motive than mere
curiosity. Her sense of her own importance imperatively urged her to
prove that she was not a person who could be deceived with impunity.

"I beg your pardon," she said with humility. "But I must positively have
it out with Mrs. Ellmother. She has been more than a match for me--my
turn next. I mean to get the better of her; and I shall succeed."

"I have already told you, Francine--you will fail."

"My dear, I am a dunce, and I don't deny it. But let me tell you one
thing. I haven't lived all my life in the West Indies, among black
servants, without learning something."

"What do you mean?"

"More, my clever friend, than you are likely to guess. In the meantime,
don't forget the duties of hospitality. Ring the bell for luncheon."



CHAPTER XXX. LADY DORIS.

The arrival of Miss Ladd, some time before she had been expected,
interrupted the two girls at a critical moment. She had hurried over her
business in London, eager to pass the rest of the day with her favorite
pupil. Emily's affectionate welcome was, in some degree at least,
inspired by a sensation of relief. To feel herself in the embrace of the
warm-hearted schoolmistress was like finding a refuge from Francine.

When the hour of departure arrived, Miss Ladd invited Emily to Brighton
for the second time. "On the last occasion, my dear, you wrote me an
excuse; I won't be treated in that way again. If you can't return with
us now, come to-morrow." She added in a whisper, "Otherwise, I shall
think you include _me_ in your dislike of Francine."

There was no resisting this. It was arranged that Emily should go to
Brighton on the next day.

Left by herself, her thoughts might have reverted to Mrs. Ellmother's
doubtful prospects, and to Francine's strange allusion to her life in
the West Indies, but for the arrival of two letters by the afternoon
post. The handwriting on one of them was unknown to her. She opened
that one first. It was an answer to the letter of apology which she
had persisted in writing to Mrs. Rook. Happily for herself, Alban's
influence had not been without its effect, after his departure. She had
written kindly--but she had written briefly at the same time.

Mrs. Rook's reply presented a nicely compounded mixture of gratitude and
grief. The gratitude was addressed to Emily as a matter of course.
The grief related to her "excellent master." Sir Jervis's strength had
suddenly failed. His medical attendant, being summoned, had expressed
no surprise. "My patient is over seventy years of age," the doctor
remarked. "He will sit up late at night, writing his book; and he
refuses to take exercise, till headache and giddiness force him to try
the fresh air. As the necessary result, he has broken down at last. It
may end in paralysis, or it may end in death." Reporting this expression
of medical opinion, Mrs. Rook's letter glided imperceptibly from
respectful sympathy to modest regard for her own interests in the
future. It might be the sad fate of her husband and herself to be thrown
on the world again. If necessity brought them to London, would "kind
Miss Emily grant her the honor of an interview, and favor a poor unlucky
woman with a word of advice?"

"She may pervert your letter to some use of her own, which you may have
reason to regret." Did Emily remember Alban's warning words? No: she
accepted Mrs. Rook's reply as a gratifying tribute to the justice of her
own opinions.

Having proposed to write to Alban, feeling penitently that she had
been in the wrong, she was now readier than ever to send him a letter,
feeling compassionately that she had been in the right. Besides, it was
due to the faithful friend, who was still working for her in the reading
room, that he should be informed of Sir Jervis's illness. Whether the
old man lived or whether he died, his literary labors were fatally
interrupted in either case; and one of the consequences would be the
termination of her employment at the Museum. Although the second of the
two letters which she had received was addressed to her in Cecilia's
handwriting, Emily waited to read it until she had first written to
Alban. "He will come to-morrow," she thought; "and we shall both make
apologies. I shall regret that I was angry with him and he will regret
that he was mistaken in his judgment of Mrs. Rook. We shall be as good
friends again as ever."

In this happy frame of mind she opened Cecilia's letter. It was full of
good news from first to last.

The invalid sister had made such rapid progress toward recovery that the
travelers had arranged to set forth on their journey back to England in
a fortnight. "My one regret," Cecilia added, "is the parting with Lady
Doris. She and her husband are going to Genoa, where they will embark
in Lord Janeaway's yacht for a cruise in the Mediterranean. When we have
said that miserable word good-by--oh, Emily, what a hurry I shall be in
to get back to you! Those allusions to your lonely life are so dreadful,
my dear, that I have destroyed your letter; it is enough to break one's
heart only to look at it. When once I get to London, there shall be no
more solitude for my poor afflicted friend. Papa will be free from his
parliamentary duties in August--and he has promised to have the house
full of delightful people to meet you. Who do you think will be one of
our guests? He is illustrious; he is fascinating; he deserves a line all
to himself, thus:

"The Reverend Miles Mirabel!

"Lady Doris has discovered that the country parsonage, in which this
brilliant clergyman submits to exile, is only twelve miles away from our
house. She has written to Mr. Mirabel to introduce me, and to
mention the date of my return. We will have some fun with the popular
preacher--we will both fall in love with him together.

"Is there anybody to whom you would like me to send an invitation? Shall
we have Mr. Alban Morris? Now I know how kindly he took care of you at
the railway station, your good opinion of him is my opinion. Your letter
also mentions a doctor. Is he nice? and do you think he will let me eat
pastry, if we have him too? I am so overflowing with hospitality (all
for your sake) that I am ready to invite anybody, and everybody, to
cheer you and make you happy. Would you like to meet Miss Ladd and the
whole school?

"As to our amusements, make your mind easy.

"I have come to a distinct understanding with Papa that we are to have
dances every evening--except when we try a little concert as a change.
Private theatricals are to follow, when we want another change after
the dancing and the music. No early rising; no fixed hour for breakfast;
everything that is most exquisitely delicious at dinner--and, to crown
all, your room next to mine, for delightful midnight gossipings, when we
ought to be in bed. What do you say, darling, to the programme?

"A last piece of news--and I have done.

"I have actually had a proposal of marriage, from a young gentleman who
sits opposite me at the table d'hote! When I tell you that he has white
eyelashes, and red hands, and such enormous front teeth that he can't
shut his mouth, you will not need to be told that I refused him. This
vindictive person has abused me ever since, in the most shameful manner.
I heard him last night, under my window, trying to set one of his
friends against me. 'Keep clear of her, my dear fellow; she's the most
heartless creature living.' The friend took my part; he said, 'I don't
agree with you; the young lady is a person of great sensibility.'
'Nonsense!' says my amiable lover; 'she eats too much--her sensibility
is all stomach.' There's a wretch for you. What a shameful advantage to
take of sitting opposite to me at dinner! Good-by, my love, till we meet
soon, and are as happy together as the day is long."

Emily kissed the signature. At that moment of all others, Cecilia was
such a refreshing contrast to Francine!

Before putting the letter away, she looked again at that part of it
which mentioned Lady Doris's introduction of Cecilia to Mr. Mirabel. "I
don't feel the slightest interest in Mr. Mirabel," she thought, smiling
as the idea occurred to her; "and I need never have known him, but for
Lady Doris--who is a perfect stranger to me."

She had just placed the letter in her desk, when a visitor was
announced. Doctor Allday presented himself (in a hurry as usual).

"Another patient waiting?" Emily asked mischievously. "No time to spare,
again?"

"Not a moment," the old gentleman answered. "Have you heard from Mrs.
Ellmother?"

"Yes."

"You don't mean to say you have answered her?"

"I have done better than that, doctor--I have seen her this morning."

"And consented to be her reference, of course?"

"How well you know me!"

Doctor Allday was a philosopher: he kept his temper. "Just what I might
have expected," he said. "Eve and the apple! Only forbid a woman to do
anything, and she does it directly--be cause you have forbidden her.
I'll try the other way with you now, Miss Emily. There was something
else that I meant to have forbidden."

"What was it?"

"May I make a special request?"

"Certainly."

"Oh, my dear, write to Mrs. Rook! I beg and entreat of you, write to
Mrs. Rook!"

Emily's playful manner suddenly disappeared.

Ignoring the doctor's little outbreak of humor, she waited in grave
surprise, until it was his pleasure to explain himself.

Doctor Allday, on his side, ignored the ominous change in Emily; he went
on as pleasantly as ever. "Mr. Morris and I have had a long talk about
you, my dear. Mr. Morris is a capital fellow; I recommend him as a
sweetheart. I also back him in the matter of Mrs. Rook.--What's the
matter now? You're as red as a rose. Temper again, eh?"

"Hatred of meanness!" Emily answered indignantly. "I despise a man who
plots, behind my back, to get another man to help him. Oh, how I have
been mistaken in Alban Morris!"

"Oh, how little you know of the best friend you have!" cried the doctor,
imitating her. "Girls are all alike; the only man they can understand,
is the man who flatters them. _Will_ you oblige me by writing to Mrs.
Rook?"

Emily made an attempt to match the doctor, with his own weapons. "Your
little joke comes too late," she said satirically. "There is Mrs. Rook's
answer. Read it, and--" she checked herself, even in her anger she was
incapable of speaking ungenerously to the old man who had so warmly
befriended her. "I won't say to _you_," she resumed, "what I might have
said to another person."

"Shall I say it for you?" asked the incorrigible doctor. "'Read it, and
be ashamed of yourself'--That was what you had in your mind, isn't it?
Anything to please you, my dear." He put on his spectacles, read the
letter, and handed it back to Emily with an impenetrable countenance.
"What do you think of my new spectacles?" he asked, as he took the
glasses off his nose. "In the experience of thirty years, I have had
three grateful patients." He put the spectacles back in the case. "This
comes from the third. Very gratifying--very gratifying."

Emily's sense of humor was not the uppermost sense in her at that
moment. She pointed with a peremptory forefinger to Mrs. Rook's letter.
"Have you nothing to say about this?"

The doctor had so little to say about it that he was able to express
himself in one word:

"Humbug!"

He took his hat--nodded kindly to Emily--and hurried away to feverish
pulses waiting to be felt, and to furred tongues that were ashamed to
show themselves.



CHAPTER XXXI. MOIRA.

When Alban presented himself the next morning, the hours of the night
had exercised their tranquilizing influence over Emily. She remembered
sorrowfully how Doctor Allday had disturbed her belief in the man who
loved her; no feeling of irritation remained. Alban noticed that her
manner was unusually subdued; she received him with her customary grace,
but not with her customary smile.

"Are you not well?" he asked.

"I am a little out of spirits," she replied. "A disappointment--that is
all."

He waited a moment, apparently in the expectation that she might tell
him what the disappointment was. She remained silent, and she looked
away from him. Was he in any way answerable for the depression of
spirits to which she alluded? The doubt occurred to him--but he said
nothing.

"I suppose you have received my letter?" she resumed.

"I have come here to thank you for your letter."

"It was my duty to tell you of Sir Jervis's illness; I deserve no
thanks."

"You have written to me so kindly," Alban reminded her; "you have
referred to our difference of opinion, the last time I was here, so
gently and so forgivingly--"

"If I had written a little later," she interposed, "the tone of my
letter might have been less agreeable to you. I happened to send it to
the post, before I received a visit from a friend of yours--a friend who
had something to say to me after consulting with you."

"Do you mean Doctor Allday?"

"Yes."

"What did he say?"

"What you wished him to say. He did his best; he was as obstinate and
unfeeling as you could possibly wish him to be; but he was too late.
I have written to Mrs. Rook, and I have received a reply." She spoke
sadly, not angrily--and pointed to the letter lying on her desk.

Alban understood: he looked at her in despair. "Is that wretched woman
doomed to set us at variance every time we meet!" he exclaimed.

Emily silently held out the letter.

He refused to take it. "The wrong you have done me is not to be set
right in that way," he said. "You believe the doctor's visit was
arranged between us. I never knew that he intended to call on you; I had
no interest in sending him here--and I must not interfere again between
you and Mrs. Rook."

"I don't understand you."

"You will understand me when I tell you how my conversation with Doctor
Allday ended. I have done with interference; I have done with advice.
Whatever my doubts may be, all further effort on my part to justify
them--all further inquiries, no matter in what direction--are at an end:
I made the sacrifice, for your sake. No! I must repeat what you said
to me just now; I deserve no thanks. What I have done, has been done in
deference to Doctor Allday--against my own convictions; in spite of my
own fears. Ridiculous convictions! ridiculous fears! Men with morbid
minds are their own tormentors. It doesn't matter how I suffer, so long
as you are at ease. I shall never thwart you or vex you again. Have you
a better opinion of me now?"

She made the best of all answers--she gave him her hand.

"May I kiss it?" he asked, as timidly as if he had been a boy addressing
his first sweetheart.

She was half inclined to laugh, and half inclined to cry. "Yes, if you
like," she said softly.

"Will you let me come and see you again?"

"Gladly--when I return to London."

"You are going away?"

"I am going to Brighton this afternoon, to stay with Miss Ladd."

It was hard to lose her, on the happy day when they understood each
other at last. An expression of disappointment passed over his face.
He rose, and walked restlessly to the window. "Miss Ladd?" he repeated,
turning to Emily as if an idea had struck him. "Did I hear, at the
school, that Miss de Sor was to spend the holidays under the care of
Miss Ladd?"

"Yes."

"The same young lady," he went on, "who paid you a visit yesterday
morning?"

"The same."

That haunting distrust of the future, which he had first betrayed and
then affected to ridicule, exercised its depressing influence over his
better sense. He was unreasonable enough to feel doubtful of Francine,
simply because she was a stranger.

"Miss de Sor is a new friend of yours," he said. "Do you like her?"

It was not an easy question to answer--without entering into particulars
which Emily's delicacy of feeling warned her to avoid. "I must know a
little more of Miss de Sor," she said, "before I can decide."

Alban's misgivings were naturally encouraged by this evasive reply. He
began to regret having left the cottage, on the previous day, when he
had heard that Emily was engaged. He might have sent in his card,
and might have been admitted. It was an opportunity lost of observing
Francine. On the morning of her first day at school, when they had
accidentally met at the summer house, she had left a disagreeable
impression on his mind. Ought he to allow his opinion to be influenced
by this circumstance? or ought he to follow Emily's prudent example, and
suspend judgment until he knew a little more of Francine?

"Is any day fixed for your return to London?" he asked.

"Not yet," she said; "I hardly know how long my visit will be."

"In little more than a fortnight," he continued, "I shall return to my
classes--they will be dreary classes, without you. Miss de Sor goes back
to the school with Miss Ladd, I suppose?"

Emily was at a loss to account for the depression in his looks and
tones, while he was making these unimportant inquiries. She tried to
rouse him by speaking lightly in reply.

"Miss de Sor returns in quite a new character; she is to be a guest
instead of a pupil. Do you wish to be better acquainted with her?"

"Yes," he said grave ly, "now I know that she is a friend of yours." He
returned to his place near her. "A pleasant visit makes the days pass
quickly," he resumed. "You may remain at Brighton longer than you
anticipate; and we may not meet again for some time to come. If anything
happens--"

"Do you mean anything serious?" she asked.

"No, no! I only mean--if I can be of any service. In that case, will you
write to me?"

"You know I will!"

She looked at him anxiously. He had completely failed to hide from
her the uneasy state of his mind: a man less capable of concealment of
feeling never lived. "You are anxious, and out of spirits," she said
gently. "Is it my fault?"

"Your fault? oh, don't think that! I have my dull days and my bright
days--and just now my barometer is down at dull." His voice faltered,
in spite of his efforts to control it; he gave up the struggle, and took
his hat to go. "Do you remember, Emily, what I once said to you in the
garden at the school? I still believe there is a time of fulfillment to
come in our lives." He suddenly checked himself, as if there had been
something more in his mind to which he hesitated to give expression--and
held out his hand to bid her good-by.

"My memory of what you said in the garden is better than yours," she
reminded him. "You said 'Happen what may in the interval, I trust the
future.' Do you feel the same trust still?"

He sighed--drew her to him gently--and kissed her on the forehead. Was
that his own reply? She was not calm enough to ask him the question: it
remained in her thoughts for some time after he had gone.

                         ........

On the same day Emily was at Brighton.

Francine happened to be alone in the drawing-room. Her first proceeding,
when Emily was shown in, was to stop the servant.

"Have you taken my letter to the post?"

"Yes, miss."

"It doesn't matter." She dismissed the servant by a gesture, and burst
into such effusive hospitality that she actually insisted on kissing
Emily. "Do you know what I have been doing?" she said. "I have been
writing to Cecilia--directing to the care of her father, at the House of
Commons. I stupidly forgot that you would be able to give me the right
address in Switzerland. You don't object, I hope, to my making myself
agreeable to our dear, beautiful, greedy girl? It is of such importance
to me to surround myself with influential friends--and, of course,
I have given her your love. Don't look disgusted! Come, and see your
room.--Oh, never mind Miss Ladd. You will see her when she wakes. Ill?
Is that sort of old woman ever ill? She's only taking her nap after
bathing. Bathing in the sea, at her age! How she must frighten the
fishes!"

Having seen her own bed-chamber, Emily was next introduced to the room
occupied by Francine.

One object that she noticed in it caused her some little surprise--not
unmingled with disgust. She discovered on the toilet-table a
coarsely caricatured portrait of Mrs. Ellmother. It was a sketch in
pencil--wretchedly drawn; but spitefully successful as a likeness.
"I didn't know you were an artist," Emily remarked, with an ironical
emphasis on the last word. Francine laughed scornfully--crumpled the
drawing up in her hand--and threw it into the waste-paper basket.

"You satirical creature!" she burst out gayly. "If you had lived a dull
life at St. Domingo, you would have taken to spoiling paper too. I might
really have turned out an artist, if I had been clever and industrious
like you. As it was, I learned a little drawing--and got tired of it.
I tried modeling in wax--and got tired of it. Who do you think was my
teacher? One of our slaves."

"A slave!" Emily exclaimed.

"Yes--a mulatto, if you wish me to be particular; the daughter of an
English father and a negro mother. In her young time (at least she
said so herself) she was quite a beauty, in her particular style.
Her master's favorite; he educated her himself. Besides drawing
and painting, and modeling in wax, she could sing and play--all the
accomplishments thrown away on a slave! When her owner died, my uncle
bought her at the sale of the property."

A word of natural compassion escaped Emily--to Francine's surprise.

"Oh, my dear, you needn't pity her! Sappho (that was her name) fetched
a high price, even when she was no longer young. She came to us, by
inheritance, with the estates and the rest of it; and took a fancy to
me, when she found out I didn't get on well with my father and mother.
'I owe it to _my_ father and mother,' she used to say, 'that I am a
slave. When I see affectionate daughters, it wrings my heart.' Sappho
was a strange compound. A woman with a white side to her character, and
a black side. For weeks together, she would be a civilized being. Then
she used to relapse, and become as complete a negress as her mother.
At the risk of her life she stole away, on those occasions, into
the interior of the island, and looked on, in hiding, at the horrid
witchcrafts and idolatries of the blacks; they would have murdered a
half-blood, prying into their ceremonies, if they had discovered her.
I followed her once, so far as I dared. The frightful yellings and
drummings in the darkness of the forests frightened me. The blacks
suspected her, and it came to my ears. I gave her the warning that saved
her life (I don't know what I should have done without Sappho to amuse
me!); and, from that time, I do believe the curious creature loved me.
You see I can speak generously even of a slave!"

"I wonder you didn't bring her with you to England," Emily said.

"In the first place," Francine answered, "she was my father's property,
not mine. In the second place, she's dead. Poisoned, as the other
half-bloods supposed, by some enemy among the blacks. She said herself,
she was under a spell!"

"What did she mean?"

Francine was not interested enough in the subject to explain. "Stupid
superstition, my dear. The negro side of Sappho was uppermost when she
was dying--there is the explanation. Be off with you! I hear the old
woman on the stairs. Meet her before she can come in here. My bedroom is
my only refuge from Miss Ladd."

On the morning of the last day in the week, Emily had a little talk in
private with her old schoolmistress. Miss Ladd listened to what she had
to say of Mrs. Ellmother, and did her best to relieve Emily's anxieties.
"I think you are mistaken, my child, in supposing that Francine is in
earnest. It is her great fault that she is hardly ever in earnest. You
can trust to my discretion; leave the rest to your aunt's old servant
and to me."

Mrs. Ellmother arrived, punctual to the appointed time. She was shown
into Miss Ladd's own room. Francine--ostentatiously resolved to take no
personal part in the affair--went for a walk. Emily waited to hear the
result.

After a long interval, Miss Ladd returned to the drawing-room, and
announced that she had sanctioned the engagement of Mrs. Ellmother.

"I have considered your wishes, in this respect," she said. "It is
arranged that a week's notice, on either side, shall end the term of
service, after the first month. I cannot feel justified in doing more
than that. Mrs. Ellmother is such a respectable woman; she is so well
known to you, and she was so long in your aunt's service, that I am
bound to consider the importance of securing a person who is exactly
fitted to attend on such a girl as Francine. In one word, I can trust
Mrs. Ellmother."

"When does she enter on her service?" Emily inquired.

"On the day after we return to the school," Miss Ladd replied. "You will
be glad to see her, I am sure. I will send her here."

"One word more before you go," Emily said.

"Did you ask her why she left my aunt?"

"My dear child, a woman who has been five-and-twenty years in one place
is entitled to keep her own secrets. I understand that she had her
reasons, and that she doesn't think it necessary to mention them to
anybody. Never trust people by halves--especially when they are people
like Mrs. Ellmother."

It was too late now to raise any objections. Emily felt relieved, rather
than disappointed, on discovering that Mrs. Ellmother was in a hurry to
get back to London by the next train. Sh e had found an opportunity of
letting her lodgings; and she was eager to conclude the bargain. "You
see I couldn't say Yes," she explained, "till I knew whether I was to
get this new place or not--and the person wants to go in tonight."

Emily stopped her at the door. "Promise to write and tell me how you get
on with Miss de Sor."

"You say that, miss, as if you didn't feel hopeful about me."

"I say it, because I feel interested about you. Promise to write."

Mrs. Ellmother promised, and hastened away. Emily looked after her from
the window, as long as she was in view. "I wish I could feel sure of
Francine!" she said to herself.

"In what way?" asked the hard voice of Francine, speaking at the door.

It was not in Emily's nature to shrink from a plain reply. She completed
her half-formed thought without a moment's hesitation.

"I wish I could feel sure," she answered, "that you will be kind to Mrs.
Ellmother."

"Are you afraid I shall make her life one scene of torment?" Francine
inquired. "How can I answer for myself? I can't look into the future."

"For once in your life, can you be in earnest?" Emily said.

"For once in your life, can you take a joke?" Francine replied.

Emily said no more. She privately resolved to shorten her visit to
Brighton.



BOOK THE THIRD--NETHERWOODS.



CHAPTER XXXII. IN THE GRAY ROOM.

The house inhabited by Miss Ladd and her pupils had been built, in the
early part of the present century, by a wealthy merchant--proud of his
money, and eager to distinguish himself as the owner of the largest
country seat in the neighborhood.

After his death, Miss Ladd had taken Netherwoods (as the place was
called), finding her own house insufficient for the accommodation of the
increasing number of her pupils. A lease was granted to her on moderate
terms. Netherwoods failed to attract persons of distinction in search
of a country residence. The grounds were beautiful; but no landed
property--not even a park--was attached to the house. Excepting the few
acres on which the building stood, the surrounding land belonged to
a retired naval officer of old family, who resented the attempt of a
merchant of low birth to assume the position of a gentleman. No matter
what proposals might be made to the admiral, he refused them all. The
privilege of shooting was not one of the attractions offered to tenants;
the country presented no facilities for hunting; and the only stream in
the neighborhood was not preserved. In consequence of these drawbacks,
the merchant's representatives had to choose between a proposal to use
Netherwoods as a lunatic asylum, or to accept as tenant the respectable
mistress of a fashionable and prosperous school. They decided in favor
of Miss Ladd.

The contemplated change in Francine's position was accomplished, in that
vast house, without inconvenience. There were rooms unoccupied, even
when the limit assigned to the number of pupils had been reached. On the
re-opening of the school, Francine was offered her choice between two
rooms on one of the upper stories, and two rooms on the ground floor.
She chose these last.

Her sitting-room and bedroom, situated at the back of the house,
communicated with each other. The sitting-room, ornamented with a pretty
paper of delicate gray, and furnished with curtains of the same color,
had been accordingly named, "The Gray Room." It had a French window,
which opened on the terrace overlooking the garden and the grounds.
Some fine old engravings from the grand landscapes of Claude (part of a
collection of prints possessed by Miss Ladd's father) hung on the walls.
The carpet was in harmony with the curtains; and the furniture was
of light-colored wood, which helped the general effect of subdued
brightness that made the charm of the room. "If you are not happy here,"
Miss Ladd said, "I despair of you." And Francine answered, "Yes, it's
very pretty, but I wish it was not so small."

On the twelfth of August the regular routine of the school was resumed.
Alban Morris found two strangers in his class, to fill the vacancies
left by Emily and Cecilia. Mrs. Ellmother was duly established in her
new place. She produced an unfavorable impression in the servants'
hall--not (as the handsome chief housemaid explained) because she
was ugly and old, but because she was "a person who didn't talk." The
prejudice against habitual silence, among the lower order of the people,
is almost as inveterate as the prejudice against red hair.

In the evening, on that first day of renewed studies--while the girls
were in the grounds, after tea--Francine had at last completed the
arrangement of her rooms, and had dismissed Mrs. Ellmother (kept hard
at work since the morning) to take a little rest. Standing alone at her
window, the West Indian heiress wondered what she had better do next.
She glanced at the girls on the lawn, and decided that they were
unworthy of serious notice, on the part of a person so specially favored
as herself. She turned sidewise, and looked along the length of the
terrace. At the far end a tall man was slowly pacing to and fro, with
his head down and his hands in his pockets. Francine recognized the rude
drawing-master, who had torn up his view of the village, after she had
saved it from being blown into the pond.

She stepped out on the terrace, and called to him. He stopped, and
looked up.

"Do you want me?" he called back.

"Of course I do!"

She advanced a little to meet him, and offered encouragement under the
form of a hard smile. Although his manners might be unpleasant, he
had claims on the indulgence of a young lady, who was at a loss how to
employ her idle time. In the first place, he was a man. In the second
place, he was not as old as the music-master, or as ugly as the
dancing-master. In the third place, he was an admirer of Emily; and the
opportunity of trying to shake his allegiance by means of a flirtation,
in Emily's absence, was too good an opportunity to be lost.

"Do you remember how rude you were to me, on the day when you
were sketching in the summer-house?" Francine asked with snappish
playfulness. "I expect you to make yourself agreeable this time--I am
going to pay you a compliment."

He waited, with exasperating composure, to hear what the proposed
compliment might be. The furrow between his eyebrows looked deeper than
ever. There were signs of secret trouble in that dark face, so grimly
and so resolutely composed. The school, without Emily, presented the
severest trial of endurance that he had encountered, since the day when
he had been deserted and disgraced by his affianced wife.

"You are an artist," Francine proceeded, "and therefore a person of
taste. I want to have your opinion of my sitting-room. Criticism is
invited; pray come in."

He seemed to be unwilling to accept the invitation--then altered his
mind, and followed Francine. She had visited Emily; she was perhaps in
a fair way to become Emily's friend. He remembered that he had already
lost an opportunity of studying her character, and--if he saw the
necessity--of warning Emily not to encourage the advances of Miss de
Sor.

"Very pretty," he remarked, looking round the room--without appearing to
care for anything in it, except the prints.

Francine was bent on fascinating him. She raised her eyebrows and lifted
her hands, in playful remonstrance. "Do remember it's _my_ room," she
said, "and take some little interest in it, for _my_ sake!"

"What do you want me to say?" he asked.

"Come and sit down by me." She made room for him on the sofa. Her one
favorite aspiration--the longing to excite envy in others--expressed
itself in her next words. "Say something pretty," she answered; "say you
would like to have such a room as this."

"I should like to have your prints," he remarked. "Will that do?"

"It wouldn't do--from anybody else. Ah, Mr. Morris, I know why you are
not as nice as you might be! You are not happy. The school has lost its
one attraction, in losing our dear Emily. You feel it--I know you feel
it." She assisted this expression of sympathy to produce the right
effect by a sigh. "What would I not give to inspire such devotion as
yours! I don't envy Emily; I only wish--" She paused in confusion,
and opened her fan. "Isn't it pretty?" she said, with an ostentatious
appearance of changing the subject. Alban behaved like a monster; he
began to talk of the weather.

"I think this is the hottest day we have had," he said; "no wonder you
want your fan. Netherwoods is an airless place at this season of the
year."

She controlled her temper. "I do indeed feel the heat," she admitted,
with a resignation which gently reproved him; "it is so heavy and
oppressive here after Brighton. Perhaps my sad life, far away from
home and friends, makes me sensitive to trifles. Do you think so, Mr.
Morris?"

The merciless man said he thought it was the situation of the house.

"Miss Ladd took the place in the spring," he continued; "and only
discovered the one objection to it some months afterward. We are in the
highest part of the valley here--but, you see, it's a valley surrounded
by hills; and on three sides the hills are near us. All very well in
winter; but in summer I have heard of girls in this school so out of
health in the relaxing atmosphere that they have been sent home again."

Francine suddenly showed an interest in what he was saying. If he had
cared to observe her closely, he might have noticed it.

"Do you mean that the girls were really ill?" she asked.

"No. They slept badly--lost appetite--started at trifling noises. In
short, their nerves were out of order."

"Did they get well again at home, in another air?"

"Not a doubt of it," he answered, beginning to get weary of the subject.
"May I look at your books?"

Francine's interest in the influence of different atmospheres on health
was not exhausted yet. "Do you know where the girls lived when they were
at home?" she inquired.

"I know where one of them lived. She was the best pupil I ever had--and
I remember she lived in Yorkshire." He was so weary of the idle
curiosity--as it appeared to him--which persisted in asking trifling
questions, that he left his seat, and crossed the room. "May I look at
your books?" he repeated.

"Oh, yes!"

The conversation was suspended for a while. The lady thought, "I should
like to box his ears!" The gentleman thought, "She's only an inquisitive
fool after all!" His examination of her books confirmed him in the
delusion that there was really nothing in Francine's character which
rendered it necessary to caution Emily against the advances of her new
friend. Turning away from the book-case, he made the first excuse that
occurred to him for putting an end to the interview.

"I must beg you to let me return to my duties, Miss de Sor. I have to
correct the young ladies' drawings, before they begin again to-morrow."

Francine's wounded vanity made a last expiring attempt to steal the
heart of Emily's lover.

"You remind me that I have a favor to ask," she said. "I don't attend
the other classes--but I should so like to join _your_ class! May I?"
She looked up at him with a languishing appearance of entreaty which
sorely tried Alban's capacity to keep his face in serious order. He
acknowledged the compliment paid to him in studiously commonplace terms,
and got a little nearer to the open window. Francine's obstinacy was not
conquered yet.

"My education has been sadly neglected," she continued; "but I have had
some little instruction in drawing. You will not find me so ignorant
as some of the other girls." She waited a little, anticipating a few
complimentary words. Alban waited also--in silence. "I shall look
forward with pleasure to my lessons under such an artist as yourself,"
she went on, and waited again, and was disappointed again. "Perhaps,"
she resumed, "I may become your favorite pupil--Who knows?"

"Who indeed!"

It was not much to say, when he spoke at last--but it was enough to
encourage Francine. She called him "dear Mr. Morris"; she pleaded
for permission to take her first lesson immediately; she clasped her
hands--"Please say Yes!"

"I can't say Yes, till you have complied with the rules."

"Are they _your_ rules?"

Her eyes expressed the readiest submission--in that case. He entirely
failed to see it: he said they were Miss Ladd's rules--and wished her
good-evening.

She watched him, walking away down the terrace. How was he paid? Did he
receive a yearly salary, or did he get a little extra money for each
new pupil who took drawing lessons? In this last case, Francine saw her
opportunity of being even with him "You brute! Catch me attending your
class!"



CHAPTER XXXIII. RECOLLECTIONS OF ST. DOMINGO.

The night was oppressively hot. Finding it impossible to sleep, Francine
lay quietly in her bed, thinking. The subject of her reflections was a
person who occupied the humble position of her new servant.

Mrs. Ellmother looked wretchedly ill. Mrs. Ellmother had told Emily that
her object, in returning to domestic service, was to try if change would
relieve her from the oppression of her own thoughts. Mrs. Ellmother
believed in vulgar superstitions which declared Friday to be an unlucky
day; and which recommended throwing a pinch over your left shoulder, if
you happened to spill the salt.

In themselves, these were trifling recollections. But they assumed a
certain importance, derived from the associations which they called
forth.

They reminded Francine, by some mental process which she was at a loss
to trace, of Sappho the slave, and of her life at St. Domingo.

She struck a light, and unlocked her writing desk. From one of the
drawers she took out an old household account-book.

The first page contained some entries, relating to domestic expenses, in
her own handwriting. They recalled one of her efforts to occupy her idle
time, by relieving her mother of the cares of housekeeping. For a day or
two, she had persevered--and then she had ceased to feel any interest in
her new employment. The remainder of the book was completely filled
up, in a beautifully clear handwriting, beginning on the second page. A
title had been found for the manuscript by Francine. She had written at
the top of the page: _Sappho's Nonsense_.

After reading the first few sentences she rapidly turned over the
leaves, and stopped at a blank space near the end of the book. Here
again she had added a title. This time it implied a compliment to the
writer: the page was headed: _Sappho's Sense_.

She read this latter part of the manuscript with the closest attention.

"I entreat my kind and dear young mistress not to suppose that I believe
in witchcraft--after such an education as I have received. When I wrote
down, at your biding, all that I had told you by word of mouth, I cannot
imagine what delusion possessed me. You say I have a negro side to
my character, which I inherit from my mother. Did you mean this, dear
mistress, as a joke? I am almost afraid it is sometimes not far off from
the truth.

"Let me be careful, however, to avoid leading you into a mistake. It is
really true that the man-slave I spoke of did pine and die, after the
spell had been cast on him by my witch-mother's image of wax. But I
ought also to have told you that circumstances favored the working of
the spell: the fatal end was not brought about by supernatural means.

"The poor wretch was not in good health at the time; and our owner had
occasion to employ him in the valley of the island far inland. I have
been told, and can well believe, that the climate there is different
from the climate on the coast--in which the unfortunate slave had been
accustomed to live. The overseer wouldn't believe him when he said the
valley air would be his death--and the negroes, who might otherwise have
helped him, all avoided a man whom they knew to be under a spell.

"This, you see, accounts for what might appear incredible to civilized
persons. If you will do me a favor, you will burn this little book, as
soon as you have read what I have written here. If my request is not
granted, I can only implore you to let no eyes but your own see these
pages. My life might be in danger if the blacks knew what I have now
told you, in the interests of truth."

Francine closed the book, and locked it up again in her desk. "Now I
know," she said to herself, "what reminded me of St. Domingo."

When Francine rang her bell the next morning, so long a time elapsed
without producing an answer that she began to think of sending one of
the house-servants to make inquiries. Before she could decide, Mrs.
Ellmother presented herself, and offered her apologies.

"It's the first time I have overslept myself, miss, since I was a girl.
Please to excuse me, it shan't happen again."

"Do you find that the air here makes you drowsy?" Francine asked.

Mrs. Ellmother shook her head. "I didn't get to sleep," she said,
"till morning, and so I was too heavy to be up in time. But air has got
nothing to do with it. Gentlefolks may have their whims and fancies. All
air is the same to people like me."

"You enjoy good health, Mrs. Ellmother?"

"Why not, miss? I have never had a doctor."

"Oh! That's your opinion of doctors, is it?"

"I won't have anything to do with them--if that's what you mean by my
opinion," Mrs. Ellmother answered doggedly. "How will you have your hair
done?"

"The same as yesterday. Have you seen anything of Miss Emily? She went
back to London the day after you left us."

"I haven't been in London. I'm thankful to say my lodgings are let to a
good tenant."

"Then where have you lived, while you were waiting to come here?"

"I had only one place to go to, miss; I went to the village where I was
born. A friend found a corner for me. Ah, dear heart, it's a pleasant
place, there!"

"A place like this?"

"Lord help you! As little like this as chalk is to cheese. A fine big
moor, miss, in Cumberland, without a tree in sight--look where you may.
Something like a wind, I can tell you, when it takes to blowing there."

"Have you never been in this part of the country?"

"Not I! When I left the North, my new mistress took me to Canada. Talk
about air! If there was anything in it, the people in _that_ air ought
to live to be a hundred. I liked Canada."

"And who was your next mistress?"

Thus far, Mrs. Ellmother had been ready enough to talk. Had she failed
to hear what Francine had just said to her? or had she some reason for
feeling reluctant to answer? In any case, a spirit of taciturnity took
sudden possession of her--she was silent.

Francine (as usual) persisted. "Was your next place in service with Miss
Emily's aunt?"

"Yes."

"Did the old lady always live in London?"

"No."

"What part of the country did she live in?"

"Kent."

"Among the hop gardens?"

"No."

"In what other part, then?"

"Isle of Thanet."

"Near the sea coast?"

"Yes."

Even Francine could insist no longer: Mrs. Ellmother's reserve had
beaten her--for that day at least. "Go into the hall," she said, "and
see if there are any letters for me in the rack."

There was a letter bearing the Swiss postmark. Simple Cecilia was
flattered and delighted by the charming manner in which Francine had
written to her. She looked forward with impatience to the time when
their present acquaintance might ripen into friendship. Would "Dear
Miss de Sor" waive all ceremony, and consent to be a guest (later in the
autumn) at her father's house? Circumstances connected with her sister's
health would delay their return to England for a little while. By the
end of the month she hoped to be at home again, and to hear if Francine
was disengaged. Her address, in England, was Monksmoor Park, Hants.

Having read the letter, Francine drew a moral from it: "There is great
use in a fool, when one knows how to manage her."

Having little appetite for her breakfast, she tried the experiment of a
walk on the terrace. Alban Morris was right; the air at Netherwoods, in
the summer time, _was_ relaxing. The morning mist still hung over the
lowest part of the valley, between the village and the hills beyond. A
little exercise produced a feeling of fatigue. Francine returned to her
room, and trifled with her tea and toast.

Her next proceeding was to open her writing-desk, and look into the old
account-book once more. While it lay open on her lap, she recalled what
had passed that morning, between Mrs. Ellmother and herself.

The old woman had been born and bred in the North, on an open moor. She
had been removed to the keen air of Canada when she left her birthplace.
She had been in service after that, on the breezy eastward coast of
Kent. Would the change to the climate of Netherwoods produce any effect
on Mrs. Ellmother? At her age, and with her seasoned constitution, would
she feel it as those school-girls had felt it--especially that one among
them, who lived in the bracing air of the North, the air of Yorkshire?

Weary of solitary thinking on one subject, Francine returned to the
terrace with a vague idea of finding something to amuse her--that is to
say, something she could turn into ridicule--if she joined the girls.

The next morning, Mrs. Ellmother answered her mistress's bell without
delay. "You have slept better, this time?" Francine said.

"No, miss. When I did get to sleep I was troubled by dreams. Another bad
night--and no mistake!"

"I suspect your mind is not quite at ease," Francine suggested.

"Why do you suspect that, if you please?"

"You talked, when I met you at Miss Emily's, of wanting to get away from
your own thoughts. Has the change to this place helped you?"

"It hasn't helped me as I expected. Some people's thoughts stick fast."

"Remorseful thoughts?" Francine inquired.

Mrs. Ellmother held up her forefinger, and shook it with a gesture of
reproof. "I thought we agreed, miss, that there was to be no pumping."

The business of the toilet proceeded in silence.

A week passed. During an interval in the labors of the school, Miss Ladd
knocked at the door of Francine's room.

"I want to speak to you, my dear, about Mrs. Ellmother. Have you noticed
that she doesn't seem to be in good health?"

"She looks rather pale, Miss Ladd."

"It's more serious than that, Francine. The servants tell me that she
has hardly any appetite. She herself acknowledges that she sleeps badly.
I noticed her yesterday evening in the garden, under the schoolroom
window. One of the girls dropped a dictionary. She started at that
slight noise, as if it terrified her. Her nerves are seriously out of
order. Can you prevail upon her to see the doctor?"

Francine hesitated--and made an excuse. "I think she would be much more
likely, Miss Ladd, to listen to you. Do you mind speaking to her?"

"Certainly not!"

Mrs. Ellmother was immediately sent for. "What is your pleasure, miss?"
she said to Francine.

Miss Ladd interposed. "It is I who wish to speak to you, Mrs. Ellmother.
For some days past, I have been sorry to see you looking ill."

"I never was ill in my life, ma'am."

Miss Ladd gently persisted. "I hear that you have lost your appetite."

"I never was a great eater, ma'am."

It was evidently useless to risk any further allusion to Mrs.
Ellmother's symptoms. Miss Ladd tried another method of persuasion.
"I daresay I may be mistaken," she said; "but I do really feel anxious
about you. To set my mind at rest, will you see the doctor?"

"The doctor! Do you think I'm going to begin taking physic, at my time
of life? Lord, ma'am! you amuse me--you do indeed!" She burst into a
sudden fit of laughter; the hysterical laughter which is on the verge of
tears. With a desperate effort, she controlled herself. "Please, don't
make a fool of me again," she said--and left the room.

"What do you think now?" Miss Ladd asked.

Francine appeared to be still on her guard.

"I don't know what to think," she said evasively.

Miss Ladd looked at her in silent surprise, and withdrew.

Left by herself, Francine sat with her elbows on the table and her face
in her hands, absorbed in thought. After a long interval, she opened her
desk--and hesitated. She took a sheet of note-paper--and paused, as
if still in doubt. She snatched up her pen, with a sudden recovery of
resolution--and addressed these lines to the wife of her father's agent
in London:

"When I was placed under your care, on the night of my arrival from
the West Indies, you kindly said I might ask you for any little service
which might be within your power. I shall be greatly obliged if you can
obtain for me, and send to this place, a supply of artists' modeling
wax--sufficient for the product ion of a small image."



CHAPTER XXXIV. IN THE DARK.

A week later, Alban Morris happened to be in Miss Ladd's study, with
a report to make on the subject of his drawing-class. Mrs. Ellmother
interrupted them for a moment. She entered the room to return a book
which Francine had borrowed that morning.

"Has Miss de Sor done with it already?" Miss Ladd asked.

"She won't read it, ma'am. She says the leaves smell of tobacco-smoke."

Miss Ladd turned to Alban, and shook her head with an air of
good-humored reproof. "I know who has been reading that book last!" she
said.

Alban pleaded guilty, by a look. He was the only master in the school
who smoked. As Mrs. Ellmother passed him, on her way out, he noticed the
signs of suffering in her wasted face.

"That woman is surely in a bad state of health," he said. "Has she seen
the doctor?"

"She flatly refuses to consult the doctor," Miss Ladd replied. "If she
was a stranger, I should meet the difficulty by telling Miss de Sor
(whose servant she is) that Mrs. Ellmother must be sent home. But I
cannot act in that peremptory manner toward a person in whom Emily is
interested."

From that moment Mrs. Ellmother became a person in whom Alban was
interested. Later in the day, he met her in one of the lower corridors
of the house, and spoke to her. "I am afraid the air of this place
doesn't agree with you," he said.

Mrs. Ellmother's irritable objection to being told (even indirectly)
that she looked ill, expressed itself roughly in reply. "I daresay you
mean well, sir--but I don't see how it matters to you whether the place
agrees with me or not."

"Wait a minute," Alban answered good-humoredly. "I am not quite a
stranger to you."

"How do you make that out, if you please?"

"I know a young lady who has a sincere regard for you."

"You don't mean Miss Emily?"

"Yes, I do. I respect and admire Miss Emily; and I have tried, in my
poor way, to be of some little service to her."

Mrs. Ellmother's haggard face instantly softened. "Please to forgive me,
sir, for forgetting my manners," she said simply. "I have had my health
since the day I was born--and I don't like to be told, in my old age,
that a new place doesn't agree with me."

Alban accepted this apology in a manner which at once won the heart
of the North-countrywoman. He shook hands with her. "You're one of the
right sort," she said; "there are not many of them in this house."

Was she alluding to Francine? Alban tried to make the discovery. Polite
circumlocution would be evidently thrown away on Mrs. Ellmother. "Is
your new mistress one of the right sort?" he asked bluntly.

The old servant's answer was expressed by a frowning look, followed by a
plain question.

"Do you say that, sir, because you like my new mistress?"

"No."

"Please to shake hands again!" She said it--took his hand with a sudden
grip that spoke for itself--and walked away.

Here was an exhibition of character which Alban was just the man to
appreciate. "If I had been an old woman," he thought in his dryly
humorous way, "I believe I should have been like Mrs. Ellmother. We
might have talked of Emily, if she had not left me in such a hurry. When
shall I see her again?"

He was destined to see her again, that night--under circumstances which
he remembered to the end of his life.

The rules of Netherwoods, in summer time, recalled the young ladies from
their evening's recreation in the grounds at nine o'clock. After that
hour, Alban was free to smoke his pipe, and to linger among trees and
flower-beds before he returned to his hot little rooms in the village.
As a relief to the drudgery of teaching the young ladies, he had
been using his pencil, when the day's lessons were over, for his own
amusement. It was past ten o'clock before he lighted his pipe, and began
walking slowly to and fro on the path which led to the summer-house, at
the southern limit of the grounds.

In the perfect stillness of the night, the clock of the village church
was distinctly audible, striking the hours and the quarters. The moon
had not risen; but the mysterious glimmer of starlight trembled on the
large open space between the trees and the house.

Alban paused, admiring with an artist's eye the effect of light, so
faintly and delicately beautiful, on the broad expanse of the lawn.
"Does the man live who could paint that?" he asked himself. His memory
recalled the works of the greatest of all landscape painters--the
English artists of fifty years since. While recollections of many a
noble picture were still passing through his mind, he was startled by
the sudden appearance of a bareheaded woman on the terrace steps.

She hurried down to the lawn, staggering as she ran--stopped, and looked
back at the house--hastened onward toward the trees--stopped again,
looking backward and forward, uncertain which way to turn next--and then
advanced once more. He could now hear her heavily gasping for breath. As
she came nearer, the starlight showed a panic-stricken face--the face of
Mrs. Ellmother.

Alban ran to meet her. She dropped on the grass before he could cross
the short distance which separated them. As he raised her in his arms
she looked at him wildly, and murmured and muttered in the vain attempt
to speak. "Look at me again," he said. "Don't you remember the man who
had some talk with you to-day?" She still stared at him vacantly: he
tried again. "Don't you remember Miss Emily's friend?"

As the name passed his lips, her mind in some degree recovered its
balance. "Yes," she said; "Emily's friend; I'm glad I have met with
Emily's friend." She caught at Alban's arm--starting as if her own words
had alarmed her. "What am I talking about? Did I say 'Emily'? A servant
ought to say 'Miss Emily.' My head swims. Am I going mad?"

Alban led her to one of the garden chairs. "You're only a little
frightened," he said. "Rest, and compose yourself."

She looked over her shoulder toward the house. "Not here! I've run away
from a she-devil; I want to be out of sight. Further away, Mister--I
don't know your name. Tell me your name; I won't trust you, unless you
tell me your name!"

"Hush! hush! Call me Alban."

"I never heard of such a name; I won't trust you."

"You won't trust your friend, and Emily's friend? You don't mean that,
I'm sure. Call me by my other name--call me 'Morris.'"

"Morris?" she repeated. "Ah, I've heard of people called 'Morris.' Look
back! Your eyes are young--do you see her on the terrace?"

"There isn't a living soul to be seen anywhere."

With one hand he raised her as he spoke--and with the other he took up
the chair. In a minute more, they were out of sight of the house. He
seated her so that she could rest her head against the trunk of a tree.

"What a good fellow!" the poor old creature said, admiring him; "he
knows how my head pains me. Don't stand up! You're a tall man. She might
see you."

"She can see nothing. Look at the trees behind us. Even the starlight
doesn't get through them."

Mrs. Ellmother was not satisfied yet. "You take it coolly," she said.
"Do you know who saw us together in the passage to-day? You good Morris,
_she_ saw us--she did. Wretch! Cruel, cunning, shameless wretch."

In the shadows that were round them, Alban could just see that she
was shaking her clinched fists in the air. He made another attempt to
control her. "Don't excite yourself! If she comes into the garden, she
might hear you."

The appeal to her fears had its effect.

"That's true," she said, in lowered tones. A sudden distrust of him
seized her the next moment. "Who told me I was excited?" she burst out.
"It's you who are excited. Deny it if you dare; I begin to suspect you,
Mr. Morris; I don't like your conduct. What has become of your pipe? I
saw you put your pipe in your coat pocket. You did it when you set me
down among the trees where _she_ could see me! You are in league
with her--she is coming to meet you here--you know she does not like
tobacco-smoke. Are you two going to put me in the madhouse?"

She started to her feet. It occurred to Alban that the speediest way of
pacifying her might be by means of the pipe. Mere words would exercise
no persuasive influence over that bewildered mind. Instant action, of
some kind, would be far more likely to have the right effect. He put his
pipe and his tobacco pouch into her hands, and so mastered her attention
before he spoke.

"Do you know how to fill a man's pipe for him?" he asked.

"Haven't I filled my husband's pipe hundreds of times?" she answered
sharply.

"Very well. Now do it for me."

She took her chair again instantly, and filled the pipe. He lighted it,
and seated himself on the grass, quietly smoking. "Do you think I'm in
league with her now?" he asked, purposely adopting the rough tone of a
man in her own rank of life.

She answered him as she might have answered her husband, in the days of
her unhappy marriage.

"Oh, don't gird at me, there's a good man! If I've been off my head for
a minute or two, please not to notice me. It's cool and quiet here,"
the poor woman said gratefully. "Bless God for the darkness; there's
something comforting in the darkness--along with a good man like you.
Give me a word of advice. You are my friend in need. What am I to do? I
daren't go back to the house!"

She was quiet enough now, to suggest the hope that she might be able
to give Alban some information "Were you with Miss de Sor," he asked,
"before you came out here? What did she do to frighten you?"

There was no answer; Mrs. Ellmother had abruptly risen once more.
"Hush!" she whispered. "Don't I hear somebody near us?"

Alban at once went back, along the winding path which they had followed.
No creature was visible in the gardens or on the terrace. On returning,
he found it impossible to use his eyes to any good purpose in the
obscurity among the trees. He waited a while, listening intently. No
sound was audible: there was not even air enough to stir the leaves.

As he returned to the place that he had left, the silence was broken by
the chimes of the distant church clock, striking the three-quarters past
ten.

Even that familiar sound jarred on Mrs. Ellmother's shattered nerves. In
her state of mind and body, she was evidently at the mercy of any false
alarm which might be raised by her own fears. Relieved of the feeling
of distrust which had thus far troubled him, Alban sat down by her
again--opened his match-box to relight his pipe--and changed his mind.
Mrs. Ellmother had unconsciously warned him to be cautious.

For the first time, he thought it likely that the heat in the house
might induce some of the inmates to try the cooler atmosphere in the
grounds. If this happened, and if he continued to smoke, curiosity might
tempt them to follow the scent of tobacco hanging on the stagnant air.

"Is there nobody near us?" Mrs. Ellmother asked. "Are you sure?"

"Quite sure. Now tell me, did you really mean it, when you said just now
that you wanted my advice?"

"Need you ask that, sir? Who else have I got to help me?"

"I am ready and willing to help you--but I can't do it unless I know
first what has passed between you and Miss de Sor. Will you trust me?"

"I will!"

"May I depend on you?"

"Try me!"



CHAPTER XXXV. THE TREACHERY OF THE PIPE.

Alban took Mrs. Ellmother at her word. "I am going to venture on a
guess," he said. "You have been with Miss de Sor to-night."

"Quite true, Mr. Morris."

"I am going to guess again. Did Miss de Sor ask you to stay with her,
when you went into her room?"

"That's it! She rang for me, to see how I was getting on with my
needlework--and she was what I call hearty, for the first time since
I have been in her service. I didn't think badly of her when she first
talked of engaging me; and I've had reason to repent of my opinion ever
since. Oh, she showed the cloven foot to-night! 'Sit down,' she says;
'I've nothing to read, and I hate work; let's have a little chat.' She's
got a glib tongue of her own. All I could do was to say a word now and
then to keep her going. She talked and talked till it was time to light
the lamp. She was particular in telling me to put the shade over it. We
were half in the dark, and half in the light. She trapped me (Lord knows
how!) into talking about foreign parts; I mean the place she lived in
before they sent her to England. Have you heard that she comes from the
West Indies?"

"Yes; I have heard that. Go on."

"Wait a bit, sir. There's something, by your leave, that I want to know.
Do you believe in Witchcraft?"

"I know nothing about it. Did Miss de Sor put that question to you?"

"She did."

"And how did you answer?"

"Neither in one way nor the other. I'm in two minds about that matter
of Witchcraft. When I was a girl, there was an old woman in our village,
who was a sort of show. People came to see her from all the country
round--gentlefolks among them. It was her great age that made her
famous. More than a hundred years old, sir! One of our neighbors didn't
believe in her age, and she heard of it. She cast a spell on his flock.
I tell you, she sent a plague on his sheep, the plague of the Bots. The
whole flock died; I remember it well. Some said the sheep would have had
the Bots anyhow. Some said it was the spell. Which of them was right?
How am I to settle it?"

"Did you mention this to Miss de Sor?"

"I was obliged to mention it. Didn't I tell you, just now, that I can't
make up my mind about Witchcraft? 'You don't seem to know whether you
believe or disbelieve,' she says. It made me look like a fool. I told
her I had my reasons, and then I was obliged to give them."

"And what did she do then?"

"She said, 'I've got a better story of Witchcraft than yours.' And she
opened a little book, with a lot of writing in it, and began to read.
Her story made my flesh creep. It turns me cold, sir, when I think of it
now."

He heard her moaning and shuddering. Strongly as his interest was
excited, there was a compassionate reluctance in him to ask her to go
on. His merciful scruples proved to be needless. The fascination of
beauty it is possible to resist. The fascination of horror fastens
its fearful hold on us, struggle against it as we may. Mrs. Ellmother
repeated what she had heard, in spite of herself.

"It happened in the West Indies," she said; "and the writing of a woman
slave was the writing in the little book. The slave wrote about her
mother. Her mother was a black--a Witch in her own country. There was
a forest in her own country. The devil taught her Witchcraft in the
forest. The serpents and the wild beasts were afraid to touch her.
She lived without eating. She was sold for a slave, and sent to the
island--an island in the West Indies. An old man lived there; the
wickedest man of them all. He filled the black Witch with devilish
knowledge. She learned to make the image of wax. The image of wax casts
spells. You put pins in the image of wax. At every pin you put, the
person under the spell gets nearer and nearer to death. There was a poor
black in the island. He offended the Witch. She made his image in wax;
she cast spells on him. He couldn't sleep; he couldn't eat; he was such
a coward that common noises frightened him. Like Me! Oh, God, like me!"

"Wait a little," Alban interposed. "You are exciting yourself
again--wait."

"You're wrong, sir! You think it ended when she finished her story, and
shut up her book; there's worse to come than anything you've heard yet.
I don't know what I did to offend her. She looked at me and spoke to me,
as if I was the dirt under her feet. 'If you're too stupid to understand
what I have been reading,' she says, 'get up and go to the glass. Look
at yourself, and remember what happened to the slave who was under the
spell. You're getting paler and paler, and thinner and thinner; you're
pining away just as he did. Shall I tell you why?' She snatched off the
shade from the lamp, and put her hand under the table, and brought out
an image of wax. _My_ image! She pointed to three pins in it. 'One,'
she says, 'for no sleep. One for no appetite. One for broken nerves.' I
asked her what I had done to make such a bitter enemy of her. She says,
'Remember what I asked of you when we talked of your being my servant.
Choose which you will do? Die by inches' (I swear she said it as I hope
to be saved); 'die by inches, or tell me--'"

There--in the full frenzy of the agitation that possessed her--there,
Mrs. Ellmother suddenly stopped.

Alban's first impression was that she might have fainted. He looked
closer, and could just see her shadowy figure still seated in the chair.
He asked if she was ill. No.

"Then why don't you go on?"

"I have done," she answered.

"Do you think you can put me off," he rejoined sternly, "with such an
excuse as that? What did Miss de Sor ask you to tell her? You promised
to trust me. Be as good as your word."

In the days of her health and strength, she would have set him at
defiance. All she could do now was to appeal to his mercy.

"Make some allowance for me," she said. "I have been terribly upset.
What has become of my courage? What has broken me down in this way?
Spare me, sir."

He refused to listen. "This vile attempt to practice on your fears may
be repeated," he reminded her. "More cruel advantage may be taken of the
nervous derangement from which you are suffering in the climate of this
place. You little know me, if you think I will allow that to go on."

She made a last effort to plead with him. "Oh sir, is this behaving
like the good kind man I thought you were? You say you are Miss Emily's
friend? Don't press me--for Miss Emily's sake!"

"Emily!" Alban exclaimed. "Is _she_ concerned in this?"

There was a change to tenderness in his voice, which persuaded Mrs.
Ellmother that she had found her way to the weak side of him. Her one
effort now was to strengthen the impression which she believed herself
to have produced. "Miss Emily _is_ concerned in it," she confessed.

"In what way?"

"Never mind in what way."

"But I do mind."

"I tell you, sir, Miss Emily must never know it to her dying day!"

The first suspicion of the truth crossed Alban's mind.

"I understand you at last," he said. "What Miss Emily must never
know--is what Miss de Sor wanted you to tell her. Oh, it's useless to
contradict me! Her motive in trying to frighten you is as plain to me
now as if she had confessed it. Are you sure you didn't betray yourself,
when she showed the image of wax?"

"I should have died first!" The reply had hardly escaped her before she
regretted it. "What makes you want to be so sure about it?" she said.
"It looks as if you knew--"

"I do know."

"What!"

The kindest thing that he could do now was to speak out. "Your secret is
no secret to _me_," he said.

Rage and fear shook her together. For the moment she was like the Mrs.
Ellmother of former days. "You lie!" she cried.

"I speak the truth."

"I won't believe you! I daren't believe you!"

"Listen to me. In Emily's interests, listen to me. I have read of the
murder at Zeeland--"

"That's nothing! The man was a namesake of her father."

"The man was her father himself. Keep your seat! There is nothing to be
alarmed about. I know that Emily is ignorant of the horrid death that
her father died. I know that you and your late mistress have kept the
discovery from her to this day. I know the love and pity which plead
your excuse for deceiving her, and the circumstances that favored the
deception. My good creature, Emily's peace of mind is as sacred to me
as it is to you! I love her as I love my own life--and better. Are you
calmer, now?"

He heard her crying: it was the best relief that could come to her.
After waiting a while to let the tears have their way, he helped her to
rise. There was no more to be said now. The one thing to do was to take
her back to the house.

"I can give you a word of advice," he said, "before we part for the
night. You must leave Miss de Sor's service at once. Your health will be
a sufficient excuse. Give her warning immediately."

Mrs. Ellmother hung back, when he offered her his arm. The bare prospect
of seeing Francine again was revolting to her. On Alban's assurance
that the notice to leave could be given in writing, she made no further
resistance. The village clock struck eleven as they ascended the terrace
steps.

A minute later, another person left the grounds by the path which led
to the house. Alban's precaution had been taken too late. The smell of
tobacco-smoke had guided Francine, when she was at a loss which way to
turn next in search of Mrs. Ellmother. For the last quarter of an hour
she had been listening, hidden among the trees.



CHAPTER XXXVI. CHANGE OF AIR.

The inmates of Netherwoods rose early, and went to bed early. When Alban
and Mrs. Ellmother arrived at the back door of the house, they found it
locked.

The only light visible, along the whole length of the building,
glimmered through the Venetian blind of the window-entrance to
Francine's sitting-room. Alban proposed to get admission to the house by
that way. In her horror of again encountering Francine, Mrs. Ellmother
positively refused to follow him when he turned away from the door.
"They can't be all asleep yet," she said--and rang the bell.

One person was still out of bed--and that person was the mistress of
the house. They recognized her voice in the customary question: "Who's
there?" The door having been opened, good Miss Ladd looked backward and
forward between Alban and Mrs. Ellmother, with the bewildered air of
a lady who doubted the evidence of her own eyes. The next moment, her
sense of humor overpowered her. She burst out laughing.

"Close the door, Mr. Morris," she said, "and be so good as to tell me
what this means. Have you been giving a lesson in drawing by starlight?"

Mrs. Ellmother moved, so that the light of the lamp in Miss Ladd's hand
fell on her face. "I am faint and giddy," she said; "let me go to my
bed."

Miss Ladd instantly followed her. "Pray forgive me! I didn't see you
were ill, when I spoke," she gently explained. "What can I do for you?"

"Thank you kindly, ma'am. I want nothing but peace and quiet. I wish you
good-night."

Alban followed Miss Ladd to her study, on the front side of the
house. He had just mentioned the circumstances under which he and Mrs.
Ellmother had met, when they were interrupted by a tap at the door.
Francine had got back to her room unperceived, by way of the French
window. She now presented herself, with an elaborate apology, and with
the nearest approach to a penitent expression of which her face was
capable.

"I am ashamed, Miss Ladd, to intrude on you at this time of night. My
only excuse is, that I am anxious about Mrs. Ellmother. I heard you just
now in the hall. If she is really ill, I am the unfortunate cause of
it."

"In what way, Miss de Sor?"

"I am sorry to say I frightened her--while we were talking in my
room--quite unintentionally. She rushed to the door and ran out. I
supposed she had gone to her bedroom; I had no idea she was in the
grounds."

In this false statement there was mingled a grain of truth. It was
true that Francine believed Mrs. Ellmother to have taken refuge in her
room--for she had examined the room. Finding it empty, and failing
to discover the fugitive in other parts of the house, she had become
alarmed, and had tried the grounds next--with the formidable result
which has been already related. Concealing this circumstance, she had
lied in such a skillfully artless manner that Alban (having no suspicion
of what had really happened to sharpen his wits) was as completely
deceived as Miss Ladd. Proceeding to further explanation--and
remembering that she was in Alban's presence--Francine was careful to
keep herself within the strict limit of truth. Confessing that she had
frightened her servant by a description of sorcery, as it was practiced
among the slaves on her father's estate, she only lied again, in
declaring that Mrs. Ellmother had supposed she was in earnest, when she
was guilty of no more serious offense than playing a practical joke.

In this case, Alban was necessarily in a position to detect the
falsehood. But it was so evidently in Francine's interests to present
her conduct in the most favorable light, that the discovery failed to
excite his suspicion. He waited in silence, while Miss Ladd administered
a severe reproof. Francine having left the room, as penitently as she
had entered it (with her handkerchief over her tearless eyes), he was
at liberty, with certain reserves, to return to what had passed between
Mrs. Ellmother and himself.

"The fright which the poor old woman has suffered," he said, "has led
to one good result. I have found her ready at last to acknowledge that
she is ill, and inclined to believe that the change to Netherwoods has
had something to do with it. I have advised her to take the course which
you suggested, by leaving this house. Is it possible to dispense with
the usual delay, when she gives notice to leave Miss de Sor's service?"

"She need feel no anxiety, poor soul, on that account," Miss Ladd
replied. "In any case, I had arranged that a week's notice on either
side should be enough. As it is, I will speak to Francine myself. The
least she can do, to express her regret, is to place no difficulties in
Mrs. Ellmother's way."

The next day was Sunday.

Miss Ladd broke through her rule of attending to secular affairs on
week days only; and, after consulting with Mrs. Ellmother, arranged
with Francine that her servant should be at liberty to leave Netherwoods
(health permitting) on the next day. But one difficulty remained. Mrs.
Ellmother was in no condition to take the long journey to her birthplace
in Cumberland; and her own lodgings in London had been let.

Under these circumstances, what was the best arrangement that could be
made for her? Miss Ladd wisely and kindly wrote to Emily on the subject,
and asked for a speedy reply.

Later in the day, Alban was sent for to see Mrs. Ellmother. He found
her anxiously waiting to hear what had passed, on the previous night,
between Miss Ladd and himself. "Were you careful, sir, to say nothing
about Miss Emily?"

"I was especially careful; I never alluded to her in any way."

"Has Miss de Sor spoken to you?"

"I have not given her the opportunity."

"She's an obstinate one--she might try."

"If she does, she shall hear my opinion of her in plain words." The talk
between them turned next on Alban's discovery of the secret, of which
Mrs. Ellmother had believed herself to be the sole depositary since Miss
Letitia's death. Without alarming her by any needless allusion to Doctor
Allday or to Miss Jethro, he answered her inquiries (so far as he was
himself concerned) without reserve. Her curiosity once satisfied, she
showed no disposition to pursue the topic. She pointed to Miss Ladd's
cat, fast asleep by the side of an empty saucer.

"Is it a sin, Mr. Morris, to wish I was Tom? _He_ doesn't trouble
himself about his life that is past or his life that is to come. If I
could only empty my saucer and go to sleep, I shouldn't be thinking of
the number of people in this world, like myself, who would be better out
of it than in it. Miss Ladd has got me my liberty tomorrow; and I don't
even know where to go, when I leave this place."

"Suppose you follow Tom's example?" Alban suggested. "Enjoy to-day (in
that comfortable chair) and let to-morrow take care of itself."

To-morrow arrived, and justified Alban's system of philosophy. Emily
answered Miss Ladd's letter, to excellent purpose, by telegraph.

"I leave London to-day with Cecilia" (the message announced) "for
Monksmoor Park, Hants. Will Mrs. Ellmother take care of the cottage in
my absence? I shall be away for a month, at least. All is prepared for
her if she consents."

Mrs. Ellmother gladly accepted this proposal. In the interval of Emily's
absence, she could easily arrange to return to her own lodgings.
With words of sincere gratitude she took leave of Miss Ladd; but no
persuasion would induce her to say good-by to Francine. "Do me one more
kindness, ma'am; don't tell Miss de Sor when I go away." Ignorant of
the provocation which had produced this unforgiving temper of mind, Miss
Ladd gently remonstrated. "Miss de Sor received my reproof in a penitent
spirit; she expresses sincere sorrow for having thoughtlessly frightened
you. Both yesterday and to-day she has made kind inquiries after
your health. Come! come! don't bear malice--wish her good-by." Mrs.
Ellmother's answer was characteristic. "I'll say good-by by telegraph,
when I get to London."

Her last words were addressed to Alban. "If you can find a way of doing
it, sir, keep those two apart."

"Do you mean Emily and Miss de Sor?

"Yes."

"What are you afraid of?"

"I don't know."

"Is that quite reasonable, Mrs. Ellmother?"

"I daresay not. I only know that I _am_ afraid."

The pony chaise took her away. Alban's class was not yet ready for him.
He waited on the terrace.

Innocent alike of all knowledge of the serious reason for fear which
did really exist, Mrs. Ellmother and Alban felt, nevertheless, the
same vague distrust of an intimacy between the two girls. Idle, vain,
malicious, false--to know that Francine's character presented these
faults, without any discoverable merits to set against them, was surely
enough to justify a gloomy view of the prospect, if she succeeded in
winning the position of Emily's friend. Alban reasoned it out logically
in this way--without satisfying himself, and without accounting for
the remembrance that haunted him of Mrs. Ellmother's farewell look. "A
commonplace man would say we are both in a morbid state of mind," he
thought; "and sometimes commonplace men turn out to be right."

He was too deeply preoccupied to notice that he had advanced perilously
near Francine's window. She suddenly stepped out of her room, and spoke
to him.

"Do you happen to know, Mr. Morris, why Mrs. Ellmother has gone away
without bidding me good-by?"

"She was probably afraid, Miss de Sor, that you might make her the
victim of another joke."

Francine eyed him steadily. "Have you any particular reason for speaking
to me in that way?"

"I am not aware that I have answered you rudely--if that is what you
mean."

"That is _not_ what I mean. You seem to have taken a dislike to me. I
should be glad to know why."

"I dislike cruelty--and you have behaved cruelly to Mrs. Ellmother."

"Meaning to be cruel?" Francine inquired.

"You know as well as I do, Miss de Sor, that I can't answer that
question."

Francine looked at him again "Am I to understand that we are enemies?"
she asked.

"You are to understand," he replied, "that a person whom Miss Ladd
employs to help her in teaching, cannot always presume to express his
sentiments in speaking to the young ladies."

"If that means anything, Mr. Morris, it means that we are enemies."

"It means, Miss de Sor, that I am the drawing-master at this school, and
that I am called to my class."

Francine returned to her room, relieved of the only doubt that had
troubled her. Plainly no suspicion that she had overheard what passed
between Mrs. Ellmother and himself existed in Alban's mind. As to the
use to be made of her discovery, she felt no difficulty in deciding to
wait, and be guided by events. Her curiosity and her self-esteem had
been alike gratified--she had got the better of Mrs. Ellmother at last,
and with that triumph she was content. While Emily remained her friend,
it would be an act of useless cruelty to disclose the terrible truth.
There had certainly been a coolness between them at Brighton. But
Francine--still influenced by the magnetic attraction which drew her
to Emily--did not conceal from herself that she had offered the
provocation, and had been therefore the person to blame. "I can set all
that right," she thought, "when we meet at Monksmoor Park." She opened
her desk and wrote the shortest and sweetest of letters to Cecilia. "I
am entirely at the disposal of my charming friend, on any convenient
day--may I add, my dear, the sooner the better?"



CHAPTER XXXVII. "THE LADY WANTS YOU, SIR."

The pupils of the drawing-class put away their pencils and color-boxes
in high good humor: the teacher's vigilant eye for faults had failed
him for the first time in their experience. Not one of them had been
reproved; they had chattered and giggled and drawn caricatures on the
margin of the paper, as freely as if the master had left the room.
Alban's wandering attention was indeed beyond the reach of control. His
interview with Francine had doubled his sense of responsibility
toward Emily--while he was further than ever from seeing how he could
interfere, to any useful purpose, in his present position, and with his
reasons for writing under reserve.

One of the servants addressed him as he was leaving the schoolroom.
The landlady's boy was waiting in the hall, with a message from his
lodgings.

"Now then! what is it?" he asked, irritably.

"The lady wants you, sir." With this mysterious answer, the boy
presented a visiting card. The name inscribed on it was--"Miss Jethro."

She had arrived by the train, and she was then waiting at Alban's
lodgings. "Say I will be with her directly." Having given the message,
he stood for a while, with his hat in his hand--literally lost in
astonishment. It was simply impossible to guess at Miss Jethro's
object: and yet, with the usual perversity of human nature, he was still
wondering what she could possibly want with him, up to the final moment
when he opened the door of his sitting-room.

She rose and bowed with the same grace of movement, and the same
well-bred composure of manner, which Doctor Allday had noticed when she
entered his consulting-room. Her dark melancholy eyes rested on Alban
with a look of gentle interest. A faint flush of color animated for
a moment the faded beauty of her face--passed away again--and left it
paler than before.

"I cannot conceal from myself," she began, "that I am intruding on you
under embarrassing circumstances."

"May I ask, Miss Jethro, to what circumstances you allude?"

"You forget, Mr. Morris, that I left Miss Ladd's school, in a manner
which justified doubt of me in the minds of strangers."

"Speaking as one of those strangers," Alban replied, "I cannot feel that
I had any right to form an opinion, on a matter which only concerned
Miss Ladd and yourself."

Miss Jethro bowed gravely. "You encourage me to hope," she said. "I
think you will place a favorable construction on my visit when I mention
my motive. I ask you to receive me, in the interests of Miss Emily
Brown."

Stating her purpose in calling on him in those plain terms, she added to
the amazement which Alban already felt, by handing to him--as if she was
presenting an introduction--a letter marked, "Private," addressed to her
by Doctor Allday.

"I may tell you," she premised, "that I had no idea of troubling you,
until Doctor Allday suggested it. I wrote to him in the first instance;
and there is his reply. Pray read it."

The letter was dated, "Penzance"; and the doctor wrote, as he spoke,
without ceremony.


"MADAM--Your letter has been forwarded to me. I am spending my autumn
holiday in the far West of Cornwall. However, if I had been at home,
it would have made no difference. I should have begged leave to decline
holding any further conversation with you, on the subject of Miss Emily
Brown, for the following reasons:

"In the first place, though I cannot doubt your sincere interest in the
young lady's welfare, I don't like your mysterious way of showing it. In
the second place, when I called at your address in London, after you
had left my house, I found that you had taken to flight. I place my own
interpretation on this circumstance; but as it is not founded on any
knowledge of facts, I merely allude to it, and say no more."

Arrived at that point, Alban offered to return the letter. "Do you
really mean me to go on reading it?" he asked.

"Yes," she said quietly.

Alban returned to the letter.

"In the third place, I have good reason to believe that you entered Miss
Ladd's school as a teacher, under false pretenses. After that discovery,
I tell you plainly I hesitate to attach credit to any statement that you
may wish to make. At the same time, I must not permit my prejudices
(as you will probably call them) to stand in the way of Miss Emily's
interests--supposing them to be really depending on any interference
of yours. Miss Ladd's drawing-master, Mr. Alban Morris, is even more
devoted to Miss Emily's service than I am. Whatever you might have said
to me, you can say to him--with this possible advantage, that _he_ may
believe you."

There the letter ended. Alban handed it back in silence.

Miss Jethro pointed to the words, "Mr. Alban Morris is even more devoted
to Miss Emily's service than I am."

"Is that true?" she asked.

"Quite true."

"I don't complain, Mr. Morris, of the hard things said of me in that
letter; you are at liberty to suppose, if you like, that I deserve them.
Attribute it to pride, or attribute it to reluctance to make needless
demands on your time--I shall not attempt to defend myself. I leave
you to decide whether the woman who has shown you that letter--having
something important to say to you--is a person who is mean enough to say
it under false pretenses."

"Tell me what I can do for you, Miss Jethro: and be assured, beforehand,
that I don't doubt your sincerity."

"My purpose in coming here," she answered, "is to induce you to use your
influence over Miss Emily Brown--"

"With what object?" Alban asked, interrupting her.

"My object is her own good. Some years since, I happened to become
acquainted with a person who has attained some celebrity as a preacher.
You have perhaps heard of Mr. Miles Mirabel?"

"I have heard of him."

"I have been in correspondence with him," Miss Jethro proceeded. "He
tells me he has been introduced to a young lady, who was formerly one of
Miss Ladd's pupils, and who is the daughter of Mr. Wyvil, of Monksmoor
Park. He has called on Mr. Wyvil; and he has since received an
invitation to stay at Mr. Wyvil's house. The day fixed for the visit is
Monday, the fifth of next month."

Alban listened--at a loss to know what interest he was supposed to have
in being made acquainted with Mr. Mirabel's engagements. Miss Jethro's
next words enlightened him.

"You are perhaps aware," she resumed, "that Miss Emily Brown is Miss
Wyvil's intimate friend. She will be one of the guests at Monksmoor
Park. If there are any obstacles which you can place in her way--if
there is any influence which you can exert, without exciting suspicion
of your motive--prevent her, I entreat you, from accepting Miss Wyvil's
invitation, until Mr. Mirabel's visit has come to an end."

"Is there anything against Mr. Mirabel?" he asked.

"I say nothing against him."

"Is Miss Emily acquainted with him?"

"No."

"Is he a person with whom it would be disagreeable to her to associate?"

"Quite the contrary."

"And yet you expect me to prevent them from meeting! Be reasonable, Miss
Jethro."

"I can only be in earnest, Mr. Morris--more truly, more deeply in
earnest than you can suppose. I declare to you that I am speaking in
Miss Emily's interests. Do you still refuse to exert yourself for her
sake?"

"I am spared the pain of refusal," Alban answered. "The time for
interference has gone by. She is, at this moment, on her way to
Monksmoor Park."

Miss Jethro attempted to rise--and dropped back into her chair. "Water!"
she said faintly. After drinking from the glass to the last drop, she
began to revive. Her little traveling-bag was on the floor at her side.
She took out a railway guide, and tried to consult it. Her fingers
trembled incessantly; she was unable to find the page to which she
wished to refer. "Help me," she said, "I must leave this place--by the
first train that passes."

"To see Emily?" Alban asked.

"Quite useless! You have said it yourself--the time for interference has
gone by. Look at the guide."

"What place shall I look for?"

"Look for Vale Regis."

Alban found the place. The train was due in ten minutes. "Surely you are
not fit to travel so soon?" he suggested.

"Fit or not, I must see Mr. Mirabel--I must make the effort to keep them
apart by appealing to _him_."

"With any hope of success?"

"With no hope--and with no interest in the man himself. Still I must
try."

"Out of anxiety for Emily's welfare?"

"Out of anxiety for more than that."

"For what?"

"If you can't guess, I daren't tell you."

That strange reply startled Alban. Before he could ask what it meant,
Miss Jethro had left him.

In the emergencies of life, a person readier of resource than Alban
Morris it would not have been easy to discover. The extraordinary
interview that had now come to an end had found its limits. Bewildered
and helpless, he stood at the window of his room, and asked himself (as
if he had been the weakest man living), "What shall I do?"



BOOK THE FOURTH--THE COUNTRY HOUSE.



CHAPTER XXXVIII. DANCING.

The windows of the long drawing-room at Monksmoor are all thrown open
to the conservatory. Distant masses of plants and flowers, mingled in
ever-varying forms of beauty, are touched by the melancholy luster of
the rising moon. Nearer to the house, the restful shadows are disturbed
at intervals, where streams of light fall over them aslant from the
lamps in the room. The fountain is playing. In rivalry with its lighter
music, the nightingales are singing their song of ecstasy. Sometimes,
the laughter of girls is heard--and, sometimes, the melody of a waltz.
The younger guests at Monksmoor are dancing.

Emily and Cecilia are dressed alike in white, with flowers in their
hair. Francine rivals them by means of a gorgeous contrast of color, and
declares that she is rich with the bright emphasis of diamonds and the
soft persuasion of pearls.

Miss Plym (from the rectory) is fat and fair and prosperous: she
overflows with good spirits; she has a waist which defies tight-lacing,
and she dances joyously on large flat feet. Miss Darnaway (officer's
daughter with small means) is the exact opposite of Miss Plym. She is
thin and tall and faded--poor soul. Destiny has made it her hard lot
in life to fill the place of head-nursemaid at home. In her pensive
moments, she thinks of the little brothers and sisters, whose patient
servant she is, and wonders who comforts them in their tumbles and tells
them stories at bedtime, while she is holiday-making at the pleasant
country house.

Tender-hearted Cecilia, remembering how few pleasures this young friend
has, and knowing how well she dances, never allows her to be without
a partner. There are three invaluable young gentlemen present, who are
excellent dancers. Members of different families, they are nevertheless
fearfully and wonderfully like each other. They present the same rosy
complexions and straw-colored mustachios, the same plump cheeks, vacant
eyes and low forehead; and they utter, with the same stolid gravity,
the same imbecile small talk. On sofas facing each other sit the two
remaining guests, who have not joined the elders at the card-table
in another room. They are both men. One of them is drowsy and
middle-aged--happy in the possession of large landed property: happier
still in a capacity for drinking Mr. Wyvil's famous port-wine without
gouty results.

The other gentleman--ah, who is the other? He is the confidential
adviser and bosom friend of every young lady in the house. Is it
necessary to name the Reverend Miles Mirabel?

There he sits enthroned, with room for a fair admirer on either side of
him--the clerical sultan of a platonic harem. His persuasive ministry
is felt as well as heard: he has an innocent habit of fondling
young persons. One of his arms is even long enough to embrace the
circumference of Miss Plym--while the other clasps the rigid silken
waist of Francine. "I do it everywhere else," he says innocently, "why
not here?" Why not indeed--with that delicate complexion and those
beautiful blue eyes; with the glorious golden hair that rests on
his shoulders, and the glossy beard that flows over his breast?
Familiarities, forbidden to mere men, become privileges and
condescensions when an angel enters society--and more especially when
that angel has enough of mortality in him to be amusing. Mr. Mirabel,
on his social side, is an irresistible companion. He is cheerfulness
itself; he takes a favorable view of everything; his sweet temper never
differs with anybody. "In my humble way," he confesses, "I like to make
the world about me brighter." Laughter (harmlessly produced, observe!)
is the element in which he lives and breathes. Miss Darnaway's serious
face puts him out; he has laid a bet with Emily--not in money, not even
in gloves, only in flowers--that he will make Miss Darnaway laugh; and
he has won the wager. Emily's flowers are in his button-hole, peeping
through the curly interstices of his beard. "Must you leave me?" he asks
tenderly, when there is a dancing man at liberty, and it is Francine's
turn to claim him. She leaves her seat not very willingly. For a while,
the place is vacant; Miss Plym seizes the opportunity of consulting the
ladies' bosom friend.

"Dear Mr. Mirabel, do tell me what you think of Miss de Sor?"

Dear Mr. Mirabel bursts into enthusiasm and makes a charming reply.
His large experience of young ladies warns him that they will tell each
other what he thinks of them, when they retire for the night; and he is
careful on these occasions to say something that will bear repetition.

"I see in Miss de Sor," he declares, "the resolution of a man, tempered
by the sweetness of a woman. When that interesting creature marries,
her husband will be--shall I use the vulgar word?--henpecked. Dear Miss
Plym, he will enjoy it; and he will be quite right too; and, if I am
asked to the wedding, I shall say, with heartfelt sincerity, Enviable
man!"

In the height of her admiration for Mr. Mirabel's wonderful eye for
character, Miss Plym is called away to the piano. Cecilia succeeds to
her friend's place--and has her waist taken in charge as a matter of
course.

"How do you like Miss Plym?" she asks directly.

Mr. Mirabel smiles, and shows the prettiest little pearly teeth. "I was
just thinking of her," he confesses pleasantly; "Miss Plym is so nice
and plump, so comforting and domestic--such a perfect clergyman's
daughter. You love her, don't you? Is she engaged to be married? In that
case--between ourselves, dear Miss Wyvil, a clergyman is obliged to be
cautious--I may own that I love her too."

Delicious titillations of flattered self-esteem betray themselves
in Cecilia's lovely complexion. She is the chosen confidante of this
irresistible man; and she would like to express her sense of obligation.
But Mr. Mirabel is a master in the art of putting the right words in the
right places; and simple Cecilia distrusts herself and her grammar.

At that moment of embarrassment, a friend leaves the dance, and helps
Cecilia out of the difficulty.

Emily approaches the sofa-throne, breathless--followed by her partner,
entreating her to give him "one turn more." She is not to be tempted;
she means to rest. Cecilia sees an act of mercy, suggested by the
presence of the disengaged young man. She seizes his arm, and hurries
him off to poor Miss Darnaway; sitting forlorn in a corner, and thinking
of the nursery at home. In the meanwhile a circumstance occurs. Mr.
Mirabel's all-embracing arm shows itself in a new character, when Emily
sits by his side.

It becomes, for the first time, an irresolute arm. It advances a
little--and hesitates. Emily at once administers an unexpected check;
she insists on preserving a free waist, in her own outspoken language.
"No, Mr. Mirabel, keep that for the others. You can't imagine how
ridiculous you and the young ladies look, and how absurdly unaware of
it you all seem to be." For the first time in his life, the reverend and
ready-witted man of the world is at a loss for an answer. Why?

For this simple reason. He too has felt the magnetic attraction of the
irresistible little creature whom every one likes. Miss Jethro has been
doubly defeated. She has failed to keep them apart; and her unexplained
misgivings have not been justified by events: Emily and Mr. Mirabel are
good friends already. The brilliant clergyman is poor; his interests in
life point to a marriage for money; he has fascinated the heiresses of
two rich fathers, Mr. Tyvil and Mr. de Sor--and yet he is conscious of
an influence (an alien influence, without a balance at its bankers),
which has, in some mysterious way, got between him and his interests.

On Emily's side, the attraction felt is of another nature altogether.
Among the merry young people at Monksmoor she is her old happy self
again; and she finds in Mr. Mirabel the most agreeable and amusing man
whom she has ever met. After those dismal night watches by the bed of
her dying aunt, and the dreary weeks of solitude that followed, to
live in this new world of luxury and gayety is like escaping from the
darkness of night, and basking in the fall brightn ess of day. Cecilia
declares that she looks, once more, like the joyous queen of the
bedroom, in the bygone time at school; and Francine (profaning
Shakespeare without knowing it), says, "Emily is herself again!"

"Now that your arm is in its right place, reverend sir," she gayly
resumes, "I may admit that there are exceptions to all rules. My waist
is at your disposal, in a case of necessity--that is to say, in a case
of waltzing."

"The one case of all others," Mirabel answers, with the engaging
frankness that has won him so many friends, "which can never happen in
my unhappy experience. Waltzing, I blush to own it, means picking me
up off the floor, and putting smelling salts to my nostrils. In other
words, dear Miss Emily, it is the room that waltzes--not I. I can't look
at those whirling couples there, with a steady head. Even the exquisite
figure of our young hostess, when it describes flying circles, turns me
giddy."

Hearing this allusion to Cecilia, Emily drops to the level of the
other girls. She too pays her homage to the Pope of private life. "You
promised me your unbiased opinion of Cecilia," she reminds him; "and you
haven't given it yet."

The ladies' friend gently remonstrates. "Miss Wyvil's beauty dazzles me.
How can I give an unbiased opinion? Besides, I am not thinking of her; I
can only think of you."

Emily lifts her eyes, half merrily, half tenderly, and looks at him over
the top of her fan. It is her first effort at flirtation. She is tempted
to engage in the most interesting of all games to a girl--the game
which plays at making love. What has Cecilia told her, in those
bedroom gossipings, dear to the hearts of the two friends? Cecilia has
whispered, "Mr. Mirabel admires your figure; he calls you 'the Venus of
Milo, in a state of perfect abridgment.'" Where is the daughter of Eve,
who would not have been flattered by that pretty compliment--who would
not have talked soft nonsense in return? "You can only think of Me,"
Emily repeats coquettishly. "Have you said that to the last young lady
who occupied my place, and will you say it again to the next who follows
me?"

"Not to one of them! Mere compliments are for the others--not for you."

"What is for me, Mr. Mirabel?"

"What I have just offered you--a confession of the truth."

Emily is startled by the tone in which he replies. He seems to be in
earnest; not a vestige is left of the easy gayety of his manner. His
face shows an expression of anxiety which she has never seen in it yet.
"Do you believe me?" he asks in a whisper.

She tries to change the subject.

"When am I to hear you preach, Mr. Mirabel?"

He persists. "When you believe me," he says.

His eyes add an emphasis to that reply which is not to be mistaken.
Emily turns away from him, and notices Francine. She has left the dance,
and is looking with marked attention at Emily and Mirabel. "I want to
speak to you," she says, and beckons impatiently to Emily.

Mirabel whispers, "Don't go!"

Emily rises nevertheless--ready to avail herself of the first excuse for
leaving him. Francine meets her half way, and takes her roughly by the
arm.

"What is it?" Emily asks.

"Suppose you leave off flirting with Mr. Mirabel, and make yourself of
some use."

"In what way?"

"Use your ears--and look at that girl."

She points disdainfully to innocent Miss Plym. The rector's daughter
possesses all the virtues, with one exception--the virtue of having an
ear for music. When she sings, she is out of tune; and, when she plays,
she murders time.

"Who can dance to such music as that?" says Francine. "Finish the waltz
for her."

Emily naturally hesitates. "How can I take her place, unless she asks
me?"

Francine laughs scornfully. "Say at once, you want to go back to Mr.
Mirabel."

"Do you think I should have got up, when you beckoned to me," Emily
rejoins, "if I had not wanted to get away from Mr. Mirabel?"

Instead of resenting this sharp retort, Francine suddenly breaks into
good humor. "Come along, you little spit-fire; I'll manage it for you."

She leads Emily to the piano, and stops Miss Plym without a word of
apology: "It's your turn to dance now. Here's Miss Brown waiting to
relieve you."

Cecilia has not been unobservant, in her own quiet way, of what has been
going on. Waiting until Francine and Miss Plym are out of hearing, she
bends over Emily, and says, "My dear, I really do think Francine is in
love with Mr. Mirabel."

"After having only been a week in the same house with him!" Emily
exclaims.

"At any rate," said Cecilia, more smartly than usual, "she is jealous of
_you_."



CHAPTER XXXIX. FEIGNING.

The next morning, Mr. Mirabel took two members of the circle at
Monksmoor by surprise. One of them was Emily; and one of them was the
master of the house.

Seeing Emily alone in the garden before breakfast, he left his room
and joined her. "Let me say one word," he pleaded, "before we go to
breakfast. I am grieved to think that I was so unfortunate as to offend
you, last night."

Emily's look of astonishment answered for her before she could speak.
"What can I have said or done," she asked, "to make you think that?"

"Now I breathe again!" he cried, with the boyish gayety of manner which
was one of the secrets of his popularity among women. "I really feared
that I had spoken thoughtlessly. It is a terrible confession for a
clergyman to make--but it is not the less true that I am one of the most
indiscreet men living. It is my rock ahead in life that I say the first
thing which comes uppermost, without stopping to think. Being well aware
of my own defects, I naturally distrust myself."

"Even in the pulpit?" Emily inquired.

He laughed with the readiest appreciation of the satire--although it was
directed against himself.

"I like that question," he said; "it tells me we are as good friends
again as ever. The fact is, the sight of the congregation, when I get
into the pulpit, has the same effect upon me that the sight of the
footlights has on an actor. All oratory (though my clerical brethren are
shy of confessing it) is acting--without the scenery and the costumes.
Did you really mean it, last night, when you said you would like to hear
me preach?"

"Indeed, I did."

"How very kind of you. I don't think myself the sermon is worth the
sacrifice. (There is another specimen of my indiscreet way of talking!)
What I mean is, that you will have to get up early on Sunday morning,
and drive twelve miles to the damp and dismal little village, in which I
officiate for a man with a rich wife who likes the climate of Italy. My
congregation works in the fields all the week, and naturally enough
goes to sleep in church on Sunday. I have had to counteract that. Not by
preaching! I wouldn't puzzle the poor people with my eloquence for the
world. No, no: I tell them little stories out of the Bible--in a nice
easy gossiping way. A quarter of an hour is my limit of time; and, I
am proud to say, some of them (mostly the women) do to a certain extent
keep awake. If you and the other ladies decide to honor me, it is
needless to say you shall have one of my grand efforts. What will be
the effect on my unfortunate flock remains to be seen. I will have
the church brushed up, and luncheon of course at the parsonage. Beans,
bacon, and beer--I haven't got anything else in the house. Are you rich?
I hope not!"

"I suspect I am quite as poor as you are, Mr. Mirabel."

"I am delighted to hear it. (More of my indiscretion!) Our poverty is
another bond between us."

Before he could enlarge on this text, the breakfast bell rang.

He gave Emily his arm, quite satisfied with the result of the morning's
talk. In speaking seriously to her on the previous night, he had
committed the mistake of speaking too soon. To amend this false step,
and to recover his position in Emily's estimation, had been his
object in view--and it had been successfully accomplished. At the
breakfast-table that morning, the companionable clergyman was more
amusing than ever.

The meal being over, the company dispersed as usual--with the one
exception of Mirabel. Without any apparent reason, he kept his place at
the table. Mr. Wyvil, the most courteous and considerate of men, felt it
an attention due to his guest not to leave the room first. All that he
could venture to do was to give a little hint. "Have you any plans for
the morning?" he asked.

"I have a plan that depends entirely on yourself," Mirabel answered;
"and I am afraid of being as indiscreet as usual, if I mention it. Your
charming daughter tells me you play on the violin."

Modest Mr. Wyvil looked confused. "I hope you have not been annoyed," he
said; "I practice in a distant room so that nobody may hear me."

"My dear sir, I am eager to hear you! Music is my passion; and the
violin is my favorite instrument."

Mr. Wyvil led the way to his room, positively blushing with pleasure.
Since the death of his wife he had been sadly in want of a little
encouragement. His daughters and his friends were careful--over-careful,
as he thought--of intruding on him in his hours of practice. And, sad to
say, his daughters and his friends were, from a musical point of view,
perfectly right.

Literature has hardly paid sufficient attention to a social phenomenon
of a singularly perplexing kind. We hear enough, and more than enough,
of persons who successfully cultivate the Arts--of the remarkable manner
in which fitness for their vocation shows itself in early life, of
the obstacles which family prejudice places in their way, and of the
unremitting devotion which has led to the achievement of glorious
results.

But how many writers have noticed those other incomprehensible persons,
members of families innocent for generations past of practicing Art or
caring for Art, who have notwithstanding displayed from their earliest
years the irresistible desire to cultivate poetry, painting, or music;
who have surmounted obstacles, and endured disappointments, in the
single-hearted resolution to devote their lives to an intellectual
pursuit--being absolutely without the capacity which proves the
vocation, and justifies the sacrifice. Here is Nature, "unerring
Nature," presented in flat contradiction with herself. Here are men
bent on performing feats of running, without having legs; and women,
hopelessly barren, living in constant expectation of large families to
the end of their days. The musician is not to be found more completely
deprived than Mr. Wyvil of natural capacity for playing on an
instrument--and, for twenty years past, it had been the pride and
delight of his heart to let no day of his life go by without practicing
on the violin.

"I am sure I must be tiring you," he said politely--after having played
without mercy for an hour and more.

No: the insatiable amateur had his own purpose to gain, and was not
exhausted yet. Mr. Wyvil got up to look for some more music. In that
interval desultory conversation naturally took place. Mirabel contrived
to give it the necessary direction--the direction of Emily.

"The most delightful girl I have met with for many a long year past!"
Mr. Wyvil declared warmly. "I don't wonder at my daughter being so fond
of her. She leads a solitary life at home, poor thing; and I am honestly
glad to see her spirits reviving in my house."

"An only child?" Mirabel asked.

In the necessary explanation that followed, Emily's isolated position
in the world was revealed in few words. But one more discovery--the most
important of all--remained to be made. Had she used a figure of speech
in saying that she was as poor as Mirabel himself? or had she told him
the shocking truth? He put the question with perfect delicacy---but with
unerring directness as well.

Mr. Wyvil, quoting his daughter's authority, described Emily's income as
falling short even of two hundred a year. Having made that disheartening
reply, he opened another music book. "You know this sonata, of course?"
he said. The next moment, the violin was under his chin and the
performance began.

While Mirabel was, to all appearance, listening with the utmost
attention, he was actually endeavoring to reconcile himself to a serious
sacrifice of his own inclinations. If he remained much longer in the
same house with Emily, the impression that she had produced on him would
be certainly strengthened--and he would be guilty of the folly of making
an offer of marriage to a woman who was as poor as himself. The one
remedy that could be trusted to preserve him from such infatuation as
this, was absence. At the end of the week, he had arranged to return to
Vale Regis for his Sunday duty; engaging to join his friends again at
Monksmoor on the Monday following. That rash promise, there could be no
further doubt about it, must not be fulfilled.

He had arrived at this resolution, when the terrible activity of Mr.
Wyvil's bow was suspended by the appearance of a third person in the
room.

Cecilia's maid was charged with a neat little three-cornered note
from her young lady, to be presented to her master. Wondering why
his daughter should write to him, Mr. Wyvil opened the note, and was
informed of Cecilia's motive in these words:

"DEAREST PAPA--I hear Mr. Mirabel is with you, and as this is a secret,
I must write. Emily has received a very strange letter this morning,
which puzzles her and alarms me. When you are quite at liberty, we shall
be so much obliged if you will tell us how Emily ought to answer it."

Mr. Wyvil stopped Mirabel, on the point of trying to escape from the
music. "A little domestic matter to attend to," he said. "But we will
finish the sonata first."



CHAPTER XL. CONSULTING.

Out of the music room, and away from his violin, the sound side of Mr.
Wyvil's character was free to assert itself. In his public and in his
private capacity, he was an eminently sensible man.

As a member of parliament, he set an example which might have been
followed with advantage by many of his colleagues. In the first place he
abstained from hastening the downfall of representative institutions by
asking questions and making speeches. In the second place, he was able
to distinguish between the duty that he owed to his party, and the
duty that he owed to his country. When the Legislature acted
politically--that is to say, when it dealt with foreign complications,
or electoral reforms--he followed his leader. When the Legislature acted
socially--that is to say, for the good of the people--he followed his
conscience. On the last occasion when the great Russian bugbear provoked
a division, he voted submissively with his Conservative allies. But,
when the question of opening museums and picture galleries on Sundays
arrayed the two parties in hostile camps, he broke into open mutiny,
and went over to the Liberals. He consented to help in preventing
an extension of the franchise; but he refused to be concerned in
obstructing the repeal of taxes on knowledge. "I am doubtful in the
first case," he said, "but I am sure in the second." He was asked for an
explanation: "Doubtful of what? and sure of what?" To the astonishment
of his leader, he answered: "The benefit to the people." The same
sound sense appeared in the transactions of his private life. Lazy and
dishonest servants found that the gentlest of masters had a side to his
character which took them by surprise. And, on certain occasions in
the experience of Cecilia and her sister, the most indulgent of fathers
proved to be as capable of saying No, as the sternest tyrant who ever
ruled a fireside.

Called into council by his daughter and his guest, Mr. Wyvil assisted
them by advice which was equally wise and kind--but which afterward
proved, under the perverse influence of circumstances, to be advice that
he had better not have given.

The letter to Emily which Cecilia had recommended to her father's
consideration, had come from Netherwoods, and had been written by Alban
Morris.

He assured Emily that he had only decided on writing to her, after some
hesitation, in the hope of serving interests which he did not
himself understand, but which might prove to be interests worthy of
consideration, nevertheless. Having stated his motive in these terms, he
proceeded to relate what had passed between Miss Jethro and himself.
On the subject of Francine, Alban only ventured to add that she had not
produced a favorable impression on him, and that he could not think her
likely, on further experience, to prove a desirable friend.

On the last leaf were added some lines, which Emily was at no loss how
to answer. She had folded back the page, so that no eyes but her own
should see how the poor drawing-master finished his letter: "I wish
you all possible happiness, my dear, among your new friends; but don't
forget the old friend who thinks of you, and dreams of you, and longs to
see you again. The little world I live in is a dreary world, Emily, in
your absence. Will you write to me now and then, and encourage me to
hope?"

Mr. Wyvil smiled, as he looked at the folded page, which hid the
signature.

"I suppose I may take it for granted," he said slyly, "that this
gentleman really has your interests at heart? May I know who he is?"

Emily answered the last question readily enough. Mr. Wyvil went on with
his inquiries. "About the mysterious lady, with the strange name," he
proceeded--"do you know anything of her?"

Emily related what she knew; without revealing the true reason for Miss
Jethro's departure from Netherwoods. In after years, it was one of her
most treasured remembrances, that she had kept secret the melancholy
confession which had startled her, on the last night of her life at
school.

Mr. Wyvil looked at Alban's letter again. "Do you know how Miss Jethro
became acquainted with Mr. Mirabel?" he asked.

"I didn't even know that they were acquainted."

"Do you think it likely--if Mr. Morris had been talking to you instead
of writing to you--that he might have said more than he has said in his
letter?"

Cecilia had hitherto remained a model of discretion. Seeing Emily
hesitate, temptation overcame her. "Not a doubt of it, papa!" she
declared confidently.

"Is Cecilia right?" Mr. Wyvil inquired.

Reminded in this way of her influence over Alban, Emily could only make
one honest reply. She admitted that Cecilia was right.

Mr. Wyvil thereupon advised her not to express any opinion, until she
was in a better position to judge for herself. "When you write to Mr.
Morris," he continued, "say that you will wait to tell him what you
think of Miss Jethro, until you see him again."

"I have no prospect at present of seeing him again," Emily said.

"You can see Mr. Morris whenever it suits him to come here," Mr. Wyvil
replied. "I will write and ask him to visit us, and you can inclose the
invitation in your letter."

"Oh, Mr. Wyvil, how good of you!"

"Oh, papa, the very thing I was going to ask you to do!"

The excellent master of Monksmoor looked unaffectedly surprised. "What
are you two young ladies making a fuss about?" he said. "Mr. Morris is
a gentleman by profession; and--may I venture to say it, Miss Emily?--a
valued friend of yours as well. Who has a better claim to be one of my
guests?"

Cecilia stopped her father as he was about to leave the room. "I suppose
we mustn't ask Mr. Mirabel what he knows of Miss Jethro?" she said.

"My dear, what can you be thinking of? What right have we to question
Mr. Mirabel about Miss Jethro?"

"It's so very unsatisfactory, papa. There must be some reason why Emily
and Mr. Mirabel ought not to meet--or why should Miss Jethro have been
so very earnest about it?"

"Miss Jethro doesn't intend us to know why, Cecilia. It will perhaps
come out in time. Wait for time."

Left together, the girls discussed the course which Alban would probably
take, on receiving Mr. Wyvil's invitation.

"He will only be too glad," Cecilia asserted, "to have the opportunity
of seeing you again."

"I doubt whether he will care about seeing me again, among strangers,"
Emily replied. "And you forget that there are obstacles in his way. How
is he to leave his class?"

"Quite easily! His class doesn't meet on the Saturday half-holiday. He
can be here, if he starts early, in time for luncheon; and he can stay
till Monday or Tuesday."

"Who is to take his place at the school?"

"Miss Ladd, to be sure--if _you_ make a point of it. Write to her, as
well as to Mr. Morris."

The letters being written--and the order having been given to prepare
a room for the expected guest--Emily and Cecilia returned to the
drawing-room. They found the elders of the party variously engaged--the
men with newspapers, and the ladies with work. Entering the conservatory
next, they discovered Cecilia's sister languishing among the flowers in
an easy chair. Constitutional laziness, in some young ladies, assumes an
invalid character, and presents the interesting spectacle of perpetual
convalescence. The doctor declared that the baths at St. Moritz had
cured Miss Julia. Miss Julia declined to agree with the doctor.

"Come into the garden with Emily and me," Cecilia said.

"Emily and you don't know what it is to be ill," Julia answered.

The two girls left her, and joined the young people who were amusing
themselves in the garden. Francine had taken possession of Mirabel, and
had condemned him to hard labor in swinging her. He made an attempt
to get away when Emily and Cecilia approached, and was peremptorily
recalled to his duty. "Higher!" cried Miss de Sor, in her hardest
tones of authority. "I want to swing higher than anybody else!" Mirabel
submitted with gentleman-like resignation, and was rewarded by tender
encouragement expressed in a look.

"Do you see that?" Cecilia whispered. "He knows how rich she is--I
wonder whether he will marry her."

Emily smiled. "I doubt it, while he is in this house," she said.
"You are as rich as Francine--and don't forget that you have other
attractions as well."

Cecilia shook her head. "Mr. Mirabel is very nice," she admitted; "but I
wouldn't marry him. Would you?"

Emily secretly compared Alban with Mirabel. "Not for the world!" she
answered.

The next day was the day of Mirabel's departure. His admirers among the
ladies followed him out to the door, at which Mr. Wyvil's carriage was
waiting. Francine threw a nosegay after the departing guest as he got
in. "Mind you come back to us on Monday!" she said. Mirabel bowed and
thanked her; but his last look was for Emily, standing apart from the
others at the top of the steps. Francine said nothing; her lips closed
convulsively--she turned suddenly pale.



CHAPTER XLI. SPEECHIFYING.

On the Monday, a plowboy from Vale Regis arrived at Monksmoor.

In respect of himself, he was a person beneath notice. In respect of
his errand, he was sufficiently important to cast a gloom over the
household. The faithless Mirabel had broken his engagement, and the
plowboy was the herald of misfortune who brought his apology. To his
great disappointment (he wrote) he was detained by the affairs of his
parish. He could only trust to Mr. Wyvil's indulgence to excuse him, and
to communicate his sincere sense of regret (on scented note paper) to
the ladies.

Everybody believed in the affairs of the parish--with the exception of
Francine. "Mr. Mirabel has made the best excuse he could think of for
shortening his visit; and I don't wonder at it," she said, looking
significantly at Emily.

Emily was playing with one of the dogs; exercising him in the tricks
which he had learned. She balanced a morsel of sugar on his nose--and
had no attention to spare for Francine.

Cecilia, as the mistress of the house, felt it her duty to interfere.
"That is a strange remark to make," she answered. "Do you mean to say
that we have driven Mr. Mirabel away from us?"

"I accuse nobody," Francine began with spiteful candor.

"Now she's going to accuse everybody!" Emily interposed, addressing
herself facetiously to the dog.

"But when girls are bent on fascinating men, whether they like it or
not," Francine proceeded, "men have only one alternative--they must keep
out of the way." She looked again at Emily, more pointedly than ever.

Even gentle Cecilia resented this. "Whom do you refer to?" she said
sharply.

"My dear!" Emily remonstrated, "need you ask?" She glanced at Francine
as she spoke, and then gave the dog his signal. He tossed up the sugar,
and caught it in his mouth. His audience applauded him--and so, for that
time, the skirmish ended.

Among the letters of the next morning's delivery, arrived Alban's reply.
Emily's anticipations proved to be correct. The drawing-master's du ties
would not permit him to leave Netherwoods; and he, like Mirabel, sent
his apologies. His short letter to Emily contained no further allusion
to Miss Jethro; it began and ended on the first page.

Had he been disappointed by the tone of reserve in which Emily had
written to him, under Mr. Wyvil's advice? Or (as Cecilia suggested) had
his detention at the school so bitterly disappointed him that he was too
disheartened to write at any length? Emily made no attempt to arrive at
a conclusion, either one way or the other. She seemed to be in depressed
spirits; and she spoke superstitiously, for the first time in Cecilia's
experience of her.

"I don't like this reappearance of Miss Jethro," she said. "If the
mystery about that woman is ever cleared up, it will bring trouble
and sorrow to me--and I believe, in his own secret heart, Alban Morris
thinks so too."

"Write, and ask him," Cecilia suggested.

"He is so kind and so unwilling to distress me," Emily answered, "that
he wouldn't acknowledge it, even if I am right."

In the middle of the week, the course of private life at Monksmoor
suffered an interruption--due to the parliamentary position of the
master of the house.

The insatiable appetite for making and hearing speeches, which
represents one of the marked peculiarities of the English race
(including their cousins in the United States), had seized on Mr.
Wyvil's constituents. There was to be a political meeting at the market
hall, in the neighboring town; and the member was expected to make an
oration, passing in review contemporary events at home and abroad. "Pray
don't think of accompanying me," the good man said to his guests. "The
hall is badly ventilated, and the speeches, including my own, will not
be worth hearing."

This humane warning was ungratefully disregarded. The gentlemen were all
interested in "the objects of the meeting"; and the ladies were firm in
the resolution not to be left at home by themselves. They dressed with a
view to the large assembly of spectators before whom they were about to
appear; and they outtalked the men on political subjects, all the way to
the town.

The most delightful of surprises was in store for them, when they
reached the market hall. Among the crowd of ordinary gentlemen, waiting
under the portico until the proceedings began, appeared one person of
distinction, whose title was "Reverend," and whose name was Mirabel.

Francine was the first to discover him. She darted up the steps and held
out her hand.

"This _is_ a pleasure!" she cried. "Have you come here to see--" she
was about to say Me, but, observing the strangers round her, altered the
word to Us. "Please give me your arm," she whispered, before her young
friends had arrived within hearing. "I am so frightened in a crowd!"

She held fast by Mirabel, and kept a jealous watch on him. Was it only
her fancy? or did she detect a new charm in his smile when he spoke to
Emily?

Before it was possible to decide, the time for the meeting had arrived.
Mr. Wyvil's friends were of course accommodated with seats on the
platform. Francine, still insisting on her claim to Mirabel's arm, got
a chair next to him. As she seated herself, she left him free for a
moment. In that moment, the infatuated man took an empty chair on the
other side of him, and placed it for Emily. He communicated to that
hated rival the information which he ought to have reserved for
Francine. "The committee insist," he said, "on my proposing one of
the Resolutions. I promise not to bore you; mine shall be the shortest
speech delivered at the meeting."

The proceedings began.

Among the earlier speakers not one was inspired by a feeling of mercy
for the audience. The chairman reveled in words. The mover and seconder
of the first Resolution (not having so much as the ghost of an idea to
trouble either of them), poured out language in flowing and overflowing
streams, like water from a perpetual spring. The heat exhaled by the
crowded audience was already becoming insufferable. Cries of "Sit
down!" assailed the orator of the moment. The chairman was obliged to
interfere. A man at the back of the hall roared out, "Ventilation!"
and broke a window with his stick. He was rewarded with three rounds of
cheers; and was ironically invited to mount the platform and take the
chair.

Under these embarrassing circumstances, Mirabel rose to speak.

He secured silence, at the outset, by a humorous allusion to the prolix
speaker who had preceded him. "Look at the clock, gentlemen," he said;
"and limit my speech to an interval of ten minutes." The applause which
followed was heard, through the broken window, in the street. The boys
among the mob outside intercepted the flow of air by climbing on each
other's shoulders and looking in at the meeting, through the gaps left
by the shattered glass. Having proposed his Resolution with discreet
brevity of speech, Mirabel courted popularity on the plan adopted by the
late Lord Palmerston in the House of Commons--he told stories, and
made jokes, adapted to the intelligence of the dullest people who
were listening to him. The charm of his voice and manner completed his
success. Punctually at the tenth minute, he sat down amid cries of "Go
on." Francine was the first to take his hand, and to express admiration
mutely by pressing it. He returned the pressure--but he looked at the
wrong lady--the lady on the other side.

Although she made no complaint, he instantly saw that Emily was overcome
by the heat. Her lips were white, and her eyes were closing. "Let me
take you out," he said, "or you will faint."

Francine started to her feet to follow them. The lower order of the
audience, eager for amusement, put their own humorous construction on
the young lady's action. They roared with laughter. "Let the parson and
his sweetheart be," they called out; "two's company, miss, and three
isn't." Mr. Wyvil interposed his authority and rebuked them. A lady
seated behind Francine interfered to good purpose by giving her a chair,
which placed her out of sight of the audience. Order was restored--and
the proceedings were resumed.

On the conclusion of the meeting, Mirabel and Emily were found waiting
for their friends at the door. Mr. Wyvil innocently added fuel to the
fire that was burning in Francine. He insisted that Mirabel should
return to Monksmoor, and offered him a seat in the carriage at Emily's
side.

Later in the evening, when they all met at dinner, there appeared a
change in Miss de Sor which surprised everybody but Mirabel. She was gay
and good-humored, and especially amiable and attentive to Emily--who sat
opposite to her at the table. "What did you and Mr. Mirabel talk about
while you were away from us?" she asked innocently. "Politics?"

Emily readily adopted Francine's friendly tone. "Would you have talked
politics, in my place?" she asked gayly.

"In your place, I should have had the most delightful of companions,"
Francine rejoined; "I wish I had been overcome by the heat too!"

Mirabel--attentively observing her--acknowledged the compliment by a
bow, and left Emily to continue the conversation. In perfect good faith
she owned to having led Mirabel to talk of himself. She had heard from
Cecilia that his early life had been devoted to various occupations,
and she was interested in knowing how circumstances had led him into
devoting himself to the Church. Francine listened with the outward
appearance of implicit belief, and with the inward conviction that Emily
was deliberately deceiving her. When the little narrative was at an end,
she was more agreeable than ever. She admired Emily's dress, and she
rivaled Cecilia in enjoyment of the good things on the table; she
entertained Mirabel with humorous anecdotes of the priests at St.
Domingo, and was so interested in the manufacture of violins, ancient
and modern, that Mr. Wyvil promised to show her his famous collection of
instruments, after dinner. Her overflowing amiability included even
poor Miss Darnaway and the absent brothers and sisters. She heard with
flattering sympathy, how they had been ill and had got well again; what
amusing tricks they played, what alarming accidents happened to them,
and how remarkably clever they were--"including, I do assure you, dear
Miss de Sor, the baby only ten months old." When the ladies rose to
retire, Francine was, socially speaking, the heroine of the evening.

While the violins were in course of exhibition, Mirabel found an
opportunity of speaking to Emily, unobserved.

"Have you said, or done, anything to offend Miss de Sor?" he asked.

"Nothing whatever!" Emily declared, startled by the question. "What
makes you think I have offended her?"

"I have been trying to find a reason for the change in her," Mirabel
answered--"especially the change toward yourself."

"Well?"

"Well--she means mischief."

"Mischief of what sort?"

"Of a sort which may expose her to discovery--unless she disarms
suspicion at the outset. That is (as I believe) exactly what she has
been doing this evening. I needn't warn you to be on your guard."

All the next day Emily was on the watch for events--and nothing
happened. Not the slightest appearance of jealousy betrayed itself in
Francine. She made no attempt to attract to herself the attentions of
Mirabel; and she showed no hostility to Emily, either by word, look, or
manner.

........

The day after, an event occurred at Netherwoods. Alban Morris received
an anonymous letter, addressed to him in these terms:

"A certain young lady, in whom you are supposed to be interested, is
forgetting you in your absence. If you are not mean enough to allow
yourself to be supplanted by another man, join the party at Monksmoor
before it is too late."



CHAPTER XLII. COOKING.

The day after the political meeting was a day of departures, at the
pleasant country house.

Miss Darnaway was recalled to the nursery at home. The old squire who
did justice to Mr. Wyvil's port-wine went away next, having guests to
entertain at his own house. A far more serious loss followed. The three
dancing men had engagements which drew them to new spheres of activity
in other drawing-rooms. They said, with the same dreary grace of manner,
"Very sorry to go"; they drove to the railway, arrayed in the same
perfect traveling suits of neutral tint; and they had but one difference
of opinion among them--each firmly believed that he was smoking the best
cigar to be got in London.

The morning after these departures would have been a dull morning
indeed, but for the presence of Mirabel.

When breakfast was over, the invalid Miss Julia established herself on
the sofa with a novel. Her father retired to the other end of the house,
and profaned the art of music on music's most expressive instrument.
Left with Emily, Cecilia, and Francine, Mirabel made one of his happy
suggestions. "We are thrown on our own resources," he said. "Let us
distinguish ourselves by inventing some entirely new amusement for the
day. You young ladies shall sit in council--and I will be secretary."
He turned to Cecilia. "The meeting waits to hear the mistress of the
house."

Modest Cecilia appealed to her school friends for help; addressing
herself in the first instance (by the secretary's advice) to Francine,
as the eldest. They all noticed another change in this variable young
person. She was silent and subdued; and she said wearily, "I don't care
what we do--shall we go out riding?"

The unanswerable objection to riding as a form of amusement, was that it
had been more than once tried already. Something clever and surprising
was anticipated from Emily when it came to her turn. She, too,
disappointed expectation. "Let us sit under the trees," was all that she
could suggest, "and ask Mr. Mirabel to tell us a story."

Mirabel laid down his pen and took it on himself to reject this
proposal. "Remember," he remonstrated, "that I have an interest in the
diversions of the day. You can't expect me to be amused by my own story.
I appeal to Miss Wyvil to invent a pleasure which will include the
secretary."

Cecilia blushed and looked uneasy. "I think I have got an idea," she
announced, after some hesitation. "May I propose that we all go to the
keeper's lodge?" There her courage failed her, and she hesitated again.

Mirabel gravely registered the proposal, as far as it went. "What are we
to do when we get to the keeper's lodge?" he inquired.

"We are to ask the keeper's wife," Cecilia proceeded, "to lend us her
kitchen."

"To lend us her kitchen," Mirabel repeated.

"And what are we to do in the kitchen?"

Cecilia looked down at her pretty hands crossed on her lap, and answered
softly, "Cook our own luncheon."

Here was an entirely new amusement, in the most attractive sense of
the words! Here was charming Cecilia's interest in the pleasures of the
table so happily inspired, that the grateful meeting offered its tribute
of applause--even including Francine. The members of the council were
young; their daring digestions contemplated without fear the prospect
of eating their own amateur cookery. The one question that troubled them
now was what they were to cook.

"I can make an omelet," Cecilia ventured to say.

"If there is any cold chicken to be had," Emily added, "I undertake to
follow the omelet with a mayonnaise."

"There are clergymen in the Church of England who are even clever enough
to fry potatoes," Mirabel announced--"and I am one of them. What shall
we have next? A pudding? Miss de Sor, can you make a pudding?"

Francine exhibited another new side to her character--a diffident and
humble side. "I am ashamed to say I don't know how to cook anything,"
she confessed; "you had better leave me out of it."

But Cecilia was now in her element. Her plan of operations was wide
enough even to include Francine. "You shall wash the lettuce, my dear,
and stone the olives for Emily's mayonnaise. Don't be discouraged! You
shall have a companion; we will send to the rectory for Miss Plym--the
very person to chop parsley and shallot for my omelet. Oh, Emily, what
a morning we are going to have!" Her lovely blue eyes sparkled with joy;
she gave Emily a kiss which Mirabel must have been more or less than man
not to have coveted. "I declare," cried Cecilia, completely losing her
head, "I'm so excited, I don't know what to do with myself!"

Emily's intimate knowledge of her friend applied the right remedy. "You
don't know what to do with yourself?" she repeated. "Have you no sense
of duty? Give the cook your orders."

Cecilia instantly recovered her presence of mind. She sat down at the
writing-table, and made out a list of eatable productions in the animal
and vegetable world, in which every other word was underlined two or
three times over. Her serious face was a sight to see, when she rang for
the cook, and the two held a privy council in a corner.

On the way to the keeper's lodge, the young mistress of the house headed
a procession of servants carrying the raw materials. Francine followed,
held in custody by Miss Plym--who took her responsibilities seriously,
and clamored for instruction in the art of chopping parsley. Mirabel and
Emily were together, far behind; they were the only two members of
the company whose minds were not occupied in one way or another by the
kitchen.

"This child's play of ours doesn't seem to interest you," Mirabel
remarked.

"I am thinking," Emily answered, "of what you said to me about
Francine."

"I can say something more," he rejoined. "When I noticed the change in
her at dinner, I told you she meant mischief. There is another change
to-day, which suggests to my mind that the mischief is done."

"And directed against me?" Emily asked.

Mirabel made no direct reply. It was impossible for _him_ to remind her
that she had, no matter how innocently, exposed herself to the jealous
hatred of Francine. "Time will tell us, what we don't know now," he
replied evasively.

"You seem to have faith in time, Mr. Mirabel."

"The greatest faith. Time is the inveterate enemy of deceit. Sooner or
later, every hidden thing is a thing doomed to discovery."

"Without exception?"

"Yes," he answered positively, "without exception."

At that moment Francine stopped and looked back at them. Did she think
that Emily and Mirabel had been talking together long enough? Miss
Plym--with the parsley still on her mind---advanced to consult Emil
y's experience. The two walked on together, leaving Mirabel to overtake
Francine. He saw, in her first look at him, the effort that it cost
her to suppress those emotions which the pride of women is most deeply
interested in concealing. Before a word had passed, he regretted that
Emily had left them together.

"I wish I had your cheerful disposition," she began, abruptly. "I am out
of spirits or out of temper--I don't know which; and I don't know why.
Do you ever trouble yourself with thinking of the future?"

"As seldom as possible, Miss de Sor. In such a situation as mine, most
people have prospects--I have none."

He spoke gravely, conscious of not feeling at ease on his side. If
he had been the most modest man that ever lived, he must have seen in
Francine's face that she loved him.

When they had first been presented to each other, she was still under
the influence of the meanest instincts in her scheming and selfish
nature. She had thought to herself, "With my money to help him, that
man's celebrity would do the rest; the best society in England would be
glad to receive Mirabel's wife." As the days passed, strong feeling
had taken the place of those contemptible aspirations: Mirabel had
unconsciously inspired the one passion which was powerful enough to
master Francine--sensual passion. Wild hopes rioted in her. Measureless
desires which she had never felt before, united themselves with
capacities for wickedness, which had been the horrid growth of a few
nights--capacities which suggested even viler attempts to rid herself
of a supposed rivalry than slandering Emily by means of an anonymous
letter. Without waiting for it to be offered, she took Mirabel's arm,
and pressed it to her breast as they slowly walked on. The fear of
discovery which had troubled her after she had sent her base letter to
the post, vanished at that inspiriting moment. She bent her head near
enough to him when he spoke to feel his breath on her face.

"There is a strange similarity," she said softly, "between your position
and mine. Is there anything cheering in _my_ prospects? I am far away
from home--my father and mother wouldn't care if they never saw me
again. People talk about my money! What is the use of money to such a
lonely wretch as I am? Suppose I write to London, and ask the lawyer if
I may give it all away to some deserving person? Why not to you?"

"My dear Miss de Sor--!"

"Is there anything wrong, Mr. Mirabel, in wishing that I could make you
a prosperous man?"

"You must not even talk of such a thing!"

"How proud you are!" she said submissively.

"Oh, I can't bear to think of you in that miserable village--a position
so unworthy of your talents and your claims! And you tell me I must not
talk about it. Would you have said that to Emily, if she was as anxious
as I am to see you in your right place in the world?"

"I should have answered her exactly as I have answered you."

"She will never embarrass you, Mr. Mirabel, by being as sincere as I am.
Emily can keep her own secrets."

"Is she to blame for doing that?"

"It depends on your feeling for her."

"What feeling do you mean?"

"Suppose you heard she was engaged to be married?" Francine suggested.

Mirabel's manner--studiously cold and formal thus far--altered on a
sudden. He looked with unconcealed anxiety at Francine. "Do you say that
seriously?" he asked.

"I said 'suppose.' I don't exactly know that she is engaged."

"What _do_ you know?"

"Oh, how interested you are in Emily! She is admired by some people. Are
you one of them?"

Mirabel's experience of women warned him to try silence as a means of
provoking her into speaking plainly. The experiment succeeded: Francine
returned to the question that he had put to her, and abruptly answered
it.

"You may believe me or not, as you like--I know of a man who is in love
with her. He has had his opportunities; and he has made good use of
them. Would you like to know who he is?"

"I should like to know anything which you may wish to tell me." He did
his best to make the reply in a tone of commonplace politeness--and he
might have succeeded in deceiving a man. The woman's quicker ear told
her that he was angry. Francine took the full advantage of that change
in her favor.

"I am afraid your good opinion of Emily will be shaken," she quietly
resumed, "when I tell you that she has encouraged a man who is
only drawing-master at a school. At the same time, a person in her
circumstances--I mean she has no money--ought not to be very hard to
please. Of course she has never spoken to you of Mr. Alban Morris?"

"Not that I remember."

Only four words--but they satisfied Francine.

The one thing wanting to complete the obstacle which she had now placed
in Emily's way, was that Alban Morris should enter on the scene. He
might hesitate; but, if he was really fond of Emily, the anonymous
letter would sooner or later bring him to Monksmoor. In the meantime,
her object was gained. She dropped Mirabel's arm.

"Here is the lodge," she said gayly--"I declare Cecilia has got an apron
on already! Come, and cook."



CHAPTER XLIII. SOUNDING.

Mirabel left Francine to enter the lodge by herself. His mind was
disturbed: he felt the importance of gaining time for reflection before
he and Emily met again.

The keeper's garden was at the back of the lodge. Passing through the
wicket-gate, he found a little summer-house at a turn in the path.
Nobody was there: he went in and sat down.

At intervals, he had even yet encouraged himself to underrate the true
importance of the feeling which Emily had awakened in him. There was an
end to all self-deception now. After what Francine had said to him, this
shallow and frivolous man no longer resisted the all-absorbing influence
of love. He shrank under the one terrible question that forced itself on
his mind:--Had that jealous girl spoken the truth?

In what process of investigation could he trust, to set this anxiety at
rest? To apply openly to Emily would be to take a liberty, which Emily
was the last person in the world to permit. In his recent intercourse
with her he had felt more strongly than ever the importance of speaking
with reserve. He had been scrupulously careful to take no unfair
advantage of his opportunity, when he had removed her from the meeting,
and when they had walked together, with hardly a creature to observe
them, in the lonely outskirts of the town. Emily's gaiety and good humor
had not led him astray: he knew that these were bad signs, viewed in the
interests of love. His one hope of touching her deeper sympathies was
to wait for the help that might yet come from time and chance. With a
bitter sigh, he resigned himself to the necessity of being as agreeable
and amusing as ever: it was just possible that he might lure her into
alluding to Alban Morris, if he began innocently by making her laugh.

As he rose to return to the lodge, the keeper's little terrier, prowling
about the garden, looked into the summer-house. Seeing a stranger, the
dog showed his teeth and growled.

Mirabel shrank back against the wall behind him, trembling in every
limb. His eyes stared in terror as the dog came nearer: barking in high
triumph over the discovery of a frightened man whom he could bully.
Mirabel called out for help. A laborer at work in the garden ran to the
place--and stopped with a broad grin of amusement at seeing a grown man
terrified by a barking dog. "Well," he said to himself, after Mirabel
had passed out under protection, "there goes a coward if ever there was
one yet!"

Mirabel waited a minute behind the lodge to recover himself. He had been
so completely unnerved that his hair was wet with perspiration. While
he used his handkerchief, he shuddered at other recollections than the
recollection of the dog. "After that night at the inn," he thought, "the
least thing frightens me!"

He was received by the young ladies with cries of derisive welcome. "Oh,
for shame! for shame! here are the potatoes already cut, and nobody to
fry them!"

Mirabel assumed the mask of cheerfulness--with the desperate resolution
of an actor, amusing his audience at a time of domestic distress. He
astonished the keeper's wife by showing that he really knew how to use
her frying-pan. Cecilia's omelet was tough--but the young ladies ate it.
Emily's mayonnaise sauce was almost as liquid as water--they swallowed
it nevertheless by the help of spoons. The potatoes followed, crisp and
dry and delicious--and Mirabel became more popular than ever. "He is the
only one of us," Cecilia sadly acknowledged, "who knows how to cook."

When they all left the lodge for a stroll in the park, Francine attached
herself to Cecilia and Miss Plym. She resigned Mirabel to Emily--in the
happy belief that she had paved the way for a misunderstanding between
them.

The merriment at the luncheon table had revived Emily's good spirits.
She had a light-hearted remembrance of the failure of her sauce. Mirabel
saw her smiling to herself. "May I ask what amuses you?" he said.

"I was thinking of the debt of gratitude that we owe to Mr. Wyvil," she
replied. "If he had not persuaded you to return to Monksmoor, we should
never have seen the famous Mr. Mirabel with a frying pan in his hand,
and never have tasted the only good dish at our luncheon."

Mirabel tried vainly to adopt his companion's easy tone. Now that he was
alone with her, the doubts that Francine had aroused shook the prudent
resolution at which he had arrived in the garden. He ran the risk, and
told Emily plainly why he had returned to Mr. Wyvil's house.

"Although I am sensible of our host's kindness," he answered, "I should
have gone back to my parsonage--but for You."

She declined to understand him seriously. "Then the affairs of your
parish are neglected--and I am to blame!" she said.

"Am I the first man who has neglected his duties for your sake?" he
asked. "I wonder whether the masters at school had the heart to report
you when you neglected your lessons?"

She thought of Alban--and betrayed herself by a heightened color. The
moment after, she changed the subject. Mirabel could no longer resist
the conclusion that Francine had told him the truth.

"When do you leave us," she inquired.

"To-morrow is Saturday--I must go back as usual."

"And how will your deserted parish receive you?"

He made a desperate effort to be as amusing as usual.

"I am sure of preserving my popularity," he said, "while I have a cask
in the cellar, and a few spare sixpences in my pocket. The public spirit
of my parishioners asks for nothing but money and beer. Before I went to
that wearisome meeting, I told my housekeeper that I was going to make
a speech about reform. She didn't know what I meant. I explained that
reform might increase the number of British citizens who had the right
of voting at elections for parliament. She brightened up directly. 'Ah,'
she said, 'I've heard my husband talk about elections. The more there
are of them (_he_ says) the more money he'll get for his vote. I'm all
for reform.' On my way out of the house, I tried the man who works in
my garden on the same subject. He didn't look at the matter from the
housekeeper's sanguine point of view. 'I don't deny that parliament once
gave me a good dinner for nothing at the public-house,' he admitted.
'But that was years ago--and (you'll excuse me, sir) I hear nothing of
another dinner to come. It's a matter of opinion, of course. I don't
myself believe in reform.' There are specimens of the state of public
spirit in our village!" He paused. Emily was listening--but he had not
succeeded in choosing a subject that amused her. He tried a topic more
nearly connected with his own interests; the topic of the future. "Our
good friend has asked me to prolong my visit, after Sunday's duties are
over," he said. "I hope I shall find you here, next week?"

"Will the affairs of your parish allow you to come back?" Emily asked
mischievously.

"The affairs of my parish--if you force me to confess it--were only an
excuse."

"An excuse for what?"

"An excuse for keeping away from Monksmoor--in the interests of my own
tranquillity. The experiment has failed. While you are here, I can't
keep away."

She still declined to understand him seriously. "Must I tell you in
plain words that flattery is thrown away on me?" she said.

"Flattery is not offered to you," he answered gravely. "I beg your
pardon for having led to the mistake by talking of myself." Having
appealed to her indulgence by that act of submission, he ventured on
another distant allusion to the man whom he hated and feared. "Shall I
meet any friends of yours," he resumed, "when I return on Monday?"

"What do you mean?"

"I only meant to ask if Mr. Wyvil expects any new guests?"

As he put the question, Cecilia's voice was heard behind them, calling
to Emily. They both turned round. Mr. Wyvil had joined his daughter and
her two friends. He advanced to meet Emily.

"I have some news for you that you little expect," he said. "A telegram
has just arrived from Netherwoods. Mr. Alban Morris has got leave of
absence, and is coming here to-morrow."



CHAPTER XLIV. COMPETING.

Time at Monksmoor had advanced to the half hour before dinner, on
Saturday evening.

Cecilia and Francine, Mr. Wyvil and Mirabel, were loitering in the
conservatory. In the drawing-room, Emily had been considerately left
alone with Alban. He had missed the early train from Netherwoods; but
he had arrived in time to dress for dinner, and to offer the necessary
explanations.

If it had been possible for Alban to allude to the anonymous letter, he
might have owned that his first impulse had led him to destroy it, and
to assert his confidence in Emily by refusing Mr. Wyvil's invitation.
But try as he might to forget them, the base words that he had read
remained in his memory. Irritating him at the outset, they had ended
in rousing his jealousy. Under that delusive influence, he persuaded
himself that he had acted, in the first instance, without due
consideration. It was surely his interest--it might even be his duty--to
go to Mr. Wyvil's house, and judge for himself. After some last wretched
moments of hesitation, he had decided on effecting a compromise with
his own better sense, by consulting Miss Ladd. That excellent lady did
exactly what he had expected her to do. She made arrangements which
granted him leave of absence, from the Saturday to the Tuesday
following. The excuse which had served him, in telegraphing to Mr.
Wyvil, must now be repeated, in accounting for his unexpected appearance
to Emily. "I found a person to take charge of my class," he said; "and I
gladly availed myself of the opportunity of seeing you again."

After observing him attentively, while he was speaking to her, Emily
owned, with her customary frankness, that she had noticed something in
his manner which left her not quite at her ease.

"I wonder," she said, "if there is any foundation for a doubt that has
troubled me?" To his unutterable relief, she at once explained what the
doubt was. "I am afraid I offended you, in replying to your letter about
Miss Jethro."

In this case, Alban could enjoy the luxury of speaking unreservedly. He
confessed that Emily's letter had disappointed him.

"I expected you to answer me with less reserve," he replied; "and I
began to think I had acted rashly in writing to you at all. When there
is a better opportunity, I may have a word to say--" He was apparently
interrupted by something that he saw in the conservatory. Looking that
way, Emily perceived that Mirabel was the object which had attracted
Alban's attention. The vile anonymous letter was in his mind again.
Without a preliminary word to prepare Emily, he suddenly changed the
subject. "How do you like the clergyman?" he asked.

"Very much indeed," she replied, without the slightest embarrassment.
"Mr. Mirabel is clever and agreeable--and not at all spoiled by his
success. I am sure," she said innocently, "you will like him too."

Alban's face answered her unmistakably in the negative sense--but
Emily's attention was drawn the other way by Francine. She joined them
at the moment, on the lookout for any signs of an encouraging result
which her treachery might already have produced. Alban had been inclined
to suspect her when he had received the letter. He rose and bowed as she
approached. Something--he was unable to realize what it was--told him,
in the moment when they looked at each other, that his suspicion had hit
the mark.

In the conservatory the ever-amiable Mirabel had left his friends for
a while in search of flowers for Cecilia. She turned to her father when
they were alone, and asked him which of the gentlemen was to take her in
to dinner--Mr. Mirabel or Mr. Morris?

"Mr. Morris, of course," he answered. "He is the new guest--and he turns
out to be more than the equal, socially-speaking, of our other friend.
When I showed him his room, I asked if he was related to a man who
bore the same name--a fellow student of mine, years and years ago, at
college. He is my friend's younger son; one of a ruined family--but
persons of high distinction in their day."

Mirabel returned with the flowers, just as dinner was announced.

"You are to take Emily to-day," Cecilia said to him, leading the way out
of the conservatory. As they entered the drawing-room, Alban was just
offering his arm to Emily. "Papa gives you to me, Mr. Morris," Cecilia
explained pleasantly. Alban hesitated, apparently not understanding the
allusion. Mirabel interfered with his best grace: "Mr. Wyvil offers
you the honor of taking his daughter to the dining-room." Alban's face
darkened ominously, as the elegant little clergyman gave his arm to
Emily, and followed Mr. Wyvil and Francine out of the room. Cecilia
looked at her silent and surly companion, and almost envied her lazy
sister, dining--under cover of a convenient headache--in her own room.

Having already made up his mind that Alban Morris required careful
handling, Mirabel waited a little before he led the conversation as
usual. Between the soup and the fish, he made an interesting confession,
addressed to Emily in the strictest confidence.

"I have taken a fancy to your friend Mr. Morris," he said. "First
impressions, in my case, decide everything; I like people or dislike
them on impulse. That man appeals to my sympathies. Is he a good
talker?"

"I should say Yes," Emily answered prettily, "if _you_ were not
present."

Mirabel was not to be beaten, even by a woman, in the art of paying
compliments. He looked admiringly at Alban (sitting opposite to him),
and said: "Let us listen."

This flattering suggestion not only pleased Emily--it artfully served
Mirabel's purpose. That is to say, it secured him an opportunity for
observation of what was going on at the other side of the table.

Alban's instincts as a gentleman had led him to control his irritation
and to regret that he had suffered it to appear. Anxious to please, he
presented himself at his best. Gentle Cecilia forgave and forgot the
angry look which had startled her. Mr. Wyvil was delighted with the son
of his old friend. Emily felt secretly proud of the good opinions which
her admirer was gathering; and Francine saw with pleasure that he was
asserting his claim to Emily's preference, in the way of all others
which would be most likely to discourage his rival. These various
impressions--produced while Alban's enemy was ominously silent--began
to suffer an imperceptible change, from the moment when Mirabel decided
that his time had come to take the lead. A remark made by Alban offered
him the chance for which he had been on the watch. He agreed with the
remark; he enlarged on the remark; he was brilliant and familiar, and
instructive and amusing--and still it was all due to the remark. Alban's
temper was once more severely tried. Mirabel's mischievous object had
not escaped his penetration. He did his best to put obstacles in the
adversary's way--and was baffled, time after time, with the readiest
ingenuity. If he interrupted--the sweet-tempered clergyman submitted,
and went on. If he differed--modest Mr. Mirabel said, in the most
amiable manner, "I daresay I am wrong," and handled the topic from his
opponent's point of view. Never had such a perfect Christian sat before
at Mr. Wyvil's table: not a hard word, not an impatient look, escaped
him. The longer Alban resisted, the more surely he lost ground in the
general estimation. Cecilia was disappointed; Emily was grieved; Mr.
Wyvil's favorable opinion began to waver; Francine was disgusted. When
dinner was over, and the carriage was waiting to take the shepherd back
to his flock by moonlight, Mirabel's triumph was complete. He had made
Alban the innocent means of publicly exhibiting his perfect temper and
perfect politeness, under their best and brightest aspect.

So that day ended. Sunday promised to pass quietly, in the absence of
Mirabel. The morning came--and it seemed doubtful whether the promise
would be fulfilled.

Francine had passed an uneasy night. No such encouraging result as she
had anticipated had hitherto followed the appearance of Alban Morris
at Monksmoor. He had clumsily allowed Mirabel to improve his
position--while he had himself lost ground--in Emily's estimation. If
this first disastrous consequence of the meeting between the two men was
permitted to repeat itself on future occasions, Emily and Mirabel would
be brought more closely together, and Alban himself would be the unhappy
cause of it. Francine rose, on the Sunday morning, before the table
was laid for breakfast--resolved to try the effect of a timely word of
advice.

Her bedroom was situated in the front of the house. The man she was
looking for presently passed within her range of view from the window,
on his way to take a morning walk in the park. She followed him
immediately.

"Good-morning, Mr. Morris."

He raised his hat and bowed--without speaking, and without looking at
her.

"We resemble each other in one particular," she proceeded, graciously;
"we both like to breathe the fresh air before breakfast."

He said exactly what common politeness obliged him to say, and no
more--he said, "Yes."

Some girls might have been discouraged. Francine went on.

"It is no fault of mine, Mr. Morris, that we have not been better
friends. For some reason, into which I don't presume to inquire, you
seem to distrust me. I really don't know what I have done to deserve
it."

"Are you sure of that?" he asked--eying her suddenly and searchingly as
he spoke.

Her hard face settled into a rigid look; her eyes met his eyes with a
stony defiant stare. Now, for the first time, she knew that he suspected
her of having written the anonymous letter. Every evil quality in
her nature steadily defied him. A hardened old woman could not have
sustained the shock of discovery with a more devilish composure than
this girl displayed. "Perhaps you will explain yourself," she said.

"I _have_ explained myself," he answered.

"Then I must be content," she rejoined, "to remain in the dark. I had
intended, out of my regard for Emily, to suggest that you might--with
advantage to yourself, and to interests that are very dear to you--be
more careful in your behavior to Mr. Mirabel. Are you disposed to listen
to me?"

"Do you wish me to answer that question plainly, Miss de Sor?"

"I insist on your answering it plainly."

"Then I am _not_ disposed to listen to you."

"May I know why? or am I to be left in the dark again?"

"You are to be left, if you please, to your own ingenuity."

Francine looked at him, with a malignant smile. "One of these days, Mr.
Morris--I will deserve your confidence in my ingenuity." She said it,
and went back to the house.

This was the only element of disturbance that troubled the perfect
tranquillity of the day. What Francine had proposed to do, with the one
idea of making Alban serve her purpose, was accomplished a few hours
later by Emily's influence for good over the man who loved her.

They passed the afternoon together uninterruptedly in the distant
solitudes of the park. In the course of conversation Emily found an
opportunity of discreetly alluding to Mirabel. "You mustn't be jealous
of our clever little friend," she said; "I like him, and admire him;
but--"

"But you don't love him?"

She smiled at the eager way in which Alban put the question.

"There is no fear of that," she answered brightly.

"Not even if you discovered that he loves you?"

"Not even then. Are you content at last? Promise me not to be rude to
Mr. Mirabel again."

"For his sake?"

"No--for my sake. I don't like to see you place yourself at a
disadvantage toward another man; I don't like you to disappoint me."

The happiness of hearing her say those words transfigured him--the
manly beauty of his earlier and happier years seemed to have returned to
Alban. He took her hand--he was too agitated to speak.

"You are forgetting Mr. Mirabel," she reminded him gently.

"I will be all that is civil and kind to Mr. Mirabel; I will like him
and admire him as you do. Oh, Emily, are you a little, only a very
little, fond of me?"

"I don't quite know."

"May I try to find out?"

"How?" she asked.

Her fair cheek was very near to him. The softly-rising color on it said,
Answer me here--and he answered.



CHAPTER XLV. MISCHIEF--MAKING.

On Monday, Mirabel made his appearance--and the demon of discord
returned with him.

Alban had employed the earlier part of the day in making a sketch in the
park--intended as a little present for Emily. Presenting himself in the
drawing-room, when his work was completed, he found Cecilia and Francine
alone. He asked where Emily was.

The question had been addressed to Cecilia. Francine answered it.

"Emily mustn't be disturbed," she said.

"Why not?"

"She is with Mr. Mirabel in the rose garden. I saw them talking
together--evidently feeling the deepest interest in what they were
saying to each other. Don't interrupt them--you will only be in the
way."

Cecilia at once protested against this last assertion. "She is trying
to make mischief, Mr. Morris--don't believe her. I am sure they will be
glad to see you, if you join them in the garden."

Francine rose, and left the room. She turned, and looked at Alban as she
opened the door. "Try it," she said--"and you will find I am right."

"Francine sometimes talks in a very ill-natured way," Cecilia gently
remarked. "Do you think she means it, Mr. Morris?'

"I had better not offer an opinion," Alban replied.

"Why?"

"I can't speak impartially; I dislike Miss de Sor."

There was a pause. Alban's sense of self-respect forbade him to try the
experiment which Francine had maliciously suggested. His thoughts--less
easy to restrain--wandered in the direction of the garden. The attempt
to make him jealous had failed; but he was conscious, at the same time,
that Emily had disappointed him. After what they had said to each other
in the park, she ought to have remembered that women are at the mercy of
appearances. If Mirabel had something of importance to say to her,
she might have avoided exposing herself to Francine's spiteful
misconstruction: it would have been easy to arrange with Cecilia that a
third person should be present at the interview.

While he was absorbed in these reflections, Cecilia--embarrassed by
the silence--was trying to find a topic of conversation. Alban roughly
pushed his sketch-book away from him, on the table. Was he displeased
with Emily? The same question had occurred to Cecilia at the time of the
correspondence, on the subject of Miss Jethro. To recall those letters
led her, by natural sequence, to another effort of memory. She was
reminded of the person who had been the cause of the correspondence: her
interest was revived in the mystery of Miss Jethro.

"Has Emily told you that I have seen your letter?" she asked.

He roused himself with a start. "I beg your pardon. What letter are you
thinking of?"

"I was thinking of the letter which mentions Miss Jethro's strange
visit. Emily was so puzzled and so surprised that she showed it to
me--and we both consulted my father. Have you spoken to Emily about Miss
Jethro?"

"I have tried--but she seemed to be unwilling to pursue the subject."

"Have you made any discoveries since you wrote to Emily?"

"No. The mystery is as impenetrable as ever."

As he replied in those terms, Mirabel entered the conservatory from the
garden, evidently on his way to the drawing-room.

To see the man, whose introduction to Emily it had been Miss Jethro's
mysterious object to prevent--at the very moment when he had been
speaking of Miss Jethro herself--was, not only a temptation of
curiosity, but a direct incentive (in Emily's own interests) to make an
effort at discovery. Alban pursued the conversation with Cecilia, in a
tone which was loud enough to be heard in the conservatory.

"The one chance of getting any information that I can see," he
proceeded, "is to speak to Mr. Mirabel."

"I shall be only too glad, if I can be of any service to Miss Wyvil and
Mr. Morris."

With those obliging words, Mirabel made a dramatic entry, and looked at
Cecilia with his irresistible smile. Startled by his sudden appearance,
she unconsciously assisted Alban's design. Her silence gave him the
opportunity of speaking in her place.

"We were talking," he said quietly to Mirabel, "of a lady with whom you
are acquainted."

"Indeed! May I ask the lady's name?"

"Miss Jethro."

Mirabel sustained the shock with extraordinary self-possession--so far
as any betrayal by sudden movement was concerned. But his color told the
truth: it faded to paleness--it revealed, even to Cecilia's eyes, a man
overpowered by fright.

Alban offered him a chair. He refused to take it by a gesture. Alban
tried an apology next. "I am afraid I have ignorantly revived some
painful associations. Pray excuse me."

The apology roused Mirabel: he felt the necessity of offering some
explanation. In timid animals, the one defensive capacity which is
always ready for action is cunning. Mirabel was too wily to dispute
the inference--the inevitable inference--which any one must have
drawn, after seeing the effect on him that the name of Miss Jethro had
produced. He admitted that "painful associations" had been revived, and
deplored the "nervous sensibility" which had permitted it to be seen.

"No blame can possibly attach to _you_, my dear sir," he continued, in
his most amiable manner. "Will it be indiscreet, on my part, if I ask
how you first became acquainted with Miss Jethro?"

"I first became acquainted with her at Miss Ladd's school," Alban
answered. "She was, for a short time only, one of the teachers; and
she left her situation rather suddenly." He paused--but Mirabel made
no remark. "After an interval of a few months," he resumed, "I saw Miss
Jethro again. She called on me at my lodgings, near Netherwoods."

"Merely to renew your former acquaintance?"

Mirabel made that inquiry with an eager anxiety for the reply which he
was quite unable to conceal. Had he any reason to dread what Miss Jethro
might have it in her power to say of him to another person? Alban was
in no way pledged to secrecy, and he was determined to leave no means
untried of throwing light on Miss Jethro's mysterious warning. He
repeated the plain narrative of the interview, which he had communicated
by letter to Emily. Mirabel listened without making any remark.

"After what I have told you, can you give me no explanation?" Alban
asked.

"I am quite unable, Mr. Morris, to help you."

Was he lying? or speaking, the truth? The impression produced on Alban
was that he had spoken the truth.

Women are never so ready as men to resign themselves to the
disappointment of their hopes. Cecilia, silently listening up to this
time, now ventured to speak--animated by her sisterly interest in Emily.

"Can you not tell us," she said to Mirabel, "why Miss Jethro tried to
prevent Emily Brown from meeting you here?"

"I know no more of her motive than you do," Mirabel replied.

Alban interposed. "Miss Jethro left me," he said, "with the
intention--quite openly expressed--of trying to prevent you from
accepting Mr. Wyvil's invitation. Did she make the attempt?"

Mirabel admitted that she had made the attempt. "But," he added,
"without mentioning Miss Emily's name. I was asked to postpone my visit,
as a favor to herself, because she had her own reasons for wishing it. I
had _my_ reasons" (he bowed with gallantry to Cecilia) "for being eager
to have the honor of knowing Mr. Wyvil and his daughter; and I refused."

Once more, the doubt arose: was he lying? or speaking the truth? And,
once more, Alban could not resist the conclusion that he was speaking
the truth.

"There is one thing I should like to know," Mirabel continued, after
some hesitation. "Has Miss Emily been informed of this strange affair?"

"Certainly!"

Mirabel seemed to be disposed to continue his inquiries--and suddenly
changed his mind. Was he beginning to doubt if Alban had spoken without
concealment, in describing Miss Jethro's visit? Was he still afraid of
what Miss Jethro might have said of him? In any case, he changed the
subject, and made an excuse for leaving the room.

"I am forgetting my errand," he said to Alban. "Miss Emily was anxious
to know if you had finished your sketch. I must tell her that you have
returned."

He bowed and withdrew.

Alban rose to follow him--and checked himself.

"No," he thought, "I trust Emily!" He sat down again by Cecilia's side.



Mirabel had indeed returned to the rose garden. He found Emily employed
as he had left her, in making a crown of roses, to be worn by Cecilia in
the evening. But, in one other respect, there was a change. Francine was
present.

"Excuse me for sending you on a needless errand," Emily said to Mirabel;
"Miss de Sor tells me Mr. Morris has finished his sketch. She left him
in the drawing-room--why didn't you bring him here?"

"He was talking with Miss Wyvil."

Mirabel answered absently--with his eyes on Francine. He gave her one
of those significant looks, which says to a third person, "Why are
you here?" Francine's jealousy declined to understand him. He tried a
broader hint, in words.

"Are you going to walk in the garden?" he said.

Francine was impenetrable. "No," she answered, "I am going to stay here
with Emily."

Mirabel had no choice but to yield. Imperative anxieties forced him
to say, in Francine's presence, what he had hoped to say to Emily
privately.

"When I joined Miss Wyvil and Mr. Morris," he began, "what do you think
they were doing? They were talking of--Miss Jethro."

Emily dropped the rose-crown on her lap. It was easy to see that she had
been disagreeably surprised.

"Mr. Morris has told me the curious story of Miss Jethro's visit,"
Mirabel continued; "but I am in some doubt whether he has spoken to me
without reserve. Perhaps he expressed himself more freely when he spoke
to _you_. Miss Jethro may have said something to him which tended to
lower me in your estimation?"

"Certainly not, Mr. Mirabel--so far as I know. If I had heard anything
of the kind, I should have thought it my duty to tell you. Will it
relieve your anxiety, if I go at once to Mr. Morris, and ask him plainly
whether he has concealed anything from you or from me?"

Mirabel gratefully kissed her hand. "Your kindness overpowers me," he
said--speaking, for once, with true emotion.

Emily immediately returned to the house. As soon as she was out of
sight, Francine approached Mirabel, trembling with suppressed rage.



CHAPTER XLVI. PRETENDING.

Miss de Sor began cautiously with an apology. "Excuse me, Mr. Mirabel,
for reminding you of my presence."

Mr. Mirabel made no reply.

"I beg to say," Francine proceeded, "that I didn't intentionally see you
kiss Emily's hand."

Mirabel stood, looking at the roses which Emily had left on her chair,
as completely absorbed in his own thoughts as if he had been alone in
the garden.

"Am I not even worth notice?" Francine asked. "Ah, I know to whom I
am indebted for your neglect!" She took him familiarly by the arm, and
burst into a harsh laugh. "Tell me now, in confidence--do you think
Emily is fond of you?"

The impression left by Emily's kindness was still fresh in Mirabel's
memory: he was in no humor to submit to the jealous resentment of a
woman whom he regarded with perfect indifference. Through the varnish
of politeness which overlaid his manner, there rose to the surface the
underlying insolence, hidden, on all ordinary occasions, from all human
eyes. He answered Francine--mercilessly answered her--at last.

"It is the dearest hope of my life that she may be fond of me," he said.

Francine dropped his arm "And fortune favors your hopes," she added,
with an ironical assumption of interest in Mirabel's prospects. "When
Mr. Morris leaves us to-morrow, he removes the only obstacle you have to
fear. Am I right?"

"No; you are wrong."

"In what way, if you please?"

"In this way. I don't regard Mr. Morris as an obstacle. Emily is too
delicate and too kind to hurt his feelings--she is not in love with him.
There is no absorbing interest in her mind to divert her thoughts from
me. She is idle and happy; she thoroughly enjoys her visit to this
house, and I am associated with her enjoyment. There is my chance--!"

He suddenly stopped. Listening to him thus far, unnaturally calm and
cold, Francine now showed that she felt the lash of his contempt. A
hideous smile passed slowly over her white face. It threatened the
vengeance which knows no fear, no pity, no remorse--the vengeance of a
jealous woman. Hysterical anger, furious language, Mirabel was prepared
for. The smile frightened him.

"Well?" she said scornfully, "why don't you go on?"

A bolder man might still have maintained the audacious position which
he had assumed. Mirabel's faint heart shrank from it. He was eager
to shelter himself under the first excuse that he could find. His
ingenuity, paralyzed by his fears, was unable to invent anything new. He
feebly availed himself of the commonplace trick of evasion which he had
read of in novels, and seen in action on the stage.

"Is it possible," he asked, with an overacted assumption of surprise,
"that you think I am in earnest?"

In the case of any other person, Francine would have instantly seen
through that flimsy pretense. But the love which accepts the meanest
crumbs of comfort that can be thrown to it--which fawns and grovels
and deliberately deceives itself, in its own intensely selfish
interests--was the love that burned in Francine's breast. The wretched
girl believed Mirabel with such an ecstatic sense of belief that she
trembled in every limb, and dropped into the nearest chair.

"_I_ was in earnest," she said faintly. "Didn't you see it?"

He was perfectly shameless; he denied that he had seen it, in the most
positive manner. "Upon my honor, I thought you were mystifying me, and I
humored the joke."

She sighed, and looking at him with an expression of tender reproach. "I
wonder whether I can believe you," she said softly.

"Indeed you may believe me!" he assured her.

She hesitated--for the pleasure of hesitating. "I don't know. Emily is
very much admired by some men. Why not by you?"

"For the best of reasons," he answered "She is poor, and I am poor.
Those are facts which speak for themselves."

"Yes--but Emily is bent on attracting you. She would marry you
to-morrow, if you asked her. Don't attempt to deny it! Besides, you
kissed her hand."

"Oh, Miss de Sor!"

"Don't call me 'Miss de Sor'! Call me Francine. I want to know why you
kissed her hand."

He humored her with inexhaustible servility. "Allow me to kiss _your_
hand, Francine!--and let me explain that kissing a lady's hand is only a
form of thanking her for her kindness. You must own that Emily--"

She interrupted him for the third time. "Emily?" she repeated. "Are you
as familiar as that already? Does she call you 'Miles,' when you are
by yourselves? Is there any effort at fascination which this charming
creature has left untried? She told you no doubt what a lonely life she
leads in her poor little home?"

Even Mirabel felt that he must not permit this to pass.

"She has said nothing to me about herself," he answered. "What I know of
her, I know from Mr. Wyvil."

"Oh, indeed! You asked Mr. Wyvil about her family, of course? What did
he say?"

"He said she lost her mother when she was a child--and he told me her
father had died suddenly, a few years since, of heart complaint."

"Well, and what else?--Never mind now! Here is somebody coming."

The person was only one of the servants. Mirabel felt grateful to
the man for interrupting them. Animated by sentiments of a precisely
opposite nature, Francine spoke to him sharply.

"What do you want here?"

"A message, miss."

"From whom?"

"From Miss Brown."

"For me?"

"No, miss." He turned to Mirabel. "Miss Brown wishes to speak to you,
sir, if you are not engaged."

Francine controlled herself until the man was out of hearing.

"Upon my word, this is too shameless!" she declared indignantly. "Emily
can't leave you with me for five minutes, without wanting to see you
again. If you go to her after all that you have said to me," she cried,
threatening Mirabel with her outstretched hand, "you are the meanest of
men!"

He _was_ the meanest of men--he carried out his cowardly submission to
the last extremity.

"Only say what you wish me to do," he replied.

Even Francine expected some little resistance from a creature bearing
the outward appearance of a man. "Oh, do you really mean it?" she asked
"I want you to disappoint Emily. Will you stay here, and let me make
your excuses?"

"I will do anything to please you."

Francine gave him a farewell look. Her admiration made a desperate
effort to express itself appropriately in words. "You are not a man,"
she said, "you are an angel!"

Left by himself, Mirabel sat down to rest. He reviewed his own conduct
with perfect complacency. "Not one man in a hundred could have managed
that she-devil as I have done," he thought. "How shall I explain matters
to Emily?"

Considering this question, he looked by chance at the unfinished
crown of roses. "The very thing to help me!" he said--and took out his
pocketbook, and wrote these lines on a blank page: "I have had a scene
of jealousy with Miss de Sor, which is beyond all description. To spare
_you_ a similar infliction, I have done violence to my own feelings.
Instead of instantly obeying the message which you have so kindly sent
to me, I remain here for a little while--entirely for your sake."

Having torn out the page, and twisted it up among the roses, so that
only a corner of the paper appeared in view, Mirabel called to a lad who
was at work in the garden, and gave him his directions, accompanied by a
shilling. "Take those flowers to the servants' hall, and tell one of the
maids to put them in Miss Brown's room. Stop! Which is the way to the
fruit garden?"

The lad gave the necessary directions. Mirabel walked away slowly,
with his hands in his pockets. His nerves had been shaken; he thought a
little fruit might refresh him.



CHAPTER XLVII. DEBATING.

In the meanwhile Emily had been true to her promise to relieve Mirabel's
anxieties, on the subject of Miss Jethro. Entering the drawing-room in
search of Alban, she found him talking with Cecilia, and heard her own
name mentioned as she opened the door.

"Here she is at last!" Cecilia exclaimed. "What in the world has kept
you all this time in the rose garden?"

"Has Mr. Mirabel been more interesting than usual?" Alban asked gayly.
Whatever sense of annoyance he might have felt in Emily's absence, was
forgotten the moment she appeared; all traces of trouble in his face
vanished when they looked at each other.

"You shall judge for yourself," Emily replied with a smile. "Mr. Mirabel
has been speaking to me of a relative who is very dear to him--his
sister."

Cecilia was surprised. "Why has he never spoken to _us_ of his sister?"
she asked.

"It's a sad subject to speak of, my dear. His sister lives a life of
suffering--she has been for years a prisoner in her room. He writes to
her constantly. His letters from Monksmoor have interested her, poor
soul. It seems he said something about me--and she has sent a kind
message, inviting me to visit her one of these days. Do you understand
it now, Cecilia?"

"Of course I do! Tell me--is Mr. Mirabel's sister older or younger than
he is?"

"Older."

"Is she married?"

"She is a widow."

"Does she live with her brother?" Alban asked.

"Oh, no! She has her own house--far away in Northumberland."

"Is she near Sir Jervis Redwood?"

"I fancy not. Her house is on the coast."

"Any children?" Cecilia inquired.

"No; she is quite alone. Now, Cecilia, I have told you all I know--and
I have something to say to Mr. Morris. No, you needn't leave us; it's a
subject in which you are interested. A subject," she repeated, turning
to Alban, "which you may have noticed is not very agreeable to me."

"Miss Jethro?" Alban guessed.

"Yes; Miss Jethro."

Cecilia's curiosity instantly asserted itself.

"_We_ have tried to get Mr. Mirabel to enlighten us, and tried in vain,"
she said. "You are a favorite. Have you succeeded?"

"I have made no attempt to succeed," Emily replied. "My only object is
to relieve Mr. Mirabel's anxiety, if I can--with your help, Mr. Morris."

"In what way can I help you?"

"You mustn't be angry."

"Do I look angry?"

"You look serious. It is a very simple thing. Mr. Mirabel is afraid that
Miss Jethro may have said something disagreeable about him, which
you might hesitate to repeat. Is he making himself uneasy without any
reason?"

"Without the slightest reason. I have concealed nothing from Mr.
Mirabel."

"Thank you for the explanation." She turned to Cecilia. "May I send
one of the servants with a message? I may as well put an end to Mr.
Mirabel's suspense."

The man was summoned, and was dispatched with the message. Emily would
have done well, after this, if she had abstained from speaking further
of Miss Jethro. But Mirabel's doubts had, unhappily, inspired a
similar feeling of uncertainty in her own mind. She was now disposed to
attribute the tone of mystery in Alban's unlucky letter to some possible
concealment suggested by regard for herself. "I wonder whether _I_ have
any reason to feel uneasy?" she said--half in jest, half in earnest.

"Uneasy about what?" Alban inquired.

"About Miss Jethro, of course! Has she said anything of me which your
kindness has concealed?"

Alban seemed to be a little hurt by the doubt which her question
implied. "Was that your motive," he asked, "for answering my letter as
cautiously as if you had been writing to a stranger?"

"Indeed you are quite wrong!" Emily earnestly assured him. "I was
perplexed and startled--and I took Mr. Wyvil's advice, before I wrote to
you. Shall we drop the subject?"

Alban would have willingly dropped the subject--but for that unfortunate
allusion to Mr. Wyvil. Emily had unconsciously touched him on a sore
place. He had already heard from Cecilia of the consultation over his
letter, and had disapproved of it. "I think you were wrong to trouble
Mr. Wyvil," he said.

The altered tone of his voice suggested to Emily that he would have
spoken more severely, if Cecilia had not been in the room. She thought
him needlessly ready to complain of a harmless proceeding--and she too
returned to the subject, after having proposed to drop it not a minute
since!

"You didn't tell me I was to keep your letter a secret," she replied.

Cecilia made matters worse--with the best intentions. "I'm sure, Mr.
Morris, my father was only too glad to give Emily his advice."

Alban remained silent--ungraciously silent as Emily thought, after Mr.
Wyvil's kindness to him.

"The thing to regret," she remarked, "is that Mr. Morris allowed Miss
Jethro to leave him without explaining herself. In his place, I should
have insisted on knowing why she wanted to prevent me from meeting Mr.
Mirabel in this house."

Cecilia made another unlucky attempt at judicious interference. This
time, she tried a gentle remonstrance.

"Remember, Emily, how Mr. Morris was situated. He could hardly be rude
to a lady. And I daresay Miss Jethro had good reasons for not wishing to
explain herself."

Francine opened the drawing-room door and heard Cecilia's last words.

"Miss Jethro again!" she exclaimed.

"Where is Mr. Mirabel?" Emily asked. "I sent him a message."

"He regrets to say he is otherwise engaged for the present," Francine
replied with spiteful politeness. "Don't let me interrupt the
conversation. Who is this Miss Jethro, whose name is on everybody's
lips?"

Alban could keep silent no longer. "We have done with the subject," he
said sharply.

"Because I am here?"

"Because we have said more than enough about Miss Jethro already."

"Speak for yourself, Mr. Morris," Emily answered, resenting the
masterful tone which Alban's interference had assumed. "I have not done
with Miss Jethro yet, I can assure you."

"My dear, you don't know where she lives," Cecilia reminded her.

"Leave me to discover it!" Emily answered hotly. "Perhaps Mr. Mirabel
knows. I shall ask Mr. Mirabel."

"I thought you would find a reason for returning to Mr. Mirabel,"
Francine remarked.

Before Emily could reply, one of the maids entered the room with a
wreath of roses in her hand.

"Mr. Mirabel sends you these flowers, miss," the woman said, addressing
Emily. "The boy told me they were to be taken to your room. I thought it
was a mistake, and I have brought them to you here."

Francine, who happened to be nearest to the door, took the roses from
the girl on pretense of handing them to Emily. Her jealous vigilance
detected the one visible morsel of Mirabel's letter, twisted up with the
flowers. Had Emily entrapped him into a secret correspondence with her?
"A scrap of waste paper among your roses," she said, crumpling it up in
her hand as if she meant to throw it away.

But Emily was too quick for her. She caught Francine by the wrist.
"Waste paper or not," she said; "it was among my flowers and it belongs
to me."

Francine gave up the letter, with a look which might have startled Emily
if she had noticed it. She handed the roses to Cecilia. "I was making
a wreath for you to wear this evening, my dear--and I left it in the
garden. It's not quite finished yet."

Cecilia was delighted. "How lovely it is!" she exclaimed. "And how
very kind of you! I'll finish it myself." She turned away to the
conservatory.

"I had no idea I was interfering with a letter," said Francine; watching
Emily with fiercely-attentive eyes, while she smoothed out the crumpled
paper.

Having read what Mirabel had written to her, Emily looked up, and saw
that Alban was on the point of following Cecilia into the conservatory.
He had noticed something in Francine's face which he was at a loss to
understand, but which made her presence in the room absolutely hateful
to him. Emily followed and spoke to him.

"I am going back to the rose garden," she said.

"For any particular purpose?" Alban inquired

"For a purpose which, I am afraid, you won't approve of. I mean to ask
Mr. Mirabel if he knows Miss Jethro's address."

"I hope he is as ignorant of it as I am," Alban answered gravely.

"Are we going to quarrel over Miss Jethro, as we once quarreled over
Mrs. Rook?" Emily asked--with the readiest recovery of her good humor.
"Come! come! I am sure you are as anxious, in your own private mind, to
have this matter cleared up as I am."

"With one difference--that I think of consequences, and you don't."
He said it, in his gentlest and kindest manner, and stepped into the
conservatory.

"Never mind the consequences," she called after him, "if we can only get
at the truth. I hate being deceived!"

"There is no person living who has better reason than you have to say
that."

Emily looked round with a start. Alban was out of hearing. It was
Francine who had answered her.

"What do you mean?" she said.

Francine hesitated. A ghastly paleness overspread her face.

"Are you ill?" Emily asked.

"No--I am thinking."

After waiting for a moment in silence, Emily moved away toward the door
of the drawing-room. Francine suddenly held up her hand.

"Stop!" she cried.

Emily stood still.

"My mind is made up," Francine said.

"Made up--to what?"

"You asked what I meant, just now."

"I did."

"Well, my mind is made up to answer you. Miss Emily Brown, you are
leading a sadly frivolous life in this house. I am going to give you
something more serious to think about than your flirtation with Mr.
Mirabel. Oh, don't be impatient! I am coming to the point. Without
knowing it yourself, you have been the victim of deception for years
past--cruel deception--wicked deception that puts on the mask of mercy."

"Are you alluding to Miss Jethro?" Emily asked, in astonishment. "I
thought you were strangers to each other. Just now, you wanted to know
who she was."

"I know nothing about her. I care nothing about her. I am not thinking
of Miss Jethro."

"Who are you thinking of?"

"I am thinking," Francine answered, "of your dead father."



CHAPTER XLVIII. INVESTIGATING.

Having revived his sinking energies in the fruit garden, Mirabel
seated himself under the shade of a tree, and reflected on the critical
position in which he was placed by Francine's jealousy.

If Miss de Sor continued to be Mr. Wyvil's guest, there seemed to be no
other choice before Mirabel than to leave Monksmoor--and to trust to
a favorable reply to his sister's invitation for the free enjoyment of
Emily's society under another roof. Try as he might, he could arrive
at no more satisfactory conclusion than this. In his preoccupied state,
time passed quickly. Nearly an hour had elapsed before he rose to return
to the house.

Entering the hall, he was startled by a cry of terror in a woman's
voice, coming from the upper regions. At the same time Mr. Wyvil,
passing along the bedroom corridor after leaving the music-room, was
confronted by his daughter, hurrying out of Emily's bedchamber in such a
state of alarm that she could hardly speak.

"Gone!" she cried, the moment she saw her father.

Mr. Wyvil took her in his arms and tried to compose her. "Who has gone?"
he asked.

"Emily! Oh, papa, Emily has left us! She has heard dreadful news--she
told me so herself."

"What news? How did she hear it?"

"I don't know how she heard it. I went back to the drawing-room to show
her my roses--"

"Was she alone?"

"Yes! She frightened me--she seemed quite wild. She said, 'Let me be by
myself; I shall have to go home.' She kissed me--and ran up to her room.
Oh, I am such a fool! Anybody else would have taken care not to lose
sight of her."

"How long did you leave her by herself?"

"I can't say. I thought I would go and tell you. And then I got anxious
about her, and knocked at her door, and looked into the room. Gone!
Gone!"

Mr. Wyvil rang the bell and confided Cecilia to the care of her maid.
Mirabel had already joined him in the corridor. They went downstairs
together and consulted with Alban. He volunteered to make immediate
inquiries at the railway station. Mr. Wyvil followed him, as far as the
lodge gate which opened on the highroad--while Mirabel went to a second
gate, at the opposite extremity of the park.

Mr. Wyvil obtained the first news of Emily. The lodge keeper had seen
her pass him, on her way out of the park, in the greatest haste. He had
called after her, "Anything wrong, miss?" and had received no reply.
Asked what time had elapsed since this had happened, he was too confused
to be able to answer with any certainty. He knew that she had taken the
road which led to the station--and he knew no more.

Mr. Wyvil and Mirabel met again at the house, and instituted an
examination of the servants. No further discoveries were made.

The question which occurred to everybody was suggested by the words
which Cecilia had repeated to her father. Emily had said she had "heard
dreadful news"--how had that news reached her? The one postal delivery
at Monksmoor was in the morning. Had any special messenger arrived, with
a letter for Emily? The servants were absolutely certain that no such
person had entered the house. The one remaining conclusion suggested
that somebody must have communicated the evil tidings by word of mouth.
But here again no evidence was to be obtained. No visitor had called
during the day, and no new guests had arrived. Investigation was
completely baffled.

Alban returned from the railway, with news of the fugitive.

He had reached the station, some time after the departure of the London
train. The clerk at the office recognized his description of Emily, and
stated that she had taken her ticket for London. The station-master had
opened the carriage door for her, and had noticed that the young lady
appeared to be very much agitated. This information obtained, Alban had
dispatched a telegram to Emily--in Cecilia's name: "Pray send us a
few words to relieve our anxiety, and let us know if we can be of any
service to you."

This was plainly all that could be done--but Cecilia was not satisfied.
If her father had permitted it, she would have followed Emily. Alban
comforted her. He apologized to Mr. Wyvil for shortening his visit, and
announced his intention of traveling to London by the next train. "We
may renew our inquiries to some advantage," he added, after hearing what
had happened in his absence, "if we can find out who was the last person
who saw her, and spoke to her, before your daughter found her alone in
the drawing-room. When I went out of the room, I left her with Miss de
Sor."

The maid who waited on Miss de Sor was sent for. Francine had been out,
by herself, walking in the park. She was then in her room, changing her
dress. On hearing of Emily's sudden departure, she had been (as the
maid reported) "much shocked and quite at a loss to understand what it
meant."

Joining her friends a few minutes later, Francine presented, so far
as personal appearance went, a strong contrast to the pale and anxious
faces round her. She looked wonderfully well, after her walk. In other
respects, she was in perfect harmony with the prevalent feeling. She
expressed herself with the utmost propriety; her sympathy moved poor
Cecilia to tears.

"I am sure, Miss de Sor, you will try to help us?" Mr. Wyvil began

"With the greatest pleasure," Francine answered.

"How long were you and Miss Emily Brown together, after Mr. Morris left
you?"

"Not more than a quarter of an hour, I should think."

"Did anything remarkable occur in the course of conversation?"

"Nothing whatever."

Alban interfered for the first time. "Did you say anything," he asked,
"which agitated or offended Miss Brown?"

"That's rather an extraordinary question," Francine remarked.

"Have you no other answer to give?" Alban inquired.

"I answer--No!" she said, with a sudden outburst of anger.

There, the matter dropped. While she spoke in reply to Mr. Wyvil,
Francine had confronted him without embarrassment. When Alban
interposed, she never looked at him--except when he provoked her to
anger. Did she remember that the man who was questioning her, was also
the man who had suspected her of writing the anonymous letter? Alban
was on his guard against himself, knowing how he disliked her. But the
conviction in his own mind was not to be resisted. In some unimaginable
way, Francine was associated with Emily's flight from the house.

The answer to the telegram sent from the railway station had not
arrived, when Alban took his departure for London. Cecilia's suspense
began to grow unendurable: she looked to Mirabel for comfort, and found
none. His office was to console, and his capacity for performing that
office was notorious among his admirers; but he failed to present
himself to advantage, when Mr. Wyvil's lovely daughter had need of his
services. He was, in truth, too sincerely anxious and distressed to be
capable of commanding his customary resources of ready-made sentiment
and fluently-pious philosophy. Emily's influence had awakened the only
earnest and true feeling which had ever ennobled the popular preacher's
life.

Toward evening, the long-expected telegram was received at last. What
could be said, under the circumstances, it said in these words:

"Safe at home--don't be uneasy about me--will write soon."

With that promise they were, for the time, forced to be content.



BOOK THE FIFTH--THE COTTAGE.



CHAPTER XLIX. EMILY SUFFERS.

Mrs. Ellmother--left in charge of Emily's place of abode, and feeling
sensible of her lonely position from time to time--had just thought of
trying the cheering influence of a cup of tea, when she heard a cab draw
up at the cottage gate. A violent ring at the bell followed. She opened
the door--and found Emily on the steps. One look at that dear and
familiar face was enough for the old servant.

"God help us," she cried, "what's wrong now?"

Without a word of reply, Emily led the way into the bedchamber which had
been the scene of Miss Letitia's death. Mrs. Ellmother hesitated on the
threshold.

"Why do you bring me in here?" she asked.

"Why did you try to keep me out?" Emily answered.

"When did I try to keep you out, miss?"

"When I came home from school, to nurse my aunt. Ah, you remember now!
Is it true--I ask you here, where your old mistress died--is it true
that my aunt deceived me about my father's death? And that you knew it?"

There was dead silence. Mrs. Ellmother trembled horribly--her lips
dropped apart--her eyes wandered round the room with a stare of idiotic
terror. "Is it her ghost tells you that?" she whispered. "Where is her
ghost? The room whirls round and round, miss--and the air sings in my
ears."

Emily sprang forward to support her. She staggered to a chair, and
lifted her great bony hands in wild entreaty. "Don't frighten me," she
said. "Stand back."

Emily obeyed her. She dashed the cold sweat off her forehead. "You were
talking about your father's death just now," she burst out, in desperate
defiant tones. "Well! we know it and we are sorry for it--your father
died suddenly."

"My father died murdered in the inn at Zeeland! All the long way to
London, I have tried to doubt it. Oh, me, I know it now!"

Answering in those words, she looked toward the bed. Harrowing
remembrances of her aunt's delirious self-betrayal made the room
unendurable to her. She ran out. The parlor door was open. Entering the
room, she passed by a portrait of her father, which her aunt had hung
on the wall over the fireplace. She threw herself on the sofa and burst
into a passionate fit of crying. "Oh, my father--my dear, gentle, loving
father; my first, best, truest friend--murdered! murdered! Oh, God,
where was your justice, where was your mercy, when he died that dreadful
death?"

A hand was laid on her shoulder; a voice said to her, "Hush, my child!
God knows best."

Emily looked up, and saw that Mrs. Ellmother had followed her. "You
poor old soul," she said, suddenly remembering; "I frightened you in the
other room."

"I have got over it, my dear. I am old; and I have lived a hard life.
A hard life schools a person. I make no complaints." She stopped, and
began to shudder again. "Will you believe me if I tell you something?"
she asked. "I warned my self-willed mistress. Standing by your father's
coffin, I warned her. Hide the truth as you may (I said), a time will
come when our child will know what you are keeping from her now. One or
both of us may live to see it. I am the one who has lived; no refuge
in the grave for me. I want to hear about it--there's no fear of
frightening or hurting me now. I want to hear how you found it out. Was
it by accident, my dear? or did a person tell you?"

Emily's mind was far away from Mrs. Ellmother. She rose from the sofa,
with her hands held fast over her aching heart.

"The one duty of my life," she said--"I am thinking of the one duty of
my life. Look! I am calm now; I am resigned to my hard lot. Never, never
again, can the dear memory of my father be what it was! From this time,
it is the horrid memory of a crime. The crime has gone unpunished; the
man has escaped others. He shall not escape Me." She paused, and looked
at Mrs. Ellmother absently. "What did you say just now? You want to hear
how I know what I know? Naturally! naturally! Sit down here--sit
down, my old friend, on the sofa with me--and take your mind back to
Netherwoods. Alban Morris--"

Mrs. Ellmother recoiled from Emily in dismay. "Don't tell me _he_ had
anything to do with it! The kindest of men; the best of men!"

"The man of all men living who least deserves your good opinion or
mine," Emily answered sternly.

"You!" Mrs. Ellmother exclaimed, "_you_ say that!"

"I say it. He--who won on me to like him--he was in the conspiracy to
deceive me; and you know it! He heard me talk of the newspaper story of
the murder of my father--I say, he heard me talk of it composedly, talk
of it carelessly, in the innocent belief that it was the murder of
a stranger--and he never opened his lips to prevent that horrid
profanation! He never even said, speak of something else; I won't hear
you! No more of him! God forbid I should ever see him again. No! Do
what I told you. Carry your mind back to Netherwoods. One night you let
Francine de Sor frighten you. You ran away from her into the garden.
Keep quiet! At your age, must I set you an example of self-control?

"I want to know, Miss Emily, where Francine de Sor is now?"

"She is at the house in the country, which I have left."

"Where does she go next, if you please? Back to Miss Ladd?"

"I suppose so. What interest have you in knowing where she goes next?"

"I won't interrupt you, miss. It's true that I ran away into the garden.
I can guess who followed me. How did she find her way to me and Mr.
Morris, in the dark?"

"The smell of tobacco guided her--she knew who smoked--she had seen him
talking to you, on that very day--she followed the scent--she heard what
you two said to each other--and she has repeated it to me. Oh, my old
friend, the malice of a revengeful girl has enlightened me, when you,
my nurse--and he, my lover--left me in the dark: it has told me how my
father died!"

"That's said bitterly, miss!"

"Is it said truly?"

"No. It isn't said truly of myself. God knows you would never have
been kept in the dark, if your aunt had listened to me. I begged and
prayed--I went down on my knees to her--I warned her, as I told you just
now. Must I tell _you_ what a headstrong woman Miss Letitia was? She
insisted. She put the choice before me of leaving her at once and
forever--or giving in. I wouldn't have given in to any other creature on
the face of this earth. I am obstinate, as you have often told me.
Well, your aunt's obstinacy beat mine; I was too fond of her to say No.
Besides, if you ask me who was to blame in the first place, I tell you
it wasn't your aunt; she was frightened into it."

"Who frightened her?"

"Your godfather--the great London surgeon--he who was visiting in our
house at the time."

"Sir Richard?"

"Yes--Sir Richard. He said he wouldn't answer for the consequences, in
the delicate state of your health, if we told you the truth. Ah, he had
it all his own way after that. He went with Miss Letitia to the inquest;
he won over the coroner and the newspaper men to his will; he kept your
aunt's name out of the papers; he took charge of the coffin; he
hired the undertaker and his men, strangers from London; he wrote the
certificate--who but he! Everybody was cap in hand to the famous man!"

"Surely, the servants and the neighbors asked questions?"

"Hundreds of questions! What did that matter to Sir Richard? They were
like so many children, in _his_ hands. And, mind you, the luck helped
him. To begin with, there was the common name. Who was to pick out your
poor father among the thousands of James Browns? Then, again, the house
and lands went to the male heir, as they called him--the man your father
quarreled with in the bygone time. He brought his own establishment
with him. Long before you got back from the friends you were staying
with--don't you remember it?--we had cleared out of the house; we
were miles and miles away; and the old servants were scattered abroad,
finding new situations wherever they could. How could you suspect us?
We had nothing to fear in that way; but my conscience pricked me. I made
another attempt to prevail on Miss Letitia, when you had recovered
your health. I said, 'There's no fear of a relapse now; break it to her
gently, but tell her the truth.' No! Your aunt was too fond of you. She
daunted me with dreadful fits of crying, when I tried to persuade her.
And that wasn't the worst of it. She bade me remember what an excitable
man your father was--she reminded me that the misery of your mother's
death laid him low with brain fever--she said, 'Emily takes after her
father; I have heard you say it yourself; she has his constitution, and
his sensitive nerves. Don't you know how she loved him--how she talks
of him to this day? Who can tell (if we are not careful) what dreadful
mischief we may do?' That was how my mistress worked on me. I got
infected with her fears; it was as if I had caught an infection of
disease. Oh, my dear, blame me if it must be; but don't forget how I
have suffered for it since! I was driven away from my dying mistress, in
terror of what she might say, while you were watching at her bedside. I
have lived in fear of what you might ask me--and have longed to go back
to you--and have not had the courage to do it. Look at me now!"

The poor woman tried to take out her handkerchief; her quivering hand
helplessly entangled itself in her dress. "I can't even dry my eyes,"
she said faintly. "Try to forgive me, miss!"

Emily put her arms round the old nurse's neck. "It is _you_," she said
sadly, "who must forgive me."

For a while they were silent. Through the window that was open to
the little garden, came the one sound that could be heard--the gentle
trembling of leaves in the evening wind.

The silence was harshly broken by the bell at the cottage door. They
both started.

Emily's heart beat fast. "Who can it be?" she said.

Mrs. Ellmother rose. "Shall I say you can't see anybody?" she asked,
before leaving the room.

"Yes! yes!"

Emily heard the door opened--heard low voices in the passage. There was
a momentary interval. Then, Mrs. Ellmother returned. She said nothing.
Emily spoke to her.

"Is it a visitor?"

"Yes."

"Have you said I can't see anybody?"

"I couldn't say it."

"Why not?"

"Don't be hard on him, my dear. It's Mr. Alban Morris."



CHAPTER L. MISS LADD ADVISES.

Mrs. Ellmother sat by the dying embers of the kitchen fire; thinking
over the events of the day in perplexity and distress.

She had waited at the cottage door for a friendly word with Alban, after
he had left Emily. The stern despair in his face warned her to let him
go in silence. She had looked into the parlor next. Pale and cold, Emily
lay on the sofa--sunk in helpless depression of body and mind. "Don't
speak to me," she whispered; "I am quite worn out." It was but too plain
that the view of Alban's conduct which she had already expressed, was
the view to which she had adhered at the interview between them. They
had parted in grief---perhaps in anger--perhaps forever. Mrs. Ellmother
lifted Emily in compassionate silence, and carried her upstairs, and
waited by her until she slept.

In the still hours of the night, the thoughts of the faithful old
servant--dwelling for a while on past and present--advanced, by slow
degrees, to consideration of the doubtful future. Measuring, to the best
of her ability, the responsibility which had fallen on her, she felt
that it was more than she could bear, or ought to bear, alone. To whom
could she look for help?

The gentlefolks at Monksmoor were strangers to her. Doctor Allday was
near at hand--but Emily had said, "Don't send for him; he will torment
me with questions--and I want to keep my mind quiet, if I can." But
one person was left, to whose ever-ready kindness Mrs. Ellmother could
appeal--and that person was Miss Ladd.

It would have been easy to ask the help of the good schoolmistress in
comforting and advising the favorite pupil whom she loved. But Mrs.
Ellmother had another object in view: she was determined that the
cold-blooded cruelty of Emily's treacherous friend should not be allowed
to triumph with impunity. If an ignorant old woman could do nothing
else, she could tell the plain truth, and could leave Miss Ladd to
decide whether such a person as Francine deserved to remain under her
care.

To feel justified in taking this step was one thing: to put it all
clearly in writing was another. After vainly making the attempt
overnight, Mrs. Ellmother tore up her letter, and communicated with Miss
Ladd by means of a telegraphic message, in the morning. "Miss Emily is
in great distress. I must not leave her. I have something besides to say
to you which cannot be put into a letter. Will you please come to us?"

Later in the forenoon, Mrs. Ellmother was called to the door by the
arrival of a visitor. The personal appearance of the stranger impressed
her favorably. He was a handsome little gentleman; his manners were
winning, and his voice was singularly pleasant to hear.

"I have come from Mr. Wyvil's house in the country," he said; "and I
bring a letter from his daughter. May I take the opportunity of asking
if Miss Emily is well?"

"Far from it, sir, I am sorry to say. She is so poorly that she keeps
her bed."

At this reply, the visitor's face revealed such sincere sympathy and
regret, that Mrs. Ellmother was interested in him: she added a word
more. "My mistress has had a hard trial to bear, sir. I hope there is no
bad news for her in the young lady's letter?"

"On the contrary, there is news that she will be glad to hear--Miss
Wyvil is coming here this evening. Will you excuse my asking if Miss
Emily has had medical advice?"

"She won't hear of seeing the doctor, sir. He's a good friend of
hers--and he lives close by. I am unfortunately alone in the house. If I
could leave her, I would go at once and ask his advice."

"Let _me_ go!" Mirabel eagerly proposed.

Mrs. Ellmother's face brightened. "That's kindly thought of, sir--if you
don't mind the trouble."

"My good lady, nothing is a trouble in your young mistress's service.
Give me the doctor's name and address--and tell me what to say to him."

"There's one thing you must be careful of," Mrs. Ellmother answered. "He
mustn't come here, as if he had been sent for--she would refuse to see
him."

Mirabel understood her. "I will not forget to caution him. Kindly tell
Miss Emily I called--my name is Mirabel. I will return to-morrow."

He hastened away on his errand--only to find that he had arrived too
late. Doctor Allday had left London; called away to a serious case of
illness. He was not expected to get back until late in the afternoon.
Mirabel left a message, saying that he would return in the evening.

The next visitor who arrived at the cottage was the trusty friend, in
whose generous nature Mrs. Ellmother had wisely placed confidence. Miss
Ladd had resolved to answer the telegram in person, the moment she read
it.

"If there is bad news," she said, "let me hear it at once. I am not well
enough to bear suspense; my busy life at the school is beginning to tell
on me."

"There is nothing that need alarm you, ma'am--but there is a great
deal to say, before you see Miss Emily. My stupid head turns giddy with
thinking of it. I hardly know where to begin."

"Begin with Emily," Miss Ladd suggested.

Mrs. Ellmother took the advice. She described Emily's unexpected arrival
on the previous day; and she repeated what had passed between them
afterward. Miss Ladd's first impulse, when she had recovered her
composure, was to go to Emily without waiting to hear more. Not
presuming to stop her, Mrs. Ellmother ventured to put a question "Do
you happen to have my telegram about you, ma'am?" Miss Ladd produced it.
"Will you please look at the last part of it again?"

Miss Ladd read the words: "I have something besides to say to you which
cannot be put into a letter." She at once returned to her chair.

"Does what you have still to tell me refer to any person whom I know?"
she said.

"It refers, ma'am, to Miss de Sor. I am afraid I shall distress you."

"What did I say, when I came in?" Miss Ladd asked. "Speak out plainly;
and try--it's not easy, I know--but try to begin at the beginning."

Mrs. Ellmother looked back through her memory of past events, and
began by alluding to the feeling of curiosity which she had excited in
Francine, on the day when Emily had made them known to one another.
From this she advanced to the narrative of what had taken place at
Netherwoods--to the atrocious attempt to frighten her by means of
the image of wax--to the discovery made by Francine in the garden at
night--and to the circumstances under which that discovery had been
communicated to Emily.

Miss Ladd's face reddened with indignation. "Are you sure of all that
you have said?" she asked.

"I am quite sure, ma'am. I hope I have not done wrong," Mrs. Ellmother
added simply, "in telling you all this?"

"Wrong?" Miss Ladd repeated warmly. "If that wretched girl has no
defense to offer, she is a disgrace to my school--and I owe you a debt
of gratitude for showing her to me in her true character. She shall
return at once to Netherwoods; and she shall answer me to my entire
satisfaction--or leave my house. What cruelty! what duplicity! In all my
experience of girls, I have never met with the like of it. Let me go to
my dear little Emily--and try to forget what I have heard."

Mrs. Ellmother led the good lady to Emily's room--and, returning to the
lower part of the house, went out into the garden. The mental effort
that she had made had left its result in an aching head, and in an
overpowering sense of depression. "A mouthful of fresh air will revive
me," she thought.

The front garden and back garden at the cottage communicated with each
other. Walking slowly round and round, Mrs. Ellmother heard footsteps
on the road outside, which stopped at the gate. She looked through the
grating, and discovered Alban Morris.

"Come in, sir!" she said, rejoiced to see him. He obeyed in silence. The
full view of his face shocked Mrs. Ellmother. Never in her experience of
the friend who had been so kind to her at Netherwoods, had he looked so
old and so haggard as he looked now. "Oh, Mr. Alban, I see how she
has distressed you! Don't take her at her word. Keep a good heart,
sir--young girls are never long together of the same mind."

Alban gave her his hand. "I mustn't speak about it," he said. "Silence
helps me to bear my misfortune as becomes a man. I have had some hard
blows in my time: they don't seem to have blunted my sense of feeling
as I thought they had. Thank God, she doesn't know how she has made me
suffer! I want to ask her pardon for having forgotten myself yesterday.
I spoke roughly to her, at one time. No: I won't intrude on her; I have
said I am sorry, in writing. Do you mind giving it to her? Good-by--and
thank you. I mustn't stay longer; Miss Ladd expects me at Netherwoods."

"Miss Ladd is in the house, sir, at this moment."

"Here, in London!"

"Upstairs, with Miss Emily."

"Upstairs? Is Emily ill?"

"She is getting better, sir. Would you like to see Miss Ladd?"

"I should indeed! I have something to say to her--and time is of
importance to me. May I wait in the garden?"

"Why not in the parlor, sir?"

"The parlor reminds me of happier days. In time, I may have courage
enough to look at the room again. Not now."

"If she doesn't make it up with that good man," Mrs. Ellmother thought,
on her way back to the house, "my nurse-child is what I have never
believed her to be yet--she's a fool."

In half an hour more, Miss Ladd joined Alban on the little plot of grass
behind the cottage. "I bring Emily's reply to your letter," she said.
"Read it, before you speak to me."

Alban read it: "Don't suppose you have offended me--and be assured that
I feel gratefully the tone in which your note is written. I try to write
forbearingly on my side; I wish I could write acceptably as well. It is
not to be done. I am as unable as ever to enter into your motives. You
are not my relation; you were under no obligation of secrecy: you heard
me speak ignorantly of the murder of my father, as if it had been the
murder of a stranger; and yet you kept me--deliberately, cruelly kept
me--deceived! The remembrance of it burns me like fire. I cannot--oh,
Alban, I cannot restore you to the place in my estimation which you have
lost! If you wish to help me to bear my trouble, I entreat you not to
write to me again."

Alban offered the letter silently to Miss Ladd. She signed to him to
keep it.

"I know what Emily has written," she said; "and I have told her, what I
now tell you--she is wrong; in every way, wrong. It is the misfortune
of her impetuous nature that she rushes to conclusions--and those
conclusions once formed, she holds to them with all the strength of her
character. In this matter, she has looked at her side of the question
exclusively; she is blind to your side."

"Not willfully!" Alban interposed.

Miss Ladd looked at him with admiration. "You defend Emily?" she said.

"I love her," Alban answered.

Miss Ladd felt for him, as Mrs. Ellmother had felt for him. "Trust to
time, Mr. Morris," she resumed. "The danger to be afraid of is--the
danger of some headlong action, on her part, in the interval. Who can
say what the end may be, if she persists in her present way of thinking?
There is something monstrous, in a young girl declaring that it is _her_
duty to pursue a murderer, and to bring him to justice! Don't you see it
yourself?"

Alban still defended Emily. "It seems to me to be a natural impulse,"
he said--"natural, and noble."

"Noble!" Miss Ladd exclaimed.

"Yes--for it grows out of the love which has not died with her father's
death."

"Then you encourage her?"

"With my whole heart--if she would give me the opportunity!"

"We won't pursue the subject, Mr. Morris. I am told by Mrs. Ellmother
that you have something to say to me. What is it?"

"I have to ask you," Alban replied, "to let me resign my situation at
Netherwoods."

Miss Ladd was not only surprised; she was also--a very rare thing with
her--inclined to be suspicious. After what he had said to Emily, it
occurred to her that Alban might be meditating some desperate project,
with the hope of recovering his lost place in her favor.

"Have you heard of some better employment?" she asked.

"I have heard of no employment. My mind is not in a state to give the
necessary attention to my pupils."

"Is that your only reason for wishing to leave me?"

"It is one of my reasons."

"The only one which you think it necessary to mention?"

"Yes."

"I shall be sorry to lose you, Mr. Morris."

"Believe me, Miss Ladd, I am not ungrateful for your kindness."

"Will you let me, in all kindness, say something more?" Miss Ladd
answered. "I don't intrude on your secrets--I only hope that you have no
rash project in view."

"I don't understand you, Miss Ladd."

"Yes, Mr. Morris--you do."

She shook hands with him--and went back to Emily.



CHAPTER LI. THE DOCTOR SEES.

Alban returned to Netherwoods--to continue his services, until another
master could be found to take his place.

By a later train Miss Ladd followed him. Emily was too well aware of the
importance of the mistress's presence to the well-being of the school,
to permit her to remain at the cottage. It was understood that they were
to correspond, and that Emily's room was waiting for her at Netherwoods,
whenever she felt inclined to occupy it.

Mrs. Ellmother made the tea, that evening, earlier than usual. Being
alone again with Emily, it struck her that she might take advantage of
her position to say a word in Alban's favor. She had chosen her time
unfortunately. The moment she pronounced the name, Emily checked her by
a look, and spoke of another person--that person being Miss Jethro.

Mrs. Ellmother at once entered her protest, in her own downright way.
"Whatever you do," she said, "don't go back to that! What does Miss
Jethro matter to you?"

"I am more interested in her than you suppose--I happen to know why she
left the school."

"Begging your pardon, miss, that's quite impossible!"

"She left the school," Emily persisted, "for a serious reason. Miss Ladd
discovered that she had used false references."

"Good Lord! who told you that?"

"You see I know it. I asked Miss Ladd how she got her information. She
was bound by a promise never to mention the person's name. I didn't say
it to her--but I may say it to you. I am afraid I have an idea of who
the person was."

"No," Mrs. Ellmother obstinately asserted, "you can't possibly know who
it was! How should you know?"

"Do you wish me to repeat what I heard in that room opposite, when my
aunt was dying?"

"Drop it, Miss Emily! For God's sake, drop it!"

"I can't drop it. It's dreadful to me to have suspicions of my aunt--and
no better reason for them than what she said in a state of delirium.
Tell me, if you love me, was it her wandering fancy? or was it the
truth?"

"As I hope to be saved, Miss Emily, I can only guess as you do--I don't
rightly know. My mistress trusted me half way, as it were. I'm afraid I
have a rough tongue of my own sometimes. I offended her--and from that
time she kept her own counsel. What she did, she did in the dark, so far
as I was concerned."

"How did you offend her?"

"I shall be obliged to speak of your father if I tell you how?"

"Speak of him."

"_He_ was not to blame--mind that!" Mrs. Ellmother said earnestly. "If I
wasn't certain of what I say now you wouldn't get a word out of me. Good
harmless man--there's no denying it--he _was_ in love with Miss Jethro!
What's the matter?"

Emily was thinking of her memorable conversation with the disgraced
teacher on her last night at school. "Nothing" she answered. "Go on."

"If he had not tried to keep it secret from us," Mrs. Ellmother resumed,
"your aunt might never have taken it into her head that he was entangled
in a love affair of the shameful sort. I don't deny that I helped her in
her inquiries; but it was only because I felt sure from the first that
the more she discovered the more certainly my master's innocence would
show itself. He used to go away and visit Miss Jethro privately. In the
time when your aunt trusted me, we never could find out where. She
made that discovery afterward for herself (I can't tell you how long
afterward); and she spent money in employing mean wretches to pry into
Miss Jethro's past life. She had (if you will excuse me for saying it)
an old maid's hatred of the handsome young woman, who lured your father
away from home, and set up a secret (in a manner of speaking) between
her brother and herself. I won't tell you how we looked at letters and
other things which he forgot to leave under lock and key. I will only
say there was one bit, in a journal he kept, which made me ashamed of
myself. I read it out to Miss Letitia; and I told her in so many words,
not to count any more on me. No; I haven't got a copy of the words--I
can remember them without a copy. 'Even if my religion did not forbid
me to peril my soul by leading a life of sin with this woman whom I
love'--that was how it began--'the thought of my daughter would keep
me pure. No conduct of mine shall ever make me unworthy of my child's
affection and respect.' There! I'm making you cry; I won't stay here any
longer. All that I had to say has been said. Nobody but Miss Ladd knows
for certain whether your aunt was innocent or guilty in the matter
of Miss Jethro's disgrace. Please to excuse me; my work's waiting
downstairs."


From time to time, as she pursued her domestic labors, Mrs. Ellmother
thought of Mirabel. Hours on hours had passed--and the doctor had not
appeared. Was he too busy to spare even a few minutes of his time? Or
had the handsome little gentleman, after promising so fairly, failed to
perform his errand? This last doubt wronged Mirabel. He had engaged to
return to the doctor's house; and he kept his word.

Doctor Allday was at home again, and was seeing patients. Introduced
in his turn, Mirabel had no reason to complain of his reception. At the
same time, after he had stated the object of his visit, something odd
began to show itself in the doctor's manner.

He looked at Mirabel with an appearance of uneasy curiosity; and he
contrived an excuse for altering the visitor's position in the room, so
that the light fell full on Mirabel's face.

"I fancy I must have seen you," the doctor said, "at some former time."

"I am ashamed to say I don't remember it," Mirabel answered.

"Ah, very likely I'm wrong! I'll call on Miss Emily, sir, you may depend
on it."

Left in his consulting-room, Doctor Allday failed to ring the bell which
summoned the next patient who was waiting for him. He took his diary
from the table drawer, and turned to the daily entries for the past
month of July.

Arriving at the fifteenth day of the month, he glanced at the first
lines of writing: "A visit from a mysterious lady, calling herself Miss
Jethro. Our conference led to some very unexpected results."

No: that was not what he was in search of. He looked a little lower
down: and read on regularly, from that point, as follows:

"Called on Miss Emily, in great anxiety about the discoveries which
she might make among her aunt's papers. Papers all destroyed, thank
God--except the Handbill, offering a reward for discovery of the
murderer, which she found in the scrap-book. Gave her back the Handbill.
Emily much surprised that the wretch should have escaped, with such
a careful description of him circulated everywhere. She read the
description aloud to me, in her nice clear voice: 'Supposed age between
twenty-five and thirty years. A well-made man of small stature. Fai
r complexion, delicate features, clear blue eyes. Hair light, and
cut rather short. Clean shaven, with the exception of narrow
half-whiskers'--and so on. Emily at a loss to understand how the
fugitive could disguise himself. Reminded her that he could effectually
disguise his head and face (with time to help him) by letting his hair
grow long, and cultivating his beard. Emily not convinced, even by this
self-evident view of the case. Changed the subject."

The doctor put away his diary, and rang the bell.

"Curious," he thought. "That dandified little clergyman has certainly
reminded me of my discussion with Emily, more than two months since. Was
it his flowing hair, I wonder? or his splendid beard? Good God! suppose
it should turn out--?"

He was interrupted by the appearance of his patient. Other ailing people
followed. Doctor Allday's mind was professionally occupied for the rest
of the evening.



CHAPTER LII. "IF I COULD FIND A FRIEND!"

Shortly after Miss Ladd had taken her departure, a parcel arrived for
Emily, bearing the name of a bookseller printed on the label. It was
large, and it was heavy. "Reading enough, I should think, to last for a
lifetime," Mrs. Ellmother remarked, after carrying the parcel upstairs.

Emily called her back as she was leaving the room. "I want to caution
you," she said, "before Miss Wyvil comes. Don't tell her--don't tell
anybody--how my father met his death. If other persons are taken into
our confidence, they will talk of it. We don't know how near to us the
murderer may be. The slightest hint may put him on his guard."

"Oh, miss, are you still thinking of that!"

"I think of nothing else."

"Bad for your mind, Miss Emily--and bad for your body, as your looks
show. I wish you would take counsel with some discreet person, before
you move in this matter by yourself."

Emily sighed wearily. "In my situation, where is the person whom I can
trust?"

"You can trust the good doctor."

"Can I? Perhaps I was wrong when I told you I wouldn't see him. He might
be of some use to me."

Mrs. Ellmother made the most of this concession, in the fear that Emily
might change her mind. "Doctor Allday may call on you tomorrow," she
said.

"Do you mean that you have sent for him?"

"Don't be angry! I did it for the best--and Mr. Mirabel agreed with me."

"Mr. Mirabel! What have you told Mr. Mirabel?"

"Nothing, except that you are ill. When he heard that, he proposed to go
for the doctor. He will be here again to-morrow, to ask for news of your
health. Will you see him?"

"I don't know yet--I have other things to think of. Bring Miss Wyvil up
here when she comes."

"Am I to get the spare room ready for her?"

"No. She is staying with her father at the London house."

Emily made that reply almost with an air of relief. When Cecilia
arrived, it was only by an effort that she could show grateful
appreciation of the sympathy of her dearest friend. When the visit came
to an end, she felt an ungrateful sense of freedom: the restraint was
off her mind; she could think again of the one terrible subject that had
any interest for her now. Over love, over friendship, over the natural
enjoyment of her young life, predominated the blighting resolution which
bound her to avenge her father's death. Her dearest remembrances of
him--tender remembrances once--now burned in her (to use her own words)
like fire. It was no ordinary love that had bound parent and child
together in the bygone time. Emily had grown from infancy to girlhood,
owing all the brightness of her life--a life without a mother, without
brothers, without sisters--to her father alone. To submit to lose this
beloved, this only companion, by the cruel stroke of disease was of all
trials of resignation the hardest to bear. But to be severed from him by
the murderous hand of a man, was more than Emily's fervent nature could
passively endure. Before the garden gate had closed on her friend
she had returned to her one thought, she was breathing again her one
aspiration. The books that she had ordered, with her own purpose in
view--books that might supply her want of experience, and might reveal
the perils which beset the course that lay before her--were unpacked and
spread out on the table. Hour after hour, when the old servant believed
that her mistress was in bed, she was absorbed over biographies in
English and French, which related the stratagems by means of which
famous policemen had captured the worst criminals of their time. From
these, she turned to works of fiction, which found their chief topic of
interest in dwelling on the discovery of hidden crime. The night passed,
and dawn glimmered through the window--and still she opened book
after book with sinking courage--and still she gained nothing but the
disheartening conviction of her inability to carry out her own plans.
Almost every page that she turned over revealed the immovable obstacles
set in her way by her sex and her age. Could _she_ mix with the people,
or visit the scenes, familiar to the experience of men (in fact and
in fiction), who had traced the homicide to his hiding-place, and had
marked him among his harmless fellow-creatures with the brand of Cain?
No! A young girl following, or attempting to follow, that career, must
reckon with insult and outrage--paying their abominable tribute to her
youth and her beauty, at every turn. What proportion would the men
who might respect her bear to the men who might make her the object of
advances, which it was hardly possible to imagine without shuddering.
She crept exhausted to her bed, the most helpless, hopeless creature on
the wide surface of the earth--a girl self-devoted to the task of a man.



Careful to perform his promise to Mirabel, without delay, the doctor
called on Emily early in the morning--before the hour at which he
usually entered his consulting-room.

"Well? What's the matter with the pretty young mistress?" he asked,
in his most abrupt manner, when Mrs. Ellmother opened the door. "Is it
love? or jealousy? or a new dress with a wrinkle in it?"

"You will hear about it, sir, from Miss Emily herself. I am forbidden to
say anything."

"But you mean to say something--for all that?"

"Don't joke, Doctor Allday! The state of things here is a great deal too
serious for joking. Make up your mind to be surprised--I say no more."

Before the doctor could ask what this meant, Emily opened the parlor
door. "Come in!" she said, impatiently.

Doctor Allday's first greeting was strictly professional. "My dear
child, I never expected this," he began. "You are looking wretchedly
ill." He attempted to feel her pulse. She drew her hand away from him.

"It's my mind that's ill," she answered. "Feeling my pulse won't cure
me of anxiety and distress. I want advice; I want help. Dear old doctor,
you have always been a good friend to me--be a better friend than ever
now."

"What can I do?"

"Promise you will keep secret what I am going to say to you--and listen,
pray listen patiently, till I have done."

Doctor Allday promised, and listened. He had been, in some degree at
least, prepared for a surprise--but the disclosure which now burst on
him was more than his equanimity could sustain. He looked at Emily in
silent dismay. She had surprised and shocked him, not only by what she
said, but by what she unconsciously suggested. Was it possible that
Mirabel's personal appearance had produced on her the same impression
which was present in his own mind? His first impulse, when he was
composed enough to speak, urged him to put the question cautiously.

"If you happened to meet with the suspected man," he said, "have you any
means of identifying him?"

"None whatever, doctor. If you would only think it over--"

He stopped her there; convinced of the danger of encouraging her, and
resolved to act on his conviction.

"I have enough to occupy me in my profession," he said. "Ask your other
friend to think it over."

"What other friend?"

"Mr. Alban Morris."

The moment he pronounced the name, he saw that he had touched on some
painful association. "Has Mr. Morris refused to help you?" he inquired.

"I have not asked him to help me."

"Why?"

There was no choice (with such a man as Doctor Allday) between offending
him or answering him. Emily adopted the last alternative. On this
occasion she had no reason to complain of his silence.

"Your view of Mr. Morris's conduct surprises me," he replied--"surprises
me more than I can say," he added; remembering that he too was guilty
of having kept her in ignorance of the truth, out of regard--mistaken
regard, as it now seemed to be--for her peace of mind.

"Be good to me, and pass it over if I am wrong," Emily said: "I can't
dispute with you; I can only tell you what I feel. You have always been
so kind to me--may I count on your kindness still?"

Doctor Allday relapsed into silence.

"May I at least ask," she went on, "if you know anything of persons--"
She paused, discouraged by the cold expression of inquiry in the old
man's eyes as he looked at her.

"What persons?" he said.

"Persons whom I suspect."

"Name them."

Emily named the landlady of the inn at Zeeland: she could now place the
right interpretation on Mrs. Rook's conduct, when the locket had been
put into her hand at Netherwoods. Doctor Allday answered shortly and
stiffly: he had never even seen Mrs. Rook. Emily mentioned Miss Jethro
next--and saw at once that she had interested him.

"What do you suspect Miss Jethro of doing?" he asked.

"I suspect her of knowing more of my father's death than she is willing
to acknowledge," Emily replied.

The doctor's manner altered for the better. "I agree with you," he said
frankly. "But I have some knowledge of that lady. I warn you not to
waste time and trouble in trying to discover the weak side of Miss
Jethro."

"That was not my experience of her at school," Emily rejoined. "At the
same time I don't know what may have happened since those days. I may
perhaps have lost the place I once held in her regard."

"How?"

"Through my aunt."

"Through your aunt?"

"I hope and trust I am wrong," Emily continued; "but I fear my aunt had
something to do with Miss Jethro's dismissal from the school--and in
that case Miss Jethro may have found it out." Her eyes, resting on
the doctor, suddenly brightened. "You know something about it!" she
exclaimed.

He considered a little--whether he should or should not tell her of the
letter addressed by Miss Ladd to Miss Letitia, which he had found at the
cottage.

"If I could satisfy you that your fears are well founded," he asked,
"would the discovery keep you away from Miss Jethro?"

"I should be ashamed to speak to her--even if we met."

"Very well. I can tell you positively, that your aunt was the person who
turned Miss Jethro out of the school. When I get home, I will send you a
letter that proves it."

Emily's head sank on her breast. "Why do I only hear of this now?" she
said.

"Because I had no reason for letting you know of it, before to-day. If
I have done nothing else, I have at least succeeded in keeping you and
Miss Jethro apart."

Emily looked at him in alarm. He went on without appearing to notice
that he had startled her. "I wish to God I could as easily put a stop to
the mad project which you are contemplating."

"The mad project?" Emily repeated. "Oh, Doctor Allday. Do you cruelly
leave me to myself, at the time of all others, when I am most in need of
your sympathy?"

That appeal moved him. He spoke more gently; he pitied, while he
condemned her.

"My poor dear child, I should be cruel indeed, if I encouraged you. You
are giving yourself up to an enterprise, so shockingly unsuited to a
young girl like you, that I declare I contemplate it with horror. Think,
I entreat you, think; and let me hear that you have yielded--not to my
poor entreaties--but to your own better sense!" His voice faltered; his
eyes moistened. "I shall make a fool of myself," he burst out furiously,
"if I stay here any longer. Good-by."

He left her.

She walked to the window, and looked out at the fair morning. No one to
feel for her--no one to understand her--nothing nearer that could speak
to poor mortality of hope and encouragement than the bright heaven, so
far away! She turned from the window. "The sun shines on the murderer,"
she thought, "as it shines on me."

She sat down at the table, and tried to quiet her mind; to think
steadily to some good purpose. Of the few friends that she possessed,
every one had declared that she was in the wrong. Had _they_ lost the
one loved being of all beings on earth, and lost him by the hand of a
homicide--and that homicide free? All that was faithful, all that was
devoted in the girl's nature, held her to her desperate resolution as
with a hand of iron. If she shrank at that miserable moment, it was not
from her design--it was from the sense of her own helplessness. "Oh, if
I had been a man!" she said to herself. "Oh, if I could find a friend!"



CHAPTER LIII. THE FRIEND IS FOUND.

Mrs. Ellmother looked into the parlor. "I told you Mr. Mirabel would
call again," she announced. "Here he is."

"Has he asked to see me?"

"He leaves it entirely to you."

For a moment, and a moment only, Emily was undecided. "Show him in," she
said.

Mirabel's embarrassment was visible the moment he entered the room.
For the first time in his life--in the presence of a woman--the
popular preacher was shy. He who had taken hundreds of fair hands with
sympathetic pressure--he who had offered fluent consolation, abroad and
at home, to beauty in distress--was conscious of a rising color, and was
absolutely at a loss for words when Emily received him. And yet, though
he appeared at disadvantage--and, worse still, though he was aware of
it himself--there was nothing contemptible in his look and manner. His
silence and confusion revealed a change in him which inspired respect.
Love had developed this spoiled darling of foolish congregations, this
effeminate pet of drawing-rooms and boudoirs, into the likeness of a
Man--and no woman, in Emily's position, could have failed to see that it
was love which she herself had inspired.

Equally ill at ease, they both took refuge in the commonplace phrases
suggested by the occasion. These exhausted there was a pause. Mirabel
alluded to Cecilia, as a means of continuing the conversation.

"Have you seen Miss Wyvil?" he inquired.

"She was here last night; and I expect to see her again to-day before
she returns to Monksmoor with her father. Do you go back with them?"

"Yes--if _you_ do."

"I remain in London."

"Then I remain in London, too."

The strong feeling that was in him had forced its way to expression
at last. In happier days--when she had persistently refused to let him
speak to her seriously--she would have been ready with a light-hearted
reply. She was silent now. Mirabel pleaded with her not to misunderstand
him, by an honest confession of his motives which presented him under a
new aspect. The easy plausible man, who had hardly ever seemed to be in
earnest before--meant, seriously meant, what he said now.

"May I try to explain myself?" he asked.

"Certainly, if you wish it."

"Pray, don't suppose me capable," Mirabel said earnestly, "of presuming
to pay you an idle compliment. I cannot think of you, alone and in
trouble, without feeling anxiety which can only be relieved in one
way--I must be near enough to hear of you, day by day. Not by repeating
this visit! Unless you wish it, I will not again cross the threshold
of your door. Mrs. Ellmother will tell me if your mind is more at ease;
Mrs. Ellmother will tell me if there is any new trial of your fortitude.
She needn't even mention that I have been speaking to her at the
door; and she may be sure, and you may be sure, that I shall ask no
inquisitive questions. I can feel for you in your misfortune, without
wishing to know what that misfortune is. If I can ever be of the
smallest use, think of me as your other servant. Say to Mrs. Ellmother,
'I want him'--and say no more."

Where is the woman who could have resisted such devotion as
this--inspired, truly inspired, by herself? Emily's eyes softened as she
answered him.

"You little know how your kindness touches me," she said.

"Don't speak of my kindness until you have put me to the proof," he
interposed. "Can a friend (such a friend as I am, I mean) be of any
use?"

"Of the greatest use if I could feel justified in trying you."

"I entreat you to try me!"

"But, Mr. Mirabel, you don't know what I am thinking of."

"I don't want to know."

"I may be wrong. My friends all say I _am_ wrong."

"I don't care what your friends say; I don't care about any earthly
thing but your tranquillity. Does your dog ask whether you are right or
wrong? I am your dog. I think of You, and I think of nothing else."

She looked back through the experience of the last few days. Miss
Ladd--Mrs. Ellmother--Doctor Allday: not one of them had felt for her,
not one of them had spoken to her, as this man had felt and had spoken.
She remembered the dreadful sense of solitude and helplessness which
had wrung her heart, in the interval before Mirabel came in. Her father
himself could hardly have been kinder to her than this friend of a few
weeks only. She looked at him through her tears; she could say nothing
that was eloquent, nothing even that was adequate. "You are very good to
me," was her only acknowledgment of all that he had offered. How poor it
seemed to be! and yet how much it meant!

He rose--saying considerately that he would leave her to recover
herself, and would wait to hear if he was wanted.

"No," she said; "I must not let you go. In common gratitude I ought
to decide before you leave me, and I do decide to take you into my
confidence." She hesitated; her color rose a little. "I know how
unselfishly you offer me your help," she resumed; "I know you speak to
me as a brother might speak to a sister--"

He gently interrupted her. "No," he said; "I can't honestly claim to do
that. And--may I venture to remind you?--you know why."

She started. Her eyes rested on him with a momentary expression of
reproach.

"Is it quite fair," she asked, "in my situation, to say that?"

"Would it have been quite fair," he rejoined, "to allow you to deceive
yourself? Should I deserve to be taken into your confidence, if I
encouraged you to trust me, under false pretenses? Not a word more of
those hopes on which the happiness of my life depends shall pass my
lips, unless you permit it. In my devotion to your interests, I promise
to forget myself. My motives may be misinterpreted; my position may be
misunderstood. Ignorant people may take me for that other happier man,
who is an object of interest to you--"

"Stop, Mr. Mirabel! The person to whom you refer has no such claim on me
as you suppose."

"Dare I say how happy I am to hear it? Will you forgive me?"

"I will forgive you if you say no more."

Their eyes met. Completely overcome by the new hope that she had
inspired, Mirabel was unable to answer her. His sensitive nerves
trembled under emotion, like the nerves of a woman; his delicate
complexion faded away slowly into whiteness. Emily was alarmed--he
seemed to be on the point of fainting. She ran to the window to open it
more widely.

"Pray don't trouble yourself," he said, "I am easily agitated by any
sudden sensation--and I am a little overcome at this moment by my own
happiness."

"Let me give you a glass of wine."

"Thank you--I don't need it indeed."

"You really feel better?"

"I feel quite well again--and eager to hear how I can serve you."

"It's a long story, Mr. Mirabel--and a dreadful story."

"Dreadful?"

"Yes! Let me tell you first how you can serve me. I am in search of
a man who has done me the cruelest wrong that one human creature can
inflict on another. But the chances are all against me--I am only
a woman; and I don't know how to take even the first step toward
discovery."

"You will know, when I guide you."

He reminded her tenderly of what she might expect from him, and was
rewarded by a grateful look. Seeing nothing, suspecting nothing, they
advanced together nearer and nearer to the end.

"Once or twice," Emily continued, "I spoke to you of my poor father,
when we were at Monksmoor--and I must speak of him again. You could have
no interest in inquiring about a stranger--and you cannot have heard how
he died."

"Pardon me, I heard from Mr. Wyvil how he died."

"You heard what I had told Mr. Wyvil," Emily said: "I was wrong."

"Wrong!" Mirabel exclaimed, in a tone of courteous surprise. "Was it not
a sudden death?"

"It _was_ a sudden death."

"Caused by disease of the heart?"

"Caused by no disease. I have been deceived about my father's death--and
I have only discovered it a few days since."

At the impending moment of the frightful shock which she was innocently
about to inflict on him, she stopped--doubtful whether it would be best
to relate how the discovery had been made, or to pass at once to the
result. Mirabel supposed that she had paused to control her agitation.
He was so immeasurably far away from the faintest suspicion of what was
coming that he exerted his ingenuity, in the hope of sparing her.

"I can anticipate the rest," he said. "Your sad loss has been caused by
some fatal accident. Let us change the subject; tell me more of that man
whom I must help you to find. It will only distress you to dwell on your
father's death."

"Distress me?" she repeated. "His death maddens me!"

"Oh, don't say that!"

"Hear me! hear me! My father died murdered, at Zeeland--and the man you
must help me to find is the wretch who killed him."

She started to her feet with a cry of terror. Mirabel dropped from his
chair senseless to the floor.



CHAPTER LIV. THE END OF THE FAINTING FIT.

Emily recovered her presence of mind. She opened the door, so as to
make a draught of air in the room, and called for water. Returning to
Mirabel, she loosened his cravat. Mrs. Ellmother came in, just in
time to prevent her from committing a common error in the treatment of
fainting persons, by raising Mirabel's head. The current of air, and the
sprinkling of water over his face, soon produced their customary effect.
"He'll come round, directly," Mrs. Ellmother remarked. "Your aunt was
sometimes taken with these swoons, miss; and I know something about
them. He looks a poor weak creature, in spite of his big beard. Has
anything frightened him?"

Emily little knew how correctly that chance guess had hit on the truth!

"Nothing can possibly have frightened him," she replied; "I am afraid he
is in bad health. He turned suddenly pale while we were talking; and I
thought he was going to be taken ill; he made light of it, and seemed
to recover. Unfortunately, I was right; it was the threatening of a
fainting fit--he dropped on the floor a minute afterward."

A sigh fluttered over Mirabel's lips. His eyes opened, looked at Mrs.
Ellmother in vacant terror, and closed again. Emily whispered to her
to leave the room. The old woman smiled satirically as she opened the
door--then looked back, with a sudden change of humor. To see the kind
young mistress bending over the feeble little clergyman set her--by
some strange association of ideas--thinking of Alban Morris. "Ah," she
muttered to herself, on her way out, "I call _him_ a Man!"

There was wine in the sideboard--the wine which Emily had once already
offered in vain. Mirabel drank it eagerly, this time. He looked round
the room, as if he wished to be sure that they were alone. "Have I
fallen to a low place in your estimation?" he asked, smiling faintly. "I
am afraid you will think poorly enough of your new ally, after this?"

"I only think you should take more care of your health," Emily replied,
with sincere interest in his recovery. "Let me leave you to rest on the
sofa."

He refused to remain at the cottage--he asked, with a sudden change to
fretfulness, if she would let her servant get him a cab. She ventured to
doubt whether he was quite strong enough yet to go away by himself. He
reiterated, piteously reiterated, his request. A passing cab was stopped
directly. Emily accompanied him to the gate. "I know what to do," he
said, in a hurried absent way. "Rest and a little tonic medicine will
soon set me right." The clammy coldness of his skin made Emily shudder,
as they shook hands. "You won't think the worse of me for this?" he
asked.

"How can you imagine such a thing!" she answered warmly.

"Will you see me, if I come to-morrow?"

"I shall be anxious to see you."

So they parted. Emily returned to the house, pitying him with all her
heart.



BOOK THE SIXTH--HERE AND THERE.



CHAPTER LV. MIRABEL SEES HIS WAY.

Reaching the hotel at which he was accustomed to stay when he was in
London, Mirabel locked the door of his room. He looked at the houses on
the opposite side of the street. His mind was in such a state of morbid
distrust that he lowered the blind over the window. In solitude and
obscurity, the miserable wretch sat down in a corner, and covered his
face with his hands, and tried to realize what had happened to him.

Nothing had been said at the fatal interview with Emily, which could
have given him the slightest warning of what was to come. Her father's
name--absolutely unknown to him when he fled from the inn--had only been
communicated to the public by the newspaper reports of the adjourned
inquest. At the time when those reports appeared, he was in hiding,
under circumstances which prevented him from seeing a newspaper. While
the murder was still a subject of conversation, he was in France--far
out of the track of English travelers--and he remained on the continent
until the summer of eighteen hundred and eighty-one. No exercise of
discretion, on his part, could have extricated him from the terrible
position in which he was now placed. He stood pledged to Emily to
discover the man suspected of the murder of her father; and that man
was--himself!

What refuge was left open to him?

If he took to flight, his sudden disappearance would be a suspicious
circumstance in itself, and would therefore provoke inquiries which
might lead to serious results. Supposing that he overlooked the risk
thus presented, would he be capable of enduring a separation from
Emily, which might be a separation for life? Even in the first horror
of discovering his situation, her influence remained unshaken--the
animating spirit of the one manly capacity for resistance which raised
him above the reach of his own fears. The only prospect before him which
he felt himself to be incapable of contemplating, was the prospect of
leaving Emily.

Having arrived at this conclusion, his fears urged him to think of
providing for his own safety.

The first precaution to adopt was to separate Emily from friends whose
advice might be hostile to his interests--perhaps even subversive of his
security. To effect this design, he had need of an ally whom he could
trust. That ally was at his disposal, far away in the north.

At the time when Francine's jealousy began to interfere with all
freedom of intercourse between Emily and himself at Monksmoor, he had
contemplated making arrangements which might enable them to meet at the
house of his invalid sister, Mrs. Delvin. He had spoken of her, and of
the bodily affliction which confined her to her room, in terms which
had already interested Emily. In the present emergency, he decided on
returning to the subject, and on hastening the meeting between the two
women which he had first suggested at Mr. Wyvil's country seat.

No time was to be lost in carrying out this intention. He wrote to Mrs.
Delvin by that day's post; confiding to her, in the first place, the
critical position in which he now found himself. This done, he proceeded
as follows:

"To your sound judgment, dearest Agatha, it may appear that I am making
myself needlessly uneasy about the future. Two persons only know that I
am the man who escaped from the inn at Zeeland. You are one of them, and
Miss Jethro is the other. On you I can absolutely rely; and, after my
experience of her, I ought to feel sure of Miss Jethro. I admit this;
but I cannot get over my distrust of Emily's friends. I fear the cunning
old doctor; I doubt Mr. Wyvil; I hate Alban Morris.

"Do me a favor, my dear. Invite Emily to be your guest, and so separate
her from these friends. The old servant who attends on her will be
included in the invitation, of course. Mrs. Ellmother is, as I believe,
devoted to the interests of Mr. Alban Morris: she will be well out
of the way of doing mischief, while we have her safe in your northern
solitude.

"There is no fear that Emily will refuse your invitation.

"In the first place, she is already interested in you. In the second
place, I shall consider the small proprieties of social life; and,
instead of traveling with her to your house, I shall follow by a later
train. In the third place, I am now the chosen adviser in whom she
trusts; and what I tell her to do, she will do. It pains me, really
and truly pains me, to be compelled to deceive her--but the other
alternative is to reveal myself as the wretch of whom she is in search.
Was there ever such a situation? And, oh, Agatha, I am so fond of her!
If I fail to persuade her to be my wife, I don't care what becomes
of me. I used to think disgrace, and death on the scaffold, the most
frightful prospect that a man can contemplate. In my present frame of
mind, a life without Emily may just as well end in that way as in any
other. When we are together in your old sea-beaten tower, do your best,
my dear, to incline the heart of this sweet girl toward me. If she
remains in London, how do I know that Mr. Morris may not recover the
place he has lost in her good opinion? The bare idea of it turns me
cold.

"There is one more point on which I must touch, before I can finish my
letter.

"When you last wrote, you told me that Sir Jervis Redwood was not
expected to live much longer, and that the establishment would be broken
up after his death. Can you find out for me what will become, under the
circumstances, of Mr. and Mrs. Rook? So far as I am concerned, I don't
doubt that the alteration in my personal appearance, which has protected
me for years past, may be trusted to preserve me from recognition by
these two people. But it is of the utmost importance, remembering the
project to which Emily has devoted herself, that she should not meet
with Mrs. Rook. They have been already in correspondence; and Mrs. Rook
has expressed an intention (if the opportunity offers itself) of calling
at the cottage. Another reason, and a pressing reason, for removing
Emily from London! We can easily keep the Rooks out of _your_ house;
but I own I should feel more at my ease, if I heard that they had left
Northumberland."

With that confession, Mrs. Delvin's brother closed his letter.



CHAPTER LVI. ALBAN SEES HIS WAY.

During the first days of Mirabel's sojourn at his hotel in London,
events were in progress at Netherwoods, affecting the interests of the
man who was the especial object of his distrust. Not long after Miss
Ladd had returned to her school, she heard of an artist who was capable
of filling the place to be vacated by Alban Morris. It was then the
twenty-third of the month. In four days more the new master would be
ready to enter on his duties; and Alban would be at liberty.

On the twenty-fourth, Alban received a telegram which startled him. The
person sending the message was Mrs. Ellmother; and the words were: "Meet
me at your railway station to-day, at two o'clock."

He found the old woman in the waiting-room; and he met with a rough
reception.

"Minutes are precious, Mr. Morris," she said; "you are two minutes late.
The next train to London stops here in half an hour--and I must go back
by it."

"Good heavens, what brings you here? Is Emily--?"

"Emily is well enough in health--if that's what you mean? As to why I
come here, the reason is that it's a deal easier for me (worse luck!)
to take this journey than to write a letter. One good turn deserves
another. I don't forget how kind you were to me, away there at the
school--and I can't, and won't, see what's going on at the cottage,
behind your back, without letting you know of it. Oh, you needn't
be alarmed about _her!_ I've made an excuse to get away for a few
hours--but I haven't left her by herself. Miss Wyvil has come to London
again; and Mr. Mirabel spends the best part of his time with her. Excuse
me for a moment, will you? I'm so thirsty after the journey, I can
hardly speak."

She presented herself at the counter in the waiting-room. "I'll trouble
you, young woman, for a glass of ale." She returned to Alban in a better
humor. "It's not bad stuff, that! When I have said my say, I'll have a
drop more--just to wash the taste of Mr. Mirabel out of my mouth. Wait
a bit; I have something to ask you. How much longer are you obliged to
stop here, teaching the girls to draw?"

"I leave Netherwoods in three days more," Alban replied.

"That's all right! You may be in time to bring Miss Emily to her senses,
yet."

"What do you mean?"

"I mean--if you don't stop it--she will marry the parson."

"I can't believe it, Mrs. Ellmother! I won't believe it!"

"Ah, it's a comfort to him, poor fellow, to say that! Look here, Mr.
Morris; this is how it stands. You're in disgrace with Miss Emily--and
he profits by it. I was fool enough to take a liking to Mr. Mirabel when
I first opened the door to him; I know better now. He got on the blind
side of me; and now he has got on the blind side of _her_. Shall I tell
you how? By doing what you would have done if you had had the chance.
He's helping her--or pretending to help her, I don't know which--to find
the man who murdered poor Mr. Brown. After four years! And when all the
police in England (with a reward to encourage them) did their best, and
it came to nothing!"

"Never mind that!" Alban said impatiently. "I want to know how Mr.
Mirabel is helping her?"

"That's more than I can tell you. You don't suppose they take me into
their confidence? All I can do is to pick up a word, here and there,
when fine weather tempts them out into the garden. She tells him to
suspect Mrs. Rook, and to make inquiries after Miss Jethro. And he has
his plans; and he writes them down, which is dead against his doing
anything useful, in my opinion. I don't hold with your scribblers. At
the same time I wouldn't count too positively, in your place, on his
being likely to fail. That little Mirabel--if it wasn't for his beard, I
should believe he was a woman, and a sickly woman too; he fainted in
our house the other day--that little Mirabel is in earnest. Rather than
leave Miss Emily from Saturday to Monday, he has got a parson out of
employment to do his Sunday work for him. And, what's more, he has
persuaded her (for some reasons of his own) to leave London next week."

"Is she going back to Monksmoor?"

"Not she! Mr. Mirabel has got a sister, a widow lady; she's a cripple,
or something of the sort. Her name is Mrs. Delvin. She lives far away
in the north country, by the sea; and Miss Emily is going to stay with
her."

"Are you sure of that?"

"Sure? I've seen the letter."

"Do you mean the letter of invitation?"

"Yes--I do. Miss Emily herself showed it to me. I'm to go with her--'in
attendance on my mistress,' as the lady puts it. This I will say for
Mrs. Delvin: her handwriting is a credit to the school that taught her;
and the poor bedridden creature words her invitation so nicely, that I
myself couldn't have resisted it--and I'm a hard one, as you know. You
don't seem to heed me, Mr. Morris."

"I beg your pardon, I was thinking."

"Thinking of what--if I may make so bold?"

"Of going back to London with you, instead of waiting till the new
master comes to take my place."

"Don't do that, sir! You would do harm instead of good, if you showed
yourself at the cottage now. Besides, it would not be fair to Miss Ladd,
to leave her before the other man takes your girls off your hands. Trust
me to look after your interests; and don't go near Miss Emily--don't
even write to her--unless you have got something to say about the
murder, which she will be eager to hear. Make some discovery in that
direction, Mr. Morris, while the parson is only trying to do it or
pretending to do it--and I'll answer for the result. Look at the clock!
In ten minutes more the train will be here. My memory isn't as good as
it was; but I do think I have told you all I had to tell."

"You are the best of good friends!" Alban said warmly.

"Never mind about that, sir. If you want to do a friendly thing in
return, tell me if you know what has become of Miss de Sor."

"She has returned to Netherwoods."

"Aha! Miss Ladd is as good as her word. Would you mind writing to tell
me of it, if Miss de Sor leaves the school again? Good Lord! there
she is on the platform with bag and baggage. Don't let her see me,
Mr. Morris! If she comes in here, I shall set the marks of my ten
finger-nails on that false face of hers, as sure as I am a Christian
woman."

Alban placed himself at the door, so as to hide Mrs. Ellmother. There
indeed was Francine, accompanied by one of the teachers at the school.
She took a seat on the bench outside the booking-office, in a state of
sullen indifference--absorbed in herself--noticing nothing. Urged by
ungovernable curiosity, Mrs. Ellmother stole on tiptoe to Alban's side
to look at her. To a person acquainted with the circumstances there
could be no possible doubt of what had happened. Francine had failed to
excuse herself, and had been dismissed from Miss Ladd's house.

"I would have traveled to the world's end," Mrs. Ellmother said, "to see
_that!_"

She returned to her place in the waiting-room, perfectly satisfied.

The teacher noticed Alban, on leaving the booking-office after taking
the tickets. "I shall be glad," she said, looking toward Francine, "when
I have resigned the charge of that young lady to the person who is to
receive her in London."

"Is she to be sent back to her parents?" Alban asked.

"We don't know yet. Miss Ladd will write to St. Domingo by the next
mail. In the meantime, her father's agent in London--the same person
who pays her allowance--takes care of her until he hears from the West
Indies."

"Does she consent to this?"

"She doesn't seem to care what becomes of her. Miss Ladd has given her
every opportunity of explaining and excusing herself, and has
produced no impression. You can see the state she is in. Our good
mistress--always hopeful even in the worst cases, as you know--thinks
she is feeling ashamed of herself, and is too proud and self-willed to
own it. My own idea is, that some secret disappointment is weighing on
her mind. Perhaps I am wrong."

No. Miss Ladd was wrong; and the teacher was right.

The passion of revenge, being essentially selfish in its nature, is
of all passions the narrowest in its range of view. In gratifying her
jealous hatred of Emily, Francine had correctly foreseen consequences,
as they might affect the other object of her enmity--Alban Morris. But
she had failed to perceive the imminent danger of another result,
which in a calmer frame of mind might not have escaped discovery. In
triumphing over Emily and Alban, she had been the indirect means of
inflicting on herself the bitterest of all disappointments--she had
brought Emily and Mirabel together. The first forewarning of this
catastrophe had reached her, on hearing that Mirabel would not return
to Monksmoor. Her worst fears had been thereafter confirmed by a letter
from Cecilia, which had followed her to Netherwoods. From that moment,
she, who had made others wretched, paid the penalty in suffering as keen
as any that she had inflicted. Completely prostrated; powerless, through
ignorance of his address in London, to make a last appeal to Mirabel;
she was literally, as had just been said, careless what became of her.
When the train approached, she sprang to her feet--advanced to the edge
of the platform--and suddenly drew back, shuddering. The teacher looked
in terror at Alban. Had the desperate girl meditated throwing herself
under the wheels of the engine? The thought had been in both their
minds; but neither of them acknowledged it. Francine stepped quietly
into the carriage, when the train drew up, and laid her head back in a
corner, and closed her eyes. Mrs. Ellmother took her place in another
compartment, and beckoned to Alban to speak to her at the window.

"Where can I see you, when you go to London?" she asked.

"At Doctor Allday's house."

"On what day?"

"On Tuesday next."



CHAPTER LVII. APPROACHING THE END.

Alban reached London early enough in the afternoon to find the doctor at
his luncheon. "Too late to see Mrs. Ellmother," he announced. "Sit down
and have something to eat."

"Has she left any message for me?"

"A message, my good friend, that you won't like to hear. She is off
with her mistress, this morning, on a visit to Mr. Mirabel's sister."

"Does he go with them?"

"No; he follows by a later train."

"Has Mrs. Ellmother mentioned the address?"

"There it is, in her own handwriting."

Alban read the address:--"Mrs. Delvin, The Clink, Belford,
Northumberland."

"Turn to the back of that bit of paper," the doctor said. "Mrs.
Ellmother has written something on it."

She had written these words: "No discoveries made by Mr. Mirabel, up to
this time. Sir Jervis Redwood is dead. The Rooks are believed to be
in Scotland; and Miss Emily, if need be, is to help the parson to find
them. No news of Miss Jethro."

"Now you have got your information," Doctor Allday resumed, "let me have
a look at you. You're not in a rage: that's a good sign to begin with."

"I am not the less determined," Alban answered.

"To bring Emily to her senses?" the doctor asked.

"To do what Mirabel has _not_ done--and then to let her choose between
us."

"Ay? ay? Your good opinion of her hasn't altered, though she has treated
you so badly?"

"My good opinion makes allowance for the state of my poor darling's
mind, after the shock that has fallen on her," Alban answered quietly.
"She is not _my_ Emily now. She will be _my_ Emily yet. I told her I
was convinced of it, in the old days at school--and my conviction is
as strong as ever. Have you seen her, since I have been away at
Netherwoods?"

"Yes; and she is as angry with me as she is with you."

"For the same reason?"

"No, no. I heard enough to warn me to hold my tongue. I refused to help
her--that's all. You are a man, and you may run risks which no young
girl ought to encounter. Do you remember when I asked you to drop all
further inquiries into the murder, for Emily's sake? The circumstances
have altered since that time. Can I be of any use?"

"Of the greatest use, if you can give me Miss Jethro's address."

"Oh! You mean to begin in that way, do you?"

"Yes. You know that Miss Jethro visited me at Netherwoods?"

"Go on."

"She showed me your answer to a letter which she had written to you.
Have you got that letter?"

Doctor Allday produced it. The address was at a post-office, in a town
on the south coast. Looking up when he had copied it, Alban saw the
doctor's eyes fixed on him with an oddly-mingled expression: partly of
sympathy, partly of hesitation.

"Have you anything to suggest?" he asked.

"You will get nothing out of Miss Jethro," the doctor answered,
"unless--" there he stopped.

"Unless, what?"

"Unless you can frighten her."

"How am I to do that?"

After a little reflection, Doctor Allday returned, without any apparent
reason, to the subject of his last visit to Emily.

"There was one thing she said, in the course of our talk," he continued,
"which struck me as being sensible: possibly (for we are all more or
less conceited), because I agreed with her myself. She suspects Miss
Jethro of knowing more about that damnable murder than Miss Jethro
is willing to acknowledge. If you want to produce the right effect on
her--" he looked hard at Alban and checked himself once more.

"Well? what am I to do?"

"Tell her you have an idea of who the murderer is."

"But I have no idea."

"But _I_ have."

"Good God! what do you mean?"

"Don't mistake me! An impression has been produced on my mind--that's
all. Call it a freak or fancy; worth trying perhaps as a bold
experiment, and worth nothing more. Come a little nearer. My housekeeper
is an excellent woman, but I have once or twice caught her rather too
near to that door. I think I'll whisper it."

He did whisper it. In breathless wonder, Alban heard of the doubt which
had crossed Doctor Allday's mind, on the evening when Mirabel had called
at his house.

"You look as if you didn't believe it," the doctor remarked.

"I'm thinking of Emily. For her sake I hope and trust you are wrong.
Ought I to go to her at once? I don't know what to do!"

"Find out first, my good fellow, whether I am right or wrong. You can do
it, if you will run the risk with Miss Jethro."

Alban recovered himself. His old friend's advice was clearly the right
advice to follow. He examined his railway guide, and then looked at his
watch. "If I can find Miss Jethro," he answered, "I'll risk it before
the day is out."

The doctor accompanied him to the door. "You will write to me, won't
you?"

"Without fail. Thank you--and good-by."


BOOK THE SEVENTH--THE CLINK.



CHAPTER LVIII. A COUNCIL OF TWO.

Early in the last century one of the picturesque race of robbers and
murderers, practicing the vices of humanity on the borderlands
watered by the river Tweed, built a tower of stone on the coast of
Northumberland. He lived joyously in the perpetration of atrocities; and
he died penitent, under the direction of his priest. Since that event,
he has figured in poems and pictures; and has been greatly admired by
modern ladies and gentlemen, whom he would have outraged and robbed if
he had been lucky enough to meet with them in the good old times.

His son succeeded him, and failed to profit by the paternal example:
that is to say, he made the fatal mistake of fighting for other people
instead of fighting for himself.

In the rebellion of Forty-Five, this northern squire sided to serious
purpose with Prince Charles and the Highlanders. He lost his head;
and his children lost their inheritance. In the lapse of years, the
confiscated property fell into the hands of strangers; the last of whom
(having a taste for the turf) discovered, in course of time, that he was
in want of money. A retired merchant, named Delvin (originally of French
extraction), took a liking to the wild situation, and purchased the
tower. His wife--already in failing health--had been ordered by the
doctors to live a quiet life by the sea. Her husband's death left her a
rich and lonely widow; by day and night alike, a prisoner in her room;
wasted by disease, and having but two interests which reconciled her to
life--writing poetry in the intervals of pain, and paying the debts of
a reverend brother who succeeded in the pulpit, and prospered nowhere
else.

In the later days of its life, the tower had been greatly improved as a
place of residence. The contrast was remarkable between the dreary gray
outer walls, and the luxuriously furnished rooms inside, rising by two
at a time to the lofty eighth story of the building. Among the scattered
populace of the country round, the tower was still known by the odd name
given to it in the bygone time--"The Clink." It had been so called (as
was supposed) in allusion to the noise made by loose stones, washed
backward and forward at certain times of the tide, in hollows of the
rock on which the building stood.

On the evening of her arrival at Mrs. Delvin's retreat, Emily retired at
an early hour, fatigued by her long journey. Mirabel had an opportunity
of speaking with his sister privately in her own room.

"Send me away, Agatha, if I disturb you," he said, "and let me know when
I can see you in the morning."

"My dear Miles, have you forgotten that I am never able to sleep in calm
weather? My lullaby, for years past, has been the moaning of the great
North Sea, under my window. Listen! There is not a sound outside on this
peaceful night. It is the right time of the tide, just now--and yet,
'the clink' is not to be heard. Is the moon up?"

Mirabel opened the curtains. "The whole sky is one great abyss of
black," he answered. "If I was superstitious, I should think that horrid
darkness a bad omen for the future. Are you suffering, Agatha?"

"Not just now. I suppose I look sadly changed for the worse since you
saw me last?"

But for the feverish brightness of her eyes, she would have looked like
a corpse. Her wrinkled forehead, her hollow cheeks, her white lips told
their terrible tale of the suffering of years. The ghastly appearance
of her face was heightened by the furnishing of the room. This doomed
woman, dying slowly day by day, delighted in bright colors and sumptuous
materials. The paper on the walls, the curtains, the carpet presented
the hues of the rainbow. She lay on a couch covered with purple silk,
under draperies of green velvet to keep her warm. Rich lace hid h er
scanty hair, turning prematurely gray; brilliant rings glittered on her
bony fingers. The room was in a blaze of light from lamps and candles.
Even the wine at her side that kept her alive had been decanted into a
bottle of lustrous Venetian glass. "My grave is open," she used to say;
"and I want all these beautiful things to keep me from looking at it. I
should die at once, if I was left in the dark."

Her brother sat by the couch, thinking "Shall I tell you what is in your
mind?" she asked.

Mirabel humored the caprice of the moment. "Tell me!" he said.

"You want to know what I think of Emily," she answered. "Your letter
told me you were in love; but I didn't believe your letter. I have
always doubted whether you were capable of feeling true love--until
I saw Emily. The moment she entered the room, I knew that I had never
properly appreciated my brother. You _are_ in love with her, Miles; and
you are a better man than I thought you. Does that express my opinion?"

Mirabel took her wasted hand, and kissed it gratefully.

"What a position I am in!" he said. "To love her as I love her; and, if
she knew the truth, to be the object of her horror--to be the man whom
she would hunt to the scaffold, as an act of duty to the memory of her
father!"

"You have left out the worst part of it," Mrs. Delvin reminded him.
"You have bound yourself to help her to find the man. Your one hope of
persuading her to become your wife rests on your success in finding him.
And you are the man. There is your situation! You can't submit to it.
How can you escape from it?"

"You are trying to frighten me, Agatha."

"I am trying to encourage you to face your position boldly."

"I am doing my best," Mirabel said, with sullen resignation. "Fortune
has favored me so far. I have, really and truly, been unable to satisfy
Emily by discovering Miss Jethro. She has left the place at which I saw
her last--there is no trace to be found of her--and Emily knows it."

"Don't forget," Mrs. Delvin replied, "that there is a trace to be found
of Mrs. Rook, and that Emily expects you to follow it."

Mirabel shuddered. "I am surrounded by dangers, whichever way I look,"
he said. "Do what I may, it turns out to be wrong. I was wrong, perhaps,
when I brought Emily here."

"No!"

"I could easily make an excuse," Mirabel persisted "and take her back to
London."

"And for all you know to the contrary," his wiser sister replied, "Mrs.
Rook may go to London; and you may take Emily back in time to receive
her at the cottage. In every way you are safer in my old tower.
And--don't forget--you have got my money to help you, if you want it. In
my belief, Miles, you _will_ want it."

"You are the dearest and best of sisters! What do you recommend me to
do?"

"What you would have been obliged to do," Mrs. Delvin answered, "if you
had remained in London. You must go to Redwood Hall tomorrow, as Emily
has arranged it. If Mrs. Rook is not there, you must ask for her address
in Scotland. If nobody knows the address, you must still bestir yourself
in trying to find it. And, when you do fall in with Mrs. Rook--"

"Well?"

"Take care, wherever it may be, that you see her privately."

Mirabel was alarmed. "Don't keep me in suspense," he burst out. "Tell me
what you propose."

"Never mind what I propose, to-night. Before I can tell you what I have
in my mind, I must know whether Mrs. Rook is in England or Scotland.
Bring me that information to-morrow, and I shall have something to say
to you. Hark! The wind is rising, the rain is falling. There is a chance
of sleep for me--I shall soon hear the sea. Good-night."

"Good-night, dearest--and thank you again, and again!"



CHAPTER LIX. THE ACCIDENT AT BELFORD.

Early in the morning Mirabel set forth for Redwood Hall, in one of the
vehicles which Mrs. Delvin still kept at "The Clink" for the convenience
of visitors. He returned soon after noon; having obtained information
of the whereabout of Mrs. Rook and her husband. When they had last been
heard of, they were at Lasswade, near Edinburgh. Whether they had, or
had not, obtained the situation of which they were in search, neither
Miss Redwood nor any one else at the Hall could tell.

In half an hour more, another horse was harnessed, and Mirabel was
on his way to the railway station at Belford, to follow Mrs. Rook at
Emily's urgent request. Before his departure, he had an interview with
his sister.

Mrs. Delvin was rich enough to believe implicitly in the power of money.
Her method of extricating her brother from the serious difficulties that
beset him, was to make it worth the while of Mr. and Mrs. Rook to leave
England. Their passage to America would be secretly paid; and they would
take with them a letter of credit addressed to a banker in New York. If
Mirabel failed to discover them, after they had sailed, Emily could not
blame his want of devotion to her interests. He understood this; but he
remained desponding and irresolute, even with the money in his hands.
The one person who could rouse his courage and animate his hope, was
also the one person who must know nothing of what had passed between his
sister and himself. He had no choice but to leave Emily, without being
cheered by her bright looks, invigorated by her inspiriting words.
Mirabel went away on his doubtful errand with a heavy heart.

"The Clink" was so far from the nearest post town, that the few letters,
usually addressed to the tower, were delivered by private arrangement
with a messenger. The man's punctuality depended on the convenience of
his superiors employed at the office. Sometimes he arrived early, and
sometimes he arrived late. On this particular morning he presented
himself, at half past one o'clock, with a letter for Emily; and when
Mrs. Ellmother smartly reproved him for the delay, he coolly attributed
it to the hospitality of friends whom he had met on the road.

The letter, directed to Emily at the cottage, had been forwarded from
London by the person left in charge. It addressed her as "Honored Miss."
She turned at once to the end--and discovered the signature of Mrs.
Rook!

"And Mr. Mirabel has gone," Emily exclaimed, "just when his presence is
of the greatest importance to us!"

Shrewd Mrs. Ellmother suggested that it might be as well to read the
letter first--and then to form an opinion.

Emily read it.


"Lasswade, near Edinburgh, Sept. 26th.

"HONORED MISS--I take up my pen to bespeak your kind sympathy for my
husband and myself; two old people thrown on the world again by the
death of our excellent master. We are under a month's notice to leave
Redwood Hall.

"Hearing of a situation at this place (also that our expenses would be
paid if we applied personally), we got leave of absence, and made our
application. The lady and her son are either the stingiest people that
ever lived--or they have taken a dislike to me and my husband, and they
make money a means of getting rid of us easily. Suffice it to say that
we have refused to accept starvation wages, and that we are still out of
place. It is just possible that you may have heard of something to suit
us. So I write at once, knowing that good chances are often lost through
needless delay.

"We stop at Belford on our way back, to see some friends of my husband,
and we hope to get to Redwood Hall in good time on the 28th. Would you
please address me to care of Miss Redwood, in case you know of any good
situation for which we could apply. Perhaps we may be driven to try our
luck in London. In this case, will you permit me to have the honor of
presenting my respects, as I ventured to propose when I wrote to you a
little time since.

"I beg to remain, Honored Miss,

"Your humble servant,

"R. ROOK."


Emily handed the letter to Mrs. Ellmother. "Read it," she said, "and
tell me what you think."

"I think you had better be careful."

"Careful of Mrs. Rook?"

"Yes--and careful of Mrs. Delvin too."

Emily was astonished. "Are you really speaking seriously?" she said.
"Mrs. Delvin is a most interesting person; so patient under her
sufferings; so kind, so clever; so interested in all that interests
_me_. I shall take the letter to her at once, and ask her advice."

"Have your own way, miss. I can't tell you why--but I don't like her!"

Mrs. Delvin's devotion to the interests of her guest took even Emily
by surprise. After reading Mrs. Rook's letter, she rang the bell on
her table in a frenzy of impatience. "My brother must be instantly
recalled," she said. "Telegraph to him in your own name, telling him
what has happened. He will find the message waiting for him, at the end
of his journey."

The groom, summoned by the bell, was ordered to saddle the third and
last horse left in the stables; to take the telegram to Belford, and to
wait there until the answer arrived.

"How far is it to Redwood Hall?" Emily asked, when the man had received
his orders.

"Ten miles," Mrs. Delvin answered.

"How can I get there to-day?"

"My dear, you can't get there."

"Pardon me, Mrs. Delvin, I must get there."

"Pardon _me_. My brother represents you in this matter. Leave it to my
brother."

The tone taken by Mirabel's sister was positive, to say the least of it.
Emily thought of what her faithful old servant had said, and began
to doubt her own discretion in so readily showing the letter. The
mistake--if a mistake it was--had however been committed; and, wrong
or right, she was not disposed to occupy the subordinate position which
Mrs. Delvin had assigned to her.

"If you will look at Mrs. Rook's letter again," Emily replied, "you will
see that I ought to answer it. She supposes I am in London."

"Do you propose to tell Mrs. Rook that you are in this house?" Mrs.
Delvin asked.

"Certainly."

"You had better consult my brother, before you take any responsibility
on yourself."

Emily kept her temper. "Allow me to remind you," she said, "that Mr.
Mirabel is not acquainted with Mrs. Rook--and that I am. If I speak to
her personally, I can do much to assist the object of our inquiries,
before he returns. She is not an easy woman to deal with--"

"And therefore," Mrs. Delvin interposed, "the sort of person who
requires careful handling by a man like my brother--a man of the world."

"The sort of person, as I venture to think," Emily persisted, "whom I
ought to see with as little loss of time as possible."

Mrs. Delvin waited a while before she replied. In her condition of
health, anxiety was not easy to bear. Mrs. Rook's letter and Emily's
obstinacy had seriously irritated her. But, like all persons of ability,
she was capable, when there was serious occasion for it, of exerting
self-control. She really liked and admired Emily; and, as the elder
woman and the hostess, she set an example of forbearance and good humor.

"It is out of my power to send you to Redwood Hall at once," she
resumed. "The only one of my three horses now at your disposal is the
horse which took my brother to the Hall this morning. A distance, there
and back, of twenty miles. You are not in too great a hurry, I am sure,
to allow the horse time to rest?"

Emily made her excuses with perfect grace and sincerity. "I had no
idea the distance was so great," she confessed. "I will wait, dear Mrs.
Delvin, as long as you like."

They parted as good friends as ever--with a certain reserve,
nevertheless, on either side. Emily's eager nature was depressed and
irritated by the prospect of delay. Mrs. Delvin, on the other hand
(devoted to her brother's interests), thought hopefully of obstacles
which might present themselves with the lapse of time. The horse
might prove to be incapable of further exertion for that day. Or the
threatening aspect of the weather might end in a storm.

But the hours passed--and the sky cleared--and the horse was reported
to be fit for work again. Fortune was against the lady of the tower; she
had no choice but to submit.

Mrs. Delvin had just sent word to Emily that the carriage would be ready
for her in ten minutes, when the coachman who had driven Mirabel to
Belford returned. He brought news which agreeably surprised both the
ladies. Mirabel had reached the station five minutes too late; the
coachman had left him waiting the arrival of the next train to the
North. He would now receive the telegraphic message at Belford, and
might return immediately by taking the groom's horse. Mrs. Delvin left
it to Emily to decide whether she would proceed by herself to Redwood
Hall, or wait for Mirabel's return.

Under the changed circumstances, Emily would have acted ungraciously if
she had persisted in holding to her first intention. She consented to
wait.

The sea still remained calm. In the stillness of the moorland solitude
on the western side of "The Clink," the rapid steps of a horse were
heard at some little distance on the highroad.

Emily ran out, followed by careful Mrs. Ellmother, expecting to meet
Mirabel.

She was disappointed: it was the groom who had returned. As he pulled up
at the house, and dismounted, Emily noticed that the man looked excited.

"Is there anything wrong?" she asked.

"There has been an accident, miss."

"Not to Mr. Mirabel!''

"No, no, miss. An accident to a poor foolish woman, traveling from
Lasswade."

Emily looked at Mrs. Ellmother. "It can't be Mrs. Rook!" she said.

"That's the name, miss! She got out before the train had quite stopped,
and fell on the platform."

"Was she hurt?"

"Seriously hurt, as I heard. They carried her into a house hard by--and
sent for the doctor."

"Was Mr. Mirabel one of the people who helped her?"

"He was on the other side of the platform, miss; waiting for the train
from London. I got to the station and gave him the telegram, just as the
accident took place. We crossed over to hear more about it. Mr. Mirabel
was telling me that he would return to 'The Clink' on my horse--when
he heard the woman's name mentioned. Upon that, he changed his mind and
went to the house."

"Was he let in?"

"The doctor wouldn't hear of it. He was making his examination; and he
said nobody was to be in the room but her husband and the woman of the
house."

"Is Mr. Mirabel waiting to see her?"

"Yes, miss. He said he would wait all day, if necessary; and he gave me
this bit of a note to take to the mistress."

Emily turned to Mrs. Ellmother. "It's impossible to stay here, not
knowing whether Mrs. Rook is going to live or die," she said. "I shall
go to Belford--and you will go with me."

The groom interfered. "I beg your pardon, miss. It was Mr. Mirabel's
most particular wish that you were not, on any account, to go to
Belford."

"Why not?"

"He didn't say."

Emily eyed the note in the man's hand with well-grounded distrust. In
all probability, Mirabel's object in writing was to instruct his sister
to prevent her guest from going to Belford. The carriage was waiting
at the door. With her usual promptness of resolution, Emily decided on
taking it for granted that she was free to use as she pleased a carriage
which had been already placed at her disposal.

"Tell your mistress," she said to the groom, "that I am going to Belford
instead of to Redwood Hall."

In a minute more, she and Mrs. Ellmother were on their way to join
Mirabel at the station.



CHAPTER LX. OUTSIDE THE ROOM.

Emily found Mirabel in the waiting room at Belford. Her sudden
appearance might well have amazed him; but his face expressed a more
serious emotion than surprise--he looked at her as if she had alarmed
him.

"Didn't you get my message?" he asked. "I told the groom I wished you
to wait for my return. I sent a note to my sister, in case he made any
mistake."

"The man made no mistake," Emily answered. "I was in too great a hurry
to be able to speak with Mrs. Delvin. Did you really suppose I could
endure the suspense of waiting till you came back? Do you think I can be
of no use--I who know Mrs. Rook?"

"They won't let you see her."

"Why not? _You_ seem to be waiting to see her."

"I am waiting for the return of the rector of Belford. He is at Berwick;
and he has been sent for at Mrs. Rook's urgent request."

"Is she dying?"

"She is in fear of death--whether rightly or wrongly, I don't know.
There is some internal injury from the fall. I hope to see her when the
rector returns. As a brother clergyman, I may with perfect propriety
ask him to use his influence in my favor."

"I am glad to find you so eager about it."

"I am always eager in your interests."

"Don't think me ungrateful," Emily replied gently. "I am no stranger to
Mrs. Rook; and, if I send in my name, I may be able to see her before
the clergyman returns."

She stopped. Mirabel suddenly moved so as to place himself between her
and the door. "I must really beg of you to give up that idea," he said;
"you don't know what horrid sight you may see--what dreadful agonies of
pain this unhappy woman may be suffering."

His manner suggested to Emily that he might be acting under some motive
which he was unwilling to acknowledge. "If you have a reason for wishing
that I should keep away from Mrs. Rook," she said, "let me hear what it
is. Surely we trust each other? I have done my best to set the example,
at any rate."

Mirabel seemed to be at a loss for a reply.

While he was hesitating, the station-master passed the door. Emily asked
him to direct her to the house in which Mrs. Rook had been received. He
led the way to the end of the platform, and pointed to the house. Emily
and Mrs. Ellmother immediately left the station. Mirabel accompanied
them, still remonstrating, still raising obstacles.

The house door was opened by an old man. He looked reproachfully at
Mirabel. "You have been told already," he said, "that no strangers are
to see my wife?"

Encouraged by discovering that the man was Mr. Rook, Emily mentioned her
name. "Perhaps you may have heard Mrs. Rook speak of me," she added.

"I've heard her speak of you oftentimes."

"What does the doctor say?"

"He thinks she may get over it. She doesn't believe him."

"Will you say that I am anxious to see her, if she feels well enough to
receive me?"

Mr. Rook looked at Mrs. Ellmother. "Are there two of you wanting to go
upstairs?" he inquired.

"This is my old friend and servant," Emily answered. "She will wait for
me down here."

"She can wait in the parlor; the good people of this house are well
known to me." He pointed to the parlor door--and then led the way to the
first floor. Emily followed him. Mirabel, as obstinate as ever, followed
Emily.

Mr. Rook opened a door at the end of the landing; and, turning round to
speak to Emily, noticed Mirabel standing behind her. Without making
any remarks, the old man pointed significantly down the stairs. His
resolution was evidently immovable. Mirabel appealed to Emily to help
him.

"She will see me, if _you_ ask her," he said, "Let me wait here?"

The sound of his voice was instantly followed by a cry from the
bed-chamber--a cry of terror.

Mr. Rook hurried into the room, and closed the door. In less than a
minute, he opened it again, with doubt and horror plainly visible in his
face. He stepped up to Mirabel--eyed him with the closest scrutiny--and
drew back again with a look of relief.

"She's wrong," he said; "you are not the man."

This strange proceeding startled Emily.

"What man do you mean?" she asked.

Mr. Rook took no notice of the question. Still looking at Mirabel,
he pointed down the stairs once more. With vacant eyes--moving
mechanically, like a sleep-walker in his dream--Mirabel silently obeyed.
Mr. Rook turned to Emily.

"Are you easily frightened?" he said

"I don't understand you," Emily replied. "Who is going to frighten me?
Why did you speak to Mr. Mirabel in that strange way?"

Mr. Rook looked toward the bedroom door. "Maybe you'll hear why, inside
there. If I could have my way, you shouldn't see her--but she's not to
be reasoned with. A caution, miss. Don't be too ready to believe what
my wife may say to you. She's had a fright." He opened the door. "In my
belief," he whispered, "she's off her head."

Emily crossed the threshold. Mr. Rook softly closed the door behind her.



CHAPTER LXI. INSIDE THE ROOM.

A decent elderly woman was seated at the bedside. She rose, and spoke
to Emily with a mingling of sorrow and confusion strikingly expressed on
her face. "It isn't my fault," she said, "that Mrs. Rook receives you in
this manner; I am obliged to humor her."

She drew aside, and showed Mrs. Rook with her head supported by many
pillows, and her face strangely hidden from view under a veil. Emily
started back in horror. "Is her face injured?" she asked.

Mrs. Rook answered the question herself. Her voice was low and weak; but
she still spoke with the same nervous hurry of articulation which had
been remarked by Alban Morris, on the day when she asked him to direct
her to Netherwoods.

"Not exactly injured," she explained; "but one's appearance is a
matter of some anxiety even on one's death-bed. I am disfigured by a
thoughtless use of water, to bring me to when I had my fall--and I can't
get at my toilet-things to put myself right again. I don't wish to shock
you. Please excuse the veil."

Emily remembered the rouge on her cheeks, and the dye on her hair,
when they had first seen each other at the school. Vanity--of all human
frailties the longest-lived--still held its firmly-rooted place in
this woman's nature; superior to torment of conscience, unassailable by
terror of death!

The good woman of the house waited a moment before she left the room.
"What shall I say," she asked, "if the clergyman comes?"

Mrs. Rook lifted her hand solemnly "Say," she answered, "that a dying
sinner is making atonement for sin. Say this young lady is present, by
the decree of an all-wise Providence. No mortal creature must disturb
us." Her hand dropped back heavily on the bed. "Are we alone?" she
asked.

"We are alone," Emily answered. "What made you scream just before I came
in?"

"No! I can't allow you to remind me of that," Mrs. Rook protested. "I
must compose myself. Be quiet. Let me think."

Recovering her composure, she also recovered that sense of enjoyment
in talking of herself, which was one of the marked peculiarities in her
character.

"You will excuse me if I exhibit religion," she resumed. "My dear
parents were exemplary people; I was most carefully brought up. Are you
pious? Let us hope so."

Emily was once more reminded of the past.

The bygone time returned to her memory--the time when she had accepted
Sir Jervis Redwood's offer of employment, and when Mrs. Rook had arrived
at the school to be her traveling companion to the North. The wretched
creature had entirely forgotten her own loose talk, after she had
drunk Miss Ladd's good wine to the last drop in the bottle. As she was
boasting now of her piety, so she had boasted then of her lost faith and
hope, and had mockingly declared her free-thinking opinions to be the
result of her ill-assorted marriage. Forgotten--all forgotten, in this
later time of pain and fear. Prostrate under the dread of death, her
innermost nature--stripped of the concealments of her later life--was
revealed to view. The early religious training, at which she had
scoffed in the insolence of health and strength, revealed its latent
influence--intermitted, but a living influence always from first to
last. Mrs. Rook was tenderly mindful of her exemplary parents, and proud
of exhibiting religion, on the bed from which she was never to rise
again.

"Did I tell you that I am a miserable sinner?" she asked, after an
interval of silence.

Emily could endure it no longer. "Say that to the clergyman," she
answered--"not to me."

"Oh, but I must say it," Mrs. Rook insisted. "I _am_ a miserable sinner.
Let me give you an instance of it," she continued, with a shameless
relish of the memory of her own frailties. "I have been a drinker, in
my time. Anything was welcome, when the fit was on me, as long as it got
into my head. Like other persons in liquor, I sometimes talked of things
that had better have been kept secret. We bore that in mind--my old man
and I---when we were engaged by Sir Jervis. Miss Redwood wanted to
put us in the next bedroom to hers--a risk not to be run. I might have
talked of the murder at the inn; and she might have heard me. Please to
remark a curious thing. Whatever else I might let out, when I was in my
cups, not a word about the pocketbook ever dropped from me. You will ask
how I know it. My dear, I should have heard of it from my husband, if I
had let _that_ out--and he is as much in the dark as you are. Wonderful
are the workings of the human mind, as the poet says; and drink drowns
care, as the proverb says. But can drink deliver a person from fear by
day, and fear by night? I believe, if I had dropped a word about the
pocketbook, it would have sobered me in an instant. Have you any remark
to make on this curious circumstance?"

Thus far, Emily had allowed the woman to ramble on, in the hope of
getting information which direct inquiry might fail to produce. It was
impossible, however, to pass over the allusion to the pocketbook. After
giving her time to recover from the exhaustion which her heavy breathing
sufficiently revealed, Emily put the question:

"Who did the pocketbook belong to?"

"Wait a little," said Mrs. Rook. "Everything in its right place, is my
motto. I mustn't begin with the pocketbook. Why did I begin with it? Do
you think this veil on my face confuses me? Suppose I take it off. But
you must promise first--solemnly promise you won't look at my face. How
can I tell you about the murder (the murder is part of my confession,
you know), with this lace tickling my skin? Go away--and stand there
with your back to me. Thank you. Now I'll take it off. Ha! the air
feels refreshing; I know what I am about. Good heavens, I have forgotten
something! I have forgotten _him_. And after such a fright as he gave
me! Did you see him on the landing?"

"Who are you talking of?" Emily asked.

Mrs. Rook's failing voice sank lower still.

"Come closer," she said, "this must be whispered. Who am I talking of?"
she repeated. "I am talking of the man who slept in the other bed at
the inn; the man who did the deed with his own razor. He was gone when I
looked into the outhouse in the gray of the morning. Oh, I have done my
duty! I have told Mr. Rook to keep an eye on him downstairs. You haven't
an idea how obstinate and stupid my husband is. He says I couldn't know
the man, because I didn't see him. Ha! there's such a thing as hearing,
when you don't see. I heard--and I knew it again."

Emily turned cold from head to foot.

"What did you know again?" she said.

"His voice," Mrs. Rook answered. "I'll swear to his voice before all the
judges in England."

Emily rushed to the bed. She looked at the woman who had said those
dreadful words, speechless with horror.

"You're breaking your promise!" cried Mrs. Rook. "You false girl, you're
breaking your promise!"

She snatched at the veil, and put it on again. The sight of her face,
momentary as it had been, reassured Emily. Her wild eyes, made wilder
still by the blurred stains of rouge below them, half washed away--her
disheveled hair, with streaks of gray showing through the dye--presented
a spectacle which would have been grotesque under other circumstances,
but which now reminded Emily of Mr. Rook's last words; warning her not
to believe what his wife said, and even declaring his conviction that
her intellect was deranged. Emily drew back from the bed, conscious
of an overpowering sense of self-reproach. Although it was only for a
moment, she had allowed her faith in Mirabel to be shaken by a woman who
was out of her mind.

"Try to forgive me," she said. "I didn't willfully break my promise; you
frightened me."

Mrs. Rook began to cry. "I was a handsome woman in my time," she
murmured. "You would say I was handsome still, if the clumsy fools about
me had not spoiled my appearance. Oh, I do feel so weak! Where's my
medicine?"

The bottle was on the table. Emily gave her the prescribed dose, and
revived her failing strength.

"I am an extraordinary person," she resumed. "My resolution has always
been the admiration of every one who knew me. But my mind feels--how
shall I express it?--a little vacant. Have mercy on my poor wicked soul!
Help me."

"How can I help you?"

"I want to recollect. Something happened in the summer time, when we
were talking at Netherwoods. I mean when that impudent master at the
school showed his suspicions of me. (Lord! how he frightened me, when he
turned up afterward at Sir Jervis's house.) You must have seen yourself
he suspected me. How did he show it?"

"He showed you my locket," Emily answered.

"Oh, the horrid reminder of the murder!" Mrs. Rook exclaimed. "_I_
didn't mention it: don't blame Me. You poor innocent, I have something
dreadful to tell you."

Emily's horror of the woman forced her to speak. "Don't tell me!" she
cried. "I know more than you suppose; I know what I was ignorant of when
you saw the locket."

Mrs. Rook took offense at the interruption.

"Clever as you are, there's one thing you don't know," she said. "You
asked me, just now, who the pocketbook belonged to. It belonged to your
father. What's the matter? Are you crying?"

Emily was thinking of her father. The pocketbook was the last present
she had given to him--a present on his birthday. "Is it lost?" she asked
sadly.

"No; it's not lost. You will hear more of it directly. Dry your eyes,
and expect something interesting--I'm going to talk about love. Love,
my dear, means myself. Why shouldn't it? I'm not the only nice-looking
woman, married to an old man, who has had a lover."

"Wretch! what has that got to do with it?"

"Everything, you rude girl! My lover was like the rest of them; he would
bet on race-horses, and he lost. He owned it to me, on the day when your
father came to our inn. He said, 'I must find the money--or be off to
America, and say good-by forever.' I was fool enough to be fond of him.
It broke my heart to hear him talk in that way. I said, 'If I find the
money, and more than the money, will you take me with you wherever you
go?' Of course, he said Yes. I suppose you have heard of the inquest
held at our old place by the coroner and jury? Oh, what idiots! They
believed I was asleep on the night of the murder. I never closed my
eyes--I was so miserable, I was so tempted."

"Tempted? What tempted you?"

"Do you think I had any money to spare? Your father's pocketbook tempted
me. I had seen him open it, to pay his bill over-night. It was full of
bank-notes. Oh, what an overpowering thing love is! Perhaps you have
known it yourself."

Emily's indignation once more got the better of her prudence. "Have you
no feeling of decency on your death-bed!" she said.

Mrs. Rook forgot her piety; she was ready with an impudent rejoinder.
"You hot-headed little woman, your time will come," she answered. "But
you're right--I am wandering from the point; I am not sufficiently
sensible of this solemn occasion. By-the-by, do you notice my language?
I inherit correct English from my mother--a cultivated person, who
married beneath her. My paternal grandfather was a gentleman. Did I tell
you that there came a time, on that dreadful night, when I could stay in
bed no longer? The pocketbook--I did nothing but think of that devilish
pocketbook, full of bank-notes. My husband was fast asleep all the time.
I got a chair and stood on it. I looked into the place where the two men
were sleeping, through the glass in the top of the door. Your father
was awake; he was walking up and down the room. What do you say? Was he
agitated? I didn't notice. I don't know whether the other man was asleep
or awake. I saw nothing but the pocketbook stuck under the pillow, half
in and half out. Your father kept on walking up and down. I thought to
myself, 'I'll wait till he gets tired, and then I'll have another look
at the pocketbook.' Where's the wine? The doctor said I might have a
glass of wine when I wanted it."

Emily found the wine and gave it to her. She shuddered as she
accidentally touched Mrs. Rook's hand.

The wine helped the sinking woman.

"I must have got up more than once," she resumed. "And more than once my
heart must have failed me. I don't clearly remember what I did, till the
gray of the morning came. I think that must have been the last time I
looked through the glass in the door."

She began to tremble. She tore the veil off her face. She cried out
piteously, "Lord, be merciful to me a sinner! Come here," she said to
Emily. "Where are you? No! I daren't tell you what I saw; I daren't tell
you what I did. When you're pos sessed by the devil, there's nothing,
nothing, nothing you can't do! Where did I find the courage to unlock
the door? Where did I find the courage to go in? Any other woman would
have lost her senses, when she found blood on her fingers after taking
the pocketbook--"

Emily's head swam; her heart beat furiously--she staggered to the door,
and opened it to escape from the room.

"I'm guilty of robbing him; but I'm innocent of his blood!" Mrs. Rook
called after her wildly. "The deed was done--the yard door was wide
open, and the man was gone--when I looked in for the last time. Come
back, come back!"

Emily looked round.

"I can't go near you," she said, faintly.

"Come near enough to see this."

She opened her bed-gown at the throat, and drew up a loop of ribbon over
her head. 'The pocketbook was attached to the ribbon. She held it out.

"Your father's book," she said. "Won't you take your father's book?"

For a moment, and only for a moment, Emily was repelled by the
profanation associated with her birthday gift. Then, the loving
remembrance of the dear hands that had so often touched that relic,
drew the faithful daughter back to the woman whom she abhorred. Her eyes
rested tenderly on the book. Before it had lain in that guilty bosom,
it had been _his_ book. The beloved memory was all that was left to her
now; the beloved memory consecrated it to her hand. She took the book.

"Open it," said Mrs. Rook.

There were two five-pound bank-notes in it.

"His?" Emily asked.

"No; mine--the little I have been able to save toward restoring what I
stole."

"Oh!" Emily cried, "is there some good in this woman, after all?"

"There's no good in the woman!" Mrs. Rook answered desperately. "There's
nothing but fear--fear of hell now; fear of the pocketbook in the past
time. Twice I tried to destroy it--and twice it came back, to remind me
of the duty that I owed to my miserable soul. I tried to throw it into
the fire. It struck the bar, and fell back into the fender at my feet.
I went out, and cast it into the well. It came back again in the first
bucket of water that was drawn up. From that moment, I began to save
what I could. Restitution! Atonement! I tell you the book found a
tongue--and those were the grand words it dinned in my ears, morning and
night." She stooped to fetch her breath--stopped, and struck her bosom.
"I hid it here, so that no person should see it, and no person take it
from me. Superstition? Oh, yes, superstition! Shall tell you something?
_You_ may find yourself superstitious, if you are ever cut to the heart
as I was. He left me! The man I had disgraced myself for, deserted me on
the day when I gave him the stolen money. He suspected it was stolen; he
took care of his own cowardly self--and left me to the hard mercy of the
law, if the theft was found out. What do you call that, in the way
of punishment? Haven't I suffered? Haven't I made atonement? Be a
Christian--say you forgive me."

"I do forgive you."

"Say you will pray for me."

"I will."

"Ah! that comforts me! Now you can go."

Emily looked at her imploringly. "Don't send me away, knowing no more
of the murder than I knew when I came here! Is there nothing, really
nothing, you can tell me?"

Mrs. Rook pointed to the door.

"Haven't I told you already? Go downstairs, and see the wretch who
escaped in the dawn of the morning!"

"Gently, ma'am, gently! You're talking too loud," cried a mocking voice
from outside.

"It's only the doctor," said Mrs. Rook. She crossed her hands over her
bosom with a deep-drawn sigh. "I want no doctor, now. My peace is made
with my Maker. I'm ready for death; I'm fit for Heaven. Go away! go
away!"



CHAPTER LXII. DOWNSTAIRS.

In a moment more, the doctor came in--a brisk, smiling, self-sufficient
man--smartly dressed, with a flower in his button-hole. A stifling
odor of musk filled the room, as he drew out his handkerchief with a
flourish, and wiped his forehead.

"Plenty of hard work in my line, just now," he said. "Hullo, Mrs. Rook!
somebody has been allowing you to excite yourself. I heard you, before
I opened the door. Have you been encouraging her to talk?" he asked,
turning to Emily, and shaking his finger at her with an air of facetious
remonstrance.

Incapable of answering him; forgetful of the ordinary restraints of
social intercourse--with the one doubt that preserved her belief in
Mirabel, eager for confirmation--Emily signed to this stranger to follow
her into a corner of the room, out of hearing. She made no excuses: she
took no notice of his look of surprise. One hope was all she could feel,
one word was all she could say, after that second assertion of Mirabel's
guilt. Indicating Mrs. Rook by a glance at the bed, she whispered the
word:

"Mad?"

Flippant and familiar, the doctor imitated her; he too looked at the
bed.

"No more mad than you are, miss. As I said just now, my patient has
been exciting herself; I daresay she has talked a little wildly in
consequence. _Hers_ isn't a brain to give way, I can tell you. But
there's somebody else--"

Emily had fled from the room. He had destroyed her last fragment of
belief in Mirabel's innocence. She was on the landing trying to console
herself, when the doctor joined her.

"Are you acquainted with the gentleman downstairs?" he asked.

"What gentleman?"

"I haven't heard his name; he looks like a clergyman. If you know him--"

"I do know him. I can't answer questions! My mind--"

"Steady your mind, miss! and take your friend home as soon as you can.
_He_ hasn't got Mrs. Rook's hard brain; he's in a state of nervous
prostration, which may end badly. Do you know where he lives?"

"He is staying with his sister--Mrs. Delvin."

"Mrs. Delvin! she's a friend and patient of mine. Say I'll look in
to-morrow morning, and see what I can do for her brother. In the
meantime, get him to bed, and to rest; and don't be afraid of giving him
brandy."

The doctor returned to the bedroom. Emily heard Mrs. Ellmother's voice
below.

"Are you up there, miss?"

"Yes."

Mrs. Ellmother ascended the stairs. "It was an evil hour," she said,
"that you insisted on going to this place. Mr. Mirabel--" The sight of
Emily's face suspended the next words on her lips. She took the poor
young mistress in her motherly arms. "Oh, my child! what has happened to
you?"

"Don't ask me now. Give me your arm--let us go downstairs."

"You won't be startled when you see Mr. Mirabel--will you, my dear? I
wouldn't let them disturb you; I said nobody should speak to you but
myself. The truth is, Mr. Mirabel has had a dreadful fright. What are
you looking for?"

"Is there a garden here? Any place where we can breathe the fresh air?"

There was a courtyard at the back of the house. They found their way to
it. A bench was placed against one of the walls. They sat down.

"Shall I wait till you're better before I say any more?" Mrs. Ellmother
asked. "No? You want to hear about Mr. Mirabel? My dear, he came into
the parlor where I was; and Mr. Rook came in too---and waited, looking
at him. Mr. Mirabel sat down in a corner, in a dazed state as I thought.
It wasn't for long. He jumped up, and clapped his hand on his heart as
if his heart hurt him. 'I must and will know what's going on upstairs,'
he says. Mr. Rook pulled him back, and told him to wait till the
young lady came down. Mr. Mirabel wouldn't hear of it. 'Your wife's
frightening her,' he says; 'your wife's telling her horrible things
about me.' He was taken on a sudden with a shivering fit; his eyes
rolled, and his teeth chattered. Mr. Rook made matters worse; he lost
his temper. 'I'm damned,' he says, 'if I don't begin to think you
_are_ the man, after all; I've half a mind to send for the police.' Mr.
Mirabel dropped into his chair. His eyes stared, his mouth fell open. I
took hold of his hand. Cold--cold as ice. What it all meant I can't say.
Oh, miss, _you_ know! Let me tell you the rest of it some other time."

Emily insisted on hearing more. "The end!" she cried. "How did it end?"

"I don't know how it might have ended, if the doctor hadn't come in--to
pay his visit, you know, upstairs. He said some learned words. When
he came to plain English, he asked if anybody had frightened the
gentleman. I said Mr. Rook had frightened him. The doctor says to Mr.
Rook, 'Mind what you are about. If you frighten him again, you may have
his death to answer for.' That cowed Mr. Rook. He asked what he had
better do. 'Give me some brandy for him first,' says the doctor; 'and
then get him home at once.' I found the brandy, and went away to the inn
to order the carriage. Your ears are quicker than mine, miss--do I hear
it now?"

They rose, and went to the house door. The carriage was there.

Still cowed by what the doctor had said, Mr. Rook appeared, carefully
leading Mirabel out. He had revived under the action of the stimulant.
Passing Emily he raised his eyes to her--trembled--and looked down
again. When Mr. Rook opened the door of the carriage he paused, with one
of his feet on the step. A momentary impulse inspired him with a false
courage, and brought a flush into his ghastly face. He turned to Emily.

"May I speak to you?" he asked.

She started back from him. He looked at Mrs. Ellmother. "Tell her I
am innocent," he said. The trembling seized on him again. Mr. Rook was
obliged to lift him into the carriage.

Emily caught at Mrs. Ellmother's arm. "You go with him," she said. "I
can't."

"How are you to get back, miss?"

She turned away and spoke to the coachman. "I am not very well. I want
the fresh air--I'll sit by you."

Mrs. Ellmother remonstrated and protested, in vain. As Emily had
determined it should be, so it was.

"Has he said anything?" she asked, when they had arrived at their
journey's end.

"He has been like a man frozen up; he hasn't said a word; he hasn't even
moved."

"Take him to his sister; and tell her all that you know. Be careful to
repeat what the doctor said. I can't face Mrs. Delvin. Be patient, my
good old friend; I have no secrets from you. Only wait till to-morrow;
and leave me by myself to-night."

Alone in her room, Emily opened her writing-case. Searching among
the letters in it, she drew out a printed paper. It was the Handbill
describing the man who had escaped from the inn, and offering a reward
for the discovery of him.

At the first line of the personal description of the fugitive, the paper
dropped from her hand. Burning tears forced their way into her eyes.
Feeling for her handkerchief, she touched the pocketbook which she had
received from Mrs. Rook. After a little hesitation she took it out. She
looked at it. She opened it.

The sight of the bank-notes repelled her; she hid them in one of the
pockets of the book. There was a second pocket which she had not yet
examined. She pat her hand into it, and, touching something, drew out a
letter.

The envelope (already open) was addressed to "James Brown, Esq., Post
Office, Zeeland." Would it be inconsistent with her respect for her
father's memory to examine the letter? No; a glance would decide whether
she ought to read it or not.

It was without date or address; a startling letter to look at--for it
only contained three words:

"I say No."

The words were signed in initials:

"S. J."

In the instant when she read the initials, the name occurred to her.

Sara Jethro.



CHAPTER LXIII. THE DEFENSE OF MIRABEL.

The discovery of the letter gave a new direction to Emily's
thoughts--and so, for the time at least, relieved her mind from the
burden that weighed on it. To what question, on her father's part, had
"I say No" been Miss Jethro's brief and stern reply? Neither letter nor
envelope offered the slightest hint that might assist inquiry; even the
postmark had been so carelessly impressed that it was illegible.

Emily was still pondering over the three mysterious words, when she was
interrupted by Mrs. Ellmother's voice at the door.

"I must ask you to let me come in, miss; though I know you wished to be
left by yourself till to-morrow. Mrs. Delvin says she must positively
see you to-night. It's my belief that she will send for the servants,
and have herself carried in here, if you refuse to do what she asks. You
needn't be afraid of seeing Mr. Mirabel."

"Where is he?"

"His sister has given up her bedroom to him," Mrs. Ellmother answered.
"She thought of your feelings before she sent me here--and had the
curtains closed between the sitting-room and the bedroom. I suspect my
nasty temper misled me, when I took a dislike to Mrs. Delvin. She's a
good creature; I'm sorry you didn't go to her as soon as we got back."

"Did she seem to be angry, when she sent you here?"

"Angry! She was crying when I left her."

Emily hesitated no longer.

She noticed a remarkable change in the invalid's sitting-room--so
brilliantly lighted on other occasions--the moment she entered it. The
lamps were shaded, and the candles were all extinguished. "My eyes don't
bear the light so well as usual," Mrs. Delvin said. "Come and sit near
me, Emily; I hope to quiet your mind. I should be grieved if you left my
house with a wrong impression of me."

Knowing what she knew, suffering as she must have suffered, the quiet
kindness of her tone implied an exercise of self-restraint which
appealed irresistibly to Emily's sympathies. "Forgive me," she said,
"for having done you an injustice. I am ashamed to think that I shrank
from seeing you when I returned from Belford."

"I will endeavor to be worthy of your better opinion of me," Mrs. Delvin
replied. "In one respect at least, I may claim to have had your best
interests at heart--while we were still personally strangers. I tried
to prevail on my poor brother to own the truth, when he discovered
the terrible position in which he was placed toward you. He was too
conscious of the absence of any proof which might induce you to
believe him, if he attempted to defend himself--in one word, he was too
timid--to take my advice. He has paid the penalty, and I have paid the
penalty, of deceiving you."

Emily started. "In what way have you deceived me?" she asked.

"In the way that was forced on us by our own conduct," Mrs. Delvin said.
"We have appeared to help you, without really doing so; we calculated on
inducing you to marry my brother, and then (when he could speak with
the authority of a husband) on prevailing on you to give up all further
inquiries. When you insisted on seeing Mrs. Rook, Miles had the money in
his hand to bribe her and her husband to leave England."

"Oh, Mrs. Delvin!"

"I don't attempt to excuse myself. I don't expect you to consider how
sorely I was tempted to secure the happiness of my brother's life,
by marriage with such a woman as yourself. I don't remind you that I
knew--when I put obstacles in your way--that you were blindly devoting
yourself to the discovery of an innocent man."

Emily heard her with angry surprise. "Innocent?" she repeated. "Mrs.
Rook recognized his voice the instant she heard him speak."

Impenetrable to interruption, Mrs. Delvin went on. "But what I do ask,"
she persisted, "even after our short acquaintance, is this. Do you
suspect me of deliberately scheming to make you the wife of a murderer?"

Emily had never viewed the serious question between them in this light.
Warmly, generously, she answered the appeal that had been made to her.
"Oh, don't think that of me! I know I spoke thoughtlessly and cruelly to
you, just now--"

"You spoke impulsively," Mrs. Delvin interposed; "that was all. My one
desire before we part--how can I expect you to remain here, after what
has happened?--is to tell you the truth. I have no interested object in
view; for all hope of your marriage with my brother is now at an end.
May I ask if you have heard that he and your father were strangers, when
they met at the inn?"

"Yes; I know that."

"If there had been any conversation between them, when they retired
to rest, they might have mentioned their names. But your father was
preoccupied; and my brother, after a long day's walk, was so tired that
he fell asleep as soon as his head was on the pillow. He only woke when
the morning dawned. What he saw when he looked toward the opposite bed
might have struck with terror the boldest man that ever lived. His first
impulse was naturally to alarm the house. When he got on his feet, he
saw his own razor--a blood-stained razor on the bed by the side of the
corpse. At that discovery, he lost all control over himself. In a panic
of terror, he snatched up his knapsack, unfastened the yard door, and
fled from the house. Knowing him, as you and I know him, can we wonder
at it? Many a man has been hanged for murder, on circumstantial evidence
less direct than the evidence against poor Miles. His horror of his own
recollections was so overpowering that he forbade me even to mention the
inn at Zeeland in my letters, while he was abroad. 'Never tell me (he
wrote) who that wretched murdered stranger was, if I only heard of
his name, I believe it would haunt me to my dying day. I ought not to
trouble you with these details--and yet, I am surely not without excuse.
In the absence of any proof, I cannot expect you to believe as I do in
my brother's innocence. But I may at least hope to show you that there
is some reason for doubt. Will you give him the benefit of that doubt?"

"Willingly!" Emily replied. "Am I right in supposing that you don't
despair of proving his innocence, even yet'?"

"I don't quite despair. But my hopes have grown fainter and fainter,
as the years have gone on. There is a person associated with his escape
from Zeeland; a person named Jethro--"

"You mean Miss Jethro!"

"Yes. Do you know her?"

"I know her--and my father knew her. I have found a letter, addressed
to him, which I have no doubt was written by Miss Jethro. It is barely
possible that you may understand what it means. Pray look at it."

"I am quite unable to help you," Mrs. Delvin answered, after reading the
letter. "All I know of Miss Jethro is that, but for her interposition,
my brother might have fallen into the hands of the police. She saved
him."

"Knowing him, of course?"

"That is the remarkable part of it: they were perfect strangers to each
other."

"But she must have had some motive."

"_There_ is the foundation of my hope for Miles. Miss Jethro declared,
when I wrote and put the question to her, that the one motive by which
she was actuated was the motive of mercy. I don't believe her. To my
mind, it is in the last degree improbable that she would consent to
protect a stranger from discovery, who owned to her (as my brother did)
that he was a fugitive suspected of murder. She knows something, I am
firmly convinced, of that dreadful event at Zeeland--and she has some
reason for keeping it secret. Have you any influence over her?"

"Tell me where I can find her."

"I can't tell you. She has removed from the address at which my brother
saw her last. He has made every possible inquiry--without result."

As she replied in those discouraging terms, the curtains which divided
Mrs. Delvin's bedroom from her sitting-room were drawn aside. An elderly
woman-servant approached her mistress's couch.

"Mr. Mirabel is awake, ma'am. He is very low; I can hardly feel his
pulse. Shall I give him some more brandy?"

Mrs. Delvin held out her hand to Emily. "Come to me to-morrow morning,"
she said--and signed to the servant to wheel her couch into the next
room. As the curtain closed over them, Emily heard Mirabel's voice.
"Where am I?" he said faintly. "Is it all a dream?"

The prospect of his recovery the next morning was gloomy indeed. He had
sunk into a state of deplorable weakness, in mind as well as in body.
The little memory of events that he still preserved was regarded by him
as the memory of a dream. He alluded to Emily, and to his meeting with
her unexpectedly. But from that point his recollection failed him.
They had talked of something interesting, he said--but he was unable
to remember what it was. And they had waited together at a railway
station--but for what purpose he could not tell. He sighed and wondered
when Emily would marry him--and so fell asleep again, weaker than ever.

Not having any confidence in the doctor at Belford, Mrs. Delvin had sent
an urgent message to a physician at Edinburgh, famous for his skill in
treating diseases of the nervous system. "I cannot expect him to reach
this remote place, without some delay," she said; "I must bear my
suspense as well as I can."

"You shall not bear it alone," Emily answered. "I will wait with you
till the doctor comes."

Mrs. Delvin lifted her frail wasted hands to Emily's face, drew it a
little nearer--and kissed her.



CHAPTER LXIV. ON THE WAY TO LONDON.

The parting words had been spoken. Emily and her companion were on their
way to London.

For some little time, they traveled in silence--alone in the railway
carriage. After submitting as long as she could to lay an embargo on the
use of her tongue, Mrs. Ellmother started the conversation by means of a
question: "Do you think Mr. Mirabel will get over it, miss?"

"It's useless to ask me," Emily said. "Even the great man from Edinburgh
is not able to decide yet, whether he will recover or not."

"You have taken me into your confidence, Miss Emily, as you
promised--and I have got something in my mind in consequence. May I
mention it without giving offense?"

"What is it?"

"I wish you had never taken up with Mr. Mirabel."

Emily was silent. Mrs. Ellmother, having a design of her own to
accomplish, ventured to speak more plainly. "I often think of Mr. Alban
Morris," she proceeded. "I always did like him, and I always shall."

Emily suddenly pulled down her veil. "Don't speak of him!" she said.

"I didn't mean to offend you."

"You don't offend me. You distress me. Oh, how often I have wished--!"
She threw herself back in a corner of the carriage and said no more.

Although not remarkable for the possession of delicate tact, Mrs.
Ellmother discovered that the best course she could now follow was a
course of silence.

Even at the time when she had most implicitly trusted Mirabel, the
fear that she might have acted hastily and harshly toward Alban had
occasionally troubled Emily's mind. The impression produced by later
events had not only intensified this feeling, but had presented the
motives of that true friend under an entirely new point of view. If she
had been left in ignorance of the manner of her father's death--as Alban
had designed to leave her; as she would have been left, but for the
treachery of Francine--how happily free she would have been from
thoughts which it was now a terror to her to recall. She would have
parted from Mirabel, when the visit to the pleasant country house had
come to an end, remembering him as an amusing acquaintance and nothing
more. He would have been spared, and she would have been spared, the
shock that had so cruelly assailed them both. What had she gained
by Mrs. Rook's detestable confession? The result had been perpetual
disturbance of mind provoked by self-torturing speculations on the
subject of the murder. If Mirabel was innocent, who was guilty? The
false wife, without pity and without shame--or the brutal husband, who
looked capable of any enormity? What was her future to be? How was it
all to end? In the despair of that bitter moment--seeing her devoted old
servant looking at her with kind compassionate eyes--Emily's troubled
spirit sought refuge in impetuous self-betrayal; the very betrayal which
she had resolved should not escape her, hardly a minute since!

She bent forward out of her corner, and suddenly drew up her veil. "Do
you expect to see Mr. Alban Morris, when we get back?" she asked.

"I should like to see him, miss--if you have no objection."

"Tell him I am ashamed of myself! and say I ask his pardon with all my
heart!"

"The Lord be praised!" Mrs. Ellmother burst out--and then, when it was
too late, remembered the conventional restraints appropriate to the
occasion. "Gracious, what a fool I am!" she said to herself. "Beautiful
weather, Miss Emily, isn't it?" she continued, in a desperate hurry to
change the subject.

Emily reclined again in her corner of the carriage. She smiled, for the
first time since she had become Mrs. Delvin's guest at the tower.



BOOK THE LAST--AT HOME AGAIN.



CHAPTER LXV. CECILIA IN A NEW CHARACTER.

Reaching the cottage at night, Emily found the card of a visitor who
had called during the day. It bore the name of "Miss Wyvil," and had a
message written on it which strongly excited Emily's curiosity.

"I have seen the telegram which tells your servant that you return
to-night. Expect me early to-morrow morning--with news that will deeply
interest you."

To what news did Cecilia allude? Emily questioned the woman who had been
left in charge of the cottage, and found that she had next to nothing to
tell. Miss Wyvil had flushed up, and had looked excited, when she read
the telegraphic message--that was all. Emily's impatience was, as usual,
not to be concealed. Expert Mrs. Ellmother treated the case in the right
way--first with supper, and then with an adjournment to bed. The clock
struck twelve, when she put out the young mistress's candle. "Ten hours
to pass before Cecilia comes here!" Emily exclaimed. "Not ten minutes,"
Mrs. Ellmother reminded her, "if you will only go to sleep."

Cecilia arrived before the breakfast-table was cleared; as lovely,
as gentle, as affectionate as ever--but looking unusually serious and
subdued.

"Out with it at once!" Emily cried. "What have you got to tell me?'

"Perhaps, I had better tell you first," Cecilia said, "that I know what
you kept from me when I came here, after you left us at Monksmoor. Don't
think, my dear, that I say this by way of complaint. Mr. Alban Morris
says you had good reasons for keeping your secret."

"Mr. Alban Morris! Did you get your information from _him?_"

"Yes. Do I surprise you?"

"More than words can tell!"

"Can you bear another surprise? Mr. Morris has seen Miss Jethro, and
has discovered that Mr. Mirabel has been wrongly suspected of a dreadful
crime. Our amiable little clergyman is guilty of being a coward--and
guilty of nothing else. Are you really quiet enough to read about it?"

She produced some leaves of paper filled with writing. "There," she
explained, "is Mr. Morris's own account of all that passed between Miss
Jethro and himself."

"But how do _you_ come by it?"

"Mr. Morris gave it to me. He said, 'Show it to Emily as soon as
possible; and take care to be with her while she reads it.' There is
a reason for this--" Cecilia's voice faltered. On the brink of some
explanation, she seemed to recoil from it. "I will tell you by-and-by
what the reason is," she said.

Emily looked nervously at the manuscript. "Why doesn't he tell me
himself what he has discovered? Is he--" The leaves began to flutter in
her trembling fingers--"is he angry with me?"

"Oh, Emily, angry with You! Read what he has written and you shall know
why he keeps away."

Emily opened the manuscript.



CHAPTER LXVI. ALBAN'S NARRATIVE.

"The information which I have obtained from Miss Jethro has been
communicated to me, on the condition that I shall not disclose the place
of her residence. 'Let me pass out of notice (she said) as completely as
if I had passed out of life; I wish to be forgotten by some, and to be
unknown by others.'" With this one stipulation, she left me free to write
the present narrative of what passed at the interview between us. I feel
that the discoveries which I have made are too important to the persons
interested to be trusted to memory.


1. _She Receives Me_.

"Finding Miss Jethro's place of abode, with far less difficulty than I
had anticipated (thanks to favoring circumstances), I stated plainly the
object of my visit. She declined to enter into conversation with me on
the subject of the murder at Zeeland.

"I was prepared to meet with this rebuke, and to take the necessary
measures for obtaining a more satisfactory reception. 'A person is
suspected of having committed the murder,' I said; 'and there is reason
to believe that you are in a position to say whether the suspicion is
justified or not. Do you refuse to answer me, if I put the question?'

"Miss Jethro asked who the person was.

"I mentioned the name--Mr. Miles Mirabel.

"It is not necessary, and it would certainly be not agreeable to me,
to describe the effect which this reply produced on Miss Jethro. After
giving her time to compose herself, I entered into certain explanations,
in order to convince her at the outset of my good faith. The result
justified my anticipations. I was at once admitted to her confidence.

"She said, 'I must not hesitate to do an act of justice to an innocent
man. But, in such a serious matter as this, you have a right to judge
for yourself whether the person who is now speaking to you is a person
whom you can trust. You may believe that I tell the truth about others,
if I begin--whatever it may cost me--by telling the truth about myself.'"


2. _She Speaks of Herself_.

"I shall not attempt to place on record the confession of a most unhappy
woman. It was the common story of sin bitterly repented, and of vain
effort to recover the lost place in social esteem. Too well known a
story, surely, to be told again.

"But I may with perfect propriety repeat what Miss Jethro said to me,
in allusion to later events in her life which are connected with my own
personal experience. She recalled to my memory a visit which she had
paid to me at Netherwoods, and a letter addressed to her by Doctor
Allday, which I had read at her express request.

"She said, 'You may remember that the letter contained some severe
reflections on my conduct. Among other things, the doctor mentions that
he called at the lodging I occupied during my visit to London, and found
I had taken to flight: also that he had reason to believe I had entered
Miss Ladd's service, under false pretenses.'

"I asked if the doctor had wronged her.

"She answered 'No: in one case, he is ignorant; in the other, he is
right. On leaving his house, I found myself followed in the street by
the man to whom I owe the shame and misery of my past life. My horror of
him is not to be described in words. The one way of escaping was offered
by an empty cab that passed me. I reached the railway station safely,
and went back to my home in the country. Do you blame me?'

"It was impossible to blame her--and I said so.

"She then confessed the deception which she had practiced on Miss Ladd.
'I have a cousin,' she said, 'who was a Miss Jethro like me. Before
her marriage she had been employed as a governess. She pitied me; she
sympathized with my longing to recover the character that I had lost.
With her permission, I made use of the testimonials which she had earned
as a teacher--I was betrayed (to this day I don't know by whom)--and I
was dismissed from Netherwoods. Now you know that I deceived Miss Ladd,
you may reasonably conclude that I am likely to deceive You.'

"I assured her, with perfect sincerity, that I had drawn no such
conclusion. Encouraged by my reply, Miss Jethro proceeded as follows."


3. _She Speaks of Mirabel_.

"'Four years ago, I was living near Cowes, in the Isle of Wight--in a
cottage which had been taken for me by a gentleman who was the owner of
a yacht. We had just returned from a short cruise, and the vessel was
under orders to sail for Cherbourg with the next tide.

"'While I was walking in my garden, I was startled by the sudden
appearance Of a man (evidently a gentleman) who was a perfect stranger
to me. He was in a pitiable state of terror, and he implored my
protection. In reply to my first inquiries, he mentioned the inn at
Zeeland, and the dreadful death of a person unknown to him; whom I
recognized (partly by the description given, and partly by comparison of
dates) as Mr. James Brown. I shall say nothing of the shock inflicted
on me: you don't want to know what I felt. What I did (having literally
only a minute left for decision) was to hide the fugitive from
discovery, and to exert my influence in his favor with the owner of the
yacht. I saw nothing more of him. He was put on board, as soon as the
police were out of sight, and was safely landed at Cherbourg.'

"I asked what induced her to run the risk of protecting a stranger, who
was under suspicion of having committed a murder.

"She said, 'You shall hear my explanation directly. Let us have done
with Mr. Mirabel first. We occasionally corresponded, during the long
absence on the continent; never alluding, at his express request, to
the horrible event at the inn. His last letter reached me, after he
had established himself at Vale Regis. Writing of the society in the
neighborhood, he informed me of his introduction to Miss Wyvil, and of
the invitation that he had received to meet her friend and schoolfellow
at Monksmoor. I knew that Miss Emily possessed a Handbill describing
personal peculiarities in Mr. Mirabel, not hidden under the changed
appearance of his head and face. If she remembered or happened to refer
to that description, while she was living in the same house with him,
there was a possibility at least of her suspicion being excited. The
fear of this took me to you. It was a morbid fear, and, as events turned
out, an unfounded fear: but I was unable to control it. Failing to
produce any effect on you, I went to Vale Regis, and tried (vainly
again) to induce Mr. Mirabel to send an excuse to Monksmoor. He, like
you, wanted to know what my motive was. When I tell you that I acted
solely in Miss Emily's interests, and that I knew how she had been
deceived about her father's death, need I say why I was afraid to
acknowledge my motive?'

"I understood that Miss Jethro might well be afraid of the consequences,
if she risked any allusion to Mr. Brown's horrible death, and if it
afterward chanced to reach his daughter's ears. But this state of
feeling implied an extraordinary interest in the preservation of Emily's
peace of mind. I asked Miss Jethro how that interest had been excited?

"She answered, 'I can only satisfy you in one way. I must speak of her
father now.'"


Emily looked up from the manuscript. She felt Cecilia's arm tenderly
caressing her. She heard Cecilia say, "My poor dear, there is one last
trial of your courage still to come. I am afraid of what you are going
to read, when you turn to the next page. And yet--"

"And yet," Emily replied gently, "it must be done. I have learned my
hard lesson of endurance, Cecilia, don't be afraid."

Emily turned to the next page.


4. _She Speaks of the Dead_.

"For the first time, Miss Jethro appeared to be at a loss how to
proceed. I could see that she was suffering. She rose, and opening a
drawer in her writing table, took a letter from it.

"She said, 'Will you read this? It was written by Miss Emily's father.
Perhaps it may say more for me than I can say for myself?'

"I copy the letter. It was thus expressed:

"'You have declared that our farewell to-day is our farewell forever.
For the second time, you have refused to be my wife; and you have done
this, to use your own words, in mercy to Me.

"'In mercy to Me, I implore you to reconsider your decision.

"'If you condemn me to live without you--I feel it, I know it--you
condemn me to despair which I have not fortitude enough to endure. Look
at the passages which I have marked for you in the New Testament. Again
and again, I say it; your true repentance has made you worthy of the
pardon of God. Are you not worthy of the love, admiration, and respect
of man? Think! oh, Sara, think of what our lives might be, and let them
be united for time and for eternity.

"'I can write no more. A deadly faintness oppresses me. My mind is in
a state unknown to me in past years. I am in such confusion that I
sometimes think I hate you. And then I recover from my delusion, and
know that man never loved woman as I love you.

"'You will have time to write to me by this evening's post. I shall stop
at Zeeland to-morrow, on my way back, and ask for a letter at the post
office. I forbid explanations and excuses. I forbid heartless allusions
to your duty. Let me have an answer which does not keep me for a moment
in suspense.

"'For the last time, I ask you: Do you consent to be my wife? Say,
Yes--or say, No.'

"I gave her back the letter--with the one comment on it, which the
circumstances permitted me to make:

"'You said No?'

"She bent her head in silence.

"I went on--not willingly, for I would have spared her if it had been
possible. I said, 'He died, despairing, by his own hand--and you knew
it?'

"She looked up. 'No! To say that I knew it is too much. To say that I
feared it is the truth.'

"'Did you love him?'

"She eyed me in stern surprise. 'Have _I_ any right to love? Could I
disgrace an honorable man by allowing him to marry me? You look as if
you held me responsible for his death.'

"'Innocently responsible,' I said.

"She still followed her own train of thought. 'Do you suppose I could
for a moment anticipate that he would destroy himself, when I wrote my
reply? He was a truly religious man. If he had been in his right mind,
he would have shrunk from the idea of suicide as from the idea of a
crime.'

"On reflection, I was inclined to agree with her. In his terrible
position, it was at least possible that the sight of the razor
(placed ready, with the other appliances of the toilet, for his
fellow-traveler's use) might have fatally tempted a man whose last hope
was crushed, whose mind was tortured by despair. I should have been
merciless indeed, if I had held Miss Jethro accountable thus far. But
I found it hard to sympathize with the course which she had pursued, in
permitting Mr. Brown's death to be attributed to murder without a word
of protest. 'Why were you silent?' I said.

"She smiled bitterly.

"'A woman would have known why, without asking,' she replied. 'A woman
would have understood that I shrank from a public confession of my
shameful past life. A woman would have remembered what reasons I had
for pitying the man who loved me, and for accepting any responsibility
rather than associate his memory, before the world, with an unworthy
passion for a degraded creature, ending in an act of suicide. Even if I
had made that cruel sacrifice, would public opinion have believed such
a person as I am--against the evidence of a medical man, and the verdict
of a jury? No, Mr. Morris! I said nothing, and I was resolved to say
nothing, so long as the choice of alternatives was left to me. On the
day when Mr. Mirabel implored me to save him, that choice was no longer
mine--and you know what I did. And now again when suspicion (after all
the long interval that had passed) has followed and found that innocent
man, you know what I have done. What more do you ask of me?'

"'Your pardon,' I said, 'for not having understood you--and a last
favor. May I repeat what I have heard to the one person of all others
who ought to know, and who must know, what you have told me?'

"It was needless to hint more plainly that I was speaking of Emily. Miss
Jethro granted my request.

"'It shall be as you please,' she answered. 'Say for me to _his_
daughter, that the grateful remembrance of her is my one refuge from the
thoughts that tortured me, when we spoke together on her last night at
school. She has made this dead heart of mine feel a reviving breath of
life, when I think of her. Never, in our earthly pilgrimage, shall we
meet again--I implore her to pity and forget me. Farewell, Mr. Morris;
farewell forever.'

"I confess that the tears came into my eyes. When I could see clearly
again, I was alone in the room."



CHAPTER LXVII. THE TRUE CONSOLATION.

Emily closed the pages which told her that her father had died by his
own hand.

Cecilia still held her tenderly embraced. By slow degrees, her head
dropped until it rested on her friend's bosom. Silently she suffered.
Silently Cecilia bent forward, and kissed her forehead. The sounds that
penetrated to the room were not out of harmony with the time. From a
distant house the voices of children were just audible, singing the
plaintive melody of a hymn; and, now and then, the breeze blew the first
faded leaves of autumn against the window. Neither of the girls knew how
long the minutes followed each other uneventfully, before there was a
change. Emily raised her head, and looked at Cecilia.

"I have one friend left," she said.

"Not only me, love--oh, I hope not only me!"

"Yes. Only you."

"I want to say something, Emily; but I am afraid of hurting you."

"My dear, do you remember what we once read in a book of history at
school? It told of the death of a tortured man, in the old time, who
was broken on the wheel. He lived through it long enough to say that
the agony, after the first stroke of the club, dulled his capacity for
feeling pain when the next blows fell. I fancy pain of the mind must
follow the same rule. Nothing you can say will hurt me now."

"I only wanted to ask, Emily, if you were engaged--at one time--to marry
Mr. Mirabel. Is it true?"

"False! He pressed me to consent to an engagement--and I said he must
not hurry me."

"What made you say that?"

"I thought of Alban Morris."

Vainly Cecilia tried to restrain herself. A cry of joy escaped her.

"Are you glad?" Emily asked. "Why?"

Cecilia made no direct reply. "May I tell you what you wanted to know, a
little while since?" she said. "You asked why Mr. Morris left it all to
me, instead of speaking to you himself. When I put the same question to
him, he told me to read what he had written. 'Not a shadow of suspicion
rests on Mr. Mirabel,' he said. 'Emily is free to marry him--and free
through Me. Can _I_ tell her that? For her sake, and for mine, it must
not be. All that I can do is to leave old remembrances to plead for me.
If they fail, I shall know that she will be happier with Mr. Mirabel
than with me.' 'And you will submit?' I asked. 'Because I love her,' he
answered, 'I must submit.' Oh, how pale you are! Have I distressed you?"

"You have done me good."

"Will you see him?"

Emily pointed to the manuscript. "At such a time as this?" she said.

Cecilia still held to her resolution. "Such a time as this is the right
time," she answered. "It is now, when you most want to be comforted,
that you ought to see him. Who can quiet your poor aching heart as _he_
can quiet it?" She impulsively snatched at the manuscript and threw it
out of sight. "I can't bear to look at it," she said. "Emily! if I have
done wrong, will you forgive me? I saw him this morning before I came
here. I was afraid of what might happen--I refused to break the dreadful
news to you, unless he was somewhere near us. Your good old servant
knows where to go. Let me send her--"

Mrs. Ellmother herself opened the door, and stood doubtful on the
threshold, hysterically sobbing and laughing at the same time. "I'm
everything that's bad!" the good old creature burst out. "I've been
listening--I've been lying--I said you wanted him. Turn me out of my
situation, if you like. I've got him! Here he is!"

In another moment, Emily was in his arms--and they were alone. On his
faithful breast the blessed relief of tears came to her at last: she
burst out crying.

"Oh, Alban, can you forgive me?"

He gently raised her head, so that he could see her face.

"My love, let me look at you," he said. "I want to think again of the
day when we parted in the garden at school. Do you remember the one
conviction that sustained me? I told you, Emily, there was a time of
fulfillment to come in our two lives; and I have never wholly lost the
dear belief. My own darling, the time has come!"


POSTSCRIPT.

GOSSIP IN THE STUDIO.


The winter time had arrived. Alban was clearing his palette, after
a hard day's work at the cottage. The servant announced that tea was
ready, and that Miss Ladd was waiting to see him in the next room.

Alban ran in, and received the visitor cordially with both hands.
"Welcome back to England! I needn't ask if the sea-voyage has done you
good. You are looking ten years younger than when you went away."

Miss Ladd smiled. "I shall soon be ten years older again, if I go back
to Netherwoods," she replied. "I didn't believe it at the time; but I
know better now. Our friend Doctor Allday was right, when he said that
my working days were over. I must give up the school to a younger and
stronger successor, and make the best I can in retirement of what is
left of my life. You and Emily may expect to have me as a near neighbor.
Where is Emily?"

"Far away in the North."

"In the North! You don't mean that she has gone back to Mrs. Delvin?"

"She has gone back--with Mrs. Ellmother to take care of her--at my
express request. You know what Emily is, when there is an act of mercy
to be done. That unhappy man has been sinking (with intervals of partial
recovery) for months past. Mrs. Delvin sent word to us that the end was
near, and that the one last wish her brother was able to express was the
wish to see Emily. He had been for some hours unable to speak when my
wife arrived. But he knew her, and smiled faintly. He was just able
to lift his hand. She took it, and waited by him, and spoke words of
consolation and kindness from time to time. As the night advanced, he
sank into sleep, still holding her hand. They only knew that he had
passed from sleep to death--passed without a movement or a sigh--when
his hand turned cold. Emily remained for a day at the tower to comfort
poor Mrs. Delvin--and she comes home, thank God, this evening!"

"I needn't ask if you are happy?" Miss Ladd said.

"Happy? I sing, when I have my bath in the morning. If that isn't
happiness (in a man of my age) I don't know what is!"

"And how are you getting on?"

"Famously! I have turned portrait painter, since you were sent away for
your health. A portrait of Mr. Wyvil is to decorate the town hall in the
place that he represents; and our dear kind-hearted Cecilia has induced
a fascinated mayor and corporation to confide the work to my hands."

"Is there no hope yet of that sweet girl being married?" Miss Ladd
asked. "We old maids all believe in marriage, Mr. Morris--though some of
us don't own it."

"There seems to be a chance," Alban answered. "A young lord has turned
up at Monksmoor; a handsome pleasant fellow, and a rising man in
politics. He happened to be in the house a few days before Cecilia's
birthday; and he asked my advice about the right present to give her. I
said, 'Try something new in Tarts.' When he found I was in earnest,
what do you think he did? Sent his steam yacht to Rouen for some of the
famous pastry! You should have seen Cecilia, when the young lord offered
his delicious gift. If I could paint that smile and those eyes, I should
be the greatest artist living. I believe she will marry him. Need I
say how rich they will be? We shall not envy them--we are rich too.
Everything is comparative. The portrait of Mr. Wyvil will put three
hundred pounds in my pocket. I have earned a hundred and twenty more by
illustrations, since we have been married. And my wife's income (I
like to be particular) is only five shillings and tenpence short of two
hundred a year. Moral! we are rich as well as happy."

"Without a thought of the future?" Miss Ladd asked slyly.

"Oh, Doctor Allday has taken the future in hand! He revels in the
old-fashioned jokes, which used to be addressed to newly-married people,
in his time. 'My dear fellow,' he said the other day, 'you may possibly
be under a joyful necessity of sending for the doctor, before we are
all a year older. In that case, let it be understood that I am Honorary
Physician to the family.' The warm-hearted old man talks of getting me
another portrait to do. 'The greatest ass in the medical profession (he
informed me) has just been made a baronet; and his admiring friends have
decided that he is to be painted at full length, with his bandy
legs hidden under a gown, and his great globular eyes staring at the
spectator--I'll get you the job.' Shall I tell you what he says of Mrs.
Rook's recovery?"

Miss Ladd held up her hands in amazement. "Recovery!" she exclaimed.

"And a most remarkable recovery too," Alban informed her. "It is the
first case on record of any person getting over such an injury as she
has received. Doctor Allday looked grave when he heard of it. 'I begin
to believe in the devil,' he said; 'nobody else could have saved Mrs.
Rook.' Other people don't take that view. She has been celebrated in
all the medical newspapers--and she has been admitted to come excellent
almshouse, to live in comfortable idleness to a green old age. The
best of it is that she shakes her head, when her wonderful recovery is
mentioned. 'It seems such a pity,' she says; 'I was so fit for heaven.'
Mr. Rook having got rid of his wife, is in excellent spirits. He is
occupied in looking after an imbecile old gentleman; and, when he is
asked if he likes the employment, he winks mysteriously and slaps his
pocket. Now, Miss Ladd, I think it's my turn to hear some news. What
have you got to tell me?"

"I believe I can match your account of Mrs. Rook," Miss Ladd said. "Do
you care to hear what has become of Francine?"

Alban, rattling on hitherto in boyish high spirits, suddenly became
serious. "I have no doubt Miss de Sor is doing well," he said sternly.
"She is too heartless and wicked not to prosper."

"You are getting like your old cynical self again, Mr. Morris--and
you are wrong. I called this morning on the agent who had the care of
Francine, when I left England. When I mentioned her name, he showed me
a telegram, sent to him by her father. 'There's my authority,' he said,
'for letting her leave my house.' The message was short enough to be
easily remembered: 'Anything my daughter likes as long as she doesn't
come back to us.' In those cruel terms Mr. de Sor wrote of his own
child. The agent was just as unfeeling, in his way. He called her the
victim of slighted love and clever proselytizing. 'In plain words,' he
said, 'the priest of the Catholic chapel close by has converted her;
and she is now a novice in a convent of Carmelite nuns in the West of
England. Who could have expected it? Who knows how it may end?"

As Miss Ladd spoke, the bell rang at the cottage gate. "Here she is!"
Alban cried, leading the way into the hall. "Emily has come home."





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