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Title: The Dead Secret - A Novel
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 "The Dead Secret - A Novel" ***

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Transcriber's Note:

  Inconsistent hyphenation and spelling in the original document have
  been preserved. Obvious typographical errors have been corrected.

  Italic text is denoted by _underscores_ and bold text by =equal

  On page 202, a reference to "Uncle John" has been changed to "Uncle

   TREVERTON."--[SEE PAGE 352.]]


     A Novel.





     _NEW YORK:_



_12mo, Cloth, $1 50 per Volume._

     _NO NAME._
     _MAN AND WIFE._


     Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1873, by
     In the Office of the Librarian of Congress, at Washington.





"Will she last out the night, I wonder?"

"Look at the clock, Mathew."

"Ten minutes past twelve! She HAS lasted the night out. She has lived,
Robert, to see ten minutes of the new day."

These words were spoken in the kitchen of a large country-house
situated on the west coast of Cornwall. The speakers were two of the
men-servants composing the establishment of Captain Treverton, an
officer in the navy, and the eldest male representative of an old
Cornish family. Both the servants communicated with each other
restrainedly, in whispers--sitting close together, and looking round
expectantly toward the door whenever the talk flagged between them.

"It's an awful thing," said the elder of the men, "for us two to be
alone here, at this dark time, counting out the minutes that our
mistress has left to live!"

"Robert," said the other, "you have been in the service here since you
were a boy--did you ever hear that our mistress was a play-actress
when our master married her?"

"How came you to know that?" inquired the elder servant, sharply.

"Hush!" cried the other, rising quickly from his chair.

A bell rang in the passage outside.

"Is that for one of us?" asked Mathew.

"Can't you tell, by the sound, which is which of those bells yet?"
exclaimed Robert, contemptuously. "That bell is for Sarah Leeson. Go
out into the passage and look."

The younger servant took a candle and obeyed. When he opened the
kitchen-door, a long row of bells met his eye on the wall opposite.
Above each of them was painted, in neat black letters, the
distinguishing title of the servant whom it was specially intended to
summon. The row of letters began with Housekeeper and Butler, and
ended with Kitchen-maid and Footman's Boy.

Looking along the bells, Mathew easily discovered that one of them was
still in motion. Above it were the words Lady's-Maid. Observing this,
he passed quickly along the passage, and knocked at an old-fashioned
oak door at the end of it. No answer being given, he opened the door
and looked into the room. It was dark and empty.

"Sarah is not in the housekeeper's room," said Mathew, returning to
his fellow-servant in the kitchen.

"She is gone to her own room, then," rejoined the other. "Go up and
tell her that she is wanted by her mistress."

The bell rang again as Mathew went out.

"Quick!--quick!" cried Robert. "Tell her she is wanted directly.
Wanted," he continued to himself in lower tones, "perhaps for the last

Mathew ascended three flights of stairs--passed half-way down a long
arched gallery--and knocked at another old-fashioned oak door. This
time the signal was answered. A low, clear, sweet voice, inside the
room, inquired who was waiting without? In a few hasty words Mathew
told his errand. Before he had done speaking the door was quietly and
quickly opened, and Sarah Leeson confronted him on the threshold, with
her candle in her hand.

Not tall, not handsome, not in her first youth--shy and irresolute in
manner--simple in dress to the utmost limits of plainness--the
lady's-maid, in spite of all these disadvantages, was a woman whom it
was impossible to look at without a feeling of curiosity, if not of
interest. Few men, at first sight of her, could have resisted the
desire to find out who she was; few would have been satisfied with
receiving for answer, She is Mrs. Treverton's maid; few would have
refrained from the attempt to extract some secret information for
themselves from her face and manner; and none, not even the most
patient and practiced of observers, could have succeeded in
discovering more than that she must have passed through the ordeal of
some great suffering at some former period of her life. Much in her
manner, and more in her face, said plainly and sadly: I am the wreck
of something that you might once have liked to see; a wreck that can
never be repaired--that must drift on through life unnoticed,
unguided, unpitied--drift till the fatal shore is touched, and the
waves of Time have swallowed up these broken relics of me forever.
This was the story that was told in Sarah Leeson's face--this, and no

No two men interpreting that story for themselves, would probably have
agreed on the nature of the suffering which this woman had undergone.
It was hard to say, at the outset, whether the past pain that had set
its ineffaceable mark on her had been pain of the body or pain of the
mind. But whatever the nature of the affliction she had suffered, the
traces it had left were deeply and strikingly visible in every part of
her face.

Her cheeks had lost their roundness and their natural color; her lips,
singularly flexible in movement and delicate in form, had faded to an
unhealthy paleness; her eyes, large and black and overshadowed by
unusually thick lashes, had contracted an anxious startled look, which
never left them, and which piteously expressed the painful acuteness
of her sensibility, the inherent timidity of her disposition. So far,
the marks which sorrow or sickness had set on her were the marks
common to most victims of mental or physical suffering. The one
extraordinary personal deterioration which she had undergone consisted
in the unnatural change that had passed over the color of her hair. It
was as thick and soft, it grew as gracefully, as the hair of a young
girl; but it was as gray as the hair of an old woman. It seemed to
contradict, in the most startling manner, every personal assertion of
youth that still existed in her face. With all its haggardness and
paleness, no one could have looked at it and supposed for a moment
that it was the face of an elderly woman. Wan as they might be, there
was not a wrinkle in her cheeks. Her eyes, viewed apart from their
prevailing expression of uneasiness and timidity, still preserved that
bright, clear moisture which is never seen in the eyes of the old. The
skin about her temples was as delicately smooth as the skin of a
child. These and other physical signs which never mislead, showed
that she was still, as to years, in the very prime of her life. Sickly
and sorrow-stricken as she was, she looked, from the eyes downward, a
woman who had barely reached thirty years of age. From the eyes
upward, the effect of her abundant gray hair, seen in connection with
her face, was not simply incongruous--it was absolutely startling; so
startling as to make it no paradox to say that she would have looked
most natural, most like herself, if her hair had been dyed. In her
case, Art would have seemed to be the truth, because Nature looked
like falsehood.

What shock had stricken her hair, in the very maturity of its
luxuriance, with the hue of an unnatural old age? Was it a serious
illness, or a dreadful grief, that had turned her gray in the prime of
her womanhood? That question had often been agitated among her
fellow-servants, who were all struck by the peculiarities of her
personal appearance, and rendered a little suspicious of her, as well,
by an inveterate habit that she had of talking to herself. Inquire as
they might, however, their curiosity was always baffled. Nothing more
could be discovered than that Sarah Leeson was, in the common phrase,
touchy on the subject of her gray hair and her habit of talking to
herself, and that Sarah Leeson's mistress had long since forbidden
every one, from her husband downward, to ruffle her maid's
tranquillity by inquisitive questions.

She stood for an instant speechless, on that momentous morning of the
twenty-third of August, before the servant who summoned her to her
mistress's death-bed--the light of the candle flaring brightly over
her large, startled, black eyes, and the luxuriant, unnatural gray
hair above them. She stood a moment silent--her hand trembling while
she held the candlestick, so that the extinguisher lying loose in it
rattled incessantly--then thanked the servant for calling her. The
trouble and fear in her voice, as she spoke, seemed to add to its
sweetness; the agitation of her manner took nothing away from its
habitual gentleness, its delicate, winning, feminine restraint.
Mathew, who, like the other servants, secretly distrusted and disliked
her for differing from the ordinary pattern of professed lady's-maids,
was, on this particular occasion, so subdued by her manner and her
tone as she thanked him, that he offered to carry her candle for her
to the door of her mistress's bed-chamber. She shook her head, and
thanked him again, then passed before him quickly on her way out of
the gallery.

The room in which Mrs. Treverton lay dying was on the floor beneath.
Sarah hesitated twice before she knocked at the door. It was opened by
Captain Treverton.

The instant she saw her master she started back from him. If she had
dreaded a blow she could hardly have drawn away more suddenly, or with
an expression of greater alarm. There was nothing in Captain
Treverton's face to warrant the suspicion of ill-treatment, or even of
harsh words. His countenance was kind, hearty, and open; and the tears
were still trickling down it which he had shed by his wife's bedside.

"Go in," he said, turning away his face. "She does not wish the nurse
to attend; she only wishes for you. Call me if the doctor--" His voice
faltered, and he hurried away without attempting to finish the

Sarah Leeson, instead of entering her mistress's room, stood looking
after her master attentively, with her pale cheeks turned to a deathly
whiteness--with an eager, doubting, questioning terror in her eyes.
When he had disappeared round the corner of the gallery, she listened
for a moment outside the door of the sick-room--whispered affrightedly
to herself, "Can she have told him?"--then opened the door, with a
visible effort to recover her self-control; and, after lingering
suspiciously on the threshold for a moment, went in.

Mrs. Treverton's bed-chamber was a large, lofty room, situated in the
western front of the house, and consequently overlooking the sea-view.
The night-light burning by the bedside displayed rather than dispelled
the darkness in the corners of the room. The bed was of the
old-fashioned pattern, with heavy hangings and thick curtains drawn
all round it. Of the other objects in the chamber, only those of the
largest and most solid kind were prominent enough to be tolerably
visible in the dim light. The cabinets, the wardrobe, the full-length
looking-glass, the high-backed arm-chair, these, with the great
shapeless bulk of the bed itself, towered up heavily and gloomily into
view. Other objects were all merged together in the general obscurity.
Through the open window, opened to admit the fresh air of the new
morning after the sultriness of the August night, there poured
monotonously into the room the dull, still, distant roaring of the
surf on the sandy coast. All outer noises were hushed at that first
dark hour of the new day. Inside the room the one audible sound was
the slow, toilsome breathing of the dying woman, raising itself in its
mortal frailness, awfully and distinctly, even through the far
thunder-breathing from the bosom of the everlasting sea.

"Mistress," said Sarah Leeson, standing close to the curtains, but not
withdrawing them, "my master has left the room, and has sent me here
in his place."

"Light!--give me more light."

The feebleness of mortal sickness was in the voice; but the accent of
the speaker sounded resolute even yet--doubly resolute by contrast
with the hesitation of the tones in which Sarah had spoken. The strong
nature of the mistress and the weak nature of the maid came out, even
in that short interchange of words spoken through the curtain of a

Sarah lit two candles with a wavering hand--placed them hesitatingly
on a table by the bedside--waited for a moment, looking all round her
with suspicious timidity--then undrew the curtains.

The disease of which Mrs. Treverton was dying was one of the most
terrible of all the maladies that afflict humanity, one to which women
are especially subject, and one which undermines life without, in most
cases, showing any remarkable traces of its corroding progress in the
face. No uninstructed person, looking at Mrs. Treverton when her
attendant undrew the bed-curtain, could possibly have imagined that
she was past all help that mortal skill could offer to her. The slight
marks of illness in her face, the inevitable changes in the grace and
roundness of its outline, were rendered hardly noticeable by the
marvelous preservation of her complexion in all the light and delicacy
of its first girlish beauty. There lay her face on the pillow--tenderly
framed in by the rich lace of her cap, softly crowned by her shining
brown hair--to all outward appearance, the face of a beautiful woman
recovering from a slight illness, or reposing after unusual fatigue.
Even Sarah Leeson, who had watched her all through her malady, could
hardly believe, as she looked at her mistress, that the Gates of Life
had closed behind her, and that the beckoning hand of Death was
signing to her already from the Gates of the Grave.

Some dog's-eared books in paper covers lay on the counterpane of the
bed. As soon as the curtain was drawn aside Mrs. Treverton ordered her
attendant by a gesture to remove them. They were plays, underscored in
certain places by ink lines, and marked with marginal annotations
referring to entrances, exits, and places on the stage. The servants,
talking down stairs of their mistress's occupation before her
marriage, had not been misled by false reports. Their master, after he
had passed the prime of life, had, in very truth, taken his wife from
the obscure stage of a country theatre, when little more than two
years had elapsed since her first appearance in public. The
dog's-eared old plays had been once her treasured dramatic library;
she had always retained a fondness for them from old associations;
and, during the latter part of her illness, they had remained on her
bed for days and days together.

Having put away the plays, Sarah went back to her mistress; and, with
more of dread and bewilderment in her face than grief, opened her lips
to speak. Mrs. Treverton held up her hand, as a sign that she had
another order to give.

"Bolt the door," she said, in the same enfeebled voice, but with the
same accent of resolution which had so strikingly marked her first
request to have more light in the room. "Bolt the door. Let no one in,
till I give you leave."

"No one?" repeated Sarah, faintly. "Not the doctor? not even my

"Not the doctor--not even your master," said Mrs. Treverton, and
pointed to the door. The hand was weak; but even in that momentary
action of it there was no mistaking the gesture of command.

Sarah bolted the door, returned irresolutely to the bedside, fixed her
large, eager, startled eyes inquiringly on her mistress's face, and,
suddenly bending over her, said in a whisper:

"Have you told my master?"

"No," was the answer. "I sent for him, to tell him--I tried hard to
speak the words--it shook me to my very soul, only to think how I
should best break it to him--I am so fond of him! I love him so
dearly! But I should have spoken in spite of that, if he had not
talked of the child. Sarah! he did nothing but talk of the child--and
that silenced me."

Sarah, with a forgetfulness of her station which might have appeared
extraordinary even in the eyes of the most lenient of mistresses,
flung herself back in a chair when the first word of Mrs. Treverton's
reply was uttered, clasped her trembling hands over her face, and
groaned to herself, "Oh, what will happen! what will happen now!"

Mrs. Treverton's eyes had softened and moistened when she spoke of her
love for her husband. She lay silent for a few minutes; the working of
some strong emotion in her being expressed by her quick, hard, labored
breathing, and by the painful contraction of her eyebrows. Ere long,
she turned her head uneasily toward the chair in which her attendant
was sitting, and spoke again--this time in a voice which had sunk to a

"Look for my medicine," said she; "I want it."

Sarah started up, and with the quick instinct of obedience brushed
away the tears that were rolling fast over her cheeks.

"The doctor," she said. "Let me call the doctor."

"No! The medicine--look for the medicine."

"Which bottle? The opiate--"

"No. Not the opiate. The other."

Sarah took a bottle from the table, and looking attentively at the
written direction on the label, said that it was not yet time to take
that medicine again.

"Give me the bottle."

"Oh, pray don't ask me. Pray wait. The doctor said it was as bad as
dram-drinking, if you took too much."

Mrs. Treverton's clear gray eyes began to flash; the rosy flush
deepened on her cheeks; the commanding hand was raised again, by an
effort, from the counterpane on which it lay.

"Take the cork out of the bottle," she said, "and give it to me. I
want strength. No matter whether I die in an hour's time or a week's.
Give me the bottle."

"No, no--not the bottle!" said Sarah, giving it up, nevertheless,
under the influence of her mistress's look. "There are two doses left.
Wait, pray wait till I get a glass."

She turned again toward the table. At the same instant Mrs. Treverton
raised the bottle to her lips, drained it of its contents, and flung
it from her on the bed.

"She has killed herself!" cried Sarah, running in terror to the door.

"Stop!" said the voice from the bed, more resolute than ever, already.
"Stop! Come back and prop me up higher on the pillows."

Sarah put her hand on the bolt.

"Come back!" reiterated Mrs. Treverton. "While there is life in me, I
will be obeyed. Come back!" The color began to deepen perceptibly all
over her face, and the light to grow brighter in her widely opened

Sarah came back; and with shaking hands added one more to the many
pillows which supported the dying woman's head and shoulders. While
this was being done the bed-clothes became a little discomposed. Mrs.
Treverton shuddered, and drew them up to their former position, close
round her neck.

"Did you unbolt the door?" she asked.


"I forbid you to go near it again. Get my writing-case, and the pen
and ink, from the cabinet near the window."

Sarah went to the cabinet and opened it; then stopped, as if some
sudden suspicion had crossed her mind, and asked what the writing
materials were wanted for.

"Bring them, and you will see."

The writing-case, with a sheet of note-paper on it, was placed upon
Mrs. Treverton's knees; the pen was dipped into the ink, and given to
her; she paused, closed her eyes for a minute, and sighed heavily;
then began to write, saying to her waiting-maid, as the pen touched
the paper--"Look."

Sarah peered anxiously over her shoulder, and saw the pen slowly and
feebly form these three words: _To my Husband_.

"Oh, no! no! For God's sake, don't write it!" she cried, catching at
her mistress's hand--but suddenly letting it go again the moment Mrs.
Treverton looked at her.

The pen went on; and more slowly, more feebly, formed words enough to
fill a line--then stopped. The letters of the last syllable were all
blotted together.

"Don't!" reiterated Sarah, dropping on her knees at the bedside.
"Don't write it to him if you can't tell it to him. Let me go on
bearing what I have borne so long already. Let the Secret die with you
and die with me, and be never known in this world--never, never,

"The Secret must be told," answered Mrs. Treverton. "My husband ought
to know it, and must know it. I tried to tell him, and my courage
failed me. I can not trust you to tell him, after I am gone. It must
be written. Take you the pen; my sight is failing, my touch is dull.
Take the pen, and write what I tell you."

Sarah, instead of obeying, hid her face in the bed-cover, and wept

"You have been with me ever since my marriage," Mrs. Treverton went
on. "You have been my friend more than my servant. Do you refuse my
last request? You do! Fool! look up and listen to me. On your peril,
refuse to take the pen. Write, or I shall not rest in my grave.
_Write, or as true as there is a Heaven above us, I will come to you
from the other world!_"

Sarah started to her feet with a faint scream.

"You make my flesh creep!" she whispered, fixing her eyes on her
mistress's face with a stare of superstitious horror.

At the same instant, the overdose of the stimulating medicine began to
affect Mrs. Treverton's brain. She rolled her head restlessly from
side to side of the pillow--repeated vacantly a few lines from one of
the old play-books which had been removed from her bed--and suddenly
held out the pen to the servant, with a theatrical wave of the hand,
and a glance upward at an imaginary gallery of spectators.

"Write!" she cried, with an awful mimicry of her old stage voice.
"Write!" And the weak hand was waved again with a forlorn, feeble
imitation of the old stage gesture.

Closing her fingers mechanically on the pen that was thrust between
them, Sarah, with her eyes still expressing the superstitious terror
which her mistress's words had aroused, waited for the next command.
Some minutes elapsed before Mrs. Treverton spoke again. She still
retained her senses sufficiently to be vaguely conscious of the effect
which the medicine was producing on her, and to be desirous of
combating its further progress before it succeeded in utterly
confusing her ideas. She asked first for the smelling-bottle, next
for some Eau de Cologne.

This last, poured onto her handkerchief and applied to her forehead,
seemed to prove successful in partially clearing her faculties. Her
eyes recovered their steady look of intelligence; and, when she again
addressed her maid, reiterating the word "Write," she was able to
enforce the direction by beginning immediately to dictate in quiet,
deliberate, determined tones. Sarah's tears fell fast; her lips
murmured fragments of sentences in which entreaties, expressions of
penitence, and exclamations of fear were all strangely mingled
together; but she wrote on submissively, in wavering lines, until she
had nearly filled the first two sides of the note-paper. Then Mrs.
Treverton paused, looked the writing over, and, taking the pen, signed
her name at the end of it. With this effort, her powers of resistance
to the exciting effect of the medicine seemed to fail her again. The
deep flush began to tinge her cheeks once more, and she spoke
hurriedly and unsteadily when she handed the pen back to her maid.

"Sign!" she cried, beating her hand feebly on the bed-clothes. "Sign
'Sarah Leeson, witness.' No!--write 'Accomplice.' Take your share of
it; I won't have it shifted on me. Sign, I insist on it! Sign as I
tell you."

Sarah obeyed; and Mrs. Treverton taking the paper from her, pointed to
it solemnly, with a return of the stage gesture which had escaped her
a little while back.

"You will give this to your master," she said, "when I am dead; and
you will answer any questions he puts to you as truly as if you were
before the judgment-seat."

Clasping her hands fast together, Sarah regarded her mistress, for the
first time, with steady eyes, and spoke to her for the first time in
steady tones.

"If I only knew that I was fit to die," she said, "oh, how gladly I
would change places with you!"

"Promise me that you will give the paper to your master," repeated
Mrs. Treverton. "Promise--no! I won't trust your promise--I'll have
your oath. Get the Bible--the Bible the clergyman used when he was
here this morning. Get it, or I shall not rest in my grave. Get it,
_or I will come to you from the other world_."

The mistress laughed as she reiterated that threat. The maid
shuddered, as she obeyed the command which it was designed to impress
on her.

"Yes, yes--the Bible the clergyman used," continued Mrs. Treverton,
vacantly, after the book had been produced. "The clergyman--a poor
weak man--I frightened him, Sarah. He said, 'Are you at peace with all
the world?' and I said, 'All but one.' You know who."

"The Captain's brother? Oh, don't die at enmity with any body. Don't
die at enmity even with _him_," pleaded Sarah.

"The clergyman said so too," murmured Mrs. Treverton, her eyes
beginning to wander childishly round the room, her tones growing
suddenly lower and more confused. "'You must forgive him,' the
clergyman said. And I said, 'No, I forgive all the world, but not my
husband's brother.' The clergyman got up from the bedside, frightened,
Sarah. He talked about praying for me, and coming back. Will he come

"Yes, yes," answered Sarah. "He is a good man--he will come back--and
oh! tell him that you forgive the Captain's brother! Those vile words
he spoke of you when you were married will come home to him some day.
Forgive him--forgive him before you die!"

Saying those words, she attempted to remove the Bible softly out of
her mistress's sight. The action attracted Mrs. Treverton's attention,
and roused her sinking faculties into observation of present things.

"Stop!" she cried, with a gleam of the old resolution flashing once
more over the dying dimness of her eyes. She caught at Sarah's hand
with a great effort, placed it on the Bible, and held it there. Her
other hand wandered a little over the bed-clothes, until it
encountered the written paper addressed to her husband. Her fingers
closed on it, and a sigh of relief escaped her lips.

"Ah!" she said, "I know what I wanted the Bible for. I'm dying with
all my senses about me, Sarah; you can't deceive me even yet." She
stopped again, smiled a little, whispered to herself rapidly, "Wait,
wait, wait!" then added aloud, with the old stage voice and the old
stage gesture: "No! I won't trust you on your promise. I'll have your
oath. Kneel down. These are my last words in this world--disobey them
if you dare!"

Sarah dropped on her knees by the bed. The breeze outside,
strengthening just then with the slow advance of the morning, parted
the window-curtains a little, and wafted a breath of its sweet
fragrance joyously into the sick-room. The heavy beating hum of the
distant surf came in at the same time, and poured out its unresting
music in louder strains. Then the window-curtains fell to again
heavily, the wavering flame of the candle grew steady once more, and
the awful silence in the room sank deeper than ever.

"Swear!" said Mrs. Treverton. Her voice failed her when she had
pronounced that one word. She struggled a little, recovered the power
of utterance, and went on: "Swear that you will not destroy this paper
after I am dead."

Even while she pronounced these solemn words, even at that last
struggle for life and strength, the ineradicable theatrical instinct
showed, with a fearful inappropriateness, how firmly it kept its place
in her mind. Sarah felt the cold hand that was still laid on hers
lifted for a moment--saw it waving gracefully toward her--felt it
descend again, and clasp her own hand with a trembling, impatient
pressure. At that final appeal, she answered faintly,

"I swear it."

"Swear that you will not take this paper away with you, if you leave
the house, after I am dead."

Again Sarah paused before she answered--again the trembling pressure
made itself felt on her hand, but more weakly this time--again the
words dropped affrightedly from her lips--

"I swear it."

"Swear!" Mrs. Treverton began for the third time. Her voice failed her
once more; and she struggled vainly to regain the command over it.

Sarah looked up, and saw signs of convulsion beginning to disfigure
the white face--saw the fingers of the white, delicate hand getting
crooked as they reached over toward the table on which the
medicine-bottles were placed.

"You drank it all," she cried, starting to her feet, as she
comprehended the meaning of that gesture. "Mistress, dear mistress,
you drank it all--there is nothing but the opiate left. Let me go--let
me go and call--"

A look from Mrs. Treverton stopped her before she could utter another
word. The lips of the dying woman were moving rapidly. Sarah put her
ear close to them. At first she heard nothing but panting, quick-drawn
breaths--then a few broken words mingled confusedly with them:

"I hav'n't done--you must swear--close, close, come close--a third
thing--your master--swear to give it--"

The last words died away very softly. The lips that had been forming
them so laboriously parted on a sudden and closed again no more. Sarah
sprang to the door, opened it, and called into the passage for help;
then ran back to the bedside, caught up the sheet of note-paper on
which she had written from her mistress's dictation, and hid it in her
bosom. The last look of Mrs. Treverton's eyes fastened sternly and
reproachfully on her as she did this, and kept their expression
unchanged, through the momentary distortion of the rest of the
features, for one breathless moment. That moment passed, and, with the
next, the shadow which goes before the presence of death stole up and
shut out the light of life in one quiet instant from all the face.

The doctor, followed by the nurse and by one of the servants, entered
the room; and, hurrying to the bedside, saw at a glance that the time
for his attendance there had passed away forever. He spoke first to
the servant who had followed him.

"Go to your master," he said, "and beg him to wait in his own room
until I can come and speak to him."

Sarah still stood--without moving or speaking, or noticing any one--by
the bedside.

The nurse, approaching to draw the curtains together, started at the
sight of her face, and turned to the doctor.

"I think this person had better leave the room, Sir?" said the nurse,
with some appearance of contempt in her tones and looks. "She seems
unreasonably shocked and terrified by what has happened."

"Quite right," said the doctor. "It is best that she should
withdraw.--Let me recommend you to leave us for a little while," he
added, touching Sarah on the arm.

She shrank back suspiciously, raised one of her hands to the place
where the letter lay hidden in her bosom, and pressed it there firmly,
while she held out the other hand for a candle.

"You had better rest for a little in your own room," said the doctor,
giving her a candle. "Stop, though," he continued, after a moment's
reflection. "I am going to break the sad news to your master, and I
may find that he is anxious to hear any last words that Mrs. Treverton
may have spoken in your presence. Perhaps you had better come with me,
and wait while I go into Captain Treverton's room."

"No! no!--oh, not now--not now, for God's sake!" Speaking those words
in low, quick, pleading tones, and drawing back affrightedly to the
door, Sarah disappeared without waiting a moment to be spoken to

"A strange woman!" said the doctor, addressing the nurse. "Follow her,
and see where she goes to, in case she is wanted and we are obliged to
send for her. I will wait here until you come back."

When the nurse returned she had nothing to report but that she had
followed Sarah Leeson to her own bedroom, had seen her enter it, had
listened outside, and had heard her lock the door.

"A strange woman!" repeated the doctor. "One of the silent, secret

"One of the wrong sort," said the nurse. "She is always talking to
herself, and that is a bad sign, in my opinion. I distrusted her, Sir,
the very first day I entered the house."



The instant Sarah Leeson had turned the key of her bedroom door, she
took the sheet of note-paper from its place of concealment in her
bosom--shuddering, when she drew it out, as if the mere contact of it
hurt her--placed it open on her little dressing-table, and fixed her
eyes eagerly on the lines which the note contained. At first they swam
and mingled together before her. She pressed her hands over her eyes,
for a few minutes, and then looked at the writing again.

The characters were clear now--vividly clear, and, as she fancied,
unnaturally large and near to view. There was the address: "To my
Husband;" there the first blotted line beneath, in her dead mistress's
handwriting; there the lines that followed, traced by her own pen,
with the signature at the end--Mrs. Treverton's first, and then her
own. The whole amounted to but very few sentences, written on one
perishable fragment of paper, which the flame of a candle would have
consumed in a moment. Yet there she sat, reading, reading, reading,
over and over again; never touching the note, except when it was
absolutely necessary to turn over the first page; never moving, never
speaking, never raising her eyes from the paper. As a condemned
prisoner might read his death-warrant, so did Sarah Leeson now read
the few lines which she and her mistress had written together not half
an hour since.

The secret of the paralyzing effect of that writing on her mind lay,
not only in itself, but in the circumstances which had attended the
act of its production.

The oath which had been proposed by Mrs. Treverton under no more
serious influence than the last caprice of her disordered faculties,
stimulated by confused remembrances of stage words and stage
situations, had been accepted by Sarah Leeson as the most sacred and
inviolable engagement to which she could bind herself. The threat of
enforcing obedience to her last commands from beyond the grave, which
the mistress had uttered in mocking experiment on the superstitious
fears of the maid, now hung darkly over the weak mind of Sarah, as a
judgment which might descend on her, visibly and inexorably, at any
moment of her future life. When she roused herself at last, and pushed
away the paper and rose to her feet, she stood quite still for an
instant, before she ventured to look behind her. When she did look, it
was with an effort and a start, with a searching distrust of the empty
dimness in the remoter corners of the room.

Her old habit of talking to herself began to resume its influence, as
she now walked rapidly backward and forward, sometimes along the room
and sometimes across it. She repeated incessantly such broken phrases
as these: "How can I give him the letter?--Such a good master; so kind
to us all.--Why did she die, and leave it all to _me_?--I can't bear
it alone; it's too much for me." While reiterating these sentences,
she vacantly occupied herself in putting things about the room in
order, which were set in perfect order already. All her looks, all her
actions, betrayed the vain struggle of a weak mind to sustain itself
under the weight of a heavy responsibility. She arranged and
re-arranged the cheap china ornaments on her chimney-piece a dozen
times over--put her pin-cushion first on the looking-glass, then on
the table in front of it--changed the position of the little porcelain
dish and tray on her wash-hand-stand, now to one side of the basin,
and now to the other. Throughout all these trifling actions the
natural grace, delicacy, and prim neat-handedness of the woman still
waited mechanically on the most useless and aimless of her occupations
of the moment. She knocked nothing down, she put nothing awry; her
footsteps at the fastest made no sound--the very skirts of her dress
were kept as properly and prudishly composed as if it was broad
daylight and the eyes of all her neighbors were looking at her.

From time to time the sense of the words she was murmuring confusedly
to herself changed. Sometimes they disjointedly expressed bolder and
more self-reliant thoughts. Once they seemed to urge her again to the
dressing-table and the open letter on it, against her own will. She
read aloud the address, "To my Husband," and caught the letter up
sharply, and spoke in firmer tones. "Why give it to him at all? Why
not let the secret die with her and die with me, as it ought? Why
should he know it? He shall _not_ know it!"

Saying those last words, she desperately held the letter within an
inch of the flame of the candle. At the same moment the white curtain
over the window before her stirred a little, as the freshening air
found its way through the old-fashioned, ill-fitting sashes. Her eye
caught sight of it, as it waved gently backward and forward. She
clasped the letter suddenly to her breast with both hands, and shrank
back against the wall of the room, her eyes still fastened on the
curtain with the same blank look of horror which they had exhibited
when Mrs. Treverton had threatened to claim her servant's obedience
from the other world.

"Something moves," she gasped to herself, in a breathless whisper.
"Something moves in the room."

The curtain waved slowly to and fro for the second time. Still fixedly
looking at it over her shoulder, she crept along the wall to the door.

"Do you come to me already?" she said, her eyes riveted on the curtain
while her hand groped over the lock for the key. "Before your grave
is dug? Before your coffin is made? Before your body is cold?"

She opened the door and glided into the passage; stopped there for a
moment, and looked back into the room.

"Rest!" she said. "Rest, mistress--he shall have the letter."

The staircase-lamp guided her out of the passage. Descending
hurriedly, as if she feared to give herself time to think, she reached
Captain Treverton's study, on the ground-floor, in a minute or two.
The door was wide open, and the room was empty.

After reflecting a little, she lighted one of the chamber-candles
standing on the hall-table, at the lamp in the study, and ascended the
stairs again to her master's bedroom. After repeatedly knocking at the
door and obtaining no answer, she ventured to go in. The bed had not
been disturbed, the candles had not been lit--to all appearance the
room had not even been entered during the night.

There was but one other place to seek him--the chamber in which his
wife lay dead. Could she summon the courage to give him the letter
there? She hesitated a little--then whispered, "I must! I must!"

The direction she now compelled herself to take led her a little way
down the stairs again. She descended very slowly this time, holding
cautiously by the banisters, and pausing to take breath almost at
every step. The door of what had been Mrs. Treverton's bedroom was
opened, when she ventured to knock at it, by the nurse, who inquired,
roughly and suspiciously, what she wanted there.

"I want to speak to my master."

"Look for him somewhere else. He was here half an hour ago. He is gone

"Do you know where he has gone?"

"No. I don't pry into other people's goings and comings. I mind my own

With that discourteous answer, the nurse closed the door again. Just
as Sarah turned away from it she looked toward the inner end of the
passage. The door of the nursery was situated there. It was ajar, and
a dim gleam of candle-light was flickering through it.


She went in immediately, and saw that the candle-light came from an
inner room, usually occupied, as she well knew, by the nursery-maid
and by the only child of the house of Treverton--a little girl named
Rosamond, aged, at that time, nearly five years.

"Can he be there?--in that room, of all the rooms in the house!"

Quickly as the thought arose in her mind, Sarah raised the letter
(which she had hitherto carried in her hand) to the bosom of her
dress, and hid it for the second time, exactly as she had hidden it on
leaving her mistress's bedside.

She then stole across the nursery on tiptoe toward the inner room. The
entrance to it, to please some caprice of the child's, had been
arched, and framed with trellis-work, gayly colored, so as to resemble
the entrance to a summer-house. Two pretty chintz curtains, hanging
inside the trellis-work, formed the only barrier between the day-room
and the bedroom. One of these was looped up, and toward the opening
thus made Sarah now advanced, after cautiously leaving her candle in
the passage outside.

The first object that attracted her attention in the child's bedroom
was the figure of the nurse-maid, leaning back, fast asleep, in an
easy-chair by the window. Venturing, after this discovery, to look
more boldly into the room, she next saw her master sitting with his
back toward her, by the side of the child's crib. Little Rosamond was
awake, and was standing up in bed with her arms round her father's
neck. One of her hands held over his shoulder the doll that she had
taken to bed with her, the other was twined gently in his hair. The
child had been crying bitterly, and had now exhausted herself, so that
she was only moaning a little from time to time, with her head laid
wearily on her father's bosom.

The tears stood thick in Sarah's eyes as they looked on her master and
on the little hands that lay round his neck. She lingered by the
raised curtain, heedless of the risk she ran, from moment to moment,
of being discovered and questioned--lingered until she heard Captain
Treverton say soothingly to the child:

"Hush, Rosie, dear! hush, my own love! Don't cry any more for poor
mamma. Think of poor papa, and try to comfort him."

Simple as the words were, quietly and tenderly as they were spoken,
they seemed instantly to deprive Sarah Leeson of all power of
self-control. Reckless whether she was heard or not, she turned and
ran into the passage as if she had been flying for her life. Passing
the candle she had left there, without so much as a look at it, she
made for the stairs, and descended them with headlong rapidity to the
kitchen-floor. There one of the servants who had been sitting up met
her, and, with a face of astonishment and alarm, asked what was the

"I'm ill--I'm faint--I want air," she answered, speaking thickly and
confusedly. "Open the garden door, and let me out."

The man obeyed, but doubtfully, as if he thought her unfit to be
trusted by herself.

"She gets stranger than ever in her ways," he said, when he rejoined
his fellow-servant, after Sarah had hurried past him into the open
air. "Now our mistress is dead, she will have to find another place, I
suppose. I, for one, sha'n't break my heart when she's gone. Shall



The cool, sweet air in the garden, blowing freshly over Sarah's face,
seemed to calm the violence of her agitation. She turned down a side
walk, which led to a terrace and overlooked the church of the
neighboring village.

The daylight out of doors was clear already. The misty auburn light
that goes before sunrise was flowing up, peaceful and lovely, behind a
line of black-brown moorland, over all the eastern sky. The old
church, with the hedge of myrtle and fuchsia growing round the little
cemetery in all the luxuriance which is only seen in Cornwall, was
clearing and brightening to view, almost as fast as the morning
firmament itself. Sarah leaned her arms heavily on the back of a
garden-seat, and turned her face toward the church. Her eyes wandered
from the building itself to the cemetery by its side, rested there,
and watched the light growing warmer and warmer over the lonesome
refuge where the dead lay at rest.

"Oh, my heart! my heart!" she said. "What must it be made of not to

She remained for some time leaning on the seat, looking sadly toward
the church-yard, and pondering over the words which she had heard
Captain Treverton say to the child. They seemed to connect themselves,
as every thing else now appeared to connect itself in her mind, with
the letter that had been written on Mrs. Treverton's death-bed. She
drew it from her bosom once more, and crushed it up angrily in her

"Still in my hands! still not seen by any eyes but mine!" she said,
looking down at the crumpled pages. "Is it all my fault? If she was
alive now--if she had seen what I saw, if she had heard what I heard
in the nursery--could she expect me to give him the letter?"

Her mind was apparently steadied by the reflection which her last
words expressed. She moved away thoughtfully from the garden-seat,
crossed the terrace, descended some wooden steps, and followed a
shrubbery path which led round by a winding track from the east to the
north side of the house.

This part of the building had been uninhabited and neglected for more
than half a century past. In the time of Captain Treverton's father
the whole range of the north rooms had been stripped of their finest
pictures and their most valuable furniture, to assist in redecorating
the west rooms, which now formed the only inhabited part of the house,
and which were amply sufficient for the accommodation of the family
and of any visitors who came to stay with them. The mansion had been
originally built in the form of a square, and had been strongly
fortified. Of the many defenses of the place, but one now remained--a
heavy, low tower (from which and from the village near, the house
derived its name of Porthgenna Tower), standing at the southern
extremity of the west front. The south side itself consisted of
stables and out-houses, with a ruinous wall in front of them, which,
running back eastward at right angles, joined the north side, and so
completed the square which the whole outline of the building

The outside view of the range of north rooms, from the weedy, deserted
garden below, showed plainly enough that many years had passed since
any human creature had inhabited them. The window-panes were broken
in some places, and covered thickly with dirt and dust in others.
Here, the shutters were closed--there, they were only half opened. The
untrained ivy, the rank vegetation growing in fissures of the
stone-work, the festoons of spiders' webs, the rubbish of wood,
bricks, plaster, broken glass, rags, and strips of soiled cloth, which
lay beneath the windows, all told the same tale of neglect. Shadowed
by its position, this ruinous side of the house had a dark, cold,
wintry aspect, even on the sunny August morning when Sarah Leeson
strayed into the deserted northern garden. Lost in the labyrinth of
her own thoughts, she moved slowly past flower-beds, long since rooted
up, and along gravel walks overgrown by weeds; her eyes wandering
mechanically over the prospect, her feet mechanically carrying her on
wherever there was a trace of a footpath, lead where it might.

The shock which the words spoken by her master in the nursery had
communicated to her mind, had set her whole nature, so to speak, at
bay, and had roused in her, at last, the moral courage to arm herself
with a final and desperate resolution. Wandering more and more slowly
along the pathways of the forsaken garden, as the course of her ideas
withdrew her more and more completely from all outward things, she
stopped insensibly on an open patch of ground, which had once been a
well-kept lawn, and which still commanded a full view of the long
range of uninhabited north rooms.

"What binds me to give the letter to my master at all?" she thought to
herself, smoothing out the crumpled paper dreamily in the palm of her
hand. "My mistress died without making me swear to do that. Can she
visit it on me from the other world, if I keep the promises I swore to
observe, and do no more? May I not risk the worst that can happen, so
long as I hold religiously to all that I undertook to do on my oath?"

She paused here in reasoning with herself--her superstitious fears
still influencing her out of doors, in the daylight, as they had
influenced her in her own room, in the time of darkness. She
paused--then fell to smoothing the letter again, and began to recall
the terms of the solemn engagement which Mrs. Treverton had forced her
to contract.

What had she actually bound herself to do? Not to destroy the letter,
and not to take it away with her if she left the house. Beyond that,
Mrs. Treverton's desire had been that the letter should be given to
her husband. Was that last wish binding on the person to whom it had
been confided? Yes. As binding as an oath? No.

As she arrived at that conclusion, she looked up.

At first her eyes rested vacantly on the lonely, deserted north front
of the house; gradually they became attracted by one particular window
exactly in the middle, on the floor above the ground--the largest and
the gloomiest of all the row; suddenly they brightened with an
expression of intelligence. She started; a faint flush of color flew
into her cheeks, and she hastily advanced closer to the wall of the

The panes of the large window were yellow with dust and dirt, and
festooned about fantastically with cobwebs. Below it was a heap of
rubbish, scattered over the dry mould of what might once have been a
bed of flowers or shrubs. The form of the bed was still marked out by
an oblong boundary of weeds and rank grass. She followed it
irresolutely all round, looking up at the window at every step--then
stopped close under it, glanced at the letter in her hand, and said to
herself abruptly--

"I'll risk it!"

As the words fell from her lips, she hastened back to the inhabited
part of the house, followed the passage on the kitchen-floor which led
to the housekeeper's room, entered it, and took down from a nail in
the wall a bunch of keys, having a large ivory label attached to the
ring that connected them, on which was inscribed, "Keys of the North

She placed the keys on a writing-table near her, took up a pen, and
rapidly added these lines on the blank side of the letter which she
had written under her mistress's dictation--

     "If this paper should ever be found (which I pray with my
     whole heart it never may be), I wish to say that I have
     come to the resolution of hiding it, because I dare not
     show the writing that it contains to my master, to whom it
     is addressed. In doing what I now propose to do, though I
     am acting against my mistress's last wishes, I am not
     breaking the solemn engagement which she obliged me to
     make before her on her death-bed. That engagement forbids
     me to destroy this letter, or to take it away with me if I
     leave the house. I shall do neither--my purpose is to
     conceal it in the place, of all others, where I think there
     is least chance of its ever being found again. Any hardship
     or misfortune which may follow as a consequence of this
     deceitful proceeding on my part, will fall on myself.
     Others, I believe in my conscience, will be the happier for
     the hiding of the dreadful Secret which this letter

She signed those lines with her name--pressed them hurriedly over the
blotting-pad that lay with the rest of the writing materials on the
table--took the note in her hand, after first folding it up--and then,
snatching at the bunch of keys, with a look all round her as if she
dreaded being secretly observed, left the room. All her actions since
she had entered it had been hasty and sudden; she was evidently afraid
of allowing herself one leisure moment to reflect.

On quitting the housekeeper's room, she turned to the left, ascended a
back staircase, and unlocked a door at the top of it. A cloud of dust
flew all about her as she softly opened the door; a mouldy coolness
made her shiver as she crossed a large stone hall, with some black old
family portraits hanging on the walls, the canvases of which were
bulging out of the frames. Ascending more stairs, she came upon a row
of doors, all leading into rooms on the first floor of the north side
of the house.

She knelt down, putting the letter on the boards beside her, opposite
the key-hole of the fourth door she came to after reaching the top of
the stairs, peered in distrustfully for an instant, then began to try
the different keys till she found one that fitted the lock. She had
great difficulty in accomplishing this, from the violence of her
agitation, which made her hands tremble to such a degree that she was
hardly able to keep the keys separate one from the other. At length
she succeeded in opening the door. Thicker clouds of dust than she had
yet met with flew out the moment the interior of the room was visible;
a dry, airless, suffocating atmosphere almost choked her as she
stooped to pick up the letter from the floor. She recoiled from it at
first, and took a few steps back toward the staircase. But she
recovered her resolution immediately.

"I can't go back now!" she said, desperately, and entered the room.

She did not remain in it more than two or three minutes. When she came
out again her face was white with fear, and the hand which had held
the letter when she went into the room held nothing now but a small
rusty key.

After locking the door again, she examined the large bunch of keys
which she had taken from the housekeeper's room, with closer attention
than she had yet bestowed on them. Besides the ivory label attached to
the ring that connected them, there were smaller labels, of parchment,
tied to the handles of some of the keys, to indicate the rooms to
which they gave admission. The particular key which she had used had
one of these labels hanging to it. She held the little strip of
parchment close to the light, and read on it, in written characters
faded by time--

"_The Myrtle Room._"

The room in which the letter was hidden had a name, then! A prettily
sounding name that would attract most people, and keep pleasantly in
their memories. A name to be distrusted by her, after what she had
done, on that very account.

She took her housewife from its usual place in the pocket of her
apron, and, with the scissors which it contained, cut the label from
the key. Was it enough to destroy that one only? She lost herself in a
maze of useless conjecture; and ended by cutting off the other labels,
from no other motive than instinctive suspicion of them.

Carefully gathering up the strips of parchment from the floor, she put
them, along with the little rusty key which she had brought out of the
Myrtle Room, in the empty pocket of her apron. Then, carrying the
large bunch of keys in her hand, and carefully locking the doors that
she had opened on her way to the north side of Porthgenna Tower, she
retraced her steps to the housekeeper's room, entered it without
seeing any body, and hung up the bunch of keys again on the nail in
the wall.

Fearful, as the morning hours wore on, of meeting with some of the
female servants, she next hastened back to her bedroom. The candle
she had left there was still burning feebly in the fresh daylight.
When she drew aside the window-curtain, after extinguishing the
candle, a shadow of her former fear passed over her face, even in the
broad daylight that now flowed in upon it. She opened the window, and
leaned out eagerly into the cool air.

Whether for good or for evil, the fatal Secret was hidden now--the act
was done. There was something calming in the first consciousness of
that one fact. She could think more composedly, after that, of
herself, and of the uncertain future that lay before her.

Under no circumstances could she have expected to remain in her
situation, now that the connection between herself and her mistress
had been severed by death. She knew that Mrs. Treverton, in the last
days of her illness, had earnestly recommended her maid to Captain
Treverton's kindness and protection, and she felt assured that the
wife's last entreaties, in this as in all other instances, would be
viewed as the most sacred of obligations by the husband. But could she
accept protection and kindness at the hand of the master whom she had
been accessory to deceiving, and whom she had now committed herself to
deceiving still? The bare idea of such baseness was so revolting, that
she accepted, almost with a sense of relief, the one sad alternative
that remained--the alternative of leaving the house immediately.

And how was she to leave it? By giving formal warning, and so exposing
herself to questions which would be sure to confuse and terrify her?
Could she venture to face her master again, after what she had
done--to face him, when his first inquiries would refer to her
mistress, when he would be certain to ask her for the last mournful
details, for the slightest word that had been spoken during the
death-scene that she alone had witnessed? She started to her feet, as
the certain consequences of submitting herself to that unendurable
trial all crowded together warningly on her mind, took her cloak from
its place on the wall, and listened at her door in sudden suspicion
and fear. Had she heard footsteps? Was her master sending for her

No; all was silent outside. A few tears rolled over her cheeks as she
put on her bonnet, and felt that she was facing, by the performance of
that simple action, the last, and perhaps the hardest to meet, of the
cruel necessities in which the hiding of the Secret had involved her.
There was no help for it. She must run the risk of betraying every
thing, or brave the double trial of leaving Porthgenna Tower, and
leaving it secretly.

Secretly--as a thief might go? Without a word to her master? without
so much as one line of writing to thank him for his kindness and to
ask his pardon? She had unlocked her desk, and had taken from it her
purse, one or two letters, and a little book of Wesley's Hymns, before
these considerations occurred to her. They made her pause in the act
of shutting up the desk. "Shall I write?" she asked herself, "and
leave the letter here, to be found when I am gone?"

A little more reflection decided her in the affirmative. As rapidly as
her pen could form the letters, she wrote a few lines addressed to
Captain Treverton, in which she confessed to having kept a secret from
his knowledge which had been left in her charge to divulge; adding,
that she honestly believed no harm could come to him, or to any one in
whom he was interested, by her failing to perform the duty intrusted
to her; and ended by asking his pardon for leaving the house secretly,
and by begging, as a last favor, that no search might ever be made for
her. Having sealed this short note, and left it on her table, with her
master's name written outside, she listened again at the door; and,
after satisfying herself that no one was yet stirring, began to
descend the stairs at Porthgenna Tower for the last time.

At the entrance of the passage leading to the nursery she stopped. The
tears which she had restrained since leaving her room began to flow
again. Urgent as her reasons now were for effecting her departure
without a moment's loss of time, she advanced, with the strangest
inconsistency, a few steps toward the nursery door. Before she had
gone far, a slight noise in the lower part of the house caught her ear
and instantly checked her further progress.

While she stood doubtful, the grief at her heart--a greater grief than
any she had yet betrayed--rose irresistibly to her lips, and burst
from them in one deep gasping sob. The sound of it seemed to terrify
her into a sense of the danger of her position, if she delayed a
moment longer. She ran out again to the stairs, reached the
kitchen-floor in safety, and made her escape by the garden door which
the servant had opened for her at the dawn of the morning.

On getting clear of the premises at Porthgenna Tower, instead of
taking the nearest path over the moor that led to the high-road, she
diverged to the church; but stopped before she came to it, at the
public well of the neighborhood, which had been sunk near the cottages
of the Porthgenna fishermen. Cautiously looking round her, she dropped
into the well the little rusty key which she had brought out of the
Myrtle Room; then hurried on, and entered the church-yard. She
directed her course straight to one of the graves, situated a little
apart from the rest. On the head-stone were inscribed these words:

     AGED 26 YEARS.
     DECEMBER 17TH, 1823.

Gathering a few leaves of grass from the grave, Sarah opened the
little book of Wesley's Hymns which she had brought with her from the
bedroom of Porthgenna Tower, and placed the leaves delicately and
carefully between the pages. As she did this, the wind blew open the
title-page of the Hymns, and displayed this inscription on it, written
in large, clumsy characters--"Sarah Leeson, her book. The gift of Hugh

Having secured the blades of grass between the pages of the book, she
retraced her way toward the path leading to the high-road. Arrived on
the moor, she took out of her apron pocket the parchment labels that
had been cut from the keys, and scattered them under the furze-bushes.

"Gone," she said, "as I am gone! God help and forgive me--it is all
done and over now!"

With those words she turned her back on the old house and the
sea-view below it, and followed the moorland path on her way to the

       *       *       *       *       *

Four hours afterward Captain Treverton desired one of the servants at
Porthgenna Tower to inform Sarah Leeson that he wished to hear all she
had to tell him of the dying moments of her mistress. The messenger
returned with looks and words of amazement, and with the letter that
Sarah had addressed to her master in his hand.

The moment Captain Treverton had read the letter, he ordered an
immediate search to be made after the missing woman. She was so easy
to describe and to recognize, by the premature grayness of her hair,
by the odd, scared look in her eyes, and by her habit of constantly
talking to herself, that she was traced with certainty as far as
Truro. In that large town the track of her was lost, and never
recovered again.

Rewards were offered; the magistrates of the district were interested
in the case; all that wealth and power could do to discover her was
done--and done in vain. No clew was found to suggest a suspicion of
her whereabouts, or to help in the slightest degree toward explaining
the nature of the secret at which she had hinted in her letter. Her
master never saw her again, never heard of her again, after the
morning of the twenty-third of August, eighteen hundred and




The church of Long Beckley (a large agricultural village in one of the
midland counties of England), although a building in no way remarkable
either for its size, its architecture, or its antiquity, possesses,
nevertheless, one advantage which mercantile London has barbarously
denied to the noble cathedral church of St. Paul. It has plenty of
room to stand in, and it can consequently be seen with perfect
convenience from every point of view, all around the compass.

The large open space around the church can be approached in three
different directions. There is a road from the village, leading
straight to the principal door. There is a broad gravel walk, which
begins at the vicarage gates, crosses the church-yard, and stops, as
in duty bound, at the vestry entrance. There is a footpath over the
fields, by which the lord of the manor, and the gentry in general who
live in his august neighborhood, can reach the side door of the
building, whenever their natural humility may incline them to
encourage Sabbath observance in the stables by going to church, like
the lower sort of worshipers, on their own legs.

At half-past seven o'clock, on a certain fine summer morning, in the
year eighteen hundred and forty-four, if any observant stranger had
happened to be standing in some unnoticed corner of the church-yard,
and to be looking about him with sharp eyes, he would probably have
been the witness of proceedings which might have led him to believe
that there was a conspiracy going on in Long Beckley, of which the
church was the rallying-point, and some of the most respectable
inhabitants the principal leaders. Supposing him to have been looking
toward the vicarage as the clock chimed the half-hour, he would have
seen the vicar of Long Beckley, the Reverend Doctor Chennery, leaving
his house suspiciously, by the back way, glancing behind him guiltily
as he approached the gravel walk that led to the vestry, stopping
mysteriously just outside the door, and gazing anxiously down the road
that led from the village.

Assuming that our observant stranger would, upon this, keep out of
sight, and look down the road, like the vicar, he would next have seen
the clerk of the church--an austere, yellow-faced man--a Protestant
Loyola in appearance, and a working shoemaker by trade--approaching
with a look of unutterable mystery in his face, and a bunch of big
keys in his hands. He would have seen the vicar nod in an abstracted
manner to the clerk, and say, "Fine morning, Thomas. Have you had your
breakfast yet?" He would have heard Thomas reply, with a suspicious
regard for minute particulars: "I have had a cup of tea and a crust,
Sir." And he would then have seen these two local conspirators, after
looking up with one accord at the church clock, draw off together to
the side door which commanded a view of the footpath across the

Following them--as our inquisitive stranger could not fail to do--he
would have detected three more conspirators advancing along the
footpath. The leader of this treasonable party was an elderly
gentleman, with a weather-beaten face and a bluff, hearty manner. His
two followers were a young gentleman and a young lady, walking
arm-in-arm, and talking together in whispers. They were dressed in the
plainest morning costume. The faces of both were rather pale, and the
manner of the lady was a little flurried. Otherwise there was nothing
remarkable to observe in them, until they came to the wicket-gate
leading into the church-yard; and there the conduct of the young
gentleman seemed, at first sight, rather inexplicable. Instead of
holding the gate open for the lady to pass through, he hung back,
allowed her to open it for herself, waited till she had got to the
church-yard side, and then, stretching out his hand over the gate,
allowed her to lead him through the entrance, as if he had suddenly
changed from a grown man to a helpless little child.

Noting this, and remarking also that, when the party from the fields had
arrived within greeting distance of the vicar, and when the clerk had
used his bunch of keys to open the church-door, the young lady's
companion was led into the building (this time by Doctor Chennery's hand),
as he had been previously led through the wicket-gate, our observant
stranger must have arrived at one inevitable conclusion--that the
person requiring such assistance as this was suffering under the
affliction of blindness. Startled a little by that discovery, he would
have been still further amazed, if he had looked into the church, by
seeing the blind man and the young lady standing together before the
altar rails, with the elderly gentleman in parental attendance. Any
suspicions he might now entertain that the bond which united the
conspirators at that early hour of the morning was of the hymeneal
sort, and that the object of their plot was to celebrate a wedding
with the strictest secrecy, would have been confirmed in five minutes
by the appearance of Doctor Chennery from the vestry in full
canonicals, and by the reading of the marriage service in the reverend
gentleman's most harmonious officiating tones. The ceremony concluded,
the attendant stranger must have been more perplexed than ever by
observing that the persons concerned in it all separated, the moment
the signing, the kissing, and congratulating duties proper to the
occasion had been performed, and quickly retired in the various
directions by which they had approached the church.

Leaving the clerk to return by the village road, the bride,
bridegroom, and elderly gentleman to turn back by the footpath over
the fields, and the visionary stranger of these pages to vanish out of
them in any direction that he pleases--let us follow Doctor Chennery
to the vicarage breakfast-table, and hear what he has to say about his
professional exertions of the morning in the familiar atmosphere of
his own family circle.

The persons assembled at the breakfast were, first, Mr. Phippen, a
guest; secondly, Miss Sturch, a governess; thirdly, fourthly, and
fifthly, Miss Louisa Chennery (aged eleven years), Miss Amelia
Chennery (aged nine years), and Master Robert Chennery (aged eight
years). There was no mother's face present, to make the household
picture complete. Doctor Chennery had been a widower since the birth
of his youngest child.

The guest was an old college acquaintance of the vicar's, and he was
supposed to be now staying at Long Beckley for the benefit of his
health. Most men of any character at all contrive to get a reputation
of some sort which individualizes them in the social circle amid
which they move. Mr. Phippen was a man of some little character, and
he lived with great distinction in the estimation of his friends on
the reputation of being A Martyr to Dyspepsia.

Wherever Mr. Phippen went, the woes of Mr. Phippen's stomach went with
him. He dieted himself publicly, and physicked himself publicly. He
was so intensely occupied with himself and his maladies, that he would
let a chance acquaintance into the secret of the condition of his
tongue at five minutes' notice; being just as perpetually ready to
discuss the state of his digestion as people in general are to discuss
the state of the weather. On this favorite subject, as on all others,
he spoke with a wheedling gentleness of manner, sometimes in softly
mournful, sometimes in languidly sentimental tones. His politeness was
of the oppressively affectionate sort, and he used the word "dear"
continually in addressing himself to others. Personally, he could not
be called a handsome man. His eyes were watery, large, and light gray;
they were always rolling from side to side in a state of moist
admiration of something or somebody. His nose was long, drooping,
profoundly melancholy--if such an expression may be permitted, in
reference to that particular feature. For the rest, his lips had a
lachrymose twist; his stature was small; his head large, bald, and
loosely set on his shoulders; his manner of dressing himself
eccentric, on the side of smartness; his age about five-and-forty; his
condition that of a single man. Such was Mr. Phippen, the Martyr to
Dyspepsia, and the guest of the vicar of Long Beckley.

Miss Sturch, the governess, may be briefly and accurately described as
a young lady who had never been troubled with an idea or a sensation
since the day when she was born. She was a little, plump, quiet,
white-skinned, smiling, neatly dressed girl, wound up accurately to
the performance of certain duties at certain times; and possessed of
an inexhaustible vocabulary of commonplace talk, which dribbled
placidly out of her lips whenever it was called for, always in the
same quantity, and always of the same quality, at every hour in the
day, and through every change in the seasons. Miss Sturch never
laughed, and never cried, but took the safe middle course of smiling
perpetually. She smiled when she came down on a morning in January,
and said it was very cold. She smiled when she came down on a morning
in July, and said it was very hot. She smiled when the bishop came
once a year to see the vicar; she smiled when the butcher's boy came
every morning for orders. Let what might happen at the vicarage,
nothing ever jerked Miss Sturch out of the one smooth groove in which
she ran perpetually, always at the same pace. If she had lived in a
royalist family, during the civil wars in England, she would have rung
for the cook, to order dinner, on the morning of the execution of
Charles the First. If Shakspeare had come back to life again, and had
called at the vicarage at six o'clock on Saturday evening, to explain
to Miss Sturch exactly what his views were in composing the tragedy of
Hamlet, she would have smiled and said it was extremely interesting,
until the striking of seven o'clock; at which time she would have left
him in the middle of a sentence, to superintend the housemaid in the
verification of the washing-book. A very estimable young person, Miss
Sturch (as the ladies of Long Beckley were accustomed to say); so
judicious with the children, and so attached to her household duties;
such a well-regulated mind, and such a crisp touch on the piano; just
nice-looking enough, just well-dressed enough, just talkative enough;
not quite old enough, perhaps, and a little too much inclined to be
embraceably plump about the region of the waist--but, on the whole, a
most estimable young person--very much so, indeed.

On the characteristic peculiarities of Miss Sturch's pupils, it is not
necessary to dwell at very great length. Miss Louisa's habitual
weakness was an inveterate tendency to catch cold. Miss Amelia's
principal defect was a disposition to gratify her palate by eating
supplementary dinners and breakfasts at unauthorized times and
seasons. Master Robert's most noticeable failings were caused by
alacrity in tearing his clothes, and obtuseness in learning the
Multiplication Table. The virtues of all three were of much the same
nature--they were well grown, they were genuine children, and they
were boisterously fond of Miss Sturch.

To complete the gallery of family portraits, an outline, at the least,
must be attempted of the vicar himself. Doctor Chennery was, in a
physical point of view, a credit to the Establishment to which he was
attached. He stood six feet two in his shooting-shoes; he weighed
fifteen stone; he was the best bowler in the Long Beckley
cricket-club; he was a strictly orthodox man in the matter of wine and
mutton; he never started disagreeable theories about people's future
destinies in the pulpit, never quarreled with any body out of the
pulpit, never buttoned up his pockets when the necessities of his poor
brethren (Dissenters included) pleaded with him to open them. His
course through the world was a steady march along the high and dry
middle of a safe turnpike-road. The serpentine side-paths of
controversy might open as alluringly as they pleased on his right hand
and on his left, but he kept on his way sturdily, and never regarded
them. Innovating young recruits in the Church army might entrappingly
open the Thirty-nine Articles under his very nose, but the veteran's
wary eye never looked a hair's-breadth further than his own signature
at the bottom of them. He knew as little as possible of theology, he
had never given the Privy Council a minute's trouble in the whole
course of his life, he was innocent of all meddling with the reading
or writing of pamphlets, and he was quite incapable of finding his way
to the platform of Exeter Hall. In short, he was the most unclerical
of clergymen--but, for all that, he had such a figure for a surplice
as is seldom seen. Fifteen stone weight of upright muscular flesh,
without an angry spot or sore place in any part of it, has the merit
of suggesting stability, at any rate--an excellent virtue in pillars
of all kinds, but an especially precious quality, at the present time,
in a pillar of the Church.

As soon as the vicar entered the breakfast-parlor, the children
assailed him with a chorus of shouts. He was a severe disciplinarian
in the observance of punctuality at meal-times; and he now stood
convicted by the clock of being too late for breakfast by a quarter of
an hour.

"Sorry to have kept you waiting, Miss Sturch," said the vicar; "but I
have a good excuse for being late this morning."

"Pray don't mention it, Sir," said Miss Sturch, blandly rubbing her
plump little hands one over the other. "A beautiful morning. I fear we
shall have another warm day.--Robert, my love, your elbow is on the
table.--A beautiful morning, indeed!"

"Stomach still out of order--eh, Phippen?" asked the vicar, beginning
to carve the ham.

Mr. Phippen shook his large head dolefully, placed his yellow
forefinger, ornamented with a large turquoise ring, on the centre
check of his light-green summer waistcoat--looked piteously at Doctor
Chennery, and sighed--removed the finger, and produced from the breast
pocket of his wrapper a little mahogany case--took out of it a neat
pair of apothecary's scales, with the accompanying weights, a morsel
of ginger, and a highly polished silver nutmeg-grater. "Dear Miss
Sturch will pardon an invalid?" said Mr. Phippen, beginning to grate
the ginger feebly into the nearest tea-cup.

"Guess what has made me a quarter of an hour late this morning," said
the vicar, looking mysteriously all round the table.

"Lying in bed, papa," cried the three children, clapping their hands
in triumph.

"What do _you_ say, Miss Sturch?" asked Doctor Chennery.

Miss Sturch smiled as usual, rubbed her hands as usual, cleared her
throat softly as usual, looked at the tea-urn, and begged, with the
most graceful politeness, to be excused if she said nothing.

"Your turn now, Phippen," said the vicar. "Come, guess what has kept
me late this morning."

"My dear friend," said Mr. Phippen, giving the Doctor a brotherly
squeeze of the hand, "don't ask me to guess--I know! I saw what you
eat at dinner yesterday--I saw what you drank after dinner. No
digestion could stand it--not even yours. Guess what has made you late
this morning? Pooh! pooh! I know. You dear, good soul, you have been
taking physic!"

"Hav'n't touched a drop, thank God, for the last ten years!" said
Doctor Chennery, with a look of devout gratitude. "No, no; you're all
wrong. The fact is, I have been to church; and what do you think I
have been doing there? Listen, Miss Sturch--listen, girls, with all
your ears. Poor blind young Frankland is a happy man at last--I have
married him to our dear Rosamond Treverton this very morning!"

"Without telling us, papa!" cried the two girls together in their
shrillest tones of vexation and surprise. "Without telling us, when
you know how we should have liked to see it!"

"That was the very reason why I did not tell you, my dears," answered
the vicar. "Young Frankland has not got so used to his affliction yet,
poor fellow, as to bear being publicly pitied and stared at in the
character of a blind bridegroom. He had such a nervous horror of being
an object of curiosity on his wedding-day, and Rosamond, like a
kind-hearted girl as she is, was so anxious that his slightest
caprices should be humored, that we settled to have the wedding at an
hour in the morning when no idlers were likely to be lounging about
the neighborhood of the church. I was bound over to the strictest
secrecy about the day, and so was my clerk Thomas. Excepting us two,
and the bride and bridegroom, and the bride's father, Captain
Treverton, nobody knew--"

"Treverton!" exclaimed Mr. Phippen, holding his tea-cup, with the
grated ginger in the bottom of it, to be filled by Miss Sturch.
"Treverton! (No more tea, dear Miss Sturch.) How very remarkable! I
know the name. (Fill up with water, if you please.) Tell me, my dear
doctor (many, many thanks; no sugar--it turns acid on the stomach), is
this Miss Treverton whom you have been marrying (many thanks again; no
milk, either) one of the Cornish Trevertons?"

"To be sure she is!" rejoined the vicar. "Her father, Captain
Treverton, is the head of the family. Not that there's much family to
speak of now. The Captain, and Rosamond, and that whimsical old brute
of an uncle of hers, Andrew Treverton, are the last left now of the
old stock--a rich family, and a fine family, in former times--good
friends to Church and State, you know, and all that--"

"Do you approve, Sir, of Amelia having a second helping of bread and
marmalade?" asked Miss Sturch, appealing to Doctor Chennery, with the
most perfect unconsciousness of interrupting him. Having no spare room
in her mind for putting things away in until the appropriate time came
for bringing them out, Miss Sturch always asked questions and made
remarks the moment they occurred to her, without waiting for the
beginning, middle, or end of any conversations that might be
proceeding in her presence. She invariably looked the part of a
listener to perfection, but she never acted it except in the case of
talk that was aimed point-blank at her own ears.

"Oh, give her a second helping, by all means!" said the vicar,
carelessly; "if she must over-eat herself, she may as well do it on
bread and marmalade as on any thing else."

"My dear, good soul," exclaimed Mr. Phippen, "look what a wreck I am,
and don't talk in that shockingly thoughtless way of letting our sweet
Amelia over-eat herself. Load the stomach in youth, and what becomes
of the digestion in age? The thing which vulgar people call the
inside--I appeal to Miss Sturch's interest in her charming pupil as an
excuse for going into physiological particulars--is, in point of fact,
an Apparatus. Digestively considered, Miss Sturch, even the fairest
and youngest of us is an Apparatus. Oil our wheels, if you like; but
clog them at your peril. Farinaceous puddings and mutton-chops;
mutton-chops and farinaceous puddings--those should be the parents'
watch-words, if I had my way, from one end of England to the other.
Look here, my sweet child--look at me. There is no fun, dear, about
these little scales, but dreadful earnest. See! I put in the balance
on one side dry bread (stale, dry bread, Amelia!), and on the other
some ounce weights. 'Mr. Phippen, eat by weight. Mr. Phippen! eat the
same quantity, day by day, to a hair's-breadth. Mr. Phippen! exceed
your allowance (though it is only stale, dry bread) if you dare!'
Amelia, love, this is not fun--this is what the doctors tell me--the
doctors, my child, who have been searching my Apparatus through and
through for thirty years past with little pills, and have not found
out where my wheels are clogged yet. Think of that, Amelia--think of
Mr. Phippen's clogged Apparatus--and say 'No, thank you,' next time.
Miss Sturch, I beg a thousand pardons for intruding on your province;
but my interest in that sweet child--Chennery, you dear, good soul,
what were we talking about? Ah! the bride--the interesting bride! And
so she is one of the Cornish Trevertons? I knew something of Andrew
years ago. He was a bachelor, like myself, Miss Sturch. His Apparatus
was out of order, like mine, dear Amelia. Not at all like his brother,
the Captain, I should suppose? And so she is married? A charming girl,
I have no doubt. A charming girl!"

"No better, truer, prettier girl in the world," said the vicar.

"A very lively, energetic person," remarked Miss Sturch.

"How I shall miss her!" cried Miss Louisa. "Nobody else amused me as
Rosamond did, when I was laid up with that last bad cold of mine."

"She used to give us such nice little early supper-parties," said Miss

"She was the only girl I ever saw who was fit to play with boys," said
Master Robert. "She could catch a ball, Mr. Phippen, Sir, with one
hand, and go down a slide with both her legs together."

"Bless me!" said Mr. Phippen. "What an extraordinary wife for a blind
man! You said he was blind from his birth, my dear doctor, did you
not? Let me see, what was his name? You will not bear too hardly on my
loss of memory, Miss Sturch? When indigestion has done with the body,
it begins to prey on the mind. Mr. Frank Something, was it not?"

"No, no--Frankland," answered the vicar, "Leonard Frankland. And not
blind from his birth by any means. It is not much more than a year ago
since he could see almost as well as any of us."

"An accident, I suppose!" said Mr. Phippen. "You will excuse me if I
take the arm-chair?--a partially reclining posture is of great
assistance to me after meals. So an accident happened to his eyes? Ah,
what a delightfully easy chair to sit in!"

"Scarcely an accident," said Doctor Chennery. "Leonard Frankland was a
difficult child to bring up: great constitutional weakness, you know,
at first. He seemed to get over that with time, and grew into a quiet,
sedate, orderly sort of boy--as unlike my son there as possible--very
amiable, and what you call easy to deal with. Well, he had a turn for
mechanics (I am telling you all this to make you understand about his
blindness), and, after veering from one occupation of that sort to
another, he took at last to watch-making. Curious amusement for a boy;
but any thing that required delicacy of touch, and plenty of patience
and perseverance, was just the thing to amuse and occupy Leonard. I
always said to his father and mother, 'Get him off that stool, break
his magnifying-glasses, send him to me, and I'll give him a back at
leap-frog, and teach him the use of a bat.' But it was no use. His
parents knew best, I suppose, and they said he must be humored. Well,
things went on smoothly enough for some time, till he got another
long illness--as I believe, from not taking exercise enough. As soon
as he began to get round, back he went to his old watch-making
occupations again. But the bad end of it all was coming. About the
last work he did, poor fellow, was the repairing of my watch--here it
is; goes as regular as a steam-engine. I hadn't got it back into my
fob very long before I heard that he was getting a bad pain at the
back of his head, and that he saw all sorts of moving spots before his
eyes. 'String him up with lots of port wine, and give him three hours
a day on the back of a quiet pony'--that was my advice. Instead of
taking it, they sent for doctors from London, and blistered him behind
the ears and between the shoulders, and drenched the lad with mercury,
and moped him up in a dark room. No use. The sight got worse and
worse, flickered and flickered, and went out at last like the flame of
a candle. His mother died--luckily for her, poor soul--before that
happened. His father was half out of his mind: took him to oculists in
London and oculists in Paris. All they did was to call the blindness
by a long Latin name, and to say that it was hopeless and useless to
try an operation. Some of them said it was the result of the long
weaknesses from which he had twice suffered after illness. Some said
it was an apoplectic effusion in his brain. All of them shook their
heads when they heard of the watch-making. So they brought him back
home, blind; blind he is now; and blind he will remain, poor dear
fellow, for the rest of his life."

"You shock me; my dear Chennery, you shock me dreadfully," said Mr.
Phippen. "Especially when you state that theory about long weakness
after illness. Good Heavens! Why, _I_ have had long weaknesses--I have
got them now. Spots did he see before his eyes? I see spots, black
spots, dancing black spots, dancing black bilious spots. Upon my word
of honor, Chennery, this comes home to me--my sympathies are painfully
acute--I feel this blind story in every nerve of my body; I do,

"You would hardly know that Leonard was blind, to look at him," said
Miss Louisa, striking into the conversation with a view to restoring
Mr. Phippen's equanimity. "Except that his eyes look quieter than
other people's, there seems no difference in them now. Who was that
famous character you told us about, Miss Sturch, who was blind, and
didn't show it any more than Leonard Frankland?"

"Milton, my love. I begged you to remember that he was the most famous
of British epic poets," answered Miss Sturch with suavity. "He
poetically describes his blindness as being caused by 'so thick a drop
serene.' You shall read about it, Louisa. After we have had a little
French, we will have a little Milton, this morning. Hush, love, your
papa is speaking."

"Poor young Frankland!" said the vicar, warmly. "That good, tender,
noble creature I married him to this morning seems sent as a
consolation to him in his affliction. If any human being can make him
happy for the rest of his life, Rosamond Treverton is the girl to do

"She has made a sacrifice," said Mr. Phippen; "but I like her for
that, having made a sacrifice myself in remaining single. It seems
indispensable, indeed, on the score of humanity, that I should do so.
How could I conscientiously inflict such a digestion as mine on a
member of the fairer portion of creation? No; I am a sacrifice in my
own proper person, and I have a fellow-feeling for others who are like
me. Did she cry much, Chennery, when you were marrying her?"

"Cry!" exclaimed the vicar, contemptuously. "Rosamond Treverton is not
one of the puling, sentimental sort, I can tell you. A fine, buxom,
warm-hearted, quick-tempered girl, who looks what she means when she
tells a man she is going to marry him. And, mind you, she has been
tried. If she hadn't loved him with all her heart and soul, she might
have been free months ago to marry any body she pleased. They were
engaged long before this cruel affliction befell young Frankland--the
fathers, on both sides, having lived as near neighbors in these parts
for years. Well, when the blindness came, Leonard at once offered to
release Rosamond from her engagement. You should have read the letter
she wrote to him, Phippen, upon that. I don't mind confessing that I
blubbered like a baby over it when they showed it to me. I should have
married them at once the instant I read it, but old Frankland was a
fidgety, punctilious kind of man, and he insisted on a six months'
probation, so that she might be certain of knowing her own mind. He
died before the term was out, and that caused the marriage to be put
off again. But no delays could alter Rosamond--six years, instead of
six months, would not have changed her. There she was this morning as
fond of that poor, patient blind fellow as she was the first day they
were engaged. 'You shall never know a sad moment, Lenny, if I can help
it, as long as you live'--these were the first words she said to him
when we all came out of church. 'I hear you, Rosamond,' said I. 'And
you shall judge me, too, Doctor,' says she, quick as lightning. 'We
will come back to Long Beckley, and you shall ask Lenny if I have not
kept my word.' With that she gave me a kiss that you might have heard
down here at the vicarage, bless her heart! We'll drink her health
after dinner, Miss Sturch--we'll drink both their healths, Phippen, in
a bottle of the best wine I have in my cellar."

"In a glass of toast-and-water, so far as I am concerned, if you will
allow me," said Mr. Phippen, mournfully. "But, my dear Chennery, when
you were talking of the fathers of these two interesting young people,
you spoke of their living as near neighbors here, at Long Beckley. My
memory is impaired, as I am painfully aware; but I thought Captain
Treverton was the eldest of the two brothers, and that he always
lived, when he was on shore, at the family place in Cornwall?"

"So he did," returned the vicar, "in his wife's lifetime. But since
her death, which happened as long ago as the year 'twenty-nine--let me
see, we are now in the year 'forty-four--and that makes--"

The vicar stopped for an instant to calculate, and looked at Miss

"Fifteen years ago, Sir," said Miss Sturch, offering the accommodation
of a little simple subtraction to the vicar, with her blandest smile.

"Of course," continued Doctor Chennery. "Well, since Mrs. Treverton
died, fifteen years ago, Captain Treverton has never been near
Porthgenna Tower. And, what is more, Phippen, at the first opportunity
he could get, he sold the place--sold it, out and out, mine,
fisheries, and all--for forty thousand pounds."

"You don't say so!" exclaimed Mr. Phippen. "Did he find the air
unhealthy? I should think the local produce, in the way of food, must
be coarse now, in those barbarous regions? Who bought the place?"

"Leonard Frankland's father," said the vicar. "It is rather a long
story, that sale of Porthgenna Tower, with some curious circumstances
involved in it. Suppose we take a turn in the garden, Phippen? I'll
tell you all about it over my morning cigar. Miss Sturch, if you want
me, I shall be on the lawn somewhere. Girls! mind you know your
lessons. Bob! remember that I've got a cane in the hall, and a
birch-rod in my dressing-room. Come, Phippen, rouse up out of that
arm-chair. You won't say No to a turn in the garden?"

"My dear fellow, I will say Yes--if you will kindly lend me an
umbrella, and allow me to carry my camp-stool in my hand," said Mr.
Phippen. "I am too weak to encounter the sun, and I can't go far
without sitting down.--The moment I feel fatigued, Miss Sturch, I open
my camp-stool, and sit down any where, without the slightest regard
for appearances.--I am ready, Chennery, whenever you are--equally
ready, my good friend, for the garden and the story about the sale of
Porthgenna Tower. You said it was a curious story, did you not?"

"I said there was some curious circumstances connected with it,"
replied the vicar. "And when you hear about them, I think you will say
so too. Come along! you will find your camp-stool, and a choice of all
the umbrellas in the house, in the hall."

With those words, Doctor Chennery opened his cigar-case, and led the
way out of the breakfast-parlor.



"How charming! how pastoral! how exquisitely soothing!" said Mr.
Phippen, sentimentally surveying the lawn at the back of the
vicarage-house, under the shadow of the lightest umbrella he could
pick out of the hall. "Three years have passed, Chennery, since I last
stood on this lawn. There is the window of your old study, where I had
my attack of heart-burn last time--in the strawberry season; don't
you remember? Ah! and there is the school-room! Shall I ever forget
dear Miss Sturch coming to me out of that room--a ministering angel
with soda and ginger--so comforting, so sweetly anxious about stirring
it up, so unaffectedly grieved that there was no sal-volatile in the
house! I do so enjoy these pleasant recollections, Chennery; they are
as great a luxury to me as your cigar is to you. Could you walk on the
other side, my dear fellow? I like the smell, but the smoke is a
little too much for me. Thank you. And now about the story? What was
the name of the old place--I am so interested in it--it began with a
P, surely?"

"Porthgenna Tower," said the vicar.

"Exactly," rejoined Mr. Phippen, shifting the umbrella tenderly from
one shoulder to the other. "And what in the world made Captain
Treverton sell Porthgenna Tower?"

"I believe the reason was that he could not endure the place after the
death of his wife," answered Doctor Chennery. "The estate, you know,
has never been entailed; so the Captain had no difficulty in parting
with it, except, of course, the difficulty of finding a purchaser."

"Why not his brother?" asked Mr. Phippen. "Why not our eccentric
friend, Andrew Treverton?"

"Don't call him my friend," said the vicar. "A mean, groveling,
cynical, selfish old wretch! It's no use shaking your head, Phippen,
and trying to look shocked. I know Andrew Treverton's early history as
well as you do. I know that he was treated with the basest ingratitude
by a college friend, who took all he had to give, and swindled him at
last in the grossest manner. I know all about that. But one instance
of ingratitude does not justify a man in shutting himself up from
society, and railing against all mankind as a disgrace to the earth
they walk on. I myself have heard the old brute say that the greatest
benefactor to our generation would be a second Herod, who could
prevent another generation from succeeding it. Ought a man who can
talk in that way to be the friend of any human being with the
slightest respect for his species or himself?"

"My friend!" said Mr. Phippen, catching the vicar by the arm, and
mysteriously lowering his voice--"My dear and reverend friend! I
admire your honest indignation against the utterer of that exceedingly
misanthropical sentiment; but--I confide this to you, Chennery, in
the strictest secrecy--there are moments--morning moments
generally--when my digestion is in such a state that I have actually
agreed with that annihilating person, Andrew Treverton! I have woke up
with my tongue like a cinder--I have crawled to the glass and looked
at it--and I have said to myself, 'Let there be an end of the human
race rather than a continuance of this!'"

"Pooh! pooh!" cried the vicar, receiving Mr. Phippen's confession with
a burst of irreverent laughter. "Take a glass of cool small beer next
time your tongue is in that state, and you will pray for a continuance
of the brewing part of the human race, at any rate. But let us go back
to Porthgenna Tower, or I shall never get on with my story. When
Captain Treverton had once made up his mind to sell the place, I have
no doubt that, under ordinary circumstances, he would have thought of
offering it to his brother, with a view, of course, to keeping the
estate in the family. Andrew was rich enough to have bought it; for,
though he got nothing at his father's death but the old gentleman's
rare collection of books, he inherited his mother's fortune, as the
second son. However, as things were at that time (and are still, I am
sorry to say), the Captain could make no personal offers of any kind
to Andrew; for the two were not then, and are not now, on speaking, or
even on writing terms. It is a shocking thing to say, but the worst
quarrel of the kind I ever heard of is the quarrel between those two

"Pardon me, my dear friend," said Mr. Phippen, opening his camp-stool,
which had hitherto dangled by its silken tassel from the hooked handle
of the umbrella. "May I sit down before you go any further? I am
getting a little excited about this part of the story, and I dare not
fatigue myself. Pray go on. I don't think the legs of my camp-stool
will make holes in the lawn. I am so light--a mere skeleton, in fact.
Do go on!"

"You must have heard," pursued the vicar, "that Captain Treverton,
when he was advanced in life, married an actress--rather a violent
temper, I believe; but a person of spotless character, and as fond of
her husband as a woman could be; therefore, according to my view of
it, a very good wife for him to marry. However, the Captain's friends,
of course, made the usual senseless outcry, and the Captain's
brother, as the only near relation, took it on himself to attempt
breaking off the marriage in the most offensively indelicate way.
Failing in that, and hating the poor woman like poison, he left his
brother's house, saying, among many other savage speeches, one
infamous thing about the bride, which--which, upon my honor, Phippen,
I am ashamed to repeat. Whatever the words were, they were unluckily
carried to Mrs. Treverton's ears, and they were of the kind that no
woman--let alone a quick-tempered woman like the Captain's wife--ever
forgives. An interview followed between the two brothers--and it led,
as you may easily imagine, to very unhappy results. They parted in the
most deplorable manner. The Captain declared, in the heat of his
passion, that Andrew had never had one generous impulse in his heart
since he was born, and that he would die without one kind feeling
toward any living soul in the world. Andrew replied that, if he had no
heart, he had a memory, and that he should remember those farewell
words as long as he lived. So they separated. Twice afterward the
Captain made overtures of reconciliation. The first time when his
daughter Rosamond was born; the second time when Mrs. Treverton died.
On each occasion the elder brother wrote to say that, if the younger
would retract the atrocious words he had spoken against his
sister-in-law, every atonement should be offered to him for the harsh
language which the Captain had used, in the hastiness of anger, when
they last met. No answer was received from Andrew to either letter;
and the estrangement between the two brothers has continued to the
present time. You understand now why Captain Treverton could not
privately consult Andrew's inclinations before he publicly announced
his intention of parting with Porthgenna Tower."

Although Mr. Phippen declared, in answer to this appeal, that he
understood perfectly, and although he begged with the utmost
politeness that the vicar would go on, his attention seemed, for the
moment, to be entirely absorbed in inspecting the legs of his
camp-stool, and in ascertaining what impression they made on the
vicarage lawn. Doctor Chennery's own interest, however, in the
circumstances that he was relating, seemed sufficiently strong to make
up for any transient lapse of attention on the part of his guest.
After a few vigorous puffs at his cigar (which had been several times
in imminent danger of going out while he was speaking), he went on
with his narrative in these words:

"Well, the house, the estate, the mine, and the fisheries of
Porthgenna were all publicly put up for sale a few months after Mrs.
Treverton's death; but no offers were made for the property which it
was possible to accept. The ruinous state of the house, the bad
cultivation of the land, legal difficulties in connection with the
mine, and quarter-day difficulties in the collection of the rents, all
contributed to make Porthgenna what the auctioneers would call a bad
lot to dispose of. Failing to sell the place, Captain Treverton could
not be prevailed on to change his mind and live there again. The death
of his wife almost broke his heart--for he was, by all accounts, just
as fond of her as she had been of him--and the very sight of the place
that was associated with the greatest affliction of his life became
hateful to him. He removed, with his little girl and a relative of
Mrs. Treverton, who was her governess, to our neighborhood, and rented
a pretty little cottage across the church fields. The house nearest to
it was inhabited at that time by Leonard Frankland's father and
mother. The new neighbors soon became intimate; and thus it happened
that the couple whom I have been marrying this morning were brought up
together as children, and fell in love with each other almost before
they were out of their pinafores."

"Chennery, my dear fellow, I don't look as if I was sitting all on one
side, do I?" cried Mr. Phippen, suddenly breaking into the vicar's
narrative, with a look of alarm. "I am shocked to interrupt you; but
surely your grass is amazingly soft in this part of the country. One
of my camp-stool legs is getting shorter and shorter every moment. I'm
drilling a hole! I'm toppling over! Gracious Heavens! I feel myself
going--I shall be down, Chennery; upon my life, I shall be down!"

"Stuff!" cried the vicar, pulling up first Mr. Phippen, and then Mr.
Phippen's camp-stool, which had rooted itself in the grass, all on one
side. "Here, come on to the gravel walk; you can't drill holes in
that. What's the matter now?"

"Palpitations," said Mr. Phippen, dropping his umbrella, and placing
his hand over his heart, "and bile. I see those black spots
again--those infernal, lively black spots dancing before my eyes.
Chennery, suppose you consult some agricultural friend about the
quality of your grass. Take my word for it, your lawn is softer than
it ought to be.--Lawn!" repeated Mr. Phippen to himself,
contemptuously, as he turned round to pick up his umbrella. "It isn't
a lawn--it is a bog!"

"There, sit down," said the vicar, "and don't pay the palpitations and
the black spots the compliment of bestowing the smallest attention on
them. Do you want any thing to drink? Shall it be physic, or beer, or

"No, no! I am so unwilling to give trouble," answered Mr. Phippen. "I
would rather suffer--rather, a great deal. I think if you would go on
with your story, Chennery, it would compose me. I have not the
faintest idea of what led to it, but I think you were saying something
interesting on the subject of pinafores!"

"Nonsense!" said Doctor Chennery. "I was only telling you of the
fondness between the two children who have now grown up to be man and
wife. And I was going on to tell you that Captain Treverton, shortly
after he settled in our neighborhood, took to the active practice of
his profession again. Nothing else seemed to fill up the gap that the
loss of Mrs. Treverton had made in his life. Having good interest with
the Admiralty, he can always get a ship when he applies for one; and
up to the present time, with intervals on shore, he has resolutely
stuck to the sea--though he is getting, as his daughter and his
friends think, rather too old for it now. Don't look puzzled, Phippen;
I am not going so wide of the mark as you think. These are some of the
necessary particulars that must be stated first. And now they are
comfortably disposed of, I can get round at last to the main part of
my story--the sale of Porthgenna Tower.--What is it now? Do you want
to get up again?"

Yes, Mr. Phippen did want to get up again, for the purpose of
composing the palpitations and dispersing the black spots, by trying
the experiment of a little gentle exercise. He was most unwilling to
occasion any trouble, but would his worthy friend Chennery give him an
arm, and carry the camp-stool, and walk slowly in the direction of the
school-room window, so as to keep Miss Sturch within easy hailing
distance, in case it became necessary to try the last resource of
taking a composing draught? The vicar, whose inexhaustible good nature
was proof against every trial that Mr. Phippen's dyspeptic infirmities
could inflict on it, complied with all these requests, and went on
with his story, unconsciously adopting the tone and manner of a
good-humored parent who was doing his best to soothe the temper of a
fretful child.

"I told you," he said, "that the elder Mr. Frankland and Captain
Treverton were near neighbors here. They had not been long acquainted
before the one found out from the other that Porthgenna Tower was for
sale. On first hearing this, old Frankland asked a few questions about
the place, but said not a word on the subject of purchasing it. Soon
after that the Captain got a ship and went to sea. During his absence
old Frankland privately set off for Cornwall to look at the estate,
and to find out all he could about its advantages and defects from the
persons left in charge of the house and lands. He said nothing when he
came back, until Captain Treverton returned from his first cruise; and
then the old gentleman spoke out one morning, in his quiet, decided

"'Treverton,' said he, 'if you will sell Porthgenna Tower at the price
at which you bought it in, when you tried to dispose of it by auction,
write to your lawyer, and tell him to take the title-deeds to mine,
and ask for the purchase-money.'

"Captain Treverton was naturally a little astonished at the readiness
of this offer; but people like myself, who knew old Frankland's
history, were not so surprised. His fortune had been made by trade,
and he was foolish enough to be always a little ashamed of
acknowledging that one simple and creditable fact. The truth was, that
his ancestors had been landed gentry of importance before the time of
the Civil War, and the old gentleman's great ambition was to sink the
merchant in the landed grandee, and to leave his son to succeed him in
the character of a squire of large estate and great county influence.
He was willing to devote half his fortune to accomplish this scheme;
but half his fortune would not buy him such an estate as he wanted, in
an important agricultural county like ours. Rents are high, and land
is made the most of with us. An estate as extensive as the estate at
Porthgenna would fetch more than double the money which Captain
Treverton could venture to ask for it, if it was situated in these
parts. Old Frankland was well aware of that fact, and attached all
possible importance to it. Besides, there was something in the feudal
look of Porthgenna Tower, and in the right over the mine and
fisheries, which the purchase of the estate included, that flattered
his notions of restoring the family greatness. Here he and his son
after him could lord it, as he thought, on a large scale, and direct
at their sovereign will and pleasure the industry of hundreds of poor
people, scattered along the coast, or huddled together in the little
villages inland. This was a tempting prospect, and it could be secured
for forty thousand pounds--which was just ten thousand pounds less
than he had made up his mind to give, when he first determined to
metamorphose himself from a plain merchant into a magnificent landed
gentleman. People who knew these facts were, as I have said, not much
surprised at Mr. Frankland's readiness to purchase Porthgenna Tower;
and Captain Treverton, it is hardly necessary to say, was not long in
clinching the bargain on his side. The estate changed hands; and away
went old Frankland, with a tail of wiseacres from London at his heels,
to work the mine and the fisheries on new scientific principles, and
to beautify the old house from top to bottom with bran-new mediæval
decorations under the direction of a gentleman who was said to be an
architect, but who looked, to my mind, the very image of a Popish
priest in disguise. Wonderful plans and projects were they not? And
how do you think they succeeded?"

"Do tell me, my dear fellow!" was the answer that fell from Mr.
Phippen's lips.--"I wonder whether Miss Sturch keeps a bottle of
camphor julep in the family medicine-chest?" was the thought that
passed through Mr. Phippen's mind.

"Tell you!" exclaimed the vicar. "Why, of course, every one of his
plans turned out a complete failure. His Cornish tenantry received him
as an interloper. The antiquity of his family made no impression upon
them. It might be an old family, but it was not a Cornish family, and,
therefore, it was of no importance in their eyes. They would have gone
to the world's end for the Trevertons; but not a man would move a
step out of his way for the Franklands. As for the mine, it seemed to
be inspired with the same mutinous spirit that possessed the tenantry.
The wiseacres from London blasted in all directions on the profoundest
scientific principles, and brought about sixpennyworth of ore to the
surface for every five pounds spent in getting it up. The fisheries
turned out little better. A new plan for curing pilchards, which was a
marvel of economy in theory, proved to be a perfect phenomenon of
extravagance in practice. The only item of luck in old Frankland's
large sum of misfortunes was produced by his quarreling in good time
with the mediæval architect, who was like a Popish priest in disguise.
This fortunate event saved the new owner of Porthgenna all the money
he might otherwise have spent in restoring and redecorating the whole
suite of rooms on the north side of the house, which had been left to
go to rack and ruin for more than fifty years past, and which remain
in their old neglected condition to this day. To make a long story
short, after uselessly spending more thousands of pounds at Porthgenna
than I should like to reckon up, old Frankland gave in at last, left
the place in disgust to the care of his steward, who was charged never
to lay out another farthing on it, and returned to this neighborhood.
Being in high dudgeon, and happening to catch Captain Treverton on
shore when he got back, the first thing he did was to abuse Porthgenna
and all the people about it a little too vehemently in the Captain's
presence. This led to a coolness between the two neighbors, which
might have ended in the breaking off of all intercourse, but for the
children on either side, who would see each other just as often as
ever, and who ended, by dint of willful persistency, in putting an end
to the estrangement between the fathers by making it look simply
ridiculous. Here, in my opinion, lies the most curious part of the
story. Important family interests depended on those two young people
falling in love with each other; and, wonderful to relate, that (as
you know, after my confession at breakfast-time) was exactly what they
did. Here is a case of the most romantic love-match, which is also the
marriage, of all others, that the parents on both sides had the
strongest worldly interest in promoting. Shakspeare may say what he
pleases, the course of true love does run smooth sometimes. Never was
the marriage service performed to better purpose than when I read it
this morning. The estate being entailed on Leonard, Captain
Treverton's daughter now goes back, in the capacity of mistress, to
the house and lands which her father sold. Rosamond being an only
child, the purchase-money of Porthgenna, which old Frankland once
lamented as money thrown away, will now, when the Captain dies, be the
marriage-portion of young Frankland's wife. I don't know what you
think of the beginning and middle of my story, Phippen, but the end
ought to satisfy you, at any rate. Did you ever hear of a bride and
bridegroom who started with fairer prospects in life than our bride
and bridegroom of to-day?"

Before Mr. Phippen could make any reply, Miss Sturch put her head out
of the school-room window; and seeing the two gentlemen approaching,
beamed on them with her invariable smile. Then addressing the vicar,
said in her softest tones:

"I regret extremely to trouble you, Sir, but I find Robert very
intractable this morning with his Multiplication Table."

"Where does he stick now?" asked Doctor Chennery.

"At seven times eight, Sir," replied Miss Sturch.

"Bob!" shouted the vicar through the window. "Seven times eight?"

"Forty-three," answered the whimpering voice of the invisible Bob.

"You shall have one more chance before I get my cane," said Doctor
Chennery. "Now, then, look out! Seven times--"

"My dear, good friend," interposed Mr. Phippen, "if you cane that very
unhappy boy he will scream. My nerves have been tried once this
morning by the camp-stool. I shall be totally shattered if I hear
screams. Give me time to get out of the way, and allow me also to
spare dear Miss Sturch the sad spectacle of correction (so shocking to
sensibilities like hers) by asking her for a little camphor julep, and
so giving her an excuse for getting out of the way like me. I think I
could have done without the camphor julep under any other
circumstances; but I ask for it unhesitatingly now, as much for Miss
Sturch's sake as for the sake of my own poor nerves.--Have you got
camphor julep, Miss Sturch? Say yes, I beg and entreat, and give me an
opportunity of escorting you out of the way of the screams."

While Miss Sturch--whose well-trained sensibilities were proof against
the longest paternal caning and the loudest filial acknowledgment of
it in the way of screams--tripped up stairs to fetch the camphor
julep, as smiling and self-possessed as ever, Master Bob, finding
himself left alone with his sisters in the school-room, sidled up to
the youngest of the two, produced from the pocket of his trowsers
three frowsy acidulated drops looking very much the worse for wear,
and, attacking Miss Amelia on the weak, or greedy side of her
character, artfully offered the drops in exchange for information on
the subject of seven times eight. "You like 'em?" whispered Bob. "Oh,
don't I!" answered Amelia. "Seven times eight?" asked Bob.
"Fifty-six," answered Amelia. "Sure?" said Bob. "Certain," said
Amelia. The drops changed hands, and the catastrophe of the domestic
drama changed with them. Just as Miss Sturch appeared with the camphor
julep at the garden door, in the character of medical Hebe to Mr.
Phippen, her intractable pupil showed himself to his father at the
school-room window, in the character, arithmetically speaking, of a
reformed son. The cane reposed for the day; and Mr. Phippen drank his
glass of camphor julep with a mind at ease on the twin subjects of
Miss Sturch's sensibilities and Master Bob's screams.

"Most gratifying in every way," said the Martyr to Dyspepsia, smacking
his lips with great relish, as he drained the last drops out of the
glass. "My nerves are spared, Miss Sturch's feelings are spared, and
the dear boy's back is spared. You have no idea how relieved I feel,
Chennery. Whereabouts were we in that delightful story of yours when
this little domestic interruption occurred?"

"At the end of it, to be sure," said the vicar. "The bride and
bridegroom are some miles on their way by this time to spend the
honey-moon at St. Swithin's-on-Sea. Captain Treverton is only left
behind for a day. He received his sailing orders on Monday, and he
will be off to Portsmouth to-morrow morning to take command of his
ship. Though he won't admit it in plain words, I happen to know that
Rosamond has persuaded him to make this his last cruise. She has a
plan for getting him back to Porthgenna, to live there with her
husband, which I hope and believe will succeed. The west rooms at the
old house, in one of which Mrs. Treverton died, are not to be used at
all by the young married couple. They have engaged a builder--a
sensible, practical man, this time--to survey the neglected north
rooms, with a view to their redecoration and thorough repair in every
way. This part of the house can not possibly be associated with any
melancholy recollections in Captain Treverton's mind, for neither he
nor any one else ever entered it during the period of his residence at
Porthgenna. Considering the change in the look of the place which this
project of repairing the north rooms is sure to produce, and taking
into account also the softening effect of time on all painful
recollections, I should say there was a fair prospect of Captain
Treverton's returning to pass the end of his days among his old
tenantry. It will be a great chance for Leonard Frankland if he does,
for he would be sure to dispose the people at Porthgenna kindly toward
their new master. Introduced among his Cornish tenants under Captain
Treverton's wing, Leonard is sure to get on well with them, provided
he abstains from showing too much of the family pride which he has
inherited from his father. He is a little given to overrate the
advantages of birth and the importance of rank--but that is really the
only noticeable defect in his character. In all other respects I can
honestly say of him that he deserves what he has got--the best wife in
the world. What a life of happiness, Phippen, seems to be awaiting
these lucky young people! It is a bold thing to say of any mortal
creatures, but, look as far as I may, not a cloud can I see any where
on their future prospects."

"You excellent creature!" exclaimed Mr. Phippen, affectionately
squeezing the vicar's hand. "How I enjoy hearing you! how I luxuriate
in your bright view of life!"

"And is it not the true view--especially in the case of young
Frankland and his wife?" inquired the vicar.

"If you ask me," said Mr. Phippen, with a mournful smile, and a
philosophic calmness of manner, "I can only answer that the direction
of a man's speculative views depends--not to mince the matter--on the
state of his secretions. Your biliary secretions, dear friend, are all
right, and you take bright views. My biliary secretions are all wrong,
and I take dark views. You look at the future prospects of this young
married couple, and say there is no cloud over them. I don't dispute
the assertion, not having the pleasure of knowing either bride or
bridegroom. But I look up at the sky over our heads--I remember that
there was not a cloud on it when we first entered the garden--I now
see, just over those two trees growing so close together, a cloud that
has appeared unexpectedly from nobody knows where--and I draw my own
conclusions. Such," said Mr. Phippen, ascending the garden steps on
his way into the house, "is my philosophy. It may be tinged with bile,
but it is philosophy for all that."

"All the philosophy in the world," said the vicar, following his guest
up the steps, "will not shake my conviction that Leonard Frankland and
his wife have a happy future before them."

Mr. Phippen laughed, and, waiting on the steps till his host joined
him, took Doctor Chennery's arm in the friendliest manner.

"You have told a charming story, Chennery," he said, "and you have
ended it with a charming sentiment. But, my dear friend, though your
healthy mind (influenced by an enviably easy digestion) despises my
bilious philosophy, don't quite forget the cloud over the two trees.
Look up at it now--it is getting darker and bigger already."



Under the roof of a widowed mother, Miss Mowlem lived humbly at St.
Swithin's-on-Sea. In the spring of the year eighteen hundred and
forty-four, the heart of Miss Mowlem's widowed mother was gladdened by
a small legacy. Turning over in her mind the various uses to which the
money might be put, the discreet old lady finally decided on investing
it in furniture, on fitting up the first floor and the second floor of
her house in the best taste, and on hanging a card in the parlor
window to inform the public that she had furnished apartments to let.
By the summer the apartments were ready, and the card was put up. It
had hardly been exhibited a week before a dignified personage in black
applied to look at the rooms, expressed himself as satisfied with
their appearance, and engaged them for a month certain, for a newly
married lady and gentleman, who might be expected to take possession
in a few days. The dignified personage in black was Captain
Treverton's servant, and the lady and gentleman, who arrived in due
time to take possession, were Mr. and Mrs. Frankland.

The natural interest which Mrs. Mowlem felt in her youthful first
lodgers was necessarily vivid in its nature; but it was apathy itself
compared to the sentimental interest which her daughter took in
observing the manners and customs of the lady and gentleman in their
capacity of bride and bridegroom. From the moment when Mr. and Mrs.
Frankland entered the house, Miss Mowlem began to study them with all
the ardor of an industrious scholar who attacks a new branch of
knowledge. At every spare moment of the day, this industrious young
lady occupied herself in stealing up stairs to collect observations,
and in running down stairs to communicate them to her mother. By the
time the married couple had been in the house a week, Miss Mowlem had
made such good use of her eyes, ears, and opportunities that she could
have written a seven days' diary of the lives of Mr. and Mrs.
Frankland with the truth and minuteness of Mr. Samuel Pepys himself.

But, learn as much as we may, the longer we live the more information
there is to acquire. Seven days' patient accumulation of facts in
connection with the honey-moon had not placed Miss Mowlem beyond the
reach of further discoveries. On the morning of the eighth day, after
bringing down the breakfast tray, this observant spinster stole up
stairs again, according to custom, to drink at the spring of knowledge
through the key-hole channel of the drawing-room door. After an
absence of five minutes she descended to the kitchen, breathless with
excitement, to announce a fresh discovery in connection with Mr. and
Mrs. Frankland to her venerable mother.

"Whatever do you think she's doing now?" cried Miss Mowlem, with
widely opened eyes and highly elevated hands.

"Nothing that's useful," answered Mrs. Mowlem, with sarcastic

"She's actually sitting on his knee! Mother, did you ever sit on
father's knee when you were married?"

"Certainly not, my dear. When me and your poor father married, we were
neither of us flighty young people, and we knew better."

"She's got her head on his shoulder," proceeded Miss Mowlem, more and
more agitatedly, "and her arms round his neck--both her arms, mother,
as tight as can be."

"I won't believe it," exclaimed Mrs. Mowlem, indignantly. "A lady like
her, with riches, and accomplishments, and all that, demean herself
like a housemaid with a sweetheart. Don't tell me, I won't believe

It was true though, for all that. There were plenty of chairs in Mrs.
Mowlem's drawing-room; there were three beautifully bound books on
Mrs. Mowlem's Pembroke table (the Antiquities of St. Swithin's,
Smallridge's Sermons, and Klopstock's Messiah in English prose)--Mrs.
Frankland might have sat on purple morocco leather, stuffed with the
best horse-hair, might have informed and soothed her mind with
archæological diversions, with orthodox native theology, and with
devotional poetry of foreign origin--and yet, so frivolous is the
nature of woman, she was perverse enough to prefer doing nothing, and
perching herself uncomfortably on her husband's knee!

She sat for some time in the undignified position which Miss Mowlem
had described with such graphic correctness to her mother--then drew
back a little, raised her head, and looked earnestly into the quiet,
meditative face of the blind man.

"Lenny, you are very silent this morning," she said. "What are you
thinking about? If you will tell me all your thoughts, I will tell you
all mine."

"Would you really care to hear all my thoughts?" asked Leonard.

"Yes; all. I shall be jealous of any thoughts that you keep to
yourself. Tell me what you were thinking of just now! Me?"

"Not exactly of you."

"More shame for you. Are you tired of me in eight days? I have not
thought of any body but you ever since we have been here. Ah! you
laugh. Oh, Lenny, I do love you so; how can I think of any body but
you? No! I sha'n't kiss you. I want to know what you were thinking
about first."

"Of a dream, Rosamond, that I had last night. Ever since the first
days of my blindness--Why, I thought you were not going to kiss me
again till I had told you what I was thinking about!"

"I can't help kissing you, Lenny, when you talk of the loss of your
sight. Tell me, my poor love, do I help to make up for that loss? Are
you happier than you used to be? and have I some share in making that
happiness, though it is ever so little?"

She turned her head away as she spoke, but Leonard was too quick for
her. His inquiring fingers touched her cheek. "Rosamond, you are
crying," he said.

"I crying!" she answered, with a sudden assumption of gayety. "No,"
she continued, after a moment's pause. "I will never deceive you,
love, even in the veriest trifle. My eyes serve for both of us now,
don't they? you depend on me for all that your touch fails to tell
you, and I must never be unworthy of my trust--must I? I did cry,
Lenny--but only a very little. I don't know how it was, but I never,
in all my life, seemed to pity you and feel for you as I did just at
that moment. Never mind, I've done now. Go on--do go on with what you
were going to say."

"I was going to say, Rosamond, that I have observed one curious thing
about myself since I lost my sight. I dream a great deal, but I never
dream of myself as a blind man. I often visit in my dreams places that
I saw and people whom I knew when I had my sight, and though I feel as
much myself, at those visionary times, as I am now when I am
wide-awake, I never by any chance feel blind. I wander about all sorts
of old walks in my sleep, and never grope my way. I talk to all sorts
of old friends in my sleep, and see the expression in their faces
which, waking, I shall never see again. I have lost my sight more than
a year now, and yet it was like the shock of a new discovery to me to
wake up last night from my dream, and remember suddenly that I was

"What dream was it, Lenny?"

"Only a dream of the place where I first met you when we were both
children. I saw the glen, as it was years ago, with the great twisted
roots of the trees, and the blackberry bushes twining about them in a
still shadowed light that came through thick leaves from the rainy
sky. I saw the mud on the walk in the middle of the glen, with the
marks of the cows' hoofs in some places, and the sharp circles in
others where some countrywomen had been lately trudging by on pattens.
I saw the muddy water running down on either side of the path after
the shower; and I saw you, Rosamond, a naughty girl, all covered with
clay and wet--just as you were in the reality--soiling your bright
blue pelisse and your pretty little chubby hands by making a dam to
stop the running water, and laughing at the indignation of your
nurse-maid when she tried to pull you away and take you home. I saw
all that exactly as it really was in the by-gone time; but, strangely
enough, I did not see myself as the boy I then was. You were a little
girl, and the glen was in its old neglected state, and yet, though I
was all in the past so far, I was in the present as regarded myself.
Throughout the whole dream I was uneasily conscious of being a grown
man--of being, in short, exactly what I am now, excepting always that
I was not blind."

"What a memory you must have, love, to be able to recall all those
little circumstances after the years that have passed since that wet
day in the glen! How well you recollect what I was as a child! Do you
remember in the same vivid way what I looked like a year ago when you
saw me--Oh, Lenny, it almost breaks my heart to think of it!--when you
saw me for the last time?"

"Do I remember, Rosamond! My last look at your face has painted your
portrait in my memory in colors that can never change. I have many
pictures in my mind, but your picture is the clearest and brightest of

"And it is the picture of me at my best--painted in my youth, dear,
when my face was always confessing how I loved you, though my lips
said nothing. There is some consolation in that thought. When years
have passed over us both, Lenny, and when time begins to set his mark
on me, you will not say to yourself, 'My Rosamond is beginning to
fade; she grows less and less like what she was when I married her.' I
shall never grow old, love, for you! The bright young picture in your
mind will still be my picture when my cheeks are wrinkled and my hair
is gray."

"Still your picture--always the same, grow as old as I may."

"But are you sure it is clear in every part? Are there no doubtful
lines, no unfinished corners any where? I have not altered yet since
you saw me--I am just what I was a year ago. Suppose I ask you what I
am like now, could you tell me without making a mistake?"

"Try me."

"May I? You shall be put through a complete catechism! I don't tire
you sitting on your knee, do I? Well, in the first place, how tall am
I when we both stand up side by side?"

"You just reach to my ear."

"Quite right, to begin with. Now for the next question. What does my
hair look like in your portrait?"

"It is dark brown--there is a great deal of it--and it grows rather
too low on your forehead for the taste of some people--"

"Never mind about 'some people;' does it grow too low for your taste?"

"Certainly not. I like it to grow low; I like all those little natural
waves that it makes against your forehead; I like it taken back, as
you wear it, in plain bands, which leave your ears and your cheeks
visible; and above all things, I like that big glossy knot that it
makes where it is all gathered up together at the back of your head."

"Oh, Lenny, how well you remember me, so far! Now go a little lower."

"A little lower is down to your eyebrows. They are very nicely shaped
eyebrows in my picture--"

"Yes, but they have a fault. Come! tell me what the fault is."

"They are not quite so strongly marked as they might be."

"Right again! And my eyes?"

"Brown eyes, large eyes, wakeful eyes, that are always looking about
them. Eyes that can be very soft at one time, and very bright at
another. Eyes tender and clear, just at the present moment, but
capable, on very slight provocation, of opening rather too widely, and
looking rather too brilliantly resolute."

"Mind you don't make them look so now! What is there below the eyes?"

"A nose that is not quite big enough to be in proper proportion with
them. A nose that has a slight tendency to be--"

"Don't say the horrid English word! Spare my feelings by putting it in
French. Say _retroussé_, and skip over my nose as fast as possible."

"I must stop at the mouth, then, and own that it is as near perfection
as possible. The lips are lovely in shape, fresh in color, and
irresistible in expression. They smile in my portrait, and I am sure
they are smiling at me now."

"How could they do otherwise when they are getting so much praise? My
vanity whispers to me that I had better stop the catechism here. If I
talk about my complexion, I shall only hear that it is of the dusky
sort; and that there is never red enough in it except when I am
walking, or confused, or angry. If I ask a question about my figure, I
shall receive the dreadful answer, 'You are dangerously inclined to be
fat.' If I say, How do I dress? I shall be told, Not soberly enough;
you are as fond as a child of gay colors--No! I will venture no more
questions. But, vanity apart, Lenny, I am so glad, so proud, so happy
to find that you can keep the image of me clearly in your mind. I
shall do my best now to look and dress like your last remembrance of
me. My love of loves! I will do you credit--I will try if I can't make
you envied for your wife. You deserve a hundred thousand kisses for
saying your catechism so well--and there they are!"

While Mrs. Frankland was conferring the reward of merit on her
husband, the sound of a faint, small, courteously significant cough
made itself timidly audible in a corner of the room. Turning round
instantly, with the quickness that characterized all her actions, Mrs.
Frankland, to her horror and indignation, confronted Miss Mowlem
standing just inside the door, with a letter in her hand and a blush
of sentimental agitation on her simpering face.

"You wretch! how dare you come in without knocking at the door?" cried
Rosamond, starting to her feet with a stamp, and passing in an instant
from the height of fondness to the height of indignation.

Miss Mowlem shook guiltily before the bright, angry eyes that looked
through and through her, turned very pale, held out the letter
apologetically, and said in her meekest tones that she was very

"Sorry!" exclaimed Rosamond, getting even more irritated by the
apology than she had been by the intrusion, and showing it by another
stamp of the foot; "who cares whether you are sorry? I don't want your
sorrow--I won't have it. I never was so insulted in my life--never,
you mean, prying, inquisitive creature!"

"Rosamond! Rosamond! pray don't forget yourself!" interposed the quiet
voice of Mr. Frankland.

"Lenny, dear, I can't help it! That creature would drive a saint mad.
She has been prying after us ever since we have been here--you have,
you ill-bred, indelicate woman!--I suspected it before--I am certain
of it now! Must we lock our doors to keep you out?--we won't lock our
doors! Fetch the bill! We give you warning. Mr. Frankland gives you
warning--don't you, Lenny? I'll pack up all your things, dear: she
sha'n't touch one of them. Go down stairs and make out your bill, and
give your mother warning. Mr. Frankland says he won't have his rooms
burst into, and his doors listened at by inquisitive women--and I say
so too. Put that letter down on the table--unless you want to open it
and read it--put it down, you audacious woman, and fetch the bill, and
tell your mother we are going to leave the house directly!"

At this dreadful threat, Miss Mowlem, who was soft and timid, as well
as curious, by nature, wrung her hands in despair, and overflowed
meekly in a shower of tears.

"Oh! good gracious Heavens above!" cried Miss Mowlem, addressing
herself distractedly to the ceiling, "what will mother say! whatever
will become of me now! Oh, ma'am! I thought I knocked--I did, indeed!
Oh, ma'am! I humbly beg pardon, and I'll never intrude again. Oh,
ma'am! mother's a widow, and this is the first time we have let the
lodgings, and the furniture's swallowed up all our money, and oh,
ma'am! ma'am! how I shall catch it if you go!" Here words failed Miss
Mowlem, and hysterical sobs pathetically supplied their place.

"Rosamond!" said Mr. Frankland. There was an accent of sorrow in his
voice this time, as well as an accent of remonstrance. Rosamond's
quick ear caught the alteration in his tone. As she looked round at
him her color changed, her head drooped a little, and her whole
expression altered on the instant. She stole gently to her husband's
side with softened, saddened eyes, and put her lips caressingly close
to his ear.

"Lenny," she whispered, "have I made you angry with me?"

"I can't be angry with you, Rosamond," was the quiet answer. "I only
wish, love, that you could have controlled yourself a little sooner."

"I am so sorry--so very, very sorry!" The fresh, soft lips came closer
still to his ear as they whispered these penitent words; and the
cunning little hand crept up tremblingly round his neck and began to
play with his hair. "So sorry, and so ashamed of myself! But it was
enough to make almost any body angry, just at first--wasn't it, dear?
And you will forgive me--won't you, Lenny?--if I promise never to
behave so badly again? Never mind that wretched whimpering fool at the
door," said Rosamond, undergoing a slight relapse as she looked round
at Miss Mowlem, standing immovably repentant against the wall, with
her face buried in a dingy-white pocket-handkerchief. "I'll make it up
with her; I'll stop her crying; I'll take her out of the room; I'll do
any thing in the world that's kind to her, if you will only forgive

"A polite word or two is all that is wanted--nothing more than a
polite word or two," said Mr. Frankland, rather coldly and

"Don't cry any more, for goodness sake!" said Rosamond, walking
straight up to Miss Mowlem, and pulling the dingy-white
pocket-handkerchief away from her face without the least ceremony.
"There! leave off, will you? I am very sorry I was in a
passion--though you had no business to come in without knocking--I
never meant to distress you, and I'll never say a hard word to you
again, if you will only knock at the door for the future, and leave
off crying now. _Do_ leave off crying, you tiresome creature! We are
not going away. We don't want your mother, or the bill, or any thing.
Here! here's a present for you, if you'll leave off crying. Here's my
neck-ribbon--I saw you trying it on yesterday afternoon, when I was
lying down on the bedroom sofa, and you thought I was asleep. Never
mind; I'm not angry about that. Take the ribbon--take it as a
peace-offering, if you won't as a present. You _shall_ take it!--No,
I don't mean that--I mean, please take it! There, I've pinned it on.
And now, shake hands and be friends, and go up stairs and see how it
looks in the glass." With these words, Mrs. Frankland opened the door,
administered, under the pretense of a pat on the shoulder, a
good-humored shove to the amazed and embarrassed Miss Mowlem, closed
the door again, and resumed her place in a moment on her husband's

"I've made it up with her, dear. I've sent her away with my bright
green ribbon, and it makes her look as yellow as a guinea, and as ugly
as--" Rosamond stopped, and looked anxiously into Mr. Frankland's
face. "Lenny!" she said, sadly, putting her cheek against his, "are
you angry with me still?"

"My love, I was never angry with you. I never can be."

"I will always keep my temper down for the future, Lenny!"

"I am sure you will, Rosamond. But never mind that. I am not thinking
of your temper now."

"Of what, then?"

"Of the apology you made to Miss Mowlem."

"Did I not say enough? I'll call her back if you like--I'll make
another penitent speech--I'll do any thing but kiss her. I really
can't do that--I can't kiss any body now but you."

"My dear, dear love, how very much like a child you are still in some
of your ways! You said more than enough to Miss Mowlem--far more. And
if you will pardon me for making the remark, I think in your
generosity and good-nature you a little forgot yourself with the young
woman. I don't so much allude to your giving her the ribbon--though,
perhaps, that might have been done a little less familiarly--but, from
what I heard you say, I infer that you actually went the length of
shaking hands with her."

"Was that wrong? I thought it was the kindest way of making it up."

"My dear, it is an excellent way of making it up between equals. But
consider the difference between your station in society and Miss

"I will try and consider it, if you wish me, love. But I think I take
after my father, who never troubles his head (dear old man!) about
differences of station. I can't help liking people who are kind to
me, without thinking whether they are above my rank or below it; and
when I got cool, I must confess I felt just as vexed with myself for
frightening and distressing that unlucky Miss Mowlem as if her station
had been equal to mine. I will try to think as you do, Lenny; but I am
very much afraid that I have got, without knowing exactly how, to be
what the newspapers call a Radical."

"My dear Rosamond! don't talk of yourself in that way, even in joke.
You ought to be the last person in the world to confuse those
distinctions in rank on which the whole well-being of society

"Does it really? And yet, dear, we don't seem to have been created
with such very wide distinctions between us. We have all got the same
number of arms and legs; we are all hungry and thirsty, and hot in the
summer and cold in the winter; we all laugh when we are pleased, and
cry when we are distressed; and, surely, we have all got very much the
same feelings, whether we are high or whether we are low. I could not
have loved you better, Lenny, than I do now if I had been a duchess,
or less than I do now if I had been a servant-girl."

"My love, you are not a servant-girl. And, as to what you say about
being a duchess, let me remind you that you are not so much below a
duchess as you seem to think. Many a lady of high title can not look
back on such a line of ancestors as yours. Your father's family,
Rosamond, is one of the oldest in England: even _my_ father's family
hardly dates back so far; and we were landed gentry when many a name
in the peerage was not heard of. It is really almost laughably absurd
to hear you talking of yourself as a Radical."

"I won't talk of myself so again, Lenny--only don't look so serious. I
will be a Tory, dear, if you will give me a kiss, and let me sit on
your knee a little longer."

Mr. Frankland's gravity was not proof against his wife's change of
political principles, and the conditions which she annexed to it. His
face cleared up, and he laughed almost as gayly as Rosamond herself.

"By the bye," he said, after an interval of silence had given him time
to collect his thoughts, "did I not hear you tell Miss Mowlem to put a
letter down on the table? Is it a letter for you or for me?"

"Ah! I forgot all about the letter," said Rosamond, running to the
table. "It is for you, Lenny--and, goodness me! here's the Porthgenna
postmark on it."

"It must be from the builder whom I sent down to the old house about
the repairs. Lend me your eyes, love, and let us hear what he says."

Rosamond opened the letter, drew a stool to her husband's feet, and,
sitting down with her arms on his knees, read as follows:


     "SIR,--Agreeably to the instructions with which you favored
     me, I have proceeded to survey Porthgenna Tower, with a
     view to ascertaining what repairs the house in general, and
     the north side of it in particular, may stand in need of.

     "As regards the outside, a little cleaning and new pointing
     is all that the building wants. The walls and foundations
     seem made to last forever. Such strong, solid work I never
     set eyes on before.

     "Inside the house, I can not report so favorably. The rooms
     in the west front, having been inhabited during the period
     of Captain Treverton's occupation, and having been well
     looked after since, are in tolerably sound condition. I
     should say two hundred pounds would cover the expense of
     all repairs in my line which these rooms need. This sum
     would not include the restoration of the western staircase,
     which has given a little in some places, and the banisters
     of which are decidedly insecure from the first to the
     second landing. From twenty-five to thirty pounds would
     suffice to set this all right.

     "In the rooms on the north front, the state of
     dilapidation, from top to bottom, is as bad as can be. From
     all that I could ascertain, nobody ever went near these
     rooms in Captain Treverton's time, or has ever entered them
     since. The people who now keep the house have a
     superstitious dread of opening any of the north doors, in
     consequence of the time that has elapsed since any living
     being has passed through them. Nobody would volunteer to
     accompany me in my survey, and nobody could tell me which
     keys fitted which room doors in any part of the north side.
     I could find no plan containing the names or numbers of
     the rooms; nor, to my surprise, were there any labels
     attached separately to the keys. They were given to me, all
     hanging together on a large ring, with an ivory label on
     it, which was only marked--Keys of the North Rooms. I take
     the liberty of mentioning these particulars in order to
     account for my having, as you might think, delayed my stay
     at Porthgenna Tower longer than is needful. I lost nearly a
     whole day in taking the keys off the ring, and fitting them
     at hazard to the right doors. And I occupied some hours of
     another day in marking each door with a number on the
     outside, and putting a corresponding label to each key,
     before I replaced it on the ring, in order to prevent the
     possibility of future errors and delays.

     "As I hope to furnish you, in a few days, with a detailed
     estimate of the repairs needed in the north part of the
     house, from basement to roof, I need only say here that
     they will occupy some time, and will be of the most
     extensive nature. The beams of the staircase and the
     flooring of the first story have got the dry rot. The damp
     in some rooms, and the rats in others, have almost
     destroyed the wainscotings. Four of the mantel-pieces have
     given out from the walls, and all the ceilings are either
     stained, cracked, or peeled away in large patches. The
     flooring is, in general, in a better condition than I had
     anticipated; but the shutters and window-sashes are so
     warped as to be useless. It is only fair to acknowledge
     that the expense of setting all these things to
     rights--that is to say, of making the rooms safe and
     habitable, and of putting them in proper condition for the
     upholsterer--will be considerable. I would respectfully
     suggest, in the event of your feeling any surprise or
     dissatisfaction at the amount of my estimate, that you
     should name a friend in whom you place confidence, to go
     over the north rooms with me, keeping my estimate in his
     hand. I will undertake to prove, if needful, the necessity
     of each separate repair, and the justice of each separate
     charge for the same, to the satisfaction of any competent
     and impartial person whom you may please to select.

     "Trusting to send you the estimate in a few days,

     "I remain, Sir,

     "Your humble servant,


"A very honest, straightforward letter," said Mr. Frankland.

"I wish he had sent the estimate with it," said Rosamond. "Why could
not the provoking man tell us at once in round numbers what the
repairs will really cost?"

"I suspect, my dear, he was afraid of shocking us, if he mentioned the
amount in round numbers."

"That horrid money! It is always getting in one's way, and upsetting
one's plans. If we haven't got enough, let us go and borrow of
somebody who has. Do you mean to dispatch a friend to Porthgenna to go
over the house with Mr. Horlock? If you do, I know who I wish you
would send."


"Me, if you please--under your escort, of course. Don't laugh, Lenny;
I would be very sharp with Mr. Horlock; I would object to every one of
his charges, and beat him down without mercy. I once saw a surveyor go
over a house, and I know exactly what to do. You stamp on the floor,
and knock at the walls, and scrape at the brick-work, and look up all
the chimneys, and out of all the windows--sometimes you make notes in
a little book, sometimes you measure with a foot-rule, sometimes you
sit down all of a sudden, and think profoundly--and the end of it is
that you say the house will do very well indeed, if the tenant will
pull out his purse, and put it in proper repair."

"Well done, Rosamond! You have one more accomplishment than I knew of;
and I suppose I have no choice now but to give you an opportunity of
displaying it. If you don't object, my dear, to being associated with
a professional assistant in the important business of checking Mr.
Horlock's estimate, I don't object to paying a short visit to
Porthgenna whenever you please--especially now I know that the west
rooms are still habitable."

"Oh, how kind of you! how pleased I shall be! how I shall enjoy seeing
the old place again before it is altered! I was only five years old,
Lenny, when we left Porthgenna, and I am so anxious to see what I can
remember of it, after such a long, long absence as mine. Do you know,
I never saw any thing of that ruinous north side of the house?--and I
do so dote on old rooms! We will go all through them, Lenny. You shall
have hold of my hand, and look with my eyes, and make as many
discoveries as I do. I prophesy that we shall see ghosts, and find
treasures, and hear mysterious noises--and, oh heavens! what clouds of
dust we shall have to go through. Pouf! the very anticipation of them
chokes me already."

"Now we are on the subject of Porthgenna, Rosamond, let us be serious
for one moment. It is clear to me that these repairs of the north
rooms will cost a large sum of money. Now, my love, I consider no sum
of money misspent, however large it may be, if it procures you
pleasure. I am with you heart and soul--"

He paused. His wife's caressing arms were twining round his neck
again, and her cheek was laid gently against his. "Go on, Lenny," she
said, with such an accent of tenderness in the utterance of those
three simple words that his speech failed him for the moment, and all
his sensations seemed absorbed in the one luxury of listening.
"Rosamond," he whispered, "there is no music in the world that touches
me as your voice touches me now! I feel it all through me, as I used
sometimes to feel the sky at night, in the time when I could see." As
he spoke, the caressing arms tightened round his neck, and the fervent
lips softly took the place which the cheek had occupied. "Go on,
Lenny," they repeated, happily as well as tenderly now, "you said you
were with me, heart and soul. With me in what?"

"In your project, love, for inducing your father to retire from his
profession after this last cruise, and in your hope of prevailing on
him to pass the evening of his days happily with us at Porthgenna. If
the money spent in restoring the north rooms, so that we may all live
in them for the future, does indeed so alter the look of the place to
his eyes as to dissipate his old sorrowful associations with it, and
to make his living there again a pleasure instead of a pain to him, I
shall regard it as money well laid out. But, Rosamond, are you sure of
the success of your plan before we undertake it? Have you dropped any
hint of the Porthgenna project to your father?"

"I told him, Lenny, that I should never be quite comfortable unless he
left the sea and came to live with us--and he said that he would. I
did not mention a word about Porthgenna--nor did he--but he knows that
we shall live there when we are settled, and he made no conditions
when he promised that our home should be his home."

"Is the loss of your mother the only sad association he has with the

"Not quite. There is another association, which has never been
mentioned, but which I may tell you, because there are no secrets
between us. My mother had a favorite maid who lived with her from the
time of her marriage, and who was, accidentally, the only person
present in her room when she died. I remember hearing of this woman as
being odd in her look and manner, and no great favorite with any body
but her mistress. Well, on the morning of my mother's death, she
disappeared from the house in the strangest way, leaving behind her a
most singular and mysterious letter to my father, asserting that in my
mother's dying moments a Secret had been confided to her which she was
charged to divulge to her master when her mistress was no more; and
adding that she was afraid to mention this secret, and that, to avoid
being questioned about it, she had resolved on leaving the house
forever. She had been gone some hours when the letter was opened--and
she has never been seen or heard of since that time. This circumstance
seemed to make almost as strong an impression on my father's mind as
the shock of my mother's death. Our neighbors and servants all thought
(as I think) that the woman was mad; but he never agreed with them,
and I know that he has neither destroyed nor forgotten the letter from
that time to this."

"A strange event, Rosamond--a very strange event. I don't wonder that
it has made a lasting impression on him."

"Depend upon it, Lenny, the servants and the neighbors were right--the
woman was mad. Any way, however, it was certainly a singular event in
our family. All old houses have their romance--and that is the romance
of our house. But years and years have passed since then; and, what
with time, and what with the changes we are going to make, I have no
fear that my dear, good father will spoil our plans. Give him a new
north garden at Porthgenna, where he can walk the decks, as I call
it--give him new north rooms to live in--and I will answer for the
result. But all this is in the future; let us get back to the present
time. When shall we pay our flying visit to Porthgenna, Lenny, and
plunge into the important business of checking Mr. Horlock's estimate
for the repairs?"

"We have three weeks more to stay here, Rosamond."

"Yes; and then we must go back to Long Beckley. I promised that best
and biggest of men, the vicar, that we would pay our first visit to
him. He is sure not to let us off under three weeks or a month."

"In that case, then, we had better say two months hence for the visit
to Porthgenna. Is your writing-case in the room, Rosamond?"

"Yes; close by us, on the table."

"Write to Mr. Horlock then, love--and appoint a meeting in two months'
time at the old house. Tell him also, as we must not trust ourselves
on unsafe stairs--especially considering how dependent I am on
banisters--to have the west staircase repaired immediately. And, while
you have the pen in your hand, perhaps it may save trouble if you
write a second note to the housekeeper at Porthgenna, to tell her when
she may expect us."

Rosamond sat down gayly at the table, and dipped her pen in the ink
with a little flourish of triumph.

"In two months," she exclaimed joyfully, "I shall see the dear old
place again! In two months, Lenny, our profane feet will be raising
the dust in the solitudes of the North Rooms."




Timon of Athens retreated from an ungrateful world to a cavern by the
sea-shore, vented his misanthropy in magnificent poetry, and enjoyed
the honor of being called "My Lord." Timon of London took refuge from
his species in a detached house at Bayswater--expressed his sentiments
in shabby prose--and was only addressed as "Mr. Treverton." The one
point of resemblance which it is possible to set against these points
of contrast between the two Timons consisted in this: that their
misanthropy was, at least, genuine. Both were incorrigible haters of

There is probably no better proof of the accuracy of that definition
of man which describes him as an imitative animal, than is to be found
in the fact that the verdict of humanity is always against any
individual member of the species who presumes to differ from the rest.
A man is one of a flock, and his wool must be of the general color. He
must drink when the rest drink, and graze where the rest graze. Let
him walk at noonday with perfect composure of countenance and decency
of gait, with not the slightest appearance of vacancy in his eyes or
wildness in his manner, from one end of Oxford Street to the other
without his hat, and let every one of the thousands of hat-wearing
people whom he passes be asked separately what they think of him, how
many will abstain from deciding instantly that he is mad, on no other
evidence than the evidence of his bare head? Nay, more; let him
politely stop each one of those passengers, and let him explain in the
plainest form of words, and in the most intelligible manner, that his
head feels more easy and comfortable without a hat than with one, how
many of his fellow mortals who decided that he was mad on first
meeting him, will change their opinion when they part from him after
hearing his explanation? In the vast majority of cases, the very
explanation itself would be accepted as an excellent additional proof
that the intellect of the hatless man was indisputably deranged.

Starting at the beginning of the march of life out of step with the
rest of the mortal regiment, Andrew Treverton paid the penalty of his
irregularity from his earliest days. He was a phenomenon in the
nursery, a butt at school, and a victim at college. The ignorant
nurse-maid reported him as a queer child; the learned school-master
genteelly varied the phrase, and described him as an eccentric boy;
the college tutor, harping on the same string, facetiously likened his
head to a roof, and said there was a slate loose in it. When a slate
is loose, if nobody fixes it in time, it ends by falling off. In the
roof of a house we view that consequence as a necessary result of
neglect; in the roof of a man's head we are generally very much
shocked and surprised by it.

Overlooked in some directions and misdirected in others, Andrew's
uncouth capacities for good tried helplessly to shape themselves. The
better side of his eccentricity took the form of friendship. He became
violently and unintelligibly fond of one among his school-fellows--a
boy who treated him with no especial consideration in the play-ground,
and who gave him no particular help in the class. Nobody could
discover the smallest reason for it, but it was nevertheless a
notorious fact that Andrew's pocket-money was always at this boy's
service, that Andrew ran about after him like a dog, and that Andrew
over and over again took the blame and punishment on his own shoulders
which ought to have fallen on the shoulders of his friend. When, a few
years afterward, that friend went to college, the lad petitioned to be
sent to college too, and attached himself there more closely than ever
to the strangely chosen comrade of his school-boy days. Such devotion
as this must have touched any man possessed of ordinary generosity of
disposition. It made no impression whatever on the inherently base
nature of Andrew's friend. After three years of intercourse at
college--intercourse which was all selfishness on one side and all
self-sacrifice on the other--the end came, and the light was let in
cruelly on Andrew's eyes. When his purse grew light in his friend's
hand, and when his acceptances were most numerous on his friend's
bills, the brother of his honest affection, the hero of his simple
admiration, abandoned him to embarrassment, to ridicule, and to
solitude, without the faintest affectation of penitence--without so
much even as a word of farewell.

He returned to his father's house, a soured man at the outset of
life--returned to be upbraided for the debts that he had contracted to
serve the man who had heartlessly outraged and shamelessly cheated
him. He left home in disgrace to travel on a small allowance. The
travels were protracted, and they ended, as such travels often do, in
settled expatriation. The life he led, the company he kept, during his
long residence abroad, did him permanent and fatal harm. When he at
last returned to England, he presented himself in the most hopeless of
all characters--the character of a man who believes in nothing. At
this period of his life, his one chance for the future lay in the good
results which his brother's influence over him might have produced.
The two had hardly resumed their intercourse of early days, when the
quarrel occasioned by Captain Treverton's marriage broke it off
forever. From that time, for all social interests and purposes, Andrew
was a lost man. From that time he met the last remonstrances that were
made to him by the last friends who took any interest in his fortunes
always with the same bitter and hopeless form of reply: "My dearest
friend forsook and cheated me," he would say. "My only brother has
quarreled with me for the sake of a play-actress. What am I to expect
of the rest of mankind after that? I have suffered twice for my belief
in others--I will never suffer a third time. The wise man is the man
who does not disturb his heart at its natural occupation of pumping
blood through his body. I have gathered my experience abroad and at
home, and have learned enough to see through the delusions of life
which look like realities to other men's eyes. My business in this
world is to eat, drink, sleep, and die. Every thing else is
superfluity--and I have done with it."

The few people who ever cared to inquire about him again, after being
repulsed by such an avowal as this, heard of him three or four years
after his brother's marriage in the neighborhood of Bayswater. Local
report described him as having bought the first cottage he could find
which was cut off from other houses by a wall all round it. It was
further rumored that he was living like a miser; that he had got an
old man-servant, named Shrowl, who was even a greater enemy to mankind
than himself; that he allowed no living soul, not even an occasional
char-woman, to enter the house; that he was letting his beard grow,
and that he had ordered his servant Shrowl to follow his example. In
the year eighteen hundred and forty-four, the fact of a man's not
shaving was regarded by the enlightened majority of the English nation
as a proof of unsoundness of intellect. At the present time Mr.
Treverton's beard would only have interfered with his reputation for
respectability. Seventeen years ago it was accepted as so much
additional evidence in support of the old theory that his intellects
were deranged. He was at that very time, as his stock-broker could
have testified, one of the sharpest men of business in London; he
could argue on the wrong side of any question with an acuteness of
sophistry and sarcasm that Dr. Johnson himself might have envied; he
kept his household accounts right to a farthing--but what did these
advantages avail him, in the estimation of his neighbors, when he
presumed to live on another plan than theirs, and when he wore a hairy
certificate of lunacy on the lower part of his face? We have advanced
a little in the matter of partial toleration of beards since that
time; but we have still a good deal of ground to get over. In the
present year of progress, eighteen hundred and sixty-one, would the
most trustworthy banker's clerk in the whole metropolis have the
slightest chance of keeping his situation if he left off shaving his

Common report, which calumniated Mr. Treverton as mad, had another
error to answer for in describing him as a miser. He saved more than
two thirds of the income derived from his comfortable fortune, not
because he liked hoarding up money, but because he had no enjoyment of
the comforts and luxuries which money is spent in procuring. To do him
justice, his contempt for his own wealth was quite as hearty as his
contempt for the wealth of his neighbors. Thus characteristically
wrong in endeavoring to delineate his character, report was,
nevertheless, for once in a way, inconsistently right in describing
his manner of life. It was true that he had bought the first cottage
he could find that was secluded within its own walls--true that nobody
was allowed, on any pretense whatever, to enter his doors--and true
that he had met with a servant, who was even bitterer against all
mankind than himself, in the person of Mr. Shrowl.

The life these two led approached as nearly to the existence of the
primitive man (or savage) as the surrounding conditions of
civilization would allow. Admitting the necessity of eating and
drinking, the first object of Mr. Treverton's ambition was to sustain
life with the least possible dependence on the race of men who
professed to supply their neighbors' bodily wants, and who, as he
conceived, cheated them infamously on the strength of their

Having a garden at the back of the house, Timon of London dispensed
with the green-grocer altogether by cultivating his own vegetables.
There was no room for growing wheat, or he would have turned farmer
also on his own account; but he could outwit the miller and the baker,
at any rate, by buying a sack of corn, grinding it in his own
hand-mill, and giving the flour to Shrowl to make into bread. On the
same principle, the meat for the house was bought wholesale of the
City salesmen--the master and servant eating as much of it in the
fresh state as they could, salting the rest, and setting butchers at
defiance. As for drink, neither brewer nor publican ever had the
chance of extorting a farthing from Mr. Treverton's pocket. He and
Shrowl were satisfied with beer--and they brewed for themselves. With
bread, vegetables, meat, and malt liquor, these two hermits of modern
days achieved the great double purpose of keeping life in and keeping
the tradesmen out.

Eating like primitive men, they lived in all other respects like
primitive men also. They had pots, pans, and pipkins, two deal tables,
two chairs, two old sofas, two short pipes, and two long cloaks. They
had no stated meal-times, no carpets and bedsteads, no cabinets,
book-cases, or ornamental knickknacks of any kind, no laundress, and
no char-woman. When either of the two wanted to eat and drink, he cut
off his crust of bread, cooked his bit of meat, drew his drop of beer,
without the slightest reference to the other. When either of the two
thought he wanted a clean shirt, which was very seldom, he went and
washed one for himself. When either of the two discovered that any
part of the house was getting very dirty indeed, he took a bucket of
water and a birch-broom, and washed the place out like a dog-kennel.
And, lastly, when either of the two wanted to go to sleep, he wrapped
himself up in his cloak, lay down on one of the sofas, and took what
repose he required, early in the evening or late in the morning, just
as he pleased.

When there was no baking, brewing, gardening, or cleaning to be done,
the two sat down opposite each other, and smoked for hours, generally
without uttering a word. Whenever they did speak, they quarreled.
Their ordinary dialogue was a species of conversational prize-fight,
beginning with a sarcastic affectation of good-will on either side,
and ending in hearty exchanges of violent abuse--just as the boxers go
through the feeble formality of shaking hands before they enter on the
serious practical business of beating each other's faces out of all
likeness to the image of man. Not having so many disadvantages of
early refinement and education to contend against as his master,
Shrowl generally won the victory in these engagements of the tongue.
Indeed, though nominally the servant, he was really the ruling spirit
in the house--acquiring unbounded influence over his master by dint of
outmarching Mr. Treverton in every direction on his own ground.
Shrowl's was the harshest voice; Shrowl's were the bitterest sayings;
and Shrowl's was the longest beard. The surest of all retributions is
the retribution that lies in wait for a man who boasts. Mr. Treverton
was rashly given to boasting of his independence, and when retribution
overtook him it assumed a personal form, and bore the name of Shrowl.

       *       *       *       *       *

On a certain morning, about three weeks after Mrs. Frankland had
written to the housekeeper at Porthgenna Tower to mention the period
at which her husband and herself might be expected there, Mr.
Treverton descended, with his sourest face and his surliest manner,
from the upper regions of the cottage to one of the rooms on the
ground-floor, which civilized tenants would probably have called the
parlor. Like his elder brother, he was a tall, well-built man; but his
bony, haggard, sallow face bore not the slightest resemblance to the
handsome, open, sunburnt face of the Captain. No one seeing them
together could possibly have guessed that they were brothers--so
completely did they differ in expression as well as in feature. The
heart-aches that he had suffered in youth; the reckless, wandering,
dissipated life that he had led in manhood; the petulance, the
disappointment, and the physical exhaustion of his latter days, had so
wasted and worn him away that he looked his brother's elder by almost
twenty years. With unbrushed hair and unwashed face, with a tangled
gray beard, and an old, patched, dirty flannel dressing-gown that hung
about him like a sack, this descendant of a wealthy and ancient family
looked as if his birthplace had been the work-house, and his vocation
in life the selling of cast-off clothes.

It was breakfast-time with Mr. Treverton--that is to say, it was the
time at which he felt hungry enough to think about eating something.
In the same position over the mantel-piece in which a looking-glass
would have been placed in a household of ordinary refinement, there
hung in the cottage of Timon of London a side of bacon. On the deal
table by the fire stood half a loaf of heavy-looking brown-bread; in a
corner of the room was a barrel of beer, with two battered pewter pots
hitched onto nails in the wall above it; and under the grate lay a
smoky old gridiron, left just as it had been thrown down when last
used and done with. Mr. Treverton took a greasy clasp-knife out of the
pocket of his dressing-gown, cut off a rasher of bacon, jerked the
gridiron onto the fire, and began to cook his breakfast. He had just
turned the rasher, when the door opened, and Shrowl entered the room,
with his pipe in his mouth, bent on the same eating errand as his

In personal appearance, Shrowl was short, fat, flabby, and perfectly
bald, except at the back of his head, where a ring of bristly
iron-gray hair projected like a collar that had got hitched out of its
place. To make amends for the scantiness of his hair, the beard which
he had cultivated by his master's desire grew far over his cheeks, and
drooped down on his chest in two thick jagged peaks. He wore a very
old long-tailed dress-coat, which he had picked up a bargain in
Petticoat Lane--a faded yellow shirt, with a large torn
frill--velveteen trowsers, turned up at the ankles--and Blucher boots
that had never been blacked since the day when they last left the
cobbler's stall. His color was unhealthily florid, his thick lips
curled upward with a malicious grin, and his eyes were the nearest
approach, in form and expression, to the eyes of a bull terrier
which those features are capable of achieving when they are placed in
the countenance of a man. Any painter wanting to express strength,
insolence, ugliness, coarseness, and cunning in the face and figure of
one and the same individual, could have discovered no better model for
the purpose, all the world over, than he might have found in the
person of Mr. Shrowl.


Neither master nor servant exchanged a word or took the smallest
notice of each other on first meeting. Shrowl stood stolidly
contemplative, with his hands in his pockets, waiting for his turn at
the gridiron. Mr. Treverton finished his cooking, took his bacon to
the table, and, cutting a crust of bread, began to eat his breakfast.
When he had disposed of the first mouthful, he condescended to look up
at Shrowl, who was at that moment opening his clasp-knife and
approaching the side of bacon with slouching steps and sleepily greedy

"What do you mean by that?" asked Mr. Treverton, pointing with
indignant surprise at Shrowl's breast. "You ugly brute, you've got a
clean shirt on!"

"Thankee, Sir, for noticing it," said Shrowl, with a sarcastic
affectation of humility. "This is a joyful occasion, this is. I
couldn't do no less than put a clean shirt on, when it's my master's
birthday. Many happy returns, Sir. Perhaps you thought I should forget
that to-day was your birthday? Lord bless your sweet face, I wouldn't
have forgot it on any account. How old are you to-day? It's a long
time ago, Sir, since you was a plump smiling little boy, with a frill
round your neck, and marbles in your pocket, and trowsers and
waistcoat all in one, and kisses and presents from Pa and Ma and uncle
and aunt, on your birthday. Don't you be afraid of me wearing out this
shirt by too much washing. I mean to put it away in lavender against
your next birthday; or against your funeral, which is just as likely
at your time of life--isn't it, Sir?"

"Don't waste a clean shirt on my funeral," retorted Mr. Treverton. "I
hav'n't left you any money in my will, Shrowl. You'll be on your way
to the work-house when I'm on my way to the grave."

"Have you really made your will at last, Sir?" inquired Shrowl,
pausing, with an appearance of the greatest interest, in the act of
cutting off his slice of bacon. "I humbly beg pardon, but I always
thought you was afraid to do it."

The servant had evidently touched intentionally on one of the master's
sore points. Mr. Treverton thumped his crust of bread on the table,
and looked up angrily at Shrowl.

"Afraid of making my will, you fool!" said he. "I don't make it, and I
won't make it, on principle."

Shrowl slowly sawed off his slice of bacon, and began to whistle a

"On principle," repeated Mr. Treverton. "Rich men who leave money
behind them are the farmers who raise the crop of human wickedness.
When a man has any spark of generosity in his nature, if you want to
put it out, leave him a legacy. When a man is bad, if you want to make
him worse, leave him a legacy. If you want to collect a number of men
together for the purpose of perpetuating corruption and oppression on
a large scale, leave them a legacy under the form of endowing a public
charity. If you want to give a woman the best chance in the world of
getting a bad husband, leave her a legacy. _Make my will!_ I have a
pretty strong dislike of my species, Shrowl, but I don't quite hate
mankind enough yet to do such mischief among them as that!" Ending his
diatribe in those words, Mr. Treverton took down one of the battered
pewter pots, and refreshed himself with a pint of beer.

Shrowl shifted the gridiron to a clear place in the fire, and chuckled

"Who the devil would you have me leave my money to?" cried Mr.
Treverton, overhearing him. "To my brother, who thinks me a brute now;
who would think me a fool then; and who would encourage swindling,
anyhow, by spending all my money among doxies and strolling players?
To the child of that player-woman, whom I have never set eyes on, who
has been brought up to hate me, and who would turn hypocrite directly
by pretending, for decency's sake, to be sorry for my death? To _you_,
you human baboon!--you, who would set up a usury office directly, and
prey upon the widow, the fatherless, and the unfortunate generally,
all over the world? Your good health, Mr. Shrowl! I can laugh as well
as you--especially when I know I'm not going to leave you sixpence."

Shrowl, in his turn, began to get a little irritated now. The jeering
civility which he had chosen to assume on first entering the room gave
place to his habitual surliness of manner and his natural growling
intonation of voice.

"You just let me alone--will you?" he said, sitting down sulkily to
his breakfast. "I've done joking for to-day; suppose you finish too.
What's the use of talking nonsense about your money? You must leave it
to somebody."

"Yes, I will," said Mr. Treverton. "I will leave it, as I have told
you over and over again, to the first Somebody I can find who honestly
despises money, and who can't be made the worse, therefore, by having

"That means nobody," grunted Shrowl.

"I know it does!" retorted his master.

Before Shrowl could utter a word of rejoinder, there was a ring at the
gate-bell of the cottage.

"Go out," said Mr. Treverton, "and see what that is. If it's a woman
visitor, show her what a scarecrow you are, and frighten her away. If
it's a man visitor--"

"If it's a man visitor," interposed Shrowl, "I'll punch his head for
interrupting me at my breakfast."

Mr. Treverton filled and lit his pipe during his servant's absence.
Before the tobacco was well alight, Shrowl returned, and reported a
man visitor.

"Did you punch his head?" asked Mr. Treverton.

"No," said Shrowl. "I picked up his letter. He poked it under the gate
and went away. Here it is."

The letter was written on foolscap paper, superscribed in a round
legal hand. As Mr. Treverton opened it, two slips cut from newspapers
dropped out. One fell on the table before which he was sitting; the
other fluttered to the floor. This last slip Shrowl picked up and
looked over its contents, without troubling himself to go through the
ceremony of first asking leave.

After slowly drawing in and slowly puffing out again one mouthful of
tobacco-smoke, Mr. Treverton began to read the letter. As his eye fell
on the first lines, his lips began to work round the mouth-piece of
the pipe in a manner that was very unusual with him. The letter was
not long enough to require him to turn over the first leaf of it--it
ended at the bottom of the opening sheet. He read it down to the
signature--then looked up to the address, and went through it again
from the beginning. His lips still continued to work round the
mouth-piece of the pipe, but he smoked no more. When he had finished
the second reading, he set the letter down very gently on the table,
looked at his servant with an unaccustomed vacancy in the expression
of his eyes, and took the pipe out of his mouth with a hand that
trembled a little.

"Shrowl," he said, very quietly, "my brother, the Captain, is

"I know he is," answered Shrowl, without looking up from the
newspaper-slip. "I'm reading about it here."

"The last words my brother said to me when we quarreled about the
player-woman," continued Mr. Treverton, speaking as much to himself as
to his servant, "were that I should die without one kind feeling in my
heart toward any living creature."

"So you will," muttered Shrowl, turning the slip over to see if there
was any thing worth reading at the back of it.

"I wonder what he thought about me when he was dying?" said Mr.
Treverton, abstractedly, taking up the letter again from the table.

"He didn't waste a thought on you or any body else," remarked Shrowl.
"If he thought at all, he thought about how he could save his life.
When he had done thinking about that, he had done living too." With
this expression of opinion Mr. Shrowl went to the beer-barrel, and
drew his morning draught.

"Damn that player-woman!" muttered Mr. Treverton. As he said the words
his face darkened and his lips closed firmly. He smoothed the letter
out on the table. There seemed to be some doubt in his mind whether he
had mastered all its contents yet--some idea that there ought to be
more in it than he had yet discovered. In going over it for the third
time, he read it to himself aloud and very slowly, as if he was
determined to fix every separate word firmly in his memory. This was
the letter:

     "SIR,--As the old legal adviser and faithful friend of your
     family, I am desired by Mrs. Frankland, formerly Miss
     Treverton, to acquaint you with the sad news of your
     brother's death. This deplorable event occurred on board
     the ship of which he was captain, during a gale of wind in
     which the vessel was lost on a reef of rocks off the island
     of Antigua. I inclose a detailed account of the shipwreck,
     extracted from _The Times_, by which you will see that your
     brother died nobly in the performance of his duty toward
     the officers and men whom he commanded. I also send a slip
     from the local Cornish paper, containing a memoir of the
     deceased gentleman.

     "Before closing this communication, I must add that no will
     has been found, after the most rigorous search, among the
     papers of the late Captain Treverton. Having disposed, as
     you know, of Porthgenna, the only property of which he was
     possessed at the time of his death was personal property,
     derived from the sale of his estate; and this, in
     consequence of his dying intestate, will go in due course
     of law to his daughter, as his nearest of kin.

     "I am, Sir, your obedient servant,


The newspaper-slip, which had fallen on the table, contained the
paragraph from _The Times_. The slip from the Cornish paper, which had
dropped to the floor, Shrowl poked under his master's eyes, in a fit
of temporary civility, as soon as he had done reading it. Mr.
Treverton took not the slightest notice either of the one paragraph or
the other. He still sat looking at the letter, even after he had read
it for the third time.

"Why don't you give the strip of print a turn, as well as the sheet of
writing?" asked Shrowl. "Why don't you read about what a great man
your brother was, and what a good life he led, and what a wonderful
handsome daughter he's left behind him, and what a capital marriage
she's made along with the man that's owner of your old family estate?
_She_ don't want your money now, at any rate! The ill wind that blowed
her father's ship on the rocks has blowed forty thousand pounds of
good into her lap. Why don't you read about it? She and her husband
have got a better house in Cornwall than you have got here. Ain't you
glad of that? They were going to have repaired the place from top to
bottom for your brother to go and live along with 'em in clover when
he came back from sea. Who will ever repair a place for you? I wonder
whether your niece would knock the old house about for your sake, now,
if you was to clean yourself up and go and ask her?"

At the last question, Shrowl paused in the work of aggravation--not
for want of more words, but for want of encouragement to utter them.
For the first time since they had kept house together, he had tried to
provoke his master and had failed. Mr. Treverton listened, or appeared
to listen, without moving a muscle--without the faintest change to
anger in his face. The only words he said when Shrowl had done were
these two--

"Go out!"

Shrowl was not an easy man to move, but he absolutely changed color
when he heard himself suddenly ordered to leave the room.

"Go out!" reiterated Mr. Treverton. "And hold your tongue henceforth
and forever about my brother and my brother's daughter. I never _have_
set eyes upon the player-woman's child, and I never will. Hold your
tongue--leave me alone--go out!"

"I'll be even with him for this," thought Shrowl as he slowly withdrew
from the room.

When he had closed the door, he listened outside of it, and heard Mr.
Treverton push aside his chair, and walk up and down, talking to
himself. Judging by the confused words that escaped him, Shrowl
concluded that his thoughts were still running on the "player-woman"
who had set his brother and himself at variance. He seemed to feel a
barbarous sense of relief in venting his dissatisfaction with himself,
after the news of Captain Treverton's death, on the memory of the
woman whom he hated so bitterly, and on the child whom she had left
behind her.

After a while the low rumbling tones of his voice ceased altogether.
Shrowl peeped through the key-hole, and saw that he was reading the
newspaper-slips which contained the account of the shipwreck and the
Memoir of his brother. The latter adverted to some of those family
particulars which the vicar of Long Beckley had mentioned to his
guest; and the writer of the Memoir concluded by expressing a hope
that the bereavement which Mr. and Mrs. Frankland had suffered would
not interfere with their project for repairing Porthgenna Tower, after
they had gone the length already of sending a builder to survey the
place. Something in the wording of that paragraph seemed to take Mr.
Treverton's memory back to his youth-time when the old family house
had been his home. He whispered a few words to himself which gloomily
referred to the days that were gone, rose from his chair impatiently,
threw both the newspaper-slips into the fire, watched them while they
were burning, and sighed when the black gossamer ashes floated upward
on the draught, and were lost in the chimney.

The sound of that sigh startled Shrowl as the sound of a pistol-shot
might have startled another man. His bull-terrier eyes opened wide in
astonishment, and he shook his head ominously as he walked away from
the door.



The housekeeper at Porthgenna Tower had just completed the necessary
preparations for the reception of her master and mistress, at the time
mentioned in Mrs. Frankland's letter from St. Swithin's-on-Sea, when
she was startled by receiving a note sealed with black wax, and
surrounded by a thick mourning border. The note briefly communicated
the news of Captain Treverton's death, and informed her that the visit
of Mr. and Mrs. Frankland to Porthgenna was deferred for an indefinite

By the same post the builder, who was superintending the renovation of
the west staircase, also received a letter, requesting him to send in
his account as soon as the repairs on which he was then engaged were
completed; and telling him that Mr. Frankland was unable, for the
present, to give any further attention to the project for making the
north rooms habitable. On the receipt of this communication, the
builder withdrew himself and his men as soon as the west stairs and
banisters had been made secure; and Porthgenna Tower was again left to
the care of the housekeeper and her servant, without master or
mistress, friends or strangers, to thread its solitary passages or
enliven its empty rooms.

From this time eight months passed away, and the housekeeper heard
nothing of her master and mistress, except through the medium of
paragraphs in the local newspaper, which dubiously referred to the
probability of their occupying the old house, and interesting
themselves in the affairs of their tenantry, at no very distant
period. Occasionally, too, when business took him to the post-town,
the steward collected reports about his employers among the old
friends and dependents of the Treverton family.

From these sources of information, the housekeeper was led to conclude
that Mr. and Mrs. Frankland had returned to Long Beckley, after
receiving the news of Captain Treverton's death, and had lived there
for some months in strict retirement. When they left that place, they
moved (if the newspaper report was to be credited) to the neighborhood
of London, and occupied the house of some friends who were traveling
on the Continent. Here they must have remained for some time, for the
new year came and brought no rumors of any change in their place of
abode. January and February passed without any news of them. Early in
March the steward had occasion to go to the post-town. When he
returned to Porthgenna, he came back with a new report relating to Mr.
and Mrs. Frankland, which excited the housekeeper's interest in an
extraordinary degree. In two different quarters, each highly
respectable, the steward had heard it facetiously announced that the
domestic responsibilities of his master and mistress were likely to be
increased by their having a nurse to engage and a crib to buy at the
end of the spring or the beginning of the summer. In plain English,
among the many babies who might be expected to make their appearance
in the world in the course of the next three months, there was one who
would inherit the name of Frankland, and who (if the infant luckily
turned out to be a boy) would cause a sensation throughout West
Cornwall as heir to the Porthgenna estate.

In the next month, the month of April, before the housekeeper and the
steward had done discussing their last and most important fragment of
news, the postman made his welcome appearance at Porthgenna Tower, and
brought another note from Mrs. Frankland. The housekeeper's face
brightened with unaccustomed pleasure and surprise as she read the
first line. The letter announced that the long-deferred visit of her
master and mistress to the old house would take place early in May,
and that they might be expected to arrive any day from the first to
the tenth of the month.

The reasons which had led the owners of Porthgenna to fix a period, at
last, for visiting their country seat, were connected with certain
particulars into which Mrs. Frankland had not thought it advisable to
enter in her letter. The plain facts of the case were, that a little
discussion had arisen between the husband and wife in relation to the
next place of residence which they should select, after the return
from the Continent of the friends whose house they were occupying. Mr.
Frankland had very reasonably suggested returning again to Long
Beckley--not only because all their oldest friends lived in the
neighborhood, but also (and circumstances made this an important
consideration) because the place had the advantage of possessing an
excellent resident medical man. Unfortunately this latter advantage,
so far from carrying any weight with it in Mrs. Frankland's
estimation, actually prejudiced her mind against the project of going
to Long Beckley. She had always, she acknowledged, felt an
unreasonable antipathy to the doctor there. He might be a very
skillful, an extremely polite, and an undeniably respectable man; but
she never had liked him, and never should, and she was resolved to
oppose the plan for living at Long Beckley, because the execution of
it would oblige her to commit herself to his care.

Two other places of residence were next suggested; but Mrs. Frankland
had the same objection to oppose to both--in each case the resident
doctor would be a stranger to her, and she did not like the notion of
being attended by a stranger. Finally, as she had all along
anticipated, the choice of the future abode was left entirely to her
own inclinations; and then, to the amazement of her husband and her
friends, she immediately decided on going to Porthgenna. She had
formed this strange project, and was now resolved on executing it,
partly because she was more curious than ever to see the place again;
partly because the doctor who had been with her mother in Mrs.
Treverton's last illness, and who had attended her through all her own
little maladies when she was a child, was still living and practicing
in the Porthgenna neighborhood. Her father and the doctor had been
old cronies, and had met for years at the same chess-board every
Saturday night. They had kept up their friendship, when circumstances
separated them, by exchanges of Christmas presents every year; and
when the sad news of the Captain's death had reached Cornwall, the
doctor had written a letter of sympathy and condolence to Rosamond,
speaking in such terms of his former friend and patron as she could
never forget. He must be a nice, fatherly old man now, the man of all
others who was fittest, on every account, to attend her. In short,
Mrs. Frankland was just as strongly prejudiced in favor of employing
the Porthgenna doctor as she was prejudiced against employing the Long
Beckley doctor; and she ended, as all young married women with
affectionate husbands may, and do end, whenever they please--by
carrying her own point, and having her own way.

On the first of May the west rooms were all ready for the reception of
the master and mistress of the house. The beds were aired, the carpets
cleaned, the sofas and chairs uncovered. The housekeeper put on her
satin gown and her garnet brooch; the maid followed suit, at a
respectful distance, in brown merino and a pink ribbon; and the
steward, determining not to be outdone by the women, arrayed himself
in a black brocaded waistcoat, which almost rivaled the gloom and
grandeur of the housekeeper's satin gown. The day wore on, evening
closed in, bed-time came, and there were no signs yet of Mr. and Mrs.

But the first was an early day on which to expect them. The steward
thought so, and the housekeeper added that it would be foolish to feel
disappointed, even if they did not arrive until the fifth. The fifth
came, and still nothing happened. The sixth, seventh, eighth, and
ninth followed, and no sound of the expected carriage-wheels came near
the lonely house.

On the tenth, and last day, the housekeeper, the steward, and the
maid, all three rose earlier than usual; all three opened and shut
doors, and went up and down stairs oftener than was needful; all three
looked out perpetually toward the moor and the high road, and thought
the view flatter and duller and emptier than ever it had appeared to
them before. The day waned, the sunset came; darkness changed the
perpetual looking-out of the housekeeper, the steward, and the maid
into perpetual listening; ten o'clock struck, and still there was
nothing to be heard when they went to the open window but the
wearisome beating of the surf on the sandy shore.

The housekeeper began to calculate the time that would be consumed on
the railway journey from London to Exeter, and on the posting journey
afterward through Cornwall to Porthgenna. When had Mr. and Mrs.
Frankland left Exeter?--that was the first question. And what delays
might they have encountered afterward in getting horses?--that was the
second. The housekeeper and the steward differed in debating these
points; but both agreed that it was necessary to sit up until
midnight, on the chance of the master and mistress arriving late. The
maid, hearing her sentence of banishment from bed for the next two
hours pronounced by the superior authorities, yawned and sighed
mournfully--was reproved by the steward--and was furnished by the
housekeeper with a book of hymns to read to keep up her spirits.

Twelve o'clock struck, and still the monotonous beating of the surf,
varied occasionally by those loud, mysterious, cracking noises which
make themselves heard at night in an old house, were the only audible
sounds. The steward was dozing; the maid was fast asleep under the
soothing influence of the hymns; the housekeeper was wide awake, with
her eyes fixed on the window, and her head shaking forebodingly from
time to time. At the last stroke of the clock she left her chair,
listened attentively, and still hearing nothing, shook the maid
irritably by the shoulder, and stamped on the floor to arouse the

"We may go to bed," she said. "They are not coming. This is the second
time they have disappointed us. The first time the Captain's death
stood in the way. What stops them now? Another death? I shouldn't
wonder if it was."

"Now I think of it, no more should I," said the steward, ominously
knitting his brows.

"Another death!" repeated the housekeeper, superstitiously. "If it
_is_ another death, I should take it, in their place, as a warning to
keep away from the house."



If, instead of hazarding the guess that a second death stood in the
way of Mr. and Mrs. Frankland's arrival at Porthgenna, the housekeeper
had, by way of variety, surmised this time that a birth was the
obstacle which delayed them, she might have established her character
as a wise woman, by hitting at random on the actual truth. Her master
and mistress had started from London on the ninth of May, and had got
through the greater part of their railway journey, when they were
suddenly obliged to stop, on Mrs. Frankland's account, at the station
of a small town in Somersetshire. The little visitor, who was destined
to increase the domestic responsibilities of the young married couple,
had chosen to enter on the scene, in the character of a robust
boy-baby, a month earlier than he had been expected, and had modestly
preferred to make his first appearance in a small Somersetshire inn,
rather than wait to be ceremoniously welcomed to life in the great
house of Porthgenna, which he was one day to inherit.

Very few events had ever produced a greater sensation in the town of
West Winston than the one small event of the unexpected stoppage of
Mr. and Mrs. Frankland's journey at that place. Never since the last
election had the landlord and landlady of the Tiger's Head Hotel
bustled about their house in such a fever of excitement as possessed
them when Mr. Frankland's servant and Mrs. Frankland's maid drew up at
the door in a fly from the station, to announce that their master and
mistress were behind, and that the largest and quietest rooms in the
hotel were wanted immediately, under the most unexpected
circumstances. Never since he had triumphantly passed his examination
had young Mr. Orridge, the new doctor, who had started in life by
purchasing the West Winston practice, felt such a thrill of
pleasurable agitation pervade him from top to toe as when he heard
that the wife of a blind gentleman of great fortune had been taken
ill on the railway journey from London to Devonshire, and required
all that his skill and attention could do for her without a moment's
delay. Never since the last archery meeting and fancy fair had the
ladies of the town been favored with such an all-absorbing subject for
conversation as was now afforded to them by Mrs. Frankland's mishap.
Fabulous accounts of the wife's beauty and the husband's fortune
poured from the original source of the Tiger's Head, and trickled
through the highways and byways of the little town. There were a dozen
different reports, one more elaborately false than the other, about
Mr. Frankland's blindness, and the cause of it; about the lamentable
condition in which his wife had arrived at the hotel; and about the
painful sense of responsibility which had unnerved the inexperienced
Mr. Orridge from the first moment when he set eyes on his patient. It
was not till eight o'clock in the evening that the public mind was
relieved at last from all suspense by an announcement that the child
was born, and screaming lustily; that the mother was wonderfully well,
considering all things; and that Mr. Orridge had covered himself with
distinction by the skill, tenderness, and attention with which he had
performed his duties.

On the next day, and the next, and for a week after that, the accounts
were still favorable. But on the tenth day a catastrophe was reported.
The nurse who was in attendance on Mrs. Frankland had been suddenly
taken ill, and was rendered quite incapable of performing any further
service for at least a week to come, and perhaps for a much longer

In a large town this misfortune might have been readily remedied, but
in a place like West Winston it was not so easy to supply the loss of
an experienced nurse at a few hours' notice. When Mr. Orridge was
consulted in the new emergency, he candidly acknowledged that he
required a little time for consideration before he could undertake to
find another professed nurse of sufficient character and experience to
wait on a lady like Mrs. Frankland. Mr. Frankland suggested
telegraphing to a medical friend in London for a nurse, but the doctor
was unwilling for many reasons to adopt that plan, except as a last
resource. It would take some time to find the right person, and to
send her to West Winston and, moreover, he would infinitely prefer
employing a woman with whose character and capacity he was himself
acquainted. He therefore proposed that Mrs. Frankland should be
trusted for a few hours to the care of her maid, under supervision of
the landlady of the Tiger's Head, while he made inquiries in the
neighborhood. If the inquiries produced no satisfactory result, he
should be ready, when he called in the evening, to adopt Mr.
Frankland's idea of telegraphing to London for a nurse.

On proceeding to make the investigation that he had proposed, Mr.
Orridge, although he spared no trouble, met with no success. He found
plenty of volunteers for the office of nurse, but they were all
loud-voiced, clumsy-handed, heavy-footed countrywomen, kind and
willing enough, but sadly awkward, blundering attendants to place at
the bedside of such a lady as Mrs. Frankland. The morning hours passed
away, and the afternoon came, and still Mr. Orridge had found no
substitute for the invalided nurse whom he could venture to engage.

At two o'clock he had half an hour's drive before him to a
country-house where he had a child-patient to see. "Perhaps I may
remember somebody who may do, on the way out or on the way back
again," thought Mr. Orridge, as he got into his gig. "I have some
hours at my disposal still, before the time comes for my evening visit
at the inn."

Puzzling his brains, with the best intention in the world, all along
the road to the country-house, Mr. Orridge reached his destination
without having arrived at any other conclusion than that he might just
as well state his difficulty to Mrs. Norbury, the lady whose child he
was about to prescribe for. He had called on her when he bought the
West Winston practice, and had found her one of those frank,
good-humored, middle-aged women who are generally designated by the
epithet "motherly." Her husband was a country squire, famous for his
old politics, his old stories, and his old wine. He had seconded his
wife's hearty reception of the new doctor, with all the usual jokes
about never giving him any employment, and never letting any bottles
into the house except the bottles that went down into the cellar. Mr.
Orridge had been amused by the husband and pleased with the wife; and
he thought it might be at least worth while, before he gave up all
hope of finding a fit nurse, to ask Mrs. Norbury, as an old resident
in the West Winston neighborhood, for a word of advice.

Accordingly, after seeing the child, and pronouncing that there were
no symptoms about the little patient which need cause the slightest
alarm to any body, Mr. Orridge paved the way for a statement of the
difficulty that beset him by asking Mrs. Norbury if she had heard of
the "interesting event" that had happened at the Tiger's Head.

"You mean," answered Mrs. Norbury, who was a downright woman, and a
resolute speaker of the plainest possible English--"You mean, have I
heard about that poor unfortunate lady who was taken ill on her
journey, and who had a child born at the inn? We have heard so much,
and no more--living as we do (thank Heaven!) out of reach of the West
Winston gossip. How is the lady? Who is she? Is the child well? Is she
tolerably comfortable? poor thing! Can I send her any thing, or do any
thing for her?"

"You would do a great thing for her, and render a great assistance to
me," said Mr. Orridge, "if you could tell me of any respectable woman
in this neighborhood who would be a proper nurse for her."

"You don't mean to say that the poor creature has not got a nurse!"
exclaimed Mrs. Norbury.

"She has had the best nurse in West Winston," replied Mr. Orridge.
"But, most unfortunately, the woman was taken ill this morning, and
was obliged to go home. I am now at my wit's end for somebody to
supply her place. Mrs. Frankland has been used to the luxury of being
well waited on; and where I am to find an attendant, who is likely to
satisfy her, is more than I can tell."

"Frankland, did you say her name was?" inquired Mrs. Norbury.

"Yes. She is, I understand, a daughter of that Captain Treverton who
was lost with his ship a year ago in the West Indies. Perhaps you may
remember the account of the disaster in the newspapers?"

"Of course I do! and I remember the Captain too. I was acquainted with
him when he was a young man, at Portsmouth. His daughter and I ought
not to be strangers, especially under such circumstances as the poor
thing is placed in now. I will call at the inn, Mr. Orridge, as soon
as you will allow me to introduce myself to her. But, in the mean
time, what is to be done in this difficulty about the nurse? Who is
with Mrs. Frankland now?"

"Her maid; but she is a very young woman, and doesn't understand
nursing duties. The landlady of the inn is ready to help when she can;
but then she has constant demands on her time and attention. I suppose
we shall have to telegraph to London and get somebody sent here by

"And that will take time, of course. And the new nurse may turn out to
be a drunkard or a thief, or both--when you have got her here," said
the outspoken Mrs. Norbury. "Dear, dear me! can't we do something
better than that? I am ready, I am sure, to take any trouble, or make
any sacrifice, if I can be of use to Mrs. Frankland. Do you know, Mr.
Orridge, I think it would be a good plan if we consulted my
housekeeper, Mrs. Jazeph. She is an odd woman, with an odd name, you
will say; but she has lived with me in this house more than five
years, and she may know of somebody in our neighborhood who might suit
you, though I don't." With those words, Mrs. Norbury rang the bell,
and ordered the servant who answered it to tell Mrs. Jazeph that she
was wanted up stairs immediately.

After the lapse of a minute or so a soft knock was heard at the door,
and the housekeeper entered the room.

Mr. Orridge looked at her, the moment she appeared, with an interest
and curiosity for which he was hardly able to account. He judged her,
at a rough guess, to be a woman of about fifty years of age. At the
first glance, his medical eye detected that some of the intricate
machinery of the nervous system had gone wrong with Mrs. Jazeph. He
noted the painful working of the muscles of her face, and the hectic
flush that flew into her cheeks when she entered the room and found a
visitor there. He observed a strangely scared look in her eyes, and
remarked that it did not leave them when the rest of her face became
gradually composed. "That woman has had some dreadful fright, some
great grief, or some wasting complaint," he thought to himself. "I
wonder which it is?"

"This is Mr. Orridge, the medical gentleman who has lately settled at
West Winston," said Mrs. Norbury, addressing the housekeeper. "He is
in attendance on a lady who was obliged to stop, on her journey
westward, at our station, and who is now staying at the Tiger's Head.
You have heard something about it, have you not, Mrs. Jazeph?"

Mrs. Jazeph, standing just inside the door, looked respectfully toward
the doctor, and answered in the affirmative. Although she only said
the two common words, "Yes, ma'am," in a quiet, uninterested way, Mr.
Orridge was struck by the sweetness and tenderness of her voice. If he
had not been looking at her, he would have supposed it to be the voice
of a young woman. His eyes remained fixed on her after she had spoken,
though he felt that they ought to have been looking toward her
mistress. He, the most unobservant of men in such things, found
himself noticing her dress, so that he remembered, long afterward, the
form of the spotless muslin cap that primly covered her smooth gray
hair, and the quiet brown color of the silk dress that fitted so
neatly and hung around her in such spare and disciplined folds. The
little confusion which she evidently felt at finding herself the
object of the doctor's attention did not betray her into the slightest
awkwardness of gesture or manner. If there can be such a thing,
physically speaking, as the grace of restraint, that was the grace
which seemed to govern Mrs. Jazeph's slightest movements; which led
her feet smoothly over the carpet, as she advanced when her mistress
next spoke to her; which governed the action of her wan right hand as
it rested lightly on a table by her side, while she stopped to hear
the next question that was addressed to her.

"Well," continued Mrs. Norbury, "this poor lady was just getting on
comfortably, when the nurse who was looking after her fell ill this
morning; and there she is now, in a strange place, with a first child,
and no proper attendance--no woman of age and experience to help her
as she ought to be helped. We want somebody fit to wait on a delicate
woman who has seen nothing of the rough side of humanity. Mr. Orridge
can find nobody at a day's notice, and I can tell him of nobody. Can
you help us, Mrs. Jazeph? Are there any women down in the village, or
among Mr. Norbury's tenants, who understand nursing, and have some
tact and tenderness to recommend them into the bargain?"

Mrs. Jazeph reflected for a little while, and then said, very
respectfully, but very briefly also, and still without any appearance
of interest in her manner, that she knew of no one whom she could

"Don't make too sure of that till you have thought a little longer,"
said Mrs. Norbury. "I have a particular interest in serving this lady,
for Mr. Orridge told me just before you came in that she is the
daughter of Captain Treverton, whose shipwreck--"

The instant those words were spoken, Mrs. Jazeph turned round with a
start, and looked at the doctor. Apparently forgetting that her right
hand was on the table, she moved it so suddenly that it struck against
a bronze statuette of a dog placed on some writing materials. The
statuette fell to the ground, and Mrs. Jazeph stooped to pick it up
with a cry of alarm which seemed strangely exaggerated by comparison
with the trifling nature of the accident.

"Bless the woman! what is she frightened about?" exclaimed Mrs.
Norbury. "The dog is not hurt--put it back again! This is the first
time, Mrs. Jazeph, that I ever knew you do an awkward thing. You may
take that as a compliment, I think. Well, as I was saying, this lady
is the daughter of Captain Treverton, whose dreadful shipwreck we all
read about in the papers. I knew her father in my early days, and on
that account I am doubly anxious to be of service to her now. Do think
again. Is there nobody within reach who can be trusted to nurse her?"

The doctor, still watching Mrs. Jazeph with that secret medical
interest of his in her case, had seen her turn so deadly pale when she
started and looked toward him that he would not have been surprised if
she had fainted on the spot. He now observed that she changed color
again when her mistress left off speaking. The hectic red tinged her
cheeks once more with two bright spots. Her timid eyes wandered
uneasily about the room; and her fingers, as she clasped her hands
together, interlaced themselves mechanically. "That would be an
interesting case to treat," thought the doctor, following every
nervous movement of the housekeeper's hands with watchful eyes.

"Do think again," repeated Mrs. Norbury. "I am so anxious to help this
poor lady through her difficulty, if I can."

"I am very sorry," said Mrs. Jazeph, in faint, trembling tones, but
still always with the same sweetness in her voice--"very sorry that I
can think of no one who is fit; but--"

She stopped. No shy child on its first introduction to the society of
strangers could have looked more disconcerted than she looked now. Her
eyes were on the ground; her color was deepening; the fingers of her
clasped hands were working together faster and faster every moment.

"But what?" asked Mrs. Norbury.

"I was about to say, ma'am," answered Mrs. Jazeph, speaking with the
greatest difficulty and uneasiness, and never raising her eyes to her
mistress's face, "that, rather than this lady should want for a nurse,
I would--considering the interest, ma'am, which you take in her--I
would, if you thought you could spare me--"

"What, nurse her yourself!" exclaimed Mrs. Norbury. "Upon my word,
although you have got to it in rather a roundabout way, you have come
to the point at last, in a manner which does infinite credit to your
kindness of heart and your readiness to make yourself useful. As to
sparing you, of course I am not so selfish, under the circumstances,
as to think twice of the inconvenience of losing my housekeeper. But
the question is, are you competent as well as willing? Have you ever
had any practice in nursing?"

"Yes, ma'am," answered Mrs. Jazeph, still without raising her eyes
from the ground. "Shortly after my marriage" (the flush disappeared,
and her face turned pale again as she said those words), "I had some
practice in nursing, and continued it at intervals until the time of
my husband's death. I only presume to offer myself, Sir," she went on,
turning toward the doctor, and becoming more earnest and
self-possessed in her manner as she did so--"I only presume to offer
myself, with my mistress's permission, as a substitute for a nurse
until some better qualified person can be found."

"What do you say, Mr. Orridge?" asked Mrs. Norbury.

It had been the doctor's turn to start when he first heard Mrs. Jazeph
propose herself for the office of nurse. He hesitated before he
answered Mrs. Norbury's question, then said:

"I can have but one doubt about the propriety of thankfully accepting
Mrs. Jazeph's offer."

Mrs. Jazeph's timid eyes looked anxiously and perplexedly at him as
he spoke. Mrs. Norbury, in her downright, abrupt way, asked
immediately what the doubt was.

"I feel some uncertainty," replied Mr. Orridge, "as to whether Mrs.
Jazeph--she will pardon me, as a medical man, for mentioning it--as to
whether Mrs. Jazeph is strong enough, and has her nerves sufficiently
under control to perform the duties which she is so kindly ready to

In spite of the politeness of the explanation, Mrs. Jazeph was
evidently disconcerted and distressed by it. A certain quiet,
uncomplaining sadness, which it was very touching to see, overspread
her face as she turned away, without another word, and walked slowly
to the door.

"Don't go yet!" cried Mrs. Norbury, kindly, "or, at least, if you do
go, come back again in five minutes. I am quite certain we shall have
something more to say to you then."

Mrs. Jazeph's eyes expressed her thanks in one grateful glance. They
looked so much brighter than usual while they rested on her mistress's
face, that Mrs. Norbury half doubted whether the tears were not just
rising in them at that moment. Before she could look again, Mrs.
Jazeph had courtesied to the doctor, and had noiselessly left the

"Now we are alone, Mr. Orridge," said Mrs. Norbury, "I may tell you,
with all submission to your medical judgment, that you are a little
exaggerating Mrs. Jazeph's nervous infirmities. She looks poorly
enough, I own; but, after five years' experience of her, I can tell
you that she is stronger than she looks, and I honestly think you will
be doing good service to Mrs. Frankland if you try our volunteer
nurse, at least for a day or two. She is the gentlest, tenderest
creature I ever met with, and conscientious to a fault in the
performance of any duty that she undertakes. Don't be under any
delicacy about taking her away. I gave a dinner-party last week, and
shall not give another for some time to come. I never could have
spared my housekeeper more easily than I can spare her now."

"I am sure I may offer Mrs. Frankland's thanks to you as well as my
own," said Mr. Orridge. "After what you have said, it would be
ungracious and ungrateful in me not to follow your advice. But will
you excuse me if I ask one question? Did you ever hear that Mrs.
Jazeph was subject to fits of any kind?"


"Not even to hysterical affections, now and then?"

"Never, since she has been in this house."

"You surprise me, there is something in her look and manner--"

"Yes, yes; every body remarks that at first; but it simply means that
she is in delicate health, and that she has not led a very happy life
(as I suspect) in her younger days. The lady from whom I had her (with
an excellent character) told me that she had married unhappily, when
she was in a sadly poor, unprotected state. She never says any thing
about her married troubles herself; but I believe her husband ill-used
her. However, it does not seem to me that this is our business. I can
only tell you again that she has been an excellent servant here for
the last five years, and that, in your place, poorly as she may look,
I should consider her as the best nurse that Mrs. Frankland could
possibly wish for, under the circumstances. There is no need for me to
say any more. Take Mrs. Jazeph, or telegraph to London for a
stranger--the decision of course rests with you."

Mr. Orridge thought he detected a slight tone of irritability in Mrs.
Norbury's last sentence. He was a prudent man; and he suppressed any
doubts he might still feel in reference to Mrs. Jazeph's physical
capacities for nursing, rather than risk offending the most important
lady in the neighborhood at the outset of his practice in West Winston
as a medical man.

"I can not hesitate a moment after what you have been good enough to
tell me," he said. "Pray believe that I gratefully accept your
kindness and your housekeeper's offer."

Mrs. Norbury rang the bell. It was answered on the instant by the
housekeeper herself.

The doctor wondered whether she had been listening outside the door,
and thought it rather strange, if she had, that she should be so
anxious to learn his decision.

"Mr. Orridge accepts your offer with thanks," said Mrs. Norbury,
beckoning to Mrs. Jazeph to advance into the room. "I have persuaded
him that you are not quite so weak and ill as you look."

A gleam of joyful surprise broke over the housekeeper's face. It
looked suddenly younger by years and years, as she smiled and
expressed her grateful sense of the trust that was about to be
reposed in her. For the first time, also, since the doctor had seen
her, she ventured on speaking before she was spoken to.

"When will my attendance be required, Sir?" she asked.

"As soon as possible," replied Mr. Orridge. How quickly and brightly
her dim eyes seemed to clear as she heard that answer! How much more
hasty than her usual movements was the movement with which she now
turned round and looked appealingly at her mistress!

"Go whenever Mr. Orridge wants you," said Mrs. Norbury. "I know your
accounts are always in order, and your keys always in their proper
places. You never make confusion and you never leave confusion. Go, by
all means, as soon as the doctor wants you."

"I suppose you have some preparations to make?" said Mr. Orridge.

"None, Sir, that need delay me more than half an hour," answered Mrs.

"This evening will be early enough," said the doctor, taking his hat,
and bowing to Mrs. Norbury. "Come to the Tiger's Head, and ask for me.
I shall be there between seven and eight. Many thanks again, Mrs.

"My best wishes and compliments to your patient, doctor."

"At the Tiger's Head, between seven and eight this evening,"
reiterated Mr. Orridge, as the housekeeper opened the door for him.

"Between seven and eight, Sir," repeated the soft, sweet voice,
sounding younger than ever, now that there was an under-note of
pleasure running through its tones.



As the clock struck seven, Mr. Orridge put on his hat to go to the
Tiger's Head. He had just opened his own door, when he was met on the
step by a messenger, who summoned him immediately to a case of sudden
illness in the poor quarter of the town. The inquiries he made
satisfied him that the appeal was really of an urgent nature, and that
there was no help for it but to delay his attendance for a little
while at the inn. On reaching the bedside of the patient, he
discovered symptoms in the case which rendered an immediate operation
necessary. The performance of this professional duty occupied some
time. It was a quarter to eight before he left his house, for the
second time, on his way to the Tiger's Head.

On entering the inn door, he was informed that the new nurse had
arrived as early as seven o'clock, and had been waiting for him in a
room by herself ever since. Having received no orders from Mr.
Orridge, the landlady had thought it safest not to introduce the
stranger to Mrs. Frankland before the doctor came.

"Did she ask to go up into Mrs. Frankland's room?" inquired Mr.

"Yes, Sir," replied the landlady. "And I thought she seemed rather put
out when I said that I must beg her to wait till you got here. Will
you step this way, and see her at once, Sir? She is in my parlor."

Mr. Orridge followed the landlady into a little room at the back of
the house, and found Mrs. Jazeph sitting alone in the corner farthest
from the window. He was rather surprised to see that she drew her veil
down the moment the door was opened.

"I am sorry you should have been kept waiting," he said; "but I was
called away to a patient. Besides, I told you between seven and eight,
if you remember; and it is not eight o'clock yet."

"I was very anxious to be in good time, Sir," said Mrs. Jazeph.

There was an accent of restraint in the quiet tones in which she spoke
which struck Mr. Orridge's ear, and a little perplexed him. She was,
apparently, not only afraid that her face might betray something, but
apprehensive also that her voice might tell him more than her words
expressed. What feeling was she anxious to conceal? Was it irritation
at having been kept waiting so long by herself in the landlady's room?

"If you will follow me," said Mr. Orridge, "I will take you to Mrs.
Frankland immediately."

Mrs. Jazeph rose slowly, and, when she was on her feet, rested her
hand for an instant on a table near her. That action, momentary as it
was, helped to confirm the doctor in his conviction of her physical
unfitness for the position which she had volunteered to occupy.

"You seem tired," he said, as he led the way out of the door. "Surely,
you did not walk all the way here?"

"No, Sir. My mistress was so kind as to let one of the servants drive
me in the pony-chaise." There was the same restraint in her voice as
she made that answer; and still she never attempted to lift her veil.
While ascending the inn stairs Mr. Orridge mentally resolved to watch
her first proceedings in Mrs. Frankland's room closely, and to send,
after all, for the London nurse, unless Mrs. Jazeph showed remarkable
aptitude in the performance of her new duties.

The room which Mrs. Frankland occupied was situated at the back of the
house, having been chosen in that position with the object of removing
her as much as possible from the bustle and noise about the inn door.
It was lighted by one window overlooking a few cottages, beyond which
spread the rich grazing grounds of West Somersetshire, bounded by a
long monotonous line of thickly wooded hills. The bed was of the
old-fashioned kind, with the customary four posts and the inevitable
damask curtains. It projected from the wall into the middle of the
room, in such a situation as to keep the door on the right hand of the
person occupying it, the window on the left, and the fire-place
opposite the foot of the bed. On the side of the bed nearest the
window the curtains were open, while at the foot, and on the side near
the door, they were closely drawn. By this arrangement the interior of
the bed was necessarily concealed from the view of any person on first
entering the room.

"How do you find yourself to-night, Mrs. Frankland?" asked Mr.
Orridge, reaching out his hand to undraw the curtains. "Do you think
you will be any the worse for a little freer circulation of air?"

"On the contrary, doctor, I shall be all the better," was the answer.
"But I am afraid--in case you have ever been disposed to consider me a
sensible woman--that my character will suffer a little in your
estimation when you see how I have been occupying myself for the last

Mr. Orridge smiled as he undrew the curtains, and laughed outright
when he looked at the mother and child.

Mrs. Frankland had been amusing herself, and gratifying her taste for
bright colors, by dressing out her baby with blue ribbons as he lay
asleep. He had a necklace, shoulder-knots, and bracelets, all of blue
ribbon; and, to complete the quaint finery of his costume, his
mother's smart little lace cap had been hitched comically on one side
of his head. Rosamond herself, as if determined to vie with the baby
in gayety of dress, wore a light pink jacket, ornamented down the
bosom and over the sleeves with bows of white satin ribbon. Laburnum
blossoms, gathered that morning, lay scattered about over the white
counterpane, intermixed with some flowers of the lily of the valley,
tied up into two nosegays with strips of cherry-colored ribbon. Over
this varied assemblage of colors, over the baby's smoothly rounded
cheeks and arms, over his mother's happy, youthful face, the tender
light of the May evening poured tranquil and warm. Thoroughly
appreciating the charm of the picture which he had disclosed on
undrawing the curtains, the doctor stood looking at it for a few
moments, quite forgetful of the errand that had brought him into the
room. He was only recalled to a remembrance of the new nurse by a
chance question which Mrs. Frankland addressed to him.

"I can't help it, doctor," said Rosamond, with a look of apology. "I
really can't help treating my baby, now I am a grown woman, just as I
used to treat my doll when I was a little girl. Did any body come into
the room with you? Lenny, are you there? Have you done dinner,
darling, and did you drink my health when you were left at dessert all
by yourself?"

"Mr. Frankland is still at dinner," said the doctor. "But I certainly
brought some one into the room with me. Where, in the name of wonder,
has she gone to?--Mrs. Jazeph!"

The housekeeper had slipped round to the part of the room between the
foot of the bed and the fire-place, where she was hidden by the
curtains that still remained drawn. When Mr. Orridge called to her,
instead of joining him where he stood, opposite the window, she
appeared at the other side of the bed, where the window was behind
her. Her shadow stole darkly over the bright picture which the doctor
had been admiring. It stretched obliquely across the counterpane, and
its dusky edges touched the figures of the mother and child.

"Gracious goodness! who are you?" exclaimed Rosamond. "A woman or a

Mrs. Jazeph's veil was up at last. Although her face was necessarily
in shadow in the position which she had chosen to occupy, the doctor
saw a change pass over it when Mrs. Frankland spoke. The lips dropped
and quivered a little; the marks of care and age about the mouth
deepened; and the eyebrows contracted suddenly. The eyes Mr. Orridge
could not see; they were cast down on the counterpane at the first
word that Rosamond uttered. Judging by the light of his medical
experience, the doctor concluded that she was suffering pain, and
trying to suppress any outward manifestation of it. "An affection of
the heart, most likely," he thought to himself. "She has concealed it
from her mistress, but she can't hide it from me."

"Who are you?" repeated Rosamond. "And what in the world do you stand
there for--between us and the sunlight?"

Mrs. Jazeph neither answered nor raised her eyes. She only moved back
timidly to the farthest corner of the window.

"Did you not get a message from me this afternoon?" asked the doctor,
appealing to Mrs. Frankland.

"To be sure I did," replied Rosamond. "A very kind, flattering message
about a new nurse."

"There she is," said Mr. Orridge, pointing across the bed to Mrs.

"You don't say so!" exclaimed Rosamond. "But of course it must be. Who
else could have come in with you? I ought to have known that. Pray come
here--(what is her name, doctor? Joseph, did you say?--No?--Jazeph?)
--pray come nearer, Mrs. Jazeph, and let me apologize for speaking so
abruptly to you. I am more obliged than I can say for your kindness in
coming here, and for your mistress's good-nature in resigning you to
me. I hope I shall not give you much trouble, and I am sure you will
find the baby easy to manage. He is a perfect angel, and sleeps like a
dormouse. Dear me! now I look at you a little closer, I am afraid you
are in very delicate health yourself. Doctor, if Mrs. Jazeph would not
be offended with me, I should almost feel inclined to say that she
looks in want of nursing herself."

Mrs. Jazeph bent down over the laburnum blossoms on the bed, and
began hurriedly and confusedly to gather them together.

"I thought as you do, Mrs. Frankland," said Mr. Orridge. "But I have
been assured that Mrs. Jazeph's looks belie her, and that her
capabilities as a nurse quite equal her zeal."

"Are you going to make all that laburnum into a nosegay?" asked Mrs.
Frankland, noticing how the new nurse was occupying herself. "How
thoughtful of you! and how magnificent it will be! I am afraid you
will find the room very untidy. I will ring for my maid to set it to

"If you will allow me to put it in order, ma'am, I shall be very glad
to begin being of use to you in that way," said Mrs. Jazeph. When she
made the offer she looked up; and her eyes and Mrs. Frankland's met.
Rosamond instantly drew back on the pillow, and her color altered a

"How strangely you look at me!" she said.

Mrs. Jazeph started at the words, as if something had struck her, and
moved away suddenly to the window.

"You are not offended with me, I hope?" said Rosamond, noticing the
action. "I have a sad habit of saying any thing that comes uppermost.
And I really thought you looked just now as if you saw something about
me that frightened or grieved you. Pray put the room in order, if you
are kindly willing to undertake the trouble. And never mind what I
say; you will soon get used to my ways--and we shall be as comfortable
and friendly--"

Just as Mrs. Frankland said the words "comfortable and friendly," the
new nurse left the window, and went back to the part of the room where
she was hidden from view, between the fire-place and the closed
curtains at the foot of the bed. Rosamond looked round to express her
surprise to the doctor, but he turned away at the same moment so as to
occupy a position which might enable him to observe what Mrs. Jazeph
was doing on the other side of the bed-curtains.

When he first caught sight of her, her hands were both raised to her
face. Before he could decide whether he had surprised her in the act
of clasping them over her eyes or not, they changed their position,
and were occupied in removing her bonnet. After she had placed this
part of her wearing apparel, and her shawl and gloves, on a chair in a
corner of the room, she went to the dressing-table, and began to
arrange the various useful and ornamental objects scattered about it.
She set them in order with remarkable dexterity and neatness, showing
a taste for arrangement, and a capacity for discriminating between
things that were likely to be wanted and things that were not, which
impressed Mr. Orridge very favorably. He particularly noticed the
carefulness with which she handled some bottles of physic, reading the
labels on each, and arranging the medicine that might be required at
night on one side of the table, and the medicine that might be
required in the day-time on the other. When she left the
dressing-table, and occupied herself in setting the furniture
straight, and in folding up articles of clothing that had been thrown
on one side, not the slightest movement of her thin, wasted hands
seemed ever to be made at hazard or in vain. Noiselessly, modestly,
observantly, she moved from side to side of the room, and neatness and
order followed her steps wherever she went. When Mr. Orridge resumed
his place at Mrs. Frankland's bedside, his mind was at ease on one
point at least--it was perfectly evident that the new nurse could be
depended on to make no mistakes.

"What an odd woman she is," whispered Rosamond.

"Odd, indeed," returned Mr. Orridge, "and desperately broken in
health, though she may not confess to it. However, she is wonderfully
neat-handed and careful, and there can be no harm in trying her for
one night--that is to say, unless you feel any objection."

"On the contrary," said Rosamond, "she rather interests me. There is
something in her face and manner--I can't say what--that makes me feel
curious to know more of her. I must get her to talk, and try if I
can't bring out all her peculiarities. Don't be afraid of my exciting
myself, and don't stop here in this dull room on my account. I would
much rather you went down stairs, and kept my husband company over his
wine. Do go and talk to him, and amuse him a little--he must be so
dull, poor fellow, while I am up here; and he likes you, Mr.
Orridge--he does, very much. Stop one moment, and just look at the
baby again. He doesn't take a dangerous quantity of sleep, does he?
And, Mr. Orridge, one word more: When you have done your wine, you
will promise to lend my husband the use of your eyes, and bring him up
stairs to wish me good-night, won't you?"

Willingly engaging to pay attention to Mrs. Frankland's request, Mr.
Orridge left the bedside.

As he opened the room door, he stopped to tell Mrs. Jazeph that he
should be down stairs if she wanted him, and that he would give her
any instructions of which she might stand in need later in the
evening, before he left the inn for the night. The new nurse, when he
passed by her, was kneeling over one of Mrs. Frankland's open trunks,
arranging some articles of clothing which had been rather carelessly
folded up. Just before he spoke to her, he observed that she had a
chemisette in her hand, the frill of which was laced through with

One end of this ribbon she appeared to him to be on the point of
drawing out, when the sound of his footsteps disturbed her. The moment
she became aware of his approach she dropped the chemisette suddenly
in the trunk, and covered it over with some handkerchiefs. Although
this proceeding on Mrs. Jazeph's part rather surprised the doctor, he
abstained from showing that he had noticed it. Her mistress had
vouched for her character, after five years' experience of it, and the
bit of ribbon was intrinsically worthless. On both accounts, it was
impossible to suspect her of attempting to steal it; and yet, as Mr.
Orridge could not help feeling when he had left the room, her conduct,
when he surprised her over the trunk, was exactly the conduct of a
person who is about to commit a theft.

"Pray don't trouble yourself about my luggage," said Rosamond,
remarking Mrs. Jazeph's occupation as soon as the doctor had gone.
"That is my idle maid's business, and you will only make her more
careless than ever if you do it for her. I am sure the room is
beautifully set in order. Come here and sit down and rest yourself.
You must be a very unselfish, kind-hearted woman to give yourself all
this trouble to serve a stranger. The doctor's message this afternoon
told me that your mistress was a friend of my poor, dear father's. I
suppose she must have known him before my time. Any way, I feel doubly
grateful to her for taking an interest in me for my father's sake. But
you can have no such feeling; you must have come here from pure
good-nature and anxiety to help others. Don't go away, there, to the
window. Come and sit down by me."

Mrs. Jazeph had risen from the trunk, and was approaching the
bedside--when she suddenly turned away in the direction of the
fire-place, just as Mrs. Frankland began to speak of her father.

"Come and sit here," reiterated Rosamond, getting impatient at
receiving no answer. "What in the world are you doing there at the
foot of the bed?"

The figure of the new nurse again interposed between the bed and the
fading evening light that glimmered through the window before there
was any reply.

"The evening is closing in," said Mrs. Jazeph, "and the window is not
quite shut. I was thinking of making it fast, and of drawing down the
blind--if you had no objection, ma'am?"

"Oh, not yet! not yet! Shut the window, if you please, in case the
baby should catch cold, but don't draw down the blind. Let me get my
peep at the view as long as there is any light left to see it by. That
long flat stretch of grazing-ground out there is just beginning, at
this dim time, to look a little like my childish recollections of a
Cornish moor. Do you know any thing about Cornwall, Mrs. Jazeph?"

"I have heard--" At those first three words of reply the nurse
stopped. She was just then engaged in shutting the window, and she
seemed to find some difficulty in closing the lock.

"What have you heard?" asked Rosamond.

"I have heard that Cornwall is a wild, dreary country," said Mrs.
Jazeph, still busying herself with the lock of the window, and, by
consequence, still keeping her back turned to Mrs. Frankland.

"Can't you shut the window, yet?" said Rosamond. "My maid always does
it quite easily. Leave it till she comes up--I am going to ring for
her directly. I want her to brush my hair and cool my face with a
little Eau de Cologne and water."

"I have shut it, ma'am," said Mrs. Jazeph, suddenly succeeding in
closing the lock. "And if you will allow me, I should be very glad to
make you comfortable for the night, and save you the trouble of
ringing for the maid."

Thinking the new nurse the oddest woman she had ever met with, Mrs.
Frankland accepted the offer. By the time Mrs. Jazeph had prepared the
Eau de Cologne and water, the twilight was falling softly over the
landscape outside, and the room was beginning to grow dark.

"Had you not better light a candle?" suggested Rosamond.

"I think not, ma'am," said Mrs. Jazeph, rather hastily. "I can see
quite well without."

She began to brush Mrs. Frankland's hair as she spoke; and, at the
same time, asked a question which referred to the few words that had
passed between them on the subject of Cornwall. Pleased to find that
the new nurse had grown familiar enough at last to speak before she
was spoken to, Rosamond desired nothing better than to talk about her
recollections of her native country. But, from some inexplicable
reason, Mrs. Jazeph's touch, light and tender as it was, had such a
strangely disconcerting effect on her, that she could not succeed, for
the moment, in collecting her thoughts so as to reply, except in the
briefest manner. The careful hands of the nurse lingered with a
stealthy gentleness among the locks of her hair; the pale, wasted face
of the new nurse approached, every now and then, more closely to her
own than appeared at all needful. A vague sensation of uneasiness,
which she could not trace to any particular part of her--which she
could hardly say that she really felt, in a bodily sense, at
all--seemed to be floating about her, to be hanging around and over
her, like the air she breathed. She could not move, though she wanted
to move in the bed; she could not turn her head so as to humor the
action of the brush; she could not look round; she could not break the
embarrassing silence which had been caused by her own short,
discouraging answer. At last the sense of oppression--whether fancied
or real--irritated her into snatching the brush out of Mrs. Jazeph's
hand. The instant she had done so, she felt ashamed of the
discourteous abruptness of the action, and confused at the alarm and
surprise which the manner of the nurse exhibited. With the strongest
sense of the absurdity of her own conduct, and yet without the least
power of controlling herself, she burst out laughing, and tossed the
brush away to the foot of the bed.

"Pray don't look surprised, Mrs. Jazeph," she said, still laughing
without knowing why, and without feeling in the slightest degree
amused. "I'm very rude and odd, I know. You have brushed my hair
delightfully; but--I can't tell how--it seemed, all the time, as if
you were brushing the strangest fancies into my head. I can't help
laughing at them--I can't indeed! Do you know, once or twice, I
absolutely fancied, when your face was closest to mine, that you
wanted to kiss me! Did you ever hear of any thing so ridiculous? I
declare I am more of a baby, in some things, than the little darling
here by my side!"

Mrs. Jazeph made no answer. She left the bed while Rosamond was
speaking, and came back, after an unaccountably long delay, with the
Eau de Cologne and water. As she held the basin while Mrs. Frankland
bathed her face, she kept away at arm's length, and came no nearer
when it was time to offer the towel. Rosamond began to be afraid that
she had seriously offended Mrs. Jazeph, and tried to soothe and
propitiate her by asking questions about the management of the baby.
There was a slight trembling in the sweet voice of the new nurse, but
not the faintest tone of sullenness or anger, as she simply and
quietly answered the inquiries addressed to her. By dint of keeping
the conversation still on the subject of the child, Mrs. Frankland
succeeded, little by little, in luring her back to the bedside--in
tempting her to bend down admiringly over the infant--in emboldening
her, at last, to kiss him tenderly on the cheek. One kiss was all that
she gave; and she turned away from the bed, after it, and sighed

The sound of that sigh fell very sadly on Rosamond's heart. Up to this
time the baby's little span of life had always been associated with
smiling faces and pleasant words. It made her uneasy to think that any
one could caress him and sigh after it.

"I am sure you must be fond of children," she said, hesitating a
little from natural delicacy of feeling. "But will you excuse me for
noticing that it seems rather a mournful fondness? Pray--pray don't
answer my question if it gives you any pain--if you have any loss to
deplore; but--but I do so want to ask if you have ever had a child of
your own?"

Mrs. Jazeph was standing near a chair when that question was put. She
caught fast hold of the back of it, grasping it so firmly, or perhaps
leaning on it so heavily, that the woodwork cracked. Her head dropped
low on her bosom. She did not utter, or even attempt to utter, a
single word.

Fearing that she must have lost a child of her own, and dreading to
distress her unnecessarily by venturing to ask any more questions,
Rosamond said nothing, as she stooped over the baby to kiss him in her
turn. Her lips rested on his cheek a little above where Mrs. Jazeph's
lips had rested the moment before, and they touched a spot of wet on
his smooth warm skin. Fearing that some of the water in which she had
been bathing her face might have dropped on him, she passed her
fingers lightly over his head, neck, and bosom, and felt no other
spots of wet any where. The one drop that had fallen on him was the
drop that wetted the cheek which the new nurse had kissed.

The twilight faded over the landscape, the room grew darker and
darker; and still, though she was now sitting close to the table on
which the candles and matches were placed, Mrs. Jazeph made no attempt
to strike a light. Rosamond did not feel quite comfortable at the idea
of lying awake in the darkness, with nobody in the room but a person
who was as yet almost a total stranger; and she resolved to have the
candles lighted immediately.

"Mrs. Jazeph," she said, looking toward the gathering obscurity
outside the window, "I shall be much obliged to you, if you will light
the candles and pull down the blind. I can trace no more resemblances
out there, now, to a Cornish prospect; the view has gone altogether."

"Are you very fond of Cornwall, ma'am?" asked Mrs. Jazeph, rising, in
rather a dilatory manner, to light the candles.

"Indeed I am," said Rosamond. "I was born there; and my husband and I
were on our way to Cornwall when we were obliged to stop, on my
account, at this place. You are a long time getting the candles lit.
Can't you find the match-box?"

Mrs. Jazeph, with an awkwardness which was rather surprising in a
person who had shown so much neat-handedness in setting the room to
rights, broke the first match in attempting to light it, and let the
second go out the instant after the flame was kindled. At the third
attempt she was more successful; but she only lit one candle, and that
one she carried away from the table which Mrs. Frankland could see, to
the dressing-table, which was hidden from her by the curtains at the
foot of the bed.

"Why do you move the candle?" asked Rosamond.

"I thought it was best for your eyes, ma'am, not to have the light too
near them," replied Mrs. Jazeph; and then added hastily, as if she was
unwilling to give Mrs. Frankland time to make any objections--"And so
you were going to Cornwall, ma'am, when you stopped at this place? To
travel about there a little, I suppose?" After saying these words, she
took up the second candle, and passed out of sight as she carried it
to the dressing-table.

Rosamond thought that the nurse, in spite of her gentle looks and
manners, was a remarkably obstinate woman. But she was too
good-natured to care about asserting her right to have the candles
placed where she pleased; and when she answered Mrs. Jazeph's
question, she still spoke to her as cheerfully and familiarly as ever.

"Oh, dear no! Not to travel about," she said, "but to go straight to
the old country-house where I was born. It belongs to my husband now,
Mrs. Jazeph. I have not been near it since I was a little girl of five
years of age. Such a ruinous, rambling old place! You, who talk of the
dreariness and wildness of Cornwall, would be quite horrified at the
very idea of living in Porthgenna Tower."

The faintly rustling sound of Mrs. Jazeph's silk dress, as she moved
about the dressing-table, had been audible all the while Rosamond was
speaking. It ceased instantaneously when she said the words
"Porthgenna Tower;" and for one moment there was a dead silence in the

"You, who have been living all your life, I suppose, in nicely
repaired houses, can not imagine what a place it is that we are going
to, when I am well enough to travel again," pursued Rosamond. "What do
you think, Mrs. Jazeph, of a house with one whole side of it that has
never been inhabited for sixty or seventy years past? You may get some
notion of the size of Porthgenna Tower from that. There is a west side
that we are to live in when we get there, and a north side, where the
empty old rooms are, which I hope we shall be able to repair. Only
think of the hosts of odd, old-fashioned things that we may find in
those uninhabited rooms! I mean to put on the cook's apron and the
gardener's gloves, and rummage all over them from top to bottom. How I
shall astonish the housekeeper, when I get to Porthgenna, and ask her
for the keys of the ghostly north rooms!"

A low cry, and a sound as if something had struck against the
dressing-table, followed Mrs. Frankland's last words. She started in
the bed, and asked eagerly what was the matter.

"Nothing," answered Mrs. Jazeph, speaking so constrainedly that her
voice dropped to a whisper. "Nothing, ma'am--nothing, I assure you. I
struck my side, by accident, against the table--pray don't be
alarmed!--it's not worth noticing."

"But you speak as if you were in pain," said Rosamond.

"No, no--not in pain. Not hurt--not hurt, indeed."

While Mrs. Jazeph was declaring that she was not hurt, the door of the
room was opened, and the doctor entered, leading in Mr. Frankland.

"We come early, Mrs. Frankland, but we are going to give you plenty of
time to compose yourself for the night," said Mr. Orridge. He paused,
and noticed that Rosamond's color was heightened. "I am afraid you
have been talking and exciting yourself a little too much," he went
on. "If you will excuse me for venturing on the suggestion, Mr.
Frankland, I think the sooner good-night is said the better. Where is
the nurse?"

Mrs. Jazeph sat down with her back to the lighted candle when she
heard herself asked for. Just before that, she had been looking at Mr.
Frankland with an eager, undisguised curiosity, which, if any one had
noticed it, must have appeared surprisingly out of character with her
usual modesty and refinement of manner.

"I am afraid the nurse has accidentally hurt her side more than she is
willing to confess," said Rosamond to the doctor, pointing with one
hand to the place in which Mrs. Jazeph was sitting, and raising the
other to her husband's neck as he stooped over her pillow.

Mr. Orridge, on inquiring what had happened, could not prevail on the
new nurse to acknowledge that the accident was of the slightest
consequence. He suspected, nevertheless, that she was suffering, or,
at least, that something had happened to discompose her; for he found
the greatest difficulty in fixing her attention, while he gave her a
few needful directions in case her services were required during the
night. All the time he was speaking, her eyes wandered away from him
to the part of the room where Mr. and Mrs. Frankland were talking
together. Mrs. Jazeph looked like the last person in the world who
would be guilty of an act of impertinent curiosity; and yet she openly
betrayed all the characteristics of an inquisitive woman while Mr.
Frankland was standing by his wife's pillow. The doctor was obliged to
assume his most peremptory manner before he could get her to attend to
him at all.

"And now, Mrs. Frankland," said Mr. Orridge, turning away from the
nurse, "as I have given Mrs. Jazeph all the directions she wants, I
shall set the example of leaving you in quiet by saying good-night."

Understanding the hint conveyed in these words, Mr. Frankland
attempted to say good-night too, but his wife kept tight hold of both
his hands, and declared that it was unreasonable to expect her to let
him go for another half-hour at least. Mr. Orridge shook his head, and
began to expatiate on the evils of over-excitement, and the blessings
of composure and sleep. His remonstrances, however, would have
produced very little effect, even if Rosamond had allowed him to
continue them, but for the interposition of the baby, who happened to
wake up at that moment, and who proved himself a powerful auxiliary on
the doctor's side, by absorbing all his mother's attention
immediately. Seizing his opportunity at the right moment, Mr. Orridge
quietly led Mr. Frankland out of the room, just as Rosamond was taking
the child up in her arms. He stopped before closing the door to
whisper one last word to Mrs. Jazeph.

"If Mrs. Frankland wants to talk, you must not encourage her," he
said. "As soon as she has quieted the baby, she ought to go to sleep.
There is a chair-bedstead in that corner, which you can open for
yourself when you want to lie down. Keep the candle where it is now,
behind the curtain. The less light Mrs. Frankland sees, the sooner she
will compose herself to sleep."

Mrs. Jazeph made no answer; she only looked at the doctor and
courtesied. That strangely scared expression in her eyes, which he had
noticed on first seeing her, was more painfully apparent than ever
when he left her alone for the night with the mother and child. "She
will never do," thought Mr. Orridge, as he led Mr. Frankland down the
inn stairs. "We shall have to send to London for a nurse, after all."

Feeling a little irritated by the summary manner in which her husband
had been taken away from her, Rosamond fretfully rejected the offers
of assistance which were made to her by Mrs. Jazeph as soon as the
doctor had left the room. The nurse said nothing when her services
were declined; and yet, judging by her conduct, she seemed anxious to
speak. Twice she advanced toward the bedside--opened her
lips--stopped--and retired confusedly, before she settled herself
finally in her former place by the dressing-table. Here she remained,
silent and out of sight, until the child had been quieted, and had
fallen asleep in his mother's arms, with one little pink, half-closed
hand resting on her bosom. Rosamond could not resist raising the hand
to her lips, though she risked waking him again by doing so. As she
kissed it, the sound of the kiss was followed by a faint, suppressed
sob, proceeding from the other side of the curtains at the lower end
of the bed.

"What is that?" she exclaimed.

"Nothing, ma'am," said Mrs. Jazeph, in the same constrained,
whispering tones in which she had answered Mrs. Frankland's former
question. "I think I was just falling asleep in the arm-chair here;
and I ought to have told you perhaps that, having had my troubles, and
being afflicted with a heart complaint, I have a habit of sighing in
my sleep. It means nothing, ma'am, and I hope you will be good enough
to excuse it."

Rosamond's generous instincts were aroused in a moment.

"Excuse it!" she said. "I hope I may do better than that, Mrs. Jazeph,
and be the means of relieving it. When Mr. Orridge comes to-morrow you
shall consult him, and I will take care that you want for nothing that
he may order. No! no! Don't thank me until I have been the means of
making you well--and keep where you are, if the arm-chair is
comfortable. The baby is asleep again; and I should like to have half
an hour's quiet before I change to the night side of the bed. Stop
where you are for the present: I will call as soon as I want you."

So far from exercising a soothing effect on Mrs. Jazeph, these kindly
meant words produced the precisely opposite result of making her
restless. She began to walk about the room, and confusedly attempted
to account for the change in her conduct by saying that she wished to
satisfy herself that all her arrangements were properly made for the
night. In a few minutes more she began, in defiance of the doctor's
prohibition, to tempt Mrs. Frankland into talking again, by asking
questions about Porthgenna Tower, and by referring to the chances for
and against its being chosen as a permanent residence by the young
married couple.

"Perhaps, ma'am," she said, speaking on a sudden, with an eagerness in
her voice which was curiously at variance with the apparent
indifference of her manner--"Perhaps when you see Porthgenna Tower you
may not like it so well as you think you will now. Who can tell that
you may not get tired and leave the place again after a few
days--especially if you go into the empty rooms? I should have
thought--if you will excuse my saying so, ma'am--I should have thought
that a lady like you would have liked to get as far away as possible
from dirt and dust, and disagreeable smells."

"I can face worse inconveniences than those, where my curiosity is
concerned," said Rosamond. "And I am more curious to see the
uninhabited rooms at Porthgenna than to see the Seven Wonders of the
World. Even if we don't settle altogether at the old house, I feel
certain that we shall stay there for some time."

At that answer, Mrs. Jazeph abruptly turned away, and asked no more
questions. She retired to a corner of the room near the door, where
the chair-bedstead stood which the doctor had pointed out to
her--occupied herself for a few minutes in making it ready for the
night--then left it as suddenly as she had approached it, and began to
walk up and down once more. This unaccountable restlessness, which had
already surprised Rosamond, now made her feel rather uneasy--especially
when she once or twice overheard Mrs. Jazeph talking to herself.
Judging by words and fragments of sentences that were audible now and
then, her mind was still running, with the most inexplicable
persistency, on the subject of Porthgenna Tower. As the minutes wore
on, and she continued to walk up and down, and still went on talking,
Rosamond's uneasiness began to strengthen into something like alarm.
She resolved to awaken Mrs. Jazeph, in the least offensive manner, to
a sense of the strangeness of her own conduct, by noticing that she
was talking, but by not appearing to understand that she was talking
to herself.

"What did you say?" asked Rosamond, putting the question at a moment
when the nurse's voice was most distinctly betraying her in the act of
thinking aloud.

Mrs. Jazeph stopped, and raised her head vacantly, as if she had been
awakened out of a heavy sleep.

"I thought you were saying something more about our old house,"
continued Rosamond. "I thought I heard you say that I ought not to go
to Porthgenna, or that you would not go there in my place, or
something of that sort."

Mrs. Jazeph blushed like a young girl. "I think you must have been
mistaken, ma'am," she said, and stooped over the chair-bedstead again.

Watching her anxiously, Rosamond saw that, while she was affecting to
arrange the bedstead, she was doing nothing whatever to prepare it for
being slept in. What did that mean? What did her whole conduct mean
for the last half-hour? As Mrs. Frankland asked herself those
questions, the thrill of a terrible suspicion turned her cold to the
very roots of her hair. It had never occurred to her before, but it
suddenly struck her now, with the force of positive conviction, that
the new nurse was not in her right senses.

All that was unaccountable in her behavior--her odd disappearances
behind the curtains at the foot of the bed; her lingering, stealthy,
over-familiar way of using the hair-brush; her silence at one time,
her talkativeness at another; her restlessness, her whispering to
herself, her affectation of being deeply engaged in doing something
which she was not doing at all--every one of her strange actions
(otherwise incomprehensible) became intelligible in a moment on that
one dreadful supposition that she was mad.

Terrified as she was, Rosamond kept her presence of mind. One of her
arms stole instinctively round the child; and she had half raised the
other to catch at the bell-rope hanging above her pillow, when she saw
Mrs. Jazeph turn and look at her.

A woman possessed only of ordinary nerve would, probably, at that
instant have pulled at the bell-rope in the unreasoning desperation of
sheer fright. Rosamond had courage enough to calculate consequences,
and to remember that Mrs. Jazeph would have time to lock the door,
before assistance could arrive, if she betrayed her suspicions by
ringing without first assigning some plausible reason for doing so.
She slowly closed her eyes as the nurse looked at her, partly to
convey the notion that she was composing herself to sleep--partly to
gain time to think of some safe excuse for summoning her maid. The
flurry of her spirits, however, interfered with the exercise of her
ingenuity. Minute after minute dragged on heavily, and still she could
think of no assignable reason for ringing the bell.

She was just doubting whether it would not be safest to send Mrs.
Jazeph out of the room, on some message to her husband, to lock the
door the moment she was alone, and then to ring--she was just doubting
whether she would boldly adopt this course of proceeding or not, when
she heard the rustle of the nurse's silk dress approaching the

Her first impulse was to snatch at the bell-rope; but fear had
paralyzed her hand; she could not raise it from the pillow.

The rustling of the silk dress ceased. She half unclosed her eyes, and
saw that the nurse was stopping midway between the part of the room
from which she had advanced and the bedside. There was nothing wild or
angry in her look. The agitation which her face expressed was the
agitation of perplexity and alarm. She stood rapidly clasping and
unclasping her hands, the image of bewilderment and distress--stood so
for nearly a minute--then came forward a few steps more, and said
inquiringly, in a whisper:

"Not asleep? not quite asleep, yet?"

Rosamond tried to speak in answer, but the quick beating of her heart
seemed to rise up to her very lips, and to stifle the words on them.

The nurse came on, still with the same perplexity and distress in her
face, to within a foot of the bedside--knelt down by the pillow, and
looked earnestly at Rosamond--shuddered a little, and glanced all
round her, as if to make sure that the room was empty--bent
forward--hesitated--bent nearer, and whispered into her ear these

"When you go to Porthgenna, _keep out of the Myrtle Room_!"

The hot breath of the woman, as she spoke, beat on Rosamond's cheek,
and seemed to fly in one fever-throb through every vein of her body.
The nervous shock of that unutterable sensation burst the bonds of the
terror that had hitherto held her motionless and speechless. She
started up in bed with a scream, caught hold of the bell-rope, and
pulled it violently.

"Oh, hush! hush!" cried Mrs. Jazeph, sinking back on her knees, and
beating her hands together despairingly with the helpless
gesticulation of a child.

Rosamond rang again and again. Hurrying footsteps and eager voices
were heard outside on the stairs. It was not ten o'clock yet--nobody
had retired for the night--and the violent ringing had already alarmed
the house.

The nurse rose to her feet, staggered back from the bedside, and
supported herself against the wall of the room, as the footsteps and
the voices reached the door. She said not another word. The hands that
she had been beating together so violently but an instant before hung
down nerveless at her side. The blank of a great agony spread over all
her face, and stilled it awfully.

The first person who entered the room was Mrs. Frankland's maid, and
the landlady followed her.

"Fetch Mr. Frankland," said Rosamond, faintly, addressing the
landlady. "I want to speak to him directly.--You," she continued,
beckoning to the maid, "sit by me here till your master comes. I have
been dreadfully frightened. Don't ask me questions; but stop here."

The maid stared at her mistress in amazement; then looked round with a
disparaging frown at the nurse. When the landlady left the room to
fetch Mr. Frankland, she had moved a little away from the wall, so as
to command a full view of the bed. Her eyes were fixed with a look of
breathless suspense, of devouring anxiety, on Rosamond's face. From
all her other features the expression seemed to be gone. She said
nothing, she noticed nothing. She did not start, she did not move
aside an inch, when the landlady returned, and led Mr. Frankland to
his wife.

"Lenny! don't let the new nurse stop here to-night--pray, pray don't!"
whispered Rosamond, eagerly catching her husband by the arm.

Warned by the trembling of her hand, Mr. Frankland laid his fingers
lightly on her temples and on her heart.

"Good Heavens, Rosamond! what has happened? I left you quiet and
comfortable, and now--"

"I've been frightened, dear--dreadfully frightened, by the new nurse.
Don't be hard on her, poor creature; she is not in her right senses--I
am certain she is not. Only get her away quietly--only send her back
at once to where she came from. I shall die of the fright, if she
stops here. She has been behaving so strangely--she has spoken such
words to me--Lenny! Lenny! don't let go of my hand. She came stealing
up to me so horribly, just where you are now; she knelt down at my
ear, and whispered--oh, such words!"

"Hush, hush, love!" said Mr. Frankland, getting seriously alarmed by
the violence of Rosamond's agitation. "Never mind repeating the words
now; wait till you are calmer--I beg and entreat of you, wait till you
are calmer. I will do every thing you wish, if you will only lie down
and be quiet, and try to compose yourself before you say another word.
It is quite enough for me to know that this woman has frightened you,
and that you wish her to be sent away with as little harshness as
possible. We will put off all further explanations till to-morrow
morning. I deeply regret now that I did not persist in carrying out my
own idea of sending for a proper nurse from London. Where is the

The landlady placed herself by Mr. Frankland's side.

"Is it late?" asked Leonard.

"Oh no, Sir; not ten o'clock yet."

"Order a fly to be brought to the door, then, as soon as possible, if
you please. Where is the nurse?"

"Standing behind you, Sir, near the wall," said the maid.

As Mr. Frankland turned in that direction, Rosamond whispered to him:
"Don't be hard on her, Lenny."

The maid, looking with contemptuous curiosity at Mrs. Jazeph, saw the
whole expression of her countenance alter, as those words were spoken.
The tears rose thick in her eyes, and flowed down her cheeks. The
deathly spell of stillness that had lain on her face was broken in an
instant. She drew back again, close to the wall, and leaned against it
as before. "Don't be hard on her!" the maid heard her repeat to
herself, in a low sobbing voice. "Don't be hard on her! Oh, my God!
she said that kindly--she said that kindly, at least!"

"I have no desire to speak to you, or to use you unkindly," said Mr.
Frankland, imperfectly hearing what she said. "I know nothing of what
has happened, and I make no accusations. I find Mrs. Frankland
violently agitated and frightened; I hear her connect that agitation
with you--not angrily, but compassionately--and, instead of speaking
harshly, I prefer leaving it to your own sense of what is right, to
decide whether your attendance here ought not to cease at once. I have
provided the proper means for your conveyance from this place; and I
would suggest that you should make our apologies to your mistress, and
say nothing more than that circumstances have happened which oblige us
to dispense with your services."

"You have been considerate toward me, Sir," said Mrs. Jazeph, speaking
quietly, and with a certain gentle dignity in her manner, "and I will
not prove myself unworthy of your forbearance by saying what I might
say in my own defense." She advanced into the middle of the room, and
stopped where she could see Rosamond plainly. Twice she attempted to
speak, and twice her voice failed her. At the third effort she
succeeded in controlling herself.

"Before I go, ma'am," she said, "I hope you will believe that I have
no bitter feeling against you for sending me away. I am not
angry--pray remember always that I was not angry, and that I never

There was such a forlornness in her face, such a sweet, sorrowful
resignation in every tone of her voice during the utterance of these
few words, that Rosamond's heart smote her.

"Why did you frighten me?" she asked, half relenting.

"Frighten you? How could I frighten you? Oh me! of all the people in
the world, how could _I_ frighten you?"

Mournfully saying those words, the nurse went to the chair on which
she had placed her bonnet and shawl, and put them on. The landlady and
the maid, watching her with curious eyes, detected that she was again
weeping bitterly, and noticed with astonishment, at the same time, how
neatly she put on her bonnet and shawl. The wasted hands were moving
mechanically, and were trembling while they moved,--and yet, slight
thing though it was, the inexorable instinct of propriety guided their
most trifling actions still.

On her way to the door, she stopped again at passing the bedside,
looked through her tears at Rosamond and the child, struggled a little
with herself, and then spoke her farewell words--

"God bless you, and keep you and your child happy and prosperous," she
said. "I am not angry at being sent away. If you ever think of me
again, after to-night, please to remember that I was not angry, and
that I never complained."

She stood for a moment longer, still weeping, and still looking
through her tears at the mother and child--then turned away and walked
to the door. Something in the last tones of her voice caused a silence
in the room. Of the four persons in it not one could utter a word, as
the nurse closed the door gently, and went out from them alone.



On the morning after the departure of Mrs. Jazeph, the news that she
had been sent away from the Tiger's Head by Mr. Frankland's
directions, reached the doctor's residence from the inn just as he was
sitting down to breakfast. Finding that the report of the nurse's
dismissal was not accompanied by any satisfactory explanation of the
cause of it, Mr. Orridge refused to believe that her attendance on
Mrs. Frankland had really ceased. However, although he declined to
credit the news, he was so far disturbed by it that he finished his
breakfast in a hurry, and went to pay his morning visit at the Tiger's
Head nearly two hours before the time at which he usually attended on
his patient.

On his way to the inn, he was met and stopped by the one waiter
attached to the establishment. "I was just bringing you a message from
Mr. Frankland, Sir," said the man. "He wants to see you as soon as

"Is it true that Mrs. Frankland's nurse was sent away last night by
Mr. Frankland's order?" asked Mr. Orridge.

"Quite true, Sir," answered the waiter.

The doctor colored, and looked seriously discomposed. One of the most
precious things we have about us--especially if we happen to belong to
the medical profession--is our dignity. It struck Mr. Orridge that he
ought to have been consulted before a nurse of his recommending was
dismissed from her situation at a moment's notice. Was Mr. Frankland
presuming upon his position as a gentleman of fortune? The power of
wealth may do much with impunity, but it is not privileged to offer
any practical contradictions to a man's good opinion of himself. Never
had the doctor thought more disrespectfully of rank and riches; never
had he been conscious of reflecting on republican principles with such
absolute impartiality, as when he now followed the waiter in sullen
silence to Mr. Frankland's room.

"Who is that?" asked Leonard, when he heard the door open.

"Mr. Orridge, Sir," said the waiter.

"Good-morning," said Mr. Orridge, with self-asserting abruptness and

Mr. Frankland was sitting in an arm-chair, with his legs crossed. Mr.
Orridge carefully selected another arm-chair, and crossed his legs on
the model of Mr. Frankland's the moment he sat down. Mr. Frankland's
hands were in the pockets of his dressing-gown. Mr. Orridge had no
pockets, except in his coat-tails, which he could not conveniently get
at; but he put his thumbs into the arm-holes of his waistcoat, and
asserted himself against the easy insolence of wealth in that way. It
made no difference to him--so curiously narrow is the range of a man's
perceptions when he is insisting on his own importance--that Mr.
Frankland was blind, and consequently incapable of being impressed by
the independence of his bearing. Mr. Orridge's own dignity was
vindicated in Mr. Orridge's own presence, and that was enough.

"I am glad you have come so early, doctor," said Mr. Frankland. "A
very unpleasant thing happened here last night. I was obliged to send
the new nurse away at a moment's notice."

"Were you, indeed!" said Mr. Orridge, defensively matching Mr.
Frankland's composure by an assumption of the completest indifference.
"Aha! were you indeed?"

"If there had been time to send and consult you, of course I should
have been only too glad to have done so," continued Leonard; "but it
was impossible to hesitate. We were all alarmed by a loud ringing of
my wife's bell; I was taken up to her room, and found her in a
condition of the most violent agitation and alarm. She told me she had
been dreadfully frightened by the new nurse; declared her conviction
that the woman was not in her right senses; and entreated that I would
get her out of the house with as little delay and as little harshness
as possible. Under these circumstances, what could I do? I may seem to
have been wanting in consideration toward you, in proceeding on my own
sole responsibility; but Mrs. Frankland was in such a state of
excitement that I could not tell what might be the consequence of
opposing her, or of venturing on any delays; and after the difficulty
had been got over, she would not hear of your being disturbed by a
summons to the inn. I am sure you will understand this explanation,
doctor, in the spirit in which I offer it."

Mr. Orridge began to look a little confused. His solid substructure of
independence was softening and sinking from under him. He suddenly
found himself thinking of the cultivated manners of the wealthy
classes; his thumbs slipped mechanically out of the arm-holes of his
waistcoat; and, before he well knew what he was about, he was
stammering his way through all the choicest intricacies of a
complimentary and respectful reply.

"You will naturally be anxious to know what the new nurse said or did
to frighten my wife so," pursued Mr. Frankland. "I can tell you
nothing in detail; for Mrs. Frankland was in such a state of nervous
dread last night that I was really afraid of asking for any
explanations; and I have purposely waited to make inquiries this
morning until you could come here and accompany me up stairs. You
kindly took so much trouble to secure this unlucky woman's attendance,
that you have a right to hear all that can be alleged against her, now
she has been sent away. Considering all things, Mrs. Frankland is not
so ill this morning as I was afraid she would be. She expects to see
you with me; and, if you will kindly give me your arm, we will go up
to her immediately."

On entering Mrs. Frankland's room, the doctor saw at a glance that
she had been altered for the worse by the events of the past evening.
He remarked that the smile with which she greeted her husband was the
faintest and saddest he had seen on her face. Her eyes looked dim and
weary, her skin was dry, her pulse was irregular. It was plain that
she had passed a wakeful night, and that her mind was not at ease. She
dismissed the inquiries of her medical attendant as briefly as
possible, and led the conversation immediately, of her own accord, to
the subject of Mrs. Jazeph.

"I suppose you have heard what has happened," she said, addressing Mr.
Orridge. "I can't tell you how grieved I am about it. My conduct must
look in your eyes, as well as in the eyes of the poor unfortunate
nurse, the conduct of a capricious, unfeeling woman. I am ready to cry
with sorrow and vexation when I remember how thoughtless I was, and
how little courage I showed. Oh, Lenny, it is dreadful to hurt the
feelings of any body, but to have pained that unhappy, helpless woman
as we pained her, to have made her cry so bitterly, to have caused her
such humiliation and wretchedness--"

"My dear Rosamond," interposed Mr. Frankland, "you are lamenting
effects, and forgetting causes altogether. Remember what a state of
terror I found you in--there must have been some reason for that.
Remember, too, how strong your conviction was that the nurse was out
of her senses. Surely you have not altered your opinion on that point

"It is that very opinion, love, that has been perplexing and worrying
me all night. I can't alter it; I feel more certain than ever that
there must be something wrong with the poor creature's intellect--and
yet, when I remember how good-naturedly she came here to help me, and
how anxious she seemed to make herself useful, I can't help feeling
ashamed of my suspicions; I can't help reproaching myself for having
been the cause of her dismissal last night. Mr. Orridge, did you
notice any thing in Mrs. Jazeph's face or manner which might lead you
to doubt whether her intellects were quite as sound as they ought to

"Certainly not, Mrs. Frankland, or I should never have brought her
here. I should not have been astonished to hear that she was suddenly
taken ill, or that she had been seized with a fit, or that some
slight accident, which would have frightened nobody else, had
seriously frightened her; but to be told that there is any thing
approaching to derangement in her faculties, does, I own, fairly
surprise me."

"Can I have been mistaken!" exclaimed Rosamond, looking confusedly and
self-distrustfully from Mr. Orridge to her husband. "Lenny! Lenny! if
I have been mistaken, I shall never forgive myself."

"Suppose you tell us, my dear, what led you to suspect that she was
mad?" suggested Mr. Frankland.

Rosamond hesitated. "Things that are great in one's own mind," she
said, "seem to get so little when they are put into words. I almost
despair of making you understand what good reason I had to be
frightened--and then, I am afraid, in trying to do justice to myself,
that I may not do justice to the nurse."

"Tell your own story, my love, in your own way, and you will be sure
to tell it properly," said Mr. Frankland.

"And pray remember," added Mr. Orridge, "that I attach no real
importance to my opinion of Mrs. Jazeph. I have not had time enough to
form it. Your opportunities of observing her have been far more
numerous than mine."

Thus encouraged, Rosamond plainly and simply related all that had
happened in her room on the previous evening, up to the time when she
had closed her eyes and had heard the nurse approaching her bedside.
Before repeating the extraordinary words that Mrs. Jazeph had
whispered in her ear, she made a pause, and looked earnestly in her
husband's face.

"Why do you stop?" asked Mr. Frankland.

"I feel nervous and flurried still, Lenny, when I think of the words
the nurse said to me, just before I rang the bell."

"What did she say? Was it something you would rather not repeat?"

"No! no! I am most anxious to repeat it, and to hear what you think it
means. As I have just told you, Lenny, we had been talking of
Porthgenna, and of my project of exploring the north rooms as soon as
I got there; and she had been asking many questions about the old
house; appearing, I must say, to be unaccountably interested in it,
considering she was a stranger."


"Well, when she came to the bedside, she knelt down close at my ear,
and whispered all on a sudden--'When you go to Porthgenna, keep out of
the Myrtle Room!'"

Mr. Frankland started. "Is there such a room at Porthgenna?" he asked,

"I never heard of it," said Rosamond.

"Are you sure of that?" inquired Mr. Orridge. Up to this moment the
doctor had privately suspected that Mrs. Frankland must have fallen
asleep soon after he left her the evening before; and that the
narrative which she was now relating, with the sincerest conviction of
its reality, was actually derived from nothing but a series of vivid
impressions produced by a dream.

"I am certain I never heard of such a room," said Rosamond. "I left
Porthgenna at five years old; and I had never heard of it then. My
father often talked of the house in after-years; but I am certain that
he never spoke of any of the rooms by any particular names; and I can
say the same of your father, Lenny, whenever I was in his company
after he had bought the place. Besides, don't you remember, when the
builder we sent down to survey the house wrote you that letter, he
complained that there were no names of the rooms on the different keys
to guide him in opening the doors, and that he could get no
information from any body at Porthgenna on the subject? How could I
ever have heard of the Myrtle Room? Who was there to tell me?"

Mr. Orridge began to look perplexed; it seemed by no means so certain
that Mrs. Frankland had been dreaming, after all.

"I have thought of nothing else," said Rosamond to her husband, in
low, whispering tones. "I can't get those mysterious words off my
mind. Feel my heart, Lenny--it is beating quicker than usual only with
saying them over to you. They are such very strange, startling words.
What do you think they mean?"

"Who is the woman who spoke them?--that is the most important
question," said Mr. Frankland.

"But why did she say the words to _me_? That is what I want to
know--that is what I must know, if I am ever to feel easy in my mind

"Gently, Mrs. Frankland, gently!" said Mr. Orridge. "For your child's
sake, as well as for your own, pray try to be calm, and to look at
this very mysterious event as composedly as you can. If any exertions
of mine can throw light upon this strange woman and her still stranger
conduct, I will not spare them. I am going to-day to her mistress's
house to see one of the children; and, depend upon it, I will manage
in some way to make Mrs. Jazeph explain herself. Her mistress shall
hear every word that you have told me; and I can assure you she is
just the sort of downright, resolute woman who will insist on having
the whole mystery instantly cleared up."

Rosamond's weary eyes brightened at the doctor's proposal. "Oh, go at
once, Mr. Orridge!" she exclaimed--"go at once!"

"I have a great deal of medical work to do in the town first," said
the doctor, smiling at Mrs. Frankland's impatience.

"Begin it, then, without losing another instant," said Rosamond. "The
baby is quite well, and I am quite well--we need not detain you a
moment. And, Mr. Orridge, pray be as gentle and considerate as
possible with the poor woman; and tell her that I never should have
thought of sending her away if I had not been too frightened to know
what I was about. And say how sorry I am this morning, and say--"

"My dear, if Mrs. Jazeph is really not in her right senses, what would
be the use of overwhelming her with all these excuses?" interposed Mr.
Frankland. "It will be more to the purpose if Mr. Orridge will kindly
explain and apologize for us to her mistress."

"Go! Don't stop to talk--pray go at once!" cried Rosamond, as the
doctor attempted to reply to Mr. Frankland.

"Don't be afraid; no time shall be lost," said Mr. Orridge, opening
the door. "But remember, Mrs. Frankland, I shall expect you to reward
your embassador, when he returns from his mission, by showing him that
you are a little more quiet and composed than I find you this
morning." With that parting hint, the doctor took his leave.

"'When you go to Porthgenna, keep out of the Myrtle Room,'" repeated
Mr. Frankland, thoughtfully. "Those are very strange words, Rosamond.
Who can this woman really be? She is a perfect stranger to both of us;
we are brought into contact with her by the merest accident; and we
find that she knows something about our own house of which we were
both perfectly ignorant until she chose to speak!"

"But the warning, Lenny--the warning, so pointedly and mysteriously
addressed to me? Oh, if I could only go to sleep at once, and not wake
again till the doctor comes back!"

"My love, try not to count too certainly on our being enlightened,
even then. The woman may refuse to explain herself to any body."

"Don't even hint at such a disappointment as that, Lenny--or I shall
be wanting to get up, and go and question her myself!"

"Even if you could get up and question her, Rosamond, you might find
it impossible to make her answer. She may be afraid of certain
consequences which we can not foresee; and, in that case, I can only
repeat that it is more than probable she will explain nothing--or,
perhaps, still more likely that she will coolly deny her own words

"Then, Lenny, we will put them to the proof for ourselves."

"And how can we do that?"

"By continuing our journey to Porthgenna the moment I am allowed to
travel, and by leaving no stone unturned when we get there until we
have discovered whether there is or is not any room in the old house
that ever was known, at any time of its existence, by the name of the
Myrtle Room."

"And suppose it should turn out that there is such a room?" asked Mr.
Frankland, beginning to feel the influence of his wife's enthusiasm.

"If it does turn out so," said Rosamond, her voice rising, and her
face lighting up with its accustomed vivacity, "how can you doubt what
will happen next? Am I not a woman? And have I not been forbidden to
enter the Myrtle Room? Lenny! Lenny! Do you know so little of my half
of humanity as to doubt what I should do the moment the room was
discovered? My darling, as a matter of course, I should walk into it



With all the haste he could make, it was one o'clock in the afternoon
before Mr. Orridge's professional avocations allowed him to set forth
in his gig for Mrs. Norbury's house. He drove there with such
good-will that he accomplished the half-hour's journey in twenty
minutes. The footman having heard the rapid approach of the gig,
opened the hall door the instant the horse was pulled up before it,
and confronted the doctor with a smile of malicious satisfaction.

"Well," said Mr. Orridge, bustling into the hall, "you were all rather
surprised last night when the housekeeper came back, I suppose?"

"Yes, Sir, we certainly were surprised when she came back last night,"
answered the footman; "but we were still more surprised when she went
away again this morning."

"Went away! You don't mean to say she is gone?"

"Yes, I do, Sir--she has lost her place, and gone for good." The
footman smiled again, as he made that reply; and the housemaid, who
happened to be on her way down stairs while he was speaking, and to
hear what he said, smiled too. Mrs. Jazeph had evidently been no
favorite in the servants' hall.

Amazement prevented Mr. Orridge from uttering another word. Hearing no
more questions asked, the footman threw open the door of the
breakfast-parlor, and the doctor followed him into the room. Mrs.
Norbury was sitting near the window in a rigidly upright attitude,
inflexibly watching the proceedings of her invalid child over a basin
of beef-tea.

"I know what you are going to talk about before you open your lips,"
said the outspoken lady. "But just look to the child first, and say
what you have to say on that subject, if you please, before you enter
on any other."

The child was examined, was pronounced to be improving rapidly, and
was carried away by the nurse to lie down and rest a little. As soon
as the door of the room had closed, Mrs. Norbury abruptly addressed
the doctor, interrupting him, for the second time, just as he was
about to speak.

"Now, Mr. Orridge," she said, "I want to tell you something at the
outset. I am a remarkably just woman, and I have no quarrel with
_you_. You are the cause of my having been treated with the most
audacious insolence by three people--but you are the innocent cause,
and, therefore, I don't blame you."

"I am really at a loss," Mr. Orridge began--"quite at a loss, I assure

"To know what I mean?" said Mrs. Norbury. "I will soon tell you. Were
you not the original cause of my sending my housekeeper to nurse Mrs.

"Yes." Mr. Orridge could not hesitate to acknowledge that.

"Well," pursued Mrs. Norbury, "and the consequence of my sending her
is, as I said before, that I am treated with unparalleled insolence by
no less than three people. Mrs. Frankland takes an insolent whim into
her head, and affects to be frightened by my housekeeper. Mr.
Frankland shows an insolent readiness to humor that whim, and hands me
back my housekeeper as if she was a bad shilling; and last, and worst
of all, my housekeeper herself insults me to my face as soon as she
comes back--insults me, Mr. Orridge, to that degree that I give her
twelve hours' notice to leave the place. Don't begin to defend
yourself! I know all about it; I know you had nothing to do with
sending her back; I never said you had. All the mischief you have done
is innocent mischief. I don't blame you, remember that--whatever you
do, Mr. Orridge, remember that!"

"I had no idea of defending myself," said the doctor, "for I have no
reason to do so. But you surprise me beyond all power of expression
when you tell me that Mrs. Jazeph treated you with incivility."

"Incivility!" exclaimed Mrs. Norbury. "Don't talk about
incivility--it's not the word. Impudence is the word--brazen
impudence. The only charitable thing to say of Mrs. Jazeph is that she
is not right in her head. I never noticed any thing odd about her
myself; but the servants used to laugh at her for being as timid in
the dark as a child, and for often running away to her candle in her
own room when they declined to light the lamps before the night had
fairly set in. I never troubled my head about this before; but I
thought of it last night, I can tell you, when I found her looking me
fiercely in the face, and contradicting me flatly the moment I spoke
to her."

"I should have thought she was the very last woman in the world to
misbehave herself in that way," answered the doctor.

"Very well. Now hear what happened when she came back last night,"
said Mrs. Norbury. "She got here just as we were going up stairs to
bed. Of course, I was astonished; and, of course, I called her into
the drawing-room for an explanation. There was nothing very unnatural
in that course of proceeding, I suppose? Well, I noticed that her eyes
were swollen and red, and that her looks were remarkably wild and
queer; but I said nothing, and waited for the explanation. All that
she had to tell me was that something she had unintentionally said or
done had frightened Mrs. Frankland, and that Mrs. Frankland's husband
had sent her away on the spot. I disbelieved this at first--and very
naturally, I think--but she persisted in the story, and answered all
my questions by declaring that she could tell me nothing more. 'So
then,' I said, 'I am to believe that, after I have inconvenienced
myself by sparing you, and after you have inconvenienced yourself by
undertaking the business of nurse, I am to be insulted, and you are to
be insulted, by your being sent away from Mrs. Frankland on the very
day when you get to her, because she chooses to take a whim into her
head?' 'I never accused Mrs. Frankland of taking a whim into her
head,' said Mrs. Jazeph, and stares me straight in the face, with such
a look as I never saw in her eyes before, after all my five years'
experience of her. 'What do you mean?' I asked, giving her back her
look, I can promise you. 'Are you base enough to take the treatment
you have received in the light of a favor?' 'I am just enough,' said
Mrs. Jazeph, as sharp as lightning, and still with that same stare
straight at me--'I am just enough not to blame Mrs. Frankland.' 'Oh,
you are, are you?' I said. 'Then all I can tell you is, that I feel
this insult, if you don't; and that I consider Mrs. Frankland's
conduct to be the conduct of an ill-bred, impudent, capricious,
unfeeling woman.' Mrs. Jazeph takes a step up to me--takes a step, I
give you my word of honor--and says distinctly, in so many words,
'Mrs. Frankland is neither ill-bred, impudent, capricious, nor
unfeeling.' 'Do you mean to contradict me, Mrs. Jazeph?' I asked. 'I
mean to defend Mrs. Frankland from unjust imputations,' says she.
Those were her words, Mr. Orridge--on my honor, as a gentlewoman,
those were exactly her words."

The doctor's face expressed the blankest astonishment. Mrs. Norbury
went on--

"I was in a towering passion--I don't mind confessing that, Mr.
Orridge--but I kept it down. 'Mrs. Jazeph,' I said, 'this is language
that I am not accustomed to, and that I certainly never expected to
hear from your lips. Why you should take it on yourself to defend Mrs.
Frankland for treating us both with contempt, and to contradict me for
resenting it, I neither know nor care to know. But I must tell you, in
plain words, that I will be spoken to by every person in my
employment, from my housekeeper to my scullery-maid, with respect. I
would have given warning on the spot to any other servant in this
house who had behaved to me as you have behaved.' She tried to
interrupt me there, but I would not allow her. 'No,' I said, 'you are
not to speak to me just yet; you are to hear me out. Any other
servant, I tell you again, should have left this place to-morrow
morning; but I will be more than just to _you_. I will give you the
benefit of your five years' good conduct in my service. I will leave
you the rest of the night to get cool, and to reflect on what has
passed between us; and I will not expect you to make the proper
apologies to me until the morning.' You see, Mr. Orridge, I was
determined to act justly and kindly; I was ready to make
allowances--and what do you think she said in return? 'I am willing to
make any apologies, ma'am, for offending you,' she said, 'without the
delay of a single minute; but, whether it is to-night, or whether it
is to-morrow morning, I can not stand by silent when I hear Mrs.
Frankland charged with acting unkindly, uncivilly, or improperly
toward me or toward any one.' 'Do you tell me that deliberately, Mrs.
Jazeph?' I asked. 'I tell it you sincerely, ma'am,' she answered; 'and
I am very sorry to be obliged to do so.' 'Pray don't trouble yourself
to be sorry,' I said, 'for you may consider yourself no longer in my
service. I will order the steward to pay you the usual month's wages
instead of the month's warning the first thing to-morrow; and I beg
that you will leave the house as soon as you conveniently can
afterward.' 'I will leave to-morrow, ma'am,' says she, 'but without
troubling the steward. I beg respectfully, and with many thanks for
your past kindness, to decline taking a month's money which I have not
earned by a month's service.' And thereupon she courtesies and goes
out. That is, word for word, what passed between us, Mr. Orridge.
Explain the woman's conduct in your own way, if you can. I say that it
is utterly incomprehensible, unless you agree with me that she was not
in her right senses when she came back to this house last night."

The doctor began to think, after what he had just heard, that Mrs.
Frankland's suspicions in relation to the new nurse were not quite so
unfounded as he had been at first disposed to consider them. He wisely
refrained, however, from complicating matters by giving utterance to
what he thought; and, after answering Mrs. Norbury in a few vaguely
polite words, endeavored to soothe her irritation against Mr. and Mrs.
Frankland by assuring her that he came as the bearer of apologies from
both husband and wife, for the apparent want of courtesy and
consideration in their conduct which circumstances had made
inevitable. The offended lady, however, absolutely refused to be
propitiated. She rose up, and waved her hand with an air of great

"I can not hear a word more from you, Mr. Orridge," she said; "I can
not receive any apologies which are made indirectly. If Mr. Frankland
chooses to call, and if Mrs. Frankland condescends to write to me, I
am willing to think no more of the matter. Under any other
circumstances, I must be allowed to keep my present opinions both of
the lady and the gentleman. Don't say another word, and be so kind as
to excuse me if I leave you, and go up to the nursery to see how the
child is getting on. I am delighted to hear that you think her so much
better. Pray call again to-morrow or next day, if you conveniently
can. Good-morning!"

Half amused at Mrs. Norbury, half displeased at the curt tone she
adopted toward him, Mr. Orridge remained for a minute or two alone in
the breakfast-parlor, feeling rather undecided about what he should do
next. He was, by this time, almost as much interested in solving the
mystery of Mrs. Jazeph's extraordinary conduct as Mrs. Frankland
herself; and he felt unwilling, on all accounts, to go back to the
Tiger's Head, and merely repeat what Mrs. Norbury had told him,
without being able to complete the narrative by informing Mr. and Mrs.
Frankland of the direction that the housekeeper had taken on leaving
her situation. After some pondering, he determined to question the
footman, under the pretense of desiring to know if his gig was at the
door. The man having answered the bell, and having reported the gig to
be ready, Mr. Orridge, while crossing the hall, asked him carelessly
if he knew at what time in the morning Mrs. Jazeph had left her place.

"About ten o'clock, Sir," answered the footman. "When the carrier came
by from the village, on his way to the station for the eleven o'clock

"Oh! I suppose he took her boxes?" said Mr. Orridge.

"And he took her, too, Sir," said the man, with a grin. "She had to
ride, for once in her life, at any rate, in a carrier's cart."

On getting back to West Winston, the doctor stopped at the station to
collect further particulars, before he returned to the Tiger's Head.
No trains, either up or down, happened to be due just at that time.
The station-master was reading the newspaper, and the porter was
gardening on the slope of the embankment.

"Is the train at eleven in the morning an up-train or a down-train?"
asked Mr. Orridge, addressing the porter.

"A down-train."

"Did many people go by it?"

The porter repeated the names of some of the inhabitants of West

"Were there no passengers but passengers from the town?" inquired the

"Yes, Sir. I think there was one stranger--a lady."

"Did the station-master issue the tickets for that train?"

"Yes, Sir."

Mr. Orridge went on to the station-master.

"Do you remember giving a ticket this morning, by the eleven o'clock
down-train, to a lady traveling alone?"

The station-master pondered. "I have issued tickets, up and down, to
half-a-dozen ladies to-day," he answered, doubtfully.

"Yes, but I am speaking only of the eleven o'clock train," said Mr.
Orridge. "Try if you can't remember?"

"Remember? Stop! I do remember; I know who you mean. A lady who seemed
rather flurried, and who put a question to me that I am not often
asked at this station. She had her veil down, I recollect, and she got
here for the eleven o'clock train. Crouch, the carrier, brought her
trunk into the office."

"That is the woman. Where did she take her ticket for?"

"For Exeter."

"You said she asked you a question?"

"Yes: a question about what coaches met the rail at Exeter to take
travelers into Cornwall. I told her we were rather too far off here to
have the correct time-table, and recommended her to apply for
information to the Devonshire people when she got to the end of her
journey. She seemed a timid, helpless kind of woman to travel alone.
Any thing wrong in connection with her, Sir?"

"Oh, no! nothing," said Mr. Orridge, leaving the station-master and
hastening back to his gig again.

When he drew up, a few minutes afterward, at the door of the Tiger's
Head, he jumped out of his vehicle with the confident air of a man who
has done all that could be expected of him. It was easy to face Mrs.
Frankland with the unsatisfactory news of Mrs. Jazeph's departure, now
that he could add, on the best authority, the important supplementary
information that she had gone to Cornwall.




Toward the close of the evening, on the day after Mr. Orridge's
interview with Mrs. Norbury, the Druid fast coach, running through
Cornwall as far as Truro, set down three inside passengers at the door
of the booking-office on arriving at its destination. Two of these
passengers were an old gentleman and his daughter; the third was Mrs.

The father and daughter collected their luggage and entered the hotel;
the outside passengers branched off in different directions with as
little delay as possible; Mrs. Jazeph alone stood irresolute on the
pavement, and seemed uncertain what she should do next. When the
coachman good-naturedly endeavored to assist her in arriving at a
decision of some kind, by asking whether he could do any thing to help
her, she started, and looked at him suspiciously; then, appearing to
recollect herself, thanked him for his kindness, and inquired, with a
confusion of words and a hesitation of manner which appeared very
extraordinary in the coachman's eyes, whether she might be allowed to
leave her trunk at the booking-office for a little while, until she
could return and call for it again.

Receiving permission to leave her trunk as long as she pleased, she
crossed over the principal street of the town, ascended the pavement
on the opposite side, and walked down the first turning she came to.
On entering the by-street to which the turning led, she glanced back,
satisfied herself that nobody was following or watching her, hastened
on a few yards, and stopped again at a small shop devoted to the sale
of book-cases, cabinets, work-boxes, and writing-desks. After first
looking up at the letters painted over the door--BUSCHMANN,
CABINET-MAKER, &C.--she peered in at the shop window. A middle-aged
man, with a cheerful face, sat behind the counter, polishing a
rosewood bracket, and nodding briskly at regular intervals, as if he
were humming a tune and keeping time to it with his head. Seeing no
customers in the shop, Mrs. Jazeph opened the door and walked in.

As soon as she was inside, she became aware that the cheerful man
behind the counter was keeping time, not to a tune of his own humming,
but to a tune played by a musical box. The clear ringing notes came
from a parlor behind the shop, and the air the box was playing was the
lovely "Batti, Batti," of Mozart.

"Is Mr. Buschmann at home?" asked Mrs. Jazeph.

"Yes, ma'am," said the cheerful man, pointing with a smile toward the
door that led into the parlor. "The music answers for him. Whenever
Mr. Buschmann's box is playing, Mr. Buschmann himself is not far off
from it. Did you wish to see him, ma'am?"

"If there is nobody with him."

"Oh, no, he is quite alone. Shall I give any name?"

Mrs. Jazeph opened her lips to answer, hesitated, and said nothing.
The shopman, with a quicker delicacy of perception than might have
been expected from him, judging by outward appearances, did not repeat
the question, but opened the door at once, and admitted the visitor to
the presence of Mr. Buschmann.

The shop parlor was a very small room, with an old three-cornered look
about it, with a bright green paper on the walls, with a large dried
fish in a glass case over the fire-place, with two meerschaum pipes
hanging together on the wall opposite, and a neat round table placed
as accurately as possible in the middle of the floor. On the table
were tea-things, bread, butter, a pot of jam, and a musical box in a
quaint, old-fashioned case; and by the side of the table sat a little,
rosy-faced, white-haired, simple-looking old man, who started up, when
the door was opened, with an appearance of extreme confusion, and
touched the top of the musical box so that it might cease playing when
it came to the end of the air.

"A lady to speak with you, Sir," said the cheerful shopman. "That is
Mr. Buschmann, ma'am," he added in a lower tone, seeing Mrs. Jazeph
stop in apparent uncertainty on entering the parlor.

"Will you please to take a seat, ma'am?" said Mr. Buschmann, when the
shopman had closed the door and gone back to his counter. "Excuse the
music; it will stop directly." He spoke these words in a foreign
accent, but with perfect fluency.

Mrs. Jazeph looked at him earnestly while he was addressing her, and
advanced a step or two before she said any thing. "Am I so changed?"
she asked softly. "So sadly, sadly changed, Uncle Joseph?"

"Gott im Himmel! it's her voice--it's Sarah Leeson!" cried the old
man, running up to his visitor as nimbly as if he was a boy again,
taking both her hands, and kissing her with an odd, brisk tenderness
on the cheek. Although his niece was not at all above the average
height of women, Uncle Joseph was so short that he had to raise
himself on tiptoe to perform the ceremony of embracing her.

"To think of Sarah coming at last!" he said, pressing her into a
chair. "After all these years and years, to think of Sarah Leeson
coming to see Uncle Joseph again!"

"Sarah still, but not Sarah Leeson," said Mrs. Jazeph, pressing her
thin, trembling hands firmly together, and looking down on the floor
while she spoke.

"Ah! married?" said Mr. Buschmann, gayly. "Married, of course. Tell me
all about your husband, Sarah."

"He is dead. Dead and forgiven." She murmured the last three words in
a whisper to herself.

"Ah! I am so sorry for you! I spoke too suddenly, did I not, my
child?" said the old man. "Never mind! No, no; I don't mean that--I
mean let us talk of something else. You will have a bit of bread and
jam, won't you, Sarah?--ravishing raspberry jam that melts in your
mouth. Some tea, then? So, so, she will have some tea, to be sure. And
we won't talk of our troubles--at least, not just yet. You look very
pale, Sarah--very much older than you ought to look--no, I don't mean
that either; I don't mean to be rude. It was your voice I knew you by,
my child--your voice that your poor Uncle Max always said would have
made your fortune if you would only have learned to sing. Here's his
pretty music box going still. Don't look so downhearted--don't, pray.
Do listen a little to the music: you remember the box?--my brother
Max's box? Why, how you look! Have you forgotten the box that the
divine Mozart gave to my brother with his own hand, when Max was a
boy in the music school at Vienna? Listen! I have set it going again.
It's a song they call 'Batti, Batti;' it's a song in an opera of
Mozart's. Ah! beautiful! beautiful! Your Uncle Max said that all music
was comprehended in that one song. I know nothing about music, but I
have my heart and my ears, and they tell me that Max was right."

Speaking these words with abundant gesticulation and amazing
volubility, Mr. Buschmann poured out a cup of tea for his niece,
stirred it carefully, and, patting her on the shoulder, begged that
she would make him happy by drinking it all up directly. As he came
close to her to press this request, he discovered that the tears were
in her eyes, and that she was trying to take her handkerchief from her
pocket without being observed.

"Don't mind me," she said, seeing the old man's face sadden as he
looked at her; "and don't think me forgetful or ungrateful, Uncle
Joseph. I remember the box--I remember every thing that you used to
take an interest in, when I was younger and happier than I am now.
When I last saw you, I came to you in trouble; and I come to you in
trouble once more. It seems neglectful in me never to have written to
you for so many years past; but my life has been a very sad one, and I
thought I had no right to lay the burden of my sorrow on other
shoulders than my own."

Uncle Joseph shook his head at these last words, and touched the stop
of the musical box. "Mozart shall wait a little," he said, gravely,
"till I have told you something. Sarah, hear what I say, and drink
your tea, and own to me whether I speak the truth or not. What did I,
Joseph Buschmann, tell you, when you first came to me in trouble,
fourteen, fifteen, ah more! sixteen years ago, in this town, and in
this same house? I said then, what I say again now: 'Sarah's sorrow is
my sorrow, and Sarah's joy is my joy;' and if any man asks me reasons
for that, I have three to give him."

He stopped to stir up his niece's tea for the second time, and to draw
her attention to it by tapping with the spoon on the edge of the cup.

"Three reasons," he resumed. "First, you are my sister's child--some
of her flesh and blood, and some of mine, therefore, also. Second, my
sister, my brother, and lastly me myself, we owe to your good English
father--all. A little word that means much, and may be said again and
again--all. Your father's friends cry, Fie! Agatha Buschmann is poor!
Agatha Buschmann is foreign! But your father loves the poor German
girl, and he marries her in spite of their Fie, Fie. Your father's
friends cry Fie! again; Agatha Buschmann has a musician brother, who
gabbles to us about Mozart, and who can not make to his porridge salt.
Your father says, Good! I like his gabble; I like his playing; I shall
get him people to teach; and while I have pinches of salt in my
kitchen, he to his porridge shall have pinches of salt too. Your
father's friends cry Fie! for the third time. Agatha Buschmann has
another brother, a little Stupid-Head, who to the other's gabble can
only listen and say Amen. Send him trotting; for the love of Heaven,
shut up all the doors and send Stupid-Head trotting, at least. Your
father says, No! Stupid-Head has his wits in his hands; he can cut and
carve and polish; help him a little at the starting, and after he
shall help himself. They are all gone now but me! Your father, your
mother, and Uncle Max--they are all gone. Stupid-Head alone remains to
remember and to be grateful--to take Sarah's sorrow for his sorrow,
and Sarah's joy for his joy."

He stopped again to blow a speck of dust off the musical box. His
niece endeavored to speak, but he held up his hand, and shook his
forefinger at her warningly.

"No," he said. "It is yet my business to talk, and your business to
drink tea. Have I not my third reason still? Ah! you look away from
me; you know my third reason before I say a word. When I, in my turn,
marry, and my wife dies, and leaves me alone with little Joseph, and
when the boy falls sick, who comes then, so quiet, so pretty, so neat,
with the bright young eyes, and the hands so tender and light? Who
helps me with little Joseph by night and by day? Who makes a pillow
for him on her arm when his head is weary? Who holds this box
patiently at his ear?--yes! this box, that the hand of Mozart has
touched--who holds it closer, closer always, when little Joseph's
sense grows dull, and he moans for the friendly music that he has
known from a baby, the friendly music that he can now so hardly,
hardly hear? Who kneels down by Uncle Joseph when his heart is
breaking, and says, 'Oh, hush! hush! The boy is gone where the better
music plays, where the sickness shall never waste or the sorrow touch
him more?' Who? Ah, Sarah! you can not forget those days; you can not
forget the Long Ago! When the trouble is bitter, and the burden is
heavy, it is cruelty to Uncle Joseph to keep away; it is kindness to
him to come here."

The recollections that the old man had called up found their way
tenderly to Sarah's heart. She could not answer him; she could only
hold out her hand. Uncle Joseph bent down, with a quaint, affectionate
gallantry, and kissed it; then stepped back again to his place by the
musical box. "Come!" he said, patting it cheerfully, "we will say no
more for a while. Mozart's box, Max's box, little Joseph's box, you
shall talk to us again!"

Having put the tiny machinery in motion, he sat down by the table, and
remained silent until the air had been played over twice. Then
observing that his niece seemed calmer, he spoke to her once more.

"You are in trouble, Sarah," he said, quietly. "You tell me that, and
I see it is true in your face. Are you grieving for your husband?"

"I grieve that I ever met him," she answered. "I grieve that I ever
married him. Now that he is dead, I can not grieve--I can only forgive

"Forgive him? How you look, Sarah, when you say that! Tell me--"

"Uncle Joseph! I have told you that my husband is dead, and that I
have forgiven him."

"You have forgiven him? He was hard and cruel with you, then? I see; I
see. That is the end, Sarah--but the beginning? Is the beginning that
you loved him?"

Her pale cheeks flushed; and she turned her head aside. "It is hard
and humbling to confess it," she murmured, without raising her eyes;
"but you force the truth from me, uncle. I had no love to give to my
husband--no love to give to any man."

"And yet you married him! Wait! it is not for me to blame. It is for
me to find out, not the bad, but the good. Yes, yes; I shall say to
myself, she married him when she was poor and helpless; she married
him when she should have come to Uncle Joseph instead. I shall say
that to myself, and I shall pity, but I shall ask no more."

Sarah half reached her hand out to the old man again--then suddenly
pushed her chair back, and changed the position in which she was
sitting. "It is true that I was poor," she said, looking about her in
confusion, and speaking with difficulty. "But you are so kind and so
good, I can not accept the excuse that your forbearance makes for me.
I did not marry him because I was poor, but--" She stopped, clasped
her hands together, and pushed her chair back still farther from the

"So! so!" said the old man, noticing her confusion. "We will talk
about it no more."

"I had no excuse of love; I had no excuse of poverty," she said, with
a sudden burst of bitterness and despair. "Uncle Joseph, I married him
because I was too weak to persist in saying No! The curse of weakness
and fear has followed me all the days of my life! I said No to him
once. I said No to him twice. Oh, uncle, if I could only have said it
for the third time! But he followed me, he frightened me, he took away
from me all the little will of my own that I had. He made me speak as
he wished me to speak, and go where he wished me to go. No, no,
no--don't come to me, uncle; don't say any thing. He is gone; he is
dead--I have got my release; I have given my pardon! Oh, if I could
only go away and hide somewhere! All people's eyes seem to look
through me; all people's words seem to threaten me. My heart has been
weary ever since I was a young woman; and all these long, long years
it has never got any rest. Hush! the man in the shop--I forgot the man
in the shop. He will hear us; let us talk in a whisper. What made me
break out so? I'm always wrong. Oh me! I'm wrong when I speak; I'm
wrong when I say nothing; wherever I go and whatever I do, I'm not
like other people. I seem never to have grown up in my mind since I
was a little child. Hark! the man in the shop is moving--has he heard
me? Oh, Uncle Joseph! do you think he has heard me?"

Looking hardly less startled than his niece, Uncle Joseph assured her
that the door was solid, that the man's place in the shop was at some
distance from it, and that it was impossible, even if he heard voices
in the parlor, that he could also distinguish any words that were
spoken in it.

"You are sure of that?" she whispered, hurriedly. "Yes, yes, you are
sure of that, or you would not have told me so, would you? We may go
on talking now. Not about my married life: that is buried and past.
Say that I had some years of sorrow and suffering, which I
deserved--say that I had other years of quiet, when I was living in
service with masters and mistresses who were often kind to me when my
fellow-servants were not--say just that much about my life, and it is
saying enough. The trouble that I am in now, the trouble that brings
me to you, goes back further than the years we have been talking
about--goes back, back, back, Uncle Joseph, to the distant day when we
last met."

"Goes back all through the sixteen years!" exclaimed the old man,
incredulously. "Goes back, Sarah, even to the Long Ago!"

"Even to that time. Uncle, you remember where I was living, and what
had happened to me, when--"

"When you came here in secret? When you asked me to hide you? That was
the same week, Sarah, when your mistress died; your mistress who lived
away west in the old house. You were frightened, then--pale and
frightened as I see you now."

"As every one sees me! People are always staring at me; always
thinking that I am nervous, always pitying me for being ill."

Saying these words with a sudden fretfulness, she lifted the tea-cup
by her side to her lips, drained it of its contents at a draught, and
pushed it across the table to be filled again. "I have come all over
thirsty and hot," she whispered. "More tea, Uncle Joseph--more tea."

"It is cold," said the old man. "Wait till I ask for hot water."

"No!" she exclaimed, stopping him as he was about to rise. "Give it me
cold; I like it cold. Let nobody else come in--I can't speak if any
body else comes in." She drew her chair close to her uncle's, and went
on: "You have not forgotten how frightened I was in that by-gone
time--do you remember why I was frightened?"

"You were afraid of being followed--that was it, Sarah. I grow old,
but my memory keeps young. You were afraid of your master, afraid of
his sending servants after you. You had run away; you had spoken no
word to any body; and you spoke little--ah, very, very little--even to
Uncle Joseph--even to me."

"I told you," said Sarah, dropping her voice to so faint a whisper
that the old man could barely hear her--"I told you that my mistress
had left me a Secret on her death-bed--a Secret in a letter, which I
was to give to my master. I told you I had hidden the letter, because
I could not bring myself to deliver it, because I would rather die a
thousand times over than be questioned about what I knew of it. I told
you so much, I know. Did I tell you no more? Did I not say that my
mistress made me take an oath on the Bible?--Uncle! are there candles
in the room? Are there candles we can light without disturbing any
body, without calling any body in here?"

"There are candles and a match-box in my cupboard," answered Uncle
Joseph. "But look out of window, Sarah. It is only twilight--it is not
dark yet."

"Not outside; but it is dark here."


"In that corner. Let us have candles. I don't like the darkness when
it gathers in corners and creeps along walls."

Uncle Joseph looked all round the room inquiringly; and smiled to
himself as he took two candles from the cupboard and lighted them.
"You are like the children," he said, playfully, while he pulled down
the window-blind. "You are afraid of the dark."

Sarah did not appear to hear him. Her eyes were fixed on the corner of
the room which she had pointed out the moment before. When he resumed
his place by her side, she never looked round, but laid her hand on
his arm, and said to him suddenly--

"Uncle! Do you believe that the dead can come back to this world, and
follow the living every where, and see what they do in it?"

The old man started. "Sarah!" he said, "why do you talk so? Why do you
ask me such a question?"

"Are there lonely hours," she went on, still never looking away from
the corner, still not seeming to hear him, "when you are sometimes
frightened without knowing why--frightened all over in an instant,
from head to foot? Tell me, uncle, have you ever felt the cold steal
round and round the roots of your hair, and crawl bit by bit down your
back? I have felt that even in the summer. I have been out of doors,
alone on a wide heath, in the heat and brightness of noon, and have
felt as if chilly fingers were touching me--chilly, damp, softly
creeping fingers. It says in the New Testament that the dead came once
out of their graves, and went into the holy city. The dead! Have they
rested, rested always, rested forever, since that time?"

Uncle Joseph's simple nature recoiled in bewilderment from the dark
and daring speculations to which his niece's questions led. Without
saying a word, he tried to draw away the arm which she still held; but
the only result of the effort was to make her tighten her grasp, and
bend forward in her chair so as to look closer still into the corner
of the room.

"My mistress was dying," she said--"my mistress was very near her
grave, when she made me take my oath on the Bible. She made me swear
never to destroy the letter; and I did not destroy it. She made me
swear not to take it away with me, if I left the house; and I did not
take it away. She would have made me swear, for the third time, to
give it to my master, but death was too quick for her--death stopped
her from fastening that third oath on my conscience. But she
threatened me, uncle, with the dead dampness on her forehead, and the
dead whiteness on her cheeks--she threatened to come to me from the
other world if I thwarted her--and I _have_ thwarted her!"

She stopped, suddenly removed her hand from the old man's arm, and
made a strange gesture with it toward the part of the room on which
her eyes remained fixed. "Rest, mistress, rest," she whispered under
her breath. "Is my master alive now? Rest, till the drowned rise. Tell
him the Secret when the sea gives up her dead."

"Sarah! Sarah! you are changed--you are ill--you frighten me!" cried
Uncle Joseph, starting to his feet.


She turned round slowly, and looked at him with eyes void of all
expression, with eyes that seemed to be staring through him vacantly
at something beyond.

"Gott im Himmel! what does she see?" He looked round as the
exclamation escaped him. "Sarah! what is it! Are you faint? Are you
ill? Are you dreaming with your eyes open?"

He took her by both arms and shook her. At the instant when she felt
the touch of his hands, she started violently and trembled all over.
Their natural expression flew back into her eyes with the rapidity of
a flash of light. Without saying a word, she hastily resumed her seat
and began stirring the cold tea round and round in her cup, round and
round so fast that the liquid overflowed into the saucer.

"Come! she gets more like herself," said Uncle Joseph, watching her.

"More like myself?" she repeated, vacantly.

"So! so!" said the old man, trying to soothe her. "You are ill--what
the English call out of sort. They are good doctors here. Wait till
to-morrow, you shall have the best."

"I want no doctors. Don't speak of doctors. I can't bear them; they
look at me with such curious eyes; they are always prying into me, as
if they wanted to find out something. What have we been stopping for?
I had so much to say; and we seem to have been stopping just when we
ought to have been going on. I am in grief and terror, Uncle Joseph;
in grief and terror again about the Secret--"

"No more of that!" pleaded the old man. "No more to-night at least!"

"Why not?"

"Because you will be ill again with talking about it. You will be
looking into that corner, and dreaming with your eyes open. You are
too ill--yes, yes, Sarah; you are too ill."

"I'm not ill! Oh, why does every body keep telling me that I am ill?
Let me talk about it, uncle. I have come to talk about it; I can't
rest till I have told you."

She spoke with a changing color and an embarrassed manner, now
apparently conscious for the first time that she had allowed words and
actions to escape her which it would have been more prudent to have

"Don't notice me again," she said, with her soft voice, and her
gentle, pleading manner. "Don't notice me if I talk or look as I
ought not. I lose myself sometimes, without knowing it; and I suppose
I lost myself just now. It means nothing, Uncle Joseph--nothing,

Endeavoring thus to re-assure the old man, she again altered the
position of her chair, so as to place her back toward the part of the
room to which her face had been hitherto turned.

"Well, well, it is good to hear that," said Uncle Joseph; "but speak
no more about the past time, for fear you should lose yourself again.
Let us hear about what is now. Yes, yes, give me my way. Leave the
Long Ago to me, and take you the present time. I can go back through
the sixteen years as well as you. Ah! you doubt it? Hear me tell you
what happened when we last met--hear me prove myself in three words:
You leave your place at the old house--you run away here--you stop in
hiding with me, while your master and his servants are hunting after
you--you start off, when your road is clear, to work for your living,
as far away from Cornwall as you can get--I beg and pray you to stop
with me, but you are afraid of your master, and away you go. There!
that is the whole story of your trouble the last time you came to this
house. Leave it so; and tell me what is the cause of your trouble

"The past cause of my trouble, Uncle Joseph, and the present cause of
my trouble are the same. The Secret--"

"What! you will go back to that!"

"I must go back to it."

"And why?"

"Because the Secret is written in a letter--"

"Yes; and what of that?"

"And the letter is in danger of being discovered. It is, uncle--it is!
Sixteen years it has lain hidden--and now, after all that long time,
the dreadful chance of its being dragged to light has come like a
judgment. The one person in all the world who ought never to set eyes
on that letter is the very person who is most likely to find it!"

"So! so! Are you very certain, Sarah? How do you know it?"

"I know it from her own lips. Chance brought us together--"

"Us? us? What do you mean by us?"

"I mean--uncle, you remember that Captain Treverton was my master when
I lived at Porthgenna Tower?"

"I had forgotten his name. But no matter--go on."

"When I left my place, Miss Treverton was a little girl of five years
old. She is a married woman now--so beautiful, so clever, such a
sweet, youthful, happy face! And she has a child as lovely as herself.
Oh, uncle, if you could see her! I would give so much if you could
only see her!"

Uncle Joseph kissed his hand and shrugged his shoulders; expressing by
the first action homage to the lady's beauty, and by the second
resignation under the misfortune of not being able to see her. "Well,
well," he said, philosophically, "put this shining woman by, and let
us go on."

"Her name is Frankland now," said Sarah. "A prettier name than
Treverton--a much prettier name, I think. Her husband is fond of
her--I am sure he is. How can he have any heart at all, and not be
fond of her?"

"So! so!" exclaimed Uncle Joseph, looking very much perplexed. "Good,
if he is fond of her--very good. But what labyrinth are we getting
into now? Wherefore all this about a husband and a wife? My word of
honor, Sarah, but your explanation explains nothing--it only softens
my brains."

"I must speak of her and of Mr. Frankland, uncle. Porthgenna Tower
belongs to her husband now, and they are both going to live there."

"Ah! we are getting back into the straight road at last."

"They are going to live in the very house that holds the Secret; they
are going to repair that very part of it where the letter is hidden.
She will go into the old rooms--I heard her say so; she will search
about in them to amuse her curiosity; workmen will clear them out, and
she will stand by in her idle hours, looking on."

"But she suspects nothing of the Secret?"

"God forbid she ever should!"

"And there are many rooms in the house? And the letter in which the
Secret is written is hidden in one of the many? Why should she hit on
that one?"

"Because I always say the wrong thing! because I always get frightened
and lose myself at the wrong time! The letter is hidden in a room
called the Myrtle Room, and I was foolish enough, weak enough, crazed
enough, to warn her against going into it."

"Ah, Sarah! Sarah! that was a mistake, indeed."

"I can't tell what possessed me--I seemed to lose my senses when I
heard her talking so innocently of amusing herself by searching
through the old rooms, and when I thought of what she might find
there. It was getting on toward night, too; the horrible twilight was
gathering in the corners and creeping along the walls. I longed to
light the candles, and yet I did not dare, for fear she should see the
truth in my face. And when I did light them it was worse. Oh, I don't
know how I did it! I don't know why I did it! I could have torn my
tongue out for saying the words, and still I said them. Other people
can think for the best; other people can act for the best; other
people have had a heavy weight laid on their minds, and have not
dropped under it as I have. Help me, uncle, for the sake of old times
when we were happy--help me with a word of advice."

"I will help you; I live to help you, Sarah! No, no, no--you must not
look so forlorn; you must not look at me with those crying eyes. Come!
I will advise this minute--but say in what; only say in what."

"Have I not told you?"

"No; you have not told me a word yet."

"I will tell you now."

She paused, looked away distrustfully toward the door leading into the
shop, listened a little, and resumed: "I am not at the end of my
journey yet, Uncle Joseph--I am here on my way to Porthgenna Tower--on
my way to the Myrtle Room--on my way, step by step, to the place where
the letter lies hid. I dare not destroy it; I dare not remove it; but
run what risk I may, I must take it out of the Myrtle Room."

Uncle Joseph said nothing, but he shook his head despondingly.

"I must," she repeated; "before Mrs. Frankland gets to Porthgenna, I
must take that letter out of the Myrtle Room. There are places in the
old house where I may hide it again--places that she would never think
of--places that she would never notice. Only let me get it out of the
one room that she is sure to search in, and I know where to hide it
from her and from every one forever."

Uncle Joseph reflected, and shook his head again--then said: "One
word, Sarah; does Mrs. Frankland know which is the Myrtle Room?"

"I did my best to destroy all trace of that name when I hid the
letter; I hope and believe she does not. But she may find
out--remember the words I was crazed enough to speak; they will set
her seeking for the Myrtle Room; they are sure to do that."

"And if she finds it? And if she finds the letter?"

"It will cause misery to innocent people; it will bring death to _me_.
Don't push your chair from me, uncle! It is not shameful death I speak
of. The worst injury I have done is injury to myself; the worst death
I have to fear is the death that releases a worn-out spirit and cures
a broken heart."

"Enough--enough so," said the old man. "I ask for no secret, Sarah,
that is not yours to give. It is all dark to me--very dark, very
confused. I look away from it; I look only toward you. Not with doubt,
my child, but with pity, and with sorrow, too--sorrow that ever you
went near that house of Porthgenna--sorrow that you are now going to
it again."

"I have no choice, uncle, but to go. If every step on the road to
Porthgenna took me nearer and nearer to my death, I must still tread
it. Knowing what I know, I can't rest, I can't sleep--my very breath
won't come freely--till I have got that letter out of the Myrtle Room.
How to do it--oh, Uncle Joseph, how to do it, without being suspected,
without being discovered by any body--that is what I would almost give
my life to know! You are a man; you are older and wiser than I am; no
living creature ever asked you for help in vain--help _me_ now! my
only friend in all the world, help me a little with a word of advice!"

Uncle Joseph rose from his chair, and folded his arms resolutely, and
looked his niece full in the face.

"You will go?" he said. "Cost what it may, you will go? Say, for the
last time, Sarah, is it yes or no?"

"Yes! For the last time, I say Yes."

"Good. And you will go soon?"

"I must go to-morrow. I dare not waste a single day; hours even may be
precious for any thing I can tell."

"You promise me, my child, that the hiding of this Secret does good,
and that the finding of it will do harm?"

"If it was the last word I had to speak in this world, I would say

"You promise me, also, that you want nothing but to take the letter
out of the Myrtle Room, and put it away somewhere else?"

"Nothing but that."

"And it is yours to take and yours to put? No person has a better
right to touch it than you?"

"Now that my master is dead, no person."

"Good. You have given me my resolution. I have done. Sit you there,
Sarah; and wonder, if you like, but say nothing." With these words,
Uncle Joseph stepped lightly to the door leading into the shop, opened
it, and called to the man behind the counter.

"Samuel, my friend," he said. "To-morrow I go a little ways into the
country with my niece, who is this lady here. You keep shop and take
orders, and be just as careful as you always are, till I get back. If
any body comes and asks for Mr. Buschmann, say he has gone a little
ways into the country, and will be back in a few days. That is all.
Shut up the shop, Samuel, my friend, for the night; and go to your
supper. I wish you good appetite, nice victuals, and sound sleep."

Before Samuel could thank his master, the door was shut again. Before
Sarah could say a word, Uncle Joseph's hand was on her lips, and Uncle
Joseph's handkerchief was wiping away the tears that were now falling
fast from her eyes.

"I will have no more talking, and no more crying," said the old man.
"I am a German, and I glory in the obstinacy of six Englishmen, all
rolled into one. To-night you sleep here, to-morrow we talk again of
all this. You want me to help you with a word of advice. I will help
you with myself, which is better than advice, and I say no more till I
fetch my pipe down from the wall there, and ask him to make me think.
I smoke and think to-night--I talk and do to-morrow. And you, you go
up to bed; you take Uncle Max's music box in your hand, and you let
Mozart sing the cradle song before you go to sleep. Yes, yes, my
child, there is always comfort in Mozart--better comfort than in
crying. What is there to cry about, or to thank about? Is it so great
a wonder that I will not let my sister's child go alone to make a
venture in the dark? I said Sarah's sorrow was my sorrow, and Sarah's
joy my joy; and now, if there is no way of escape--if it must indeed
be done--I also say: Sarah's risk to-morrow is Uncle Joseph's risk
to-morrow, too! Good-night, my child--good-night."



The next morning wrought no change in the resolution at which Uncle
Joseph had arrived overnight. Out of the amazement and confusion
produced in his mind by his niece's avowal of the object that had
brought her to Cornwall, he had contrived to extract one clear and
definite conclusion--that she was obstinately bent on placing herself
in a situation of uncertainty, if not of absolute peril. Once
persuaded of this, his kindly instincts all sprang into action, his
natural firmness on the side of self sacrifice asserted itself, and
his determination not to let Sarah proceed on her journey alone,
followed as a matter of course.

Strong in the self-denying generosity of his purpose--though strong in
nothing else--when he and his niece met in the morning, and when Sarah
spoke self-reproachfully of the sacrifice that he was making, of the
serious hazards to which he was exposing himself for her sake, he
refused to listen to her just as obstinately as he had refused the
previous night. There was no need, he said, to speak another word on
that subject. If she had abandoned her intention of going to
Porthgenna, she had only to say so. If she had not, it was mere waste
of breath to talk any more, for he was deaf in both ears to every
thing in the shape of a remonstrance that she could possibly address
to him. Having expressed himself in these uncompromising terms, Uncle
Joseph abruptly dismissed the subject, and tried to turn the
conversation to a cheerful every-day topic by asking his niece how she
had passed the night.

"I was too anxious to sleep," she answered. "I can't fight with my
fears and misgivings as some people can. All night long they keep me
waking and thinking as if it was day."

"Thinking about what?" asked Uncle Joseph. "About the letter that is
hidden? about the house of Porthgenna? about the Myrtle Room?"

"About how to get into the Myrtle Room," she said. "The more I try to
plan and ponder, and settle beforehand what I shall do, the more
confused and helpless I seem to be. All last night, uncle, I was
trying to think of some excuse for getting inside the doors of
Porthgenna Tower--and yet, if I was standing on the house-step at this
moment, I should not know what to say when the servant and I first
came face to face. How are we to persuade them to let us in? How am I
to slip out of sight, even if we do get in? Can't you tell me?--you
will try, Uncle Joseph--I am sure you will try. Only help me so far,
and I think I can answer for the rest. If they keep the keys where
they used to keep them in my time, ten minutes to myself is all I
should want--ten minutes, only ten short minutes, to make the end of
my life easier to me than the beginning has been; to help me to grow
old quietly and resignedly, if it is God's will that I should live out
my years. Oh, how happy people must be who have all the courage they
want; who are quick and clever, and have their wits about them! You
are readier than I am, uncle; you said last night that you would think
about how to advise me for the best--what did your thoughts end in?
You will make me so much easier if you will only tell me that."

Uncle Joseph nodded assentingly, assumed a look of the profoundest
gravity, and slowly laid his forefinger along the side of his nose.

"What did I promise you last night?" he said. "Was it not to take my
pipe, and ask him to make me think? Good, I smoke three pipes, and
think three thoughts. My first thought is--Wait! My second thought is
again--Wait! My third thought is yet once more--Wait! You say you will
be easy, Sarah, if I tell you the end of all my thoughts. Good, I have
told you. There is the end--you are easy--it is all light."

"Wait?" repeated Sarah, with a look of bewilderment which suggested
any thing rather than a mind at ease. "I am afraid, uncle, I don't
quite understand. Wait for what? Wait till when?"

"Wait till we arrive at the house, to be sure! Wait till we are got
outside the door; then is time enough to think how we are to get in,"
said Uncle Joseph, with an air of conviction. "You understand now?"

"Yes--at least I understand better than I did. But there is still
another difficulty left. Uncle! I must tell you more than I intended
ever to tell any body--I must tell you that the letter is locked up."

"Locked up in a room?"

"Worse than that--locked up in something inside the room. The key that
opens the door--even if I get it--the key that opens the door of the
room is not all I want. There is another key besides that, a little
key--" She stopped, with a confused, startled look.

"A little key that you have lost?" asked Uncle Joseph.

"I threw it down the well in the village on the morning when I made my
escape from Porthgenna. Oh, if I had only kept it about me! If it had
only crossed my mind that I might want it again!"

"Well, well; there is no help for that now. Tell me, Sarah, what the
something is which the letter is hidden in."

"I am afraid of the very walls hearing me."

"What nonsense! Come! whisper it to me."

She looked all round her distrustfully, and then whispered into the
old man's ear. He listened eagerly, and laughed when she was silent
again. "Bah!" he cried. "If that is all, make yourself happy. As you
wicked English people say, it is as easy as lying. Why, my child, you
can burst him open for yourself."

"Burst it open? How?"

Uncle Joseph went to the window-seat, which was made on the
old-fashioned plan, to serve the purpose of a chest as well as a seat.
He opened the lid, searched among some tools which lay in the
receptacle beneath, and took out a chisel. "See," he said,
demonstrating on the top of the window-seat the use to which the tool
was to be put. "You push him in so--crick! Then you pull him up
so--crack! It is the business of one little moment--crick! crack!--and
the lock is done for. Take the chisel yourself, wrap him up in a bit
of that stout paper there, and put him in your pocket. What are you
waiting for? Do you want me to show you again, or do you think you can
do it now for yourself?"

"I should like you to show me again, Uncle Joseph, but not now--not
till we have got to the end of our journey."

"Good. Then I may finish my packing up, and go ask about the coach.
First and foremost, Mozart must put on his great coat, and travel with
us." He took up the musical box, and placed it carefully in a leather
case, which he slung by a strap over one shoulder. "Next, there is my
pipe, the tobacco to feed him with, and the matches to set him alight.
Last, here is my old German knapsack, which I pack last night. See!
here is shirt, night-cap, comb, pocket-handkerchief, sock. Say I am an
emperor, and what do I want more than that? Good. I have Mozart, I
have the pipe, I have the knapsack. I have--stop! stop; there is the
old leather purse; he must not be forgotten. Look! here he is. Listen!
Ting, ting, ting! He jingles; he has in his inside money. Aha, my
friend, my good Leather, you shall be lighter and leaner before you
come home again. So, so--it is all complete; we are ready for the
march now, from our tops to our toes. Good-by, Sarah, my child, for a
little half-hour; you shall wait here and amuse yourself while I go
ask for the coach."

When Uncle Joseph came back, he brought his niece information that a
coach would pass through Truro in an hour's time, which would set them
down at a stage not more than five or six miles distant from the
regular post-town of Porthgenna. The only direct conveyance to the
post-town was a night-coach which carried the letter-bags, and which
stopped to change horses at Truro at the very inconvenient hour of two
o'clock in the morning. Being of opinion that to travel at bed-time
was to make a toil of a pleasure, Uncle Joseph recommended taking
places in the day-coach, and hiring any conveyance that could be
afterward obtained to carry his niece and himself on to the post-town.
By this arrangement they would not only secure their own comfort, but
gain the additional advantage of losing as little time as possible at
Truro before proceeding on their journey to Porthgenna.

The plan thus proposed was the plan followed. When the coach stopped
to change horses, Uncle Joseph and his niece were waiting to take
their places by it. They found all the inside seats but one
disengaged, were set down two hours afterward at the stage that was
nearest to the destination for which they were bound, hired a
pony-chaise there, and reached the post-town between one and two
o'clock in the afternoon.

Dismissing their conveyance at the inn, from motives of caution which
were urged by Sarah, they set forth to walk across the moor to
Porthgenna. On their way out of the town they met the postman
returning from his morning's delivery of letters in the surrounding
district. His bag had been much heavier and his walk much longer that
morning than usual. Among the extra letters that had taken him out of
his ordinary course was one addressed to the housekeeper at Porthgenna
Tower, which he had delivered early in the morning, when he first
started on his rounds.

Throughout the whole journey, Uncle Joseph had not made a single
reference to the object for which it had been undertaken. Possessing a
child's simplicity of nature, he was also endowed with a child's
elasticity of disposition. The doubts and forebodings which troubled
his niece's spirit, and kept her silent and thoughtful and sad, cast
no darkening shadow over the natural sunshine of his mind. If he had
really been traveling for pleasure alone, he could not have enjoyed
more thoroughly than he did the different sights and events of the
journey. All the happiness which the passing minute had to give him he
took as readily and gratefully as if there was no uncertainty in the
future, no doubt, difficulty, or danger lying in wait for him at the
journey's end. Before he had been half an hour in the coach he had
begun to tell the third inside passenger--a rigid old lady, who stared
at him in speechless amazement--the whole history of the musical box,
ending the narrative by setting it playing, in defiance of all the
noise that the rolling wheels could make. When they left the coach, he
was just as sociable afterward with the driver of the chaise, vaunting
the superiority of German beer over Cornish cider, and making his
remarks upon the objects which they passed on the road with the
pleasantest familiarity, and the heartiest enjoyment of his own jokes.
It was not till he and Sarah were well out of the little town, and
away by themselves on the great moor which stretched beyond it, that
his manner altered, and his talk ceased altogether. After walking on
in silence for some little time, with his niece's arm in his, he
suddenly stopped, looked her earnestly and kindly in the face, and
laid his hand on hers.

"There is yet one thing more I want to ask you, my child," he said.
"The journey has put it out of my head, but it has been in my heart
all the time. When we leave this place of Porthgenna, and get back to
my house, you will not go away? you will not leave Uncle Joseph again?
Are you in service still, Sarah? Are you not your own master yet?"

"I was in service a few days since," she answered; "but I am free now.
I have lost my place."

"Aha! You have lost your place; and why?"

"Because I would not hear an innocent person unjustly blamed.

She checked herself. But the few words she had said were spoken with
such a suddenly heightened color, and with such an extraordinary
emphasis and resolution of tone, that the old man opened his eyes as
widely as possible, and looked at his niece in undisguised

"So! so! so!" he exclaimed. "What! You have had a quarrel, Sarah!"

"Hush! Don't ask me any more questions now!" she pleaded earnestly. "I
am too anxious and too frightened to answer. Uncle! this is Porthgenna
Moor--this is the road I passed over, sixteen years ago, when I ran
away to you. Oh! let us get on, pray let us get on! I can't think of
any thing now but the house we are so near, and the risk we are going
to run."

They went on quickly, in silence. Half an hour's rapid walking brought
them to the highest elevation on the moor, and gave the whole western
prospect grandly to their view.

There, below them, was the dark, lonesome, spacious structure of
Porthgenna Tower, with the sunlight already stealing round toward the
windows of the west front! There was the path winding away to it
gracefully over the brown moor, in curves of dazzling white! There,
lower down, was the solitary old church, with the peaceful
burial-ground nestling by its side! There, lower still, were the
little scattered roofs of the fishermen's cottages! And there, beyond
all, was the changeless glory of the sea, with its old seething lines
of white foam, with the old winding margin of its yellow shores!
Sixteen long years--such years of sorrow, such years of suffering,
such years of change, counted by the pulses of the living heart!--had
passed over the dead tranquillity of Porthgenna, and had altered it as
little as if they had all been contained within the lapse of a single

The moments when the spirit within us is most deeply stirred are
almost invariably the moments also when its outward manifestations are
hardest to detect. Our own thoughts rise above us; our own feelings
lie deeper than we can reach. How seldom words can help us, when their
help is most wanted! How often our tears are dried up when we most
long for them to relieve us! Was there ever a strong emotion in this
world that could adequately express its own strength? What third
person, brought face to face with the old man and his niece, as they
now stood together on the moor, would have suspected, to look at them,
that the one was contemplating the landscape with nothing more than a
stranger's curiosity, and that the other was viewing it through the
recollections of half a lifetime? The eyes of both were dry, the
tongues of both were silent, the faces of both were set with equal
attention toward the prospect. Even between themselves there was no
real sympathy, no intelligible appeal from one spirit to the other.
The old man's quiet admiration of the view was not more briefly and
readily expressed, when they moved forward and spoke to each other,
than the customary phrases of assent by which his niece replied to the
little that he said. How many moments there are in this mortal life,
when, with all our boasted powers of speech, the words of our
vocabulary treacherously fade out, and the page presents nothing to us
but the sight of a perfect blank!

Slowly descending the slope of the moor, the uncle and niece drew
nearer and nearer to Porthgenna Tower. They were within a quarter of
an hour's walk of the house when Sarah stopped at a place where a
second path intersected the main foot-track which they had hitherto
been following. On the left hand, as they now stood, the cross-path
ran on until it was lost to the eye in the expanse of the moor. On the
right hand it led straight to the church.

"What do we stop for now?" asked Uncle Joseph, looking first in one
direction and then in the other.

"Would you mind waiting for me here a little while, uncle? I can't
pass the church path--" (she paused, in some trouble how to express
herself)--"without wishing (as I don't know what may happen after we
get to the house), without wishing to see--to look at something--" She
stopped again, and turned her face wistfully toward the church. The
tears, which had never wetted her eyes at the first view of
Porthgenna, were beginning to rise in them now.

Uncle Joseph's natural delicacy warned him that it would be best to
abstain from asking her for any explanations.

"Go you where you like, to see what you like," he said, patting her on
the shoulder. "I shall stop here to make myself happy with my pipe;
and Mozart shall come out of his cage, and sing a little in this fine
fresh air." He unslung the leather case from his shoulder while he
spoke, took out the musical box, and set it ringing its tiny peal to
the second of the two airs which it was constructed to play--the
minuet in Don Giovanni. Sarah left him looking about carefully, not
for a seat for himself, but for a smooth bit of rock to place the box
upon. When he had found this, he lit his pipe, and sat down to his
music and his smoking, like an epicure to a good dinner. "Aha!" he
exclaimed to himself, looking round as composedly at the wild prospect
on all sides of him as if he was still in his own little parlor at
Truro--"Aha! Here is a fine big music-room, my friend Mozart, for you
to sing in! Ouf! there is wind enough in this place to blow your
pretty dance-tune out to sea, and give the sailor-people a taste of it
as they roll about in their ships."


Meanwhile Sarah walked on rapidly toward the church, and entered the
inclosure of the little burial-ground. Toward that same part of it to
which she had directed her steps on the morning of her mistress's
death, she now turned her face again, after a lapse of sixteen years.
Here, at least, the march of time had left its palpable track--its
foot-prints whose marks were graves. How many a little spot of ground,
empty when she last saw it, had its mound and its head-stone now! The
one grave that she had come to see--the grave which had stood apart in
the by-gone days, had companion graves on the right hand and on the
left. She could not have singled it out but for the weather stains on
the head-stone, which told of storm and rain over it, that had not
passed over the rest. The mound was still kept in shape; but the
grass grew long, and waved a dreary welcome to her as the wind swept
through it. She knelt down by the stone, and tried to read the
inscription. The black paint which had once made the carved words
distinct was all flayed off from them now. To any other eyes but hers
the very name of the dead man would have been hard to trace. She
sighed heavily as she followed the letters of the inscription
mechanically, one by one, with her finger:

     AGED 26 YEARS.
     DECEMBER 17TH, 1823.

Her hand lingered over the letters after it had followed them to the
last line, and she bent forward and pressed her lips on the stone.

"Better so!" she said to herself, as she rose from her knees, and
looked down at the inscription for the last time. "Better it should
fade out so! Fewer strangers' eyes will see it; fewer strangers' feet
will follow where mine have been--he will lie all the quieter in the
place of his rest!"

She brushed the tears from her eyes, and gathered a few blades of
grass from the grave--then left the church-yard. Outside the hedge
that surrounded the inclosure she stopped for a moment, and drew from
the bosom of her dress the little book of Wesley's Hymns which she had
taken with her from the desk in her bedroom on the morning of her
flight from Porthgenna. The withered remains of the grass that she had
plucked from the grave sixteen years ago lay between the pages still.
She added to them the fresh fragments that she had just gathered,
replaced the book in the bosom of her dress, and hastened back over
the moor to the spot where the old man was waiting for her.

She found him packing up the musical box again in its leather case.
"A good wind," he said, holding up the palm of his hand to the fresh
breeze that was sweeping over the moor--"A very good wind, indeed, if
you take him by himself--but a bitter bad wind if you take him with
Mozart. He blows off the tune as if it was the hat on my head. You
come back, my child, just at the nick of time--just when my pipe is
done, and Mozart is ready to travel along the road once more. Ah, have
you got the crying look in your eyes again, Sarah? What have you met
with to make you cry? So! so! I see--the fewer questions I ask just
now, the better you will like me. Good. I have done. No! I have a last
question yet. What are we standing here for? why do we not go on?"

"Yes, yes; you are right, Uncle Joseph; let us go on at once. I shall
lose all the little courage I have if we stay here much longer looking
at the house."

They proceeded down the path without another moment of delay. When
they had reached the end of it, they stood opposite the eastern
boundary wall of Porthgenna Tower. The principal entrance to the
house, which had been very rarely used of late years, was in the west
front, and was approached by a terrace road that overlooked the sea.
The smaller entrance, which was generally used, was situated on the
south side of the building, and led through the servants' offices to
the great hall and the west staircase. Sarah's old experience of
Porthgenna guided her instinctively toward this part of the house. She
led her companion on until they gained the southern angle of the east
wall--then stopped and looked about her. Since they had passed the
postman and had entered on the moor, they had not set eyes on a living
creature; and still, though they were now under the very walls of
Porthgenna, neither man, woman, nor child--not even a domestic
animal--appeared in view.

"It is very lonely here," said Sarah, looking round her distrustfully;
"much lonelier than it used to be."

"Is it only to tell me what I can see for myself that you are stopping
now?" asked Uncle Joseph, whose inveterate cheerfulness would have
been proof against the solitude of Sahara itself.

"No, no!" she answered, in a quick, anxious whisper. "But the bell we
must ring at is so close--only round there--I should like to know
what we are to say when we come face to face with the servant. You
told me it was time enough to think about that when we were at the
door. Uncle! we are all but at the door now. What shall we do?"

"The first thing to do," said Uncle Joseph, shrugging his shoulders,
"is surely to ring."

"Yes--but when the servant comes, what are we to say?"

"Say?" repeated Uncle Joseph, knitting his eyebrows quite fiercely
with the effort of thinking, and rapping his forehead with his
forefinger just under his hat--"Say? Stop, stop, stop, stop! Ah, I
have got it! I know! Make yourself quite easy, Sarah. The moment the
door is opened, all the speaking to the servant shall be done by me."

"Oh, how you relieve me! What shall you say?"

"Say? This--'How do you do? We have come to see the house.'"

When he had disclosed that remarkable expedient for effecting an
entrance into Porthgenna Tower, he spread out both his hands
interrogatively, drew back several paces from his niece, and looked at
her with the serenely self-satisfied air of a man who has leaped, at
one mental bound, from a doubt to a discovery. Sarah gazed at him in
astonishment. The expression of absolute conviction on his face
staggered her. The poorest of all the poor excuses for gaining
admission into the house which she herself had thought of, and had
rejected, during the previous night, seemed like the very perfection
of artifice by comparison with such a childishly simple expedient as
that suggested by Uncle Joseph. And yet there he stood, apparently
quite convinced that he had hit on the means of smoothing away all
obstacles at once. Not knowing what to say, not believing sufficiently
in the validity of her own doubts to venture on openly expressing an
opinion either one way or the other, she took the last refuge that was
now left open to her--she endeavored to gain time.

"It is very, very good of you, uncle, to take all the difficulty of
speaking to the servant on your own shoulders," she said; the hidden
despondency at her heart expressing itself, in spite of her, in the
faintness of her voice and the forlorn perplexity of her eyes. "But
would you mind waiting a little before we ring at the door, and
walking up and down for a few minutes by the side of this wall, where
nobody is likely to see us? I want to get a little more time to
prepare myself for the trial that I have to go through; and--and in
case the servant makes any difficulties about letting us in--I mean
difficulties that we can not just now anticipate--would it not be as
well to think of something else to say at the door? Perhaps, if you
were to consider again--"

"There is not the least need," interposed Uncle Joseph. "I have only
to speak to the servant, and--crick! crack!--you will see that we
shall get in. But I will walk up and down as long as you please. There
is no reason, because I have done all my thinking in one moment, that
you should have done all your thinking in one moment too. No, no,
no--no reason at all." Saying those words with a patronizing air and a
self-satisfied smile, which would have been irresistibly comical under
any less critical circumstances, the old man again offered his arm to
his niece, and led her back over the broken ground that lay under the
eastern wall of Porthgenna Tower.

       *       *       *       *       *

While Sarah was waiting in doubt outside the walls, it happened, by a
curious coincidence, that another person, vested with the highest
domestic authority, was also waiting in doubt inside the walls. This
person was no other than the housekeeper of Porthgenna Tower; and the
cause of her perplexity was nothing less than the letter which had
been delivered by the postman that very morning.

It was a letter from Mrs. Frankland, which had been written after she
had held a long conversation with her husband and Mr. Orridge, on
receiving the last fragments of information which the doctor was able
to communicate in reference to Mrs. Jazeph.

The housekeeper had read the letter through over and over again, and
was more puzzled and astonished by it at every fresh reading. She was
now waiting for the return of the steward, Mr. Munder, from his
occupations out of doors, with the intention of taking his opinion on
the singular communication which she had received from her mistress.

While Sarah and her uncle were still walking up and down outside the
eastern wall, Mr. Munder entered the housekeeper's room. He was one of
those tall, grave, benevolent-looking men, with a conical head, a deep
voice, a slow step, and a heavy manner, who passively contrive to get
a great reputation for wisdom without the trouble of saying or doing
any thing to deserve it. All round the Porthgenna neighborhood the
steward was popularly spoken of as a remarkably sound, sensible man;
and the housekeeper, although a sharp woman in other matters, in this
one respect shared to a large extent in the general delusion.

"Good-morning, Mrs. Pentreath," said Mr. Munder. "Any news to-day?"
What a weight and importance his deep voice and his impressively slow
method of using it, gave to those two insignificant sentences!

"News, Mr. Munder, that will astonish you," replied the housekeeper.
"I have received a letter this morning from Mrs. Frankland, which is,
without any exception, the most mystifying thing of the sort I ever
met with. I am told to communicate the letter to you; and I have been
waiting the whole morning to hear your opinion of it. Pray sit down,
and give me all your attention--for I do positively assure you that
the letter requires it."

Mr. Munder sat down, and became the picture of attention
immediately--not of ordinary attention, which can be wearied, but of
judicial attention, which knows no fatigue, and is superior alike to
the power of dullness and the power of time. The housekeeper, without
wasting the precious minutes--Mr. Munder's minutes, which ranked next
on the scale of importance to a prime minister's!--opened her
mistress's letter, and, resisting the natural temptation to make a few
more prefatory remarks on it, immediately favored the steward with the
first paragraph, in the following terms:

     "MRS. PENTREATH,--You must be tired of receiving letters
     from me, fixing a day for the arrival of Mr. Frankland and
     myself. On this, the third occasion of my writing to you
     about our plans, it will be best, I think, to make no third
     appointment, but merely to say that we shall leave West
     Winston for Porthgenna the moment I can get the doctor's
     permission to travel."

"So far," remarked Mrs. Pentreath, placing the letter on her lap, and
smoothing it out rather irritably while she spoke--"so far, there is
nothing of much consequence. The letter certainly seems to me
(between ourselves) to be written in rather poor language--too much
like common talking to come up to my idea of what a lady's style of
composition ought to be--but that is a matter of opinion. I can't say,
and I should be the last person to wish to say, that the beginning of
Mrs. Frankland's letter is not, upon the whole, perfectly clear. It is
the middle and the end that I wish to consult you about, Mr. Munder."

"Just so," said Mr. Munder. Only two words, but more meaning in them
than two hundred in the mouth of an ordinary man! The housekeeper
cleared her throat with extraordinary loudness and elaboration, and
read on thus:

     "My principal object in writing these lines is to request,
     by Mr. Frankland's desire, that you and Mr. Munder will
     endeavor to ascertain, as privately as possible, whether a
     person now traveling in Cornwall--in whom we happen to be
     much interested--has been yet seen in the neighborhood of
     Porthgenna. The person in question is known to us by the
     name of Mrs. Jazeph. She is an elderly woman, of quiet,
     lady-like manners, looking nervous and in delicate health.
     She dresses, according to our experience of her, with
     extreme propriety and neatness, and in dark colors. Her
     eyes have a singular expression of timidity, her voice is
     particularly soft and low, and her manner is frequently
     marked by extreme hesitation. I am thus particular in
     describing her, in case she should not be traveling under
     the name by which we know her.

     "For reasons which it is not necessary to state, both my
     husband and myself think it probable that, at some former
     period of her life, Mrs. Jazeph may have been connected
     with the Porthgenna neighborhood. Whether this be the fact
     or no, it is indisputably certain that she is familiar with
     the interior of Porthgenna Tower, and that she has an
     interest of some kind, quite incomprehensible to us, in the
     house. Coupling these facts with the knowledge we have of
     her being now in Cornwall, we think it just within the
     range of possibility that you or Mr. Munder, or some other
     person in our employment, may meet with her; and we are
     particularly anxious, if she should by any chance ask to
     see the house, not only that you should show her over it
     with perfect readiness and civility, but also that you
     should take private and particular notice of her conduct
     from the time when she enters the building to the time when
     she leaves it. Do not let her out of your sight for a
     moment; and, if possible, pray get some trustworthy person
     to follow her unperceived, and ascertain where she goes to
     after she has quitted the house. It is of the most vital
     importance that these instructions (strange as they may
     seem to you) should be implicitly obeyed to the very

     "I have only room and time to add that we know nothing to
     the discredit of this person, and that we particularly
     desire you will manage matters with sufficient discretion
     (in case you meet with her) to prevent her from having any
     suspicion that you are acting under orders, or that you
     have any especial interest in watching her movements. You
     will be good enough to communicate this letter to the
     steward, and you are at liberty to repeat the instructions
     in it to any other trustworthy person, if necessary.

     "Yours truly,


     "P.S.--I have left my room, and the baby is getting on

"There!" said the housekeeper. "Who is to make head or tail of that, I
should like to know! Did you ever, in all your experience, Mr. Munder,
meet with such a letter before? Here is a very heavy responsibility
laid on our shoulders, without one word of explanation. I have been
puzzling my brains about what their interest in this mysterious woman
can be the whole morning; and the more I think, the less comes of it.
What is your opinion, Mr. Munder? We ought to do something
immediately. Is there any course in particular which you feel disposed
to point out?"

Mr. Munder coughed dubiously, crossed his right leg over his left, put
his head critically on one side, coughed for the second time, and
looked at the housekeeper. If it had belonged to any other man in the
world, Mrs. Pentreath would have considered that the face which now
confronted hers expressed nothing but the most profound and vacant
bewilderment. But it was Mr. Munder's face, and it was only to be
looked at with sentiments of respectful expectation.

"I rather think--" began Mr. Munder.

"Yes?" said the housekeeper, eagerly.

Before another word could be spoken, the maid-servant entered the room
to lay the cloth for Mrs. Pentreath's dinner.

"There, there! never mind now, Betsey," said the housekeeper,
impatiently. "Don't lay the cloth till I ring for you. Mr. Munder and
I have something very important to talk about, and we can't be
interrupted just yet."

She had hardly said the word, before an interruption of the most
unexpected kind happened. The door-bell rang. This was a very unusual
occurrence at Porthgenna Tower. The few persons who had any occasion
to come to the house on domestic business always entered by a small
side gate, which was left on the latch in the day-time.

"Who in the world can that be!" exclaimed Mrs. Pentreath, hastening to
the window, which commanded a side view of the lower door steps.

The first object that met her eye when she looked out was a lady
standing on the lowest step--a lady dressed very neatly in quiet, dark

"Good Heavens, Mr. Munder!" cried the housekeeper, hurrying back to
the table, and snatching up Mrs. Frankland's letter, which she had
left on it. "There is a stranger waiting at the door at this very
moment! a lady! or, at least, a woman--and dressed neatly, dressed in
dark colors! You might knock me down, Mr. Munder, with a feather!
Stop, Betsey--stop where you are!"

"I was only going, ma'am, to answer the door," said Betsey, in

"Stop where you are," reiterated Mrs. Pentreath, composing herself by
a great effort. "I happen to have certain reasons, on this particular
occasion, for descending out of my own place and putting myself into
yours. Stand out of the way, you staring fool! I am going up stairs to
answer that ring at the door myself."



Mrs. Pentreath's surprise at seeing a lady through the window, was
doubled by her amazement at seeing a gentleman when she opened the
door. Waiting close to the bell-handle, after he had rung, instead of
rejoining his niece on the step, Uncle Joseph stood near enough to the
house to be out of the range of view from Mrs. Pentreath's window. To
the housekeeper's excited imagination, he appeared on the threshold
with the suddenness of an apparition--the apparition of a little
rosy-faced old gentleman, smiling, bowing, and taking off his hat with
a superb flourish of politeness, which had something quite superhuman
in the sweep and the dexterity of it.

"How do you do? We have come to see the house," said Uncle Joseph,
trying his infallible expedient for gaining admission the instant the
door was open.

Mrs. Pentreath was struck speechless. Who was this familiar old
gentleman with the foreign accent and the fantastic bow? and what did
he mean by talking to her as if she was his intimate friend? Mrs.
Frankland's letter said not so much, from beginning to end, as one
word about him.

"How do you do? We have come to see the house," repeated Uncle Joseph,
giving his irresistible form of salutation the benefit of a second

"So you said just now, Sir," remarked Mrs. Pentreath, recovering
self-possession enough to use her tongue in her own defense. "Does the
lady," she continued, looking down over the old man's shoulder at the
step on which his niece was standing--"does the lady wish to see the
house too?"

Sarah's gently spoken reply in the affirmative, short as it was,
convinced the housekeeper that the woman described in Mrs. Frankland's
letter really and truly stood before her. Besides the neat, quiet
dress, there was now the softly toned voice, and, when she looked up
for a moment, there were the timid eyes also to identify her by! In
relation to this one of the two strangers, Mrs. Pentreath, however
agitated and surprised she might be, could no longer feel any
uncertainty about the course she ought to adopt. But in relation to
the other visitor, the incomprehensible old foreigner, she was beset
by the most bewildering doubts. Would it be safest to hold to the
letter of Mrs. Frankland's instructions, and ask him to wait outside
while the lady was being shown over the house? or would it be best to
act on her own responsibility, and to risk giving him admission as
well as his companion? This was a difficult point to decide, and
therefore one which it was necessary to submit to the superior
sagacity of Mr. Munder.

"Will you step in for a moment, and wait here while I speak to the
steward?" said Mrs. Pentreath, pointedly neglecting to notice the
familiar old foreigner, and addressing herself straight through him to
the lady on the steps below.

"Thank you very much," said Uncle Joseph, smiling and bowing,
impervious to rebuke. "What did I tell you?" he whispered triumphantly
to his niece, as she passed him on her way into the house.

Mrs. Pentreath's first impulse was to go down stairs at once, and
speak to Mr. Munder. But a timely recollection of that part of Mrs.
Frankland's letter which enjoined her not to lose sight of the lady in
the quiet dress, brought her to a stand-still the next moment. She was
the more easily recalled to a remembrance of this particular
injunction by a curious alteration in the conduct of the lady herself,
who seemed to lose all her diffidence, and to become surprisingly
impatient to lead the way into the interior of the house, the moment
she had stepped across the threshold.

"Betsey!" cried Mrs. Pentreath, cautiously calling to the servant
after she had only retired a few paces from the visitors--"Betsey! ask
Mr. Munder to be so kind as to step this way."

Mr. Munder presented himself with great deliberation, and with a
certain lowering dignity in his face. He had been accustomed to be
treated with deference, and he was not pleased with the housekeeper
for unceremoniously leaving him the moment she heard the ring at the
bell, without giving him time to pronounce an opinion on Mrs.
Frankland's letter. Accordingly, when Mrs. Pentreath, in a high state
of excitement, drew him aside out of hearing, and confided to him, in
a whisper, the astounding intelligence that the lady in whom Mr. and
Mrs. Frankland were so mysteriously interested was, at that moment,
actually standing before him in the house, he received her
communication with an air of the most provoking indifference. It was
worse still when she proceeded to state her difficulties--warily
keeping her eye on the two strangers all the while. Appeal as
respectfully as she might to Mr. Munder's superior wisdom for
guidance, he persisted in listening with a disparaging frown, and
ended by irritably contradicting her when she ventured to add, in
conclusion, that her own ideas inclined her to assume no
responsibility, and to beg the foreign gentleman to wait outside while
the lady, in conformity with Mrs. Frankland's instructions, was being
shown over the house.

"Such may be your opinion, ma'am," said Mr. Munder, severely. "It is
not mine."

The housekeeper looked aghast. "Perhaps," she suggested,
deferentially, "you think that the foreign old gentleman would be
likely to insist on going over the house with the lady?"

"Of course I think so," said Mr. Munder. (He had thought nothing of
the sort; his only idea just then being the idea of asserting his own
supremacy by setting himself steadily in opposition to any
preconceived arrangements of Mrs. Pentreath.)

"Then you would take the responsibility of showing them both over the
house, seeing that they have both come to the door together?" asked
the housekeeper.

"Of course I would," answered the steward, with the promptitude of
resolution which distinguishes all superior men.

"Well, Mr. Munder, I am always glad to be guided by your opinion, and
I will be guided by it now," said Mrs. Pentreath. "But, as there will
be two people to look after--for I would not trust the foreigner out
of sight on any consideration whatever--I must really beg you to share
the trouble of showing them over the house along with me. I am so
excited and nervous that I don't feel as if I had all my wits about
me--I never was placed in such a position as this before--I am in the
midst of mysteries that I don't understand--and, in short, if I can't
count on your assistance, I won't answer for it that I shall not make
some mistake. I should be very sorry to make a mistake, not only on my
own account, but--" Here the housekeeper stopped, and looked hard at
Mr. Munder.

"Go on, ma'am," said Mr. Munder, with cruel composure.

"Not only on my own account," resumed Mrs. Pentreath, demurely, "but
on yours; for Mrs. Frankland's letter certainly casts the
responsibility of conducting this delicate business on your shoulders
as well as on mine."

Mr. Munder recoiled a few steps, turned red, opened his lips
indignantly, hesitated, and closed them again. He was fairly caught in
a trap of his own setting. He could not retreat from the
responsibility of directing the housekeeper's conduct, the moment
after he had voluntarily assumed it; and he could not deny that Mrs.
Frankland's letter positively and repeatedly referred to him by name.
There was only one way of getting out of the difficulty with dignity,
and Mr. Munder unblushingly took that way the moment he had recovered
self-possession enough to collect himself for the effort.

"I am perfectly amazed, Mrs. Pentreath," he began, with the gravest
dignity. "Yes, I repeat, I am perfectly amazed that you should think
me capable of leaving you to go over the house alone, under such
remarkable circumstances as those we are now placed in. No, ma'am!
whatever my other faults may be, shrinking from my share of
responsibility is not one of them. I don't require to be reminded of
Mrs. Frankland's letter; and--no!--I don't require any apologies. I am
quite ready, ma'am--quite ready to show the way up stairs whenever you

"The sooner the better, Mr. Munder--for there is that audacious old
foreigner actually chattering to Betsey now, as if he had known her
all his life!"

The assertion was quite true. Uncle Joseph was exercising his gift of
familiarity on the maid-servant (who had lingered to stare at the
strangers, instead of going back to the kitchen), just as he had
already exercised it on the old lady passenger in the stage-coach, and
on the driver of the pony-chaise which took his niece and himself to
the post-town of Porthgenna. While the housekeeper and the steward
were holding their private conference, he was keeping Betsey in
ecstasies of suppressed giggling by the odd questions that he asked
about the house, and about how she got on with her work in it. His
inquiries had naturally led from the south side of the building, by
which he and his companion had entered, to the west side, which they
were shortly to explore; and thence round to the north side, which was
forbidden ground to every body in the house. When Mrs. Pentreath came
forward with the steward, she overheard this exchange of question and
answer passing between the foreigner and the maid:

"But tell me, Betzee, my dear," said Uncle Joseph. "Why does nobody
ever go into these mouldy old rooms?"

"Because there's a ghost in them," answered Betsey, with a burst of
laughter, as if a series of haunted rooms and a series of excellent
jokes meant precisely the same thing.

"Hold your tongue directly, and go back to the kitchen," cried Mrs.
Pentreath, indignantly. "The ignorant people about here," she
continued, still pointedly overlooking Uncle Joseph, and addressing
herself only to Sarah, "tell absurd stories about some old rooms on
the unrepaired side of the house, which have not been inhabited for
more than half a century past--absurd stories about a ghost; and my
servant is foolish enough to believe them."

"No, I'm not," said Betsey, retiring, under protest, to the lower
regions. "I don't believe a word about the ghost--at least not in the
day-time." Adding that important saving clause in a whisper, Betsey
unwillingly withdrew from the scene.

Mrs. Pentreath observed, with some surprise, that the mysterious lady
in the quiet dress turned very pale at the mention of the ghost story,
and made no remark on it whatever. While she was still wondering what
this meant, Mr. Munder emerged into dignified prominence, and loftily
addressed himself, not to Uncle Joseph, and not to Sarah, but to the
empty air between them.

"If you wish to see the house," he said, "you will have the goodness
to follow me."

With those words, Mr. Munder turned solemnly into the passage that led
to the foot of the west staircase, walking with that peculiar, slow
strut in which all serious-minded English people indulge when they go
out to take a little exercise on Sunday. The housekeeper, adapting her
pace with feminine pliancy to the pace of the steward, walked the
national Sabbatarian Polonaise by his side, as if she was out with him
for a mouthful of fresh air between the services.

"As I am a living sinner, this going over the house is like going to a
funeral!" whispered Uncle Joseph to his niece. He drew her arm into
his, and felt, as he did so, that she was trembling.

"What is the matter?" he asked, under his breath.

"Uncle! there is something unnatural about the readiness of these
people to show us over the house," was the faintly whispered answer.
"What were they talking about just now, out of our hearing? Why did
that woman keep her eyes fixed so constantly on me?"

Before the old man could answer, the housekeeper looked round, and
begged, with the severest emphasis, that they would be good enough to
follow. In less than another minute they were all standing at the foot
of the west staircase.

"Aha!" cried Uncle Joseph, as easy and talkative as ever, even in the
presence of Mr. Munder himself. "A fine big house, and a very good

"We are not accustomed to hear either the house or the staircase
spoken of in these terms, Sir," said Mr. Munder, resolving to nip the
foreigner's familiarity in the bud. "The Guide to West Cornwall, which
you would have done well to make yourself acquainted with before you
came here, describes Porthgenna Tower as a Mansion, and uses the word
Spacious in speaking of the west staircase. I regret to find, Sir,
that you have not consulted the Guide-book to West Cornwall."

"And why?" rejoined the unabashed German. "What do I want with a book,
when I have got you for my guide? Ah, dear Sir, but you are not just
to yourself! Is not a living guide like you, who talks and walks
about, better for me than dead leaves of print and paper? Ah, no, no!
I shall not hear another word--I shall not hear you do any more
injustice to yourself." Here Uncle Joseph made another fantastic bow,
looked up smiling into the steward's face, and shook his head several
times with an air of friendly reproach.

Mr. Munder felt paralyzed. He could not have been treated with more
ease and indifferent familiarity if this obscure foreign stranger had
been an English duke. He had often heard of the climax of audacity;
and here it was visibly embodied in one small, elderly individual, who
did not rise quite five feet from the ground he stood on!

While the steward was swelling with a sense of injury too large for
utterance, the housekeeper, followed by Sarah, was slowly ascending
the stairs. Uncle Joseph, seeing them go up, hastened to join his
niece, and Mr. Munder, after waiting a little while on the mat to
recover himself, followed the audacious foreigner with the intention
of watching his conduct narrowly, and chastising his insolence at the
first opportunity with stinging words of rebuke.

The procession up the stairs thus formed was not, however, closed by
the steward; it was further adorned and completed by Betsey, the
servant-maid, who stole out of the kitchen to follow the strange
visitors over the house, as closely as she could without attracting
the notice of Mrs. Pentreath. Betsey had her share of natural human
curiosity and love of change. No such event as the arrival of
strangers had ever before enlivened the dreary monotony of Porthgenna
Tower within her experience; and she was resolved not to stay alone in
the kitchen while there was a chance of hearing a stray word of the
conversation, or catching a chance glimpse of the proceedings among
the company up stairs.

In the mean time the housekeeper had led the way as far as the
first-floor landing, on either side of which the principal rooms in
the west front were situated. Sharpened by fear and suspicion, Sarah's
eyes immediately detected the repairs which had been effected in the
banisters and stairs of the second flight.

"You have had workmen in the house?" she said quickly to Mrs.

"You mean on the stairs?" returned the housekeeper. "Yes, we have had
workmen there."

"And nowhere else?"

"No. But they are wanted in other places badly enough. Even here, on
the best side of the house, half the bedrooms up stairs are hardly fit
to sleep in. They were any thing but comfortable, as I have heard,
even in the late Mrs. Treverton's time; and since she died--"

The housekeeper stopped with a frown and a look of surprise. The lady
in the quiet dress, instead of sustaining the reputation for good
manners which had been conferred on her in Mrs. Frankland's letter,
was guilty of the unpardonable discourtesy of turning away from Mrs.
Pentreath before she had done speaking. Determined not to allow
herself to be impertinently silenced in that way, she coldly and
distinctly repeated her last words--

"And since Mrs. Treverton died--"

She was interrupted for the second time. The strange lady, turning
quickly round again, confronted her with a very pale face and a very
eager look, and asked, in the most abrupt manner, an utterly
irrelevant question:

"Tell me about that ghost story," she said. "Do they say it is the
ghost of a man or of a woman?"

"I was speaking of the late Mrs. Treverton," said the housekeeper, in
her severest tones of reproof, "and not of the ghost story about the
north rooms. You would have known that, if you had done me the favor
to listen to what _I_ said."

"I beg your pardon; I beg your pardon a thousand times for seeming
inattentive! It struck me just then--or, at least, I wanted to know--"

"If you care to know about any thing so absurd," said Mrs. Pentreath,
mollified by the evident sincerity of the apology that had been
offered to her, "the ghost, according to the story, is the ghost of a

The strange lady's face grew whiter than ever; and she turned away
once more to the open window on the landing.

"How hot it is!" she said, putting her head out into the air.

"Hot, with a northeast wind!" exclaimed Mrs. Pentreath, in amazement.

Here Uncle Joseph came forward with a polite request to know when they
were going to look over the rooms. For the last few minutes he had
been asking all sorts of questions of Mr. Munder; and, having received
no answers which were not of the shortest and most ungracious kind,
had given up talking to the steward in despair.

Mrs. Pentreath prepared to lead the way into the breakfast-room,
library, and drawing-room. All three communicated with each other,
and each room had a second door opening on a long passage, the
entrance to which was on the right-hand side of the first-floor
landing. Before leading the way into these rooms, the housekeeper
touched Sarah on the shoulder to intimate that it was time to be
moving on.

"As for the ghost story," resumed Mrs. Pentreath, while she opened the
breakfast-room door, "you must apply to the ignorant people who
believe in it, if you want to hear it all told. Whether the ghost is
an old ghost or a new ghost, and why she is supposed to walk, is more
than I can tell you." In spite of the housekeeper's affectation of
indifference toward the popular superstition, she had heard enough of
the ghost-story to frighten her, though she would not confess it.
Inside the house, or outside the house, nobody much less willing to
venture into the north rooms alone could in real truth have been found
than Mrs. Pentreath herself.

While the housekeeper was drawing up the blinds in the
breakfast-parlor, and while Mr. Munder was opening the door that led
out of it into the library, Uncle Joseph stole to his niece's side,
and spoke a few words of encouragement to her in his quaint, kindly

"Courage!" he whispered. "Keep your wits about you, Sarah, and catch
your little opportunity whenever you can."

"My thoughts! My thoughts!" she answered in the same low key. "This
house rouses them all against me. Oh, why did I ever venture into it

"You had better look at the view from the window now," said Mrs.
Pentreath, after she had drawn up the blind. "It is very much

While affairs were in this stage of progress on the first floor of the
house, Betsey, who had been hitherto stealing up by a stair at a time
from the hall, and listening with all her ears in the intervals of the
ascent, finding that no sound of voices now reached her, bethought
herself of returning to the kitchen again, and of looking after the
housekeeper's dinner, which was being kept warm by the fire. She
descended to the lower regions, wondering what part of the house the
strangers would want to see next, and puzzling her brains to find out
some excuse for attaching herself to the exploring party.

After the view from the breakfast-room window had been duly
contemplated, the library was next entered. In this room, Mrs.
Pentreath, having some leisure to look about her, and employing that
leisure in observing the conduct of the steward, arrived at the
unpleasant conviction that Mr. Munder was by no means to be depended
on to assist her in the important business of watching the proceedings
of the two strangers. Doubly stimulated to assert his own dignity by
the disrespectfully easy manner in which he had been treated by Uncle
Joseph, the sole object of Mr. Munder's ambition seemed to be to
divest himself as completely as possible of the character of guide,
which the unscrupulous foreigner sought to confer on him. He sauntered
heavily about the rooms, with the air of a casual visitor, staring out
of window, peeping into books on tables, frowning at himself in the
chimney-glasses--looking, in short, any where but where he ought to
look. The housekeeper, exasperated by this affectation of
indifference, whispered to him irritably to keep his eye on the
foreigner, as it was quite as much as she could do to look after the
lady in the quiet dress.

"Very good; very good," said Mr. Munder, with sulky carelessness. "And
where are you going to next, ma'am, after we have been into the
drawing-room? Back again, through the library, into the
breakfast-room? or out at once into the passage? Be good enough to
settle which, as you seem to be in the way of settling every thing."

"Into the passage, to be sure," answered Mrs. Pentreath, "to show the
next three rooms beyond these."

Mr. Munder sauntered out of the library, through the door-way of
communication, into the drawing-room, unlocked the door leading into
the passage--then, to the great disgust of the housekeeper, strolled
to the fire-place, and looked at himself in the glass over it, just as
attentively as he had looked at himself in the library mirror hardly a
minute before.

"This is the west drawing-room," said Mrs. Pentreath, calling to the
visitors. "The carving of the stone chimney-piece," she added, with
the mischievous intention of bringing them into the closest proximity
to the steward, "is considered the finest thing in the whole

Driven from the looking-glass by this manoeuvre, Mr. Munder
provokingly sauntered to the window and looked out. Sarah, still pale
and silent--but with a certain unwonted resolution just gathering, as
it were, in the lines about her lips--stopped thoughtfully by the
chimney-piece when the housekeeper pointed it out to her. Uncle
Joseph, looking all round the room in his discursive manner, spied, in
the farthest corner of it from the door that led into the passage, a
beautiful maple-wood table and cabinet, of a very peculiar pattern.
His workmanlike enthusiasm was instantly aroused, and he darted across
the room to examine the make of the cabinet closely. The table beneath
projected a little way in front of it, and, of all the objects in the
world, what should he see reposing on the flat space of the projection
but a magnificent musical box at least three times the size of his

"Aïe! Aïe!! Aïe!!!" cried Uncle Joseph, in an ascending scale of
admiration, which ended at the very top of his voice. "Open him! set
him going! let me hear what he plays!" He stopped for want of words to
express his impatience, and drummed with both hands on the lid of the
musical box in a burst of uncontrollable enthusiasm.

"Mr. Munder!" exclaimed the housekeeper, hurrying across the room in
great indignation. "Why don't you look? why don't you stop him? He's
breaking open the musical box. Be quiet, Sir! How dare you touch me?"

"Set him going! set him going!" reiterated Uncle Joseph, dropping Mrs.
Pentreath's arm, which he had seized in his agitation. "Look here!
this by my side is a music box too! Set him going! Does he play
Mozart? He is three times bigger than ever I saw! See! see! this box
of mine--this tiny bit of box that looks nothing by the side of
yours--it was given to my own brother by the king of all
music-composers that ever lived, by the divine Mozart himself. Set the
big box going, and you shall hear the little baby-box pipe after! Ah,
dear and good madam, if you love me--"

"Sir!!!" exclaimed the housekeeper, reddening with virtuous
indignation to the very roots of her hair.

"What do you mean, Sir, by addressing such outrageous language as that
to a respectable female?" inquired Mr. Munder, approaching to the
rescue. "Do you think we want your foreign noises, and your foreign
morals, and your foreign profanity here? Yes, Sir! profanity. Any man
who calls any human individual, whether musical or otherwise,
'divine,' is a profane man. Who are you, you extremely audacious
person? Are you an infidel?"

Before Uncle Joseph could say a word in vindication of his principles,
before Mr. Munder could relieve himself of any more indignation, they
were both startled into momentary silence by an exclamation of alarm
from the housekeeper.

"Where is she?" cried Mrs. Pentreath, standing in the middle of the
drawing-room, and looking with bewildered eyes all around her.

The lady in the quiet dress had vanished.

She was not in the library, not in the breakfast-room, not in the
passage outside. After searching in those three places, the
housekeeper came back to Mr. Munder with a look of downright terror in
her face, and stood staring at him for a moment perfectly helpless and
perfectly silent. As soon as she recovered herself she turned fiercely
on Uncle Joseph.

"Where is she? I insist on knowing what has become of her! You
cunning, wicked, impudent old man! where is she?" cried Mrs.
Pentreath, with no color in her cheeks and no mercy in her eyes.

"I suppose she is looking about the house by herself," said Uncle
Joseph. "We shall find her surely as we take our walks through the
other rooms." Simple as he was, the old man had, nevertheless,
acuteness enough to perceive that he had accidentally rendered the
very service to his niece of which she stood in need. If he had been
the most artful of mankind, he could have devised no better means of
diverting Mrs. Pentreath's attention from Sarah to himself than the
very means which he had just used in perfect innocence, at the very
moment when his thoughts were farthest away from the real object with
which he and his niece had entered the house. "So! so!" thought Uncle
Joseph to himself, "while these two angry people were scolding me for
nothing, Sarah has slipped away to the room where the letter is. Good!
I have only to wait till she comes back, and to let the two angry
people go on scolding me as long as they please."

"What are we to do? Mr. Munder! what on earth are we to do?" asked the
housekeeper. "We can't waste the precious minutes staring at each
other here. This woman must be found. Stop! she asked questions about
the stairs--she looked up at the second floor the moment we got on the
landing. Mr. Munder! wait here, and don't let that foreigner out of
your sight for a moment. Wait here while I run up and look into the
second-floor passage. All the bedroom doors are locked--I defy her to
hide herself if she has gone up there." With those words, the
housekeeper ran out of the drawing-room, and breathlessly ascended the
second flight of stairs.

While Mrs. Pentreath was searching on the west side of the house,
Sarah was hurrying, at the top of her speed, along the lonely passages
that led to the north rooms.

Terrified into decisive action by the desperate nature of the
situation, she had slipped out of the drawing-room into the passage
the instant she saw Mrs. Pentreath's back turned on her. Without
stopping to think, without attempting to compose herself, she ran down
the stairs of the first floor, and made straight for the housekeeper's
room. She had no excuses ready, if she had found any body there, or if
she had met any body on the way. She had formed no plan where to seek
for them next, if the keys of the north rooms were not hanging in the
place where she still expected to find them. Her mind was lost in
confusion, her temples throbbed as if they would burst with the heat
at her brain. The one blind, wild, headlong purpose of getting into
the Myrtle Room drove her on, gave unnatural swiftness to her
trembling feet, unnatural strength to her shaking hands, unnatural
courage to her sinking heart.

She ran into the housekeeper's room, without even the ordinary caution
of waiting for a moment to listen outside the door. No one was there.
One glance at the well-remembered nail in the wall showed her the keys
still hanging to it in a bunch, as they had hung in the long-past
time. She had them in her possession in a moment; and was away again,
along the solitary passages that led to the north rooms, threading
their turnings and windings as if she had left them but the day
before; never pausing to listen or to look behind her, never
slackening her speed till she was at the top of the back staircase,
and had her hand on the locked door that led into the north hall.

As she turned over the bunch to find the first key that was required,
she discovered--what her hurry had hitherto prevented her from
noticing--the numbered labels which the builder had methodically
attached to all the keys when he had been sent to Porthgenna by Mr.
Frankland to survey the house. At the first sight of them, her
searching hands paused in their work instantaneously, and she shivered
all over, as if a sudden chill had struck her.

If she had been less violently agitated, the discovery of the new
labels and the suspicions to which the sight of them instantly gave
rise would, in all probability, have checked her further progress. But
the confusion of her mind was now too great to allow her to piece
together even the veriest fragments of thoughts. Vaguely conscious of
a new terror, of a sharpened distrust that doubled and trebled the
headlong impatience which had driven her on thus far, she desperately
resumed her search through the bunch of keys.

One of them had no label; it was larger than the rest--it was the key
that fitted the door of communication before which she stood. She
turned it in the rusty lock with a strength which, at any other time,
she would have been utterly incapable of exerting; she opened the door
with a blow of her hand, which burst it away at one stroke from the
jambs to which it stuck. Panting for breath, she flew across the
forsaken north hall, without stopping for one second to push the door
to behind her. The creeping creatures, the noisome house-reptiles that
possessed the place, crawled away, shadow-like, on either side of her
toward the walls. She never noticed them, never turned away for them.
Across the hall, and up the stairs at the end of it, she ran, till she
gained the open landing at the top--and there she suddenly checked
herself in front of the first door.

The first door of the long range of rooms that opened on the landing;
the door that fronted the topmost of the flight of stairs. She
stopped; she looked at it--it was not the door she had come to open;
and yet she could not tear herself away from it. Scrawled on the panel
in white chalk was the figure--"I." And when she looked down at the
bunch of keys in her hands, there was the figure "I." on a label,
answering to it.

She tried to think, to follow out any one of all the thronging
suspicions that beset her to the conclusion at which it might point.
The effort was useless; her mind was gone; her bodily senses of seeing
and hearing--senses which had now become painfully and incomprehensibly
sharpened--seemed to be the sole relics of intelligence that she had
left to guide her. She put her hand over her eyes, and waited a little
so, and then went on slowly along the landing, looking at the doors.

No. "II.," No. "III.," No. "IV.," traced on the panels in the same
white chalk, and answering to the numbered labels on the keys, the
figures on which were written in ink. No. "IV." the middle room of the
first floor range of eight. She stopped there again, trembling from
head to foot. It was the door of the Myrtle Room.

Did the chalked numbers stop there? She looked on down the landing.
No. The four doors remaining were regularly numbered on to "VIII."

She came back again to the door of the Myrtle Room, sought out the key
labeled with the figure "IV."--hesitated--and looked back
distrustfully over the deserted hall.

The canvases of the old family pictures, which she had seen bulging
out of their frames in the past time when she hid the letter, had, for
the most part, rotted away from them now, and lay in great black
ragged strips on the floor of the hall. Islands and continents of damp
spread like the map of some strange region over the lofty vaulted
ceiling. Cobwebs, heavy with dust, hung down in festoons from broken
cornices. Dirt stains lay on the stone pavement, like gross
reflections of the damp stains on the ceiling. The broad flight of
stairs leading up to the open landing before the rooms of the first
floor had sunk down bodily toward one side. The banisters which
protected the outer edge of the landing were broken away into ragged
gaps. The light of day was stained, the air of heaven was stilled, the
sounds of earth were silenced in the north hall.

Silenced? Were _all_ sounds silenced? Or was there something stirring
that just touched the sense of hearing, that just deepened the dismal
stillness, and no more?

Sarah listened, keeping her face still set toward the hall--listened,
and heard a faint sound behind her. Was it outside the door on which
her back was turned? Or was it inside--in the Myrtle Room?

Inside. With the first conviction of that, all thought, all sensation
left her. She forgot the suspicious numbering of the doors; she became
insensible to the lapse of time, unconscious of the risk of discovery.
All exercise of her other faculties was now merged in the exercise of
the one faculty of listening.

It was a still, faint, stealthily rustling sound; and it moved to and
fro at intervals, to and fro softly, now at one end, now at the other
of the Myrtle Room. There were moments when it grew suddenly
distinct--other moments when it died away in gradations too light to
follow. Sometimes it seemed to sweep over the floor at a
bound--sometimes it crept with slow, continuous rustlings that just
wavered on the verge of absolute silence.

Her feet still rooted to the spot on which she stood, Sarah turned her
head slowly, inch by inch, toward the door of the Myrtle Room. A
moment before, while she was as yet unconscious of the faint sound
moving to and fro within it, she had been drawing her breath heavily
and quickly. She might have been dead now, her bosom was so still, her
breathing so noiseless. The same mysterious change came over her face
which had altered it when the darkness began to gather in the little
parlor at Truro. The same fearful look of inquiry which she had then
fixed on the vacant corner of the room was in her eyes now, as they
slowly turned on the door.

"Mistress!" she whispered. "Am I too late? _Are you there before me?_"

The stealthily rustling sound inside paused--renewed itself--died away
again faintly; away at the lower end of the room.

Her eyes still remained fixed on the Myrtle Room, strained, and opened
wider and wider--opened as if they would look through the very door
itself--opened as if they were watching for the opaque wood to turn
transparent, and show what was behind it.

"Over the lonesome floor, over the lonesome floor--how light it
moves!" she whispered again. "Mistress! does the black dress I made
for you rustle no louder than that?"

The sound stopped again--then suddenly advanced at one stealthy sweep
close to the inside of the door.

If she could have moved at that moment; if she could have looked down
to the line of open space between the bottom of the door and the
flooring below, when the faintly rustling sound came nearest to her,
she might have seen the insignificant cause that produced it lying
self-betrayed under the door, partly outside, partly inside, in the
shape of a fragment of faded red paper from the wall of the Myrtle
Room. Time and damp had loosened the paper all round the apartment.
Two or three yards of it had been torn off by the builder while he was
examining the walls--sometimes in large pieces, sometimes in small
pieces, just as it happened to come away--and had been thrown down by
him on the bare, boarded floor, to become the sport of the wind,
whenever it happened to blow through the broken panes of glass in the
window. If she had only moved! If she had only looked down for one
little second of time!

She was past moving and past looking: the paroxysm of superstitious
horror that possessed her held her still in every limb and every
feature. She never started, she uttered no cry, when the rustling
noise came nearest. The one outward sign which showed how the terror
of its approach shook her to the very soul expressed itself only in
the changed action of her right hand, in which she still held the
keys. At the instant when the wind wafted the fragment of paper
closest to the door, her fingers lost their power of contraction, and
became as nerveless and helpless as if she had fainted. The heavy
bunch of keys slipped from her suddenly loosened grasp, dropped at her
side on the outer edge of the landing, rolled off through a gap in the
broken banister, and fell on the stone pavement below, with a crash
which made the sleeping echoes shriek again, as if they were sentient
beings writhing under the torture of sound!

The crash of the falling keys, ringing and ringing again through the
stillness, woke her, as it were, to instant consciousness of present
events and present perils. She started, staggered backward, and raised
both her hands wildly to her head--paused so for a few seconds--then
made for the top of the stairs with the purpose of descending into the
hall to recover the keys.

Before she had advanced three paces the shrill sound of a woman's
scream came from the door of communication at the opposite end of the
hall. The scream was twice repeated at a greater distance off, and was
followed by a confused noise of rapidly advancing voices and

She staggered desperately a few paces farther, and reached the first
of the row of doors that opened on the landing. There nature sank
exhausted: her knees gave way under her--her breath, her sight, her
hearing all seemed to fail her together at the same instant--and she
dropped down senseless on the floor at the head of the stairs.



The murmuring voices and the hurrying footsteps came nearer and
nearer, then stopped altogether. After an interval of silence, one
voice called out loudly, "Sarah! Sarah! where are you?" and the next
instant Uncle Joseph appeared alone in the door-way that led into the
north hall, looking eagerly all round him.

At first the prostrate figure on the landing at the head of the stairs
escaped his view. But the second time he looked in that direction the
dark dress, and the arm that lay just over the edge of the top stair,
caught his eye. With a loud cry of terror and recognition, he flew
across the hall and ascended the stairs. Just as he was kneeling by
Sarah's side, and raising her head on his arm, the steward, the
housekeeper, and the maid, all three crowded together after him into
the door-way.

"Water!" shouted the old man, gesticulating at them wildly with his
disengaged hand. "She is here--she has fallen down--she is in a faint!
Water! water!"

Mr. Munder looked at Mrs. Pentreath, Mrs. Pentreath looked at Betsey,
Betsey looked at the ground. All three stood stock-still; all three
seemed equally incapable of walking across the hall. If the science of
physiognomy be not an entire delusion, the cause of this amazing
unanimity was legibly written in their faces; in other words, they all
three looked equally afraid of the ghost.

"Water, I say! Water!" reiterated Uncle Joseph, shaking his fist at
them. "She is in a faint! Are you three at the door there, and not one
heart of mercy among you? Water! water! water! Must I scream myself
into fits before I can make you hear?"

"I'll get the water, ma'am," said Betsey, "if you or Mr. Munder will
please to take it from here to the top of the stairs."

She ran to the kitchen, and came back with a glass of water, which she
offered, with a respectful courtesy, first to the housekeeper, and
then to the steward.

"How dare you ask us to carry things for you?" said Mrs. Pentreath,
backing out of the door-way.

"Yes! how dare you ask us?" added Mr. Munder, backing after Mrs.

"Water!" shouted the old man for the third time. He drew his niece
backward a little, so that she could be supported against the wall
behind her. "Water! or I trample down this dungeon of a place about
your ears!" he shouted, stamping with impatience and rage.

"If you please, Sir, are you sure it's really the lady who is up
there?" asked Betsey, advancing a few paces tremulously with the glass
of water.

"Am I sure?" exclaimed Uncle Joseph, descending the stairs to meet
her. "What fool's question is this? Who should it be?"

"The ghost, Sir," said Betsey, advancing more and more slowly. "The
ghost of the north rooms."

Uncle Joseph met her a few yards in advance of the foot of the stairs,
took the glass of water from her with a gesture of contempt, and
hastened back to his niece. As Betsey turned to effect her retreat,
the bunch of keys lying on the pavement below the landing caught her
eye. After a little hesitation she mustered courage enough to pick
them up, and then ran with them out of the hall as fast as her feet
could carry her.

Meanwhile Uncle Joseph was moistening his niece's lips with the water,
and sprinkling it over her forehead. After a while her breath began to
come and go slowly, in faint sighs, the muscles of her face moved a
little, and she feebly opened her eyes. They fixed affrightedly on the
old man, without any expression of recognition. He made her drink a
little water, and spoke to her gently, and so brought her back at last
to herself. Her first words were, "Don't leave me." Her first action,
when she was able to move, was the action of crouching closer to him.

"No fear, my child," he said, soothingly; "I will keep by you. Tell
me, Sarah, what has made you faint? What has frightened you so?"

"Oh, don't ask me! For God's sake, don't ask me!"

"There, there! I shall say nothing, then. Another mouthful of water? A
little mouthful more?"

"Help me up, uncle; help me to try if I can stand."

"Not yet--not quite yet; patience for a little longer."

"Oh, help me! help me! I want to get away from the sight of those
doors. If I can only go as far as the bottom of the stairs I shall be

"So, so," said Uncle Joseph, assisting her to rise. "Wait now, and
feel your feet on the ground. Lean on me, lean hard, lean heavy.
Though I am only a light and a little man, I am solid as a rock. Have
you been into the room?" he added, in a whisper. "Have you got the

She sighed bitterly, and laid her head on his shoulder with a weary

"Why, Sarah! Sarah!" he exclaimed. "Have you been all this time away,
and not got into the room yet?"

She raised her head as suddenly as she had laid it down, shuddered,
and tried feebly to draw him toward the stairs. "I shall never see the
Myrtle Room again--never, never, never more!" she said. "Let us go; I
can walk; I am strong now. Uncle Joseph, if you love me, take me away
from this house; away any where, so long as we are in the free air and
the daylight again; any where, so long as we are out of sight of
Porthgenna Tower."

Elevating his eyebrows in astonishment, but considerately refraining
from asking any more questions, Uncle Joseph assisted his niece to
descend the stairs. She was still so weak that she was obliged to
pause on gaining the bottom of them to recover her strength. Seeing
this, and feeling, as he led her afterward across the hall, that she
leaned more and more heavily on his arm at every fresh step, the old
man, on arriving within speaking distance of Mr. Munder and Mrs.
Pentreath, asked the housekeeper if she possessed any restorative
drops which she would allow him to administer to his niece.

Mrs. Pentreath's reply in the affirmative, though not very graciously
spoken, was accompanied by an alacrity of action which showed that she
was heartily rejoiced to take the first fair excuse for returning to
the inhabited quarter of the house. Muttering something about showing
the way to the place where the medicine-chest was kept, she
immediately retraced her steps along the passage to her own room;
while Uncle Joseph, disregarding all Sarah's whispered assurances that
she was well enough to depart without another moment of delay,
followed her silently, leading his niece.

Mr. Munder, shaking his head, and looking woefully disconcerted,
waited behind to lock the door of communication. When he had done
this, and had given the keys to Betsey to carry back to their
appointed place, he, in his turn, retired from the scene at a pace
indecorously approaching to something like a run. On getting well away
from the north hall, however, he regained his self-possession
wonderfully. He abruptly slackened his pace, collected his scattered
wits, and reflected a little, apparently with perfect satisfaction to
himself; for when he entered the housekeeper's room he had quite
recovered his usual complacent solemnity of look and manner. Like the
vast majority of densely stupid men, he felt intense pleasure in
hearing himself talk, and he now discerned such an opportunity of
indulging in that luxury, after the events that had just happened in
the house, as he seldom enjoyed. There is only one kind of speaker who
is quite certain never to break down under any stress of
circumstances--the man whose capability of talking does not include
any dangerous underlying capacity for knowing what he means. Among
this favored order of natural orators, Mr. Munder occupied a prominent
rank--and he was now vindictively resolved to exercise his abilities
on the two strangers, under pretense of asking for an explanation of
their conduct, before he could suffer them to quit the house.

On entering the room, he found Uncle Joseph seated with his niece at
the lower end of it, engaged in dropping some sal volatile into a
glass of water. At the upper end stood the housekeeper with an open
medicine-chest on the table before her. To this part of the room Mr.
Munder slowly advanced, with a portentous countenance; drew an
arm-chair up to the table; sat himself down in it, with extreme
deliberation and care in the matter of settling his coat-tails; and
immediately became, to all outward appearance, the model of a Lord
Chief Justice in plain clothes.

Mrs. Pentreath, conscious from these preparations that something
extraordinary was about to happen, seated herself a little behind the
steward. Betsey restored the keys to their place on the nail in the
wall, and was about to retire modestly to her proper kitchen sphere,
when she was stopped by Mr. Munder.

"Wait, if you please," said the steward; "I shall have occasion to
call on you presently, young woman, to make a plain statement."

Obedient Betsey waited near the door, terrified by the idea that she
must have done something wrong, and that the steward was armed with
inscrutable legal power to try, sentence, and punish her for the
offense on the spot.

"Now, Sir," said Mr. Munder, addressing Uncle Joseph as if he was the
Speaker of the House of Commons, "if you have done with that sal
volatile, and if the person by your side has sufficiently recovered
her senses to listen, I should wish to say a word or two to both of

At this exordium, Sarah tried affrightedly to rise from her chair; but
her uncle caught her by the hand, and pressed her back in it.

"Wait and rest," he whispered. "I shall take all the scolding on my
own shoulder, and do all the talking with my own tongue. As soon as
you are fit to walk again, I promise you this: whether the big man has
said his word or two, or has not said it, we will quietly get up and
go our ways out of the house."

"Up to the present moment," said Mr. Munder, "I have refrained from
expressing an opinion. The time has now come when, holding a position
of trust as I do in this establishment, and being accountable, and
indeed responsible, as I am, for what takes place in it, and feeling,
as I must, that things can not be allowed or even permitted to rest as
they are--it is my duty to say that I think your conduct is very
extraordinary." Directing this forcible conclusion to his sentence
straight at Sarah, Mr. Munder leaned back in his chair, quite full of
words, and quite empty of meaning, to collect himself comfortably for
his next effort.

"My only desire," he resumed, with a plaintive impartiality, "is to
act fairly by all parties. I don't wish to frighten any body, or to
startle any body, or even to terrify any body. I wish to unravel, or,
if you please, to make out, what I may term, with perfect
propriety--events. And when I have done that, I should wish to put it
to you, ma'am, and to you, Sir, whether--I say, I should wish to put
it to you both, calmly, and impartially, and politely, and plainly,
and smoothly--and when I say smoothly, I mean quietly--whether you are
not both of you bound to explain yourselves."

Mr. Munder paused, to let that last irresistible appeal work its way
to the consciences of the persons whom he addressed. The housekeeper
took advantage of the silence to cough, as congregations cough just
before the sermon, apparently on the principle of getting rid of
bodily infirmities beforehand, in order to give the mind free play for
undisturbed intellectual enjoyment. Betsey, following Mrs. Pentreath's
lead, indulged in a cough on her own account--of the faint,
distrustful sort. Uncle Joseph sat perfectly easy and undismayed,
still holding his niece's hand in his, and giving it a little squeeze,
from time to time, when the steward's oratory became particularly
involved and impressive. Sarah never moved, never looked up, never
lost the expression of terrified restraint which had taken possession
of her face from the first moment when she entered the housekeeper's

"Now what are the facts, and circumstances, and events?" proceeded Mr.
Munder, leaning back in his chair, in calm enjoyment of the sound of
his own voice. "You, ma'am, and you, Sir, ring at the bell of the door
of this Mansion" (here he looked hard at Uncle Joseph, as much as to
say, "I don't give up that point about the house being a Mansion, you
see, even on the judgment-seat")--"you are let in, or, rather,
admitted. You, Sir, assert that you wish to inspect the Mansion (you
say 'see the house,' but, being a foreigner, we are not surprised at
your making a little mistake of that sort); you, ma'am, coincide, and
even agree, in that request. What follows? You are shown over the
Mansion. It is not usual to show strangers over it, but we happen to
have certain reasons--"

Sarah started. "What reasons?" she asked, looking up quickly.

Uncle Joseph felt her hand turn cold, and tremble in his. "Hush!
hush!" he said, "leave the talking to me."

At the same moment Mrs. Pentreath pulled Mr. Munder warily by the
coat-tail, and whispered to him to be careful. "Mrs. Frankland's
letter," she said in his ear, "tells us particularly not to let it be
suspected that we are acting under orders."

"Don't you fancy, Mrs. Pentreath, that I forget what I ought to
remember," rejoined Mr. Munder--who had forgotten, nevertheless. "And
don't you imagine that I was going to commit myself" (the very thing
which he had just been on the point of doing). "Leave this business in
my hands, if you will be so good.--What reasons did you say, ma'am?"
he added aloud, addressing himself to Sarah. "Never you mind about
reasons; we have not got to do with them now; we have got to do with
facts, and circumstances, and events. I was observing, or remarking,
that you, Sir, and you, ma'am, were shown over this Mansion. You were
conducted, and indeed led, up the west staircase--the Spacious west
staircase, Sir! You were shown with politeness, and even with
courtesy, through the breakfast-room, the library, and the
drawing-room. In that drawing-room, you, Sir, indulge in outrageous,
and, I will add, in violent language. In that drawing-room, you,
ma'am, disappear, or, rather, go altogether out of sight. Such conduct
as this, so highly unparalleled, so entirely unprecedented, and so
very unusual, causes Mrs. Pentreath and myself to feel--" Here Mr.
Munder stopped, at a loss for a word for the first time.

"Astonished," suggested Mrs. Pentreath after a long interval of

"No, ma'am!" retorted Mr. Munder. "Nothing of the sort. We were not at
all astonished; we were--surprised. And what followed and succeeded
that? What did you and I hear, Sir, on the first floor?" (looking
sternly at Uncle Joseph). "And what did you hear, Mrs. Pentreath,
while you were searching for the missing and absent party on the
second floor? What?"

Thus personally appealed to, the housekeeper answered briefly--"A

"No! no! no!" said Mr. Munder, fretfully tapping his hand on the
table. "A screech, Mrs. Pentreath--a screech. And what is the meaning,
purport, and upshot of that screech?--Young woman!" (here Mr. Munder
turned suddenly on Betsey) "we have now traced these extraordinary
facts and circumstances as far as you. Have the goodness to step
forward, and tell us, in the presence of these two parties, how you
came to utter, or give, what Mrs. Pentreath calls a scream, but what I
call a screech. A plain statement will do, my good girl--quite a plain
statement, if you please. And, young woman, one word more--speak up.
You understand me? Speak up!"

Covered with confusion by the public and solemn nature of this appeal,
Betsey, on starting with her statement, unconsciously followed the
oratorical example of no less a person than Mr. Munder himself; that
is to say, she spoke on the principle of drowning the smallest
possible infusion of ideas in the largest possible dilution of words.
Extricated from the mesh of verbal entanglement in which she contrived
to involve it, her statement may be not unfairly represented as simply
consisting of the following facts:

First, Betsey had to relate that she happened to be just taking the
lid off a saucepan, on the kitchen fire, when she heard, in the
neighborhood of the housekeeper's room, a sound of hurried footsteps
(vernacularly termed by the witness a "scurrying of somebody's feet").
Secondly, Betsey, on leaving the kitchen to ascertain what the sound
meant, heard the footsteps retreating rapidly along the passage which
led to the north side of the house, and, stimulated by curiosity,
followed the sound of them for a certain distance. Thirdly, at a sharp
turn in the passage, Betsey stopped short, despairing of overtaking
the person whose footsteps she heard, and feeling also a sense of
dread (termed by the witness, "creeping of the flesh") at the idea of
venturing alone, even in broad daylight, into the ghostly quarter of
the house. Fourthly, while still hesitating at the turn in the
passage, Betsey heard "the lock of a door go," and, stimulated afresh
by curiosity, advanced a few steps farther--then stopped again,
debating within herself the difficult and dreadful question, whether
it is the usual custom of ghosts, when passing from one place to
another, to unlock any closed door which may happen to be in their
way, or to save trouble by simply passing through it. Fifthly, after
long deliberation, and many false starts--forward toward the north
hall and backward toward the kitchen--Betsey decided that it was the
immemorial custom of all ghosts to pass through doors, and not unlock
them. Sixthly, fortified by this conviction, Betsey went on boldly
close to the door, when she suddenly heard a loud report, as of some
heavy body falling (graphically termed by the witness a "banging
scrash"). Seventhly, the noise frightened Betsey out of her wits,
brought her heart up into her mouth, and took away her breath.
Eighthly, and lastly, on recovering breath enough to scream (or
screech), Betsey did, with might and main, scream (or screech),
running back toward the kitchen as fast as her legs would carry her,
with all her hair "standing up on end," and all her flesh "in a crawl"
from the crown of her head to the soles of her feet.

"Just so! just so!" said Mr. Munder, when the statement came to a
close--as if the sight of a young woman with all her hair standing on
end and all her flesh in a crawl were an ordinary result of his
experience of female humanity--"Just so! You may stand back, my good
girl--you may stand back.--There is nothing to smile at, Sir," he
continued, sternly addressing Uncle Joseph, who had been excessively
amused by Betsey's manner of delivering her evidence. "You would be
doing better to carry, or rather transport, your mind back to what
followed and succeeded the young woman's screech. What did we all do,
Sir? We rushed to the spot, and we ran to the place. And what did we
all see, Sir?--We saw _you_, ma'am, lying horizontally prostrate, on
the top of the landing of the first of the flight of the north stairs;
and we saw those keys, now hanging up yonder, abstracted and
purloined, and, as it were, snatched from their place in this room,
and lying horizontally prostrate likewise on the floor of the
hall.--There are the facts, the circumstances, and the events, laid,
or rather placed, before you. What have you got to say to them? I call
upon you both solemnly, and, I will add, seriously! In my own name, in
the name of Mrs. Pentreath, in the name of our employers, in the name
of decency, in the name of wonder--what do you mean by it?"

With that conclusion, Mr. Munder struck his fist on the table, and
waited, with a glare of merciless expectation, for any thing in the
shape of an answer, an explanation, or a defense which the culprits at
the bottom of the room might be disposed to offer.

"Tell him any thing," whispered Sarah to the old man. "Any thing to
keep him quiet; any thing to make him let us go! After what I have
suffered, these people will drive me mad!"

Never very quick at inventing an excuse, and perfectly ignorant
besides of what had really happened to his niece while she was alone
in the north hall, Uncle Joseph, with the best will in the world to
prove himself equal to the emergency, felt considerable difficulty in
deciding what he should say or do. Determined, however, at all
hazards, to spare Sarah any useless suffering, and to remove her from
the house as speedily as possible, he rose to take the responsibility
of speaking on himself, looking hard, before he opened his lips, at
Mr. Munder, who immediately leaned forward on the table with his hand
to his ear. Uncle Joseph acknowledged this polite act of attention
with one of his fantastic bows; and then replied to the whole of the
steward's long harangue in these six unanswerable words:

"I wish you good-day, Sir!"

"How dare you wish me any thing of the sort!" cried Mr. Munder,
jumping out of his chair in violent indignation. "How dare you trifle
with a serious subject and a serious question in that way? Wish me
good-day, indeed! Do you suppose I am going to let you out of this
house without hearing some explanation of the abstracting and
purloining and snatching of the keys of the north rooms?"

"Ah! it is that you want to know?" said Uncle Joseph, stimulated to
plunge headlong into an excuse by the increasing agitation and terror
of his niece. "See, now! I shall explain. What was it, dear and good
Sir, that we said when we were first let in? This--'We have come to
see the house.' Now there is a north side to the house, and a west
side to the house. Good! That is two sides; and I and my niece are two
people; and we divide ourselves in two, to see the two sides. I am the
half that goes west, with you and the dear and good lady behind there.
My niece here is the other half that goes north, all by herself, and
drops the keys, and falls into a faint, because in that old part of
the house it is what you call musty-fusty, and there is smells of
tombs and spiders, and that is all the explanation, and quite enough,
too. I wish you good-day, Sir."

"Damme! if ever I met with the like of you before!" roared Mr. Munder,
entirely forgetting his dignity, his respectability, and his long
words in the exasperation of the moment. "You are going to have it all
your own way, are you, Mr. Foreigner? You will walk out of this place
when you please, will you, Mr. Foreigner? We will see what the justice
of the peace for this district has to say to that," cried Mr. Munder,
recovering his solemn manner and his lofty phraseology. "Property in
this house is confided to my care; and unless I hear some satisfactory
explanation of the purloining of those keys hanging up there, Sir, on
that wall, Sir, before your eyes, Sir--I shall consider it my duty to
detain you, and the person with you, until I can get legal advice, and
lawful advice, and magisterial advice. Do you hear that, Sir?"

Uncle Joseph's ruddy cheeks suddenly deepened in color, and his face
assumed an expression which made the housekeeper rather uneasy, and
which had an irresistibly cooling effect on the heat of Mr. Munder's

"You will keep us here? _You?_" said the old man, speaking very
quietly, and looking very steadily at the steward. "Now, see. I take
this lady (courage, my child, courage! there is nothing to tremble
for)--I take this lady with me; I throw that door open, so! I stand
and wait before it; and I say to you, 'Shut that door against us, if
you dare.'"

At this defiance, Mr. Munder advanced a few steps, and then stopped.
If Uncle Joseph's steady look at him had wavered for an instant, he
would have closed the door.

"I say again," repeated the old man, "shut it against us, if you dare.
The laws and customs of your country, Sir, have made me an Englishman.
If you can talk into one ear of a magistrate, I can talk into the
other. If he must listen to you, a citizen of this country, he must
listen to me, a citizen of this country also. Say the word, if you
please. Do you accuse? or do you threaten? or do you shut the door?"

Before Mr. Munder could reply to any one of these three direct
questions, the housekeeper begged him to return to his chair and to
speak to her. As he resumed his place, she whispered to him, in
warning tones, "Remember Mrs. Frankland's letter!"

At the same moment, Uncle Joseph, considering that he had waited long
enough, took a step forward to the door. He was prevented from
advancing any farther by his niece, who caught him suddenly by the
arm, and said in his ear, "Look! they are whispering about us again!"

"Well!" said Mr. Munder, replying to the housekeeper. "I do remember
Mrs. Frankland's letter, ma'am; and what then?"

"Hush! not so loud," whispered Mrs. Pentreath. "I don't presume, Mr.
Munder, to differ in opinion with you; but I want to ask one or two
questions. Do you think we have any charge that a magistrate would
listen to, to bring against these people?"

Mr. Munder looked puzzled, and seemed, for once in a way, to be at a
loss for an answer.

"Does what you remember of Mrs. Frankland's letter," pursued the
housekeeper, "incline you to think that she would be pleased at a
public exposure of what has happened in the house? She tells us to
take _private_ notice of that woman's conduct, and to follow her
_unperceived_ when she goes away. I don't venture on the liberty of
advising you, Mr. Munder, but, as far as regards myself, I wash my
hands of all responsibility, if we do any thing but follow Mrs.
Frankland's instructions (as she herself tells us) to the letter."

Mr. Munder hesitated. Uncle Joseph, who had paused for a minute when
Sarah directed his attention to the whispering at the upper end of the
room, now drew her on slowly with him to the door. "Betzee, my dear,"
he said, addressing the maid, with perfect coolness and composure, "we
are strangers here; will you be so kind to us as to show the way out?"

Betsey looked at the housekeeper, who motioned to her to appeal for
orders to the steward. Mr. Munder was sorely tempted, for the sake of
his own importance, to insist on instantly carrying out the violent
measures to which he had threatened to have recourse; but Mrs.
Pentreath's objections made him pause in spite of himself.

"Betzee, my dear," repeated Uncle Joseph, "has all this talking been
too much for your ears? has it made you deaf?"

"Wait!" cried Mr. Munder, impatiently. "I insist on your waiting,

"You insist? Well, well, because you are an uncivil man is no reason
why I should be an uncivil man too. We will wait a little, Sir, if you
have any thing more to say." Making that concession to the claims of
politeness, Uncle Joseph walked gently backward and forward with his
niece in the passage outside the door. "Sarah, my child, I have
frightened the man of the big words," he whispered. "Try not to
tremble so much; we shall soon be out in the fresh air again."

In the mean time, Mr. Munder continued his whispered conversation with
the housekeeper, making a desperate effort, in the midst of his
perplexities, to maintain his customary air of patronage and his
customary assumption of superiority. "There is a great deal of truth,
ma'am," he softly began--"a great deal of truth, certainly, in what
you say. But you are talking of the woman, while I am talking of the
man. Do you mean to tell me that I am to let him go, after what has
happened, without at least insisting on his giving me his name and

"Do you put trust enough in the foreigner to believe that he would
give you his right name and address if you asked him?" inquired Mrs.
Pentreath. "With submission to your better judgment, I must confess
that I don't. But supposing you were to detain him and charge him
before the magistrate--and how you are to do that, the magistrate's
house being, I suppose, about a couple of hours' walk from here, is
more than I can tell--you must surely risk offending Mrs. Frankland by
detaining the woman and charging the woman as well; for after all, Mr.
Munder, though I believe the foreigner to be capable of any thing, it
was the woman that took the keys, was it not?"

"Quite so! quite so!" said Mr. Munder, whose sleepy eyes were now
opened to this plain and straightforward view of the case for the
first time. "I was, oddly enough, putting that point to myself, Mrs.
Pentreath, just before you happened to speak of it. Just so! just so!"

"I can't help thinking," continued the housekeeper, in a mysterious
whisper, "that the best plan, and the plan most in accordance with our
instructions, is to let them both go, as if we did not care to demean
ourselves by any more quarreling or arguing with them, and to have
them followed to the next place they stop at. The gardener's boy,
Jacob, is weeding the broad walk in the west garden this afternoon.
These people have not seen him about the premises, and need not see
him, if they are let out again by the south door. Jacob is a sharp
lad, as you know; and, if he was properly instructed, I really don't

"It is a most singular circumstance, Mrs. Pentreath," interposed Mr.
Munder, with the gravity of consummate assurance; "but when I first
sat down to this table, that idea about Jacob occurred to me. What
with the effort of speaking, and the heat of argument, I got led away
from it in the most unaccountable manner--"

Here Uncle Joseph, whose stock of patience and politeness was getting
exhausted, put his head into the room again.

"I shall have one last word to address to you, Sir, in a moment," said
Mr. Munder, before the old man could speak. "Don't you suppose that
your blustering and your bullying has had any effect on me. It may do
with foreigners, Sir; but it won't do with Englishmen, I can tell

Uncle Joseph shrugged his shoulders, smiled, and rejoined his niece in
the passage outside. While the housekeeper and the steward had been
conferring together, Sarah had been trying hard to persuade her uncle
to profit by her knowledge of the passages that led to the south door,
and to slip away unperceived. But the old man steadily refused to be
guided by her advice. "I will not go out of a place guiltily," he
said, "when I have done no harm. Nothing shall persuade me to put
myself, or to put you, in the wrong. I am not a man of much wits; but
let my conscience guide me, and so long I shall go right. They let us
in here, Sarah, of their own accord; and they shall let us out of
their own accord also."

"Mr. Munder! Mr. Munder!" whispered the housekeeper, interfering to
stop a fresh explosion of the steward's indignation, which threatened
to break out at the contempt implied by the shrugging of Uncle
Joseph's shoulders, "while you are speaking to that audacious man,
shall I slip into the garden and give Jacob his instructions?"

Mr. Munder paused before answering--tried hard to see a more dignified
way out of the dilemma in which he had placed himself than the way
suggested by the housekeeper--failed entirely to discern any thing of
the sort--swallowed his indignation at one heroic gulp--and replied
emphatically in two words: "Go, ma'am."

"What does that mean? what has she gone that way for?" said Sarah to
her uncle, in a quick, suspicious whisper, as the housekeeper brushed
hastily by them on her way to the west garden.

Before there was time to answer the question, it was followed by
another, put by Mr. Munder.

"Now, Sir!" said the steward, standing in the door-way, with his hands
under his coat-tails and his head very high in the air. "Now, Sir, and
now, ma'am, for my last words. Am I to have a proper explanation of
the abstracting and purloining of those keys, or am I not?"

"Certainly, Sir, you are to have the explanation," replied Uncle
Joseph. "It is, if you please, the same explanation that I had the
honor of giving to you a little while ago. Do you wish to hear it
again? It is all the explanation we have got about us."

"Oh! it is, is it?" said Mr. Munder. "Then all I have to say to both
of you is--leave the house directly! Directly!" he added, in his most
coarsely offensive tones, taking refuge in the insolence of authority,
from the dim consciousness of the absurdity of his own position, which
would force itself on him even while he spoke. "Yes, Sir!" he
continued, growing more and more angry at the composure with which
Uncle Joseph listened to him--"Yes, Sir! you may bow and scrape, and
jabber your broken English somewhere else. I won't put up with you
here. I have reflected with myself, and reasoned with myself, and
asked myself calmly--as Englishmen always do--if it is any use making
you of importance, and I have come to a conclusion, and that
conclusion is--no, it isn't! Don't you go away with a notion that your
blusterings and bullyings have had any effect on me. (Show them out,
Betsey!) I consider you beneath--aye, and below!--my notice. Language
fails, Sir, to express my contempt. Leave the house!"

"And I, Sir," returned the object of all this withering derision,
with the most exasperating politeness, "I shall say, for having your
contempt, what I could by no means have said for having your respect,
which is, briefly--thank you. I, the small foreigner, take the
contempt of you, the big Englishman, as the greatest compliment that
can be paid from a man of your composition to a man of mine." With
that, Uncle Joseph made a last fantastic bow, took his niece's arm,
and followed Betsey along the passages that led to the south door,
leaving Mr. Munder to compose a fit retort at his leisure.

Ten minutes later the housekeeper returned breathless to her room, and
found the steward walking backward and forward in a high state of

"Pray make your mind easy, Mr. Munder," she said. "They are both clear
of the house at last, and Jacob has got them well in view on the path
over the moor."



Excepting that he took leave of Betsey, the servant-maid, with great
cordiality, Uncle Joseph spoke not another word, after his parting
reply to Mr. Munder, until he and his niece were alone again under the
east wall of Porthgenna Tower. There he paused, looked up at the
house, then at his companion, then back at the house once more, and at
last opened his lips to speak.

"I am sorry, my child," he said--"I am sorry from my heart. This has
been what you call in England a bad job."

Thinking that he referred to the scene which had just passed in the
housekeeper's room, Sarah asked his pardon for having been the
innocent means of bringing him into angry collision with such a person
as Mr. Munder.

"No! no! no!" he cried. "I was not thinking of the man of the big body
and the big words. He made me angry, it is not to be denied; but that
is all over and gone now. I put him and his big words away from me, as
I kick this stone, here, from the pathway into the road. It is not of
your Munders, or your housekeepers, or your Betzees, that I now
speak--it is of something that is nearer to you and nearer to me also,
because I make of your interest my own interest too. I shall tell you
what it is while we walk on--for I see in your face, Sarah, that you
are restless and in fear so long as we stop in the neighborhood of
this dungeon-house. Come! I am ready for the march. There is the path.
Let us go back by it, and pick up our little baggages at the inn where
we left them, on the other side of this windy wilderness of a place."

"Yes, yes, uncle! Let us lose no time; let us walk fast. Don't be
afraid of tiring me; I am much stronger now."

They turned into the same path by which they had approached Porthgenna
Tower in the afternoon. By the time they had walked over a little more
than the first hundred yards of their journey, Jacob, the gardener's
boy, stole out from behind the ruinous inclosure at the north side of
the house with his hoe in his hand. The sun had just set, but there
was a fine light still over the wide, open surface of the moor; and
Jacob paused to let the old man and his niece get farther away from
the building before he followed them. The housekeeper's instructions
had directed him just to keep them in sight, and no more; and, if he
happened to observe that they stopped and turned round to look behind
them, he was to stop, too, and pretend to be digging with his hoe, as
if he was at work on the moorland. Stimulated by the promise of a
sixpence, if he was careful to do exactly as he had been told, Jacob
kept his instructions in his memory, and kept his eye on the two
strangers, and promised as fairly to earn the reward in prospect for
him as a boy could.

"And now, my child, I shall tell you what it is I am sorry for,"
resumed Uncle Joseph, as they proceeded along the path. "I am sorry
that we have come out upon this journey, and run our little risk, and
had our little scolding, and gained nothing. The word you said in my
ear, Sarah, when I was getting you out of the faint (and you should
have come out of it sooner, if the muddle-headed people of the
dungeon-house had been quicker with the water)--the word you said in
my ear was not much, but it was enough to tell me that we have taken
this journey in vain. I may hold my tongue, I may make my best face at
it, I may be content to walk blindfolded with a mystery that lets no
peep of daylight into my eyes--but it is not the less true that the
one thing your heart was most set on doing, when we started on this
journey, is the one thing also that you have not done. I know that,
if I know nothing else; and I say again, it is a bad job--yes, yes,
upon my life and faith, there is no disguise to put upon it; it is, in
your plainest English, a very bad job."

As he concluded the expression of his sympathy in these quaint terms,
the dread and distrust, the watchful terror, that marred the natural
softness of Sarah's eyes, disappeared in an expression of sorrowful
tenderness, which seemed to give back to them all their beauty.

"Don't be sorry for me, uncle," she said, stopping, and gently
brushing away with her hand some specks of dust that lay on the collar
of his coat. "I have suffered so much and suffered so long, that the
heaviest disappointments pass lightly over me now."

"I won't hear you say it!" cried Uncle Joseph. "You give me shocks I
can't bear when you talk to me in this way. You shall have no more
disappointments--no, you shall not! I, Joseph Buschmann, the
Obstinate, the Pig-headed, I say it!"

"The day when I shall have no more disappointments, uncle, is not far
off now. Let me wait a little longer, and endure a little longer: I
have learned to be patient, and to hope for nothing. Fearing and
failing, fearing and failing--that has been my life ever since I was a
young woman--the life I have become used to by this time. If you are
surprised, as I know you must be, at my not possessing myself of the
letter, when I had the keys of the Myrtle Room in my hand, and when no
one was near to stop me, remember the history of my life, and take
that as an explanation. Fearing and failing, fearing and failing--if I
told you all the truth, I could tell no more than that. Let us walk
on, uncle."

The resignation in her voice and manner while she spoke was the
resignation of despair. It gave her an unnatural self-possession,
which altered her, in the eyes of Uncle Joseph, almost past
recognition. He looked at her in undisguised alarm.

"No!" he said, "we will not walk on; we will walk back to the
dungeon-house; we will make another plan; we will try to get at this
devil's imp of a letter in some other way. I care for no Munders, no
housekeepers, no Betzees--I! I care for nothing but the getting you
the one thing you want, and the taking you home again as easy in your
mind as I am myself. Come! let us go back."

"It is too late to go back."

"How too late? Ah, dismal, dingy, dungeon-house of the devil, how I
hate you!" cried Uncle Joseph, looking back over the prospect, and
shaking both his fists at Porthgenna Tower.

"It is too late, uncle," she repeated. "Too late, because the
opportunity is lost; too late, because if I could bring it back, I
dare not go near the Myrtle Room again. My last hope was to change the
hiding-place of the letter--and that last hope I have given up. I have
only one object in life left now; you may help me in it; but I can not
tell you how unless you come on with me at once--unless you say
nothing more about going back to Porthgenna Tower."

Uncle Joseph began to expostulate. His niece stopped him in the middle
of a sentence, by touching him on the shoulder and pointing to a
particular spot on the darkening slope of the moor below them.

"Look!" she said, "there is somebody on the path behind us. Is it a
boy or a man?"

Uncle Joseph looked through the fading light, and saw a figure at some
little distance. It seemed like the figure of a boy, and he was
apparently engaged in digging on the moor.

"Let us turn round, and go on at once," pleaded Sarah, before the old
man could answer her. "I can't say what I want to say to you, uncle,
until we are safe under shelter at the inn."

They went on until they reached the highest ground on the moor. There
they stopped, and looked back again. The rest of their way lay down
hill; and the spot on which they stood was the last point from which a
view could be obtained of Porthgenna Tower.

"We have lost sight of the boy," said Uncle Joseph, looking over the
ground below them.

Sarah's younger and sharper eyes bore witness to the truth of her
uncle's words--the view over the moor was lonely now, in every
direction, as far as she could see. Before going on again, she moved a
little away from the old man, and looked at the tower of the ancient
house, rising heavy and black in the dim light, with the dark sea
background stretching behind it like a wall. "Never again!" she
whispered to herself. "Never, never, never again!" Her eyes wandered
away to the church, and to the cemetery inclosure by its side, barely
distinguishable now in the shadows of the coming night. "Wait for me a
little longer," she said, looking toward the burial-ground with
straining eyes, and pressing her hand on her bosom over the place
where the book of Hymns lay hid. "My wanderings are nearly at an end;
the day for my coming home again is not far off!"

The tears filled her eyes and shut out the view. She rejoined her
uncle, and, taking his arm again, drew him rapidly a few steps along
the downward path--then checked herself, as if struck by a sudden
suspicion, and walked back a few paces to the highest ridge of the
ground. "I am not sure," she said, replying to her companion's look of
surprise--"I am not sure whether we have seen the last yet of that boy
who was differing on the moor."

As the words passed her lips, a figure stole out from behind one of
the large fragments of granite rock which were scattered over the
waste on all sides of them. It was once more the figure of the boy,
and again he began to dig, without the slightest apparent reason, on
the barren ground at his feet.

"Yes, yes, I see," said Uncle Joseph, as his niece eagerly directed
his attention to the suspicious figure. "It is the same boy, and he is
digging still--and, if you please, what of that?"

Sarah did not attempt to answer. "Let us get on," she said, hurriedly.
"Let us get on as fast as we can to the inn."

They turned again, and took the downward path before them. In less
than a minute they had lost sight of Porthgenna Tower, of the old
church, and of the whole of the western view. Still, though there was
now nothing but the blank darkening moorland to look back at, Sarah
persisted in stopping at frequent intervals, as long as there was any
light left, to glance behind her. She made no remark, she offered no
excuse for thus delaying the journey back to the inn. It was only when
they arrived within sight of the lights of the post-town that she
ceased looking back, and that she spoke to her companion. The few
words she addressed to him amounted to nothing more than a request
that he would ask for a private sitting-room as soon as they reached
their place of sojourn for the night.

They ordered beds at the inn, and were shown into the best parlor to
wait for supper. The moment they were alone, Sarah drew a chair close
to the old man's side, and whispered these words in his ear--

"Uncle! we have been followed every step of the way from Porthgenna
Tower to this place."

"So! so! And how do you know that?" inquired Uncle Joseph.

"Hush! Somebody may be listening at the door, somebody may be creeping
under the window. You noticed that boy who was digging on the moor?--"

"Bah! Why, Sarah! do you frighten yourself, do you try to frighten me
about a boy?"

"Oh, not so loud! not so loud! They have laid a trap for us. Uncle! I
suspected it when we first entered the doors of Porthgenna Tower; I am
sure of it now. What did all that whispering mean between the
housekeeper and the steward when we first got into the hall? I watched
their faces, and I know they were talking about us. They were not half
surprised enough at seeing us, not half surprised enough at hearing
what we wanted. Don't laugh at me, uncle! There is real danger: it is
no fancy of mine. The keys--come closer--the keys of the north rooms
have got new labels on them; the doors have all been numbered. Think
of that! Think of the whispering when we came in, and the whispering
afterward, in the housekeeper's room, when you got up to go away. You
noticed the sudden change in that man's behavior after the housekeeper
spoke to him--you must have noticed it? They let us in too easily, and
they let us out too easily. No, no! I am not deluding myself. There
was some secret motive for letting us into the house, and some secret
motive for letting us out again. That boy on the moor betrays it, if
nothing else does. I saw him following us all the way here, as plainly
as I see you. I am not frightened without reason, this time. As surely
as we two are together in this room, there is a trap laid for us by
the people at Porthgenna Tower!"

"A trap? What trap? And how? and why? and wherefore?" inquired Uncle
Joseph, expressing bewilderment by waving both his hands rapidly to
and fro close before his eyes.

"They want to make me speak, they want to follow me, they want to
find out where I go, they want to ask me questions," she answered,
trembling violently. "Uncle! you remember what I told you of those
crazed words I said to Mrs. Frankland--I ought to have cut my tongue
out rather than have spoken them! They have done dreadful mischief--I
am certain of it--dreadful mischief already. I have made myself
suspected! I shall be questioned, if Mrs. Frankland finds me out
again. She will try to find me out--we shall be inquired after
here--we must destroy all trace of where we go to next--we must make
sure that the people at this inn can answer no questions--oh, Uncle
Joseph! whatever we do, let us make sure of that!"

"Good," said the old man, nodding his head with a perfectly
self-satisfied air. "Be quite easy, my child, and leave it to me to
make sure. When you are gone to bed, I shall send for the landlord,
and I shall say, 'Get us a little carriage, if you please, Sir, to
take us back again to-morrow to the coach for Truro.'"

"No, no, no! we must not hire a carriage here."

"And I say, yes, yes, yes! We will hire a carriage here, because I
will, first of all, make sure with the landlord. Listen. I shall say
to him, 'If there come after us people with inquisitive looks in their
eyes and uncomfortable questions in their mouths--if you please, Sir,
hold your tongue.' Then I shall wink my eye, I shall lay my finger,
so, to the side of my nose, I shall give one little laugh that means
much--and, crick! crack! I have made sure of the landlord! and there
is an end of it!"

"We must not trust the landlord, uncle--we must not trust any body.
When we leave this place to-morrow, we must leave it on foot, and take
care no living soul follows us. Look! here is a map of West Cornwall
hanging up on the wall, with roads and cross-roads all marked on it.
We may find out beforehand what direction we ought to walk in. A
night's rest will give me all the strength I want; and we have no
luggage that we can not carry. You have nothing but your knapsack, and
I have nothing but the little carpet-bag you lent me. We can walk six,
seven, even ten miles, with resting by the way. Come here and look at
the map--pray, pray come and look at the map!"

Protesting against the abandonment of his own project, which he
declared, and sincerely believed, to be perfectly adapted to meet the
emergency in which they were placed, Uncle Joseph joined his niece in
examining the map. A little beyond the post-town, a cross-road was
marked, running northward at right angles with the highway that led to
Truro, and conducting to another road, which looked large enough to be
a coach-road, and which led through a town of sufficient importance to
have its name printed in capital letters. On discovering this, Sarah
proposed that they should follow the cross-road (which did not appear
on the map to be more than five or six miles long) on foot, abstaining
from taking any conveyance until they had arrived at the town marked
in capital letters. By pursuing this course, they would destroy all
trace of their progress after leaving the post-town--unless, indeed,
they were followed on foot from this place, as they had been followed
over the moor. In the event of any fresh difficulty of that sort
occurring, Sarah had no better remedy to propose than lingering on the
road till after nightfall, and leaving it to the darkness to baffle
the vigilance of any person who might be watching in the distance to
see where they went.

Uncle Joseph shrugged his shoulders resignedly when his niece gave her
reasons for wishing to continue the journey on foot. "There is much
tramping through dust, and much looking behind us, and much spying and
peeping and suspecting and roundabout walking in all this," he said.
"It is by no means so easy, my child, as making sure of the landlord,
and sitting at our ease on the cushions of the stage-coach. But if you
will have it so, so shall it be. What you please, Sarah; what you
please--that is all the opinion of my own that I allow myself to have
till we are back again at Truro, and are rested for good and all at
the end of our journey."

"At the end of _your_ journey, uncle: I dare not say at the end of

Those few words changed the old man's face in an instant. His eyes
fixed reproachfully on his niece, his ruddy cheeks lost their color,
his restless hands dropped suddenly to his sides. "Sarah!" he said, in
a low, quiet tone, which seemed to have no relation to the voice in
which he spoke on ordinary occasions--"Sarah! have you the heart to
leave me again?"

"Have I the courage to stay in Cornwall? That is the question to ask
me, uncle. If I had only my own heart to consult, oh! how gladly I
should live under your roof--live under it, if you would let me, to my
dying day! But my lot is not cast for such rest and such happiness as
that. The fear that I have of being questioned by Mrs. Frankland
drives me away from Porthgenna, away from Cornwall, away from you.
Even my dread of the letter being found is hardly so great now as my
dread of being traced and questioned. I have said what I ought not to
have said already. If I find myself in Mrs. Frankland's presence
again, there is nothing that she might not draw out of me. Oh, my God!
to think of that kind-hearted, lovely young woman, who brings
happiness with her wherever she goes, bringing terror to _me_! Terror
when her pitying eyes look at me; terror when her kind voice speaks to
me; terror when her tender hand touches mine! Uncle! when Mrs.
Frankland comes to Porthgenna, the very children will crowd about
her--every creature in that poor village will be drawn toward the
light of her beauty and her goodness, as if it was the sunshine of
Heaven itself; and I--I, of all living beings--must shun her as if she
was a pestilence! The day when she comes into Cornwall is the day when
I must go out of it--the day when we two must say farewell. Don't,
don't add to my wretchedness by asking me if I have the heart to leave
you! For my dead mother's sake, Uncle Joseph, believe that I am
grateful, believe that it is not my own will that takes me away when I
leave you again." She sank down on a sofa near her, laid her head,
with one long, deep sigh, wearily on the pillow, and spoke no more.

The tears gathered thick in Uncle Joseph's eyes as he sat down by her
side. He took one of her hands, and patted and stroked it as though he
were soothing a little child. "I will bear it as well as I can,
Sarah," he whispered, faintly, "and I will say no more. You will write
to me sometimes, when I am left all alone? You will give a little time
to Uncle Joseph, for the poor dead mother's sake?"

She turned toward him suddenly, and threw both her arms round his neck
with a passionate energy that was strangely at variance with her
naturally quiet self-repressed character. "I will write often, dear; I
will write always," she whispered, with her head on his bosom. "If I
am ever in any trouble or danger, you shall know it." She stopped
confusedly, as if the freedom of her own words and actions terrified
her, unclasped her arms, and, turning away abruptly from the old man,
hid her face in her hands. The tyranny of the restraint that governed
her whole life was all expressed--how sadly, how eloquently!--in that
one little action.

Uncle Joseph rose from the sofa, and walked gently backward and
forward in the room, looking anxiously at his niece, but not speaking
to her. After a while the servant came in to prepare the table for
supper. It was a welcome interruption, for it obliged Sarah to make an
effort to recover her self-possession. After the meal was over, the
uncle and niece separated at once for the night, without venturing to
exchange another word on the subject of their approaching separation.

When they met the next morning, the old man had not recovered his
spirits. Although he tried to speak as cheerfully as usual, there was
something strangely subdued and quiet about him in voice, look, and
manner. Sarah's heart smote her as she saw how sadly he was altered by
the prospect of their parting. She said a few words of consolation and
hope; but he only waved his hand negatively, in his quaint foreign
manner, and hastened out of the room to find the landlord and ask for
the bill.

Soon after breakfast, to the surprise of the people at the inn, they
set forth to continue their journey on foot, Uncle Joseph carrying his
knapsack on his back, and his niece's carpet-bag in his hand. When
they arrived at the turning that led into the cross-road, they both
stopped and looked back. This time they saw nothing to alarm them.
There was no living creature visible on the broad highway over which
they had been walking for the last quarter of an hour after leaving
the inn.

"The way is clear," said Uncle Joseph, as they turned into the
cross-road. "Whatever might have happened yesterday, there is nobody
following us now."

"Nobody that we can see," answered Sarah. "But I distrust the very
stones by the road-side. Let us look back often, uncle, before we
allow ourselves to feel secure. The more I think of it, the more I
dread the snare that is laid for us by those people at Porthgenna

"You say _us_, Sarah. Why should they lay a snare for _me_?"

"Because they have seen you in my company. You will be safer from them
when we are parted; and that is another reason, Uncle Joseph, why we
should bear the misfortune of our separation as patiently as we can."

"Are you going far, very far away, Sarah, when you leave me?"

"I dare not stop on my journey till I can feel that I am lost in the
great world of London. Don't look at me so sadly! I shall never forget
my promise; I shall never forget to write. I have friends--not friends
like you, but still friends--to whom I can go. I can feel safe from
discovery nowhere but in London. My danger is great--it is, it is,
indeed! I know, from what I have seen at Porthgenna, that Mrs.
Frankland has an interest already in finding me out; and I am certain
that this interest will be increased tenfold when she hears (as she is
sure to hear) of what happened yesterday in the house. If they
_should_ trace you to Truro, oh, be careful, uncle! be careful how you
deal with them; be careful how you answer their questions!"

"I will answer nothing, my child. But tell me--for I want to know all
the little chances that there are of your coming back--tell me, if
Mrs. Frankland finds the letter, what shall you do then?"

At that question, Sarah's hand, which had been resting languidly on
her uncle's arm while they walked together, closed on it suddenly.
"Even if Mrs. Frankland gets into the Myrtle Room," she said, stopping
and looking affrightedly about her while she replied, "she may not
find the letter. It is folded up so small; it is hidden in such an
unlikely place."

"But if she does find it?"

"If she does, there will be more reason than ever for my being miles
and miles away."

As she gave that answer, she raised both her hands to her heart, and
pressed them firmly over it. A slight distortion passed rapidly across
her features; her eyes closed; her face flushed all over--then turned
paler again than ever. She drew out her pocket-handkerchief, and
passed it several times over her face, on which the perspiration had
gathered thickly. The old man, who had looked behind him when his
niece stopped, under the impression that she had just seen somebody
following them, observed this latter action, and asked if she felt too
hot. She shook her head, and took his arm again to go on, breathing,
as he fancied, with some difficulty. He proposed that they should sit
down by the road-side and rest a little; but she only answered, "Not
yet." So they went on for another half-hour; then turned to look
behind them again, and, still seeing nobody, sat down for a little
while to rest on a bank by the way-side.

After stopping twice more at convenient resting-places, they reached
the end of the cross-road. On the highway to which it led them they
were overtaken by a man driving an empty cart, who offered to give
them a lift as far as the next town. They accepted the proposal
gratefully; and, arriving at the town, after a drive of half an hour,
were set down at the door of the principal inn. Finding on inquiry at
this place that they were too late for the coach, they took a private
conveyance, which brought them to Truro late in the afternoon.
Throughout the whole of the journey, from the time when they left the
post-town of Porthgenna to the time when they stopped, by Sarah's
desire, at the coach-office in Truro, they had seen nothing to excite
the smallest suspicion that their movements were being observed. None
of the people whom they saw in the inhabited places, or whom they
passed on the road, appeared to take more than the most casual notice
of them.

It was five o'clock when they entered the office at Truro to ask about
conveyances running in the direction of Exeter. They were informed
that a coach would start in an hour's time, and that another coach
would pass through Truro at eight o'clock the next morning.

"You will not go to-night?" pleaded Uncle Joseph. "You will wait, my
child, and rest with me till to-morrow?"

"I had better go, uncle, while I have some little resolution left,"
was the sad answer.

"But you are so pale, so tired, so weak."

"I shall never be stronger than I am now. Don't set my own heart
against me! It is hard enough to go without that."

Uncle Joseph sighed, and said no more. He led the way across the road
and down the by-street to his house. The cheerful man in the shop was
polishing a piece of wood behind the counter, sitting in the same
position in which Sarah had seen him when she first looked through the
window on her arrival at Truro. He had good news for his master of
orders received, but Uncle Joseph listened absently to all that his
shopman said, and hastened into the little back parlor without the
faintest reflection of its customary smile on his face. "If I had no
shop and no orders, I might go away with you, Sarah," he said when he
and his niece were alone. "Aïe! Aïe! the setting out on this journey
has been the only happy part of it. Sit down and rest, my child. I
must put my best face upon it, and get you some tea."

When the tea-tray had been placed on the table, he left the room, and
returned, after an absence of some little time, with a basket in his
hand. When the porter came to carry the luggage to the coach-office,
he would not allow the basket to be taken away at the same time, but
sat down and placed it between his feet while he occupied himself in
pouring out a cup of tea for his niece.

The musical box still hung at his side in its traveling-case of
leather. As soon as he had poured out the cup of tea, he unbuckled the
strap, removed the covering from the box, and placed it on the table
near him. His eyes wandered hesitatingly toward Sarah, as he did this;
he leaned forward, his lips trembling a little, his hand trifling
uneasily with the empty leather case that now lay on his knees, and
said to her in low, unsteady tones--

"You will hear a little farewell song of Mozart? It may be a long
time, Sarah, before he can play to you again. A little farewell song,
my child, before you go?"

His hand stole up gently from the leather case to the table, and set
the box playing the same air that Sarah had heard on the evening when
she entered the parlor, after her journey from Somersetshire, and
found him sitting alone listening to the music. What depths of sorrow
there were now in those few simple notes! What mournful memories of
past times gathered and swelled in the heart at the bidding of that
one little plaintive melody! Sarah could not summon the courage to
lift her eyes to the old man's face--they might have betrayed to him
that she was thinking of the days when the box that he treasured so
dearly played the air they were listening to now by the bedside of his
dying child.

The stop had not been set, and the melody, after it had come to an
end, began again. But now, after the first few bars, the notes
succeeded one another more and more slowly--the air grew less and less
recognizable--dropped at last to three notes, following each other at
long intervals--then ceased altogether. The chain that governed the
action of the machinery had all run out; Mozart's farewell song was
silenced on a sudden, like a voice that had broken down.

The old man started, looked earnestly at his niece, and threw the
leather case over the box as if he desired to shut out the sight of
it. "The music stopped so," he whispered to himself, in his own
language, "when little Joseph died! Don't go!" he added quickly, in
English, almost before Sarah had time to feel surprised at the
singular change that had taken place in his voice and manner. "Don't
go! Think better of it, and stop with me."

"I have no choice, uncle, but to leave you--indeed, indeed I have not!
You don't think me ungrateful? Comfort me at the last moment by
telling me that!"

He pressed her hand in silence, and kissed her on both cheeks. "My
heart is very heavy for you, Sarah," he said. "The fear has come to me
that it is not for your own good that you are going away from Uncle
Joseph now!"

"I have no choice," she sadly repeated--"no choice but to leave you."

"It is time, then, to get the parting over." The cloud of doubt and
fear that had altered his face, from the moment when the music came to
its untimely end, seemed to darken, when he had said those words. He
took up the basket which he had kept so carefully at his feet, and led
the way out in silence.

They were barely in time; the driver was mounting to his seat when
they got to the coach-office. "God preserve you, my child, and send
you back to me soon, safe and well. Take the basket on your lap; there
are some little things in it for your journey." His voice faltered at
the last word, and Sarah felt his lips pressed on her hand. The next
instant the door was closed, and she saw him dimly through her tears
standing among the idlers on the pavement, who were waiting to see the
coach drive off.

By the time they were a little way out of the town she was able to
dry her eyes and look into the basket. It contained a pot of jam and a
horn spoon, a small inlaid work-box from the stock in the shop, a
piece of foreign-looking cheese, a French roll, and a little paper
packet of money, with the words "Don't be angry" written on it, in
Uncle Joseph's hand. Sarah closed the cover of the basket again, and
drew down her veil. She had not felt the sorrow of the parting in all
its bitterness until that moment. Oh, how hard it was to be banished
from the sheltering home which was offered to her by the one friend
she had left in the world!

While that thought was in her mind, the old man was just closing the
door of his lonely parlor. His eyes wandered to the tea-tray on the
table and to Sarah's empty cup, and he whispered to himself in his own
language again--

"The music stopped so when little Joseph died!"

Book V.



In declaring, positively, that the boy whom she had seen digging on
the moor had followed her uncle and herself to the post-town of
Porthgenna, Sarah had asserted the literal truth. Jacob had tracked
them to the inn, had waited a little while about the door, to
ascertain if there was any likelihood of their continuing their
journey that evening, and had then returned to Porthgenna Tower to
make his report, and to claim his promised reward.

The same night, the housekeeper and the steward devoted themselves to
the joint production of a letter to Mrs. Frankland, informing her of
all that had taken place, from the time when the visitors first made
their appearance, to the time when the gardener's boy had followed
them to the door of the inn. The composition was plentifully garnished
throughout with the flowers of Mr. Munder's rhetoric, and was, by a
necessary consequence, inordinately long as a narrative, and
hopelessly confused as a statement of facts.

It is unnecessary to say that the letter, with all its faults and
absurdities, was read by Mrs. Frankland with the deepest interest. Her
husband and Mr. Orridge, to both of whom she communicated its
contents, were as much amazed and perplexed by it as she was herself.
Although the discovery of Mrs. Jazeph's departure for Cornwall had led
them to consider it within the range of possibility that she might
appear at Porthgenna, and although the housekeeper had been written to
by Rosamond under the influence of that idea, neither she nor her
husband were quite prepared for such a speedy confirmation of their
suspicions as they had now received. Their astonishment, however, on
first ascertaining the general purport of the letter, was as nothing
compared with their astonishment when they came to those particular
passages in it which referred to Uncle Joseph. The fresh element of
complication imparted to the thickening mystery of Mrs. Jazeph and the
Myrtle Room, by the entrance of the foreign stranger on the scene, and
by his intimate connection with the extraordinary proceedings that had
taken place in the house, fairly baffled them all. The letter was read
again and again; was critically dissected paragraph by paragraph; was
carefully annotated by the doctor, for the purpose of extricating all
the facts that it contained from the mass of unmeaning words in which
Mr. Munder had artfully and lengthily involved them; and was finally
pronounced, after all the pains that had been taken to render it
intelligible, to be the most mysterious and bewildering document that
mortal pen had ever produced.

The first practical suggestion, after the letter had been laid aside
in despair, emanated from Rosamond. She proposed that her husband and
herself (the baby included, as a matter of course) should start at
once for Porthgenna, to question the servants minutely about the
proceedings of Mrs. Jazeph and the foreign stranger who had
accompanied her, and to examine the premises on the north side of the
house, with a view to discovering a clew to the locality of the Myrtle
Room, while events were still fresh in the memories of witnesses. The
plan thus advocated, however excellent in itself, was opposed by Mr.
Orridge on medical grounds. Mrs. Frankland had caught cold by exposing
herself too carelessly to the air, on first leaving her room, and the
doctor refused to grant her permission to travel for at least a week
to come, if not for a longer period.

The next proposal came from Mr. Frankland. He declared it to be
perfectly clear to his mind that the only chance of penetrating the
mystery of the Myrtle Room rested entirely on the discovery of some
means of communicating with Mrs. Jazeph. He suggested that they should
not trouble themselves to think of any thing unconnected with the
accomplishment of this purpose; and he proposed that the servant then
in attendance on him at West Winston--a man who had been in his
employment for many years, and whose zeal, activity, and intelligence
could be thoroughly depended on--should be sent to Porthgenna
forthwith, to start the necessary inquiries, and to examine the
premises carefully on the north side of the house.

This advice was immediately acted on. At an hour's notice the servant
started for Cornwall, thoroughly instructed as to what he was to do,
and well supplied with money, in case he found it necessary to employ
many persons in making the proposed inquiries. In due course of time
he sent a report of his proceedings to his master. It proved to be of
a most discouraging nature.

All trace of Mrs. Jazeph and her companion had been lost at the
post-town of Porthgenna. Investigations had been made in every
direction, but no reliable information had been obtained. People in
totally different parts of the country declared readily enough that
they had seen two persons answering to the description of the lady in
the dark dress and the old foreigner; but when they were called upon
to state the direction in which the two strangers were traveling, the
answers received turned out to be of the most puzzling and
contradictory kind. No pains had been spared, no necessary expenditure
of money had been grudged; but, so far, no results of the slightest
value had been obtained. Whether the lady and the foreigner had gone
east, west, north, or south, was more than Mr. Frankland's servant, at
the present stage of the proceedings, could take it on himself to say.

The report of the examination of the north rooms was not more
satisfactory. Here, again, nothing of any importance could be
discovered. The servant had ascertained that there were twenty-two
rooms on the uninhabited side of the house--six on the ground-floor
opening into the deserted garden, eight on the first floor, and eight
above that, on the second story. He had examined all the doors
carefully from top to bottom, and had come to the conclusion that none
of them had been opened. The evidence afforded by the lady's own
actions led to nothing. She had, if the testimony of the servant could
be trusted, dropped the keys on the floor of the hall. She was found,
as the housekeeper and the steward asserted, lying, in a fainting
condition, at the top of the landing of the first flight of stairs.
The door opposite to her, in this position, showed no more traces of
having been recently opened than any of the other doors of the other
twenty-one rooms. Whether the room to which she wished to gain access
was one of the eight on the first floor, or whether she had fainted
on her way up to the higher range of eight rooms on the second floor,
it was impossible to determine.

The only conclusions that could be fairly drawn from the events that
had taken place in the house were two in number. First, it might be
taken for granted that the lady had been disturbed before she had been
able to use the keys to gain admission to the Myrtle Room. Secondly,
it might be assumed, from the position in which she was found on the
stairs, and from the evidence relating to the dropping of the keys,
that the Myrtle Room was not on the ground-floor, but was one of the
sixteen rooms situated on the first and second stories. Beyond this
the writer of the report had nothing further to mention, except that
he had ventured to decide on waiting at Porthgenna, in the event of
his master having any further instructions to communicate.

What was to be done next? That was necessarily the first question
suggested by the servant's announcement of the unsuccessful result of
his inquiries at Porthgenna. How it was to be answered was not very
easy to discover. Mrs. Frankland had nothing to suggest, Mr. Frankland
had nothing to suggest, the doctor had nothing to suggest. The more
industriously they all three hunted through their minds for a new
idea, the less chance there seemed to be of their succeeding in
finding one. At last, Rosamond proposed, in despair, that they should
seek the advice of some fourth person who could be depended on; and
asked her husband's permission to write a confidential statement of
their difficulties to the vicar of Long Beckley. Doctor Chennery was
their oldest friend and adviser; he had known them both as children;
he was well acquainted with the history of their families; he felt a
fatherly interest in their fortunes; and he possessed that invaluable
quality of plain, clear-headed common-sense which marked him out as
the very man who would be most likely, as well as most willing, to
help them.

Mr. Frankland readily agreed to his wife's suggestion; and Rosamond
wrote immediately to Doctor Chennery, informing him of every thing
that had happened since Mrs. Jazeph's first introduction to her, and
asking him for his opinion on the course of proceeding which it would
be best for her husband and herself to adopt in the difficulty in
which they were now placed. By return of post an answer was received,
which amply justified Rosamond's reliance on her old friend. Doctor
Chennery not only sympathized heartily with the eager curiosity which
Mrs. Jazeph's language and conduct had excited in the mind of his
correspondent, but he had also a plan of his own to propose for
ascertaining the position of the Myrtle Room.

The vicar prefaced his suggestion by expressing a strong opinion
against instituting any further search after Mrs. Jazeph. Judging by
the circumstances, as they were related to him, he considered that it
would be the merest waste of time to attempt to find her out.
Accordingly he passed from that part of the subject at once, and
devoted himself to the consideration of the more important
question--How Mr. and Mrs. Frankland were to proceed in the endeavor
to discover for themselves the mystery of the Myrtle Room?

On this point Doctor Chennery entertained a conviction of the
strongest kind, and he warned Rosamond beforehand that she must expect
to be very much surprised when he came to the statement of it. Taking
it for granted that she and her husband could not hope to find out
where the room was, unless they were assisted by some one better
acquainted than themselves with the old local arrangements of the
interior of Porthgenna Tower, the vicar declared it to be his opinion
that there was only one individual living who could afford them the
information they wanted, and that this person was no other than
Rosamond's own cross-grained relative, Andrew Treverton.

This startling opinion Doctor Chennery supported by two reasons. In
the first place, Andrew was the only surviving member of the elder
generation who had lived at Porthgenna Tower in the by-gone days when
all traditions connected with the north rooms were still fresh in the
memories of the inhabitants of the house. The people who lived in it
now were strangers, who had been placed in their situations by Mr.
Frankland's father; and the servants employed in former days by
Captain Treverton were dead or dispersed. The one available person,
therefore, whose recollections were likely to be of any service to Mr.
and Mrs. Frankland, was indisputably the brother of the old owner of
Porthgenna Tower.

In the second place, there was the chance, even if Andrew Treverton's
memory was not to be trusted, that he might possess written or
printed information relating to the locality of the Myrtle Room. By
his father's will--which had been made when Andrew was a young man
just going to college, and which had not been altered at the period of
his departure from England, or at any after-time--he had inherited the
choice old collection of books in the library at Porthgenna. Supposing
that he still preserved these heir-looms, it was highly probable that
there might exist among them some plan, or some description of the
house as it was in the olden time, which would supply all the
information that was wanted. Here, then, was another valid reason for
believing that if a clew to the position of the Myrtle Room existed
any where, Andrew Treverton was the man to lay his hand on it.

Assuming it, therefore, to be proved that the surly old misanthrope
was the only person who could be profitably applied to for the
requisite information, the next question was, How to communicate with
him? The vicar understood perfectly that after Andrew's inexcusably
heartless conduct toward her father and mother, it was quite
impossible for Rosamond to address any direct application to him. The
obstacle, however, might be surmounted by making the necessary
communication proceed from Doctor Chennery. Heartily as the vicar
disliked Andrew Treverton personally, and strongly as he disapproved
of the old misanthrope's principles, he was willing to set aside his
own antipathies and objections to serve the interests of his young
friends; and he expressed his perfect readiness to write and recall
himself to Andrew's recollection, and to ask, as if it was a matter of
antiquarian curiosity, for information on the subject of the north
side of Porthgenna Tower--including, of course, a special request to
be made acquainted with the names by which the rooms had been
individually known in former days.

In making this offer, the vicar frankly acknowledged that he thought
the chances were very much against his receiving any answer at all to
his application, no matter how carefully he might word it, with a view
to humoring Andrew's churlish peculiarities. However, considering
that, in the present posture of affairs, a forlorn hope was better
than no hope at all, he thought it was at least worth while to make
the attempt on the plan which he had just suggested. If Mr. and Mrs.
Frankland could devise any better means of opening communications
with Andrew Treverton, or if they had discovered any new method of
their own for obtaining the information of which they stood in need,
Doctor Chennery was perfectly ready to set aside his own opinions and
to defer to theirs.

A very brief consideration of the vicar's friendly letter convinced
Rosamond and her husband that they had no choice but gratefully to
accept the offer which it contained. The chances were certainly
against the success of the proposed application; but were they more
unfavorable than the chances against the success of any unaided
investigations at Porthgenna? There was, at least, a faint hope of
Doctor Chennery's request for information producing some results; but
there seemed no hope at all of penetrating a mystery connected with
one room only, by dint of wandering, in perfect ignorance of what to
search for, through two ranges of rooms which reached the number of
sixteen. Influenced by these considerations, Rosamond wrote back to
the vicar to thank him for his kindness, and to beg that he would
communicate with Andrew Treverton, as he had proposed, without a
moment's delay.

Doctor Chennery immediately occupied himself in the composition of the
important letter, taking care to make the application on purely
antiquarian grounds, and accounting for his assumed curiosity on the
subject of the interior of Porthgenna Tower by referring to his former
knowledge of the Treverton family, and to his natural interest in the
old house with which their name and fortunes had been so closely
connected. After appealing to Andrew's early recollections for the
information that he wanted, he ventured a step farther, and alluded to
the library of old books, mentioning his own idea that there might be
found among them some plan or verbal description of the house, which
might prove to be of the greatest service, in the event of Mr.
Treverton's memory not having preserved all particulars in connection
with the names and positions of the north rooms. In conclusion, he
took the liberty of mentioning that the loan of any document of the
kind to which he had alluded, or the permission to have extracts made
from it, would be thankfully acknowledged as a great favor conferred;
and he added, in a postscript, that, in order to save Mr. Treverton
all trouble, a messenger would call for any answer he might be
disposed to give the day after the delivery of the letter. Having
completed the application in these terms, the vicar inclosed it under
cover to his man of business in London, with directions that it was to
be delivered by a trustworthy person, and that the messenger was to
call again the next morning to know if there was any answer.

Three days after this letter had been dispatched to its
destination--at which time no tidings of any sort had been received
from Doctor Chennery--Rosamond at last obtained her medical
attendant's permission to travel. Taking leave of Mr. Orridge, with
many promises to let him know what progress they made toward
discovering the Myrtle Room, Mr. and Mrs. Frankland turned their backs
on West Winston, and for the third time started on the journey to
Porthgenna Tower.



It was baking-day in the establishment of Mr. Andrew Treverton when
the messenger intrusted with Doctor Chennery's letter found his way to
the garden door of the cottage at Bayswater. After he had rung three
times, he heard a gruff voice, on the other side of the wall, roaring
at him to let the bell alone, and asking who he was, and what the
devil he wanted.

"A letter for Mr. Treverton," said the messenger, nervously backing
away from the door while he spoke.

"Chuck it over the wall, then, and be off with you!" answered the
gruff voice.

The messenger obeyed both injunctions. He was a meek, modest, elderly
man; and when Nature mixed up the ingredients of his disposition, the
capability of resenting injuries was not among them.

The man with the gruff voice--or, to put it in plainer terms, the man
Shrowl--picked up the letter, weighed it in his hand, looked at the
address on it with an expression of contemptuous curiosity in his
bull-terrier eyes, put it in his waistcoat pocket, and walked around
lazily to the kitchen entrance of the cottage.

In the apartment which would probably have been called the pantry, if
the house had belonged to civilized tenants, a hand-mill had been set
up; and, at the moment when Shrowl made his way to this room, Mr.
Treverton was engaged in asserting his independence of all the millers
in England by grinding his own corn. He paused irritably in turning
the handle of the mill when his servant appeared at the door.

"What do you come here for?" he asked. "When the flour's ready, I'll
call for you. Don't let's look at each other oftener than we can help!
I never set eyes on you, Shrowl, but I ask myself whether, in the
whole range of creation, there is any animal as ugly as man? I saw a
cat this morning on the garden wall, and there wasn't a single point
in which you would bear comparison with him. The cat's eyes were
clear--yours are muddy. The cat's nose was straight--yours is crooked.
The cat's whiskers were clean--yours are dirty. The cat's coat fitted
him--yours hangs about you like a sack. I tell you again, Shrowl, the
species to which you (and I) belong is the ugliest on the whole face
of creation. Don't let us revolt each other by keeping in company any
longer. Go away, you last, worst, infirmest freak of Nature--go away!"

Shrowl listened to this complimentary address with an aspect of surly
serenity. When it had come to an end, he took the letter from his
waistcoat pocket, without condescending to make any reply. He was, by
this time, too thoroughly conscious of his own power over his master
to attach the smallest importance to any thing Mr. Treverton might say
to him.

"Now you've done your talking, suppose you take a look at that," said
Shrowl, dropping the letter carelessly on a deal table by his master's
side. "It isn't often that people trouble themselves to send letters
to you--is it? I wonder whether your niece has took a fancy to write
to you? It was put in the papers the other day that she'd got a son
and heir. Open the letter, and see if it's an invitation to the
christening. The company would be sure to want your smiling face at
the table to make 'em jolly. Just let me take a grind at the mill,
while you go out and get a silver mug. The son and heir expects a mug
you know, and his nurse expects half a guinea, and his mamma expects
all your fortune. What a pleasure to make the three innocent creeturs
happy! It's shocking to see you pulling wry faces, like that, over the
letter. Lord! lord! where can all your natural affection have gone

"If I only knew where to lay my hand on a gag, I'd cram it into your
infernal mouth!" cried Mr. Treverton. "How dare you talk to me about
my niece? You wretch! you know I hate her for her mother's sake. What
do you mean by harping perpetually on my fortune? Sooner than leave it
to the play-actress's child, I'd even leave it to you; and sooner than
leave it to you, I would take every farthing of it out in a boat, and
bury it forever at the bottom of the sea!" Venting his dissatisfaction
in these strong terms, Mr. Treverton snatched up Doctor Chennery's
letter, and tore it open in a humor which by no means promised
favorably for the success of the vicar's application.

He read the letter with an ominous scowl on his face, which grew
darker and darker as he got nearer and nearer to the end. When he came
to the signature his humor changed, and he laughed sardonically.
"Faithfully yours, Robert Chennery," he repeated to himself. "Yes!
faithfully mine, if I humor your whim. And what if I don't, parson?"
He paused, and looked at the letter again, the scowl re-appearing on
his face as he did so. "There's a lie of some kind lurking about under
these lines of fair writing," he muttered suspiciously. "_I_ am not
one of his congregation: the law gives him no privilege of imposing on
_me_. What does he mean by making the attempt?" He stopped again,
reflected a little, looked up suddenly at Shrowl, and said to him,

"Have you lit the oven fire yet?"

"No, I hav'n't," answered Shrowl.

Mr. Treverton examined the letter for the third time--hesitated--then
slowly tore it in half, and tossed the two pieces over contemptuously
to his servant.

"Light the fire at once," he said. "And, if you want paper, there it
is for you. Stop!" he added, after Shrowl had picked up the torn
letter. "If any body comes here to-morrow morning to ask for an
answer, tell them I gave you the letter to light the fire with, and
say that's the answer." With those words Mr. Treverton returned to the
mill, and began to grind at it again, with a grin of malicious
satisfaction on his haggard face.

Shrowl withdrew into the kitchen, closed the door, and, placing the
torn pieces of the letter together on the dresser, applied himself,
with the coolest deliberation, to the business of reading it. When he
had gone slowly and carefully through it, from the address at the
beginning to the name at the end, he scratched reflectively for a
little while at his ragged beard, then folded the letter up carefully
and put it in his pocket.

"I'll have another look at it later in the day," he thought to
himself, tearing off a piece of an old newspaper to light the fire
with. "It strikes me, just at present, that there may be better things
done with this letter than burning it."

Resolutely abstaining from taking the letter out of his pocket again
until all the duties of the household for that day had been duly
performed, Shrowl lit the fire, occupied the morning in making and
baking the bread, and patiently took his turn afterward at digging in
the kitchen garden. It was four o'clock in the afternoon before he
felt himself at liberty to think of his private affairs, and to
venture on retiring into solitude with the object of secretly looking
over the letter once more.

A second perusal of Doctor Chennery's unlucky application to Mr.
Treverton helped to confirm Shrowl in his resolution not to destroy
the letter. With great pains and perseverance, and much incidental
scratching at his beard, he contrived to make himself master of three
distinct points in it, which stood out, in his estimation, as
possessing prominent and serious importance.

The first point which he contrived to establish clearly in his mind
was that the person who signed the name of Robert Chennery was
desirous of examining a plan, or printed account, of the north side of
the interior of a certain old house in Cornwall, called Porthgenna
Tower. The second point appeared to resolve itself into this, that
Robert Chennery believed some such plan or printed account might be
found among the collection of books belonging to Mr. Treverton. The
third point was that this same Robert Chennery would receive the loan
of the plan or printed account as one of the greatest favors that
could be conferred on him. Meditating on the latter fact, with an eye
exclusively fixed on the contemplation of his own interests, Shrowl
arrived at the conclusion that it might be well worth his while, in a
pecuniary point of view, to try if he could not privately place
himself in a position to oblige Robert Chennery by searching in secret
among his master's books. "It might be worth a five-pound note to me,
if I managed it well," thought Shrowl, putting the letter back in his
pocket again, and ascending the stairs thoughtfully to the
lumber-rooms at the top of the house.

These rooms were two in number, were entirely unfurnished, and were
littered all over with the rare collection of books which had once
adorned the library at Porthgenna Tower. Covered with dust, and
scattered in all directions and positions over the floor, lay hundreds
and hundreds of volumes, cast out of their packing-cases as coals are
cast out of their sacks into a cellar. Ancient books, which students
would have treasured as priceless, lay in chaotic equality of neglect
side by side with modern publications whose chief merit was the beauty
of the binding by which they were inclosed. Into this wilderness of
scattered volumes Shrowl now wandered, fortified by the supreme
self-possession of ignorance, to search resolutely for one particular
book, with no other light to direct him than the faint glimmer of the
two guiding words--Porthgenna Tower. Having got them firmly fixed in
his mind, his next object was to search until he found them printed on
the first page of any one of the hundreds of volumes that lay around
him. This was, for the time being, emphatically his business in life,
and there he now stood, in the largest of the two attics, doggedly
prepared to do it.

He cleared away space enough with his feet to enable him to sit down
comfortably on the floor, and then began to look over all the books
that lay within arm's-length of him. Odd volumes of rare editions of
the classics, odd volumes of the English historians, odd volumes of
plays by the Elizabethan dramatists, books of travel, books of
sermons, books of jests, books of natural history, books of sport,
turned up in quaint and rapid succession; but no book containing on
the title-page the words "Porthgenna Tower" rewarded the searching
industry of Shrowl for the first ten minutes after he had sat himself
down on the floor.

Before removing to another position, and contending with a fresh
accumulation of literary lumber, he paused and considered a little
with himself, whether there might not be some easier and more orderly
method than any he had yet devised of working his way through the
scattered mass of volumes which yet remained to be examined. The
result of his reflections was that it would be less confusing to him
if he searched through the books in all parts of the room
indifferently, regulating his selection of them solely by their
various sizes; disposing of all the largest to begin with; then, after
stowing them away together, proceeding to the next largest, and so
going on until he came down at last to the pocket volumes.
Accordingly, he cleared away another morsel of vacant space near the
wall, and then, trampling over the books as coolly as if they were so
many clods of earth on a ploughed field, picked out the largest of all
the volumes that lay on the floor.

It was an atlas; Shrowl turned over the maps, reflected, shook his
head, and removed the volume to the vacant space which he had cleared
close to the wall.

The next largest book was a magnificently bound collection of engraved
portraits of distinguished characters. Shrowl saluted the
distinguished characters with a grunt of Gothic disapprobation, and
carried them off to keep the atlas company against the wall.

The third largest book lay under several others. It projected a little
at one end, and it was bound in scarlet morocco. In another position,
or bound in a quieter color, it would probably have escaped notice.
Shrowl drew it out with some difficulty, opened it with a portentous
frown of distrust, looked at the title-page--and suddenly slapped his
thigh with a great oath of exultation. There were the very two words
of which he was in search, staring him in the face, as it were, with
all the emphasis of the largest capital letters.

He took a step toward the door to make sure that his master was not
moving in the house; then checked himself and turned back. "What do I
care," thought Shrowl, "whether he sees me or not? If it comes to a
tustle betwixt us which is to have his own way, I know who's master
and who's servant in the house by this time." Composing himself with
that reflection, he turned to the first leaf of the book, with the
intention of looking it over carefully, page by page, from beginning
to end.

The first leaf was a blank. The second leaf had an inscription written
at the top of it, in faded ink, which contained these words and
initials: "Rare. Only six copies printed. J. A. T." Below, on the
middle of the leaf, was the printed dedication: "To John Arthur
Treverton, Esquire, Lord of the Manor of Porthgenna, One of his
Majesty's Justices of the Peace, F.R.S., etc., etc., etc., this work,
in which an attempt is made to describe the ancient and honored
Mansion of his Ancestors--" There were many more lines, filled to
bursting with all the largest and most obsequious words to be found in
the dictionary; but Shrowl wisely abstained from giving himself the
trouble of reading them, and turned over at once to the title-page.

There were the all-important words: "The History and Antiquities of
PORTHGENNA TOWER. From the period of its first erection to the present
time; comprising interesting genealogical particulars relating to the
Treverton family; with an inquiry into the Origin of Gothic
Architecture, and a few thoughts on the Theory of Fortification after
the period of the Norman Conquest. By the Reverend Job Dark, D.D.,
Rector of Porthgenna. The whole adorned with Portraits, Views, and
Plans, executed in the highest style of art. Not published. Printed by
Spaldock and Grimes, Truro, 1734."

That was the title-page. The next leaf contained an engraved view of
Porthgenna Tower from the West. Then came several pages devoted to the
Origin of Gothic Architecture. Then more pages, explaining the Norman
Theory of Fortification. These were succeeded by another
engraving--Porthgenna Tower from the East. After that followed more
reading, under the title of The Treverton Family; and then came the
third engraving--Porthgenna Tower from the North. Shrowl paused there,
and looked with interest at the leaf opposite the print. It only
announced more reading still, about the Erection of the Mansion; and
this was succeeded by engravings from family portraits in the gallery
at Porthgenna. Placing his left thumb between the leaves to mark the
place, Shrowl impatiently turned to the end of the book, to see what
he could find there. The last leaf contained a plan of the stables;
the leaf before that presented a plan of the north garden; and on the
next leaf, turning backward, was the very thing described in Robert
Chennery's letter--a plan of the interior arrangement of the north
side of the house!

Shrowl's first impulse on making this discovery was to carry the book
away to the safest hiding-place he could find for it, preparatory to
secretly offering it for sale when the messenger called the next
morning for an answer to the letter. A little reflection, however,
convinced him that a proceeding of this sort bore a dangerously close
resemblance to the act of thieving, and might get him into trouble if
the person with whom he desired to deal asked him any preliminary
questions touching his right to the volume which he wanted to dispose
of. The only alternative that remained was to make the best copy he
could of the Plan, and to traffic with that, as a document which the
most scrupulous person in the world need not hesitate to purchase.

Resolving, after some consideration, to undergo the trouble of making
the copy rather than run the risk of purloining the book, Shrowl
descended to the kitchen, took from one of the drawers of the dresser
an old stump of a pen, a bottle of ink, and a crumpled half-sheet of
dirty letter-paper, and returned to the garret to copy the Plan as he
best might. It was of the simplest kind, and it occupied but a small
portion of the page; yet it presented to his eyes a hopelessly
involved and intricate appearance when he now examined it for the
second time.

The rooms were represented by rows of small squares, with names neatly
printed inside them; and the positions of doors, staircases, and
passages were indicated by parallel lines of various lengths and
breadths. After much cogitation, frowning, and pulling at his beard,
it occurred to Shrowl that the easiest method of copying the Plan
would be to cover it with the letter-paper--which, though hardly half
the size of the page, was large enough to spread over the engraving on
it--and then to trace the lines which he saw through the paper as
carefully as he could with his pen and ink. He puffed and snorted and
grumbled, and got red in the face over his task; but he accomplished
it at last--bating certain drawbacks in the shape of blots and
smears--in a sufficiently creditable manner; then stopped to let the
ink dry and to draw his breath freely, before he attempted to do any
thing more.

The next obstacle to be overcome consisted in the difficulty of
copying the names of the rooms, which were printed inside the squares.
Fortunately for Shrowl, who was one of the clumsiest of mankind in the
use of the pen, none of the names were very long. As it was, he found
the greatest difficulty in writing them in sufficiently small
characters to fit into the squares. One name in particular--that of
the Myrtle Room--presented combinations of letters, in the word
"Myrtle," which tried his patience and his fingers sorely when he
attempted to reproduce them. Indeed, the result, in this case, when he
had done his best, was so illegible, even to his eyes, that he wrote
the word over again in larger characters at the top of the page, and
connected it by a wavering line with the square which represented the
Myrtle Room. The same accident happened to him in two other instances,
and was remedied in the same way. With the rest of the names, however,
he succeeded better; and, when he had finally completed the business
of transcription by writing the title, "Plan of the North Side," his
copy presented, on the whole, a more respectable appearance than might
have been anticipated. After satisfying himself of its accuracy by a
careful comparison of it with the original, he folded it up along with
Doctor Chennery's letter, and deposited it in his pocket with a hoarse
gasp of relief and a grim smile of satisfaction.

The next morning the garden door of the cottage presented itself to
the public eye in the totally new aspect of standing hospitably ajar;
and one of the bare posts had the advantage of being embellished by
the figure of Shrowl, who leaned against it easily, with his legs
crossed, his hands in his pockets, and his pipe in his mouth, looking
out for the return of the messenger who had delivered Doctor
Chennery's letter the day before.



Traveling from London to Porthgenna, Mr. and Mrs. Frankland had
stopped, on the ninth of May, at the West Winston station. On the
eleventh of June they left it again to continue their journey to
Cornwall. On the thirteenth, after resting two nights upon the road,
they arrived toward the evening at Porthgenna Tower.

There had been storm and rain all the morning; it had lulled toward
the afternoon, and at the hour when they reached the house the wind
had dropped, a thick white fog hid the sea from view, and sudden
showers fell drearily from time to time over the sodden land. Not even
a solitary idler from the village was hanging about the west terrace
as the carriage containing Mr. and Mrs. Frankland, the baby, and the
two servants drove up to the house.

No one was waiting with the door open to receive the travelers; for
all hope of their arriving on that day had been given up, and the
ceaseless thundering of the surf, as the stormy sea surged in on the
beach beneath, drowned the roll of the carriage-wheels over the
terrace road. The driver was obliged to leave his seat and ring at the
bell for admittance. A minute or more elapsed before the door was
opened. With the rain falling sullen and steady on the roof of the
carriage, with the raw dampness of the atmosphere penetrating through
all coverings and defenses, with the booming of the surf sounding
threateningly near in the dense obscurity of the fog, the young couple
waited for admission to their own home, as strangers might have waited
who had called at an ill-chosen time.

When the door was opened at last, the master and mistress, whom the
servants would have welcomed with the proper congratulations on any
other occasion, were now received with the proper apologies instead.
Mr. Munder, Mrs. Pentreath, Betsey, and Mr. Frankland's man all
crowded together in the hall, and all begged pardon confusedly for
not having been ready at the door when the carriage drove up. The
appearance of the baby changed the conventional excuses of the
housekeeper and the maid into conventional expressions of admiration;
but the men remained grave and gloomy, and spoke of the miserable
weather apologetically, as if the rain and the fog had been of their
own making.

The reason for their persistency in dwelling on this one dreary topic
came out while Mr. and Mrs. Frankland were being conducted up the west
staircase. The storm of the morning had been fatal to three of the
Porthgenna fishermen, who had been lost with their boat at sea, and
whose deaths had thrown the whole village into mourning. The servants
had done nothing but talk of the catastrophe ever since the
intelligence of it had reached them early in the afternoon; and Mr.
Munder now thought it his duty to explain that the absence of the
villagers, on the occasion of the arrival of his master and mistress,
was entirely attributable to the effect produced among the little
community by the wreck of the fishing-boat. Under any less lamentable
circumstances the west terrace would have been crowded, and the
appearance of the carriage would have been welcomed with cheers.

"Lenny, I almost wish we had waited a little longer before we came
here," whispered Rosamond, nervously pressing her husband's arm. "It
is very dreary and disheartening to return to my first home on such a
day as this. That story of the poor fishermen is a sad story, love, to
welcome me back to the place of my birth. Let us send the first thing
to-morrow morning, and see what we can do for the poor helpless women
and children. I shall not feel easy in my mind, after hearing that
story, till we have done something to comfort them."

"I trust you will approve of the repairs, ma'am," said the
housekeeper, pointing to the staircase which led to the second story.

"The repairs?" said Rosamond, absently. "Repairs! I never hear the
word now, without thinking of the north rooms, and of the plans we
devised for getting my poor dear father to live in them. Mrs.
Pentreath, I have a host of questions to ask you and Mr. Munder about
all the extraordinary things that happened when the mysterious lady
and the incomprehensible foreigner came here. But tell me first--this
is the west front, I suppose?--how far are we from the north rooms? I
mean, how long would it take us to get to them, if we wanted to go now
to that part of the house?"

"Oh, dear me, ma'am, not five minutes!" answered Mrs. Pentreath.

"Not five minutes!" repeated Rosamond, whispering to her husband
again. "Do you hear that, Lenny? In five minutes we might be in the
Myrtle Room!"

"Yet," said Mr. Frankland, smiling, "in our present state of
ignorance, we are just as far from it as if we were at West Winston

"I can't think that, Lenny. It may be only my fancy, but now we are on
the spot I feel as if we had driven the mystery into its last
hiding-place. We are actually in the house that holds the Secret; and
nothing will persuade me that we are not half-way already toward
finding it out. But don't let us stop on this cold landing. Which way
are we to go next?"

"This way, ma'am," said Mr. Munder, seizing the first opportunity of
placing himself in a prominent position. "There is a fire in the
drawing-room. Will you allow me the honor of leading and conducting
you, Sir, to the apartment in question?" he added, officiously
stretching out his hand to Mr. Frankland.

"Certainly not!" interposed Rosamond sharply. She had noticed with her
usual quickness of observation that Mr. Munder wanted the delicacy of
feeling which ought to have restrained him from staring curiously at
his blind master in her presence, and she was unfavorably disposed
toward him in consequence. "Wherever the apartment in question may
happen to be," she continued with satirical emphasis, "I will lead Mr.
Frankland to it, if you please. If you want to make yourself useful,
you had better go on before us, and open the door."

Outwardly crest-fallen, but inwardly indignant, Mr. Munder led the way
to the drawing-room. The fire burned brightly, the old-fashioned
furniture displayed itself to the most picturesque advantage, the
paper on the walls looked comfortably mellow, the carpet, faded as it
was, felt soft and warm underfoot. Rosamond led her husband to an easy
chair by the fireside, and began to feel at home for the first time.

"This looks really comfortable," she said. "When we have shut out that
dreary white fog, and the candles are lit, and the tea is on the
table, we shall have nothing in the world to complain of. You enjoy
this nice warm atmosphere, don't you, Lenny? There is a piano in the
room, my dear; I can play to you in the evening at Porthgenna just as
I used in London. Nurse, sit down and make yourself and the baby as
comfortable as you can. Before we take our bonnets off, I must go away
with Mrs. Pentreath and see about the bedrooms. What is your name, you
very rosy, good-natured looking girl? Betsey, is it? Well, then,
Betsey, suppose you go down and get the tea; and we shall like you all
the better if you can contrive to bring us some cold meat with it."
Giving her orders in those good-humored terms, and not noticing that
her husband looked a little uneasy while she was talking so familiarly
to a servant, Rosamond left the room in company with Mrs. Pentreath.

When she returned, her face and manner were altered: she looked and
spoke seriously and quietly.

"I hope I have arranged every thing for the best, Lenny," she said.
"The airiest and largest room, Mrs. Pentreath tells me, is the room in
which my mother died. But I thought we had better not make use of
that: I felt as if it chilled and saddened me only to look at it.
Farther on, along the passage, there is a room that was my nursery. I
almost fancied, when Mrs. Pentreath told me she had heard I used to
sleep there, that I remembered the pretty little arched door-way
leading into the second room--the night-nursery it used to be called
in former days. I have ordered the fire to be lit there, and the beds
to be made. There is a third room on the right hand, which
communicates with the day-nursery. I think we might manage to
establish ourselves very comfortably in the three rooms--if you felt
no objection--though they are not so large or so grandly furnished as
the company bedrooms. I will change the arrangement, if you like--but
the house looks rather lonesome and dreary, just at first--and my
heart warms to the old nursery--and I think we might at least try it,
to begin with, don't you, Lenny?"

Mr. Frankland was quite of his wife's opinion, and was ready to accede
to any domestic arrangements that she might think fit to make. While
he was assuring her of this the tea came up, and the sight of it
helped to restore Rosamond to her usual spirits. When the meal was
over, she occupied herself in seeing the baby comfortably established
for the night, in the room on the right hand which communicated with
the day-nursery. That maternal duty performed, she came back to her
husband in the drawing-room; and the conversation between them
turned--as it almost always turned now when they were alone--on the
two perplexing subjects of Mrs. Jazeph and the Myrtle Room.

"I wish it was not night," said Rosamond. "I should like to begin
exploring at once. Mind, Lenny, you must be with me in all my
investigations. I lend you my eyes, and you give me your advice. You
must never lose patience, and never tell me that you can be of no use.
How I do wish we were starting on our voyage of discovery at this very
moment! But we may make inquiries, at any rate," she continued,
ringing the bell. "Let us have the housekeeper and the steward up, and
try if we can't make them tell us something more than they told us in
their letter."

The bell was answered by Betsey. Rosamond desired that Mr. Munder and
Mrs. Pentreath might be sent up stairs. Betsey having heard Mrs.
Frankland express her intention of questioning the housekeeper and the
steward, guessed why they were wanted, and smiled mysteriously.

"Did _you_ see any thing of those strange visitors who behaved so
oddly?" asked Rosamond, detecting the smile. "Yes, I am sure you did.
Tell us what you saw. We want to hear every thing that happened--every
thing, down to the smallest trifle."

Appealed to in these direct terms, Betsey contrived, with much
circumlocution and confusion, to relate what her own personal
experience had been of the proceedings of Mrs. Jazeph and her foreign
companion. When she had done, Rosamond stopped her on her way to the
door by asking this question--

"You say the lady was found lying in a fainting-fit at the top of the
stairs. Have you any notion, Betsey, why she fainted?"

The servant hesitated.

"Come! come!" said Rosamond. "You have some notion, I can see. Tell us
what it is."

"I'm afraid you will be angry with me, ma'am," said Betsey, expressing
embarrassment by drawing lines slowly with her forefinger on a table
at her side.

"Nonsense! I shall only be angry with you if you won't speak. Why do
you think the lady fainted?"

Betsey drew a very long line with her embarrassed forefinger, wiped it
afterward on her apron, and answered--

"I think she fainted, if you please, ma'am, because she see the

"The ghost! What! is there a ghost in the house? Lenny, here is a
romance that we never expected. What sort of ghost is it? Let us have
the whole story."

The whole story, as Betsey told it, was not of a nature to afford her
hearers any extraordinary information, or to keep them very long in
suspense. The ghost was a lady who had been at a remote period the
wife of one of the owners of Porthgenna Tower, and who had been guilty
of deceiving her husband in some way unknown. She had been condemned
in consequence to walk about the north rooms as long as ever the walls
of them held together. She had long, curling, light-brown hair, and
very white teeth, and a dimple in each cheek, and was altogether
"awful beautiful" to look at. Her approach was heralded to any mortal
creature who was unfortunate enough to fall in her way by the blowing
of a cold wind, and nobody who had once felt that wind had the
slightest chance of ever feeling warm again. That was all Betsey knew
about the ghost; and it was in her opinion enough to freeze a person's
blood only to think of it.

Rosamond smiled, then looked grave again. "I wish you could have told
us a little more," she said. "But, as you can not, we must try Mrs.
Pentreath and Mr. Munder next. Send them up here, if you please,
Betsey, as soon as you get down stairs."

The examination of the housekeeper and the steward led to no result
whatever. Nothing more than they had already communicated in their
letter to Mrs. Frankland could be extracted from either of them. Mr.
Munder's dominant idea was that the foreigner had entered the doors of
Porthgenna Tower with felonious ideas on the subject of the family
plate. Mrs. Pentreath concurred in that opinion, and mentioned, in
connection with it, her own private impression that the lady in the
quiet dress was an unfortunate person who had escaped from a
mad-house. As to giving a word of advice, or suggesting a plan for
solving the mystery, neither the housekeeper nor the steward appeared
to think that the rendering of any assistance of that sort lay at all
within their province. They took their own practical view of the
suspicious conduct of the two strangers, and no mortal power could
persuade them to look an inch beyond it.

"Oh, the stupidity, the provoking, impenetrable, pretentious stupidity
of respectable English servants!" exclaimed Rosamond, when she and her
husband were alone again. "No help, Lenny, to be hoped for from either
of those two people. We have nothing to trust to now but the
examination of the house to-morrow; and that resource may fail us,
like all the rest. What can Doctor Chennery be about? Why did we not
hear from him before we left West Winston?"

"Patience, Rosamond, patience. We shall see what the post brings

"Pray don't talk about patience, dear! My stock of that virtue was
never a very large one, and it was all exhausted ten days ago, at
least. Oh, the weeks and weeks I have been vainly asking myself--Why
should Mrs. Jazeph warn me against going into the Myrtle Room? Is she
afraid of my discovering a crime? or afraid of my tumbling through the
floor? What did she want to do in the room, when she made that attempt
to get into it? Why, in the name of wonder, should she know something
about this house that I never knew, that my father never knew, that
nobody else--"

"Rosamond!" cried Mr. Frankland, suddenly changing color, and starting
in his chair--"I think I can guess who Mrs. Jazeph is!"

"Good gracious, Lenny! What do you mean?"

"Something in those last words of yours started the idea in my mind
the instant you spoke. Do you remember, when we were staying at St.
Swithin's-on-Sea, and talking about the chances for and against our
prevailing on your father to live with us here--do you remember,
Rosamond, telling me at that time of certain unpleasant associations
which he had with the house, and mentioning among them the mysterious
disappearance of a servant on the morning of your mother's death?"

Rosamond turned pale at the question. "How came we never to think of
that before?" she said.

"You told me," pursued Mr. Frankland, "that this servant left a
strange letter behind her, in which she confessed that your mother had
charged her with the duty of telling a secret to your father--a secret
that she was afraid to divulge, and that she was afraid of being
questioned about. I am right, am I not, in stating those two reasons
as the reasons she gave for her disappearance?"

"Quite right."

"And your father never heard of her again?"


"It is a bold guess to make, Rosamond, but the impression is strong on
my mind that, on the day when Mrs. Jazeph came into your room at West
Winston, you and that servant met, and _she_ knew it!"

"And the Secret, dear--the Secret she was afraid to tell my father?"

"Must be in some way connected with the Myrtle Room."

Rosamond said nothing in answer. She rose from her chair, and began to
walk agitatedly up and down the room. Hearing the rustle of her dress,
Leonard called her to him, and, taking her hand, laid his fingers on
her pulse, and then lifted them for a moment to her cheek.

"I wish I had waited until to-morrow morning before I told you my idea
about Mrs. Jazeph," he said. "I have agitated you to no purpose
whatever, and have spoiled your chance of a good night's rest."

"No, no! nothing of the kind. Oh, Lenny, how this guess of yours adds
to the interest--the fearful, breathless interest--we have in tracing
that woman, and in finding out the Myrtle Room. Do you think--?"

"I have done with thinking for the night, my dear; and you must have
done with it too. We have said more than enough about Mrs. Jazeph
already. Change the subject, and I will talk of any thing else you

"It is not so easy to change the subject," said Rosamond, pouting, and
moving away to walk up and down the room again.

"Then let us change the place, and make it easier that way. I know you
think me the most provokingly obstinate man in the world, but there is
reason in my obstinacy, and you will acknowledge as much when you
awake to-morrow morning refreshed by a good night's rest. Come, let us
give our anxieties a holiday. Take me into one of the other rooms, and
let me try if I can guess what it is like by touching the furniture."

The reference to his blindness which the last words contained brought
Rosamond to his side in a moment. "You always know best," she said,
putting her arm round his neck and kissing him. "I was looking cross,
love, a minute ago, but the clouds are all gone now. We will change
the scene, and explore some other room, as you propose."

She paused, her eyes suddenly sparkled, her color rose, and she smiled
to herself as if some new fancy had that instant crossed her mind.

"Lenny, I will take you where you shall touch a very remarkable piece
of furniture indeed," she resumed, leading him to the door while she
spoke. "We will see if you can tell me at once what it is like. You
must not be impatient, mind; and you must promise to touch nothing
till you feel me guiding your hand."

She drew him after her along the passage, opened the door of the room
in which the baby had been put to bed, made a sign to the nurse to be
silent, and, leading Leonard up to the cot, guided his hand down
gently, so as to let the tips of his fingers touch the child's cheek.

"There, Sir!" she cried, her face beaming with happiness as she saw
the sudden flush of surprise and pleasure which changed her husband's
natural quiet, subdued expression in an instant. "What do you say to
that piece of furniture? Is it a chair, or a table? Or is it the most
precious thing in all the house, in all Cornwall, in all England, in
all the world? Kiss it, and see what it is--a bust of a baby by a
sculptor, or a living cherub by your wife!" She turned, laughing, to
the nurse--"Hannah, you look so serious that I am sure you must be
hungry. Have you had your supper yet?" The woman smiled, and answered
that she had arranged to go down stairs, as soon as one of the
servants could relieve her in taking care of the child. "Go at once,"
said Rosamond. "I will stop here and look after the baby. Get your
supper, and come back again in half an hour."

When the nurse had left the room, Rosamond placed a chair for Leonard
by the side of the cot, and seated herself on a low stool at his
knees. Her variable disposition seemed to change again when she did
this; her face grew thoughtful, her eyes softened, as they turned, now
on her husband, now on the bed in which the child was sleeping by his
side. After a minute or two of silence, she took one of his hands,
placed it on his knee, and laid her cheek gently down on it.

"Lenny," she said, rather sadly, "I wonder whether we are any of us
capable of feeling perfect happiness in this world?"

"What makes you ask that question, my dear?"

"I fancy that I could feel perfect happiness, and yet--"

"And yet what?"

"And yet it seems as if, with all my blessings, that blessing was
never likely to be granted to me. I should be perfectly happy now but
for one little thing. I suppose you can't guess what that thing is?"

"I would rather you told me, Rosamond."

"Ever since our child was born, love, I have had a little aching at
the heart--especially when we are all three together, as we are now--a
little sorrow that I can't quite put away from me on your account."

"On my account! Lift up your head, Rosamond, and come nearer to me. I
feel something on my hand which tells me that you are crying."

She rose directly, and laid her face close to his. "My own love," she
said, clasping her arms fast round him. "My own heart's darling, you
have never seen our child."

"Yes, Rosamond, I see him with your eyes."

"Oh, Lenny! I tell you every thing I can--I do my best to lighten the
cruel, cruel darkness which shuts you out from that lovely little face
lying so close to you! But can I tell you how he looks when he first
begins to take notice? can I tell you all the thousand pretty things
he will do when he first tries to talk? God has been very merciful to
us--but, oh, how much more heavily the sense of your affliction weighs
on me now when I am more to you than your wife--now when I am the
mother of your child!"

"And yet that affliction ought to weigh lightly on your spirits,
Rosamond, for you have made it weigh lightly on mine."

"Have I? Really and truly, have I? It is something noble to live for,
Lenny, if I can live for that! It is some comfort to hear you say, as
you said just now, that you see with my eyes. They shall always serve
you--oh, always! always!--as faithfully as if they were your own. The
veriest trifle of a visible thing that I look at with any interest,
you shall as good as look at too. I might have had my own little
harmless secrets, dear, with another husband; but with you to have
even so much as a thought in secret seems like taking the basest, the
cruelest advantage of your blindness. I do love you so, Lenny! I am so
much fonder of you now than I was when we were first married--I never
thought I should be, but I am. You are so much handsomer to me, so
much cleverer to me, so much more precious to me in every way. But I
am always telling you that, am I not? Do you get tired of hearing me?
No? Are you sure of that? Very, very, very sure?" She stopped, and
looked at him earnestly, with a smile on her lips, and the tears still
glistening in her eyes. Just then the child stirred a little in his
cot, and drew her attention away. She arranged the bed-clothes over
him, watched him in silence for a little while, then sat down again on
the stool at Leonard's feet. "Baby has turned his face quite round
toward you now," she said. "Shall I tell you exactly how he looks, and
what his bed is like, and how the room is furnished?"

Without waiting for an answer, she began to describe the child's
appearance and position with the marvelous minuteness of a woman's
observation. While she proceeded, her elastic spirits recovered
themselves, and its naturally bright happy expression re-appeared on
her face. By the time the nurse returned to her post, Rosamond was
talking with all her accustomed vivacity, and amusing her husband with
all her accustomed success.

When they went back to the drawing-room, she opened the piano and sat
down to play. "I must give you your usual evening concert, Lenny," she
said, "or I shall be talking again on the forbidden subject of the
Myrtle Room."

She played some of Mr. Frankland's favorite airs, with a certain union
of feeling and fancifulness in her execution of the music, which
seemed to blend the charm of her own disposition with the charm of the
melodies which sprang into life under her touch. After playing through
the airs she could remember most easily, she ended with the Last Waltz
of Weber. It was Leonard's favorite, and it was always reserved on
that account to grace the close of the evening's performance.

She lingered longer than usual over the last plaintive notes of the
waltz; then suddenly left the piano, and hastened across the room to
the fire-place.

"Surely it has turned much colder within the last minute or two," she
said, kneeling down on the rug, and holding her face and hands over
the fire.

"Has it?" returned Leonard. "I don't feel any change."

"Perhaps I have caught cold," said Rosamond. "Or perhaps," she added,
laughing rather uneasily, "the wind that goes before the ghostly lady
of the north rooms has been blowing over me. I certainly felt
something like a sudden chill, Lenny, while I was playing the last
notes of Weber."

"Nonsense, Rosamond. You are overfatigued and overexcited. Tell your
maid to make you some hot wine and water, and lose no time in getting
to bed."

Rosamond cowered closer over the fire. "It's lucky I am not
superstitious," she said, "or I might fancy that I was predestined to
see the ghost."



The first night at Porthgenna passed without the slightest noise or
interruption of any kind. No ghost, or dream of a ghost, disturbed the
soundness of Rosamond's slumbers. She awoke in her usual spirits and
her usual health, and was out in the west garden before breakfast.

The sky was cloudy, and the wind veered about capriciously to all the
points of the compass. In the course of her walk Rosamond met with the
gardener, and asked him what he thought about the weather. The man
replied that it might rain again before noon, but that, unless he was
very much mistaken, it was going to turn to heat in the course of the
next four-and-twenty hours.

"Pray, did you ever hear of a room on the north side of our old house
called the Myrtle Room?" inquired Rosamond. She had resolved, on
rising that morning, not to lose a chance of making the all-important
discovery for want of asking questions of every body in the
neighborhood; and she began with the gardener accordingly.

"I never heard tell of it, ma'am," said the man. "But it's a likely
name enough, considering how the myrtles do grow in these parts."

"Are there any myrtles growing at the north side of the house?" asked
Rosamond, struck with the idea of tracing the mysterious room by
searching for it outside the building instead of inside. "I mean close
to the walls," she added, seeing the man look puzzled; "under the
windows, you know?"

"I never see any thing under the windows in my time but weeds and
rubbish," replied the gardener.

Just then the breakfast-bell rang. Rosamond returned to the house,
determined to explore the north garden, and if she found any relic of
a bed of myrtles to mark the window above it, and to have the room
which that window lighted opened immediately. She confided this new
scheme to her husband. He complimented her on her ingenuity, but
confessed that he had no great hope of any discoveries being made out
of doors, after what the gardener had said about the weeds and

As soon as breakfast was over, Rosamond rang the bell to order the
gardener to be in attendance, and to say that the keys of the north
rooms would be wanted. The summons was answered by Mr. Frankland's
servant, who brought up with him the morning's supply of letters,
which the postman had just delivered. Rosamond turned them over
eagerly, pounced on one with an exclamation of delight, and said to
her husband--"The Long Beckley postmark! News from the vicar, at

She opened the letter and ran her eye over it--then suddenly dropped
it in her lap with her face all in a glow. "Lenny!" she exclaimed,
"there is news here that is positively enough to turn one's head. I
declare the vicar's letter has quite taken away my breath!"

"Read it," said Mr. Frankland; "pray read it at once."

Rosamond complied with the request in a very faltering, unsteady
voice. Doctor Chennery began his letter by announcing that his
application to Andrew Treverton had remained unanswered; but he added
that it had, nevertheless, produced results which no one could
possibly have anticipated. For information on the subject of those
results, he referred Mr. and Mrs. Frankland to a copy subjoined of a
communication marked private, which he had received from his man of
business in London.

The communication contained a detailed report of an interview which
had taken place between Mr. Treverton's servant and the messenger who
had called for an answer to Doctor Chennery's letter. Shrowl, it
appeared, had opened the interview by delivering his master's message,
had then produced the vicar's torn letter and the copy of the Plan,
and had announced his readiness to part with the latter for the
consideration of a five-pound note. The messenger had explained that
he had no power to treat for the document, and had advised Mr.
Treverton's servant to wait on Doctor Chennery's agent. After some
hesitation, Shrowl had decided to do this, on pretense of going out on
an errand--had seen the agent--had been questioned about how he became
possessed of the copy--and, finding that there would be no chance of
disposing of it unless he answered all inquiries, had related the
circumstances under which the copy had been made. After hearing his
statement, the agent had engaged to apply immediately for instructions
to Doctor Chennery; and had written accordingly, mentioning in a
postscript that he had seen the transcribed Plan, and had ascertained
that it really exhibited the positions of doors, staircases, and
rooms, with the names attached to them.

Resuming his own letter, Doctor Chennery proceeded to say that he must
now leave it entirely to Mr. and Mrs. Frankland to decide what course
they ought to adopt. He had already compromised himself a little in
his own estimation, by assuming a character which really did not
belong to him, when he made his application to Andrew Treverton; and
he felt he could personally venture no further in the affair, either
by expressing an opinion or giving any advice, now that it had assumed
such a totally new aspect. He felt quite sure that his young friends
would arrive at the wise and the right decision, after they had
maturely considered the matter in all its bearings. In that
conviction, he had instructed his man of business not to stir in the
affair until he had heard from Mr. Frankland, and to be guided
entirely by any directions which that gentleman might give.

"Directions!" exclaimed Rosamond, crumpling up the letter in a high
state of excitement as soon as she had read to the end of it. "All the
directions we have to give may be written in a minute and read in a
second! What in the world does the vicar mean by talking about mature
consideration? Of course," cried Rosamond, looking, womanlike,
straight on to the purpose she had in view, without wasting a thought
on the means by which it was to be achieved--"Of course we give the
man his five-pound note, and get the Plan by return of post!"

Mr. Frankland shook his head gravely. "Quite impossible," he said. "If
you think for a moment, my dear, you will surely see that it is out of
the question to traffic with a servant for information that has been
surreptitiously obtained from his master's library."

"Oh, dear! dear! don't say that!" pleaded Rosamond, looking quite
aghast at the view her husband took of the matter. "What harm are we
doing, if we give the man his five pounds? He has only made a copy of
the Plan: he has not stolen any thing."

"He has stolen information, according to my idea of it," said Leonard.

"Well, but if he has," persisted Rosamond, "what harm does it do to
his master? In my opinion his master deserves to have the information
stolen, for not having had the common politeness to send it to the
vicar. We _must_ have the Plan--oh, Lenny, don't shake your head,
please!--we must have it, you know we must! What is the use of being
scrupulous with an old wretch (I must call him so, though he _is_ my
uncle) who won't conform to the commonest usages of society? You can't
deal with him--and I am sure the vicar would say so, if he was
here--as you would with civilized people, or people in their senses,
which every body says he is not. What use is the Plan of the north
rooms to him? And, besides, if it is of any use, he has got the
original; so his information is not stolen, after all, because he has
got it the whole time--has he not, dear?"

"Rosamond! Rosamond!" said Leonard, smiling at his wife's transparent
sophistries, "you are trying to reason like a Jesuit."

"I don't care who I reason like, love, as long as I get the Plan."

Mr. Frankland still shook his head. Finding her arguments of no avail,
Rosamond wisely resorted to the immemorial weapon of her
sex--Persuasion; using it at such close quarters and to such good
purposes that she finally won her husband's reluctant consent to a
species of compromise, which granted her leave to give directions for
purchasing the copied Plan on one condition.

This condition was that they should send back the Plan to Mr.
Treverton as soon as it had served their purpose; making a full
acknowledgment to him of the manner in which it had been obtained, and
pleading in justification of the proceeding his own want of courtesy
in withholding information, of no consequence in itself, which any one
else in his place would have communicated as a matter of course.
Rosamond tried hard to obtain the withdrawal or modification of this
condition; but her husband's sensitive pride was not to be touched, on
that point, with impunity, even by her light hand. "I have done too
much violence already to my own convictions," he said, "and I will now
do no more. If we are to degrade ourselves by dealing with this
servant, let us at least prevent him from claiming us as his
accomplices. Write in my name, Rosamond, to Doctor Chennery's man of
business, and say that we are willing to purchase the transcribed Plan
on the condition that I have stated--which condition he will of course
place before the servant in the plainest possible terms."

"And suppose the servant refuses to risk losing his place, which he
must do if he accepts your condition?" said Rosamond, going rather
reluctantly to the writing-table.

"Let us not worry ourselves, my dear, by supposing any thing. Let us
wait and hear what happens, and act accordingly. When you are ready to
write, tell me, and I will dictate your letter on this occasion. I
wish to make the vicar's man of business understand that we act as we
do, knowing, in the first place, that Mr. Andrew Treverton can not be
dealt with according to the established usages of society; and
knowing, in the second place, that the information which his servant
offers to us is contained in an extract from a printed book, and is in
no way, directly or indirectly, connected with Mr. Treverton's private
affairs. Now that you have made me consent to this compromise,
Rosamond, I must justify it as completely as possible to others as
well as to myself."

Seeing that his resolution was firmly settled, Rosamond had tact
enough to abstain from saying any thing more. The letter was written
exactly as Leonard dictated it. When it had been placed in the
post-bag, and when the other letters of the morning had been read and
answered, Mr. Frankland reminded his wife of the intention she had
expressed at breakfast-time of visiting the north garden, and
requested that she would take him there with her. He candidly
acknowledged that, since he had been made acquainted with Doctor
Chennery's letter, he would give five times the sum demanded by Shrowl
for the copy of the Plan if the Myrtle Room could be discovered,
without assistance from any one, before the letter to the vicar's man
of business was put into the post. Nothing would give him so much
pleasure, he said, as to be able to throw it into the fire, and to
send a plain refusal to treat for the Plan in its place.

They went into the north garden, and there Rosamond's own eyes
convinced her that she had not the slightest chance of discovering any
vestige of a myrtle-bed near any one of the windows. From the garden
they returned to the house, and had the door opened that led into the
north hall.

They were shown the place on the pavement where the keys had been
found, and the place at the top of the first flight of stairs where
Mrs. Jazeph had been discovered when the alarm was given. At Mr.
Frankland's suggestion, the door of the room which immediately fronted
this spot was opened. It presented a dreary spectacle of dust and dirt
and dimness. Some old pictures were piled against one of the walls,
some tattered chairs were heaped together in the middle of the floor,
some broken china lay on the mantel-piece, and a rotten cabinet,
cracked through from top to bottom, stood in one corner. These few
relics of the furnishing and fitting-up of the room were all carefully
examined, but nothing of the smallest importance--nothing tending in
the most remote degree to clear up the mystery of the Myrtle
Room--was discovered.

"Shall we have the other doors opened?" inquired Rosamond when they
came out on the landing again.

"I think it will be useless," replied her husband. "Our only hope of
finding out the mystery of the Myrtle Room--if it is as deeply hidden
from us as I believe it to be--is by searching for it in that room,
and no other. The search, to be effectual, must extend, if we find it
necessary, to the pulling up of the floor and wainscots--perhaps even
to the dismantling of the walls. We may do that with one room when we
know where it is, but we can not, by any process short of pulling the
whole side of the house down, do it with the sixteen rooms, through
which our present ignorance condemns us to wander without guide or
clew. It is hopeless enough to be looking for we know not what; but
let us discover, if we can, where the four walls are within which that
unpromising search must begin and end. Surely the floor of the landing
must be dusty? Are there no foot-marks on it, after Mrs. Jazeph's
visit, that might lead us to the right door?"

This suggestion led to a search for footsteps on the dusty floor of
the landing, but nothing of the sort could be found. Matting had been
laid down over the floor at some former period, and the surface, torn,
ragged, and rotten with age, was too uneven in every part to allow the
dust to lie smoothly on it. Here and there, where there was a hole
through to the boards of the landing, Mr. Frankland's servant thought
he detected marks in the dust which might have been produced by the
toe or the heel of a shoe; but these faint and doubtful indications
lay yards and yards apart from each other, and to draw any conclusion
of the slightest importance from them was simply and plainly
impossible. After spending more than an hour in examining the north
side of the house, Rosamond was obliged to confess that the servants
were right when they predicted, on first opening the door in the hall,
that she would discover nothing.

"The letter must go, Lenny," she said, when they returned to the

"There is no help for it," answered her husband. "Send away the
post-bag, and let us say no more about it."

The letter was dispatched by that day's post. In the remote position
of Porthgenna, and in the unfinished state of the railroad at that
time, two days would elapse before an answer from London could be
reasonably hoped for. Feeling that it would be better for Rosamond if
this period of suspense was passed out of the house, Mr. Frankland
proposed to fill up the time by a little excursion along the coast to
some places famous for their scenery, which would be likely to
interest his wife, and which she might occupy herself pleasantly in
describing on the spot for the benefit of her husband. This suggestion
was immediately acted on. The young couple left Porthgenna, and only
returned on the evening of the second day.

On the morning of the third day the longed-for letter from the vicar's
man of business lay on the table when Leonard and Rosamond entered the
breakfast-room. Shrowl had decided to accept Mr. Frankland's
condition--first, because he held that any man must be out of his
senses who refused a five-pound note when it was offered to him;
secondly, because he believed that his master was too absolutely
dependent on him to turn him away for any cause whatever; thirdly,
because, if Mr. Treverton did part with him, he was not sufficiently
attached to his place to care at all about losing it. Accordingly the
bargain had been struck in five minutes--and there was the copy of the
Plan, inclosed with the letter of explanation to attest the fact!

Rosamond spread the all-important document out on the table with
trembling hands, looked it over eagerly for a few moments, and laid
her finger on the square that represented the position of the Myrtle

"Here it is!" she cried. "Oh, Lenny, how my heart beats! One, two,
three, four--the fourth door on the first-floor landing is the door of
the Myrtle Room!"

She would have called at once for the keys of the north rooms; but her
husband insisted on her waiting until she had composed herself a
little, and until she had taken some breakfast. In spite of all he
could say, the meal was hurried over so rapidly that in ten minutes
more his wife's arm was in his, and she was leading him to the

The gardener's prognostication about the weather had been verified: it
had turned to heat--heavy, misty, vaporous, dull heat. One white
quivering fog-cloud spread thinly over all the heaven, rolled down
seaward on the horizon line, and dulled the sharp edges of the distant
moorland view. The sunlight shone pale and trembling; the lightest,
highest leaves of flowers at open windows were still; the domestic
animals lay about sleepily in dark corners. Chance household noises
sounded heavy and loud in the languid, airless stillness which the
heat seemed to hold over the earth. Down in the servants' hall, the
usual bustle of morning work was suspended. When Rosamond looked in,
on her way to the housekeeper's room to get the keys, the women were
fanning themselves, and the men were sitting with their coats off.
They were all talking peevishly about the heat, and all agreeing that
such a day as that, in the month of June, they had never known and
never heard of before.

Rosamond took the keys, declined the housekeeper's offer to accompany
her, and leading her husband along the passages, unlocked the door of
the north hall.

"How unnaturally cool it is here!" she said, as they entered the
deserted place.

At the foot of the stairs she stopped, and took a firmer hold of her
husband's arm.

"Is any thing the matter?" asked Leonard. "Is the change to the damp
coolness of this place affecting you in any way?"

"No, no," she answered hastily. "I am far too excited to feel either
heat or damp, as I might feel them at other times. But, Lenny,
supposing your guess about Mrs. Jazeph is right?--"


"And, supposing we discover the Secret of the Myrtle Room, might it
not turn out to be something concerning my father or my mother which
we ought not to know? I thought of that when Mrs. Pentreath offered to
accompany us, and it determined me to come here alone with you."

"It is just as likely that the Secret might be something we ought to
know," replied Mr. Frankland, after a moment's thought. "In any case,
my idea about Mrs. Jazeph is, after all, only a guess in the dark.
However, Rosamond, if you feel any hesitation--"

"No! come what may of it, Lenny, we can't go back now. Give me your
hand again. We have traced the mystery thus far together, and together
we will find it out."

She ascended the staircase, leading him after her, as she spoke. On
the landing she looked again at the Plan, and satisfied herself that
the first impression she had derived from it, of the position of the
Myrtle Room, was correct. She counted the doors on to the fourth, and
looked out from the bunch the key numbered "IV.," and put it in the

Before she turned it she paused, and looked round at her husband.

He was standing by her side, with his patient face turned expectantly
toward the door. She put her right hand on the key, turned it slowly
in the lock, drew him closer to her with her left hand, and paused

"I don't know what has come to me," she whispered faintly. "I feel as
if I was afraid to push open the door."

"Your hand is cold, Rosamond. Wait a little--lock the door again--put
it off till another day."

He felt his wife's fingers close tighter and tighter on his hand while
he said those words. Then there was an instant--one memorable,
breathless instant, never to be forgotten afterward--of utter silence.
Then he heard the sharp, cracking sound of the opening door, and felt
himself drawn forward suddenly into a changed atmosphere, and knew
that Rosamond and he were in the Myrtle Room.




A broad, square window, with small panes and dark sashes; dreary
yellow light, glimmering through the dirt of half a century crusted on
the glass; purer rays striking across the dimness through the fissures
of three broken panes; dust floating upward, pouring downward, rolling
smoothly round and round in the still atmosphere; lofty, bare, faded
red walls; chairs in confusion, tables placed awry; a tall black
book-case, with an open door half dropping from its hinges; a
pedestal, with a broken bust lying in fragments at its feet; a ceiling
darkened by stains, a floor whitened by dust--such was the aspect
of the Myrtle Room when Rosamond first entered it, leading her husband
by the hand.

After passing the door-way, she slowly advanced a few steps, and then
stopped, waiting with every sense on the watch, with every faculty
strung up to the highest pitch of expectation--waiting in the ominous
stillness, in the forlorn solitude, for the vague Something which the
room might contain, which might rise visibly before her, which might
sound audibly behind her, which might touch her on a sudden from
above, from below, from either side. A minute or more she breathlessly
waited; and nothing appeared, nothing sounded, nothing touched her.
The silence and the solitude had their secret to keep, and kept it.

She looked round at her husband. His face, so quiet and composed at
other times, expressed doubt and uneasiness now. His disengaged hand
was outstretched, and moving backward and forward and up and down, in
the vain attempt to touch something which might enable him to guess at
the position in which he was placed. His look and action, as he stood
in that new and strange sphere, the mute appeal which he made so sadly
and so unconsciously to his wife's loving help, restored Rosamond's
self-possession by recalling her heart to the dearest of all its
interests, to the holiest of all its cares. Her eyes, fixed so
distrustfully but the moment before on the dreary spectacle of neglect
and ruin which spread around them, turned fondly to her husband's
face, radiant with the unfathomable brightness of pity and love. She
bent quickly across him, caught his outstretched arm, and pressed it
to his side.

"Don't do that, darling," she said, gently; "I don't like to see it.
It looks as if you had forgotten that I was with you--as if you were
left alone and helpless. What need have you of your sense of touch,
when you have got _me_? Did you hear me open the door, Lenny? Do you
know that we are in the Myrtle Room?"

"What did you see, Rosamond, when you opened the door? What do you see
now?" He asked those questions rapidly and eagerly, in a whisper.

"Nothing but dust and dirt and desolation. The loneliest moor in
Cornwall is not so lonely looking as this room; but there is nothing
to alarm us, nothing (except one's own fancy) that suggests an idea of
danger of any kind."

"What made you so long before you spoke to me, Rosamond?"

"I was frightened, love, on first entering the room--not at what I
saw, but at my own fanciful ideas of what I might see. I was child
enough to be afraid of something starting out of the walls, or of
something rising through the floor; in short, of I hardly know what. I
have got over those fears, Lenny, but a certain distrust of the room
still clings to me. Do you feel it?"

"I feel something like it," he replied, uneasily. "I feel as if the
night that is always before my eyes was darker to me in this place
than in any other. Where are we standing now?"

"Just inside the door."

"Does the floor look safe to walk on?" He tried it suspiciously with
his foot as he put the question.

"Quite safe," replied Rosamond. "It would never support the furniture
that is on it if it was so rotten as to be dangerous. Come across the
room with me, and try it." With these words she led him slowly to the

"The air seems as if it was nearer to me," he said, bending his face
forward toward the lowest of the broken panes. "What is before us

She told him, describing minutely the size and appearance of the
window. He turned from it carelessly, as if that part of the room had
no interest for him. Rosamond still lingered near the window, to try
if she could feel a breath of the outer atmosphere. There was a
momentary silence, which was broken by her husband.

"What are you doing now?" he asked anxiously.

"I am looking out at one of the broken panes of glass, and trying to
get some air," answered Rosamond. "The shadow of the house is below
me, resting on the lonely garden; but there is no coolness breathing
up from it. I see the tall weeds rising straight and still, and the
tangled wild-flowers interlacing themselves heavily. There is a tree
near me, and the leaves look as if they were all struck motionless.
Away to the left, there is a peep of white sea and tawny sand
quivering in the yellow heat. There are no clouds; there is no blue
sky. The mist quenches the brightness of the sunlight, and lets
nothing but the fire of it through. There is something threatening in
the sky, and the earth seems to know it!"

"But the room! the room!" said Leonard, drawing her aside from the
window. "Never mind the view; tell me what the room is like--exactly
what it is like. I shall not feel easy about you, Rosamond, if you
don't describe every thing to me just as it is."

"My darling! You know you can depend on my describing every thing. I
am only doubting where to begin, and how to make sure of seeing for
you what you are likely to think most worth looking at. Here is an old
ottoman against the wall--the wall where the window is. I will take
off my apron and dust the seat for you; and then you can sit down and
listen comfortably while I tell you, before we think of any thing
else, what the room is like, to begin with. First of all, I suppose, I
must make you understand how large it is?"

"Yes, that is the first thing. Try if you can compare it with any room
that I was familiar with before I lost my sight."

Rosamond looked backward and forward, from wall to wall--then went to
the fire-place, and walked slowly down the length of the room,
counting her steps. Pacing over the dusty floor with a dainty
regularity and a childish satisfaction in looking down at the gay pink
rosettes on her morning shoes; holding up her crisp, bright muslin
dress out of the dirt, and showing the fanciful embroidery of her
petticoat, and the glossy stockings that fitted her little feet and
ankles like a second skin, she moved through the dreariness, the
desolation, the dingy ruin of the scene around her, the most charming
living contrast to its dead gloom that youth, health, and beauty could

Arrived at the bottom of the room, she reflected a little, and said to
her husband--

"Do you remember the blue drawing-room, Lenny, in your father's house
at Long Beckley? I think this room is quite as large, if not larger."

"What are the walls like?" asked Leonard, placing his hand on the wall
behind him while he spoke. "They are covered with paper, are they

"Yes; with faded red paper, except on one side, where strips have been
torn off and thrown on the floor. There is wainscoting round the
walls. It is cracked in many places, and has ragged holes in it, which
seem to have been made by the rats and mice."

"Are there any pictures on the walls?"

"No. There is an empty frame over the fire-place. And opposite--I mean
just above where I am standing now--there is a small mirror, cracked
in the centre, with broken branches for candlesticks projecting on
either side of it. Above that, again, there is a stag's head and
antlers; some of the face has dropped away, and a perfect maze of
cobwebs is stretched between the horns. On the other walls there are
large nails, with more cobwebs hanging down from them heavy with
dirt--but no pictures any where. Now you know every thing about the
walls. What is the next thing? The floor?"

"I think, Rosamond, my feet have told me already what the floor is

"They may have told you that it is bare, dear; but I can tell you more
than that. It slopes down from every side toward the middle of the
room. It is covered thick with dust, which is swept about--I suppose
by the wind blowing through the broken panes--into strange, wavy,
feathery shapes that quite hide the floor beneath. Lenny! suppose
these boards should be made to take up any where! If we discover
nothing to-day, we will have them swept to-morrow. In the mean time, I
must go on telling you about the room, must I not? You know already
what the size of it is, what the window is like, what the walls are
like, what the floor is like. Is there any thing else before we come
to the furniture? Oh, yes! the ceiling--for that completes the shell
of the room. I can't see much of it, it is so high. There are great
cracks and stains from one end to the other, and the plaster has come
away in patches in some places. The centre ornament seems to be made
of alternate rows of small plaster cabbages and large plaster
lozenges. Two bits of chain hang down from the middle, which, I
suppose, once held a chandelier. The cornice is so dingy that I can
hardly tell what pattern it represents. It is very broad and heavy,
and it looks in some places as if it had once been colored, and that
is all I can say about it. Do you feel as if you thoroughly understood
the whole room now, Lenny?"

"Thoroughly, my love; I have the same clear picture of it in my mind
which you always give me of every thing you see. You need waste no
more time on me. We may now devote ourselves to the purpose for which
we came here."

At those last words, the smile which had been dawning on Rosamond's
face when her husband addressed her, vanished from it in a moment. She
stole close to his side, and, bending down over him, with her arm on
his shoulder, said, in low, whispering tones--

"When we had the other room opened, opposite the landing, we began by
examining the furniture. We thought--if you remember--that the mystery
of the Myrtle Room might be connected with hidden valuables that had
been stolen, or hidden papers that ought to have been destroyed, or
hidden stains and traces of some crime, which even a chair or a table
might betray. Shall we examine the furniture here?"

"Is there much of it, Rosamond?"

"More than there was in the other room," she answered.

"More than you can examine in one morning?"

"No; I think not."

"Then begin with the furniture, if you have no better plan to propose.
I am but a helpless adviser at such a crisis as this. I must leave the
responsibilities of decision, after all, to rest on your shoulders.
Yours are the eyes that look and the hands that search; and if the
secret of Mrs. Jazeph's reason for warning you against entering this
room is to be found by seeking in the room, _you_ will find it--"

"And you will know it, Lenny, as soon as it is found. I won't hear you
talk, love, as if there was any difference between us, or any
superiority in my position over yours. Now, let me see. What shall I
begin with? The tall book-case opposite the window? or the dingy old
writing-table, in the recess behind the fire-place? Those are the two
largest pieces of furniture that I can see in the room."

"Begin with the book-case, my dear, as you seem to have noticed that

Rosamond advanced a few steps toward the book-case--then stopped, and
looked aside suddenly to the lower end of the room.

"Lenny! I forgot one thing, when I was telling you about the walls,"
she said. "There are two doors in the room besides the door we came in
at. They are both in the wall to the right, as I stand now with my
back to the window. Each is at the same distance from the corner, and
each is of the same size and appearance. Don't you think we ought to
open them and see where they lead to?"

"Certainly. But are the keys in the locks?"

Rosamond approached more closely to the doors, and answered in the

"Open them, then," said Leonard. "Stop! not by yourself. Take me with
you. I don't like the idea of sitting here, and leaving you to open
those doors by yourself."

Rosamond retraced her steps to the place where he was sitting, and
then led him with her to the door that was farthest from the window.
"Suppose there should be some dreadful sight behind it!" she said,
trembling a little, as she stretched out her hand toward the key.

"Try to suppose (what is much more probable) that it only leads into
another room," suggested Leonard.

Rosamond threw the door wide open, suddenly. Her husband was right. It
merely led into the next room.

They passed on to the second door. "Can this one serve the same
purpose as the other?" said Rosamond, slowly and distrustfully turning
the key.

She opened it as she had opened the first door, put her head inside it
for an instant, drew back, shuddering, and closed it again violently,
with a faint exclamation of disgust.

"Don't be alarmed, Lenny," she said, leading him away abruptly. "The
door only opens on a large, empty cupboard. But there are quantities
of horrible, crawling brown creatures about the wall inside. I have
shut them in again in their darkness and their secrecy; and now I am
going to take you back to your seat, before we find out, next, what
the book-case contains."

The door of the upper part of the book-case, hanging open and half
dropping from its hinges, showed the emptiness of the shelves on one
side at a glance. The corresponding door, when Rosamond pulled it
open, disclosed exactly the same spectacle of barrenness on the other
side. Over every shelf there spread the same dreary accumulation of
dust and dirt, without a vestige of a book, without even a stray scrap
of paper lying any where in a corner to attract the eye, from top to

The lower portion of the book-case was divided into three cupboards.
In the door of one of the three, the rusty key remained in the lock.
Rosamond turned it with some difficulty, and looked into the cupboard.
At the back of it were scattered a pack of playing-cards, brown with
dirt. A morsel of torn, tangled muslin lay among them, which, when
Rosamond spread it out, proved to be the remains of a clergyman's
band. In one corner she found a broken corkscrew and the winch of a
fishing-rod; in another, some stumps of tobacco-pipes, a few old
medicine bottles, and a dog's-eared peddler's song-book. These were
all the objects that the cupboard contained. After Rosamond had
scrupulously described each one of them to her husband, just as she
found it, she went on to the second cupboard. On trying the door, it
turned out not to be locked. On looking inside, she discovered nothing
but some pieces of blackened cotton wool, and the remains of a
jeweler's packing-case.

The third door was locked, but the rusty key from the first cupboard
opened it. Inside, there was but one object--a small wooden box,
banded round with a piece of tape, the two edges of which were
fastened together by a seal. Rosamond's flagging interest rallied
instantly at this discovery. She described the box to her husband, and
asked if he thought she was justified in breaking the seal.

"Can you see any thing written on the cover?" he inquired.

Rosamond carried the box to the window, blew the dust off the top of
it, and read, on a parchment label nailed to the cover: "Papers. John
Arthur Treverton. 1760."

"I think you may take the responsibility of breaking the seal," said
Leonard. "If those papers had been of any family importance, they
could scarcely have been left forgotten in an old book-case by your
father and his executors."

Rosamond broke the seal, then looked up doubtfully at her husband
before she opened the box. "It seems a mere waste of time to look into
this," she said. "How can a box that has not been opened since
seventeen hundred and sixty help us to discover the mystery of Mrs.
Jazeph and the Myrtle Room?"

"But do we know that it has not been opened since then?" said Leonard.
"Might not the tape and seal have been put round it by any body at
some more recent period of time? You can judge best, because you can
see if there is any inscription on the tape, or any signs to form an
opinion by upon the seal."

"The seal is a blank, Lenny, except that it has a flower like a
forget-me-not in the middle. I can see no mark of a pen on either side
of the tape. Any body in the world might have opened the box before
me," she continued, forcing up the lid easily with her hands, "for the
lock is no protection to it. The wood of the cover is so rotten that I
have pulled the staple out, and left it sticking by itself in the lock

On examination the box proved to be full of papers. At the top of the
uppermost packet were written these words: "Election expenses. I won
by four votes. Price fifty pounds each. J. A. Treverton." The next
layer of papers had no inscription. Rosamond opened them, and read on
the first leaf--"Birthday Ode. Respectfully addressed to the Mæcenas
of modern times in his poetic retirement at Porthgenna." Below this
production appeared a collection of old bills, old notes of
invitation, old doctor's prescriptions, and old leaves of
betting-books, tied together with a piece of whip-cord. Last of all,
there lay on the bottom of the box one thin leaf of paper, the visible
side of which presented a perfect blank. Rosamond took it up, turned
it to look at the other side, and saw some faint ink-lines crossing
each other in various directions, and having letters of the alphabet
attached to them in certain places. She had made her husband
acquainted with the contents of all the other papers, as a matter of
course; and when she had described this last paper to him, he
explained to her that the lines and letters represented a mathematical

"The book-case tells us nothing," said Rosamond, slowly putting the
papers back in the box. "Shall we try the writing-table by the
fire-place, next?"

"What does it look like, Rosamond?"

"It has two rows of drawers down each side; and the whole top is made
in an odd, old-fashioned way to slope upward, like a very large

"Does the top open?"

Rosamond went to the table, examined it narrowly, and then tried to
raise the top. "It is made to open, for I see the key-hole," she said.
"But it is locked. And all the drawers," she continued, trying them
one after another, "are locked too."

"Is there no key in any of them?" asked Leonard.

"Not a sign of one. But the top feels so loose that I really think it
might be forced open--as I forced the little box open just now--by a
pair of stronger hands than I can boast of. Let me take you to the
table, dear; it may give way to your strength, though it will not to

She placed her husband's hands carefully under the ledge formed by the
overhanging top of the table. He exerted his whole strength to force
it up; but in this case the wood was sound, the lock held, and all his
efforts were in vain.

"Must we send for a locksmith?" asked Rosamond, with a look of

"If the table is of any value, we must," returned her husband. "If
not, a screw-driver and a hammer will open both the top and the
drawers in any body's hands."

"In that case, Lenny, I wish we had brought them with us when we came
into the room, for the only value of the table lies in the secrets
that it may be hiding from us. I shall not feel satisfied until you
and I know what there is inside of it."

While saying these words, she took her husband's hand to lead him back
to his seat. As they passed before the fire-place, he stepped upon the
bare stone hearth; and, feeling some new substance under his feet,
instinctively stretched out the hand that was free. It touched a
marble tablet, with figures on it in bass-relief, which had been let
into the middle of the chimney-piece. He stopped immediately, and
asked what the object was that his fingers had accidentally touched.

"A piece of sculpture," said Rosamond. "I did not notice it before. It
is not very large, and not particularly attractive, according to my
taste. So far as I can tell, it seems to be intended to represent--"

Leonard stopped her before she could say any more. "Let me try, for
once, if I can't make a discovery for myself," he said, a little
impatiently. "Let me try if my fingers won't tell me what this
sculpture is meant to represent."

He passed his hands carefully over the bass-relief (Rosamond watching
their slightest movement with silent interest, the while), considered
a little, and said--

"Is there not a figure of a man sitting down, in the right-hand
corner? And are there not rocks and trees, very stiffly done, high up,
at the left-hand side?"

Rosamond looked at him tenderly, and smiled. "My poor dear!" she said.
"Your man sitting down is, in reality, a miniature copy of the famous
ancient statue of Niobe and her child; your rocks are marble
imitations of clouds, and your stiffly done trees are arrows darting
out from some invisible Jupiter or Apollo, or other heathen god. Ah,
Lenny, Lenny! you can't trust your touch, love, as you can trust me!"

A momentary shade of vexation passed across his face; but it vanished
the instant she took his hand again to lead him back to his seat. He
drew her to him gently, and kissed her cheek. "You are right,
Rosamond," he said. "The one faithful friend to me in my blindness,
who never fails, is my wife."

Seeing him look a little saddened, and feeling, with the quick
intuition of a woman's affection, that he was thinking of the days
when he had enjoyed the blessing of sight, Rosamond returned abruptly,
as soon as she saw him seated once more on the ottoman, to the subject
of the Myrtle Room.

"Where shall I look next, dear?" she said. "The book-case we have
examined. The writing-table we must wait to examine. What else is
there that has a cupboard or a drawer in it?" She looked round her in
perplexity; then walked away toward the part of the room to which her
attention had been last drawn--the part where the fire-place was

"I thought I noticed something here, Lenny, when I passed just now
with you," she said, approaching the second recess behind the
mantel-piece, corresponding with the recess in which the writing-table

She looked into the place closely, and detected in a corner, darkened
by the shadow of the heavy projecting mantel-piece, a narrow, rickety
little table, made of the commonest mahogany--the frailest, poorest,
least conspicuous piece of furniture in the whole room. She pushed it
out contemptuously into the light with her foot. It ran on clumsy
old-fashioned casters, and creaked wearily as it moved.

"Lenny, I have found another table," said Rosamond. "A miserable,
forlorn-looking little thing, lost in a corner. I have just pushed it
into the light, and I have discovered one drawer in it." She paused,
and tried to open the drawer; but it resisted her. "Another lock!" she
exclaimed, impatiently. "Even this wretched thing is closed against

She pushed the table sharply away with her hand. It swayed on its
frail legs, tottered, and fell over on the floor--fell as heavily as a
table of twice its size--fell with a shock that rang through the room,
and repeated itself again and again in the echoes of the lonesome
north hall.

Rosamond ran to her husband, seeing him start from his seat in alarm,
and told him what had happened. "You call it a little table," he
replied, in astonishment. "It fell like one of the largest pieces of
furniture in the room!"

"Surely there must have been something heavy in the drawer!" said
Rosamond, approaching the table with her spirits still fluttered by
the shock of its unnaturally heavy fall. After waiting for a few
moments to give the dust which it had raised, and which still hung
over it in thick lazy clouds, time to disperse, she stooped down and
examined it. It was cracked across the top from end to end, and the
lock had been broken away from its fastenings by the fall.

She set the table up again carefully, drew out the drawer, and, after
a glance at its contents, turned to her husband. "I knew it," she
said, "I knew there must be something heavy in the drawer. It is full
of pieces of copper-ore, like those specimens of my father's, Lenny,
from Porthgenna mine. Wait! I think I feel something else, as far away
at the back here as my hand can reach."

She extricated from the lumps of ore at the back of the drawer a small
circular picture-frame of black wood, about the size of an ordinary
hand-glass. It came out with the front part downward, and with the
area which its circle inclosed filled up by a thin piece of wood, of
the sort which is used at the backs of small frames to keep drawings
and engravings steady in them. This piece of wood (only secured to the
back of the frame by one nail) had been forced out of its place,
probably by the overthrow of the table; and when Rosamond took the
frame out of the drawer, she observed between it and the dislodged
piece of wood the end of a morsel of paper, apparently folded many
times over, so as to occupy the smallest possible space. She drew out
the piece of paper, laid it aside on the table without unfolding it,
replaced the piece of wood in its proper position, and then turned the
frame round, to see if there was a picture in front.

There was a picture--a picture painted in oils, darkened, but not much
faded, by age. It represented the head of a woman, and the figure as
far as the bosom.

The instant Rosamond's eyes fell on it she shuddered, and hurriedly
advanced toward her husband with the picture in her hand.

"Well, what have you found now?" he inquired, hearing her approach.

"A picture," she answered, faintly, stopping to look at it again.

Leonard's sensitive ear detected a change in her voice. "Is there any
thing that alarms you in the picture?" he asked, half in jest, half in

"There is something that startles me--something that seems to have
turned me cold for the moment, hot as the day is," said Rosamond. "Do
you remember the description the servant-girl gave us, on the night we
arrived here, of the ghost of the north rooms?"

"Yes, I remember it perfectly."

"Lenny! that description and this picture are exactly alike! Here is
the curling, light-brown hair. Here is the dimple on each cheek. Here
are the bright regular teeth. Here is that leering, wicked, fatal
beauty which the girl tried to describe, and did describe, when she
said it was awful!"

Leonard smiled. "That vivid fancy of yours, my dear, takes strange
flights sometimes," he said, quietly.

"Fancy!" repeated Rosamond to herself. "How can it be fancy when I see
the face? how can it be fancy when I feel--" She stopped, shuddered
again, and, returning hastily to the table, placed the picture on it,
face downward. As she did so, the morsel of folded paper which she had
removed from the back of the frame caught her eye.

"There may be some account of the picture in this," she said, and
stretched out her hand to it.

It was getting on toward noon. The heat weighed heavier on the air,
and the stillness of all things was more intense than ever, as she
took up the paper from the table.

Fold by fold she opened it, and saw that there were written characters
inside, traced in ink that had faded to a light, yellow hue. She
smoothed it out carefully on the table--then took it up again and
looked at the first line of the writing.

The first line contained only three words--words which told her that
the paper with the writing on it was not a description of the picture,
but a letter--words which made her start and change color the moment
her eye fell upon them. Without attempting to read any further, she
hastily turned over the leaf to find out the place where the writing

It ended at the bottom of the third page; but there was a break in the
lines, near the foot of the second page, and in that break there were
two names signed. She looked at the uppermost of the two--started
again--and turned back instantly to the first page.

Line by line, and word by word, she read through the writing; her
natural complexion fading out gradually the while, and a dull, equal
whiteness overspreading all her face in its stead. When she had come
to the end of the third page, the hand in which she held the letter
dropped to her side, and she turned her head slowly toward Leonard. In
that position she stood--no tears moistening her eyes, no change
passing over her features, no word escaping her lips, no movement
varying the position of her limbs--in that position she stood, with
the fatal letter crumpled up in her cold fingers, looking steadfastly,
speechlessly, breathlessly at her blind husband.

He was still sitting as she had seen him a few minutes before, with
his legs crossed, his hands clasped together in front of them, and his
head turned expectantly in the direction in which he had last heard
the sound of his wife's voice. But in a few moments the intense
stillness in the room forced itself upon his attention. He changed his
position--listened for a little, turning his head uneasily from side
to side, and then called to his wife.


At the sound of his voice her lips moved, and her fingers closed
faster on the paper that they held; but she neither stepped forward
nor spoke.


Her lips moved again--faint traces of expression began to pass
shadow-like over the blank whiteness of her face--she advanced one
step, hesitated, looked at the letter, and stopped.

Hearing no answer, he rose surprised and uneasy. Moving his poor,
helpless, wandering hands to and fro before him in the air, he walked
forward a few paces, straight out from the wall against which he had
been sitting. A chair, which his hands were not held low enough to
touch, stood in his way; and, as he still advanced, he struck his knee
sharply against it.

A cry burst from Rosamond's lips, as if the pain of the blow had
passed, at the instant of its infliction, from her husband to herself.
She was by his side in a moment. "You are not hurt, Lenny," she said,

"No, no." He tried to press his hand on the place where he had struck
himself, but she knelt down quickly, and put her own hand there
instead, nestling her head against him, while she was on her knees, in
a strangely hesitating timid way. He lightly laid the hand which she
had intercepted on her shoulder. The moment it touched her, her eyes
began to soften; the tears rose in them, and fell slowly one by one
down her cheeks.

"I thought you had left me," he said. "There was such a silence that I
fancied you had gone out of the room."

"Will you come out of it with me now?" Her strength seemed to fail her
while she asked the question; her head drooped on her breast, and she
let the letter fall on the floor at her side.

"Are you tired already, Rosamond? Your voice sounds as if you were."

"I want to leave the room," she said, still in the same low, faint,
constrained tone. "Is your knee easier, dear? Can you walk now?"

"Certainly. There is nothing in the world the matter with my knee. If
you are tired, Rosamond--as I know you are, though you may not
confess it--the sooner we leave the room the better."

She appeared not to hear the last words he said. Her fingers were
working feverishly about her neck and bosom; two bright red spots were
beginning to burn in her pale cheeks; her eyes were fixed vacantly on
the letter at her side; her hands wavered about it before she picked
it up. For a few seconds she waited on her knees, looking at it
intently, with her head turned away from her husband--then rose and
walked to the fire-place. Among the dust, ashes, and other rubbish at
the back of the grate, were scattered some old torn pieces of paper.
They caught her eye, and held it fixed on them. She looked and looked,
slowly bending down nearer and nearer to the grate. For one moment she
held the letter out over the rubbish in both hands--the next she drew
back shuddering violently, and turned round so as to face her husband
again. At the sight of him a faint inarticulate exclamation, half
sigh, half sob, burst from her. "Oh, no, no!" she whispered to
herself, clasping her hands together fervently, and looking at him
with fond, mournful eyes. "Never, never, Lenny--come of it what may!"

"Were you speaking to me, Rosamond?"

"Yes, love. I was saying--" She paused, and, with trembling fingers,
folded up the paper again, exactly in the form in which she had found

"Where are you?" he asked. "Your voice sounds away from me at the
other end of the room again. Where are you?"

She ran to him, flushed and trembling and tearful, took him by the
arm, and, without an instant of hesitation, without the faintest sign
of irresolution in her face, placed the folded paper boldly in his
hand. "Keep that, Lenny," she said, turning deadly pale, but still not
losing her firmness. "Keep that, and ask me to read it to you as soon
as we are out of the Myrtle Room."

"What is it?" he asked.

"The last thing I have found, love," she replied, looking at him
earnestly, with a deep sigh of relief.

"Is it of any importance?"

Instead of answering, she suddenly caught him to her bosom, clung to
him with all the fervor of her impulsive nature, and breathlessly and
passionately covered his face with kisses.

"Gently! gently!" said Leonard, laughing. "You take away my breath."

She drew back, and stood looking at him in silence, with a hand laid
on each of his shoulders. "Oh, my angel!" she murmured tenderly. "I
would give all I have in the world, if I could only know how much you
love me!"

"Surely," he returned, still laughing--"Surely, Rosamond, you ought to
know by this time!"

"I shall know soon." She spoke those words in tones so quiet and low
that they were barely audible. Interpreting the change in her voice as
a fresh indication of fatigue, Leonard invited her to lead him away by
holding out his hand. She took it in silence, and guided him slowly to
the door.



On their way back to the inhabited side of the house, Rosamond made no
further reference to the subject of the folded paper which she had
placed in her husband's hands.

All her attention, while they were returning to the west front, seemed
to be absorbed in the one act of jealously watching every inch of
ground that Leonard walked over, to make sure that it was safe and
smooth before she suffered him to set his foot on it. Careful and
considerate as she had always been, from the first day of their
married life, whenever she led him from one place to another, she was
now unduly, almost absurdly anxious to preserve him from the remotest
possibility of an accident. Finding that he was the nearest to the
outside of the open landing when they left the Myrtle Room, she
insisted on changing places, so that he might be nearest to the wall.
While they were descending the stairs, she stopped him in the middle,
to inquire if he felt any pain in the knee which he had struck against
the chair. At the last step she brought him to a stand-still again,
while she moved away the torn and tangled remains of an old mat, for
fear one of his feet should catch in it. Walking across the north
hall, she intreated that he would take her arm and lean heavily upon
her, because she felt sure that his knee was not quite free from
stiffness yet. Even at the short flight of stairs which connected the
entrance to the hall with the passages leading to the west side of the
house, she twice stopped him on the way down, to place his foot on the
sound parts of the steps, which she represented as dangerously worn
away in more places than one. He laughed good-humoredly at her
excessive anxiety to save him from all danger of stumbling, and asked
if there was any likelihood, with their numerous stoppages, of getting
back to the west side of the house in time for lunch. She was not
ready, as usual, with her retort; his laugh found no pleasant echo in
hers; she only answered that it was impossible to be too anxious about
him; and then went on in silence till they reached the door of the
housekeeper's room.

Leaving him for a moment outside, she went in to give the keys back
again to Mrs. Pentreath.

"Dear me, ma'am!" exclaimed the housekeeper, "you look quite overcome
by the heat of the day and the close air of those old rooms. Can I get
you a glass of water, or may I give you my bottle of salts?"

Rosamond declined both offers.

"May I be allowed to ask, ma'am, if any thing has been found this time
in the north rooms?" inquired Mrs. Pentreath, hanging up the bunch of

"Only some old papers," replied Rosamond, turning away.

"I beg pardon again, ma'am," pursued the housekeeper; "but, in case
any of the gentry of the neighborhood should call to-day?"

"We are engaged. No matter who it may be, we are both engaged."
Answering briefly in these terms, Rosamond left Mrs. Pentreath, and
rejoined her husband.

With the same excess of attention and care which she had shown on the
way to the housekeeper's room, she now led him up the west staircase.
The library door happening to stand open, they passed through it on
their way to the drawing-room, which was the larger and cooler
apartment of the two. Having guided Leonard to a seat, Rosamond
returned to the library, and took from the table a tray containing a
bottle of water and a tumbler, which she had noticed when she passed

"I may feel faint as well as frightened," she said quickly to herself,
turning round with the tray in her hand to return to the drawing-room.

After she had put the water down on a table in a corner, she
noiselessly locked the door leading into the library, then the door
leading into the passage. Leonard, hearing her moving about, advised
her to keep quiet on the sofa. She patted him gently on the cheek, and
was about to make some suitable answer, when she accidentally beheld
her face reflected in the looking-glass under which he was sitting.
The sight of her own white cheeks and startled eyes suspended the
words on her lips. She hastened away to the window, to catch any
breath of air that might be wafted toward her from the sea.

The heat-mist still hid the horizon. Nearer, the oily, colorless
surface of the water was just visible, heaving slowly, from time to
time, in one vast monotonous wave that rolled itself out smoothly and
endlessly till it was lost in the white obscurity of the mist. Close
on the shore the noisy surf was hushed. No sound came from the beach
except at long, wearily long intervals, when a quick thump, and a
still splash, just audible and no more, announced the fall of one
tiny, mimic wave upon the parching sand. On the terrace in front of
the house, the changeless hum of summer insects was all that told of
life and movement. Not a human figure was to be seen any where on the
shore; no sign of a sail loomed shadowy through the heat at sea; no
breath of air waved the light tendrils of the creepers that twined up
the house-wall, or refreshed the drooping flowers ranged in the
windows. Rosamond turned away from the outer prospect, after a
moment's weary contemplation of it. As she looked into the room again,
her husband spoke to her.

"What precious thing lies hidden in this paper?" he asked, producing
the letter, and smiling as he opened it. "Surely there must be
something besides writing--some inestimable powder, or some bank-note
of fabulous value--wrapped up in all these folds?"

Rosamond's heart sank within her as he opened the letter and passed
his finger over the writing inside, with a mock expression of anxiety,
and a light jest about sharing all treasures discovered at Porthgenna
with his wife.

"I will read it to you directly, Lenny," she said, dropping into the
nearest seat, and languidly pushing her hair back from her temples.
"But put it away for a few minutes now, and let us talk of any thing
else you like that does not remind us of the Myrtle Room. I am very
capricious, am I not, to be so suddenly weary of the very subject that
I have been fondest of talking about for so many weeks past? Tell me,
love," she added, rising abruptly and going to the back of his chair;
"do I get worse with my whims and fancies and faults?--or am I
improved, since the time when we were first married?"

He tossed the letter aside carelessly on a table which was always
placed by the arm of his chair, and shook his forefinger at her with a
frown of comic reproof. "Oh, fie, Rosamond! are you trying to entrap
me into paying you compliments?"

The light tone that he persisted in adopting seemed absolutely to
terrify her. She shrank away from his chair, and sat down again at a
little distance from him.

"I remember I used to offend you," she continued, quickly and
confusedly. "No, no, not to offend--only to vex you a little--by
talking too familiarly to the servants. You might almost have fancied,
at first, if you had not known me so well, that it was a habit with me
because I had once been a servant myself. Suppose I had been a
servant--the servant who had helped to nurse you in your illnesses,
the servant who led you about in your blindness more carefully than
any one else--would you have thought much, then, of the difference
between us? would you--"

She stopped. The smile had vanished from Leonard's face, and he had
turned a little away from her. "What is the use, Rosamond, of
supposing events that never could have happened?" he asked rather

She went to the side-table, poured out some of the water she had
brought from the library, and drank it eagerly; then walked to the
window and plucked a few of the flowers that were placed there. She
threw some of them away again the next moment; but kept the rest in
her hand, thoughtfully arranging them so as to contrast their colors
with the best effect. When this was done, she put them into her bosom,
looked down absently at them, took them out again, and, returning to
her husband, placed the little nosegay in the button-hole of his coat.

"Something to make you look gay and bright, love--as I always wish to
see you," she said, seating herself in her favorite attitude at his
feet, and looking up at him sadly, with her arms resting on his knees.

"What are you thinking about, Rosamond?" he asked, after an interval
of silence.

"I was wondering, Lenny, whether any woman in the world could be as
fond of you as I am. I feel almost afraid that there are others who
would ask nothing better than to live and die for you, as well as me.
There is something in your face, in your voice, in all your
ways--something besides the interest of your sad, sad affliction--that
would draw any woman's heart to you, I think. If I were to die--"

"If you were to die!" He started as he repeated the words after her,
and, leaning forward, anxiously laid his hand upon her forehead. "You
are thinking and talking very strangely this morning, Rosamond! Are
you not well?"

She rose on her knees and looked closer at him, her face brightening a
little, and a faint smile just playing round her lips. "I wonder if
you will always be as anxious about me, and as fond of me, as you are
now?" she whispered, kissing his hand as she removed it from her
forehead. He leaned back again in the chair, and told her jestingly
not to look too far into the future. The words, lightly as they were
spoken, struck deep into her heart. "There are times, Lenny," she
said, "when all one's happiness in the present depends upon one's
certainty of the future." She looked at the letter, which her husband
had left open on a table near him, as she spoke; and, after a
momentary struggle with herself, took it in her hand to read it. At
the first word her voice failed her; the deadly paleness overspread
her face again; she threw the letter back on the table, and walked
away to the other end of the room.

"The future?" asked Leonard. "What future, Rosamond, can you possibly

"Suppose I meant our future at Porthgenna?" she said, moistening her
dry lips with a few drops of water. "Shall we stay here as long as we
thought we should, and be as happy as we have been every where else?
You told me on the journey that I should find it dull, and that I
should be driven to try all sorts of extraordinary occupations to
amuse myself. You said you expected that I should begin with gardening
and end by writing a novel. A novel!" She approached her husband
again, and watched his face eagerly while she went on. "Why not? More
women write novels now than men. What is to prevent me from trying?
The first great requisite, I suppose, is to have an idea of a story;
and that I have got." She advanced a few steps farther, reached the
table on which the letter lay, and placed her hand on it, keeping her
eyes still fixed intently on Leonard's face.

"And what is your idea, Rosamond?" he asked.

"This," she replied. "I mean to make the main interest of the story
centre in two young married people. They shall be very fond of each
other--as fond as we are, Lenny--and they shall be in our rank of
life. After they have been happily married some time, and when they
have got one child to make them love each other more dearly than ever,
a terrible discovery shall fall upon them like a thunderbolt. The
husband shall have chosen for his wife a young lady bearing as ancient
a family name as--"

"As your name?" suggested Leonard.

"As the name of the Treverton family," she continued, after a pause,
during which her hand had been restlessly moving the letter to and fro
on the table. "The husband shall be well-born--as well-born as you,
Lenny--and the terrible discovery shall be, that his wife has no right
to the ancient name that she bore when he married her."

"I can't say, my love, that I approve of your idea. Your story will
decoy the reader into feeling an interest in a woman who turns out to
be an impostor."

"No!" cried Rosamond, warmly. "A true woman--a woman who never stooped
to a deception--a woman full of faults and failings, but a teller of
the truth at all hazards and all sacrifices. Hear me out, Lenny,
before you judge." Hot tears rushed into her eyes; but she dashed them
away passionately, and went on. "The wife shall grow up to womanhood,
and shall marry, in total ignorance--mind that!--in total ignorance of
her real history. The sudden disclosure of the truth shall overwhelm
her--she shall find herself struck by a calamity which she had no
hand in bringing about. She shall be staggered in her very reason by
the discovery; it shall burst upon her when she has no one but herself
to depend on; she shall have the power of keeping it a secret from her
husband with perfect impunity; she shall be tried, she shall be shaken
in her mortal frailness, by one moment of fearful temptation; she
shall conquer it, and, of her own free will, she shall tell her
husband all that she knows herself. Now, Lenny, what do you call that
woman? an impostor?"

"No: a victim."

"Who goes of her own accord to the sacrifice? and who is to be

"I never said that."

"What would you do with her, Lenny, if you were writing the story? I
mean, how would you make her husband behave to her? It is a question
in which a man's nature is concerned, and a woman is not competent to
decide it. I am perplexed about how to end the story. How would you
end it, love?" As she ceased, her voice sank sadly to its gentlest
pleading tones. She came close to him, and twined her fingers in his
hair fondly. "How would you end it, love?" she repeated, stooping down
till her trembling lips just touched his forehead.

He moved uneasily in his chair, and replied--"I am not a writer of
novels, Rosamond."

"But how would you act, Lenny, if you were that husband?"

"It is hard for me to say," he answered. "I have not your vivid
imagination, my dear. I have no power of putting myself, at a moment's
notice, into a position that is not my own, and of knowing how I
should act in it."

"But suppose your wife was close to you--as close as I am now? Suppose
she had just told you the dreadful secret, and was standing before
you--as I am standing now--with the happiness of her whole life to
come depending on one kind word from your lips? Oh, Lenny, you would
not let her drop broken-hearted at your feet? You would know, let her
birth be what it might, that she was still the same faithful creature
who had cherished and served and trusted and worshiped you since her
marriage-day, and who asked nothing in return but to lay her head on
your bosom, and to hear you say that you loved her? You would know
that she had nerved herself to tell the fatal secret, because, in her
loyalty and love to her husband, she would rather die forsaken and
despised, than live, deceiving him? You would know all this, and you
would open your arms to the mother of your child, to the wife of your
first love, though she was the lowliest of all lowly born women in the
estimation of the world? Oh, you would, Lenny, I know you would!"

"Rosamond! how your hands tremble; how your voice alters! You are
agitating yourself about this supposed story of yours, as if you were
talking of real events."

"You would take her to your heart, Lenny? You would open your arms to
her without an instant of unworthy doubt?"

"Hush! hush! I hope I should."

"Hope? only hope? Oh, think again, love, think again; and say you
_know_ you should!"

"Must I, Rosamond? Then I do say it."

She drew back as the words passed his lips, and took the letter from
the table.

"You have not yet asked me, Lenny, to read the letter that I found in
the Myrtle Room. I offer to read it now of my own accord."

She trembled a little as she spoke those few decisive words, but her
utterance of them was clear and steady, as if her consciousness of
being now irrevocably pledged to make the disclosure had strengthened
her at last to dare all hazards and end all suspense.

Her husband turned toward the place from which the sound of her voice
had reached him, with a mixed expression of perplexity and surprise in
his face. "You pass so suddenly from one subject to another," he said,
"that I hardly know how to follow you. What in the world, Rosamond,
takes you, at one jump, from a romantic argument about a situation in
a novel, to the plain, practical business of reading an old letter?"

"Perhaps there is a closer connection between the two than you
suspect," she answered.

"A closer connection? What connection? I don't understand."

"The letter will explain."

"Why the letter? Why should _you_ not explain?"

She stole one anxious look at his face, and saw that a sense of
something serious to come was now overshadowing his mind for the first

"Rosamond!" he exclaimed, "there is some mystery--"

"There are no mysteries between us two," she interposed quickly.
"There never have been any, love; there never shall be." She moved a
little nearer to him to take her old favorite place on his knee, then
checked herself, and drew back again to the table. Warning tears in
her eyes bade her distrust her own firmness, and read the letter where
she could not feel the beating of his heart.

"Did I tell you," she resumed, after waiting an instant to compose
herself, "where I found the folded piece of paper which I put into
your hand in the Myrtle Room?"

"No," he replied, "I think not."

"I found it at the back of the frame of that picture--the picture of
the ghostly woman with the wicked face. I opened it immediately, and
saw that it was a letter. The address inside, the first line under it,
and one of the two signatures which it contained, were in a
handwriting that I knew."


"The handwriting of the late Mrs. Treverton."

"Of your mother?"

"Of the late Mrs. Treverton."

"Gracious God, Rosamond! why do you speak of her in that way?"

"Let me read, and you will know. You have seen, with my eyes, what the
Myrtle Room is like; you have seen, with my eyes, every object which
the search through it brought to light; you must now see, with my
eyes, what this letter contains. It is the Secret of the Myrtle Room."

She bent close over the faint, faded writing, and read these words:

     "To my Husband--

     "We have parted, Arthur, forever, and I have not had the
     courage to embitter our farewell by confessing that I have
     deceived you--cruelly and basely deceived you. But a few
     minutes since, you were weeping by my bedside and speaking
     of our child. My wronged, my beloved husband, the little
     daughter of your heart is not yours, is not mine. She is a
     love-child, whom I have imposed on you for mine. Her father
     was a miner at Porthgenna; her mother is my maid, Sarah

     Rosamond paused, but never raised her head from the letter.
     She heard her husband lay his hand suddenly on the table;
     she heard him start to his feet; she heard him draw his
     breath heavily in one quick gasp; she heard him whisper to
     himself the instant after--"A love-child!" With a fearful,
     painful distinctness she heard those three words. The tone
     in which he whispered them turned her cold. But she never
     moved, for there was more to read; and while more remained,
     if her life had depended on it, she could not have looked

In a moment more she went on, and read these lines next:

     "I have many heavy sins to answer for, but this one sin you
     must pardon, Arthur, for I committed it through fondness for
     you. That fondness told me a secret which you sought to hide
     from me. That fondness told me that your barren wife would
     never make your heart all her own until she had borne you a
     child; and your lips proved it true. Your first words, when
     you came back from sea, and when the infant was placed in
     your arms, were--'I have never loved you, Rosamond, as I
     love you now.' If you had not said that, I should never
     have kept my guilty secret.

     "I can add no more, for death is very near me. How the fraud
     was committed, and what my other motives were, I must leave
     you to discover from the mother of the child, who writes
     this under my dictation, and who is charged to give it to
     you when I am no more. You will be merciful to the poor
     little creature who bears my name. Be merciful also to her
     unhappy parent: she is only guilty of too blindly obeying
     me. If there is any thing that mitigates the bitterness of
     my remorse, it is the remembrance that my act of deceit
     saved the most faithful and the most affectionate of women
     from shame that she had not deserved. Remember me
     forgivingly, Arthur--words may tell how I have sinned
     against you; no words can tell how I have loved you!"

She had struggled on thus far, and had reached the last line on the
second page of the letter, when she paused again, and then tried to
read the first of the two signatures--"Rosamond Treverton." She
faintly repeated two syllables of that familiar Christian name--the
name that was on her husband's lips every hour of the day!--and strove
to articulate the third, but her voice failed her. All the sacred
household memories which that ruthless letter had profaned forever
seemed to tear themselves away from her heart at the same moment. With
a low, moaning cry she dropped her arms on the table, and laid her
head down on them, and hid her face.

She heard nothing, she was conscious of nothing, until she felt a
touch on her shoulder--a light touch from a hand that trembled. Every
pulse in her body bounded in answer to it, and she looked up.

Her husband had guided himself near to her by the table. The tears
were glistening in his dim, sightless eyes. As she rose and touched
him, his arms opened, and closed fast around her.

"My own Rosamond!" he said, "come to me and be comforted!"




The day and the night had passed, and the new morning had come, before
the husband and wife could trust themselves to speak calmly of the
Secret, and to face resignedly the duties and the sacrifices which the
discovery of it imposed on them.

Leonard's first question referred to those lines in the letter which
Rosamond had informed him were in a handwriting that she knew. Finding
that he was at a loss to understand what means she could have of
forming an opinion on this point, she explained that, after Captain
Treverton's death, many letters had naturally fallen into her
possession which had been written by Mrs. Treverton to her husband.
They treated of ordinary domestic subjects, and she had read them
often enough to become thoroughly acquainted with the peculiarities of
Mrs. Treverton's handwriting. It was remarkably large, firm, and
masculine in character; and the address, the line under it, and the
uppermost of the two signatures in the letter which had been found in
the Myrtle Room, exactly resembled it in every particular.

The next question related to the body of the letter. The writing of
this, of the second signature ("Sarah Leeson"), and of the additional
lines on the third page, also signed by Sarah Leeson, proclaimed
itself in each case to be the production of the same person. While
stating that fact to her husband, Rosamond did not forget to explain
to him that, while reading the letter on the previous day, her
strength and courage had failed her before she got to the end of it.
She added that the postscript which she had thus omitted to read was
of importance, because it mentioned the circumstances under which the
Secret had been hidden; and begged that he would listen while she made
him acquainted with its contents without any further delay.

Sitting as close to his side, now, as if they were enjoying their
first honey-moon days over again, she read these last lines--the lines
which her mother had written sixteen years before, on the morning when
she fled from Porthgenna Tower:

     "If this paper should ever be found (which I pray with my
     whole heart it never may be), I wish to say that I have
     come to the resolution of hiding it, because I dare not
     show the writing that it contains to my master, to whom it
     is addressed. In doing what I now propose to do, though I
     am acting against my mistress's last wishes, I am not
     breaking the solemn engagement which she obliged me to make
     before her on her death-bed. That engagement forbids me to
     destroy this letter, or to take it away with me if I leave
     the house. I shall do neither--my purpose is to conceal it
     in the place, of all others, where I think there is least
     chance of its ever being found again. Any hardship or
     misfortune which may follow as a consequence of this
     deceitful proceeding on my part, will fall on myself.
     Others, I believe, in my conscience, will be the happier
     for the hiding of the dreadful Secret which this letter

"There can be no doubt, now," said Leonard, when his wife had read to
the end; "Mrs. Jazeph, Sarah Leeson, and the servant who disappeared
from Porthgenna Tower, are one and the same person."

"Poor creature!" said Rosamond, sighing as she put down the letter.
"We know now why she warned me so anxiously not to go into the Myrtle
Room. Who can say what she must have suffered when she came as a
stranger to my bedside? Oh, what would I not give if I had been less
hasty with her! It is dreadful to remember that I spoke to her as a
servant whom I expected to obey me; it is worse still to feel that I
can not, even now, think of her as a child should think of a mother.
How can I ever tell her that I know the Secret? how--" She paused,
with a heart-sick consciousness of the slur that was cast on her
birth; she paused, shrinking as she thought of the name that her
husband had given to her, and of her own parentage, which the laws of
society disdained to recognize.

"Why do you stop?" asked Leonard.

"I was afraid--" she began, and paused again.

"Afraid," he said, finishing the sentence for her, "that words of pity
for that unhappy woman might wound my sensitive pride by reminding me
of the circumstances of your birth? Rosamond! I should be unworthy of
your matchless truthfulness toward me, if I, on my side, did not
acknowledge that this discovery _has_ wounded me as only a proud man
can be wounded. My pride has been born and bred in me. My pride, even
while I am now speaking to you, takes advantage of my first moments of
composure, and deludes me into doubting, in face of all probability,
whether the words you have read to me can, after all, be words of
truth. But, strong as that inborn and inbred feeling is--hard as it
may be for me to discipline and master it as I ought, and must and
will--there is another feeling in my heart that is stronger yet." He
felt for her hand, and took it in his; then added--"From the hour when
you first devoted your life to your blind husband--from the hour when
you won all his gratitude, as you had already won all his love, you
took a place in his heart, Rosamond, from which nothing, not even such
a shock as has now assailed us, can move you! High as I have always
held the worth of rank in my estimation, I have learned, even before
the event of yesterday, to hold the worth of my wife, let her
parentage be what it may, higher still."

"Oh, Lenny, Lenny, I can't hear you praise me, if you talk in the same
breath as if I had made a sacrifice in marrying you! But for my blind
husband I might never have deserved what you have just said of me.
When I first read that fearful letter, I had one moment of vile,
ungrateful doubt if your love for me would hold out against the
discovery of the Secret. I had one moment of horrible temptation, that
drew me away from you when I ought to have put the letter into your
hand. It was the sight of you, waiting for me to speak again, so
innocent of all knowledge of what happened close by you, that brought
me back to my senses, and told me what I ought to do. It was the sight
of my blind husband that made me conquer the temptation to destroy
that letter in the first hour of discovering it. Oh, if I had been the
hardest-hearted of women, could I have ever taken your hand
again--could I kiss you, could I lie down by your side, and hear you
fall asleep, night after night, feeling that I had abused your blind
dependence on me to serve my own selfish interests? knowing that I had
only succeeded in my deceit because your affliction made you incapable
of suspecting deception? No, no; I can hardly believe that the basest
of women could be guilty of such baseness as that; and I can claim
nothing more for myself than the credit of having been true to my
trust. You said yesterday, love, in the Myrtle Room, that the one
faithful friend to you in your blindness, who never failed, was your
wife. It is reward enough and consolation enough for me, now that the
worst is over, to know that you can say so still."

"Yes, Rosamond, the worst is over; but we must not forget that there
may be hard trials still to meet."

"Hard trials, love? To what trials do you refer?"

"Perhaps, Rosamond, I overrate the courage that the sacrifice demands;
but, to _me_ at least, it will be a hard sacrifice of my own feelings
to make strangers partakers in the knowledge that we now possess."

Rosamond looked at her husband in astonishment. "Why need we tell the
Secret to any one?" she asked.

"Assuming that we can satisfy ourselves of the genuineness of that
letter," he answered, "we shall have no choice but to tell it to
strangers. You can not forget the circumstances under which your
father--under which Captain Treverton--"

"Call him my father," said Rosamond, sadly. "Remember how he loved me,
and how I loved him, and say 'my father' still."

"I am afraid I must say 'Captain Treverton' now," returned Leonard,
"or I shall hardly be able to explain simply and plainly what it is
very necessary that you should know. Captain Treverton died without
leaving a will. His only property was the purchase-money of this house
and estate; and you inherited it, as his next of kin--"

Rosamond started back in her chair and clasped her hands in dismay.
"Oh, Lenny," she said simply, "I have thought so much of you, since I
found the letter, that I never remembered this!"

"It is time to remember it, my love. If you are not Captain
Treverton's daughter, you have no right to one farthing of the
fortune that you possess; and it must be restored at once to the
person who _is_ Captain Treverton's next of kin--or, in other words,
to his brother."

"To that man!" exclaimed Rosamond. "To that man who is a stranger to
us, who holds our very name in contempt! Are we to be made poor that
he may be made rich?--"

"We are to do what is honorable and just, at any sacrifice of our own
interests and ourselves," said Leonard, firmly. "I believe, Rosamond,
that my consent, as your husband, is necessary, according to the law,
to effect this restitution. If Mr. Andrew Treverton was the bitterest
enemy I had on earth, and if the restoring of this money utterly
ruined us both in our worldly circumstances, I would give it back of
my own accord to the last farthing--and so would you!"

The blood mantled in his cheeks as he spoke. Rosamond looked at him
admiringly in silence. "Who would have him less proud," she thought,
fondly, "when his pride speaks in such words as those!"

"You understand now," continued Leonard, "that we have duties to
perform which will oblige us to seek help from others, and which will
therefore render it impossible to keep the Secret to ourselves? If we
search all England for her, Sarah Leeson must be found. Our future
actions depend upon her answers to our inquiries, upon her testimony
to the genuineness of that letter. Although I am resolved beforehand
to shield myself behind no technical quibbles and delays--although I
want nothing but evidence that is morally conclusive, however legally
imperfect it may be--it is still impossible to proceed without seeking
advice immediately. The lawyer who always managed Captain Treverton's
affairs, and who now manages ours, is the proper person to direct us
in instituting a search, and to assist us, if necessary, in making the

"How quietly and firmly you speak of it, Lenny! Will not the
abandoning of my fortune be a dreadful loss to us?"

"We must think of it as a gain to our consciences, Rosamond, and must
alter our way of life resignedly to suit our altered means. But we
need speak no more of that until we are assured of the necessity of
restoring the money. My immediate anxiety, and your immediate anxiety,
must turn now on the discovery of Sarah Leeson--no! on the discovery
of your mother; I must learn to call her by that name, or I shall not
learn to pity and forgive her."

Rosamond nestled closer to her husband's side. "Every word you say,
love, does my heart good," she whispered, laying her head on his
shoulder. "You will help me and strengthen me, when the time comes, to
meet my mother as I ought? Oh, how pale and worn and weary she was
when she stood by my bedside, and looked at me and my child! Will it
be long before we find her? Is she far away from us, I wonder? or
nearer, much nearer than we think?"

Before Leonard could answer, he was interrupted by a knock at the
door, and Rosamond was surprised by the appearance of the
maid-servant. Betsey was flushed, excited, and out of breath; but she
contrived to deliver intelligibly a brief message from Mr. Munder, the
steward, requesting permission to speak to Mr. Frankland, or to Mrs.
Frankland, on business of importance.

"What is it? What does he want?" asked Rosamond.

"I think, ma'am, he wants to know whether he had better send for the
constable or not," answered Betsey.

"Send for the constable!" repeated Rosamond. "Are there thieves in the
house in broad daylight?"

"Mr. Munder says he don't know but what it may be worse than thieves,"
replied Betsey. "It's the foreigner again, if you please, ma'am. He
come up and rung at the door as bold as brass, and asked if he could
see Mrs. Frankland."

"The foreigner!" exclaimed Rosamond, laying her hand eagerly on her
husband's arm.

"Yes, ma'am," said Betsey. "Him as come here to go over the house
along with the lady--"

Rosamond, with characteristic impulsiveness, started to her feet. "Let
me go down!" she began.

"Wait," interposed Leonard, catching her by the hand. "There is not
the least need for you to go down stairs.--Show the foreigner up
here," he continued, addressing himself to Betsey, "and tell Mr.
Munder that we will take the management of this business into our own

Rosamond sat down again by her husband's side. "This is a very strange
accident," she said, in a low, serious tone. "It must be something
more than mere chance that puts the clew into our hands, at the moment
when we least expected to find it."

The door opened for the second time, and there appeared, modestly, on
the threshold, a little old man, with rosy cheeks and long white hair.
A small leather case was slung by a strap at his side, and the stem of
a pipe peeped out of the breast pocket of his coat. He advanced one
step into the room, stopped, raised both his hands, with his felt hat
crumpled up in them, to his heart, and made five fantastic bows in
quick succession--two to Mrs. Frankland, two to her husband, and one
to Mrs. Frankland again, as an act of separate and special homage to
the lady. Never had Rosamond seen a more complete embodiment in human
form of perfect innocence and perfect harmlessness than the foreigner
who was described in the housekeeper's letter as an audacious
vagabond, and who was dreaded by Mr. Munder as something worse than a

"Madam and good Sir," said the old man, advancing a little nearer at
Mrs. Frankland's invitation, "I ask your pardon for intruding myself.
My name is Joseph Buschmann. I live in the town of Truro, where I work
in cabinets and tea-caddies, and other shining woods. I am also, if
you please, the same little foreign man who was scolded by the big
major-domo when I came to see the house. All that I ask of your
kindness is, that you will let me say for my errand here and for
myself, and for another person who is very near to my love--one little
word. I will be but few minutes, Madam and good Sir, and then I will
go my ways again, with my best wishes and my best thanks."

"Pray consider, Mr. Buschmann, that our time is your time," said
Leonard. "We have no engagement whatever which need oblige you to
shorten your visit. I must tell you beforehand, in order to prevent
any embarrassment on either side, that I have the misfortune to be
blind. I can promise you, however, my best attention as far as
listening goes. Rosamond, is Mr. Buschmann seated?"

Mr. Buschmann was still standing near the door, and was expressing
sympathy by bowing to Mr. Frankland again, and crumpling his felt hat
once more over his heart.

"Pray come nearer, and sit down," said Rosamond. "And don't imagine
for one moment that any opinion of the steward's has the least
influence on us, or that we feel it at all necessary for you to
apologize for what took place the last time you came to this house. We
have an interest--a very great interest," she added, with her usual
hearty frankness, "in hearing any thing that you have to tell us. You
are the person of all others whom we are, just at this time--" She
stopped, feeling her foot touched by her husband's, and rightly
interpreting the action as a warning not to speak too unrestrainedly
to the visitor before he had explained his object in coming to the

Looking very much pleased, and a little surprised also, when he heard
Rosamond's last words, Uncle Joseph drew a chair near to the table by
which Mr. and Mrs. Frankland were sitting, crumpled his felt hat up
smaller than ever, and put it in one of his side pockets, drew from
the other a little packet of letters, placed them on his knees as he
sat down, patted them gently with both hands, and entered on his
explanation in these terms:

"Madam and good Sir," he began, "before I can say comfortably my
little word, I must, with your leave, travel backward to the last time
when I came to this house in company with my niece."

"Your niece!" exclaimed Rosamond and Leonard, both speaking together.

"My niece, Sarah," said Uncle Joseph, "the only child of my sister
Agatha. It is for the love of Sarah, if you please, that I am here
now. She is the one last morsel of my flesh and blood that is left to
me in the world. The rest, they are all gone! My wife, my little
Joseph, my brother Max, my sister Agatha and the husband she married,
the good and noble Englishman, Leeson--they are all, all gone!"

"Leeson," said Rosamond, pressing her husband's hand significantly
under the table. "Your niece's name is Sarah Leeson?"

Uncle Joseph sighed and shook his head. "One day," he said, "of all
the days in the year the evilmost for Sarah, she changed that name. Of
the man she married--who is dead now, Madam--it is little or nothing
that I know but this: His name was Jazeph, and he used her ill, for
which I think him the First Scoundrel! Yes," exclaimed Uncle Joseph,
with the nearest approach to anger and bitterness which his nature was
capable of making, and with an idea that he was using one of the
strongest superlatives in the language--"Yes! if he was to come to
life again at this very moment of time, I would say it of him to his
face--Englishman Jazeph, you are the First Scoundrel!"

Rosamond pressed her husband's hand for the second time. If their own
convictions had not already identified Mrs. Jazeph with Sarah Leeson,
the old man's last words must have amply sufficed to assure them that
both names had been borne by the same person.

"Well, then, I shall now travel backward to the time when I was here
with Sarah, my niece," resumed Uncle Joseph. "I must, if you please,
speak the truth in this business, or, now that I am already backward
where I want to be, I shall stick fast in my place, and get on no more
for the rest of my life. Sir and good Madam, will you have the great
kindness to forgive me and Sarah, my niece, if I confess that it was
not to see the house that we came here and rang at the bell, and gave
deal of trouble, and wasted much breath of the big major-domo's with
the scolding that we got. It was only to do one curious little thing
that we came together to this place--or, no, it was all about a secret
of Sarah's, which is still as black and dark to me as the middle of
the blackest and darkest night that ever was in the world--and as I
nothing knew about it, except that there was no harm in it to any body
or any thing, and that Sarah was determined to go, and that I could
not let her go by herself; as also for the good reason that she told
me she had the best right of any body to take the letter and to hide
it again, seeing that she was afraid of its being found if longer in
that room she left it, which was the room where she had hidden it
before--why, so it happened that I--no, that she--no, no, that I--Ach
Gott!" cried Uncle Joseph, striking his forehead in despair, and
relieving himself by an invocation in his own language. "I am lost in
my own muddlement; and whereabouts the right place is, and how I am to
get myself back into it, as I am a living sinner, is more than I

"There is not the least need to go back on our account," said
Rosamond, forgetting all caution and self-restraint in her anxiety to
restore the old man's confidence and composure. "Pray don't try to
repeat your explanations. We know already--"

"We will suppose," said Leonard, interposing abruptly before his wife
could add another word, "that we know already every thing you can
desire to tell us in relation to your niece's secret, and to your
motives for desiring to see the house."

"You will suppose that!" exclaimed Uncle Joseph, looking greatly
relieved. "Ah! thank you, Sir, and you, good Madam, a thousand times
for helping me out of my own muddlement with a 'Suppose.' I am all
over confusion from my tops to my toes; but I can go on now, I think,
and lose myself no more. So! Let us say it in this way: I and Sarah,
my niece, are _in_ the house--that is the first 'Suppose.' I and
Sarah, my niece, are _out_ of the house--that is the second 'Suppose.'
Good! now we go on once more. On my way back to my own home at Truro,
I am frightened for Sarah, because of the faint she fell into on your
stairs here, and because of a look in her face that it makes me heavy
at my heart to see. Also, I am sorry for her sake, because she has not
done that one curious little thing which she came into the house to
do. I fret about these same matters, but I console myself too; and my
comfort is that Sarah will stop with me in my house at Truro, and that
I shall make her happy and well again, as soon as we are settled in
our life together. Judge, then, Sir, what a blow falls on me when I
hear that she will not make her home where I make mine. Judge you,
also, good Madam, what my surprise must be, when I ask for her reason,
and she tells me she must leave Uncle Joseph, because she is afraid of
being found out by _you_." He stopped, and looking anxiously at
Rosamond's face, saw it sadden and turn away from him after he had
spoken his last words. "Are you sorry, Madam, for Sarah, my niece? do
you pity her?" he asked, with a little hesitation and trembling in his

"I pity her with my whole heart," said Rosamond, warmly.

"And with my whole heart, for that pity I thank you!" rejoined Uncle
Joseph. "Ah, Madam, your kindness gives me the courage to go on, and
to tell you that we parted from each other on the day of our getting
back to Truro! When she came to see me this time, it was years and
years, long and lonely and very many, since we two had met. I was
afraid that many more would pass again, and I tried to make her stop
with me to the very last. But she had still the same fear to drive her
away--the fear of being found and put to the question by you. So, with
the tears in her eyes (and in mine), and the grief at her heart (and
at mine), she went away to hide herself in the empty bigness of the
great city, London, which swallows up all people and all things that
pour into it, and which has now swallowed up Sarah, my niece, with the
rest. 'My child, you will write sometimes to Uncle Joseph,' I said,
and she answered me,'I will write often.' It is three weeks now since
that time, and here, on my knee, are four letters she has written to
me. I shall ask your leave to put them down open before you, because
they will help me to get on further yet with what I must say, and
because I see in your face, Madam, that you are indeed sorry for
Sarah, my niece, from your heart."

He untied the packet of letters, opened them, kissed them one by one,
and put them down in a row on the table, smoothing them out carefully
with his hand, and taking great pains to arrange them all in a
perfectly straight line. A glance at the first of the little series
showed Rosamond that the handwriting in it was the same as the
handwriting in the body of the letter which had been found in the
Myrtle Room.

"There is not much to read," said Uncle Joseph. "But if you will look
through them first, Madam, I can tell you after all the reason for
showing them that I have."

The old man was right. There was very little to read in the letters,
and they grew progressively shorter as they became more recent in
date. All four were written in the formal, conventionally correct
style of a person taking up the pen with a fear of making mistakes in
spelling and grammar, and were equally destitute of any personal
particulars relative to the writer; all four anxiously entreated that
Uncle Joseph would not be uneasy, inquired after his health, and
expressed gratitude and love for him as warmly as their timid
restraints of style would permit; all four contained these two
questions relating to Rosamond--First, had Mrs. Frankland arrived yet
at Porthgenna Tower? Second, if she had arrived, what had Uncle Joseph
heard about her? And, finally, all four gave the same instructions for
addressing an answer--"Please direct to me, 'S. J., Post-office,
Smith Street, London'"--followed by the same apology, "Excuse my not
giving my address, in case of accidents; for even in London I am still
afraid of being followed and found out. I send every morning for
letters; so I am sure to get your answer."

"I told you, Madam," said the old man, when Rosamond raised her head
from the letters, "that I was frightened and sorry for Sarah when she
left me. Now see, if you please, why I got more frightened and more
sorry yet, when I have all the four letters that she writes to me.
They begin here, with the first, at my left hand; and they grow
shorter, and shorter, and shorter, as they get nearer to my right,
till the last is but eight little lines. Again, see, if you please.
The writing of the first letter, here, at my left hand, is very
fine--I mean it is very fine to me, because I love Sarah, and because
I write very badly myself; but it is not so good in the second
letter--it shakes a little, it blots a little, it crooks itself a
little in the last lines. In the third it is worse--more shake, more
blot, more crook. In the fourth, where there is least to do, there is
still more shake, still more blot, still more crook, than in all the
other three put together. I see this; I remember that she was weak and
worn and weary when she left me, and I say to myself, 'She is ill,
though she will not tell it, for the writing betrays her!'"

Rosamond looked down again at the letters, and followed the
significant changes for the worse in the handwriting, line by line, as
the old man pointed them out.

"I say to myself that," he continued; "I wait, and think a little; and
I hear my own heart whisper to me, 'Go you, Uncle Joseph, to London,
and, while there is yet time, bring her back to be cured and comforted
and made happy in your own home!' After that I wait, and think a
little again--not about leaving my business; I would leave it forever
sooner than Sarah should come to harm--but about what I am to do to
get her to come back. That thought makes me look at the letters again;
the letters show me always the same questions about Mistress
Frankland; I see it plainly as my own hand before me that I shall
never get Sarah, my niece, back, unless I can make easy her mind about
those questions of Mistress Frankland's that she dreads as if there
was death to her in every one of them. I see it! it makes my pipe go
out; it drives me up from my chair; it puts my hat on my head; it
brings me here, where I have once intruded myself already, and where I
have no right, I know, to intrude myself again; it makes me beg and
pray now, of your compassion for my niece and of your goodness for me,
that you will not deny me the means of bringing Sarah back. If I may
only say to her, I have seen Mistress Frankland, and she has told me
with her own lips that she will ask none of those questions that you
fear so much--if I may only say that, Sarah will come back with me,
and I shall thank you every day of my life for making me a happy man!"

The simple eloquence of his words, the innocent earnestness of his
manner, touched Rosamond to the heart. "I will do any thing, I will
promise any thing," she answered eagerly, "to help you to bring her
back! If she will only let me see her, I promise not to say one word
that she would not wish me to say; I promise not to ask one
question--no, not one--that it will pain her to answer. Oh, what
comforting message can I send besides? what can I say--?" She stopped
confusedly, feeling her husband's foot touching hers again.

"Ah, say no more! say no more!" cried Uncle Joseph, tying up his
little packet of letters, with his eyes sparkling and his ruddy face
all in a glow. "Enough said to bring Sarah back! enough said to make
me grateful for all my life! Oh, I am so happy, so happy, so happy--my
skin is too small to hold me!" He tossed up the packet of letters into
the air, caught it, kissed it, and put it back again in his pocket,
all in an instant.

"You are not going?" said Rosamond. "Surely you are not going yet?"

"It is my loss to go away from here, which I must put up with, because
it is also my gain to get sooner to Sarah," replied Uncle Joseph. "For
that reason only, I shall ask your pardon if I take my leave with my
heart full of thanks, and go my ways home again."

"When do you propose to start for London, Mr. Buschmann?" inquired

"To-morrow, in the morning early, Sir," replied Uncle Joseph. "I shall
finish the work that I must do to-night, and shall leave the rest to
Samuel (who is my very good friend, and my shopman too), and shall
then go to Sarah by the first coach."

"May I ask for your niece's address in London, in case we wish to
write to you?"

"She gives me no address, Sir, but the post-office; for even at the
great distance of London, the same fear that she had all the way from
this house still sticks to her. But here is the place where I shall
get my own bed," continued the old man, producing a small shop card.
"It is the house of a countryman of my own, a fine baker of buns, Sir,
and a very good man indeed."

"Have you thought of any plan for finding out your niece's address?"
inquired Rosamond, copying the direction on the card while she spoke.

"Ah, yes--for I am always quick at making my plans," said Uncle
Joseph. "I shall present myself to the master of the post, and to him
I shall say just this and no more--'Good-morning, Sir. I am the man
who writes the letters to S. J. She is my niece, if you please; and
all that I want to know is--Where does she live?' There is something
like a plan, I think? Aha!" He spread out both his hands
interrogatively, and looked at Mrs. Frankland with a self-satisfied

"I am afraid," said Rosamond, partly amused, partly touched by his
simplicity, "that the people at the post-office are not at all likely
to be trusted with the address. I think you would do better to take a
letter with you, directed to 'S. J.;' to deliver it in the morning
when letters are received from the country; to wait near the door, and
then to follow the person who is sent by your niece (as she tells you
herself) to ask for letters for S. J."

"You think that is better?" said Uncle Joseph, secretly convinced that
his own idea was unquestionably the most ingenious of the two. "Good!
The least little word that you say to me, Madam, is a command that I
follow with all my heart." He took the crumpled felt hat out of his
pocket, and advanced to say farewell, when Mr. Frankland spoke to him

"If you find your niece well, and willing to travel," said Leonard,
"you will bring her back to Truro at once? And you will let us know
when you are both at home again?"

"At once, Sir," said Uncle Joseph. "To both these questions, I say, At

"If a week from this time passes," continued Leonard, "and we hear
nothing from you, we must conclude, then, either that some unforeseen
obstacle stands in the way of your return, or that your fears on your
niece's account have been but too well-founded, and that she is not
able to travel?"

"Yes, Sir; so let it be. But I hope you will hear from me before the
week is out."

"Oh, so do I! most earnestly, most anxiously!" said Rosamond. "You
remember my message?"

"I have got it here, every word of it," said Uncle Joseph, touching
his heart. He raised the hand which Rosamond held out to him to his
lips. "I shall try to thank you better when I have come back," he
said. "For all your kindness to me and to my niece, God bless you
both, and keep you happy, till we meet again." With these words, he
hastened to the door, waved his hand gayly, with the old crumpled hat
in it, and went out.

"Dear, simple, warm-hearted old man!" said Rosamond, as the door
closed. "I wanted to tell him every thing, Lenny. Why did you stop

"My love, it is that very simplicity which you admire, and which I
admire, too, that makes me cautious. At the first sound of his voice I
felt as warmly toward him as you do; but the more I heard him talk the
more convinced I became that it would be rash to trust him, at first,
for fear of his disclosing too abruptly to your mother that we know
her secret. Our chance of winning her confidence and obtaining an
interview with her depends, I can see, upon our own tact in dealing
with her exaggerated suspicions and her nervous fears. That good old
man, with the best and kindest intentions in the world, might ruin
every thing. He will have done all that we can hope for, and all that
we can wish, if he only succeeds in bringing her back to Truro."

"But if he fails?--if any thing happens?--if she is really ill?"

"Let us wait till the week is over, Rosamond. It will be time enough
then to decide what we shall do next."



The week of expectation passed, and no tidings from Uncle Joseph
reached Porthgenna Tower.

On the eighth day Mr. Frankland sent a messenger to Truro, with orders
to find out the cabinet-maker's shop kept by Mr. Buschmann, and to
inquire of the person left in charge there whether he had received any
news from his master. The messenger returned in the afternoon, and
brought word that Mr. Buschmann had written one short note to his
shopman since his departure, announcing that he had arrived safely
toward nightfall in London; that he had met with a hospitable welcome
from his countryman, the German baker; and that he had discovered his
niece's address, but had been prevented from seeing her by an obstacle
which he hoped would be removed at his next visit. Since the delivery
of that note, no further communication had been received from him, and
nothing therefore was known of the period at which he might be
expected to return.

The one fragment of intelligence thus obtained was not of a nature to
relieve the depression of spirits which the doubt and suspense of the
past week had produced in Mrs. Frankland. Her husband endeavored to
combat the oppression of mind from which she was suffering, by
reminding her that the ominous silence of Uncle Joseph might be just
as probably occasioned by his niece's unwillingness as by her
inability to return with him to Truro. Remembering the obstacle at
which the old man's letter hinted, and taking also into consideration
her excessive sensitiveness and her unreasoning timidity, he declared
it to be quite possible that Mrs. Frankland's message, instead of
re-assuring her, might only inspire her with fresh apprehensions, and
might consequently strengthen her resolution to keep herself out of
reach of all communications from Porthgenna Tower.

Rosamond listened patiently while this view of the case was placed
before her, and acknowledged that the reasonableness of it was beyond
dispute; but her readiness in admitting that her husband might be
right and that she might be wrong was accompanied by no change for the
better in the condition of her spirits. The interpretation which, the
old man had placed upon the alteration for the worse in Mrs. Jazeph's
handwriting had produced a vivid impression on her mind, which had
been strengthened by her own recollection of her mother's pale, worn
face when they met as strangers at West Winston. Reason, therefore, as
convincingly as he might, Mr. Frankland was unable to shake his wife's
conviction that the obstacle mentioned in Uncle Joseph's letter, and
the silence which he had maintained since, were referable alike to the
illness of his niece.

The return of the messenger from Truro suggested, besides this topic
of discussion, another question of much greater importance. After
having waited one day beyond the week that had been appointed, what
was the proper course of action for Mr. and Mrs. Frankland now to
adopt, in the absence of any information from London or from Truro to
decide their future proceedings?

Leonard's first idea was to write immediately to Uncle Joseph, at the
address which he had given on the occasion of his visit to Porthgenna
Tower. When this project was communicated to Rosamond, she opposed it,
on the ground that the necessary delay before the answer to the letter
could arrive would involve a serious waste of time, when it might, for
aught they knew to the contrary, be of the last importance to them not
to risk the loss of a single day. If illness prevented Mrs. Jazeph
from traveling, it would be necessary to see her at once, because that
illness might increase. If she were only suspicious of their motives,
it was equally important to open personal communications with her
before she could find an opportunity of raising some fresh obstacle,
and of concealing herself again in some place of refuge which Uncle
Joseph himself might not be able to trace.

The truth of these conclusions was obvious, but Leonard hesitated to
adopt them, because they involved the necessity of a journey to
London. If he went there without his wife, his blindness placed him at
the mercy of strangers and servants, in conducting investigations of
the most delicate and most private nature. If Rosamond accompanied
him, it would be necessary to risk all kinds of delays and
inconveniences by taking the child with them on a long and wearisome
journey of more than two hundred and fifty miles.

Rosamond met both these difficulties with her usual directness and
decision. The idea of her husband traveling any where, under any
circumstances, in his helpless, dependent state, without having her to
attend on him, she dismissed at once as too preposterous for
consideration. The second objection, of subjecting the child to the
chances and fatigues of a long journey, she met by proposing that they
should travel to Exeter at their own time and in their own conveyance,
and that they should afterward insure plenty of comfort and plenty of
room by taking a carriage to themselves when they reached the railroad
at Exeter. After thus smoothing away the difficulties which seemed to
set themselves in opposition to the journey, she again reverted to the
absolute necessity of undertaking it. She reminded Leonard of the
serious interest that they both had in immediately obtaining Mrs.
Jazeph's testimony to the genuineness of the letter which had been
found in the Myrtle Room, as well as in ascertaining all the details
of the extraordinary fraud which had been practiced by Mrs. Treverton
on her husband. She pleaded also her own natural anxiety to make all
the atonement in her power for the pain she must have unconsciously
inflicted, in the bedroom at West Winston, on the person of all others
whose failings and sorrows she was most bound to respect; and having
thus stated the motives which urged her husband and herself to lose no
time in communicating personally with Mrs. Jazeph, she again drew the
inevitable conclusion that there was no alternative, in the position
in which they were now placed, but to start forthwith on the journey
to London.

A little further consideration satisfied Leonard that the emergency
was of such a nature as to render all attempts to meet it by
half-measures impossible. He felt that his own convictions agreed with
his wife's; and he resolved accordingly to act at once, without
further indecision or further delay. Before the evening was over, the
servants at Porthgenna were amazed by receiving directions to pack the
trunks for traveling, and to order horses at the post-town for an
early hour the next morning.

On the first day of the journey, the travelers started as soon as the
carriage was ready, rested on the road toward noon, and remained for
the night at Liskeard. On the second day they arrived at Exeter, and
slept there. On the third day they reached London by the railway,
between six and seven o'clock in the evening.

When they were comfortably settled for the night at their hotel, and
when an hour's rest and quiet had enabled them to recover a little
after the fatigues of the journey, Rosamond wrote two notes under her
husband's direction. The first was addressed to Mr. Buschmann: it
simply informed him of their arrival, and of their earnest desire to
see him at the hotel as early as possible the next morning, and it
concluded by cautioning him to wait until he had seen them before he
announced their presence in London to his niece.

The second note was addressed to the family solicitor, Mr. Nixon--the
same gentleman who, more than a year since, had written, at Mrs.
Frankland's request, the letter which informed Andrew Treverton of his
brother's decease, and of the circumstances under which the captain
had died. All that Rosamond now wrote, in her husband's name and her
own, to ask of Mr. Nixon, was that he would endeavor to call at their
hotel on his way to business the next morning, to give his opinion on
a private matter of great importance, which had obliged them to
undertake the journey from Porthgenna to London. This note, and the
note to Uncle Joseph, were sent to their respective addresses by a
messenger on the evening when they were written.

The first visitor who arrived the next morning was the solicitor--a
clear-headed, fluent, polite old gentleman, who had known Captain
Treverton and his father before him. He came to the hotel fully
expecting to be consulted on some difficulties connected with the
Porthgenna estate, which the local agent was perhaps unable to settle,
and which might be of too confused and intricate a nature to be easily
expressed in writing. When he heard what the emergency really was, and
when the letter that had been found in the Myrtle Room was placed in
his hands, it is not too much to say that, for the first time in the
course of a long life and a varied practice among all sorts and
conditions of clients, sheer astonishment utterly paralyzed Mr.
Nixon's faculties, and bereft him for some moments of the power of
uttering a single word.

When, however, Mr. Frankland proceeded from making the disclosure to
announcing his resolution to give up the purchase-money of Porthgenna
Tower, if the genuineness of the letter could be proved to his own
satisfaction, the old lawyer recovered the use of his tongue
immediately, and protested against his client's intention with the
sincere warmth of a man who thoroughly understood the advantage of
being rich, and who knew what it was to gain and to lose a fortune of
forty thousand pounds.

Leonard listened with patient attention while Mr. Nixon argued from
his professional point of view against regarding the letter, taken by
itself, as a genuine document, and against accepting Mrs. Jazeph's
evidence, taken with it, as decisive on the subject of Mrs.
Frankland's real parentage. He expatiated on the improbability of Mrs.
Treverton's alleged fraud upon her husband having been committed
without other persons besides her maid and herself being in the
secret. He declared it to be in accordance with all received
experience of human nature that one or more of those other persons
must have spoken of the secret either from malice or from want of
caution, and that the consequent exposure of the truth must, in the
course of so long a period as twenty-two years, have come to the
knowledge of some among the many people in the West of England, as
well as in London, who knew the Treverton family personally or by
reputation. From this objection he passed to another, which admitted
the possible genuineness of the letter as a written document; but
which pleaded the probability of its having been produced under the
influence of some mental delusion on Mrs. Treverton's part, which her
maid might have had an interest in humoring at the time, though she
might have hesitated, after her mistress's death, at risking the
possible consequences of attempting to profit by the imposture. Having
stated this theory, as one which not only explained the writing of the
letter, but the hiding of it also, Mr. Nixon further observed, in
reference to Mrs. Jazeph, that any evidence she might give was of
little or no value in a legal point of view, from the difficulty--or,
he might say, the impossibility--of satisfactorily identifying the
infant mentioned in the letter with the lady whom he had now the
honor of addressing as Mrs. Frankland, and whom no unsubstantiated
document in existence should induce him to believe to be any other
than the daughter of his old friend and client, Captain Treverton.

Having heard the lawyer's objections to the end, Leonard admitted
their ingenuity, but acknowledged at the same time that they had
produced no alteration in his impression on the subject of the letter,
or in his convictions as to the course of duty which he felt bound to
follow. He would wait, he said, for Mrs. Jazeph's testimony before he
acted decisively; but if that testimony were of such a nature, and
were given in such a manner, as to satisfy him that his wife had no
moral right to the fortune that she possessed, he would restore it at
once to the person who had--Mr. Andrew Treverton.

Finding that no fresh arguments or suggestions could shake Mr.
Frankland's resolution, and that no separate appeal to Rosamond had
the slightest effect in stimulating her to use her influence for the
purpose of inducing her husband to alter his determination; and
feeling convinced, moreover, from all that he heard, that Mr.
Frankland would, if he was opposed by many more objections, either
employ another professional adviser, or risk committing some fatal
legal error by acting for himself in the matter of restoring the
money, Mr. Nixon at last consented, under protest, to give his client
what help he needed in case it became necessary to hold communication
with Andrew Treverton. He listened with polite resignation to
Leonard's brief statement of the questions that he intended to put to
Mrs. Jazeph; and said, with the slightest possible dash of sarcasm,
when it came to his turn to speak, that they were excellent questions
in a moral point of view, and would doubtless produce answers which
would be full of interest of the most romantic kind. "But," he added,
"as you have one child already, Mr. Frankland, and as you may,
perhaps, if I may venture on suggesting such a thing, have more in the
course of years; and as those children, when they grow up, may hear of
the loss of their mother's fortune, and may wish to know why it was
sacrificed, I should recommend--resting the matter on family grounds
alone, and not going further to make a legal point of it also--that
you procure from Mrs. Jazeph, besides the vivâ voce evidence you
propose to extract (against the admissibility of which, in this case,
I again protest), a written declaration, which you may leave behind
you at your death, and which may justify you in the eyes of your
children, in case the necessity for such justification should arise at
some future period."

This advice was too plainly valuable to be neglected. At Leonard's
request, Mr. Nixon drew out at once a form of declaration, affirming
the genuineness of the letter addressed by the late Mrs. Treverton on
her death-bed to her husband, since also deceased, and bearing witness
to the truth of the statements therein contained, both as regarded the
fraud practiced on Captain Treverton and the asserted parentage of the
child. Telling Mr. Frankland that he would do well to have Mrs.
Jazeph's signature to this document attested by the names of two
competent witnesses, Mr. Nixon handed the declaration to Rosamond to
read aloud to her husband, and, finding that no objection was made to
any part of it, and that he could be of no further use in the present
early stage of the proceedings, rose to take his leave. Leonard
engaged to communicate with him again in the course of the day, if
necessary; and he retired, reiterating his protest to the last, and
declaring that he had never met with such an extraordinary case and
such a self-willed client before in the whole course of his practice.

Nearly an hour elapsed after the departure of the lawyer before any
second visitor was announced. At the expiration of that time, the
welcome sound of footsteps was heard approaching the door, and Uncle
Joseph entered the room.

Rosamond's observation, stimulated by anxiety, detected a change in
his look and manner the moment he appeared. His face was harassed and
fatigued, and his gait, as he advanced into the room, had lost the
briskness and activity which so quaintly distinguished it when she saw
him, for the first time, at Porthgenna Tower. He tried to add to his
first words of greeting an apology for being late; but Rosamond
interrupted him, in her eagerness to ask the first important question.

"We know that you have discovered her address," she said, anxiously,
"but we know nothing more. Is she as you feared to find her? Is she

The old man shook his head sadly. "When I showed you her letter," he
said, "what did I tell you? She is so ill, Madam, that not even the
message your kindness gave to me will do her any good."

Those few simple words struck Rosamond's heart with a strange fear,
which silenced her against her own will when she tried to speak again.
Uncle Joseph understood the anxious look she fixed on him, and the
quick sign she made toward the chair standing nearest to the sofa on
which she and her husband were sitting. There he took his place, and
there he confided to them all that he had to tell.

He had followed, he said, the advice which Rosamond had given to him
at Porthgenna, by taking a letter addressed to "S. J." to the
post-office the morning after his arrival in London. The messenger--a
maid-servant--had called to inquire, as was anticipated, and had left
the post-office with his letter in her hand. He had followed her to a
lodging-house in a street near, had seen her let herself in at the
door, and had then knocked and inquired for Mrs. Jazeph. The door was
answered by an old woman, who looked like the landlady; and the reply
was that no one of that name lived there. He had then explained that
he wished to see the person for whom letters were sent to the
neighboring post-office, addressed to "S. J.;" but the old woman had
answered, in the surliest way, that they had nothing to do with
anonymous people or their friends in that house, and had closed the
door in his face. Upon this he had gone back to his friend, the German
baker, to get advice; and had been recommended to return, after
allowing some little time to elapse, to ask if he could see the
servant who waited on the lodgers, to describe his niece's appearance,
and to put half a crown into the girl's hand to help her to understand
what he wanted. He had followed these directions, and had discovered
that his niece was lying ill in the house, under the assumed name of
"Mrs. James." A little persuasion (after the present of the
half-crown) had induced the girl to go up stairs and announce his
name. After that there were no more obstacles to be overcome, and he
was conducted immediately to the room occupied by his niece.

He was inexpressibly shocked and startled when he saw her by the
violent nervous agitation which she manifested as he approached her
bedside. But he did not lose heart and hope until he had communicated
Mrs. Frankland's message, and had found that it failed altogether in
producing the re-assuring effect on her spirits which he had trusted
and believed that it would exercise. Instead of soothing, it seemed to
excite and alarm her afresh. Among a host of minute inquiries about
Mrs. Frankland's looks, about her manner toward him, about the exact
words she had spoken, all of which he was able to answer more or less
to her satisfaction, she had addressed two questions to him, to which
he was utterly unable to reply. The first of the questions was,
Whether Mrs. Frankland had said any thing about the Secret? The second
was, Whether she had spoken any chance word to lead to the suspicion
that she had found out the situation of the Myrtle Room?

The doctor in attendance had come in, the old man added, while he was
still sitting by his niece's bedside, and still trying ineffectually
to induce her to accept the friendly and re-assuring language of Mrs.
Frankland's message. After making some inquiries and talking a little
while on indifferent matters, the doctor had privately taken him
aside; had informed him that the pain over the region of the heart and
the difficulty in breathing, which were the symptoms of which his
niece complained, were more serious in their nature than persons
uninstructed in medical matters might be disposed to think; and had
begged him to give her no more messages from any one, unless he felt
perfectly sure beforehand that they would have the effect of clearing
her mind, at once and forever, from the secret anxieties that now
harassed it--anxieties which he might rest assured were aggravating
her malady day by day, and rendering all the medical help that could
be given of little or no avail.

Upon this, after sitting longer with his niece, and after holding
counsel with himself, he had resolved to write privately to Mrs.
Frankland that evening, after getting back to his friend's house. The
letter had taken him longer to compose than any one accustomed to
writing would believe. At last, after delays in making a fair copy
from many rough drafts, and delays in leaving his task to attend to
his niece, he had completed a letter narrating what had happened since
his arrival in London, in language which he hoped might be
understood. Judging by comparison of dates, this letter must have
crossed Mr. and Mrs. Frankland on the road. It contained nothing more
than he had just been relating with his own lips--except that it also
communicated, as a proof that distance had not diminished the fear
which tormented his niece's mind, the explanation she had given to him
of her concealment of her name, and of her choice of an abode among
strangers, when she had friends in London to whom she might have gone.
That explanation it was perhaps needless to have lengthened the letter
by repeating, for it only involved his saying over again, in
substance, what he had already said in speaking of the motive which
had forced Sarah to part from him at Truro.

With last words such as those, the sad and simple story of the old man
came to an end. After waiting a little to recover her self-possession
and to steady her voice, Rosamond touched her husband to draw his
attention to herself, and whispered to him--

"I may say all, now, that I wished to say at Porthgenna?"

"All," he answered. "If you can trust yourself, Rosamond, it is
fittest that he should hear it from your lips."

After the first natural burst of astonishment was over, the effect of
the disclosure of the Secret on Uncle Joseph exhibited the most
striking contrast that can be imagined to the effect of it on Mr.
Nixon. No shadow of doubt darkened the old man's face, not a word of
objection dropped from his lips. The one emotion excited in him was
simple, unreflecting, unalloyed delight. He sprang to his feet with
all his natural activity, his eyes sparkled again with all their
natural brightness; one moment he clapped his hands like a child; the
next he caught up his hat, and entreated Rosamond to let him lead her
at once to his niece's bedside. "If you will only tell Sarah what you
have just told me," he cried, hurrying across the room to open the
door, "you will give her back her courage, you will raise her up from
her bed, you will cure her before the day is out!"

A warning word from Mr. Frankland stopped him on a sudden, and brought
him back, silent and attentive, to the chair that he had left the
moment before.

"Think a little of what the doctor told you," said Leonard. "The
sudden surprise which has made you so happy might do fatal mischief to
your niece. Before we take the responsibility of speaking to her on a
subject which is sure to agitate her violently, however careful we may
be in introducing it, we ought first, I think, for safety's sake, to
apply to the doctor for advice."

Rosamond warmly seconded her husband's suggestion, and, with her
characteristic impatience of delay, proposed that they should find out
the medical man immediately. Uncle Joseph announced--a little
unwillingly, as it seemed--in answer to her inquiries, that he knew
the place of the doctor's residence, and that he was generally to be
found at home before one o'clock in the afternoon. It was then just
half-past twelve; and Rosamond, with her husband's approval, rang the
bell at once to send for a cab.

She was about to leave the room to put on her bonnet, after giving the
necessary order, when the old man stopped her by asking, with some
appearance of hesitation and confusion, if it was considered necessary
that he should go to the doctor with Mr. and Mrs. Frankland; adding,
before the question could be answered, that he would greatly prefer,
if there was no objection to it on their parts, being left to wait at
the hotel to receive any instructions they might wish to give him on
their return. Leonard immediately complied with his request, without
inquiring into his reasons for making it; but Rosamond's curiosity was
aroused, and she asked why he preferred remaining by himself at the
hotel to going with them to the doctor.

"I like him not," said the old man. "When he speaks about Sarah, he
looks and talks as if he thought she would never get up from her bed
again." Answering in those brief words, he walked away uneasily to the
window, as if he desired to say no more.

The residence of the doctor was at some little distance, but Mr. and
Mrs. Frankland arrived there before one o'clock, and found him at
home. He was a young man, with a mild, grave face, and a quiet,
subdued manner. Daily contact with suffering and sorrow had perhaps
prematurely steadied and saddened his character. Merely introducing
her husband and herself to him, as persons who were deeply interested
in his patient at the lodging-house, Rosamond left it to Leonard to
ask the first questions relating to the condition of her mother's

The doctor's answer was ominously prefaced by a few polite words,
which were evidently intended to prepare his hearers for a less
hopeful report than they might have come there expecting to receive.
Carefully divesting the subject of all professional technicalities, he
told them that his patient was undoubtedly affected with serious
disease of the heart. The exact nature of this disease he candidly
acknowledged to be a matter of doubt, which various medical men might
decide in various ways. According to the opinion which he had himself
formed from the symptoms, he believed that the patient's malady was
connected with the artery which conveys blood directly from the heart
through the system. Having found her singularly unwilling to answer
questions relating to the nature of her past life, he could only guess
that the disease was of long standing; that it was originally produced
by some great mental shock, followed by long-wearing anxiety (of which
her face showed palpable traces); and that it had been seriously
aggravated by the fatigue of a journey to London, which she
acknowledged she had undertaken at a time when great nervous
exhaustion rendered her totally unfit to travel. Speaking according to
this view of the case, it was his painful duty to tell her friends
that any violent emotion would unquestionably put her life in danger.
At the same time, if the mental uneasiness from which she was now
suffering could be removed, and if she could be placed in a quiet,
comfortable country home, among people who would be unremittingly
careful in keeping her composed, and in suffering her to want for
nothing, there was reason to hope that the progress of the disease
might be arrested, and that her life might be spared for some years to

Rosamond's heart bounded at the picture of the future which her fancy
drew from the suggestions that lay hidden in the doctor's last words.
"She can command every advantage you have mentioned, and more, if more
is required!" she interposed eagerly, before her husband could speak
again. "Oh, Sir, if rest among kind friends is all that her poor weary
heart wants, thank God we can give it!"

"We can give it," said Leonard, continuing the sentence for his wife,
"if the doctor will sanction our making a communication to his
patient, which is of a nature to relieve her of all anxiety, but
which, it is necessary to add, she is at present quite unprepared to

"May I ask," said the doctor, "who is to be intrusted with the
responsibility of making the communication you mention?"

"There are two persons who could be intrusted with it," answered
Leonard. "One is the old man whom you have seen by your patient's
bedside. The other is my wife."

"In that case," rejoined the doctor, looking at Rosamond, "there can
be no doubt that this lady is the fittest person to undertake the
duty." He paused, and reflected for a moment; then added--"May I
inquire, however, before I venture on guiding your decision one way or
the other, whether the lady is as familiarly known to my patient, and
is on the same intimate terms with her, as the old man?"

"I am afraid I must answer No to both those questions," replied
Leonard. "And I ought, perhaps, to tell you, at the same time, that
your patient believes my wife to be now in Cornwall. Her first
appearance in the sick-room would, I fear, cause great surprise to the
sufferer, and possibly some little alarm as well."

"Under those circumstances," said the doctor, "the risk of trusting
the old man, simple as he is, seems to be infinitely the least risk of
the two--for the plain reason that his presence can cause her no
surprise. However unskillfully he may break the news, he will have the
great advantage over this lady of not appearing unexpectedly at the
bedside. If the hazardous experiment must be tried--and I assume that
it must, from what you have said--you have no choice, I think, but to
trust it, with proper cautions and instructions, to the old man to
carry out."

After arriving at that conclusion, there was no more to be said on
either side. The interview terminated, and Rosamond and her husband
hastened back to give Uncle Joseph his instructions at the hotel.

As they approached the door of their sitting-room they were surprised
by hearing the sound of music inside. On entering, they found the old
man crouched upon a stool, listening to a shabby little musical box
which was placed on a table close by him, and which was playing an
air that Rosamond recognized immediately as the "Batti, Batti" of

"I hope you will pardon me for making music to keep myself company
while you were away," said Uncle Joseph, starting up in some little
confusion, and touching the stop of the box. "This is, if you please,
of all my friends and companions, the oldest that is left. The divine
Mozart, the king of all the composers that ever lived, gave it with
his own hand, Madam, to my brother, when Max was a boy in the music
school at Vienna. Since my niece left me in Cornwall, I have not had
the heart to make Mozart sing to me out of this little bit of box
until to-day. Now that you have made me happy about Sarah again, my
ears ache once more for the tiny _ting-ting_ that has always the same
friendly sound to my heart, travel where I may. But enough so!" said
the old man, placing the box in the leather case by his side, which
Rosamond had noticed there when she first saw him at Porthgenna. "I
shall put back my singing-bird into his cage, and shall ask, when that
is done, if you will be pleased to tell me what it is that the doctor
has said?"

Rosamond answered his request by relating the substance of the
conversation which had passed between her husband and the doctor. She
then, with many preparatory cautions, proceeded to instruct the old
man how to disclose the discovery of the Secret to his niece. She told
him that the circumstances in connection with it must be first stated,
not as events that had really happened, but as events that might be
supposed to have happened. She put the words that he would have to
speak into his mouth, choosing the fewest and the plainest that would
answer the purpose; she showed him how he might glide almost
imperceptibly from referring to the discovery as a thing that might be
supposed, to referring to it as a thing that had really happened; and
she impressed upon him, as most important of all, to keep perpetually
before his niece's mind the fact that the discovery of the Secret had
not awakened one bitter feeling or one resentful thought toward her,
in the minds of either of the persons who had been so deeply
interested in finding it out.

Uncle Joseph listened with unwavering attention until Rosamond had
done; then rose from his seat, fixed his eyes intently on her face,
and detected an expression of anxiety and doubt in it which he rightly
interpreted as referring to himself.

"May I make you sure, before I go away, that I shall forget nothing?"
he asked, very earnestly. "I have no head to invent, it is true; but I
have something in me that can remember, and the more especially when
it is for Sarah's sake. If you please, listen now, and hear if I can
say to you over again all that you have said to me?"

Standing before Rosamond, with something in his look and manner
strangely and touchingly suggestive of the long-past days of his
childhood, and of the time when he had said his earliest lessons at
his mother's knee, he now repeated, from first to last, the
instructions that had been given to him, with a verbal exactness, with
an easy readiness of memory, which, in a man of his age, was nothing
less than astonishing. "Have I kept it all as I should?" he asked,
simply, when he had come to an end. "And may I go my ways now, and
take my good news to Sarah's bedside?"

It was still necessary to detain him, while Rosamond and her husband
consulted together on the best and safest means of following up the
avowal that the Secret was discovered by the announcement of their own
presence in London.

After some consideration, Leonard asked his wife to produce the
document which the lawyer had drawn out that morning, and to write a
few lines, from his dictation, on the blank side of the paper,
requesting Mrs. Jazeph to read the form of declaration, and to affix
her signature to it, if she felt that it required her, in every
particular, to affirm nothing that was not the exact truth. When this
had been done, and when the leaf on which Mrs. Frankland had written
had been folded outward, so that it might be the first page to catch
the eye, Leonard directed that the paper should be given to the old
man, and explained to him what he was to do with it, in these words:

"When you have broken the news about the Secret to your niece," he
said, "and when you have allowed her full time to compose herself, if
she asks questions about my wife and myself (as I believe she will),
hand that paper to her for answer, and beg her to read it. Whether she
is willing to sign it or not, she is sure to inquire how you came by
it. Tell her in return that you have received it from Mrs.
Frankland--using the word 'received,' so that she may believe at first
that it was sent to you from Porthgenna by post. If you find that she
signs the declaration, and that she is not much agitated after doing
so, then tell her in the same gradual way in which you tell the truth
about the discovery of the Secret, that my wife gave the paper to you
with her own hands, and that she is now in London--"

"Waiting and longing to see her," added Rosamond. "You, who forget
nothing, will not, I am sure, forget to say that."

The little compliment to his powers of memory made Uncle Joseph color
with pleasure, as if he was a boy again. Promising to prove worthy of
the trust reposed in him, and engaging to come back and relieve Mrs.
Frankland of all suspense before the day was out, he took his leave,
and went forth hopefully on his momentous errand.

Rosamond watched him from the window, threading his way in and out
among the throng of passengers on the pavement, until he was lost to
view. How nimbly the light little figure sped away out of sight! How
gayly the unclouded sunlight poured down on the cheerful bustle in the
street! The whole being of the great city basked in the summer glory
of the day; all its mighty pulses beat high, and all its myriad voices
whispered of hope!



The afternoon wore away and the evening came, and still there were no
signs of Uncle Joseph's return.

Toward seven o'clock, Rosamond was summoned by the nurse, who reported
that the child was awake and fretful. After soothing and quieting him,
she took him back with her to the sitting-room, having first, with her
usual consideration for the comfort of any servant whom she employed,
sent the nurse down stairs, with a leisure hour at her own disposal,
after the duties of the day. "I don't like to be away from you, Lenny,
at this anxious time," she said, when she rejoined her husband; "so I
have brought the child in here. He is not likely to be troublesome
again, and the having him to take care of is really a relief to me in
our present state of suspense."

The clock on the mantel-piece chimed the half-hour past seven. The
carriages in the street were following one another more and more
rapidly, filled with people in full dress, on their way to dinner, or
on their way to the opera. The hawkers were shouting proclamations of
news in the neighboring square, with the second editions of the
evening papers under their arms. People who had been serving behind
the counter all day were standing at the shop door to get a breath of
fresh air. Working men were trooping homeward, now singly, now
together, in weary, shambling gangs. Idlers, who had come out after
dinner, were lighting cigars at corners of streets, and looking about
them, uncertain which way they should turn their steps next. It was
just that transitional period of the evening at which the street-life
of the day is almost over, and the street-life of the night has not
quite begun--just the time, also, at which Rosamond, after vainly
trying to find relief from the weariness of waiting by looking out of
window, was becoming more and more deeply absorbed in her own anxious
thoughts--when her attention was abruptly recalled to events in the
little world about her by the opening of the room door. She looked up
immediately from the child lying asleep on her lap, and saw that Uncle
Joseph had returned at last.

The old man came in silently, with the form of declaration which he
had taken away with him, by Mr. Frankland's desire, open in his hand.
As he approached nearer to the window, Rosamond noticed that his face
looked as if it had grown strangely older during the few hours of his
absence. He came close up to her, and still not saying a word, laid
his trembling forefinger low down on the open paper, and held it
before her so that she could look at the place thus indicated without
rising from her chair.

His silence and the change in his face struck her with a sudden dread
which made her hesitate before she spoke to him. "Have you told her
all?" she asked, after a moment's delay, putting the question in low,
whispering tones, and not heeding the paper.

"This answers that I have," he said, still pointing to the
declaration. "See! here is the name, signed in the place that was left
for it--signed by her own hand."

Rosamond glanced at the paper. There indeed was the signature, "S.
Jazeph;" and underneath it were added, in faintly traced lines of
parenthesis, these explanatory words--"Formerly, Sarah Leeson."

"Why don't you speak?" exclaimed Rosamond, looking at him in growing
alarm. "Why don't you tell us how she bore it?"

"Ah! don't ask me, don't ask me!" he answered, shrinking back from her
hand, as she tried in her eagerness to lay it on his arm. "I forgot
nothing. I said the words as you taught me to say them--I went the
roundabout way to the truth with my tongue; but my face took the short
cut, and got to the end first. Pray, of your goodness to me, ask
nothing about it! Be satisfied, if you please, with knowing that she
is better and quieter and happier now. The bad is over and past, and
the good is all to come. If I tell you how she looked, if I tell you
what she said, if I tell you all that happened when first she knew the
truth, the fright will catch me round the heart again, and all the
sobbing and crying that I have swallowed down will rise once more and
choke me. I must keep my head clear and my eyes dry--or how shall I
say to you all the things that I have promised Sarah, as I love my own
soul and hers, to tell, before I lay myself down to rest to-night?" He
stopped, took out a coarse little cotton pocket-handkerchief, with a
flaring white pattern on a dull blue ground, and dried a few tears
that had risen in his eyes while he was speaking. "My life has had so
much happiness in it," he said, self-reproachfully, looking at
Rosamond, "that my courage, when it is wanted for the time of trouble,
is not easy to find. And yet, I am German! all my nation are
philosophers!--why is it that I alone am as soft in my brains, and as
weak in my heart, as the pretty little baby there, that is lying
asleep in your lap?"

"Don't speak again; don't tell us any thing till you feel more
composed," said Rosamond. "We are relieved from our worst suspense now
that we know you have left her quieter and better. I will ask no more
questions; at least," she added, after a pause, "I will only ask one."
She stopped; and her eyes wandered inquiringly toward Leonard. He had
hitherto been listening with silent interest to all that had passed;
but he now interposed gently, and advised his wife to wait a little
before she ventured on saying any thing more.

"It is such an easy question to answer," pleaded Rosamond. "I only
wanted to hear whether she has got my message--whether she knows that
I am waiting and longing to see her, if she will but let me come?"

"Yes, yes," said the old man, nodding to Rosamond with an air of
relief. "That question is easy; easier even than you think, for it
brings me straight to the beginning of all that I have got to say."

He had been hitherto walking restlessly about the room; sitting down
one moment, and getting up the next. He now placed a chair for himself
midway between Rosamond--who was sitting, with the child, near the
window--and her husband, who occupied the sofa at the lower end of the
room. In this position, which enabled him to address himself
alternately to Mr. and Mrs. Frankland without difficulty, he soon
recovered composure enough to open his heart unreservedly to the
interest of his subject.

"When the worst was over and past," he said, addressing
Rosamond--"when she could listen and when I could speak, the first
words of comfort that I said to her were the words of your message.
Straight she looked at me, with doubting, fearing eyes. 'Was her
husband there to hear her?' she says. 'Did he look angry? did he look
sorry? did he change ever so little, when you got that message from
her?' And I said, 'No; no change, no anger, no sorrow--nothing like
it.' And she said again: 'Has it made between them no misery? has it
nothing wrenched away of all the love and all the happiness that binds
them the one to the other?' And once more I answer to that, 'No! no
misery, no wrench. See now! I shall go my ways at once to the good
wife, and fetch her here to answer for the good husband with her own
tongue.' While I speak those words there flies out over all her face a
look--no, not a look--a light, like a sun-flash. While I can count
one, it lasts; before I can count two, it is gone; the face is all
dark again; it is turned away from me on the pillow, and I see the
hand that is outside the bed begin to crumple up the sheet. 'I shall
go my ways, then, and fetch the good wife,' I say again. And she
says, 'No, not yet. I must not see her, I dare not see her till she
knows--;' and there she stops, and the hand crumples up the sheet
again, and softly, softly, I say to her, 'Knows what?' and she answers
me, 'What I, her mother, can not tell her to her face, for shame.' And
I say, 'So, so, my child! tell it not, then--tell it not at all.' She
shakes her head at me, and wrings her two hands together, like this,
on the bed-cover. 'I _must_ tell it,' she says. 'I must rid my heart
of all that has been gnawing, gnawing, gnawing at it, or how shall I
feel the blessing that the seeing her will bring to me, if my
conscience is only clear?' Then she stops a little, and lifts up her
two hands, so, and cries out loud, 'Oh, will God's mercy show me no
way of telling it that will spare me before my child!' And I say,
'Hush, then! there is a way. Tell it to Uncle Joseph, who is the same
as father to you! Tell it to Uncle Joseph, whose little son died in
your arms; whose tears your hand wiped away, in the grief time long
ago. Tell it, my child, to _me_; and _I_ shall take the risk, and the
shame (if there is shame), of telling it again. I, with nothing to
speak for me but my white hair; I, with nothing to help me but my
heart that means no harm--I shall go to that good and true woman, with
the burden of her mother's grief to lay before her; and, in my soul of
souls I believe it, she will not turn away!'"

He paused, and looked at Rosamond. Her head was bent down over her
child; her tears were dropping slowly, one by one, on the bosom of his
little white dress. Waiting a moment to collect herself before she
spoke, she held out her hand to the old man, and firmly and gratefully
met the look he fixed on her. "Oh, go on, go on!" she said. "Let me
prove to you that your generous confidence in me is not misplaced."

"I knew it was not, from the first, as surely as I know it now!" said
Uncle Joseph. "And Sarah, when I had spoken to her, she knew it too.
She was silent for a little; she cried for a little; she leaned over
from the pillow and kissed me here, on my cheek, as I sat by the
bedside; and then she looked back, back, back, in her mind, to the
Long Ago, and very quietly, very slowly, with her eyes looking into my
eyes, and her hand resting so in mine, she spoke the words to me that
I must now speak again to you, who sit here to-day as her judge,
before you go to her to-morrow as her child."

"Not as her judge!" said Rosamond. "I can not, I must not hear you say

"I speak her words, not mine," rejoined the old man, gravely. "Wait
before you bid me change them for others--wait till you know the end."

He drew his chair a little nearer to Rosamond, paused for a minute or
two to arrange his recollections, and to separate them one from the
other; then resumed.

"As Sarah began with me," he said, "so I, for my part, must begin
also--which means to say, that I go down now through the years that
are past, to the time when my niece went out to her first service. You
know that the sea-captain, the brave and good man Treverton, took for
his wife an artist on the stage--what they call play-actress here? A
grand, big woman, and a handsome; with a life and a spirit and a will
in her that is not often seen; a woman of the sort who can say, We
will do this thing, or that thing--and do it in the spite and face of
all the scruples, all the obstacles, all the oppositions in the world.
To this lady there comes for maid to wait upon her, Sarah, my niece--a
young girl then, pretty and kind and gentle, and very, very shy. Out
of many others who want the place, and who are bolder and bigger and
quicker girls, Mistress Treverton, nevertheless, picks Sarah. This is
strange, but it is stranger yet that Sarah, on her part, when she
comes out of her first fears and doubts, and pains of shyness about
herself, gets to be fond with all her heart of that grand and handsome
mistress, who has a life and a spirit and a will of the sort that is
not often seen. This is strange to say, but it is also, as I know from
Sarah's own lips, every word of it true."

"True beyond a doubt," said Leonard. "Most strong attachments are
formed between people who are unlike each other."

"So the life they led in that ancient house of Porthgenna began
happily for them all," continued the old man. "The love that the
mistress had for her husband was so full in her heart that it
overflowed in kindness to every body who was about her, and to Sarah,
her maid, before all the rest. She would have nobody but Sarah to read
to her, to work for her, to dress her in the morning and the evening,
and to undress her at night. She was as familiar as a sister might
have been with Sarah, when they two were alone, in the long days of
rain. It was the game of her idle time--the laugh that she liked
most--to astonish the poor country maid, who had never so much as seen
what a theatre's inside was like, by dressing in fine clothes, and
painting her face, and speaking and doing all that she had done on the
theatre-scene in the days that were before her marriage. The more she
puzzled Sarah with these jokes and pranks of masquerade, the better
she was always pleased. For a year this easy, happy life went on in
the ancient house--happy for all the servants--happier still for the
master and mistress, but for the want of one thing to make the whole
complete, one little blessing that was always hoped for, and that
never came--the same, if you please, as the blessing in the long white
frock, with the plump, delicate face and the tiny arms, that I see
before me now."

He paused, to point the allusion by nodding and smiling at the child
in Rosamond's lap; then resumed.

"As the new year gets on," he said, "Sarah sees in the mistress a
change. The good sea-captain is a man who loves children, and is fond
of getting to the house all the little boys and girls of his friends
round about. He plays with them, he kisses them, he makes them
presents--he is the best friend the little boys and girls have ever
had. The mistress, who should be their best friend too, looks on and
says nothing--looks on, red sometimes, and sometimes pale; goes away
into her room where Sarah is at work for her, and walks about and
finds fault; and one day lets the evil temper fly out of her at her
tongue, and says, 'Why have I got no child for my husband to be fond
of? Why must he kiss and play always with the children of other women?
They take his love away for something that is not mine. I hate those
children and their mothers too!' It is her passion that speaks then,
but it speaks what is near the truth for all that. She will not make
friends with any of those mothers; the ladies she is familiar-fond
with are the ladies who have no children, or the ladies whose families
are all upgrown. You think that was wrong of the mistress?"

He put the question to Rosamond, who was toying thoughtfully with one
of the baby's hands which was resting in hers. "I think Mrs. Treverton
was very much to be pitied," she answered, gently lifting the child's
hand to her lips.

"Then I, for my part, think so too," said Uncle Joseph. "To be
pitied?--yes! To be more pitied some months after, when there is still
no child and no hope of a child, and the good sea-captain says, one
day, 'I rust here, I get old with much idleness; I want to be on the
sea again. I shall ask for a ship.' And he asks for a ship, and they
give it him; and he goes away on his cruises--with much kissing and
fondness at parting from his wife--but still he goes away. And when he
is gone, the mistress comes in again where Sarah is at work for her on
a fine new gown, and snatches it away, and casts it down on the floor,
and throws after it all the fine jewels she has got on her table, and
stamps and cries with the misery and the passion that is in her. 'I
would give all those fine things, and go in rags for the rest of my
life, to have a child!' she says. 'I am losing my husband's love: he
would never have gone away from me if I had brought him a child!' Then
she looks in the glass, and says between her teeth, 'Yes! yes! I am a
fine woman, with a fine figure, and I would change places with the
ugliest, crookedest wretch in all creation, if I could only have a
child!' And then she tells Sarah that the Captain's brother spoke the
vilest of all vile words of her, when she was married, because she was
an artist on the stage; and she says, 'If I have no child, who but
he--the rascal-monster that I wish I could kill!--who but he will come
to possess all that the Captain has got?' And then she cries again,
and says, 'I am losing his love--ah, I know it, I know it!--I am
losing his love!' Nothing that Sarah can say will alter her thoughts
about that. And the months go on, and the sea-captain comes back, and
still there is always the same secret grief growing and growing in the
mistress's heart--growing and growing till it is now the third year
since the marriage, and there is no hope yet of a child; and once more
the sea-captain gets tired on the land, and goes off again for his
cruises--long cruises, this time; away, away, away, at the other end
of the world."

Here Uncle Joseph paused once more, apparently hesitating a little
about how he should go on with the narrative. His mind seemed to be
soon relieved of its doubts, but his face saddened, and his tones
sank lower, when he addressed Rosamond again.

"I must, if you please, go away from the mistress now," he said, "and
get back to Sarah, my niece, and say one word also of a mining man,
with the Cornish name of Polwheal. This was a young man that worked
well and got good wage, and kept a good character. He lived with his
mother in the little village that is near the ancient house; and,
seeing Sarah from time to time, took much fancy to her, and she to
him. So the end came that the marriage-promise was between them given
and taken; as it happened, about the time when the sea-captain was
back after his first cruises, and just when he was thinking of going
away in a ship again. Against the marriage-promise nor he nor the lady
his wife had a word to object, for the miner, Polwheal, had good wage
and kept a good character. Only the mistress said that the loss of
Sarah would be sad to her--very sad; and Sarah answered that there was
yet no hurry to part. So the weeks go on, and the sea-captain sails
away again for his long cruises; and about the same time also the
mistress finds out that Sarah frets, and looks not like herself, and
that the miner, Polwheal, he lurks here and lurks there, round about
the house; and she says to herself, 'So! so! Am I standing too much in
the way of this marriage? For Sarah's sake, that shall not be!' And
she calls for them both one evening, and talks to them kindly, and
sends away to put up the banns next morning the young man Polwheal.
That night, it is his turn to go down into the Porthgenna mine, and
work after the hours of the day. With his heart all light, down into
that dark he goes. When he rises to the world again, it is the dead
body of him that is drawn up--the dead body, with all the young life,
by the fall of a rock, crushed out in a moment. The news flies here;
the news flies there. With no break, with no warning, with no comfort
near, it comes on a sudden to Sarah, my niece. When to her sweet-heart
that evening she had said good-by, she was a young, pretty girl; when,
six little weeks after, she, from the sick-bed where the shock threw
her, got up, all her youth was gone, all her hair was gray, and in her
eyes the fright-look was fixed that has never left them since."

The simple words drew the picture of the miner's death, and of all
that followed it, with a startling distinctness--with a fearful
reality. Rosamond shuddered, and looked at her husband. "Oh, Lenny!"
she murmured, "the first news of your blindness was a sore trial to
me--but what was it to this!"

"Pity her!" said the old man. "Pity her for what she suffered then!
Pity her for what came after, that was worse! Yet five, six, seven
weeks pass, after the death of the mining man, and Sarah in the body
suffers less, but in the mind suffers more. The mistress, who is kind
and good to her as any sister could be, finds out, little by little,
something in her face which is not the pain-look, nor the fright-look,
nor the grief-look; something which the eyes can see, but which the
tongue can not put into words. She looks and thinks, looks and thinks,
till there steals into her mind a doubt which makes her tremble at
herself, which drives her straight forward into Sarah's room, which
sets her eyes searching through and through Sarah to her inmost heart.
'There is something on your mind besides your grief for the dead and
gone,' she says, and catches Sarah by both the arms before she can
turn way, and looks her in the face, front to front, with curious eyes
that search and suspect steadily. 'The miner man, Polwheal,' she says;
'my mind misgives me about the miner man, Polwheal. Sarah! I have been
more friend to you than mistress. As your friend I ask you now--tell
me all the truth?' The question waits; but no word of answer! only
Sarah struggles to get away, and the mistress holds her tighter yet,
and goes on and says, 'I know that the marriage-promise passed between
you and miner Polwheal; I know that if ever there was truth in man,
there was truth in him; I know that he went out from this place to put
the banns up, for you and for him, in the church. Have secrets from
all the world besides, Sarah, but have none from _me_. Tell me, this
minute--tell me the truth! Of all the lost creatures in this big, wide
world, are you--?' Before she can say the words that are next to come,
Sarah falls on her knees, and cries out suddenly to be let go away to
hide and die, and be heard of no more. That was all the answer she
gave. It was enough for the truth then; it is enough for the truth

He sighed bitterly, and ceased speaking for a little while. No voice
broke the reverent silence that followed his last words. The one
living sound that stirred in the stillness of the room was the light
breathing of the child as he lay asleep in his mother's arms.

"That was all the answer," repeated the old man, "and the mistress who
heard it says nothing for some time after, but still looks straight
forward into Sarah's face, and grows paler and paler the longer she
looks--paler and paler, till on a sudden she starts, and at one flash
the red flies back into her face. 'No,' she says, whispering and
looking at the door, 'once your friend, Sarah, always your friend.
Stay in this house, keep your own counsel, do as I bid you, and leave
the rest to me.' And with that she turns round quick on her heel, and
falls to walking up and down the room--faster, faster, faster, till
she is out of breath. Then she pulls the bell with an angry jerk, and
calls out loud at the door--'The horses! I want to ride;' then turns
upon Sarah--'My gown for riding in! Pluck up your heart, poor
creature! On my life and honor, I will save you. My gown, my gown,
then; I am mad for a gallop in the open air!' And she goes out, in a
fever of the blood, and gallops, gallops, till the horse reeks again,
and the groom-man who rides after her wonders if she is mad. When she
comes back, for all that ride in the air, she is not tired. The whole
evening after, she is now walking about the room, and now striking
loud tunes all mixed up together on the piano. At the bed-time, she
can not rest. Twice, three times in the night she frightens Sarah by
coming in to see how she does, and by saying always those same words
over again: 'Keep your own counsel, do as I bid you, and leave the
rest to me.' In the morning she lies late, sleeps, gets up very pale
and quiet, and says to Sarah, 'No word more between us two of what
happened yesterday--no word till the time comes when you fear the eyes
of every stranger who looks at you. Then I shall speak again. Till
that time let us be as we were before I put the question yesterday,
and before you told the truth!'"

At this point he broke the thread of the narrative again, explaining
as he did so that his memory was growing confused about a question of
time, which he wished to state correctly in introducing the series of
events that were next to be described.

"Ah, well! well!" he said, shaking his head, after vainly endeavoring
to pursue the lost recollection. "For once, I must acknowledge that I
forget. Whether it was two months, or whether it was three, after the
mistress said those last words to Sarah, I know not--but at the end of
the one time or of the other she one morning orders her carriage and
goes away alone to Truro. In the evening she comes back with two large
flat baskets. On the cover of the one there is a card, and written on
it are the letters 'S. L.' On the cover of the other there is a card,
and written on it are the letters 'R. T.' The baskets are taken into
the mistress's room, and Sarah is called, and the mistress says to
her, 'Open the basket with S. L. on it; for those are the letters of
your name, and the things in it are yours.' Inside there is first a
box, which holds a grand bonnet of black lace; then a fine dark shawl;
then black silk of the best kind, enough to make a gown; then linen
and stuff for the under garments, all of the finest sort. 'Make up
those things to fit yourself,' says the mistress. 'You are so much
littler than I, that to make the things up new is less trouble than,
from my fit to yours, to alter old gowns.' Sarah, to all this, says in
astonishment, 'Why?' And the mistress answers, 'I will have no
questions. Remember what I said--Keep your own counsel, and leave the
rest to me!' So she goes out; and the next thing she does is to send
for the doctor to see her. He asks what is the matter; gets for answer
that Mistress Treverton feels strangely, and not like herself; also
that she thinks the soft air of Cornwall makes her weak. The days
pass, and the doctor comes and goes, and, say what he may, those two
answers are always the only two that he can get. All this time Sarah
is at work; and when she has done, the mistress says, 'Now for the
other basket, with R. T. on it; for those are the letters of my name,
and the things in it are mine.' Inside this, there is first a box
which holds a common bonnet of black straw; then a coarse dark shawl;
then a gown of good common black stuff; then linen, and other things
for the under garments, that are only of the sort called second best.
'Make up all that rubbish,' says the mistress, 'to fit me. No
questions! You have always done as I told you; do as I tell you now,
or you are a lost woman.' When the rubbish is made up, she tries it
on, and looks in the glass, and laughs in a way that is wild and
desperate to hear. 'Do I make a fine, buxom, comely servant-woman?'
she says. 'Ha! but I have acted that part times enough in my past days
on the theatre-scene.' And then she takes off the clothes again, and
bids Sarah pack them up at once in one trunk, and pack the things she
has made for herself in another. 'The doctor orders me to go away out
of this damp, soft Cornwall climate, to where the air is fresh and dry
and cheerful-keen,' she says, and laughs again, till the room rings
with it. At the same time Sarah begins to pack, and takes some
knickknack things off the table, and among them a brooch which has on
it a likeness of the sea-captain's face. The mistress sees her, turns
white in the cheeks, trembles all over, snatches the brooch away, and
locks it up in the cabinet in a great hurry, as if the look of it
frightened her. 'I shall leave that behind me,' she says, and turns
round on her heel, and goes quickly out of the room. You guess now
what the thing was that Mistress Treverton had it in her mind to do?"

He addressed the question to Rosamond first, and then repeated it to
Leonard. They both answered in the affirmative, and entreated him to
go on.

"You guess?" he said. "It is more than Sarah, at that time, could do.
What with the misery in her own mind, and the strange ways and strange
words of her mistress, the wits that were in her were all confused.
Nevertheless, what her mistress has said to her, that she has always
done; and together alone those two from the house of Porthgenna drive
away. Not a word says the mistress till they have got to the journey's
end for the first day, and are stopping at their inn among strangers
for the night. Then at last she speaks out. 'Put you on, Sarah, the
good linen and the good gown to-morrow,' she says, 'but keep the
common bonnet and the common shawl till we get into the carriage
again. I shall put on the coarse linen and the coarse gown, and keep
the good bonnet and shawl. We shall pass so the people at the inn, on
our way to the carriage, without very much risk of surprising them by
our change of gowns. When we are out on the road again, we can change
bonnets and shawls in the carriage--and then, it is all done. You are
the married lady, Mrs. Treverton, and I am your maid who waits on you,
Sarah Leeson.' At that, the glimmering on Sarah's mind breaks in at
last: she shakes with the fright it gives her, and all she can say is,
'Oh, mistress! for the love of Heaven, what is it you mean to do?' 'I
mean,' the mistress answers, 'to save you, my faithful servant, from
disgrace and ruin; to prevent every penny that the captain has got
from going to that rascal-monster, his brother, who slandered me; and,
last and most, I mean to keep my husband from going away to sea again,
by making him love me as he has never loved me yet. Must I say more,
you poor, afflicted, frightened creature--or is it enough so?' And all
that Sarah can answer, is to cry bitter tears, and to say faintly,
'No.' 'Do you doubt,' says the mistress, and grips her by the arm, and
looks her close in the face with fierce eyes--'Do you doubt which is
best, to cast yourself into the world forsaken and disgraced and
ruined, or to save yourself from shame, and make a friend of me for
the rest of your life? You weak, wavering, baby woman, if you can not
decide for yourself, I shall for you. As I will, so it shall be!
To-morrow, and the day after that, we go on and on, up to the north,
where my good fool of a doctor says the air is cheerful-keen--up to
the north, where nobody knows me or has heard my name. I, the maid,
shall spread the report that you, the lady, are weak in your health.
No strangers shall you see, but the doctor and the nurse, when the
time to call them comes. Who they may be, I know not; but this I do
know, that the one and the other will serve our purpose without the
least suspicion of what it is; and that when we get back to Cornwall
again, the secret between us two will to no third person have been
trusted, and will remain a Dead Secret to the end of the world!' With
all the strength of the strong will that is in her, at the hush of
night and in a house of strangers, she speaks those words to the woman
of all women the most frightened, the most afflicted, the most
helpless, the most ashamed. What need to say the end? On that night
Sarah first stooped her shoulders to the burden that has weighed
heavier and heavier on them with every year, for all her after-life."

"How many days did they travel toward the north?" asked Rosamond,
eagerly. "Where did the journey end? In England or in Scotland?"

"In England," answered Uncle Joseph. "But the name of the place
escapes my foreign tongue. It was a little town by the side of the
sea--the great sea that washes between my country and yours. There
they stopped, and there they waited till the time came to send for the
doctor and the nurse. And as Mistress Treverton had said it should be,
so, from the first to the last, it was. The doctor and the nurse, and
the people of the house were all strangers; and to this day, if they
still live, they believe that Sarah was the sea-captain's wife, and
that Mistress Treverton was the maid who waited on her. Not till they
were far back on their way home with the child did the two change
gowns again, and return each to her proper place. The first friend at
Porthgenna that the mistress sends for to show the child to, when she
gets back, is the doctor who lives there. 'Did you think what was the
matter with me, when you sent me away to change the air?' she says,
and laughs. And the doctor, he laughs too, and says, 'Yes, surely! but
I was too cunning to say what I thought in those early days, because,
at such times, there is always fear of a mistake. And you found the
fine dry air so good for you that you stopped?' he says. 'Well, that
was right! right for yourself and right also for the child.' And the
doctor laughs again and the mistress with him, and Sarah, who stands
by and hears them, feels as if her heart would burst within her, with
the horror, and the misery, and the shame of that deceit. When the
doctor's back is turned, she goes down on her knees, and begs and
prays with all her soul that the mistress will repent, and send her
away with her child, to be heard of at Porthgenna no more. The
mistress, with that tyrant-will of hers, has but four words of answer
to give--'It is too late!' Five weeks after, the sea-captain comes
back, and the 'Too late' is a truth that no repentance can ever alter
more. The mistress's cunning hand that has guided the deceit from the
first, guides it always to the last--guides it so that the captain,
for the love of her and of the child, goes back to the sea no
more--guides it till the time when she lays her down on the bed to
die, and leaves all the burden of the secret, and all the guilt of the
confession, to Sarah--to Sarah, who, under the tyranny of that
tyrant-will, has lived in the house, for five long years, a stranger
to her own child!"

"Five years!" murmured Rosamond, raising the baby gently in her arms,
till his face touched hers. "Oh me! five long years a stranger to the
blood of her blood, to the heart of her heart!"

"And all the years after!" said the old man. "The lonesome years and
years among strangers, with no sight of the child that was growing up,
with no heart to pour the story of her sorrow into the ear of any
living creature, not even into mine! 'Better,' I said to her, when she
could speak to me no more, and when her face was turned away again on
the pillow--'a thousand times better, my child, if you had told the
Secret!' 'Could I tell it,' she said, 'to the master who trusted me?
Could I tell it afterward to the child, whose birth was a reproach to
me? Could she listen to the story of her mother's shame, told by her
mother's lips? How will she listen to it now, Uncle Joseph, when she
hears it from _you_? Remember the life she has led, and the high place
she has held in the world. How can she forgive me? How can she ever
look at me in kindness again?'"

"You never left her," cried Rosamond, interposing before he could say
more--"surely, surely, you never left her with that thought in her

Uncle Joseph's head drooped on his breast. "What words of mine could
change it?" he asked, sadly.

"Oh, Lenny, do you hear that? I must leave you, and leave the baby. I
must go to her, or those last words about me will break my heart." The
passionate tears burst from her eyes as she spoke; and she rose
hastily from her seat, with the child in her arms.

"Not to-night," said Uncle Joseph. "She said to me at parting, 'I can
bear no more to-night; give me till the morning to get as strong as I

"Oh, go back, then, yourself!" cried Rosamond. "Go, for God's sake,
without wasting another moment, and make her think of me as she ought!
Tell her how I listened to you, with my own child sleeping on my bosom
all the time--tell her--oh, no, no! words are too cold for it!--Come
here, come close, Uncle Joseph (I shall always call you so now); come
close to me and kiss my child--_her_ grandchild!--Kiss him on this
cheek, because it has lain nearest to my heart. And now, go back, kind
and dear old man--go back to her bedside, and say nothing but that _I_
sent that kiss to _her_!"



The night, with its wakeful anxieties, wore away at last; and the
morning light dawned hopefully, for it brought with it the promise of
an end to Rosamond's suspense.

The first event of the day was the arrival of Mr. Nixon, who had
received a note on the previous evening, written by Leonard's desire,
to invite him to breakfast. Before the lawyer withdrew, he had settled
with Mr. and Mrs. Frankland all the preliminary arrangements that were
necessary to effect the restoration of the purchase-money of
Porthgenna Tower, and had dispatched a messenger with a letter to
Bayswater, announcing his intention of calling upon Andrew Treverton
that afternoon, on private business of importance relating to the
personal estate of his late brother.

Toward noon, Uncle Joseph arrived at the hotel to take Rosamond with
him to the house where her mother lay ill.

He came in, talking, in the highest spirits, of the wonderful change
for the better that had been wrought in his niece by the affectionate
message which he had taken to her on the previous evening. He declared
that it had made her look happier, stronger, younger, all in a moment;
that it had given her the longest, quietest, sweetest night's sleep
she had enjoyed for years and years past; and, last, best triumph of
all, that its good influence had been acknowledged, not an hour since,
by the doctor himself.

Rosamond listened thankfully, but it was with a wandering attention,
with a mind ill at ease. When she had taken leave of her husband, and
when she and Uncle Joseph were out in the street together, there was
something in the prospect of the approaching interview between her
mother and herself which, in spite of her efforts to resist the
sensation, almost daunted her. If they could have come together, and
have recognized each other without time to think what should be first
said or done on either side, the meeting would have been nothing more
than the natural result of the discovery of the Secret. But, as it
was, the waiting, the doubting, the mournful story of the past, which
had filled up the emptiness of the last day of suspense, all had their
depressing effect on Rosamond's impulsive disposition. Without a
thought in her heart which was not tender, compassionate, and true
toward her mother, she now felt, nevertheless, a vague sense of
embarrassment, which increased to positive uneasiness the nearer she
and the old man drew to their short journey's end. As they stopped at
last at the house door, she was shocked to find herself thinking
beforehand of what first words it would be best to say, of what first
things it would be best to do, as if she had been about to visit a
total stranger, whose favorable opinion she wished to secure, and
whose readiness to receive her cordially was a matter of doubt.

The first person whom they saw after the door was opened was the
doctor. He advanced toward them from a little empty room at the end of
the hall, and asked permission to speak with Mrs. Frankland for a few
minutes. Leaving Rosamond to her interview with the doctor, Uncle
Joseph gayly ascended the stairs to tell his niece of her arrival,
with an activity which might well have been envied by many a man of
half his years.

"Is she worse? Is there any danger in my seeing her?" asked Rosamond,
as the doctor led her into the empty room.

"Quite the contrary," he replied. "She is much better this morning;
and the improvement, I find, is mainly due to the composing and
cheering influence on her mind of a message which she received from
you last night. It is the discovery of this which makes me anxious to
speak to you now on the subject of one particular symptom of her
mental condition which surprised and alarmed me when I first
discovered it, and which has perplexed me very much ever since. She is
suffering--not to detain you, and to put the matter at once in the
plainest terms--under a mental hallucination of a very extraordinary
kind, which, so far as I have observed it, affects her, generally,
toward the close of the day, when the light gets obscure. At such
times, there is an expression in her eyes as if she fancied some
person had walked suddenly into the room. She looks and talks at
perfect vacancy, as you or I might look or talk at some one who was
really standing and listening to us. The old man, her uncle, tells me
that he first observed this when she came to see him (in Cornwall, I
think he said) a short time since. She was speaking to him then on
private affairs of her own, when she suddenly stopped, just as the
evening was closing in, startled him by a question on the old
superstitious subject of the re-appearance of the dead, and then,
looking away at a shadowed corner of the room, began to talk at
it--exactly as I have seen her look and heard her talk up stairs.
Whether she fancies that she is pursued by an apparition, or whether
she imagines that some living person enters her room at certain times,
is more than I can say; and the old man gives me no help in guessing
at the truth. Can you throw any light on the matter?"

"I hear of it now for the first time," answered Rosamond, looking at
the doctor in amazement and alarm.

"Perhaps," he rejoined, "she may be more communicative with you than
she is with me. If you could manage to be by her bedside at dusk
to-day or to-morrow, and if you think you are not likely to be
frightened by it, I should very much wish you to see and hear her,
when she is under the influence of her delusion. I have tried in vain
to draw her attention away from it, at the time, or to get her to
speak of it afterward. You have evidently considerable influence over
her, and you might therefore succeed where I have failed. In her state
of health, I attach great importance to clearing her mind of every
thing that clouds and oppresses it, and especially of such a serious
hallucination as that which I have been describing. If you could
succeed in combating it, you would be doing her the greatest service,
and would be materially helping my efforts to improve her health. Do
you mind trying the experiment?"

Rosamond promised to devote herself unreservedly to this service, or
to any other which was for the patient's good. The doctor thanked her,
and led the way back into the hall again.--Uncle Joseph was descending
the stairs as they came out of the room. "She is ready and longing to
see you," he whispered in Rosamond's ear.

"I am sure I need not impress on you again the very serious necessity
of keeping her composed," said the doctor, taking his leave. "It is, I
assure you, no exaggeration to say that her life depends on it."

Rosamond bowed to him in silence, and in silence followed the old man
up the stairs.

At the door of a back room on the second floor Uncle Joseph stopped.

"She is there," he whispered eagerly. "I leave you to go in by
yourself, for it is best that you should be alone with her at first. I
shall walk about the streets in the fine warm sunshine, and think of
you both, and come back after a little. Go in; and the blessing and
the mercy of God go with you!" He lifted her hand to his lips, and
softly and quickly descended the stairs again.

Rosamond stood alone before the door. A momentary tremor shook her
from head to foot as she stretched out her hand to knock at it. The
same sweet voice that she had last heard in her bedroom at West
Winston answered her now. As its tones fell on her ear, a thought of
her child stole quietly into her heart, and stilled its quick
throbbing. She opened the door at once and went in.

Neither the look of the room inside, nor the view from the window;
neither its characteristic ornaments, nor its prominent pieces of
furniture; none of the objects in it or about it, which would have
caught her quick observation at other times, struck it now. From the
moment when she opened the door, she saw nothing but the pillows of
the bed, the head resting on them, and the face turned toward hers. As
she stepped across the threshold, that face changed; the eyelids
drooped a little, and the pale cheeks were tinged suddenly with
burning red.

Was her mother ashamed to look at her?

The bare doubt freed Rosamond in an instant from all the
self-distrust, all the embarrassment, all the hesitation about
choosing her words and directing her actions which had fettered her
generous impulses up to this time. She ran to the bed, raised the
worn, shrinking figure in her arms, and laid the poor weary head
gently on her warm, young bosom. "I have come at last, mother, to take
my turn at nursing you," she said. Her heart swelled as those simple
words came from it--her eyes overflowed--she could say no more.

"Don't cry!" murmured the faint, sweet voice timidly. "I have no right
to bring you here and make you sorry. Don't, don't cry!"

"Oh, hush! hush! I shall do nothing but cry if you talk to me like
that!" said Rosamond. "Let us forget that we have ever been
parted--call me by my name--speak to me as I shall speak to my own
child, if God spares me to see him grow up. Say 'Rosamond,' and--oh,
pray, pray--tell me to do something for you!" She tore asunder
passionately the strings of her bonnet, and threw it from her on the
nearest chair. "Look! here is your glass of lemonade on the table. Say
'Rosamond, bring me my lemonade!' say it familiarly, mother! say it as
if you knew that I was bound to obey you!"

She repeated the words after her daughter, but still not in steady
tones--repeated them with a sad, wondering smile, and with a lingering
of the voice on the name of Rosamond, as if it was a luxury to her to
utter it.

"You made me so happy with that message and with the kiss you sent me
from your child," she said, when Rosamond had given her the lemonade,
and was seated quietly by the bedside again. "It was such a kind way
of saying that you pardoned me! It gave me all the courage I wanted to
speak to you as I am speaking now. Perhaps my illness has changed
me--but I don't feel frightened and strange with you, as I thought I
should, at our first meeting after you knew the Secret. I think I
shall soon get well enough to see your child. Is he like what you were
at his age? If he is, he must be very, very--" She stopped. "I may
think of that," she added, after waiting a little, "but I had better
not talk of it, or I shall cry too; and I want to have done with
sorrow now."

While she spoke those words, while her eyes were fixed with wistful
eagerness on her daughter's face, the whole instinct of neatness was
still mechanically at work in her weak, wasted fingers. Rosamond had
tossed her gloves from her on the bed but the minute before; and
already her mother had taken them up, and was smoothing them out
carefully and folding them neatly together, all the while she spoke.

"Call me 'mother' again," she said, as Rosamond took the gloves from
her and thanked her with a kiss for folding them up. "I have never
heard you call me 'mother' till now--never, never till now, from the
day when you were born!"

Rosamond checked the tears that were rising in her eyes again, and
repeated the word.

"It is all the happiness I want, to lie here and look at you, and hear
you say that! Is there any other woman in the world, my love, who has
a face so beautiful and so kind as yours?" She paused and smiled
faintly. "I can't look at those sweet rosy lips now," she said,
"without thinking how many kisses they owe me!"

"If you had only let me pay the debt before!" said Rosamond, taking
her mother's hand, as she was accustomed to take her child's, and
placing it on her neck. "If you had only spoken the first time we met,
when you came to nurse me! How sorrowfully I have thought of that
since! Oh, mother, did I distress you much in my ignorance? Did it
make you cry when you thought of me after that?"

"Distress me! All my distress, Rosamond, has been of my own making,
not of yours. My kind, thoughtful love! you said, 'Don't be hard on
her'--do you remember? When I was being sent away, deservedly sent
away, dear, for frightening you, you said to your husband, 'Don't be
hard on her!' Only five words--but, oh, what a comfort it was to me
afterward to think that you had said them! I did want to kiss you so,
Rosamond, when I was brushing your hair. I had such a hard fight of it
to keep from crying out loud when I heard you, behind the
bed-curtains, wishing your little child good-night. My heart was in my
mouth, choking me all that time. I took your part afterward, when I
went back to my mistress--I wouldn't hear her say a harsh word of you.
I could have looked a hundred mistresses in the face then, and
contradicted them all. Oh, no, no, no! you never distressed me. My
worst grief at going away was years and years before I came to nurse
you at West Winston. It was when I left my place at Porthgenna; when I
stole into your nursery on that dreadful morning, and when I saw you
with both your little arms round my master's neck. The doll you had
taken to bed with you was in one of your hands, and your head was
resting on the Captain's bosom, just as mine rests now--oh, so
happily, Rosamond!--on yours. I heard the last words he was speaking
to you--words you were too young to remember. 'Hush! Rosie, dear,' he
said, 'don't cry any more for poor mamma. Think of poor papa, and try
to comfort him!' There, my love--there was the bitterest distress and
the hardest to bear! I, your own mother, standing like a spy, and
hearing him say that to the child I dared not own! 'Think of poor
papa!' My own Rosamond! you know, now, what father _I_ thought of when
he said those words! How could I tell him the Secret? how could I give
him the letter, with his wife dead that morning--with nobody but you
to comfort him--with the awful truth crushing down upon my heart, at
every word he spoke, as heavily as ever the rock crushed down upon the
father you never saw!"

"Don't speak of it now!" said Rosamond. "Don't let us refer again to
the past: I know all I ought to know, all I wish to know of it. We
will talk of the future, mother, and of happier times to come. Let me
tell you about my husband. If any words can praise him as he ought to
be praised, and thank him as he ought to be thanked, I am sure mine
ought--I am sure yours will! Let me tell you what he said and what he
did when I read to him the letter that I found in the Myrtle Room.
Yes, yes, do let me!"

Warned by a remembrance of the doctor's last injunctions; trembling in
secret, as she felt under her hand the heavy, toilsome, irregular
heaving of her mother's heart, as she saw the rapid changes of color,
from pale to red, and from red to pale again, that fluttered across
her mother's face, she resolved to let no more words pass between them
which were of a nature to recall painfully the sorrows and the
suffering of the years that were gone. After describing the interview
between her husband and herself which ended in the disclosure of the
Secret, she led her mother, with compassionate abruptness, to speak of
the future, of the time when she would be able to travel again, of the
happiness of returning together to Cornwall, of the little festival
they might hold on arriving at Uncle Joseph's house in Truro, and of
the time after that, when they might go on still farther to
Porthgenna, or perhaps to some other place where new scenes and new
faces might help them to forget all sad associations which it was best
to think of no more.

Rosamond was still speaking on these topics, her mother was still
listening to her with growing interest in every word that she said,
when Uncle Joseph returned. He brought in with him a basket of
flowers and a basket of fruit, which he held up in triumph at the foot
of his niece's bed.

"I have been walking about, my child, in the fine bright sunshine," he
said, "and waiting to give your face plenty of time to look happy, so
that I might see it again as I want to see it always, for the rest of
my life. Aha, Sarah! it is I who have brought the right doctor to cure
you!" he added gayly, looking at Rosamond. "She has made you better
already. Wait but a little while longer, and she shall get you up from
your bed again, with your two cheeks as red, and your heart as light,
and your tongue as fast to chatter as mine. See the fine flowers and
the fruit I have bought that is nice to your eyes, and nice to your
nose, and nicest of all to put into your mouth! It is festival-time
with us to-day, and we must make the room bright, bright, bright, all
over. And then, there is your dinner to come soon; I have seen it on
the dish--a cherub among chicken-fowls! And, after that, there is your
fine sound sleep, with Mozart to sing the cradle song, and with me to
sit for watch, and to go down stairs when you wake up again, and fetch
your cup of tea. Ah, my child, my child, what a fine thing it is to
have come at last to this festival-day!"

With a bright look at Rosamond, and with both his hands full of
flowers, he turned away from his niece to begin decorating the room.
Except when she thanked the old man for the presents he had brought,
her attention had never wandered, all the while he had been speaking,
from her daughter's face; and her first words, when he was silent
again, were addressed to Rosamond alone.

"While I am happy with _my_ child," she said, "I am keeping you from
_yours_. I, of all persons, ought to be the last to part you from each
other too long. Go back now, my love, to your husband and your child;
and leave me to my grateful thoughts and my dreams of better times."

"If you please, answer Yes to that, for your mother's sake," said
Uncle Joseph, before Rosamond could reply. "The doctor says she must
take her repose in the day as well as her repose in the night. And how
shall I get her to close her eyes, so long as she has the temptation
to keep them open upon _you_?"

Rosamond felt the truth of those last words, and consented to go back
for a few hours to the hotel, on the understanding that she was to
resume her place at the bedside in the evening. After making this
arrangement, she waited long enough in the room to see the meal
brought up which Uncle Joseph had announced, and to aid the old man in
encouraging her mother to partake of it. When the tray had been
removed, and when the pillows of the bed had been comfortably arranged
by her own hands, she at last prevailed on herself to take leave.

Her mother's arms lingered round her neck; her mother's cheek nestled
fondly against hers. "Go, my dear, go now, or I shall get too selfish
to part with you even for a few hours," murmured the sweet voice, in
the lowest, softest tones. "My own Rosamond! I have no words to bless
you that are good enough; no words to thank you that will speak as
gratefully for me as they ought! Happiness has been long in reaching
me--but, oh, how mercifully it has come at last!"

Before she passed the door, Rosamond stopped and looked back into the
room. The table, the mantel-piece, the little framed prints on the
wall were bright with flowers; the musical box was just playing the
first sweet notes of the air from Mozart; Uncle Joseph was seated
already in his accustomed place by the bed, with the basket of fruit
on his knees; the pale, worn face on the pillow was tenderly lighted
up by a smile; peace and comfort and repose, all mingled together
happily in the picture of the sick-room, all joined in leading
Rosamond's thoughts to dwell quietly on the hope of a happier time.

       *       *       *       *       *

Three hours passed. The last glory of the sun was lighting the long
summer day to its rest in the western heaven, when Rosamond returned
to her mother's bedside.

She entered the room softly. The one window in it looked toward the
west, and on that side of the bed the chair was placed which Uncle
Joseph had occupied when she left him, and in which she now found him
still seated on her return. He raised his fingers to his lips, and
looked toward the bed, as she opened the door. Her mother was asleep,
with her hand resting in the hand of the old man.

As Rosamond noiselessly advanced, she saw that Uncle Joseph's eyes
looked dim and weary. The constraint of the position that he occupied,
which made it impossible for him to move without the risk of awakening
his niece, seemed to be beginning to fatigue him. Rosamond removed her
bonnet and shawl, and made a sign to him to rise and let her take his

"Yes, yes!" she whispered, seeing him reply by a shake of the head.
"Let me take my turn, while you go out a little and enjoy the cool
evening air. There is no fear of waking her; her hand is not clasping
yours, but only resting in it--let me steal mine into its place
gently, and we shall not disturb her."

She slipped her hand under her mother's while she spoke. Uncle Joseph
smiled as he rose from his chair, and resigned his place to her. "You
will have your way," he said; "you are too quick and sharp for an old
man like me."

"Has she been long asleep?" asked Rosamond.

"Nearly two hours," answered Uncle Joseph. "But it has not been the
good sleep I wanted for her--a dreaming, talking, restless sleep. It
is only ten little minutes since she has been so quiet as you see her

"Surely you let in too much light?" whispered Rosamond, looking round
at the window, through which the glow of the evening sky poured warmly
into the room.

"No, no!" he hastily rejoined. "Asleep or awake, she always wants the
light. If I go away for a little while, as you tell me, and if it gets
on to be dusk before I come back, light both those candles on the
chimney-piece. I shall try to be here again before that; but if the
time slips by too fast for me, and if it so happens that she wakes and
talks strangely, and looks much away from you into that far corner of
the room there, remember that the matches and the candles are together
on the chimney-piece, and that the sooner you light them after the dim
twilight-time, the better it will be." With those words he stole on
tiptoe to the door and went out.

His parting directions recalled Rosamond to a remembrance of what had
passed between the doctor and herself that morning. She looked round
again anxiously to the window.

The sun was just sinking beyond the distant house-tops; the close of
day was not far off.

As she turned her head once more toward the bed, a momentary chill
crept over her. She trembled a little, partly at the sensation itself,
partly at the recollection it aroused of that other chill which had
struck her in the solitude of the Myrtle Room.

Stirred by the mysterious sympathies of touch, her mother's hand at
the same instant moved in hers, and over the sad peacefulness of the
weary face there fluttered a momentary trouble--the flying shadow of a
dream. The pale, parted lips opened, closed, quivered, opened again;
the toiling breath came and went quickly and more quickly; the head
moved uneasily on the pillow; the eyelids half unclosed themselves;
low, faint, moaning sounds poured rapidly from the lips--changed ere
long to half-articulated sentences--then merged softly into
intelligible speech, and uttered these words:

"Swear that you will not destroy this paper! Swear that you will not
take this paper away with you if you leave the house!"

The words that followed these were whispered so rapidly and so low
that Rosamond's ear failed to catch them. They were followed by a
short silence. Then the dreaming voice spoke again suddenly, and spoke

"Where? where? where?" it said. "In the book-case? In the
table-drawer?--Stop! stop! In the picture of the ghost--"

The last words struck cold on Rosamond's heart. She drew back suddenly
with a movement of alarm--checked herself the instant after, and bent
down over the pillow again. But it was too late. Her hand had moved
abruptly when she drew back, and her mother awoke with a start and a
faint cry--with vacant, terror-stricken eyes, and with the
perspiration standing thick on her forehead.

"Mother!" cried Rosamond, raising her on the pillow. "I have come
back. Don't you know me?"

"Mother?" she repeated, in mournful, questioning tones--"Mother?" At
the second repetition of the word a bright flush of delight and
surprise broke out on her face, and she clasped both arms suddenly
round her daughter's neck. "Oh, my own Rosamond!" she said. "If I had
ever been used to waking up and seeing your dear face look at me, I
should have known you sooner, in spite of my dream! Did you wake me,
my love? or did I wake myself?"

"I am afraid I awoke you, mother."

"Don't say 'afraid.' I would wake from the sweetest sleep that ever
woman had to see your face and to hear you say 'mother' to me. You
have delivered me, my love, from the terror of one of my dreadful
dreams. Oh, Rosamond! I think I should live to be happy in your love,
if I could only get Porthgenna Tower out of my mind--if I could only
never remember again the bed-chamber where my mistress died, and the
room where I hid the letter--"

"We will try and forget Porthgenna Tower now," said Rosamond. "Shall
we talk about other places where I have lived, which you have never
seen? Or shall I read to you, mother? Have you got any book here that
you are fond of?"

She looked across the bed at the table on the other side. There was
nothing on it but some bottles of medicine, a few of Uncle Joseph's
flowers in a glass of water, and a little oblong work-box. She looked
round at the chest of drawers behind her--there were no books placed
on the top of it. Before she turned toward the bed again, her eyes
wandered aside to the window. The sun was lost beyond the distant
house-tops; the close of day was near at hand.

"If I could forget! Oh, me, if I could only forget!" said her mother,
sighing wearily, and beating her hand on the coverlid of the bed.

"Are you well enough, dear, to amuse yourself with work?" asked
Rosamond, pointing to the little oblong box on the table, and trying
to lead the conversation to a harmless, every-day topic, by asking
questions about it. "What work do you do? May I look at it?"

Her face lost its weary, suffering look, and brightened once more into
a smile. "There is no work there," she said. "All the treasures I had
in the world, till you came to see me, are shut up in that one little
box. Open it, my love, and look inside."

Rosamond obeyed, placing the box on the bed where her mother could see
it easily. The first object that she discovered inside was a little
book, in dark, worn binding. It was an old copy of Wesley's Hymns.
Some withered blades of grass lay between its pages; and on one of its
blank leaves was this inscription--"Sarah Leeson, her book. The gift
of Hugh Polwheal."

"Look at it, my dear," said her mother. "I want you to know it again.
When my time comes to leave you, Rosamond, lay it on my bosom with
your own dear hands, and put a little morsel of your hair with it, and
bury me in the grave in Porthgenna church-yard, where _he_ has been
waiting for me to come to him so many weary years. The other things in
the box, Rosamond, belong to you; they are little stolen keepsakes
that used to remind me of my child, when I was alone in the world.
Perhaps, years and years hence, when your brown hair begins to grow
gray like mine, you may like to show these poor trifles to your
children when you talk about me. Don't mind telling them, Rosamond,
how your mother sinned and how she suffered--you can always let these
little trifles speak for her at the end. The least of them will show
that she always loved you."

She took out of the box a morsel of neatly folded white paper, which
had been placed under the book of Wesley's Hymns, opened it, and
showed her daughter a few faded laburnum leaves that lay inside. "I
took these from your bed, Rosamond, when I came, as a stranger, to
nurse you at West Winston. I tried to take a ribbon out of your trunk,
love, after I had taken the flowers--a ribbon that I knew had been
round your neck. But the doctor came near at the time, and frightened

She folded the paper up again, laid it aside on the table, and drew
from the box next a small print which had been taken from the
illustrations to a pocket-book. It represented a little girl, in
gypsy-hat, sitting by the water-side, and weaving a daisy chain. As a
design, it was worthless; as a print, it had not even the mechanical
merit of being a good impression. Underneath it a line was written in
faintly pencilled letters--"Rosamond when I last saw her."

"It was never pretty enough for you," she said. "But still there was
something in it that helped me to remember what my own love was like
when she was a little girl."

She put the engraving aside with the laburnum leaves, and took from
the box a leaf of a copy-book, folded in two, out of which there
dropped a tiny strip of paper, covered with small printed letters. She
looked at the strip of paper first. "The advertisement of your
marriage, Rosamond," she said. "I used to be fond of reading it over
and over again to myself when I was alone, and trying to fancy how
you looked and what dress you wore. If I had only known when you were
going to be married, I would have ventured into the church, my love,
to look at you and at your husband. But that was not to be--and
perhaps it was best so, for the seeing you in that stolen way might
only have made my trials harder to bear afterward. I have had no other
keepsake to remind me of you, Rosamond, except this leaf out of your
first copy-book. The nurse-maid at Porthgenna tore up the rest one day
to light the fire, and I took this leaf when she was not looking. See!
you had not got as far as words then--you could only do up-strokes and
down-strokes. Oh me! how many times I have sat looking at this one
leaf of paper, and trying to fancy that I saw your small child's hand
traveling over it, with the pen held tight in the rosy little fingers.
I think I have cried oftener, my darling, over that first copy of
yours than over all my other keepsakes put together."

Rosamond turned aside her face toward the window to hide the tears
which she could restrain no longer.

As she wiped them away, the first sight of the darkening sky warned
her that the twilight dimness was coming soon. How dull and faint the
glow in the west looked now! how near it was to the close of day!

When she turned toward the bed again, her mother was still looking at
the leaf of the copy-book.

"That nurse-maid who tore up all the rest of it to light the fire,"
she said, "was a kind friend to me in those early days at Porthgenna.
She used sometimes to let me put you to bed, Rosamond; and never asked
questions, or teased me, as the rest of them did. She risked the loss
of her place by being so good to me. My mistress was afraid of my
betraying myself and betraying her if I was much in the nursery, and
she gave orders that I was not to go there, because it was not my
place. None of the other women-servants were so often stopped from
playing with you and kissing you, Rosamond, as I was. But the
nurse-maid--God bless and prosper her for it!--stood my friend. I
often lifted you into your little cot, my love, and wished you
good-night, when my mistress thought I was at work in her room. You
used to say you liked your nurse better than you liked me, but you
never told me so fretfully; and you always put your laughing lips up
to mine whenever I asked you for a kiss!"

Rosamond laid her head gently on the pillow by the side of her
mother's. "Try to think less of the past, dear, and more of the
future," she whispered pleadingly; "try to think of the time when my
child will help you to recall those old days without their sorrow--the
time when you will teach him to put his lips up to yours, as I used to
put mine."

"I will try, Rosamond--but my only thoughts of the future, for years
and years past, have been thoughts of meeting you in heaven. If my
sins are forgiven, how shall we meet there? Shall you be like my
little child to me--the child I never saw again after she was five
years old? I wonder if the mercy of God will recompense me for our
long separation on earth? I wonder if you will first appear to me in
the happy world with your child's face, and be what you should have
been to me on earth, my little angel that I can carry in my arms? If
we pray in heaven, shall I teach you your prayers there, as some
comfort to me for never having taught them to you here?"

She paused, smiled sadly, and, closing her eyes, gave herself in
silence to the dream-thoughts that were still floating in her mind.
Thinking that she might sink to rest again if she was left
undisturbed, Rosamond neither moved nor spoke. After watching the
peaceful face for some time, she became conscious that the light was
fading on it slowly. As that conviction impressed itself on her, she
looked round at the window once more.

The western clouds wore their quiet twilight colors already: the close
of day had come.

The moment she moved the chair, she felt her mother's hand on her
shoulder. When she turned again toward the bed, she saw her mother's
eyes open and looking at her--looking at her, as she thought, with a
change in their expression, a change to vacancy.

"Why do I talk of heaven?" she said, turning her face suddenly toward
the darkening sky, and speaking in low, muttering tones. "How do I
know I am fit to go there? And yet, Rosamond, I am not guilty of
breaking my oath to my mistress. You can say for me that I never
destroyed the letter, and that I never took it away with me when I
left the house. I tried to get it out of the Myrtle Room; but I only
wanted to hide it somewhere else. I never thought to take it away from
the house: I never meant to break my oath."

"It will be dark soon, mother. Let me get up for one moment to light
the candles."

Her hand crept softly upward, and clung fast round Rosamond's neck.

"I never swore to give him the letter," she said. "There was no crime
in the hiding of it. You found it in a picture, Rosamond? They used to
call it a picture of the Porthgenna ghost. Nobody knew how old it was,
or when it came into the house. My mistress hated it, because the
painted face had a strange likeness to hers. She told me, when first I
lived at Porthgenna, to take it down from the wall and destroy it. I
was afraid to do that; so I hid it away, before ever you were born, in
the Myrtle Room. You found the letter at the back of the picture,
Rosamond? And yet that was a likely place to hide it in. Nobody had
ever found the picture. Why should any body find the letter that was
hid in it?"

"Let me get a light, mother! I am sure you would like to have a

"No! no light now. Give the darkness time to gather down there in the
corner of the room. Lift me up close to you, and let me whisper."

The clinging arm tightened its grasp as Rosamond raised her in the
bed. The fading light from the window fell full on her face, and was
reflected dimly in her vacant eyes.

"I am waiting for something that comes at dusk, before the candles are
lit," she whispered in low, breathless tones. "My mistress!--down
there!" And she pointed away to the farthest corner of the room near
the door.

"Mother! for God's sake, what is it! what has changed you so?"

"That's right! say 'mother.' _If she does come_, she can't stop when
she hears you call me 'mother,' when she sees us together at last,
loving and knowing each other in spite of her. Oh, my kind, tender,
pitying child! if you can only deliver me from her, how long may I
live yet!--how happy we may both be!"

"Don't talk so! don't look so! Tell me quietly--dear, dear mother,
tell me quietly--"

"Hush! hush! I am going to tell you. She threatened me on her
death-bed, if I thwarted her--she said she would come to me from the
other world. Rosamond! I _have_ thwarted her and she has kept her
promise--all my life since, she has kept her promise! Look! Down

Her left arm was still clasped round Rosamond's neck. She stretched
her right arm out toward the far corner of the room, and shook her
hand slowly at the empty air.

"Look!" she said. "There she is as she always comes to me at the close
of day--with the coarse, black dress on, that my guilty hands made for
her--with the smile that there was on her face when she asked me if
she looked like a servant. Mistress! mistress! Oh, rest at last! the
Secret is ours no longer! Rest at last! my child is my own again!
Rest, at last; and come between us no more!"

She ceased, panting for breath; and laid her hot, throbbing cheek
against the cheek of her daughter. "Call me 'mother' again!" she
whispered. "Say it loud; and send her away from me forever!"

Rosamond mastered the terror that shook her in every limb, and
pronounced the word.

Her mother leaned forward a little, still gasping heavily for breath,
and looked with straining eyes into the quiet twilight dimness at the
lower end of the room.

"_Gone!!!_" she cried suddenly, with a scream of exultation. "Oh,
merciful, merciful God! gone at last!"

The next instant she sprang up on her knees in the bed. For one awful
moment her eyes shone in the gray twilight with a radiant, unearthly
beauty, as they fastened their last look of fondness on her daughter's
face. "Oh, my love! my angel!" she murmured, "how happy we shall be
together now!" As she said the words, she twined her arms round
Rosamond's neck, and pressed her lips rapturously on the lips of her

The kiss lingered till her head sank forward gently on Rosamond's
bosom--lingered, till the time of God's mercy came, and the weary
heart rested at last.



No popular saying is more commonly accepted than the maxim which
asserts that Time is the great consoler; and, probably, no popular
saying more imperfectly expresses the truth. The work that we must do,
the responsibilities that we must undertake, the example that we must
set to others--these are the great consolers, for these apply the
first remedies to the malady of grief. Time possesses nothing but the
negative virtue of helping it to wear itself out. Who that has
observed at all, has not perceived that those among us who soonest
recover from the shock of a great grief for the dead are those who
have the most duties to perform toward the living? When the shadow of
calamity rests on our houses, the question with us is not how much
time will suffice to bring back the sunshine to us again, but how much
occupation have we got to force us forward into the place where the
sunshine is waiting for us to come? Time may claim many victories, but
not the victory over grief. The great consolation for the loss of the
dead who are gone is to be found in the great necessity of thinking of
the living who remain.

The history of Rosamond's daily life, now that the darkness of a heavy
affliction had fallen on it, was in itself the sufficient illustration
of this truth. It was not the slow lapse of time that helped to raise
her up again, but the necessity which would not wait for time--the
necessity which made her remember what was due to the husband who
sorrowed with her, to the child whose young life was linked to hers,
and to the old man whose helpless grief found no support but in the
comfort she could give, learned no lesson of resignation but from the
example she could set.

From the first the responsibility of sustaining him had rested on her
shoulders alone. Before the close of day had been counted out by the
first hour of the night, she had been torn from the bedside by the
necessity of meeting him at the door, and preparing him to know that
he was entering the chamber of death. To guide the dreadful truth
gradually and gently, till it stood face to face with him, to support
him under the shock of recognizing it, to help his mind to recover
after the inevitable blow had struck it at last--these were the sacred
duties which claimed all the devotion that Rosamond had to give, and
which forbade her heart, for his sake, to dwell selfishly on its own

He looked like a man whose faculties had been stunned past recovery.
He would sit for hours with the musical box by his side, patting it
absently from time to time, and whispering to himself as he looked at
it, but never attempting to set it playing. It was the one memorial
left that reminded him of all the joys and sorrows, the simple family
interests and affections of his past life. When Rosamond first sat by
his side and took his hand to comfort him, he looked backward and
forward with forlorn eyes from her compassionate face to the musical
box, and vacantly repeated to himself the same words over and over
again: "They are all gone--my brother Max, my wife, my little Joseph,
my sister Agatha, and Sarah, my niece! I and my little bit of box are
left alone together in the world. Mozart can sing no more. He has sung
to the last of them now!"

The second day there was no change in him. On the third, Rosamond
placed the book of Hymns reverently on her mother's bosom, laid a lock
of her own hair round it, and kissed the sad, peaceful face for the
last time.

The old man was with her at that silent leave-taking, and followed her
away when it was over. By the side of the coffin, and afterward, when
she took him back with her to her husband, he was still sunk in the
same apathy of grief which had overwhelmed him from the first. But
when they began to speak of the removal of the remains the next day to
Porthgenna church-yard, they noticed that his dim eyes brightened
suddenly, and that his wandering attention followed every word they
said. After a while he rose from his chair, approached Rosamond, and
looked anxiously in her face. "I think I could bear it better if you
would let me go with her," he said. "We two should have gone back to
Cornwall together, if she had lived. Will you let us still go back
together now that she has died?"

Rosamond gently remonstrated, and tried to make him see that it was
best to leave the remains to be removed under the charge of her
husband's servant, whose fidelity could be depended on, and whose
position made him the fittest person to be charged with cares and
responsibilities which near relations were not capable of undertaking
with sufficient composure. She told him that her husband intended to
stop in London, to give her one day of rest and quiet, which she
absolutely needed, and that they then proposed to return to Cornwall
in time to be at Porthgenna before the funeral took place; and she
begged earnestly that he would not think of separating his lot from
theirs at a time of trouble and trial, when they ought to be all three
most closely united by the ties of mutual sympathy and mutual sorrow.

He listened silently and submissively while Rosamond was speaking, but
he only repeated his simple petition when she had done. The one idea
in his mind now was the idea of going back to Cornwall with all that
was left on earth of his sister's child. Leonard and Rosamond both saw
that it would be useless to oppose it, both felt that it would be
cruelty to keep him with them, and kindness to let him go away. After
privately charging the servant to spare him all trouble and
difficulty, to humor him by acceding to any wishes that he might
express, and to give him all possible protection and help without
obtruding either officiously on his attention, they left him free to
follow the one purpose of his heart which still connected him with the
interests and events of the passing day. "I shall thank you better
soon," he said at leave-taking, "for letting me go away out of this
din of London with all that is left to me of Sarah, my niece. I will
dry up my tears as well as I can, and try to have more courage when we
meet again."

On the next day, when they were alone, Rosamond and her husband sought
refuge from the oppression of the present in speaking together of the
future, and of the influence which the change in their fortunes ought
to be allowed to exercise on their plans and projects for the time to
come. After exhausting this topic, the conversation turned next on the
subject of their friends, and on the necessity of communicating to
some of the oldest of their associates the events which had followed
the discovery in the Myrtle Room.

The first name on their lips while they were considering this question
was the name of Doctor Chennery; and Rosamond, dreading the effect on
her spirits of allowing her mind to remain unoccupied, volunteered to
write to the vicar at once, referring briefly to what had happened
since they had last communicated with him, and asking him to fulfill
that year an engagement of long standing, which he had made with her
husband and herself, to spend his autumn holiday with them at
Porthgenna Tower. Rosamond's heart yearned for a sight of her old
friend; and she knew him well enough to be assured that a hint at the
affliction which had befallen her, and at the hard trial which she had
undergone, would be more than enough to bring them together the moment
Doctor Chennery could make his arrangements for leaving home.

The writing of this letter suggested recollections which called to
mind another friend, whose intimacy with Leonard and Rosamond was of
recent date, but whose connection with the earlier among the train of
circumstances which had led to the discovery of the Secret entitled
him to a certain share in their confidence. This friend was Mr.
Orridge, the doctor at West Winston, who had accidentally been the
means of bringing Rosamond's mother to her bedside. To him she now
wrote, acknowledging the promise which she had made on leaving West
Winston to communicate the result of their search for the Myrtle Room;
and informing him that it had terminated in the discovery of some very
sad events, of a family nature, which were now numbered with the
events of the past. More than this it was not necessary to say to a
friend who occupied such a position toward them as that held by Mr.

Rosamond had written the address of this second letter, and was
absently drawing lines on the blotting-paper with her pen, when she
was startled by hearing a contention of angry voices in the passage
outside. Almost before she had time to wonder what the noise meant,
the door was violently pushed open, and a tall, shabbily dressed,
elderly man, with a peevish, haggard face, and a ragged gray beard,
stalked in, followed indignantly by the head waiter of the hotel.

"I have three times told this person," began the waiter, with a
strong emphasis on the word "person," "that Mr. and Mrs. Frankland--"

"Were not at home," broke in the shabbily dressed man, finishing the
sentence for the waiter. "Yes, you told me that; and I told you that
the gift of speech was only used by mankind for the purpose of telling
lies, and that consequently I didn't believe you. You _have_ told a
lie. Here are Mr. and Mrs. Frankland both at home. I come on business,
and I mean to have five minutes' talk with them. I sit down unasked,
and I announce my own name--Andrew Treverton."

With those words, he took his seat coolly on the nearest chair.
Leonard's cheeks reddened with anger while he was speaking, but
Rosamond interposed before her husband could say a word.

"It is useless, love, to be angry with him," she whispered. "The quiet
way is the best way with a man like that." She made a sign to the
waiter, which gave him permission to leave the room--then turned to
Mr. Treverton. "You have forced your presence on us, Sir," she said
quietly, "at a time when a very sad affliction makes us quite unfit
for contentions of any kind. We are willing to show more consideration
for your age than you have shown for our grief. If you have any thing
to say to my husband, he is ready to control himself and to hear you
quietly, for my sake."

"And I shall be short with him and with you, for my own sake,"
rejoined Mr. Treverton. "No woman has ever yet had the chance of
sharpening her tongue long on me, or ever shall. I have come here to
say three things. First, your lawyer has told me all about the
discovery in the Myrtle Room, and how you made it. Secondly, I have
got your money. Thirdly, I mean to keep it. What do you think of

"I think you need not give yourself the trouble of remaining in the
room any longer, if your only object in coming here is to tell us what
we know already," replied Leonard. "We know you have got the money;
and we never doubted that you meant to keep it."

"You are quite sure of that, I suppose?" said Mr. Treverton. "Quite
sure you have no lingering hope that any future twists and turns of
the law will take the money out of my pocket again and put it back
into yours? It is only fair to tell you that there is not the shadow
of a chance of any such thing ever happening, or of my ever turning
generous and rewarding you of my own accord for the sacrifice you have
made. I have been to Doctors' Commons, I have taken out a grant of
administration, I have got the money legally, I have lodged it safe at
my banker's, and I have never had one kind feeling in my heart since I
was born. That was my brother's character of me, and he knew more of
my disposition, of course, than any one else. Once again, I tell you
both, not a farthing of all that large fortune will ever return to
either of you."

"And once again I tell _you_," said Leonard, "that we have no desire
to hear what we know already. It is a relief to my conscience and to
my wife's to have resigned a fortune which we had no right to possess;
and I speak for her as well as for myself when I tell you that your
attempt to attach an interested motive to our renunciation of that
money is an insult to us both which you ought to have been ashamed to

"That is your opinion, is it?" said Mr. Treverton. "You, who have lost
the money, speak to me, who have got it, in that manner, do
you?--Pray, do you approve of your husband's treating a rich man who
might make both your fortunes in that way?" he inquired, addressing
himself sharply to Rosamond.

"Most assuredly I approve of it," she answered. "I never agreed with
him more heartily in my life than I agree with him now."

"Oh!" said Mr. Treverton. "Then it seems you care no more for the loss
of the money than he does?"

"He has told you already," said Rosamond, "that it is as great a
relief to my conscience as to his, to have given it up."

Mr. Treverton carefully placed a thick stick which he carried with him
upright between his knees, crossed his hands on the top of it, rested
his chin on them, and, in that investigating position, stared steadily
in Rosamond's face.

"I rather wish I had brought Shrowl here with me," he said to himself.
"I should like him to have seen this. It staggers _me_, and I rather
think it would have staggered _him_. Both these people," continued Mr.
Treverton, looking perplexedly from Rosamond to Leonard, and from
Leonard back again to Rosamond, "are, to all outward appearance,
human beings. They walk on their hind legs, they express ideas readily
by uttering articulate sounds, they have the usual allowance of
features, and in respect of weight, height, and size, they appear to
me to be mere average human creatures of the regular civilized sort.
And yet, there they sit, taking the loss of a fortune of forty
thousand pounds as easily as Croesus, King of Lydia, might have taken
the loss of a half-penny!"

He rose, put on his hat, tucked the thick stick under his arm, and
advanced a few steps toward Rosamond.

"I am going now," he said. "Would you like to shake hands?"

Rosamond turned her back on him contemptuously.

Mr. Treverton chuckled with an air of supreme satisfaction.

Meanwhile Leonard, who sat near the fire-place, and whose color was
rising angrily once more, had been feeling for the bell-rope, and had
just succeeded in getting it into his hand as Mr. Treverton approached
the door.

"Don't ring, Lenny," said Rosamond. "He is going of his own accord."

Mr. Treverton stepped out into the passage--then glanced back into the
room with an expression of puzzled curiosity on his face, as if he was
looking into a cage which contained two animals of a species that he
had never heard of before. "I have seen some strange sights in my
time," he said to himself. "I have had some queer experience of this
trumpery little planet, and of the creatures who inhabit it--but I
never was staggered yet by any human phenomenon as I am staggered now
by those two." He shut the door without saying another word, and
Rosamond heard him chuckle to himself again as he walked away along
the passage.

Ten minutes afterward the waiter brought up a sealed letter addressed
to Mrs. Frankland. It had been written, he said, in the coffee-room of
the hotel by the "person" who had intruded himself into Mr. and Mrs.
Frankland's presence. After giving it to the waiter to deliver, he had
gone away in a hurry, swinging his thick stick complacently, and
laughing to himself.

Rosamond opened the letter.

On one side of it was a crossed check, drawn in her name, for Forty
Thousand Pounds.

On the other side were these lines of explanation:

     "Take your money back again. First, because you and your
     husband are the only two people I have ever met with who are
     not likely to be made rascals by being made rich. Secondly,
     because you have told the truth, when letting it out meant
     losing money, and keeping it in, saving a fortune. Thirdly,
     because you are _not_ the child of the player-woman.
     Fourthly, because you can't help yourself--for I shall leave
     it to you at my death, if you won't have it now. Good-by.
     Don't come and see me, don't write grateful letters to me,
     don't invite me into the country, don't praise my
     generosity, and, above all things, don't have any thing more
     to do with Shrowl.


The first thing Rosamond did, when she and her husband had a little
recovered from their astonishment, was to disobey the injunction which
forbade her to address any grateful letters to Mr. Treverton. The
messenger, who was sent with her note to Bayswater, returned without
an answer, and reported that he had received directions from an
invisible man, with a gruff voice, to throw it over the garden wall,
and to go away immediately after, unless he wanted to have his head

Mr. Nixon, to whom Leonard immediately sent word of what had happened,
volunteered to go to Bayswater the same evening, and make an attempt
to see Mr. Treverton on Mr. and Mrs. Frankland's behalf. He found
Timon of London more approachable than he had anticipated. The
misanthrope was, for once in his life, in a good humor. This
extraordinary change in him had been produced by the sense of
satisfaction which he experienced in having just turned Shrowl out of
his situation, on the ground that his master was not fit company for
him after having committed such an act of folly as giving Mrs.
Frankland back her forty thousand pounds.

"I told him," said Mr. Treverton, chuckling over his recollection of
the parting scene between his servant and himself--"I told him that I
could not possibly expect to merit his continued approval after what
I had done, and that I could not think of detaining him in his place
under the circumstances. I begged him to view my conduct as leniently
as he could, because the first cause that led to it was, after all,
his copying the plan of Porthgenna, which guided Mrs. Frankland to the
discovery in the Myrtle Room. I congratulated him on having got a
reward of five pounds for being the means of restoring a fortune of
forty thousand; and I bowed him out with a polite humility that half
drove him mad. Shrowl and I have had a good many tussles in our time;
he was always even with me till to-day, and now I've thrown him on his
back at last!"

Although Mr. Treverton was willing to talk of the defeat and dismissal
of Shrowl as long as the lawyer would listen to him, he was perfectly
unmanageable on the subject of Mrs. Frankland, when Mr. Nixon tried to
turn the conversation to that topic. He would hear no messages--he
would give no promise of any sort for the future. All that he could be
prevailed on to say about himself and his own projects was that he
intended to give up the house at Bayswater, and to travel again for
the purpose of studying human nature, in different countries, on a
plan that he had not tried yet--the plan of endeavoring to find out
the good that there might be in people as well as the bad. He said the
idea had been suggested to his mind by his anxiety to ascertain
whether Mr. and Mrs. Frankland were perfectly exceptional human beings
or not. At present, he was disposed to think that they were, and that
his travels were not likely to lead to any thing at all remarkable in
the shape of a satisfactory result. Mr. Nixon pleaded hard for
something in the shape of a friendly message to take back, along with
the news of his intended departure. The request produced nothing but a
sardonic chuckle, followed by this parting speech, delivered to the
lawyer at the garden gate.

"Tell those two superhuman people," said Timon of London, "that I may
give up my travels in disgust when they least expect it; and that I
may possibly come back to look at them again--I don't personally care
about either of them--but I should like to get one satisfactory
sensation more out of the lamentable spectacle of humanity before I



Four days afterward, Rosamond and Leonard and Uncle Joseph met
together in the cemetery of the church of Porthgenna.

The earth to which we all return had closed over Her: the weary
pilgrimage of Sarah Leeson had come to its quiet end at last. The
miner's grave from which she had twice plucked in secret her few
memorial fragments of grass had given her the home, in death, which,
in life, she had never known. The roar of the surf was stilled to a
low murmur before it reached the place of her rest; and the wind that
swept joyously over the open moor paused a little when it met the old
trees that watched over the graves, and wound onward softly through
the myrtle hedge which held them all embraced alike in its circle of
lustrous green.

Some hours had passed since the last words of the burial service had
been read. The fresh turf was heaped already over the mound, and the
old head-stone with the miner's epitaph on it had been raised once
more in its former place at the head of the grave. Rosamond was
reading the inscription softly to her husband. Uncle Joseph had walked
a little apart from them while she was thus engaged, and had knelt
down by himself at the foot of the mound. He was fondly smoothing and
patting the newly laid turf--as he had often smoothed Sarah's hair in
the long-past days of her youth--as he had often patted her hand in
the after-time, when her heart was weary and her hair was gray.

"Shall we add any new words to the old, worn letters as they stand
now?" said Rosamond, when she had read the inscription to the end.
"There is a blank space left on the stone. Shall we fill it, love,
with the initials of my mother's name, and the date of her death? I
feel something in my heart which seems to tell me to do that, and to
do no more."

"So let it be, Rosamond," said her husband. "That short and simple
inscription is the fittest and the best."

She looked away, as he gave that answer, to the foot of the grave, and
left him for a moment to approach the old man. "Take my hand, Uncle
Joseph," she said, and touched him gently on the shoulder. "Take my
hand, and let us go back together to the house."

He rose as she spoke, and looked at her doubtfully. The musical box,
inclosed in its well-worn leather case, lay on the grave near the
place where he had been kneeling. Rosamond took it up from the grass,
and slung it in the old place at his side, which it had always
occupied when he was away from home. He sighed a little as he thanked
her. "Mozart can sing no more," he said. "He has sung to the last of
them now!"

"Don't say 'to the last,' yet," said Rosamond--"don't say 'to the
last,' Uncle Joseph, while I am alive. Surely Mozart will sing to
_me_, for my mother's sake?"

A smile--the first she had seen since the time of their
grief--trembled faintly round his lips. "There is comfort in that," he
said; "there is comfort for Uncle Joseph still, in hearing that."

"Take my hand," she repeated softly. "Come home with us now."

He looked down wistfully at the grave. "I will follow you," he said,
"if you will go on before me to the gate."

Rosamond took her husband's arm, and guided him to the path that led
out of the church-yard. As they passed from sight, Uncle Joseph knelt
down once more at the foot of the grave, and pressed his lips on the
fresh turf.

"Good-by, my child," he whispered, and laid his cheek for a moment
against the grass before he rose again.

At the gate, Rosamond was waiting for him. Her right hand was resting
on her husband's arm; her left hand was held out for Uncle Joseph to

"How cool the breeze is!" said Leonard. "How pleasantly the sea
sounds! Surely this is a fine summer day?"

"The calmest and loveliest of the year," said Rosamond. "The only
clouds on the sky are clouds of shining white; the only shadows over
the moor lie light as down on the heather. Oh, Lenny, it is such a
different day from that day of dull oppression and misty heat when we
found the letter in the Myrtle Room! Even the dark tower of our old
house, yonder, looks its brightest and best, as if it waited to
welcome us to the beginning of a new life. I will make it a happy life
to you, and to Uncle Joseph, if I can--happy as the sunshine we are
walking in now. You shall never repent, love, if _I_ can help it, that
you have married a wife who has no claim of her own to the honors of a
family name."

"I can never repent my marriage, Rosamond, because I can never forget
the lesson that my wife has taught me."

"What lesson, Lenny?"

"An old one, my dear, which some of us can never learn too often. The
highest honors, Rosamond, are those which no accident can take
away--the honors that are conferred by LOVE and TRUTH."





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