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Title: 'Farewell'
Author: Stacpoole, W. H.
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 "'Farewell'" ***

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



of the Digital Library@Villanova University
(http://digital.library.villanova.edu/))



"FAREWELL."

BY W. H. STACPOOLE.



CONTENTS


  PART I. LONDON.
  PART II. NICE.



PART I.

LONDON.


I am an orphan. My father, who was a curate in the Church of England,
died when I was sixteen years of age, leaving me totally unprovided
for. I need not trouble the reader with the vicissitudes of fortune
which left me, when I was entering my twenty-second year, a shopman in
the establishment of Mr. John Conder, hosier and outfitter, of Holborn.
I had been a clerk in a city firm; but the firm failed. For some months
after that I was out of employment. At last I was compelled to enter
Mr. Conder's service. I had been with him for two years, acting as
salesman, errand-boy--anything, when one day an accident changed the
whole course of my life.

       *       *       *       *       *

It was about three o'clock on a broiling July afternoon, 187-. I had to
leave a parcel at the Langham Hotel, and another at a house in Wimpole
Street. Having discharged my mission at the Langham Hotel, I crossed
Portland Place and turned down Chandos Street to get into Cavendish
Square. Chandos Street is a very quiet street; and as I turned the
corner of the Langham Hotel the only person I could see before me was
a tall young lady with a very graceful and aristocratic carriage, who
was walking in the direction that I was going. She was just under the
tree that grows by the Langham Hotel opposite to the Medical Society
of England, when she put her hand in one of those large pockets that
ladies wear at the back of their dresses to take out her handkerchief.
In taking out the handkerchief, she unconsciously dropped a blue velvet
purse on the pavement, and walked on without noticing it. I immediately
ran forward and picked it up, and came up to her, with the parcel under
my left arm and the purse in my right hand, saying:

"I beg your pardon, madam; you have dropped your purse."

"Miss" would have been the expression that most men in my position
would have used; but I had a habit of saying ma'am, or madam, to ladies.

She started at being spoken to, but recovering herself at once said, in
a very clear but soft and musical voice:

"Oh, thank you so very much. There are papers in it of great
importance."

I put the purse in her hands, which I could not help noticing were very
long and slender. She put down her parasol, and opened it, and having
given in an instant a glance at a compartment in the purse in which
there were some papers, and a glance at me, she took out what I could
see must be several sovereigns, and said:

"The purse was of great importance to me on account of some papers that
it contains. I would willingly have given a large reward for it. Will
you allow me to offer you this for your kindness in restoring it to me?
You cannot think how much obliged I am to you."

All this was said in the same clear and silvery tone, but with a
diffident and apologetic manner, as if she were conscious that she was
running the risk of giving offense. Perhaps it was this that affected
me. Had she spoken in the way in which people usually do when they
give such rewards, I should possibly have taken the shining sovereigns
that she held in her slender hand, and there the matter would have
ended. But there was something in the way in which she addressed me
that touched me to the quick. She seemed, so at least I imagined, to
feel that she was speaking to one that had belonged to her own class,
to one at least to whom some apology was due for making him such an
offer. Besides this, it was, perhaps, the first time in my life since
I had grown up that I had ever spoken to a lady except on a mere
matter of business. But here was a beautiful, refined, high-bred girl,
speaking to me not merely as an equal, but actually in a tone of almost
supplication. Beautiful? I took that on trust. Her slender, graceful
figure was clad in a rich but simple polonaise that showed its lovely
contour to perfection. The upper part of her face was hidden, at
least from my diffident gaze, by a rather heavy veil; but the piquant
chin, the shining teeth, and mobile lips, with the transparency of
her complexion, were enough. There are times when we experience the
thoughts and emotions of a lifetime in a moment. That I was a gentleman
by birth I had never forgotten--I was prevented from doing so by the
contrast between my present and my past surroundings. That I was
talking to a lady whose equal I was in rank, I now for the first time
felt. It was then with an angry flush, and, I am afraid, a not very
gracious manner, that I replied:

"No, thank you, madam. I don't require to be paid for such a small
service."

"I beg your pardon," she said, while the blush on her face seemed to
grow deeper. "I am very sorry if I have offended you; but you have done
me a very great service, and I would like to have shown my gratitude if
it were possible. You will forgive me, I hope, for my rudeness?"

"I have nothing to forgive, madam," I replied in a more courteous tone.
"I am very happy to be of service to you, and I am only surprised that
you should think so small a matter----"

I was trying to find words to finish the sentence, when she said:

"Excuse me for asking you a question, but are you in business?"

"Yes, madam," I said; "I am with Mr. Conder, of Holborn."

She paused for a minute, and then continued in a firmer and more
collected manner:

"Do not think me rude if I ask whether you have been in business long?"

Something told me that she wanted to know my history. So, in a very
few words, I told her who I was, and how I came to be in my present
position.

When I had finished, she said in a manner that gave me more pleasure
than I can describe:

"Then your father was a clergyman."

It was not the tribute that was paid to my parentage by the respectful
manner in which the words were uttered that pleased me so much as the
equality that both the words and the way in which they were spoken
seemed in some indefinable manner to establish between us. It seemed to
me to be the most deliciously delicate and pointed way of saying, "Then
you are a gentleman, and my equal."

I could have thanked her more for the few words that had escaped her
than if she had given me ten times the money that was in her purse.
However, I merely acknowledged her last remark, which was spoken rather
to herself than to me, by saying--

"Yes, madam."

We had nearly got to the corner of Cavendish Square by this time. There
was another momentary pause, and then she startled me by saying in a
perfectly easy and unconstrained manner:

"Pardon me for asking you another question. You must for the present
give me credit for not being actuated by any idle or impertinent
motive. Are you married, or, if not, is there any one that you at
present think of marrying?"

"No, madam," I answered, "I am not, and I have not any thought of being
married."

She paused for a moment, and I was beginning to wonder what would come
next, when she asked abruptly:

"At what time will you be disengaged this evening?"

I use the word "abruptly" to denote the suddenness and precision
with which the question was put, for her manner was too refined and
self-possessed to be characterized as abrupt in the usual sense of that
word.

"We leave business at a little after eight," I replied.

"Then you could be at York Place, Baker Street, at nine--or say
half-past nine?" she said.

"Yes, madam," I answered, "I could easily be there by half-past nine."

"Then would you call at No. 41 York Place at half-past nine to-night?"

"Certainly, madam."

"Now one word," she said. "Ask for Miss Grey when the door is opened.
But do not tell any one about this interview. You will see to-night why
you ought not to do so in your own interest. In the meantime keep your
own counsel. You will promise me that?"

"Certainly, madam."

"You remember the address--or had you not better take it down?"

"Not at all, madam; the address is No. 41 York Place; Baker Street."

"Then I shall expect you at half-past nine o'clock. Good-bye."

She bowed, and, turning round the corner of Cavendish Place, walked
quickly toward Regent Street.

Was I married, or was there any one that I thought of marrying? What
could she mean, I wondered, as I looked for a moment after the slight
and graceful figure? My coming to see her that evening must have
something to do with my marrying somebody? Was it herself? If so, would
I marry her? I never thought for a moment about money in connection
with the matter. Partly on account of the veil she wore, partly from
the strangeness and hurry of our interview, and my own bashfulness,
I had not seen her face, at least not so as to be able to form any
picture of it. And yet, there was no doubt in my mind as to the answer.
Marry her? Why, already I was madly in love with her. In love with a
woman whose face you have never clearly seen? It may seem absurd, but
so it was. I could not recognize her face since I had never really
seen it. But the erect and graceful form, and the dignified carriage
of the head, I could have recognized amongst ten thousand figures,
and with the mind that gave the grace and loveliness to her presence
and words, I felt that I was in love forever. How far all this was
due to the effect of the peculiar circumstances of our interview on
my imagination, at that time of life when the imagination is most
powerful, and how long my passion would have lasted if things had
taken any ordinary course, I cannot say; but for the present I was, in
downright earnest, madly in love with a form, a voice, and a presence,
to which my fancy, taking the key from the little of the face that I
had seen, added a countenance whose loveliness and wisdom and purity
the mere imagination could not bring into being.

So I went on to Wimpole Street, where I delivered the parcel, and then
returned to Holborn, speculating all the way on the one momentous
question, Whom did she want me to marry? Was it herself? Now I had
learned in what somebody has termed the University of Adversity an art
which appears to me to be of even greater practical importance than the
arts that are taught at the better-endowed universities. It was the
art of taking a candid and unprejudiced view of my own affairs. And,
before I got back to Mr. Conder's, my facility in this art had assured
me that, whatever might be the ultimate solution of the mystery, there
was not, as far as she was concerned, a scintilla of love in the
matter. For a few minutes I had some idea of its being a case of love
at first sight on her part. But on a little reflection I saw that the
quiet business-like manner in which she had asked her questions, and
made the appointment, were quite inconsistent with the enthusiasm and
self-forgetfulness which accompany the sentiments that arise from love.

After what seemed to me to be the longest evening I had ever known, I
found myself at the door of 41 York Place.

Then a question arose that gave me keen anxiety for a minute or two.
Ought I to ring or knock? To ring seemed timid--almost cowardly. Yet
what sort of knock could I give? As a messenger from a shop I had no
right to give other than that single knock which had often given me so
much anguish. Coming on such an invitation such a knock was clearly
out of place. And yet a double knock--at least a loud one--might seem
presumptuous--seem imperative. So at last I gave a knock which I
intended to be a very quiet double knock, but which, I am afraid, was a
very queer and tremulous one, and in a minute or so the door was opened
by a maid-servant.

"Is Miss Grey----" I was going, in my nervousness, to say "at home,"
but I checked myself and substituted the more general particle "in?"

"She will be here in a few minutes, sir. Will you walk into the parlor?"

"Sir!" I had not been addressed as such before since a time that seemed
like a phase of my being in another world. She showed me across the
hall into a large room that was only partly lighted by an oil-lamp on a
round table, and said:

"Will you be seated, sir? Miss Grey will be here in a minute or two."
Saying this, she closed the door.

It was a large room, papered with a rich but gloomy-looking red
paper. Several bookcases stood against the walls, stored as far as
I could see with well-bound volumes. The furniture was simple but
massive. Two or three substantial-looking arm-chairs, several equally
substantial-looking ordinary chairs, a mantel-piece of solid-looking
marble on which were a few somber-looking ornaments, and a marble
clock, and in the center of the room, a heavy round mahogany table on
which were a few books, and the lamp, which seemed only to show the
darkness of the room. I sat down with a palpitating heart, for there
was something weird about the whole scene. It was twenty-seven minutes
past nine by the clock when the servant shut the door, so that I was
three minutes before my time. The minute hand of the clock was just
pointing to the half-hour when a carriage drove up to the house, and a
minute afterward the hall-door opened, and then a tall female figure
glided noiselessly into the room, and, having shut the parlor door,
said, as I rose:

"Please be seated; you must excuse me for wearing this veil until we
have finished a conversation which I shall make as brief as possible."

I recognized the voice of Miss Grey, but it was if anything more calm
than when we parted. I sat down again on a chair at some distance from
the table, whilst the lady drew her chair near to the table and took
out of her pocket a notebook and pencil. She had on a cloak that hid
her form, but I thought I could detect the same grace and dignity of
carriage.

"As we are strangers," she continued, "you will, I hope, pardon me for
making a remark that would otherwise be highly impertinent. But your
conduct to-day has satisfied me that in speaking to you I am speaking
to a high-minded gentleman, who, if he should decline the proposition
which I am going to make, will at least feel in honor bound to observe
silence both about this interview and the names I shall have to
mention."

I bowed. This speech, with what had preceded it, taught me more of the
art of love--an art that the reader will find, if he cares to follow
my fortunes, was to become useless to me--than Ovid and all the other
poets and philosophers could have done. It is not beauty, any more
than dress or wealth, that creates affection, it is manner; and the
essence of that manner which produces the mystic complex emotion which
we denote by the term "love" is that it is an exposition of genuine
deference for the individual--for himself or herself alone--and apart
from all such accidents as rank, or wealth, or position. I therefore
bowed, and she proceeded.

"My solicitor is Mr. Chambers, of 52 Bedford Row. You will find that
he is a gentleman who holds the highest position in his profession.
Another friend of mine who would act in this matter is Mr. Charles
Duke, of Duke, Furnival & Company, the well-known bankers of Lombard
Street. Now I have asked you to come here to-night to put this question
to you. Would you marry me within the next week or fortnight, and
promise on your word of honor never to attempt to know who I am, or
to live with me, or to exercise any marital rights, if you had the
guaranty of these two gentlemen that you would be paid five hundred
pounds every quarter for the rest of your life? That would be two
thousand pounds a year. But the condition is that we are married in
this house; that you leave the house immediately after the ceremony,
and that you never afterward try to know anything about me."

She had finished speaking, speaking throughout in the same calm,
measured, and yet easy intonation. If she had carved the words out on
marble they could not have stood more clearly before me. I was silent.
"Two thousand pounds a year." All, more than all, the wealth I had ever
hoped to acquire suddenly realized. And yet, what was the condition on
which I was to possess it? The words of the condition seemed to stand
before me, but their meaning was not very clear except in its effects.
As well ask a man who has just received a stunning blow to diagnose the
reasons why the blow has stunned him, as have asked me to explain why
the condition on which I was to receive this wealth seemed to turn the
wealth itself into ashes. The tears came into my eyes, and I remained
silent.

"You love some woman, and I should be taking you from her? If so, tell
me. God forbid I should do so."

This time she spoke in a tone of sadness and feeling. Why did I not
tell her that I did love a woman; that I loved her with my whole soul,
and that that woman was herself? That is what a great many people
will think a man of spirit would have done. As far as spirit means
pride, it was pride that prevented me from even thinking of doing
such a thing. Here was a lady, wealthy, refined, highly educated, and
highly bred. She had made a plain, business-like proposition to me in
a plain, business-like manner. What right had I to introduce into the
discussion an element of the possibility of which she had clearly never
even dreamt? True, I was a gentleman by birth, but I was a shopman by
position. To have avowed my love for her would have been as grotesque
as if I were to declare my passion for the next lady who came into Mr.
Conder's shop. Of all this I was keenly sensible, for there could be
no greater gall to my pride than the tone in which she spoke, which
seemed as if she were unconscious that she could be loved by such as I.
Instinctively I knew that if I deviated in the least from the purely
commercial programme she was dictating, the whole matter would come to
an abrupt and final conclusion. I would have liked, goodness knows,
to have said that I would obey her behest without reward. But that, I
saw, would alter the whole spirit of the contract in such a way as to
destroy the contract itself, and thus place us everlastingly apart. If
we once went through the form of marriage, there was just a possibility
of her yet being my wife in a higher sense. If I returned to Mr.
Conder's shop we were parted forever.

This being clearly before my mind, I braced myself up by a strong
effort, and said:

"No, madam. I told you the truth to-day. You are not taking me from any
woman. But I am surprised, it is a great change for me--I perfectly
understand the proposition you have made. We are to go through a
form of marriage, and I am never to seek to know anything about you
afterward. Yes, madam, I pledge my word of honor to abide by the
contract."

She then asked me some questions about myself, taking notes of my
answers--who my parents were, where I was born, and so forth. If she
had been a barrister in full practice she could not have made the
examination more searching and condensed. The examination over she took
down my address both at Mr. Conder's and at 8 Charlton Crescent, High
Street, Islington, and then said:

"To-day is Tuesday. You will hear from Mr. Chambers by Saturday morning
at the latest--probably before that--in the meantime, will you promise
me that you will not talk to anybody about what has occurred? You will
see afterward that it will be for your own benefit not to let the world
know how you have become possessed of the means that will be yours."

"You may be sure, madam," I answered, "that I shall keep my own
counsel. I know nobody that I should be disposed to make a confidante
of. And even if I did, I should respect your wishes."

"Now," she continued, "there is only one other matter that we need
discuss at present. In your present circumstances it is unnecessary
for you to return to Mr. Conder, and it is only right that you should
at once have the means to live in a manner suitable to your future
position. I shall, if you will allow me, instruct Mr. Chambers to
see Mr. Conder in the morning and tell him that you have been left a
legacy which makes you independent. This will probably be the best way
to explain the matter so as to avoid exciting curiosity and gossip.
When the necessary arrangements have been made you will be credited
by Messrs. Duke, Furnival & Company with a thousand pounds to begin
with. In the meantime, you must let me return you the purse you gave me
to-day."

She rose and put the purse in my hands, and then said:

"You will very likely hear from Mr. Chambers in the course of Thursday,
but by Saturday morning at the latest. I do not think we have anything
more to say at present." She opened the door, I followed her into the
hall. She opened the hall-door; I could not think of anything more to
say than "Good-night, madam."

She bowed, and said very graciously:

"Good-night."

The door closed, and I found myself on the steps with my hat in one
hand and the soft velvet purse in the other. It seemed all like a
dream. However, I put my hat on my head and the purse in my pocket,
and walked down Baker Street toward Oxford Street. When I got through
Portman Square I turned up Lower Seymour Street, as I wanted to be
quiet, and dreaded the uproar of Oxford Street. I walked on looking
for some quiet place where I could sit down for a few minutes and
collect myself; I looked into one or two public-houses, but turned away
in disgust at the noisy crowds I saw inside them. At length I found
a quiet-looking tavern, and entered at the private bar, which I was
pleased to find I had to myself. Having called for a glass of ale I sat
down. There was no one but myself in the house at the time, so after
serving me the young lady went back to the bar-parlor. I took out the
purse and, after looking to satisfy myself that no one could observe
me, kissed it. It was made of soft blue velvet, with a gold clasp, and
felt weighty and bulky. I knew, of course, that there was money in it,
but so much was I thinking of the giver, and so little of the gift,
that, if my curiosity had not been suddenly excited, I should probably
have taken it home unopened.

I was seized, however, by a sudden curiosity, and opened it. In one
compartment were a number of sovereigns. In the other two compartments
there were rolls of paper. I took out one of these rolls, and, to
my astonishment, found ten ten-pound Bank of England notes. Having
replaced them, I took out the other roll and found that it was made
up of five twenty-pound notes. More than two hundred pounds! With
trembling hands I replaced the notes, and put the purse in my pocket
again. Was it a mistake? So enormous did the amount seem to me that,
for a moment, I thought she must have made some mistake. But a minute's
reflection satisfied me on that point. It was only consistent with what
she had promised, and with what she had the evident ability to do. I
had, then, two hundred pounds that I could call my own! For a moment
I sat dazed at the fortune, as it seemed, that I was carrying about
with me. When I began to realize that the money was my own, my first
definite emotion was a feeling of dread, almost of guilt, at having so
much money about me that I could do as I pleased with; and then the
thought from which the emotion had unconsciously sprung began to evolve
itself, and to present itself more and more clearly to my mind.

I was acting in a manner that belied my real character and motives.
I was, to all outward appearance, the mere hireling, the paid puppet
of the woman who was in reality the mistress of my soul. At first I
thought of going back to York Place to return the purse, and tell
her that in obeying her wishes I was actuated by sentiment and not
by avarice. But a very little reflection told me that if I acted in
such a manner there would be fixed between the wealthy lady and the
penniless shop-boy an impassable gulf. She might, and probably would,
misconstrue my motives. What she would certainly do, if she were still
at York Place, for I had no proof that she lived there, would be to
wish me good-night, and shut the door against me forever. The only
possibility of winning her, I could see clearly, was to take the means
that were thus offered to educate and fit myself for the sphere of
society in which she lived, and trust to the chapter of accidents for
an opportunity of meeting her and gaining her affection. So, resolving
that I would make myself worthy to be her husband, and little doubting,
in the fondness of the moment, that when I had done so we should meet,
I got up and made my way home.

I went to Mr. Conder's shop the next morning, as I thought it would
be more friendly, and more dignified, to see him myself before we
parted. And, as I anticipated, he made no difficulty in terminating
our engagement when I told him that I had come in for a few thousand
pounds! After I left him I went to a shop where they sold ready-made
clothes, to get some things for immediate use.

Three o'clock was the time that was arranged for these clothes to be
delivered at Charlton Crescent. The intervening time I employed in
going to different places in the city to pay some debts I owed, and
then took a 'bus to the Angel, and got to Charlton Crescent at about
ten minutes past three.

When I opened the door Mrs. Duncan (my landlady) came out of her parlor
in a great state of excitement to tell me that there was a large
parcel, and a letter, and a telegram in my bedroom; and that the letter
had been left about half an hour before by such a fashionable-looking
young gentleman, who had asked so particularly whether I had left any
word before I went out as to when I would be likely to return.

I ran up to my bedroom. There, sure enough, was a large brown paper
parcel on my bed, and on the chest of drawers a telegram and a letter,
both of which were addressed to:

James Brooke, Esq., 8 Charlton Crescent, Islington, N.

The handwriting on the envelope of the letter attracted my attention. I
guessed that the letter was from Mr. Chambers. But it was not addressed
in the legal hand that I associated with a lawyer's letter. On the
contrary, it was addressed in a very flowing and gentlemanly hand. I
opened the telegram first, and read:

"William Chambers, 52 Bedford Row, W. C, to James Brooke, Esq., 8
Charlton Crescent, High Street, Islington, N.

"Please favor me with a call immediately you receive this. It is
important that I should see you at once."

It had been handed in at the post-office at ten minutes past eleven
o'clock. I then opened the letter, which ran as follows:

                                     52 Bedford Row, W. C, July, 187-.

  "DEAR SIR.--I was in hopes that you would have been at home when
  my telegram was delivered. I wish to see you at your earliest
  convenience, so if you should get this letter in time to be at my
  office by six o'clock P.M., I shall be glad to see you this evening.
  If not I shall expect to see you at the above address at ten o'clock
  to-morrow (Thursday) morning.--I remain, yours faithfully,

                                                    WILLIAM CHAMBERS."

  James Brooke, Esq.

It took me a little time to dress, but I got to Bedford Row shortly
before five o'clock, and, after waiting for a few minutes in the
outside office, was shown into Mr. Chambers' private room.

To tell the truth, I had been getting rather anxious as to the
reception I should get from Mr. Chambers. Unless there was some
deep reason which I could not fathom, or even guess at, it seemed
hardly likely that any solicitor would encourage Miss Grey to marry
a penniless shop-boy. It was only while I was on my way to Bedford
Row that I had begun to see the matter in this light; and I had been
preparing myself for an encounter with an imaginary lawyer who was as
hard-featured as he was sure to be hard-headed. The appearance and
manners, however, of the gentleman about whom I had been speculating
rather vaguely, but very anxiously, gave me a complete surprise.

He was a tall, spare man with gray hair and whiskers, and a very kindly
and intellectual countenance.

When I entered his room he came forward and shook hands with me very
cordially, and then asked me to sit down in an arm-chair by his desk.
After a few casual remarks, in which he mentioned that he had not gone
to see Mr. Conder lest I might have seen him myself, and, perhaps, have
given some version of the matter that would not tally with his, he
continued:

"I have seen Miss Grey this morning, and she has told me of what took
place yesterday. One of my principal objects in wishing to see you thus
early is to place before you, as soon as possible--so that you may have
time to consider the matter--what appears to me to be the real aspect
of the case as far as you are concerned. I am a good deal older than
you are, and have seen a great deal more of the world than you have,
and, whether you may act on the advice that I am about to give you or
not, you will, I am sure, when you have reflected on it, come to the
conclusion that it is at least sensible, and well meant.

"Miss Grey has, then, I understand, proposed that you shall marry her
on the condition that she settles £2,000 a year on you, while you
pledge yourself never to seek to know her real name or anything more
about her. And you have accepted the conditions. Am I right?"

"Quite right, sir."

"Now, my dear Mr. Brooke, if I were at your age, and if I were situated
as you were when the offer was made to you, I am perfectly sure that I
should have done exactly as you have done. But, if I had done so, I am
sure that I should afterward have been the most miserable man alive.
Two thousand a year is a fine income, but believe me, that money,
like everything else, can be bought too dearly. In this case you are
surrendering yourself to a bondage which, at present, you can hardly
understand. That is a consideration I wish most strongly to impress
upon you, and I ask you to reflect most seriously upon it. On the other
hand, there is the question, What are you to do if this arrangement is
broken off? It would be most cruel and unjust, it would be absurd, to
ask you to break off the engagement unless you were otherwise provided
for. That is a matter I have carefully considered with Miss Grey; and,
as she is solely responsible for the engagement, I am authorized by
her to say that if you wish to do that which I most strongly advise
you for your own happiness to do, namely, to abandon the engagement,
she will acknowledge the obligation that her conduct has imposed upon
her by giving me £2,000 to hand over to you. Now, think well of the
two sides of the question. On the one hand you are doomed to a life of
celibacy--married to a woman whom you can never meet again. Wealthy,
it is true; but whether wealth would be worth having under such
circumstances, it is for you, from your knowledge of yourself, to say.
On the other hand, with youth, and health, and brains, you start in
the race of life with a clear £2,000. I have myself no interest in the
matter. You are a stranger to me; Miss Grey is merely a client. But I
should be false to my duty, and unworthy of my position as a solicitor,
if I did not warn you of the probable consequences of acting rashly in
this matter."

He paused as if to invite some comment from me on what he had said. I
must have looked perplexed, for I had, indeed, a question to ask him,
a question that was suggested in some way, I do not know why, by his
remarks; but how to put it into words I did not know. Seeing that I was
confused, and thinking, probably, that I was weighing the issue he had
put to me, he continued:

"Perhaps you would like to consider the matter. I shall be here every
day between ten and six, and shall be very happy to see you at any
time you like to look in. Do not stand on any ceremony about coming to
see me. It will give me the greatest pleasure to discuss the matter
with you, and, as far as I can, advise you. Do you know the motto that
Von Moltke, the great Prussian general, took for his crest after the
Franco-German war?"

"No, sir."

"Well, it is four German words, 'Erst wagen, denn tragen.' Literally it
means, 'First think, then act,' or, to use our own slang phrase, 'Look
before you leap.' Take my advice and follow the motto of the Prussian
general."

"Mr. Chambers," I said, "there is a question I should like to ask you,
and yet I do not know how to express it."

"When the Roman Catholics go to confession," said Mr. Chambers, "they
say what they please to their confessor, because they know that they
are protected by what is termed the seal of confession, that is, by the
obligation of the priest never, under any circumstances, to divulge
what has passed during confession. The obligation of a solicitor to his
client is exactly similar. So far I have been acting in this matter as
solicitor to both sides. You may regard yourself as a client of mine
at present; and you may speak to me with the perfect assurance that
anything you may say is as secret as if it were whispered into the
tomb."

"It is difficult," I replied, "to ask the question so as not to be
misunderstood, or, at least, so as not to run the risk of giving
offense. Yet, acting as I am in the dark, I think I am entitled to ask
it. You and I, sir, are, as you have said, strangers. Miss Grey is so
much a stranger to me that I have never clearly seen her face. For Miss
Grey I have the most profound respect. That I have the most implicit
confidence in you, the fact of my putting the question to you will
show. Speaking, then, as one who knows nothing, to you who know all,
or at the least much more than I do, I ask you, as man to man, this
question:

"Do I in any way compromise my honor if I marry Miss Grey in the way
that is proposed?"

We had been looking each other straight in the face while I spoke.
When I had finished, he said, without the slightest change on his
countenance, which I had been trying without success to read:

"Why do you ask?"

"Because," I replied firmly, "if that is so I renounce the whole
matter."

"But if it is not so?"

"Then I shall marry Miss Grey." I stopped there; I did not think it
prudent to say what I felt tempted to say, and what would have been the
truth, that I wanted no reward for doing as she wished. For a moment
he gave me a look that was searching without being obtrusive. Then he
said:

"I believe that if any words of mine could balk you in your purpose it
would be the greatest kindness that was ever done you; but I have to
speak the truth. As man to man, Miss Grey is a pure-minded and virtuous
woman, and your honor is not in any way compromised by marrying her."

"Then, sir, you have my final decision."

"I hope not," said Mr. Chambers, very gravely. "A wise man is always
prepared to change his mind if fresh knowledge or reflection should
make it expedient to do so. Will you look in on me to-morrow afternoon
at about this hour? In the meantime, think well of what I have said;
remember that liberty, like health, is a thing the value of which we
only realize when we have lost it, and that you are sacrificing one of
the most precious attributes of liberty if you doom yourself to a life
of enforced celibacy."

He saw me to the door, where he shook hands warmly with me, and I left
promising to see him the following afternoon.

It is not necessary to do more than describe very briefly what took
place during the next ten or eleven days. On Saturday the marriage was
fixed for the following Monday week. In the meantime I removed to a
set of chambers in Adelphi Terrace, from which there was a fine view
of the river. Mr. Chambers tried several times very hard to alter my
resolution, and materially increased the offer of £2,000, if I would
give up the marriage; but as his arguments did not apply to the motives
which really influenced me, they were rather irrelevant.

One thing that he was surprised at, I could see, was my indifference
as to how the money was to be secured to me. The way in which it was
done eventually was by a letter to me from Mr. Duke and himself, making
themselves and their executors jointly and severally liable to pay me
£500 every quarter so long as I abstained from claiming the lady to
whom I was about to be married, as my wife. This letter, I may mention,
was given to me without any solicitation on my part; for the monetary
portion of the transaction was most repulsive to my feelings. I signed
without reading the marriage settlement. When Mr. Chambers began, in an
apologetic manner, to intimate the reasons why this should be done, I
saved him the trouble of entering upon any explanation by saying that
the reasons were too obvious to need being repeated, and that I had no
wish to pry into Miss Grey's affairs.

On the following Thursday week £1,000 was placed to my credit at
Messrs. Duke, Furnival & Company's bank, and on the Monday after, at
seven o'clock in the evening, the marriage took place, by special
license, at 41 York Place, in the parlor where I had had the interview
with Miss Grey.

I walked up to the house at a few minutes to seven o'clock, and was
shown into the same parlor by the same servant. I had not been in
the room for more than a minute when Mr. Chambers came in looking
very fresh and smiling. After a few casual remarks he gave me the
wedding-ring, which I was to put on the bride's finger. He had hardly
done so when a young clergyman came in in full canonicals, and after
him Mr. Duke with a lady who wore a white veil of such a thick texture
that it would have been impossible, had I tried, to distinguish her
features. The service began at once. I had been previously "coached"
by Mr. Chambers, and got through my part of the ceremony pretty well;
but her responses were given in a much more steady tone than mine were.
The only bit of information that I gained from the marriage service
was that her name was Catherine. Otherwise I might as well have been
married to a being in another world as to the cold statuesque form
which was standing by my side, and which was presently to vanish from
my sight forever. The service over, she sat down while I replied to the
questions of the clergyman and signed the marriage register. Then, in
accordance with our previous arrangements, Mr. Chambers and I quietly
left the room and went up-stairs to a richly furnished drawing-room.
Here he left me for a few minutes, and then returned, saying:

"I think we may leave now. You will do me the pleasure, I hope, to dine
with me this evening."

We descended the stairs, and had just got to the hall-door, which Mr.
Chambers was in the act of opening, when the parlor door opened, the
veiled figure of the lady I had married came out, bowed slightly to
both of us--more to me, I thought, than to Mr. Chambers--said in a
voice in which I could detect no expression or emotion, "Farewell,"
glided lightly up the stairs, and disappeared. We both bowed; I could
find no word in answer. Mr. Chambers opened the door; in a minute it
was shut behind us, and we were walking toward Oxford Street.



PART II.

NICE.


Five years passed away after the marriage in York Place without
anything particularly eventful occurring in my life. I finished my
education, took a fairly good degree at Cambridge, got called to the
Bar, and was, perhaps, neither better nor worse than the majority of
bachelors who have uncontrolled possession of a large income. As time
passed on, I am ashamed to say that I pretty nearly forgot all about
Miss Grey. This seems, no doubt, very fickle and unromantic. But five
years is a long time; and the new scenes and circumstances that I was
surrounded by after my marriage naturally engrossed my attention in a
way that those who have never experienced such a change of fortune can
hardly understand or make allowance for.

I shall take up the thread of my story in the December of 187-, when
I was stopping at Nice with a Mr. Mervin, who was about my own age,
and a great friend of mine. We left London for Nice on the evening
after I had gone through the ceremony of being called to the bar; and
I devoutly wish that I had space to tell how we left London and Paris
wrapped up in cold and fog, and, after traveling all night, woke up
in the morning while the train was running along the shores of the
Mediterranean, dazzled by the wondrous light of that southern climate.
The light seemed a universal presence. It was unlike anything I could
have imagined; and the whole of my first day at Nice seemed to me like
a continued morning.

On the second night after our arrival we went to a ball at the English
club. Why we went there I hardly know, for neither of us was much of a
ladies' man. Mervin was somewhat a Bohemian, and the peculiar position
in which I was placed made me avoid the society of ladies, lest I
should contract or engender an affection that could not be requited.

We had scarcely entered the ballroom, however, when Mervin exclaimed:

"Goodness me! Mrs. O'Flaherty, and Miss O'Flaherty too. I declare.
Well, this is an unexpected pleasure."

One of the ladies he addressed was a stout, middle-aged matron, whose
countenance bespoke her nationality quite as unmistakably as did her
name. Her companion was a tall, fair-haired young lady who seemed to me
to have one of the most refined and beautiful faces I had ever seen.

"Why, I protest," continued Mervin, before either of the ladies could
say a word in answer to his salutation, "my dear Mrs. O'Flaherty, it
must be a year since we have seen each other, and you seem to have
grown ten years younger."

"Tell that yarn to the mounted maranes, Misther Blarney," said Mrs.
O'Flaherty, laughing, and looking quite pleased.

"Allow me to introduce my friend, Mr. Brooke," said Mervin. "Mr.
Brooke, Mrs. O'Flaherty; Mr. Brooke, Miss O'Flaherty."

We bowed.

"Mr. Brooke was wishing for a partner for the next waltz, Miss
O'Flaherty. I can thoroughly recommend him as a waltzer, and I am sure
you will not blight his wishes," continued Mervin.

I was not wishing for anything of the sort. But I was able to dance,
which he was not; and, as I knew that he was maliciously speculating on
my being as unaccomplished as he was in this respect, it gave me great
pleasure to ask Miss O'Flaherty if I might be her partner. She assented
with an easy grace that surprised me; for I could not understand how
such a refined and lady-like girl could be the daughter of such an
unalloyed mass of vulgarity as Mrs. O'Flaherty was.

"I'll kape me eye on yez so that ye won't have the bother of hunting
for me when the dance is over," said Mrs. O'Flaherty. "I'd be askin'
Misther Marvin to lade me out himself av I was a few year younger. But
we'll be afther havin' some liquid refreshment whilst yer divartin'
yerselves. Would ye take yer foot off me tail, if ye plase, sir?"--this
last to a gentleman who had inadvertently trod on the train of her
dress. The people about us were beginning to titter.

One never knows where little accomplishments, which can be easily
acquired, may turn of use. I had learned to dance, not because I
intended to go to balls or parties, but because I thought it foolish
to run the risk of some time or other being placed at a disadvantage
through want of proficiency in so easy an art. On the present occasion
I was rewarded by having a most delightful companion during a
considerable portion of the evening. At first our conversation was, of
course, of a more or less commonplace character. When the first waltz
was over we found that Mervin had escaped from Mrs. O'Flaherty. But
the worthy dame had got a companion of her own sex and age, and when I
had supplied them with some of the "liquid refreshment" they were both
partial to, "Polly," as she called her beautiful daughter, was free to
join me in another dance. How Miss O'Flaherty could be her daughter
was an enigma which completely baffled me. There was not a particle
of family likeness between them; and while Mrs. O'Flaherty was the
embodiment of good-natured vulgarity, Miss O'Flaherty was a clever,
highly-educated young lady, whose perfectly self-possessed and polished
manners showed unmistakably that she had been brought up in the society
of people who were, to put it mildly, better bred than her mother.

Our conversation, as I have said, was at first about commonplace
matters, such as the difference of the climate in England and the south
of France in winter; the difference of English and French customs; the
light literature of the day, and so on. I have heard a story of an
eminent queen's counsel who had been examining the Duke of Wellington
before a Parliamentary committee, and who, on being asked by a friend
if he had been examining the great duke, replied, "No, it was he who
was examining me."

I felt in somewhat the same predicament with Miss O'Flaherty. There
was nothing of the blue-stocking or the _doctrinaire_ about her. She
was perfectly unpretentious, and unself-conscious. But she was so full
of information, and her memory and imagination moved so quickly and
naturally, that whatever subject we spoke about she seemed to lead the
conversation. At length, as we were sitting in a retired part of the
room, and were speaking about music, I told her of a musician I knew,
who had a dog that he had to put out of the room before the music
began, because it cried so much.

"Indeed," said Miss O'Flaherty, "how thoughtless. If he had left the
door open the poor dog would no more have left the room than you or I
would--that is," she added with a smile, "if it were _music_ that made
the poor animal cry."

"I confess, Miss O'Flaherty," I said, "that I do not understand you."

"What!" she said, looking at me in surprise, "you don't know why
some animals, like some human beings--only some--cry when they hear
music--not noise, but music?"

"No," I replied, "I have often wondered."

"And all your learning has not enabled you to answer so easy a
question?" she said, in a tone of sarcasm.

"I do not pretend to much learning," I answered, "but I have never
heard any explanation of the fact."

"Very likely not," she answered; "the man who put the poor animal out
of the room knew, possibly, less of his art than his dog did. The dog
cried for the same reason that a human being might have cried, because
the music roused in its mind unsatisfied longings that tortured it by
the vagueness and uncertainty with which they spoke of a state higher
and better than the poor animal could understand."

"I am surprised I did not think of so natural an explanation," I said.
"My friends say I am music mad, and, indeed, music is almost a mania
with me. I wonder it did not occur to me why the lower animals are
affected by music as we are."

"Because," she answered, "they have got the highest power of the
critic, the power of spontaneously registering the effect of what
they hear on their own minds, whilst we, as a rule, can do little
more than judge of what we hear, not by our own original capacity of
appreciation, which is for each individual the true touchstone of art,
but by some preconceived, and probably badly conceived model, as if
the beautiful were molded in any one form. No wonder that with such
principles of criticism Haydn and Mozart had unfitted the world to
understand Beethoven--melodists in _excelsis_ though they were."

"Then Beethoven is your favorite composer," I ventured to remark.

"Yes," she said. "I think I may say his works are my principal
recreation."

"I am afraid it is against etiquette to make such a request," I said,
diffidently, "but I too am a worshiper of Beethoven. Unfortunately, I
was never taught any instrument, and I do not hear his music as often
as I could wish. Will you forgive me if I say that it would give me
great pleasure to hear you play some of his works?"

She replied in a laughing tone, which at once brought the conversation
down from the rather sentimental latitudes into which it had been
straying.

"You should speak of my 'reading' of his works--that is, I believe the
correct expression. I am afraid that if you heard my poor performance
you would say, as a gentleman said to his daughter, on whose musical
education he had been expending a great deal of money--

    "When Orpheus played, he touched the rocks and trees,
     But you, my lady, only touch the keys."

However, we have _dejeuner_ at half-past eleven, and if you like to
join us any morning I shall be happy to let you hear my interpretation
of Beethoven--such as it is."

"Next to the present time there is no time so sure as the immediate
future, and if I thought that you would not be too tired after
to-night, I should do myself the honor to accept your kind invitation
to-morrow morning."

"I shall not stay here much longer," said Miss O'Flaherty, smiling.
"And, as to my being tired, I expect to be out before eight o'clock in
the morning. So, if you like to come, we--for I think I can speak for
my aunt--shall be happy to see you; and after _dejeuner_ you will have
an opportunity of criticizing my performance, for I generally play the
piano for an hour or two in the middle of the day. We are stopping at
the Maison Normande, on the Promenade des Anglais."

If we had been in England there would have been something shocking in
a young lady giving such an invitation to a stranger with whom she had
merely danced at a public ball. But we were not in England, and Miss
O'Flaherty spoke with an unconscious ease and authority that made the
whole arrangement seem quite natural. If she had been her own mother
she could not have chaperoned herself more effectively or gracefully.

"I shall be very punctual," I said in a serious tone, which I intended
to be very respectful.

"I hope you will keep your word better with me than you have with my
aunt," she replied, laughing. "You promised to bring me back as soon as
the last dance was over," saying which she rose, and I had to follow
her in quest of Mrs. O'Flaherty.

So then Mrs. O'Flaherty was only her aunt and not her mother. "Thank
God," I said to myself. Why thank God? Why, because I was in love with
her. I did not realize it quite at once. We found Mrs. O'Flaherty.
They left early. I saw them into their carriage, and left the ball as
soon as they had gone. It was not till I got out into the beautiful,
soft, southern night that I realized the words of Mr. Chambers, when
I announced my intention of marrying Miss Grey "I believe that if any
words could balk you in your purpose, it would be the greatest kindness
that ever was done you."

"Why did he not balk me?" I asked myself, angrily and illogically. I
had met my better self in Miss O'Flaherty. She was the being for whom
I had unconsciously yearned through all these years. Was I to be kept
from her by a phantom?

I lay awake nearly the whole of that night, and did not get to sleep
until shortly before I was called at half-past eight o'clock.

It was a few minutes after nine when I came down to the coffee-room. We
had ordered an English breakfast, and Mervin was pouring out his coffee
when I came into the room.

"Just in time," he said, by way of salutation, helping himself as
he spoke, in a way which showed that he would not have delayed his
breakfast if I had been late. "Why, I had no idea that you could dance."

"Much obliged for your kindness in saying that I could."

"Oh, yes," he answered. "Don't mention it; I thought I'd take a rise
out of you. Beaten with my own weapons. Lost the adorable Polly for my
pains----"

"I hope you have nothing to say against Miss O'Flaherty," I said,
getting angry. "If you have it had better not be said in my presence."

"Hulloa! 'pistols for two, coffee for one,'" said Mervin, laughing.
"All I have to say, my dear fellow, is that for a woman who is not a
coquette, and who is one of the truest women alive, she is the greatest
man-slayer I have ever known. What I could never make out is how she
could belong to such a clan as the O'Flahertys of O'Flaherty Hall (as
we called it), Bedford Square. But 'dull Boetia gave a Pindar birth,'
and I suppose that it was on the same principle that nature permitted
the late Michael O'Flaherty, of money-lending renown, to be the sire
of a woman who would be an empress if rank were the reward of merit and
not accident."

"So her father was a money-lender," I said, helping myself to some
cutlets.

"A prince among money-lenders," rejoined Mervin, "a man whose rate per
cent. rose in a very direct proportion to your necessities, and who
never deserted his prey while there was a drop of blood left in its
carcass. But, 'rest his sowl,' he's been dead these last three years."

"But O'Flaherty is not a Jewish name," I remarked.

"Jewish name be hanged!" said Mervin. "Does it follow that if a man
is a money-lender he must also be a Jew? That's the way that one
generation goes on repeating the folly of another. Because the Jews
were the bankers of the world at a time when, owing to the ignorance of
our thieving and bloodthirsty ancestors, banker and money-lender were
synonymous, every man who is a money-lender is at once set down as a
Jew. No, he was not a Jew, but an Irishman; and let me tell you that in
London, at least, for every one Jew there are a dozen gentiles who are
money-lenders, and that whereas the Jew is generally a fairly straight
man of business, the gentile is generally an unmitigated scamp. The
Jew means business. You can rely on his word; as a rule, he lends his
own money, and his rate of interest depends on the security you have
to offer; for there is a perfectly open market, and Jews are just as
ready as gentiles to lend at bank rate when the necessary security is
forthcoming. The gentile money-lender, on the other hand, is generally
a man whose only idea of business is to lie like Ananias; and very
often he is not a _bona-fide_ money-lender at all, but a middle-man,
with whom you are probably wasting your time."

"Was Mr. O'Flaherty one of this class?"

"Yes and no. He had plenty of money to lend, but he had not the courage
to part with it unless he could get sixty per cent. compound interest
on security that would have satisfied the Governors of the Bank of
England, or unless his avarice was excited by the prospect of getting
a thoroughly fat pigeon fast in his nets. He was not so bad during the
last three or four years of his life, for Miss Polly, who had come home
from school to live with him, and who was an heiress in her own right,
kept a pretty sharp eye on him, and did a great deal to purify the
moral atmosphere of O'Flaherty Hall. It was a pandemonium at one time,
I can assure you."

"But how could a girl like her live in such a house?"

"She wanted him to leave London. At one time they took a house in
Hastings, but the force of habit was too much for him, and in three
months or so he was back in town again. He could not do without his old
haunts and associates; Miss O'Flaherty came back with him. She had her
own suit of apartments in the house in Bedford Square, and, I need not
say, never showed herself amongst her father's guests, or clients, or
hangers-on, or whatever you may choose to call them. But her presence,
though unseen, exercised a great influence. Old O'Flaherty could not,
of course, ever be thoroughly reformed; but, after she came to live in
Bedford Square, he held his receptions in taverns, or such places, and
not at his own house, and the host of nobs and snobs of all sorts who
came to him as touts or tipsters or to borrow money, had mostly to seek
for him abroad. I have often pitied poor Miss O'Flaherty; I believe
she has sacrificed herself for a thoroughly worthless father. She
lived with him, I am certain, to keep him from his evil ways. And I am
sure that the reason why she refused one or two very eligible suitors
was that she was too proud to marry a man who must have despised her
father."

"That would be rather too romantic a reason to influence a woman in
such a matter," I remarked.

"I grant you it would as far as the ordinary run of women are
concerned," replied Mervin, "but Miss O'Flaherty is made of sterner
stuff than most women are, and she must have known that while
her father was alive his reputation would always place her at a
disadvantage both with her husband's family and in society. I cannot
think of anything more galling to a really clever, high-spirited woman,
as she is, than to know that there are circumstances connected with her
family which would be a constant source of shame to her husband."

There seemed to me to be an element of romance in the story that Mervin
told me about Miss O'Flaherty which, if it were possible, increased
my affection for her. My compassion was excited by the tale, and
compassion has been well defined to be momentary love. As I walked
along the promenade, by the shore of the Mediterranean, about an
hour after breakfast, I debated with myself, in a perfect agony, the
question whether I ought to call upon her. I knew that as a man of
sense and honor it was my duty to her, and to myself, to leave Nice
at once, for I felt certain that if I came under the influence of her
presence again my passion would overcome me and I should tell her of
my love. On the other hand, I felt drawn toward her by an irresistible
spell.

How the matter would have ended if I had not run across Mrs.
O'Flaherty, I do not know; but my accidentally meeting her left me no
escape, and in a few minutes I found myself in a handsomely furnished
parlor talking to Miss O'Flaherty, who looked more bewitching than ever
in a light-blue morning costume. When the _dejeuner_ was over, Mrs.
O'Flaherty retired to have a snooze, as she called it, and presently
Miss O'Flaherty sat down to the piano.

Of her performance, I can only say that she seemed to me to play as
Beethoven or Mendelssohn themselves have played. The instrument seemed
a living thing in her hands. It spoke out of love and hope and joy, of
sorrow and affliction. It seemed like a spirit to intercede between
us, and to tell me that in spite of all human laws and ceremonies
she, and she alone was my wife. I must have been mad when I told her
of my love--told her my whole story, told her in words I could never
recall--fierce, frantic words I am afraid they were--that without her
life was worthless to me--begged her to fly with me to some far-off
country where we could live for each other unknown, and where our union
would be sanctified by our love, and then sank into a chair horrified
at what I had done.

She had risen from the piano while I was speaking, and was standing
by the mantel-piece. Her countenance was as pale as death; it was
as white and, save for a strange light that shone from her eyes, as
expressionless as the face of a corpse. She did not interrupt me by a
word or a sign, only stood and looked me straight in the face while I
spoke.

I had been sitting for nearly a minute with my face in my hands,
stupefied with shame and terror, when these words rang in my astonished
ears:

"You have asked me to be your mistress; what guaranty have I that you
would have asked me to be your wife if you were free?"

"This guaranty," I cried, "and this atonement for what I have done.
I shall leave to-night for London. If I possibly can I shall have
the marriage with Miss Grey dissolved. In any case, I shall live in
future on my own earnings, and not on her money. I shall start by the
first ship for Australia. I shall take one hundred pounds to commence
my new life with, and I shall never rest until I have repaid every
farthing of the money I now loathe myself for having received in such a
manner--innocent as my intentions were at first."

"And it was for love, not for money, that you married Miss Grey," she
said, the tears dropping from her eyes as she spoke.

"It was the dream of a boy," I answered; "and when I have gone you will
have this guaranty of the purity of my feelings for you--however much I
have erred--that having dared to tell you of my love, I have exchanged
wealth for poverty and exile, rather than live on the income I have
derived from the woman who has made it impossible for me to ask you to
be my wife."

"Sit down for a moment," she said, standing with her elbows on the
mantel-piece, and her face buried in her hands. I had risen from my
seat, but I did as she asked. We neither of us spoke for a minute or
two. Then she said, without raising her face from her hands:

"You would have asked me to be your wife if you were not married?"

"Good God! of course I would--you know I would," I cried in wonder.

"And if I could find out a means by which I could legally be your wife,
would you take me?"

I sprung from my seat and was standing by her side imploring her to
tell me what she meant, and telling her that life was worthless to me
without her, when suddenly she threw her arms round my neck, crying as
she did so:

"My darling cousin, I am your wife. It was me whom you married in
York Place. I loved you as you loved me from the first. I have been
following your career all these years, wondering whether you could love
me when you were a man, and in your rightful position, as I knew that
you loved me when we were married."

Of what followed I cannot trust myself to speak.

It was about an hour afterward, as we were sitting by the
Mediterranean, that I heard from her own lips the explanation of the
enigma of our marriage.

I wish that I had space to tell the whole story in her own words, but I
must summarize a considerable portion of the tale. I shall, therefore,
only repeat as much as is necessary to enable the reader to understand
our respective positions on the day we met in Chandos Street.

Her mother, who was the only child of a wealthy cotton-spinner,
died when she was about three years old. When she was about twelve
the grandfather, who had disowned his daughter for marrying Michael
O'Flaherty, also died. And, as he was a widower, childless and
intestate, Miss O'Flaherty, of course, became entitled to the whole
of his property--amounting to nearly £250,000. My father was a first
cousin of her mother. About two years before his death he got involved
in some bill-transactions with Michael O'Flaherty, and the result was
that Michael O'Flaherty got possession without, practically speaking,
any consideration of a reversionary interest that my father had in
£2,000. The reversion fell in about twelve months afterward, but, as
my father had parted with it, I was left penniless at his death. This
had been discovered by Miss O'Flaherty a short time before I met her in
Chandos Street.

Miss O'Flaherty had been educated at a French convent; and Mervin was
right in his surmises as to the reasons that induced her to live in
Bedford Square, and to discard the numerous suitors to her hand and
fortune. Amongst these suitors was an elderly baronet, who sought by
marrying her to recoup the fortune he had squandered in betting and
dissipation. In his attempt to gain Miss O'Flaherty he was seconded
by his mother. And Michael was so pleased at having a baronet for
a son-in-law that he, and, at his instance, his sister--not the
one who was in Nice--brought all the pressure they could bear on
Miss O'Flaherty, to induce her to marry a man whom she knew to be a
worthless _roue_, and whom she despised as such.

I may now continue the narrative in her own words:

"When you told me your history I was horrified to think that a
gentleman's son, and one who for years had been educated in the society
of gentlemen, should be in such a position, and still more horrified
to think that you were my own cousin, and that you had been brought to
such a state by the conduct of my father. I felt it a solemn duty to
do something to atone for what you had suffered at my father's hands.
But how? A young lady cannot very well make large presents of money to
a young gentleman without the risk of her conduct being misconstrued;
and I could not tell you who I was, and why I assisted you, without
reflecting on my father's conduct in a way that I could not bring
myself to do.

"Then, suddenly, the thought flashed through my mind that if we were
married I could atone to you for all that you had endured, and end
forever any risk of my being Lady Barton; for, to tell you the truth, I
felt that I was being overcome, as one woman is not much against two
women and two men, especially when they are all older than herself,
and almost the only people whom she knows. But then again there was a
difficulty. A woman cannot very well propose to a man; and, besides,
my good sir, you were not very well fit at the time to be lord and
master of myself and a household. Still, I knew that I should find
some way out of the difficulty, so I made the appointment with you to
meet me that night at York Place, at the house of the Mrs. O'Flaherty
whom you know, and, I am afraid, have been laughing at. However, she
is a very good woman, and always does exactly as I tell her, without
asking any questions. Well, I considered the matter, and the result of
my deliberations was, that if we were married there would be an end of
the persecution I was enduring about Sir Henry Barton. Your conduct
was very nice. You showed a very pretty spirit when you refused the
money I offered you in Chandos Street, and, for once at least, made me
thoroughly ashamed of myself. But, nevertheless, I was determined, my
good sir, that, if I could manage it, you should first fit yourself
to be my husband, and then declare your affection for me before I
acknowledged myself to be your wife.

"Accordingly I kept my veil down when I saw you in York Place, so that
you should not be able to recognize me too easily, and married you in
such a way that you did not know anything about me, even the Christian
name by which I am usually called; for while Catherine is my real name,
Polly is only a pet name my father gave me. My intention was to give
you the means to take your position in the world as a gentleman, and to
leave it to yourself to use them rightly."

"But suppose that I had not used them rightly? Suppose that I had done
what a good many men would have done if they were in my place--taken to
racing and other pastimes of the kind?"

"Oh, I knew that that was not at all likely. But if you had I should
have stopped you. I knew from Mr. Chambers how you were getting on, and
as long as you were studying hard, and taking your degree, and getting
called to the Bar, I let you alone. If I had found that you were
getting into bad habits I should have come to look after you myself;
and I should have reformed you very speedily, for I am very determined."

"But suppose," I remonstrated, "that in your absence I had fallen in
love with somebody else?"

"Well, I declare, one would think you had been consulting with Mr.
Chambers," she replied; "for you are raising all the objections that
he raised. I did not suppose anything of the kind. You were in love
with me when you married me, and then you fell in love with your books,
which made you perfectly safe. You have got on exceedingly well, much
better than you probably would if you had had a wife dangling about
after you. But suppose you had fallen in love with a second woman,
don't you think that I would have been a great fool if I could not have
made you fall in love with a third woman?"

"Unquestionably. But what, may I ask, did Mr. Chambers think of the
proceeding?"

"Oh, he was greatly opposed to it at first. But I told him plainly that
if he did not assist me I should get somebody else who would, though of
course I would be very sorry to leave him. When he saw you he thought
you a very nice lad--a great improvement on Sir Henry Barton--and he
has since come to the conclusion that there was a good deal of method
in my madness. He is waiting now with some curiosity to hear how we
have got on, for it was from him I heard that you had started for Nice."

"Then you have only come since I arrived."

"That is all. I got a letter from Mr. Chambers the evening you left
London saying you were going that evening to Nice. You had been called
to the Bar, and had done all that I wanted you to do, so I made Mrs.
O'Flaherty accompany me, and followed you the next night. We heard
about the ball from an old colonel whom she knows here, and I made him
get us tickets for it, and went to it on the chance of seeing you."

"And what would you have done if I had ceased to care for you?"

"Well, that I suppose would have depended on what I thought of you. I
had lived without you for five years, and if you had changed into a
nasty, unamiable creature I could have done without you for the rest of
my life. But then nice people don't change into nasty people any more
than sapphires or diamonds change into bits of flint or granite."

"You have an answer for everything," I said, laughing.

"Yes," she replied, "that is what Mr. Chambers used to say. But talking
about Mr. Chambers reminds me that the letter you got from him and
Mr. Furnival was all a piece of nonsense. The £2,000 a year is secured
to you in the marriage settlement, and you would not have forfeited
anything if you had insisted on knowing who I was. My object was to put
myself out of your mind as much as possible by making you think that
you would never see me again, so that you might attend to your books,
and fit yourself for the world, and let me know your real opinion of me
when you were competent to form one. And now I must get back, for Mrs.
O'Flaherty is returning to London this evening."

"So soon!" I cried involuntarily, in a tone of pleasurable surprise.

"Now stop that," she said. "Mrs. O'Flaherty is a very good woman
indeed, and you have not got rid of her yet, for we are going to
accompany her as far as Cannes, unless you prefer to stop here with Mr.
Mervin."

"No, thank you," I said. "I shall go to Cannes."

We left Nice by an evening train. Mervin was at Monaco, where he
usually passed his day; and as he spent most of his time at Monaco,
and had several friends in Nice, I did not feel as much compunction
as I might otherwise have felt in leaving a letter for him, which he
would get on his return at about ten o'clock, saying that I had been
taken away from Nice by urgent business, the nature of which he would
learn in due course if he watched the matrimonial advertisements in the
_Times_. We got out of the train at Cannes, leaving Mrs. O'Flaherty to
go on to Marseilles _en route_ for London.

As we drove up to the hotel I took out my purse to pay the fare.

"Why, that is a lady's purse," said Mrs. Brooke, who was sitting by my
side. "Who had the audacity to give it to you?

"A Miss Grey, who was an old sweetheart of mine," I replied.

"Then I am jealous," said Mrs. Brooke. And she always says that she is
jealous of Miss Grey. However, Miss Grey is the only person who has
ever given her cause for jealousy.

Three days afterward the numerous readers of the matrimonial
announcements in the London daily papers were informed of a marriage
which had taken place by special license at 41 York Place five years
previously, between James Brooke, only son of the late Reverend Robert
Brooke, and Catherine O'Flaherty, only daughter of the late Michael
O'Flaherty, Esq.

[Illustration]



Transcriber's Notes:


This story was originally published in _Belgravia: An Illustrated
London Magazine_ in 1886; it was later reprinted as filler material in
the _Favorite Library_ edition of _Little Golden's Daughter_ by Mrs.
Alex. McVeigh Miller. This text is derived from the later reprint.

Added table of contents.

Italics are represented with _underscores_.

Normalized 2000 to 2,000 throughout the text for consistency.

Page 183, changed "mantelpiece" to "mantel-piece" for consistency.





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