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Title: Foxglove Manor, Volume II (of III) - A Novel
Author: Buchanan, Robert W.
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 "Foxglove Manor, Volume II (of III) - A Novel" ***

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FOXGLOVE MANOR

A Novel

By Robert W. Buchanan

In Three Volumes, Vol. I.

London

Chatto And Windos, Piccadilly

1884



FOXGLOVE MANOR.



CHAPTER XIV. BAPTISTO STAYS AT HOME.

|As Haldane sat in his study, the evening previous to the morning
fixed for his journey to London, Baptisto entered quickly and stood
before the desk at which his master was busily writing.

"Can I speak to you, senor?" Haldane looked and nodded.

"What is it, Baptisto?"

"You have arranged that I shall go with you to-morrow, but I have had
during the last few days an attack of my old vertigo. Can you possibly
dispense with my attendance, senor?" Haldane stared in surprise at the
Spaniards face, which was inscrutable as usual.

"Do you mean to say you wish to remain at home?"

"Certainly, senor."

"Why? because you are ill? On the contrary, you look in excellent
health. No; it is impossible. I cannot get along without you."

And Haldane returned to his papers as if the matter was ended.

Baptisto, however, did not budge, but remained in the same position,
with his dark eyes fixed upon his master.

"Do me this favour, senor. I am really indisposed, and must beg to
remain."

Haldane laughed, for an idea suddenly occurred to him which seemed to
explain the mystery of his servant's request.

"My good Baptisto, I think I understand the cause of your complaint,
and I am sure a little travel will do you good. It is that dark-eyed
widow of the lodge-keeper who attaches you so much to the Manor. The
warm blood of Spain still burns in your veins, and, despite your sad
experience of women, you are still impressionable. Eh? am I right?"

Baptisto quickly shook his head, with the least suspicion of a smile
upon his swarthy face.

"I am not impressionable, senor, and I do not admire your English
women; but I wish to remain all the same."

"Nonsense!"

"Nonsense! In serious lament, senor, I beseech you to allow me to
remain."

But Haldane was not to be persuaded at what he conceived to be a mere
whim of his servant. He still believed that Baptisto had fallen a
captive to the charms of Mrs. Feme, a little plump, dark-eyed woman,
with a large family. He had frequently of late seen the Spaniard
hanging about the lodge--on one occasion nursing and dandling the
youngest child--and he had smiled to himself, thinking that the poor
fellow's misanthropy, or rather his misogynism, was in a fair way of
coming to an end.

Finding his master indisposed to take his request seriously, Baptisto
retired; and presently Haldane strolled into the drawing-room, where
he found his wife.

"Have you heard of the last freak of Baptisto? He actually wants to
remain at ease, instead of accompanying me in my journey."

Ellen looked up from some embroidery, in which she was busily engaged.

"On no account!" she exclaimed. "If you don't take him with you, I.
shall not stay in the place."

"Dear me! said the philosopher. Surely you are not afraid of poor
Baptisto!"

"Not afraid of him exactly, but he makes me shiver. He comes and goes
like a ghost, and when you least expect him, he is at your elbow.
Then, of course, I cannot help remembering he has committed a murder!"

"Nothing of the kind," said Haldane, laughing and throwing himself
into a chair. "My dear Ellen, you don't believe the whole truth of
that affair. True, he surprised that Spanish wife of his with her
gallant, whom he stabbed; but I have it on excellent authority that it
was a kind of duello; the other man was armed, and so it was a fair
fight." Ellen shuddered, and showed more nervous agitation than her
husband could quite account for.

"Take him away with you," she cried; "take him away. If you never
bring him back, I shall rejoice. If I had been consulted, he would
never have been brought to England."

A little later in the evening, when Haldane had returned to his
papers, which he was diligently finishing to take away with him, he
rang and summoned the Spaniard to his presence.

"Well, it is all settled. I have consulted your mistress, and she
insists in your accompanying me to-morrow."

A sharp flash came upon Baptisto's dark eyes. He made an angry
gesture; then controlling himself, he said in a low, emphatic voice--

"The _senora_ means it? _She_ does not wish me to remain?"

"Just so."

"May I ask why?

"Only because she does not want you, and I do. Between ourselves, she
is not quite so certain of you as I am. She has never forgotten that
little affair in Spain."

Again the dark eyes flashed, and again there was the same angry
gesture, instantly checked.

Haldane continued.

"You are violent sometimes, my Baptisto, and madame is a little afraid
of you. When she knows you better, as I know you, she will be aware
that you are rational; at present----"

"At present, senor," said Baptisto, "she would rather not have me so
near. Ah, I can understand! Perhaps she has reason to be afraid."

Something in the man's manner, which was sinister and almost
threatening, jarred upon his master's mind. Rising from his chair,
Haldane stood with his back to the fire, and, with a frown, regarded
the Spaniard, as, he said--

"Listen to me, Baptisto. I have noticed with great annoyance,
especially of late, that your manner to madame has been strange, not
to say sullen. You are whimsical still, and apt to take offence. If
this goes on, if you fail in respect to your mistress, and make your
presence uncomfortable in this house, we shall have to part."

To Haldane's astonishment, Baptisto asked an explanation, and, falling
on his knees, seized his master's hand and kissed it eagerly,
"Senor! Senor! you don't comprehend. You don't think I am ungrateful,
that I do not remember? But you are wrong. I would die to save
you--yes, I would die; and I would kill with my own hand any one who
did you an injury. I am your servant, your slave--ah yes, till death."

"Come, get up, and go and finish packing my things."

"But, senor----"

"Get up, I say."

The Spaniard rose, and with folded hands and bent head stood waiting.

"Get ready like a sensible fellow, and let us have no more of this
foolery. There, there, I understand. You are exciting yourself for
nothing."

"Then, I am to go, senor?"

"Certainly."

Early the next morning Baptisto entered the carriage with his master,
and was driven to the railway station, some seven miles away. As they
went along, Haldane noticed that the man looked very ill, and that
from time to time he put his hand to his head as if in pain. At the
railway station, while they were waiting for the train, matters looked
most serious. Suddenly the Spaniard fell forward on the platform as
if in strong convulsions, his eyes starting out of his head, his mouth
foaming. They sprinkled water on his face, chafed his hands, and with
some difficulty brought him round.

"The devil!" muttered Haldane to himself. "It looks like epilepsy!"
Baptisto was placed on a seat, and lay back ghastly pale, as if
utterly exhausted.

"Are you better now?" asked Haldane, bending over him.

"A little better, senor."

But seeing him so utterly helpless, and likely to have other seizure,
Haldane rapidly calculated in his own mind the inexpediency of taking
him away on a long railway journey. After all, the poor fellow had not
exaggerated his condition, when he had pleaded illness as an excuse
for remaining at home.

"After all," said Haldane, "I think you will have to remain behind."

Baptisto opened his eyes feebly, and stretched out his hands.

"No, senor; since you wish it, I will go."

"You shall remain," answered Haldane, just as the whistle of the
coming train was heard in the distance. "Perhaps, if you are better
in a day or two, you can follow; but you will go away now in the
carriage, and send over to Dr. Spruce, and he will prescribe for you."

Baptisto did not answer, but, taking his masters hand, kissed it
gratefully. The train came up. Haldane entered a carriage, and, gazing
from the window as the train began to move on, saw Baptisto still
seated on the platform, very pale, his eyes half closed, his head
recumbent. Near him stood the station master, a railway porter, and
the groom who had driven them over from the Manor, all regarding him
with languid curiosity.

But the moment the train was gone, Baptisto began to recover. Rising
to his feet, and refusing all offers of assistance from the others,
he strolled out of the station, and quietly mounted the dog-cart. The
groom got up beside him, and they drove homeward through the green
lanes.

Now, Baptisto was a gentleman, and seldom entered or tolerated
familiarity from his fellow-servants. Had it been otherwise, the groom
might have asked the explanation of his curious conduct; for no sooner
was he mounted on the dogcart, and driving along in the fresh air,
than the Spaniard seemed to forget all about his recent illness, sat
erect like a man in perfect health, and exhibited none of the curious
symptoms which had so alarmed his master.

And when the groom, who was a thirsty individual, suggested that
they should make a detour and call at the Blue Boar Inn for a little
stimulant, chiefly as a corrective to the attack from which his
companion had just suffered, the Spaniard turned his dark eyes round
about him and actually winked. This proceeding so startled the groom
that he almost dropped the reins, for never in the whole course of his
sojourn had the foreign gent condescended to such a familiarity.

They drove round to the Blue Boar, however, and the groom consumed the
brandy, while Baptisto, who was a teetotaller, had some lemonade, and
lit his cigar. Then they drove home to the Manor, Baptisto sitting
with folded arms, completely and absolutely recovered.

About noon that day, as Mrs. Haldane moved about the conservatory,
looking after her roses, a servant announced the Rev. Mr. Santley.
Ellen flushed, a little startled at the announcement, coming so soon
after her husband's departure, and her first impulse was to deny
herself; but before she could do so the clergyman himself appeared at
the door of the conservatory.

"You are an early visitor," she said coldly, bending her face over the
flowers.

"It is just noon," answered the clergyman, "and I was going home from
a sick-call. Has Mr. Haldane gone?"

"Yes. Did you wish to see him?"

"Not particularly, though I had a little commission which I might have
asked him to execute had I been in time." Surely the man's fall had
already begun. Ellen knew perfectly well that he was lying. In
point of fact, he had seen the dog-cart drive past on the way to the
station, and he had been unable to resist the temptation of coming
over without delay.

With face half averted, Ellen led the way into the drawing-room, and
on to the terrace beyond, from which there was a pleasant view of the
Manor, the plain, and the surrounding country. Just below the gardens
were laid out in flowerbeds and gravel walks; but the dark shrubberies
were beyond, and at a little distance, well in the shadow of the
trees, the old chapel.

There was a long silence. Ellen stood silent, gazing upon the woods
and lawn, while the clergyman stood just behind her, evidently
regarding her.

At last she could bear it no longer, but, turning quickly, exclaimed--

"Why did you come? Have you anything to say to me?"

"Nothing, Ellen, if you are angry," replied the clergyman.

"Angry! You surely know best if I have cause. After what has passed, I
think it is better that we should not meet," she added in a low voice.
"At least, not often."

He saw she was agitated, and he took a certain pleasure in her
agitation, for it showed him that she was not quite unsusceptible to
the influence he might bring to bear upon her. As he stood there, his
sad eyes fixed upon her, his being conscious of every movement she
made, of every breath she drew, he felt again the deep fatality of his
passion, and silently yielded to it.

There was another long pause, which he was the first to break.

"Do you know, Ellen, I sometimes tremble for you, when I think of your
husbands opinions. In time you may learn to share them, and then we
should be further apart than ever. At present, it is my sole comfort
to know you possess that living faith without which every soul is
lost."

"Lost?" she repeated, in a bewildering way, not looking at him.

"I don't mean in the vulgar sense; the theological ideas of damnation
have never had my sanction, far less my sympathy. But materialism
degrades the believer, and sooner or later comes a disbelief in all
that is holy, beautiful, and sanctified. It is a humble creed, the new
creed of science, and fatal to spiritual hopes."

"Does it matter so much what one believes, if one's life is good?"

"It matters so much that I would rather see one I loved dead before my
feet than an avowed unbeliever. But there, I have not come to preach
to you. When does Mr. Haldane return?"

"As I told you: in a fortnight, perhaps sooner."

"And during his absence we shall meet again, I hope?"

She hesitated and looked at him. His eyes were fixed on the distant
woods, though he stood expectantly, as if awaiting her reply, which
did not come.

"Can you not trust me?" he exclaimed. "You know I am your friend?"

"I hope so; but I think it is best that you should not come here. If
you were married, it would be different."

"I shall not marry," he replied impatiently. "What then? I am a
priest of God, and you may trust me fully. If our Church commenced the
confessional, you might enter it without fear, and I--I would listen
to the outpourings of your heart. Should you in your grief be afraid
to utter them?"

She moved away from him, turning her back; but betrayed herself. He
saw the bright colour mount to her neck and mantle there.

"What nonsense you talk!" she said presently, with a forced laugh.
"Are you going over to Rome?"

"I might go over to the evil place itself, Ellen, if _you_ were
there."

There was no mistaking the words, the tone, in their diabolic
gentleness, their suavity of supreme and total self-surrender. She
felt helpless in spite of herself. The man was overmastering her, and
rapidly encroaching. She felt like a person morally stifled, and with
a strong effort tried to shake the evil influence away.

"I was right," she said. "We must not meet."

He smiled sadly.

"As you please. I will come, or I will go, at your will. You have only
to say to me, 'Go and destroy yourself, obliterate yourself for ever
from my life, blot yourself out from the roll of living beings,' and I
shall obey you."

Her spirit revolted more and more against the steadfast, self-assured
obliquity of the man. She saw that he was desperate, and that the
danger grew with his desperation. In every word he spoke, and in his
whole manner, there was the sombre assurance of something between
them, of some veiled, but excitable sympathy, which she herself
utterly ignored. That moment of wild delirium, when he caught her in
his arms and kissed her, seemed, instead of severing them, to have
made a link between them. He had been conscious of her indignation, he
had even professed penitence; but she saw to her dismay that the
fact of his folly filled him, not with fear, but with courage. So she
determined to end it once and for ever.

"Let us understand each other," she said, trembling violently. "How
dare you talk as if there was any community of feeling between us? How
dare you presume upon my patience, Mr. Santley? It is wretched; it is
abominable! When you talk of killing yourself, when you assume that I
have any serious interest in you, or any right over you, you insult
me and degrade yourself. We are nothing, and can be nothing to each
other."

"I know that," he replied. "Do you think I am so mad as not to know
that?"

"Then why do you come here to torture me, and to tempt me?"

The word came from her before she knew it, and her face became
scarlet; but he uttered no protest, and raised his white hand in
deprecation.

"Tempt you? God forbid!"

"I did not mean that," she murmured, in confusion; "but you must know,
you cannot fail to know, that it is not right for a married woman to
receive such expressions of sympathy, however spiritual. It is that
which makes me hate the Catholic Church. The priest promises you his
office, and too often makes mischief under the guise of religion."

"Do you accuse me of doing so?" he demanded, in the same sad, calm
voice.

"No; but you should remember that you have not the custody of my soul,
and I have no right to influence your actions. Come," she continued,
with rather a forced laugh, "talk to me like a true English clergyman.
Tell me of the old women of the village, and their ailments; ask me
for a subscription to give to your new soup kitchen; talk to me as
if Mr. Haldane were listening to us--of your schools, your parish
troubles--and you shall find me an eager listener!"

"I will talk of anything, Ellen, so long as I may talk to you."

Again that manner of despairing certainty, of assured and fatal
sympathy. The man was incorrigible.

She waited impatiently for some minutes, but finding he did not speak
again, she held out her hand.

"Since you have nothing more to tell me," she observed lightly, "I
think I will say good morning. I am going to order the carriage and
drive to Omberley."

"When may I come again?"

"When you have anything really parochial to say to me. Please go now."

Their eyes met, and hers sank beneath his own.

As he crossed towards the door it opened, and Baptisto appeared upon
the threshold.

"Did you ring, senora?"

At the sight of the Spaniard's dull impressive face Mrs. Haldane
started violently, and went a little pale. She had heard nothing of
his return, and he came like an apparition.

"Baptisto! What are you doing here? I thought----"

She paused in wonder, while the Spaniard inclined his head and bowed
profoundly.

"I was taken with a vertigo at the station, and the senor permitted me
to return."

"Then your master has gone alone?"

"Yes, senora."

"Very well. Order the carriage at once. I am going out."

Baptisto bowed and retired, quickly closing the door.

Santley, who had stood listening during the above conversation, now
prepared to follow, but, glancing at Ellen, saw that she was unusually
agitated.

"That is a sinister-looking fellow," he remarked. "I am afraid he has
frightened you."

"Indeed, no," she replied; "though I confess I was startled at his
unexpected return. Good-bye."

"Good-bye," he said, again taking her hand and holding it up a moment
in his own.

Passing from the drawing-room, he again came face to face with
Baptisto, who was lurking in the lobby, but who drew aside with a
respectful bow, to allow the clergyman to pass.

He crossed the hall, descended the stone steps of the portico, and
walked slowly towards the lodge. As he passed the ruined chapel,
its shadows seemed to fall upon his spirit and leave it in ominous
darkness. He shivered slightly, and drew his cloak about him, then
with his eyes cast down he thoughtfully walked on.

He did not glance back. Had he done so, he would have seen Baptisto
standing on the steps of the Manor house, watching him with a sinister
smile.



CHAPTER XV. CONJURATION.

|It was a chill day in early autumn, and as Charles Santley passed
along the dark avenue of the Manor his path was strewn here and there
with freshly fallen leaves. Dark shadows lay on every side, and the
heaven above was full of a sullen, cheerless light. It was just
the day for a modern Faust, in the course of his noonday walk, to
encounter, in some fancied guise, canine or human, the evil one of old
superstition.

Be that as it may, Santley knew at last that the hour of his
temptation was over, and that the evil one was not far away. He
knew it, by the sullen acquiescence of evil of his own soul; by the
deliberate and despairing precision with which he had chosen the easy
and downward path; by the sense of darkness which already obliterated
the bright moral instincts in his essentially religious mind. He had
spoken the truth when he said he would follow Ellen Haldane anywhere,
even to the eternal pit itself. Her beauty possessed him and disturbed
him with the joy of impure thoughts; and now that he perceived his own
power to trouble her peace of mind, he rejoiced at the strength of his
passion with a truly diabolic perversity.

As he came out of the lodge gate he saw, far away over the fields, the
spire of his own church.

He laughed to himself.

But the man's faith in spiritual things, so far from being shaken, was
as strong as ever. His own sense of moral deterioration, of spiritual
backsliding, only made him believe all the more fervently in the
heaven from which he had fallen, or might choose to fall. For it is
surely a mistake to picture, as so many poets have pictured, the evil
spirit as one ignorant of or insensible to good. Far wiser is the
theology which describes Satan as the highest of angelic spirits--the
spirit which, above all others, had beheld and contemplated the
Godhead, and had then, in sheer revolt and negation, deliberately and
advisedly decided its own knowledge and rejected its own truthright.
Santley was, in his basest moods, essentially a godly man--a man
strangely curious of the beauty of goodness, and capable of infinite
celestial dreams. If, like many another, he confused the flesh and the
spirit, he did no more than many sons of Eve have done.

As he walked slowly along he mused, somewhat to this effect--"I
love this woman. In her heart she loves me. Her superior spiritual
endowments are mystically alive to those I myself possess. Her
husband is a clod, an unbeliever, with no spiritual promptings. In
his sardonic presence, her aspirations are chilled, frozen at the very
fountain-head; whereas, in mine, all the sweetness and the power
of her nature are aroused, though with a certain irritation. If I
persist, she must yield to the slow moral mesmerism of my passion,
and eventually fall. Is this necessarily evil? Am I of set purpose
sinning? Is it not possible that even a breach of the moral law
might, under certain conditions, lead us both to a higher religious
place--yes, even to a deeper and intenser consciousness of God?"

And again--"What _is_ sin? Surely it is better than moral stagnation,
which is death. There are certain deflections from duty which, like
the side stroke of a bird's wing, may waft us higher. In the arms of
this woman, I should surely be nearer God than crawling alone on the
bare path of duty, loving nothing, hoping nothing, becoming nothing.
What is it that Goethe says of the Eternal Feminine which lead us
ever upward and onward? Which was the highest, Faust before he loved
Marguerite, or Faust after he passed out of the shadow of his sin into
the sphere of imperial and daring passion? I believe in God, I love
this woman. Out of that belief, and that love, shall I not become a
living soul?"

Was this the man's own musing, or rather the very devil whispering
in his ear? From such fragmentary glimpses of his mind as have
been given, we can at least guess the extent of his intellectual
degradation.

As he walked along the country road, his pale countenance became
seraphic; just so may the face of Lucifer have looked when he plumed
his wings for deliberate flight from heaven.

He stepped into a roadside farm and had a glass of milk, which the
good woman of the place handed to him with a sentiment of adoration;
he looked so gentle, so at peace with all living things. His white
hand rested for a moment on the head of her little girl, in gentle
benediction. He had never felt more tenderly disposed to all creation
than at that moment, when he was prepared to dip a pen into his
own hearts blood, and sign the little promissory note which
Mephistopheles carries, always ready, in his pocket. He had hated his
congregation before; now he loved them exceedingly--and all the world.



CHAPTER XVI. AT THE OPERA.

|On arriving in London, George Haldane was driven straight to the
house of an old friend at Chelsea, where he always stayed during
his visits to the Metropolis. This friend was Lovell Blakiston, as
eccentric a being in his own way as Haldane himself was in his. He
had been, since boyhood, in the India Office, where he still put in
an appearance several hours a day, and whence he still drew a large
income, with the immediate right to a retiring pension whenever he
choose to take it. He was a great student, especially of the pagan
poets and philosophers; and the greater part of his days and nights
were spent in his-old-fashioned library, opening with folding doors on
to a quiet lawn, which led in its turn to the very river-side. He
had two pet aversions--modern progress, in the shape of railroads,
electricity, geology; all the new business of science and modern
religion, especially in its connection with Christian theology. He
was, in short, a pagan pure and simple, fond of old books, old wine,
old meditations, and old gods. However he might differ with Haldane on
such subjects' as the nebular hypothesis, which he hated with all his
heart, he agreed with him sufficiently on the subject of Christianity.
Both had a cordial dislike for church ceremonies and church bells.

The two gentlemen had another taste in common. This was the opera,
which both enjoyed hugely, though Blakiston never ceased to regret
the disappearance of that old operatic institution, the ballet,
which, like a rich dessert wine, used to bring the feast of music to
a delightfully sensuous conclusion. Haldane was too young a man to
remember such visions of loveliness as Cerito, whom his old friend had
often gone to see in company with Horne Took.

So it happened that two or three days after his arrival, Haldane
accompanied his host to the opera house, where Patti was to appear in
"Traviata."

Seated comfortably in the stalls, he was glancing quietly round the
house between the acts, when his attention was attracted to a face in
one of the private boxes. A pale, Madonna-like, yet girlish face, set
in golden hair, with soft blue eyes, and an expression so forlorn, so
wistful, so ill at ease, that it was almost painful to behold.

Haldane started in surprise.

"What is the matter?" said his friend; "Have you recognized anybody?"

"I am not certain," returned Haldane, raising his opera-glass and
surveying the face through them. Then, after a long look, he added' as
if to himself, "I am almost sure it is the same."

"Do you mean that young lady in black, seated in the second tier?"

"Yes. Oblige me by looking at her, and tell me what you think of her."
Blakiston raised his opera-glass, and took a long look.

"Well?" asked Haldane.

"She reminds me of one of your detestable pre-Raphaelistic drawings,
shockheaded and vacuous. She is pretty, I grant you, but she has no
expression."

"I should say, on the contrary, a very marked expression of deep
pain."

"Tight lacing," grunted Blakiston. "Your modern women have no shape,
since Cerito."

Here Haldane rose from his seat. Looking up again, he had met the
young lady's eyes, and had perceived at once that she recognized him.

"I am going to speak to her," he explained. "She is a neighbour of
ours, and a friend of my wife."

He made his way to the second tier, and finding the door of the box
open, he looked in, and saw the person he sought, seated in company
with an elderly lady and a young man.

"Miss Dove!" he said, advancing into the box. "Although we have only
met twice, I thought I could not be mistaken." Edith (for it was she)
turned quickly and took his outstretched hand..

"How strange to find you here!" she exclaimed. "Is Mrs. Haldane with
you?

"No, indeed. I left her to the pious duties of the parish, which she
is fulfilling daily, I expect, in company with your seraphic friend
the minister."

Edith looked at him with strange surprise, but said nothing.

"When did you come to town?" he asked. "I thought you were quite
a country young lady, and never ventured into the giddy world of
London."

"I was not very well," replied Edith, "and my aunt invited me to stop
with her a few weeks. This is my aunt, Mrs. Hetherington; and this
gentleman is my cousin Walter." Here Edith went somewhat nervously
through the ceremony of introduction. She added, with a slight flush,
"My cousin insisted on bringing us here to-night. I did not wish to
come."

"Why not?" demanded Haldane, noticing her uneasiness.

"Because I did not think it right; and I have been thinking all the
evening what the vicar will say when I tell him I have been to such a
place."

Here the old lady shook her head ominously, and gave a slight groan.

"Is the place so terrible," asked Haldane, smiling, "now you have seen
it?"

"No, it is very pretty; and of course the singing is beautiful. But
Mr. Santley does not approve of the theatre, and I am sorry I came."

"Nonsense, Edith," said young Hetherington, with a laugh. "You know
you wanted to see the 'Traviata,' The fact is," he continued, turning
to Haldane, "my mother and my cousin are both terribly old-fashioned.
My mother here is Scotch, and believes in the kirk, the whole kirk,
and nothing but the kirk; and as for Edith, she is entirely, as they
say in Scotland, under the minister's 'thoomb.' I thought they would
have enjoyed themselves, but they have been doing penance all the
evening."

Without paying attention to her cousin's remarks, Edith was looking
thoughtfully at Haldane.

"When do you return to Omberley?" she asked.

"I am not sure--in a fortnight, at the latest. I am going on to
France."

"And Mrs. Haldane will remain all that time alone?"

"Of course," he replied. "Oh, she will not miss me. She has her
household duties, her parish, her garden--to say nothing of her
clergyman. And you, do _you_ stay long in London?"

"I am not sure; I think not. I am tired of it already."

Again that weary, wistful look, which sat so strangely on the young,
almost childish face. She sighed, and gazed sadly around the crowded
house. A minute later, Haldane took his leave, and rejoined his friend
in the stalls. Looking up at the end of the next act, he saw that the
box was empty.

The women had yielded to their consciences, and departed before the
end of the performance.

That night, when Haldane went home to Chelsea, he found a letter from
his wife. It was a long letter, but contained no news whatever,
being chiefly occupied with self-reproaches that the writer had not
accompanied her husband in his pilgrimage. This struck Haldane as
rather peculiar, as in former communications Ellen had expressed
no such dissatisfaction; but he was by nature and of set habit
unsuspicious, and he set it down to some momentary _ennui_. The letter
contained no mention whatever of Mr. Santley, but in the postscript,
where ladies often put the most interesting part of their
correspondence, there was a reference to the Spanish valet, Baptisto.

"As I told you," wrote Ellen, "Baptisto seems in excellent health,
though he is mysterious and unpleasant as usual. He comes and goes
like a ghost, but if he made you believe that he was ill, he was
imposing upon you. I do so wish you had taken him with you."

Haldane folded up the letter with a smile.

"Poor Baptisto!" he thought, "I suppose it is as I suspected, and the
little widow at the lodge is at the bottom of it all."

After a few days' sojourn at Chelsea, during which time he was much
interested in certain spiritualistic investigations which were
just then being conducted by the London _savants_, to the manifest
confusion of the spirits and indignation of true believers, Haldane
went to Paris, where he read his paper before the French Society
to which he belonged. There we shall leave him for a little time,
returning to the company of Miss Dove, with whom we have more
immediate concern.

Mother and son lived in a pleasant house overlooking Clapham Common,
a district famous for its religious edification, its young ladies'
seminaries, and its dissenting chapels. Mrs. Hethering-ton was the
wealthy widow of a Glasgow merchant, long settled in London, and she
set her face rigidly against modern thought, ecclesiastical vestments,
and cooking on the sabbath. Curiously enough, her son Walter, who
inherited a handsome competence, was a painter, and followed his
heathen occupation with much talent, and more youthful enthusiasm.
His landscapes, chiefly of Highland scenes, had been exhibited in the
Royal Scottish Academy. His mother, whose highest ideas of art were
founded on a superficial acquaintance with the Scripture pieces of
Noel Paton, and an occasional contemplation of biblical masterpieces
in the Doré Gallery, would have preferred to have seen him following
in his fathers footsteps, and even entering the true kirk as a
preacher; but his sympathies were pagan, and a gloomy childish
experience had not fitted him with the requisite enthusiasm for John
Calvin and the sabbath.

Walter Hetherington was a fine fresh young fellow of three and twenty,
and belonged to the clever set of Scotch painters, headed by Messrs.
Pettie, Richardson, and Peter Graham. He was "cannie" painstaking, and
rather sceptical, and, putting aside his art, which he really loved,
he felt true enthusiasm for only one thing in the world--his cousin
Edith, whom he hoped and longed to make his wife.

As a very young girl, Edith had seemed rather attached to him; but of
late years, during which they saw each other only at long intervals,
she seemed colder and colder to his advances. He noticed her
indifference, and set it down somewhat angrily to girlish fanaticism,
for he had little or no suspicion whatever that another man's image
might be filling her thoughts. Once or twice, it is true, when she
sounded the praises of her Omberley pastor, his zeal, his goodness,
his beauty of discourse, he asked himself if he could possibly have
a rival _there_; but knowing something of the relinquent fancies of
young vestals, he rejected the idea. To tell the truth, he rather
pitied the Rev. Mr. Santley, whom he had never seen, as a hardheaded,
dogmatic, elderly creature of the type greatly approved by his
mother, and abundant even in Clapham. He had no idea of an Adonis in
a clerical frock coat, with a beautiful profile, white hands, and a
voice gentle and low--the latter an excellent thing in woman, but a
dangerous thing in an unmarried preacher of the Word.



CHAPTER XVII. WALTER HETHERINGTON.

|When the party got home from the opera, it was only half-past ten.
They sat down to a frugal supper in the dining-room.

"I am sorry you did not wait till the last act," said the young man,
after an awkward silence. "Patti's death scene is magnificent."

"I'm thinking we heard enough," his mother replied. "I never cared
much for play-acting, and I see little sense in screeching about in
a foreign tongue. I'd rather have half an hour of the Reverend Mr.
Mactavish's discourses than a night of fooling like yon."

"What do _you_ say, Edith? I'm sure the music was very pretty."

"Yes, it was beautiful; but not knowing much of Italian, I could not
gather what it was all about."

"It is an operatic version of a story of the younger Dumas," explained
Walter, with an uncomfortable sense of treading on dangerous ground.
"The story is that of a beautiful woman who has lived an evil life,
and is reformed through her affection for a young Frenchman. His
friends think he is degrading himself by offering to marry her, and to
cure him she pretends to be false and wicked. In the end, she dies
in his arms, broken-hearted. It is a very touching subject, I think,
though some people consider it immoral."

Here the matron broke in with quiet severity.

"I wonder yon woman--Patti, you call her--doesn't think shame to
appear in such dresses. One of them was scarcely decent, and I was
almost ashamed to look at her--the creature!"

"But her singing, mother, her singing; was it not divine?"

"It was meeddling loud; but I've heard far finer in the kirk. Edith,
my bairn, you're tired, I'm thinking. We'll just read a chapter, and
get to bed."

So the chapter was read, and the ladies retired, while Walter walked
off to his studio to have a quiet pipe. He was too used to his
mother's peculiarities to be much surprised at the failure of the
evening's entertainment; but he felt really amazed that Edith had not
been more impressed.

The next morning, when they met at breakfast, Edith astonished both
her aunt and cousin by expressing her wish to return to Omberley as
soon as possible.

"Go away already!" cried the young man. '"Why, you've hardly been
here a week, and you've seen nothing of town, and we've all the
picture-galleries to visit yet."

"And you have not heard Mr. Mactavish discoorse," cried his mother.
"No, no; you must bide awhile."

But Edith shook her head, and they saw her mind was made up.

"I can come again at Christmas, but I would rather go now," she said.

"But why have you changed your mind?" inquired her cousin eagerly.

"I think they want me at home; and there is a great deal of church
work to be done in the village."

Walter was not deceived by this excuse, and tried persuasion, but it
was of no avail. The girl was determined to return home immediately.
He little knew the real cause of her determination. Haldane's presence
in London had filled her, in spite of herself, with jealous alarm.
Ellen Haldane was alone at the Manor, with no husband's eyes to
trouble her; and, despite the clergyman's oath of fidelity, Edith
could not trust him.

Yes, she would go home. It was time to put an end to it all, to remind
Santley of his broken promises, and to claim their fulfilment. If
he refused to do her justice, she would part from him for ever; not,
however, without letting the other woman, her rival, know his true
character.

It was arranged that she should leave by an early train next morning.
For the greater part of the day she kept her room, engaged in
preparations for the journey; but towards evening Walter found her
alone in the drawing-room. The old lady, his mother, who earnestly
wished him to marry his cousin, had contrived to be out of the way.

"I am so sorry you are going," the young man said. "We see so little
of each other now."

Edith was seated with her back to the window, her face in deep
shade. She knew by her cousin's manner that he was more than usually
agitated, and she dreaded what was coming--what had come, indeed, on
several occasions before. She did not answer, but almost unconsciously
heaved a deep sigh.

"Does that mean that you are sorry too?" asked Walter, leaning towards
her to see her face.

"Of course I am sorry," she replied, with a certain constraint.

"I wish I could believe that. Somehow or other, Edith, it seems to
me that you would rather be anywhere than here. Well, you have some
cause; for the house is dreary enough, and we are all dull people.
But you and I used to be such friends! More like brother and sister
than mere cousins. Is that all over? Are we to drift farther and
farther apart as the years pass on? It seems to me as if it might come
to that."

"How absurd you are!" said Edith, trying to force a laugh, but failing
lamentably. "You know I was always fond of you and--and--of your
mother." Walter winced under the sting of the last sentence, so
unconsciously given.

"I don't mean that at all," he exclaimed. "Of course you liked us,
as relations like each other; but am I never to be more to you than a
mere cousin? You know I love you, that I have loved you ever since
we were boy and girl; and once--ah, yes, I thought you cared for me a
little. Edith, what does it mean? Why are you so changed?"

Edith was more deeply changed than ever her cousin could guess. Had
he been able to see her face, he would have been wonder-stricken at
its expression of mingled shame and despair. She tried to reply; but
before she could do so her voice was choked, and her tears began to
fall. In a moment he was close beside her, and bending over her, with
one hand outstretched to clasp her.

"Now, you are crying. Edith, my darling, what is it?"

"Don't touch me," she sobbed, shrinking from him. "I can't bear it."

"Forgive me, if I have said anything to pain you; and oh, my darling!
remember it is my love that carries me away. I do love you, Edith. I
wish to God I could prove to you how much!"

He took her hand in his; but she drew it forcibly from him, and,
shrinking still further away, entirely losing her self-control, sobbed
silently.

"Don't!" she exclaimed. "For pity's sake, be silent. You do not know
what you are saying. I am not fit to become your wife."

He moved a few steps from her, and waited until her wild, hysterical
sobbing should have ceased. She commanded herself quickly, as it the
wild outburst which she had not been able to control had terrified
her. Then she rose, and would have left the room, but the young man
stopped her.

"Edith," he said, "surely you did not mean what you said just now,
that you are not fit to become my wife?"

"Yes," she replied quickly; "I did mean it."

She was glad that her face, was turned from him, and that the room
was in partial darkness. She was glad that she was able to steady her
voice, and to give a direct reply.

He did not answer; she felt he was waiting for her to speak on.

"Even if two people love each other," she said, trembling, "or only
think they do, which is too often the case, they have no right
to thoughtlessly contract that holy tie. There cannot be perfect
happiness in this world without perfect spiritual communion. I know--I
feel sure--that this does not exist between you and me."

The young man flushed, and his brow contracted somewhat angrily.

"Take time to think it over," he said quickly; "this is not your own
heart that is speaking now. The seeds which that man, your clergyman,
has been sowing in your heart have borne fruit. Religion is changing
your whole nature. It is alienating you hopelessly from all to whom
you are so dear; it is making you unjust, cruelly unkind, to yourself,
but doubly so to others, under the shallow pretence that you are
serving God!"

She did not interrupt him; but when he ceased, she put out her hand
and said, quickly but firmly--

"Good night."

"Good night," he repeated. "It is so early, surely you are not going
to-your room already? This is our last night together, remember."

"I am so tired," returned the girl, wearily. "I must get a good
night's rest, since I am to start early in the morning."

"And you will not say another word?"

"I don't know that there is anything more that I can say."

"You are angry with me, Edith. Before you go, say at least that you
forgive me."

"I am not angry; indeed, I am glad you have spoken. I know now I
should never have come here. I know I must never come again."

So, without another word, they parted. Edith went up to her room.
Walter sought his, and there he remained all the evening, sitting in
the darkness, pondering over the unaccountable change which had taken
place in the girl.

Yes, she was changed; but was it hopeless, and altogether unexpected?
Might she not, with gentle care, be freed from this hateful influence
of the Church? Walter believed that might be so. Already he seemed
to see light through the cloud, and to trace the secret of this man's
influence over her. Edith was imaginative and highly fanatical; he
had appealed to her imagination. Being a High Church clergyman, he had
employed two powerful agents--colour and form. He had scattered the
shrine at which she worshipped with soft and durable perfumes, and had
set up sacred symbols; and he had said, "Kneel before these; cast
down all your worldly wishes and earthly affections." She, being
intoxicated, as it were, had yielded to the spell. It was part of his
plan, thought Walter, that she must neither marry nor form any other
earthly tie; for was it not through her, and such as her, that his
beloved Church was able to sustain its full prestige? The Church must
reign supreme in her heart, as it had done in that of many another
vestal; it was at the altar alone that her gifts of love and devotion
must be burned. She must be sacrificed, as many others had been before
her, and the Church would stand.

This was the young man's true view of the case. He believed it, for
he had learnt in his home to hate other worldliness; but though he
fancied he saw the nature of the discord, he could not as yet perceive
the directest means of cure.

The next morning, when Edith, looking very pale and weary, but still
very pretty in her simple travelling costume, came down to breakfast,
she was a little surprised to find Walter already there. His manner
was kind and considerate, as it had always been, and he made no
reference whatever to what had passed between them on the previous
night. They sat and carried on a constrained but polite conversation;
but both were glad when it was interrupted by the entrance of Mrs.
Hetherington. The old lady was filled with genuine regret at her
niece's sudden departure, and, while presiding at the breakfast-table,
was so busy laying down plans for her speedy return that she did not
notice that every morsel on Edith's plate remained untouched, and
that, while sipping her tea, her eyes wandered continually towards
the window, as if anxiously watching for the cab which was to take her
away. Walter noticed it with pain, and remained discreetly silent.

As soon as the cab arrived, he left the room, ostensibly to
superintend the removal of Ediths luggage, but in reality to be absent
at the leave-taking between his mother and his cousin.

He accompanied Edith to the station. It was merely an act of common
courtesy, to which she could make no possible objection. On the
way there was very little said on either side. She was silent from
preoccupation, and he feared to tread on dangerous ground. But when
they were near their parting, when Edith was comfortably seated in the
train, and he stood by the open carriage door, he ventured in a covert
manner to refer to what had passed.

"The house will be brighter in wintertime," he said, "and we shall have
more means of amusing you. You will come back at Christmas, Edith?"

She started, dropped his hand, and drew herself from him.

"No, I think not," she said; "it is always a busy time with us at
Christmas. There is much to be done in the church."

This was their good-bye; for before he could say more the guard
noisily closed the carriage doors, and whistled shrilly. Mechanically
Walter took off his hat, and stood sadly watching the train as it
moved away.



CHAPTER XVIII. CHURCH BELLS--AND A DISCORD.

|Edith was glad that the next day was Sunday. She rose early, dressed
hurriedly, and went for a walk in the fresh morning air. She felt
instinctively that she had a battle to fight, and that all her
resources must be brought into play to gain her the victory. If her
influence over the man was to continue, she knew there was one way by
which she could regain it. With such pale cheeks and lacklustre eyes
as she had brought with her from London, where, she asked, would her
chances be against Ellen Haldane's fresh country charms? She must
banish all painful thoughts for the present, and try to win back the
roses which he had caused to fade.

She walked for above an hour; and when she returned home, she went
straight into the garden to gather a little bouquet of flowers. Then
she went up to her room to dress for church. When she came down to
breakfast, she wore her prettiest costume, and the bunch of flowers
was fastened at her throat.

Her aunt had a headache, she said, and could not go to church. Edith
was not sorry; indeed, when the time came for her to set out, she was
glad she was alone.

She arrived at the church rather earlier than usual, nevertheless she
walked straight in, and no sooner had she crossed the threshold than
she obeyed a sudden impulse which seized her, and determined for that
day at least not to occupy her usual seat. She selected one which was
some distance from the pulpit, but from which she could command an
excellent view of the pew belonging to Foxglove Manor.

The congregation gathered, but the Haldane's pew was empty. Edith
watched it with feverish impatience. Presently, just as the tolling
bell was about to cease, she saw Mrs. Haldane enter and take her seat.

Two minutes later, Mr. Santley, clothed in his white, priestly robes,
ascended the steps of the reading-desk, and bent his beautiful head
in prayer. As he rose to his feet, Edith, who had been watching him
in extreme fascination, saw his gaze wandering round the church, and
finally fix upon the face of the mistress of Foxglove Manor. She
saw, or thought she saw, the lady's eyelids quiver and finally droop
beneath that glance; while the clergyman arose, like a sick man
suddenly restored to health, and began to read the lessons for the
day.

How that morning passed Edith scarcely knew. She remained like one in
a dream, mechanically going though the religious forms, but feeling as
if her heart's blood was slowly ebbing away. Of one thing only she was
conscious--that of all those upturned faces before him the clergyman
seemed to see but one, but that from this one face seemed to draw his
inspiration, as the earth draws life and light from the shining rays
of the sun.

At length the service was over, the congregation dispersed, and Edith
found herself walking up and down the quiet lanes alone, panting for
air, feeling sick at heart, and shivering through and through, though
she stood in the warm rays of sunlight. Go home she could not. She
must see Mr. Santley before she could face another human soul.

She turned, intending to go to the Vicarage, but when she was yet
within some distance of the house, she saw coming towards her the very
man she sought.

She paused, not knowing whether to feel glad or sorry. It was
certainly better than having to go to the Vicarage, yet now that the
meeting was so near, she shrank from it. She made a desperate effort
to compose herself, and paused, waiting for him. The clergyman was
evidently lost in deep thought, his head was bent, his eyes were fixed
on the ground, and he was quite close to Edith before he saw her.

When their eyes met he paused, almost involuntarily, a momentary
flush of mingled annoyance and surprise passed over his face, then he
recovered himself, walked forward, and quietly extended his hand.

"Miss Dove!" he said, glancing nervously round. "I had no idea you
were at home. How do you do?"

It had been agreed between them, long before, that so long as their
secret remained a secret, no warmer greeting than this must be
exchanged between them in public. When the proposition had been made,
Edith had quietly assented. What was it to her that Santley should bow
his head with a politeness even more frigid than he bestowed upon any
one of his flock. Had she not seen the burning light of love in his
half-lowered eyes? and had she not known that a few hours later she
would feel his caressing arms about her, and hear his rich, mellow
voice whispering tenderly in her ear?

But now all was changed. The frigid bow which had formerly been the
prologue, had rapidly developed into the play. There were no stolen
meetings now; no consoling whisperings. The clergyman had latterly
become alive to the risk of such indulgences, and had gradually
allowed them to cease; and Edith, receiving as her portion the cold
bow and cold handshake that every eye might have seen, had watched the
love light gradually fade from her hero's eyes.

But she had never seen him so cold as to-day. When their eyes had met,
she had noticed the look of positive annoyance which had passed across
his face. It had soon fled, but when he spoke and extended his hand,
his face had assumed a look of cold severity.

Edith did not speak; the painful beating of her heart almost stifled
her, and her tongue clove to the roof of her mouth. She extended her
hand; the cold, listless touch of his fingers throbbed through her
like ice. The clergyman saw her trouble, and again that look of
impatient annoyance passed across his face then he raised his brows in
calm surprise.

"What is the matter?" he asked quickly. "Has some domestic trouble
caused your sudden return home?"

She withdrew her hand from his cold, lax fingers, and answered, "No."

Then she turned and walked along in silence by his side.

The good man was annoyed, seriously annoyed. First at her sudden
appearance in the village, when he believed she was safely bestowed in
London for several weeks to come; next at the _rôle_ she thought
fit to assume. He hated scenes at any time; just now he particularly
wished to avoid one. So he walked on in silence, until he could
command his voice to speak quietly; then he said, in the most careless
manner possible--

"_When_ did you return home?"

"Last night. I attended church this morning."

She looked at him quickly, to see what effect her words produced.
Apparently they produced none. The clergymans face remained as coldly
impassive as before; he raised his brows slightly as he replied.

"Indeed! I did not see you there." Then, after a pause, he added,
"Your return was very sudden, was it not? I thought you intended
staying away for some time."

"I changed my mind. I thought you would have been glad to have me back
again."

Then, swept on by a wild impulse, which she could not possibly
restrain, she added slowly, but tremulously--

"Charles, are you _sorry_ I have come?"

The clergyman started, flushed, then quickly recovered himself, as he
added--

"Sorry, my dear Edith? What a question! Why of course I am not sorry."

"Then, why not say that you are glad? Why not let me know it? Don't you
see you are breaking my heart?"

Santley paused, and looked at her. He did not flush this time,
his face grew white as marble, his eyes quite steel-like in their
coldness. He had dreaded a scene, but this was so very much worse than
he had expected; for by this time Edith had lost all self-control, and
was sobbing violently. His face hardened terribly. He must put an end
once and for ever to such unpleasant encounters.

"Edith, have you lost your senses?" he said; and the bitterness of his
tone was like putting a knife into the girl's heart. "If you wish to
perform in such scenes as this, you could surely find some other time
and place than the public road and the broad daylight. If you have
anything to say to me, you must come to me again in private. At
present I have no more time which I can place at your service. I have
business with Mrs. Haldane, who is waiting for me at the Vicarage; and
my duties at the church will soon begin again."

He raised his hat, and would have moved away, but Edith laid her hand
upon his arm and forcibly detained him.

"Stop!" she cried. "One word! You shall not go. I must speak."

He turned upon her almost angrily; he attempted, but in vain, to shake
off her detaining hand.

"Tell me," she cried; "why are you going to meet Mrs. Haldane?" Then,
before he could recover from his astonishment sufficiently to speak,
she added, "You need not tell me, for I _know_. It is this woman who
has come between you and me. Oh, do you think I don't know that since
she came to the village you have been a changed man? What did I come
home for? Because I knew it was not right that you and she should be
in the village _alone_."

This time the clergyman succeeded in shaking off her hand. The face
which he turned towards hers was almost livid in its pallor.

"You forget yourself," he said, with a sternness which was even harder
to bear than bitter reproach. "Well, I suppose you think you have a
right to insult me; but permit me to remind you that your right does
not extend to religious affairs, or to a lady who is the most esteemed
member of my congregation."

"I have not insulted you, Charles; I am only warning you."

"You are very kind," he interposed, with a sneer, "but I am, in no
greater need of your warning than is the lady. Until you can learn how
to control your own words and actions, it would be better for _you_
that we should not meet." Again he moved, as if about to leave her;
again she put forth her hand, and held him fast. The scene had become
more violent than she had intended. It was now too late to pause.

"One more word," she sobbed. "Promise me that you will not see her,
then I will promise never to mention this subject again."

"Promise you what? To discontinue all communications with Mrs.
Haldane?"

"Yes, yes; that is all. It is not much to ask you."

"It is much more than you have any right to ask. You have chosen to
connect my name dishonourably with a lady whom I esteem. Enough!
I cannot control your actions, but I mean to regulate my own. Good
morning, Edith. Since you have nothing more important to say to me, I
suppose I am at liberty to go?"

He raised his hat and walked away, pausing a minute later to raise
it again, and to address some pleasant remark to a member of his
congregation, who happened at that moment to be coming along the
road. It was the sight of this stranger which prevented Edith from
following, which made her turn and walk with rapid steps towards her
home. She felt cold and sick and heart-broken, and she shrank from the
sight of any human face.

When she reached her home, she found her aunt, who had been surprised
at her protracted absence, gazing uneasily up and down the road. The
sight of the girl's pale, tear-stained face alarmed her, but Edith
silenced her inquiries by declaring that she had not been very well.

"It was foolish of me, but I could not help crying at the service,"
she said. "Dear aunt, do not be anxious. I am better now, and only
want rest."

"Shall I send you up some dinner, darling?"

"No; nothing. I want to be alone--quite alone."

So, with a weary, listless look upon her, the girl went up to her
room, and, having locked the door, she threw herself upon the bed, and
cried as if her heart were broken.

Meanwhile Mr. Santley went on his way, almost as much disturbed as
Edith herself. He was angry, terribly angry; for if scenes similar
to the one through which he had passed were allowed to continue, he
anticipated a storm of troubles in the future. But how to avoid them?
What would be the best and safest course to adopt? The good man was
terribly perplexed. To openly defy the girl might cause her, in her
bitterness and pain, to expose herself and him; which would certainly
be awkward, since he wished, above all things, to stand well with
his congregation. And yet to adopt any other course, he must at
least pretend to subscribe to her conditions. He must be content to
renounce, or pretend to renounce, his intimacy with Mrs. Haldane. The
man of God was justly indignant.

Such a course, he knew, must not be thought of, and he resolved with
pious determination to continue Ellen Haldane's conversion, for which
he was so zealous and to leave matters between himself and Edith
exactly as they were.

He knew the girl's disposition. She would soon acknowledge her folly,
and make the first advances towards reconciliation. Well, then he
would be inclined to meet her half-way, but she must be the first to
move. If, on the other hand, she chose to take the unpleasant course
of exposing him, why, he would have but one alternative: he would
simply deny her statements, and who would believe her? It would be an
unpleasant phase of experience to have to pass through, and it would
compel him to sacrifice a fellow-creature.

Nevertheless, he acknowledged to himself, with the air of a Christian
martyr, that if she pushed him to extremities it would be necessary.

After all, he hoped that Edith, shut up with her own grief, in the
solitude of her own room, would soon be brought to see the error of
her ways, and would make that first advance towards reconciliation
which was necessary for the peace of mind of both.

But, whatever might happen in the future, Edith had succeeded for that
day at least in completely destroying the good mans peace of mind. His
agitation was so great that he was compelled to walk about the quiet
lanes until his tranquillity was somewhat restored. Then he returned
to the Vicarage, where Mrs. Haldane was comfortably seated with
his sister, and enjoyed her society until the hour of his labours
returned.

When he entered the church that afternoon, all the congregation
thought he was looking more seraphic than ever. Many a young heart
fluttered with holiness, and many an eyelid drooped reverently, before
the calm serenity of his gaze. As he stood facing his people, he cast
his eyes around the church. Edith was not there.

He turned the leaves of his gold-clasped volume, and as his rich voice
filled the church, and the congregation rose, he gazed once more about
him. This time his cheek flushed slightly, and a soft sigh of relief
and happiness escaped his parted lips. Mrs. Haldane was again in her
place, calmly joining in the prayers.

That afternoon the clergyman preached like one inspired; all were
impressed but none were cognizant of the cause. Though the clergyman's
eyes wandered continually around the church, he saw only one face, was
conscious only of one presence. So engrossed was he, and so wrapped up
in his fervour of admiration, that he did not notice what was going on
around him. Had he done so, he would have seen that there was another
member of the congregation besides Mrs. Haldane who attracted a
certain amount of interest. Seated in the gallery, calmly joining in
the service and watching the minister, was the foreign "gentleman with
the eyes."



CHAPTER XIX. HE IS BUT A LANDSCAPE PAINTER

|After Edith's departure from London, Walter Hetherington thought
long and deeply over the mysterious change in his cousin. The more
he thought, the more uneasy he grew. Of one thing he felt tolerably
sure--that the girl had got into the hands of, a religious fanatic,
who either consciously or unconsciously was completely destroying
himself, his happiness--in this world at least. She was fairly
possessed by the fever of other worldliness, he said to himself, and
if left alone she would, like many others before her, probably end her
days in a mad house.

Having arrived at this enlightened conclusion, which was chiefly based
on what Edith had herself told him, Walter determined that she should
not be left alone. What would be more rational, he said to himself,
than that he should pack up his sketching paraphernalia and pay a
short visit to the picturesque little village where his aunt and
cousin lived? Surely Edith would be glad to see him, and while he
remained to watch over her, his time would not be entirely lost.

When he told his mother of his determination to revisit the
country, the old lady was unfeignedly glad. She suspected, from the
unaccountable sudden departure of the girl, that the two young people
had had a quarrel, and she was glad to see her son was magnanimous
enough to make the first advances towards reconciliation. So she
helped him to put a few things together, and on the spur of the moment
he started off.

He had written neither to his cousin nor aunt to tell them of his
coming.

--He had intended sending a telegram from the station, but at the
last moment he changed his mind, and as he sat in the train which was
rapidly whirling him onward, he began to ask himself whether it would
be judicious of him to go to his aunt's house at all. To be sure, he
had always made it his head-quarters; but now things were changed.
Edith had left his mother's house to avoid _him_; would it be fair to
either of them that he should become his aunt's guest? By living in
the house he would force from her a communication which might be very
grudgingly given, and at the same time his lips must be inevitably
sealed. He finally decided that, during the visit at least, it would
be better for every one that he should stay at the inn.

So on arriving at the station he drove to the inn, secured at a cheap
price a couple of cosy rooms, and determined to delay calling upon his
relations until the following day.

The next day was fine, a fit day for an artist to lounge, dream,
perhaps work. Walter hung about the inn till midday; then he took his
sketch-book under his arm, and strolled forth in the direction of his
aunt's cottage. When he reached the door, and was about to knock, it
was suddenly opened by Edith, dressed in walking costume.

On coming thus unexpectedly face to face with her cousin, she looked
manifestly angry.

"Walter, you here?" she said coldly; then she added quickly, "Is
anything the matter at home?"

"Nothing whatever," said Walter, quietly giving his hand, and taking
no notice whatever of the irritation so plainly visible on her face.
"I got tired of London, that was all, and thought a few days in the
country might do me good. I am not going to bore _you_. I have brought
my working tools down with me, and mean to take some sketches back."

"But where is your luggage?"

"Down at the inn."

"At the inn?"

"Yes; I had it taken direct there last night. I was fortunate enough,
too, to secure rooms--a capital little parlour fit for a studio, and
a bedroom leading out of it. I shall be able to do the host, and
entertain you, if you'll come."

"You are going to stay at the inn?" said Edith. "You always stayed
with _us_ before!"

"Of course I did; but I am not going to be so inconsiderate as to
plant myself upon you _now_."

He laid the slightest possible stress upon the "now," and Edith
understood; nevertheless, she deemed it prudent to affect ignorance
and read a different meaning in his words. She murmured something
about being very much occupied, and having little time to attend to
visitors; then led the way across the hall to their sitting-room, and
brought him into the presence of his aunt.

Mrs. Russell welcomed him cordially, but when she heard of his
domestic arrangements, her face went very blank indeed. She used every
argument in her power to persuade the young man to change his mind,
and to have his luggage brought up to the cottage. Walter, eager to
accept her kindness, was listening for one word from Edith. It never
came, and he expressed his intention to remain at the inn.

But, although he abided by his former decision and remained _en
garçon_ at the inn, a very great part of his time was spent at the
cottage. The old lady, anxious to atone for the inhospitable behaviour
of her niece, altered all her household arrangements to suit the
erratic habits of the young painter. The heavy midday meal was
replaced by a light luncheon; while for the light supper at six was
substituted a substantial dinner, to which Walter was always bidden.
On the afternoon of that day, when the young man had first made his
appearance at the cottage, a rather unpleasant interview had taken
place between the aunt and niece, almost the first which had come to
ruffle the peaceful course of their evenly flowing lines. The old
lady had been indignant at the coolness of Edith's reception, and had
accused the girl of inhospitality and ingratitude; while Edith had
coolly given it as her opinion that the young man was much better
located elsewhere.

"It is a tax to have a visitor always in the house, aunt," said Edith,
quietly; "and--and I haven't the strength to bear it, I think."

Mrs. Russell looked up, and was surprised to find that the girl, after
bearing her reproaches so mildly, was now actually crying. She
noted again, too, with a start of shocked surprise how sadly she had
changed. The fresh, bright beauty which had once charmed every eye
had gone, leaving scarcely a trace behind it, and the face was pale,
careworn, and sad. She got up and kissed her, and that silent caress
did more than a dozen reproaches. It made Edith hurriedly leave the
room, to cast herself, crying bitterly, upon the bed, while Mrs.
Russell sat down and wrote a note to Walter.

"You shall have your own way about staying at the inn," she wrote,
"and you shall also have every possible hour of the day that you can
make use of for your work; but surely you can spare your evenings for
us. I have arranged to dine every day at six, and I beg of you, for
Edith's sake, to make one of the party. Dear Edith is far from well,
and sadly changing. She sees so few people, and the house is dull.
Dear Walter, come often, for her sake if not for mine."

Thus it happened that every night, when the little dining-room was
laid out for dinner, Walter made his appearance at the cottage door,
and that during those evening hours the family party was increased to
three. Sometimes they left the dinner-table to lounge in the pretty
little drawing-room, where Walter was permitted to smoke his cigar,
while the old lady worked at wool-work, and Edith played to them in
the slowly gathering darkness. Sometimes they strolled out on to the
lawn, and had the tea brought out, and laughed and chatted while they
watched the stars appear one by one in the heavens. Was it fancy, or
since these social evenings commenced was Edith really changed' for
the better? Walter fancied that her eye was brighter, her cheek less
pale, and that her manner towards himself was sometimes very tender,
as if she wished in a measure to atone for her past coldness. This
was particularly noticeable one night when the two sat alone in the
drawing-room.

Mrs. Russell, murmuring something about household affairs, had left
them together. Walter was reclining in an armchair, smoking his cigar
and watching his cousin, who was busily engaged embroidering crosses
upon a handsome altar-cloth, intended for the decoration of the
church.

"These have been pleasant evenings," he said--"pleasant for me, that
is. I shall be sorry enough when they come to an end."

Edith looked up and smiled sadly.

"If we always had pleasure it would become a pain," she said. "Though
we rebel against pain and suffering, it is, after all, a very great
boon to the world."

"Humph! Perhaps so, if it were better distributed. What about the poor
creatures whose portion is only pain?--who, to put it vulgarly, get
all the kicks, and none of the halfpence?"

"In this world, you should have said, Walter. Let us hope their
measure of happiness will be greater in the world that is to come."

Walter was silent. The conversation had taken precisely the turn which
he would have avoided, and he was wondering how to bring it to the
subject which was for ever uppermost in his mind. For a time he
remained in a brown study. Edith stitched on. Then he rose, took a few
turns about the room, and stopped near to her chair.

"Edith," he said quietly, "do you know why I came down here?"

Something in his tone rather than his words made her start and flush
painfully. She did not raise her eyes or cease her work. Before she
could answer, he had taken her hand.

"I came for _you_, Edith," he continued passionately. "Listen to me,
my darling. Do not answer hastily, if you cannot give me a decided
answer. At least let me hope."

Decidedly yet tremblingly the girl put his hands from her, and half
rose from her seat. His words had frozen her to ice again.

"Why _did_ you come here?" she said. "Do you call it manly or kind to
persecute me? I tell you I shall never marry."

As she spoke her eye fell upon the altar-cloth, which she held in her
hand: Walter saw the look, and as he was walking back to the inn that
night it recurred to his mind again. The altar-cloth! There was the
symbol of the thing which had come between them--which was blighting
his life and hers. Edith was changing; but she was not utterly
changed. He resolved to do the only thing which now remained to be
done. He determined to appeal to her spiritual adviser.

All night his mind was filled with this idea; it troubled his sleeping
as well as his waking moments, and when he rose in the morning it
was the one thing which possessed him. Now, he had never seen
the clergyman, but he had pictured him as a middle-aged,
benevolent-looking man, perhaps with spectacles; a gentle fanatic
in religion, willing, through the very bigotry of his nature, to
sacrifice everything for the good of the Church, but still, perhaps,
amiable. He might be open to reason, and an appeal made directly to
him might be the means of putting an end to all the trouble.

Breakfast over, the young man issued from the inn, and strolled
deliberately through the village in the direction of the Vicarage.
It was early in the day to make a call, so he walked very slowly,
meditating as he went on the nature of his errand; and the course he
was about to take, after what had passed between him and his cousin,
was, perhaps, a little unwarrantable, and Edith might be inclined to
resent it if she knew. But then, he reflected, she need never know.
Mr. Santley would surely grant him the favour of keeping the matter
a secret; and afterwards, when the shadow of the Church had ceased to
darken her life, and she was happy with him in her married home, she
would be glad to hear that it was he who had saved her.

These were the kind of rose-coloured visions which filled his brain as
he walked on towards the Vicarage, and by the time he had reached the
hall door and pulled the bell, he had even converted Mr. Santley into
the good fairy of the tale, or rather a sort of Father Christmas, in
a surplice, smiling benevolently upon them and pairing their hands. A
trim little servant came to the door, and, in answer to his inquiries,
informed him that Mr. Santley was not at home. He was expected in
immediately, however, if the gentleman would like to wait.. Yes;
Walter would wait. So he followed the little maid across the hall,
into a somewhat chilly but sufficiently gorgeous room, which was
reserved solely for the comfort and convenience of Mr. Santley's
guests. As Walter sank down into an easy-chair, the arms of which
seemed to enfold him in a close embrace, and looked about the room, he
acknowledged that Mr. Santley at least did not give all his substance
to the poor. Here at least there was no appearance of penury, or of
sackcloth and ashes; all was comfortable and luxurious in the extreme.
He walked about the room; examined the books upon the tables, which
were all works of education, elegantly bound; noticed the engravings
on the walls--one or two of Raphael's Madonnas (coloured copies), and
an old engraving after Andrea del Sarto. Mr. Santley did not come. He
rang the bell, gave the little maid his card, told her he would call
again, and left the Vicarage.

This time he walked in the direction of the schoolhouse. He had his
sketchbook under his arm, and in it a half-finished sketch of the
schoolmistress's picturesque home. He would fill up his spare time by
adding a few touches to the sketch before he returned to the Vicarage.

In this matter fortune favoured him. It being Saturday afternoon,
there was no school, and the schoolmistress was leaning in a listless
attitude upon the low trellised gate. She welcomed the young painter
with a nod and a bright smile, and readily assented to his proposition
that she should stand for the figure in the picture. He took out his
book and set to work.

Dora meanwhile chatted and laughed to make the time pass pleasantly,
and sometimes, in answer to an invitation from him, she would run
round the easel to take a peep at the figure of herself, which was
gradually growing under his hand. At last their pleasant interview
was brought to an end. Walter remembered the appointment which
this chattering lady had made him forget. He put up his sketching
materials, and prepared to take his leave. Then Dora stopped him.

"Surely, Mr. Hetherington, you will do me one favour," she said: "you
will honour me by stepping for a moment into the cottage which you
have transferred so beautifully to paper. I have some cream and milk,
some fresh strawberries from our garden, if that is any inducement to
you."

The invitation was tempting. Nevertheless, Walter, while wishing to
accept, was about to refuse, pleading an engagement at the Vicarage
when another voice broke in--

"Good day, Miss Greatheart!" it said.

The schoolmistress smiled, made a prim curtsey, and answered, "Good
day, sir!" Then she waited to see if her visitor had anything more to
say.

The new arrival was a man, and Walter, who was looking at him, thought
he was the handsomest man he had ever seen in his life. He was dressed
as a clergyman, but the cut of his garments-was elegant and eminently
becoming. As his eye fell upon Walter he raised his hat, and
discovered a head beautifully shaped and slightly thinning at the
temples. Walter remained fascinated, staring at the man, who moved
here and there with easy grace, and whose face grew singularly
handsome with every varying expression which flitted across it.

He had not much to say to the schoolmistress; and as he moved away
his hat was again swept off to Walter, and the clergyman's eyes rested
upon him for a moment with a look one might love to paint in the eyes
of a saint.

Walter turned to Miss Greatheart.

"A handsome fellow," he said, "--a very handsome fellow; and a
clergyman, I see, by his dress. Who is he? One of Mr. Santley's
curates, I suppose?"

The schoolmistress stared at him for a moment in amazement.

"One of Mr. Santley's curates!" she said. "Why, my dear sir, that is
our vicar himself!"



CHAPTER XX. IN THE GLOAMING.

|It was now Walters turn to look amazed.

"That Mr. Santley!" he said. "Why, he is quite a young man!"

"Of course he is--and handsome as good, and good as handsome. But
won't you come in, Mr. Hetherington, and have some refreshment? It is
two hours quite since you opened out your sketch-book at the gate!"

This time Walter accepted her invitation, and followed her into the
quaint little parlour, where most of her days were spent. The little
maid who attended to the house had got a holiday with the children,
and Dora was left to attend to herself that day. Walter was glad of
it, since he was left free to sit by the window and follow the train
of his thoughts, while Dora busied herself spreading the snowy cloth
upon the table, and setting forth her simple fare. When it was ready,
he came to the table and ate some strawberries and drank some milk,
thinking all the while of Mr. Santley. Presently he spoke of him.

"You have known Mr. Santley some time, Miss Greatheart?" he said.

"I was schoolmistress here when he came."

"He is a very good man, you said?"

"Yes, indeed. But it stands to reason that a man with Mr. Santley's
gifts must be very good indeed not to get spoiled. In justice to at
least half of his congregation, he ought to marry."

"Why, pray?"

"Why? If he had arrived here with a wife, many a young girl in the
village would have been saved a severe heartache. He is a prize in the
matrimonial lottery well worth striving for. He is idolized by every
female in the village. Now, it is certain he cannot marry them all,
and on the day when the happy one is chosen, fancy the hearts that
will break!"

"Yours amongst the number?"

"No, sir; I am happy to say I am free. But I take no credit to myself
on that account. If I had been idle like some of the young ladies
here, there might have been another victim added to the list; but I
have so much to do in the school, I have no time to think about the
vicar," she added. "Have you heard him preach, Mr. Hetherington?"

"No, not yet."

"Ah, you must go to the church tomorrow. He speaks magnificently, and
looks a picture in his robes; besides, his sister, Miss Santley, told
me he will wear for the first time to-morrow a new surplice and a
magnificent embroidered band, which has been worked for him by Miss
Dove!"

At the mention of his cousin's name Walter felt his face flush and
his heart leap; but he made no direct reply. He went on eating his
strawberries, and turned his face to the open window, as he said--

"What have you made for him, Miss Greatheart?"

"I? Oh, nothing! He has so many beautiful presents from the young
ladies in the village that he has no need of them from me, even if I
had the time to make them, which I have not; all day I am teaching in
the school, and all the evening I am busy preparing lessons for the
following day."

"Have you always lived here?"

"Not always. My mother was a prison matron at Preston, and we
lived together until she died, several years ago; then, through the
influence of some friends, I got this place, and have lived here ever
since!"

"Working and striving," added Walter; "finding pleasure in things
which to some would mean only trouble and irritation. During the
holidays do you ever come to London, Miss Greatheart?"

"No; I generally remain here."

"From choice?"

"Not at all. I should like a change; but then, to go alone to a city
where you have no friends, and to parade crowded streets alone, is a
holiday which I should not enjoy."

Walter rose to go.

"You will come back and finish the sketch on Monday, perhaps?" said
Dora.

"I shall be glad to; I should like, above all, to finish the figure
leaning on the gate."

"Then you must come in the evening. I promise to give you an hour
after school hours."

Then Walter shook hands with her and left, taking the way to the inn
instead of to the Vicarage. He would make no appeal to the clergyman.
The sight of Mr. Santley, so different to the benevolent, elderly
gentleman of his imagination, had decided him on that point; it had
also brought with it other trouble, for it threw an entirely new light
on Edith's religious fervour.

Was it, then, the man or the church, infatuation or fanaticism? He
asked himself the question for the first time. Was Edith among the
mass of simple girls who were breaking their hearts for his sake?
Probably. It remained now for him to watch her, and ascertain the
truth.

He went up to the cottage that evening, and regarded Edith with quite
a new light in his eyes. She also seemed changed. Her manner was
restless and ill at ease; her cheek was flushed. All through the
dinner she scarcely touched any food, but glanced furtively at her
aunt and cousin.

When the dinner was over, they all retired to the drawing-room as
usual.

Here Ediths restlessness asserted itself more strongly. Instead of
sitting quietly to her work, as was her usual custom, she flitted
restlessly about the room. Presently she declared that she had a
terrible headache, and wished her cousin "good night."

"I have been trying to bear it," she said, "but it gets worse instead
of better. You will excuse me for to-night, Walter, will you not?"

As he took her hand and held it for a moment in his, he felt that it
was trembling and very hot. He scarcely believed in the headache,
but he deemed silence the most prudent course; so he wished her "good
night" without more ado.

Her aunt rose to go with her to her room, but permission to do so was
firmly refused.

"You will stay and keep Walter company, or else you will make me
regret I did not bear the pain without a word. Indeed, dear aunt, all
I want is rest and quietness. I shall be quite well to-morrow."

So she went. Mrs. Russell sat down again to her wool-work, and Walter
subsided into his chair.

There was not much talking done after that, and Walter, as soon as his
cigar was finished, rose to take his leave. The old lady looked at him
tenderly and sadly, but she said nothing. Instinct had told her
the true state of, things between the cousins; she was sorry, but
helpless. It would be better, she thought to herself, if the poor
boy would resign a useless courtship, since Edith had evidently no
affection to give, and take to himself some pretty little wife who
would make his home happy.

He did not return directly to the inn, but with head bent in deep
thought he strolled on, he knew not whither. He was wondering whether
or not this hopeless quest should end. If Edith had deceived him--if,
indeed, it was the man, and not religion, which held the girl so
entranced--why, then his task of regeneration would surely be a very
difficult one. It was strange, he thought, that Edith, knowing his
mistake, should have allowed it to remain. He had repeatedly spoken
to her of Mr. Santley as an elderly man; and, although she knew the
truth, she had never corrected him. It looked black, very black; the
more he thought over it, the more complicated matters became.

He had been so engrossed in his own thoughts, that he had been almost
unaware of his own actions. He was only conscious of strolling idly
on and on, he knew not in what direction. Suddenly he paused, looked
helplessly about him; then took a few stealthy steps forward, and
paused again. Where he was he did not know. The night had grown quite
dark and chilly, for heavy, rain-charged clouds were covering both
stars and moon. But his quick ear had detected what his eyes could not
at first perceive--the close neighbourhood of two figures in earnest
conversation--a man and a woman. The darkness shrouded their figures,
but the breeze brought to him the sound of their voices. Walter hated
to play the spy, yet for once in his life his feet refused to move.
For he had recognized one of the voices as belonging to his cousin
Edith.

Yes, the voice was Ediths.

Having wished her aunt and cousin "good night," she had hastened to
her room and locked the door; but instead of throwing herself on the
bed, she had lit the candles, sat down near the dressing-table, drawn
forth a letter from her pocket, and begun to read.

The letter was as follows:--

"My dear Miss Dove,

"I am very sorry to hear that you have been suffering. You will find
what you require at Dr. Spruce's surgery. You are right about the
time--nine o'clock will do very well.

"Yours faithfully,

"Charles Santley."

This letter had come through the post in the ordinary way. It had been
handed to Edith in the morning; and the very sight of it had sent
the hot blood coursing through her veins, and kept her in a state of
feverish excitement the whole day. It was the knowledge of this piece
of paper in her pocket which had rendered her so uneasy during the
dinner; it was the knowledge of this letter also which had caused
her excitement after dinner, and which finally had made her wish her
cousin a hasty "good night." And now, as she read it again, the flush
remounted to her cheeks and her heart beat pleasantly. She had not
seen Santley alone since that Sunday morning, nearly a week past,
when the two had parted in anger--an anger which to Edith meant utter
misery and prostration. And now, at the eleventh hour, he had written
to her appointing a meeting, and she was ready to fly to him with open
arms.

She sat for some time looking at the letter, reading it over and over
until she knew every word of it by heart; then she kissed it, returned
it to her pocket, opened the window, and looked out. It was a cloudy
but fine night, and the welcome darkness was gathering quickly.

If it would only rain, she thought, they would be sure to have the
road to themselves in that case; and for herself, why, what did it
matter so long as she felt her lovers arms about her again, and knew
that he was true? But now her first care was to effect her escape
stealthily from the house. She had decided upon her course of action;
the great difficulty which remained was to carry it through. She
hastily put on her walking boots, took up a cloak of sombre colour,
fastened it round her, drew the hood over her head, and stood ready to
set forth to the place of meeting--which she knew, by old experience,
well.

She opened her bedroom door and listened. She could hear nothing.
Perhaps her cousin was gone, perhaps he was still sitting in the
drawingroom, quietly smoking his cigar. In any case, it seemed, she
need not fear interruption; the way was clear. She hastily blew out
her candles, locked her door, and slipped the key into her pocket;
then noiselessly descending the stairs, she left the house unseen.

In the garden she hesitated, curious to know what they could all be
doing; so she crept round the house and peeped in at the drawing-room
window. Walter was still there, but he stood near the door, holding
his aunts hand, and evidently taking his leave. Edith turned, and
without more ado fled quickly in the darkness.

Even as Edith was leaving the cottage, Santley was already at the
meeting-place, walking with impatient strides up and down the lonely
lane selected for their interview, and wondering as every minute
passed away why Edith did not come.

A week's reflection, and the frequent sight of Edith's pale, careworn
face when they met in public, had brought him to this pass. He saw
that she was suffering, and for the sake of what she had been to
him he felt really sorry. Besides, he looked at the matter
philosophically, and he asked himself, why _should_ they quarrel?
After all, she had been very patient and forbearing; and for that
little fit of jealousy about Mrs. Haldane she had been sufficiently
punished.

But perhaps there was another and a stronger motive for this sudden
wish for a meeting and a reconciliation. So long as this absurd
quarrel continued, it was evident Edith had no intention of visiting
the Vicarage; and this fact alone subjected him to a series of
unpleasant questions from his sister. Santley therefore decided that
it would be better for him in every possible way to send the letter,
which would be certain to effect a reconciliation.

"Is it you, Edith? Quick! Is it you?"

His quick ear had caught the rustle of her dress on the grass. Even as
the words left his lips came the eager answer.

"Yes, Charles; I have come!" And the girl, forgetting all their
quarrels, leapt with a glad cry into his arms.

For a time no words were spoken. After that one cry of joy, Edith
had laid her head upon his shoulder and sobbed as if her heart would
break. At this manifestation of hysteria, Santley was not altogether
pleased; but he could say nothing, so he clasped his arms firmly about
her, and tried to soothe her sorrow. When at last Edith lifted her
head from his shoulder he kissed her lips, and whispered to her so
gently that the girl's heart beat as gladly as it had done the first
day that words like these had been spoken.

"There, there," said the good man, kissing her again, and patting her
head like that of a spoilt child. "You are better now, my darling; and
remember you must not quarrel with me again. You were breaking your
little heart for nothing at all."

Part of the girls emotion had communicated itself to him; and for
the time being, while he stood there holding her to him, feeling
her breath upon her cheek, her clinging arms about his neck, he felt
almost as passionately disposed as he had done the first day that
he told her of his love. As for Edith, a serene happiness and
peace seemed to enter into her soul. They stood thus for some time,
exchanging whispered words and fond embraces; then the clergyman told
her she had better go. A spot or two of rain had fallen, and the sky
was clouding over as if for a storm.

"Will you play the organ to-morrow, Edith?" he asked, as they moved
away together.

"Yes, if you wish it."

"I do wish it, Edith; for when you are playing, it seems as if you
were helping me with my work."

Sweet words! She said nothing, but the hand which lay in his pressed
his fondly, and he knew that she was pleased.

"And will you come to the Vicarage to-morrow afternoon, and have tea
with us? I shall be so glad if you will!"

He did not add that his sister, wondering all the week at Edith's
non-appearance, had threatened repeatedly to call at the cottage, when
she would doubtless have elicited something of the truth.

"No, I cannot come!" she said; "my cousin, Walter Hetherington, is
staying in the village, and so long as he remains here he is to spend
the evenings with us. As to-morrow is Sunday, and no work can be done,
my aunt has invited him up for the day."

Santley was relieved, very much relieved indeed. He could now give his
sister a tangible reason for Edith's absence from the Vicarage, while
he himself would be perfectly free to spend the afternoon with Mrs.
Haldane. He tried, to suppress the delight which he could not help
feeling, and said quietly, "Let us hope the young man will make a
speedy departure, if he means to monopolize you so much. But that
reminds me, Edith, a young man, a Mr. Walter Hetherington, called upon
me to-day and left his card. I suppose it is the same?"

"Of course it is," returned Edith. "But what could he want with
_you?_"

"I don't in the least know. Nothing of very great importance, I
suppose, since he promised to call again, and never reappeared."

The clergyman paused.

They had come now to within a short distance of Edith's home. Again,
after a furtive look round, he clasped her fondly to him, pressed her
lips, and murmured, "Good night, my Edith!"

"Good night," returned the girl, withdrawing herself reluctantly
from his embrace. "Oh, I am so happy now! You were quite right, dear;
another week like the last would have broken my heart!"

Thus they parted--Edith, happy as a child, creeping quickly to the
cottage; the good man smiling celestially, and well pleased to have
made everything comfortable at little personal inconvenience, walking
back to his holy hearth, and thinking of his Sunday sermon.



CHAPTER XXI. IN THE VICARAGE PARLOUR.

|Nearly the whole of this interview had been witnessed by Walter
Hetherington. He had heard, yet he had not heard; for, though instinct
told him that the voice was Edith's, he could only catch fragments of
what she said. Nevertheless, as he remained crouched in the shadow of
the trees, he was conscious of sobs and tears, of stolen kisses and
softly murmured words. He remained until the interview was over; then,
when the two walked together back towards the village, he still
very stealthily followed them. When they stopped again, he heard the
passionate words of parting. His suspicions were, in his own despite,
fast becoming certainties; they were soon established certainties
beyond a doubt. He followed the girl after she had left her lover,
and saw her stealthily open the door and disappear across the
threshold of Edith's home.

Then Walter turned, and feeling like one who has had a terrible
nightmare, he walked back to his lodgings at the inn. He was sorry he
had not had time to follow the man, for he remained completely in the
dark as to who he might be. He got little sleep that night. The next
morning he awoke sadly unrefreshed. After breakfast he strolled out
among the meadows; and when he heard the bells ring, calling the
villagers to prayer, he entered the church with the rest.

When the congregation had assembled and the clergyman was in his
place, Walter looked about for Edith. He felt almost a sense of relief
when he saw that she was present; it repulsed him to think of her
calmly joining in the service after the events of last night. He
looked at the gallery where the school children bestowed themselves,
and saw Dora, quiet, unobtrusive, and happy, sitting serenely amongst
her flaxen-haired flock. How cosy, how comfortable she was! but
the very bitterness of his heart compelled him to ask himself the
question: was she as bad as the rest? At one time, yes, even so
late as the preceding night, he had possessed so much blind faith in
genuine human nature as to believe that the face indicated the soul.
Now, however, he felt that such a belief was puerile and false. No
woman on earth could possess a more spiritual countenance than his
cousin Edith--yet his eyes had assured him of the blackness and
impurity of her soul. Disappointment was turning his heart to gall.

At last the service was ended: the congregation streamed forth,
Walter amongst the rest. The crush was so great he could hardly
get along--for Mr. Santley was a popular preacher. Once outside the
edifice, Walter paused to draw his breath and look about him. He
started, turned first hot, then cold, for not many yards from him was
Edith herself, calmly leaving the church with the rest. Almost before
he could recover himself she saw him, and advanced with a bright smile
and outstretched hand.

"I saw you in church," she said, "and thought you looked dreadfully
pale. Are you not well, Walter?"

He murmured something about late hours and a sleepless night; then he
had to confess he had been looking about for her, for he added--

"I did not see _you_ in church."

"No, you would not. I was in the organ-room. It is my Sunday for
playing, you remember!"

To this he made no reply. He was wondering how it was that Edith could
manage so effectually to play such a double part. He expected at least
a downcast eye, and a blush of guilt upon her cheek; with this he
might have been tolerably satisfied. But Edith's face looked brighter
than it had done for many a day.

"I forgot to ask you," he said suddenly, "if your headache was
better."

"My headache?" she replied. She had been so engrossed with happy
thoughts at the reconciliation, that the question took her completely
by surprise.

"Ah yes," she added, suddenly recollecting herself; "it is so much
better, that I had quite forgotten it. You see what a good night's
rest will do!"

Walter uttered an impatient sigh, and turned on his heel; while Edith
added--

"You are coming up to dine with us to-day, you know. Shall we walk
together?"

"I am not coming!"

"Not coming? I thought----"

"Yes, I did accept your aunt's invitation; but I feel upset to-day,
and am not fit company for anyone. Will you make my excuses at home?"

"Yes, certainly I will; and I hope that to-morrow you will be so much
better. Good-bye."

She shook hands with him, and tripped away.

For a time Walter made no attempt to move, but gazed after her with
eyes full of sadness and despair. Although he said to himself that
henceforth Edith must be nothing to him, he felt pained at the
curtness with which she could dismiss him. He had noticed that she had
never once attempted to persuade him to alter his decision; indeed,
she had not been able to hide from him her delight at hearing it, and
he felt very bitter.

He turned from the church, walked away, and, after strolling about for
some time he knew not whither, he raised his head and found himself
quite close to the schoolmistress's cottage. Dora stood in the
doorway, surrounded by her flowers.

She came forward when she saw him, and, after giving him a bright
smile and a warm handshake, stood by the gate and continued to talk.
She was a wise little woman, and knew exactly what to say and what
to leave unsaid; she had been a witness of the interview between the
cousins in the churchyard that morning, and her woman's instinct
had divined something of the true state of things. So she chatted
pleasantly to the young man, and took no notice whatever of his pale
cheek and peculiarity of manner; and when he said suddenly, "Are you
not going to ask me in to-day, Miss Greatheart?" she threw open the
gate at once, and said that she was sadly neglectful and inhospitable,
and that if Mr. Hetherington would like to come in, he would be more
than welcome. So he followed her again into the quaint little parlour,
and again took his seat by the open window, to gaze with strange,
meditative eyes upon the little garden where the sun was shining. It
was a ragged little garden enough, and by no means well cared for,
since Dora was not rich enough to pay for labour, like her more
fortunate neighbours in the village.

During her leisure hours she worked among the flower-beds until her
plump hands ached again; but, after all, her leisure hours were very
few, and the grass and weeds grew so quickly. Walter saw that the
grass was many inches too long, and that it was scattered thickly with
withered rose-leaves; that here and there a rose tree was sadly in
want of the pruning knife. But that did not make the scent of the
flowers any the less delicious; nor did it take from the quiet beauty
of their place. There was plenty of light and colour everywhere, and
there was beauty.

While looking at the garden, Walter began to think of the gardens
mistress--quiet little Dora, living so contented among her children;
and in the winter still living here alone, when the flowers had faded,
when withered rose-leaves were scattered profusely on the grass, and
the leafless branches of the trees bent before the biting breath of
the bitter winter wind. It was a pretty picture of Dora--he loved it
as we love the creatures of our imagination; it seemed to make Dora
belong to him, artistically, as it were, and bring him consolation.
Then his reflections took another turn, and he began, for the first
time, to think it strange that the little woman should be so much
alone.

He said something of this to Dora; and she laughed and blushed, and
answered frankly enough.

"Yes, I am a good deal alone. You see, I am in an equivocal position.
I am too good for the servants, and not good enough for their
mistresses. I am only the governess!"

"At any rate," said Walter, "you have contrived to brighten up what
would otherwise have been a very cheerless visit. As a token of my
gratitude, will you accept a little present from me?"

"I want no present, sir; your friendly words are quite enough."

"Nonsense! I should like to give you some of the sketches I have made
of the village."

"To me! give them to me?" said Dora, with wide-open eyes. "Why, Mr.
Hetherington, I thought you wanted them to--to-------"

"To--what?"

"Well, to remind you of this visit!"

"Perhaps when I began them I had some notion of that kind in my head;
we are all fools sometimes, you know. But I have changed my mind; I
don't want to be reminded of this visit. Yes, I shall give you the
sketches--that is to say, if you will accept them; and when I have
taken my departure--and I shall do so soon--I shall try to forget that
such a village as Omberley ever existed at all."

"And the people," said Dora; "of course you will try to forget the
people?"

"That is the first thing I shall try to do!"

We are most of us selfish in our grief, and Walter was no exception to
the rule. Mortified and suffering himself, it never once entered his
head that he might be unpolite, and even rude, to another. But the
knife entered Dora's little heart, and made her wince. She had been
happy in the knowledge that she had met a fellow-creature who could
treat her exactly as an equal--a man whom she could call a friend; and
lo! when her interest is strongest, when she has been telling herself
that the memory of the few days which he has brightened for ever will
linger in her memory and never die, he came to tell her that his first
effort would be to forget the place--and _her_.

"I will take the pictures, if you like, Mr. Hetherington, but merely
as a loan. You will change your mind again.. I am convinced that some
day you will ask me for them back again, and when you do they shall
certainly be yours. But the sketch of the cottage--is it finished
already?"

"The sketch of the cottage? Oh, I should like to keep _that_. It
contains the picture of a lady whom I should certainly not like to
forget."

Then, while the glad light danced in Dora's eyes again, he rose and
took her hand, as he said--

"Good-bye, Miss Greatheart. When I said I should forget the village
and the people I was wrong. Your kindness and hospitality I shall
always remember."

So he crossed the threshold of the happy little schoolhouse, to stroll
out again into the sunshine; and again he thought very bitterly of the
woman who had effectually taken all the sunshine from his life.

He need not have thought so bitterly of her. If she had wounded him
she was receiving her punishment.

Having left Walter in the churchyard, Edith flew home like one walking
on air. She had accepted his decision gleefully, never attempting to
alter it by word or look, for she was thinking all the time of the
invitation she had received from Mr. Santley, and which had cost
her such a pang to refuse. Walter's sudden determination left her
free--free to spend a few hours in the company of the man who was more
to her than the whole world. Lighthearted and happy, she hurried home,
gave Walter's message to her aunt, and then sat down and made a very
hearty meal. After it was over, and a reasonable time had elapsed,
she again put on her hat, and told her aunt she was going down to the
Vicarage.

"I shan't be back till late, aunt," she added, "for, as I have to
go to the Vicarage, I may as well walk to evening service with Miss
Santley. If Walter changes his mind and comes, you will look after him
well, won't you?"

And Mrs. Russell, promising implicit obedience, kissed her niece
fondly, and watched her go down the road. On reaching the Vicarage,
Edith was admitted at once. There was no necessity to take her card
and keep her waiting while she ascertained if master or mistress was
at home. She was known to the servants as a visitor who was always
welcome--at any rate to the mistress of the house. So, without any
preamble at all, she was shown into the sitting-room, and into the
presence of Miss Santley.

The room was as luxuriously furnished as any in the Vicarage, and
charmingly decorated with the choicest of hothouse flowers. The lady
sat in a low wicker chair, with a book in her hand, and at her elbow
a little gipsy table, holding a tea-service of Dresden china. The
opening of the door disturbed the lady. She let her book fall upon her
knee, and looked up dreamily; but the moment her eye fell upon Edith
she rose, smiling brightly, gave the girl both her hands, and kissed
her fondly.

"My dear Edith, I am so glad!" she exclaimed; and there was a ring of
genuine welcome in her voice. "Why, you are a perfect stranger.--Jane,
bring a cup for Miss Dove.--Now, dear, select your chair, take off
your hat, and make yourself comfortable."

Edith did as she was bidden. She placed her hat on one of the many
little tables with which the room abounded, stood before one of
the glasses for a moment to rectify any disarrangement of hair and
costume; then she drew forth a little wicker chair similar to that
occupied by her hostess, and sat down. By this time the teapot was
brought in, and the tea poured, so Edith sat and sipped it, talking
and laughing meanwhile like a happy child.

"Well, dear," said Miss Santley, "and what have you been doing with
yourself all the week? Charles tells me you have a cousin in the
village, who completely monopolizes you. By the way, he told me that
he had tried to persuade you to come to tea to-day, but that you had
positively refused. That could not have been true."

"Yes, it was true," returned Edith. "I did refuse when he asked me,
because I thought I could not come. I thought my cousin would dine
with us as usual; but I met him at church this morning, and he said he
was rather unwell and could not come. So I thought it would not matter
if I came after all."

"Matter! My dear, I am delighted." And so, having thus satisfactorily
arranged matters, the two sat chatting to their hearts' content.

It was very pleasant, exceedingly pleasant--at any other time Edith
would have enjoyed it hugely; but as the hands of the bronze clock on
the chimneypiece travelled so quickly round, she began to grow uneasy,
and to wonder at the protracted absence of her lover. Miss Santley was
a very pleasant person indeed, and Edith was very fond of her; but it
had been a stronger inducement than Miss Santley that had brought
her to the Vicarage that afternoon. Santley must know she was in the
house, thought Edith; it was strange he did not come.

Suddenly Miss Santley glanced at the clock. In a moment she was on her
feet.

"My dear," she exclaimed, "how the time has flown! Do you play again
to-night?"

"Yes."

The lady nodded.

"Well walk to church together, dear," she said. "Amuse yourself by
looking at the books, while I run away to get my bonnet and mantle
on."

Ere the lady had reached the door of the room, Edith spoke. Prolonged
disappointment had given her courage.

"Mr. Santley is busy, I suppose?" she said.

"Mr. Santley--Charles? Oh, my dear, he's not at home!"

"Not at home?"

"No. If he had been, do you suppose for a moment, my dear, he would
have allowed you to be all this time in the house without coming out
to say 'How do you do'? If he had known you had been coming, of course
he would have stayed in; but he didn't know, so immediately after
afternoon service he went to Foxglove Manor. He wanted to see Mrs.
Haldane, and he said he should go straight from there to the church."

Miss Santley was near the door. The moment she had finished speaking
she passed out of the room, and left Edith alone.

It was not a pleasant task to her, this mentioning of Mrs. Haldane.
She knew that people had already begun to speak somewhat unkindly of
the relations between that lady and her brother. But since this
was so, it was well that she should show to the world that she, his
sister, thought nothing of it. Therefore she had made up her mind
that, whenever it was necessary for her to mention that lady's name,
she would do so without reserve of any kind. It was the only way, she
thought, to prevent such absurd rumours from taking root.

A very few minutes sufficed to make her toilet. At the end of that
time she returned to the room where she had left Edith, to get her
Prayer-book and the handkerchief which had fallen from her hand, and
lay beside her chain.

"Ready, dear?" she asked brightly; then she paused, amazed.

There sat Edith, pale as a ghost, reclining in an easy-chair, with her
head thrown back, and her forehead covered by a handkerchief soaked
with eau-de-cologne.

"Why, my dear!" exclaimed Miss Santley. "Whatever is the matter? Has
anything happened?"

"No, nothing," said Edith, faintly. "I have got a very bad headache,
that is all; and--and--I cannot go to church again to-day, Miss
Santley."

"Go to church," echoed Miss Santley. "Why, my dearest girl, of course
you cant go to church! I will send Jane with a message to Charles, and
stay and take care of you."

But this Edith would not allow. She pulled the handkerchief from her
forehead, and declared her intention of going home.

Miss Santley kissed her kindly. At this exhibition of tenderness Edith
fairly broke down. She threw her arms around the lady's neck, and
burst into tears.

"I--I am so sorry," she said at last, when her sobs had somewhat
subsided; "but I could not help it. I--I am such a coward when I am
ill!"

Miss Santley said nothing; she knew she could do nothing. There was
some mystery here which she could not fathom, so she yielded to the
girl's solicitations and allowed her to go home.



CHAPTER XXII. AT THE VICARAGE.

|One evening about the middle of the week, as the Rev. Mr. Santley sat
alone in his study a card was brought to him, on which was printed--

Mr. Walter Hetherington.

The clergyman raised his brows as he read, and asked the maid, who
waited respectfully at the door, if the gentleman had not called upon
him before.

"Once before, sir!"

"Did he state his business?"

"He did not, sir; he only said he would not detain you long."

"Well, ask the gentleman to be good enough to walk this way."

The maid retired, and a moment afterwards Walter entered the room.

The two men bowed to each other. One glance had assured Santley that
any attempt at a warmer greeting would be injudicious; the other might
not respond, and it would never do for the vicar of the parish to be
snubbed by an itinerant painter whom nobody knew--besides, under the
circumstances, a bow was ample greeting. He infused into it as much
politeness as possible, welcomed his young friend to the Vicarage,
and, pointing to a chair which he had drawn forward, begged him to
be seated. Decidedly the clergyman was the most self-possessed of
the two. For Walter took his seat in nervous silence; while Santley,
wondering greatly in his own mind what could possibly have procured
him the honour of that visit, kept the scene from flagging by that
wonderful gift of small talk with which he was possessed.

He was very pleased indeed to meet Mr. Hetherington. He had done him
the honour to call upon him once before he thought--yes, he was sure
of it; and he had also had the pleasure of meeting him once
before, when he had not had the honour of his acquaintance. Was Mr.
Hetherington thinking of making a long stay amongst them?

"Not very long," said Walter.

"I suppose you have made some charming sketches?" continued the
clergyman. "There are pretty little spots about the village, spots
well worthy of a painters brush. I used to do a little in that way
myself when I was a youngster at college; but the vicar of a parish
has onerous duties. I suppose at the present moment I should hardly
know how to handle a brush. Are you thinking of leaving us soon, Mr.
Hetherington?"

"I am not quite sure!"

"Ah! well, if you stay and would like to make use of my library, I
should feel greatly honoured. It is the only thing I have to offer
you, I fear; but I shall be very pleased indeed to put it at your
service. It contains a few books on your own art, which might interest
you."

"You are very kind, Mr. Santley."

"Not at all, my dear sir; I am merely neighbourly. Life would be
dreary indeed if one could not be neighbourly in a place like this!"

"Mr. Santley, I have come to you for your advice."

The clergyman, nervously dreading what was to follow, looked at his
visitor with a calm smile, and answered pleasantly enough.

"My advice? My dear sir, I place it freely at your service, and myself
also if I can be of the slightest use to you."

"You can be of very great use to me."

The clergyman merely bowed this time and waited, so Walter continued--

"You know my cousin, Miss Edith Dove?"

As he spoke he fixed his eyes keenly upon the clergyman's face, but
the latter made no sign; he neither winced nor changed colour, but
answered calmly enough.

"I have the pleasure of the lady's acquaintance. She is one of the
most esteemed members of my congregation."

"It is about Miss Dove I wished to speak to you."

Again the clergyman bowed; again he found it unnecessary to make a
reply.

Walter, growing somewhat ill at ease, continued--

"I don't mind confessing to you, Mr. Santley, that at one period of my
career I hoped most earnestly, and indeed confidently believed, that
at no very remote date I should have the happiness of making her my
wife. I was sincerely attached to her; I believe she was attached to
me. But recently all has changed. She is wasting her life; throwing
aside all chance of happiness, through some mad infatuation about the
Church."

"Some mad infatuation about the Church!" returned the clergyman,
methodically. "Really, my dear sir, I am afraid you forget you are
speaking to a clergyman of the Church. As to Miss Dove, she is a
lady whose conduct is without reproach; she is one of the Church's
staunchest supporters!"

"Then you approve her present mode of life; you uphold it? You will
not advise her to shake her morbid fancies away? to accept an honest
affection and a happy home?"

Santley seemed to reflect.

"As a clergyman of the Church, I should advise her the other way,
I think. Surely the fulfilment of religious duties points to a more
elevated mode of existence than mere marrying and giving in marriage.
I am sorry for you, since I believe that any man possessed of that
lady's esteem might deem himself fortunate; still, I could not advise
her to act against her conscience and the promptings of religion."

"And me, what do you advise me to do?"

The clergyman shrugged his shoulders. "It seems to me that there is
only one thing that you can do. If the lady finds your attentions
disagreeable, surely the most honourable course for you to adopt would
be to leave her--in peace." Walter rose, and the clergyman breathed
more freely, believing that the interview had come to a satisfactory
end. Neither of them spoke for a minute or so, till the clergyman
looked up, and said quietly--

"You have something more to say, Mr. Hetherington?"

"Yes," 9 answered Walter; "I have something more to say." Then, going
a few steps nearer to the clergyman, he added, "You are a hypocrite,
Mr. Santley!"

The clergyman's face grew pale. He rose hastily from his seat; but
before he could speak Walter continued, vehemently--

"Do you think I don't know you? Do you think I haven't discovered that
it is you, and not the Church, who has taken my cousin from me? You
talk to me of religion, of religious duties, and yet you know that you
are playing the hypocrite to her, as you have done to me, and that you
are breaking her heart."

He paused, flushed, excited, and angry. The clergyman stood calm and
very pale.

"You do well to seek this interview in my house, sir," he said. "Now
you have insulted me with impunity, perhaps you will take your leave."

But Walter made no attempt to move.

"Before I go," he said, "I wish to know what are your plans regarding
my cousin?"

"And I should like to ask you, sir," returned the clergyman, "what
authority you have for interfering in my private affairs?"

"I have no authority; your private affairs are nothing to me. I speak
in the interest of my cousin!"

"Really! I should fancy your interference would be hardly likely to do
her much good." #

"Mr. Santley, I shall ask you one more question. Do you, or do you
not, mean to marry my cousin?"

"And if I refuse to answer?"

"I shall make it my duty, before tomorrow night, to expose you."

"Really!" returned the clergyman, with an exasperating smile. "You
will draw your cousin's good name through the mire in order to throw a
little mud at me. I should think, young man, you must be a treasure
to your family. Good evening. I will ring for the servant to show you
out."

And he did ring--at the most opportune moment too; for Walter,
staggered by that last thrust, perceived that his enemy was on the
side of power. So, when in answer to her master's summons the servant
appeared, Walter followed her; he was afraid to utter another word,
for Edith's sake.

When he was gone, all Santley's calmness deserted him, and he walked
up and down the room in a fit of uncontrollable rage. When he had
grown calmer, he sat down and wrote one of his neatly worded epistles
to Edith, making an appointment for the following day.

He half believed that Walter had come to him, as Edith's authorized
messenger, to attempt to force upon him those bonds which he was
so very reluctant to wear. The clergyman could not in any other way
account for his knowledge of the relations existing between the
two. It was well for Edith that at that moment she was not near her
lover--well for her, also, that no meeting could take place between
them until the following day.

The next day Santley was very much more composed, and when he walked
towards the trysting-place none would have known, from his outward
appearance, that anything was materially wrong. He had made the
appointment in daylight this time; since embraces could be dispensed
with, so also could darkness and night. There was really nothing in
this meeting after all; nothing but what might have been witnessed by
a dozen pair of eyes. Those who did see it would see only an event of
ordinary everyday life.

Miss Edith Dove, walking leisurely towards the village, was overtaken
by the clergyman, who paused to shake hands with her, and to walk with
her a part of the way. Had any one looked closely at these two, he
would have seen that the clergyman, though calm, was very pale; that
Edith, pale too, had a weary, listless look about her face; that after
she had shaken hands with her pastor, she quickly turned away her
head, for her eyes grew dim with tears.

If Santley saw the tears he did not care to notice them. He had
found, directly they met, that she was suffering from one of those
deplorable fits of temper which had more than once caused trouble
between them; but that could not be taken any notice of now. If she
chose to wear herself to a shadow, it was her own affair; he had
something more important on hand. The interview could not be a long
one, therefore he must reach the heart of the matter at once.

So he began abruptly--

"Edith, this new course you have adopted is a dangerous one, and had
better be abandoned without loss of time."

The girl raised her eyes to his face, and asked wearily--

"What do you mean? What have I done?"

"I suppose you are responsible for your cousin's visit to my house;
you must have instigated it, if you did not actually advise him!"

Again she raised her troubled eyes to his face, and said sadly--

"I don't know what you mean."

"Then I will tell you, Edith. Your cousin, a hot-headed, ill-mannered
youth, has thought fit to take upon himself the part of protector, or
guardian, of your happiness. In this capacity he paid me a domiciliary
visit yesterday, and treated me to some most violent abuse. He
threatened to make known to the public the relations between us. I
advised him to think it over, for your sake!"

"My cousin--Walter Hetherington, do you mean?"

"Most certainly."

"But how does he know? how has he learned?"

"From you, I suppose."

"No; it is not from me," returned Edith, whose listlessness was fast
disappearing. "I have said nothing; I have never even mentioned your
name to him. It must be known; it must be talked of in the village.
Oh, Charles, spare me! Keep your promise to me, for God's sake! Any
open disgrace would be more than I could bear. I should die."

The girl, overcome by her emotion, had forgotten for the moment that
their present interview was a perfectly public one. The clergyman
coldly reminded her of the fact. Then, after she had forced upon
herself a composure which she was far from feeling, he continued--"You
had better understand, Edith, once and for ever, that whatever
my conduct may be, I do not choose to have it questioned by this
exceedingly officious young man. A repetition of the scene of
yesterday I will not bear. And as it is evident to me that my actions
are under surveillance, I must refuse either to see or hear from you
again, until that young man has removed himself from the village."

"Charles, you surely don't mean that?" exclaimed the girl.

But he certainly did mean it, and though she pleaded and argued, he
remained firm. At last she resolved that she would speak to Walter,
resent his interference, and, if possible, induce him to return home.

Then the two shook hands and parted.

That evening Walter dined at the-cottage. During the dinner Edith
scarcely looked at him; while he himself was silent and distrait. But
after dinner, when they had all retired to the drawing-room, when the
old lady had settled down to her wool-work, and Walter had lit his
cigar, Edith threw a light shawl over her head, and asked him if he
would come with her into the garden.

Wondering very much at the request, Walter rose at once, and offered
her his arm. She took it; but the moment they were alone she withdrew
her hand and turned angrily upon him. Walter listened, and he found
that he had some chance of being heard. He acknowledged that she had
spoken the truth; he _had_ interfered; he had deemed it quite right
that he should do so for her sake.

"For my sake!" returned Edith. "It seems to me there is more of
selfishness than benevolence in what you have done. What is it to
you if I am engaged to Mr. Santley? and if we choose to keep our
engagement a secret, what is that to you? I am my own mistress; I can
act just as I think fit, without the fear of coercion from any one.
_You_, at any rate, have no right to regulate my actions or to dictate
them. I suppose you think I have no right to marry any one, simply
because I refuse to be coerced into marrying you!"

It was a cruel thing to say; but Edith was simply dealing him,
secondhand, some of the stabs which she herself had received from her
beloved pastor in the morning. The stabs went deep into his heart, and
the wounds remained for many a day. When Edith had uttered a few more
truisms with the characteristic selfishness of love and hatred, Walter
coldly suggested that their pleasant stroll in the garden might be
brought to a termination.

They returned together to the house. As the old lady, beaming with
delight at what she believed to be the sudden and happy reconciliation
of the cousins, had prepared the tea, Walter pleased her by sitting
down to take some before he said good night.

But the next day he returned to town.



CHAPTER XXIII. DR. DUPRÉ'S ELIXIR.

|George Haldane returned home in the best of spirits. His paper had
been received with enthusiasm by the _savants_ of France, and his
life in Paris had been one pleasant succession of visits, learned
conversaziones, and private entertainments. Thanks to his happy
pre-occupation, he scarcely noticed that his wife's manner was
constrained, nervous, yet deeply solicitous; that she looked pale
and worn, as if with constant watching; and that, in answer to his
careless questioning as to affairs at home, she made only fragmentary
replies.

On entering his dressing-room to change his apparel, he found
Baptisto, who was quietly undoing his portmanteau and selecting the
necessary things with a calm air, as if his services had never been
interrupted.

"So, my Baptisto," he said, clapping that worthy on the shoulder, "you
are not dead or buried, I see? Ah, you may smile, but I am quite aware
of the trick you played me. Well, you have been the loser. You would
have had a pleasant time of it in Paris, the best of entertainment,
and nothing whatever to do."

"I am glad you have returned, senor," replied Baptisto, with his
customary solemnity.

"I hope you have given satisfaction to your mistress during my
absence?"

"I hope so, senor."

"Humph! we shall see what report she has to make concerning you, and
if that is favourable, I may forgive your freak of laziness."

"I have not been lazy, senor," said Baptisto, quietly preparing the
toilette.

"Indeed! Pray, how have you been employing yourself?"

Baptisto did not reply, but smiled again.

"How is your inamerata and her family? I saw the little woman
curtsying as I passed through the lodge-gates."

Baptisto shook his head solemnly.

"Ah, senor," he said, "you are mistaken. The woman of the lodge is a
stupid person; and for the rest, I put no faith in women. _Cuerpo di
Baccho_, no! They smile upon us when we are near; but no sooner do we
turn our backs, than they smile upon some other man."

"Pretty philosophy," returned Haldane, with a laugh. "Why, you are a
downright misogynist, my Baptisto. But I don't believe one word you
say, for all that. Men who talk like you are generally very easy
conquests, and I would bet twenty to one on the little widow still."

"Ah, senor, if all women were like your signora, it would be
different. She is so good, so pure, so faithful at her devotions. It
is a great thing to have religion."

As Baptisto spoke his back was turned to his master, so that the
extraordinary expression of his face was unnoticed, and there was no
indication in his tone that he spoke satirically. Haldane shrugged his
shoulders and said nothing, not caring to discuss his wife's virtues
with a servant, however familiar. Presently he went downstairs to
dinner. All that evening he was very affectionate and merry, talking
volubly of his adventures in Paris, of his scientific acquaintances,
and of such new discoveries as they had brought under his notice.
In the course of his happy chat he spoke frequently of a new
acquaintance, one Dr. Dupré, whom he had met in the French capital.
"The French, however far behind the Germans in speculative affairs,"
he observed, "are far their superiors, and ours, in physiology. Take
this Dupré, for example. He is a wonderful fellow! His dissections and
vivisections' have brought him to such a point of mastery that he is
almost certain that he has discovered the problem poor Lewes broke his
heart over--how and by what mechanism we can't think. I don't quite
believe he has succeeded in that great discovery, but some of his
minor discoveries are extraordinary. Did you read the account in the
papers of his elixir of death?"

Ellen shook her head. The very name seemed horrible.

"His elixir of death?" she repeated.

"Yes. A chemical preparation, the fundamental principle of which is
morphine. By its agency he can so produce in a living organism the
ordinary phenomena of death, that even _rigor mortis_ is simulated. I
saw the experiment tried on two rabbits, a Newfoundland dog, and, to
crown all, on the human subject. They were all, to every appearance,
dead; the rabbits for twenty-four hours, the dog for half a day, and
the woman for an hour and a half."

"Horrible!" exclaimed Ellen, with a shudder. "Do you actually mean he
experimented on a living woman?"

"Yes; on a strapping wench, the daughter of his housekeeper; and a
very fine thing she made of it. We subscribed together, and presented
her with a purse of a thousand francs."

"I think such things are wicked," cried Ellen, with some warmth. "Mere
mortals have no right to play, in that way, with the mystery of life
and death."

"My dear Nell," cried Haldane, laughing, "it is in the interests of
science!"

"But I am sure it is not right. Life is given and taken by God alone."

"Your argument, if accepted, would make all mankind accept the
religion of the Peculiar People, who will cure no diseases by human
intervention. As to this business of suspended animation, it is merely
a part of our discoveries in anodynes. Dupré's experiment, I know, is
perfectly safe."

"But that is not the question."

"How so, my dear?"

"What I mean is, that death is too solemn and awful a thing to imitate
as you describe. Such experiments are simply blasphemous, in my
opinion."

"Come, come," cried the philosopher. "There is no blasphemy where
there is no irreverence. According to your religious people, your
priests of the churches, there was blasphemy in circumnavigating the
globe; in discovering the circulation of the blood; in ascertaining
the age of the earth; and, still later, in using chloroform to lessen
the pangs of parturition."

"But what purpose can be served by such experiments as _that?_"

"A good many," was the reply. "For example, it may help us to the
discovery of the nature of life itself, which has puzzled everybody,
from Parmenides down to Haeckel. If we can by a simple anodyne suspend
the vital mechanism for a period, and then by a vegetable antidote
restore it again to action, the resurrection of Lazarus will cease to
be a miracle, and the pretensions of Christianity----"

Ellen rose impatiently, with an expression of sincere pain.

"My dear Nell, what is the matter?" cried her husband.

"I cannot bear to hear you discuss such a thing. Oh, George, if you
would leave such wicked speculations alone, and try to believe in the
mystery and sovereignty of God!"

"You mean, burn my books, and go to hear your seraphic friend every
Sunday?"

Had he not touched, unconsciously, on another painful chord? Why,
otherwise, did his wife flush scarlet and partially avert her face?
Conquering herself with an effort, she went over to him, and bending
over him, looked fondly into his face.

"You are so much cleverer than I, so much wiser, and do you think I am
not proud of your wisdom? But, all the same, dear, I wish you did not
think as you do. When life becomes a mere experiment, a mere thing of
mechanism, what will be left? If we knew everything, even what we are,
and why we exist, the world would be a tomb--with no place in it for
the Living God."

Touched by her manner, Haldane drew her down by his side and kissed
her; then, with more earnestness than he had yet exhibited, he
answered her, holding her hand in his own and pressing it softly.

"My dear Nell, do me the justice to believe that I am not quite a
materialist; simple agnosticism is the very converse of materialism.
There is not living a scientific philosopher of any eminence who
does not, in his calculations, postulate a mystery which can never be
solved by the finest intellect. Even if we had fully completed, with
the poet--=

```'The new creed of science, which showeth to man

`````How he darkly began,

```How he grew from a cell to a soul, without plan;

```How he breaks like a wave of the ocean, and goes

`````To eternal repose--

```A tone that must fade, tho' the great Music grows! '=

even then, we should know nothing of the First Cause. That must for
ever remain inscrutable."

"But how horrible it would be to believe in annihilation? _Can_ you
believe in it?"

"Certainly not," replied the philosopher.

Ellens face brightened.

"Oh, I am so glad to hear you say that!"

"My dear Nell, annihilation is absurd."

"Now, isn't it?" she cried triumphantly.

"It is refuted, on the face of it, by the doctrine of the conservation
of force. Life is eternal, in one shape or another; no force can be
destroyed, be sure of that!"

"I wish Mr. Santley could hear you! He wouldn't call you an atheist
then!"

Haldane's face darkened angrily.

"What? Does the man actually----"

"Don't misunderstand," cried Ellen, flushing scarlet. "I do not mean
that he really calls you an atheist, but he is so sorry, so deeply
sorry, that you do not believe. He does not know you, dear, and takes
all my bear's satirical growling for solemn earnest. Now, when I tell
him----"

"You will tell him nothing," exclaimed Haldane, with sudden sternness.
"I will have no priest coming between my wife and me!"

"Mr. Santley would never do that," she returned, now trembling
violently.

"Mr. Santley is like all his tribe, I suppose--a meddler and a
mischief-maker. That is the worst of other-worldliness; it gives these
traders in the Godhead, these peddlers who would give us in exchange
for belief in their superstitions a _bonus_ in paradise, an excuse for
making this world unbearable. Well, my atheism, if you choose to call
it so, against his theism. Mine at least keeps me a man among men,
while his keeps him a twaddler among women."

Haldane spoke with heat, for the word "atheist" had somehow stung him
to the quick. This man, who rejected all outward forms of belief, and
whose conversation was habitually ironical, was in his inmost nature
deeply and sincerely religious; humbly reverent before the forces of
nature; spiritually conscious of that Power beyond ourselves which
makes for righteousness. True, he rejected the ordinary forms of
theism; but he had, on the other hand, a deep though dumb reverence
for the character of Christ, and he had no sympathy with such
out-and-out materialists as Haeckel and _hoc genus omne_. For the
rest, he was liberal-minded, and had no desire to interfere with his
wife's convictions; could smile a little at her simplicity, and would
see no harm in her clerical predispositions, so long as the clergyman
didn't encroach too far on the domain of married life and domestic
privacy.

His indignation did not last. Seeing his wife greatly agitated, and
fearing that he had caused her pain, he drew her forehead down and
kissed it; then, patting her cheek, he said--

"Forgive me, Nell. I did not mean to scold; but one does not like hard
names. When any one calls me 'atheist,' I am like the old woman whom
Cobbett called a 'parallelogram;' it is not the significance of the
epithet, but its opprobrium, that rouses me. Besides, I do not like
any man to abuse me--to my own wife."

"No one does that," she cried. "You know I would not listen."

"I hope not, my dear." He added after a little, looking at her
thoughtfully and sadly, "Man and wife have fallen asunder before
now, on this very question of religion. Well, rather than that should
happen, I will let you convert me. Will that satisfy you?"

"I shall never be quite satisfied till I know that you believe as I
do."

"What is that, pray?"

"That there is a just God, who made and cherishes us; and that,
through the blood of His Son we shall live again although we die!"

"Well, it is a beautiful creed, my dear."

"And true?"

"Why not? I will go with you thus far. I believe that, if there is a
God, He is just, and that we shall certainly live again, if it is for
our good."

The emphasis with which he spoke the last words attracted her
attention.

"For our good?" she queried.

"I am quoting the saddest words ever written, by the saddest and best
man I ever knew. * He, too, believed that a God might spare us, and
give us eternal life, if--mark the proviso--eternal life were indeed
_for our good._ But suppose the contrary--suppose God knew better, and
that it would be an evil and unhappy gift? Alas! who knows?"

     *  J. S. Mill.

He rose from his chair, still encircling his wife's waist, and moved
towards the door.

"Come to the drawing-room," he cried gaily. "After so much offhand
theology, a little music will be delightful. Ah, Nell, one breath of
Beethoven is worth all the prosings of your parsons. Play to me, and,
while the music lasts, I will believe what you will."



CHAPTER XXIV. THE EXPERIMENT.

|The next morning Haldane was busy in his laboratory. When he came in
to lunch, looking disreputable enough in his old coat, and smelling
strongly of tobacco, he said to his wife--

"By-the-by, Nell, do you remember what I told you last night about
Dupré's wonderful elixir? I forgot to tell you that I have brought
some of it with me, for purposes of private experiment." Ellen looked
horrified.

"Don't be afraid," he continued, laughing; "your cats and dogs are
safe from me. I have found a better subject, and mean to operate on
him this very afternoon."

"Whom do you mean?"

"As a sort of penance for his shamming illness, I shall kill
Baptisto."

She uttered a cry, and raised her hands in protest.

"For heavens sake, George, be warned! If you have any of that horrible
stuff, throw it away."

"Now, my dear Nell," said the philosopher, "be reasonable; there is
not the slightest cause for alarm. You will see this experiment, and
it will, I hope, treble your faith in miracles."

"I will _not_ see it. I beseech you, abandon the idea. As for
Baptisto----"

At this moment the Spaniard entered the room, carrying certain dishes.

"I have been telling your mistress, Baptisto, that you are ready to
be a martyr to science. At four o'clock precisely, you will be a dead
man."

Baptisto bowed solemnly.

"I am quite ready, senor."

But here Ellen interposed.

"It is ridiculous; your master is only joking. He would not do
anything so foolish, so wicked. As for you, I forbid you to encourage
him."

Baptisto bowed again, with a curious smile.

"It is for the senor to command. As he knows, he has saved my life,
and he may take it whenever he pleases."

Haldane nodded, in the act of drinking a glass of wine.

"Don't be afraid, Baptisto. After death, there is the resurrection."

"That, senor, is your affair," returned the Spaniard, phlegmatically,
shrugging his shoulders. "You will do with me as you please."

And so saying, he glided from the room.

Ellen again and again entreated her husband not to proceed in his
experiment; but he had long made up his mind that it was perfectly
safe, and he could not be persuaded. To her gentle: spirit, the whole
idea seemed horrible in the extreme; but her greatest dread was that
it might be attended with danger to the subject. Haldane, however,
assured her that this was impossible.

All the afternoon Haldane and Baptisto were together in the
laboratory. A little after four o'clock, as Ellen was walking on the
terrace, Haldane came to her, smiling and holding up a small vial.

"It is all over," he said, "and the experiment is quite successful.
Come and see."

Not quite understanding him, she suffered him to lead her into the
laboratory; but, on crossing the threshold, she uttered a cry of
horror. Stretched on a sofa, lay Baptisto, moveless, and, to all
seeming, without one breath of life. His eyes were wide open, but
rayless; his jaw fixed, his face pale as grey marble; a peaceful
smile, as of death itself, upon his handsome face. The light of the
sun, just sinking towards the west, streamed in through the high
window upon the apparently lifeless form. In the chamber itself there
was a sickly smell, like that of some suffocating vapour. The whole
scene would have startled and appalled even a strong man.

"Oh, George!" cried the lady, clasping her hands. "What have you
done?"

"Don't be alarmed," was the reply, "Its all right!"

"But you said the experiment-----

"Was successful? Perfectly. There lies our poor friend, comfortably
finished."

"But are you sure, quite sure, that he is not dead? He is not
breathing."

"Of course not. The simulation is perfect. Place your hand on his
wrist--you will detect no pulse. Turn his pupils to the light--you
see, they do not contract. The case would deceive a whole college of
physicians."

As he spoke, he suited the action to the word--placed his finger upon
the pulse, gazed at the glazing pupils; raised one of the lifeless
arms, which, on being released, fell heavily as lead.

"Horrible, horrible! For God's sake, recover him!"

"All in good time. He has only been dead a quarter of an hour; in half
an hour precisely I shall say, 'Arise and walk.' Feel his forehead,
Nell; it is as cold as marble."

But Ellen drew back, shuddering, and could not be persuaded to touch
the sleeper.

"Well, go back to your promenade. I will call you when he is
awakened." Sick and terrified, Ellen obeyed her husband. Standing on
the terrace, she waited for his summons; and at last it came. Haldane
appeared, and beckoned; she followed him to the laboratory, and there,
seated in an armchair, comfortably sipping a glass of wine, was the
Spaniard--a little pale still, but otherwise not the worse for his
state of coma.

"Thank God!" cried Ellen.

"I thought he would never recover. But it must have been a horrible
experience."

Baptisto smiled.

"Tell the signora all about it," said his master. "Did you feel any
pain?"

"None, senor."

"What were your sensations? Pleasant or otherwise?"

"Quite pleasant, senor. It was like sinking into an agreeable sleep.
If death is like that, it is a bagatelle."

"Were you at all conscious?"

"Not of this world, senor, but I had bright dreams of another. I
thought I was in paradise, walking in the sunshine--ah, so bright! I
was sorry, senor, when I came back to this world."

"You hear!" cried Haldane, turning to his wife. "After all, death
itself may be a glorious experience; for 'in that sleep of death what
dreams may come!' It is quite clear at least that all the phenomena
of death, such as we shrink from and shudder at, may be accompanied by
some kind of pleasant psychic consciousness. Bravo, Baptisto! After
this, we shall call you Lazarus the second. You have passed beyond the
shadow of the sepulchre, and returned to tell the tale."

Despite the resuscitation, Ellen still revolted from the whole
proceeding.

"Now you are satisfied," she said, "promise me never to use that
dreadful elixir again."

"I think you may make your mind easy. The experiment is an ugly one,
I admit, and I am not anxious to repeat it--at least, not on the human
organism. For the same reason, my dear Nell, pray keep the affair to
yourself, and make no confidences, even to your confessor--I should
say, your clergyman, Will you promise?"

"Most certainly. I should not like any one to know you did such
things. As for Mr. Santley, he would be shocked beyond measure."

So saying, she left the two men together. In the mean time, Baptisto
had-finished his wine and risen to his feet. While his master regarded
him with an approving smile, he walked over to the door, softly closed
it, and returning noiselessly across the room, said in a low voice--

"There is something, senor, I did not tell you. I had dreams."

"So you said, my Baptisto."

"Ah yes, but not all. While I was lying there, I thought that _you_
were the dead man, and that the senora, your widow, had married."

"Married?"

"The English priest."

Haldane started, and looked in amazement at the speaker.

"What the devil do you mean?"

"Ah, senor, it was only my dream; a foolish dream. You were lying
in your winding-sheet, and they were kneeling at the altar--smiling,
senor. I did not like to speak of it to the senora; but it was very
strange."

Haldane forced a laugh, while, with a mysterious look, Baptisto crept
from the chamber. Was it in sheer simplicity or in deep cunning that
the Spaniard had spoken, touching so delicate a chord? Left alone,
Haldane paced up and down the laboratory in agitation. He was not
by temperament a jealous or a suspicious man, but he was troubled
in spite of himself. The words sounded like a warning, almost an
insinuation.

"What could the fellow mean?" he asked himself again and again. "Could
he possibly have dreamed _that?_ No; it is preposterous. There was
malice in his eye, and mischief.... Ellen married to Santley! Bah!
what am I thinking about? The fellow is not a _prophet!_"

In this manner, whether in innocence or for some set purpose of his
own, Baptisto contrived to poison all the sweetness of that successful
experiment. When Haldane again joined his wife that evening, he was
taciturn, distraught, nervous, and irritable. All his buoyancy had
departed. Ellen saw the change, and puzzled herself to account for it.

She played to him, sang to him, but failed to drive the cloud from his
brow.

When she had retired for the night, he still sat pondering over
Baptisto's words.



CHAPTER XXV. "BEWARE, MY LORD, OF JEALOUSY!"

|If Baptisto's object in describing a dream so ominous was to attract
his master's attention to the intimate relations between Mrs. Haldane
and the clergyman, he certainly succeeded. Once assured in this
direction, Haldane's perceptions were keen enough. He noticed that
the mere mention of Santley's name filled Ellen with a sort of nervous
constraint; that, although the clergyman's visits were frequent,
they were generally made at times when Haldane himself was busy and
preoccupied--that is to say, during his well-known hours of work; and
that, moreover, Santley, however much he liked the society of the
lady, invariably avoided the husband, or, if they met, contrived to
frame some excuse for speedy parting. Now, Haldane trusted his wife
implicitly, and believed her incapable of any infidelity, even in
thought. Still, he did not quite like the aspect of affairs. Much as
he trusted his wife, he had a strong moral distrust for anything in
the shape of a priest; and he determined, therefore, to keep his eyes
upon the clergyman.

A few days after that curious physiological experiment, he had the
following conversation with Baptisto. It was the first day of the
week.

"Baptisto, I thought you were a good Catholic?"

"So I am, senor," returned the Spaniard, smiling.

"Yet you went to an English church-yesterday, I hear?"

"Yes, senor. I go there very often."

"Why, pray?"

"Simply out of curiosity. Mr. Santley is a beautiful preacher, and has
a silvery voice. While you were away, I went once, twice, three times.
There is a young senora there who plays sweetly upon the great organ;
I like to listen, to-watch the congregation."

"Humph! By-the-bye, Baptisto, I have been thinking over the dream of
yours, when--when you were lying there."

"Yes, senor?"

"Pray, what put such a foolish idea in your head?"

"I cannot tell, senor; all I know is, it came. A foolish dream, do you
say? I suppose it is because the clergyman was here so often, when you
were away. And madame is so devout! I trust, senor, my dream has not
given you offence; perhaps I was wrong to speak of it at all."

Haldanes face had gone black as a thunder-cloud. Placing his hand on
the other's shoulder, and looking firmly into his face, he said--

"Listen to me, Baptisto."

"I am listening, senor."

"If I thought you would come back to life to tell lies about your
mistress, I would have let you lie the other day and rot like a dead
dog, rather than have recovered you at all. You hear? Take care! I
know you do not love your mistress, but if you dare to whisper one
word against her, I will drive you for ever from my door."

Baptisto bowed his head respectfully before the storm, but retained
his usual composure.

"Senor, may I speak?"

"Yes; but again, take care!"

"You should not blame me if I am jealous for your honour!"

Haldane started, and uttered an expletive.

"My honour, you dog? What do you mean?"

"This, senor. I would rather die than give you offence; and as for
the senora, I love her also, for is she not your wife? But will you be
angry still, when I tell you, when I warn you, to beware of that man,
that priest? He is a bad man, very bad. Ah, I have watched--and seen!"

"What have you seen?" cried Haldane, clutching him by the arm. "Come,
out with it!"

"Enough to show me that he is not your friend--that he is dangerous."

"Bah! is that all? Now, listen to me, and be sure I mean what I say.
I will have no servant of mine spying upon my wife. I will have no
servant of mine insinuating that my honour is in danger. If I hear
another word of this, if you convey to me by one look the fact that
you are still prying, spying, and suspecting, I shall take you by the
collar and send you flying out of my house. Now, go!"

Baptisto, who knew his master's temper perfectly, bowed and withdrew.
He had no wish to say one word more. He had thrown out a dark hint, a
black seed of suspicion, and he knew that he might safely let it work.
It did work, rapidly and terribly. Left alone, Haldane became a prey
to the wildest fears and suspicions. He remembered now that his wife
had been acquainted with this man in her girlhood; that there had even
been some passage of love between them. He remembered how eagerly
she had renewed the acquaintance, and with what admiring zeal the
clergyman had responded. He pictured to himself the sympathetic
companionship, the zealous meetings, the daily religious intercourse,
of these two young people, each full of the fervour of a blind
superstition. Could it be possible that they loved each other?
Questioning his memory, he recalled looks, words, tones, which,
although scarcely noticed at the time, seemed now of painful
significance. The mere thought was sickening. Already he realized the
terrible phrase-of the poet Young--"the jealous are the damned."

Haldane was not habitually a violent man. Though passionate and
headstrong by temperament, he had schooled himself to gentleness after
a stormy youth, and the chilly waters of philosophy, at which he drank
daily, kept his head cool and his pulses calm. But the stormy spirit,
though hushed, was not altogether dead within him, and under his
habitual reticence and good-humoured cynicism, there lay the most
passionate idolatry for his beautiful wife. He had set her up in his
heart of hearts, with a faith too perfect for much expression; and it
had not occurred to him, in his remotest dreams, that any other man
could ever come between them.

And now, suddenly as a lightning flash illumining a dark landscape,
the fear came upon him that perhaps he had been unwary and unwise. Was
it possible, he asked himself, that he had' been too studious and too
book-loving, too reticent also in all those little attentions
which by women, who always love sweetmeats, are so tenderly prized?
Moreover, he was ten years his wife's, elder--was that disparity of
years also a barrier between their souls? No; he was sure it was not.
He was sure that she was not hypocritical, and that she loved him.
Wherever the blame might be, if blame there were, it was certainly not
hers. She had been in all respects, a tender and a sympathetic wife;
encouraging his deep study of science, even when she most distrusted
its results; proud of his attainments, and eager for his success; in
short, a perfect helpmate, but for her old-fashioned prejudices in
the sphere of religion. Ah, _religion!_ There was the one word which
solved the enigma, and aroused in our philosopher's bosom that fierce
indignation which long ago led Lucretius into such passionate hate
against the Phantom,=

```"Which with horrid head

```Leered hideously from all the gates of heaven!"=

It needed only this to complete his loathing for the popular theology,
for all its teachers. Yes, he reflected, religion only was to blame.
In its name, his wife's sympathies had been tampered with, her spirit
more or less turned against himself; in its name, his house had been
secretly invaded, his domestic happiness poisoned, his peace of
mind destroyed. It was the old story! Wherever this shadow of
superstition crawled, craft and dissimulation began. Now, as in the
beginning, it came between father and child, sister and brother, man
and wife.

It so happened that when George Haldane came forth from having his
dark hour alone, he rather avoided meeting his wife at once, and,
taking his hat, stepped out from the laboratory on to the shrubbery
path. He had scarcely done so, when his eye fell upon two figures
standing together in the distance, upon the terrace of the house. One
was Mrs. Haldane, wearing her garden hat and a loose shawl thrown over
her shoulders. The other was the clergyman of the parish.

Haldane drew back, and watched. In that moment he knew the extent of
his humiliation; for never before had he been a spy upon his wife's
actions.

Their backs were towards him. Santley was talking eagerly; Ellen was
looking down. Presently they began to move slowly along the terrace,
side by side.

Haldane watched them gloomily. The sunlight fell brightly upon them,
and on the old Manor house, with its brilliant creepers and glittering
panes, while the old chapel, with the watcher in its ruined porch,
remained in shadow. It seemed like an omen. In the darkness of his
hiding-place, Haldane felt satanic. Yes, there they walked--children
of God, as they called themselves--in God's sunlight; and he, the
searcher for light, the unbeliever, was forgotten.

Presently Santley paused again, and, with an impassioned gesture,
pointed upward. Ellen raised her head, and looked upward too,
listening eagerly to his words. Haldane laughed fiercely to himself,
with all the ugliness of his jealousy upon him.

Presently they disappeared into the house. A little afterwards Santley
emerged from the front door, and came walking rapidly down the avenue.
His manner was eager and happy, almost jubilant, and Haldane saw, when
he approached, that his face looked positively radiant.

He was passing, when Haldane stepped out and confronted him. He
started, paused, and a shadow fell instantaneously upon his handsome
face. Recovering himself, he held out his hand. Haldane did not seem
to see the gesture, but, nodding a careless greeting, said, with his
habitual _sang froid_--

"Well met, Mr. Santley. Here I am again, you see, hard at work. Have
you come from the house?"

"Yes," answered Santley.

"On some new message of Christian charity and beneficence, I suppose?
Ah, my dear sir, you are indefatigable. And the old women of the parish
must indeed find you a Good Shepherd. Did you find my wife at home?"

"Yes."

"And zealous, as usual, I suppose?' Ah, what a thing it is to be
pious! But let me beg you not to encourage her too much. Charity
begins at home; and what with soup-kitchens, offertories,
subscriptions for church repairs, and societies for the gratuitous
distribution of flannel waistcoats, I am in a fair way of being
ruined."

Santley forced a laugh.

"Don't be afraid. My errand to-day was not a begging one, I assure
you."

"I am glad to hear it."

"I was merely bringing Mrs. Haldane a book I promised to lend her. To
tell the truth, she finds your library rather destitute of works of a
religious nature."

"Do you really think so?" exclaimed Haldane, drily. "Why, I thought
it unusually well provided in that respect. Let me see! There are
Volney's 'Ruins of Empire,' Monboddo's 'Dissertations,' Drummond's
'Academical Questions,' excellent translations of Schopenhauer and
Hartmann, not to speak of thirty-six volumes of Diderot, and fifty of
Arouet."

Santley opened his eyes in horror and astonishment.

"Arouet!" he ejaculated. "Do you actually mean to call Voltaire a
religious writer?"

"Highly so. There is religion even in 'La Pucelle,' but it reaches its
culmination in the 'Philosophical Dictionary.'"

"And you would actually let Mrs. Haldane read such works as those?"

"Certainly; though, am sorry to say, she prefers 'The Old Helmet' and
the 'Heir of Redclyffe.' May I ask the name of the work you have been
good enough to lend her?"

"It is a book from which I myself have received great benefit--Père
Hyacinthes 'Sermons.'"

"Père Hyacinthe?" repeated Haldane. "Ah! the jolly priest who
reverenced celibacy, and proclaimed himself the father of a strapping
boy. Well, the man was at least honest. I think all clergymen should
marry, and at as early an age as possible. What is your opinion?"

Santley flushed to the temples, while Haldane watched him with a
gloomy smile.

"I think--I am sure," he stammered, "that the married state is the
happiest--perhaps the holiest."

"With these sentiments, of which I cordially approve, why the deuce
are you a bachelor?"

The clergyman winced at the question, and his colour deepened; then,
as if musing, he glanced round towards the house--a look which was
observed and fully appreciated by his tormentor.

"I am sure my wife would encourage you to change your condition. Like
most women, she is by instinct a matchmaker."

Santley did not seem to hear; at any rate, he made no reply, but,
holding out his hand quickly, exclaimed--

"I must go now. I am rather in haste."

Haldane did not take the hand, but put his arm upon the clergyman's
shoulder.

"Well, good day," he said. "Take my advice, though, and get a sensible
wife as soon as possible."

Santley tried to smile, but only succeeded in looking more pale and
nervous than usual. With a few murmured words of adieu, he moved
rapidly away.

Haldane watched him thoughtfully until he disappeared down the avenue.

"I wonder if that man can smile?" he said to himself. "No; I am afraid
he is too horribly in earnest. I suppose, the women would call
him handsome--_spiritual_; but I hate such pallid, waxen-featured,
handsome dolls. A pretty shepherd, that, for a Christian flock to
follow; a fellow who makes his very ignorance of this world constitute
his claim to act as cicerone to the next. Fancy being jealous,
actually _jealous_, of such a thing as that!"

He turned back into his laboratory and tried to dismiss Baptisto's
suggestion from his mind; but it was impossible. He could not disguise
from himself that Santley, with his seraphic face and sad, earnest
eyes, was the kind of creature whom the weaker sex adore, and that he
was rendered doubly dangerous to women by the radiant mesmerism of a
fascinating and voluptuous celestial superstition.



CHAPTER XXVI. FIRST LEAVES FROM A PHILOSOPHER NOTE-BOOK.

|I am about to set down, in as concise a manner as possible, and at
present solely for my private edification (some day, perhaps, another
eye may read the lines, but not yet), certain events which have
lately influenced my domestic life. Were it not that even a professed
scientist might decline to publish experiments affecting his own
private happiness, the description of the events to which I allude
might almost form a chapter in my slowly progressing "Physiology of
Ethics," and the description would be at least as interesting as
many of Ferriers accounts of vivisection on dumb animals. But,
unfortunately, I am unable, in this case, to apply the dissecting
knife to my neighbours heart, without laying bare the ugly wound in my
own.

To begin then, I, George Haldane, recluse, pessimist, moral
physiologist, and would-be moral philosopher, have discovered, at
forty years of age, that I am capable of the most miserable of all
human passions; worse, that this said ignoble passion of jealousy has
a certain rational foundation. For ten years I have been happy with
a wife who seemed the perfection of human gentleness and beauty; who,
although unfortunately we have been blest with no offspring, has shown
the tenderest solicitude and sympathy for the children of my brain;
and who, in her wifely faith and sanctity, seemed to be the sole link
still holding me to a church whose history has always filled me with
abhorrence, and a religion whose infantine theology I despise. Well,
_nous avons changé tout cela_. My mind is no longer peaceful, my
hearth no longer sacred; and the woman I love seems slowly drifting
from me on a stream of sensuous spiritualism--another name for a
religious rehabilitation of the flesh.

If any other man were the victim, I should think the situation highly
absurd. Here, on the one hand, is a fanatical Protestant priest, with
the face of a seraphic monk, the experience of a schoolgirl, and the
_gaucherie_ of a country chorister who has never grown a beard; a
fellow whose sole claims to notice are his white hands, his clean
linen, and his function as a silly shepherd; a man fresh from college,
ignorant of the world. Here, on the other hand, am I, physically and
intellectually his master, knowing almost every creed beneath the
sun, and the slave of none; indifferent to vulgar human passions, and
disposed to disintegrate them one and all with the electric current of
a negative philosophy. Between us both, trembling this way and that,
is that fair thing of flesh and blood, my wife, zealous to save her
own soul alive, and fearful at times, I fancy, that I have sold mine
to the Prince of Darkness. It is another version of science against
superstition, common sense against a lie; and Ellen Haldane is the
prize. A fiery Spaniard, like Baptisto yonder, would end the affair
with a stiletto-thrust; but I, of colder blood, am not likely to do
anything so courageous or so foolish, but am content to watch and
watch, and to feel the sick contamination of my suspicion creeping
over me like an unwholesome mildew. A stiletto thrust? Why, the mere
tongue, a less fatal weapon, would do it all. If I could only summon
up the courage to say to my wife, "I know your secret; choose between
this man and me, between his creed and mine, between your duty as a
wife and your zeal as a Christian," I fancy there would be an end
to it all. But I am too timorous; I suppose, too ashamed of my
suspicions, too proud to acknowledge so contemptible a rival. As
a Spaniard covers his face with his mantle, I veil my soul with my
pride; and, under the mantle of unsuspicion, rest irresolute, while
the thing grows.

Once or twice, I have thought of another way--of taking my wife by the
hand and saying, "To-morrow, my dear, we shall leave this place, and
return to Spain or Italy--some quiet place abroad." I could easily
find an excuse for the migration, which, once effected, would make an
end of the affair. But that, in my opinion, would be too cowardly. It
would, indeed, be an admission that the danger was real and imminent;
that, in other words, the fight for honour could only be saved by an
ignominious retreat. No; Ellen Haldane must take her chance. If she is
not strong enough to hold out against evil, then let her go--_au bon
Dieu_ or _au bon diable_, as either leads.

Yet what am I saying? It is precisely because I have the utmost
faith in her purity of heart that I watch the struggle with a certain
patience. I believe there will be a victim, but not my Ellen. Surely,
if there is a good woman in the world, she is that woman. As for the
other, every day, every hour, brings the cackling creature further
and further into my decoy. Even if he tried to turn back now, I do
not think I should let him. No; let him swim in and on, and in and on,
till he reaches the place where I, like the decoy man, can catch him
fluttering, and--wring his neck? Perhaps.

It is quite clear that the man takes me for an idiot. At first he used
precautions, invented subterfuges; latterly, certain of my stupidity
or indifference, he comes and goes without disguise. When I meet him
driving side by side of my wife in the phaeton, on some pretended
errand of mercy, he gives me a careless bow, a nod. As he goes by my
den, on his way to invite her out to visit his sister or his church,
he makes no excuse, but passes jauntily, with a conversational pat for
the stupid watch-dog: that is all. It would be amusing, I say, if it
were not almost insufferable.

This afternoon, as Ellen was going out, I blankly suggested that she
should stay at home.

"But you are busy," she said--"always busy with your books and
experiments."

"Not too busy, my dear Nell, for a _tête-à-tête_ with you. Where are
you going? To the Vicarage?"

"Yes."

"To see the parson, or his sister?"

"Both. We have a great deal to discuss, about the designs for the new
stained-glass windows, which have just come from London."

"Very interesting; but they will keep for a day. I fancy I could show
you something quite as interesting, in my laboratory."

"I hate the laboratory," she cried, "and those horrible experiments."

"My dear, you should not hate what your husband loves."

"I don't mean that I hate them, quite; but I think them so useless!"

"More useless than stained-glass windows?"

"It is certainly not useless to beautify the House of God. Oh, I do
so wish you could feel as I do about these things! What is the world
without them?"

"Without stained-glass windows?" I suggested sarcastically.

She flushed impatiently.

"George, why have you such a dislike for religion? Why do you hate
everything I love?"

"Pardon me, my dear Nell, it was _you_, not I, that spoke of hating.
Philosophers never hate."

"But you do worse; you despise it. Thank God we have no children. It
would be horrible to tell them that their father forbade them to go to
church, or pray!"

It was like a stab into my heart of hearts, that cry of thanks to God.
Despite myself, I lost my composure. She saw it instantly, and in the
manner of her sex, encroached.

"Oh, George, do try to think sometimes of these things, for my sake!
You would be so much happier, you surely would have so much more
blessing, if you sometimes prayed."

"How do you know that I do not pray?"

"Because you do not believe."

"I do not believe precisely as your priest believes, that is all."

She looked at me eagerly; then, after a moments hesitation, cried--

"George, if I asked a favour, would you grant it?"

"Try."

"Let Mr. Santley come sometimes, and speak with you about God!"

This was too much, almost, for even me to bear with equanimity. I am
afraid I did not look particularly amiable as I answered, sharp and
short, turning from her--

"After all, I think you had better go and look at those designs."

"There, you are angry again!" she cried; and I knew by the sound of
her voice that her throat was choked with tears. "You are always angry
when I touch upon religion."

"You were not talking of religion," I retorted; "you were talking of
that man."

"Why do you dislike him so? Because he is a preacher of the Word?"

"Because he is a canting hypocrite, like all his tribe," I cried.

She saw that I had lost my temper, as was inevitable, and, sighing
deeply, moved to the door. I followed her with my eyes. I would have
given the world to call her back; to clasp her in my arms; to tell her
my aching fears; to promise her I would worship any God she choose, in
any place, in any way, so long as she would only be true, and answer
my eager impulse with a little love. But I was too proud for that.

"Then you are going?" I said.

She turned, looking at me very sadly.

"Yes, if you do not mind."

I shrugged my shoulders, and after another sad, reproachful look,
she left the room. A minute afterwards, she drove her ponies past the
window, without looking up.

_Thursday, September_ 15.--A golden autumn day, so warm and still
that it reminded me of the Indian summer. Not a leaf stirred, but the
insects in the air were like floating blossoms, and seemed to sleep
upon their wings. Even all round my den the shadows were sultry, and
intertangled with slumberous shafts of light.

This fine weather rather disappointed me, for I had arranged for
a day's recreation. In my youth, before I was caught myself in the
tedious snares of speculation, I used to be an ardent fisherman, and
I still retain sufficient knowledge of the gentle craft to cast a fly
tolerably. So, tired of work, and a little weary of my own thoughts, I
determined, for the first time, to take advantage of the permission my
neighbour, Lord --------, has given me, and spend a day upon the river
banks.

Despite the sunshine, and the absence of even a breath of wind, I
shouldered my basket, lifted my rod, and set off. Ellen was already
out and about; so I did not see her before I started. Taking a short
cut through the shrubberies, I soon came to the banks of the Emmet--as
pretty a little stream as ever rippled over golden sands, or reached
out an azure arm to turn some merry watermill. Arrived there, I soon
saw that it would be useless to try a cast till there was a little
wind; so, without putting my rod together, I strolled on along the
river-side, till I was several miles away from the Manor house.

The stream was rather low, but here and there were good deep pools,
but so calm, so sunny, that every overhanging tree, every finger of
fern, every blade of grass, was reflected in them as in a mirror.
Still, as the time was, the waters were full of life. Over the pools
hung clusters of flies like glittering spiders' webs, scarcely moving
in the sunshine; and when, from time to time, a trout rose, he leaped
a full foot into the golden air above him, and sank back to coolness
beneath an ever-widening ring of light. Sometimes from the grassy edge
of the bank a water-rat would slip, swimming rapidly across, with his
nose just lifted above the water, and his tail leaving a thin, bright
trail. Water-ouzels rose at every curve, following swiftly the winding
of the stream; and twice past my feet flashed a kingfisher, like an
azure ray.

The way lay sometimes through deep grassy meadows, sometimes by
the sides of corn-fields where the sheaves were already slanted,
oftentimes through thick shrubberies and woods already yellow with
the withering leaf. From time to time I passed a farm, with orchards
sloping down to the very water's edge, or pastures slanting down to
shallows where the cattle waded, breaking the water to silver streaks
and whisking their tails against the clustering swarms of gnats. It
was very pleasant and very still, but, from a fishing point of view,
exceedingly absurd.

By-and-by, however, a faint breeze began to touch the pools, and
putting my rod together, and selecting my finest casting-line and two
tiny flies, I tried a cast. Fortunately the wind was blowing
sunward, and as I faced the light, the shadow fell behind me; but,
nevertheless, the shadow of my rod flitted about at every cast, and
threatened to spoil my sport. My first catch was an innocent baby-fish
as big as my thumb, who came at the fly with a rush, and fought
desperately when hooked. When I had disengaged him, and put him back
into the water, he simply gave a flip of his little tail, and sailed
contemptuously and quite leisurely out of sight, making me call to
mind, with unusual humiliation, the well-known definition which Dr.
Johnson gave of angling--"a fish at one end of the line, and a fool at
the other," I had tried a good many, casts before I took my first
respectable fish--a trout of about half a pound. I caught him in a nice
broken bit of water, just below a quaint old water-mill; and just as I
put him into the basket, the portly miller came out to the granary
door, and looked at me with a dusty smile. He evidently thought me a
lunatic, to be out with a fishing-rod on such a day.

Half a mile further on I landed another glittering picture of at least
a quarter of a pound; after that, another of half a pound; then my
luck ceased, the wind fell, and it was full sunshine. By this time I
had wandered a good many miles from home, and reached the spot where
the river plunges into the Great Omberley woods. Here the stream was
so rapid and the boughs so thick, that it was useless to think of
casting; so I put up my rod, and, leaping over a fence, rambled away
into the woods.

How strange and dark and still it was, passing out of the sunshine
into those shadows, deep and cool as the bottom of the sea! The oak
trees stretched their gnarled boughs into the air, and all around them
were the lesser trees of the wood-willow, elder, blackthorn, ash, and
hazel. The ground beneath was carpeted with moss and grass as thick
and soft as velvet, with thick clusters of fern and bluebells round
the tree roots, and creepers dangling from every bough. And the wood,
like the river, was all alive! Conies tumbled across the patches of
light, and flitted in the shadow, like very elves of the woodland;
squirrels ran up the gnarled tree trunks; harmless silver snakes
glided along the moss; but here and there, swift and ominous, ran a
weazel, darting its head this way and that, and fiercely scenting the
air, in one eternal glitter and hurry of bloodthirsty emotion. Thrush,
blackbird, finch, birds without number, sang overhead; save when the
shadow of the wind-hover or the sparrow-hawk passed across the topmost
branches, when there was a sudden and respectful silence, to be
followed by a precipitate hurry of exultation, as the enemy passed
away.

If I had been a moralist, I might have seen in this wood a microcosm
of the world, with its abundant happiness, its beauty, and its dark
spots of moral ugliness and cruelty. In you, Signor Weazel (who
came so near that I touched you with my rod, which you snapped at
ferociously, before bolting swiftly into the deep grass), I might
have seen the likeness of a certain sleek creature of my own sex and
species, who dwells not very far away. Nevertheless, I let you go in
peace; which was no mercy to the conies, I suppose.

So I entered the Forest Primaeval--or such it seemed to me, as the
blaze of sunshine faded, the boughs thickened, the air became full of
dark shadows and ominous silence. My steps were now deep in grass and
fern, and the scent of flowers and weeds was thick in my nostrils,
but I chose a path where the boughs were thinnest, and quietly pushed
through. While thus I rambled, I suppose that I fell, philosopher
like, into a dream; at any rate, I seemed to lose all count of time.=

```"The world, the life of men, dissolved away

```Into a sense of dimness,"=

as some poet sings. I felt primaeval--archetypal so to speak, till a
sudden' shifting of the vegetable kaleidoscope recalled from thoughts
of Plato and the Archetype to a cruel consciousness of self.

I was moving slowly on, when I heard the sound of voices quite close
to me. I paused, listening, and only just in time, for in another
moment I should have been visible to the speakers. Well shrouded in
deep foliage, I looked out to discover what sylvan creatures were
disporting themselves in that lonely place; and I saw--what shall I
say? A nymph and a satyr? a dryad and a goatfooted Faun?

Just beyond me, there was a broad-green road through the woodland,
deeply carpeted with soft grass, but marked here and there with the
broad track of a wood-waggon; and on the side of this solitary road,
on a rude seat fashioned of two oaken stumps and a rough plank, the
nymph was sitting. She wore a light dress of some soft material,
a straw hat, a country cloak, and gloves of Paris kid--a civilized
nymph, as you perceive! To complete her modern appearance, she carried
a closed parasol, and a roll which looked like music.

How pretty she looked, with the warm light playing upon her delicate
features, and suffusing her form in its delicate drapery; with the
semi-transparent branches behind her, and flowers of the woodland at
her feet!



CHAPTER XXVII. THE NOTE-BOOK CONTINUED NYMPH AND SATYR.

|And the satyr? Ah! I knew him at a glance, despite the elegant modern
boots used to disguise the cloven foot.

He wore black broadcloth and snowy linen, too, and a broad-brimmed
clerical hat. His face was seraphically pale, but I saw (or fancied
I saw) the twinkle of the hairy ears of the ignoble, sensual,
nymph-compelling, naiad-pursuing breed.

He was talking earnestly, with gestures of eager entreaty; for the
nymph was crying, and he was offering her some kind of consolation.

Presently he sat down by her side, and threw his arms around her. She
disengaged herself from his embrace, and rose trembling to her feet.

"Don't touch me!" she cried. "That is all over now. I cannot bear it!"

He rose also, and stood regarding her, not with the rapturous eyes'
of a lover, but with a dark and gloomy gaze. Then he said, in a low
voice, something which I could not catch. But I heard her passionate
reply.

"No, it is all over," she cried; "and I shall never be at peace again.
Even, if you kept your word, it would be the same. You do not love me;
you never loved me--never!"

I crept a little closer, for I was anxious to hear his answer.

"I do love you, Edith; and after what has passed between us----"

She shrank away with a faint, despairing cry, and put her hand to her
face.

"After what has passed between us, do you think that my love can
change? But you are unjust to me, to yourself; too violent and too
hard to please. I do not like to be suspected, to be watched; and it
is painful to me, very painful, to be constantly called to an account
by you. It is not reasonable. Even as your husband, I would not bear
it; it would poison the peace between us, and convert our married life
into a simple hell!"

He paused; but her only answer was a sob of pain. So he sermonized on:

"Between man and woman, Edith, there should be solemn confidence and
trust. When that ceases, love is sure to cease. Why, look at me! My
trust in you is so absolute that no action of yours could shake it;
no matter how peculiar were the circumstances, I should be certain of
your faith, your goodness. That is true love--absolute, implicit faith
in the beloved object. I wish I could persuade you to imitate it."

"You know that you can trust me," sobbed the poor child, "because I
have: _proved_ my love."

"Have I not proved mine?" he cried, with irritation. "Have I not made
sacrifice upon sacrifice for your sake? Have I not remained here, in
this wretched country place, when I could have been promoted to other
and greater spheres of action? Have I not made you my companion, my
confidante, my nearest and dearest friend? Edith, why do you persist
in such accusations? What must I do to signify our attachment? Shall I
marry you at once? Speak the word, and although, as you know, it would
involve the ruin of all my worldly projects, I will do as you desire."

I had-heard enough to convince me that the affair under discussion
was no affair of mine, and that I had no right to continue playing the
spy; so I was drawing back as gently as possible, and about to return
the way I came, when I was suddenly arrested by the next words spoken.

"Give up Mrs. Haldane!"

I The nymph was the speaker. She stood with her wild eyes fixed upon
the other's face, which did not improve in beauty of expression. For
myself, I started, stung to the quick; then I returned, trembling, to
my place of espionage.

"Give up Mrs. Haldane!" repeated the girl. "I ask nothing more than
that. I will not force you to marry me, Charles, till it is for your
good; indeed, if I did, I know that we should be unhappy, and that you
would never forgive me. But you can at least cease to be so familiar
with Mrs. Haldane."

He had discovered by this time, I suppose, that the pleading mood
availed him little; at all events, he suddenly changed his tone, and
with a cry of angry indignation, he exclaimed--

"Edith, take care! I have told you that I will not suffer it! How dare
you suspect that lady! How dare you!"

And he stood towering over her (the satyr!) in the fulness of his
snowy shirtfront and the whiteness of his moral indignation.

"It is no use being angry," she returned, with a certain stubbornness,
though I could see that she was cowed, in the manner of gentle women,
by his violent physical passion. "After what you have told me, after
what I have seen----"

"Edith, again, take care!"

"You are always with her," she continued, "night-time and day-time. I
am amazed that Mr. Haldane does not notice it. It is the talk of the
place."

With another exclamation, he turned his back and walked rapidly away.

"Come back!" she cried hysterically. "If you leave like that, I will
drown myself in the river."

He returned and faced her.

"You will drive me mad!" he said. "I am sick of it. I am more like a
slave than a free man. You will not suffer me even to have a friend."

"She is more than a friend. You have told me yourself, that you loved
her."

"And so I did," he answered, "though of course she is nothing to me
_now_."

"Why are you always with her?"

"I am interested in her, deeply interested. She is unhappy with her
husband, and as a minister of the gospel----"

With her tearful, truthful eyes, fixed so earnestly upon him, no
wonder he paused and blushed.

"Charles, do not be a hypocrite! At least be honest. She is more to
you than a friend."

He raised his hands heavenward, in pulpit fashion, and protested.

"Edith, I swear to you before God, that there is nothing whatever
between us. She is a stainless lady, her husband does not understand
her, I am her spiritual friend and guide."

"Yes, Charles; I understand," she said, still earnestly watching him.
"_Justus you were mine!_"

I think it worth while to put that little sentence in italics. It was
a home stroke, and took away the satyr's breath.

"Edith, for shame!" he cried. "You know you do not mean what you say.
If I thought you meant it, I should break with you for ever. I
tell you again, Mrs. Haldane is above reproach, and it is simply
disgraceful to couple her name, in such a manner, with mine. And you
would infer, now, that I have influenced your own life for evil;
you would mock at my spiritual pretensions, and brand me as a base,
unworthy creature. Well, Edith, perhaps you are right. Perhaps I have
given you cause. I have shown you that I love you, beyond position,
beyond the world, beyond even my own self-respect, and this is my
return."

I could have sprung out and strangled the fellow, he was so cruel
and yet so plausible, so superbly selfish and yet so completely
self-deceiving; and I saw that with every word he uttered he gained a
fresh hold over the heart of the pretty fool who was listening. While
he spoke, she sobbed as if her little heart was ready to break; and
when he ceased, she eagerly held out her arms.

"Oh, Charles, don't say that! Don't say that my love has been a curse
to you!"

"You drive me to say it," he answered moodily; "you make me miserable
with your jealousy, your suspicion."

"Don't say that I make you miserable--don't!" she sobbed.

"You used to be so different," he continued, still preserving his tone
of moral injury; "you used to be so interested in my work, my daily
duties. Now, you do nothing but reproach me; and why? Because I have
found an old friend, who happens to be of your own sex, but who is far
above the folly of a meaningless flirtation, and who little deserves
the cruel slur you cast upon her. Am I, then, to have no friends, no
acquaintances? Is every step I take to be measured by the unreasoning
suspicion of a jealous woman?"

By this time she had put her arms about his neck, and was sobbing on
his breast.

"Oh, Charles, don't be so hard with me! It is all because I love
you--ah, so much!"

"But you should conquer these wicked feelings----"

"I try! I try!"

"You should have more confidence, more faith. You know how much I
care for you."

"Yes; but sometimes I feel afraid. Mrs. Haldane is so much cleverer,
so much more beautiful, than I am, and she was your first love. They
say men never love twice."

"That is nonsense, Edith."

"But you do love me, dear? you do?"

Ugh, the satyr! He answered her with kisses, straining her to his
heart and she, sobbing and clinging round him, was quite conquered.
I felt sick to see her at his mercy. Then their voices sank, and he
whispered, and I saw the bright blood mount to her cheek and brow.
But, alas! she did not shrink away any more.

Then whispering and kissing, with eyes of passion fixed upon one
another, they moved away, taking a lonely path into the woods beyond
me. My first impulse was to follow them, and to tear them asunder.
But after all, I reflected it was no affair of mine, and I knew now,
moreover, that nothing in the world would save her from him--or from
herself. .


END OF VOL. II.





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