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Title: A Life for a Life, Volume III (of III)
Author: Craik, Dinah Maria Mulock
Language: English
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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 "A Life for a Life, Volume III (of III)" ***

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A LIFE FOR A LIFE

By Dinah Maria Craik

The Author Of "John Halifax, Gentleman," "A Woman's Thoughts About
Women," &c., &c.

In Three Volumes. Vol. III.

London: Hurst And Blackett, Publishers,

1859


CHAPTER I. HER STORY.


|Many, many weeks, months indeed have gone by since I opened this my
journal. Can I bear the sight of it even now? Yes; I think I can.

I have been sitting ever so long at the open window, in my old attitude,
elbow on the sill; only with a difference that seems to come natural
now, when no one is by. It is such a comfort to sit with my lips on my
ring. I asked him to give me a ring, and he did so. Oh! Max, Max, Max!

Great and miserable changes have befallen us, and now Max and I are
not going to be married. Penelope's marriage also has been temporarily
postponed, for the same reason, though I implored her not to tell it
to Francis, unless he should make very particular inquiries, or be
exceedingly angry at the delay. He was not. Nor did we judge it well to
inform Lisabel. Therefore, papa, Penelope, and I, keep our own secret.

Now that it is over, the agony of it smothered up, and all at Rockmount
goes on as heretofore, I sometimes wonder, do strangers, or intimates,
Mrs. Granton for instance, suspect anything? Or is ours, awful as it
seems, no special and peculiar lot? Many another family may have its
own lamentable secret, the burthen of which each member has to bear, and
carry in society a cheerful countenance, even as this of mine.

Mrs. Granton said yesterday, mine was "a cheerful countenance." If so, I
am glad. Two things only could really have broken my heart--his ceasing
to love me, and his changing so in _himself_, not in his circumstances,
that I could no longer worthily love him. By "him," I mean, of course
Max. Max Urquhart, my betrothed husband, whom henceforward I can never
regard in any other light.

How blue the hills are, how bright the moors! So they ought to be, for
it is near midsummer. By this day fortnight--Penelope's marriage-day--we
shall have plenty of roses. All the better; I would not like it to be
a dull wedding, though so quiet; only the Trehernes and Mrs. Granton as
guests, and me for the solitary bridesmaid.

"Your last appearance I hope, Dora, in that capacity," laughed the
dear old lady. "'Thrice a bridesmaid, ne'er a bride,' which couldn't be
thought of, you know. No need to speak--I guess why your wedding isn't
talked about yet.--The old story, man's pride, and woman's patience.
Never mind. Nobody knows anything but me, and I shall keep a quiet
tongue in the matter. Least said is soonest mended. All will come right
soon, when the Doctor is a little better off in the world."

I let her suppose so. It is of little moment what she or anybody thinks,
so that it is nothing ill of him.

"Thrice a bridesmaid, never a bride." Even so. Yet, would I change lots
with our bride Penelope, or any other bride? No.

Now that my mind has settled to its usual level; has had time to view
things calmly, to satisfy itself that nothing could have been done
different from what has been done; I may, at last, be able to detail
these events. For both Max's sake and my own, it seems best to do
it, unless I could make up my mind to destroy my whole journal. An
unfinished record is worse than none. During our lifetimes we shall both
preserve our secret; but many a chance brings dark things to light; and
I have my Max's honour to guard, as well as my own.

This afternoon, papa being out driving, and Penelope gone to town to
seek for a maid, whom the Governor's lady will require to take out with
her--they sail a month hence--I shall seize the opportunity to write
down what has befallen Max and me.

My own poor Max! But my lips are on his ring; this hand is as safely
kept for him as when he first held it in his breast.

Let me turn back a page, and see where it was I left off writing my
journal.

*****

I did so; and it was more than I could bear at the time. I have had to
take another day for this relation, and even now it is bitter enough to
recall the feelings with which I put my pen by, so long ago, waiting for
Max to come in "at any minute."

I waited ten days; not unhappily, though the last two were somewhat
anxious, but it was simply lest anything might have gone wrong with him
or his affairs. As for his neglecting or "treating me ill," as Penelope
suggested, such a thought never entered my head. How could he treat me
ill?--he loved me.

The tenth day, which was the end of the term he had named for his
journey, I of course fully expected him.' I knew if by any human power
it could be managed, I should see him; he never would break his word.
I rested on his love as surely as in waking from that long sick swoon I
had rested on his breast. I knew he would be tender over me, and not let
me suffer one more hour's suspense or pain that he could possibly avoid.

It may here seem strange that I had never asked Max where he was going,
nor anything of the business he was going upon. Well, that was his
secret, the last secret that was ever to be between us; so I chose not
to interfere with it, but to wait his time. Also, I did not fret much
about it, whatever it was. He loved me. People who have been hungry
for love, and never had it all their lives, can understand the utterly
satisfied contentment of this one feeling--Max loved me.

At dusk, after staying in all day, I went out, partly because Penelope
wished it, and partly for health's sake. I never lost a chance of
getting strong now. My sister and I walked along silently, each thinking
of her own affairs, when, at a turn in the road which led, not from
the camp, but from the moorlands, she cried out, "I do believe there is
Doctor Urquhart."

If he had not heard his name, I think he would have passed us without
knowing us. And the face that met mine, when he looked up--I never shall
forget it to my dying day.

It made me shrink back for a minute, and then I said:--

"Oh! Max, have you been ill?"

"I do not know. Yes--possibly."

"When did you come back?"

"I forget--oh! four days ago."

"Were you coming to Rockmount?"

"Rockmount?--oh! no." He shuddered, and dropped my hand.

"Doctor Urquhart seems in a very uncertain frame of mind," said
Penelope, severely, from the other side the road. "We had better leave
him. Come, Dora."

She carried me off, almost forcibly. She was exceedingly displeased.
Four days, and never to have come or written! She said it was slighting
me and insulting the family.

"A man, too, of whose antecedents and connections we knew nothing. He
may be a mere adventurer--a penniless Scotch adventurer; Francis always
said he was."

"Francis is--" But I could not stay to speak of him, or to reply to
Penelope's bitter words. All I thought was how to get back to Max, and
entreat him to tell me what had happened. He would tell _me_. He loved
_me_. So, without any feeling of "proper pride," as Penelope called it,
I writhed myself out of her grasp, ran hack to Doctor Urquhart, and took
possession of his arm, my arm, which I had a right to.

"Is that you, Theodora?"

"Yes, it is I." And then I said, I wanted him to go home with me, and
tell me what had happened.

"Better not; better go home with your sister."

"I had rather stay here. I mean to stay here."

He stopped, took both my hands, and forced a smile:--"You are the
determined little lady you always were; but you do not know what you are
saying. You had better go and leave me."

I was sure then some great misery was approaching us. I tried to read
it in his face. "Do you--" did he still love me; I was about to ask, but
there was no need. So my answer, too, was brief and plain.

"I never will leave you as long as I live."

Then I ran back to Penelope, and told her I should walk home with Doctor
Urquhart; he had something to say to me. She tried anger and authority.
Both failed. If we had been summer lovers it might have been different,
but now in his trouble I seemed to feel Max's right to me and my
love, as I had never done before. Penelope might have lectured for
everlasting, and I should only have listened, and then gone back to
Max's side. As I did.

His arm pressed mine close; he did not say a second time, "Leave me."

"Now, Max, I want to hear."

No answer.

"You know there is something, and we shall never be quite happy till it
is told. Say it outright; whatever it is, I shall not mind."

No answer.

"Is it something very terrible?"

"Yes."

"Something that might come between and part us?"

"Yes."

I trembled, though not much, having so strong a belief in the
impossibility of parting. Yet there must have been an expression I
hardly intended in the cry "Oh, Max, tell me," for he again stopped
suddenly, and seemed to forget himself in looking at and thinking of me.

"Stay, Theodora,--you have something to tell _me_ first. Are you better?
Have you been growing stronger daily? You are sure?"

"Quite sure. Now--tell me."

He tried to speak once or twice, vainly. At last he said:--

"I--I wrote you a letter."

"I never got it."

"No; I did not mean you should until my death. But my mind has changed.
You shall have it now. I have carried it about with me, on the chance of
meeting you, these four days. I wanted to give it to you--and--to look
at you. Oh, my child, my child."

After a little while, he gave me the letter, begging me not to open it
till I was alone at night.

"And if it should shock you--break your heart?"

"Nothing will break my heart."

"You are right, it is too pure and good. God will not suffer it to be
broken. Now, good-bye."

For we had reached the gate of Bock-mount. It had never struck me before
that I had to bid him adieu here, that he did not mean to go in with
me to dinner; and when he refused, I felt it very much. His only answer
was, for the second time, "that I did not know what I was saying."

It was now nearly dark, and so misty that I could hardly breathe. Doctor
Urquhart insisted on my going in immediately, tied my veil close under
my chin, and then hastily untied it.

"Love, do you love me?"

He has told me afterwards, he forgot then for the time being, every
circumstance that was likely to part us; everything in the whole world
but me. And I trust I was not the only one who felt that it is those
alone who? loving as we did, are everything to one another who have most
strength to part.

When I came indoors, the first person I met was papa, looking quite
bright and pleased; and his first question was:--

"Where is Doctor Urquhart? Penelope said Doctor Urquhart was coming
here."

I hardly know what was done during that evening, or whether they blamed
Max or not.

All my care was how best to keep his secret, and literally to obey him
concerning it.

Of course, I never named his letter, nor made any attempt to read it
till I had bidden good night to them all, and smiled at Penelope's
grumbling over my long candles and my large fire, "as if I meant to sit
up all night." Yes, I had taken all these precautions in a quiet, solemn
kind of way, for I did not know what was before me, and I must not fall
ill if I could help. I was Max's own personal property.

How cross she was that night, poor Penelope! It was the last time she
has ever scolded me.

For some things, Penelope has felt this more than anyone could, except
papa, for she is the only one of us who has a clear recollection of
Harry.

Now, his name is written, and I can tell it--the awful secret I learned
from Max's letter, which no one except me must ever read.

My Max killed Harry. Not intentionally--when he was out of himself and
hardly accountable for what he did; in a passion of boyish fury, roused
by great cruelty and wrong; but--he killed him. My brother's death,
which we believed to be accidental, was by Max's hand.

I write this down calmly, now; but it was awful at the time. I think I
must have read on mechanically, expecting something sad, and about Harry
likewise; I soon guessed that bad man at Salisbury must have been poor
Harry--but I never guessed anything near the truth till I came to the
words "I _murdered_ him."

To suppose one feels a great blow acutely at the instant is a
mistake--it stuns rather than wounds. Especially when it comes in a
letter, read in quiet and alone, as I read Max's letter that night.
And--as I remember afterwards seeing in some book, and thinking how true
it was--it is strange how soon a great misery grows familiar. Waking up
from the first few minutes of total bewilderment, I seemed to have been
aware all these twenty years that my Max killed Harry.

O Harry, my brother, whom I never knew--no more than any stranger in
the street, and the faint memory of whom was mixed with an indefinite
something of wickedness, anguish, and disgrace to us all, if I felt not
as I ought, then or afterwards, forgive me. If, though your sister, I
thought less of you dead than of my living Max--my poor, poor Max, who
had borne this awful burthen for twenty years--Harry, forgive me!

Well, I knew it--as an absolute fact and certainty--though as one often
feels with great personal misfortunes, at first I could not realize it.
Gradually I became fully conscious what an overwhelming horror it was,
and what a fearful retributive justice had fallen upon papa and us all.

For there were some things I had not myself known till this spring, when
Penelope, in the fullness of her heart at leaving us, talked to me a
good deal of old childish days, and especially about Harry.

He was a spoiled child. His father never said him nay in
anything--never, from the time when he sat at table, in his own
ornamental chair, and drank champagne out of his own particular glass,
lisping toasts that were the great amusement of everybody. He never knew
what contradiction was, till, at nineteen, he fell in love, and wanted
to get married, and would have succeeded, for they eloped, (as I believe
papa and Harry's mother had done), but papa prevented them in time. The
girl, some village lass, but she might have had a heart nevertheless,
broke it, and died. Then Harry went all wrong.

Penelope remembers, how, at times, a shabby, dissipated man used to meet
us children out walking, and kiss us and the nurserymaids all round,
saying he was our brother Harry. Also, how he used to lie in wait for
papa coming out of church, follow him into his library, where, after
fearful scenes of quarrelling, Harry would go away jauntily, laughing
to us, and bowing to mamma, who always showed him out and shut the door
upon him with a face as white as a sheet.

My sister also remembers papa's being suddenly called away from home for
a day or two, and, on his return, our being all put into mourning, and
told that it was for brother Harry, whom we must never speak of any
more. And once, when she was saying her geography lesson, and wanted
to go and ask papa some questions about Stonehenge and Salisbury, mamma
stopped her, saying she must take care never to mention these places to
papa, for that poor Harry--she called him so now--had died miserably by
an accident, and been buried at Salisbury.

She died the same year, and soon afterwards we came to Rockmount, living
handsomely upon grandfather's money, and proud that we had already begun
to call ourselves Johnston. Oh, me, what wicked falsehoods poor Harry
told about his "family." Him we never again named; not one of our
neighbours here ever knew that we had a brother.

The first shock over, hour after hour of that long night I sat, trying
by any means to recall him to mind, my father's son, my own flesh and
blood--at least by the half-blood--to pity him, to feel as I ought
concerning his death, and the one who caused it. But do as I would, my
thoughts went back to Max--as they might have done, even had he not been
my own Max--out of deep compassion for one who, not being a premeditated
and hardened criminal, had suffered for twenty years the penalty of this
single crime.

It was such, I knew. I did not attempt to palliate it, or justify him.
Though poor Harry was worthless, and Max is--what he is--that did not
alter the question. I believe, even then, I did not disguise from myself
the truth--that my Max had committed, not a fault, but an actual crime.
But I called him my Max still. It was the only word that saved me, or I
might, as he feared, have "broken my heart."

The whole history of that dreadful night, there is no need I should tell
to any human being; even Max himself will never know it. God knows it,
and that is enough. By my own strength, I never should have kept my life
or reason till the morning.

But it was necessary, and it was better far that I should have gone
through this anguish alone, guided by no outer influence, and sustained
only by that Strength which always comes in seasons like these.

I seem, while stretched on the rack of those long night hours, to have
been led by some supernatural instinct into the utmost depths of human
and divine justice, human and divine love, in search of _the right_.
At last I saw it, clung to it, and have found it my rock of hope ever
since.

When the house below began to stir, I put out my candle, and stood
watching the dawn creep over the grey moorlands, just as on the morning
when we had sat up all night with my father--Max and I. How fond my
father was of him--my poor, poor father!

The horrible conflict and confusion of mind came back. I felt as if
right and wrong were inextricably mixed together, laying me under a sort
of moral paralysis, out of which the only escape was madness. Then out
of the deeps I cried unto Thee: O Thou whose infinite justice includes
also infinite forgiveness; and Thou heardest me.

"_When the wicked man turneth away from his wickedness that he hath
committed, and doeth that which is lawful and right, he shall save his
soul alive?_"

I remembered these words: and unto Thee I trusted my Max's soul.

It was daylight now, and the little birds began waking up, one by
one, until they broke into a perfect chorus of chirping and singing.
I thought, was ever grief like this of mine? Yes--one grief would have
been worse--if, this sunny summer morning, I knew he had ceased to love
me, and I to believe in him--if I had lost him--never either in this
world or the next, to find him more.

After a little, I thought if I could only go to sleep, though but for
half an hour--it would be well. So I undressed and laid myself down,
with Max's letter tight hidden in my hands.

Sleep came; but it ended in dreadful dreams, out of which I awoke,
screaming, to see Penelope standing by my bedside, with my breakfast.

Now, I had already laid my plans--to tell my father all. For he must be
told. No other alternative presented itself to me as possible--nor, I
knew, would it to Max. When two people are thoroughly one, each guesses
instinctively the other's mind; in most things always in all great
things, for one faith and love includes also one sense of right. I was
as sure as I was of my existence that Max meant my father to be told.
Not even to make me happy would he have deceived me--and not even that
we might be married, would he consent that we should deceive my father.

Thus, that my father must be told, and that I must tell him, was a
matter settled and clear--but I never considered about how far must
be explained to anyone else, till I saw Penelope stand there with her
familiar household face, half cross, half alarmed.

"Why, child, what on earth is the matter? Here are you, staring as if
you were out of your senses--and there is Doctor Urquhart, who has been
haunting the place like a ghost ever since daylight. I declare, I'll
send for him and give him a piece of my mind."

"Don't, don't," I gasped, and all the horror returned--vivid as daylight
makes any new anguish. Penelope soothed me--with the motherliness that
had come over since I was ill, and the gentleness that had grown up in
her since she had been happy, and Francis loving. My miserable heart
yearned to her, a woman like myself--a good woman, too, though I did not
appreciate her once, when I was young and foolish, and had never known
care, as she had. How it came out I cannot tell--I have never regretted
it--nor did Max, for I think it saved my heart from breaking--but I then
and there told my sister Penelope our dreadful story.

I see her still, sitting on the bed, listening with blanched face,
gazing, not at me, but at the opposite wall. She made no outcry of
grief, or horror against Max. She took all in a subdued, quiet way,
which I had not expected would have been Penelope's passion of bearing a
great grief. She hardly said anything, till I cried with a bitter cry:--

"Now I want Max. Let me rise and go down, for I must see Max."

Then we two women looked at one another pitifully, and my sister, my
happy sister who was to be married in a fortnight, took me in her arms,
sobbing,

"Oh, Dora, my poor, poor child."

All this seems years upon years ago, and I can relate it calmly enough,
till I call to mind that sob of Penelope's.

Well, what happened next? I remember, Penelope came in when I was
dressing, and told me, in her ordinary manner, that papa wished her to
drive with him to the Cedars this morning. "Shall I go, Dora?"

"Yes."

"Perhaps you will see _him_ in our absence."

"I intend so."

She turned, then came back and kissed me. I suppose she thought this
meeting between Max and me would be an eternal farewell. The carriage
had scarcely driven off, when I received a message that Doctor Urquhart
was in the parlour.

Harry--Harry, twenty years dead--my own brother killed by my husband!
Let me acknowledge. Had I known this _before_ he was my betrothed
husband, chosen open-eyed, with all my judgment, my conscience, and my
soul, loved, not merely because he loved me, but because I loved him,
honoured him, and trusted him, so that even marriage could scarcely
make us more entirely one than we were already--had I been aware of
this before, I might not, indeed I think I never should have loved him.
Nature would have instinctively prevented me. But now it was too late.
I loved him, and I could not unlove him: Nature herself forbade the
sacrifice. It would have been like tearing my heart out of my bosom; he
was half myself--and maimed of him, I should never have been my right
self afterwards. Nor would he. Two living lives to be blasted for one
that was taken unwittingly twenty years ago! Could it--ought it so to
be?

The rest of the world are free to be their own judges in the matter; but
God and my conscience are mine.

I went downstairs steadfastly, with my mind all clear. Even to the last
minute, with my hand on the parlor-door, my heart--where all throbs
of happy love seemed to have been long, long forgotten--my still heart
prayed.

Max was standing by the fire--he turned round. He, and the whole
sunshiny room swam before my eyes for an instant,--then I called up my
strength and touched him. He was trembling all over.

"Max, sit down." He sat down.

I knelt by him. I clasped his hands close, but still he sat as if he had
been a stone. At last he muttered:--

"I wanted to see you, just once more, to know how you bore it--to be
sure I had not killed you also--oh, it is horrible, horrible!"

I said it was horrible--but that we would be able to bear it.

"We?"

"Yes--we."

"You cannot mean _that?_"

"I do. I have thought it all over, and I do." Holding me at arm's
length, his eyes questioned my inmost soul.

"Tell me the truth. It is not pity--not merely pity, Theodora?"

"Ah, no, no!"

Without another word--the first crisis was past--everything which made
our misery a divided misery.--He opened his arms and took me once more
into my own place--where alone I ever really rested, or wish to rest
until I die.

Max had been very ill, he told me, for days, and now seemed both in body
and mind as feeble as a child. For me, my childishness or girlishness,
with its ignorance and weakness, was gone for evermore.

I have thought since, that in all women's deepest loves, be they ever so
full of reverence, there enters sometimes much of the motherly element,
even as on this day I felt as if I were somehow or other in charge of
Max, and a great deal older than he. I fetched a glass of water, and
made him drink it--bathed his poor temples and wiped them with my
handkerchief--persuaded him to lean back quietly and not speak another
word for ever so long. But more than once, and while his head lay on my
shoulder, I thought of his mother, my mother who might have been--and
how, though she had left him so many years, she must, if she knew of all
he had suffered, be glad to know there was at last one woman found who
would, did Heaven permit, watch over him through life, with the double
love of both wife and mother, and who, in any case, would be faithful to
him till death.

Faithful till death. Yes,--I here renewed that vow, and had Harry
himself come and stood before me, I should have done the same. Look you,
any one who after my death may read this;--there are two kinds of love,
one, eager only to get its desire, careless of all risks and costs,
in defiance almost of Heaven and earth; the other, which in its most
desperate longing has strength to say, "If it be right and for our
good--if it be according to the will of God." This only, I think, is the
true and consecrated love, which therefore is able to be faithful till
death.

Max and I never once spoke about whether or not we should be married--we
left all that in Higher hands. We only felt we should always be true
to one another--and that, being what we were, and loving as we did, God
himself could not will that any human will or human justice should put
us asunder.

This being clear, we set ourselves to meet what was before us. I told
him poor Harry's history, so far as I knew it myself; afterwards we
began to consider how best the truth could be broken to my father.

And here let me confess something, which Max has long forgiven, but
which I can yet hardly forgive myself. Max said, "And when your father
is told, he shall decide what next is to be."

"How do you mean?" I cried.

"If he requires atonement, he must have it, even at the hands of the
law."

Then, for the first time, it struck me that, though Max was safe so
long as he made no confession, for the peculiar circumstances of Harry's
death left no other evidence against him, still, this confession once
public (and it was, for had I not told Penelope?) his reputation,
liberty, life itself, were in the hands of my sister and my father. A
horror as of death fell upon me. I clung to him who was my all in this
world, dearer to me than father, mother, brother, or sister; and I urged
that we should both, then and there, fly--escape together anywhere, to
the very ends of the earth, out of reach of justice and my father.

I must have been almost beside myself before I thought of such a thing.
I hardly knew all it implied, until Max gravely put me from him.

"It cannot be you who says this. Not Theodora."

And suddenly, as unconnected and even incongruous things will flash
across one in times like these, I called to mind the scene in my
favourite play, when, the alternative being life or honour, the woman
says to her lover, "_No, die!_" Little I dreamed of ever having to say
to my Max almost the same words.

I said them, kneeling by him, and imploring his pardon for having wished
him to do such a thing even for his safety and my happiness.

"We could not have been happy, child," he said, smoothing my hair, with
a sad, fond smile. "You do not know what it is to have a secret weighing
like lead upon your soul. Mine feels lighter now than it has done for
years. Let us decide: what hour to-night shall I come here and tell your
father?" Saying this, Max turned white to the very lips, but still he
comforted me.

"Do not be afraid, my child. I am not afraid. Nothing can be worse than
what has been--to me. I was a coward once, but then I was only a boy,
hardly able to distinguish right from wrong. Now I see that it would
have been better to have told the whole truth at once, and taken all
the punishment. It might not have been death, or if it were, I could but
have died."

"Max, Max!"

"Hush!" and he closed my lips so that they could not moan. "The truth is
better than life, better even than a good name. When your father knows
the truth, all else will be clear. I shall abide by his decision,
whatever it be; he has a right to it. Theodora," his voice faltered,
"make him understand, some day, that if I had married you, he never
should have wanted a son,--your poor father."

These were almost the last words Max said on this, the last hour that
we were together by ourselves. For minutes and minutes he held me in
his arms, silently; and I shut my eyes, and felt, as if in a dream, the
sunshine and the flower-scents, and the loud singing of the two canaries
in Penelope's greenhouse. Then,-with one kiss, he put me down softly
from my place, and left me alone.

I have been alone ever since; God only, knows _how_ alone.

The rest I cannot tell to-day.



CHAPTER II. HIS STORY.


|This is the last, probably, of those "letters never sent," which may
reach you one day; when or how, we know not. All that is, is best.

You say you think it advisable that there should be an accurate written
record of all that passed between your family and myself on the
final day of parting, in order that no further conduct of mine may be
misconstrued or misjudged. Be it so. My good name is worth preserving;
for it must never be any disgrace to you that Max Urquhart loved you.

Since this record is to be minute and literal, perhaps it will be better
I should give it impersonally, as a statement rather than a letter.

On February 9th, 1857, I went to Rockmount, to see Theodora Johnston,
for the first time after she was aware that I had, long ago, taken the
life of her half-brother, Henry Johnston, not intentionally, but in a
fit of drunken rage. I came, simply to look at her dear face once more,
and to ask her in what way her father would best bear the shock of this
confession of mine, before I took the second step of surrendering myself
to justice, or of making atonement in any other way that Mr. Johnston
might choose. To him and his family my life was owed, and I left them to
dispose of it or of me in any manner they thought best.

With these intentions, I went to Theodora. I knew her well. I felt sure
she would pity me, that she would not refuse me her forgiveness, before
our eternal separation; that though the blood upon my hands was half
her own, she would not judge me the less justly, or mercifully, or
Christianly. As to a Christian woman, I came to her--as I had come once
before, in a question of conscience; also, as to the woman who had been
my friend, with all the rights and honours of that name, before she
became to me anything more and dearer. And I was thankful that the
lesser tie had been included in the greater, so that both need not be
entirely swept away and disannulled.

I found not only my friend, upon whom, above all others, I could depend,
but my own, my love, the woman above all women who was mine; who, loving
me before this blow fell, clung to me still, and believing that God
Himself had joined us together suffered nothing to put us asunder.

How she made me comprehend this I shall not relate, as it concerns
ourselves alone. When at last I knelt by her and kissed her blessed
hands--my saint! and yet all woman, and all my own--I felt that my sin
was covered, that the All-merciful had had mercy upon me. That while,
all these years, I had followed miserably my own method of atonement,
denying myself all life's joys, and cloaking myself with every possible
ray of righteousness I could find, He had suddenly led me by another
way, sending this child's love, first to comfort and then, to smite me,
that, being utterly bruised, broken, and humbled, I might be made whole.

Now, for the first time, I felt like a man to whom there is a
possibility of being made whole. Her father might hunt me to death, the
law might lay hold on me, the fair reputation under which I had shielded
myself might be torn and scattered to the winds; but for all that I was
safe, I was myself, the true Max Urquhart, a grievous sinner; yet no
longer unforgiven or hopeless.

"_I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance_."

That line struck home. Oh, that I could strike it home to every
miserable heart as it went to mine. Oh! that I could carry into the
utmost corners of the earth the message, the gospel which Dallas
believed in, the only one which has power enough for the redemption of
this sorrowful world--the gospel of the forgiveness and remission of
sins.

While she talked to me--this my saint, Theodora--Dallas himself might
have spoken, apostle-like, through her lips. She said, when I listened
in wonder to the clearness of some of her arguments, that she hardly
knew how they had come into her mind, they seemed to come of themselves;
but they were there, and she was _sure_ they were true. She was sure,
she added, reverently, that if the Christ of Nazareth were to pass by
Rockmount door this day, the only word He would say unto me, after all I
had done, would be:--"Thy sins are forgiven thee--rise up and walk."

And I did so. I went out of the house an altered man. My burthen of
years had been lifted off me for ever and ever. I understood something
of what is meant by being "born again." I could dimly guess at what they
must have felt-who sat at the Divine feet, clothed and in their right
mind, or who, across the sunny plains of Galilee, leaped, and walked,
and ran, praising God.

I crossed the moorland, walking erect, with eyes fixed on the blue sky,
my heart tender and young as a child's. I even stopped, child-like, to
pluck a stray primrose under a tree in a lane, which had peeped out, as
if it wished to investigate how soon spring would come. It seemed to me
so pretty--I might never have seen a primrose since I was a boy.

Let me relate the entire truth--she wishes it. Strange as it may appear,
though hour by hour brought nearer the time when I had fixed to be at
Rockmount, to confess unto a father that I had been the slayer of his
only son--still that day was not an unhappy day. I spent it chiefly out
of doors on the moorlands, near a way-side public-house, where I had
lodged some nights, drinking in large draughts of the beauty of this
external world, and feeling even outer life sweet, though nothing to
that renewed life which I now should never lose again. Never--even if
I had to go next day to prison and trial, and stand before the world
a convicted homicide. Nay, I believe I could have mounted the scaffold
amidst those gaping thousands that were once my terror, and die
peacefully in spite of them, feeling no longer either guilty or afraid.

So much for myself, which will explain a good deal that followed in the
interview which I have now to relate.

Theodora had wished to save me by herself, explaining all to her father;
but I would not allow this, and at length she yielded. However, things
fell out differently from both our intentions: he learned it first from
his daughter Penelope. The moment I entered his study I was certain Mr.
Johnston knew.

Let no sinner, however healed, deceive himself that his wound will never
smart again. He is not instantly made a new man of, whole and sound: he
must grow gradually, even through many a returning pang, into health
and cure. If anyone thinks I could stand in the presence of that old man
without an anguish sharp as death, which made me for the moment wish I
had never been born, he is mistaken.

But alleviations came. The first was to see the old man sitting there
alive and well, though evidently fully aware of the truth, and having
been so for some time, for his countenance was composed, his tea was
placed beside him on the table, and there was an open Bible before him,
in which he had been reading. His voice, too, had nothing unnatural
or alarming in it, as, without looking at me, he bade the maid-servant
"give Doctor Urquhart a chair and say, if anyone interrupted, that we
were particularly engaged." So the door was shut upon us, leaving us
face to face.

But it was not long before he raised his eyes to him. It is enough, once
in a lifetime, to have borne such a look.

"Mr. Johnston,"--but he shut his ears.

"Do not speak," he said; "what you have come to tell me I know already.
My daughter told me this morning. And I have been trying ever since to
find out what my church says to the shedder of blood; what she would
teach a father to say to the murderer of his child. My Harry, my only
son! And you murdered him!"

Let the words which followed be sacred. If in some degree they were
unjust, and overstepped the truth, let me not dare to murmur. I believe
the curses he heaped upon me in his own words and those of the Holy
Book, will not come, for its other and diviner words, which his daughter
taught me, stand as a shield between me and him. I repeated them to
myself in my silence, and so I was able to endure.

When he paused and commanded me to speak, I answered only a few words,
namely, that I was here to offer my life for his son's life; that he
might do with me what he would.

"Which means, that I should give you up to justice, have you tried,
condemned, executed. You, Doctor Urquhart, whom the world thinks so well
of. I might live to see you hanged."

His eyes glared, his whole frame was convulsed. I entreated him to
calm himself, for his own health's sake, and the sake of his children.

"Yes, I will. Old as I am, this shall not kill me. I will live to exact
retribution. My boy, my poor murdered Harry--murdered--murdered."

He kept repeating and dwelling on the word, till at length I said:--

"If you know the whole truth, you must be aware that I had no intention
to murder him."

"What, you extenuate? You wish to escape? But you shall not. I will have
you arrested now, in this very house."

"Be it so, then."

And I sat down.

So, the end had come. Life, and all its hopes, all its work, were over
for me. I saw, as in a second of time, everything that was coming--the
trial, the conviction, the newspaper clatter over my name, my ill deeds
exaggerated, my good deeds pointed at with the finger of scorn, which
perhaps was the keenest agony of all--save one.

"Theodora!"

Whether I uttered her name, or only thought it, I cannot tell. However,
it brought her. I felt she was in the room, though she stood by her
sister's side, and did not approach me.

Again, I repeat, let no man say that sin does not bring its wages, which
_must_ be paid. Whosoever doubts it, I would he could sit as I sat,
watching the faces of father and daughters, and thinking of the dead
face which lay against my knee, that midnight, on Salisbury plain.

"Children," I heard Mr. Johnston saying, "I have sent for you to be my
witnesses in what I am about to do. Not out of personal revenge--which
were unbecoming a clergyman--but because God and man exact retribution
for blood. There is the man who murdered Harry. Though he were the
best friend I ever had, though I esteemed him ever so much, which I
did,--still, discovering this, I must have retribution.

"How, father?" Not _her_ voice, but her sister's. .

Let me do full justice to Penelope Johnston. Though it was she who told
my secret to her father, she did it out of no malice. As I afterwards
learnt, chance led their conversation into such a channel, that she
could only escape betraying the truth by a direct lie. And with all her
harshnesses, the prominent feature of her character is its truthfulness,
or rather its abhorrence of falsehood. Nay, her fierce scorn of any kind
of duplicity is such, that she confounds the crime with the criminal,
and, once deceived, never can forgive,--as in the matter of Lydia
Cartwright, my acquaintance with which gave me this insight into Miss
Johnston's peculiarity.

Thus, though it fell to her lot to betray my confession, I doubt not she
did so with most literal accuracy; acting towards me neither as a friend
nor foe, but simply as a relater of facts. Nor was there any personal
enmity towards me in her question to her father.

It startled him a little.

"How did you say? By the law, I conclude. There is no other way."

"And if so, what will be the result? I mean what will be done to him?"

"I cannot tell--how should I?"

"Perhaps I can; for I have thought over and studied the question all
day," answered Miss Johnston, still in the same cold, clear, impartial
voice. "He will be tried, of course. I find from your 'Taylor on
Evidence,' father, that a man can be tried and convicted, solely on his
own confession. But in this case, there being no corroborating proof,
and all having happened so long ago, it will scarcely prove a
capital crime. I believe no jury would give a stronger verdict than
manslaughter. He will be imprisoned, or transported beyond seas; where,
with his good character, he will soon work his liberty, and start afresh
in another country, in spite of us. This, I think, is the common-sense
view of the matter."

Astonished as Mr. Johnston looked, he made no reply.

His daughter continued:--

"And for this, you and we shall have the credit of having had arrested
in our own house, a man who threw himself on our mercy, who, though he
concealed, never denied his guilt; who never deceived us in any way.
The moment he discovered the whole truth, dreadful as it was, he never
shirked it, nor hid it from us; but told us outright, risking all the
consequences. A man, too, against whom, in his whole life, we can prove
but this one crime."

"What, do you take his part?"

"No," she said; "I wish he had died before he set foot in this
house--for I remember Harry. But I see also that after all this lapse of
years Harry is not the only person whom we ought to remember."

"I remember nothing but the words of this Book," cried the old man,
letting his hand drop heavily upon it. "'Whoso sheddeth man's blood,
by man shall his blood be shed.' What have you to say for yourself,
_murderer?_"

All this time, faithful to her promise to me, she had not
interfered--she, my love, who loved me; but when she heard him call me
_that_, she shivered all over, and looked towards me. A pitiful,
entreating look, but, thank God, there was no doubt in it--not the
shadow of change. It nerved me to reply, what I will here record, by her
desire and for her sake.

"Mr. Johnston, I have this to say. It is written,--'Whoso hateth his
brother is a murderer,' and in that sense, I am one,--for I did hate him
at the time; but I never meant to kill him--and the moment afterwards I
would have given my life for his. If now, my death could restore him to
you, alive again, how willingly I would die."

"Die, and face your Maker? an unpardoned man-slayer, a lost soul?"

"Whether I live or die," said I, humbly, "I trust my soul is not lost. I
have been very guilty; but I believe in One who brought to every sinner
on earth the gospel of repentance and remission of sins."

At this, burst out the anathema--not merely of the father, but the
clergyman,--who mingled the Jewish doctrine of retributive vengeance
during this life with the Christian belief of rewards and punishments
after death, and confounded the Mosaic gehenna with the Calvinistic
hell. I will not record all this--it was very terrible; but he only
spoke as he believed, and as many earnest Christians do believe. I
think, in all humility, that the Master Himself preached a different
gospel.

I saw it, shining out of her eyes--my angel of peace and pardon. O
Thou, from whom all love comes, was it impious if the love of this Thy
creature towards one so wretched, should come to me like an assurance of
Thine?

At length her father ceased speaking--took up a pen and began hastily
writing. Miss Johnston went and looked over his shoulder.

"Papa, if that is a warrant you are making-out, better think twice
about it; for, as a magistrate, you cannot retract. Should you send Dr.
Urquhart to trial, you must be prepared for the whole truth to come out.
He must tell it; or, if he calls Dora and me as witnesses--she having
already his written confession in full--_we_ must."

"You must tell--what?"

"The provocation Doctor Urquhart received--how Harry enticed him, a lad
of nineteen, to drink--made him mad, and taunted him. Everything will be
made public--how Harry was so degraded that from the hour of his death
we were thankful to forget that he had ever existed--how he died as he
had lived--a boaster, a coward, spunging upon any one from whom he could
get money, using his talents only to his shame, devoid of one spark of
honesty, honour, and generosity. It is shocking to have to say this of
one's own brother; but, father, you know it is the truth--and, as such,
it must be told."

Amazed--I listened to her--this eldest sister, who I knew disliked me.

Her father seemed equally surprised,--until, at length, her arguments
apparently struck him with uneasiness.

"Have you any motive in arguing thus?" said he, hurriedly and not
without agitation; "why do you do it, Penelope!"

"A little, on my own account, though the great scandal and publicity
will not much affect Francis and me--we shall soon be out of England.
But for the family's sake,--for Harry's sake,--when all his
wickednesses and our miseries have been safely covered up these twenty
years--consider, father!"

She stung him deeper than she knew. I had guessed it before, when I was
almost a stranger to him--but now the whole history of that old man's
life was betrayed in one groan, which burst from the very depth of the
father's soul.

"Eli--the priest of the Lord--his sons made themselves vile and he
restrained them not. Therefore they died in one day, both of them.
It was the will of the Lord."

The respectful silence which ensued, no one dared to break.

He broke it himself at last, pointing to the door. "Go! murderer, or
man-slayer, or whatever you are, you must go free. Moreover, I must have
your promise--no, your oath--that the secret you have kept so long, you
will now keep for ever."

"Sir," I said; but he stopped me fiercely.

"No hesitations--no explanations--I will have none and give none. As you
said, your life is mine--to do with it as I choose. Better you should go
unpunished, than that I and mine should be disgraced. Obey me. Promise."

I did.

Thus, in another and still stranger way, my resolutions were broken, my
fate was decided for me, and I have to keep this secret unconfessed to
the end.

"Now, go. Put half the earth between us if you can--only go."

Again I turned to obey. Blind obedience seemed the only duty left me.
I might even have quitted the house, with a feeling of total
irresponsibility and indifference to all things, had it not been for a
low cry which I heard, as in a dream.

So did her father. "Dora--I had forgotten. There was some sort of 'fancy
between you and Dora. Daughter, bid him farewell, and let him go."

Then she said--my love said, in her own soft, distinct voice: "No, papa,
I never mean to hid him farewell--that is, finally--never as long as I
live."

Her father and sister were both so astounded, that at first they did not
interrupt her, but let her speak on.

"I belonged to Max before all this happened. If it had happened a year
hence, when I was his wife, it would not have broken our marriage. It
ought not now. When any two people are to one another what we are, they
are as good as married; and they have no right to part, no more than man
and wife have, unless either grows wicked, or both change. I never mean
to part from Max Urquhart."

She spoke meekly, standing with hands folded and head drooping; but as
still and steadfast as a rock. My darling--my darling!

Steadfast! She had need to he. What she bore during the next few minutes
she would not wish me to repeat, I feel sure.

She knows it, and so do I. She knows also that every stab with which I
then saw her wounded for my sake, is counted in my heart, as a debt to
be paid one day, if between those who love there can be any debts at
all. She says not. Yet, if ever she is my wife.--People talk of dying
for a woman's sake--but to live--live for her with the whole of one's
being--to work for her, to sustain and cheer her--to fill her daily
existence with tenderness and care--if ever she is my wife, she will
find out what I mean.

After saying all he well could say, Mr. Johnston asked her how she dared
think of me--me, laden with her brother's blood and her father's curse.

She turned deadly pale, but never faltered: "The curse causeless shall
not come," she said, "For the blood upon his hand, whether it were
Harry's or a stranger's, makes no difference; it is washed out. He has
repented long ago. If God has forgiven him, and helped him to be what
he is, and lead the life he has led all these years, why should I not
forgive him? And if I forgive, why not love him?--and if I love him, why
break my promise, and refuse to marry him?"

"Do you mean, then, to marry him?" said her sister.

"Some day--if he wishes it--yes!"

From this time, I myself hardly remember what passed; I can only see
her standing there, her sweet face white as death, making no moan, and
answering nothing to any accusations that were heaped upon her, except
when she was commanded to give me up, entirely and for ever and ever.

"I cannot, father. I have no right to do it. I belong to him; he is my
husband."

At last, Miss Johnston said to me--rather gently than not, for her: "I
think, Doctor Urquhart, you had better go."

My love looked towards me, and afterwards at her poor father; she too
said, "Yes, Max, go." And then they wanted her to promise she would
never see me, nor write to me; but she refused.

"Father, I will not marry him for ever so long, if you choose--but I
cannot forsake him. I must write to him. I am his very own, and he has
only me. Oh, papa, think of yourself and my mother." And she sobbed at
his knees.

He must have thought of Harry's mother, not hers, for this exclamation
only hardened him.

Then Theodora rose, and gave me her little hand.--"It can hold firm, you
will find. You have my promise. But whether or no, it would have been
all the same. No love is worth having that could not, with or without a
promise, keep true till death. You may trust me. Now, goodbye. Good-bye,
my Max."

With that one clasp of the hand, that one look into her fond, faithful
eyes, we parted. I have never seen her since.

*****

This statement, which is as accurate as I can make it, except in the
case of those voluntary omissions which I believe you yourself would
have desired, I here seal up, to be delivered to you with those other
letters in case I should die while you are still Theodora Johnston.

I have also made my will, leaving you all my effects, and appointing you
my sole executrix; putting you, in short, in exactly the same position
as if you had been my wife. This is best, in order that by no chance
should the secret ooze out through any guesses of any person not
connected with your family; also because I think it is what you would
wish yourself. You said truly, I have only you.

Another word, which I do not name in my ordinary letters, lest I might
grieve you by what may prove to be only a fancy of mine.

Sometimes, in the hard work of this my life here, I begin to feel that I
am no longer a young man, and that the reaction after the great strain,
mental and bodily, of the last few months, has left me not so strong as
I used to be. Not that I think I am about to die, far from it. I have
a good constitution, which has worn well yet, and may wear on for some
time, though not for ever, and I am nearly fifteen years older than you.

It is very possible that before any change can come, I may leave you,
never a wife, and yet a widow. Possible, among the numerous fatalities
of life, that we may never be married--never even see one another again.

Sometimes, when I see two young people married and happy, taking it all
as a matter of course, scarcely even recognising it as happiness---just
like Mr. and Mrs. Treheme, who hunted me out lately, and insisted on my
visiting them--I think of you and me, and it seems very bitter, and I
look on the future with less faith than fear. It might not be so if
I could see you now and then--but oftentimes this absence feels like
death.

Theodora, if I should die before we are married, without any chance of
writing down my last words, take them here.

No, they will not come. I can but crush my lips upon this paper--only
thy name, not thee, and call thee "my love, my love!" Remember, I loved
thee--all my soul was full of the love of thee. It made life happy,
earth beautiful, and Heaven nearer. It was with me day and night, in
work or rest--as much a part of me as the hand I write with, or the
breath I draw. I never thought of myself, but of "us." I never prayed
but I prayed for two. Love, my love, so many miles away--O my God, why
not grant me a little happiness before I die!

Yet, as once I wrote before, and as she says always in all things, _Thy
will be done._



CHAPTER III. HER STORY.


_Friday night._

|My Dear Max,

You have had your Dominical letter, as you call it, so regularly, that
you must know all our doings at Rockmount almost as well as ourselves.
If I write foolishly, and tell you all sorts of trivial things, perhaps
some of them twice over, it is just because there is nothing else
to tell. But, trivial or not, I have a feeling that you like to hear
it--you care for everything that concerns me.

So, first, in obedience to orders, I am quite well, even though my
hand-writing is "not so pretty as it used to be." Do not fancy the hand
shakes, or is nervous or uncertain. Not a bit of it. I am never nervous,
nor weak either--now. Sometimes, perhaps, being only a woman after all,
I feel things a little more keenly than I ought to feel; and then, not
being good at concealment, at least not with you, this fact peeps out
in my letters. For the home-life has its cares, and I feel very
weary sometimes--and then, I have not you to rest upon--visibly, that
is--though in my heart I do always. But I am quite well, Max, and quite
content. Do not doubt it. He who has led us through this furnace of
affliction, will lead us safely to the end.

You will be glad to hear that papa is every day less and less cold to
me--poor papa! Last Sunday, he even walked home from church with me,
talking about general subjects, like his old self, almost. Penelope
has been always good and kind.

You ask if they ever name you? No.

Life at Rockmount moves slowly, even in the midst of marriage
preparations. Penelope is getting a large store of wedding presents.
Mrs. Granton brought a beautiful one last night from her son Colin.

I was glad you had that long friendly letter from Colin Granton--glad
also that, his mother having let out the secret about you and me, he
was generous enough to tell you himself that other secret, which I never
told. Well, your guess was right; it was so. But I could not help it;
I did not know it.--For me--how could any girl, feeling as I then
did towards you, feel anything towards any other man but the merest
kindliness?--That is all: we will never say another word about it;
except that I wish you always to be specially kind to Colin, and to do
him good whenever you can--he was very good to me.

Life at Rockmount, as I said, is dull. I rise sometimes, go through the
day, and go to bed at night, wondering what I have been doing during all
these hours. And I do not always sleep soundly, though so tired. Perhaps
it is partly the idea of Penelope's going away so soon; far away, across
the sea, with no one to love her and take care of her, save Francis.

Understand, this is not with any pitying of my sister for what is a
natural and even a happy lot, which no woman need complain of; but
simply because Francis is Francis--accustomed to think only of himself,
and for himself. It may be different when he is married.

He was staying with us here a week; during which I noticed him more
closely than in his former fly-away visits. When one lives in the house
with a person--a dull house too, like ours, how wonderfully odds and
ends of character "crop out," as the geologists say. Do you remember the
weeks when you were almost continually in our house? Francis had what
we used then to call 'the Doctor's room.' He was pleasant and agreeable
enough, when it pleased him to be-so; but, for all that, I used to say
to myself, twenty times a-day, "My dear Max!"

This merely implies that by a happy dispensation of Providence, I,
Theodora Johnston, have not the least desire to appropriate my sister's
husband, or, indeed, either of my sisters' husbands.

By-the-by--in a letter from Augustus to papa, which reached me through
Penelope, he names his visit to you; I am glad--glad he should show you
such honour and affection, and that they all should see it. Do not give
up the Trehernes; go there sometimes--for my sake. There is no reason
why you should not. Papa knows it; he also knows I write to you--but
he never says a word, one way or other. We must wait--wait and hope--or
rather, trust. As you say, the difference between young and older people
is, the one hopes, the other trusts.

I seem, from your description, to have a clear idea of the gaol, and
the long, barren breezy flat amidst which it lies, with the sea in the
distance. I often sit and think of the view outside, and of the
dreary inside, where you spend so many hours; the corridors, the
exercise-yards, and the cells; also your own two rooms, which you say
are almost as silent and solitary, except when you come in and find my
letter waiting you. I wish it was me!--pardon grammar--but I wish it was
me--this living me. Would you be glad to see me? Ah, I know!

Look! I am not going to write about ourselves--it is not good for us.
We know it all; we know our hearts are nigh breaking sometimes--mine is.
But it shall not. We will live and wait.

What was I telling you about?--oh, Francis. Well, Francis spent a whole
week at Rockmount, by papa's special desire, that they might discuss
business arrangements, and that he might see a little more of his
intended son-in-law than he has done of late years. Business was soon
dispatched--papa gives none of us any money during his life-time; what
will come to us afterwards we have never thought of inquiring. Francis
did, though--which somewhat hurt Penelope--but he accounted for it
by his being so "poor." A relative phrase; why, I should think 500L.
a-year, certain, a mine of riches--and all to be spent upon himself.
But as he says, a single man has so many inevitable expenses, especially
when he lives in society, and is the nephew of Sir William Treherne, of
Treheme Court. All "circumstances'!" Poor Francis; whatever goes
wrong he is sure to put between himself and blame the shield of
"circumstances." Now, if I were a man, I would fight the world
bare-fronted, any how. One would but be killed at last.

Is it wrong of me to write to you so freely about Francis? I hope not.
All mine are yours, and yours mine; you know their faults and virtues as
well as I do, and will judge them equally, as we ought to judge those,
who, whatever they are, are permanently our own. I have tried hard, this
time, to make a real brother of Francis Charteris; and he is, for many
things, exceedingly likeable--nay loveable. I see, sometimes, clearly
enough, the strange charm which has made Penelope so fond of him all
these years. Whether, besides loving him, she can trust him--can look
on his face and feel that he would not deceive her for the world--can
believe every line he writes, and every word he utters, and know that
whatever he does, he will do simply from his sense of 'right, no meaner
motive interfering--oh, Max, I would give much to be certain Penelope
had this sort of love for her future husband!

Well, they have chosen their lot, and must make the best of one another.
Everybody must, you know.

Heigho! what a homily I am giving you, instead of this week's history,
as usual--from Saturday to Saturday.

The first few days there really was nothing to tell. Francis and
Penelope took walks together, paid visits, or sat in the parlour
talking--not banishing me, however, as they used to do when they were
young. On Wednesday, Francis went up to London for the day, and brought
back that important article, the wedding-ring. He tried it on at
supper-time, with a diamond keeper, which he said would be just the
thing for "the governor's lady."

"Say wife at once," grumbled I, and complained of the modern fashion of
slurring over that word, the dearest and sacredest in the language.

"Wife, then," whispered Francis, holding the ring on my sister's finger,
and kissing it.

Tears started to Penelope's eyes; in her agitation she looked almost
like a girl again, I thought; so infinitely happy. But Francis, never
happy, muttered bitterly some regret for the past, some wish that they
had been married years ago. Why were they not? It was partly his fault,
I am sure.

The day after this he left, not to return till he comes to take her away
finally. In the meanwhile, he will have enough to do, paying his adieux
to his grand friends, and his bills to his tradespeople, prior to
closing his bachelor establishment for ever and aye--how glad he must
be.

He seemed glad, as if with a sense of relief that all was settled, and
no room left for hesitation. It costs Francis such a world of trouble
to make up his own mind--which trouble Penelope will save him for the
future. He took leave of her with great tenderness, calling her "his
good, faithful girl," and vowing--which one would think was quite
unnecessary under the circumstances--to be faithful to her all the days
of his life.

That night, when she came into my room, Penelope sat a long time on my
bed talking; chiefly of old days, when she and Francis were boy and girl
together--how handsome he was, and how clever--till she seemed almost
to forget the long interval between. Well, they are both of an age--time
runs equally with each; she is at least no more altered than he.

Here, I ought to tell you something, referring to that which, as we
agreed, we are best not speaking of, even between ourselves. It is all
over and done--cover it over, and let it heal.

My dear Max, Penelope confessed a thing, for which I am very sorry, but
it cannot be helped now.

I told you they never name you here. Not usually, but she did that
night. Just as she was leaving me, she exclaimed, suddenly:--

"Dora, I have broken my promise--Francis knows about Doctor Urquhart."

"What!" I cried.

"Don't be terrified--not the whole. Merely that he wanted to marry you,
but that papa found out he had done something wrong in his youth, and so
forbade you to think of him."

I asked her, was she sure no more had escaped her? Not that I feared
much; Penelope is literally accurate, and scrupulously straight forward
in all her words and ways. But still, Francis being a little less so
than she, might have questioned her.

"So he did, and I refused point-blank to tell him, saying it would be a
breach of trust. He was very angry; jealous, I think," and she smiled,
"till I informed him that it was not my own secret--all my own secrets I
had invariably told him, as he me. At which, he said, 'Yes, of course,'
and the matter ended. Are you annoyed? Do you doubt Francis's' honour?"

No. For all that, I have felt anxious, and I cannot choose but tell Max;
partly because he has a right to all my anxieties, and, also, that
he may guard against any possibility of harm. None is likely to come
though; we will not be afraid.

Augustus, in his letter, says how highly he hears you spoken of in
Liverpool already; how your duties at the gaol are the least of your
work, and that whatever you do, or wherever you go, you leave a good
influence behind you. These were his very words. I was proud, though I
knew it all before.

He says you are looking thin, as if you were overworked. Max, my Max,
take care. Give all due energy to the work you have to do, but remember
me likewise; remember what is mine. I think, perhaps, you take too
long walks between the town and the gaol, and that maybe, the prisoners
themselves get far better and more regular meals than the doctor does.
See to this, if you please, Doctor Urquhart.

Tell me more about those poor prisoners, in whom you take so strong
an interest--your spiritual as well as medical hospital. And give me a
clearer notion of your doings in the town, your practice and schemes,
your gratis patients, dispensaries, and so on. Also, Augustus said you
were employed in drawing up reports and statistics about reformatories,
and on the general question now so much discussed,--What is to be done
with our criminal classes? How busy you must be! Cannot I help you? Send
me your MSS. to copy. Give me some work to do.

Max, do you remember our talk by the pond-side, when the sun was
setting, and the hills looked so still, and soft, and blue? I was there
the other day and thought it all over. Yes, I could have been happy,
even in the solitary life we both then looked forward to, but it is
better to belong to you as I do now.

God bless you and keep you safe!

Yours,

Theodora.

P.S. I leave a blank page to fill up after

Penelope and I come home. We are going into town together early
to-morrow, to enquire about the character of the lady's maid that is to
be taken abroad, but we shall be back long before post-time. However, I
have written all this overnight to make sure.

_Sunday._

P.S. You will have missed your Sunday letter to-day, which vexes me
sore. But it is the first time you have ever looked for a letter and
"wanted" it, and I trust it will be the last. Ah! now I understand
a little of what Penelope must have felt, looking day after day for
Francis's letters, which never came; how every morning before post-time
she would go about the house as blithe as a lark, and afterwards turn
cross and disagreeable, and her face would settle into the sharp,
hard-set expression, which made her look so old even then. Poor
Penelope! if she could have trusted him the while, it might have been
otherwise--men's ways and lives are so different from women's--but it is
this love without perfect trust which has been the sting of Penelope's
existence.

I try to remember this when she makes me feel angry with her, as she did
on Saturday. It was through her fault you missed your Sunday letter.

You know I always post them myself, in the town; our village post-office
would soon set all the neighbours chattering about you and me. And
besides, it is pleasant to walk through the quiet lanes we both know
well with Max's letter in my hand, and think that it will be in his hand
to-morrow. For this I generally choose the 'time when papa rests
before dinner, with one or other of us reading to him, and Penelope has
hitherto, without saying anything, always taken my place and set me free
on a Saturday. A kindness I felt more than I expressed, many a time.
But to-day she was unkind; shut herself up in her room the instant
we returned from town; then papa called me and detained me till after
post-time.

So you lost your letter; a small thing, you will say, and this was a
foolish girl to vex herself so much about it. Especially as she can
make it longer and more interesting by details of our adventures in town
yesterday.

It was not altogether a pleasant day, for something happened about the
servant which I am sure annoyed Penelope; nay, she being over-tired and
over-exerted already, this new vexation, whatever it was, made her quite
ill for the time, though she would not allow it, and when I ventured to
question, bade me sharply, "let her alone." You know Penelope's ways,
and may have seen them reflected in me sometimes. I am afraid, Max,
that, however good we may be (of course!) we are not exactly what would
be termed "an amiable family."

We were amiable when we started, however; my sister and I went up to
town quite merrily. I am merry sometimes, in spite of all things. You
see, to have everyone that belongs to one happy and prosperous, is a
great element in one's personal content. Other people's troubles weigh
heavily, because we never know exactly how they will bear them, and
because, at best, we can only sit by and watch them suffer, so little
help being possible after all. But our own troubles we can always bear.

You will understand all I mean by "our own." I am often very, sad for
you, Max; but never afraid for you, never in doubt about you, not for an
instant. There is no sting even in my saddest' thought concerning you. I
trust you, I feel certain that whatever you do, you will do right; that
all you have to endure will be borne nobly and bravely. Thus, I may
grieve over your griefs, but never over you. My love of you, like my
faith in you, is above all grieving. Forgive this long digression;
to-day is Sunday, the best day in all the week, and my day for thinking
most of you.

To return. Penelope and I were both merry, as we started by the very
earliest train, in the soft May morning; we had so much business to
get through. _You_ can't understand it, of course, so I omit it, only
confiding to you our last crowning achievement--the dress. It is white
_moire antique_; Doctor Urquhart has not the slightest idea what that
is, but no matter; and it has lace flounces, half a yard deep, and it is
altogether a most splendid affair. But the governor's lady--I beg my own
pardon--the governor's wife, must be magnificent, you know.

It was the mantua-maker, a great West-end personage employed by the
grand family to whom, by Francis's advice, Lydia Cartwright was sent,
some years ago, (by-the-by, I met Mrs. Cartwright to-day, who asked
after you, and sent her duty, and wished you would know that she
had heard from Lydia),--this mantua-maker it was who recommended the
lady's-maid, Sarah Enfield, who had once been a workwoman of her own. We
saw the person, who seemed a decent young woman, but delicate-looking;
said her health was injured with the long hours of millinery-work, and
that she should have died, she thought, if a friend of hers, a kind
young woman, had not taken her in and helped her. She was lodging with
this friend now.

On the whole, Sarah Enfield sufficiently pleased us to make my sister
decide on engaging her, if only Francis could see her first. We sent
a message to his lodgings, and were considerably surprised to have
the answer that he was not at home, and had not been for three weeks;
indeed, he hardly ever was at home. After some annoyance, Penelope
resolved to make her decision without him.

Hardly ever at home! What a lively life Francis must lead: I wonder he
does not grow weary of it. Once, he half owned he was, but added, "that
he must float with the stream--it was too late now--he could not stop
himself." Penelope will, though.

As we drove through the Park, to the address Sarah Enfield had given
us--somewhere about Kensington--Penelope wishing to see the girl once
again and engage her--my sister observed, in answer to my remark, that
Francis must have many invitations.

"Of course he has. It shows how much he is liked and respected. It will
be the same abroad. We shall gather round us the very best society in
the island. Still, he will find it a great change from London."

I wonder, is she at all afraid of it, or suspects that he once was? that
he shrank from being thrown altogether upon his wife's society--like
the Frenchman who declined marrying a lady he had long visited because
"where should he spend his evenings?" O, me! what a heart-breaking thing
to feel that one's husband needed somewhere to spend his evenings.

We drove past Holland Park--what a bonnie place it is (as you would
say); how full the trees were of green leaves and birds. I don't
know where we went next--I hardly know anything of London, thank
goodness!--but it was a pretty, quiet neighbourhood, where we had the
greatest difficulty in finding the house we wanted, and at last had
recourse to the post-office.

The post-mistress--who was rather grim--"knew the place, that is, the
name of the party as lived there--which was all she cared to know. She
called herself Mrs. Chaytor, or Chater, or something like it," which we
decided must be Sarah Enfield's charitable friend, and accordingly drove
thither.

It was a small house, a mere cottage, set in a pleasant little garden,
through the palings of which I saw, walking about, a young woman with a
child in her arms. She had on a straw hat with a deep lace fall that hid
her face, but her figure was very graceful, and she was extremely well
dressed. Nevertheless, she looked not exactly "the lady." Also, hearing
the gate bell, she called out, "Arriet," in no lady's voice.

Penelope glanced at her, and then sharply at me.

"I wonder--" she began; but stopped--told me to remain in the carriage
while she went in, and she would fetch me if she wanted me.

But she did not. Indeed, she hardly stayed two minutes. I saw the
young woman run hastily in-doors, leaving her child--such a pretty
boy! screaming after his "mammy,"--and Penelope came back, her face the
colour of scarlet.

"What? Is it a mistake?" I asked.

"No--yes," and she gave the order to drive on.

Again I enquired if anything were the matter, and was answered,
"Nothing--nothing that I could understand." After which she sat with her
veil down, cogitating; till, all of a sudden, she sprang up as if some
one had given her a stab at her heart. I was quite terrified, but she
again told me it was nothing, and bade me "let her alone." Which as you
know, is the only thing one can do with my sister Penelope.

But at the railway-station we met some people we knew, and she was
forced to talk;--so that by the time we reached Rockmount she seemed to
have got over her annoyance, whatever it was, concerning Sarah Enfield,
and was herself again. That is, herself in one of those moods when,
whether her ailment be mental or physical, the sole chance of its
passing away is, as she says, "to leave her alone."

I do not say this is not trying--doubly so now, when, just as she is
leaving, I seem to understand my sister better and love her more than
ever I did in my life. But I have learned at last not to break my heart
over the peculiarities of those I care for; but try to bear with them as
they must with mine, of which I have no lack, goodness knows!

I saw a letter to Francis in the post-bag this morning, so I hope she
has relieved her mind by giving him the explanation which she refused
to me. It must have been some deception practised on her by this Sarah
Enfield, and Penelope never forgives the smallest deceit.

She was either too much tired or too much annoyed to appear again
yesterday, so papa and I spent the afternoon and evening alone. But she
went to church with us, as usual, to-day--looking pale and tired--the
ill mood--"the little black dog on her shoulder," as we used to call it,
not having quite vanished.

Also, I noticed an absent expression in her eyes, and her voice in the
responses was less regular than usual. Perhaps she was thinking this
would almost be her last Sunday of sitting in the old pew, and looking
up to papa's white hair, and her heart being fuller, her lips were more
silent than usual.

You will not mind my writing so much about my sister Penelope? You like
me to talk to you of what is about me, and uppermost in my thoughts,
which is herself at present. She has been very good to me, and Max loves
everyone whom I love, and everyone who loves me.

I shall have your letter to-morrow morning. Good night!

Theodora.



CHAPTER IV. HIS STORY.


|My dear Theodora:--

This is a line extra, written on receipt of yours, which was most
welcome. I feared something had gone wrong with my little methodical
girl.

Do not keep strictly to your Dominical letter just now--write any day
that you can. Tell me everything that is happening to you--you must, and
ought. Nothing must occur to you or yours that I do not know. You are
mine.

Your last letter I do not answer in detail till the next shall come: not
exactly from press of business; I would make time if I had it not; but
from various other reasons, which you shall have by-and-by.

Give me, if you remember it, the address of the person with whom Sarah
Enfield is lodging. I suspect she is a woman of whom, by the desire
of her nearest relative, I have been in search of for some time. But,
should you have forgotten, do not trouble your sister about this. I will
find out all I wish to learn some other way. Never apologise for, or
hesitate at, writing to me about your family--all that is yours is mine.
Keep your heart up about your sister Penelope: she is a good woman, and
all that befals her will be for her good. Love her, and be patient with
her continually. All your love for her and the rest takes nothing from
what is mine, but adds thereto.

Let me hear soon what is passing at Rockmount. I cannot come to you, and
help you--would I could! My love! my love!

Max Urquhart.

There is little or nothing to say of myself this week, and what there
was you heard yesterday.



CHAPTER V. HER STORY.


|My Dear Max:--

I write this in the middle of the night; there has been no chance for me
during the day; nor, indeed, at all--until now. To-night, for the
first time, Penelope has fallen asleep. I have taken the opportunity of
stealing into the next room, to comfort--and you.

My dear Max! Oh, if you knew! oh, if I could but come to you for one
minute's rest, one minute's love!--There--I will not cry any more. It
is much to be able to write to you; and blessed, infinitely blessed to
know you are--what you are.

Max, I have been weak, wicked of late; afraid of absence, which tries me
sore, because I am not strong, and cannot stand up by myself as I used
to do; afraid of death, which might tear you from me, or me from you,
leaving the other to go mourning upon earth for ever. Now I feel that
absence is nothing--death itself nothing, compared to one loss--that
which has befallen my sister, Penelope.

You may have heard of it, even in these few days--ill news spreads fast.
Tell me what you hear; for we wish to save my sister as much as we can.
To our friends generally, I have merely written that, "from unforeseen
differences," the marriage is broken off. Mr. Charteris may give what
reasons he likes at Treherne Court. We will not try to injure him with
his uncle.

I have just crept in to look at Penelope; she is asleep still, and
has never stirred. She looks so old--like a woman of fifty, almost. No
wonder. Think--ten years--all her youth to be crushed out at once. I
wonder, will it kill her? It would me.

I wanted to ask you--do you think, medically, there is any present
danger in her state? She lies quiet enough; taking little notice of
me or anybody--with her eyes shut during the day-time, and open,
wide-staring, all night long. What ought I to do with her? There is only
me, you know. If you fear anything, send me a telegram at once. Do not
wait to write.

But, that you may the better judge her state, I ought just to give you
full particulars, beginning where my last letter ended.

That "little black dog on her shoulder," which I spoke of so
lightly!--God forgive me! also for leaving her the whole of that Sunday
afternoon with her door locked, and the room as still as death; yet
never once knocking to ask, "Penelope, how are you?" On Sunday night,
the curate came to supper, and papa sent me to summon her; she came
downstairs, took her place at table, and conversed. I did not notice
her much, except that she moved about in a stupid, stunned-like fashion,
which caused papa to remark more than once, "Penelope, I think you are
half asleep." She never answered.

Another night, and the half of another day, she must have spent in the
same manner. And I let her do it without enquiry! Shall I ever forgive
myself?

In the afternoon of Monday, I was sitting at work, busy finishing
her embroidered marriage handkerchief, alone in the sunshiny parlour,
thinking of my letter, which you would have received at last; also
thinking it was rather wicked of my happy sister to sulk for two whole
days, because of a small disappointment about a servant--if such
it were. I had almost determined to shake her out of her ridiculous
reserve, by asking boldly what was the matter, and giving her a thorough
scolding if I dared; when the door opened, and in walked Francis
Charteris.

Heartily glad to see him, in the hope his coming might set Penelope
right again, I jumped up and shook hands, cordially. Nor till afterwards
did I remember how much this seemed to surprise and relieve him.

"Oh, then, all is right!" said he. "I feared, from Penelope's letter,
that she wa a little annoyed with me. Nothing new that, you know."

"Something did annoy her, I suspect," and I was about to blurt out as
much as I knew or guessed of the foolish mystery about Sarah Enfield,
but some instinct stopped me. "You and Penelope had better settle your
own affairs," said I, laughing. "I'll go and fetch her."

"Thank you." He threw himself down on the velvet arm-chair--his
favourite lounge in our house for the last ten years. His handsome
profile turned up against the light, his fingers lazily tapping the
arm of the chair, a trick he had from his boyhood,--this is my last
impression of Francis--as _our_ Francis Charteris.

I had to call outside Penelope's door three times, "Francis is here."

"Francis is waiting."

"Francis wants to speak to you," before she answered or appeared; and
then, without taking the slightest notice of me, she walked slowly
downstairs, holding by the wall as she went.

So, I thought, it is Francis who has vexed her after all, and determined
to leave them to fight it out and make it up again--this, which would be
the last of their many lovers' quarrels. Ah! it was.

Half an hour afterwards, papa sent for me to the study, and there I saw
Francis Charteris standing, exactly where you once stood--you see, I am
not afraid of remembering 'it myself, or of reminding you. No, my Max!
Our griefs are nothing, nothing!

Penelope also was present, standing by my father, who said, looking
round at us with a troubled, bewildered air:--

"Dora, what is all this? Your sister comes here and tells me she will
not marry Francis. Francis rushes in after her, and says, I hardly can
make out what. Children, why do you vex me so? Why cannot you leave an
old man in peace?"

Penelope answered:--"Father, you shall be left in peace, if you will
only confirm what I have said to that--that gentleman, and send him out
of my sight."

Francis laughed:--"To be called back again presently. You know you will
do it, as soon as you have come to your right senses, Penelope. You will
never disgrace us in the eyes of the world--set everybody gossipping
about our affairs, for such a trifle."

My sister made him no answer. There was less even of anger than
contempt--utter, measureless contempt-!--in the way she just lifted
up her eyes and looked at him--looked him over from head to heel, and
turned again to her father.

"Papa, make him understand--I cannot--that I wish all this ended; I wish
never to see his face again."

"Why?" said papa, in great perplexity.

"He knows why."

Papa and I both turned to Francis, whose careless manner changed a
little: he grew red and uncomfortable. "She may tell if she chooses;
I lay no embargo of silence upon her. I have made all the explanations
possible, and if she will not receive them, I cannot help it. The thing
is done, and cannot be undone. I have begged her pardon, and made all
sorts of promises for the future--no man can do more."

He said this sullenly, and yet as if he wished to make friends with her,
but Penelope seemed scarcely even to hear.

"Papa," she repeated, still in the same stony voice, "I wish you would
end this scene; it is killing me. Tell him, will you, that I have burnt
all his letters, every one. Insist on his returning mine. His presents
are all tied up in a parcel in my room, except this; will you give it
back to him?"

She took off her ring, a small common turquoise which Francis had
given her when he was young and poor, and laid it on the table. Francis
snatched it up, handled it a minute, and then threw it violently into
the fire.

"Bear witness, Mr. Johnston, and you too, Dora, that it is Penelope, not
I, who breaks our engagement. I would have fulfilled it honourably--I
would have married her."

"Would you?" cried Penelope, with flashing eyes, "no--not that last
degradation--no!"

"I would have married her," Francis continued, "and made her a good
husband too. Her reason for refusing me is puerile--perfectly puerile.
No woman of sense, who knows anything of the world, would urge it for a
moment. Nor man either, unless he was your favourite--who I believe is
at the bottom of this, who, for all you know, may be doing exactly as I
have done--Doctor Urquhart."

Papa started and said hastily, "Confine yourself to the subject on hand,
Francis. Of what is this that my daughter accuses you? Tell me, and let
me judge."

Francis hesitated, and then said, "Send away these girls, and you shall
hear."

Suddenly, it flashed upon me _what_ it was. How the intuition came,
how little things, before unnoticed, seemed to rise and put themselves
together, including Saturday's story--and the shudder that ran through
Penelope from head to foot, when on Sunday morning old Mrs. Cartwright
curtsied to her at the churchdoor--all this I cannot account for, but
I seemed to know as well as if I had been told everything. I need not
explain, for evidently you know it also, and it is so dreadful, so
unspeakably dreadful.

Oh, Max, for the first minute or so, I felt as if the whole world
were crumbling from under my feet--as I could trust nobody, believe
in nobody--until I remembered you. My dear Max, my own dear Max! Ah,
wretched Penelope!

I took her hand as she stood, but she twisted it out of mine again. I
listened mechanically to Francis, as he again began rapidly and eagerly
to exculpate himself to my father.

"She may tell you all, if she likes. I have done no worse than hundreds
do in my position, and under my unfortunate circumstances, and the world
forgives them, and women too. How could I help it? I was too poor to
marry. And before I married I meant to do everyone justice--I meant--"

Penelope covered her ears. Her face was so ghastly,-that papa himself
said, "I think Francis, explanations are idle. You had better defer them
and go."

"I will take you at your word," he replied haughtily. "If you or she
think better of it, or of me, I shall be at any time ready to fulfil my
engagement--honourably, as a gentleman should. Good-bye; will you not
shake hands with me, Penelope?"

He walked up to her, trying apparently to carry things off with a high
air, but he was not strong enough, or hardened enough. At sight of my
sister sitting there, for she had sank down at last, with a face like a
corpse, only it had not the peace of the dead, Francis trembled. .

"Forgive me, if I have done you any harm. It was all the result of
circumstances. Perhaps, if you had been a little less rigid--had scolded
me less and studied me more.--But you could not help your nature, nor I
mine. Good-bye, Penelope."

She sat, impassive; even when with a sort of involuntary tenderness,
he seized and kissed her hand; but the instant he was gone--fairly
gone--with the door shut upon him and his horse clattering down
the road--I heard it plainly--Penelope started up with a cry of
"Francis--Francis!"--O the anguish of it!--I can hear it now.

But it was not this Francis she called after--I was sure of that--I saw
it in her eyes. It was the Francis of ten years ago--the Francis she had
loved--now as utterly dead and buried, as if she had seen the stone laid
over him, and his body left to sleep in the grave.

Dead and buried--dead and buried. Do you know, I sometimes wish it were
so; that she had been left, peacefully widowed--knowing his soul was
safe with God. I thought, when papa and I--papa who that night kissed
me, for the first time since one night you know--sat by Penelope's bed,
watching her--"If Francis had only died!"

After she was quiet, and I had persuaded papa to go to rest, he sent for
me and desired me to read a psalm, as I used to do when he was ill--you
remember? When it was ended, he asked me, had I any idea what Francis
had done that Penelope could not pardon?

I told him, difficult and painful as it was to do it, all I
suspected--indeed, felt sure of. For was it not the truth?--the only
answer I could give. For the same reason I write of these terrible
things to you without any false delicacy--they are the truth, and they
must be told.

Papa lay for some time, thinking deeply. At last he said:--

"My dear, you are no longer a child, and I may speak to you plainly. I
am an old man, and your mother is dead. I wish she were with us now, she
might help us: for she was a good woman, Dora. Do you think--take time
to consider the question--that your sister is acting right?"

I said, "quite right."

"Yet, I thought you held that doctrine, 'the greater the sinner the
greater the saint;' and believed every crime a man can commit may be
repented, atoned, and pardoned?"

"Yes, father; but Francis has never either repented or atoned."

No; and therefore I feel certain my sister is right. Ay, even putting
aside the other fact, that the discovery of his long years of deception
must have so withered up her love,--scorched it at the root, as with a
stroke of lightning--that even if she pitied him, she must also despise.
Fancy, despising one's _husband!_ Besides, she is not the only one
wronged. Sometimes, even sitting by my sister's bedside, I see the
vision of that pretty young creature--she was so pretty and innocent
when she first came to live at Rockmount,--with her boy in her arms; and
my heart feels like to burst with indignation and shame, and a kind of
shuddering horror at the wickedness of the world--yet with a strange
feeling of unutterable pity lying at the depth of all.

Max, tell me what you think--you who are so much the wiser of us two;
but I think that even if she wished it still, my sister _ought not_ to
marry Francis Charteris.

Ah me! papa said truly I was no longer a child. I feel hardly even a
girl, but quite an old woman--familiar with all sorts of sad and wicked
things, as if the freshness and innocence had gone out of life, and were
nowhere to be found. Except when I turn to-you, and lean my poor sick
heart against you--as I do now. Max, comfort me!

You will, I know, write immediately you receive this. If you could have
come---but that is impossible.

Augustus you will probably see, if you have not done so already--for he
already looks upon you as the friend of the family, though in no other
light as yet; which is best. Papa wrote to Sir William, I believe; he
said he considered some explanation a duty, on his daughter's account;
further than this, he wishes the matter kept quiet. Not to disgrace
Francis, I thought; but papa told me one-half the world would hardly
consider it any disgrace at all. Can this be so? Is it indeed such a
wicked, wicked world?

--Here my letter was stopped by hearing a sort of cry in Penelope's
room. I ran in, and found her sitting up in her bed, her eyes starting,
and every limb convulsed. Seeing me, she cried out:--

"Bring a light;--I was dreaming. But it's not true. Where is Francis?"

I made no reply, and she slowly sank down in her bed again. Recollection
had come.

"I should not have gone to sleep. Why did you let me? Or why cannot you
put me to sleep for ever and ever, and ever and ever," repeating the
word many times. "Dora!" and my sister fixed her piteous eyes on my
face, "I should be so glad to die. Why won't you kill me?"

I burst into tears.

Max, you will understand the total helplessness one feels in the
presence of an irremediable grief like this: how consolation seems
cruel, and reasoning vain. "Miserable comforters are ye all," said
Job to his three friends; and a miserable comforter I felt to this
my sister, whom it had pleased the Almighty to smite so sore, until I
remembered that He who smites can heal.

I lay down outside the bed, put my arm over her, and remained thus for
a long time, not saying a single word--that is, not with my lips.
And since our weakness is often our best strength, and when we wholly
relinquish a thing, it is given back to us many a time in double
measure, so, possibly, those helpless tears of mine did Penelope more
good than the wisest of words.

She lay watching me--saying more than once:--

"I did not know you cared so much for me, Dora."

It then came into my mind, that as wrecked people cling to the smallest
spar, if, instead of her conviction that in losing Francis she had lost
her all, I could by any means make Penelope feel that there were others
to cling to, others who loved her dearly, and whom she ought to try and
live for still--it might save her. So, acting on the impulse, I told my
sister how good I thought her, and how wicked I myself had been for
not long since discovering her goodness. How, when at last I learned
to appreciate her, and to understand what a sorely-tried life hers had
been, there came not only respect, but love. Thorough sisterly love;
such as people do not necessarily feel even for their own flesh
and blood, but never, I doubt, except to them. (Save, that in some
inexplicable way, fondly reflevted, I have something of the same sort of
love for your brother Dallas.)

Afterwards, she lying still and listening, I tried to make my sister
understand what I had myself felt when she came to my bedside and
comforted me that morning, months ago, when I was so wretched; how no
wretchedness of loss can be altogether unendurable, so long as it does
not strike at the household peace, but leaves the sufferer a little love
to rest upon at home.

And at length I persuaded her to promise that, since it made both papa
and me so very miserable to see her thus,--and papa was an old man too.
we must not have him with us many years--she would, for our sakes,
try to rouse herself, and see if life were not tolerable for a little
longer.

"Yes," she answered, closing her heavy eyes, and folding her hands in a
pitiful kind of patience, very strange in our quick, irritable Penelope.
"Yes--just a little longer. Still, I think I shall soon die. I believe
it will kill me."

I did not contradict her, but I called to mind your words, that,
Penelope, being a good woman, all would happen to her for good. Also,
it is usually not the good people who are killed by grief: while others
take it as God's vengeance, or as the work of blind chance, they receive
it humbly as God's chastisement, live on, and endure. I do not think my
sister will die--whatever she may think or-desire just now. Besides, we
have only to deal with the present, for how can we look forward a single
day? How little we expected all this only a week ago?

It seems strange that Francis could have deceived us for so long; years,
it must have been; but we have lived so retired, and were such a simple
family for many things. How far Penelope thinks we know--papa and I--I
cannot guess: she is totally silent on the subject of Francis. Except
in that one outcry, when she was still only half awake, she has never
mentioned his name.

There was one thing more I wanted to tell you, Max; you know I tell you
everything.

Just as I was leaving my sister, she, noticing I was not undressed,
asked me if I had been sitting up all night, and reproached me for doing
so.

I said, "I was not weary; that I had been quietly occupying myself in
the next room."

"Reading?"

"No"

"What were you doing?" with sharp suspicion.

I answered without disguise:--

"I was writing to Max."

"Max who?--Oh, I had forgotten his name."

She turned from me, and lay with her face to the wall, then said:--

"Do you believe in him?"

"Yes, I do."

"You had better not. You will live to repent it. Child, mark my words.
There may be good women--one or two, perhaps--but there is not a single
good man in the whole world."

My heart rose to my lips; but deeds speak louder than words. I did not
attempt to defend you. Besides, no wonder she should think thus.

Again she said, "Dora, tell Doctor Urquhart he was innocent
comparatively; and that I say so. He only killed Harry's body, but those
who deceive us are the death of one's soul. Nay," and by her expression
I felt sure it was not herself and her own wrongs my sister was thinking
of--"there are those who destroy both body and soul."

I made no answer; I only covered her up, kissed her and left her;
knowing that in one sense I did not leave her either forsaken or alone.

And now, I must leave you too, Max; being very weary in body, though my
mind is comforted and refreshed; ay, ever since I began this letter. So
many of your good words have come back to me while I wrote--words
which you have let fall at odd times, long ago, even when we were mere
acquaintances. You did not think I should remember them? I do, every
one.

This is a great blow, no doubt. The hand of Providence has been heavy
upon us and our house, lately. But I think we shall be able to bear it.
One always has courage to bear a sorrow which shows its naked face, free
from suspense or concealment; stands visibly in the midst of the home,
and has to be met and lived down patiently, by every member therein.

You once said that we often live to see the reason of affliction; how
all the events of life hang so wonderfully together, that afterwards we
can frequently trace the chain of events, and see in humble faith
and awe, that out of each one has been evolved the other, and that
everything, bad and good, must necessarily have happened exactly as it
did. Thus, I begin to see--you will not be hurt, Max?--how well it
was, on some accounts, that we were not married, that I should still be
living at home with my sister; and that, after all she knows, and
she only, of what has happened to me this year, she cannot reject any
comfort I may be able to offer her on the ground that I myself know
nothing of sorrow.

As for me personally, do not fear; I have _you_. You once feared that
a great anguish would break my heart: but it did not. Nothing in this
world will ever do that--while I have _you_.

Max, kiss me--in thought, I mean--as friends kiss friends who are
starting on a long and painful journey, of which they see no end, yet
are not afraid. Nor am I. Goodbye, my Max.

Yours, only and always,

Theodora Johnston.



CHAPTER VI. HIS STORY.


|My dear Theodora:--

You will have received my letters regularly; nor am I much surprised
that they have not been answered. I have heard, from time to time, in
other ways, all particulars of your sister's illness and of you. Mrs.
Granton says you keep up well, but I know that, could I see it now, it
would be the same little pale face which used to come stealing to me
from your father's bedside, last year.

If I ask you to write, my love, believe it is from no doubt of you,
or jealousy of any of your home-duties; but because I am wearying for a
sight of your handwriting, and an assurance from yourself that you are
not failing in health, the only thing in which I have any fear of your
failing.

To answer a passage in your last, which I have hitherto let be, there
was so much besides to write to you about--the passage concerning
friends parting from friends. At first I interpreted it that in your
sadness of spirit and hopelessness of the future, you wished me to sink
back into my old place, and be only your friend. It was then no time to
argue the point, nor would it have made any difference in my letters,
either way; but now let me say two words concerning it.

My child, when a man loves a woman, before he tries to win her, he will
have, if he loves unselfishly and generously, many a doubt concerning
both her and himself. In fact, as I once read somewhere, "When a man
truly loves a woman, he would not marry her upon any account, unless he
was quite certain he was the best person she could possibly marry." But
as soon as she loves him, and he knows it, and is certain that, however
unworthy he may be, or however many faults she may possess--I never told
you you were an angel, did I, little lady?--they have cast their lot
together, chosen one another, as your church says, "for better, for
worse,"--then the face of things is entirely changed. He has his
rights, close and strong as no other human being can have with regard to
her--she has herself given them to him--and if he has any manliness in
him he never will let them go, but hold her fast for ever and ever.

My dear Theodora, I have not the slightest intention of again subsiding
into your friend. I am your lover and your betrothed husband. I will
wait for you any number of years, till you have fulfilled all your
duties, and no earthly rights have power to separate us longer. But in
the meantime I hold fast to _my_ rights. Everything that lover or
future husband can be to you, I must be. And when I see you, for I am
determined to see you at intervals, do not suppose that it will be
a friend's kiss--if there be such a thing--that--But I have said
enough--it is not easy for me to express myself on this wise.

My love, this letter is partly to consult you on a matter which is
somewhat on my mind. With any but you I might hesitate, but I know your
mind almost as I know my own, and can speak to you, as I hope I always
shall--frankly and freely as a husband would to his wife.

About your sister Penelope and her great sorrow I have already written
fully. Of her ultimate recovery, mentally as well as bodily, I have
little doubt: she has in her the foundations of all endurance--a true
upright nature and a religious mind. The first blow over, a certain
little girl whom I know will be to her a saving angel; as she has been
to others I could name. Fear not, therefore--"Fear God, and have no
other fear:" you will bring your sister safe to land.

But, you are aware, Penelope is not the only person who has been
shipwrecked.

I should not intrude this side of the subject at present, did I not feel
it to be in some degree a duty, and one that, from certain information
that has reached me, will not bear deferring. The more so, because my
occupation here ties my own hands so much. You and I do not live for
ourselves, you know--nor indeed wholly for one another. I want you to
help me, Theodora.

In my last, I informed you how the story of Lydia Cartwright came to my
knowledge, and how, beside her father's coffin, I was entreated by her
old mother to find her out, and bring her home if possible. I had then
no idea who the "gentleman" was; but afterwards was led to suspect it
might be a friend of Mr. Charteris. To assure myself, I one day put some
questions to him--point-blank, I believe, for I abhor diplomacy, nor
had I any suspicion of him personally. In the answer, he gave me a
point-blank and insulting denial of any knowledge on the subject.

When the whole truth came out, I was in doubt what to do consistent with
my promise to the poor girl's mother. Finally, I made inquiries; but
heard that the Kensington cottage had been sold up, and the inmates
removed. I then got the address of Sarah Enfield--that is, I
commissioned my old friend, Mrs. Ansdell, to get it, and sent it to Mrs.
Cartwright, without either advice or explanation, except that it was
that of a person who knew Lydia. Are you aware that Lydia has more than
once written to her mother, sometimes enclosing money, saying she was
well and happy, but nothing more?

I this morning heard that the old woman, immediately on receiving my
letter, shut up her cottage, leaving the key with a neighbour, and
disappeared. But she may come back, and not alone; I hope, most
earnestly, it will not be alone. And therefore I write, partly to
prepare you for this chance, that you may contrive to keep your sister
from any unnecessary pain, and also from another reason.

You may not know it,--and it is a hard thing to have to enlighten my
innocent love, but your father is quite right; Lydia's story is by no
means rare, nor is it regarded in the world as we view it. There are
very few--especially among the set to which Mr. Charteris belonged--who
either profess or practice the Christian doctrine, that our bodies also
are the temples of the Holy Spirit,--that a man's life should, be as
pure as a woman's, otherwise no woman, however she may pity, can, or
ought to respect him, or to marry him. This, it appears to me, is the
Christian principle of love and marriage--the only one by which the
one can be made sacred, and the other "honorable to all." I have tried,
invariably, in every way to set this forth; nor do I hesitate to write
of it to my wife that will be--whom it is my blessing to have united
with me in every work which my conscience once compelled as atonement
and my heart now offers in humblest thanksgiving.

But enough of myself.

While this principle, of total purity being essential for both man and
woman, cannot be too sternly upheld, there is also another side to the
subject, analagous to one of which you and I have often spoken. You will
find it in the seventh chapter of Luke and eighth of John: written, I
conclude, to be not only read, but acted up to by all Christians who
desire to have in them "the mind of Christ."

Now, my child, you see what I mean-how the saving command, "_Go and sin
no more_" applies to this-sin also.

You know much more of what Lydia Cartwright used to be than I do; but
it takes long for any one error to corrupt the entire character; and
her remembrance of her mother, as well as her charity to Sarah Enfield,
imply that there must be much good left in the girl still. She is young.
Nor have I heard of her ever falling lower than this once. But she may
fall; since, from what I know of Mr. Charteris's present circumstances,
she must now, with her child, be left completely destitute. It is not
the first similar case, by many, that I have had to do with; but my
love never can have met with the like before. Is she afraid? does she
hesitate to hold out her pure right hand to a poor creature who never
can be an innocent girl again; who also, from the over severity of
Rockmount, may have been let slip a little too readily, and so gone
wrong?

If you do hesitate, say so; it will not be unnatural nor surprising. If
you do not, this is what I want: being myself so placed that though I
feel the thing ought to be done, there seems no way of doing it, except
through you. Should the Cartwrights reappear in the village, persuade
your father not altogether to set his face against them, or have them
expelled the neighbourhood. They must leave--it is essential for your
sister that they should; but the old woman is very poor. Do not have
them driven away in such a manner as will place no alternative between
sin and starvation. Besides, there is the child--how a man can ever
desert his own child!--but I will not enter into that part of
the subject. This a strange "love" letter; but I write it without
hesitation--my love will understand.

You will like to hear something of me; but there is little to tell. The
life of a gaol surgeon is not unlike that of a horse in a mill; and, for
some things, nearly as hopeless; best fitted, perhaps, for the old and
the blind. I have to shut my eyes to so much that I cannot remedy, and
take patiently so much to fight against which would be like knocking
down the Pyramids of Egypt with one's head as a battering-ram, that
sometimes my courage fails.

This great prison is, you know, a model of its kind, on the solitary,
sanitary, and moral improvement system; excellent, no doubt, compared
with that which preceded it. The prisoners are numerous,-and as soon as
many of them get out they take the greatest pains to get in again; such
are the comforts of gaol life contrasted with that outside. Yet they
seem to me often like a herd of brute beasts, fed and stalled by rule
in the manner best to preserve their health, and keep them from injuring
their neighbours; their bodies well looked after, but their souls--they
might scarcely have any! They are simply Nos. 1, 2, 3, and so on, with
nothing of human individuality or responsibility about them. Even their
faces grow to the same pattern, dull, fat, clean, and stolid. During the
exercising hour, I sometimes stand and watch them, each pacing his small
bricked circle, and rarely catch one countenance which has a ray of
expression or intelligence.

Good as many of its results are, I have my doubts as to this solitary
system; but they are expressed on paper in the M.S. you asked for, my
kind little lady! so I will not repeat them here.

Yet it will be a change of thought from your sister's sick-room for you
to think of me in mine--not a sick-room though, thank God! This is a
most healthy region: the sea-wind sweeps round the prison-walls, and
shakes the roses in the governor's garden till one can hardly believe it
is so dreary a place inside. Dreary enough sometimes to make one believe
in that reformer who offered to convert some depraved region into a
perfect Utopia, provided the males above the age of fourteen were all
summarily hanged.

Do you smile, my love, at this compliment to your sex at the expense of
mine? Yet I see wretches here, whom I cannot hardly believe share the
same common womanhood as my Theodora. Think over carefully what I asked
you about Lydia Cartwright; it is seldom suddenly, but step by step,
that this degradation comes. And at every step there is hope; at least,
such is my experience.

Do not suppose, from this description, that I am disheartened at my
work here; besides rules and regulations, there is still much room for
personal influence, especially in hospital. When a man is sick or dying,
unconsciously his heart is humanized--he thinks of God. From this simple
cause, my calling has a great advantage over all others; and it is much
to have physical agencies on one's side, as I do not get them in the
streets and towns. To-day, looking up from a clean, tidy, airy cell,
where the occupant had at least a chance of learning to read if he
chose; and, seeing through the window the patch of bright blue sky,
fresh and pure as ever sky was, I thought of two lines you once repeated
to me out of your dear head, so full of poetry:=

````"God's in His heaven;

`````All's right with the world."=

Yesterday I had a holiday. I took the railway to Treherne Court, wishing
to learn something of Rockmount. You said it was your desire I should
visit your brother-in-law and sister sometimes.

They seemed very happy--so much as to be quite independent of visitors,
but they received me warmly, and I gained tidings of you. They escorted
me back as far as the park-gates, where I left them standing, talking
and laughing together, a very picture of youth and fortune, and handsome
looks; a picture suited to the place, with its grand ancestral trees
branched down to the ground; its green slopes, and its herds of deer
racing about--while the turrets of the magnificent house which they call
"home," shone whitely in the distance.

You see I am taking a leaf out of your book, growing poetical and
descriptive; but this brief contrast to my daily life made the
impression particularly strong.

You need have no anxiety for your youngest sister; she looked in
excellent health and spirits. The late sad events do not seem to have
affected her. She merely observed, "She was glad it was over, she never
liked Francis much. Penelope must come to Treherne Court for change, and
no doubt she would soon make a far better marriage." Her husband said,
"He and his father had been both grieved and annoyed--indeed, Sir.
William had quite disowned his nephew--such ungentlemanly conduct was
a disgrace to the family." And then Treherne spoke about his own
happiness--how his father and Lady Augusta perfectly adored his wife,
and how the hope and pride of the family were-entered in her, with more
to the same purport. Truly this young couple have their cup brimming
over with life and its joys.

My love, good-bye; which means only "God be with thee!" nor in any
way implies "farewell."--Write soon. Your words are, as the Good Book
expresses it, "sweeter than honey and the honey-comb," to me unworthy.

Max Urquhart.

I should add, though you would almost take it for granted, that in all
you do concerning Mrs. Cartwright or her daughter, I wish you to do
nothing without your father's knowledge and consent.



CHAPTER VII. HER STORY.


|Another bright, dazzlingly-bright summer morning, on which I begin
writing to my dear Max. This seems the longest-lasting, loveliest summer
I ever knew, outside the house. Within, all goes on much in the same
way, which you know.

My moors are growing all purple, Max; I never remember the heather so
rich and abundant; I wish you could see it! Sometimes I want you so! If
you had given me up, or were to do so now, from hopelessness, pride, or
any other reason, what would become of me! Max, hold me fast. Do not let
me go.

You never do. I can see how you carry me in your heart continually; and
how you are for ever considering how you can help me and mine. And if
it were not become so natural to feel this, so sweet to depend upon you,
and accept everything from you without even saying "thank you," I might
begin to express "gratitude;" but the word would make you smile.

I amused you once, I remember, by an indignant disclaimer of obligations
between such as ourselves; how everything given and received ought to be
free as air, and how you ought to take me as readily if I were
heiress to ten thousand a-year, as I would you if you were the Duke of
Northumberland. No, Max; those are not these sort of things that give
me, towards you, the feeling of "gratitude,"--it is the goodness, the
thoughtfulness, the tender love and care. I don't mean to insult your
sex by saying no man ever loved like you; but few men love in that
special way, which alone could have satisfied a restless, irritable girl
like me, who finds in you perfect trust and perfect rest.

If not allowed to be grateful on my own account, I may be in behalf of
my sister Penelope.

After thus long following out your orders, medical and mental, I begin
to notice a slight change in Penelope. She no longer lies in bed
late, on the plea that it shortens the day; nor is she so difficult to
persuade in going out. Further than the garden she will not stir; but
there I get her to creep up and down for a little while daily. Lately,
she has began to notice her flowers, especially a white moss-rose, which
she took great pride in, and which never flowered until this summer.
Yesterday, its first bud opened,--she stopped and examined it.

"Somebody has been mindful of this--who was it?"

I said, the gardener and myself together.

"Thank you." She called John--showed him what a good bloom it was, and
consulted how they should manage to get the plant to flower again next
year. She can then look forward to "next year."

You say, that as "while there is life there is hope," with the body; so,
while one ray of hope is discernible, the soul is alive. To save souls
alive, that is your special calling.

It seems as if you yourself had been led through deep waters of despair,
in order that you might personally understand how those feel who are
drowning, and therefore know best how to help them. And lately, you have
in this way done more than you know of. Shall I tell you? You will not
be displeased.

Max--hitherto, nobody but me has seen a line of your letters. I could
not bear it. I am as jealous over them as any old miser; it has vexed
me even to see a stray hand fingering them, before they reach mine. Yet,
this week I actually read out loud two pages of one of them to Penelope!
This was how it came about.

I was sitting by her sofa, supposing her asleep. I had been very
miserable that morning: tried much in several ways, and I took out your
letter to comfort me. It told me of so many miseries, to which my own
are nothing, and among which you live continually; yet are always so
patient and tender over mine. I said to myself--"how good he is!" and
two large tears came with a great splash upon the paper, before I was
aware. Very foolish, you know, but I could not help it. And, wiping my
eyes, I saw Penelope's wide open, watching me.

"Has Doctor Urquhart been writing any thing to wound you?" said she,
slowly and bitterly.

I eagerly disclaimed this.

"Is, he ill?"

"Oh, no, thank God!"

"Why, then, were you crying?"

Why, indeed? But what could I say except the truth, that they were not
tears of pain, but because you were so good, and I was so proud of you.
I forgot what arrows these words must have been into my sister's heart.
No wonder she spoke as she did, spoke out fiercely and yet with a
certain solemnity.

"Dora Johnston, you will reap what you sow, and I shall not pity you.
Make to yourself an idol, and God will strike it down. '_Thou shalt have
none other gods but me._' Remember Who says that, and tremble."

I should have trembled, Max, had I _not_ remembered. I said to my
sister, as gently as I could, "that I made no idols; that I knew all
your faults, and you mine, and we loved one another in spite of them,
but we did not worship one another--only God. That if it were His will
we should part, I believed we could part. And--" here I could not say
any more for tears. .

Penelope looked sorry.

"I remember you preaching that doctrine once, child, but--" she started
up violently--"Can't you give me something to amuse me? Read me a bit
of that--that nonsense. Of all amusing things in this world, there is
nothing like a love-letter. But don't believe them, Dora,"--she grasped
my hand hard--"they are every one of them lies."

I said that I could not judge, never having received a "love-letter" in
all my life, and hoped earnestly I never might.

"No love-letters? What does he write to you about, then?"

I told her in a general way. I would not see her half-satirical,
half-incredulous smile. It did not last very long. Soon, though she
turned away and shut her eyes, I felt sure she was both listening and
thinking.

"Doctor Urquhart cannot have an easy or pleasant life," she observed,
"but he does not deserve it. No man does."

"Or woman either," said I, as gently as I could.

Penelope bade me hold my tongue; preaching was my father's business, not
mine, that is, if reasoning were of any avail.

I asked, did she think it was not?

"I think nothing about nothing. I want to smother thought. Child, can't
you talk a little? Or stay, read me some of Dr. Urquhart's letters; they
are not love letters, so you can have no objection."

It went hard, Max, indeed it did! till I considered--perhaps, to hear of
people more miserable than herself, more wicked than Francis, might not
do harm but good to my poor Penelope.

So I was brave enough to take out my letter and read from it, (with
reservations now and then, of course), about your daily work and the
people concerned therein; all that interests me so much, and makes me
feel happier and prouder than any mere "love-letter" written to or
about myself. Penelope was interested too, both in the gaol and the
hospital matters. They touched that practical, benevolent, energetic
half of her, which till lately has made her papa's right hand in the
parish. I saw her large black eyes brightening up, till an unfortunate
name, upon which I fell unawares, changed all.

Max, I am sure she had heard of Tom Turton. Francis knew him. When I
stopped with some excuse, she bade me go on, so I was obliged to finish
the miserable history. She then asked:--

"Is Turton dead?"

I said, "No," and referred to the postscript where you say that both
yourself and his poor old ruined father hope Tom Turton may yet live to
amend his ways.

Penelope muttered:--

"He never will. Better he died."

I said Doctor Urquhart did not think so. She shook her head impatiently,
exclaiming she was tired, and wished to hear no more, and so fell into
one of her long, sullen silences, which sometimes last for hours.

I wonder whether among the many cruel things she must be thinking about,
she ever thinks, as I do often, what has become of Francis?

Sometimes, puzzling over how best to deal with her, I have tried to
imagine myself in her place, and consider what would have been my own
feelings towards Francis now. The sharpest and most prominent would be
the ever-abiding sense of his degradation,--he who was so dear, united
to the constant terror of his sinking lower and lower to any depth of
crime or shame. To think of him as a bad man, a sinner against heaven,
would be tenfold worse than any sin or cruelty against me.

Therefore, whether or not her love for him has died out, I cannot help
thinking there must be times when Penelope would give anything for
tidings of Francis Charteris. I wish you would find out whether he has
left England, and then perhaps in some way or other I may let Penelope
understand that he is safe away--possibly to begin a new and better
life, in a new world.

A new and better life. This phrase--Penelope might call it our "cant,"
yet what we solemnly believe in is surely not cant--brings me to
something I have to tell you this week. For some reasons I am glad it
did not occur until this week, that I might have time for consideration.

Max, if you remember, when you made to me that request about Lydia
Cartwright, I merely answered "that I would endeavour to do as you
wished;" as, indeed, I always would, feeling that my duty to you, even
in the matter of "obedience," has already begun. I mean to obey, you
see, but would rather do it with my heart, as well as my conscience. So,
hardly knowing what to say to you, I just said this, and no more.

My life has been so still, so safely shut up from the outside world,
that there are many subjects I have never even thought about, and this
was one. After the first great shock concerning Francis, I put it aside,
hoping to forget it. When you revived it, I was at first startled; then
I tried to ponder it over carefully, so as to come to a right judgment
and be enabled to act in every way as became not only myself, Theodora
Johnston, but--let me not be ashamed to say it--Theodora, Max Urquhart's
wife.

By-and-by, all became clear to me. My dear Max, I do not hesitate; I am
not afraid. I have been only waiting opportunity; which at length came.

Last Sunday I overheard my class--Penelope's that was, you
know--whispering something among themselves, and trying to hide it from
me; when I put the question direct, the answer was:--

"Please, Miss, Mrs. Cartwright and Lydia have come home."

I felt myself grow hot as fire--I do now, in telling you. Only it must
be borne--it must be told.

Also another thing, which one of the bigger girls let out, with many
titters, and never a blush,--they had brought a child with them.

Oh, Max, the horror of shame and repulsion, and then the perfect anguish
of pity that came over me! These girls of our parish, Lydia was one
of them; if they had been taught better; if I had tried to teach them,
instead of all these years studying or dreaming, thinking wholly of
myself and caring not a straw about my fellow-creatures. Oh, Max--would
that my life had been more like yours!

It shall be henceforth. Going home through the village, with the sun
shining on the cottages, of whose inmates I know no more than of the New
Zealand savages,--on the group of ragged girls who were growing up
at our very door, no one knows how, and no one cares--I made a vow
to myself. I that have been so blessed--I that am so happy--yes, Max,
happy! I will work with all my strength, while it is day. You will help
me. And you will never love me the less for anything I feel--or do.

I was going that very afternoon, to walk direct to Mrs. Cartwright's,
when I remembered your charge, that nothing should be attempted without
my father's knowledge an consent.

I took the opportunity when he and I were sitting alone
together--Penelope gone to bed. He was saying she looked better. He
thought she might begin visiting in the district soon, if she were
properly persuaded. At least she might take a stroll round the village.
He should ask her to-morrow.

"Don't papa. Oh, pray don't!"--and then I was obliged to tell him
the reason why. I had to put it very plainly before he understood--he
forgets things now sometimes.

"Starving, did you say?--Mrs. Cartwright, Lydia, and the child?--What
child?"

"Francis's."

Then he comprehended,--and, oh, Max, had I been the girl I was a few
months ago, I should have sunk to the earth with the shame he said I
ought to feel at even alluding to such things. But I would not stop to
consider this, or to defend myself; the matter concerned not me, but
Lydia. I asked papa if he did not remember Lydia?

She came to us, Max, when she was only fourteen, though, being
well-grown and hand some, she looked older;--a pleasant, willing,
affectionate creature, only she had "no head," or it was half-turned by
the admiration her beauty gained, not merely among her own class, but
all our visitors. I remember Francis saying once--oh, how angry Penelope
was about it--that Lydia was so naturally elegant she could be made a
lady of in no time, if a man liked to take her, educate and marry her.
Would he had done it! spite of all broken vows to Penelope. I think my
sister herself might have for given him, if he had only honestly fallen
in love with poor Lydia, and married her.

These things I tried to recall to papa's mind, but he angrily bade me be
silent.

"I cannot," I said, "because, if we had taken better care of the girl,
this might never have happened. When I think of her--her pleasant
ways about the house--how she used to go singing over her work of
mornings--poor innocent young thing--oh, papa! papa!"

"Dora," he said, eyeing me closely; "what change has come over you of
late?"

I said, I did not know, unless it was that which must come over people
who have been very unhappy--the wish to save other people as much
unhappiness as they can.

"Explain yourself. I do not understand." When he did, he said
abruptly,--

"Stop. It was well you waited to consult with me. If your own delicacy
does not teach you better, I must. My daughter--the daughter of the
clergyman of the parish--cannot possibly be allowed to interfere with
these profligates."

My heart sunk like lead:--

"But you, papa? They are here; you, as the rector, must do something.
What shall you do?"

He thought a little.

"I shall forbid them the church and the sacrament; omit them from
my charities; and take every lawful means to get them out of the
neighbourhood. This, for my family's sake, and the parish's--that they
may carry their corruption elsewhere."

"But they may not be wholly corrupt. And the child--that innocent,
unfortunate child!"

"Silence, Dora. It is written, _The seed of evil-doers shall never be
renowned_. The sinless must suffer with the guilty; there is no hope for
either."

"Oh, papa," I cried, in an agony, "Christ did not say so. He said, 'Go,
and sin no more.'"

Was I wrong? If I was, I suffered for it. What followed was very hard to
bear.

Max, if ever I am yours, altogether in your power, I wonder, will you
ever give me those sort of bitter, cruel words? Words which people,
living under the same roof, think nothing of using--mean nothing
by them--yet they cut sharp, like swords. The flesh closes up after
them--but oh, they bleed--they bleed! Dear Max, reprove me as you will,
however much, but let it be in love, not in anger or sarcasm. Sometimes
people drop carelessly, by quiet firesides, and with a good-night kiss
following, as papa gave to me, words which leave a scar for years.

Next day, I was just about to write and ask you to find some other plan
for helping the Cartwrights, since we neither of us would choose to
persist in one duty at the expense of another--when papa called me to
take a walk with him.

Is it not strange, the way in which good angels seem to take up the
thread of our dropped hopes and endeavours, and wind them up for us, we
see not how, till it is all done? Never was I more surprised than when
papa, stopping to lean on my arm, and catch the warm, pleasant wind that
came over the moors, said suddenly:--

"Dora, what could possess you to talk to me as you did last night? And
why, if you had any definite scheme in your head, did you relinquish it
so easily?"

"Papa, you forbade it."

"So, even when differing from your father, you consider it right to obey
him?"

"Yes,--except--"

"Say it out, child."

"Except in the case of any duty which I felt to be not less sacred than
the one I owe to my father."

He made no reply.

Walking on, we passed Mrs. Cartwright's cottage. It was quiet and
silent, the door open, but the window-shutter half closed, and there was
no smoke from the chimney. I saw papa turn round and look. At last he
said:--

"What did you mean by telling me they were 'starving?'"

I answered the direct, entire truth. I was bold, for it was your mind
as well as my own I was speaking out, and I knew it was right. I
pleaded chiefly for the child--it was easiest to think of it, the little
creature I had seen laughing and crowing in the garden at Kensington. It
seemed such a dreadful thing for that helpless baby to die of want, or
live to turn out a reprobate.

"Think, papa," I cried, "if that poor little soul had been our own
flesh and blood--if you were Francis's father, and this had been your
grandchild!"

To my sorrow, I had forgotten for the time a part of poor Harry's
story--the beginning of it: you shall know it some day--it is all past
now. But papa remembered it. He faltered as he walked--at last he sat
down on a tree by the roadside, and said, "He must go home."

Yet still, either by accident or design, he took the way by the lane
where is Mrs. Cartwright's cottage. At the gate of it a little ragged
urchin was poking a rosy face through the bars; and, seeing papa, this
small fellow gave a shout of delight, tottered out, and caught hold
of his coat, calling him "Daddy." He started--I thought he would have
fallen, he trembled so: my poor old father.

When I lifted the little thing out of his way, I too started. It is
strange always to see a face you know revived in a child's face--in this
instance it was shocking--pitiful. My first thought was, we never must
let Penelope come past this way. I was carrying the boy off--I well knew
where, when papa called me.

"Stop. Not alone--not without your father."

It was but a few steps, and we stood on the door-sill of Mrs.
Cartwright's cottage. The old woman snatched up the child, and I heard
her whisper something about "Run--Lyddy--run away."

But Lydia, if that white, thin creature, huddled up in the corner were
she, never attempted to move.

Papa walked up to her.

"Young woman, are you Lydia Cartwright, and is this your child?"

"Have you been meddling with him? You'd better not! I say, Franky, what
have they been doing to mother's Franky?"

She caught at him, and hugged him close, as mothers do. And when
the boy, evidently both attracted and puzzled by papa's height and
gentlemanly clothes, tried to get back to him, and again call him
"Daddy," she said angrily, "No, no, 'tis not your daddy. They're no
friends o' yours. I wish they were out of the place, Franky, boy."

"You wish us away. No wonder. Are you not ashamed to look us in the
face--my daughter and me?"

But papa might have said ever so much more, without her heeding.
The child having settled himself on her lap, playing with the ragged
counterpane that wrapped her instead of a shawl, Lydia seemed to care
for nothing. She lay back with her eyes shut, still and white. We may be
sure of one thing--she has preferred to starve.

"Dunnot be too hard upon her, sir," begged the old woman. "Dunnot
please, Miss Dora. She bean't a lady like you, and he were such a fine
coaxing young gentleman. It's he that's most to blame."

My father said sternly, "Has she left him, or been deserted by him--I
mean Mr. Francis Charteris?"

"Mother," screamed Lydia, "what's that? What have they come for? Do they
know anything about him?"

_She_ did not, then.

"Be quiet, my lass," said the mother, soothingly, but it was of no use.

"Miss Dora," cried the girl, creeping to me, and speaking in the same
sort of childish pitiful tone in which she used to come and beg Lisabel
and me to intercede for her when she had annoyed Penelope, "do, Miss
Dora, tell me. I don't want to see him, I only want to hear. I've heard
nothing since he sent me a letter from prison, saying I was to take my
things and the baby's and go. I don't know what's become of him, no more
than the dead. And, miss, he's that boy's father--miss--please--"

She tried to go down to her knees, but fell prone on the floor.

Max, who would have thought, the day before, that this day I should have
been sitting with Lydia Cartwright's head on my lap, trying to bring her
back to this miserable life of hers; that papa would have stood by and
seen me do it, without a word of blame!

"It's the hunger," cried the mother. "You see, she isn't used to it,
now; he always kept her like a lady."

Papa turned, and walked out of the cottage. I afterwards found out that
he had bought the loaf at the baker's shop down the village, and got the
bottle of wine from his private cupboard in the vestry. He returned with
both--one in each pocket--then, sitting down on a chair, cut the bread
and poured out the wine, and fed these three himself, with his own
hands. My dear father!

Nor did he draw back when, as she recovered, the first word that came to
the wretched girl's lips was "Francis."

"Mother, beg them to tell me about him. I'll do him no harm, indeed I
won't, neither him nor them. Is he married? Or," with a sudden gasp, "is
he dead? I've thought sometimes he must be, or he never would have left
the child and me. He was always fond of us, wasn't he, Franky?"

I told her, to the best of my knowledge, Mr. Charteris was living, but
what had become of him we could none of us guess. We never saw him now.

Here, looking wistfully at me, Lydia seemed suddenly to remember old
times, to become conscious of what she used to be, and what she was now.
Also, in a vague sort of way, of how guilty she had been towards her
mistress and our family. How long, or how deep the feeling was, I cannot
judge, but she certainly did feel. She hung her head, and tried to draw
herself away from my arm.

"I'd rather not trouble you, Miss Dora, thank you."

I said it was no trouble, she had better lie still till she felt
stronger.

"You don't mean that. Not such as me."

I told her she must know she had done very wrong, but if she was sorry
for it, I was sorry for her, and we would help her if we could to an
honest livelihood.

"What, and the child too?"

I looked towards papa; he answered distinctly, but
sternly:--"Principally for the sake of the child."

Lydia began to sob. She attempted no exculpation--expressed no
penitence--just lay and sobbed, like a child. She is hardly more, even
yet--only nineteen, I believe. So we sat--papa as silent as we, resting
on his stick, with his eyes fixed on the cottage floor, till Lydia
turned to me with a sort of fright. .

"What would Miss Johnston say if she knew?"

I wondered, indeed, what my sister would say.

And here, Max--you will hardly credit it, nobody would, if it were an
incident in a book--something occurred which, even now, seems hardly
possible--as if I must have dreamt it all.

Through the open cottage door a lady walked right in, looked at us all,
including the child, who stopped in his munching of bread to stare
at her with wide-open blue eyes--Francis's eyes; and that lady was my
sister Penelope.

She walked in and walked out again, before we had our wits about us
sufficiently to speak to her, and when I rose and ran after her, she had
slipped away somehow, so that I could not find her. How she came to
take this notion into her head, after being for weeks shut up
indoors;--whether she discovered that the Cartwrights had returned, and
came here in anger, or else, prompted by some restless instinct, to have
another look at Francis's child--none of us can guess; nor have we ever
dared to enquire.

When we got home, she was lying in her usual place on the sofa, as if
she wanted us not to notice that she had been out at all. Still, by
papa's desire, I spoke to her frankly--told her the circumstances of our
visit to the two women--the destitution in which we found them; and how
they should be got away from the village as soon as possible.

She made no answer whatever, but lay absorbed, as it were--hardly
moving, except an occasional nervous twitch, all afternoon and evening,
until I called her in to prayers, which were shorter than usual--papa
being very tired. He only read the collect, and repeated the Lord's
Prayer, in which, among the voices that followed his, I distinguished,
with surprise, Penelope's. It had a steadiness and sweetness such as I
never heard before. And when--the servants being gone--she went up to
papa, and kissed him, the change in her manner was something almost
startling.

"Father, when shall you want me in the district, again?" said she.

"My dear girl!"

"Because I am quite ready to go. I have been ill, and it has made me
unmindful of many things; but I am better now. Papa, I will try and be a
good daughter to you. I have nobody but you."

She spoke quietly and softly, bending her head upon his grey hairs. He
kissed and blessed her. She kissed me, too, as she passed, and then went
away to bed, without any more explanation.

But from that time--and it is now three days ago--Penelope has resumed
her usual place in the household--taken up all her old duties, and even
her old pleasures; for I saw her in her green-house this morning. When
she called me, in something of the former quick, imperative voice, to
look at an air-plant that was just coming into flower, I could not see
it for tears.

Nevertheless, there is in her a difference. Not her serious, almost
elderly-looking face, nor her manner, which has lost its sharpness,
and is so gentle sometimes that when she gives her orders the servants
actually stare--but the marvellous composure which is evident in her
whole demeanour; the bearing of a person who, having gone through that
sharp agony which either kills or cures, is henceforth settled in mind
and "circumstances," to feel no more any strong emotion, but go through
life placidly and patiently, without much further change, to the end.
The sort of woman that nuns are-made of--or-Sours de la Charité; or
Protestant lay-sisters, of whom every village has some; and almost
every family owns at least one. She will, to all appearance, be our
one--our elder sister, to be regarded with reverence unspeakable, and be
made as happy as we possibly can. Max, I am learning to think with hope
and without pain, of the future of my sister Penelope.

One word more, and this long letter ends.

Yesterday, papa and I walking on the moor, met Mrs. Cartwright, and
learnt full particulars of Lydia. From your direction, her mother found
her out, in a sort of fever, brought on by want. Of course, everything
had been taken from the Kensington cottage, for Francis's debts. She
was turned out with only the clothes she wore. But you know all this
already, through Mrs. Ansdell.

Mrs. Cartwright is sure it was you who sent Mrs. Ansdell to them, and
that the money they received week, by week, in their worst distress,
came from you. She said so to papa, while we stood talking.

"For it was just like our doctor, sir--as is kind to poor and rich--I'm
sure he used to look at you, sir, as if he'd do anything in the world
for you--as many's the time I've seed him a-sitting by your bedside when
you was ill. If there ever was a man living as did good to every poor
soul as came in his way--it be Doctor Urquhart."

Papa said nothing.

After the old woman had gone, he asked if I had any plans about Lydia
Cartwright?

I had one, which we must consult about when she is better,--whether she
might not, with her good education, be made one of the schoolmistresses
that you say, go from cell to cell, instructing the female prisoners
in these model gaols. But I hesitated to start this project to papa--so
told him I must think the matter over.

"You are growing quite a thinking woman, Dora; who taught you, who put
it into your mind to act as you do?--you, who were such a thoughtless
girl;--speak out, I want to know?"

I told him--naming the name of my dear Max; the first time it has ever
passed my lips in my father's hearing, since that day. It was received
in silence.

Some time after, stopping suddenly, papa said to me, "Dora, some day, I
know you will go and marry Doctor Urquhart."

What could I say? Deny it, deny Max--my love, and my husband? or tell my
father what was not true? Either was impossible.

So we walked on, avoiding conversation until we came to our own
churchyard, where we went in and sat in the porch, sheltering from the
noon-heat, which papa feels more than he used to do. When he took my
arm to walk home, his anger had vanished, he spoke even with a sort of
melancholy.

"I don't know how it is, my dear, but the world is altering fast. People
preach strange doctrines, and act in strange ways, such as were never
thought of when I was young. It may be for good or for evil--I shall
find out by-and-by. I was dreaming of your mother last night; you are
growing very like her, child." Then suddenly, "Only wait till I am dead,
and you will be free, Theodora."

My heart felt bursting; oh Max, you do not mind me telling you these
things? What should I do if I could not thus open my heart to you?

Yet it is not altogether with grief, or without hope, that I have
thought over what then passed between papa and me. He knows you--knows
too that neither you nor I have ever deceived him in anything. He was
fond of you once; I think sometimes he misses you still, in little
things wherein you used to pay him attention, less like a friend than a
son.

Now Max, do not think I am grieving--do not imagine I have cause to
grieve. They are as kind to me as ever they can be. My home is as happy
as any home could be made, except one, which, whether we shall ever find
or not, God knows. In quiet evenings such as this, when, after a rainy
day, it has just cleared up in time for the sun to go down, and he is
going down peacefully in amber glory, with the trees standing up so
purple and still, and the moorlands lying bright, and the hills distinct
even to their very last faint rim--in such evenings as this, Max, when I
want you and cannot find you, but have to learn to sit still by myself,
as now, I learn to think also of the meeting which has no farewell, of
the rest that comes to all in time, of the eternal home. We shall reach
that--some day.

Your faithful,

Theodora.



CHAPTER VIII. HIS STORY.


_Treherne Court,_ _Sunday night._

|My Dear Theodora,--

The answer to my telegram has just arrived, and I find it is your sister
whom we are to expect, not you. I shall meet her myself by the night
train, Treherne being quite incapable; indeed, he will hardly stir from
the corridor that leads to his wife's room.

You will have heard already that the heir so ardently looked for has
only lived a few hours. Lady Augusta's letters, which she gave me to
address, and I took care to post myself, would have assured you of your
sister's safety, though it was long doubtful. It will comfort you to
know that she is in excellent care, both her medical attendants being
known to me professionally, and Lady Augusta, being a real mother to
her, in tenderness and anxiety.

You will wonder how I came here. It was by accident--taking a Saturday
holiday, which is advisable now and then; and Treherne's mother detained
me, as being the only person who had any control over her son. Poor
fellow! he was almost out of his mind. He never had any trouble before,
and he knows not how to bear it. He trembled in terror--thus coming face
to face with that messenger of God who puts an end to all merely mortal
joys--was paralyzed at the fear of losing his blessings, which, numerous
as they are, are all of this world. My love, whom I thought to have
seen to-night, but shall not see--for how long?--things are more equally
balanced than we suppose.

You will be sorry about the little one.

Treherne seems indifferent; his whole thought being, naturally, his
wife; but Sir William is grievously disappointed. A son too--and he had
planned bonfires, and bell-ringings, and rejoicings all over the estate.
When he stood looking at the little white lump of clay, which is the
only occupant of the grand nursery, prepared for the heir of Treherne
Court, I heard the old man sigh as if for a great misfortune.

You will think it none, since your sister lives. Be quite content about
her--which is easy for me to say, when I know how long and anxious the
days will seem at Rockmount. It might have been better, for some things,
if you, rather than Miss Johnston, had come to take charge of your
sister during her recovery; but, maybe, all is well as it is. To-morrow
I shall leave this great house, with its many happinesses, which have
run so near a chance of being overthrown, and go back to my own
solitary life, in which nothing of personal interest ever visits me but
Theodora's letters.

There were two things I intended to tell you in my Sunday letter;
shall I say them still? for the more things you have to think about the
better, and one of them was my reason for suggesting your presence here,
rather than your eldest sister's.--(Do not imagine though, your coming
was urged by me wholly for other people's sakes. The sight of you---just
for a few hours--one hour--People talk of water in the desert--the
thought of a green field to those who have been months at sea--well,
that is what a glimpse of your little face would be to me. But I cannot
get it--and I must not moan.)

What was I writing about? oh, to bid you tell Mrs. Cartwright from
me that her daughter is well in health and doing well. After her two
months' probation here, the governor, to whom alone I communicated her
history (names omitted) pronounces her quite fitted for the situation.
And she will be formally appointed thereto. This is a great satisfaction
to me--as she was selected solely on my recommendation, backed by Mrs.
Ansdell's letter. Say also to the old woman, that I trust she receives
regularly the money her daughter sends her through me; which indeed is
the only time I ever see Lydia alone. But I meet her often in the wards,
as she goes from cell to cell, teaching the female prisoners; and it is
good to see her sweet grave looks, her decent dress and mien, and her
unexpressible humility and gentleness towards everybody.--She puts me in
mind of words you know--which in another sense, other hearts than poor
Lydia's might often feel--that those love most to whom most has been
forgiven.

Hinting this, though not in reference to her, in a conversation with
the governor, he observed, rather coldly, "He had heard it said Doctor
Urquhart held peculiar opinions upon crime and punishment--that, in
fact, he was a little too charitable."

I sighed--thinking that of all men, Doctor Urquhart was the one who had
the most reason to be charitable: and the governor fixed his eyes upon
me somewhat unpleasantly. Anyone running counter, as I do, to several
popular prejudices, is sure not to be without enemies. I should be
sorry, though, to have displeased so honest a man, and one whom, widely
as we differ in some things, is always safe to deal with, from his
possessing that rare quality--justice.

You see, I go on writing to you of my matters--just as I should talk to
you if you sat by my side now, with your hand in mine, and your head,
here. (So you found two grey hairs in those long locks of yours last
week. Never mind, love. To me you will be always young.)

I write as I hope to talk to you one day. I never was among those who
believe that a man should keep all his cares secret from his wife. If
she is a true wife, she will soon read them on his face, or the effect
of them; he had better tell them out and have them over. I have learnt
many things, since I found my Theodora: among the rest is, that when a
man marries, or loves with the hope of marrying, let him have been ever
so reserved, his whole nature opens out--he becomes another creature;
in degree towards everybody, but most of all to her he has chosen. How
altered I am--you would smile to see, were my little lady to compare
these long letters, with the brief, businesslike productions which have
heretofore borne the signature "Max Urquhart."

I prize my name a little. It has been honourable for a number of years.
My father was proud of it, and Dallas. Do you like it? Will you like it
when--if----No, let me trust in heaven, and say, _when_ you bear it?

Those papers of mine which you saw mentioned in the _Times_--I am glad
Mr. Johnston read them; or at least you suppose he did.

I believe they are doing good, and that my name is becoming pretty well
known in connection with them, especially in this town. A provincial
reputation has its advantages; it is more undoubted--more complete. In
London, a man may shirk and hide; his nearest acquaintance can scarcely
know him thoroughly; but in the provinces it is different. There, if
he has a flaw in him, either as to his antecedents, his character,
or conduct, be sure scandal will find it out; for she has every
opportunity. Also, public opinion is at once stricter and more
narrow-minded in a place like this than in a great metropolis. I am glad
to be earning a good name here, in this honest, hard-working, commercial
district, where my fortunes are apparently cast; and where, having been
a "rolling stone" all my life, I mean to settle and "gather moss," if I
can. Moss to make a little nest soft and warm for--my love knows who.

Writing this, about the impossibility of keeping anything secret in
a town like this, reminds me of something which I was in doubt about
telling you or not: finally, I have decided that I will tell you. Your
sister being absent, will make things easier for you. You will not have
need to use any of those concealments which must be so painful in a
home. Nevertheless, I do think Miss Johnston ought to be kept ignorant
of the fact that I believe, nay, am almost certain, Mr. Francis
Charteris is at this present time living in Liverpool.

No wonder that all my inquiries about him in London failed. He has
just been discharged from this very gaol. It is more than likely he
was arrested for liabilities long owing; or contracted after his last
fruitless visit to his uncle, Sir William. I could easily find out, but
hardly consider it delicate to make inquiries, as I did not, you know,
after the debtor--whom a turnkey here reported to have said he knew me.
Debtors are not criminals by law--their ward is justly held private. I
never visit any of them unless they come into hospital.

Therefore my meeting with Mr. Charteris was purely accidental. Nor do
I believe he recognised me--I had stepped aside into the warder's room.
The two other discharged debtors passed through the entrance-gate, and
quitted the gaol immediately; but he lingered, desiring a car to be sent
for--and inquiring where one could get handsome and comfortable lodgings
in this horrid Liverpool. He hated a commercial town.

You will ask, woman-like, how he looked?

Ill and worn, with something of the shabby, "poor gentleman" aspect,
with which we here are only too familiar. I overheard the turnkey joking
with the carman about taking him to "handsome rooms." Also, there was
about him an ominous air of what we in Scotland call the "down-draught;"
a term, the full meaning of which you probably do not understand--I
trust you never may.

*****

You will see by its date how many days ago the first part of this letter
was written. I kept it back till the cruel suspense of your sister's
sudden relapse was ended--thinking it a pity your mind should be
burthened with any additional care. You have had, in the meantime, the
daily bulletin from Treherne Court--the daily line from me.

How are you, my child?--for you have forgotten to say. Any roses out on
your poor cheeks? Look in the glass and tell me. I must know, or I must
come and see. Remember, your life is a part of mine, now.

Mrs. Treherne is convalescent--as you know. I saw her on Monday for the
first time. She is changed, certainly; it will be long before she is
anything like the Lisabel Johnston of my recollection, full of health
and physical enjoyment. But do not grieve. Sometimes, to have gone
near the gates of death, and returned, hallows the whole future life. I
thought, as I left her, lying contentedly on her sofa, with her hand in
her husband's, who sits watching as if truly she were given back to him
from the grave, that it may be good for those two to have been so nearly
parted. It may teach them, according to a line you once repeated to me
(you see, though I am not poetical, I remember all your bits of poetry),
to=

````"hold every mortal joy

```With a loose hand."=

since nothing finite is safe, unless overshadowed by the belief in, and
the glory of, the Infinite.

My dearest--my best of every earthly thing--whom to be parted from
temporarily, as now often makes me feel as if half myself were
wanting--whom to lose out of this world would be a loss irremediable,
and to leave behind in it would be the sharpest sting of death--better,
I have sometimes thought, of late--better be you and I than Treherne and
Lisabel.

In all these letters I have scarcely mentioned Penelope--you see I am
learning to name your sisters as if mine. She, however, has treated me
almost like a stranger in the few times we happened to meet--until last
Monday.

I had left the happy group in the library--Treherne, tearing himself
from his wife's sofa--honest fellow! to follow me to the door--where he
wrung my hand, and said, with a sob like a school-boy, that he had never
been so happy in his life before, and he hoped he was thankful for it.
Your eldest sister, who sat in the window sewing--her figure put me
somewhat in mind of you, little lady--bade me good-bye--she was going
back to Rockmount in a few days.

I quitted them, and walked alone across the park, where the
chestnut-trees--you remember them--are beginning, not only to change,
but to fall; thinking how fast the years go, and how little there is in
them of positive joy. Wrong--this!--and I know it; but, my love, I
sin sorely at times. I nearly forgot a small patient I have at the
lodge-gates, who is slipping so gradually, but surely, poor wee man!
into the world where he will be a child for ever. After sitting with him
half an hour, I came out better.

A lady was waiting outside the lodge-gates. When I saw who it was, I
meant to bow and pass on, but Miss Johnston called me. From her face, I
dreaded it was some ill news about you.

Your sister is a good woman and a kind.

She said to me, when her explanations had set my mind at ease:--

"Doctor Urquhart, I believe you are a man to be trusted. Dora trusts
you. Dora once said, you would be just, even to your enemies."

I answered, I hoped it was something more than justice, that we owed
even to our enemies.

"That is not the question," she said, sharply; "I spoke only of justice.
I would not do an injustice to the meanest thing--the vilest wretch that
crawls."

"No."

She went on:--

"I have not liked you, Dr. Urquhart: nor do I know if my feelings are
altered now--but I respect you. Therefore, you are the only person of
whom I can ask a favour. It is a secret. Will you keep it so?"

"Except from Theodora."

"You are right. Have no secrets from Theodora. For her sake, and your
own--for your whole life's peace--never, even in the lightest thing,
deceive that poor child!" Her voice sharpened, her black eyes glittered
a moment, and then she shrank back into her usual self. I see exactly
the sort of woman, which, as you say, she will grow into--sister
Penelope--aunt Penelope. Every one belonging to her must try,
henceforth, to spare her every possible pang.

After a few moments, I begged her to say what I could do for her.

"Read this letter, and tell me if you think it is true."

It was addressed to Sir William Treherne; the last humble appeal of a
broken-down man; the signature "Francis Charteris."

I tried my best to disguise the emotion which Miss Johnston herself did
not show, and returned the letter, merely inquiring if Sir William had
answered it?

"No. He will not. He disbelieves the facts."

"Do you, also?"

"I cannot say. The--the writer was not always accurate in his
statements."

Women are, in some things, stronger and harder than men. I doubt if any
man could have spoken as steadily as your sister did at this minute.
While I explained to her, as I thought it right to do, though with the
manner of one talking of a stranger to a stranger--the present position
of Mr. Charteris, she replied not a syllable. Only passing a felled
tree--she suddenly sank down upon it, and sat motionless.

"What is he to do?" she said, at last.

I replied that the Insolvent Court could free him from his debts, and
grant him protection from further imprisonment; that though thus sunk in
circumstances, a Government situation was hardly to be hoped for, still
there were in Liverpool, clerkships and mercantile opportunities,
in which any person so well educated as he, might begin the world
again--health permitting.

"His health was never good--has it failed him?"

"I fear so."

Your sister turned away. She sat--we both sat--for some time, so still
that a bright-eyed squirrel came and peeped at us, stole a nut a few
yards off, and scuttled away with it to Mrs. Squirrel and the little
ones up in a tall sycamore hard by.

I begged Miss Johnston to let me see the address once more, and I
would pay a visit, friendly or medical, as the case might allow, to Mr.
Charteris, on my way home to-night.

"Thank you, Doctor Urquhart."

I then rose and took leave, time being short.

"Stay, one word if you please. In that visit, you will of course say,
if inquired, that you learnt the address from Treherne Court. You will,
name no other names?"

"Certainly not."

"But afterwards, you will write to me?"

"I will."

We shook hands, and I left her sitting there on the dead tree. I went
on, wondering if anything would result from this curious combination of
accidents: also, whether a woman's love, if cut off at the root, even
like this tree, could be actually killed, so that nothing could revive
it again. What think you, Theodora?

But this trick of moralizing, caught from you, shall not be indulged.
There is only time for the relation of bare facts.

The train brought me to the opposite shore of our river, not half
a mile's walk from Mr. Charteris's lodgings. They seemed "handsome
lodgings" as he said--a tall new house, one of the many which, only
half-built, or half-inhabited, make this Birkenhead such a dreary place.
But it is improving, year by year--I sometimes think it may be quite a
busy and cheerful spot by the time I take a house here, as I intend. You
will like a hill-top, and a view of the sea.

I asked for Mr. Charteris, and stumbled up the half-lighted stairs, into
the wholly dark drawing-room.

"Who the devil's there?"

He was in hiding, you must remember, as indeed I ought to have done, and
so taken the precaution first to send up my name--but I was afraid of
non-admittance.

When the gas was lit, his pale, unshaven, sallow countenance, his state
of apparent illness and weakness, made me cease to regret having gained
entrance, under any circumstances. Recognizing me, he muttered some
apology.

"I was asleep--I usually do sleep after dinner." Then recovering
his confused faculties, he asked with some _hauteur_, "To what may I
attribute the pleasure of seeing Doctor Urquhart? Are you, like myself,
a mere bird of passage, or a resident in Liverpool?"

"I am surgeon of ---------- gaol.

"Indeed, I was not aware. A good appointment I hope? And what gaol did
you say?"

I named it again, and left the subject. If he chose to wrap himself in
that thin cloak of deception, it was no business of mine to tear it off.
Besides, one pities a ruined man's most petty pride.

But it was an awkward position. You know how haughty Mr. Charteris
can be; you know also that unlucky peculiarity in me, call it Scotch
shyness, cautiousness, or what you please, my little English girl must
cure it, if she can. Whether or not it was my fault, I soon felt that
this visit was turning out a complete failure. We conversed in the
civillest manner, though somewhat disjointedly, on politics, the
climate and trade of Liverpool, &c., but of Mr. Charteris and his real
condition, I learned no more than if I were meeting him at a London
dinner-party, or a supper with poor Tom Turton--who is dead, as you
know. Mr. Charteris did not, it seems, and his startled exclamation at
hearing the fact was the own natural expression during my whole visit.
Which, after a few rather broad hints, I took the opportunity of a
letter's being brought in, to terminate.

Not, however, with any intention on my side of its being a final one.
The figure of this wretched-looking invalid, though he would not own to
illness--men seldom will--lying in the solitary, fireless lodging-house
parlor, where there was no indication of food, and a strong smell of
opium--followed me all the way to the jetty, suggesting plan after plan
concerning him.

You cannot think how pretty even our dull river looks of a night, with
its two long lines of lighted shores, and other lights scattered between
in all directions, _every_ vessel's rigging bearing one. And to-night,
above all things, was a large bright moon, sailing up over innumerable
white clouds, into the clear dark zenith, converting the town of
Liverpool into a fairy city, and the muddy Mersey into a pleasant river,
crossed by a pathway of silver--such as one always looks at with a kind
of hope that it would lead to "some bright isle of rest." There was a
song to that effect popular when Dallas and I were boys.

As the boat moved off, I settled myself to enjoy the brief seven minutes
of crossing--thinking, if I had but the little face by me looking up
into the moonlight she is so fond of, the little hand to keep warm in
mine!

And now, Theodora, I come to something which you must use your own
judgment about telling your sister Penelope.

Half-way across, I was attracted by the peculiar manner of a passenger,
who had leaped on the boat just as we were shoved off, and now stood
still as a carved figure, staring down into the foamy track of the
paddle-wheels. He was so absorbed that he did not notice me, but I
recognized him at once, and an ugly suspicion entered my mind.

In my time, I have had opportunities of witnessing, stage by stage, that
disease--call it dyspepsia, hypochondriasis, or what you will--it has
all names and all forms--which is peculiar to our present state of high
civilization, where the mind and the body seem cultivated into perpetual
warfare one with the other. This state--some people put poetical names
upon it--but we doctors know that it is at least as much physical as
mental, and that many a poor misanthrope, who loathes himself and the
world, is merely an unfortunate victim of stomach and nerves, whom rest,
natural living, and an easy mind, would soon make a man again. But that
does not remove the pitifulness and danger of the case. While the man is
what he is, he is little better than a monomaniac.

If I had not seen him before, the expression of his countenance, as he
stood looking down into the river, would have been enough to convince me
how necessary it was to keep a strict watch over Mr. Charteris.

When the rush of passengers to the gangway made our side of the boat
nearly deserted, he sprang up the steps of the paddle-box, and there
stood.

I once saw a man commit suicide. It was one of ours, returning from the
Crimea. He had been drinking hard, and was put under restraint, for
fear of delirium tremens; but when he was thought recovered, one day,
at broad noon, in sight of all hands, he suddenly jumped overboard. I
caught sight of his face as he did so--it was exactly the expression of
Francis Charteris.

Perhaps, in any case, you had better never repeat the whole of this to
your sister.

Not till after a considerable struggle did I pull him down to the safe
deck once more. There he stood breathless.

"You were not surely going to drown yourself, Mr. Charteris?"

"I was. And I will."

"Try,--and I shall call the police to prevent your making such an ass of
yourself."

It was no time to choose words, and in this sort of disease the best
preventive one can use, next to a firm, imperative will, is ridicule. He
answered nothing--but gazed at me in simple astonishment, while I took
his arm and led him out of the boat and across the landing-stage.

"I beg your pardon for using such strong language, but a man must be an
ass indeed, who contemplates such a thing;--here, too, of all places.
To be fished up out of this dirty river like a dead rat, for the
entertainment of the crowd; to make a capital case at the magistrate's
court to-morrow, and a first-rate paragraph in the _Liverpool
Mercury_,--'Attempted Suicide of a Gentleman.' Or, if you really
succeeded, which I doubt, to be 'Found Drowned,'--a mere body, drifted
ashore with cocoa-nut husks and cabbages at Waterloo, or brought in as
I once saw at these very stairs, one of the many poor fools who do this
here yearly. They had picked him up eight miles higher up the river,
and so brought him down, lashed behind a rowing-boat, floating face
upwards"--

"Ah!"

I felt Charteris shudder.

You will, too, my love, so I will repeat no more of what I said to him.
But these ghastly pictures were the strongest arguments available with
such a man. What was the use of talking to him of God, and life, and
immortality? he had told me he believed in none of these things. But
he believed in death--the epicurean's view of it--"to lie in cold
obstruction and to rot." I thought, and still think, that it was best
to use any lawful means to keep him from repeating the attempt. Best to
save the man first, and preach to him afterwards.

He and I walked up and down the streets of Liverpool almost in silence,
except when he darted into the first chemist's shop he saw to procure
opium.

"Don't hinder me," he said, imploringly, "it is the only thing that
keeps me alive."

Then I walked him about once more, till his pace flagged, his limbs
tottered, he became thoroughly passive and exhausted. I called a car,
and expressed my determination to see him safe home.

"Home! No, no, I must not go there." And the poor fellow summoned all
his faculties, in order to speak rationally. "You see, a gentleman in
my unpleasant circumstances--in short, could you recommend any place--a
quiet, out-of-the-way place, where--where I could hide?"

I had suspected things were thus. And now, if I lost sight of him even
for twenty-four hours, he might be lost permanently. He was in that
critical state, when the next step, if it were not to a prison, might be
into a lunatic asylum.

It was not difficult to persuade him that the last place where creditors
would search for a debtor would be inside a gaol, nor to convey him,
half-stupefied as he was, into my own rooms, and leave him fast asleep
on my bed.

Yet, even now, I cannot account for the influence I so soon gained, and
kept; except that any person in his seven senses always has power over
another nearly out of them, and to a sick man there is no autocrat like
the doctor.

Now for his present condition. The day following, I removed him to a
country lodging, where an old woman I know will look after him. The
place is humble enough, but they are honest people. He may lie safe
there till some portion of health returns; his rent, &c.--my prudent
little lady will be sure to be asking after my "circumstances"--well,
love, his rent for the next month at least, I can easily afford to pay.
The present is provided for--as to his future, heaven only knows.

I wrote, according to promise, to your sister Penelope, explaining where
Mr. Charteris was, his state of health, and the position of his affairs;
also, my advice, which he neither assents to nor declines, that as soon
as his health will permit, he should surrender himself in London, go
through the Insolvent Court, and start anew in life. A hard life, at
best, since, whatever situation he may obtain, it will take years to
free him from all his liabilities.

Miss Johnston's answer I received this morning. It was merely an
envelope containing a bank note of 20L. Sir William's gift, possibly; I
told her he had better be made aware of his nephew's abject state,--or
do you suppose it is from herself? I thought beyond your quarterly
allowance, you had none of you much ready money? If there is anything I
ought to know before applying this sum to the use of Mr. Charteris, you
will, of course, tell me?

I have been to see him this afternoon. It is a poor room he lies in, but
clean and quiet. He will not stir out of it; it was with difficulty
I persuaded him to have the window opened, so that we might enjoy the
still autumn sunshine, the church-bells, and the little robin's song.
Turning back to the sickly drawn face, buried in the sofa-pillows,
my heart smote me with a heavy doubt as to what was to be the end of
Francis Charteris.

Yet I do not think he will die; but he will be months, years
in recovering, even if he is ever his old self again--bodily, I
mean-whether his inner self is undergoing any change, I have small means
of judging. The best thing for him, both mentally and physically, would
be a fond, good woman's constant care; but that he cannot have.

I need scarcely say, I have taken every precaution that he should never
see nor hear anything of Lydia; nor she of him. He has never named her,
nor any one; past and future seem alike swept out of his mind; he only
lives in the miserable present, a helpless, hopeless, exacting invalid.
Not on any account would I have Lydia Cartwright see him now. If I judge
her countenance rightly, she is just the girl to do exactly what you
women are so prone to--forgive everything, sacrifice everything, and
go back to the old love. Ah! Theodora, what am I that I should dare to
speak thus lightly of women's love, women's forgiveness!

I am glad Mr. Johnston allows you occasionally to see Mrs. Cartwright
and the child, and that the little fellow is so well cared by his
grandmother. If, with his father's face, he inherits his father's
temperament, the nervously sensitive organization of a modern
"gentleman," as opposed to the healthy animalism of a working man, life
will be an uphill road to that poor boy.

His mother's heart aches after him sorely at times, as I can plainly
perceive. Yesterday, I saw her stand watching the line of female
convicts--those with infants--as one after the other they filed out,
each with her baby in her arms, and passed into the exercising-ground.
Afterwards, I watched her slip into one of the empty cells, fold up a
child's cap that had been left lying about, and look at it wistfully, as
if she almost envied the forlorn occupant of that dreary nook, where,
at least, the mother had her child with her continually. Poor Lydia! she
may have been a girl of weak will, easily led astray, but I am convinced
that the only thing which led her astray must have been, and will always
be, her affections.

Perhaps, as the grandmother cannot write, it would be a comfort to
Lydia, if your next letter enabled me to give to her a fuller account
of the welfare of little Frank. I wonder, does his father ever think of
him? or of the poor mother. He was "always kind to them," you tell me
she declared; possibly fond of them, so far as a selfish man can be. But
how can such an one as he understand what it must be to be a _father!_

My love, I must cease writing now. It is midnight, and I have to take
as much sleep as I can; my work is very hard just at present; but happy
work, because, through it, I look forward to a future.

Your father's brief message of thanks for my telegram about Mr.
Treherne, was kind. Will you acknowledge it in the way you consider
would be most pleasing; that is, least unpleasing, to him, from me.

And now, farewell--farewell, my only darling.

Max Urquhart.

P.S.--After the fashion of a lady's letter, though not, I trust, with
the most important fact therein. Though I re-open my letter to inform
you of it, lest you might learn it in some other way, I consider it
of very slight moment, and only name it because these sort of small
unpleasantnesses have a habit of growing like snow-balls, every yard
they roll.

Our chaplain has just shown me in this morning's paper a paragraph about
myself, not complimentary, and decidedly ill-natured. It hardly took me
by surprise; I have of late occasionally caught stray comments, not very
flattering, on myself and my proceedings, but they troubled me little.
I know that a man in my position, with aims far beyond his present
circumstances, with opinions too obstinate and manners too blunt to
get these aims carried out, as many do, by the aid of other and more
influential people, such a man _must_ have enemies.

Be not afraid, love--mine are few; and be sure I have given them no
cause for animosity. True, I have contradicted some, and not many men
can stand contradiction--but I have wronged no man to my knowledge.
My conscience is clear. So they may spread what absurd reports or
innuendoes they will--I shall live it all down.

My spirit seems to have had a douche-bath this morning, cold, but
salutary. This tangible annoyance will brace me out of a little
feebleheartedness that has been growing over me of late; so be content,
my Theodora.

I send you the newspaper paragraph. Read it, and burn it.

Is Penelope come home? I need scarcely observe, that only herself and
you are acquainted, or will be, with any of the circumstances I have
related with respect to Mr. Charteris.



CHAPTER IX. HER STORY.


|A fourth Monday, and my letter has not come. Oh, Max, Max!--You are
not ill, I know; for Augustus saw you on Saturday. Why were you in such
haste to slip away from him? He himself even noticed it.

For me, had I not then heard of your wellbeing, I should have disquieted
myself sorely. Three weeks--twenty-one days--it is a long time to go
about as if there were a stone lying in the corner of one's heart, or
a thorn piercing it. One may not acknowledge this: one's reason, or
better, one's love, may often quite argue it down; yet, it is there.
This morning, when the little postman went whistling past Rockmount
gate, I turned almost sick with fear.

Understand me--not with one sort of fear. Faithlessness or forgetfulness
are--Well, with, you they are--simply impossible! But you are my Max;
anything happening to you happens to me; nothing can hurt you without
hurting me. Do you feel this as I do? if so, surely, under any
circumstances, you would write.

Forgive! I meant not to blame you; we never ought to blame what we
cannot understand. Besides, all this suspense may end to-morrow. Max
does not intend to wound me; Max loves me.

Just now, sitting quiet, I seemed to hear you saying: "My little lady,"
as distinctly as if you were close at hand, and had called me. Yet it is
a year since I have heard the sound of your voice, or seen your face.

Augustus says, of late you have turned quite grey. Never, mind, Max! I
like silver locks. An old man I knew used to say, "At the root of every
grey hair is a eell of wisdom."

How will you be able to bear with the foolishness of this me? Yet, all
the better for you. I know you would soon be ten years younger--looks
and all--if, after your hard work, you had a home to come back to,
and--and _me_.

See how conceited we grow! See the demoralizing result of having been
for a whole year loved and cared for; of knowing ourselves, for the
first time in our lives, first object to somebody!

There now, I can laugh again; and so I may begin and write my letter. It
shall not be a sad or complaining letter, if I can help it.

Spring is coming on fast. I never remember such a March. Buds of
chestnuts bursting, blackbirds singing, primroses out in the lane, a
cloud of snowy wind-flowers gleaming through the trees of my favourite
wood, concerning which, you remember, we had our celebrated battle about
blue-bells and hyacinths. These are putting out their leaves already;
there will be such quantities this year. How I should like to show you
my bank of--ahem! _blue-bells!_

Mischievous still, you perceive. Obstinate, likewise; almost as
obstinate as--you.

Augustus hints at some "unpleasant business" you have been engaged in
lately. I conclude some controversy, in which you have had to "hold your
own" more firmly than usual. Or new "enemies,"--business foes only
of course, about which you told me I must never grieve, as they were
unavoidable. I do not grieve; you will live down any passing animosity.
It will be all smooth sailing by-and-by. But in the meantime, why not
tell me? I am not a child--and--I am to be your wife, Max.

Ah, now the thorn is out, the one little sting of pain. It isn't this
child you were fond of, this ignorant, foolish, naughty child, it is
your wife, whom you yourself chose, to whom you yourself gave her place
and her rights, who comes to you with her heart full of love and says,
"Max, tell me!"

Now, no more of this, for I have much to tell you--I tell _you_
everything.

You know how quietly this winter has slipped away with us at. Rockmount;
how, from the time Penelope returned, she and I seemed to begin our
lives anew together, in one sense beginning almost as little children,
living entirely in the present; content with each day's work-and each
day's pleasure,--and it was wonderful how many small pleasures we
found--never allowing ourselves either to dwell on the future or revert
to the past. Except when by your desire. I told my sister of Francis's
having passed through the Insolvent Court, and how you were hoping to
obtain for him a situation as corresponding clerk. Poor Francis! all
his grand German and Spanish to have sunk down to the writing of a
merchant's business-letters, in a musty Liverpool office! Will he ever
bear it? Well, except this time, and once afterwards, his name has never
been mentioned, either by Penelope or me.

The second time happened thus--I did not tell you then, so I will now.
When our Christmas bills came in--our private ones, my sister had no
money to meet them. I soon guessed that--as, from your letter, I
had already guessed where her half-yearly allowance had gone. I was
perplexed, for though she now confides to me nearly everything of her
daily concerns, she has never told me _that_. Yet she must have known I
knew--that you would be sure to tell me.

At last, one morning, as I was passing the door of her room, she called
me in.

She was standing before a chest-of-drawers, which, I had noticed, she
always kept locked. But to-day the top drawer was open, and out of a
small jewel-case that lay on it, she had taken a string of pearls. "You
remember this?"

Ah, yes! But Penelope looked steadily at it; so, of course, did I.

"Have you any idea, Dora, what it is worth, or how much Sir William gave
for it?"

I knew: for Lisabel had told me herself, in the days when we were
all racking our brains to find out suitable marriage presents for the
governor's lady.

"Do you think it would be wrong, or that the Trehernes would be annoyed,
if I sold it?"

"Sold it!"

"I have no money--and my bills must be paid. It is not dishonest to sell
what is one's own, though it may be somewhat painful."

I could say nothing. The pain was keen--even to me.

She then reminded me how Mrs. Granton had once admired these pearls,
saying, when Colin married she should like to give her daughter-in-law
just such another necklace.

"If she would buy it now--if you would not mind asking her--"

"No, no!"

"Thank you, Dora."

She replaced the necklace in its case, and gave it into my hand. I was
slipping out of the room, when she said:--

"One moment, child. There was something more I wished to say to you.
Look here."

She unlocked drawer after drawer. There lay, carefully arranged, all
her wedding clothes, even to the white silk dress, the wreath and veil.
Everything was put away in Penelope's own tidy, over-particular fashion,
wrapped in silver paper, or smoothly folded, with sprigs of lavender
between. She must have done it leisurely and orderly, after her peculiar
habit, which made us, when she was only a girl of seventeen, teaze
Penelope by calling her "old maid!"

Even now, she paused more than once, to re-fold or re-arrange
something--tenderly, as one would arrange the clothes of a person who
was dead--then closed and locked every drawer, putting the key, not on
her household-bunch, but in a corner of her desk.

"I should not like anything touched in my lifetime, but, should I
die--not that this is likely; I believe I shall live to be an old
woman--still, should I die, you will know, where these things are. Do
with them exactly what you think best. And if money is wanted for--" She
stopped, and then, for the first time, I heard her pronounce his name,
distinctly and steadily, like any other name, "for Francis Charteris, or
any one belonging to him--sell them. You will promise?"

I promised.

Mrs. Granton, dear soul! asked no questions, but took the necklace, and
gave me the money, which I brought to my sister. She received it without
a word.

After this, all went on as heretofore; and though sometimes I have felt
her eye upon me when I was opening your letters, as if she fancied there
might be something to hear, still, since there never was anything, I
thought it best to take no notice. But Max, I wished often, and wish
now, that you would tell me if there is any special reason why, for so
many weeks, you have never mentioned Francis?

I was telling you about Penelope. She has fallen into her old busy
ways--busier than ever, indeed. She looks well too, "quite herself
again," as Mrs. Granton whispered to me, one morning when--wonderful
event--I had persuaded my sister that we ought to drive over to lunch
at the Cedars, and admire all the preparations for the reception of Mrs.
Colin, next month.

"I would not have liked to ask her," added the good old lady; "but since
she did come, I am glad. The sight of my young folk's happiness will not
pain her? She has really got over her trouble, you think?"

"Yes, yes," I said hastily, for Penelope was coming up the greenhouse
walk. Yet when I observed her, it seemed not herself but a new
self--such as is only born of sorrow which smiled out of her poor thin
face, made her move softly, speak affectionately, and listen patiently
to all the countless details about "my Colin" and "my daughter Emily,"
(bless the dear old lady, I hope she will find her a real daughter).
And though most of the way home we were both more silent than usual,
something in Penelope's countenance made me, not sad or anxious, but
inly awed, marvelling at its exceeding peace. A peace such as I could
have imagined in those who had brought all their earthly possessions
and laid them at the apostles' feet; or holier still, and therefore
happier,--who had left all, taken up their cross, and followed _Him_.
Him who through His life and death taught the perfection of all
sacrifice, self-sacrifice.

I may write thus, Max, may I not? It is like talking to myself, talking
to you.

It was on this very drive home that something happened, which I am going
to relate as literally as I can, for I think you ought to know it. It
will make you love my sister as I love her, which is saying a good deal.

Watching her, I almost--forgive, dear Max!--but I almost forgot my
letter to you, safely written overnight, to be posted on our way home
from the Cedars; till Penelope thought of a village post-office we had
just passed.

"Don't vex yourself, child," she said, "you shall cross the moor again;
you will be quite in time; and I will drive round, and meet you just
beyond the ponds."

And, in my hurry, utterly forgot that cottage you know, which she has
never yet been near, nor is aware who live in it. Not till I had
posted my letter, did I call to mind that she would be passing Mrs.
Cartwright's very door!

However, it was too late to alter plans, so I resolved not to fret
about it. And, somehow, the spring feeling came over me; the smell of
furze-blossoms, and of green leaves budding; the vague sense as if some
new blessing were coming with the coming year. And, though I had not Max
with me, to admire my one stray violet that I found, and listen to my
lark--the first, singing up in his white cloud, still I thought of you,
and I loved you! With a love that, I think, those only feel who have
suffered, and suffered together: a love that, though it may have known
a few pains, has never, thank God, known a single doubt. And so you did
not feel so very far away.

Then I walked on as fast as I could, to meet the pony-carriage, which
I saw crawling along the road round the turn--past the very cottage. My
heart beat so! But Penelope drove quietly on, looking straight before
her. She would have driven by in a minute; when, right across the road,
in front of the pony, after a dog or something, I saw run a child.

How I got to the spot I hardly know; how the child escaped I know still
less; it was almost a miracle. But there stood Penelope, with the little
fellow in her arms. He was unhurt--not even frightened.

I took him from her--she was still too bewildered to observe him
much--besides, a child alters so in six months. "He is all right you
see. Run away, little man."

"Stop! there is his mother to be thought of," said Penelope; "where does
he live? whose child is he?"

Before I could answer, the grandmother ran out, calling
"Franky--Franky."

It was all over. No concealment was possible.

I made my sister sit down by the roadside, and there, with her head on
my shoulder, she sat till her deadly paleness passed away, and two tears
slowly rose and rolled down her cheeks; but she said nothing.

Again I impressed upon her what a great comfort it was that the boy had
escaped without one scratch; for there he stood, having once more got
away from his granny, staring at us, finger in mouth, with intense
curiosity and enjoyment.

"Off with you! "--I cried more than once. But he kept his ground; and
when I rose to put him away--my sister held me.

Often I have noticed, that in her harshest days Penelope never disliked
nor was disliked by children. She had a sort of instinct for them. They
rarely vexed her, as we, or her servants, or her big scholars always
unhappily contrived to do. And she could always manage them, from
the squalling baby that she stopped to pat at a cottage door, to the
raggedest young scamp in the village, whom she would pick up after a
pitched battle, give a good scolding to, then hear all his tribulations,
dry his dirty face, and send him away with a broad grin upon it, such as
was upon Franky's now.

He came nearer, and put his brown little paws upon Penelope's silk gown.

"The pony," she muttered; "Dora, go and see after the pony."

But when I was gone, and she thought herself unseen, I saw her coax the
little lad to her side, to her arms, hold him there and kiss him;--oh!
Max, I can't write of it; I could not tell it to anybody but you.

After keeping away as long as was practicable, I returned, to find
Franky gone, and my sister walking slowly up and down; her veil
was down, but her voice and step had their usual "old-maidish"
quietness,--if I dared without a sob at the heart, even think that word
concerning our Penelope!

Leaving her to get into the carriage, I just ran into the cottage to
tell Mrs. Cartwright what had happened, and assure her that the child
had received no possible harm; when, who should I see sitting over the
fire but the last person I ever expected to see in that place!

Did you know it?--was it by your advice he came?--what could be his
motive in coming? or was it done merely for a whim---just like Francis
Charteris.

Anywhere else I believe I could not have recognised him. Not from his
shabbiness; even in rags Francis would be something of the gentleman;
but from his utterly broken-down appearance, his look of hopeless
indifference, settled discontent; the air of a man who has tried all
things and found them vanity.

Seeing me, he instinctively set down the child, who clung to his knees,
screaming loudly to "Daddy."

Francis blushed violently, and then laughed. "The brat owns me, you see;
he has not forgotten me--likes me also a little, which cannot be said
for most people. Heyday, no getting rid of him? Come along then, young
man; I must e'en make the best of you."

Franky, nothing loth, clambered up, hugged him smotheringly round the
neck, and broke into his own triumphant "Ha! ha! he! "--His father
turned and kissed him.

Then, somehow, I felt as if, it were easier to speak to Francis
Charteris. Only a word or two--enquiries about his health--how long he
had left Liverpool--and whether he meant to return.

"Of course. Only a day's holiday. A horse in a mill--that is what I
am now. Nothing for it but to grind on to the end of the chapter--eh,
Franky my boy!"

"Ha! ha! he!" screamed the child, with another delighted hug.

"He seems fond of you," I said.

"Oh yes; he always was." Francis sighed. I am sure, nature was tugging
hard at the selfish pleasure-loving heart. And pity--I know it was not
wrong, Max!--was pulling sore at mine.

I said I had heard of his illness in the winter, and was glad to find
him so much recovered:--how long had he been about again?

"How long? Indeed I forget. I am so apt to forget things now. Except
"--he added bitterly--"the clerk's stool and the office window with the
spider-webs over it--and the thirty shillings a-week. That's my
income, Dora--I beg your pardon, Miss Dora,--I forgot I was no longer a
gentleman, but a clerk at thirty shillings a-week."

I said, I did not see why that should make him less of a gentleman; and,
broken-down as he was,--sitting crouching over the fire with his sickly
cheek passed against that rosy one,--I fancied I saw something of the
man--the honest, true man--flash across the forlorn aspect of poor
Francis Charteris.

I would have liked to stay and talk with him, and said so, but my sister
was outside.

"Is she? will she be coming in here?"--And he shrank nervously into his
corner. "I have been so ill, you know."

He need not be afraid, I told him--we should have driven off in two
minutes. There was not the slightest chance of their meeting--in all
human probability he would never meet her more.

"Never more!"

I had not thought to see him so much affected.

"You were right, Dora, I never did deserve Penelope--yet there is
something I should like to have said to her. Stop, hold back the
curtain--she cannot see me sitting here?"

"No."

So, as she drove slowly past, Francis watched her; I felt more than
glad--proud that he should see the face which he had known blooming and
young, and which would never be either the one or the other again in
this world, and that he should see how peaceful and good it was.

"She is altered strangely."

I asked, in momentary fear, did he think her looking out of health?

"Oh no--It is not that. I hardly know what it is;" then, as with a
sudden impulse, "I must go and speak to Penelope."

And before I could hinder him, he was at the carriage side.

No fear of a "scene." They met--oh Max, can any two people so meet who
have been lovers for ten years!

It might have been that the emotion of the last few minutes left her
in that state when no occurrence seemed unexpected or strange--but
Penelope, when she saw him, only gave a slight start;--and then looked
at him, straight in the face, for a minute or so.

"I am sorry to see that you have been ill."

That one sentence must have struck him, as it did me, with the full
conviction of how they met--as Penelope and Francis no more--merely Miss
Johnston and Mr. Charteris.

"I have been ill," he said, at last. "Almost at death's door. I should
have died, but for Doctor Urquhart and--one other person, whose name I
discovered by accident. I beg to thank her for her charity."

He blushed scarlet in pronouncing the word. My sister tried to speak,
but he stopped her.

"Needless to deny."

"I never deny what is true," said Penelope gravely. "I only did what I
considered right, and what I would have done for any person whom I had
known so many years. Nor would I have done it at all, but that your
uncle refused."

"I had rather owe it to you--twenty times over!" he cried. "Nay--you
shall not be annoyed with gratitude--I came but to own my debt--to say,
if I live, I will repay it; if I die--"

She looked keenly at him:--"You will not die."

"Why not? What have I to live for--a ruined, disappointed, disgraced
man? No, no--my chance is over for this world, and I do not care how
soon I get out of it."

"I would rather hear of your living worthily in it."

"Too late, too late."

"Indeed it is not too late."

Penelope's voice was very earnest, and had a slight falter that startled
even me. No wonder it misled Francis,--he who never had a particularly
low opinion of himself, and who for so many years had been fully aware
of a fact--which, I once heard Max say, ought always to make a man
humble rather than vain--how deeply a fond woman had loved him.

"How do you mean?" he asked eagerly.

"That you have no cause for all this despair. You are a young man still;
your health may improve; you are free from debt, and have enough to live
upon. Whatever disagreeables your position has, it is a beginning--you
may rise. A long and prosperous career may lie before you yet--I hope
so."

"Do you?"

Max, I trembled. For he looked at her as he used to look when they were
young. And it seems so hard to believe that love ever can die out. I
thought, what if this exceeding calmness of my sister's should be only
the cloak which pride puts on to hide intolerable pain?--But I was
mistaken. And now I marvel, not that he, but that I--who know my sister
as a sister ought--could for an instant have seen in those soft sad eyes
anything beyond what her words expressed the more plainly, as they were
such extremely kind and gentle words.

Francis came closer, and said something in a low voice, of which I
caught only the last sentence,--

"Penelope, will you trust me again?"

I would have slipped away--but my sister detained me; tightly her
fingers closed on mine; but she answered Francis composedly:

"I do not quite comprehend you."

"Will you forgive and forget? will you marry me?"

"Francis!" I exclaimed, indignantly; but Penelope put her hand upon my
mouth.

"That is right. Don't listen to Dora--she always hated me. Listen to me.
Penelope, you shall make me anything you choose; you would be the
saving of me--that is, if you could put up with such a broken, sickly,
ill-tempered wretch."

"Poor Francis!" and she just touched him with her hand.

He caught it and kept it. Then Penelope seemed to wake up as out of a
dream.

"You must not," she said hurriedly; "you must not hold my hand."

"Why not?"

"Because I, do not love you any more."

It was so; he could not doubt it. The vainest man alive must, I think,
have discerned at once that my sister spoke out of neither caprice or
revenge, but in simple sadness of truth. Francis must have felt almost
by instinct that, whether broken or not, the heart so long his, was his
no longer--the love was gone.

Whether the mere knowledge of this made his own revive, or whether
finding himself in the old familiar places--this walk was a favourite
walk of theirs--the whole feeling returned in a measure, I cannot tell;
I do not like to judge. But I am certain that, for the time, Francis
suffered acutely.

"Do you hate me then?" said he at length.

"No; on the contrary, I feel very kindly towards you. There is nothing
in the world I would not do for you."

"Except marry me?"

"Even so."

"Well, well; perhaps you are right. I, a poor clerk, with neither
health, nor income, nor prospects--"

He stopped, and no wonder, before the rebuke of my sister's eyes.

"Francis, you know you are not speaking as you think. You know I have
given you my true reason, and my only one. If we were engaged still,
in outward form, I should say exactly the same, for a broken promise
is less wicked than a deceitful vow. One should not marry--one ought
not--when one has ceased to love."

Francis made her no reply. The sense of all he had lost, now that he
had lost it, seemed to come upon him heavily, overwhelmingly. His first
words were the saddest and humblest I ever heard from Francis Charteris.

"I deserve it all. No wonder you will never forgive me."

Penelope smiled--a very mournful smile.

"At your old habit of jumping at conclusions! Indeed, I have forgiven
you long ago. Perhaps, had I been less faulty myself, I might have had
more influence over you. But all was as it was to be, I suppose and it
is over now. Do not let us revive it."

She sighed, and sat silent for a few moments, looking absently across
the moorland; then with a sort of wistful tenderness--the tenderness
which, one clearly saw, for ever prevents and excludes love--on Francis.

"I know not how it is, Francis, but you seem to me Francis no
longer--quite another person. I cannot tell how the love has gone, but
it is gone; as completely as if it had never existed. Sometimes I was
afraid if I saw you it might come back again; but I have seen you, and
it is not there. It never can return again any more."

"And so, from henceforth, I am no more to you than any stranger in the
street?"

"I did not say that--it would not be true. Nothing you do, will ever be
indifferent to me. If you do wrong--oh, Francis, it hurts me so! it
will hurt me to the day of my death. I care little for your being very
prosperous, or very happy, possibly no one is happy; but I want you to
be good. We were young together, and I was very proud of you:--let me be
proud of you again as we grow old."

"And yet you will not marry me?"

"No, for I do not love you; and never could again, no more than I could
love another woman's husband. Francis," speaking almost in a whisper;
"you know as well as I do, that there is one person and only one, whom
you ought to marry."

He shrank back, and for the second time--the first being when I found
him with his boy in his arms--Francis turned scarlet with honest shame.

"Is it you--is it Penelope Johnston who can say this?"

"It is Penelope Johnston."

"And you say it to me?"

"To you."

"You think it would be right?"

"I do."

There were long pauses between each of these questions, but my sister's
answers were unhesitating. The grave decision of them seemed to smite
home--home to the very heart of Francis Charteris. When his confusion
and surprise abated, he stood with eyes cast down, deeply pondering.

"Poor little soul!" he muttered. "So fond of me, too--fond and faithful.
She would be faithful to me to the end of my days."

"I believe she would," answered Penelope.

Here arose a piteous outcry of "Daddy, Daddy!" and little Franky,
bursting from the cottage, came and threw himself in a perfect paroxysm
of joy upon his father. Then I understood clearly how a good and
religious woman like our Penelope could not possibly have continued
loving, or thought of marrying, Francis Charteris, any more than if, as
she said, he had been another woman's husband.

"Dora, pray don't take the child away. Let him remain with his father."

And from her tone, Francis himself must have felt--if further
confirmation were needed--that now and henceforth Penelope Johnston
could never view him in any other light than as Franky's father.

He submitted--it always was a relief to Francis to have things decided
for him. Besides, he seemed really fond of the boy. To see how patiently
he let Franky clamber up him, and finally mount on his shoulder, riding
astride, and making a bridle of his hair, gave one a kindly feeling,
nay, a sort of respect, for this poor sick man whom his child comforted;
and who, however erring he had been, was now, nor was ashamed to be, a
father.

"You don't hate me, Franky," he said, with a sudden kiss upon the
fondling face. "You owe me no grudge, though you might, poor little
scamp! You are not a bit ashamed of me; and, by God! (it was more a vow
than an oath) I'll never be ashamed of you."

"I trust in God you never will," said Penelope, solemnly.

And then, with that peculiar softness of voice, which I now notice
whenever she speaks of or to children, she said a few words, the
substance of which I remember Lisabel and myself quizzing her for, years
ago, irritating her with the old joke about old bachelor's wives and
old maids' children--namely, that those who are childless, and know they
will die so, often see more clearly and feel more deeply, than parents
themselves, the heavy responsibilities of parenthood.

Not that she said this exactly, but you could read it in her eyes, as
in a few simple words she praised Franky's beauty, hinted what a solemn
thing it was to own such a son, and, if properly brought up, what a
comfort he might grow.

Francis listened with a reverence that was beyond all love, and a
humility touching to see. I, too, silently observing them both, could
not help hearkening even with a sort of awe to every word that fell
from the lips of my sister Penelope. All the while hearing, in a vague
fashion, the last evening song of my lark, as he went up merrily into
his cloud,--just as I have watched him, or rather his progenitors,
numberless times; when, along this very road, I used to lag behind
Francis and Penelope, wondering what on earth they were talking about,
and how queer it was that they never noticed anything or anybody except
one another.

Heigho! how times change!

But no sighing: I could not sigh, I did not. My heart was full, Max, but
not with pain. For I am learning to understand what you often said, what
I suppose we shall see clearly in the next life if not in this--that the
only permanent pain on earth is sin. And, looking in my sister's dear
face, I felt how blessed above all mere happiness, is the peace of those
who have suffered and overcome suffering, who have been sinned against
and have forgiven.

After this, when Franky, tired out, dropped suddenly asleep, as children
do, his father and Penelope talked a good while, she inquiring, in
her sensible, practical way, about his circumstances and prospects; he
answering, candidly and apparently truthfully without any hesitation,
anger, or pride; every now and then looking down, at the least movement
of the pretty, sleepy face; while a soft expression, quite new in
Francis Charteris, brightened his own. There was even a degree of
cheerfulness and hope in his manner, as he said, in reply to some
suggestion of my sister's:--"Then you think, as Doctor Urquhart did,
that my life is worth preserving--that I may turn out not such a bad man
after all?"

"How could a man be anything but a good man, who really felt what it is
to be the father of a child?"

Francis replied nothing, but he held his little son closer to his
breast. Who knows but that the pretty boy may be heaven's messenger to
save the father's soul?

You see, Max, I still like, in my old moralizing habit, to "justify the
ways of God to men," to try and perceive the use of pain, the reason of
punishment; and to feel, not only by faith, but experience, that, dark
as are the ways of Infinite Mercy, they are all safe ways. "_All things
work together for good to them that love Him._"

And so, watching these two, talking so quietly and friendly together,
I thought how glad my Max would be; I remembered all my Max had
done--Penelope knows it now; I told her that night. And, sad and anxious
as I am about you and many things, there came over my heart one of those
sudden sunshiny refts of peace, when we feel that whether or not all is
happy, all is well.

Francis walked along by the pony-carriage for a quarter of a mile, or
more.

"I must turn now. This little man ought to have been in his bed an hour
or more: he always used to be. His mother--" Francis stopped--"I beg
your pardon." Then, hugging the boy in a sudden passion of remorse, he
said, "Penelope, if you want your revenge, take this. You cannot tell
what a man feels, who, when the heyday of youth is gone, longs for a
home, a virtuous home, yet knows that he never can offer or receive
unblemished honour with his wife--never give his lawful name to his
first-born."

This was the sole allusion made openly to what both tacitly understood
was to be, and which you, as well as we, will agree is the best thing
that can be, under the circumstances.

And here I have to say to you, both from my sister and myself, that if
Francis desires to make Lydia Cartwright his wife, and she is willing,
tell them both that if she will come direct from the gaol to Rockmount,
we will receive her kindly, provide everything suitable for her (since
Francis must be very poor, and they will have to begin housekeeping on
the humblest scale), and take care that she is married in comfort and
credit. Also, say that former things shall never be remembered against
her, but that she shall be treated henceforward with the respect due to
Francis's wife; in some things, poor loving soul! a better wife than he
deserves.

So he left us. Whether in this world he and Penelope will ever meet
again, who knows? He seemed to have a foreboding that they never will,
for, in parting, he asked, hesitatingly, if she would shake hands?

She did so, looking earnestly at him,--her first love, who, had he been
true to himself and to her, might have been her love for ever. Then
I saw her eye wander down to the little head which nestled on his
shoulder.

"Will you kiss my boy, Penelope?"

My sister leaned over, and touched Franky's forehead with her lips.

"God bless him! God bless you all?"

These were her last words, and however long both may live, I have a
conviction that they will be her last words--to Francis Charteris.

He went back to the cottage; and through the rosy spring twilight, with
a strangely solemn feeling, as if we were entering upon a new spring in
another world, Penelope and I drove home.

And now, Max, I have told you all about these. About myself--No, I'll
not try to deceive you; God knows how true my heart is, and how sharp
and sore is this pain.

Dear Max, write to me;--if there is any trouble, I can bear it; any
wrong--supposing Max could do me wrong--I'll forgive. I fear nothing,
and nothing has power to grieve me, so long as you hold me fast, as I
hold you.

Your faithful

Theodora.

P.S.--A wonderful, wonderful thing--it only happened last night. It
hardly feels real yet.

Max, last night, after I had done reading, papa mentioned your name of
his own accord.

He said, Penelope in asking his leave, as we thought it right to do
before we sent that message to Lydia, had told him the whole story about
your goodness to Francis. He then enquired abruptly how long it was
since I had seen Doctor Urquhart?

I told him, never since that day in the library--now a year ago.

"And when do you expect to see him?"

"I do not know." And all the bitterness of parting--the terrors lest
life's infinite chances should make this parting perpetual--the murmurs
that will rise, why hundreds and thousands who care little for one
another should be always together, whilst we--we--Oh Max! it all broke
out in a sob, "Papa, papa, how _can_ I know?"

My father looked at me as if he would read me through.

"You are a good girl, and an honourable. He is honourable too. He would
never persuade a child to disobey her father."

"No, never!"

"Tell him,"--and papa turned his head away, but he did say it, I
could not mistake, "tell Doctor Urquhart if he likes to come over to
Rockmount, for one day only, I shall not see him, but you may."

Max, come. Only for one day of holiday rest. It would do you good. There
are green leaves in the garden, and sunshine and larks in the moorland,
and--there is me. Come!



CHAPTER X. HIS STORY.


|My dear Theodora,

I did not write, because I could not. In some states of mind nothing
seems possible to a man but silence. Forgive me, my love, my comfort and
joy.

I have suffered much, but it is over now, at least the suspense of it;
and I can tell you all, with the calmness that I myself now feel.
You are right; we love one another; we need not be afraid of any
tribulation.

Before entering on my affairs, let me answer your letter--all but its
last word, "Come!" My other self, my better conscience, will herself
answer that.

The substance of what you tell me, I already know. Francis Charteris
came to me on Sunday week, and asked for Lydia. They were married two
days after--I gave the bride away. Since then I have drank tea with them
at his lodging, which, poor as it is, has already the cheerful comfort
of a home with a woman in it, and that woman a wife.

I left them--Mr. Charteris sitting by the fire with his boy on his knee;
he seems passionately fond of the little scapegrace, who is, as you
said, his very picture. But more than once I caught his eyes following
Lydia with a wistful, grateful tenderness.

"The most sensible practical girl imaginable," he said, during her
momentary absence from the room; "and she knows all my ways, and is so
patient with them. 'A poor wench,' as Shakspere hath it. 'A poor wench,
sir, but mine own!'"

For her, she busied herself about house-matters, humble and silent,
except when her husband spoke to her, and then her whole face
brightened. Poor Lydia! None familiar with her story are likely to see
much of her again; Mr. Charteris seems to wish, and for very natural
reasons, that they should begin the world entirely afresh; but we may
fairly believe one thing concerning her as concerning another poor
sinner,--"_Her sins, which were many, are forgiven, for she loved
much_."

After I returned from them, I found your letter. It made me cease to
feel what I have often felt of late, as if hope were knocking at every
door except mine.

I told you once, never to be ashamed of showing me that you love me. Do
not be; such love is a woman's glory, and a man's salvation.

Let me now say what is to be said about myself, beginning at the
beginning.

I mentioned to you once that I had here a good many enemies, but that I
should soon live them down; which, for some time, I hoped and
believed, and still believe that it would have been so, under ordinary
circumstances.

I have ever held that truth is stronger than falsehood, that an honest
man has but to sit still, let the storm blow over, and bide his time.
It does not shake this doctrine that things have fallen out differently
with me.

For some time I had seen the cloud gathering; caught evil reports flying
about; noticed that in society or in public meetings, now and then an
acquaintance gave me the "cold shoulder." Also, what troubled me more,
for it was a hindrance felt daily, my influence and authority in the
gaol did not seem quite what they used to be. I met no tangible affront,
certainly, and all was tolerably smooth sailing, till I had to find
fault, and then, as you know, a feather will show which way the wind
blows!

It was a new experience, for, at the worst of times, in camp or
hospital, my poor fellows always loved me--I found it hard.

More scurrilous newspaper paragraphs, the last and least obnoxious of
which I sent you lest you might hear of it in some other way, followed
those proceedings of mine concerning reformatories. Two articles--the
titles, "Physician, heal thyself," and "Set a thief to catch a thief,"
will give you an idea of their tenor--went so far as to be actionable
libels. Several persons here, our chaplain especially, urged me to take
legal proceedings in defence of my character, but I declined.

One day, arguing the point, the chaplain pressed me for my reasons,
which I gave him, and will give you, for I have since had only too much
occasion to remember them literally.

I said I had always had an instinctive dislike and dread of the law;
that a man was good for little if he could not defend himself by any
better weapons than the verdict of an ignorant jury, and a specious,
sometimes lying, barrister's tongue.

The old clergyman, alarmed, "hoped I was not a duellist," at which I
only smiled. It never occurred to me to take the trouble of denying
any such ridiculous purpose. I knew not how, when once the ball is set
rolling against a man, his lightest words are made to gather weight and
meaning, his very looks are brought in judgment upon him. It is the way
of the world.

You see I can moralize, a sign that I am recovering myself; I think,
with the relief of telling all out to you.

"But," reasoned the chaplain, "when a man is innocent, why should he not
declare it? Why sit tamely under calumny? It is unwise,--nay, unsafe.
You are almost a stranger here, and we in the provinces like to find out
everything about everybody. If I might suggest," and he apologized for
what he called the friendly impertinence, "why not be a little less
modest, a little more free with your personal history, which must have a
remarkable one, and let some friend, in a quiet, delicate way, see that
the truth is as widely disseminated as the slander? If you will trust
me--"

"I could not choose a better pleader," said I, gratefully; "but it is
impossible."

"How so? A man like you can have nothing to dread--nothing to conceal."

I said again, all I could find words to say:--

"It is impossible."

He urged no more, but I soon felt painfully certain that some
involuntary distrust lurked in the good man's mind, and though he
continued the same to me in all our business relations, a cloud came
over our private intercourse, which was never removed.

About this time another incident occurred; You know I have a little
friend here, the governor's motherless daughter, a bonnie wee child whom
I meet in the garden sometimes, where we water her flowers, and have
long chats about birds, beasts, and the wonders of foreign parts. I
even have given a present or two to this, my child-sweetheart. Are you
jealous? She has your eyes!

Well, one day when I called Lucy, she came to me slowly, with a shy,
sad countenance; and I found out after some pains, that her nurse had
desired her not to play with Doctor Urquhart again, because he was
"naughty."

Doctor Urquhart smilingly inquired what he had done?

The child hesitated.

"Nurse does not exactly know, but she says it is something very
wicked--as wicked as anything done by the bad people in here. But it
isn't true--tell Lucy it isn't true?"

It was hard to put aside the little loving face, but I saw the nurse
coming. Not an ill-meaning body, but one whom I knew for as arrant
a gossip as any about this place. Her comments on myself troubled me
little; I concluded it was but the result of that newspaper tattle,
against which I was gradually growing hardened; nevertheless, I thought
it best just to say that I had heard with much surprise what she had
been telling Miss Lucy.

"Children and fools speak truth," said the woman saucily.

"Then you ought to be the more careful that children always hear the
truth." And I insisted upon her repeating all the ridiculous tales she
had been circulating about me.

When, with difficulty, I got the facts out of her, they were not what I
expected, but these: Somebody in the gaol had told somebody else how Dr.
Urquhart had been in former days such an abandoned character, that still
his evil conscience always drove him among criminals; made him haunt
gaols, prisons, reformatories, and take an interest in every form of
vice. Nay, people had heard me say--and truly they might!--_apropos_ to
a late hanging at Kirkdale--that I had sympathy even for a murderer.

I listened--you will imagine how--to all this.

For an instant I was overwhelmed; I felt as if God had forsaken me; as
if His mercy were a delusion; His punishments never-ending; His justice
never satisfied. Despite my promise to your father, I might, in some
fatal way, have betrayed myself, even on the spot, had I not heard the
little girl saying, with a sob, almost--poor pet!--

"For shame, nurse! Doctor Urquhart isn't a wicked man; Lucy loves him."

And I remembered you.

"My child," I said, in a whisper, "we are all wicked; but we may all
be forgiven; I trust God has forgiven me;" and I walked away without
another word.

But since then I have thought it best to avoid the governor's garden;
and it has cost me more pain than you would imagine--the contriving
always to pass at a distance, so as to get only a nod and smile, which
cannot harm her, from little Lucy.

About this time--it might be two or three days after, for out of
work-hours I little noticed how time passed--an unpleasant circumstance
occurred with Lucy's father.

I must have told you of him; for he is a remarkable man--young still,
and well-looking; with manners like his features, hard as iron, though
delicate and polished as steel. He seems born to be the ruler of
criminals. Brutality, meanness, or injustice would be impossible to him.
Likewise, another thing--mercy.

It was on this point that he and I had our difference.

We met in the east ward, when he pointed out to me, in passing, the
announcement on the centre slate of "a boy to be whipped."

It seems ridiculous, but the words sickened me. For I knew the boy, knew
also his offence; and that such a punishment would be the first step
towards converting a mere headstrong lad, sent here for a street row,
into, a hardened ruffian. I pleaded for him strongly.

The governor listened--polite, but inflexible.

I went on speaking with unusual warmth; you know my horror of these
floggings; you know, too, my opinion on the system of punishment, viewed
as mere punishment, with no ulterior aim at reformation. I believe it
is only our blinded human interpretation of things spiritual, which
transforms the immutable law that evil is its own avenger and that
the wrath of God against sin must be as everlasting as His pity for
sinners--into the doctrine of eternal torment, the worm that dieth not,
and the fire that is never quenched.

The governor heard all I had to say; then, politely always, regretted
that it was impossible either to grant my request, or release me from my
duty.

"There is, however, one course which I may suggest to Doctor Urquhart,
considering his very peculiar opinions, and his known sympathy with
criminals. Do you not think, it might be more agreeable to you to
resign?"

The words were nothing; but as he fixed on me that keen eye, which,
he boasts can, without need of judge or jury detect a man's guilt or
innocence, I felt convinced that with him too my good name was gone. It
was no longer a battle with mere side-winds of slander--the storm had
begun.

I might have sunk like a coward, if there were only myself to be crushed
under it. As it was, I looked the governor in the face.

"Have you any special motive for this suggestion?"

"I have stated it."

"Then allow me to state, that whatever my opinions may be, so long as my
services are useful here, I have not the slightest wish or intention of
resigning."

He bowed, and we parted.

The boy was flogged. I said to him, "Bear it; better confess,"--as he
had done--"confess and be punished now. It will then be over." And I
hope, by the grateful look of the poor young wretch, that with the pain,
the punishment was over; that my pity helped him to endure it, so that
it did not harden him, but, with a little help, he may become an honest
lad yet.

When I left him in his cell, I rather envied him.

It now became necessary to look to my own affairs, and discover if
possible, all that report alleged against me--false or true--as well as
the originator of these statements. Him I at last by the merest chance
discovered.

My little lady, with her quick, warm feelings, must learn to forgive, as
I have long ago forgiven. It was Mr. Francis Charteris.

I believe still, it was less from malice premeditated, than from a mere
propensity for talking, and that looseness and inaccuracy of speech
which he always had--that he, when idling away his time in the debtor's
ward of this gaol, repeated, probably with extempore additions, what
your sister Penelope once mentioned to him concerning me--namely, that I
was once about to be married, when the lady's father discovered a crime
I had committed in my youth--whether dishonesty, duelling, seduction, or
what, he could not say--but it was something absolutely unpardonable
by an honourable man, and the marriage was forbidden. On this, all the
reports against me had been grounded.

After hearing this story, which one of the turnkeys whose children were
down with fever, told me while watching by their bedside, begging my
pardon for doing it, honest man! I went and took a long walk down the
Waterloo shore, to calm myself, and consider my position. For I knew it
was in vain to struggle any more. I was ruined.

An innocent man might have fought on; how any one, with a clear
conscience, is ever conquered by slander, or afraid of it, I cannot
understand. With a clean heart, and truth on his tongue, a man ought to
be as bold as a lion. I should have been; but--My love, you know.

This Waterloo shore has always been a favourite haunt of mine. You once
said, you should like to live by the sea; and I have never heard the
ripple of the tide without thinking of you--never seen the little
children playing about and digging on the sands without thinking--God
help me! if one keeps silence, it is not because one does not feel the
knife.

"Who would have thought the old man had so much blood in him?"

Let me stop. I will not pain you, my love, more than I can help.
Besides, as I told you, the worst of my suffering is ended.

I believe I must have sat till night-fall among the sand-hills by the
shore. For years to come, if I live so long, I shall see as clear and
also as unreal as a painting--that level sea-line, along which moved
the small white silent ships, and the steamers, with their humming
paddle-wheels and their trailing thread of smoke, dropping one after the
other into what some one of your favourite poets, my child, calls "the
under world." There seemed a great weight on my head--a weariness all
over me. I did not feel anything much, after the first half-hour; except
a longing to see your little face once again, and then, if it were
God's will, to lie down and die, somewhere near you, quietly, giving no
trouble to you or to any one any more. You will remember, I was not in
my usual health, and had had extra hard work, for some little time.

Well, my dear one, this is enough about myself, that day. I went home
and fell into harness as usual; there was nothing to be done but to
wait till the storm burst, and I wished for many reasons to retain my
situation at the gaol as long as possible.

But it was a difficult time; rising to each day's duty, with total
uncertainty of what might happen before night: and, duty done,
struggling against a depression such as I have not known for these many
years. In the midst of it came your dear letters--cheerful, loving,
contented--unwontedly contented they seemed to me. I could not answer
them, for to have written in a false strain was impossible, and to tell
you everything seemed equally so. I said to myself, "No, poor child! she
will learn all soon enough. Let her be happy while she can."

I was wrong; I was unjust to you and to myself. From the hour you gave
me your love, I owed it to us both to give you my full confidence, as
much as if you were my wife. I had no right to wound your dear heart
by keeping back from it any sorrows of mine. Forgive me, and forgive
something else, which, I now see, was crueller still.

Theodora, I wished many times that you were free; that I had never bound
you to my hard lot, but kept silence and left you to forget me, to love
some one else better than me--pardon, pardon!

For I was once actually on the point of writing to you, saying this,
when I remembered something you had said long ago,--that whether or no
we were ever married you were glad we had been betrothed--that so far we
might always be a help and comfort to one another. For, you added, when
I was blaming myself, and talking as men do of "honour," and "pride"--to
have left you free when you were not free, would have given you all the
cares of love, with neither its rights, nor duties, nor sweetnesses;
and this might--you did not say it would--but it might have broken your
heart.

So in my bitter strait I trusted that pure heart, whose instinct, I
felt, was truer than all my wisdom. I did not write the letter, but at
the same time, as I have told you, it was impossible to write any other,
even a single line.

Your last letter came. Happily, it reached me the very morning when the
crisis which I had been for weeks expecting, occurred. I had it in my
pocket all the time I stood in that room before those men,--but I had
best relate from the beginning.

You are aware that any complaints respecting the officers of this gaol,
or questions concerning its internal management, are laid before the
visiting justices. Thus, after the governor's hint, on every board day,
I prepared myself for a summons. At length it came; ostensibly for a
very trivial matter--some relaxation of discipline which I had ordered
and been counteracted in. But my conduct had never been called into
question before, and I knew what it implied. The very form of it--"The
governor's compliments, and he requests Doctor Urquhart's attendance in
the board-room;"--instead of "Doctor, come up to my room and talk the
matter over," was sufficient indication of what was impending.

I found present, besides the governor and chaplain, an unusual number of
magistrates. These, who are not always or necessarily gentlemen, stared
at me as if I had been some strange beast, all the time I was giving
my brief evidence about the breach of regulations complained of. It was
soon settled, for I had been careful to keep within the letter of
the law, and I made a motion to take leave, when one of the justices
requested me to "wait a bit, they hadn't done with me yet."

These sort of men, low-born--not that that is any disgrace, but a glory,
unless accompanied with a low nature--and "dressed in a little brief
authority," one often meets with here; I was well used to deal with,
them, and to their dealings with the like of me--a poor professional,
whose annual income was little more than they would expend, carelessly,
upon one of their splendid "feeds." But, until lately, among my co-mates
in office, I had been both friendly and popular. Now, they took their
tone from the rest, and even the governor and-the chaplain preserved
towards me a rigid silence. You do not know our old mess phrase of
being "sent to Coventry." If you did, you would understand how those ten
minutes that, according to my orders, I sat aloof from the board, while
other business was proceeding, were not the pleasantest possible.

Men amongst men grow hard, are liable to evil passions, fits of pride,
hatred, and revenge, that are probably unfamiliar to you sweet women. It
was well I had your letter in my pocket. Besides, there is something
in coming to the crisis of a great misfortune which braces up a man's
nerves to meet it. So, when the governor, turning round in his always
courteous tone, said the board requested a few minutes' conversation
with me, I could rise and stand steady, to meet whatever shape of hard
fortune lay before me.

The governor, like most men of non-intrusive but iron will, who have
both temper and feelings perfectly under control, has a very strong
influence wherever he goes. It was he who opened and carried on with me,
what he politely termed, a "little conversation."

"These difficulties," continued he, after referring to the dismissed
complaint of my straining the rules of the gaol to their utmost limit,
from my "sympathy with criminals," "these unpleasantnesses, Doctor
Urquhart, will, I fear, be always occurring. Have you reconsidered the
hint I gave to you, some little time ago?"

I answered that it was rarely my habit to take hints; I preferred having
all things spoken right out.

"Such candour is creditable, though not always possible or advisable. I
should have been exceedingly glad if you had saved me from what I feel
to be my duty, however painful, namely, to repeat my private suggestion
publicly."

"You mean that I should tender my resignation."

"Excuse my saying--and the board agrees with me--that such a step seems
desirable, for many reasons."

I waited, and then asked for those reasons.

"Doctor Urquhart must surely be aware of them."

A man is not bound to rush madly into his ruin. I determined to die
fighting, at any rate. I said, addressing the board:--

"Gentlemen, I am not aware of having conducted myself in any manner that
unfits me for being surgeon to this gaol. Any slight differences between
the governor and myself, are mere matters of opinion, which signify
little, so long as neither trenches on the other's authority, and both
are amenable to the regulations of the establishment. If you have any
cause of complaint against me, state it, reprove or dismiss me, it is
your right; but no one has a right without just grounds to request me to
resign."

The governor, even through that handsome, impassive, masked countenance
of his, looked annoyed. For an instant his hard manner dropped into the
old friendliness, even as when, in the first few weeks after his wife's
death, he and I used to sit playing chess together of evenings, with
little Lucy between us.

"Doctor, why will you misapprehend me? It is for your own sake that I
wish, before the matter is opened up further, you should resign your
post."

After a moment's consideration, I requested him to explain himself more
clearly.

One of the magistrates here cried out with a laugh:--"Come, come,
doctor, no shamming. You are the town's talk." And another suggested
that "Brown had better mind his P's and Q's; there were such things as
actions for libel."

I replied if the gentlemen referred to the scurrilous allegations
against me which had appeared in print, they might speak without fear; I
had no intention of prosecuting for libel. This silenced them a moment,
and then the first magistrate said:--

"Give a dog a bad name and hang him; but surely, doctor, you can't be
aware what a very bad name you have somehow got in these parts, or you
would have been more eager to draw your neck out of the halter in time.
Why, bless my soul, man alive, do you know what folk make you out to
be?"

"This discussion is growing foreign to the matter in hand," interrupted
the governor, who I felt had never taken his sharp eyes off me. "The
question is merely this: that any officer in authority among criminals
must of necessity bear an unblemished character. Neither in the
establishment nor out of it ought people to be able to say of him
that--that--"

"Say it out, sir."--"That there were circumstances in his former life
which would not bear inspection, and that merely accident drew the line
between himself and the convicts he was bent on reforming."

"Hear, hear!" said a justice, who had long thwarted me in my schemes;
having a conscientious objection to reforming everybody--including
himself.

"Nay," said the governor. "I did not give this as a fact,--only a
report. These reports have come to such a height, that they must either
be proved or denied. And therefore I wished, before any public inquiry
became necessary--unless, indeed, Doctor Urquhart will consent to the
explanatory self-defence which he definitely refused Mr. Thorley--"

And they both looked anxiously at me--these two whom I have always
found honest, honorable men, and who were once my friends, or at least
friendly associates--the chaplain and the governor.

Theodora, no one need ever dread lest the doctrine of total forgiveness
should make guilt no burthen, and repentance pleasant and easy. There
are some consequences of sin which must haunt a sinner to the day of his
death.

It might have been one minute or ten, that I stood motionless, feeling
as if I could have given up life and all its blessings without a pang,
to be able to face those men with a clear conscience, and say, "It is
all a lie. I am innocent."

Then, for my salvation, came the thought--it seemed spoken into my ear,
the voice half like Dallas's, half like yours--"If God hath forgiven
thee, why be afraid of men?" And I said, humbly enough--yet, I trust,
without any cringing or abjectness of fear--that I wished, before taking
any further step, to hear the whole of the statements current against
myself, and how far they were credited by the gentlemen before me.

The accusation, I was informed, stood thus: floating rumours having
accumulated into a substantive form--terribly near the truth! that I
had, in my youth, either here or abroad, committed some crime which
rendered me amenable to the laws of my country; and though, by some
trick of law, I had escaped justice, the ban upon me was such, that only
by the wandering life which I myself had owned to having led, could I
escape the fury of public opinion. The impression against me was now so
strong, in the gaol and out of it, that the governor would not engage
even by his own authority to preserve mine unless I furnished him with
an immediate, explicit denial to this charge. Which, he was pleased to
say, if it had not been so widely spread, so mysterious in its origin,
and so oddly corroborated by accidental admissions on my part, he should
have treated as simply ridiculous.

"And now," he added, apparently re-assured by the composure with which
I had listened, "I have only to ask you to deny it, point-blank, before
the board and myself."

I asked, what must I deny?

"Why, if the accusations were not too ludicrous to express, just state
that you are neither forger, burglar, nor body-snatcher; that you never
either killed a man (unprofessionally, of course, if we may be excused
the joke)--for professional purposes, or shot him irregularly in a duel,
or waylaid him with pistols behind a hedge."

"Am I supposed to have committed all these crimes?"

"Such is the gullibility of the public; you really are," said the
governor, smiling.

On the indignant impulse of the moment, I denied them each and all, upon
my honor as a gentleman; until, feeling the old chaplain cordially grip
my hand, I was roused into a full consciousness of where and what I was,
and what, either by word or implication, I had been asserting.

Somebody said, "Give him air; no wonder he feels it, poor fellow!"
And so, after a little, I gathered up my faculties, and saw the board
sitting waiting; and the governor with pen and ink before him.

"This painful business will soon be settled, Doctor," said he
cheerfully. "Just answer a question or two, which, as a matter of form,
I will put in writing, and then, if you will do me the honour to dine
with me to-day, we can consult how best to make the statement public;
without of course compromising your dignity. To begin. You hereby make
declaration that you were never in gaol? never tried at any assizes?
have never committed any act which rendered you liable to prosecution
under our criminal law?"

He ran the words off carelessly, and paused for my answer. When none
came, he looked up, his own penetrative, suspicious look.

"Perhaps I did not express myself clearly?" And he slightly changed the
form of the sentence. "Now, what shall I write, Doctor Urquhart?".

If I could then and there have made full confession, and gone out of
that room an arrested prisoner, it would have been, so far as regarded
myself, a relief unutterable, a mercy beyond all mercies. But I had to
remember your father.

The governor laid down his pen.

"This looks, to say the least, rather strange."

"Doctor," cried one of the board, "you must be mad to hold your tongue
and let your character go to the dogs in this way."

Alas, I was not mad; I saw all that was vanishing from me--inevitably,
irredeemably--my good name, my chance of earning a livelihood, my sweet
hope of a home and a wife. And I might save everything, and keep my
promise to your father also, by just one little lie!

Would you have had me utter it? No, love; I know you would rather have
had me die.

The sensation was like dying, for one minute, and then it passed away.
I looked steadily at my accusers; for accusation, at all events strong
suspicion, was in every countenance now; and told them that though I had
not perpetrated a single one of the atrocious crimes laid to my charge,
still the events of my life had been peculiar; and circumstances left me
no option but the course I had hitherto pursued, namely, total silence.
That if my good character were strong enough to sustain me through it,
I would willingly retain my post at the gaol, and weather the storm as I
best could. If this course were impossible--

"It is impossible," said the governor, decisively.

"Then I have no alternative but to tender my resignation."

It was accepted at once.

I went out from the board-room a disgraced man, with a stain upon my
character which will last for life, and follow me wherever I plant my
foot. The honest Urquhart name, which my father bore, and Dallas--which
I ought to have given stainless to my wife, and left--if I could leave
nothing else--to my children--ay, it was gone. Gone, for ever and ever.

I stole up into my own rooms, and laid myself down on my bed, as
motionless as if it had been my coffin.

Fear not, my love; one sin was saved me, perhaps by your letter of that
morning. The wretchedest, most hopeless, most guilty of men would never
dare to pray for death so long as he knew that a good woman loved him.

When daylight failed, I bestirred myself, lit my lamp, and began to make
a few preparations and arrangements about my rooms--it being clear that,
wherever I went, I must quit this place as soon as possible.

My mind was almost made up as to the course I ought to pursue; and that
of itself calmed me. I was soon able to sit down, and begin this letter
to you; but got no further than the first three words, which, often as I
have written them, look as new, strange, and precious as ever: "_My dear
Theodora_." Dear,--God knows how infinitely! and mine--altogether and
everlastingly mine. I felt this, even now. In the resolution I had
made, no doubts shook me with respect to you; for you would bid me to
do exactly what conscience urged--ay, even if you differed from me. You
said once, with your arms round my neck, and your sweet eyes looking up
steadfastly in mine:--"Max, whatever happens, always do what you think
to be right, without reference to me. I would love you all the better
for doing it, even if you broke my heart."

I was pondering thus, planning how best to tell you of things so sore;
when there came a knock to my room-door. Expecting no one but a servant,
I said "Come in," and did not even look up--for every creature in the
gaol must be familiar with my disgrace by this time.

"Doctor Urquhart, do I intrude?"

It was the chaplain.

Theodora, if I have ever in my letters implied a word against him--for
the narrowness and formality of his religious belief sometimes annoyed
and were a hindrance to me--remember it not. Set down his name, the
Reverend James Thorley, on the list of those whom I wish to be kept
always in your tender memory, as those whom I sincerely honoured, and
who have been most kind to me of all my friends.

The old man spoke with great hesitation, and when I thanked him for
coming, replied in the manner which I had many a time heard him use in
convict cells:--

"I came, sir,' because I felt it to be my duty."

"Mr. Thorley, whatever was your motive, I respect it, and thank you."

And we remained silent--both standing--for he declined my offer of a
chair. Noticing my preparations, he said, with some agitation, "Am I
hindering your plans for departure? Are you afraid of the law?"

"No."

He seemed relieved; then, after a long examining look at me, quite broke
down.

"O Doctor, Doctor, what a terrible thing this is! who would have
believed it of you!" It was very bitter, Theodora.

When he saw that I attempted neither answer nor defence, the chaplain
continued sternly:--"I come here, sir, not to pry into your secrets, but
to fulfil my duty as a minister of God; to urge you to make confession,
not unto me, but unto Him whom you have offended, whose eye you cannot
escape, and whose justice sooner or later will bring you to punishment.
But perhaps," seeing I bore with composure these and many similar
arguments; alas, they were only too familiar! "perhaps I am labouring
under a strange mistake? You do not look guilty, and I could as soon
have believed in my own son's being a criminal, as you. For God's sake
break this reserve, and tell me all."

"It is not possible."

There was a long pause, and then the old man said, sighing:--

"Well, I will urge no more. Your sin, whatever it be, rests between you
and the Judge of sinners. You say the law has no hold over you?"

"I said I was not afraid of the law."

"Therefore, it must have been a moral, rather than a legal crime, if
crime it was." And again I had to bear that searching look, so dreadful
because it was so eager and kind. "On my soul, Doctor Urquhart, I
believe you to be entirely innocent."

"Sir," I cried out, and stopped; then asked him "if he did not believe
it possible for a man to have sinned and yet repented?"

Mr. Thorley started back--so greatly shocked that I perceived at once
what an implication I had made. But it was too late now; nor, perhaps,
would I have had it otherwise.

"As a clergyman--I--I--" He paused. "If a man sin a sin which is not
unto death,--You know the rest. And there is a sin which is unto
death; I do not say that he shall pray for it? But never that we shall
_not_ pray for it."

And falling down on his knees beside me, the old chaplain repeated in
a broken voice:--"_Remember not the sins of my youth nor my
transgressions; according to thy mercy, think thou upon me, O Lord, for
thy goodness._' Not ours, which is but filthy rags; for _Thy_ goodness,
through Jesus Christ, O Lord."

"Amen."

Mr. Thorley rose, took the chair I gave him, and we sat silent.
Presently he asked me if I had any plans? Had I considered what
exceeding difficulty I should find in establishing myself anywhere
professionally, after what had happened this day?

I said, I was fully aware that, so far as my future prospects were
concerned, I was a ruined man.

"And yet you take it so calmly?"

"Ay."

"Doctor," said he, after again watching me, "you must either be
innocent, or your error must have been caused by strong temptation,
and long ago retrieved. I will never believe but that you are now as
honourable and worthy a man as any living."

"Thank you."

An uncontrollable weakness came over me; Mr. Thorley, too, was much
affected.

"I'll tell you what it is, my dear fellow," said he, as he wrung my
hand, "you must start afresh in some other part of the world. You are no
older than my son-in-law was when he married and went to Canada, in your
own profession too. By the way, I have an idea."

The idea was worthy of this excellent man, and of his behaviour to me.
He explained that his son-in-law, a physician in good practice, wanted a
partner--some one from the old country, if possible.

"If you went out, with an introduction from me, he would be sure to
like you, and all might be settled in no time. Besides, you Scotch hang
together so--my son-in-law is a Fife man--and did you not say you were
born or educated at St. Andrews? The very thing!"

And he urged me to start by next Saturday's American mail.

A sharp straggle went on within my mind. Mr. Thorley evidently thought
it sprang from another cause, and, with much delicacy, gave me to
understand that in the promised introduction, he did not consider there
was the slightest necessity to state more than that I had been an army
surgeon, and was his valued friend; that no reports against me were
likely to reach the far Canadian settlement, whither I should carry
both to his son-in-law and the world at large, a perfectly unknown and
unblemished name.

If I had ever wavered, this decided me. The hope must go. So I let it
go, in all probability, for ever.

Was I right? I can hear you say, "Yes, Max."

In bidding the chaplain farewell, I tried to explain to him, that in
this generous offer he had given to me more than he guessed--faith not
only in heaven, but in mankind, and strength to do without shrinking
what I am bound to do--trusting that there are other good Christians in
this world besides himself who dare believe that a man may sin and yet
repent--that the stigma even of an absolute crime is not hopeless, nor
eternal.

His own opinion concerning my present conduct, or the facts of my past
history, I did not seek; it was of little moment; he will shortly learn
all.

My love, I have resolved, as the only thing possible to my future peace,
the one thing exacted by the laws of God and man--to do what I ought to
have done twenty years ago--to deliver myself up to justice.

Now I have told you; but I cannot tell you the infinite calm which this
resolution has brought to me. To be free; to lay down this living load
of lies, which has hung about me for twenty years; to speak the whole
truth before God and man--confess all, and take my punishment--my
love, my love, if you knew what the thought of this is to me, you would
neither tremble nor weep, but rather rejoice!

My Theodora, I take you in my arms, I hold you to my heart, and love you
with a love that is dearer than life and stronger than-death, and I ask
you to let me do this.

In the enclosed letter to your father, I have, after relating all the
circumstances of which I here inform you, implored him to release me
from a pledge which I ought never to have given. Never, for it was
putting the fear of man before the fear of God: it was binding myself
to an eternal hypocrisy, an inward gnawing of shame, which paralyzed
my very soul. I must escape it; you must try to release me from it,--my
love, who loves me better than herself, better than myself, I mean this
poor worthless self, battered and old, which I have often thought
was more fit to go down into the grave than live to be my dear girl's
husband. Forgive me if I wound you. By the intolerable agony of this
hour, I feel that the sacrifice is just and right.

You must help me, you must urge your father to set me free. Tell
him--indeed I have told him--that he need dread no disgrace to the
family, or to him who is no more. I shall state nothing of Henry
Johnston excepting his name, and my own confession will be sufficient
and sole evidence against me.

As to the possible result of my trial, I have not overlooked it. It was
just, if only for my dear love's sake, that I should gain some idea
of the chances against me. Little as I understand of the law, and
especially English law, it seems to me very unlikely that the verdict
will be wilful murder, nor shall I plead, guilty to that. God and my
own conscience are witness that I did _not_ commit murder, but
unpremeditated manslaughter.

The punishment for this is, I believe, sometimes transportation,
sometimes imprisonment for a long term of years. If it were death--which
perhaps it might as well be to a man of my age, I must face it. The
remainder of my days, be they few or many, must be spent in peace.

If I do not hear within two days' post from Rockmount, I shall conclude
your father makes no opposition to my determination, and go at once to
surrender myself at Salisbury. _You_ need not write; it might compromise
you; it would be almost a relief to me to hear nothing of or from you,
until all was over.

And now farewell. My personal effects here I leave in charge of the
chaplain, with a sealed envelope, containing the name and address of
the friend to whom they are to be sent in case of my death, or any other
emergency. This is yourself. In my will, I have given you, as near as
the law allows, every right that you would have had, as my wife.

My wife--my wife in the sight of God, farewell! That is, until such time
as I dare write again. Take good care of yourself--be patient and
have hope. In whatever he commands--he is too just a man to command an
injustice--obey your father.

Forget me not--but you never will. If I could have seen you once more,
have felt you close to my heart--but perhaps it is better as it is.

Only a week's suspense for you, and it will be over. Let us trust in
God; and farewell! Remember how I loved you, my child!

Max Urquhart.



CHAPTER XI. HIS STORY.


|My dear Theodora,--

By this time you will have known all.--Thank God, it is over. My dear,
dear love--my own faithful girl--it is over!

When I was brought back to prison tonight, I found your letters; but I
had heard of you the day before, from Colin Granton. Do not regret
the chance which made Mr. Johnston detain my letter to you, instead of
forwarding it at once to the Cedars. These sort of things never seem to
me as accidental; all was for good. In any case, I could not have done
otherwise than I did; but it would have been painful to have done it in
direct opposition to your father. The only thing I regret is, that my
poor child should have had the shock of first seeing these hard tidings
of my surrender to the magistrate, and my public confession, in a
newspaper.

Granton told me how you bore it. Tell him, I shall remember gratefully
all my life, his goodness to you, and his leaving his young wife--(whom
he dearly loves, I can see) to come to me, here. Nor was he my only
friend; do not think I was either contemned or forsaken. Sir William
Treherne and several others offered any amount of, bail for me; but it
was better I should remain in prison, during the few days between my
committal and the assizes. I needed quiet and solitude.

Therefore, my love, I dared not have seen you, even had you immediately
come to me. You have acted in all things as my dear girl was sure to
act, wise, thoughtful, self-controlled, and oh! how infinitely loving.

I had to stop here for want of daylight--but they have now brought me my
allowance of candle--slender enough, so I must make haste.

I wish you to have this full account as soon as possible after the brief
telegram which I know Mr. Granton sent you, the instant my trial was
over. A trial, however, it was not--in my ignorance of law, I imagined
much that never happened. What did happen, I will here set down.

You must not expect me to give many details; my head was rather
confused, and my health has been a good deal shaken, though do not take
heed of anything Granton may tell you about me or my looks. I shall
recover now.

Fortunately, the four days of imprisonment gave me time to recover
myself in a measure, and I was able to write out the statement I meant
to read at my trial. I preferred reading it, lest any physical weakness
might make me confused or inaccurate. You see I took all rational
precautions for my own safety. I was as just to myself as I would have
been to another man. This for your sake, and also for the sake of those
now dead, upon whose fair name I have brought the first blot.

But I must not think of that--it is too late. What best becomes me
is humility, and gratitude to God and man. Had I known in my wretched
youth, when, absorbed in terror of human justice, I forgot justice
divine, had I but known there were so many merciful hearts in this
world!

After Colin Granton left me last night, I slept quietly, for I felt
quiet and at rest. O the peace of an unburdened conscience, the freedom
of a soul at ease--which, the whole truth being told, has no longer
anything to dread, and is prepared for everything!

I rose calm and refreshed, and could see through my cell-window that it
was a lovely spring morning. I was glad my Theodora did not know what
particular day of the assizes was fixed for my trial. It would make
things a little easier for her.

It was noon before the case came on: a long time to wait.

Do not suppose me braver than I was. When I found myself standing in the
prisoner's dock, the whole mass of staring faces seemed to whirl round
and round before my eyes; I felt sick and cold; I had lost more strength
than I thought. Everything present melted away into a sort of dream
through which I fancied I heard you speaking, but could not distinguish
any words; except these, the soft, still tenderness of which haunted me
as freshly as if they had been only just uttered: "My dear Max! my dear
Max!"

By this I perceived that my mind was wandering, and must be recalled;
so I forced myself to look round at the judge, jury, witness-box--in the
which was one person sitting with his white head resting on his hand. I
felt who it was.

Did you know your father was subpoenaed here? If so, what a day this
must have been for my poor child! Think not, though, that the sight of
him added to my suffering. I had no fear of him or of anything now.
Even public shame was less terrible than I thought; those scores of
inquisitive eyes hardly stabbed so deep as in days past did many a kind
look of your father's, many a loving glance of yours.

The formalities of the court began, but I scarcely listened to them.
They seemed to me of little consequence. As I said to Granton when he
urged me to employ counsel, a man who only wants to speak the truth can
surely manage to do it, in spite of the incumbrances of the law.

It came to an end--the long, unintelligible indictment--and my first
clear perception of my position was the judge's question:--

"How say you, prisoner at the bar, guilty, or not guilty?"

I pleaded "guilty," as a matter of course. The judge asked several
questions, and held a long discussion with the counsel for the crown,
on what he termed "this very remarkable case," the purport of it was,
I believe, to ascertain my sanity; and whether any corroboration of my
confession could be obtained. It could not. All possible witnesses were
long since dead, except your father.

He still kept his position, neither turning towards me, nor yet from
me,--neither compassionate nor revengeful, but sternly composed; as if
his long sorrows had obtained their solemn satisfaction, and even though
the end was thus, he felt relieved that it had come. As if he, like me,
had learned to submit that our course should be shaped for us rather
than by us; being taught that even in this world's events, the God of
Truth will be justified before men; will prove that: those who, under
any pretence, disguise or deny the truth, live not unto Him, but unto
the father of lies.

Is it not strange, that then and there I should have been calm enough to
think of these things. Ay, and should calmly write of them now. But as I
have told you, in a great crisis my mind always recovers its balance
and becomes quiet. Besides, sickness makes us both clear-sighted and
far-sighted; wonderfully so, sometimes.

Do not suppose from this admission, that my health is gone or going;
but, simply that I am, as I see in the looking-glass, a somewhat older
and feebler man than my dear love remembers me a year ago. But I must
hasten on.

The plea of guilty being recorded, no trial was necessary; the judge had
only to pass sentence. I was asked whether, by counsel or otherwise, I
wished to say anything in my own defence? And then I rose and told the
whole truth.

Do not grieve for me, Theodora? The truth is never really terrible. What
makes it so is the fear of man, and that was over with me; the torment
of guilty shame, and that was gone too. I have had many a moment of far
sharper anguish, more grinding humiliation than this, when I stood up
and publicly confessed the sin of my youth, with the years of suffering
which had followed--dare I say expiated it?

There is a sense in which no sin ever can be expiated, except in One
Blessed Way;--yet, in so far as man can atone to man, I believed
I had atoned for mine; I had tried to give a life for a life, morally
speaking; nay, I had given it. But it was not enough; it could not he.
Nothing less than the truth was required from me--and I here offered it.
Thus, in one short half hour, the burthen of a lifetime was laid down
for ever.

The judge--he was not unmoved,-so they told me afterwards--said he must
take time to consider the sentence. Had the prisoner any witnesses as to
character?

Several came forward. Among the rest, the good old chaplain, who had
travelled all night from Liverpool, in order, he said, just to shake
hands with me to-day--which he did, in open court--God bless him!

There was also Colonel Turton; with Colin Granton--who had never left me
since daylight this morning--but they all held back when they saw rise
and come forward, as if with the intention of being sworn, your father.

Have no fear my love, for his health. I watched him closely all this
day. He bore it well--it will have no ill result I feel sure. From my
observation of him, I should say that a great and salutary change had
come over him, both body and mind, and that he is as likely to enjoy a
green old age as any one I know.

When he spoke, his voice was as steady and clear as before his accident
it used to be in the pulpit.

"My lords and gentlemen, I was subpoenaed to this trial. Not being
called upon to give evidence, I wish to make a statement upon oath."

There must have been a "sensation in the court," as newspapers say, for
I saw Granton look anxiously at me. But I had no fears. Your father,
whatever he had to say, was sure to speak the truth, not a syllable more
or less, and the truth was all I wanted.

The judge here interfered, observing that there being no trial, he could
receive no legal evidence against the prisoner.

"Nor have I any such evidence to give: I wish only for justice. My lord,
may I speak?"

Assent was given.

Your father's words were brief and formal; but you will imagine how they
fell on one ear at least.

"My name is William Henry Johnston, clerk, of Rockmount, Surrey. Henry
Johnston, who--died--on the night of November 19th, 1836, was my only
son. I know the prisoner at the bar. I knew him for some time before he
was aware whose father I was, or I had any suspicion that my son came to
his death in any other way than by accident."

"Was your first discovery of these painful facts by the prisoner's
present confession?"

"No, my lord." Your father hesitated, but only momentarily. "He told
me the whole story, himself, a year ago, under circumstances that would
have induced most men to conceal it for ever."

The judge inquired why was not this confession made public at once?

"Because I was afraid. I did not wish to make my family history a
by-word and a scandal. I exacted a promise that the secret should be
kept inviolate. This promise he has broken--but I blame him not. It
ought never to have been made."

"Certainly not. It was thwarting the purposes of justice and of the
law."

"My lord, I am an old man, and a clergyman; I know nothing about the
law; but I know it was a wrong act to bind any man's conscience to live
a perpetual lie."

Your father was here asked if he had any thing more to say?

"A word only. In the prisoner's confession, he has, out of delicacy to
me, omitted three facts, which weigh materially in extenuation of his
crime. When he committed it he was only nineteen, and my son was thirty.
He was drunk, and my son, who led an irregular life, had made him so,
and afterwards taunted him, more than a youth of nineteen was likely
to bear. Such was his statement to me, and knowing his character and my
son's, I have little doubt of its perfect accuracy."

The judge looked up for his notes. "You seem, sir, strange to say, to be
not unfavourable towards the prisoner."

"I am just towards the prisoner. I wish to be, even though he has on his
hands the blood of my only son."

After the pause which followed, the judge said:--

"Mr. Johnston:--the Court respects your feelings, and regrets to detain
you longer or put you to any additional pain. But it may materially
aid the decision of this very peculiar case, if you will answer another
question. You are aware that, all other evidence being wanting, the
prisoner can only be judged by his own confession. Do you believe, on
your oath, that this confession is true?"

"I do. I am bound to say from my intimate knowledge of the prisoner,
that I believe him to be now, whatever he may have been in his youth,
a man of sterling honour and unblemished life; one who would not tell a
lie to save himself from the scaffold."

"The Court is satisfied."

But before he sat down, your father turned, and, for the first time that
day, he and I were face to face.

"I am a clergyman, as I said, and I never was in a court of justice
before. Is it illegal for me to address a few words to the prisoner?"

Whether it was or not, nobody interrupted him.

"Doctor Urquhart," he said, speaking loud enough for every one to hear,
"what your sentence may be I know not, or whether you and I shall ever
meet again until the day of judgment. If not, I believe that if we are
to be forgiven our debts according as we forgive our debtors, I shall
have to forgive you then. I prefer to do it now, while we are in the
flesh, and it may comfort your soul. I, Henry Johnston's father, declare
publicly that I believe what you did was done in the heat of youth, and
has ever since been bitterly repented of. May God pardon you, even as I
do this day."

I did not see your father afterwards. He quitted the court directly
after sentence was given--three months' imprisonment--the judge making a
long speech previously; but I heard not a syllable. I heard nothing but
your father's words--saw no one except himself, sitting there below me,
with his hands crossed on his stick, and a stream of sunshine falling
across his white hairs--Theodora--Theodora--I cannot write--it is
impossible.

Granton got admission to me for a minute, after I was taken back to
prison. He told me that the "hard labour" was remitted, that there had
been application made for commutation of the three months into one, but
the judge declined. If I wished, a new application should be made to the
Home Secretary.

No, my love, suffer him not to do it. Let nothing more be done. I had
rather abide my full term of punishment. It is only too easy.

Do not grieve for me. Trust me, my child, many a peer puts on his robes
with a heavier heart than I put on this felon's dress, which shocked
Granton so much that he is sure to tell you of it. Never mind it--my
clothes are not me, are they, little lady? Who was the man that
wrote:--=

````"Stone walls do not a prison make,

````Nor iron bars a cage,

````Minds innocent--"=

Am I innocent? No, but I am forgiven, as I believe, before God and man.
And are not all the glories of heaven preparing, not for sinless but for
pardoned souls?

Therefore, I am at peace. This first night of my imprisonment is, for
some things, as happy to me as that which I have often imagined to
myself, when I should bring you home for the first time to my own
fireside.

Not even that thought, and the rush of thoughts that came with it, are
able to shake me out of this feeling of unutterable rest: so perfect
that it seems strange to imagine I shall ever go out of this cell to
begin afresh the turmoil of the world--as strange as that the dead
should wish to return again to life and its cares. But this as God
wills.

My love, good night. Granton will give you any further particulars. Talk
to him freely--it will be his good heart's best reward. His happy, busy
life, which is now begun, may have been made all the brighter for the
momentary cloud which taught him that Providence oftentimes blesses us in
better ways than by giving us exactly the thing we desired. He told me
when we parted, which was the only allusion he made to the past--that
though Mrs. Colin was "the dearest little woman in all the world," he
should always adore as "something between a saint and an angel," Miss
Dora.

Is she my saint and angel? Perhaps--if she were not likewise the woman
of my love.

What is she doing now, I wonder? Probably vanishing, lamp in hand, as
I have often watched her, up the stair into her own wee room--where she
shuts the door and remembers me.

Yes, remember me--but not with pain. Believe that I am happy--that
whatever now befalls me, I shall always be happy.

Tell your father--No, tell him nothing. He surely knows all. Or he will
know it--when, this life having passed away like a vapour, he and I
stand together before the One God--who is also the Redeemer of sinners.

Write to me, but do not come and see me. Hitherto, your name has been
kept clear out of everything; it must be still, at any sacrifice to both
of us. I count on this from you. You know, you once said, laughing, you
had already taken in your heart the marriage vow of "obedience," if I
chose to exact it.

I never did, but I do now. Unless I send for you--which I solemnly
promise to do if illness or any other cause makes it necessary--obey me,
your husband: do not come and see me.

Three months will pass quickly. Then? But let us not look forward.

My love, good-night.

Max Urquhart.



CHAPTER XII. HER STORY.


|Max says I am to write an end to my journal, tie it up with his letters
and mine, fasten a stone to it, and drop it over the ship's bulwarks
into this blue, blue sea.--That is, either he threatened me or I him--I
forget which, with such a solemn termination; but I doubt if we shall
ever have courage to do it. It would feel something like dropping a
little child into this "wild and wandering grave," as a poor mother on
board had to do yesterday.

"But I shall see him again," she sobbed, as I was helping her to sew the
little white body up in its hammock. "The good God will take care of him
and let me find him again, even out of the deep sea. I cannot lose him;
I loved him so."

And thus, I believe, no perfect love, or the record of it, in heart
or in word, can ever be lost. So it is of small matter to Max and me,
whether this, our true love's history, sinks down into the bottom of
the ocean; to sleep there--as we almost expected we should do yesterday,
there was such a storm; or is sealed up and preserved for the benefit
of--of our great-grandchildren.

Ah! that poor mother and her dead child!

--Max here crept down into the berth to look for me--and I returned with
him and left him resting comfortably on the quarter-deck, promising not
to stir for a whole hour. I have to take care of him still; but, as I
told him, the sea winds are bringing; some of its natural brownness back
to his dear old face:--and I shall not consider him "interesting" any
more.

During the three months that Max was in prison, I never saw him. Indeed,
we never once met from the day we said good-bye in my father's presence,
till the day that----But I will continue my story systematically.

All those three months Max was ill; not dangerously--for he said so, and
I could believe him. It would have gone very hard with me if I could
not have relied on him in this, as in everything. Nevertheless, it was a
bitter time, and now I almost wonder how I bore it. Now, when I am ready
and willing for everything, except the one thing, which, thank God, I
shall never have to bear again--separation.

The day before he came out of prison, Max wrote to me a long and serious
letter. Hitherto, both our letters had been filled up with trivialities,
such as might amuse him and cheer me, we deferred all plans till he
was better. My private thoughts, if I had any, were not clear even to
myself, until Max's letter.

It was a very sad letter. Three months' confinement in one cell, with
one hour's daily walk round a circle in a walled yard--prisoner's
labour, for he took to making mats, saying it amused him; prisoner's
rules and fare--no wonder that towards the end even his brave heart gave
way.

He broke down utterly. Otherwise he never would have written to me as
he did--bidding me farewell, _me!_ At first I was startled and shocked;
then I laid down the letter and smiled--a very sad sort of smile of
course, but still it was a smile. The idea that Max and I could part,
or desire to do so, under any human circumstances, seemed one of those
amusingly impossible things that one would never stop to argue in the
least, either with one's self or any other person. That we loved one
another, and therefore some day should probably be married, but that
anyhow we belonged to one another till death, were facts at once as
simple, natural, and immutable, as that the sun stood in the heavens or
that the grass was green.

I wrote back to Max that night.

Not that I did it in any hurry, or impulse of sudden feeling. I took
many hours to consider both what I should say, and in what form I should
put it. Also, I had doubts whether it would not be best for him, if he
accepted the generous offer of Mr. Thorley's son-in-law, made with full
knowledge of all circumstances, to go first to America alone. But, think
how I would, my thoughts all returned and settled in the same track, in
which was written one clear truth; that after God and the right--which
means all claims of justice and conscience--the first duty of any two
who love truly is towards one another.

I have thought since, that if this truth were plainer seen and more
firmly held, by those whom it concerns--many false notions about honour,
pride, self-respect, would slip off; many uneasy doubts and divided
duties would be set at rest; there would be less fear of the world and
more of God, the only righteous fear. People would believe more simply
in His ordinance, instituted "from the beginning"--not the mere outward
ceremony of a wedding; but the love which draws together man and woman,
until it makes them complete in one another, in the mystical marriage
union, which, once perfect, should never he disannulled. And if this
union begins, as I think it does, from the very hour each feels certain
of the other's love--surely, as I said to Max--to talk about giving
one another up, whether from poverty, delay, altered circumstances, or
compulsion of friends, anything in short except changed love, or lost
honour--like poor Penelope and Francis--was about as foolish and wrong
as attempting to annul a marriage. Indeed, I have seen many a marriage
that might have been broken with far less unholiness than a real troth
plight, such as was this of ours.

After a little more "preaching," (a bad habit that I fear is growing
upon me, save that Max merely laughs at it, or when he does not laugh
he actually listens!) I ended my letter by the-earnest advice, that
he should go and settle in Canada, and go at once; but that he must
remember he had to take with him one trifling incumbrance--me.

When the words were written, the deed done, I was a little startled
at myself. It looked so exceedingly like my making _him_ an offer of
marriage! But then--good-bye, foolish doubt! good-bye contemptible,
shame! Those few tears that burnt my cheeks after the letter was gone,
were the only tears of the sort that I ever shed--that Max will ever
suffer me to shed. Max loves me!

His letter in reply I shall not give--not a line of it. It was only _for
me_.

So that being settled, the next thing to consider was how matters could
be brought about, without delay either. For, with Max's letter, I got
one from his good friend Mrs. Ansdell, at whose house in London he
had gone to lodge. Her son had followed his two sisters--they were a
consumptive family--leaving her a poor old childless widow now. She was
very fond of my dear Max, which made her quick-sighted concerning him,
and so she wrote as she did, delicately, but sufficiently plainly, to
me, whom she said he had told her was, in case of any sudden calamity,
to be sent for as "his dearest friend."

My dear Max! Now, we smile at these sad forebodings; we believe we shall
both live to see a good old age. But if I had known that we should only
be married a year, a month, a week,--if I had been certain he would die
in my arms the very same day--I should still have done exactly what I
did.

In one sense, his illness made my path easier. He had need of me, vital,
instant need, and no one else had. Also, he was so weak that even his
will had left him; he could neither reason nor resist. He just wrote,
"You are my conscience; do as you will, only do right." And then,
as Mrs. Ansdell afterwards told me, he lay for days and days, calm,
patient; waiting, he says, for another angel than Theodora.

Well--we smile now, at these days, as I said; thank God, we can smile;
but it would not do to live them over again.

Max refused to let me come to see him at Mrs. Ansdell's, until my father
had been informed of all our plans. But papa went on in his daily
life, now so active and cheerful; he did not seem to remember anything
concerning Doctor Urquhart and me. For two whole days did I follow him
about, watching an opportunity, but it never came. The first person who
learnt my secret was Penelope.

How many a time, in these strange summers to come, shall I call to mind
that soft English summer night, under the honeysuckle-bush,--Penelope
and I sitting at our work; she talking the while of Lisabel's new hope,
and considering which of us two should best be spared to go and take
care of her in her trial.

"Or, indeed, papa might almost be left alone, for a week or two. He
would hardly miss us--he is so well. I should not wonder, if, like
grandfather, whom you don't remember, Dora,--he lived to be ninety years
old."

"I hope he may; I hope he may!"

And I burst out sobbing; then, hanging about my sister's neck, I told
her all.

"Oh!" I cried, for my tongue seemed unloosed, and I was not afraid of
speaking to her, nor even of hurting her--if now she could be hurt by
the personal sorrows that mine recalled to her mind. "Oh, Penelope,
don't you think it would be right? Papa does not want me--nobody wants
me. Or if they did--"

I stopped. Penelope said, meditatively:--"A man shall leave his father
and his mother and cleave unto his wife."

"And equally, a woman ought to cleave unto her husband. I mean to ask my
father's consent to my going with Max to Canada."

"Ah! that's sudden, child." And by her start of pain I felt how untruly
I had spoken, and how keenly I must have wounded my sister in saying,
"Nobody wanted me" at home.

Home, where I lived for nearly twenty-seven years, all of which now seem
such happy years. "God do so unto me and more also," as the old Hebrews
used to say, if ever I forget Rockmount, my peaceful maiden-home!

It looked so pretty that night, with the sunset colouring its old walls,
and its terrace-walk, where papa was walking to and fro, bareheaded, the
rosy light falling like a glory upon his long white hair. To think of
him thus pacing his garden, year after year, each year growing older and
feebler, and I never seeing him, perhaps never hearing from him; either
not coming back at all, or returning after a lapse of years to find
nothing left to me but my father's grave!

The conflict was very terrible; nor would Max himself have wished it
less. They who do not love their own flesh and blood, with whom they
have lived ever since they were born, how can they know what any love
is?

We heard papa call us:--"Come in, you girls! The sun is down, and the
dews are falling." Penelope put her hand softly on my head. "Hush,
child, hush! Steal into your own room, and quiet yourself. I will go and
explain things to your father."

I was sure she must have done it in the best and gentlest way; Penelope
does everything so wisely and gently now; but when she came to look for
me, I knew, before she said a word, that it had been done in vain.

"Dora, you must go yourself and reason with him. But take heed what you
say and what you do. There is hardly a man on this earth for whom it is
worth forsaking a happy home and a good father."

And truly, if I had ever had the least doubt of Max, or of our love for
one another; if I had not felt as it were already married to him, who
had no tie in the whole wide world but me--I never could have nerved
myself to say what I did say to my father. If, in the lightest word, it
was unjust, unloving or undutiful--may God forgive me, for I never meant
it! My heart was breaking almost--but I only wanted to hold fast to the
right, as I saw it, and as, so seeing it, I could not but act.

"So, I understand you wish to leave your father?"

"Papa!--papa!"

"Do not argue the point. I thought that folly was all over now. It must
be over. Be a good girl, and forget it. There!"

I suppose I must have turned very white, for I felt him take hold of
me, and press me into a chair beside him. But it would not do to let my
strength go.

"Papa, I want your consent to my marriage with Dr. Urquhart. He would
come and ask you himself; but he is too ill. We have waited a long time,
and suffered much. He is not young, and I feel old--quite old myself,
sometimes. Do not part us any more."

This was, as near as I can recollect, what I said--said very quietly and
humbly, I know it was; for my father seemed neither surprised nor angry;
but he sat there as hard as a stone, repeating only, "It _must_ be
over."

"Why?"

He answered by one word:--"_Harry_"

"No other reason?"

"None."

Then I dared to speak out plain, even to my father. "Papa, you said,
publicly, you had forgiven him for the death of Harry."

"But I never said I should forget."

"Ay, there it is!" I cried out bitterly. "People say they forgive, but
they cannot forget. It would go hard with some of us if the just God
dealt with us in like manner."

"You are profane."

"No! only I am not afraid to bring God's truth into all the
circumstances of life, and to judge them by it. I believe,--if Christ
came into the world to forgive sinners, we ought to forgive them too."

Thus far I said--not thinking it just towards Max that I should plead
merely for pity to be shewn to him or to me who loved him; but because
it was the right and the truth, and as such, both for Max's honour and
mine, I strove to put it clearly before my father. And then I gave way,
pleading only as a daughter with her father, that he should blot out the
past, and not for the sake of one long dead and gone break the heart of
his living child.

"Harry would not wish it--I am sure he would not. If Harry has gone
where he, too, may find mercy for his many sins, I know that he has long
ago forgiven my dear Max." My father, muttering something about "strange
theology," sat thoughtful. It was some time before he spoke again.

"There is one point of the subject you omit entirely. What will the
world say? I, a clergyman, to sanction the marriage of my daughter with
the man who took the life of my son? It is not possible."

Then I grew bold:--"So, it is not the law of God, or justice, or nature,
that keeps us asunder--but the world? Father, you have no right to part
Max and me for fear of the world."

When it was said, I repented myself of this. But it was too late. All
his former hardness returned as he said:--

"I am aware that I have no legal right to forbid your marriage. You are
of age: you may act, as you have all along acted, in defiance of your
father."

Never in defiance, nor even in secret disobedience and I reminded him
how all things had been carried on--open and plain--from first to last;
how patiently we had waited, and how, if Max were well and prosperous, I
might still have said, "We will wait a little longer. Now--"

"Well, and now?"

I went down on my very knees, and with tears and sobs besought my father
to let me be Max's wife.

It was in vain.

"Good night: go to your bed, Dora, and weary me no more."

I rose, certain now that the time was come when I must choose between
two duties--between father and husband; the one to whom I owed
existence, the other to whose influence I owed everything that had made
me a girl worth living, or worth loving. Such crises do come to poor
souls!--God guide them, for He only can.

"Good night, father"--my lips felt dry and stiff--it was scarcely my own
voice that I heard, "I will wait--there are still a few days."

He turned suddenly upon me. "What are you planning? Tell the truth."

"I meant to do so." And then, briefly,--for each word came out with
pain, as if it were a last breath,--I explained that Dr. Urquhart would
have to leave for Canada in a month--that, if we had gained my father's
consent, we intended to be married in three weeks, remain a week in
England, and then sail.

"And what if I do not give my consent?"

I stopped a moment, and then strength came.

"I must be Max's wife still. God gave us to one another, and God only
shall put us asunder."

After that, I remember nothing till I found myself lying in my own bed
with Penelope beside me.

No words can tell how good my sister Penelope was to me in the three
weeks that followed. She helped me in all my marriage preparations; few
and small, for I had little or no money except what I might have asked
papa for, and I would not have done that--not for worlds! Max's wife
would have come to him almost as poor as Griseldis, had not Penelope one
day taken me to those locked-up drawers of hers.

"Are you afraid of ill-luck with these things? No? Then choose whatever
you want, and may you have health and happiness to wear them, my dear."

And so--with a little more stitching--for I had a sort of superstition
that I should like to be married in one new white gown, which my sister
and I made between us--we finished and packed the small wardrobe which
was all the marriage portion poor Theodora Johnston could bring to her
husband.

My father must have been well aware of our preparations, for we did
not attempt to hide them; the household knew only that Miss Dora, was
"going a journey," but he knew better--that she was going to leave him
and her old home, perhaps for evermore. Yet he said nothing. Sometimes I
caught him looking earnestly at me--at the poor face which I saw in
the looking-glass--growing daily more white and heavy-eyed--yet he said
nothing.

Penelope told me when, hearing me fall, she had run into the library
that night, he bade her "take the child away, and say she must not speak
to him on this subject any more." I obeyed. I behaved all through those
three weeks as if each day had been like the innumerable other days that
I had sat at my father's table, walked and talked by his side, if not
the best loved, at least as well loved as any of his daughters. But
it was an ordeal such as even to remember gives one a shiver of pain,
wondering how one bore it.

During the day-time I was quiet enough, being so busy, and, as I said,
Penelope was very good to me; but at night I used to lie awake, seeing,
with open eyes, strange figures about the room--especially my mother, or
some one I fancied was she. I would often talk to her, asking her if I
were acting right or wrong, and whether all that I did for Max she would
not have once done for my father? then rouse myself with a start, and
a dread that my wits were going, or that some heavy illness was
approaching me, and if so, what would become of Max?

At length arrived the last day--the day before my marriage. It was not
to be here, of course; but in some London church, near Mrs. Ansdell's,
who was to meet me herself at the railway-station early the same
morning, and remain with me till I was Dr. Urquhart's wife. I could have
no other friend; Penelope and I agreed that it was best not to risk my
father's displeasure by asking for her to go to my marriage. So,
without sister or father, or any of my own kin, I was to start on my sad
wedding-morning--quite alone.

During the week, I had taken an opportunity to drive over to the Cedars,
shake hands with Colin and his wife, and give his dear old mother one
long kiss, which she did not know was a good-bye. Otherwise I bade
farewell to no one. My last walk through the village was amidst a deluge
of August rain, in which my moorlands vanished, all mist and gloom. A
heavy, heavy night: it will be long before the weight of it is lifted
off my remembrance.

And yet I knew I was doing right, and, if needed, would do it all over
again. Every human love has its sacrifices and its anguishes, as well as
its joys--the one great love of life has often most of all. Therefore,
let those beware who enter upon it lightly, or selfishly, or without
having counted its full cost.

"I do not know if we shall be happy," said I to Penelope, when she was
cheering me with a future that may never come--"I only know that Max and
I have cast our lots together, and that we shall love one another to the
end."

And in that strong love armed, I lived--otherwise, many times that day,
it would have seemed easier to have died.

When I went, as usual, to bid papa goodnight, I could hardly stand. He
looked at me suspiciously.

"Good night, my dear. By-the-by, Dora, I shall want you to drive me to
the Cedars tomorrow."

"I--I--Penelope will do it." And I fell on his breast with a pitiful
cry. "Only bid me good-bye! Only say 'God bless you,' just once,
father."

He breathed hard. "I thought so. Is it to be to-morrow?"

"Yes."

"Where?"

I told him.

For a few minutes papa let me lie where I was; patting my shoulder
softly, as one does a sobbing child--then, still gently, he put me away
from him.

"We had better end this, Dora; I cannot bear it. Kiss me. Good-bye."

"And not one blessing? Papa, papa!"

My father rose, and laid his hand solemnly on my head:--"You have been
a dutiful girl to me, in all things save this, and a good daughter makes
a good wife. Farewell--wherever you go,--God bless you!"

And as he closed the library-door upon me I thought I had taken my last
look of my dear father.

It was only six o'clock in the morning when Penelope took me to the
station. Nobody saw us--nobody knew. The man at the railway stopped
us, and talked to Penelope for full two minutes about his wife's
illness--two whole minutes out of our last five.

--My sister would not bid me good-bye--being determined, she said, to
see me again, either in London or Liverpool, before we sailed. She had
kept me up wonderfully, and her last kiss was almost cheerful, or she
made it seem so. I can still see her--very pale, for she had been up
since daylight, but otherwise quiet and tearless, pacing the solitary
platform--our two long shadows gliding together before us, in the early
morning sun. And I see her, even to the last minute, standing with her
hand on the carriage-door--smiling.

"Give Doctor Urquhart my love--tell him, I know he will take care of
you. And child"--turning round once again with her "practical" look
that I knew so well, "Remember, I have written 'Miss Johnston,' on your
boxes. Afterwards, be sure that you alter the name. Good-bye,--nonsense,
it is not really goodbye."

Ay, but it was. For how many, many years?

In that dark, gloomy, London church, which a thundery mist made darker
and stiller--I first saw again my dear Max.

Mrs. Ansdell said, lest I should be startled and shocked, that it was
only the sight of me which overcame him; that he was really better. And
so when, after the first few minutes, he asked me, hesitatingly, "if I
did not find him much altered?" I answered boldly, "No! that I should
soon get accustomed to his grey hair; besides, I never remembered
him either particularly handsome or particularly young." At which he
smiled--and then I knew again my own Max! and all things ceased to feel
so mournfully strange.

We went into one of the far pews, and Max tried on my ring. How his
hands shook! so much that all my trembling passed away, and a great calm
came over me. Yes--I had done right. He had nobody but me.

So we sat, side by side, neither of us speaking a word, until the
pew-opener came to say the clergyman was ready.

There were several other couples waiting to be married at the same
time--who had bridesmaids, and friends, and fathers. We three walked
up and took our places--there was no one to pay heed to us. I saw the
verger whisper something to Max--to which he answered "Yes," and the
old man came and stood behind Mrs. Ansdell and me. A few other folk were
dotted about in the pews, but I only noticed them as moving figures, and
distinguished none.

The service began--which I--indeed we both--had last heard at Lisabel's
wedding--in our pretty church, all flower-adorned, she looking so
handsome and happy, with her sisters near her, and her father to give
her away. For a moment I felt very desolate: and hearing a pew-door open
and a footstep come slowly up the aisle, I trembled with a vague fear
that something might happen, something which even at the last moment
might part Max and me.

But it did not; I heard him repeat the solemn promises--how dare any one
make them lightly, or break them afterwards! to "_love, comfort, honor
and keep me, in sickness and in health, and, forsaking all other, keep
me only unto him, so long as we both should live_" And I felt that I
also, out of the entire trust I had in him, and the great love I bore
him, could cheerfully forsake all other, father, sisters, kindred, and
friends, for him. They were very dear to me, and would be always: but he
was part of myself,--my husband.

And here let me relate a strange thing--so unexpected that Max and I
shall always feel it as a special blessing from heaven to crown all our
pain and send us forth on our new life in peace and joy. When in the
service came the question:--"Who giveth this woman, &c"--there was no
answer, and the silence went like a stab to my heart. The minister,
thinking there was some mistake, repeated it again:--"Who giveth this
woman to be married to this man?"

"I do."

It was not a stranger's voice, but my dear father's.

*****

My husband had asked me where I should best like to go for our marriage
journey. I said, to St. Andrews. Max grew much better there. He seemed
better from the very hour, when, papa having remained with us till our
train started, we were for the first time left alone by our two selves.
An expression ungrammatical enough to be quite worthy, Max would say,
of his little lady, but people who are married will understand what it
means.--We did, I think, as we sat still, my head on his shoulder and my
hand between both his, watching the fields, trees, hills, and dales,
fly past like changing shadows; never talking at all, nor thinking much,
except--the glad thought came in spite of all the bitterness of of these
good-byes--that there was one goodbye which never need be said again. We
were married.

I was delighted with St. Andrews. We shall always talk of our four
days there, so dream-like at the time, yet afterwards become clear in
remembrance down to the minutest particulars. The sweetness of them will
last us through many a working hour, many an hour of care--such as we
know must come, in ours as in all human lives. We are not afraid: we are
together.

Our last day in St. Andrews was Sunday, and Max took me to his own
Presbyterian church, in which he and his brother were brought up, and of
which Dallas was to have been a minister. From his many wanderings it
so happened that my husband had not heard the Scotch service for many
years, and he was much affected by it. I too--when, reading together the
psalms at the end of his Bible, he shewed me, silently, the name written
in it--Dallas Urquhart..

The psalm--I shall long remember it, with the tune it was sung to--which
was strange to me, but Max knew it well of old, and it had been a
particular favourite with Dallas. Surely if spirit, freed from flesh, be
everywhere, or, if permitted, can go anywhere that it desires,--not
very far from us two, as we sat singing that Sunday, must have been our
brother Dallas.=

```"How lovely is thy dwelling place

````O Lord of hosts, to me!--

```The tabernacles of thy grace

````How pleasant, Lord, they be!

```My thirsty soul longs vehemently

````Yea, faints, thy courts to see:

```My very heart and flesh cry out

````O living God, for thee.. . .

```Blest are they, in thy house who dwell,

````Who ever give thee praise;

```Blest is the man whose strength thou art

````In whose heart are thy ways:

```Who, passing thorough Baca's vale,

````Therein do dig up wells:

```Also the rain that falleth down

````The pools with water fills.

```Thus they from strength unwearied go

````Still forward unto strength:

```Until in Zion they appear

````Before the Lord at length.=

Amen! So, when this life is ended, may we appear, even there still
together,--my husband and I!

*****

Contrary to our plans, we did not see Rockmount again, nor Penelope, nor
my dear father. It was thought best not. Especially as in a few years at
latest, we hope, God willing, to visit them all again, or perhaps even
to settle in England.

After a single day spent at Treherne Court, Augustus went with us one
sunshiny morning on board the American steamer, which lay so peacefully
in the middle of the Mersey--just as if she were to lie there for ever,
instead of sailing, and we with her--in one little half hour. Sailing
far away, far away to a home we knew not, leaving the old familiar faces
and the old familiar land.

It seemed doubly precious now, and beautiful; even the sandy flats, that
Max had so often told me about, along the Mersey shore. I saw him look
thoughtfully towards them, after pointing out to me the places he knew,
and where his former work had lain.

"That is all over now," he said, half sadly. "Nothing has happened as I
planned, or hoped, or--"

"Or feared."

"No. My dear wife, no! Yet all has been for good. All is very good. I
shall find new work in a new country."

"And I too?"

Max smiled. "Yes, she too. We'll work together, my little lady!"

The half hour was soon over--the few last words soon said. But I did not
at all realize that we were away, till I saw Augustus wave us good-bye,
and heard the sudden boom of our farewell gun as the _Europa_ slipped
off her mail-tender, and went steaming seaward alone--fast, oh! so fast.

The sound of that gun, it must have nearly broken many a heart, many
a time! I think it would have broken mine, had I not, standing,
close-clasped, by my husband's side, looked up in his dear face, and
read, as he in mine, that to us thus together, everywhere was Home.


THE END.





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+ Keep it legal -  Whatever your use, remember that you are responsible for
ensuring that what you are doing is legal. Do not assume that just because
we believe a book is in the public domain for users in the United States,
that the work is also in the public domain for users in other countries.
Whether a book is still in copyright varies from country to country, and we
can't offer guidance on whether any specific use of any specific book is
allowed. Please do not assume that a book's appearance in Doctrine Publishing
ISYS search  means it can be used in any manner anywhere in the world.
Copyright infringement liability can be quite severe.

About ISYS® Search Software
Established in 1988, ISYS Search Software is a global supplier of enterprise
search solutions for business and government.  The company's award-winning
software suite offers a broad range of search, navigation and discovery
solutions for desktop search, intranet search, SharePoint search and embedded
search applications.  ISYS has been deployed by thousands of organizations
operating in a variety of industries, including government, legal, law
enforcement, financial services, healthcare and recruitment.



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