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Title: The Changeling
Author: Besant, Walter
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 "The Changeling" ***

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THE CHANGELING



NOVELS BY SIR WALTER BESANT & JAMES RICE.

Crown 8vo., cloth extra, 3s. 6d. each; post 8vo., boards, 2s. each;
cloth, 2s. 6d. each.


READY MONEY MORTIBOY.
BY CELIA'S ARBOUR.
MY LITTLE GIRL.
THE CHAPLAIN OF THE FLEET.
WITH HARP AND CROWN.
THE SEAMY SIDE.
THIS SON OF VULCAN.
THE CASE OF MR. LUCRAFT.
THE GOLDEN BUTTERFLY.
'TWAS IN TRAFALGAR'S BAY.
THE MONKS OF THELEMA.
THE TEN YEARS' TENANT.

[asterism] There is also a LIBRARY EDITION of the above Twelve
Volumes, handsomely set in new type on a large crown 8vo. page, and
bound in cloth extra, 6s. each; and POPULAR EDITIONS of THE GOLDEN
BUTTERFLY, and of ALL SORTS AND CONDITIONS OF MEN, medium 8vo., 6d.
each; cloth, 1s. each.


NOVELS BY SIR WALTER BESANT.

Crown 8vo., cloth extra, 3s. 6d. each; post 8vo., boards, 2s. each;
cloth, 2s. 6d. each.

ALL SORTS AND CONDITIONS OF MEN. 12 Illusts. by BARNARD.
THE CAPTAINS' ROOM. With Frontispiece by E. J. WHEELER.
ALL IN A GARDEN FAIR. With 6 Illustrations by HARRY FURNISS.
DOROTHY FORSTER. With Frontispiece by CHARLES GREEN.
UNCLE JACK, and other Stories.
CHILDREN OF GIBEON.
THE WORLD WENT VERY WELL THEN. 12 Illusts. by FORESTIER.
HERR PAULUS: His Rise, his Greatness, and his Fall.
THE BELL OF ST. PAUL'S.
FOR FAITH AND FREEDOM. Illusts. by FORESTIER and WADDY.
TO CALL HER MINE. With 9 Illustrations by A. FORESTIER.
THE HOLY ROSE. With Frontispiece by F. BARNARD.
ARMOREL OF LYONESSE. With 12 Illustrations by F. BARNARD.
ST. KATHERINE'S BY THE TOWER. With 12 Illusts. by C. GREEN.
VERBENA CAMELLIA STEPHANOTIS. Frontis. by GORDON BROWN.
THE IVORY GATE.
THE REBEL QUEEN.
BEYOND THE DREAMS OF AVARICE. 12 Illustrations by HYDE.
IN DEACON'S ORDERS. With Frontispiece by A. FORESTIER.
THE REVOLT OF MAN.
THE MASTER CRAFTSMAN.
THE CITY OF REFUGE.


Crown 8vo., cloth, 3s. 6d. each.

A FOUNTAIN SEALED. With Frontispiece by H. G. BURGESS.
THE CHANGELING.

     THE CHARM, and other Drawing-room Plays. By SIR
     WALTER BESANT and WALTER H. POLLOCK. With
     50 Illustrations by CHRIS HAMMOND and JULE
     GOODMAN. Crown 8vo., cloth gilt, gilt edges, 6s.; blue
     cloth, plain edges, 3s. 6d.

     FIFTY YEARS AGO. With 144 Illustrations. Crown 8vo., cloth,
     5s.

     THE EULOGY OF RICHARD JEFFERIES. Portrait. Cr. 8vo, cloth,
     6s.

     LONDON. With 125 Illustrations. Demy 8vo., cloth extra, 7s.
     6d.

     WESTMINSTER. With Etched Frontispiece by F. S.
     WALKER, R.E., and 130 Illustrations by WILLIAM
     PATTEN, etc. Demy 8vo., cloth, 7s. 6d.

     SOUTH LONDON. With Etched Frontispiece by F. S.
     WALKER, R.E., and 118 Illustrations. Demy 8vo., cloth,
     gilt top, 18s.

     SIR RICHARD WHITTINGTON. Frontispiece. Cr. 8vo., linen, 3s.
     6d.

     GASPARD DE COLIGNY. With a Portrait. Crown 8vo., art linen,
     3s. 6d.

LONDON: CHATTO & WINDUS, 111 ST. MARTIN'S LANE, W.C.



THE CHANGELING


BY

WALTER BESANT

AUTHOR OF
"ALL SORTS AND CONDITIONS OF MEN," "A FOUNTAIN SEALED," ETC.

[Illustration]

A NEW EDITION


LONDON
CHATTO & WINDUS
1899



PRINTED BY
WILLIAM CLOWES AND SONS, LIMITED,
LONDON AND BECCLES.



CONTENTS.


CHAPTER                                PAGE

I. WAS IT SUBSTITUTION?                   1

II. THE ONLY WITNESS GONE                15

III. THE THREE COUSINS                   23

IV. THE CONSULTING-ROOM                  46

V. GUEST NIGHT                           57

VI. THE OLD LOVER                        73

VII. THE MASTER OF THE SITUATION         84

VIII. THE COUSINS                        92

IX. ONE MORE                            110

X. COUSIN ALFRED'S SECRET               116

XI. THE DOCTOR'S DINNER                 126

XII. THE OTHER CHILD OF DESERTION       143

XIII. A MIDNIGHT WALK                   157

XIV. THE FIRST MOVE                     169

XV. TWO JUMPS AND A CONCLUSION          185

XVI. A WRETCH                           199

XVII. THE SECOND BLOW                   210

XVIII. A GRACIOUS LADY                  222

XIX. A CABINET COUNCIL                  241

XX. JOHN HAVERIL CLEARS UP THINGS       253

XXI. "TO BE OFF WITH THE OLD LOVE"      265

XXII. THE CLAN AGAIN                    276

XXIII. ONE MORE ATTEMPT                 290

XXIV. A HORRID NIGHT                    300

XXV. THE FIRST MOTHER                   313

XXVI. THE SECOND MOTHER                 322

CHAPTER THE LAST. FORGIVENESS           336



THE CHANGELING.



CHAPTER I.

WAS IT SUBSTITUTION?


"Pray be seated, madam." The doctor offered his visitor a chair.
Then he closed the door, with perhaps a more marked manner than one
generally displays in this simple operation. "I am happy to inform
you," he began, "that the arrangements--the arrangements," he repeated
with meaning, "are now completed."

The lady was quite young--not more than twenty-two or so--a handsome
woman, a woman of distinction. Her face was full of sadness; her
eyes were full of trouble; her lips trembled; her fingers nervously
clutched the arms of the chair. When the doctor mentioned the
arrangements, her cheek flushed and then paled. In a word, she
betrayed every external sign of terror, sorrow, and anxiety.

"And when can I leave this place?"

"This day: as soon as you please."

"The woman made no objections?"

"None. You can have the child."

"I have told you my reasons for wishing to adopt this child"--he had
never asked her reasons, yet at every interview she repeated them:
"my own boy is dead. He is dead." There was a world of trouble in the
repetition of the word.

The doctor bowed coldly. "Your reasons, madam," he said, "are
sufficient for yourself. I have followed your instructions without
asking for your reasons. That is to say, I have found the kind of
child you want: light hair and blue eyes, apparently sound and
healthy; at all events, the child of a sound and healthy mother. As
for your reasons, I do not inquire."

"I thought you might like----"

"They are nothing to do with me. My business has been to find a child,
and to arrange for your adoption of it. I have therefore, as I told
you, arranged with a poor woman who is willing to part with her child."

"On my conditions?"

"Absolutely. That is--she will never see the child again; she will not
ask who takes the child, or where it is taken, or in what position of
life it will be brought up. She accepts your assurance that the child
will be cared for, and treated kindly. She fully consents."

"Poor creature!"

"You will give her fifty pounds, and that single payment will
terminate the whole business."

"Terminate the whole business? Oh, it will begin the whole business!"

"There are many reasons for adoption," the doctor continued,
returning to the point with which he had no concern. "I have read in
books of substituting a child--introducing a child--for the sake of
keeping a title, or an estate, or a family."

The lady answered as if she had not heard this remark. "The mother
consents to sell her child! Poor creature!"

"She accepts your conditions. I have told you so. Go your way--she
goes hers."

The lady reflected for a moment. "Tell me," she said,--"you are a man
of science,--in such an adoption----"

"Or, perhaps, such a substitution," interrupted the doctor.

"Is there not danger of inherited vice, or disease?"

"Certainly there is. It is a danger which you must watch in educating
the child. He may inherit a tendency to drink: guard against it by
keeping him from alcohol of any kind. He may show physical weakness;
watch him carefully. But nine-tenths of so-called hereditary disease
or vice are due to example and conditions of life."

"If we do not know the character of the parents--they may be
criminals. What if the child should inherit these instincts?"

The doctor, who had been standing, took a chair, and prepared himself
to argue the point. He was a young man, with a strong jaw and a square
forehead. He had a face and features of rude but vigorous handling;
such a face as a noble life would make beautiful in age, and an
ignoble life would make hideous. Every man has as many faces as there
are years of his life, and we heed them not; yet each follows each
in a long procession, ending with the pale and waxen face in the
coffin--that solemn face which tells so much.

"There is," he said, "a good deal of loose talk about heredity. Some
things external are hereditary--face, eyes, figure, stature, hands,
certainly descend from father to son; some diseases, especially those
of the nervous kind; some forms of taste and aptitude, especially
those which are artistic. Things which are not natural, but acquired,
are never hereditary--never. If the boy's father is the greatest
criminal in the country, it won't hurt him a bit, because he is taken
away too early to have observed or imitated. The sons are said to
take after the mothers; that is, perhaps, because they have always
got the models before them. In your case, you will naturally become
the child's most important model. Later on, will come in the male
influence. If there is, for instance, a putative father----"

"There will be, of course, my husband."

The doctor bowed again. Then there was a husband living. "He will
become the boy's second model," he said. "In other words, madam, the
vices of the boy's parents--if they have vices--will not affect him in
the least. Gout, rheumatism, asthma, consumption,--all these things,
and many more, a child may inherit; but acquired criminality, never.
Be quite easy on that point."

"My desire is that the child may become as perfect a gentleman at all
points as his--as my husband."

"Why should he not? He has no past to drag him down. You will train
him and mould him as you please--exactly as you please."

"You have not told me anything about the mother, except that she is in
want."

"Why should you learn her name, or she yours?"

"I have no desire to learn her name. I was thinking whether she is the
kind of woman to feel the loss of her child."

The doctor, as yet inexperienced in the feminine nature, marvelled at
this sympathy with the mother whose child the lady was buying.

"Well," he said, "she is a young woman--of respectable character, I
believe; good looking; in her speech something of a cockney, if I
understand that dialect."

"The more respectable she is, the more she will feel the loss of her
child."

"Yes; but there is another consideration. This poor creature has a
husband who has deserted her."

"Then her child should console her."

"Her husband is a comedian--actor--singing fellow,--a chap who asks
for nothing but enjoyment. As for wife and children, they may look out
for themselves. When I saw him, I read desertion in his face; in his
wife's face, it was easy to read neglect."

"Poor creature!"

"Now he's gone--deserted her. Nothing will do but she must go in
search of him. Partly for money to help her along, partly because the
workhouse is her only refuge, she sells her baby."

The lady was silent for a while, then she sighed. "Poor creature!
There are, then, people in the world as unhappy as I myself?"

"If that is any consolation, there are. Well, madam, you now know the
whole history; and, as it doesn't concern you, nor the child, best
forget it at once."

"Poor mother!"

She kept harping on the bereavement, as though Providence, and not she
herself, was the cause.

"I have told her that the boy will be brought up in ease--affluence
even"--the lady inclined her head--"and she is resigned."

"Thank you. And when----?"

"You would like to go up to London this afternoon? Well, I will
myself bring the child to the railway station. Once more, as regards
heredity. If the child should inherit his mother's qualities, he will
be truthful and tenacious, or obstinate and perhaps rather stupid; if
his father's, he will be artistic and musical, selfish, cold-hearted,
conceited."

"He might inherit the better qualities of both."

"Ah, then he will be persevering, high-principled, a man of artistic
feeling--perhaps of power,--ambitious, and desirous of distinction. I
wish, madam, that he may become so perfect and admirable a young man."
He rose. "I have only, I think, to receive the money which will start
this poor woman on her wild-goose chase. Thank you. Ten five-pound
notes. I will take care that the woman has it at once."

"For your own trouble, Dr. Steele?"

"My fee is three guineas. Thank you."

"I shall be on the platform or in the train at a quarter before three.
Please look about for an Indian ayah, who will receive the child.
You are sure that there will never be any attempt made to follow and
discover my name?"

"As to discovery," he said, "you may rest quite easy. For my own
part, my work lies in this slum of Birmingham; it is not likely that
I shall ever get out of it. I am a sixpenny doctor; you are a woman
of society: I shall never meet you. This little business will be
forgotten to-morrow. If, in the future, by any accident I were to meet
you, I should not know you. If I were to know you, I should not speak
to you. Until you yourself give me leave, even if I should recognize
you, I should not speak about this business."

"Thank you," she said coldly. "It is not, however, likely that you
will be tempted."

He took up an open envelope lying on the table--it was the envelope in
which the lady had brought the notes,--replaced them, and put them in
his pocket. Then he opened the door for the lady, who bowed coldly,
and went out.

       *       *       *       *       *

A few days before this, the same lady, with an Indian ayah, was
bending over a dying child. They sent for the nearest medical man. He
came. He tried the usual things; they proved useless. The child must
die.

The child was dead.

The child was buried.

The mother sat stupefied. In her hand she held a letter--her
husband's latest letter. "In a day or two," he said, "my life's
work will be finished. In a fortnight after you get this, I shall be
at Southampton. Come to meet me, dear one, and bring the boy. I am
longing to see the boy and the boy's mother. Kiss the boy for me;"
and so on, and so on--always thinking of the boy, the boy, the boy!
And the boy was dead! And the bereaved father was on his way home!
She laid down the letter, and took up a telegram. Already he must be
crossing the Alps, looking forward to meeting the boy, the boy, the
boy!

And the boy was dead.

The ayah crouched down on a stool beside her mistress, and began
whispering in her own language. But the lady understood.

As she listened her face grew harder, her mouth showed resolution.

"Enough," she said; "you have told me enough. You can be silent?--for
my sake, for the sake of the sahib? Yes--yes--I can trust you. Let me
think."

Presently she went out; she walked at random into street after street.
She stopped, letting chance direct her, at a surgery with a red lamp,
in a mean quarter. She read the name. She entered, and asked to see
Dr. Steele, not knowing anything at all about the man.

She was received by a young man of five and twenty or so. She stated
her object in calling.

"The child I want," she said, "should be something like the child I
have lost. He must have light hair and blue eyes."

"And the age?"

"He must not be more than eighteen months or less than a year. My own
child was thirteen months old. He was born on December 2, 1872."

"I have a large acquaintance in a poor neighbourhood," said the
doctor. "The women of my quarter have many babies. If you will give me
a day or two, I may find what you want." He made a note--"Light hair,
blue eyes; birth somewhere near December 2, 1872,--age, therefore,
about thirteen months."

At a quarter before three in the afternoon a woman, carrying a baby,
stood inside the railway station at Birmingham. She was young, thinly
clad, though the day was cold; her face was delicate and refined,
though pinched with want and trouble. She looked at her child every
minute, and her tears fell fast.

The doctor arrived, looked round, and walked up to her. "Now, Mrs.
Anthony," he said, "I've come for the baby."

"Oh! If it were not for the workhouse I would never part with him."

"Come, my good woman, you know you promised."

"Take him," she said suddenly. She almost flung him in the doctor's
arms, and rushed away.

Above the noise of the trains and the station, the doctor heard her
sobbing as she ran out of the station.

"She'll soon get over it," he said. But, as has already been observed,
the doctor was as yet inexperienced in the feminine heart.

       *       *       *       *       *

About six o'clock that evening the lady who had received the baby had
arrived at her house in Bryanston Square.

"Now," she said, when she had reached the nursery, "we will have a
look at the creature--oh! the little gutter-born creature!--that is to
be my own all the rest of my life."

The ayah threw back the wraps, and disclosed a lusty boy, about a year
or fifteen months old.

The lady sat down by the table, and dropped her hands in her lap.

"Oh," she cried, "I _could_ not tell him! It broke my heart to watch
the boy on his deathbed: it would kill him--it would kill him--the
child of his old age, his only child! To save my husband I would do
worse things than this--far worse things--far worse things."

Among the child's clothes, which were clean and well kept, there
was a paper. The lady snatched it up. There was writing on it.
"His name"--the writing was plain and clear, not that of a wholly
uneducated woman--"is Humphrey. His surname does not matter. It begins
with 'W.'"

"Why," cried the lady, "Humphrey! Humphrey! My boy's own name! And
his surname begins with 'W'--my boy's initial! If it should be my own
boy!--oh! ayah, my own boy come back again!"

The ayah shook her head sadly. But she changed the child's clothes for
those of the dead child; and she folded up his own things, and laid
them in a drawer.

"The doctor has not deceived me," said the lady. "Fair hair, blue
eyes; eyes and hair the colour of my boy." The tears came into her
eyes.

"He's a beautiful boy," said the nurse; "not a spot nor a blemish,
and his limbs round and straight and strong. See how he kicks. And
look--look! why, if he hasn't got the chin--the sahib's chin!"

It was not much: a dimple, a hollow between the lower lip and the end
of the chin.

"Strange! So he has. Do you think, nurse, the sahib, his father, will
think that the child looks his age? He is to be a year and a quarter,
you know."

The ayah laughed. "Men know nothing," she said.

In a day or two the supposed parent returned home. He was a man
advanced in years, between sixty and seventy. He was tall and spare
of figure. His features were strongly marked, the features of a man
who administers and commands. His face was full of authority; his eyes
were as keen as a hawk's. He stepped up the stairs with the spring
of five and twenty, and welcomed his wife with the sprightliness of
a bridegroom of that elastic age. The man was, in fact, a retired
Indian. He had spent forty years or so in administrating provinces: he
was a king retired from business, a sovereign abdicated, on whose face
a long reign had left the stamp of kingcraft. It was natural that in
the evening of his life this man should marry a young and beautiful
girl; it was also quite natural that this girl should entertain, for
a husband old enough to be her grandfather, an affection and respect
which dominated her.

He held out both arms; he embraced his wife with the ardour of a
young lover; he turned her face to the light.

"Lilias!" he murmured, "let me look at you. Why, my dear, you look
pale--and worried! Is anything the matter?"

"Nothing--nothing--now you are home again."

"And the boy? Where is the boy?"

"He shall be brought in." The ayah appeared carrying the child.
"Here he is; quite well--and strong--and happy. Your son is quite
happy--quite happy----" Her voice broke. She sank into a chair, and
fell into hysterical sobbing and weeping. "He is quite--quite--quite
happy."

They brought cold water, and presently she became calmer. Then the
father turned again to consider the boy.

"He looks strong and hearty; but he doesn't seem much bigger than when
you carried him off six months ago."

"A little backward with his growth." The mother had now recovered.
"But that's nothing. He's made a new start already. Feel his fingers.
There's a grip! Your own living picture, Humphrey!"

"Ay, ay. Perhaps I would rather, for good looks, that he took after
his mother. Blue eyes, fair hair, and the family dimple in the chin."

       *       *       *       *       *

When the doctor was left alone, he took the envelope containing the
bank-notes from his pocket, and threw it on his desk. Then he sat
down, and began to think over the situation.

"What does she do it for?" he asked. "Her own child is dead. There
is no doubt about that; her face is so full of trouble. She wants to
deceive her husband: at least, I suppose so. She will keep that secret
to herself. The ayah is faithful--that's pretty certain. There will
be no blackmailing in that quarter. A fine face she has"--meaning
the lady, not the ayah. "Hard and determined, though. I should like
to see it soften. I wish she had trusted me. But there, one couldn't
expect it of a woman of that temperament--cold, reserved, haughty; a
countess, perhaps. It's like the old story-books. Somebody will be
disinherited. This boy is going to do it. Nobody will ever find it
out. And that's the way they build up their fine pedigrees!"

       *       *       *       *       *

The doctor was quite wrong. Nobody was to be disinherited; nor was
there an estate. This you must understand, to begin with. The rest I
am going to tell you.

"No clue," the doctor continued. "She is quite safe, unless she
were to meet me. No other clue. Nobody else knows." He took up the
envelope, and observed that it had part of an address upon it. All
he could read, however, was one word--"Lady." "Oho!" he said; "there
_is_ a title, after all. It looks as if the latter half were a 'W.'
There's a conspiracy, and I'm a conspirator! Humph! She's a beautiful
creature!"

He fell into meditation on that subject which is always interesting to
mere man--the face of a woman. Then his thoughts naturally wandered
off to the conversation he had held with that memorable face.

"I _should_ like, if I could, to learn how this job will turn out from
the hereditary point of view! Will that interesting babe take after
his father? Will he astonish his friends by becoming a low comedian?
Or will he take after his mother, and become a simple, honourable
Englishman? Or will he combine the inferior qualities of both, and
become a beautiful and harmonious blend, which may make him either a
villain of the deeper dye, or a common cold-blooded man of the world,
with a touch of the artist?"



CHAPTER II.

THE ONLY WITNESS GONE.


One afternoon, about eighteen years later, certain mourning-coaches,
returning home from a funeral, drew up before a house in Bryanston
Square. There were three coaches. From the first descended a young man
of twenty or thereabouts, still slight and boyish in figure. He had
been sitting alone in the carriage.

From the second came a middle-aged man of the greatest respectability,
to look at. He was so respectable, so eminently respectable, that he
could not possibly be anything but a butler. With him was a completely
respectable person of the other sex, who could be no other than a
housekeeper.

In the third carriage there were two young maid-servants in black, and
a boy in buttons. At the halting of the carriage they clapped their
handkerchiefs to their eyes, because they knew what was expected on
such an occasion; and they kept up this external show of grief until
they had mounted the steps and the door was shut. The page, who was
with them, had been weeping freely ever since they started; not so
much from unavailing grief, as from the blackness of the ceremony, and
the dreadful coffin, and the horror and terror and mystery of the
thing. He went up the stairs snuffling, and so continued for the rest
of the day.

The young gentleman mounted to the drawing-room, where his mother,
sitting in a straight, high chair, more like an office-chair than
one designed for a drawing-room, was dictating to a shorthand girl
secretary. The table was covered with papers. In the back drawing-room
two other girls were writing. For Lady Woodroffe was president of
one society, chairman of committee of another, honorary secretary
of a third; her letters and articles were on subjects and works of
philanthropy, purity, rescue, white lilies, temperance, and education.
Her platform advocacy of such works had placed her in the forefront of
civilizing women; she was a great captain in Israel, a very Deborah, a
Jael.

She was also, which certainly assisted her efforts, a very handsome
woman still, perhaps austere: but then her eloquence was of the severe
order. She appealed to the conscience, to duty, to responsibility,
to honour. If sinners quailed at contemplating the gulf between
themselves and the prophetess, who, like Jeremiah, had so little
sympathy with those who slide backwards and enjoy the exercise, it
was a perpetual joy to ladies of principle to consider an example so
powerful.

She was dressed in black silk, but wore no widow's weeds; her husband,
the first Sir Humphrey, had been dead four years.

The young gentleman threw himself into a chair. Lady Woodroffe nodded
to her secretary, who gathered up her papers and retreated to the
back drawing-room, closing the door.

"Well, mother," said the boy, carelessly, "we've buried the old woman."

"Yes. I hope you were not too much distressed, Humphrey. I am pleased
that you went to the funeral, if only to gratify the servants."

"How could I refuse to attend her funeral?--an old servant like that.
It's a beastly thing--a funeral,--and a beastly nuisance."

"We must not forget her services," the lady replied. "It was in return
for those services that I kept her here, and nursed her through her
old age. One does not encumber one's self with sick old women except
in such cases as this."

"No, thank goodness." The young man was in no gracious mood. "Give me
a servant who takes her wages and goes off, without asking for our
gratitude."

"Still, she was your nurse--and a good nurse."

"Too ostentatious of her affection, especially towards the end."

"She was also"--Lady Woodroffe pursued her own thoughts, which was her
way--"a silent woman; a woman who could be trusted, if necessary, with
secrets--family secrets."

"Thank goodness, we've got none. From family secrets, family
skeletons, family ghosts, good Lord, deliver us!"

"There are secrets, or skeletons, in every family, I suppose.
Fortunately, we forget some, and we never hear of others. You are
fortunate, Humphrey, that you are free from the vexation--or the
shame--or the shock--of family secrets, which mean family scandals.
Now, at all events, you are perfectly safe, because there is no one
living who can create a family ghost for you, or provide you with a
skeleton."

Humphrey laughed lightly. "Let the dead bury their dead," he replied.
"So long as I know nothing about the skeleton, it can go on grinning
in the cupboard, for aught I care.

"Did I tell you," the young man continued, after a pause, "of her last
words?"

"What last words?"

"I thought I had told you. Curious words they were. I suppose her mind
was wandering."

"Humphrey," said his mother, sharply, "what did she say? What words?"

"Well, they sent for me. It was just before the end. She was lying
apparently asleep, her eyes shut. I thought she was going. The nurse
was at the other end of the room, fussing with the tea-cups. Then she
opened her eyes and saw me. She whispered, 'Low down, low down, Master
Humphrey.' So I stooped down, and she said, 'Don't blame her, Master
Humphrey. I persuaded her, and we kept it up, for your sake. Nobody
suspects. All for your sake I kept it up,' Then she closed her eyes,
and opened them no more."

"What do you understand by those words, Humphrey?"

"Nothing. I cannot understand them. She was accusing herself, I
suppose, of something--I know not what. What did she keep up? Whom
did she persuade? But why should we want to know?"

"Wandering words. Nurses will tell you that no importance can be
attached to the last words when the brain wanders. Well, Humphrey,
while you were at the funeral I unlocked her drawers and examined the
contents. I found that she had quite a large sum of money invested.
One is not in good service for all these years without saving
something. There is a little pile of photographs of yourself at
various ages. I have put them aside for you, if you like to have them."

"I don't want them," he replied carelessly.

"I shall keep them, then. There is her wardrobe also. I believe she
had nephews and nieces and cousins in her native village in India.
All her possessions shall be sent out to them. Meanwhile, there is a
little packet of things which she tied up a great many years ago, and
has kept ever since. The sight of them caused me a strange shock. I
thought they had been long destroyed. They revived my memories of a
day--an event--certain days--when you were an infant."

"What things are these, then?"

"They were your own things--some of the things which you wore when you
were a child in arms, not more than a few months old."

"Oh, they are not very interesting, are they?"

"Perhaps not." Lady Woodroffe had in her lap a small packet tied up
in a towel or a serviette. She placed it on the table. "Humphrey, I
always think, when I look at old things, of the stories they might
tell, if they could, of the histories and the changes which might have
happened."

"Well, I don't know, mother. I am very well contented with things as
they are, though they might have given my father a peerage. As for
thinking of what they might have been, why, I might, perhaps, have
been born in a gutter."

"You might, Humphrey"--the widow laughed, which was an unwonted thing
in her--"you certainly might. And you cannot imagine what you would be
now, had you been born in a gutter."

"What's the good of asking, then?"

"Look at this bundle of your things."

"I don't want to look at them."

"No, I dare say not. But I do. They tell a story to me which they
cannot tell to you. I am glad the old woman kept them."

Lady Woodroffe untied the parcel, and laid open the things.

"The story is so curious that I cannot help looking at the things.
I have opened the bundle a dozen times to-day, since I found it.
I believe I shall have to tell you that story some day, Humphrey,
whether I like it or not."

"What story can there be connected with a parcel of socks and shoes?"

"To you, at present, none. To me, a most eventful story. The old
nurse knew the story very well, but she never talked about it. See,
Humphrey, the things are of quite coarse materials--one would think
they were made for that gutter child we talked about."

Her son stooped and picked up a paper that had fallen on the floor.

"'His name is Humphrey,'" he read. "A servant's handwriting, one would
think. What was the use of writing what everybody knew?"

"Perhaps some servant was practising the art of penmanship. Well"--she
tied up the parcel again--"I shall keep these things myself."

She put the parcel on the table, and presently carried it to her
room. Her son immediately forgot all about the old nurse's strange
last words, and the parcel of clothes, and everything. This was not
unnatural, because he presently went back to Cambridge, where there is
very little sympathy with the sentiment of baby linen.

When the door closed upon her son, his mother sprang to her feet.

"Oh!" she clasped her hands. Can we put her thoughts into words--the
thoughts that are so swift, into words that are so slow--the thoughts
that can so feebly express the mind with words that are so imperfect?
"I have never felt myself free until to-day. She is dead; she is
buried. On her death-bed she kept the secret. She never wrote it down;
she never told any one: had she written it I should have found it; had
she told any one I should have heard of it before now. And all, as she
said, for the sake of the boy. She meant her long silence. I feared
that at the last, when she lay a-dying, she might have confessed. I
sat in terror when I knew that the boy was at her death-bed. I thought
that when Sir Humphrey died, and the boy succeeded, she might have
confessed. But she did not. Good woman, and true! Never by a word, or
by a look, or by a sigh, did she let me know that she remembered."

She breathed deeply, as if relieved from a great anxiety.

"I have thought it all over, day after day. There is nothing that can
be found out now. The doctor would not recognize me. I suppose he is
still slaving at Birmingham; he did not know my name. The mother never
saw me. At last, I am free from danger! After all these years, I have
no longer any fear."

Over the mantel hung a portrait of her late husband.

"Humphrey," she said, talking to it familiarly, "I did it for your
sake. I could not bear that you should lose your boy. All for your
sake--all for your sake I screened the child from you. At least you
never knew that there is not--there has never been--the least touch of
your nobility in the gutter child. He is mean; he is selfish. He has
never done a kind action, or said a generous word. He has no friends,
only companions. He has already all the vices, but is never carried
away; he will become a sensualist, a cold and heartless sensualist. I
am sorry, Humphrey, truly sorry, my most noble and honourable husband,
that I have given you so unworthy a successor. Yet he is careful; he
will cause no scandal. So far, my husband, your name is safe."



CHAPTER III.

THE THREE COUSINS.


"Is it possible?" they repeated, gazing each upon each in the
triangular fashion.

Every incident in life is a coincident. That is to say, nothing
happens as one expects. The reason is that no one considers the
outside forces, which are unseen; very few, indeed, take into
consideration the inside forces, which are obvious. The trade of
prophet has fallen into decay, because we no longer believe in him; we
know that he cannot really prophesy the coincidence: to him, as to us,
the future is the unexpected. Wise folk, therefore, go about prepared
for anything: they carry an umbrella in July; they build more ships
when peace is most profound. The unexpected, the coincidence, gives to
life its chief charm: it relieves the monotony; it breaks the week,
so to speak. Formerly it might take the form of invasion, a descent
upon the coast: dwellers by the seaside enjoyed, therefore, the most
exciting lives possible. To-day it comes by telegraph, by post, by
postal express. The philosopher of tears says that the unexpected is
always disagreeable; he of smiles says that, on the whole, he has
received more good gifts unexpectedly than thwacks. Mostly however,
the opinion of the multitude, which is always right, is summed up in
the words of the itinerant merchant--the man with the barrow and the
oranges. "We expex a shilling," he says, "and we gits tuppence."

"Is it possible?"

These three people had arisen and gone forth that morning expecting
nothing, and lo! a miracle! For they were enriched, suddenly, and
without the least expectation, by the discovery that they were all
three of common kin. Imagine the boundless possibilities of newly
recovered cousinship! No one knows what may come out of it--an
augmentation of family pride, an increase of family griefs, the
addition of sympathy with the lowly, the shame and honour of ancient
scandals, more money perhaps, more influence perhaps. It may be a most
fortunate event. On the other hand---- But for the moment, these three
had not begun to consider the other side.

"Is it possible?" Well, it is sometimes best to answer a question by
repeating it. The place was a country churchyard; the time, a forenoon
in July. In the churchyard was a group of four. They were all young,
and two of them were of one sex, and two were of the other.

The girls were the first to arrive. They entered by a gate opening
into the churchyard from a small coppice on the north side.

One of the girls, evidently the leader, had in her face, her form,
her carriage, something of Pallas Athênê. She was grave--the goddess,
I believe, seldom laughed; she was one of those girls who can smile
readily and pleasantly, but are not anxious to hear good stories,
like the frivolous man at his club, and really saw very little to
laugh at even in the unexpectedness of men--nothing, of course, in
the ways of women. Her seriousness was sweet in the eyes of those who
loved her--that is to say, of all who had the privilege of knowing
her. Her head was large and shapely--a shapely head is a very lovely
thing in woman. Her figure matched her head in being large and full.
Her features were regular, her cheek was ample, like that of a
certain bronze Venus in the Museum. Her hair was light in colour, and
abundant, not of the feathery kind, but heavy, and easily coiled in
classical fashion. Her eyes were of that dark blue which is wickedly
said to accompany a deceitful nature. If this is ever true, it
certainly was not true of Hilarie Woodroffe. She was dressed in white,
as becomes a girl on a summer morning, with a rose at her throat for
a touch of colour. As a child of her generation, she was naturally
tall; and being, as she was, a girl of the highest refinement and
culture after such an education as girls can now command, and being,
moreover, much occupied with the difficulties and problems of the age,
she bore upon her brow an undoubted stamp of intellectual endeavour.
Twenty years ago, such a girl would have been impossible. If you are
still, happily, so young that you can doubt this assertion, read the
novels--the best and the worst--of that time.

Her companion showed in her face and her appearance more of Aphrodite
than the sister goddess. She looked as sprightly as L'Allegra herself;
of slighter figure than the other, she was one of those fortunate
girls who attract by their manner more than by their beauty. Indeed,
no one could call her beautiful; but many called her charming. Her
grey eyes danced and sparkled; her lips were always smiling; her head
was never still; her face was made for laughing and her eyes for joy;
her hair was of the very commonest brown colour--every other kind of
girl has that kind of hair, yet upon her it looked distinguished. The
dress she wore--she had designed and made it herself--seemed craftily
intended to set off her figure and her face and her eyes. In a word,
she was one of those girls--a large class--who seem born especially
for the delight and happiness of the male world. They are acting
girls, singing girls, dancing girls, even stay-at-home girls; but
always they delight their people or the public with their vivacity,
and their cheerfulness, and their sympathy. By the side of the other
girl she looked like an attendant nymph. I have always thought that it
would be a pleasing thing to detach from Diana's train one of those
attendant nymphs, whose undeveloped mind knew nothing but the narrow
round of duty; to run breathlessly after the huntress, or to bathe
with her in a cold mountain stream. I would take her away, and teach
her other things, and make her separate and individual. But the fear
of Dian has hitherto prevented me. Ladies-in-waiting, in other words,
must have a dull time of it.

Both girls, of course, were strong, healthy, and vigorous: they
thought nothing of twenty miles on a bicycle; they could row; they
could ride; they could play lawn tennis; they would have climbed the
Matterhorn if it had been within reach. They were such girls as we
have, somehow, without knowing how, without expecting it, presented
to modern youth, athletic and vigorous, of the last decade of the
nineteenth century.

"This is my churchyard, Molly," said Hilarie. "You have seen the
house--this place belongs to the house--and the whole of it belongs to
the family history."

"It must be very nice to have a pedigree," said Molly--"ancestors who
wore laced coats and swords, like the characters on the stage. My
people, I suppose, wore smock-frocks. I gather the fact because my
father never mentioned his father. Smocks go with silence."

"One would rather, I suppose, have a pedigree than not."

"Small shops, also, go with silence. I wonder why one would rather
have a grandfather in a smock than in a small shop."

"I will tell you something of the family history. Let us sit down on
this tombstone. I always sit here because you can see the church, and
the alms-houses, and the school, if you like to take them together.
So. Once there was a man named Woodroffe, who lived in this village,
seised of a manor, as they say. He was a small country gentleman, an
Armiger; I will show you his tomb presently, with his coat of arms.
This man--it was five hundred years ago--had four sons. One of them
stayed at home, and carried on the family descent; the second son was
educated by the Bishop, and rose to the most splendid distinction.
He actually became Archbishop of Canterbury and Lord Chancellor of
England. Now, the father of these lads had friends or cousins--they
came from the next village, where their descendants are living
still--in the City of London. So the two younger sons were sent up
to town and apprenticed, one to a mercer, and the other to a draper;
and one of these became Lord Mayor--think of that!--and the other,
Sheriff. There was a wonderful success for you! The effort seems to
have exhausted the family, for no one else has ever distinguished
himself. Stay; there was an Indian civilian of that name, who died
some time ago, but I don't know if he belonged to the family. My own
branch has always remained hopelessly undistinguished--squires, and
plain gentlemen, and Justices of the Peace. They hunted, flogged
vagabonds, and drank port. And, of course, after all these years, one
does not know what has become of the citizens' descendants."

"Still, Archbishop, Lord Mayor, and Sheriff--that ought to last a long
time."

"It has lasted a long time. Well, when they became old, these men
resolved to show their grateful sense of the wonderful success which
had been accorded to them. So they came back to their native village,
and they replaced the little church by a beautiful and spacious
church--there it is!"

Truly it was a great and noble church, of proportions quite beyond the
needs of a small village; its tower and spire standing high above all
the country round, its recessed porch a marvel of precious work. The
windows and the clerestory and the roof may be seen figured in all the
books on ecclesiastical architecture as the finest specimens of their
style.

"Yes, this church was built by these brothers. They walled the
churchyard--this is their old grey wall, with the wallflowers; they
built the lych-gate--there it is--in the churchyard; they founded a
school for the young--there it is"--she pointed to a small stone hall
standing in the north-west corner of the churchyard. It was of the
same period and of the same architecture as the church; the windows
had the same tracery; the buttresses were covered with yellow lichen:
a beautiful and venerable structure. From the building there came
a confused murmur of voices. "And on the other side of the church
they built an almshouse for the old--there it is"--she pointed to a
long low building, also of the same architecture. "So, you see, they
provided, in the same enclosure, a place of worship for the living, a
place of burial for the dead, a school for the young, and a haven of
rest for the old."

The sentiment of the history touched her companion, who looked about
her, and murmured--

"It seems a peaceful place."

"Everything in the place seems to belong to those four brothers:
the old house behind those trees, the broken cross at the gate, the
ruined college in the village, the very cottages, all seem to me to be
monuments of those four brothers."

"It is a beautiful thing owning such a house and such a place," said
the other. "But I prefer your gardens to your churchyard, Hilarie, I
confess."

Just then a young man, in a hired victoria, drove up to the gate and
descended, and looked about him with an indolent kind of curiosity. He
wore a brown velvet coat, had a crimson scarf with a white waistcoat,
carried a pince-nez on his nose, had sharp and somewhat delicate
features, carried his head high, and was tall enough to convey by that
attitude, which was clearly habitual, the assumption of superiority,
if not of disdain. And there was in him something of the artist. His
face was pale and clean shaven; his lips were thin; his hair was
light, with a touch of yellow in it; his eyes, when you could make
them out, were of a light blue, and cold. His figure was thin, and not
ungraceful. In a word, a young man of some distinction in appearance;
of an individuality certainly marked, perhaps self-contained, perhaps
selfish.

He walked slowly up the path. When he drew near the girls he raised
his hat.

"Am I right," he asked, "in thinking this to be Woodroffe Church?"

"Yes. It is Woodroffe Church."

"The church built by the Archbishop and his brothers?"

"This is their church. That is their school. That is their almshouse.
Would you like to go into the church? I have the key with me, and am
going in at once."

At this moment they were joined by another young man, whose entrance
to the churchyard was not noticed. He had been walking with light
elastic step along the middle of the road. A small bag was slung from
his shoulder by a strap; he carried a violin-case. His broad felt
hat, his brown tweed suit, his brown shoes, were all white with the
dust of the road. He passed the church without observing it; then
he remembered something, stopped, came back, and turned into the
churchyard.

He was quite a young man. His face was clean shaven--a mobile face,
with thin lips and quick blue eyes. His hair, as he lifted his hat,
was a light brown with a trace of yellow in it, growing in an arch
over his forehead. His step was springy, his carriage free. His
hair--longer than most men wear it,--the blue scarf at his throat, his
long fingers, made one think of art in some shape or other. Probably a
musician.

In the churchyard he looked about him curiously.

Then he turned to the group of three, and put exactly the same
question as that proposed by the first young man.

"May I ask," he said, "if this is Woodroffe Church?"

The attendant nymph jumped up. "Oh!" she cried. "It's Dick!"

"You here, Molly?" he asked. "I never expected----"

"Hilarie," said the girl, "this is my old friend Dick. We were
children together."

Hilarie bowed graciously. "I am pleased to know your friend," she
said. "I was just telling this other gentleman that this is Woodroffe
Church. We are going into the church: would you like to come too?"

Hilarie led the way, and opened the door of the south porch. Within,
restorers had been at work. The seats which replaced the old oaken
pews were machine-made, and new; they wanted the mellowing touch of
two hundred years, and even then they would be machine-made still. The
rood screen, as old as the Archbishop, was so polished and scraped,
that it looked almost as much machine-made as the seats. Even the
roof, after its scraping and painting, looked brand new. Yet they had
not destroyed all the antiquity of the church: there were still the
grey arches, the grey pillars, the grey walls and the monuments. There
were many monuments in the church; two or three tablets in memory of
former vicars; all the rest, shields, busts, and sculptured tombs, in
memory of bygone Woodroffes. A low recessed arch in the north wall
contained the figure of a Crusader. "He is one of the Woodroffes,"
said the guide. A recent tablet commemorated one who fell at the
Alma. "He was another of them," said the guide. "You are walking over
the graves of a whole family; they have been buried here from time
immemorial. Every slab in the aisle, and every stone in the chancel,
covers one of them."

In the north transept there stood a long low altar-tomb, with carvings
on the sides, and a slab of grey granite on the top. Formerly it
had been surrounded and covered by a white marble tabernacle richly
carved; this was now broken away and destroyed, except a few fragments
in the wall. The tomb itself was dilapidated; the granite slab was
broken in two, yet the inscription remained perfectly legible. It was
as follows:--

                    "Hic jacent
            ROBERTUS WOODROFFE, Armiger,
                        et
                HILARIS, Uxor Ejus,
     Qui Robertus obiit Sep. 2, A.D. MCCCCXXXIX."

In the right-hand corner of the slab were the arms of the deceased.

"This tomb," said the guide, "was erected by the Archbishop, to the
memory of his father."

On the opposite side of the south transept one of the common
Elizabethan monuments was affixed to the wall. It represented figures
in relief, and painted. The husband and wife, both in high ruffs,
knelt before a desk, face to face. Below them was a procession of
boys and girls, six in number. Over their heads was a shield with a
coat-of-arms--the same arms as on the other tomb. The monument was
sacred to the memory of Robert Woodroffe, Knight, and Johanna his
wife. Beneath the figures was a scroll on which the local poet had
been allowed to do his worst.

    "After thy Dethe, thy Words and Works survive
    To shew thy Virtues: as if still alive.
    When thou didst fall, fair Mercy shrieked and swoon'd,
    And Charity bemoaned her deadly Wounde.
    The Orphan'd Babe, the hapless Widow cry'd,
    Ah! who will help us now that thou hast dyed?"

"They made him a knight," said the guide, "against his will. James
the First insisted on his assuming the dignity. It was the only
honour ever attained by any of this branch. They all stayed at home,
contented to make no noise in the world at all. Well, I think I have
shown you all the monuments."

"This is my ancestor," said the man with the violin-case, pointing to
the first tomb. "Not this one at all."

"Why, the elder Robert is my ancestor also!" said the first young man,
wondering.

"Good gracious! He is my ancestor as well!" cried Hilarie, in
amazement. "All these Woodroffes belong to me, and I to them."

"Your ancestor? Is it possible?" she added, turning from one to the
other.

"Is it possible?" the two men repeated.

"The Archbishop's elder brother is my direct ancestor," said Hilarie.
"He is buried here beneath this stone."

"Mine was Lord Mayor Woodroffe," said the first young man. "He was
buried in the Church of All Hallows the Less, where his tomb was
destroyed in the Fire."

"And mine was the Sheriff," said the second young man. "He was buried
in St. Helen's, where you may see his tomb to this day."

"Oh, it is wonderful!" Hilarie looked at her new cousins with some
anxiety. The first young man seemed altogether "quite:" well-dressed,
well-spoken, well-mannered, well-looking, of goodly stature, a
proper youth. In fact, proper in the modern sense. His turn-out was
faultless, and of the very day's--not yesterday's--mode. She turned
to the other. Circumstances, perhaps, were against him: the dust with
which he was covered; the shabby old bag hanging round his neck; his
violin-case. A gentleman does not travel on foot, carrying a violin.
Besides, his face was not the kind of face which comes out of Eton
and Trinity. It was a humorous face; there was a twinkle, or the fag
end of a smile, upon it. Such a girl as Hilarie would not at first
take readily to such a face. However, he looked quiet, and he looked
good-natured; his eyes, realizing the oddness of the situation, were
luminous with suppressed laughter.

"Molly," he said, "please tell this lady--your friend--who I am."

"Hilarie, this is Dick Woodroffe. I suppose you have never heard of
him. I never thought of his name being the same as yours. Dick is an
actor. He sings and plays, and writes comediettas; he is _awfully_
clever."

"Thank you, Molly. Add that I am now on tramp."

He looked with some contempt on the other young man.

"Since you are my cousin, Mr. Woodroffe, I hope we shall be friends."

Hilarie shook hands with him. "My name is Hilarie Woodroffe, and I am
descended from the eldest brother. The old house, which I will show
you presently, has remained with us. And you--are you really another
cousin?"

She turned to the first comer.

"I hope so. My name is Humphrey Woodroffe."

"Oh, this is delightful! May I ask what your branch has been doing all
these years?"

"I have a genealogy at home. We have had no more Lord Mayors or
Archbishops. A buccaneer or two; a captain under Charles the First;
a judge under William the Third; and an Anglo-Indian, my father, now
dead, of some distinction."

"Your branch has done more creditably than mine. And yours, Cousin
Dick?"

He laughed. "We went down in the world, and stayed there. Some of us
assisted in colonizing Virginia, in the last century, by going out in
the transports. There is a tradition of highwaymen; some of us had
quarters permanently in the King's Bench. I am a musician, and a mime,
and a small dramatist. Yet we have always kept up the memory of the
Sheriff."

"Never mind, Dick," said Molly; "you shall raise your branch again."

He shook his head. "There is not so much staying power," he said, "in
a Sheriff as in a Lord Mayor."

Hilarie observed him curiously. "Why," she said, "you two are
strangely alike. Do you observe the resemblance, Molly?"

"Yes. Oh yes!"--after a little consideration. "Mr. Humphrey is taller
and bigger. But they certainly _are_ alike."

"Good Heavens! It is wonderful. The same coloured hair, growing in the
same manner; the same eyes. It is the most extraordinary instance of
the survival of a type."

The young men looked at each other with a kind of jealousy. They
resented this charge of resemblance.

"Like that bounder?" said the look of the young man of clubs.
"Like this Piccadilly masher?" was the expression on the speaking
countenance of the man on tramp.

"After five hundred years." Hilarie pondered over this strange
coincidence. "Let us go back to the churchyard."

At the porch she paused, and bade them look round. "Tell me," she
said, "if you have ever seen a place more beautiful or more peaceful?"

The amplitude of the churchyard was in harmony with the stateliness
of the church. An ancient yew stood in one corner; the place was
surrounded by trees; the steps of the old Cross were hollowed by the
feet of many generations; beyond the quiet mounds the dark trees with
their heavy foliage made a fitting background; two or three of the
bedesmen stood at their door, blinking in the sunshine.

"The almshouse is a reading-room now," said Hilarie. "The old people
have quarters more commodious for sleeping, but they come here all day
long to read and rest."

They stood in silence for a while.

The swifts flew about the tower and the spire; the lark was singing
in the sky, the blackbird in the coppice. The air was full of soft
calls, whispers-twitters of birds, the humming of insects, and the
rustle of leaves. From the schoolroom came the continuous murmur of
children's voices. Another old man passed slowly along the path among
the graves towards the almshouse: it seemed as if he were choosing his
own bed for a long sleep. Everything spoke of life, happy, serene, and
peaceful.

"I am glad you came here," said Hilarie. "It is your own. When you
know it you will love everything in it--the church and the churchyard,
the trees and the birds, the old men and the children, the living and
the dead."

Her eyes filled with tears. Those of the man with the violin-case
softened, and he listened and looked round. Those of the other showed
no response--they were resting with admiration upon the other girl.

"Come"--Hilarie returned to the duty of hostess,--"let me show you the
house--the old, old house--where your ancestors lived."

She led the way to the gate by which she had entered. She conducted
them along a path under the trees into a small park. In the middle of
the park were buildings evidently of great age. They were surrounded
by a moat, now dry, with a bridge over it, and beyond the bridge a
little timbered cottage which had taken the place of gate tower and
drawbridge. Within was a garden, with flowers, fruit, and vegetables,
all together. And beyond the garden was the house. And surely there is
no other house like unto it in the whole country. In the middle was
a high-roofed hall; at either end were later buildings; beyond these
buildings, at one end, was a low broad tower, embattled. The windows
of the hall were the same as those of the church, the school, and the
almshouse.

"You cannot wonder," said the girl, "that I love to call this house
my own--my very own. There is nothing in the world that I would take
in exchange for this house. Come in, Cousin Humphrey," she said
hospitably. "And--and--my other cousin, Cousin Dick. Besides, you are
a friend of Molly's. Come in. You are both welcome."

She opened the door. Within, the great hall had a stone bench running
all round; the high-pitched roof was composed of thick beams, black
with age; the floor was boarded; the daïs stood raised three or four
inches for the high table; the circular space was still preserved
beneath the lantern, where the fire was formerly made.

"Here lived Robert," said the chatelaine, "with his four sons. There
was no floor to the hall then. The servants took their meals with the
master, but below him. The men slept on the floor. This was the common
living-room." She led the way to the north end. "Here was the kitchen,
built out beyond the hall"--there were signs of women-servants--"and
above it"--she led the way up a rude stair--"the solar of three or
four rooms, where the lord and lady slept, and the daughters, and the
women-servants. At the other end"--she led them to the south end of
the hall--"was the lady's bower, where the lady with her maids sat at
their work all day. And beyond is the tower, where the men-at-arms,
our garrison, lay."

These rooms were furnished. "They are our sitting-rooms." Three or
four girls now rose as Hilarie entered the room. She presented her
cousins to them. "My friends," she said, simply. "Here we live; we
take our meals in the hall. Our servants sleep in the gate-house; we
in the solar. Confess, now, my newly-found cousins, is it not a noble
house?"

She showed them the tower and the dungeon and the guard-room, all
belonging to the Wars of the Roses. And then she led them back to the
hall, where a dainty luncheon was spread on a sideboard. The high
table was laid for about a dozen. The girls, to whom the cousins
had been presented, trooped in after them. At the lower table stood
the servants, the coachman and grooms, the gardener and his staff,
the women-servants, the wives and children of the men. All sat down
together at their table, which ran along the middle of the hall.
Before Hilarie's chair, in the middle of the high table, stood an
ancient ship in silver; ready for her use was a silver-gilt cup, also
ancient; silver cups stood for each of her guests.

"We all dine together," she said--"my friends and I at our table, my
servants below; we are one family. My ancestors"--her cousins sat
on each side of her--"dined in this fashion. There is something in
humanity which makes those friends who break bread together."

"It is like a picnic five hundred years back," said Humphrey. "I have
heard talk, all my life, about this place. My father always intended
to visit it, but at last grew too old."

Hilarie watched her two guests. The taller, Humphrey, had the
manners of society; he seemed to be what the world, justly jealous,
allows to be a gentleman. Yet he had a certain coldness of manner,
and he accepted the beauty of this ancient place without surprise or
enthusiasm.

"What are you by profession, Cousin Humphrey?" she asked.

"Nothing, as yet; I have been travelling since I left Cambridge." He
laid his card before her--"Sir Humphrey Woodroffe."

"You have the title from your father. I hope you will create new
distinctions for yourself."

"I suppose," he said coldly, "that I shall go into the House. My
people seem to want it. There are too many cads in the House, but it
seems that we cannot get through the world without encountering cads."
He looked through his hostess, so to speak, and upon the third cousin,
perhaps accidentally.

"You certainly cannot," observed the third. "For instance, I am
sitting with you at luncheon."

"You will play something presently, Dick, won't you?"

Molly, sitting on the other side of the table, saw a quick flush upon
her friend's cheek, and hastened to avert further danger. One may be a
cad, but some cads are sensitive to an openly avowed contempt for cads.

Dick laughed. "All right, Molly. What shall I play? Something serious,
befitting the place? Luncheon is over--I will play now, if you like."
He looked down the hall. "That, I suppose, is the musicians' loft?"

"That is the musicians' gallery. It is a late addition--Elizabethan, I
believe."

"The musicians' gallery? Well, Miss Woodroffe, I am the music. Let me
play you something in return for the fine ancestors you have given me,
and for your gracious hospitality."

He took up his violin-case, to which he had clung with fidelity,
marched down the hall, climbed up into the gallery, and began to tune
his fiddle.

"Hilarie," Molly said, "Dick plays in the most lovely way possible. He
carries you quite out of yourself. That is why everybody loves him so."

However, the artist, standing up alone in the gallery, struck a chord,
and began to play.

I suppose that the magic belonged to the fiddle itself. It is
astonishing what magical powers a fiddle may possess. This was the
most sympathetic instrument possible. It was a thought leader or
inspirer. The moment it began, all the listeners, including the
servants below the salt, sat upright, their eyes fixed upon the
gallery, rapt out of themselves.

Hilarie, for her part, saw in a vision, but with a clearness and
distinctness most marvellous, her ancestor Robert with Hilarie his
wife. They were both well-stricken in years; they were standing in
the porch with their eldest son, his wife and children, to receive
their visitors. And first, across the drawbridge, rode the great Lord
Archbishop and Lord Chancellor, followed by his retinue. When the
Archbishop dismounted, the old man and his wife, and the son, and his
wife, and his children went on their knees; but the Archbishop bade
them rise, and kissed his parents lovingly. Meantime, the pages and
the varlets were unloading pack-horses and pack-mules, because the
Archbishop would not lay upon his father so great a charge as the
entertainment of his following. And she saw next how the Lord Mayor
and the Sheriff, his brother, rode up side by side, the Sheriff a
little behind the Mayor, and how they dismounted and knelt for their
father's blessing; and so all into the hall together, to take counsel
for the great things they were minded to do for their native village.

Hilarie turned to her cousin on the right. "Cousin," she said, still
in her dream, "we must think of our forefathers, and of what they did.
We must ask what the Archbishop would have done in our place."

But her cousin made no reply. He was looking with a kind of wonder at
Molly. Had the man never seen an attractive girl before? He had; but
out of a thousand attractive girls a man may be attracted by one only.

And the music went on. What was it that the musician played? Indeed, I
know not; things that awakened the imagination and touched the heart.

"No one knows," said Molly, "what he plays; only he makes one lost to
everything."

As for herself, she had a delicious dream of going on the tramp with
Dick, he and she alone--he to play, and she---- But when she was about
to tell this dream, she would not confess her part in the tramp.

The music was over; the fiddle was replaced in its case; the musician
was going away.

In the porch stood Hilarie. "Cousin," she said, "do you go on tramp
for pleasure or for necessity?"

"For both. I must needs go on tramp from time to time. There is a
restlessness in me. I suppose it is in the blood. Perhaps there was a
gipsy once among my ancestors."

"But do you really--live--by playing to people?"

"He needn't," said Molly; "but he must. He leaves his money at home,
and carries his fiddle. Oh, heavenly!"

"Why not? I fiddle on village greens and in rustic inns. I camp among
the gipsies; I walk with the tramps and casuals. There is no more
pleasant life, believe me!"

He began to sing in a light, musical tenor--

    "When daffodils began to peer,
      With heigh! the doxy over the dale,
    Why then comes in the sweet o' the year;
      For the red blood reigns in the winter's pale.
    The lark that tirra-lirra chants
      With heigh! with heigh! the thrush and the jay,
    Are summer songs for me and my aunts,
      While we lie tumbling in the hay."

"You are a strange man," said Hilarie. "Come and see me again."

"I am a vagabond," he replied, "and my name is Autolycus."

Dick took off his hat and bowed low, not in Piccadilly style at all;
he waved his hand to Molly; he glared defiance at Humphrey, who
loftily bent his head; and then, catching up his violin-case, he
started off with a step light and elastic.

Humphrey, the other cousin, half an hour later, stood beside his
carriage.

"I must congratulate myself," he said, "on the good fortune which has
presented me to the head of my family."

"To two cousins, say."

"Oh! I fancy we shall not see much of Autolycus. Meanwhile, since you
kindly grant me permission, I hope to call upon you again."

"I shall be very pleased."

As he drove away, his last look was not on Hilarie, but on the girl
beside her--the girl called Molly--the nymph attendant. Some, the
goddess charms; but more, the nymph attendant.

"What was she doing with all those girls?" he asked. "Making a home
for them, or some such beastly nonsense, I suppose."



CHAPTER IV.

THE CONSULTING-ROOM.


The doctor's servant opened the door noiselessly, almost stealthily,
and looked round the room.

There were half a dozen people waiting. One was an ex-colonial
governor, who had been maintaining the empire with efficiency in many
parts of the world for thirty years, and was now anxious to keep
himself alive for a few years in the seclusion of a seaside town, if
certain symptoms could be kept down. There was a middle-aged victim
to gout; there was an elderly sufferer from rheumatism; there was
an anæmic girl; there was a young fellow who looked the picture of
health; and, sitting at one of the windows, there was a lady, richly
dressed, her pale face, with delicate features of the kind which do
not grow old, looking anxious and expectant.

They were all anxious and expectant: they feared the worst, and hoped
the best. One looked out of window, seeing nothing; one gazed into the
fireplace, not knowing whether there was a fire in it; one turned over
the pages of a society journal, reading nothing; all were thinking
of their symptoms. For those who wait for the physician, there is
nothing in the whole world to consider except symptoms. They have got
to set forth their symptoms to the physician. They have to tell the
truth, that is quite clear. Still, the plain truth can be dressed up a
little; it can be presented with palliatives. A long course of strong
drinks may figure as a short course of weak whisky-and-soda. Perhaps
the danger, after all, is not so grave. Patients waiting for the
doctor are like persons waiting to be tried for life. Can a man take
any interest in anything who awaits his trial for life--who hopes for
an acquittal, but fears a capital sentence?

The doctor's manservant looked round the room, and then glided like a
black ghost across the thick carpet. He stopped before the lady in the
window.

"Sir Robert, madam, will see you."

There are some who maintain that the success of this eminent
physician, Sir Robert Steele, M.D., F.R.S., is largely due to the
virtues of his manservant. Certainly this usher of the chamber, this
guardian of the portal, this receiver of those who bring tribute, has
no equal in the profession. In his manner is the respect due to those
who know where the only great physician is to be found. There is also
an inflexible and incorruptible obedience to the laws of precedence,
or order of succession. Thirdly, there is a soft, a velvety, note
of sympathy in his voice, as one who would say, "Be of good cheer,
sufferer; I bring thee to one who can relieve. Thou shalt not suffer
long."

The rest of the patients looked at each other and sighed. He who would
follow next sighed with increasing anxiety: his fate would soon be
known. He who had yet to wait several turns sighed with impatience.
It is hard to be tormented with anxiety as well as with pain. Those
symptoms again! They may be the final call. Did Christiana, when the
call came, repair first, in the greatest anxiety, to a physician! Or
they may be only passing clouds, so to speak, calling attention to the
advance of years.

The doctor, in his consulting-room, held a card in his hand--"Mrs.
John Haveril." The name was somehow familiar to him. He could not
remember, at the moment, the associations of the name. A physician,
you see, may remember, if he pleases, so many names. To every man's
memory belongs a long procession of figures and faces, with eyes and
voices. But most men work alone. Think of the procession in the memory
of a physician, who all day long sees new faces and hears new voices!
"Haveril." He knew the name. Was she the wife of a certain American
millionaire, lately spoken of in the papers?

"The doctor, madam, will see you."

The lady rose and followed him. All the patients watched her with
the same kind of curiosity as is shown by those waiting to be tried
towards the man who is called to the honours of the dock. They
observed that she was strangely agitated; that she walked with some
difficulty; that she tottered as she went; that her lips trembled, and
her hands shook.

"Locomotor ataxis," whispered one. "I myself----"

"Or perhaps a break-up of the nervous system. It is my own----"

But the door was shut, and the patients in waiting relapsed into
silence.

The lady followed the manservant, who placed a chair for her and
withdrew.

Instead of sitting down, the patient stepped forward, and gazed into
the doctor's face. Then she clasped her hands.

"Thank God," she cried; "he is the man!"

"I do not understand, madam. I see so many faces. The name--is it an
American name?"

"You think of my husband. But I am English-born, and so is he."

"Well, Mrs. Haveril, even the richest of us get our little disorders.
What is yours?"

"I have been very ill, doctor; but it was not for that that I came
here."

"Then, madam, I do not understand why you do come here."

"You don't remember me? But I see that you don't." Her trembling
ceased when she began to speak. "Yet I remember you very well. You
have changed very little in four and twenty years."

"Indeed?"

"I heard some people at the hotel talking about you. They said you
were the first man in the world for some complaints. And I remembered
your name, and--and--I wondered if you were the man. And you are the
man."

"This is a very busy morning, madam. If you would kindly come to the
point at once. What do you want with me?"

"Doctor, I once had a child--a boy--the finest boy you ever saw."

"It is not unusual," the doctor began, but stopped, because the
woman's face was filled with a great trouble. "But pray go on, madam."

"I had a boy," she repeated, and burst into a flood of tears.

The doctor inclined his head. There is no other answer possible when a
complete stranger bursts into tears from some unknown cause.

"I lost the boy," she proceeded. "I--I--I lost the boy."

"He died?"

She shook her head. "No. But I lost my boy," she repeated. "My husband
deserted me. I was alone in a strange town. My relations had cast me
off because I married an actor. I was penniless, and I could find no
work. I sold the boy to save him from the workhouse, and to get the
money to follow my husband."

"Good Heavens! I remember! It was at Birmingham. Your husband's name
was--was----?"

"His professional name was Anthony."

"True--true. I remember it all. Yes--yes. The child was taken by a
lady. I remember it perfectly. And you are the deserted wife, and the
rich American is your husband?"

"No. I followed my husband from place to place; but I had to cross
the Atlantic. I came up with him in a town in a Western State. When I
found him, he got a divorce for incompatibility of temper. I lost both
my husband and my child, and neither of them died."

"Oh! And then--then you came back to look for the boy?"

"No; I married John Haveril. It was before he made his money."

"And now you come to me for information about the child, who must be a
man by this time?"

"I've never forgotten him, doctor. I never can forget him. Every day
since then I have thought of him. I said, 'Now he's six; now he's
ten; now he's twenty.' And I've tried to think of him as he grew up.
Always--always I have had the boy in my mind."

"Yes; but surely---- Perhaps you had no more children?"

"No; never any more. And last spring I fell ill--very ill. I was----"

"What was the matter?"

She told him the symptoms.

"Yes; nerves, of course. Fretting after the child."

"You know. The American doctor did not. Well, and while I was lying in
my dark room, I had a dream. It came again. It kept on coming. A dream
which told me that I should see my child again if I came to London. So
my husband brought me over."

"And you think that you will find your child?"

"I am sure that I shall. It is the only thing that I have prayed for.
Oh, you need not warn me about excitement; I know the danger. I don't
care so very much about living; but I want that dream to come true. I
must find the boy."

"You might as well look for him at the bottom of the sea. Why, my dear
lady, your boy was intended to take the place of a dead child; I am
sure he was. I know nothing at all about him. There is no clue--no
chance of finding the child."

"Do you know nothing?"

"Upon my honour, madam, I cannot even guess. The lady did not give me
her name, and I made no inquiries."

"Oh!" Her face fell. "I had such hopes. At the theatre, yesterday, I
saw a young man who might have been my son--tall, fair, blue-eyed. Oh,
do you know nothing?"

"Nothing at all," he replied decidedly. "And you came here," he went
on, "remembering my name, and wondering whether it was the same man?
Well, Mrs. Haveril, it _is_ the same man, and I remember the whole
business perfectly. Now go on."

"Where is that child, doctor?"

"I say that I don't know. I never did know. The lady gave me the
money, received the child at the railway station. You brought it to
the waiting-room. She had an Indian ayah with her, and the train
carried her off, baby and all. That is all I can tell you."

Mrs. Haveril sighed. "Is that all?"

"Madam, since such precautions were taken, it is very certain that no
one knew of the matter except the lady herself, and she will certainly
not tell, because, as I have already told you, the case looked like
substitution, and not adoption."

"What can I do, then?"

"You can do nothing. I would advise you to put the whole business out
of your head and forget it. You can do nothing."

"I cannot forget it: I wish I could. The wickedness of it! Oh, to give
away my own child only to run after that villain!"

"My dear lady, is it well to allow one single episode to ruin your
life? Consider your duty to your second husband. You should bring him
happiness, not anxiety. Consider your splendid fortune. If the papers
are true, you are worth many millions."

"The papers are quite true."

"You yourself are still comparatively young--not more than five and
forty, I should say. Time has dealt tenderly with you. When I knew
you, in Birmingham, you were a girl still, with a delicate, beautiful
face. How could your husband desert you? Your face is still delicate
and still beautiful. You become the silks and satins as you then
became your cottons. Resign yourself to twenty years more of happiness
and luxury. As for that weakness of yours, it will vanish if you avoid
excitement and agitation. If not--what did your American adviser warn
you?"

She rose reluctantly. "I cannot forget," she said. "I must go on
remembering. But the dream was true. It was _sent_, doctor; it was
sent. And the first step, I am sure and certain, was to lead me here."

       *       *       *       *       *

After a solitary dinner, Sir Robert sat by the fire in his
dining-room. A novel lay on a chair beside him. Like many scientific
men, he was a great reader of novels. For the moment, he was simply
looking into the fire while his thoughts wandered this way and that.
He had seen about twenty patients in the course of the day, and
made, in consequence, forty guineas. He was perfectly satisfied
with the condition of his practice; he was under no anxiety about
his reputation: his mind was quite at ease concerning himself from
every point of view. He was thinking of this and of that--things
indifferent--when suddenly he saw before him, by the light of the four
candles on the table, the ghost of a date. The figures, in fact, stood
out, luminous, against the dark mahogany of his massive sideboard.
"December 2, 1872." He rubbed his eyes; the figures disappeared; he
lay back; the figures came again.

"It's a trick of memory," he said. "What have I done to-day that could
suggest this date?" The only important event of the day was the visit
of his old patient, and the reminder about a certain adoption in which
he had taken a part. Was the date connected with that event?

He got up and went into his consulting-room. There, on a shelf among
many companions, he found his note-book of 1874. He remembered. The
time was winter; it was early in the year. He turned over the pages;
he came to his notes. He read these words: "Child must have light
hair, blue eyes; age--must be born as nearly as possible to December
2, 1872, date of dead child's birth."

"That's the date, sure enough," he said. "And the brain's just been
working round to it, without my knowledge--of its own accord--started
by that poor woman. Humph!"

He put back the note-book, and returned to the dining-room.

He sat down by the fire again, crossed his feet, lay back, took up the
novel, and prepared for a comfortable hour.

In vain. That business of the adoption came back to him. The letters
on the page melted into dissolving views: he saw the poor woman crying
over the child, and clutching at the money which would save the boy
from the workhouse and carry her to her husband; he saw the Indian
ayah taking the child from him, and the lady bowing coldly from the
railway carriage. "A lady through and through," said the doctor.

The torn envelope was addressed to "Lady----" She was a woman of
title, then. He got up; on the bookshelves of the dining-room was a
Red Book.

"Now," he said, "if I go right through this book from beginning to
end, and if I should find the heir to something or Lord Somebody, born
on December 2, 1872, I shall probably come upon the victim of this
conspiracy--if there has been a conspiracy."

Luckily he began at the end, at the letter Z. Before long, under the
fourth letter from the end, he read as follows:--

     "Woodroffe, Sir Humphrey Arundale, second baronet;
     born at Poonah, December 2, 1872; son of Sir Humphrey
     Armitage Woodroffe, first baronet, G.C.B., G.C.M.G.,
     formerly Lieut-Governor of Bengal, by Lilias, daughter
     of the fifteenth Lord Dunedin. Succeeded his father in
     1888. Educated at Eton and Trinity College, Cambridge.
     Is a captain in the Worcestershire Militia. Residence,
     Crowleigh, Worcestershire, and Bryanston Square, London.
     Clubs, 'Junior United,' 'Travellers,' and 'Oriental.'"

"That's my man!" cried the doctor, with some natural excitement. "I
believe I've found him. Then there _has_ been substitution, after all,
and not adoption! But, good Lord! it's Lady Woodroffe! Lady Woodroffe!
It's the writer and orator and leader! Oh, purity! Oh, temperance! Oh,
charity! What would the world say, if the world only knew?"

He threw the book aside and sat down. "I told that woman," he
reflected, "that I knew nothing about the lady who carried off her
child. Well, I did not know then. But I do know now. Must I tell her?
Why disturb things? She can never find out. Let her go back to her
adopted land. And as for this--this substitution--I promised solemnly
that I would not speak about the business, even if I were to chance
upon that lady, without her leave. My dear Mrs. Haveril, go home to
America and forget the boy who is now the second baronet. Go home; it
will be best for your health. 'The first step,' she said. Strange! The
first step. But not for you, dear lady, not for you."



CHAPTER V.

GUEST NIGHT.


"I am glad to see you again, Cousin Humphrey."

It was two months after the meeting in the churchyard. Hilarie's house
was full; her guests overflowed into the village. It was, in fact, the
first guest night of the season.

"This is the beginning of Term," she said. "You shall make
acquaintance with the college."

"I have heard something about your college." He looked round the room,
which was the lady's bower, as if in search of some one.

"You can take me in, and I will tell you more about it during dinner."

There were more than the house-party. The place is within an hour of
Victoria, and a good many friends of the students had come out by
train to see what the college was like; what it meant; and if it had
come to stay.

A new social experiment always draws. First, it attracts the social
wobblers who continually run after the last new gospel. Then it
attracts those who watch social experiments from the outside. Thirdly,
it attracts the New Woman herself; those who are curious about the
New Woman; and those who hate the New Woman. Lastly, it attracts
those who are always in search of material for "copy." For all these
reasons, the guests present wore that expression of countenance
called, by their friends, "thoughtful;" it should rather be called
"uncertain." They looked about curiously, as if to find traces of
the experiment in the furniture, on the walls, in the students'
dresses; they listened in order to catch the note of the experiment
in the air; they cast suspicious looks to right and to left, as
expecting something to be sprung upon them. To be invited at all was
to make them realize that they were in the very van and forefront of
contemporary intellect; it also imposed upon them the difficult task
of pronouncing a judgment without a "lead." Now, without a lead these
philosophers are uncertain. Hence the aspect and appearance of the
guests this evening. They did not know what to think or what to say of
the college--no one had yet given them a lead; they were uncertain,
and they would be expected to pronounce a judgment.

The oracle who waits for a "lead" is common among us; he takes himself
seriously; he is said by his friends to have "made the most" of
himself: not that he has distinguished himself in any way, but he has
made the best out of poor materials, and he would have made himself a
good deal bigger and better had the materials been richer. As it is,
he reads all the thoughtful papers in all the magazines; he writes
thoughtful papers of his own, which he finds a difficulty in placing;
he sometimes gets letters into the papers giving reasons why he,
being a very little man, cannot agree with some great man. This makes
his chin to stick out. He even contrives to get people to read his
letters, as if it matters a brass farthing whether he agrees or does
not agree. Over a new social experiment, once he has got a "lead,"
this oracle is perfectly happy.

"We will talk presently," said Hilarie, turning to welcome new guests.

Humphrey stepped aside, and looked on while the room filled up. The
students, he remarked, who were all dressed in white, with ribbons
of their own individual choice, appeared to be a cheerful company of
damsels. To be sure, cheerfulness belongs to their time of life, and
to the profession of student, about which there should cling a certain
lawless joyousness--a buoyancy not found in the domestic circle, a
touch of the barrack, something of the camp, because they are recruits
in the armies that fight against ignorance and prejudice. These
white-robed students were full of cheerfulness, which bubbled over in
laughter and happy faces. One is told that in some colleges there are
students entirely given over to their studies, who wear dowdy dresses,
who push back their hair anyhow behind their spectacles, who present
faces of more than possible thoughtfulness. Here there were none such;
none were oppressed with study.

Rightly considered, every college for young persons should be
interesting. We have forgotten that there used formerly to be colleges
for old persons; for priests, as Jesus Commons and the Papey on London
Wall; for physicians; for surgeons; for serjeants-at-law; for debtors,
as the Fleet; for the decayed, as an almshouse; for criminals,
as Newgate; for paupers, as the workhouse. A college for girls is
naturally more interesting than one for young men: first, because
they are girls; next, because the male college contains so much that
is disquieting,--ambition and impatience, with effort; strenuous
endeavour to conciliate Fame, a goddess who presents to all comers
at first a deaf ear, eyes that see nothing, and a trumpet silently
dangling at her wrist; the resolution to compel Fortune, even against
her will, to turn round that wheel which is to bear them up aloft.
The strength of these ambitions stimulates the air--you may note this
effect in any of the courts at Cambridge. One remembers, also, that in
most cases Fame, however persistently wooed, continues to dangle the
silent trumpet; while Fortune, however passionately invoked, refuses
to turn the wheel; and that the resolution and determination of the
petitioner go for nothing. One observes, also, that the courts of
the colleges are paved with shattered resolutions, which make a much
better pavement than the finest granite. One remembers, also, that
there are found in the young man's college the Prig and the Smug, the
Wallower, the Sloth, the Creeping Thing, and the Contented Creature.
But pass across the road to the Woman's College. Heavens! what
possibilities are there! What ambitions are hers! For her field is not
man's field, though some pretend. Not hers to direct the throbbing
engine, and make that thing of steel a thing of intelligence; not hers
to command a fleet; not hers to make the laws. She does not construct
lighthouses; she does not create new sciences; she does not advance
the old; she never invents, nor creates, nor advances; she receives,
she adapts, she distributes. How great are her possibilities! Though
she neither creates nor invents, she may become a queen of song,
a queen of the stage, a great painter, a great novelist, a great
poet--great at artistic work of every kind. Or, again, while her
brother is slowly and painfully working his way up, so that he will
become a Q.C. at forty, a Judge at sixty, the girl steps at once by
marriage into a position that dazzles her friends, and becomes a queen
of society, a patron of Art, a power in politics. Far be it from me to
suppose that the maidens of any college dream of possibilities such
as these. Perhaps, however, the possibilities of maidenhood are never
quite forgotten. There is another possibility also. Every great man
has a mother. Do maidens ever dream of the supreme happiness of having
a great man for a son? Which would a woman prefer, the greatest honour
and glory and distinction ever won by woman for herself, or to be the
mother of a Tennyson, a Gordon, a Huxley?

"Now, my cousin," said Hilarie. "The dinner is served."

So two by two they went into the old hall. It had been decorated
since the summer. The lower part was covered with tapestry; the upper
part was hung with armour and old weapons. There were also portraits,
imaginary and otherwise, of women wise and women famous. Queen
Elizabeth was there, Joan of Arc was there, George Sand, George Eliot,
Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Jane Austen, Grace Darling, Rosa Bonheur,
and many others. The male observer remarked, with a sense of omission,
the absence of those queens of beauty whose lamentable lives make
history so profoundly interesting. Where were Rosamond, Agnes Sorel,
La Vallière, Nell Gwynne? Alas! they were not admitted.

"The house," said the president, taking her seat, "is much larger than
it looks. With the solar and the lady's bower and the tower, we have
arranged dormitories for forty and half a dozen sitting-rooms, besides
this hall, which is used all day long."

The musicians' gallery had been rebuilt and painted. It contained
an organ now and a piano, besides room for an orchestra. Six of
the students were sitting there with violins and a harp, ready to
discourse soft music during the banquet. There were three tables
running down the hall, with the high table, and all were filled with
an animated, joyous crowd of guests and residents.

"I want to interest you in my college," Hilarie began, when they were
seated.

Humphrey examined the menu. He observed that it was an artistic
attempt--an intelligent effort at a harmony. If only the execution
should prove equal to the conception!

"At present, of course, we are only beginning. What are you yourself
doing, however?"

"I follow--humbly--Art. There is nothing else. I paint, I write verse,
I compose."

"Do you exhibit?"

"Exhibit? Court the empty praises or the empty sneers of an ignorant
press? Never! I show my pictures to my friends. We confide our work
to each other."

Hilarie smiled, and murmured something inaudible.

"And we keep the outer world outside. You, I fear"--he looked down the
room--"admit the outer world. You lose a great deal. For instance, if
this mob was out of your lovely house, I might bring my friends. It
would be an ideal place for our pictures and our music, and for the
acting of our plays."

"I fear the mob must remain." Hilarie began to doubt whether her
college would appeal, after all, to this young man.

"What we should aim at in life," the artist continued, "is Art without
Humanity."

"I should have said that Humanity is the basis of all Art."

Her cousin shook his head. "Not true Art--that is bodiless. I fear you
do not yet belong to us."

"No; I belong to these girls, who are anything but bodiless."

"Your college, I take it, has something to do with helping people?"

"Certainly."

"My own view is that you cannot help people. You may give them things,
but you only make them want more. People have got to help themselves."

"Did you help yourself?"

"Oh, I am born to what my forefathers acquired. As for these girls, to
whom you are giving things, you will only make them discontented."

The president of the college looked round the hall. There were forty
white frocks encasing as many girls, students at her college, and as
many guests. There was a cheerful ripple of talk; one thought of a
dancing sea in the sunlight. There were outbursts of laughter--light,
musical; one thought of the white crests of the waves. In the
music-gallery the girls played softly and continuously; one thought
of the singing of birds in the coppice. The dinner was already half
finished. There is a solid simplicity about these guest nights. A
short dinner, with jellies, ices, and puddings, most commends itself
to the feminine heart.

"Let me tell you my design, at least. I saw that in this revolution
of society, going on so rapidly around us, all classes of women are
rushing into work."

"A woman who works ceases to be a woman," Humphrey spoke and shuddered.

"I think of my great-grandmother Hilarie, wife of Robert, who lies
buried in our church. She sat with her maids in the lady's bower and
embroidered. She administered everything--the food and the drink and
the raiment. She made them all behave with decency. She brought up the
children, and taught them right and wrong. Above all, she civilized.
To-day, as yesterday and to-morrow and always, it is the duty of woman
to civilize. She is the everlasting priestess. This is therefore a
theological college."

Her cheek flushed, her eye brightened. She turned her head, as if
suspecting that she had said too much. Her cousin seemed not to have
heard; he was, in fact, absorbed in partridge.

"Now that all women want to work, will they continue to civilize?
I know not yet how things may go. They all want to work. They try
to work, whether they are fit for it or not. They take men's work
at a quarter the pay. I know not how it will end. They turn the men
adrift; they drive them out of the country, and then congratulate
themselves--poor fools! And for themselves, I chiefly dread their
hardening. The woman who tries to turn herself into a man is a
creature terrible--unnatural. I know the ideal woman of the past. I
cannot find the ideal woman of the present."

"There isn't any."

"If we surrender the sacerdotal functions, what have we in exchange?"

"I don't know." The manner meant, "I don't care;" but Hilarie hardly
observed the manner.

"I cannot alter the conditions, cousin. That is quite true. But there
are some things which can be done."

Hilarie went on, at this point, to tell a story, for one who could
read between the lines--which her cousin certainly could not--of a
girl dominated partly by a sense of responsibility and duty; one
who, being rich, must do something with her wealth, partly by that
passion for power which is developed in some hearts--not all--by
the possession of wealth; and partly by a deep sympathy with the
sufferings and sorrows of her impecunious sisters.

There are always, as we know, at every moment of life, two courses
open to us--the right and the wrong; or, if the choice is not so
elementary, the better and the worse. But there comes to those of the
better sort one supreme moment when we seem to choose the line which
will lead to honour, or the line which will lead to obscurity. To
the common sort the choice is only apparent, not real; men and women
are pushed, pulled, dragged, shoved, either in the way of fortune or
in the way of failure, by circumstances and conditions beyond our
control. To them there is no free will. When the time of repentance
arrives, we think that we choose freely. The majority cannot choose;
their lives are ordered for them, with their sins and their follies.
They might choose, but they are not able; they cannot see before them
or around them. A fog lies about their steps; they stumble along with
the multitude, getting now and then a pleasant bit, now and then a
thorny bit. Some walk delicately along a narrow way, which is grassy
and flowery, where the babbling brooks run with champagne, and the
spicy breezes are laden with the fragrance of melons, peaches, and
roast lamb. Some march and stagger along the broad way, thirsty and
weary, where there is no refreshment of brooks or of breezes. It is an
unequal world.

Such a supreme moment came to Hilarie after long consideration.

"I thought," she explained, "that if the Archbishop and his brethren
were living to-day, they would do something for the women who work."

Her cousin slowly drank a glass of champagne. "Yes?" he asked, without
much affectation of interest.

"I thought that if the Archbishop were living, he would like to found
a college--not for priests, nor for old villagers, but for girls; not
to teach anything, but to give them a place where they can go and
stay. In this college we do not teach anything. There are no lectures.
We need not do any work unless we please. Every girl does exactly what
she pleases: some study, some paint--not after your school, I fear;
some practise music; in fact, they do just what they please. I believe
that at least a dozen are writing novels, two or three are writing
verse, one or two are working for examinations. In the evening we
amuse ourselves."

"You give them all this?"

"Certainly. They come here whenever they please, and they can stay
here for three months, or more if there is necessity. In three words,
my cousin, I maintain an establishment of forty guests, and I fear I
shall have to increase the number."

"And what's the good of it?"

"When the Archbishop built his school, he argued, first, that
education is good even for the swineherd; next, that with education
follow manners; and, thirdly, that it was good for himself to give.
So, you see, it is good for the girls to get the rest and quiet;
living thus all together in a college raises their standard of
thought and manners; and, thirdly, it is good for me, as it was the
Archbishop, to give."

"I do not feel myself any call to give anybody anything."

"Meantime, I keep before myself the great function of woman. She is, I
say, the eternal priestess. She compels men into ways of gentleness
and courtesy; she inspires great thoughts. By way of love she leads to
the upper heights. But you do not feel these things."

"I do not, I confess."

"If the girls must work, I want them ever to keep before themselves
the task laid upon them. They have hitherto civilized man from the
home; they must now civilize him from the workshop. That, my cousin,
is the meaning of this college."

"You've got some rather pretty girls in the place," said Humphrey.

"Oh, pretty! What has that to do with it?"

The music ceased. There was a general lull. The guests all leaned back
in their chairs. The president knocked with her ivory hammer, and they
all returned to the lady's bower.

In the drawing-room Humphrey left the president to the people who
pressed in upon her, and wandered round the room, looking, apparently,
for some one. Presently he discovered, surrounded by a company of
men, the girl who was called Molly. She, too, was dressed in white,
and wore a cherry-coloured ribbon round her neck; a dainty damsel she
looked, conspicuous for this lovely quality of daintiness among them
all. At sight of her the young man coloured, and his eye brightened;
then his face clouded. However, he made his way to her. She stepped
out of the circle and gave him her hand.

"It is a week and more," he whispered, "since I have seen you. Why not
say at once that you don't care about it any longer?"

"You are welcome to the college, Sir Humphrey," she replied aloud.
"Confess that it is a pretty sight. The president was talking to you
about it all dinner-time. I hope that you are interested."

"I think it is all tomfoolery," he replied ungraciously; "and a waste
of good money too."

"Hilarie wants money to make happiness. You do not look in the best of
tempers, Humphrey."

"I am not. I couldn't get enough to drink, and I have had to listen to
a lot of stuff about women and priestesses."

"Good stuff should not be thrown away, should it? Like good pearls."

"I want to talk to you--away from this rabble. Where can we go?"

"I will take you over the college." She led the way into the library,
a retired place, where she sat down. "Do you ask how I am getting on?"

"No, I don't." He remained standing. "You'll never go on the stage
with my consent."

"We shall see." By her quick dancing eye, by her mobile lips, by
the brightness of her quaint, attractive face, which looked as if
it could be drawn into shapes like an india-rubber face, she belied
his prophecy. "Besides, Hilarie wants me to become a tragic actress.
Please remember, once more, Humphrey, that what Hilarie wishes I must
do. I owe everything to Hilarie--everything."

"You drive me mad with your perverseness, Molly."

"I am going to please myself. Please understand that, even if I were
engaged to you, I would keep my independence. If you don't like that,
take back your offer. Take it back at once." She held out both her
hands, as if she was carrying it about.

"You know I can't. Molly, I love you too much, though you are a little
devil."

"Then let me alone. If one is born in a theatre, one belongs to a
theatre. I would rather be born in a theatre than in a West End
square. Humphrey, you make me sorry that I ever listened to you."

"Well, go and listen to that fiddler fellow who calls you Molly. Curse
his impudence!"

"Oh, if you had been only born differently! You belong to the people
who are all alike. You sit in the stalls in a row, as if you were made
after the same pattern; you expect the same jokes; you take the same
too much champagne; you are like the pebbles of the seashore, all
rounded alike."

"Well, what would you have?"

"The actors and show folk--my folk--are all different. As for kind
hearts, how can you know, with your tables spread every day, and your
champagne running like water? There's no charity where there's no
poverty."

"I don't pretend to any charity."

"It is a dreadful thing to be born rich. You might have been so
different if you had had nothing."

"Then you wouldn't have listened to me."

"Thank you. Listening doesn't mean consenting."

"You cannot withdraw. You are promised to me."

"Only on conditions. You want me to be engaged secretly. Well, I
won't. You want me to marry you secretly. Well, I won't."

"You are engaged to me."

"I am not. And I don't think now that I ever shall be. It flattered
me at first, having a man in your position following around. I should
like to be 'my lady.' But I can't see any happiness in it. You belong
to a different world, not to my world."

"I will lift you into my world."

"It looks more like tumbling down than getting lifted up. There is
still time, however, to back out. If you dare to maintain that I ever
said 'Yes,' I'll say 'No' on the spot. There!"

This sweet and loving conversation explains itself. Every one will
understand it. The girl lived in a boarding-house, where she took
lessons from an old actress in preparation for the stage. From time to
time she went to stay with her friend--her benefactress--who had found
her, after her father's death, penniless. At her country house she
met, as we have seen, her old friend Dick, and the other cousin. The
second meeting, outside the boarding-house, which the latter called,
and she believed to be, accidental, led to other meetings. They were
attended by the customary results; that is, by an ardent declaration
of love. The girl was flattered by the attentions of a young man of
position and apparent wealth. She listened to the tale. She found,
presently, that her lover was not in every respect what a girl expects
in a lover. His ideas of love were not hers. He turned out to be
jealous, but that might prove the depth and sincerity of his love;
suspicious, which argued a want of trust in her; ashamed to introduce
her to his own people; anxious to be engaged first and married next,
in secrecy; avowedly selfish, worshipping false gods in the matter
of art and science; and, worst of all, ill-tempered, and boorish in
his ill temper. Lastly, she was, at this stage, rapidly making the
discovery that not even for a title and a carriage and a West End
square ought she to marry a man she was unable to respect.

"We will now go back to the lady's bower," she said. "This talk,
Humphrey, will have to last a long while."



CHAPTER VI.

THE OLD LOVER.


"My dear Dick!" Molly ran into the dining-room of her dingy
boarding-house, which was also the reception-room for visitors. "At
last! I thought you were never coming to see me again."

"It has been a long summer. I only came home last night."

"Sit down, and let me look at you." She put him in a chair, and turned
his face to the light, familiarly holding it by the chin. "You look
very well, Dick. You are browned by the summer's sun, that's all."

She released his chin, and lightly boxed his ears. They had always
been on very friendly terms, these two.

"Well, Dick, tell me about your summer. Has it been prosperous? Have
you had adventures?" She laughed, because she knew very well the kind
of adventures that this young man desired.

"Adventures come to the adventurous, Molly."

"Oh, how I envied you that day when you turned up among the tombs,
covered all over with dust, looking so fit and going so free! If I
were only a man, to go off with you on the tramp!"

"I wish you were, Molly. We would go off together. I've often thought
of it. You should carry a mandoline; I would stick to the fiddle. We
would take a room at the inn, and have a little show. You should dance
and sing and twang the mandoline. I should play the fiddle and do the
patter. We should have a rare time, Molly."

"We should, oh, we should! Do you remember that time when daddy let me
go with him, and you came too?"

"I do. I remember how charming you looked, even then! You were about
fourteen; you wore a red flannel cap. You used to take off your shoes
and stockings whenever we came to a brook, and wade in it with your
pretty bare feet."

"And we rested on the trunks of trees in the woods, and had dinner in
the open. And you talked to all the gipsies in their own language.
And one night we sat round their fire, and had some of their stew
for supper. Oh! And we listened to the birds, and made nosegays of
honeysuckle. And the people came to the inn at night while you played
the fiddle, and daddy sang comic songs and did conjuring tricks. Oh,
what a time it was!"

"And you danced. Don't forget your dance, Molly. I taught you that
dance."

The girl laughed merrily. Then she threw herself into the attitude
common to all dancing-girls in all ages and all countries--the arms
held out and the foot pointed.

"I haven't forgotten it, Dicky. I only wish I could forget it." She
sighed. "It would be better for me if I could."

"If we _could_ go away together, Molly!" He took her hand and held it.

"Don't, Dick, don't! You make me feel a longing for the road and the
country."

"There's nothing like it, Molly darlin', nothing! When the summer
comes, I'm off. All the winter I live in a lonely flat, and am
respectable."

"As respectable as you can be, Dick."

"Well, I put on dress clothes and get engagements. I don't mind, so
that in summer I can be a tramp and a rogue and a vagabond."

"Not a rogue, Dick."

"I was born behind the scenes in a circus at St. Louis before my
worthy parent ran away from his wife. It's in the blood, I suppose. I
don't care, Molly, what they say." He sprang to his feet, and began to
walk about. "There is no life like it. We don't want money; we don't
try to be gentlefolk. We're not cooped up in cages. All we've got to
do is to amuse the people. We're not stupid; we're not dull. We're
not selfish; we are contented with a little. We're never tired of it.
We're always trying some new business. My poor Molly, you're out of
it. Pity, pity!" He sat down again, shaking his head. "And you born to
it--actually born to it!"

"Well, I'm to have the next best thing to it. I'm to be an actress, at
any rate."

"An actress! Well, that's something. Tell me about it, Molly."

"A serious actress--a tragic actress. It's all settled. I'm to show
the world the real inwardness of Shakespeare. I'm to be the light and
lamp of all other actresses. I'm to be another Siddons."

"You another Siddons? Oh, Molly!" He laughed, but not convincingly.
The part of the scoffer was new to him. "You, with that face, with
those lips, with those eyes? My child, you might be another Nelly
Farren, but never another Siddons."

The girl laughed too; but only for a moment. Then she became serious.

"It's got to be, Dick. Don't tempt me. Don't make me unhappy. It would
grieve Hilarie awfully if I failed or changed my mind--which is her
mind."

"My cousin Hilarie hasn't the complete disposal of your life, has she?"

"She ought to have, because she saved my life. What should I have
done, Dick, when daddy died and left me without a penny? There are
relations about, I dare say; but I don't know where. My only chance
was to get in somewhere. You were away. What could I do? Eighteenpence
a night to go on----"

"No, no; not with that crew, Molly."

"There Hilarie found me. And she thinks she is doing the best thing in
the world for me when she gets me taught to be a tragedy queen."

"You shall be a great actress, Molly. You shall rake in fifty pounds a
week, and you shall wear long chains of diamonds, if you like."

"I've got ambition enough, if that counts for anything. I like that
part of it where the great actress sweeps across the stage, with all
the people shouting and clapping. Why, when daddy took me to the
pit, and I used to watch the leading lady marching majestically--like
this--with her long train, sweeping it back--so--I resolved to be an
actress. And when she spoke the lines, I didn't care twopence about
the sense, if they had any; I was thinking all the time how grand she
looked, and how splendid it must be to have all the world in love with
you."

"You shall have it, Molly--if you like, that is. You were always ready
to think about fellows being in love with you, were you not?"

"Why not? The stories and the plays and the songs are all about love.
A girl can't help wanting all the world to be in love with her. At the
theatre I used to see love and admiration on every man's face. The
women's faces were not so full of love, I noticed."

"Oh, you noticed that, did you? At so early an age? Wonderful!"

"And now, Dick, now, you see, I've found out that it means work; and
after all the work it may mean failure. Sometimes I think--Dick, I
don't mind saying everything to you--girls who are beautiful--like me,
in my way--were never intended to work; they were to be rewarded for
their good looks by--you know--the prince, Dick."

"Sometimes it comes off," Dick replied thoughtfully. "There was
Claribel Winthrop--Jane Perks her real name was--in one of my country
companies; she married a young lord. But she worked desperately hard
for it. All of us looked on and backed her up. It might come off that
way; but I should be sorry, Molly. You're born for better things; you
ought to have an empty purse."

"What should you say, Dick, if it was to come off that way?"

"Is there a young lord, then? Already?" He changed colour.

"He isn't a lord, but he is not far off, Dick; and I can have him if I
like."

"What sort of a fellow, Molly? Oh, be very careful. It is the devil
and all if he isn't the right sort. Do you like him?" His face twisted
as if he could not find it in his heart to like him.

"He's a baronet. He's young. He wants to conceal things. His mother
doesn't like show folk. He thinks most people are cads. He's rich."

"You don't mean to say it's that cousin of mine--not Sir Humphrey?"

She nodded her head. "You don't like him, I know. I'm afraid he's got
a temper, and I don't know if I shall be able to put up with him."

"You haven't promised, have you?"

"He says I have. But I haven't, really. I am always reminding him that
there is still time to draw back. But, Dick, think! To have plenty of
money! To be independent!"

Dick groaned. "It's the greatest temptation in the world. Eve's apple
was made of gold, and after she'd got it she couldn't eat it. You
think of that, Molly. You can't eat a golden apple. Now, I could give
you a real delicious Ribstone pippin." He sat down beside her, and
took her hand again. "It's very serious, my dear." It is the manner
of the stage to address the ladies so. It means nothing. Whether it
is also the manner to take their hands, I know not. "You must be very
careful, Molly. Will my other cousin, Hilarie, advise?"

"It's a secret, so far. But don't think about it, Dick. I've got to
please Hilarie first. The young man will have to be considered next."

"Well, if there's nothing fixed---- Molly, I don't like the fellow, I
own. I don't like any of the lot who talk about outsiders and cads, as
if they were a different order. Still, if it makes you happy--Molly,
I swear there's nothing I wouldn't consent to if it would make you
happy." The tears stood in his eyes.

"My dear Dick," she said. "There's nobody cares for me so much as
you." And the tears stood in her eyes as well.

The young man let go her hand, and stood up. "That's enough, Molly--so
long as we understand. Now tell me about the studies. Are you really
working?"

"Really working. But, oh, Dick, my trouble is that the harder I work
the more I feel as if it isn't there. I do exactly what I am told to
do, and it doesn't come off."

"But when you used to sing and dance----"

"Oh, anybody could make people laugh."

The actor groaned. "She says--anybody! And she can do it! And they put
her into tragedy!"

"Whenever I try to feel the emotion myself, it vanishes, and I can
only feel myself in white satin, with a long train sweeping to the
back of the stage, and all the house in love with me."

"This is bad; this is very bad, Molly."

"See, here, Dick, I'm telling you all my troubles. I am studying the
part of Desdemona--you know, Desdemona who married a black man. How
could she?--and of course he was jealous. I've got to show all kinds
of emotion before that beast of a husband kills me."

"It's a fine part--none finer. Once I saw it played magnificently.
She was in a travelling company, and she died of typhoid, poor thing!
Yes, I can see her now." He acted as he spoke. "She was full of
forebodings; her husband was cold; her distress of mind was shown in
the way she took up trifles, and put them down again; she spoke she
knew not what, and sang snatches of song; in her eyes stood tears; her
voice trembled; she moved about uneasily; she clutched at her dress in
agitation.

    "'The poor soul sat sighing by a sycamore tree,
        Sing all a green willow.'"

"Why," cried the girl, "you make me feel it--you--only with talking
about it! And I--alas! Have I any feeling in me at all, Dick?"

"Oh yes, it's there--it's there all right. There's tragedy in the most
unpromising materials, if you know how to get at it. I think a woman's
got to be in love first. It's a very fine thing for an actress to fall
in love--the real thing, I mean. Then comes jealousy, of course. And
after that, all the real tragedy emotions."

"Oh, love!" the girl repeated with scorn.

"Try again now; you know the words."

Molly began to repeat the lines--

    "My mother had a maid called Barbara;
      She was in love, and he she loved proved mad,
      And forsook her; she had a song of 'Willow.'"

She declaimed these lines with certain gestures which had been taught
her. She broke off, leaving the rest unfinished.

The effect was wooden. There was no pity, no sorrow, no foreboding in
the lines at all. Dick shook his head.

"What am I to say to Hilarie?" she asked.

Dick passed his fingers through his hair. Then he sat down again, and
began to laugh--laughed till the tears ran down his cheeks.

"You a tragedy queen!" he said. "Not even if you were over head and
ears in love. Now, on the other hand, if I had my fiddle in my hand,
and were to play--so--that air which you remember"--he put out his
legs straight and sat upright, and pretended the conduct of a fiddle
and bow--"could you dance, do you think, as you used to dance two
years ago?"

She stood before him, seeming to listen. Then she gently moved her
head as if touched by the music. Then she raised her arms and began to
dance, with such ease and grace and lightness as can only belong to
the dancer born.

"Thank you, Molly." He stood up as if the music was over. "We shall
confer further upon this point--and other points. When may I come
again to visit Miss Molly Pennefather?"

He caught her head in his hands and kissed her gaily on her
forehead--after all, he had no more manners than can be expected of a
tramp--and vanished.

"If Dick could only play 'Desdemona'!" she murmured, looking after him
at the closed door. "Why, he actually _looked_ the part. I suppose
he has been in love. If I could only do it so!" She imitated his
gestures, and broke out into singing--

    "The poor soul sat sighing by a sycamore tree,
        Sing all a green willow."

"No," she said; "it won't do. I don't feel a bit like Desdemona. I
am only myself, and I am filled with the most unholy longing for
money--for riches, for filthy lucre, which we are told to despise."

Her eyes fell upon a newspaper, folded and lying on the floor. It had
probably dropped out of Dick's pocket. She took it up mechanically,
and opened it, expecting nothing. The sheet was one of the gossipy
papers of the day, full of personal paragraphs. She glanced at it,
thinking of the paragraphs about herself and her grand success, which
would probably never appear, unless she could transform herself.

Presently her eye caught the word "millionaire," and she read--

     "Among the _nouveaux riches_--the millionaires of the
     West--we must not, as Englishmen, forget to enumerate Mr.
     John Haveril, who has made his money partly by transactions
     in silver-mines, and partly by the sudden creation of a
     town on his own lands. He is said to be worth no more than
     two or three millions sterling, so that he is not in the
     very front rank of American rich men. Still, there is a
     good deal of spending, even in so moderate a fortune. Mr.
     Haveril is by birth an Englishman and a Yorkshireman. He
     was born about sixty years ago, and emigrated about the
     year '55. His wife is also of English origin, having been
     born at Hackney. Her maiden name was Alice Pennefather."

Molly looked up in bewilderment. "There can't be two people of that
name!" she said. She went on with the paper--

     "They have no children to inherit their wealth. They have
     arrived in London, and have taken rooms at the Hôtel
     Métropole."

That was all. She put the paper on the table. "Alice Pennefather!
Why, she must be the Alice who disappeared--Dad's first cousin! But
Alice married an actor named Anthony; Dad gave her away. He often
wondered what had become of her. This Mr. Haveril is a second husband,
I suppose. And now she's a millionairess! I think I might go and call
upon her at the Hôtel Métropole. I will."



CHAPTER VII.

THE MASTER OF THE SITUATION.


The lady looked at the card. "Sir Richard Steele, M.D., F.R.S.," and
in the corner, "245, Harley Street, W."

"Who is Sir Richard Steele?"

Her visitor came upstairs. He stood before her and bowed.

"I was right," he said. "I remember your face perfectly. But you do
not appear to remember me, Lady Woodroffe."

"Indeed, Sir Richard. But if you will refresh my memory----"

"I have to recall to you an incident in your life which happened four
and twenty years ago."

"That is a long time ago." So far she suspected nothing.

"Yes; but you cannot have forgotten it. I have called, Lady Woodroffe,
against my wish, to remind you of a certain adoption of a child a few
days after the death of your own boy, at Birmingham, just about four
and twenty years ago. It is impossible that you have forgotten the
incident. I see that you have not." For the suddenness of the thing
fell upon her like a paralytic stroke. She sat motionless, with parted
lips and staring eyes. "You have not forgotten it," he repeated.

"Sir," she said, forcing herself to speak, "you talk of things of
which I know nothing. What child? What adoption? Why do you come here
with such a story?"

"Let me remind you again. You were passing through Birmingham with
your child and an Indian ayah. The child was taken ill, and died. You
called at my surgery--I was then a small general practitioner in a
poor quarter of Birmingham--you asked me if I could procure a child
for adoption. I understood that it was, perhaps, for consolation; I
guessed that it was, perhaps, for substitution. You told me that the
child was to have light hair and blue eyes; and for age it was to
correspond tolerably nearly with that of your own lost child, whose
birth-date you gave me--December the 2nd, 1872. I have the date in my
note-book. Now do you remember anything about it?"

"Nothing," she replied, with pale face and set lips; "nothing."

"I found you out, only yesterday, by means of this date. I was
reminded of the date, and I suspected substitution. I therefore looked
through the Red Book, and I came to the name of the present baronet.
He was born, it is stated, on December 2, 1872--the exact date on
which your own child was born. I looked out your address; I am here.
I remember you perfectly. And I now find that my suspicions were
correct."

"Do you accuse me of substituting a strange child for my own?" She
spoke in words of indignation, but in a voice of terror.

"I merely state what happened--a transaction in which I took part.
That is all, so far."

"Where is your proof? I deny everything. Prove what you say."

"It is very easy. I recognize in you the lady who conducted the
business with me. I took the child myself to the railway station. I
gave the child to the ayah, who took it to the carriage in which you
were sitting."

"Proof! What kind of proof is that? You look in the Red Book, you find
a date, and you make up a story."

"A man in my position does not make up stories. I am no longer a
general practitioner; I am one of the leaders of my profession. I am
no longer either obscure or poor. I have nothing whatever to gain by
telling this story."

"Then, sir, why do you come to me with it at all?"

"Partly out of curiosity. I was curious to ascertain whether chance
had directed me to the right quarter. I am satisfied on that score.
Partly I came in order to warn you that the story may possibly be
brought to light."

"How? how?"

"Since you are not concerned, it doesn't matter, does it? I may as
well go." But he did not move from his chair.

"So far as I am concerned, there is no truth in it."

"In that case, I can do nothing except to tell the person who is
inquiring what I know. I can send her to you. Consider again,
if you please. There is no reason for me to hide my share in the
transaction--not the least. And if you continue to declare that you
are not the purchaser of the baby, I am freed from the promise I made
at the time, to maintain silence until you yourself shall think fit to
release me from my promise."

"Who is inquiring, then?"

"Is the story true?"

The lady hesitated; she quailed. The physician looked her in the face
with eyes of authority. His voice was gentle, but his words were
strong.

"You must confess," he said, "or I shall leave you. If you continue
to deny the fact, I repeat that I shall feel myself absolved from my
promise."

"It is true," she murmured, and buried her face in her hands.

"I only wanted the confirmation from your own lips. Now, Lady
Woodroffe, be under no anxiety. I hope that this is the only occasion
on which we shall discuss a subject naturally painful to you."

She sat without reply, abashed and humiliated.

"I remember," he said, "speaking to you then on the subject of
heredity. Let me ask you if the boy has turned out well?"

"No. He turned out badly."

"About his qualities, now. His father was artistic in a way. He could
sing, play, and act."

"This boy plays pretty well; he makes things which he calls songs,
and smudges which he calls paintings. He is a prig of bad art, and
consorts with other young prigs."

"His mother was, I remember, tenacious, honest, and careful."

"The boy is obstinate and ill-conditioned."

"Her qualities in excess. His father was handsome, selfish, and
unprincipled."

"The boy is also handsome, selfish, and unprincipled."

"Humph! You speak bitterly, Lady Woodroffe."

"You know what I am, what I write, what I advocate."

"The whole world knows that."

"Imagine, then, what I suffer daily. Oh, how strong must be the force
of hereditary vice when it breaks out after such an education!"

"It should make you a little more lenient, Lady Woodroffe. Your last
papers on the exceeding wickedness of man would be less severe if you
looked at home."

"This is my punishment. I must bear it till I die. But"--she turned
sharply on her accomplice--"he must remain where he is. There must be
no scandal. I cannot face a scandal. But for that he should have gone,
long ago, back to his native kennel."

"Let him remain. No one but you can turn him out."

"Doctor--Sir Richard--can I really trust you?"

"Madam, hundreds of people trust me. I am a father confessor. I know
all the little family secrets. This is only one secret the more. It
is interesting to me, I confess, partly because I was concerned in
the business, and partly because I was curious to know what kind of
man would emerge from this boy's birth, and his education, and the
general conditions of his life."

"I may rely upon that promise?"

The doctor spread out his hands. "Other people do rely upon my
secrecy: why not you?"

"And you will not tell the boy? For that matter, if you tell him, I
would just as soon that you told the whole world."

"I have long since promised that I would reveal the matter to no one
unless you gave me leave."

She sighed. She leaned her head upon her hand. She sighed again.

"Let it be so," she said. "Consider me, then, as one of your patients.
Let me come to you with this trouble of mine, which disturbs me night
and day. It is not repentance, because I would do it again and again
to shield that good and great man, my late husband, from pain. No; it
is not repentance; it is fear of being found out. It is not the dread
of seeing this young man turned out of the position he holds--I care
nothing about him--it is fear of being found out myself."

"Madam, you can never be found out. There is only one person who knows
the lady in question, and that is myself. I have only to continue
the attitude which, till yesterday, was literally true--that I knew
nothing about the lady, neither her name, nor her place of residence,
nor anything at all--and you are perfectly safe. No one can find out
the fact; no one even can suspect it."

"How has the question arisen, then? What do you mean by inquirers?"

"There is only one inquirer at present. She is certainly an important
inquirer, but she is only one."

"She! Who is it?"

"The mother of the child."

"Quite a common creature, was she not?"

"I don't know what you call common; say undistinguished, born in the
lower middle class--a nursery governess, married to a comedian first,
and to an American adventurer next, who is now a millionaire. She
called upon me, and began to inquire."

"Well, but what does she know?"

"Nothing, except that she parted with her boy when she was poor, and
she would give all the world to get him back now that she is rich."

"He would not make her any happier. I can assure her of that."

"Perhaps not. She saw a young man somewhere, who reminded her of her
husband. This made her remember things. She heard my name mentioned,
and came to see if I was the man she knew in Birmingham."

"And then?"

"All I could say was--truthfully--that I knew nothing about the lady."

"What will she do?"

"I don't know. But she can discover nothing. Believe me, she can do
nothing--nothing at all. It was well, however, to warn you--to tell
you. The young man she saw may have been your son. It was at the
theatre."

"He goes a good deal to the theatre--to see the girls on the stage."

"His true father was also, I believe, inclined that way. The best way,
I take it, if I may advise----"

"Pray advise."

"One way, at least, would be to take the bull by the horns and bring
them together. When she finds that the young man so like her husband
is your son, she will at least make no further investigation in this
direction."

"Do what you like," said the lady, sinking back in her chair. "I
desire nothing except to avoid a scandal--such a scandal, Sir Richard;
it would kill me."

"There shall be no scandal. The secret is mine." Sir Richard rose. "I
promise, once more, to keep this secret till you give me permission to
reveal it."

"Will you ever have to ask my permission?"

"On my honour, I believe not. I cannot conceive any turn of the wheel
which would make such a permission desirable."

"My death, perhaps, might set you free; and it would rid society of a
pretender."

"No. For then the scandal would be doubled. Your husband's name
would be charged with the thing as well as your own. Rest easy, Lady
Woodroffe. I will make her acquainted, however, with the young man."



CHAPTER VIII.

THE COUSINS.


The hall of a West End hotel on a fine afternoon, even in October, not
to speak of June, is a spectacle of pious consolation in the eyes of
those who like the contemplation of riches. Many there are on whose
souls the sight of wealth in activity, producing its fruits in due
season, pours sweet and balmy soothing. All those lovely costumes
flitting across the hall, the coming and the going of the people in
their carriages, the continual arrival of messengers with parcels, the
driving up to the hotel or the driving off, the hotel porters, the
liveries, the haughty children of pride and show who wear them--these
things in a desert of longing illustrate what wealth can give, and
how much wealth is to be envied; these things make wealth appear
boundless and stable. Surely one may take such wealth as this to the
halls of heaven! Inexhaustible it must be, else how could the hotel
bills be paid? The magnificent person in uniform, with a gold band
round his cap, makes wealth all-powerful as well as beautiful, else
how could he receive a wage at all adequate to his appearance and his
manners? The noble perspective of white tables through the doors on
the right, and of velvet sofas through the doors on the left, proves
the illimitable nature of the modern wealth of the millionaire, else
how could those sumptuous dinners be paid for? The American accent
which everywhere strikes the ear further indicates that the wealth
mostly belongs to another country, which makes the true philanthropist
and the altruist rejoice. "Non nobis, Domine," he chants, "but to our
neighbours and our cousins." So long as there is accumulated wealth,
which enables us to run these big hotels, and to maintain these costly
costumes, and to keep these messengers on the trot, why should we
grumble? All the world desires wealth. It is only at such places as
the entrance-hall of a great hotel that the impecunious can really see
with their own eyes, and properly understand, what great riches can
actually do for their possessor. What can confer happiness more solid,
more satisfying, more abiding, than to buy your wife a costume for two
hundred guineas, and to live in such a hotel as this, with the whole
treasures of London lying at your feet, and waiting for your choice?

About half-past four, when the crush of arrivals was greatest, and the
talk in the hall was loudest, another carriage and pair deposited at
the hotel an elderly couple. The man was tall and thin; his features
were plain, but strongly marked; his hair was grey, and his beard,
which he grew behind his chin, was also grey. You may see men like
him in face and figure, and in the disposition of his beard behind
his chin, in every Yorkshire town--in fact, he was a Yorkshireman by
birth, though he had spent the last forty years of his life in the
Western States. His face was habitually grave; he spoke slowly. This
man, in fact, was one of that most envied and enviable class--the rich
American. In those lists which people like so much to read, the name
of John Haveril was generally placed about halfway down, opposite
the imposing figures 13,000,000 dollars. Reading these figures,
the ordinary average Briton remarked, "Dollars, sir; dollars. Not
pounds sterling. But still, two millions and a half sterling. And
still rolling, still r-r-r-rolling!" The city magnate, reading them,
sighs and says, "He cannot spend a quarter of the income. The rest
fructifies, sir--fr-r-r-ructifies!"

John Haveril arrived at this pinnacle of greatness by methods which I
believe are perfectly well understood by everybody who is interested
in the great mystery of making money. It is a mystery which is
intelligible, easy, and open to everybody. Yet only a very few--say,
one in twenty millions--are able to practise the art successfully. A
vast number try to cross that stormy sea which has no chart by which
they can navigate their barques; rocks strike upon them and overwhelm
them; hurricanes capsize and sink them. Disappointment, bankruptcy,
concealment for life, flight, ruin, cruel misrepresentation, even
open trial, conviction, sentence, and imprisonment are too often the
consequences when persons who, perhaps, possess every quality except
one--or all the qualities but one or two--in imperfection. Corners,
rings, trusts, presidencies, the control of markets, monopolies, the
crushing of competition, the trampling down of the weaker, disregard
of scruple, tenderness, pity, sympathy, belong to the success which
ought to have made John Haveril happy.

The fortunate possessor of thirteen millions--dollars--got out of the
carriage when it stopped. He looked round him. On the steps of the
hotel the people drew back, hushed and awed. "John Haveril!" he heard,
in whispers. He smiled. It is always a pleasure _monstrari digito_.
He marched up the steps and into the hall, leaving his wife to follow
alone.

This lady, whom we have already met in the doctor's consultation-room,
was dressed in the splendour that belonged to her position. It is
useless to have thirteen millions of dollars if you do not spend
some of them in proclaiming the fact by silks and satins, lace and
embroidery, chains of gold and glittering jewels. Mr. Haveril liked to
see his wife in costly array. What wife would not willingly respond
to such a pleasing taste in a husband? On this point, at least,
the married couple's hearts beat as one--in unison. Mrs. Haveril,
therefore, ought to have enjoyed nothing so much as the triumphal
march across the hall, with all the people gazing upon her as the
thrice happy, the four times happy, the pride of her country, the
millionairess.

I do not think that she ever, under any circumstances, got the full
flavour out of her wealth. You have seen her with the doctor; a
constant anxiety weighed her down; she was weak in body and troubled
in mind. She was no happier with the millions than if they had been
hundreds. Moreover, she was always a simple woman, contented with
simple ways--one to whom footmen, waiters, and grand dinners were a
weariness. With her pale, delicate face, and sad soft eyes, she looked
more like a nun in disguise than a woman rolling in gold.

Their rooms were, of course, on the first floor; such rooms, so
furnished, as became such guests. Parcels, opened and unopened,
were lying about on the tables and chairs, for they had only as yet
been two or three days in London, and, therefore, had only begun to
buy things. Tickets for theatres, cards of visitors, invitations to
dinner, had already begun to flow in.

A waiter followed them upstairs, bearing a tray on which were cards,
envelopes with names, and bits of paper with names. Mrs. Haveril
turned them over.

"John," she said, "I do believe these are my cousins. They've found us
out pretty soon."

It was, in fact, only the day after the arrivals were put in the
papers.

John turned over the cards. "Humph!" he said. "Now, Alice, before
these people come, let us make up our minds what we are going to do
for them. What brings them? Is it money, or is it love?"

"I'm afraid it's money. Still, when one has been away for five and
twenty years, it does seem hard not to see one's cousins again.
'Tisn't as if we came back beggars, John."

"That's just it. If we had, we shouldn't have been in this hotel. And
they wouldn't be calling upon us."

"They're all waiting down below."

"Let 'em wait. What are we to do, Alice? They want money. Are you
going to give 'em money?"

"It isn't my money, John. It's yours."

"'Tis thine, lass," the Yorkshireman replied. "If 'tis mine, 'tis
thine. But leave it to me." He turned to the waiter who had been
present, hearing what was said with the inscrutable face of one who
hears nothing, "Send all these chaps and women up," he said. "Make 'em
come up--every one. And, Alice, sit down and never move. I'll do the
talking."

They came up, some twenty in number. One of the blessings which attend
the possession of great wealth is its power in bringing together
and uniting in bonds of affection the various members of a family.
Branches long since obscure and forgotten come to the light again;
members long since supposed--or hoped--to be gone away to the Ewigkeit
appear alive, and with progeny. They rally round the money; the
possessor of the money becomes the head of the family, the object of
their most sincere respect, the source of dignity and pride to the
whole family.

They trooped up the broad staircase, men and women, all together. They
were old, and they were young; they presented, one must acknowledge,
that kind of appearance which is called "common." It is not an
agreeable thing to say of any one, especially of a woman, that he--or
she--has a "common" appearance. Yet of Mrs. Haveril's cousins so
much must be said, if one would preserve any reputation for truth.
The elder women were accompanied by younger ones, their daughters,
whose hats were monumental and their jackets deplorable: the ladies,
both old and young, while waiting below, sniffed when they looked
around them. They sniffed, and they whispered half aloud, "Shameful,
my dear! and she only just come home!"--deploring the motives which
led the others, not themselves, to this universal consent. The men,
for their part, seemed more ashamed of themselves than of their
neighbours. Their appearance betokened the small clerk or the retail
tradesman. Yet there was hostility in their faces, as if, in any
possible slopping over, or in any droppings, from the money-bag, there
were too many of them for the picking up.

They stood at the door, hesitating. The splendour of the room
disconcerted them. They had never seen anything so magnificent.

Mrs. Haveril half rose to greet her cousins. Beside her stood her
husband--of the earth's great ones. At the sight of this god-like
person an awe and hush fell upon all these souls. They were so poor,
all of them; they had all their lives so ardently desired riches--a
modest, a very modest income--as an escape from poverty with its
scourge, that, at the sight of one who had succeeded beyond their
wildest dreams, their cheeks blanched, their knees trembled.

One of them boldly advanced. He was a man of fifty or so, who,
though he was dressed in the black frock which means a certain
social elevation, was more common in appearance, perhaps, than any
of the rest. His close-set eyes, the cunning in his face, the hungry
look, the evident determination which possessed him, the longing and
yearning to get some of the money shown in that look, his arched back
and bending knees, proclaimed the manner of the man, who was by nature
a reptile.

He stepped across the room, and held out his hand. "Cousin Alice," he
said softly, even sadly, as thinking of the long years of separation,
"I am Charles--the Charlie of your happy childhood, when we played
together in Hoxton Square." He continued to hold her hand. "This is,
indeed, a joyful day. I have lost no time in hastening here, though at
the sacrifice of most important business--but what are my interests
compared with the reunion of the family? I say that I have lost no
time, though in the sight of this crowd my action might possibly be
misrepresented."

"You are doing well, Charles?" asked Mrs. Haveril, with some
hesitation, because, though she remembered the cousinship, she could
not remember the happy games in Hoxton Square.

"Pretty well, Alice, thank you. It is like your kind heart to ask.
Pretty well. Mine is a well-known establishment. In Mare Street,
Hackney. I am, at least, respectable--which is more than some can say.
All I want," he stooped and whispered, "is the introduction of more
capital--more capital."

"We cannot talk about that now, Cousin Charles." Mrs. Haveril pushed
him gently aside; but he took up a position at her right hand, and
whispered as each came up in turn.

The next was a man who most certainly, to judge by his appearance, was
run down pretty low. He was dressed in seedy black, his boots down at
heel, his tall hat limp.

He stepped forward, with an affectation of a laugh. "I am your cousin
Alfred, Alice. Alf, you know." She did not remember; but she offered
him her hand. "I had hoped to find you alone. I have much to tell
you."

"A bankrupt, Alice," whispered Charles. "Actually a bankrupt! And in
this company!"

"If I am," said Fortune's battered plaything, "you ought to be, too,
if everybody had his rights."

Cousin Charles made no reply to this charge. Do any of us get our
deserts? The bankrupt stepped aside.

Then a pair of ladies, old and young, stepped forward with a pleasing
smile.

"Cousin Alice," said the elder, "I am Sophy. This is my daughter. She
teaches in a Board school, and is a credit to the family, as much as
if she had a place of business in Mare Street, I'm sure."

"Pew-opener of St. Alphege, Hoxton," whispered Cousin Charles.

And so on.

While the presentation was going on, a young lady appeared in the
door. She saw the crowd, and held back, not presenting herself. She
was none other, in fact, than Molly. Strange that a little difference
in dress and in associates should make so great a difference in a
girl. Molly was but the daughter of a tenth-rate player, yet she was
wholly different from the other girls in the room. She belonged to
another species of humanity. It could not be altogether dress which
caused this difference. She looked on puzzled at first, then she
understood the situation, and she smiled, keeping in the background,
waiting the event.

When they were all presented, Mrs. Haveril turned to her husband.

"John," she said, "these are my cousins. Will you speak to them, and
tell them that we are pleased to see them here?"

John Haveril possessed three manners or aspects. The first was
the latest. It was the air and carriage and voice of one who is
in authority, and willing to exercise it, and ready to receive
recognition. A recently created peer might possess this manner. The
second was the air and carriage and voice of one who is exercising his
trade. You may observe this manner on any afternoon near Capel Court.
The third manner was quite different. It was his earliest and youngest
manner. In this he seemed to lose interest in what went on, his eyes
went out into space, he was for the time lost to the place and people
about him.

On this occasion John Haveril began with the first manner--that of
authority.

"Cousins," he said, "you are welcome. I take it you are all cousins,
else you wouldn't have called. You don't look like interviewers. My
wife is pleased to see you again, after all these years--five and
twenty, I take it."

There was a general murmur.

"Very well, then. Waiter, bring champagne--right away--and for the
whole party. You saw, ladies and gentlemen, a paragraph in the papers
about Mr. and Mrs. John Haveril. Yes, and you have come in consequence
of that notice. Very well."

"That's true," cried Cousin Charles, unable to resist the expression
of his admiration. "To think that we should stand in the presence of
millions!"

"And so you've come, all of you," said John of the thirteen millions,
"to see your cousin again. Out of love and affection?"

"Some of us," said Cousin Charles. "I fear that others," he cast one
eye on the bankrupt and one on the pew-opener, "have come to see what
they can get. Humanity is mixed, Mr. Haveril. You must have learned
that already. Mixed."

"Thank ye, sir. I have learned that lesson."

"To see our cousin Alice once more, to desire, Mr. Haveril, to see
you--to gaze upon you--is with some of us, laudable, sir--laudable."

"Quite so, sir. Highly laudable."

"As for me," said the bankrupt, abashed, "I did hope to find Cousin
Alice alone."

"And if Mr. Charles Pennefather," said the pew-opener, "means that he
wants nothing for himself, let him go, now that he has seen his Cousin
Alice! Let him go on down-trodding them poor girls in his place of
business."

At this point, when it seemed likely that the family would take
sides, the waiter appeared, bearing in his arms--I use the word with
intention--a Jeroboam of champagne. He was followed by two boys,
pages, bearing trays; and on the trays were glasses.

A Jeroboam! The sight of this inexhaustible vessel suggests
hospitality of the more lavish: generosity of the less calculating:
it contains two magnums and a magnum contains two bottles. Can one
go farther than a Jeroboam? There are legends and traditions in one
or two of the older hotels--those which flourished in the glorious
days of the Regent--of a Rehoboam, containing two Jeroboams. But
I have never met in this earthly pilgrimage with a living man who
had gazed upon a Rehoboam. At the sight of the Jeroboam all faces
softened, broadened, expanded, and began to slime with a smile not to
be repressed. Cousin Charles thrust his right hand into his bosom, and
directed his eyes, as if for penance, to the cornice.

"Now," said Mr. Haveril, "you came here to see your cousin again.
You shall drink her health--all of you. Here she is. Not so hale and
hearty as one could wish; but alive, after five and twenty years, or
thereabouts. Now, boys, pass it round."

The glasses went round--the wine gurgled and sparkled. Cousin Charles
gave the word.

"Cousin Alice!" he cried. "All together--after me!" He raised his
glass. "Cousin Alice!" He emptied it at one draught.

"I think," said the pew-opener, in an audible whisper to her daughter,
"that it would have been more becoming to offer port wine. I don't
think much of this fizzy stuff."

"Hush! mother." The daughter had more reading, if less experience.
"This is champagne. It's rich folks' drink, instead of beer."

The waiter and the boys went round again. The second glass vanished,
without any toast. Eyes brightened, cheeks flushed, tongues were
loosened.

"Cousin Alice," said the bankrupt, emboldened. "If I could see you
alone----"

"Don't see him alone," whispered Cousin Charles. "Don't see anybody
alone. They all want your money. They are leeches for sucking and
limpets for sticking. Turn 'em over to me. I'll manage the whole lot
for you. Very lucky for you, Cousin Alice, that I did call, just this
day of all days, to stand between you and them."

But Cousin Alice made no answer. And they all began whispering
together, and the whisper became a murmur, and the murmur a babble,
and in the babble voices were raised and charges were made as of
self-seeking, pretence, hypocrisy, unworthy motives, greed of gain,
deception, past trickeries, known meannesses, sordidness, and so
forth. And there was a general lurch forward, as if the cousins would
one and all fall upon Alice and ravish from her, on the spot, her
husband's millions.

But Cousin Charles, self-elected representative, stepped forward and
held up his hand.

"We cannot part," he said. "It is impossible for you to leave me with
my Cousin Alice----"

"Ho!" cried the pew-opener, "you alone with Cousin Alice!"

"See you alone, Alice," whispered the bankrupt, on whose weak nerves
and ill-nourished brain the champagne was working.

"--without drinking--one more toast. We _must_ drink," he said, "to
our cousin's illustrious, noble, and distinguished husband. Long
may he continue to enjoy the wealth which he so well deserves and
which none of us envy him. No, my friends, humble and otherwise,
none of us envy him. Mr. Haveril, sir, I could have wished that the
family--your wife's family--which is, as you know, one of eminent
respectability--an ancient family, in fact, of Haggerston----"

"Grandmother was a laundress," said the pew-opener. "Everybody knows
that all the Haggerston people were washer-women in the old days."

"--had been better represented on this occasion by a limited
deputation of respectability--say, by myself, without the appearance
of branches, which should not have been presented to you, because we
have no reason to be proud of them." He glanced at the decayed branch.
"Sir, we drink your prolonged health and your perpetual happiness. We
are proud of you, Mr. Haveril. The world is proud of you."

With a murmur, partly of remonstrance with the speaker's arrogance and
his insinuations against their respectability; and partly meant for a
cheer, the family drank the health of Mr. John Haveril.

"Thank ye," he said, with no visible emotion. "Now, take another
glass--send it round, waiter--while I say something. It's just this."
As he spoke his manner insensibly changed. He became the man of
business, hard as nails. "I take it that some of you are here to see
your cousin again, and some of you are here to get what you can, and
some for both reasons. It's natural, and I don't blame anybody. When a
body's poor, he always thinks that a rich man can make him rich, too.
Well, he can't--not unless he makes over half his pile. And I'll tell
you why. A chap is poor because he's foolish or lazy. Either he can't
see the way or he won't stir himself. You can't help a blind man--nor
you can't help a lazy man. If you give either of them what he wants,
he spends it all, and then holds out his hand and asks for more." The
bankrupt dropped his head, and sank into a chair. The champagne helped
him to apply this maxim to his own case. "The best thing that can be
done for any one is to dump him down in a new country where he'll sink
or swim. You, sir," he pointed a minatory finger to Cousin Charles,
"you would like more capital, would you?"

"Not in the presence of this multitude, Mr. Haveril," Cousin Charles
replied.

"Those who want capital, either here or anywhere else, have got to
make it for themselves."

"So true--so true," said Cousin Charles. "Listen to this, all of you."

"Make it for themselves. Same as I did. How much capital had I to
start with? Just nothing. Whatever you want, make it for yourself by
your own smartness. There's nothing else in the world to get a man
along but smartness. In whatever line you are, cast about for the
prizes in that line and look out for opportunities. If you can't see
them, who can help you? As for you, sir," he addressed the bankrupt,
"you want money. Well, if I give you money you will eat it up, and
then come for more. What's the use, I ask any of you?"

He looked round. Nobody answered. Cousin Charles, perspiring at the
nose, murmured faintly, "So true--so true," but not with conviction.
Some of the women wiped away a tear--they had taken four glasses of
champagne, but fortunately a waiter does not quite fill up the glasses.

"Not one of you would be a bit the better off, in the long run, if I
gave him a thousand pounds."

"Not to give, but to advance," said Cousin Charles.

"Not a bit the better off," John Haveril repeated. "Not a bit. We've
got to work in this world--to work, and to think, and to lay low,
and to watch. Those who can do nothing of all this had better sit
down quiet in a retired spot. My friends, there's nothing shameful in
taking a back seat. Most of the seats are in the back. Make up your
mind that such is your lot, and you may be happy, though you've got
no money. I've been poor, and now I'm rich. Seems to me I was just as
happy when I was poor and looking out."

He paused for a moment.

"Alice doesn't want to throw you over. What then? Why--this. Any one
of you who came to ask for something may do it in writing. Let him
send me a letter--and tell me all about it. If it's a thing that will
do you no harm, I'll do it for you. But I don't expect it is, only to
feel that you've got somebody who'll give you what you ask for just
because you ask for it. Why, there can't be in all the world anything
worse for him. Remember that you've got to work for a living, to begin
with; harder if you make your fortune, and harder still if you want to
keep it. That's the dispositions of Providence, and I'm not going to
stand in the way of the Lord. Go home, then. Take example by me, if
you can. But if you came to coax dollars out of Alice, give it up."

The audience looked at each other ruefully. They did not know what
to say in reply. Nor did they know how to get off. Nobody would move
first. Cousin Charles stepped forward.

"Mr. Haveril," he said, "in the name of the family, worthy or
unworthy, as the case may be; greedy or disinterested, as it may be; I
thank you. Whatever words may drop from you, sir, will be treasured.
What you have said are golden words. We shall, I hope, write them down
and engrave them on the marble tombstones of our hearts. They will be
buried with us. My friends," he addressed the family, "you can go."

"Not without you," said the pew-opener--"you and your respectability."

"Some of us will prepare that little note, I dare say--I fear so,
Mr. Haveril," Cousin Charles went on. "In business, as you know,
the introduction of capital is not a gift nor a charity; but I will
explain later on, when these have gone."

"Not without you," said the lady pew-opener, planting her umbrella
firmly on the carpet.

There was so much determination in her face that Cousin Charles
quailed; he bent, he bowed, he submitted.

"On another, a more favourable occasion, then, when we can be
private," he said. "Good-bye, Cousin Alice. You look younger than
ever. Ah, if these friends present could remember you as I can,
in the spring-time of youth and beauty, among the laurels and the
laburnums and the lilacs of Hoxton Square! Love's young dream, cousin;
love's young dream." He grasped her hand, his voice vibrating with
emotion. "Alice," he said, "on Sunday evenings we gather round us a
little circle at South Hackney. Intellect and respectability. Supper
at eight. I shall hope to see you there soon and often."

He then seized Mr. Haveril's hand. "If I may, sir--if I may."

"You may, sir--you may." He held out a hand immovable, like a
sign-post.

"As men of business--men of business--we shall understand each other."

"Very like, very like," said Mr. Haveril, with distressing coldness.

He had fallen into his third manner, and his eyes were far off. He
spoke mechanically.

Cousin Charles clapped his hat on his head and walked out. He was
followed by the lady pew-opener, who called out after him over the
broad balustrade--

"You and your respectability, indeed! Go and sweat your shop-girls!
You and your respectability!"



CHAPTER IX.

ONE MORE.


"They are all gone, John," said Alice. "Oh, what a visit! I am
ashamed! I never thought my people could have gone on so! As for
Cousin Charles, he's just dreadful!"

One was left. The unfortunate bankrupt, overcome by the champagne, was
asleep in his chair. John Haveril dragged him up by the collar.

"Now then, you, sir! What do you mean by going to sleep here?"

The unfortunate rubbed his eyes and pulled himself together. Presently
he remembered where he was.

"Cousin Alice," he said, "are we alone?" He whispered confidentially.
"They all want your money--particularly Charles. He's the most
grasping, greedy, cheeseparing, avaricious, unscrupulous, bully of a
cousin that ever had a place of business. Don't give him anything.
Give it to me. I'm starving, Alice. I haven't eaten anything all day.
It's true. I've got no work and no money."

"John, give him something."

"It's no good," said John. "He'll only eat it, and then ask for more."

"But give him something. Let him eat it."

John plunged his hand into his pocket. After the manner of the
eighteenth century, it was full of gold.

"Well, take it." He transferred a handful to the clutch of the poor
wretch. "Take it. Go and eat it up. And don't come back for more."

The man took it, bowed low, and shambled off. It made Alice ashamed
only to see the attitude of the poor hungry creature, and the
abasement of poverty.

"Well, Alice," said John, "we've seen the last of the family, until
their letters begin to come in. Halloa! Who's this?"

For John became aware of the girl who had been standing beside the
door, unnoticed. When all were gone, she stepped in lightly.

"Mrs. Haveril," she said--"I ought to call you Cousin Alice, but I
am afraid you have had cousins enough. My name is Pennefather--Molly
Pennefather."

"Why, I was a Pennefather--same as Charles, who's just gone out, and
the ragged wretch who was Cousin Alfred."

"Yes; and others of the truly dreadful people who have just gone out.
I don't know any of them. Fortunately, they wouldn't have anything to
do with my poor old dad, because he disgraced the family and went on
the stage. If they hadn't been so haughty, I might have had to know
them now."

"Your father? Is he Willy Pennefather?"

"He was. But he died five years ago."

"He died? Poor Willy! Oh, John, if you'd known my cousin Will! How
clever he was! And how bright! Dead, is he?"

"He was never a great success, you know, because he couldn't settle
down. And at last he died. And I---- Well, I'm studying for the stage
myself."

"Oh, you are Willy's daughter! My dear, you look straight. But there's
been such a self-seeking----"

"I don't want your money, indeed!"

"Oh, but have you got money, my dear?"

"No; but some day I suppose I shall have--by my Art. That's the way
to talk about the profession nowadays. Well, I mean that I don't want
your money, Cousin Alice."

"If you haven't got any money and don't want any----" John began.

"You see, we are not all built like Mr. John Haveril," she
interrupted, with a sweet smile. "Art, I am told, makes one despise
money. When I am furnished with my Art, I dare say I shall despise
money."

"Oh, coom now, lass!" From time to time, but rarely, John Haveril
became Yorkshire again. "Despise the brass?"

"Not the people who have the brass. That is an accident."

"I don't know about accidents."

"Well, you've got money; once you hadn't. You're John Haveril all the
same--see? Besides, it's quite right that some people should have
money. They can take stalls at theatres. If you will let me be friends
with you, Mr. Haveril, and won't look so dreadfully suspicious----"

"Well, I don't care," he said. "You look as if----"

"As if I was telling the truth. Shake hands, then."

Mrs. Haveril gave her a hand, and then, looking in her face, threw her
arms round her neck.

"My dear child," she said, "you're the very picture of your
father--Cousin Will. I thought there must be some one in the family
fit to love." She hugged and kissed the girl with a sudden wave of
affection. "Oh, Molly, my dear, I am sure I shall love you!"

"I'm so glad. Well, may I call you Alice? I will tell you what
theatres to go to. Oh, I shall make myself very useful to you!"
She clasped her hands, laughing--a picture of youth and truth and
innocence. "Some time or other you shall see _me_ on the stage."

"We get lots of actors out in the West--and actresses too. Some of
them are real lovely," said John Haveril.

She laughed. "Oh! There are actresses and actresses. And some elevate
their Art, and some degrade it. Now, let me see. Oh, father is dead,
poor dear! I told you. And the rest of the family---- Well, you saw
for yourself, cousin, they are not exactly the kind of people for a
person of your consideration. You should lend them all some money--not
much--and make them promise to pay it back on a certain day--next
Monday week, at ten o'clock. It's a certain plan. Then you'll have no
further trouble with them. Otherwise, they'll crowd round you like
leeches."

"I can't let my own flesh and blood starve."

"Starve! Rubbish! They won't starve! What have they been doing while
you've been away? Unless you encourage them not to work." And now she
sank gracefully upon a footstool, and took her cousin's hands. "Oh,"
she said, "it is so nice to have a relative of whom one may be proud,
after all those cousins. Oh, it must be a dreadful thing to have such
lots of money! Why, I've got nothing!"

"You've had no champagne," said Cousin John, lifting his Jeroboam.

"Thank you, Cousin John, I don't drink champagne. Well, now, what can
I do for you this afternoon?"

"I don't know, my dear. We neither of us know much about London, and
we just wander about, for the most part, or drive about, and wonder
where we are."

The girl jumped up. "Order a carriage and pair instantly. I shall
drive you round and show you the best shops. You are sure to want
something. As for me, remember that I want nothing. An actress appears
in costume which the management finds. You, however, Alice, are
different. You must dress as becomes your position."

       *       *       *       *       *

"My dear child," said Alice, in the very first shop, "you _must_ let
me give you a dress--you really must."

"I don't want it, I assure you," she laughed. "But if it pains you not
to give me one, why, I will take it."

She _did_ take it. That evening there arrived at the boarding-house,
addressed to Miss Pennefather, first a bonnet, for which five guineas
would be cheap; a dress, the price of which the male observer could
not even guess; a box of kid gloves, a mantle, and two or three pairs
of boots.

"And, oh," said the girl, when she left the hotel that night, "what a
_lovely_ thing it is to feel that there will be no horrid mercenary
considerations between us! You will admire my Art, but I shall not
envy your money. Cousin John, admit that I am better off than you--one
would rather be admired than envied."

She reached home. In her room lay the parcels and the packages. She
opened them all. She put on the bonnet, she stroked the soft stuff
with a caressing palm, she gazed upon the gloves, she held up the
boots to the light.

"Am I a dreadful humbug?" she said. "I must be--I must be. What would
Dick say? But one cannot---- No, one cannot refuse. I am not a stick
or a stone. And Cousin Alice actually enjoyed the giving! But no
money. Molly, you must not take their money."



CHAPTER X.

COUSIN ALFRED'S SECRET.


It was a few days later, in the forenoon. John Haveril was gone into
the City on the business of keeping together what he had got--a
business which seems to take up the whole of a rich man's time and
more, so that he really has no chance of looking for the way to the
kingdom of heaven. His wife sat at the window of her room in the
hotel, contemplating the full tide of life below. She was not in the
least a philosopher--the sight of the people, and the carriages, and
the omnibuses, did not move her to meditate on the brevity of life as
it moves some thinkers. It pleased her; she thought of places where
she had lived in Western America, and the contrast pleased her. Nor
was she moved, as a poet, to find something to say about this tide of
life. The poet, you know, looks not only for the phrase appropriate,
but for the phrase distinctive. Mrs. Haveril had never heard of such a
thing. She only thought that there was nothing like it in the Western
States, and that she remembered nothing like it in the village of
Hackney. Molly was lying on the sofa, reading a novel.

One of the hotel pages disturbed her dreamery, which was close upon
dropping off, by bringing up in a silver salver a dirty slip of paper,
on which was written in pencil--

"Mr. Alfred Pennefather. For Mrs. Haveril. Bearer waits."

"Is it a man in rags? Is he a disgrace to the hotel?"

"Well, ma'am, he _is_ in rags. As for his being a disgrace--he says
he's your cousin." Here he laughed, holding the silver salver before
his mouth.

"I wouldn't laugh at a poor man, if I were you. Why," said Mrs.
Haveril, drawing a bow at a venture, "you've got cousins of your own
in the workhouse. Send him up, right away," she added.

The man came in. The page shut the door quickly behind him, to conceal
the figure of rags not often seen in that palatial place.

It was Alfred the Broken; strange to say, though it was less than
a week since he had received that gift of golden sovereigns, the
appearance of the man was as seedy as ever; his hat--a ridiculously
tall silk hat with a limp brim--can anything look more forlorn?--his
coat with ragged wrists; his boots parting from the soles; a ragged
and decayed person, more ragged, more decayed, than before.

"Well?" the lady's voice was not encouraging. "You came here last week
with the rest of them."

"I did, Alice--I did."

"You had champagne with the rest; you heard what my husband had to
say: when the rest were gone, he gave you money. What have you done
with that money? What do you want now?"

"I want to have a quiet talk with you."

The man had that sketchy irresolute face which foretells, in certain
levels of life, social wreck. Not an evil face, exactly--the man with
the evil face very often gets on in life--but with a weak face. You
may see such a face any day in a police-court. First, it is a charge
connected with the employer's accounts, then it is generally a charge
of petty robbery. The last case I saw myself was one of boots snatched
from an open counter. Between the first charge and the second there
is a dreadful change in the matter of clothes; but there is never
any change in face. As for Alfred Pennefather, one could understand
that he had once been the gay and dashing Alf among his pals; that he
had heard the midnight chimes ring; that he knew by experience the
attractions of the public billiard-room, and the joys of pool; that
he read the sporting papers; that he put a "bit" on his fancy; that
whatever line of life he might attempt, therein he would fail; and
that repeated failures would place him outside the forgiveness of his
friends. For repeated misfortunes, as well as repeated follies, we can
never forgive.

"You can talk," said his cousin. "This--young lady"--she was going to
say "cousin of yours"--"does not count. Go on."

"I hoped, the other day, Alice, to find you alone. In that crowd of
greedy impudent beggars and flatterers, I could not. I assure you I
was ashamed of being in such company. As for Cousin Charles, if it had
not been for you----"

"Go on to something else, please. You all came for what you could
get; now, what do you want?"

"I'll sit down." He took the most comfortable chair in the room, and
stretched out his legs. "This is the lap of luxury. Alice, you're a
happy woman."

"Oh! Go on."

"The world has been against me, Alice, from the beginning. Look at
these boots. Ask yourself whether the world has not been against me.
Don't believe what they say. Scandalous, impudent liars, all of them,
especially Charles. No fault of mine. No, Alice. It's the world."

"What do you want, again?"

"I want an advance."

"Then do what my husband told you--write to him. What has become of
the money he gave you? Is that spent already?"

"Don't call it spent, Alice. Debts paid, common necessaries bought."

"Debts! Who would trust you? Necessaries! Why, you are shabbier than
ever."

"Well, I can prove to you, Alice, that the money was well laid out."

When, after many days, the man at the bottom of the ladder gets a few
pounds in gold, the first temptation is to make a night of it. What?
We are not money-grabbers. To-morrow for a new rig-out; to-morrow
for the weary business of finding employment; to-night for joy and
the wine-cup. When the morrow dawns the wine-cup still lingers in
the brain--but the gold pieces--where are they? Gone as a dream--a
splendid dream of the night. Thus, after a little sleep and a little
slumber, poverty cometh again as a robber: and want as an armed man.

"Don't let's talk about money spent," he said cheerfully. "Let's talk
about the future. I'm right down at the bottom of the ladder, Alice.
Help me up."

If a man says that he is at the bottom of the ladder, he generally
speaks the truth. It is one of those little things about which we are
agreed not to tell lies. And when he asks to be helped up, he always
speaks with sincerity.

"I have no money of my own."

"You've things that make money." His eyes fell on a bracelet lying on
the table.

Alice shook her finger at him. "Cousin Alfred," she said, "if you mean
that I am going to give you my husband's presents for you to take to
a pawnbroker, I will have you bundled out of the house. Now, tell me
what you came for, before I ring the bell for the waiter."

He began to cry. He really was underfed and very miserable. "Oh! she's
got a hard heart--and all I want is forty pounds--for the good will
and stock-in-trade of a tobacconist--to become a credit to the family."

"I have no money of my own," Alice repeated. "If that is all you have
to say, go away. My husband may come back at any moment."

"He won't. I watched. He's gone into the City on the top of a 'bus.
With all his money, rides outside a 'bus. He's gone, and I mean,
Alice----"

Molly rose and put down her novel. Then she advanced and seized the
man, taking a combined handful of shirt-collar and coat-collar, which
she twisted in her strong hand. He spread out his legs and hands; he
struggled; the grip tightened; he rolled over; the coat-collar came
off in her hand.

"Get up and go, you miserable creature!" she cried.

He rose slowly.

"Go!" said Molly.

"No coat-collar would stand such treatment," he said. "Pay me for the
damage you have done to my wardrobe."

"Give him a shilling, Molly, and let him go."

"Wait a minute--wait a minute. Oh, don't be violent, Alice! I've got
a secret. If you knew it, you'd give me money. I'll sell it for forty
pounds."

"Sell it to my husband."

He got up feeling for his injured coat-collar. "This girl's so
impetuous. May I sit down again?"

"No," said Molly. "Stand. If you don't tell your secret in two
minutes, out you go."

"It's about your marriage, Alice. You were married about twenty-six
years ago--it was in 1871, I remember. You married a play-acting
fellow--Anthony by name----"

"That's no secret."

"Which wasn't his real name, but his theatrical name. His real name
was Woodroffe."

"That is no secret, either."

"Your family wouldn't stand by you, being proud of their connections,
although the only gentleman of the lot was myself--and I was in a
bank."

"Oh, get on to your secret!"

"But, Cousin Will--Charles's brother--he stood by you, because he was
in the play-acting line himself, and he got the boot, too, from the
family. Will gave you away. You were married in South Hackney Church.
After the wedding you went away. Will met me that same day; I remember
I was a little haughty with him, because a bank clerk can't afford to
know a common actor. He told me about it."

"What is your secret?"

"Two or three years later I met Will again, and borrowed something off
him. Then he told me you had gone off to America."

"That is no secret."

"I'm coming to the secret. Don't you be impatient, Alice. It's my
secret, not yours. Now, then. About fifteen years ago, I met a fellow
at a billiard-table. He wouldn't play much, and he had some money, and
so I thought--well--I got him to lodge with us. Mother kept lodgings
in Myddleton Square in those days. He came; he said his name was
Anthony, and he was a comedian from the States. We are coming to the
secret now. Well, he stayed with us there a few weeks, and I took some
money off him at pool; but he never paid his rent, and went away."

"Go on."

"That was your husband, Alice--your husband, I say--your husband." His
voice fell to a mysterious whisper.

"Well; and why not?"

"Well--if you will have it--I'll say it out loud. That was your
husband. You married John Haveril because you thought your husband
was dead. Perhaps you hoped he would never find you out. Very well.
He's alive still. I've seen him. That's my secret."

"I care nothing whether he is alive or dead."

"That's bluff. He's alive, I say; and I know where he is at this very
minute."

"Now you have told your secret, you may go," said Molly.

"I tell you," said Alice, "that I do not care to know anything at all
about that man."

"Well--but--if he is living, how can you be anybody else's wife?
Look here, Alice. I'm telling the truth. John Anthony, whose name
is Woodroffe, is in London. Last week I met him by accident, but he
doesn't remember me. We were engaged in the same occupation. Why
should I conceal the poverty to which I am reduced by the hard hearts
of wealthy friends? We were carrying boards in Oxford Street. At night
we used the same doss-house."

"I tell you that I do not wish to hear anything about that man. If he
is in poverty and wickedness, he deserves it."

"Wouldn't you help him now?"

"I tell you I have no money."

"But this man is your husband."

"I tell you again, I do not want to know anything about the man."

"Well, I can go and tell him that you're here, rolling in gold. Forty
pounds I want, and then I'll become a credit to the family--as a
tobacconist. Else you shall have your husband back again. I've only
to set him on to you."

"I don't want your secret."

"Not to keep your husband from finding you out? Have you no heart,
Alice?"

Molly pointed to the door. "Out!" she ordered. "Out, this instant!"

He turned away reluctantly. "I thought better of you, Alice. Well,
it's a wicked world. Go straight, and you go downhill. Chuck your
respectability, and you're like the sparks that fly upward. When I
came here the other day, I thought I was coming to see a respectable
woman."

"Out!" Molly advanced upon him.

He placed a chair in front of him. "I know where your husband is--in
the Marylebone Workhouse Infirmary; that's where he is. I shall go
to him. 'Anthony,' I shall say, 'your wife's over here--with another
man.'"

Molly threw the chair down, and rushed at him.

He fled before the fire and fury of those eyes.

       *       *       *       *       *

"Molly dear," Alice asked, "am I hard-hearted? I have not a spark of
feeling left for that man; it moved me not in the least to hear of his
wretched plight. He is to me just a stranger--a bad man--suffering
just punishment."

"But his name is Woodroffe. That is strange, is it not?"

"Yes; his name is Woodroffe. He belonged, he always said, to a highly
respectable family. That fact did not make him respectable."

"I wonder if he is any relation to Dick--my old friend, Dick
Woodroffe. He's a musician now, and singer, too, and his father was a
comedian before him."

"Well, dear, I don't know. As for that man in the infirmary, I dare
say John will go and see if anything can be done for him. He deserted
me first, and divorced me afterwards, Molly, twenty-four years
ago--for incompatibility of temper. That is the kind of man he is."



CHAPTER XI.

THE DOCTOR'S DINNER.


The secret of success is like the elixir of life, inasmuch as
that precious balsam used to be eagerly sought after by countless
thousands; and because, also like the elixir, it continually eludes
the pursuer. One man succeeds. How? He does not know, and he does
not inquire. A thousand others, who think they are as good, fail.
Why? They cannot discover. But each of the thousand failures is
ready to show you a thousand reasons why this one man has succeeded.
First of all, he has really not succeeded; secondly, his success is
grossly exaggerated; thirdly, it is a cheap success--the unsuccessful
are especially contemptuous of a cheap success--they would not,
themselves, condescend to a cheap success; fourthly, it is a
success arrived at by tortuous, winding, crooked arts, which make
the unsuccessful sick and sorry to contemplate--who would desire a
success achieved by climbing up the back stairs? If a man writes, and
succeeds in his writings, so that ordinary people flock to read him,
he succeeds by his vulgarity. Or, he succeeds by his low tastes--who,
that respects himself, would pander to the multitude? Or, he succeeds
by vacuity, fatuity, futility, stupidity--what self-respecting writer
would sink to the level of the fatuous and vacuous? He succeeds with
an A, because he is Asinine; with a B, because he is Bestial; with a
C, because he is Contemptible; and so on through the alphabet. Similar
reasons are assigned when a man succeeds as a Painter, a Sculptor,
a Preacher, a Lawyer. Now, Sir Robert Steele is one of the most
successful physicians of the day. His success is easily understood and
readily accounted for, on the principles just laid down, by those of
his profession who have not by any means achieved the same popularity.
He humours his patients--every one knows that; he has a soft voice and
a warm hand--he makes ignoble profit out of both. Above all, he asks
his patients--some of them--to the most delightful dinners possible.

The latter charge has a foundation in fact: he does ask a few of his
more fortunate patients to dinner. More than this, he gives them a
dinner much too artistic for most of them to understand. To bring Art
into a menu, to invent and build up a dinner which shall be completely
artistic in every part, a harmonious whole; one course leading
naturally to the next; a dinner of one colour in many tints; the wine
gurgling like part of an orchestra, is a gift within the powers of
very few. Sir Robert's reputation as a physician is justly, at least,
assisted by his reputation as a great poetic creator of the harmonious
dinner.

I think, having myself none of the _gourmet's_ gifts, that the
possession of them must cause continual and poignant unhappiness. It
is like the endowment of the critical faculty at its highest. Nothing
pleases wholly. When the critic of the menu dines out, alas, what
false notes, what discords, what bad time, what feeble rendering, what
platitude of conception, he must endure! Let us not envy his gifts,
let us rather continue to enjoy, unheeding, dinners which would be
only a prolonged torture to the sensitive soul of the perfect critic.

The doctor made his selections carefully from his patients and
friends. He knew all the amusing people about town, especially
those benefactors to their kind who consent to play and sing for
after-dinner amusement; he knew all the actors, especially those who
do not take themselves too seriously; he knew the men who can tell
stories, sing songs, and are always in good temper. He loved them as
King William loved the red deer; he esteemed them higher than princes;
more excellent company than poets; more clubable than painters. Among
his friends of the profession was Mr. Richard Woodroffe, whom the
doctor esteemed even above his fellows for his unvarying cheerfulness
and his great gifts and graces in music and in song. Him he invited
to dinner on a certain evening, partly on account of these gifts
and partly for another reason--the other guests were the Haverils,
who would be useless in conversation; Miss Molly Pennefather, their
cousin, who would not probably prove a leader in talk; Sir Humphrey
Woodroffe, whom he invited for reasons which you know--and others, yet
conscious beforehand that the young man would be out of his element
and perhaps sulky; and two _umbræ_, persons of no account--mere
patients--to make up the number of eight, the only number, unless it
is four, which is permissible for a dinner-party. For the menu there
was only one person to be considered; Dick, for instance, would eat
tough steak with as much willingness as a Chateaubriand; Mr. Haveril
knew not one dish from another; Humphrey, whom he had met at his
mother's table, would be the only guest capable of understanding a
dinner. Moreover, Humphrey would have to be conciliated by the dinner
itself, to make up for the company. The doctor therefore prepared
a dinner of a few _plats_ harmonized with the desire of pleasing a
young man who was most easily approached, he had already discovered,
by means of any one, or any group, of the senses. Dinner, as every
artistic soul knows, appeals to a group of the senses, which is the
reason why civilized man decorates his tables. Those unhappy persons
to whom dinner is but feeding might as well serve up a single dish on
one wine-case and sit down to it on another.

The reason, apart from his social qualities, why Sir Robert invited
Richard Woodroffe to the dinner was not unconnected with a little
conversation held at a smoking concert a few nights before. It was a
very good smoking concert; a highly distinguished company was present;
and the performers were all professionals.

Richard did his "turn," and then took a seat beside Sir Robert.

"I haven't seen you since last June, Dick, have I?"

"I've been on tramp."

"What do you go on tramp for?"

"Because I must when the summer comes. I can't stay in town--I take
the fiddle and sling a hand-bag over my shoulders and go off."

"Where do you go?"

"Anywhere. First by train twenty miles or so out of London, and then
plunge into the country at random."

"You tramp along the road. And then?"

"Well--you see--the real point is that I take no money with me--only
enough for the first day or two--five shillings or so. The fiddle pays
my way. I play for bed and supper in a roadside inn. The people of the
village come to hear; sometimes I play and sing; sometimes I play for
them to dance; then I collect the coppers; next day I go on."

"It sounds delightful for your audience. For me, listening to you is
sufficient; as for the rest----"

"It's more delightful than you can believe. Why, I know all the
gipsies and their language; sometimes I camp with them. And I know
most of the tramps. Some excellent fellows among the tramps. And
there's no dress-coat and no dinner-parties."

"What do you mean by saying that you must go?"

"Well, I don't know. It's something in the blood. It's heredity, I
suppose. My father was a vagabond before me----"

"Did he also go on the tramp?"

"Well, he was always moving on. He was an actor--of sorts. Some of
them still remember him over here, though he went to America five and
twenty years ago."

"Do I remember him? Was his name Woodroffe?"

"His stage name was Anthony--John Anthony. His real name was
Woodroffe."

"Anthony!" The doctor sat up. "Anthony? I have heard that name. Oh
yes; I remember. Anthony! Strange! Only the other day----" he broke
off.

"Did you hear that name coupled with any--creditable incident?"

"No--no, not very; it was in connection with a--a former wife.... How
old are you, Dick?"

"I am two and twenty."

"Yes. I remember the case now--it was four and twenty years ago. One
is always getting reminders. Dick, there's a young fellow of your
name--a baronet--son of an Anglo-Indian; are you any relation to him?"

"I've met him. We are very distant cousins, I believe. The more
distant the better."

"You don't like him? Well, he isn't quite your sort, is he? All the
same, Dick, come and dine with me next Tuesday. You will meet him;
but that won't matter. I expect some American people as well--rich
people--_nouveaux riches_--the woman is interesting, the man is plain.
They bring a girl with them--a girl, Miss Molly Pennefather. What's
the matter?" For Dick jumped.

"Molly? I know Molly!--bless her! I'll come, doctor, even if there
were twenty Sir Humphreys coming too. And after dinner I'll sing for
you, if you like."

Now you understand why this selection was made. For the first time
in his life, Sir Robert invited a company which could not possibly
harmonize. There would be no talk worth having, his wine would be
wasted, his _cuisine_ would meet with no appreciation. But he would
have them all before him--mother, son, stepson--if Richard could be
called a stepson--half-brothers; and the master of the situation would
study on the spot an illustration of heredity, unsuspected by the
patients themselves.

Mrs. Haveril arrived, clothed chiefly in diamonds. Why not? Her
husband liked her to wear those glittering things which help to make
wealth attractive, otherwise we might all be contented with poverty.
But the pale lady's delicate, nun-like face would have looked better
without them. With her came Molly, now her daily companion. The girl
was dressed, for the first time in her life, as in a dream--a dream
of paradise; she wore such a frock, with such trimmings, as makes a
maiden, if by happy chance she sees it in a window, gasp and yearn for
the unattainable, yet go home thankful for having seen it; and humbled
by the sense of personal unworthiness. Yet, what says the poet?

    "Ah! but a man's reach should exceed his grasp,
     Else what's a heaven for?"

The girl wore the dress with as little self-consciousness as one would
expect. It was such a dress as she had seen upon the stage--elaborate,
dainty, decorated; perhaps a little too old for her; but, then, an
actress must be excused for a little exaggeration. Her _rôle_ this
evening was not a speaking part; she was only a lady of the court;
meanwhile, she was on the stage, and it pleased her to find that her
audience admired, though they could not applaud.

"I have invited to meet you," said the doctor, "two distant cousins;
they bear the same name, and are of the same descent, but their
families have gone off in different channels, I understand, for some
hundreds of years. It is not often that people can claim cousinship
after so long a separation. One of them is the only son of the late
Sir Humphrey Woodroffe, a distinguished Anglo-Indian----"

"Woodroffe?" Alice asked. "It was my first husband's name."

"Very possibly he, too, was a cousin. The other is a young fellow
called Richard Woodroffe."

"Again the name," said Alice.

"Yes; the distant cousin. He is a musician and a dramatist in a small
and clever way."

"Dick is my oldest friend," said Molly.

"I am very glad, then, that he is coming to-night."

Sir Robert considered this young lady more attentively, because a girl
who was Dick Woodroffe's oldest friend must be a young lady out of
the common. There was, he observed, something certainly uncommon in
her appearance, something which might suggest the footlights. Any old
friend of Dick Woodroffe must suggest the footlights.

"It is strange," said the doctor, "to have three of our small party
belonging to the same name."

The other guests arrived. The last was Humphrey. He looked round
the room with that expression of cold and insolent curiosity which
made him so much beloved by everybody. "Outsiders all," that look
expressed. He greeted Dick with a brief nod of astonished recognition,
as if he had not expected to meet him in a drawing-room. He stared at
Mrs. Haveril's diamonds, and he smiled with some astonishment, but yet
graciously, on Molly.

"You are properly dressed to-night," he whispered. "I have never seen
you looking so well."

"Doctor," said Mrs. Haveril, as he led her down the stairs, "I wish I
could go and sit in a corner."

"Why? You are trembling! What is the matter?"

"I feel as if I was in a dream. It is the sight of these two young
men. One is the young man I saw at the theatre--the young man I
told you of--so like my husband; the other is like him, too, but
differently. I am haunted to-night with my husband's face."

"It is imagination. You have been thinking too much about certain
things. Their name is the same as your husband's. Probably he, too, if
you knew, was a distant cousin."

"It's not imagination; it is the fact."

"I am sorry you are so disturbed; but, above all, do not agitate
yourself," he whispered, as they entered the dining-room.

"I will keep up, doctor; but it's dreadful to sit with two living
images of your first husband."

From the ordinary point of view, the dinner was not so great a success
as some of those given at this house. The conversation flagged. Yet,
below the surface, everybody was interested. Humphrey took in Molly,
but Dick sat on the other side of her, and told her stories about his
last tramp; Humphrey, therefore, became sulky, and absorbed wine in
quantities. Alice gazed at the two young men--her husband's eyes,
her husband's mouth, her husband's voice, her husband's hair, in both
of them--both like unto her first husband, yet both unlike; they were
also like unto each other, yet unlike. She heard nothing that was
said; she listened to the voice, she saw the eyes, and she was back
again, after all those years, with that vagrant man, that vagabond
in morals, as well as in ways, the man who so cruelly used her, the
comedian and stroller.

The doctor also watched the two young men. They had, to begin with,
many points of resemblance; they were alike, however, as brothers
who often differ in disposition as much as strangers. The elder of
the two--the doctor considered Mrs. Haveril--took after his mother,
and was serious, at least. He thought of Lady Woodroffe's remarks
about him: "Selfish." Yes; there was a way of eating his food and
absorbing his wine that betokened a selfish pleasure in the food
above the delights of society and conversation. He did not converse;
he sat glum. "Ill-conditioned and bad-tempered," Lady Woodroffe
said. The selfishness, and probably the bad temper, he inherited
from the father. From his education he obtained, of course, the air
of superiority, which, like the Order of the Garter, has nothing to
do with intellect or achievement, or distinction. From his education
also his features had probably acquired a certain manner which we call
aristocratic.

He kept his guest in something like good temper by asking his opinion,
pointedly, as if he valued his judgment, on the champagne. He had
little talks with him on vintages and years and brands, in which
the young man was as wide as most youths at the club where champagne
flows. And he asked Sir Humphrey's opinion on the _plats_, and let the
others feel that his opinion carried weight, so that his guest forgot
something of Molly's perverseness in listening to her neighbour's
stories, and of the intolerable nuisance of sitting down to dinner
with such a company.

He turned to the other cousin--Dick. This fellow, like unto Humphrey,
was yet so much unlike him that, to begin with, his face was as
undistinguished as was his cousin's mind. Yet a clever face, capable
of many emotions. He was full of life and talk, he was interested in
everything, he could listen as well as talk--a young man of sympathy.
The artistic side of him came from his father, as did also the nomad
side of him; the sympathy and kindliness and honesty came to him from
his unknown mother--one supposed.

As for John Haveril, he was chiefly engaged in considering the girl
who had thus unexpectedly come into his life to cheer it with her
brightness and her grace. I have never found any man so old or so
self-made as to be insensible to the charms of sprightly maidenhood
and youthful beauty. John Haveril was quite a homely person; he had
not been brought up to think of beauty, and lovely dress, and charming
airs and graces as belonging to himself in any way. It is this sense
of being outside the circle which makes working men apparently deaf
and blind to beauty adorned and cultivated. Why admire or think upon
the unattainable? They might as well yearn after the possession of an
ancient castle and noble name as after beauty decorated and set off.
And now this girl belonged to them. He himself and his wife were only
happy when this girl was with them; she came every day to see them;
she drove out with them, took them to see things, taught them what
to admire and what to buy, dined with them, consented graciously to
accept their gifts, but refused their money.

At all events, she refused to take any. Yet she liked the things that
money can buy--lovely frocks, gloves, hats, ribbons, laces, gold
chains, and bracelets, and necklaces. To him contempt for money,
combined with love of what only money can buy, seemed incongruous. The
contempt was only a phrase. Molly had been taught that Art ought to
despise wealth; she had not been taught to despise the things artistic
that money can buy. The rich man chuckled to think how much money can
be spent upon a girl who despises it. He was pleased to make the girl
happy by heaping unaccustomed treasures on her gratified shoulders.
It was pleasant to be generous to a bright, happy, smiling girl, who
kept him alive, and made him forget the burden of his riches. And as
he thought of these things he fell into his third manner--that of the
gardener--and his eyes went off into space.

After dinner Molly sat down to the piano and began to sing, in a full,
flexible contralto, an old ditty about love and flowers, taught her
by Dick himself, who possessed a treasure-house full of such songs,
new and old, and of all countries, and in all languages. There is but
one theme fit for a song--the theme of youth and love, and the sweet
season of roses.

Humphrey stood listening. To this young man, perhaps to others, the
effect of Molly's singing, as of her presence and of her voice and of
her eyes, was to fill his mind with visions. They came to him in the
shape of dancing-girls with tambourines and castanets. When a girl is
endowed with the real faculty of singing, she may create in the minds
of those who hear, those visions which best fit their inclinations
and their natures. To this young man came the troop of dancing-girls,
because his disposition inclined him that way: they sang as they
danced, and they threw up white arms to a music of wild and reckless
joy; they filled him with the longing, the yearning, for the delirium
of youth and rapture which seizes every young man from time to time,
and sometimes possesses him all the days of his youth, and casts
him out long before his youth is over to the husks among the swine.
Others, more fortunate, feel the yearning, too, but they make of it a
stimulus and an incentive. There is no such rapture beneath the sky
as young men dream of; yet the vision may make them poets, and may
strengthen them for endeavour; and it may fill them with the worship
of woman, which is the one thing needful for a man. Humphrey, wholly
filled and possessed by this rapture, would not be cast forth to the
husks, because--oh! sordid reason--his mother would pay his debts.
Alas! poor Molly! and she so ignorant. She had no such vision--girls
never do. When young men reel and tremble with the vision of rapture
inconceivable, girls have to be contented with a mild happiness. To
them there comes no dream of gleaming arms--no imagined magic of voice
and eyes and face. There is no such thing as a Prodigal daughter;
the humble _rôle_ of the Prodigal Girl is to minister, as with the
white arms and the castanets, to the service of the Prodigal Son; for
which she, too, has to go out presently to sit with the swine, and to
maintain a precarious existence on the husks.

Molly had no such vision: yet by the mere power of her voice she could
awaken this vision in the mind of a listener. It is a power which
makes an actress; makes a queen; makes a lady of authority; whom all
obey to whom that power appeals.

Molly, I say, had no respect at all for the flowery way; she could
not understand, nor did she ask, why young men should want to dance
hand-in-hand with the girls; nor why they like to crown their heads
with roses; nor why they drink huge draughts of the wine that fizzeth
in the cup, to make their heads as light as their feet.

She created, however, quite a different vision in the mind of the
other young man. Dick knew all about the flowery way, and, in fact,
despised it. You see, he belonged to the "service;" he played the
fiddle for the dancers; like those who gather the roses, polish the
floor, lay the cloth, open the champagne, cook the dishes, decorate
the rooms, and write the songs; he belonged to the Show. The flowery
way was nothing to him but a Show; the white arms amused him not; the
soft cheeks he knew were painted; the smiles and the laughing looks
were practised at rehearsals. As for Molly, she was his companion and
a helpmeet; one to whom he would impart and give with all that he had,
and who would in return love and cherish him. What is the Flowery way
compared with the way of Love? This, and nothing else, is the real
reason why the Show folk are so different from the other folk; there
is no illusion to them; they are the paid dancers, makers of rosy
wreaths, musicians and singers of the Flowery way.

Molly's song, therefore, opened another kind of vision to Master
Richard. All he saw was a long road shaded with hills, and Molly in
the middle of it marching along with him, singing as she went, and
carrying the fiddle.

When the song was finished, Molly got up.

"May I sing you one of my own songs?" Humphrey asked her, paying no
attention to the rest.

He sat down and struck a note and began a song. It had no melody;
it was without a beginning and without an end; the words told
nothing, neither a story nor a sentiment; like the music to which
they were set, they began in the middle of a sentence and ended with
a semicolon. His voice was good enough, but uncultivated. When he
finished, he closed the piano, as if there was to be no more music
after him.

"It is music," he said coldly, "of the advanced school. I am proud to
belong to the music of the future--the true expression of Art in song."

"I will show you"--Richard opened the piano and took his place--"I
will show you something of the music of the present."

With vigorous and practised fingers he ran up and down the notes; then
he struck into an air--light, easy, catching, and began to sing the
"Song of the Tramp"--one of his vagabond songs.

Mrs. Haveril sat watching the two young men. When Dick began, the
other one turned away sullenly, and began to look into a portfolio of
etchings, with the air of one who will not listen.

"Doctor," she whispered, "that young man sings and plays exactly like
my husband. It might be the same. He would sit down and sing just
that same way, as if nothing ever happened and nothing mattered. I
wonder how men can go on like that, with age and sickness and the end
before them. Women never can. Oh, how like my husband he is! The other
is not like him in manner; not a bit; yet in face--oh, in face--and
voice--and eyes--and hair! It is wonderful!"

"One can hardly expect the son of Sir Humphrey Woodroffe to be
altogether like a comedian."

"Yet," she repeated, "so like him in face and everything; I cannot get
over it."

Just then Humphrey looked up. There was just a moment--what was it?--a
turn of the face; a look in the eyes, that made the doctor start.

"Heavens!" he thought. "He's exactly like his mother!"

Dick finished. John Haveril walked over to the piano before he got up.

"Mister," he said, "I like it. I find it cheerful. If you could see
your way, now, to look in upon us of an evening, I think you might do
good to my wife, who's apt to let her spirits go down. Come and sing
to us."

"I will, with pleasure. When shall I come?"

"Come to-morrow evening. Come every evening, if you like, young
gentleman. My wife doesn't care for the theatres much. If we could sit
quiet at home, with a little lively talk and a little singing, she
would like it ever so much better. You and Molly know each other, it
appears. Come to dinner to-morrow, and see how you like us."

The party broke up. Sir Humphrey was left alone with the doctor.

"Stay for a cigarette." Sir Robert rang the bell. "I hope you liked
the dinner and the wine."

"Both, Sir Robert, were beyond and above all praise. An artistic
dinner is so rare!"

"It was thrown away upon some of my guests. However, if you will
come another day, you shall meet a more distinguished company. I did
not understand, Sir Humphrey, until this evening, the very strong
resemblance you bear to your mother."

"Indeed! It is my father whom I am generally thought to resemble."

"Yes. You have, no doubt, a strong resemblance to him; but it is your
mother of whom you remind me from time to time most strongly. It
came out oddly this evening. The inheritance of face and figure and
qualities interests me, and your own case, Sir Humphrey; the son of
such a father and such a mother is extremely interesting." He took a
cigarette. "Extremely interesting, I assure you."



CHAPTER XII.

THE OTHER CHILD OF DESERTION.


"Molly?" Richard arrived before the time, and found his old friend
alone. "You here again? Last night I could not ask what it meant--the
ineffable frock and the heavenly string of pearls. What does it mean?"

She had on another lovely frock with the same pearl necklace.

"It means, Dick," she replied, with much dignity, "that Alice--Mrs.
Haveril--is my father's first cousin, and is therefore my own cousin.
It also means, which you will hardly credit, that she is very fond of
me."

"That is, indeed, difficult of belief. And you are a good deal with
them? And this other frock, too, this thing--is it cloth of gold or
samite?--was given to you by your cousin. Molly, Molly, have a care!
The love of gold creeps upon one as a thief in the night."

"Dick!" She assumed an injured air. "When it affords them so much
pleasure to give me things, why should I refuse? And confess,
ridiculous creature, that you never saw me look so nice before!"

"You look very nice, Molly--very nice, indeed; but I never knew you
look otherwise."

"You dear old boy!" She gave him her hand. "You always try to spoil a
simple shepherdess."

"But, I say, Molly, is this kind of marble hall good for study? Does
it bring you nearer to Mrs. Siddons? Does it suit the cothernus?
Methinks the liquefaction of black velvet more befits the tragic muse
than the frou-frou of the flowered silk."

"Very well put, Dick. I will remember."

"Tell me something about them, Molly. If I am to entertain them, you
know----"

"Mr. John Haveril--whom I call John, for short--is slow of speech.
Don't take that, however, for dulness. Everybody says he's as sharp as
a razor. And he speaks slowly, and he's got a way while he talks of
gazing far away."

"And madam? She looks like a saint in sadness because she's got to
wear cloth of gold instead of sackcloth."

"She is in delicate health. Her husband is always anxious about her.
Dick, he has many millions, and you always used to say that a man
can't get rich honestly; but he does seem honest, and he's awfully
fond of his wife."

"A man may be fond of his wife and yet not austerely honest. Go on,
Molly, before they come in."

"Well, Dick," Molly lowered her voice, "she has something on her
mind. I don't know what--she hasn't told me yet. But she will. It's
some trouble. Sometimes the tears come into her eyes for nothing;
sometimes she has fits of abstraction, when she hears nothing that you
say; sometimes she becomes agitated, and her heart begins to flutter.
I don't know what the trouble is, but it robs her life of happiness.
She wants something. She goes to church and prays for it. If she were
not such a good woman, I should think she had done something."

"What shall I play for her?"

"Play something that will rouse her. Play one of your descriptive
things, Dick. I will play an accompaniment for you. Make the fiddle
talk to her, as you know how. Nobody plays the fiddle quite so well as
you, Dick."

They dined in the public room, where Molly observed, with profit,
making mental notes, the dresses of the ladies. Dick, on his part, as
an observer of manners, listened to the conversation and wasted his
time. Most conversation in public places is naught; very few people
can say anything worth hearing, either in public or in private; most
people cannot forget that they are in a public place and may be
overheard--but the modesty is passing away. The world follows the
example of the young man who was admonished by Swift not to set up
for a wit, "because," he said, "there are ten thousand chances to
one against you." The young man took that advice, and is, therefore,
unknown to history.

At this table the conversation was difficult, not so much because
there was no wit among the small company, as because there were no
opportunities for the display of wit. It is necessary for wit to
have something to work upon; there can be no repartee where there
is no talk. It is also difficult, if you think of it, to provide
conversation for an elderly gentleman, who for the greater part of his
life has been more accustomed to pork and beans than to _côtelettes à
la Soubise_; who has habitually consumed bad coffee with his dinner,
instead of claret and champagne; who is wholly ignorant of literature;
has never looked upon a good picture; and has never heard of science
except in connection with railways; who was originally apprenticed to
a gardener; who in early life belonged to the Primitive Methodists. He
might have discoursed upon shares and corners, but on such matters not
even his own wife knew anything.

One is apt to imagine that the man who has rapidly made millions by
playing upon the gambling spirit of the people, upon their greed, and
their credulity, and their ignorance, must have moments, at least, of
misgiving, perhaps of remorse. We talk of the ruined homes, the wrecks
of families, the desolated hearths. Well, that is not the way in which
the man who has succeeded where the rest all fail, looks at it. It is
not the way in which John Haveril regards his own career. He puts it
in his own way this evening at dinner. Unaccustomed to the society of
the rich, Dick dropped some remark, slightly _mal à propos_, about
money-making.

"In Yorkshire, sir," said John Haveril, "when a man buys a horse, he
buys him as he stands. It's his business to find out that animal's
faults. It's the business of the owner to crack up the animal. That's
trading, all the world over. The man who wins, is the man who knows.
The man who loses, is the man who gambles. I have never gambled."

"I thought it was all gambling."

"I buy stocks which I know are going up. I buy mines when there is
going to be a run upon mines. I buy land where I know there will be
built a town. Other people buy because they see others buying. The
world gambles all the time. Men like me, sir, do not gamble. We buy
for the rise in the market, which we understand."

"I know nothing, really," said Dick, abashed.

"No, sir; but you know as much as anybody. I have read in an English
paper that I have ruined thousands. That is not true. They have ruined
themselves. They buy in a rising venture, not knowing that it has
risen too high, and they sell when it falls. My secret is, that I
know."

"How do you know?"

"That, sir, I cannot explain. Why do you sing, and play that fiddle of
yours better than anybody else? It is your gift, sir. So it's mine to
know."

In spite, however, of these new lights on the mystery, or craft, of
money-making, which were of little use to Mr. Haveril's guests, the
conversation languished. The elder lady was pensive and sad; the
marvels and miracles of the _chef_ were thrown away upon her; she
looked as if she longed to be upstairs again, lying on her sofa,
looking out upon the full tide of human life surging round Charing
Cross.

After dinner they took coffee in their private room. "Now," said Dick,
taking out his violin, "I want to play something that will please you,
Mrs. Haveril." He began to tune his instrument, talking the while.
"Molly thinks that you would like a little foolish entertainment that
I sometimes give--a descriptive piece. The fiddle describes, I only
explain with a word or two, and Molly plays an accompaniment."

Molly took her place and waited.

"You must understand what we are going to talk about, first of
all, otherwise you will understand nothing. Very good. I am just a
strolling player, or a musician, as you please; I carry my fiddle with
me, and I am on tramp. In my pocket there is no money. I earn my bed,
and my supper, and my breakfast, with the fiddle and the bow. I take
any odd jobs that I can get at country theatres, or at music-halls, or
taverns, or anything. My girl is with me, of course. She can sing a
little, and dance a little, so that on occasion we are prepared with
a little show of our own. We carry no luggage except a bag with a few
necessaries. It is my business to carry the bag. My girl carries the
fiddle, which is lighter. Now you understand."

At the mention of the word "tramp," Mrs. Haveril, who had composed
herself to quiet meditation at the window while the others talked, sat
up and turned her head.

"So," Dick struck a chord--a bold, loud chord, which compelled the
mind to listen. "We are on the road," he went on, talking in a
monotone with murmurous voice, which became subordinated to the music,
so that one heard the latter and forgot the former, insomuch that the
music seemed by itself, and without any aid, to bring the scene before
the eyes. It was the work of a magician. Molly played a running
accompaniment which helped the illusion, if it added nothing more.
Dick watched that one of his audience whom he desired to hold. After
a little her eyes dropped; she sat with clasped hands, listening,
carried away--enchanted by the sorcerer.

"We are on the road," he went on, "the broad, high-road, with banks of
turf at the side. There is nobody else upon the road. We swing along;
we sing as we go; it is morning; the village is behind us; another
village is before us; we pick flowers from the hedge; we listen to
the lark in the sky; and we catch the voice of the blackbird from the
wood; we sit down in the shade when we are tired; we dine resting on a
stile. The air is fresh and sweet; the flowers are all aflame in hedge
and meadow."

As he played and as he talked, the listener heard the birds; the cool
breeze of the country fanned her cheek; she saw the flowers; the sun
warmed her; the hard road fatigued her; she listened to the birds in
the woods, the rustle of the leaves, the whistling of the wind in the
telegraph-wires; she sat in the grateful shade; she bathed her feet in
the cool, running water.

Alice listened--carried away; her cheeks were flushed; she clutched
the cushions of the sofa. Far away--out of sight--forgotten--were the
grand rooms of the rich man's hotel; far away--forgotten--were the
diamonds and the silks.

Dick watched, with grave and earnest face, the effect of his playing.
With him it was always an experiment. He tried to mesmerize his
people; to charm them into forgetfulness.

"Sometimes," he went on, "I get a place in a country theatre--in the
orchestra, you know. This is the orchestra." He became, on the spot,
a whole orchestra, blatant, tuneless, paid to make a noise; you heard
all the discordant instruments played together. Alice sank back in
her chair. She did not care much about the orchestra. Dick changed
quickly. "Sometimes I join a circus, and play in the procession
through the town. The band goes first in a cart; you can hear how
the bumping shakes the music." Indeed it did--the cart was without
springs, and the road was uneven. "Behind us are the horses with
the splendid riders." The music passed down the street, while the
patter of the horses on the road was loud enough to be heard above
the music. "Last of all the riders, before the clown and the rest of
the people, is the Lady Equestrienne of the Haute École. At sight of
her all the girls in the town yearn for the circus, and the hearts of
all the young men sink with love and admiration." No. Mrs. Haveril
cared very little for this part of the show, either. "Sometimes we
come to a village, where there is a green. Then the people come
out--it is a fine summer evening--and I play to them, and they dance.
What shall it be? _Sellinger's Round_, or _Barley Break_? Take your
partners--take your places; curtsey and bow, and hands across and
down the middle, and up again and one place lower. Now then, keep it
up--time--time--time." Again the lady sat up and listened with rapt
face. Dick watched her closely. "Now we find a school-treat in a
field--I play to them. Jump and dance; boys and girls, come out to
play. Lasses and lads, take leave of your dads. Boys, don't be rough
with the girls, but dance with each other. Now, hands all--and round
we go, and round we go." Then the tears came into the pale lady's
eyes. "Good-bye--we are on the road again. The sun is sinking; the
swallows fly low; we shall have rain; luckily, we've got our supper
in the bag. My girl, we must take shelter in this barn. Come--you are
tired--I play my girl to sleep with a gentle lullaby. Sweet hay--sweet
hay--it hath no fellow. Sleep, dear girl, sleep. Good night. Good
night--Good night."

He stopped and laid down the fiddle, well pleased with himself. For
that part of his audience to which he had played was in tears.

Molly jumped up. "Alice dear, what is the matter?"

"Oh, Molly, it is beautiful! Oh, it is beautiful! For I've done it. I
know it all. I've been on tramp myself--just as he played it--with the
fiddle, too--just as he made it. Oh, I know the country fair, and the
village inn, and the circus, and all! I remember it all. When last I
went on tramp I had my----!"

"Alice," her husband interposed. "Don't, my dear."

"It is four and twenty years ago. I remember it all so well. I had
my----"

"Alice"--her husband stopped her again.

She sighed. "Yes--yes. I try not to think of it. He deserted me after
that last tramp. He couldn't bear the crying of the dear child.
He deserted me, and when I found him again, in America, he put me
away--by the law, as if he was ashamed of me."

"Desertion and divorce," said Dick, "were my mother's lot as well.
She, too, was deserted and divorced. Is it a common lot?"

"His name," said Alice, "was the same as yours. It was Woodroffe--and
you are strangely like him."

"My father's name was John Anthony Woodroffe."

Alice sprang to her feet and clasped her hands. "Oh, my dream--my
dream! Is it coming true? You are--you are---- Oh, how old are you?"

She caught him by the arm, and gazed into his face as if seeking her
own likeness there as well as her husband's.

"I am twenty-two."

"No; it is impossible." She sank back. "For a moment I thought you
might be--my own boy. Yet you are his. Oh, it is strange! Who was your
mother, then?"

"She was a rider in a circus."

"And he married her and deserted her?"

"Yes--and divorced her; and I know nothing more about him."

"He must have married your mother directly after he divorced me."

"No doubt he has treated a dozen women in the same manner since then,"
said Dick, with unfilial bitterness. "The fifth commandment always
presented insuperable difficulties to me."

"Your mother was a player, too?" said Alice. "He always grumbled
because I could not play."

"My mother was the Equestrienne of the Haute École that I talked about
just now. She was represented on the bills as the Pride of the States,
the Envy of Europe, who had refused princes in the lands of tyrants,
rather than forsake nature's nobility and the aristocracy of the
republic."

"I remember, Dick," said Molly. "You used to tell my father all about
it."

"I was born and brought up in the sawdust. And I played all the
instruments in the orchestra one after the other. And I was afraid
to go to church on account of that terrible announcement about the
generations to follow the wicked man."

"He will suffer; he must suffer," said Alice. "But I have long since
put him out of my mind."

"My mother never put him out of her mind. She died hoping that he
would be made to suffer. For my own part, I hope that I may never meet
him."

"My dream! My dream! First the doctor; then my husband's son. The past
is returning."

Alice covered her face with her hands to hide the tears.

"Nay, nay," said her husband. "Keep quiet--keep quiet."

She sank back on the couch, and lay still, with closed eyes and pale
face.

Molly felt her heart. "It is beating too fast," she said. "Let her be
still awhile."

Thus the evening, which began with an attempt at mere amusement and
entertainment, became serious.

Alice recovered and opened her eyes. "John," she said, "does he
understand?"

"I think so," Dick replied. "You were my father's first wife. In order
to be free, he divorced you. He then married my mother. Believe me,
madam, my mother was wholly ignorant, to the last, of this history."

"Indeed, I believe it. I do not think there was a woman in America who
would have married a man with such a record."

"At all events, my mother would not."

"And you are--my stepson."

"No." Dick considered. "If I were your stepson, my mother would have
come first. I'm not your stepson. In fact, there isn't a word in the
language to express the relationship. But--if I may venture----"

"Alice," Molly interposed, "make a friend of Dick, as you have of me.
He will be the handiest, usefullest friend you can have. And he really
is the best fellow in the world--aren't you, Dick?"

"Of course I am," he replied stoutly.

"As for trying to get money from you, he is incapable of it. Dick is
one of the few people in the world who don't want money. You must call
him Dick, though."

The pale lady smiled faintly. "Dick," she said, "if I may ... we have
a common sorrow and a common misfortune--mine, to have married a
bad man; you, to be his son. Can these things make a foundation for
friendship?"

"Let us try," said Dick, with something like a moistening of the eye.
He was a tender-hearted, sentimental creature, who could not bear to
see a woman suffer.

Alice held out her thin, white hand. Dick took it and kissed it.

"If friendship," he said, "can exist between mistress and servant,
then am I your friend. But if not, then your servant at your command."

"This place," John Haveril laid his hand upon Dick's shoulder, "is
your home, and what we have is at your service."

"Dick," said Molly, "we are now a kind of cousins, and you are a sort
of stepson of the house."

"So long, Molly, as you don't call me brother."

"John"--after the young people had gone--"did you tell him about his
father?"

"No, I didn't." John sat down, and gave his reasons very slowly. "Why?
This way, I thought. He's the young man's father; that's true. But he
ran away from his wife and his child--twice, he did. That won't make
the son respect the father much, will it? Next, Alice, I've been to
see the sick man."

"You've been to see him, John? You are a good man, John. You deserve
a less troublesome wife. When that creature in rags wanted to sell
his secret, I pretended I didn't care. But I did. It made me sick and
sorry to think of that poor, bad man, without a friend or a helper in
his time of need. You are not jealous, are you, John? I did love the
man once. He is a worthless, wicked man. You are not jealous, are you,
John? I have no such feeling left for him. It is all pity--pity for a
man who is punished for his sins."

"Not I, lass--not I. Pity him as much as you please."

"Tell me what he looks like."

"Well, he's like this young fellow Dick. Also, he's like that other
chap--Sir Humphrey--more like him than the other. He's grey now, and
thin, cheeks sunk in, and fingers like bits of glass. I told him who
I was, but he only half understood. He won't desert any more women, I
reckon. They've got stories about him at the Hospital--the boys there
pick up everything. No, Alice. I don't think it would make this fellow
they call Dick any happier to see his father. I'll go again. Don't
think of him any more, my dear. Remember what the doctor said. Keep
quiet."



CHAPTER XIII.

A MIDNIGHT WALK.


"Let me walk home with you," said Dick. "It is a fine night, and we
can walk."

They left the hotel, and turned northwards across Trafalgar Square.

"The pale, worn face of that poor woman haunts me, Molly. It is a
strange adventure."

"You will love her, Dick, as much as I do. But there is that trouble
behind, whatever it is, that she has not yet told me."

Dick looked up and straightened himself. They were in the crowd--the
crowd infect and horrible at the top of the Haymarket.

"It is really peaceful night," he said. "The air just here is corrupt
with voices, and there are shapes about that mock the peace of
darkness; but it is really peaceful night."

"And overhead are the stars, just as in the country."

"You are like the lady in _Comus_, Molly. These are only shapes and
shadows that you see. They do not exist, except in imagination. They
are the ghosts and devils that belong to night in streets."

Molly pressed a little closer to him, but made no reply.

What do men understand of the wonder, the bewilderment, with which a
girl looks on the rabble rout, if ever she is permitted to see it?
What does it reveal to her, this mockery of the peaceful night?

Presently they came to the upper end of Regent Street, which was
quieter; and to Portland Place, which was quite deserted and peaceful;
and then to the outer circle of Regent's Park, where they were beyond
the houses, and where the cool wind of October fell upon their faces
from the broad level of the park.

"It is almost country here. Let us walk in the middle of the road,
Molly." He held out his left hand. Molly linked her little finger with
his. "That is the way we used to walk what time we went on tramp,
Molly."

"Yes, Dick; it was this way."

She was strangely quiet, contrary to her usual manner.

"You must never become a town girl, Molly, or a West End woman, or a
society woman."

"I don't know, Dick. Perhaps I must."

They went on a little farther.

"Molly, I wanted to talk to you about something else, but I must talk
about this evening. It's been a very remarkable evening. I am enriched
by a kind of stepmother--a stepmother before the event, so to speak,
not after--a relationship not in any dictionary. I am the child of a
younger Sultana. Who would expect to meet in a London hotel, in the
person of a middle-aged millionairess, the elder Sultana?"

"Ought one to be sorry for you, Dick? You couldn't have a better
stepmother."

"Not sorry, exactly. But she recalls the sins of the forefathers. I
have always understood that he was that kind of person. My mother, who
took it wrathfully, was careful that I should know the kind of person
he was. Her history halved the fifth commandment. This good lady takes
it tearfully."

"She was thinking of her own dead child. For a moment she thought you
were her son."

"Does one weep for a child four and twenty years after its death?
There was more than a dead child in those tears."

"It was your playing, then. You never played so well. The violin
talked all the time. It made me glow only to think of your birds and
breezes and flowers."

"I shall call on her to-morrow. She wants to talk about it again.
Molly, it's a wonderful thing."

"What is a wonderful thing?"

For he stopped.

"Woman is a wonderful thing. Acting, as you know, my poor Molly,
makes real emotion difficult for us, because we are always connecting
emotion with its theatrical gesture. When we ought to weep, we begin
to think of how we weep."

"You talk like a book sometimes, Dick. Where do you get all your
wisdom?"

"Not from books. Come on tramp with me, and you shall learn where I
get it, Molly. All the thoughts worth having come to a man as he walks
along the road, especially by night. Books can't tell him anything.
I say that we can't help connecting emotion with the stage way of
expressing it. This makes us quick to understand emotion when we do
see it without the stage directions. Which is odd, but it's true. An
actor born is a kind of thought-reader."

"What are you driving at, Dick?"

"I mean that an actor knows real emotion, just because it isn't like
the stage business."

"Well, what then?"

"I was thinking of that poor pale lady, Molly. It's four and twenty
years since her husband deserted her, and she thinks about him still.
There isn't room in a woman's heart for more than one lover in a life,
that's all."

"What then?"

"It's the lingering passion that she thinks was extinguished long
ago. Poor old Haveril is all very well, but he hasn't the engaging
qualities of the light comedian. Good, no doubt, at making money, and
without the greater vices; but, Molly, my dear, without the lighter
virtues. And these she remembers."

"Well, but that isn't what lies on her mind. You will be a
thought-reader, indeed, Dick, if you can read what is written there."

They walked on together, side by side, in silence. Then the figure
of the pale, fragile, sad woman went out of their thoughts. They
returned, as is the way with youth, to themselves.

"You are happy, Molly?" he asked.

"I am happy enough," she sighed.

"Most of us are. We make ourselves as happy as we can. Of course,
nobody is entirely happy till he gets all he wants. For my own part, I
want very little; and I am very nearly quite happy, because I've got
it all except one thing, Molly."

"Hadn't we better talk about the wisdom acquired on tramp?"

"That is just what I am doing, my dear child. To-night the stars are
out, the skies are clear, the air is fresh. I smell the fragrant earth
across the park. I can almost believe that we are miles and miles from
a town. And I want to have a real talk with you, Molly."

"Will you let me talk first?"

"Certainly, if you won't abuse the privilege. But leave time for me to
answer. We mustn't throw away such a chance as this."

"I know what you want to say very well. I don't ask you to put it out
of your head, because---- Oh, Dick, you know very well that I like you
ever so much! You are the only kind of brother I ever had."

"By your leave, Molly, you never had any brother. You might have had
the kindness to call me pal, or cousin, or comrade, or companion,
or confidential clerk, even--but not any kind of brother. That
relationship doesn't exist for you. I might as well call myself the
child of that good lady, being only a kind of posthumous stepson. Now,
Molly, you may go on."

"I only mean so that I can tell everything to you."

"That is permitted. Now I shall not interrupt."

"Very well. First of all, Hilarie is anxious about my appearance. So
am I. She remains firm in the belief that I am the tragedian of the
future."

Dick shook his head. "Vain hopes! Fond dreams!"

"You know, don't you, Dick, that it is impossible?"

"Comedy, light and sparkling, if you please, Molly. As soon as your
name is made, I shall write a part for you on purpose. You shall take
the town by storm--you yourself, as you are, witch and enchantress."

"Which makes it the more unfortunate that I'm compelled to go in for
the other business."

"What about advertising 'Lady Macbeth,' and getting ready a burlesque?"

Molly took no notice of this suggestion. "Hilarie thinks the time is
now approaching when I ought to make my _début_. Dick, I declare that
I don't care one farthing about disappointed ambition. I told you so
before. But I do care about disappointing Hilarie. And that weighs on
my soul more than anything almost--more than the two other things."

"What are the two other things?"

"I am coming to them. Either of them, you see, would bring
consolation--of sorts--for disappointed ambition. First, your cousin,
Sir Humphrey----"

"Oh! He goes on making love, does he?"

"He goes on pressing for an answer. What answer shall I give him?"

"I will try to answer as if I was a disinterested bystander. You must
consider not what he wants, but what you want."

"He offers me position and--I suppose--wealth. He wants me to marry
him secretly, and to live out of the world, while he smooths matters
with his mother."

Dick stopped in the middle of the road. "What?" he cried. "He wants
you to marry him secretly? The--the--no, I won't use names and
language. Marry him secretly and go into hiding? Why? Because you love
the man? But you don't. Because he will make you Lady Woodroffe? But
he won't--he will hide you away. Because he is rich? My dear, I know
all about him. He has no money at all. The money is his mother's; she
could cut him off with a shilling, if she liked. Because he is clever?
He isn't. He's the laughing-stock of everybody, except the miserable
little clique that he belongs to; they talk of Art--who have no
feeling for Art; they hand about things they call Art, which are----"

"That will do, Dick."

"Add to this that he is a moody, ill-conditioned beast. If he loves
you, it's because any man would love you. He'd be tired of you in a
week. I know the man, my dear; I've made it my business to find out
all about him. He is unworthy of you--quite unworthy, Molly. If you
loved him it might be different; I say, might, because then there
might be some lessening of the misery you would draw on your head--I
don't know, it might only mean greater misery--because you would feel
his treatment more."

"You are incoherent, Dick."

"Could you marry a man without loving him, Molly? I ask you that."

"Here is a seat," said Molly, evading the question, which is always
a delicate one for girls. Should they--ought they--ever to marry
without love? One would rather not answer that question. There are
conventions, there are things understood rather than expressed, there
are imaginations, men are believed to be what they are not, the
secret history of men is not suspected, there are reasons which might
possibly make love quite a secondary consideration. It is not, indeed,
a question which ought to be put to any girl.

"Here is a seat," Molly repeated. "It is chilly; but I am tired. Let
us sit down for a minute, Dick."

He pressed his question. "Could you possibly marry this fellow, Molly,
when you cannot respect him or love him?"

"About loving a man, Dick. I suppose it's quite possible to marry
anybody, whether you love him or not. Whether a girl can screw up her
courage to endure a man all day long when she doesn't like him, I
don't know. Women have to do a great many things they don't like. Very
few women can afford to choose----"

"You can, Molly."

"And if a man is a gentleman, he may be trusted, I suppose, not to do
horrid things. He wouldn't get drunk; he would be tolerably kind; he
would not spend all the money on himself; he would not desert one; he
wouldn't throw the furniture about."

"That's a contented and a lowly state of mind, Molly."

"Well, and you must consider what a man may have to offer. Money;
position; independence. You should listen to girls talking about these
things with each other."

"Go on, Molly. It's a revelation."

"Not really, Dick? Why, as for love, I don't know what it means. I
don't, indeed."

"Don't tell lies, Molly," he said, pressing her fingers.

"I mean that I don't love Sir Humphrey a bit."

"In that case, why not present him with the Boot?"

"He won't leave me alone. He hangs about the street, waiting for me
when I go to my lesson. He comes to the college when I am staying with
Hilarie, and, oh, Dick, can't you understand the temptation of it?"

"No, I can't."

"Well, then, try to understand it. Here I am, a girl with no money,
dependent on Hilarie, who is all sweetness and goodness, yet
dependent; and this man, who may be--very likely--all that you say,
offers me this promotion."

"You ought not to be tempted. He is insulting you. If he means what he
says, why doesn't he take you by the hand and lead you to his mother?
He won't. He wants to hide you away. But he shall not, Molly--he shall
not, so long as I breathe the upper air."

Molly made no reply. What was there to say?

"Fine love! Very fine love!" Dick snorted.

"I don't think I care much about his being all that you say, Dick,
because, if I have no particular regard for him, I should not inquire,
and I should not mind. I suppose he would be tolerably well-behaved
with me."

"Then you are credulous, Molly, because he can't behave well to
anybody."

"And while I am pulled this way and that way with doubts, Hilarie is
wanting me to make my first appearance and to conquer the world; and
my teacher thinks I shall do pretty well, and learn by experience, and
I know the contrary, because you say so, Dick."

"Certainly. Quite the contrary."

"And you are always telling me what you want."

"I want you, Molly. Nothing short of that will satisfy me."

"Then comes another temptation--worse than anything."

"What is that?"

"It's Alice. She wants me----"

"Does she hiss 'diamonds' in your ear?"

"No. She says that she's so fond of me she cannot live without me, and
she wants me to live with them altogether. And John chimes in. Says he
will adopt me, and make me his heiress. Think of that, Dick! Millions!
All for me--for me, the daughter of a failure."

"Molly." Dick spoke with solemnity suitable to the occasion. "This
goes to the very root of things. You can't go on tramp with me if you
begin to hanker after millions. No one ever heard of a great heiress
talking to a gipsy or dancing in a barn. It can't be done. The weight
of the dollars would nail your very heels to the boards."

"But, Dick, they're my own people, you know."

"My child"--Dick rose, for it was getting cold--"this is the most
alarming temptation of all. It must be stopped right away. Look here,
Molly," they were standing face to face under the lamp-post beside the
railings of the park, "you know very well that you are only shamming.
You love me; and I--well, shall I say it?"

"Stage people have no emotions, Dick. You said so yourself just now."

"This is not an emotion. It is part of me. I live in it; I breathe it;
I only exist, my Molly, because of you. There isn't any stage gesture
to signify my state of mind. The stalls would be disturbed in their
little minds if one put this passion into visible representation. Even
the gallery wouldn't understand. Put your arms on my shoulders, Molly."

She obeyed; she was quite as tall as her lover, and she had no
difficulty in throwing her arms quite round his neck, which she did.
If she blushed, the stars, which blink because they are short-sighted,
could not see it. The lamp on the lamp-post is, of course, used to
such things.

"You are the best girl in the world," he said, "the best and the
dearest; and I promise you, Molly--the best and the dearest--that
Humphrey shall never marry you, and that Mrs. Siddons shall never have
a rival in you, and that you shall never become Miss Molly Pennefather
Haveril, heiress of millions, with decayed dukes and barefooted barons
languishing after you."

He kissed her on the forehead and the lips. The girl made no reply,
except to draw a long breath, which might have meant remonstrance, and
might equally well mean satisfaction.

She took up the violin-case. "If I must carry the fiddle," she said,
"let me see how it feels."

He made no objection. The action was a symbol. He accepted it as a
visible expression of acquiescence, and so, side by side, in silence,
they walked home under the stars and the lamp-posts.



CHAPTER XIV.

THE FIRST MOVE.


"No, my children," Alice replied. It was two days later. They were
sympathetic children; they would feel for one. "I am not afraid to
tell you what troubles me day and night. I am not afraid, but I am
ashamed."

"You need not be ashamed," said Molly, stoutly. "Whatever you did must
have been well done."

Alice sighed. "I wish I could think so. Sit down, one on each side of
me, and I will tell you. Take my hand, Molly dear."

She was lying on a couch. In these days she was troubled with her
heart, and lay down a good deal. So lying, with closed eyes, she had
the courage to tell her story--the whole of it--suppressing nothing:
the terrible sale of her child. She told them all.

"My child was taken away," she concluded. "It was the choice of
that for him, or the workhouse. My people would do nothing for me.
Partly they were poor--you know them, Molly--and some of them were
Methodists, and serious. So I thought of the child's welfare; and I
thought I should find my husband with the money, and so--and so----"

"You let him go." Molly finished the sentence.

"I have never known a day's peace since--never a day nor a night
without self-reproach. We've prospered--oh, how we've prospered!
everything we touch turns to gold! And not a single day of happiness
has ever dawned for me, because I meet the reproachful eyes of my boy
everywhere!"

"But you gave him to a lady who would treat him well."

"The doctor promised for her. But how am I to know that she has
treated him well? If I could only find out where he is! And then came
that dream!"

"What dream?"

"It came three times, by which I know that it is a true dream. Three
times! Each time as vivid and plain as I see you two. I was sick;
I thought I was dying, but I wasn't. And I know, now, that I shall
not die without seeing my boy. That I know because, in the dream,
some one, I don't know who, pointed to England, and said, 'Go over
now--this very year--this fall, and you shall find your boy. If you
wait longer, you will never find him.' That was a strange dream to
come three times running, wasn't it?"

"Strange. Yes; a very strange dream."

"So we came. John will do anything I ask him. We shall lose--I don't
know how much--by coming away. But he came with me. We've been here
three weeks. Now listen. First, I found out, by accident, the doctor
who took my child away. To be sure, he says he knows nothing more
about him, but it is a first step; and now I've found my husband's
second son,--that is a second step. And both by accident, that is,
both providential. What shall I find next?"

"I think," said Molly, with profound sagacity, "that you should give
Dick a free hand, and tell him to search about. You don't know how
wise Dick is. He gets his wisdom by tramping at night. Let him think
for you, dear. You want some one to think for you."

Mrs. Haveril turned to Dick. "Can you help me, Dick?"

He rose slowly, and began to walk about the room. "Can I? Well, I
could try. But I confess the thing seems difficult. It's a new line
for me, the detective line. Four and twenty years ago. We don't know
who took the child--where she took the child; whether it is still
living; whether the lady who took it is living. We want to find the
clue."

"Dick," said Molly, "if we had a clue, we shouldn't want your
assistance. Find one for us."

He sat down at the piano. "Ideas come this way often." He played a few
chords and got up. "Not this morning. Well, let us see. The doctor
says he doesn't know. If he doesn't, who can? Who else was there? An
Indian ayah. Where is that woman? No mark on the child? No. Nothing
put up with the clothes? A rattle. Ah! People don't keep rattles. And
a paper with his Christian name. People don't keep such papers. And
so the child disappears. How shall we find him after all these years?
Have you anything to suggest? Do you suspect anybody in the whole wide
world?"

"No. There's only the young man I met at the doctor's. He's so
wonderfully like your father, and like you, too. But they say he's the
son of some great man. He's bigger than you, Dick. Your mother was a
little woman, I should say."

"She was slight, like most American women."

"This young man is tall. Your father was a personable man; and he's
big--much like my family. Dick, when I first saw him, my heart
went out to him. I thought, 'Oh, my boy must be like you, tall and
handsome!'"

"Would it not be better, dear lady, to make up your mind to forget the
whole thing? Consider, it is so long ago."

"I would if I could. But I can't. No, Dick, I can never forget it."

"Force yourself to think about something else. It seems so desperately
hopeless."

She shook her head. "When you play, my thoughts go out after him,
whether I will or not. I am sitting with my son somewhere, or walking
with him, or talking with him. I dream of him at night. Perhaps he is
dead--because I dream of him so much. But I cannot think of him as
dead. Oh, Dick, if you could find my son for me!"

"My dear lady, I will do what I can."

"You must think," said Molly, "morning, noon, and night, about nothing
else. Consult your violin; you may whisper it into the piano-case."

"Yes, yes--meantime. It's no use going to see the doctor. He says he
doesn't know. But if he called upon the woman at her hotel, he must
have inquired for her by name."

"He did not. She came to him."

"Her own child was dead. Did she come to the place before the child
died, or after?"

"I cannot tell you."

"Who else was concerned? Let us consider. An Indian ayah. Now, one
doesn't bury a child and adopt another child without other people
knowing it. You can't do it--servants must know. Perhaps the child was
substituted. That has been done, I believe. But servants must know the
secret. Then there are the undertakers who buried the child; the place
where it is buried. If we knew the name of the child, I believe it
would be easy, after all, to trace it. Then there is the place where
the child died; it isn't often that a child dies in a hotel. There are
the doctors who attended the child--they might remember the case. If
we only knew the name of the child! Without that, we are powerless."

"I told you, Dick," said Molly, "that we want you to find the clue.
If we knew the name of the child, we could go on quite easily without
you."

"Very likely," he continued.

"There was no concealment; it was an open adoption known to everybody
concerned, who were only three people."

"Then, why did the lady conceal her name?"

"She was probably anxious that the child should not know his relations
at all. Perhaps, Dick, if you were to go away and think for a bit,"
Molly insisted.

"Oh yes; presently! Meantime there is one very simple way. Will you
spend some money?"

"John will let you spend as much as you please."

"Very well, then." He sat down and took pen and paper. "The most
simple way is to advertise. Let the world know what you want. Offer a
reward. Same as for a lost dog. What do you think of this?--

     "'Whereas, in the month of February, 1874, a child was
     adopted by a lady unknown in the city of Birmingham, the
     mother of the child will be most grateful to the lady
     who adopted it, if she will send her name and address
     to--' What shall we say? 'R. W., care of the hall porter,
     Dumfries Flats.'

I will receive the letters."

"But the reward?"

"I am coming to that, Molly.

     "'In case of the lady's death, a reward of £100 will be
     paid for such information as will enable the child, now a
     young man of twenty-six, if he is living, to be identified.
     Nothing will be given for any information except such as
     is capable of proof. No persons will be received, and no
     verbal communications will be heard.'

There, Molly, what do you think of that?"

It might have been observed that neither then, nor afterwards, did
Richard consult Mrs. Haveril. He took the conduct of the case into his
own hands and Molly's.

"Dick! I knew you were awfully clever. I think it a splendid way!"

As if such a thing as an advertisement was entirely novel and
previously unknown.

"Yes," said Dick, contemplating the document with pride, "I
flatter myself that it is a good idea. Looks well on paper,
doesn't it?" He held it at arm's length to catch the noontide sun.
"'Whereas'--there's a legal 'note,' as they say, about it. Well,
now, Molly, let us see how this will work. If the adoption was real,
somebody must know of it--whether the lady is living or dead. Then we
shall get a reply in a day or two----"

"In a day or two! Alice! Think of that!"

"If it was a substitution, we shall get no reply from the lady; but
then, we may expect that other people know about it--servants and
such. Then the reward comes in."

"Oh, isn't he clever, Alice? In a week--at least--you shall have your
boy."

"Now I go," Dick concluded, with one more admiring glance at the paper
before he folded it up, "and put the advertisement in the leading
papers all over the country, and keep it going for a week, unless we
hear something. Let us live in hope meantime."

       *       *       *       *       *

Sir Robert read the advertisement over his breakfast. "Ah!" he said.
"She has found an adviser; she means business; she will spend money.
What is the good? She can just prove nothing. I am the master of the
situation."

Yet there remained an uneasiness. For, although he was the master of
the situation, it might be at the cost of declaring--or swearing in
a court--that he still knew nothing as to the name and position and
residence of the lady.

Lady Woodroffe read the advertisement as well. One of her secretaries
pointed it out to her as an interesting item in the day's news. She
read it; she held the paper before her face to hide a guilty pallor;
her heart sank low: the dreadful thing was already in the papers.
Soon, perhaps, it would appear again, with her name attached to it.

Next morning a letter was received by the advertiser. It enclosed the
advertisement, cut out of a paper, with these words, "You need not
advertise any more. The child has been dead for twenty years."

"Now"--Richard read the letter twice before he began to think about
it--"what does this mean? If it was adoption, why not come forward? If
it was substitution, then the child may be dead or he may not. I don't
think he is, for my part. I believe it is a try-on to make us give
over. We shall not give over, dear madam."

He continued the advertisement, therefore, for another week. Yet there
came no more letters and no discovery.

"Oh, Dick, and I have been waiting day after day!"

"We must change the advertisement. The anonymous letter proves pretty
clearly that there is reason for concealment. Else, why did not the
writer sign her name? It was in a lady's handwriting--not a servant's.
The adoption, therefore, to put it kindly, was not generally known.
Let us alter the advertisement. We will now put in a few more details.
We will leave the mother out; and we will no longer address the lady."

In consequence of this resolution, the following advertisement
appeared next day:--

     "Whereas, in the month of February, 1874, in the city of
     Birmingham, a child, adopted by a lady to take the place of
     her own, recently dead, was taken to the railway station;
     was there delivered to the lady and carried to London;--a
     reward of TWO THOUSAND GUINEAS will be given to any person
     who will give such information as may lead to the discovery
     and identity of the child. Nothing will be given for
     proffered information which does not lead to such discovery
     and identity. No advance will be made for expenses of
     travelling, or any other expenses. And no person will be
     received who offers verbal information. Address, by writing
     only, to R. W., care of the Hall porter, Dumfries Flats."

I dare say that many of my readers will remember the interest--nay,
the racket--created by the appearance of this strange series of
advertisements, which were never explained. The mystery is still
referred to as an illustration of romance in upper circles. Some of
the American papers quoted it as another proof of the profligacy of an
aristocracy, concluding that it was the substitution of a gutter child
for the Scion of a Baronial Stock.

This time there were shoals of answers. They came by hundreds; they
came from all parts of the country. One would think that adoption by
purchase was a recognized form of creating heirs to an estate. One
railway porter wrote from Birmingham, stating that he remembered the
affair perfectly well, because the lady gave him sixpence; that he saw
the lady into the carriage, carrying the baby, which was dressed in
white clothes with a woollen thing over its face; that on receipt of
travelling money, and a trifle of £5 on account, he would run up to
London and identify the baby. Another person conveyed the startling
intelligence that she herself was the mother of the child; that she
could tell by whom it was adopted. "My child," she said, "is now a
belted earl. But my conscience upbraids me. Better a crust with the
reward, than the pricks of a guilty conscience."

A third wrote with the warmth of a man of the world. Did the
advertiser believe that he was such a juggins as to give away the
story without making sure of the reward? If so---- But the writer
preferred to think that he was dealing with a man of honour as well as
a man of business--therefore he would propose a sure and certain plan.
There must be in delicate affairs a certain amount of confidence on
both sides. The writer knew the whole history, which was curious and
valuable, and concerned certain noble houses; he had the proofs in his
hands: he was prepared to send up the story, with the proofs, which
nobody could question after once reading them, by return of post. But
there must be some show of confidence on both sides. For himself, he
was ready to confide in their promise to pay the reward. Let them
confide to some extent in him. A mere trifle would do--the twentieth
part of the reward--say a hundred pounds. Let the advertiser send
this sum to him in registered letter, care of the Dog and Duck, Aston
Terrace, Birmingham, in ten-pound notes, and by return post would
follow the proofs.

Or if, as might happen--the writer thought it best in such matters to
be extremely prudent--the advertiser did not trust this plan, he had a
brother in a respectable way in a coffee-house and lodgings for single
men, Kingsland Road. Let the money be deposited in his hands, to be
held until the proofs and vouchers had been received. Nothing could be
fairer than the proposal.

And so on. And so on. Richard greatly enjoyed these letters. Human
faces, he said, may differ; legs are long or short; eyes are straight
or skew; but the human mind, when two thousand pounds are involved, is
apparently always the same. Meantime, which was disappointing, he was
not a bit advanced in his inquiry.

Sir Robert read this advertisement as well. "She is well advised," he
said. "She's going the right way to work. They calculate that servants
know, and they offer a big reward. If that doesn't fetch them,
there'll be a bigger. But it's no good--it's no good. Nobody knows
what I know."

He thought it best, however, to reassure Lady Woodroffe.

"I hoped," he said, "that we should have no further occasion to speak
about a certain transaction. I suppose, however, that you have heard
of certain advertisements?"

"I have. Do you think----?"

"I do not think. Nay, I am certain. Lady Woodroffe, remember that
there is only one person who knows the two women engaged in that
transaction. I stood between them. I am not going to bring them
together unless you desire me to do so. I came to say this, in case
you should be in the least degree uneasy."

"Thank you, Sir Robert," she answered humbly. She trusted in that
square-jawed, beetle-browed man; yet she was humiliated. "I certainly
confide in you."

He got up. "Then I will waste your time no longer. You are always at
work--I see and read and hear--always at work--good works--good works."

Her lips parted, but she was silent. Did he mean a reflection on the
one work that had not been quite so good? But he was gone.

The advertisement was repeated in all the papers. England, Scotland,
Ireland, the Colonies, knew about this adoption, and the anxiety of
the mother to recover her son.

At this stage of the investigation, the subject began to be
generally talked about. The newspapers had leading articles on the
general subject of adoption. It was an opportunity for the display
of classical scholarship; of mediæval scholarship; of historical
scholarship; cases of pretence, of substitution, are not uncommon.
There are noble houses about which things are whispered--things
which must not be bruited abroad. The subject of adoption, open
or concealed, proved fertile and fruitful to the leader-writer.
One man, for instance, projected himself in imagination into the
situation, and speculated on the effect which would be produced on a
young man of culture and fine feeling, of finding out, at five and
twenty, that he belonged to quite another family, with quite another
set of traditions, prejudices, and ideas. Thus a young man born
in the purple, or near it; brought up in great respect for birth,
connections, and family history, with a strong prejudice in favour
of an aristocratic caste; suddenly discovers that his people belong
to the lowest grade of those who can call themselves of the middle
class, and that he has no kind of connection with the folk to whom
he has always believed himself attached. What would be the effect
upon an educated and a sensitive mind? What would be the effect upon
his affections? How would he regard his new mother--probably a vulgar
old woman--or his new brothers and sisters--probably preposterous in
their vulgarity? What effect would the discovery have upon his views
of life? What upon his politics? What upon his opinions as to small
trade, and the mean and undignified and sordid employments by which
the bulk of mankind have to live?

At dinner-tables people talked about this mysterious adoption. What
could it mean? Why did not the lady come forward? Was it, as some of
the papers argued, clearly a case of fraudulent substitution? If not,
why did she not come forward? She was dead, perhaps. If so, why did
not some one else come forward? If, however, it really was a case of
substitution, then the position was intelligible. For instance, the
case quoted the day before yesterday by the _Daily News_; that was,
surely, a similar case. And so on; all the speakers wise with the
knowledge derived from yesterday's paper. Are we sufficiently grateful
to our daily papers and our leader-writers, for providing us with
subjects of conversation?

The subject was handled with great vigour one night at Lady
Woodroffe's own table. Sir Robert was present; he argued, with
ability, that there was no reason to suppose any deception at all;
that in his view, the lady had adopted the child, and had resolved to
bring up the child in complete ignorance of its relatives, who were
presumably of the lowlier sort; that she had seen no reason to take
her servants into her confidence, or her friends; and that she now
saw no reason to let the young man learn who his real relations were.
And he drew a really admirable sketch of the disgust with which the
young man would receive his new cousins. Lady Woodroffe, while this
agreeable discussion was continued, sat at the head of her table,
calm, pale, and collected.

Then there appeared a third advertisement. It was just like the
second, except that it now raised the reward to ten thousand guineas.
It also included the fact that the child had been received at the
Birmingham station by an Indian ayah.

This advertisement caused searchings of heart in all houses where
there had been at any time an Indian ayah. The suggestion in every
one of these houses was that a child had died, and another had been
substituted. The matter was discussed in the servants' hall at Lady
Woodroffe's. The butler had been in service with Sir Humphrey and his
household for thirty years.

"I came home," he said, "from India with Sir Humphrey. We came to
this house. My lady and the _ayah_--she that died six or seven years
ago--were already here with the child--now Sir Humphrey."

"Did you know the child again?"

"Know the child? I'd know Sir Humphrey's child anywhere. Why, I saw
him every day till he was six months old. A lovely child he was, with
his light hair and his blue eyes."

"Did my lady come from Birmingham?"

"What would my lady be doing at Birmingham? She came straight through
from Scotland from her noble pa, Lord Dunedin. The ayah told us so."

The page, who was listening, resigned, with a sigh, the prospect of
getting that reward of ten thousand guineas.

Lady Woodroffe, upstairs, read the third advertisement, and grew faint
and sick with fear.

Sir Robert read the advertisement. "Very good," he said. "Very good
indeed. But if there had been any one who knew anything at all, there
would have been an answer to the offer of two thousand pounds. Let
them offer a million, if they like."

       *       *       *       *       *

"Dick," said Molly, "it seemed very clever at first. But, you see,
nothing has come of it."

"On the contrary, something has come of it. Mind you, the whole world
is talking about the case. If it was a genuine adoption, the unknown
woman would certainly have come forward."

"Why?"

"Because there could be no reason for concealment. As it is, she
remains silent. Why? Because there has been substitution instead of
adoption. She has put forward another baby in the place and in the
name of the dead child."

"How can you prove that?"

"I don't know, Molly. I believe I have missed my vocation. I am a
sleuth-hound. Give me a clue; put me on the scent, and let me rip."

His face hardened; his features grew sharper; his eyes keener; he
bent his neck forward; he was no longer the musician; he was the
bloodhound looking for the scent. The acting instinct in him made him
while he spoke adapt his face and his expression to the new part he
played. To look the part is, if you consider, essential.



CHAPTER XV.

TWO JUMPS AND A CONCLUSION.


The advertisements produced no answer except from persons hoping to
make money by the case--such as the railway porter, who could swear
to the baby, the lady who was really the mother, or the detective who
wanted a good long-staying job. There seemed no hope or help from the
advertisement. Well, then, what next?

By this time Richard Woodroffe, though never before engaged upon this
kind of business, found himself so much interested in the subject
that he could think of nothing else. He occupied himself with putting
the case into a statement, which he kept altering. He carried himself
back in imagination to the transference of the baby; he saw the doctor
taking it from the mother and giving it to an ayah in the railway
station. And there he stopped.

His friend Sir Robert was the doctor--his friend Sir Robert, who knew
all the theatrical and show folk, as well as the royal princes and
the dukes and illustrious folk. Well, he knew this physician well
enough to be certain that a secret was as safe behind those steady,
deep-set eyes as with any father confessor. That square chin did not
belong to a garrulous temper, that big brain was a treasury of family
secrets; he knew where all the skeletons were kept; this was only one
of a thousand secrets; his patients told him everything--that was,
of course, because he was a specialist in nervous disorders, which
have a good deal to do with family and personal secrets. Fortunately,
personal secrets are not family secrets.

There is a deep-seated prejudice against the upper ten thousand in
the matter of family secrets. They are supposed to possess a large
number of these awkward chronicles, and they are all supposed to
be scandals. Aristocratic circles are supposed to be very much
exposed to the danger of catching a family secret, a disease which
is contagious, and is passed on from one family to another with
surprising readiness. They are supposed also to be continually engaged
in hushing up, hiding away, sending accomplices and servants cognizant
of certain transactions to America and the Antipodes, even dropping
them into dungeons. They are believed to be always trying to forget
the last scandal but one, while they are destroying the proofs of the
last scandal. For my own part, while admitting the contagion of the
disorder, I would submit that an earl is no more liable to it than an
alderman, a baron no more than a butcher. Middle-class families are
always either going up or going down. With those which are going up
there is an immense quantity of things to be forgotten. We wipe out
with a sponge a deplorable great-aunt, we look the other way when
we pass her grave; we agree to forget a whole family of cousins;
we do not wish ourselves to be remembered more than, say, thirty
years back; we desire that no inquiry, other than general, shall
be made into our origins. In a word--if we may compress so great a
discovery in a single sentence--the middle class--the great middle
class--backbone, legs, brain, and tongue, as we all know, of the
country--the class to which we all, or nearly all, belong--is really
the home and haunt of the family secret.

This secret, however, was not in the ordinary run--not those which
excitable actresses pour into the ears of physicians. Moreover, if
the theory was true, it was a secret, Richard reflected, as much of
the doctor's as of the lady's. And, again, since adoption became
substitution, although the young doctor may have assisted in the
former, the old doctor might not be anxious for the story to get about
now that it meant the latter.

Here, however, were the facts as related by Alice herself.

An unknown lady, according to the doctor's statement, called upon him
and stated that she was anxious to adopt a child in place of her own,
which she had just lost by death.

This was early in February, 1874.

The lady stated further that she wanted a child about fifteen months
of age, light-haired, blue-eyed.

(The child she adopted was thirteen months of age.)

(Did the child die in Birmingham? As the lady was apparently passing
through, did the child die at a hotel?)

Dr. Steele called upon Alice, then in great poverty and distress, and
asked her if she would let the child be adopted, or whether she would
suffer it to go into the workhouse. She chose the former alternative,
and accepted the sum of fifty pounds for her child.

The money was paid in five-pound notes. She did not know the numbers.

There were no marks on the child by which he might be identified.

On the child's clothes, before giving him up, the mother pinned a
paper, giving his Christian name--Humphrey.

He was the son of Anthony Woodroffe. In the Woodroffe family there was
always a Humphrey.

Nothing else, nothing else--no clue, no suggestion, or hint, or
opening anywhere, except resemblance. The strange likeness of this
young man Humphrey to himself haunted Dick; he looked at himself
in the glass. Any one could see that his features, his hair, his
eyes, were those of Humphrey. Differences there were--in stature, in
expression, in carriage. Dick was as elastic and springy as the other
was measured and slow of gait. As for that other resemblance, said
by Alice to be even more marked--that between Humphrey and Anthony
Woodroffe, the actor, John Anthony--it was even more remarkable.
These resemblances one may look for in sons and in brothers, but not
in cousins separated by five hundred years. Another point which he
kept to himself was the resemblance which he found in Humphrey to
Alice, his mother by theory. It was not the same kind of resemblance
as the other--features, face, head, all were different; it was that
resemblance which reminds--a resemblance not defined in words, but
unmistakable. And all day long and all night Dick saw this resemblance.

He put down the points--

1. The strongest possible resemblance--so stated by the mother of the
adopted child--of son to father.

2. A strong resemblance as between brothers or sons of the same father.

3. A resemblance--was it fancy of his own?--as between mother and son.

4. The lady who adopted the boy must have belonged to an Indian
family, because there was an ayah with her.

5. The age of the child adopted corresponded very nearly with the age
of Sir Humphrey.

He went to the British Museum and consulted "Debrett." He took the
trouble to go there because he did not possess the volume, and none
of his friends had ever heard of it. There he read, as the doctor had
read a few weeks before, that the present holder of the Woodroffe
baronetcy was Humphrey Arundale, second baronet, son of the late Sir
Humphrey, etc., born on December the 2nd, 1872.

There was nothing much to be got out of that little paragraph. But, as
Dick read it again and again, the letters began to shift themselves.
It is astonishing how letters can, by a little shifting, convey a very
different meaning. This is what he read now--

"Woodroffe, Humphrey, falsely calling himself second baronet, and son
of the late Sir Humphrey, really son of one John Anthony Woodroffe,
distant cousin of Sir Humphrey, vocalist, comedian, and vagabond, by
Alice, daughter of Tom, Dick, or Harry Pennefather, engaged in small
trade, of Hackney; born in 1873, sold by his mother in February, 1874,
through the agency of Sir Robert Steele, M.D., F.R.S., Ex-President of
the Royal College of Physicians, now of Harley Street, to Lilias, Lady
Woodroffe, daughter of the Earl of Dunedin, who passed him off as her
own child.

"Collateral branches--Richard, son of the late John Anthony Woodroffe,
by Bethia, his second wife, after he had divorced and deserted the
above mentioned Alice, October 14, 1875; unmarried, has no club,
musician, singer, comedian, vagabond."

He put back the volume. "It's a very remarkable Red Book," he said;
"nobody knows how they get at these facts. Now, I, for my part, don't
seem able to get at the truth, however much I try; and there 'Debrett'
has it in print, for all the world to read."

He then looked up the same work twelve years before. He found under
the name of Woodroffe the fact that Sir Humphrey the elder retired
from active service, and returned to England early in February, 1874.

"The old man came home, then," he said, "at the very time when the
adoption was negotiated. At that very time. How does that bear on
the case? Well, if his own child died, there was perhaps time to get
another to take its place before he got home."

Now, Dick in a small way was a story-teller; he was in request by
those who knew him because he told stories very well, and also
because he told very few, and would only work when he could capture
an idea, and when a story came of its own accord; he was the author
of one or two comediettas; further, he had been on the stage, and
had played many parts. From this variegated experience he understood
the value of drawing your conclusion first, and putting together
your proofs afterwards: perhaps the proofs might fail to arrive; but
the conclusion would remain. Geometry wants to build up proofs and
arrive at a conclusion which one would not otherwise guess. Who could
possibly imagine that the square on the side opposite the right angle
is equal to the sum of the squares on the sides containing the right
angle? Not even the sharpest woman ever created would arrive at such a
conclusion without proofs. In law also, chiefly because men are mostly
liars, exact proof is demanded--proof arrived at by painfully picking
the truth out of the lies. This young man, for his part, partly
because he was a story-teller and a dramatist, partly because he was a
musician, found it the best and readiest method to jump at the truth
first, and to prove it afterwards. He arrived at this conclusion,
which perfectly satisfied him, without any reason, like a kangaroo, by
a jump. In fact, he took two jumps.

It is always a great help in cases requiring thought and argument and
construction--because every good case is like a story in requiring
construction--to consult the feminine mind; if you are interested in
the owner, or tenant, of a certain mind, it makes the consultation all
the better. Richard Woodroffe consulted Molly every day. By talking
over the case again and again, and by looking at it in company, one
becomes more critical and at the same time clearer in one's views.
There were, as you know, many reasons why Richard should consult this
young lady, apart from her undoubted intelligence.

"Why, Molly," he asked--"why--I put it to your feminine
perceptions--why was this good lady so profoundly moved by the mere
sight of the fellow? She wasn't moved by the sight of me. Yet I am
exactly like him, I believe. It was at the theatre. She was in a
private box; he was one of a line of Johnnies in the stalls. She was
so much affected that she had to leave the house. She met him again
at Steele's dinner. She was affected in the same way. Why? She is
presumed never to have seen the fellow before; she certainly has not
seen him for twenty-four years. Why, I ask, was she so much affected?
She tells me that the sight of him always affects her in exactly the
same way--with the same mysterious yearning and longing and with a
sadness indescribable.

"Wait a minute. Hear me out. Is it his resemblance to a certain
man--her first husband? But again, I am like him, and she does not
yearn after me a bit. What can it be except an unknown sense--the
maternal instinct--which is awakened in her? What is it but his own
identity, which she alone can understand--with her child?"

"Dick," said Molly, "it's a tremendous jump. Yet, of course----"

"Of course. I knew you would agree with me. The intuitions--the
conclusions--the insight of women are beyond everything. Molly, it
is a blessed thing that you are retained in this case. The sight
of you is to me a daily refresher; the look of you is a heavy fee;
and the voice of you is an encouragement. Stand by me, Molly--and I
will pull this half-brother of mine down from that bad eminence and
ask him, when he stands beside me, with an entirely new and most
distinguished company of cousins, how he feels, and what has become of
his superiority. You shall introduce him to the pew-opener, and I will
present him to the draper."

Again, there was the second jump. "I ask you that, Molly. Do you
imagine that the doctor is really and truly as ignorant as he would
have us believe, of the lady's name? He knows Lady Woodroffe; he asks
her son to dinner. To be sure, he knows half the world. If he attended
the dead child, of course he would have known her name. But I suppose
he did not. If so, since the lady came to him immediately after the
death, he might have consulted the registers, to find what children of
that age had died during a certain week in Birmingham--if the child
did die there, of which we are not certain. Even in a great city like
Birmingham there are not many children of that age dying every day;
very few dying in hotels; and very few children indeed belonging to
visitors and strangers. Molly mine--if the doctor did not know, the
doctor might have known. Is that so? Deny it if you can."

"I suppose so, Dick, though really I don't see what you are driving
at."

"Very well, then. We go on. Why did the doctor go out of his way
to invite Humphrey to meet his true mother? Now, I know Dr. Steele.
He's an awfully good fellow--charitable and good-natured; he'll
do anything for a man; but he's a man of science, and he's always
watching and thinking and putting things together. I've heard him
talk about heredity, and what a man gets from his ancestors. Now, I'm
quite certain, Molly--without any proof--I don't want any proof. Hang
your hard-and-fast matter-of-fact evidence! I am quite certain, I
say, that Steele invited Humphrey and his mother and myself in order
to look at us all and watch differences and likenesses. You see, the
case may be a beautiful illustration of hereditary qualities. Here
is a young man separated from his own people from infancy. There can
be no imitation; and now, after twenty years and more, the man of
science can contemplate the son, brought up in a most aristocratic and
superior atmosphere; the mother, who has always remained in much the
same condition except for money; and another son, who has been brought
up like his father, a vagabond and a wanderer--with a fiddle. It was
a lovely chance for him. I saw him looking at us all dinner-time; in
the evening, when I was playing, I saw him, under his bushy eyebrows,
looking from Humphrey to his mother. I wondered why. Now I know. The
doctor, Molly, is an accomplice."

"An accomplice! Oh! And a man in that position!"

"An accomplice after the act, not before it. My theory is this: Dr.
Steele met the lady after he came to town. How he managed to raise
himself from the cheap general practitioner to a leading London
physician, one doesn't know. It's like stepping from thirty shillings
a week to being a star at fifty pounds; no one knows how it's done. Do
you think Lady Woodroffe was useful in talking about him? If I wrote
a story, I should make the doctor dog the lady's footsteps and coerce
her into advancing him. But this isn't a story. However, I take it
that he met her, recognized her, and that they agreed that nothing was
to be said about this little transaction of the past. Then, of course,
when Alice turned up unexpectedly, and asked where the child was to be
seen, there was nothing to do except to hold up his hands and protest
that he knew nothing about the child."

"But all this is guess-work, Dick."

"Yes. I am afraid we have nothing before us but guess-work. Unless
we get some facts to go upon. Look here. A woman is standing on
one side of a high wall; another woman is on the other side of the
wall. There is a door in the wall; Sir Robert keeps the key of that
door in his pocket. There is only one key, and he has it. Unless he
consents to unlock the door, those two women can never meet. And so my
half-brother will remain upon his eminence."

They fell into a gloomy silence.

Dick broke it. "Molly, what about our good friend, the mother of this
interesting changeling?"

"She is strangely comforted by the reflection that the matter is
in your hands. Dick, you have found favour in her sight and in her
husband's."

"Good, so far."

"And she is firmly persuaded that you will bring the truth to light.
She still clings to her dream, you know."

"Does she talk about Humphrey? Was she taken with him?"

"She says little. She lies down and shuts her eyes. Then she is
thinking of him. She likes me to play, so that she may think about
him. When we drive out, I am sure she is looking for him in the crowd.
If he were to call, she would tell him everything. And I am certain
that she dreams of heaping upon him all that a young man can possibly
desire as soon as she gets him back."

"I hope the poor soul will not meet with disappointment. But I fear,
Molly--I fear." He relapsed into his gloomy silence. "I hold the two
ends of the chain in my hands, but I cannot connect the ends. I might
go to Steele and show him what I suspect. He would only laugh at me.
He laughs like the Sphynx, sometimes. If I went to Lady Woodroffe, I
should be handed over to her solicitors, and by them conducted to the
High Court of Justice; I should hear plain speaking from the Judge on
the subject of defamation of character. Everybody would believe that I
was a black-mailer. I should be called upon to pay large sums of money
as damages; and I should have to go through the Court of Bankruptcy."

The mind of this inquirer had never before been exercised upon any
matter more knotty than the presentation of a simple plot, or the
difficulty of getting people off the stage. Sometimes, in moments
of depression, he even doubted his own conclusions--a condition
of mind fatal to all discovery, because it is quite certain that
the eye of faith first perceives what the slow piecing together of
facts afterwards proves. You must perceive the truth, somehow, first
before you can prove it. Perhaps it is not the truth which is at
first discerned. In that case, the seeker after truth has at least an
imaginary object by which to direct his steps. It may lead him wrong;
on the other hand, it may help him to recover the clue which will lead
him straight to the heart of things. In a word, one wants a theory to
assist all research in things of science or in things of practice.

"Dick," said Molly, "about those registers."

"What about them?"

"Why, that the doctor might have found the name of the child by simply
looking into the registers."

"If the child, that is to say, died in Birmingham."

"Yes--if it died in Birmingham. Well, then, Dick--if the doctor could
search those registers----" She stopped for a moment. They always do
it on the stage, to heighten the effect.

"Well, Molly?"

"Why can't you?"

Dick sat down suddenly, knocked over by the shock of this suggestion.

"Good Heavens, Molly! Oh the depth and the height and the spring
and the leap of woman's wit! Why can't I? why can't I? Molly, I
am a log, and a lump, and a lout. I deserve that you should take
my half-brother. No--not that! Good-bye, good-bye, incomparable
shepherdess!" He raised her hand and kissed it. "I fly--I hasten--on
the wings of the wind--to Birmingham--the city of Hidden Truth--to
read the Revelations of the Register."



CHAPTER XVI.

A WRETCH.


Hilarie sat alone in the deep recesses of the western porch of the old
church. Although it was November, this sheltered porch was still warm;
the swallows that make the summer, and their friends the swifts, were
gone; the leaves which still clung to the trees were red and brown and
yellow; the grass which clothed the graves no longer waved under the
breeze with light and shade and sunshine; none of the old bedesmen
were walking the churchyard; even the children in the school were
silent over their work, as if singing only belonged to summer; and the
wind whistled mournfully in the branches of the yew. Her face, always
so calm and restful to others, was troubled and disturbed as she sat
by herself.

She held two letters in her hand. One of them was open. She had
already read it twice; now she read it a third time. It was from
Molly, and it ran as follows:--

     "Dearest President of the only college where they teach
     sweet thoughts and gracious manners and nothing else--where
     they have only one professor, who is the president and
     the chaplain and all the lecturers--I have not seen you
     for so long a time that I am ashamed. Now I am going to
     tell you why. I must make confession, and then I must ask
     your advice. I can do this much better by writing than
     by talking, so that I will write first and we will talk
     afterwards. I have to tell you most unexpected things, and
     most wonderful events. They are full of temptations and
     quandaries.

     "First, for my confession. Your ambition for me has been
     that I should be ambitious for myself. I have done my
     best to meet your wish; I have tried to be ambitious in
     the best way--your way. You thought that I might make a
     serious attempt at serious acting--that I might become a
     queen of tragedy. Alas! I have felt for some time that I
     must abandon the attempt. I cannot portray the emotions,
     I cannot feel the emotions, of tragedy; my nature is too
     shallow; I cannot realize a great passion. I only know
     that it must produce in voice, and face, and speech, and
     gesture, changes and indications that cannot be taught.
     As for me, when I try, I become either stilted or wooden.
     The passion does not seize me and possess me. Ambition, of
     a kind, is not wanting. I like to imagine myself a great
     actress, sweeping across the stage with a velvet train; I
     like to think of the people rising and applauding; but, as
     for the part, I am not moved at all. I think about nothing
     but myself. If I look in the glass, I am told that I have
     not the face for tragedy. If I begin to declaim, I cannot
     feel the words. I am just like the young man who kept
     on dreaming that he was a great poet, until he made the
     disagreeable discovery that in order to be a great poet
     it is absolutely necessary to write great poems. My dear
     Hilarie, I must put a stop to this attempt at once. I have
     been a burden to you for five long years. Let me not load
     you with more than is necessary. I don't say anything about
     thanks, because you know--you know.

     "Dick--you remember Dick, my father's old young friend--the
     Dick that turned up on tramp that day you three cousins
     met--tells me that in comedy I should do well. You shall
     hear, directly, that it is quite possible that I may change
     the buskin for the sock--which he says is the classical way
     of putting it. He tells me that an expressive face--mine
     can screw up or be pulled out like an indiarubber face--a
     tall figure, and a fairly good voice, are wanted first of
     all; and that I have all three. But you will see directly
     that poor Dick is not quite a disinterested person. Still,
     he may be right, and I must say that if I am to go on the
     stage, I would rather make them laugh than cry. It must
     be much more pleasant to broaden their faces with smiles
     than to stiffen them with terror at the sight of the
     blood-stained dagger.

     "The stage seems the only profession open to a girl like
     me, if I am to have a profession at all--which you will
     understand directly is no longer absolutely necessary.
     I was born behind the footlights, Dick was born in the
     sawdust; so there seems a natural fitness. However, until
     I knew you all, my acquaintances were these folk; I have
     never learned to think of myself as belonging to the world
     at all. To my young imagination the world consisted of
     a great many people, whose only occupation was to
     scrape money together in order to buy seats at a theatre.
     Some made things, some painted things, some built things,
     some contrived things, some wrote things; they were
     extremely industrious, because their industry brought them
     tickets. The shops, I imagined, were only established and
     furnished for the purpose of providing things wanted by the
     show folk. I have never, in fact, got rid of that feeling.
     The show was everything; all the world existed only to be
     dramatized. Even the Church, you see, could be put upon the
     stage. So, as I said, the stage is the only profession for
     me, if I am to choose a profession.

     "There is another thing. I suppose I got this idea, too,
     from my up-bringing. It is that to be an actress is the
     one honourable career for a woman. Not to be a great
     actress--but just an actress, that's all. I believe that
     the people who really belong to this profession from one
     generation to another, don't really care very much about
     being great actors; they are just content to belong to
     the profession, just as most doctors have no ambition to
     become great doctors, but are just content with being in
     the profession. In acting it is the new-comer who wants to
     be great. There is something comfortable and satisfying in
     a position of humble utility. I may possibly become the
     housemaid of farce, with a black daub upon my face.

     "The next thing is about my newly discovered cousin, Alice
     Haveril. She is the kindest of women--next to one. She
     heaps kindnesses upon me. She loads me with dresses, gold
     chains, bonnets, gloves, and would load me with money if I
     could take it. But I will not have that form of gift.

     "I am very much with her, because she has no friends here,
     and her husband is much engaged with his affairs. She is in
     most delicate health, with a weak heart. She has a terrible
     trouble, the nature of which I have recently learned; and
     she wants some one with her constantly. I spend most of the
     day with her; I drive with her, go shopping with her, read
     to her, and talk to her.

     "Now, dear Hilarie, here is my temptation. My cousin Alice
     wants me to go back to America with her and her husband. He
     would like it, too. They are enormously rich; they could
     make me an heiress. The husband, John Haveril, is as honest
     and kindly a man as you could wish to find. He is a man who
     has made his own way; he has not the manners of society;
     but he is not vulgar; he is well bred by instinct.

     "This is, I confess, a great temptation. It is more than a
     temptation, it seems almost a duty. I have found this poor,
     fragile creature; I know why she suffers. I think I ought
     not to leave her.

     "If I accept their offer, I shall become one of the rich
     heiresses of America. It will mean millions. But then I
     really do not want millions. I shall have to give up all
     my friends if I go away to America. This would be very
     hard. I should also lose the happiness of desiring things
     I cannot now obtain. I believe that longing after things
     unattainable is the chief happiness of the impecunious.
     Only think of forming a wish and having it instantly
     realized! How selfish, how thoughtless of other people, how
     fat and coarse and lazy, one would become! Dick has often
     spoken of the terrible effect produced upon the mind by the
     possession of wealth. Perhaps he has prejudiced me.

     "The next temptation comes from a certain young man. He
     besieges me--he swears he cannot live without me. He wants
     me to be engaged secretly--he says that I have promised.
     But I have not. As for keeping any secrets from you, and
     especially a matter of this importance, it is ridiculous.
     The young man is, in fact, one of the cousins--Sir
     Humphrey."

At this point Hilarie started, laid down the letter, looked up; read
the words again; went on, with a red spot in either cheek.

     "I confess humbly that the position which he offers
     attracts me. That so humble a person as myself should
     be elevated without any warning, so to speak, to this
     position--his mother is a great leader in the philanthropic
     part of society--is a curious freak of fortune. It is like
     a story-book. As for the man--well, for my own feeling
     about him, it is certainly quite true that I could very
     well live without him. I certainly should not droop and
     languish if he were to go somewhere else; yet--you know
     him, Hilarie. He is clever in a way. He thinks he has ideas
     about Art--he paints smudges, puts together chords, and
     writes lines that rhyme. He also plays disjointed bits, and
     complains that they do not appeal to me. That is harmless,
     however. His manners are distinguished, I suppose. He is
     quite contemptuous of everybody who has work to do. If you
     talk to him about the world below, it is like running your
     head against a stone wall. He loves me, he says, for the
     opposites. And what that means, I don't know. I suppose
     that, as a gentleman, he could be trusted to behave with
     decency and kindness to his wife. At the same time, I have
     found him, more than once, of a surprising ill temper,
     moody, jealous, violent, and I think that he is selfish
     in the cultivated manner--that is to say, selfish with
     refinement.

     "I cannot and will not be guilty of a secret engagement;
     while a secret marriage, which he also vehemently urges,
     unknown to his mother or my friends, and to be kept in
     retirement, concealed from everybody, is a degradation to
     which I would never submit. I cannot understand what my
     lover means by such a proposal, nor why he cannot see that
     the thing is an insult and an impossibility.

     "However, I have refused concealment. Meantime a most
     romantic and wonderful discovery is going to be disclosed.
     I must not set it down on paper, even for your eyes,
     Hilarie. It is a discovery of which Humphrey knows nothing
     as yet. He will learn it, I believe, in a few days. When he
     does learn it, it will necessitate a complete change in all
     his views of life; it will open the world for him; it will
     take him out of his narrow grooves; it will try him and
     prove him. Now, dear Hilarie, am I right to wait--without
     his knowing why? If he receives this discovery as he
     ought--if it brings out in him what is really noble in his
     character, I can trust myself to him. At the same time, it
     will deprive him of what first attracted me in him; but I
     must not tell you more.

     "Lastly, my dear old Dick has been making love to me,
     just as he did when I was fifteen and he was seventeen,
     going about with my father, practising and playing. Such a
     Conservative--so full of prejudices is Dick. I confess to
     you, dear Hilarie, I would rather marry Dick than anything
     else. We should never have any money--Dick gives away all
     he gets. He will not put by. 'If I am ill,' he says, 'take
     me to the hospital.' 'If I die,' he says, 'bury me in the
     hedge, like the gipsy folk.' He never wants money, and I
     should sometimes go on tramp with him, and we should sit in
     the woods, and march along the roads, and hear the skylark
     sing, and yearn for the unattainable, and go on crying for
     we know not what, like the little children. Oh, delightful!
     And Dick is always sweet and always good--except, perhaps,
     when he speaks of Humphrey, who has angered him by cold and
     superior airs. Dick is a philosopher, except on that one
     side. When I think of marrying Dick, dear Hilarie, my heart
     stands still. For then I get a most lovely dream. I close
     my eyes to see it better. It is a most charming vision.
     There is a long road with a broad strip of turf on either
     side, and a high hedge for shade and flowers, goodly trees
     at intervals; a road which runs over the hills and down the
     valleys and along brooks; crosses bridges, and has short
     cuts through fields and meadows; overhead the lark sings;
     from the trees the yellow-hammer cries, 'A little bit of
     bread and no cheese;' clouds fly across the sky; all kinds
     of queer people pass along--vagrants, beggars, gipsies,
     soldiers,--just the common sort. On the springy turf at
     the side I myself walk, carrying the fiddle--in the middle
     of the road Dick tramps, going large and free; over his
     shoulders hangs the bag which contains all we want; now
     and then he bursts out singing as he goes. In the coppice
     we sit down on the trunk of a tree and take lunch out of a
     paper bag. Sometimes, when we are quite alone in a coppice,
     far away from the world, Dick takes his fiddle out of the
     case and plays to me, all alone, music that lifts me out of
     myself and carries me away, I know not whither. Who would
     not marry a great magician? And in my dream about Dick I
     am never tired. I never regret my lot--I never want money.
     Dick is never savage, like Humphrey--he despises no one;
     he is loved by everybody. Oh, Hilarie, I would ask for
     nothing--nothing better than to give myself to Dick, and to
     follow him and be his slave--his grateful slave! Is this
     love, Hilarie? Write to me, dear Hilarie, and tell me what
     I ought to do."

Hilarie laid down the letter with a sigh. "Strange," she said. "Molly
sees her own path of happiness quite plainly; yet she cannot follow
it. What she does not know is that she has shattered my own dream."

She opened another letter in her hand. "I should have known," she
said. "He is base metal, through and through. I should have known. Yet
what a son--of what a mother! Who would suspect?" She read the letter
again.

"It has been my dream ever since the fortunate day when I met you in
the churchyard, to unite our branches of the house. You have thought
me cold about your very beautiful projects and illusions. I am,
perhaps, harder than yourself, because I know the world better, and
because I have always found people extremely amiable while you are
giving them things--and exactly the reverse when you call upon them
to give to others. However, you will never find me opposing the plans
suggested by your nobility of character. I have spoken to my mother
upon this subject----" She stopped short--she tore the letter in
halves, then, with another thought, put back the torn sheet into its
envelope. "Wretch!" she cried, "I will keep your letter!"

She sat there, alone, looking out upon the porch. The sun went down
and the twilight descended, and she sat among the graves, thinking.

Presently she got up, feeling cold and numbed. "It was a foolish
dream," she said. "I ought to have known--I ought to have known."

She walked slowly homeward. As she came out of the coppice into her
own park, she saw the old house lit up already, and through the
windows she saw figures flitting about. They were her students, and
they were gathering for afternoon tea.

"Why," she said, "I want to be their leader, and I dream an idle dream
about a worthless man!"

With firmer step and head erect she entered the porch of her
house, and found herself in the midst of the girls. Her dream was
shattered--she let it go: there are other things to think about
besides a worthless man.

One knows not what were the actual intentions of this young man. Fate
would not, as you will presently discover, permit him to carry them
out. We may, however, allow that he was really in love with one of
the two girls--the one who attracted all mankind, not so much by her
beauty as by her manner, which was caressing; and by her conversation,
which was sprightly. He was in love with her after the manner of
his father, who felt the necessity for an occasional change in the
object of his affections. To desert one woman for another was part of
his inheritance--had Hilarie known it. One should find excuses for
hereditary tendencies; those who knew the truth would recognize in
this treatment of women the mark of the changeling.

As for Hilarie, she wrote a brief note to Molly. "Let us talk over
these things," she said. "Meantime, I implore you not to enter into
any engagement, open or secret, with a man who could venture to
propose the latter." She folded the note. She rose; she sighed.

"An idle dream," she said, "about a worthless man!"



CHAPTER XVII.

THE SECOND BLOW.


Three days after this conversation, the amateur detective on his
first job arrived in London with the midday train from Birmingham.
He was in a state of happiness and triumph almost superhuman. For
he brought with him, as he believed, the conclusion of the matter.
Alone, single-handed, he had discovered the plot; the proofs were in
his hands. He was on his way to compel the guilty to submission, to
subdue the proud, to send the rich empty away. Poetical justice would
be done; his half-brother would be restored to his fraternal arms; and
Molly would be free.

I say there was no happier man than this poor credulous Richard to
be found anywhere than in that third-class carriage. He wanted no
paper to read; he sat in a kind of cloud of glorious congratulations.
Everything was proved; there was but one step possible--that of
surrender absolute.

Two letters preceded his arrival.

One was for Molly. "Expect me to-morrow evening," he said. "I bring
great news; but do not say anything to Alice. The news should be still
greater than what I have to tell you."

The other was for Lady Woodroffe.

     "MADAM" (he wrote)

     "I have to inform you that I have made a discovery closely
     connected with you. The discovery is (1) that the only son
     of the late Sir Humphrey Woodroffe, the first baronet, died
     at Birmingham, on February 5th, 1874, and is buried there;
     and (2) that he died at the Great Midland Hotel, where your
     name is entered as being on that day accompanied by an
     Indian ayah and a child. There is a note to the effect that
     the child died the same night. The child is entered in the
     register as born on December the 2nd, 1872. I observe in
     the Peerage that the present baronet was born on that day.

     "I propose to call upon you to-morrow afternoon at about
     three o'clock, in the hope of obtaining an interview with
     you on this subject.

          "I remain, madam, your obedient servant,

               "RICHARD WOODROFFE."

Now you understand why Richard Woodroffe came to town in so buoyant
and jubilant a mood. He saw himself received with shame and confusion
by a fallen enemy. He saw himself playing, for the first time in his
life, a part requiring great dignity--that of the conqueror. He would
be chivalrous towards this sinner; he would utter no reproach: to lay
his proofs before her, to receive her surrender, would be enough.
Richard was not a revengeful person; wrongs he forgot; injuries he
forgave. At the same time, he would have been more than human if he
had not contemplated, with some kind of satisfaction, the reduction of
the second baronet to his true level, which would leave him with no
more pride and no more superiority.

Alas! He was not prepared for what awaited him. Had he asked himself
what kind of woman he should meet, he would have imagined a person
broken down by the discovery of her guilt; throwing herself at his
feet, ready to confess everything--a woman with whom he would be the
conqueror. That the tables would be turned upon him, he never even
thought possible. Who would? He had discovered that the real heir to
the name and title of Sir Humphrey Woodroffe had actually died at
Birmingham twenty-four years ago. Who, then, was the present so-called
Sir Humphrey?

"Thou art the woman!" "Alas! alas! I am the woman."

This was the pretty dialogue of conquest and confession which he
fondly imagined.

What happened?

At the hour of three he called and sent in his card.

He was taken upstairs to the drawing-room, where a lady of august
presence and severe aspect, who struck an unexpected terror into
him at the outset, was sitting at a table with a secretary. This
severe person put up her glasses curiously, and icily motioned him
to wait, while she went on dictating to the secretary. When she had
finished--which took several minutes--she dismissed her assistant
and turned to her visitor, who was still standing, hat in hand,
already disconcerted by this contemptuous treatment, and expectant of
unpleasantness.

She pushed back her chair and took a paper from the table.

"You sent me a letter yesterday, Mr. Woodroffe."

"I did," he said huskily. Then, with a feeling of being
cross-examined, he cleared his throat and tried to assume an attitude
of dignity.

"This is the letter, I believe. Read it, to make sure."

"That is the letter."

"Oh! And you are come, I suppose, to talk over the matter, to see
what you can make out of it. Well, sir, I have taken advice upon
this letter. I was advised to have the door shut in your face; I was
advised to send you to my lawyers; but I am not afraid, even of the
black-mailer. I resolved to see you. Now, sir, you may sit down, if
you like." Richard sank into a chair, his cheeks flaming. "Go on,
then," she added impatiently. "Don't waste my time. Explain this
letter, sir, instantly."

She rapped the table sharply with a paper-knife. The triumphant
detective jumped.

"I can--I can explain it." The poor young man felt all his confidence
slipping away from him. For it looked as if she was actually going to
brazen it out--a contingency that had not occurred to him.

"One moment, Mr. Woodroffe. I am the more inclined to give you an
opportunity to explain personally, because I hear that my son has
already met you. I can hardly say, made your acquaintance--met
you--and that you are, or pretend to be--it matters nothing--a distant
cousin of his. And now, sir, having said so much, I am prepared to
listen."

"I can give you the whole story, Lady Woodroffe."

"_The_ whole story? _A_ whole story, you mean. Call things by their
right names. But go on. Do not occupy my time needlessly, and do not
be tedious."

"I will do neither, I assure you." He plucked up some courage,
thinking of his proofs, but not much. "I even think I shall interest
you. First of all, then: my father, who was a comedian playing under
the name of Anthony, which was his Christian name, married, as his
first wife, a London girl. My father was not a man of principle, I am
sorry to say. After a time, he deserted his wife, and left her alone
with her child in the streets of Birmingham--Birmingham," he repeated.

Lady Woodroffe winced. It might have been his fancy, but she certainly
seemed to wince at the mention of that great city. She sat upright,
with hands crossed; her face was pale, her eyes were hard, though she
still smiled.

"Go on, sir," she said; "left his wife in Birmingham. I dare say I
shall understand presently what this means."

"This was twenty-four or twenty-five years ago. The deserted wife
could not believe that she had lost his affection; but she knew that
the child's presence annoyed him. That fact, perhaps, influenced
her. There was also the certainty of the workhouse before her for
the child; she was therefore easily persuaded to consent to an
arrangement, by means of some doctor of the place, to give her child
into the charge of a lady who had lost her own, and was willing to
adopt another. She did this in ignorance of the lady's name."

"Did she never learn the lady's name?" The question was a mistake.
Lady Woodroffe perceived her mistake, and set her lips tighter.

"Never. She had no means of finding out. She went after her husband,
and followed him from place to place, till she finally caught him
in some town of a Western State. Here, as soon as she appeared on
the scene, he divorced her for alleged incompatibility of temper.
Afterwards he married again. I am the son of the second marriage."

"Yes. This is, no doubt, an interesting story. But I am not, really,
interested in your--your pedigree," she sighed. "Oh, do go on, man!
Why do you come here with it?"

"It is the beginning of the story which ends with that letter of mine."

"You promised, Mr. Woodroffe"--she smiled icily, and her eyes remained
hard--"that you would neither bore me nor waste my time. Are you sure
that you are keeping your word?"

"Quite sure. I go back to the story. I concluded from the story as it
was told me, that the lady's child had died in Birmingham--in some
hotel, probably----"

"One moment. May I guess that your object is, apparently, to find this
person who bought or took charge of the child?"

"It is on behalf of the mother, who is now in England. Above all
things, she desires to find her child. That is natural, is it not?"

"Perfectly natural. Let us hope that she may succeed. Now go on, Mr.
Woodroffe. Of course, a woman who would sell her child does not
deserve to get it back again."

Perhaps the last remark was also a mistake. At least it showed temper.

"Perhaps not. This woman, Mrs. Haveril, however, who is married to an
extremely wealthy American----"

"Haveril! Can it be the millionaire person whom my son met--with
you--at Sir Robert Steele's house?"

"That is the lady."

"Indeed! I always tell my son that he should be more careful of his
company. Well, go on."

Richard smiled. The insolence of the observation did not hurt him
in the least. It lessened the power of the presence, and gave him
confidence.

"This lady," he continued, "fancies or discerns an extraordinary
resemblance to her husband, my father--and to myself--in your son,
Lady Woodroffe. The resemblance is very striking. He has most
undoubtedly my father's face, the same colour of his hair--his figure
even more strongly, it is said, than myself. Yet I am considered like
him."

"And because there is this resemblance, she imagined----"

"Hardly imagined. She dreamed----"

"Dreamed! What have I to do with her dreams? Well, she has only to
ascertain the real parentage of Sir Humphrey--my son. Oh, I have your
letter in my mind! Sir Humphrey, you said, the second baronet. We
shall come to your letter presently."

"One would think----"

"Has she any other reason to go upon besides the resemblance?"

By this time it was evident that she understood exactly what was meant.

"She had, until yesterday, no other reason. Yet, from one or two
simple facts that I have discovered--they are in my letter--I am
certain that she is right."

"Indeed! Do you understand, Mr. Woodroffe, the exact meaning of those
words, 'that she is right.' Then what is my son?"

"He would be no longer your son. He would be her son."

"Then what am I?"

"That, Lady Woodroffe, is not for me to say."

"I promised to give you an audience. Therefore go on."

"Since there was no kind of proof of this imagining--or this dream--I
thought that I would go down to Birmingham to search the registers."

"You are a detective, or a private and secret inquirer?"

"No; I am acting only for this lady."

"She is a millionairess. I hope she pays you well. But the facts--the
facts. And you found----"

"A great deal more than I hoped. The facts which I set forth in my
letter."

"An entry in the register, purporting to record the death of my son,
and an entry in a hotel-book, giving my name,--that is all!"

"Is it not enough? The child was about the same age as the one
adopted. There are not many children of that age who die every
week--even in Birmingham. Again, if the child died in Birmingham at
all, it must have been at a hotel. There are not many children of the
same age likely to die in the same week in a Birmingham hotel. I had
the register of deaths searched, and found--what I told you. Copies
have been taken. I went to the hotel nearest the station, and had the
visitors' book searched. I found--what I told you. Copies have been
taken."

"Very good. What next?"

"I sent you that letter, and I came to hear what you say about it."

"What should I say about it?"

"Who is this young man who calls himself the second baronet?"

"He is my son."

"Then who is the child that died?"

"How am I to tell? You must ask some one else."

"And who was the Lady Woodroffe who came to the hotel?"

"How do I know? You must ask some one else."

"Oh!"

He might have considered this attitude as possible at least. But he
had not. His face expressed bewilderment and surprise.

"You actually suggest to me--to _me_, of all people in the
world!--that I, actually I myself, a woman of my position, bought a
child in place of a dead child! That is your meaning, is it not, sir?"

"Certainly it is," he answered with creditable valour. "I know you did
it! There's no way out of it but to confess!"

"Why, you miserable little counter-jumper!"

Dick stepped back in some alarm, because it looked as if she were
going to box his ears. She was quite capable of it, indeed, and but
for the guilty conscience that held her back, she would have done
it. As it was, her wrath was not feigned. It maddened her to think
that this man should so easily discover a whole half of the thing she
thought concealed for ever.

"You wretched little counter-jumper!" she repeated, with reginal
gesture, tall and commanding--taller than poor Richard, and, dear me!
how much more commanding! "And you pretend a trumpery resemblance!
Why, my son is half a foot taller than you! My son's father was a
gentleman, and his face and manners show it. Yours---- But your face
and manners show what he was. Leave the house, sir!" Dick dropped his
hat in his surprise. "If you think to black-mail me, you are mistaken.
Leave the house! If you dare to speak of this again, it shall be to my
lawyers."

Richard picked up his hat. The action is a trifle, but it completed
his discomfiture.

"No; stay a moment. Understand quite clearly, that you can make any
use of these entries that you please. But you may as well understand
that I have never been in Birmingham in my life; that persons in my
position act and move among a surrounding troop of servants, to speak
nothing of friends and relations. That the heirs of persons like Sir
Humphrey do not die and get buried unknown to their friends--perhaps
you have not thought of all this."

He heard this statement with open mouth. He was struck dumb.

"Understand at once, make your principal--who is she? the rich
person--understand that I have never been in Birmingham in my life;
and that every hour of my life can be accounted for."

"Who was that child, then?"

"Find out, if you can. It has nothing to do with me. If, twenty years
ago, some woman chose, for purposes of her own, to personate the wife
of Sir Humphrey--who was then in Scotland--while Sir Humphrey was on
his way home from India, do you think I am going to inquire or trouble
my head about her impudence?"

Richard murmured something indistinct. He did not know what to say.
How could this majestic woman have done such a thing? Yet who else
could have done it?

Lady Woodroffe sat down again. "I have been wrong," she said, "in
getting angry over this matter. Perhaps you are not, after all, a
black-mailer."

"Indeed, I am not."

"I have heard my son," she said, in a softer voice, "speak of you, Mr.
Woodroffe. But I must warn you that any attempt to bring this charge
will be met by my solicitors. One word more. Miss Hilarie Woodroffe
has also, I believe, taken some interest in you. I would suggest, Mr.
Woodroffe, that it would be foolish to throw away the only respectable
connections you possess in a wild-goose chase, which can lead to
nothing except ignoble pay from a woman who, by your own confession,
threw away her own child or sold it to a stranger. Now you can go,
sir." She did not ring the bell for the servant. She pointed, and
turned back to her desk. "Have the goodness to shut the door behind
you."

It was with greatly lowered spirits that Richard walked down those
stairs and out of the door.



CHAPTER XVIII.

A GRACIOUS LADY.


Once removed from the presence of the great lady and the overwhelming
authority of her manner, her voice, and her face, Richard began to
consider the situation over again. The lady denied any knowledge of
the fact. He might have expected it. Why, how could such a woman, in
such a position, face the world, and confess to having committed so
great a crime? He ought to have known that it was impossible. So he
cursed himself for an ass; steadied his nerves with the reflection
that she _had_ done the thing, whatever she might say; considered that
people can always be found to believe great and solid and shameless
liars; and remarked with humiliation that on the very first occasion
in his life, when he wanted dignity to meet dignity, and authority to
meet authority, he had come to grief.

"Serious comedy, however"--by way of consolation--"is not my line."

In the evening, after dinner, he repaired to the hotel, but not with
the triumphal step which he had promised himself.

Molly was reading a letter aloud to Alice. "Dick," she cried, "perhaps
you can explain what this means. It has just arrived."

     "DEAR MADAM,

     "I have had an interview with a certain Mr. Richard
     Woodroffe, who calls himself a distant cousin of my son. He
     brought me a strange story of a strange delusion, which he
     seemed to consider supported by a certain discovery of an
     entry in a register of births and deaths. I cannot believe
     his allegation without further evidence, because it is so
     extremely improbable--on the face of it, one would say
     impossible--and I cannot understand it, even if it rests on
     the strongest evidence. I have, however, forwarded the case
     to my solicitors, who will probably communicate with Mr.
     Woodroffe. With him personally I do not desire any further
     speech. The circumstances of the case, as first placed
     before me, naturally awaken a woman's sympathies. A mother
     bereaved of her son is, at all times, an object of pity,
     even when her bereavement is not due to the common cause,
     but to her own conduct; and that conduct not such as can be
     readily excused.

     "The story which this person brought me is to the effect
     that you have seen my son at a theatre; that you afterwards
     met him at the house of Sir Robert Steele; that you
     observed or imagined certain points of resemblance with
     your own first husband; and certain others with the man
     Richard Woodroffe. It certainly did not occur to me, when
     he called, that he could claim the honour of the most
     distant resemblance to my son. However, I learned from him
     that you have jumped to the wonderful conclusion that he is
     actually none other than your son, whom you lost, not by
     death, but by sale--that you sold your child, in fact, for
     what he would fetch--as a farmer body sells a pig. I do not
     venture to pronounce any judgment upon you for this act;
     the temptation was doubtless great, and your subsequent
     distress was perhaps greater than if you had lost the child
     by act of God. I write to you only concerning the strange
     delusion.

     "Apart from the imaginary resemblance on which this
     delusion is founded, your adviser, this Mr. Richard
     Woodroffe, has discovered, he tells me, this entry, to
     which I have already referred, in the register of deaths
     at Birmingham. It states, he says, that on a certain day
     there died in that place one Humphrey, son of Sir Humphrey
     Woodroffe. On that day, as I find by reference to my diary,
     and to certain letters which have been preserved, I was
     staying with my father, Lord Dunedin, at his country seat
     in Scotland. My child, then an infant, who was born at
     Poonah, in India, was with me. A few days later I travelled
     south, to London, in order to meet Sir Humphrey, who was
     returning from India. And, of course, the boy came with me.

     "It is not my business to inquire, or to explain, why this
     entry was made in the register, or why it was thought by
     any one desirable that a dead child should be entered under
     a false name. That the child could have been Sir Humphrey's
     was unlikely, first because he had been in India for ten
     years before his return, and next, because he was a man of
     perfectly blameless life.

     "Observe, if you please, that these facts can all be
     proved. My father still lives; the dates can be easily
     established. Even as regards resemblance, it can be shown
     that the child was, and is, strikingly like his father--of
     the same height, the same hair, the same eyes.

     "When a delusion of this kind seizes the brain, it is
     likely to remain there, and to become stronger and deeper,
     and more difficult to remove, as the years go on. I have
     therefore thought it best to invite you to meet me. We can
     then talk over the matter quietly, and I shall perhaps be
     able to make you understand the baseless nature of this
     belief. I need hardly say that I should feel it necessary,
     in case of your persisting in this claim--that is, if you
     propose advancing such a claim seriously--to defend my
     honour with the utmost vigour, and in every court of law
     that exists. You cannot, of course, be ignorant of the
     fact that more than the loss of my child is concerned;
     there is the loss of my good name, because you would have
     the world to believe that a woman, born of most honourable
     and God-fearing parents; married to a man of the highest
     reputation, herself of good reputation, should stoop so
     low--one can hardly write it--as to buy a baby of a woman
     she had never seen, of a poor woman, of a woman of whom
     she knew nothing except that she was the deserted wife of
     a strolling actor; and to pass this child off upon her
     husband and the world as her own.

     "I say no more by letter. Perhaps I have spoken uselessly;
     in that case, words must give place to acts. However, I
     will confer with you, if you wish, personally. Come here
     to-morrow afternoon about five; we will try to discuss the
     subject calmly, and without the prejudice of foregone
     conclusions. In offering you this opportunity I consider
     your own happiness only. For my own part, it matters very
     little what any one chooses to believe as to my son. There
     is always within my reach the law, if injurious charges or
     statements are made against my character. Or there is the
     law for your use, if you wish to recover what you think is
     your own.

     "I remain, dear madam, very faithfully yours,

               "LILIAS WOODROFFE."

"What _is_ the meaning of this letter, Dick?" Molly repeated. "What is
this entry that she talks about?"

"Molly, I thought I was coming home with a discovery that was a
clincher. And I believe I've gone and muddled the thing."

"Well, but tell us."

He told them.

"But what more do we want?" asked Molly. "The child that died was
hers."

"So I believe--I am sure. I remember how she took it--and her lies,
and her pretences, and her rage. It wasn't the wrath of an innocent
woman, Molly; it was the wrath of a woman found out and driven to bay.
I am sure of it."

"Then what does she mean by this letter?"

"It's her reply. It means defiance."

"Ought we to go, then?"

"I don't know. I think that I was wrong to go. But that may make it
right for Alice to go."

Alice did go. She took Molly with her because she wanted support.
She went filled with doubt. The woman's letter was confident and
braggart; but there was the discovery of the child's death, and there
was the resemblance. She came away, as you shall see, in certainty,
yet more in doubt than before.

They found themselves in a room in which not only the refinement
which may be purchased of an artistic decorator is visible, but the
refinement which can only be acquired by many generations of wealth
and position and good breeding. Books, pictures, curtains, carpets,
furniture,--all bore witness to the fact that the tenant was a
gentlewoman. The Anglo-American, born and brought up in the poverty
of London clerkery; accustomed to the bare surroundings of poverty in
the Western States; able to command, after many years, and to enjoy,
the flaunting luxury of a modern hotel; felt with a sense of sinking,
that her son--if this was her son--must have been brought up with
social advantages which she could never have given him. On the table
lay a small bundle tied up with a towel; curiously out of place this
simple bundle looked among the things beautiful and precious of this
drawing-room. You know how a little matter will sometimes revive an
old recollection. What had this parcel wrapped in a towel to do with
that time, twenty-four years ago, when the mother, broken-hearted,
laid her child in the arms of the doctor who carried it into the
railway station? Yet she was reminded of that moment--that special
moment--in the history of her bereavement. To be sure, the mind of the
woman was easily turned to this subject. It possessed her; she could
think of nothing else, except when Molly came to talk and sing to her.

The door was opened and a lady came in. She was not dressed in nearly
so costly a manner as her visitor, but her appearance impressed. She
was a great lady in manner and in appearance. She was also gracious.
Though a speaker on platforms, an advocate of many causes, she was
still feminine and dignified.

She produced the effect which she desired without apparent effort. She
carried in her hand a bundle of letters and papers. She bowed to her
visitors.

"It is very good of you," she said, "to come. If you will excuse me
one minute----" She sat down and touched a hand-bell. It was answered
by a young lady. "These are the letters," said Lady Woodroffe. "I have
indicated the replies. You can let me have them at six." Then she
turned to Alice again. "You will forgive a busy woman, I am sure," she
said. "I am for the moment greatly occupied with rescue work of all
kinds. It is a beautiful thing to snatch even one poor woman from a
life of crime."

One may observe that she received Alice as she had received
Richard--with a great show of important philanthropic work. The
effect produced was not quite the same, because Alice was thinking of
something else, and to Molly it was only good play-acting. She was
not in the least impressed by the presence or the authority. She only
considered that the business was well done.

Lady Woodroffe finished. "Now," she said, smiling sweetly, "we will
begin to talk."

"I have brought my cousin, Miss Pennefather," said Alice. "She knows
why I am here."

"Oh yes!" Lady Woodroffe recognized Molly's presence with the
inclination which asserts a higher place. "Shall we take some tea
first?"

She was disappointed in the appearance of the woman who claimed her
son. One expects of a woman who would sell her baby a face of brass
and eyes of bronze; one expects vulgarity in a highly pronounced
form--perhaps with ostrich feathers. She came in expectant of a battle
with a red-faced, over-dressed female. She found a woman dressed
quietly, yet in costly stuffs, a pale face, delicate features; no sign
of the commoner forms of vulgarity; a woman of apparent refinement.
Of course, we all know that a person may be refined yet not a
gentlewoman. Many there are who take comfort in that reflection.

She rang the bell for tea and began to talk. "It is very good of you
to come," she began. "Tell me, have you been long in the old country?
Do you find it altered since you left it--so long ago? I believe you
are not an American by birth. Have you any children? Do you soon
return to the States?"

She went on without paying much attention to Mrs. Haveril's replies.

"I hear that your husband is a millionaire. We shall soon begin to
think that all Americans are millionaires. It must be strange to have
unlimited command of money. I am sure you will do a great deal of good
with it. The sense of responsibility when there is so much waiting
to be done must be overwhelming. Here in this country we are all so
poor--so very poor. We have our country houses, you know, which are
very fine houses--some of them, and our parks and gardens. But then,
you see, the houses and gardens cost so much to keep up, and our farms
remain unlet. However ... here is the tea."

Then she plunged into the subject. "My dear lady," she began. "I do
assure you that I feel for you. It is the most extraordinary case that
I have ever heard of. I believe, if I remember right, there is an
account of a woman in Béranger's Autobiography, who had made her baby
a foundling, and spent the rest of her life in looking for him, and
became mad in consequence. Do let me implore you not to begin looking
for your boy; the case is hopeless--you will never succeed--you will
only make the rest of your life miserable. It is quite impossible
that you should ever find him, and if you did find him, it is utterly
impossible that you should be able to prove that he is your child. You
will, I assure you, heap disappointments and miseries upon your head."

Alice said nothing. Lady Woodroffe glanced at Molly. She was looking
straight before her, apparently quite unmoved.

"Now let us argue the point calmly and quietly. You see a
resemblance--you jump to a conclusion. Now, first, as regards the
resemblance. There is a very remarkable family resemblance among many
of the Woodroffes. Three cousins, at least--Miss Hilarie Woodroffe,
whom you know, perhaps; my son; and this Mr. Richard Woodroffe, who
appears to be a play actor of some kind--claim kinship after five
hundred years--five hundred years. They met by accident in the old
church of the family--they made acquaintance--both young men curiously
resemble the young lady----"

"It isn't only the face," said Alice; "it's the voice, and the eyes,
and the manner. My husband had most beautiful manners when he chose."

"On the stage, I believe, they learn to assume some kind of manners,
supposed to be those of society, when they choose. My son, however,
always chooses to have beautiful manners. But we must, I am sure you
will admit, take into account differences as well as resemblances.
For instance, I gather from the whole history that your husband was,
in some respects, especially those which most touch a wife's sense of
wrong--a--what we call a wretch--a disgraceful person."

"He was. He deserted me. He divorced me. He married an American
actress. He deserted her. Richard Woodroffe is his second son."

"My son is quite the reverse. He is a young man of the highest
principle and of perfectly blameless character."

Molly smiled, looking straight before her.

"Again, your husband, I believe, was a low comedian--a singer, a
dancer, a buffoon--anything."

"He was a general utility actor. Sometimes he had a variety
entertainment."

"Humphrey, my son, has no talent for acting at all; like his father,
he would conceive it beneath the dignity of a gentleman to make
merriment for his friends."

Alice sighed. Molly sat looking straight before her, either unmoved or
unconcerned.

"Another point. Was your husband a bookish man?"

"No; he was not. He never opened a book."

"My son is essentially studious, especially in the history of Art."

Molly smiled again, but said nothing. To call Humphrey studious was,
perhaps, stretching the truth; but there certainly were the rows of
French novels.

"Now, my dear madam, I will ask you to set these points down side
by side. That is to say, on one side resemblance in face, real or
imaginary; on the other side dignity, good breeding--hereditary
breeding, a constitutional gravity of carriage, studious habits,
ambition, a total absence of the acting faculty. I ask you which of
these qualities he could inherit from your husband? As we are here
alone, I would ask you which of these qualities he could inherit from
you?"

She paused for a reply. There was none. Alice looked at Molly and
sighed. Molly smiled and looked straight before her.

"I do not say these things offensively," Lady Woodroffe continued,
in soft and persuasive accents. "My sole desire is to send you
away convinced that my son cannot possibly--cannot under any
possibility--under any imaginable possibility--be your son. To return
to the points of difference. I will ask you one more question. Was
your husband a man of unselfish habits and even temper?"

"He was not."

Lady Woodroffe smiled. "I am sorry to hear it, for your sake. My son,
on the other hand, is absolutely unselfish, and always sweet-tempered."

She looked sharply at the girl. Why did she smile? What did she mean?
What did she know about Humphrey? However, Lady Woodroffe went on,
still bland and gracious--

"Do not delude yourself any longer, madam. For the sake of your own
peace and quiet, put it away from you. Oh, this dreadful delusion
will possess you more and more! You will yearn more and more for the
possession of the son you have lost. Your mind will become so filled
with this delusion that you will be able to think about nothing else.
It will drive you to some desperate act; it will poison your daily
life; it will turn your wealth into a heavy burden. I implore you, for
the sake of those you love, to abandon this baseless belief."

"Oh! If you only knew! If you only knew!"

The tears rose to the eyes of the woman who sought her son.

"After all these years, I thought I had found him again. I recognized
him at the theatre and at the doctor's dinner."

"My poor dear lady"--again Lady Woodroffe took her hands and soothed
her--"it was indeed strange that you should find such a resemblance.
As I told you, see how impossible it is to find anything out.
Nevertheless, if I can be of any help to you, I will willingly do
all I can. Only, my advice is that you let bygones sleep, and remain
contented with the wonderful gifts that Heaven has poured into your
lap. To desire more is surely a sin."

"I would give them all to the first beggar in the street, if I could
only get back the boy."

"We will suppose"--Lady Woodroffe got up and stood before the
fireplace, looking down upon her visitor, who was now trembling and
tearful--"we will suppose, I say, that you take some steps. I hardly
know what steps you can take. Would you go to a lawyer? Perhaps.
Would you go to my son? Perhaps. In either case the evidence will be
examined. On your side a fancied resemblance. Why"--she pointed to a
portrait on the wall--"that is my husband at the age of thirty. Whose
eyes, whose face, whose hair, do you see in that portrait? Is it,
or is it not, like my son?" There really was a strong resemblance.
Lady Woodroffe, however, did not explain that she had copied it
herself from an early portrait, perhaps with additions and slight
alterations. "This portrait alone will meet the case. Besides--a
chance resemblance--again--what is it?"

Alice shook her head sadly. She was shaken in her faith.

"Next, you find an entry in a register. Who made that entry? You do
not know. Why? You cannot tell."

"Yet Mr. Woodroffe says----"

"Never mind Mr. Woodroffe. Listen to what I say. You then come forward
yourself, and you tell the very disgraceful story of how you sold
your own child--your own boy. Oh, a terrible--a shameful story!"

"Who was the child that died?" Molly put a word for the first time.

"Who was that child? I cannot tell you. Some one, for purposes
unknown, chose to represent a dead child as my husband's child. I say
that I do not choose to offer any explanation of this personation. I
will tell you, however, how Mr. Woodroffe explains it, which you know
already."

She waited for a reply. There was none.

"He supposes that the child was my child; and he supposes, next, that
the person who bought your child was myself. That is what he calls
certainty."

"Who was the child, then?" Molly repeated.

"Even supposing that my own child died at Birmingham, which is
absolutely false--how will you connect the dead child's mother with
the transaction which followed?"

"I don't know." Alice looked to Molly for support, and found none.
Molly sat with cold, impassive face.

"When you have made it quite clear that you sold your child, you have
then to fix your crime upon me as well. How will you do it? For I
have letters showing where I was. The dates prove that I could not be
in Birmingham at the time; they prove also that I was at my father's
house in Scotland with my boy. Now, what have you got to say?"

"I want my son."

"Find your son," she replied, with a touch of temper. "He will be
proud indeed of his mother when you do find him!"

Alice shuddered.

"I can do nothing to get that delusion out of your mind, then?"

"I want my son."

The woman's face was obstinate. She had left off crying and shaking;
her eyes were fierce, her pale face was set; she meant fighting. The
interview had been a failure.

"Who was the child that died?" Molly's question made all clear and
plain again.

In moments of great and serious importance we think of little things.
Lady Woodroffe saw, in this set and serious face, in the lines of her
mouth, in the determination of the eyes, something that reminded her
of Humphrey. She should have asked the woman what other qualities,
apart from those she had enumerated, he might have inherited from her.

She was now certain that the interview was a failure. No persuasion,
no soft words, could prevail against the certainty in this woman's
mind.

"I want my son," she repeated.

Lady Woodroffe turned to Molly. "You have heard everything," she said.
"What is your opinion, Miss----? I did not catch your name."

"We must find out who that child was--the dead child," Molly replied,
with tenacity.

"Then we will talk no more." She smiled again, but showed her
teeth. She then did the boldest thing in her power, a thing which
deliberately confessed the truth and bade them defiance. Like every
bold stroke, it was a stroke of genius. Yet, like every stroke of
genius, perhaps it was a mistake. For she had brought down the very
clothes in which the child had come to her. And now she showed them
to the mother, and claimed them for her own. "I am only going to
delay you one minute, Mrs. Haveril. It is a foolish thing, perhaps;
but it is an appeal to sentiment. I suppose that there is nothing
a woman treasures more than her son's baby-clothes. I am going to
show you a bundle of things that I made with my own hands, for my
baby--mine--woman--do you hear?"--with the real ring of temper--"mine!

"These things"--she untied the towel slowly--"are my son's clothes
when he was about twelve months of age. They are made of quite common
materials, after the old Scotch fashion. The very things I made
myself--with my own hands--for the child." She laid back the corners
of the towel. She took up the things one by one. "His frock--he had
gone into short frocks--his flannel, his shirt, his socks, his shoes,
his cap." She held them up, and she looked at her visitor with mockery
in her eyes and defiance in her words. "My things--that I made.
You would like to have the baby-clothes of your own son--whom you
sold--would you not?"

Alice started and sprang to her feet, gazing upon the baby-clothes.

"You see," Lady Woodroffe went on coldly and calmly, as if every
word was not a lie, "the work is not very fine. There is his name in
marking-ink. I did this embroidery. I made everything except his
socks and his shoes. There is his rattle." It was a cheap common
thing. "Here is his little cap. You have made such things, Mrs.
Haveril, I dare say, for your child--the child you sold. I thought I
would show them to you, to prove better than any words of mine, that
my child is my own."

"Oh!" It was the scream of a tigress. "Oh, mine--mine--mine!" Mrs.
Haveril threw herself literally over the clothes. She clutched and
dragged them, and with quick fingers huddled them into the towel again
and tied the corners. "Mine!" she repeated, standing up again, her
hand on the bundle. "Mine!" Her voice was like a roar of rage, sunk
down deep and low and rough--not like her customary voice, which was
gentle and sweet. "Mine!" She held the bundle to her heart.

Molly rose at this point and laid her hand on her cousin's shoulder.

"Keep quiet, dear--keep quiet! Let us leave this house." She turned to
Lady Woodroffe. "It is a house of lies."

Lady Woodroffe looked at her as if she were not present, and had not
spoken.

"The delusion is stronger than I thought," she said, affecting
surprise and wonder.

Alice recovered and stood up, still holding the things to her heart.

"Oh," she cried, panting and gasping, "you are a bad woman! a false
woman!"

"For Heaven's sake," said Molly, "keep quiet! You have said enough.
Think of yourself."

"I had better ring the bell, I think." Lady Woodroffe laid her finger
on the knob, but refrained to press it.

"Oh! What can I say?"

"Say nothing, dear," said Molly.

"Will you give me back those things?" Lady Woodroffe moved as if
she would take them. "No? Then keep them. After all I have--my
son--mine--my son. That is the main thing."

"I made these things--every one--I made them. See, Molly--here is the
very paper I wrote. I pinned it to his little frock." She kissed the
frock. "'His name is Humphrey.' I wrote it. His father said there was
always a Humphrey in the family. I wrote that paper--now!"

Lady Woodroffe smiled sadly. "Poor creature! But perhaps you had
better go at once."

"Where is my son?"

"I have done my best to relieve you of a most remarkable delusion. You
reward me by robbing me of my child's things. I cannot fight you for
them, and I do not like to make my servants take them by force. Keep
them."

She rang the bell.

"They are my things."

Lady Woodroffe continued to follow her movements with eyes of
compassion.

"It is indeed wonderful!" she murmured. "All this great fortune! And
this most miserable delusion to spoil it!"

Alice moved towards the door. She was trembling. She leaned upon
Molly. She clung to the bundle. She turned.

"You have given my son back to me. I want no further proof."

Molly bore her down the stairs, as she retired, with some loss of
dignity, her face tearful, her cheek flushed, but clutching the bundle.

"Now she knows the whole," said Lady Woodroffe. "And I defy her to
move a step. She may look at the boy from afar off." She rang her
hand-bell, and called her secretary, and resumed her struggle against
sin.



CHAPTER XIX.

A CABINET COUNCIL.


"I don't like it," said Richard. "The thing is proved down to the
ground. But I don't like it."

On the table lay the bundle of baby-clothes recovered by the true
mother. It was untied. The little flannels, the little frock, the
little woollen socks, the little cap--a touching little bundle to one
who had memories of the things. And near the table, as if guarding the
spoil she had carried off, Alice lay upon the sofa, slowly recovering
from the excitement of the afternoon.

"Not like it, Dick?" Molly asked. "Why?"

Alice laid her hand upon the things. "I want no other proof," she
said. "I made these things; I made them all. What more would you have?"

"What more can we desire?" asked Molly.

"I say that I don't like it." Dick rubbed his chin. "I don't like it
at all. It means defiance. I was in hopes that she would climb down
when she saw the copy of the entry. But she didn't. I understand now.
She can't afford to climb down; so she must defy us. She will fight,
if we make her. She sends for the mother of the child. She actually
gives her another weapon, and she says, 'Do your worst. I defy you!'"

"What do you mean by not being able to climb down, Dick?"

"Why, she's not only a great lady, rich and well born, and in society.
She is also a leader in all kinds of religious and philanthropic
movements. A certain religious paper, for instance, called her, the
other day, the Queen of the White Lilies. Exposure would be a terrible
thing for her. But if she can make it look, as she will try, like an
attempt on my part to get money out of Alice or herself, the thing
might do her no harm. However, there's the register. They can't say I
forged that entry."

"Well, but, Dick, what do you mean? You prove that her son is dead,
and that he was buried under his own name without any concealment,
just before the adoption; and we've got the baby-clothes, and we
recognize them. What more _can_ you want? She must climb down, as you
call it."

"We have got lots more, if you come to that. We have got the man who
found the child. I wonder how Sir Robert would like going into court
and deposing that he bought a baby for adoption by an unknown person.
We have also got the mother of the adopted child. Unfortunately, there
is nothing at all to connect Lady Woodroffe with the adoption. Without
that connection the case breaks down. There's the point."

"Does Humphrey know anything about it?"

"I believe not. Lady Woodroffe is not likely to tell him."

"You must not set my son against me," said the mother.

"Not if we can help it. But about the value of this evidence. Now,
Molly, please go into the witness-box." She stood up behind a chair,
placing her hands on the back. "I am counsel. The jury are sitting
over there; the judge is on your right. Keep your eyes on counsel.
Now, you are Alice first--Alice Haveril. You swear, madam, that you
know these clothes. How do you know them? Because you made them with
your own hands. Are they made of rare or uncommon materials? Are they
not made of stuff commonly used for the garments of infants? Is there
anything distinctive in the materials used? They are also made in the
fashion commonly used for children, are they not? Nothing distinctive,
then, in the fashion? So that, for materials or for shape, there is
nothing to make them different from any other baby-clothes? Nothing.
Then, madam, how do you know that they were made by your own work?"

"Because I know," said Molly.

"Because you know. But how do you know?"

"Because I remember."

"But you cannot tell me how you remember them--by what mark?" He took
up the frock. "Here is a crest in red silk. Did you work that? No. Yet
it is on the frock."

"Well, Dick," said Molly, "you needn't take so much pleasure in
knocking the case to pieces."

"I am only showing you what it amounts to. Now, get into the box
again. You are Mr. Richard Woodroffe, the expert in sagacity. What
have you got? A certified copy of an entry in the register of births
and deaths. You place, I believe, great reliance on that entry? It
records the death of the child of Sir Humphrey Woodroffe. Your theory
is that the child who died was immediately replaced by the child who
was adopted. Very well. But if there was no concealment of the death,
how could there be substitution?"

"There's an answer to that," Molly replied quickly. "The woman
never thought of hiding her name until after the child was dead and
buried--until she thought of the substitution."

"That is your theory. When you come to proof--how do you know that the
child whose death is recorded was really the son of Sir Humphrey? Was
the death announced in the papers? They have been searched, but there
is no mention of the event. Yet, when a man of such great importance
as Sir Humphrey Woodroffe loses his only son, the announcement of the
event would be made in all the papers, both here and in India. How do
you explain that omission? It is not for us--I'm on the other side,
Molly--to find out the reason of this lying entry; it is sufficient
for us to prove the continuous existence of the child from his birth
to the present day. Who made that declaration? We do not know; we
do not care. It is sufficient for our purposes to prove that Lady
Woodroffe at the time was with her father in Scotland."

"Oh, Dick, this is too horrible!"

"When such a child dies, everybody knows. Did her ladyship's family
hear of it? It appears not. Evidence will be brought to show that
she set out for London with her boy, that she wrote on arrival, and
that she wrote immediately afterwards announcing the return of her
husband. When such a child dies, the servants all know. Evidence will
be given to show that none of the servants knew, or heard about, the
loss of the heir--the only child. We are to prove that so terrible an
event was not even announced in the servants' hall. But you shall hear
Lady Woodroffe's own statement. Molly, you are now Lady Woodroffe,
but I am speaking for you. 'In the autumn of 1873 I was staying at
the country seat of my father, Lord Dunedin, in Scotland. I had just
returned from India, and was waiting for the arrival of my husband,
who was retiring from Indian service. Early in the month of February I
received a telegram from Brindisi, to the effect that my husband had
arrived there, and was coming home as fast as he could travel. I was
to meet him at the house I had taken in London. I therefore left my
father's, went on to Edinburgh, stayed the night there, and came on
next morning to London, bringing with me the child and my ayah. The
next day, or the day after, my husband arrived. I have never been in
Birmingham in my life. My child, as an infant, never had any serious
illness. As to the entry in the register, I heard of it for the first
time from Mr. Richard Woodroffe, calling himself a distant cousin,
a vocalist, who seems to have conceived and invented some kind of
conspiracy for duping Mrs. Haveril, who is wealthy, and getting money
for himself out of her!'"

"Oh, Dick," said Molly, "you haven't!"

"'You ask me'--you are still Lady Woodroffe--'what proofs I have of
these assertions. I have the clearest proofs possible--the letter of
my husband, telling me when he would arrive, the evidence of my father
that I left Dunedin Castle in time to arrive in London a day or two
before my husband--not more.' The evidence of an aged, white-haired,
venerable peer will be conclusive, Molly. 'I have old servants who can
prove that they have known the child from day to day, and must have
discovered the fact immediately had there been any change.' Do you
hear, Molly? An aged father, aged servants, a lady with a commanding
and queenly presence, a brow of brass, and a voice steady and limpid
as that of Truth herself. Poor Truth! she may get down into her well
again."

"Well; but about the hotel and the register?"

"Let us ask Lady Woodroffe. She says, 'I know nothing about either. I
cannot understand or explain who the woman was that personated me, and
said her child was the son of Sir Humphrey. It has been suggested that
she may have been the mistress of my husband. I cannot for a moment
allow that my husband, the most blameless of men, whose life was
passed with open windows, could have carried on an illicit connection.
It is impossible and absurd. I have no theory to offer about the
personation. I cannot understand it.' That is all."

"She is the most shameless, most abominable, creature alive!" said
Molly.

"She has her reputation to maintain. Well, what have we got on our
side? The entry; the fact of the adoption; and the resemblance. Put
Sir Humphrey, the second baronet, in the box. You are now that
worthy, Molly. Look at him, gentlemen of the jury. Look at him well.
Turn him round slowly like a hairdresser's waxen effigy. Observe the
fall of his hair and its colour; the colour of his eyes; the shape of
his head. Here is a portrait of Anthony Woodroffe, who, we maintain,
was his father: could there be a more striking resemblance? Here is
the respectable Richard Woodroffe, also a son--an unworthy son--of
Anthony, and who, we maintain, is the half-brother of the baronet.
You observe again a startling resemblance? Then up jumps the other
side, with the portrait of Sir Humphrey. Same hair--same eyes. Where
is your other resemblance then? Which of the two is his father? He is
curiously like them both. See?

"'Resemblance,' the learned counsel continued, 'is not enough. Let us
hear the evidence of Sir Robert Steele, M.D., F.R.S., Ex-President
of the College of Physicians, author of the Lord knows how many
treatises. Take the book, Sir Robert.' We know what he will say about
the child and the adoption. Now, listen. He goes on, 'The business
over, I thought no more of the matter. Nor did I know the name of the
lady, nor did I inquire. It was for me a matter of business partly,
because I charged a fee, and of charity partly, because the child
would otherwise have gone into the workhouse. I should not like to
identify the lady after all these years, when she must have changed
greatly; she wore a thick veil while we talked, and I remember only a
pale face and regular features.' Or stuff like that," Dick explained.
"'Yes, I am now acquainted with Lady Woodroffe, and I know her son.
I cannot explain his resemblance to Mr. Richard Woodroffe. The two
young men are said to be distant cousins. I never knew Mr. Anthony
Woodroffe. I know nothing more about the case; I express no opinion
upon the claim. The lady, in adopting the child, did not express her
intention of substituting it.' That is the evidence of the medical
man, if he would acknowledge that he remembered anything whatever
about the transfer!"

"Dick," said Molly, "Humphrey must not know anything
until--unless--the case is complete. Don't make him your enemy."

"My dear child, in the event of either success or failure, my
half-brother will most certainly regard me with a fraternal feeling,
compared with which Cain was loving and Richard the Third was loyal."

Molly looked at Alice doubtfully. She lay back in silence, her eyes
shut, paying very little attention to what was said. What, Molly
thought, would be Humphrey's attitude towards his new mother, when the
truth was disclosed to him? With the mother would come the relations.
Molly remembered how her own father, the disinherited, used to laugh
over his own cousins; over the family pride; how one was parish clerk
of St. Botolph's; how one had a select Academy at Homerton; and one
had a shop in Mare Street; and one was pew-opener; and one was a
Baptist Minister in some unknown but privileged corner of the earth.
And it occurred to her, for the first time, that the introduction of
Humphrey to his new relations would be a matter of some difficulty
and delicacy.

"I don't want any proof," said Alice. "I recognized my child when
first I saw him. His father was in every feature and every look. And
these are my things--mine: I made them." She laid her hand again on
the bundle which brought her so much certainty after so much doubt.

"But it won't do. It isn't enough. We want proof that will convince a
judge and a jury."

"If you haven't got it," she said, "I don't mind in the least. I shall
send for my son and tell him all. He may stay where he is, if he
likes. But I shall tell him all."

"I think," Dick continued, without heeding these words, "that we must
continue to advertise."

"And then?"

"Then--I don't know. I should like to bring an action. I don't know
what for. We didn't bargain for fraudulent substitution, but for open
adoption. I should think there ought to be grounds for action. But,
of course, I don't know. They certainly would not court publicity--at
least, I should think not. Whether they lost the case or won, the
evidence is so circumstantial that the world would certainly believe
in the fraud. I cannot believe that even Lady Woodroffe would care to
face the footlights."

"You talk as if you were at the same time perfectly certain, and also
in great doubt."

"I am both. I am perfectly certain, not only from the evidence of the
register and of these clothes, but from the lady's manner. How should
we hear and receive such a thing on the stage, Molly? Consider. You
are receiving the discovery of a thing you thought hidden away and
buried for ever--a discovery which will blast your whole life."

Molly presented immediately a stage interpretation of the emotion thus
rudely awakened. She started, threw up her left hand, pressed her
heart with her right hand; she opened her lips and panted; her eyes
dilated.

"That is very good. But Lady Woodroffe didn't do that at all. She was
much more effective. Sit bolt upright in your chair; stiffen yourself;
turn your eyes upon me quickly; at the mention of the dead child,
let all the colour go out of your face; at the word 'substitution'
let your head swim, clutch at the arms of your chair--so--recover
in a moment. Look at me again with strangely troubled eyes--so--you
remember you are going to fight; harden your face; set your lips firm;
let your eyes be like flints for resolution--so. Molly, my dear, if
you were to practise for a twelvemonth you couldn't do it half so well
as Lady Woodroffe herself. As a study she was most valuable. If there
had been any doubt before in my mind, there would be none now."

"How will Humphrey take it?"

"Are you concerned about him still, Molly?--after that midnight walk
of ours?"

"Well, Dick, he has not had my answer yet. I must consider him a
little. And he is your half-brother, remember."

"He will become, like his half-brother, an outsider--ha! an outsider,
a cad, a bounder!" Dick snorted. Forgiveness and tenderness to the
man who was trying to take his girl from him could not be expected.

Just then a telegram was brought in. It came from a certain firm of
solicitors at Birmingham, and was addressed to Richard Woodroffe--

     "_Have found the medical man who attended the child. He has
     his notes, remembers the case, has identified lady from
     photograph; will swear to her!_"

"Good Heavens!" Richard waved the telegram over his head. "We have got
the next step. We can identify Lady Woodroffe with the woman whose
child died."

He read the telegram.

"Is there anything more wanted, at all?"

"There is one thing wanted. It is the identification of the lady as
the adopter of the child, and that lies in the hands of Sir Robert."

"Do you think he knows?"

"I am certain he knows. Why did he ask us all to dinner, if he does
not know? I am pretty certain, too, that he won't let out, unless we
make him."

"How can we make him, Dick, if he won't?"

"There is only one way, Molly. The case is strong,
circumstantially--that if we make it public, the world will be forced
to believe it, whatever the lady may say and swear. Nothing could be
stronger."

"I want no proof," said Alice. "If you cannot bring my son to me, I
shall go to him and tell him all."

"The one thing that will weigh with Sir Robert and the lady is the
fear of publicity. I will make one more attempt, Molly. I will go to
the lady first and to the doctor afterwards. If they remain obdurate,
I will take advice as to the best way of obtaining publicity. And that
will ruin the one and damage the other."

There was one other person present at this council. It was John
Haveril. He said nothing, but he listened, with far-away eyes, like a
gardener over a strawberry-bed. When Dick concluded, he took his hands
out of his pockets and walked out of the room.



CHAPTER XX.

JOHN HAVERIL CLEARS UP THINGS.


John Haveril was a man of few words, and these came slowly; but of
ready action. He followed the course of the inquiry, with doubt at
first, but, as one point after another came to light, he began to be
interested; when the child's clothes were brought home, he had no
more doubt on this point: he became impatient. Why should there be
any more hesitation? If the lady persisted in her denial, why not go
straight to the young man and lead him to his mother? As for what
might follow after that, if he thought about it at all, should be left
to Providence. Therefore, bearing in mind the agitation and anxiety in
which his wife was kept by these delays, he resolved upon independent
action of his own. And that was the reason why he took his hands out
of his pockets and left the room.

Humphrey Woodroffe sat in his study, getting through the hour before
dinner with the help of a French novel. The field of human interest
occupied by the kind of French novel which he and his friends chiefly
studied, is so limited that one is surprised that its readers never
seem to tire of it or to ask for more. The study--which was behind the
dining-room--was furnished by himself, and was an excellent example
of the day's taste. In the higher æsthetic circles, the members of
which are very limited in number, the first and most important rule
is that true Art, and with it, of course, the highest expression
of Art, changes from year to year; what was last year the one and
eternal treatment, is now Philistine and contemptible. His piano was
littered with music--mostly in MSS.--his own; weird and wonderful
daubs of colour hung upon the walls--they were the pictures of the
New School--they called themselves the New School--the school of
to-day, of whom he was one. His table was covered with books bound
in dainty white and gold, or grey and gold: they were chiefly books
of poets--old poets--forgotten poets, who sang of love; it has been
reserved for our age to disinter them, and to go into raptures over
their magnificent and fearless realism. Poetry, like painting, music,
furniture, and wall-paper, changes its fashions for the young every
year.

In a word, the study was a temple. For such a temple her worshippers
must all be young--under seven and twenty. It is sad to think that
they will one day become old--old--old--thirty years old, and that
new poets will write, new musicians compose, new painters paint, for
younger æsthetes. Sad to reflect that they will then be _passés_,
their utterances Bohemian, their views contemptible, their standards
ignoble.

John Haveril advanced into this shrine of the æsthetic muse with more
of his later than of his earlier manner. The gardener was, perhaps,
below the man of consideration.

"Mr. John Haveril?" Humphrey read the name from the card as if he had
never heard it before, and received him with the studied chill which
most effectually keeps off the outsider. "I met you, I believe, at Sir
Robert Steele's?"

"Yes; I was there."

He looked about for a chair that would bear his weight. There was one
which seemed equal to the task. He sat down without being invited.
Humphrey remained standing, with his most repellent manner.

"I was there, young man; I was there," John Haveril repeated. "We had
not much conversation; but I presume if you do meet a man once, and
you have something to say to that man, you may call upon him."

"Surely. Though what Mr. Haveril, the man of millions--is it twenty
millions?--and more?--I hope much more--can have to say to me, I
cannot guess. Briefly, sir, I have no money; I never speculate; and I
can take none of your shares."

John Haveril opened his mouth twice. Then he shook his head. "Best
not to meet bad manners with worse," he replied, with dignity quite
in his best manner. "I understand, young man, that you mean some kind
of sneer which, let me tell you, sir, ill becomes your youth in the
presence of my age."

Sir Humphrey leaned his elbow on the mantel-shelf, and adjusted his
pince-nez with his unoccupied hand. This took time. In fact, he was
thinking of a repartee. When the operation was finished, he turned to
his visitor a face of deliberate insolence.

"You came to teach me something beside manners, I believe. Not, I
am sure, that one could desire, even in manners, a more competent
instructor."

"I did. Perhaps it may be worth your while to listen. Perhaps not. If
it is, you may take your elbow off the shelf, and try not to look as
if you were gazing at a chipmunk in a cage. Understand, sir that I
will receive neither your pity nor your contempt. If you do not change
your manner, I will show you, by a highly practical method, that you
have made a mistake."

There was something in the man's eyes which compelled obedience.
Besides, although he was forty years older than the other, there was a
toughness about his build which might be formidable.

Humphrey instantly changed both his look and his attitude, and took a
chair.

"You may go on," he said sulkily, "as soon as you please."

"When I heard about you, sir, in connection with the little
transaction we know of, I began to inquire secretly whether we were
wise to go on. 'If he turns out unworthy,' I said, 'we'd better stop
where we are, and take no further steps in the matter.'"

"I shall probably understand as we go along," said Humphrey. "At
present----"

"You will understand, presently. I can't say, sir, that the character
I have obtained of you is encouraging."

"Kind, however, of people to give one a character at all." He threw
back his head into his hands, and stretched out his legs, and looked
up into the ceiling.

"I don't understand," John Haveril replied, "the talk that says one
thing and means another. I like plain and straightforward things.
However, I hear of you that you gamble and drink, and that you run
after dancing-girls; and that you believe, like many young Englishmen
of fortune, that you belong to a separate caste, and not to the world,
like common people."

"Unfortunately, Mr. Haveril, we have to belong to the world. I assure
you that I would much rather not."

"You've got to. However, we did go on; I have not told the person
chiefly interested all I'd heard about you, nor the half. We've now
brought our business to an end. That is, we've proved up to the hilt
what was at first only a suspicion."

"Again, I dare say I shall understand you presently."

"The question is, whether you know the secret. 'If,' I said, 'he does
know the secret, and still carries on the pretence, the chap isn't
worthy of our notice. Let's wipe our feet on him, and go on our way.'"

"Wipe--your--feet? You like plain and straightforward things, Mr.
Haveril. Surely it is a poetical and an imaginative case--'wipe your
feet'--upon--a--'chap.'"

"'If he carries on the pretence in ignorance,' I said, 'let us tell
him, and see how he takes it. If he takes it worthily, we shall know
what to think of him.'"

"To think of him?" murmured Humphrey.

"Yes. Well, the time has come for you to learn the truth, if you don't
know the truth already."

Humphrey smiled. "I really cannot read that riddle. No; I do not know
the truth. Whether I shall take it worthily, as you say, or whether I
shall receive the wiping of muddy feet, I cannot foretell."

"You don't know? Well, I don't think it's my business to tell you.
Very likely some one will tell you. Meantime, the person principally
concerned does know it, and you will understand, when you do learn the
truth, how much it has unsettled her. Also Dick knows it."

"Who is Dick? Fiddler Dick? Dick the Tramp? Dick who goes out in
white-thread gloves, like a waiter?"

"And Molly knows it. And I know it. Very well. Now, I want you to
remember very carefully what I say. If you don't understand these
words now, you will later on. First of all, whatever happens, you are
no relation of mine."

"Thank you! thank you!" Humphrey changed his position, sat up, and
clasped his hands. "Thank you, _so_ much! I began to fear, Mr.
Haveril, that you must be a long-lost uncle."

"And no claim can be set up on me. You are not my son, but hers."

"That is at least true. I am hers. And I certainly am not yours. This
grows exciting."

"Hers, I say, not mine."

Humphrey jumped in his chair. "How the devil, man, can I be your son?
What drivel is this?"

John Haveril paid no attention to this question. He was putting his
own case in his own words.

"And not being my son, there's no claim," he went on slowly. "But,
young man, as the thing has to come out, you will have to behave
according."

"'Behave according'? Come, Mr. Haveril, I have given you a patient
hearing. Pray, what do you mean by 'behave according'? But
please--please tell me what you mean, or go away." He spread his hands
helplessly. "I wish some one would come," he murmured, "and carry off
this person."

"When you learn the truth, remember what I say now. I don't like you,
nor the looks of you, nor the language of you, nor the ways of you.
But there you are, and I'm bound to do something for you. Now, sir,
make your mother happy; do what she wants, make her love you. And,
well, your sort, I take it, is always wanting money; you never make
any, and you are always spending. Make her happy, and you shall have
as much as any young man can want in reason or out of reason. I know
your manner of life, sir, and it's an expensive manner of life. You
are in debt again; Lady Woodroffe has already paid your debts once or
twice; champagne and cards and painted Jezebels--you shall have them
all--all; I don't care what you want, you shall have everything, if
you only behave properly to your mother."

Humphrey heard these words with real and breathless astonishment.
There had been, it is true, many expostulations from his mother about
extravagance and scandals; but could she have complained to this
rough, coarse creature?

"I cannot for the life of me understand what you mean."

"Remember what I say, then."

"Mr. Haveril"--for once the young man spoke quite plainly and
unaffectedly--"I assure you, although you assume that I know what
you mean--I do not in the least. Can you explain why you take such an
interest in my relations with my mother, not to speak of my personal
character?"

"No, sir. You will understand, very well, in a day or two. Let me
conclude, sir. I intended to explain that I married late in life."

"Oh!" Humphrey groaned. "It is like a bad dream. What does it matter
to me whether you married late in life or early? Man alive! Will you
take a drink--two drinks--to go? There's whisky in the cabinet."

"I say," John Haveril repeated slowly, "that I married late in
life. Over forty I was; therefore I've had but small experience of
women. But of your mother I must say she's the very best woman that
lives--the very best."

Humphrey gasped. "Good Lord!" he cried.

"The best and the tenderest and the most pious."

"Oh! The most pious!"

"And the most beautiful. Pity that she keeps fretting about you."

"Well, it is a pity. Do you mean to say that she sent
you--you--you--to tell _me_--_me_--_me_ that?"

"Otherwise, naturally a happy nature, full of sunshine, and
well-mannered."

Humphrey laughed aloud. "Well, she is well-mannered. That's a good
shot."

"And speaks like a lady."

"Yes, yes; she certainly does."

"Well, then"--John Haveril rose--"I believe I've said all I came to
say."

"I'm glad of that. Perhaps you'd like to say it all over again. You
have told me my character; you have assured me that I am not your son;
you have offered me millions if I behave properly; and you have been
so good as to praise my mother warmly."

"I've said, I think, all I came to say," he repeated, in his slow
manner. "Don't tell your mother--when you know the truth--what I said,
nor why I came here. Best for her to believe that you behave, as you
are going to behave, out of your own good heart--you can pretend a
bit, I suppose, without any thought of the dollars. And when you get
those dollars, you can say to yourself, young man, that you wouldn't
have had them if it hadn't been for your mother."

With these words John Haveril offered his hand. Humphrey looked
straight through him, taking no notice of the proffered salute.

"I was once in the service of an English gentleman," he said--"in his
garden. But for that I should believe that the English aristocracy
was more unmannerly than any New Mexican cowboy. Sir, to use what I
understand is your favourite expression where manners are concerned,
you are yourself nothing better than a cad and an outsider. But do
not tell your mother, when you know the truth, that I said so. Let it
be a secret between ourselves that I have found you to be a cad--an
unmannerly cad."

He then departed with dignity.

Humphrey looked after him with surprise rather than anger. To be
called an outsider by a beast of a self-made Dives who had formerly
been a gardener! It was astonishing; it was a new experience; it was
ludicrous.

He ran upstairs to the drawing-room, where his mother was alone,
writing.

"If I may interrupt," he said. "Thank you. One moment. Mother, I've
had a most remarkable visit."

"Who is your visitor?"

"I wonder why they ever invented America," he said. "I wonder why we
tolerate Americans--rich Americans--who have been English mechanics.
Why do we admit them into our houses?"

"It is a mistake. But it is useless to protest. Why do you ask?"

"My visitor was a man who came last from America, where he has made
a great fortune--robbed the people by the thousand, I suppose--a man
named Haveril."

"Haveril!"

"I met the man the other night at Sir Robert Steele's."

"Vulgar, of course."

"Not so vulgar as ignorant--say, common. He told me he was a
gardener's boy originally. Seemed to think it was a meritorious thing."

"It is the mock-humility of the purse-proud. But what did he want with
you?"

"He is mighty mysterious about some secret which is going to be sprung
upon me. It is now, he said, completely discovered."

"'Completely discovered,' you said, my son?"

"And I am to be told in a day or two. After which, everything depends
upon my behaviour."

"Oh! Of what nature is the wonderful secret?"

"I don't know. Then he went on with a rigmarole about my being no
relation of his--as if such a thing were possible! And he promises a
mountain of dollars if I obey the wishes of my mother. Have you any
special wishes, mother?"

"None--except those which you already know, and do not respect."

"I live as other men in my position are expected to live."

"Go on about your mysterious visitor."

"He began to talk about you, mother. Spoke of your good manners. I
ought to have knocked him down for his impudence."

"Did he reveal his secret?"

"No. He gave me a warning--as I told you--and he went away."

Lady Woodroffe looked up, with a perfectly calm face.

"I believe I could tell you something about his secret." Truth was
stamped plainly on that marble brow, with all the other virtues which
belong to the _grande dame de par le monde_. "The woman Haveril is,
I believe, crazed. The man is a fool, except in making money, where
he is, I dare say, a knave. They are aided and abetted by a man of
your name, a Richard Woodroffe, who is clearly making money by the
conspiracy--and a girl they call Molly Something."

"What? Is Molly in it?"

"Pray, are you concerned with that person as well as----?"

"She is a _protégée_ of Hilarie. It was there I met her. As for the
fellow, Richard Woodroffe, he is just a horrid little cad."

"Well. That will do. You need not worry yourself about it, Humphrey.
I am busy now." She turned to her work, having been interrupted in an
essay on the treatment of hardened sinners, considered in connection,
I believe, with the case of Jane Cakebread.



CHAPTER XXI.

"TO BE OFF WITH THE OLD LOVE."


Once more, guest night at the college. A good many guest nights had
passed since the first. The thoughtful and the curious no longer
came; they were not missed by Hilarie and her friends at the place
about which there had been at first so much discussion and derision.
A college which taught nothing, and was only a place of culture,
and consolation, and rest, and good breeding--a mere establishment
for reminding women perpetually of their very highest functions and
duties--was sure to excite derision. Meanwhile, it went on doing
its own work, and nobody derided any longer. This is the way of the
world, and it is like one of the three--nay, four, things which the
Proverbial philosopher found too wonderful for him--things which he
knew not. A man proposes to found, or establish, or create, something
new--something which will, perhaps, cause changes small or great in
the current order and the current talk. It is immediately fastened
upon and he is held up to derision. Nothing is so truly ridiculous as
a thing which is new; besides, it makes admirable "copy." If the man
kicks out in return, he is jumped upon again. The world is then called
upon to observe how completely the creature is squelched, how he
lies flat and lifeless on the arid sand. Presently the world observes
that the man, so far from being flat and lifeless, is going on just
as if there had been no jumping at all; he bears no apparent mark of
bruises, no bones are broken, there are no patches of diachylum on his
head; he just proceeds quietly with his plan. Then comes another but
a fainter sound of derision, because, when people do get hold of a
good thing to worry, they like to keep at it. But the dead man, twice
killed, goes on, without paying any attention. Then silence falls.
It is unwise to let the world understand that the man you have just
killed is going about alive and quite unhurt, and that the theory
you have covered with contempt is flourishing like a vigorous vine,
already bearing blossoms and rich with promise of purple clusters.

"Yes," said Hilarie, "my simple college is going on; we are quite
full. We teach nothing except the true functions of woman, and her
place in the human comedy. We admit all those who have to work. Here
they learn that work for money and a livelihood is a kind of accident
for woman. For man it is necessary; his nature makes him crave for
activity. For woman it is an accident, which belongs to our imperfect
social system. She ought not to work for pay. And in the case of many
women, perhaps most, it degrades and lowers them, because it turns
them from what should be the main object of their lives. In this place
we warn, and here we daily strive to hold before them the necessity of
keeping before themselves a standard. They must never lose sight of
the fact that woman is the priestess of civilization. We do our best
to prevent our girls from being degraded by the unhappy accident of
having to work for wages. All women's work should be work for love."

"But it is said that you pauperize them by taking them in for nothing."

Hilarie laughed. "If the gift is a gift of love, repaid by love, what
harm? But there is a rule about payment, and nobody knows except
myself who pays and who does not. They come when they like; they go
when they like. It is a college in the old sense of the word, not the
new--a place of residence."

She left her guests and spoke to Molly. "I have asked my cousin
Humphrey to come," she said. "Will you give him an answer to-night?"

"I thought I would wait to see how he would receive----"

"Yes; you told me. It is a most wonderful story, Molly. But I do not
believe that it will be allowed to go beyond those who know it at
present. I do not believe that he will ever be told this story at all.
If he were, I know very well how he would behave. There is another
reason, Molly dear; you will understand presently, when I show you a
letter. Take him into the library, when the people are going away. Do
not answer him until I come to you. I promise you, Molly, that after
I have shown you a certain paper, you will thank God that your doubts
and your temptations were all removed."

"But if he were to go through this ordeal? It is a trial that would
prove the noblest nature."

"It is. But there is another ordeal. Will you trust me?"

"Why, Hilarie! If I am to begin by distrusting you!"

Dick was present, and had brought his fiddle, on which he presently
discoursed, to the joy of everybody except his distant cousin.

Later on Molly led Humphrey to "sit out" in the library, where two or
three other couples were already occupied in the same selfish evasion
of duty.

The young man was in a most ill temper--perhaps on account of Dick's
presence---- He made no pretence at concealing this ill temper.

"I have every reason to complain," he said. "You avoid me; you will
not answer my letters."

"I am waiting to give you your final answer."

"You gave that long ago."

"I did not. I have told you all along that I was not certain whether
the thing would tend to your happiness or my own. Above all, I refused
to have any concealments."

"This objection to concealment is a new thing. Before, you consented."

"No; I never did consent. I have always told you that I would not be
hidden away, like a thing to be ashamed of."

"And I have always told you that my only reason was respect for my
mother's prejudices."

"Let me have my own prejudices, too; and I mean to have them
respected."

"You know that I love you, Molly."

"That is no reason why you should insult me. If I am ever married, it
must be openly, and in the sight of the world. I think I should ask my
relations to be present. You would like to meet the parish clerk, and
the pew-opener, and the ragged bankrupt. Don't use bad language, Sir
Humphrey. Poor and lowly they may be, but perhaps--I'm sure I don't
know--they are virtuous as well."

"I don't mind what you say, Molly."

"Then there are the Haverils."

"The rich people! The man called upon me the other day, and talked
conundrums. What have you got to do with them?"

"They are my cousins. I am a great deal with them just now."

"Oh! Is that what makes you so infernally independent?"

"Shall I become the heiress of millions, or shall I be hidden away in
a box by a husband who is ashamed of his wife? I have this choice."

"Oh! Their heiress! If they will do that! But have you told them of
your engagement?"

"I am not engaged."

"Don't be silly, Molly. How can you refuse what I offer you? Why did
the man call on me, then?"

"Did he call? What did he tell you?"

"He talked about some tremendous secret--talked about my mother. I
thought he meant you and the engagement. Then he told me--which was
a most curious thing--that if I followed the wishes of my mother, I
should have as much money as I want. Wishes of my mother! Why, if I
told her that I was engaged to a lady named Pennefather, she would ask
what your county was, and with whom you were connected, and where your
people's property might lie. And if I said--you know--why, it would be
a case of cutting me off with a shilling. Yet that respectable Dives
went on talking about my mother's wishes."

"Perhaps you did not understand him. At all events, he could not mean
my engagement, because I am not engaged. This is the tenth time that I
have reminded you of that fact, Sir Humphrey."

"My mother would certainly like me to back out--I mean, not to go on."

"Pray do back out."

"I believe you want to take up with that detestable cad--the man you
call Dick--loathsome worm!"

"You are doing your very best to be pleasant this evening, and to
ingratiate yourself! All the world are cads, are they not? except a
small class. But it is quite true. Dick wants me to marry him."

"You'd better, then, and go off on the tramp with him."

"Perhaps I shall. But now, Humphrey, just to come back to
ourselves. You continually insult my people--the class to which I
belong--whenever you open your lips to speak. You have nothing but
contempt for the people who work for their living, to whom I belong,
and the people outside your own little circle. What do you want to
marry me for? To make me happy by having to listen to this continual
flood of contempt?"

"Because, Molly"--the young man's artificial smile vanished and his
pince-nez dropped--"because you are unlike everybody I know. None of
the girls that I know are in the least like you. It pleases me to
see you get indignant in defence of cads. It is like coming into a
different atmosphere. I like to feel like coming down into another
class. When we are married, I mean to go on living with my mother and
her set, and to keep you apart--don't call it concealment--in some
cottage away from the West End."

"And my own people?"

"Well, of course you won't have them to your house, I suppose. You can
go and see some of them, if you like. You can't possibly want to see
all----"

"And my old friend Dick?"

Humphrey turned red; he lost his repose; he flushed a vulgar red.

"You shall not associate with that abominable cad, Molly. I shall
forbid it altogether. You must promise----"

"When I promise anything--perhaps----"

"Then you know, Molly, you are soothing to the nerves. After seeing
a bad picture, or hearing a bad piece of music, or listening to the
cheerfulness of that--that BEAST they call Dick, only to watch you
consoles, and to talk with you restores."

"I am glad to have some qualities, in spite of my birth."

"You have risen above that misfortune, Molly. If you would only refuse
to know these people----"

"Certainly not."

"Give me your promise, Molly."

She rose. "Well, at all events, I understand exactly what you mean. If
you are so good as to marry me, I am to be hidden away; I am to serve
as a soothing syrup for shattered nerves; I am to be an antidote to
bad music; I am to be ashamed of my own people, and to give up my old
friends. That is understood, is it not?"

"We exchange sacrifices--mine the sacrifice of marrying beneath me;
yours, that of giving up an ignoble troop of relations."

To plain persons every word that this girl had spoken would have
been a clear announcement of her decision. To this young man no such
intention was conveyed. Still in the fulness of his self-conceit, the
sacrifice he himself proposed in actually marrying a girl with such
family connections seemed so enormous, while the prospect of becoming
his wife seemed to him so dazzling, that he was totally unable to
understand any hesitation. Molly was whimsical; she did not like to
surrender her independence. He liked her the better for it. No meek
submissive maiden, however lovely, would be able to command that
sacrifice. And, besides, there was that strange magic about the girl's
face and eyes and voice, that in her presence, as has been explained
already, the young man's mind was full of yearnings after transports
unspeakable--after the Flowery Way, where the dancers are, with the
castanets and the champagne and raptures that even the newest Art
cannot bestow.

"Humphrey," she said, "suppose that in a moment--all in a moment--the
things you value most in the world should vanish?"

"My Art? My genius?"

"No; not such genius as you may possess. That is not what you value
most. I mean your birth and rank and position in the world. Suppose
that were to vanish suddenly away?"

"You talk nonsense."

"I say, suppose it were to vanish suddenly away--suppose you were to
become--say--one of my cousins--born like them----"

"Molly, don't waste time in talking nonsense."

"Well, perhaps---- Oh, here is Hilarie."

The library was now deserted, save for these two, when Hilarie
appeared at the door. Her face, always grave, was now stern. Humphrey
saw the look on her face and coloured, conscience-stricken. With her
came his other cousin, also looking grave.

"Molly dear," said Hilarie, "has Sir Humphrey been pressing you?"

The young man became confused and agitated. He understood.

"He has. He wants me to promise to go into hiding with a secret
marriage. He is unable to understand that the sacrifice could not be
compensated even by his society."

Hilarie turned to Sir Humphrey. "I asked you here to-night," she said,
"in order to arrange this little scene. Molly, you can read this
letter."

Molly read it, and looked up from the page into the shamefaced cheeks
of Humphrey.

"I--I--I must go," said the double lover. "Good night, Molly."

"No, sir. Not before Molly has read the letter."

Richard moved a step towards the door.

Molly read it, and looked up amazed. She read it again, and her cheek
flamed. And a third time. Then she returned the letter to Hilarie.

"Wretch!" she said.

Since Hilarie used the same word to express the same idea, there is no
doubt that the dictionary ought to have a special line on this meaning
of the word "wretch."

"Do you understand it, Molly?"

"There can be no doubt about it, Hilarie. Won't you make him go?"

Hilarie pointed to the door contemptuously, as one dismisses a
messenger or a boy; not in the tragic vein at all, but by a little
gesture of her forefinger. Dick threw the door open with a gesture of
command.

Humphrey obeyed, with an effort at preserving some appearance of
dignity. To be found out under such circumstances, to be exposed in
such a manner, to be ordered off the premises so contemptuously,
would make the proudest of men leave the room with the appearance of
ignominy.

"Molly, my dear," said Hilarie, "when you think of the man and what he
is, you will never regret him."

She laid her head upon Hilarie's shoulder with a deep, deep sigh.

"One doesn't like a man making love to somebody else at the same time.
But I dare say I shall get over that. And then--oh, my dear Hilarie,
it is such a relief! I cannot tell you what a relief. For, you know,
sometimes I seem to think that I did consent."

"And as for my other cousin here?"

"Dick," said Molly, "the fiddle is very light to carry. I shan't feel
the weight of it--not a bit. Are you satisfied, Dick?"



CHAPTER XXII.

THE CLAN AGAIN.


Once more the relations met together, this time by invitation. They
would have preferred separate and individual treatment. Each one
received a letter, inviting him or her to the hotel on the afternoon
of such a day. Each came expectant, hopeful, confident; and their
faces dropped when they found, each in turn, that all had been invited
together. They mounted the stairs; they entered the room; they stood
about or they sat down in silence. If they spoke, it was to remark in
murmurs on the interesting motives of certain persons in connection
with rich cousins. The broken one, shabbier than ever, sat hanging his
head. "I wouldn't ha' come," he said aloud, "if I'd expected a crowd
like this." But the draper of Mare Street, Hackney, stood erect, his
hand thrust into his bosom, as one who is gently rocked and lulled
upon his own motives, as upon the cradle of the deep.

Presently John Haveril came in, accompanied by Dick, who attended as a
kind of private secretary, and took no part in the proceedings until
the end.

John carried in his hand a bundle of papers. "Well," he said, "you're
all come, I think--all come." He turned over the papers, and nodded
to the writer of each letter in turn. "All come. I invited you all to
come." He spoke gravely and with dignity--in his most dignified manner.

"First, sir"--the self-constituted spokesman offered his hand--"we
trust that you continue in good health, in the midst of your truly
colossal responsibilities."

"Yes, sir, yes--I continue pretty well." Again he looked round.
"Perhaps you will all sit down."

"I, for one, should be ashamed to sit." The draper spoke with reproach
in his voice, for the rest had taken chairs. "Ashamed, sir, while you
are standing."

It was something like the old-fashioned reading of the will, but
before the funeral instead of after. They sat expectant, hungrily
expectant. Out of so many millions, surely, surely something would
come to every one! Would it take the form of hundreds?

"Alma," said the pew-opener, coming along in the omnibus, "he's got a
good heart; you can see it in his deep blue eye. He's bound to give us
what we ask--and Alice my own first cousin and all, and you but one
removed."

"Perhaps Cousin Charles has been at him behind our backs."

It is disheartening to observe the readiness with which young ladies
on a certain social level ascribe and suspect the baser springs of
action.

"Trust him!" The lady of the pews should have learned more Christian
charity. "But I hope he won't be able to poison Cousin John's mind
against honest people. I call him 'Cousin-John-by-marriage,' not 'Mr.
Haveril,' and I say he took us over with Alice when he married her. A
man marries, my dear, into his wife's family. Alma!"

"What is it, mother?"

"They've got no children. Somebody must have it when they go. Why not
you and me?"

"Why not, mother? We could make a good use of it."

"We could. Ah!" She closed her eyes for the space of a furlong.

"Mother, how much did you ask for?"

"A hundred and twenty pounds. I could do it for less, perhaps, because
there's my own furniture. He must give it; he can't refuse--and me
Alice's first cousin, and you but one removed. My dear, I've always
longed to have a Margate lodging-house since I stood upon Margate
jetty as a girl, and paid a Margate bill as a grown woman, before you
were born."

"I've asked for seventy pounds. I believe I could start respectably
for less; but seventy would be plenty. And oh! to sit behind your own
counter, covered with dolls and fancy-work and pretty things, and have
no work to do! Oh!" She clasped her hands in ecstasy.

"Yes, Alma; it's all very well if the people come in to buy your
things. But what do you know about shops and what to charge?"

"Come to that, mother, what do you know about keeping lodgings?"

It was with speculations such as these, with castles in the air or
in Spain, that the cousins beguiled their way towards the Hôtel
Métropole. The fancy of the broken one dwelt upon the tobacco-shop.
It seems that this kind of shop attracts many of the best and
brightest. There is so little to do; the money drops in all day long;
you can smoke your own tobacco morning, noon, and night, while the
laughing hours dance along and strew the way with roses. The bankrupt
looked, indeed, as if roses would be a change for him after his long
staying among the flagons and the apples.

"I asked you, when you were here last"--John Haveril remained
standing--"to send me letters if you wanted me to do anything. I
wanted to know quite clearly what you wanted. You have done so. I
find, as I expected, that you all want me to give you money."

"Excuse me, sir," said the spokesman, "we distinguish between begging
and borrowing. To give--to bestow alms--upon unworthy persons"--he
looked severely at the bankrupt, who paid no heed--"or upon persons
who are best left in their own humble station in life"--he waved an
insulting hand towards the pew-opener--"is one thing; to advance
capital which will be regarded as a loan, to be repaid with interest,
is quite another thing. To solicit alms, as has been done, I fear, by
some in this room, is one thing; to offer an investment, on the solid
security of a sterling and established place of business, is quite
another thing."

"Very true," said John Haveril. "Very true."

"Where the security is a concern--a concern, sir, improving every day,
with four and twenty young ladies as shop-assistants----"

"Fed on scrag of mutton and margarine!" observed the pew-opener, aloud.

"--in a promising suburb and in a crowded highway, with the
electric light, a carriage often at the door, and the proprietor a
churchwarden--a very different thing," he concluded, running down and
forgetting the construction of his sentence.

The others said nothing; but the Board school teacher examined the
pictures on the wall, and was absorbed for the moment in art criticism.

"You all want money," John Haveril repeated; "that is the reason why I
invited you here to-day."

"Why shouldn't we?" asked the broken one. "You are the only one of the
family who has got any money. As for this fellow"--he indicated the
draper--"hollow, hollow! There's no stability in him, I know. Where I
am there he ought to be--down among the dead men."

"Where a few pounds would be the making of us, and them not so much as
missed," said the pew-opener, "why not?"

"I don't know," continued the capitalist, "that you've got any claim
on me. You cut your cousin Alice off--out of the family--for her first
marriage."

"What else," asked the spokesman, "could we do? She married an actor,
sir--a common actor. No doubt she has long since repented her early
choice. How different from her second venture--her second prize! Ah! a
prize indeed."

"Some of us were not born then," said the Board school teacher.
"I'd as soon marry an actor as a draper--sooner, too." She was a
sharp-faced girl, quick and ready--perhaps too quick--with woman's
most formidable weapon. "Actors don't sweat shop-girls."

"Alice tells me," John Haveril went on slowly, "that none of you ever
made any kind of inquiry after her, or answered her letters--except
one--Will--also an actor, who is now deceased."

"How could we, when some of us hadn't even got into the cradle?" asked
the teacher.

"I didn't quarrel with Alice," said the bankrupt. "I never saw her nor
heard of her. And I didn't quarrel with Cousin Will. Why," he added
conclusively, "I borrowed money of him."

"If she had been in want," John Haveril added, "would you have helped
her because she was your cousin?"

"Since I, for one, never heard that she was in want"--again the
teacher--"how can I tell what I should have done? It's like this,
Mr. Haveril--you must know it yourself. It isn't respectable to have
cousins ragged and in want. If I could afford it, I would give them
money to go away. Look at that Object"--she pointed to the bankrupt.
"Object, I call him."

"Object yourself!" retorted the broken one.

"Is he a credit to the family? No; I've got no money to spare, or I'd
pay him to go right away. Same with Cousin Alice. Don't talk to us
about cousinly love. We like respectability."

"Very good," said John Haveril.

"Cousin Alice has brought you a lot of relations," Alma continued,
emboldened. "Here we are, fawning, like Cousin Charles; begging, like
Cousin Alfred; and telling you the truth, like me."

"One, sir, one at least"--this was, of course, the draper--"has ever
been ready to acknowledge the tie of blood."

"I'm sure," said the pew-opener, "if Alice had come to my humble
place, which she never did----"

"Never," her daughter added.

"--there'd have been a cup of tea made in no time, and a chair by the
fire."

"You have among you"--John Haveril pointed to the bankrupt--"a cousin
who is poor and distressed. What have you done for him? Which of you
has helped this unfortunate man?"

"Not one," the unfortunate replied for all; while Charles regarded his
fallen relation vindictively. "Not one," the bankrupt continued. "And
now your guilty hearts are exposed and your greedy natures brought to
light. Grabbers and grubbers--every one. And this to me--to me--Mr.
Haveril, the only gentleman of the lot! What do they care about
gentlemen?"

"You ask me, all of you, to help you with gifts or loans of money. On
what pretence? Because I am your cousin's husband----"

"Cousin-John-by-marriage," said the pew-opener. "You took us over as
your own when you married Alice. You married into the family. That you
can't deny."

"If that is the reason why I am to help you, why don't you help this
cousin?"

"Hear! hear!" from the cousin indicated.

"He is in the last stage of poverty and misery."

"Because it serves him right." The draper once more stepped forward,
while the rest of the family murmured assent.

"Outside," said John, "it is raining, with a cold wind; he has no
great-coat,--nothing but a thin jacket; the soles of his boots are
parting----"

"Help him? He's always been a disgrace to the family," said the
pew-opener.

"You ask me, however, to help you, and you offer no reference as to
character."

"Reference? What reference do you want?" asked the Board school
teacher. "Haven't I got a responsible situation? Isn't mother in a
responsible situation? Mr. Haveril, I wouldn't talk about this poor
ragamuffin, if I were you. It's beneath you. Give him a great-coat
yourself, and in ten minutes it will be five shillings, and in an hour
it will be drunk. Help him? I wouldn't help Cousin Alfred if I had
hundreds--nor Cousin Charles if I had millions."

"You wouldn't," said the bankrupt, "if it was an angel from heaven;
you'd see him starve first."

"Some of us, my dear sir," the draper explained sadly, "have to
draw the line at disgrace. Character, in business, goes a long way.
Bankruptcy brings disgrace even upon those members of the family who
are otherwise regarded with respect."

"You think it is a mistake to give money?"

Cousin Charles retracted. "We must distinguish between giving and
advancing. I would recommend the advance--the advance only--of capital
to those who can help themselves."

"My friend, if you can help yourself, you want no help."

"In a sense, most true; in fact, profoundly true," Cousin Charles
replied. "I will make a note of those words. They shall become my
motto: 'Those who can help themselves want no help.' So truly wise."

"And if so," John continued, "to help those who cannot help themselves
is throwing money away."

"It is--it is." He pointed to the bankrupt. "Why help him? He cannot
help himself. I have always felt that to help my cousin Alfred is a
sin--if waste of money is sinful. He failed, sir; he became a bankrupt
in Mare Street, only five doors from my place of business; with my
surname over his door. I wonder I survived it."

"You'll survive your own failure next," said the bankrupt.

"Come back to your own case, mister. You agree that one should not
help those who can help themselves. Let us lay hold on that. If you
can help yourself, why do you want help? You've helped yourself, I
understand, to a flourishing business. You are evidently, therefore,
beyond the necessity of further help. You want me to advance you a
large sum of money. Why? You have shown that you can help yourself.
Very well; the best thing you can do is to go on helping yourself."

Cousin Charles changed colour. His face dropped, to use the familiar
expression.

"Sweating four and twenty girls in black with white cuffs," murmured
the teacher.

"This," John continued, slowly and with weight, "is my answer to your
letter. Go on, as you have already begun, trusting to yourself alone.
It is best for you. If you are on the downward grade, you would only
be saved for a time. If you are going up, the advance you ask would
not help you. That is my answer, mister, to your letter."

The draper grew very red in the face. "Then," he asked, "you--you--you
refuse--you actually refuse this trifling assistance?"

"Actually."

"You hear, Charles," said the bankrupt.

"Am I in my senses?" He looked round him. "The husband of my cousin
Alice, much loved--'sweet Alice, Ben Bolt'--a man of millions, refuses
me an advance, upon undeniable security, of a simple thousand pounds.
Why, the bank will do it for me with alacrity."

"Then go to the bank."

The poor man changed from red to white. His cheeks became flabby. His
arms, which had been folded, dropped. He suddenly grew limp. It is
rather terrible to see a confident, aggressive man become suddenly
limp. Perhaps he had built confidently on this advance; perhaps he was
not quite so substantial as he boasted and as he seemed; perhaps that
great shop, with four and twenty girls in black with white cuffs, all
in a row, was haunted by the spectre of which nobody talks, though
it is seen daily by so many--the grisly, threatening, lean, gaunt,
fierce-eyed ghost called Bankruptcy.

He clapped his hat on his head. He recovered a little. He tried to
smile. He assumed some show of dignity. He even laughed. Then he
replied, with genuine heartfelt emotion, "The Lord forgive you!" and
walked out of the room.

John Haveril turned to the pew-opener. "Here is your letter," he said;
"I return it to you. Why should I give you anything? You are fifty
years of age, you say. You have a son in good employ. You have a
daughter--this girl, I suppose--in the School Board service. You have
a reasonably good situation."

The lady's face dropped and lengthened. "Oh!" she cried; "don't
refuse! don't refuse! It's such a trifle to you; you would never miss
it, and never feel it. And it would be the making of me--it would
indeed."

John Haveril shook his head with the deliberation and the expression
of a bear. His mind was made up. The woman went on, but feebly--

"You can't like to own--you so rich, and all--that you've got a cousin
in such a humble place as mine."

"You might help her to be respectable," her daughter put in.

"You can be respectable in any situation. I am quite as proud of
you in your present situation as if you were what you want to be--a
lodging-house keeper at Margate." He turned to her daughter. "My
dear," he said kindly, "you are a little fool."

"Why? Oh, why?"--and her heart sank.

"Because you want to give up the best work that a woman can do, where
there's pay enough, and holidays, and respect----"

The girl shook her head. "You don't know," she moaned, "the work and
the drudgery."

"And to change it for the worst work in the world. My dear, you should
be proud of being what you are. If you were in the States, you would
feel proud of your work. What? Give up that work for a miserable
little shop, where you must cheat to make both ends meet? Don't be
silly. Go back and thank God, my dear, that He has put you where you
can do some good."

She sat down and pulled out her pocket-handkerchief. Her mother stood
beside her, her lips moving, her cheek flaming.

"Shall I give you back your letter?" John Haveril asked.

She took it, tore it up, threw the fragments on the floor, seized her
mother by the arm, and dragged her out; whether in repentance or in
anger the bystanders could not know.

       *       *       *       *       *

They were all gone now, except the bankrupt.

"You've got my letter, too," he said. "What are you going to do for
me?"

"The kindest thing would be to drop you in the river. Alice has left
it to me. Well, you are a hopeless creature. Whatever is done for you
will be money thrown away. I did think of asking your cousin, the
draper, to give you a place in his shop. You might sweep it out and
water the floor, and carry out the parcels--or you might walk up and
down outside in uniform, and a gold band to your cap."

"Mr. Haveril--sir--I am a gentleman. Don't insult a fallen gentleman,
sir; I've employed my own shop-assistants."

"But I fear he would do nothing for you."

"I came here--one day three weeks ago--you were away--I knew that. I
gave Alice some secret information just for her own ear, not the kind
of thing she would tell you."

"Get on, man!"

"I told her--you don't know, of course; I told her you ought to
know--you suppose he's dead."

"Man! man!" said John.

"Alice's first husband--Anthony Woodroffe. You think he's dead. I told
her where he was."

"Where?" Dick sat up, suddenly. "Anthony Woodroffe?"

"Why should I ask whether he's dead or alive?"

"That's what Alice said. As for me, I told her I was astonished.
'Alice,' I said, 'I did think you were respectable.'"

"What does this man mean?" asked Dick. "Anthony Woodroffe?"

"Well, boy," said John, "this chap brought us the news where he was.
We thought, on the whole, there was no need to tell you--so we didn't
tell you. I've been to see him. He's pretty comfortable."

"He is pretty comfortable," said Anthony's late companion between
the boards. "If Abraham's bosom is better than the cold kerb, and
softer than the doss-house, he is quite comfortable--for he died this
morning."

"Where did he die?" asked Dick.

"In the Marylebone Workhouse Infirmary." The man got up and shuffled
away. As he went out of the room, he held out his hand, and there was
the chink of coin.

"My father dead!"

"Ay, lad, he's dead. What better for you and everybody? I've seen him,
on and off, most days. He was a hardened sinner, if ever there was
one."

"Dead! I have been taught to regard him with a kind of loathing;
but--we can only have one father. Dead! In a workhouse infirmary!"

"He has left two sons. You are not the only one."

"Two sons. Yes"--concerning his half-brother Dick could not choose
but speak vindictively--"the other will hear to-morrow who his father
was. He shall hear also that his father is dead. He and I will be the
mourners at the pauper's funeral."



CHAPTER XXIII.

ONE MORE ATTEMPT.


"That man again!" Lady Woodroffe threw the card into the fire. "Tell
him I will not see him. No. Let him come up."

It was Richard Woodroffe, proposing to make his last attempt. Before
doing so, he had run down to Birmingham and seen the newly-found
witness. He was a most trustworthy person; he picked out the
photograph of Lady Woodroffe from a bundle of photographs; he
remembered the case and the lady perfectly well. There was, therefore,
no doubt possible that she had been in Birmingham at that time, and
that she had lost her own son.

"Sir"--she sat up in her chair with angry eyes--"this is persecution!
I have already given a patient hearing to your most impudent story."

"You have, Lady Woodroffe." Neither her angry looks nor her presence
disconcerted him now. He was so perfectly certain of his cause, and of
her shameless falsehood, that he stood before her at ease, and even
with some appearance of dignity.

"I even took the trouble to invite your friend, the person for whom
you profess to act, the woman with the delusion----"

"You did." He did not wait to be invited. He took a chair and sat down
in it.

"In order to convince her of her absurdity."

"In which you failed. Because, after all your talk, there remained the
solid fact--the death of Sir Humphrey's son."

"Sir Humphrey had one son only, who is still living. I was wrong in
thinking that a plain statement of facts could move the poor mad
woman. She brought with her a young person, who encouraged her to
insult me. They even attempted to assault me, I believe. After the
grossest abuse, they carried off a bundle of baby-linen, and things
that I had treasured, for reasons which I fear you are incapable of
understanding."

"No, Lady Woodroffe, on the contrary, I understand them very well. You
brought them out on this occasion with the intention of showing this
poor lady what I must venture to call your defiance."

"My defiance? Certainly; I accept the word. My defiance. You appear to
be almost as polite as your friends, Mr. Woodroffe."

"You could not have chosen a more effective manner of announcing your
intentions. 'There!' you said, 'these clothes which you made with your
own fingers show that it is your boy; yet you shall not have him, and
I defy you to prove that he is yours.'"

"You are correct on one point. I do defy you to prove that fact."

"Very well; I am here to-day to tell you that I have advanced one more
step, and a very important step it is."

"Important or not, I defy you to prove the fact. This is not, however,
exactly an acknowledgment. But I shall not argue with you; I believe
I ought to hand you over at once to my lawyers, to be dealt with for
conspiracy."

Richard Woodroffe smiled. "I wish you would," he said. "I should like
nothing better than the publicity of an action."

"Oh," she groaned, "the pertinacity of the black-mailer!"

"I shall not be insulted, whatever you say. I am here to tell you that
the proofs have now closed round you so completely, that there is not
left, I verily believe, a single loophole of escape."

Lady Woodroffe rose with dignity. "You talk to me, sir--to _me_?--of
escape and loophole. Go, sir--go to my solicitors."

"Certainly." Richard continued, however, to occupy his chair. "I will
go to your solicitors whenever you please. I would rather go to them
than come here. But for the sake of others, I would prefer that you
should acknowledge the fact, and let the son go back to his mother. He
is my own half-brother, but it is not fraternal affection that prompts
me in this research, I assure you. If you refuse to hear me, I shall
have to go to your solicitors through Mrs. Haveril's solicitors."

"Oh, go on, then!"

She sat down again, and crossed her hands in her lap, assuming
something of the expression of a person bored to death by a very bad
sermon.

"I have certain evidence in my hands, then"--he could not avoid a
smile of satisfaction--"which connects you with the dead child--your
child."

Lady Woodroffe caught her breath and started, as if in sudden pain.

"Go on, sir."

"I will tell you what it is. You arrived one evening at the Great
Midland Hotel, Birmingham, with an Indian ayah and a child. You
engaged three rooms--a sitting-room and two bedrooms; you explained
that the child had been taken suddenly and alarmingly ill in the
train; you sent out for a medical man; he came; he kept the maids
running about with hot water, and the boys going out for remedies
and prescriptions; he stayed with you all night, watching the case;
in the morning your child was dead; three days afterwards you buried
him. There is no monument over the child's grave, because you made
an arrangement with the help of Dr. Robert Steele, and substituted
another child for him, and you went away two or three days after the
funeral, and disappeared. The rooms were taken in your name; the books
of the hotel prove so much."

"Oh! This man is tedious--tedious--with his repetitions."

"I have been down to Birmingham again. I have now found an old waiter
who remembers the circumstance perfectly well--Indian ayah and sick
baby and funeral. He says he remembers you, but that I doubt. I have
also found the medical man who was called in. He not only remembers
the case, which he entered at the time in his note-book, but he also
remembers you----"

"After four and twenty years----!"

"--and picked you out of a bundle of photographs. I think you will
admit that this is an important step?"

She made no reply. Her face was drawn and twisted with the pain of
listening.

"What is wanted now," Richard added, "is the connection of yourself
and the child. If we fail there----"

"You will fail."

"We shall ask Sir Robert."

"You will fail."

"Then we shall give publicity to the case--I don't quite know how. All
the world shall understand. You will have to explain----"

"All the world? It is the High Court of Justice that you must address.
I shall look to the judge to protect me. Remember it is in my power to
prove that I was in Scotland at that very time."

"On that very day when the child died?"

"On that very day," she replied, firmly and without hesitation.

"Lady Woodroffe, I cannot believe what you say."

"You can prove what you like," she repeated, "but you cannot prove
that I bought the child."

"To speak plainly, I don't believe one word about your proving an
_alibi_, Lady Woodroffe, any more than I believe that remarkably bold
falsehood about the child's clothes. We shall prove the death of the
child beyond a doubt. You can then, if you please, find out something
that will amuse the world about Humphrey. As for the publicity----"

"Since you will only prove that a woman took my name, I care nothing.
My reputation is not likely to be injured by such a story. Who will
believe against my word--that I--Lady Woodroffe--a leader, sir, in
a world of which you and your like know nothing--the world which
advances humanity--the world of religion and of charity--the world
which combats vice unceasingly--should condescend to a crime so
ignoble and so purposeless?"

"I am not concerned with your credibilities, Lady Woodroffe. I learn
that you made a large use of them with Mrs. Haveril, and only desisted
when they proved a failure. Then you took to defiance."

"The publicity will fall upon the fashionable physician, the great man
of science, the head of his profession, who will have to acknowledge
that he found a child and bought it for a certain unknown person--a
noble way for a young physician to earn a fee! The publicity will also
fall upon the now notorious lady who has got up in the world since she
sold her only child for fifty pounds, to keep it and herself out of
the workhouse. No injurious publicity will fall upon me, other than
the discovery of some woman who once took my name."

"You are identified by your photograph. You forget that."

"Can I? After four and twenty years? Can any woman of my
age--forty-nine--be identified, by a stranger, with another woman of
twenty-five or thereabouts? Now, Mr. Richard Woodroffe, what else have
you got to say?"

"I have only this to say. I came here to-day, Lady Woodroffe, in
the hope that what I have told you would show you the danger of your
position. For the sake of this lady, who is worn almost to death by
the anxiety of her situation, I hoped that you would confess."

"Confess! I to confess! You speak as if I were a common criminal."

"No," said Richard, "not common by any means."

Lady Woodroffe left her chair and stepped over to the fireplace.
She looked older, and the authority went out of her very strangely.
She laid her hand on the shelf, as if for support, and she spoke
slowly--with no show of anger--slowly, and with sadness.

"I think, sir, I do think, that if you could consider the meaning of
this charge to a person in my position, the suffering you inflict upon
me, the mischief you may do to me, and I know not how many more, by
persisting in this charge, you would abandon it."

"I cannot; I am acting for another."

"You are playing a game to win. I don't accuse you of sordid motives.
You want to win."

"Perhaps I do."

"Have you asked yourself the simple question, whether it is possible
for me to commit such a crime, and then to confess?"

"I have to win this game, Lady Woodroffe. I think I have won it."

"It is not won yet. And believe me, sir, it will not be won unless I
choose."

"We can place you in a very awkward position, anyhow."

"Mr. Richard Woodroffe, you came here to make a final appeal to
me; it is my turn to make a final appeal to you. I am a woman, as
perhaps you know, of very considerable importance in the world. Such
a charge as you bring against me would not only crush me, if it were
proved, but it would dislocate or ruin a great many associations
and institutions of which I am the very soul. Thousands of orphans,
working girls, Magdalens, and sinners, would lose their best friend.
I am their best friend; my tongue and my pen keep up the stream which
flows in to their relief. Is it not possible for that woman to think
of these things? Or, there is the boy. He is partly, I suppose, what
he is by education, partly by his nature; take away from him his
position as a gentleman of rank and family, send him out disgraced to
make his own way in the world, and he will sink like lead. You call
him your half-brother. Well, Mr. Woodroffe, he is not a young man of
many virtues; in fact, he has many vices."

"That I can well believe."

"If he has seven devils now, after this disclosure he will have
seventy-seven devils."

"That also I can well believe. But, of course, I do not think about
him."

"Then, Mr. Woodroffe, can you not persuade that poor woman to go home,
to be content with what she has seen and you have proved?"

"No, I cannot."

"Can you not remind her that she sold the child on the condition that
she would never trouble about him, or seek to know where he might be
living?"

"No, I cannot. She has seen her son; she knows who he is; she wants
your acknowledgment. Give her that, and, I don't know, in fact, what
will happen afterwards."

Lady Woodroffe sat down and sighed heavily. "Be it so," she said. "You
will go on; you will do your worst."

Richard Woodroffe regarded her with a sense of pity, and even of
respect. The woman had supported her position by a succession of
shameless lies; she was now virtually confessing to him that they were
lies. But she had so much to lose--her great position among religious
and charitable people, her reputation, the respect which her blameless
life and her great abilities had won for her. All these things were
threatened.

"Madam," he said, his face full of emotion, "if it were only your son
to be thought of, I would retire. But there is this poor lady, who is
only kept alive, I believe, by the hope and belief that her son will
be restored to her. Believe me, if I may speak of pity for you----"

"Pity?" She sprang to her feet with fire and fury in her cheeks and
eyes. It is, happily, the rarest thing in the world to see a woman--I
mean a woman of culture--overmastered by passion. Yet it lies there;
it is always possible. In the heart of the meekest maiden, the most
self-governed and most highly bred woman, there lies hidden the
tigress, the fish-wife, the scold, the shrew. Formerly, whenever women
were gathered together, they quarrelled; whenever they quarrelled,
they fought--sometimes with fists, cudgels, brooms, chairs, sometimes
with tongues. Men were so horribly frightened by the scolding wife,
that they ducked her, put her in a cage, carried her round in a cart.
The little word "pity" was the last drop in the cup. Lady Woodroffe
raged and stormed at the unfortunate Richard. For the time her mind
was beyond control; afterwards, he remembered that such a fit of
passion showed the tension of her mind. He made no reply. When her
torrent of words and threats was exhausted, she threw herself into her
chair, and buried her face in her hands.

Then Richard quietly withdrew.



CHAPTER XXIV.

A HORRID NIGHT.


Richard Woodroffe walked away with hanging head. A second time he had
learned that his proofs might not be so convincing, after all. The
defence set up by a woman of the highest social position, character,
and personal influence, that she had never been in Birmingham in her
life, that on the day of the alleged death of her child she was in
Scotland, that she knew nothing of the person who was said to have
assumed her name, could only be met by evidence concerning that person
by an identification of that person with Lady Woodroffe by an old man,
speaking of an event of four and twenty years ago, and by an alleged
resemblance; as to the packet of clothes, that would certainly be no
evidence at all. He himself was perfectly certain of the fact; there
was no doubt left in his own mind. But would his proofs be accepted in
a court of justice?

As he walked along with these heavy reflections, he was startled by
a hand upon his shoulder--a thing which, in former times, caused the
sufferer to swoon with terror, because it was the familiar greeting of
the sheriff's officer, the man with a writ. That part of the officer's
duty is now, however, gone. It was, in fact, the hand of Sir Robert
Steele, who, his day's work finished, was taking the air.

"Dick," he cried, "I haven't seen you since--since--when?"

"Since the day when you made a study of heredity."

"Oh, you mean when you dined with me? Yes, Dick, my boy, I have heard
things about you--the Strange Adventures of a Singer."

"Of course you have. Lady Woodroffe has told you."

"How you are fishing in troubled waters, and catching nothing. Yes, I
have seen Mrs. Haveril--a most interesting woman; but she ought to go
home and keep quiet. Keep her quiet, Dick. Put down your fishing-rod,
and make that good lady sit down, and keep that good lady quiet."

"I will as soon as I have restored her son to her. We have found him,
you know."

"You tell me so. You think it is Sir Humphrey Woodroffe, is it not?"

"We are perfectly certain it is. Lady Woodroffe has told you, I dare
say, what we have done."

"Something--something. You are working, no doubt, in the interests of
the second baronet?"

"Yes, oh yes." Dick grinned. "He is my half-brother, you know. I am
anxious to restore him to his real rank, which is mine. He shall
become what he is pleased to describe me--an outsider and a cad."

"Two Cains and no Abel. A slaughterous pair. Well, have you proved
your case yet?"

"To our own satisfaction, perfectly. To the complete satisfaction of
the world as soon as the story is told. For lawyers--well--there is
one point lacking."

"That one point! That one point! Always that one point! It is like
connecting your family with illustrious ancestry--always the one point
wanting. I need not ask what that point is."

"No, because you are the person who can supply the link."

"Is that so?" asked the doctor, dryly. "Then, while you are waiting
for that link, my dear Richard, I advise you to tie up your papers and
go back to legitimate business." He stopped, because they were arrived
at his own door. "Come in," he said. "Now then, my dear boy, sit down
and let us have it out. First of all, however, understand that you
cannot establish that link. You say that I am the only person who can
supply it. Well, if that is so, remember that I shall not."

"You mean, will not."

"Just as you like. The distinction between _will_ and _shall_ is
sometimes too subtle for the rules of syntax."

"But, my dear Sir Robert, just consider what a lot I can prove. Lady
Woodroffe goes to a hotel in Birmingham. She drives in hurriedly; her
child is ill. She sends for a medical man. She takes two bedrooms and
a sitting-room. She has an ayah. The medical man stays with her the
whole night. In the morning the child dies----"

"How do you know all these things?"

"By the note-book of the man who was called in, by the books of the
hotel, by the evidence of the medical man himself, by the evidence of
a waiter who remembers the case, by the register of deaths."

"All this looks strong, I admit."

"So that we can actually prove the death of Sir Humphrey's only son.
And we can call upon Lady Woodroffe to inform us who is the man
calling himself Sir Humphrey's only son."

"You prove that a woman calling herself Lady Woodroffe did all these
things."

"And we can produce a witness who will swear to her identity."

"After all these years I doubt if you could--if that evidence would
be received. I admit that you have a case. As it is, you could make a
_cause célèbre_. You are able to make things horribly uncomfortable
for Lady Woodroffe; and you are able to inspire the young man, her
son, with a lively animosity against yourself."

"I don't mind that in the least. I shall go and see him. I shall
say, 'You are my half-brother. You are first cousin to a collection
of common folk, whose commonness will rejoice your heart. I will
introduce you to them. You shall take tea with them--the tea of
shrimps, periwinkles, and watercress, that you have yet to learn--and
to love.' I shall exhaust myself in congratulations."

"With the domestic affections I never interfere. Here, however, is
a difficulty. You say 'we' will do this and that. Who is 'we'? You
yourself? Suppose you spring all this upon the world? And suppose
nobody takes any notice?"

"I may advertise the whole history, and offer a reward for the
discovery of the identification of the woman."

"But nobody can identify Lady Woodroffe."

"My old doctor----"

"Your old doctor would break down. Lady Woodroffe has only to deny
absolutely that she is the woman. Counsel can always suggest--man in
India--another woman--assumption of name--real wife with her father,
Lord Dunedin--letters to prove it--old nobleman swears it. Venerable
old nobleman--ever seen him?--rather like Abraham."

"Well, we shall find some way of forcing the history upon the
public. And a certain event has just happened which may give me an
opportunity."

"What is that?"

"My father is dead. He died yesterday. He was also Humphrey's father."

"Oh, I am sorry."

"No one need express any sorrow on that account. As he left my mother
when I was a baby, I have never seen him. I did not know that he was
in England. It appears that he has been a sandwich-man for some time.
And he died in a pauper infirmary. As for myself, I feel neither shame
nor grief; he was to me, as to you, a stranger. But perhaps I can use
the event in order to give publicity to our story, if we must court
publicity."

"Well, let us hope---- But go on."

"As for Lady Woodroffe, she has actually confessed the thing."

He then proceeded to tell the story of the child's clothes.

The doctor became thoughtful. The audacity of showing and claiming the
clothes astonished him.

"It isn't evidence, Dick," he said.

"No; but it's complete proof to the true mother."

"Perhaps--to her."

Sir Robert, in fact, admitted everything. But at this stage a mere
admission of the kind meant nothing.

"It was a strange thing to do," said the doctor. "There is the
audacity of despair about it. She had quite forgotten the fact that
the register of deaths contained the name of the boy. If it had been a
common name, it would have mattered little. She did not tell me that
the child died in Birmingham. That doctor--what is his name? Ah! I
don't know him. Does he know the meaning and bearing of his evidence?"

"I believe not. He will not talk, however. He has undertaken to
preserve absolute silence until he is called upon to speak."

"Keep the power of disclosure in your own hands, Dick. Above all
things, do that. Why did she produce the child's clothes? Woman's
wit is hard to follow. 'My word against all the world,' she meant, I
believe. As if she must be believed on her bare assertion, against all
the facts that could be brought against her. It was her pride. Like
all female leaders, she is incredibly proud. She means to stand up and
deny. On the other hand, the situation is harassing; there are points
in the case which make it almost impossible----"

"The goings-on of my ill-conditioned brother, I suppose?"

"Perhaps--perhaps. I wish she had told me when and how the child died."

They dined together. Over an excellent bottle of Chateau Mouton they
exchanged further confidences.

"My dear Dick," said the doctor, "it's a serious situation. You
propose to cover a woman of the highest reputation with infamy. She
says, in effect, 'You are quite right. I am that infamous person.
But prove it.' You want to restore to another most amiable and
honourable woman her son, and he would break her heart in a year. You
want me to identify the lady, and thereby to confess my share in a
transaction which might be made to look like complicity in a fraud and
a conspiracy. I told her at the time that it looked like substitution,
though she called it adoption. Well, I can imitate the lady's
frankness; that is to say, I do not in so many words confess the
truth, but I show it; I allow you to conclude that the thing is true.
And, like the lady, I defy you. You will find out nothing more. And if
you were to put me in the box--if you were to make me tell the truth
about that infernal babe--never, never would I confess to knowing the
name of the lady. And without that evidence you can never prove your
case."

       *       *       *       *       *

As a rule, the doctor was the last man in the world either to dream or
to trouble himself with dreams; nevertheless, there fell upon him an
incubus of the night which was so persistent, that, though he waked a
dozen times and shook off the thing, a dozen times it came again. And
so vivid was it that he saw it still when he awoke in the morning, and
heard it, and remembered it, and felt it.

For in this dream he saw himself giving evidence in a court of law as
to his own share in the substitution of another child for the dead
child.

And in the dream he saw himself losing reputation, character,
practice, everything. As the evidence was reluctantly given, he saw
the face of the judge growing more and more severe, the faces of the
jury harder, the faces in the court more hostile. He read in all his
own condemnation.

This is what he had to say.

     "In the years 1873-1876 I was carrying on a general
     practice in a quarter of Birmingham. I was, in fact, a
     sixpenny doctor, charging that sum for advice and medicine,
     and having a fairly good reputation among the poorer class
     of that quarter. On a certain afternoon in February,
     1874"--here the witness referred to his books--"a lady
     entered the surgery. She was deeply veiled, and in much
     trouble. She told me that she wanted to adopt a child in
     the place of her own, whom she had just lost by death. She
     asked me, further, if I knew of any poor woman who would
     give up her child. It was to be about fifteen months old.
     She gave the date of her dead child's birth as December the
     2nd, 1872. And it must have light hair and blue eyes.

     "Among my patients was a woman left penniless by her
     husband, who had deserted her. She wanted, above all
     things, money to go in search of him. As he was an actor
     in a small way, she thought it would be easy to find him
     if she had money to travel with. The woman was mad with
     grief. She was ready to give up the child in return for the
     money she wanted. At the time, she would have given up her
     own soul for the money. The child was somewhere about the
     required age--a month more or less mattered little; it had
     blue eyes and light hair. I made the arrangement with her.
     I took the child, also by arrangement, to the Great Western
     Railway Station, and gave it to an Indian ayah, who carried
     it into a first-class carriage, where the lady sat. Then
     the train went off, and I saw nothing more of the lady or
     the child for twenty-four years.

     "I did not know, nor did I ask, the lady's name or address;
     only on a half-torn envelope, in which she had placed the
     notes--ten five-pound notes--for the mother of the child,
     was the word, 'Lady W----,' as part of an address.

     "I did not know, nor did I ask, the lady's intentions. She
     said she wanted to adopt a child. I arranged this for her.
     I took the mother the sum of fifty pounds, and I charged
     the lady a fee of three guineas. The only question we
     discussed was that of heredity, and especially the danger
     of the child inheriting criminal tendencies.

     "Four and twenty years later I received a visit--being
     then a physician practising in London--from the mother of
     the child, who had remembered my name. She was anxious to
     learn, if possible, what had become of her son. She had
     become rich, and would willingly claim the child.

     "Upon her departure I began to think over the case,
     which I had almost forgotten. I remembered, first, the
     half-torn envelope. And then, looking at my note-book, I
     remembered the date of the dead child's birth--December
     2, 1872. I took down a Peerage, and looked through the
     pages. Presently I discovered what I wanted, under the name
     of Woodroffe. The present baronet, the second, is there
     described as born on December 2, 1872. Now, the son of the
     first baronet, the late Sir Humphrey Woodroffe, who died
     early in 1874, was born on that day. It was so extremely
     unlikely that two women enjoying the title of 'Lady W.'
     should have a son born on the same day, that I naturally
     concluded the second baronet and the adopted child were one
     and the same person. So convinced was I of this fact that I
     ventured to call upon Lady Woodroffe, and satisfied myself
     that it was so.

     "As, however, I had ascertained the truth in this
     unexpected manner, I assured Lady Woodroffe that the secret
     should remain with me until she herself should give me
     permission to reveal it.

     "Meantime, one of Mrs. Haveril's friends began to make
     inquiries into the case. He ascertained that the son of
     Sir Humphrey Woodroffe died, a child of fifteen months
     old, at Birmingham, early in 1874. He further learned that
     the so-called son, in person, figure, and face, closely
     resembled the father of the adopted child; and he learned
     also that the medical man who attended the dead child knew
     its name, and could absolutely identify the mother as the
     present Lady Woodroffe. In fact, the case was so far
     capable of proof that no reasonable person could entertain
     the slightest doubt on the subject.

     "It was certainly open to Lady Woodroffe to perjure herself
     by denying that she had ever been in Birmingham. This
     she was going to do. I took no steps to dissuade her;
     nor did I take any steps to put an end to the fraudulent
     representation of this young man as Sir Humphrey's son; in
     fact, I became a party to the conspiracy."

He looked round the court in his dream, and read his own condemnation
in all the faces.

When he awoke in the morning, the scene began all over again.

"Confound the baby!" he groaned. "Am I never to get to the end of it?"

He went down to breakfast, trying to shake off the feeling of disquiet
that possessed him.

Just as he sat down, Richard Woodroffe called. "I am sorry to disturb
you," he said, "but I have just been called to the Hôtel Métropole.
Mrs. Haveril has had a miserable night. Molly sat up with her. She was
weeping and crying all the night. This morning she is a wreck. There
is, perhaps, no time to be lost----"

"I knew something was going to happen."

"If she is to get her son back, it must be soon, or that dream of hers
will not come true."

"Sit down, Dick. I've had a horrid night too. We will consider
directly what is best to be done."

While he spoke there came a letter--"By hand. Sir Robert Steele.
Bearer waits."

     "DEAR SIR ROBERT,

     "Come to see me as soon as you can. I have had the most
     terrible night.

          "Yours,

               "L. W."

"Again! Three terrible nights for the three principal conspirators.
The devil is in the business, I believe. Now, Dick, I have to call on
Lady Woodroffe. Before I go to see this lady----"

"I sincerely hope she will treat you as she did me. The manners of the
aristocracy never showed to such advantage in my experience."

"Before I go to see this lady----" Sir Robert repeated.

Again Richard interrupted him. "We cannot afford to wait any longer.
Mrs. Haveril's condition forbids it. I have determined to write to
Humphrey. I shall begin by informing him of his father's death. I
shall invite him to join me in paying his father's debts. I shall then
advertise the death of Anthony Woodroffe in the Marylebone Infirmary
as the father of Sir Humphrey Woodroffe. That will make him do
something. If he likes to go to law, we will meet him; if he wishes to
see me, I will tell him everything."

"Why not go to him at once without any letter?"

"Because he will thus learn, in the most dramatic way possible, the
name and the social position of his real father."

"Dick, you make this a personal matter."

"Yes, I do." He became suddenly vindictive. "The scoundrel wanted
Molly to marry him secretly, and live secretly with him--you
understand that--while he was making love to Hilarie Woodroffe."

"It is steep, certainly steep. But perhaps he did not mean----"

"Doctor, you know the kind of men they are--this Johnnie and his
friends. They have no honour, as they have no heart; they are rotten
through and through--rotten and corrupt."

"Dick, there are others to be considered."

"I will make the whole story public--I will write a play on it."

"Is this revenge or justice, Dick?"

"I don't care which. Revenge is wild justice."

"When are these letters to be written?"

"To-day--this morning."

"Dick"--the doctor laid a persuasive hand upon his arm--"you don't
understand what it is you are doing. Wait till this evening. Give me,
say, eight--ten hours. Let me beg you to wait till this evening. If I
can effect nothing in twelve hours--with the principals--the two--the
three principals concerned--you shall then do as you please."

"Well, if I must---- If you really think---- Well, I will wait; but I
will have no compromise. I could forgive him anything--his insolence
and his contempt, but not----"

"Love has many shapes, my Richard. He may become a soldier--but a
hangman, an executioner, he who brandishes the cat-o'-nine-tails--no,
Dick, no--that _rôle_ does not suit Love. Stay thy hand----"

Dick turned away. "Take your twelve hours."

"I am going, then, at once--to Lady Woodroffe."



CHAPTER XXV.

THE FIRST MOTHER.


There were once two women who claimed the same child. The case was
referred to the king, who in that country was also lord chief justice.

"It is clear to me," said the king, after hearing the evidence on
both sides, "that the case cannot be decided one way or the other;
therefore bring me the child." So they laid the child before him. He
called his executioner. "Take thy sword," he said, "and cut the child
into two equal portions." The executioner drew his sword. Then said
the king, "Give one half to each of the two women; they can then go
away content." And the woman who was not the mother of the child said,
"Great is the wisdom of the king. O king, live for ever!" But the
other woman, with tears and sobs, threw herself over the child, saying
that she could not endure that the child should be killed, and she
would give it up to save its life.

Parables, like fables, belong to all time. This parable applies to the
conclusion of the story.

Sir Robert found the lady in a condition closely resembling hysteria.
She had sent away her secretaries; her letters lay piled on the table.
She herself paced the room in an agony.

"I cannot bear it," she cried; "I cannot bear it any longer. They
persecute me. Help me to kill myself."

"I shall help you to live, rather."

"I have resolved what to do. I will struggle no longer."

"Above all, do not struggle."

"You have deceived me. You told me that without your evidence they can
prove nothing."

"That is quite true. Without my evidence they can prove nothing."

"They have found proof that I was in Birmingham at the time."

"Yes, yes; I know what they have found. They have found enough
to establish a suspicion--a strong suspicion, difficult to
dissipate--which would cling to us all."

"Cling? Cling? What would that mean--to me?"

"We must, therefore, avoid publicity, if we can. We are threatened
with public exposure. That, if possible, I say, must be avoided. Are
you listening? If there is still time, we must prevent scandal."

"I can no longer bear it, I say." She pressed her hand to her
forehead. "It drives me mad! I thought, last night, I was mad."
She threw herself on a sofa, and buried her head in her hands.
"Doctor"--she started up again--"that man has been here again. He has
found some one--I don't know--I forget--some one who remembers me--who
recognizes me."

"So I believe--and then?"

"Day and night the thought is always with me. How can I bear the
disclosure? The papers will ring with it."

"I hope there will be no disclosure. Believe me, Lady Woodroffe, no
one can be more anxious than myself to avoid disclosures and scandals."

Lady Woodroffe, this calm, cold, austere person, whose spoken words
moved the conscience of her audience, if not their hearts, whose
printed papers carried conviction, if not enthusiasm, gave way
altogether, and sobbed and cried like a young girl.

"It is all lost!" she moaned. "All that I have worked for--my position
in the world, my leadership, my career--everything is lost. I shall
have shame and disgrace, instead of honour and respect. Oh, I am
punished--I am punished! No woman has ever been more punished."

"Perhaps," said the physician, "your punishment is finished. Four and
twenty years is a long time."

"I have written out a confession of the whole business," she said
wearily: "I had to. I got up in the middle of the night. My husband
stood beside me. Oh, I saw him and I heard him. 'Lilias,' he said,
'what you did was in pity and in tenderness to me. I forgive you. All
shall be forgiven you if you will confess.' So I sat down and wrote;
and here it is." She gave him a paper, which he placed in his inner
pocket. "You know what I had to say, doctor. I was young, and I was
in agony: my child was dead--oh, my child was dead! No one knows--no
man can tell--what it is to lose your only child. All the time I
wrote, my husband stood over me, his noble face stern and serious as
when he was lieutenant-governor. When I finished, he laid his hand
upon my head--I felt it, doctor, I tell you I felt it--and he said,
'Lilias, it is forgiven.' And so he vanished. And now you have got my
confession."

"Yes, I have it. Give me--I ask your leave--permission to speak."

"Oh, speak! Cry aloud! Go to the house-top, and call it out! Sing it
in the streets! I shall become a byword and a mockery!" She walked
about, twisting a handkerchief in her hands. "My friends will have
no more to do with me. I have brought shame on my own people!" She
panted and gasped; her words came in jerks. "Doctor, I am resolved. I
will turn Roman Catholic, and enter a convent. It is for such women
as myself that they make convents. There I shall live out the rest of
my life, hearing nothing and knowing nothing. And none of the scorn
and shame that they will heap upon my name will reach the walls of my
retreat."

"You must not think only of yourself, my dear madam. What about
Humphrey?"

"He must do what he pleases--what he can. What does it matter what he
does? Sir Robert, I assure you that he is a selfish wretch, the most
hardened, the most heartless; he thinks about nothing but his own
pleasure; under the guise of following Art, he is a cold sensualist. I
have never detected in him one single generous thought or word; I have
never known him do one single unselfish action. I have never cared for
him--now, I declare that it costs me not one single pang to think that
he will lose everything. Let the wretch who has made me suffer so
much go back to the gutter--his native slime!"

"Stop! stop! my dear madam. Remember, in adopting the boy, you
undertook to look after him. Every year that you have had him has
increased your responsibilities. You owe it to him that since he was
brought up as Sir Humphrey's son, you must make him Sir Humphrey's
heir. In other words, whatever happens, you must not let him suffer in
fortune."

Lady Woodroffe was silent.

"Do you understand what I mean? You adopted him. He is yours. It
is not his fault that he is yours. He may be robbed of his father
by this discovery; he cannot be robbed of his education and of the
ideas which belong to your position; he may have to recognize for his
father a most unworthy, shameful man instead of a most honourable man.
Selfish--callous--as he may be, that will surely be misery enough. He
must not, at the same time, be deserted by the woman who adopted him."

"I don't care, I tell you, what becomes of him," she replied sullenly.

"Then, madam, I retire." He rose as if about to carry the threat into
execution. "Here is your confession." He threw it on the table. "Use
it as you please. I am free to speak as I please. And things must take
their own course." He moved towards the door.

"Oh!"--she flung out her arms--"do what you please--say what you
please."

"The one thing that remains is to soften the blow, if that is
possible. Do you wish me to attempt that task?"

"Soft or hard, I care nothing. Only, for Heaven's sake, take away that
wretched boy--that living fraud--that impostor----"

"Who made him an impostor? It is not Humphrey that is a living fraud.
It is yourself--yourself, Lady Woodroffe," he repeated sternly. "And I
am your accomplice."

"Well, take him out of my sight. His footstep is like a knife in my
side. I could shriek even to hear his voice. Oh, doctor! doctor!"--her
own voice sank to a moan--"if I could tell you--oh, if I could only
tell you!--how I have always hated the boy. Take him back--the gutter
brat--take him back to that creature, his mother. He is worthy of her."

Sir Robert sat down again and took her hand in his. "Dear lady"--his
voice was soft and soothing, and yet commanding; his hand was large
and comforting, yet strong; his eyes were kindly, yet masterful--"your
position is very trying. You want rest. In an hour or two, I hope,
we shall settle this business. Then you will be easy in your mind
again. Come. I shall send you news that will be worth the whole
pharmacopoeia, if I know the heart of woman."

She burst again into sobs and tears. "Oh, if you knew--if you knew!"

"Yes, I know. Now I am going. You will be better when I am gone. Once
there were two mothers," he murmured, "in the parable." He looked down
upon her bowed head. "One thought of herself--the other---- I go to
see the other."

On the stairs he met Humphrey.

"Sir Robert? Been to see my mother? She's not ill, I hope?"

"Best not go to her just now. She is a little troubled about herself."

"Nothing serious, I hope?" He spoke with the cold show of interest in
which one might speak of a servant.

"Anything may become serious; but we will hope that in this case----"

"Come into my room for a moment, if you can spare the time." He led
the way to his study. "I want to ask you about a man I met at your
house--that fellow with the money, who says he was a gardener once,
and looks it still."

"What about him?"

"He's been here. He called here the other day. Sat half an hour--said
he wasn't used to my kind of conversation."

"Well, he isn't--is he?"

"I dare say not. But as we don't regulate our discourse by the
acquirements of gardeners, it doesn't matter. However, I asked him
what he came for, and hinted that I wasn't going to take any shares,
if that was what he wanted. Then he began to talk conundrums."

"What did he tell you?"

"Told me nothing. Hinted that there was a lot that I ought to know."

"He didn't give you any hint of what that was?"

"No. Why? I thought that you, who know everything, might know what he
meant."

"My young friend, I learn a good deal about the private affairs of
many people. They remain private affairs."

"Very good. This fellow seemed mad. He informed me, among other
things, that he was no relation of mine."

"Unnecessary."

"Quite so. Then he began to speak in high terms of my mother, for
which I ought to have kicked him."

"Of your mother?"

"Then he said that if I followed the wishes of my mother, there would
be any amount of money for me. That was to come after I learned the
truth. What is the truth?"

"How am I to know what he meant? Perhaps he called on the wrong
Woodroffe. There's another man of your name, you know--Richard
Woodroffe."

"I know. Little cad! Perhaps that may explain the whole thing. It
never does to treat those outsiders as if they were gentlemen born,
does it? Once in the gutter, always in the gutter, eh?"

"I don't know."

"Look here, Sir Robert, you come here a good deal. My mother says she
knew you years ago----"

"Very slightly."

"Well, there's something going on. She's miserable. I had hints from
Molly--from a girl--as well as this gardener fellow--that there's
something going on. Is it a smash? Has my mother chucked her fortune?
The girl said something about losing everything. I can't get my mother
to attend to business, and I must have some money soon. You're a man
of the world, Sir Robert. There's a row on, you know."

"Another? Why, man, I hear you were engaged to Miss Woodroffe and
to Miss Pennefather at the same time. There are the materials for a
pretty row. Is there another?"

"Well, if my mother has got into a mess, I was thinking that it might
be as well to make it up with Molly, and stand in with the gardener,
and get as much as I can out of him."

"Perhaps--perhaps." He considered a little. "Look here, Sir Humphrey,
I am on my way to see Mrs. Haveril. Be here--don't go away--I shall
come back in an hour or two, with something to tell you."



CHAPTER XXVI.

THE SECOND MOTHER.


When we are waiting for the call to do something--to say something--of
cardinal importance; something that will affect the whole of our life,
all that remains of it: when we are uncertain what will happen after
or before we have said or done that something; then the very air round
us is charged with the uncertainty of the time. Even the hall and
the staircase of the Hôtel Métropole, when Molly entered that humble
guest-house, seemed trembling with anxiety. Her cousin's rooms were
laden with anxiety as with electricity.

"Come in, Molly," said Alice. "No, I am not any better; I try to rest,
but I cannot. I keep saying to myself, 'I shall get my son back; I
shall get my son back.' How long shall I have to wait?"

"I hope--to-morrow. Dick has prepared a way to tell him."

"Will he be ready to go away with his own mother, to America, do you
think, Molly dear?"

"Perhaps. But you must remember. He has his own friends and his own
occupations. And we don't know yet----"

"He will be glad--oh, how glad!--to get his true mother back. He's
a handsome boy, isn't he, Molly? As tall as his father--Dick isn't
nearly so tall--and stout and strong, like my family. He's like Cousin
Charles."

"Don't tell him so, Alice."

"Why not? His face is his father's--and his voice. Oh, Molly! will he
come to-morrow?"

"Dick was going to send his letter to-morrow." Her heart sank as
she thought of the contents of that letter, which would reach its
destination, not as a peace-offering or a message of love at all. The
poor mother! Would her son fly to her arms on the wings of affection?

Their discourse was interrupted or diverted--there was but one topic
possible that day--by the arrival of Sir Robert Steele.

As a skilful diplomatist, he began with the second of the two mothers
where the first ended. That is to say, he sat down beside her, took
her hand in his, and held it, talking in a soft, persuasive voice.

"We are such old--old friends, dear lady," he began--"friends of four
and twenty years--that I have taken a great liberty. That is--I am
sure you will forgive me--I have consented to act as ambassador on a
delicate mission."

"He comes from Lady Woodroffe," thought Molly, "or perhaps from
Humphrey."

"Yes," the doctor went on, his voice being like the melodious cooing
of the stock-dove--"yes. As a friend of the past, I thought you
would forgive this interference. Things have changed, with both of
us, since that time, have they not? I was then at the bottom of the
profession--I am now at the top. I was then a sixpenny doctor--fill
your own bottle with physic, you know; with a red lamp, and a
dispensary open from six to ten every evening. Now I am what you know.
You are a great lady--rich--a leader. I am sure you sometimes think
that 'not more than others we deserve'----"

"I do, doctor, constantly. But the loss of my boy has poisoned
everything. Yet now, I hope----"

"Now, I promise and assure you. This day--this evening----"

She fell back on her pillow.

"I will not let you see him," he said, "unless you keep calm. Don't
agitate yourself. Shall I go on? Will you keep as quiet as possible?
Now, I've got a great deal to say. Lie down--so. We must remember our
present position, and what we owe to ourselves. Think of that. There
are three of us concerned."

"Oh!" cried Molly. "Then you own it at last!"

"First, there is Lady Woodroffe. Exposure of this business will ruin
that lady."

"She deserves to be ruined," said Molly.

"Because she has taken a poor child and brought it up in luxury? Let
us not inflame the situation by hard words."

"I don't wish to be hard on her," said Alice. "But she said my
baby-clothes were hers."

"Forgive her, Mrs. Haveril. We must all forgive. Before I leave you
to-day I must take your forgiveness with me."

"Oh, Sir Robert!" said Molly. "She will forgive you too, if you
restore her son."

"As for myself, the second of the three. It will be a pleasing thing
for the world to read, and for me to confess, that I was the person
who found the child and arranged the bargain. And that afterwards,
when I discovered that for 'adoption' I must read 'substitution,' I
held my tongue until proofs had been discovered which rendered further
silence impossible. I am an Ex-President of the College of Physicians;
I am a Fellow of the Royal Society; I have written learned works on
points of pathology; I am a leader in practice; I am a K.C.B. It will
be a very delightful exposure for me, will it not?"

"Well," said Molly, "but you might have told us when you found it out."

"As for yourself, my dear madam, I believe that in the States they are
curious about rich people."

"They just want to know even what you eat and drink."

"Then consider--you must--the effect upon your own reputation,
which will be produced when you have to confess that you sold your
child--sold: it is an ugly word, is it not?--sold your child for fifty
pounds."

"Why should the story come to light at all?" asked Molly.

"There are secrets in most families. In my position I learn many. I
certainly considered this as one of them. The only reason why this
must come to light is that the young man must lay down his title. His
name fortunately remains unchanged."

"Who cares for a title?" asked Molly.

"You would, young lady, if you had one. An hereditary title, however,
cannot be laid down at will. It belongs to a man--to his father, to
his eldest son. To lay it down would require explanation. And there is
no other explanation possible except one--that the man is not the son
of his putative father."

"Doctor," said Alice, "I don't care what the world says. I shall not
listen to what the world says. I want my boy."

"Very well. You shall have your boy, if you like. But we must have a
little talk first about him--about your son."

"Ah! my son."

"Now, dear lady, I want all your sympathy." He pressed her hand again.
"Your sympathy and your affection and your self-denial, even your
self-effacement. I have to call upon all these estimable qualities. I
have to ask of your most sacred affection--your maternal affection--a
self-sacrifice of the highest, the most noble, the most generous kind."

He looked into his patient's eyes. As yet there was no mesmeric
response. Alice was only wondering what all this talk meant. If there
was any other expression in her eyes, it was the hungry look of a
mother bereft of her children. The doctor let her hand drop.

"I shall succeed," he said. "Of that I have no doubt. But I fear my
own power of presenting the case with the force which it demands."

He then, with as much emphasis as if he were on the stage, produced a
manuscript from his pocket, and unfolded it with an eye to effect.

"I received this," he said, "half an hour ago. It is Lady Woodroffe's
confession. It was written in the dead of night--last night. If the
imagination of the writer can be trusted, it was written by order of
her dead husband, who stood beside her while she wrote. The intensity
of feeling with which it was written is proved by that belief."

"Ghosts!" said Molly, contemptuously. "Stuff with her ghosts!"

"My dear young lady"--the doctor felt that his ghostly machinery
had failed--"will you kindly not interrupt? I am speaking with Mrs.
Haveril on a subject which is more important to all concerned than you
can understand. Pray do not interrupt."

But the impression which might have been produced by the vision of
the dead husband was ruined by that interruption. If a ghost does not
produce his impression at the outset, he never does.

Alice received the confession coldly. "Am I to read it," she asked.

She opened it and read it through. What it contained we know very
well. It was written quite simply, stating the plain facts without
comment. The concluding words were as follows:--

     "My husband never had the least suspicion. The boy's real
     nature, which is selfish and callous and heartless, did not
     reveal itself to him. To me it was, almost from the outset,
     painfully apparent. He is so entirely, in every respect,
     the opposite of his supposed father, that I have sometimes
     trembled lest a suspicion should arise. For my own part,
     I confess that I have never felt the least tenderness or
     affection for the boy. It has been a continual pain to me
     that I had to pretend any. So far as that is concerned,
     I shall be much relieved when I have to pretend no more.
     Whatever steps may be taken by his real mother, they will
     at least rid me of a continual and living reproach. I do
     not know how much affection and gratitude his real mother
     may expect from such a son in return for depriving him of
     his family and his position, and exchanging his cousins
     in the House of Lords for relations with the gutter. I
     wish her, however, joy and happiness from his love and
     gratitude."

"Molly dear," said Alice, "the woman confesses she took the child and
passed it off upon the world for her own. What do you say now, doctor?"

"If necessary, I am ready to acknowledge publicly that Lady Woodroffe
is the person who bought your child. However, when you came to me
about it, I did not know that fact. I found it out afterwards by a
remarkable chance. But she confesses, which is all that you desire."

"She confesses! Now--at last! Oh, Molly, I shall get back the boy! He
will be my own son again--not that horrible woman's son any more! Oh,
my own son! my own son!"

"The other mother," the doctor murmured. Molly heard him, but
understood not what he meant. "Will you, dear madam, read the latter
part of the document once more, that part of it beginning, 'My husband
never had any suspicion.' Perhaps Miss Molly will read it aloud."

Molly did so. As she read it she understood the meaning of these
words, "the other mother." She thought of Humphrey, with his cold
disdainful eyes, his shrinking from display, his pride of birth, his
contempt of the common herd, and of this warm motherly heart, natural
and spontaneous, careless of form and reticence, which was waiting
for him, and her heart sank for pity. The sham mother, glad at last
to get rid of the pretence; her own lover Dick, eager to pull down
the pretender, and full of revenge; the pretender himself maddened
with rage and shame; and the poor mother longing in vain for one word
of tenderness and kindness. Molly's heart sank low with pity. What
tenderness, what kindness, would Humphrey have for the mother who had
come to deprive him of everything that he valued?

"I have come here this afternoon," the doctor went on, "as a friend of
both mothers. On the part of Lady Woodroffe, I have absolutely nothing
to propose. She puts the case unreservedly in your hands. Whatever
steps you take, she will accept. It remains, therefore, for you,
madam, to do what you think best."

"I want my boy," she repeated doggedly. "So long as I get him, I don't
care what happens."

"That is, of course, the one feeling which underlies everything. I
will, if you like, see him in your name."

"Dick was going to write to him as the son of Anthony Woodroffe," said
Molly.

"I know his proposals. We have to consider, however, the possible
effect which the discovery of the truth will produce upon this
unfortunate--most unfortunate--young man."

"Why is he unfortunate?" asked his mother jealously. "He will be
restored to his own mother."

"I am going to tell you why. Meantime, you will agree with me that
it is most important that the communication of the truth must not
embitter this young man, at the outset, against his mother."

"No, no. He must not be set against me."

"Quite so. Dick proposes, I understand, to address a letter to him
as the son of the late Mr. Anthony Woodroffe--better known as John
Anthony--and inviting him to pay certain liabilities. As to the wisdom
of that step, I have no doubt. It can produce no other effect than to
fill him with rage and bitterness against all concerned, all--every
one--without exception."

He shook a warning finger at one after the other.

"But he must know," said Molly.

"Perhaps. In that case the subject must be approached with the
greatest delicacy. Dick's method is to begin with a bludgeon."

"We must think of his mother first," said Molly. "We have been working
all along for his mother."

"My dear young lady, you do not understand the situation. Because
we must think first of his mother, and for no other reason, we must
advance with caution. Had we not to consider the mother, there would
be no reason for delicacy at all. And now, if you will not interrupt,
I will go on."

The warning was now necessary, because the time had arrived for the
final appeal. If that failed, anything might happen.

"We must consider, dear madam, the character, in the first place,
of your son, and in the next place, the conditions of his education
and position. As regards his character, he has inherited the artistic
nature of his father, to begin with. That is shown in everything he
does in his music and musical composition."

"I have heard him sing a song of his own composition," said Molly. "It
had neither meaning nor melody; he said that it only appealed to the
higher culture."

"Once more"--but he spoke in vain--"I say, then, that he has inherited
his father's artistic nature. He sings and plays; he paints----"

"Landscapes of impossible colour," said Molly.

"And writes verses. He has a fine taste in the newer arts, such as
decoration, bookbinding, furniture----"

"And champagne."

"All these qualities he inherits from his father, with, I imagine,
a certain impatience which, when opinions differ, also, I expect,
distinguished his father. From his mother he seems to inherit, if I
may say so in her presence, tenacity, which may become obstinacy, and
strong convictions or feelings, which may possibly degenerate into
prejudice. His mother's softer qualities--her depth of affection, her
warm sympathies--will doubtless come to the front when his nature,
still partly undeveloped, receives its final moulding under the hands
of love."

All this was very prettily put, and presented the subject in an
engaging light. Molly, however, shook her head, incredulous, as one
who ought to know, if any one could know, what had been the outcome
of that final moulding under the hands of love.

"This is his character," the doctor went on blandly. "This is the
present character as it has been developed from the raw material which
we handed over to Lady Woodroffe four and twenty years ago. Next,
consider his education."

"Why?" asked his mother. "Hasn't he had his schooling?"

"More schooling than you think. He has been taught that his father
was a most distinguished Indian officer, in whom his son could take
the greatest pride; that his mother belonged to an ancient Scotch
family, his grandfather being the thirteenth baron, and his uncle the
fourteenth; he was taught that there is no inheritance so valuable
as that of ancient family; as a child he imbibed a pride of birth
which is almost a religion; indeed, I doubt if he has any other. His
school education and his associates helped him to consider himself as
belonging to a superior caste, and the rest of the world as outsiders.
This prejudice is now rooted in him. If he had to abandon this
belief----"

"But he must abandon it," said Molly. "To-morrow he becomes an
outsider."

"When you parted with your boy, you gave him, without knowing what
you were doing, statesmen and captains, great lords and barons
that belong to history, even kings and queens, for ancestors. Now,
without warning--how could one warn a young man of such a thing?--you
suddenly rob him of all these possessions. You give him for a father,
a worthless scoundrel, to use plain language--a man whose record is
horrible and shameful, a deceiver and deserter of women, a low-class
buffoon, a fellow who met with the end which he deserved in a
workhouse, after a final exhibition of himself as a sandwich-man at
one and twopence a day. The mere thought of such a father is enough to
reduce this unfortunate young man to madness. And for other relations,
I repeat, you offer him, in place of his present cousins, who are
gentlefolk of ancient birth, with all that belongs to that possession,
such humble--perhaps such unworthy--people as Dick sums up under such
titles as 'the pew-opener,' 'the small draper,' and 'the mendicant
bankrupt.' Can you imagine Humphrey, with his pride of birth, calling
upon the Hackney draper, and taking tea with the pew-opener?"

"They are my cousins, too, Sir Robert," said Molly. "And I get along
without much trouble about them."

"Yours? Very likely. Why not?" he replied impatiently. "You are used
to them. You were born to them. Sir Humphrey was not." He turned
again to Alice. "Have you considered these things? You must consider
them--in pity to your son--in pity to yourself."

Alice made no reply.

"Your son will be crushed, beaten down, humiliated to the lowest, by
this revelation. Ask yourself how he will reward the people who have
caused the discovery. Will he reward the hand which inflicts this
lifelong shame--it can be nothing less to him--with affection and
gratitude--or----? Finish the question for yourself."

Alice clasped her hands. Then she rose and bowed her head. "Lord, have
mercy upon me, miserable sinner!" she murmured.

Molly laid her arm round her waist.

"Take me to my room," she murmured.

Her room opened out of the sitting-room. Through the open door Sir
Robert saw her lying rather than kneeling at the bedside, her arms
thrown upon the counterpane. Molly stood over her, the tears streaming
down her cheeks.

The doctor beckoned the girl to leave her. "My dear"--his own eyes
were dim with an unaccustomed blurr; he could walk without emotion
through a hundred wards filled with suffering bodies, but he had never
walked the ward of suffering souls--"my dear, leave her for a while.
We are all miserable sinners, you and Dick, with your revengeful
thoughts, and I, and everybody. And the greatest sinner is the young
man himself."

"I did not think," Molly sobbed. "I only thought--we only wanted to
prove the case."

"It is the old, old parable. The false mother thinks only of herself;
the true mother thinks of her son. Solomon, I thank thee!"

The true mother came back. "Doctor, do what you will--what you can--I
will spare him. Let things remain exactly as they are."

He made no answer. He gazed upon her with troubled eyes.

"Tell me, doctor," she said, "what I must do."

"Will you do, then, what I advise?"

"If you will only save my son from his mother. It's a dreadful thing
to say. Doctor, I would rather lose the boy altogether than think that
he hates and despises his mother."

"When you put the child into my hands, when you undertook to make no
inquiry after him in the future--then you lost your child. I told
you so two months ago, when this inquiry began. Nothing but mischief
could come of it--mischief, and misery, and hatred, and shame, and
disappointment. This you could not understand. Now you do."

She sighed. "Yes, I understand."

"Our duty is plain--to hold our tongues. Humphrey will remain where he
is. It is a family secret, which will die with us."

"And is he--Dick's brother--to go on holding the place to which he has
no right?" asked Molly.

"There will be no change. It is a family secret," he repeated. "A
close family secret, never to be whispered even among yourselves."

"He must never know," said Alice. "Yet I must speak to him once; I
must hold his hand in mine once."

"If you can trust yourself. If you can only keep calm. Then, I will
bring him--this very afternoon. I will go to him. You shall tell him
briefly that he is like your son--that is all--your son which was
lost, you know. And, remember, there will not be the least show of
affection from him. Let Sir Humphrey--Sir Humphrey he must be--leave
you as he came--a changeling--with no suspicion of the fact."



CHAPTER THE LAST.

FORGIVENESS.


Alice lay patiently. It was done, then. Her punishment was ended; she
was to see her son for once--only for once.

"My dear," she said, "my dream will come true. I shall see my son--to
call him my son--for once--only for once. And then? But there will be
nothing left."

Dick came bursting in. "I've drawn up the case, and I've got the
advertisements ready. If by this time to-morrow the doctor makes no
sign, I shall act. Here's the case."

He drew out a document in foolscap, tied with red tape--a most
imposing document. "And here are the letters--

     "'SIR,--I beg to inform you that the funeral of
     your father, the late John Anthony Woodroffe, who died
     yesterday, Tuesday, October 15th, will take place from that
     institution at twelve o'clock on Friday. Your half-brother,
     Mr. Richard Woodroffe, has ordered me to convey to you this
     information.'

"I hope he'll like that," said Dick, rubbing his hands. "And here is
the second letter--

     "'SIR,--I am requested by Mr. Richard Woodroffe to
     inform you that your father, Mr. John Anthony Woodroffe,
     has died in debt to a certain Mrs. Welwood, widow of a
     grocer, of Lisson Grove. The amount is about £60. He
     wishes to know whether you are prepared to join him in
     paying off the liability. Your obedient servants.'

"I hope he will like that," said Dick. "And here is the advertisement--

     "'Died. On Tuesday, the 13th, at the Marylebone Workhouse
     Infirmary, John Anthony Woodroffe, father of Sir Humphrey
     Woodroffe, baronet, aged 55.'

"I hope he will like that."

"There is something more for you," said Molly. "Lady Woodroffe
confesses. There is the paper."

"Confesses?" Dick snatched the paper, and read it through with a
hunter's sense of disappointment. "Well," he said, "I thought better
of her. I thought she would die game. Never trust appearances. Well,
this changes these matters. Instead of sending the letters and the
advertisement, I shall now go myself with the case and the confession,
and bring him to his----"

"No, Dick," said Molly. "There is to be no shame for him, and no
humiliation."

"_What?_"

"No shame for him at all. He is to be left in ignorance unless he has
guessed anything. We shall tell him nothing. All will go on as before."

"Oh, Molly! have we given in? With victory assured? Don't say that!"

"You don't understand, Dick. Everything is changed. It is now Lady
Woodroffe who would spare him nothing. It is his mother who would save
him from everything."

Dick looked at the pale woman lying on the sofa. Then he understood,
and a tear stood in his eye. 'Twas a tender heart. He went over to the
sofa and kissed her forehead.

"Forgive me," he said.

"Oh, Dick!" she murmured. "Would to God you were my son! As for him,
he is what they have made him."

       *       *       *       *       *

They had made him grumpy and obstinate. At that moment the doctor was
urging upon him compliance with a simple thing.

"You want me to go to the rooms of the gardener man who insulted me?
I am to listen to some rubbish about his wife. What do I care about
his wife? I tell you, Sir Robert, this is trifling. I won't go, there;
tell them so. I won't go."

"Then, Sir Humphrey, I tell you plainly, Ruin stares you in the face.
Yes; the loss of everything in this world that you value--everything.
You will lose all. I cannot explain what this means. But you will have
letters to-morrow which will change your whole life--and all your
thoughts. They mean, I say, the loss of everything that you value."

"I don't believe a word----"

"You wanted to know what Mr. Haveril meant, what your mother meant,
what Miss Molly Pennefather meant. They meant Ruin--Ruin, and loss of
everything, Sir Humphrey--that and nothing else."

"Tell me more. Tell me why."

"I shall tell you no more. I shall leave it to your--to Richard
Woodroffe, whom you love so well. He will tell you."

The young man hesitated. "What do you want me to do?"

"You are to come with me to Mrs. Haveril's rooms; she will receive
you; she will make a communication to you. Whatever she says you are
to receive with courtesy--with courtesy, mind. That done, you may
return, and everything will go on as usual. You can then forget what
you heard. Are you ready? Very well."

"If that cad, the fiddler, is there----"

"Hark ye, Sir Humphrey, if you behave or speak like a cub and a cur,
I throw you over. By the Lord! I will have no mercy upon you. I will
tell you myself what it all means. Now!"

       *       *       *       *       *

Molly waited, sitting beside Alice, who lay with closed eyes. Perhaps
she slept. Presently John Haveril came home. Molly told him what had
happened.

"Ay, ay," he said. "Let him come. Let Alice have her say. They've made
a cur of him between them. Let him come."

He sat down beside his wife, and whispered words of consolation and
of soothing. They would go home again--out of the atmosphere of
deception. They would be happy once more in their own home on the
Pacific slope.

"John," said Alice, "it was good of you to bring me over on the
strength of a dream, and a promise of a dream--to give over all your
work----"

"Nay, nay, lass. What is work compared with thee?"

"I shall see my son again. I have prayed for that. I did not pray,
John--I could not--for his love--that was gone. Yet I hoped. Now I
must be satisfied only to take his hands in mine."

"We will go home again--we will go home again."

"My dream said nothing about going home again." She was silent for a
while. "John," she said, "what was it you were going to tell Molly and
Dick?"

They were all three standing over her.

"Why," said John, "Alice had a fancy--because she loves you both--to
see you join hands--so."

Alice laid her thin hands across their joined hands, and her lips
moved.

"And I was to tell you both that I would not give you a single dollar
out of all the pile. You are happier without, she says. And so do I,"
he added.

It was a strange betrothal, with tears in the eyes of both.

At that moment arrived the doctor, with Humphrey. The young man
looked dark and lowering; his cheek was flushed. He glanced round the
room, bowed low to Alice, recognized Molly by a cold inclination, Mr.
Haveril by a nod, and Dick by a blank stare, which did not recognize
even his existence--the frequent employment of this mode of salutation
had made him greatly beloved by all outsiders.

"Ah," thought Dick, "if you knew what I've got in my pocket, you'd
change that look."

"Mrs. Haveril," said Sir Robert, "I have brought you Sir Humphrey
Woodroffe, at your request. I believe you have something to say to
him."

"Molly dear, give Sir Humphrey a chair near me--so. I want to tell
you, Sir Humphrey, of a very strange dream, if I may call it--a
hallucination."

"You may, madam," said the doctor, for the young man sat down in
silence.

"Which has, I fear, given your mother a great deal of annoyance. I am,
unfortunately, too weak at present to call upon her, or to explain to
her. Therefore I have ventured to ask you to be so very kind as to
come here, so that I may send a message to Lady Woodroffe."

"I am here," said Sir Humphrey, ungraciously.

"I will not take up much of your time. I had an illness in America
which touched my brain, I believe. I imagined that a child which I
lost twenty-four years ago was still living. He was the son of my
first husband, whose name was Woodroffe. He was also the father of
Richard Woodroffe here. More than that, I fancied that one person
was that child. That person was yourself. I fancied that you were
the child. I had not lost it by death. I surrendered it to a lady by
adoption."

Humphrey started. He changed colour. He sat up in his chair. He
listened eagerly. His lip trembled.

"He understands," Molly whispered.

"No; he begins to understand what was meant," Dick returned. "He
cannot guess the whole."

Yes; he understood now that he was face to face with a great danger.
Many things became plain to him--Molly's words, John Haveril's words,
Sir Robert's words.

He understood the nature of the danger. He listened, while a horrible
terror seized him at the mere prospect of that danger. He heard the
rest with a sense of relief, equalled only by his sense of the danger.

Alice went on. "I first saw you at the theatre one night. You were so
much like my husband that I concluded that you must be my son. I met
you at Sir Robert's. I became certain that you were my son. We made
inquiries. Please tell him, Sir Robert."

"These inquiries," said the doctor, "proved certain things which were
curious and interesting. I may confess that they seemed to point in
your direction. This lady became too hastily convinced that they did
so. She is now as firmly convinced that they did not."

Humphrey sighed deeply.

"It was an awkward case," Sir Robert went on--"one that required tact."

"I gave a great deal of trouble"--Alice took up the wondrous tale
again.

"But it is all over now," the doctor added. "Do not talk too much."

"Yes, all over. My bodily frame is weak, but my mind is clear again.
Now, Sir Humphrey, I wish you, if you will be so kind, to go to Lady
Woodroffe, and tell her from me that the hallucination has passed
away, and give her my regrets that I disturbed her. Sir Robert will
perhaps go with you, to make the explanation clearer, because he knows
all the details."

"I will certainly call upon Lady Woodroffe this evening," said the
doctor. "Indeed, Sir Humphrey is ignorant of certain facts connected
with the case which will probably incline Lady Woodroffe to forgive
and excuse the more readily."

"Will you do this, Sir Humphrey?" asked Mrs. Haveril.

"Yes, if that's all," he replied hoarsely. "Is that all? Was it, as
you say, hallucination? Are you quite certain?"

The doctor felt his patient's pulse. "All hallucination," he replied.
"Now, please finish this interview as soon as you can."

"I want Sir Humphrey to give me his own forgiveness."

"If there were anything to forgive."

"Since there is nothing," said the doctor, sternly, "you can even more
readily go through the form."

"Well, if you wish it."

Humphrey held out his hand.

"Tell her, man," said the doctor, impatiently--"tell her what she
wants."

"Since you desire it"--Humphrey obeyed, coldly and reluctantly--"I
forgive you. Will that do?"

Alice raised her head; she pushed back her hair with her left hand.
Molly held her up. She gazed upon her son's face; it was cold and hard
and pitiless. She stooped over her son's hand; it was cold and hard,
and seemed as pitiless as his face--there was no warmth nor impression
in the hand. She bent her head and kissed it. Her tears fell upon
it--her silent tears. Humphrey withdrew his hand. He looked round, as
if asking what next.

Dick went to the door, and pointed to the stairs, holding the door
open.

Alice lay back on the pillow. The doctor took her wrist again.

"Doctor," she whispered, "I have never wholly lost my boy till now."

Her eyes closed. Her cheek grew white.

The doctor laid down her hand. "Never," he said, "till now."


THE END.


PRINTED BY WILLIAM CLOWES AND SONS, LIMITED, LONDON AND BECCLES.





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